Friday, December 28, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Last year I changed my mind. I don't remember exactly why I consented to send him to release time--and it may have followed on David's entreaties to go so he too could get prizes and extra nosh every Wednesday. I also decided that even though he wouldn't benefit knowledge-wise--he could probably even teach these classes--, it wouldn't kill him to be exclusively with Jewish kids for an hour and to have fun in a Jewish-themed environment.
I'm still not fond of Chabad, but I have to give credit where credit is due. The MO world is completely silent and apathetic when it comes to providing even the smallest morsels of chinuch to these kids. Why aren't YU, the OU, YI, local shuls, etc. involved in release time or other programming for unaffiliated public school kids? Who collapsed our wide tent? Why has institutional MO written off the rest of the Jewish world to Chabad? I know there are many non-Orthodox Jews who will always look to Chabad as representative of authentic Judaism, but surely there are also many to whom MO could better appeal with a common language, world view, etc.
Anyway, back to David. Last week (Chanukah) the Kinneret called me up one night and told me to hurry home because David's release time teachers were on the way to the house to bring jelly donuts. Shortly after I arrived home these two missionaries* knocked at the door and sat with us for fifteen minutes of story telling, dreidel games, etc. (*I can't think of a better designation for them missionaries, and I don't use the word here with any of its usual negative connotations.)
And then next week, during the school break, David is attending a Chabad winter camp for public school kids.
Most of this is 100% free. There is no nominal fee, or a regular fee that they waive upon request. Money never enters the equation. (Ok, there is very reasonable fee for the winter camp.)
Update: We were very impressed with the camp. Door-to-door transportation, hot breakfast and lunch, activities, sports and daily trips. (Capped with the requisite pilgrimage to 770, which thrilled David.) Four days of this for $90!?
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Thursday, September 13, 2012
According to Sarna the image above (click on it to enlarge) may depict the interior of Mikveh Israel's mid-century synagogue; if true, then I imagine that one of the Sifrei Torah displayed in the open ark could be the one executed by Eleazar.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
And now moving on from bodily functions to body parts. At one point we were at a birs mlia (transposed to avoid attracting comments) and I explained to David what they do to the baby. "Why," he asked, "is it too long?" (In this context there is one more question he once asked that I'm not going to post, but perhaps this cryptic comment will jog my memory in later years.)
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
We've never saved our cans and bottles to redeem the deposit charge, but last year we encouraged David to do so in order that he would learn the value of working for his money, saving up, etc.
Monday, September 3, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Monday, July 16, 2012
I told him to convert eighteen into gematria numbers and see what it yields, but all the while all I could think was "Heaven help me."
Sunday, July 8, 2012
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
(See Alfred Werner, "Chagall's Jerusalem Windows," Art Journal 4.21 (Summer 1962), p. 224. He does note on the following page, "We do not know how reliable a historian Vasari is in these two cases.")
Tuesday, June 26, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
The trouble with Jewish education is that we never move beyond the elementary level. We repeat the same thing year after year and never deepen our understanding of Torah . . . Same with holidays. The seder is the same year in year out. We should leave each year with a more profound understanding of Pesach. [He also makes an interesting point that leining has become more about catching the baal kore in a mistake than it using the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the parsha.]
Yavamos 62b: R. Akiva taught if you study torah when you are young, study again when you are old. If you produce students in young age, produce more in old age (based on pasuk in kohelet, plant in the morning, don’t sit idle at night). He had 12,000 pairs of students from center to northern Israel, they all died in the same time period because they didn’t kavod to each other. R. akiva went to southern Israel and taught new students. This new group reestablished torah in Israel. The 24,000 died between pesach and shavuos.
Nothing here about lag ba-omer. Never mentioned in shas, tosefta, sifre, mekhilta. Not in rabbinic lit. it’s a mystery where LBO comes from. Not in mishne torah.
First reference to LBO is in Meiri (b. 1249 Provence): there is a kabala from geonim (rabbis who preceded him, not the Babylonian geonim) that the deaths ceased on LBO. (We commemorate this by not fasting. He doesn’t say to give kids off from school, shoot bow and arrow, etc.) Also don’t marry from Pesach till Lag Baomer.
r. hayyim vital (d. 1620, chief student of ari) in peri etz hayyim (published in 17th c.): the practice is to go to grave of shimon bar yohai and his son elazar) in meiron on LBO. The ari too went to meiron with his wife and children for 3 days (per testimony of r. yonasan sagiz). R. avraham halevi (beruchin), a kabbalist in ari’s circle, used to say nachem every day. He was davening at meiron on LBO and the ari approached him and told him that r. shimon bar yohai who is buried there told to ask r. avraham why is he saying nachem at his grave on his holiday. Because of this people will give him tanchumin. Within a month his child died, he sat shiva, and people came to give him tanchumim. We see from this the reason to go to meiron on LBO is because it is the yahrzeit of r. shimon bar yohai. He was one of the talmidim of r. akiva who died, but his death is a celebration.
So these are 2 basic answers for LBO. But they are problematic. LBO not mentioned in tanach, shas, etc.
All we have is the meiri, who says they stopped daying on LBO
There is ms. Variant in the gemara that doesn’t say pesach to atzeres, but pesach to pros (half) atzeres, ie lag baomer. This is what meiri was talking about.
Lets say the 24,000th died right before lag baomer. So you declare a yontef? A yontef because they stopped dying?
r. aryeh balhuver (shem aryeh, vilna, 1873): on LBO we don’t say tachanun and celebrate a bit because r. akiva’s students dying.
Its amazing, that gemara says they all died btw pesach and atzeres. So who cares that they stopped dying on lag baomer? I found in peri chadash (17th c. Sephardi), what’s the yontef? Nobody was left, they all died. (Should we make a yontef after the last of the 6 million died?)
so we are left with the answer that is yahrzeit of r. shimon bar yochai. Chasidim celebrate a yahrtziet by making a Kiddush so that the mitzvah of making beracha and the person who brings the shnops accrues to the benefit of the departed. But you don’t find this in shulchan aruch. Instead you find in shulchan aruch (siman taf kuf peh?) that you fast on yahrtzeit. (this is a minhag yisroel from gemera on.) and on yahrzeits of gedolei yisrael, like zayin adar for moshe rabbeinu, we fast.
So if moshe rabbeinu doesn’t get a yontef, why shimon bar yochai?
How do we know SBY’s yahrzteit is on LBO? We have nothing until the 17th c. in rabbinic literature (vital)
Hasam sofer (“he was shomer Shabbos in case you didn’t know, you can trust him”; d. 1830s): I heard people recently go to tzefas. He wonders why ppl go to tzefas and not yerushalayim, the holiest city. What’s the fuss? I asked R. epfraim zalman margoliyos (his rebbe) about this. Who heard of going to tzefas on LBO? Making a yontef on a yahrzeit? We fast on a yahrzeit. Like for moshe rabbeinu, nadav and avihu, Miriam (they fasted for a woman, ppl forget about this passage), yehoshua. It’s in the Zohar that it says the the day SBY died is a hilula. But it doesn’t say when he died. A hilula in loshn of gemara is a marriage. On the day he died he was married. How? His soul returned to hashem . . . ve-al kol panim, lo yadasi ma makom le-hilula?
The hasam sofer tells you he doesn’t know why we celebrate LBO. (how should I know?)
Hida (d. 1806) is unhappy with these 2 reasons for LBO: we make a simcha on LBO because he started teaching torah again on LBO.
A jew never despairs. R. akiva lost everything, his life’s work, he started all over again. He didn’t waste a minute. And one of his students was SBY
It’s a nice suggestion, but no evidence in earlier jewish lit
Others suggest real reason we mourn is because of crusades. Might be true. We know a lot of times jews were persecuted it was this period btw pesach and shavuos. In 11-13th centuries. Probably this has a lot to do with our mourning practices, no music, no shaving, etc. But no where in the sources does it say anything about crusades and LBO.
Others suggest it is because of hadrianic persecutions. No one has 24,000 students. Some achronim suggest that the 24k students are 24k troops that died in the mered bar kochva. But there is nowhere in jewish or roman sources to point to a celebration on LBO
A fragment in cairo geniza provides the source in SA for the yahrzeit fasts for moshe, Miriam, etc. 7-8th c., eretz yisroel. Goes month by month, and 18th of iyyar says fast for yahrtzeit of yehoshua.
So in 8th c. Israel, 18th iyyar, i.e., LBO was a fast day
Hasam Sofer (shut y”D resh lamed gimmel): but to make a holiday we know no miracle occurred on that day, and the holiday is never mentioned in shas, posekim, in no place. All it says in SA and rishonim is we don’t fast/say hespedim (some say no tachanun), but isn’t a holiday. And I don’t even know why it’s a day we don’t fast/eulogize.
The hasam sofer is correct. Everything we said is interesting, but just theories. We don’t have evidence. Anymore.
I’d like to close with favorite passage from sifre musar, which sums up what jewish education is all about
Bahya ibn pakida (hovos levavos): a person must make a reckoning with his soul for everthing that pertains to knowledge of god and god’s torah and the histories and tradition of the jewish people. And the meaning of the prayers and hymns we recite. These are all things we learn in youth when mind begins to grow and first initiated into studies.for the fofr of subtle ideas in the eyes of someone of weal understading is very different than in the eyes of an intelligent person. The stronger your understanding, the stronger becomes your certainty of things. Therefore don’t be content with what you learned in your youth at the beginning of your studies. But reconsider with what you were taught with regard to torah, neviim now that your mind is stronger, your understanding is sharper. As if you had never read a letter of them you never learned. Same with tefilos. Try to understand their language and purpose, so when you approach the lord with those words you will understand the words you tongue is uttering and the meaning your heart wishes to convey. Don’t allow the habits of your youth to continue. You have to deal the same way with jewish history and all jewish traditions. You may not be satisfied with you achieve when you began your studies, rather demand of yoursself to restudy, relearn, as if you are novice. Reconsider everything you are taught until you discover new meaning in the torah, prophets, sages. Such things you could have never have understood from the teachers who taught you when you first began your studies.
(On an 1841 visit to Meiron, click here.)
Friday, May 4, 2012
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
- From the very start of the excavations in this area the archaeologists decided that all of the soil removed from there would be meticulously sifted (including wet-sifting and thorough sorting of the material remnants left in the sieve). This scientific measure is being done in cooperation with thousands of pupils in the Tzurim Valley National Park. It was during the sieving process that the tiny seal was discovered.
Monday, April 23, 2012
This past Shabbat we were invited to someone's house for lunch. In the course of the conversation the husband turned to the wife and mentioned something about their teenage child behaving well on Thursday. The wife said that they need to note it on the spreadsheet because they keep track of his behavior. Apparently he is a difficult child.
I just sat there shaking my head and wondering, "holy crap, does it ever end?" I was depressed for the rest of the day. Will I still be sitting with Kinneret in ten years, biting our nails and tearing our hair out because of our failed attempts to control David?! I was depressed for the rest of the day.
* * *
Last week I was going to post about something cute that David did. I realized that I mostly only write about him in a good, adorable and sympathetic light. I'm afraid that I've been giving the wrong impression. He's not a perfect child. He can be quite difficult at times and real pain in the tuchus. But I'm sure we won't forget the stubbornness, disrespect, poor behavior, etc. On Sunday he was pretty bad and Kinneret wanted to kill him. I couldn't come up with any defense for him other than to plead on his behalf as the only male that will carry on the family name. Killing him will kill the family name.
Those bad moments--oh how they sometimes drag out into hours and days--will remain etched in our memories. I'm sure that in years from now we'll regale the grandkids with tales about their naughty father. But I also want to make sure we recall the good moments. (If only they too would stretch out into hours and days!) Will it really matter in twenty years from now that because of him Kinneret came late to work? Or do we want to remember that one morning when his sister complained her eyes hurt her. We were still sleeping so David led her to the bathroom and washed her eyes out.
So many times the kids do something that really makes us laugh, smile and just plain happy. Very often, however, when I sit down to record the memory in writing--sometimes even the same night--I forget what it is I wanted to write about. Hopefully in some small way this blog will give me some positive stories to tell the grandkids about.
Of course I'm sure they'll just want to hear more about how naughty he was.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday, April 9, 2012
Well here we are more than half a century later. For most of us the Haggadah is once again nothing more than a document of ancient history. We mumble through hashta avdei le-shanah ha-ba'ah benei chorin ("this year we are slaves, next year we will be free people") and sing le-shana ha-ba'a be-yerushalayim ("next year in Jerusalem") without really thinking about it. Personally, I have barely been able to get myself to sing the latter for the last few years. Has it really become a matter of ilu nasan lanu es artzos ha-beris li-peletah ve-lo hevi'anu le-medinas yisrael--dayenu!?
* It is printed on heavy stock paper; includes a simple and accessible commentary; contains an appendix with realia, etc.; and is adorned with a wonderful bifolio steel engraved illustration. The Hebrew-only edition contains additional material in the appendix. Whereas Haggadah Shelema is an academic-type publication appropriate for scholars engaged in research and laypeople preparing for the seder, the Eretz Yisrael Haggadah is a great table-side haggadah. (Later editions were printed on poorer paper and reproduced the bifolio engraving in a less-than-pleasing manner.)
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
(Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the
easiest way to save a child's life.)
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sunday, February 26, 2012
I gave to this little congregation a short outline of the present condition of the Jews in various parts of the world, to which they listened with greatest interest. After which, I asked Rabbi Abraham [Dabella?] to tell me his opinion of the Messiah. This question astonished him not a little, "Why," exclaimed he, "the Messiah , the Messiah, is yet to come" . . .
This opened the way to an animated conversation about the Messiah and those who believe in Him, and I was then privileged to preach the Gospel of salvation in a Jewish synagogue in the capital of Portugal, where most likely for centuries no Jew had been made acquainted with the truth as it is in Jesus . .
If a mission to this part of the world should once be established, Lisbon might, from time to time be visited, and inquiries made after the secret Jews, who . . . are numerous here.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
- He hated the "penny arcade" and complained it was a waste of money . . . but he nontheless drove me to the one on Bay Parkway whenever I wanted to go and he even gave me money (of course quarters, not pennies). I originally thought of this post a few months ago when David was begging me for quarters to play those darn games. My grandfather let me, how could I not let him.
- He hated that I demanded something more expensive than "a pack of gum" in exchange for returning the afikoman . . . but he always relented after much negotiation. (That's how I got my first ten-speed and the Meam Loez.)
- He hated that I looked like a "hobo" (dress and grooming) . . . but I was always welcome this way in his home or when I tagged along with him on social outings with his friends. Not even a peep when I would show up that way in his shul on shabbos.
- He really hated the "noise" (i.e., music) I listened to . . . but after much cajoling he would always let me choose the radio station in the car (but not too loud).
- He hated professional (WWF) wrestling because it was "phony" . . . but when he walked in on me watching it in his bedroom one afternoon he didn't make me change the channel.
- He really, really hated when I sat on my knees, which I often did, even at the table. With this, however, he never ever exhibited any weakness. It was never tolerated. I finally decided to publish this post because I was reminded of it last week when I told David the story of how Dovid Hamelech chose his soldiers. (They lay flat on their bellies when drinking from the stream rather than kneel beside it on their knees.) Then I told David about how my grandfather would always yell at me to get off my knees.
Click here to register as a bone marrow donor. It's the easiest way to save a child's life.