Wednesday, November 6, 2013 – 8:00pm at OR TORAH
“The School, the Home and the Community: An Open Discussion with Three Leading Educators”featuring
Rabbi Menachem Linzer, Dr. David Pelcovitz & Rabbi Eli Samber
“Nourishing The Neshama” is a new project in Chicago. It’s a partnership project of Ida Crown Jewish Academy, the YU Torah Mitzion Kollel, NCSY, YU Institute for University-School Partnership, and Congregations Chochevei Torah, KINS, KJBS & Or Torah.
The Alter of Novardok, Rabbi Yosef Yozel Hurwitz zt’l, taught that kosher utensils could be either meat, dairy, or parve, but a man cannot be pareve, he is only one way or the other. I have been thinking about this teaching for a good part of the summer (which is almost over since my kids started school this week).
Most of us have opinions. It’s part our personality. I, in my more colorful past, always had something to say about everything. Eventually as I got older, I curtailed my opinions on many social, political, religious, and community issues. In my more formative years of being frum I looked towards the middah of humility, anivus, as a crutch not to have such a strong opinion on things. This is completely the wrong way to behave. It was a mistake of my youth and one I regret. We all have opinions about things we are truly passionate about. It’s part of being created B’zelem Elokeim and emulating Hashem. Humility doesn’t mean you have to keep your mouth shut all of time.
“Man cannot be pareve,” say the Alter. We just can’t, because deep down inside us is a little voice giving an opinion. Those that claim to not have an opinion about things, really just don’t want to share their opinion with you or make it public. Not expressing your view is sometimes worse than voicing your opinion. Over the years I’ve seen relationships and friendships dissolve like sugar in a pot of boiling water because people try not to side with one party or the other. I have seen business deals destroyed, reputations soiled, and families torn asunder because people try not to take a side on an issue.
I am not advocating that we all need to make picket signs for every little cause we can think of, but it’s important to make known how you stand on an issue. This is especially true, I think, with your children. Children, as they grow up, need to understand the nuances of halacha, minhag, and hashkafa. They will only understand if they see us and the decisions we make. For example, if you don’t explain to your kids which hechsharim your family eats, then they might think that any hechshar is acceptable. I want my children to have opinions and know that it’s ok to speak up and defend someone. I want them to not be afraid to be in the minority about something they believe to be emes, the truth. I want them to follow the example of their parents, especially their mother. So, I guess that means that 5774 will be a year of finding a voice to express my opinion.
A common textbook example of Loshon Hora, the Torah prohibition about speaking despairingly about someone, is the visualization of someone cutting open a pillow and then trying to collect all of the feathers as they blow away. With the ease of distributing information thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram this illustration of a pillow is almost outdated.
While it’s probably faster to use social media to “speak” Loshon Hora, the medium of choice is still talking to someone to old fashion way. It’s much more juicy and enticing to simply pick up a phone or tell a friend some “news” while you are waiting to pick up your kids from camp or waiting in line for some kugel at a kiddush. Why? Because we still like to have actual conversations with other people.
You can PM (private message) your friend to tell them what you just heard about so-and-so, but typing the actual words isn’t a worthy substitute for speaking the words. It’s like the difference between reading about a great meal and actually smelling and tasting the meal. The object, be it a 5-course meal or insider news about someone in your community, can’t fully be replicated if it is transmitted by the written word. Go ahead try it. Go to Twitter or Facebook and write some Loshon Hora about someone. Don’t press SEND, please. Just look at the words and imagine saying them. It’s a different feeling.
Of course, I am not suggesting or advocating Loshon Hora is an acceptable thing to do. It isn’t. That being said, I am guessing that most people (not that they will ever read this) wouldn’t use social media to spread gossip about someone’s daughter, spouse, mother-in-law, school administrator, or doctor. The reason they would’t use Twitter or Facebook is because once it’s out there (unless you SEND and then DELETE right away) it can be traced back to the originator. With Loshon Hora of the spoken variety, as the originator you can always say, “I don’t remember who told me,” or, “I really can’t reveal my source, because it would be Loshon Hora.”
The bottom line is that talking about other people is hurtful, regardless of if it is the truth, half-truth, or completely untrue. Negative words about someone have the power to follow someone for years and also can reach someone’s ears before you even meet them.
“The foundation of Chassidus (piety) and the root of perfect service of Hashem is understanding and appreciating one’s obligation in one’s personal world.” It is tempting to gloss over the apparently repetitive phraseology, “The foundation of Chassidus” and “the root of perfect service of Hashem,”…in this short phrase, Ramchal teaches us that there are two, parallel processes in serving Hahsem.
The first one, Chassidus, demands a foundation. Chassidus constitutes the top floor in the construction of a human being and construction always requires a foundation. The taller and loftier the building we wish to construct, the deeper the foundation we must dig. To reach the heights of Chassidus, we must first lay a strong foundation and then build on it.
The second one, Divine service, evolves organically from within, and such growth requires a root, Ramchal hints. Where there is no root, there can be no growth. In one terse sentence, Ramchal informs us that we must be involved in both construction (building ourselves through the acquisition of ma’alos– good qualities) and growth (sowing internal seed that will sprout during our lifetime). And with this understanding we should learn the remainder of the introduction to the Mesillas Yesharim
This is exactly why our there needs to be both building and construction in raising a child and in building ourselves. A sprinkle of piety here and a pinch of servicing Hashem there helps make things taste better. Of course, I’m referring to the ta’am (taste) of a mitzvah. Hey, I’ll admit that that as a man I can only do one thing at a time. If I’m being asked to work on constructing a edifice with a strong foundation, then how work on nourishing my ever growing roots?
My own interpretation of this is that since roots are under the surface, working on growth is something we keep to ourselves, like a smokeless fire (see this post). What our families, friends, and people we bump into will see is how those roots essentially help with the construct of the “building” in the form of those mitzvos that we perform out in the open, such as davening, learning, or a chessed.
The English translation of Zeriah u’Binyan beChinnuch, Planting and Building by Rav Shlomo Wolbe z’tl (translated by Rabbi Leib Keleman) is currently on sale for $11.69 if you use this online coupon code: FLD10.
From the Feldheim website:
An English translation of the acclaimed Hebrew best-seller, Zeriah u’Binyan beChinnuch. The author, an acknowledged Torah authority, is one of the foremost spiritual leaders of our time. This book has been prepared from several of his lectures, and presents basic guidelines for parenting and education. The wisdom in this important book fills a great need for our generation and Rabbi Wolbe’s vital teachings should be read and re-read by every Jewish parent and educator.
Now, here’s the nitty gritty about this sefer, if you have kids or are in a formalized chinuch position, then it’s in your best interest to read this sefer. If you live in Chicago, email me and I’ll let you borrow my copy. Last February in Chicago I heard both Rabbi Yakov Horowitz and Rabbi Paysach Krohn quote and base discussions around this sefer at two totally separate events. Rabbi Wolbe z’tl completely “got it” about how to use sechel in the way we educate our children. I often catch myself using techniques and teachings from this sefer. I also catch myself not following some of the ideas in the sefer and pay for it. I don’t get any kickbacks from Feldheim (but wish I did), I just happen to feel very passionately about Planting and Building and it is truly 88 pages of knowledge. Don’t forget to use the code “FLD10” to save 10% when you order it.
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner, Rosh Beit Midrash of the Yeshiva University-Torah MiTzion Beit Midrash Zichron Dov posted the text of a drasha he gave over Shabbos. Not only was I inspired by what he posted, but he eloquently weaved examples and sources that were a pleasure to read. Here’s a teaser:
As our topic this morning is how we raise Jewish children, one lesson here is that we need to do more than tell our community’s children about our ideals; we need to live these ideals, visibly. I know this is likely obvious, but I state it as a first important step for parents, and for all of us, as adults; we are role models by dint of our simple presence.
The entire drasha (not too long) can be read on his blog, here.
RavMosheWeinberger.com has is offering a free shiur for a limited time. I have heard half of it alreay and it’s amazing and, even more than usual, Rav Weinberger cuts to the heart of the matter on several topics in a clear and emesdik way. The following was sent in an email:
Rav Weinberger – Almost Completely “Unfiltered!”
The sparks were flying (literally, if you consider the nitzotzos of our neshamos) this past erev Shabbos during the Rav Kook shiur The Short Long Way and The Long Short Way, Especially In A Filtered World. Rav Weinberger used a Rav Kook essay that was not included in Oros HaTorah, to teach that there is a “short long” way and a “long short” way to reach a goal.
The “short long” way consists of shortcuts and superficial methodologies to quickly deal with the issue at hand. For example – I have been diagnosed with tennis elbow. It hurts and prevents me from lifting heavy objects due to the pain. The “short long” path (which I have taken for the past two months) is to take pain killers. This reduces the pain and allows my arm to function almost completely normally. However, the pain killers, while addressing the symptom, don’t solve the underlying problem.
The “long short” way (started last week) means adjusting the way I grip my power tools and bicycle handle bars, wearing an arm strap, some physical therapy and icing the muscle and elbow area frequently. While this path will likely take longer, it addresses the cause of the symptom.
Back to the shiur…after a only a few minutes Rebbi began talking (“talking” is really much too tame a term, but I was not able to find a nice synonym for “yelling”) about filtering the Internet, filtering girls, in fact, filtering out the entire world; he mentioned the events of a few months ago in Ramat Beit Shemesh, addressed teenager inter-gender relationships and trying to maintain shalom bayis by merely buying your spouse some flowers on erev Shabbos.
This is not how we become Jews who “know” Hashem and each other. We will not become closer to Him if our teachers, parents [and leaders] intimidate us and threaten us with gehinnom. Rebbi advocates that we must teach our children, beginning with first grade in the right, loving way and connect them by example to the Ribbonoh shel Olam. That is the path.
A very close friend commented about the shiur: “I love Rebbi the way he is now, but this is the Rebbi I fell in love with.”
OK. I got it off my chest – but really… this is a MUST HEAR shiur. Tell your friends, and family members… remember, it’s free!
Have a good Shabbos.
P.S. You do know about our $6.99 for FIFTY shiurim monthly plan, right?
Once, when the Chofetz Chaim immersed in the mikvah, he found the water to be very cold. He questioned the caretaker, who insisted that he had heated up the water before adding it to the mikvah and even showed him the kettle he had used. The Chofetz Chaim first felt the kettle, then he put his finger into the water of the kettle, and found the water to be lukewarm. He explained to the mikvah attendant, if boiling hot water is added to the mikvah then the water will become warm. However, he noted, if the water is only lukewarm when it is poured into the mikvah, the water will remain quite cold indeed.
Similarly, if we are trying to ignite within our children an excitement and fervor for Yiddishkeit, we ourselves must be piping hot with enthusiasm. If our ardor for Torah and mitzvos is tepid and unenthusiastic, how will our children be energized and invigorated?
-From Rav Dovid Goldwasser, in the Spring 2012 issue of The Klal Perspectives Journal
They know that exercise is hard work and often difficult. By putting music and dance moves together they have made it fun. I think growth oriented Judaism needs a similar motto. Maybe it should be, “From pause to Go with the turn of a page” or “If you’re not growing, your not living“.
I did write that there might a “one size fits all” cure and I think it’s finding a community (ie- shul, beis medrash, kollel, Rav) that is focused on Torah, Avodah, and Gemilus Chassadim, which are the foundations of our world. These three items are also the driving force behind Cong. Ahavas Yisrael and often mentioned in the writings and comments of Mark Frankel from BeyondBT. Each of us can connect and grow by our invovlment in one of these three. We can learn, commit to meaningful davening, or involve ourselves and families in chessed. The main point, as Micha Berger mentioned to me in an email, is that our Torah life has to be a growth process.
I think back to the lyrics of the old TV show “Diff’rent Strokes” as proof for this: