Monthly Archives: January 2009

Question and Answer with A SIMPLE JEW

The question:
Do you find that people behave differently in in the workplace due to your Torah observance?

A Simple Jew answers:

If I did not have a yarmulke and beard, I would be indistinguishable from any other white male in the office. My appearance, however, broadcasts to the world who I am and what I believe without me even having to utter a single word. It makes me different, but that is not entirely a negative thing since it seems that people tend to take me more seriously and I tend to earn their respect quicker than if I did not have a beard and yarmulke.

I would also like to believe that my presence, speech, and behavior influences people to behave in a more refined manner. I have noticed that people are generally more careful from uttering profanities in my presence and also a little more careful about their topics of conversation. If they do slip, they will quickly say “Sorry”.

At times, however, I have noticed that people sometimes do not know how relate to me once they first meet me. Once they see that I can speak to them as another human being and not as the rabbi they imagine me to be the “wall of strangeness” quickly disappears.

While people behave differently because of me, as the only person in my building who wears a yarmulke, I am completely aware that I must behave differently because of them as well by ensuring that my behavior is beyond reproach and is consistent with my religious beliefs; by being a good ambassador for the Boss of all humanity.

Rav Hirsch on Asarah B’Teves

This is the beginning of Rav Hirsch’s essay on the month of Teves (Tebeth) from my newly acquired first edition of Judaism Eternal- Selected Essays from the Writings of Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (vol one):

The Tenth of Tebeth is the first of the four fasts which perpetuate amongst Jews the memory of their twice-suffered catastrophe, the downfall of the Jewish State.
The memorial is no mere form.
You are not invited to a merely idle mourning, to look back a little, to tie crepe on your sleeve, and to dedicate a tear of sadness to the departed great.  The anniversaries of the fall of Jerusalem and Zion find you fasting.  This fasting beckons you on.  It reminds you that Jerusalem and Zion have not fallen for ever.  It reminds you that it lies in your hnds to make “the fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth month and the fast of the seventh month and the fast of the tenth month to become to the House of Judah days of joy and delight”.  (Zecharia 8.19.)  It reminds you that you have but to will it and Jerusalem and Zion will rise again.
For look, you fast on these days of remembrance in order to tell yourself that your fate and your life’s task are still linked with this catastrophe, and you have to go on repeating this fast until your destiny is fulfilled and until you can comprehend and accomplish your life’s task.
Your fate is called “Galuth” and your life’s task “Teshubah.”

It turns out that Dr. Yitzchok Levine has posted the entire essay (published in Colllected Writings II, as well) on his website.  The short essay is well worth the read and is available here.
The portrait of Rav Hirsch is from a page of Judaism Eternal.

Sunday’s Spark of Mussar

Rav Nosson Ziv Finkel, the Alter of Slabodka

The cough of a talmud broke into a Mussar shmuse.  R’ Nosson Zvi immediately stopped speaking, and asked who had coughed.  When no one replied, he complained that no one cared about it, and asked in amazement, “If someone cries, do you also remain silent?”

From Sparks of Mussar by R Chaim Ephraim Zaitchik

Kinus Tefilah for Eretz Yisrael

In response to the critical situation in Eretz Yisrael, the Rabbanim of Chicago, in conjunction with the Chicago Rabbinical Council and Agudath Israel of Illinois urge everyone to join in a

Kinus Tefilah on Asarah b’Tevet
(Tuesday, January 6th)
to be held at
Congregation K.I.N.S.
2800 West North Shore Avenue, Chicago
Mincha will begin at 4PM, followed by Tehillim and Maariv.