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Mega Pesach Issue interview with Jerusalem deputy mayor pindrus my life as a Deaf Jew A former Slave speaks out inside story of a rescue from Iran a seder in spain A secret agent’s secret and much more


Rosh Yeshivah’s


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historic and halachic topics


Klal Yisrael

Locust expert on the invasion

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22 32 40 44 46

editorial Let there be light letters  ational, international n and local news yos si krausz

in the news turx

 ocal news l Jerry Nadler responds dovi d lapi nsky

50 54 56



 ewish news j A seder in Spain—A Matzah Mission

rabbi Y. Y. rubi nstei n

sightings & citings Ben Rosen

 & A with Q yitzchak pindrus rabbi yitzchok frankfurter

70 72

Business     Yedi da wolfe


 mbassadors a A new suit for Yom Tov as told to sarah perl mas sry

 ewish Living In: j Kiev, Ukraine


 THE Human Experience Secret agent, coming home


Streets of Life Matzos, mitzvos and merits

as told to sarah pachter

Rabbi Mordechai Kam enetzky

m enucha chana levi n


 arnooosa p The buck stops here

162 164

My word!

 sk a Keeping the peace during Pesach


 THE shul chronicles Rabbis, matzah and invention




maurice stei n

Ash er v. fi nn

Rabbi shai s taub


 spyview: The New Fidel Castro, Ahmadinejad and the Jews john loftus

Rabbi mosh e taub


 a plea for jewish continuity A conversation with Maran Rav Dovid Soloveitchik rabbi yitzchok frankfurter

Yitzy yabok


Ne sane l gantz


 buried in bosnia One of the most magnificent Haggados in the world is hidden in Sarajevo pearl h er zog


 scaping Bondage e Simon Deng is a tireless foe of slavery...because he was once a slave turx


I n Depth in yom tov Topics on Yom Tov: Birkas kohanim, the revival of ancient spices, a dispute about the date of Pesach, kasher l’Pesach bread in Rome, and the question of quinoa sh i ffy fri edman, Ger shon h e llman, pearl h er zog, yos si krausz , and Rabbi ye huda spitz


 ear me out h What is it really like to be Jewish and deaf? Ye hoshua Soudakoff


 rom tel aviv to f tehran Brigadier General Itzik Segev was trapped in Iran after the revolution. He explains how he got himself and all the Israelis out. sam sokol





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t is now the season of our redemption, so let us talk today about light. And not just any light but a great light—indeed, the great light referred to in the Haggadah: “We were redeemed from darkness to great light.” This “great light” certainly doesn’t refer to light in the physical sense, as that kind of light can also be experienced in slavery. Rather, it denotes a Divine illumination, which we may also refer to as spirituality. The very first act of maasei bereishis was the creation of this great spiritual light; the physical light that emanates from the sun and stars was only created later, on the fourth day. According to Chazal, the primordial light that was created on the first day was hidden away for tzaddikim shortly after its appearance. On the verse “And G-d saw the light that it was good, and G-d separated the light from the darkness” (Bereishis 1:4) Rashi comments, “He saw that it was not proper for the wicked to use it, so He separated it for the righteous in the future.” This primordial light is what we experience as the Divine presence, as spirituality. The Midrash explains that when G-d said, “Let there be light,” he was alluding to the light of Avraham Avinu. Chazal tell us (Shemos Rabbah 15:22) that various subjects that are mentioned cryptically in the Torah were later elucidated by David Hamelech in Tehillim. For example, the Torah relates that the creation of heaven and earth preceded the creation of light (Bereshis 1:1-3). In Tehillim, however, the Rav Dovid Soloveitchik order is reversed. There, the verse indicates that G-d first created the light and only afterward the heavens: “He wrapped Himself in light like a garment, and spread out the heavens like a curtain” (Tehillim104:2) This is expounded upon in Bereishis Rabbah 3:4: “G-d wrapped Himself in light like a garment, and illuminated the splendor of His glory from one end of the world to the other.” Spirituality, Chazal thus teach us, is not a figment of the imagination or a mere state of mind. Like the physical world, spirituality is real, and also came about through an act of creation. And yet, the two creations differ greatly. The physical world was created ex nihilo, while the spiritual world was created from G-d’s 22 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

radiance. The physical world is therefore dark, while the spiritual world is beaming with luminosity. When G-d was instructing Moshe on how to make the menorah, He said (Shemos 25:32): “You shall make a menorah of pure gold, of beaten work shall the menorah be made (‘tei’aseh’); its base, its branch, its goblets, its knobs and its hammers shall be hammered from it.” Rashi makes note of the passive form of the verb (nif’al), whereas the Torah uses the more expected conjugation “ta’aseh,” “you shall make,” in reference to the other utensils. From this we learn, Rashi explains, that the menorah was made “by itself” rather than by human hands. G-d instructed Moshe to throw the block of gold into the fire and the menorah would emerge miraculously by itself. Several verses later, at the conclusion of the section on the menorah the verse says: “See, and construct according to their form that which you are being shown on the mountain” (Shemos 25:40). Rashi comments: “Moshe was perplexed by the construction of the menorah until the Holy One, Blessed Be He, showed him a menorah of fire.” Both the basic design of the menorah and how to build it eluded Moshe. Why? Because even the vessels to contain the Divine light can only be brought about by G-d. Ultimately, only G-d Himself can bring light and G-dliness into this world. Last week, having been summoned by my rosh yeshivah, Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, I traveled to Eretz Yisrael to meet with him. With great emotion, Rav Dovid described to me the tremendous battle being waged there by the secular Israeli establishment against Torah institutions. While the forces of darkness have been battling the forces of light since time immemorial, they have recently intensified, both in Israel and elsewhere. Rav Dovid asked that I serve as his agent in bringing the world’s attention to this matter. Speaking to the Rosh Yeshivah, I knew that if we are vigilant we will ultimately prevail. Although we are few in number, a little light dispels a lot of darkness, and we are armed with not just a little light but the ultimate light, for the glory of G-d is upon us. 

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LETTERS Executive CHIEF Executive Officer

Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter CHairman of the board


Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter SENIOR EDITOR

Rechy Frankfurter MANAGING EDITOR

Yossi Krausz


Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky Nesanel Gantz • John Loftus • Shmuel Sokol Maurice Stein • Rabbi Moshe Taub Rabbi Shais Taub • Turx • Yedida Wolfe FEATURE EDITOR

Yitta Halberstam Mandelbaum FOOD EDITORS

Victoria Dwek • Leah Schapira EDITORIAL COORDINATOR

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Basha Majerczyk Dina Schreiber ART ART DIRECTORS

David Kniazuk Alex Katalkin advertising EXECUTIVE ACCOUNT MANAGER



Sarah Margulies

History and Hearst The drawings heard ’round the world In reference to “Streets of Life,” Issue 109

Dear Editor, I look forward to Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky’s column in each issue of Ami. It is always interesting, “on the mark” and well written. With this preface, I wish it to be clear that this letter is not meant to be disrespectful to Rabbi Kamenetzky. But as a history teacher, I just could not ignore the historical inaccuracies in an otherwise, as usual, thoughtful article. In the column “Captured Images” (Ami Issue #109), Rabbi Kamenetzky writes “...they are the shots that accompany the headlines...the shots about which newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst supposedly said after the sinking of the Maine (which led to the United States’ war on Mexico), ‘If you provide the pictures, I’ll provide the war!’” I’ll begin with the only part of that which is true: Hearst did indeed say that (despite some revisionist writing to the contrary). But it was said (actually written) to Frederick Remington, artist correspondent whom Hearst had dispatched to cover the Cuban revolution and attendant war as an illustrator (drawings, not photographic “shots”). When the action Hearst expected was far less than what he wanted—he was trying to fan anti-Spain sentiment in the US—he sent that message to Remington.

Advertising Coordinator

Malky Friedman Ami Magazine P: 718.534.8800 F: 718.484.7731

Ami Magazine. Published by Mezoogmag LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form without prior written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The publisher reserves the right to edit all articles for clarity, space, and editorial sensitivities. Ami Magazine assumes no responsibility for the content of articles or advertisements in the publication, nor for the contents of books that areAreferred togoraexcerpted 32 Mi Ma z i n e / /herein. March 20, 2013 // 9 nissan 5773

This preceded, not followed, the explosion, and sinking, of the Maine by many months. The loss of the Maine, with Hearst’s fanning the flames, subsequently did lead to the United States’ war—with Spain, not Mexico. Looking forward to continuing to enjoy Rabbi Kamenetzky’s excellent column. S. Druck Brooklyn, New York Rabbi Kamenetzky responds: Dear S. Druck, All I can say is thank you! I once tried to research that quote and never came up with the real scenario. I was fascinated by the basic facts that I learned in Philadelphia Yeshiva High School, but never got the real story. I really appreciate getting the facts straight! And I hope that your letter is printed for all the other history buffs who may be uncomfortable with my misrepresentation of the correct sequence and other anomalies! Keep up the great work and thank you for your compliments! MK


All-StAr tribute to YoSSi Green MBD H avrahaM frieD H Daskal H gertner H shwekey H lipa H sheya MenDlowitz

Appreciating the Artist

Categorizing a Kiddush Hashem

In reference to “In the Realm of the Divine,” Issue 110

In reference to “Ambassadors,” Issue 110

A painter on music


Dear Ami Magazine,


sation conver iews & interv


Dear Rabbi Frankfurter,

I found your interview highly engaging and enlightening! Mr. Green’s answer to your question, “Can you be a great singer without a good voice?” was a real eye opener for me. I now understand why I enjoy Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich’s songs so much. They are literally my mussar sefer every day. With his one-piece band (accordion) and heart of a war survivor and derhoibeneh Yid, his audience tzibrucheneh Yidden, his songs warm the soul and inspire. Then you have Avraham Fried singing some of the same songs but definitely with his own interpretation. And when Y. Daman tries the same, it has a completely different flavor. Reb Yom Tov Ehrlich has a strong message and a love for Yidden that is heard and felt. Also, you mentioned that a writer must be musical as well. Actually, people who are creative can do all three creative arts, music, writing, and art (as in drawing and painting), but will excel in one. I paint. In painting, as well as in writing and music, there needs to be a flow, blending of colors, a mood, and of course for a good artist, a meaning and a message. I am looking forward to an interview with a Jewish painter! WILL THE NEW PLAN RESOLVE IT?

Proper behavior toward an employee

ISSUE 103 ISSUE jANUARY 16, 2013110 6, 2013 5MARCH SHVAT, 5773 24 AdAR 5773

$4.49 $4.49 out of ny/nj $5.50 out of ny/nj $5.50 Canada $6.00 Canada $6.00 uK £3.99 uK £3.99 europe €5.50 €5.50 ISraeLeurope nIS 14.90 ISraeL nIS 14.90

ami110_cover.indd 1

3/4/13 10:10 PM

Much hatzlachah, D. Gross

In Tune and In-Law Thank you for the interview

In reference to “In the Realm of the Divine,” Issue 110

Dear Editor, Thank you to Rabbi Frankfurter for his enlightening and probing interview with prolific composer Mr. Yossi Green. Yossi’s warm heart and caring soul shine through his many diverse compositions, truly inspiring us to cleave closer to Hashem. Yossi’s talents appeal to the pintele Yid in all of us, and we wish him many more productive years, in good health, until 120, iy”H. Moshe and Elaine Ehrenpreis Proud mechutanim Kew Gardens, New York

34 A M i M a g a z i n e / / M a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

My admiration to the employer who saw the light about the proper way to compensate his employees. However, I believe the article should have been named “Halachah in the Workplace” and not “Kiddush Hashem in the Workplace.” Let me explain. The Rambam in Hilchos Matnas Aniyim (10:7) categorizes eight levels of tzedakah: Level 1: Giving a person the means of supporting himself without having to take or borrow from other people. Level 2: A benefactor not knowing the recipient and recipient not knowing the benefactor (e.g., Tomchei Shabbos). Level 3: A benefactor knowing the recipient without the recipient knowing the benefactor (e.g., giving to a neighbor discreetly). The other five descend in this pattern. What we see from his great words is that charity begins at home. “Level 1” obligates us to take care of our employees. The rest of the levels only follow that first level. Unfortunately, this is commonly not the case. There are people giving much tzedakah to worthy causes while their employees are barely making ends meet daily, let alone when they are making a simchah. The opposite holds true as well: There are employers taking care of their own employees while—rightfully— not giving as much to these other worthy causes. As the Gemara in Pesachim says: “I see a backwards world.” In this world, the first group is getting much honor and the latter not as much, if any at all. However, in the next world the employers taking care of their employees will be the most honored and the large donors will be second to them. We cannot diminish these organizations in the least bit, and we need to support them. However, we all need to know what our obligations are “al pi Torah.” If you can publish some articles on this subject, it would be greatly beneficial for all of us. Thank you for bringing to our attention such important topics. Dovid Berney Lakewood, NJ

LETTERS No Anti-Semitism in Hungary?

Southern Comfort

In reference to “Lunch with the Hungarian Ambassador,” Issue 98:

In reference to “The Human Experience,” Issue 111

Looks like it’s rearing its head again

An interesting phenomenon

Dear Editor, Dear Editor, In an issue around Chanukah time, Rabbi Frankfurter interviewed the Hungarian ambassador about the issue of anti-Semitism in Hungary. The ambassador was very forceful about the idea that the far-right anti-Semitic ideas of the Jobbik party aren’t the ideas of the majority of the Hungarian people. That may be true, but it is still getting scary in Hungary. I recently received an email with a picture and the following text: “HUNGARIAN POSTER—HARD TO BELIEVE, BUT IT’S FOR REAL “This poster describes a local ‘hunk’ in uniform, fairly similar to the SS, holding a ‘small’ Jew by his hair. “The little Jew is ugly, his face distorted, hooked nose and trembling with fear. “The pockets are designed to express that Jews have ‘pockets full of money.’ “In case you are wondering, the poster is not from Germany, in the years of 1932 to 1945, but it is printed now, tens of thousands of copies all over Hungary (Date [of] Picture—March 2012). “Yes, anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews is rearing its head, and so began the roots that led to the Holocaust of the Jewish people.” It’s hard to know how widespread the beliefs that underlie this sort of poster are, but hopefully those who don’t feel this way will root out this intimidation and vile depiction. Shlomo Mann

I read the article about the Southern Baptist family that became Jewish and Breslovers. I had friends of a similar background. Their father was a preacher in a small Texas town, without a Jew within 200 miles, I’d guess. One day he heard a program on the radio that talked about the pagan origins of many Christian rituals, and he became interested in investigating that. Through a number of twists and turns, he became interested in Judaism. Though he and his wife did not convert (at least not right away), due to the hard feelings this would cause to his parents, he began keeping the sheva mitzvos bnei Noach. His children did convert, however, and they moved to Eretz Yisrael. His son joined the Israeli army, was one of the first soldiers into Lebanon in the first war, and eventually took up horse care in the Old City. I’ve always wondered whether a strong prior religious background makes becoming Jewish harder or easier for converts. In any case, it is definitely interesting. Yechiel Laufer

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the fat has the areas in the animal where of our mitzvah, and identifies Chinuch returns to the subject (see introduction to this mitzvah): cheilev within the anithe status of cheilev and is forbidden ְ — There are three areas of ֲ ‫וּשׁל ָֹשׁה‬ ‫ח‬ ָ‫ל‬ ִ ‫ב‬ ‫ים‬ lly:[19] ֵ ‫ה‬ ‫ם‬ ִ ‫בּ‬ ְ ‫ב‬ ֵ ‫ה‬ ָ ‫מ‬ intentiona ‫ה‬ ֶ ‫שׁ‬ ֵ ‫ה‬ ‫ן‬ eaten ְ ‫בּ‬ if ִ ‫ח‬ ‫יּוּב‬ ‫ָכּ ֵרת‬ penalty of kares and therefore carry the which is upon [20] mal that are forbidden Biblically (2) ‫ — וְ ֶשׁ �על �ה ְכּלָ יוֹת‬that [22] ֵ that is upon the innards; ‫וּפרוּשׁ ְשׁלָ ְשׁ ָתּן‬ (1) ‫ — ֶשׁ �על �ה ֶקּ ֶרב‬the cheilev which is upon the flanks. [21] (3) ‫ — וְ ֶשׁ �על �ה ְכּ ָסלִ ים‬and that detailed explanation, a with the kidneys; areas, three elucidation of these[23] ‫ — ְבּ ֵבאוּר ָר ָחב ִבּ ְמקוֹמוֹ �בּגְּ ָמ ָרא‬The the Gemara (Chullin 93a). : can be found in its place in forbidden is areas three fat found in these have Chinuch notes that not all the Sages], of blessed memory, ִ — As a general rule, [our ְ ‫וּב‬ ‫ — ֵחלֶ ב ֶשׁ �ה ָבּ ָשׂר‬Cheilev that ‫כלָ ל ָא ְמרוּ זִ ְכרוֹנָ ם לִ ְב ָר ָכה ְבּ ֻחלִּ ין‬ ֶ ‫חוֹפה אוֹתוֹ ֻמ ָתּר‬ Chullin (ibid.): ְ ‫ — ֶשׁ �על �ה ְכּ ָסלִ ים ָא �מר �ר ֲח ָמנָ א וְול ֹא ֶשׁ ְבּ‬for stated the following in Tractate ‫תוֹך �ה ְכּ ָסלִ ים‬ is permitted, the flanks,” is covered over by meat Leviticus 3:4, 10, 15), “upon His Torah (Leviticus in stated One Merciful [24] regarding this cheilev, the flanks, i.e., covered by its meat. not that which is within the


adds other parts of the animal

that are treated as cheilev by

Rabbinic law: whose cheilev is Biblically

Chinuch these three areas ְ‫ — וְ עוֹד יֵ שׁ ִבּ ְב ֵה ָמה ִמלּ‬Aside from ִ — threads and ‫מלְּ �בד ֵאלּוּ �ה ְשּׁל ָֹשׁה‬ ִ ‫חוּטין ְוּקרוּמוֹת ֶשׁ ֲא‬ ‫סוּרין ִמשּׁוּם ֵחלֶ ב‬ also has within it

[25] prohibited, the animal lly forbidden as cheilev. membranes that are Rabbinica trusting a butcher: ‫ֶשׁ �ה �טּ ָבּ ִחין‬ Chinuch cites a law regarding have stated (ibid. 89b) Sages], of blessed memory, cheilev ‫[ — וְ ָא ְמרוּ זִ ְכרוֹנָ ם לִ ְב ָר ָכה‬Our who are expert in excising butchers the that ִ ‫— �ה ְבּ ִק‬ ‫ָכּל זְ �מן‬ ‫יאין ְבּנִ קּוּר �ה ֵחלֶ ב נֶ ֱא ָמנִ ין �על‬ ‫על �ה ָדּ ָבר‬ all the forbidden cheilev, i.e., that they have removed of lost their presumed status may be trusted in this matter, — as long as they have not

‫ֶשׁ‬ ָ ‫[לּ ֹא יָ ְצאוּ ֵמ ֶחזְ �קת ְבּ ִק‬26] ָ ‫יאוּתן וְ �כ ְשׁ‬ ‫רוּתן‬

expertise and trustworthiness. permitted fats within the animal: upon the [27] Chinuch now discusses other ‫ — וְ ֵחלֶ ב �ה ֵמּ �עיִ ם‬and the cheilev of the heart (i.e., the small in‫ — וְ ֵחלֶ ב �הלֵּ ב‬As for the cheilev are the convoluted intestine as ‫ — וְ ֵהן �ה �דּ ִקּין �ה ְמלֻ ָפּ ִפין‬which entrails, they have the same status ִ ‫ — ֻמ ָתּ‬these are permitted, and fats upon the intestine are per‫ר‬ ‫ין‬ �‫ו‬ ֲ ‫ה‬ ֵ ‫ר‬ ‫י‬ ‫הוּא‬ ְ ‫כּ‬ ֻ ‫שׁ‬ ָ ‫מּ‬ ‫ן‬ testine), ְ ‫ — חוּץ ֵמרֹאשׁ �ה ֵמּ �עיִ ם �ה ָסּ‬The ‫מוּך ל� ֵקּ ָבה‬ that is shuman, permitted fat. the extremity of the intestine n of that which is upon is the beginwhich — ֶ ‫שׁ‬ ‫הוּא‬ mitted, with the exceptio ְ ‫תּ‬ ִ ‫ח‬ �‫לּ‬ ‫ת‬ ‫ְבּנֵ י ֵמ �עיִ ם‬ ְ ‫ֶשׁ‬ fourth stomach), ‫[ ָצּ ִריך ָה ָא ָדם לִ גְ רֹר �ה ֵחלֶ ב‬28] near the abomasum (the , it emerges from the abomasum ning of the intestine, where that is upon [that section]. to scrape off the cheilev ‫ — ֶשׁ ָעלָ יו‬as a person is required




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sold by a butcher who 26. If cheilev is found in meats that butcher is no longer claims to have removed it, Maachalos Asuros 7:21). trusted (see Rambam, Hil. around the heart. One 27. There are two areas of “fat” s that encases the heart is the fibrous sac of membrane is a hard, thick layer of (pericardium), and the other the heart (the subepicardial white fat that sits on top of are permitted (see fats these of Both adipose body). 40:1 with Beur HaGra). Chullin 49b, Shulchan Aruch descriptions found in the [Many of the anatomical Chullin Illuminated by notes to this section are from Publications, 5764). a (Hamesivt R’ Yaakov Dovid Lach s and photographs of See there for in-depth description these structures.] stomach of a ruminant, 28. The abomasum is the fourth

© 2013, MPL. Reproduction

MITZVOS 131-183

in the meat is permitportion of cheilev that is enveloped but within them (Chulted, for it is not upon the flanks, ‫ ;ד’’ה‬Rambam, ibid. 7:7). lin 93a with Rashi ‫חלב שהבשר‬ nerves that branch out from 25. “Threads” refers to thin through the cheilev of the the spinal column and pass the cheilev that surflanks, and those that pass through ibid. ‫)ד’’ה חוטים‬. It includes, rounds the innards (Rashi vessels that pass through as well, the nerves or blood the kidneys, as well as the membrane that surrounds the length of the spleen tothe major artery that runs 93a; Rambam ibid. gether with its branches (Chullin 64:11). “Membranes” refers 7:11; Beis Yosef, Yoreh Deah encase the spleen and kidto the thin fatty sheets that as the thin sheet that lines neys (Chullin 93a), as well cavity, separating the inside of the entire abdominal the meat of the flanks from the digestive organs and their fats (ibid. with Rashi ‫ד’’ה‬ ‫)חלב שהבשר‬. [These “threads” and membranes are forbidden only by Rabbinic law; see ibid. 92b, with Rashi ‫ד’’ה אסורין וד’’ה‬ ‫ואין חייבין‬.]





œ 120

ְ ‫וּשׁל ָֹשׁה ֲחלָ ִבים‬ ֶ , ‫ֵהם ִבּ ְב ֵה ָמה ֶשׁ ֵהן ְבּ ִחיּוּב ָכּ ֵרת‬ ‫שׁ �על �ה ֶקּ ֶרב וְ ֶשׁ �על �ה ְכּלָ יוֹת וְ ֶשׁ �על‬ ֵ , ‫�ה ְכּ ָסלִ ים‬ ‫וּפ‬ ‫וּפרוּשׁ‬ ‫רוּשׁ‬ ְ‫ְשׁלָ ְשׁ ָתּן ְבּ ֵבאוּר ָר ָחב ִבּ ְמקוֹמוֹ �בּגּ‬ ָ ‫זִ ְכרוֹנָ ם ִלִ ְב‬ ‫ ִוּב ְכלָ ל ָא ְמרוּ‬, (‫ָמ ָרא )שם צ”ג ע”א‬ ‫ר‬ ָ ‫כ‬ ‫ה‬ ְ ‫בּ‬ ֻ ‫ח‬ ִ‫לּ‬ ‫ין‬ (‫)שם‬ , ֵ ‫ח‬ ֶ‫ל‬ ‫ב‬ ֶ ‫שׁ‬ � ‫ה‬ ָ ‫בּ‬ ָ ‫שׂ‬ ‫ר‬ ֶ ‫חוֹפה‬ ְ ‫ֹא ֶשׁ ְבּ‬ ‫ ֶשׁ �על �ה ְכּ ָסלִ ים ָא �מר �ר ֲח ָמנָ א‬,‫אוֹתוֹ ֻמ ָתּר‬ ‫ ד’( ְוְ ל ֹא‬,’‫)ויקרא ג‬ . ‫תוֹך �ה ְכּ ָסלִ ים‬


ֵ‫וְ עוֹד י‬ ִ ,‫שׁ ִבּ ְב ֵה ָמה ִמלְּ �בד ֵאלּוּ �ה ְשּׁל ָֹשׁה‬ ִ ‫חוּטין ְוּקרוּמוֹת ֶשׁ ֲא‬ ָ ‫זִ ְכרוֹנָ ם לִ ְב‬ ‫ וְ ָא ְמרוּ‬. ‫סוּרין ִמשּׁוּם ֵחלֶ ב‬ ִ ‫ר ָכה )שם פ”ט ע”ב( ֶשׁ �ה �טּ ָבּ ִחין �ה ְבּ ִק‬ ‫יאין ְבּנִ קּוּר �ה ֵחלֶ ב נֶ ֱא ָמנִ ין �על‬ ‫על �ה ָדּ ָבר ָכּל זְ �מן‬ ָ ‫ֶשׁלּ ֹא יָ ְצאוּ ֵמ ֶחזְ �קת ְבּ ִק‬ ָ ‫יאוּתן וְ �כ ְשׁ‬ . ‫רוּתן‬ ְ‫ו‬ ‫ וְ ֵהן �ה �דּ ִקּ‬,‫ֵחלֶ ב �הלֵּ ב ְ וְ ֵחלֶ ב �ה ֵמּ �עיִ ם‬ ָ ‫ ֻמ ָתּ ִרין ו� ֲה ֵרי הוּא ְכּ ֻשׁ‬,‫ין �ה ְמלֻ ָפּ ִפין‬ ‫שׁמּ‬ ‫ חוּץ ֵמר‬,‫מּן‬ ‫מראשׁ‬ ‫ֹאשׁ‬ ְ ָ ‫ ֶשׁ‬,‫�ה ֵמּ �עיִ ם �ה ָסּמוּך ל� ֵקּ ָבה ֶשׁהוּא ְתּ ִחלּ� ת ְבּנֵ י ֵמ �עיִ ם‬ , ‫צּ ִריך ָה ָא ָדם לִ גְ ררֹר �ה ֵחלֶ ב ֶשׁ ָעלָ יו‬



‫ שלא נאכל חלב‬:‫ מצוה קמז‬/ ‫צו‬

NOT 121 œ TZAV / MITZVAH 147:

its mother was a tereipermit it for consumption when shechitah for a fetus that fah. (2) The requirement of its mother’s shechitah is stepped on the ground after of the regular disqualifiRabbinic, and therefore many shechitah. this to apply not do cations 3:3-4) that describes 19. In the Torah passage (Leviticus burned on the Altar, the the cheilev of animal offerings mentioned by Chinuch verses clearly list the three areas below. That passage concludes 17): v. (ibid. words with the ֵ ‫ �כּל ֵחלֶ ב ל ֹא ת‬, you may not . . . ‫ֹאכלוּ‬ consume … any cheilev. This the indicates that these are are same cheilev portions that in forbidden to be eaten even animals that were not brought as offerings (Maggid Mishneh, see Hil. Maachalos Asuros 7:5; Minchas [Cf. above, note 4). Chinuch §8, who suggests that there are more than three.] 20. This refers to the sheets the of fat that encase most of inanimal’s digestive system, cluding its stomachs and intestines. These sheets are known anatomically as the greater omentum and the lesser omenas tum (Rambam ibid. 7:5-6, explained by Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 64:17; 138 see also above, Mitzvah note 31; for another possible

Chullin 50a ‫)ד”ה בפלוגתא‬. explanation, see Keren Orah, See diagram on following page. that sits upon the kidneys 21. This refers to the fat surrounds that fat (see and the outer membrane that Rambam ibid. 7:12). of layers of muscle and 22. An animal’s flanks consist sides of the body and surfat that extend down the The fat referred to here round the abdominal cavity. is that which is visible toward the top of the abdomen, near the kidneys; see below, where this Chinuch further defines area. See diagram. and 23. The areas of forbidden permitted fats are further defined and explained in Rambam ibid. Ch. 7 and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah §64. Rama (ibid. 64:6) notes, however, that as a rule, one cannot practically by discern the forbidden fats way of a written text, but must be shown by an expert. the 24. The cited verse is from the discusses that passage the cheilev that is offered upon Altar; see above, note 19. The fat upon the flanks is abvisible toward the top of the but domen, near the kidneys, by then becomes concealed as layers of meat (i.e., muscle) The it descends (see diagram).


including the mitzvos of Pesach and the halachos of the korban pesach. Your Seder and your entire holiday will be greatly enhanced by Chinuch’s explanations and by the Insights that shed light on Aggadic and Halachic aspects of the customs.

© 2013, MPL. Reproduction


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Wishing You a Happy and Kosher Passover



A Look at the Existential Threat That Is Iran’s Nuclear Program

Obama, a Bomb, and Bushehr Disconnected A red line, but how red?


resident Barack Obama gave an interview to an Israeli television station last week, ahead of his visit this week to Israel, in which he said that Iran is more than a year away from getting a nuclear weapon. “I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon,” Obama said. “That is a red line for us. It is not only something that would be dangerous for Israel. It would be dangerous for the world.... I’ve also said there is a window—not an infinite period of President on Israeli time, but a window of time—where Channel 2 we can resolve this diplomatically.” Obama went on to say, “Right now, we think that it would take could not produce a nuclear weapon without over a year or so for Iran to actually develop being found out. “[W]e assess Iran could not a nuclear weapon. But obviously, we don’t divert safeguarded material and produce a want to cut it too close. What we are going weapon-worth of WGU (weapons-grade urato do is to continue to engage internationally nium) before this activity is discovered,” Clapper said. with Iran.” He said sanctions were having an effect on As they say, from your mouth to.… But Iran: we’ll be worried nonetheless, okay? “They are not yet at the point, I think, where Clapper said that Iran has moved ahead: they’ve made a fundamental decision to get “Of particular note, Iran has made progress right with the international community. But I during the past year that better positions it do think they are recognizing that there is a to produce weapons-grade uranium using severe cost for them to continue down the its declared facilities and uranium stockpiles, path they are on, and that there’s another should it choose to do so.” door open.” One of those facilities seems to be having US National Intelligence Director James problems again. Last week, the vice president Clapper told Congress last Tuesday, in an of Iran’s nuclear program announced that the annual report on global threats, that Iran Bushehr power plant had been disconnected 40 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

from the power grid. The reactor, is still in experimental stages and that Russian contractors are working on the problem, he said. Iran’s vice president has claimed that Iran will submit a declaration to the UN that will promise that it will not seek nuclear weapons, according to a semi-official Iranian news agency. That contrasted poorly with the results of an investigation conducted by the federal prosecutor’s office of Germany, which were released last week. They said that Iran had smuggled 941 items with nuclear application through Turkey, using front companies. Iran once again pursued a US drone last week. An Iranian fighter jet followed a drone that had been flying over the Persian Gulf; the plane only called off the pursuit when an American escort plane warned it away. The Pentagon claimed that the plane, like another drone attacked late last year, was in international airspace. A law that recently went into effect—requiring disclosure by US companies of ties to Iran—has caused the disclosure of such ties by prominent companies, including Citigroup Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., PepsiCo, ExxonMobil, BP, drug maker Pfizer, Hyatt Hotels, JetBlue Airways, department store chain Neiman Marcus, and the media company Thomson Reuters.

by Yossi Krausz

World Round-Up In South Africa, the Jewish Board of Deputies lodged a complaint with the country’s Human Rights Commission against Deputy Foreign Minister Marius Fransman, for remarks he had made about Jews. Fransman had accused Jewish businessmen of taking contracts in the Western Cape region previously held by Muslims. When the Jewish Board of Deputies complained, he attacked the board for remaining silent on Israeli “apartheid.” He also said that the board should “act South African… not holier than thou” and “ask itself

whether it represented South African Jews or the Israeli government.” Member of Parliament Lord Nazir Ahmed, of Britain’s Labor Party, reportedly told a Pakistani newspaper last year that his legal troubles—following a car crash involving a fatality—were due to a conspiracy involving Jews “who own newspapers and TV channels,” retaliating for Ahmed’s support of the Palestinians. The Labor Party promised to investigate the allegations. The foreign minister of Norway admitted this week that funding from his country to the Palestinian Authority was improperly being

transferred to Palestinians convicted of murdering Israelis, despite earlier PA assurances that the money was not being used in such a way. Norway is one of the largest donors to the PA, and its funding has come under scrutiny recently, after several revelations of improprieties. At CERN’s Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, scientists have observed the short-lived D meson particle changing rapidly from matter to antimatter before decaying. Scientists hope that study of the ratios of matter-antimatter conversions in the D meson can reveal the presence of previously undiscovered particles.

Preparation Never Hurts

North Korea makes the Pentagon nervous


an’t we do something about North Korea? With a long history of crazy behavior and a recent history of threatening the US and testing both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the North Koreans are looking less and less benign as time wears on. This week, the Pentagon seems to have agreed, because it began increasing the US missile defense. Fourteen additional ground-based interceptors are being readied at missile silos in Alaska and California. Doing that costs hundreds of millions of dollars; there obviously is something to

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be concerned about. In public statements, the military has been trying to quell concerns about the threat from North Korea. But because the press has gotten wind of the missile defense buildup, that seems like a fool’s errand now. This boost of the interceptors is going to be a bone of contention regarding the money spent, also, because President Obama had specifically rejected a plan to increase the number of interceptors by this very number when he came into office. The missile silos that were closed

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by Yossi Krausz


Life in Numbers

Who Eats Their Veggies? Gallup’s well-being surveys examine the physical, emotional and fiscal wellbeing of people in the US and around the world. Broken down by category among US workers, physicians and teachers score best on overall well-being, and manufacturing and transportation workers score the worst. But Gallup breaks down the information even deeper, by looking at who are most obese or smoke the most. And how about who eat their veggies? Percentages that ate five or more daily servings of produce more than four days in the week before the survey:


64.8 64.4

Business Owners


62.5 61.4

Clerical/Office workers

58.5 58.4





53.6 52.8



57.8 57.4



Service Workers

52.5 Construction workers

52.2 Repairmen

51.7 50.2


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U p d at e s New Info on Stories We’ve Run Catholic cardinals elected Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergolio of Argentina to be the new pope, replacing Benedict XVI. Bergolio, the first non-European pope in modern times, will be known as Francis. Questions have been raised about Bergolio’s response to the Argentinian military junta from 1976 through 1983 and its human rights violations. But Jewish groups in Argentina praised the new pope for his behavior toward the Jewish community there: He was the first public personality to sign a petition calling for justice in the bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish Community Center, among other positive gestures he has made. So far, this one sounds “good for the Jews.” Three members of the Knesset, Stav Shaffir of the Labor Party and Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, joined the so-called Women of the Wall for their monthly provocation at the Kosel on Rosh Chodesh Nissan this past week. The members of Knesset used their immunity from searches to bring tallisos into the Kosel area. Normally, the group uses men to bring in tallisos. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has threatened to take over Bagram Air Force Base. The US and Afghanistan have been engaged in a dispute over almost 40 prisoners at the base whom the US considers extremely dangerous. Until now, Karzai has refused to promise that the men would not be released if they were transferred to Afghan custody. Karzai’s threat to take over Bagram prompted officials to increase security on the base, on the chance that his words would inspire terrorist attacks.

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The Audacity of Trope Waiter, waiter, there is a mustache in my soup


orry, I was spacing out for a moment. Did President Obama just say...a...huh? Let’s rewind for a second.... During a recent interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Obama said, “Sometimes I have this fantasy that I can put on a disguise, wear a fake mustache and I can wander through Tel Aviv and go to a bar and have a conversation.” Whoa. Too fast. Let me break this down: Sometimes = not always, so long as it doesn’t interfere with the flexibility I promised Russia I have this fantasy = let me be clear, I have plenty of other fantasies too, but none like this one That I can put on a disguise = or perhaps grow bangs like Michelle; either one should do the trick Wear a fake mustache = to match everything else about me that’s fake And I can wander through Tel Aviv = with my motorcade of a few dozen vehicles And go to a bar = one that still allows indoor smoking And have a conversation = and get an honest opinion about myself from a bunch of drunk morons who are too stoned to recognize that it’s me in the first place First of all, wrong holiday, Mr. President. And anyway, isn’t articulating such observations Joe Biden’s job? Does this mean Joe Biden has been laid off? If he has, does this call for some kind of legal holiday? And if it does, is this holiday celebrated by people donning fake mustaches? If yes, then Obama shouldn’t have a hard time fulfilling his mustache-laden fantasy. On the other hand, if everyone is wearing a mustache, then Obama wouldn’t look out of place. A matching beard, perhaps? Let’s see … Saddam Hussein had the same exact problem. He grew a mustache; that didn’t help. He grew a beard; didn’t help him either.

The American president is in town. What do you think of him? Great guy, huh?” Random Diner: “Mister, of course I know he’s in town. Why else would I be drinking? For my health??” Scenario 2

Obama: “Hey, buddy. You see that empty glass of whisky in your hand? You didn’t drink that! Hehehe….” Random Diner: “I dunno. It was full a *hic* moment ago, it’s empty now, and I totally feel like I did *hic* drink it. Do you *hic* really think the other people at my Alcoholics Anonymous group will fall for it?” Scenario 3

Wait, weren’t the Tea Partiers parading around Washington, DC, clutching giant posters of Obama with a mustache? And weren’t they being called “racist” for doing it? Why is it that all of a sudden a Democrat makes the same suggestion and everyone is cool with it? Now, imagine an elderly couple in Israel having the following conversation: Maurice: You know vat is being mine fantasy? Zelda: Oy, vat now? Maurice: I vish ve could go to a bar and maybe meet ‘dis nice, middle-aged, Havaiian, mit a mustache, who isn’t speaking no Hebrew, and try to have a conversation about politics. C’mon, it vill be fun. Vat? It’s not like you have better plans for da evening…. Yeah … not likely, Mr. President. Okay, so suppose Obama did succeed in slipping past security with a fake mustache. Then what? Scenario 1

Obama: “Excuse me. Have you heard?

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Obama: “I hate to interfere but I see you’re drinking. Are you perhaps depressed because of the Sequester that recently went into effect because of those stubborn Republicans?” Random Diner: “Was that the one in 1994? To be honest with you, I’ve survived so many ‘end of the world’ scenarios I’ve totally lost count by now….” Scenario 4

Obama: “Pardon me, sir. I’ve been hearing such awful reports about President Obama. Any idea why folks are saying these nasty things about him?” Random Diner: “Shhhh! Not so loud, brother. Look, we all feel the same way, but Obama is expected in this very bar any minute now and we can never know when he’s listening because he’s supposed to be wearing some brilliant disguise. Better we shouldn’t be talking about him at all.” Fantasies, fantasies. All I’m gonna say is that if he does end up putting on that mustache, he’d better take it off before returning to the White House—because they no longer allow visitors!



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Bound by the Constitution? congressman Nadler responds


n last week’s magazine, an article by Rafael Borges examined the recent House vote on HR 592, a bill that would provide FEMA disaster funding for houses of worship hit by Hurricane Sandy. The article focused on the vocal opposition to the bill from Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). Rep. Nadler kindly spoke to Ami this week in response to the article. Why did he vote against the bill? “I voted against it for two reasons. “Number one: I believe it is flatly unconstitutional. Look, I have fought for the Orthodox community in many ways. I fought for RLUIPA—the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. I wrote it and sponsored it. That’s the bill the frum community depends on when they fight for zoning for a mikveh, school, shtiebel, or shul or eruv. I passed that because I believe very strongly in religious freedom. “I’ve also always taken a very strict view of the establishment clause, for a lot of reasons. This bill in effect said that a building that is solely used as a worship center—because if it’s 50 percent used for anything else it’s eligible without the bill and should be—could get direct government aid. That has been held to be unconstitutional by every Supreme Court decision. And not just—as the article said that some people were quoted as saying—from the 1970s. The latest decisions have said so, too. “We take an oath in Congress to uphold the Constitution and I take oaths seriously. I think it is unconstitutional. Since it’s unconstitutional, it will be thrown out anyway by any court. So there was no point to pass it. “The second reason I voted against it, and I said it in my statement, was that there was no consideration given to the constitutional issues. The bill was introduced on a Friday; it was referred to the transportation committee, which has jurisdiction over FEMA, not the judiciary committee that studies constitutional issues. It wasn’t even left with the transportation committee. It was yanked out and voted on and passed without the opportunity for amendment or debate. That’s not the way you should handle constitutional issues. “It may be that if you took some time, a week or two, to try to figure out a constitutional way to help shuls, you could figure it out. And I’d love it if a way could be found. “In fact, I spoke yesterday with David Pollock of the Jewish 46 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Community Relations Council, who said that’s exactly what they’re doing in the Senate now. They’re looking at how to change the bill to pass constitutional muster, to have a better chance of not being thrown out as unconstitutional. And I said we ought to have done that. This is much more serious than naming a post office, which is what we normally do in a suspension bill.” What would he say to those who disagree with his interpretation of the Constitution? “I would say it’s not my interpretation of the Constitution. It’s what the Supreme Court has consistently held. “I certainly didn’t enjoy voting against this bill. To make it work would be a nice, cheap political thing. I knew people would be upset at me, and politicians don’t like getting their constituents upset. But I knew that if this bill passes in its current form, the odds are very great that it will be thrown out as unconstitutional and no one will get any help from it. That’s why I said we should get it right rather than get it now.” From his statement on the floor of the House it sounded like he was against the concept of the bill and not just the language. True or not? “I’m not sure. The language of the bill, which says that you can get money without regard to the religious character of the facility or the primary religious usage of the facility, is directly contrary to every Supreme Court decision on the subject. They can get money, for example, if you have a shul where part of the building is used for a purpose like a school, or hot lunch program, or homeless shelter. Then there’s no problem. But when the building is more than 50 percent a shul, there’s not been a single Supreme Court decision to allow it to receive funds.” There were constitutional experts who believe this bill is constitutional and they sent letters to Congress explaining why it is, though, weren’t there? “I’ve seen the letters. Alan Dershowitz sent one, and one was from Doug Laycock. They were very short and conclusory and didn’t explain their reasoning at all as to why they thought the Supreme Court would allow this. The fact remains that there hasn’t been a single Supreme Court decision on this type of thing where the court hasn’t said no. It’s not only decisions back in the ’70s. It’s also fairly recent decisions. You can always speculate that the court may change. And maybe they will. But one of the points

By dovid lapinsky

I was making was to take some time to accomplish your purpose without taking on all these Supreme Court decisions.” But his concern wasn’t merely a about the courts, but instead based on an interpretation of the Constitution that this type of bill is void. Correct? “My understanding of the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court to date, is that they will throw it out as unconstitutional. I have an obligation to exercise my authority as a member of Congress according to my judgment of what the Constitution says, and more importantly, how the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution. “If I think something is extremely necessary but unconstitutional, then I should introduce a constitutional amendment.” Is this part of an ongoing debate about the separation of church and state? “There are really two separate debates here. You have the establishment clause and you have the free exercise clause. “I have always been fairly strict on the establishment clause over the past 30 years. Anyone who has followed what I’ve said about the establishment clause over the past 30 years wouldn’t have been surprised at my vote. For example, I opposed the Ten Commandments being displayed on the courthouse lawn as a violation of the establishment clause, and the courts agreed. I thought organized prayer in public schools was a violation of the establishment clause, and the courts agreed. “On the other hand, on the free exercise clause I have taken a more strict interpretation than the courts in recent years, and that’s why I wrote RLUIPA to try to get around the Supreme Court decision that subjected religious minorities such as the frum community to rather severe restrictions. For example, under the current Supreme Court doctrine, if a state legislature decided to ban bris milah because it’s cruel to children or to say an animal must be anesthetized before it’s shechted, they could get away with that. “I’ve led the fight against that, which was why I was one of the authors of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—which was held by the Supreme Court to be good law for the federal law but not good law for the states. And that’s why I wrote RLUIPA, which, for institutionalized people and for land use, reestablished the old interpretation which is much more favorable to

religious minorities. It says you can’t make a zoning restriction that would block a religious facility like a shul, school, mikveh or eruv, unless you can show a compelling state necessity. That was how localities stopped the expansion of yeshivahs, schools or shuls until now. My law is what the frum community depends on to defend itself. “To summarize, they are now doing in the Senate what they should have done in the House and what I urged them to do as part of my floor statement. They are seeking a way to put through a bill to help shuls that has a chance to get through. I don’t believe this bill had any chance to get through.” What’s his view on menorahs on public property? “We’ve never had a vote on that. But the position I took is that as long as you have Xmas lights you can have menorahs.” Rep. Nadler’s views on the Constitution are no doubt earnest. But they are unapologetically liberal.  m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3 / / A M i M ag a z i n e


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The Deforestation of Family A family tree displays the destruction in our midst


once popped in to see an old friend in Liverpool, England. He greeted me warmly and took me into his garden to enjoy the beautiful summer evening. As we chatted, he seemed to be struck by a sudden thought. “I have to show you something,” he said. He went into his house and returned with a large piece of paper. When he unrolled it on the garden table, I realized what it was: a family tree. “My wife and I started to research our ancestry,” he explained. The result of their efforts was a documentation of personal history dating back to the 1860s. It started with Yehuda and Sarah Fleishman, who had a large family in Russia before immigrating to England. Their childrens’ names were on the tree as well: There were Avraham, Dina, Shmuel, Feige, Daniel, Rivka, Rochel, Binyamin and Miriam. Nine siblings, and all but one had sailed to England. My friend pointed to his own family and children, one of whom is a talmid of mine, and then went on to make an eye-opening comment. “Look!” he said, and pointed again to the tree, this time at the third generation of the other Fleishmans. “The names! Look at the names!” By the third generation of his family, the Yehoshuas had been replaced by Jasons, the Sarahs with Samanthas. The Anglicization continued throughout the fourth generation, but by then the size of the families had shrunk. By the fifth generation many of the families, like autumnal leaves, had dropped off the tree altogether. Here was the truth, the facts so much discussed and fretted about in the secular Jewish world, undeniably depicted. As these people shrugged off Jewish identities and Jewish practice, they inevitably shrugged off

their Jewish families as well. David Hamelech begins Tehillim with a reference to trees. He says that a Jew whose life is Torah, who delves into learning both day and night, is like “a tree rooted by a brook.” It gives ample fruit at the right time and its leaves never wither. On the flip side, those who abandon their origins are like “pieces of straw blown by the wind.” Rabbi Zev Cohen, z”l, of Gateshead Yeshivah, once pointed out that the straw might look at the tree and concede “Indeed you may be lush and healthy, but you are stuck! You cannot move anywhere at all. I, on the other hand,” the straw declares, “am free, frei! I get to see the world!” The straw fails to notice that it is in fact trapped, only going where the wind blows. And the winds in every generation undeniably blow the straw very far. Recently, I spoke at the Project Inspire conference in Connecticut. It was my second appearance there, and despite the massive snowstorm that hit Erev Shabbos, the number of people in attendance jumped from last year’s 800 to over 1100. All attendees were firmly rooted in the soil of Torah. They wanted to prevent others around them from leaving their traditions behind, or reverse the process where it had already begun. At one session, participants were invited to share outreach experiences that others might recreate. One lady told a surprising story that led her to an accidental kiruv discovery. She had an idea to organize a family reunion and

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started contacting extended family members, some of whom she either had not seen for decades or never met. The initiative revealed names of long forgotten cousins, who were all contacted. Everyone in the family got very excited about the project. Emails were furiously exchanged along with family photographs, both old and new. Some pictures were of shared grandparents and great-grandparents, and others of as yet unknown children. With so much family history arriving, the woman explained, commissioning a family tree seemed like an obvious venture. The day of the reunion finally arrived and hundreds of people met, most for the very first time. At the center of the celebration was the large framed family tree, complete with pictures to tell the story. Beginning with one couple and their five children, the sapling of a family began to grow. Of the five children, three showed pictures of people sporting clothing and hairstyles very different from that of their parents. They had embraced the American dream and, slowly, their roots were left behind. The next generation of the tree revealed something interesting. The two children who stayed rooted to the brook of Torah, continuing on the path of their parents, became branches that blossomed and bloomed. But

Rabbi Y.Y. Rubinstein is director of education for Ohr Naava. He is a popular lecturer and the author of six books.

the numbers of the other three children’s families, those who modernized and assimilated, began to shrink. Their children had a few children, if at all. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the families of the two children who kept their traditions grew so large that there was no room for individual pictures in the frame. Instead, photos from family simchos boasting over sixty family members were used. The other three branches had thinned out, and one had failed altogether. Like the picture my friend in Liverpool had showed me, the names in three of the lines had changed. Baruch was now Barry; Keila became Kelly. Of the family members marveling at the illustration of their heritage, one young man was particularly moved. He descended from a thinner, assimilated line of the tree and, studying the frame for a while, understood the message it conveyed. “Might I come and spend a Shabbos with you and your family?” he turned and asked the organizer of the family reunion, who later shared the story at the conference. Who knows what seeds were planted by his first Shabbos experience? The Amazon rain forest acts as the lungs of our entire planet. But vast areas of valuable woods are chopped down by myopic individuals or greedy corporations for short-term financial gain. We all suffer from the consequences of this folly. It’s not just the loss of oxygen that impoverishes us. There are also countless undiscovered plants that might hold the cure to some of the greatest diseases that face mankind. Yet an incalculably greater and more catastrophic deforestation is occurring in our times, and too few of us are acting to prevent it. We are all impoverished and threatened by the scope of the tragedy, and it is truly impossible to imagine what is lost to the world with the shriveling and dying of so many branches of Jewish family trees. After all, a quarter of all Nobel Prize winners sprouted from Jewish soil. Well over half of our saplings are neglected; half of our forest is gone. Perhaps a good place to start to reverse this devastation is with reaching out to our own extended families. Is there more we can do to cultivate our withering branches? Is there potential for re-growth that we can nurture? 


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Sightings&Citings Synopses of, and excerpts from, interesting items that have recently appeared here and there —and sometimes way over there—in the media

Selling Joe Biden The administration has its spokesperson Vice President Joe Biden’s reputation for having an odd combination of geniality and productiveness as a generator of gaffes apparently is being channeled by the White House in the public relations realm. A new series of broadcasts made available on the Internet, called “Being Joe Biden,” pairs a photo of Biden with a short description by Biden of what exactly is going on in the picture. In the first installment, released this week, Biden explains that a picture of him serving men dressed in hunting clothing was taken at a charity event he has gone to “for over 20 years” that serves up game fowl to bring money in for local people in need. Biden segues from discussing the hunters’ “responsibility” with their weapons to discussing the gun control legislation proposed by Obama that is heading through Congress. The only verbal gaffe that Biden seems to make is when

Can’t they just learn to live with the basics?

he says that he is pleased that the Judiciary Committee “has passed out…uh… the major elements of what we proposed.” While he means that they passed the legislation out of committee, for a few moments it sounds like they’ve merely passed out. Yes, we were just listening for gaffes. Why else?

A Barrister with Brass A Hebrew with chutzpah Frederick Cohn, a Jewish lawyer representing Abdel Hameed Shehadeh, a suspected terrorist who is being accused of lying about plans to kill Americans in Afghanistan, asked a federal judge in New York City in February to exclude Jews from the jury. This week, Judge Eric Vitaliano refused to accede to the request. The prosecutor, William Sarratt, had told the court at the time, “I don’t think [the magistrate overseeing jury selection] will be ready to violate the Constitution and exclude people from the jury on the basis of

their religious beliefs,” according to the New York Post. Cohn had told the judge, “Your Honor…as you know, I’m not wild about having Jews on the jury in this case. Given that there’s going to be inflammatory testimony about Jews and Zionism, I think it would be hard for Jews to cast aside any innate antipathy.” But for money they’ll do anything? Is that your point?

Too Far Gone Chavez won’t be around “forever” Reuters reported this week that attempts to embalm Hugo Chavez for permanent display seem to be failing, because the process was not started soon enough. The bodies of Soviet leaders Lenin and Stalin and Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong underwent such a process after death. Political opponents of Chavez’s chosen replacement, Nicolas Maduro, who is now acting president and who will run in an election

Barbershop Etiquette Rule of the Week “I’ve tried to be more of a humanitarian than some people would like, and not just wallop everyone’s heads off at once.” — Senate sergeant at arms Terry Gainer, on his attempts to cut costs in the US Senate barbershop, which has run a deficit of $350,000 a year for the last 15 years Sounds like we’re the ones taking a haircut. in mid-April, said that the veneration of Chavez being promoted by the government is politically motivated. In announcing the news, Maduro said, “Russian and German scientists have arrived to embalm Chavez and they tell us it’s very difficult because the process should have started earlier.... Maybe we can’t do it. We are in the middle of the process. It’s complicated, it’s my duty to inform you.” It may be your duty, but spare us the details. Please.

Big Demands

“They just want to have a peaceful, stable and safe life. To have money and food, and live without worry of being tortured, or having their homes forcefully demolished.” —Chinese author and social commentator Hao Qun, using his pen name Murong Xuecun, quoted by the Associated Press on what the Chinese people want from their leaders

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with Yitzchak

On the war waged against th

Yitzchak Pindrus, a member of the Degel Hatorah party, is a Deputy Mayor of Jerusalem. He met Ami’s Editor-in-Chief, Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter, in his office last week.


Israel seems to be going through dramatic changes vis-à-vis its attitude toward charedim. What is your perspective on that?


I don’t see it as a change. It’s not the first time this is happening. Sometimes situations are tougher, sometimes they’re easier. But it’s not a real change. There’s a battle going on here for 70 years. Nobody won the battle. Nobody got the other side down on its knees. Charedi society very much succeeded, growing to numbers no one would have ever believed—not the secular and not even the charedi. It was not b’derech hateva. Now we make up 35 percent of the first graders in Eretz Yisrael. The more we grow, the more the secular leadership fears

that we’re getting bigger and bigger and taking over. And they try to fight us. It’s not the first time. Just to remind everyone, in 2003 there was a government with Tommy Lapid together with Effie Eitam, head of Mafdal, and Arik Sharon. It was the same idea. They thought they’d teach the charedim and show them. We went through a very difficult time then. But we’re still here. The yeshivos are growing. The cheders are growing. The Bais Yaakovs are growing. The kollelim are growing. Torah is growing in Eretz Yisrael. Go a little further back to 1999. Ehud Barak said he wanted a government that’s “memshalah chilonit.” He wanted to get the charedim out. It’s not the first time. Each time, they raise different objections about our way of life. Sometimes it’s the way we treat women. Sometimes it’s what we don’t teach in school. Sometimes it’s that we don’t go to the army. It’s different depending on the atmosphere of the time, but it’s always for the same reason. It’s a battle that’s been going on for at least 70 years.

funding of the charedim, and now it’s more about the army. But from a general perspective nothing is new. I’m not saying we don’t have a problem. We know they want to arrest yeshivah bochurim now. But I’m saying that nothing has really changed. Don’t forget another thing: We were always in the middle between the left and right wings that were fighting each other. Today, because of the intifada and all these things, there isn’t so much of a left and right wing anymore. This also changed the political map and made it even more complicated. The other thing to remember is the growth. You can’t compare being afraid of 10 percent to being afraid of 35 percent. Of course, they’re a lot more frightened of what will be with the economy and the army. As the kedushah grows, the anti-kedushah forces grow too. The fear is a lot greater today, I agree. But the idea is the same idea.



Many observers think the last election was about the charedim. Do you think they’re right?


Tommy Lapid got 15 seats in 2003. Now his son Yair got 19. What’s the big difference? I remember that being against charedim was Barak’s big thing, and he was elected with a larger number. I remember Raful used anti-religion as his campaign. I don’t think this is different. Other times they were talking more about the issue of the

56 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3


Do you think support for yeshivos will be cut?

In 2003, all the funding was cut. The Finance Minister’s name then was Netanyahu. He cut all the funding for children, Bituach Le’umi and all the money for yeshivos. It was tough for yeshivos, and people around the world helped. No yeshivah collapsed or closed. Now, we’re far from there. I hope we won’t be there. I cannot predict the future, but I don’t see this government surviving too long. What connects the political parties in the government is unclear to anyone. They’ll

By rabbi yitzchok Frankfurter

k Pindrus,

he charedim have fights on a lot of issues.


Will the draft issue ever be resolved?


The draft issue isn’t new either. It will be difficult, but we’ll get through it again.


Let’s talk a little about charedim who are looking for parnasah.

I want to give you a few aspects to it. First of all, there are a few organizations that work on helping people find parnasah. I myself am involved in an organization called Tenech, which was established by the American Agudah. The Israeli office is headed by Avrohom Rubinstein, secretary of the Mo’etzes Gedolei Hatorah. If someone wants to get a job, people in the community will help him get a job. But you won’t see a kol korei from gedolim, “Guys, go get jobs.” You won’t see a kol korei to keep Shabbos, and if someone wants to get a parnasah the primary tzedakah is to help him. You don’t need a kol korei for that. But I also want you to understand that we’re in the midst of a battle here. A Jew in Brooklyn isn’t in a battle. No one cares that he believes Torah is min hashamayim and that it is for him the most important thing. It doesn’t disturb anyone what he thinks. In Eretz Yisrael, on the other hand, we are in a constant battle. If we want to show that Torah is dear to us, we have to tell them nothing is of value besides Torah. I always give an example that in America years ago every mother wanted her son

to be a doctor. Does that mean everyone had to be a doctor? Were there no other jobs? No. But doctor was the shpitz, the ultimate. Here too, every mother wants her son to be a talmid chacham. We glorify that. That’s the most important thing in our eyes. We’re doing it for chinuch reasons


What would you call a win? What would you like to see happen?

First of all, veyeid’u kol ha’amim… all goyim from China to Japan would know the yeshivas are the center of the world—Mir, Ponovezh, Brisk—that’s the real world. All the rest is illusion.

Sometimes, it’s the way we treat women. Sometimes, it’s what we don’t teach in school. Sometimes, it’s that we don’t go to the army. It’s different depending on the atmosphere of the time, but it’s always for the same reason. because there’s a battle out there. You hear it on the news every day, “Mai ahanu lan rabbanan—What are those yeshivah bachurim doing for the state?” That’s what the am’haratzim are saying. We have to say there’s nothing but learning because we’re in the middle of a battle. Like I said, there are organizations to help people get parnasah. But, the gedolim are the generals in this very tough battle and, baruch Hashem, we didn’t lose this battle. But we didn’t win yet, and we have to know we have an enemy.

Second of all, to let us live the way we believe, without waking up in the morning to find out that two professors sat down with the Minister of Education to decide that all schools now have to study the tradition of Yitzchak Rabin. That really happened. I was Mayor of Beitar and got up one morning to find out they wanted to stop funding our schools because we weren’t teaching the tradition of Rabin. With all due respect, I don’t want to study the tradition of Rabin or Jabotinsky. I have other traditions to study that are much more meaningful to me.

9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3 / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / A M i M ag a z i n e



with Yitzchak Pindrus

too hard to explain. Second of all, I never asked for anything. I just asked to let me live. You want me to run my own economy? I’ll run it. You want to be partners? Fine. If not, also fine. We’ll just leave each other alone.


What percentage of the Jerusalem population is charedim?

Almost 40 percent. We see a lot of fear here as a result of our strong presence, and I’d say that creates a lot of unfair activity against the charedim: unfair actions toward our education, unfair actions in recognizing our needs, and unfair actions in understanding our culture and way of life. We see a lot of things that are unfair, and we’re very busy trying to stop things like that.

A Jew in Brooklyn isn’t in a battle. No one cares that he believes Torah is min hashamayim and that it is for him the most important thing. It doesn’t disturb anyone what he thinks. I want them to let me live without interfering in my religion or education, and recognize I have a right to do that.


How do you respond to the secular who say charedim don’t contribute and receive more than they give?


First of all, we all know the Gemara in Bava Basra. There was a tax in Teveriya. Rebbe said the am’haratzim should pay it. So the am’haratzim left. So the king deducted half the tax. For the second half, there was one washer man left. Rebbe said

he should pay the whole thing. He left and the tax was annulled, and Rebbe said, “I told you the tax was only because of the am’haratzim.” Our whole right to come back to the land was a Biblical right. The whole way we remained a nation after 2,000 years was because of the Torah. There’s no other logical reason we’d remain a nation and come back here. The only way we can remain a nation is by having people sitting and learning. It’s what keeps us as a nation. If someone wants to listen, it’s not

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How is it in the Jerusalem municipality? Do things work out in the end?

We’re busy 24 hours a day to get our rights. The battle is everywhere. The secular folk are worried about what will be with the city. Most of the money in Jerusalem comes from the frum Yidden. But they’re still afraid. They don’t let the facts get in the way of their propaganda.


In Jerusalem itself, do you feel the battle is getting tougher?

You have to understand that the present mayor wasn’t elected by us. And there is a price we pay for that. He has to make a certain payment to those who voted for him, and we have to make sure that payment isn’t too much at our expense. We’re very busy with simple rights that would be understood in a normal world—things like kindergartens.… I can’t say things are getting easier. The more fear there is, the harder it is.


What about the Arab population? Are they more hostile now or less?

Lately, there has been an increase in hostility and demonstrations. It’s not dramatic like during the intifada. How-

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with Yitzchak Pindrus

Let us live the way we believe, without waking up in the morning to find out that two professors sat down with the Minister of Education to decide that all schools now have to study the tradition of Yitzchak Rabin. ever, just last Friday, two Molotov cocktails were thrown on Har Habayis and there have been incidents of stone throwing. The cocktails were thrown at police officers in Har Habayis after the Muslims finished their prayers. A couple of officers were injured from stones. Jerusalem is no doubt a very complicated city. On the one hand, sometimes one porch that goes through the zoning committee makes an international sensation—especially if it’s when Biden is here. The UN gets together to talk about it. The whole world is focused on one backyard porch. The Arabs don’t vote so they’re not part of City Hall, but we try as much as we can to provide for their needs and make zoning rules for them, which is very difficult without their cooperation. This is one of the challenges we face. Jerusalem is very complex. Bathrooms near the Kosel can be an international issue. A few apartments in the alleyway can get the King of Jordan involved. The Waqf still controls Har Habayis and they’re

always complaining about building taking place on their holy sites. Usually the Israeli police don’t go to Har Habayis unless there are riots there. One of the news items now is that they threatened that Obama shouldn’t come to Har Habayis without their permission. He’s probably not going to come to the Kosel, so as not to insult them by not going to the Har Habayis.


What’s your biggest challenge as Deputy Mayor?

I am one out of eight deputy mayors in Jerusalem, and I get up every morning and make sure our education hasn’t been threatened. What’s understood for a normal resident of Jerusalem—that his child deserves a kindergarten—isn’t obvious for a charedi child. While it’s obvious that a secular resident deserves a community center, it isn’t obvious for a charedi resident. What’s understood in the secular world isn’t given to charedim. We’re dealing now with special-

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needs kids who can’t find a school because they won’t give a place for charedim. We have 12 out of 30 seats in the municipality.


When are the next elections here?


November. Our hope is that Uri Lupolianski comes back. He did succeed last time in getting votes from the secular, and we really hope he’s coming back. We will be able to breathe easier with him at the helm.


What’s your political and personal background?

I am from the Degel Hatorah party. I was Mayor of Beitar for six years. I was Deputy Mayor for five years before that. Afterwards I was Deputy Mayor of Beitar for another year, and then I came to Jerusalem four and a half years ago. I grew up in Jerusalem in Arzei Habirah and learned in Rav Zilberman’s yeshivah. My parents are American.


Any message for the American charedi community?

The success of the charedi community is that we’re united across the world. That’s how we survived the past 70 years of the battle, and that’s how we will survive the current situation too. There’s no doubt that it will help to have the friendship of the global charedi community. Of course, monetarily they’ll support us more than the Israeli government, especially if the Israeli government takes more funding away. But, it’s also a big help that we’re seen as being united throughout the world.


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Five Hundred Years Later—A Spanish Seder For the first time in 500 years, a Pesach Seder will be held in Ribadavia, Spain


ibadavia, Spain: It has been a long time since the sweet sounds of the Pesach seder reverberated in the center of this once bustling Jewish quarter. The last time there was any semblance of active Jewish life in Ribadavia, it ended with sounds of sadness and terror. It was 521 years ago, when the Jews of Spain were expelled, under the expulsion edict issued by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain. This year, Judaism will be visible in Ribadavia once again as a Pesach seder will be held in the Jewish Quarter. It will be led by noted historian Professor Abraham Haim. Professor Haim holds degrees in Middle Eastern history, Arabic language and literature from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and a doctorate in history from the University of Tel Aviv. He was the general director of Sephardic heritage for the Ministry of Education and Culture of Israel. His accolades and credentials are many, including lecturing and teaching at many universities in Eretz Yisrael and abroad. Ami spoke to Professor Haim—who was already in Spain to prepare—about what led him to host a Pesach seder in this obscure Spanish town, and about the fascinating history of the Spanish Sephardim. Professor Haim described his connection to the heritage of Sephardic Jewry: “I was born under the British Mandate. I am a traditional Jew, although several of my children have become a lot frummer than I am. I come from a strong Sephardic heritage. My great-grandfather was Rabbi Moses Pereira, who was the chief rabbi of Sarajevo before he immigrated to Hebron, where he became the chief rabbi. I was always interested in Sephardic culture and I have taught in many universities throughout my life. I am not a young man anymore; I am now 71 years old and retired from teaching in an official capacity, but I always try and improve my education, regardless of my present situation in life. “In 1979 I traveled to Spain to learn the modern Spanish language. I already conversed fluently in Ladino, known as JudeoSpanish; I speak eight languages fluently. Ever since 1979, I had visited Spain several times and was invited to lecture through64 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

out Spain on Spanish Jewish heritage. In 1994, someone told me about this little town in Spain called Ribadavia, which is in the Galicia region in northwestern Spain. They had organized studies about Sephardic culture and I was invited to be one of the lecturers.” Professor Haim repeatedly used the term Sephardim to refer to just the Jews of Spain. I pointed out to him that in America and Eretz Yisrael, the word Sephardi is used to refer to Jews of the Middle East—including Syrians, Moroccans, and Iraqis, to name a few. Professor Haim explained. ”It is a great point that you bring up, and one of contention. In my lectures, I discuss this term and the proper usage of the word “Sephardi.” For sociopolitical reasons, the word “Sephardi” includes all non-Ashkenazi families, regardless of their origin. In Spain, however, they say regarding this, ‘How can this be?’ “They want a limited definition of what the word Sephardi means. They say, ‘We are the real Sephardim.’ After all, the literal translation of the word Sephardi is ‘Yehudei Sepharad,’ Jews from Spain. In Spain they will refer to a Jew who is not ‘true’ Sephardi by where he comes from—not with the generic term ‘Sephardi.’” Professor Haim also explained why the word “converso” is preferred to the word “marrano” to refer to Jews who converted in 1492 and later. The etymology of the Spanish word “marrano,” which literally means pig, comes from the Arabic word “harama”—to forbid. It is a disparaging word, as it insinuates that the Jews did things that were forbidden to them. The word “converso” is more appropriate, because their conversion was under duress. They did not willingly violate Jewish laws. “Every since my first invitation to lecture in Ribadavia in 1994,” continued Haim, “I traveled there at least once a year every subsequent year. Ribadavia had an institute of medieval studies, and because of my voluntary work over there they made me the honorary president of the institute. This year I had the idea to celebrate this seder. The purpose of this seder is twofold: It is geared

By Nesanel Gantz

Jewish quarter in Ribadavia, Spain

Professor Abraham Haim

towards Jews, and non-Jews as well. But the invitation extended to non-Jews has a distinct Jewish purpose behind it as well.” Professor Haim explained that officially there is no Jewish population in Ribadavia, although he said that in Spain nothing is at it seems. “In Spain today,” he said, “there are thousands of people who are conversos and descend from Jews. Studies have shown that up to 20 percent of Spaniards have Jewish origins. The sad truth is that after the Inquisition many Jews remained Christians, and their children and descendants became loyal Christians, completely forsaking the religion of their forefathers. You have to remember, many who converted did so under great duress, and it was very difficult to keep your religion under

those circumstances. While it is entirely possible that a converso is a full-fledged Jew, any Spanish converso who wishes to practice Judaism must undergo giyur k’halachah [a full halachic conversion to Judaism].” There have already been several conversos in Ribadavia and across Spain who have expressed interest in attending the seder. One never knows what can come out of an exposure to Judaism. “In fact,” continues the professor, “the family that I am staying with right now was one such family. They always knew they had a Jewish history, and I developed a connection with them over the years. The parents underwent giyur k’halachah in Jerusalem, and one of the sons has already converted as well. The other children are in the midst of converting, and the family hopes that soon they will all be full-fledged Jews.” Although Professor Haim considers himself “masorti” (traditional), he has been the catalyst for many people to live full-fledged Jewish lives through his influence. I found it interesting that someone who is not “dati” (religious) reawakens the Jewish spark in many Jews. He pondered the thought and agreed. Spain has one of the largest populations of people with a Jewish ancestry who are not practicing Jews. However, the influence of their history cannot be ignored. Professor Haim m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3 / / A M i M ag a z i n e



Studies have shown that up to 20 percent of Spaniards have Jewish origins pointed out that the Spaniards in Ribadavia celebrate Festa da Istoria every last Saturday in August, in what they call a “Holiday Fiesta.” It is a day of celebration, and interestingly many of the events and customs of this day have Jewish origins. For instance, they have a reenactment of a Jewish wedding, with a chuppah. Additionally, they have a famous theatrical performance of an actual event that took place during the Inquisition, called “Hamalshin.” I wasn’t one of those who knew the story, so I asked the professor for a quick summary. “It deals with the story of a Jew who, during the time of the Inquisition, ratted out his fellow Jews to the government. In the end there is a court judgment. The malshin [informant] is found guilty and he is the one executed. The word malshin is an actual part of the Spanish lexicon. The point is that even in their day to day activities, there is a clear connection to Judaism that is visible and discernible to someone knowledgeable in Judaism.” Professor Haim provided a bit of important history: “During the Middle Ages, Jews lived together with Christians in peace and harmony. Once the edict was decreed, Jews were no longer permitted to live there according to the edict of expulsion. Ribadavia’s Jewish quarter is quite beautiful and well preserved by the town. The town is very open to Jewish culture—they won’t say “Jewish religion”—and considers Jewish culture an integral part of their own culture. This is a very important point. You cannot understand Spanish culture without understanding that the history of the Jewish people is an integral part of Spanish culture as well. “In the decades and centuries after the Inquisition, in which the non-Jews lived with Jews (conversos), traditions of the Jews as well as the way of life and mannerisms of the Jewish people shaped Spain. Spain, while acknowledging the black eye the Inquisition is, at the same time acknowledges that the Jewish people have been part and parcel of its culture over the past 500 years. 66 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

“The recent news that Spain is making it easier for Jewish Sephardim to come back to Spain illustrates this point. That’s why the city of Ribadavia, when the government became aware of the upcoming seder, issued a statement saying how happy they were about it. To that I am tempted to say ‘moichel toives’[I’ll forgo the favor]. While yes, the Jewish people benefit from Spain’s support, the Jews are just as important to the Spanish for their culture and history. They view it as integral, and want the Jews for their addition to Spain’s own culture and heritage.” Professor Haim explained why the invitation to the seder is open to non-Jews and Jews as well. “The dream is obviously to attract Jews and make them aware of their roots. In fact, there have been people who have said, ‘We think we are Jewish.’ However, you must understand that many Jews live publicly under the assumption that they are not Jewish, so one cannot advertise only to Jews. Second, the city of Ribadavia has funded many of the institute’s activities over the past years, and I cannot exclude anyone from participating. Finally, and most importantly, it sends a clear message—let them come and see us. We are ‘ohr lagoyim’—a light unto the nations. “And in this nation of all nations I want them all to see that Klal Yisrael is alive and well. Despite the attempt at total obliteration and destruction during the Inquisition, we still cling fast to the ways of our fathers. We are proud of our Judaism; we do not have to practice it in fear anymore. How has the response been so far? He told me, “The organizers are telling me that they are receiving requests from across Spain. They also tell me that a family of eight from New York wants to come to Ribadavia to join the seder. I am looking forward to it, and to see what will come of it. I am hoping to meet people and make them aware of the light of Judaism.” Ribadavia’s Jewish quarter still stands very well preserved. Until this coming Pesach night, it has merely been an artifact. This Pesach it will come alive once again.


By Nesanel Gantz

A Matzah Mission in the Motherland A unique marketing campaign to bring matzah to the masses in Russia


everal years ago the owner of Groupon, an online deal company, was offered over five billion dollars if he would sell the company. He refused. However, this outlandish offer highlighted what everyone already knows: People want a bargain. These online deal sites basically operate as follows: A company will offer its service or product for at least 50 percent off. After each sale is made, website and seller split the profits 50-50. Although the seller makes almost no profit, the seller receives the most coveted prize of all: new customer acquisition. In Russia, a deal was posted in order to obtain a different type of customer, one who will observe the most commonly associated mitzvah of Pesach: eating matzah. is a website similar to Groupon. Deals are offered in various categories throughout Russia. A visitor to the site only a week ago would have been surprised to see a deal seemingly out of place—a four-pound package of matzos with a reliable hashgachah delivered to your door for as low as $5 per package. In fact, the $5 was only for the cost of delivery, so the cost of the matzah was free. Intrigued by this ingenious way of marketing matzah to the masses, I tracked down the man behind the idea, Matvey (Moti) Chlenov, Deputy Executive Director of the Russian Jewish Congress. “I’ve been doing the marketing for the Jewish world over the past several years for the RJC,” Chlenov explains. “The matzah

Matvey (Moti) Chlenov

deal is one of our outreach programs. Very few Russian Jews participate in anything Jewish at all. In Russia today, Judaism is still viewed as an ethnicity, not as a religion. We have to help change that perception for the better, so that all Jews will not be afraid or embarrassed by their Judaism.” Why didn’t he charge for the matzah, and how was he able to do so? “The purpose wasn’t to give it away free,” explains Chlenov. “The idea was to create a buzz about matzah, and we were successful. The deal was only online for a week and we made 500 sets available to the public. We purchased 1,000 kilos at an open auction. sent out emails about the deal to their millions of subscribers and we launched an aggressive social

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media campaign as well. Many people visited the site after all of the matzos were sold out, and on there is a message there encouraging people to obtain matzos from their local synagogue. We are also having a special day set aside on March 20, where we will be distributing thousands of matzos free of charge at our synagogue.” What was the general feedback he received regarding the promotion? “ Yo u always have people who complain,” he says. “Some people complained, saying they could go to their local shul and get the matzah at the same price as we charged for delivery. However, that is exactly the point we wanted to achieve. If we can get people to go to shul, then we achieved our purpose. “We received some orders from some interesting places,” continues Chlenov, “including deliveries to some of Russia’s most upscale neighborhoods where apartments go for at least a million dollars apiece. We also received orders to some of Russia’s highest forms of government. If the matzah deal reached people who would otherwise not partake in this great mitzvah, then we accomplished our goal.”

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by Yedida Wolfe

Big Brother—The Boss

Do employees have the right to online privacy? Yes, your boss can read your work email. Many companies require new hires to consent to policies that explicitly state that the firm is allowed to monitor email accounts and Internet activity. Even if there’s no formal agreement, it’s hard to prove the monitoring is highly offensive or unreasonable—especially if the check is part of a lawsuit, or to ensure compliance with corporate policies. More surprising is that an employer can access personal email if it was opened in an Internet browser on a company-issued computer, since companies are allowed to monitor employee web use. So, beware what you write about your boss or what information you provide from work. Unless you’re a government employee, there’s no privacy protection. (Source: Slate)

Data Point Americans lose 90% of inherited wealth by the third generation. (Source: CBS MoneyWatch)

The Snitch’s Accountant

Tax whistle-blowers can’t escape budget cuts Snitching on tax dodgers now pays less. The IRS announced the 8.7 percent cuts to whistle-blower awards starting this month, as part of the automatic federal spending cuts known as sequestration. Opponents find the logic of reducing the rare payouts “completely baffling,” saying the cuts could undermine the program. The IRS paid out $125.4 million to 128 whistle-blowers in fiscal 2012. The program accounted for $592.5 million in tax revenue. (Source: Bloomberg)


New Laws, Old Deductions Early planning provides loop-

holes for British inheritance tax British families fear Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs wants to squeeze more cash from ordinary families, with a major crackdown on inheritance tax (IHT) evasion. Though taxpayers are angry following last month’s announcement that the IHT will uphold the 325,000-pound sterling threshold that puts the family home at risk for many, there are loopholes. Gifts of up to 3,000 pounds annually, transfer of assets, discretionary trusts, gifts of income, charitable donations and enterprise investment or business property relief schemes can offset the unpopular tax. Financial advisers say that planning early is key. (Source: Daily Mail)

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funds from the

feds: a little

tax relief for working


The federal government offers tax breaks to working parents with kids under age 13. The credits apply to earned income of parents who work or attend school full-time. Child care credit The credit reimburses between 20 and 35 percent of child care expenses— up to $3,000 for one child, $6,000 for two or more kids 13 and under—and includes high-income parents. Child care Flexible Spending Account The $5,000 maximum contribution per family is withheld from paychecks and is not subject to federal income, Social Security or Medicare taxes. FSAs are a better deal for families whose tax rate is 25 percent or higher. Include Form 2441 with your Form 1040, claiming the credit on line 28 of your 1040 to claim benefits. (Source: Marketwatch)


A New Suit for Yom Tov Fulfilling a promise to Yehoshua As told to Sa rah Perl Massry


he days preceding Pesach are undoubtedly the busiest days of the season in the popular men’s clothing store where I work. From early in the morning until late in the evening, the crowds do not relent; I often feel like every man in town comes to the store to buy a new suit for Yom Tov. It was on a particularly busy Sunday afternoon when I noticed Yehoshua*. He was a small boy, who could not have been any more than 13 years old. He was accompanied by a dignified elderly gentleman, who must have been his grandfather. Together they stood in a corner of the store, patiently awaiting their turn to be helped. As soon as I finishing up with a couple of customers, I approached them. “What can I help you with?” I asked. “We are here to buy a new suit for this fine young man,” said the elderly gentleman, gesturing to Yehoshua. The elderly man’s face was brimming with a smile. It seemed as though the hectic store and large crowds didn’t faze him. His smile spread to Yehoshua’s face as the young boy explained to me exactly which style of suit he liked and told me which size he was. I led them to a clothing rack and began displaying some suits; there were just a few choices since Yehoshua was a very small size. The selection process wasn’t simple. Yehoshua was very indecisive and couldn’t make up his mind. Yet the elderly man’s patience never wavered, and throughout the entire ordeal he maintained a calm smile. He waited and stood with Yehoshua as he tried on suit after suit, and then tried them all on again. At long last Yehoshua came to a decision and was ready to pay for the suit. I couldn’t help but notice the way he held it up as he carried it to the front of the store. “I can’t wait to wear this!” he said to the elderly man. “Now, 72 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

I can’t wait for Yom Tov! Thank you for taking me.” The elderly man just smiled. I led him to the counter to pay for the suit. Since Yehoshua wandered off to look at some ties, I used the opportunity to compliment the elderly man on his “fine” grandson. “I have to tell you,” I said as I accepted the cash from his hand. “Your grandson has exceptional middos and is a very well-mannered child.” “Oh, thank you,” he replied quickly, “but Yehoshua is not my grandson.” I was surprised; the whole time I had assumed he was. I was curious to know their connection. “Then who is he?” I asked. At first the elderly man was quiet. He glanced in Yehoshua’s direction. Yehoshua was still busy looking at the ties. “Yehoshua’s father passed away a few months ago,” the elderly man began. “It was quite a sudden and tragic death. I know the boy because we daven in the same shul. Recently, during davening one Shabbos, he sat down on the bench and tore his suit. Yehoshua had just gotten that suit for his bar mitzvah. He was devastated that his new suit was ruined and started crying. So I quickly walked over to him and whispered in his ear, ‘Don’t worry, I will take care of you and get a new suit before Yom Tov.’” Immediately, he stopped crying. “So,” he finished, as he took the suit bag from my hand. “I just came here today to fulfill my promise.” I watched as the two of them walked out of the store together. There was a bounce in Yehoshua’s step. Thanks to this elderly man he would indeed have a happy Yom Tov. l *Name protected for privacy. To submit your story for this column or to have your story featured here, please contact us at




t’s been a tough winter for seven year old Tova Horowitz. The rains that pelted Yerushalayim and brought so much blessing to the country were a disaster for her shoes. The streets were filled with puddles, and though she tried her best to avoid them, it was an impossible task. On one particularly memorable day, she tried to jump over a puddle, and missed; landing with a great splash in an icy pool. The water seeped through the holes in her soles, leaving her drenched and shivering with cold all day. Then there was the snow. Most of the kids in Yerushalayim were thrilled with the rare opportunity to build igloos and snowmen. But Tova couldn’t join the fun. She was outside for barely ten minutes before she began to feel the chill. She doesn’t have boots, and though she tied plastic bags around her feet, they didn’t stay on. The slush turned her toes into icicles, so that she had no choice but to watch the fun from her window. It was a long, lonely day; and it left her shoes sodden for the better part of a week. By now, there’s not much left of them. The misshaped leather doesn’t stay on her feet anymore. The shoes clatter with each step, flipflop style. Sometimes they fall off mid-step. Tova’s mother, a widow, can’t afford to buy new shoes. But Tova won’t wear her old shoes much longer. She got a brand new pair at Mesamche Lev’s Pesach distribution, and will wear them for the first time at the Seder.

Tova is so excited. When her mother showed her the coupon Mesamche Lev sent the family, entitling each child to a brand new pair of shoes, the child threw her old shoes to a side, and danced with glee. “Naalayim! Naalayim!” she sang. It is the first time ever that this little girl got new shoes in a box. Every pair she’s had until now was a hand-me-down from a sibling or a second hand store. In contrast, her shoes from Mesamche Lev are top quality, brand name shoes. She was able to choose from the many styles displayed at the distribution - the same ones selling in popular stores in Brooklyn for seventy or eighty dollars. There was a choice of weekday or Shabbos shoes, in a variety of boys’ and girls’ styles and colors. Some 42,000 children got a new pair. Tova has long known just what kind of shoes she wants. Navy blue weekday shoes – pretty ones, with a bow or studs, like her friend Chanie has. Mesamche Lev had just such a pair waiting for her. Tova’s mother bought it for a token 20 NIS – less than $5.00. The token fee gives her the dignity of feeling that she bought her children’s shoes on her own. The shoe distribution is a Pesach tradition for Mesamche Lev, started by its legendary founder, Harav Zalman Ashkenazi, zatzal, who dedicated himself to its success for many years. It is made possible by the generous donors who share his passion for our poor brethren in Eretz Yisroel.

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Jewish Life in England, Spain, France, and Italy The Burning of the

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Bursting with exciting stories, unusual and fun facts, and striking full-color photos, this book will show our children — and us — the glory of two thousand years of Jewish life in Europe.

Courtesy of Colin, used under the Creative Commons license

echoed through the Terrifying screams 9 Tammuz 5002 (1242). shouted the mob. Over the Jewish books!” cripts streets of Paris. “Bring handwritten manus with about 12,000 in twenty wagons filled carts to a large square wooden by taken printing of the Talmud were this was before the Seine. Remember, Paris, on the River weeks, months, had taken scribes It d. invente manuscripts. press had been one of the precious every write to work even years of square. Priests and been set in the public A gigantic fire had Royal guards lifted s held front-row seats. other important official them into the flames. the wagons and threw the holy sefarim from debate ? It began with a happen act of How did such a terrible rabbis. The rabbis, Jewish and s scholar between Christian with the priests, but to argue about religion course, did not want they were forced to.

5 6 5. St. Pancras Railway Station, known for its Victorian architecture, has tracks to France and Belgium. Happy traveling! 6. The tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, the London Eye is 443 feet tall and almost 400 feet in diameter! Don’t get dizzy! 7. The ancient Romans built the Pont du Gard aqueduct in France to bring water across 31 miles to the city of Nimes. After the aqueduct was no longer used to carry water, it was a toll bridge for hundreds of years. Now it is a tourist attraction—but don’t try to drive your car over it! 8. The Chateau Fontainebleau, near Paris, France, has been a royal residence for over 700 years! It has more than 1500 rooms and is surrounded by parks and gardens.

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Kiev, Ukra City with storied Jewish past is making a surprising comeback


iev, the capital city of Ukraine, has a long, fascinating Jewish history. Today this spread-out city of four million people has approximately 80,000 Jews, with a considerably smaller shomer Shabbos population of about 400. Kiev’s central position on the Dnieper River at the commercial crossroads of Western Europe and the East attracted Jewish settlers since the founding of the town in the eighth century CE. According to letters dated 930 found in the Cairo Genizah, Jews were already living in Kiev at that time. Throughout the centuries, the Jewish

community of Kiev continued to alternate between flourishing periods and times of terrible persecutions and pogroms, including the notorious Chmielnicki massacre in 1648. Kiev had a Jewish population of 175,000 when the Nazis invaded in 1941. As soon as the Nazi forces captured the city in midSeptember, plans were made to execute Kiev Jewry. In less than two weeks, in the two days before Yom Kippur, 34,000 Jews were taken to Babi Yar, a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev near the Jewish cemetery. Men, women and children were systematically machine-gunned in a vicious twoday massacre described as one of the most appalling of the Shoah.

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Later, in the struggle against anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union, Babi Yar became a symbol of pro-Jewish support in the epic poem “Babi Yar” by Russian poet Yevgeni Yevtushenko: “The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar,/ The trees look ominous, like judges./ Here all things scream silently,/ And I myself am one massive, soundless scream/ Above the thousands of thousands buried here.” In 1959, when the ravine was filled with earth and Babi Yar turned into a new residential area, both Jews and non-Jews in Kiev protested. In 1961, a flood swept away the earth, destroying the houses.


Many people drowned. Not until 1976 was a memorial stone for the Jewish kedoshim placed there. During the harsh Communist era, there was only one remaining shul in Kiev. On Yom Kippur, also the memorial day of the Babi Yar massacre, thousands crowded into the shul, overflowing into the courtyard and the street. Several minyanim were held in private homes, but, if discovered, they were closed down and the owners severely punished. From 1960 until 1966, even baking matzah was prohibited and Jews who baked them illegally in their homes were punished. When Rabbi Panitch, the last rabbi to officiate in Kiev, retired in 1960, no other rabbi replaced him. With the overthrow of Soviet communism in August 1991, Ukraine declared its Children from Cheder Orach Chaim in Kiev learning to bake matzahs

Real Estate Renting A two-bedroom apartment costs about $1,200 a month. Most people rent. Buying Only those who purchased their apartments when the Soviet Union broke up own them; the cost, approximately $2,000 per sq. meter, is prohibitive today.

independence, for which most Jews voted. The leaders of the Ukrainian national movement expressed a positive attitude toward its Jewish citizens and, to partially atone for past transgressions, returned 20 shuls and all confiscated religious items to the Jewish community. However, the unfortunate results of the years of Communist oppression were a community of mainly assimilated Jews and widespread intermarriage. The Jewish community of Kiev consisted of people aged 65 or older or those in transit, waiting to move on to other places. There were no shomer Shabbos families, and the few baalei teshuvah had left or were leaving for Israel or the United States. The future of the Jewish community appeared very bleak. Then in 1989, Brooklyn-born Rabbi Yaakov Dov Bleich, who received semichah from Yeshiva Karlin Stolin, moved to Kiev with his new wife. Appointed Chief Rabbi of Kiev and Ukraine, his challenging goal was to help restore Jewish religious life and education. Over the years, Rabbi Bleich founded many Jewish educational institutions, including the Jewish High School and Boarding School, the Jewish Kindergarten, the Shuva camp, Yeshiva and Machon Orach Chaim, the Midrasha Tzionit Educational Centre for Adults and the Orach Chaim international camp for American students. Rabbi Bleich recalls that in the early 1990s, “you had to go to Moscow to buy diapers.” The Bleich family has since expanded to eight children, and Jewish life in Kiev is now on the upswing. The kiruv movement is thriving,

Cost of Living The economy in Kiev, as in the rest of Ukraine, recovered somewhat from a recession in 2011. Kiev is a middle-income city, with prices currently comparable to many mid-size American cities and much lower than Western Europe. Despite the poverty in the rest of Ukraine, Kiev itself does not have any slums. Because the city has a diverse economic base and is not dependent on any single industry, its unemployment rate remains far lower than the national average of 9.6%. Lately, though, prices are rising and many items such as gasoline now cost more than they did just a few years ago. However, thanks to government and Jewish community subsidies, parents pay only a symbolic amount of school tuition. Since Kiev is a physically large, spread-out city, school transportation is a necessity, but parents contribute only a partial cost for the minivans.

Getting There 

A bar mitzvah celebration in Kiev Rabbi Bleich (r)

By Menucha Chana Levin

From NYC: 10 hour direct flight From London: Two and a half hours From Tel Aviv: Two hours, 40 minutes

with many young baalei teshuvah couples (who intend to stay and build the community) and students expressing interest in Yiddishkeit. The International Solomon University, the first Jewish university in Ukraine, opened in Kiev in 1993. There is a Hebrew studies department at the University of Kiev and three Jewish newspapers are published.

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


JEWISHLIVING IN In addition to the Jewish day school, which provides a general studies program and a few hours of limudei kodesh, there is also a growing, high-level Talmud Torah for the children of frum families. This school promotes a feeling of unity in the community. There are also yeshivos in Kiev, but some students finishing their mandatory education move to Israel to further their Jewish studies. The seven shlichim families there are also having an amazing impact on the community. Among them is Rabbi Motty Neuwirth, originally from Antwerp, Belgium, a graduate of Ohr Sameach’s Ohr LaGolah program; and his wife Malky, from Zurich, Switzerland. Upon completion of the Ohr LaGolah outreach program, they were given a choice of three possible locations in which to implement kiruv: faraway, exotic Hong Kong; equally far Edmonton, Canada; or Kiev in Ukraine. For several reasons, the young couple, with their toddler and infant in tow, chose to relocate to Kiev. They felt closer to Europe and wanted to help East European Jewry rediscover their lost heritage after generations of Communist oppression. They felt there was a certain yichus about Ukraine due to its fascinating Jewish past. Another plus for them is that Kiev is only a few hours by plane to other European cities and to Israel, enabling them to visit a couple of times a year and to attend family simchas. When they first arrived, the young family, with their little children in a double stroller, caused quite a stir in the aging community. Fortunately, thanks to their efforts over the years, there are now many such young families, as well as sincere yeshivah bochurim and university students interested in learning about Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Neuwirth says that as for himself and his family, they take it year by year, and their future there depends on the educational opportunities for his children. There are now two kosher restaurants and a grocery store. Kosher food is imported from Europe and Israel. Shechitah is no longer the problem it used to be 15 years ago. Chalav Yisrael milk is available in long-life form. We have a machine

 WEATHER The rebbeim and students of Cheder Orach Chaim in Kiev celebrating the first snow, on Chanuka

matzah bakery that bakes 160 metric tons of matzah each year. These matzos are sold throughout Ukraine and exported throughout the former Soviet Union. The money earned is used to support the synagogue. The matzah bakery was actually built with the assistance of the Canadian Foundation for Education and Welfare of Jews in the FSU, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and through the Agudath Israel of America USAID grant. Hand matzos are baked in Dniepropetrovsk, and are exported to Israel and the USA. Other Pesach products are imported from Europe and Israel. For many years, a lot of kosher l’pesach food staples were donated by the Canadian Foundation headed by Mr. Albert Reichmann and run by Rabbi Shlomo Noach Mandel, and made accessible to any Jew who keeps kosher for Pesach. This service is still provided today. One of Kiev’s greatest challenges is the non-Jewish environment, which makes it difficult for those who work and want to be shomer Shabbos. Also, unfortunately the intermarriage rate still remains high. Rabbi Neuwirth states that anti-Semitism

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Kiev is located among plains, forests and the Dnieper River, giving it a moderate, continental climate similar to the northeastern United States. Kiev has four distinct seasons: a chilly winter, a humid summer and a cool autumn and spring. Daily low temperatures remain below freezing through much of December, January and February, with average winter temperatures ranging between 17 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring and fall are milder but still cool, with average highs in the 50s in April and October. Summer temperatures generally range between 65 and 80 degrees, with sticky humidity.

still exists, but it is not obvious. Although he looks clearly Jewish in appearance, he has personally experienced only two antiSemitic incidents during the 15 years he has lived in Kiev. Rabbi Neuwirth feels that the feeling of unity (achdus) is the most positive aspect of the community. People are friendly and helpful, like one big family. Despite the many different levels and backgrounds, there is a strong feeling of “one for all and all for one.” This welcoming, accepting atmosphere attracts new people to the growing community.  To submit a community’s story or to have your community featured here, please contact us at

by John Loftus

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The New Fidel Left versus right in the coming collapse of the Islamist states 9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


by John Loftus

Rabbi Feldmann concluded that Castro “can be many things, but regarding Jews, he has been always a defender, and both spoke and acted with integrity.”


ometimes you just have to laugh. Recently, the retired Cuban dictator Fidel Castro gave a five-hour interview to a liberal Jewish reporter from Atlantic Magazine. In the interview, Castro gave a scathing denunciation of Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust in particular and his antiSemitism in general.

The Iranian Court Jew

What has people giggling is that Ahmadinejad the anti-Semite is Jewish, at least according to the British newspaper, the Daily Telegraph. Recently, they examined President Ahmadinejad’s identity card which he himself produced for the March 2008 elections. Thus, there is no question of the card’s authenticity. The ID card bears his family’s original surname, Saborjhian, which everyone in Iran seems to agree is a Jewish name meaning “cloth weaver,” a traditionally Jewish craft. The Jewish Saborjhians “have historically been concentrated in the same region of Iran where Ahmadinejad was born” according to The Daily Telegraph. The newspaper also states that Ahmadinejad’s identity papers indicate that his parents changed the family name and converted to Islam before he was born. Under Islamic law, this makes the President a Muslim, but under Jewish law, Ahmadinejad is still Jewish because his mother was. I asked my Iranian friends if the Telegraph’s story is correct. They assured me that it is, and that Ahmadinejad’s Jewish heritage is old news in Iran. “Everybody knows about it.” They explained that it was his parents’ embarrassing religious affiliation which drove the politically ambitious Ahmadinejad to become a champion of antiSemitism and a world leader in Holocaust denial. That is how he obtained his “street cred” as a true devotee of Shiite Islam. “This aspect of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s background explains a lot about him,” Iranian studies expert Ali Nourizadeh told the Telegraph. “Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith. By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections,” Nourizadeh said. “He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society.” But what hypocrisy is this! It is as if a black man wore white face makeup in order to be elected head of the Ku Klux Klan so that he could sell them used cars. Yes, my Iranian friends agreed, it is hypocritical, so what’s new? I suppose they are right; there are hypocritical politicians in every religion and nationality in the world. Look at Castro for example. Today he is trying to portray himself as a champion of human rights while Cubans living in exile report how he murdered his own wife, assassinated his closest friends as future political opponents and routinely jailed thousands of his own citizens on the slightest pretext. That is a humanitarian?

Castro’s Compassion Surely, I thought, Castro’s comments about Jews are a fraud. It was all too good to be true. Not only did Castro urge Ahmadinejad to “stop slandering” the Jews, but Castro said that the entire

Iranian government should understand the consequences of antiSemitism. “The Jews have lived an existence that is much harder than ours. There is nothing that compares to the Holocaust.” Castro explained that anti-Semitism is not a new phenomenon. “This went on for maybe 2,000 years,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything.” Gee, I wish Castro would address the next CAIR convention in America. CAIR, the propaganda arm of the Hamas faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, tries to convince Americans that Muslims are an endangered species and that anti-Islamic slander is everywhere. I think that all the CAIR supporters should be sent to Iran. They would like it there. Ahmadinejad has publicly called the Holocaust “a myth,” and sponsors conventions of bigots claiming Jews exaggerated the Nazi genocide in order to win sympathy from European governments. Does Ahmadinejad think fascism is coming back in style in Italy? Castro has emphatically gone in the exact opposite direction, but why? Is it a revival of old school leftists versus rightists? Or is Castro trying to back away from his own history of dealing with Jews. Jeffrey Goldberg, the reporter who interviewed Castro, said, “I think he realizes he’s gone too far in certain criticisms of Israel.” Certain criticisms? Castro and the words “anti-Zionism” were practically synonymous among the left. I am reminded of Martin Luther King Junior’s scorching retort to people who say they are not against Jews, only against Israel. He implied that such people are both racists and liars. Anti-Zionism is a thin disguise for anti-Semitism. I think Reverend King knew a thing or two about discrimination. So is Castro now turning legit? Is he an old person trying to get into heaven or is he setting himself up as the new peacemaker in the Middle East? Reporter Goldberg says it is both: “I think he wants to be a player on this issue; and I think he’s genuinely offended by Holocaust denial.” Seriously? Yes, as it turns out, Castro has been a staunch defender of Jewish rights in Cuba long before the communist takeover. Rabbi Roberto Feldmann was the “official rabbi” of Cuba in 1997. He wrote to Haaretz of his experience growing up among the small Jewish community in Cuba (which became smaller still after the revolution in 1960), and of one Hungarian Jew who had a personal experience with Castro: “I was never harassed, never had a problem, despite the antiZionist mantras that were much less common than in any Western country today. And I recall one Hungarian Jew I met in the USA, in Cincinnati. After escaping the Holocaust, he spent some 13 years in Havana. When he was a student, a clerk at Havana University made an uncommon anti-Semitic remark to him. “So he went to the president of the alumni association. Guess who that was in 1946…Fidel himself, of course. He grabbed the smaller, thin Hungarian Jew with his strong arm around his shoulder, and told him: ‘Nobody is going to abuse you for being a Jew.’ And he went straight to that clerk, and with his huge charisma and personality, taught that clerk a lesson in front of the speechless Hungarian Jew, the latter never forgot.”

by John Loftus The rabbi concluded that Castro “can be many things, but regarding Jews, he has been always a defender, and both spoke and acted with integrity.” Well, who would have guessed? Some blog writers have speculated that Castro himself may have had Jewish origins as many Marranos fled Spain from the Inquisition and settled in the New World. “Castro is reported to have Jewish ancestry on his mother’s side. Many Latin Americans of Spanish origin and Hispanics were/are Jews who fled the Inquisition.”

Ant-Zionists Not Letting Castro Go Actually, not so many. Bibi Netanyahu’s father has written a very good book on the subject. Most Jewish refugees left Spain for North Africa, not North America. I have very strong doubts that Castro is a closet Jew. Moreover, leftist bloggers continue to insist that their beloved Castro is not championing Israel; he was only denouncing Ahmadinejad’s racism, an attitude rather common in the Middle East: “[T]here one observes a continuous vilification from antiquity to modern times culminating in the despotism of the Holocaust, and surely it is this to which Castro refers, again quite correctly. However Castro’s intent is surely not to be an apologist for the state of Israel, Castro fears (quite reasonably enough) a disastrous calamity in the near future involving a US nuclear attack on Iran…Castro is putting all his energy into preventing this and hence his desire to reign in Ahmadinejad.” Ah, I think I hear another conspiracy theory coming. Sure enough a leftist blogger goes on to rant: “Fortunately Castro is much respected and admired in South America and people take what he says with the upmost seri-

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ousness and heed his words. This plus direct relationships between Iran and now powerful South American countries, e.g. Venezuela and Brazil, as well as alternate international bodies such as the NonAligned Movement, portend that Castro’s words may have positive effect (much to the discontent of much of the leadership of Israel which is actively antagonizing for the very disaster Castro is trying to prevent). Viva Castro!” As for Castro’s flip-flops, ask the Russians. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Castro sent a telegram to Premier Khrushchev in which Castro offered to sacrifice the lives of the entire Cuban nation on the altar of communist glory. Khrushchev dismissed Castro as a wing-nut and said, “You see what I have to put up with.” Khrushchev quickly pulled the Russian missiles out of Cuba and away from Castro’s hands. Castro actually learned something from almost starting a global thermonuclear war. “In an Atlantic article,” the author writes, “Castro also talked about nuclear Iran. He said this problem is not going to get resolved, because the Iranians are not going to back down. Fidel Castro also noted that Iran, unlike Cuba, is a profoundly religious country and religious leaders are less likely to compromise. Maybe we should pay attention to someone who has been to the dangerous nuclear cliff and back.” Yeah, somehow I do not think that Castro’s background as a nuclear wing-nut is going to impress Ahmadinejad. He is not the only problem in Iran. Indeed, he may be typical of the ultra-conservative pannational Shia advocates. They are working night and day with North Korea to perfect and miniaturize a missile capable nuclear warhead. They will smile, lie and stall in


order to reach that goal. Castro is right. This is a nation led by religious freaks incapable of compromise.

The Game in the Middle East In their dreams, great status awaits. Ancient Persia, once the most important power in the Middle East, is now relegated to third-tier status. The American-led oil embargo is slowly bleeding them to death. In 2011, they exported 2.5 million barrels of oil a day. In January 2013, they bottomed out at 1.1 million barrels per day. A month later, using every trick in the playbook, the Iranians could only increase oil exports by a trickle to 1.2 million barrels per day. The Americans are playing a smart game, paying off China with permission to break the embargo and purchase Iranian oil. At the same time, China has switched sides and is backing American moves in the UN against Iran’s proxy, Syria. Iran is pouring money and weapons into the black hole of Assad. With a wink and a nod from the Americans, the Iraqis are letting the Iranian arms shipments fly by unmolested and uninspected. Syria is Iran’s Vietnam. Let them spend their lives and their treasure defending the indefensible dictator. Even their Hezbollah allies from Lebanon are complaining about having to fight and die to save Assad’s life and lineage. Most of Assad’s own people hate him now. Soon all of them will hate him. Assad is crossing the last line. This week he is filling the chemical weapons munitions with nerve gas. I never thought he would be that stupid. Like his father, he will use his forbidden weapons of mass destruction to murder his own citizens en masse. His father gassed one entire city,


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86 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Hama, and killed 40,000. His son will have to gas two thirds of Syrian cities to rid himself of rebels. But it is too late for terrorism by genocide to succeed. Two thirds of his country have joined the rebel side. Assad does not have enough shells to kill them all. If that is how Iran is helping him, they will become accomplices to one of the worst war crimes in history. Millions of Muslims will die at the hands of Muslims. Iran and Syria will be the new apartheids, the pariah states. If they think the embargo is bad now, just wait. Their worst dreams are about to become a nightmare. Allah will not save them from the economic collapse that comes with a total embargo. The anti-Islamists of the far right are also living in a dream world, hoping for a victorious battle over the weakened Islamist states. The right is in denial that the left might be right this time. The liberals are saying that the great national powers of the Middle East might possibly collapse with a whimper and not with a bang. Obama and the liberals seem to be quietly winning the economic war, the one that counts. There will be no clash of civilizations. Just a quiet series of collapsing economies all over the Middle East. Like Syria, Iran is slowly sliding under the weight of its own debt. In Egypt, the traditional six-month supply of grain has fallen to 90 days. The Arab dictators are stopping their emergency aid to Egypt. They need the money at home. There will be no rescue for the Islamists of Cairo. The only payrolls being met with certainty are in the Egyptian military, because their salaries are being paid by America. The Americans have quietly forbidden the military to launch a coup…yet. The generals stand by their tanks and watch the Muslim Brotherhood strangle itself to death dealing with a modern economy. Soon, as in Syria, the Egyptian people will hate their leaders too. The Muslim Brotherhood is killing itself, so why should we interfere? Some people are calling what is happening “creative destruction” as if the White House had planned it all along. I like Obama, but I sincerely doubt that this Middle Eastern policy was planned at all.

by John Loftus

The Coming Depression No one I have met (except in Israel) actually believed that the Arab Spring would even succeed. It is not that we are not that smart; it is that we are not that cruel. There was no liberal Kissinger who schemed a Realpolitik scam to let the Muslim extremists win elections, and then lose the love of their people by starving them to death because of their incompetence at governance. Sometimes bad things just happen on their own.

will stay home. Let the Salafists condemn elections and parliaments and democracy as the sinful usurpation of the powers of Allah. The foreign aid will dry up. Maybe the left will come to their rescue. Yeah, that might happen. Maybe Castro could condemn the Salafists for their antiSemitism. I’d buy a ticket to watch that one. Or maybe he could send Cuban soldiers as peace keepers in the Middle East as he did in Angola. Perhaps he can replace the 21 Filipino peace keepers on the Golan Heights who were recently kidnapped by

Jews to fix their finances. Last week, a movie was banned in Egypt. The film was a sentimental documentary, a look at the way Egyptian Jews used to live among them as friends and neighbors. The government did not want the Egyptian people asking why the Jews left, so they banned the movie. Of course, the ban has made the movie an instant best-seller in the black market. Everyone is watching it. All over Egypt, people are listening to the voices of their lost Jewish neighbors who

The only payrolls being met with certainty in the Middle East are in the Egyptian military, because their salaries are being paid by America. The locusts are back in the Middle East, a minor problem for the advanced Israelis, a memory of plague for illiterate Arab farmers. It is perhaps a portent. The Muslims have spent their fortunes on weapons they will never use or will never work. The only wars they are fighting are against each other. In a year, maybe two, Arab deaths from hunger will exceed their casualties from war. Like the Russians and the Cubans, it has been the perpetual fate of the Arab peoples to be betrayed by their own leaders. Let Israel and America stand aside, holding up our freedom as beacons to the world. Darkness is falling. Let it come. Someone once said, “If you want to know what happened yesterday, read the news section. If you want to know what will happen tomorrow, read the business section.” Let the Salafists destroy the pyramids of Egypt as idol worship. The tourists

the Syrians. Maybe Castro could pay their ransom? Perhaps Castro can exhort the Arabs to try and grow sugar cane in the sand or some other useless economic experiment. More Marxism perhaps, or Stalinism, or more Sharia law. All the same thing. Maybe close the Straits of Hormouz? The world has already replaced the potential loss of Iran’s oil with natural gas. That is why the embargo is working. How long would Iran last without a penny of income? Stop exporting oil and in three weeks, the Great Arab Depression would begin and the fall of the Arab nations would commence. Stand back. Do nothing but watch. Let their economies collapse. There is no one there to fix it for them anymore. The people who used to fix things for them have gone away. All the American soldiers have gone home. There are no more

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still speak Arabic with an Egyptian accent. In the darkness, the Arabs are watching the banned movie and smiling at the faces of the Jews, once their Jews, who moved away. Instead of anti-Semitic cat calls, they are actually laughing and smiling with the Jews. Perhaps someday, after things get really bad, the Egyptians will invite the Jews back home. They won’t come, except to visit. They are already home, in Israel and America. Maybe Castro could broadcast one of his all-day speeches to Egypt condemning them for mistreating their Jews. That would be too funny, the world turned upside down. The last Communist devouring the last Islamist, like a snake eating its own tail. Something ironic like that will happen. In the Middle East, tragedy always ends in comedy. I am afraid that the tragedy part, the Great Arab Depression, is about to begin. 


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A conversation with the Rosh Yeshivah of Brisk,

MARAN Rav Dovid Soloveitchik 92 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3



FOR JEWISH CONTINUITY By Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter 9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


(left) Rav Dovid Soloveitchik welcomes Rabbi Frankfurter in his Jersusalem home. (bottom) Letter penned by Rav Dovid regarding the drafting of yeshivah students


f you are an English-speaking person of some erudition, you may be familiar with the following lines about the Jews, which were penned by one of America’s greatest writers: “The Egyptian, the Babylonian and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed and made a vast noise and they are gone; other people have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?” At first glance, the question of Jewish immortality seems unanswerable—but only at first glance. Jewish continuity and fortitude are not, in fact, so puzzling to someone who has a genuine appreciation for Torah scholarship and scholars. Last week, I traveled to Eretz Yisrael to 94 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

visit my venerated Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, shlita, where I learned this lesson.

Off to Eretz Yisrael

My trip to Eretz Yisrael came about in the most curious of ways. The Rosh Yeshivah had come to menachem avel me a few short weeks before in Yerushalayim, following the kevurah [burial] of my father, z”l. As a matter of fact, the Rosh Yeshivah had even engaged me during that visit in a brief conversation. At the time, Rav Dovid asked what I was preoccupied with, and to some extent I let his query about my occupation go unanswered. It was a bit awkward, in that setting, to explain my journalistic endeavors to my Rosh Yeshivah. Therefore, when my son-in-law, Reb Shmuel Abba Glick, relayed to me before Purim that the Rosh Yeshivah had summoned him to his

home and asked him to convey his request that I publicize his perspective on the drafting of yeshivah boys into the Israeli army, I was caught by surprise—and also beset by apprehension. I simply did not feel adequate to shoulder this monumental responsibility. The thought of being an agent of a gadol b’Yisrael whom I revere immensely is without doubt an angst-provoking one. However, these are extraordinary times. Ever since February 2012—when the 10-year-old Tal Law allowing full-time yeshivah students to defer army or national service was declared “unconstitutional” by Israel’s High Court of Justice—each person has had to do his part in confronting those forces that seek to undermine the future of Torah study and scholarship. This is especially true after the recent elections in Israel and the strong showing of Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, whose mandate is to induct yeshivah students into the military. In fact, arrest warrants were recently issued for chareidi students who failed to comply with IDF draft notices. The warrants are being viewed in Israel as the first tangible consequences for chareidi teens refusing to comply with the new draft directive. Some yeshivah students have honored draft notices and reported to induction centers while countless others have refused, many stating that they would rather go to jail than serve in the military. Rumors are circulating throughout the chareidi community that mass arrests will be forthcoming after Pesach. But as many observers of Israeli society have noted, the battle over the draft is really a proxy for the more fundamental fight over the Israeli identity itself, an internal schism that some believe threatens Israel’s future as a state. Chareidim currently make up about nine percent of the population, but because of their disproportionately high birthrate, demographers recently estimated that by 2030 the chareidi community will make up close to a quarter of the Israeli population. Resentment, and even demonization of chareidim is therefore intense and on the increase. Menachem Friedman, professor emeritus of sociology at Bar Ilan University,

recently declared to reporters, “That in the Jewish State, for people to consider the ultra-Orthodox as ‘the enemy’ is a tragic thing.” He described the current situation where “most of the people hate the chareidim” as “bizarre,” “abnormal” and “unprecedented in Jewish history.” Some people may take issue with his statement that the current situation is unprecedented. I recently saw in Israel an exhibition on King Herod, the ostensibly Jewish ruler under Roman occupation two millennia ago. While the museum retrospective made no mention of it, Herod was a tyrant who did not induct Torah scholars into his army but rather persecuted and murdered them. Although hatred aimed at religious Jews has existed for millennia, it cannot be denied that the current increased animus towards the chareidi community is tragic and should be of great concern to anyone with an understanding of Jewish history and destiny. The relentless campaign by secular Israelis, and some misguided people in the religious community, to reform the chareidi population has the potential for dire consequences. One of the most outspoken gedolim against the perilous drive to reform Yiddishkeit has been the esteemed Rosh Yeshivah of Brisk. He has brought this matter to the attention of the Jewish world as few have. The question for me thus wasn’t whether it was important to help spread the Rosh Yeshivah’s vital message, but solely whether I was fit to do so. Consequently, I kept on delaying my visit. That is, until I could no longer ignore my Rosh Yeshivah’s plea.

On Rechov Amos

Time seems to have stood still in this humble apartment on Rechov Amos, in the heart of the Geulah section of Jerusalem. The same faded pictures of the Rosh Yeshivah’s illustrious forebears that were haphazardly displayed on top of his time-worn bookcases when I attended his yeshivah decades ago still grace his dining room walls. Those haunting images of the Brisker Rav, Rav Chaim, the Beis Halevi, never fail to work their magic on a visitor, their strong gazes confirming the singular dynasty and mesorah of Brisk. In the Rosh

Yeshivah’s abode one feels swept up by that unique stream of history, uniting the ancient and the contemporary. Rav Dovid greets me warmly when I enter and asks me to be seated. Few people are familiar with the Rosh Yeshivah’s warmth and sense of humor. Whenever he chides a talmid, he does so with a quip and a kindhearted chuckle. Neither his wit nor his piercing eyes have lost any of their vigor. He smiles and chuckles often during our conversation. I inform Rav Dovid that my son-in-law, who has accompanied me to his house, has relayed the Rosh Yeshivah’s request to help him spread his message. He confirms that he wants me to assist the yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael in fighting the decree to draft their talmidim. Rav Dovid inquires about my publication and asks how often it comes out. When I tell him that Ami is a weekly, he shares with me how impressed he is. “A gutteh zach falt nisht in kesheneh,” he tells me, meaning that one needs to toil for a good thing. “Es is ah shreklicher matzav—The situation is terrible now,” he continues. “They want to draft all the bachurim. Simply put, they want to close the yeshivos. “The Israeli government has no fear of Eretz Yisraeldige Yidden, but they don’t want the world to know that they are the persecutors of religion, just like the Communists were. When the Communists were in power in Russia, it was important to tell the world how bad they were. You have a publication, so it is important that you write about this and tell the world. It can have great hashpa’ah [influence].” Thus he has succinctly explained why he has summoned me here. When Rav Dovid tells me that Ami’s writing about this pressing matter can have great influence I accept his words not merely as a plea, but also as an assurance, as a blessing. “I am a shaliach of the Rosh Yeshivah,” I respond. “Good. But shlucho shel adam k’moso [a person’s messenger stands in his stead]. Make sure you convey it as I express it, mitten gantzen bren [with the same fire and intensity].” This may be an impossible mission.

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


(top) Bais Halevi; (right) Rav Chaim Brisker; (bottom) Brisker Rav

96 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

How can one possibly emulate the Rosh Yeshivah’s fire, his gutwrenching yiras shamayim? But I try to assure him that I will do his bidding nonetheless. “I learned by the Rosh Yeshivah for a single year, but the warmth remains with me till today. The Rosh Yeshivah once told me that I absorbed quite a lot in that one year,” I say with a smile, not to promote myself but to assure him that I understand the urgency of the matter and will try to do all I can. Many American Jews, even yeshivaleit, don’t fully appreciate the culture war that is being waged in Israel by the secular population against their religious counterparts. This war has been ongoing since the establishment of Israel, but it has recently intensified greatly due to the exponential growth of the frum community. “You must relate it with the full bren!” he repeats. “They want to close down the yeshivos! Lo yishama k’zos! Lo yishama k’zos! [Such a thing is inconceivable.] You can have a great impact if you publicize this to the world.” “When we write things,” I attempt to reassure him, “many people take notice. Our publication is distributed all over the world. I already have the Rosh Yeshivah’s varemkeit,” I state. “Now I need the words to convey the message. “Reb Moshe Sheinfeld,” I continue, “was the shofar [mouthpiece] of the Chazon Ish. Whenever the Chazon Ish felt a need to relate something to the world at large, he summoned Reb Moshe Sheinfeld. I am ready to do that for the Rosh Yeshivah.” “My words have already been printed a few times. I can show you a letter I wrote.” “There are two distinct publics we are addressing,” I say. “Acheinu Bnei Yisrael, and the outside world. Accordingly, we need not one nusach but two; one for the frum world and one for the world at large. What should the message be to the outside world?” Rav Dovid thinks for a moment and then tells me the following:

“Yidden became a nation through mattan Torah. The hemshech, the continuation of mattan Torah, is transmitted through the yeshivos, through limmud haTorah. “The Rambam elucidates further: Avraham Avinu had a yeshivah. Yaakov Avinu had a yeshivah. Yeshivos are the yesod [foundation] of the Jewish nation. “There have been dozens of nations that arose throughout the centuries and no remembrance of them exists anymore. The other nations all disappeared. Why? Because all they had was land. All they had was a country. Why are the Yidden still around? Only because Yidden have more than just land; we have the Torah and yeshivos and that’s why we are still around. That’s the perpetuation of Klal Yisrael. That is the entire yesod of our nation. “They want to take away the whole foundation of the Jewish nation, not just the Torah. Bachurim must sit and learn from their early years on with no distraction. That is the yesod of our nation!” If one can say that brevity is the soul and essence of Brisk, then through his few chosen words about the quintessence of the Jewish nation, Rav Dovid has revealed to me his own soul. “What about people who say that yeshivah bachurim can learn Torah and also serve in the army?” I ask. “What can we say to them?” “Torah can have no hesech hadaas [interruption of focus and concentration],” is the Rosh Yeshivah’s response. “Torah requires exclusivity. If someone wants to learn Torah, he cannot have anything else with it. He must be moser himself to Torah, give himself over to Torah completely. This is stated clearly by the Rambam in Hilchos Talmud Torah.” Rav Dovid gets up to retrieve a sefer and reads the Rambam’s words to me in Hilchos Talmud Torah, Chapter 3, halachah 6: “‘A person whose heart inspires him to fulfill this mitzvah in a fitting manner and to become crowned with the crown of Torah should not divert his attention to other matters. He should not set his intent on acquiring Torah together with wealth and honor simultaneously.’ “Torah can have no hesech hadaas,” he repeats. “If a bachur wants to grow in Torah

and be in the army, he will not succeed at all. A bachur must commit his whole life solely to Torah!” There is nothing unclear about the wisdom of this statement. How can one not comprehend that by requiring yeshivah bachurim to serve in the military, the yeshivah world as we know it will cease to exist? I am overtaken by a feeling of deference to the purity and precision of his thoughts. “If the Israeli government enforces a draft decree,” I ask, “what should the bachurim do? Is it a shaas hashmad [historical era of repression of Torah]?” “It is a shaas hashmad,” he answers in the affirmative. “Is it yeihareig v’al yaavor [a mitzvah for which one must be willing to give up one’s life rather than transgress]?” my son-in law asks.

person to fulfill his mission]. I will write up the Rosh Yeshivah’s words myself. Can the Rosh Yeshivah give me a brachah?” I ask. “Zeit matzliach [You should be successful]!” he wishes me. “It is a great zechus to be the Rosh Yeshivah’s shaliach,” I say getting up, “and I hope with Hashem’s help to fulfill the shlichus.” I am uplifted beyond words, not so much by the mission with which I have been entrusted but by its brevity. Rav Dovid has managed to sum up an entire mesorah, our complete weltanschauung, in a few words. I leave the Rosh Yeshivah’s home on Rechov Amos pondering the following Talmudic passage: “Rabbi Simlai said: ‘Six hundred thirteen mitzvos were given to Moshe. Then David came and condensed them to

“You have a publication, so it is important that you write about this matter and tell the world. It can have great influence.” “I don’t know. I don’t pasken she'eilos. But it is a shaas hashmad.” “The experts say that the last election revolved around this issue,” I offer. “Does the Rosh Yeshivah believe that their intention is akiras hadaas [to uproot religion]? “Of course! One hundred percent!” the Rosh Yeshivah says. “I remember when I was in yeshivah, the Rosh Yeshivah always said we shouldn’t take any money from them because they would try to interfere with the yeshivah’s affairs. We didn’t take money but they still mixed in,” I say with a chuckle. Rav Dovid laughs but remains solemn. “Will you be writing this up yourself?” he asks me unexpectedly. “The Rosh Yeshivah has designated me to be his shaliach. ‘Ein shaliach oseh shaliach’ [an emissary cannot appoint another

11. Then came Yeshayahu, and condensed them to six. Then came Michah, and condensed them to three. Then Yeshayahu came again, and condensed them to two. Then came Amos, and condensed them to one” (Makkos 23b-24a).

The Plea

However, being uplifted and apprehensive are not mutually exclusive. I vacillate as to the approach I should take in conveying the Rosh Yeshivah’s profound message. Should I be as succinct as he was, or should I expound upon his words? Indeed, I wonder if the world can ever understand the Torah’s central role in the amazing continuity of Judaism. The overwhelming majority of Jews in America have disappeared through assimilation and have been consigned to the deleted

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


files of history, and I am not entirely sure the world can truly appreciate the secret to the immortality of the Torah-true minority. And what about the Rambam’s concept that there cannot be hesech hadaas when it comes to Torah, as he states so poetically and concisely at the end of Hilchos Teshuvah: “It is a wellknown and clear matter that love of G-d will not become fixed in a person’s heart until he becomes obsessed with it at all times as is fitting, leaving all things in the world except for this. This is implied in the command [Devarim 6:5]: ‘Love G-d, your L-rd, with all your heart and all your soul...’ Therefore, it is necessary for a person to seclude himself in order to understand and conceive the wisdom and concepts that make his Creator known to him according to the potential man possesses to understand and comprehend, as we explained in Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah.” There is without a doubt a fire burning in the Holy Land. Not a holy blaze, but one that seeks to extinguish the holy conflagration, the spiritual fire that makes Eretz Yisrael so unique. In recent decades, Israel has become a center of Torah erudition that the world hasn’t seen for centuries. That erudition, which stems from a singular dedication to Torah study rather than military might, is the secret of Jewish immortality. Nevertheless, some would like to completely do away with the former and substitute it with the latter, 98 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

thus putting the future of Klal Yisrael in harm’s way. The inevitable result of this reformation would be that the Jew, like the Egyptian, Babylonian and Persian, would also exhibit signs of decadence, infirmities of age, weakening of his parts, slowing of his energies, and the dulling of his once alert and aggressive mind. And it goes without saying that he would progressively abandon his religious values. Accordingly, this is not a time for contemplation, and certainly not for hesitation, but for action. There are but two paths before us: one of life, and one that seeks to alter it. The Rosh Yeshivah of Brisk has reached out to Klal Yisrael to unite in the defense of life. Are we ready to heed his plea? 

“Many American Jews don’t fully appreciate the culture war that is being waged in Israel by the secular population against their religious counterparts.”





‫תחת השגחת‬ ‫הרה“ג ר‘ אברהם יונה שווארץ שליט“א‬ ‫ קה“י ווינה יצ“ו‬- ‫אב“ד דק“ק קהל חסידים‬



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Buried in Bosnia by Pearl Herzog

The head of U.N. mission in Bosnia, U.S. diplomat Jacques Klein, holds a replica of the more than 600-year-old Haggadah, in Sarajevo.

The sarajevo haggadah survived war, fire and persecution. But it’s now the victim of a bureaucratic conflict.

by sam sokol


a temperature-controlled room somewhere in Bosnia-Herzegovina, one of the most magnificent Jewish works in the world, the Sarajevo Haggadah, lies waiting. The institution in which it was previously exhibited is closed; only curators walk through its halls. A survivor of the conflagrations of several centuries, this Jewish and Bosnian treasure is still waiting for those who wish to see it to find their way back to it.


n June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Hungary and his wife, Princess Sophia, were assassinated as they rode through the streets of Sarajevo. The death of Franz Ferdinand, who was the nephew of Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph and the presumptive heir to the throne, triggered a continent-wide conflagration. That is wellknown. But less well-known is that the couple was on the way to view a historic haggadah when they met their violent deaths. The Archduke and his wife were headed to the State Museum to open its brand new facilities and to view what had become known as the Sarajevo Haggadah. According to some scholars, Franz Ferdinand may have intended to pay homage to Sarajevo’s coveted treasure, the magnificent gold and copper illuminated haggadah, as a conciliatory and strategic gesture. That wasn’t the first historical event that the Haggadah would be associated with, and it wasn’t the last. Its story starts sometime in the fourteenth century. The name “Sarajevo Haggadah” is actually a misnomer; the Haggadah originated in what is now Barcelona, Spain. The Haggadah is considered by many the most beautiful illuminated Jewish manuscript in existence. When a Madrid museum requested to borrow it to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1992, it was appraised by an insurance company for $7 million. (The premium was too expensive and the plans to have it exhibited in Madrid fell through.) Handwritten on vellum, which is bleached calfskin, the prized 102 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

medieval codex opens with 34 pages containing miniatures and illustrations depicting scenes from the creation of the world, the Tower of Bavel, Noah’s Ark, our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, the shevatim and Yosef, the bondage in Egypt, the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu, through the exodus from Egypt and finally the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. The backs of each of the illuminated pages were left blank by the artist in order to prevent the bleeding through of its vivid bright blue, yellow, red and green colors. The Haggadah contains 142 folios; their dimensions are 9 inches by 6. The integration of Midrashic motifs in the illustrations demonstrate that the artist was probably Jewish. More than 25 percent of the scenes depict the story of Yosef Hatzaddik, which is similarly prominent in other Catalonian Haggadahs. The illustration of the page on which the verses of “Ha Lachma Anya” appear clues us into the origin of this Haggadah. A shield at the top of the page featuring red and gold vertical stripes was the symbol for Barcelona in what was then the kingdom of Aragon. It is believed that, based on the clothes, utensils and ornamental elements featured on its pages, the Haggadah was commissioned by a wealthy Spanish Jewish family sometime in the middle of the fourteenth century. The late Cecil Roth, prominent Oxford historian and editor of the Encyclopedia Judaica, whose The Sarajevo Haggadah and its Significance in Art History was published in 1963, sees the bird’s wing on the aforementioned page as representing the Sanz family, while the rosette, symbolic of the Aragonese House, demonstrates the family’s probably close connection to this ruling family. Some scholars believe it may have been a wedding gift to a chasan and kallah. Very fascinating is the fact that the earth is depicted as

20th century, the only major European city to have a synagogue, mosque and Catholic and Orthodox churches within the same neighborhood. It was to there the owner of the Haggadah seems to have fled sometime before or during the nineteenth century.

Becoming the “Sarajevo Haggadah”

round on the very first illustrated page, 200 years before Gallileo was tried by the Roman Inquisition for his Copernican views. The history of this Haggadah is a mystery. It probably left Spain when the Jews were expelled in 1492. On one of the fly leaves is a note of sale dated August 25, 1510, which shows it surfaced in Italy. The names of the buyer and seller were scratched out and painted over with white paint. Evidence of pages being turned and stains from drops of wine attest to its usage. At the end of the Haggadah there is a Latin inscription that bears witness to the fact that a Catholic priest by the name of Giovanni Domenico Vistorini inspected the Haggadah in 1609. His inscription Revisto per mi (“Inspected by me”) tells us that it escaped being burned by the church during the Pope’s inquisition and public burning of Jewish books. The city to which the Haggadah eventually made its way, Sarajevo, was an ideal place for a Jewish work to escape destruction. Sarajevo became known as the Jerusalem of Europe because Christians, Muslims and Jews who fled persecution lived there peacefully in close proximity to each other. It was, until recently in the

In 1894, a child whose last name was Cohen came to the Sarajevo Jewish communal cheder carrying the Haggadah with him. His father had recently passed away and the family was in dire straits and needed to sell it to support itself. The National Museum in Sarajevo eventually acquired the Haggadah that year for 150 crowns or the equivalent of what was then $10,000. The new acquisition was initially sent to Vienna, the seat of the Hapsburg dynasty, where a critical study assessed the Haggadah’s contribution to art history. The study was printed for the first time in 1898 with essays on the Haggadah by Heinrich Muller, a Jewish liturgical expert, and Julius ven Schlosser, a non-Jewish art historian. David Kaufmann, the Hungarian scholar and collector, contributed an important excursus to it on medieval Jewish illuminated manuscripts. During this printing, the manuscript was first called the “Sarajevo Haggadah.” The publication immediately made a profound impression in the world of scholarship. The illustrations were produced and reproduced in various reference works and cited all over the world. Unfortunately, an inept conservator in Vienna had discarded its binding and replaced it with a cheap cardboard cover. We don’t know what the original cover looked like, but we can imagine it was surely as magnificent as the pages inside. Once the study had been completed in the Hapsburg capital, the Haggadah was returned to the National Museum of Sarajevo where it remained until World War II. The Haggadah until that time had never been displayed in public but was kept locked in a box. Only a select few were


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‫המועצה לשימור‬

‫צמרת העיר‬

A member of Sarajevo’s Jewish community displays the Haggadah in a Sarajevo Synagogue on April 15, 1995.

privy to gaze at its magnificent illuminations from time to time.

Saved in Sarajevo

Geraldine Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who served as a correspondent for The Wall Street Journal during the Bosnian War, describes what happened to the Haggadah during World War II in her fascinating article in the December 9, 2007, issue of The New Yorker entitled, “The Book of Exodus.” (Her factual report is not to be confused with her novel, a work of fiction called “The People of the Book,” in which she spins a tale out of the Haggadah’s history, telling the story from the perspective of a rare book expert hired to analyze and restore the Haggadah after the Bosnian war.) In her New Yorker article, Brooks discusses Hitler’s nascent plan for a “Museum of an Extinct Race.” The best of Europe’s Judaica was being amassed under the authority of Alfred Rosenberg, the Reich Minister for the Occupied Eastern Territories. This collection was planned to facilitate Judeforschung ohne Juden—Jewish Studies Without Jews. The renowned Haggadah had elicited the interest of the Nazis, and when German troops entered Sarajevo in 1941, while the city was part of the Independent State of Croatia, their intention was to take the Haggadah. The director of the Sarajevo Museum at the time was a Croat by the name of Jozo Petricevic. He did not speak German and when he was informed that a German general by the name of Hans Fortner was soon coming to the museum, Petricevic requested that the museum’s chief librarian, an Islamic scholar named Dervis Korkut, act as translator. Korkut was knowledgeable in 10 languages and was also an author; among his writings was a book in Serbo-Croatian on the history and architecture of his birthplace, Travnik, the old Ottoman capital of Bosnia. Korkut pleaded with the director that he be given the Haggadah to hide. The two went down to the basement where Petricevic opened the safe, the combination of which only he knew, and took the Haggadah and handed it to Korkut. Korkut lifted his coat and tucked the Haggadah into the waistband of his trousers and smoothed his jacket to make sure there were no bulges revealing the treasure. They went upstairs to face the general. 104 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

The renowned Haggadah had elicited the interest of the Nazis, and when German troops entered Sarajevo in 1941, their intention was to take the Haggadah. Fortner was greatly feared in Sarajevo. He oversaw a Croatian Fascist regimen known as the Black Legion, besides serving as a general of his own army division. The Black Legion massacred Serbs and Jews and tortured and murdered sympathizers of the partisan resistance. General Fortner demanded of Petricevic that he immediately be given the country’s treasure. Thinking quickly, Petricevic denied the museum had it anymore. “One of your colonels came yesterday and took it from us.” “What was the name of the colonel?” boomed Fortner angrily. Petricevic answered that he had not dared to ask his name. Fortner had the museum searched. Fortunately, it was not found. The Germans nevertheless did confiscate the pinkas, the historical annals of the Sephardic community of Sarajevo, spanning a period of several centuries, as well as the pinkas of the community of Dubrovnik. After the war, Fortner was tried for his war crimes in a Yugoslavian court and then hanged in Belgrade. Incidentally, Professor Marko Oreskovic, director of the National Library in Zagreb during the period of 1944 to 1945, was able to save valuable books that were brought to him for safekeeping. He risked his life by refusing to allow the Germans to install their anti-aircraft guns on the roof of the library, since he feared that the library would be bombed by the Allies.

Hiding the Haggadah

Stories abound concerning the hiding place of the Haggadah during World War II. One such story claims that a Muslim hid it under a mosque in a village at the foot of Mount Bjelasnica. Another tale identifies its hiding place under a fruit tree. Geraldine Brooks discovered that the widow of Dervis Korkut was still alive. She went to see her and personally ask her where her husband had hidden the Haggadah. Servet was only 16 in 1940 when she married Dervis Korkut, 37 years her senior. They had been married less than a year when he came home from the museum with the Haggadah tucked under his jacket. Servet Korkut revealed to Geraldine that her late husband had driven with the Haggadah to his friend, who was an imam in a mosque in a remote village near the area of Trescavica. It was hidden among the Korans in the mosque until after the war, when

it was returned to the museum. Servet also told Geraldine about a Jewish 19-year-old girl by the name of Mira Papo whom they had saved during the war. A year after Mira died in 1998, a letter that she had written to Yad Vashem about the Korkuts enabled Mira to repay her saviors when, during the 1999 Kosova war, Israel spirited out Korkut's daughter’s family to Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was at the airport to welcome them. In her memoir, Cecil Roth, Historian Without Tears, Cecil Roth’s widow Irene writes that the Yugoslav government of Josip Tito invited her husband to edit a reproduction volume of the Sarajevo Haggadah and they flew to Sarajevo in 1959 to see it for the first time. She relates that Cecil was later invited to Belgrade to lecture before the Academy of Sciences. A little man who was sitting in the corner of the room and was the president of the academy turned out to be the last survivor of the group that had conspired with Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Austria’s Archduke Franz Ferdinand. During the breakup of Yugoslavia (1992-1995), when Sarajevo was under Serbian siege, the National Museum was bombed. Andras Riedlemayer, a Harvard expert on the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, contributed an article to the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin of 1995 entitled “Erasing the Past: The Destruction of Archives and Libraries in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” In it he describes how the National Museum had been badly hit: “Shells crashed through the roof and the skylights and all of its 300 windows have been shot out, as have the walls of several galleries…. Dr. Rizo Sijari, the Museum’s director, was killed by a grenade blast on December 10, 1993, while trying to arrange for plastic sheeting from UN relief agencies to cover some of the holes in the building.” Fortunately, just a few days earlier, Dr. Enver Imamovic, Sarajevo philosophy professor, archeologist and historian, together with several policemen and guards, had the Haggadah transferred to the vault of the National Bank. But the public was not aware of this and several newspapers reported that it was believed the Serbs sold the Haggadah to buy arms or that the Mossad had taken it away for safekeeping.

The rumors were quelled when US Senator Joseph Lieberman announced that he would come to Sarajevo to celebrate Passover if the Haggadah were on the table. President Izetbegovi and Prime Minister Silajdži accepted Lieberman’s offer and the Haggadah was brought to the Jewish Community building for Passover in 1995 under extremely tight security. The event was reported by news agencies around the world and a number of journalists were dispatched to Sarajevo especially for the occasion. It was breaking news on CNN, though Senator Lieberman did not make it to Sarajevo because of the siege and the closing of the airport. Nevertheless, the Sarajevo Haggadah was presented to the public. Twelve million American viewers watched ABC NightLine when a broadcast was dedicated to the Sarajevo Haggadah that year.

Left in the dark

On December 14, 1995, the Dayton peace agreement was signed by Yugoslav President Milosevic, Croatian President Tudjman and President of Bosnia-Herzegovina Izetbetgoiv, ending the Balkan war. But the deal left seven cultural institutions, including the National Museum, without a guardian and devoid of any funding for the preservation of Bosnia’s national heritage. At the end of the conflict, Bosnia was split along ethnic lines into two semi-autonomous parts linked by a weak central government. This central government has no ministry of culture and no obligation to provide funding for the institutions that are the custodians of the country’s national heritage, including precious medieval manuscripts, religious relicts, and natural history artifacts. The Bosnian Serbs oppose giving the central government control over the cultural sites, with their leaders often insisting that Bosnia is an artificial state and that each of the country’s ethnic groups has its own heritage. Bosnians insist that safeguarding the shared history of the Bosnian people is one way to keep the country unified instead of permanently splitting it the way many Bosnian Serbs would want. During the past few years the national institutions have been


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US Senator Joseph Lieberman announced that he would come to Sarajevo to celebrate Passover if the Haggadah were on the table. partially financed through insufficient grants from different layers of government, allowing the buildings to say open while cutting down on staff, and operational costs came from the reserves of the central budget. Ana Mari, a curator and archaeologist at the National Museum, explained to Ami Magazine that before the war, the National Museum was funded by the state. Afterward, the funding could have come from the state level, from the autonomous region called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Sarajevo is located, or from the local municipalities. But none were made responsible. “For the last 17 years, the funding for the museum had partially come from all those levels.” After the October 2010 general elections, the six winning parties took nearly 15 months to reach an agreement on the formation of the new central government, leaving power in the hands of an outgoing cabinet that failed to pass a budget. “That enabled them to not give us any money,” says Mari, starting in 2011. No funds have been provided for all of the national cultural institutions, including the National Museum. “We worked for 12 months without any salary at all. Then we decided to shut the museum down. Now it’s been 18 months, a year and a half, that we have had no salary or health insurance at all.” Mari explained that the employees, who number over 60, still work for the museum and are making sure that the collections are preserved. “We’re still employees of the National Museum; we weren’t fired. The National Museum isn’t dead. It’s just closed. We couldn’t make the money to keep it open from ticket sales.” In 2001 the Sarajevo Haggadah had been restored through a special campaign financed by the United Nations and the Bosnian Jewish community. It went on what was supposed to be permanent display at the museum in December 2002, though that only meant that it was on display four times a year, with a reproduction on display the rest of the year. Now that the museum is closed, the future of the Haggadah is in peril. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan recently offered to house and exhibit the Haggadah for three years. Ljiljana Sevo, a member of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, announced that the unresolved status of the museum was the reason it had to turn the 106 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

request down. She admitted that the Metropolitan Museum had offered optimum security and conditions for the exhibition of the Sarajevo treasure. In an email to Ami, Inka Persic, associate for public relations for the Commission, wrote, “The Commissioners consider that exhibiting the Sarajevo Haggadah in the Metropolitan Museum would be a great opportunity for presenting this valuable manuscript abroad and thus to publicize the cultural heritage of the Jews of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the institution where the Sarajevo Haggadah is kept. “Regrettably, the conclusion reached was that the Commission is unable to agree to the request by the Metropolitan Museum, as three of the Commissioners were of the view that before any collaboration can be established, the National Museum must be in a position to operate normally.” Mari told Ami that museum officials also decided that they could not send the Haggadah to New York. “We said no, because loaning something that valuable and that important is extremely complicated. The two sides—in this case the Metropolitan Museum and the National Museum, as well as the United States and Bosnia-Herzegovina—have to organize it extremely well. In our case, that was really impossible, because there was no government or level of government that could take responsibility for it. “It is not just like, ‘Okay, I’ll sit on the plane and come to New York with the book.’ We don’t have the support from our government.” The president of the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Jakob Finci, who had made the connection with the Met for the National Museum, expressed his disappointment with the decision. “It could have been seen by millions of people,” he said. There is an international movement by academics, artists, and institutions from around the world to regain funding for the Bosnian institutions. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any progress, though. “I don’t think that the people in government care,” Mari said. She added that while they have received international help, she believes that the solution has to come from within Bosnia-Herzegovina. She said that the public in the country is divided, with some people claiming that the decision to close the museum was wrong, and that the staff should have found a way to fund the museum. “That’s impossible,” she said. “This is a national museum, not some small museum. No national museum anywhere can be funded entirely by ticket sales alone.” But she said that she personally has hopes that there may be a break to the impasse next year. “It’s a really important year for Sarajevo. We’ll have elections for president. Next year we’re celebrating 100 years from the beginning of World War I. It’s also 30 years from the Olympic Games. There are many important dates,” which might influence government policy. “That’s just my personal opinion.” The Sarajevo Haggadah has traveled through a tumultuous 650year journey so far. Hopefully, when the status of the museum becomes resolved, the Sarajevo Haggadah will continue to delight and inspire Jews and non-Jews from around the world. 

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9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine



imon Deng speaks a thickly-accented, collegiate-level English and has an uncanny knowledge of the world at large. Meeting him the first time, as I did recently in Ami's offices, someone unaware of his background wouldn’t guess that Simon had spent much of his childhood as a slave. Kidnapped at a young age by a family acquaintance, Simon’s childhood was turned into a living hell—one to which no cliché can do justice. While many people presented with such a set of harsh circumstances would have invariably plunged into the deep, dark recesses of victimhood, Deng, it seems, had never received that memo. Ever the warrior, Deng has developed into a fierce fighter on behalf of the many millions of people still enslaved around the world. Although he’s been a resident of New York for many years, Simon does not forget his painful past. He won’t forget it. He can’t forget it. And he’ll never forget those who are suffering to this day in the same manner. He is on a mission to do whatever he can to eradicate slavery. That passion had brought him on a long subway ride from his office in the Bronx all the way to Ami's Boro Park offices. Simon has met with leaders from all over the world, including Hilary Clinton and George W. Bush, to clarify the sad fact that, indeed, the horrors of slavery are as real today as ever.

former Sudanese slave

Simon Deng talks about what it was like to be a slave, and what he is doing to end slavery around the world BY 110 ATURX Mi Magazine // f meabrrcuha r 20 y , 62, 021031 /3/ /9/ n 2 6i ssshava n t 5 757737 3

Southern Sudan and Islam “When you come to Southern Sudan, there are different ethnic groups that are divided by what you call here tribes,” Deng recalls fondly, before adding, “I would call it nations, because they all had kingdoms. All the territories were run as nations. My village was like any other village in Southern Sudan. All villages are similar, although there are different languages.” But there is one thing that has always set apart the southern parts of Sudan from their neighbors up north. While North Sudan (otherwise known as “Sudan”) is

mostly comprised of Muslim-Arabs, South Sudan (otherwise known as the independent country called “South Sudan”—they never did hire someone to come up with a better name) is made up of native Africans and is overwhelmingly Christian in their belief. Simon explained that the conflict between North and South Sudan is different from the conflict in Darfur, which is in the western part of North Sudan. North Sudan is primarily Muslim, including Darfur; the conflict there is between Arab Muslims and African Muslims. South Sudan is primarily Christian, and they are seen as infidels by all of the Northerners, including the Darfuris. While there have been hundreds of thousands killed in Darfur, more than four million people have been killed in the war between North and South that has erupted twice since the British left in 1955, Simon says. Growing up, or at least trying to Simon was born and raised in a typical farming village. Like the rest of South Sudan, the residents of his village lived in huts, mostly because “the government in Khartoum has never done any development in Southern Sudan. [South Sudan’s independent status as a country began less than two years ago.] “My village [in the Shilluk Kingdom] was not different from any other village in Southern Sudan. When we grew up there, the first thing my mom taught me was to run for my life whenever I saw the Arabs coming. We were raised with this fear. We were raised with a fear that during the rainy season the government troops will come and burn down all the villages. We came to know to run whenever the army came, without even looking back,” Simon exclaims emotionally. “Every village in Southern Sudan went through what we in the Shilluk villages went through. No village is left in Southern Sudan that wasn’t attacked by the government. The war was waged on them to Islamize and Arabicize them by force. The war was to kill the Abits [lit., “slaves”: nonIslamics, especially Africans, which are viewed by Arab Muslims as their slaves]

and infidels and take their children into slavery.” “I came from a large family. In African traditions, cousins all stick together as one family unit. My grandfather was a chief. A chief has a little wealth and power.… The king ranks higher, though. There is one king, several primary chiefs and many sub-chiefs. My grandfather was a primary chief. There were about 12 of them in the Shilluk kingdom. He had some wealth and cows and he was able to pay for wives [yup, you had to pay for them]. He had three wives.” The price for a wife at the time was 11 cows, which gives some idea as to his family’s wealth. “My family went through war, war and war,” Simon says. “Actually, as I said, it wasn’t really war. It was closer to genocide. That is why you see the high numbers of those slaughtered. The village was burned down time and time again. The people would come back and rebuild and then it would be burned again. My father realized that he had to take the family to the city for safety.” “How many times had your village been destroyed?” I ask. “A lot,” he replies. “It happened several times a year.” “So why didn’t everyone just move to another country?” I counter. “No one ever thought of moving to a different country,” Simon sighs. “This was the only home they knew. They only knew one language and one culture. They just ran whenever the government came and made massacres. Then the survivors came back to bury the dead. And life goes on.… This happened year after year in the entire Southern Sudan.” Kidnapped while doing someone a favor While people in the small villages were being systematically wiped out, those in the big cities lived in relative safety. “During one of the many times the militias came to our village, my father would take half his family to the larger city of Malakal. He took my mother and brothers and sisters while he stayed home with another wife. In Malakal, we stayed by my father’s sister’s house. The majority of people in

that city were Northerners, but it was our city. It is the capital of the region, and there was no war there at that time. “We were there for a while until one day a brother of my aunt’s neighbor, a man by the name of Abdulai, asked me to assist him with his bags. He said he was going to the riverside. I never suspected anything and helped him take his packages to a big ship. That was a form of transportation from the North to the South and back. He told me to watch his luggage as he went to get something from a nearby market. I had to stay on the ship with his luggage to wait for him. “By the way, it was the first time I had ever been on a boat in my life. It was a big boat with hundreds and hundreds of people. The boat started leaving the station and I became terrified. I saw that we were already out in the Nile. I started to scream and cry. Immediately, he came to calm me down. It was a set-up by him. He tried to calm me and say that since the boat had already left the station and there’s no way it is returning—the only logical thing would be to wait for the ship to reach its final destination in the North, where there would be other ships going back to the South. I was terrified and confused and believed everything he said. He was the only adult there that I knew, out of hundreds on that steamer. “We arrived in the North in the big port city of Kosti. It turned out that he had three other kids with him—of which I did not know. The journey had taken two days. We got out of the boat and the four of us followed Abdulai. We didn’t know each other’s names or what he had promised the others. All we knew is that we were four Southern kids following one man. “We went to the market in Kosti and then to a relative of his to get something to eat. Still, we didn’t talk to each other. Then, he had to go to his village. It was a mile or two drive down a muddy road. By the time we got to his village, there were only two of us left; I have no idea what happened to the other two. But I wasn’t concerned about them. I was only thinking about getting home. “When we got to his village, everyone was really excited that he had gone to the

2 69 snhi va s s ta n 5 757737 /3/ /f/ em ba rr ua ch r y2 6 0, 2013 // AMi Magazine


Slavery in Numbers

One. Only one person has ever been convicted of being a slave owner in Mauritania. Two. A "slave's stipend" of two dollars for a day’s labor is considered above average. This legal loophole keeps slavery in place. Three. Three-quarters of Mauritania is made up of deserts. Four. About four thousand Catholics live in Mauritania, out of a total population of about 3.4 million (less than one percent). Five. It has been just over five years since the government of Mauritania made it a crime to own slaves. Six. The only convicted slave owner was handed a sentence of just six months in jail for his crime. Seven. Only seven airlines currently fly to Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital. Eight. Early records of Mauritanian slavery date back to somewhere between eight centuries ago and the year 800 CE. Nine. More than nine out of ten people in Mauritania are Sunni Muslims. Ten. The official punishment for owning slaves is ten months in prison, but no one has ever gotten such a “harsh” sentence. Eleven. Between eleven and twenty percent of the people currently living in Mauritania are slaves. Twelve. There are twelve states or provinces that make up the country of Mauritania. It is bigger in size than Egypt. Thirteen. Thirteen years ago, Mauritania joined Egypt and Jordan as the only Arab countries officially recognizing Israel. (Diplomatic ties have since been severed.)

South and brought back home two slaves. Honest to G-d, I didn’t even know the word ‘slave’ before that! The family was debating who would get the stronger kid. I was 9 and he was about 11 or 12. I think they settled among themselves that he would go to a larger family and I was given to a smaller family. “At the supper table, I asked, ‘Where is Abdulai?’ I was concerned about the fact that he had gone. “The lady told me that I’d never see him again and that he had given me to them as a gift. This shocked me! He had promised me to put me on a boat to go back home. I couldn’t believe it. I cried and I cried. They tried to silence me by beating me. But how could I be silent? He took me away from my loved ones and now they tell me that I’ll never go home again? I cried until I ran out of tears. This is how the nightmare began…the torture…the beatings….” Life as a slave, if you could even call it that “I had instructions to do things I never imagined doing, things a child was incapable of doing. I had to be the first to get up in the morning and the last to go to sleep. I didn’t really have a human place to sleep anyway; I slept in the barn with the animals. They had no running water. Most people used donkeys to carry water from the Nile. They used me to do that. They needed a lot of water for drinking, cooking and cleaning. Carrying two buckets like that tied with sticks and ropes for a small child like me was like a death sentence. I had to take a small amount at a time and then raise the amounts as I got used to it. “All I could do was say ‘yes’ to everything I was told. I was punished and tortured for not saying ‘yes’ loud enough. I was beaten with whatever they had at hand. I went through this for three and a half years. For three and a half years, I couldn’t see myself as a human being, much less a child. “The family had a son close to my age, but I was not his equal; I was his slave. Even that child punished me.

Kids coming home from school for fun would scream ‘dirty slave!’ at me in Arabic. They beat me up for fun. Of course, I couldn’t defend myself. All I could do was cry for mercy. All I had was hope and patience: hope that tomorrow would be better, and patience that someone would come and say that a child shouldn’t go through what I’m going through. There were some times when the woman of the family had some compassion towards me and protected me from the others. Still, she didn’t see me as a human being and she didn’t present me with a way out. “They did make me an offer: If I’d convert to Islam, accept an Arab name, and become their son, then I’d have been allowed to go to school. “Why did you refuse?” I ask, more as a formality—figuring that I already know what his answer would be. “I didn’t say yes right away because I knew I had a family in Southern Sudan. I had a father, a mother, brothers and sisters. I couldn’t agree to become their son. That thought frightened me. I did come close to converting to Islam. I came close to taking an Arab name. But I just couldn’t agree to become their son and let them take away my identity. I preferred even to die.” A familiar face “Through all these years, I always looked towards tomorrow. I always had hope. That hope came when their son had to go to the junior high school. There was no junior high school in their village, so the family had to move to Kosti. One day, in Kosti, I saw three gentlemen with the Shilluk tribal marks on their foreheads. At that time, I didn’t have Shilluk tribal marks. I knew these men had the marks my father had and my family members had. I went to them and told them that I was a Shilluk and explained to them the situation. I told them how I had gotten there from Southern Sudan and who my parents were. I told them everything I remembered from Southern Sudan so that they’d believe me, since I didn’t have the tribal marks to convince them.”

“At what age do people get the tribal marks?” I interject, and he tells me, “Usually 11 or 12.” He then continues his story. “So those gentlemen told me that they know someone from the village I said I was from. They said they’d go speak to him about what to do for me. “I felt that I hadn’t explained myself well enough to them. I was very disappointed. Without meaning to, I began to cry. One of them put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘Don’t cry. We believe everything you told us. We just aren’t from the area you mentioned, so we don’t know you. But there is someone we know from there who probably knows your father.’ “They told me to meet them at the same location in a few days. That day came and I was there before them. I saw them coming from a distance. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but I recognized the person they were with! Not only was he from my village, but he was my distant cousin, Choel! When he saw me, he broke down crying. He had been there when my family made a funeral for their ‘lost child.’ I had already been considered as dead. He couldn’t believe he had found me. “My cousin hugged me and cried and I was full of joy. The three men were happy to see that I was saying the truth. He told me, ‘Go back to where you are staying and never disclose that you met us.’ He thought if they knew I had met someone I know they would take me somewhere and hide me. He promised me that we would meet again at the same location at a set time when he’d update me on his plans for my escape from slavery. “The next time I met him, he said that when he’d come again—I think it was four days later—I should be prepared to return home. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t need to prepare because I didn’t own anything anyway. He took me back to Southern Sudan on that day, where I was reunited with my family. “When we arrived in my mom’s house, the first person I saw was my younger sister, who shouted my name. My mother was in a small hut; she couldn’t believe it. When she came out it was a terrifying moment. She was screaming and couldn’t even stand. She became confused and was crying. It was a mix of all emotions. I was already considered dead and they had no advance warning that I was coming home. It was like a ghost appeared at the door. My rescuer had no way of communicating to tell my family that I was coming. It was just terrible confusion. “If I hadn’t seen those individuals with their Shilluk tribal marks, I would have been stuck there probably until today. Eventually, I would have given up my resistance to their offer and I would be walking around as a Muslim, with an Arab name, somewhere in Northern Sudan.” The other reunion I ask Simon what the first thing was that he did as a free man. “After I got out of slavery, the first thing I did was put the tribal marks on me, because I was afraid I’d be kidnapped again. I thought that was the only thing that could save me. Once I had those marks, no one could take me and have the audacity to say I was their son.” In 1972, a short while after Simon’s escape from slavery, there was a peace agreement between the North and South and eventu-


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ally life began to take a slight turn for the better. “I was about 13 at the time,” Simon recalls. “During this temporary peace, people started moving around from the North to the South. Eventually, years later, I went from the South all the way to Khartoum [Sudan’s capital], where I found a job as a messenger in the Sudanese parliament. From there, I pursued the sport of swimming and at age 17 I was a national swimming champion.” I ask him if he ever went back to confront his former “master.” “One day, when I was 19, I decided to go look for the family that had enslaved me. I took a vacation from parliament and went to the village where they had been living at the time of my enslavement. They still lived there! “But when they saw me, something strange happened: For the first time, I was hugged by them as a human being. I was greeted by them as if I was their son and they had been looking for me for the past many years! Of course, that’s not why I went there. The

reason I went there was to look them in the eye and see whether they still had the same mindset as they did when they mistreated me as a child, or if it had changed. I went there to keep track of them, so that what happened to me wouldn’t be lost. “At that time, I thought people might one day sit down and speak about what I went through and discuss whether it was justified or not.” “How did they recognize you after all those years?” I ask. “As a swimming champion, I was kind of a celebrity and my picture was in the paper several times,” he says. “When I went to visit them, their attitude to me was totally changed. I was allowed to drink water from a cup for the first time and sit on a chair— things I wasn’t allowed before. Most importantly, when it was time to eat, we all ate together.” “Did you ask them why they treated you that way?” I wonder out loud.

Mauritania Mania Where Slavery Is All but Legal


he African country of Mauritania has very little to offer. If you’re reading this article from your luxurious, ultra-extravagant, oneand-a-half-star hotel in the heart of Mauritania, then I have two things to tell you: A) Accept my sincere apology, and B) Get out of there as fast as your camel can carry you. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania has always had problems, which they’ve come to embrace with open arms (because arm severing is not uncommon in that neck of the desert). Mauritania’s vast deserts leave it with very little desirable land for farming. That keeps it isolated from its neighboring countries. Hey, there is a reason why Hitler’s generals never really agonized over what the best way was to conquer Mauritania. Mauritania is so underdeveloped that it doesn’t even have a credit rating. And if this was not enough, Mauritania is the only country in the world that doesn’t use a decimal-based currency, with the singular exception of Madagascar, who, last time I checked, wasn’t doing too well economically, either. At least Madagascar has been blessed to have its name proudly inscribed on the Risk game board, whereas Mauritania truly has nothing to offer. Wait, Mauritania does have something. They have something that cannot be found in any country in the developed world: slavery. Slavery is something that’s been practiced in Mauritania for the better part (more like worse part, actually) of a millennium. As a result, the Mauritanians have become very good at it. After all, as they say in Mauritania, “If you’re good at something, why not do it for free”…or something like that; I don’t speak the native tongue very well. Right now, according to CNN, there are between 340,000 and 680,000 people in Mauritania living as slaves. That’s close to 20 percent of the population. And although Mauritania officially abolished slavery in 1981, they never thought of making slave-owning a crime until 2007. Even then, it never developed into anything beyond a thought. (They figured it was the thought that would count). 114 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

The only thing that actually changed was absolutely nothing. Since that law was passed six years ago, the total number of people to have been convicted of such a crime remains at a grand total of one. Mauritanian slaves are expected to do everything for their masters, with the exception of obtaining a paycheck. Slaves are expected to corral the cattle, toil over the terrain, lather the laundry, assemble the abodes, etc., all the while accepting the abuse. The only thing they can expect in return for their backbreaking labor is a modest amount of food and a not-as-modest amount of beatings. So why does a huge segment of the population simply agree to be exploited while getting nothing in return? Why can’t they stand up for themselves and put an end to this evil practice? In truth, the situation is extremely complicated. John D. Sutter, in his documentary on the subject of Mauritanian slavery, breaks the problem down into six categories: politics, geography, poverty, religion, racism and education: Politics. Mauritania’s government has done little to combat slavery, and in many interviews by spokesmen over the years has gone as far as to deny that the practice exists. “All people are free in Mauritania and this phenomenon (of slavery) no longer exists,” one official said. It’s interesting how the countries with the fewest freedoms are usually the first ones to claim to have the most. Geography. Mauritania is a huge and largely empty country in the Sahara Desert. This makes it difficult to enforce any laws, including those against slavery. A branch of al-Qaeda has found the barren countryside an attractive hiding place, adding to its lawlessness, and the country’s vastness also means that rural and nomadic slave owners are largely hidden from view. Poverty. Forty-four percent of Mauritanians live on less than $2 per day. Slave owners and their slaves are often extremely poor, uneducated, and illiterate to boot. This makes seeking a life outside the confines of slavery extremely difficult—usually impossible. On the

“No,” he replies meekly. “So many things were going through my mind. They were not the same people who treated me that way. Was it because my status changed as I grew up and became a swimmer? Or did their mindset change? There was so much going through my head….” Forgive and Forget? “Did you ever forgive them for what they had put you through all those years?” I ask, rather nervously. He reflects for a second and then explains. “Going there, in and of itself, was a form of forgiveness. But I’ll never forget what they did to me. They stole half of my childhood. The love of a mother was taken away from me. To be tortured by every person and be threatened by kids to have my legs cut or be thrown in a well… to be terrified when I see other people approach them that they are going to sell me…those are things I can never forget. But, I

can forgive because they aren’t going to enslave me again. Forgive yes, forget no!” Simon asserts quite emphatically before continuing, “I promised myself that I wouldn’t talk about what happened because it was very painful. But, for the sake of other people who are being enslaved today…. you can buy a slave in Sudan for $10. “I am now a free man living in a free nation. It is my responsibility to tell the world that yes, when you hear about people in Sudan being enslaved and sold for $10. It’s true, because I was one of them. This brought me to tell my story to the world—to convince those who had doubted that slavery exists in Sudan.” “In an interview on ABC with Ted Koppel, the prime minister of Sudan admitted that slavery exists in Sudan, but he says it only happened during the time of war. He said both sides kidnapped each other as prisoners of war. He lied. If not for people like me, the prime minister wouldn’t even been confronted here by people like Ted Koppel, and admit at least that slavery exists—even

The desolate, isolated Islamic Republic of Mauritania

other hand, poverty has also led to some slave masters setting their slaves free, because they can no longer afford to keep them. Whips cost money, you know. Religion. Local Islamic leaders (here it comes) historically have spoken in favor of slavery. Activists say the practice continues in some mosques, particularly in rural areas. Various religions in many countries have been used to justify the continuation of slavery. “They make people believe that going to paradise depends on their submission,” one Mauritanian activist, Boubacar Messaoud, said, concerning how religious leaders handle slavery. Racism. Slavery in Mauritania is not entirely based on race, but lighter-skinned people historically have owned people with darker skin, and racism in the country is rampant, according to local analysts. Mauritanians live by a rigid caste system, with the slave class at the bottom. Education. Perhaps most surprising is that many slaves in Mauritania don’t understand that they are enslaved: They have been brainwashed, activists say, to believe it is their place in the world to work as slaves, without pay, and without rights to their children. Others fear they would lose social status if they were to run away from a master who is seen as wealthy (“My master is richer than your master”). Slaves of noble families attain a certain level of status by association. The parallels between the slavery that’s going on in Mauritania today and that of ancient Egypt are striking. Just like in ancient Egypt, the enslaved Mauritanian people see no hope for themselves ever being free, and as a result have given up trying. Another similarity is the horrific reports of slave masters killing the babies of their slaves as a form of punishment. And just like in ancient Egypt, the situation in Mauritania has become so desperate that, on the rare occasion that a master does offer to free his slaves, the slaves usually refuse to go, similar to the reaction displayed by our

ancestors when Moshe first offered to free them from the shackles of Pharaoh. After a life of illiteracy and the mental manipulation they are forced to go through, slaves see the idea of freedom as a form of failure. And because most people there subscribe to a certain “religion of peace” that shall remain nameless, they see their servitude as a religious obligation, having been told that this is their very purpose on this world. Another thing keeping slaves loyal to their masters is the acknowledgement that any escape could only be possible by leaving their children behind. This is something few, if any, would ever consider doing. And even if a slave does truly want to be free, the metamorphosis from bondage to liberty is so great that it would require a mountain of professional help, and that is something that scares many slaves back into submission. As for the government, just like the first person who figured out that it’s cheaper to buy a “Beware of Dog” sign than the actual dog, the Mauritanian government would rather claim slavery doesn’t exist anymore, than actually tackle the quite complicated, yet completely self-inflicted, issue.

Turx with Simon Deng in Ami office

though he lied and said both sides take slaves during war when it’s only the Arabs that do, and the Africans are the ones running for their lives. We're talking about thousands of Southern Sudanese enslaved—not hundreds. The government records say 30,000, but it’s probably much more. The government doesn’t want to use the word ‘slavery,’ so they call it ‘abducted.’” Slavery: a multibillion-dollar industry I ask Simon if he’s involved in cases of slavery outside Sudan. “Of course I am,” he exclaims. “Sudan and Mauritania are two countries in Africa in which slavery still exists, but there is a fundamental difference between them. In Mauritania, the children of the slaves often become like possessions to the masters. They are born into slave families. In Sudan it’s different. In Sudan, the government gave a green light to the army to go to Southern Sudan for the sake of destroying villages and taking slaves. They had a license to do what they want—kill, assault, steal and kidnap. It is quite common for them to kill the parents and take the young children back to the North as a gift for relatives.” Organizations estimate that 800,000 people are enslaved in Mauritania. Yet in a perverse move, at the end of 2012 Mauritania was elected vice-president of the UN’s Human Rights Council. “How would you compare slavery in Africa to the slavery taking place in Asia—like India or China, for example?” I ask. “To categorize slavery, there are four basic types: In Sudan, kids are taken by force. In Mauritania, whole families are slaves and 116 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

they have to do it because that’s their family’s status. In Asia, children are pretty much forced to agree to be child-slaves because of financial reasons. And then there’s a final category of slaves, one that’s found even in America. For example, when someone is hired and is not paid in full for the work or service they provided.” The International Labor Organization estimates that there are 20.9 million slaves around the world at any one time. Today, Simon Deng is one of the top advocates against slavery around the world through a number of advocacy groups, most notable of which is the Sudan Freedom Walk. “Sudan Freedom Walk goes out there to help people trapped in all of these circumstances. The objective is to advocate an end to slavery—with priority to slavery in Sudan. As I said, all slavery is injustice. Ending slavery in Sudan is a very important step to stop the genocide. There has to be a focus on the fact that the government is enslaving and massacring Africans. Over 2.5 million South Sudanese have been killed. This has to be focused on. The same government that killed these millions is the one now killing 400,000 in Darfur. There are stories about kids who walked all the way to Ethiopia. These kids’ parents had been killed by the Arabs and they didn’t want to be taken to the North as slaves, so they walked to Ethiopia—thousands of miles away! Many died while crossing rivers; others were mauled to death by wild animals. The West looked at those ‘lost boys and lost girls’ and they saw the fear and terror in their eyes and agreed to bring them here. These are the kids of Southern Sudan. The Canadian gov-

c o m m u ni c ated

ernment called them ’children of war.’ I call them children of darkness. They are invisible. No one can see them.” Deng has traveled the world giving speeches about slavery, from colleges to conventions, from Geneva to Durban. In almost every speech he delivers on the world stage, one can expect to see his three central themes: his unrelenting crusade against slavery, his insistence that the world not turn a blind eye to the dangers of radical Islam, and his emphasis pointing out the UN’s famously hypocritical double standard when it comes to dealing with Israel. In 2011, at the Durban Watch Conference in New York, which was convened to protest the anti-Israel UN Conference on Racism, Simon delivered a speech in which he called attacks on Israel “absurd and immoral.” Simon pointed out the biased record of the UN in condemning Israel. He says that every time Israel is condemned “Hitler couldn’t have been happier.” South Sudan and the Jews South Sudan recently managed to break away from its oppressive “master,” too, and declared its independence. “What happened recently,” Simon says, “is that the US Congress and President Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act, and former US Ambassador to the UN John Danforth went to the region to assure that the peace stayed intact. The agreement was that Southern Sudanese would have the right of selfdetermination as to whether or not they want to be within the United Sudan or to choose independence and reject Arabization. We chose the latter (by a significant majority: 98.8 percent voted in favor of independence). Of course, people like me were advocating day and night for freedom.” Once South Sudan declared its statehood, Israel was one of the first countries in the world to formally recognize its sovereignty. “Israel and South Sudan have a common view of the world,” explains Simon. “Both are surrounded by a common enemy that looks to wipe it off the face of the earth. I recall that during the Arab League Summit in Rabat [Morocco] back in 1974, one of the speakers declared that the two biggest threats facing the Arab world were Israel and Southern Sudan. Before that time, very few people in my country knew or understood much about Israel, because our two countries are very far apart from one another. But from that speech everyone realized that we have everything in common. Since then, children growing up in South Sudan always know that Israelis and Jews are our friends.” Salva Kiir Mayardit, the first president of South Sudan, made his first official state visit as president to Israel, where he thanked the Israeli government for all the help they had provided over the years and declared, “Without [Israel] we would not have arisen.” He also publically announced that he wouldn’t just “open” an embassy in Jerusalem; he’d actually build one there. South Sudan is expected to become the first country in the world to have an embassy in Israel’s capital. What does Simon Deng think about this? “If you want a friend, you have to be willing to be ready to proactively do something about it,” Simon says. And if Simon says, everyone ought to follow. 

Ramat Givat Ze’ev: Development has begun In Ramat Givat Ze’ev

The Ramat Givat Ze’ev neighborhood, located north of Jerusalem, is probably the most prestigious project for foreign religious residents wishing to make aliyah. Recently, dozens of heavy equipment, machinery and tools rolled onto the project, working zealously. In an addition to the basic infrastructure, Nofei Israel will develop luxury squares, beautiful greenery, parks and many community institutions that have yet to be seen anywhere in Israel. Nofei Israel clearly intends to break the record in infrastructure and environmental development. Incredibly, a minimum of 40 million dollars will be invested solely on the infrastructure and the environment. Ramat Givat Ze’ev is Nofei Israel’s flagship project. They have already acquired their sterling reputation in a variety of residential, commercial and tourism projects. This is the first real estate venture of its kind in Israel. This will establish a neighborhood dedicated for the Orthodox-Hareidi community who wish to settle in the country. Nofei Israel will care for all of their details in order to ensure a smooth and convenient transition for a perfect reception in their new home. Nofei Israel has spent a lot of time building a warm and homogeneous community, which includes rabbanim, professionals, plus an abundance of communal institutions that will match the residents’ lifestyle. All this is in a luxurious residential environment, with a spectacular view of the mountains and the clear Yerushalmi air. People will also enjoy the proximity to all Torah and religious institutions in the capital. Dozens of buyers including rabbis and educators, lawyers, doctors and other professionals have already secured their place in the project. For them, it’s a dream come true, making aliyah to Eretz Yisroel. This is with the peace of mind that the company standing behind the project is none other than Nofei Israel that is known for its international standards. Welcome to Israel! It’s highly important to state that these days Nofei Israel is currently populating hundreds of residents in nearby Givat Ze’ev Hachadasha -- a very successful project of the Orthodox - Hareidi community.

Birkas Kohanim at the Kosel • The Fragrances of the Beis Hamikdash

In Depth in Yom Tov

Short explorations of historical and halachic topics pertinent to the Yomim Tovim

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• One People, Two Pesachs • Bread for Pesach? • To Eat or Not to Eat?

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


Birkas Kohanim at the Kosel

by shiffy friedman

Unbelievably, a single individual was the catalyst for this “vessel of blessing”


y great-grandfather, Rav Menachem Mendel Gefner was no ordinary Jerusalemite. The virtuous heart that beat within his chest worked overtime tirelessly, shattering at the plight of every broken Jew. Rav Mendel was a unique balance of transcendental joy and tremendous anguish in the face of the suffering of others. A loving father of 17 children, whom he raised with his beloved wife, Esther Mirel, in a one-bedroom hovel in Meah Shearim, Rav Mendel radiated a glow described by those who knew him as “otherworldly.” In order to provide for his sizable brood he operated a butcher shop, where he sat bent over his sefarim while his wife and daughters accepted orders. But his real place, the place he felt was truly his, was the Kosel. There, he lived. As he caressed the holy stones in accompaniment to his prayers, tears streaming freely for all the unfortunate souls he encountered daily (somehow, everyone knew where to find him), he would be carried away on wings of loving-kindness and empathy. Indeed, everyone in Jerusalem, religious and otherwise, knew that it was not the tilim (missiles) that had saved them

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from the hands of their enemies, but the Tehillim of Rav Mendel Gefner, which he fervently completed every day at dusk at the Holy Wall.

Birth of an idea The Kosel was Rav Mendel’s haven. Nothing could deter him from going there, not even the tempestuous battles of the War of Attrition that followed the Six-Day War. As he was sitting on a bench one day, despondent over the capricious fate of the Land he loved more than himself, he recalled the words of the Midrash: “Since the day the Temple was destroyed, there has been no day without its curse” (Midrash Tehillim on Tehillim 7). He sighed. Rav Mendel was determined to arouse Hashem’s mercy upon His nation. But how could he, only a simple Jew, storm the heavens? Reflecting further upon the final words of the same Midrash, his eyes lit up: “Rav Acha said, ‘If so, then in whose merit do we exist? In the merit of the blessing of the kohanim.’” It was these words that spurred him into action. Later that day, in a discussion with his dear friend Rav Shmuel Hominer, zt”l, a tzaddik in his own right, Rav Mendel excitedly shared his idea.

“Maybe,” he said, “if we could gather together a group of kohanim at the Kosel and have them bentch the people, then more brachos will come into the world. We’re desperate!” “It’s interesting that you should mention this, my friend,” Rav Shmuel answered, “because I’ve always wondered why the yahrtzeit of Aharon Hakohen is the only one to be mentioned by date in the Torah. But now I understand: It is undoubtedly a day on which we can pierce the heavens and bring about the yeshuah, as it states in the Zohar: ‘Salvation will come in the merit of Aharon Hakohen.’” In his mind’s eye, Rav Mendel envisioned a gathering like the one in the times of King Chizkiyahu, when the kohanim blessed the nation and the blessing was accepted by Hashem. “An assembly like that must be very influential in Shamayim,” he said to Rav Shmuel, “since the Sages tell us that when the kohanim bless Israel, Hashem assents.” After a short discussion of the power of the Priestly Blessing, Rav Mendel decided to launch his plan. On the day of Aharon’s yahrtzeit, which would fall the following week, on Rosh Chodesh Av, he would arrange for 71 kohanim to gather at the place from which the Shechinah never departs. These heartfelt blessings would surely arouse the mercies he so desperately

wished to elicit. The first assemblage never happened. On the day before it was scheduled, Rav Mendel became ill. But this seemingly adverse turn of events, like everything else in life, was orchestrated from On High.

Persistent until the end The next few weeks sped by. Soon it was time to welcome the New Year. So involved was Rav Mendel in his spiritual preparations that his idea for Birkas Kohanim gatherings was forgotten. One evening during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, as Rav Mendel sat over a sefer at home, Rav Shmuel’s son, Rav Mechel, came to deliver a message from his father. Opening to a page in the sefer authored by the Rokeach, Rav Eliezer of Germaiz, Rav Mechel read: “Aharon is mentioned 300 times in the three sefarim of Shemos, Vayikra and Devarim…and if 300 kohanim stand at the Mount of Olives and say Birkas Kohanim, Moshiach will come.” Rav Mendel’s passion for the assembly was rekindled. This time, though, he was filled with a fervor that wouldn’t dissipate. Although he understood that the kohanim would be unable to stand at the Mount of Olives until the times of Moshiach, due to the spiritual defilement it would entail, he wanted to bring them as close as possible—to the Kosel. He felt that Hashem had




planted the idea in his head so he could be the messenger, the channel through which so many blessings would descend. However, the unassuming Rav Mendel would not carry out a plan of such magnitude without first consulting with the gedolim of his era. He traveled from one to the other across the spectrum of the Torah world, eagerly anticipating their words of encouragement. He was not disappointed. When he introduced his plan to the Imrei Chaim of Vizhnitz, the Rebbe asked to be involved in every detail, despite his frail health. “Do not give up,” he encouraged Rav Mendel, “and don’t let anything hinder you from organizing this wonderful assembly. Hashem will be with you, and you will be successful in your efforts.” The Beis Yisrael of Gur noted a connection between the year they were in, 5731, and Birkas Kohanim, and urged Rav Mendel to bring his plan to fruition. In fact, he issued an open request: “I call on all chasidim to attend this public event.” When Rav Mendel approached the Steipler Gaon, Rav Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky, zt”l, he too offered his blessing and further encouragement, but stipulated that Rav Mendel proceed with as little publicity as possible. Finally, Rav Avraham of Slonim said to him, “You’ve already received so many brachos from gedolim. Now it’s time to take action. Don’t let any










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Rav Menachem Mendel Gefner

technical difficulties get in your way. Move ahead, and Hashem will be with you.” The very first Birkas Kohanim gathering at the Kosel was scheduled for Tuesday, 3 Kislev 5731. Rav Mendel felt that the third day of the week on the third day of the third month was an opportune time to launch a project pertaining to the brachah meshuleshes (three-fold blessing) of the kohanim. In accordance with the Steipler’s request to shy away from publicity, Rav Mendel posted only modest notices throughout Jerusalem. For the first two days of Kislev, the Holy City was engulfed by heavy storms. As the third day drew nearer, Rav Mendel wondered if his efforts would all be in vain. How would 300 kohanim gather in the inclement weather? Furthermore, would anyone show up to accept the blessings? He briefly considered postponing the event, but the many warm words of support he’d received gave him the courage to forge ahead. On Tuesday morning the skies miraculously cleared. Against the backdrop of a bright turquoise sky, the streets of the city filled with thousands of Jews eager to attend the momentous assembly. From all directions they came—men and women, young and old—to converge on the Kosel plaza. When neighboring Arabs observed the commotion they raised their brows in wonder. “A new chag?” they asked. “Yes,” they were told, “thanks to Rav Mendel Gefner.”

Since the Gefners had previously owned a tiny grocery where several Arabs were employed over the years, the name was familiar to them. “Id al-Gefner” (“the festival of the Gefners”) they murmured as the masses of Jews passed by. It was an exceptional chag indeed. By 7:00 a.m. the plaza was already dense with worshippers as Rav Mendel rose to address the crowd from the dais. Prefacing his words by citing numerous verses, he declared, “Those of us who are privileged to be assembled here today have the power to draw heavenly mercies down into the world. The potential for blessing at such a gathering is tremendous. May we all merit to experience it in its entirety.” The air was electric as the hundreds of kohanim began to chant and everyone answered “Amen!” to their brachos. It was a truly awe-inspiring experience. Everyone present felt uplifted, moved by the enormity of the occasion. Rav Mendel then broke into a fiery dance as a physical manifestation of his joy. It would prove to be the first of many more such occasions. • • • Sometime later, a group of six baalei teshuvah visited Rav Mendel in his home. “We just wanted you to know,” they said, “that we were at the Kosel during the gathering. We hadn’t come to stay long, but when we observed the scene we felt so privileged! As we watched the crowd accept the blessings from Hashem with their eyes closed, hoping and praying that only good be bestowed upon them, we couldn’t help but feel a desire to grow close to the Source of those blessings. From there, our individual journeys began.” Over the past 42 years, over a hundred Birkas Kohanim assemblies have taken place at the Kosel plaza. In the beginning they were held as often as five times a year. However, in 1978 the present semi-annual routine of Chol Hamoed gatherings was established.

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At some assemblies the participants hold umbrellas over their heads, the heavy rain in no way a deterrent to their burning desire to bless and be blessed. And even when temperatures rise into the triple digits, masses still flock to the Kosel. “How can we miss this?” they ask rhetorically. The many letters of appreciation Rav Mendel received were a tremendous source of encouragement and joy. People who had experienced the most torturous challenges in life wrote to inform him how their salvation had come soon after they’d attended the ceremony. He was also driven to continue these gatherings as a means of hastening Moshiach’s arrival. In his lifetime, Rav Mendel merited to arrange 51 gatherings, of which he attended all but one. Prior to the 49th assembly, he became ill and was unable to participate. But even from his hospital bed he did not lose focus; he participated in the Birkas Kohanim in spirit, oblivious to the goings-on in his room. Visiting family members and nurses attest that during the time of the assembly, Rav Mendel was not with them. He was undoubtedly in a higher realm, accepting the blessings from their direct Source. Although the pious soul of Rav Mendel Gefner returned to its Maker 29 years ago, on 18 Teves, his legacy lives on. No doubt his spirit hovers over the crowd at every Birkas Kohanim assembly. Especially for those who merited to know him, these gatherings will always be a special reminder of the unassuming tzaddik who went beyond his human capabilities to storm the heavens. Today, in accordance with his will, his sons Rav Yisrael and Rav Mordechai and a grandson, Rav Baruch Brandwein, lead the event, reciting the brachos for the kohanim to repeat. After the ceremony, it is often difficult to find a dry eye on the plaza. From on High, Rav Mendel undoubtedly continues to take pride in the vessel of blessing he created, all in an effort to satiate his intense desire to help his fellow Jews and bring Moshiach one step closer. 

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The Fragrances of the Beis Hamikdash Dr. Elaine Solowey is Bringing the Ingredients of the Ketores Frankincense plant

by gershon hellman


uring the times of the Beis Hamikdash, the fragrant ketores incense used in the avodah was made from a symphony of 11 main ingredients. The ingredients, listed in Krisus 6A and recited at the end of Shacharis, are usually translated as: balsam (also known as balm of Gilead), onycha, galbanum, frankincense, myrrh, cassia, spikenard, saffron, costus, aromatic tree bark and cinnamon. (The precise translation of some of these is a matter of debate.) The offering of the ketores, as described in Sefer Vayikra, was one of the most sacred services in the Beis Hamikdash. Twice a day, after the offering of the tamid sacrifice, ketores was burned on the golden mizbeyach. On Yom Kippur, in addition to the regular ketores offerings, the kohen gadol would enter the Holy of Holies with a pan of smoldering coals in his right hand and a spoon filled with ketores in his left. He would scoop the ketores into his hands, place it over the coals, wait for the chamber to fill with the fragrant smoke of the burning incense and then back out of the room. In his Guide for the Perplexed (3:45), the Rambam explains that the purpose of the ketores was to rid the Beis Hamikdash of unpleasant odors that may otherwise have pervaded the area as a result of the many animals slaughtered and butchered on the premises. For most of us, the plants mentioned in the Gemara are mostly unfamiliar names from the past. With the exception of cinnamon, most of us have no idea what any of these plants are and have no 124 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Back to Eretz Yisrael visualization of how they may look. However, in Kibbutz Keturah, deep in Israel’s Negev Desert, some of these plants are now growing and thriving under the devoted care of master botanist, Professor Elaine Solowey, of the Aravah Institute of Environmental Studies. Dr. Solowey, a native of California who made aliyah in 1971, first made headlines across the world in 2005, when she succeeded in growing a 2,000-year-old date palm seed discovered in the ruins of King Herod’s palace on Mt. Masada. This date palm, known as Methuselah (Mesushelach), a reference to its age, now grows outside her greenhouse in Kibbutz Keturah. Judean palms of that variety had disappeared from Israel with the Roman invasion—until Methuselah sprouted to life under Dr. Solowey’s care. She is now working on growing three of the incense ingredients: frankincense (levonah), myrrh (mor) and the “balm of Gilead” balsam (tzari). Dr. Solowey explained to Ami that she sees three main objectives in rejuvenating these plants. “First of all,” she says, “it was a very special form of incense and that is why it was used in the Beit Hamikdash. It was coveted all over the world and was sold at a very high price, partly because of its extremely pleasant aroma. Secondly, it is known that these plants had certain medicinal properties and was widely used as a remedy. If we study these plants, we may be able to make medicinal break-

throughs we can benefit from. Thirdly, although it is forbidden by halachah to recreate the actual ketoret today, it is important to try to have these plants available for when we need them again when the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt.” Dr. Solowey explains that these plants were plentiful in the Ein Gedi and surrounding regions in the days of the Beis Hamikdash. The balm of Gilead is native to Eretz Yisrael, while it appears that frankincense and myrrh may have originally been brought from the Horn of Africa region by the Queen of Sheba and planted in Eretz Yisrael near the balm of Gilead fields. In addition to their most important use as an ingredient in the ketores, they also became a big source of revenue for the region, since these plants were in great demand and were “worth their weight in gold.” A busy caravan hub was set up nearby for foreign merchants who came to Eretz Yisrael to purchase these three plants. They were then shipped out both east and west to places as far as India and China. They are found in the writings of ancient Greeks and Egyptians and are greatly extolled both as a medicine and for their aroma. They were used for a wide variety of known purposes, including as an anti-inflammatory agent, an anesthetic and an embalming agent. “Just the fact that they were so valuable shows that they must have had some great benefits, and by studying them we can hopefully fully figure out what exactly those benefits were,” says Dr. Solowey. Many of the residents of Ein Gedi are believed to have grown wealthy from their growing and selling of these plants. The mosaic design on the floor of an ancient synagogue unearthed by archaeologists in Ein Gedi reads: “Cursed be anyone who reveals the secrets of this town.” This has been understood by scholars to be an early form of “patenting” their trademark method used in cultivating and producing mixtures of incense for sale to traveling merchants. As late as the eighth century CE, Jews were still cultivating these three plants in Eretz Yisrael. There is evidence that Jews fleeing regional unrest took along frankincense and myrrh cuttings and replanted them in places like Yemen and Egypt, where they grew for many more years. However, the balm of Gilead seems to have not survived the trip and there is no evidence that it ever flourished outside of Israel. Frankincense, myrrh and balm of Gilead died out completely in Eretz Yisrael somewhere around the eighth or ninth centuries, although it is unclear why. Dr. Solowey suggests that the land was colder in ancient times and the plants couldn’t survive in a warmer environment. There is historic and Biblical evidence that Israel was indeed colder and the region used to have much more rainfall that benefitted the plants. Twelve years ago, Dr. Solowey began her work in reviving frankincense, myrrh and balm of Gilead in her greenhouse on Kibbutz Keturah. She has managed to acquire cuttings and seeds from some of the few surviving plants that have been found on Earth.

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Using her expertise and tender loving care, she coaxes them to thrive and grow. She relates that she has seen good results and the plants are beginning to flourish and produce seeds. All three of these plants have unique smells. The frankincense, when burned, has a fragrance that Dr. Solowey describes as “almost intoxicating.” Myrrh has a distinctly sharp and sweet smell. Balm of Gilead tends to smell citrusy and sweet. “One can just imagine how incredible it must have smelled when all 11 ingredients were mixed together to make the ketores,” says Dr. Solowey.

Dr. Solowey and her colleagues have already found some practical use for their work. They have developed a face and hand cream called My Angel, using myrrh, frankincense and other traditional ingredients. The cream is great for chapped or cracked skin or sores. We all hope that the rejuvenation of the incense ingredients is a sign that we will be able to use the ketores again in the rebuilt Beis Hamikdash. May it be speedily in our days.

One People, Two Pesachs Hanasi, the Jewish community observed the Pesach holiday beginning on a Sunday, while in Bavel, under the leadership of the Reish Galusa, Rav David Ben Zakkai, Pesach began two days later on a Tuesday. Rav Saadiah Gaon (3) was the one charged by the Reish Galusa to refute Ben Meir’s arguments. The details of the Ben Meir controversy have reached us in the modern age through fragments of letters discovered in the Cairo Genizah. Those fragments are currently held by the Bodleian library of Oxford University.

Adding it up

by Pearl Herzog


ach year, as the evening of the fifteenth of Nissan approaches, Jews everywhere prepare to begin celebrating Pesach. But in the year 4682 (922 CE), the determination of exactly which evening was the fifteenth was in

dispute. That year, Pesach was being celebrated two days apart by the Jewish communities of Eretz Yisrael and Bavel. (1) In Eretz Yisrael, under the leadership of Ben Meir,(2) who claimed to be a descendant of Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehudah

(1) Carlebach, Elisheva. Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe, p.14 (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011). (2) Some scholars believe his name was Aaron ben Meir, based on a fragment of Saadiah’s Sefer HaMoadim. However, Dr. Henry Malter, who authored a definitive work, Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works (Philadelphia: JPS, first published in 1921), is not certain that his name was Aaron and throughout his book, calls him Ben Meir. He only mentions Aaron as a possible first name in a footnote. (See note 149, page 72, in the reprinted edition of Malter’s Saadia Gaon: His Life and Works. [New York: Hermon Press, 1969.]) (3) Hundreds of Rav Saadia’s works are no longer extant; we know of them only from their being mentioned

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The dispute between Ben Meir and Rav Saadiah Gaon revolved around a difference of just 35 minutes. Before the Jewish calendar was set up by Hillel, the arrangement of the Jewish year was dependent on the visual sighting of the moon. But even when the calendar was established, some of the rules that govern it depend on the molad, the moment of the new moon. One such rule, known as molad zaken, says that if the molad of the month of Tishrei occurs after noon, Rosh Hashanah will not be until the next day. The reason for that rule (according to Rashi) is that it takes a full six hours from the moment the new moon occurs until it is visible, and

in the writings of other scholars and historians. Others have survived the centuries, such as Emunos Vede’os, the Hebrew translation by Ibn Tibn of his Kitāb ul-ʾamānāt wal-iʿtiqādāt, was written as a defense of Rabbinic Judaism against the Karaites who rejected the Torah Shebe’al Peh. Others include Agron, a Hebrew rhyming dictionary; Kutub al-Lugah, on the Hebrew language; Tafsir al sab’ina lafzach, translations of the Hebrew words that appear only once in the Torah; Ta’amei Tekios, ten reasons for the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, with the rituals of the festival; Reshus, an introduction to Azaharos containing a division of 24 or 25 classes of the 613 mitzvos; Pizmon L’chasan, a hymn for a bridegroom; Kitab al Madchal, a book of introduction to the Talmud; Perush 13 Middoth, a commentary on the 13 hermeneutic

A tenth century controversy over the proper date of Pesach pitted the Jews of Eretz Yisrael and of Bavel against one another.

therefore witnesses would not have seen it—when the calendar was based on witnesses rather than calculations—until the next day. Another rule says that Rosh Hashanah cannot occur on Sunday, Wednesday or Friday. That is in order to keep Yom Kippur from falling out on Friday or Sunday (which would set up two days in a row on which no melachah, including cooking, could be performed) and Hoshanah Rabbah from falling out on Shabbos (which would interfere with the halachos of the day). Combining both rules, it is possible for Rosh Hashanah to be pushed off two days

to be made chaseirim, short months of 29 days, instead of sheleimim, long months of 30 days; and consequently Pesach would be celebrated on a Sunday that year, two days earlier than those adhering to the Babylonian calendar would celebrate it.(4) He believed he had a right to do this based on both halachah and the idea that it was the sole right of those in Eretz Yisrael to establish the new moon and fix the calendar. Various views have been advanced to understand why Ben Meir believed he should have the power to deviate from the established calendar. Some say that Ben Meir was trying to

from the date when it would otherwise be. If the molad of Tishrei falls out after noon on a Shabbos, Tuesday or Thursday, Rosh Hashanah can’t be on the next day; it must be two days later. That is accomplished by adding one day to both Cheshvan and Kislev of the previous year. What Ben Meir proposed to do was to add 642 chalakim (the traditional short time units of the Jewish calendar, each equal to three and a third seconds) to the cutoff time of noon in the first rule. That would avoid having to postpone Rosh Hashanah for two days in some cases. Ben Meir wanted the months of Marcheshvan and Kislev of the year 4682

rules; Perush on Meseches Brachos; Kitab al Mawarit, on the laws of inheritance; Achkam Al Wadia, laws of pledges; Kitab al Shahadah wal-wwtik, on testimony and contracts; Tafsir al Arayot, an interpretation of the laws of arayos; Kitab al Terefot, on forbidden foods; Kawl fi’l Riba, on usury; Sefer Tum’ah V’taharah, on defilement and purity; Sefer HaMatanos, laws regulating the legal acquisition of gifts; Matanos Kehuna, on the priestly gifts; Hilchos Niddah, on niddah; Sefer Ha’ibur, on the leap year; Arba’ah Shearim, The Four Gates; Kitab al Tarikh, Book of Chronology; Seder Tannaim V’Amoraim, chronology of the Tannaim and Amoraim; Toldos Rabbenu HaKadosh, genealogy of Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi; Megillas Bnei Chashmonaim, The Scroll of the Sons of the Hasmoneans; Tafsir Kitab al Mabadi, commentary on the Book of Creation; Kitab al-Radd ala Anan, refutation of Anan the leader of the Karaites; Kitab al Tamyiz, Book of Distinctions, against the Karaites; Kitab al-Radd ala Ibn Sakawaihi, refutation of Ibn Sakawaihi; Kitab al-Radd al al-Muhtahamil, refutation of Muhtahamil; Hadd al-Insan, Definition of Man; Makalah fi sirg al Sabt—Treatise on the Light of Sabbath; and the list goes on. In January 1893, the Jewish Quarterly Review (Volume 5) carried an article by Dr. M. Friedlander entitled “Life and Works of Saadia.” Dr. Friedlander writes that this article commemorates the millenium of Rabbi Saadiah Gaon’s birth. (The paper was read at an earlier date, sometime in 1891.) Based on this and other sources, it is believed that Rabbi Saadiah Gaon was born around 892, although there are many biographies which give his birth year as ten years later. In a postscript in Malter’s book, he mentions a fragment containing a list of Saadia’s writings compiled by his sons She’erit and Dosa eleven years after their father’s death. Their father’s death is given exactly 26 Iyar (1253 of the Seluecidaean era) which is May 18, 942 CE. The fragment also says something about 60 years less 40 days, but the rest is missing. Malter believes that it probably refers to the fact that Saadiah lived almost 60 years and claims that his new birthdate is ten years earlier than what was believed before this fragment appeared. Since the fragment is not complete, this is only conjecture on Malter’s part and it is hoped that maybe with the discovery of the genizah in Afghanistan, more light will be shed on the date of his birth. The later birthdate rests on a statement by the twelfth-century historian Abraham ibn Daud, that Saadiah was “about fifty” years old when he died. (4) See Guillaume, A. “Further Documents on the Ben Meir Controversy,” Jewish Quarterly Review, no. 4 (1915): 543–557.






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recalibrate the molad based on the time in Eretz Yisrael. He felt that the calendar in use had been based on the time in the city of Babylon, where noon was approximately 56 minutes earlier than in Jerusalem. Ben Meir was arguing to add 642 chalakim, which was 35 minutes, to partly offset the difference. Others say that he was just trying to reduce the number of postponements of Rosh Hashanah provided for in the accepted calendar. In Ben Meir’s opinion the festivals were being unnecessarily postponed and, he feared, celebrated on the wrong days.

The conflict One of the fragments found is a letter from the Babylonian academy, addressed to Ben Meir. Rav Saadiah Gaon had been requested by the Reish Galusa to refute Ben Meir. Rabbi Saadiah, who was extremely well versed in astronomy, attempted to use conciliatory language to persuade Ben Meir not to carry out his plan. Ben Meir’s intention to make Cheshvan and Kislev of 4682 deficient, and have Pesach celebrated on Sunday instead of Tuesday, became known in the summer of 4681 (921 CE). At that time Rav Saadiah was in Aleppo, and rumors reached him that Ben Meir was going to change the calendar. Rav Saadiah immediately wrote Ben Meir several letters; the established calendar was correct and he should not make any changes to it, Rav Saadiah insisted. When Rav Saadiah left Aleppo and went to Baghdad (at the time the seat of the yeshivah of Pumbedisa, which had relocated to that city), he learned that not only did his warning have no effect on Ben Meir, but the latter had issued an official proclamation of his intention of changing the calendar. Once the proclamation had reached Bavel, the Reish Galusa, David ben Zakkai—in conjunction with the Geonim of both academies (Sura and Pumbedisa),(5) and Rav Saadiah—addressed an official

letter to Ben Meir warning him not to contemplate any change to the calendar. The Geonim also sent out letters to communities telling them to abide by the old order and not to heed any of the proposed changes. Saadiah writes to Ben Meir: “Know that when I was yet in Aleppo, some pupils came from B’al Gad [a town at the foot of the Lebanon Mountains] and brought the news that Ben Meir intends to proclaim Cheshvan and Kislev deficient. I did not believe it, but as a precaution I wrote to him in the summer [not to do so]. The exilarch, the heads of the academies, all alufim [leaders], teachers, and scholars likewise agreed to proclaim Cheshvan and Kislev full.... “In conjunction with their letters I wrote to most of the great cities, in order to fulfill my duty. Persist ye also in this matter and close up this breach, and do not rebel against the command of G-d. None of the people dare to profane G-d willfully, to eat leavened bread on Passover and eat, drink and work on the Day of Atonement. May it be the will [of the L-rd] that there be no stumbling block and no pitfall in your place or in any other place in Israel. Pray answer this letter and tell me all your affairs and your well-being. May your peace grow and increase forever!” (6) Instead of heeding Rav Saadia’s request, Ben Meir sent his son(7) to Jerusalem to proclaim for the second time the proposed changes to the calendar. He responded to the charges of the Geonim and Rav Saadiah that their authority should be denied and that matters of the calendar should be left, as in former times, in the hands of the Palestinian scholars. Evidence of the significant role Rav Saadiah played in the affair was in a letter that Ben Meir sent to his adherents in Baghdad, where he denounces Rav Saadiah in particular, in scathing terms. Meanwhile, Pesach was approaching and a serious split took place in the Jewish community, the warnings not having

(5) It is not clear who was the Gaon of Sura but at that time two Gaonim shared the seat at Pumbedisa. (6) Malter, pp. 82-83 (7) A son of Ben Meir by the name of Avrohom served as the Gaon for several years and was succeeded by a son Aaron. It is not clear which son of Ben Meir is being referred to. (8) And even a small number in Babylonia where Ben Meir had followers.

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yielded the desired result. Most of the Jews in Eretz Yisrael and Egypt (8) celebrated Pesach two days earlier than the Reish Galusa, Geonim, and Rav Saadiah Gaon and the rest of the Babylonian community. The schism was so great that a hundred years later, a non-Jewish historian found it important enough to mention it in his account of historical events.(9) The quarrel seems to have continued for almost two years, with separate festival days being celebrated by Klal Yisrael. In a book entitled Sefer HaMoadim, written by Rabbi Saadiah Gaon (which is no longer extant except for some pages found in the Cairo Genizah), we learn that there was even some thought given by the Babylonian Geonate to try to involve the government to have Ben Meir removed from his position. But in the end they decided against this.(10) Ben Meir and his supporters were ultimately crushed and defeated. In his letters, Ben Meir attributes his downfall to Rav Saadiah Gaon. Rav Saadiah is believed to have been only 32 years old at the time. Despite his relative youth, Rav Saadiah’s wisdom, genius and profound literary skills—one sign of his wit was that he called Ben Meir “Ben Hamachshich,” the one who brings darkness as opposed to the one who brings light (the literal meaning of his name)— enabled him to win over the rest of the Jewish community. As a result, the established calendar was once again adhered to by the entire Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael and in the Diaspora. Rav Saadiah Gaon, at the behest of the Geonate, authored another work called Sefer Hazikaron, in commemoration of this terrible schism that took place, and in which were recorded all the activities of Ben Meir: his errors in calculation, the proceedings of the Geonate against him, and in particular the reasons for their continued adherence to the accepted record. A lengthy fragment found in the Cairo Genizah is a remnant of this work.(11)

(9) Elijah of Nisibis (11th century) in Baethgen’s Fragmente syrischer und arabischer Historiker, pp. 84, 141 (Leipzig, 1884). See Malter p. 84 note 179. (10) Malter, p. 86. (11) Rabbi Saadiah’s Kitab al Ibur or Sefer HaIbur was also supposed to have been written as a result of this controversy. See Carlebach p. 14.

Bread for Pesach?

by yossi krausz

The world of kosher l’Pesach food is larger than you think. Just ask the Jews of Rome


magine the following scene: You walk into a friend’s house in the middle of Pesach. “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here!” he says. “I was just about to make some cookies with flour.” He motions for you to get the canister of flour down from where it’s kept. “Where did the sugar go?” he says, rummaging around in the pantry. Finally, he gets the ingredients together, pours oil into the flour and mixes in some sugar and spices, and pops the whole thing in the preheated oven. Twenty minutes later, you and your friend are enjoying some delicious Pesach cookies. If this sounds bizarre to you, or

better yet, assur, you’re not alone. If you’re Ashkenazi, it certainly would be. But the truth is that Pesach is experienced differently by every different community. If you’re not chasidish, kneidlach or matzah brei may be a delicacy you look forward to having on Pesach. If you are, you may eat kneidlach on the last day of Pesach; until then they would almost be like complete chametz. The Pesach foods are entirely different. For Sephardim, the scenario above, of making Pesach cookies, is possible. The Gemara in Pesachim (35a) says that if a dough is made with wine, oil, or honey, one who eats it does not get kareis (spiritual exci-

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sion). The Gemara eventually concludes that the reason is that these are mei peiros, literally fruit juices, and mei peiros do not cause chametz. There is a dispute among the Rishonim about the meaning of this statement. Does it mean, as Rashi says, that the dough in such a case is not chametz gamur, complete chametz, and therefore does not make the person who eats it liable for kareis, but one would still not be allowed to eat it? Or, as a number of other Rishonim say, does it mean that it is not chametz at all and may be eaten? Rav Yosef Karo, in Shulchan Aruch, rules that such a dough may be made and eaten. The Rema says, however, that the minhag of Ashkenazim is not to make such a dough except for someone who is sick. (The reason for the Rema, according to Acharonim, is either to conform with Rashi or because of a fear that some water might become mixed into the mei peiros; any water at all added to the juice will cause chametz, according to almost every Rishon.) Since Sephardim follow the Mechaber in his rulings, over the Rema, they would therefore be permitted to use fruit juices and any other liquids that the poskim consider to fall under the rubric of mei peiros to make dough. Forget about potato starch cakes or even matzah meal ones. As long as he or she has pure, not-from-concentrate juice, a Sephardi baker could make cakes, cookies, and other baked goods straight from flour. And those could be made in any kosher l’Pesach oven, too. The Rambam, on whom the Mechaber relies in his decision, clearly states that no matter how long such a dough sits uncooked, even if it expands, it does not become chametz. So a matzah oven would not be necessary; the dough can cook for as long as needed. So why haven’t even most Sephardim heard about someone doing this? One major reason is the flour. Flour that is kosher l’Pesach is not readily available for the average baker. The matzah flour used in bakeries is produced specially for that

purpose, often under contract by a specific matzah bakery. It simply isn’t sold in stores. Another reason was explained by Rabbi Shmuel Chocron, who is the rav of Shaarei Shamayim in Manchester and is a rabbinical coordinator for the Manchester Beis Din. Rabbi Chocron says that he remembers as a youth that his family would make such pastries, using mei peiros, on Pesach. But he said that the ubiquity of kosher l’Pesach foods means that there is little reason to take the extra effort necessary to make dough with mei peiros, having to guard it carefully from possible ways of becoming chametz. (See the Kaf Hachaim in O.C., siman 462, in several notes where he discussed chumros even for those who hold like the Mechaber, as well as the fact that not all Sephardi communities made mei peiros dough.) There are still commercial products being made with mei peiros. There are, of course, egg matzos produced, ostensibly for the sick, by various manufacturers. Those, however, are made as much as possible like matzah, probably to conform with the Rema. But there are also some products, made specifically for the Sephardi market. There is a line of cookies with the hechsher of Rav Ovadiah Yosef that is made with wine, for example. But to find a place where private bakers still make dough with mei peiros, you can travel to Rome. The community there consists primarily of Italian and Sephardi Jews. The community is one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world. There is a tradition among the Italians that they descend from Jews brought directly to Rome by the Roman destroyers of the Second Beis Hamikdash. Rabbi Joseph Pino Arbib of the Great Synagogue in Rome, who is a rabbinic coordinator for the Rabbinate of Rome, explained that until about six years ago, home owners could buy kosher l’Pesach flour from the community, with which they would make cookies, using just oil,

eggs, and sugar. (There is an argument among the Rishonim whether eggs are mei peiros, but a number of Acharonim say that the minhag has been to consider them mei peiros.) Rabbi Arbib said that the rabbanim decided to stop selling bags of flour when they realized that not everyone understood how to keep it from becoming chametz when using it. “One woman told me that she made the dough and would keep it overnight in the refrigerator before using it. It’s almost certain that it would become chametz that way [because of water reaching the dough].” There were even worse problems. “Some people would make pasta from the dough. They wouldn’t bake it; they would just dry it out. Then they would cook it in water.” Because of these problems, the rabbanim ended the sale of flour. But Rabbi Arbib says that there was an outcry in the community, because people were used to making the cookies. So though the rabbanim recommended using matzah meal or potato starch instead of mei peiros flour, they came up with two ways for people to be able to have the cookies without a worry of chametz. First, they made a special production of such cookies, watched over by mashgichim, which they sold at reduced prices to the community. Second, for those who wanted to bake their own, they set up an area with ovens and tables for preparation, where people who have arranged in advance can bake the cookies themselves. They are not allowed to bring anything in. Instead, the kosher l’Pesach flour, oil and sugar are available there for sale, and mashgichim monitor the baking. While most of us will never make such Pesach foods, and for many of us such foods would not be kosher l’Pesach, it is fascinating to know the diverse range of the minhagim that exist in Klal Yisrael, and how all have a source in halachah—even a cookie made from flour.

the Italians traditionally believe that Rome’s Jews descend from Jews brought back by the Roman destroyers of the Second Beis Hamikdash 130 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

To Eat or Not to Eat? The quinoakitniyos conundrum


enerally this time of year is the busiest for rabbanim the world over; fielding questions on every aspect of the myriad and complex halachos of Pesach observance. This year is no different. Yet, interestingly, the question that seems to be utmost on people’s minds is not about chametz or even cleaning properly. No, in 2013, the biggest issue seems to be whether quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is considered kitniyos, and whether Ashkenazim can eat it on Pesach. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the UN (Oom Shmoom in the Israeli vernacular) declared 2013 as the “International Year of the Quinoa.” Whatever the reason, after receiving this question numerous times in one day, this author decided to address the issue.

Quinoa Questions While not (yet) too common here in Yerushalayim, quinoa has developed an international following. Packed with protein (essential amino acids) and fiber, as well as magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron (and naturally cholesterol free!), quinoa packs quite a dietary punch. Although billed as the “Mother of All Grains” and the “Super

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Grain,” this native of the Andes Mountains (think Bolivia and Peru) is actually a grain that isn’t; it does not even contain gluten. It turns out that quinoa is really a member of the goose-foot family (Chenopodium), related to beets and spinach. But while its health benefits sound terrific, it still may be problematic on Pesach.

Kitniyos Clash It is well-known that the actual prohibition of chametz on Pesach pertains exclusively to leavened products made from the five major grains: wheat, barley, oats, spelt or rye.1 Yet, already in place from the times of the Rishonim,2 there was an Ashkenazi prohibition against eating kitniyos (legumes; literally ‘little things’) on Pesach, except in times of famine or grave need.3 Although several authorities opposed this prohibition,4 nonetheless it is binding on

Ashkenazi Jewry in full force, even today.5 Although the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch refers to the kitniyos prohibition as an “issur,” the Mishnah Berurah as a “chumrah,” the Aruch Hashulchan as a “geder,” Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank, zt”l, as a “gezeirah,” Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, as a “minhag,” and the Klausenberger Rebbe, zt”l, as a “takanah,” nonetheless they all maintain that it is compulsory on all Ashkenazi Jewry. In fact, the Aruch Hashulchan writes that “once our forefathers have accepted this prohibition upon themselves, it is considered a ‘geder m’din Torah,’ and one who is lenient is testifying about himself that he has no fear of Heaven.” He adds that one who breaks this prohibition deserves to be bitten by a snake. Several reasons are given for the actual prohibition,6 including that kitniyos often grow in close proximity to grain. Since

(1) Mishna Pesachim (Ch. 3, 1), Gemara Pesachim 42a - 43a, Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matza Ch. 5, 1). These are also the only grains with which one may fulfill his mitzvah of achilas matzah—see Mishna Pesachim 35a , Rambam (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah, Ch. 6, 4) and Tur/Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 453, 1). (2) See, for example, Mordechai (Pesachim 588), SMa”K (222), Haghos Maimoniyos (Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah, Ch. 5, 1), Ohr Zarua (vol. 2, 256, pg. 59, 3rd column), Rabbeinu Manoach (on the Rambam Hilchos Chametz U’Matzah, Ch. 5, 1; cited in Biur Halachah 453, 1 s.v. v’yeish), Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros b’Pesach 16), Terumas HaDeshen (113, & 133), and Ritva (Pesachim 35a s.v. hani). Not that they all hold of the prohibition of kitniyos, but they all mention it. (3) Chayei Adam (127, 1), Mor U’Ketzia (beg. O.C. 453), Shu”t Chasam Sofer (O.C. 122), Mishnah Berurah (453, 7 & Shaar HaTziyun 6), and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc., end 5). For a discussion on what is considered great need in order to allow kitniyos, see Shu”t Zeicher Yehosef (O.C. 157), Shu”t Shoel U’Meishiv (Mahadura Tinyana, vol. 4, 128) and Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 1, 28, 20). However, the Vilna Gaon is quoted (Maaseh Rav 184) as being extremely makpid with kitniyos, even “B’shnas B’tzores.” (4) See Beis Yosef (beg. O.C. 453), quoting Rabbeini Yerucham, who called the kitniyos prohibition a “minhag shtus,” and Rabbeinu Yechiel. The prohibition is also noticeably missing from the works of the Tur, who even writes (O.C. 453) regarding not eating rice on Pesach as a “chumrah yeseirah, v’lo nahagu kein.” The Ya’avetz (Mor U’Ketzia, beg. O.C. 453), quoting his father, the great Chacham Tzvi, famously declared that if he had the ability

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they are commonly stored together with grain, actual chametz might actually end up mixed inside the kitniyos container. Also, cooked dishes made from grain and kitniyos look similar. Plus, kitniyos can likewise be ground up into flour—a “bread” can actually be made from them. Since there are many who will not be able to differentiate between them and their Biblically forbidden chametz counterparts, kitniyos was likewise prohibited.

Potatoes, Peanuts, and Corn—Oh My! So how does our quinoa measure up? Although used in the Andes for millennia, it has only recently, in the last 20 years or so, gained popularity around the world. Does quinoa fit the kitniyos criteria, or not? Perhaps we can glean some insight into quinoa’s kitniyos status from halachic precedents of other now-common food staples

to cancel the kitniyos prohibition he would, as it mostly affects the poor. (5) Rema (O.C. 453, 1; and Darchei Moshe, ad loc., 2), Levush (ad loc., 1), Pri Chadash (ad loc., 1; he cites a mekor from the Gemara: Pesachim 40b), Gr”a (Biur HaGr”a, ad loc., and Maaseh Rav 184; he cites a mekor from the Gemara: Pesachim 40b), Chayei Adam (127, 1), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (O.C. 453, 3-5), Shaarei Teshuva (ad loc., 1), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117, 4), Mishnah Berurah (453, 6 and Biur Halachah, s.v. “v’yesh”), Aruch Hashulchan (453, 4 and 5). See the Maharsham’s Daas Torah (ad loc.) and the Chida’s Tov Ayin (18) who discuss the strength of this prohibition. Even the Shulchan Aruch (Beis Yosef, ad loc.) calls it an Ashkenazi issue. Although the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch refers to the kitniyos Prohibition as an ‘issur,’ the Mishnah Berurah as a ‘chumrah’, the Aruch Hashulchan as a ‘geder’, the Har Tzvi as a ‘gezeira’, Rav Moshe Feinstein as a ‘minhag’, and the Klausenberger Rebbe as a ‘takana’, nonetheless they all maintain that it is binding on all Ashkenazi Jewry. Yet, although not me’iker hadin, there are some Sefardim who are machmir as well, especially with rice - see Rav Mordechai Eliyahu’s Darchei Halacha glosses to the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (117, 2) and Chazon Ovadia (Pesach ppg. 82 - 86). (6) See O.C. 473, 1 in Beis Yosef and Rema and major commentaries - Gr”a (5), Chok Yaakov (5 & 6), Shaarei Teshuva (1), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (3, 4, & 5), Mishna Berura (6), and Biur Halacha (s.v. v’yesh). (7) Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28).

that were introduced long after the kitniyos prohibition started, such as potatoes, peanuts and corn. It would seemingly be quite difficult for anyone to mix up potatoes with chametz grain, so the rationale to regard potatoes as kitniyos is out.7 But, potatoes can be and are made into potato flour and potato starch, and there are those who do bake potato “bread"! Yet, even so, we find that potatoes are not considered kitniyos.8 The main reason is that at the time when the Ashkenazi Rishonim established the decree prohibiting kitniyos, potatoes were completely unknown! It is possible that had they been readily available they might have been on the “forbidden list” as well! Yet, since they were never included, contemporary authorities have no right to add “new types” to the list.9 As Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, zt”l, noted,10 Klal Yisrael never accepted the kitniyos prohibition to include potatoes.

Similar logic was used by several poskim, including Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, to permit peanuts for Pesach for those who had such a minhag.11 Yet, this was not as widely accepted12 since peanuts, a true legume, can get mixed up with grain. In fact, the minhag in Yerushalayim (going back over a century) is to consider both the peanut and its oil kitniyos. On the other hand, we find that another New World crop, corn, was seemingly unanimously included as part of the kitniyos prohibition.13 Other than the fact that the words “corn” and “grain” both stem from the same root, “corn” is actually only the name for the grain maize that is used in the United States, Canada and Australia. In other parts of the English-speaking world and much of Europe, the term “corn” is a generic term for cereal crops, such as real chametz—wheat, barley, oats or rye. Additionally, corn exhibits many characteristics of real-deal kitniyos: It grows near other

(8) Although the Chayei Adam (Nishmas Adam, Hilchos Pesach, Question 20) writes that potatoes should be Kitniyos and Pri Megadim (O.C. 453 M.Z. 1) mentions that he knows of such a minhag, nevertheless the vast majority of poskim, including the Pri Megadim himself (O.C. 464 E.A. 1) rule that potatoes are not considered Kitniyos. Others include the Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2, 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi), Shu”t Divrei Malkiel (vol. 2, end 112; he adds an additional reason to be lenient: potato flour doesn’t look like grain flour and has a different consistency, therefore mitigating potential mix-ups), Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 453, 5; he adds that with the advent of potatoes one should never have to rely on the hetter of permitting Kitniyos b’shaas hadchak), Kaf Hachaim (O.C. 453, 21), Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 3, 63), Halichos Shlomo (ibid.), and Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print, O.C. end 207). For more on this topic, as well as the potato’s fascinating halachic history, see this author’s recent article “The Halachic Adventures of the Potato” - insights_into_halacha/5184. (9) Shu”t Sheilas Ya’avetz (vol. 2, 147, 4 s.v. u’vhiyosi), Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 3, 63) and Shu”t Chelkas Yaakov (new print, O.C. end 207), similar to the rule set by the Chok Yaakov (O.C. 453, 9). Others who cite this sevara include the Shu”t Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 87 & 88), and Shu”t Seridei Aish (vol. 2, 37, 2; new print vol. 1, 50). (10) Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28). However, Rav Shlomo Zalman personally was stringent with potato flour [starch] (ad loc. footnote 109). It is known that the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim were also stringent until the renowned Minchas Yitzchak became the Ga’avad and ruled that there was no reason to be machmir, even with potato starch. Other poskim who explicitly permit potato starch on Pesach include the Aryeh D’vei Ila’i (Shu”t, Kuntress Avnei Zikaron 10, based on the Pri Chadash’s hetter (O.C. 461, 2) regarding matzah meal), the Arugas HaBosem (Shu”t 124), the Levushei Mordechai (Shu”t 127) and Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (117, end 7 s.v. v’ugos). (11) Shu”t Igros Moshe (O.C. vol. 3, 63). Others who accept peanuts for Pesach include the Seridei Aish (Shu”t vol. 2, 37, 2; new print vol. 1, 50 - through a combination of factors)

grains, is made into flour (that can be easily confused with grain flour), and corn bread is made from it. Therefore, since corn fits much of the criteria of kitniyos, it is included in the prohibition.

Quinoa Controversy So, in which category does quinoa belong? Is it like the potato, so it should be excluded from the prohibition? Or is it like corn, so it should be considered kitniyos? Contemporary authorities and kashrus agencies have been debating this question. It turns out that quinoa is halachically similar to the peanut. Several kashrus agencies—including the Star-K,14 who follow the psak of Rav Moshe Heineman, shlita; and cRc (Chicago),15 following the psak of Rav Gedalia Schwartz, shlita—maintain that quinoa is essentially kosher for Pesach. Since it is not even remotely related to the five grains, and was not around at the time of the kitniyos

and the Rivevos Efraim (Shu”t vol. 7, 257; only if it came still in its shell - based on the Shulchan HaRav’s (O.C. 453, 5) understanding that the prohibition of Kitniyos only applies when it gets wet). (12) There are several poskim who technically agree in logic that the peanut should not be considered Kitniyos; yet, still, since it can get mixed up with grain, they rule that only its oil or derivatives may be used. These include Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (cited in Mikraei Kodesh Pesach vol. 2, 60, 2), the Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 88; he mentions though that the minhag in Yerushalayim is to consider both the peanut and its oil Kitniyos), the Har Tzvi (Mikraei Kodesh ad loc.), and Chelkas Yaakov (Shu”t new print O.C. end 207). The issue of whether oil from Kitniyos maintains Kitniyos status is a complicated one and actually is huge machlokes haposkim to this day. Additionally, some authorities make a distinction if the Kitniyos item in question is inedible in its natural form. See Terumas Hadeshen (113), Shu”t Maharil (28), Rema (453, 1), Maaseh Rav (184), Nishmas Adam (Hilchos Pesach Question 32), Birkei Yosef (O.C. 446, 14 & 453, 5), Shu”t Beis Shlomo (Y”D 177), Shu”t Beis Shearim (215), Shu”t Maharsham (vol. 1, 183), Shu”t Ba’er Yitzchok (11), Shu”t Avnei Nezer (O.C. 373 & 533), Marcheshes (3), Shu”t Minchas Elazar (vol. 1, 16 s.v. ach hinei & vol. 4, 30), Shu”t Zichron Yehuda (139), Shu”t Vayaan Yosef (Mishpatecha L’Yaakov O.C. 41), Shu”t Melamed L’Hoyeel (Shu”t vol. 1, 87 & 88), Shu”t Seridei Aish (vol. 2, 37, 2; new print vol. 1, 50), Shu”t Orach Mishpat (O.C. 111), Mikraei Kodesh (Pesach vol. 2, 60, 2), Shu”t Minchas Yitzchok (vol. 3, 138, 2 & vol. 4, 114, 3), Shu”t Cheishev HaEifod (vol. 2, 18), Shu”t Divrei Yatzviv (O.C. vol. 2, 196), Shu”t Rivevos Efraim (vol. 7, 257), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Pesach Ch. 4, Dvar Halacha 28), Shaarim Metzuyanim B’Halacha (117, end 7), Kovetz Teshuvos (vol. 3, 81, 5), Orchos Rabbeinu (vol. 4, pg. 166, 49), and the Badatz Eida Chareidis of Yerushalayim’s annual Madrich HaKashrus (5772, Ch. 15, pg. 47). (13) Chok Yaakov (O.C. 453, 1), Ba’er Heitiv (ad loc. 1), Mishna Berura (ad loc. 4), Aruch Hashulchan (ad. loc. 3), Shemiras Shabbos K’Hilchasa (new print- Ch. 40, 92). (14) See Kashrus Kurrents article titled “Quinoa: The Grain That’s Not” by Rabbi Tzvi Rosen of the Star-K, originally published in 1997.

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prohibition, it is not considered kitniyos. Additionally, the Star-K tested quinoa to see if it would rise. Instead, it decayed: a sure sign that it is not a true grain. The only issue, according to them, is the fact that quinoa is processed in facilities where other grains are processed. Therefore, they maintain that if quinoa is processed in facilities under special reliable Pesach supervision, there is no Pesach problem. In fact, this year, the Star-K gives special kosher for Passover hashgachah on certain types of quinoa16. However, Rav Yisroel Belsky, shlita,17 rosh yeshivah of Torah Vodaath and posek for the OU, disagrees. He argues that since quinoa fits every criterion for kitniyos, it should be included in its prohibition. Quinoa is the staple grain in its country of origin. It is grown in proximity of and can be mixed up with the five grains. It is collected and processed the same (and in the same facilities) as the five grains, and is cooked into porridge and breads the same as the five grains. He maintains that it should be compared to corn, which was, for similar reasons, included in the kitniyos prohibition. Although quinoa is a New World food item and was not included in the original prohibition, nevertheless, he

to use it for Pesach, but concluded that anyone who suffers from gluten or any Pesach-related allergies or conditions (ex. celiac) may comfortably use quinoa on Pesach without hesitation. explains that this line of reasoning applies exclusively to items that are not clearly kitniyos, to foods that may share only several characteristics with kitniyos. However, since quinoa and corn would certainly have been included in the gezeira had they been discovered, as they share every criterion of kitniyos, they are consequently by definition considered kitniyos. Therefore, the OU does not certify quinoa as kosher for Pesach.18 This also seems to be the Badatz Eidah HaChareidis of Yerushalayim’s approach, as in their most recent Madrich HaKashrus19 they maintain that food items that are planted in the ground as seeds (zironim), harvested as seeds (garinim) and are edible, are considered kitniyos. This would certainly include quinoa. Rabbi Avrohom Blumenkrantz, zt”l, in his annual Kovetz Hilchos Pesach,20 took a middle-of-the-road approach, acknowledging both sides to this quinoa quarrel. He did not give carte blanche to everyone

(15) See cRc alert dated February 23, 2012. “In 2007 HaRav Gedalia Dov Schwartz, Shlit’’a, the Av Beis Din of the Chicago Rabbinical Council, issued a p’sak that quinoa is not considered kitniyos and therefore may be used on Pesach. Most of the quinoa comes from Peru and Bolivia and has been grown in areas where other (problematic for Pesach) grains were generally not grown. However, as the popularity of quinoa has risen, this is no longer the absolute case. This was confirmed this year by a Star-K mashgiach who visited Bolivia and found that barley does indeed grow in those areas. It was also recently discovered that some farmers cover their quinoa with barley and/or oats to keep the birds from eating the quinoa while it dries. Finally, there is a concern that the sacks used to transfer the quinoa may have been previously used to hold barley or oats. We have, therefore, determined that the only way to allow quinoa for use on Pesach is to track the quinoa from certain farms that are free from the above concern. The Star-K spearheaded this endeavor and sent a mashgiach to find such a farm. While they were successful in their search, it proved to be challenging from a practical point of view, as the company visited generally sells their products in large quantities. The Star-K has now worked with other companies to pack the usable quinoa into smaller packages, and several options have been approved for Pesach quinoa consumption. (16) It is important to note that even the quinoa that is under Pesach supervision should be carefully checked before Pesach for any foreign matter before use. This can be done by

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Quinoa Conclusion? It seems that there truly is no quiet conclusion to this contemporary kashrus controversy. Should one eat it on Pesach? One must ask his local halachic authority for guidance to clear up any quinoa-kitniyos kashrus confusion or questions. But all concerns being equal, in this author’s mind one thing is certain: Quinoa was not served at Bubby’s seder!

L’zechus Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children, for a yeshuah teikef u’miyad. Rabbi Yehuda Spitz serves as the shaul u’meishiv and rosh chabura of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim. He also currently writes a contemporary halacha column for the Ohr Somayach website titled “Insights Into Halacha”, found at into_halacha/. For any questions, comments, or for the full mareh mekomos (sources), please email the author at

spreading the quinoa out on a plate and carefully checking there are no other grains or foreign matter mixed in. (17) Ve’Kasher HaDavar (July 2012, pg. 9). (18) This is what the OU released about quinoa: There is a difference of opinion among Rabbinic decisors (machloket ha-poskim) as to whether quinoa is considered kitniyot. Ask your Rabbi for his guidance. Additionally, while quinoa is not one of the five grains that can create chametz (wheat, oat, barley, spelt and rye), and quinoa is not grown in the same vicinity as the grains mentioned above, the processing of quinoa is sometimes done at the same location where they process wheat and wheat flour. It is highly doubtful that the mills are effectively cleaned between grains. The concern of wheat flour or particles finding their way into the quinoa flour would be a serious one. (19) Badatz Eidah Chareidis of Yerushalayim’s annual Madrich HaKashrus (5772, Ch. 15, pg. 47). (20) Kovetz Hilchos Pesach (2006, ppg. 141 - 143). (21) See O.C. 473, 1 in Beis Yosef and Rema and major commentaries - Gr”a (5), Chok Yaakov (5 & 6), Shaarei Teshuva (1), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (3, 4, & 5), Mishna Berura (6), and Biur Halacha (s.v. v’yesh).

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hen Rabbi Shais Taub asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in meeting a deaf bochur who teaches Torah, I responded with an enthusiastic yes. It is generally believed that because the deaf are unable to communicate vocally, they are cut off from language, and therefore from our great heritage, indeed from the Torah itself. So to be deaf and a teacher of Torah seems to be a contradiction in terms. But that is in fact erroneous. The deaf have their own language—not oral but signed—that is as rich and expressive as any oral language, and as suitable for discussing chiddushei Torah—both lomdus and chasidus. Much of what occurs linearly, sequentially, temporally in speech, becomes simultaneous, concurrent, multileveled in Sign. The deaf thus share a common culture, rather than a common handicap. A deaf Jewish person who knows Sign is a full member not only of the Jewish community, but also of the Deaf community with its own history and traditions. I was therefore looking forward to meeting Rabbi Yehoshua Soudakoff, as I had great interest in knowing someone who dwells simultaneously in these two distinct worlds. Yehoshua came to Ami’s offices with two heimish female interpreters. He spoke in Sign, and they interpreted his words in English. Before long, things became animated, and I enjoyed immensely the give and take. I found everything about Yehoshua’s life and endeavors fascinating, especially his recent rabbinical ordination, which he earned in a mainstream yeshivah. But then things took a somber turn. Yehoshua broached a topic that was utterly distressing, namely the Orthodox community’s indifference and insensitivity to the needs of the deaf. I assured Yehoshua that Ami was at his service in trying to bring about change in this vital area, as I was convinced that all the community is lacking is awareness. I made a deal with Yehoshua, that he and the interpreter Zissy Moskowitz address the community directly, and that I would do the rest. What follows are the stories that they wrote for Ami, which I hope lead to a greater effort to be more inclusive of our deaf brothers and sisters.

by Rabbi Yitzchok Frankfurter

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine




r a e H OUT By Yehoshua Soudakoff


What it’s really like to be Jewish and deaf


want to tell to you about a group of people who are usually ignored. You may have seen one of them outside on the street, or maybe in your child’s school, or maybe in your office building. But even if you have encountered one, you probably didn't pay much attention. Or maybe he made you a little nervous, or you lost interest after a short while and walked away. You most likely don’t know much about these people—such as who they really are and what they are like. I'm talking about deaf people. On the outside, they look like everybody else. They walk, eat and sleep the same way you do. But once you start talking to them, you suddenly discover that they speak a different language. And how do you react? If you are like most people, you quickly walk away, thinking that they are strange or disabled. Why can’t they talk like you do? Why can’t they understand what you just said? And so, you lose an opportunity, a chance to really get to know and appreciate them. I wish things were different, because there is so much to be learned from the deaf. They are a community with their own unique culture and language. And yes, there are quite a few Jewish deaf people. I am deaf, and so is my entire family. My parents were the first 140 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Yehoshua on Purim

deaf people in their respective families, and they passed their deafness on to me and my siblings. Because my home was a deaf household, the first language I learned was American Sign Language (ASL). The truth is, my situation is rather unique. More than 95 percent of deaf children in the US are born to hearing parents, which leaves me in the statistical minority. When my parents were growing up, my grandparents decided to not expose them to sign language. Instead, they expected them to learn to communicate with others only by speaking in English. My parents barely knew how to sign until they were almost 20 years old, when they entered college and encountered other deaf people who signed. As they learned ASL, they came to the realization that they could express themselves better in that language, and they wanted to pass that ability down to us. When my parents had me and my siblings, they decided to go with sign language all the way. I am truly grateful for that. Just as it worked for them, it has worked for me too. I don’t know if you know much about ASL. There's a popular misconception that it's just a jumble of gestures. But ASL has a unique grammar of its own, and boasts a vocabulary of over 200,000 individual signs. It is, in fact, quite sophisticated, and we can express ourselves in ASL to the same degree that you can express yourself in English. It takes at least two or three years of study for someone to become completely fluent in ASL, but it

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But the fact is that to us, deafness is not a disability but a different state of being is possible to pick up the basics in a shorter amount of time. This language, ASL, is the glue that binds the deaf community together. Not everyone is the same in the deaf community. It is essentially made up of two different categories of people: those who embrace their deafness to some degree and those who don’t. The former call themselves deaf, and the latter consider themselves regular individuals who happen to have some kind of hearing loss. In my deaf world, we are proud of our deafness and we carry it as a badge of honor. We are in love with the beauty of our language of ASL. On the campus of Gallaudet University in Washington, DC—the only university in the world for deaf students—it is considered disrespectful and rude to communicate in any way other than sign language. George W. Veditz, a former preisdent of the National Association of the Deaf, described sign language in 1913 as “the noblest gift G-d has given to deaf people.” I know this sounds strange to you. Why would we be proud of being “disabled”? But the fact is that to us, deafness is not a disability but a different state of being. In our eyes, deaf people are not a subgroup of the disabled, but a minority group. I have been asked many times if I have ever davened for the ability to hear. My answer is no. I never felt the need to daven for such a thing. I guess it’s because of my upbringing, but I’ve always felt like a regular person and that there is nothing wrong with me. My parents made sure to do all they

could to integrate me into the hearing world. As a child I attended public school, and in my classroom there was a mixture of hearing and deaf children. My teacher would speak to us in English, while she signed the words with her hands. This ensured that all the students, hearing or not, would be able to follow what she was saying. I also received speech therapy over the course of 15 years in school and at home. As my bar mitzvah approached, my parents decided to hire a tutor to prepare me for the big day. Now, my parents were not religious, but they were traditional about a lot of things. I grew up in a home with a kosher kitchen, and my parents wanted to celebrate my bar mitzvah at the Kosel, which we did. I lained from the Torah myself; my many hours of speech therapy and private sessions with a kriah tutor paid off. Afterwards, we had a beautiful family seudah. It was around this time that I started becoming more interested in Judaism. When I was born, my mother decided to found an organization called the Jewish Deaf Community Center to service our local Los Angeles community. We had yearly Pesach sedarim (our biggest one attracted almost 300 people, most of them deaf), Rosh Hashanah services, trips and outings, and many other programs. My mother also brought in deaf rabbis from out of town to speak to us. But as wonderful as these things were, it was no substite for learning in a Jewish school. I wanted to advance in my Jewish knowledge, so I asked

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Putting on tefillin for the first time in 79 years...

That whole year I was unhappy. I still wanted to be in a yeshivah, not a public school. and evenings I learned in the yeshivah’s beis midrash, and commuted to the university in between. My family and friends were incredulous at my decision. You want to live in a dorm where nobody else knows sign language? They thought I was crazy. And in a way I was. For the first few months it sometimes got lonely. It was hard for me to get past the cursory “Hello, how are you’s” and other superficial greetings. I didn't know anyone in the yeshivah, and for a time it seemed like I was not going to make any new friends. It was a big transition from Toronto, where I was far from being a nobody. So why was I there? Because I felt it was important to be in a Jewish religious environment. I wanted to be around people who were motivated to grow in their Yiddishkeit, because that would, in turn, motivate me as well. So I stayed put. And it paid off. Several bachurim finally started talking to me, and then they became fascinated with sign language. They wanted to learn how to sign. They started to appreciate who I was as a person, and they stopped thinking of me as just “that deaf

Photo by Bentzi Sasson

my parents if I could attend a Jewish high school and they were fine with it. I went to three different local yeshivos and applied to each one of them. In the end they all decided not to accept me, saying they didn't have the resources necessary to meet my needs. The cost of hiring a full-time ASL interpreter would have been too high for their limited budgets. Defeated, I resigned myself to attending my local high school, where there was a deaf program. I had an interpreter in all of my classes, and almost all the other students were hearing. That whole year I was unhappy. I still wanted to be in a yeshivah, not a public school. Then I began to look into a yeshivah in Toronto. Called Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid, this was and still is the only yeshivah in the entire world for the deaf and hard of hearing, and it has a very special man named Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Kakon for its rosh yeshivah. Rabbi Kakon is deaf, and his grandfather, Rabbi Dovid Eliezer Rabinowitz, zt”l, was the very first deaf rabbi in America (and probably the world). In this yeshivah everyone communicates in ASL, even though the students all hail from different parts of the world. (Yes, there are different sign languages in different countries.) I went to Toronto for a visit, and was immediately hooked. I spent the next three years learning there, gaining knowledge and a greater appreciation of Yiddishkeit. These were really some of the best years of my life. Every bachur there had something to contribute. We were also in constant awe of our rosh yeshivah, who was a living example of what we could aspire to become. We learned Gemara, Rashi and Tosafos just like any other yeshivah. We made up new words in sign language when we wanted to convey a specific Talmudic concept, and we debated with each other as to which one of us had come up with the best sign. Even though I have now graduated, I am constantly being updated about the new signs the bachurim are devising. A major part of my experience in Toronto was Shabbos. Almost every week we were invited to join local families for their Shabbos seudos, and it was there that we got our informal training in social interaction with hearing people. We learned how to find a common ground with our host families, and explored different methods of communication. It’ isn't easy trying to communicate with someone on Shabbos without the aid of paper and a pen! Even though not everyone was able to communicate effectively with us, I still appreciated their efforts tremendously. Looking back, I can now say with confidence that it was a good thing the yeshivos in Los Angeles didn't accept me. If I hadn't gone to Toronto, I would have missed out on the benefits of being around people who were just like me. Playing “catch up” on my Jewish education in a hearing environment would not have been fun, trust me. After a while, it would have become frustrating and oppressive. In Toronto, I was able to express myself fully to the other bachurim, who were able to understand me completely. After I graduated from Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid I returned to Los Angeles. I lived in a yeshivah dormitory for two years while I went to college. California State University, Northridge, has a large number of deaf students—around 200. Most of my classes were regular courses with the addition of an ASL interpreter, although I did take several courses with a deaf professor. In the mornings

The Focus Timeline guy in room 108.” I was no longer a stranger. That made a huge difference, and I felt better about my choice to remain there. Around the same time I launched a new website. I called it Jewish Deaf Multimedia (JDMM—, and its goal was to bring Yiddishkeit to deaf people everywhere. As my experience in Toronto taught me, deaf people learn best when information is conveyed to them in their language, from others who are like them. I therefore felt a moral responsibility to share what I picked up in Toronto with the greater deaf community. If I didn’t do it, how else would others like me learn? Before I continue about the website, I'd like to address a serious question that has long plagued the conscience of every Jewish deaf person. It is almost invariably raised at every Jewish deaf gathering: Are we deaf first or Jewish first? I know that as a frum Yid you’re going to think the answer should be a no-brainer: “Of course being Jewish is infinitely more important.” But the truth is that it's not so simple. Sometimes the “Jewish choice” is the wrong choice. For example, if you had a deaf child, where would you send him to school? You could send him to a cheder where he might learn some Torah, but it might also be a torturous experience for him. He would have to endure peers who made fun of him, teachers who didn't know how to educate deaf children, and so on. It could turn him away from Yiddishkeit forever. Or you could send him to a public school where there would be many other children like him, and the teacher would have years of training in deaf education. Your child would be able to hone his interpersonal and language skills, but he would not be around Jewish children in a Torah-sensitive environment. He would miss out on the advantages of being in a Jewish school, not to mention a quality Jewish education. Without a doubt you would want

what’s best for your child, so which school would you choose? I do not have a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, nor do I believe there is one. I know deaf people who, with the help of hearing aids or cochlear implants, managed to survive their yeshivah years without damage. It was a continuous struggle, but they persisted. But I also know deaf people for whom the yeshivah system was a disaster. In fact, I know one deaf man who until today is unable to communicate meaningfully in any language. He wasn't taught sign language in the cheder he attended, and he couldn’t pick up spoken language on his own. He is a veritable prisoner in his own mind, unable to express his thoughts clearly or understand others. He is without language not because he couldn’t learn one, but because he was never taught one. This is the question we Jewish deaf have been grappling with for quite some time. Should we follow along and do what all the other Jews do, or should we first consider our personal deaf needs? Which approach will ultimately benefit us the most? Sadly, many deaf people have chosen the latter, to the point of abandoning their Judaism. While I don’t blame them (it isn't easy being Jewish and deaf), that's not the right solution to the problem. As hard as it is, we cannot give up on Judaism. Judaism is for every Jew, including the deaf Jew. Enter, through which I'm trying to tell the deaf Jewish community, "You know how you 've been struggling with how to identify yourself? Well, now you don’t have to choose; you can enjoy the best of both worlds!" Learning about Judaism while remaining in a uniquely deaf-friendly environment— that's what JDMM is all about. In under three years we have produced almost 100 videos in ASL. They range from topics like the weekly parshah and holidays to kosher cooking and interviews with deaf Holocaust survivors. Every video has English

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Due to limited facilities for Jewish deaf children, his parents reluctantly sent him to St. Vincent, a Catholic school.

subtitles (some also have French and Spanish), and there are blogs and other resources that meet the needs of the deaf community. More recently, we were able to extend our reach by partnering with and sharing our videos with them. Their resources (including their green-screen studio and technical expertise) have come in handy. As a Lubavitcher, it has been gratifying to see how accepted I am by the Chabad community, as well as to be recognized for having skills to give back. The response to JDMM has been amazing. Many deaf people have emailed to tell me how it strengthens their Jewish identity, which was my objective. More than just educating them about Yiddishkeit, I am trying to demonstrate how we can balance and harmonize the Jewish and deaf aspects of our lives. Yes, it is possible to be both deaf and Jewish. However, there is still so much work left to do. The rate of assimilation in the deaf community is shockingly high, 80–90 percent. As I said, deaf Jews often choose to affiliate with the deaf over their Jewishness, and marry spouses who are deaf but sadly not Jewish. This translates into many deaf children who are not halachically Jewish. Most deaf Jews have never received any formal Jewish education, not having had even a Sunday school or after-school program to attend. In the past few decades there have, baruch Hashem, been many efforts to reach out to unaffiliated hearing

Jews and expose them to the beauty of Yiddishkeit. But somehow, deaf people continue to fall through the cracks. There are, however, a few organizations. “Our Way,” a branch of the O.U. under the helm of Rabbi Eliezer Lederfeind, has been involved with deaf people for many years. My mother’s organization also earned a niche in the community. The Jewish Deaf Congress (formerly the National Congress of Jewish Deaf) hosts conferences every other year in different parts of the country, and provides a place for Jewish deaf people to meet and work together. This was, in fact, where my parents met. But these are far from sufficient. I dream of building a center where we Jewish deaf people can celebrate our Judaism together, where we can come to eat our Friday night dinners and study the parshah. We need online schools to service different populations



• Learn the ASL alphabet in order to be able to fingerspell any word you want to say. • Be welcoming and friendly. • Be patient with communication. • Tap a deaf person on the shoulder when you want his/her attention. • Continue to include the deaf person in your conversation when a third, hearing person joins you—no one likes to feel left out. • Make sure a deaf person feels comfortable in a social setting by introducing yourself and others. • Ask the deaf person in your shul if he/she wants you to indicate where they are in the davening. • Make sure your shul/school/personal simchos are available to the deaf by sponsoring interpreters. • Treat him/her just as you would anyone else—with the appropriate respect and dignity.

144 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

• Treat deaf people with pity or act childish around them (you know, like when you flap your hands around, pretending to sign). • Be dismissive if you don’t understand what they’re saying the first time. Or the second time. Or the third time. • Turn away from a deaf person while talking. (How do you think he/ she is going to read your lips?) • Assume deaf people are not intelligent. • Refer to deaf people as “deaf and dumb.” • Think that deaf people don’t know when you are talking about them in front of them. They are more skilled at lip-reading and body language than you realize. • Make decisions for deaf people without consulting them. • Forget to make sure that you are in an appropriate environment for a conversation with a deaf person. Dimly-lit rooms or standing in front of bright windows don’t make for good lip-reading situations. • Stare! Staring is rude in any culture. • Pretend that you understand what the deaf person said to you. Trust me, they know when you’re pretending. Every time. • Over articulate or shout when speaking to a deaf person.

The Focus Timeline of deaf Jews (young and old) and encourage Torah learning. We need retreats and summer camps. We need to train more deaf rabbis and community leaders, and integrate them into different communities around the world. I want to start a revolution in how Jewish deaf people relate to their Jewish identity. I’m taking this challenge seriously, and for good reason. I remember attending a conference a couple of years ago. The speaker declared to the audience of around 50 people, “If you know a Jewish deaf person who attends church services, raise your hand.” I was stunned to see almost the entire audience raising their hands! Yes, it is big a problem. Deaf Jews find other religions attractive. Deaf church services draw hundreds of participants to their events, provide free food and produce fascinating videos. It’s the “in thing” to attend them. My parents have received visits from Christian missionaries more than once—deaf missionaries who know sign language. I have no idea how they know to send deaf missionaries to our home, but it’s obvious that they are well-organized. Deaf Jews are spiritually curious, and if they cannot quench their thirst in the Jewish system, they will go elsewhere. I recently watched a video about an older deaf-blind priest from South Africa. About three minutes into the video the narrator delivered the punchline that made me sick to my stomach: “Cyril was born in 1942 in Johannesburg, South Africa, to Orthodox Jewish parents… Due to limited facilities for Jewish deaf children, his parents reluctantly sent him to St. Vincent, a Catholic school. At age 15 he began training to become a rabbi, until he was told by the Chief Rabbi that he could not, because he was ‘disabled’ in this way. Cyril’s dream was shattered.” Cyril goes on to explain in his own words that, “I felt very confused about my faith. I

couldn’t decide where I belonged. It was very difficult for me to be of two minds like that.” So what did he end up doing? He became a Catholic priest, and has already spent over 40 years “spreading the gospel” to thousands of deaf people around the globe, in addition to learning 15 different languages and earning degrees in philosophy and psychology. He could have been our success story, but today he is theirs. I want to tell you, though, that I truly believe things are getting better. There is more awareness nowadays in the Jewish community about deaf people, and people have learned to be more sensitive and tolerant of others who are “different.” There has been a paradigm shift of how we treat those who do not fit the mold. Unlike Cyril, I was not turned away from rabbinical school. After two years in college I realized that my passion was learning Torah, and I decided to apply to a semichah program in Crown Heights. I braced myself for a possible rejection. Unexpectedly, however, the rosh yeshivah wrote in his email, “We hear that you are a chasidishe bachur and a very dedicated student, so we would be happy to have you. But please understand that we have no experience with deaf students, and are relying on your conviction that you can succeed in a regular yeshivah setting.” I was thrilled; it was a big deal. Only four deaf rabbis had preceded me; I would be adding another name to the list. I learned in this program for a year and a half. For most of the day I did not have a chavrusa, and I did not attend the rosh yeshivah’s shiurim. Instead, he provided me with the written notes from each shiur, and encouraged me to ask questions any time. He also provided us with daily quotas of learning to meet, and encouraged me to keep up with the group. Again, deaf people thought I was

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“Even though not everyone was able to effectively communicate with us, I still tremendously appreciated their efforts.” crazy for attending a rabbinical program without an interpreter. But really, even if funding could have been found, who would be qualified? A frum, male interpreter with knowledge of halachah and free time? That would be a rarity. Baruch Hashem, I passed my tests with excellent marks. The other bachurim were tested orally, while I was given written tests instead. The rosh yeshivah was very helpful and patiently wrote out the answers (that were sometimes several pages long!) to every question I posed to him. It has now been a couple of months since I graduated. (Thank you for your mazal tovs.) But unlike most graduate these days, I did not have trouble finding a job; the deaf community came to me. I continually get halachic questions from deaf Jews, both near and far. What I find interesting is that every time someone asks 146 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

me a question they almost always add, “I’m so glad you’re available. It’s so much easier to deal with someone who is deaf like me.” They trust me more than someone who doesn’t understand their distinct needs and cultural nuances. It is truly an honor to be able to be there for them. I am also very much involved in giving shiurim to the local Brooklyn Jewish deaf community. We review pertinent halachic questions before holidays, especially laws that apply differently to deaf people (for example, tekiyas shofar or kriyas Megillah). On the weekends, I visit different communities and organize deaf Shabbos dinners and events. My trips have taken me as far as Rochester, New York; St. Louis, Missouri; and Potomac, Maryland. With a limited number of deaf rabbis out there, the demand is great. And I love what I do. You see, this is where I belong. This is my community and my people. I wish that everybody in the world could see how beautiful it is to be Jewish and deaf. My dear readers, instead of going on and on about myself, I’d like to extend an invitation to you. I’d like for you to see us for yourself. This invitation is not time-sensitive; feel free to answer it whenever you wish. Just step past the social and language barriers and discover who we are as individuals. Till now, we have mostly been elegated to a quiet and dusty corner of the Jewish community. But now you have the chance to know us. And we’re ready when you are.

The Focus Timeline

Some Frequently Asked Questions about Deaf People Things you’ve wanted to know, but were afraid to ask Are all deaf people the same? Not at all. There are many, many kinds of deaf people. It is a spectrum, from an individual with a slight hearing loss on one side, a completely deaf person on the other, and people of different levels of hearing in between. I hear nothing without my hearing aids, and when I wear them, I am able to hear noises, though I am not able to differentiate between them. Deaf people communicate in different ways; some only know how to speak verbally, others only communicate with sign language, and many others use both forms of communication. Some deaf people have hearing aids. Others opt for surgery in order to receive a cochlear implant. There are deaf people who choose not to use any kind of hearing device, preferring to remain in their silent world.

You don’t mind if I call you deaf, right? Right. You don’t mind if I call you Jewish, do you? It’s the same thing. It’s who we are, and there’s no need to try to invent fancy phrases to say the same thing. We are deaf, deaf, deaf. (And Jewish, Jewish, Jewish.)

How many deaf people are there out there? Nobody has the exact figures, of course. And it all depends on who you define as “deaf.” Older people who lost their hearing as they aged are not usually considered members of the deaf community, yet they are included in

the statistics. For example, in America, studies show that around 10 percent of the population has some form of hearing loss; this translates into over 30 million people. But when we narrow it down, we arrive at 500,000 deaf people who use sign language as their primary mode of communication. Okay. And how many of them are Jewish? Again, nobody knows for sure. But we can do some estimating. About 2 percent of all Americans are Jews. So if there are 500,000 deaf people, there are probably around 10,000 deaf Jews. In Israel, statistics indicate that there are around 15,000–20,000 deaf people. So if we add in a few more deaf Jews from other parts of the world, we reach an estimate of between 25,000– 40,000 Jewish deaf people out there. That’s a lot!

I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how do deaf people hear the doorbell ring? How do deaf parents know if the baby is crying? In my parents’ house, there is a lamp in each room that flashes on and off every time someone rings the doorbell. When my siblings and I were babies, there was a special device in our rooms that was connected to a lamp in our parents’ bedroom. Every time we cried, the lamp in my parents’ bedroom would flash on and off, alerting them to our cries. You could adjust the sensitivity of the receptor in our room (so that our parents would not come running every time we sneezed or rolled over).

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Sorry for asking, but do deaf people drive? Sure we do! There is no statistical basis that shows that deaf people are at a higher risk for accidents than other groups of people. If anything, I would think that deaf people make for safer drivers than hearing people; we are used to relying on our eyes more than those who hear, and we do not have the drawback of being distracted by noises. Anyway, if it’s legal for you to drive while carrying on a conversation on your cell phone with the radio blaring and your kids yelling at you from the backseat, why can’t we drive?

You can’t call people on a regular phone, right?

“There is absolutely no room for being machmir when it comes to deaf people…”

Wrong. At first, there was a special machine called a TTY (TeleTYpewriter), and it was like a typewriter that was hooked up to the phone network. You could call others who had the same device. Then they added something called a “relay service” where you could type to an operator, who would then call up a hearing person for you and voice out whatever you typed on the TTY, and type back what the hearing person was saying. Today, there is a much advanced form of relay service called VRS (Video Relay Service). Instead of a TTY and typing out everything, deaf people can now call a video relay interpreter on a computer with a webcam or a special video device attached to a TV screen, who will voice out everything you say in sign language, and interpret back what the hearing person is saying. And of course, deaf people can just call each other on the device without an interpreter.

that most deaf people today are able to use their voices, even if it does not sound like a hearing person’s voice. Also, it is possible to say that modern-day sign language is considered a form of speech. This is not the forum, though, to get into a lengthy halachic discussion on the topic, so I encourage anybody who has a question to contact me at jas@jewishdeafmm. org. I will be very happy to share sources with those who ask for them. The bottom line is, please do not make the mistake of pushing deaf people away from Torah and Yiddishkeit just because you think Hashem does not value their mitzvos. Above all, show some sensitivity. There is absolutely no room for being machmir when it comes to deaf people; there is plenty of halachic literature out there that counts deaf people in a minyan or allows deaf people to be called to the Torah. Again, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to contact me.

I’m so confused—I’ve always been under the impression that deaf people are exempt from the mitzvos. Aren’t they?

What do you do for tekias shofar?

The confusion lies in the fact that the Gemara and the poskim talk about a cheresh who does not hear or speak. Do today’s deaf people fit that category? The answer, in short, is no. A cheresh and a deaf person are not the same thing. There are several reasons for this, including the fact

Because there is a she’eilah about hearing the tekios through a hearing aid (and most poskim, in fact, rule that a person is not yotzei in that manner), I take out my hearing aids and ask someone to blow the shofar directly into my ear. Don’t worry, I won’t go deaf—I’m already deaf! Nevertheless, when the ba’al tekiah blows it in this way, I am able to hear the blasts, even

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if it is just slightly.

But what about the Megillah? Upon the advice of my rosh yeshivah in Toronto, I read from a kosher Megillah for myself every Purim. Like tekias shofar, there is also a she’eilah as to whether hearing aids (or cochlear implants) are considered normal hearing vis-à-vis the reading of the Megillah, so the best way to be yotzei this mitzvah is by reading it to myself.

Can you sign in between washing netilas yadayim and saying Hamotzi? This is one of the most common questions that hearing people ask me. The answer is no, you are not allowed to if you are not signing something that is directly related to making Hamotzi, such as asking for the salt. The whole purpose of not being able to talk during this time is in order to avoid making a hefsek (interruption) between the washing and the eating. So a whole conversation on politics and why your child has a runny nose, even if it is entirely in sign language, is certainly an interruption.

What lesson can I, as a hearing person, learn from deaf people? I was zocheh to grow up in a community and in a family that taught me to feel positively about myself. Even though it was obvious to me that nearly everybody else had something that I didn’t (ears that work), I never wasted any time feeling bad about it. Why should I? As Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch (the rebbe Rashab) would put it, “One good deed is worth more than 1000 sighs.” So (listen carefully!) this is the lesson: No matter what kind of challenges you may have in your life, no matter what obstacles may lie in your path—don’t think of them as a bad thing. Obviously, it’s all part of Hashem’s grand plan for you, and Kol mah d’avid Rachmana, letav avid (“Everything that G-d does is for the good”—Berachos 60b). And that means everything—including your challenges. Put on a smile, look at how beautiful your life is and live it the best way you can.

Where Do you

Hurt? Are yoUr

FEEt killing you? Do yoU WAnt to GIVe yoUr Feet to SoMeone elSe ?


by Zissy Moskowitz

I have gained so much by getting to know this wonderful community of Jews I will never forget the day I was introduced to deaf pride and culture. It was the day I was forced to come face-to-face with my own ignorance. Our deaf professor had asked us to respond to an article about whether or not deaf people should opt to become hearing, should a magic cure for deafness suddenly be discovered. In my naiveté, and full of young idealism, I wrote a powerful paper in support of “fixing” the “problem” of deafness. While I don’t remember the details of what I wrote (don’t we all have those memories we prefer to erase?), it was apparent, based on my professor’s reaction, that I had struck a very raw nerve— not only with her personally, but with

the entire deaf world. She was a petite woman with a mild-mannered, friendly way about her. That morning, however, when she walked into class and flung our papers onto her desk, she seemed to have grown in size and her demeanor was anything but friendly. She furiously proceeded to berate us, and spoke bitterly about how some of us felt we needed to “help” the unfortunate deaf people. I could feel myself shrinking because I just knew it was my paper she was discussing. “I have news for you. I wouldn’t want a doctor to ‘fix’ me. This is how G-d created me. This is my identity.” More distressing than her fury was her pain, which affected me profoundly. When I approached her to offer my profuse apol-

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ogies, she told me that I needed to rethink my attitude towards the deaf world. That lesson has stayed with me to this day, and I’d like to think it has made me more sensitive to people who are “different.” Whether or not all deaf people share her opinion about remaining deaf is beyond the scope of this article. The message for us here is that deaf people are not to be pitied and do not need our “help.” They need our sensitivity. They need our tolerance. They need to feel that they are a part of our community. Let me discuss this from another perspective: we need to do this for ourselves. If we don’t, we will be passing up opportunities to get to know and benefit from a wonderful Jewish community. You see, deaf people can do everything, except hear. Their community boasts rabbanim, askanim, successful businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, kiruv professionals, and devoted family members. They have much to offer, and should be included as active members of the frum community. As in the words of Abi Rotenberg, the famous composer, “We are not so different, you and I.” Before I was introduced to this incredible group of people, I was just like you. I would feel awkward around people who seemed “different,” and would sometimes even try to avoid them. But as time went by and I became more involved with the deaf community, something strange began to happen. The more I went back and forth between the hearing world and the deaf world, the more I would catch myself feeling embarrassed about, and often excusing, hearing people for their inadvertent insensitivity towards the deaf. Imagine being an ignored member of your shul, excluded from minyanim and from receiving aliyos. Imagine being left out of familial, shul and community events. Imagine being passed over for respectable employment positions because you were being judged for your inability to hear, rather than your qualifications. These situations are painful. That’s why I’d like to give accolades to those organizations that have the sensitivity to ensure that the deaf community feels included in the klal,

by making their events accessible through providing interpreters and closed captioning. These organizations include, but may not be limited to: Agudath Israel (specifically for the Siyum HaShas),, Ohr Naava and the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. It is my hope that others will see the need as well, and rise to the occasion. As for the rest of the myriad events that should be made accessible to the deaf community, the responsibility thus far has fallen on the shoulders of a handful of frum volunteer interpreters. I’m sure I speak for the others when I express my frustration over having to advocate for services for the deaf, only to be continually turned down. Most often the reason cited is lack of funding. When one considers the expenses involved in organizing an event, which include halls, food,

the challenges that they face, I hope that we will make equal strides in reversing this disturbing downward trend. As my relationship with the deaf community deepens, I watch with amusement and satisfaction as my family becomes more and more “deaf-friendly.” Many of them have picked up sign language, while others have grown quite skilled at lip reading and gesturing in order to communicate with the many deaf friends who join us for Shabbosos, Yomim Tovim, and simchos. I stress that the only thing that really separates us is a lack of communication. With patience and sensitivity, this barrier can be removed. I would be remiss if I did not publically express my hakaras hatov to my deaf friends. Were it not for their constant support and encouragement since the beginning of my

“I wouldn’t want a doctor to ‘fix’ me. This is how G-d created me. This is my identity.” speakers, and the like, the cost of providing an interpreter is minimal and a worthwhile investment to promote ahavas Yisrael. In his article, Rabbi Soudakoff mentions the dilemma facing many frum deaf people: Are we deaf first or Jewish first? I recall interpreting many such discussions, where I would step out of my role as interpreter and inquire as to what would lead a deaf Jew to identify himself as deaf first rather than Jewish. The most common explanation given me was a lack of inclusion into the frum, hearing world. Since we are not welcome in the Jewish community, they think to themselves, we’ll just go and join other deaf people. We can no longer sit back and watch as our deaf brethren become disillusioned with the frum community and seek solace, companionship and inclusion in the secular world. While the Jewish world at large has recently made great strides in the arena of kiruv rechokim, the deaf community is suffering from richuk kerovim. By shining a light on

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interpreting journey, I would not be writing this article from the perspective of a frum sign language interpreter. I am awed by their accomplishments and inspired by their determination to face and overcome personal challenges. We share a love of our common language and a dream for a better tomorrow. My plea to the hearing community is that they do not turn a deaf ear to the needs of the deaf community. Let’s work together to bridge the gap that exists between our worlds. Zissy Moskowitz has been working as a freelance interpreter in religious, vocational and educational settings for over a decade now. It was her love of American Sign Language that drew her to this profession. Her role in the frum Deaf community is that of friend, advocate and interpreter. She enjoys  volunteering in the community by offering her professional services for events such as Deaf shabbatonim and interpreted shiurim.


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General Itzhak Segev has a very good story to tell. Americans have recently been mesmerized by articles and films about a young CIA operative who went undercover as a Canadian movie producer to extract American embassy employees from Tehran during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979. The episode seems to have sparked America's imagination. General Segev, Israel’s last military attaché to Tehran, told Ami in a recent visit that while depictions of the Canadian's efforts were good at creating tension out of “small events,” his experiences were nothing compared to his adventures. “I can tell you,” he said, “that to relocate with Canadian passports is no big risk at all.” By the end of 1978, change was in the air in Iran. The Shah was a despot who had ruled the country for almost four decades; but Iran was gripped by riots, demonstrations and strikes that almost shut down the country. Starting in October 1977, spurred on by audio tapes of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was then in exile in France, the Iranian masses rioted in the streets against the brutal regime of the pro-Western and pro-Israel Shah. On January 16, 1979, the Shah went into exile, and two weeks later Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran in triumph. On February 11, the regime finally collapsed completely in the wake of the armed victory of rebel troops and guerrilla fighters. 152 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Brigadier General General Itzhak Segev is now retired and spends his time on charitable pursuits and in supporting a nature reserve in Israel’s north that hosts the biblical fallow deer, a species related to his adventures in Iran. Speaking with Ami Magazine from his Tel Aviv office, the salty Mediterranean wind drifting in through an open window, Segev reminisced about his adventures in Iran and his escape to freedom, during which he brought 29 other Israelis and three Iranian Jews with him. “Like everyone in Israel,” Segev recalls, “I joined the IDF, and after my regular service I remained as a career officer.” He joined the elite paratroop brigade and “took part in almost all of Israel’s wars” from the time of his enlistment. The army sent Segev to study at Tel Aviv University where he learned Arabic and Middle East Studies, eventually earning both a bachelor’s and a master’s in Israel. Then opportunity struck. Segev relates that in 1977 “when [current President Shimon] Peres was Defense Minister, he invited me to his office and he told me that relations between Israel and Iran were ‘so good’ ” that the Minister wanted to send a “qualified man” to Tehran as a military attaché to work on cooperation. At first Segev demurred. “I told him, ‘Listen, I learned Arabic and Middle East studies. That includes Iran but I don’t speak Persian.’ He told me it was very important I go.” Segev was a full colonel and was eligible for a bump up in rank to brigadier general should he accept the position. “I was the commander of the Sinai at the time,” he said, noting that he had not wanted to give up his command, his unit or his life in Israel. “I refused because I told him that I enjoy [life] very much in Israel and it’s not in

Briga dier G enera Israel l Itzik ’s las t milit S Tehra e a n, rec ry atta gev, ounts chÊ in ing ta le of t h e harro h is eInsthis clutc w season of freedom, c a hes o p e former Sudanese slave f rom t f the bring he ayatol Deng Simon his pe what l ita means to oplbeeexplains h s enslaved, and what he t iso h o m e doing to break captive servitude a l i v world around thee by sam sokol 9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


my mind to take a position outside.” However, Peres applied pressure to both Segev and his wife, and in the end Segev relented. In May 1977 he arrived with his wife Carbella, sons Sharon and Gilad, and daughter Deganit in Iran. Growing Tensions The problems began after his arrival in the cities outside of Tehran, such as Isfahan and Shiraz. When there was no “real reaction” from the Iranian army, he says, the protests gained momentum. Bringing up the problems that emerged just as he arrived, he jokes, “I sometimes think I’m the reason.” Looking at the security situation, senior officials, including Segev, decided to “evacuate all the Israelis from Iran because we saw the deterioration.” At that point, when El Al flights were still arriving daily in Tehran, Segev helped oversee the peaceful evacuation of almost 1,700 Israelis. There were so many Israelis because until that time “relations between Israel and Iran were so good that every economic concern in Israel had an agent there.” Prior to the revolution there were what he terms “big negotiations” between Tehran and Jerusalem to develop military cooperation as well. However despite good economic and defense ties, the situation was rapidly deteriorating and “you could see the hate against Israel,” he said. Iranian mobs “attacked the El Al office, penetrating and destroying everything and taking all the documents. The revolution broke out on February 10 but the problems started in December and January.” After evacuating fellow Israelis from the country and transferring most nonessential diplomatic personnel and their families back to Israel, Segev decided to stay, along with Ambassador David Hermein and the Mossad station chief. “During this time Foreign Minister Dayan called and asked our opinion about what to do, and I told him it would be stupid to leave a Muslim country.” He told Dayan, “We evacuated our families so I believe it would be positive if the ambassador and I would stay.” The only Israelis left besides the top officials were security personnel. Segev’s role was not merely to facilitate arms sales to Iran but also to negotiate a deal for joint development of weapons systems and platforms and other kinds of “sophisticated military equipment like airplanes and ships.” The idea, Segev says, was that “the Israeli defense industry, which was not so rich” would provide engineers and know-how and the Iranians would put up the money to develop the next generation of military hardware. However, even after signing an accord, nothing came of it. “The moment we planned to fulfill the deal the regime collapsed, so don’t be worried that Israel gave them airplane or missile technology.” He adds that it was a miracle that the regime collapsed before Israel began to pass over information.

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The American hostages in Iran

Months later when the Israeli embassy was finally breached, no documents pertaining to military cooperation or other affairs were taken because, unlike the Americans, Segev decided to “evacuate” the embassy’s paperwork as well. “The Israelis were more aware [than the Americans] of what would happen,” he notes with a smile. Left with just an empty building, Segev and his fellow Israelis waited to see what would happen. Segev was friendly with several of the top Iranian military commanders and was able to understand, with inside information, that there was “something wrong with this empire.” The Coup In January 1978, several top Iranian generals informed Segev

Iranians scaling the American embassy walls in Iran


T• R• A• V • E • L

that they planned to carry out a coup against Khomeini when he landed in Iran. They said they would come to the airport, control the airplane, take Khomeini and all his people and bring him to Kish Island. On Kish Island, they would put all the journalists on one side, Khomeini on the other side, kill him and send his airplane back to Paris. Segev claims that because they were unable to gain American assurances that they would be protected from any Russian moves against their country during the resultant instability, they did not

Segev with Yitzchak Rabin

follow through with their plans. “Russia’s target for years was to reach the gulf, so they thought if the army would carry out a coup, Russia would penetrate Iran.” Segev, who by then had picked up Farsi, donned the clothing of an Iranian revolutionary and went out to the airport to see Khomeini arrive and be deposed. “We waited for more than twelve hours at the airport,” he says. “After that, when the plane landed I saw a helicopter arrive, but it became clear that one of the generals wanted to save his own life at the last minute and came to the airport and said ‘Listen, I came to take you by helicopter.’ So the coup d’état disappeared.” In the meantime Segev stood there watching, carrying a revolutionary sign and chanting pro-Khomeini slogans in Farsi. As a harbinger of future developments, Segev notes that Khomeini had a Palestin-

ian bodyguard force and that the revolution received much help from the PLO. On February 10, Segev arrived at the empty Israeli embassy only to see the Iranian tanks and troops that had been protecting the building leave, recalled to their barracks. Soon after, he recalls, thousands of people were racing through the streets towards the Israeli structure, determined to sack the building. “From the beginning, we planned that from the moment we are attacked we would not shoot but would go to the roof,” he says. On the roof was a seven meterplank that the remaining Israelis used to cross over to the next building from which they made their escape. “They robbed the embassy and took everything. However, my army experience told me that in such a case you can be very brave but you have no chance. With 12 pistols and 20 rounds per man, what can you do against a mob of thousands?” From that moment, it was a seven-day adventure on the run in Tehran. There were three homes in which the Israelis, divided into three groups, hid at first. One was the house of the ambassador, one Segev’s apartment and one the Mossad chief’s dwelling. Segev and nine others came to his apartment where, he recalls, they “sat around the table and ate cholent” all day Sunday. However, while eating, their lookout spotted a jeep carrying three revolutionaries coming down the street to Segev’s threestory building. At that point, he says, “we decided that if they came to attack us we would kill them.” However, the revolutionaries went to the third-floor apartment, where they picked up one of the local members of the revolution. “They didn’t enter our apartment. I thought day and night [about] why they did not come,” he says. “I think maybe it was because his wife could not bake and mine taught her how,” he guessed. “He








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knew exactly who I was.” Five minutes later, the landlord came in with water and was shocked to see Segev still alive. Indicating the bucket in his hand, he said that he had come to wash their blood off the parquet floors. “After that we understood that we had to run away,” he says. He paid the rest of what he owed on rent and tried to sell the landlord his refrigerator. Before they could go, Segev received a phone call from Israel. One of his former commanders, a high-ranking officer, hinted to Segev in an oblique way that a Hercules transport plane would land to meet them in the desert on February 17 to evacuate them. “He asked me to go to the desert to find a place where the Hercules could be landed. We then jumped to another apartment and I gave him the number of the second apartment.” Moving from apartment to apartment, the group stayed ahead of their pursuers for days. However, Segev could not escape the bad news that the revolution brought, with the newspapers and television reporting on the executions of Iranian officials he had considered friends. “I was the one going out every day because I could pass for an Iranian,” he says. “Every day I went out, bought a newspaper and saw my general friends being killed off.” Running out of fresh vegetables, Segev was sent by his companions to the bazaar, the center of revolutionary activity. He was identified by a shopkeeper as a foreigner and was quickly apprehended by a revolutionary officer. Pretending to be an Arab, Segev said that he was a PLO operative, using IDF intelligence he had been briefed on to give a convincing description of a known PLO base to make himself seem more legitimate. Not only was his act good enough

Segev with Shimon Peres

to get him out of his bind, the officer made sure that his “Palestinian” comrade received his food for free. Years later, during the Barak administration, Segev was appointed to be part of a negotiating team with the Palestinians. He relates how one evening over dinner with Yasser Arafat he related the story, leading the terrorist chieftain to exclaim that he “uses the Palestinian cover very well.” Segev smiles as he recalls his close escape, clearly enjoying having tweaked the Iranians by using the identity of a terrorist group whose charter calls for his nation’s destruction. As the days drew nearer to their planned escape, Segev received another phone call from Israel. He was told that the Ameri-

cans, whose embassy was still safe, were sending Pan Am jumbo jets to evacuate some of their personnel and that the Israelis should join the Americans at the Hilton hotel prior to the flights. “It was a big risk,” he remembers, noting that as soon as they got to the hotel three of their number were arrested. “I thought it was a terrible idea. I was sure they would arrest us.” Asked why they were not all arrested the moment they arrived at the hotel and were identified as Israelis, as they were now in the lion’s mouth, Segev says that they had actually been met at the hotel by a delegation from the Iranian foreign ministry. “The Israeli ambassador called the old foreign ministry and told them we were evacuating with the Americans. A delegation from the

Five minutes later, the landlord came in with water and was shocked to see Segev still alive. Indicating the bucket in his hand, he said that he had come to wash their blood off the parquet floors.

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A Beautiful New Concept in Saying Tehilim & Supporting your Fellow Jew.

foreign ministry came to help us [and] when we met them we were so glad that someone was helping us. However, the revolutionary guards came” and subsequently arrested the men from their own foreign ministry. Segev bravely approached a representative of the komiteh, the revolutionary committee, and flatly told him that he was an Israeli general and that he wanted to present his diplomatic credentials to the new regime. He was shocked, Segev recalls. One of the revolutionaries took him to the side and said that he personally loved

Khomeini’s ally Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti

Israel but that he was required to report that Segev was there. That was exactly what Segev had been waiting for. A quick call to the central komiteh brought a response only two hours later, when Khomeini’s ally Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti arrived at the Hilton. “They opened the door of the hotel and Beheshti came with a retinue holding his robes. I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m very glad you came to receive our credentials.’ He told me, ‘Segev, I want you to leave this country immediately.’ ” “I’m ready to leave, just release my people,” Segev replied. “Leave immediately!” the ayatollah

thundered. “I thought about these events day and night,” Segev tells Ami nearly 30 years after they took place. “During those days the revolution was still very weak and only seven days old. They had not yet established themselves.” He believes they were worried about what would happen if they antagonized Israel too much. After this encounter the Israelis, as Jews will, got lunch, mounted buses and made their way to the airport. They flew with the Americans to Germany and then transferred to an Israeli jet in Frankfurt. With typical Israeli luck, the landing gear of their plane jammed right before landing at Ben Gurion airport. Dangling an El Al crewman by his legs inside the guts of the plane, Segev’s men managed to get the plane fixed and they arrived home safely. Despite everything that has happened and decades of terror sponsorship, hate indoctrination and tension, Segev says that he believes the Iranian people, should they ever throw off the yoke of oppression, will one day be ready again to renew ties with Israelis. He looks forward to the day when Israelis can again visit Tehran in peace. Adventure aside, this was not Segev’s first rescue operation. Prior to these adventures in Iran, Segev was involved in another rescue—the fallow deer. Mentioned in the Tanach, the fallow deer became extinct in Israel around the turn of the last century. However, it was discovered to still exist in Iran. Despite the tensions, when rioters were running rampant in the streets, Segev put on civilian clothes, made his way through the mobs and negotiated the purchase of the animals for transport to Israel. Asked why, he says he did it as a favor to a former commander who wanted to bring back this species to Eretz Yisrael. A Hollywood producer is considering turning this story into a movie. Move over, Canada. 



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ait a second—am I the boss around here? At our last weekly meeting I told the Fishes that I felt that they aren’t active enough in the project. We are at a point now where it seems like I’m the one in charge and I’m only updating them on my progress, and that’s definitely not what we had in mind when we began. When I finished my little speech, Toby Fish turned to me and said, “Mr. Stein, are you aware that I have no idea what it means to run a business? Whenever you ask me to do something I do it, then I stop and wait for you to tell me how to proceed. Maybe you thought we knew how to run a business when you picked us, but all I had was an idea about creating books for special ed kids. I have no idea what running a business means!” The room was silent for a few minutes; I needed some time to reflect on what she had just said before

responding. Her statement hadn’t included any new information; I had always understood that she had no business acumen or experience. But I assumed that as we continued to meet periodically and talk about the various steps we would be taking, she would learn on the job. It was clear now that this was not the case, and that while there had been a whole lot of discussion over the past few weeks, she still didn’t have a grasp on how to build her business herself. As I sat there thinking, I realized that this is something I encounter frequently in my office. People often have wonderful ideas that they are passionate about, but they have no inkling what to do next. Sometimes it is very obvious that the person doesn’t have the skills to run a business, and when they make an attempt and don’t get anywhere, they eventually end up frustrated and broke. So what does it really take to run a successful business? And is it truly something that can be learned?

158 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Then it hit me: Isn’t that the objective of this whole contest—to teach people how to take an idea and build a successful business around it and bring it to the marketplace? With that in mind, I told her that it was perfectly fine that she doesn’t know how to build or manage a business—she can always read the “Parnooosa!” column in Ami to find out! Running a business is an art that everyone can learn but only a few will master. That’s why most businesses struggle and many business owners feel themselves floundering. The first part of being an entrepreneur is having a clear vision of where you are going and why it’s important for you to get there. This is very different from just having an idea, because having an idea in and of itself doesn’t necessarily include its implementation. It’s more of a feeling of “Wouldn’t it be nice to have something like this?” Apple has hundreds of researchers

By MAURICE STEIN A Word from Toby’s Father:

Hillel Fish

Running a business is an art that everyone can learn but only a few will master. who come up with ideas for future products and inventions that don’t exist, but only Steve Jobs had the vision to get those products into the hands of millions of people. When I asked Toby if she had a clear vision and mission for her business, she said she didn’t. When we originally began, we had a definite idea. But as we started doing research and I shared my ideas for the future, she lost her original vision and began looking at it as a project that I had a vision for—and she would help out! In truth, this project cannot succeed with my vision alone, because the Fishes are the ones who will have to run the daily operations. We therefore sat and rearticulated our original vision until the Fishes themselves were quite clear about it, which is to create products and services to help kids grow and maximize their potential. I then explained that running a business successfully requires a clear plan for the four components of any business: sales, marketing, finances and operations. At the same time, having a plan isn’t enough; you need to constantly adjust what you’re doing as obstacles come up along the way. There are many things to learn in all four areas, and it’s a never-ending journey. Most people will discover that at least one area is something they are not naturally good at. But you’ve got to hang in there until your business has grown to a point

I always thought that running a business is just running a businesses. I never realized that there is so much to learn about it doing right, which answers the question I always had: Why do so many business fail? We are definitely more clear now on what our role in this venture, and we’ve made a lot of progress already, B”H, since our meeting.

where you can hire employees whose strong points are your weak ones, so they can take responsibility in those areas! There are several important things to bear in mind whenFather: starting a business: A Word from Toby’s *F  irst and foremost: your vision and misHillel Fish sion *Y  ou are fully in charge of doing whatever it takes to achieve your goal. *E  ach of the four components must be focused on simultaneously. *L  earn and improve on something every day. *T  here’s a lot of help available, but you are responsible for finding and implementing it. It was a long meeting but very worthwhile, because it transformed the Fishes from observers to business owners. It may take a while for everything to sink in, but for the first time I sensed that they got it. Running a business isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone. When I chose the Fishes I felt that while they might not be business owners yet, they definitely have what it takes to succeed. Until then, make it a great week. Maurice You can contact Maurice at (718) 6760503 or

A Word from:

Toby Fish When I read Maurice’s column, the first thing that crossed my mind was, “My thoughts exactly!” I started out with an idea that I hoped could succeed, but beyond that I really didn’t have a clue. I was basically just following instructions but had no direction of my own. This week we had a mini-breakthrough, and I think it all boiled down to communication. Things were veering off track and we couldn’t continue until we sat down and pinpointed exactly where we went off course. I walked away from our meeting with a clear understanding of our vision, and a determination to take a more active role in getting there. In the two days since then, so much has been accomplished, and it’s amazing to think that all it took was one meeting. There’s still a long way to go and much more to learn, but we’re going to do it! Have a great Yom Tov.

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine



ask Maurice Do I Really Need a New Idea? Hi Maurice,

I’ve been reading your column in Ami since you started. As the manager of a small business I find it extremely informative and interesting. Now I’m looking to start my own business. My question is: In your opinion, do you think I need an original idea or a new product in order to succeed? Or can I make a good parnasah with an already existing product if I have effective marketing strategies and provide good service? Awaiting your reply, Zalman

WE HAVE A JOB FOR YOU! As someone who has hired a number of employees over the years for my clients, it’s interesting to observe how on one end there are a lot of employers who are desperately looking to fill positions that they need, to keep up with the growth of their company, while on the other hand there are a lot of people desperately looking for work who feel that there are no good jobs available in the market. Let me share with you a few points that might be helpful. There is no shortage of hiring opportunities. There are lots of companies who are desperately looking for qualified employees. As competition keeps increasing, businesses are looking to expand into new markets and increase their potential and their competitiveness in the marketplace. To those employers, all that matters is whether you can deliver the results they need. Being busy does not count for anything. Do what you love and love what you do. For some people it’s not easy to figure out what they are good at. But you have to if you want to find a great job that will last and get you the results that you want. Communicate very clearly and in detail. Business owners are very busy. They quickly decide whether they want to interview you, based on your email. Don’t waste it by talking about what you want. It’s not about you; it’s about his business.

Dear Zalman,

Thanks for the compliment. If you look at the history of successful businesses, most of them didn’t start off with a new product or original idea. Rather, they took an existing product or service and improved it. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player, nor did they invent the Mac operating system or the smartphone. For the most part, they took existing products and made them more userfriendly, eventually developing a strong brand and intense customer loyalty. I actually think it’s preferable to start a business that improves on an existing product because it’s less risky than introducing a new one. With any new product, you never know how big a demand there’ll be, and there’s always a possibility of losing your investment. By contrast, when you take an existing product or service that is already in great demand and improve it, you have a very good chance of succeeding. Make it a great week. Maurice

160 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

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my word! a s h e r v. F i n n

Each week, “My Word!”—penned by the esteemed president of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to English—highlights often-misused or misspelled phrases or words, common grammatical challenges, unusual expressions or neologisms. Or it just calls attention to curious or interesting locutions. So if you want to learn some new things about English—or are already expert in the language and want to prove it to yourself—you’ve come to the right place.


To Meddle or Not on Pesach

ith Pesach almost here, I must ask a question: Do you misch? Well, put the question aside for now, and consider something seemingly unrelated: the oddity of three English words that are all pronounced pretty much the same and have the same origin and yet refer to three distinct things. I refer, of course, to the words metal, medal, and mettle. Surely you’ve considered them before. “Metal” is the word we use for various crystalline solids (at room temperature) that are characterized by things like electrical conductivity and luster. Gold, silver, and copper are metals that were used in the Mishkan, for instance. (If you have a periodic table handy – as you always should as you never know – you will notice that those three metals are aligned in a neat column, which is, or should be, very interesting.) Some other metals we use today include iron, aluminum, uranium, lead, zinc, and, of course, seaborgium. The word “metal” comes from the Greek metallon, whose original meaning was “mine or quarry.” A medal—the “d” is meant to be enunciated as one, and the “t” in “metal” as a “t” even though most people pronounce both words essentially the same—is a flat object that commemorates an accomplishment. It is often made of metal, but the word has come to be used in a figurative sense too, as in “By claiming to his mother that he had accidentally superglued himself to his chair, Yoizel Yankelowitzky won the medal for creative excuses to avoid his turn washing the Shabbos dishes.” Some see the root of “medal” in “metal”; others, in the Latin word for “little halves,” medialia, which 162 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

referred to a coin worth half a denarius that was used in Roman times as a trinket or award. Now “mettle”—pronounced even by the most punctilious people precisely like “metal”—means “strength, courage, and fortitude,” as in “Yenteh showed her mettle by picking up her little brother, chair and all, and depositing him in front of the kitchen sink.” That meaning derives from “metal,” as it is used here to mean “the hard stuff from which a courageous person is made.” Now to “meddle,” which is enunciated precisely like “medal,” is unrelated to it or any of its cousins. It means “to involve oneself in a matter without right or invitation.” Thus, Yoizel’s response to Yenteh might well be “This is between me and Mommy. Stop meddling!” Actually, he’s more likely to say “Stop misching arein!” And, as it happens, that Yiddish phrase comes from the very same Latin root as meddle, namely miscere, which means “to mix.” (During the Second World War, famously, the Third Reich employed the term mischling to denote people with “mixed blood,” i.e. only partial Aryan ancestry. Similarly, a person of mixed-race is called a “mestizo” in Spanish, and a metis in French). Well you can just imagine the pile of dishes in the Yankelowitzkys’ sink after the Pesach sedarim! And speaking of Pesach, the colloquialism “misch,” meaning to eat at other people’s homes on Pesach despite the many differences in custom regarding Pesach kashrus, obviously derives from that same Latin root miscere. So, back to our original question: Well, do you? If you do, you’re invited to the Finns for a Pesach snack anytime. Just look us up in the Ypsilanti phonebook. l

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Keeping the Peace during Pesach Dear Readers, This Pesach issue of Ami is a special one for me because it was exactly one year ago that I began to write this column. Yes, it was issue #65, last year’s Pesach issue, where my first “Ask Rabbi Shais Taub” column appeared. I want to use this occasion to express my gratitude to Hashem for having given me this opportunity. I pray that I have made use of it in a way that is “tov la’shamayim” as well as “tov la’brios.”

Dear Rabbi Taub, Pesach is coming and I am dreading it. The reason I am full of anxiety is that whether I like it or not, Pesach is always a week-long family reunion marathon from which there is no escape. I have a basically “normal” family; it’s not like I have anyone in my family who makes me feel unsafe. There’s no abuse going on or anything. It’s just that one week all packed in the house where I grew up is emotionally draining. In order for you to picture the scene, let me describe it for you. I am 35, married, and have, ka”h, six children. I have seven siblings, four of whom are married and who have kids of their own. You can do the math and realize that when everyone or even mostly everyone comes home, things start getting “freilach,” to put it nicely. There are all those little childhood squabbles that resurface. We adults start becoming kids again. I actually get into fights with my siblings. Then there’s the conflict of kibud av va’eim while trying to be a husband and a father. Then everyone is critiquing how everyone else is disciplining his kids. Everyone, especially my parents, gets into each other’s personal business. The whole thing is so stressful. It’s simple to say that I just shouldn’t go. Maybe next year I won’t. But this year we have already agreed and we can’t back out now for many reasons. How am I going to survive this week? I really hope you answer this before Pesach. Signed, Wanting to be Free this Pesach

Rabbi Shais Taub is a noted expert on Jewish spirituality and addiction. He is the author of the best-selling G-d of Our Understanding: Jewish Spirituality and Recovery from Addiction. Questions to Rabbi Shais Taub should be sent to 164 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3


ear Wanting to be Free, Thank you so much for bringing up this issue. You are not alone. There are some real challenges involved when families all get together in the same place for an extended period. You didn’t ask how to deal with a specific issue that arises, but rather how to handle the overall situation, so I am assuming that what you would like is a general approach that can be applied to all sorts of conflicts that can arise. I will try my best. The first thing I want to mention is that obviously you are not going to be able to control how other people behave. You can be an influence, but that’s a lot different from control. The way to be the best possible influence you can be is for you to personally be on your best behavior. So, while it may sound trite to you, I think the way to brace yourself for this “family reunion marathon” as you call it is to be extremely focused on Torah and avodah the whole time. Don’t look at this as a vacation or as downtime. To the contrary, constantly look for something holy to do. I’m not just trying to help you stay out of trouble by keeping you busy. There is actually a very deep idea behind this approach. But in order to understand the strategy of it, I think you need to first understand the underlying dynamics of why prolonged family reunions are often so stressful. Let’s try to dissect it. Why does it have to be like this? You actually hinted to the answer in your letter when you mentioned how you and your siblings revert into old roles and revive old squabbles. I think that’s a very important point that needs to be examined deeply and I think you will be amazed by the insight you will uncover if you ask yourself why these old patterns reemerge when you’re all

at home for Pesach. Perhaps you sense already where I am headed. Basically, the definition of an adult is a person who has spent years trying to become a better person. Yes, I know, according to that definition there are people who are old and who are not adults. But that’s the truth. Adulthood isn’t an age; it’s a state of being. Of course, everything is on a spectrum. It’s not a question of whether or not you’ve grown up, but rather how much have you grown up. How much of an adult have you become? The answer is: as much as you’ve managed to rise above your nature and become better than your “default settings.” You are 35. I am sure by now there are many character traits of yours that you have refined and other traits that you have gotten rid of altogether, and this has all been in the quest to become a functioning adult who is able to lead a productive life. Now a big part of this process of growing up has to do with leaving behind your family of origin. This is a healthy thing. Hashem tells us early on in the Torah (Bereishis 2:24) “Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” You can’t be an emotionally mature person without separating to some extent from your family of origin. Most of us don’t need to utterly abandon the family we grew up in (unless there is ongoing and severe dysfunction) but we do need to learn how to get a healthy distance while still maintaining ties. It’s a delicate balance and it takes years to get it right. That’s why when we’re teenagers and we’re clumsily first trying to figure out how to become adults, we tend to waver back and forth between the extremes of rejecting everything our parents stand for on the one hand and being clingy and demanding on the other hand. So, here you are, a man of 35 who has gotten to a certain point in his growth. Then suddenly for one week you are placed in a setting that triggers all sorts of old

thinking. It’s sort of like an emotional time machine. And what happens? You know exactly what happens. But it makes perfect sense really. I mean, it’s only to be expected that when a bunch of adults with families of their own are suddenly placed back in the family where they grew up, there is a lot of regressing into old “shtick,” for lack of a better term. That’s why, as you said, you see old sibling rivalries crop up. That’s also why you see your parents revert into old roles where they are too much “in your business,” as you said. In other words, a big family under one roof for Pesach is a perfect setting for decades of emotional growth to suddenly disappear and for people to slip back into their former ways.

becoming the best ‘you’ that you can be is really a process of teshuvah. And what is the greatest test of teshuvah? How does one know that the teshuvah is real? The Gemara tells us clearly (See Yoma 86b) that real teshuvah is when you are in the exact same setting with the exact same circumstances as you were when you

You can’t be an emotionally mature person without separating to some extent from your family of origin. That’s why I advise you to be extremely focused on holy things. If you aren’t helping in the kitchen or taking care of your kids, then you should have a sefer in your hands. When it comes to tefilah, especially on chol hamoed, don’t just sleep late and roll into shul for the late minyan. Whatever your level of intensity in avodas Hashem normally is, you’re going to have to take it up a notch so that you can stay above the fray and preserve the maturity that you’ve gained. As Meir of Premishlan said, “If you’re connected above, you don’t fall down below.” Retaining your adulthood will require you to be spiritually focused. If you look at your situation in this light, then I believe that not only will you make it through the week but you will actually come to a whole new level in your personal growth. What do I mean by this? I mean that

behaved a certain way, and yet you do not behave now as you did then. So you have an incredible opportunity. If you can go back to your parents’ house and be there with them along with your siblings for a whole week and still manage to act like an adult, then you have really grown up. It’s actually a very fitting task for the period of sefirah that is beginning now. Each day, we leave Egypt farther and farther behind and come closer and closer to the greatest kind of oneness with Hashem that can be experienced. May you experience constant growth in your process of self-refinement, may you know true freedom from all limitations, and may you be united with Hashem’s wisdom and will in your day-to-day life. A Kosher and Happy Pesach,


9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


Rabbis, Matzah and Invention The Machine Matzah Controversy

When I was growing up, my family would bake our own hand-matzos at the Shatzer matzah bakery in Kensington, NY. The sight of machine matzos seemed quite foreign to my young eyes. Now go back 150 years—when machine matzos were first introduced—and imagine how alien they appeared to the Jews living in that era. We also must consider that the introduction of machine matzos came at a very precarious time, both socially and religiously. The aftereffects of the Industrial Revolution were still being felt all over the world, and for Yidden there was another revolution that was just beginning: the Haskalah, and to a greater extent, Reform. There was reason for the Jewish community to be suspicious of innovation, and thus to secure themselves with, and warm themselves in, the traditions of our past, even those with no clear basis in halachah. Summing up the ethos of the time succinctly, the Chasam Sofer coined the oft-repeated pun, “chadash assur min haTorah”—innovation [a play on the issur of chadash] is biblically forbidden. But what were the limits of innovation? Was any societal or technological innovation at the time to be shunned? As Rav Eliezer Halevi Hurwitz rhetorically pondered (Bitul Moda’ah): “Should we, too, ban the new innovation for printing sefarim (i.e., the Gutenberg press)?!” On the other hand, by then we already witnessed the fact that small steps were all that was needed to give birth to movements that led away from Torah. Reform, at first, implemented certain changes, some of which seemed relatively not too controversial. Yet the gedolim smelled danger, as well as the eventual and certain encroachment on more serious halachah. With this backdrop in mind, let us discover the story behind machine matzos and the resulting controversy. 1 Proper hakarah (recognition) is due to those whose own research helped mine: Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky and Rabbi Ari Greenspan (Jewish Observer, April 2004); Rabbis Meir Hildesheimer and Yehoshua Lieberman (HUC, vol. 75); Rabbi Shmuel Singer (Jewish Action, Spring 2006); Rabbi Yirmiyahu Milevsky, my predecessor, now the rav of Bnei Torah in Toronto. 166 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3


II. The Birth and the Demand (Most facts stated below without a given source are taken from the sefer Bitul Moda’ah, by Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson zt”l, known as the Shoel U’Meishiv.) Although the heated controversy was 20 years away, this story really begins in Ribeauvillé, France in 1838, when the first matzah-baking machine was invented by Isaac Singer and approved by his local rabbis, as well as rabbanim in Furth, then a major yeshivah center. By 1845, the new invention was in use in Frankfurt, Germany. By 1852 there was a machine matzah factory in Poland, in the city of Pozna (Posen). This is an important date, for the famed Rav Shlomo Eiger was the rav there until his death that same year. The Shoel U’Meishiv asserts that Rav Eiger was alive at the time and had authorized the factory’s kashrus for baking matzos. By 1857, most of the major Jewish centers of Germany and beyond had machine matzah bakeries. From London to Breslau to Pressburg (home of the Ksav Sofer), this innovation began to spread like wildfire. The main reason for this popularity is easy for us today to recognize: the issue of price. The average hand-matzah factory demanded twice the workers as a machinematzah facility would. The owners of these hand-matzah bakeries explained to the Ksav Sofer that after they would recoup the money from their initial investment in this new “machine,” the savings would be enormous and the price of matzah would go down significantly. This would allow not only for cheaper matzos for the hamon am, but would also help bring dignity to those who, up till now, had to rely upon kimcha d’pischa (maos chitim) in order to feed their families for Pesach. But the reasons went beyond the economic. There was, at least in Pressburg (see shu’t Ksav Sofer for further details), a shortage of frum laborers, which in turn

resulted in the hiring of non-Jewish workers. There were reports by the Krakow beis din that on occasion some workers were so tired that they only pantomimed the act of working the dough. But it gets even worse. The working hours at these bakeries were so exhausting that the Krakow beis din reported that there had been occasions where workers were caught sneaking bread sandwiches and the like into their mouths as they worked on the matzos! Use of the machine matzah factory spread in an eastward direction. In the years 1857 and 1858, it arrived at Krakow and Galicia, and the town of Lvov (Lemberg) with a haskamah from Aruch L’ner (Rav Yaakov Etlinger), one of the leading lamdanim and rabbanim of his age. This is when the main story begins. III. Lvov, Krakow and the birth of a machlokes The town of Lvov was led for many years by Rav Ettinger (not to be confused with Rav Etlinger, the Aruch L’ner). The rav’s son, Mordechai Zev Ettinger, learned with a young man by the name of Yosef Shaul Nathanson (later to be known as the aforementioned Shoel U’Meishiv.). They both went on to receive semichah, all the while still learning with each other. They even published important sefarim together, including the oft-quoted Magen Gibburim (my colleague, Rabbi Milevsky, points out that the Mishnah Berurah quotes this sefer over 200 times!). Rav Nathanson eventually married the rav’s daughter and became the rav when his father-in-law passed away, instead of his brother-in-law Rav Mordechai Zev, the rav’s son. At this point, Rav Nathanson had become one of the poskei hador. This background will become important later in our story. For now, notice that the year the machine matzah arrives in Lvov


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Production of machine matzos at the Manischewitz plant in Newark, NJ (Photo courtesy: Manischewitz)

Machines cut the matzos into squares

is the Shoel U’Meishiv’s first year into his tenure: 1857. So back to the story.… IV. Eruption When the machine arrived in Lvov in 1857, a rav named Rabbi Simon Aryeh Schwabacher argued to the Shoel U’Meishiv that hand-matzos are dirty, since the workers do not wash their hands; therefore such matzos are muktzah machmas mius (forbidden to touch due to disgust)! Rabbi Schwabacher had moved from Germany that same year and was already used to machine matzos. We should point out that Rabbi Schwabacher may have been a maskil; indeed, the Shoel U’Meishiv had to explain why he mentioned the points of this rabbi in his own defense of his psak.

[Rabbi Schwabacher left Lvov just three years after his arrival, in 1860, and assumed a rabbinic position in Odessa, Russia (now Ukraine) after giving an enthralling Chanukah speech there in 1859. He died in Odessa 28 years later. Even during his tenure, the progressives and Conservatives, the frum and the Reform, were confused as to whose side he most stood most for, although it seems hard to argue that he was a Reformer in the classic

Ovens where the matzos are baked

sense. He also corresponded with the Netziv and other great rabbanim. See The Jews of Odessa: 1794-1881, Steven Zipperstein, Stanford University Press] This same year, the Krakow beis din also ruled to allow for machine-made matzos. Now things begin to get interesting. Rav Chaim Dembitzer of Krakow was not at all happy about this new development and gathered letters from the great rabbanim of the time prohibiting the use of machine-made matzah. He received many responses from some of the great poskim of the time and published a book in Breslau in 1859 called Moda’ah L’Beis Yisrael—A Warning to the Jewish People, that included all of the responses he received. Some of the gedolim who banned machine matzah were the Gerrer Rebbe (Chidushei HaRim) and the Sanzer Rebbe (Divrei Chaim), as well as one of the leading halachic authorities of the time, Hagaon Harav Shlomo Kluger, the great rav of Brody. Rav Dembitzer’s pamphlet included a letter by a posek living in the town of Lvov—where the Shoel U’Meishiv’s original ruling (permitting machine made matzah) came from! Who was this man? None other than Rav Mordechai Zev Ettinger, the Shoel U’Meishiv’s old chavru-

168 A M i M a g a z i n e / / m a r c h 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

sah and brother-in-law! While we do not know what went on in the Shoel U’Meishiv’s personal life, we can only imagine how uncomfortable life in Lvov was becoming for him. There is strong evidence that a few years later, in 1862, he sought to leave Lvov, and accepted the position of rav in the town of Brisk. For reasons that are still unclear, he never did take that position, choosing instead to stay on in Lvov. V. The First Pamphlet: Moda’ah L’Beis Yisrael The reasoning of these great men who disagreed with the Shoel U’Meishiv and prohibited machine matzah ran the gamut from the intriguing to the very convincing. For instance, one of the arguments was based on the following procedure: After the machine shaped the matzah, a worker would come around and round it off so that it would be circular, taking the extra dough back and adding it to the other dough so it could be used in the next batch of matzos. The fear was that in the meantime, the extra dough would have time to turn into chametz! Incidentally, this indicates that the old machine matzos were once circular in shape and not square. Indeed, it is for this reason that



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Interior of ovens

machine matzos are all square today (so as to avoid cutting off extra dough), for even those who allowed machine matzos accepted this argument. However, some now argued that the custom was to always have round matzah, and to change the shape to square was a problem onto itself! Some went even further and challenged such an innovation in making matzos simply because it differed so radically from how we had been making matzos for thousands of years. Some went so far as suggesting that this innovation came from German Jews who appreciated innovation more so than their Galitzianer brethren (with all that this implied at the time). Some important rabbanim even suggested that the introduction of this machine was a surreptitious way to introduce innovation, with plans of more dangerous changes to come. In addition, there were serious questions relating to kavanah (intent). The Shulchan Aruch (siman 460) rules that matzos for the seder have to be made by an adult with specific intent in mind. The Mishnah Berurah, for instance, rules (ad loc., #3) that even to watch over a nonJew would not help in this regard. This being the case, how could a machine have

kavanah?! There were also concerns regarding the ability to clean the machine from all the dough that would become stuck in crevices, as well as other similar concerns. Furthermore, as the matzos moved toward the oven there was a fear that the heat escaping would speed-up the chimutz process before the matzos were placed inside the oven. A separate issue raised was the concern for all of the people who would lose jobs making hand-matzos. Rav Kluger points out that one of the reasons the Gemara gives for postponing the reading of the Megillah when Purim falls out on Shabbos is the concern that the poor people will not receive their matanos l’evyonim. So we see, he argued, that we must be mindful of the poor when making policy. And the fact that many would lose their parnasah with the advent of machine matzah factories is reason enough to ban them. VI. The Shoel U’Meishiv Responds: The Second Pamphlet That same year (1859), in response to Moda’ah L’Beis Yisrael, the Shoel U’Meishiv put out his own pamphlet, Bitul Moda’ah— Nullification of the Warning (mentioned

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Production of machine matzos at the Manischewitz plant in Newark, NJ (Photo courtesy: Manischewitz)

Onto the conveyor towards the packaging process

earlier in this article). In it, he responded to all the arguments against machine matzos, pointing out that most of the gedolim who were published in Rav Dembitzer’s pamphlet never even saw these machines. They relied on testimony, he noted, which often described antiquated machines that didn’t incorporate changes made to the newer machines. As the Aruch L’ner had put it, “Seeing is better than hearing.” The Shoel U’Meishiv, together with the Krakow beis din, demonstrated that Rav Dembitzer may not have been who he claimed he was and unflatteringly referred to him as “sheker haCheyN” (false is grace), a play on Rav Dembitzer’s name, Chaim Nossan. He also compiled letters from across Europe seeking support for his position. They included the Ksav Sofer (see his teshuvos, Orach Chaim, hosofos 12); the Aruch L’ner; and the rav of Danzig, Rav Yisrael Lipshutz, the baal Tiferes Yisrael. Rav Lipshutz not only supported machine matzos but also wrote that he requested that such a machine be brought to Danzig, and that he proclaimed the brachah “mechadesh chadashim” when he saw it!

As to the issue of the workers who would lose jobs, the Shoel U’Meishiv argued that there were other ways to help those individuals, since this innovation would help far more people than it would hurt. The Shoel U’Meishiv compared the machine to rolling pins and argued in strong words that the machine does not work on its own. Since the machine is operated by a Jewish adult, there is no issue regarding the intent of the baker of the matzos. (Today these machines are far more advanced—Manischewitz, for instance, owns dozens of patents—and in addition they are not mechanical in nature but rather electrical, leading to issues beyond the scope of this brief monograph.) Regarding the issue of innovation, the Shoel U’Meishiv rhetorically asked whether it would also be forbidden to ride a train. The Aruch L’Ner also wrote in defense of innovation, as well as a vindication of German Jewry who are “upright,” while also accepting “the innovations of men of science…for the purpose of observing mitzvos.” Regarding the issue of square matzos, the Shoel U’Meishiv and others dismissed

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it out of hand. In fact, some even suggested (based on Beitzah 22b and Menachos 57a) that since many of the laws of matzah are learned from the lechem hapanim, which were square, square matzos are preferred! (See Ibn Ezra to Vayikra 2:4, where he and other rishonim debate the shape of the matzos used for a korban minchah; some say they were circular, while others say square. This would seem like a much stronger comparison—as these were actual non-chametz matzos—and as we can see, this too was an unsettled debate. See Shaarei Aaron, ad loc.) The Ksav Sofer dismissed the square matzah concern by stating, “In the merit of the four-cornered matzos, may Hashem redeem us from the four corners of the earth”! The Shoel U’Meishiv also expressed disappointment in the motive behind his brother-in-law’s attack against his psak. However, from what I have seen, his brother-in-law’s letter was first written in 1856, several months before Lvov welcomed their new machine. While the Shoel U’Meishiv wanted to avoid having this issue turn into a chasidim vs. misnagdim debate, in many ways that is precisely what happened, largely due


While the Shoel U’Meishiv wanted to avoid this issue turning into a chasidim vs. misnagdim debate, in many ways that is precisely what happened



baby's is its

to the letters from the Sanzer and Gerrer Rebbes. To this day almost no chasidish branch uses machine-made matzah. However, whereas during this machlokes many did write of their concern that machine matzah may contain real chametz, this is no longer a concern today even among chasidim (Nitei Gavriel in the name of the Klausenberger Rebbe; see also shu’t Mishneh Halachos 1:114). Sadly, Jewish journalists of the nineteenth century got wind of this debate and began to pick sides as well as go beyond the breadth of their ken by placing themselves between the heads of giants. Most notably, the Jewish newspaper Hamagid—a largely haskalah-leaning paper—published derogatory articles about those who wanted to prohibit machine matzos. Due to their clear bias, it is hard to know if some of the facts they cite are true. For instance, on March 9, 1859, Hamagid reported that the Shoel U’Meishiv was taken to court in Lvov, where he had to prove that his pamphlet was not filled with lies, as was told to the censor by the advocates of the first pamphlet against machine matzos. The Shoel U’Meishiv was able to convince the judge that nothing wrong or untrue was found in his book, reported Hamagid. A fantastic account…if proven true. Perhaps I am being too cynical. There was also another individual who took to writing in various journals and newspapers in support of machine matzos whilst attacking—in very strong words—Rav Shlomo Kluger. This fellow, Rav Chaim Kara, would later write to the Gerrer Rebbe explaining that at the time

he had no idea who Rav Shlomo Kluger was (!), and had he known, he would have spoken with more respect. As we can see from all of the above, the innovation of machine matzos led to a heated machlokes that shook the Torah world of its time. So what do we take from all of this? On the one hand, neither the Mishnah Berurah nor the Aruch Hashulchan ever even mentioned machine matzah; on the other hand, great poskim like Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach only ate machine-made matzah. Well, the truth is, we only told the first half of this story. For machine matzah kept spreading throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. This innovation traveled south to Eretz Yisrael, and west to America, changing in design and concern with each passing decade. That is a story unto itself, and just as fascinating. It will have to wait till next year, when iy”H I will write a sequel to this article, and when Ami will hopefully be headquartered in Yerushalayim habenuyah, where we can all witness as Rav Shlomo Kluger and the holy rebbes of Europe sit together with the Shoel U’Meishiv and the Ksav Sofer as they argue their respective cases in front of Moshe Rabbeinu, Rabbi Akiva and Rav Yehudah HaNasi. A Chag Kasher Vesameach!  Rabbi Moshe Taub has served as the rabbi of the Young Israel of Greater Buffalo since September 2003, and also serves as the rav hamachshir of the Buffalo Vaad Hakashrus.

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BRAIN STORM YITZY Yabok is the pen name of a young man who shares his life-altering experience in Ami’s exclusive serial. His story, which began almost 12 years ago and traverses several continents, has touched the hearts of people all over the world and been an inspiration to many who face challenges. He has lectured before all kinds of audiences, from medical doctors to kollel yungeleit,

about his nisyonos and salvation. He is currently a rebbe in the Midwest and a candidate for a license in clinical mental health counseling. With the blessings of gedolei Torah and tzaddikei Yisrael, he now shares the chasdei Hashem that were bestowed upon him, as both chizzuk and guidance for all those who may be dealing with traumatic illness.

chapter xXV

Every day in the hospital brought an influx of food.

Most of it came from visitors, but I was amazed by the efforts of the famed Satmar Bikur Cholim volunteers who made it their business to deliver hot and delicious food just to help another Yid. Aside from the food itself, including their famous chicken soup delivered in a thermos, their willingness to accommodate individual dietary concerns due to medical issues was simply unbelievable. The way the organization functions—from its shuttles back and forth from Flatbush, Boro Park and Williamsburg to practically every hospital in the city; to the way the whole operation runs so smoothly—is a siman of the siyata dishmaya that assists them in every endeavor they undertake. The manner in which the volunteers came in and knew not to ask specific questions (except, of course, regarding the food) was truly admirable, and if every visitor could have learned from them, my hospital stay would have been much more bearable. Then there were the standard-bearers in the field, Chai Lifeline. From the workers they employ to the volunteers who assist them, the organization as a whole is a well-oiled machine. I cannot thank Mrs. Esther Schwartz enough for all she did for us. The fridge in Chai Lifeline’s little closet in the hospital was constantly stocked, and the medical information they provided us with was a lifesaver—literally. One Sunday morning during my hospital stay I received a visit from Mordechai Ben David, Avraham Fried, Michoel 172 A M i M a g a z i n e / / M A R C H 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

Schnitzler and a chasidishe bachur who accompanied them on a keyboard—arranged, of course, by Chai Lifeline. Although they had come to perform for another frum boy on the floor who had undergone a procedure because of complications of hydrocephalus, Mrs. Schwartz told them about me, and they came to my room to issue a personal invitation. In fact, everyone on the floor was treated to an impromptu concert. I remember a young father who was there with his six-year-old son. Even though he wasn’t Jewish, when they sang “Refa’einu” he wept along with everyone else because he could sense its profound emotion. They also sang lebedike songs, but I and most of the other patients couldn’t walk without assistance, let alone dance—and I was one of the stronger ones. It was a true kiddush Hashem. As a child, I had been a star soloist in camp and loved to sing; music was something that kept me strong throughout my ordeal. I would have loved to sing along with the trio but my voice was still very weak from my throat intubation only a few days previously. Incidentally, about two months after I came out of the hospital, during the Pesach bein hazmanim, my wonderful group of friends from yeshivah, who you will hear more about later, persuaded me to attend a small seudas hoda’ah they wanted to host for me, even though I was far from completely healed. I think it was just an excuse to make a party, but after all they had done for me, how could I say no? It was decided to hold it in the basement of one of the guys who lived in Boro Park (after get-


ting permission from his parents, of course) and it was catered by Dougie’s, which had recently opened and was all the rage. Now, it just so happened that the same night there was a wedding a couple of blocks away in Ateres Chaya where Mordechai Ben David had been hired to sing; the kallah was a cousin of one of my friends. At the wedding, my friend asked Mordechai Ben David if he remembered me from the hospital of couple of months before, and when he replied in the affirmative, asked if he would like to come to the seudas hoda’ah and perhaps sing a bit. He told my friend that he had been hired till 11:30, but would love to come by afterwards. Well, unfortunately for me, I was still very exhausted and had already left the seudah so I missed MBD’s unannounced appearance, but to this day I will always think of Mordechai Ben David in a different light. I was so touched that after a long night of performing he was willing to be there for someone who needed chizzuk. I will also never, ever, forget what my friends from Philadelphia and Lakewood did for me. I am sure that aside from all the visits, kind words, jokes and laughs, they also davened for me and included me in their thoughts during their learning as a zechus for me. My father’s cousin in Yeru-shalayim even arranged a couple of all-night learning sessions of specific inyanim that are mentioned in Kabbalah as segulos. I don’t know much about it, but I do know that a couple of my friends from Philadelphia who were learning in Eretz Yisrael at the

time participated. Sometimes I was even in danger of laughing too much! My friends, some of whom were absolutely hilarious, put together a whole bunch of tapes and CDs for me of original comedy material: interviews with people on the street, commercials for Jewish items, like the latest sefarim, makebelieve newspapers and other assorted stuff. It hurt me to laugh because of the buildup of pressure in my head. I even had to turn off the tapes a couple of times! Whenever the nurses walked in they would always hang around longer if the tapes were playing. Again, it was a true kiddush Hashem. They also liked me as a patient because I was always upbeat, thanks to all the support I was receiving. In truth, what my friends did for me was more than entertainment. The fact that my rosh yeshivah allowed them to miss time from yeshivah for my sake was to his credit, and transformed what could have been a disastrous stay a more enjoyable one. It made me feel that they truly cared. One of my rebbeim from Philadelphia pointed out the tremendous hashgachah, that even though all this had to happen, at least my new chaveirim were now closer and more accessible than if I were still learning in Philadelphia. Another visitor was Shloime Dachs. His visit affected me in a unique way that would later enhance the most special day of my life.  To be continued....

Another visitor was Shloime Dachs. His visit affected me in a unique way

9 nissan 5773 // MARCH 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


Secret Agent, Coming Home At the pesach seder a family is shocked by a revelation


o one ever knew what I really did for a living. Supposedy I dealt with animal hides, which neatly explained why I made frequent trips to exotic locations. Even my wife and children didn’t know the

truth. There was only one time ever that I was almost caught. Unpacking from a trip, a passport fell out of my shirt pocket. My wife picked it up and flipped through it. She noticed my picture…and one of my aliases. “What is this?” She looked up at me, confused. I was trapped; I met her questioning gaze. “Do you trust me?” I asked. She nodded, her eyebrows furrowed. “There are two types of people in the world: the good and the evil. I am among the good. And that’s all you need to know,” I said. She looked back at me, and something seemed to click; she didn’t say another word. From that moment on we kept a pact of silence; I never mentioned anything and neither did she. I waited more than twenty years to reveal the truth to my loved ones. It was Pesach at the seder, when I felt it was an opportune time to do so. We were over forty people sitting around the table— my close-knit family of aunts, uncles, sons and daughters. In the middle of shulchan orech I cleared my throat. “I have my own personal story of yetzias Mitzrayim,” I began, “and I would like to share it with all of you tonight.” Everyone looked shocked. I wasn’t one who shared anything personal. But this was something I felt I must finally do. So I started with the beginning: how I, an unaffiliated Jew, lived it up in college. I worked hard, but I played even harder. The CIA—or any career path, for that matter—was the furthest thing from my mind. And then one day I met a man who changed my life, the man who gave me my first job in the CIA. Before I could blink, I was among the best and the brightest in a field that was extremely competitive—and highly dangerous. My life became like something out of a movie. I was one of those iconic secret agents carrying out top-secret missions. My job was to eliminate drug runners in Columbia. I backpacked 174 A M i M a g a z i n e / / M A R C H 2 0 , 2 0 1 3 / 9 n i s s a n 5 7 7 3

through the jungles in South America to find them. I also was involved in assassinating terrorists. I don’t think I realized at the beginning what I was getting myself into. But it didn’t matter—once recruited, there was no turning back. I was a marked man who lived under extreme pressure. I had to be vigilant constantly and make sure that I covered my tracks well.. I started to think like a CIA agent. Even when I was off duty I could spot criminals. Once, on a domestic flight home, I got into a conversation with the person sitting next to me. “I’m an art dealer,” he responded when I asked him what he did. I might have believed him, but something about his mannerisms made me suspicious. After our plane landed in New York, I secretly tailed him to the Sheraton on Broadway. As soon as he left his hotel room I entered it. All I needed was one quick look through his belongings to spot the drugs hidden between paintings. I had him arrested, earning myself a nice bonus and a fierce reputation in the process. I could be viewed two ways: as a dedicated US serviceman or a brutal assassin. The truth: I was both. I did my job thoroughly, following orders to a tee. After a while I became somewhat immune to the sight of blood, to killing. If potential identifying witnesses had to be silenced, so be it. I knew that if I was ever caught—a US secret agent operating on foreign soil—the ensuing scandal could have devastating effects on the American government. And so whenever necessary I killed—with precision and no qualms. But there was a Jewish heart beating within me, and however rare the occurrences, I did suffer guilt Even though I was quick to dismiss these feelings, I could never escape them. I remember once having to tripwire an apartment with bombs. As I finished the mission, I felt awful knowing that the wife and children of our target would mostly likely also lose their lives in the explosion. Eventually a foot injury terminated my career. It was time for my double identity to come to an end. With it, I tried to close the book of this gruesome chapter of my life. Retirement did not come easy. I found I had aged far too quickly; the stress I’d accumulated over the years started having an effect on me. I was plagued by horrific nightmares.

AS TOLD TO Sarah Pachter The Frankewich Family

I don’t think I realized what I was getting myself into. But it didn’t matter—once recruited, there was no turning back. When I told my supervisor, he was not at all surprised. In fact, he seemed to be expecting my call. “You’re not alone,” he said matter-of-factly. “Most of our men suffer some form of post-traumatic stress disorder after they retire. If you want to recover, you are going to have to confront and relive some of your experiences.” And so the CIA set me up with a therapist who would travel with me back to some of the sites of my career. An itinerary was drawn up, starting in Columbia and ending in Israel. By visiting the sites that induced my trauma, I would (hopefully) be able to work through my anxiety. In the end it was this journey that ultimately led me back to where I truly belonged. The world of Torah.` One of our first stops was a northern village in Colombia. It was there that my partner and I had been instructed to kill a man who posed a great threat to American security. We were seated in the back of his car, but to our unfortunate luck, so were his wife and son. We had no choice but to murder all three. That might

have been the end of it had we not collided with a policeman and a priest as we scrambled out of the car. My partner and I exchanged knowing looks; we knew what had to be done. In seconds both fell to the ground, dead. We fled. Five deaths when only one had needed to be killed. But there we were, back at the scene of this tragedy, treading gingerly through the quiet village streets. We chanced upon a church. Inside we were warmly welcomed by the bishop. The three of us started talking. I casually asked if he remembered the bloodbath of that fateful day. Only too well, but he was pleased to tell me that the priest had survived the attack and was now the principal of the local school. This news came as a pleasant surprise to me; however the conversation was making me highly uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of the stuffy indoors and into the fresh air. So we thanked the bishop, apologizing for taking his time, and headed out towards the car. We had only walked a few steps when a man came running out of the church and caught up with 9 nissan 5773 // MARCH 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


From that moment on we held our pact of silence—I never mentioned anything and neither did she. us. He looked directly at me and said, “The priest wants you to know that he forgives you.” And then he was gone. A chill ran up my spine. Was it a sense of danger or something else? I didn’t know, but I could feel myself beginning to crack. Something different was happening to me. We left the village, driving at top speed to a nearby forest. This too had been the place of one of our more traumatic rendezvous. Our assignment had been to spy on a drug cartel operating in and around the jungles of Colombia. The US was desper-

ate to thwart these drug runners and bring an end to the amount of illegal substances being smuggled across the borders daily. It had been one of our most difficult missions. While closely monitoring the movements of the drug traffickers, we had to live and sleep in the forest, getting sucked dry by millions of mosquitoes. Now back in the jungle we ruefully noticed that not much had changed. The mosquitoes seemed delighted to see us once again. My mind flooded with memories. They

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were these memories that I had to relive and purge from my inner consciousness. I recalled the night that we’d gotten lost in the undergrowth. We had been patrolling on a black night, headed to bust an important meeting that was to take place in a nearby hideout. But we’d lost our way. There was no moon and our eyes burned from exhaustion. The towering trees, fireflies and mosquitoes seemed to mock us in the darkness. Helpless, we sat down and leaned our heavy heads against the trees. I closed my eyes for a momentary respite. And then— perhaps I was hallucinating—there was my mother. “I want to help you,” she said. “Help me? How an earth can you help me get out of this infuriating mess?” “Listen. Follow the nearest longitude line on the map, and after forty minutes you will reach a river…and your expected destination.” She disappeared. With my eyes still closed and a foggy feeling in my head I heard the voice of my accomplice urging me to get up. “What do you think we should do now?” There was more than a hint of desperation in his voice. After all, we were secret agents, on foreign soil, lost. But I, optimistic with my newfound knowledge, clambered to my feet and led the way. I followed the directions my mother had given me, and indeed we arrived at a river and chanced upon the meeting. We followed the proceedings carefully and were directly responsible for the capture of a number of men, successfully toppling the drug ring. It was only now, years later, that I was able to define that experience—not as a dream or a mirage, but a miracle! Our next stops were Ireland, Damascus and finally Israel. Most of our trip to Damascus passed in silence. We arrived at lunch time and went

By Sarah Pachter

back to the scene of my assignment. We had placed explosives in a car that was to be driven by several members of a terrorist organization. Unavoidably, the car had been parked on a main street, and in the enormous blast innocent passersby had inevitably been injured. And while I had identified with the cause of my work, I could no longer identify with the justification for the loss of life. The means did not justify the end. I surveyed the structural damage caused by the blast that had not yet been repaired, and my heart throbbed painfully. Next was Allepo where we’d kidnapped a man for questioning and later passed him on to the Israelis for further interrogation. The information is still deemed classified. It was an intense experience, and a hard one, returning to the very same places where I had shed innocent blood. But finally we arrived in Israel. The memories there involved a bribe—cash for compliance—but little trauma. Having finally reached our final destination, all I wanted to do was run away from everything, from the life I had led. And then I found myself at the Kosel. It seemed like the right place to go. I was a lost and broken man. And there I stood, next to men in black who were completely engrossed in prayer. One specific rabbi caught my attention. There was something striking about him—maybe it was the look of inner peace on his face, the serenity he exuded. I decided to approach him; I sensed there was something he could give me that I was sorely lacking. So I waited until he finished davening, then walked up to him and introduced myself as a Jew who knew nothing about Judaism. A man who had sinned terribly. He responded with a smile, unperturbed. The two of us found a place to sit in the warm summer breeze and started talking. Our conversation continued throughout

the night and I felt myself opening up. I told him of my grisly past, the resulting nightmares and the blood that weighed on my conscience. “Come with me. I have an idea,” he said. He took me to a mikvah and guided me through the immersion process. Dawn was only a short while away; the water was freezing, yet the experience profound. I had never been to a mikvah before that night, and somehow, along with the water, I felt my sordid past being washed away. The kind rabbi explained that as a Jew, no matter how far I had fallen, I could always make my way back home. He said that a true baal teshuvah could rise to heights that even a great tzaddik is not able to achieve. Looking back, I can say that in that one night I had left my own personal Mitzrayim. Even without knowing what it would entail, I decided to make some real changes in my life—I wanted to become more observant. I had a compelling desire to learn what it meant to be an authentic Jew. Needless to say, I returned home a changed man. My next visit to Israel was with my wife and children. They joined me on my spiritual journey, helping shape my new self that allowed me to shed the ghosts of days gone by. Therapy became a thing of the past and Torah replaced it as a way to heal. Three years ago my confidentiality agreement expired, and it has taken me all this time to share my story with close friends and family. And now, I share my story with you. A story parallel to the Jews who left Mitzrayim. Like them I was a low sinner, but with Hashem’s help, I accepted the yoke of Torah.

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Matzos, Mitzvos and Merits The mitzvah was precious to me. Should i dedicate the merit?


y story begins where Pesach really begins: at the matzah bakery. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been baking matzah at the Poilisher matzah bakery where 13th Avenue meets 36th Street in Boro Park. I remember shlepping along as a kid with my grandfather and uncles, and being yelled at for getting in the way and touching things I shouldn’t have touched. I remember my cautious participation, as a teen, with my father and brothers-in-law. Since then our family has grown quite large, and some family members have moved on to different matzah bakeries. But I have an affinity for the Poilisher razaver matzos and the special people who run that bakery, so I continue baking matzos there. The amount of matzah needed for my family doesn’t generate enough volume to retain the entire bakery, so I join up with one of my cousins, a distinguished rav who arrives with a small army of his own children and members of his kehillah. This gives me a chance to shmooze (make that “shmeez”) with one of my favorite and most distinguished cousins from my mother’s side. Plus there’s an added bonus: I have the opportunity to be mafrish challah and make the brachah. I cherish this once-a-year simple, holy mitzvah and the brachah. This year when I looked up at the place on the wall where the brachah is written, I noticed something different. It said in Hebrew, “I am separating the challah for the [merit of] a complete recovery for the child.…” The name of the sick child along with that of his mother was written prominently, and underneath were three words in large letters: “li’refuah shleimah b’karov”— “for a complete, speedy recovery.” I stopped, unsure of what to do. I felt terrible about the sick child. But I was separating challah because it was a commandment

in the Torah. I was not thinking about the reward of the mitzvah. I was uncomfortable saying I was separating challah for any other reason. Yet something nagged at me: Should I so easily give away this mitzvah? Maybe it was incumbent upon me to direct it toward a purpose, a very noble purpose that had nothing to do with my original intention to separate challah. My mind raced. Who says I’m even the ba’al habayis over this mitzvah to be indiscriminately giving it away? I know there are Gemaras about the merit of giving tzedakah even on the condition that “my son shall live”. Does it really work like that with other mitzvos? I remember hearing that the holy Chofetz Chaim was asked to give the merit of his Torah learning toward the refuah sheleimah of a revered Rosh Yeshiva. The story goes that he was pensive for a while and then agreed to give one minute. I felt for the child, the family and their plight. Guilt and tradition were warring, Complacency battled against mercy. And I, stuck in the middle, was clearly confused. A worker saw me hesitate, and I asked

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him if it was his child who was ill. If the man had turned out to be the father, compassion would have been victorious. I would have read the words loud and clear, “I am hereby taking this challah for the refuah shleimah of.…” After all, it would have given him solace, and such an act may transcend all others. But it was not his child. Someone who worked upstairs knew the child’s family, and they had asked him to put up the sign. I decided to take challah just for the mitzvah of challah, and afterwards spend ten minutes reciting Tehillim for the child. On the zechusim scale, I don’t know the pecking order—if taking challah trumps Tehillim or not. But this offering was my way of showing that I really do care. I asked my cousin, a distinguished rav and talmid chacham, whether I was a selfish Litvak for denying this request. Couldn’t I just daven for him? My cousin and his son told me a remarkable story written in the sefer of drashos from the famed maggid, Rav Yaakov Galinski, shlita. Two young men were taken from

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky

their town in Hungary to Auschwitz. One was the son of a tzaddik, a rebbisher kindt, and the other was a simple teen, not learned at all but with a passion to observe the mitzvos. With Pesach approaching, the teen miraculously found some flour and secretly baked a matzah. It was large enough that he and his friend, the rebbe’s son, would each be able to eat a kezayis and fulfill the mitzvah of eating matzah on Pesach night. The rebbe’s son was elated and promised that he would read the Haggadah for his friend, and together they would fulfill both the mitzvos of Haggadah and matzah. “Maror”, he quipped, “is plentiful in Auschwitz”. But things did not turn out that way. A guard caught the young man who had baked the matzah and smashed the “cracker” to smithereens. The young man was not deterred. He got on his knees and salvaged the crumbs, painstakingly picking them out of the dirt. But he could only scrape together one kezayis. The rebbe’s son

lasted a moment. He was shot dead by a Nazi guard who would not tolerate any Jewish expression of faith. Not long after that, the Russians liberated Auschwitz, and the surviving teen made his way to a new life in Palestine. He settled in Bnei Brak, got married and raised a family, becoming a member of the Chug Chasam Sofer kehillah. Fast forward 30 years. By now he was married with children and grandchildren. One night his old friend, the rebbisher kindt, appeared to him in a dream. His face was angelic and a holy glow hovered over him, but there was pain in his eyes. He pleaded, “Every year my status is elevated in Heaven, but now it seems to be stuck. I am missing one merit which will help me ascend. I am missing the merit of eating the matzah that night before I was shot. Please, I beg of you: Allow me to have the merit I gave you.” The man awoke in a sweat. What should

Guilt and tradition were warring. And I, stuck in the middle, was clearly confused pleaded with him, “Please let me have it! I never missed the mitzvah of matzah in my life!” His friend argued, “It was I who almost got killed finding the flour, baking it and smuggling it! I deserve it!” “I’ll read the Haggadah for you! I’ll let you repeat every word!” The friend made no response. “I’ll even give you any reward I have for the mitzvah!” pleaded the rebbe’s son. His friend finally agreed. That night, the rebbe’s son read and explained the Haggadah, along with Shir Hashirim, and he ate the kezayis of matzah. The friend was to receive the entire reward for these mitzvos. The next day, the rebbe’s son was so exhilarated that he stopped in the middle of his work detail to say Hallel. In the middle he dropped his tools, waved his hands toward Heaven and began singing. But it only

he do? Should he give away the reward? After all, his friend had given him the mitzvah wholeheartedly! He went to his rav who advised him to go to the Machnovka Rebbe, a holy tzaddik who had escaped Russia and lived one block away from the Ponovezher Yeshivah. The Machnovka Rebbe said, “You have children. You have grandchildren. You have life. Every day you can add to your merits. Your children can add to your merits. Your grandchildren can add to your merits.” The rebbe paused. “Your friend was killed, leaving no one. Whatever he accomplished in this world is all he has. Give him back the mitzvah. It is the ultimate kindness.” I am not one for dream stories and tales of mysterious reappearances after 30 years, but the story haunted me. I clearly understood that it is no simple act to give away the reward for a mitzvah. And there is

immeasurable value to every action. For me it was a bit too late to retract my mitzvah of hafrashas challah and dedicate it as per the sign. But I did seek out the fellow who knew the sick child’s family, and offered my assistance to the family. On Leil Shabbos of Parshas Hachodesh, I related the entire episode to my family at the seudah. I talked about the mitzvos the Jews were afforded in Mitzrayim in order to merit the redemption—how every single mitzvah was necessary to elevate them. I discussed the power of the zechus of even a single mitzvah. One of my children was very surprised. “In school, almost every mitzvah we do we are told to give away! Do a machsom l’fi for this one and make a loud brachah acharonah for that one. Give challah for him and tzedakah for her! There are even blood drives for the zechus of others. What does it mean?” she asked. “Do we have that right? And if we do, should I just be giving my mitzvos away to everyone?” I didn’t know what to answer. At that moment I felt just as confused as I had while standing over the hot matzos. I said, “There are many mitzvos between now and Pesach. So many mitzvos! Most of these mitzvos you will be doing in the confines of our home. Do them with the right intent. Do them for the sake of the Ribbono Shel Olam’s command. ” I really wish I had a better answer. I am attaching the picture and the name of the boy in need of our prayers. It is seared in my mind, and I beseech you to join in tefillah and mitzvos in his merit, according to your understanding. I wish you a chag kasher vesameach. This article is dedicated to the refuah sheleimah of Hayeled Shmuel Yaakov ben Esther

Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky is the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivah Toras Chaim at South Shore, a weekly columnist in Yated Ne’eman, and the author of the Parsha Parables series. He can share your story through the “Streets of Life,” and can be reached at editorial@

9 nissan 5773 // march 20, 2013 // AMi Magazine


Ami Magazine_112  

Pesach 2013 Edition

Ami Magazine_112  

Pesach 2013 Edition