Monday, 10 December 2012

The Amora Rav

Rav was one of the first generation rabbis of the Amoraim - the Sages responsible for the Gemara. He, together with Shmuel (as well as Rabbi Yochanan in the next generation who was also a student of his) was of the greatest of the Rabbis of this period. He died in the year 246. His name was actually Abba (Arika) - but was given the title "Rav" in Bavel, where he lived - much like Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the editor of the Mishnah was given the title "Rebbi" - as a means of respect. Some say that wherever the Gemara says "והאמר מר" - "But didn't the master say" that this is none other than Rav himself.

He ascended to Eretz Yisrael to learn from Rabbi Chiya who was also his uncle and his main teacher! Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi was also his main teacher! It was he who called Rebbi "Rabbeinu HaKadosh", "Our holy Rabbi". When he returned to Bavel, he would send his questions to Rebbi who lived in Eretz Yisrael. He returned later to Eretz Yisrael and supposedly stayed there until the death of Rebbi. He returned to Bavel in the year 218 and neither Shmuel nor the other Chachamim had heard of him! This would change soon as Shmuel would become a good friend of his! Never forget that while the opinions of these great Sages may differ, they were most often the best of friends! One of the greatest levels one can achieve in learning Talmud is to be able to understand the value of each opinion and the greatness which it presents in teaching us the Halacha as we need to follow it, each person, in every generation!

Rav was even greater than Shmuel who humbled himself to Rav. He formed a Yeshiva in Sura while Shmuel formed his Yeshiva in Nehardeah. His Yeshiva remained for some 800 years until the period of the Geonim. He had thousands of students. Just as there are the famous discussions between Ravina and Rav Ashi, so too is the Gemara filled with the discussions (arguments!) between Rav and Shmuel. His students called him "Rabbeinu HaGadol" - our Great Rabbi. In matters of ritual law, the Halacha follows Rav. In matters of money law, the Halacha follows Shmuel.

When coming to Bavel, Rav was extremely poor having practically nothing to eat! He did however become rich! He taught his son Chiya. 

He died at an advanced age leaving behind thousands of mourners in Bavel.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Lights: The Miracle of Chanukah (Animation)

Rabbi Yochanan - the Author of the Jerusalem Talmud


The Sages of the Gemara are known as Amoraim because they would "say" the teachings that they had learnt over, to the next generation.

On today's Daf of Talmud for the day - Shabbat Daf 67, the great Amora - Rabbi Yochanan is mentioned. His father died before he was born and his mother shortly thereafter. He was raised by his grandfather. He was just 15 years old when the editor of the Talmud Bavli - Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi died. He was a large man (with thick eyebrows!) and handsome! His greatness as a Torah scholar was second only to Rav and Shmuel. He moved to Tiveria (Tiberius) where he composed the Talmud Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud).

He is well known for his relationship with his brother-in-law Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish (Reish Lakish) - the head of a gang of robbers! Although they met each other by a river as Reish Lakish jumped over it, and although seemingly so unlike each other, they became so close to each other that Rabbi Yochanan was not able to cope with life after his brother-in-law (and Chavrusa - learning partner) died and Rabbi Yochanan too died shortly thereafter.

Being handsome and a learned scholar, he would sit outside the women's Mikvah as the women returned from immersing. As it is vital that women leaving the Mikvah see only pure and good sites upon exiting, he would sit nearby allowing them to glance at him as they left in order to have the image of a great Torah scholar imprinted in them. In this way, he gave them the opportunity to consider the importance of bearing children who would become learned in Torah and fearful of Heaven.

He taught that Halacha follows the Stam Mishnah (which is in fact the opinion of Rabbi Meir.) He never left the Land of Israel his entire life!

Friday, 12 October 2012

Life is Like a Cup of Coffee (Video)





A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor. 

Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite - telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said: "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups have been taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. 

In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. 

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in society are the cups. 

They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee. 

Savor the coffee, not the cups! 

The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make the best of everything. 

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly.

~ Author unknown

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Priorities in Life - An Animated Inspirational Story


What are your priorities in life? Take some time to write them down before watching the wonderful video below. Then enjoy these words of wisdom that may help place things in a different perspective!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Rock in the Road - a Video Animation about the Most Important Values in Life

What are your most important values in life? Do you ever stop to really consider what counts? Or perhaps you don't even notice when there's a rock in the road! Others do though...

 
Rock in the Road from SVAD Animation on Vimeo.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Interview With God (Poem and Video)




I dreamed I had an interview with God.

“So you would like to interview me?” God asked.
“If you have the time” I said.
God smiled. “My time is eternity.”
“What questions do you have in mind for me?”

“What surprises you most about humankind?”
God answered...

“That they get bored with childhood,
they rush to grow up, and then
long to be children again.”

“That they lose their health to make money...
and then lose their money to restore their health.”

“That by thinking anxiously about the future,
they forget the present,
such that they live in neither
the present nor the future.”

"That they live as if they will never die,
and die as though they had never lived.”

God’s hand took mine
and we were silent for a while.

And then I asked...
“As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons
you want your children to learn?”

“To learn they cannot make anyone
love them. All they can do
is let themselves be loved.”

“To learn that it is not good
to compare themselves to others.”

“To learn to forgive
by practicing forgiveness.”

“To learn that it only takes a few seconds
to open profound wounds in those they love,
and it can take many years to heal them.”

“To learn that a rich person
is not one who has the most,
but is one who needs the least.”

“To learn that there are people
who love them dearly,
but simply have not yet learned
how to express or show their feelings.”

“To learn that two people can
look at the same thing
and see it differently.”

“To learn that it is not enough that they
forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves.”

"Thank you for your time," I said humbly.

"Is there anything else
you would like your children to know?"
God smiled and said,
“Just know that I am here... always.”

Author Unknown

Friday, 5 October 2012

Don't Quit (Poem and Video)



When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow--
You may succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor's cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out--
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit--
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

- Author unknown

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The A-Z of Friendship

During this special period of time, a post to think about the value of relationships and what a true friend really is. Of course, it's not just finding the person who meets these qualities that counts. It's about being the person who others see as a true friend. This is what we all need - more than ever - now!


A Friend…

(A)ccepts you as you are
(B)elieves in "you"
(C)alls you just to say "Hi"
(D)oesn't give up on you
(E)nvisions the whole of you (even the unfinished parts)
(F)orgives your mistakes
(G)ives unconditionally
(H)elps you
(I)nvites you over
(J)ust wants to "be" with you
(K)eeps you close at heart
(L)oves you for who you are
(M)akes a difference in your life
(N)ever judges
(O)ffers support
(P)icks you up
(Q)uiets your fears
(R)aises your spirits
(S)ays nice things about you
(T)ells you the truth when you need to hear it
(U)nderstands you
(V)alues you
(W)alks beside you
(X)-plains things you don't understand
(Y)ields to your loving touch
(Z)eros out your worries / (Z)aps you back to reality!


A Friend is a Treasure
by Jean Kyler McManus

A friend is someone we turn to,
When our spirits need a lift,
A friend is someone we treasure,
For true friendship is a gift.

A friend is someone we laugh with,
Over little personal things,
A friend is someone we're serious with,
In facing whatever life brings.

A friend is someone who fills our lives,
With beauty and joy and grace.
And makes the world that we live in
A better and happier place!


Friday, 21 September 2012

Ten Days of Repentance - Math Mistake?


We're right in the middle of the "Ten Days of Repentance." But what are the days all about, and why do we say there are ten? It seems that the days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur should be the "Day of Repentance." But if so, there will no longer be ten days in total! The Lubavitcher Rebbe shares with us what it's really all about.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Yahrtzeit Today: 4 Tishrei - The Chayei Adam - Rabbi Avraham Danzig


The 4th Tishrei is the Yahrtzeit of Rabbi Avraham Danzig (1748-1820). He is also called simply "The Chayei Adam" after the name of the book he wrote. It is a complete Halachic work teaching the laws of daily life - covering the Orach Chayim section of the Shulchan Aruch. It's language is a flowing and easily understandable Hebrew and the Halachos are arranged beautifully for anyone entering the world of Jewish law. It is "a must" in terms of necessary works to learn when it comes to understanding Halacha properly and is quoted frequently in the Chofetz Chaim's Mishna Berura. It is also one of the three pillar works used by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried when it came to his authoring the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch.

In addition to the Chayei Adam, Rabbi Danzig also wrote the Chochmat Adam, a Halachic work clarifying the laws from the Yoreh Deah section of Halacha, including the laws of Niddah and the Laws of Interest. It is reported that the Chatam Sofer told his son that when unable to access the regular Shulchan Aruch, he could rule from the Chochmat Adam! It is also quoted by the Chofetz Chaim as being a book to consult for the Laws of Interest when a regular Shulchan Aruch is not available. (In those days, not every Jewish home had access to the plethora of books available to us day - all so readily accessible!)

He is well known from his Tefilla Zaka prayer recited on Erev Yom Kippur and his lengthy detailed explanation for the different sins which are recited during Viduy (confession.)

A daily learning schedule can be obtained from Reb Eliyahu for those wishing to complete the entire Chayei Adam within one year! With just a few pages of learning each day, the goal is easily attainable!

For more about Rabbi Avraham Danzig see the Wikipedia.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Echoes of a Shofar (Video Clip)

Just after Rosh HaShanah we can think about what the Shofar meant for us yesterday. But there's still another time we blow it... at the end of Yom Kippur - just one final blast! This is the Shofar blast these men in the video speak about. Enjoy!


Friday, 7 September 2012

Our New Magazine - "Yibaneh Yerushalayim" (Animated Video about It!)


You too can be a part of it! Advertise, share a quality article, sponsor someone else to write (and support those living in Israel,) or assist us to be able to do even more! Enjoy the video!


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

How to Tie Your Own Tzitzit - An Instructional Video Guide


This week's Parsha Ki Teitzei includes the Mitzvah of wearing Tzitzit on a four cornered garment (Deuteronomy 22:12) - though it's not the verse we recite on a daily basis. Each day - morning and evening, we recite the Kriat Shema which includes a fuller description of the Mitzvah (Numbers 15:37-41.) Many wear Tzitzit, but have no idea how to make them. Others may not even be aware of the Mitzvah. This post is here to share how one can take part in making one's own Tzitzit!!! Enjoy, make your own, and wear them knowing that every moment you have them on you are performing one of the 613 Mitzvot of the Torah! 

For more information, check out the Wikipedia entry for Tzitzit!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Special Interview: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

For those able to start the new cycle of Day Yomi learning today - BeHatzlacha! Every word is an achievement. Out Sages teach us this is why the first word of every Masechet (tractate) is written in a beautiful box - adorned all on its own! Each word is a jewel in itself. There may be 2711 Dapim (double sided pages) to go through or 5422 single pages filled with hundreds of words on each - but this does not detract from the value of the achievement of understanding every single word. Seeing it as a world to itself!

Rabbi Steinsaltz has just begun his latest project of translating the entire Talmud into English. It's much more than that though, with the pages being beautifully adorned with insights, commentaries, biographies, colour photos, practical Halacha and much more! If you're looking for an ultimate learning partner - when you can't learn in person - you'll find it in his latest work. You can find out more about his English Talmud by visiting Artscroll or Koren Talmud Bavli - or both?

Enjoy the interview below as Rabbi Steinsaltz tells us more about all his projects and the specialness of learning the entire Talmud:

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Learn the Basics about Talmud Through These Animated Videos

Are you getting ready for the new Daf Yomi cycle? Not sure what it's about? It's about learning a page of Talmud every day - for some 7 and a half years... and turning around to say you've been through it all! Learning is not enough - as "Action is the Main Thing!" - but still it's a great goal to strive for of course. If you're new to it all, you may be wondering what exactly the Talmud is in the first instance! Once that's clear, you may want to understand a little about how it all works and how to get a start in learning it. For those not yet familiar with learning Talmud, the task can look daunting! Before even understanding the language, you might want to familiarise yourself with books that speak about how it came about, who wrote it and what you might find in it... and only then actually venture into learning it!

The videos found at www.animatedtalmud.com are a great way to get started in learning the basics in a fun way. There's much more to learn - of course - but getting a visual show of how it all fits is a great way to get started! Here's the first of the videos for you to sample. Then head over to the site to watch the remainder - and make a start into learning just about everything in life - as you swim through the sea of the Talmud!


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Yibaneh Yerushalayim - Our Magazine - Edition 2 - Now Out & FREE!


Our second edition of our new magazine "Yibaneh Yerushalayim" is currently out! It's issued FREE and currently distributed to a variety of neighbourhoods inside Jerusalem, Beitar Illit, Efrat and other areas. It's delivered to private mailboxes, a variety of stores -  including major book stores. And of course, it's available to everyone who is seriously interested in the magazine but who lives outside of Israel. We have just a few hard copies available, but for those wishing for a taste, an online version is available too.

So what exactly is it all about?! It's our way of sharing with others - in print form (finally!) a little more about our activities. You'll get to find out more about our Bayit Chadash Gemach - a special fund to assist orphans to build their own homes when they marry, by donating brand new items. Donors will never be turned down - so long as they have brand new items, money or time to give over. These items are presented to the couple shortly before their marriage giving them the opportunity to select for themselves those things they would really appreciate!

In our magazine, you'll find letters of thanks from those we've helped. You'll find stories from volunteers who help us in making these Simchas even more joyous. In our first edition, a dancer shares her joys at donating her time and talents to a couple who don't have enough guests to make the Simcha what it needs to be! In our current edition, there's a story from a make-up artist who gives of her time to bring even more colour to the face of a bride - all at no cost to the couple!

You'll read about a miracle story of a family who donated to us and what happened just a couple of weeks after their donating! 

That's not all! You'll get to read some wonderful articles about some of the other work we're doing. We're all about Shidduchim, about making marriages happy and by no means any less important, teaching the laws of Taharat HaMishpacha - Family Purity. Check in with Rabbi Fishel Jacobs' (Kfar Chabad) to find out what a real marriage is all about. Read a story about Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and a message we should all surely take to heart!

Our magazine is there for you! Most of all, we thank our advertisers who help us to pay for the costs of the magazine. They do a great job of assisting us to be able to spread Yiddishkeit in all its beauty. They help us to spread the beautiful values of a kosher Jewish marriage - and ultimately to help us help even more orphans in true need. We're not just a magazine about advertising others' products. Those that advertise receive double reward. They receive the rewards of clients who will turn to them - and they receive the rewards of knowing they've brought Yiddishkeit, kindness and goodness to so many in need! 

Of course - you can be a part of it too! Email Eliyahu directly to find out more!


Monday, 25 June 2012

Artscroll or Koren Talmud Bavli - or Both?!

What an amazing generation we are living in! For those unable to study Gemara from the original texts for lack of not being able to read, to understand (Hebrew/Aramaic) or being unable to understand the concepts, there are now two revolutionary ways to learn. Artscroll are just about to release their complete English translation of the Talmud onto digital format allowing one to interact with the page in a variety of ways - and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz is currently launching his first complete translation with explanation of his already outstanding Hebrew edition. The new English edition looks amazing!

Gemara is becoming easier to learn and follow than ever before and we all have the opportunity to obtain these news works (money allowing!) and begin our learning for the new Daf HaYomi cycle beginning shortly. So which one is best for you?! Both!  Ben Bag Bag (Pirkei Avot 5:21) teaches, "Learn it and learn it, for everything is in it! Look deeply into it! Grow old and grey over it, and do not stir from it, for there is nothing more edifying for you than it." Ben Zoma (Pirkei Avot 4:1) teaches, "Who is wise? One who learns from everyone!" The more one learns - and from the more who one can learn from -the better!

These two videos show just how beautiful both these editions are. I'd get them both... if I could afford them!

TALMUD BAVLI - KOREN EDITION




For a more detailed article sharing the differences between the Artscroll Schottenstein Talmud edition and Koren edition, see Englishing the Talmud

Monday, 18 June 2012

Cleaning Lady Syndrome - Don't Ever Get Caught With It!



Cleaning Lady Syndrome? Heard of it before? I've certainly seen it around, but only after reading a Jewish publication recently (see below) did I realise just how far out we've gone. Far out - in doing whatever we can to make sure others - no matter how hard they work - are not entitled to live.

In Israel, when all else fails, and one is unable to get a job - even working in something one is well qualified for - one often resorts to the norm of the Israel economy. One becomes a Cleaning Lady (even if one is a man!) There's a general rule about minimum wage (a concept that teaches that legally one should pay an amount equal to an accepted standard - instituted by a group of people who nobody actually ever knows about. This often entitles bosses to make large profits while the employee must work daily for - literally - his bread.) 

Then there's a broader concept of the individual who wants to progress. Call it Capitalism! The minimum wage - around 20-22 Shekels per hour currently (allowing for a full-time job income of around 4000 Shekel) allows one the opportunity to rent a one bedroom apartment and pay one's taxes. It doesn't allow for much more - and in fact often puts one in debt - even before eating - one's bread!

The Cleaning Lady has moved up a level in society and "demands" almost double the minimum wage (apparently an accepted amount by most people). Should she have the opportunity to work 6 days a week - 8 hours a day (all practically impossible - as nobody is actually able to work this way in the Cleaning Lady industry) - she would come out with sufficient money to rent her apartment, pay her taxes and purchase the basic food she needs to live. If lucky enough - she'd even be able to afford bus fare to get to work and back!

Most people never consider the reality of this. We've come to live in a society where our paying others is frowned upon for any honest work that the other does. It's become a society where we take as much as we can at the expense of the other - who must surely pull their weight in giving something to the world. It's a society where we feel the other must be put in their place as to their lowliness - at the advantage of the exploitative employer who may demand practically anything from the employee - all for the amount of a piece of bread. There are indeed known organisations who hire rabbinical teachers to teach at their "offices" without payment. Sure there is money - but those attending pay the organisation who receive the wealth for themselves while the teacher is given the "honour" to teach for them. Volunteer organisations abound - with "employers" demanding work from the volunteer for no pay at all - just for the privilege of being able to tell others that they "have a job!"

The letter below - sent in to a widely circulated magazine in Israel - was one that truly showed its colours. I wondered why the publisher had chosen to publish it, and wondered if they actually agreed with it's thoughts. Either way - that's their decision, because we live in a free society. A society that is entitled to express itself practically any way it chooses. I guess the hardest part in all this, is working out - that if indeed we do live in a society that allows one to express oneself as one wishes to, how come we are not entitled to charge honestly for the work we do (by the very people who expect the right to free-speech?!)

It's not the Torah approach to life - which encourages a healthy lifestyle of paying honestly for work done. The Torah demands not just giving charity, nor helping one's fellow when they are in dire straits. It demands respecting the other for the efforts they put in to doing a hard and honest job. Should they require money to live, or dare it be requiring money to pay for bus fare - shouldn't we at least be prepared to accept the basic necessities of the other?! Or should we simply get together and force others to kneel at our every request - so that we may live as we wish to - with our own wealth, while the other be brought down to the lowest levels of life - and heaven forbid, give up on life altogether due to a lack of money just to live...

The "Cleaning Lady" in Israel is often a very educated person (many times a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant or even occupational therapist!) Not only are they to be respected for their education and their other contributions to society - they are too be thoroughly appreciated for the tremendous effort they go to (back breaking - very often) of keeping our homes clean when we need that time for ourselves to attend to our own lives. What a shame the writer below could never appreciate this!

The comments below leave a lot to be desired. They reflect this most sick condition in our society - The Cleaning Lady Syndrome. It's not a syndrome the Cleaning Lady has - it's a sickness very often found in the head of the employer!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Mishnah Learning for a Special Soul - Be a Part of It

Dear Friends

If you have been following this blog or my web site Lovingkindness.co, you will know that my brother passed away tragically at the young age of just 44. I was not able to travel to South Africa for the funeral which will be tomorrow, though the response from those who tried helping make it possible was incredible! I cannot thanks these special individuals enough. We have instead decided to work on the project of setting up a Torah-lending library in the merit of Dov Daniel ben Zelig Pinchas, Bli Neder and hope to raise money for this wonderful cause.

Meanwhile, we have already begun learning Mishnayot in my brother's memory. As is known, it is a great merit for the soul to have the entire Shas Mishnayot learned on their behalf especially during the Shloshim mourning period (the 30 days from the date of the funeral.) As the word Mishna - משנה - and Neshama (soul) - נשמה share the same letters, we are taught that it is this very learning that brings much comfort to the soul that has left this world as it ascends to its final place of Menucha - rest. The response to this project has already been incredible, though we have not yet reached the complete target of learning through the entire Shas.

This is an invitation and a request to all those wishing to be a part of this project to "tune-in" to the page: Learning Mishnayot for Dov Daniel ben Zelig Pinchas A"H - and ask you to select a tractate that has not yet been selected and to begin learning it either today or tomorrow and to complete it in its entirety by the end of the 30 day period (27 Iyar last day of learning.)

The soul has certainly suffered enough already having to wait for burial for so long and your being a part of the group involved in Mishna learning is sure to be a great comfort for it.

Thanking you all in advance for reading the page and becoming a part of this group - bringing comfort to this soul.

Eliyahu

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Their Table Will be Leaning This Pesach... Together With Some Broken Dishes



Pesach is always a busy time for everybody. Some are making sure they'll have enough food to entertain hundreds of guests all week round. Others have just finished building a complete new "Pesach Kitchen". Others - not so lucky, have only been able to purchase a new dishwasher to make the week a little easier.

But then there are yet others, who don't have a proper table to eat on. Together with an assortment of dishes that are smashed, their landlord's rickety table gave in (just after being "fixed") together with the once in-good-condition dishes.

It's not a problem for the landlord. When the time is right, he'll sort out his table and claim his apartment back. But for the family that lives inside, they are left wondering if their leaning on Pesach will actually fulfill the obligation - when with their leaning on the already leaning table, they will actually be sitting straight up! Or perhaps they can fulfill their obligation by simply sitting up - as they'll definitely be leaning!

Their table will well be fulfilling its obligation to lean this Pesach, and if broken has anything to do with exile - their dishes are well on their way to the start! But what will be for them during Pesach - let alone the first night Seder? What will be for them living in a home with a broken table until the next Pesach? They certainly cannot place any dishes on an already leaning table. They'll just slide off and break - again!

Pesach is a time to reconsider what each of us actually has - and to consider that there are still many that don't. Giving at this time of the year can make the difference to the one receiving - but it also makes a difference to the one giving. Their giving acknowledges their feelings that redemption and freedom are and should be important for all of us. There is no monopoly for one Jewish family to be "free" while another must do with out. 

Here is you chance to make the difference for a family in great need. They don't have their own basic furniture - but years after marriage - still make use of old and broken furniture belonging to a landlord - who sits this Pesach in his own home - with the freedom he has been blessed with. This family could never dream of beginning to own their own furniture - let alone their own home.

Make a difference in their lives this Pesach - at least to give them the opportunity to own their own table and appropriate chairs. Make a generous donation to assist them and help them to get onto their feet - this Pesach - this year!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Yibaneh Yerushalayim - Launch Edition of our Magazine!!!


The "Yibaneh Yerushalayim" - "May Jerusalem be Rebuilt" magazine is out, and will be available in various stores in and around Jerusalem from today! It will also be distributed to select post boxes, shuls and seminaries. The magazine is absolutely FREE! If you'd like some of these colourful magazines dropped off in your store for distribution to your customers, please do contact us TODAY!

What's it all about?!

Our magazine is focused on sharing the good news we have about our Bayit Chadash project. It's a project that assists orphans to celebrate their marriage with a selection of brand new gifts to begin their new home in dignity! You'll read a letter from a couple we recently helped. You'll find out how much pleasure those volunteering to help us receive from giving to those who'll truly appreciate it! You'll get some great tips about enhancing your marriage. You'll find the best service providers for all things marriage-wise - from Chatan and Kallah teachers, to Shadchanim and much more! You'll find service providers offering you specials provided you take the magazine in to them to show them that you heard about them from us!

Our first issue is just the start - and we intend to expand it to include authoritative articles on a variety of marriage and Shidduch related issues.

You're invited to advertise in the magazine at some awesome special rates - so make sure to get your advert into our next edition!


DON'T MISS THIS ISSUE - AND DO BE IN TOUCH.
WE'D LOVE TO PUBLISH YOUR FEEDBACK IN OUR NEXT EDITION!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Catharsis: The Story of a Survivor's Art: Irving Belfer (Video Clip)

Irving Belfer died January 20 2012 at the age of 97. His life was by all accounts a tragic one having lost his wife and 4 year old son in the holocaust. He himself required 5 years of healing in hospital after those tragic years. He lost his father and four of his siblings, who were all killed in the holocaust too. He was 28 years old at the time of the holocaust making him over 40 by the time he had managed to leave the hospital. He married again and had a daughter - and remained married for 48 years! He left behind two sons - one a rabbi, and 2 great-grandchildren. What a remarkable man and someone who we can all learn from - especially when we encounter our own difficulties, tragedies and terrifying moments in life. Some other incredible people we can learn from are Alice Sommer-Herz and the Klausenberg Rebbe

Isn't it incredible what so many can achieve - even in the face of such tragedy?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The 39 Melachot - Forbidden "Work" Activities on Shabbat - Video

This is one of the most brilliant, wonderful videos I have seen teaching very visually the 39 categories of forbidden "labour" activities on Shabbat. Now you can get to see exactly how they are done for real! Much success in mastering them all!!!

  

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Tu B'Shevat: Become an Artist! Become a Circle Drawer Today!


!!!ט"ו בשבט הגיע חג האילנות
Tu B'Shevat has arrived - the Festival of the Trees!!!

Man is a tree of the field (Deuteronomy 20:19) Man and trees are very much interlinked. It was through a tree that man entered a new phase of life as he was sent out of the Garden of Eden. At the same time - one of the most mystical sets of books written - the Etz Chayim by the holy Arizal - brings life to those who understand its mysteries!

There's much to think about regarding the value of a tree - and the value of another human being. As we see the beautiful trees of the field, let us be reminded of the beauty of others. As we value the importance of water to trees so that they bear fruit for us, so too may we value our giving to others so that they too bear fruits for all others to enjoy too.

Enjoy this delightful video clip of a famous teaching in Masechet Taanit. Become a circle drawer today. Become a Choni. Just be sure to bring happiness and goodness to all those "trees" in need of the waters you may be able to provide.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

10 Shevat - Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe Rayatz



This evening and tomorrow the tenth of Shevat mark the Yahrtzeit of the Rebbe Rayatz - Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe (1880-1950 - 10 Shevat). It was also the day on which Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneersohn took over the leadership of Chabad one year later (1951) - becoming the 7th Lubavitcher Rebbe.



In honour of this special day, four wonderful video clips are presented for your viewing. The first contains parts of the first Maamar that the 7th Rebbe began his formal Nesiut (leadership) of Chabad with. It's theme? All sevens are special! His leadership extends through our generation - the 7th generation - a special one that must do everything it can to bring the Shechina (Divine Presence) into this world "below."

Follow the videos and notice how the Rebbe maintained this theme throughout his leadership. It was an all encompassing theme of our mission in this world - one that cannot be separated from the Torah's essence - to make this world into a dwelling place for G-d. To look around and see the garden - with all its beauty. To see the people as the beautiful trees that make up the garden. To look after the trees, and to do whatever is necessary - no matter how long it takes - to nurture each tree with what it needs, so that it grows to enhance the garden belonging to G-d.


The Mystical Meaning of the Number 7



Excerpt: Maamar Basi LeGani 1972



Realizing the Potential of the Jew



A Walk in The Rebbe's Garden




For more about the Rebbe Rayatz,

Monday, 30 January 2012

How Easy it is To Forget ( +Video Clip)



We're living in tough times. It seems like everyone today is stressed. How many of us are really looking out for others and do we really care? Facebook, Twitter and the variety of social networking tools have become the ultimate places to show just how much we "care"! Those who take these utilities and tools seriously will probably imagine that everyone is doing just great! We're all wealthy, happy and blessed!

Yet the other side stands out only too clearly. Peek in just a little more at the messages interspersed with such apparent positivity, and you'll also find out the disdain that so many have against so many others. And for the lack of "dislike" buttons, you'll also see how so many people actually like the suffering of others. It seems crazy! On the one hand - such positivity. On the other, such anger, such disillusionment, such disgust at so many.

Real life is not that much different. When the baby is born - most everyone is overjoyed with the new "bundle" in the family. A first crawl brings with it such happiness... a first word (Da da, Ma ma) such elation to the parents... First steps bring a joy like no other. There's the first day at school. And then - those special moments life is filled with. But "baby" doesn't last that long, and before long, he's turned into "adolescent" - let alone "adult" all of his own. Many parents change their tune on seeing the "monster" they've brought into the world. What ever happened?!

Friendships are not much different in the way they play out. They too are filled with similar such stages of happiness and glee - which, with time seems to deteriorate into hatred for many - sadly. It even happens with acquaintanceship too. There's good to everyone. There's always difficulties and challenges to relationships. The causes can be anything from money (and total disrespect to the one found lacking) to a change in looks, to a change in life approaches (let alone belief in G-d!) 

Don't ever forget though, we've all been babies. And we've all loved the "babies" of the relationships we've made with others. Don't ever forget, that person who may well be getting on your nerves today, was someone you truly once loved, even delighted in - in those days gone by!

Things change fast, and before one knows it, the terrifying events that one would never expect to another can actually happen in just a moment - changing life itself. It seems then how many regret their previous behaviour of hatred against the other. Suddenly it seems, the "baby" images return. Actually, they never left, they were always there. It's just that sometimes we forget...

Never allow life to cause you to forget what's important. Never allow life to distract you from the wonderful relationships you do have and may have had from many many years ago - even a lifetime itself. It's really not worth it. There is so much good out there. Don't wait, until it's too late... Never forget. Always remember - and let that image remain with you whenever you are around that person you feel so antagonistic with today... No matter if husband or wife, brother or sister, father or mother, son or daughter, friend or even just another human being whom you bump into... Don't forget just how quickly things can change. Don't forget - how you may just feel then. Don't ever let life become "too late..." for anybody.

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Baba's Promise


This article originally appeared
The premier weekly magazine for the Jewish Family.
Click Here to receive Mishpacha’s free weekly newsletter.
Click Here  here for subscription information.



It’s not every day that a dentist from Boro Park becomes a close follower and confidant of a member of the distinguished Abuchatzeira dynasty, but that is what happened to Dr. Gedaliah Mordechai Stern. In a riveting conversation, Dr. Stern shares some of his memorable encounters with the mystic known to the world as “Baba Elazar”

By  Meir Wolfson

He was an All-American Boy, or at least the Jewish version thereof. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Gedaliah Mordechai Stern fulfilled the dream of the average Jewish mother of his time by becoming, “Mein zin, der dokter — my son, the doctor,” a dental surgeon specializing in dental implants.

Fast-forward 30 years. The boy who grew up on sewer-to-sewer stickball, a diehard fan of the local professional sports teams, has grown into a world expert in dental implants. He is listed in The Legends of Implant Dentistry and, more importantly, merits through his practice to develop close relationships with many leading gedolim of our day. 

The sea change, says Dr. Stern, can be traced back into the inner chamber of one of the most mysterious gedolim of our time, who considered Dr. Gedaliah Mordechai Stern one of his closest confidants: Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira ztz”l of Beer Sheva, whose recent tragic passing shocked the world.

Only One Recommendation

Middle age has nothing on Dr. Stern, who agreed to share the story of his life and his relationship with Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira after receiving a special dispensation from gedolim. Graced with a warm disposition and easy manner, he relates that he enjoys what he does so much that he jumps out of bed at around four each morning, thinking, “I get to spend another day helping people after being kovei’a itim laTorah!”

And that’s not because he gets to put his feet up. Weekdays are spent running from room to room to treat his many grateful patients. But when we are sitting in his beautiful office (“a gadol agreed with me that zeh Keili ve’anveihu applies to medicine and to the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, as it does to other mitzvos”), the first thing Dr. Stern jumps to point out is that his success is not his.

“The Hashgachah started from the very first minute of my life,” he says resolutely. “I was born in Maimonides Hospital. I know because each time we walked past it, my mother would point to an upper floor of what was then known as the Goldberg Building and say, ‘That’s where you were born.’

“When I finished dental school at NYU, I wasn’t at the top of my class. I couldn’t invest the time it would have taken to finish at the top because I wanted to be able to learn part of the day, and I had gotten married and already had two children — the only student out of a class of 120 to have any children. 

“I wanted to get a residency in the department of surgery at Maimonides Hospital, but there were 1,400 applicants for three spots. I was the first of many to interview, and the secular Jew who was the head of the department said, ‘Sorry, we don’t take shomer Shabbos Jews.’ This was in Maimonides Hospital in 1980!

“Suddenly, an Italian doctor, Andy Ketainya, said, ‘Get off the guy’s back. He said he’ll work it out with the other residents.’ Which was true; I took the Motzaei Shabbos and Sunday night shifts and the secular holidays, and they took Friday night and the Jewish holidays. I never had to go in on Shabbos.”

But the department head had another objection. Applicants needed two recommendations and Dr. Stern had only one. Dr. Stern asked him to at least take a look at the one recommendation that he did have. The department head acquiesced, reading aloud, “I endorse this young man for whatever endeavor he undertakes in life.”

“When he finished, I said, ‘This is an endeavor.’

“‘That’s true,’ he conceded, ‘but this is only one recommendation.’

“‘Could you please read to the committee who signed the letter?’ 

“He looked down at the paper. It was his own signature! Several years earlier, there had been a strike at Maimonides, and they had no staff. I volunteered for a few days, and he was so grateful that he wrote me this letter. ‘I was born in this hospital,’ I said when he looked up, ‘and I want to train here.’ I was accepted on the spot.”

Although the siyata d’Shmaya was obvious to Dr. Stern, the next morning a top professor at NYU summoned Dr. Stern to his office, and asked, “Which senator do you know?” When Dr. Stern replied that he didn’t know any of them, the professor couldn’t believe that someone without earthly protektzia got one of the prized positions. 

Boro Park to Beer Sheva

Dr. Stern could easily have breezed through life as a successful dentist in the States, but already from his formative years he felt a strong urge to be in Eretz Yisrael. He therefore got a part-time job delivering groceries and saved his money. 

“When I had $200 I bought a charter ticket. As I walked the streets, it hit me that my grandfather had gone up in smoke in Auschwitz and here I was in Yerushalayim, something that my grandparents only dreamed of. I knew that one day I would move to Eretz Yisrael.”

Before that happened, Dr. Stern was earning an extremely respectable income as a New York dental surgeon. One day Rabbi Avrohom Wolf, his elementary school principal at Toras Emes Kaminetz, came into the emergency room. He told Dr. Stern that he had a nephew, Dr. Dahvid Wolf, who had a practice in Beer Sheva and needed another dentist.

Logically, it was a ludicrous move. The offer in Beer Sheva was for approximately one-tenth of what Dr. Stern was then earning. His father tried to persuade him not to go, but Dr. Stern knew that if he didn’t move to Eretz Yisrael then, he might never do so.

The Stern family made aliyah in 1982, right before Chanukah. During their first two years in Eretz Yisrael, Dr. Stern earned an extremely modest income. Then one day a man walked into his office and said that Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira had sent him. Dr. Stern had never heard of Rav Elazar before, but he welcomed the man into his office. This man had gone to the hospital the day before because his throat had swollen to a concerning size, but had been sent home because they couldn’t find a significant problem. Dr. Stern took one look at him and realized that he had a condition that turned out to be Ludwig’s angina, a disease so rare that Dr. Stern has seen only one case in over 30 years of practice. He sent the man back to the hospital, which literally saved the man’s life.

“How did the rabbi know to send him to me?” he wondered.

After that first introduction to Rav Elazar, Dr. Stern continued to receive patients every so often who said they were sent by the Rav. After noticing that each case Rav Elazar sent him left him with a specific insight, Dr. Stern decided it was time to go meet this unusual rav.

“Here was a man completely cut off from the world around him,” Dr. Stern explains, “yet he knew more about medicine, business, and every other topic we discussed than anyone else I knew.”

That meeting was the first of what would eventually become a regular session. Being a temimusdig American with a scientific mind, Dr. Stern would at first ask questions that no one else would dare ask, and Rav Elazar humored him. One day, for instance, Rav Elazar mentioned that Rav Moshe Feinstein’s family had called to say, “Baruch Hashem, today Reb Moshe has pneumonia.”

“Baruch Hashem?” Dr. Stern asked in surprise. 

Rav Elazar explained that the family would call each day, and compared to what Reb Moshe was suffering from in his final weeks, “only” pneumonia was good news. “Only the Kol Yachol, yachol — only the Omnipotent can [help],” said Rav Elazar sadly.

“So why don’t you make a miracle?” asked Dr. Stern — a question he now considers both naive and somewhat presumptuous, but one that was indicative of their relationship at that point. 

“Miracles are not our way,” replied Rav Elazar. “It wasn’t the way of my father and grandfather [Rav Meir Abuchatzeira and the Baba Sali]. The Gemara says that if a miracle is performed for someone, he loses some merits in Heaven. It’s not always in a person’s greatest interest to have a miracle performed for him.”

When Dr. Stern pressed him further on the subject of miracles, Rav Elazar told him a story of when it might be justified. Rav Elazar would spend time in Switzerland in the home of Nissim Gaon each year. He couldn’t vacation in Eretz Yisrael, because people would follow him wherever he went. In Switzerland he was able to rest, relax, and, most importantly, to learn. 

But getting to Switzerland was no simple feat, since Rav Elazar was extremely conscientious about shmiras einayim. El Al respected his sensitivity and allowed him to be driven directly to the airplane after everyone else had boarded, and to be seated in the first seat behind the cockpit. On one flight, a woman approached Rav Elazar’s gabbai, Avraham, and asked to speak to the rabbi. The gabbai politely explained that the Rav doesn’t meet with women. He asked how she knew Rav Elazar was on the flight, and she explained that she was an off-duty stewardess and she had seen his name on the passenger list. While they were talking, the Rav, who wore a hood over his head to shield his eyes, realized what was going on, and said that she could speak to him through Avraham. 

The woman explained that she had been diagnosed with a growth, and she was on her way to Switzerland to remove it, even though the doctors held out little hope for her. Rav Elazar instructed Avraham to ask whether she believed in G-d. 

“Not really,” she replied. 

“Then why are you coming to me?” asked Rav Elazar. 

She explained that her illness had led to introspection, and she was rethinking her beliefs. Rav Elazar asked whether she was willing to accept the basic mitzvos — Shabbos, kashrus, and taharas hamishpachah — if she would recover. When she said that she would, he instructed her to go ahead with her plans in Switzerland.

Rav Elazar ended the story there, but Dr. Stern pressed him for the details of the outcome. “She actually called the Rabbanit last night,” said Rav Elazar. “She wanted to know how to keep those mitzvos.”

In the words of the Rav, when this woman reached Switzerland, she checked into the hospital for surgery. After rolling her into the operating room, they decided to do one more scan. To everyone’s shock, the scan was absolutely clean. There was no sign of a growth whatsoever. The doctors sent her home.

“To be mekarev levavos,” Rav Elazar explained with a sigh, “we sometimes need to see nissim. But in general, it’s not our approach.” 

“Dibbuk Shmibbuk”

Rav Elazar didn’t only balk when it came to the subject of nissim. Though most news stories of his tragic petirah referred to him as either a Baba or a mekubal, as a close confidant, Dr. Stern deems those descriptions off the mark. 

“Not only did he oppose the use of practical Kabbalah, he would object if I would use even the most basic Kabbalah terms in regard to something I learned. If someone would mention the sefiros, he would say that we have no knowledge of what these things mean. It was rare to hear him quote a Kabbalah sefer. He was more likely to quote from Chofetz Chaim, Michtav MeEliyahu — regular seforim that everyone can learn.”

Dr. Stern illustrates Rav Elazar’s disillusionment with “kabbalists” with a story. “Many years ago, I got a phone call from a man whose name I can’t divulge. He asked me whether I could take him to Rav Elazar. The Rav didn’t like it when people ‘piggybacked’ on my visits, but in this case I felt that I should say yes. Years earlier, when I was in eighth grade, I took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty with a friend. I was sitting on the outside deck, and a big wave came up and washed over me. It was the end of December and it was freezing cold. This man was there with a friend, and the two took off some of their outer clothing and gave it to me so I could warm up. 

“Every one of my mentors — be it my rosh yeshivah in Emek Halachah, Rav Tuvya Goldstein ztz”l, my mashgiach in Kamenitz, Rav Simcha Zissel Levovitz ztz”l, or Rav Elazar himself — would stress the importance of hakaras hatov [gratitude]. Though 40 years had passed, I still appreciated warming up on the ferry with this man’s outerwear, so I told him that I would take him with me to Rav Elazar.

“He came with his son. It seems that he had moved into a small out-of-town community, and when he had gone house hunting there was one house that was particularly affordable because there were rumors that it was haunted. As a Jew, he knew that there is no such thing, so he bought the house.

“From the day he moved into the house, however, his son began to emit strange noises from his throat. Nothing they could do prevented this uncontrollable voice from coming out of him. They came to Eretz Yisrael and went from one mekubal to the next. They poured lead. The kid had kameiyos dangling from his neck in every direction. But the voice continued to ‘speak.’ People insisted that the boy had a dibbuk that needed to be exorcised, and this man wanted Rav Elazar to remove the spirit.

“They came with me to Beer Sheva, and I went into the Rav’s room to explain the situation. Suddenly the Rav heard the voice from the courtyard and asked what it was. ‘That’s the boy with the dibbuk,’ I said. The Rav instructed us to bring the boy into the room. He took one look at the boy and all the kameiyos and said, ‘Dibbuk, shmibbuk.’ 

“‘Take off all the kameiyos,’ he instructed. ‘Your son needs a psychologist.’ The man went back to America, and the boy was diagnosed with a rare neurological vocal disorder in which the vocal cords were stimulated, perhaps through subconscious suggestion because of what people said about the house. They called the Rav back to find out whether he should be placed on medication. The Rav answered that it wasn’t really necessary, but if it made them more comfortable, they could. Today this boy is the proud father of a happy Yiddishe family.”

Going to the Masters

Looking back on their three-decade relationship, Dr. Stern realizes that from the day he met Rav Elazar, the Rav was slowly moving him in a better direction. 

Several years after making aliyah, and while still earning a modest salary, Dr. Stern asked one of his associates whether he was going to the dental convention in New York — a convention that now takes place at the Javits Center and draws some 60,000 dentists and their staff. His associate said that it would be unrealistic to go from Israel, but that if Dr. Stern wanted to go, he could.

Strolling through the convention center, Dr. Stern heard a voice call out, “Yingerman mit der kappel, kim du aher — Young man with the yarmulke, come here.” 

An elderly man named Jack Wimmer was standing in a booth “decorated” with all kinds of instruments for doing dental implants. Although the field of dental implants was not new at the time, it had fallen into disuse when the world of dentistry turned to dentures and bridges for tooth replacements. 

“I had asked my teacher in NYU whether there was any other way to go about giving people teeth,” recalls Dr. Stern, “and he insisted that there wasn’t. Well, there was this one method of implants that had been in use for a while, but it was just a relic of the past.

“Yet here was Jack Wimmer, a Yid who had made it out of the Krakow ghetto and established a dental laboratory in America in which he had some 75 dental technicians doing implants during the 1950s, offering to teach me his skills.”

It didn’t make much sense to go into a field that was dying, but Dr. Stern went to discuss it with gedolim. “Rav Elazar in particular encouraged me to go into the field, telling me that in ten years I would need a building just to handle all the dental implant patients.”

Dr. Stern grows very serious. “People make a mistake when it comes to emunas chachamim. If you know the gadol is a brilliant person, able to see ten chess moves ahead like Sharansky, and he tells you to do something and you listen because you think it makes sense, that’s not emunas chachamim. Emunas chachamim is when a gadol instructs you to do something that seems absurd, and you do it anyway.

“In my life,” he stresses, “I have seen over and over that when you listen to the gedolim, everything falls into place in a way that you cannot imagine.”

During the few years that followed that fateful meeting with Jack Wimmer, Rav Elazar continued to instruct Dr. Stern to go to various “masters” — the people who were most proficient in dental implants, insisting that he study the “outdated methods,” because they would one day return. Though the cost seemed wholly unjustified at the time, the tzaddik’s prescience eventually came to light.

“Today, implants are one of the most popular ways to replace teeth. We have gotten to a point where I can now do in the comfort of my office in ten minutes what I needed ten hours to do in the surgical theater in Maimonides, but no one could have foreseen that 30 years ago, when Rav Elazar insisted that I go into this field. I listened, and I now have the implant empire he foresaw.”

The Malachim Were Pushing

Rav Elazar didn’t suffice with general advice; he took an interest in the specific skills Dr. Stern was acquiring. Once, he asked Dr. Stern whether he had any case studies with him. Dr. Stern showed him an X-ray of a woman who would be visiting his office the next day. Rav Elazar studied it and then said, “Try to get three implants in there.”

Dr. Stern didn’t know what to make of it, because according to the X-ray there shouldn’t have been a problem getting implants into her mouth. But when he, along with his three associates, examined the woman the next day, they found that the X-ray was an illusion: there was no room for even a single implant. Remembering Rav Elazar’s words, Dr. Stern reminded his associates that they had recently learned a new method developed by Dr. Gerald Niznick, an expert from Encino, California. “Let’s try to do at least one implant using his method,” Dr. Stern insisted.

The other dentists weren’t sure, but they tried and succeeded in getting the first implant in place. When they took a new X-ray, they found that they had room for another — and then another.

“Many years later I was at a conference with one of those other doctors, and he asked me why I had insisted on trying to do the three implants. ‘I can’t go into details,’ I replied, ‘but one thing I can tell you is that the malachim were pushing so hard I could barely move my hand during the surgery.’”

All a Front

As Rav Elazar guided Dr. Stern into becoming one of the top dentists in his field, he also encouraged him to develop relationships with other gedolim who would come for implants — some of whom were referred by Rav Elazar. What is it like to have to do work on a gadol, especially for someone whose respect for gedolim is palpable?

“Certainly, it can be very frightening to do dental work on a gadol. I once treated a rebbe whose 90-year-old chassidim would nearly pass out when he walked by them on the street. And here I had to fix his teeth. You have to be able to put aside the fear somehow and do the work. And knowing that I have the opportunity to provide a gadol with teeth that will enable him to learn better, to daven better, and to live with more menuchas hanefesh in general is an unbelievable feeling.”

As the hour grows late on this Friday afternoon, a question continues to gnaw: Why would a tzaddik be so interested and involved in the life of a young dentist?

The answer, Dr. Stern says, is a message that he has learned not only from Rav Elazar himself, but from many of the gedolim he has treated over the years.

“Everything is a front,” he declares with an emphatic clap on the table. “Dentistry — and everything else we do — is a front. Rav Elazar would say that we’re in one business: avodas Hashem. Through my work, I am able to help 20 kollel families earn their way in Eretz Yisrael by paying the wives a fair wage so their husbands can learn. [An office worker later confirms that if not for Dr. Stern, she and her husband would have been forced to move back to the States years ago.] 

“Furthermore, we are all able to do kiruv levavos through our work, whatever it is that we do — whether with staff, patients, suppliers, or even tax authorities. There are people I get to meet here whom I would never get a chance to influence in any other arena. I have people coming not only from leftist kibbutzim, but from all over the world. One woman who spent much time with us came as a skinhead from Tel Aviv some 25 years ago. She went on to marry a man who used to be one of the most successful accountants in Tel Aviv. From knowing nothing about Yiddishkeit, he eventually became a great masmid at Novardok yeshivah. Ten years later, he decided to look into Chassidus. She quips that her husband did teshuvah twice: the day he became frum and the day he discovered Chassidus. I could never have communicated with this woman in any other setting.”

The words mas hachnassah have the power to strike fear in the hearts of grown men in Israel. Indeed, the Israel Taxation Authority has been known to make the IRS seem downright friendly. Yet Rav Elazar’s teaching about dentistry being a front for kiruv levavos applied there as well. Less than a week after he opened his first office, Dr. Stern was alone there late one afternoon and two people from mas hachnassah walked in and asked to see his books.

“When I opened the office,” says Dr. Stern, “I put in a seforim shrank with a set of Chumashim and some other seforim. I pulled out a Chumash and said, ‘Here are my books.’

“‘Don’t be a wise guy,’ they said. 

“‘Even if you held a gun to my head, I wouldn’t know where to start,’ I replied. ‘If you want to speak to the people who know about the accounting, you can come back tomorrow morning.’

“‘But since you’re here,’ I continued quickly, pulling out a Chumash before they could run off, ‘the parshah we will read this week is Vayeitzei. We read that Yaakov saw angels going up and down a sulam [ladder]. The Baal HaTurim says that sulam has the same gematria [numerical value] as both mammon [money] and oni [poverty], because one’s finances can easily go up or down. But the Baal HaTurim also points out that sulam contains the same letters as l’mas [for taxes]. You know why? Because you guys are here as messengers of Hashem. If you came to take some of my money, it means that I didn’t give enough of it to tzedakah, and I have to thank you for delivering this wake-up call.’

“They just sat there staring at me. They never heard such a response in their lives. This is what it’s all about, though. Talk to people — no matter who they are — with darchei no’am [in a pleasant manner], and you have a chance to influence them for the better.”

Dr. Stern’s second experience with mas hachnassah, which came 15 years later, shortly after he opened his second office, would have frozen most people in their tracks. This time mas hachnassah came in the guise of a tall brute of a man, who walked in with his face steeled in a stoic expression. Again came the command to be shown the books.

“I don’t know anything about the accounting,” replied Dr. Stern. “All I know is that this is a beit charoshet [factory] for chesed. You want to be a partner, welcome. If you don’t want to take part in it, at least don’t get in the way.’

“Glaring, the man barked, ‘How much do you charge for an implant?’

“‘Well,’ I said, ‘Mrs. Klein ate potato peels in Auschwitz. How much would you charge her for an implant?’

“‘Every doctor has a price list. How much do you take for a post?’

“‘Mrs. Weiss lost her husband and her son in separate terrorist attacks 30 days apart,’ I said evenly. ‘How much would you charge her?’

“He was growing increasingly agitated. ‘How much do you take for a crown on an implant?’ he pressed.

“‘Come with me to Mattersdorf,’ I offered. ‘We’ll visit the home of the woman with 17 children who needed a crown. You tell me how much to charge her. If I can help it, no one leaves this office without dental care.’

“The man was literally shaking with anger, and he got up and said, ‘I have to leave. I can’t listen to this anymore.’”

The man eventually returned, but Dr. Stern had time to prep his anxiety-filled staff before the next visit, advising them to treat the man like any other Yid who walked through the office’s doors. That’s what they did, and there were no problems. 

“When I was in Beer Sheva later that week, I bumped into the second-in-command at mas hachnassah. ‘What in the world did you say to that guy?’ he blurted out as soon as he heard my name. ‘No one ever got so much as a smile out of that investigator. He came back that day devastated. You blew him out of the water!’”

“Go to All Three” As Dr. Stern built up his practice, eventually opening a luxurious office on Jerusalem’s Ussishkin St. while maintaining an office in Beer Sheva and traveling several times a year to New York to treat patients there, Rav Elazar continued to guide his every step, pushing him to actualize his potential. There were times when Rav Elazar would instruct Dr. Stern to do things that seemed either entirely impossible or foolhardy.

“Years ago, he was sending me to masters in the field who would say, ‘I want a thousand dollars per day of training. Don’t come if you don’t have it.’ I would ask Rav Elazar how I could go without the money. ‘Just go,’ he would answer. Then the person would hear that I was from Israel or something else like that and he would refuse to take money from me.
“Once, I asked him whether to attend a conference in Los Angeles, Boston, or Florida, and he told me to go to all three. I explained that no one goes to three conferences in a week — maybe one or two a year — and it would be impossible to get to all three without traveling on Shabbos, since they overlapped.

“Often, when I would say something like that, he would reply, ‘You say it’s impossible, I say it is possible. One of us is wrong.’ Invariably, he would be right.

“In the case of those conferences, I decided to skip Boston, spend Shabbos with my parents in New York, and then go to Florida for the next conference. Shortly after I arrived in New York, the organizers of the Boston conference called me to say they had to move their conference to New York. They asked, ‘Will you still be able to come as our guest?’ I ended up making it to all three.

“Sometimes I would pinch myself,” concludes Dr. Stern. “These stories are hard to believe when you hear them. Imagine living through them!”  —

Dr. Stern would love to hear more stories regarding Rav Elazar Abuchatzeira ztz”l. He can be reached at gmsdental@gmail.com

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails