Monthly Archives: February 2008

A suggestion regarding Taanit Esther‏ and links…

The following email was sent to me by the Rabbi Zev Shandalov, President of the Chicago Rabbinical Council:

On March 20, 2008, the 13th of Adar II, Jews around the world will fast for Taanit Esther. On that day, we recall the time when the evil Haman, a descendant of Amalek, planned to annihilate the Jewish people.

Today, we have other people and nations who wish to destroy us, as well. Some of them, Hamas and Fatah in particular, take steps towards that end every single day. Every single day of every week, we read of rockets and qassams falling on Sderot. The goal of the enemy is to drive us out of Sderot and then out of all of Israel (chas v’shalom!).

I would like to make a simple suggestion…this year, as we fast on Taanit Esther, have in mind our fellow Jews in Sderot (and now it seems in Ashkelon as well!) as they face a daily barrage of salvos from the enemy, a modern day Amalek! Yes, think about the occurrences in the time of Esther and Mordechai….but think about TODAY’S victims and how they need our tefillot!

May Hashem see our tefillot and, more importantly, our actions (see Book of Yonah 3:10) and have mercy on our fellow brethren in Sderot, Ashkelon and beyond, and may He bring an end to the daily terror that they witness!

Zev M Shandalov
Congregation KJBS
Chicago, IL USA


In addition I would suggest reading these postings:

Adventures in Eretz Yisrael: Sderot: Dodging the Kassam
Unfinished Post: R’ Yehuda Bar Ila’i (part 1)

Rav Schwab z"tl on Emunah and Bitachon

Almost 10 years ago I read a transcribed address that Rav Shimon Schwab z’tl gave on Emunah and Bitachon at the Torah Institute of America in Moodus, Connecticut, which was run by Rav Schwab’s son-in-law, Rabbi Yaacov Rosenberg z”tl.

This important drasha was once hosted online as part of the Golders Green Beth Hamidrash (London) website. As it was Rav Schwab’s yartzeit last week, I had looked to link the address to a blog posting, but sadly their site had been removed off of the internet. After several days of searching, I did find the original printout I had from 1999. There were many notes, most of which have been edited out of the pdf that I have now made available online.

This work not only show’s Rav Schwab’s humility and sensitivity in dealing with Baalei Teshuva, but also, as deals with important ideas of Hashem as our Master and our King. May this drasha be an Aliya for Rav Schwab’s neshama and also a zechus for all who need a Refuah. Please feel free to link this.
The pdf is available here.

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rabbi Yisroel Lipkin of Salant
R’ Yisrael was once praising his student R’ Simcha Zissel Ziv of Kelm. Said a rabbi who was present, “If R’ Simcha Zissel would devote his talents completely to Gemora, instead of spending time also on Mussar, he would become a tremendous goan.”

“The Shulchan Oruch,” answered R’ Yisroel, “teaches that if a person has before him a small, perfect challah and a large but imperfect one, he must cut the perfect challah first. Similary, spritual perfection takes priority over scholarly greatness.”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

My penchant to rant…

… or why I don’t blog Anon

This is actually my second blog. My first blog was back November 2004 and I did not use my name. The blog was called “Out of town Yid” and constisted of only one posting. The blog was put to sleep after about two days. My ‘post’ was basically about how middos and basic ethical concepts in Yiddishkeit should, in theory, get passed on to one’s children, students, congregants, or receivers of ‘Jewish outreach attempts’. When this doesn’t happen, it’s a disaster. It was not what I would describe as as a “happy go lucky post full of sunshine”. After rereading it I, as mentioned, pulled the plug.

For some, the ability to blog anonymous works to their advantage. For me, it brought out a dark side, that gravitated towards the sarcastic, a place were I might be prone to use my “wit to abuse, not to amuse.”

I know, for myself, that blogging under my name helps to (hopefully) keep me in check and for lack of a better phrase, not do anything foolish. When one puts themselves out in the public, on the web, on You Tube, Facebook, at the grocery store, at work, in shul, or in line somewhere for coffee, we do not only represent ourselves. There is a bigger picture.

That picture, may include our family, spouse, children, or the general category of “Torah observant Judaism”. Chillul Hashem is never a good thing. Rav Yisrael (Lipkin) of Salant (I know it’s not Sunday) said:
When Lashon Hara is spoken in Vilna, the effect will be Chillul Shabbos in Paris.

If, chas v’Shalom, this is true, then the best way to counter such a thing would be for me to remember that the opportunities that I can use for a Kiddush Hashem, or the learning I do, or the davening I do, or the mitzvos I do can have a very global effect. Can a Jew davening in Yerushalyim have an impact on another Jew in Wichita, KS? I like to hope so.

I’m not so global of a thinker tonight, though. I’d rather think more locally, like about my kids sleeping several rooms away. I hope I can affect them positively.

Speaking to future generations

In the INSPIRED PARENTING shiurim given by R Moshe Weinberger (tape 7), I found a very meaningful eitzah in what my mindset should be when speaking with my children, especially when I might be tempted to get angry at them.

R Weinberger, based on the writings of Rav Zilberberg, says that when you get angry at your kids or have to discipline them you should try to visualize them as teens, or even adults, with children of their own. When you think about lossing your patience because you son hadn’t finished part of his homework or you daughter can’t decide exactly what she wants for breakfast remember that you are not only losing patience with a child, but with the future father or mother of your own grandchildren, and all the future generations within your family. This, to me, is a very powerful thought.

Can we even think about our own kids as bubbies and zaidies? Would we lose our cool at someone who is 60, 70, or 80 years old over something that really isn’t worth it in the end? In the heat of the moment I need to remember that before isn’t just a shayna maidel or a mentch-Yisrael, it’s the source of my family’s future.

Tinok ben Aviva update…

As I am still getting many people coming to this blog for information about Tinok Ben Aviva, I will share the following from an email I received from a list I subscribe to:

“Boruch Hashem there has been continued progress in the infant’s condition…. Rabbi Eytan Feiner expresses his Hakaras Hatov to all those who continue to have his child in their Tefillos..
so please maintain your incredible dedication and outpouring of precious tefillos. They are all so very much appreciated, and have truly accomplished a great deal thus far.”

For additional chizuk and background information I, again, suggest this web address:

Klal Yisroel has many that need our tefillos, both young and old. Please daven!

Parsha Tetzaveh

כ וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד.

Rav Hirsch zt”l says on the words l’halos ner tamid, to kindle the lamps continually, that only this term is only used for the menorah. We are taught that one must hold a flame against the wick until wick burns on its own. Rav Hirsh goes on to say beautifully that this is how it should be with with the teachers of Klal Yisrael. They should have patience and be persevering with each student, so to light a flame that will burn on its own. Rav Hirsh published his commentary on Chumash in 1878.

Fast forward to 1932, the year that the Piazeczna Rebbe, Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapiro zt”l, published the Chovos HaTalmidim. This is taken from his introduction:
An educator, however, who wishes to uncover the soul of the child that lies hidden and concealed with him, who wants to help it grown and to ignite it so it will burn with a heavenly fire, upwards, towards the holy, so that the student’s entire being, including his physical body will increase in holiness and will long for God’s Torah, such an educator must adapt himself to the student, must penetrate into the midst of his limited consciousness and small-mindedness, until he reaches the hidden soul-spark. Then he can help it emerge, blossom, and grow. (From A STUDENT’S OBLIGATION page 5)
The same idea put forth, almost 50 years later. Two distinctly different Gadolim, using similar imagery. And why not? Neither Rav Hirsch nor the Piazeczna were interested in promoting themselves, they only wanted to teach us, so that we can continue to burn! Have a great Shabbos Kodesh.

File Under: Overthinking music that I grew up with

A close friend of my sent me a message last week about a new album by Bob Mould, easily my favorite non-Jewish recording artist since 1984, along with a link to the album and track samples. I admit the last album I bought of this musician was back in 1996 and I’ll also admit that just last week I listened to his orignal band’s seminal work “Zen Arcade” while driving in the snow (hardcord punk seems to really go well with bad weather). I don’t often listen to his music these days, as it turns out, mostly by choice. Echos of Piamenta, Karduner, YBC, Carlebach, YHB (Yitzhak HaLevi Band) and some Diaspora tracks have a home in my iTunes (with a sprinkling of Talking Heads, Sonic Youth, and one Bad Religion song).

Well, as I looked at the names of the tracks on the album the last song’s title was familiar. I listened to the sample, and yep, I knew the song (rather well, it has been a favorite of mine for over 16 years via an accoustic concert bootleg). Those in the ‘know’ knew that it was originally slated to be on this artist’s first solo album but didn’t make the final cut.

I find it interesting that he chose now to put a song easily 20 years old on a new album…and from what I heard it’s exactly the same song . But then again, I have journal entries that are meaningful to me that I would not post on this blog. Call it ‘artistic license’, I suppose. There are things we reveal to many and many things we keep tightly in our ‘inner circle’. I guess, in this case, a musician’s choice to put a track ‘for the fans’ on an album is an added bonus for some. It’s sort of like telling that same family joke to your kids or wife, knowing that a smile will erupt.

It does give me food for thought about what things I keep to myself and what things should be revealed and the timing involved in both.

Looking for something else to read? I suggest these:
A Simple Jew: Another 40 Days – Reopening The Notebook – Part 1
Dixie Yid: A Special One Day Trip Down South (West)
Rechovot: The Mussar in messing with the Rabbi’s parking spot