Thank you to whomever spent the time translating my article to Yidish
Thank you to whomever spent the time translating my article to Yidish
א אפענעם בריוו צו די איחוד הקהילות למען טוהר המחנה
געשריבן דורך ר’ דוד טייטעלבוים, מנהל פון קעמפ שדי חמד
עס איז א הערליכע זאך צו זעהן ווי אזא גרויסע אנשטרענגונג (עפפארט) ווערט אונטערגענומען דורך אונזערע רבנים איבער א נושא וועלכע ווערט ענדליך אנגענומען ערנסט. עס איז אויך גאר גוט אז מיר האבן ענדליך איינגעזעהן דעם ווערטלאזיגקייט פון אסר’ן עפעס וואס וועט בעל כרחך ווערן א טייל פון אונזער לעבן. חז”ל האבן אונז שוין געלערנט לאנג צוריק אז “אין גוזרין גזירה שאין הציבור יכולים לעמוד בו” מען איז נישט גוזר א גזירה וואס רוב מענטשן קענען נישט ביישטיין. און דער סיבה דערצו איז פשוט, דער ציבור וועט פארלירן זייער רעספעקט פאר אויטאריטעט. און כאטש עס איז פופצן יאר צו שפעט, איז דאך אבער דער עבר שוין אינעם עבר, און וואס איז אונז געבליבן איז זיך צו לערנען דערפון. אבער זיך לערנען דערפון מוזן מיר.
די ריזיגע פראבלעם דארף זיכער האבן א ריזיגע לעזונג, אבער איך האבן זייער מורא אז מיר גייען פאר א ריזיגע דיסעפוינטמענט. אויב וואס איך האב געליינט אין די פאמפלעט איז ריכטיג, און אונזער ריזיגע לעזונג איז פילטערס, מיינט דאס אז מיר האבן זיך גארנישט געלערנט פון דעם עבר.
א פילטער הערט זיך גוט, אבער דאס איז נישט דער לעזונג. א פילטער איז נאר אזוי עפעקטיוו ווי דער מענטש וועלכער נוצט אים וויל ווערן געפילטערט. און כאטש עס איז א גוטער וועג צו סטאפן פאפ אפס און אוממאראלישע וועב בלעטער, איז דאס אבער אומרעלעוואנט לגבי דעם פראבלעם מיט וועלכן מיר ספראווען זיך דא. איך וועל קורצליך מסביר זיין פארוואס פילטערס זענען נישט דער לייזונג, דורך ארויסברענגען געוויסע פאקטן וואס מענטשן ווייסן מעגליך נישט.
Update: Sorry that this letter is a little vague as to what exactly I’m referring to. It isn’t one thing per say and it would be counter-productive to link to any of it.
To the Matzav.com Editor:
As the days of sferia come to an end I look back and notice so many discussions and articles covering the nitty gritty details of shaving, not shaving, laundry, music, concerts, etc. What strikes me as peculiar, and, quite sad, is the equal number of topics spewing animosity at others who don’t necessarily behave or see things the same way as we do. Now, from what I remember of my yeshiva days, Yimei Sefira was about Ahavas Yisroel, and the tragedy that befell the talmidim of Rabbi Akiva for not respecting one another. It’s not uncommon today to practice all the halochos, but forget the purpose behind it. Here is a short story that taught me a great lesson, I’d like to share it with my readers.
The picture he submitted showed a boy with long payis. I was sure he had no idea what he signed up for. He probably had no internet… hadn’t seen the camp pictures, and made a mistake signing up. I even thought this might all be a prank or a photo that got mixed up. I called the boy. His accent was definitely chasidish and I was at a loss for words. What do I say now? How do you tell a child that you don’t think he would fit it or that he doesn’t belong? It’s uncomfortable. I tried to explain how the other boys were “regular kids” …but he seemed not to get it, and so, feeling I had no choice, I told him straight out, “You realize that the other boys are not chasidish like you.”
I was expecting him to say something like “thanks for telling me” or “I’ll look at other options.” Instead his tells me, in that chasidish style “Ye, so what?” I was a loss for words, because I got the impression that this young boy doesn’t yet get it; he doesn’t realize what he is in for. So I tried my best to explain how the other boys dress differently and might be a little more exposed than he is. I think there was a part of me that was hesitant to bring him to camp, knowing that he wouldn’t fit in and maybe even that other boys will say things that might hurt him. He told me he was well aware that the camp doesn’t have chasidish boys. I then asked him if he thought this will be a problem for him, and he answered me – and I’ll never forget those words- “If they don’t have a problem with me, I don’t have a problem with them.” I was happy this took place over the phone because I think I turned colors out of embarrassment and the shock of a young child putting me in my place. I felt foolish, because I just took an innocent child that was never taught to feel differently and hinted that it might be a problem for him. I prejudged my campers, that they won’t be capable of accepting another boy that looked different than them, and worse, I was thinking about turning down a boy because he didn’t fit in. I responded that, of course they wouldn’t have a problem with him, but I’m not sure if I believed it.
The boy came to camp that summer, and to say that there were no issues is an understatement. Not only did the boys treat him well, he was loved by all. I made sure it wasn’t a problem, but I really didn’t have to. Nissin is a sweetheart of a boy and there is nothing not to like about him, but it was more than just that. The boys were interested in his life, what it was like to grow up chasidish and how he spent his extra time. Yes their lives were different, but inside it was obvious that they were the same. Some people believe that if children are too different they won’t connect, but I don’t think that’s the case at all. Every child has something special that others can learn from.
My father used to say, give two boys a ball to play with and they will be best friends in no time. I see this all the time. I have campers that join us from outside the US and don’t understand a word of English and it’s hardly an issue.
Today we barely teach Ahavas Yisroel and when we do it’s understood we are referring to those that dress like we do. I don’t remember this being the case when I was a child. I remember a classroom that was diverse and a summer camp that preached achdus, and not just during color war. I believe a big part of the intolerance these days comes from the separation of subgroups we live and align ourselves with. When we are forced to live with each other we learn that we are really no different, and all the bigotry was there only because we were taught to stereotype and have prejudice toward others. A recent video of Rav Shteinman points out the sad realities of the time as he tries to explain the importance of accepting every child into Yeshivas and is questioned multiple times by the hanhala.
Many times I get phone calls from parents who are afraid their children won’t fit in because there might be another boy that dresses differently or comes from a different background or maybe that he isn’t as good a learner like the other boys. I should tell them to call Nissin and maybe he could teach them a thing or two about Ahavas Yisroel. He sure taught me!
You may also like to read “Autism Awareness, Camp S’dei Chemed Style!”
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I wonder how many people reading this know who Mickey Marcus or Moshe Segal are, or have even ever heard their names mentioned. If you went to Sdei Chemed or had my father, Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum A”H, as a Rebbi, you probably do. That is because my father told over many stories of great men who fought for Eretz Yisrael. I can’t say for sure, but I assume he chose these two individuals, because they were Americans who traveled to Israel just to fight for other Jews and Eretz Yisrael. Maybe he picked the stories of Moshe Segal because he risked his life just to sound the shofar every Yom Kippur at the Western Wall, while the British had made it a criminal act. I hope one day I’ll upload my father’s stories so people can enjoy them, but for now, I wish to just write about the wonderful, positive impact these stories had on my upbringing, and how unfortunately things have now changed.
Ask any of my campers from this past summer, and they will tell you who Mickey Marcus was. That’s because his memorial was right outside our campus this summer; located at the top of Kiryat Ye’arim also known as Telshstone. Colonel Marcus was a high ranking officer in the American army who risked everything and traveled to Israel to fight for a country and people he knew very little about. He grew up as a tough Brooklyn street kid, rose by virtue of his courage and intelligence to help save Israel in 1948 (the War of Independence), and became its first general. I remember hearing the incredible story of Mickey Marcus when I was a child at Giv’at HaTachmoshet (Ammunition Hill), a military post overlooking the mountains of Yerushalayim. Rabbi Moshe Gottesman, our tour director for over 30 years, made it seem like it was taking place in front of our eyes. I, like the thousands of campers that went through Sdei Chemed, got to hear first hand stories of the war and the settlement of Israel. Today’s tourists are hearing things second or third hand, and it will never be the same.
It’s a new generation and it’s nobody’s fault; its just hard to instill the same feeling we got. My campers see a KFC or a Pizza Hut on the same location where so much Jewish history took place. Shopping at the Malka mall is beautiful, but buying an ice cold choko at a Macolet owned by a Holocaust survivor is a totally different experience. It’s hard to explain what the Jews of the past sacrificed to get here, when it takes us just 13 hours, and we complain if we have a stopover and the food isn’t up to par or what travelling was like without coach buses and air conditioning, like it was back in the day. And maybe that’s why the short story I’m going to retell is not as surprising as it should be.
It was on a Shabbos afternoon that some of my campers and I, took a short walk around the campus, when I saw some young Israeli teenagers hanging around next to the Mickey Marcus Monument. They were dressed in the most respectable Shabbos clothes, yet looked kind of world-weary while spitting garinim on the floor…you get the picture. I wondered if they knew anything about the place where they were standing. I started up a conversation and asked them about it. I was hoping they would say no and I could fill them in, but that wasn’t how it went. They got mad, and told me how this American soldier teamed up with the secular zionist government to eradicate religious Jews. My face was in shock at how they could say such things. I tried to tell them that they were fed lies, but they wouldn’t listen. I had been to his memorial museum in the West Point Synagogue, (where he graduated and encourage everyone to visit) just last year and read up on Mickey Marcus, but it was of no use. These views, along with other rhetoric, were implanted in their heads from when they were young. It hurts when I hear about the false claims that the Moslems make about Eretz Yisrael, but this hurts me much more. These are my brothers — and they should know better.
One of the biggest myths today, spread by both the right and left, is that the country was founded and built by the Secular Zionists. Maybe this makes the secularists feel good, and gives the ultra-religious something to blame all their problems on. A recent book though, Rebels in the Holy Land ,does away with this myth, and tells us the true story of the pivotal role the fervently Orthodox played in the early framing of the State of Israel. I urge everyone to buy this book and read it. Revising history has very dangerous consequences.
I grew up with a deep love for Eretz Yisroel and for the people that sacrificed their lives for us, but now because of these false beliefs, there is so much hate being spread. If we can take away the politics, stop judging one another and spend more time listening instead of shouting, we can overcome this sinas chinam we face today. Let’s leave the hate speech for our enemies, who want nothing more than to take away Eretz Yisroel and destroy us as a nation. Chazal tell us that even during the generation of King Achav, which was prevalent with idol worshipers, they were consistently victorious in wars, without suffering deaths. Their merit was that they were characterized by unity. In the absence of unity, Am Yisroel loses the protective power of the divine presence. B”H today Eretz Yisroel is booming with a desire for a closeness to Hashem, yet we suffer from intolerance. Is it that no one cares? Or is it that no one notices? Or is it sadly, that we don’t care enough to notice?
For those who would like to know a little bit more about Mickey Marcus here is a description found on the Internet: In 1966, Hollywood made a movie about the life of Mickey Marcus “Cast a Giant Shadow” For more about the life of Moshe Segal click here.
The Autism Society has labeled April as National Autism Awareness Month. The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community. They say there is no cure for autism but I’m not convinced that’s true. In might not be found in the sciences or medical field but it exist in how we treat one another. Before even the diagnoses of autism, 2000 years ago Chazal chose this same time of the year, the days of Sefira, as “treating your fellow man awareness time”. But awareness for us religious Jews goes beyond wearing a ribbon or a bumper sticker. For us it means something completely different its about changing ourselves not the child with Autism.
After I accepted Josh many people asked me if I was worried that other boys might not treat him well and why I didn’t seem concerned about it. I don’t think I wasn’t concerned, as much as I believed the answer doesn’t lie in our children not facing the challenge. They need to learn how to treat other boys, and that’s our job as Mechanchim. It’s the child that is unwilling to be kind to others that should be dealt with and not the other way around.
Director, Camp Sdei Chemed International
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* Name changed for article
You can comment on this blog to speak with Josh or his Mom
Josh also wrote about his summer experience. Click here for the link
You may also like to read “How a Young Chasidish Boy Taught me a Lesson in Ahavas Yisroel”
Tazria – The Power to Ignite and the Message of Bris Milah
by Mordechai Plotsker
עָרְלָתוֹ בְּשַׂר יִמּוֹל הַשְּׁמִינִי וּבַיּוֹם … זָכָר וְיָלְדָה תַזְרִיעַ כִּי אִשָּׁה
If a woman conceives and gives birth to a male,… And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Leviticus 12:2-3). [Conversely, if the male emits seed first, she (the woman) gives birth to a female (Niddah 31a & Berishis 46:15, Rashi)].
The Kedushas Levi questions the correlation between the birth and circumcision. Answers the Kedushas Levi, there are two energy sources that sustain the world.
1. One form of Divine stimulation is known as the Ohr Hayashar – Hisohrirus M’limahla (stirring from above) – HSHM. The Ohr Hayashar is an independent source of energy that formed our universe and through which HSHM continues to sustain the world. This attribute is defined by rachum v’chanun - compassion and grace.
2. A second attribute is known as the Ohr Hachozer - Hisohrirus Hatachton (stirring from below) - Klal Yisroel. The strength (or weakness) of this attribute is interdependent upon Klal Yisroel’s commitment to Torah, mitzvos and ma’asim tovim. Meaning, when Klal Yisroel steadfastly observes the Torah, a higher, more resilient form of the Ohr Hachozer, consisting of Divine mercy and grace, is produced.
The above pasuk can now be explained through a remez (allegory).
The word אִשָּׁה (woman) refers to the world but more specifically, Klal Yisroel. HSHM is the mashpia (influencer, affirmative) and Klal Yisroel is the אִשָּׁה (the receiver). The world is always in receipt of HSHMs bounty and Divine countenance. However, when Klal Yisroel, transforms itself from the level of an אִשָּׁה (Ohr Hayashar) to the influencing attribute of the Ohr Hachozer, then a new creation, a זָכָר is formed that is filled with affirmative potential to influence others in Torah and mitzvos. The זָכָר, in metaphysical terms, refers to our ability to influence others, whereas אִשָּׁה, or the nikaiva, refers to the ability of others to influence us. Through prayer and the performance of mitzvos and ma’asim tovim, the Ohr Hachozer is stimulated – as HSHM desires the prayers of his nation (Yevamot 64b).
This is the meaning of זָכָר וְיָלְדָה תַזְרִיעַ כִּי אִשָּׁה - When we sprout forth - תַזְרִיעַ כִּי - and change our role from an האִשָּׁ, by implementing Torah, mitzvos, and ma’asim tovim, we can inspire others to reach greater levels of Torah observance. זָכָר וְיָלְדָה – when Klal Yisroel alters its state from an אִשָּׁה (receiver) to a זָכָר (influencer, affirmative), a transformation occurs that allows Klal Yisroel to receive great bounties of rachamim, mercy from the Ohr Hachozer, the energy source most desired by HSHM.
Quoting his Rebbe, the heilige Reb Dov Ber, Maggid of Mezhibizh, the Kedushas Levi explains that although HSHM created angels to sing incessant praise, nevertheless, HSHM desires human prayer for we have free will. Furthermore, when Klal Yisroel steadfastly observes the Torah, we provide HSHM with sustenance (parnasah) enjoyed by HSHM. The Maggid learns this from the passuk: Mai’ais HSHM haysa Zos, hee nifla’os b’ainainu - This was from HSHM; it is wondrous in our eyes (Pslams 118:23). The word Zos is in feminine form, indicating that on a metaphorical level, Klal Yisroel is the mashpia (ability to influence) and HSHM is the mekabel (ability to be influenced).
The Kedushas Levi now interpolates a second allegory to the above discussion concerning the month of geula (redemption). Rav Yehoshua opines that in the future we will be redeemed in the month of Nissan. However, Rav Eliezer opines that we will be redeemed and in the month of Tishrey (Rosh Hashanah 11a). Since Chazal conclude that both opinions are correct, what is the rationale and fundamental difference between the months of Nissan and Tishrey?
1. The month of Nissan is characteristic of the Ohr Hayashar and occurs in the season of AVIV (aleph, bet), symbolic of Ahava (love), Bina (knowledge). (See Kedushas Levi on Shir Hashirim for a more elaborate explanation). Nissan is a time when we are allegorically compared to the Ohr Hayashar, to a male that emits seed first and later conceives a female. In Nissan we are not judged on our merits, for when one is in a weakened state, we lack the strength to inspire others in Torah and mitzvah observance. And yet, despite the fact that we had descended to the 49th level of impurity and defilement, HSHM still emancipated us from Egyptian servitude. Therefore, Rav Yehoshua believes that similar to the first geula which occurred in the month of Nissan, our future geula will occur in Nissan for this is a time when HSHM is filled with rachum v’chanun, Divine love, compassion and grace.
2. The month of Tishrey, however, is characteristic of the Ohr Hachozer, and occurs during the season of judgment (Yom Hadin). During this time we have altered our state to a zachor (influencer, affirmative) by strengthening our fellow Jew in the performance of Torah, mitzvos and ma’asim tovim. This allows the Jewish nation to receive great bounties of Divine mercy from HSHM, similar to the time of Purim when we repented and reaffirmed our commitment to Torah and mitzvos. Therefore, Rav Eliezer believes that although our initial geula occurred in Nissan, a time of rachum v’chanun, our future geula will occur in the month of Tishrey. For only through the positive influence of Torah and mitzvah observance – stimulated from the Ohr Hachozer – can we trust in HSHM that we will be judged favorably and that we will be redeemed during the month of Tishrey.
וֹעָרְלָת בְּשַׂר יִמּוֹל הַשְּׁמִינִי וּבַיּוֹם - And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. (Leviticus 12:2-3). What is the connection between this phrase and the beginning of the passuk,
זָכָר וְיָלְדָה תַזְרִיעַ כִּי אִשָּׁה?
We demonstrate our personal transformation to a זָכָר and validate our attachment to Torah and mitzvos at the bris milah when we say, “Kishaeim Shenichnas labris kain yikanais l”Torah Chuppah u’maasim tovim” - Just as we brought you to the bris, we shall bring you to Torah observance, chuppah and good deeds. Here we witness an infant that has already completed one mitzvah. We (the parents, siblings, future friends and Rabbeim) will provide him with the necessary resources (Torah education, strong family values, etc.) to complete the remaining 612 mitzvos – the gematria of bris. In so doing, we, the tzibur/members of Klal Yisroel fulfill our collective responsibility of na’ase adam – we will make man, to be realized when this infant becomes a positive influence – a זָכָר - and beacon of Torah light onto the entire world.
Therefore, explains the Kedushas Levi, the first pasuk concerning childbirth and the second pasuk concerning circumcision are interconnected for they demonstrate our transformation from a האִשָּׁ to a זָכָר, an influencer of Torah values and mitzvos. Accordingly, since HSHM desires Klal Yisroel to have many merits (zechusim), man was created uncircumcised for only through mitzvos and ma’asim tovim can we stimulate the Ohr Hachozer, HSHM’s preferred mode of global interaction. May we be zocheh to have many opportunities to learn, teach, observe and act in Torah and mitzvos. Ad biyas goel tzedek. Amen.
The first question that would come to mind is how did we come to this realization. Just one year ago at the Agudah Convention our Rabbonim were determined that the greatest challenge of our generation was technology, not one word about our kids needing more of a geshmak in Yiddishkeit was mentioned. And now, a year later it seems we had it all wrong.
While that would have intrigued anyone, I was more bothered by the absolute silence as to what is being done to implement this Geshmak in Yiddishkeit. That would be the logical follow up question. To be fair, it did mention something about singing more Shabbos Zemiros and saying less pilpul from the Brisker Rav. If that is the whole plan, I think it better we not raise the question. This gave me the feeling that we don’t have any answers and that really concerned me.
It was one year ago that I wrote an article about the importance of adding excitement (what you call Geshmak) into our chinuch system. I labeled them with E’s. Excitement, Entertainment, Endearment, Exposure, Expression, Embracement and Enjoyment. I came to my conclusion not by reading the papers but from firsthand experience with teenagers and reading books that interviewed teenagers on this topic. I tried publishing it in the yeshiva papers but it was rejected as being too controversial. Reluctantly, I had no choice but to post the article on the internet. It went viral and within a week 30 other popular blogs reprinted it and it was translated into Yiddish and Hebrew. I received thousands of comments, emails and phone calls from parents, Mechanchim, and even Roshei Yeshiva. They all had just one thing to say. Thank you for bringing up an issue that was kept under the rug for too long.
This made me optimistic, but not for long. Because these calls were followed by other phone calls and those were quite depressing. These phone calls were also from Mechanchim, but these were educators who tried to implement the ideas I wrote about but found themselves completely knocked down by the system.
One after another they began to tell me their stories. Some were told there just wasn’t a need for this kind of chinuch, others were told there was no money to invest in such activities. Another rebbe told me that after he presented a more exciting curriculum, one that would focus on loving Yiddishkeit and what it means to be a Jew, he was told that Yeshivos are not kiruv institutions. Community activists that gave freely of their time to incorporate out of school fun activities were not only ignored by the Yeshivos but sometimes felt they were fighting against the system. Even more disturbing was hearing from other writers who tried to bring awareness to this subject, were either turned down or told to edit out parts. These are just some of the mild things I heard. Roshei Yeshivas that didn’t send out letters and sign bans were threatened with intimidation tactics. The pressure that I have seen in the frum world to those that want to raise real issues is similar to the mafia, and this is no exaggeration.
If I may, let me bring to light just some of what others have brought to my attention. Chumrus have gotten out of hand. We take some of most beautiful concepts of Yidishkeit and apply stringencies until we suck the Gishmak out of them. Tznius has become one of just rules and our girls have lost any appreciation for the beauty of modesty. We focus so much energy on outside appearances while character development and middos tovos have fallen to the wayside. It was during the Hurricane Sandy devastation that our Yeshivos had the opportunity to show our children what it means to help a fellow Jew, but instead Bital Torah was cited as an obstacle. It’s Middos Tovos and Derech Eretz itself they foster and instill a love for Yidishkeit in our youth, not so much Talmud Torah.
Maybe this short story told to me by a Bais Yaakov girl will explain what we are facing. It was before Pesach vacation and the principal entered the classroom to make an important announcement. He brought a list of all the places the girls should not visit on Chol Hamoed. It highlighted about ten places that weren’t appropriate for a BY girl. After he finished a girl raises her hand and asks the principal if instead of mentioning all the places they can’t go why not give them some ideas of where they can go. The principal takes a few moments acknowledging the question and tells the class he will get back to them. It’s now after Pesach and she is still waiting. It’s pretty simple what’s going on, outside entertainment is not allowed and even Jewish entertainment is frowned upon and sometimes outright banned.
Rav Hirsch says it like no one else. “Israel is required to be a shining example, demonstrating that one who would lead a spiritual and moral life, completely dedicated to duty is not necessarily obliged to renounce the enjoyment of earthly happiness; rather the highest degree of morality is entirely compatible with the greatest measure of earthly happiness”. A child must feel that his religious lifestyle is as pleasurable as that of the outside world. Bringing Torah values into our everyday life is what makes us unique”.
When you do the reverse, when you give children the impression that the Torah life is one of boredom and restrictions then we are in for a disaster. Rabbi Yitzchok Feigenbaum clearly spelled this out in his impactful essay. “Been There, Done That: Why Being Frum Is So Boring“. Whether we like it or not teens see the outside world and it looks even more glorious from the outside, as the heart desires that which it cannot have. Most kids will do these things anyway and they will begin to associate a fun and exciting life as something that’s in contradiction to the Torah way of life and that can have long term detrimental effects on their outlook towards Yiddishkeit.
So what’s in plan to make Yiddishkeit more exciting? This Chol Hamoed I glanced at the shul bulletin board to see what was on the agenda. Every other sign was about another Chol Hamoed learning program. This has been the trend for some time, any vacation time our children have they are encouraged to sit in front of a Gemarah and learn. We need to examine whether these methods are part of the problem.
I remember one time a prospective parent called my father about registering their son for camp and wanted to know how many hours of learning we had each day. My father replied “10 hours”. After the parent realized my father was being facetious, my father explained to the parent that learning isn’t just about sitting at the Gemarah but is in fact a full day activity. Whether it’s hiking through Ein Gedi where they learn about Dovid Hamelech hiding from Shaul or at a midnight Kumzits where the campers hear stories that inspire them or just seeing the beauty of Eretz Yisroel, these are all learning experiences.
I could list many ideas that are out there and that work, but in order to make a difference we need to revise our educational system, not just hand out a couple of more lollipops. We can bring back some of the pirchei trips my father a”h used to do. We can add swimming and recreation, and inter-school leagues. Ask any Rebbi that uses an interactive smartboard and he will tell you the boys get so excited. Kids love the latest gadgets and if you show them that they can do their Gemara review over Skype with a friend and see the Gemara on the side, you have made it exciting for them.
We need to implement the latest and greatest technologies into our classroom like Torahlive.com. But this technology does not come cheaply. And so we need to encourage our givirim to give money to the right places. Will their names to be seen on a new fancy bais medrash or will it be stamped on the latest Artscroll iPad for kids? Will they support a new Kollel institution or a new exciting recreation center for our teens to enjoy? You can support the Kollel center now but in 20 years you’re not going to have anyone to fill it up. We have today the highest quality Rabbeyim the Jewish world has ever seen. We have the mechanchim that want to bring change. All we need is for more Rabbonim to encourage and speak out on the subject.
At first I believed things would change, with so much of a positive response to my article how could it not. But over the past year it seemed things were just getting worse and It began to feel like I was just preaching to the choir. Many more important issues were brought to my attention and not one of them even got a mention in the frum press. It felt like those making decisions are not living in the same reality as the klal.
I’m fully aware that most of the pressure against any progress is from fanatics but sometimes it feels like they are the ones in control. And just as you have those whose one goal is spreading loshon hara about Rabbonim, you have on the other end a large group of people that survive off attacking those who try and bring important issues to the table. They love gossip just as much as the first group and they contribute nothing to society but hinder progress.
Unless this was a misprint, it seems we have finally realized that excitement in Yidishkeit is a problem that needs attention, and that is a major milestone. This headline gave me hope that this topic will be taken seriously. I beg that the solutions proposed are real solutions and not quick fix solutions that are ineffective.
Update: There was a beautiful and lengthily discussion based on this article on facebook. Feel free to read and add to the conversation. Link
Our campers are collecting teddy bears for sick children that we hope to deliver this summer in Israel.
Special Thanks to the following girls for helping with this drive
Please Note: This article was written in 2007 by my father, Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum Z”L, after Camp Sdei Chemed was given a private tour of the Ptil Tekhelet Association and the boys were able to search for the Chilozon in the Mediterranean Sea. For more recent developments I would suggest reading this new book, The Rarest Blue: The Remarkable Story of an Ancient Color Lost to History and Rediscovered.
I decided to post this article now as it’s in this weeks Parsha, Parshat Terumah where we learn about the tekhelet for the first time.
The Search for the Mysterious Chilazon; Has it Finally Been Discovered?
By Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
The mitzvah of Tzitzis is equal to all the other mitzvos in the Torah says the gemara, yet for more than a thousand years the blue thread that the Torah tells us to put onto the corners of the garment has been missing. That’s because the thread must be colored with a blue dye coming from a sea creature called a chilazon whose identity we don’t seem to know. This sea creature was obviously very well known in ancient times but was probably forgotten when the Jews went into exile to Bavel. This dye was very important in ancient times since it was used by kings and princes to dye their robes. It seemed to have been a very expensive dye literally worth its weight in gold. The Torah in Parsas Zos Ha’bracha) tells us that the tribe of Yisachar and Z’vulon were given the ocean which contained “treasures buried in the sand,” which the gemara in Mesechta Megillah (6a) says refers to the chilazon and other treasures found in the ocean. The gemarah (Menachos 44a) also says that they would “come up” only once in seventy years.
While it was well known that the Mediterranean coast was the center of the dyeing industry in ancient times, the source of this dye has remained a great mystery. It seems to be that with the Arab conquest of Eretz Yisroel in 639 CE, the secret of tekhelet was lost and forgotten.
It was first in 1887 that the great gaon Rabbi Gershon Henoch Leiner, also known as the Radziner Rebbe began an intensive search for the lost chilazon. He in fact went to visit an aquarium in Italy to study the many species of fish in order to see if any of them fit the description. He finally came up with a fish called a cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis, a type of squid). An Italian chemist showed him that by adding some iron filings to its blood and heating it, it would make a blue color. His conclusion however was met with great skepticism as many refuted his findings. In fact, by using his method, virtually all organic substances would also make a blue dye. Another problem was that cuttlefish are quite common, cannot exist in sand, and the ink is certainly not expensive to produce. Furthermore, a cuttlefish does not have an external shell but only an internal shell which does not have to be broken in order to get to the ink. Obviously the Rebbe had been misled by an unscrupulous chemist. The pros and cons can be found in the many seforim on this subject.
In 1913 the Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Rabbi Isaac Herzog who later became the Chief Rabbi of Israel did much research on the subject and in fact wrote his doctoral thesis on this subject. His findings seemed to suggest that it is a type of snail called Murex trunculus which is indeed found in the Mediterranean. While his findings seemed to be correct, he ruled it out for a number of reasons. Firstly, the dye of the trunculus is purplish-blue and not pure blue. Secondly, the dye is not really permanent and thirdly, its body color did not look like the sea but rather light brown. Little did he realize that he may actually have discovered the mysterious chilozon but was unfortunately missing some very important facts and details. His first problem was that he didn’t know how to make the dye properly. It had to be made in the sunlight. At first the dye looks green just like Rashi describes it. It’s only when its held up to sunlight that it turns into a beautiful blue. I’ve done it many times and in fact have video taped the process. It’s absolutely remarkable to see how the green changes to a beautiful sky blue when held in sunlight! This important fact was actually discovered by Professor Otto Elsner of the Shenkar College of Fibers who had noticed that on cloudy days the dye seemed to turn purple while on sunny days it turned into a brilliant blue. His second objection that the dye doesn’t hold up well is incorrect. If properly prepared with chemicals used to treat wool to absorb the dye, it is extraordinarily fast. When tested in a strong bleach solution for more than three days it remained just as before. Perhaps he had tested the dye in a cotton fabric that does not absorb the dye very well. His third problem which was with the snail’s color has a simple answer. The snail that Rav Herzog had in his possession probably came from some local museum and its outer shell had been cleaned off. Had he taken it out of the water and seen it in its natural habitat, he would have realized at once that it looked just like the sea. In fact, this is why they are so difficult to find. I’ve taken my Camp S’dei Chemed campers chilozon hunting on the beaches of the Mediterranean many a time and they have learned that they are not easy to find. They hide in the sand and look the very same color as the sea. Perhaps the reason it was so expensive is that it takes about 30 of these murex trunculus snails to make enough dye for the four threads needed to make one pair of tzitzis.
It is interesting to note that in 1858 the French zoologist Henri de Lacaze-Duthiers discovered three mollusks in the Mediterranean which produced purple-blue dyes and which he believed must have been the source of the ancient royal blue color. Interestingly enough, thousands of the Murex trunculas shells as well as the remains of a dye factory have been found near Sidon. The shells of these snails all have been cracked open on the very spot from which one takes out the (hypobranchial) gland from which one makes the dye. This is a sure sign that they were once used in the dye process.
Watch the video below!
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