Monday, September 29, 2008

A Gut Gebenched Yohr

Wishing Klal Yisroel
a happy and healthy 5769

I sincerely hope that the coming year
will be one of revealed good for all

And let us hope that in this year we will
finally see the appearance of
Moshiach Tzidkeinu

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Support Chayalim

My attention was drawn to a wonderful project to support Israeli soldiers which is run by an ex-Australian Menachem Kuchar (originally from Sydney) who now lives in Efrat. The associated website - - enables one to send pizza and other treats to soldiers in order for us outside of Israel to show our support for their work.

Whenever I have visited Israel - and especially when visiting places like Kever Rachel and Hevron - I have been humbled by these young men and women who are protecting our holy places and especially the families who are living in Hevron and other dangerous areas. The chayalim in general are making the country safe for residents and visitors and give a few years of their lives to do this vital work. This project is a great way to thank them and show that people do care about their service and sacrifice especially at this time of year. For Rosh Hashana you can send them packages of honey, chocolate and honey cake with wishes for a Shana Tova.

It is always heartening to see this type of project - especially at a time of year when we need to think about how we relate to our fellow man as well as G-d.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A Practical Ruling

To many people's pleasant surprise the new Vaad Ruchni has come out with a practical takonah regarding the consumption of alcohol in the community. After the previous update a week ago I, for one, was despairing of seeing anything down-to-earth coming out of their meetings. Thank G-d they have issued what I feel is a decisive statement based firmly on the Rebbe's wishes in this matter. We can only hope that this ruling is taken seriously by all in our community.

The takonah as published on the Yeshivah Community Website:



The abuse of alcohol is a problem in society at large on all levels, but we feel that it is our duty to address this issue as it exists within our community. This is especially so, since there have, over the years, been several incidents in which young people have put themselves into potentially dangerous situations through over-drinking.

We feel that a meaningful and significant improvement in the situation can be achieved only if we base our whole approach to the drinking of alcohol on the specific Takonoh (decree) of the Rebbe. This was first instituted by the Rebbe about forty-five years ago, and subsequently repeated, emphasized and reiterated by him in public on countless occasions. The Takonoh was that for any person less than forty years of age, the maximum amount of alcohol consumed is a sum total of not more than one Reviis, (In Halocho there are differing opinions as to the actual size of a Reviis, the accepted opinion in Chabad is 86ml) and that this Reviis should be split up into three or four separate times of saying L'Chaim, example: a person should say not more than four L'Chaims, the total amount not exceeding 86ml. In the event of his having made Kiddush on wine, the amount of wine he drank is included in the total shiur of alcohol permitted. Kiddush itself should not be made on vodka or whisky.

We believe that if the above takonoh is observed, it is highly unlikely that alcohol consumption will be a problem. Unfortunately, quite apart from the fact that some people consider the above Takonoh to be outdated and irrelevant and do not take it seriously, there are, in addition, social and practical circumstances which encourage people to behave in a way totally inconsistent with both the letter and spirit of the Takonoh.

The three main venues where alcohol consumption has been a problem have been:

(i) Kiddushim and farbrengens;

(ii) Simchos such as a Sholom Zochor, weddings, engagements, etc;

(iii) At the Shabbos/Yomtov table of a Baal-Habayis.

In all of the above, very often several bottles of alcohol are left on a table, where they attract the interest of those who are included in the Takonoh, and who therefore should not be drinking more than the Takonoh permits.

In order for the Takonoh to be observed, surrounding circumstances must be arranged in a way that actively encourage its observance. We therefore recommend that the Institution of a "Sar Hamashkim" (server of drinks) which has for generations been in practice at Chassidic farbrengens, is here both necessary and timely. Practically speaking, the arrangement should be that at any of the above, there should be one or more persons who are responsible for the distribution of alcohol. This person (or persons) will go around and offer L'Chaim, in small-size cups only to those present. Given that no alcohol will be placed on the table, and that those in charge of distribution are responsible people, there is no reason why anyone should drink over the limits of the Takonoh. School age children up to and including secondary school students should not be given any vodka or whisky. At farbrengens for school age students, L'Chaim should be said on wine or soft drinks.

The key to all of the above is responsibility. Those who organize a farbrengen must be responsible for arranging a distributor for the duration of that farbrengen. The host is responsible for a similar arrangement at a Sholom Zochor taking place in his home. He is similarly responsible for the amount of alcohol distributed and consumed at his Shabbos/Yomtov table. We therefore feel that no event should be advertised on Yeshivah notice-boards or websites, etc. or announced in Shule unless there is someone who accepts responsibility for making and implementing the appropriate arrangements. We hope that everyone will appreciate that such restrictions are in everyone's best interests, and represent a minor inconvenience which yields major results.

Needless to say, all of the above concerns only the maximum amount of alcohol allowed. If, however, a parent wishes that their son should drink no alcohol whatsoever, their wishes must be respected.

Ksivo Vchasimo Tova

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Great Article

This article appeared in the Jewish Week Blog and, I think, is quite accurate in most of its points.

I am reprinting the entire article here as I liked it so much:

I'm getting a hunch the Republicans just might win for one reason alone, and it makes no sense, just like Chabad makes no sense to the Jewish elite.

That one reason is Sarah Palin. She reminds me of about a thousand different Chabad shluchot (the rebbe's women representatives). She's seems friendly, sexy (forgive me) in an Orthodox way, with that magnetism, optimism, and accessibility that has made Chabad shluchot successful in 5,000 different locales, even though they are almost always considerably more right-wing -- religiously and politically -- than their congregants and financial supporters.

Reform, Conservative and other Orthodox Jews don't get it. How is Chabad is so successful in places where there are no Chasidim? Why do liberal Jews on the Upper West Side want to send their kids to Chabad pre-schools? Why do many hundreds of non-Chasidic, even non-Orthodox students at Harvard and SUNY Binghamton want to spend Friday night meals with these Chabad Sarah Palins rather than the more mainstream, liberal Jews down the road? It makes no sense.

Don't get it, do you?

Who would you rather have a cup of coffee with on a bungalow porch, a cup that can turn into a three-hour conversation, Sarah Palin or Nancy Pelosi?

Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton come across like the Queen of Spades of a nanny state; school marms of a school you don't want to go to. Pelosi, in particular, seems like one of those Sisterhood program chairs from a suburban temple whose calls you don't want to answer.

Sarah Palin seems like one of those Chabad women who don't have enough chairs at her table for all the non-Chabad women who'd take a plane or a subway to attend the next shluchot convention in Crown Heights.

Something's happening and you don't know what it is, do you, Nancy Pelosi?

And another thing: There are plenty of logical, rational reasons to abort America's relationship with Israel, the far left tells us, but Chabad doesn't abort and evangelicals (such as Palin) don't either.

Rabbis who can't stop quoting Heschel or Soloveitchik don't get it.

Americans and Jews don't need another genius. We don't need another Herr Rabbi Doctor. We have enough "scholars," believe it or not.

We don't have enough human beings who'd rather rock a Down Syndrome baby to sleep than abort it; human beings who can relate to a flunking child or the stuffiness of the sophisticates, parents who don't give a damn who's in the top shiur or who made law review.

We have too many of the best and the brightest, the wise and the brilliant, who can't communicate (and who, in the end, maybe aren't really the best or all that brilliant.)

The genius of Chabad is delivering their message in a down-home way, much as Sarah Palin did at the convention.

There are others outside of Chabad who know how to do it, too. Blu Greenberg, for one, the godmother of Orthodox feminism, is as smart and wise as anyone I've ever met, but like a Chabad woman she doesn't enter a room like she wants you to know what she got on her SATs (or BJEs). Her voice and manner are gentle, her visions for Judaism are prophetic and compelling, all the more so because her Judaism is poetic (she's a published poet, after all), not like Judaism's angry left whose religion has all the appeal of a term paper, all about "J," "P," Deutero-Isaiah; the kind who can't look at any biblical verse with being "troubled" by it.

Chabad women know what really troubles people, and it ain't Deutero-Isaiah.

In 1950, all American Jews heard of liberal Judaism (that's Conservatives, too) but almost no one heard of Chabad. Chabad seemed a relic of history. Liberal Judaism was ascendent, inevitable. The rebbe's Chabad was as fringe religiously as Sarah Palin's conservative anscestors were then on the fringe politically.

Who would have figured that in 2008, liberal pews in most of America would be emptier than their rabbis would like, while everyone has now heard of Chabad? Men and women from Chabad are all over the continent, all over the planet, raising fortunes (without charging shul membership fees), getting men to put on tefillin, getting women to go to mikvah -- men and women who, if not for Chabad, wouldn't. It makes no sense.

Chabad women, like Sarah Palin, don't look at Judaism, or the United States, and then look at the world to worry "why do they hate us?" They don't blame Judaism or America first. They are happy warriors. They don't think "bitterness" is what motivates religious people, as Obama said with condescension. You come away feeling that these kind of women understand religion, they love America and religion like they love their kids, troubles and all, feeling blessed every step of the way.

The high-salaried great scholars of the other denominations, none of whom went to the University of Idaho, are very good at conducting studies, at going on high-priced retreats, at developing goalposts that can be moved to allow past failures to score.

Chabad women don't conduct studies. They cook a chicken (or, Sarah Palin, a moose) and invite you over on Friday night. And college students, middle-class families, international businessmen want to be there.

At the beginning of these successful relationships between Chabad and their guests, theology and politics having little or nothing to do with it. A lot of Palin's appeal has nothing to do with her theology or politics either. The other party and denominations are trying to figure it out. Maybe if they could get a grant. Maybe if they could find someone with whom they can dialogue. Chabad women and Sarah Palin don't dialogue. They talk. And they don't talk down. They win. Makes no sense, does it?

Thanks to Robert Weil for pointing me to this.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Impressive Exhibition

Yeshivah College students showed their talent and creativeness at an exhibit of keilim of the Beis Hamikdosh this Monday evening. The following report from the organiser, Mrs Chana Serebryanski, describes it well:

Yeshivah College Beis Hamikdosh Exhibition

The Werdiger Hall was filled to capacity on Monday night as parents, grandparents, friends and of course students were enthralled by the Beis Hamikdosh Exhibition.
Without exception both children and adults were delighted and enchanted by the display. The calibre of the exhibits was exceptional.

All students learned about the Beis Hamikdosh and it's Keilim and each class worked on a different theme that culminated in an unbelievable exhibition. Displays included an interactive tour of the Beis Hamikdosh, a theaterette with plays about the Beis Hamikdosh - life sized models of Keilim each according to various different opinions.

A scale model of the Ezras Noshim, a working kiyor, a display of the seder Maarochoh, a full sized 'Kohen Godol' according to Rashi's opinion and much, much more.

Rabbi Berger, Principal of Yshivah College welcomed the guests. Rabbi Telzner, Dayan of Yeshivah Centre gave a D'var Torah and one of the very talented students Avremele Rosenfeld played Ani Maamin on the violin. Rabbi Berger thanked all the staff and students for their incredible efforts, Rabbi Loewenthal and Rabbi Ash for their support and encouragement. Rabbi Berger thanked the art teacher Mrs Keech for all the art work and paintings the boys worked on throughout the term and also Mrs Sabbach. Rabbi Berger thanked Mrs Serebryanski for coordinating this outstanding event.

Thanks to Zelig Shaul for the photos.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Australian Jewish Population Survey

The Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash Uni has organised a nationwide survey of the Jewish population. Seemingly this is the first time a national poll of the Jewish community has been undertaken and I think that it is very important for the frum community to be fairly represented in this survey. I have no idea what will come out of this poll but it would be a pity if the needs of the observant community were underestimated because of a lack of interest.

There is a lot of information on the website here and you can register using the information below. There is not yet a phone number to call but they say that there will be a 1300 number closer to the survey date.

The Introduction on the website says:

Be part of Australia’s first comprehensive national survey of the Jewish population. Your involvement is essential to make possible a full understanding of the views and needs of Jewish Australians. This is the opportunity for you to have your say and help strengthen our community.

The Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation at Monash University, in partnership with Jewish Care Victoria and the Jewish Communal Appeal in Sydney, is leading this Australia-wide project. Communities across Australia are co-operating to undertake the first comprehensive national survey of the Jewish population.

To register for the survey, please email You only need to include the word Register in the subject field of the email. Passwords will be notified on Monday 15 September 2008.