Friday, April 30, 2010

Amazing Quote From Satmar Rav: Where's Your Yid???

The Satmar Rav was once talking to a gvir from the more modern sectors of Yiddishkeit, meaning he was clean shaven, beardless. Some of the chassidim were chuckling to themselves, wondering why is the Rebbe speaking with such a person? The Rebbe recognized their confusion and said to them: when he dies the heavenly court is going to ask him "Reb Yid, where is your beard?" but when you die they are going to ask you: "Reb beard, where is your Yid?"
via: Raisin' Soul

Update: I asked my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger and he told me a more detailed version of what is probably the same story.

There was a clean-shaven Litvishe Rosh Yeshiva, Reb Leib Mehlman who was very close with the Satmar Rov. He always got into Reb Yoilish whenever he wanted to and the Satmar Rov even did something very rare with him. When he walked Reb Leib out, he walked him all the way to the street, an unusual honor. Some of the Chassidim were a bit jealous of him and weren't happy that he got in to see their rebbe immediately when it took some of them weeks to get an appointment.

Finally, one of the choshuveh older Chassidim came up to the Rebbe and asked him why he was honoring Reb Leib Mehlman so much. He wasn't even one of his chassidim and didn't even have a bord, a beard!

So the Satmar Rov answered him, "It's a gut kashe. So when he goes up to shomayim, they're going to ask him, "Ah Yid un a bord!?" "A Yid without a beard?!"

But when you go up to shomayim, they're going to ask you, "Ah bord un a Yid?!" "A beard without a Yid?!"

Picture courtesy of

Sefira and the Holiness of the Kohanim - Reb Itchie Mayer Morgenstern on Emor

Here is Reb Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's Torah on Parshas Emor, with English excerpt and full text in Hebrew in pdf form from Reb Itchie Mayer's Torah given in 5766. You can send an e-mail to this address to subscribe to receive Rav Morgenstern's Torah in your e-mail box every week.

“And Hashem said to Moshe: Speak to the kohanim the sons of Aharon and say to them: None shall defile himself for the dead among his people except for his kin that is near to him; for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother; and for his unmarried sister that is near to him that has had no husband, for her may he defile himself. He shall not defile himself, being a chief man among his people, to profane himself.”[1]

The Holiness of the Kohanim

Hashem sanctified the kohanim with an added measure of holiness, beyond that of the rest of the Jewish people, and also provided them with additional restrictions to safeguard their sanctity. It is impossible to advance and rise in one’s Divine service without developing extra precautions to guarantee the holiness and purity of one’s mind and actions. One must seek to add more kedushah and Divine awareness every single day, more careful avoidance of negative behavior—“to steer from evil”—and to enhance holiness—“and do good.”

This is the purpose of the Sefirah period, when we count the days after leaving Egypt, so that we can advance and rise and become fitting vessels to receive the Torah. And we accomplish this mainly by adding more and more safeguards to ensure our purity and holiness.

The Torah says, “And you shall count for yourselves”—we must do it for ourselves because each and every person has his own unique avodah to do during Sefirah, his own way in which he needs to enhance the safeguards of his kedushah. In this, each person is unique and has to develop his own unique method. Just as we find in Rebbe Nachman’s story, “The Sophisticate and the Simpleton.” The simpleton always says, “This is my story, and that is his story”—every person has to think about his own story and how to safeguard his own kedushah.[2]

The Fiftieth Gate

The overall purpose of Sefirah is to tread the path that leads to the fiftieth day so that we can receive the holiness of the fiftieth gate. This gate is different from the other forty-nine; instead of it being an aspect of “mitzvah,” the fiftieth is an aspect of “metzaveh”—“the One who commands.” While there is level after level of holiness to which one can aspire and endless avodos, the overarching level that transcends and includes them all is that of faith itself. When a person experiences a single moment of emunah, it encompasses everything in the world. That is the fiftieth gate; when a person knows that there is a Creator. This knowledge rectifies all flaws and includes all of the Torah.

This higher level is embodied in the twelve showbreads that were laid on the holy table and which remained hot and fresh the whole week long.[3] They were like the holiness of Shabbos itself, which is imbued with constantly fresh faith in the existence of the Creator. It is from this wellspring of faith that the soul is revived every single week; this point of faith is the pinnacle of holiness. It has to be kept warm and fresh, “Because it is not befitting the King’s honor to eat stale bread.” This is why the Shabbos avodah in the Beis Hamikdash involved the showbread specifically, because the “bread” of holy emunah has to be as warm and fresh as if it just came from the oven when it is replaced, “from Shabbos to Shabbos.” The twelve breads represent the twelve Partzufim of the world of Atzilus, the experience of absolute closeness to Hashem that is never static or stale.

Faith cannot be considered pure and true if it is stale and lifeless, if a person feels as though he has heard it all before and he know whatever there is to know about emunah. He needs to feel, instead, the heat of fresh enthusiasm filling him constantly, “Because it is not befitting the King’s honor to eat stale bread.” This renewal is the light of the fiftieth gate that shines on Shabbos, and it is the pinnacle of yichud that is the source of all forms of sanctity. And this is why the tzaddikim always sought out the light of the yichud of faith itself, because it rectifies everything and encompasses all of the Torah and all that is holy.

[1] Vayikra 21:1-4
[2] Reb Nosson of Breslov explains in Hilchos Pesach 4:22: “This is the meaning of the commandment, ‘Count for yourselves’—each person must count Sefiras Ha’omer for himself, meaning he must encourage himself in the state that he is at that time and must not allow himself to be discouraged by imagining that his contemporaries are so much better than him. Even though humility is a positive quality and it is good to consider others as being better than oneself, nevertheless if such thoughts make a person feel discouraged, G-d forbid, this is not true humility at all. It is an inverse form of pride, because he really feels that it isn’t betting for him to serve Hashem in some [small] way when he is so far from Him and his friends have achieved so much. One cannot second-guess Hashem; who knows what his spiritual source really is and from what places he has been drawn down due to his own unique deeds? For no two people are the same. When a person wants to leave his impure state, this is the aspect of counting Sefirah for it is, ‘that they should be purified.’ And one must count the days for himself, and not allow considerations of [the level of] his friend discourage him... As we find in the story of “The Sophisticate and the Simpleton.” The simpleton was a cobbler, but he was unable to master his craft completely and all of his shoes came out triangular in shape. Even so, he would praise the finished products very highly and say, ‘How lovely this shoe is...’ When his wife would retort, ‘If so, then why do other craftsmen receive three rubles for a pair of shoes, but you only earn one and a half rubles per pair?’ he would answer, ‘What has this to do with me? That is his story, and this is my story! And what’s more, why should we speak of others? Let us first consider just how much profit I make on this shoe in ready money. The leather costs so and so much...’ We must understand this very well, because everyone learns profound lessons that touch upon their Divine service from this story. One must act with simplicity and always be happy, even when poverty prevails and one’s prayer and Divine service is incomplete. One must be happy with his lot in any case and not pay any attention to others whose livelihoods are so much more secure... They may have much in a worldly sense and still suffer constant worry over what they lack. And even when others far surpass a person in their Divine service, in their Torah study and prayer, nevertheless one must not be discouraged at all but must instead rejoice in his lot. One must be just like the Simpleton who could taste the flavor of every food in his simple bread... That shoe that he slaved over and which turned out so imperfect and barely brought him a profit was nevertheless precious to him, and he praised it highly and paid no attention to others at all... Rebbe Nachman himself hinted that the metaphor of cobbling represents prayer and avodas Hashem, as he explained obliquely at the end of the story. ‘Even if prayer is imperfect, it is like a triangular shoe...’ We must act with utter simplicity, just like the Simpleton, and learn deep lessons from every single word and act of his in the story so that we can follow his path and rejoice every single good point that he ‘profits’ in his prayer and Divine service, however he is.”
[3] Shmuel I:21:7; Yerushalmi, Shekalim 6:3

CLICK HERE for Toras Chochom on Emor
CLICK HERE for Toras Chochom on Emor in English

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reb Yerachmiel's Shiurim on Modim D'rabanan

Below are the latest shiurim from Reb Yerachmiel Goldman, given at the Baltimore Community Kollel. Sorry for not posting these shiurim recently but Pesach and other factors interupted our normal shiur publication process.

Reb Yerachmiel is excited to publicize a new mini-series of video and audio shiurim on the topic of Shemoneh Esrei's Modim DeRabbanan. Below are three shiurm which cover the topic fully; with faith, feeling and flourish. Click on the video links to view the video. To download the audio, just left click the audio link to listen to streaming audio or right click on it and select "Save Target As" to download.

Shiur #1- Introduction to Modim DeRabbanan (4-11-10)
Video Link (Due to technical difficulties, this video will appear only as a black screen)
Audio Link

Shiur #2- Modim DeRabbanan- Upteitch Part1 (4-18-10)
Video Link
Audio Link

Shiur #3- Maintaining the Momentum- Modim DeRabbanan- Upteitch Part 2 (4-25-10)
Video Link
Audio Link

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Rebb. Yehudis Golshevsky - Sefira & Lag B'Omer Shiurim

Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky is back with several shiurim that she has given recently on women's special mitzvos according to Breslov Chassidus.

The following shiurim are for women only. Click on the links below to get the shiurim by either left clicking to listen online or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download:

Sefira: Likutei Halachos Nezikin 3.1

Sefira: Likutei Halachos Nezikin 3.3

Lag B'Omer: Based on Lechu Chazu

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More Nachas Hashulchan Shiurim by R' Micha Golshevsky

Here is the next two shiurim by Rabbi Micha Golshevsky in his series of shiurim by , on the sefer Nachas Hashulchan. It also covers the Pesach seder, leil bedikas chometz, and the negative effects of chumros yeseiros even regarding Pesach.

Click here for more information on the shiur and the sefer Nachas Hashulchan.

Click on the links below to get the shiurim by either left clicking to listen now or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download the shiur:

Nachas Hashulchan 1.6a

Nachas Hashulchan 1.6b

Nachas Hashulchan 1.7

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Author in US Before Shavuos!

I wanted to let everyone know that IY"H, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, Rav Itamar Shwartz, will be in town before Shavuos.

Similar to last year, he will be holding a seminar of three shiurim in one day on Sunday May 9th at Rabbi Mayer Fund's Shul, Sheves Achim in Flatbush, Brooklyn (1517 Ave. H, off corner of East 16th [across from Q Train]). The shiurim will be at 12, 3, & 6 PM. All proceeds are going to publish more seforim by Rav Shwartz. $20 admission | $200 sponsorship (includes private meeting with the Rav). CLICK HERE or call 516-668-6397 to register.

The Rav's trip is right before Shavuos so the theme, generally, that he will be speaking on relates to how to prepare oneself for Kabalas HaTorah. The Rav will be in North American from Sunday May 9th (the day of the seminar) till Motzoi Shabbos Parshas Bamidbar, May 15th.

Also, there are still one or two slots available that you can have the Rav speak to your community/Shul. Please call 516-668-6397 for more information on that.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

How Much Time Daily Should I Spend on My Purpose in Life?

I recently received the e-mail below from a friend, asking for my thoughts on how he should allocate his time for a certain aspect of what he feels is perhaps his "life's work," the reason why he was placed on this earth. If you can, think about his question and my response to him. Perhaps you would have answered differently. Is there anything you would like to add? How do you approach the issue in your own life? Here's his question:

Recently I have been giving a lot of thought to whether I am spending enough time each day working on [a certain] project. On one hand, I am working on it at least 30 minutes a day/5 days a week. However, on the other hand, if this project is one of the reasons Hashem put me on the earth, then 30 minutes is certainly not enough.

Any thoughts?

And here was my response:

I don't know know if there's any connection between the thoughts that if something is one of the reasons one is created that one necessarily has to spend more than half an hour a day on that thing. Is it ratzon Hashem for you to spend more than 1/2 an hour a day on it? Well that would depend. What are the alternatives? If you did spend more time, would you not have enough time to be ma'avir sedra or to learn Gemara or halacha or whatever your other sedorim are? If spending more time on it would mean doing something that you have reason to believe is against ratzon Hashem, then that would imply that spending "only" 1/2 an hour a day on your project is ratzon Hashem.

And also, what do you mean by saying that the project is "one of the reasons why Hashem put you on earth?" If you mean that on its literal level (that it is one of many reasons why Hashem created you), then what about the example of politely smiling and thanking the check-out person at the grocery store? If it's ratzon Hashem for you to do that at the moment you finish your transaction with her, then that too is "one of the reasons Hashem put you on earth." Does that mean that you should davka spend more than 1/2 an hour smiling at check out girls? Obviously not.

Everything that it is ratzon Hashem for one to do at any given moment is "one" of the reasons why Hashem created him. But the amount of time one should spend on that thing depends on what ratzon Hashem says is the appropriate amount of time to be spent on that thing. For pleasantly thanking check out clerks, that's probably about 1 second. For learning kitzur shulchan aruch yomi, it's probably the amount of time it takes to learn that, let's say 10 minutes.

For your project, my personal opinion on how to "divine" what the amount of time is that Hashem wants you to spend on it is: See how much time you have after all of the other things you have to do. And then ask yourself where you would get the time from if you increased how much time you spent on it. (e.g., some other learning seder, sleep time, family time, work time...) Then ask yourself whether, in the aggregate, you'd be failing to fulfill what Hashem wants of you in those other areas of life. If so, then perhaps 1/2 an hour a day *is* what Hashem wants from you. If not, then you know you should increase the time since it sounds like you feel a pull to increase the time.

Make any sense?

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reader Review of New Koren Sacks Siddur

A reader just got the new Nusach Ashkenaz English Sidur, translated by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks so I asked him for some feedback on how he liked it, especially with regard to the style of the translation and the reversal of the usual "right side Hebrew left side English" page layout. You can get the siddur HERE. Here's what my friend wrote:

"Something Old, Something New, Timeless Prayer for Every Jew"....

Got the new Koren Sacks siddur yesterday...Very beautiful book...First impressions are that I like it...I most like the way the prayers (some) are broken into stand-alone sentences - really helps with slowing you down and increasing kavana. Hebrew on left and English on right is quick to adjust to and for certain prayers it is easy to glance at English while reciting in Hebrew. For longer paragraphs (less familiar) I miss interlinear but for more common prayers I kind of have translation in my head. I look forward to simply reading the translation at some point separate from davening. Two ribbon markers is always nice... Overall for my first maariv and shacharit I like it alot - it usually takes me longer to get used to new siddur but not this time...not sure what verdict will be (if I use it all the time or switch back between interlinear). They did seem to include a couple extra harachamam's in bentching from prayer for state of Israel - which I guess is not a bad thing....

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Friday, April 9, 2010

Rabbi Boshnack's Shiur on Sfiras HaOmer & His New Beis Yaakov of Izbitz Source Sheet

Rabbi Boshnack has done it again. Please CLICK HERE for a pdf he used a shiur on the Beis Yaakov of Izbitz on Parshas Shemini. It's amazingly elucidated and illustrates how the Izbitzer can show you a new way to look at things. It's eye opening and explains what the Beis Yaakov is saying very well. His sheets are also organized to highlight the inevitable "Izbitzer Twist" and the "Practical Advice" that comes from the Torah.

Also, he gave a shiur on Sefiras HaOmer which you can listen to AT THIS LINK. (47 MB mp3 file)

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Fish of the Sea - Reb Itchie Mayer on Shemini - Hebrew & English

Here is Reb Itchie Mayer Morgenstern's Torah on Parshas Shmini, with English excerpt and full text in Hebrew in pdf form and the English from Reb Itchie Mayer's Torah given in 5766. You can send an e-mail to this address to subscribe to receive Rav Morgenstern's Torah in your e-mail box every week.

The “Fish of the Sea”

Moshe Rabbeinu’s primary avodah was that of Yesod Abbah. This is a very deep avodah, which represents the bliss of true connection with Hashem, at the level of thought which is not apparent to those around him. Moshe Rabbeinu was connected to the aspect of Abba / Chochmah, and experienced the bliss of complete nullification to Hashem. This is why Moshe was called one of the "נוני ים"—“the fish of the sea.” Just as fish exist in the obscurity of the water, so too was the avodah of Moshe Rabbeinu well hidden—just as the Yesod is hidden. [Note: This is true on a material level, because the foundation of a building is actually underground and is not seen at all. The aspect of personal purity associated with the sefirah of Yesod is likewise a hidden matter.] This avodah involved the contemplation of supernal yichudim with absolute concentration. This is the avodah of the true tzaddikim who are an aspect of oil, which is soundless and whose viscosity damps all sound.[1]

We are taught that there are two “foods” that will be served at the time of Moshiach: the Shor Habar and the Livyasan, the “wild ox” and the “leviathan.”[2] Moshe Rabbeinu is associated with the Livyasan, just as the tzaddikim are an aspect of the “fish of the sea.” [Note: this is one reason why we eat fish on Shabbos.[3]] Nadav and Avihu are aspects of the Shor Habar, an outer revealed avodah, of the tzaddik who is always going in the way of teshuvah. This tzaddik is always shining with the light of true connection. Everyone who sees this tzaddik knows he is connected to Hashem. The Shor Habar is an aspect of a revealed avodah, just as the “wild ox” walks about upon the open land.[4] [Note: The Ba’al Shem Tov taught that Moshe Rabbeinu was not necessarily recognizable as a tzaddik from the outside.]

The Marriage of Chochmah and Binah

Chazal taught that every fish that has scales has fins, but not all that have fins necessarily have scales.[5] Kaskeses, scales, are an aspect of appearances since they are the outer covering of the fish. This refers to one whose primary avodah is an aspect of Imma / Binah, always striving to draw closer to Hashem. Such a person surely has fins with which to swim in the upper worlds.[6] Nadav and Avihu were an aspect of Binah / teshuvah, and it suited their essence to imbibe wine. [Note: On a simple level this is because the avodah of continuous teshuvah makes one joyously excited, “drunk on holiness.”] Superficially, it seems difficult that Chazal say that Nadav and Avihu died because they entered the Mishkan after imbibing wine.[7] Wasn’t teshuvah created before the world?[8] Isn’t it the reason we will be redeemed[9]? Does not the Zohar state that the beis in the first word of the Torah represents teshuvah?[10]

This is all true. Nevertheless, they failed to consult with Moshe and Aharon. And they didn’t marry.[11] Marriage is the unification of the avodos of Chochma and Binah. Moshe and Aharon taught that one must imbue his teshuvah, his aspect of Binah, with his aspect of Chochmah, the depths of who he is, his innermost self or pintele Yid, and resolve to improve from that moment on. How can he really improve? By connecting with Hashem at all times. This accessing of the deepest parts of ourselves is symbolized by the letter yud. [Note: On a simple level, the yud represents Chochmah, the small seed of an idea that must gestate through other stages before it is fully born. The yud is the smaller letter, it is just a point, a pintele Yid, that represents self-nullification, or making oneself smaller, before Hashem. This self-nullification is the birthplace of all wisdom, since “wisdom comes forth from nothingness.”[12]] This is the yud that will be added to the name of Dovid Hamelech in the ultimate future. [Instead of spelling it "דוד" we will spell it "דויד".] Dovid is the archetype of teshuvah since he accepted upon himself the yoke of teshuvah.[13] This is the unification of Binah and Chochmah within one’s teshuvah, as explained earlier.

The truth is that the Jewish people will only be redeemed in the merit of their teshuvah, and we have been promised by the Torah and Hashem’s prophets that at the end of the exile the Jewish people will repent completely.[14] “And it will be, when all of these things come upon you… And you will return to Hashem your G-d and Hashem your G-d will restore your returning…”[15] However, genuine teshuvah is not the guilt and self-recrimination that brings a person to depression that distances him from Hashem and from fulfilling his true purpose in life. On the contrary, teshuvah is meant to bring a person to true dveikus in Hashem in the way of Dovid HaMelech who decreed that we recite one hundred blesseings every day so that we are always reminded of Hashem. This is an aspect of continuous teshuvah. This is the marriage of Chochmah and Binah.

[1] See Zohar Hakadosh, Vayikra 39a
[2] See Midrash Rabbah, Shmini, Parsha 13; Bava Basra 74b; Zohar Hakadosh, vol. I, 135b; and Ginzei Meromim on the verse: "אחד באחד יגשו".
[3] Kitzur Shelah and many other sources.
[4] See Likutei Torah, Parshas Shmini
[5] Chulin 59a
[6] See Likutei Torah, Parshas Shmini
[7] Vayikra Rabbah, 20
[8] Pesachim 54b
[9] Sanhedrin 97b and Rambam
[10] Zohar Shemos, 180b
[11] Medrash Tanchuma, Acharei Mos 6
[12] Iyov 28:12
[13] Moed Katan 16
[14] Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 7:5
[15] Devarim 4:30; 30:3

CLICK HERE for Toras Chochom on Shmini

CLICK HERE for Toras Chochom on Shmini from 5766

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A (Former Female Rabbinical Student) Baalas Teshuva on R. Avi's Weiss' "Ordination" of a Woman Rabbi

A reader sent me the guest post below that relates to an orthodox rabbi's recent ordination of the first female orthodox "rabbi," or "rabbah," Sara Hurwitz (pictured right).

This guest poster is a frum woman in a major Jewish community. She would prefer not to have her background become public knowledge so she has chosen to post the following anonymously. It is a very interesting perspective from someone who went from being a reform female rabbinical student to a Baalas Teshuva in a major New York area frum community. Her persepctive on the issue is quite informative.

The View From Behind the Mechitzah.
Sometimes we make decisions consciously, and sometimes they seem to happen. I made a decision to become a women Rabbi, and here I am many years later, a simple Jewish orthodox women sitting behind the mechitzah.

I spent a year at Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem studying to become a reform Rabbi, but when I came back I became so disillusioned with the reform movement that I decided to try something else. I did other degrees in Jewish education, but I finally decided that I did not want to be a big shot in the reform or conservative movement, I wanted to be a simple frum Jew.

What led me to this decision? Lots of things, but mainly I was just looking to do, say and believe the same thing.

My fist Shabbos back in America, the Rabbi of my home synagogue gave a long sermon about how inspiring it is for him to do a triple bar mitzvah every week, it showed how many young people are being educated as Jews. As soon as I spoke to him privately he told me how sick he was of the bar mitzvah mill.

I was assigned to teach the history of Reform Judaism in a Hebrew School . While conducting a review, I asked the students to tell me in their own words why the reform movement was started. A student raised his hand and said. “people were looking for an easier way out” Unsure of how to handle it, I consulted the Rabbi of the synagogue. He said to me, “your student is right. isn’t he?”

When the same school served cookies with lard for snack, I complained to the principle, pointing out that the reform movement believes that each person should pick what is meaningful for them, and she said, “no one here keeps kosher so what difference does it make.?”

Slowly I started looking for something else. I tried conservative, reconstructionist, and chavurah synagogues and I felt like there was still too much inconsistency. So finally I took the plunge and tried out an orthodox synagogue.
The first time I sat behind the mechitzah felt really weird. Then suddenly I realized that my ability to really pray was so much better. I continued to look for people who do what they say, and believe what they do. Eventually I found myself davening in a yeshivah with my daughters on one side and my sons and husband on the other side.

I gave up a lot to get here. Instead of being a big shot on the pulpit, now I am just another person behind the mechitzah, but I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My graduate degrees are wothless. I made a choice to put closeness to Hashem, and doing the Mitzvot before personal glory.

So when I read about an orthodox Rabbi who is trying to ordain a women Rabbi, it really upsets me. Not out of jelousy, but out of fear. Doesn’t he realize how shallow and meaningless his action is. Doesn’t he realize what he is risking doing to the structure of Judaism.

A women does not need to be a Rabbi to be fulfilled, I know, been there done that. A women’s place is behind the mechitzah, that is where the real growth happens.

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Friday, April 2, 2010

Thank G-d I'm a Country Boy

While we're on the topic of good Dixie music, I have to share this classic John Denver song, "Thank G-d I'm a Country Boy" above.

The truth is that these songs represent a bit of a dimyon, a fanciful illusion. They portray a romanticized version of small town life that probably hardly exists except to assist city folk in feeling dissatisfed with their own lives. The grass is always greener. Ezeihu ashir? Hasomeach b'chelko.

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