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Inbox: Issue 1010

Finally someone is admitting that communal standards have been raised not by those who are wealthy, but those who are providing for the poor as if the ani were wealthy
Say Hi to Introverts [Guestlines-The Guy in the Back / Issue 1009]

I really enjoyed the article “The Guy in the Back” in the post-Pesach magazine. The description of the dependable but often unnoticed introvert sounded exactly like my husband, and our family is proud of that!

I wanted to comment on the dynamics between introverts and extroverts and how these personalities come together in a community.

Although introverts do not want to constantly be surrounded by people, they still want recognition. They may be sitting in the corner of the shul learning rather than engaging in the latest hock, but many still cherish the greeting they get from the rav or shul president. Introverts may be quieter and seemingly less social, but that does not mean that they don’t want meaningful connections with others in the community.

When we moved, it took time for my introverted spouse to find a shul that was the right fit — one that would allow him to be “the guy in the back” and cherish him for that role. Baruch Hashem we found what we were looking for in a kehillah that recognizes that it takes all kinds to make Klal Yisrael. The members give my husband permission to sit in silence before davening rather than talk about the latest news, but will also give him a happy slap on the back if they come across him in a store.

So to all those extroverts who love to be in the thick of the action, please don’t forget the guy in the back. Although he may not have much to say, he still craves your hello.



Erratum [In Totality / Issue 1008]

Thank you for a beautiful project about the eclipse. I just wanted to point out an error on page 124: “The eclipse ends when a diamond and corona reappear on the opposite side of the moon, followed by Baily’s beads.” Actually, at the end of the eclipse the process is reversed, first Baily’s beads appear and then the diamond ring.

Yosef Eisen


We Eat to Live [A Tzaddik for Our Times / Issue 1008]

I am sure many readers thoroughly enjoyed Gedalia Guttentag’s inspiring article about Rav Binyomin Finkel. The way he described Rav Binyomin’s busy, selfless schedule, without stopping to eat, reminded me of something that I witnessed.

A few years ago, many communities around the world celebrated Yeshivahs Mir’s 200th anniversary. Thanks to our parnes, Mr. Meir Menashe Bodner, Gateshead joined this celebration, with the participation of Rav Binyomin Finkel, Rav Nachman Levovitz, and the late mashgiach, Rav Aharon Chodosh ztz’’l. Reb Binyomin was standing for a long period of time greeting and uplifting the many visitors, just as Gedalia described.

As I took leave of Reb Binyomin, Reb Nachman came forward with a plate of food. He turned to Reb Binyomin and said, “You need to eat something. ‘Ein somchim al haneis!’ — We don’t rely on miracles!’ ”

Reb Binyomin had traveled and spent many hours with talmidim, but his own needs were still the last thing on his mind.

Regarding Rav Binyomin observing the chumra of the Chazon Ish to “iber maaser,” Rav Binyomin was not the first member of the Finkel family to keep this stringency. His great-uncle, the rosh yeshivah Rav Beinish Finkel, who married a niece of the Chazon Ish, introduced this chumra to the Mir. The Mir Yeshivah still separates terumos and maasros from all fruit, vegetables, and grains bought, even if they come with a reliable hechsher.

Thanks for a most beautiful read.

Aron Feldman



Family Legacy [Torah Haven in the New World / Issue 1008]

As a great-grandson of Harav Levenberg ztz’l, (who is named after him), I must compliment you on your amazing essay in your mega-Pesach issue (to quote my mother, “I came home with two phone books.”) about my namesake.

There have been many articles written over the years regarding Rav Yehudah Heschel Levenberg and about the New Haven Yeshivah, but this was different. It was an in-depth study with extensive research and historical background, written in a lucid and interesting format. There was much that I learned, and I can say that I gained a new perspective, despite the fact that I have read much on the subject (including trying to make my way through Rabbi Ever’s book in Yiddish).

I would also like to add something that is related in our family. The name Yehuda was given as a zecher for Yehuda HaMaccabi. My zeide was born on the 29th day of Kislev, which of course is on Chanukah. It’s a name of strength, which he lived up to.

Once again, in the name of our family, I would like to thank you for keeping this important legacy alive.



Yerushalayim Riveting Read [Torah Haven in the New World / Issue 1008]

I really enjoyed your feature on Rabbi Levenberg in the Pesach issue. It was a riveting read.

I knew his son, Rabbi Hershel Levenberg z”l, quite well from his days as a rebbi in Yeshivah of Eastern Parkway. Rav Levenberg would often talk about his father.

You mention the 1923 Agudas Harabbonim convention where Rabbi Levenberg described his vision for his yeshivah, and that he wasn’t taken very seriously, as the group’s efforts were focused on boosting Yeshivahs Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon.

The way Reb Hershel described it was that his father once went to an Agudas Harabbonim convention and said, “Rabbosai, mir darf machen yeshivos!”

In response, one of the assembled said to him, “Rabbi Levenberg, this is not Europe. We have one yeshivah, Rabbeinu Yitzchok Elchonon, and that is enough.”

I assume what that rav meant was that nascent community could not afford to support more yeshivos.

You wrote that Rav Hershel Levenberg was a rebbi in Chaim Berlin — which he was, until 1967 — as well as the menahel of Camp Morris. But in 1967 he was transferred to the Yeshivah of Eastern Parkway. At that time, Rav Shlomo Carlebach was the 11th grade rebbi in Eastern Parkway, and Rav Hutner wanted him to come back to Chaim Berlin as mashgiach. So they sent Rav Levenberg in his place, where he remained for 15 years until the yeshivah closed.

Ironically, while Rabbi Yehuda Levenberg actually drove a car, not only did Rav Hershel not drive, he was a nervous backseat driver. I remember driving him from East Flatbush to Boro Park and he would actually say Tefillas Haderech (without Sheim u’Malchus) on this short 15- to 20-minute drive. I have many other fond memories of him. He was a great man.

Finally, I’m not sure if you are aware, but Rabbi Hershel Levenberg’s son, Reb Yehuda Heshel (named for his grandfather) is one of the major talmidei chachamim in Lakewood. He is in his mid to late seventies and he is still in BMG every day learning like a bochur. Over the years he has written many seforim, titled Imrei Chain, basically covering kol haTorah kulah. He is exactly what his grandfather originally envisioned — a pure yeshivah  man who has remained that way for close to 60 years.

Yeruchim Silber


Regards from My Father [Signed, Saved, and Sealed — Express Consolation / Issue 1008]

My family (especially my mother) was deeply moved and comforted by the article about the letter written by my father, Rabbi Edwin (Yitzchok) Katzenstein, in which he comforted Mrs. Joseph on the loss of her unborn child.

My father was a chassid of chesed and a soldier in following daas Torah. He wore lots of (chesed) hats that we try to emulate, but his avodas hakodesh with stillborns was something he never discussed. Reading about this beautiful act of personal warmth and caring five years after his petirah (not 15 as written) brought tears to my eyes, and I was grateful once again to call him my father.

I would love to get in touch with the writer to personally thank her. And thank you, Mishpacha, for publishing this special Yom Tov gift.

Leah Tesser,

Lakewood, NJ


Directions Please? [Hidden in Plain Sight / Issue 1008]

I enjoyed the article about Rabbi Klugman, the hidden tzaddik of Freehold, immensely; it was perhaps one of your most important articles of all time. Please follow up this article with additional info as to how to find the exact location of the kever from the cemetery entrance, driving instructions from Lakewood, and a contact phone number for the cemetery, etc. So far anyone from Lakewood that I asked doesn’t know how to find this important kever.

Nathan Kohn

The kever is located in the Freehold Hebrew Cemetery in Freehold, New Jersey, which is located along NJ-33 Business (which is a split-off of Rt-33) right before Cardigan Bay Lane behind the Freehold Raceway Mall. The cemetery is made up of a number of sections, among them: Freehold Hebrew Benefit Cemetery, Hebrew Benefit Society Cemetery, Freehold Jewish Cemetery, and Congregation Agudath Achim Cemetery: The location is toward the middle of the cemetery. An address  for GPS is: 148 NJ-33, Freehold, NJ 07728, USA. The cemetery’s office can be reached at 732-462-6555 or via email at office.fhbs@gmail.com


The Phone Doesn’t Ring [Family Is for Life — 20 Turning Points / Issue 1008]

In his piece “They All Want the Same Thing,” shadchan Rabbi Meir Levi intimates strongly that a major part of the shidduch crisis is due to all single girls wanting a metzuyan. While I lack his expertise, I have to disagree. My personal experience and that of my friends is that the phone does not ring for girls — not with names of metzuyanim or beinonim.



We’re Exacerbating the Problem [Family Is for Life — 20 Turning Points / Issue 1008]

I want to compliment Mishpacha on the jam-packed Pesach issue, it was not only entertaining, but also made me (and hopefully others) think. One sentence by Mesila cofounder Shmuli Margulies was particularly poignant: “Too many people in our communities still find their finances spiraling out of control despite (dare I say because of?) the growing amounts of tzedakah being raised and distributed over the past 20 years.”

Finally someone is admitting that communal standards have been raised not by those who are wealthy, but those who are providing for the poor as if the ani were wealthy. It has become socially unacceptable — see the Kichels — to dress in Children’s Place clothing. Fundraising for a bekavodig wedding and kallah presents (tennis bracelets!) forces everyone else to make something similar or better than the “takanah” version. And yes, it forces those who would otherwise be financially solvent to go into debt and utilize tzedakah because they can’t do less than their peers who are aniyim, but whose expenses are sponsored or subsidized.

Is there a solution? I don’t know. We are a cohesive society, and it takes much strength to be the “Avraham HaIvri” who consciously decides he won’t follow the trends. And it would also affect the kids, as bucking the trends may invite bullying from mean children. Making a simpler wedding requires buy-in from both sides. So should we advocate that Ploni Ha’Ani or Plonis Ha’Aniyah not get what makes them feel like a mensch if Almoni Gvir’s organization is willing to sponsor or subsidize it? That doesn’t seem right. But let’s not fool ourselves that we aren’t exacerbating the problem.

Eli Blum


Let’s Retain Basic Sensitivity [Word on the Street / Issue 1008]

I want to thank you for calling out BDE in the heimish dictionary. It always drives me crazy when people text or email BDE; it seems very disrespectful to the meis and the family. And by the way, I’m not an old lady who doesn’t understand this generation — I’m a millennial who texts bH, but also believes in good, old-fashioned kavod.



Tears of Laughter [Word on the Street / Issue 1008]

Thank you so much for this article — I make it a point to try to laugh daily, and now I definitely met my quota for the day! My kids were asking why I was crying somewhere between Crocs and Cocoa Club. Excellent work.

Chaya Lieba


Cut the Phrase [Word on the Street / Issue 1008]

I usually look on curiously at those who are super-sensitive to terminology that may even remotely be considered offensive, figuring it’s time for them to toughen up. But now I’m cringing at a term that you and your advertisers use repeatedly, “out-of-town” and “out-of-towner.”

This phrase is used strictly by New Yorkers (I was baffled and taken aback the first time I heard it) and is clearly a slur. Think of what it means. If you are from out of town, you are an outsider, not a member of the club. You are in some ways inferior, ignorant and “not with it.” Basically, something is wrong with you.

Nice New Yorkers may deny that this is their intent, but this term was born of a certain egotistical attitude. It is used repeatedly in New Yorkers’ speech and writing, as in your magazine, and it is blatantly offensive.

We are commanded to avoid telling a ger that he is of non-Jewish stock because it is a reminder of his perceived lower pedigree. And yet, this habit of calling non-New Yorkers “out-of-towners” has gone by unchallenged.

I challenge it.

There are large swaths of Jews in many, many other communities around the US, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, etc., and in Eretz Yisrael, who are all proud, fervently observant, dedicated, learned, righteous, and benevolent.

Please absolutely refrain from using the terms out-of-town or out-of-towner regardless of how widespread your target demographic loosely uses these phrases. Advise your advertisers of this policy and demand they abide by it. Edit it out completely.

It will a fulfillment of the great mitzvah of v’ahavta l’rei’acha kamocha.

Reuven Brauner,

Raanana, Israel


Be a Good Guest [Money Talks — Double Take / Issue 1008]

Here we have Tzivia, mother of six from Eretz Yisrael, who is ignorant of her parents’ limitations; her two single sisters, who are very loud about how they want their ideal Pesach to look, without doing a stitch of work; a grandmother who is a martyr and hasn’t planned well, taking into account her actual limitations; and Benny, the magnanimous brother who is eminently gracious.

Tzivia’s parents will never be able to make Pesach themselves again. It’s time for everyone to accept that and accommodate them. This is deeply disappointing to Tzivia and her sisters (oily hair in a bun on Yom Tov!), but don’t displace that disappointment onto Benny.

Next year will be Tzivia’s turn to host her parents and tagalong sisters. How will she feel when her sisters give off nasty vibes in response to her efforts to make them comfortable?

I’ve been a guest and there were times that it was (very) uncomfortable; but that’s what being a guest is — you are owned by your host. If Tzivia can’t handle it, she should make Pesach herself. Unfortunately, the single sisters have no choice, as painful as that is.

I do believe that Tzivia can very respectfully request to limit her kids’ exposure to screen time, but bottom line: Benny is being a gracious host. Everyone else needs to handle their disappointments privately and be gracious guests, treat Benny with basic human courtesy, and display deeply felt hakaras hatov.



Easy Target; Low Blow [Money Talks — Double Take /

Issue 1008]

The overwhelming consensus in our household was that Tzivia was clearly in the wrong. Why is it that her other out-of-town sister Yaeli understood that their parents were just too elderly to pull off making Pesach while Tzivia clearly missed the cues on that?

It’s very easy to hate the rich; they’re easy targets. But Benny went above and beyond. No one invites that many guests into their home without genuinely wanting them, rich or poor. To open up a home in such a generous way to a household of people is a huge undertaking, and money is not what makes people generous in this area.

Benny understood his parents just weren’t able to make Pesach. And the two kvetchy single sisters didn’t pull their weight either, so who exactly was supposed to be making Pesach? It’s not like they offered a better solution for staying at home.

Benny clearly has a big heart, and perhaps the jealous siblings should work on their middos a bit. Tzivia, next time visit your parents in the summer when stress levels are lower and macaroni and pizza are viable options.



A Mentor May Not Do It [Fumble / Calligraphy]

I finished reading Esther Kurtz’s story in Calligraphy about the woman who didn’t have a mentor to help her decide if she should let her son go to a football game if it would help him socially. The story implied that if only she had a mentor, the problem could be solved — but I beg to differ.

What this woman really needed is validation and understanding, which not all mentors provide. A mentor can give insight, tools, and tips based on their own life experience, but the protagonist’s confusion ran deeper. She wasn’t sure of her hierarchy of values, and she didn’t even understand why it was so important to her that her son shouldn’t follow sports.

She could ask any rav or rebbetzin, and they would tell her their opinion — but it would never sit well with her because she wouldn’t feel understood. A mentor might tell her that, in her case, her son’s social life comes first — but then she would feel resentful and disagree, feeling that no one cares if her son turns out to be a ben Torah. Alternately, a mentor might advise that the purity of her home comes first, and she needs to stand up to the people in her life and set boundaries, but then, as happened in the story, she would be resentful about all the ruined relationships.

It also seemed like there was a bigger picture of her not respecting her husband. What the protagonist really needed was someone to give her space and permission to mourn that her dream husband and dream Torah home did not come to fruition. She wanted someone to understand that it had meant a lot to her and why. Once she would finish mourning, she could start to see the opportunities within her situation.

Alternatively, she needs relationship skills to learn how to talk about her hopes and dreams with her husband without forcing them on him. Perhaps he would be open to switching their son to a different class or school — but that conversation would only be successful once she isn’t holding on tight to her husband changing. And this isn’t something that all mentors are trained in.

Mentors can convey a hashkafah or direction; they can tell you what worked for them, but they don’t specifically offer space-holding, clarifying, and understanding. That would be the job of a coach or therapist, which is why I don’t think finding a mentor would have helped. Many people hope to find a rebbetzin within their community who will serve as the perfect mix of mentor and coach.

It’s true that this would be an ideal situation, but until that happens, know that it’s possible to pay for a coach or learn tools to understand and validate yourself in order to get your needs met (both of which have an upside of allowing for more independence.)



My Father Knew [Birthright / Calligraphy]

It’s always a treat to steal some time during this hectic, busy Yom Tov, to read Calligraphy. There was one story, though, that stood out from the rest, and it reduced me to tears. “Birthright,” by Shmuel Botnick, was very powerful, and it truly resonated with me.

Maybe because of my incredible, caring father, who passed away suddenly on my birthday four years ago. Maybe because we, too, flew with my father to Har Hamenuchos, in a swirling nightmare of shock and disbelief.

My father was a mensch of the highest caliber, a tremendous talmid chacham, from a generation that placed more importance on inner core beliefs instead of outward guises and appearances. I’m so thankful that my father knew how much we loved and respected him. We absolutely revered him and always will. And rightly so.

Reading how the protagonist, Mordy, shunned his gentlemanly grandfather at his own wedding was really hard to take. Sadly, for fictional Mordy and many like him, in these matters there’s not always time for do-overs, and the theme of the story rang out loud and true. Alas, for all of Mordy’s hasmadah in learning… well, he still has a lot to learn.

Shuli Mensh


Let Singles Star [Role Play / Calligraphy]

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mishpacha magazine and Rochel Samet, for publishing a thought-provoking, well-written story about the challenges and triumphs of an “older” single woman... without feeling the need to “fix” her by marrying her off to an unlikely shidduch prospect at the end.

Single women are real people with real lives. The time has come for frum society to recognize them for their strengths and contributions and to create an environment where they are fully valued as members of the community, regardless of the absence of sheitel and ring.

Chava Katz


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1010)

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