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Friday, September 14, 2012

Some Tips For the New Year

The Parsha speaks about Teshuvah. The great Ezra designed the calendar so that this Parsha will always be read before Rosh HaShanah so that at this exact time of year our hearts and minds should be focused on improving our relationship with the Almighty.

Recently I collected some advice from the Talmud for creating some Shalom Bayit between us and G-d.

The Talmud says (Rosh HaShana 17) that anyone who swallows their pride will be forgiven for all their sins! Rashi explains that if you let someone be right even if they’re wrong, G-d will forgive you even if you’re wrong.

We all sin. How do we feel after we have done something that we shouldn’t have? Do we rationalize and try to make ourselves feel better? The Talmud says (Brachos 12) if one sins and then is ashamed of what they did (boshet) that sin is forgiven!

If you answer Yehai shmay Rabba with all your strength any evil decree will be annulled. (Shabbos 119) If the Yehai shmay Rabba is said at the Kadish following Torah study than all sins are forgiven. (Koheles Rabba 9) If you tell G-d what you feel about him at a well placed moment and you really mean it your relationship has been restored.

If one keeps Shabbat carefully even the sin of idol worship will be forgiven. (Shabbos 118)

Golut (having to leave our place of comfort) atones all sins. (Sanhedrin 37) If one has in mind Golut while walking to Shul in inclement weather or even if while being deposed from ones regular seat in Shul ones sins are forgiven. (Pele Yoetz)

“With kindness and truth sins are forgiven” (Mishlei 15; 6) ‘Truth’ refers to the study of Torah (Brachos 5) There is no better way to strengthen our relationship with Hashem than by studying His Torah daily. Even just a commitment to study a bit more works. A day should not go by that every one of us doesn’t take at least a few minutes to study a bit of Torah.

This is the last Shabbos of the year. It is according to many the most important Shabbos of the year. All’s well that ends well.

Please join me in my prayer that we grow in spirit as we usher in the New Year 5773 with happiness and health.

Posted on 09/14 at 10:51 AM • Permalink
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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Kedushas Shabbos Part 115 - Heaven and Earth: Mercy and Justice

Rabbi Yaacov Haber, Shlit’a, “builds” Creation according to its two main characteristics, Justice and Mercy.  Everything that HaKadosh Boruch Hu created was for the sake of the essence of Shabbos which is the essence of the Jew. Thus, the cycle of Creation revolves around how the Jewish People inhale and exhale Shabbos.  It should be “lived,” according to the Rav, who cites from Rav Tzadok HaKohein, in Oneg (joy/pleasure/delight)!  The Jewish People are the “switch” that keeps the flow of Creation cycling ever higher. 

Posted on 01/15 at 08:17 PM • Permalink
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Friday, October 19, 2012

Raising Cain

The first few chapters of the Torah tell us the story of the family of man. It all started, of course, with Adam and Eve. Cain and Abel were born; Cain killed Abel; Cain had a family and Abel had no descendants.

Adam and Eve continued their process of procreation and gave birth to a third son, Seth. Seth had a family. Everyone in the world were descendants of either Seth or Cain.

Seth had a descendant called Enoch, after whom humankind was named.

We tend to think of the descendants of Cain as children of the killer while the children of Seth were the hope for the future of humanity.

Cain, however, had some very impressive descendants who contributed much to civilization. He had a descendant called Lemech. Lemech had 3 sons and a daughter. According to the Torah one of his sons was the inventor of musical instrumentation; another was the discoverer of iron and weaponry and the third was a master shepherd.

It is commonly pointed out that Noach was a descendant of Seth, and the rest of the world, the descendants of Cain, were killed out in the Great flood. That would make all of us the descendants of Seth.

According to Rashi, however, this is incorrect. True, Noach was a descendant of Seth but Noach also had a wife. Her name was Na’ama. Na’ama was a daughter of Lemech and therefore a great granddaughter of Cain.

The survivors of the flood were the sons of Noach and Na’ama; Shem, Cham and Yefet.  From them came forth all of humanity.

In other words - we all have a little bit of Cain in us. We are all a struggling combination of two forces.

The Holy Ari (Shaar HaGilgulim) identifies in the personalities of history the souls of Cain and the souls of Seth. Astonishingly, some of the greatest Rabbinic leaders of all times, according to the Arizal, possessed the soul of Cain. This did not make them killers. It made them assertive, creative and leaders of men.

We often feel guilty about our deep inner struggles. We idealize our spiritual heroes as perfectly righteous men and women. We assume that they are not even capable of having the thoughts that we are thinking.

This is not so. Our ancestors and role models were not made out of plastic. They were men and women who inherited the forces of Seth and the forces of Cain. They struggled.

We are all programmed to struggle. That is how we grow and that is what makes us unique.

There is hardly a biblical character that was exempt from the base struggles of being a descendant of both Seth and Cain. They were great men and women not superheroes.

To struggle is to be human. Welcome to the club.

Posted on 10/19 at 10:32 AM • Permalink
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Monday, January 16, 2012

Kiddush Hashem in Bet Shemesh

In light of the recent troubling events and tensions in Beit Shemesh, and the terrible Chillul Hashem that has resulted, Rabbi Yaacov Haber, Rav of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun in RBS-A, invites all concerned parties, men and women, to a town hall meeting.

The meeting is intended to produce constructive and positive strategies to deal with the situation.

Thursday 5th January at 19:00
at Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun (KSY)
Nachal Dolev 2/1 (corner of Dolev and Yarden)

Maariv will follow at 20:30, followed by regular Night Kollel program learning Hilchos Tefillin, at 20.45.

Follow-up blog by David Morris

I had the privilege of attending a “Town Hall Meeting” arranged by Rabbi Yaacov Haber last week, at his Kehilas Shivtei Yeshurun (KSY) shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh.

The rav introduced the event by observing that there had been a huge Chilul Hashem around the world, centered on the recent events in Beit Shemesh.

The purpose of the evening was to have a forum, for all present to float ideas which would (or could) create a Kiddush Hashem.

Rules: one minute on the timer for each speaker; any negativity is forbidden and will be stopped in its tracks. On with the show…!

Out of around a hundred people who attended, over twenty people chose to speak. The attendees were all anglos, and included broad representation of dati leumi and Chareidi people. Men/Women were approximately 50/50. There were also some individuals from Givat Sharett, including those who have been directly involved in the struggle there, such as Dov Krulwich and Daniel Goldman.

In spite of the controversial and highly charged events in recent weeks, I do not recall even a single “negative” remark in the one hour event. The time keeping was rigorously enforced, by the all-smiling MC David Geffen, and so everyone had an opportunity to speak on an equal footing. 

According to the event organizers, the following Kiddush Hashem-Ideas were proposed during the evening:

* Mass Love Your Neighbor Rally (maybe for 100,000 charedim
* Coordinate more closely with the police to arrest and close down trouble makers
* Rabbanim from all the camps meet on a regular basis
* Shul meetings… (maybe a couple of members from each shul)
* Definitive Statement against violence from all the leaders officially posted up on the streets
* Find a symbol (like the orange ribbon for gush katif) to represent “We love all Jews”, that becomes the In-Thing to wear or put on our car etc. (Rabbi Haber would like to buy the T-shirt)
* Invite someone from CNN to see the good side of Beit Shemesh
* In depth academic study of WHY and WHAT can be done
* So that those that want to be separate can be separate, establish areas for re-location
* Keep back tzedaka money for individuals and institutions in BET until Anti-Violence conditions are met.
* Ongoing Dialogue for the leaders
* Vote for a Mayor that can solve the problem
* Produce PR, explanatory and family videos for Youtube etc.
* Different Kehilot meet for kiddushim
* Story books for kids – maybe the adults will learn from them
* Daf Shalom – something like daf yomi that the community does each day for shalom. 
* Large significant delegations visit the Rabbinical leaders
* Nashei Shalom – the women from all the side should meet, strengthen relationships and lay the foundation for genuine achdut
* Organize an immediate response team to violent outbursts
* Anglo Gimmicks such a singing evenings – fun things that bring the communities together
Website for ideas
* Hire a top of the line PR firm to present the good side of Beit Shemesh
* On a personal level to make sure to change our judgmental, distancing, even hateful language that can sometimes unwittingly be used at the Shabbat Table
* Achdut Merchandise in the shops
* When we talk to people, publicize the goodness in RBS BEG e.g. guarding the eyes (love “them” as well)
* Hugging expeditions to various parts of Beit Shemesh, combined with idea 6 to be handed out before the hug J - The 1st expedition leaves from KSY at 11am on Friday Jan 13 ~ 18th Tevet
* A book from Rav Haber

It is true that, in the cold light of day, many of these ideas sound zany; and surely questions will be asked what was in that pipe we were passing round....

Indeed, as I drove away from the KSY shul, in order to do some errands in Beit Shemesh, I passed dozens of RBS Bet residents, crowding around an incident involving a bus, and a large dumpster. I believe protesters had thrown stones at the bus and tried to block the main road with the dumpster.

For a blessed hour, perhaps we had experienced the eerie quiet and peacefulness of the eye of the storm.

I do hope that some of the ideas will spawn practical projects, as the need for “Beit Shemesh” to have positive associations tomorrow, instead of the negative ones today, is a supremely important mission.

However, as Rav Haber said (I paraphrase): if the only thing to come out of this evening, is this evening, and Hashem delights in our efforts to bring about a Kiddush Hashem, then this has been worthwhile.

Please send further ideas and questions to: RabbiYHaber@gmail.com

The Jewish Unity Song of Beit Shemesh

Ideas
A turqousie blue (like Heaven) wrist band / car flag/ T-shirt or bumper sticker In Hebrew and English I love my fellow Jew The torah on one foot J.B.

Professional video highlighting the kiddush Hashem of chareidim R.K.

Have different Kehillas invite other Kehillas for kiddishes R.K.

Animated videos explaining certain chareidi positions R.K.

Have a site where we post video stories from charedi families R.K.

A story book for kids talking about different types of religious Jews R.K.

Site for ideas R.K.

Hire top of line PR firm to promote good stuff R.K.

The Daf Shalom- Let the Torah’s light dispel the darkness of machlokes and Chilul Hashem Method: People learning a daily halocha or hashkofa from a common Sefer with the Kavonna for bringing Shalom to our city B.J.

There was once (and maybe still is) a joint neshei from Sheinfeld & Gerrer Chasidim, I think from Bet. The idea should be replicated.  M.T.

Use our united pull as a group to try to get the Eida & other Ashkenazi rabbinic organizations to publicly, unequivocally condemn the violence that has been occurring in Bet. If certain leaders want to but can’t for some reason (just to speculate), pool our resources to pinpoint the problem and find a solution.  M.T.

To Publicize the words of the Netziv in the introductory to his commentary on the torah about the causes of Churban Habayis.  S.W.

To facilitate exposure of the Dati Leumi Rabbis in Charedi Schools and vice versa via shuirim or discussion groups.  S.W.

To create An Ashkenazi Vaad HaRabbaim of RBS A ( to Start)including representative rabbis from all kehillas S.W.

To Create A Sephardi and Yemenite Vaad S.W.

Target the influential people! Find the one, two or three Jewish leaders that we have enough of a relationship to get a real open dialogue (not part of choir) and open a dialogue with them.

Workshops and dialogue groups for children and adults with the aim of discovering the wonderful qualities of all the different groups of Am Yisrael.  C.A.B.

The “אני אוהב את כול יהודי” kippa in the ‘90s.  Half is black velvet and half is kippa srugah, with those words written across.  C.A.B.

I would like to see “us” write a well crafted “open letter” in English and Hebrew to be sent directly to the Rosh of as many hareidi institutions as we can find, with the following points:
1.  We list the types of recent actions that we consider “abhorrent behavior”.
2.  We ask that they join us in publicly denouncing this abhorrent behavior.
3.  We ask that, as this behavior is a chilul Hashem and in most cases is, in any respect, punishable by the Beit Din in Olam Hazeh, that any known miscreant be first warned and then brought before the Beit Din and if convicted, then punished.
4.  We ask that when sending mishulachim to Beit Shemesh, they provide a letter in English and in Hebrew clearly stating their position on this issue.
5.  We inform them that we as a community and as individuals have taken on a decision to no longer give tzedaka, in a shul or at our door, without a valid letter from their Rav.  S.B.

Let’s be mekadesh Shem shomayim by tweeting and retweeting at least one story or link about amazing things we do everyday!!  E.H.

Educate people to search out and notice the positive sides of other people.  L.A.

Posted on 01/16 at 08:09 PM • Permalink
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What Brochah do you make when you create an iPhone App?

It is difficult to describe the feeling an author has when he or she first touches their new book or sefer - hot off the press. Months and sometimes years of life experience and study have culminated into a little parcel that can be held in the palm of your hand and most exhilarating be shared. -Suddenly you can share not only your thoughts but your actual essence with your family, friends and even with complete strangers. To celebrate secular authors organize book signings and speeches while great Rabbis celebrate by inviting their closest students to a “Meal of Thanks”. They would speak about their book and give thanks to the Almighty for the privilege of being His agent to teach His word in this world.

What do you do when you create an APP?

Just before Pesach we got the word that Apple finally accepted our Sefiros App for the iPhone and iPad into the Apple Store. Since Sefiros; the book was published over six thousand men and women have depended on it to make their Sefirat HaOmer meaningful. Until now one’s book could be made available to the few hundred or maybe thousand people that happened to notice your book in the local bookstore.

Today, over 100 million people own an iPhone or iPad. One can only speculate as to how many of those iPhoners are Jewish men and women that observe the Mitzvah of Sefirat HaOmer and wish to take the Mitzvah beyond counting and barley and enter the world of spiritual growth by understanding the Kabbalistic energy of the day.

To be sure, my friends in Geulah and on Rechov Sorotzkin may not appreciate this historical accomplishment and it is almost impossible to inscribe an APP - nevertheless - we have utilized the best technology known to man to share Torah teachings that are thousands of years old.

APP She’BeApp

If you have an iphone or an ipad please click here to download my App. Not only will it remind you to count but it will remind you to grow into a great human being while becoming closer to the Master of the Universe.

My blessings for a wonderful Chag HaPesach!

Yaacov Haber rabbiyhaber@gmail.com

Posted on 04/20 at 09:45 AM • Permalink
(1) Comments

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review of “The First Ten Days” by David Morris

The Following review appeared on http://tzedek-tzedek.blogspot.com/2010/09/do-i-still-take-sugar.html

Monday, 13 September 2010

Do I Still Take Sugar?

My Rosh Hashana experience this year was greatly enhanced by having Rabbi Yaacov Haber’s latest book at hand, The First Ten Days.

The First Ten Days is a unique and beautiful book.

Pockets sized, with striking graphics – the book is a compact combination of esoteric mysticism, with down-to-earth practical advice.

Based upon the Zohar’s observation that the Ten Days of Repentance parallel the ten mystical sefirot, Rabbi Haber takes the reader through each Sefira/Day. Each Sefira/Day is covered in just four or five pages, including an eminently understandable description of the Sefira, its relationship to the Repentance Process, and a short To Do list for the reader to take immediate action and apply to his/her own life.

Those familiar with leading self-help books, like Dale Carnegie’s How to Make Friends & Influence People and Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, will particularly appreciate the 10-Step self-help value of Rabbi Haber’s book.

The First Ten Days is also reminiscent of the writings of the late and great Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan who, like Rabbi Haber, succeeded in bringing the depths of mystical Jewish thought within the range and scope of both lay and (otherwise) erudite readers, simultaneously.

The second day of Rosh Hashana (New Year), for example, has the attribute of the sefira Chochmah. Chochmah is explained as being the “first kernel of an idea that enters into the psyche.” Rabbi Haber encourages the reader to re-evaluate his/her chochmah – “re-examine the givens in your life”.

And he continues, by giving examples: “Do you have certain assumptions about yourself that have not been tested in the past twelve months?...If you are tone deaf, have you tried to sing lately?...Or that you need to sleep as much as you do? Or that you need sugar in your coffee? Have you checked recently?”

Rabbi Haber takes the reader step-by-step, reaching the climax of Malchut (Majesty) on Yom Kippur itself. “With Malchut the creation of the world became complete”.

On Yom Kippur, Rabbi Haber implores the reader to “let go of the life that we planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for you.” In practical terms, “Be self contained. Don’t want something that is not yours. Shed all feelings of jealousy that you have and realize that God has given you all the spiritual, emotional and physical tools that you need.”

And finally, Rav Haber advises the reader to understand the value of tears. “Tears occur when we break through the hard shells of our lives…Today is Yom Kippur – shed a tear!”

In just eighty pages, including stunning illustrations and visually pleasing, clearly presented prose, Rabbi Haber covers the gamut of Jewish mysticism, the meaning behind the 10 Days of Repentance and provides a convenient pocket-sized book to accompany and guide our ideal, yet practical, spiritual growth between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

For those who are technologically up-to-it, Rabbi Haber’s book is available digitally.

For the less wizzy amongst us, please order and pick up your analog/paper copy of The First Ten Days from Rabbi Haber or from Lema’an Achai
Posted by David Morris at 15:50

Posted on 09/14 at 04:01 PM • Permalink
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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Pashkevil To End All Pashkevil

Pashkevil are protest posters that are plastered on walls. They are particularly common in Jerusalem as a means of conveying directives to the public.
When I lived in Jerusalem, everyday there were posters about how, in the opinion of the poster maker, various rabbis, organizations or publications, created existential threats to the Jewish community.

There are also pashkevil about the dangers of attending public concerts. (Jewish music performed by Orthodox men and children with separate seating); the dangers of cell phones that have Internet access; and the dangers of certain books that expose the community to foreign concepts.
Now, I live in Ramat Beit Shemesh where new pashkevil were just plastered around the city regarding a new Yeshivah for boys, that in the opinion of the plasterer, does not conform to the ‘long standing’ traditions of Ramat Beit Shemesh. (Ramat Beit Shemesh was founded in 1998).
Pashkevil’s are anonymous. Although they carry the signatures of great Rabbis, these signatures are dubious at best and have seldom been proven to be authentic. To my observation, they seldom accomplish anything positive, while they serve the purpose of promoting division and hate amongst Jews.

This is what the Chofetz Chaim said about Pashkevil’s:

“I must speak out my heart about the manner of conflict taking place among the Jewish people. One camp publicizes its view with the signatures of all of its backers. The other side does the same. One of them wrote ‘the one with the most signatures wins’, and I say the one with the most signatures is creating unnecessary conflict in Israel. All of Israel is burning like a fire as each side places more and more ads condemning their opposition. Even the holy land of Israel is becoming a subject of controversy. I don’t know who permitted all of these terrible sins. Everyone is sure that he is saying the truth and it is the other opinion that is creating the argument. This is a grave error, because even if both are right, they have no right to violate the Torah. So many mitzvos are being violated. No good can possibly come out of this. Right or wrong, they are creating a chilul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name). Twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva died in one month, not because they argued, but because they argued improperly and caused a chilul Hashem. Certainly each one of these giants felt that he was right.”

So, with the help of my esteemed congregation, Kehilas Shivtei Yeshurun in Ramat Beit Shemesh, I designed a pashkevil of my own. The pashkevil is a verbatim letter of the Chofetz Chaim, signed by the Chofetz Chaim. We will cover every Pashkevil we can find with our pashkevil.

This is the pashkevil to end all pashkevil!

If you’d like to participate in our campaign or for your own copy of the “Chofetz Chaim Pashkevil” – please contact me.

Click here to download a PDF of the Pashkevil in Hebrew

Click here to download a PDF of the Pashkevil in English


Posted on 06/02 at 10:56 AM • Permalink
(32) Comments

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Responsible Chinuch

I remember as a child growing up in ‘anywhere USA’ meeting two shluchim of Torah U’mesorah. They had come to our town to talk to parents about sending their children to a Yeshivah. They were Yeshivah bochurim that had taken from their vacation time, packed their suitcases with cans of tuna fish and sardines and spent their nights on Greyhound busses to get from city to city. They had genuine warmth that was inspiring and their expectations were modest. They would spend hours talking to parents and if they could get ten families, just ten, they would begin to take steps to create a day school. Every Jewish child was a valuable diamond – no matter what the family’s politics or affiliation was. These men were heroes of Biblical magnitude and indeed they succeeded in creating a world of Torah in the USA. Similar phenomena took place in England, South Africa, Australia and of course in Israel. Organizations such as Chinuch Atzmai, Peeylim created a generation of Torah strength. Bou venachzik tov lahem for the hundreds of thousands of families that today lead a Torah life.

In moments of despair I try to imagine to myself what would happen if our modern day heroes would reach the threshold of our Yeshivot presenting a precious neshama from out there. What would be the response?

“We’ll take a look at him or her – but at first glance it is really not for us”. No longer would there be a celebration of triumph for the future of the Jewish people but rather there may be a creation of a chain of influence and protexia often resulting in rejection. Rejection is painful for everyone involved and is usually not seen as rejection of background or academic credentials but rather as a rejection of them. Rejection hurts, and the natural response will almost certainly be anger at, and rejection of the schools teachings. Rav Moshe Feinstien in one of his Teshuvos regarding expelling children from Yeshivos warns that rejection is so powerful that it often results in a net loss for the Jewish people. The childs thought pattern will be, “If you don’t want me – I’m out of here.”

There has been a struggle in Jewish education that has been going on for millennia. On the one hand, it has become abundantly clear over the past few decades that the key to the survival of Judaism both in Eretz Yisroel and in the Golah lies in the formal Chinuch that we, our parents and grandparents have created. They came to this country or other countries during the immediate post war period with a mission. The mission was articulated by Gedolim, carried out by askanim and funded by ashirim. They and we succeeded in creating a renaissance in Torah values, halacha and Yiras Shamayim.

But as Yeshivos began to become the norm in frum circles and the populations began to outgrow their facilities, criterion were created. Who exactly gets in? As the ‘system’ evolved and developed, niche and special needs Yeshivos were created to facilitate the outstanding students. As part of the general shtiebalization of Klal Yisroel, schools like shuls became the private domain and ownership of spiritual entrepreneurs who felt no obligation to make sure that every child has a Jewish education. They are right – these are private not community institutions.

These Yeshivos saw and see it as their mandate to build a certain type of school and feel the need to protect the environment that they are working so hard to maintain. A child that comes from a family with an even slightly different approach or standard is rejected outright because the reputation of the Yeshivah may be compromised, the ‘better kids’ will look elsewhere and the students that are presently there may become negatively affected by the new child.

As much as this scenario is distasteful and elitist, the menahalim and Roshei Yeshivah are within their rights. These are private enterprises, boutique institutions that have no obligation per se to accept every child. On the question of expelling a troublesome student from yeshiva, Rav Yitzchok Hutner is quoted as opining, “Even if I thought that tomorrow this student will leave the fold – if that student will be harming others by staying I would expel him…. We are not allowed to harm the others in order to save him.” The child and his or her family now have a serious problem. They must quickly scramble so the child does not end up on the street. It as if looking for a Country Club that will take them in and too often they end up with a compromised opportunity in Jewish education.

There is a famous Talmudic story that perhaps changed the course of history. After the horrific destruction of Yerushalayim the Chachmei Yisroel moved to Ashdod and tried to rebuild some of that which had been lost. Rabban Gamliel, the grandson of Hillel and the Nasi Yisroel was an unforgiving governing figure of authority that presided over his Yeshiva with iron fists. He was protecting the integrity of Torah by expelling any student in question. He hired a guard to stand at the entrance way of the Yeshivah and not admit anyone that wasn’t “tocho k’baro”. I’m not sure where he found this guard that somehow had the ability to discern between men and giants – according to Reb Tzadok HaKohein it must have been a maalach!

When his difficult and sometimes harsh rules became offensive and intolerable Rabban Gamliel was demoted and was replaced by Reb Eliezer ben Azariah and the shomer/maalach was removed. People came from everywhere to learn Torah and the Yeshivah became full. Rabban Gamliel watched this phenomenon and was moved to sadness. He sadly reacted and said, “I see that I have deprived the Jewish people of Torah!” While guarding it’s purity he felt no choice but to exercise rejection. As he saw the seven hundred new students march in to the Beis HaMedrash perhaps he remembered how his own grandfather Hillel was rejected from the Beis HaMedrash of Shmaya V’Avtalyon and sat on the snowy roof to hear words of Torah.

In fact the issue itself was a machlokes between Beis Hillel and Beis Shamai regarding the propriety of setting yeshiva acceptance standards. The position of Beis Hillel was that anyone who wanted should be taught Torah, for it will ultimately restore them to a good path.  The demotion of Rabban Gamliel and his apparent remorse created a paradigm shift for the Jewish people.

Fast forward a couple of thousand years – Rav Aharon Kotler had also experienced a Churban. On the boat from Lithuania to the USA he was already conducting meetings about founding a Yeshivah that would produce serious Talmidei Chachomin, Gedolei Torah, that would sow the spiritual desert of America. He carefully chose his students and rejected almost everyone. He had 125 Talmidim. When he left this world his son Reb Shneur opened the doors to the Yeshivah which today serves close to six thousand Bnei Torah – who knows?

The history begins with the well known Takana of Yehoshua ben Gamla.  Yehoshua ben Gamla was a Kohein Gadol during the Chashmonaen era. As the leader of the community he realized the disaster which was developing from the inability of fathers to link their sons to the Mesorah. He saw that although there is a biblical mitzvah for every father to educate their children due to travel and parnasah issues it simply wasn’t happening.  Yehoshua enacted an innovation which was revolutionary at the time – he established a school system - predating the public school system by about 1900 years.

It is possible to view this Takana as a “Horaas Shaah” or a rule for his times. Yehoshua ben Gamla himself was not terribly impressive. He married a very wealthy woman by the name of Marsa bas Bytus. At the entrance to the marriage she bought her new husband as a wedding gift his position of Kohein Gadol from Yanai HaMelech. This was considered scandalous and Yehoshua ben Gamla was mocked by his generation. Tosfos asserts that Yehoshua was a Tzadik, but he was criticized by his contemporaries because there were others that were more qualified than he. (Isn’t it ironic that had the more qualified person become the leader of the Jewish people we probably would have never created a school system and according to Rav, “Torah would have been forgotten from Israel?!)

The Chachmei Yisroel supported him on this initiative and it became a Takana for all future generations. Rav, the great Rosh Yeshivah of Sura and Gadol Hador told us to, “Remember Yehoshua ben Gamla for good, for had it not been for him, Torah would have been forgotten from Israel.” The Rambam writes that since the enactment of the Takanah of Yehoshua ben Gamla there is an obligation on every community to build and support a school in their community where every child can learn Torah. The Aruch HaShulchan comments that the Chachamim realized that although the innovation came about because of a negative situation it was indeed an eternal improvement and made the takana a permanent obligation on Jewish communities.

A fascinating Halachic insight is stated by Rebbe Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro ((Bnei Yissoschor) . Although the original Mitzvoh of Talmud Torah was to teach your children or to pay someone to teach your children; “V’Shinantom L’Vanecho”, once the Takana of Yehoshua ben Gamla was enacted the chiyuv itself transformed into an obligation to create a community school where all children can (and must) attend; if need be – without tuition. Therefore, the Bnei Yissoschor posits, if a community member does not participate in the creation of this school, not only is he falling short on his community obligation but indeed he has not fulfilled even his personal requirement to educate his own son. He quotes the Pri Megadim who taught that once a Takonas Chachomim redefines the way we do a Mitzvah D’orayso – that becomes the definition of the mitzvoh, in exclusion of any other interpretation. Such is the working of Torah She’Baal Peh.

Subsequent to the Takana, Chazal emphatically taught “any city or town that has not built a community school where everyone is welcome to come learn will ultimately be destroyed and if one lives there they must leave for the world continues to stand only because of the hevel pihem shel bais Rabban.
The Nimukei Yosef records a fascinating debate dating back more than a thousand years. Rav Palti Gaon (638C.E.) instituted a penalty for individuals who refused to pay debts that Beis Din imposed. The penalties included a Cherem i.e. he cannot be counted in a Minyan, it is asur to circumcise his son or bury his dead and his children may not attend the school.

Ten Centuries later the Maharshal challenged the ruling. He argues that circumcising a son is a fathers obligation and therefore we can refuse to help him. However since the Takana of Yehoshua ben Gamla, it is no longer the father’s responsibility to educate the boy but rather the responsibility of the entire community. By expelling the child from the school we would not be penalizing the father but ourselves!  He explained that by depriving this one child of a Torah education the community could G-d forbid suffer unspeakable suffering.

Significant to note that this takana was created to educate boys up to the age of Bar Mitzvah. Once they are considered “Gadol” they acquire their own personal obligation to become educated in Torah. . The Chofetz Chaim adds that these days this communal obligation carries over to girls as well as boys because today we can no longer rely on the Mesoras HaEm to teach them what they need to know.

What happens at the age of thirteen? The Aruch HaShulchan writes, “It is the custom in all of Israel that Torah schools are set up for children until they get older (Bar Mitzvah) at which point we separate out those who seem to have a promising career in Torah. Those that do not seem to have that promise are sent to the professional craftsmen in order for them to learn a trade.”

If we ask ourselves the difficult question as to why there are relatively so many dropouts from Yeshivah life the hard answer may be the lack of diversity. Yeshivos were set up to all have a virtually identical program with mass produced education. The fact is that children come in all shapes and forms. The lack of diversity per force will cause rejection.

In the United States there is a vocational Yeshivah in Lancaster PA headed by Rabbi Yeshaya Sakett. Surrounded by the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish, the Yeshivah has a rigorous Torah schedule. With the help of their Amish neighbors the Yeshivah also creates experts in construction.
Someone recently described to me a speech Rabbi Sakett made. He brought with him two pieces of white styrofoam. One was a square peg and the other was a flat piece of Styrofoam with a round hole in it. He said that he would like to prove to his assembled listeners that indeed he can fit a square peg through a round hole. He pushed, twisted, hammered, and chipped his peg and finally got it through the hole. He held up the peg and gleefully proclaimed, “I did it! I got it through! But look at the peg now,” he said, “it’s a mess!” The successful square peg was bent, chipped and weakened. This may be what we are doing to some of our children.

In summary: There is a chovas tzibbur – a community obligation. As a community we are obligated to create a community school or at least to make sure that no child is rejected from the best and most professional level of chinuch. Not only is the price of rejection too high but there is a dangerous blemish on a community that does not supply first class education to every child. This is not the responsibility of whoever decided to start a school, of organizations or of Roshei Yeshivah. This is a community obligation. What we need are creative thinkers and doers to work along side of the Gedolei Yisroel and community leaders to create a situation so that no future Hillel is sitting on a cold roof unable to get in.

A Medrash: On the day of the transfer of leadership from Moses to Joshua, Moses went to visit Joshua in his tent. (This was unusual, for people usually came to Moses.) Joshua saw Moses coming and ran out to greet him. They walked together to the Tent of Meeting, where God would communicate with Moses, and Moses made Joshua walk on his right, symbolizing his new position of leadership. In the tent, the Holy Presence of God descended for the first time upon Joshua, and not upon Moses. When the presence of God lifted again, Moses asked Joshua what it was that God had told him, Joshua replies, “When God used to communicate with you, did I ever ask you what God told you?” When Moses heard this he cried out, “God- give me a hundred deaths, but not this feeling of jealousy.”

No one is exempt from the pain of being left out in the cold. We must be inclusive and pray to Hashem on this Erev Yom Kippur that He will include us in the Sifran Shel Tzadikim so that we may merit a Gmar Chasima Tova! 

Posted on 10/11 at 06:17 PM • Permalink
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Why So Much Suffering?


Rav Aaron Leib Steinman has written a letter for teachers and parents, warning them about improper treatment of students and children. He says that the letter was prompted by the many tragedies and illnesses which have hit the frum community. Many Torah scholars suddenly require yeshuos of one kind or another—children who can’t make a shidduch or aren’t blessed with children, or became seriously ill, etc. They inevitably turn to Rav Steinman and other gedolim for advice and blessings.
“I wondered much,” said Rav Steinman, “What is going on? I tell people who need a yeshua to try and remember if they hurt the people closest to them—I’m referring to melamdim, parents and friends. A father sometimes thinks that he can slap his son, or he can insult his wife. He thinks it’s permitted because after all, they’re his… teachers also think that they have the child’s benefit in mind when they criticize him and tell him off and even humiliate him. Everything is done in the name of well-meaning mussar and rebuke which he is responsible to do. But that’s not the case.”
The text of the letter was shown to the public although it was privately addressed it to the head of a school. The following are sections of the letter, which carry an important message for all educators:
“It’s known in our holy Torah that there are laws bein adom lamokom as well as bein adom lachaveiro. The Ten Commandments also have laws between a person and his Creator, and laws that will prevent him from doing evil to his fellow man.”
Rav Steinman then mentions the prohibition of ona’as devorim, saying it is more serious than harming another financially. “It applies equally between a man and his wife and a woman and her husband. Ona’as devorim is even worse when said to a woman, because she is easily hurt and cries. This includes all kinds of hurtful words, especially hurting a widow and an orphan.”
“The opposite of this is chesed. The merit one can gains from it is immeasurable. The Rosh at the beginning of Peah explains that Hakodesh Baruch Hu especially desires mitzvos that bring good will among mankind more than mitzvos bein adom lakono.
During the conversation which preceded the letter, Rav Steinman explained the difference between earlier and later generations:
“In the past, teachers would teach the student how to learn Torah. They would educate him properly and correct him if they saw he wasn’t behaving as he should. Today, every teacher has to control classes of 40 children, and when they make noise or disturb, he strictly tells him off even to the point of humiliating him. He doesn’t do it to educate the child but to keep order in the class, and to vent his ire on the troublesome student.
“Until today, we thought that the kapeidas against us came from the elderly clerk in the grocery store. The problem is that we’re hurting our children and our students, the people who are the closest to us, even if we do it in all innocence.”
“People are moreh heter to themselves, such as when a teacher or rav say they have to humiliate someone to ensure discipline. But it’s not that way. We can only do whatever is necessary to prove his point, but not to humiliate another! It’s even more serious when the humiliation is done in public.
“A rav or teacher must get his point across, but in a way that doesn’t embarrass the student. Generally, the one who feels he is being humiliated, will pay him back double. What the teacher said is certainly in the category of ona’as devorim. One must be very careful with this. Parents also shouldn’t embarrass their children.”
Rav Steinman then addresses the reason for the overflowing number of tragedies that have hit the community, leaving almost no one untouched..... “When one causes suffering to others, he is punished in Olam Hazeh too. Every person must pay attention to what he does and what he says so as not to hurt his fellow man. The truth is that the punishment is much worse in Olam Habo, but most people are not aroused by what they can’t see directly, so I am speaking about something that everyone understands well.”
Finally, he mentions the words of the Chinuch on the mitzva “no man should afflict his fellow man”: Even though one doesn’t get lashes from a whip made of cow’s hide for a mitzva that doesn’t involve action, a person will get ‘lashes’ from the One who commanded this.”
He signs off his letter, “One who is careful not to hurt other people, all the blessings mentioned in the Torah will befall him and he will enjoy a pleasurable life in This World and the Next.”

TRANSLATION FROM:
http://www.vosizneias.com/34513/2009/07/06/jerusalem-rav-steinmans-letter-to-melamdim-and-parents-warns-of-improper-treatment-of-talmidim-and-children/

Posted on 07/07 at 09:22 AM • Permalink
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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hebron

Last Shabbos, Porat Yosef, our four year old cousin, tragically drowned.

His parents, a beautiful young couple, sat Shiva in the city of Hebron, just a few meters away from one of the holiest sites on Earth - the Mearat HaMachpela.

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I never drove to Hebron before and I have to admit that I was a bit hesitant.  With my broken AC in the car I somehow did not feel like the road to Hebron was the right neighborhood to drive around in with the windows rolled down enjoying the summer breeze. The normal way of getting to Hebron is by bullet proof bus but that was an option that I just didn’t have time for.

I parked my car on a street that Avrohom Avinu most certainly once parked his donkey. As I looked around I realized that the local press goes out of its way to portray the Jewish inhabitants of this city as political nudniks. A better description might be ‘heroic selfless tzadikim that are willing to do whatever it takes to live according to their beliefs’. Many talk the talk - here lived people that walk the walk.

When I walked into the Shiva house something happened. I entered a house full of men and women comforting an obviously very distraught mother and father. As a rabbi I have visited hundreds of Shiva houses, but this was different. The dress, the mood, the discussion, and the look on everyones face transported me to a different time. AsI walked through the wide open door I walked back 2000 years. Somehow the mood and the spirit of all the laws of mourning, which I know all too well, were active in this room. I was humbled to sit amongst what felt like the students of Rebbe Akiva or Rebbe Chananya Ben Tradion. This is what it looked like. An entire community suffered a tragedy. Family and friends were sitting together struggling and stregnthening their faith and their resolve to do whatever it takes to serve Hashem.

I’m probably not explaining it well - I guess you had to be there; but I was priveleged to see and experience that there are still Jewish heroes. Fearless heroes for Eretz Yisroel, heroes for Torah and Mitzvos and champions of Jewish communitty! May G-d bless them - and us. I want to be a hero too!

We stopped for a few moments to pray at the Mearat HaMachpelah and I thought about how this was once the most coveted piece of land on Earth.

As we drove the wandering road out of Hebron we received a call. “ Mazal Tov! (Our daughter) Henna Gittel had a baby boy!”

Posted on 06/11 at 10:21 AM • Permalink
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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Obama On Cruelty

US President Barak Obama speaking in Buchenwald a few days ago made me think.

It’s important to remember that the perpetrators of such evil were human, and that we have to guard against cruelty in ourselves.

Indeed a powerful message. The Nazis were not demons from outer space that invaded the world for a few years and then somehow disappeared. They were humans! We are humans! Humans are capable of cruelty and unspeakable horror. The large-scale evil of the Holocaust was so extensive that it gave opportunity for the revisionists to claim that it is just incredible.

I wonder if there is not some light in that observation. Perhaps the human capacity to create unspeakable horror tells us just how powerful we humans are. 

Maybe by looking at the human potential for evil we can gain insight into how much positive might we humans have. Can one man or woman save six million? 

Posted on 06/09 at 11:55 AM • Permalink
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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Meeting With The Rema

Almost 30 years ago I contracted a pretty severe case of the flu. We were living in Buffalo, NY or more specifically Williamsville, and I was going totally stir crazy lying in bed. My wife, always at my side, offered to go to the library and get me some books; she had one simple question, “What do you like to read?”

She couldn’t have asked me a more difficult question. I was stumped! I had been years away from novels and mysteries, my interest was Torah and Halacha which was not a specialty of the Buffalo Public Library, and I was way too embarrassed to ask for some back copies of MAD magazine.

For some reason, unclear in my memory, I asked her to get some books about Jesus.  I was somewhat curious about the founder of Christianity who popped up smack in the middle of Hillel and Shamai. Having left the incubator of Kiryat Mattersdorf and Kollel in Jerusalem, I felt I should know more.

An hour or two passed and in walked my wife with a pile of books that would outlast even the worst case of influenza. Books with titles like Rabbi J; Jesus the Assyne; Christianity in the Second Temple era and more.  Over the next three days in bed I learned more about Yushka and Paul than any Yeshivah Bochur would ever want or need to know. I felt like walking downtown and daring the first missionary to an open debate – but I fell asleep instead.

Then the phone rang.  “We don’t know each other!” the caller said. My caller was a professor at Buffalo State College. He was a really nice man and a very intelligent one.  He explained that he was involved in an intellectual discussion group with a group of his colleagues who are all very strong believers in Christianity. They are urging him to get involved or at least give Christianity a try. The caller was torn between his assimilated but still Jewish Neshama and the peer pressure of his colleagues. He needed an intelligent response and he needed it quick.

Well he came to the right place. I was an expert in Christianity and had been so for over an hour! I quoted him chapter and verse from the New Testament pointing out the historical background of Paul and the textual contradictions that could not be resolved. By the end of the conversation not only was he convinced and knowledgeable but we were friends. I thanked G-d for giving me the flu and finally asked the man his name.

“My name is Morey Isserlish!” The very name made me tremble. “There was a great 16th Century Rabbi by that name,” I said. 

“The Rema of Krakow is my direct ancestor” he answered.  “My Hebrew name is Moshe. I am named after my grandfather who was called Reb Moishela of Krakow who was a direct descendant of the Rema.” He explained to me that he didn’t know much about this illustrious rabbi and if I had information he’d love to know more.
So Morey came to classes, we studied Torah together and we became close.

Today, Lag B’omer , is the 437th Yortzeit of the Rema.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rema . I hope the Rema stands before Hashem and asks Him to watch over all of his children like he watched over Morey. May his neshama have an Aliya.

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Posted on 05/12 at 01:18 PM • Permalink
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Monday, May 11, 2009

Mazal Tov!

Mazal Tov! Hashem just blessed us with a new granddaughter to Tzvi Hirsch and Raizy. The master of “Doing it Right”
http://www.torahlab.org/doitright

Posted on 05/11 at 07:25 PM • Permalink
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Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Last Class

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In “Stories That Tug At the Heart” Artscroll / Mesorah Publications 2009,Rabbi Binyomen Pruzansky tells a story that I once shared with him. The story is true and close to my heart. In the book Reb Binyomen changed the names of those involved to protect their privacy. With permission of the family I am putting the correct names back in. The names are part of the story! The comments in parenthesis are mine.

The Last Class

The clock ticked inexorably toward Shabbos as Rabbi Yaacov Haber put the finishing touches on his preparations. Another hour or so, he assessed, and he would be finished. As he leafed through a brand new sefer searching for a quote he would utilize in his Shabbos morning sermon, the insistent ring of the phone pulled him away from his task.

“Rabbi Haber?” the voice on the other end asked hopefully. “Yes, it is. Who’s calling?” “It’s Jarom Haber,” said the caller. “I live here in Monsey and really must speak to you right away. Could I come over today?” (I assumed that the purpose of the call was to compare notes from Galicia and figure out whether we are related. Although this is a task I enjoy - Friday afternoon just wasn’t the time. When I tried to make an appointment for the following week he became desperate.)

Hearing the desperate edge in the caller’s voice, Rabbi Haber began quickly weighing the possibility of fitting one more item on his Erev Shabbos agenda. Alas, it appeared impossible. “I’d be happy to speak to you,” Rabbi Haber told the caller. “But today will not be possible. How about Sunday?”

“No, Rabbi, I’m sorry, but this really can’t wait,” Jarom replied firmly. “I need to speak to you today.” Clearly, Jarom Haber, whoever he was, would not be taking “no” for an answer. “In that case,” Rabbi Haber conceded, “come right over.” He gave Jarom his address and returned to his work, hoping he would be able to finish in the half-hour it would take for Jarom to reach him. Methodically recalling the names and faces of former members of his Monsey shul, he tried to put a face to the name Jarom Haber. However, he had no memory of anyone by that name. The mystery was soon settled by Jarom’s arrival. Entering the foreign territory of the Rabbi’s study, Jarom appeared a bit tenuous. His tall, broad frame was a bit stooped, as if he were carrying a heavy bundle on his back. Yet one could see that such was not his normal bearing; his direct, blue-eyed gaze, the thick, tousled shock of sandy brown hair and deep laugh lines framing his mouth created the image of an energetic, self-assured man.

“I hope this isn’t too much of an inconvenience,” Jarom began. “I realized on the way over here that Friday afternoon is probably a busy time for a Rabbi. But I won’t take too long. I just have one question to ask.” “It’s no problem,” Rabbi Haber assured him. “Have a seat and tell me what I can do for you.”

“Well, I just have to preface it by explaining to you that even though I was born Jewish, I am an atheist. Not just an atheist, but you might say I’m a professional atheist. I’m a professor at Rockland Community College, and I teach courses on atheism. In fact, I’ve written several books on atheism. “The reason I came to you is because this morning, I went to my doctor to receive the results of some tests, and he informed me that I have pancreatic cancer. I don’t know if you know anything about pancreatic cancer, but it has an almost-zero survival rate, and mine is already in a very advanced stage. In a few weeks or at best, a few months, I’ll be finished. There’s nothing for me to do about it.

(“Here is my dilemma) what I really want to do now is to pray. My problem, of course, is that I don’t know how I can possibly pray. How can an atheist pray? Who would I pray to? (I am the proverbial ‘athiest in a fox hole’I want to pray but I really can’t) I’ve been hearing about you from some of my neighbors and I thought that you might be able to advise me. What should I do?”

Observing the lively spark in Jarom’s eyes as he spoke, Rabbi Haber could hardly believe that he was speaking to a terminally ill man. Nevertheless, he was aware that this particular disease often progressed rapidly, and he had no doubt that the situation was dire. Jarom was like a drowning man struggling to find something to hold onto, begging Rabbi Haber to throw him a lifeline. “What comfort is there for an atheist facing death?” the Rabbi wondered. “How alone he must feel with his fears and pain!” Regardless of Jarom’s lifelong misconceptions, however, Rabbi Haber knew that G-d was indeed there for him. The challenge was to convince Jarom that this was so; that he, like any other person born into this world, had the ability to call out to G-d for help.

“Tell me something, Jarom,” Rabbi Haber said. “When you say you’re an atheist, what exactly do you mean? Are you saying that you are 100 percent certain that there is no such thing as G-d? Or is there perhaps a small 5% window of possibility that you may be wrong? “

Jarom drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair and rolled his eyes upward as if searching the ceiling for an answer to the question. He had never considered his level of certainty about his beliefs. Now, using nothing but his own considerable power of logic, he had to admit that his atheism (or anything else for that matter) was not a 100 percent certainty. If it were, why would he be sitting in a rabbi’s office? “Well, I guess I could say that there’s a five percent possibility that there’s a G-d,” Jarom replied cautiously, as if the very proclamation might cause some unseen cosmic cataclysm. These were not words he had ever expected to hear from his own mouth.

“Good!” Rabbi Haber declared. “So here’s what I want you to do. Pray through that window that is open 5 percent. Aim your prayers there, and I am sure they will reach G-d.”
The Rabbi’s words painted a picture in Jarom’s mind. There was a splendid palace, and Jarom stood outside it, facing a window that was open just a few inches. From that little crack at the bottom, Jarom could sense the majesty and power residing within. He didn’t own a key to the palace; the guards didn’t know him at the gate, but he would pray through that narrow opening, and his words would be heard. Jarom Haber’s words would reach the ears of G-d. Jarom’s cool façade crumbled as he pictured himself, a lost child trying to get his Father’s attention, calling through the window from outside.

His eyes instantly overflowed with tears and he began to cry aloud, “I can pray! Thank you, Rabbi. There’s a way for me to pray.” Rabbi Haber sat quietly watching this troubled man gratefully grab the lifeline he had been thrown. Jarom regained his composure and turned urgently to the Rabbi once again. “What will I say, Rabbi? Even if I can pray, even if G-d will listen to me, I don’t know what to say!”

“Do you know how to read Hebrew?” asked Rabbi Haber. Thanks to a few years of Hebrew school in Jarom’s pre-bar mitzvah years, he had indeed learned alef-bais. With a small measure of pride, he answered, “Yes, I do.” “Alright,” said Rabbi Haber. He took a slim volume of Tehilim off the top of his desk and handed it to Jarom. “Let’s start right now, then, by saying this chapter of Tehilim.” Jarom took the sefer into his hands. He had handled thousands of books in his life as an academic; some of the volumes were rare antiques. Yet now, handling a simple volume of Tehilim, his hands trembled. He began to haltingly read the chapter Rabbi Haber designated, all the while imagining that slightly open window, and hoping that inside the palace, his praises were being received with pleasure.
When Jarom finished his recitation, Rabbi Haber helped him understand the meaning of what he had said. The words were full of encouragement and comfort, stirring in Jarom the beginnings of a sense of trust in G-d. No longer was the issue whether or not G-d existed; he had prayed and felt certain that his words were heard. Now the issue was how to build a relationship with G-d in the short time he had left.

“I think the most important thing we could do at this point is to learn some Torah together,” Rabbi Haber suggested. Jarom agreed, and they arranged to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day learning. “What is it that you would like to learn Jarom?” Jarom had no ready answer. He was not sure where to find what he felt he needed in this crucial period of his life. He wanted a little time to consider the possibilities. On Sunday morning, Jarom called Rabbi Haber. He had done some reading and some thinking, and had decided. “I want to learn the laws of repentance,” he told the Rabbi with conviction. Rabbi Haber was moved by the man’s sincerity. Indeed, all he wanted now was to get his affairs in order both in this world and the next. Like a man moving to a new home after many long years, Jarom wanted to shed all the useless items he had accumulated and go forward carrying only that which he would need.

Starting that day, Rabbi Haber and Jarom became learning partners, poring over the Rambam’s laws of Teshuvah (repentance) with depth and focus. Jarom’s scholarly abilities were turned in a new direction, exactly 180 degrees opposite of the path he had pursued throughout his life. Rabbi Haber enjoyed the challenge of Jarom’s insightful questions, and marveled at his quick grasp of the concepts they learned together.

As expected, Jarom grew weaker by the day. His athletic build began to shrivel, his posture to droop; his bright, intense eyes contrasted eerily with his pale face. Finally, too weak to deliver his lectures, he was forced to resign his teaching position. Nevertheless, Jarom persisted in his journey toward G-d. He purchased tzitzis and a yarmulke and began to wear them. Every day, he put on his tefillin and prayed as well as he could, injecting the overflowing contents of his heart into the Hebrew words he was just beginning to master. Rabbi Haber watched with mixed emotions as his new student’s Torah learning blossomed and flourished, and his physical presence withered away.

One morning, as Rabbi Haber and Jarom learned together, they reached a point in the Rambam’s work that describes the process of complete Teshuvah. “The final step,” Rabbi Haber explained, “is when a person has the opportunity to commit the same sin again, but he holds himself back and refrains from doing it.” “There isn’t enough time left in my life for me to revisit every sin I’ve committed,” Jarom commented somberly. “I wish there was some way I could do a complete Teshuvahh, but I’m afraid that’s just never going to happen.” The weeks passed quickly, and as they did, Jarom’s condition deteriorated further. He and Rabbi Haber completed their study of the Rambam’s work, but Jarom continued to pay frequent visits to his mentor.
One day, Jarom walked into Rabbi Haber’s study looking more energized than he had in weeks. “Rabbi, I’ve got it!” he exulted. “I figured it out! I found a way that I can do complete Teshuvah!” “That’s great!” Rabbi Haber responded. “What do you have in mind?”

“I called up the college where I had been teaching for all these years and I asked them if I could give one final class before I die. Well, of course they couldn’t say no to a request like that, so they are letting me give a lecture.” “That will be great, but what does it have to do with complete Teshuvah?” Rabbi Haber asked. “I am calling my lecture ‘The Last Class.’ With this lecture, I am going to prove to the students that (absolute) atheism is false, and I am going to prove to them that there is a (strong possibility of) G-d.  I am going to do Teshuvah just as the Rambam describes it: the same place, same situation, but this time, instead of turning people away from G-d, I am going to teach them that Hashem is the Master of the World.”

A few days later, Jarom arrived at Rockland Community College to speak to the students. Standing in front of the lecture hall, the once vibrant professor was gaunt and tired looking. But when he called the class to order and began to speak, his passion for his subject opened up new reserves of strength within him. If the class had come in expecting the raspy whispers of a dying man, they would be taken aback by the clear, bold words Jarom was speaking. “Everywhere you look around you, you can see there is a Creator who designed the world,” he told them. “If you pay any attention at all to your life – to the people you meet and the things that happen to you and to others, it is clear that (there is at least a possibility that) G-d is running things. Even if you can’t be so sure, you cannot prove beyond a doubt that there is no G-d. Hold open a small window of possibility – a five percent chance – that there is a G-d,” he urged his students. “And make it your business to pray to Him. Pray through that small window you’ve left for yourself, and you will find, as I have, that it opens wider and wider for you. You’ll find some day that G-d has become a certainty in your life – that he’s there for you 100 percent.”

A few weeks later Jarom passed away. He left this world as a Torah Jew whose lips had uttered prayers, whose keen mind had been rededicated to Torah learning, and whose longing for repentance had been satisfied.

Rabbi Haber said in his public address at Jarom’s funeral, “Jarom Haber died as a great Jew.and his story is a lesson for all of us”.

Stories That Tug at the Heart - Click here to buy on Amazon

Posted on 05/03 at 11:12 AM • Permalink
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Helping Out A Fellow Jew

Due to the international economic crisis, many highly credentialed and very qualified people that I am in touch with in Israel have recently been laid off. I’d like to try and help the situation by reaching out to my network on their behalf. I am in touch with CPA’s, attorneys, technical writers and many others that may be able to do work for you or someone you know from Israel. I am looking for contacts and creative solutions. If you can help (or if you need help) please contact me.  All emails will remain confidential.

Posted on 02/19 at 11:27 AM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Rabbi Yaacov HaberRabbi Haber has been a leading force in Jewish Outreach for the past 25 years. A founding trustee of AJOP, the Association of Jewish Outreach Professionals, he was the founder and director of the Torah Center of Buffalo from 1980-1990 while serving as a community rabbi in Buffalo. From Buffalo he and his family traveled to Melbourne, Australia where as a project of Kollel Bais HaTalmud he founded the Australian Institute of Torah, a national outreach and adult education program. He directed that program from 1990-1995, at which time he was sought out as National Director of Jewish Education for the Orthodox Union in the United States where he created the Internationally acclaimed and highly successful "Pardes Project."

In addition to his duties at the OU, in 1996 he replaced Rabbi Berel Wein as the spiritual leader of Congregation Bais Torah in Monsey, NY. In keeping with the position of Congregation Bais Torah in the Monsey community, Rabbi Haber was involved in issues involving the greater Monsey community, and counseled hundreds of individuals in the surrounding area.

Rabbi Yaacov Haber is the founder and driving force behind TorahLab. Through TorahLab, Rabbi Haber is bringing together educational and media specialists to create dynamic learning experiences which will be accessible to adults of all backgrounds and levels. Rabbi Haber has published numerous articles and books and is a sought after international lecturer.

Rabbi Haber and his family are presently living in Ramat Beit Shemesh where he is the Rabbi of Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun.

Rabbi Haber can be contacted at yhaber@torahlab.org