Rabbi’s Corner

Pesach

As we approach the festival of Passover, I would like to share with you, one passage in the Haggadah that makes no sense to me.  That’s right; as far as I’m concerned there are only two lines – one stanza – in the Haggadah that don’t appear to make any sense.

Of course, there are many strange things in this little book but these two lines that seem to go completely beyond the dictates of logic or reason.  I mean, I can live with the fact that we say that God performed ‘signs and wonders and in Egypt, and he talk us out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; I can even accept the idea that there were fifty plagues in Egypt and two hundred and fifty at the Sea.

But how can we say, ‘if God had split the Sea it would have been enough even if He hadn’t brought us over to the other side?’ I mean what would have been the point of that?

No doubt you have already figured out that this passage appears in Dayeinu. Many of us have a pretty good idea what this song is about; we can even sing at least part of it by heart. But we don’t necessarily understand it.

In Dayeinu we express gratitude for the many miracles and acts of kindness which God performed for us when we left Egypt. We say, “Had God performed X but not Y, Dayeinu – “it would have been enough.” Dayeinu is not just about gratitude; it’s also about being Sameach B’chelkaynu, satisfied with the small and large portion in life which we have been granted.

But Dayeinu leaves us wondering. What exactly is ‘enough?’ When should we be satisfied with what we have? Is enough ever sufficient for us? After all, we live in an age, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones, when, “We don’t get no satisfaction.”

We sing Dayeinu, it would have been enough.  But is that really true? I mean, are we ever satisfied with what we have?  Well, there is a logical connection between all the gracious acts that are mentioned in Dayeinu.  They represent the continuation of the Exodus.

Dayeinu carries us from slavery in Egypt to freedom at the sea; from the shore of the sea to Mount Sinai, on through the wilderness and finally into the land of Israel and the building of the Temple.

If we were to remove any of these steps, the journey would have been incomplete and we would not have been the people that we have become.  Dayeinu teaches us that God was present every step of the way, watching over us and caring for us.  And yet we would have been able to make it, to survive, and to become a nation even if God hadn’t done everything that he did according to Dayeinu.

There’s only one stanza about which we cannot say that: “If God had divided the sea and not let us pass through it on dry ground, Dayeinu – that would have been enough for us!”

Really? Would that have been enough? I can’t imagine that the Israelites would have felt that way. As they stood on the shore trapped between the devil and ‘the deep Red Sea,’ I suspect they would have been less than grateful if God had said, “You see how powerful I am; I can actually split the Sea. But I want you to stand here as the Egyptian army approaches and slaughters every last one of you!”

What kind of blessing would have been? And what would have been the point of splitting the Sea if God hadn’t allowed us to cross over to the other side?   That would be like a doctor telling his patient: “I’ve invented a cure for cancer. Isn’t that wonderful! But you can’t take it!”

Many of the commentators, in discussing this stanza of Dayeinu, place the emphasis on the final words in this verse: “Had God not let us pass through it ON DRY GROUND, it would have been enough.” In other words the miracle was not just that God split the Sea or that he allowed us to cross over; God allowed the people to do so on perfectly DRY GROUND!

That is the miracle we sing about in Dayeinu.  I mean, if we had been forced to trudge through mud and puddles to get to the other side of the Red Sea we would have tolerated the conditions since we were being saved from the Egyptians.  But God thought of everything – He not only let us to cross over; He made sure that the sea bed was dry so that no one got mud in their sandals!

So tell me, what do you think of this explanation? Does it make sense to you? I don’t find myself completely satisfied with this classic example of rabbinic nitpicking. And I think it misses the point of Dayeinu.  It seems to me that the song Dayeinu teaches us to be satisfied with what we have even when the blessing in our lives aren’t as complete as we might like them to be.

Our lives are filled with blessings, even miracles, and yet we never seem to be satisfied with what we have or the opportunities we have been given.” Dayeinu becomes not an exclamation but a question: Is that really enough.  Have you ever noticed how television game shows tend to heighten this sense of dissatisfaction? On Wheel of Fortune, for instance, the winning contestant has just won twenty or thirty thousand dollars. They ought to be thrilled!

Then they’re given a chance to figure out the last puzzle – to win the big cash pot. And when they are unable to do so, Pat Sajak shows them how much more money they might have won if they had answered the last puzzle!  As a result, the winner goes home thinking, “I blew it; if only I had answered that question….” Wheel of Fortune is only a game show but it captures the essence of our culture – nothing is ever enough for us.

Dayeinu, in general, and this verse, in particular, can teach us an important lesson about life; it reminds us to see the blessing in what we have rather than in what we hoped for or what we want.  It is a poetic rendition of the statement in Pirkei Avot: Ayzehu ashir? Who is rich? Hasameach b’chelko.  A rich person is one who is satisfied with what he has, with his portion in life.   If we look carefully at our lives we will discover that at any given moment, our lives are filled with miracles and blessings.

Did you wake up today? Did you walk outside? Did you have breakfast? Were you given the opportunity to join with friends and family in worship?  That’s not to say that there aren’t disappointments – sometimes even bitter disappointments.

Sometimes we witness the splitting of the sea but we aren’t capable of crossing to the other side. But that doesn’t mean that every day isn’t a blessing; that there aren’t things for which we shouldn’t be grateful even when we haven’t been given everything we think we want or need.

Gratitude isn’t about what we get but how we feel. It starts from the inside out.  If we look for external objects to provide us with satisfaction then we may never be happy. There will always be the one thing we didn’t get, the one opportunity that passed us by, the one thing that leaves us unhappy.

Dayeinu offers a different approach to life: it’s not the sailors cap but how we see the world that makes a difference. Dayeinu, then, is a way of seeing the world; of responding to life.

How often do we say, what we have, who we are, is Dayeinu, it is enough for us?

So you don’t get no satisfaction?  Try saying Dayeinu. “I’m alive: Dayeinu, even if I have aches and pains.” “I’m here: Dayeinu, even if I am not in Maui or Jerusalem.”

Or consider the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: “There is no human being who does not carry a treasure in his soul; a moment of insight, a memory of love, a dream of excellence, a call to worship… It takes three things to attain a sense of significant being: God, a soul, and a moment. And the three are always there. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.”

Dayeinu: it is only one word and yet it can teach us so much. It holds the secret of not only good living but living good.

Wishing everyone a Chag Kosher v’Sameach!

Purim

Chag Purim Sameach!

Purim wins the most unconventional holy day award. To begin with, its name is not Hebrew and, more to the point, refers not to G_d’s triumph, Esther’s courage or Jewish survival but, rather, to the lots cast by the Amalekite enemy Haman to determine exactly when our people would be destroyed. We are commanded to wipe out the memory of the Amalekites (Deut. 25:19), but the name and events of Purim ensure that that memory is perpetuated.

The characters are not what our community should promote. Esther and Mordecai are so assimilated that their names recall not ancestors or heroes but Mesopotamian gods—Ishtar and Marduk, respectively. Judaism promotes inner beauty and personal modesty, yet Esther enters a beauty contest in which each contestant spends a night with the king. Our first vision of this ruler is that he throws drinking parties that last six months at a time and lets others manipulate and control him. Nonetheless, Esther chooses to marry such a man and so lives in a very non-Jewish milieu where kosher food was unobtainable. Indeed, Esther does not seek any, as she never bothered to tell anyone at court about her faith and heritage.

Mordecai’s Jewish identity, too, appears somewhat marginal. His main vain concern seems his job within the royal administration. When trouble comes for his people, he does not warn any one connected with the Jewish community, neither a rabbi nor a Federation president. No prayer is explicitly evoked and, indeed, G_d’s Name is never mentioned, even by the narrator. Concern for the Land of Israel is palpably absent, and the presence of community hidden. Indeed, the only reference to Eretz Yisrael is the brief “from Jerusalem” in reference to Mordecai, while the appearance of the community comes late in the story and remains marginal—even though it faces grave danger.

However, this Jewish community, albeit assimilated, is a zealous one, fully aware of itself and, ultimately, authentic and so embraced by Tradition. Mordecai, so careful to instruct Esther not to reveal her Jewish identity, nevertheless has no problem revealing his own. When the danger to the Jewish people becomes apparent, he puts on the customary mourning garb. Esther directs Mordecai to go to the Jewish community for solidarity and spiritual strengthening. And even Haman recognizes that these “assimilated” Diaspora Jews form a discrete group with distinct customs and culture.

Indeed, it is given to Mordecai and, especially, Esther—the paragons of all that which we would assume Judaism would not promote—to save the day. Esther shows that someone who herself chooses not to have children can yet work actively to secure a Jewish future. Mordecai, so caught up in his pursuit of Gentile recognition and status nonetheless stands up proudly as a Jew whenever he thinks it matters—and when it actually does matter. Mordecai does have children but apparently does so through adoption as a single male.

Thus Judaism, an unexpected phenomenon on the world scene, continues to promote the unexpected and the unconventional. Its arc over time has been to break down barriers of lineage, class, ethnicity, culture, gender and other markers of identity. Instead of categories and neat little boxes, Judaism has insisted on the worth of every single individual. So, to the degree that we live up to our true individuality, we demonstrate more and more of the Divine spark planted within us. Individuality and unconventionality are the norms that our Tradition celebrates on Purim. When tradition speaks of the power of community, it never meant to suppress individuality and non-conformism but, rather, to embrace them and to integrate them. Indeed, Purim suggests that survival of our people is tied to the unconventionality and infinite discrete worth, not only of its heroes but of each of us in the collective.

So Purim rightly celebrates not the pious or the typical but the unexpected in life. And that resides in all of us. Most of us probably have more of ourselves hidden than revealed. The masks of Purim only symbolize our quotidian existence. So, Purim lovingly encourages, each of us can dare to be more of ourselves, express our Jewishness proudly on our own terms, be gifts to the community without getting swallowed up in it, can let our light shine a little more brightly, can uncover our courage and do acts of selfless greatness.

And we as a community can honor not only those who “play by the rules” but those among us whose connection and participation enrich us in unanticipated ways. The heroes of the Purim story, Mordecai and Esther, are status seeking, self-indulgent assimilationists who participate in non-traditional families with issues of, among other things, alcoholism and co-dependency. Nonetheless they emerge from such a milieu to ensure our survival; forward our mission; create new holy days, ritual and law; and remind us of truly urgent matters, loftier concerns and higher purposes. For this they were entered into Tanakh, our Holy Scripture. They thus serve as role models that we must take people for who they are and encourage people to be themselves: Perhaps we should start with ourselves. And this year maybe, just maybe, we should be concerned less with who has donned the best looking mask but who, after hearing the Purim story, will be the first to start taking off their mask.

May all of you have a jubilant, fun, unconventional and revealing time on Purim, so that we might have more such moments throughout the year.

Chag Purim Samei-ach! A joyous Purim!

Rabbi Jeff
(This post was inspired by an article by Rabbi Jonathan Lord Sachs)

Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’av, which takes place this Saturday night into Sunday (7/25/-7/26), is often referred to as “the black Fast’ in contrast to Yom Kippur, the “white Fast.’ While both last more than 24 hours and include similar restrictions, the mood of these two days is very different from one another. Tisha B’av marks the national tragedies which have darkened our history.

Yom Kippur is all about coming to terms with our sins and renewing our relationship with God, so although we fast, it is a day of joyous reunion with the Almighty.  Contrasted with Tisha B’av which is both a day of fasting and mourning. For one day we become avaylim, mourners, sitting on the floor, reciting dirges, and refraining from the normal comforts of life. Commenting on these days, the Kotzker Rebbe once stated: “There are really no major fast days in the Jewish year. For on Tisha B’av who can eat? And on Yom Kippur, who needs to eat?”

Indeed, our ability to mourn the destruction of the temple and the other national tragedies that befell our people is the secret of our survival. According to legend upon witnessing Jews cry and fast for the temple, Napoleon Bonaparte once commented: “A nation that can keep mourning for 2,000 years is eternal, and will surely one day rebuild their Temple.”  There are two sets of customs associated with Tisha B’Av: those of Yom Kippur which have to do with repentance and those associated with mourning and grief. What are these customs and how do they shape our understanding of this day?

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The following material was culled from www.aish.com

Aspects of Mourning: The Afternoon Before Tisha B’Av

During the afternoon prior to Tisha B’Av, it is customary to eat a full meal in preparation for the fast.  At the end of the afternoon, we eat the Seudah Hamaf-seket – a meal consisting only of bread, water, and a hard-boiled egg.  The egg has two symbols: The round shape reminds us of a sign of the cycle of life. Also, the egg is the only food which gets harder the more it is cooked – a symbol of the Jewish people’s ability to withstand persecution.

When the afternoon prior to Tisha B’Av occurs on Shabbat, there is no Seudah Hamaf-seket with eggs.  Rather, the regular Shabbat “third meal” is eaten, albeit without guests and fanfare.

Restrictions on Tisha B’Av

Upon sundown, the laws of Tisha B’Av commence – consisting of the following expressions of mourning:

1. No eating or drinking until nightfall the following evening.

  • Pregnant and nursing women are also required to fast. If one suspects it could be harmful to the baby or mother, a rabbi should be consulted.
  • A woman within 30 days after birth need not fast.
  • Others who are old, weak, or ill should consult with a rabbi.
  • Medicine may be taken on Tisha B’Av, preferably without water.
  • In case of great discomfort, the mouth may be rinsed with water. Great care should be taken not to swallow anything. (MB 567:11)

2. Other prohibitions include:

  • Any bathing or washing, except for removing specific dirt – e.g. gook in the eyes (Upon rising in the morning, before prayers, or after using the bathroom, one washes only the fingers.
  • Anointing oneself for pleasure. (Deodorant is permitted.)
  • Having marital relations.
  • Wearing leather shoes. (Leather belts may be worn.)
  • Learning Torah, since this is a joyful activity. It is permitted to learn texts relevant to Tisha B’Av and mourning – e.g. the Book of Lamentations, Book of Job, parts of Tractate Moed Katan, Gittin 56-58, Sanhedrin 104, Yerushalmi end of Ta’anis, and the Laws of Mourning. In-depth study should be avoided.

3. Other mourning practices include:

  • Sitting no higher than a foot off the ground. After midday, one may sit on a chair. Not engaging in business or other distracting labors, unless it will result in a substantial loss.
  • Refraining from greeting others or offering gifts.
  • Avoiding idle chatter or leisure activities.

Prayer on Tisha B’Av

  • Lights in the synagogue are dimmed, candles are lit, and the curtain is removed from the Ark. The cantor leads the prayers in a low, mournful voice. This reminds us of the Divine Presence which departed from the HolyTemple.
  • The Book of Eicha (Lamentations), Jeremiah’s poetic lament over the destruction of Jerusalem and the FirstTemple, is read both at night and during the day.
  • Following both the night and day service, special “Kinot” (elegies) are recited.
  • In the morning, the Torah portion of Deuteronomy 4:25-40 is read, containing the prophecy regarding Israel’s future iniquity and exile. This is followed by the Haftorah from Jeremiah (8:13, 9:1-23) describing the desolation of Zion.
  • In the afternoon, Exodus 32:11-14 is read. This is followed by the Haftorah from Isaiah 55-56.
  • Since Tallis and Tefillin represent glory and decoration, they are not worn at Shacharit. Rather, they are worn at Mincha, as certain mourning restrictions are lifted.
  • Birkat Kohanim is said only at Mincha, not at Shacharit.
  • Prayers for comforting Zion and “Aneinu” are inserted into the Amidah prayer at Mincha.
  • Shortly after the fast is broken, it is customary to say Kiddush Lavana.

When Tisha B’Av Falls on Shabbat

For a full treatment of this topic, see: When Tisha B’Av falls on Shabbat or Sunday. Here is a brief overview of the special conditions that apply:

  • The fast is pushed off until Saturday night/Sunday.
  • All other prohibitions of Tisha B’Av (washing, learning Torah, leather shoes, etc.) are permitted on Shabbat itself, except for marital relations. (Of course, regular Shabbat restrictions apply, such as anointing with cream and showering.)
  • Seudah Shlishit has none of the restrictions of Seudah Hamaf-seket, and may include meat and wine. However, the mood should be somber, should not include invited guests, and eating must stop before sundown.
  • Ma’ariv on Saturday night is delayed, so that everyone can say “Boruch Hamavdil bein kodesh li’chol,” then remove their leather shoes and come to synagogue.
  • Havdallah on Saturday night is recited only over a candle, without wine or spices. On Sunday night, Havdallah is then said over wine.
  • Regarding the various prohibitions, some are lifted immediately upon completion of the fast (e.g. bathing, laundry and haircuts), while others remain prohibited until the following morning (meat, wine and music).

The Saddest Time of the Year

Just as the month of Adar, in which we celebrate Purim, brings with it joy and gladness, this Sunday, July 5th, ushers in the saddest period of time in the Jewish calendar.

Beginning Sunday, with the observance of the Fast of the 17th of Tammuz, we usher in a period of mourning that culminates with Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, the day that commemorates the destruction of both Holy Temples in Jerusalem.

The sunrise to sunset fast that is observed on the 17th of Tammuz is a result of the following five great catastrophes occurred on this date.

Moses broke the tablets at Mount Sinai – in response to the sin of the Golden Calf.

The daily offerings in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem,

after the Kohanim could no longer obtain animals.

Jerusalem’s walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.

Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll – setting a precedent for the horrifying burning of Jewish books throughout the centuries.

An idolatrous image was placed in the Sanctuary of the Holy Temple – a brazen act of blasphemy and desecration.

Originally, the fast was observed on the Ninth of Tammuz since that was the day Jerusalem fell prior to the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE. However, after Jerusalem fell on the 17th of Tammuz – prior to the destruction of the Second Temple – the Sages decided upon a combined observance for both tragedies, the 17th of Tammuz.

The following are observed on the 17th of Tammuz:

  1. No eating or drinking is permitted from the break of dawn, until dusk.
  2. Pregnant and nursing women – and others whose health would be adversely affected – are exempted from the fast.
  3. Should the day coincide with Shabbat, the fast is delayed until Sunday (As it is this year).
  4. Bathing, anointing, and wearing leather shoes are all permissible.
  5. The “Aneinu” prayer is inserted into the Amidah of Shacharis and Mincha by the chazan. Individuals insert it in Mincha only.
  6. Slichos and “Avinu Malkeinu” are recited.
  7. Exodus 32:11, in which the “13 Attributes of Mercy” are mentioned, is read at both the morning and afternoon services.
  8. Isaiah 55:6 – 56:8, which discusses the renewal of the Temple service, is read as the Haftorah at the Mincha service.

During the three weeks between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av, the following observances are generally followed:

On Shabbat during the Three Weeks, the Haftorahs are taken from chapters in Isaiah and Jeremiah dealing with the Temple’s destruction and the exile of the Jewish people.

During this time, various aspects of mourning are observed by the entire nation. We minimize joy and celebration. And, since the attribute of Divine judgement (“din”) is acutely felt, we avoid potentially dangerous or risky endeavors.

ASPECTS OF MOURNING DURING THE THREE WEEKS

  1. No weddings are held. (However, engagement ceremonies are permitted.)
  2. We do not listen to music.
  3. We avoid all public celebrations — especially those which involve dancing and musical accompaniment.
  4. We avoid exciting and entertaining trips and activities.
  5. No haircuts or shaving.
  6. We do not say the blessing She-hechianu on new food or clothes, except on Shabbat.

THE NINE DAYS

The period commencing with Rosh Chodesh Av is called the “Nine Days.” During this time, a stricter level of mourning is observed, in accordance with the Talmudic dictum (Ta’anit 26): “When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy.”

(1) We avoid purchasing any items that bring great joy.

(2) We suspend home improvements, or the planting of trees and flowers.

(3) We avoid litigation with non-Jews, since fortune is inauspicious at this time.

(4) We abstain from the consumption of meat (including poultry) and wine. These foods are symbolic of the Temple service, and are generally expressions of celebration and joy.

  • On Shabbat, meat and wine are permitted. This applies also to any other seuduat mitzvah — for example, at a Brit Milah or at the completion of a tractate of Talmud.
  • Wine from Havdallah should be given to a child to drink.

(5) We refrain from wearing newly laundered garments, or laundering any clothes.

  • If the “freshness” has been taken out of a garment prior to the Nine Days, it may be worn.
  • Fresh clothes may be worn for Shabbat.
  • The clothing of small children, which gets soiled frequently, may be laundered during the Nine Days.

(6) We do not bathe for pleasure.

Please look for an upcoming article dedicated to the observances of Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, and plan to join us for its observance beginning Saturday evening, July 25.th

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On Nepal

Last month, a catastrophe occurred in Nepal. There was an earthquake, the likes of which the country had not seen in 80 years.

Mt. Everest poured out ashes, and those who were trying to climb to the top of it died, and were buried in the avalanche. Monuments and statues that had stood for more than twenty-five hundred years were smashed to smithereens.

Over 8,000 people died, and tens of thousands more have been seriously injured.

The streets of Katmandu have turned into rubble and become impassable. The reservoirs that contain the water supplies of Nepal have been poisoned by debris. And there continues to be a terrible shortage of food throughout the land.

And whenever something like this happens, people ask themselves: Where was God? Some people ask this question out of pain. Some people ask this question out of cynicism.

The question is an old one, and it is a basic one. But I think that it has to be slightly rephrased. Rabbi Harold Kushner has said that the question we should be asking is not, “Where is God?” The question should be, “When is God?” And I think that there are three answers to this question.

The first is that, in the first 24 hours after the earthquake, tens of thousands of people all over the world, people like you and me who have never been to Nepal, and who have no expectation of ever going there, people like you and me who are not even exactly sure where Nepal is, people all over the world sent donations to the Nepal Relief funds.

Why did we do it? I don’t believe that we did do it for the tax deduction. I don’t believe that we did do it for publicity. We did it because deep inside each one of us there is a wellspring of sympathy and empathy for those that were suffering that gushed to the surface and overflowed into tidal waves of generosity. And I have no secular explanation for that phenomenon, except to say that that wellspring was implanted in us by God.

The second wonder that occurred was this: Within 24 hours, countries from all over the world began sending medical supplies and setting up field hospitals, to help the people of Nepal. Even countries like India and China that are hostile to Nepal forgot about their hostilities, and sent doctors and nurses to help in this crisis.

By the way, do you know which country has sent the most medical aid? The answer is: America. America is one of the biggest, and one of the richest countries in the world, and so it sent the most medical aid.

Do you know which country in the world was second in the amount of aid that it has sent to Nepal? Can you guess?

It was Israel. Israel is not exactly the biggest country in the world – not by a long shot. But Israel is the country that came in second in the world in the number of field hospitals that it sent to Nepal, just as they did when there was a Tsunami in the Philippines a few years ago and just as they did when there was a disaster in Chile last year.

Israel sent more medical supplies and Israel set up more field hospitals in Nepal than any other country in the world with the exception of America. I have no secular explanation for this outpouring of medical aid. I have no secular explanation for why so many countries sent doctors and nurses and set up field hospitals. Do you?

And the third wonder that occurred was this: In the midst of all the death and the destruction and the darkness that covered Nepal, a baby was born. A mother was found lying underneath the rubble in Katmandu.

She was found by Israeli soldiers, who had been taught a few words of the language While they were traveling from Israel, so that they could shout out greetings, in the hope that people who were trapped underneath the rubble might hear them and answer, so that they could be found and rescued.

She was pulled out of the rubble under which she was lying, and she was taken by helicopter to an Israeli field hospital. Why to an Israeli field hospital? Because the Israelis were the only ones who had thought to bring along an obstetrician, just in case.

She weighed 7 pounds, 8 ounces – almost as much as Princess Charlotte Louise Diana, who was born in London the day before. And she has been given the name of Tikvah….in honor of the Israeli team that gave her life. AND THAT – at least in my opinion – is where God was in Nepal.

God was not in the earthquake! Geologists can explain how earthquakes occur without invoking God. Earthquakes occur whenever two seismic plates crash into each other. There is nothing wondrous, or mysterious or miraculous about that. Geologists can even predict when and where earthquakes will occur. But when the hearts of people all over the world are moved to do good? That is when God is. When people all over the world are moved to go to Nepal and set up field hospitals? That is when God is.

And when a baby is born in the midst of all this death and destruction, and when this baby is named Tikvah, out of gratitude to the Israeli doctors and nurses who gave her life? That is when God is. And so I want to teach bracha to you…Baruch hatov vihameitiv…blessed be God who does good, and who moves us to do good, for what happened in Nepal last month.

And I want to say mazel tov in the name of this congregation to Baby Tikvah Chand who was born last month, at almost the same time as Baby Charlotte was born in London.

Let us say mazel tov to her, to her parents, and to God on her arrival. May they all have much naches from her in the years to come. May she grow up to be worthy of her name, and may she always feel a debt of gratitude to God, and to the Israeli doctors and nurses who gave her life.

And let me tell you – as loudly and as clearly as I can…that whenever human beings do good for those who are in need of help, that whenever human beings are moved to give of their money and their energy and their love in order to help make this a better world – we are doing the work of God… and we are – or: as one of the Chassidic masters put it: we are THE ARMS OF GOD!

And now, one last word: In case there is anyone out there who is short of mitzvoth, and you weren’t in a position to help before, please go on-line and go to the American Jewish World service website and that’s where you can send your tzedakah. They are still assisting in recovery efforts. Or, you can make a donation to any one of the many organizations whose goal is to assist those in need.

For if you do, you will strengthen the hands of God, and may God bless you for this act of Chessed.

B’Shalom,

Reb Yitz