Parshas Vayechi

Good Shabbos

How is everyone?  This is the last weekend of the year.  I hope 2012 was at least a decent year and let us hope for better things in 2013.    As we go from then end of one year into a new year, so this week’s Bible portion of Vayichi is the end of the opening chapter of the Jewish nation.  The last of the Avos – (our forefathers) dies, along with his twelve sons.   Next week we start with a new chapter of the Jewish people, the slavery in Egypt.

I do not know what I will focus on this week, Shabbos morning.  I am thinking about the blessings Jacob gives to his twelve sons.  The first three are rebukes.  Why not couch it in positive terms?   Yet Yehuda is blessed by Jacob to be the leader of the Jewish nation – despite being the one who may have done Jacob the most damage, as Yehuda was the ringleader in the selling of Joseph and causing 22 years of agony for Jacob.     Did Jacob even know the Joseph was sold ?  And if he did, was Yehuda forgiven?    It appears that Jacob did not know because Rashi says that when it came time for Yehuda to receive his blessing, Yehuda started to turn away out of fear of being rebuked over the incident of Tamar.  Rashi does not mention the selling of Joseph.   I have to look at the Midrash.  We were not there so we do not know how the family handled everything.  It is interesting that after Jacob dies, the brothers were afraid that Joseph would turn against them.

Great stuff.

Last Shabbos, I walked to Anshe Sholem for morning services.  I love speeches, especially Rabbi’s sermons.  I wondered what Rabbi Lopatin would focus on and what his message would be.  There is a great deal of excellent Torah on last week’s Bible portion that is relevant to us, that we can learn out great lessons, especially the words, “I am Joseph, is my father still living”.    Rabbi Lopatin in his words captured the emotions and feelings of the congregation and us Jews in the lesson of Sandy Hook.  He mentioned that last week’s Torah portion started with “Viyagash Alov Yehuda”, as the Targum translates the words, Yehuda came close to Joseph.  Rabbi Lopatin said that to influence people, we have to come close.  It appears that the Sandy Hook killer was not abused, not bullied, no one may be to blame.     Talk to people, don’t let people be isolated.  It may not help or the person may want their privacy, but we must try.   Rabbi Lopatin talked about his trip to Israel, walking the streets of Bnei Brak, meeting with Rabbi Shteinman and Rabbi Keneivsky, the two great Cheridei leaders.  Rabbi Lopatin is reaching out to all different parts of the Jewish people.  He also met with Rabbi Melchior and Rabbi David Hartman.  He was warmly received by all  these leaders.   He said that Rabbi Hartman although weak, is full of life and about to publish a new book.  Rabbi Lopatin talked about Achdus – togetherness – in Israel and the Jewish people.

I also talked to Jack Berger, the super Jew.  He was in Israel for the Likud primaries.  I asked him if he saw our Rebbe (teacher) Rabbi Nachman Kahana.  He had breakfast with Rabbi Kahana at the Inbal hotel in Jerusalem.  I told Jack Berger a great – great story that Chazzan S. told over at Kiddush a few weeks ago.

Chazzan S. has a daughter who is Chereidei and lives in the New York area.  She has a son who volunteered for the IDF.   Chazzan S,’s daughter called up her parents and tells this amazing story.

Their son served 2.5+- years in the IDF and was released about 4 months ago.  Since he was an American, he was not in the reserves.  About 2 months ago his unit was called up to Gaza.  The kid called his commanding officer (CO) and wanted to come back.   His CO told him that if he decides to re-enlist, the CO will make sure the kid ends up with his unit on the Gaza front.  The kid re-enlists and makes it back to his unit.   The kid is on the Gaza front with 70,000 other soldiers.  The Lubavtichers were there handing out Titzis and putting on Tefillim.  The kid told his parents that he was able to see with his own eyes the holy sparks of holiness ascending from the soldiers to the heavens.

Jack Berger told me that the spirit of the IDF has never been better.

Contrast this Holiness of the Jewish people, Mi Kamacha Yisroel, with the nonsense coming out of the Cheredei community.  My nephew pointed out a Cheredei website that has an audio of a Yeshiva student going to a recruiting office and telling them he will not serve.   I do not know if this audio is true because it is so infantile, but I do believe this mentality permeates Cheridei society.  They do not have the decency or the humility to recognize what others are doing for them.   I do not believe that the leaders of Chereidei society agree with this type of behavior, but they have yet to stand up to this boorish behavior and indirectly encourages it.  It is tragic that they do not realize they are clowns and unfortunately this type of infantile behavior is applauded.  This Cheridei website just does not get it and does not even know to be embarrassed.  This is not the first time that they published something I considered wrong and when I e-mailed them they defended their position.

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The Chief Rabbi of Israel and my Cousin

Quite a bit has been happening and I hope to write about the events.  Three weeks ago, I spent a magnificent Shabbos at the Boca Raton Synagogue (BRS) and I plan to write about it.  This past Shabbos,  Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau visited Chicago for the weekend.  He had the Shabbos afternoon meal, davened Mincha , and had the third Shabbos meal at Sidney Glenner’s house.  I was privileged to be in the presence of the Chief Rabbi.   Rabbi Lau is a prolific and emotional speaker.  Recently his memoir, Out of the Depths, was published in English.  Rabbi Lau was liberated from Buchenwald at age 8.

At the Shabbos lunch meal Rabbi Lau told two stories.  His first story brought a cousin of mine to life and answered a question, I have had for a number of years.

Around 1980 Rabbi was elected Chief Rabbi of Netanya. Rabbi Lau explained the responsibility of his new job; Kashrus, Eruv, the Synagogues, the hotels, policing 49 butcher shops, and trying to please all factions of the religious spectrum.   He also had to worry about preventing the desecration of Shabbos.  There were 4 movie theaters in Netanya owned by one couple,  He got the wife to agree not to open on Shabbos.  When the wife died, Rabbi Lau was worried that her husband who had little connection to religion would open the movie theatres on Shabbos .  Rabbi Lau got the husband to promise  at his wife’s funeral, that the husband would continue the legacy of his deceased wife and not cause desecration on Shabbos.

There was a social club in Netanya at Ramaz 8 that had planned to open on Friday night for theater performances and other activates.   The social club at Ramaz 8 was owned by the Histadrut.  The Histadrut* is a powerful workers Union in Israel that had and has enormous power in Israel. They were leftist, secular, and anti-religious. They had no problem being open on Shabbos and probably encouraged the desecration of Shabbos.   Rabbi Lau called to his office the head of the Histadrut in Netanya. This person was Nosson Shachar.

Nosson Shachar is a son of Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Morgenstern, son of the Lukover Rebbe (Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Morgenstern),  Nosson Shacher is a  brother to Menucha Morgenstern- Lahav, first cousin to my father, and first cousin – once removed to myself.   Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Morgenstern was the youngest of the 10 children of the Lukover Rebbe and made Aliyah to Israel in the early 1920’s.  I had thought that all of the Lukover Rebbe’s 10 children and their families were martyred in the Holocaust.  About 10 years ago I  found out that the youngest made Aliyah after the Lukover Rebbe passed away in 1920.  I met his daughter Menucha about 5 years ago when I had her and her family over for a Friday night meal, when I was in Israel visiting my daughter in Seminary.

Nosson Shacher comes into Rabbi Lau’s office and sits down.  Rabbi Lau looks at him and says, your last name is Shacher, you must be a descendent of the Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern. Nosson Schacher is surprised and says that he has not heard this for many years as he was secular and in his circles, the Kotzker Rebbe would  rarely be mentioned.  Additionally, the Kotzker’s last name was Morgenstern.  Many individuals when they reached Israel from Europe took Hebrew last names instead of their European last names. Morgenstern in German is morning star, so the last name became Shacher. Rabbi Lau continues and says, when you pass on and in the next world you will  meet your holy grandfather, the Kotzker Rebbe.  The Kotzker will ask you, so Nosson, what have you done during your lifetime, what positive thing have you done about Shabbos, did you prevent the desecration of Shabbos.  What will you say? Nosson Shacher is quiet for a moment in thought, and after a short while says, we will move the programs to Saturday night, and promises that there will be no desecration of the Shabbos. Imagine the merit of Nosson Shacher.  He merited the world to come, just with this one act. Perhaps this is the reason why Rabbi Yehoshua  Zelig Morgenstern made Aliyah, so that in 1980, his son Nosson, despite being secular, met with Rabbi Lau to prevent public desecration of Shabbos.  Perhaps this is why Rabbi Yehoshua Zelig Morgenstern and family were spared from the horrors of the Holocaust.

I hope to be able to learn Torah with Menucha, her husband, their kids, and Nosson’s children in Israel one day.

* Wikipedia – “The Histadrut became one of the most powerful institutions in the state of Israel, a mainstay of the Labour Zionist movement and, aside from being a trade union, its state-building role made it the owner of a number of businesses and factories and, for a time, the largest employer in the country.   Membership in 1983 was 1,600,000 (including dependents), accounting for more than one-third of the total population of Israel and about 85 percent of all wage earners.”