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Inbox: Issue 997

“Who among us has ever considered being greeted by Hashem with the words ‘I love you?’ I know I haven’t”

Fallen Soldiers [Outlook / Issue 996]

Rabbi Yonoson Rosenblum’s article “Enduring Gifts” was a moving and penetrating tribute to our soldiers who live and die with a full understanding of kiddush Hashem.

One correction must be noted, and that is the name of the yeshivah where Yakir Hexter and David Schwartz Hy”d learned. Yeshivat Har Etzion was founded 55 years ago in Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion, commonly known as “the Gush,” under the leadership of Rav Yehuda Amital and Rav Aharon Lichtenstein zichronam livrachah. It became one of the first Hesder yeshivos and a leader in the Hesder movement and in Torah education, particularly in the Religious Zionist world.

The two young men mentioned in the article join a list of 20 members of the yeshivah family (students, graduates, and family members) who have fallen in this war. They join eight students, ten per cent of the pioneer class of the yeshivah, who fell in the Yom Kippur War during the formative years of the yeshivah.

Alan Schwartz

Beit Shemesh

[Har Etzion 5739/1978-79]


Valued and Loved [Outlook / Issue 996]

During my early Shabbos morning Mishpacha read, it was a bittersweet surprise to see the picture of Yakir Hexter and David Schwartz Hashem yinkom damam, who were talmidim of Yeshivat Har Etzion. I had seen the picture and wept when it was posted on the Facebook page of Rabbi Avi Ganz, who directs Darkaynu, a program for young men with special needs at Har Etzion. (A force in the establishment of the Darkaynu program at the yeshivah was Rabbi Moshe Taragin, whom Mr. Rosenblum quotes eulogizing these two young kedoshim.)

My son Saadya a”h was zocheh to have been a talmid at the yeshivah for four glorious years. He had a seat in the beis medrash (which he insisted I see when I was visiting during bein hasdorim) with the sign “Makom Saadya” above his seforim; he and the other fortunate young men in the Darkaynu program were welcomed as equals, perhaps not learning the same masechta, but full-fledged and welcome talmidim, whether at the minyanim or in the cafeteria, Friday night kumzitzes, or shabbatonim, developing true friendships with everyone in the yeshivah.

He was back in America when Rosh Hayeshivah Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstien ztz”l was niftar. Saadya sat and watched the entire levayah live streamed. Though the hespedim were in Ivrit, he would not leave the screen. “He was my rosh yeshivah, Mom. I have to be here.”

Saadya’s four years at Darkaynu as part of the “Gush” gave him a sense of confidence as an equal member of Klal Yisrael. When asked what his plans were after Eretz Yisrael, without missing a beat, he would reply, “I’m going to YU to get my semichah.” (Just like the other chutzniks, obviously).

The focus of this letter is not Saadya a”h, but I tell his story to illuminate that the talmidim — whether it is Yeshivat Har Etzion or other Hesder yeshivos, as Yonoson Rosenblum so beautifully describes — exemplify bnei Torah, not only in the face of crisis, but every day, in the way they live the mitzvos of the Torah and particularly that they recognize and actualize the mitzvah of v’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha as paramount and that every member of Klal Yisrael is to be valued and loved.

Kudos to Yonoson Rosenblum and Mishpacha magazine for recognizing and highlighting the kedoshim we have lost; may their sacrifice bring about the true achdus of all Klal Yisrael, the protection of all of Klal Yisrael, and be a force in the hastening of the coming of Mashiach.

Ahava Ehrenpreis


What Price Fame? [Double Take / Issue 996]

I was fascinated by the Double Take story, “Life Sentence,” about a producer and his protégé, the singer. First of all, yasher koach to writer Rochel Samet. It isn’t easy to draw two dislikeable characters and still make the story readable.

Here’s what I would say to the respective characters, if they listened to me.

To Shimon: You know your business, and you guessed right — Yonah`s a success. But you never really developed a chemistry with him and he didn’t feel you understood him. It’s a business with him, just as it is with you. Maybe you shouldn’t base your career on only one client. That, as they say, is life.

To Yonah: You would be surprised to learn how many stars, in the Jewish and non-Jewish world, come to loathe the song that made them famous. They take the royalties and find an outlet for their creative inner voice. In your case, a man practically accosted you from excitement while you were shopping, a total stranger who knows your work and loves it. You have no idea how many creative types will never have that recognition, and achieving it is not at all easy.

Yet now you’re walking out on the man who heard your singing, showed you a direction, invested time and money in your career, and helped you succeed. And you’re leaving just on the word of people who have no stake in your career, but told you what you want to hear.

Well, zeit gebensht. I’m afraid you are about to learn a very valuable lesson,

 Peretz Mann


The True Gaon [The Missing Link / Issue 995]

Thank you to Rabbi Galinsky for his important and timely article on Rav Chaim Brisker’s chassidishe son-in-law, Rav Hersh Glickson Hy”d.

I would like to add that Rav Chaim’s primary talmid, Rav Boruch Ber Leibovitz, records a chiddush in his classic sefer Bircas Shmuel that he heard from “hagaon ha’amiti” Rav Tzvi Dov Glickson. (See Bircas Shmuel, Bava Kamma, siman beis.)

As I am no expert on Bircas Shmuel, I am unaware of other such citations of Rav Glickson’s Torah, although it is likely that there are others as well.

Another mention: The details of the barbaric and gruesome murder of Rav Glickson’s newlywed son and daughter-in-law at the hands of the Nazi beasts are recorded in the Tishah B’Av kinnos with Rav J. B. Soloveitchik’s English commentary.

Lakewood, NJ


Drinking Sweet Waters [A Vision for His People / Issue 994]

Having quenched my thirst from the sweet waters of many of the shiurim and drashos of Rav Mattisyahu Salomon ztz”l, two now stand out in my mind.

On Tefillah: The Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 18a) describes a situation in which two people fall ill from the same terminal illness, and another in which two people ascend the gallows for the same crime. One is healed and one is not. One is saved and one is not. Why, asks the Gemara, was one healed and the other not, one was saved and the other not? The Gemara answers that one davened and was answered while the other davened and was not answered. Why, asks the Gemara, was one answered and the other not? The Gemara answers that one davened a “complete tefillah” while the other did not.

What is a “complete tefillah”? Rashi answers, “[He davened] with kavanah.

The Mashgiach asked, who davens on his deathbed without kavanah?! Who davens on the gallows without kavanah?! Is it possible that their minds could be wandering at a time like that? Of course, they davened with kavanah. So what is Rashi referring to?

The Mashgiach answered that Rashi is talking about the specific kavanah that prayer can really help, even in a desperate, seemingly hopeless situation. So often, he lamented, people daven because they know that’s what they’re supposed to do, not because they truly believe their tefillos can really make a difference. Perhaps, he concluded, our tefillos are not answered because we don’t really believe that they can make a difference.

On Mitzvos: The Mashgiach once asked, “What is a mitzvah?” Then he answered that a mitzvah is an invitation to enter into a relationship with Hashem. He went on to relate a personal anecdote: He had come into a tailor’s shop in England shortly after World War II, and saw the tailor beaming with pride. When young Rav Mattisyahu asked the tailor about his elated mood, the tailor brought out an invitation he had received to attend the queen’s garden party.

“Are you planning to attend?” he asked the tailor. No, he was not planning to attend. “Why not?” asked Rav Mattisyahu.

The tailor explained that the trip to London was too far. And, anyway, the queen never really attends her garden parties.

Rav Mattisyahu asked the tailor how he received such an invitation, and the tailor explained that his son worked in a government office. As such, he was entitled to submit a few names of people who should receive invitations.

“Think about that,” the Mashgiach implored his audience. “The tailor’s invitation was not really a personal one. And he was not planning to attend because the queen would not even be there herself. Yet he was ecstatic to receive the special, formal invitation. How much more excited should we be to receive the very personal invitation of performing a mitzvah of Hashem!”

He went on to say that the simchah generated by the performance of a mitzvah should be great enough to overpower any yissurim that a person may be experiencing. And while that applies to any mitzvah, it applies so much more to the mitzvah of simchas Yom Tov. He gave this shmuess in his succah while confined to a wheelchair and suffering from severe pain in his legs. The shine on his face as he spoke, however, confirmed that he was living the message he had just delivered.

Dr. Meir Wikler


Not a Life Sentence [Just Say the Word / Issue 994]

Thank you for the article on the speech impediment of stuttering. Baruch Hashem, I now consider myself a fluent speaker, but I would like to share my personal experiences of going to therapy for many years.

What many speech therapists do is as was stated in the article: “Dance between acceptance and the [same old] techniques for stuttering.” However, on a practical level, it’s very hard to perform this “dance,” because if I accept my stuttering (which is kind of hard to do, even with a moderate stutter, in today’s fast-paced world), then why would I be motivated to apply any methods to change it? And if I do have very effective techniques, then why would I work on accepting my stutter?

Unfortunately, it’s been very confusing to follow this approach. Eventually, I found a solid path that worked for me.

I never subscribed to a mission statement of, “I will always stutter.” First, because I’ve heard of people who stopped stuttering. Second, I didn’t stutter when I would speak by myself, and third, I didn’t always stutter when speaking with other people. So I was always hopeful to get rid of my stutter.

I would encourage people who stutter to look into their options for successful therapy before submitting themselves to a lifelong speech impediment that can affect a person’s life on a daily basis.

M. C.


Not What I Was Taught [Guestlines / Issue 991]

I’m writing in response to Rabbi Yonah Sklar’s excellent Guestlines piece, “Not in Hashem’s Name.” It’s rare that I read an article on the topic discussed whose message I agree with wholeheartedly.

There is one point, however, that I must take issue with. The notion of an idolatrous, harsh G-d hasn’t “subtly crept into our consciousness,” it is the foremost way a large percentage of frum Jews relate to Hashem, and is, in fact, fostered, intentionally or otherwise, by too many in our chinuch system.

Rabbi Sklar poses the question of what Hashem’s first words will be to you after you pass. Who among us isn’t familiar with that famed film reel, replaying every mistake we’ve ever made? Who among us hasn’t been bombarded with the image of a regretful, withered man, trembling before the Heavenly Courts, in an effort to scare us into repentance? Who among us hasn’t heard of the questions we’d be asked upon expiring? We’ve heard it all, haven’t we? In classrooms, in shiurim, in shuls, at Shabbos tables, at the ages of 5, 25, 45, and 65.

On the other hand, who among us has ever considered being greeted by Hashem with the words “I love you?” I know I haven’t. And why would I? I went to mainstream Bais Yaakov schools all my life, and never once have I encountered a concept like this. I, and thousands of others like me, were raised on a harsh, exacting G-d who, of course, also loves you, provided that you behave. “Vayichar af Hashem” and “I’ll give them something to cry about” were favorites of the educators at the hallowed institutions I attended.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking, focusing on the negative, but isn’t that what takes place in our classrooms? How many times have we heard about those who won’t merit Mashiach, those whom Hashem loathes, those who have no Olam Haba, all in an effort to scare us straight? Hundreds, if not thousands.

It wasn’t until I left school that I was introduced to the real Hashem, namely through Breslov sources. I’m in my mid-twenties and many years still remain before I unlearn the version of Judaism I was taught, and I keep asking myself, why this is even necessary? Why did I sit through endless hours of mussar with nary a word of praise? Why do we encourage mitzvah observance by harping on and dissecting our faults or with ominous threats of Gehinnom? Where is the positive reinforcement?

Why are we taught to serve Hashem through fear instead of love? Why did I sit through Chumash, and Parshah, and Navi, and halachah, and Jewish history, and tefillah, but never emunah and bitachon? A Rashi, a halachah, a date can be memorized and subsequently forgotten, but a belief in a kind and loving G-d cannot. Wouldn’t it make sense to devote infinitely more time and discussion to such a crucial and life-changing topic?

Rabbi Sklar’s article should be required reading, and the beliefs he espouses should be commonplace, taught, ad nauseum, to every child who passes through our school system.



(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 997)

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