Sunday, July 31, 2011

Frum Fear Facebook Fraternizing

Elsewhere on the internet it is being debated whether Rabbis should maintain a Facebook presence. I see both sides of this debate. On the one hand, a rabbi should be on a different plateau than his congregants, yet on the other hand, perhaps having the rabbi on FB makes him more hip and approachable by the younger generation.

As noted previously on this blog, all technology takes a certain amount of time to get used to. Most rabbis were not the first to carry cell phones and buy computers. Yet in just a few short years the cell phone and computer has become a vitual necessity.

Although we live amidst a secular culture and deem these gadgets necessities, it is commendable, though, for those who can manage without them. I recently heard the following thought conceived by Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz.

The midrash tells us that when Ya'akob's family took his coffin to the Me'arat Hamachpelah to bury him, Esav appeared and protested that the last spot in the cave belongs to him, Esav, and not to Ya'akob. The sons of Ya'akob began to argue with Esav, trying to prove that the right to burial in that cave was sold to their father with the birthright. Esav argues that this was not included, so they decided to send Naftali, who was as swift as a deer, to Egypt to bring the original document. Ya'akob had a grandson named Hushim (the son of Dan) who was deaf, and didn't hear all the give and take. When Hushim saw that Ya'akob was not being buried he asked (in some form of sign language), "Why is there a delay?" When he was told that Esav was blocking the burial, he took a weapon and chopped Esav's head off, saying, "How could we leave our grandfather, Ya'akob, lying in disgrace while we wait for a document?"

The Rabbis ask why only Hushim, the grandson of Ya'akob, had the inspiration to do such a courageous act. Where were all the sons of Ya'akob themselves? Surely they loved and respected their father at least as much as Hushim ben Dan!

Rav Chaim Shmulevitz says that we see from here what happens when we get used to something. The brothers were already involved in the negotiations with Esav so they didn't perceive it as such a disgrace for Ya'akob to be lying around since they were already somewhat accustomed to the situation. Hushim, however, was deaf, and didn't hear all that was going on. He therefore saw the situation in all of its stark reality, and reacted by killing Esav.

The lesson to be derived from this is that we all too often get accustomed to situations. Many times this is beneficial, so that we wouldn't always be shocked by things. Sometimes, however, being used to certain situations, we don't react the way we are supposed to. We become too accepting of things which should be corrected or spoken about. We should try to talk things over with an outsider who will see the situation from a fresh point of view, thereby getting an objective opinion. Sometimes, our spouse can be objective enough when he or she is not involved too deeply in whatever is bothering us. One way or another we should try to look at situations from a new, fresh perspective, which will help us in doing the right thing.

from here

So for those who can keep their Neshomos FB free, Kol HaKavod to them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little Leiby's Lesson Learned

The beat towards Moshiach is growing louder and louder.

In my first-ever post, I discussed how technology is making the era of Moshiach that much more believeable. In a bygone era, those with Emunah Peshutah believed that there is an eye that sees, an ear that hears, a scribe that writes and that all our actions are recorded for infinity. Yet those with little Emunah, or none at all were puzzled how this is at all possible.

So along comes the telegraph, the phone, the radio, the television and the internet. Security cameras record our every move, TXT messages record our every word, CHAT records our instant message conversations. Big Brother is here.

For those who are skeptical of the arrival of the messianic era, this is all an invasion of privacy. But for those of us who have predicted his coming for several millenia, each new advance in technology brings him one step closer. One who truly fears God does not fear Big Brother, as a Yarei Shamayim is already cognizant of the fact that all his actions are scrutinized above.

I think that this is the lesson that we must learn from Leiby Kletzky HYD. It is not just by chance that security cameras caught the killer with him on tape. God is reinforcing this idea that "The King is Watching".

FBI agents will now be able to trace every web site the killer ever visited, every phone call he made in the last 10 years, every toll booth that he ever passed, and every aspect of his social life, as they comb his facebook account.

It is unfortunate that so great a lesson must be reinforced in such a tragic manner, but we should not squander the opportunity to do so.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seers State Slaying's Source

As members of the Chosen People, we believe that we were put on this earth to be a light unto the nations. That light burned brightly this past week as all segments of Jewry combined to assist in locating the missing child, and subsequently, the perpetrator.

What puzzles me is how various Rabbis are privy to the cause of such tragic events. Of course we know that there is a master running the world, with a master plan that eludes us, yet how does one pinpoint the cause unless he has a direct hotline to the heavens?

Is it because of Tzniyus? Is it because of same-gender marriage approval? Is it because of cell phones and TXTing? Or perhaps the Internet caused it. I guess we'll never know until we meet Leiby HY"D.

In any case, let me don my Seer's hat and look into my crystal ball.

Aha! I see it! It is because we have become news junkies. Up until a decade ago, we perhaps purchased a newspaper once in a while, or turned on the radio here and there. Nowadays, we insist on having news alerts and email all forwarded to our I-devices. We don't check in "two, three, four times a day". We check in constantly. We have a panic attack if we leave our I-device at home.

This sickness might be what brought about such a punishment. We were thrown into the limelight; our community made page one headlines around the country and the world. Every few hours were new updates and yet it was all for naught. We did not emerge unscathed.

I sometimes wonder how Beis Medrash Bochurim are able to learn nowadays in the TXTing age.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Community Could Create Cops

Many years ago, when someone needed emergency medical assistance, they would need to call 911. Unfortunately, the response time of EMS all too often was not timely enough. One Williamsburg Jew cared enough to change all that, and Hatzoloh was born.

Some years ago, a new organization was formed, called Chaveirim. This group will come and unlock your house, your car and assist in many other non life-threatening situations.

Another organization that has burst onto the scene is Misaskim. In just a few short years they have gone from an obscure group to being THE people to call for any death related issues. Accident scenes, Shiva houses, loudspeakers for a Levaya, preventing autopsies, and many other related issues are all handled by this wonderful organization.

Which brings to mind that it may be time for another one. Ever since the Jblogosphere has been in infancy, there has been an ongoing battle between the Rabbonim and many Jbloggers regarding reporting potential molesters. Rabbonim are mindful of Halachos of Mesirah and possibly ruining a man's good reputation based on false rumors, and the Jbloggers are quick to say "Go to the Police!"

Recent events have shown that it was some good old fashioned detective work that solved the tragic murder in our community. It was some simple Jewish people who cared and doggedly pursued video footage and others who subsequently located the perpetrator's car.

If we have such dedicated and analytical people in our community, why not form a group trained by the NYPD who can be mindful of the laws of Loshon Hora and yet can pursue any and all leads regarding possible molestors in our midst?

Amidst all the sadness in this tragic epic is the Achdus which was once again shown by hundreds of volunteers. So many community leaders and lay persons put aside their summer plans and stayed up for hours on end to assist in a hunt for someone who most of them didn't even know.

May Hashem comfort the Kletzky family.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mekimi Meets Mayor Mike

There are many organizations that serve the Jewish community. One of the lesser known is Mekimi. Mekimi's mission is to provide happiness to sick children and their families. To raise one up from the deepest depths of sadness is the epitome of selflessness and to what the organization aspires.

I have seen some of their fabulous work in past press releases, yet this past July 4th one of my neighbors shared with me the family's experience, and since I could not find any mention of this in the media, I will share it with my readers.

I received a call from Mekimi that they had a viewing area for the Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks display, was I interested? Sure, I said. I figured that my chances of getting a viewing area suitable to see the show were greater with a group than had I simply taken the train and fought the crowds on my own.

I arrived at Mekimi headquarters in the Boro Park section of Brooklyn and was astounded to see a coach bus waiting to ferry us to our location. I was somewhat concerned that we would miss the entire show, because the fireworks were designated to begin at darkness, 9:20 PM, and I was fearful of NYC traffic which is notorious for slowing to a crawl, even on highways during past fireworks shows.

What I hadn't known is that the Mayor/NYPD's office had provided a squad car with two officers who were to be our escort! The bus navigated the Boro Park streets until Ocean Parkway where we then zipped into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. We emerged on the West Side Highway where I had never seen so many policemen in one area. Yet as if the Parting of the Sea was being reenacted, police barriers were removed to allow access solely for our escort and our bus.

We proceeded until 24th street. There we were amazed to be situated in an area reserved for the dignitaries and all the major television and cable channels. We were escorted out on the 24th street pier, where Mekimi had prepared sushi and deli sandwiches and drinks. The view was amazing on this picture-perfect, weather-perfect evening.

The grandstand was situated directly behind us. Soon we noticed a caravan of 6 SUV's with their cherries flashing stopping at 24th street. The Mayor emerged and proceeded past us, briefly stopping to shake hands with some and wishing well to others.

All in all, it was a wonderful sight. I had never seen fireworks so close. They were shot into the air from six barges sitting on the Hudson river. The coordination was stupendous. The colors were electrifying. This experience will stay with me and my children for a lifetime.

Thank you Mekimi.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Addiction Alters Appropriate Appreciation

Reb Yaakov Kamenetzky said that he forgave everyone except the Bochur who introduced him to cigarettes. Everyone who was familiar with RYK knows that he was of the softest demeanor, yet he still felt strongly and was not Mochel the person who he believed was responsible for hooking him on smoke (prior to his quitting).

Whereas nowadays we know how evil smoking is, and how it is the root cause of so many diseases, surprisingly RYK harbored ill will against someone who may not have realized the seriousness of his action.

Today many innocent Yeshiva Bochurim are being ensnared by friends via the ills of the Ipod. The average black-hat Yeshiva Bochur is not familiar with the current shows on television, the music videos of MTV and the decadent movies in the theaters. Yet many a "friend" feel the need to ensnare them into the current secular viewing culture.

I would venture to say that RYK would be more upset about a friend that introduces another to decadent culture, even more so than smoking - for the simple reason that as Jews we should be careful not to sully our Neshomo even more than our bodies.

I recall the powerful story shared by Rav Matisyahu Salomon at one of the first gatherings to alert parents to the dangers of the Internet. A parent complained to RMS that his son was ensnared by the world wide web and was uninterested in learning anymore. The father was afraid that when his time came to leave the world, he would not be reunited with his son, as the father assumed that he would ascend to Heaven while the son was doomed for elsewhere. RMS thundered at him "What makes you think that you will go to Olam Habaah if you were the one who gave him access to the internet?"

Recent articles about Half-Shabbos are what prompted this post. Studies show that teens are sending on average hundreds of TXT messages a day! TXTing has become second nature to most teens, to be viewed almost as talking, walking and eating. It is no wonder then that some are unable to remove the addiction for the 25 hours of Shabbos. Added to that one can easily rationalize that there are those who permitted electricity on Shabbos before the consensus to prohibit carried the day.

It is not easy for those of us who grew up in a generation without Ipods to understand how difficult it may be to forego TXTing for a day. Yet we must show our children the beauty and serenity of Shabbos, as many a businessman has realized that unplugging themselves from their leash is the proven way to regain their sanity. Let us follow their lead to regain our sanctity.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Solomon Serves Sumptuous Smells

Way back in the days when kosher food was scarcely available outside the home, I went to the circus. I remember the excitement, the fun, the flying trapeze, the lions and tigers and the elephants, but what is most memorable is the smell of all the non-kosher food. The cotton-candy, the buttered popcorn, the snow-cones and the hot-dogs.

Years later I went with day camp to the Orange County Fair. The smashing car derby, the rides, the animals, the races - all remain seared in my memory. But perhaps the most powerful memory that lingers is the smell of the shish-ke-bob as it barbecued on the grill.

Fast forward to this past week, and those aromas were once again filling my nostrils. I had taken the opportunity of the mini-vacation that avails itself during when school ends and camp begins. Central Park was the destination, and those olfactory senses were reawakened as I passed the Victorian Gardens amusement park, which doubles as the Wollman Skating Rink during the winter.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the entire park had been rented out by some Chai Lifeline philanthropists to mark the Yahrtzeit of one of their donors, Shlomo (Solomon) Obstfeld ZTL.

Instead of tragically marking the year since his passing in a doleful way, the family and business of Shlomo paid for the entire park to be reserved for families of sick children. All the rides were free, snow cones were distributed, cotton candy was available, an entire array of barbecued food was provided, a Dee-Jay played all the current Jewish tunes, drinks flowed freely, popcorn popped, street vendor salted pretzels were available with all the amenities and hundreds of children forgot for a day that they were sick.

As I viewed this spectacle from a distance, I couldn't help but think Mi KiAmcha Yisrael! - How great are the People of Israel!

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