How Cleaning the Refrigerator Helps Us Come Closer to Hashem


cleaning lady

You’re beautiful, but you’re empty...One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than you hundreds of other roses; because it is she that I have watered… she that I have sheltered behind the screen…Because she is my rose.” (The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

I couldn’t help thinking of this passage from the beautiful classic, The Little Prince, as I stood in my kitchen a week before Pesach, a toothpick in my hand and a bucket of one-third bleach and two-thirds cleanser at my feet.

Life is so interesting, so full of adventures waiting to happen, and here I am, aching and tired, racing towards the deadline of bedikas chametz night. Hashem, is this really what You want me to be doing? Is my destiny really meant to be about obsessing over a breadcrumb that has escaped under the vegetable bin?


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Sir Martin and Me


martin

Editor’s Note: Last month, one of the world’s leading historians, Sir Martin Gilbert of London, passed away. Gilbert (1936-2015), author of about 90 books, was not only a leading historian, he was a Jewish historian. That is, he was a historian who happened to be Jewish. Famous for his multi-volume biography of Winston Churchill, he also wrote a great deal about his people, particularly about the Holocaust and the State of Israel. He was a Jewish Jew, a proud and public Zionist, as well as a member of an Orthodox shul in London, the Highgate Shul. He held high posts in British society, and his positive influence on British culture and politics helped in the fight against the anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism which is so rampant there. All of this (and more) is public knowledge. What is not known is his “Baltimore connection” – our own Avinoam Miller, a connection that reflects Sir Martin’s middos and chesed. We are happy to share this story with our readers. Enjoy!


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From Learning to Working: Adding on Another Room


yeshiva bachur

I just completed a three-year stint at a Cleveland Bais Yaakov teaching English Literature and Public Speaking. Since the school has neither internet access nor a secular library, I struggled in setting expectations for the girls’ requirement to do research for an informational speech. Eventually, I decided to assign a “biography speech.” Each student was asked to choose an ArtScroll or Feldheim biography of a gadol (Torah giant) and select three traits of this gadol as her focus. Despite the fact that my students’ speeches relied on a single source and were therefore one-sided, each year they came out rather good – at least according to my adjusted standards. The speeches were structured, organized, and well delivered. And as an unexpected bonus, I walked away feeling inspired by the stories of mesiras nefesh (self-sacrifice) and kavod haTorah (honor brought to the Torah) of these great Torah giants.


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Finland


finland

Why would anyone in his right mind choose to go to Finland, of all places, in the dead of the winter? A normal person would want to escape the cold by flying south of the equator to South Africa or Australia to bask in the summer’s sun.

For me, it was the Northern Lights that did it.

The ad looked too good to be true: “Experience a once-in-a-lifetime winter adventure…. Cross the Arctic Circle, visit the famous Ice Hotel, explore the forest on dog sledges, experience the Northern Lights – and much more. And this was a kosher tour for Orthodox Jews!

From the time I was a boy of eight or nine, I have been enchanted by pictures of the mysterious greenish-yellowish glow that filled the skies far, far away, above the Arctic Circle. And now this ad depicted those heavenly colors filling the sky, over a canopy of pure white snow blanketing the tall pine trees and the open meadows.


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It’s All in Your Head When OCD Lurks in the Shadows


depression

OCD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The mere mention of this disorder elicits images in our minds of excessive hand-washing, checking locks countless times, spending hours making sure that the books on the bookshelves are “just right,” and other compulsive actions. If someone is not engaging in such overt compulsive actions, you would think that he does not have OCD. The reality is quite different. It is actually quite common for a person with OCD to have covert mental compulsions.

Now, I know what you are thinking. How can a compulsive action be merely mental? If it is all in the head, what is the big deal? This is an excellent question.


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The Maryland Education Credit and You


school building

There is power in the mouse! We have a golden opportunity, with a few clicks, to help the effort to lower our school tuition costs. The current Maryland state legislative session is considering a bill that would help our community immensely by giving schools additional state money to be used for tuition assistance, academic tutoring, books, supplies, technology, and special needs services.

These additional funds could become a reality if the Maryland Education Credit (MEC) bill, formerly know as BOAST, is passed. This legislation (Senate Bill 405/House Bill 487) benefits not only the day schools. As a recent MEC email states, “It would help lower-income families – from both public and nonpublic schools – afford tuition and other educational expenses for their children. It would give kids the opportunity to attend schools which best suit their needs. Low-income children receive first priority for financial assistance.”


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To Clean or Not to Clean… Not a Pesach Tale


cleaning supplies

Living in a clean and orderly environment is generally touted as a good thing. (And in the weeks before Pesach, it equates to the highest levels of tzidkus, literally.) That is why mothers from time immemorial have made futile attempts at achieving this goal. Many of us do not shoulder the entire burden alone. Credit must be given where credit is due: to our husbands, who often take on a fair share of the responsibilities, and to our children, who also help out a lot. However, no matter how much man, woman, or child power we dedicate to keeping our homes clean, the mess and clutter always seem to accumulate faster than our little brooms can sweep – hence, the brilliant idea of “the cleaning lady.”


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The Three Stages of Marriage Why All Marriages Go through their Ups and Downs


marrige

“Is my marriage beyond repair? Is this feeling normal?”

Couples are often confused when their relationship takes a turn for the worse. What many don’t realize is that the ups and downs they are experiencing are normal and even serve a higher purpose. Understanding the three stages of marriage helps couples normalize their situation and provides hope that their marriage can thrive once again. Let’s explore the three stages and see which one you are in:


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Ask the Shadchan


jewish dating

To the Shadchan:

My younger brother is having a problem with shidduchim. He is 22 and in yeshiva, although he plans to go to college soon. He would like to get married and has gone out with nine girls, so far. They all said no to him. My brother is sweet, kind, good looking, a decent student – an all-around nice guy. We come from a good, simple family, although with no yichus to speak of.

He went out with each girl two or three times, and liked them all. Each time he was rejected, it came as a total surprise. He was not attuned to how the girl felt during the dates, and had no idea why she said no. 


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The Art of Leading an Amazing Seder


seder plate

After the cleaning and the cooking, the shopping and the looking (for chametz), Jews all over the world finally sit down to the Pesach Seder. To make your Seder memorable, the key is to remember that everything before the story is to prepare for the story. Everything after the story is to celebrate the story. The leader of the Seder is the guide on this journey. One of the challenges of the leader is to keep the participants engaged from beginning to end. All the traditional directions (like covering and uncovering the matza, for instance) are just devices to help participants, especially children, pay attention and ask: why? Here are a few more tips and preps for keeping the people around the table engaged:


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