Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why The Heresy?

The purpose of Kefira!!:-)

Stay tuned for more.


Two nice ideas from Balak and one on Shiva Asar Bi-tamuz.

Going Too Far - Mishigenne World - Simchos By Yidden - A Shidduch Crisis? - My Gila - Hashem Will Take Care Of Everything

i don't want to belabor the point because it grosses me out - but I will say this about the recent ruling of the Supreme Court: The Medrash [בר"ר כ"ו ט] says that the fate of the דור המבול was sealed only after they institutionalized marriage between man and man and man and beasts [i.e. they wrote גמוסיות which means a ksuba]. Meaning - you want to be sinful. OK. Not great but bearable.

But to make sin a societal norm is going too far. That was the end of them.

Soon to be article in the Sunday New York Times:

Congragulations to Mr. Justin Mishigene on his marriage to his pet antelope "Tommy". The groom is a graduate of the "New School" in downtown Manhattan and a photographer for National Geographic. "Tommy" the "bride" loves eating ants.

On a brighter note: My Gila is in a grade of about 400 girls. They are 19 years old and an average of 3-4 girls get engaged every week. About every other day Gila tells me about another girl who became engaged. Just today she told me about a girl who was born the day after her in the same hospital [Misgav Ladach] who became a kallah. No shidduch crisis here. The parents make inquiries, then the couple meets [for maybe a week if they are litvish and one time if they are chasidish] and BOOM - MAZEL TOV!!! [Gila wants to go chasidish. I didn't tell her. I guess she just naturally picked it up from me over the years].

AHHHHH - Simchas by Yidden. May I take the liberty of blessing my Gila that she should be one of the fortunate ones in the near future. And may I thank Hashem in advance for paying for it because I certainly can't....

A Book Week Suggestion

This month is שבוע הספר העברי [in sfarim stores it last longer than a week]. Here is my TOP SUGGESTION [besides the sefarim of Mori Vi-rabbi Shlita which require a separate appreciation].

Just about the greatest gaon in the last 50 years was Rav Dovid Mann ztz"l. He was the Rosh Yeshiva of the Yeshiva in Kfar Chasidim and was a frighteningly brilliant scholar. I can only think of one recent parallel to him in pure genius and originality. After you learn his sefarim, much of the other material you will encounter might be nice but not in his league. He was in a league all his own.

He asks question after question until you think there is no way out. Then he deftly explains everything, often turning the STRONGEST QUESTIONS into PROOFS for his position. The Torah SHINES when you learn with him. Everything makes SOOO MUCH SENSE when before you started nothing DIDN'T make sense, after you hear his questions nothing DOES make sense and after you hear his answers everything dances. Un-real. He has sfarim on the chumash called די באר [8 volumes] on the Rambam hilchos melachim - באר מרים and much more [יד מלך, תהילה לדוד].

If you want to learn at the highest level with the greatest level of understanding - he is the address. Please treat yourself to his sfarim.

At the Yeshiva Gedola D'skype [recorded shiurim division] we learn and share his Torah with a wider audience. You can tune in there as well.

The ikker - don't waste time reading all the nonsense [blogs, newspapers etc.] out there when you could instead be clinging to Hashem through His holy Torah.  

The Yahrtzeit Of A Great Man

Today is the yahrtzeit of the tremendous gaon Rav Ben Tzion ben Eliyahu Hakohen Kahn ztz"l [a survivor of the camps who made a new life for himself and built a family in Williamsburg] the author of the Avnei Tzion, one of the most amazing sfarim I have ever seen.

Li-ilui nishmaso I will bring three kushyos of his from his sefer Korban Tzion:

1] Rashi [Succah 27b] says that if a person has a portion of less than a prutah it is not considered לכם.

This is difficult because we find regarding machatzis ha-shekel that people give in order that everybody should have a portion in the korbanos tzibbur [עי' חינוך מצוה ק"ה וב"מ נ"ח תורמין על האבוד או על הגבוי וכך פסק הרמב"ם שקלים ב א] that each person is not going to have a portion in every korban that is worth a prutah [because there are so many people everybody's portion is less than a perutah]. So how do we get a portion in the korbanos tzibbur?

2] In a similar vein: The Mishna in Shkalim [2, 2] says that if one takes a shekel from the funds of the Beis Hamikdash and pays his half shekel dues and the money is used to buy korbanos - he is עובר באיסור מעילה. But wait! He is getting less than a shaveh prutah's worth of benefit from the korban brought [because there are so many people his portion is less than a perutah]?

3] The Gemara [Shabbos 157] says that one may do הפרת נדרים on Shabbos. But how is this different from הפרשת תרומה which is אסור משום מתקן - here also he is מתקן himself when he does הפרה?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Nice Song But....

On Motzei Shabbos we sing "אליהו הנביא וכו' במהרה יבוא אלינו עם משיח בן דוד" - and then possibly we add [depending on the tune] a lot of "ny-ny-nys". Ashkenazim add "ny-ny-nys" to almost every song.

How does this square with the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim [12, 2] that Eliyahu will come BEFORE Moshiach and not with him??

Holy Chutzpah

Beofore Moshiach comes Chazal tell us that חוצפה יסגא - There will be a proliferation of chutzpah.

This can always be used for the positive. One can employ עזות דקדושה - Holy chutzpah to reach high madreigos he would otherwise not attain.

[Imrei Emes - Mikeitz]

Sunday, June 28, 2015


I once saw a video where a rabbi said something which was so theologically problematic that it ensconced his views firmly outside the realm of Jewish belief. He said it clearly and knew he was being filmed.

He received a great deal of heat and so later filmed another video where he explained .... that his words were misconstrued and that he takes it upon himself in the future not to allow his words to be miscontrued. Meaning - it is not MY fault because I was misunderstood. It's YOUR fault for misunderstanding me! Like people often say [or imply] "It is not my fault for hurting his/her feelings. It is his/her fault for being offended!!"

Holy Lord!! Why couldn't he just have said - "I said something really stupid. I am sorry. I am an Orthodox rabbi and I spoke like a Reconstructionist or worse. חטאתי עוויתי פשעתי. In the future I will be more careful with my words."  But no - he couldn't-wouldn't admit his error.

He wrote a biography of his storied career and strangely only wrote of his many successes but nothing about his failures. Did he never fail? Is he perfect?? Or perhaps he tries to project a certain public image which is not exactly a reflection of his true self?

Coincidentally, I once spoke to a woman who told me that in decades of marriage her husband HAS NEVER BEEN WRONG!! Well, he's been wrong lots of times. He just never admitted it... He is a follower of this rabbi. Coincidence or not?

Sweetest friends!! You want shalom bayis - admit fault. We are ALL filled with faults. It is part and part of the human condition. EVERY DAY we bang our chest and admit sin. But all too often we do it as part of the liturgy but not because we really believe it.

There are many reasons that people refuse to admit fault, error, apologize for misdeeds etc. One reason is insecurity. They can only feel good about themselves if they are always right. Another is fear of repercussions. There are many possible reasons. But the bottom line is that if you want to grow as a person and as a Jew - admitting fault is stage one.

So said the Rambam in hilchos teshuva and so is the reality.

"I was WRONG".

"I am SOOO sorry for what I did. It was thoughtless and bordering on mean".

"I apologize for all the pain I caused you".

"I am sorry that I wasn't there when you needed me most".

"I feel terrible that I was so selfish and stingy".

Holy sentences that are RARELY verbalized. Whatta world it would be if people would habitually admit fault and resolve not to repeat the sin.

A delicious, nutritious recipe for personal growth.  


Previously, Rav Engel asserted that אכילת תרומה is not אכילת הדיוט regular eating but has the status similar to אכילת קדשים of משלחן גבוה קזכי [see what we wrote at length]. However, Rav Engel continues that his suggestion is not tenable because תרומה is completely his for all purposes and he may marry a woman with it [unlike kodshim], he may purchase land and animals with it etc. which proves that it is absolutely his and not Divine property.

There is actually an explicit gemara which bears this out. The gemara in Yevamos [87a] says that a Kohenes who returns to her fathers house after her husband dies, is allowed once again to eat תרומה but not חזה ושוק. Rav Papa explains based on the pasuk מלחם אביה תאכל on which the gemara expounds לחם הקנוי לאביה פרט לחזה ושוק דכהנים משלחן גבוה קזכי. OH BOY! That is awfully clear that תרומה belongs to the כהן personally unlike the חזה ושוק that he receives as קדשים.

Lots more to say. Hope we say it...

Three approaches to Pain

In 1948, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Biderman, the Lelover Rebbe, was invited to participate in a pidyon haben [Redemption of a First-Born Son] ceremony and festive meal in Jerusalem. The rebbe left his home in Tel Aviv early, in order to arrive on time. But the hour to begin the celebration came, and there was still no sign of the guest of honor.
The guests waited an hour, and another hour. The Rebbe had still not arrived. Three hours passed before the Rebbe finally arrived, his face beaming with joy as he rushed to wish mazal tov to the father of the month-old baby boy. Nobody asked him why he had arrived so late, nor did he offer an explanation.
After the meal was over, the Rebbe slipped away quietly and made his way to a doctor's office. He told the doctor that several hours earlier, when he was en route to Jerusalem, the bus on which he was traveling was involved in an accident. The bus had turned over, and several passengers had fallen on the Rebbe, crushing him beneath them. The doctor examined him and discovered that several of his ribs were cracked.
The doctor stared at the Rebbe in amazement. "How could you sit calmly through a meal, acting as though nothing was wrong? Broken ribs cause excruciating pain!" he exclaimed. "How could you bear it?"
To the Rebbe, however, there was no other way to behave. Unwilling to detract from another person's joyous occasion, he had chosen to ignore the pain and suffer in silence.
In his last years, Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Biderman suffered a tremendous amount of pain. His doctors could not understand how he could bear it silently, without crying out.
His explanation was simple. "If one keeps in mind that everything comes from G-d and that everything that happens reflects His will, then one can learn to tolerate anything."
Another time he said, "You wonder how I can bear so much suffering? It is simple. I wholeheartedly believe that Mashiach will arrive at any moment and all pain will disappear. Since I know that my suffering will last only seconds longer, it is easy to bear."

Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Glimpses of Greatness" (Moznaim) by Rabbi David Koppelman.

Rabbi Moshe Mordechai Biderman (1903 - 24 Tevet 1987), sixth-generation Rebbe of Lelov, lived in Tel Aviv for many years, later moving to Bnei Brak. He was accepted also by many Karliner chasidim as the new Rebbe after the passing of Rabbi Yochanan of Karlin-Stolin in 1956. His second son, Rabbi Shimon Nosson Notte Biderman, lived most of the year in Tsfat, due to health reasons, where he was beloved by his chasidim as well as many others who came to seek advice from him.

Yasha The Yid

"Yes," insisted Robin Dixon of the Los Angeles Times, "I want to go to the town of Lubavitch. And no, the seven-hour drive from Moscow is not a deterrent."
Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz was impressed by Ms. Dixon's determination. As executive director of the local Federation of Jewish Communities, and shaliach (emissary) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Moscow, with his wife Leah, he was the right person for this journalist to have contacted. She had called saying that her paper, whose stories are often syndicated, was interested in doing a feature piece on the revival of Jewish life in Russia.

"My preliminary research led me to Chabad," she had said. "It seems that yours is the most dominant group in Jewish life in Russia today. Its dedication and success intrigued me, and after I discovered that all of it began in the small town of Lubavitch, on the border of Belarus, hundred of years ago, I decided that a visit to the town could provide the backdrop for my story."
Rabbi Berkowitz didn't want to dampen her interest, but he had his doubts. What was there to see in that tiny, backward village, whose roads aren't even paved? The only Jewish presence in the town these days are people who come to pray at the gravesites of the Lubavitch Rebbes buried there. What could he show this journalist, other than the small museum adjacent to the graves?

As he pondered the matter, Rabbi Berkowitz had an idea. It was the summer of 2001. In the spring of that year, some of the hundreds of Lubavitch yeshiva students who come to Russia to arrange Pesach Seders had made contact with Jewish children in the area. The students were stationed in Smolensk, close to Lubavitch, and in the summer they set up camp in a Lubavitch public school. That camp would be an ideal place for Ms. Dixon to witness the rejuvenation of Jewish life.
The trip was planned. When the car came to pick up Rabbi Berkowitz, he joined the photographer and a local Russian who worked for the Los Angeles Times as a translator and researcher. Rabbi Berkowitz inquired, in the course of the conversation, about their religious ties; both said they were gentile. The translator introduced himself as Yasha Ryzhak, a member of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Aware of the story's potentially wide audience and of the long drive ahead, Rabbi Berkowitz began explaining the history, philosophy and activity of Chabad. He expounded on the origin of the movement in the town of Lubavitch, whose very name means "the city of brotherly love." As he spoke, Ms. Dixon took notes and Yasha asked many questions. Something about his inquiries seemed to be beyond normal curiosity.

At one point, Yasha suddenly declared, "I really should call my grandmother. We'll soon be approaching Smolensk; my family originates there. I've never traveled to this region before, and I'd like to see the place."

After spending fifteen minutes on the phone with his grandmother, he turned to Rabbi Berkowitz with an expression of wonder mixed with confusion.

"Rabbi," he said slowly, "my grandmother just told me something I had never known. When she heard I was traveling to Lubavitch, she became very excited and told me that, during the war, her family members had forged their identity papers and changed their names. They were of Chassidic origin; the men had studied at the yeshiva in Lubavitch. Her great-grandfather's name was Zalman, after the rabbi who founded the movement, and his family name was Rivkin."
Rabbi Berkowitz was amazed.

"Is this your maternal or paternal grandmother?" he asked deliberately.

"She's my mother's mother."

"Then, Yasha, according to Jewish law, you are a Jew." Rabbi Berkowitz declared. This information caught Yasha totally unprepared. An extended conversation ensued over the remainder of the drive. Yasha listened intently but found it difficult to relate to his newly found identity.

Later, the visitors encountered the camp children and were moved by the ease with which these youngsters, who had no previous Jewish education, absorbed the concepts they were learning, and by the pride they took in their religion.

In the small museum, Rabbi Berkowitz pointed to a striking wall hanging depicting the chassidim who had studied in the town, one of whom was wearing tefilin.

"This is probably what your grandfather looked like, Yasha. Every day, he put on his own pair of tefilin, just as you see portrayed here."

"I hear what you are saying," Yasha responded, "but I am not Jewish."

"According to Jewish law, you are," Rabbi Berkowitz reminded him. "Would you like to put on tefilin, if only to honor the memory of your grandfather?"

Yasha became thoughtful for a moment and then he agreed.

"How strange," he murmured as he unwound the straps, "Suddenly, I feel I am a Jew!"

Inspired by the visit and by the extensive interviews she had conducted, Ms. Dixon wrote an impressive feature story, which was set to run on September 12, 2001. The terrible events of Tuesday, September 11, however, pushed aside all other news for weeks thereafter. Ms. Dixon regretfully informed Rabbi Berkowitz that, since it was a time-sensitive story, with the summer camp as one of its highlights, the paper had filed it for a later appropriate date. She apologized for having taken so much of his time for an article that would remain temporarily unpublished.

But Rabbi Berkowitz wasn't disappointed. As far as he was concerned, it was a higher authority that had ordained the long trip to Lubavitch, and its effects were becoming clear even without the publicity of the influential newspaper. Yasha (now Yaakov) Ryzhak delved into his newly-discovered Judaism with zeal and today is a proud member of the Chabad community of Moscow.
[Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from "Excuse me, are you Jewish?" (Emet Publications) by Malka

Hashgacha Pratis Or Klalis - Part 2

לזכות ידיד נפשי הר"ר אליעזר זאב בן דבורה וכל ב"ב לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיהם

The Rogochover investigated the status of an עבד כנעני. Does he have personal hashgacha or is he included more generally in the hashgacha of his אדון?

The Rogochover כדרכו cites many many sources to clarify the issue [he says in one paragraph what it takes others pages upon pages בבחינת מיעוט המחזיק את המרובה]. Here are a few:

1] The gemara [Brachos 16b] says about an עבד who dies that unlike a Jew אין עומדים עליו בשורה - normally we make two lines on either side of the mourner and he walks through and everybody comforts him but this doesn't apply to an עבד or שפחה. The gemara continues that we say to him the same thing we say to someone who lost his שור or חמור - Hamakom yemalei chesronach  [Hashem should repay your loss]. This sounds like he is under the general rubric of השגחה כללית.

2] The gemara in Kiddushin [62b] says that one may not give a perutah to a שפחה in order to marry her after her release because מעיקרא בהמה השתא דעת אחרת  - meaning that before her release she has no independent status.

3] According to the gemara [Sotah 38a] עבדים are not included individually in ברכת כהנים while according to the Sifre they are included.

4] In Chullin [131b] we need a special pasuk to include עבדים in the כפרה of יום כיפור.

5] Nazir [61-62]: An עבד of a כהן doesn't eat Terumah on his own merit but because he is בטל to his אדון.

6] When we say וכתוב לחיים טובים כל בני בריתך  we include עבדים while when we say עמך בית ישראל they are excluded.

7] When one is מודר הנאה [forbidden to receive benefit] from זרע אברהם or מישראל they are not included.

8] In Megillas Esther it says that the Jews and כל הנלוה עליהם [those who accompany them] accepted upon themselves the mitzvos of Purim. כל הנלוה עליהם can't mean converts because they are already included in the Jewish people. So it may well be that it is a reference to the עבדים.

9] The way the Rambam defines עבדים is instructive -

העבדים שהטבילו אותם לשם עבדות וקבלו עליהם מצוות שהעבדים חייבים בהם יצאו מכלל הגוים ולכלל ישראל לא באו.
What they call in Yiddish - נישט דאהיר נישט דאהער...

An interesting comment by Rav Schachter [Eretz Tzvi 12/12] on the name of his Rebbi:

הרב צבי שכטר שליט"א הביא בשם רבו הגרי"ד סולובייצ'יק זצ"ל שביאר שיש חילוק בין נשים לעבדים בפטור של מ"ע שהזמן גרמן. נשים נפטרו ממ"ע שהזמן גרמן. אך, לדעת הרמב"ם אין הדבר כן בעבד כנעני. עבד כנעני יש לו רק מקצת קדושת ישראל, ולגבי מ"ע שהזמן גרמא שהוא פטור מהם, הוא כנכרי ממש. הרב צבי שכטר הביא בהערה שם, שדברים אלה הם מחלוקת בין הרמב"ם לתוס'. הגר"ח ביאר שיש מחלוקת בין הרמב"ם לתוס' אם הטבילה השניה של עבד כנעני כשיוצא לחירות היא טבילה שחיובה מדאורייתא או מדרבנן. לדעת התוס', חיובה רק מדרבנן, אך לדעת הרמב"ם, חיובה מדאורייתא. לכן, לדעת התוס', אי אפשר לומר שעבד כנעני חסר לו בקדושת ישראל, בניגוד לדעת הרמב"ם.


Hashgacha Pratis Or Hashgacha Klalis

לזכות ידיד נפשי הר"ר אליעזר זאב בן דבורה וכל ב"ב לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיהם

The Rogochover Gaon explored the theological question of whether there is hashgacha pratis for goyim or just hashgacha klalis - general less personal and specific Divine supervision? Here are some of his insights:

The Rogochovers premise is that with regard to goyim there is no halachic concept called tzibbur. We see this in the gemara [Nazir 61b], that no matter how many of them there are they are considered distinct individuals. "יצא עובד כוכבים וכו' שאין לו קהל". That is why the Mishna [R"H 16a] says בארבעה פרקים העולם נידון  - Four times a year the world is judged etc. ובחג נידונים על המים - On Succos they are judged on water. First the mishna uses the singular form נידון - and later the plural form נידונין  - Why the switch?

The judgement on water is on Sukkos when we bring 70 korbanos corresponding to the nations of the world [who are in need atonement so that they merit rain - Rashi Succah 55b]. These nations are many distinct individuals and thus we use the plural form.

The gemara in Sanhedrin clearly implies that those who are קוויו - actively hope to Hashem, merit personal Divine supervision while those who don't are only supervised in a general way - השגחה כללית.     

This question relates to the halachic issue of whether a goy has personal ownership over the korban he offers in the beis hamikdash. What would be the halacha if a korban of a goy is brought במחשבת שלא לשמו לשם שינוי בעלים - for a different owner. If the korban loses its personal attachment to the owner immediately subsequent to the הקדשה to the beis hamikdash and adopts a general title of קרבן בן נח then we cannot apply to this korban the concept of שלא לשם בעלים because it is no longer his personal korban anyway. The resolution of the issue would depend on whether a goy has hashgacha pratis - he is considered a distinct individual in which case his korban remians his and there would be a problem of שינוי בעלים. Or do we say that his השגחה is כללית and then we would have to say that in the Torah his dinim are established based on the premise that he appears before הקב"ה in a general way without the special personal supervision which the Jews have.  Thus - there would be no halacha of שינוי בעלים.

This question requires much further study and bl"n we will explore further bez"H!

[HaGaon HaRogochovee Vi-talmudo Pages 46-47]

Disposable Dishes On Shabbos

R' Aviner

Question: Is it permissible to use disposable dishes and plasticware on Shabbat, or does it impinge on the honor of Shabbat?

Answer: It is permissible.  It potentially saves time washing dishes on Shabbat in a permissible manner of course) for the next meal and also saves one from the stress of washing all of the dishes after Shabbat, and this itself brings "Oneg Shabbat – Joy of Shabbat".  If one is able, it is preferable to use beautiful disposable dishes.
Ha-Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv was similarly asked: In a family blessed with many children, there are many dishes used during the course of Shabbat.  In order to lighten the load of washing all of the dishes, the husband wanted to use disposable dishes, including a disposable tablecloth, so that after the meal they could simply roll up all of the dishes in the tablecloth and throw them in the garbage.  The wife, however, asked: Even though it would certainly make things easier, isn't using disposable dishes disrespectful to the honor of Shabbat?  After all, if an important guest came to one's house, wouldn't we bring out the fancy dishes?  Rav Elyashiv responded: There is no impingement in using disposable dishes, and there is no disrespect to the honor of Shabbat (Va-Yishma Moshe Volume 1 p. 106).
Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein asked his brother-in-law, Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievsky this same question, and Rav Kanievsky answered with a story from his uncle, the Chazon Ish.  As is known, the Yeshiva world honors Shabbat by wearing a nice tie.  A Yeshiva student once approached the Chazon Ish and described how difficult it is for him to wear a tie in the summer because he sweats a lot.  He therefore asked: Is it permissible not to wear a tie or is it disrespectful to the honor of the Shabbat?  The Chazon Ish answered that if there is no enjoyment of Shabbat, there is no honor, i.e. if the Yeshiva student does not enjoy wearing the tie, than there is no honoring of Shabbat in doing so.
According to the Chazon Ish's answer, we can also say in our case, since washing the dishes can be a great stress, using disposable dishes is therefore not disrespectful to the honor of Shabbat.  And Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein says that since there are fancy disposable utensils today, it is preferable to use them rather than the simple ones.  Ha-Rav Chaim Kanievski agrees with him, although he holds that the basic Halachah is that it is even permissible to use simple disposable utensils and there is still no impingement on the honor of Shabbat.
Ha-Rav Zilberstein also added that lightening the burden on the wife/mother is in and of itself honoring Shabbat (Aleinu Le-Shabei'ach – Shemot p. 530).
There was once a young couple who was very close to the Bostoner Rebbe and Rebbetzin.  The couple was also close to Ha-Rav Yosef Solovietchik, who was Rav in Boston, along with teaching at Yeshivat Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan.  The couple was once invited to Rav Soloveitchik's home for a Shabbat meal.  The Bostoner Rebbetzin asked the young woman: What did you see there?  She answered: It was quite similar to what you do but there was one difference: They use disposable utensils.  The reason is that Rav Soloveitchik's wife wants to participate in her husband's Motzaei Shabbat class, and if she needed to wash dishes, she wouldn't be able to do so.  The Bostoner Rebbetzin went to her husband and told him this practice of Rav and Rebbetzin Solovietchik and asked: I am willing to eat on China every meal, but we have 30-40 guests every Shabbat and I wash dishes until Tuesday.  Why can't I use disposable dishes?  The Bostoner Rebbe said: You can use disposable dishes.  The Bostoner Rebbetzin said that she is so grateful to this young woman who told her what she saw at the house of Rav and Rebbetzin Soloveitchik (The Bostoner Rebbetzin Remembers pp. 165-166).
Nonethess, Ha-Rav Shammai Kehat Ha-Cohain Gross, Rav of Kehilat Machzekei Ha-Dat of Belzer Chasidim and author of Shut Shevet Ha-Kehati, holds that since one would not use disposable utensils for an important guest or at a wedding, one should be strict not to use them on Shabbat for adults, but can be lenient with using them for children (Kuntres Dvar Hashem Zu Halachah – Tefilah U-Bar Mitzvah #6).
If someone is adamant that NON-disposable dishes should be used, he should roll up his sleeves and help his wife wash dishes after Shabbat.  Satmar Chasidim end Shabbat very late due to a long Seudat Shelishit and the Rebbe's talk. Once, on a Saturday night, the Satmar Rebbe saw that one of his Chasidim was the last one in the Beit Midrash and was folding his Talit with great precision. The Rebbe asked him what he was doing. The Chasid said that he saw in various books that care in folding one's Talit is a Segulah for Shalom Bayit. The Rebbe responded: A better Segulah is to go home and help your wife wash dishes (Others tell this story in the name of Ha-Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz.  In the book: "U-Piro Matok – Bereshit" of Ha-Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein p. 140).


Disabled People In Halacha

Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society - No. XXII - Fall 1991, Succos 5751
Rabbi Moshe Tendler
Dr. Fred Rosner

Practical and ethical questions regarding the disabled and their interaction within Jewish society have not received much attention from halachic authorities. Yet, these questions have considerable humane, legal ethical, and financial implications.

Jewish law (halacha) recognizes that some Jews have physical and emotional limitations which prevent them from observing all biblical and rabbinic precepts. Jewish law exempts the disabled for any guilt they might feel because of their inability to perform certain commandments, thus affirming that the basic worth and spirituality of the disabled is not diminished in any way. Halacha urges them to achieve their fullest potential as Jews, while exhorting society to assist them in making their religious observance possible.1

But the resources of Society are not limitless, and the limited resources of the Jewish community are insufficient to permit duplication of facilities to provide universal access to the handicapped and disabled. Recommendations concerning societal obligations to the handicapped must of necessity recognize the limitations. Cooperative efforts involving several communities should be encouraged so that facilities such as schools and mikvehs will be available even if the facility is located at a considerable distance from the handicapped person's home.
The resolution of conflicts between the needs of the individual and the obligations of society is the responsibility of Torah leadership which must mediate the balancing of these two forces. Allocation of charitable funds in Judaism is considered to be the proper role of the local Bet Din.2 Funds needed for the proper care of the disabled may require the attention of a national organization to properly allocate the scarce funds of the Jewish community.
The societal obligation to care for the mentally disabled is sensitively depicted by Rabbi Moshe Sofer with Reference to an eighteen year old woman: "Neither her sustenance nor medical care is the sole responsibility of her father. She should be considered as one of the poor whose care is the obligation of the community.3 Different disabilities and varying degrees of disability can affect the halachic status considerably. For example, while a modification or dispensation of a halachic obligation may be offered to a person with one type of disability, no such dispensation may by offered for a person with another disability. The individual attention of a recognized rabbinic decisor (posek) is required to "grade" the degree of disability as to its halachic import.

We have examined the unique problems of the Orthodox disabled as they attempt to fulfill their obligations under Jewish law. In this essay, we explore some of the many ethical and practical questions concerning the disabled in relation to the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, marriage and procreation, prayers and other legal obligations. In all cases, however, final decisions must be made by a competent halachic authority.
Celebrating the Sabbath and Jewish Holidays

A disabled person has the same halachic status with regard to the Sabbath and Yom Tov (Jewish Holiday) as any other person and is bound by the same regulations. Thus, a disabled person may not desecrate the Sabbath and must fast on Yom Kippur - unless there is a possible danger to life, in which case all biblical and rabbinic rules and regulations save three are waived. However, there are special rules that apply to the disabled.


A disabled person who cannot walk unaided may go through a public thoroughfare on the Sabbath using a wheelchair, cane, crutches, or walker4 even in the absence of an eruv. Jewish law considers these mechanical aides that substitute for body parts as part of the person. But if an aide is used only to provide additional stability for someone who can walk without assistance, it is then considered as if the person were carrying the mechanical aide and its use would be prohibited on the Sabbath.

It is not permissible, in the absence of an eruv, to ask another Jew to push the wheelchair on the Sabbath. However, a non-Jew may provide assistance if there is considerable distress to the disabled person in not going to the synagogue on the Sabbath or Yom Tov. It is permissible for a talit to be carried on the seat or in the back pouch in the wheelchair because the talit is considered to be subsidiary to the wheelchair. The situation is similar to carrying a child who is holding a stone on the Sabbath.

On the Sabbath, a disabled person may wear leg braces because they are considered an article of clothing.5 Other prostheses, such as artificial limbs, may also be put on, taken off, and worn - even through a public thoroughfare - because these devices are considered part of the person's body.
Mechanized wheelchairs and electronic devices pose serious halachic problems if used on the Sabbath or Yom Tov. Starting an electrical motor on the Sabbath is prohibited. Even if a non-Jew turns on the motor, others may think that a Jew started the motor. The use of an electric wheelchair in public on the Sabbath and Yom Tov should, therefore, be avoided. A new indirect (Grama) switch being developed in Israel may permit the use of an electric wheelchair on the Sabbath, when no other means of locomotion is possible. [Note: Many poskim emphatically reject the Grama solution E.E.]

For medical purposes, one may wear an electronic device on the Sabbath, such as an electronic back brace for the treatment of the scoloisis, or an electronic nerve-stimulating device for the control of severe pain. Such devices are considered halachically as items of clothing, because they serve the physical needs of the individual and are worn on the body and not carried in hand or pocket so there is no prohibition of carrying involved.6 It is assumed that electric signal lights are disconnected and that no heating elements are involved.

Passing through automatic doors on the Sabbath poses a halachic problem, even if there is no other accessible entrance. The disabled person should wait until a non-Jew passes through the doors; he can then pass through without activating the electronic mechanism himself. Similarly, a regular elevator may not be used on the Sabbath by a disabled person unless a non-Jew happens to use it for his own purposes.7 However, elevator with "weighing platforms" that adjust the current to the load may not be used on the Sabbath.

It is prohibited for a disabled person to be driven to the synagogue on the Sabbath even if he cannot get there any other way.

A blind person must light Sabbath candles on Friday night, as long as there is no danger to the person or to anyone else. A blind person may be accompanied by his guide dog into the synagogue.8 Since the dog is enabling its master to fulfill the commandment of public praying, it is not a desecration of the synagogue. A blind person may use a cane on the Sabbath to walk in a public thoroughfare because the cane is considered as an article of clothing, if he cannot walk without the cane.

A blind or partially sighted person may carry braille or large print prayer books, bibles, and other Hebrew books on the Sabbath only within an eruv. A blind or visually impaired person may not use a tape recorder or radio on the Sabbath even if it is turned on before the Sabbath because it violates the rabbinic edict of creating a sound or causing a sound to be heard (Hashmat Kol).10 It is especially meritorious (chesed) under the general law of visiting the sick to help him overcome his loneliness and seclusion by visiting him on the Sabbath so that the absence of the auditory stimuli from the radio or tapes not cause him to become depressed.
A blind person is required to say the blessings and prayers for the sanctification of the New Moon (kidush Levanah)11. For the lighting of Chanukah menorah, it is preferable when possible for others to recite the blessing for him. 12 A blind person cannot perform the search for unleavened bread (chometz) prior to Passover; another member of the family should do so.

Different rules apply for those who are partially sighted but not blind. A partially sighted person may use a cane on the Sabbath only if he uses it during the week as well, and if it is essential to his safety. A partially sighted person may not carry eyeglasses in his pocket on the street on the Sabbath. If the person needs special glasses for reading only, he should wear bifocals. A partially sighted person may not use electronic magnification on the Sabbath to improve reading or to make reading possible, unless it is left on continuously from before the Sabbath.13
On the Sabbath, a hearing-impaired person may wear a hearing aid because it is considered an article of clothing, but he may not adjust the volume. If the hearing aid is built into his glasses, he can wear it or its battery in public thoroughfare on the Sabbath. But a hearing aid may not be carried in one's pocket, because that would not be considered part of the person's body or clothing. 14 However, a battery pack may be designed as part of a belt to permit Sabbath use. The halachic principle involved is as described above - namely, the item is worn and not carried, and serves the physical needs of the individual. 15

It is permissible to use a microphone to enable a hearing impaired person to hear the cantor and the reading of the Torah on weekdays, but not on the Sabbath or Yom Tov even for hearing the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar) on Rosh Hashana.16 However, a microphone may be used to enable a hearing impaired person to hear the reading of the Megillah on Purim.17 a deaf or hearing impaired person may also fulfill the requirement of hearing the Torah and Megilla readings by reading these himself.18
Persons with other disabilities such as mental retardation, learning disabilities, epilepsy, or other acute or chronic illness or conditions must fulfill all biblical and rabbinic rules and precepts to their fullest potential.
Marriage and Procreation
A disabled person has the same rights, privileges and obligation applicable to all Jews regarding ritual family purity, marriage, and procreation. In regard to family purity laws, there must be a special sensitivity regarding women who are orthopedically disabled. Special provisions should be made to assist them in and out of the mikveh. Husbands may accompany their wives into the ritualarium (mikveh)19 and special access should be provided, such as a ramp, lift, or pulley system. If a mikveh shower is not accessible, a disabled woman may forgo this final shower since she bathed at home. The pre-mikveh examination can be assisted by another woman if the disabled woman cannot physically examine herself or, if blind, others can view the examination (bedikah) cloth. 20

Disabled persons have all the obligations incumbent upon other Jews, including the obligation to procreate, unless the disability makes child care impossible.21 The use of birth control by or sterilization of sexually active mentally retarded or mentally ill adults should not be routinely condoned.22 expert rabbinic consultation is critical in evaluating individual cases.
Abortion is not permissible, even when a disabled woman will be unable to care for her child. 23 Society must assume the care of the child. Adoption by a Jewish couple is preferable to institutional care.
If a disabled couple cannot have children, adoption is recommended. Studies have shown that despite physical, emotional or psychological disabilities in the parents, adopted children place among such parents suffer no ill effects. But adopting in Judaism does pose some halachic problems. Some stem from the lack knowledge of the genealogy of the biological parents; others because legal adoption does not alter the fact that strangers (the adopted children) are comprising a family unit. However, the prohibition of being secluded with a member of the opposite sex does not apply as long as both parents are alive and the child was adopted when very young. 24
For more detailed questions regarding marriage and procreation, a competent rabbinic authority should be consulted.
Prayers and Other Legal Obligations
Within their limitations, disabled men are obligated to pray three times daily, and, if possible, to attend synagogue services in order to pray with a quorum of ten men (minyan). A disabled man is obligated to wear a prayer shawl (talit) and to don phylacteries (tefillin) on weekdays.

A man whose left arm is atrophied or paralyzed should still don phylacteries on that arm. However, a man whose left arm is missing should don tefillin on his right arm.25
A person with an indwelling urinary catheter should recite prayers and blessings after first covering the catheter and, if possible, the collecting bag. This rule also applies to a colostomy stoma and bag. It is assumed that there is adequate odor control.26
A disabled person who attains the age of thirteen should be helped to participate in a Bar Mitzva ceremony. A boy should be called up to read the Torah portion of the week and, if he is able, to recite the appropriate blessings. If necessary, a Torah scroll should be brought to the home and a minyan assembled for the Torah readings. A girl at age twelve years should be acknowledged at an appropriate home celebration.
Miscellaneous Halachic Rulings

  1. A disabled person, if not mentally disable, is counted as part of a minyan.
  2. A disabled person may testify as a witness in a legal proceeding.
  3. A disabled person must fast on Yom Kippur, eat matzah on Passover, hear the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, and perform all commandments incumbent upon a Jewish adult, as his disability allows.
  4. A wheelchair-bound person may observe the laws of mourning from the wheelchair during the week of shivah.
  5. A wheelchair-bound person may put on his talit and tefillin and even recite the Amidah prayer from the wheelchair. 27
  6. A blind person may pray and recite blessings from memory.
  7. A partially sighted or blind man may grasp the arm of his wife prior to her going to mikveh in order to help him cross the street. Similarly, she may use sign language on the hand of her deaf and blind husband.28
  8. A partially sighted (but not totally blind) person may serve as a witness for the signing of a marriage contract or bill of divorce or other legal proceeding.
  9. A partially sighted person may read from the Torah for others, lead prayer services, and serve as a cantor.
  10. For a deaf person who is about to be married, one may dispense with the reading of the marriage contract (ketubah) or one can use sign language as a substitute for reading it.29
  11. Deaf-mute persons are absolved from fulfilling commandments incumbent upon a Jewish adult.
  12. All disabled people must observe all dietary laws, even when confined to hospitals, nursing homes, and institutions. These laws, however, apply only to oral feedings, not nasogastric, intravenous, or gastrostomy feedings. 30

Individual, Family and Societal Obligations to the Disabled
Individuals, family, and society are obligate to assist the disabled wherever possible, in leading as full and productive a life as possible.

Home care of the disabled is preferred to institutional care even if this increases the financial and psychological strain on the family. In many institutions, the mortality rate far exceeds that of home care patients so that institutionalization is often a life or death decision. Community leaders must come to the aid of families burdened with a disabled member to make home care feasible. The stress on the other family members may be so severe, in the absence of such help, that there is no choice other than institutional care.
Individual should help disabled persons get to the synagogue and to put on talit and tefillin. The disabled should be helped to recite blessings and to perform mitzvot, within their limitations.
Society should treat disabled persons as full members of the community, with no discrimination. Within the financial resources available, society should provide appropriate facilities and services for the disabled. Access to services and other religious functions should be provided to the disabled, within the financial capabilities of a synagogue or Jewish community center, by constructing ramps and even a Sabbath elevator. The mikveh should be made accessible, so the disabled woman can enjoy normal marital relations.
Synagogues, schools, and libraries should provide reading materials in large print or braille for the blind or visually impaired and sign language interpreters for the deaf or hearing impaired. Private education should be provided for disabled children who are physically unable to attend school. Special schools should be available for disabled children with special needs.
It is recognized that these considerations on behalf of the disabled obviously require significant expenditures which may not be possible in smaller communities.


1. Feinstein, M. Am Hatorah, second edition, part 2, pp 10-12; P'ri Megadim 343, Aishel Abraham, states that a deaf mute and a minor have some intellect and must be educated to their fullest potential.
2. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 256:3.
3. Sofer, M. Responsa Chatam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #76.
4. Feinstein, M. Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim, Part 4 #90.
5. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 301:16.
6. Feinstein, M. Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim, Part 4 #81.
7. Ibid. Orach Chayim, Part 2 #80.
8. Ibid. Orach Chayim, Part 1 #45.
9. Magen Avraham, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 301:18 and personal communication from Rav Moshe Feinstein.
10. Feinstein, M. Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim, Part 3 #55 and Part 4 #84.
11. Mishnah Berurah, Orach Chayim 420:1.
12 Ibid. 675:9 and Aruch Hashulchan 675:5.
13. Feinstein, M. Oral Communication.
14. Ibid. Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim, part 4 #85.
15. Ibid. Part 4 #81.
16. Ibid. Part 4 #83.
17. Ibid. Part 2 #108.
18. Mishnah Berurah 689:5.
19. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 195:16 and gloss of Ramo there; see also Responsa Noda Biyehuda, 2nd edition, Yoreh Deah #122.
20. Shulchan Aruch, Yorhe Deah 196:7.
21. Feinstein, M. Personal Communication.
22. Feinstein, M. Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim, Part 2 #88.
23. Ibid. Choshen Mishpat, Part 2 #69
. 24. Ibid. Even Haezer, Part 4 #64:2.
25. Ibid. Orach Chayim, Part 1 #8 and 9.
26. Ibid. Part 1 #27.
27. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 94:6.
28. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 195:15,
29. Feinstein, M. Responsa Iggerot Moshe, Even Haezer, Part 1 #87.
30. Ibid. Orach Chayim, Part 2 #88 and Yoreh Deah, Part 2 #59.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

One Of The Greatest Geniuses In World History - The Holy Rogochover Gaon

How blessed are we to learn and spread his Torah!!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chukas - Count Your Blessings

From an email...
This dvar Torah is in the merit of my parents who are celebrating their 49th anniversary this coming week. May Hashem bless them with many many many more years of good health together and may they rejoice in the weddings of all of their grandchildren with great happiness and prosperity always!
Also - a huuuuuge mazel tooov to my beloved friends R' and Mrs. Jeremy Wernick who in 49 years from now will also celebrate their 49th anniversary. Until then - limitless bracha and hatzlacha. Until 120 in good health and prosperity!
A huuuuuuuge mazel tov to my beloved friends R' and Mrs. Danny Pincus on their wedding. May Hashem grant them limitless health and happiness for many years to come and may they have children who follow in the footsteps of their illustrious ancestor - the holy Chasam Sofer.
One of the foundations of our lives is gratitude. We are ALL surrounded by so many gifts from Above and our job is to appreciate them.
In this weeks parsha we read of the famous episode of the striking of the rock. The medrash [yalkut chukas 161] relates that Hashem said to Moshe - "How can you hit the rock. The rock was so good to you. It gave you honey as it says ויניקהו דבש מסלע [32/ 13] and now you hit it??! You can no longer lead my children. I already appointed someone else."
[Note: Every punishment has a hidden blessing. Moshe didn't want the job in the first place as he didn't feel himself worthy. Now he finally got his wish...]
Moshe hit the rock in order to benefit the Jewish people, to give water to the hungry people. Yet, there was a slight lack of appreciation when he neglected to speak to the rock and instead struck it. For that slight indiscretion he was punished and lost the opportunity to lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael. [See Menoras Avraham P. 139]
The Sfas Emes  [ליקוטים ד"ה ויאמרו] explains in this spirit another episode in our parsha. Moshe sent angels to the king of Edom asking for permission to let the Jews travel through his land. He was refused. The Jews answered that they promised to walk in a "straight path" and they won't bother anybody. The Medrash says that the Jews were punished and lost the "clouds of glory" and Aharon [in whose merit they had these clouds] died. What did the Jews do wrong?  
Explains the Sfas Emes that the Jews were all spread out. They promised the Edomites that they would walk in a narrow line AND FORGO THE CLOUDS of glory if they were allowed to pass through. They failed to appreciate the great gift Hashem had given them. To have His Divine clouds leading us was something irreplacable and sui generis [whatever that means]. But the Jews were willing to let the clouds go. Hashem said that if you don't appreciate my gifts - you lose them. That is why they lost the clouds - and Aharon. [See the Imrei Baruch of my beloved friend and teacher HaRav Baruch Chaim Simon Shlita and if you see him tell him I quoted him...]
Sweetest friends!! How often we hear from people who lost something [a friend, relative, health, money etc.] that they took it for granted when they had it??! Our task in life is to ZOOM IN on all of our brachos and ENJOY and APPRECIATE them. Rejoice!! Hashem - thank for for my kidneys!! For my lungs!! For my cardiovascular system. For the literally BILLIONS of miracles that surround us every moment. Every cell. The sun. Eyes that see. A PIECE OF FLESH CAN SEE!!! Memory. We have MILLIONS of things memorized. How to walk, talk, drive, eat, sleep, where the breakfast cereal section is in the supermarket and where the speed dial button is on our phone. SOOOOO MANY BRACHOS!  Hashem gives them to us because he loves us and in order to help us connect with this Divine love with appreciation.
Let us not forget. This Shabbos - appreciate your blessings. Thank Hashem for your parents if you are fortunate enough to have them. For your children if you have them. Tell them what a blessing they are and how much they add to your life. Nechama Leibowitz, the great chumash chachama who authored many insightful books and articles on chumash, said that she would have given it all up for ONE CHILD. Thank Hashem that you are Jewish. What a zchus to be a member of this eternal people!!! Thank Hashem for the gift of shabbos. For cholent, kugel and a comfortable bed. So much to be grateful for!!!
May we all rejoice in our brachos and in that merit receive more and more brachos.
Good shabbos beloved friends!

Oooooood Yeshama - Elokiiiimmmmmm Bi-Roooov Chasdeeeeechaaaa - Unifutzoseinu Kaneis Kaneis -

Mordechai Ben David's first concert recording, at the Fountenbleau Hotel - come to Collins Avenue for a trip down memory lane!


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shimon Halevi

Gutman Locks

Shimon the Levi was born and raised in London.

He was a product of his time and as such he reached into everything available to his generation; cults, drugs, ear-shattering music, the "mystical East", the "Hippie" West and then the "Wild West." Finally, here in the Wild West he found what he was looking for.

It was billed as the largest gathering of Tribal Brothers ever to have taken place in England. The meadow was leased and the campsites were prepared. The major attraction was a genuine American Indian Chief, brought over to guide all of the "brothers" in the natural art of living on the land: survival as it was and could be while simply living in a meadow.

The brothers gathered, wearing buckskin loincloths and head bands. They all had the official braids of hair running down their backs, bright feathers and tomahawks in their belts. Peace pipes were passed around most of the day. The chief stood, arms crossed, overseeing his vast array of white red-men.

Shimon stood next to the Chief hanging on to his every word. "You see all these men?" The Chief asked. Shimon nodded, expecting to hear something profound. "They are all lost!" Shimon's face dropped. The Chief continued: "They don't know what tribe they come from!"

Shimon was completely confused. Had he heard these words from his parents or a rabbi, he would have been able to dismiss them, but coming from the Chief himself, he was left totally defenseless. The Chief looked Shimon in the eye and asked, "Do you know what tribe you come from?" Shimon was taken aback, but then he remembered, "My father is a Levite! He is from the tribe of Levi, so I also am a Levite. I know my tribe, I am a Levi!"

He turned at that very moment and began his journey to Jerusalem where he now studies Talmud with side-locks instead of braids, a tallit instead of a loincloth, a kipah instead of a feather and singing in Hebrew instead of Sioux or Cherokee. He says he is a very fortunate man.


Jet Blue Minyan


Rabbi Chaim Zvi Konikov

I am the shliach, the representative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the town of Satellite Beach, on the coast of Florida, near Cape Kennedy from where they launch the satellites.
Upon the passing of my mother of blessed memory over a year ago, I was faced with the dilemma of how to recite Kaddish three times a day in a town where there's no daily minyan. There's no traditional shul except our "Chabad of the Space Coast" Center, and our primary focus was on Torah classes.
Nevertheless, with my mother's merit and example of determination, and my dear wife's marathon phone calls, we put together daily morning and evening minyanim which are going strong for over a year now, though not without challenges, as you will soon read. Besides the great feeling of accomplishment, we received a bonus from our local Bell South Telephone Company for signing up so many new Caller ID customers! (Just kidding.)
Like Jews all over the world who are saying Kaddish, I attend shacharis, mincha, and maariv (morning, afternoon and evening services), without fail. The only difference is that I need not only to attend but also to bring nine others there with me. Sometimes this presents a challenge.
Traveling to Israel from Satellite Beach, which has to take at least fifteen to twenty hours with stopovers, was one of those challenging times. I, therefore, had arranged my arrival in New York early enough to catch mincha at the Rebbe's Ohel, at the cemetery in Queens, which is near JFK. If necessary, I could even take a taxi to Crown Heights, pray mincha there and still make my El Al flight to Israel at 11 PM. (I wasn't worried about maariv because I knew there would be other observant Jews on the El Al flight.)
The trip from Satellite Beach to the Orlando airport takes about an hour. I was exhausted from a very strenuous week running Chabad activities, so a friend kindly drove me to the airport. Instead of relaxing in the car, I used the time to confirm mincha arrangements at the Ohel. The person I spoke with hesitated to guarantee a minyan, so I called my brother, Rabbi Aaron Levi Konikov, a Chabad rabbi in Roslyn, New York, which is just a twenty-minute drive from the Ohel. Aaron Levi arranged for a driver to pick me up at JFK and take me directly to his Chabad Center minyan.
I had covered all the possibilities - or so I thought. In Yiddish, there's an expression, "Ah mench tracht un G-t lacht." "Man proposes and G-d disposes." This was a perfect example. My Jet Blue flight 46 to JFK was scheduled to depart Orlando at 4:15 P.M. However, as soon as we got on the runway, the captain announced a 90-minute delay on all flights into New York due to bad weather. In an hour and a half, we would know more. But for now, we had to sit on the plane.
I started to worry. Since my mother passed away ten and a half months ago, I had not missed saying one Kaddish. And now this! Still, there was time; and if there is one thing that I have learned by living in a small town like Satellite Beach, and trying to get minyanim every day, it's not to panic. After all, I had encountered a number of close calls over the year, but each time I had managed to get my minyan and say Kaddish.
However, as I reflected on my situation, I realized that there was a great difference. There, I could move around, pick people up in my car, call on friends, and call on friends of friends. Even on Shabbos when we can't use the phone, I could always walk down the road to the shopping center, when we were in a bind, and look for a Jew (or two) there. (One Friday night I picked up our tenth man coming out of the movie theater.
Outside Blockbuster was another favorite hangout of mine on those tight Friday nights. Spying through the large window with full garb, Kapota and all, might have looked like a scene straight from the movies, but it sure paid off when the Jew waiting on line to pay realized there was someone waiting for him at the door.) But here on the plane, I was stuck with nowhere to go. Worry set in, so I began looking for a solution.
Suddenly, one came. I'll demand to exit the plane! I will miss the flight, I can always rebook, and I can't miss Kaddish. I was determined. I knew it would be hard to get off the plane since we were already far from the terminal. Nevertheless, I had to try.
"Excuse me," I said to a stewardess. "I have an important meeting in New York and if I cannot make it in person, I must leave the plane now."
"I'm sorry," she replied politely. "We cannot return to the gate. We are on the runway waiting to take off. There are planes ahead and planes in back of us. We cannot move. It's impossible." Oh, well. I tried.
About 30 minutes passed and we were going nowhere in a hurry. The stewardess began handing out refreshments. Then the pilot came out and offered his cell phone to let passengers call their family and friends.
Every few seconds, I looked at my watch and calculated our earliest possible arrival time. I called another brother, Rabbi Yosef Konikov, of Chabad of South Orlando. At this point, my problem was not finding a minyan at his Chabad Center (25 minutes from the Orlando Airport) or even at the airport. My problem was simply getting there! I looked at my watch again. Another 15 minutes had passed. I realized it was time for action. I must do something and now, I thought. But what?
Suddenly, a crazy thought dawned on me. Maybe there are enough Jews on this flight to make a minyan! After all, we're flying to New York, and although I hadn't noticed any religious Jews, it was my only hope.
"Before I make a scene, I'll check my chances of success," I told myself. Trying to be inconspicuous, I got up from my seat "to stretch" and walked up and down the aisles looking for Jewish faces. I reached the back of the plane. Alas, only the guy in the last seat had a Jewish face. And I wasn't even sure about him. Was I dreaming or was I so desperate that I imagined that he looked Jewish?
I gathered my courage and asked him straight out. "Are you Jewish?" I almost hit the roof when he answered, "Yes!" Quickly, I explained that I had to say Kaddish for my mother and needed a minyan. He understood. "Count me in when you get ten," he replied. Then he resumed his reclining position in front of the TV, nodding his head slightly to wish me good luck.
Bolstered by my success, I identified the next "Jewish nose." Before I knew it, we were up to four! Of course, each commented, "I'm not religious," or "I don't know how to pray." Still, they were willing to help.
The minutes continued to tick by, but I had run into a brick wall. That was it for Jewish faces. How many people who looked Puerto Rican could possibly be Jewish? Should I call it a day? Give up? I couldn't return to my seat as something (or someone above) kept pushing me.
Aisle by aisle I made my plea, but this time a little bit different than before. "Excuse me," I asked people, "Is anyone in your party Jewish?" I asked. And the unbelievable was happening. Once in a while, the answer was "Yes, he is," or "Yes, I am."
By this time, I had seven! Only three more to go. Surprisingly, one of Jet Blue's managers was sitting in a regular seat. "Can I help you?" he asked. I thought that he was just following the customer service routine. But when I explained my predicament and he immediately sprung into action to help me, I started to sing the Jet Blue advertising jingle in my head. Amazingly, he offered to make an announcement asking for volunteers over the PA system!
"Thank you," I answered. "But I'm going to try to do this low profile."
"Excuse me," the man across from the aisle spoke out. "I overheard your conversation. I am Jewish." Now we had eight! I was beginning to believe it would happen. I continued my search. I began to get excited at the prospect of a miraculous minyan. But a bunch of people saying "sorry" and "no" brought me back to reality.
One passenger who really wanted to help but wasn't Jewish said to me, "My buddy is half Jewish." Hopefully, I asked his friend, "Are you Jewish?" "No. Not really," he answered. Disappointed, I turned to walk away. "But my grandmother was Jewish!" he added.
I turned and asked, "Your mother's mother?"
"Yeah, but that doesn't make me Jewish, does it?"
"You bet it does!" I told him.
"Neat! Just like that, I find out I'm Jewish! Maybe the delay was worth it, just for that!"
At "T Minus One Yid And Counting," I was roaring down the aisle with confidence now, ready to launch this nearly made minyan. By this time, no one on the plane had any doubts as to what was happening. Every so often the manager would call out to me "How many are we up to?" When I told him we were at nine, he radioed to the cockpit and asked if any of the crew was Jewish. "Negative," came the reply.
At this point, everyone wanted to help, but the situation seemed hopeless. I had already gone through every seat twice and the dark reality seemed to be settling in that there were only nine male Jews over the age of 13 on this plane.
As I was making my way back to my seat, crestfallen, someone who felt very sorry for me stopped me and said: "I have a Jewish friend in Georgia who I can call on a conference; will that work?" I explained and thanked him anyway. (As if I didn't know a few Jews myself that I could phone!)
I called my brother Yosef again. "You won't believe this: we've got nine! But that's really it," I said anxiously. "You're a chaplain in the Sheriff's Department. Maybe you can get a police escort to the plane, or maybe you can get someone Jewish from security to come out here and get onto the plane with us." Yosef said he would try, but he didn't sound too hopeful. Time and the odds were both working against us.
"If I don't make this minyan after getting nine Yidden on this flight, what a let-down it will be," I said to myself... and to the One Above. Mentally, I was preparing myself for exactly that letdown because I had run out of options. I returned to my seat, just waiting to see what would happen next.
A few seconds passed before the passenger right behind me cleared his throat and confessed, "I'm really sorry but earlier, when I told you I was not Jewish, I wasn't telling the truth. I was just very intimidated. I really am Jewish." My eyes became as wide as saucers. At first, I thought that he was pulling my leg. Either that, or he was just trying to be nice because he saw how desperate I was. I was suspicious, and I knew I had to do a little questioning. "Is your mother Jewish?" I asked conversationally (as if I had all the time in the world!).
"Absolutely," he responded. "Her maiden name is Horowitz. You can't get more Jewish than that!" Then he added, "There's no question, I even know Boruch Atoh Ad---noy - Borchu es Hashem..."
Everyone around me became giddy with excitement. I signaled my loyal and devoted Jet Blue manager who was sitting about ten rows behind me. "It's a go!" I cried, "We've got ten!" You would have thought he had just won the lotto, that's how happy he was for me.
The manager invited me to meet with the stewardesses at the back of the plane. He wanted to make sure that the minyan would go smoothly. I went back and told them that there really wasn't much that I needed, and that I did not want to inconvenience them whatsoever. I suggested that they finish serving the beverages before we started so we wouldn't get in their way. Other than that, I told them that the afternoon prayer would take between seven and nine minutes altogether. I also thanked them for all their help and understanding.
The manager offered to let me know once they finished making their rounds through the plane. He would also help me gather my nine volunteers. As soon as I got the word from the manager, I started going down the aisles "picking up" people. (I was hoping I'd remember who they were! I did.) It didn't take very long before a line of Jews was walking behind me towards the back. About three rows before the end of the plane, I noticed a face that I had missed. "He certainly looks Jewish," I thought. "With all these unknown people, maybe it's best to have eleven men, just in case." So I stopped and asked him, "Are you Jewish?"
He said, "Yes, but look, you're holding up the aisle! All these people want to get by!" I said, "These people are my minyan!!" Astonished, he quickly got into the spirit: "Well then, I'm coming too!"
The atmosphere at the back of the plane was electric and ecstatic. The Jewish men were giving each other "high fives." You would have thought they had just won the NBA title! We packed into the tiny galley/kitchen in the back of the plane.
Before the minyan started, I briefed the non-religious members about what we were going to do. From their blank looks, it appeared as if only three of the eleven people had ever participated in a minyan before. While my main objective was to say Kaddish, I didn't want the experience for these Jews to be just a "lip-service." So I took the opportunity to say a quick short word on the concept of prayer.
"Prayer is not restricted to a particular place but can be done anywhere, from the privacy of your own room to a Jet Blue plane that is stuck on the runway," I told them. Then I got to the nitty-gritty. "Since Jet Blue does not, as yet, have 10 prayer books for in-flight services, I will lead the service in Hebrew by heart. The only thing I ask is that you say 'Amen' at the right time."
"How will we know when it's the right time if you're saying it in Hebrew?" one passenger asked logically. It was a good question. "I will give you the thumbs-up when it's time," I responded.
I took my yarmulke from under my hat and handed it to one of the men nearest me. The rest of the men made themselves at home in the kitchen and distributed kipas (napkins) compliments of Jet Blue. The scene was awesome.
A stewardess asked if she could take a picture of us in prayer and I told her I had no problem with that at all. Without further delay, I launched our minyan. Outside, I felt like a million bucks when I gave my first thumbs-up! Inside, I was all choked up in gratitude to Hashem.
The Amens were loud and emphatic. This bunch was definitely not shy or embarrassed of their heritage. Suddenly, I felt like I was back in camp leading bunk competition! The whole plane was buzzing. Napkin covered men shouting amen at each thumbs-up of this ancient-looking Rabbi as a stewardess snapped pictures... It was definitely not the typical scene in a Jet Blue advertisement!
Despite the obvious humor of the situation, the men seemed quite touched, and stayed focused and serious throughout the prayers. I finished the davening quickly and thanked everyone profusely for their time. Then we returned to our seats.
Almost immediately, the pilot announced that the hold was over! In minutes we would be departing for JFK. The feeling was incredible. It was almost as if the minyan was part of the schedule. Clearly, the minyan was part of the schedule that Hashem keeps for us.
After the plane was in the air, one of the Jews from the minyan came over to my aisle seat. With tears in his eyes, he said, "I am totally uninvolved in Judaism and I want to thank you deeply for this awesome reminder of my heritage!" Now it was my turn to be humbled. How one mitzvah leads to the next! What an unbelievable way to start my trip to the Holy Land!
Later, my wife and I discussed the incredible story. We agreed that although this year of Kaddish had a number of novel stories and extremely close calls, this one was on a "plane" by itself!

from ascentofsafed.com

The Jazz Singer

 Yaakov Brawer
There are Chassidim who relish praying on airplanes. Immediately after takeoff, a Chassid of this breed stands up in the aisle (the farther forward, the better), intones a thunderous blessing, and with a great sweeping motion, envelops himself in a tallit, causing nearby passengers to flinch as flying tzitzit miss their eyes by millimeters. He then prays with an ardor rarely seen in shul, blocking the aisle and attracting the attention of everyone on the plane, which, of course, is precisely his intent. He is, after all, a Chassid, charged with the mission to reveal G-d's presence within whatever niche of creation he happens to occupy at any given moment.

Although the airline is under the impression that it has staged the flight in order to make money, and the passengers think that they are on the plane in order to actually arrive somewhere, the Chassid knows better. The Chassid understands that the objective of the flight is to sequester 150 souls 50,000 feet above sea level so that they can watch him pray and learn that there is a G-d in the world. Upon completing his prayers, any Chassid worth his salt works the cabin, entwining Jewish men in tefillin, reminding Jewish women to light Shabbat candles, and exhorting non-Jews to keep the seven Noahide commandments.

Although my admiration for these stalwarts knows no bounds, I am most definitely not one of them. I just do not have the genes. I abhor public display and I can not bear to make a spectacle of myself, no matter how worthy the cause. It goes without saying that I am useless on mitzvah campaigns, except in those instances in which an adult is simply needed to drive the getaway car.

Thus, some years ago, while en route to LA, my stomach knotted up as I realized that I would have to pray on the plane on my return trip. The homeward flight left too early to pray the morning service beforehand and because of the time change, it would not arrive until well past noon. The fact that the flight was scheduled for the Tenth of Tevet, a fast day on which the morning service is unusually protracted, didn't help. While pondering my predicament, I recalled that, when our kids were small, my wife always asked for the bulkhead seats when we traveled. As I remembered, the bulkheads were partitions that separated the last five or so rows of seats from the rest of the plane. I looked down the aisle and confirmed that there were indeed panels partially isolating the back end of the cabin, just as I had remembered. If I could secure a seat immediately behind a panel for the return flight, I could stand facing this partition and pray in relative privacy. Such an arrangement was not ideal, but I could live with it, and I began to relax.

Immediately upon my arrival in LA I rushed to the ticket counter and procured a boarding pass for a bulkhead seat for my homeward flight. Thus assured of a reasonable place to daven, I left for the city with a light heart.

When I arrived at the departure gate for my return flight, I glanced at my precious ticket to semi-invisibility and noted, with some unease, that the seat number seemed quite low for a position at the back of the plane. My uneasiness ballooned into anxiety when I caught a glimpse of the plane. It was much larger than the one on which I had arrived and it had an upper deck. I approached the agent at the gate who examined my boarding pass and assured me that I did indeed have a bulkhead seat. However, when I boarded the plane and showed my pass to the flight attendant, she indicated a seat right at the doorway, facing the cavernous entry to the plane. I stared at her in disbelief and explained to her that I had been assigned a bulkhead seat. Just so, she replied, and pointed to the same seat. It began to dawn on me that the airline personnel and I did not speak the same language. Another brief exchange with the attendant set me straight. The "bulkhead", as the term applied to this particular aircraft, was nothing other then the door to the plane, behind which were endless rows of seats all facing forward.

My prayer offering that morning would be graced by a captive audience of about 300 people. Pavarotti could have wished for no better.

The plane took off and soon the captain switched off the seatbelt sign indicating that we had reached our cruising altitude. The moment of truth had arrived, and I had no choice but to pray as best I could. As I stood up and donned tallit and tefillin, I soon discovered that the doorway area afforded plenty of space in which to stand and I found that if I positioned myself hard by the door, I was visible only to a few forward rows. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. However, the revelation that it would be so bad after all was not long in coming.

Just as I finished Baruch Sh'amar, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to confront two very impatient flight attendants standing by a mammoth mobile bar. "Sir, you can't do that here. This is the bar area".

"See here young lady, it so happens that I am a servant of G-d and a Chassid of the great and holy Rebbe of Lubavitch, and I intend to sanctify this spot by reciting my morning prayers here. So take yourself and your bar elsewhere." This is precisely what I did not say. In fact I didn't say anything because I was between Baruch Sh'amar and Yishtabach, an interval in which speech is not permitted. I couldn't have spoken in any case because my stomach had lurched up against my diaphragm, and I began to wheeze and hyperventilate. I raised my eyebrows, which had become decorated with fine beads of sweat, and shrugged hoping that the attendants would understand this gesture as an appeal for sympathy, help and understanding.

Unfortunately, they were unreceptive. They were clearly annoyed that this apparition from the biblical era had not only commandeered their bar area, but wouldn't even speak to them. "Sir, you can do whatever you are doing at the back of the cabin near the rear galley."

So there was a place at the back of the plane where I could do whatever I do. A sense of relief surged through my distraught brain, and my stomach let go of my diaphragm, allowing me to take a couple of normal breaths. I nodded vigorously at the flight attendants, utilizing the opportunity to shake a drop of perspiration from the tip of my nose, and I began untying the strap of my tefillin in preparation for my escape to the refuge at the back of the plane.

Suddenly I froze with the dread realization that Providence was not about to let me off so easily. This was simply one of those shlock disaster-movie interludes, the moment of false hope, in which the poor suckers about to be decimated by an inevitable and inescapable catastrophe are deluded into believing that salvation is at hand.

I would remove my tallit and tefillin and walk to the rear of the cabin, but what then? Did I need to recite a blessing upon re-strapping the tefillin or not? Did a walk down the aisle of the aircraft imply hesech hadaat (loss of conscious attention from the tefillin)? If it did, then a blessing was required. If not, and I recited the blessing on the tefillin, it would be "a blessing in vain" - a severe halachic prohibition.. Although instinctively I felt that a blessing was unnecessary, I wasn't really sure. Just two weeks before I had listened in on a complicated debate on just this subject at the Yeshivah, and the situation was far from clear. What should I do? My frenzied cogitations were cut short by the flight attendants, now, openly hostile, who insisted that I must move at once.

There was no way out. I picked up my tallit bag, took my prayer book and walked the full length of the plane, resplendent in tallit and tefillin. My trek down the aisle electrified the entire cabin. "What the...?" "Mommy, what's that ?" "Hey look Lucy, Moses is back" "Bizarre, man" "What's that box on his head?" From the corner of my eye, I caught images of bewilderment, shock, and amusement. As for me, the death of a thousand cuts would have been preferable. Somehow I made it to the semi-secluded haven at the back of the cabin and tried to collect myself. I started to daven but the only prayerful thought that I could muster was a fervent hope that the rear emergency door would blow open, and I would be mercifully sucked out of the aircraft.

This would never do. I had to pull myself together and pray properly. After all, the brain, by virtue of its innate superiority, rules the heart, right? I thought of Reb Mendel Futerfas (of blessed memory), who managed to perform mitzvot and daven with zeal in a Siberian labor camp surrounded by the dregs of humanity. I reminded myself of the parable in Tanya of the "heathen" whose efforts to distract a Jew from praying were really a Divine gift, intended to elicit from the afflicted individual hidden spiritual strengths. I told myself that this episode presented a golden opportunity to transcend my own personal limitations, and that I should be overjoyed. None of it worked. The emotional turbulence and the effects of caffeine withdrawal as a result of the fast had dissipated whatever inner resources I might have had. My brain, despite its vaunted innate superiority, did not rule my heart, nor, for that matter, any other part of me. I recited the prayers like a zombie and removed my tefillin and tallit. I cringed at the thought of walking back up the aisle to my seat, and I briefly considered crawling, until I realized that everyone would be able to see me anyway.

I hunched my shoulders, stared at the floor and quickly proceeded up the aisle. The cabin was quiet and fairly dark. It was obvious that the in-flight movie had begun. I glanced up at the movie screen and the marvel that met my eyes stopped me dead in my tracks. There on the screen were Jews, dozens of them, all wearing tallit and tefillin, and all davening. I couldn't get over it. I stood and watched until this extraordinary tableau faded to another scene, and I then continued up the aisle. The movie, which as I later discovered was "The Jazz Singer", had also apparently made quite an impression on the other passengers.

As I made my way, I attracted considerable attention, but it was of a totally different kind than that which I had received an hour earlier. The looks were those of admiration and respect. People nodded knowingly to each other and smiled. I saw one woman pointing to me and explaining something to her small child. People in aisle seats wished me good morning and one man even stood up. When I arrived at my place the erstwhile testy flight attendants deferentially inquired after my comfort.
I was aglow with wonder, gratification, and thankfulness. I was also more than a little ashamed of myself. The Almighty did not produce and direct this magnificently orchestrated comedy of errors only in order to apprise 300 people of His eternal and all-encompassing presence. It seems that the 301st passenger, namely myself, was also in need of some serious instruction in this ultimate truth.
I thought of the Kotsker Rebbe. When he was a child someone jokingly told him "Mendel, I will give you a penny if you tell me where G-d is". The little boy answered "I will give you two if you tell me where He is not."

Dr. Yaakov Brawer is Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology at McGill University Faculty of Medicine. He is the author of two books of Chassidic philosophy, Something From Nothing and Eyes That See.

from ascentofsafed.com