Monthly Archives: October 2007

Vayeira’s message to former Kiruv Professionals

This was originally posted as a comment I made on Rabbi Without A Cause’s blog, here.

My shul’s Rav based his second day Rosh Hashana on something taught by the Rav Soloveitchik, who asks what happened to Avraham after the Akeidah?

All we know is that he went to Ber Sheva and settled there. After Akedas Yitzchak, the Torah doesn’t record that Hashem speaks again with Avraham. What was he doing? Rav Soloveitchik answered this question as follows. After a lifetime of serving Hashem, teaching Torah, and converting hundreds to monotheism, it seems that the Torah tells us that Avraham ends up he living in Ber Shevah among is his family, his nephews/ nieces and their children. Avraham mostly spent time with his family and helping to strengthen their yiddishkeit.

For me this really hit home. I spent 12 yrs involved in kiruv and communal work. Like many of my former friends and former colleagues, eventually I chose to leave that velt for the ‘private sector’. The people I’ve known who have left outreach are amazing people. The kind of people that organizations really can’t replace. I think that what Rav Soloveitchik is telling us is that while working for klal Yisrael and for a kehillah is very important, when you stop, life goes on. Family is what matters. You can be a shiach for Hashem and m’karev tens if not hundreds of individuals, but if you are not successful with your own family, then how successful are you?

To take 15 minutes and sit and bentch word by word with an unaffiliated teenager is a great thing to do. To take time and do Chumash homework with your own kids is just as chashuv. Gut Shabbos Kodesh.

This d’var Torah is being given over Zecher Nishmas Dan Haleiv ben Aharon.

Two Sense-able Links

A Simply Jew posted a very important item today dealing with the issue of Shmiras Einayim, with thoughts compiled from various people. It’s well worth the read, IMHO.

On the other side of the coin, my friend (I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him that) R Gershon Seif posted his live performance recorded this past Motzei Shabbos at the Young Israel of West Rogers Park. You’ll have to scroll all the way to the bottom of his web page to download or stream the show. Of course, feel free to listen to is other songs posted as well.

Yosef Karduner comes to Chicago

Presenting an evening of inspirational entertainment to benefit

Featuring Internationally Renowned Recording Artist Yosef Karduner

A live performance for the first time in Chicago

Sunday, October 21, 2007 – 8pm

The Shul @ The Wi-Fi Building

8170 McCormick Boulevard – Skokie, IL

$10 Suggested donation to the Kehillah Fund

Srulies Delicatessen will be open during the performance

For more info and to see videos of past performances, please go to

Also this Motzei Shabbos:

Young Israel of West Rogers Park

*Musical Café Night*

featuring the music of MOSHE AVERICK and RABBI GERSHON SEIF

Bring friends and family!

* FREE ice cream FREE drinks FREE chips

Pizza available for purchase October 20th at 9:00 PM 2706 W. Touhy Ave.
$10 donation requested *a portion of proceeds will go to Families of Gush Katif*
Next post: Habits

Pop Up Blockers and Me

Note: This post is based on a causal email exchange I had right before Sukkos with a friend/sometimes blog reader..

Thought pop into my head way to often. Mostly during davening. I find that it’s a challenge for me to keep my kavannah from being hijacked. For sure this was a problem prior to Sukkos. I’ve tried hisbodedus before davening. I’ve told myself, “Focus on davening” between the time I’ve left home and arrived at shul, as well. It never really seems to work for me in the long run. Usually any attempt has been the proverbial band-aid.

Then, for some reason, I thought about the miracle of the ‘pop-up blocker’. These little programs are amazing. The allow us to jump from website to website for hours on end without having to deal with those annoying pop-up windows. Why couldn’t I use this technology for my davening? I tried it during the first days of Sukkos. As I got ready to daven Sukkos morning I imagined that just the simple action of open my siddur turned on my ‘pop-up blocker’ that would help filter out all of those thought that seem to enter my mind during daving. You know the ones that really set you off course, like, “I really should have had two cups of coffee in my sukkah” or “I wonder if everyone here bentched lulav and esrog before coming to shul?”

I was actually impressed. This simple mental trip seemed to help my kavannah. It isn’t full proof, but it’s a start. In truth, this idea has been around for a while. A classic example would be the use of tzitzis or wearing of a yarmulka (although tzitzis is totally rooted in halacha).

I decided to extend my use of ‘pop-up blockers’ in regard to anger (more on this in the upcoming post titled “Habits”, coming soon to blog near you). I had a situation over Sukkos that not only tested my patience but I allowed it to eat away at me to the point of getting really upset. Finally I turned on my ‘pop-up blocker’ to stop myself from reaching the point of anger over a situation that really wasn’t in my control. When the same situation came up again, my ‘pop-up blocker’ stared flashing in my head and I was reminded that getting upset wasn’t worth the trouble.

I guess it’s really an issue of control. Do I want to be in control of my thoughts, or will my thoughts be in control of me (this makes me think of the old song by the band X, titled “I must not think bad thoughts”). I’m reminded of a classic Kelm story of about Rav Eliyahu Lopian z’tl.

While waiting for a bus in Yerushalyim with one of his talmidim, Rav Lopian was learning. At some point he picked his head out of the sefer he had and looked up to see if the bus was coming. Right after he did this, he turned to his student and said something like, “Had I been in Kelm and did this, I would have gotten an hour mussar shmooze.” The idea being two fold:
a) Looking to see if the bus was coming doesn’t make the bus come any faster
b) It’s a bus. Is a bus so important that you are willing to give up even a second of your seder in learning. Who is in control? You or the bus?

For another great post on dealing with anger, I strongly suggest this by A Simple Jew.