Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy - Yahrzeit

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy

New York City 
September 8, 1918 - May 1, 2012

My father's most valuable autographs

In May 2012, during the shiva for my dad, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, I showed many people an important part of our inheritance from him - five valuable autographs.

Now these are not autographs of Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle or of presidents or anything like that. 

These are the five signatures on my dad's klaf - on his diploma of ordination from Yeshiva University's Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, which he received in 1942.

The priceless autographs are by five great Torah scholars, Rabbi Binyamin Aronowitz, Rabbi Bernard L. Levinthal of Philadelphia, Rabbi Samuel Belkin, Rabbi Moses Shatzkes (the Lomza Rav) and Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik of Boston (the Rav).

Rabbi Yossi Adler looked at the klaf during the shiva and confirmed what I had been told, that it was rare to have five signatures on such a document. My own ordination has two (Rabbis Belkin and Soloveitchik).

I once asked my dad what it was like to go before these five great rabbis and be examined before receiving semicha - ordination. He told me, "They were tough. They made me sweat."

I greatly treasure this part of the legacy of my dad.

How a Jewish Soul Becomes Immortal Vertically and Horizontally - Remarks for my Father's Yahrzeit

The fourth yahrzeit of my father, Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy, is tonight and tomorrow.

At the breakfast at the Park East Synagogue in honor of my dad's first yahrzeit in 2013 I spoke briefly about the dimensions of the immortality of his soul. I explained that by observing the mourning customs and reciting Kaddish for the soul of the departed, we seek immortality on its behalf in heaven above and on earth as part of the eternal Jewish people. I summarized my thoughts on this process as follows below.

Is the Jewish soul immortal? Yes, tradition teaches us that if the proper procedures are followed, the Jewish soul is immortal. And the immortality is redundant. The soul of a departed loved one lives on in a vertical immortality in heaven and in a horizontal immortality as part of the collective of the Jewish people.

To guarantee the duplex immortality of a soul, a mourner must say the Kaddish prayer for eleven months in the synagogue. As an agent on behalf of my father's soul, I completed that process in 2013 for the recitation of the Kaddish for my dad, who passed away in 2012.


Talmudic Decision about boycotting North Carolina from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities

This article is from StarTribune.com - the full article, with any associated images and links can be viewed here.
MnSCU drops North Carolina travel ban
The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system has lifted a ban on travel to North Carolina over that state's law limiting the rights of LGBT people.

The ban was imposed after North Carolina passed a law requiring transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth gender, rather than their gender identity.

A MnSCU statement late Thursday said the system was confident that North Carolina's law was being addressed through a Justice Department order that it violated civil rights and can't be enforced.

The MnSCU ban had caused some athletic coaches to worry that they might not be able to travel to  the national Division II baseball tournament in North Carolina, for which a Minnesota team has a good chance to qualify, as well a national junior college tournament.

Pat Dolan, coach of the St. Cloud State baseball team currently ranked No. 3 in the country, told the St. Cloud Daily Times the change is " a total relief. (Wednesday) and the day before, you don't want to express your true feelings because you want to be polite and professional and you hope that the higher-ups make a decision to help."

The full Daily Times story is here.

The original MnSCU ban followed a similar directive from Gov. Mark Dayton to state employees.

"Governor Dayton agrees with the decision announced today by MnSCU's leadership," said Matt Swenson, a spokesman for Dayton.

"In light of recent actions taken by the U.S. Department of Justice, Governor Dayton is now considering whether to lift the travel ban for Minnesota's state agency employees."

[Hat tip to Barak.]

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Spouse of Souse and Wailing about a Wall: Questions to my Jewish Standard "Dear Rabbi Zahavy" Talmudic Advice Column for May 2016

I just realized that I've been writing this monthly column for three years!

Dear Rabbi Zahavy,

I think that my husband drinks too much. He has at least two glasses of wine every night at dinnertime. He often drinks more later in the evening. On Shabbat he has several drinks of hard liquor with his buddies in shul before lunch. I’m worried that he is an alcoholic. What should I do?

Wife of Wine Drinker

Dear Wife,

Wine plays a pervasive and positive role in the rituals of our Jewish tradition, as you doubtless know. Our Sabbaths and festivals are inaugurated at dinner by blessing a cup of wine and drinking it. We end the holy days with wine at the Havdalah ceremony. On Passover we make it through the stresses of the holiday and of the Seder meal with the help of four cups of wine, interspersed throughout the evening. On Purim there is a mitzvah that we must drink until we no longer can differentiate between cursing Haman and blessing Mordecai.


Is David Tepper Jewish?

Yes David Tepper is a Jew.

Wikipedia reports that: Tepper was raised in a Jewish family in the East End of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the Stanton Heights neighborhood. He was the second of three children born to Harry, who worked as an accountant, and Roberta, who was an elementary school teacher who taught at public schools in the city... In 2006, Tepper donated $1 million to United Jewish Communities of MetroWest New Jersey toward their Israel Emergency Campaign.

Forbes (5/1/2016) ranked him #85 in the world's billionaires, saying:

"David Tepper, one of the most successful hedge fund managers ever, recently moved to Miami Beach from northern New Jersey, which was seen as a big tax blow to the Garden State. Tepper also moved his $18 billion hedge fund firm, Appaloosa Management, to Florida. Tepper's hedge fund performance in the years following the financial crisis has made him an investing legend. Tepper added to his legacy in 2015, a year in which many prominent hedge funds lost money, showing he could navigate though a volatile market period as deftly as a bullish one."

Here's a story from The New York Times about his move from NJ to Florida.
NYTimes: One Top Taxpayer Moved, and New Jersey Shuddered re: David Tepper
The hedge fund manager David Tepper's relocation to Florida is a case study in how tax collection changes when income becomes concentrated in the hands of a few.


NYTimes: Talmudic Awareness - Mindfulness Without the Meditation

A Talmudic method of looking at life. The Times discusses achieving mindfulness without meditation. Ah, but the essay does not mention Talmud. Oh well.

Achieving Mindfulness at Work, No Meditation Cushion Required


In a recent seminar I gave for over 100 business professionals, I asked the
participants to play a simple word association game with me: “I say
mindfulness, you say ________.” The word that rang out in unison was, of
course, “meditation.”

Mindfulness, it seems, has become a mainstream business practice and a
kind of industry in its own right. Meditation instructors are the new
management gurus, and companies including Google, General Electric, Ford
Motor and American Express are sending their employees to classes that can
run up to $50,000 for a large audience. Many mindfulness apps exist, nearly
all of which focus on “mindfulness meditation.”


Hamilton on Broadway for $24

Of course tickets to the Broadway show "Hamilton" start at $500 for the foreseeable future.

But for $24 you can get an official libretto of the show, richly supplemented with numerous chapters on how the show came to be.

The libretto has explanatory footnotes, arranged on the margins, reminding me of the talmud, and lovely photos.

I recommend this book. It captures the utter genius of the play and gives you a window to the creative processes behind the play,

Ten Tips for a Better Seder

It's a great performance. A dramatic Off-Broadway revue.

I have always had fun directing the reading of the Haggadah at the Seder. I learned this dramatic art as a child by watching my father (Rabbi Zev Zahavy) masterfully conduct the performance of the communal synagogue Seders as the rabbi of the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan.

So in the spirit of the season of rebirth and freedom, let me offer you ten tips for your seder extravaganza.

1. Script! 
Spend an hour before Passover reading through your favorite version of the Haggadah. Sort out the rituals (like Kiddush), the liturgies (like the Hallel) and the learning (like the ma nishtanah and what follows). Make marginal notes or use a highlighter.

2. Actors!
Find out who is coming (yes, Seder directors need to know that). Think through what their skills are and what role they can play in the Seder. Remember some guests may be simple, some wise, some won't know how to ask a question. Try to meet the needs of everyone assembled.

3. Casting!
The Best Ever Seder will be a collaboration of all the guests. Those who can't read Hebrew can read a passage from the Haggadah in translation (English, Russian or otherwise) or perform another essential task.

4. Props!
The matzo, maror, haroseth, shank bone, egg all have familiar symbolic meanings worth mentioning. You can include other props of your choosing for added flavor to the event: use miniature pyramids, toy or paper or chocolate frogs, relevant family memorabilia or a special illustrated Haggadah (hold it up to show it off or pass it around).

5. Child actors! 
Give them something nice at the retrieval of the afikomen or distribute something small anytime they start to lose interest.

6. Improvise!
During the reading of the Haggadah tell about how your family matriarch or patriarch conducted the Seder or prepared the meal. Reminiscing in small doses adds great flavor to your production.

7. Really! Drama!
The Seder is a drama. The guests are the actors. Yemenite Jews have the custom to dress up and walk around the table to reenact the exodus. Even if you are not much of an actor, at the very least, you can talk about how other people are dramatic.

8. No melodrama!
You and your guests all are on stage. This is not the time to bring up old family arguments. If you do, your Seder might become the "last supper" that you eat together.

9. Charm the critic! 
The matriarchs (of the families) must greet Elijah at the door. Watch as the wine in Elijah's cup changes color as he sips from it. Talk about loss and the mystical redemption.

10. Bring down the curtain with with over-the-top gusto!
Sing the closing songs in all the ways you can remember. You can sing Chad Gadya in Yiddish, if someone knows how, or you can add the animal sounds. Have fun -- these are supposed to be rowdy songs that you sing after drinking four cups of wine.

As the seder thespians say, "Break a shankbone!" Good luck and have a happy and kosher Pesach.

[annual repost, with a rewrite]