6/12/21

Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy

We are observing the 21st Yahrzeit of my mother Edith Zahavy (aleha hashalom).

We miss her so very much. She would have loved to see the progress of her children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and take pride in all of their accomplishments. She would have loved to read books to her great-grandchildren and to watch them play and grow.

She was born in NYC and attended the public schools in Washington Heights. She watched from her classroom window as they built the George Washington Bridge.

She graduated from Hunter High School, Hunter College and went on to a career in public service at the OPA and then into the field education. Together with my dad, she founded the Park East Day School when my father was rabbi at the Park East Synagogue, then called Congregation Zichron Ephraim. She subsequently taught in NYC public schools for many years.

She is interred on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Her beautiful memorial photo site is here.

4/21/21

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy - Yahrzeit Number 9

Photos

Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy
New York City 
September 8, 1918 - May 1, 2012

4/12/21

Yahrzeit of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, great Torah Sage and the Quintessential Scribe

My teacher and rebbe Rav Aharon Lichtenstein passed away six years ago.

He was awarded the Israel Prize 2014 in Jewish religious literature.

He was one of the finest teachers that I studied with in college - a genius as an educator and a sincere and compassionate human being. He is the person that I chose to personify the quintessential scribe personality of prayer in my book "God's Favorite Prayers (p. 71 ff)." Here is the excerpt.

The Scribe’s Prayers


I had the privilege of studying in Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s Talmud shiur (class) for two years, 1966-1968. Each December, he invited us talmidim (disciples) to his house for latkes (potato pancakes) on Hanukkah. There, in his apartment, we sat with his little kids and his wife Tovah, daughter of Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik. The latkes were good and the Lichtensteins appeared to be a regular family. For some reason, that surprised me.

Once, during the years that I was in his shiur, while I was out with some of the guys playing basketball on the courts between the Yeshiva College dorms, Rav Aharon, a lanky, thin and tall man, came walking by. One of us had the chutzpah to ask him to join the ball game. He said okay and he played aggressively—and just like a regular guy. For some reason, that blew my mind.

And, one year, in our student play, the Yeshiva College Purim shpiel, a satiric revue for the holiday, I played the role of Rav Aharon. In my performance, I hemmed and hawed and exaggerated my rebbe’s mannerisms much more than I should have. And there in the audience sat my rebbe, laughing heartily along with us. For some reason, that really blew my mind.

3/25/21

Jewish Standard Feature Article on my Polychrome Historical Haggadah, the beautiful Color-coded Haggadah that reveals the Seder's history

Thanks to all of you who have purchased my Haggadah on Amazon. 

Happy Spring!

Jewish Standard Feature Article: 

Color-coded Haggadah highlights seder’s origins: The Polychrome Historical Haggadah

Teaneck rabbi reprints classic work of seven-hued scholarship

By Larry Yudelson

Who wrote the Haggadah?

We know who wrote the Hogwarts Haggadah. (Moshe Rosenberg.) We know who wrote the Rav Kook Haggadah. (Bezalel Naor.) We even know who wrote the ArtScroll Family Haggadah. (Nosson Scherman.)

But who wrote the original text?

Like all the siddur and other classic works of Judaism, the Haggadah dates back to before people started putting title pages and copyright notices on their books and listing them on Amazon. So we don’t really know.

We do know that most of the text we use today is found in the earliest Jewish liturgical manuscripts, which date from the ninth century. And the outline accords with the teachings of the Mishna from six centuries earlier.

But who put this together, and exactly when?

Truth be told, we don’t know.

Now, however, a Teaneck rabbi — and Jewish Standard columnist — has republished a classic work that highlights all the different pieces of the jigsaw puzzle.

“We are having a conversation with Jews across all periods of history,” Rabbi Tzvee Zahavy said. “This is not just something we’re doing with our family. We’re having a dialogue across the ages.”

This month, Rabbi Zahavy reissued the Polychrome Historical Haggadah. Originally published in 1974, it was the work of Rabbi Jacob Freedman of Springfield, Massachusetts. It highlights the different levels of the Haggadah by putting each stratum in a different color. Biblical verses are black. Mishna passages are red. And so on — until contemporary additions like the Hatikvah, appropriately in Israeli-flag blue.

It is a seven-hued rainbow.

Download Online a Free Passover Seder Haggadah

Here are several of the best places you can go online to download a free Passover Haggadah for your Seder.
I give Chabad credit for a great resource if you want a wide selection of free Hebrew Haggadahs.  
Download Hebrew Haggadahs here.

My new Haggadah is not free - but it is really fantastic!
I thought you might be interested in this new for 2017 reprint of a classic haggadah with a foreword that I added - available from Amazon. - Tzvee

The Polychrome Historical Haggadah                            
The Polychrome Historical Haggadah 
by Jacob Freedman et al.
  Learn more                      
Library Makes 1,000 Rare Haggadahs Available Free Online
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany
An illustration of King David praising G-d in a rare Haggadah published in 1710 in Frankfurt am Maine, Germany

The central Chabad-Lubavitch library in New York made 1,000 Passover Haggadahs, many of them rare, available on the Internet for browsing by the public. The Agudas Chasidei Chabad Library has one of the largest collections of the Passover orders of service in the world.

Housed at the Lubavitch World Headquarters, the library's Haggadah collection began years ago with a nucleus of some 400 volumes purchased on behalf of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, by renowned collector and bibliographer Shmuel Wiener in 1924.

The posting at ChabadLibraryBooks.com represents close to half of the library's total Haggadah collection and is part of chief librarian Rabbi Sholom Ber Levine's goal of making the library more accessible to the public. All told, the library possesses more than 2,200 editions of the Haggadah. Although the rarest of the books, all handwritten, are not yet available, Levine is looking for ways to post them next year. Hebrew Books, directed by Chaim Rosenberg, collaborated on the project.

2/19/21

Was Rush Limbaugh Jewish?

Yes, Rush Limbaugh was a Jew. Rush's Conservative Gentile persona was a successful act that earned him record multi-million dollar contracts in the radio business.

Rush's real name was Ronald Levy. He was born on the upper West Side of Manhattan. His father was a dermatologist and his mother a junior high school librarian. He attended the Ramaz School where he excelled at floor hockey and then Amherst College where he double-majored in art history and chemistry.

Rush was accepted to Albert Einstein Medical School of Yeshiva University. He had to withdraw during his first semester because he could not control his mocking derisive laughter when confronted with the illnesses and infirmities of the hospital patients.

Happy Purim everybody. א פריילעכן פורים
Rush! Rush! Rush! !רָשׁ! רָשׁ! רָשׁ
חַג פּוּרִים, חַג פּוּרִים,
חַג גָּדוֹל לַיְּהוּדִים!
מַסֵּכוֹת, רַעֲשָׁנִים,
שִׁירִים וְרִקּוּדִים!

הָבָה נַרְעִישֶׁהָ:
רָשׁ רָשׁ רָשׁ!
הָבָה נַרְעִישֶׁהָ:
רָשׁ רָשׁ רָשׁ!
הָבָה נַרְעִישֶׁהָ:
רָשׁ רָשׁ רָשׁ!
בָּרַעֲשָׁנִים
//this is satirical Purim Torah - edited to past tense 7 Adar 5781 - reposted from 5769//

12/24/20

Kushner: Crimes, Misdemeanors and Philanthropy

[I first published this blog post on 12/06/2006.]

“Behind every great fortune is a great crime,” my friend Charlie used to assure me on the golf course as we discussed the meaning of life. He exaggerated to make his point that it is commonly understood that people break laws in the pursuit of wealth. Lately we don’t have to look far to find proof.

When the wealthy donate the products of their ill-gotten gains to charities we face some meaty moral issues. Do yeshivas, synagogues and federations have the obligation to investigate the source of the munificence that donors offer? How far must they go to be sure that the money is clean and that the donor is not a crook? Are there circumstances when accepting money from a scoundrel is morally right?

In a recent local example Harold Kushner, a billionaire real estate developer and businessman in Essex County, made substantial donations to Jewish charities including Yeshiva University and a local yeshiva, subsequently named after him, the Kushner Academy. Now said individual has been arrested for allegedly paying prostitutes in an effort to suborn the perjury of witness that could testify that he made illegal contributions to political candidates.

This is not a “great crime” but the full story of Kushner’s fortune has not yet unraveled. We may derive some moral guidance in today’s scandal ridden times at what some people argued regarding earlier ill-gotten gains.

Back in the eighties New Yorker, Ivan Boesky made millions of dollars through the exploitation of illegal insider information. He did not earn his fortune honestly and through hard work. We know that he broke laws with impunity.

12/16/20

The Celebrity Archetype in Jewish Prayer: A chapter from my book "God's Favorite Prayers"

A chapter from my book.

The Celebrity’s Prayers

Aleinu

(Hebrew: עָלֵינוּ, “upon us”) or Aleinu leshabei'ach (“[it is] upon us to praise [God]”), meaning “it is upon us or it is our obligation or duty to praise God.” A Jewish prayer recited at the end of each of the three daily services. It is also recited following the New Moon blessing and after a circumcision is performed.

—Wikipedia, Aleinu

 

M

y quest for perfect prayer and for spiritual insights evolved, not just at synagogues on the ground but also one time during my davening on a jumbo jet flight at an altitude of 39,000 feet and a speed of 565 miles per hour. That is where, by happenstance on an airplane in 1982, I met Rabbi Meir Kahane, an American-Israeli Orthodox rabbi, an ultra-nationalist writer and political figure and, later, a member of the Israeli Knesset.

I recognized Kahane right away when I saw him on the flight. He was a famous New York Jew. In the 1960s and 70s, Kahane had organized the Jewish Defense League (JDL). Its goal was to protect Jews in New York City's high-crime neighborhoods and to instill Jewish pride. Kahane also was active in the struggle for the rights of Soviet Jews to emigrate from Russia and to immigrate to Israel. By 1969, he was proposing emergency Jewish mass-immigration to Israel because of the imminent threat he saw of a second Holocaust in an anti-Semitic United States. He argued that Israel be made into a state modeled on Jewish religious law, that it annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip and that it urge all Arabs to voluntarily leave Israel or to be ejected by force.

It was then, by coincidence, that I traveled with Kahane on a long Tower Air flight to Israel. As was common on flights to Israel, a few hours after takeoff, Jewish men gathered at the back of the plane. As the sun became visible in the Eastern sky, they formed a minyan, kind of an ad hoc synagogue. In this unusual and somewhat mystical setting, I prayed the morning services with the rabbi and others at the back of the jumbo jet.

12/12/20

What is Hanukkah?

As the Talmud asks, What is Hanukkah?

If you are wondering what is the official meaning of Hanukkah as presented in Jewish liturgy, here is the text we insert for the holiday, no spin added,
And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time.

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will.
But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights, and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah.

You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people Israel to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Hanukkah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.