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Remembering the One who holds your hand

September 16, 2010 1 comment

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO –“K’rachaim av al banim, kain Tirachem aleinu…”  Like the mercy of a father on children, may You (G-d) have mercy upon us… [Liturgy]

A little girl and her father were crossing a flimsy bridge. The father was kind of scared so he asked his little daughter:”Sweetheart, please hold my hand so that you don’t fall into the  river.”

The little girl said, “No, Dad. You hold my hand.”

“What’s the difference?” asked the puzzled father.

“There is a big difference,” replied the little girl. “Dad, if I hold your hand and something happens to me, chances are that I may let your hand go. But, if you hold my hand, I know for  sure that no matter what happens, you will never let my hand go.”

On Yom Kippur we must remember that Hashem (G-d) loves us with an infinite love and is waiting to hear our prayers and give us what we need. Even if our sins are black as night,
Hashem is waiting with open arms to lovingly receive us, just as a parent will always yearn for a child to return.

May we pour our hearts out to Hashem on Yom Kippur with purity and deep sincerity. May Hashem grant us a happy, healthy and sweet new year.

Dedicated by Dr. Arthur & Eileen Cummins.

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

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Improving education and doing teshuvah are step-by-step processes

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO–Rabbi Akiva Grunblatt addressed a gathering of Chofetz Chaim alumni, many of whom were yeshiva classroom teachers. They were talking about the difficulties of teaching a  class when there is wide mix of abilities amongst the students. If you teach at a faster pace, half the class gets lost. If you teach at a slower pace, half the class gets bored. If you  teach in the middle, no one is happy.

As each teacher was speaking, you could feel the pain and frustration as each described their experiences.

Rabbi Grunblatt related a similar scene. He told us that Rabbi Noach Orlewick was once speaking to a group that included teachers and parents. The parents were concerned  that their children were being lost in the sauce. Their individual needs were not being met. They were being swept as side and forgotten as the rest of the school progressed. The  parents wanted more attention from the teachers and the school. The teachers present were overwhelmed trying to make everyone in a diverse group satisfied. The teachers  wanted more assistance from the parents and the school.

Everyone was frustrated. It was a case of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The atmosphere was beginning to get heated and tense.

Rabbi Orlewick calmly proclaimed to the audience, “There is a befairishe possuk (explicit verse) that addresses this exact issue.”

There was silence in the room. All wanted to hear what the Rabbi would say next.

“It is written in the Torah,’Vsheenontom livanecha.’  ‘You shall teach your children.'” 

The Rabbi continued, “Ideally each parent should teach their children individually and there  shouldn’t be classrooms. But the practical reality is that there are classroooms. Now we have to figure out how to make the best of a non-ideal situation.”

Instead of getting caught up in your idealized vision of how the school should be and what everyone else should be doing; accept the fact that things are the way they are, and start  from there to make things a little better, and then a little more better.

We all have this problem as we enter Rosh Hashana. We know we need to do teshuvah, but we make it more difficult by imagining that we are supposed to be perfect tzaddikim.

Then we become despondent that we are falling short of what we have convinced ourselves we should be.

Instead of getting caught up in this cycle, let us accept that things are the way they are, and try to do a little better and become a little better. And then a little more better.

Dedicated by Baruch & Miriam Stehley in honor of their children.

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

Hashem requires honesty, especially in child rearing

August 25, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO –Hashem (G-d) promises the Jewish people that if we faithfully perform his commandments He will shower us with blessing. All of Hashem’s blessings and promises have great  meaning to us as the following true story related by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky, documented by in a Yated Neeman article written by Rabbi Binyamin Pruzansky, illustrates:

Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky was once visited by an old talmid (student) and his family. After Rav Yaakov greeted them warmly and invited them inside, the talmid wanted to give his
rebbi some nachas. He decided to demonstrate how his fourteen-month-old daughter was learning to walk.

He placed her in a corner of the room and moved back some six feet, while he dangled some candy in front of her to encourage the child to walk toward him. Sure enough, the little
girl balanced on her little legs as she wobbled and toddled her way towards her father. Indeed Rav Yaakov shared the nachas. He broke out in a wide smile as he watched his
student’s little child achieve.

Suddenly, in order to extend the challenge, the proud father, still dangling the candy, moved back a few steps, making it necessary for his daughter to walk an additional few steps.

To his shock, Rav Yaakov’s smile disappeared immediately.

“You must return to where you were just standing and give her the candy in that spot!” said Rav Yaakov.

After the student complied and the little girl had her candy, Rav Yaakov explained:  “The baby was shown that she would receive her prize if she reached a specific area, but then
you changed the area. That is simply not honest. You are being untruthful and teaching her as well. Everything in a child’s chinuch (education) has to be based upon the truth!”

We need to know that Hashem is Kulo Emes (Total Truth). We can be confident that if Hashem makes a promise, He will keep that promise. He will never dangle, delay or
deceive us. We have complete confidence that all of His loving blessings will come to us at the proper time in the proper manner.

Dedicated by Rina Stein

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

Two Jewish tales concerning righteousness

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO — Hillel says: Do not judge your fellow till you have reached his place. (Avos 2:5)

If we are sensitive to understand what others are going through, if we can feel the pain, hardship, trials and difficulties that others feels; we will respond with greater love and
compassion, as the following true stories illustrate:

The whole of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) was in an uproar! A well-known man, a member of the Belzer Chasidic sect, and his wife had just given birth to their first child – a boy – after  being childless for twenty-eight years! The sholom zachor (party in honor of baby boy held the Friday night before the bris) that Friday night was the event of the year. Well over a  thousand people came by to wish Mazel Tov to the proud and exhausted father. The food supply ran out in short order as did the drinks, but no one seemed to mind. At the height  of the celebration, the crowd quieted down as the father indicated that he would like to say a few words.

He began in a loud voice, “Thank you all for coming and sharing in the simcha (joyous celebration). Although I have no more food to offer, let me at least tell over a story which I’m  sure you’ll appreciate.”

The ecstatic new father composed himself and continued. “When I was a bochur (unmarried student) learning in the Belzer Yeshiva , there was a cleaning lady who would come by  every day to tidy up and scrub the Beis Medrash and adjoining rooms. She was a fixture in the yeshiva and devoted her life to maintaining the yeshiva building. She was, however,
not a wealthy person by any stretch and as her own family grew, she was at a loss of options as far as taking care of her children. She decided to bring her kids with her to work,  and as she cleaned and mopped in one area of the building, the young children would run amuck, screaming, crying and generally causing quite a commotion, in the rest of the
yeshiva. At first, we put up with it; we even thought it was cute for a time. But after a while, the kids really began to ‘shter’ (disrupt) us in our learning and davening. Try as we might to  control them, they wouldn’t listen and continued on in their childish games and noise. A number of younger bochurim (students) asked me, as one of the oldest in the chaburah  (group), to ask her not to bring her children anymore to the yeshiva

“I agreed to talk to her and I brazenly walked up to her and told her that her kids were disturbing everyone in yeshiva and she should find some sort of alternative method of  child-care for them. I’ll never forget how she looked at me with tired eyes and said, ‘Bochur , you should never have tzaar gidul bonim (the pain and anguish that one goes through
when raising children.) The crowd gasped.

“As many of you know,” continued the father, “my wife and I have been to countless doctors who’ve recommended every sort of treatment. We moved abroad for awhile to be near  an ‘expert’ which proved to be fruitless. One last, extreme treatment was offered and after trying that, it too, turned out to be just a fantasy; we felt doomed to a life without the
pleasure of raising a yiddishe family.

“After that last attempt, as we walked back into the apartment that we lived in for the past twenty-eight years, our entire sad situation hit us full force, like a ton of bricks. Together, we  broke down crying. I suddenly remembered the incident with the cleaning lady. I realized how insensitive I was to her plight and pain. I decided to ask for forgiveness. But how? I  spent hours on the phone until I came up with an address, which I ran over to immediately. She did not recognize me obviously, but when I told her over the story, a spark flickered  in her eyes. I tearfully apologized for my harsh words and she graciously forgave me with her whole heart.”

Beaming from ear to ear, the father announced, ” Rabbosai, that took place exactly nine months ago!”

The famous Chassidic leader referred to as “Der Rebbe Reb Zisha” was known for his profound cleverness and for constantly being in search for more Mitzvahs, as the  following true story, submitted by Avraham Moshe HaCohen Adler, illustrates:

Someone once handed Reb Zisha an envelope consisting of a present for him of ten Rubles. Reb Zisha was delighted to receive such a nice gift, but he was stuck with one problem. Since Reb Zisha was a very poor man and seldomly handled sums of money as large as this one, he never needed to buy a safe. He had no safe place to keep the  money. After pondering the situation for a few minutes, Reb Zisha decided to sit down and learn a little before returning to his problem. That week was Parshas Yisro. Reb Zisha opened his Chumash and began reading. When Reb Zisha reached the Passuk, “Lo Tignov – Thou shalt not steal” he stood up and said, “Yes! This is the answer to my problem.”

I will put the money in my Chumash next to where it says, “Do not steal” and when a thief comes to take the money he will read what it says and surely won’t touch it.

The next day Reb Zisha came back to check on the money, to his astonishment the money was missing. Reb Zisha wondered how someone could anger Hashem so, when it said right there, “Do not steal.” Reb Zisha put down his Chumash and was about to leave when he noticed something was stuck inside. He turned to the page it was stuck in, and found some money. He found five Rubles. Exactly half the amount he left in the Chumash the day before. He read the Passuk on that page, “V’Ahavtah L’Rayacha Kamocha – Love  your neighbor like yourself.” Reb Zisha stood up and sighed, “Oy! Look he is a bigger Tzadik than I. I had ten Rubles and kept them all for myself. He had ten Rubles and shared them equally with his friend.”

Dedicated by Rabbi & Mrs.  Zvi Fruend on the occasion of the Yahrtzeit of his father Abe Freund, Avraham ben Moshe Yechiel.

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

An encounter with the great Rabbi Moshe Feinstein

August 13, 2010 Leave a comment

By Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO–The Torah instructs us to find judges that are of flawless sterling character.  One great trait is humility, gained as a result of compassionate human insight, as the
following true story, told by Dr. Isaac Steven Herschkopf, an attending psychiatrist at the NYU Medical Center, illustrates:

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the gadol hador, the greatest sage of his generation, was so renowned he was referred to simply as “Reb Moshe.”  Every Rabbi would speak of Reb
Moshe in awe-stricken tones usually reserved for biblical forefathers.

One summer I was spending a week with my aunt and uncle in upstate Ellenville. Uncle David and Aunt Saba, survivors themselves, as the doctor and nurse in charge of the  concentration camp infirmary, had managed to save the lives of innumerable inmates, including my mother and sister. After “the War” they had set up a medical practice in this
small Catskill village, where, I discovered, to my amazement, they had one celebrity patient – Reb Moshe.

My aunt mentioned casually that Reb Moshe had an appointment the next day. Would I like to meet him?  Would I?  It was like asking me, would I like to meet Moses.

I couldn’t sleep that night. I agonized over what I should wear. Should I approach him? What should I say? Should I speak to him in English, or my rudimentary Yiddish?

I was seated in the waiting room, in the best clothing I had with me, an hour before his appointment. It seemed like an eternity, but eventually he arrived, accompanied by an assistant at each side. He didn’t notice me.

I was frozen. I had intended to rise deferentially when he entered, but I didn’t. I had prepared a few sentences that I had repeatedly memorized, but I sensed that my heart was  beating too quickly for me to speak calmly.

My aunt had heard the chime when he entered and came out of the office to greet him: “Rabbi Feinstein, did you meet my nephew Ikey? Can you believe a shaygitz [unobservant]  like me has a yeshiva bochur [student] in the family?”

Reb Moshe finally looked at me. I was mortified. My aunt was addressing him irreverently. She was joking with him. She had called me Ikey, not Yitzchok, or even Isaac.

Then it got even worse. She walked over to him. Surely she knew not to shake his hand. She didn’t. She kissed him affectionately on the cheek as she did many of her favorite  patients. She then told him my uncle would see him in a minute and returned to the office.

Reb Moshe and his attendants turned and looked at me, I thought accusingly. I wanted to die. In a panic, I walked over to him and started to apologize profusely: “Rabbi Feinstein,  I  apologize. My aunt, she isn’t frum [religious]. She doesn’t understand…”

He immediately placed his fingers on my lips to stop me from talking. He then softly spoke two sentences in Yiddish that I will remember to my dying day: “She has numbers on her arms. She is holier than me.”

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

A bicycle bust in an American shtetl

July 15, 2010 1 comment

By  Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO–We live today in a spiritual wilderness. Sometimes we can find an oasis of purity as the following true account, submitted by Getzel Segal, written by Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman
illustrates:

I love being privileged to frequent the streets and alleyways of Williamsburg Brooklyn.

Where else in the world do you hear Yiddish being spoken by children and adults; men and women; shop owners and patrons?

As I walk the streets of this 21st century shtetel I look lovingly at the cherubic faces of the little boys and girls as they frolick and prance through the streets without a worry in their  pristine and unblemished hearts.

As I enter the main shul on Rodney Street, I see hundreds of men engrossed in learning Torah and davening to Hashem.

As I walk down Ross Street, I notice dozens of women emerging from a Tzedoka event which in all probability was not even for the population of their community.

On Lee Avenue I admire the now legendary bus of the Satmar Bikur Cholim which goes daily to the hospitals in Manhattan delivering home cooked kosher food to any Jew;  regardless of their religious persuasion.

I observe dozens and dozens of shteibach and Batei Medrash and most of all, I lovingly gazed at the holy faces of the hundreds of fellow Jews who walk the streets unabashedly Jewish in their dress, language and mode of conduct.

I thank Hashem for allowing me to witness such a neighborhood located in the midst of the most modern and culturally secular city in the world.

One day, as I was heading back from the Satmar Shul on Rodney Street, I noticed a group of Chassidic men holding radios and running down the street. They had no medical equipment on them and they were not moving towards a vehicle so I realized they must be part of the famous Shomrim (neighborhood watch) squad.

I quickly turned on my heels and off I went in quick pursuit of these 21st century heroes!

About one block down on Bedford Avenue the objective of the chase became apparent.

There in the street, surrounded by half a dozen Shomrim members was a man standing next to a bicycle lying in the street. As I approached the men, I realized that the fellow under  guard was accused of ‘misappropriating’ the bicycle from a Jewish grocery and he was being held until the police could arrive.

I waited and observed for about 7 minutes until a police vehicle arrived to take control of the situation. As I was watching, I overheard the suspect relate: “. the next thing I knew, all  of these Jewish cops appeared out of no where and are holding me here!”

Did he say: Jewish cops? Did he really say Jewish cops?

Indeed, he did.

However, this is not the end of the story.

As we were waiting for the police to arrive, numerous individuals- me included- kept surging forward off the sidewalk and into the street to see and hear what was transpiring.

All this time, the Shomrim men- who were very professional and courteous, continually urged everyone to return to the side walk while simultaneously making sure that traffic  continued unimpeded down Bedford Avenue.

They were very sensitive not only to their needs which was apprehending the suspect, they were equally concerned that traffic was not impeded and that even the suspect was never taunted nor abused- even verbally!

They treated the accused man with respect and backed off the moment the police arrived and allowed the officers to speak with the suspect in an uninterrupted fashion.

In short, I felt proud to be a part of these people who professionally, effectively, yet, in a non-vigilante method- keep their neighborhood safe and secure.

It was also obvious that they have an excellent working relationship with the local precinct and its officers.

Just sixty five years after many of these men’s grandparents were being gassed in Auschwitz, their grandchildren are the ‘Jewish cops’ of Williamsburg; working in tandem and with  the support of the local authorities and with their encouragement and backing.

Where else in the world can you find a Jewish cop, who speaks Yiddish, has peyos and a beard and has the respect and backing of the government powers that be?

Where else in the world will you find ‘Jewish cops’ who have respect for the law of the land and make sure -while maintaining the safety of their own neighborhood- that the needs of  all the citizens of the city in which they reside are maintained?

Only in America.

It is a zechus and a chessed from Hashem to live in America.

G-d Bless America.

Dedicated by Vadim Korchnoy in memory of his parents Sam & Fany Korchnoy.

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego

Precautions, spiritually and physically, better than cures

July 8, 2010 Leave a comment

By  Rabbi Baruch Lederman

Rabbi Baruch Lederman

SAN DIEGO–The Torah gives very explicit instructions. The Torah tells us what to do. It also tells us how, when and where to do it. Every detail is spelled out. Just like using a washing machine,  when you read and adhere to the directions, all will be well. If not, things will go awry, as the following true story, documented in Parsha Parables by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky,
illustrates:

It was the eve of December 25th, 1776.  General George Washington was reeling from his crushing defeats in New York.  In a bold and daring move, he had decided to cross the ice-filled Delaware River and attack Trenton, New Jersey.  He planned to surprise the thousands of Hessian troops guarding that portal.  He did not know that his surprise attack  was almost no surprise.  A farmer, a British sympathizer knocked on the door where the Hessian Commander, Colonel Johann Rall was attending a holiday party.  Rall had always  scoffed at the thought of attack, boasting, “Those clod-hoppers will not attack us!”

The farmer had heard of the plans and seen the movement across the shore.  He wanted to get the message to the Colonel but he could not get past a servant who accepted a note which spelled out Washington’s plans and handed it to the commander.   Rall, however, was in the middle of a card game and would not be interrupted.  He stuffed the paper  in his pocket without even glancing at it.  He continued playing through the night until he collapsed from drunken exhaustion.

At dawn, Washington attacked.  His ammunition was so waterlogged that his troops could hardly fire a shot.  They did not need to.  The Hessians were drowsy from the previous  night’s festivities and the Colonial Army’s bayonets were as sharp as the troops’ spirit.  After an overwhelming onslaught in which the colonists took nearly 900 prisoners, Rall who  was mortally wounded, surrendered.   As the doctor cut away his jacket, a note fell out.  Rall read it and mournfully said, “If I only had read this last night, I would not be here today.”

The Rosh Yeshiva ztl, told us that when he was a youth, he told his father, Reb Dovid Leibowitz ztl, that he was thinking about becoming a doctor instead of a Rabbi. His father  replied, “Try preventive medicine.” He was telling his son that if we learn and follow the dictates of the Torah our lives will be enriched both physically and spiritually.

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Dedicated by Anonymous for the release of Gilad Shalit.

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Rabbi Lederman is spiritual leader of Congregation Kehillas Torah in San Diego