The Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
OPEN LETTER TO JEWISH COMMUNITY LEADERSHIP
Community Rabbis and School Principals
The threat of measles in Los Angeles is now a real and present danger. Measles is one of the most contagious diseases in existence, placing the most vulnerable among us at life-threatening risk. Children infected with measles can present devastating consequences not just to themselves, but to the public at large. Tragically, we are now seeing children and adults hospitalized; and worse yet, dying from measles. We are asking all synagogue Rabbis to publicly speak on the critical importance of vaccinations. On issues of health and public safety, decisions in Jewish law are based on the opinions of the majority of medical experts. In cases of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR), the opinion held by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, and tens of thousands of physicians is that vaccinations must be taken as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is our position that there is an obligation to be vaccinated and no basis that immunizations should be avoided unless medically indicated. Parents must ensure that all of their children’s immunizations are up-to-date. Parents of unvaccinated children should immediately call their pediatrician to schedule their child to be vaccinated. Those who are uninsured and/or under-insured can contact the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health at (213) 351-7800 or visit http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/ip/ for free or low-cost vaccination information. Many adults, particularly those born in 1957 or later, have also been affected by recent outbreaks. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health strongly recommends that educators, infant/day-care providers, caregivers for the immunocompromised, healthcare professionals, women of childbearing age who are not pregnant, and international travelers have a second dose (booster) of the measles immunization. Adults not in this group should contact their physician for guidance. Any child or adult symptomatic of measles must be isolated soonest and a physician should be immediately contacted. If a physician is not available, then please call the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Bikur Cholim is urging Jewish day schools/yeshiva principals to adopt our Private School Immunization Policy which does not allow non-vaccinated students to attend school. We are also working closely with California Senator Richard Pan in support of SB 276 which will restore integrity to California’s medical exemption process by requiring future vaccination medical exemptions to be reviewed and issued by the California Department of Public Health. We must remain resolute in protecting the health and well-being of our children, families, and the public – Respectfully,
Rabbi Hershy Z. Ten President BIKUR CHOLIM Rabbi Jonathon Rosenberg, President RABBINICAL COUNCIL OF CALIFORNIA
Irving Lebovics, DDS, Chairman AGUDATH ISRAEL OF CALIFORNIA
Rabbi Yosef Y. Shusterman CHABAD, GREATER LOS ANGELES
Ronald Nagel, MD LA PEER PEDIATRICS
Sheldon Kishineff, MD FACEY MEDICAL GROUP
Jacob Fleischmann, MD INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST
Robert Adler, MD CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL LOS ANGELES
Alice Kuo, MD, President Chapter 2 AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS, CA
BIKUR CHOLIM 8489 WEST THIRD STREET, LOS ANGELES, CA 90048 T (323) 852-1900 WWW.BIKURCHOLIM.NET
The Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
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Dear readers, Does the individual really matter in our current upside-down world? In a world where the only democratic nation in a region is labeled as the aggressor? Where a congresswoman attempts to rewrite history, even while there are people still alive from that time to testify her words are false, as well as troves of physical evidence which disprove her claims? Where, closer to home, it seems the loudest get the honor and the actual doers remain in the shadows? Our natural reaction to globalization and the instant world of Whatsapp and Twitter is to lose ourselves to it and get drowned out in the sea of conversation, of condemnation, and counter-condemnation. The value of the individual and the individual deed seems like a speck of dust on the beach. This is all true if we look solely through our physical eyes. From a metaphysical, spiritual view, however, noise is just that: noise. It sounds mighty, it feels like it will be here forever, yet it’s simply the absence of light. If we look at the spiritual, G-dly reality, it’s mitzvos, acts of kindness, which are most true and powerful. Each mitzvah is packed with energy like an atom bomb, holding huge amounts of energy in a tiny amount of matter. Of course, we don’t see it. And that’s the whole point. But that doesn’t take away from its truth. This is one of the reasons we daven at least three times a day. We need to think about and connect to our Creator so that we don’t get swept away by the way reality feels vs. what it is. Pesach Sheni is a good time to refocus on our individual thoughts, speech, and action, knowing these are the real reality. And all the fake news, statements, and claims will go the way of the Greeks and the Romans, the Persians and the Canaanites with the coming of Mashiach, when all the nations of the world will serve the Creator of this world for they shall all know Him. Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,
T H E P R E M I E R J E W I S H N E W S PA P E R H I G H L I G H T I N G L A’ S O R T H O D OX C O M M U N I T Y The Jewish Home is an independent bi-weekly newspaper. Opinions expressed by writers are not necessarily the opinions of the publisher or editor. The Jewish Home is not responsible for typographical errors, or for the kashrus of any product or business advertised within. The Jewish Home contains words of Torah. Please treat accordingly. FOR HOME DELIVERY, OR TO HAVE THE LATEST ISSUE EMAILED TO YOU FREE OF CHARGE, SEND A MESSAGE TO EDITOR@JEWISHHOMELA.COM
TheHappenings Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Upcoming Celebrate Israel Festival in Rancho Park Yehudis Litvak Los Angeles’s Jewish community is preparing for the largest Jewish festival in North America, the annual Celebrate Israel Festival, scheduled to take place on May 19th at Rancho Park. Over 10,000 people are expected to attend the event, which will bring Israel-themed activities for all ages to the residents of the Greater Los Angeles. The theme of this year’s festival, which will take place on Pesach Sheini, is Heroes: Jewish Trailblazers Experience. Brought to Los Angeles by the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, this hands-on exhibit will feature different categories of pioneers throughout Jewish history and show how they impacted today’s world. Another addition this year is a bike ride with Israel Cycling Academy, starting at 8:30 a.m. The Israeli cyclists will be completing a several-days-long race from Northern California to Los Angeles during the previous week, so on the morning of the festival, they will hold a recovery ride—an easy ride in which the community is invited to participate. The annual mile-long Celebrate Israel walk, in conjunction with StandWithUs, will take place after the bike ride, at 11 a.m. The purpose of the walk is to show solidarity and support for the State of Israel. Activities for the whole family will be available from 12 p.m. till 7 p.m. They include camel rides, a petting zoo, playing in the sand set up as a Tel Aviv beach, amusement park rides, jewelry making, and Judaica crafts. All food sold at the festival will be glatt kosher. One of the popular activities is challah baking, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Last year, it attracted 700 women. Luna Kaduri will be leading the prayer and blessing, and then the shaped challot will be baked right in the park, ready to take home as soon as they’re done. One of the highlights of the festival will be a flyover by the Tiger Squadron formation, beginning at 4 p.m. It will be followed by an official ceremony with local dignitaries, including the Mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti. Additional security measures will be taken at the festival this year, involving both LAPD and private security organizations. There will be K-9
units, metal detectors, and Live Cam scanners, so all attendees can feel safe and secure. The Celebrate Israel Festival is organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the Israeli-American Council (IAC), with the participation of over 160 local synagogues, schools, and organizations.
Naty Saidoff, the visionary and founder of the original Celebrate Israel festival, said in a press release, “We were incredibly lucky to grow up in a place like Israel—surrounded by our history, our heritage and a rich and diverse culture. Now that we live here, we want our fellow Americans who have embraced us so warmly to share
Emek is now hiring! • Middle School and Elementary School Torah Studies Teachers (Moros and Rebbeim) • Elementary School General Studies Teachers • Elementary school TA’s (Teacher Assistants). • Middle School Science Teacher Teaching credentials or Seminary Equivalence Needed Email resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org
Head of School: Rabbi Mordechai Shifman Pre-1st to 8th Grade Campus: 15365 Magnolia Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91403 Emek Hebrew Academy Teichman Family Torah Center admits students of any race, color, national or ethnic origin to all rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students of the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship programs or other school administered programs.
in the experience of all the beauty that is the modern-day miracle called Israel. This one-day festival is the closest you can come to truly being there.” More information, as well as tickets for the festival, are available at www.celebrateisraelfestival.org/la.
TheHappenings Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Rabbi Ten of Bikur Cholim Speaks Out On Los Angeles Measles Outbreak On Friday 5/10/19, California Senator Dr. Richard Pan held a press conference at the UCLA campus in Westwood addressing the impact of measles on Greater Los Angeles which included a coalition of the American Academy of Pediatrics, California Medical Association, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and Rabbi Hershy Ten, President of Bikur Cholim – the largest Jewish healthcare charity in California. In addition to Bikur Cholim’s charitable work, they articulate a Jewish perspective on healthcare issues that impact individuals and the public at large. In his remarks, Rabbi Ten stated, “For some time, the media has focused on the measles outbreaks on the East Coast, and particularly in the Orthodox Jewish community.” He went on to say, “…the propaganda and paranoia that question the safety of vaccines is not confined to any particular religious or ethnic group, or bound by ideology or class. Those living in Brooklyn appear to be just
as susceptible to anti-vaccine conspiracies as do wealthy professionals living in Santa Monica or Oregon.” To further drive home his message, Rabbi Ten shared that, “…on issues of health and public safety, decisions in Jewish law are based on the opinions of the majority of medical experts. In cases of measles, mumps, and rubella, the opinion held by tens of thousands of physicians, is that vaccinations must be taken as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To be clear, in Jewish law there is an obligation to be vaccinated and no basis that immunizations should be avoided unless medically indicated.” During his address, Rabbi Ten called on all Los Angeles Rabbis, Jewish Day school and yeshiva principals, and community leaders to speak publically on this matter as he believes that during a public health crisis, communities look to their leaders for guidance. Rabbi Ten ended his remarks sharing
Left to right, Dr. Alice Kuo, Dr. Valencia Walker, Dr. Sion Roy, Rabbi Hershy Ten, Senator Richard Pan, Dr. Jan King
his emphatic support for Senator Pan’s SB 276 bill which will bring integrity to letters of medical exemption, and expressed
he stands, “…side-by-side” with the thousands of physicians who serve our families and help protect them from harm.”
Chidon Participants Honored at Harkham Hillel Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy’s honors Tanach students who participated in the annual Chidon HaTanach, an international Bible competition for Jewish youth from around the world. Lead by Zippi Klein, Hillel utilizes the Chidon program in a unique way as the culmination of our Mikra curriculum. The rigorous course requires a commitment of several hours a day, both in and out of school, and a lot of perseverance! Approximately 550 students in Grades 6-11 participated in the USA Chidon HaTanach this year. 19 Hillel students qualified for
the national competition held at Yeshiva University in New York. They were joined by 200 other students from around the country who all share a love for Tanach and an insatiable drive to learn more. With the largest contingent of students from the West Coast, the Hillel team shined with five students finishing amongst the top 15. The winners of this national competition represent America at the international Chidon HaTanach Ha’Olami, held annually in Israel on Yom Ha’Atzmaut.
Israeli-Druze Visit Los Angeles in Honor of Yom HaZikaron Devorah Talia Gordon On July 14, 2017, policeman Kamil Shanan went to his assigned station in Jerusalem’s Temple Mount compound. After completing their prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, three Arab-Israeli terrorists, from the village of Ummel-Fahm, shot and killed Shanan and fellow police officer Ha’il Satawi. “My life has changed since 14 July, when my lovely son was killed on the Temple Mount,” began Shakib Shanan, Israeli politician and father of Kamil, who visited Los Angeles last week with Mendi Safadi. The younger Shanan served as a combat soldier in the Israeli Defense Force for three years and joined the Israeli Police seven months prior to his murder. “They came from inside the mosque, and nobody thought something like this could happen. How could you finish praying and go to kill? From that moment to now, our life is changed. We have an empty room and are all the time looking for a way to keep his memory alive.” Shakib Shanan continued, “Today is Yom Hazikaron. Everyone in my country will stop to give respect to the fallen soldiers, and it is
very difficult to be here (in L.A.) and not there. All the time I feel very sad, but I decided to come here to respect those who respect all who fell in the army and the police.” While Shanan’s story is, sadly, not exceptional for soldiers defending Israel, one facet is unique: Kamil Shanan was among the whopping 93% of Israeli Druze who serve in the IDF. (Only 64% of Jews serve.) Druze are a small, Arabic-speaking religious group, numbering only six million worldwide, primarily in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Israel, where there are about 140,000 Druze. About 50,000 live in the United States. They form close-knit, cohesive communities, while simultaneously being quite patriotic. Although a tiny minority in Israel, thousands of Israeli Druze belong to “Druze Zionist” movements. While monotheistic, Druze consider Jethro (Yisro, Moshe’s father-in-law) to be the ancestor of all Druze, their spiritual founder and chief prophet.
In addition to their prominence in the IDF, with a disproportionate number in elite combat units and becoming officers, they are highly active in Israeli politics. Shakib Shanan was born in the Hurfeish village in Israel’s Upper Galilee and has become one of Israel’s more prominent leaders in the Druze community. After serving in the IDF for three years, he graduated from Tel Aviv University and went on to serve in various prominent positions within the Israeli government. He was elected twice to the Israeli Knesset between 2008 and 2012, first in the Labor party, and the second time with Ehud
Barak in Atzmaut. Shanan also served as senior advisor to the Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and frequently lectures in Israel and abroad on relations between Druze and Jewish communities, Hasbara diplomacy, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He is currently senior news analyst for i24NEWS Arabic station. Knowing his political and personal background, it makes sense that Shanan would feel compelled to travel all the way to Los Angeles with Mendi Safadi, head of the Safadi Center, an organization committed to international diplomacy, research, human rights, and public relations. The two came at the invitation of MATI Center in Tarzana, the leading cultural Israeli center in Los Angeles. “I came to keep the relationship strong between the Jewish people in the Diaspora and the Druze in Israel,” Shanan said. Mendi Safadi, also Druze, was born in the Golan Heights and is a lecturer and expert in Islamic affairs, terrorism, Syria, and the Middle East. Safadi has published numerous articles and served as a political advisor about the
TheHappenings Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Arab Spring and the Syrian revolution. The Safadi Center, based in Israel, advocates for Druze but supports minorities in other countries as well, including challenging the denial of ethnic cleansing of Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians in Bangladesh. Among his various activities, Safadi and his team attend conferences in Europe and visit college campuses, especially “campuses that don’t like Israel.” There, young people on his team explain how they live as a minority in Israel yet receive all the rights as the majority. Safadi said that when the non-Jewish Israeli citizens come to talk positively about Israel, it is not received like the Jewish speakers. “When I speak in Arabic, first they are shocked [that] someone is speaking in Arabic about Israel. Then they listen. On many campuses when Jewish people come to talk, it was very hard for them. But when I come as a Druze who speaks Arabic and understands their mentality, they start to ask questions.” And when Shakib Shanan comes to talk about his relationship to the county as a former Knesset member, and a bereaved father, it begins to change people’s minds. “They start to ask about how we live.
They don’t know,” said Safadi. “They have all the information of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, which says [incorrectly that] we have no rights.” Regarding BDS, Safadi informs the students that “85% of people who work in factories in Judea and Samaria are Palestinian, who receive $1200 monthly from Israel. Those who work in Palestinian factories get $250. If they boycott and Israeli factories close, it hurts the Palestinians the most.” For example, Safadi explained, if the Soda Stream factory closes, 1000 people will lose their jobs. When the factory moved from center to the periphery, the government gives you tax breaks. The factory doesn’t lose, only the workers lose…which means BDS is not [truly] against Israel. They work against Israel only because they are anti-Semitic.” In honor of Yom HaZikaron, the MATI Center in Tarzana invited Shanan and Safadi to Los Angeles. Orna Eilon, co-founder, president and CFO, explained that MATI is a non-profit, established ten years ago and run by volunteers. MATI’s goal is to strengthen the relationship between Israelis and the Jewish community through cultural events, classes and various programming. One important program is “Journey to Adulthood,” designed for pre-bar and -bat mitzvah children, up to age 13, targeting Israelis who had not planned on having bar or bat mitzvahs. Throughout the year, MATI hosts many events in cooperation with schools in the Valley and the City—Temple Sinai, Valley Beth Shalom—and organizations such as Bait Is-
raeli, Shevet Harel, the Holocaust Museum, and the IAC. However, the Yom HaZikaron memorial service is the main event. “Every year we dedicate the memorial service to a different subject,” Eilon said. “This year, the theme in Israel is Unity, so MATI picked up on that theme. We wanted to honor the Druze, we wanted them to talk to us. It’s important that the Israeli and Jewish community are aware of the Druze contribution to the Israeli army. And not just in the army, the Druze are in the very elite units.” To date, 435 Druze soldiers have fallen in the line of duty. According to Eilon, even in Israel the contribution and devotion of the Druze to the country and to the Israeli Army is not fully known
or appreciated. In this vain, Shanan and Safadi were the guests of honor at the Yom HaZikaron memorial service on Sunday, May 6, held at Valley Beth Shalom in Sherman Oaks, where the space is graciously donated each year for the event. “We do it for the children,” Eilon explained. “For kids to get connected. Very few adults are on stage, just a speaker from VBS and the cantor.” In the audience are families with children ages seven and up. The Yom HaZikaron service used to get 90 attendees, it’s now up to 500, with 30% being children. MATI writes the script in Hebrew and has translations available in English. This year, they had vocal performances of Israeli songs,
with children singing. There was also a modern ballet dance, performed by two sisters, ages 12 and 14. Kids from the community come from ages six to seven and up lay wreaths in honor of the fallen soldiers. All kids are welcome to perform; MATI posts the program to digital media and welcomes everyone who wants to participate. The funds earned go back to the community, in order to create more programming for the Israeli community. Even after the tragic death of his son, Shakib Shanan believes Israel is the “best place to be Jewish and to be Druze.” He loves his country and appreciates that MATI offers such respect for the Israeli Druze killed in the line of duty.
TheHappenings Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Mental Health Panel Addresses Pressing Questions Yehudis Litvak
An inspiring and powerful panel event addressing mental health issues in our community was held on Monday, May 13th, at the Harvey Morse Auditorium at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Presented by the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center of Bnei Brak and moderated by Rabbi Jason Weiner, Senior Rabbi and Director of the Spiritual Care Department at Cedars-Sinai, the event brought together diverse segments of the Jewish community with the common goal of improving mental health care for Jewish patients in Los Angeles. The event opened with a video presentation about the Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, founded in 1990 with the vision of Dr. Moshe Rothchild, z”l, of “quality of life, dignity of life, sanctity of life” for Jewish patients. The medical center operates in accordance with halachah and maintains a state of the art mental health care center—the first of its kind to address the needs of the religious and
Chareidi community. After the video, Mr. Tzvika Ryzman spoke about his personal encounters with Dr. Rothchild. “Twenty-five years ago, a depressed person was considered a shoteh, patur from the mitzvos,” he said. “Now mental illness is not a bushah; it is treated like every other sickness. That is a chid-
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dush of Dr. Rothchild.” The next speaker, Professor Rael Strous, Medical Director of Mayanei Hayeshua’s Mental Health Center, spoke about the role of religion in mental health treatment. The challenge in working with religious patients, he explained, is to determine the boundary between piety and pathology, which is often not obvious. “When somebody is brought to the emergency room claiming to be Mashiach, how do I know that I’m not really admitting Mashiach?” he asked. “The aim of the medical profession is to identify pathologic areas,” said Prof. Strous. Doctors need to determine whether the patient’s religious experience is out of context with the person’s culture. It is easy to make mistakes if the cultural understanding is missing. That’s why it helps to have religious mental health professionals on staff, along with rabbis who can be called on to share their expertise when necessary. Prof. Strous also spoke about the prevalence of mental health conditions on the one hand, and the stigma surrounding them on the other hand. “The stigma is more difficult than the illness itself,” he said, because people are hesitant to seek help. “Eradicating stigma and social distancing [of people with mental illness] should be a priority in public health.” He also mentioned the need for more resources for patients with mental illness. While our community is known for its bikkur cholim and compassionate care for those with physical illness, patients with mental health conditions are not provided with the same standards of care. Rooms in psychiatric wards are often overcrowded, and the conditions are much worse than in other wards. “I’ve never seen anyone bring flowers to a psychiatric ward,” lamented Prof. Strous. “As a community, we need to take care of our weak,” he urged. His presentation was followed by a panel discussion with four panelists: Rabbi Dr. Zev Weiner, Attending Psychiatrist at the UCLA Medical Center; Rabbi Avra-
ham Union, Dayan and Rabbinic Administrator of the Rabbinical Council of California; Mrs. Shirley Lebovics, LCSW, a psychotherapist in private practice specializing in shidduchim; and Mrs. Debbie Fox, LCSW, Founder and Director of Magen Yeladim International. Each panelist addressed the audience and then responded to questions. Dr. Weiner emphasized that while mental health conditions can be debilitating, the available treatments are constantly improving, and many patients are able to manage their conditions and live normal, productive lives. He also encouraged the community to reach out and provide support to individuals with mental illness. Rabbi Union spoke about the three roles of rabbis when it comes to mental illness: a posek, a source of support and encouragement for patients and their families, and an educator involved in combatting stigma in our community. Mrs. Lebovics addressed many common myths about shidduchim when mental health issues are involved. Mrs. Fox spoke about stigma and its corollary, secrecy, which lead to less access to treatment and other resources. “Evenings such as this are critical to decreasing stigma,” she said. One of the questions from the audience involved schizophrenia. Dr. Weiner encouraged patients and their families to “never give up,” explaining that today, people with schizophrenia can lead happy, productive lives. Prof. Strous added that people with mental illness have a right to get married and have children, to the grateful applause of the audience. A question was raised: when is Los Angeles getting a Jewish mental health facility similar to the Mayanei Hayeshua’s? Jonny Ritz, a community member whose brother suffers from a mental illness, spoke about his vision to bring such a facility to Los Angeles. “Israel is leading the world once again,” he said in reference to Mayanei Hayeshua. “We need to follow the lead.”
The Week In News
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
The Leading Center in Special Education Founded by Rabbi Dov Levy z"l
“ ‘”ברוך הבא בשם ה Seeach Sod extends a warm welcome to the Chief Rabbi of Israel
Harav David Lau
who will be joining the Los Angeles Jewish community for a Shabbos of chizzuk and inspiration. Seeach Sod is honored to welcome the Rav shlita as guest of honor at an event launching the cooperation between Seeach Sod and the Los Angeles Jewish community to benefit individuals with disabilities R’ Shimon Levy, CEO Seeach Sod, Israel Rehabilitative Daycare Centers | Preschools | Talmudei Torah | Elementary Schools | High Schools | Yeshivot Vocational Training | Therapeutic | Day-Hab Centers | Respite Centers | Supported Housing | Allied Health Professions | Emotional Therapies | Hydrotherapeutic Pool | Dental Clinic | Support Services for Families
Living with the Times The Week In News
By Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz
MAY 16, 2019 | The Jewish Home
Publisher of the Yated Ne’eman Torah Jews pledge allegiance to our mission statement and national raison d’être. Three times a day, we proclaim our intention “lesakein olam b’malchus Shakai,” to rectify and purify the world with Hashem’s dominion. We endeavor to bring Hashem’s light and presence into this olam, a place of “hei’aleim,” concealment and darkness. The words of an anonymous wise man are often repeated: “When I was young, I was determined to change the world. As I grew older and more realistic, I thought that I could change my town. Now, as an old man with a white beard, I am desperately attempting to change myself.” That is our approach to tikkun olam. Now, during the days of Sefirah, as we stake out a path to kabbolas haTorah, we must work to refine our character. Rav Chaim Vital teaches in Shaarei Kedusha that the reason the mandate to work on middos doesn’t appear in the Torah is because the Torah was given to a nation of refined character. Hence the assumption that one who is embarking on Torah study is already a baal middos. Middos tovos are the foundation of the Jew, upon which we can add Torah and good deeds. However, without middos, we have no foundation and everything crumbles. Rav Chaim Volozhiner, in Ruach Chaim, his peirush on Pirkei Avos, explains the Mishnah (2:15) that quotes Rabi Eliezer, who said, “Yehi chevod chavercha choviv alecha kesheloch.” Simply translated, this means that your friend’s honor should be as precious to you as your own. Rav Chaim explains the Mishnah with a twist: When you honor someone else by offering him even the smallest amount of respect, to you it feels as if you heaped upon him much more honor than he deserves, but when someone else honors you, no matter how respectful he is towards you, it never seems that he did enough. Rabi Eliezer thus speaks to us and teaches us that the honorific fashion in which we treat others should be as important to us as the way we want to be treated. Chazal admonish us not only to focus inward, but also to study the attributes of others and respect them. The talmidim of Rabi Akiva were punished al shelo nohagu kavod zeh bozeh. We rectify this by showing respect for our friends, neighbors and acquaintances. Keep your eyes open and look around you. Sometimes, witnessing a simple act of
mentchlichkeit can restore your faith in humanity. An unexpected kindness, a genuine mazel tov wish or a heartfelt apology has the potential to move us, perhaps because such offerings are too rare. All too often, we are disappointed. We don’t see the nobility, integrity and strength of character we long to behold in others, as well as in ourselves. Sometimes, we look on in shock as people engage in self-destructive behavior or commit actions that are hurtful to others. We wish we could stop them but are unable to. They refuse to listen to us and remain ensconced in their own cocoon. When people foment machlokes over pettiness, when people fight publicly, we stand on the sidelines and wish there was something we could do to break it up and end it. All too often, we end up frustrated, as egos and intransigence combine to cause people to
It defines true honor, wisdom, wealth, and much more. In addition, it teaches how to acquire these gifts that people spend a lifetime chasing after. No, it’s not one of those little self-help books written by a wannabe celebrity with a good press agent. It’s not written by a self-anointed paragon of virtue who tomorrow will be splashed all over the paper for living a life that is antithetical to the advice he made a living dispensing. When a person isn’t sure how to conduct himself in a given situation, he turns to his parents. A child looks to his father for direction and wisdom to steer him around stumbling blocks and through dangerous minefields. But it’s more than that. A father knows his child from day one, so he understands him. He knows what motivates each child, what to say and how to say
An unexpected kindness, a genuine mazel tov wish or a heartfelt apology has the potential to move us be myopic and trivial. People speak irresponsibly, hurting others and bringing harm and shame to their community. The more responsible and intelligent are powerless to get them to focus rationally; to act properly and in a way that will bring benefit and blessing to all. There is much imperfection inside of us and all around. Where, then, is the path to tikkun? Where do we start? If Chazal want us to arrive at Shavuos ready, why don’t they map out the way? The answer is that they do. They gave us a potent tool, a small book comprised of but six chapters that illuminates the path, exposes the pitfalls, and offers the path to self-perfection. It is filled with good, old-fashioned advice on serving Hashem, confronting ourselves and dealing with other people. If you read this book, you learn how to value yourself, how to respect others and how to interact with them.
it to each child. This book contains fatherly wisdom, perception and insight. Hence its name, Pirkei Avos. Written by the spiritual fathers of our people, it contains the most vital lessons a father could pass on to his children. Its ideas jump off the page right into your heart. You know you are reading the quintessential truth. You know that if you would just take a few extra minutes to digest the astute insights in this book, you’d be so much better off. Pirkei Avos is not some foreign book that is off limits to our understanding until it is translated. For generations, Jews studied it all through the spring and summer months. They knew that it contains the answers to the most frequently asked questions, as well as the keys to personal happiness. Unfortunately, for some reason, we, as a community, have relegated the learning of Pirkei Avos to children. In some shuls, it has become something to be davened-up after
Mincha on Shabbos afternoon. Others don’t even bother doing that. That certainly wasn’t the attitude of Rav Yehuda Hanosi, the mesader of the Mishnah. It is a far cry from the perspective he offers in the chain of mesorah that he cites from Moshe Rabbeinu to Yehoshua, then to the Zekeinim, the Nevi’im, and the Anshei Knesses Hagedolah, right down to the giants of his own era. Rabi Yehuda, Rabi Yosi, Rabi Meir, Rabi Shimon - all our sages from Bava Metzia, Kiddushin and Arachin - are here. The greatest fathers and teachers of the generations are guiding us on how to be productive and content, how to live life with a smile on our faces and a sense of serenity in our hearts. And, printed right alongside those Mishnayos is the Rambam, bringing the words of the Mishnah home in a way that is so real and immediate, you’d think his explanations were written today. Rabbeinu Yonah is here, too, with insights that are remarkably contemporary, joined of course by Rashi and many others, as well. There are hundreds of other commentaries, and each one has a new angle, adding flavor and subtlety to the endless stream of wisdom of how to live life to its fullest. They tell us so much, if we would only listen. They teach us how to respond when a fellow Jew falls on hard times, why communities suffer, why sword comes to the land, why there is exile, and why there is economic depression. These issues are as relevant and pressing today as they were 2,000 years ago. Look for the answers here and they will send a shiver up your spine. The Avos speak directly to their children. Take their answers to heart. We must learn to translate their message in the context of our own reality. Our instinct must always be to turn to this masechta, for it is the legacy of our Avos. Some make the mistake of relating to Pirkei Avos as light and easy material. It isn’t. It is as profound as the human psyche. But despite our depth and complexity, we, too, often get tripped up in the most shallow and simple areas. Without being aware of it, we become upset about trivialities, trample on others’ sensitivities, and are heedless of their vulnerabilities. My rebbi, Rav Mendel Kaplan zt”l, would say that he knew a lot of children “with long white beards.” These were people who went through life never shedding their immaturities. People who remained children all their lives, never developing seichel, insight or a sense of responsibility. The effort we must invest in learning these Mishnayos is to go farther than studying their practical meaning. Our task is to inculcate the middos to the point where they become second nature. When we are no longer afraid to admit a mistake, when we learn how to see into a fellow Jew’s heart, when our own hearts have stretched in size so that they can accommodate more than our own egos, we will know that Pirkei Avos is doing its job on us. When we begin to rid ourselves of our
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anger and jealousy, when we have developed a proper relationship with Hashem, when we are no longer bothered by nonsense, by havlei havalim, we will know that the lessons of our fathers are penetrating the hearts of the sons. When we see the refinement and spiritual nobility of talmidei chachomim, we realize from where those middos come. Pirkei Avos and other such works can raise men like us to such lofty plateaus. Rav Reuven Grozovsky suffered a debilitating stroke and his talmidim set up a rotation to assist him throughout the day. The bochur charged with attending to the rosh yeshiva each morning would help him wash negel vasser, then wrap tefillin on his arm and head and hold the siddur. The rosh yeshiva’s hands would occasionally shake, making the task difficult. One day, a nervous bochur had the zechus of being meshameish the rosh yeshiva. As Rav Reuven’s hand shook, the anxious boy reacted and poured out the contents of the negel vasser cup, missing the rosh yeshiva’s hand completely. Humiliated, the boy tried again. He was already so frantic, and this time the water ended up on Rav Reuven’s bed and clothing. He stopped and calmed himself before trying a third time. This time, he properly washed Rav Reuven’s hands. He helped Rav
Reuven say brachos and then put the rosh yeshiva’s tefillin on for him. He was ready to leave, when Rav Reuven called him over and thanked him, chatting with him for several moments. Feeling calm and happy, the bochur left. He later learned that the rosh yeshiva was known to never speak, even one word, while wearing tefillin. It was obvious that Rav Reuven had noticed the bochur’s embarrassment and instinctively forfeited his own kabbolah to put the young man at ease. Rav Reuven was sick. He couldn’t say shiur like he once had, he couldn’t write the penetrating chiddushim of his younger years, but the middos tovos were baked into his essence. They were part of who he was. A talmid once went to learn with Rav Avrohom Genechovsky, the Tchebiner rosh yeshiva, on a Shabbos afternoon. Engrossed in his thoughts, the young man absentmindedly rang the doorbell. Horrified, he stood there for a long while, wishing he could disappear, before he was able to knock again. Rav Avrohom didn’t answer, which was surprising, since he didn’t sleep on Shabbos afternoon and was usually waiting for his chavrusah. Eventually, a sleepy-looking Rav Avrohom came to the door - in his pajamas. He apologized for the delay and explained that he had been unusually tired, so he took a rest and did not hear the knocking.
When the young man figured out what really happened, he was overwhelmed. Of course, his rosh yeshiva had heard the ringing doorbell, but rather than open the door and humiliate the talmid, he quickly put on his pajamas and waited several minutes, pretending that he had not heard the bell ring. To a talmid chochom, it is instinctive to act in a way that preserves another person’s dignity. The personality molded by Torah is soft, flexible and kind. He is also strong and unbending. And it is not a stirah. In another example that nothing is arbitrary, the parsha that we study during the days of Sefirah, Kedoshim, teaches us how to attain holiness. It’s a parsha laden with mitzvos bein odom lachaveiro. We are taught how to treat workers and borrowers, the blind, the deaf and the poor. Through absorbing these mitzvos and their lessons, we become worthy of the Torah itself. The maxims that fill Maseches Avos become truisms. They are the only way to live. The baal middos sees the middos in those around him as well, changing the atmosphere. We have been given the tools, and now is the time to put them to use lesakein olam. The Sefas Emes was once given a large sum of money for safekeeping by a visiting chossid. The rebbe placed the money in a se-
cure place, but the next morning, it was gone. The rebbe entered the bais medrash and announced that davening would not begin until the money was returned to its rightful owner. No one came forward. Time passed, but the mystery wasn’t solved. Finally, the rebbe went into his house, called over one of the attendants, and said, “Give back the money you took.” The attendant broke down and admitted his misdeed. “If the rebbe knew who had taken the money,” the gabbai asked, “why did we have to wait so long to confront him?” One of the chassidim explained that the rebbe knew who the culprit was. The challenge for the rebbe was being able to look another Jew in the face and accuse him of being a thief. It took the rebbe hours to get to that point, after he had exhausted all opportunities for the man to save face. Hurting another person should be very difficult for us, while being thoughtful, kind and generous should be intuitive. There are six perokim in Pirkei Avos, one for each week of Sefirah. As we study them and become better rachmonim, bayshonim and gomlei chassodim, we will be prepared to receive His Torah.
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It’s Not “All about the Benjamins” Sarah Pachter
From LeBron James’s “Jewish money” Instagram post to Representative Ilhan Omar’s “all about the Benjamins” tweet and the virulent anti-Semitic acts of violence toward Jewish people we consistently see in the news, most American Jews have noticed increased anti-Semitism throughout the world. It is my belief that there is no better way to combat discrimination and negative stereotypes than by sharing positive stories that describe how it’s not, “all about the Benjamins.” My father-in-law, a surgeon, called the other day to share a story. “I saw a stranger wearing a black hat standing outside my office and watched him hand an envelope to my secretary and leave.” Here’s what the letter said: Dear Dr. Pachter, My name is Yankel Stein, and I was your patient 25 years ago, on December 15, 1994, when you removed my gallbladder. Due to my tight financial situation, you were very generous to me, and did not charge for your services. Some time after the surgery, I received a check for approximately $2500 from my insurance. I should have forwarded that money to you, but I did not, justifying my action because of my financial position. Years later, my conscience still bothered me about it. Therefore, I am now leaving a $2500 check for you to rectify that action. Additionally, I am expressing my utmost thanks for your magnanimous
generosity at that time. I request for you to process this payment, which is money you earned. My conscience will only rest when I see that you have deposited the funds. Wishing you the very best, and may you continue in your noble profession of serving others. Before insurance policies changed at the hospital, my father-in-law would forgo payment if a patient was unable to provide it. Many would ask him why, insisting that people were taking advantage of him. My father-in-law would reply, “If someone looks me in the eye and tells me he can’t afford it, then I trust him.” Mr. Stein wanted to restore that trust, 25 years later. My father-in-law could not believe this man strove to rectify this situation so many years later! Integrity is of utmost importance for the Jewish nation, as well as the belief in the power of teshuvah, righting our wrongs. Rabbi Paysach Krohn also shares a story about righting a wrong. Yosef Herger was a life insurance broker who sold two policies with a honeymoon rider provision that ended up lapsing after one year. Despite the policy lapse, the company sent Herger a commission check of $49,500. He called the company and explained that the money was mistakenly issued. However, the company insisted it was his. Herger was not comfortable cashing this check, and he wrote a letter explaining the mistake again. Yet again, the company insisted it was his to keep. One year later, they sent a second commission check of $49,500. Now this man held two checks worth $99,000. He called again to fix the mistake, and they insisted it was his to keep. One year later, the company reneged
on their issued checks and sent a letter explaining that the $99,000 was, in fact, a mistake. They asked for Mr. Herger to return the money. He called the company, annoyed. “What is going on? A year ago, you insisted it was mine, and now you say it is not. What is correct here?” They confirmed that the checks were issued mistakenly but suggested that Mr. Herger keep one check and they keep the other because of the time lapse and inconvenience. At this point, Mr. Herger asked Rabbi Krohn to help him write a letter to the company. Mr. Herger explained that his father had passed away and every day for the past year he had been saying Kaddish, which sanctifies and glorifies Hashem’s name. He continued, “Now, I want to put my words into action. Imagine the kiddush Hashem that will take place if I return the full amount to the company!” Rabbi Krohn admits that he suggested Mr. Herger give tzedakah to make a kiddush Hashem, explaining that this too would elevate his father’s neshamah, and would also help others. Yet, Mr. Herger insisted otherwise. He had also gone to Rabbi Voszhin, who advised to give back the money as the ultimate kiddush Hashem. Rabbi Voszhin also quoted the Shulchan Orech Choshen Mishpat that states when we act with integrity, such as giving back money that does not belong to us, Hashem will make us prosperous. Mr. Herger returned the money and the company wrote what they called a “once in a lifetime letter” expressing that they had never seen anything like this in all the years of the company’s existence. A true kiddush Hashem had been made. However, it turns out, a Jew returning $100,000 is not so “once-in-a-lifetime.”
NOTICE OF NONDISCRIMINATORY POLICY AS TO STUDENTS The Yeshiva Ketana of Los Angeles School admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.
ABC News shared a story about a rabbi from New Haven who bought a desk on Craigslist for $150. Because the desk would not fit through the door of his home, he began to disassemble it…and found $98,000 embedded in the drawer. The next morning, he brought his children with him to return the money to the desk’s previous owner. The previous owner was stunned to silence when he returned the money. The large sum was an inheritance she had received and placed it in the drawer of the desk. At one point, she realized it was not there, but she never thought the money was stolen. She simply assumed she had placed it elsewhere in the room. She sent the rabbi and his family the following note: I do not think there are too many people in this world that would have done what you did. I do like to believe that there are still good people left in this crazy world we live in. You certainly are one of them. I cannot thank you enough for your honesty and integrity. As Jewish people, we are meant to be a light amongst the nations. With one positive story at a time, we can slowly change the face of anti-Semitism. If merely one person’s opinion is changed for the better regarding Jewish people, then an entire world can be saved. Righteous gentiles who saved Jewish neshamot during the Holocaust often felt compelled to do so because they knew a Jew who was kind or honest. My son recently spearheaded a tzedakah campaign and used the famous phrase, “Your change can make a change.” Of course, he was referring to pocket change, but one could extend that to include a small change in our behavior. Each “small” kiddush Hashem is a mitzvah worth more than we can comprehend. So, no, Representative Omar, it’s not always all about the “Benjamins”—it’s about the small change. These three stories all involve a Jewish person who valued honesty and integrity above all else. Big or small, we gave it back to the world, and I am proud to be part of a nation who upholds these values so highly. It’s not all about keeping the Benjamins for us. It’s about integrity, honesty, and dignity. This is how we can be a light amongst the nations, by sharing our truth, and in return, begin to reverse the rampant anti-Semitism that is building today. This article was written the during the last week of Kaddish for my aunt, Yehudit Bat Harav Yehoshua. She was supremely honest in business and gave generously to tzedakah causes. May this article serve as an aliyah for her lofty neshamah.
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Garden of Delight Rebecca Klempner Since it adjoins an alley, our backyard is rarely quiet. However, I’ve tried to make it a friendly, peaceful respite from city life. We grow flowers and vegetables in pots. One of the neighbors recently installed tasteful (meaning: not curb-rescued) yard furniture. My husband even bought a special lamp to use outside on summer nights. We’ve had mixed success at creating a backyard paradise. For example, I began writing this article in my backyard. I finished writing it indoors because one of the neighboring businesses took a piece of equipment and started kashering it with a blowtorch. I had no idea a blowtorch could be that loud. Horns get honked, garbage trucks rumble by. We’ve also had several items stolen from our backyard, including, once, a beautiful zinnia plant in a cute little pot that we’d planted from seed on Tu B’Shevat. It was snatched in the middle of the night during one Mother’s Day weekend. At the time, I was shocked, but I also marveled at the chutzpah involved. “Here, Mom! A present!”
“It’s lovely! Where did you buy it?” “I didn’t exactly buy it…” It’s worth tolerating all the drama if we get succulent, fresh produce right just a few steps away from our apartment. However, it’s a little harder to come by than I expected. Supposedly, California is the perfect place to grow strawberries, but even when we grow several strawberry plants, only one or two berries ripen at a time. In the meantime, the kids check the fruits’ progress multiple times a day, watching eagerly as they slowly shift from light green to ruby-red. The moment a berry reaches that gemlike hue, fights break out over who gets to eat it. On particularly unlucky days, a squirrel will steal it before a settlement is reached, and the argument becomes moot. Carrots are supposedly easy to grow here, year-round, but mine are always tiny, probably because my containers are too small. Or maybe I don’t wait long enough, because I’m afraid opossums will come. And they will come, I promise. We had to stop growing sunflowers because the moment they opened, opossums would
come at night and decapitate them. I think the critters expected the seeds in the center to be tasty, but they never waited long enough for them to ripen. Apparently, opossums are even less patient than me. We’ve a lot of success with swiss chard, which is great in soup or as a pizza topping. We get decent amounts of tomatoes, too, and snap peas, and Persian cucumbers, the last of which is nice because it’s the only vegetable one of my kids will eat. Despite the infamous Mother’s Day Incident, we still grow zinnias every summer because they keep us in Shabbos bouquets.
I used to grow sweet peas in the spring for the same purpose, but once, after I’d sent a bouquet of them as a gift to a neighbor, she thanked me, then added that she had to keep them in the kitchen because they made her husband sneeze. The next Shabbos, I noticed one of my kids was sneezing from the sweet peas, too. If you decide to plant your own garden, I have one final piece of advice: conscript your children for watering duty. They’ll probably leap at the chance. It’s a much preferable chore to scrubbing toilets.
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