Jewish Home LA - 2-20-20

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The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home






MR. & MRS.









The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home




Dear readers, Mishenichnas Adar marbim b’simchah! Our ability to feel joyous largely depends on our approach and attitude toward things. A few weeks ago, the skin on our toddler’s face had dry patches. I grabbed Vaseline, called her over, and was preparing to hold her hands down so I could apply the Vaseline when she stuck out her face for me to apply it! It took us a few seconds to realize that she thought it was makeup. She enjoyed every dab applied—actually, couldn’t get enough of it! Each one of us has areas in our lives that pull us down: health, parnassah, family issues. Real things that hide the truth that Hashem runs the world—everything in it. And that He is the essence of both goodness and kindness. Adar is a time to take a plunge of joy into the world happiness. For this we need to realize that, indeed, Hashem runs the world—everything in it. And that He is the essence of both goodness and kindness. In some areas, we don’t see it. In others, we don’t feel it. Yet it remains reality. Everything perceived by us today as the opposite of good will one day be shown as kindness. This understanding takes a leap of faith, but since when are we Jews afraid of a leap of faith? When we rise up from our troubles and take part in the joy of Adar, of being Jewish, of living in a generation seeing miracles unfold too fast to internalize them, then Hashem will surely turn the hidden good into revealed good. The ultimate of course is when the final redemption will take place and the world will know only goodness and light. Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos and a most joyous Chodesh Adar!


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FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home


Chinuch of Today Weekend Inspires and Empowers Local Parents and Teachers Yehudis Litvak Over the last weekend, the Los Angeles Jewish community had the opportunity to hear from world renowned chinuch experts at the Chinuch of Today events, brought here by Yedidim, an Israeli organization dedicated to supporting and mentoring English-speaking teens and pre-teens living or studying in Israel. The weekend opened at Young Israel of Hancock Park with two workshops. The first, by Rabbi Shais Taub, was on the subject of raising spiritual children in a material world. Rabbi Taub spoke about balancing our children’s material and spiritual needs. “American Jews are a product of a great experiment,” he said. In previous generations, Jews were forced to prioritize spiritual needs over physical ones, and that ensured our survival. Now, for the first time in Jewish history, we have material security. However, the experiment failed, and our spirituality is in danger. Do we need to go back to a simpler lifestyle in order to regain spirituality? Rabbi Taub explained that instead, we can use the material prosperity in service of spirituality. “We have all the money to give our children the best ruchniyus that ever existed in this world.” In the second workshop, Dr. David Lieberman gave parents practical tips for transforming relationships with their children. He emphasized hearing our children out, validating their feelings, and communicating in positive ways. Over Shabbos, the visiting rabbis spoke in different communities. Young Israel of Hancock Park hosted Rabbi Zev Leff and Rabbi Yaacov Goodman, founder and director of Yedidim. Rabbi Dovid Kaplan spoke at several locations in the La Brea area, giving a special shiur for women, entitled Tefilla and the Navy Seals, at a private home. Dr. Lieberman lectured at Mekor Hachaim in Encino, and Rabbi Menachem Nissel lectured at Westwood Bet Knesset. On Motzaei Shabbos, a Think Tank was held at Moshe Ganz Hall, where a panel consisting of the visiting rabbis as well as two local ones—Rabbi Yaakov Krause and Rabbi Asher Brander—answered questions submitted in advance. The questions ranged from partnering with our children’s schools to teaching emunah. Among the recurring themes of the evening was the importance of the parents’ relationship with their children. Rabbi Taub called it “the most important tool parents have today.” The panelists described different ways to connect with children, such as bonding over sports and engaging in mutually enjoyable activities. Another recurring theme was the importance of shalom bayis and having a united front, both between the two parents and between the home and the school. “The first thing in chinuch is shalom bayis,” said Rabbi Kaplan. Rabbi Leff recommended choosing a school with values that parents feel comfortable supporting. He also emphasized approaching each situation on an individual basis rather than following some generic ad-

vise. “What’s fine for one family may be horrendous to another family,” he said. In case of differing opinions between the spouses, he suggested consulting an objective third party who knows their particular family well. Another theme was exposure to secular values and people who espouse them. The panelists agreed that it is important to be honest with one’s children. When questions come up, parents must answer them as best they can in age-appropriate ways. Rabbi Taub suggested taking a proactive stance and putting children in a position of influencing rather than being influenced. Rabbi Nissel related his own experience of living in a smaller Jewish community. “Our children became very strong when they felt they were on a mission,” he said. On the subject of teaching emunah, Rabbi Krause said, “Emunah can’t be learned. It has to be experienced.” He recommended sharing hashgacha pratis stories with children and creating an atmosphere in the home of speaking about Hashem on a regular basis. Rabbi Brander suggested speaking about niflaos Haborei. “Life is a living laboratory of emunah,” he said. Addressing teachers, Rabbi Nissel said, “Always involve Hakadosh Baruch Hu in everything you teach… Every Rebbi is a shadchan between the students and Hakadosh Baruch Hu.” On Sunday morning, the weekend continued with Rabbi Leff’s talk to mechanchos, hosted by the Los Angeles Teacher Center of Torah Umesorah. Rabbi Leff emphasized the importance of a teacher’s work. “A melamed shares the same occupation as the Ribbono Shel Olam,” he said. He compared teachers to the sun that provides light, warmth, and stability. Like the sun, a teacher must enlighten her students, not just by telling them what to do, but by explaining the beauty and importance of Torah and conveying to them that mitzvos are intended for our own benefit. Keeping Torah might not be easy, but it is worth the effort. Warmth entails believing in one’s students and their tremendous potential. Stability means being trustworthy. “You can only teach somebody if they trust you,” Rabbi Leff said. He also spoke about the importance of being a role model and teaching by example. Another Sunday morning event was held at Toras Emes Junior High and consisted of three parallel workshops for parents. Rabbi Goodman spoke about raising “perfect” children. He stressed the importance of self-esteem in children and outlined a five-step action plan, with an acronym GRASP: finding ways to show children that they are capable by providing feedback that is good, real, accomplishment-based, specific, and purely positive. At the same time, Rabbi Kaplan spoke about parents setting precedents, and Rabbi Nissel spoke about growing with your teenage children. At the close of the Chinuch of Today weekend, parents and teachers came away inspired and empowered to implement positive changes in their homes and classrooms.

The Week In News

There’s a chef in Charlotte who thinks she's missing an ingredient.

There's an allergist in Atlanta itching to know more.

There's a pilot in Portland who wants to know what's flying.

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The Week In News Press Release

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Chair Lifeline West Coast Celebrates Legacy of Hope Gala on March 8th Program will pay special tribute to Lori Gilbert Kaye, z”l Lifeline West Coast presents its annual Legacy of Hope Gala on Sunday evening, March 8th, at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles. The event will honor Los Angeles residents Faigie and Ari Brecher and Dana and Pedram Labib,

and will pay special tribute to the legacy of Lori Gilbert Kaye, z”l, a longtime supporter of Chai Lifeline and sister of Chai Lifeline West Coast Director Randi Grossman.

For 20 years, Chai Lifeline West Coast has provided social, emotional, and financial support to local children and families with serious illness. Chai Lifeline’s two dozen year-round programs and services include case management, support groups

More pathways to success, right in your own backyard. Touro College Los Angeles.

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At Touro College Los Angeles we offer a supportive environment, small personalized classes, and educational pathways in Business, Health Sciences, Judaic Studies, and Psychology that help you learn the skills you need to succeed. Separate Men’s and Women’s Divisons.

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for parents, afterschool activities for children, insurance advocacy, kosher meals to hospitals, holiday programming for the whole family, and a medically supervised overnight summer camp for children with serious illness, all of which are provided free of charge. “This year’s gala will pay tribute to our kids—the heart of Chai Lifeline—as well as our dedicated staff, volunteers, and distinguished honorees who reflect our commitment to helping families battling pediatric illness,” said Rabbi Simcha Scholar, Chief Executive Officer of Chai Lifeline. “We will also honor the legacy of Lori, who dedicated her life to helping others and was a proud supporter of many worthy causes, including her sister Randi’s important work at Chai Lifeline West Coast.” Faigie and Ari Brecher, who will receive the Legacy of Hope Award, experienced the all-encompassing support of Chai Lifeline firsthand through their own son Benny’s cancer journey. In gratitude to Chai Lifeline, the entire Brecher family has become champions of the organization, offering endless dedication and support to Chai Lifeline’s children and families. Dana and Pedram Labib, recipients of the Builders of Hope Award, have been dedicated supporters of Chai Lifeline for several years and are members of Chai Lifeline’s Young Leaders Initiative, a group of young professionals who represent the next generation of lay leadership within the organization. Lori Gilbert Kaye dedicated her life to making the world a better place. She loved and respected all people and never stopped caring for others. Though her life was tragically cut short, Lori’s tremendous gifts of tzedakah and acts of kindness serve as an inspiration to give generously from the heart and do even more through action. To reserve a seat, place a journal ad, or learn more about the Chai Lifeline West Coast Legacy of Hope Gala, visit www.

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home


Rabbi Simcha Aaron Green: A Man with a Mission in 2020 for 90210 Running for Beverly Hills City Council

The Week In News

There’s a plumber in Pittsburgh who’s ready to take the plunge.

Devorah Talia Gordon

On March 3rd, Rabbi Simcha Aaron Green will be running for one of two available seats on the Beverly Hills City Council. If elected, he will be the first shomer Shabbat member of the Council. Educated at Yeshiva University, Rabbi Green served as a pulpit rabbi for many communities on the East Coast. Fifteen years ago, he and his wife moved west, where Rabbi Green was hired as rabbi of Young Israel of Santa Barbara. Following that position, Rabbi Green traveled up the coast to San Jose, becoming rabbi of a Sephardic synagogue. After that stint, he retired in Berkeley, California. Four years ago, the Greens moved to L.A., figuring they would settle in Pico-Robertson and join the thriving Orthodox community. However, when the Greens found appropriate housing in Beverly Hills, they took it, and the rest, they say, is history. While Rabbi Green is quite proud of the work he did in the rabbinate, with this move came a new venture for the dynamic rabbi. Rabbi Green discovered the huge Jewish community in Beverly Hills and was inspired to get involved in the City Council. “What I found out was at least 60% of the 35,000 residents of Beverly Hills are Jewish; that means that, percentage wise, Beverly Hills is the biggest Jewish community in the United States.” Two years ago, Rabbi Green asked to volunteer as liaison between the Jewish community and the City Council. Given this very strong Jewish population, including nine Orthodox and two Reform synagogues, five kosher restaurants, three “Coffee Beans,” and one day school (Hillel), Rabbi Green began attending City Council meetings and raising the concerns of the Jewish residents. What are some concerns of the Jewish residents of Beverly Hills? Kosher food availability at public events, for one. Thanks to Rabbi Green’s work, Beverly Hills now has a kosher food truck. At Christmas time, Roxbury Park is offering a kosher option for their holiday luncheon. While there have been some changes, Green wants to see more. Much more. “The city attorney doesn’t agree with me on the issue of ‘separation of church and state.’” For example, the current mayor, John Mirisch, agreed to host a menorah lighting for the holiday celebration at City

Hall this year. The city attorney agreed to it, if there were no prayers and a there was also a Christmas tree. The mayor spoke; however, it was poorly publicized, and Rabbi Green was very disappointed that the mayor went along with the city attorney’s request. “I decided I could only do anything if I was on the City Council! I want to be mayor as well. Three years from now, we will have interfaith programs with the churches and the synagogues, and when the Muslims come, we will have dialogue with them as well.” The council has never turned down a request from any synagogue—because no synagogue has ever asked. According to Green, they simply don’t know they can approach the city council. For example, the Federal government provides security for synagogues, and the police will protect those going to worship, but the synagogues have to come and ask. If the city would advertise their events, that would be a huge help to the synagogues. “Each shul has so many great programs,” Rabbi Green said, “including three Chabad shuls, and nine functioning daily minyanim in Beverly Hills, both Sephardic and Ashkenazi.” Further growth is on the horizon, with Chabad of Beverly Hills’ new, highly visible property at the corner of Wilshire and Oakhurst, an area which has the potential to increase the Jewish presence, and even become a tourist attraction, under the direction of Rabbi Yosef Shusterman. Another issue on Rabbi Green’s agenda is permitting the sale of medical cannabis. Three years ago, the citizens of California voted for Prop 64. Most voters in Beverly Hills were for Prop 64, but the city decided to permit only outside delivery, which comes directly to one’s house. “In the last five years, we’ve seen so many people benefit from medical cannabis, like in Riverdale, New York, where The Jewish Home for Aged has permitted it and many residents have gotten off other meds. The AARP supports medical cannabis,” Rabbi Green explained. Also, if stores opened in Beverly Hills, the city would benefit from revenue and gains in tax dollars. Beverly Hills Municipal Elections are scheduled for Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Citizens can vote 10 days prior at any L.A. County voting location. Voting by mail is also an option.

There’s a historian in Houston who's thinking about his future.

There’s a lawyer in Lancaster who wants to know why we answer questions with a question.

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The Week In News Living with the Times

By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Truth and Justice

Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman In the world in which we live, truth is a rare commodity. Fiction, deviation, misinformation and half-truths are pervasive. The only way to have a real connection to the truth is by following the Torah. Mishpotim, the laws that govern finances, must have a basis in the Torah in order for them to be truthful and just. In focusing on Parshas Yisro, which teaches us about Mattan Torah, and Mishpotim, the parsha that follows, a theme emerges. The drama and glory of Maamad Har Sinai were an introduction to the laws governing how we deal with each other. The depth of the connection between the two parshiyos is revealed by the Sefas Emes, who explains that “Ve’eileh hamishpotim asher tosim lifneihem” is the natural consequence of “Anochi Hashem Elokecha.” The posuk states, “And these are the laws that you shall place before them, asher tosim lifneihem,” teaching that even though these laws appear to be rational, Jews are forbidden to adjudicate their disputes in secular courts. Even if the secular laws seem to be the same as those that appear in the Torah, we must know that they are not. There are truths and then there is the Torah’s truth, composed and transmitted by the One whose seal is truth. We don’t live our lives in accordance with social mores and customs of the world around us. We live with Hashem’s truth. We faithfully follow the laws of the land, but when we have a financial dispute with a fellow Jew, we turn to experts in Jewish law to adjudicate the matter. The world runs on a form of fiction, a lie that is compelling and enticing and bears all the similarities to the truth. But it is still a lie. The system of justice presents itself as honorific and precise, but all too often we find that the people who administer justice are lacking in fidelity to a just code. When I became involved in the case of Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin and began to examine the legal case against him, things didn’t make sense. It was obvious that the case was built on a vendetta and did not come about as a result of someone’s pursuit of justice. I was, and still am, a neophyte when it comes to the law and legal terms, so I turned to Sholom Mordechai’s lawyer and asked him to explain the case to me in a way I could understand. The lawyer is a very respectable, accomplished leader in his field in the state of Iowa. He said to me, “Let me tell you something: If people would know how the justice system works, there would be rioting in the streets.” It is only recently that people have

become educated about what goes on in the name of justice and have begun fighting back. Groups such as the Innocence Project work to get innocent people out of jail and have been successful in a number of cases. Klal Yisroel came together for Rubashkin, and thankfully his 27-year sentence was commuted by the president. You have seen ads in this paper for the past couple of weeks on behalf of Rabbi Osher Eisemann, known as a tzaddik for his work on behalf of special children. He is another victim of over-zealous prosecutors. The Justice Department went after one of the president’s friends who made some outlandish claims about his high connections. The old man’s braggadocio earned him a 5 a.m. wake-up call from a group of armed riot police who had come to arrest him. He was put on trial in front of an Obama judge. When found guilty, prosecutors asked the judge to sentence him to 7-9 years in jail for the first-time offender who was found guilty of a process crime. The president pointed out the injustice involved and tweeted about it. The Justice Department concurred and asked the prosecutors to withdraw the request for the long sentence. The four prosecutors involved in the case resigned in protest. The president responded, “Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started?” Now, it was revealed that the jury foreperson is an open Trump-hating supporter of the Mueller investigation, shedding more bad light on the way justice was administered. Civil libertarians lashed out at the president and accused him of interfering in the administration of justice. Because it has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with whose side you are on. The president, through prison reform, has allowed people with excessive sentences to leave jail early and attempt to lead normal lives once again. His experience with the Justice Department should lead him to increase his efforts to clean up the legal swamp so that all Americans can experience true justice. Therefore, even when from outside appearances it seems that the Torah and secular laws are similar, they are not. One who trades the Torah system of jurisprudence for the secular one has blasphemed the Divine order of things and rejected the truth in favor of a system lined with fiction. It’s all a game. Some people play baseball, some play football, and some play the truth.

There is no truth outside of the Torah. In the big world out there, everything is fake. You cannot accept anything at face value. Leadership is about acting, about feigning sincerity and compassion, intelligence and presence. Politicians, especially now in the electoral season, poll test every word they say and every action they undertake. They have no real beliefs, and driving them, at their core, is ego. Take a look at Mike Bloomberg, who you will be hearing a lot from pretty soon. First, he was a Democrat, but then he wanted to be mayor of New York in the shadow of Giuliani, so he converted and became a Republican. Now he wants to get rid of Trump, who he hates, so he became a Democrat once again. For the past few years, he has been spending his billions supporting the Democrat agenda to ingratiate himself with politicians from coast to coast. On the way, he has jettisoned the policies that allowed him to successfully govern New York so that the liberals will embrace him. There is nothing real and true about anything said by most people in government. Take a look at Benny Gantz, who wants to unseat Binyomin Netanyahu and be Israel’s prime minister. How many times has he flipped his attitude towards the religious community? Every time the polls dip this way or that, he flips and flops. Untethered to polls and politics, the Torah is eternally true and relevant. We, who are loyal to Torah, are not affected by today’s trends and fads, and we know that they will not stand the test of time. To compromise on truths for momentary appeal is to engage in a fictitious fleeting pursuit. To water down what we are and what we stand for to appeal to the world is a foolish endeavor we dare not engage in, no matter how tempting the desire. Anyone whose neshomah was at Har Sinai must learn this parsha and realize that if we study Parshas Yisro and accept the Torah and its truth, but we fail to study and properly observe the laws contained in Parshas Mishpotim, our acceptance of Torah is lacking. Yisro is contingent on Mishpotim. One who doesn’t properly carry out the laws of Choshen Mishpot can be neither a ben Torah nor a mokir Torah. Someone who lacks respect for the property of others practices fake religiosity. A deceptive person and those who lack integrity and are generally untrustworthy have essentially not accepted the word of Hashem into their hearts. Those who engage in fraud and disrespect are not only dishonest and uncaring, but have failed in their commitment of naaseh v’nishma. Sometimes, people neglect or bend the

laws of Choshen Mishpot because they place the pursuit of finances above all other values. In so doing, they demonstrate their human frailty as well as a lack of faith in the Divine order. At times, man’s vision becomes clouded. We must endeavor to always be honest and upstanding in our dealings, not permitting our own interests to subconsciously cause us to err. The pursuit of money cannot be so extreme that it drives us to steal, cheat and be unscrupulous. Yisro has to converge with Mishpotim. The Torah that we follow is comprised of emes, and its paths lead to true peace. In order to achieve proper lasting relationships and friendships, they must be based on honesty and fidelity to the truth. If we are evasive or deceptive, as charming as we try to be and as hard as we try to mask our differences, we will ultimately fail. Our scheme will be discovered and we will be left without friends or fortune, alone and forsaken. Acting with strength and truth, and guided by the Torah, we can make the world a better place and prepare it for the coming of Moshiach. By being honest, facing up to our differences and surmounting them, we can reach accommodations that last over time. We need shalom, but we have to equally value emes. We need great men to embrace others and draw them close, but we also need great leaders who will chart a course of truth and tradition, telling us when battles cannot be settled through compromise. Without Mishpotim - honesty and uprightness in all areas - there is no Yisro. This means being honest in business, careful with the money of others, and aware of our mandate of how to behave with other people. The wife of the Chazon Ish ran a small textile business. She once had a disagreement with a customer, who suggested that they ask her husband to adjudicate the matter. They approached the Chazon Ish, who ruled that the customer was right. The Chazon Ish sensed that his wife was hurt that he ruled against her. He spoke to her softly and gently. “Tell me,” he said, “of what value is life if we possess even a lira that is not ours?” She was placated by her husband’s explanation. What he said should be our mandate. Just as life has no meaning without Torah, so is the order of creation interrupted by a lack of mishpot. When the baal korei reads the Aseres Hadibros, we sense that we were hearing the song of life itself. Mishpotim is the second half of that song and is just as critical. Hashem Elokeichem emes. His seal is emes. May we, the People of Truth, act in a way that will allow us to stand proud when the time of truth arrives.

The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home


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Torah Musings The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

G-d and Starbucks Sarah Pachter

It was December 25th. My husband, Adiv, was home from work, and since most stores were closed, we planned to hike with our daughter, Emmy. The other kids were on playdates, and we were excited to give her some undivided attention. My husband, after driving for a while, announced, “I need something to drink before we hike, I wonder if there is a Starbucks nearby?” Just after turning the corner, we looked ahead and spotted a gleaming Starbucks, and as we drove closer, the perfect parking spot opened up right in front. “Hashem is with us!” I blurted out. “Hashem is here?” Emmy asked. “Where? I want to see!” We chuckled and responded, “He is everywhere, but we can’t see Him.” The truth is that we, even as adults, behave as though Hashem cannot see us. Like toddlers, we assume that since we cannot see Him, He cannot see us. After all, it is natural to behave somewhat differently when we do not feel that the eye of another is on us. Once, my husband and I watched as a Jewish father dropped his teenage sons off at a local store. The boys got out of the car, turned to wave goodbye, and as the car left their sight, they slid their kippot into their pockets. I include myself in this dissonant behavior. While driving, I saw a police car, and although I was buckled and well within the speed limit, I found myself driving more carefully in the presence of the cop. I stopped just a smidge longer at the stop sign, but after the police car was out of sight, I resumed normal driving patterns. The more distant we feel from the source, the more “loose” we become. We all know the phenomenon of being on our best behavior in the time period leading up

to the High Holidays. Yet a month, a week, or even days later, we realize our resolutions have ebbed, despite wishing we were capable of lasting change. Distance from “watchful eyes” and high holidays give us a false sense of freedom from seemingly restrictive rules. This “distance” creates disconnection, which can also lead to numbness. In fact, the inability to see Hashem and numbness is are two of the most powerful tools the yetzer hara utilizes in its efforts to elicit sin. How can we fight the yetzer hara’s tenacious claws and wake up to start battling distance and numbness? We must work to eradicate this by recognizing that Hashem is in fact there watching, guiding, and protecting us. Hashem is Close By One antidote is to realize that Hashem never moves away from us. Rather, we are the ones who create this sense of distance. We blockade Him with callousness of the heart. Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn recently gave a shiur explaining the teachings of Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook who writes that the root of sadness is trapped spirituality within. Rabbi Einhorn stated, “When the spirituality inside is trying to express itself and can’t because you have boxed it in, sadness develops. It is when the neshamah wants to soar, but it can’t move because the body won’t allow it to.” Physical reminders, such as kippot, tzitzit, and modest dress serve as reminders that Hashem’s presence is constant. If we utilize these reminders to increase awareness, our behavior can reflect that and deepen our relationship to Hashem. Fill the Void Rabbi Abraham Twerski coined the

phrase “spiritual deficiency syndrome.”1 He explains that rather than turning to spirituality to quell that sadness and fill the emptiness in our lives, we turn to other distractions such as food, entertainment, and substance abuse. Yet it never quite satiates. In October 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency by President Donald Trump. Rabbi Efrem Goldberg writes that substance abuse is an alarming epidemic that does not discriminate. It grasps hold of people regardless of socio-economic background, gender, or religion. The Orthodox community is not immune. One reason the drug epidemic can grab hold of anyone indiscriminately is because addiction is not about the substance itself, but rather, the escape. There is often a gaping hole in the heart of the user that he or she tries to fill, numbing themselves to everything else.2 Even if we abstain from substances or other forms of addiction, how many of us can claim a life filled with fiery passion and joy? For many, even the struggle to get out of bed is real. The desire to live is a faraway dream, and the observation of Hashem’s mitzvot and prayer pale in comparison to what it could be. Juxtapose this sense numbness for a moment with the fiery passion that Jews in the Holocaust used to propel their mitzvah observance. Many were willing to risk their lives to light a menorah, perform a Passover seder, and even gave up rations of food for the chance to pray with a siddur.

1 The Enemy Within: Confronting Your Challenges in the 21st Century, Twerski, Abraham J. 2


Imagine living under such restrictions. In our country, we have the freedom to pray. In our neighborhood, there are synagogues on almost every corner. In our homes, we have access to siddurim galore. And yet, prayer with kavanah can be a struggle. Today, we have opportunities for mitzvot at every step of our day, and we often don’t “feel” like it. The people who endured the Holocaust were starving skeletal beings. They were the “walking dead,” if you will—but some were more alive than we are today. How can it be that when mitzvot are as available to us as Starbucks coffee, we simply walk away and ignore the preciousness of the opportunity. Maybe it’s because we don’t feel Hashem’s presence or closeness. We can’t “see” Him, just like my daughter asked where G-d was. Adiv and I were once walking in the Descanso Gardens at night, looking down at the beautiful lights laced throughout the forest floor. There were ten sections, and each was more stunning than the next. As we strolled through the enchanted forest, every new turn portrayed more eye candy. Then, my husband (who is 6’6” and closer to the tree branches) said, “Hey, look up!” As my eyes turned upward towards the branches across the night sky, my mouth dropped open in awe. The arms of the trees arched over us, and the shadows and lights reflecting off the branches looked spectacular. I had been gazing down at ground level, but the real beauty was upward. We spend our days going through life looking down and around us, focusing on our next step. If we would take a moment to turn upward towards Hashem’s presence, we might feel a spectacular closeness and protection upon us. All we have to do is look up; Hashem is always there. Numbness emerges from the pain of not feeling close to others or Hashem. Instead of fighting numbness with drugs, alcohol, or other forms of distraction, look up. Look up from your phone. Look up for your to-do list, and look up from your schedule. Look up towards Hashem, and recognize His presence, despite His invisibility. For more detailed techniques to battling numbness, stay tuned for the next column!

The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home



‫ויתן לך‬ THE SEFER HAMANHIG (A RISHON) WRITES THAT THE MINHAG OF KLAL YISROEL TO SAY VYITEN LECHA ON MOTZEI SHABBOS GIVES BROCHOS FOR THE ENTIRE WEEK, AND LASTS FROM ONE SHABBOS TO THE NEXT. If your shul would like to be listed on the directory of shuls that say Vyiten Lecha after davening, please email us at

VYITENLECHA@GMAIL.COM The following shuls have a minyan available:


Agudah Of Avenue L

Cong. Talmud Torah of Flatbush

K’hal Shaar Tosfos Yom Tov

2913 Avenue L

1305 Coney Island Ave.

2115 Avenue J

BJX Beis Medrash

Congregation Pozna

Knesses Bais Avigdor

2915 Avenue K

2422 Avenue I

1720 Avenue J

Cong. Shlomo Zalman V’Chaim

Khal Bnei Avrohom Yaakov

1252 East 23rd street

2701 Avenue N

2818 Avenue K




Machzike Torah

Cong. Bais Yosef Meier

Young Israel of Brookline

851 West 181st Street

37 Olympia Lane

62 Green St.

The Beis



Beis Medrash Lutzk

Young Israel Of Hancock Park

570 New Egypt Road

225 S. La Brea Ave



519 Grand Street

Congregation Shomrei Emunah

Cong. Yagdil


6221 Greenspring Avenue

17100 W. 10 Mile Rd.

Bialystoker Shul 7-11 Willet Street

Young Israel

Kehillas Bais Yehudah Tzvi 391 Oakland Avenue


CITICOM! 718.692.0999

451 West End Ave #4E

Young Israel of Avenue K


People The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

Follow Your Dream: Interview with Eli Beer, Founder of United Hatzalah Yehudis Litvak

In anticipation of the United Hatzalah Gala on February 27th at the Beverly Hilton, Jewish Home spoke with Eli Beer, United Hatzalah’s founder. JH: You started out as a boy with a dream. How did this dream evolve over the years, and how did the development of the organization you started surprise you? EB: The most amazing part of it is getting thousands of people to believe in my dream, to devote their lives to it. It’s incredible—I never dreamt that something like this would actually happen! I have people who are devoted to this organization all around Eretz Yisrael, people that believe exactly like me on this mission. My dream will never die because so many people are waiting to join this family of lifesavers. One of my beautiful moments last year was when I made a calculation to see how many children in Israel dress up on Purim as United Hatzalah volunteers. 21,000 kids! 900 kids made their bicycles look like ambucycles! That is the fulfillment of my dream. Hatzalah in Israel now has 6300 volunteers, and another 3500 people waiting to join. We are very careful who we join—we have a big process—but thousands of people want to be part of it. It was my dream, and now it’s so many other people’s dream. JH: What obstacles did you encounter in the process? EB: My biggest obstacle was bureaucracy. Israel is a country full of bureaucracy, which makes it hard for organizations to start. When we started, there was an ambulance organization in Israel that had a monopoly. It was important to us that they continue and do their good work, but the way they were working was inefficient, and many people did not survive because they didn’t get there fast enough.

We started doing what we did because we thought we could fill in the gap between the time people call for help until they arrive. The ambulance services did not like that. My biggest obstacle was overcoming

Eli greeting Rav Chaim during the surprise visit

their powerful union. JH: How was your work threatening the ambulance services? EB: We were offering our services for free and had no conflict of interest. A lot of people that receive our help don’t need to go to the hospital afterwards, and that’s a loss of revenue. We realized that many things can be treated at home, such as asthma attacks or epileptic shock—chronic diseases. We come and treat, and they don’t need an ambulance. They can stay home or go to the doctor. So that’s something that I realized— Hatzalah’s job is not only to help people in life-threatening situations, but also sometimes by not taking people to the hospital. We don’t take risks—we have doctors we consult with—but people don’t always need to go to the hospital, and in fact, hospitals could be dangerous for them. My mother is 92 years old. The last place I want for her to be is in the hospital. If she is not feeling well, I’ll make sure that she’s be treated correctly, but to go to the hospital is a danger for her life, especially in the winter. That’s why Hatzalah is so important: You need a volunteer service that has zero personal interest, no financial interest in their service. We treated 4.5 million people. Not one of them got billed. JH: How many people does United Hatzalah treat per year? EB: This year, we treated 540,000 people. This is the most we ever treated. We treat 700 people per day, throughout Israel, from the Golan Heights to Eilat. We’re not a small local organization, we’re a national service. We started with frum people, but now we have everyone who wants to be part of it. It’s a big kiddush Hashem; we have people from all sectors. JH: How does United Hatzalah unite people from different sectors? EB: This is one of the nicest things about United Hatzalah, and that’s why we changed the name from Hatzalah to United Hatzalah. I went to Rav Chaim Kanievsky many years ago and said to him, “Rav Chaim, we have a serious problem. In some areas in Israel, we don’t have volunteers. People call us for help, and we can’t help them because we’re too far.” He said,

People The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

“What do you mean? Why don’t you have volunteers there?” I said, “Because there are no frum people there.” He said, “You should have non-frum people join. You’re giving them the zechus of saving lives. It’s the biggest mitzvah you could do.” So we started recruiting non-frum people. Everyone who we recruit has to go through our training, which includes halachah training. They are not religious, but our job is to save lives. We actually united every type of person living in Israel, and it became the biggest kiddush Hashem that you can imagine. We united so many people in this organization—Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Yemenite, frum or not, Meah Shearim and Hertzlia—that is incredible and makes the organization so special. JH: What is United Hatzalah’s relationship with Rav Chaim Kanievsky? EB: Rav Chaim Kanievsky is one of our biggest supporters who loves Hatzalah tremendously. Every time I come to him, he gives me a donation to Hatzalah. He says, “Every Jew has to have the zechus of saving lives, and I want to have the zechus too.” He came to visit the headquarters last year on Sukkos, even though he was very weak, to give us chizzuk. It was a beautiful thing. JH: How does one join United Hatzalah? EB: People actually register on our website all day. Don’t forget: kids are dreaming to become Hatzalah volunteers! Not everyone can just join. We have a process: we check everyone out, see what kind of job they have, if it allows them to be on call. Every volunteer is obligated to go out to at least 30 calls every month. The minimum age for joining Hatzalah is 21, and there is no maximum. Our oldest volunteer is 83. He is a tzaddik. When it became hard for him to ride an ambucycle, we got him an electric minicar, and he still goes out to calls. JH: Do kids from secular communities also dream of volunteering for Hatzalah? EB: Of course! I went to Tel Aviv last year on Purim and saw kids without yarmulkes or anything wearing Hatzalah costumes. Hatzalah became one of their heroes, and they want to be a hero when they grow up. JH: How does United Hatzalah reach beyond the Jewish community? EB: In Eretz Yisrael, we have a big responsibility for everyone living in our country. We have areas that are mixed. We decided to recruit non-Jews to Hatzalah. Of course, they go through our screening process. We have hundreds of people from the Arab community who want to join Hatzalah, and they are proud to be part of it. One Arab volunteer was the first to respond to the shooting on Har Habayis. He put his own life in danger and saved a young policeman’s life. I gave him an award, but he said he didn’t need an award. It was his obligation to save lives. JH: Do other countries copy the Hatzalah model?

EB: One of my missions in life is to make sure that word of Hatzalah is spread everywhere in the world. I travel around the world and speak about it. This week I am going to speak in Mumbai, India. Panama, Ukraine, and Portugal have adopted the model, and other countries have expressed interest. I gave a private presentation to the Queen of Jordan, and she loved it. Jordan hasn’t implemented it yet, but maybe one day they will. I also gave a presentation in Dubai, and there was a big interest. JH: What is your response time and how do you achieve it? EB: Nationwide, the response is under three minutes. Some cities are faster than others. In the fastest city, Bnei Brak, it’s 75 seconds. We achieve it by building a network of volunteers. The bigger and more crowded the network is the faster we get there. We have a five-year plan for where Israel needs most volunteers, and we choose volunteers according to where they are working and living. We have strategic planners in our organization, and they do a lot of research and put our ambucycles according to where they are needed. JH: What is your budget, and what is your main source of funding? EB: Our budget is about $25 million a year. Thirty percent of our income comes from Israeli donors, and the rest from worldwide. We have some funding from local municipalities but since we don’t charge for service we depend on donations. That’s why the upcoming Gala is very important. JH: How can people from Los Angeles get involved and help? EB: We have an office here, and people can meet with local staff and donate equipment. Some people sponsor a day of

work in honor of a birthday or yahrtzeit. We have one Gala a year. This year, Jay Leno is coming—he is a big supporter. We have other local people on the board.

JH: How did your work affect you personally? EB: It made me a better person. When you give others, you benefit a lot more yourself. My wife and children are all involved. My kids volunteer. My wife started a women’s division of Hatzalah, women and midwives helping women. It’s such a beautiful and tznius thing to do. With the support of all the rabbanim, we have women responding to emergencies. So many people are afraid to make these changes and have women respond. In Hatzalah, we decided to do the right thing because halachically, that’s the best thing to do. We do things according to halachah, not according to pas nischt. JH: What would you advise young men and women who have big dreams? EB: Nothing comes easy but never give up! When I started it was almost impossible to do what we did but if I saw a door closed, I came through the window. If you have a dream go for it till the end and don’t let anyone stop you. Also, everyone should come next week to our beautiful event! It will be catered by La Gondola, with great food. We are honoring Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, unbelievable super-Jews in the world. There will be a variety of every type of Jew, and even non-Jews will come to support. It will be a big kiddush Hashem!

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Dirshu The Week In News

What a sight! The Sanzer Rebbe, shlita, from Eretz Yisrael entered the cavernous Prudential Center in Newark as some 20,000 stood on their feet, craning their necks to see while the phenomenal orchestra played the song, ‘Tzadik Ka’tomor’. As the Rebbe made his way to the large round table in the middle of the dais where the gedolei Yisrael were sitting, the roshei yeshiva and admorim, HaGaon HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Feldman, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, the Kalever Rebbe, shlita, the Kosover Rebbe, shlita, the Skolyer Rebbe, shlita and so many others, rose as one and walked over to greet him, escorting him to his seat. Meanwhile, the 20,000 Yidden grasped hands and, with profound achdus, began dancing and jumping in an indescribable, spontaneous outpouring of simchas haTorah and kavod haTorah. Indeed, dry ink on paper simply cannot even come close to encapsulating the feelings of simcha, reverence and ahava, pure love of Torah and gedolei Torah manifest in the Prudential Center and NJPAC where thousands more had gathered, joined by over 100,000 worldwide who joined via livestream. Usually these venues are for sports and other entertainment events but on that night, they became one giant beis medrash of kavod haTorah. That moment and so many others on Sunday night, 15 Shevat/February 9, at the Prudential Center served as a microcosm of the essence of Dirshu. What IS the essence of Dirshu? It is Torah, Torah and Torah, led and guided by the gedolei hador; it is achdus through Torah as gedolim representing all the myriad shevatim in Klal Yisrael come together under one banner to honor the massive accomplishments of lomdei Dirshu, so many who have become Shas Yidden and all of whom learn and chazer, chazer and learn, reviewing repeatedly to learn Torah with accountability. The powerful drashos of the gedolim, the special guests from Eretz Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Dovid Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Chevron Yeshiva, the Sanzer Rebbbe shlita, HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei, shlita, the local gedolim, HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfo-

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

gel, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Yeruchem Olshin, shlita, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, shlita, all hailed the accomplishments of the lomdei Torah who have achieved so much and Dirshu, the organization that has facilitated such hasmadah and yedias haTorah. Even more, they expressed how Dirshu and its system of accountable limud haTorah is the antidote to the tremendous yetzer hara and challenges from within and without that Klal Yisrael is experiencing in this difficult galus. Perhaps the passionate pronouncement of Rav Dovid Hofstedter, shlita, Nasi of Dirshu, encapsulated that message when he exclaimed with great emotion, “Tonight, at this great simcha we sound the battle cry, ‘Mi L’Hashem Eilai, Vayeiosfu Eilav Kol Bnei Dirshu!’” There was a feeling of tremendous simchas haTorah, pulsing through the hearts and souls of the unprecedented crowd filling the Prudential Center, NJPAC and the unique women’s event at the Newark Symphony Hall as they celebrated the simchas haTorah of their husbands and their integral role in facilitating the Torah accomplishments of their husbands. HaGaon HaRav Shimon Galei, well known mashpia and Rosh Kollel from Eretz Yisrael, then led the assemblage in the recitation of Tehillim and delivered words of bracha.

Bracha of HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen, Shlita, and HaGaon HaRav Shimon Baadani, Shlita Another important component of Dirshu achdus was the special video wherein two of the Sephardic elder gedolei hador from Eretz Yisrael, HaGaon HaRav Shalom Cohen, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Porat Yosef, and HaGaon HaRav Shimon Baadani, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Torah V’Chaim, voiced special words of bracha, urging Jews the world over to raise their limud haTorah up a notch by joining a program that encourages chazara through accountability and testing. Packed NJPAC Location Features Its Own Riveting Program Meanwhile at the NJPAC venue, Maariv was led by the Skulener Rebbe, shlita, of Lakewood. Rav Yitzchok Zalman Gips, shlita, Rav of Khal Birchas Avrohom, Rav Dovid Olewski, shlita, Rosh Yeshivas Ger, Boro Park both delivered powerful drashos. At Prudential, HaGaon HaRav Aharon Toisig, shlita, Mashgiach at the Alexander Yeshiva of Bnei Brak, who journeyed from Eretz Yisrael to attend the event, addressed the crowd. He said, “Rav Meir Shapiro, the founder of Daf HaYomi, came to America in the 1920s to raise funds to build his ‘baby’, Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. He had a very hard time raising funds and, after spending more than a year in America, returned to

Europe very disheartened. Imagine the nachas he would have to see that the Daf HaYomi has been so successful and so many thousands are learning and being tested on Shas, due to the seeds that he planted!” Rav Dovid Cohen: “Dirshu Yidden Not Only Learn Shas, They Know Shas!” Rav Dovid Cohen said, “When I come to a siyum such as this, I feel that it is something special and unique. Any siyum haShas is a tremendous simcha! We should not minimize the completion of Shas by anyone. Nevertheless, when a person doesn’t just learn Shas, but chazers, reviews it over and over again, that is the ultimate siyum! Dirshu makes such siyumim! Dirshu Yidden not only learn Shas, they know Shas!” Rav Yeruchem Olshin: “Dirshu Is Preserving Klal Yisrael in This Galus, by Combatting Shikchas Hatorah” There was a hush in the hall as the Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood, Rav Yeruchem Olshin, was called to speak. The Rosh Yeshiva depicted how Dirshu provides an antidote for the terrible galus in which we live. “We are living in difficult times. Anti-Semitism and sinas Yisrael has come to locales where it wasn’t so strong until now, such as Jersey City, Monsey and others… There is the spiritual galus as well. Rav Elchonon Wasserman wrote that the reason for all travail that Klal Yisrael is undergoing is forgetting the Torah. What has Dirshu done?” thundered Rav Olshin. “Dirshu is preserving Klal Yisrael in this galus by giving us the great weapon and shield to combat the forgetting of Torah!” Rav Yeruchem then transitioned to English and addressed the Dirshu wives. He cited the pasuk in which, right before Kabbalas HaTorah in Parshas Yisro, Hashem tells Moshe to first address the Bais Yaakov, the women, and only then the Bnei Yisraal, the men. “Rabbeinu Yonah, in his drasha addressed to women that is printed in his sefer Igeres HaTeshuva, asks, ‘Why did the Torah put the women before the men?’ Rabbeinu Yonah answers that noshim hatzenuos are the reason that men are successful in Torah. Yes, women are exempt from the mitzvah of talmud Torah but their ahavas haTorah is the power behind their husbands and empowers their husbands and children to learn.”

Dirshu The Week In News

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

“Dirshu Is Not What You ‘Do’; It Is What You ‘Are!’” Chairman Rabbi Leibish Lish related a story from that very morning in the cheder where he teaches. He saw a boy come to cheder with a white shirt, a shirt worn on festive occasions such as Rosh Chodesh. “I asked him, ‘Why the white shirt?’ and he answered, ‘My father ‘does’ Dirshu.’ Smilingly, I responded, ‘Dirshu is not what you ‘do’, it is what you ‘are’! Your father is a Dirshu Yid, your mother is a Dirshu Yiddeneh and you are part of the Dirshu family!’” The Sanzer Rebbe: “In Our Generation, There Is So Much Tumah But There Is Also Dirshu!” As the Sanzer Rebbe slowly made his way to the podium, a profound feeling of yiras hakavod filled the air. As he was speaking, clearly and with such love, the audience was visibly latching onto his every word. In an emotion-laden voice, the Sanzer Rebbe said, “My heiligeh father would constantly quote the words of Chazal that Yidden will only be redeemed in the zechus of learning. The situation that Klal Yisrael is facing today throughout the world,” the Rebbe continued with great concern, “is terrible! In Eretz Yisrael, different nations want to swallow us up. In chutz la’aretz, it is not much better. It has even reached American shores. Even worse is the spiritual galus! Our youth are being destroyed by the filth of the street that is infiltrating in various ways… “There is only one solution, only one cure – limud haTorah. There is a concept of zeh l’eumas zeh – Hashem pits one thing against the other. Yes,” the Rebbe emphasized, “in our generation, there is so much tumah but there is also Dirshu!” HaGaon HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Staten Island, was then honored with reciting the Hadran on the entire Shas. The Kaddish following the siyum was recited by HaGaon HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha, Lakewood. Rav Shlomo Feivel Schustal: It Is As If We Are in Gan Eden! Meanwhile at NJPAC, HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Feivel Schustal, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Tiferes Yerachmiel, explained the significance that the Maharshal attributes to participating in a siyum, based on the words of the Nefesh Hachaim who says that when one performs a mitzvah a tremendous kedusha is created in shamayim as a result of that mitzvah, bringing with it tremendous siyata d’Shmaya… This is especially so at the completion of a mitzvah where the light of the mitzvah becomes increasingly stronger and kedusha envelops the person, raising him to an exalted level of ruchniyus and kedusha. The Nefesh Hachaim says it is literally like Gan Eden! “Now,” Rav Schustal said with great feeling, “when we are all here at the completion of this great mitzvah of completing Shas, it is as if we are in Gan Eden!” The Hadran at NJPAC was made by

HaGaon HaRav Moshe Mordechai Lowy, shlita, Rav, Agudas Yisrael, Toronto. HaGaon HaRav Shlomo Miller, shlita, Rosh Kollel Avreichim of Toronto recited the Kaddish. The Skverer Dayan, HaGaon HaRav Yechiel Steinmetz, shlita, was honored with beginning the new machzor of Shas. Rav Dovid Hofstedter: ‘Mi L’Hashem Eilai, Vayeiosfu Eilav Kol Bnei Dirshu!’ Meanwhile back at the Prudential Center, Rabbi Lish introduced the Nasi of Dirshu, Rav Dovid Hofstedter. “In Parshas Beshalach we find that Klal Yisrael came to Marah. They were not able to drink the waters there because they were bitter. The Midrash says that they couldn’t taste sweetness in the water because their deeds were bitter. The only way to cure such bitterness is through putting something sweet into the water, by immersing themselves in the sweet waters of Torah. “In some way, we are all like that. When we start learning Torah on a low level, we often cannot taste the sweetness of Torah. Through our ameilus, we elevate ourselves to taste the increasing sweetness of the water of Torah. “In our generation there are so many tools to clarify and elucidate the Torah,”

said Rabbi Hofstedter. “The tools may have changed but the tachlis, the ultimate purpose of learning, is and has always been ameilus, yegias haTorah and kabbalas ol Torah. If we use these tools just to make our lives easier, we won’t taste those sweet waters.” Rav Dovid asked, “Are we going to be satisfied with superficial learning, with superficial lives, with bitter waters or will we strive to plumb the depths and transform them into sweet waters?! “We are being attacked in many ways. Everything that is good and right, dignified, virtuous and proper is under attack. Yiddishkeit and Torah are under attack! We are at war. but we must fight back. We must sound the battle cry of Mi L’Hashem Elai. At that time the bnei Levi gathered around Moshe Rabbeinu with mesirus nefesh. We have the power to be bnei Levi with amal and yegiah. “So tonight, the night of this great simcha,” Rav Dovid thundered, “we sound the battle cry of ‘Mi L’Hashem Eilai, Vayeiosfu Eilav Kol Bnei Dirshu!’ Let us accept upon ourselves more Torah, more siyumim, more chiddushim, more kavod haTorah and kavod haShechina!” Rav Elya Ber Wachtfogel: Torah Becomes Absorbed in One’s Very Essence! It Becomes His Essence! The kabbalas ol malchus sha-

mayim led by the Vizhnitzer Rebbe, shlita, of Monsey, was followed by a beautiful musical interlude in enthusiastic celebration of the simchas haTorah. HaGaon HaRav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, shlita, was honored with starting the new machzor of Shas. He first gave a remarkable drasha. He said, “When a person constantly reviews vast amounts of Torah, it becomes his essence! That is what learning with Dirshu does. Superficial learning of a daf Gemara does not give you that koach. But learning and reviewing with accountability can enable everyone to know the entire Torah!” Then, one of the most climactic moments of the night arrived. As the music began to play with all the various singers and bands joining together in achdus, the entire assemblage erupted in song. The gedolei Yisrael were holding hands and dancing. All the mesaymei haShas were invited down to the floor of the Prudential Center to dance with them. As the circle went around and around, the feelings of simchas haTorah, of true Torah accomplishment, were simply indescribable. Only someone who experienced that simcha can feel what it was like.



Dirshu The Week In News

Learning Torah is supposed to be enjoyable but it is more than that. We have the opportunity to rethink our attitudes to learning Torah as we celebrate the completion of the Daf HaYomi cycle. Most recently, Dirshu hosted thousands of people at Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, to celebrate the completion of its Kinyan Torah Daf HaYomi program on Sunday, February 9, 2020, an event I attended as a guest of Dirshu that particularly highlighted this and associated issues. I. The Joy of Torah Rav Shmuel Borenstein (20th cen., Poland), in the introduction to his Eglei Tal, disputes those who criticize people who enjoy their Torah studies as learning shelo lishmah, for an alternative purpose. What is the right purpose? Rav Borenstein offers a classic answer: part of the goal of learning Torah should be for the joy it provides – “Pikudei Hashem yesharim, mesamchei lev – the laws of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Tehillim 19:9). To the young student, relatively new to the Talmud, this seems like a real challenge. The early years of development require mastering textual skills. You have to break your teeth over hard words, difficult sentence structures and complex styles of argumentation. However, once you master the basic skills, you can quickly get to the ideas, the back-and-forth debate; you enter the exciting and profound world of the Sages, the

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Jewish dialogue that spans the ages, continuing in our own time as well. We take this joy of learning so seriously that we are forbidden to learn Torah on Tisha B’Av so the joy doesn’t interfere with our mourning (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 554:1). Similarly, Rav David Halevi Segal (17th cen., Poland; Taz, Yoreh De’ah 222:43) rules that although generally, if someone vows not to receive benefit from you, they may still fulfill a mitzvah through you since mitzvos are not intended for our pleasure, but learning Torah is different. If you vow not to benefit from someone, you may not learn Torah from his books because Torah is meant to give joy. And on a real, personal level, joy is necessary. If you do not experience this joy, you cannot realistically learn Torah for an extended period of time. Perhaps this is the reason the Sages say that you can only learn a subject that you want to learn (Avodah Zarah 19a). Among the many benefits of Daf Ha-

Yomi are the thrill of constantly changing subjects, the satisfaction of covering ground and the intellectual stimulation of communal learning. Torah grew tremendously in Poland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries due to many reasons. One element of this success was the decision of the rabbinic leadership that every yeshiva in Poland must learn the same masechta, to assist the publication of the Lublin Shas, which began publishing in 1559. An unexpected result was the additional intellectual flourishing as people across Greater Poland – young and old, student and layman – learned the same subject. Talmud study was electrified by this communal cross-pollination of ideas. Daf HaYomi accomplishes the same, bringing joy and intellectual satisfaction to thousands of Talmud students around the world learning the same page every day (Be’Ohalei Yaakov, pp. 70-71). At the Dirshu siyum, the celebrants who finished Shas had not only completed

the full Daf HaYomi cycle but had taken monthly exams on the material, including quarterly cumulative tests on all the material studied to date. By the end of the overseven-year cycle, the Kinyan Torah participants passed comprehensive exams on the entire Talmud. All the attendees shared the joy of those celebrating the completion with lively music and dancing, and electrifying speeches from leading roshei yeshiva and admorim. In addition to the joy, there was an element of awe of those completing the Dirshu cycle. Despite all the truth of the joy of learning Torah, there is an opposing side to it, one that has to guide our daily actions. The Mishnah (Avos 5:14) says that there are four types of people who go to the beis medrash: 1) those who walk and fail to do, 2) those who do but do not walk, 3) those who walk and do, 4) those who fail to both walk and do. There is something missing in this Mishnah – learning Torah. One of these two terms must mean learning but commentaries struggle over which – “walk” or “do.” Rashi and others believe that doing means learning but that raises the question why the Mishnah praises those who walk to learn. Preparing for any mitzvah is sometimes necessary. Do we praise someone who builds a sukkah or brings a shofar to shul? Apparently, according to this interpretation, there is something unique about learning Torah that raises the profile of walking to where

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you will learn. I think we can understand it as an important element of learning Torah, which highlights the benefits of Daf HaYomi and particularly the Dirshu program. II. Working for Torah The Gemara (Brachos 5a) seems to contradict itself within a few lines. First it says that learning Torah prevents suffering. Later on that page, the Gemara says that G-d gave three gifts to the Jewish people, each accompanied by suffering: Torah, Israel and the World to Come. If Torah study prevents suffering, how could it have been given through suffering? I have not seen any commentaries that address this question but can think of a few possible answers. I would like to suggest that the hard work put into Torah learning – the exhausting and overwhelming effort – serves as an outlet for the suffering you would otherwise deserve. Learning Torah isn’t supposed to be easy. Even once you master the textual skills, you must put in all your strength – and then some – in order to understand and retain Torah. Learning Torah is a never-ending task of mental and physical exertion. This intense effort is called ameilus baTorah. The book of Iyov (5:7) says that man is born to toil, which the Gemara (Sanhedrin 99b) interprets as referring to the toil of Torah. We were created in order to work hard, putting the bulk of our energy into learning Torah. If we do it casually, half-paying attention while learning, and then relaxing in leisure activities, we have fulfilled a great mitzvah – we dare not minimize that. But we haven’t learned Torah fully because ameilus is part of the mitzvah to learn, not a preparation for it like building a sukkah. Learning Torah inherently requires sacrifice, tremendous exertion, all of our energy. Rav Dovid Hofstedter, the founder and Nasi of Dirshu, recently published a commentary to Pirkei Avos, titled Dorash Dovid. On the Mishnah (5:23) “Lefum tzaara agra – according to the pain is the reward,” Rav Hofstedter quotes the Maharal (16th cen., Austria), who anticipates that some people might try to artificially make mitzvos harder in order to gain greater reward. Taking the hard path to fulfill mitzvos, the Maharal says, does not bring us closer to G-d and therefore does not merit greater reward. Except, Rav Hofstedter argues, citing the Vilna Gaon’s example, for learning Torah. Ameilus is part of the mitzvah of learning Torah and therefore we benefit when we work hard to tease out the meaning of the sacred texts. Today we have many tools to assist our learning but we cannot let them replace good, old-fashioned hard work. III. Suffering for Torah Because of this element of ameilus, learning Torah is painful, even as it is enjoyable. We love the learning but push ourselves to our limits in ameilus. Paradoxi-

cally, this is how Torah can save you from suffering. If you, like most people, have done something deserving punishment, you can suffer the actual Divine punishment, or you can feel pain through the sweat and toil of learning Torah. Your hard work in learning, your ameilus baTorah, your suffering in order to attain Torah knowledge, preempts and exempts you from some of

the suffering of punishment. The Gemara (Yoma 86a) divides sins into four categories, of which the third is punished with kares, being cut off. However, a person can avoid this punishment through a combination of repentance, Yom Kippur and suffering. Rabbeinu Yonah Gerondi (13th cen., Spain; Shaarei Teshuvah 4:11) advises readers how to avoid the suffering prescribed for someone in this

category. Such a penitent must give charity, perform kind acts such as visiting the sick, and above all study Torah. Immersion in Torah study involves ameilus, physical and mental exertion, which serves in place of the suffering of punishment. Daf HaYomi learners who rise early every day or learn late into the night, fighting the exhaustion to learn Gemara, engage in real sacrifice. They suffer physically as



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they push themselves to learn more. Dirshu participants undertake a seemingly impossible regimen of review, devoting every free moment and then some to going forward in Daf HaYomi and going backwards in review. Their days merge into nights as they summon inner resources they didn’t know they had in order to push themselves to their limits. Dirshu teaches ameilus, a lesson that lasts beyond the Daf HaYomi cycle into all aspects of our Torah study. IV. Enslaved to Torah The ameilus aspect of Torah learning can be seen in an unusual interpretation of the Zohar. The Torah (Shemos 1:14) says that upon enslaving the Jews, the Egyptians made our lives bitter with hard work, mortar (chomer) and bricks (leveinim). The Zohar says that “chomer” here refers to kal v’chomer, the logical argument, and “leveinim” means libun halachah, clarifying the law. Rav Avigdor Nebenzahl, in his recently published MiTziyon Michlal Yofi (ad loc.), asks why the Egyptians are described as enslaving the Jews with Torah study when they really made us slaves who built store-cities in Egypt, as the verse continues. Rav Nebenzahl quotes his father-inlaw, Rav Chaim Zev Finkel, who explains that Avraham was told that his descendants

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would be enslaved and suffer in a foreign land. We could have fulfilled that through devoted Torah study or through actual slavery. Only the tribe of Levi followed the first path and therefore never served as slaves to the Egyptians. On the one hand, this shows the power of Torah – that it can exempt us from slavery. On the other, it highlights the extent to which we must apply ourselves. We must work so hard at learning Torah that we suffer physically and emotionally in order to acquire the Torah. It must be true effort, exhaustive effort, 110%. (Although consult with an experienced educator to ensure you do this in a healthy way.) This is the message of walking to the beis medrash, mentioned in Avos. We have to work for Torah, not just take it leisurely. Our effort is an important part of the mitzvah. Ameilus demonstrates our commitment to learn even when inconvenient. It shows that we feel compelled to learn. V. Compelled to Learn The Gemara (Kiddushin 31a) says that someone who is commanded to fulfill a mitzvah and does so is greater than someone who is not commanded and does so. This seems counterintuitive. Isn’t a voluntary gesture greater than a compelled one? Tosafos (ad loc., s.v. gadol) explain

that someone commanded worries over the mitzvah, taking great care to make sure he fulfills it. In contrast, someone who is not commanded need not worry because he can choose not to fulfill the mitzvah if it becomes inconvenient. Rav Yitzchak Blazer (19th cen., Russia; Kochvei Or, no. 8) learns from this Tosafos that worrying over a mitzvah enhances it. The greater the pain involved, the concern and the anxiety, invoke the rule mentioned above that “according to the pain, is the reward.” On the other hand, continues Rav Blazer, someone who fails to worry over a mitzvah, who fulfills it when convenient and otherwise not, treats the mitzvah like someone uncommanded. Because of his attitude, he can only receive reward like someone not commanded. If we commit to Torah like we are supposed to, and learn every moment we have with as much intensity as we can muster, we enslave ourselves to something joyous and life-giving. If we learn Torah casually and comfortably, we still fulfill a mitzvah but we lack the commandedness, the compulsion, the commitment. Ameilus in learning is an inherent part of the mitzvah, a sign that we feel commanded to learn Torah. Is there any greater commitment than Daf HaYomi? You are a slave to the Daf.

If you miss one day’s learning, you have to make it up. This is the commandedness of the Torah, the consistency and commitment expected of people obligated to learn Torah. Time, alone, does not fully describe our obligation to work hard in Torah. We need to exert our brainpower and also do the tasks many consider less pleasant. Most important among them is chazarah, review. If we learn something once without reviewing it many times, we will forget it. Our lives are so full of information, especially in this hyper-connected age, that we easily forget information we fail to review. Ameilus demands that we review thoroughly and repeatedly or lose what we have learned. At the Dirshu siyum in Newark, Rav Yerucham Olshin, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, quoted Rashi in Brachos (5a s.v. ve’im) that the definition of a talmid chacham is someone who constantly reviews his learning. This is the Dirshu way. Through exams, our learning is accountable and constantly reviewed. Dirshu places order around the learning process, turning budding scholars into masters of Shas who learn and review constantly.

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They say that the hardest thing to appreciate is something you’ve always had. It’s hard to appreciate your good eyesight when you’ve always had twenty-twenty vision. It’s hard to have full appreciation for a spouse when you’ve been married for many years. It’s hard to appreciate how lucky we truly are to be Hashem’s chosen people. We are lucky when Hashem opens our eyes to see how truly fortunate we are. We hope that these wake-up calls don’t come in a negative form; an illness to appreciate our health or a death to appreciate life. I was lucky enough to have my eyes opened to how fortunate I am to be a Jew, at the Dirshu World Siyum last Sunday at Prudential Center. As a woman observing this incredible event, and a woman who is not one of the Nishei Dirshu, my perspective is wrapped in the emotional aspect of such a beautiful and unifying experience. I left with a feeling of “Ashreichem Yisrael,” a theme mentioned by many of the gedolim who spoke at the event. How fortunate is Yisrael that they are the chosen people. Ashreichem that we choose to sit and learn Hashem’s Torah. Ashreichem that we spend our entire lives striving to serve Hashem in all we do. I saw many things that night at Prudential Center that reminded me how fortunate I am to be part of such an elevated and holy group of people. When a chashuve looking attendee approached one of the security personnel to quietly thank him for keeping us all safe, I thought “Ashreichem.” When hundreds of women rose to join the men to daven Maariv, I thought, “Ashreichem.” When tens of thousands of people fell silent to soak in the words of each speaker, I thought, “Ashreichem.” This is the sound of the Jewish people. Can the weekly sporting events at this arena boast a crowd that is 100% captivated by what is going on in the arena below? Can they boast absolute silence when someone gets up to address the crowd? Can they boast emotional dancing that unifies every member of the crowd, no matter their differences? Plainly spoken, the answer is “No.” Devil’s games often have empty seats and disinterested viewers. No one play would ever captivate every single

person sitting in that arena, simply because many of them are probably on their cell phones. And no matter how incredible a goal any team scores on the ice, fans from both teams will not be dancing together with hearts uplifted. The Dirshu World Siyum was a true example of the gadlus of the Jewish nation. That tens of thousands of people took buses, trains, cars and planes to participate in this major accomplishment of Klal Yisrael says, “Ashreichem.” As was sung at the event, “K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad.” This is something unique to Klal Yisrael. No other nation can claim responsibility, love

and connection to every member of their nation. Yet thousands of years after being exiled, Jews can still say, “K’Ish Echad B’Lev Echad.” The Hadran at the siyum was recited by HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island, followed by the Kaddish, recited by HaRav Malkiel Kotler, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Beth Midrash Govoha. The simcha in the room peaked at that moment and poured out of very person’s heart as tens of thousands of men broke out in synchronized dancing and song. Even the women’s section of the arena was powered with an

emotional charge, connecting the hearts of everyone in that room. As we say multiple times a day, and as we sing on Simchas Torah, “Ashrei Ha’am Shekacha Lo.” Fortunate is the nation that the Torah is theirs. Fortunate are those who joined together with their brothers in the holy pursuit of learning Torah with accountability. Fortunate are their wives who can support such dedication to Torah, and who came out in droves to commemorate the accomplishments of their husbands. “Ashrei Ha’am SheHashem Elokav.” Fortunate is the nation that Hashem is their G-d. How fortunate am I to be a Jew!




OCTOBER 29, 2015 | The Jewish Home

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By Tzvi Dear I t ’ s cause for celebration when an focus at different times on diverse subject matters Abie, we’re very excited that album is released that of interest and significance for our community. after all these years you’re recaptures the magic of releasing a new album Your songs inspire a lot of people – that together with Shlomo the past while possessing the must be very rewarding. Do you like getSimcha – Aish Volume ting feedback about the people you have 3. energy and cutting-edge muinspired? You have quite a I am truly grateful for having had the oppordiverse portfolio sical talent of today. The debut tunity to inspire others. Coincidentally, I was with the Marvelous of Aish 3, featuring the spectacudiscussing this very same theme with Shlomo Midos Machine, Simcha the other day and we both came to the D veyk us, Jou rlar joint efforts of Abie Rotenberg, conclusion that, as long as we try our best, we neys, and other don’t need to know of particular successes. Our albums. Are you Shlomo Simcha and Doni Gross, job is to try to inspire as much as possible. If we able to ea sily touch a chord with a person or persons and hear jump back and will be cherished by knowledgeabout it then, baruch Hashem, we are very gratfor th bet wee n able Jewish music fans worldwide. ified. But whether or not we see results, we just musical genres have to keep on going, doing what we can. The or does it require This week, TJH spoke with musical chips will fall where they will fall. you to focus on one of them for an legend Abie Rotenberg about his This is a question I often think about: who extended period of would you say are the three most influentime? new album, the song that took tial Jewish composers in the modern era, No. It takes 100% him the longest to compose, post-Holocaust? I have Abie Rotenberg in full immersion in each of my list, but I know you won’t go there, so the genres at the time that and the genius of “I’m a Hipwho are your three? I am working on them. I feel Shlomo Carlebach, Baruch Chait, and Yosblessed that I’ve been able to popotamus.”

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si Green. You can’t go wrong with those very talented, wonderful, and amazing composers. They have all made our lives so much more enjoyable. What advice would you give someone who has a musical ear and plays guitar or piano regarding how to write a good song? I would say if someone has a good ear, they don’t even need to know how to play an instrument to write a good niggun. I wrote some songs as a teenager before I even knew how to play. That being said, my recommendation is that one should not be intimidated. If something pops into your head or moves you, express it musically! If it becomes a big hit… mah tov u’mah naim. And if not, so what? I’ve written hundreds of clunkers, with certainly more to come. If you had to take three CDs to an island, one of yours and two from other artists, which three CDs would you take and why? In the Palace of the King (Shlomo Carlebach), Megama (Moshe Yess and Shalom Levine), and Marvelous Midos Machine Volume I, because it has the incredible fusion of melody and scintillating lyrics in the song “I’m a Hippopotamus.” Now “I’m a Hippopotamus” is going to be in my head for two days. My kids will be thrilled!

Do you enjoy performing? I don’t consider distracting people for an hour or two to be my calling. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with doing that. It’s just not my thing. But I do enjoy impacting people through music and helping them feel a connection to Hakadosh Baruch Hu if possible. I’m sure you have had some prett y interest ing performances. Yes! I was once on a riverboat in Mexico and taught the mariachi band onboard a Carlebach niggun. They played it beautifully! What’s the quickest that it ever took you to compose a hit song? Good question – “Acheinu” comes to mind as a song that was seamless. It almost seemed as if it wrote itself. What was the longest that it ever took you to compose a song? The lyrics for “Memories” from Journeys II took over five years to finalize. Five years! Does your musical creativity ebb and flow? In other words, are there areas in your life when you are more creative or was there one period when you wrote more hits than at any other time? What was it about that period that

enabled you to write so prolifically? The answer, of course, is yes. I, like anyone else, am affected by externalities. In times of joy, there is the musical expression of that simcha. In times of pain, the very opposite. I’ll give you an example. The song on Aish Volume II, “Yerushalayim Harim Saviv Lah, Va’Hashem Saviv L’amo” was written after a particularly bad incident in Eretz Yisrael during the Intifada. I love your lyrics and the themes of your songs. Are any of your English songs based on real stories? Certainly. The ones that come to mind off the top my head are “The Man from Vilna,” “Country Boy,” “The Rebbe of Lublin,” “Rabbi Akiva…” I’m sure there are more. Is Doctor Midos retired or does he have another act? It’s been a while since my Corn Flakes box has spoken to me. I’m sorry to hear that. Mine won’t stop singing to me! I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask him. He’s changed his cell number, and I’m having a hard time reaching him! Not very good midos, wouldn’t you agree? Well, maybe he is just smarter than the rest of us… Have you ever been approached by anyone in the secular world to use one of your songs on a movie or show? My cleaning lady thinks Disney


should hire me to write for them. That’s exactly what I was thinking! What is the one song that gets stuck in your head the most? “Baby Shark.” Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo. Doo. Do you listen to a lot of music throughout the day? I really don’t listen to much contemporary Jewish music. But I do hear songs at weddings and concerts and absorb them over time. There are some very beautiful songs being written these days by wonderful composers world-wide. Let’s talk about the new Aish album. Aish 3 is the latest addition to the Aish series which first came out in the late ‘90s with a follow-up album in 2003. They featured my compositions performed together with Shlomo Simcha. Baruch Hashem, those albums produced songs that have become a part of the Jewish music lexicon. “Mi Adir,” “Habeit,” “Birchas Habayis,” “Ilan,” and “Yedid Nefesh” are but some of the melodies that come to mind. This third album has been in the works for the past two years. It is a collaboration of myself, Shlomo Simcha, and a dynamic, young arranger by the name of Doni Gross. The songs are a variety of niggunim in Hebrew. We are very confident that the Jewish music public will enjoy and embrace it.


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How do you feel knowing that Aish songs have had a profound impact upon so very many people? I feel very blessed to have had the privilege of writing songs that have resonated with people. To know that one’s songs are played at a kumzitz, a chuppah, or used by chazanim to adorn their tefillos is very gratifying. The many Dveykus and Journeys albums I’ve been involved in, as well as the first two Aish recordings, contain compositions that many have enjoyed and that they, in turn, have passed onto their children and grandchildren. Although it has taken many years, I am equally proud of this new third Aish album. I feel that it, too, has many wonderful songs that have the potential to uplift and inspire the Jewish music-loving public. Can you give your listeners some background on how Aish got started? Sure. Shlomo Simcha moved to Toronto in 1993 where I had been living for close to a decade. I had already produced several Dveykus and Journeys albums. Shloimie was experiencing wonderful success as a vocalist and was in the process of releasing a second album when we met. We hit it off personally as well as musically and the idea of working together – with the convenience of living in close proximity – made perfect sense. Slowly we gathered material, and over time and piano ivories, we forged a connection that led to a selection of songs that we were excited to bring to life. The signature sound of Aish Volume I gained it both popular and critical acclaim and it led to a popular second Aish album a few years later. But, as is often the case, life can be complicated, and other projects and aspirations put Aish on the back burner. It took the doggedness and determination of Doni Gross to get us back together again. We are so grateful that he did. A lot has changed on the music scene since Aish has last released an album. Was there a push to modernize or revamp the classic Aish approach? Or

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new Aish. I must confess, however, that I have been struggling to compose original lyrics in English, as in the Journeys style. There is, however, good news. During the past year I’ve seen some encouraging success in that area as well and hope to be able to produce another Journeys album at some point in the future.

Abie with Shlomo Simcha and Doni Gross

was it about staying true to Aish’s roots? That is a difficult question to answer. I would have to say that I’m too old to change my spots even if I had an inclination to do so…and I don’t. Nevertheless, I don’t live in a vacu-

too old-fashioned for their contemporary tastes. There are also two songs on Aish 3 written by sons of mine. “Pdeh” possesses an old-fashioned simplicity that is deeply moving and hartzig. “Keshoshana” is a chuppah song of

“I was once on a riverboat

in Mexico and taught t he mariachi band onboard a Carlebach niggun.”

um and am exposed to the music of today at every concert and wedding I attend. Its influence upon me however, is certainly much less than it is upon today’s youth…simply because my “girsa d’yankesa,” the sounds I heard growing up, dominate my musical DNA. At the same time, I do enjoy the challenge of breaking new ground, and with Doni as a co-producer and arranger, it was much easier to venture a bit out of my comfort zone. I am hopeful that fans of my earlier music will not feel that I’ve strayed too far. I am also optimistic that the youth of today will not feel that the songs are

complexity and beauty that draws the heart closer to Hakadosh Baruch Hu as expressed so beautifully by Shlomo Hamelech in Shir Hashirim. Abie, there have been rumors that you’ve been experiencing some form of writer’s block during the past decade. Is there any truth to that? The answer is both yes and no. There has never been an extended period of time in my career during which I did not compose melodies. Some of them are, in fact, very close to my heart and are featured on the

I love it! Can’t wait! Can you tell us a bit more about who the new Aish album features? Aish 3 has an eclectic mix of voices and styles. We had wonderful guest vocalists including (in alphabetical order) Benny Friedman, Rivie Schwebel, Tzvi Silberstein and the very popular Israeli singer, Chaim Yisrael. Rivie is featured on the song “Lev Tahor” which is a melody I wrote a long time ago in honor of his 40th birthday. The niggun waited patiently on ice, aging like fine wine, for this special opportunity. As Rivie himself said, “To sing this song on Aish 3 was nothing short of a zechus. Aish is music that truly brings out the ‘fire’ in every person.” The compositions, in my opinion, are diverse, interesting and, in many cases, inspirational. We are very confident that the Jewish music public will enjoy and embrace it. And I truly thank you for granting us the opportunity to bring it to the public’s awareness through your wonderful publication. Is the album available for download purchase? CDs are available wherever Jewish music is sold. Downloads can be only be purchased directly from And, to show our appreciation, readers of The Jewish Home can save 20% off the list price, by entering “jewishhome20” when checking out online. On behalf of the readers, thank you. I already have the album and I, too, want to personally thank you for all of the great music that you have put out over the years. Personally, this album is exactly what the musical doctor ordered for me. I haven’t stopped listening to it for three days straight. Abie, you are the best we’ve got! Thank you!

The Week In News

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The Week In News

Continued Strikes in Yemen

Airstrikes in Yemen killed at least 31 civilians last Saturday, in what appears to be retaliation from Saudi Arabia after Iranbacked Houthi rebels claimed to have shot down one of its planes. Without stating the cause of the crash, a coalition statement from the official Saudi Press Agency reported that the crew had been ejected from the plane before the crash but were then shot at by the rebels in “violation of the international humanitarian law.” “The lives and wellbeing of the crew is the responsibility of the terrorist Houthi militia,” the statement said, without specifying whether or not the officers had survived. Houthi rebels released footage of their “advanced surface-to-air missile” being launched and striking their mark. “The downing of a Tornado in the sky above AlJawf is a major blow to the enemy and an indication of remarkable growth in Yemeni (rebel) air defense capabilities,” Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam tweeted. There has recently been an escalation in fighting around the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, as the rebels advance on several fronts towards Al-Hazm, the regional capital of Al-Jawf. The province of Al-Jawf has been in the hands of the Houthis, but Al-Hazm remains under control of the Saudi-backed government. The ability to take down a jet indicates the rebels’ increasingly stronger military capabilities. They now possess weapons bearing signs of Iranian origin, in potential violation of a UN arms embargo. According to a report compiled by a panel of UN experts, some of these new weapons display “technical characteristics similar to arms manufactured in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The panel didn’t indicate whether the weapons were delivered to the Houthis directly by the Iranian government, which has repeatedly denied doing so. The coalition first intervened against

the Houthis in 2015, in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, in what the UN has referred to as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Last Wednesday, the coalition reported that military personnel suspected of being behind the airstrikes would be put on trial.

U.S. and Taliban to Sign Deal

Following almost two decades of warfare and a year of talks, the U.S. and the Taliban are close to reaching a deal that will bring most U.S. troops home. According to Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, the two sides will sign an agreement by the end of the month. “Both sides have initiated the final draft of the peace agreement. Now talks are concluded,” he told journalists. He added that “both sides have agreed to sign the agreement by the end of this month” after created a “favorable environment before signing of the agreement.” While the parameters of the deal have yet to be confirmed, the agreement is said to mandate that the Taliban end attacks completely for a seven-day period. Should the ceasefire hold, the U.S. would then sign a peace deal with the Taliban that would see all U.S. troops brought home during an 18-month period. Speculation had been mounting that the two sides had been close to reaching a final agreement, especially after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper sat with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani in Munich last week. While confirming that an agreement was close, Esper said on Sunday that the start of the week-long “reduction in violence” had yet to be decided. “We have on the table right now a reduction in violence proposal that was negotiated between our ambassador and the Taliban,” Esper said. “It looks very promising.”

Airstrikes Flatten Weapons Depot in Syria Satellite photos showed the considerable damage resulting from an alleged Israeli airstrike on Damascus International




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The Week In News Airport last week. Released by the private intelligence firm ImageSat, the photos showed a slew of warehouses commonly used to store weapons utterly destroyed. Another multistory building near the structures was also totaled, with ImageSat concluding that the they were used as the warehouses’ headquarters. A large airplane hangar nearby was also bombed, with ImageSat saying that they “probably used for storing ammunition or [surface-to-air missiles].” According to reports, four Syrian troops and three Iranians were killed in the Thursday attack, despite claims by the Syrian military that none of the missiles caused any damage. The attack is said to have targeted a shipment of advanced Iranian weapons that had landed in the airport a few hours earlier. Videos posted on social media of the attack showed anti-aircraft missiles firing in all directions along with the sound of explosions. All of the Israeli warplanes made it back to base safely. The attack occurred about a week after another attack attributed to Israel against the pro-Iranian militias. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to respond to reports of an Israeli attack in Damascus, saying on Friday that “I can say that we have a general policy to act against Iran’s establishment in Syria.

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“I don’t know what happened at night. Maybe it was the Belgian air force,” Netanyahu quipped.

Equal Rights in Indian Army This week, India’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of equal rights in the armed forces, ordering the government to grant permanent commission and command positions to women officers on par with men. The judgment, seen as a landmark decision for the Indian military, means that all women will now be eligible for the same promotions, ranks, benefits and pensions as their male counterparts, irrespective of their years of service or whether they had retired. Female officers have long campaigned for this change, which will allow them to serve a full tenure and achieve a higher rank, with greater salary and leadership potential. Currently, women are inducted into the army through short service commissions, which only permit them to serve for 10 to 14 years. “This change will lift up women – not just in the army but all girls across the country and the world,” said Lt. Col. Seema Singh to reporters after the court ruling.

Though the court’s ruling does not permit women to serve in army combat units, like the infantry or artillery corps, they are now eligible to command entire battalions or head the intelligence department. Promotions to command positions will be considered on a case-by-case case basis, said Archana Pathak Dave, one of the lawyers representing the female officers. The decision comes after the government told the court that female officers were not physically and physiologically suitable to hold permanent commissions in the armed forces. “Women officers must deal with pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families and may not be well suited to the life of a soldier in the armed forces,” the central government stated. The court said that the government’s arguments were based on discriminatory gender stereotypes and rejected their plea to overturn a 2010 Delhi high court order on the same policy. In its 2010 ruling, the Delhi court stated: “A PC (Permanent Commission) carries with it certain privileges of rank, including pension. These women officers have served well the armed forces of the country in the areas of operation they were recruited for and have worked in this capacity for 14 to 15 years. They deserved better from the respondents.”

“In matters of gender discrimination, a greater sensitivity is expected and required,” it added. The Indian government agreed last year to give permanent commissions to women, but said it would only apply to female officers who had served less than 14 years -- excluding hundreds of women who had already served out their short service commissions. Aishwary Bhati, one of the lawyers representing female officers, said the government’s decision denied women a route to leadership positions: “It is not about money, it is about career prospects.” In handing down its verdict on Monday, the Supreme Court delivered a powerful defense of equality, saying in the judgment that it was time for change in India’s armed forces. “The time has come for a realization that women officers in the army are not adjuncts to a male dominated establishment whose presence must be ‘tolerated’ within narrow confines,” the court said.

Iran Sentences “Spies” On Tuesday, Tehran announced that it sentenced eight environmental activists, including an Iranian who reportedly also

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The Week In News has British and American citizenship, to prison sentences ranging from four to 10 years on charges of spying for the United States and acting against Iran’s national security. Two of the activists, Morad Tahbaz and Niloufar Bayani, got 10 years each and were ordered to return the money they allegedly received from the U.S. government for their services. Tahbaz is an Iranian who also holds U.S. and British citizenship. Iran does not recognize dual or multiple nationalities, meaning Iranians it detains cannot receive consular assistance from their other countries. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings before Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government. Gholamhossein Esmaili, the judiciary spokesman, said two other activists, Houman Jokar and Taher Ghadirian, each got eight-year sentences for allegedly “collaborating with the hostile government of America.” Another three of the activists, Sam Rajabi, Sepideh Kashan Doust and Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi, were sentenced to six years in prison each. The eighth activist, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, got four years. All the activists were arrested in early 2018. A ninth activist who was arrested at the time, Kavous Seyed Emami, an Irani-

FEBRUARY 20, 2020 | The Jewish Home

an-Canadian national, died while in custody under disputed circumstances in February 2018. His widow was then blocked from flying out of Iran but later made it out. Iran is also holding others with ties to the West, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years on allegations of planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling in Iran with her young daughter. Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the U.S.-backed shah, both are serving 10-year prison sentences on espionage charges. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing. Earlier this month, Iran’s supreme court confirmed the death penalty for Amir Rahimpour, who was convicted of spying for the CIA. Iranian state media have alleged that he had shared details of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program with the American spy agency. Iran has in the past has sentenced alleged American and Israeli spies to death. The last such spy executed was Shahram Amiri, who defected to the U.S. at the height of Western efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. When he returned in

2010, he was welcomed with flowers by government leaders and even went on the Iranian talk-show circuit. Then he mysteriously disappeared. He was hanged in August 2016.

Ghani Wins Second Term It’s been four months since the polls closed, but the country’s independent election commission announced this week that Ashraf Ghani has won a second term as president of Afghanistan. The commission said Ghani garnered 923,592 votes, or 50.64%, in the election that took place last September 28. His main challenger, the country’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, received 720,841 votes, or 39.52% of the vote. Ghani and Abdullah head a fragile national unity government that was put together under U.S. pressure after both leaders claimed victory in Afghanistan’s 2014 elections. 1.8 million Afghan citizens voted in the election out of some 9.6 million eligible voters. controversial. In an interview with The Associated Press before the election, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned that the election could be desta-

bilizing for the country at a time of deep political uncertainty. Tuesday’s election results came days after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced a truce agreement between the United States and the Taliban that could lead to the withdrawal of American troops from the country. Ghani has been critical of the way U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has conducted the talks with the Taliban, complaining about being kept in the dark. He first ran for president in 2009, capturing barely a quarter of the votes. He ran again in 2014 in what was considered a deeply flawed and corrupt exercise. Ghani holds a doctorate in Anthropology from Columbia University and first went to the U.S. as a high school exchange student. Except for a brief teaching stint at Kabul University in the early 1970s, Ghani lived in the United States, where he was an academic until joining the World Bank as a senior adviser in 1991. Ghani returned to Afghanistan after 24 years when the Taliban was ousted by the U.S.-led coalition. He was head of Kabul University until he joined President Hamid Karzai’s government as finance minister. In 2010 he led the lengthy process to transfer security of the country from U.S.led coalition forces to the Afghanistan National Security Forces, which took effect in 2014.

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