The Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Week In News
The Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
CONTENTS COMMUNITY Happenings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
JEWISH THOUGHT Living with the Times . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Torah Musings. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 The Weekly Daf . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
FEATURE The Amazing Return of the Yabloner Rebbe, Part Two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
LIFESTYLE Emotional Health. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Humor. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Book Review. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
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Dear readers, Man’s search for meaning—This, said famed neurologist Viktor Frankl, was man’s true pursuit. Not the pursuit of pleasure, not the pursuit of money. He realized this in the concentration camps during the Holocaust. He found that people who had a reason to live or who found purpose in the suffering were a lot more likely to survive. On a base level, we pursue pleasure, but if one digs deeper, we’re searching for meaning. Where can a Jew find meaning? In the search for truth. Take Jewish unity for example. It isn’t a feel-good slogan we say so we can get more done or to get along. The Jewish people really are one body, each of us is part of Kenesses Yisrael. When we connect with another, we are connecting to ourselves—just in a separate body. This is so true that it is reflected in halachah. One who was already yotzei kiddush can still make kiddush for someone who wasn’t yotzei because “kol Yisrael areivin ze lazeh—all of Israel are responsible one for the other.” If another yid hasn’t heard kiddush or put on tefillin or didn’t light Shabbos candles, our mitzvah is lacking. When we do something, positive or negative, it affects every other member of Klal Yisrael. We are in the same boat. I used to hate when my principal used that analogy to explain why everyone was being punished, but he was right. We are in one boat. Focusing on this reality can help us overcome our instinctive self-centeredness. The same is true regarding our belief in the Creator. We don’t believe in one because it gives us calm or because it makes us feel good. We believe in a Creator because this world was created. And this Creator really did communicate what He expects from us in the Torah. And ultimately the Mashiach really will come. Wishing you a most joyous Shabbos Mevorchim Adar II,
T H E P R E M I E R J E W I S H N E W S PA P E R H I G H L I G H T I N G L A’ S O R T H O D OX C O M M U N I T Y The Jewish Home is an independent bi-weekly newspaper. Opinions expressed by writers are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher or editor. The Jewish Home is not responsible for typographical errors, or for the kashrus of any product or business advertised within. The Jewish Home contains words of Torah. Please treat accordingly. FOR HOME DELIVERY, OR TO HAVE THE LATEST ISSUE EMAILED TO YOU FREE OF CHARGE, SEND A MESSAGE TO EDITOR@JEWISHHOMELA.COM
NOTICE TO CONTRACTORS CALLING FOR BIDS
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Week In News
Emek Hebrew Academy
Bid Date: March 22, 2019 at 10:00 am
Place of Bid Receipt:
Infinity Communications & Consulting, Inc. 4909 Calloway Dr., Suite 102 Bakersfield, CA 93312
Structured Cabling for Emek Hebrew Academy
Place Plans are on File:
https://www.infinitycomm.com/menus/projects.html & www.usac.org Infinity Communications & Consulting, Inc. 4909 Calloway Dr., Suite 102 Bakersfield, CA 93312
In accordance with Section 7057 of the Business and Professions Code, a Contractor with a “C-7 or C-10” license may bid. A Mandatory Pre-Bid Meeting will be conducted on March 7, 2019 at 10:00 am at Emek Hebrew Academy Office, located at: 15365 Magnolia Blvd., Sherman Oaks, California 91403. This meeting is Mandatory, ALL Contractors attending will be required to sign in at the time of arrival and are also required to stay for the duration of the PreConstruction Meeting. All questions concerning this project should be directed to: Ray Valenzuela Infinity Communications & Consulting, Inc. (661) 716-1840 office (661) 716-1841 fax firstname.lastname@example.org Each bid must conform and be responsive to the contract documents The projects and services depend on partial funding from the E-rate program. The OWNER expects each Contractor to make themselves thoroughly familiar with any rules or regulations regarding the E-rate program. All contracts entered into as a result of these Form 470’s will be contingent upon specific funding by the SLD at the percentage rate submitted. The percentage rate applicable to a particular Form 471 is the maximum that the District is liable for. The Contractor will be responsible to bill the government (USAC) for the balance. No billing or work shall be commenced before April 1, 2019. On the day of the bid the Contractor shall supply their Service Provider Identification Number (SPIN) and must certify that their SPIN is “current”. This project is anticipated to start after April 1, 2019, and is anticipated to have a duration of 180 days. All work shall be completed per the project schedule but no later than the project finish date. Liquidated damages in the amount of $500.00/day are included in this contract. All work shall be completed per the project schedule but no later than September 30, 2020. The OWNER reserves the right to reject any or all bids and/or waive any irregularities or informalities in any bids or in the bidding process. Each bid package will be awarded separately and independent of one another. The OWNER may, at their option, choose to award the projects to one contractor or any combination of contractors. The OWNER has determined the general prevailing rate of per diem wages in the locality in which this work is to be
performed for each craft or type of worker needed to execute this contract. These rates are on file at the SCHOOL DISTRICT office located at location. Copies may be obtained upon request. A copy of these rates shall be posted at each job-site. The schedule of per diem wages is based upon a working day of eight (8) hours. The rate for holiday and overtime work shall be at least time and onehalf. It shall be mandatory upon the contractor to whom the contract is awarded (CONTRACTOR), and upon any subcontractor under him, to pay not less than the said specified rates to all works employed by them in the execution of the contract. It is the CONTRACTOR’S responsibility to determine any rate change that may have or will occur during the intervening period between each issuance of written rates by the Director of Industrial Relations. During the Work and pursuant to Labor Code §1771.4(a)(4), the Department of Industrial Relations shall monitor compliance with prevailing wage rate requirements and enforce the Contractor’s prevailing wage rate obligations. Each Bidder must be a DIR Registered Contractor when submitting a Bid Proposal. The Bid Proposal of a Bidder who is not a DIR Registered Contractor when the Bid Proposal is submitted will be rejected for non-responsiveness. All Subcontractors identified in a Bidder’s Subcontractors’ List must be DIR Registered contractors at the time the Bid Proposal is submitted. The foregoing notwithstanding, a Bid Proposal is not subject to rejection for non-responsiveness for listing Subcontractor the Subcontractors List who is/are not DIR Registered contractors if such Subcontractor(s) complete DIR Registration pursuant to Labor Code §1771.1(c)(1) or (2). Further, a Bid Proposal is not subject to rejection if the Bidder submitting the Bid Proposal listed any Subcontractor(s) who is/are not DIR Registered contractors and such Subcontractor(s) do not become DIR Registered pursuant to Labor Code §1771.1(c)(1) or (2), but the Bidder, if awarded the Contract, must request consent of the District to substitute a DIR Registered Subcontractor for the non-DIR Registered Subcontractor pursuant to Labor Code §1771.1(c)(3), without adjustment of the Contract Price or the Contract Time. This project is subject to compliance monitoring and enforcement by the Department of Industrial Relations No bidder may withdraw his bid for a period of THIRTY (30) DAYS after the date set for the opening of the bids. A BID BOND shall be required and shall be supplied with the CONTRACTOR’S bid on the day of the bid. All bids shall be presented under sealed cover and accompanied by one of the following forms of bidder's security: cash, a cashier's check, certified check, or a bidder's bond executed by an admitted surety insurer, made payable to the trustees. The
security shall be in an amount equal to at least 10 percent of the amount bid. A bid shall not be considered unless one of the forms of bidder's security is enclosed with it. A Payment Bond and Performance Bond for contracts over $25,000.00 WILL BE required prior to the execution of the contract. The Payment and Performance Bond shall be in the form called for in the contract documents. Payment Bond and Performance Bond shall be provided upon receipt of the Notice to Proceed. Performance and Payment bonds shall be supplied prior to the beginning of construction. A Certificate of Insurance shall be required as well before work can begin. Pursuant to the provisions of the Public Contract Code, Sections 22300, CONTRACTOR may substitute certain securities for any funds withheld by OWNER to ensure their performance under the contract. At the request and expense of CONTRACTOR, securities equivalent to any amount withheld shall be deposited, at the discretion of the OWNER, with either OWNER or with a state or federally chartered bank, as the escrow agent, who shall then pay any funds otherwise subject for retention to CONTRACTOR. Upon satisfactory completion of the contract, the securities shall be returned to the CONTRACTOR. Securities eligible to investment shall included those listed in Government Code, Section 61430, bank and savings and loan certificates of deposit, interest bearing demand deposit accounts, standby letters of credit, or any other security mutually agreed to by CONTRACTOR and OWNER. CONTRACTOR shall be the beneficial owner of any securities substituted for funds withheld and shall receive any interest on them. The escrow agreement shall be essentially similar to the one indicated in the General Conditions. In accordance with Education Code section 17076.11, this district has a participation goal for disabled veteran business enterprises of at least 3 percent per year of the overall dollar amount of funds allocated to the district by the State Allocation Board pursuant to the Leroy F. Greene School Facilities Act of 1998 for construction or modernization and expended each year by the school district. Prior to, and as a condition precedent for final payment under any contract for such project, the contractor shall provide appropriate documentation to the district identifying the amount paid to disabled veteran business enterprises in conjunction with the contract, so that the district can assess its success at meeting this goal. Emek Hebrew Academy Erate Public Works 2018-2019 PUBLISH DATES: Week of: February 22, 2019 Week of: March 1, 2019
TheHappenings Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Chinuch of Today Weekend in Los Angeles Yehudis Litvak
Last weekend, the Los Angeles Jewish community had the opportunity to hear from the leading mechanchim in Eretz Yisrael who were brought to Los Angeles by Yedidim, a chinuch organization for Anglos living in Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Yaacov Goodman, the founder and head of Yedidim, described his organization as “EPIC: empowering parents, inspiring children.” The program offers mentoring for teens and preteens, guided by mental health professionals and social workers. Yedidim also provides guidance and resources for parents of struggling children, including referrals to professionals and follow up with the families “until the case is successfully closed,” said Rabbi Goodman. Since its founding in 2004, Yedidim has helped thousands of children in Eretz Yisrael. Now, Yedidim is reaching out to communities outside of Eretz Yisrael, providing much sought-after guidance in today’s confusing chinuch landscape. The Los Angeles weekend was Yedidim’s first large event in the U.S., and they are hoping to continue their work in other North American communities as well. The chinuch experts visiting the Greater Los Angeles area over the weekend included Rabbi Zev Leff, author and Rav
of Moshav Matisyahu; Rabbi Shimon Russell, L.C.S.W, B.C.D., a psychotherapist who recently opened a school for struggling girls in Israel; Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, author and founder of the Me’ohr Bais Yaakov Teachers Seminary in Yerushalayim; Rabbi Dov Brezak, author and popular lecturer on the subject of today’s challenges in chinuch; and Rabbi Dovid Kaplan, author and senior lecturer at Ohr Sameach Jerusalem. On Friday, these mechanchim visited several local schools and spoke to the students. Rabbi Russell also spoke to the teachers. On Shabbos, Rabbis Leff, Greenwald, and Russell spoke in several shuls in the city while Rabbis Brezak and Kaplan gave several lectures in the Valley. They covered such subjects as successful parenting and grandparenting, adolescence from a Torah perspective, the role of the home in chinuch, advocating for our children, and making the Shabbos table a positive experience for the whole family. On Shabbos afternoon, Rabbi Leff gave a special talk for women at the home of Avigail Rosenblatt. He spoke about how we perceive Torah and mitzvos—as fun or as hard work—and how to convey both the joy and the motivation to work
hard to our children. At the same time, Rabbi Russell spoke to local mechanchim on the subject of contemporary chinuch. On Motzaei Shabbos, the program culminated with a Chinuch Think Tank at Kanner Hall, which attracted hundreds of participants. At the Think Tank, a panel of chinuch experts answered questions submitted by parents in advance of the event. The panel was moderated by Rabbi Shlomo Einhorn, Dean of Yavneh Hebrew Academy. In addition to the visiting rabbis from Eretz Yisrael, the panel included Rabbi Boruch Gradon, Rosh Kollel of Merkaz Hatorah Community Kollel, and Rabbi Baruch Kupfer, Executive Director of Maimonides Academy. The questions at the Think Tank ranged from where to begin when raising young children to what to do when a teenager is found texting on Shabbos. The panelists highlighted the difficulties parents face today and emphasized the need for close relationships and open communication with one’s own children, as well as building a relationship with a chinuch mentor who the parents can turn to with questions as they come up. They also spoke about the importance of simchas hachaim and joy in the home, showing love to our chil-
dren and students, and teaching them that Hashem loves them. Another area discussed at the panel was the relationship between parents and teachers and the need for both to partner and work together when it comes to educating children. While teachers are, as Rabbi Brezak stated, “unsung heroes of Klal Yisrael,” they are human and can at times make mistakes. As parents, we need to express appreciation for their hard work, treat them with respect, and at the same time, advocate for our children when necessary. Rabbi Leff suggested involving an impartial mediator in particularly difficult situations. In addition to the events open to the public, the visiting chinuch experts also provided private consultations to members of the local community. Due to high demand, more consultations will be conducted over Skype. The Chinuch of Today weekend was very well received by the Los Angeles Jewish community. “The feedback that we have been getting is absolutely tremendous!” says Rabbi Goodman. “One mechanech said that this has changed his whole career. A parent told me that he wished he heard this 20 years ago.”
AIGYA Founder Phyllis Folb Receives Cohon Memorial Award Previous Winners Include Stand With Us and Museum of Tolerance Phyllis Folb, the American Israel Gap Year Association’s (AIGYA) Founder and Executive Director, received the Rabbi Samuel S. and A. Irma Cohon Memorial Foundation Award for individuals who have made a significant contribution to the entire Jewish people. This award comes on the heels of Folb being named on the Jewish Journal’s 2019 Mensch List. In addition to Ms. Folb, this year’s Cohon Memorial Award winners include founders of Kavod, and Leket Israel. These all join a list of prestigious past winners including Roz Rothstein of Stand With Us, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Museum of Tolerance, and recently deceased Rabbi Eckstein, of the International Federation of Christians and Jews. All the organizations honored reflect the four areas of focus for the Cohon Foundation: Unity, Education, Rescue, and the Creative Arts. The award was presented in Tucson, Arizona, in early February at Beit Simchah Synagogue. The synagogue is headed by Rabbi Samuel Cohon, the grandson of the Cohons and President of the Cohon Foundation. “It is so exhilarating to be acknowledged by the community for our work,”
says Ms. Folb. Folb founded AIGYA in 2013, and it’s dedicated to the Jewish continuity through making the breadth of the gap year experiences known and relevant to students across the denominational spectrum. Educational professionals agree that a gap year is a proven road to academic and personal success. For a Jewish student, a gap year in Israel is a life changing experience where they take ownership of their Jewish identity, deepen their relationship to Israel and the Jewish people, and become more engage in Jewish life on campus. Rabbi Baruch Cohon, who created the foundation in the name of his parents, says AIGYA takes students at their most vulnerable age and gives them a great opportunity to become active and valuable members of Klal Yisrael. The Cohon Memorial Foundation was founded in 2003 to honor the memories of Rabbi Samuel S. Cohon and his wife Irma, both leaders in the Reform movement and champions of the totality of the Jewish people. Organizing the only cross-denominational Israel gap year fair in the country, AIGYA personifies what the Cohons stood for. Rabbi Samuel Cohon said, “The honor
Rabbi Baruch Cohon and Mrs. Phyllis Folb
of Judaism is entrusted to the Jewish community as a whole and to each individual Jew to demonstrate its truth, dignity, and beauty.” Folb concludes, “With the Cohon Award, we hope to deepen our work engaging students, from all philosophical points of view, to make use of our services
to find their right direction on a gap year in Israel.” For more information on American Israel Gap Year Association see www.aigya. org. For more information about the Cohon Memorial Award, visit http://www. cohonaward.com.
TheHappenings Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
An Exceptional Life, An Exceptional Legacy, An Exceptional Tribute: Shuvu to Dedicate Girl’s Netanya High School in memory of Rebbetzin Shelia Feinstein, a”h Avrohom Younger Rebbetzin. Mechanaches. Principal. Mother of a yeshiva. Role model. Inspiration to thousands. Rebbetzin Shelia Feinstein, a”h, was unique. In her 50 years an educator—in Bais Yaakov, in public school, in Shaare Tora, in the Yeshiva of Staten Island—she impacted students, teachers, parents, and whomever she came into contact with. With wit, wisdom, and insight—and sometimes by just being who she was and not saying a word—she inspired them to grow, to reach beyond themselves. Shuvu, too, is unique. It impacts its students and their families. With love, warmth, and joy it embraces its students, inspiring them and their families to grow, to reach beyond themselves. Just a month ago, Harav Reuven Feinstein, shlit”a, Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva of Staten Island, led a joint American-British mission to visit Shuvu schools in Eretz Yisrael. He was amazed by the devotion, professionalism, love, and concern of the
staff. He was captivated by how thoroughly the children know what they are taught, and in awe of how they are motivated inspired to grow in their learning and their Yiddishkeit. When a 12th-grade classroom in the Petach Tikvah girl’s high school was dedicated in memory of his late Rebbetzin, he was too overwhelmed to speak, but he later shared with those close to him how much the school reflected her educational and inspirational values and approach, and how appropriate a tribute this was to her. When the Rosh Yeshiva was later asked about family members and talmidim undertaking a campaign to dedicate a new girl’s high school in Netanya in the Rebbetzin’s memory, the Rosh Yeshiva was delighted by the idea and immediately agreed. The campaign, spearheaded by the Rebbetzin’s nephew, the well-known askan, Beinish Kaplan of Los Angeles, and his family, is being undertaken in
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conjunction with Shuvu’s annual dinner, which is being chaired Rabbi Mordechai Eisenberg, a grandson of the Rosh Yeshiva and Rebbetzin, who is the Rosh Kollel of Kolel Hora’ah of America, located in Marlboro, New Jersey. Talmidim and friends of the Rosh Yeshiva and Rebbetzin are certain to take advantage of the dedication opportunities available in the school. Additionally, donors will be listed on a scroll of honor, one copy of which will be hung in the school and another copy of which will be presented to the Rosh Yeshiva.
Also being honored at the dinner are Rabbi Mordechai Twerski, Hornsteipler Rebber, Rabbinic Awardee, Mr. David Blachman, International Guest of Honor and Mr. Simcha Shain, Community Chesed Awardee. The dinner is also being chaired by Meny Hoffman of PTex, and Yitzy Berger is Journal Chairman. The dinner will iy”H take place Motzei Shabbos, March 9th at the Palace in Brooklyn. Please call Shuvu’s office at 718-6923434 to be part of this historic and important tribute.
TheHappenings Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Rabbi Dr. Natan Slifkin Unites a Love for Zoology and a Thirst for Torah Rebecca Klempner Rabbi Natan Slifkin, the director of the Biblical Museum of Natural History in Israel, has spent over 20 years studying the connections between animals and Judaism. On Sunday, March 3rd, he will be hosting a “Feast of Exotic Curiosities” in Beverly Hills. The event provides a unique opportunity for Angelenos to learn a bit more about kashrus—in the tastiest of ways. Connecting Zoology and Judaism Rabbi Slifkin has been fascinated with the animal kingdom since his youth. “[A] s a child,” he admits, “I always dreamed of running a zoo.” More than two decades ago, he started researching what Jewish sources had to say about animals, and he was delighted to find a plethora of material. He’s written several books on the connections between Judaism and zoology (including The Torah Encyclopedia of the Animal Kingdom, Sacred Monsters, and Perek Shirah: Nature’s Song) and leads tours at zoos and natural history museums around the world based on his work. In 2016, Rabbi Slifkin even successfully defended a doctoral dissertation at Bar-Ilan University on the history of rabbinic encounters with zoology. Four years ago, he was able to organize the Biblical Museum of Natural History. Located in Beit Shemesh, The Biblical Museum of Natural History combines an educational mission with pleasure. Rabbi Slifkin explains, “We have a spectacular array of both inanimate and live exhibits, and the tours feature interaction with the animals. The various exhibits include ‘The Wonders of Creation,’ ‘The Wildlife of Biblical Israel,’ ‘The Signs of Kosher Creatures,’ ‘Biblical Reptiles,’ ‘Horns and Shofars,’ and more.” Since its opening, the museum has hosted more than 50,000 visitors. Rabbi Slifkin gets particular pleasure from the variety of visitors who come of all ages, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and across the entire spectrum of religious observance. Tours are given in Hebrew, English,
and Yiddish. In a few months, the museum will move to an attractive—and significantly larger—facility facing the entrance to Beit Shemesh. Learning by Taste A year after the Biblical Museum of Natural History opened, Rabbi Slifkin explains, “we decided to do a fundraiser that wouldn’t just be a regular banquet, but rather would reflect the unique nature and educational mission of the museum. We decided to create a feast that would feature species that are kosher, but which are never normally available and which many people do not realize are kosher, accompanied by entertaining presentations about each course.” The details of planning these events are complicated. Due to the rarity of some species, arrangements for shechitah, and sorting out the kashrus supervision, the initial event was expensive—but also very popular. Rabbi Slifkin gives credit to Dr. Ari Greenspan and Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, the museum’s halachic consultant for dreaming up these feasts. Together, Greenspan and Zivotofsky organized several past versions of these events. However, the complexities of planning these programs eventually led to the pair to stop producing them. Rabbi Slifkin says that operating out of a museum—rather than independently—has allowed him to more easily source the animals necessary to continue this type of event. What to Expect This year’s feast is a follow up to last year’s “Biblical Feast of Birds & Beasts.” The meal was very successful, but Rabbi Slifkin decided to make some changes. “This year, the event…features more exotic species that are not all biblical and that were not served last year—hence, the new name of ‘A Feast of Exotic Curiosities.’” For the museum’s Israeli feasts, chef Moshe Basson prepares the Feast of Exotic Curiosity’s delicacies. He is renowned as Israel’s ‘Biblical Chef’ and bases his
recipes on ones from antiquity. Rabbi Slifkin says, “In the U.S., it’s a little more difficult to find professional chefs who are up to the challenge, but so far we have succeeded!” In case readers are wondering what is served at these feasts, Rabbi Slifkin says
Farewell Shabbos at Bais Naftoli King Solomon said, “There is a time for everything, a time to cry and a time to celebrate.” Andrew Friedman, President of Congregation Bais Naftoli for the last 27 years, said that it is now time to celebrate the accomplishments of Bais Naftoli and transfer the shul to Congregation Ohr Hachaim. The celebration will consist of two consecutive farewell Shabbosim, when services will be conducted by world famous Cantors Benzion Miller, Nati Baron, and Yehuda Green on February 23, 2019 and March 2, 2019. A kiddush lun-
cheon will follow the davening sponsored by the Frankel and Friedman families. The congregation was founded by a group of Holocaust survivors who unfortunately are no longer with us. During decades of service to the Jewish community, the congregation has provided a free mikvah, daily morning and evening minyanim, and daily shiurim in English, Ivrit, and Yiddush. Prominent rabbinic and civil leaders frequented the synagogue, including the Skvere and Viznitzer Rebbes and Governor Jerry Brown.
The congregation, through its community outreach program, has been a strong advocate for Jewish causes with public officials. The Los Angeles Fire Department and Fire Commission have totally supported Hatzolah and its life-saving work as a direct intervention by President Andrew Friedman while he was a Fire Commissioner. The Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, as a result of the intervention of Bais Naftoli, successfully saved lives within the Jewish community.
that he doesn’t learn until shortly before the event, when it is clear which species they were able to obtain. At the time of publication, he anticipates the menu will include pheasant, guinea fowl, muscovy duck, venison, and locust. “But we were only able to catch two sparrows, and so we will be putting one in the soup (so that everyone can say that they ate sparrow), and we will be auctioning off the other one!” Regarding the pheasant, Rabbi Slifkin has a charming story with a local spin: “When we served pheasant at our event in Israel, our foundation chairman, Mr. Lee Samson, of Beverly Hills, told a fascinating story about his father, the late Mr. Julius Samson…In 1960, a client of his paid for his legal services with a brace of pheasants. But he had no idea if pheasants were kosher, so he turned to Rabbi Dolgin of Beth Jacob. Rabbi Dolgin was also unsure and turned to Rav Moshe Feinstein, who forbade it, since he did not know of any kosher tradition for pheasant. “Mr. Samson…was therefore thrilled that he was finally able to eat pheasant at our event. “While the tradition for kosher pheasant was unknown to most, it did survive and was transmitted in our generation through two people: the late Rav Yosef Kappach and the late Rav Shimon Cutler, shochet and longtime chazzan at my old shul in Manchester, England.” In case you are wondering what Rabbi Slifkin’s favorite items on the event menu, he says his favorites are the pheasant and the venison dishes. He also enjoys the locusts. “Crunchy on the outside, with a chewy center!” he proclaims. However, he admits that not everyone shares his opinion. “My wife, for example, is locust-intolerant.” Anyone interested in attending the event can book a seat by visiting the webpage: www.BiblicalNaturalHistory.org/ FeastLA.
The Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
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Living with the Times The Week In News
By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman
I read an obituary last week which greatly inspired me. No, it was not in the Yated, it was way too short and besides it wasn’t about the type of person we normally write about. The article was about an old man who lived to 95. The father of three, “grandfather of three and great-grandfather of three, died February 17 at his home in Carmel, NY.” That was the first sentence. The second sentence reads: “He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, was a master gardener and raised orchids, and was president of several companies.” And that’s it. That’s all there is to write about the man from Carmel who lived to 95. One could be excused for thinking that his greatest accomplishment was to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Interestingly, the article doesn’t say if he stood out in his fighting ability or earned any medals for his valor under fire. We can be excused for thinking that he was a simple soldier. He enlisted, or more likely was drafted into the army. Went through training, learned how to shoot, and was sent to the battlefield. Thankfully he survived, though that was not as great an accomplishment as fighting. Surviving that particular battle was no simple matter, it was the second-most lethal battle for Americans in the Second World War, killing 19,276 American men and boys in a six-week period. Ultimately, the allies won and defeated the Germans, bringing the end of WWII much closer. The man from Carmel fought in that war. Very impressive. And that’s about it for him. He had three children, which is also an impressive accomplishment. And that’s really basically all there is to say about him. How sad. So many decades spent in this world and so little to say for all that time. Now, he also gardened, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is quite a nice activity. It provides exercise, is calming, and usually is productive, helping the earth to give forth fine produce and flowers. This man apparently took a special interest in growing orchids, some-
thing his biographer finds quite important to mention. Don’t get me wrong, orchids are difficult to grow. In fact, I read somewhere that even professional growers can not keep many of them alive. The statement that he was president of several companies, seems to indicate that he did okay for himself financially, but we can’t be sure because it is added like an afterthought. His life was about gardening and the Battle of the Bulge. I hope nobody sues me and I have no hideous intention to libeling this man, but the obituary got me thinking. There is so much we can accomplish here, but life is so fleeting, and if we don’t set ourselves to it, we may wake up one day and have accomplished little more than gardening and toying with orchids. Why think such morbid thoughts at the outset of Adar Beis, just a couple weeks ahead of Purim and the most festive time of the Jewish calendar. Firstly, because everything that happens and everything we read and see should prompt us to learn a lesson and become a better person. Chancing on the obituary was for a purpose, for in our lives there is no chance, everything is for a reason. This week we read parshas Vayakheil, its name referring to the morning after Yom Kippur when Moshe gathered together the Jewish people as he returned from Har Sinai with the second set of luchos. He spoke to them about constructing the mishkon and the need for their donations of the material necessary for the mishkon and its keilim; and the clothing of the kohanim. The people rushed to bring of their possessions and craftsmen lined up to assist in the construction effort under the direction of Bezalel. Donating and working in unison, the job was completed. This Shabbos we “bentch rosh chodesh” proclaiming the arrival of Adar Beis, the month in which the nes purim took place as the Jews came together as one unit, fasting, praying and doing teshuvah. This week is also Parshas Shekolim, as
we read the first six pesukim of parshas Ki Sisa which speak of the commandment to count the Jewish people. Every man over the age of twenty contributed a half-shekel coin (to the avodah of the mishkon and korbanos tzibur) and those coins were counted. The poor could not give a smaller denomination coin and the rich could not give one that was more valuable. Everyone was obligated to give a half-shekel coin. Many commentators discuss why the Torah favored a half-shekel, as opposed to each person giving a complete shekel. The oft-quoted explanation was provided by Rav Shlomo Alkabetz, Tzefas mystic and most famously the author of Lecha Dodi, who said that this is to show that each person on his own is only a part, he only becomes a whole, when he joins with the rest of the community. Rabbeinu Bachya takes it a step deeper and says that since these coins also brought about forgiveness - the posuk refers to their contribution as kofer nefesh – that is caused when a person donates for the greater community. Just as the coins join together and are used for the greater communal good, so too the merits of each individual are joined together with the others and each participant is accredited with the communal accomplishment. Such achdus has a tremendous power, giving the individual the strength of everyone together. No person can stand up to the microscope of the mishpot of the Beis Din Shel Maaloh, but when the people are united then they all rise together and every individual’s zechuyos are combined into one large communal zechus which belongs to each participant. The Alter of Kelm doesn’t quote Rabbeinu Bachya, but he takes it a step further, and explains that something that one person does by himself can’t accomplish the same thing as when two people together perform the same act. If one middle class person seeks to invest his money he cannot expect a handsome gain, however if a group of people pool together their money they can create a larger business and profit much more than each person would have on his own with a small business.
The same applies with charity, one person on his own cannot provide all the support the poor need. However, if many people join together and each gives what he can, the poor will have been provided for, and each individual is rewarded as if he had provided for all the poor people the group’s contributions supported. The mishkon as well could not have been built had everyone not responded to Moshe’s appeal for material and labor; it was only because each person contributed, therefore the credit for construction of the holy edifice was accrued to each person. It is for this reason that the Torah states than no man can give more than another for the count, to show that since each person did what they can for the greater good, it is considered as if each person built the mishkon. One person cannot move a heavy rock, but if a large people join together, their efforts receive added strength and they can accomplish what they want. Our days are numbered, but the more we join with others, the more we come together as a group, the more we can accomplish and the more zechuyos we earn for ourselves. The actions which we can perform in our limited years take on much more effectiveness and eternity when we don’t stand off alone, unaccompanied, but as part of a shul, a community, Am Yisroel. If you look at a beautifully landscaped field, it is each blade of grass which contributes to the beauty. One blade on its own is barely perceptible, but when you combine one perfect blade with another and another and another, you begin to have something to marvel over. The same is with a field of flowers, orchids for example. Each orchid by itself needs to be nourished and cared for to survive and stand out for its beauty and colorization. But what is even more beautiful is when you observe a field of orchids. Every member of Klal Yisroel is like an orchid, with proper care, nourishment and light, it is something beautiful. But the beauty of our people is so much greater if all the orchids join together and provide a display of gorgeous exquisiteness way off into the horizon. This week we have three achdus markers: Vayakheil, Shekolim and Chodesh Adar. Let us have had enough of squabbling, of finding fault, of speaking negatively about and to other people. Let us resolve to join together, to help each other grow, to nurture one another and to see the beauty in each other. Like one who raises orchids.
The Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
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The Week In News Torah Musings
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Facing Ourselves Sarah Pachter
According to Google, women look in the mirror an average of 71 times a day! In the bathroom, at work, at the gym—and who isn’t guilty of sneaking a peak by a storefront window? The mirror is just a reflective piece of glass that shows us an image of ourselves, yet we obsessively gaze at and scrutinize our face, eyes, and imperfections. Is this pure vanity? Or could there be something deeper behind the concept of reflections? Let us look into a seemingly unrelated topic, the luchot, for the answer. If the tablets were so holy and written by G-d Himself, why would Moshe break them? We have heard the story so many times that we are no longer shocked by this seeming act of defiance and rage. Moshe’s role was to teach the Jewish people and pass on the Torah for future generations. Shattering the tablets seems antithetical to his role, and at face value, a disgrace to Hashem’s honor. Today, we have tremendous respect for our Sefer Torahs and holy books. If someone accidentally drops a Chumash or siddur, we immediately pick it up and offer a kiss to its cover. If one were to accidentally drop a Sefer Torah, they would fast! Yet immediately after breaking the tablets, rather than expressing remorse, Moshe asks G-d to see His face. (Shemot 33:18) On the surface, this request seems quite brazen. No one is allowed to see Hashem’s face. And Moshe’s timing— right after breaking the luchot—seems terrible. In order to understand this incident, it is helpful to compare it to another incident dealing with Moshe, G-d, and reflections. During their first encounter at the burning bush, Hashem calls down, “Moshe, Moshe...and Moshe said hineni—here I am.” (Shemot 3: 1-12) G-d asks Moshe to lead the Jews out of Egypt. Rather than acquiescing, Moshe supplies excuses. He offers his brother as a leader and brings up his speech impediment. Hashem insists, and, ultimately, He wins. Directly after this encounter, Moses hides his face, afraid to gaze towards G-d (Shemot 3:4).
At first glance, it seems these two “face” experiences should be reversed. Moshe should have asked to see G-d’s face upon their initial encounter at the burning bush, and hidden his face in shame after breaking the tablets. The circumstances become even more complex if you compare G-d’s punishments (or lack thereof) following Moshe’s breaking of the tablets to the infamous moment when Moshe hit the rock in the desert. G-d did not punish Moshe for breaking the stone tablets, yet He punished him severely for striking a rock in order to provide water for the parched Jewish people. One might argue that providing water for the Jewish people in the desert could have been considered pikuach nefesh—saving the life of another—a mitzvah that for which you can desecrate Shabbat. However, G-d determines that hitting the rock will prohibit Moshe from entering the land of Israel (Bamidbar 20:8). How could hitting a rock—which did not encompass Hashem’s name—lead to such a severe punishment, while breaking the tablets elicits no reaction? Let’s examine Moshe’s intentions surrounding the shattering of the tablets. Imagine a king is engaged to be wed. A date has been set, and the formal contract is written up. He leaves town before the wedding with the assumption that upon his return they will have the formal ceremony. When he arrives home, he discovers that his soon-to-be wife has been involved in illicit behavior. Outraged, the king declares a severe punishment for his betrothed. His advisor comes running towards him and says, “Please don’t be upset!! It’s not technically adultery because you are not officially married yet. I will rip up the contract, and you can start anew!” Similarly, Mount Sinai was our “wedding” to G-d. Hashem saw the Jews committing idolatry when we should have been preparing to receive the Torah—our formal wedding. Hashem was outraged and wanted to destroy us. Moshe begged G-d to abandon this idea by pleading, “Wait! don’t harm them! I’m breaking the
luchot (marriage contract). You are not yet married yet, so technically they did nothing wrong.” (Shemot 3:1- 4:18) But the reason for Moshe’s destruction of the tablets goes even deeper. When G-d saw that the Jews were worshipping the Golden Calf, He became angry and wanted to destroy the Jewish people and rebuild a new nation solely from Moshe. Moshe did something outrageous in response. He broke the tablets, essentially saying, “Now you can’t start a new nation from me because I’m just like them. I’m also sinning. The Jewish nation and I are one.” His love for the Jewish people was so strong that he was willing to give up both his physical and spiritual life so that we may have ours. This is what a true leader is. This is quite a transformation! When G-d originally called upon Moshe by the burning bush, Moshe didn’t think he was capable of leading us out of Egypt and pleaded with G-d not to get involved. Years later, he became so connected to the Jewish people that he was willing do anything for them. At the burning bush, the Torah even hints that Moshe will one day reach his potential by listing his name twice. There are only three other examples in the Torah when a person’s name is repeated in such a manner (Noach, Avraham, and Terach). Anytime the Torah repeats someone’s name this way, it represents the two parts inherent in every person. One is the earthly, physical image, and the other is the image in shamayim of who we are supposed to become at the end of our lives. The question we must ask ourselves is: Do these images match? Do they reflect one another the way a mirror would reflect an object, or are they disappointingly different? When the Torah duplicates the language of a person’s name, it indicates that the two images were a perfect match. A story is told about the Netziv, a famous commentator on the Torah, which illustrates this concept beautifully. When the Netziv was a young boy, he had diffi-
culty in school. One evening, he overheard his parents speaking with dismay over what would become of him. They agreed he would have to be trained as a shoemaker, a lowly profession at the time, rather than a scholar. That night, the Netziv dreamt that he had passed away, and in Olam Haba Hashem asked him, “Where were your books? Where are your commentaries?” The Netziv responded, “What do you mean? Here are my shoes. I made a parnassah, I gave much tzedakah, but I was no scholar.” Hashem replied in dismay, “No! You were supposed to be the Netziv, a great scholar. Look at all these sefarim...they were supposed to be yours.” This dream shook the Netziv to his core, leading to a spiritual awakening which propelled him to fulfill his mission on Earth. We all have a purpose, and no one else can achieve our individual life goal. Only our neshamah has the power to do what we need to do, and the choice to match our two images is ours alone. Just like Moshe, and just like the Netziv, we all have an image of who we are supposed to become. Are we meeting our potential? Are we fulfilling our dreams, or our purpose? Moses did, and we can, too. Perhaps this is what is meant when we say that every person has the potential to be like Moshe Rabbeinu. Certainly no one else will achieve prophecy and bring down the Torah. Yet, we can all become the best version of ourselves, bridging the gap between our higher and lower images. A mirror is a physical representation of this spiritual concept. We can choose to use our reflection for introspection rather than merely gazing superficially at our image—71 times a day we have an opportunity to ask ourselves if we are fulfilling our mission! The next time you look in a mirror, take a moment to reflect on whether you are taking advantage of your time on this world, melding your physical and spiritual selves into one.
The Week In News Humor
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Star Struck Rebecca Klempner I am way less cool than I think I am. On a recent morning, I went running in Pan Pacific Park here in L.A. After three laps, I headed to the playground so I could do yoga and bodyweight exercises on the all-weather surface. In the middle of hero pose, as I was focusing on pulling my shoulder blades down and together, stretching my arms up, someone said, “Hi!” in a friendly manner. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I looked up... And it was Jeff Goldblum. (To those of my readers who don’t know who Jeff Goldblum is, he’s an actor and jazz musician who makes a frequent appearance in science fiction films. To those you who don’t understand how I know who Jeff Goldblum is because you
know I don’t own a TV, don’t have Netflix, and rarely watch a movie, you need to understand that I was the nerdiest of the nerds as a kid. My teens were bookended by The Fly remake and the film adaptation of Jurassic Park.) I mumbled, “Hello,” then went back to hero pose. Afraid that if I opened my mouth, I’d blurt out, “THE END OF THE FLY WAS SO SCARY, I RAN FROM THE THEATER,” I moved from hero pose to a deep squat and then into warrior pose, outwardly ignoring Jeff as he played with his kids on the playground equipment. Inwardly, however, I kept thinking, Jeff Goldblum just said, “Hi!” to me! Twenty years into living in L.A., I should know how to handle this better.
I’ve bumped into Mila Jovovich returning something at Bed Bath and Beyond when buying sheets, browsed books at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books while Jane Seymour paid for her purchase at the register, and shopped for Chanukah gifts at Toys ‘R’ Us (alev hashalom) beside Lisa Kudrow—twice. And I can talk to celebrities without sounding like an idiot, at least sometimes. Once, while crossing La Brea Avenue, I was stopped by Terence Stamp. “Excuse me,” Terence said. “Can you give me direction to the Farmer’s Market.” In response, I gave him perfectly coherent directions and even managed a smile. Then I crossed the street very quickly, entered my place of work—a local day school—and nearly burst into tears, be-
cause nobody, I mean nobody, in that office knew who Terence Stamp was and all I wanted to do was shout, “I GAVE GENERAL ZOD DIRECTIONS!” My fangirling extends to less shallow levels of celebrity. When Rabbi Orlowek circulates at a kiddush after he speaks in shul, I am incapable of coherent speech. Once, someone encouraged me to approach Sara Yocheved Rigler after a speaking engagement, and I turned magenta and ran in the opposite direction. And when my friend Devorie mentioned she’s related to the poet Yehoshua November, I squealed. I like to think I’m mature, refined. I aspire to be a lofty Yid. But my goofy reaction to Jeff proves that deep down, I’m still as nerdy as I was in high school.
Am I Alive? Rabbi Dov Heller, LMFT I am most fully alive when I am most fully me. I cannot think of a more important psychological principle than this. The more I am living in harmony with my unique feelings, needs, perceptions, and creativity, the more alive I feel. As Henry Thoreau put it, “Most people live lives of quiet desperation and take their song with them to the grave.” Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Do you feel that you haven’t discovered your unique song; your unique message, your unique offering? There is no greater psychological need than to become yourself. Sarah has been a religious Jew for 15 years, married with two children. For the last three years she has awakened each morning dreading being religious. She feels so entrenched in her lifestyle that she believes there’s no alternative but to push on even though she knows she’s faking it. Sarah is living a life she does not own, and she’s dying inside as a result. Her hus-
band, on the other hand, is a happy camper, loving the religious life—in fact, he has become even more religious over the past three years. What is Sarah to do? Does she choose a path of more personal authenticity or suck it up and suffer for the sake of her family? This is a gut-wrenching decision. What indeed is the right thing for her to do? I have no question that the right thing for Sarah to do is to face the truth and begin a frightening yet courageous journey to explore who she really is, what she truly wants in life, and what Judaism really means to her at this point in her journey. One thing for sure is that as long as she continues to fake it and not take ownership of her life, she will suffer and feel dead. We direct our daily prayers to “the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac, the G-d of Jacob.” Jewish tradition informs us that the reason for the repetition of “G-d” with each of the patriarchs is to teach us that each one created their own unique rela-
tionship with G-d and their own special spiritual path. Imagine growing up in Abraham’s home and being his son. Do you think there might just be a tiny bit of pressure to become like Dad? Yet, Isaac forged his own unique path to becoming his unique self. This could not have been easy for him. Yet to become a copy of his father would have been psychological death and there would be no place for him in Jewish history. The world already had an Abraham. What the world needed was an Isaac. The same applies to each of us. The world doesn’t need another person like your friend, neighbor, or mentor. The world desperately needs you to be you! Are you on the path to true differentiation and becoming your unique self or are you trying to copy someone else? If you are a wannabe, you are for sure not feeling fully alive. If I am choosing life, then I am choosing to be me in all my uniqueness. The most direct path towards discov-
ering your true self is to be emotionally honest. Ask yourself: Am I truly happy with the life I’m living? Do I feel trapped in my career or some significant relationship? We often lie to ourselves because facing the truth is painful. In the end, we make a trade-off between which type of pain we can tolerate. On the one hand, there is the pain of living inauthentically and being stuck. On the other hand, there is the pain of change. The pain of change is almost always greater, which is why we’re willing to suffer with the pain of maintaining the status quo. We lie to ourselves when we try to make peace with a life that is not fully our own. Others may tell us how impressed they are with our lifestyle, but in those quiet alone moments we know the truth. Ask yourself the hard questions. As Hillel said, “If not now, when?”
Torah The Week In News
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Weekly Daf Is the gid hanasheh halachically considered a food? Rabbi Shmuel Wise, Maggid Shiur of RealClearDaf.com
We dealt with this question on Wednesday’s daf this week (92b). Rav there makes the surprising statement that the main branch of the sciatic nerve itself is not prohibited whatsoever, rather, only the soft and edible offshoots of the gid hanasheh are prohibited. Rav argues that since the main stem of the sciatic nerve is as tasteless as wood it is unreasonable that the Torah issued a prohibition not to eat it. Ulla disagrees and asserts that though the sciatic nerve’s main stem is tasteless, the Torah nonetheless forbade its consumption. How does Ulla respond to Rav’s point that the main stem is inedible? In the Achronim we find two approaches. The first
approach (Pri Megadim, Chazon Ish) is that, in Ulla’s view, in spite of the fact that gid hanasheh is essentially tasteless the Torah teaches that it is nevertheless classified as a food. The Rogatchover Gaon suggests a different approach. The Rogatchover is dealing with the opinion of R’ Chisda from Monday’s daf (90b) that we burn the gid hanasheh of a korban olah on the mizbe’ach. Why isn’t this a violation of the halachah that we may only offer kosher animal parts on the mizbe’ach? The Rogatchover explains that R’ Chisda agrees with Ulla that the gid hanasheh prohibition applies to the sciatic nerve’s tasteless main stem and thus gid hanasheh is not a prohibited food. Since
only non-kosher food is disqualified for the mizbe’ach, offering the gid hanasheh isn’t an issue. The Artscroll uses a term here which I think is very helpful in understanding the Rogatchover’s approach: “ingest.” The prohibition of gid hanasheh is not a prohibition not to eat a food, but a prohibition not to ingest the gid hanasheh part. The upshot of all of this is that while normally eating prohibitions would
The King’s Horse by Leah Sokol (Feldheim Publishers 2019)
Creation Colors by Ann D. Koffsky (2019 Apples & Honey Press) Reviewed by Rebecca Klempner
The King’s Horse by Leah Sokol employs a novel perspective—that of Achashveirosh’s trusty steed—to provide a fanciful, yet accurate, retelling of Megillat Esther which is perfect for newly independent readers. The text, just under 50 pages long, is just simple enough to be read by a child (perhaps of age 6 or 7) starting to read chapter books, while the horse’s slightly snarky voice (“Humans. There is no point in trying to figure them out.”) will keep them engaged throughout the story. In the illustrations, by Joni Aliza Baroda, horses prance and gallop in full color. I also enjoyed the sweet little decorative touches which were inspired by the Persian artistic heritage. Many retellings of the story of Esther overlook midrashic explanations of events or remove elements they find objection-
able (the deaths of Haman and his sons, for example), thereby irking frum readers. Ironically, although this version of the story borders on the fantastic, it is one of the retellings most consistent with traditional understandings of the tale that I’ve seen. The author’s skill at balancing playfulness and mesorah is both very clever and a delight. Even though we all know how the story ends, Sokol manages to give us a twist ending. The book concludes with some facts about Purim and horses. The King’s Horse is a wonderfully fresh take on a familiar tale. It’s available both in Judaica stores and via online retailers. Ann D. Koffsky’s Creation Colors uses intricate papercuts to tell the story of Creation. Picture book readers (approximately ages 2 to 6) will revel in the extraordinary, layered images Koffsky created. The text
is told in direct, almost poetic, language, and is straightforward enough for those young readers. Again, this is a book accurate enough for the discerning frum reader, but in this case, it would also be very appealing for the Christian audience. Another nice touch: On the page that depicts the creation of humans, we read, “And then it was time for the people. G-d started with just two.” Koffsky provides us with a distinctly brown Adam and a white Chava—beautifully and modestly portrayed from the shoulders up, turned away. Then the next page reads, “But soon there were many, many more, in every shade and hue.” The picture that accompanies it is wonderfully inclusive. Creation Colors would be a perfect purchase for a young child or for preschool or Hebrew school use. It will be available online and at brick-and-mortar stores on April 1st.
only apply to something that is edible in the plain sense of the word, Ulla’s gid hanasheh does not conform to this standard. The Torah either taught that this inedible nerve stem is halachically considered a food, or that a person is liable simply for ingesting it, despite the fact that according to halachah he didn’t eat anything.
The Week In News Feature
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Amazing Return of the
Yabloner Rebbe How one man managed to come back to his people after a devastating loss By Rabbi Pini Dunner
ith World War II over, the shipyard no longer needed George Nagel, but his many years working in construction and engineering would not go to waste. Southern California was in the midst of a massive construction boom, particularly in the San Fernando Valley adjacent to Los Angeles. The small suburban communities which had previously dotted the valley landscape suddenly blossomed and bloomed, rapidly overtaking the citrus orchards and farms that had dominated the area during the early decades of the 20th century. Between the ever-expanding defense, space, and aircraft industries located in Southern California, there was a constant supply of new job opportunities, and these industries in turn attracted electronics companies, the atomic energy industry, and of course companies specializing in research and development. Add to all these the requirement for services catering to the new residents and their families with all the associated jobs, and the need for new housing was urgent. Meeting that need could be extremely profitable. George Nagel immediately seized his opportunity. He borrowed money to buy plots of land, on which he constructed the type of modest homes that were becoming ubiquitous across the valley. His knowledge of construction had its origins in the difficult, hands-on work he had supervised during the early years at Kfar Chassidim, and this experience ensured that his development projects were all successful, quickly making him a wealthy man with an ever-expanding empire of development
projects. Occasionally he would partner on a project with one or more of the enterprising group of Orthodox Jewish Holocaust survivors who had landed in the Fairfax area of Los Angeles, particularly the Kornwasser brothers, Mottel and Yankel. The Kornwassers were originally from Sosnowiec in
States from Hungary in the early 1930s and moved to Los Angeles in 1937 to take advantage of the mild climate, which alleviated the symptoms of his chronic asthma. Yidel was a shochet and a charming conversationalist. His brother, Rabbi Ephraim Asher Rottenberg, presided over a tiny chassidic synagogue in Fairfax, but
In his own mind the Rebbe began to believe that the deaths of those who had gone back to Poland were his fault. Poland and had lost their entire families in the Holocaust. Some of the survivors, like the Kornwassers, knew who George really was, but at his request they kept his identity a closely guarded secret. Another one of George’s friends in the strictly Orthodox community was Yidel Rottenberg, son of the Kossonye Rebbe of Kleinwardein, Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Rottenberg, who immigrated to the United
Yidel frequented Rabbi Yitzchak Pinchas Ginsburg’s synagogue, which was close by. He encouraged George to join him there, and on rare occasions George relented and came to the shul – but only on condition that no one would be told who he really was. Truthfully, no one gave him a second glance. He was just another lost soul of European origin who had somehow landed in Los Angeles, no longer religious but
yearning for an occasional connection with the traditional Jewish life of their youth. There were dozens of such visitors at the tiny Fairfax synagogues all the time, and no one pried into their backgrounds or their current situations; after all, everyone had plenty of their own baggage to be concerned with. When the Sadiger-Przemyśl Rebbe, Rabbi Mordechai Sholom Yosef Friedman, visited Los Angeles in the 1950s, he presided over a gathering of local Los Angeles chassidim one Saturday night at Rabbi Ginsburg’s synagogue, and Yidel Rottenberg persuaded George to attend. At the time, Rabbi Friedman was one of the foremost chassidic rabbinic personalities in the world, a prestigious leader from a prestigious dynasty, and a visit from someone of his caliber was extremely unusual. There was quite a crowd at Rabbi Ginsburg’s synagogue to share in the Rebbe’s post-Shabbat meal – considered a special privilege in Chassidic circles – but there were not hundreds of people, as there would certainly have been in New York, or in Europe before the war, where there might even have been thousands. Los Angeles had no real chassidim, just a small handful of Holocaust survivors who had been brought up chassidic and who were nostalgic for a taste of their youth. The Sadiger-Przemyśl Rebbe went through the motions for them, but some of those who came were very disappointed. “You call this a tisch?” one of them said to his friend, within earshot of George and Yidel. “This is a joke. A shadow of what a real tisch should look like,” he continued. “I re-
The Week In News Feature
FEBRUARY 28, 2019 | The Jewish Home
member the tisch of the Yabloner Rebbe – my father took me to one when I was a child. Now, that was a real tisch, with proper singing, and a real spiritual atmosphere that uplifted everyone there. Not like this one.” And with that he got up and left. Little did the man know that directly across the table from where he had been sitting, listening to every word, was the Yabloner Rebbe himself – the very man who had inspired him and hundreds of others all those years ago – now a nondescript, cleanshaven, nonobservant Jew, who built cheap homes in the valley. But George said nothing, and neither did Yidel Rottenberg.
he California economy took a nosedive in the late 1960s, and unemployment began to climb. Bank deregulation had changed the dynamics for savings-and-loan institutions. East Coast and Midwest money, which had previously flowed generously in California’s direction as a result of higher interest rates for savings in California, now stayed at home, as the interest rates in New York and Chicago began to match those in California. Bank loans were consequently less readily available for real estate specula-
tors. The housing boom was slowing down. A couple of years earlier, George had decided to invest in an apartment complex development project, which was quite an upgrade from his previous focus on subdividing small lots to build cheap single-family homes. As the economy deteriorated, George discovered he was in over his head. Substandard contractors did not meet deadlines, and when the apartments were finally ready, they looked terrible and didn’t sell. Eventually the banks foreclosed and took possession of the apartments. George was almost completely wiped out financially. Suddenly, without any warning, George was taken ill and rushed to hospital. It took weeks for him to be properly diagnosed and treated. In his 70s, and acutely aware that both his father and paternal grandfather had died young, he did not believe he would ever make it out of the hospital alive. As he lay sick in hospital, George was regularly visited by his great-nephew, Ehud Yonay. Ehud was the grandson of his older sister, Michal Rachel, whose daughter Erella had married Ehud’s father, Mordechai, the rebellious son of an ultra-Orthodox Russian Jewish pioneer who had joined the
Kfar Chassidim settlement soon after it was founded. The very secular Mordechai was considered scandalous by the devout chassidim of Kfar Chassidim. His son Ehud, who was also not observant, had moved to California after his army service to become a journalist for California Magazine. It was in California that Ehud met his great-uncle for the first time. They spent a lot of time together, becoming very close. As soon as Ehud heard that George was in hospital, he rushed over to see him. As the weeks went by, Ehud dropped in regularly to spend time with George in an effort to cheer him up. “Why don’t you come back to Israel?” he asked George. “What are you still doing here in America by yourself, with no family?” “I can’t go back,” George replied. “I messed up their lives, and they all think I stole their money. There’s no way I could ever go back. Forget it. That part of my life is done.” “How about you just come back for a visit?” Ehud suggested. George looked at his nephew. “I’ll think about it,” he said. But Ehud wouldn’t relent. The topic kept coming up. No one cared about the past, Ehud maintained; life had moved on. But George wasn’t convinced. After decades of self-imposed exile, he just could not see himself returning to Kfar Chassidim, the source of so much painful anguish and trauma. “So what are you going to do if you get better and get out of the hospital?” asked Ehud. “I’m not getting better so fast,” said George, “and maybe I’ll never get out – except in a box.” “Don’t be so morbid! Don’t be silly! What if you do get better? Will you go back into business?” “Never!” said George emphatically. “Then what?” The journalist in Ehud could not leave a question unanswered.
“I think I want to go to college and study psychology.” Ehud laughed. “Are you kidding? College? Psychology? Why don’t you just come home to Israel?” George sighed. “All my life I’ve been interested in studying psychology. I’ve got just about enough money to live, so if I don’t die in hospital I’m going to apply to university and study psychology. That’s what I want to do.” George looked across at Ehud, his face resolute and determined. Ehud shrugged his shoulders. The idea seemed utterly preposterous. But as soon as George was discharged from hospital he applied to San Fernando Valley State College, did his admissions interviews, and enrolled as a psychology undergraduate. Rather than rent an apartment in Northridge, near the college campus, he opted to live in the dorms with all the students. George was in his element; it was as if he had been reborn. His sole interest was learning, and he spent most of his time in the library, reading, writing, researching. He still retained a few investment properties, through which he was able to modestly support himself, but he refused to get involved in any business-related activities – that part of his life was over. He had come to the realization that every day he had left was precious, and he wasn’t going to waste any of his remaining time trying to make money, which he realized he didn’t need and would never use. Before long George had become a minor celebrity at the college, which in 1972 was renamed California State University Northridge (CSUN). Newspapers reported on the veteran student dorming alongside anti-war protesting students, many of whom adopted him as a surrogate grandfather. George was a good listener, and always happy to offer advice, and countless students beat a path to his door. But none
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At his graduation at 80 years of age
of them knew who George really was. He had stripped his backstory to the most basic information so that no questions were asked. He told everyone that he had arrived in the United States via Palestine just before World War II – a poor refugee with no wife or children, and no money or prospects. He was the embodiment of the American Dream – he had become a successful businessman and now wanted to spend the remainder of his life studying, catching up on all the time he had lost in his younger years, educating himself in subjects that had always interested him but for which he had never had the time. George was joined at CSUN by his young “relative,” Joseph Chudy, nephew by marriage of his niece Arella Mezrich. The Chudy family lived in California, having moved there in the 1940s, and they treated George like family. Joseph was particularly close to
George, but he, too, knew nothing about the old man’s true background. The only person who knew anything about the unique history of the Yabloner Rebbe and his alter ego, George Nagel, was his great-nephew, Ehud. In 1975, George T. Nagel graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology. It was a landmark event, and Ehud believed that with the education bug out of his system George would finally agree to come back to Kfar Chassidim. Immediately after the graduation, Ehud brought up the subject again. It was time to visit Israel. Unexpectedly, George was more open to the idea than ever before, and he promised Ehud that he would visit Kfar Chassidim at some point very soon. But he was still anxious. “What will I do if they all still hate me? If they treat me with contempt? If they still think I’m a thief?” he asked Ehud. “What’s the big deal?” Ehud replied. “If you’re not comfortable in Kfar Chassidim, you’ll take a taxi to Haifa, stay in a hotel, and take the next flight back to L.A.” George shook his head. He still wasn’t sure. “I’m not moving back – you know that,” he said. Ehud smiled. “We’ll see.” eorge was not quite ready yet. He had decided to go for a master’s degree, but rather than attend classes and take exams, he contributed volunteer hours at a drug-rehabilitation facility, where he counseled recovering drug addicts from the margins of society. He carefully documented each case, offering his candid account of his encounters and his reflections. The final result was a book, Paradise Cove – They Escaped the Cuckoo’s Nest, a reference to the multiple Academy Award-winning movie of 1975, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. In the movie, a group of patients at a mental health facility are confined there by fear and intimidation. In George’s dissertation, he eases people out of their mental jails and
introduces them back into society. George had come full circle. Suddenly he was back in his role as a chassidic Rebbe, even if he did not realize it himself. He was helping people to improve their lives by healing them, teaching them, and bringing the best out in them. In this guise he was no longer George Nagel, the immigrant businessman escaping from his miserable past; instead he was the Yabloner Rebbe, giving people with no hope a better vision of the future. It was 1978, and he was ready to return to Kfar Chassidim. He told Ehud that he had booked a roundtrip ticket to Israel and the dates. Quietly, without letting George know, Ehud informed his mother that her uncle was coming back. The day arrived, and George landed at Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. A car was waiting to pick him up for the one-and-ahalf-hour ride to Kfar Chassidim. The car drove through the entrance of the village and stopped at the nondescript house on Rechov Hameyasdim where George’s niece Erella lived with her husband, Mordechai. He hadn’t seen her for 40 years. Erella ran over to George and hugged him. “Welcome home, Uncle!” she bubbled, “we have a surprise for you.” “A surprise?” He wasn’t sure if he liked the idea of a surprise. “Yes,” she replied, “but we need to drive up the road to the social hall. There are a few people there who are waiting to meet you.” They arrived at the hall, which was packed with hundreds of people who had gathered to meet the man who had put Kfar Chassidim on the map. Old and young, religious and secular –everyone connected to the village was there. A seat at the front was left empty for George. As a hush descended, he slowly made his way toward his seat and sat down under the large welcome sign that adorned the front wall. An elderly man stood up and turned towards George.
“Rebbe, do you remember me?” he asked. George looked at him, trying to figure out who he was. “I’m not sure,” he said. “Are you Chaimke? Chaimke Geldfarb?” Chaimke smiled. “Yes, Rebbe, it’s me.” His voice was hoarse with emotion. “On behalf of all the residents of our Kfar, I want to welcome you back home. You were probably nervous to come here. You probably think we are angry with you. You probably think that because you brought us here from Poland, away from our homes, away from our families, to build your dream, not ours. And then it all went wrong, so you think we are angry that it all went wrong. But Rebbe, if that’s what you think, you’re mistaken. Because Rebbe, you saved our lives – if it were not for you, we would all have been killed by the Nazis.” “Look over there …” Chaimke pointed toward a group of people in the middle of the hall. “That’s my son with his wife and children, and next to him my two daughters with their husbands and children. My parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, and their children – all murdered by the Nazis. But we came with you, Rebbe. We built this place. We founded this village. We survived. And you were the one who saved our lives. And for that we thank you. Thank you for our lives and for the lives of our children and grandchildren. We can never thank you enough.” Chaimke sat down, and an old woman rose to speak. “Rebbe, do you remember me?” George looked carefully at her. “Sheindel, is that you?” “Sheindel, yes, but now they call me Shoshana.” Sheindel had a lump in her throat as she spoke, and she struggled to get the words out. “Rebbe, Rebbe, where have you been for so many years? We missed you! We needed you! Without you we would all be
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dead, and we would not have had our beautiful lives in our beautiful Israel. Why did you leave? Everything turned out OK in the end. Look at us, look at how lucky we are. We escaped from the murderers and built our own homes in G-d’s promised land. You said we could do it, and we did it.” Sheindel began weeping. Tears flowed down her cheeks, as her daughter next to her put an arm around her shoulder. “Rebbe, come home,” Sheindel sobbed. “You’ve been gone for far too long. It’s time to come home.” There was dead silence, besides Sheindel’s muffled sobs. George looked around the hall. Everyone was looking at him. He looked down at his hands, and then at the floor. Slowly he got to his feet. “My friends, my dear, dear friends,” he began, “I am so moved by this warm welcome. I don’t have very much to say. I have missed this place and all of you so much for all these years. I never understood how much this place meant to me, and how much I meant to you – until now. I never thought about what you just said. I never thought about the fact that I saved your lives, only about all the lives that were lost. I never thought about what I gave you, only about what I took away from you. But now it’s all become clear.” He paused for a few seconds. You could have heard a pin drop. Then George whispered, slowly, deliberately, “It’s time. I’m ready. I’m coming home. I’m ready. I’m coming home,” and he sat down. There was a moment of silence, and suddenly the hall erupted in applause. Everyone rose to their feet and applauded. It went on and on, as George made his way through the hall and shook everyone’s hand, smiling broadly. The Yabloner Rebbe had returned to Kfar Chassidim, and now he was going to move back.
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eorge flew back to Los Angeles to wrap up his affairs and prepare for the move to Israel. But sorting everything out took him longer than expected. Although he had wanted to finish his master’s at CSUN, he soon realized that this was not going to happen and that he would have
to Israel, and truthfully, few would have cared. The pioneering challenges of Palestine in the 1920s and ’30s were a distant memory, replaced by the flourishing and vibrant State of Israel. The Yabloner Rebbe was a relic of the difficult past best left forgotten, of interest to no one outside his own
“Rebbe, come home,” Sheindel sobbed. “You’ve been gone for far too long. It’s time to come home.” to make the move to Israel before he became too old. Over the next couple of years George visited Israel for extended periods, until, in November 1981, he gave away his last few possessions and flew off to Israel to settle there for good. He had just turned 86. After more than 40 years away, he was finally back living in Kfar Chassidim, loved and valued. It was at this point that George Nagel returned to his roots, changing his name back to Yechezkel Taub. Moreover, he became the revered Yabloner Rebbe once again. He grew back his beard and sidelocks, his yarmulke returned, and so did his religious observance. The Rebbe was given a seat at the front of the Kfar Chassidim synagogue, where he prayed regularly, and several times a week groups of eager youngsters would gather on a patch of land outside the house in which the Rebbe lived, and he taught them Torah and told them stories of their heritage in the chassidic tradition. Very few people knew about his return
family and the residents of Kfar Chassidim. Even Kfar Chassidim had changed substantially since those early days, with the addition of a new ultra-Orthodox neighborhood – Kfar Chassidim Bet – home to an internationally renowned yeshiva, ironically of the non-chassidic Lithuanian persuasion. But the lack of interest in his return to Israel didn’t bother the Rebbe at all. He was not interested in attracting attention to himself. After more than four decades living under a pseudonym in Los Angeles, any publicity would only have dredged up unnecessary attention and potentially unpleasant stories and dormant resentments. In early 1986, the Rebbe began to weaken and decline, and he passed away peacefully on May 22. He was 90 years old. The funeral was modest, attended by the residents of Kfar Chassidim, with a low-key service. The Rebbe was buried in the heart of the cemetery, among the graves of all those who had followed him from Europe to create a chassidic settlement in Eretz
Yisrael over 60 years earlier. Although things had not turned out quite as planned, together they had dared to dream and to persevere. Kfar Chassidim had endured despite the many hardships and challenges, and despite the absence of its foremost activist and leader for so many years. But he had ended his life in their midst, closing the circle that had begun in 1924. The Rebbe’s headstone was installed within a month of his burial, as is the custom in Israel. The inscription focused on the Rebbe’s distinguished lineage and his single greatest achievement: Here lies Grand Rabbi Yechezkel Taub, the “Rebbe of Yablona,” son of Grand Rabbi Yaakov Taub. Last scion of the dynasty that began with Grand Rabbi Yechezkel of Kuzmir, disciple of the Seer of Lublin … in 5685 he led his chassidim up to Eretz Yisrael where he redeemed the lands of Harbaj, Harchieh and Sheikh Abreik. Founder of Nachalat Yaakov, later known as Kfar Chassidim. His remarkable trajectory from revered Polish Chassidic leader, to Zionist pioneer, to reviled failure, to war refugee, to shipyard worker, to successful real estate developer, to bankruptcy, to geriatric college student, and back to his roots as a revered chassidic Rebbe is surely one of the most astonishing Jewish stories of the modern era. This story originally appeared in Tablet Magazine, at tabletmag.com, and is reprinted with permission. Rabbi Pini Dunner is the rabbi at the Beverly Hills Synagogue. His first book, Mavericks, Mystics & False Messiahs: Episodes From the Margins of Jewish History, published by The Toby Press, is now available on Amazon and in Jewish bookstores.
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