by Akiva Paths
In the past I wrote about my Air Force Daughter. Since that time she has now been joined by Infantry Son.
Being ultra-orthodox, charedi if you will, we were not willing to throw our son into cultural morass of the Israeli Defense Forces at their whims. Since the IDF has been “preparing” for ultra-orthodox recruits, we targeted him at the ultra-orthodox infrantry program – Nachal Charedi / Netzach Yehuda – The Mighty Men of Judah infrantry combat unit.
Our son contacted a friend, a former yeshiva student in yeshiva with him, who was now a training sergeant in Nachal Charedi. He couldn’t help, letting us know “the battalion is full”. The battalion is full??? What if you’re ultra-orthodox and you want to fight in the army?
Next, by hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), I was being picked up from the train station and was asked for a ride by someone from synagogue I recognized…in an army officers uniform. Turns out he’s an army chaplain and a captain. We asked him if he could help and he was able to put us in touch with Nachal Charedi’s battalion rabbi. The rabbi was able to get our son on the list.
We breathed a sigh of religious relief, if not parental worry. Our son was going to be in a proper religious environment, while putting his life on the line to defend all the Jewish people and non-Jewish citizens living here.
Two and a half weeks before his enlistment date we got a harbinger of things to come. I received call… “hello, is this (Reb Akiva’s son’s father)? Your son has to report for basic training tomorrow”. “What??? His orders say 2 1/2 weeks from now. We haven’t prepared him (done the preliminary army supply shopping), it’s not what his orders say.” “He has to report tomorrow, the orders are changed by this call. He should report to (normal Jerusalem enlistment point A).”
What can you do? I took off work, ran home, grabbed my boy and headed to the mall. Why? As we learned with Air Force Daughter, there are things your child needs for army service that the army doesn’t provide. Some are obvious (a cell phone to call home), some less so (a durable watch with a timer function). We also had feedback from her on what’s a waste of money (like dirty laundry bags) and what’s good to have (boot polish).
Enlistment day is a big deal in Israel. It’s normal for a number of family members to join the enlistee in going to the enlistment point. But everyone was ready for that in 2 1/2 weeks…so he lost out.
That evening we got a call… “your son has to report to (unusual Jerusalem enlistment point B) tomorrow.” “What, we were told (normal enlistment point A).” “The orders are changed by this call, (click).” I didn’t even know where enlistment point B was!
He made the point, we said goodbye and off he went to be a soldier.
Continue reading → Nachal Charedi – Reality Check
Sneering cynicism. Self-glorification in the guise of advocacy. Ostentatious observance cloaking rank jealousy. “Democracy” in the pursuit of evil ends. Haughtiness pretending to the selfless pursuit of justice and truth.
What do all those things bring to mind?
A) The parsha we read on Shabbos.
B) Much of the “Orthodox Jewish” blogosphere.
Both, you say? You win.
Korach is a good example for our times. Good, that is, in the sense that he perfectly exemplifies the similarly “populist” contemporary congregation that breeds under the rocks of Blogistan.
We deserve to be free from our so-called leaders, Korach announced—and, even without the benefit of an instantaneous electronic soapbox, attracted followers to “the cause.” We are perfectly capable, he declared, to their excited panting, of sitting in judgment over those who claim to have been designated to stand at the helm of the Jewish ship. The entire people are holy, after all. All of us heard the voice of Hashem at Har Sinai. All of us are able to see things for ourselves as they really are, not as our “leaders” tell us they are. Moshe and Aharon were “chosen” to lead us? Please. We know better. Surely you do … Read More >>
Clocks are turned back in the fall, but only the positions of their hands (or their digits) change. Time’s arrow remains, at least for us mortals, resolutely one-directional.
Still, most of us have occasionally fantasized about somehow recapturing something of pleasant times long gone. Like, for me, the summers of my boyhood.
I never attended summer camp, by choice. Today that might indicate some psychopathology (“camp-avoidance syndrome,” perhaps?—add it to the ever-expanding list). And maybe it did then. But I enjoyed my campless summers all the same. In fact, I cherished them.
I learned each day, both on my own and with an older chavrusa, a young talmid chochom who ended up becoming a stellar mesivta rebbe—an accomplishment I like to imagine was born of the inner resources he had to summon to hold my attention and teach me a few blatt of Gemara.
But each day also afforded me an abundance of other activities, unregimented and not in the group setting a camp would have provided, but no less enjoyable for their spontaneity or solitude.
One summer, on a lark, I taught myself how to type, a skill that ended up coming in handy when I became … Read More >>
Sometimes—usually after the New York Times deigns to publish a letter of mine on behalf of Agudath Israel of America—I’m asked how one “gets a letter” published in a (rightly or wrongly) respected periodical.
Well, the first step is to become the spokesperson for a national organization.
Just joking. It may help a letter’s chances for publication if it is signed by an organizational representative. But it can also hurt them. In any event, most published letters are from individuals writing as such.
One doesn’t, however, “get a letter” published. All one can do is submit a good candidate, one with a chance of striking the fancy of a letters editor. Major publications can receive hundreds of letters a day, from which to choose a handful. There are no shortcuts here (unless the editor is one’s brother-in-law). But “Rabbi Shafran’s How-To Guide” for writing a letter to the editor, below, might be helpful.
1) Never Write and Send a Letter.
That is to say that, after writing one’s letter, one should tear it up (or delete it from the screen). At very least, set it aside for a few hours. Letters always improve with … Read More >>
A number of weeks ago, I became aware of an essay contest conceived by The New York Times Magazine’s resident “ethicist”—a columnist, that is, who entertains readers’ questions about moral or ethical quandaries they face. The essay assignment was to make, in 600 words, the strongest ethical case for eating meat.
Sitting in judgment to select the winning essay was a panel of judges that included a writer who is a vociferous vegan; and a philosophy professor, Peter Singer—who has advocated not only for extending greater “rights” to animals but for killing severely handicapped newborn human babies.
With judges like that, I didn’t really entertain any hope of winning, especially with an essentially religious argument, the one I would make. But, hey, I thought, why not give it a whirl? If only to clarify my thoughts for myself.
Believe it or not, my submission in fact didn’t win. More insulting still, the winning essay selected from the 3000 entries, didn’t even present an argument at all, but rather a simple assertion. Its essential point was:
“For me, eating meat is ethical when one does three things. First, you accept the biological reality that death begets … Read More >>
This year, the first day of Shavuos fell on a Sunday. Were there any Tzadukim and Baitusim still around today, they would have been happy. Because those rejecters of the mesorah contended that Shavuos should always be on a Sunday.
That is because those groups, who together comprised one of the two major factions of Jews during the time of the Bayis Sheni, asserted that it would be nice to have two consecutive days of rest and feasting: Shabbos and then the single day of Shavuos observed in Eretz Yisroel.
Not that they didn’t claim a textual “basis” for their innovation. The Torah, they pointed out, counts the seven weeks from Pesach to Shavuos from “the day following ‘the Shabbos’”—which, at least on its face, seems to imply that the count begins on a Sunday, rendering Shavuos, invariably, on a Sunday too.
Despite the Tzadukim’s scriptural ammunition, though, the Gemara (Menachos 65b) explains that their motivation was their sense of propriety—it just seemed… proper that Jews be able to enjoy two days in a row of rest.
But Torah is more than the Written Law. Indispensable is the Torah Shebe’al Peh, the Oral Law, to which the Perushim, … Read More >>
Have you ever been to a church service?
Still, I (and perhaps you) have an image of what one is like. And that image, strange as it might seem, is an important one for observant Jews to regularly recall. At least according to the Magen Avrohom and the Chasam Sofer.
There are many different types of churches, of course. Many, probably most, are places of solemnity and high ritual, with congregants maintaining a reverent silence, other than to chant prayers when such is indicated. There are also non-Jewish places of worship, of course, that are loud and boisterous, echoing with “amen!”s and fervent encouragements of sermonizers.
All, though—at least to my imagining, which I have been told is pretty much accurate—are places where petty conversation during services is unheard and unheard of.
Which brings us, or should, to a paragraph in the famous 19th century encyclopedia of halachic responsa, the Sdei Chemed (written by Rav Chaim Chizkiya Medini). It cites (in Maareches Beis Haknesses, 21) the Magen Avrohom and the Chasam Sofer to the effect that any behavior considered disrespectful in a society’s non-Jewish houses of worship becomes, as a result, forbidden in Jewish shuls. Even … Read More >>
I think I’ve discovered what makes me so uncomfortable about the assertion that global warming is a real and urgent problem.
A front-page New York Times story on May 1 concerned (thanks, Mr. Rumsfeld, for the pithy phrase) a “known unknown”: the earth’s cloud cover. Specifically, the causes and effects of its extent, altitude, and qualities—which are only very imperfectly understood. MIT professor of meteorology Richard S. Lindzen, the article explains, considers clouds a sort of planetary self-corrective mechanism that can counter the effects of greenhouse gases, the global warming drama’s villains.
Predictably, despite his unassailable credentials and the scientific community’s ostensible commitment to objectively consider all hypotheses, Dr. Lindzen has been excoriated by many of his colleagues, who, while they concede the enormous effect of clouds on climate, say he lacks proof for his contention and that, by raising the cloud issue, he is acting, in the words of one, in a “deeply unprofessional and irresponsible” manner.
The Times reporter mirrors that negativity, beginning his piece by stating that “a small group of scientific dissenters,” having had “their arguments… knocked down by accumulating evidence,” have “seized on one last argument,” namely, “that clouds will save us.” … Read More >>
Were the New Israel Fund a newly landed Martian’s only source of information about Israel, he’d likely imagine the country as a cross between Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
In the extraterrestrial’s mind it would be a place where women are forced to sit in the backs of buses and the sound of their voices prohibited from being heard. A place where religious extremists eschew democratic values and control the government and national discourse.
(Our Martian would be stunned to actually fix his multiple eyes on Tel Aviv’s Rechov Dizengoff—or, for that matter, Jerusalem’s Rechov Ben-Yehuda. He’d be stupefied by the unfettered operation of Reform, Conservative, and Messianic places of worship. The Knesset would utterly blow him away.)
The NIF’s latest Big Lie took the form of a big ad—a full-color full-pager, in fact—in The New York Times and the Forward. Maybe the latter periodical ran the ad gratis, but the Times charges $175,000 for a color page. Even discounted, it cost the NIF a pretty penny.
Actually, the one it cost is Murray Koppelman, as noted in the corner of the ad. Mr. Koppelman, an Upper East Side money manager, is a major supporter of the group—he … Read More >>
Having recounted the story in talks and in writing, I apologize if any readers are encountering it here not for the first time. It’s actually my father’s story; in fact, I only heard it from him when I was an adult (and not a particularly young one, at that).
It was the winter of 1941, the first one my father, may he be well, as a 14-year-old, along with his Novhardoker colleagues and rebbe, spent in Siberia, as guests of the Soviet Union. It was a most challenging season for the deportees, as they had no proper clothing for the climate.
As the youngest member of the group, my father, known then as “Simcha Ruzhaner,” after the Polish town of his birth, was assigned to guard a farm a few miles from the kolkhoz, or collective farm, where they were based. The night temperature often dropped to forty degrees below zero, and he had only a small stove by which to keep warm.
One night, he couldn’t shake the chills and realized he was feverish. He managed to hitch his horse and sled together, and set off for the kolkhoz. Not far from the farm, though, he … Read More >>
The lady on the Staten Island ferry the other day was clearly grunting for my ears.
With my unfashionable beard, dark suit and black hat, tagging me as an Orthodox Jew is pretty much a slam dunk. And, having commuted, along with my beard and hat, on those huge orange floating shuttlecocks four or five days a week for the better part of two decades, I have many memorable (at least to me) stories to tell. I’ve never gotten around to setting them down in writing (though choosing the imaginary collection’s title, “Ferry Tales,” was easy).
There was, for instance, the older lady, herself behatted, though hers was a broad-brimmed floral affair, who, standing next to me on the outside deck one glorious spring day, turned to me and beatifically emoted: “Can’t you just see him walking on the water?” (I told her, no, actually I couldn’t.) Or the young man sitting a row in front of me telling his young lady friend how he had read an article about genetic engineering on humans and that he planned on “gettin’ some of them Jew genes for my kid—he be takin’ over the world!”
The latest in my parade of … Read More >>
There isn’t a sane person on the planet—at least if evil counts as insanity—who doesn’t wish for Iran to be forced to abandon its nuclear ambitions (or to have them vaporized by one or another air force).
Many American Jews—most Orthodox Jews likely among them—feel that the military option is the only realistic one, and that it needs to be employed as soon as possible. Actually, yesterday.
It’s an understandable feeling. Iran’s president hasn’t made a secret of his lust for a world without an Israel, or of his country’s progress in producing nuclear material. (Though he has tried mightily to make secrets of the whereabouts of Iran’s nuclear facilities and of its less-than-peaceful plans for the uranium it is enriching).
It has become an article of faith for many that economic pressure on Iran is futile, that negotiations will only buy the mullahcracy time. To disagree is apostasy.
In this view, the apostate-in-chief is President Obama. Yes, he declared at last week’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington that “I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary” regarding Iran. But he is nevertheless inclined to give the unprecedented sanctions that have … Read More >>
I have an abiding appreciation of animals. My family has shared living space at one point or another over the years with: a small goat, a large iguana, a beautiful tarantula, an assortment of rodents of various sizes, and scores of tropical fish (the latter our only current pets).
We didn’t choose some of those creatures. Several were Purim gifts from talmidim of mine when I served as a rebbe. The boys meant well and I came, in time, to appreciate each present. The only one we didn’t keep very long was the goat, which repeatedly escaped from our back yard to feast on a neighbor’s lawn. (We sold her—the goat, that is—within a few weeks to a girl who lived on a farm.)
We always treated our animals well—buying and feeding the tarantula the live crickets it craved and making sure the mice and hamsters got their exercise and fresh air. (The untimely demise of that one member of the order rodentia left too long in the sun was entirely an accident, Chana; there is no reason to feel bad.) And I try to be careful, as per the Talmud’s exhortation regarding animals, to feed our fish before … Read More >>
The little boy was petrified, as one might imagine, by the gorilla who sat down next to him at the table in his (the child’s) home. I hadn’t meant to scare the kid; I was just tired and needed to get off my paws.
It was a very long-ago Purim (the child is now a father and accomplished talmid chochom) and a group of us had rented costumes to use in Purim visits to homes while collecting for a worthy charity. The gorilla suit was very realistic (and very hot).
Sheftel, as I’ll call the boy (because it’s his name) was around three years old at the time. I was around 19. I felt bad, and immediately removed my head—that is to say the gorilla’s.
Sheftel’s eyes shrunk back to their normal size and the scream that had lodged in his lungs never made it to his wide open mouth. He saw it was only me.
When, a bit later, I replaced my gorilla head, Sheftel let out a scream. I reminded him from inside that it was only me. He screamed again. I took off the head and he immediately calmed down. I put it back on … Read More >>
I can’t pride myself on having a good long-term memory (as my wife can attest, that’s an understatement), but a February 1 New York Times article did spur my sluggish hippocampus.
The Times article was about Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood and it noted that “an undercurrent of unease, suspicion and resentment from some longtime residents” remains from the 1991 “riots that exploded between blacks and Hasidic Jews”—as if marauding gangs of Jews and blacks had spent four days attacking one another, when, in fact, the besieged Jewish residents of Crown Heights cowered and prayed as their non-Jewish neighbors attacked them and their property.
My flashback (well, slow dawning) was of correspondence I initiated, as Agudath Israel of America’s director of public affairs, with editors and a reporter at the Old Gray Lady in 2002.
That year, in the context of a court reversal of the federal civil rights conviction of Lemrick Nelson Jr. for the killing of Yankel Rosenbaum during the Crown Heights riots, the Times similarly characterized the disturbances in two different articles, as “violence between blacks and Orthodox Jews.”
I telephoned the reporter whose byline appeared on the reports and asked him whether he … Read More >>
(A slightly edited version of this article appears, under a different title, in the February 24 issue of the Forward)
The recent mini-drama of Rabbi Aryeh Ralbag’s suspension as chief rabbi of his native Amsterdam for signing a document about homosexuality, and his subsequent reinstatement, might well serve as a spur for considering the traditional Jewish attitude on the matter.
Whether homosexuality is fixed or changeable is an open question. There are well-informed people on either side of the issue. Whether the Jewish religious tradition is fixed or changeable, however, is not arguable – at least not for Torah-loyal Jews.
The Torah explicitly prohibits homosexual contact (whether by the homosexually inclined or anyone else). There have been Herculean (and often Bullwinklian) efforts in recent years, even by some nominally “Orthodox” Jews, to cast the Torah’s explicit prohibition of male homosexual activity as meaning something other than what Jewish tradition has understood it to mean for several thousand years. But those millennia in the end are what matter to Jews concerned about what the Torah says to them rather than what they would like the Torah to say.
The Torah does not command hatred of homosexuals or label … Read More >>
I’m tapping this out in my office at Agudath Israel of America’s national headquarters in Manhattan to the tune, so to speak, of blaring horns, booming drums, and the wild shouting of hundreds of thousands of people 13 floors below my window. It’s really annoying.
But it’s part of working downtown. Every so often, if a local sports team wins a championship, everyone employed in the neighborhood, executives and grunts alike, have to put up with car and pedestrian detours, rowdy fans, occasional fights (go figure—they’re all supporters of the same “cause,” no?), and noise, loud and for hours.
Mobs make me uncomfortable. Chalk it up to some genetic Jewish paranoia, a psychological vestige of times when unruly crowds usually meant maiming and murder. And I’ve never been able to appreciate the good time to be had by throwing shredded paper all around, painting one’s face, imbibing too much beer or punching one’s neighbor’s lights out—all of which seem to be important parts of such celebrations.
I don’t even have the requisite American appreciation of grown men playing what amount to glorified schoolyard games, adding enough violence to stimulate the production of androgens without quite crossing the line into … Read More >>
First time visitors to the Shafran home quickly notice how odd it is. Its walls, that is. Well, what graces them, anyway.
The dining room does sport a few normal things—a framed reproduction of a work of Hebrew micrography (a gift, many years ago, from some beloved students) and a small painting of a pensive man in a shtreimel studying Torah (likewise a gift, from some dear friends). And there is a photograph of Rav Avrohom Pam, zt”l, atop a bookcase.
But the remainder of the wall space, in that room and most of the others, is a hodgepodge of, well, oddball items.
There are photos of children and grandchildren (oddball only in that they are, for the most part, random snapshots from various decades and just taped to the walls in no particular pattern); “parsha pictures”—visual riddles about the weekly Torah portion (changed weekly and drawn by someone who is sometimes accused of being a writer but has never been mistaken for an artist); a framed ticket-stub from a trip to the top of one of the Twin Towers (from a visit my wife and three of our children made to the structure on August 30, … Read More >>
It was over a decade ago, in the wake of a spate of terrible terrorist attacks on Jews in Eretz Yisrael, that the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah called upon Jews to recite chapters of Tehillim (they suggested chapters 83, 130, and 142) in shul after davening, followed by the short prayer “Acheinu,” a supplication to G-d to show mercy to His people. Many shuls, to their great credit, to this day still dutifully seize that special merit at the end of their services. None of us can know what dangers that collective credit may have averted, may be averting still.
It occurred to me, though, that recent events might well inspire us—not only those of us Jews who look to the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah for guidance, but all good-hearted Jews, charedi, “modern Orthodox,” non-Orthodox, “traditional,” and secular-minded alike—to consider reciting the holy words with special concentration, and the short prayer with an additional, somewhat different, intent.
For we have witnessed of late…
Reports of verbal and physical attacks on innocent Jews, even children, by other Jews who were, ostensibly, dissatisfied with their marks’ level of modesty.
The exploitation of media to bring such outrages, and exaggerations of … Read More >>
When my husband was a flight surgeon on the US Air Force base in Guam, he witnessed a feeding frenzy by sharks. Daily, a huge garbage truck would gingerly back up to the edge of a cliff, and dump the waste into the Pacific. In 40 seconds sharks made mincemeat of the garbage, leaving disposable dishes floating. In another 20 seconds those were also disposed of by sharks. If you can’t go to Guam, you can see a shark feeding frenzy on the Discovery Channel. Or you can follow the current media frenzy against haredim in Israel.
Perhaps this is what Rabbi Chanina had in mind when he stipulated, “Pray for the welfare of the government, for without fear of governmental authorities people would swallow each other alive” (Pirkey Avot 3:2).
Here are examples of the media frenzy.
(a)Yair Lapid showed a video in December on Israeli TV, which featured the most extreme peripheral haredim whose behavior is considered outrageous by almost all haredim and ultra-Orthodox rabbis.
(b)The NYTimes has blown out of proportion issues related to controversies in Beit Shemesh, on buses, and at conferences. On December 28 the weekday NYTimes gave wide … Read More >>
Reb Lazer Elya Der Melamed (“the cheder teacher”) was born in the late 1850s, lived in Ostrolenka, Poland, and died shortly before the Germans invaded in 1939. I arrived in this world about a century after he did and on a continent he never saw, so I never met him. But I was introduced to him all the same, by my father, may he be well. Reb Lazer Elya was his grandfather.
My father lived for a time with his grandparents while attending a branch of the Novardhok yeshiva in Ostrolenka. He recalls his bar mitzvah there. His parents, living in a town called Ruzhan, had no money for the trip. My father read the Torah and his impoverished grandfather brought some kichel and a small bottle of schnapps to the shul to mark the occasion.
Recently, a Shabbos Sheva Brachos for my niece took place at Yeshivas Ner Yisrael in Baltimore, where the father of the bride, Reb Lazer Elya’s great-grandson—my dear brother—is a rebbe. Our great-grandfather was present in a way, through a letter he had written, read by my father at one of the meals.
My father is the administrator of the Baltimore Bais … Read More >>
I’ve been trying to gather information, from 6,000 miles away, in order to form some opinions on what appears to be a complex situation in Beit Shemesh. I’m still in the midst of absorbing what I’ve read and heard, so for the most part, I’ll let some others doing the talking for now. To gain a broader perspective, I’ve been reading widely, giving equal time, you might say, to Hamodia and Ha’aretz, the newspaper of Israel’s liberal, secular elites. Gideon Levy, an Ha’aretz columnist who sits on its editorial board, writes:
As expected, the campaign against the ultra-Orthodox, all of them, went beyond all proportion. But we can relax: The scandal of the week will quickly die down. The trendy word “exclusion” will return to its obscurity…. It was an artificial fuss: The signs had been there for years until the television cameras captured them. The spitting incident was shameful, but the scandal was overdone.… The fury that erupted on Monday in Beit Shemesh, with one policeman injured and two ultra-Orthodox men arrested, broke out only because the media showed up. This incident too will be forgotten. I was there. Eggs splattered around me, and the ultra-Orthodox shouted “Nazi, … Read More >>
I was honestly humbled by the participation of the speakers who preceded me at the Sunday morning session of Agudath Israel of America’s most recent national convention.
They were: the venerable Malcolm Hoenlein (whose name, I noted, seems hinted at in the verse “Bnai Tziyon yagilu b’Malcolm”), and the likewise rightly celebrated Professor Aaron Twerski. The topic was “The Lamb Among Seventy Wolves”—the precarious position of the Jewish people among the nations.
Mr. Hoenlein provided a comprehensive overview of contemporary anti-Semitism and geopolitics; Professor Twerski focused on the dismaying import for Jews of the world economic situation.
My assignment was to address spiritual threats to our people.
I suggested that the distinction between spiritual and physical menaces may be illusionary, that the former in fact underlie the latter.
Fighting anti-Semitism, and its illegitimate offspring anti-Israel-ism, must be a priority. At the same time, though, a mesora-attuned mindset must always know that Jews’ wellbeing is ultimately not a function of articles, activism or armaments. Those are tools. What empowers them is where we stand, as a community and as individuals, in matters of the spirit.
It should be obvious. Jews comprise 2/10ths of 1 percent … Read More >>
When, as a teenager, I first read about the Code of Hammurabi, the ancient set of social laws dating from the time of our forefather Avraham, I was greatly troubled.
Elements of the code, instituted by a king of the First Babylonian Dynasty, bear clear similarities to various of the Torah’s laws. What, I asked myself, were laws that would only be given to the Jewish People at Sinai doing inscribed on tall stones centuries earlier?
So naturally, I brought my question, like countless others about science, history and other things, to my rebbe, Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel in Baltimore. He just looked at me in his inimitable, sympathetic way, and posed a question of his own. “And Avi,” he said with deliberation, “just what do you think Avraham Ovinu spent his entire life doing?”
My question, I immediately realized, wasn’t much of one. A fundamental datum about Avraham, I knew but didn’t consider, is that he spent his days tirelessly spreading the word about the Creator of all, and sharing elements of His Torah (whose laws, the Midrash teaches us, were known to, and studied by, our forefathers).
Did I … Read More >>
The mosquitoes are gone, thank G-d.
Not only the determined one who pestered me one summer morning in shul during davening, but all of her friends and relatives too. Gone for the fall, winter and spring. And if they all decide to take a collective summer vacation somewhere far away next July, I’ll pay their airfare. Count me among cold-weather aficionados; I’m averse to heat, humidity, and—especially—mosquitoes. Not only are their bite-sites unsightly and itchy, but some of the species carry dangerous diseases. Okay, maybe not those in these parts, but still.
About that one in shul. I imagined her sent by the soton to prevent my concentration. She hovered before me and I shooed her away. She returned and I shooed some more. I would happily have dispatched her to the big standing water pool in the sky but it somehow felt wrong to deliver a fatal blow, even to a mere insect, in my tallis and tefillin.
I don’t claim to have the focus one is ideally supposed to have during prayer. My mind wanders and too much of what I recite evidences more rote than reflection. But I do try to concentrate, especially on the parts … Read More >>