The Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
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The Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
The Baal Hatanya Writes:
IF SOMEONE TALKS DURING DAVENING, HE NEEDS TO SIT ON THE GROUND AND ASK 3 PEOPLE TO ANNUL THE “CHEREM” (EXCOMMUNICATION) THAT WAS PLACED AGAINST HIM IN HEAVEN .
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The Week In News
CONTENTS COMMUNITY Happenings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
JEWISH THOUGHT Living with the Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Torah Musings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 The Weekly Daf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
FEATURE Rabbi Natan Gamedze . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
Dear Readers, When the Tzemach Tzedek of Lubavitch was a young boy and learned the first passuk of this week’s parshah, “And Yaakov lived in the land of Egypt 17 years,” his teacher translated it according to the Baal HaTurim: that Yaakov Avinu lived his best years in Mitzraim. When the Tzemach Tzedek returned from cheder, he asked his grandfather, the Baal HaTanya, “How is it possible that Yaakov lived his best years in in the land of corruption?!”
LIFESTYLES Humor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Tech. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Book Review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Emotional Health. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
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DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
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The Ball HaTanya answered, “In last week’s parshah, we learned that Yaakov Avinu sent Yehudah ahead to (also) establish yeshivos for the when the shevatim would arrive. When one learns Torah, they become close to Hashem. And then, even in Mitzraim can be “Vayechi,” the best years.” Learning Torah puts us in a different reality, away from bills, jealousy, or competition. When we are engrossed in learning, we are transformed to a different place. Whether it be Talmud, Tanach, or a sefer Chassidus, Torah is the wellspring from which we have drawn living waters since the beginning of time. This is also why the Lubavitcher Rebbe requested we learn areas of the Torah that discuss the coming of Mashiach. When we learn this area in Torah, we connect to that time, giving us a taste of a future reality. Each week brings a more surprising story than the week prior, both in good and the opposite. Yet by connecting to the Torah, we’re connected to the Source of it all -including life itself- buffering us against these dramatic swings of fortune and mood. Wishing you an inspiring and relaxing Shabbos,
T H E P R E M I E R J E W I S H N E W S PA P E R H I G H L I G H T I N G L A’ S O R T H O D OX C O M M U N I T Y The Jewish Home is an independent bi-weekly newspaper. Opinions expressed by writers are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher or editor. The Jewish Home is not responsible for typographical errors, or for the kashrus of any product or business advertised within. The Jewish Home contains words of Torah. Please treat accordingly. FOR HOME DELIVERY, OR TO HAVE THE LATEST ISSUE EMAILED TO YOU FREE OF CHARGE, SEND A MESSAGE TO EDITOR@JEWISHHOMELA.COM
TheHappenings Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Israeli Minister Shaked Helps Strengthen Jewish Ties at Beth Jacob Brenda Goldstein On November 29th, Congregation Beth Jacob of Beverly Hills welcomed MK Ayelet Shaked, Minister of Justice of the State of Israel. When introducing Minister Shaked, Rabbi Kalman Topp pointed out that the UN voted to give the British Mandate of Palestine independent statehood on this same date, November 29th, in 1947. The evening not only celebrated this incredible anniversary, but it also celebrated the strong connection between the Jews of Israel and those in the diaspora, particularly in Los Angeles. Minister Shaked is an activist, computer engineer, and serves as one of Israel’s most active and influential legislators. A member of the Knesset for Bayit Yehudi (the Jewish Home party) since 2013, and Minister of Justice since 2015, Shaked established the My Israel (Israel Sheli) extra-parliamentary movement with Naftali Bennett in 2010, which she led until May of 2012. She initiated and drafted laws that include Israel’s 2016 NGO law, its comprehensive law against terrorism, a version of the basic law proposal on Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and a
law limiting the powers of the Israeli Supreme Court. Despite the heavy rain, many people showed up to hear the young, charismatic Kenesset minister speak. The evening, sponsored by Arutz Sheva International News, among others, kicked off with Beth Jacob Congregational President Jess Dolgin presenting Beverly Hills Mayor Dr. Julian Gold with the Shomer Israel (the Guardian of Israel) award. The event, originally scheduled for November 27th, needed postponement due to the volatile political situation in Israel. “After the minister of defense decided to leave the government,” Shaked commented, “we were left with a government with 51 out of 127 members…but, actually, we managed.” Minister Shaked went on to say, “As you know, the State of Israel is facing an ever-growing threat in the form of Iran and its proxies. Hezbollah in the northern border, Hamas in the southern border… pro-Iranian forces in Syria. In this difficult situation, the United States has made it clear that is has our back not just militar-
ily, but morally. The United States, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, did what it never did before: It moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. It finally recognized ir hakodesh, the city of holiness, as the permanent and undivided center of Jewish national life. In addition, the administration shut down the PLO offices in Washington. They have taken many other steps. All of these steps add up to the statement, ‘Israel is here to stay!’” Shaked feels that American Jewry ought to stay here, as opposed to making aliyah. “I think Jewry in the United States are a strategic asset to Israel. One of the reasons that Israel coexists in the Middle East—it is truly a miracle—is Jewry in the United States.” Though from a secular background, the justice minister decided to join forces with the Dati Leumi in joining the Bayit Yehudi party. “We decided to join together with the Jewish Home because we believe that Orthodox and secular can work together in politics, as long as we share the same values.” When Rabbi Topp asked Minister
Shaked if Israel can exist as both a democratic and a Jewish state, she replied, “I don’t think that one value contradicts the other. There was the illegal immigration wave of Africa two years ago, and definitely we decided to put an end to it. We want to keep the covenant of the state as a Jewish state, and Israel can’t be the solution for unemployment in Africa.” During the question-and-answer session, Minister Shaked illustrated her goal of moving Israel’s judicial system in a more conservative direction. “I had the opportunity to be responsible for the nomination of six Supreme Court judges,” she proudly declared, “so, your president has a way to go!” Minister Shaked, who told Rabbi Topp that she would rather do her job than that of the prime minister, ended the evening on a strong, positive note: “We’re a nation of innovation. With innovation and creativity, we must find a way to unite at this time and face our enemies as one nation, under G-d, with liberty and justice for all.”
Los Angeles Yachad Hosts Its Second West Coast Family Shabbaton Los Angeles Yachad Hosts Its Second West Coast Family Shabbaton
Los Angeles Yachad hosted their second West Coast Family Shabbaton in Orange County, California, from November 9-11, 2018. The West Coast Family Shabbaton is a weekend retreat designed to offer families with special needs respite, support and information. This weekend gave the entire family a chance to have a Jewish experience where they felt welcomed and included in every facet of the Shabbat experience. The entire family enjoyed great speakers, support groups, delicious food, and fun programming for all ages and siblings. Highlighted speakers included: Dr. Eric Fier, Dr. Jeffrey Lichtman, Rabbi Michael Taubes, and Rabbi Steven Weil.
Over 230 people were in attendance, including 28 families who have someone with developmental disabilities, community members, teen and college aged volunteers, caregivers, and local rabbis. The theme of the weekend was inclusion: inclusion in your family, inclusion in your local community and how to be an advocate for inclusion. Other notable topics were Spirituality within the Family, Mothers/Fathers/Siblings Support Groups, Behavioral Interventions, Comorbid Diagnoses, Sexuality & Maturation, and Mental Health Awareness. The weekend was a warm and welcoming retreat, with delicious food from
Drew Rosen of Nes Events and beautiful accommodations by DoubleTree Hilton. Monica Rukhman, the Director of LA Yachad, welcomed everyone before dinner where she thanked and praised her staff and colleagues for helping her create such a unique opportunity for families. “After having spoken to every family here, it is a bit surreal to see that it has all come to fruition. It is truly my pleasure to work with and help everyone in our community,” Monica said. “A lot of hard work has gone into planning this extraordinary weekend, but I already know it was all worth it.” Dr. Lichtman, the International Director of Yachad, also gave a welcome ad-
dress, speaking about the broader vision and mission of Yachad, which is to ensure that every individual has a place in the community. “They are our children and we want them to be a part of our community,” he said. Parents were overwhelmed with gratitude to take part in this unforgettable experience. “It was such a pleasure to be with other parents and families who ‘get it’ in terms of special needs and can empathize with our life experiences. And at the same time, we also heard and learned from experts in the field. Thank you, Yachad,” Michelle Wolf, parent of a child with developmental disabilities, shared.
TheHappenings Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Family First: The OU West Coast Torah Weekend Yehudis Litvak The 28th annual OU West Coast Convention, which took place over the past weekend, brought together hundreds of Jews from various communities throughout Southern California in the common pursuit of Torah learning and strengthening family relationships. This year’s theme, Family First: Torah Perspective for Today’s World, drew a diverse audience, spanning ages, backgrounds, and shul affiliations. With a wide array of speakers and topics, there was truly something for everyone. The convention began on Thursday night at Congregation Adas Torah with a keynote address by Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, the Rav of Congregation Aish Kodesh in Woodmere, New York, and Mashpia at Yeshiva University. Rabbi Weinberger spoke about the parallels in the relationship between the husband and wife
of Mashiach, explained Rabbi Weinberger, these two aspects of our relationship with Hashem will merge. Even now, throughout the Jewish world, these two approaches are coming together. “Everywhere I go, there is excitement in learning more Gemara, and at the same time, unbelievable longing to learn deeper Torah,” observed Rabbi Weinberger. On Friday, the convention’s guest speakers visited six local high schools.
On Shabbos, they served as Scholars in Residence at fifteen shuls throughout the Greater Los Angeles. Oneg Shabbos was held in Hancock Park and in Valley Village. Young Israel of Century City hosted a Tisch and Oneg Shabbos on Pico, where Rabbi Moshe Weinberger shared his personal story of what inspired him towards chassidus and towards putting Hashem in the center of his life. On Motzaei Shabbos, a sponsors melaveh malka was held in a
private home, and a Young Professionals event was held at the OU West Coast Headquarters. On Sunday morning, hundreds of attendees gathered at the campus of YULA Boys High School for the annual Torah L.A. program. The participants could choose from several parallel tracks of lectures: Current Issues in Halachah, Strengthening Our Families, and Family Relationships in Tanach for the general public, as well
THE HOSPITAL WITH A HEART SAVES THEM BY THE THOUSANDS. and the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. There are two aspects to both relationships: the special qualities that endear the partners to each other and the responsibilities of each partner toward the other. The latter aspect is “unromantic and plain,” said Rabbi Weinberger. In marriage, it consists of daily chores. In a relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people, it consists of mitzvos, which ensure that this world is “a clean, healthy environment where Hashem wants to dwell.” Keeping halachah, “the chores of our lives,” is hard work, especially in our times of “hester panim, when our Husband has been away for so many years,” said Rabbi Weinberger. Yet, we cannot lose sight of the other aspect of this relationship, the romantic part, Hashem’s love for the Jewish people and our love for Him. In the times
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TheHappenings Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
as Today’s Pressing Hashkafah Issues for teenagers and young adults, with separate tracks for boys and girls, and a session for rebbetzins. The topics included Family Planning in Halachah by Rabbi Herschel Schachter, Vaccinations in Halachha by Rabbi Ya’akov Trump, Honoring Elderly Parents by Rabbi Dr. Zev Wiener, Shalom Bayis in a World of Distraction by Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, Besieged! Asara B’Teves 5779 by Rabbi Moshe Weinberg-
er, Instilling Jewish Values in our Children by Dr. David Pelcovitz, The First Marriage by Mrs. Michal Horowitz, Save a Family—Save a Dynasty by Mrs. Geraldine Wiener, and Raising Yaakov and Eisav–The Ideal Children by Rabbi Abraham Lieberman. All lectures were well attended. In addition, the lectures for the general public were live-streamed and recorded, and are currently available at https://www. ou.org/torahla/.
The convention concluded with a legal seminar for local attorneys, entitled Is the Conservative Court Good for the Orthodox? The seminar featured three presenters: Professor Laurie Levenson of Loyola Law School, Gail Katz, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel for the Danaher Corporation Dental Platform, and David Zarmi, a certified appellate specialist with experience in California and U.S. courts. The presenters discussed the balance between
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the Establishment Clause, which maintains that the government cannot support any religion, and the Free Exercise Clause, which allows us to practice religion as we want. Lou Shapiro, a local attorney who organized the legal seminar, explains that difficulties arise when these two clauses collide. For example, religious instruction in a public school would constitute entanglement—a breach of the Establishment Clause. On the other hand, if private religious schools accept government funding, then they put themselves in a position of allowing the government to dictate what they do, resulting in a loss of religious independence. Such a situation is currently unfolding in New York State, and while it is too early to tell where it is heading some panelists found it alarming. Another example, discussed at length by Mr. Zarmi, is the anti-BDS movement. It may be good for Israel, but does it violate freedom of speech? “It was a great session,” says Mr. Shapiro. Fifty local attorneys participated and received the Continuous Legal Education Credit for the seminar. Overall, it was an impactful weekend. Due to the speakers’ and attendees’ busy schedules, the talks were “almost like TED talks,” says Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, OU West Coast Director. He adds, “a good segment of the attendees were from the younger generation, which shows that we are successfully transmitting Torah to the next generation.”
Record Crowds, Scholarship, and Recognition Mark the 2018 American Israel Gap Year Fair COMMUNICATED
Contact Adina Schwartz, Assistant Director of Admissions 323.822.9700 | email@example.com • tcla.touro.edu
The American Israel Gap Year Association’s (AIGYA) Gap Year Fair has become a staple of the fall season for parents, students, and educators to learn about gap year opportunities in Israel. This year marked record crowds of over 400 and the initiation of the Rosina Korda Scholarship. The AIGYA Gap Year Fair featured 42 gap year programs and many more support programs. The only cross-denominational gap year fair in the United States, this fair has influenced and encouraged hundreds of students to make Israel their destination of choice for their gap year. This year marked AIGYA’s launch of the Rosina Korda Scholarship, which is calling for applications from fair attendees Continued on page 8
TheHappenings Week In News applying to a boys, girls, and co-ed programs represented at this year’s fair. The $5,000 scholarship, coupled with the grant from Masa Israel Journey (a featured sponsor of the 2018 fair), will aid in relieving the financial pressures for those attending a gap year. There was much positive feedback from the fair attendees. “An amazing community event for families to see all these diverse gap year programs in one place. This wasn’t available when my son went on his gap year” said Judy Levin, a passionate parent of a Gap Year Alum. “I
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
think the greatest gift you could give your student is a Gap Year in Israel.” Attendees citied how the AIGYA Israel Fair, “Really solidified my desire to go on the gap year and helped me find the right program fit.”
The 2018 AIGYA Gap Year Fair was attended by students from high schools including Beverly Hills High School, Harvard Westlake, Taft, Palisades Charter High School, and others who traveled
from San Diego, Orange County, Seattle, and Arizona. YULA Girls School hosted the fair, and was co-sponsored by YULA Boys School, Shalhevet, Harkham GAON Academy, Valley Torah, de Toledo High School, Adat Shalom & Temple Aliyah, B’nai David-Judea, Beverly Hills Synagogue, YICC, NCSY, WUJP, JNF, Stand With Us, IAC, Touro College Los Angeles, Landers School for Women, Landers School for Men; and with special support from Milken High School, USY, and Beth Am.
Chabad of the Valley Lights Up Universal Studios CityWALK Chabad of the Valley’s highly acclaimed “Chanukah at CityWALK” has become known as the preeminent Chanukah event on the West Coast and this year was no different as families came out in record numbers and flocked to the plaza at Universal Studios CityWALK. A night of Jewish entertainment was featured on the prominent CityWALK stage, a venue which plays host to some of the biggest names in the secular music world. This year opened with singer Ari Hershoff, who is quickly proving himself to have a big future ahead of him. He was followed by Isaac Gordon, a young and upcoming talent with a significant fan club in the audience. Internationally renowned singers Benny Elbaz and Benny Friedman both headlined the night along with the debut of the sensational Act One Orchestra. Both Elbaz and Friedman put on dynamic performances with one hit after another. Rabbi Yossi Baitelman, whose foresight and vision conceived bringing such an event into the heart of the Universal Studios thanked the event’s Executive Producers Jonathan Herzog and Rabbi Mayer Greene for persevering in the face of great challenges to make Chanukah@ CityWALK come to fruition this year. He also acknowledged the entire Chabad of the Valley team for their diligent efforts, including behind the scenes technical director, Rabbi Yochanan Baitelman; media liason, Rabbi Yanky Kahn; logistics, Yochonon Gordon; and Valley CTeen Director, Rabbi Shua Einbinder. Benny Friedman performed “Reb Yehoshua Omer,” a tribute song he created in honor of his uncle, Rabbi Joshua B. Gordon, ob”m. Chabad of the Valley’s Associate Director, Rabbi Mordechai Einbinder, then addressed the crowd, extolling the virtues of Rabbi Gordon, who was his mentor and colleague, calling him the architect of the vibrant Jewish footprint that now envelopes the Valley and such programs as Chanukah at CityWALK. Rabbi Gordon was the first shliach sent by the Rebbe to establish Chabad of the Valley, which now houses some 27 Chabad centers under its umbrella. He concluded by marveling and reflecting at the greatness of the menorah lighting
at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany just a few days earlier, highlighting how a place where the darkest form of evil had taken place but was now was eclipsed by the pristine purity of the menorah signaling Jewish eternity. The Chabad Shliach to West Hills, Rabbi Avi Rabin took the stage to recount the recent experience of the Woolsey fires
that impacted many shluchim across the Valley area and to publicly thank the Los Angeles Fire Department and members of law enforcement who were on hand for their tremendous efforts in keeping everyone safe. A powerful and moving tribute was also made in honor of the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre. Culminating the evening, longtime
supporters of Chabad, were invited to kindle the 15-foot menorah situated in the middle of the CityWALK plaza, as Chabad of Encino’s Rabbi Ari Herzog recited the blessings, accompanied by his son, Shney. The night finished with a grand finale including a Hollywood-style sound and light spectacular.
TheHappenings Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Bnei Akiva Leaders & Moshava Camp Directors Join together for Strategic Planning Conference On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine, which led to the establishment of the State of Israel. On November 29, 2018, a monumental conference took place, Kenes Ha’Atid—a “Gathering for the Future”— attended by all the Moshava camp directors from across the U.S. and Canada, along with almost 100 Bnei Akiva board members, program directors, shlichim, and student leaders. As Rav Shaul Feldman, Executive Director of Bnei Akiva of the U.S. & Canada, put it, “The conference brought together all of Bnei Akiva’s finest and most passionate leaders highlighting each one’s strengths, proving to us that when we come together, there is an incredible power and impact we can have on our more than 6000 youth and families.” After a year-long audit and strategic planning initiative, this Strategic Planning Conference was the climax to propel the future and continued success of Bnei Akiva’s summer and year-round programs that touch the lives of thousands of campers and students each year. Attending the conference was all the Moshava & Bnei Akiva summer program directors: Avi Matanky, Director Camp Moshava Alevy (Running Springs, California); Yitzi Matanky, Director of Oper-
ations Camp Moshava Wild Rose (Wild Rose, Wisconsin); Dikla Weitzner, Director Camp Moshava Wild Rose (Wild Rose, Wisconsin); Channah Spiegelman, Rosh Mosh Moshava IO (Honesdale, Pennsylvania); Alan Silverman, Director Camp Moshava IO (Honesdale, PA); Yakov Fleischmann, Director Camp Stone (Sugar Grove, Pennsylvania); Vicky Shizgal, Director Camp Moshava Ennismore (Ennismore, Ontario); Dan Katz, Camp Director Mach Hach Ba’Aretz (Israel); and Shlomo Stern, Camp Director Moshava Ba’ir New Jersey (Teaneck, New Jersey). The weekend took place at the Dovid Oved Retreat Center in Running Springs, California, also home to Bnei Akiva’s Camp Moshava Alevy, overlooking the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains. The conference was the first of its kind, bringing together all the camp directors and leaders from across the country and Canada. Amongst the renowned guest speakers was, Dr. David Bryfman, Chief Innovation Officer (and recently named CEO) of the Jewish Education Project. Bryfman presented an eye-opening glimpse into Generation Z, which served as a lens for the rest of the conference sessions. Dr. Steve Safier, EVP of strategy & Impact at A.J.
O’Connor Associates framed the conference with an initial review of the year-long research project and final wrap up of the conference, along with facilitating many of the breakout sessions. Two leaders in the Jewish camping pace, Jeremy Fingerman, CEO of Foundation for Jewish Camp and Rabbi Todd Zeff, Director of Legacy Heritage’s Nachshon Project, demonstrated how a strong Jewish future can be built through a transformative Jewish summer. The conference was also used as a platform to introduce an internal restructure and new hires at the Bnei Akiva of the US & Canada’s national office. Among the changes, Director of Operations, Bini Dachs was renamed as Assistant Director. Former Bnei Akiva shaliach, James Williams, was brought on as Director of Administration and as Regional Director of Florida, the first of multiple planned regional director role outs. Also introduced was newly appointed Director of Marketing and Communications, Natalie Vinegar. Twenty-seven roshim, high school leaders, and bogrim, college students, participated in the high-level strategic conference, staying true to Bnei Akiva’s mission as a movement devoted to youth empowerment and leadership. Rav Shaul Feldman said, “We’re no longer just a youth move-
ment, we are a youth movement in the 21st century. Youth today don’t just want to have a good time; they want to be at the forefront of creating what that time should look like and ultimately leaving an impact on their communities and the world. They are doers and entrepreneurs from a very young age. And that is exactly what Bnei Akiva is about: providing a successful platform for youth to engage in leadership opportunities through the lens of Torah V’Avodah.” Bnei Akiva is run hand-in-hand with its youth. It’s the students that are planning and managing the events, sessions, shabbatons and the marketing to go along with them. The students also brought incredible ruach to the weekend, providing a true Bnei Akiva-style Shabbat. From Kabbalat Shabbat to student-led zemirot and oneg, the entire weekend was marked by ruach, passion, and dedication. All in all, it was an event to be remembered and will pave the way for Bnei Akiva and the Moshava camps to work towards their common goal of strengthening the movement to reach more students and enrich programming across the U.S. & Canada, and ultimately serving the community at large.
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Living with the The Week In Times News
By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman
Parshas Vayechi marks the end of Sefer Bereishis and the profound lessons of maaseh avos siman lebonim that fill its narratives. The parsha also marks the passing of Yaakov Avinu and contains his words of parting to Yosef, Menashe, Efraim and the rest of the shevotim. The posuk relates that when Yosef heard that his father was ill, he took his two sons, Menashe and Efraim, and went to visit him. Yaakov tells Yosef that his two sons will be “like Reuvein and Shimon to me” (48:5). He reminds Yosef that when his beloved mother, Rochel, passed away, Yaakov buried her at the side of the road to Efras. Returning to the subject of Yosef’s sons, he blesses them that his name and the name of his fathers, Avrohom and Yitzchok, should be attached to theirs. Yaakov places his right hand on Efraim, the younger son, and his left hand on Menashe, the older one. Yosef is upset by this reversal. Shouldn’t Menashe’s seniority as the bechor be acknowledged by Yaakov’s right hand instead of the left? Yaakov tells him that both sons will attain greatness, but the younger one will be greater and his children’s fame will spread among the nations. Rashi explains that this refers to Yehoshua, a descendant of Efraim, who would lead the Jewish people into Eretz Yisroel. His fame would spread amongst the nations of the world when he causes the sun to stop in Givon - “shemesh b’Givon dom.” Finally, Yaakov blesses them with the immortal words, “Becha yevoreich Yisroel leimor, yesimcha Elokim k’Efraim v’ch’Menashe.” To understand the interaction, we have to answer several questions. Why did Yaakov elevate the status of Efraim and Menashe to that of the shevotim? Why is the mention of Rochel Imeinu’s burial place interjected here, in the middle of the narrative about the brachos that Yaakov gave to Yosef’s sons? What is the connection of the burial place of Rochel to the status of Efraim and Menashe?
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Efraim & Menashe Why, in fact, do we bless our children that they should be like Efraim and Menashe and not, for example, like Yehudah? And why is the fact that Yehoshua led the Bnei Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel reason enough to give precedence to Efraim over Menashe? Lastly, why does the Torah only record Yosef’s bringing of his children to the ailing Yaakov? Can it be that the other brothers knew of Yaakov’s condition and didn’t go to be mevaker choleh? A hint to the answer to these questions may be found in the first Rashi of the parsha. Parshas Vayechi is unique in that it is setumah, meaning that there is no extra space between it and the preceding parsha, unlike the general rule that a parsha begins on a new line or that it is separated from the previous one by a space of nine letters. In explaining why the parsha is a setumah, Rashi notes that with the passing of Yaakov, the shibud intensified. In other words,
first and paved the way for the Bnei Yisroel there. Although Yosef lived in golus all alone, he clung to the faith of his father and lived an exemplary life, raising worthy, upright children. Yaakov singled them out for praise and showcased them as an example of how Jews throughout the generations can survive in golus. While they had no community of fellow observant Jews, they did not succumb to the ever-present temptations surrounding them in decadent Mitzrayim. By singling them out, Yaakov was demonstrating to the brothers and Jews for all time that even in exile, they could still be good Jews who are loyal to their heritage, while also conducting themselves as successful citizens of their host country. Yaakov turned to Menashe and Efraim and said, “Becha yevoreich Yisroel,” because although they were born in the exile and lived in Egypt prior to the arrival of Yaakov and his sons, they were still as holy
We must faithfully continue on our mission to be mekadeish sheim Shomayim in everything we do.
the golus of Mitzrayim - particularly the pain and the challenge of being a despised minority in a hostile environment - began to manifest at this point. When Yaakov realized that his end was near, he decided that it was time to prepare his children and their children and descendants for life in exile It may very well be that not only Yosef, but all the shevotim, went to visit him and receive his brachos. The Torah only recounts the encounter with Yosef and his sons who had been born in Mitzrayim because that was the only visit that carried a vital lesson for posterity. Yosef was the son who arrived in golus
and pure as their cousins who had grown up under the direct influence of Yaakov. Yaakov said that for all time, wherever they find themselves, Jews should study the example of these two scions of greatness and point to them as a model of how they want their own children to develop, despite the tumah and moral bankruptcy around them. Yosef Hatzaddik showed the way for the Bnei Yisroel to live in golus, also helping prepare them for the geulah, as did his father, Yaakov. Perhaps this is hinted to by Yosef’s words in Parshas Vayigash (45:5), when he revealed himself to his brothers. He told them not to be upset or angry that
they sold him into bondage, “ki lemichyah shelochani Elokim lifneichem - for Hashem sent me before you so that you may live.” Obviously, it was preordained that there be a hunger and that the Jews would go down to exile in Mitzrayim, as Hashem told Avrohom Avinu at the Bris Bein Habesorim (Bereishis 15:13). Yosef was telling his brothers that since they had to be in golus, it was providential that he was the first to be exiled from Eretz Yisroel, because that way he was able to show those who would follow him that it is possible to live an upright life even in a pagan, immoral environment. Thus, the term “lemichyah” can be understood allegorically to mean “to show you the way to live here in the exile.” Yosef had a history of knowing how to live in golus and how to battle the forces of evil even before he went down to Mitzrayim. The posuk (Bereishis 30:25) states that as soon as Yosef was born, Yaakov told Lavan that it was time for him go back home. Rashi explains that this was because Yosef had the power to devour Eisov. With his birth, Yaakov knew that he could leave the golus of Lavan, vanquish Eisov, and return to the Promised Land. Yosef not only shows the way in golus, but also paves the way for geulah. Once Yosef is on the scene, Yaakov is confident that he can leave golus behind him and make it to Eretz Yisroel. The ability of Yosef to give strength and succor in golus and also to help bring about geulah was inherited from his mother, Rochel. In connection with the posuk in which Yaakov describes the passing of Rochel and her burial at the side of the road to Efras, Rashi quotes the immortal words of Yirmiyohu Hanovi which tell us that when the Jews went into golus at the time of the churban, Rochel stood on her grave on the road they were traveling and cried out to Hashem to have mercy on the Bnei Yisroel. Rochel was the one who pleaded with Hashem to be merciful with the Jews in golus and make sure that they don’t lose their way. This trait of being mindful of the pitfalls of golus and seeking to help strengthen the Jews who live there was passed on to her son, Yosef. It is interesting to note that the second half of Yirmiyohu’s prophecy points to the other key characteristic of Yosef, and that is to help bring about the geulah. Hashem answers Rochel, “Mini koleich mibechi… ki yeish sochor lifuloseich veshovu vonim ligvulom.” As a reward for your efforts, your children will return home.
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
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With this, we can understand why Yaakov interjects with the tale of Rochel’s kevurah while he is blessing Yosef and his children, for Yaakov was preparing Klal Yisroel for golus and geulah and telling Yosef that his mother’s kochos hanefesh were passed on to his children. This is the reason that he placed Efraim before Menashe, because Yehoshua, who led the Jews into Eretz Yisroel, was a descendant of Efraim. He was therefore the one who showed the Bnei Yisroel the path to geulah. Yosef and his children not only demonstrate the way to live and survive in golus, but also lead us to the redemption. To emphasize this point, Yaakov promoted Efraim, grandfather of Yehoshua. Yosef not only enabled Yaakov to triumph over Eisov, and not only showed how to have a kiyum in golus Mitzrayim and every golus. He also helps lead the Jewish people to geulah, not only in Yaakov’s day by enabling him to leave Lovon and return to Eretz Yisroel, but also at the time of Yetzias Mitzrayim. There is an allusion to this spiritual force of Yosef in Moshe Rabbeinu’s quest to find the atzmos Yosef, Yosef’s remains, as the posuk (Shemos 13:19) recounts, “Ki hashbei’a hishbi’a es Bnei Yisroel leimor, pakod yifkod Elokim es’chem, veha’alisem es atzmosai mizeh itchem.” Yosef foretold that, eventually, Hashem would redeem the Jewish people, and when that time comes, they should remove his remains from Mitzrayim. Yosef has a pivotal role to play in both golus and geulah. That is why he was the first to go into golus and why his remains were removed only after all the Jews were ready to depart. As we go through our lives in the benign golus of America, we would do ourselves a favor to bear in mind that as benevolent as this golus is, it is still golus. We should also remember that Hashem hears our tefillos and, in His great mercy, will send us the redeemer who will liberate us from exile. Our yeshiva system is currently under threat in New York State. We will overcome those who doubt our dedication to education and the future of our children if we remain strong and honest in the face of wrongful accusations. Like our forebears throughout the many centuries of exile, we respectfully and forthrightly argue for what we deserve. We maintain our dignity as we recognize our situation and intelligently set forth our arguments and preserve our fidelity to Torah and its study. Too often, we get lost in the daily news and fail to see the bigger picture. When the deluge of negativity and frightening news threatens to overwhelm, it is comforting to note that miracles happen every day, as we say in davening, “V’al nisecha shebechol yom imonu.”
Sometimes we recognize them, but too often we don’t. Let’s be on the lookout for them and appreciate the good that we have. It helps us deal with the challenges of life when we know that we are not alone. Mussar great Rav Eizik Sher, heir to the derech of Slabodka, arrived in Eretz Yisroel a few steps ahead of the approaching Nazis, who had set their sights on world dominion after decimating Europe. The German Afrika Corps, under the leadership of the vaunted General Erwin Rommel, marched on towards Yerushalayim. Tzaddikim counseled calm and great men believed that Hashem would save them, but the general mood in the Holy Land was tense. The Nazis were heading to Eretz Yisroel and there was no military means available to stop them. As people feared for their lives, the Slabodka rosh yeshiva addressed a large gathering. He shared a story about two people who were walking during those fearful times. Suddenly, a group of mosquitoes darkened the air around them, disturbing them. One of them lifted his arm and swatted the flock of pesky insects. “To Hakadosh Boruch Hu,” the man told his companion, “strong armies are less significant than those mosquitoes.” The audience was comforted by Rav Sher’s story, as they perceived the truth of the spoken words. In an extraordinary and surprising turn of events, the Nazi army was rendered powerless and retreated to Germany like a pack of mosquitoes. Those who seek to institute the new laws are not Nazis, nor should they be perceived as such. But the lesson from the story is that we must faithfully continue on our mission to be mekadeish sheim Shomayim in everything we do. We act in ways that are pleasant to man and Hashem, whether it is in the way we drive, shop, walk, talk, deal with others or fight back against people who seek to deter us. Our public and private interaction with others should always leave them with a fine impression, so that when we are portrayed negatively, people will think twice before accepting misrepresentations and negative caricatures. Our faith in Hakadosh Boruch Hu will be rewarded, and ultimately we will prevail, as we have since we became exiles. If we rectify our sins and behave properly, our long-awaited arrival will be heralded by the appearance of Moshiach ben Yosef, because, as we have learned from a deeper look at this week’s parsha, Yosef shows the way to geulah. The messianic age and the ultimate geulah will also be ushered in by Yosef and his progeny. May we merit the Heavenly response to Rochel’s tears and the arrival of Moshiach ben Yosef speedily, in our day. Amein.
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The Week In News Torah Musings
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Master Motivator: An Interview with All-Star NBA Coach Jim Cleamons Sarah Pachter
Jim Cleamons, NBA coach to Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, and Scottie Pippen, speaks about motivating others and offers insight into motivating our children. I interviewed him recently, and it wasn’t long after that when I was able to connect his lessons to my personal life. Early one Sunday morning, I asked my kids to help fold laundry, and my request was met with major pushback. “Why can’t we do something fun today?!” My four-year-old dramatically complained. “I want to go to Six Flags!” My six-year-old cried. I turned to my husband, exhausted, and asked, “Did your parents take you on outings every Sunday growing up?” “Nope,” he responded. “Not at all.” “Yeah, mine didn’t either.” I said. “Growing up, our big Sunday outing was Home Depot or furniture shopping if we were lucky. And look, we turned out just fine.” If my kids were complaining about laundry and expecting Six Flags every Sunday, we were in trouble. It became obvious we needed to quickly curb their expectations in the entertainment department. Immediately, I connected my children’s expectations with the interview I’d conducted shortly before. Jim Cleamons’s childhood story starkly juxtaposed my children’s. Growing up, finances were tight for the Cleamons family. Chores were non-negotiable and a necessity. Every penny was counted. Jim said he held several jobs while in school in order to pitch in. Yet despite this (or maybe because of it), he pulled himself up by the bootstraps going on to compete in the NBA athlete as an athlete, and later, coach some of the biggest names in NBA history. He holds ten NBA championship rings. He is a master motivator, helping others (and himself) reach greatness. As a child, Cleamons never dreamed of playing for the NBA. However, he learned in seventh grade that he could potentially get a college basketball scholarship that would provide a good education. “My inspiration to be a player was the mere fact that I wanted an opportunity to get a college education.” With this goal in mind, he started to play with a different level of intensity. In high school, he woke early to deliver
a 4 a.m. paper route every morning. By 6 a.m., he was already practicing for the YMCA league’s basketball team. School started at 9 a.m., and after a long day in the classroom, he often had yet another evening practice for his high school basketball team. While juggling odd jobs and homework, he made sure to stick to his self-imposed bedtime (10 p.m.) in order to be well-rested the next morning. His family expected him to keep his grades up— this was not a topic of negotiation in his household. His mother ran a tight ship, and he rose to the occasion. He brought this intensity into his own atypical exercise regimen as well. He describes, “We didn’t have money to buy weights, so I would fill up milk cartons with rocks and pebbles. We certainly did not have resistance bands, so I used the inner tube of an old bicycle tire I found. I would strengthen myself by simply pushing my hands against the door frame. I saw what I did have instead of what I didn’t have. I guess I tried to see the glass halffull.” This positive perspective is how he describes his ability to rise above, despite growing up in a home without a biological father. “I never saw it that I lost a father. Rather, I gained an auntie and an uncle who were like parents to me.” While he felt his perspective was one of positivity, I also saw this as humility. Accepting G-d’s life trajectory for oneself is the ultimate act of humility. In fact, almost every answer Cleamons gave during the interview was laced with this theme of humility. For example, Cleamons expressed that his all-time favorite player that he coached was Scottie Pippin. He said Pippen had a lot of humility and didn’t need to be the star of every game. Pippen’s most important goal was to be a team player, and he was willing to forgo being the star to help win the game. Finding a character such as this in the NBA was rare. Cleamons feels that the number one indicator of a great player is their willingness to share the ball and play for the better of the team rather than the betterment of themselves. Scottie Pippen was also humble enough to learn and improve. There were certain All-Star players (more famous than Pippen) who needed help with their foul shot. The coaches hired help to work with one particular player and spent numerous
hours and resources working to help him improve, but that player never changed. Essentially, he was not humble enough to admit he needed the help in the first place; his ego was bigger than his desire to improve. To Pippen however, everything was about the team. He made himself smaller for the sake of the greater goal. Cleamons remarked that nothing happens without humility both on and off the court. His sentiments mirror that of the Torah. Humility is a central theme in Torah study, for it is with this middah that Hashem relates to us in this world. During creation, Hashem constricted Himself to make space for His creations. When I asked Cleamons how he motivated both humble and not-so-humble star athletes, he responded with one word: care. Cleamons explained that having people who deeply cared about him on a personal level gave him the strength to motivate himself and others. He feels that with real care in the other person, you can motivate anyone. Cleamons added, “When a person or child feels you truly care about them, that’s when the magic starts to happen.” Note, Hashem does not just create us and walk away. Rather, every moment of our lives we are being recreated, and every aspect of our day is laced with divine intervention. In other words, G-d cares. Seeing Cleamons as a master motivator, I wondered if he had any words of advice for me as a parent when it came to motivating my own children. His answer was brilliant. “Well, I’d have to know the child, Sarah. What motivates them? Who are they? Get down to your kids’ level.” He continued, “As a parent you have to see what they want, and what motivates them. It’s not about motivating them to do what you want; it’s moti-
vating them to do what they want.” That doesn’t mean exempting them from chores because they don’t want to, but rather get to eye-level and see what makes them tick. When my children complain about chores, I try to tell them that there are people like Jim Cleamons who did not grow up with the same financial privileges, who wouldn’t question his mother when asked to fold a basket of laundry. But then again, I remember being their age. I specifically recall complaining that I needed new clothing, while my exasperated mother would inform me that I had more clothing than all the poor people in Guyana combined—yet it fell on deaf ears. One can relay entire speeches to our children trying to prove our point, but experience is the best educator. It is real-life responsibility that guide our choices and builds us into who we become, who we create for ourselves. Perhaps caring for our children is not shown through what we spend on them or the number of Sunday activities we race around driving them to and from. Rather, it is expressed through listening intently about the details of their day, and by showing them we expect great things from them. And most of all, it is shown through requiring that they step it up. That care, similar to God’s ever-present care for us, is the ultimate motivator. Jim Cleamons serves as an inspiring role model when it comes to motivating ourselves and others. When we work towards developing a positive attitude, humility, and genuine care, we can achieve great heights. I will try to impart these to my kids, and perhaps sharing stories about this famous NBA coach will get them one step closer to my goal.
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DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
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The Week In News Torah
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
The Weekly Daf Can the shechita incision be made in the lower rings of the trachea? Rabbi Shmuel Wise, Maggid Shiur of RealClearDaf.com We discussed this question on last Shabbos’s daf (18a). The mishnah there presents the opinions of the Rabbanan and R’ Yose the son of R’ Yehudah who deal with a case where a minority portion of the shechita incision in the trachea veered above the upper limit. Both opinions agree that the upper limit is “the Great Ring,” i.e. the uppermost ring of cartilage that completely encircles the trachea (as opposed to the halachically accepted view of R’ Chanina who grants more leeway). So, what is the law if, say, the last one third of the incision was made above the Great Ring? The Rabbanan invalidate the shechita insisting that the entire cut be made within the allowed confines. R’ Yose however validates the shechita since most of the incision was made in the correct place, and, as we know, the halachah treats completing most of the required act as if the whole thing was done. You might be wondering how an incision in the Great Ring can ever be valid
considering that shechita means making an incision in the trachea itself. The answer to this question is that the halachah regards the Great Ring as one entity with the trachea. Let’s bear this in mind as we review the gemara’s discussion of the mishnah... The gemara asserts that even R’ Yose doesn’t always rely on the concept of majority to validate a questionable shechita: If the incision were made below the Great Ring in one of the lower rings, the gemara says, the shechita would not be valid. This is not because the incision was made too low—in fact, if the incision were made between any of the lower rings it would be perfectly fine—rather, the issue here is that the halachah views such a cutting as a cutting of the ring and not of the trachea. But why can’t we validate even this shechita by arguing that the lower rings too be considered as one entity with the trachea? And even though these lower rings do not completely encircle the tra-
chea (they are horseshoe shaped with their ends connected by tissue), since they do encircle the majority of the trachea’s circumference, according to R’ Yose this should be a sufficient basis to consider these rings as one with the trachea. It appears that the gemara draws a fundamental distinction regarding the concept of “most is deemed all.” “Most = all” works in a situation where all of the conditions necessary to complete the mitzvah are present and all that remains is to perform the mitzvah act itself. If there is an amount to that mitzvah and the person does most of it, then that is deemed good enough and the mitzvah is fulfilled. Here though the problem is deeper: We lack even the precondition to perform shechita on this spot, namely, that the incision be made in the correct place (the trachea). It is not within the capacity of “most = all” to bridge the gap in order to turn this from cartilage to trachea flesh, and thus this cutting is not valid.
However, there’s one lingering question which remains: Granted that we’re not defining the ring as part of the trachea, but surely the pipe underneath is the trachea and thus as long as he cut through most of the pipe, the shechita should be perfectly fine! The Artscroll edition of Chullin (note 29) leaves this matter with, “the rationale behind this is not clear.” Perhaps the rationale is hiding in plain site: the teaching that we follow majority. That is (though I admittedly did not recently dissect a cow to make a handson assessment), it seems clear that these horseshoe rings of cartilage take up more volume than the portion of trachea flesh that they encircle. Perhaps then it could be suggested that at each section where there is a ring (save for the Great Ring; see above), the halachah defines that section, based on majority, as cartilage and not trachea. In any event, Tosfos here states that in practice we follow R’ Chanina who permits an incision in the lower rings as well.
Frontier Days for the Klempners Rebecca Klempner Two days ago, our water heater broke. At first, I didn’t notice—I was too busy ignoring the pile of dirty fleishig dishes still left from Shabbos. It was only when my eldest tried to take a hot shower that the boiler’s failure came to my attention. Dutifully, my husband pulled up the number of our building’s management on his phone. “It says to leave a message in an emergency,” he said. “It’s not an emergency, is it?”
“Naah,” I said. “We’ll live till tomorrow.” My husband filled out a work order on the management company’s website instead. The next day, an unpleasant odor forced me to come face-to-face with the dishes in my sink. I started washing them with cold water, but the grease would not come off. “I’ll do it the old-fashioned way,” I muttered, filling a pot with water from the kum-kum my husband had wisely set
up after filling out that form the previous evening. I had to refill the pot a few times, but it did the job. I was very proud of myself. That evening, my husband got a hot shower, and we all celebrated. Our rejoicing was short-lived. After my run the next morning, I tried the faucet to verify that the hot water had returned. No luck. I had to do something—after an hour of exercise, I stank. In the kitchen, I started boiling kettles and pots full of water to add to the frigid bath I was running in the bathroom. I thought that three kettles and two pots of water would be enough to provide me with a warm tub—but no. While no longer freezing, it was barely more than tepid. That bath was my fastest since the Nine Days. Not long after I dried off and dressed, one of my children appeared. “Is the hot water fixed?” “Nope,” I said solemnly. My child, who hadn’t bathed since Friday afternoon, turned bright red with fury. “I’m not going anywhere until I bathe!” they declared. “If it makes you feel any better, I can’t
smell you from here,” I replied from my perch, about six feet away. They were not persuaded. I offered to boil a few kettles to pour in the tub, but they didn’t want them. Instead, I used the hot water to wash the milchig dishes. Later that afternoon, I told my woes to my friend Merri. “You’re just like Laura Ingalls Wilder!” “Well,” I replied, “I did just put up bread dough to rise.” “Now you need to slaughter a few animals and render the fat.” “Okay, maybe I’m not Laura Ingalls Wilder.” Our hot water heater is still out of order, but I’m trying to remind myself that we’re not really roughing it. We have a furnace, flushing toilets, and a roof over our heads. And even if my car is 22 years old, it still runs, baruch Hashem. Although if my kids start stinking from six feet away, we might be facing an emergency.
Tech The Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
A Wyze Investment in Security Dov Pavel There are many smart security cameras on the market. Nest is a popular brand offering camera at $199 and $299. Netgear, another popular brand, offers the Arlo camera at $199 while Amazon offers the Cloud Cam for $119. Nest requires a subscription-based cloud service to store video in the cloud so that you can view it from anywhere. The Nest Aware cloud history service is $100 a year for 10 days of history and goes up to $300 a year for 30 days of history. It’s bundled with other services as well. When reviewing home technology, I often prefer to start at the bottom from a cost perspective and see if the features provided are sufficient before I move on to technology with a higher price tag. This month I’m reviewing the Wyze Cam which sells for $19.99 at Wyzecam.com. No, that is not a typo; the camera costs twenty bucks and does not require a storage subscription. Interested? Keep reading. When the Wyze Cam camera arrived in the mail, I was shocked at how small the box was: literally a two-inch cube. Do good things come in small packages? My wife Bibi’s reaction was, “Wow, this camera is cute.” The camera comes with a flexible stand which allows it to be raised, tilted and swiveled to point in any direction. It also comes with a magnetic base and an adhesive for wall mounting (although I did not mount mine). The camera requires a nearby power outlet (it is not battery powered) and of course, a Wi-Fi connection. Once plugged in, a simple application of the camera is as a baby monitor that will allow you to view your little ones from anywhere. I recommended this to a colleague who is a new father and he loves it. There is also a two-way voice connection that allows you to speak to the camera and hear sounds along with viewing live images. Right out of the box the camera offers both sound and motion detection options. When movement or sound is detected, the camera records and uploads to the cloud 12-second clips, which are saved for 14days without a subscription. That is a huge advantage over some other services that charge hefty fees for a similar feature. I found the motion sensor to be accurate, detecting primarily actual movement. Occasionally, I received empty motion clips that seems to be triggered by cloud movements and shadows. There is a sensitivity option that I dialed down to address this. The sound clips did not seem very helpful, in my experience, though I did discover that houses make sounds — be it the air conditioning or heating or the refrigerator compressor switching on. I dialed down the sound sensor drastically, hoping it would still capture a glass breakage or oth-
er loud sound but not bother with the rest. There is a separate smoke and carbon monoxide alarm sensor that will notify you if any of your external house alarms are triggered which can be very helpful in a real emergency. The camera also has wide angle (110 degree) viewing capabilities. When I placed it in my foyer, I was able to monitor both my front and side doors simultaneously, since they are set at a 90-degree angle of each other. If you require coverage of angles wider than
110 degrees, you can use two cameras and daisy chain from one power source to multiple cameras, avoiding extra wires. There is also a night vision mode that I set to Auto; it produces high quality videos even with all the lights in the house switched off. The camera is only for indoor use, so I placed it on a window sill facing the street to capture activity outside my front door. It worked well during the daytime, capturing all movements to my front door. The camera is compatible with the Alexa, so I can ask to view a live image of my front door from a compatible Alexa enabled device (Echo Show). The wide angle and motion detection works against you in this scenario as the motion sensor picks up each car traveling on your block. Fortunately, a recent update to the software allows you to set a specific zone for motion detection. I set it to the narrow view of my front path while excluding any movement beyond the curb. This defines the motion detection zone but once motion is detected in that zone, the full camera view is recorded. Night time video, however, was a little bit of a disappointment on my window due to the reflection of the glass. Motion detection on Shabbat poses the big challenge for this camera as well as other smart cameras and smart home devices. When speaking with halachic authorities, the common opinion is that triggering motion detection that is not for your benefit is not a problem. However, where the trigger is for your benefit it can be problematic. For example, if your neighbor’s motion light sensors are triggered when you pass on your way home, this may not be an issue since the motion detection is for your
neighbor’s benefit and not yours. However, setting up a motion sensitive camera in your own home is clearly for your benefit and this may not be permissible if it will trigger events on Shabbat. In a previous article, I quoted rabbinic authorities who believe keeping an Amazon Echo listening in your home on Shabbat is problematic for similar reasons (see tribetechreview. wordpress.com for archives). The app does allow for turning off the motion detection at certain times during the day but does not allow you to choose the day of the week, or to choose times based on sunset for Shabbat. Plugging the camera into a smart switch that turns the entire camera off for Shabbat is a solution (one that I previously recommended for the Amazon Echo, itself). I did this for a while and it rebooted after Shabbat without issue. However, I wanted to find a way to keep the safety of the recording going 24/7 but to just turn off the motion detec-
tion triggers over Shabbat and Yom Tov. I believe I have found a solution and it is a solution that may work for other smart device integrations. It is a bit elaborate, so it will require a second article. Please visit my blog at tribetechreview.wordpress.com or stay tuned for Part II next week. Shabbat Shalom! Dov Pavel is a tech enthusiast who reviews personal technology and home automation through the lens of a Shomer Shabbos consumer. He is not affiliated with any of the companies whose products he reviews and the opinions he expresses are solely his own. Dov is not a halachic authority and readers should consult their own rabbi as needed. Previous articles can be found at TribeTechReview.com. Follow @TribeTechReview on Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In.
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DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
RABBI NATAN GAMEDZE
In Search of Truth from Swaziland to the Holy Land By Rafi Sackville
rom the restaurant in the middle of the pedestrian mall in Tzfat, the view of the rolling hills surrounding the city provides a comforting backdrop to the bustle of tourists and shoppers only steps away. Reverberating with the weight of thousands of years of Jewish presence, it is difficult not to feel a part of the history and the generations of Jews who have reaped spiritual benefit from the giants of Torah who have lived, learnt, and taught here. In Swaziland, some 9,300 kilometers away (5,800 miles) and directly south of Israel, the open, rolling hills look similar, if somewhat greener than those in the Galil. The country is smaller than Israel by some 3,000 square kilometers and has a quarter of the population. Landlocked, it is caught pincer-like between Mozambique and South Africa. Before the British carved up Swaziland in the 1880s, it was run by a monarchy whose king surrounded himself with a coterie of advisors. This small, but powerful group wielded absolute power over the remainder of the population.
The restructuring of the borders was a cumbersome affair that ended the homogeneity of the country. Different ethnic groups were massed together without consideration. In effect, this is what happened to the Gamedze (Gah-med-Zeh) family, who, at the time of partition, ruled Swaziland. In their place another family was appointed to reign. Their monarchical aspirations cut short, the British won the Gamedzes over by making concessions, which led to them becoming indispensable advisors to the new king. It is a position they hold until today.
he grandson of the last Gamedze king, Rabbi Natan Gamedze, sits opposite me thoughtfully cupping a cup of coffee. This unassuming, humble gentleman is, for all intents and purposes, a prince of Swaziland. Yet here he sits, dressed in a black suit and white shirt and sporting a large black kippah. He looks, sounds, and exudes all the qualities of what a good Jew should be. A man of many talents (he speaks 13 languages), Rabbi Natan might have followed the path of his ancestors had
he not taken an unlikely journey that led him to Israel and to the study halls of Ohr Sameach and Brisk. My wife and I had come to Tzfat to speak with Rabbi Gamedze and, despite our curiosity about his transformation, we were interested to learn about his upbringing and his fondest childhood memories. There is a hypnotizing effect about Rabbi Gamedze, who speaks in a deliberate and liquid delivery. He weighs each word with care as if they are fragile vessels in search of a safe resting place. “Swazis have traditional dances for different seasons,” Rabbi Natan explains, “and my father would take me with him to visit the king, King Mswati III. Traditional warriors still dress up in their conventional garb, a vestment, just like a cloth with a skin underneath. They also don an animal skin around their loins, wear sandals or go barefoot, and carry a stick with a knob on top. They dance with shields and knives, while jumping up and down and singing. “I was once at a ceremony in Jerusalem. They invited the ambassador to Swaziland. He was one of the princes.
When he came to Israel, he was wearing a suit. Before he met then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, he traveled back to his hotel to change into his traditional clothes to make himself presentable. Swazis don’t have any inferiority complex about wearing it. I can definitely say that it is to their honor that they are very proud of who they are. “At those ceremonies, when I was young, I was afraid because of the knives. I was just a little boy and would hide behind my dad who would laugh and say, ‘Don’t you see? They are singing your song.’ “Those are probably the fondest memories of my youth.” Rabbi Gamedze was educated in the best schools. This includes the period he studied in South Africa during apartheid. Was he affected by it in any negative way? “I would call it self-respect, and to just be happy with who you are. Don’t try to be something or someone that you are not,” he says. “This is much of what I have carried throughout my life. I do not feel any special need just because I am a black person. I don’t
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
feel I have to hang out with black people. I go around with whomever I please. I feel like the Swazis (wearing their traditional garb) because they are so proud of who they are. Even in apartheid South Africa it was impossible to make me feel inferior. Apartheid didn’t mean anything to me. I just thought it was very stupid. “But I did have to travel back home to Soweto every day. It made me feel as though I was living in two worlds: in the open (white) university on the one hand, with a quota system for people of color, and a certain quota of Asians, etc., and on the other my living in Soweto. “In other words, I feel that there are so many components to me, and as soon as I get into a certain situation, I know how to behave. Even in apartheid South Africa it was impossible to make me feel inferior.” When asked whether he has considered taking his children back to Swaziland, Rabbi Gamedze admits he has yet to take them but “I think it important for my children to see my relatives. My immediate family lives in Johannesburg now,” he relates. “My children have never been to a place that is predominantly black. My wife went back with me. Coming from New York she was surprised to find herself the only white face in a sea of black.”
hile in university Rabbi Gamedze noticed a student reading from right to left. The student was reading Hebrew, and Rabbi Gamedze was immediately intrigued. He enrolled in an introductory Hebrew course. After a few months, he had mastered basic Hebrew. Rabbi Gamedze exudes a calming presence. His languid and quiet demeanor draws listeners into his world. He communicates naturally and personably. When describing the experience of the Hebrew course and listening to Middle
The Week In News 73 Feature
The Jewish Home | OCTOBER 29, 2015
Rabbi Gamezde with the author
Eastern music punctuated through his headphones by the words, it is hard not to imagine the experience. “It was during a language test,” he recalls. “I was half dreamy when all of a sudden I realized that someone was speaking. I listened closely to the voice and realized they were from Akeidat Yitzchak. I stopped the cassette. In my subconscious I had a realization I was dealing with something I had never come across before. “I was about twenty. The language seemed so familiar to me. The binding of Isaac spoke to me. I came from a moderately Christian home. The passage conveys much more than could be conveyed in any other lan-
guage. I was puzzled. It was like opening an inner dimension that I didn’t know existed. “Let’s say one of the princes in Swaziland gets a bad knock and loses his memory. His brothers try to help him regain it. They go through some of the paces of Swazi dances, and lo and behold, the prince who lost his memory remembers, Ah yes, I know this dance, although he has no idea how. “That is how I felt when I discovered lashon hakodesh. I knew it, but where it had come from I had no idea. It was a little like a Sherlock Holmes mystery. I had to go out and discover how I knew it.” Yet the prince in the story had actually learned the dance. In Rabbi Gamedze’s case, he had never previously been taught Hebrew. He points out that Judaism was never something
new to him. “I started off on that Sherlock Holmes journey,” he explains. “I went to the library, where they had a collection of Hebrew books. I looked at books on kibbutzim, pottery, gardening, all in Hebrew. Then I saw something I had never heard of before. It was the Rambam’s Sefer Ahava from the Mishneh Torah. “I went to see some of my Jewish friends and asked them if they’d heard about the Rambam. As a result, some of them started to show an interest in their Jewish tradition. They were totally secular. They started going to shiurim in the university. I watched their progress. Then they invited me to their homes, where they had begun to put up mezuzot. Then they were koshering their kitchens. I remember inviting them to a movie on a Friday night. When they told me they didn’t do that anymore, I asked them what the problem was. Well, now they were keeping Shabbat. “I was really impressed, because my attitude to truth is that it obligates the one who hears it. Hashem is not going to waste His time telling people the truth if they are not going to listen. When I saw my friends were willing to turn 180 degrees because Judaism obligated them to, I was impressed. It’s not about whether it is comfortable for me, or whether I fit in. I’m glad my friends are religious, but at the time I had no idea what it had to do with me. “We know that gerei tzedek are called Bnei Avraham, but why not Bnei Yitzchak or Bnei Yaakov? The simple reason is because Avraham left all other belief systems through his own choosing. First of all, by negating the present situation of worshipping idols in which he found himself. “That’s one thing about the emet (truth); the beginning point of emet is that all the nonsense is ruled out. “After all of Avraham Avinu’s self-sacrifice, his suffering, his rough life, his discovery of G-d, is the way that truth is expressed in this world. For me it means that I am prepared to go through thick and thin because I know that this is true, not because of what I am going to gain.” After mastering basic Hebrew Rabbi Gamedze was offered a doctorate program at Hebrew University. “I was sitting in one of the restaurants
29, | The Jewish Home TheOCTOBER Week In2015 News Feature
at the university having a cup of coffee,” he recalls. “In walks a professor from Hebrew University. He had been looking through a list of students and he saw this funny name with high marks. He asked me why I had continued learning Italian and German but stopped learning Hebrew. I said, ‘What am I going to do with this language? Even the Jews I know don’t understand when I speak in Hebrew.’ What I knew about Israel at the time was very primitive. This was around 1985-86. But luckily enough I’d read about Avraham Avinu, who was like a torch of light to me. And I thought, What’s that got to do with leaving your home and leaving your country and going way, way over there? Why can’t you serve G-d where you are? Why davka go all the way to Israel? So, you know, as I say, Sherlock Holmes; I’m on the scent now.” His arrival in Israel had sparked something familiar within him about the country. He instantly fell in love with the disorder and vibrancy of Israeli life. “When I arrived in Jerusalem, I started studying Aramaic, Biblical, Mishnaic and modern Hebrew. Who speaks Aramaic? I studied for two years. By that time, I thought I’d lost the scent. “Around that time, I got a call from my friends from Johannesburg telling me they were learning in Ohr Sameach and that they wanted to see me. I was amazed by their appearance. They were wearing kippot and tzitzit. They were transformed. “I walked into the Beit Midrash. From a secular point of view it looks like people are off their rockers choosing to study texts that are thousands of years old, because in the world we live in everything that is modern is better than the old version. “My friends asked me to explain how it was that a non-Jew had brought them closer to their tradition. I asked them what they were talking about. They said that if I hadn’t told them about the Rambam, they might not be studying in a yeshiva. “I couldn’t explain it, because I was asking myself how was it that I was excited about something that was ‘their’ tradition, not mine.” Rabbi Gamedze left the university and enrolled in Ohr Sameach, where
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
King Mswati III of Swaziland, Africa’s last absolute monarch
he studied for five years before moving into the Brisker Yeshiva where he got semicha. This was a huge leap for him, but as he is fond of saying, “My motto back then was ‘seize the signs, even if you don’t know where they will take you.’”
abbi Gamedze’s uniqueness lies far deeper than the color of his skin. He is a thoughtful and innovative teacher, who is quick to discern the needs of his students. He finds a correlation between life and the study of Gemara. He evokes
While sitting in a hotel room, he couldn’t bring himself to eat. He stopped each time he brought the fork to his mouth.
One question constantly racked him: why hadn’t he been born Jewish if Hashem wanted him to be a Jew? He decided to take a break from studying. He traveled to Rome. While sitting in a hotel room, he couldn’t bring himself to eat. He stopped each time he brought the fork to his mouth. He opened a Hebrew calendar and was surprised to discover that it was Yom Kippur. He made his way to the Jewish Quarter and watched the services. It was another Sherlock Holmes moment. It was then and there that he decided to become Jewish. Rabbi Gamedze knew the road would be difficult, particularly seeing as he would always stick out as the only black man in the room. Despite the hardships that lay ahead, he knew he was up for the challenge.
the lessons he learnt from Rav Simcha Wasserman at Ohr Sameach, who would say that the Gemara is like a big brain; it teaches you how to think. He explains, “When you look at the intricacies of a certain sugyah, one might feel that it is a non-starter. Like you’ve got a whole ball of cotton, wool, and all the pieces are intertwined. And you know what a person feels like – he wants to make his life easier. He wants to cut the ball of cotton. But you can’t cut. You’ve got to take each piece and take it out of its knot and see where it fits and where it goes. That is extremely difficult. It takes a lot of effort. “Rav Wasserman would say that what you have at the end of the day is one piece of string. What I try to convey to my students is that we have all kinds of stimuli bombarding us, and
it’s very confusing to know which way to go. This one is saying this, this one is saying that...but at the end of the day it’s just one thing. “If the Gemara asks a question this way, the answer has to look like this. So I’ll get people into thinking like this (in life). They eventually see the wisdom, which is much bigger than they could ever have imagined. They unscramble all the extraneous information, and this is the shtuyot, the nonsense, in life.” When it comes to teaching young women, Rabbi Gamedze tells of the many girls who have come to ask his advice over the years. For example, they might come to him while they are dating. She is ready for marriage, but the boy isn’t. She might think she needs to look her best next to the boy she is dating. But Rabbi Gamedze doesn’t think this picture of outer beauty is healthy, especially with men, who seem to be hung up about superficial looks. He tries to show these young men about the inner beauty of the women they are dating. “It’s not anyone’s fault that society is like this,” he shares. “This is the reality in society that we have to deal with.” Today Rabbi Gamedze is involved in freelancing. He enjoys giving talks and being in the Torah world. He used to translate, but he came to the realization that this is not where his strength lies. He enjoys having an influence on his listeners. He tells of a famous line he likes to quote from Rav Noach Weinberger, zt”l, who asked, “What can we give to Hakodesh Baruch Hu when the entire world is His?” His answer was: we can give Him back His children. When the child is lost, you can help bring him back to his Father. “Imagine all the people I have taught over the years. Some of them are rabbis today. I even taught a young man who is a posek. One of my students lives here in Tzfat. She said to me, ‘Rabbi, before I met you I didn’t know there was a difference between Gan Eden and Olam Haba. I didn’t know, but you did. You open people’s eyes, and there’s nothing like opening somebody’s eyes when a person can see for themselves.’ “I have a rabbi friend, who deals a lot with Bnei Noach. I remember
The Jewish Home | OCTOBER 29, 2015
The Week In News Feature
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
teaching him Gemara. He didn’t know Hebrew nor Aramaic. I said to him that when Gemara moves from a hava amina (I would have thought) to the maskana (conclusion) after going through all the ins and outs, we finally come to the reality. “All the world around is one hava amina. Too many people say they are going directly to the maskana because we’re just not happy with the hava amina. “There is this film that Aish Hatorah would use in an effort to be mekarev people. It is called ‘The Matrix.’ In the movie a person is fooled into believing that what he is experiencing is real. Everybody in the film is tied to heavy machines and energy is being siphoned from them, and yet they are led to believe they are dealing with the real article itself. “How do we get people out of the matrix they find themselves in? In life there are two pills one can take. You have a choice to take pill A and make like this conversation has nev-
er taken place, and you can go back to living like everybody else. You can forget that you ever met me. But if you choose this other pill, you’ll see a desolate place, a big desert where there is nothing going on, and there are nothing but props. “A person goes to a movie, and while he’s seeing it, that becomes his
for 120 years and then the lights go on? That’s what I think about. I know this life is coming to an end; like we’ve been sitting here all day in this restaurant and the waiter says, ‘Last orders, please.’ We ask, ‘Why are you closing? We thought this was everything.’ “I use this example a lot with my students. All of a sudden, it’s late at
when Hashem says, ‘Last orders,’ I’m closing shop. Where will I be holding when that happens? That’s the question. Have I been fooled by the whole system?” It is a sobering thought, yet when couched within the framework of a Torah antidote, the question becomes palatable.
R It was then and there that he decided to become Jewish.
or her reality. That’s their experience. Once the movie ends, the lights go on and people leave. But what happens when the person has been sitting here
night and the restaurant is closing up. People don’t have a problem. They bring out their checkbooks and pay. But what happens in Olam Hazeh
abbi Gamedze defied the path he was expected to take in life, choosing in its place the world of Torah. His Sherlock Holmesian search for the clues of life has found him bringing truth to Hashem’s words. The spiritual gap between what he learnt growing up as grandson to the king of Swaziland to the position he holds today as a rav is a chasm that might defy understanding, but for Rabbi Gamedze it’s his life’s journey of struggle that he has embraced and uses to glorify Hashem. The hurdles, the stumbling blocks, are all fuel that helped transform this voyage into an ever-lasting search for truth.
Honoring Our Traditions As a member of the Orthodox community, I am pleased to have joined the Mount Sinai family as an Advance Planning Representative. Mount Sinai is committed to respecting the Halachic needs of our community; and I look forward to working with you. Mount Sinai Hollywood Hills 5950 Forest Lawn Drive Los Angeles, CA 90069
Mount Sinai Simi Valley 6150 Mount Sinai Drive Simi Valley, CA 93063
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MY DIRECT CONTACT INFORMATION: Naomi Silbermintz 323-769-1374 nsilbermintz@ mountsinaiparks.org
The Week In News Dirshu
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Leading Gedolei Yisrael to Grace Dirshu International Convention: Motzoei Shabbos Keynote Session to Feature Siyum on Chelek Gimmel Mishnah Berurah and Preview on Upcoming World Siyumim by Chaim Gold
“It’s a Shabbos of Torah, Torah, and more chizzuk haTorah,” was the way one veteran Dirshu learner described a previous Dirshu International Convention. This year’s convention will be no different. Over 2000 people will attend the Shabbos and Grand Melava Malka, which will be graced by leading gedolei Yisrael including such luminaries as HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Staten Island; HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood; HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Tiferes Yerachmiel; Hagaon HaRav Yechiel Mechel Steinmetz, shlita, Skverer Dayan of Boro Park; HaGaon HaRav Yitzchok Sorotzkin, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Lakewood Mesivta and Telshe; HaGaon HaRav Dovid Olewski, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ger; and HaGaon HaRav Dovid Goldberg, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Telshe together with numerous other prominent gedolei roshei yeshiva and rabbonim. The International Convention, to be held this coming Shabbos, Parshas Bo, 5-7 Shevat/ January 11-13, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut, is called “Shabbos Chizzuk L’lomdei Torah.” Indeed, its name truly encapsulates and defines what the Shabbos is all about. The Shabbos is to pay tribute and give chizzuk to the myriad lomdei Torah and their wives who, day in, day out, week after week, month after month, throughout the year, Shabbosim, yomim tovim, easy times, hard times… are dedicated to learning Torah and taking regular tests to ensure retention. Climactic Grand Melava Malka Open to Public
The climax of the Shabbos will be Motzoei Shabbos’s keynote session where a siyum on Chelek Gimmel of the Mishnah Berurah in the Dirshu Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program will be held. The siyum is a profound milestone and simchah for the tens of thousands of Daf HaYomi B’Halacha learners the world over, whose shemiras Shabbos has been immeasurably enriched and enhanced as a result of their increased knowledge in these complex, vitally important halachos. The Motzoei Shabbos Grand Melava Malka will be open to the wider public. In addition to the simchah of the siyum and the opportunity to derive chizzuk from leading gedolei Yisrael at the Grand Melava Malka, there will be a presentation featuring many details about the upcoming, exciting Dirshu World Siyumim to be held in 5780/2020. Next Year: Historic World Siyumim The Dirshu World Siyumim will b’ezras Hashem be historic. They will celebrate the efforts of more than 100,000 lomdei Dirshu who dedicate their days and nights to learning Torah with accountability in Dirshu’s various Shas programs such as Kinyan Torah and Kinyan Shas. There will be major siyumim in four continents, starting with a massive siyum in Eretz Yisrael at the Yad Eliyahu Stadium in Tel Aviv, in early/mid-January of 2020. This will be followed by a large siyum in Europe and an unprecedented gathering in South Africa. The culmination of the world siyumim will be a gigantic siyum in the Prudential Center in the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Exciting details about these upcoming programs will be shared at the
melava malka on Motzoei Shabbos. The Back-scene Backbone of Lomdei Dirshu At the convention there will also be a comprehensive women’s program catered especially to the wives of the lomdei Dirshu. Indeed, every person present at the convention is a person who has shown deep dedication to limud haTorah. The men show that dedication by learning and chazering every day, day in and day out, and then taking monthly tests over a protracted amount of time. Similarly, every Dirshu wife displays mesiras nefesh for her husband’s learning and spiritual ascent by enabling him to devote tremendous amounts of time to his daily learning and repeated reviews so that he will know the material sufficiently to earn an exemplary mark on the test. This often does not come easily. It frequently means sacrificing the help of a husband in the most hectic of times, such as the morning rush to school or the evening bedtime crunch. That is why Dirshu siyumim and Shabbos conventions always have an important place for Dirshu wives, true partners in the Torah success of their husbands. One of the highlights of previous conventions has been the unique shailos and teshuvos session on Friday night after the seudah with the Skverer Dayan, Rav Yechiel Michel Steinmetz, shlita. Questions that span literally the entire gamut of halachah are posed to the dayan who, with his encyclopedic knowledge, answers them all comprehensively, and often with a good dose of humor as well. The Uniqueness of the Dirshu Convention
At the previous Dirshu Shabbos Chizuk L’lomdei Torah, it was Rav Steinmetz who encapsulated what he saw as the uniqueness of the Dirshu convention saying, “A unique koach of Dirshu is that it not only gives a person Olam Habah, it also gives a person phenomenal Olam Hazeh! Where else can you have a convention where, after a moving oneg Shabbos followed by going to sleep at 1 a.m., the next morning at 5 a.m., one hears a resounding kol Torah in the beis medrash? Where do you have a convention where, after the seudah on Shabbos afternoon, the ‘taanug’ of sleeping on Shabbos is replaced by the even greater pleasure of learning and chazering another blatt Gemara and another seif in Shulchan Aruch?!” The tremendous hisorerus and encouragement of the gedolim comes as Dirshu is preparing for its many worldwide siyumim next year. Before that, however, on Shabbos Parshas Bo, the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut, will be transformed this Shabbos into a giant beis medrash; a beis medrash filled with limud haTorah and a beis medrash celebrating the unique simchas haTorah of thousands who are being mesayem Chelek Gimmel of Mishnah Berurah in Dirshu’s Daf HaYomi B’Halacha program. After a previous Dirshu convention, Dirshu received a letter from the wife of one of its lomdim expressing her feelings about how limud haTorah with a plan has transformed their lives. “…I would like to share what Dirshu and the Shabbos mean to us. There is no way we can ever express the depth of our gratitude. While my husband, a kollel yungerman, always admired his father who is a great masmid, he didn’t think he was capable of doing the same. At the first Dirshu Shabbos when my husband saw yungeleit just like him becoming Shas Yidden and being tested on the entire Shas, he came home determined to do the same! Since that Shabbos every moment in our life has become a treasure, life is a rush of excitement! “Another amud, another daf… Baruch Hashem, my husband makes a siyum so often that my two-year old confuses the word siyum and Shabbos seudah. A seudah with a siyum is such a thrill as the children march into the dining room with a special dish while singing a niggun in honor of the siyum…. Although I never imagined I would leave my children behind for a Shabbos, this Shabbos is different. My children treasure the memory of ‘The Shabbos that Totty and Mommy went to learn how to learn more Torah!’”
TheBook Week In News Review
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
Rebel With a Cause: One Woman’s Desperate Search for Meaning and Truth by Shira Yehudit Djalilmand Reviewed by Deborah L. Gordon
At this time of year, the time of miracles, it is fitting that I had the pleasure to read Shira Yehudit Djalilmand’s new memoir, Rebel With a Cause. Her story is one of miraculous transformation, founded on an equally miraculous series of events that led her to become who she is today. For those as yet unfamiliar with her name, Shira Yehudit Djalilmand is a wellknown author and writer for Mishpacha Magazine, here she writes with candor about her journey of conversion to Judaism. Although in the small town of Tzfat, Israel, where she converted and “everyone knows everyone” there was no choice but for her status to be public, Djalilmand takes the brave leap here to publish her story, a journey of which she writes, “I am proud of my status as a convert—not proud that I found my to the truth of the Torah, but proud that HaKadosh Baruch Hu saw fit to pull me up out of the darkness into which I had fallen, proud that He thought it worthwhile to bring my soul back to where it belongs.” Raised in the small English town of Mirfield, Djalilmand was a fiery, independent child and teen. Her parents did their best to protect her, setting down rules and the like, but Djalilmand had her own mind and rebellious nature, which didn’t go over so well at home. By age 16, complete with a punk look, she went out on her own, exploring the “dirty, cheap, and nasty playground” of Blackpool. Her tumultuous teens and young adulthood took Shira Yehudit to various locales in England, to Europe, and finally to Manchester, where she got a decent job, apartment and became engaged. But her questioning self got the best of her, as she was disgusted at the idea of this conformist life: “I wanted to run…far from the materialism and superficiality that corrupted everything and everyone.” Djalilmand writes how she didn’t know what she wanted but knew this was not it. Although her fiancé was devastated, and her parents thought she was crazy, she left the life she had created. Djalilmand explored Morocco for a significant amount of time, searching for “some truth in the world,” only to return to England broken
fact that, as a non-Jew she can’t become an Israeli citizen, is devastating. This leads Djalilmand to the arduous process of conversion, facing many hurdles along the way, including traveling back to England and trying her best to keep mitzvos back at home while dealing with the ba’atei din of both London and Manchester. Finally, she returns to Israel and to her beloved Tzfat, where her conversion is finalized. Soon thereafter, Djalilmand writes of her shidduch, marriage, and becoming a mother; the reader is awed at
and suicidal. In painful detail, Djalilmand writes of her stay in the psychiatric ward of South Manchester Hospital, after her attempted suicide, and the slow road back to deciding (after several failed attempts) that she “owed it to myself to try living…the first and most important step that I took on my way up out of the abyss.” From this point forward, from her days exploring various Eastern religions, taking odd jobs, and finally getting her teaching certificate, the reader is hopeful, rooting for Shira Yehudit as she winds her way slowly to the Holy Land. Once there, life at the kibbutz is not easy, but Djalilmand perseveres, as usual, and finds her place at a neighboring kibbutz while being introduced, for the first time in her life, to Jews. Although they are Jewish, the kibbutzniks are far from religious, as Djalilmand happened to be on one of most fanatically antireligious kibbutzim in the country which was part of the Shomer HaTzair movement. But Hashem had His plan; what little she does see of observance that appears at her boyfriend’s house is so nonsensical that Shira Yehudit is forced to explore Judaism further to make sense of what she sees. Disillusioned, yet again, this time by her expectations of what kibbutz life was supposed to be like, however Djalilmand is heartened by Israelis and “a feeling that these were my people and this was my land.” She is thrilled when accepted as a member of a neighboring kibbutz, but the
her transformation, that this young Jewish mother was once the same defiant teen and troubled young adult. While Djalilmand’s story is unique, as is everyone’s, her deep feelings of emptiness, her search for truth, and her bliss at finally “coming home,” will likely resonate with most converts and ba’alei teshuvah. But every reader will be touched by Djalilmand’s openness and perseverance every step of the way until, by nothing less than a miracle, she found herself.
The Week In News Emotional Health
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
The Plague of Perfectionism Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT Songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote, “Forget your perfect offering. There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” There is no “perfect offering” because there is no perfection anywhere in life. Each of us has been given a different hand to play—none of them “perfect.” Our job is to do the best we can with what we’ve been given. I see the Torah as a story about human imperfection and failure in pursuit of greatness. Time and time again, we read about people who came up short. Adam fails in his first effort to perform the command of G-d, and Moshe struggles with anger and impatience. Abraham, we are told, lacks trust in G-d, while his wife Sarah laughs in disbelief at G-d’s promises. Despite this, I know many people who suffer greatly from the disease of perfectionism. Perfectionists hate the hand they have been dealt and spend every waking moment trying to make their hand perfect. They obsess about everything that’s wrong. They anxiously wait for that magical day when it will all come together. Then, they claim, they will be able to relax and enjoy life. Their obsession with perfection is exhausting emotionally and mentally. They
have no peace. At the root of it all, perfectionists hate their limitations, those of others, and life’s. They hate all those damn “cracks” and spend their time trying to seal them up even as new ones continue to appear. Now enter Judaism into the perfectionist’s world. Judaism gives us the highest ideals to strive towards such as becoming a tzaddik (the righteous one), a chassid (the pious one), Adam HaShaleim (the complete person). Judaism sets the bar high and encourages us to strive for greatness. The Torah commands us to emulate G-d, seemingly a clear imperative to become perfect as G-d is perfect. In recent years, publishers have released many biographies about great people. They are often portrayed as superhuman and close to perfect. The spiritual culture of Judaism is meant to inspire, uplift, and motivate us to become better people. But within such an environment, the perfectionist only feels depressed and hopeless; deep inside, he worries that he’ll never be like these people who seemingly have it all together. Panic eats away at him as his life slips by in mediocrity. Henry Thoreau was certainly speaking about the perfectionist when he said, “Most people live lives of quiet desperation and go to the
grave with the song still in them.” There is only one solution. We must embrace imperfection, or what I prefer to call “finitude.” Embracing finitude means embracing limitations. It means facing the truth that much of life is about failure, disappointment, missed opportunities, undeveloped potential, broken promises, broken dreams, unmet longings, uncertainty and confusion. There is no perfection anywhere. There is no perfect friend, parent, sibling, spouse. There is no perfect rebbe, community, or shul. I used to believe that one day I would get it all together. I realize now that no one ever gets it all together. I used to believe one day I would attain certainty and total clarity. I realize now, there is no such thing as certainty and total clarity in this world. I used to believe that tomorrow I’d discover the breakthrough that would bring redemption to my broken life. I realize now that there are no breakthroughs, and there is no redemption. There is only slow, gradual growth at best. We must stop searching for the teacher, the guru, the master who promises, “I will make all your dreams come true.” We must stop dreaming and start living in reality. The perfectionist struggles so much to understand and accept this.
Those who have freed themselves from the prison of perfectionism are those who embrace their humanness, limitations, and imperfectness. They live in reality and taste its sweetness. They have stopped looking for “the answer” that will make life perfect. They are at peace with their brokenness and feel no shame or remorse. This is not a state of resignation. I am not describing people who have given-up and are resigned to mediocrity. Far from it: because of their total acceptance of their limitations they feel emboldened to become their very best self. They play the hand they have been dealt without bitterness, resentment, or pressure. They have made peace with it and are content with their portion. They rejoice in the struggle and the slow process of change. They celebrate being just human. We either embrace life as imperfect, or we fight it with disdain and anger. The latter option is the world of the perfectionist. One who fights finitude experiences chronic existential despair. One who embraces finitude and limitation finds peace, vitality, and joy in living. “Everything has a crack in it, that’s how the light gets in.” We must embrace our “cracks” and our brokenness. For when we do, the light of the beautiful shines through. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful. Moses never made it into the Promised Land. His ultimate dream was never realized. Can we expect more? A previous version of this article appeared on Aish.com in 2015.
The Week In News
DECEMBER 20, 2018 | The Jewish Home
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