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Jewlarious Jokes 8/19/2022

There was a man called Yaakov who lived near a river in America. He was a very religious man.

One day, the river rose over the banks and flooded the town, and Yaakov was forced to climb onto his porch roof. While he was sitting there, a man in a boat came along and told Yaakov to get in the boat. Yaakov said, “No, that’s OK, G-d will take care of me.” So, the man in the boat drove off.

The water rose, so Yaakov climbed onto his roof. At that time, another boat came along and the person in that one told Yaakov to get in. He replied, “No, that’s OK, G-d will take care of me.” The person in the boat left.

The water rose even more, and Yaakov climbed on his chimney. Then a helicopter came and lowered a ladder. The man in the helicopter told Yaakov to climb up the ladder and get in. He told the man, “That’s OK.” The pilot said, “Are you sure?” Yaakov said, “Yeah, I’m sure G-d will take care of me.”

Finally, the water rose too high and Yaakov drowned. He got up to Heaven and spoke with the angel at the gate. Yaakov questioned, “Why didn’t G-d take care of me! What happened?”

The angel replied, “Well, He sent you two boats and a helicopter. What else did you want?”

***

Sitting on the side of the highway waiting to catch speeding drivers, a State Police Officer sees a car puttering along at 22 MPH. He thinks to himself, “This driver is just as dangerous as a speeder!” So he turns on his lights and pulls the driver over.

Approaching the car, he notices that there are five elderly ladies, eyes wide and white as ghosts. Bubbie, obviously confused, says to him, “Officer, I don’t understand, I was doing exactly the speed limit! What seems to be the problem?”

“Ma’am,” the officer replies, “you weren’t speeding, but you should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be a danger to other drivers.”

“Slower than the speed limit?” she asked. “No sir, I was doing the speed limit exactly… 22 MPH!” Bubbie says proudly.

The State Police officer, trying to contain a chuckle explains to her that “22” was the route number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, she grinned and thanked the officer for pointing out her error.

The officer said, “But before I let you go, ma’am, I have to ask. Is everyone in this car OK? These women seem awfully shaken, and they haven’t muttered a single peep this whole time,” the officer says.

Bubbie replied, “Oh, they’ll be all right in a minute officer. We just got off Route 119.”

***

The upset and concerned housewife Rivkah sprang to the telephone when it rang and listened with relief to the kindly voice.

“Darling, how are you? This is Momma.”

“Oh Momma,” she said, “I’m having a bad day.” Breaking into bitter tears, she continued, “The baby won’t eat and the washing machine broke down. I haven’t had a chance to go shopping, and besides, I’ve just sprained my ankle and I have to hobble around. On top of that, the house is a mess and I’m supposed to have the Goldbergs and Rosens for dinner tonight.”

The voice on the other end said in sympathy, “Darling, let Momma handle it.” She continued, “Sit down, relax and close your eyes. I’ll be over in half an hour. I’ll do your shopping, clean up the house and cook your dinner for you. I’ll feed the baby and I’ll call a repairman I know who’ll be at your house to fix the washing machine promptly. Now stop crying. I’ll do everything. In fact, I’ll even call your husband Morty at the office and tell him he ought to come home and help out for once.”

“Morty?” said Rivkah. “Who’s Morty?”

“Why, Morty’s your husband!….Is this 223-1374?”

“No, this is 223-1375.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I guess I have the wrong number.”

There was a short pause, then Rivkah said, “Does this mean you’re not coming over?”

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A FATHER’S OBLIGATION

SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE: A Father’s Obligation

One of the biggest summer sports is – obviously swimming. For some reason, even though Jews in general, aren’t the top in sports, but when it comes to swimming, you hear lots of Jewish names. Some say that Michael Phelps is Jewish. Mark Spitz, another swimming superstar is Jewish; in general, you hear lots of Jewish names among swimmers.

Do Jews flock to swimming more than other sports?

The Talmud (Tractate Kiddushin 29a) tells us that there are several mitzvos that a father is obligated to do for his son. The first of these mitzvos is to circumcise him.

A Jewish father is obligated to give his son a bris. But since it so happens that sometimes the father is not a mohel, the father asks the mohel to circumcise his son for him. That’s why there is the custom for the father of the baby boy to hand the surgical knife to the mohel and say, “I hereby appoint you my representative to circumcise my son.”

What is the source for the Jewish father’s obligation to circumcise his son? Avraham Avinu: our Patriarch Abraham. The verse in Genesis states: “And Avraham circumcised Yitzchak his son,” from which we learn that every Jewish father is obligated to circumcise his son.

A Jewish father’s next obligation is to redeem his son. According to the Torah, every first-born son must serve in the Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem, the Holy Temple. However, if the father wished to keep his son, he would have to redeem him from a Cohen, a Temple priest. Now today, since we have no Temple, the custom is that all firstborn boys are redeemed. If a Jewish father’s first child is a boy, and the boy is delivered naturally (not by C-Section), then his father is obligated to perform the Pidyon Haben, the Redemption of the Son ceremony: to give a Cohen five shekels (or their equivalent) and thus redeem his son.

The third obligation about which the Talmud tells us is for the father to teach his son Torah. We learn this from this week’s Torah portion, Eikev.

In our Torah portion, we read the second paragraph of the Shma prayer. Last week we had the Shma’s first paragraph. But this week, we read, “V’haya im shamo’a” — “and it will be, if you listen to My mitzvos…” The portion is talking about observing all the mitzvos, and it says: “And you shall teach it to your sons,” which teaches us that fathers have an obligation to teach their sons Torah.

The story is told of the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of the Chabad movement, that when his son reached school age, he summoned one of his followers and told him: “I am obligated to teach my son Torah, and you are obligated to support your wife and children. Let’s trade! I’ll help you support your family and you teach my son Torah.”

People constantly blame teachers for all the problems in education today. But the truth is that the obligation to educate our children—at least the obligation to teach them Torah—rests on us, the parents. That’s why, at the end of the day, it is our responsibility and no one else’s.

A father’s next obligation is to marry off his child—to find him a spouse.

Just as a person is personally obligated to get married, so too, a father has the obligation to marry off his children—he must do everything in his power so that his kids get married. Perhaps we should save on the lavish Bar Mitzvah parties to focus on the obligation to do whatever we can to marry off our kids. This too is learned from Avraham Avinu.

The Torah tells us at great length how Avraham bound his servant Eliezer by an oath to find a match for his son Yitzchak, putting all his resources at his disposal for this purpose. The next time your kids tell you, “don’t mix in—it’s my decision and it’s not your business,” tell them that “we have news for you—it very much is our business!”

A father’s next obligation is to teach his son a trade. A father is obligated to give his son a skill set—because without that, he’ll turn to illegal means and become a criminal, as Rabbi Yehudah states in the Talmud: “Anyone who doesn’t teach his son a trade is as if he taught him robbery.”

Finally, we come to the Talmud’s last item in its list of fatherly obligations: to teach his son how to swim. He has no obligation to teach him any other sport—not tennis, not lacrosse, not baseball or soccer. Just swimming.

The simple reason for this is as Rashi explains: “Perhaps he’ll be traveling by boat and the boat will sink, and he’ll be in danger if he doesn’t know how to swim.”

In Talmudic times, many cities and towns were built by riverbanks. Besides providing drinking and irrigation water, this allowed commerce and people to flow easily from place to place. However, the barges and rafts of those days were not particularly safe, and it was quite common for them to capsize—which is why, the Talmud tells us, father needed to teach their kids how to swim.

AGAINST THE TIDE
But there’s a deeper lesson here. The Baal Shem Tov teaches that life is like a stormy sea—which is why every parent is obligated to teach his child to swim in its waters.

Fish are famous for swimming upstream against the current, so much so that there’s a saying, “only dead fish go with the tide.” A robust, thriving fish swims against the current.

So too, it’s not enough to just teach our children to swim. A Robust, thriving Jew swims against the current too, not intimidated by others.

In life, people may mock him: “When did you suddenly become so religious? Now you can only eat kosher?! What happened to you?” Anyone who starts keeping a new mitzvah that he or she never previously kept knows how hard it can be to swim against the current.

My grandfather was a chassid who endured impossible odds to remain religious in the early days of Communist Russia. He spent his entire life going against the tide. When he wrote his memoirs, he entitled it “Neged Hazerem, Against the Tide”— because that was his very existence.

The best thing a parent could do for his child today is to teach him to swim—against the tide.

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Jewlarious Jokes 8/12/2022

A young woman brings home her fiance to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother tells her father to find out about the young man. The father invites the fiance to his study for a drink.

“So what are your plans?” the father asks the young man.

“I am a Torah scholar,” he replies.

“A Torah scholar. Hmmm,” the father says. “Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in, as she’s accustomed to?”

“I will study,” the young man replies, “and G-d will provide for us.”

“And how will you buy her a beautiful engagement ring, such as she deserves?” asks the father.

“I will concentrate on my studies,” the young man replies. “G-d will provide for us.”

“And children?” asks the father. “How will you support the children?”

“Don’t worry, sir. G-d will provide,” replies the fiance.

The conversation proceeds like this, and each time the father questions, the young idealist insists that G-d will provide.

Later that evening the mother asks, “How did it go, Honey?”

The father answers, “He has no job and no plans, but the good news is he thinks I’m G-d.”

***

Rachel did a lot of travelling for her business, so she flew often. Flying made her very, very nervous, so she always took her Siddur along so she could read the traveller’s prayer. It helped her relax.

One time, she was sitting next to a sceptical man. When he saw her pull out her Siddur, he gave a little chuckle and smirk and went back to what he was doing. After awhile, he turned to her and asked, “You don’t really believe all that stuff in there?”

Rachel replied, “Of course!”

He said, “Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?”

“Oh, Yonah,” responded Rachel.

“Yes, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?”

Rachel, “Well, I don’t really know. I guess when I get to Heaven, I will ask him.”

“Well what if he isn’t there?” the man asked sarcastically.

“Then you can ask him,” replied Rachel.

***

Mr Steen was brought to Mercy Hospital and taken quickly in for coronary surgery. The operation went well and as the groggy man regained consciousness, he was reassured by the doctor who was waiting by his bed.

“You’re going to be just fine, Mr Steen,” the doctor said.

The doctor was joined by a nurse who said, “We do need to know, however, how you intend to pay for your stay here. Are you covered by insurance?”

Mr Steen said, “No, I’m not,” in a whisper.

“Then can you pay in cash?” the nurse persisted.

“I’m afraid I cannot.”

“Well, do you have any close relatives?” the nurse questioned sternly.

“Just my sister in New York,” he volunteered. “But she converted to.. she’s a nun… in fact a real spinster.”

“Oh, I must correct you, Mr Steen. Nuns are not spinsters—they are married to G-d.”

“Wonderful, wonderful,” Mr Steen. “In that case, please send my bill to my brother-in-law.”

 

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How One Person Can Change the World

THE PILOT OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE
Louis “Lou” Lenart was a proud American Jew who was actually born in Hungary in 1921. At age 10, with anti-Semitism in Hungary rising, his family immigrated to the United States.

In 1940, as a strapping young American Jew of 19, he volunteered for military duty, believing in his heart that America would eventually get involved in WWII in Europe, which would enable him to fight the Nazis. He was right.

While serving on active duty, and this is in the day when the Air Force was a branch of the Army, he was sent to take a pilot’s course. He turned out to be the only Jew in the course, and he wanted to prove to them all that Jews weren’t just lawyers and bankers but able to be great fighter pilots, too.

In the start of 1944, then, he was sent off to the Pacific Theater to fight the Japanese.

When the war ended, he came back home to Pennsylvania—and only then did he, and the rest of the civilized world, learn about the horrors of the Holocaust. He discovered that that 14 members of his immediate family, including his grandmother, had been murdered by the Nazis.

In 1948, the Jewish community in the Holy Land was fighting for its very existence. The British announced that they were abandoning their colony, and the United Nations decided to split the country between the Jews and the Arabs. The Arabs, perhaps predictably, refused to accept the division.

So at that point, the Israeli War of Independence broke out—600,000 Jews versus five million Arabs.

And all the armies of the surrounding Arab countries fought against the Jews: the militaries of Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in addition to the Arabs who lived in what became Israel. The Jewish community of pre-State Israel was poor and had no military experience at all.

Well, the community leadership understood that one of the places where they might get help was the United States—because during WWII, thousands of nice Jewish boys signed up for, or were drafted into, military service, coming home with plenty of combat experience. In addition, it was relatively easy to purchase ammunition, weaponry, materiel, ordinance and all sorts of military surplus in the United States after the war—and, most important of all, donations from Jews with which to fund the War of Independence.

But the United Nations, causing problems as it tends to do to this day, imposed an embargo on the Middle East, meaning that it was forbidden for any member nation to sell military materiel to any party to the conflict. The United States, for some reason, was all too happy to abide by that immoral embargo—rendering it illegal for any American to sell any military items to Israel.

What’s more, it was now also illegal for any American citizen to join Israel’s war—and any American who did so would forfeit their citizenship, and would even likely stand trial and go to prison upon return to the United States.

Despite that all, Lou Lenart decided that he was going to leave it all behind, and so he went ahead and signed up for Israel’s War of Independence.

A few days later, he said that the Holocaust had led him to conclude that Jews needed to stand up and fight for themselves, and that they deserved a place where they could live like free men.

Now, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) that was now being born had neither pilots nor planes. And so, when a young American Jewish fighter pilot with seven years of flying experience, including several in combat, showed up in Israel, it was simply a life-saver.

And so, together with several agents of the Haganah, the forerunner to Israel’s military, he purchased several old fighter planes and smuggled them from the United States to Panama, and from there, via other countries to Italy. Once the planes were in Rome, he was asked to fly a single-engine plane to Israel.

Lou Lenart later said the flight from Italy to Israel was 11-and-a-half hours, and that throughout the entire flight, he had been staring at the single propeller, praying that it would keep spinning. But the biggest miracle of all was that the plane didn’t run out of gas for the entire long flight, and for him, it was his personal “miraculous jug of oil.”

In those days, when Lou got to Israel, Israel’s air force consisted of four planes and four pilots, with one of the four being himself. He also was the pilot with the most expertise.

So on May 29th, word came down that the Egyptian army was getting close to Tel Aviv and was already only five miles away. They needed to stop them.

Lenart led the four aircrafts off the runway and into the air. Each plane was loaded with bombs. As soon as he got airborne, he felt that this was the high point of his life—going out in defense of the Jewish Nation.

However, he had one problem: He didn’t know the turf, and the four aircraft didn’t have radios. So one other pilot directed him with hand signals until he was able to identify the Egyptian forces. It was a mighty force: Hundreds of trucks and tanks and thousands of soldiers were arrayed before him.

He looked behind him and saw the residents of Israel, and looked in front of him and saw the enemy army in full array, some 14,000 soldiers. He cried out, “Shma Yisrael!” and dove right at the center of the Egyptian formation, followed by the three other aircraft. They released their bombs directly onto the giant convoy.

For the Egyptian army, which had no idea at all that “the Jews” had an air force, it was an absolute shock. The surprise attack succeeded in dispersing the Egyptian advance towards Tel Aviv, and ultimately in saving Israel.

Years later, Lou Lenart would say that he felt that the reason he was spared from any enemy harm during WWII was so that he would be able to be there at the critical moment when the Jewish Nation in Israel needed to be saved—when four young Jewish men, two Israelis, one South African and one American, saved the entire Jewish community in Israel and secured history for generations.

KAMTZA AND BAR KAMTZA
Well, Tisha B’Av is upon us, and we will gather once again to mourn the Destruction of the Temple.

One of the most famous stories of all relating to Tisha B’Av is that of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza—how one of Jerusalem’s wealthiest men threw a party and sent his butler to invite his friend Kamtza. Well, what do you know, but the butler went and accidentally invited someone name Bar Kamtza instead.

The problem was that the rich man had a serious resentment issue with this Bar Kamtza fellow.

So when the rich guy shows up at his own party and sees Bar Kamtza, a guy he can’t stand, sitting there, he flew into a rage and told Mr. Bar Kamtza, and probably in no uncertain terms, that he was to vacate the premises immediately.

Well, Bar Kamtza felt humiliated, and begged the rich guy—it’s interesting that the Talmud does not openly tell us his name—to not embarrass him any further in front of everyone by letting him stay at the party in exchange for him, Bar Kamtza, paying for the cost of whatever he’d eat or drink.

But the rich socialite didn’t agree, and insisted that Bar Kamtza leave.

Bar Kamtza offered to pay for half the cost of the entire party just as long as the host would refrain from inflicted such humiliation on him, but the host still insisted that he get out. Bar Kamtza next offered to pay for the cost of the entire party—but the host grabbed him by the hand and physically threw him out.

Once outside, though, Bar Kamtza fumed not so much at the host but at the various Sages who had been guests at the event—who had been there and had witnessed the entire confrontation but had not protested. So Bar Kamtza, burning with resentment at “the rabbis” (something that we are all too familiar with), went to Rome and slandered his own people, saying that they were plotting rebellion against the Empire.

And so, the Talmud tells us, Jerusalem was destroyed because of the “Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Case”—in other words, the Talmud blames the entire Destruction of the Second Temple and Roman Exile on Mr. Bar Kamtza.

WHO WILL YOU BE?
Now, the Rebbe would always quote the well-known words of the Rambam in his Laws of Teshuvah (3:8): “Thus, a person must always see himself… and likewise, the entire world, as half innocent and half guilty. If he does one sin, he tilts himself and the entire universe to the side of guilt and brings destruction upon them. If he does one mitzvah, he tilts himself and the entire universe to the side of good and brings redemption and rescue upon them.”

These two stories verify the words of the Rambam.

On the one hand, you have the “Kamtza and Bar Kamtza Case,” in which one person’s actions “tilted the entire universe to the side of guilt and brought destruction upon them” by bringing destruction upon himself and the Holy Temple and causing the entire Jewish Nation to go into exile—and to this day, we are suffering from the results of that one action.

On the other hand, that one Jew named Lou Lenart, who risked his life and even said “Shma Yisrael!” tilted the entire universe to the side of good and brought redemption and rescue upon them” for generations upon generations—because that war changed history forever.

The lesson in all of this, my friends, is that a person must never think, “Who am I and what am I?” A person must never think that his or her action will make no difference either way.

On the contrary! These two stories teach us that one person can indeed change the world. Let us remember that.

Good Shabbos!

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Rashi’s Yahrzeit

RASHI’S YAHRZEIT
This past week, on the 29th of Tammuz, we marked the 917th Yahrtzeit of Rashi. Anyone who ever learned Torah has heard the name Rashi; every Jewish schoolchild knows this name.

Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki. Shlomo was his name and Yitzchak his father’s name. This great sage lived in the French city of Troyes (pronounced Twah) with his two daughters and their families. He earned his living from vineyards he owned. These were tended to by hired help, of course, for Rashi spent all of his time studying and teaching Torah.

Rashi composed a commentary on the entire Tanach and most of the Talmud. It’s hard to understand how he achieved so much in his short 65-year life.

Now, there were many erudite commentaries composed by great scholars before and after Rashi, yet Rashi’s commentary was universally accepted and 900 years later is still the first commentary Jewish children learn. What was so special about this man and his work?

THE BEIS HAMIKDASH
We are presently in the middle of the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple. The Rebbe encouraged us to study the laws of building the Holy Temple during this time, based on the Midrash where G-d tells Ezekiel to instruct the people to study the laws of the Temple’s construction and G-d would consider that study as if they were actually building the Temple.

One interesting law is, that everybody is obligated to assist in the construction of the Temple; men and woman, with their hands and their money; from morning till night. However, the Torah study of Jewish school children is not to be disturbed for the construction. Why? Rabbi Yehuda explained that the world exists only through the merit of the sweet torah study of children. Upon hearing this R’ Papa turned to Abaye and asked, “What about our Torah study?” and Abaye responded, “You can’t compare our sin stained words to the words of innocent children.”

When a person sins, G-d forbid, he creates a barrier between himself and G-d and no man is completely free of sin. Children however are completely innocent since they are not obligated to keep the mitzvos until they are Bar or Bat Mitzvah. There is therefore nothing that stands between a child and G-d, for a child never can create such a barrier.

THE POWER OF CHILDREN
It is due to this fact that when Haman was threatening the Jews with annihilation, Mordechai gathered 22,000 Jewish children together to pray and to study Torah. Indeed, it was the lovable voices of these children that finally pierced the heavens. When G-d heard their sweet entreaties, His mercy was aroused and He tore up the decree of destruction against the Jewish nation. The children had done what the righteous Mordechai and his seventy holy colleagues of the Sanhedrin could not.

Children’s prayers have such power that often when a person is sick, family members will go to the Cheder and ask the school children to pray on the sick man’s behalf. Also, on the night before a bris it is the custom for children to gather around the baby to pray and recite words of Torah for the baby’s safety.

This is why, when the tension was building in the Middle East before the Yom Kippur War, the Rebbe instructed his Chassidim to gather children at the Western Wall for prayer and Torah study.

There is a statement in the Talmud that says, “Remember that man for good!” That man is Rabbi Yehoshua ben Gamla, a High Priest at the end of the second Temple. It used to be a father’s responsibility to teach his sons Torah. Hence, children with no father never learned Torah. Although there was a yeshiva for orphans in Jerusalem it was only for older, self sufficient boys. Often a child who never studied would be sent to that yeshiva at fifteen or sixteen years of age and would already have developed a dislike for study. It was Yehoshua ben Gamla who sent teachers all around the land and instituted schools for children in every city.

Rabbi Yehoshua understood that you can’t depend on fathers to teach their children. Some fathers are too busy, others are too lazy, still others might not be good teachers or might themselves be ignorant and have nothing to teach their children! Elementary schools are his invention!

Since then, it has become the law that every Jewish community must support a teacher. In fact, the community can force the wealthier members to pay for the Torah education of the poorer children. Even one who doesn’t have elementary school aged children must partake in the support of an elementary school; so important is the education and Torah study of children.

THE SECRET TO RASHI’S POPULARITY
This then, might be the secret to Rashi’s popularity. Rashi wrote his commentary for the five year old who is just beginning to learn. His clear simple explanations teach children how Torah is to be learned. He took the entire Talmud and Midrash and condensed it so that every child should be able to understand Chumash like a scholar.

Like Yehoshua ben Gamla, Rashi concerned himself with the education of children. That’s why hundreds of years later every child feels that Rashi is their personal teacher.

The lesson for each of us, as the new school year approaches, is to do all that is within our power to ensure that our children and that all Jewish children should receive a proper Torah education, either by sending your children to Jewish schools and convincing other parents to do the same or by helping in the support of your local Hebrew School. And everyone who concerns him or herself with the education of Jewish children will be, as the Talmud says, “Remembered for good.”

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Jewlarious Jokes 8/5/2022

Three sons of a Yiddishe Mama left their homeland, went abroad and prospered. They discussed the gifts they were able to give their ageing mother:

Avraham, the first son, said, “I built a big house for our mother.”

Moishe, the second, said, “I sent her a Mercedes with a driver.”

David, the youngest, said, “You remember how our mother enjoys reading the Bible? Now she can’t see very well. I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the whole Bible—Mama just has to name the chapter and verse.”

Soon thereafter, a letter of thanks came from their mother:

“Avraham,” she said, “the house you built is so huge. I live only in one room, but I have to clean the whole house. Moishe,” she said, “I am too old to travel. I stay most of the time at home so I rarely use the Mercedes. And that driver has shpilkas—he’s a pain in the tuchas. But David,” she said, “the chicken was delicious!”

***

Goldstein had been going to the same restaurant for 10 years. Every day he starts with the same thing, barley soup. One day, as soon as he comes in, the waiter brings the soup over to his table.

“I want you to taste the soup,” Goldstein says as the waiter starts to walk away.

“What’s the matter?” the waiter asks, “Every day you take the same barley soup.”

“I want you to taste the soup,” Goldstein repeats.

“You don’t want the barley soup?” the waiter says, “I’ll bring you something else.”

“I want you to taste the soup,” Goldstein says once more.

“Is it too cold? Too salty? G-d forbid is there a fly in it? What’s wrong with it?” said the waiter.

“Just taste the soup,” insists Goldstein.

“Okay, okay, I’ll taste the soup,” says the waiter, wearily. “Where’s the spoon?”

“Aha!”

***

Two Jewish women were sitting under hair dryers at the hairdresser. The first lady says, “So nu, how’s your family?”

The second one responds, “Oh just fine. My daughter is married to the most wonderful man. She never has to cook; he always takes her out. She never has to clean; he got her a housekeeper. She never has to work; he’s got such a good job. She never has to worry about the children, he got her a nanny.”

She continues with a question to the first lady, “So how is your son these days?”

The first woman says, “Just awful. He is married to such a witch of a woman. She makes him take her out to dinner every night, she never cooks a dish. She made him get her a housekeeper, G-d forbid she should vacuum a carpet! He has to work like a dog because she won’t get a job and she never takes care of their children, because she made him get her a nanny!”

***

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REBUILDING LIFE AND REDISCOVERING JOY

REBUILDING LIFE AND REDISCOVERING JOY

Lately, a new book was released: “The Happiest Man on Earth,” by Eddie Jaku. Eddie is a Holocaust survivor who lives in Sydney, Australia, and has reached the ripe old age of 101.

The book quickly became a best-seller throughout the world and has been translated into many languages. It will become a “must-read” like the book “Night,” by Elie Weisel. It might even be more important than “Night,” because this book is much more optimistic. First of all, it was written seventy-five years after the Holocaust, and second of all, the author — as the book’s title attests — is a very optimistic person himself.

Elie Weisel suffered the travails of the Holocaust starting in 1944, when the Nazis arrived in his city in Hungary. Our “Happiest Man on Earth,” on the other hand, was born in Leipzig, Germany and suffered from the Nazis from the very beginning of the war and even earlier — from the day they assumed power in Germany.

When the Nazis took control over the country in 1933, Eddie was almost 13 years old. Until that day, Eddie says, their family identified, first and foremost, as Germans. Second – as Germans too. Their Jewish identity was last. As a child, he believed that he was part of the most cultured and educated society in the world, and he was very proud of it. They were, nonetheless, very culturally Jewish. They attended synagogue, kept a kosher home, and celebrated Shabbat together every Friday night with kiddush and challah.

Everything changed in Eddie’s life as soon as the Nazis came to power. One morning, when he arrived at school, he was told that he could no longer attend because he was a Jew. It was the shock of his life. He couldn’t understand what had gotten into his German friends and what had happened to the German society which he had been so proud of. This question bothers him until this very day.

I will allow you to read for yourselves the story of his Holocaust experiences, but I want to tell you about his life after the war.

By the last day of the war, Eddie was so ill that he was forced to crawl to the main road, where he saw a tank approaching. It was an American tank. The soldiers picked him up, and a week later he found himself in a warm hospital in Germany surrounded by doctors and nurses. He was in terrible shape; whenever the doctor would examine him, he would refuse to tell him his prognosis.

One day, a nurse bent over Eddie to listen to his breathing — to see if he was still alive — and he grabbed her arm. “I will not let go,” he said to her in tears, “until you tell me the honest truth about my situation.”

The nurse told him the truth: the doctor had given him a thirty-five percent chance of survival.

Hearing that, Eddie made a vow: If he would recover, he would never again step foot in Germany, and he would dedicate his life to correcting the ills the Germans had brought to the world.

Six weeks later, he was released from the hospital. He was issued refugee papers, and he traveled to Brussels, Belgium. At the border, the officials didn’t want to let him in.

“You are German,” they told him.

“I’m not a German,” he retorted. “I’m a Jew — like the ones Belgium handed over to the Nazis for annihilation — but I have survived and now I intend to enter Belgium.”

It was difficult to argue with that; they let him in and even took care of him and provided him with food.

As time went on, he slowly realized that his entire family had been killed. He felt terribly alone, but he nonetheless resolved to move on and rebuild his life.

In Brussels, he happened to meet his best friend, the person who had helped him survive the worst times in the camps. He lost his friend on the Death March, had been convinced that this friend had perished, so he was overjoyed when they met. Together, they went to the refugee center where food and staples were being distributed, but when they arrived there, they saw hundreds of people waiting in line.

Eddie turned to his friend and said, “Let’s not rely on charity.” They went out and found jobs; his friend was a carpenter and he became a mechanical engineer. A week after they found their jobs, they rented a home in the center of Brussels. Several months later, their pictures were featured in the local Jewish newspaper in the column of Holocaust survivors looking for relatives. He soon discovered that his sister was still alive, and slowly, the three of them began to rebuild their lives.

Eddie quickly found a way to fulfill his promise. One day, he read in the newspapers that two Jewish girls had attempted to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge. They were both survivors of Auschwitz who had returned to Brussels to discover that their entire families had been murdered. To their good luck, they were saved and taken to a mental hospital.

Eddie and his friend decided that they needed to help. They visited the hospital and they saw that the girls were being held in deplorable conditions along with a third suicidal Jewish girl. He approached the administrator and asked for permission to take them home. “This is no place for them,” he said to the administrator. “Let me bring them to my home, and I will take good care of them.”

He brought them home and took care of them like they were his own sisters. He brought them to the hospital for sulfur baths to treat their skin which was in terrible condition, and not too long afterwards, they were in a much better mental state. After all, they weren’t crazy at all; they had simply undergone unfathomable suffering. In his book, he writes that healing those girls was his way of saying thank you to G-d for keeping him alive. Over time, the girls married and began families of their own.

One day, he had a wild experience while walking through the Brussels central square. As he was minding his own business, he noticed someone wearing an elegant coat which looked quite familiar. A closer look revealed that it was actually his own coat, from before the Holocaust! He followed the fellow into a coffee shop and accosted him, demanding his coat back. The man said that he was crazy, but Eddie didn’t let up. He called over a police officer who forced the fellow to take off the coat and Eddie proved his ownership by identifying the elegant tailoring of the professional tailor in Leipzig, his hometown.

In due time, Eddie met a Jewish woman and got married, but he still didn’t find true happiness. He still hadn’t recovered his trust in humanity.

But that all changed the moment his first child was born. The first time he held his child, he said, a miracle occurred. His natural joy came back to him, and he promised himself that from that day onward, he would remain a joyful person. He said that marriage and fatherhood were the greatest cure for his sorrow.

HOW JEWS MOURN
We are now in the three weeks when we mourn the destruction of the Temple. Today is Rosh Chodesh Av, when we begin the “nine days” when we do not eat meat, drink wine, or go swimming, all to mourn the two Holy Temples that were destroyed on Tisha B’av.

When we think about how the Jewish people dealt with the destruction, we find something interesting.

But first of all, a little history:

Before the First Temple was built, there was a temporary tabernacle which was erected in Shiloh right after the Jewish people entered the Land of Israel. It stood for 369 years before it was destroyed by the Philistines. In truth, it wasn’t totally destroyed; the Ark of the Covenant was taken into captivity, so the People of Israel lost interest in the site and it fell into disrepair. The remnants of the site are still visible today.

Those were the days of the famous prophet Shmuel. Interestingly, we don’t find that he made an effort to rebuild the Tabernacle. He focused his efforts on rebuilding the people — he traveled from city to city and raised the spirits of the people who were in a terrible state of mind after the Philistine defeat and the capture of the Ark of the Covenant.

We find a similar attitude after the destruction of the First Temple. Ten years before the actual destruction, Jerusalem was occupied by the Babylonians and the elite of the people were dragged into captivity — King Yehoyachin, the royal family, the military elite and the spiritual leaders. Some time later, Jeremiah sent them a letter telling them to “build homes, marry and raise families… and seek out the welfare of your city…for their welfare is your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:5). Why? Because they would be staying there for another seventy years.

In simple words, the prophet was telling them — in G-d’s name — not to sit on their suitcases with the hope of returning immediately. They should settle down for a long stay.

We find the same idea once again after the destruction of the Second Temple. Before the Temple was destroyed, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai escaped the besieged Jerusalem and convinced General Vespasian to allow him to reassemble the Sanhedrin in Yavne. Indeed, he was successful in saving and rebuilding Jewish life after the war was over — without a Temple.

The Talmud relates that there were rabbis who refused to eat meat or drink wine after the Temple was destroyed.

Rabbi Yehoshua asked them, “My children, why won’t you eat meat or drink wine?”

They replied: “How could we eat meat which was offered on the altar? How could we drink wine that was offered as sacrament?”

Rabbi Yehoshua didn’t agree. “What about bread which was offered in the mincha-offering? What about fruit which were offered as bikurim? What about water which was offered on Sukkot?”

The rabbis didn’t have an answer.

“My children,” he told them, “We cannot avoid mourning entirely, but we cannot mourn excessively either.”

Instead, the sages said, a person should dedicate a small part of his life to mourning. For example, when he builds a new house, he should leave a small portion unfinished.

Essentially, Rabbi Yehoshua taught them that while we remember Jerusalem, we continue forward. We break the glass at the chupa, but then we celebrate a wedding and establish a new Jewish family. Because Judaism chooses life.

This is true in our day as well.

The Rebbe instituted a custom to study the laws regarding the building of the Temple during the Three Weeks. We don’t just mourn the past; we prepare for the future. When Moshiach comes, we will know how to build the Temple. In truth, the study itself hastens the coming of Moshiach.

Good Shabbos.

 

...

Jewlarious Jokes 7/29/2022

An elderly Jewish man faints and is rushed to the nearest hospital. A nurse tucks him into bed and says, “Mr. Schwartzman, are you comfortable?” Schwartzman replies, “I make a living…!”

***

A synagogue has a mice problem. The custodian tries traps, bait, mice, everything. Nothing works. Finally, he goes to the rabbi and explains the problem. “I have the solution,” the rabbi says. “Well, what is it?” says the custodian. “It’s a foolproof plan,” the rabbi says, smiling. “I’ll give them all Bar Mitzvahs — we’ll never see them again!”

***

Three Jewish mothers are sitting on a bench, arguing over which one’s son loves her the most. The first one says, “You know, my son sends me flowers every Shabbos.”

“You call that love?” says the second mother. “My son calls me every day!”

“That’s nothing,” says the third woman. “My son is in therapy five days a week. And the whole time, he talks about me!”

...

Jewlarious Jokes 7/22/2022

A Jewish mother’s answering machine:

For Kugel, press 1
For knishes, press 2
For chicken soup, press 3
For matzoh balls in the soup, press 4

…If you’re calling to ask how I am feeling, you have the wrong number, because no one ever asks how I am feeling. No really, I am fine.

***

Did you hear about the successful businessman whose daughter got married to a frum young man?

The businessman had a meeting with his new son-in-law. “I love my daughter very much, and now I welcome you into the family,” said the man. “To show you how much we care for you, I am making you a 50-50 partner in my business. All you have to do is go to the factory every day and learn the operations.”

The son-in-law interrupted, “I hate factories. I can’t stand the noise.”

“I see,” replied the father-in-law. “Well, then you’ll work in the office and take charge of some of the operations.”

“I hate office work,” said the son-in-law. “I can’t stand being stuck behind a desk all day.”

“Wait a minute,” said the father-in-law. “I just made you a half-owner of a moneymaking organisation, but you don’t like factories and you won’t work in an office. What am I going to do with you?”

“Easy,” said the young man. “Buy me out.”

***

The rabbi was an avid golfer and played at every opportunity. He was so addicted to the game that if he didn’t play he would get withdrawal symptoms. One Yom Kippur the rabbi thought to himself, “What’s it going to hurt if I go out during the recess and play a few rounds. Nobody will be the wiser, and I’ll be back in time for services.”

Sure enough, at the conclusion of the morning service, the rabbi snuck out of the synagogue and headed straight for the golf course. Looking down upon the scene were Moses and G-d.

Moses said, “Look how terrible—a Jew on Yom Kippur. And a rabbi besides!”

G-d replied, “Watch. I’m going to teach him a lesson.”

Out on the course, the rabbi stepped up to the first tee. When he hit the ball, it careened off a tree, struck a rock, skipped across a pond and landed in the hole for a HOLE IN ONE!

Seeing all this, Moses protested: “G-d, this is how you’re going to teach him a lesson? He got a hole in one!”

“Sure,” said G-d, “but who’s he going to tell?”

...

A Person Cannot Criticize Himself

WHY CRY
People like to cry. Not everyone, but most people feel relief and comfort after crying. There are tears of joy, like a father marrying off his daughter. Then there are tears of sadness, like someone mourning the loss of a loved one.

In the Torah we find examples of both kinds of crying. When Yosef and his brothers were reunited and the family was whole again, Yosef cried. He cried a second time when he embraced his father, Yaakov. Yaakov had a turn too; he cried when he first met Rochel, his wife.

There are also tears of sadness. When Aharon the Kohain passed away, the Torah says, “and all the Jews cried for him.” The same is true about Moshe’s passing.

This week, we read the story of Pinchas. The story actually begins at the end of the previous portion, Balak, where it says, “Israel settled in Shittim, and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moav,” followed by “Israel became attached to Baal Peor.”

Then the Torah tells us “Then an Israelite man came and brought the Midianite woman to his brethren, before the eyes of Moshe and before the eyes of the entire congregation of the children of Israel, while they were weeping…” Moshe cried!

The only other time we find in the Torah that Moshe cried was when Pharoah’s daughter found him floating in the Nile, as it says “And she opened it…and behold there was a baby crying.” Since then, we don’t find anywhere that Moshe cried. But here, we are told that Moshe was crying. What happened that caused Moshe to cry?

Moshe had already seen and done everything. He fought with Pharoah, split the sea, fought with Amalek, suffered through the whole story with the spies, the uprising of Korach and his crowd and the most traumatic of all, the Sin of the Golden Calf. Now, after 39 years of all this, we find Moshe crying?

True, there were members of the nation worshipping other G-ds—so Moshe should get up and restore order! And if some people are going out with Moavite girls, that’s reason to cry? On the contrary, people look for a leader to get up and enforce order, not cry!

TRUE OBJECTIVITY
The Rebbe says that Rashi gives us the answer to this question. Rashi says that Zimri son of Salu, a leader of the tribe of Shimon, brought Cozbi daughter of Zur before Moshe, in front of all the Jews. He asked “Moshe, is she forbidden or allowed? If you say forbidden, then who made the daughter of Yisro permissible to you?”

He was asking—why was it okay for Moshe but not the rest of the Jews. At that moment Moshe could no longer be objective; Zimri had made it personal, and therefore Moshe couldn’t answer.

Certainly, Moshe had an answer for Zimri. He could have reminded Zimri that he and Tziporah had married before the giving of the Torah and they were now 40 years later, and that Tziporah had converted, etc.

But Moshe’s answer wouldn’t really matter. It wouldn’t sound good, having Moshe defend himself when technically one shouldn’t be believed in matters where he is not objective or has a personal interest. Any answer he gave would not be readily accepted. Everyone would say that he was only justifying and defending his own actions.

So, Moshe began to cry, not tears of joy or even sadness, but tears of helplessness.

A similar story comes up later in the Parsha. We read about the division of the land according to tribe and family. Then the daughters of Zelafchad come to Moshe and complain “Our father died in the desert…..and he had no sons. Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no sons? Give us his portion.”

Sons inherit their fathers’ portions and Zelafchad had only daughters. So they came to Moshe asking for their father’s portion and the Torah tells us that Moshe brought their question before G-d. Moshe did not made a decision himself, but asked G-d. It seems like this is a simple matter: what is the Halacha in this situation? When there are no sons, only daughters, who inherits? Was this really something Moshe needed to ask G-d’s help with? Is it possible that over 40 years this question never came up? Everyone had sons?

The Rebbe explains that when the daughters of Zelafchad came to Moshe with their complaint, they said, “Our father died in the desert,” and then added, “and he wasn’t among those who rebelled with Korach, he died of his own sin.” They were clarifying that he hadn’t joined forces with Moshe’s enemies; he had died for different reasons. Moshe now felt that they were trying to bribe him with their words and he was, once again, no longer objective. Therefore, he did not want to make this decision on his own and turned it over to G-d.

Think about it: the story of Korach happened 39 years earlier, and what, after all, were the daughters telling him? Only that their father didn’t join Korach’s group. And even so, Moshe felt that he could no longer be objective and refrained from making the decision.

DON’T BLAME YOURSELF
What is the lesson for us from Moshe’s behavior?

Halacha says that if a person comes to the Bais Din and admits that he murdered someone and deserves death, the Bais Din cannot believe him and cannot judge him solely on his own admission. The laws of our country would have him convicted and sent to prison, but halachically he is not to be believed. He is not objective and we cannot know the true reasons that he’s blaming himself; perhaps he’s depressed.

As the Rambam writes: “Perhaps he is from those who are depressed, who wait for death, who stick swords into their own stomachs or throw themselves from rooftops. Perhaps he is coming and admitting to something that he didn’t do only in order that he be killed (as punishment).”

How can we relate this personally?

Many times, people blame themselves. If their children are not successful in life, they say, “If only I had done such and such, they would’ve been more successful.” Sometimes it’s blame for a fatal disease, “If only I had taken better care of him, he would still be alive today.” People schlep around with them bundles of guilt and blame themselves for all the suffering in the world; if they had only behaved a little differently, things would be much better….

The Gemara comes and tells us “A person is close to himself” and that “A person cannot call himself wicked.” You are not objective and so you cannot judge yourself. On the contrary, you need to listen to what the people around you are saying. They are more objective and will know that your behavior was as it should have been and that there was nothing you could have done to change anything. So instead of blaming yourself and carrying around guilt for the rest of your life, it would be better to accept that everything is divine providence and the will of G-d.