Sunday, September 30, 2012

Der Yosem's Esrog

A Story from the Shtetl
I want to share with you a poignant story from the shtetl. This story gives us a glimpse of both the tragedy and the rich beauty of a world that once was.
Tzvi Yehuda Kushelevitz, was the rabbi in a small Lithuanian town. But he not just another rabbi in town, but he was the “Rav,” meaning the foremost decider on all major spiritual and communal issues, and the Rabbinical judge of the town, to whom all matters of importance were addressed, and whose decisions were final and conclusive.
Rabbi Kushelevitz’s son, Chaim, relates the following story in his memoirs (1):
The Magid
It was a harsh and rainy Lithuanian winter day. A stranger appears in our shtetl bais-midrash, our village study hall and synagogue. A small Jew, a little yidele, bent under his pack, enters the synagogue. This Jew was a magid, an itinerant preacher who would travel from shtetl to shtetl, from town to town, to give speeches and to try to inspire the locals. Usually, between mincha and maariv (between the late afternoon and evening service) these “maggidim,” Jewish preachers, would deliver a few words of Torah amid a call for repentance and self-improvement. The Jews of the shtetl, poor as they already were, appreciated the spiritual message, and would voluntarily donate after the sermon was over, and on these few and meager coins, the magid would survive. He would then disappear the way he had come.
This scene was barely extraordinary.
But this magid – this visiting preacher -- was different. Not because of who he was, and not because of what he preached, but because of what he was carrying. A baby. Crying, pale, shivering, and pitiful. Why does a perpetual wanderer, without the bare necessities for himself, carry with him a needy child?
With a broken heart, he tells his tragic story:
“I am a ‘geshtrofener mentsch,’ a punished human being. I am an orphan who was raised by a large Jewish community, without a relative in the world. Jews, ‘rachmanim benei rachmanim’ (merciful one, descendants of the merciful ones), knowing that I had no parents, gave me teg, free meals at various homes, and put me through Talmud Torah, the shtetl Hebrew School, and then Yeshiva. They sponsored my education. I married according to my class: an orphan girl, every bit as poor as myself. After my marriage, I needed to make a living, so I became a magid.
Always traveling from city to city to hold sermons in small Jewish communities, I was able to return home and see my wife only during holidays. My son was born, and -- G-d protect me -- calamity struck: my wife died, and I was left alone with my infant son. Who could I leave him with? How could I support myself? I had no choice but to continue traveling; this was my only means for earning a livelihood so that he and I would live. And I have no choice but to take my poor orphan-child, my yosemel, with me.” (A yosemis an orphan. The word still maintains much power in the Jewish world. When you say that a child is a “yasom,” an orphan, it means that all must mobilize to help him or her. The endearing term for yosem is yosemel.)
This was the story this preacher told us.
We Take In the Orphan
My shtetl, moved by the magid’s plight, offered to care for his young orphaned son -- theyosemel. To raise him and educate him. As for the expenses involved, they reasoned, to become yet poorer was in any case not possible. They found a widow, who, for a fewgroshen, a few pennies, took him in to her home and promised to try to educate him to the best of her ability.
The magid agreed to this arrangement. Better that his child has a permanent home, then shelp around with his father as a nomad. The  magid took out of his satchel a few wrinkled women’s clothes and a set of tin leichter, tin candle-sticks. “His mothers inheritance. So he doesn’t get married empty handed.” He also left a paper with the yosem’s name: “Kasriel Sender ben Reb Moshe Hakohen--So he knows he is a Kohen, and that he may not marry a divorcee.” With that, the magid bid farewell to his infant boy, continued traveling, and we never saw him again.
The townspeople, who had enough of their own tzaros, their own problems, went on with their lives leaving the poor orphan with the widow. The shamash, the sexton of the synagogue, set up a pushka, a charity box—to collect the coins the villagers would donate during prayers—next to the one of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, with only three words: “Far Der Yosemel,” “For The Orphan.” Everyone knew whom this was referring to.
And this became his name: Der Yosemel, the orphan. This is how he was always known and called both by his classmates and his teachers, an eternal reminder of his tragic history. “Come Yosemel”, “Learn Yosemel”, “Go wash your hands Yosemel”. This was not meant to hurt or offend him; this was simply the way everyone knew him, and this was the most obvious term of reference. But hurt him it did. It marked him as being different, someone to be pitied, and someone all alone, an eternal orphan. This is how all others knew him, and this is how he came to know himself. The shtetl Jews, who so compassionately agreed to raise him, failed to sense the deep pain that this caused him. He was now bereft of everything: his parents, his own home, his own possessions, and even his own name.
The first time Der Yosem actually heard himself being called by his own real name was when he turned thirteen, at his bar mitzvah. He was called up to the Torah: Yamod Habachur Kasriel Sender ben Reb Moshe HaKohen, “Please step up to the Torah, Kasriel Sender ben Reb Moshe,” and he began crying.
The second time he heard his real name, he was standing under the chuppa, the wedding canopy. As an orphan, he married a girl from equal standing, also an orphan, and also penniless. The dowry he gave her was his deceased mothers tin candlesticks, and the few worn dresses his father left behind years ago. And the Rabbi announced while reading the ketuvah (marriage contract): Kasriel Sender ben Reb Moshe, our groom, chassan dinan, hereby takes this woman…
The Esrogim Show
But then his name changed.
And it came about in an extraordinary moment.
It was Motzai Yom Kippur, the evening after Yom Kippur. Immediately following the anxiety,  fear, and dread of the fast-day of Yom Kippur, the shtetl burst to life, as Jews eagerly and energetically would begin to bustle about preparing for Sukkos. Women, their faces shining and their hearts light, would kick their husbands out of the house to begin building the Sukkas as soon as the fast ended. Men with long white beards would become construction workers, and the kids would make sukka decorations from colored paper and hanging fruits. In the Chassidim’s shtibel, one could hear singing and dancing long onto the night. For, the evening after Yom Kippur was  like a holiday, the joy of Sukkos already had begun as Jews busily began preparing for the holiday, confident that their repentance was accepted, and that they were inscribed and destined to a good and  healthy year.
But the greatest celebration in town was at the Rav’s Beis Midrash, at the Chief Rabbi’s study hall. Long tables were set up, covered in pure white tablecloths, all the chandeliers were lit, and a steaming samovar of tea was placed in the corner, providing hot drinks to anyone that so desired. The shtetl-Jews arrived, dressed in their holiday clothes, and lined up to wish the Rav, the Rabbi, a heartfelt “Gut Yom Tov.”
And the main highlight of the night – that night after Yom Kippur -- was the displaying of the esrogs, of the citrons, which we shake on the Sukkos holiday. In cases of glass, wood, or metal each man brought with him his esrog, which he had personally and meticulously chosen earlier. They came to show the Rabbi their esrog and to hear his expert and decisive opinion about its quality and beauty.
You see, the esrog is the citrus fruit that we take on Sukkos together with the other three species, the Lulav—the tall palm branch, the hadass—the myrtle branch, and the arava—the willow (hold them up to show your crowd.) However, of these four species the Torah tells us to make sure the esrog is specifically beautiful, that it is a hadar. This means that it should be perfect in color, size, shape, proportion, and most important, in "cleanliness" meaning lack of any bruises or blemishes. To this very day, Jews the world over will spend hours upon hours, as well as tremendous amounts of money for the esrog that they feel is best. Grade "A" esrogim have to pass very stringent tests. In the open markets, some buyers come with a magnifying glass. An outsider would find it quite amusing…
The laws are intricate, and the Rabbi of the town was the true connoisseur of what constitutes a beautiful citron. Each of the more well-to-do people of the town who could afford to purchase a beautiful esrog, would now proudly show off his purchase to the Rav, eager to receive his critical approval.
It was a tense moment as the Rabbi thoughtfully chose the exact proper description for each esrog: “A kosher esrog;”“a nice esrog;”“a beautiful esrog;” “a hadar,” “a masterpiece,” “a real beauty,” “stunning,” “amazing,” “dazzling.”
The Gvir
Suddenly, after everyone had already sat down for tea, Reb Yitzchak, the gvir of the shtetl, the richest man in town, entered carrying with him a heavy silver esrog box. (They say that every town in Eastern Europe had to have at least one Rav, one gvir, onemeshuganer, and one drunk. And they were the main players in town.) An excited hush fell over the crowd. Rumor had it that this year Reb Yitzchak had managed to obtain a truly unique and beautiful esrog, one for the record books.
After wishing the Rav a “Gut Yom Tov,” with a finger trembling from excitement, Reb Yitzchak snapped open his silver box. Tenderly and lovingly, he removed his large esrog and handed it to the Rabbi.
The esrog was a sight to see: a perfect shape, and a gorgeous color. The Rav reverently turned it over, noting its clean skin, and exquisite fragrance. “Reb Yitzchak, theaibershter—G-d—has blessed you this year with an esrog that is a true hadar, a true beauty.” An impressed murmur swept through the crowd, and the shtetl Jews looked on with a healthy jealousy.
But just as Reb Yitzchak the wealthy Jew sat down, the door opened one last time. All eyes turned to see who had entered the room. They were stunned: it was one of the poorest Jews of the town. It was Der Yosemel. “What is HE doing here,” the more affluent Jews thought to themselves? “What type of esrog can he afford?”
Der Yosemel, the orphan, entered the room, holding an esrog wrapped in a plain white cloth. He walked hesitantly and shamefacedly, with slow, dragging, and uncertain steps.
The yosemel had so much wanted to finally feel like a "real man," a baalabos, an independent householder, an aigener mentch, that he had spent his last pennies on this esrog and he came to show it to the rabbi.
But it was the esrog that nobody had wanted. It was bruised and discolored. The pitum – the stem on top of the esrog - was hanging on precariously, like the survivor of a shipwreck to his battered plank of wood.
The other Jews sitting there could not grasp why he would even come at all with such a sad-looking esrog to the Rabbi. Theirs were beautiful, while his was grotesque. It was clearly a great doubt if the esrog was even minimally kosher.
Now the Lithuanian Rabbi was a man known for his unbending adherence to the strictest letter of the law. Lithuania, much more than Poland, Russia, or Hungary, is famous for its extreme ritual conservatism, its absolute adherence to the every letter of the law. Judaism in Lita was first and foremost about halacha. No loopholes, shortcuts, or compromises. Pure and undiluted, whatever that may be, whatever that will cost. What would the Rabbi say? What could he say?
All eyes turned to the Rabbi.
The Verdict
The Rabbi  – Zvi Yehudah Kushelevitz -- gazed at the sorry esrog, and gazed at the sorry man before him. He turned it over reverently, and tenderly rubbed its bruised skin. He meditated on the esrog very deeply.
“What is he doing,” other people thought to themselves. “What is there to meditate on? It is a lousy, impoverished esrog, and that’s the end of the story,” they said to themselves.
But then the Rabbi spoke:
“Gut Yom Tov, Reb Kasriel Sender! Thank G-d, you have a perfectly kosher esrog! And may you have next year an even more beautiful esrog!”
The orphan’s face lit up…  He felt so happy, so validated, so at peace.
The Rav continued talking to Kasriel Sender: "It says in the Torah, “You shall take for yourself the four species” (Ulekachtem Lecham). This means that every person takes according to who he is and what he can afford. The flour of the poor man – say our sages -- is just as beautiful to G-d as the ox offered by the rich man. Let each man must serve G-d based on his or her own capabilities.”
The orphan was kveling. For the first time in his life he felt truly validated, uplifted, recognized as a man of status.
The other Jews sitting in the room were stunned. Really? A nice Kosher esrog? Who even knows if it’s kosher? Why didn’t the Rabbi say the truth about the esrog -- that it was ugly? And why did the Rabbi have to meditate for so long?
Then with a lightning flash of realization, the entire community present realized what the Rav had just done. Understanding the inner pain of the man before him the Rabbi made sure to grant the person those few words he so desperately needed to hear. Halachikally, the esrog was extremely questionable, and to make a blessing on a non-kosher esrog is a grave offense. Yet the Rav chose to accept upon himself the full responsibility of that risk (2).
From that instant on, Der Yosemel, that broken and sorry object of communal pity, ceased to exist. Instead he was replaced by Reb Kasriel Sender, a man with a straight back, a firm walk, and most important, a proper name. “Reb Kasriel Sender, come sit down with us." “Reb Kasriel Sender, have a lechaim.” "Reb Kasriel Sender, can I offer you something hot to drink?"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Story: Yiskor for a living son

A Jewish observant Jew was once on a flight in the US. He struck up a conversation with the man
sitting next to him who also happened to be Jewish, by the name of Mr. Weinstein. When the
meals were served, he took Kosher, but Mr. Weinstein didn’t. He asked Mr Weinstein in a casual
way, why it was that he didn’t order Kosher? Why would he eat bacon?
Mr. Weistein pulled up his sleeve and showed his neighbor the number tattooed by the SS on his
arm. He shared how lost his family in the war, besides for one son who survived the selections
with him. But then, near the end of the war, they took his son away to another camp, and he
never ever saw his son again. That was the last straw that killed my faith. Why should I keep
Kosher? The man was startled and remained silent.
Four years passed, and one Yom Kippur whilst he man was going to Shul, he noticed an elderly
Jewish looking figure smoking, sitting on the bench. As he approached he was surprised to see it
was the same man he had met a few years earlier on the plane. Mr. Weinstein. He saw this as no
coincidence, and decided to go up to him and strike a conversation. He told him that today was
Yom Kippur, and in a few minutes they would say yizkor for all our loved ones who have passed
on. Weinstein did not want to hear from it. He said that he never been to a synagogue since the
Holocaust. “I have nothing to find there.”
But this other Jews pleaded: What can you lose? It will be a comfort for you to be with many
other survivors who remember and pay tribute to all of their loved ones who perished. You will
say a kaddish for your son. You know what? I will ask the cantor to do a special service, a Kel
Maleh Rachamim, for your son, since you have never been to shul since the Holocaust.
The man reluctantly agreed. They entered the synagogue and for the first time since the war he
said Yizkor for his beloved family.
Then the Jew who brought him in, approached the Chazan to say a prayer for his son.
The cantor began the prayer: E-l Maleh Rachamim, Shochen Meromim… Compassionate G-d,
please remember the soul of… and the cantor turned to the Jew to tell him the name of the boy
and his father’s name. The Jew said: Kasriel Menachem ben Yechezkel Shraga.
The Chazan heard the name and turned white like a ghost.
People ran over to support him.
The cantor asked who is the father of this child, and they pointed to the man, the survivor, who
just came to shul for the first time.The cantor ran over to him, screaming: Tate, Tate, Tate --- Father, father, father. As father and
son embraced.

Dead man walk through door

A defendant was on trial for murder. There was strong evidence indicating guilt,
but there was no corpse. In the defense's closing statement the lawyer, knowing
that his client would probably be convicted, resorted to a trick.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I have a surprise for you all," the lawyer said as
he looked at his watch. "Within one minute, the person presumed dead in this case
will walk into this courtroom." He looked toward the courtroom door. The jurors,
somewhat stunned, all looked on eagerly. A minute passed. Nothing happened.
Finally the lawyer said, "Actually, I made up the previous statement. But, you all
looked on with anticipation. I therefore put to you that you have a reasonable doubt
in this case as to whether anyone was killed and insist that you return a verdict of
not guilty."
The jury, clearly confused, retired to deliberate. He really caught them! A few
minutes later, the jury returned and pronounced a verdict of guilty.
"But how?" inquired the lawyer. "You must have had some doubt; I saw all of you
stare at the door."
The jury foreman replied, "Oh, we all looked, but your client didn't."

Joke: They've stolen the steering wheel

An elderly Floridian called 911 on her cell phone to report that her car has been
broken into. She is hysterical as she explains her situation to the dispatcher:
"They've stolen the stereo, the steering wheel, the brake pedal and even the
accelerator!" she cried. The dispatcher said, "Stay calm. An officer is on the way."
A few minutes later, the officer radios in.
"Disregard," he says. “She got in the back-seat by mistake."

Joke: car going the wrong way on Interstate 77

As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering,
he heard his wife's voice urgently warning him, "Herman, I just heard on the news
that there's a car going the wrong way on Interstate 77. Please be careful!"

"Hell," said Herman, "It's not just one car. It's hundreds of them! I am the only car,
in fact, driving in the right direction."

Story: Cossack Horse

There was a famous Chassidic Jew from Russia called R Mendel Futerfas, a man
who spent ten years of his life in a Russian gulag for teaching Judaism.
One of the prisoners in Rav Mendel's camp was an old Cossack imprisoned because
of his loyalty to the Czar. He reminisced with Reb Mednel about the Cossack horse.
You see, the Cossack horse was different than all other horses, incomparably
different! A Cossack’s horse had a different heart.
Not only would it do anything for its master; jump into fire, over trees and even
houses. Anything. And it was stronger, faster, and braver than anything alive. But
most of all, it had a different heart.
I will explain," continued the Cossack, “How did they catch a Cossack horse? Do you
know? Well I will tell you, this is a story!"
"The Cossacks were experts at this. There was a special group that would wander
the mountains and fields on horseback looking for herds of wild horses.
Then, if they were lucky and found a large herd, say of a thousand, two thousand
horses. They would stampede them and get them all running in the direction of the

nearest river. Then they would start screaming and shooting their guns in the air
and force the herd into the widest, deepest part of the river. You see, most horses
can swim, and so they had to get over, through the current to the other side, or die.
Now, on the other side was waiting another group of Cossacks. The whole thing,
was planned from the beginning, and they would watch to see what the horses did.
There were always two types of horses; some horses would make it to the other
side and run away to live their lives. Then there were the young horses, that didn't
have the strength to cross over, so they just floundered in the middle of the river."
His voice became serious, and he sat a "But sometimes... Not always, but sometimes,
there was a third type; maybe only one or two at the most, that were sort of crazy
They would make it across, but instead of running away, they would turn around,
look back into the river to see if there were horses in trouble and then jump BACK
in to save them."
"They would swim to the young horses, grab them with their teeth and start
dragging them in. They just couldn't stand to see their fellow horses in danger.
The Cossacks would throw some paint on these special horses and chase them for
days until they caught them. Then it would take several months of hard work until
they trained them. But the main thing was the heart; it was a horse with a heart.

Mouse & the Trap

an anecdote about an old farmer living in his farm with his
animals. A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife
open a package.
What food might this contain? He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.
Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. "There is a
mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"
The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell
this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be
bothered by it."
The mouse turned to the sheep and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house."
The sheep sympathized, but said, "I am so very sorry, Mr. Mouse, but there is
nothing I can do about it but pray for you. Be assured you are in my prayers. But
honestly, I am little affected by it."
The mouse turned to the cow and pleaded for help. She said, "Mr. Mouse. I'm sorry
for you, but it's no skin off my nose."
So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's
mousetrap alone.
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of
mousetrap catching its prey.
The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it
was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.
The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she
returned home with a fever.
Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his
hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her
around the clock. To feed them, the farmer slaughtered the sheep.
The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral;
the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

Story: Hope in Auschwitz

Rabbi Hugo Gryn. Hugo Gryn (1930-1996), was a Holocaust survivor, a community
leader, educator and broadcaster for the BBC, was born in Berehovo,
Czechoslovakia in a home filled with great warmth.
Hugo Gryn was 13 years old when he, among 10,000 Jews confined to the
Berehovo ghetto in April 1944. All were sent to Auschwitz on May 28, 1944.
He and his father were sent to work; his brother and grandfather were sent to the
gas chambers.
Hugo Gryn and his father, together with 2,600 Jews were later sent to the death
march from the Lieberose camp to Mauthausen. Less than a thousand survived that
march. Hugo was freed in on May 4, 1945, but his father died a few days later from
typhus and exhaustion.
Rabbi Gryn once related: When I was a young boy my family was sent to Auschwitz. For a while my father and I shared a barrack.
In spite of the unspeakable horror, oppression and hardship, many Jews held onto
what scraps of Jewish religious observance as they were able.
One midwinter evening one of the inmates reminded us that tonight was the first
night of Chanukah, the festival of lights. My father constructed a little Chanukah
menorah out of scrap metal. For a wick, he took some threads from his prison
For oil, he used some butter that he somehow obtained from a guard.
Such observances were strictly “verboten,” but we were used to taking risks.
Rather, I protested at the “waste” of precious calories. Would it not be better to
share the butter on a crust of bread than burn it?
“Hugo,” said my father, “both you and I know that a person can live a very long time
without food. But Hugo, I tell you, a person cannot live a single day without hope.
This Menorah is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here. Not anywhere.
Remember that Hugo.”

Story: Flowers for mom

A man stopped at a flower shop to order some flowers to be wired to his mother
who lived two hundred miles away.
As he got out of his car he noticed a young girl sitting on the curb sobbing.
He asked her what was wrong and she replied, "I wanted to buy a red rose for my
But I only have seventy-five cents, and a rose costs two dollars."
The man smiled and said, "Come on in with me. I'll buy you a rose."
He bought the little girl her rose and ordered his own mother's flowers.

As they were leaving he offered the girl a ride home.
She said, "Yes, please! You can take me to my mother."
She directed him to a cemetery, where she placed the rose on a freshly dug grave.
The man returned to the flower shop, canceled the wire order, picked up a bouquet
and drove the two hundred miles to his mother's house.

joke: meaning of life

On the first day, God created the dog and said: “Sit all day by the door of your house
and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. For this, I will give you a life span
of twenty years.”
The dog said: “That’s a long time to be barking. How about only ten years and I’ll
give you back the other ten?”
So God agreed.
On the second day, God created the monkey and said: “Entertain people, do tricks,
and make them laugh. For this, I’ll give you a twenty-year life span.”
The monkey said: “Monkey tricks for twenty years? That’s a pretty long time to
perform. How about I give you back ten like the dog did?”
And God agreed.
On the third day, God created the cow and said:”You must go into the field with the
farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support
the farmer’s family For this, I will give you a life span of sixty Years.”
The cow said: “That’s kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. How
about twenty and I’ll give back the other forty?”
And God agreed again.
On the fourth day, God created man and said: “Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy
your life. For this, I’ll give you twenty years.”
But man said: “Only twenty years? Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty
the cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that
makes eighty, okay?”
“Okay,” said God, “You asked for it.”

So that is why for our first twenty years we eat, sleep, play and enjoy ourselves. For
the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family. For the next ten years
we do monkey tricks to entertain the grandchildren. And for the last ten years we
sit on the front porch and bark at everyone.

Joke: borrow a hammer

A man is in court. The Judges says, "On the 3rd August you are accused of killing
your wife with a hammer, how do you plead?"
"Guilty", said the man in the dock.
At this point a man at the back of the court stood up and shouted "You dirty rat!"
The Judge asked the man to sit down and to refrain from making any noise.
The Judge continued "and that also on the 17th September you are accused of
killing your son by beating him to death with a hammer, how do you plead"?
"Guilty", said the man in the dock.
Again the same man at the back stood up and shouted even louder, "You dirty
rotten stinking rat"!!
At this point the Judge called the man to the bench and said, "I have already asked

you to be quiet, if you continue with these outbursts, I will have to charge you with
contempt of court. I can understand your feelings, but what relationship do you
have to this man?"
He replied "He is my next door neighbor.”
The Judge replied, "I can understand your feelings then, but you must refrain from
any comments".
The man replied "NO, Your Honor, you don't understand.
Twice I have asked if I could borrow a hammer, and BOTH TIMES he said he didn't
have one"!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Story: The Taxis & the Minyan

I want to share with you a most amusing and heartwarming story:
A man living in Jerusalem was saying kaddish for a parent who died. Each day he would say kaddish at the daily services in the synagogue. It was his way of connecting to the soul of his loved one. Returning home one night at 3:00am from a wedding, he fell into bed exhausted. As soon as he had turned out the light, he realized that he hadn’t prayed Ma’ariv, the evening prayer. He missed the kaddish for his beloved mother. With tremendous effort, he dragged himself out of bed and started to dress.
Where to find a minyan at this time of the morning? 3 AM?
No problem. As anyone who lives in Jerusalem can tell you, day or night, you can always find a minyan at the shteibelach—the small synagogues in the Zichron Moshe neighborhood.
That night there was a miracle. Zichron Moshe was totally deserted; no one was there; nary a hobo, nada.
Taking out his cellular phone, he dialed the number of a large taxi company.
“Hello! Can you please send six taxis to the shteibelach in Zichron Moshe?”
“Adoni (my dear sir)! It’s three o’clock in the morning! You think I have six taxis? What do you think I am, a magician? …I only have five.”
“Okay. So send five!”
He dialed another number. “Hello, please send five taxis to Zichron Moshe…”
“Your crazy? Atah meshugah. I only have four!
“okay so send four.”
Within twenty minutes, there was a procession of nine taxicabs parked neatly outside the shteiblach.
“Adoni,” said one of the drivers, “Why do you need nine taxis? There’s no wedding here, no Bar Mitzvah, nothing.”
“I want you all to turn your meters on and come inside with me. We are going to pray together the evening prayer — arvit ”
“I will pay each of you just as if your giving me a lift. For every minute you are here, I will pay you.”
Dusty yarmulkes (skullcaps) emerged from the glove compartments of the taxis, some woken from a hibernation that stretched back to their owner’s own bar mitzvah.
It wasn’t easy. Despite being obviously fluent in Hebrew, the drivers had no idea how to pray: what and when to answer; when they should pray aloud and when in silence.
It took them quite a while. But the kaddish man, showd them exactly what do do. They had the most incredible, moving prayer at 3:30 AM in Jerusalem, and he said kaddish after his mother.
When they had finished, everyone went out to the taxis; the meters in the cars were pushing upwards of 90 shekels each car. The drivers turned off their meters and the man pulled out his wallet. He would dash out around 800 shekel to all the drivers to pay them for their time.
“How much do I owe you?” he said to the first taxi driver in the line.
“Adoni, what do you take me for? Do you honestly believe I would take money from you who just gave me such an opportunity to help my fellow Jew say kaddish?
He moved down the line to the second driver. Identical reaction. “Do you know how long it is since I prayed?” you want me to take money from you?
And the third and the fourth, all the way down the line to the ninth…
Not one would take a penny.
They embraced and they drove off to a new morning in the holy city of Jerusalem!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Joke: A priest was called away for an emergency.

Not wanting to leave the confessional unattended, he called his rabbi friend from across the street and asked him to cover for him. The rabbi told him he wouldn't know what to say, but the priest told him to come on over and he'd stay with him for a little bit and show him what to do.

The rabbi comes and he and the priest are in the confessional. In a few minutes a woman comes in and says "Father forgive me for I have sinned. I committed adultery."

Priest says: "How many times?" Woman: "Three times."

Priest says, "Say two Hail Marys, put $5.00 in the box, and sin no more."

A few minutes later a man enters the confessional. He says, "Father forgive me for I have sinned."

Priest says, "What did you do?" Man says, "I committed adultery."

Priest asks, "How many times?" Man replies, "Three times."

Priest says, "Say two Hail Marys, put $5.00 in the box, and sin no more."

The Rabbi tells the priest that he thinks he's got it so the priest leaves. A few minutes later another woman enters and says, "Father forgive me for I have sinned."

Rabbi says, "What did you do?"

Woman replies, "I committed adultery." Rabbi asks, "How many times?"

Woman says "Once."

Rabbi says, "Go do it two more times, we have a special this week, three for $5.00."

Joke: a dead seagull

A woman went to the beach with her children. Her four-year-old son ran up to her, grabbed her hand, and led her to the shore where a dead seagull lay in the sand.
"Mommy, what happened to him?" the little boy asked.
"He died and went to heaven," she replied.
The child thought for a moment and said, "And God threw him back down?"


A Sunday School teacher had just concluded her lesson and wanted to make sure she had made her point. She said, “Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?”
There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a small boy spoke up. "Sin," he said.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

joke: sleep like a baby

hile the U.S. stock market was at an all time high, the ups and downs frightened a lot of small investors. A guy went to his financial adviser at the bank and ask if he were worried. 
      He replied that he slept like a baby. 
      He was amazed and asked, "Really? Even with all the fluctuations?" 
      He said, "Yes. I sleep for a couple of hours, then wake up and cry for a couple of hours."

Joke: Where's my Rolex

A Rich kid  opens the door of his BMW, when suddenly a car came along and hit the door, ripping it off completely. When the police arrived at the scene, the rick kid was complaining bitterly about the damage to his precious BMW. "Officer, look what they've done to my Beeeemer!!!" he whined. 
      "You people are so materialistic, you make me sick!!!" retorted the officer, "You're so worried about your stupid BMW, that you didn't even notice that your left arm was ripped off!!!" Oh my gaaad...", replied the kid, finally noticing the bloody left shoulder where his arm once was, 
      "Where's my Rolex!!!!!"

Choose between wealth, honor and wisdom.

A joke is told of a genie that appeared at a meeting of the faculty at a
prestigious university. She approached the president and told him that due
to his scholarship, diligence and devotion he was entitled to one of three
blessings. He must choose between wealth, honor and wisdom. Without
hesitation the president chose wisdom and the genie granted his wish and

Awed by the moment the faculty waited silently for the first pearls of
wisdom to flow from the president?s mouth. Awash in a halo of light, the
president quietly murmured, ?I should have taken the money

Friday, September 14, 2012


A woman goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Chanukah cards. She says to the clerk "May I have 50 Chanukah stamps please."
"What denomination?" says the clerk.
The woman says "Oy god, has it come to this?
Okay, give me 6 orthodox, 12 conservative and 32 reform!"
Well, friends, I am proud that in our shul we have Jews of every denomination and background. What matters in our sanctuary is not labels, but souls.

Ronal Reagan and his estranged daugter patti

here is a sad amd moving story of Ronal Regan and his estranged daugter patti. 

Reagan in his old age and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer illness writes a letter pleading with his daugter to talk to him and in the end she refuses and sell the letter to a collector... "my friends it does not need to end like this..."

(see attached image)

Reagan, Ronald (1911-2004) 40th President of the United States, 1981-1989. Autograph Note Signed ("Dad"), on card engraved "Ronald Reagan," with embossed presidential seal (Los Angeles), March 2, 1991, 4¼ x 6 3/8 in. A poignant note to his daughter Patti (Davis), attempting to heal the family rift. In full:

"Dear Patti / It was good to hear from you. As the song goes - 'the days dwindle down to a precious few.' In view of my recent birthday I find the song appropriate. Patti I think a talk between us is the answer to some of our differences. There are extremists on both sides of every issue. Reasonable people should look into both sides and see if every charge or countercharge is justified by the facts. Even if there are differences does this justify a family separation? We can disagree on things without abandoning our family relationship. I remember a little girl who sat on my lap and asked me to marry her. Love - Dad."

The President had just turned 80 on February 6th and realized that his days were numbered, even before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 1994. Patti was the first of Ronald and Nancy's two children and she aired her differences with her parents publicly. Patti sold this letter a couple of days after her father sent it to her, with the proviso that it not be resold until after her father's death. It was sold again, privately, with the same proviso, on March 27, 1991, and has not been offered for sale again until now. A Liz Smith column in August 1992, here included, refers to the letter, calling Patti "the perpetually estranged daughter of Ronald and Nancy Reagan." Patti admitted to Liz that she had sold the letter because she needed money but denied that it had any special sensitivity, and said that she was trying to buy it back. Patti recalled that it had been written during the time she was protesting her father's administration's policy regarding the killing of dolphins, but in March 1991, when her father wrote the note, he had not been President for two years. Patti made her peace, at least with her mother, at some point, because she was obviously a great comfort to Nancy during her father's funeral.

This is a beautiful, loving note from the late President, reaching out to his estranged daughter. It is accompanied by the transmittal envelope, addressed by Ronald Reagan, with a stamped free frank. The paperwork from the letter's March 27, 1991 sale is also enclosed.
Estimated Value $10,000 - 15,000.

Treasure under bridge.

A man was once digging under a bridge and was stopped by a guard. When asked to explain his bizarre digging he explained that he had dreamt of a treasure hidden under this bridge. The guard laughed and said do you always travel long distances when you have a dream? Why, if I were a fool like you, I would have traveled this morning to the following village because I dreamt of a treasure under the floorboards of the following home.
The man quickly realized that the guard was describing his own home and understood that the treasure he was meant to find under the bridge were the directions to his treasure back home. Indeed he returned home, dug up his floorboards and found the treasure.

Raising Cain

What is one of the first things Adam and Eve did after they were 
kicked out?
They raised a little Cain.

One day in the Garden of Eden

One day in the Garden of Eden, Eve calls out to God, "Lord, I have 
a problem!"
  "What's the problem, Eve?"
  "Lord, I know you created me and provided  this beautiful garden and
all of these wonderful animals and that hilarious comedic snake, but 
I'm just not happy."
  "Why is that, Eve?" came the reply from above.
  "Lord, I am lonely, and I'm sick to death of apples."
  "Well, Eve, in that case, I have a solution.  I shall create a man 
for you."
  "What's a man, Lord?"
  "This man will be a flawed creature, with many bad traits. He'll lie,
cheat, and be vain and glorious; all in all, he'll give you a hard time.
But...he'll be bigger, faster, and will like to hunt and kill things.
He will look silly when he's aroused, but since you've been complaining,
I'll create him in such a way that he will satisfy your physical needs. 
He will be witless and will revel in childish things like fighting and 
kicking a ball about.  He won't be too smart, so he'll also need your 
advice to think properly."
  "Sounds great," says Eve, with an ironically raised eyebrow.
"What's the catch, Lord?"
  "Well... you can have him on one condition."
  "What's that, Lord?"
  "As I said, he'll be proud, arrogant, and self-admiring... So you'll 
have to let him believe that I made him first.  Just remember, it's our
little secret...You know, woman to woman." 

in the Garden of Eden, eating strawberries

  A women's lib speaker was addressing a large group and said, 
"Where would man be today if it were not for woman?"
She paused a moment and looked around the room. "I repeat, where 
would man be today if it were not for woman?"
  From the back of the room came a voice, "He'd be in the Garden 
of Eden, eating strawberries."

Growing Good Corn

A farmer grew award-winning corn. Each year he entered his corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors. “How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are entering corn in competition with yours each year?” the reporter asked. “Why sir,” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross-pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. If I am to grow good corn, I must help my neighbors grow good corn.” He is very much aware of the connectedness of life. His corn cannot improve unless his neighbor’s corn also improves.
So it is with our lives. Those who choose to live in peace must help their neighbors to live in peace. Those who choose to live well must help others to live well, for the value of a life is measured by the lives it touches. And those who choose to be happy must help others to find happiness, for the welfare of each is bound up with the welfare of all.
The lesson for each of us is this: if we are to grow good corn,
we must help our neighbors grow good corn.

four sons who never stopped quarrelling

A man once had four sons who never stopped quarrelling with one another. He was always telling them how much easier life would be if they worked together but they took absolutely no notice of him. One day he decided to show them what he meant. He called the sons together and put a tightly tied bundle of sticks on the floor in front of them. "Can you break that?" he asked the youngest son. The boy put his knee on the bundle but though he pressed and pulled with his arms he could not bend the wood. The father asked each son in turn to try to break the bundle, but none of them could do it. Then he untied the string and scattered the sticks. "Now try," he said. The boys broke the sticks easily in the hands. "Do you see what I mean?" asked the father. "If only you stand together no one can hurt you. If you all disagree the whole time and insist on going your separate ways, the first enemy you meet will be able to destroy you."

Arms and Legs for Others

Bob Butler lost his legs in a 1965 land mine explosion in Vietnam. He returned home a war hero. Twenty years later, he proved once again that heroism comes from the heart. Butler was working in his garage in a small town in Arizona on a hot summer day when he heard a woman's screams coming from a nearby house. He began rolling his wheelchair toward the house but the dense shrubbery wouldn't allow him access to the back door. So he got out of his chair and started to crawl through the dirt and bushes. I had to get there, he says. It didn't matter how much it hurt. When Butler arrived at the pool there was a three-year-old girl named Stephanie Hanes lying at the bottom. She had been born without arms and had fallen in the water and couldn't swim. Her mother stood over her baby screaming frantically. Butler dove to the bottom of the pool and brought little Stephanie up to the deck. Her face was blue, she had no pulse and was not breathing. Butler immediately went to work performing CPR to revive her while Stephanie's mother telephoned the fire department. She was told the paramedics were already out on a call. Helplessly, she sobbed and hugged Butler's shoulder. As Butler continued with his CPR, he calmly reassured her. Don't worry, he said. I was her arms to get out of the pool. It'll be okay. I am now her lungs. Together we can make it. Seconds later the little girl coughed, regained consciousness and began to cry. As they hugged and rejoiced together the mother asked Butler how he knew it would be okay. The truth is, I didn't know, he told her. But when my legs were blown off in the war, I was all alone in a field. No one was there to help except a little Vietnamese girl. As she struggled to drag me into her village, she whispered in broken English, It okay. You can live. I be your legs. Together we make it. Her kind words brought hope to my soul and I wanted to do the same for Stephanie. There are simply those times when we cannot stand alone. There are those times when we need someone to be our legs, our arms, our friend! 

The Fern and the Bamboo

One day I decided to quit...I quit my job, my relationship, my spirituality...
I wanted to quit my life. I went to the woods to have one last talk with God.
“God”, I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to quit?”
His answer surprised me. “Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the bamboo?”
“Yes”, I replied. “When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took very good care of them.
I gave them light. I gave them water. The fern quickly grew from the earth.
Its brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came from the bamboo seed.
But I did not quit on the bamboo. In the second year the fern grew more vibrant and plentiful.
And again, nothing came from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo.
In year three there was still nothing from the bamboo seed.
But I would not quit. The same in year four.
Then in the fifth year, a tiny sprout emerged from the earth.
Compared to the fern, it was seemingly small and insignificant.
But just six months later, the bamboo rose to over 100 feet tall.
It had spent the five years growing roots.
Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed to survive.
I would not give any of my creations a challenge it could not handle.
“Did you know, my child, that all this time you have been struggling, you have actually been growing roots?
I would not quit on the bamboo. I will never quit on you.
“Don’t compare yourself to others.” He said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the fern.
Yet they both make the forest beautiful. “Your time will come”, God said to me.
“You will rise high.” “How high should I rise?” I asked.
“How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.
“As high as it can?” I questioned. “Yes.”
He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as you can.”
I left the forest, realizing that God will never give up on me.
And He will never give up on you.
Never regret a day in your life.
Good days give you happiness; bad days give you experiences; both are essential to life.
Serenity isn’t freedom from the storm, but peace within the storm.

I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.

The following was found written on a cellar wall in Cologne (Köln) after World War II,
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when I feel it not.
I believe in God even when he is silent.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

life after birth?

Twins, a sister and brother were talking to each other in the womb. The little sister said to the little brother: ‘I believe that there is life after birth!’ Her brother protested: ‘No, no, this is all there is. This is a dark and cosy place, and we have nothing else to do but to cling on to the cord that feeds us.’ But the little girl insisted: ‘There must be something more than this dark place, there must be something else where there is light and freedom to move.’ Still she could not convince her twin brother. Then...after some silence, she said hesitantly: ‘I have something else to say, and I am afraid you won’t believe that either, but I think there is a mother!’ Her little brother now became furious: ‘A mother, a mother, what are you talking about? I have never seen a mother and neither have you. Who put that idea in your head? As I told you, this place is all we have so let’s be content.’ The little sister finally said: ‘Don’t you feel this pressure sometimes? Its really unpleasant and sometimes even painful.’ ‘Yes,’ he answered, ‘what’s special about that?’ ‘Well,’ the sister said, ‘I think this pressure is there to get us ready for another place, much more beautiful than this, where we will see our mother face to face! Don’t you think that’s exciting!. 

The mouse who was afraid

There is a legend which says that there was a mouse who was very afraid of cats. She wished she could become a cat, her wish came true and she turned into a cat. Then she saw a dog and became afraid again and wished she were a dog. Her wish was granted and she turned into a dog. Then she saw a lion and she was terrified by his power and strength and wished she could become a lion so that she would not have to be terrified of the lion. Her wish was granted and she became a lion. Then she saw a man with a gun about to shoot her with his gun. You can imagine what happened next. She wished she could become a human and she did. But when she was sitting in her house she saw a mouse and she was scared of the mouse. The little mouse frightened her.

Death was walking toward a city

Death was walking toward a city one morning and a man asked, “What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to take 100 people,” Death replied.
“That’s horrible!” the man said.
“That’s the way it is,” Death said. “That’s what I do.”
The man hurried to warn everyone he could about Death’s plan.
As evening fell, he met Death again. “You told me you were going to take 100 people,” the man said. “Why did 1,000 die?”
“I kept my word,” Death responded. “I only took 100 people. Worry took the others.”

This interesting tale portrays so well what the US National Mental Health Committee reported a few years ago - half of all the people in America’s hospital beds are constant worriers. Mental distress can lead to migraine headaches, arthritis, heart trouble, cystitis, colitis, backaches, ulcers, depression, digestive disorders and yes, even death. the mental fatigue of nights without sleep and days without peace, then we get a glimpse of the havoc worry plays in destroying the quality and quantity of life.
Worry is, and always will be, a fatal disease of the heart, for its beginning signals the end of faith.
Release the regrets of yesterday, refuse the fears of tomorrow and receive instead, the peace of today.


When G-d first revealed Himself to Moses from the Burning Bush, He said to him,
“Remove your shoes from your feet.” With this command, G-d impressed an
important point on Moses.
That point was that when you walk down the road in shoes, you stroll easily. The
shoes that you wear protect you from feeling the little stones and the sharp pebbles
on the road.
However, when you walk down the road barefoot, you feel every little stone and
every sharp pebble that you step on.
As Moses was being appointed to lead Israel, he was commanded to remove his
shoes. This hinted to the fact that he had to walk through life “barefoot”, so that he
could feel and understand every little pain and every little sorrow which was the
lot of his people.
The true Jewish leader cannot isolate himself from the plight of his people. He
cannot put on the figurative shoes of indifference, caring for himself, at the cost of
feeling the distress of his flock.
Similarly, each of us should take off the shoes of apathy, and be sensitive to the even
the smallest opportunities for kindness. We never know which minor gestures on
our part could make a difference in people’s lives.

Can you teach us how to survive?

Years ago, Eli Weezell (? ) was asked by the Dalai Lama if he could see
him. He wanted to talk to Eli Rizell.  During their meeting, Weezell said
to him, ?With all due respect, Mr. Lama? (I don?t think he really called
him that) ? Why was it so important for you to see me??  The Dalai Lama
answered him, ?Mr. Weezell, your people have suffered a lot and you went
into exile 2000 years ago, but amazingly you?re still here. My people just
left our homeland. We are in exile. Can you teach us how to survive? How?
How have you done it? How do the Jews continue to do it??

When you thought I wasn?t looking

?When you thought I wasn?t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the
refrigerator and I immediately wanted to paint another one. When you
thought I wasn?t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat and I learned that it
was good to be kind to animals. When you thought I wasn?t looking, I saw
you make my favorite cake for me and I learned that little things can be
very special in life. When you thought I wasn?t looking, I heard you say a
prayer to G-d and I learned that there was a G-d that I could always talk
to and I learned to trust in G-d. When you thought I wasn?t looking, I saw
you make a meal and take it to a friend who was ill and I learned that we
all need to help to take care of each other. When you thought I wasn?t
looking, I saw you give your time and money to people who had nothing and I
learned that those who have something, should give to those who don?t.
When  you thought I wasn?t looking, I felt you kiss me goodnight and I felt
loved and safe.  When you thought I wasn?t looking, I saw tears come from
your eyes and I learned that sometimes things hurt and that it?s alright to
cry. When you thought I wasn?t looking, I saw how you handled your
responsibilities even when you didn?t feel well and I learned that I would
need to be responsible when I grow up. When you thought I wasn?t looking, I
was looking at you and I wanted to say, Thank you for all the things I saw
when you thought I wasn?t looking.?

My friends, they?re always looking.   Our children are looking and learning
from every thing we do and every thing we don?t do. Like Isaac who walked
alongside his father, if we set the right example, our children will be
right there in step with us when G-d calls for us to meet him alone on the
top of a mountain. If we role model properly for them, than they will have
the knowledge, the courage, the inner strength with which to climb the
mountain they will encounter later in life and they will encounter
mountains. This is the hope and the continuity of our nation and for all