Articles From March 2015

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


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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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


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


“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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Tizmoret Shoshana


“One hen, two ducks, three squawking geese,” I begin.

“Four limerick oysters, five corpulent porpoises,” a few girls chime in.

I pause to remember the rest of the memorized count, and a violinist shouts from behind her music stand, “Six pair of Don Alverzoz tweezers, seven Macedonian soldiers dressed in full battle array!”

So began another incredible week at Tizmoret Shoshana, a creative arts camp for Jewish girls. Tizmoret is filled with colors. The girls are individuals, with big visions and bigger hearts. The friendships that develop are strong and long lasting. The campus is stunning, open and surrounded by nature. Counselors give everything to their campers. One counselor, who studied voice, piano, and ballet, would visit my room every night to sing to us. Another, who flew in from Israel each year to teach music, introduced us to a never ending game, which we played deep into the night. Chana Chava, the creative writing director, told us stories around the campfire that sent chills up our arms.

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The Perfect Pesach Plan


Ask women what is the most stressful time of year and many will tell you “Erev Pesach.” We all have our methods of madness that determine how we handle the situation. There are those who start months in advance and those who wait for the last minute. Some women work randomly, while others work by their carefully plotted schedules and lists. I am one of the latter. I really don’t do well with the carefree, relaxed approach to making Pesach. I’m definitely not a last-minute person and like to feel in control of the situation. Well, as my grandmother used to say, “Man plans, and G-d laughs.” (It sounds better in Yiddish.)

Nissan, 2008. I had diligently worked my way through all the cleaning, culminating in an intense motza’ei Shabbos and Sunday of The Kitchen. Sunday night, we finally finished. What a good feeling! The kitchen was all cleaned, scrubbed, and scoured; ready for the massive line-the-counters/cabinets/etc. project, which would commence the following morning. We settled down for a night of well deserved sleep. Four a.m., the phone rang. It was my husband’s little sister informing us that their mother had passed away. 

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Hats Off to… A Financial Analysis of the Borsalino Boycott


We all had our fill of hamantaschen recently, so I thought we should pause and, in proper post-Purim spirit, focus on Mordechai-taschen. “What’s that!” you ask? Why, Mordechai’s version of a hat, of course. You see, the origin of our favorite three-cornered baked treats, it is said, was the triangular shape of the evil Haman’s hat. But have we ever considered what Mordechai’s hat looked like? Folks I think it must have been a Borsalino. What else?

I embarked on this quest for Mordechai’s head covering due to a recent item in the frum media, which reported on a Borsalino boycott. It apparently started with a group of Chabad yeshiva bachurim who were angry at the price spike on this frum essential to an unacceptable $300 and decided to take action. This unprecedented tactic has since spread to other circles.

Read More:Hats Off to… A Financial Analysis of the Borsalino Boycott

Shalom Bayis

crying child

Dear Dr. Weisbord,

Our youngest son is in elementary school and not doing well. He has a slight learning disability and is perhaps a little awkward. He is teased by the other children, to the point that he doesn’t want to go to school. We have a huge fight every morning to get him out the door, with lots of yelling and tears. He also refuses to go to shul on Shabbos, because the same kids torment him there.

The school is giving us a hard time. They are very critical, and make me feel inadequate as a parent. Their latest suggestion is to sign him up for a social skills class.

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Carrots: Pesach Staple and Nutritional Powerhouse


In contrast to current Pesach food trends that tend to emphasize the fancy, the gourmet, the complicated, and the expensive, I’d like to celebrate simplicity and focus on an inexpensive, everyday staple: carrots. Carrots can be used to make simple and delicious dishes that are often just as tasty and palate-pleasing as their more sophisticated counterparts.

The late Rabbi Gil Marks, a”h, in his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, informs us that the carrot first appeared in Jewish sources in the writings of medieval Persian rabbis. When the carrot was first introduced in Europe, this “lowly” root vegetable was high-class. It was considered a rarity and luxury item. But because carrots thrive in poor soil and can be left in the ground or in a root cellar through the winter, they were cultivated widely by the 15th century and became a significant food throughout the continent. Rabbi Marks writes, “At this time, the carrot emerged as one of the foremost vegetables in the cookery of Central European Jews, a position it would shortly achieve in Eastern Europe as well.”

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Scouting Around Baltimore

boy scouts

Dovid Cynamon is not your run-of-the-mill kollel fellow. The Pittsburgh native joined Boy Scouts when he was 11 years old, and has been juggling his kollel studies at Ner Israel with his passion for Scouting since June 2011. He founded and currently leads Boy Scout Troop 611 for middle and high schoolers and Cub Scout Pack 611 for elementary school boys, both of which meet on Yeshiva Lane. These Scout units are chartered by Shearith Israel Congregation; Rabbi Hopfer, along with two shul board members, approve all activities and adult volunteers. Current Scout members are students at Talmudical Academy and Torah Institute.

 “I had so much fun and grew so much that I stayed involved with Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts through twelfth grade,” notes Dovid, who mentions that Ner Tamid also has a Boy Scout troop and a Cub Scout pack.

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