Reuven was a frum teenager who tried to follow the halacha correctly. Whenever he recited the Shema, he got nervous that he might not have pronounced every single letter properly. In order to alleviate his concerns, he repeated words numerous times until he felt confident that he pronounced it just right. As time went on, it took longer and longer to complete the Shema, until it reached the point that Reuven could not get through the Shema in less than one hour, and due to his frustration, he stopped reciting the Shema. Reuven then felt very depressed, because he was not fulfilling the mitzva of Shema. Reuven has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Did Reuven’s religion give him a mental illness?
As we sit in our comfortable homes and go about our daily business, most of our Israeli counterparts are also going about their daily lives as usual, with two exceptions: They have to worry about getting struck and killed by a direct hit from a Hamas rocket or shrapnel from it. And they either have sons, husbands, brothers, other family members, friends, or colleagues who are serving on the front line defending their country.
Despite these conditions or, rather, because of them, Israelis share a great sense of achdut (unity). People in all walks of life are actively participating in extra acts of chesed and witnessing many miracles. Everyone with whom I communicated for this article expressed his or her great love of the Land of Israel and the people of Israel, and tremendous appreciation for G-d’s protection and for the IDF. There are continual campaigns where all sorts of needed items are being prepared, collected, and brought to the chayalim (soldiers) on the front lines by volunteers putting themselves at risk. Here are short snippets of experiences of a few former Baltimoreans.
(The authors are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America. This is the twenty-fourth in a series. To view previous installments, please visit http://www.phillyreligiouszionists.org/lessons-from-the-gaza-war/.)
Much has been said and written about the terror tunnels that Hamas built in Gaza. But too little has been said about who it was that put the cement into Hamas’ hands, thus making the construction of the tunnels possible in the first place.
In a bombshell revelation, Dennis Ross, the senior Mideast policy adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from 2009 to 2011, has admitted that it was he who was assigned the task of pressuring Israel to ease up on its military blockade of Gaza, in the events after Israel's withdrawal from that region in 2005.
To the Shadchan:
A shidduch was suggested to me with an American boy who has made aliyah. He sounds like just what I am looking for, and he is interested in meeting me. The problem is that he presumably wants to live in Israel forever, while I am not so sure. I do love Eretz Yisrael and really enjoyed my year there, but I see a few obstacles to making a permanent move. First, I have a hard time with the divisions among different types of Jews and having to choose one derech. Second, I don’t think I would be happy with the school system. In addition, I would miss my family, who would not be able to afford visiting often or sending us tickets to visit them. And finally, I am not fluent in Hebrew, and would probably have a hard time finding a job. I would love to live in Eretz Yisrael for a few years but would most likely want to return to the States eventually. If I’m not sure I can commit to living in Eretz Yisrael long term, should I give up on this shidduch?
As many of you know, our beloved son Yoni served in the Israel Defense Force, in the religious unit, Netzach Yehudah. He finished his service but was called back for the Gaza Campaign. He was assigned to Yechidat Tzrikat Rabbanut, which he explained to me is that part of the army that goes out after someone is killed and retrieves his remains. It is a very big mitzva and requires bravery under fire, when enemies are still out there. They comb an area to bring the kedoshim to kever Yisrael and to save women from being agunot.
To pray for his safety, my family divided up Sefer Tehilim and undertook to finish the sefer daily. But Hashem gave me the zechus to do something else, which I will cherish forever and take with me to the Kisai Hakovod as a malitz yosher on the Yom Hadin. It all began with a phone call from Rabbi Yissocher Dov Eichenstein, asking me to come to his shul, Mercaz Torah U’Tfilah, and lead tehilim after Maariv. He said that since I have a son in Tzahal (Israeli army), I should lead the tehilim. I only knew the Rebbe casually, and this was the first time I had ever entered his shul.
In the book The Maggid at the Podium, Rabbi Paysach Krohn tells the story of a slaughterhouse in Argentina that opened every day at 5:00 a.m. and closed at 6:00 in the evening. The owner, Zev, stayed until 8:00, when he would turn off the lights, drive to the guardhouse, say good-night to Pedro, the security officer. Then he and Pedro would leave, each in his own car. One night, Zev stopped at the guardhouse as usual and said, “Time to go home, Pedro.”
“We can’t go,” Pedro replied. “Rabbi Berkowitz, one of the shochtim, hasn’t left yet.”
Rabbi Elazar haKappar said: “Hakin’a vehata’avah vehakavod motzi’im es ha’adam min ha’olam – Envy, inordinate desire, and [the search for] glory remove a man from the world.” (Pirkei Avos 4:28, translation from Bunim’s Ethics from Sinai.)
Ta’ava, inordinate desire or lust, is one of the three things which take man out of the world.
First, what is ta’avah? Ta’avah is an overpowering desire or craving. In the Chumash, the first two places in which the word ta’avah occurs are related to a lust for food. In the story of the Garden of Eden, Eve is tempted to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. Her desire for the food is described as “ta’avah hi l’aynayim,” (translated as “a delight to the eyes”). (Genesis 3:6) Ta’avah is again used in relation to food in Bamidbar. Bnai Yisrael are ready to begin the march to Eretz Yisrael, when the people begin complaining about missing the foods they had in Egypt. This event leads to a plague, is a source of great anger to Moshe Rabbeinu, and is the first of a number of incidents that prevent Bnai Yisrael from going directly into Eretz Yisrael. The place where the incident occurred is called Kivros-hata’avah, because “there they buried the people who had been craving (mis’avim).” (Numbers 11:34)
A group of us just came back from an emotional and moving day. It was organized by one of our friends in Maale Adumim, Yehuda Tatelbaum, who has a brother on a base about a mile from Egypt and a few kilometers from Gaza. About 20 of us, neighbors in the Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood of Maale Adumim, traveled in six cars, each loaded with food, sweets, meats, charcoal, fruits and vegetables, personal care products, and letters from children letting the soldiers know how much they are loved and appreciated.
Home baked goods could be found in almost every trunk. One car was likely the favorite, as it carried perhaps a dozen zippered canvas bags of shnitzel sandwiches: 500 of them! They were prepared by a crew that began their work at midnight and made sure to have everything prepared by the time we left.
I would like to state that everyone, at some point, experiences sensory perception difficulties. These are not the types of conditions described in a neurology textbook but, rather, deficits that are household specific. I have observed that these conditions can affect our ability to see, hear, taste, and even smell.
I recently had an experience that made me realize I had developed the visual processing disorder commonly associated with adults when their children become teenagers. Because this stage often coincides with a decline in eyesight, it is easy to confuse it with your growing need for bifocals. Perhaps my experience will help you determine whether you need new glasses, or not.
When we moved to Baltimore, 21 years ago, we looked at two houses: a nice house on a street with few frum families, and a house that needed “tender loving care” on a street with lots of frum families. What to do? After a few phone calls, the consensus was in: “location, location, location.” And that is how we ended up on Williamson Avenue. Baruch Hashem, we more or less fixed up the house. More importantly, we enjoy our neighbors immensely. One neighbor stands out, and we wanted to tell you about him, as we feel that there is so much to learn from Rabbi Reuven Lyss, z”l.