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Inbox: Issue 881

"If I knew that I had three months to live, I would walk into this yeshivah and do what I do every day, because I believe in it with all my heart"



Beyond Nature [Built with Love and Loyalty / Issue 879]

Thank you for your cover story on Rabbi Hirth ztz”l. The Passaic community, in fact all of Klal Yisrael, lost a giant — a man whose existence was beyond nature.

Sitting at the funeral along with thousands of others, we thought of the many outstanding and unique experiences that our family shared with Rabbi Hirth ztz”l.

This man who built an empire, took the time to stand in front of the school building on the first day of school to tell our second-grade daughter, “Don’t worry, it will be a great day and a great year.”

This man, who had the weight of the community on his shoulders, who had to meet a monthly budget in excess of $1.5 million, would personally direct traffic before and after school every day — rain, snow, or shine.

Rabbi Hirth loved his students; it was because of that love for each individual student that he was able to do all of the other things, but the start and end point was the individual — the student. On one of the occasions when our son was sent to his office, Rabbi Hirth dropped everything and took him on a walk, showing our son the buildings he had built and his plans for expansion.

Rabbi Hirth put his arm around our precocious seventh-grader and told him, “You always need to have a plan, so you need to come back to school tomorrow with a plan and a goal.”

Rabbi Hirth said what needed to be said; he knew exactly how to give mussar, sometimes gently and sometimes not so gently, either way, you knew he was giving it out of his concern for you, your children, and out of his concern for the community.

Through it all, his wonderful eishes chayil, Mrs. Etti Hirth ybdlch”t, partnered with him to enable all of us to be better ovdei Hashem. The Ribbono shel Olam should give nechamah to Mrs. Hirth and the entire Hirth mishpachah, and should continue to bless the amazing Hirth children as they carry on the legacy of their great father.

Dinah and Avi Leiter, Passaic, NJ


With My Whole Heart [Built with Love and Loyalty / Issue 879]

Firstly, thank you, Yosef Herz, for the warm and personal glimpse into who Rabbi Heshie Hirth was, and how he grew Torah and Yiddishkeit in Passaic. Yosef and his family are the embodiment of the Toradig families that Rabbi Hirth built this makom Torah around, and for.

Like many fortunate people in Passaic, I had many incredible and inspiring interactions with Rabbi Hirth but this is one that changed my life, and serves as an example of the leader that he was and his love and dedication to Torah and chinuch.

A number of years ago, before Rabbi Hirth had to undergo a medical procedure, he came to the girls’ school to inform the menahalos individually. Sitting down in my office, he explained that he had a problem with his heart (to which I replied, “Rabbi Hirth, you have no problem with your heart!”) and that he would be out for a while.

I told Rabbi Hirth that together with the close to 1,100 girls in the elementary school, we could implement anything he wanted as a zechus for him — a machsom l’fi, Tehillim, anything.

Without hesitation, he replied, “Let me tell you something, Mrs. Selengut. I have a friend who did something similar to me in another community, he ran various mosdos. My friend became sick, and was told that he had approximately three months to live. He left his mosdos in the care of others, and returned to the beis medrash full-time until he was no longer able to learn. Listen carefully. If I knew that I had three months to live, I would walk into this yeshivah and do what I do every day, because I believe in it with all my heart. If you want a zechus for me, walk into this building every day and do what you do with your whole heart.”

After he left, I couldn’t move. I felt that he had handed me the most incredible gift.

He lived with that drive, that love, and that dedication, and he was mechanech us, his staff , to live our positions with passion. He lives on in every facet of our wonderful mosdos.

Yehi zichro baruch.

Mrs. Debbie Selengut


Call to Duty [Built with Love and Loyalty / Issue 879]

The article on Rabbi Heshi Hirth was both fitting and beautiful. His brother, Akiva (mentioned in the article), who was my chavrusa in the Mirrer Yeshivah in Brooklyn before joining his brother in Passaic, would visit his in-laws (my neighbors in Monsey), where I had a chance to schmooze with him.

I remember telling him in 1986, when the Passaic high school girls (including Rav Stern’s own daughters) were still attending Bais Yaakov of Monsey, and their parents would car pool on Sunday to buy their meat and groceries in Monsey, “Listen, if this Passaic thing doesn’t work out, you can always move to Monsey.”

I would just like to add that Rav Meir Stern shlita had and has many loyal soldiers in addition to Rabbi Heshie Hirth. In fact, the same Akiva Hirth was enlisted to start the Torah U’Tefi llah shul (mentioned in the article) in a basement with 25 like-minded balabatim when there was no longer room for them to daven in the yeshivah (which then comprised 70 bochurim).

One outstanding soldier, who started as a talmid and kollel yungerman in Passaic yeshivah, is the many-decades executive director of the yeshivah, Rabbi Moshe (Mosie) Halberstadt. When the Passaic yeshivah and the yeshivah high school could no longer accommodate all of the children of Passaic, at Rav Meir’s direction, Rabbi Halberstadt moved out of the yeshivah and founded both the high school and beis medrash of Yeshiva of Clifton, where he is the rosh yeshivah (as well as the executive director). The high school is housed in the old fi rehouse and the beis medrash in a former local bank building.

While the article referred to Rav Stern’s loyalists, it is important to give some context to that phenomenon; i.e., they are not exactly chassidim of a rebbe. I think one small story Rabbi Halberstadt told me gives some color to their heartfelt call to duty. Rabbi Halberstadt once entered Rav Stern’s office and told him that there was an outstanding $12,000 electricity bill to pay. It was the summertime and he simply didn’t have a way of raising the money in time.

Rav Stern took out his wallet and handed him his personal credit card. Rabbi Halberstadt stammered, “But…”

Rav Stern (who has never allowed the yeshivah to receive government funds) simply replied, “If there is an outstanding bill, we must pay it.”

Elchonon Nakdimen, Monsey, NY


Like an Adopted Son [Leader of the Lions / Issue 878]

I must compliment your article on the “Lions of the Mir” and Reb Leib Malin ztz”l. It was the most comprehensive article I’ve seen to date; yasher koach to the authors.

Thank you for featuring the “lifesaving visit” story of my father, Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Karmel a”h and how Reb Leib influenced my grandfather, Reb Menashe Karmel Hy”d to basically say goodbye to his child and trust Reb Leib and his gevurah. My father was like his adopted son until his last day and his hundreds of descendants are all testament to our grandfather’s trust in Reb Leib and Reb Leib’s sense of achrayus.

A little-known anecdote: One of the major yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael was faced with conflicting data when coronavirus hit. The rosh yeshivah held a conference call with hundreds of talmidim to plan that upcoming Pesach zeman. He quoted He quoted this story and drew a parallel that in 1939, when the world was going crazy and no one knew what the future held, Reb Leib ztz”l said that a bochur belongs with his rebbeim and yeshivah and that will be the only thing will save him. This rosh yeshivah said that we are in similar times, and he kept his yeshivah quarantined together with regular sedorim (similar to Shanghai). Baruch Hashem, all turned out well.

Leibel Karmel (yes, I am named after Reb Leib), Lakewood, NJ


Missing Name [Leader of the Lions / Issue 878]

I immensely enjoyed reading your article on Rav Leib Malin as my grandfather, Rav Shraga Feivel Zakai/Zochovitzky was an “elter Mirrer” and then a founding member of Beis HaTalmud. However I was disappointed that his name was left off the list of the founding members (mentioned on pg. 228).

My grandfather had a “shtickel Torah” published in the Hatevunah publication that was mentioned in the article, he can also be found in the famous picture of the Mir in the shul in Shanghai in the second row from the front, second from aisle, without a shtender.

H. F.


Steven Hill’s Mitzvah Tree [Improbable Mission / Issue 878]

Thank you so much for a fantastic magazine every week, especially the Succos edition! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Regarding the beautiful article about Steven Hill a”h, I was very inspired by his steadfast commitment to Shabbos, despite the detriment to his livelihood. It was a very inspiring read.

However, I felt that such an article would be incomplete without mentioning the amazing Mitzvah Tree tapes I grew up with in the ’70s. I cannot adequately express the deep imprint of ahavas Hashem, ahavas HaTorah, and ahavas chaveirim that was formed with these warm, genuine messages recorded. The stories deeply touched me and I’m sure enhanced my spiritual warmth and attitude toward Torah living. How I wish we had the equivalent with the same potency for this generation.

Rabbi Hill deserves a lot of credit for all that he has contributed to the Torah world. Right before his passing, I went to visit a friend recuperating in the nursing home and I passed a room with the name “Hill, Steven.” With my warm memories, I ventured to knock on his door and allowed myself entry.

Facing Rabbi Hill, I was so full of emotion. I told him that his tapes are amazing and how powerful they were, especially the sentence, “Can you imagine how much Hillel really loved to learn Hashem’s Torah?” As I said that, I saw tears rolling down his cheek and he swallowed. He couldn’t talk any more but was very emotional about the Mitzvah Tree.

May we merit to greet Mashiach under the many mitzvah trees Klal Yisrael has planted and continues to grow.

H. Vogel, Spring Valley, NY


That’s My Song [EndNote / Issue 878]

In your Mega Succos edition, Rabbi Baruch Chait is quoted saying, “Not that long ago someone recorded ‘Kol Ha’olam Kulo’ and listed it on the jacket as a folk song. My immediate response was — ‘Wait, this is a mistake, I composed it.’ ”

How ironic! While learning in Slabodka Yeshivah (Bnei Brak) in the year 1970, I composed the well-known niggun “Mah Ahavti.” A year or two later the Kol Salonika band recorded “Mah Ahavti” and listed it on the jacket as a popular Israeli chassidic niggun.

My reaction then was probably the same as Reb Baruch’s: “Wait, this is a mistake — I composed it.”

However, I was and still am proud that my musical hero, Reb Baruch of the Rabbis’ Sons, felt my niggun was good enough to be recorded on his record.

Moishe Friedman, Toronto, Canada


Rabbi Baruch Chait responds:

Thank you for writing. Please accept a belated apology and request for forgiveness. Back when we were working on the album, we did a serious search, and at that time there was no easy way to find the composer of the niggun.

Incidentally, the same thing happened when I was helping organize New York Pirchei’s recording of “Eilecha.” Nobody knew who wrote that niggun. Years later, Sheya Mendlowitz found an original recording of Shlomo Carlebach composing the song. (Shlomo often didn’t remember his own niggunim because they were recorded on personal tape recorders and totally forgotten until someone recovered them.)


Shaky Relationship [Made in Heaven / Issue 878]

I enjoyed Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier’s new column Made in Heaven; the column makes for a great addition to Mishpacha.

In his first column, he offers counsel to a young woman who finds it difficult to accept certain weaknesses of her husband and offered very compelling advice how to work through this difficulty. As a psychologist specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I felt a need to add one follow-up comment to the column.

There is a specific form of OCD known as “relationship OCD” or ROCD, which is characterized by experiencing a range of thoughts that leaves one questioning the future of one’s relationship. These thoughts lead to intense anxiety and guilt as well as chronic compulsive behaviors to reduce this distress through methods such as reassurance-seeking and mental rumination.

One type of thought that is commonly experienced is “if my spouse / chassan / kallah / potential spouse has such-and-such weakness, what does that mean about our relationship?”

Most people can overlook this thought, but individuals with ROCD generally cannot  — without the right therapeutic tools. ROCD is incredibly painful and scary to have, because it leaves those affected with it feeling very uncertain about their relationships, and can have a negative impact on relationships due to the nature of the compulsive behaviors.

It is important to receive help from a therapist trained in OCD to effectively help suffering individuals recover from ROCD.

Ezra Cowan, PsyD


Kashrus Pioneer [On Our Own Terms / Issue 878]

I couldn’t resist opening your Succos issue  (before Succos), and I started browsing through the many interesting articles enclosed.

“On Our Own Terms” really caught my attention, and I started to read through the pieces. Your segment on the Maxwell House Haggadah was of particular interest to me because my grandfather, Rabbi Zvi Hersh Kohn, played a major role in that publication. Unfortunately, it was not mentioned in your article.

The quote below is taken from a Columbia University publication, but I found it on many sites discussing this topic.

“In 1923 C.E., Joseph Jacobs, an advertising genius of New York City, consulted an Orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Hersch Kohn, to determine if the Maxwell House coffee bean was, in a technical sense, more similar to a berry — a fruit — than a bean and therefore, kosher for Passover, meaning it would be permitted by the Orthodox rabbi to be consumed during Passover. After the Orthodox rabbi issued his approval and certification that the Maxwell House coffee bean was in fact kosher for Passover, General Foods, with the help of the Joseph Jacobs Advertising Agency, started to market Maxwell House coffee for Passover to Jews in New York City in 1923 C.E. Sales of Maxwell House coffee during Passover among the Jewish population rose dramatically.”

My grandfather came to America in the 1920s, leaving his family behind in Batei Ungarin in Jerusalem so that he could try to make a living. He was a pioneer in kashrus supervision, served as rav of a shul on the Upper West Side, and was active in procuring many visas for Jews during World War  II. After selling his kosher certification business to the Levy family (which evolved into Circle K supervision), he went back to Jerusalem and stayed there until he was niftar. He continued to be involved in the needs of the community and we actually have a picture of him nailing a mezuzah onto the wall of the new Yeshivas Ponevezh with Rav Kahaneman ztz”l, standing behind him. We are very proud of his accomplishments and his family’s illustrious history.

Thank you for an enjoyable publication.

Mrs. L. Neuman


Savoring the Memories [On Our Own Terms / Issue 878]

Your article on the source of the name for J2 Pizza was very interesting. However, the principal of Akiva Academy in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who made the long distance order was Rabbi Allen Sacks, not Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. At the time I was a rebbi in Akiva Academy and I remember it certainly caught everyone’s attention how we value our mitzvos.

While Rabbi Jonathan Sacks accomplished much in his lifetime, he had yet to order pizza from Calgary.

Moshe Stallman, Milwaukee


Forty Missing Years [The Electrician’s Wife / Calligraphy Fiction Supplement]

Bracha, the narrator of “The Electrician’s Wife,” learned a valuable lesson: that she did not need the “sparkle” of her daughter’s brand-new marriage to recognize the sweetness of her own.

It’s too bad that Bracha never learned the real secrets to keeping her marriage exciting, warm, and growing — and missed out on 40 years of a deeper, more meaningful connection that could have been hers all along.

If only she had appreciated her husband for his strengths and what he brought to the family and the relationship, and showed it — instead of focusing on his chesronos.

If only she knew how much her trust and admiration would have meant to her husband  — just as much as his love and affection meant to her.

If only she had expressed a desire to spend quality time together (yes, even though he was busy)  — not as a complaint or as something they “should” do, but something she wanted because she enjoyed spending time with him.

Then perhaps, instead of being jealous of Shifra and Moishy-Moishy-Moishy, she might have been thinking — “So cute that they think they have the perfect relationship — I hope that someday they’re like us and continuously build their marriage so that they learn what a real deeply emotional connection is like.”

Alisa Avruch,

Secret Spark Marriage workshop


Unjustified Pain [Lily / Calligraphy Fiction Supplement]

Thank you for a really great magazine, published week after week. I very much enjoy it. I look forward semi-annually to your Calligraphy story supplement.

This holiday season did not disappoint, and I enjoyed most of the stories. My question is why the story “Lily” by Chanie Spira had to be published. The story, while well written, was not the story, I would think, is fitting for a holiday magazine, where the emphasis is on joy and being joyous. I kept reading it, hoping for an ending that would justify reading through all that pain. Alas, I did not get it.

Judy HaLevi, Karmiel


Blessed Change [Lily / Calligraphy Fiction Supplement]

Shout out to Chanie Spira — your story “Lily” has definitely hit the mark.

Wherever I went, all Yom Tov, the discussion revolved around the story of Lily. It was so moving to realize how the world changed and how grateful we are for the way we treat these adorable neshamos nowadays.

Thank you!

P. R.


Rich Flavor [Lily / Calligraphy Fiction Supplement]

I always enjoy you magazine’s special Yom Tov edition of “Calligraphy”.

Chanie Spira’s story entitled “Lily” was wonderful. I had much delight as she referenced Mechel’s toy store on Roebling Street. “Mr. Yankowitz” is really our Uncle Mechel Yaroslawicz, who owned the toy store for many years.

It was a pleasure to see how the author used her rich environment of a particular era to flavor her well-written story. Thanks for the memories!

Rifka Jaroslawicz


It Still Resonates [Last Ne’ilah in Telz / Issue 876]

I want to commend you for publishing the remarkable article about the extraordinary women of Telz, which was an inspiring read heading into the Yamim Noraim this year. Thank you so much for that.

One of the reasons this article deeply resonated with me will probably not surprise the many talmidos of Bais Yaakov of Monsey who may have read the article and who identify with the approach to chinuch it describes. My grandmother Rebbetzin Shoshana Soloveitchik a”h, the Bais Yaakov of Monsey founder and longtime principal, was a talmidah of Yavne and a friend of Hadassah Levin a”h, whose book Bas Ami was a central focus and source of what was discussed.

These Litvish women were steeped in emunah and yiras Shamayim from their homes; this was very much reflected in the chinuch they received in Yavne seminary. The approach to learning in Lita was academically rigorous and exacting and concurrently permeated in Torah hashkafah. This is very evident in Bas Ami, which as the article mentioned, is the published collection of Hadassah’s wartime memoirs. The language of Bas Ami is full of pesukim from Torah and Nevi’im and almost reads like a sefer; the fact that this was composed in the depths of horror and physical illness is unbelievable. Hadassah’s unwavering bitachon and faith in Hashem carries her through the wartime deprivations that she experiences in a manner very obviously rooted in her upbringing and that is her essence. This hashkafah comes across throughout the book and is incredibly inspiring to the reader.

My family members first came across this remarkable book 21 years ago (the year of my grandmother’s petirah) and recognized that the author was my grandmother’s friend. In fact, when my grandmother returned to Europe after the war and found and ultimately rescued my Uncle Rav Yehuda Eidelman, they visited Hadassah in the hospital shortly before her passing. I have long maintained that Bas Ami and its inspiring message deserve a more widespread readership, although the fact that it is in Lashon Hakodesh likely is a limiting factor. At one point my mother reached out to investigate the possibility of an English translation, which did not materialize.

As the proud granddaughter of two Litvish women, married to the grandson of another (Rebbetzin Neuberger, who attended Yavne elementary school in Kovno), it is comforting to know that this approach to chinuch habanos resonates to this day in so many of our communities and that the legacy of these very special women lives on.

Chana (Weinstock) Neuberger


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 881)

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