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Inbox: Issue 995

“I laugh each year as the secular world pushes hard for Giving Tuesday. As frum Jews we have Giving Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday….”

Every Giver Counts [Voice in the Crowd / Issue 994]

As usual, Yisroel Besser’s Voice in the Crowd spoke for so many of us.

My organization’s campaign runs during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, a pretty clichéd time of year. One of my donors asked me if I don’t think that time is too crowded with campaigns and perhaps it would be wise to move it to November or February. I laughed and told him, “Every day is a Yom Tov for fundraising.”

And it’s the truth. I laugh each year as the secular world pushes hard for Giving Tuesday. As frum Jews we have Giving Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday….

One of the most unbelievable effects of crowdfunding campaigns is the ability to see how leaders of many organizations support one another’s work. It would almost sound crazy to tell one executive director to donate to a different organization’s campaign, but I’m witness to the flow of giving from one fundraiser to another over and over again. It is a testament to what true egoless communal work is all about: graciously recognizing that each organization serves a need of the klal in its own way and is deserving of funding.

Klal Yisrael has tons of fabulous organizations and campaigns. I often have to turn down requests to take a page (though I’ll donate) simply because I have an achrayus to my own budget and fundraising bandwidth. But the one type of cause I can’t and won’t turn down is the campaigns that sometimes have a tough time standing out in the land of glitz and gimmicks: my children’s schools and yeshivos. A yeshivah or girls’ school cannot get a bunch of random people from around the world to be ambassadors. The only pool they can possibly draw from is their parents, alumni, and staff. And I simply don’t see a way that we as parents can turn them down.

Because I run my own campaign, I can say this with confidence to all those spectators on the bleachers of this competitive sport: Campaigns are absolutely not magic. They take a ton of siyata d’Shmaya and lots and lots of hard work. They actually require your $18, $180, or $1,800 to be successful.

Don’t assume, “Oh, everyone ends up hitting the goal… they don’t need me.” It’s just not true. For every campaign that meets its goal, there are two that almost don’t and pay heavy prices in the way that they have to close out. And of course, there are those who don’t hit the goal (hence the lessening in popularity of the all-or-nothing variety).

I’ll never forget the year I had to extend the campaign by 72 hours to allow us to hit the goal. What happened in those 72 hours? People began to see that the struggle was real, and all the little and big numbers began to roll in.

Remember: Each page and each campaign has a human behind it. Your donation of any size sends a message of, “I value the work you do.” So don’t ever discount what you give.

But there is another form of giving that I learned of more recently. I met with a generous giver who shared that when he gets a link, he gives what he can and then says a kapitel Tehillim for the campaign’s success — and when he can’t or won’t give to a campaign he still davens for its success.


Sarah Rivkah Kohn

Founder & Director



Knowledge without Wisdom [Outlook / Issue 993]

Regarding current events on college campuses, Yonoson Rosenblum writes:

“I know that many readers have had a similar question about my own particular obsession with the decline of America’s universities and have wondered why I have devoted so much space over the years to the topic. After all, as one revered rosh yeshivah put it, our children do not aspire to go to Harvard or Yale.”

It seems to me the Torah guides us on this topic in Bereishis 9:27: “May G-d extend Yafes and he will live in the tents of Shem....”

The Torah is telling us that Yafes (Yavan/Hellenism) is good, as long as he’s in our tents.

Liberal universities are the descendants of Yafes; they trace their ideology directly to Aristotle, the epitome of Hellenism. But we Jews have been confused. Over the past century, we’ve looked with longing at the tents of Yafes and wanted to live there!

Harvard does have knowledge. If you want to become a doctor, it’s a great place to learn. But they don’t have wisdom.   That’s in our tent, the tent of Torah.

We are bothered by current events at Harvard because we expected the elite universities to have wisdom; but they don’t, they only have knowledge. For wisdom, they need to come to us. So let’s not be bothered by their lack of wisdom, let’s understand that the current events there have been a great blessing. HaKadosh Baruch Hu has cleared the fog for us, we can now see clearly where the wisdom is and where it ain’t.

That’s my two bits, as my grandfather z’’l would have said.

Alexander Seinfeld

Baltimore, MD


Especially Impactful [For the Record / Issue 993]

I feel compelled to write to you to express my profound admiration for the For the Record column by Dovi Safier and Yehuda Geberer, which has become the highlight of my Shabbos reading each week.

The commitment and passion that the authors bring to their column are evident in every piece they produce. Their work is a commendation to the magazine, and I believe it sets an exemplary standard that all readers should acknowledge and appreciate. They have taken previously obscure or unknown greats like Rav Leib Malin, Rabbi Leo Jung, and of course, everyone’s favorite “mother” — the great Jennie Miller — and made them household names.

This past week’s article on Rav Eliyahu Dessler was particularly impactful. The way they presented Rav Dessler’s life and teachings was nothing short of brilliant, capturing the essence of his greatness while making his profound wisdom accessible to the readers. They managed to flesh out his originality yet maintain the reverence due to such a gadol b’Torah, a task that many have attempted but few have succeeded in achieving to this degree. It was, without exaggeration, one of the finest pieces I’ve read in any publication, religious or secular.

With sincere reverence and gratitude,

A Rabbi from Out of Town


Life-Changing Letter [For the Record / Issue 993]

I want to express my gratitude for the recent tribute to Rav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler ztz”l.

My first introduction to Rav Dessler’s writings came when I was an impressionable teen in NCSY whose idealistic advisor had innocently suggested Michtav MeEliyahu as the subject of our weekly chavrusa. I bought the whole Hebrew set — at age 13! — having no clue of the philosophical depths it contained. Together we read about kabbalistic concepts I couldn’t even pronounce — but the ideas (or at least what I understood of them) were incredible and I was hooked.

In seminary, I learned one-on-one with a favorite teacher — and I requested we learn Rav Dessler. As I stumbled over the Hebrew, I sensed I was reading something truly profound. It was more than some abstract discussion of higher realms — it was down-to-earth mussar, presented with just the right amount of intellectualism to stir my mind and spur growth.

Years later, I discovered that not only was I learning Michtav MeEliyahu in my spare time; Rav Dessler’s Torah had influenced a large percentage of my seminary education. While teachers would quote him here and there, unbeknownst to me, most of my rebbeim learned regularly under Rav Moshe Shapira ztz”l, a close talmid of Rav Dessler.

In my shanah rishonah, I picked up Michtav MeEliyahu on my own a few times, only to recognize complete lessons I had been taught in the seminary classroom (I must’ve been tired from late night DMCs when the teachers mentioned the sources!).

Today I find that so many people, like me, are familiar with ideas from the Michtav MeEliyahu but not where they came from. To name a few: the Jewish definition of love founded in giving, the battlefield of free will, and an elucidated understanding of “mitoch shelo lishmah bah lishmah.” And then there are those ideas with which we’re familiar but that we brush off as “too holy” or “not for the average Jew.” In truth, they are sublimely relevant.

One seminary teacher in particular, Rav Boruch Smith, could quote you any piece from Michtav MeEliyahu by heart (compete with volume and page number). A certain lesson he drilled into is something I now teach my students every year, and the pushback is riveting. Rav Dessler famously teaches to minimize hishtadlus, as a way of strengthening our bitachon and building a closer relationship to Hashem. He claims that we take hishtadlus way too seriously — as a mitzvah unto itself — when in fact it is a curse to be avoided.

Rav Smith would challenge us truth-seeking seminary girls who were at the same time at the mercy of the hectic Israeli public transport system: “Don’t run for the bus.” He called it “super-hishtadlus” — don’t think that making the bus is in your hands, he taught, and don’t push aside everyone else including Hashem in trying to get your way. Take small risks; leave room for Hashem to show you He is in charge (See Michtav MeEliyahu, chelek alef, page 187).

In today’s fast-paced, give-it-all-you-got, run-run-run society, I can’t think of a better legacy for us to receive from Rav Dessler. How many times have I shared this idea only to get a nice head-nod in return, while the listener goes back to running for the bus, to her myriad shidduch calls, to her extra work hours for a few more bucks?

Next time you’re at the supermarket checkout and trying to push your way into being first (or even contemplating switching to the shorter line), ask yourself if perhaps you’re pushing Hashem out of the way.

Rav Dessler’s impact on our generation’s way of thinking goes far beyond what I could possibly express in this short space. But if you want to know more, pick up a Michtav MeEliyahu (or its English counterpart Strive for Truth) to study. And while you’re at it, learn with a friend. I guarantee it will be life-changing.

Mindel Kassorla


Focus on the Bully [Inbox / Issue 993]

Thank you, M.C., for sharing your experience and the truth about bullying. As a parent of a confident, articulate, and socially savvy son who has been mercilessly bullied, I can attest to the truth in your statement.

I’m constantly amazed at the victim-blaming and assumptions around the topic of bullying. It is eerily similar to other types of victim-shaming in other instances of abuse.

A bully is in a position of power, no different from other forms of abuse where there is an imbalance of power. The focus needs to be shifted onto the bully. Children are savvy. All the “zero tolerance for bullying” programs reward the bullies while the victims suffer twice.

Where is the outrage at the bully’s behavior? How can we stand idly by while children are suffering and parrot the victim-blaming rhetoric? Forget the victims. Get rid of the bullying dynamic by shutting down the bullies and training bystanders.

Cue the collective misconception in which people feel the need to point to the benefit of those who do need social help. That is not the point. We should not be allowing for people to abuse their power regardless of the victim’s vulnerability or lack thereof. This isn’t the Wild West. As long as both victim and bully are in the same school, the onus is on the bully.

Principals, please don’t judge a boy by his body. Bigger and stronger does not a bully make. A kid that hits might be lashing out in a desperate cry for help, against a skilled psychological manipulator. Violence might be a child’s only tool for survival in a system that inadvertently encourages bullies.

Bewildered Bystander


Total Approach [Inbox / Issue 993]

I have been following with interest the recent exchange of letters on the subject of bullying. There were seemingly opposing views expressed as to whether it is better to “crack down” on bullying by imposing severe punishment, or to provide help such as therapy for children who bully or who are victims of bullying.

M.C., a former victim of bullying, in his powerful and anguished Inbox letter (issue 993) writes that “My bully didn’t need ‘help.’ What my bully needed was a slap to the face.”

While M.C.’s strong feelings are understandable, research has shown that in most cases, the most effective approaches to bullying combine both a short-term and long-term approach. Bullying can be compared to a house on fire: the priority is to put out the fire. It’s only after extinguishing the fire that the fire service would investigate the cause, whether arson was involved, etc.

In the same way, in the event that a bullying incident occurs in school, this should be dealt with on a “first-put-out-the-fire” basis, with appropriate consequences, the perpetrator receiving a metaphorical “slap to the face” that will halt the behavior.

However, research shows that punishing in itself doesn’t stop bullying. For effective and long-term change to take place, this needs to go hand-in-hand with longer-term approaches such as classroom circle time programs, middos projects, etc. — and, if necessary, therapy for individual children who have difficulties interacting appropriately (this could be either the perpetrator or the victim).

Bullying is deplorable and painful, and children who bully need to be dealt with appropriately. However, it’s worth noting that — especially in elementary school — they are generally not driven by malice; rather, they are yet to develop an appropriate range of tools for navigating social interactions. Just like children need to learn to read and write, they need to learn social skills.

Finally, let’s acknowledge and recognize that that our schools, with their emphasis on middos and values, buck national trends, with better-than-average track records in countering bullying.

Wishing all our students a safe, friendly, and happy school experience.

Mrs. R. Atkins

Brilliant Behaviour Ltd

Founder, “Bye Bye Bullying Project,” London, UK


In Context [By the Warmth of the Sun / Issue 991]

Rabbi Nissel’s article was full of the love and admiration that he always displays for Rav Moshe Shapira. In his short introduction, he stated that Rav Moshe’s first experience with American bochurim was in Stamford Yeshivah.

Rav Moshe was the founding rosh yeshivah in Stamford for three years. Some of his American students, formerly in Bais Hatalmud, followed him there to help start the yeshivah. Rav Moshe maintained lifelong relationships with all his American talmidim. When Rav Moshe left Stamford to return to Israel, Rav Meir Hershkowitz took his place.

Out of 150 bochurim in Bais Hatalmud (the Mir had 250 and Ponevezh had 400 during the early ’70s), 30 were Americans. The main shiur in the Mir was given by Rav Nochum Partzovitz and in Ponevezh by Rav Shmuel Rozovsky in Yiddish. The destination for an American bochur who wanted to hear shiur in Ivrit was likely to be Bais Hatalmud or Itri (also mentioned in the article).

Bais Hatalmud had Rav Tzvi Kushelevsky as maggid shiur of shiur alef (followed by Rav Yochanan Zweig, when Rav Tzvi left to form his own yeshivah). Rav Moshe gave shiur beis and the rosh yeshivah was Rav Dov Schwartzman, who gave shiur gimmel and shiur klali. These roshei yeshivah all gave shiurim in Gemara and also in machshavah. During my time there, Rav Moshe gave shiurim in Maharal and later in Nefesh HaChaim.

When Rav Moshe is viewed in the context of the above contemporaries, I think one can derive a fuller historical picture of his stature. Rav Moshe didn’t just know Shas and the Maharal, as mentioned in the article. He knew the Rambam verbatim as well as all other Rishonim and Acharonim; literally, the entire Torah.

The article mentioned that he “didn’t sleep much.” For the first 15 years of marriage, he didn’t sleep in a bed altogether. At his oldest son’s sheva brachos, he declared, “To become an adam gadol, you have to give up on the whole concept of going to bed!” (This material is in fact developed in depth in the book, from which the article was excerpted.)

In Bais Hatalmud, Rav Moshe also was the menahel of the yeshivah ketanah, which in Israel means high school. Rav Moshe took this on, I think, because he believed that bochurim must commit to serious learning by age 17, in order to develop into true talmidei chachamim.

My sons had the opportunity to be invited to many of his private shiurim during the week. Rav Moshe was very strict as to who could attend. They also spent numerous Shabbosim with Rav Moshe and Rebbetzin Tzippora, a brilliant woman who deserves an article of her own.

She was a professor in Hebrew University for most of her life (she taught logic, no less). Her saintly father only agreed to let her go to college if she first married a talmid chacham. Well, she did! When she first walked into class, dressed as a kollel wife, the students failed to understand that she was their instructor!

The Brisker Rav once declared that his father, Rav Chaim could see into the future 50 years and give advice and direction based on that vision. About himself, the Brisker Rav said, “I can only see five years into the future.” All those who were close to Rav Moshe knew that asking him for his insight into any subject was as close as one could come to the prophets of our past. Hashivah shofteinu k’varishonah v’yoatzeinu k’vat’chilah.

Elchonon Nakdimen

Monsey, NY


Fun above All? [Ask Rabbi Greenwald / Issue 991]

Thank you for a wonderful magazine and the insightful column by Rabbi Greenwald (Issue 991) in which he responds to parents whose daughter doesn’t want to start dating yet.

Rabbi Greenwald brought up many salient points about shidduchim and other realities related to the initial question. While every shidduch situation is dependent on the specific people involved, he also mentioned something that doesn’t only have an impact on shidduchim, but on many other areas of life as well: the Western concept of fun.

Parents and educators, especially those involved in girls’ chinuch, may want to listen carefully to the message underlying Rabbi Greenwald’s words. Of course, relaxation, breaks from routine, and meaningful, substantive enjoyable activities are important, as Rabbi Greenwald notes. But when that shifts into a mindset and culture of “fun” that permeate so many parts of life and of school for girls, we may be subtly creating an insatiable need that trickles into multiple later areas of life, including shidduchim.

We want our daughters’ schools to create a meaningful mix of academic, social, and recreational activities so that our girls will be happy and well-rounded. But we may want to be careful about encouraging and promoting school cultures that value fun as much as they value other tenets of a frum lifestyle.

The value of “fun” is very much a value that is growing prevalent in shidduchim and in broader life in some circles, and it may behoove each individual and group to take a careful look at how our girls’ schools may be partially inculcating this very western value.

The Open Mic (Issue 994) from “Another Caring Morah” brought up points that also relate to this issue. The opening question of her article, “What happened to hard work?” may point to the value of “fun” as it is being absorbed from outer culture and partially enabled within our girls’ school systems.

Currently there is a huge amount of energy, funding, time, and resources going toward creating a fun atmosphere in schools, which may indicate why there has been a simultaneous major decline of classroom-centered hard work: the former is a lot more pleasant to stomach than the latter (at least in the short term).

Of course, our daughters need to be “whole” people, and that involves many valuable, meaningful, and enjoyable activities beyond the classroom. But we may want to take a close internal look at the allocation of time and resources within our girls’ schools to make sure that the balance is there, and that “fun” does not become the pervasive value that stays with them.

A Caring Parent


Outside Intervention [A Class of His Own / Double Take – Issue 985]

Although it was a fictional story, my heart went out for Mr. Finestone, his students, Ezra, and his parents. The students aren’t able to gain in the class, Mr. Finestone is stressed out that he gave his job his all, yet still.... And the parents just want to help their child who is gifted, but they can’t seem to figure out how.

Although I can’t solve all of the problems, some outside intervention can help the overall classroom dynamic. If you are a teacher, principal or parent who can relate to the Double Take — I can be contacted via Mishpacha to give you, your teachers and students or child the greatest gift.

Hoping to help,

S. Klein

Curriculum Developer and Teachers’ mentor


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 995)

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