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Inbox: Issue 872

The future of Klal Yisrael is in Israel. Let’s not forget that, even for a moment.


No Vacations [The Moment / Issue 871]

I am saddened and dismayed at the caption under the famous picture of Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz sitting in a forest surrounded by talmidim. The caption under the picture stated, “Even Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz takes a break to enjoy the scenery with his students.” How  can we loosely explain the picture that way?

There is a famous story that perhaps portrays how Rav Boruch Ber viewed his vacation. Rav Boruch Ber once mentioned to someone that the air in his vacation area was clearer air. He then explained that on this vacation he was able to think  better in learning. This was Rav Boruch Ber’s vacation.

To state that “Even Rav Boruch Ber takes a break” seems questionable. Are we bringing him down to our level? Can we say that Rav Boruch Ber  was enjoying the scenery in a way that we do? To think that Rav Boruch Ber took a break from limud haTorah?

For kavod haTorah this must be corrected.

Mrs. K., Lakewood NJ


Conversation that Speaks Volumes [Sacred Stamp / Issue 871]

A well-deserved yasher koach to Yisroel Besser for once again offering a glimpse into the personality of yet one more of this generation’s manhigim, the rosh yeshivah of Long Beach ztz”l.

Although I am not a talmid of the yeshivah, I became a chassid of Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock through one encounter some 30 years or so ago. As an eighth-grade rebbi back then, I tried to place my talmidim in the yeshivos most appropriate for them as they embarked on the next step of their Torah careers. I had the great opportunity to form relationships with many roshei yeshivah, including Rav Yitzchok.

As it turned out, one bochur who had become orphaned from his father had a great desire to go to Long Beach and asked me to get him in. Since it was already Sivan, and most yeshivos of that stature were already full and then some, I assumed the chances were pretty small, but I endeavored to try.

I placed a call from a payphone at a wedding I was attending and reached the house. The Rebbetzin answered. I introduced myself as someone she probably never heard of and gave my name, asking if the Rosh Yeshivah was available. My first surprise was that she actually was aware of who I was, probably from all the other times I called.

But that was nothing compared to what came next. After the Rebbetzin told me the Rosh Yeshivah was not home, she asked me if she could help. I told her that a bochur in my shiur, a yasom, desperately wants to learn in Long Beach. I realized it was a long shot because of the lateness of the summer, but if I could speak to Rav Yitzchok, maybe I would stand a chance.

The Rebbetzin immediately responded, “He is accepted!” I couldn’t believe my ears, especially since this was the first time anyone called on his behalf. And she continued, “If he is a yasom, the Rosh Yeshivah will never tell you no. He can come.”

How many volumes does this speak about Rav Yitzchok? I was left speechless, with an unforgettable memory of my talmid’s entry into Long Beach where he grew to become an outstanding talmid chacham.

We all have so much to learn from him, and from his rebbetzin as well.

Rabbi Henoch Plotnik, Chicago IL


Direct Contradiction [Inbox / Issue 871]

I have never actually put pen to paper, to express my views, but the sensibilities expressed in last week’s Inbox have evoked strong enough emotions for me to actually be typing my views regarding the near endorsement, definitely encouragement, of smartphones by the magazine.

I work in a professional capacity and will never deny the importance and convenience of the Internet, which I use almost on a daily basis, but baruch Hashem with strong boundaries in place. Indeed, it is becoming more and more impossible even within the frum world to manage without Internet access, but I have yet to hear of a single rav, rabbi, rebbe, or rosh yeshivah who has condoned or encouraged the use of smartphones other than for work purposes, and then only in a very limited capacity.

I proudly belong to a chassidus and send my children to schools and chadorim whose acceptance fully depends on parents not having unnecessary (non-work-related) or fully filtered devices at home. I am forever grateful for these limitations in the confusing world we find ourselves in.

To consistently read of those who are teaching and educating us to so easily discuss their “addiction” to remain updated on any world or personal news, to be literally enslaved to every ping of an email coming in, directly contradicts what our rabbanim cry against.

The world is an extremely challenging place to live in. Why would anyone actively bring this nisayon into their homes and allow themselves and families to become enslaved to smartphones and the like? Indeed, “enslaved” is a very strong word to use, but those courageous enough to admit it would agree there is no other word that can adequately describe the hold and the need the Internet triggers, which negatively impacts and limits relationships with those closest to us in a terrible way.

Many (in the secular world too) have already acknowledged the serious impact on their children and thus have limited their use, but have not yet admitted the same applies to themselves too. How is it humanly possible to give full focus and attention to a screen alongside the needs of family around them?

It is not an extra chumra; it is compliance with daas Torah across the religious spectrum, and the desire to abide by the Torah’s instruction, “V’hayah machanecha kadosh.”

Miriam E., London, UK


The Dangers of Black and White [Inbox / Issue 871]

This is in response to the anonymous reader from Boro Park who proudly wrote in about the phenomenon of kids being taught not to touch a smartphone — to the point of a child refusing to touch one during a medical emergency.

As a fellow anonymous Boro Parker, who also wishes that our reality be acknowledged: I speak on behalf of many (if not most) of us who have been hurt by the system of making a blanket issur out of things, like smartphones, instead of explaining the dangers. That someone shouldn’t understand that it’s okay to make a phone call in an emergency is inexcusable, and is a result of the black-and-white teachings.

Instead of acknowledging that most people need Internet access for work, banking, shopping, etc., and then teaching the proper way to install filters and explain the issues of distraction and potential inappropriate use, there’s an overall ban.

It’s time to understand the nuances of Yiddishkeit and not call everything black-and-white assur.

G. C.

Unbelievable Resource [Inbox / Issue 871]

Mrs. Tamar Nussbaum brought up an excellent point in her letter last week. She suggested that just like there are curricula and plenty of resources for teaching secular subjects, there should be the same for Judaic studies. Mrs. Nussbaum does not just give ideas, she actualizes them.

If any teacher or principal has not yet seen Mrs. Nussbaum’s unbelievable work through her l’havin ul’haskel Chumash curriculum or her latest tefillah program, what are you waiting for? As a teacher, I use both of these in my classroom and the results are outstanding. The koach and heart that she invested into creating these programs, not to mention the teacher- friendly notes, allow any teacher to use them with ease.

In addition, when a school or an individual teacher takes on one of her curricula, she is with you all year and beyond, communicating with you to see how you’re implementing the program, asking how she can help you and coming to your school to personalize it for your style and needs.

Mrs. Nussbaum saw a need in the chinuch world and filled it. May Hashem give her the koach to continue to do her beautiful work for many many more years in good health.

A grateful morah, Queens, NY


Twenty Years Later [Salvation / Issue 871]

On the 20th of Av 5761 (August 9, 2001), on a beautiful summer afternoon, a terrorist suicide bomber entered the Sbarro restaurant on the busiest corner in Jerusalem and blew himself up. Fifteen innocent people were murdered and 130 more were injured.

Our daughter, Chana Finer Nachenberg, had been enjoying a day outing in Jerusalem with her daughter, Sara, almost three, when they stopped into Sbarro for lunch. Sara was seated next to the window with her back to a concrete pillar. Chana sat next to her with her back exposed to the bomber. The exploding shrapnel pierced Chana’s back, a piece tore her coronary artery, and the shock made her lose consciousness. Consciousness that has not returned to her since that fateful day. Sara, shielded by her loving mother and the concrete pillar, was covered with soot, ash, and broken glass, but physically safe.

In the almost 20 years that passed since that day, our granddaughter, Sara, has grown up to become a mature young woman and a loving wife and mother. Nevertheless she has borne, and still bears, the trauma of that day. For years she was terrified of bonfires, not to mention fireworks. It has always been difficult for her to talk about what happened, but even though she was not even three, she has memories of that day. The greatest trauma was having to grow up without a loving mother.

Everyone who knew Chana — and there were many we didn’t even know about — knew a warm, bubbly spirit who only saw the good in people and loved everybody. Yet 20 years later, Chana remains in a vegetative state, attached to a respirator.

We are the parents of Chana. For almost 20 years, we have spent many hours at her bedside, grasping at any glimmer of a reaction to our words, songs, and touches. We sing Shabbat songs on Friday and tell her all the family news. The once vibrant, alive young woman has just turned 51 and lies in a minimally responsive vegetative state with the constantly beeping alarms of the respirator and other machines that regulate her life.

We have neither the emotional energy nor the desire for publicity to crusade against the perpetrators of the atrocity. We didn’t protest the Shalit deal in which the murderer Tamimi was released. We didn’t put our names on the top of petitions. But we feel for and understand those who do.

Our life centers around Chana. Her sister and brother were shortchanged by our focus on Chana and helping raise her daughter, Sara. We have been trying to make up for lost time with our other grandchildren, but as we age, our time and strength are limited. With all the difficulties, such as Chana’s recurring infections and being in isolation, we are thankful that she is still alive. We pray for a miracle that somehow Chana will have a spark of awareness, no matter how fleeting, and show again the beauty of her warm personality.

Chana, we visit you often, but we miss you. We miss your bubbly smile and warm hugs. Keep fighting and maybe, with G-d’s help, that miracle will come.

We thank all those who have helped and supported us, and who remember Chana even after 20 years have passed.

Paula and Yitzhak Finer


Worthy Feature [Branding Together / Issue 871]

I’m not one to take the time to send a letter to the editor but I felt it was important to acknowledge the fact that your publication is choosing to feature successful female entrepreneurs.

In light of media coverage that downplays the role of an Orthodox woman, I’m very much enjoying the coverage profiling Elisheva Perlman in the Branding Together series. Our daughters should have more opportunities to read and hear about Orthodox women who are using their talents to do good work.

Thank you so much. Looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

R. Miles, Monsey, NY


An Honor to Sing [EndNote / Issue 870]

I enjoyed reading your EndNote article featuring Yigal Calek, the director of London School of Jewish Song. It was very sentimental and brought back a lot of memories from my youth, listening to all the songs on our record player. I especially loved the record with the tzitzis coming out of the record cover. Throughout my childhood I sang these songs in my house.

Now I’m a baal tefillah for Yamim Noraim and I sing in the Shemoneh Esreh “Chamol” and “B’ein Meilitz Yosher” and the feedback I get from the mispallelim is that they find it very inspirational and enjoyable.

Thank you, Yigal, it’s an honor to sing these gorgeous songs.

Bezalel Rapaport, Wesley Hills, NY


Where Our Future Is [Make Your Move / Issue 870]

For the last year or more, Mishpacha has printed numerous articles detailing the rise in anti-Semitism in the US and other countries. Yet simultaneously, Mishpacha has printed numerous articles extolling the virtues of out-of-town communities in the US, for those looking for new cities in which to lay down roots. While I’m sure these are wonderful communities with wonderful people, the Jewish People have only one homeland and only one refuge: Eretz Yisrael.

For reasons that have never been clear to me, the yeshivish community in America does not seem to prioritize aliyah on a large-scale, communal level. Years ago, my husband was privileged to hear a derashah from Rabbi Feigenbaum (principal of Tiferes Bais Yaakov in Toronto), who emphasized that the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael is incumbent upon each and every Jew. There are many good reasons why a person might be exempt from fulfilling this mitzvah — parnassah, health, chinuch, etc. — but each person needs to ask a sh’eilah and receive a psak.

And although Rabbi Feigenbaum agreed that most people can probably get a heter not to move to Eretz Yisrael, he explained that the yearning to fulfill this mitzvah still needs to be at the forefront of our awareness. Just as an ill person who receives a heter not to fast on Yom Kippur must accept his psak, but hopes and prays that one day he will be able to fulfill this mitzvah again, so too one who receives a heter to live in chutz l’Aretz should be dreaming and planning for the day when he too can fulfill the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael.

We made aliyah five years ago from the Tristate area. When people asked us why we were moving to Israel, my husband liked to respond with the famous parable about a man trapped in rising floodwaters who prays to Hashem to save him. When rescue vehicles and emergency responders come to his aid, he turns them away, saying, “Hashem will save me.”

After subsequently drowning, the man goes to Shamayim and asks Hashem, “Why didn’t You answer my prayers?”

To which Hashem replies, “But I sent you the rescue vehicles and the emergency responders...”

As my husband would explain, we daven three times a day to Hashem to take us back to the Holy Land. After 120 years, will we face Hashem and ask why He didn’t respond to our prayers? Hashem may simply reply, “But I sent you Nefesh b’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency, and other organizations to ease your way! Israel was but a plane ride away...”

My suggestion to Mishpacha: Why not run a series spotlighting communities in Israel that are good landing spots for Anglo olim? Or interview olim families about their aliyah experience, so others can learn from them and follow in their footsteps?

The future of Klal Yisrael is in Israel. Let’s not forget that, even for a moment.

Name Withheld

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 872)

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