The St. Louis Jewish Speakers Series — Robert Walker video

We hope you enjoy Robert Walker’s video on HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S MINDS ABOUT ISRAEL.  

Co-sponsored by Aish Hatorah of St. Louis and St. Louis Friends of Israel

“A Shul with a Story” — Aish Hatorah St. Louis: Changing the World, One Jew at a Time — by Judy Waldman, The Jewish Press, 23 February 2020

We hope you enjoy this story about Aish St. Louis that was written in memory of Kalman Packouz zt’l.

“While I considered Kalman a dear friend, I think everyone who ever met him probably felt the same way. That’s who Kalman was.  The Jewish Press has 100,000 subscribers. Hopefully our fellow Yidden reading about Kalman will elevate his neshama. Enjoy the article and please do just one more act of chesed today in memory of Kalman Moshe ben Avigdor” — Judy Kalman

Click to read the story, Page 1 and Page 2.

 

The Rabbi Noah Weinberg Memorial Lecture — Kivi Bernhard video

We hope you enjoy this video of Kivi Bernhard that was taken during The Rabbi Noah Weinberg Memorial Lecture, dedicated by the Axelbaum Family in memory of Jerry Axelbaum a”h.
His topic was Speaking of Jewish! The journeys of living loud and proud as a Jew while keynoting to Fortune 500 corporations across the globe and how they see us.  

 

Aish Hatorah Low Budget Productions presents Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald’s Yom Kippur Questions

Season 1, Episode 4
“Yom Kippur Questions that I’ve
been pondering”

Aish Hatorah Low Budget Productions Presents Opportunities for Insight & Growth with Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald (3)

Season 1, Episode 3
“Do You Have Questions About the
Rosh Hashanah Service?”

Aish Hatorah Low Budget Productions presents Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald’s Opportunities for Wisdom & Growth

Season 1, Episode 1                                        Season 1, Episode 2
“What We Are Praying For and                   “A Prayer and A Rocket”
Why We Are Addressed”

 

 

 

Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:  Yitro (Exodus 18-20)

The New Old Path
Life’s New Blessing
by Rabbi Benji Levy
The giving of the Torah is considered to be one of the most far-reaching episodes known to humanity. Whilst God Himself utters the first two commandments, the magnitude of God’s voice is so great that the Jewish people beg for Moses to speak in place of God, lest they die. This is the first and only recorded time that God reveals Himself to an entire nation — a pinnacle of human history — and yet, rather than giving this episode a grandiose name or even referencing the Ten Commandments, it is named after a relatively minor character from the story, who happens to be a convert — Yitro. Why? What is so great about Yitro that he merits to have this extraordinary section named after him?
The whole world sees the amazing miracle of the splitting of the Reed Sea. The Midrash says that every other body of water in the world was also separated at that time. The impact of witnessing this supernatural event, however, dulled, and eventually people began to forget. This unfortunate phenomenon occurs on a micro-level almost daily. We are constantly surrounded by everyday miracles; from the birth of a baby to the blossoming of a flower. Yet we walk around as if everything is normal, carrying out day to day activities, blind to the miracles taking place all around us.
The key to living an enriched life can be found in the character of Yitro. In contrast to the generation around him, Yitro internalizes and appreciates the greatness of the miracles he has witnessed. His exposure to the spiritual fosters within him an increased sensitivity and awareness of similar experiences. So when the Jewish people are victorious in their battle against Amalek, he immediately understands that this was not simply due to the might of the Jewish army and he acknowledges that this must be the work of God.
This unique section of the Torah is always read around the time of the festival of Tu bishvat, the new year or ‘birthday’ for the trees.[4] Just as on a person’s birthday, we celebrate their existence, reminisce about their younger years and share blessings for their future, similarly the Jewish calendar has identified an appropriate date for celebrating the existence of trees. On Tu bishvat we celebrate the beauties of nature, we take wonder in the new blossoms flowering after a dormant winter season and we marvel at the magic of a bee pollinating a flower. In acknowledging the way that a tiny seed can grow into a magnificent tree, we acknowledge the simple everyday natural miracles that underpin the world.
It is, therefore, no coincidence that the miraculous and supernatural story of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai is read precisely around the time of Tu bishvat. The wonder and inspiration felt in that moment of revelation should be the same wonder and inspiration we experience when witnessing the everyday miracles of life and the world around us. And perhaps it is for this very reason that this portion of the Torah is called Yitro.
Having witnessed the miracle of the splitting of the sea, and the Jewish people’s miraculous victory over Amalek, Yitro begins to realize that his whole existence is one majestic miracle. It is relatively easy to marvel at supernatural phenomena, but to take that wonder and superimpose it into everyday life, to notice the miracles hidden beneath the surface of nature, and to appreciate God’s role in our everyday world, brings gratitude to an altogether different level.
From this viewpoint of wonder, this moment of gratitude for all that is around him, Yitro converts to Judaism. He journeys forward with his family and joins the Jewish nation. His decision reflects the underlying tenet that a prerequisite for receiving the Torah and living a life of Judaism is to be grateful for everything one has, to acknowledge daily miracles and to integrate their meaning into the fabric of our lives. Yitro’s attitude towards the wonders of the world, and his subsequent conversion to Judaism, is a blueprint for the mindset required by the Jewish People as they stand and prepare to receive the Torah.
The sages encourage every Jew, every morning to begin the day with the Mode ani prayer: Mode ani lefanecha melech hai vekhayam, which literally means ‘grateful I am before you, living and Eternal King.’ The order of the wording is strange as grammatically it should read ani modeh lefanecha i.e. ‘I am grateful before you’. So why is the order reversed? The answer reveals a fundamental tenet in Judaism. How can one begin their entire day with the word ani, ‘I’, implying a focus on one’s self? Even if grammatically inappropriate, it is a far greater value to begin our day with mode reflecting gratitude, in order to predicate the day on appreciation, rather than focusing on self-centredness.
The message of Yitro and perhaps the reason this portion is named after him, is that the grandiose morality and groundbreaking content of the Ten Commandments is predicated upon a basic level of appreciation. Practicing as a Jew involves allowing gratitude and appreciation to infuse every facet of our life. This finds expression in daily blessings over food, sights, smells and actions. In this way we affirm the ideal that acknowledging and making blessings over life is the greatest way to transform life into the ultimate blessing.
SUMMARY:
Standing at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Children of Israel are on the brink of receiving the Torah. One would expect this momentous unparalleled event in history, to be highlighted as special, with a majestic name relating to its historical and significant meaning. Yet our sages choose to name this section of the Torah, Yitro. This puzzling choice presents profound insights into the type of mindset that the Jewish Nation needs to develop as a prerequisite for receiving Torah and embarking on a relationship with God.

 

The Guiding Light
Criticism the Right Way
by Rabbi Yehonason Gefen 
Rashi, 18:1, Dh: And Yitro heard: “…His name was also Yeter, because he added one section to the Torah, [that beginning with] ‘and you will see.’”
Shemot, 18:17: “The father-in-law of Moshe said to him, ‘the thing that you do is not good…’
Shemot, 18:21: “And you will see from among the entire people, men of accomplishment…”
The Portion begins with the reaction of Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro, to the miracles that the Jewish people experienced on their journeys out of Egypt. Rashi notes that Yitro had seven names, and one of them was ‘Ytser’, meaning ‘additional’. Rashi explains that this name was given him because he merited to ‘add’ a whole section in the Torah, later in the Portion — which Rashi describes as the section starting with ‘and you will see’ — when he suggested a new system of judgement to replace the present system whereby Moshe would deal with every case. Thus, this name is a great praise to Yitro for achieving such a unique feat of adding a whole new section to the Torah. However, a question on Rashi’s explanation arises: When Rashi refers to the passage where Yitro made his suggestion, he seems to begin in the middle of the passage. The passage begins with Yitro telling Moshe in Chapter 18, verse 17, “The thing that you do is not good…” Only four verses later in verse 21, does he say, “And you will see”.
Why does Rashi not describe Yitro’s suggestion from the beginning of the dialogue between Yitro and Moshe?
One Torah Scholar answered that this passage is coming to praise Yitro for his meriting to add a section in the Torah. The first four verses of the passage involving Yitro are not positive words, rather they are words of criticism of what was wrong with the existing system. Only in verse 21, does he begin to propose a new system of judges. The praise of Yitro is not for his criticism because it is very easy to criticize without giving any constructive ideas, rather he is applauded for offering an alternative. This teaches a very important lesson – seeing what’s wrong with the situation does not require any great character traits, indeed, it often indicates an ayin rah – a propensity to focus on the negative in an unhealthy way. However, discerning how to rectify the problems requires an ability to think positively and constructively.
It is apparent that the character trait of being critical can be used for the good or for the bad. Based on this idea, we see that one aspect of using it for the good is that it should be the springboard for positive change. Indeed, Rabbi Yerucham Levovits, the Mashgiach (spiritual guide) of the Mirrer Yeshiva, writes that Yitro was a highly critical person but he used it for the good.
One way of discerning whether a person uses a trait in the correct way is if he only applies it to other people or if he uses it to improve himself. The wrong way of applying one’s critical nature is if a person only uses it to see what is wrong with everyone else but does not use it to analyze his own failings or mistakes. Yitro used his critical nature to question whether he was living in the correct way and to search for the truth. The Sages tell us that he worshipped every type of idol and he realized that they were all false. And when he recognized the correctness of the Torah, he did not allow himself to ignore the implication of that truth, rather, he admitted that he had been wrong in his beliefs and he changed his whole lifestyle and joined the Jewish people.
In Torah, the trait of being critical is essential to one’s Torah learning and general life outlook. There is no place in Judaism for blindly accepting what one hears without questioning it and trying to understand it. A person with a critical nature is more likely to come to the truth. Moreover, we learn from Yitro that using a critical eye in a positive way is the platform for achieving necessary changes in the world. Yitro saw what was wrong with the system of judgment and did not suffice with criticizing it, rather he sought and found an alternative. Indeed, it seems that all the great achievers among the Jewish people saw what was wrong with a certain situation and did something positive to rectify it. The following story illustrates one of the most striking examples of this.
There was once a meeting of many of the leading Rabbis of the generation and the descendants of the leaders of the previous one, including the Chofetz Chaim. Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna, the great Rosh Yeshiva of Chevron, stood up to speak and he surprised everyone, saying that there was one person who had achieved more for the Jewish people than everyone who was present, and their illustrious ancestors. Moreover, he confidently asserted that once he would tell the audience who it was, they would all agree. Who was this great person?
It was Sarah Shenirer; she was a seemingly ordinary woman who lived at a time when there was no formal Torah education for Jewish girls. Consequently, young women from observant families were leaving Torah in great numbers. The scale of this tragedy was magnified by the fact that many Torah scholars were unable to find an appropriate match given the lack of suitable women. It is no exaggeration to say that the very future of the Jewish people was in great danger. Sarah Shenirer recognized the threat, questioned the status quo, and, amidst great opposition, founded the first network of Torah schools for girls, Beit Yaakov.
With the guidance of leading Sages, such as the Chofetz Chaim and the Gerrer Rebbe, she succeeded beyond her wildest expectations and, effectively assured the future of Torah observance. Surely, many people were aware of the serious situation at the time, but only Sarah Shenirer applied the trait of criticism to motivate herself to find a positive solution.
The examples of Yisro and Sarah Shenirer teach us how to apply criticism in a positive way.

 

Family Parsha
Being Humble 

by Nesanel Yoel Safran
From this week’s Torah portion: 
In this week’s Torah Portion, Moses shows us one of the things that made him great. When his father-in-law, Jethro, criticizes him over something and suggests a way to do things better, Moses doesn’t get offended. Even though he was more learned than Jethro and a great world leader, Moses calmly thinks about the idea, decides Jethro was right, and accepts his criticism and advice. We can learn from Moses how to be humble and accept the truth, wherever it comes from.
In our story, a boy faces the challenge of accepting criticism and putting the truth before his pride.
“GIVE ME A BREAK!”
I don’t know why they call it baby-sitting — if it were up to me I would rename it baby-chasing, because after an hour and a half of substituting for my sister in her afternoon playgroup, I was ready to collapse. You wouldn’t believe how much energy these little kids have! I’m a pretty active guy myself, but compared to them, I felt like an old man.
The only thing that kept me going was the clock on the wall, and knowing that in just another few minutes it was going to be nap-time, when everyone would put his head down on his desk and rest quietly for 20 minutes. I wasn’t really sure if any of these Duracell kids needed recharging, but I was SURE I did and I counted the seconds until I could grab a little peace and quiet.
To wind them into their naps, I sat everybody in a big circle and told them what I hoped would be a bedtime story. I improvised and told them some things I had learned in Torah class that day about Moses, that even though he was the great leader of the Jewish people, he was willing to listen to Jethro’s criticism and even change his ways when he thought his criticism was true. I admit, I had one eye on the clock, and timed my story to finish right on time for them to rest.
“Okay kids, now we’ll all put our heads down for a little nap. Remember we have to all be per-fect-ly quiet until the timer goes off.”
I was amazed. They were actually starting to do it! I sat back, grabbed a school book to catch up on my homework, and felt my own eyes starting to grow deliciously heavy. Maybe the ‘teacher’ would take a little nap himself.
Just then I felt a tug on my sleeve. It was Brian, one of the most jumpy of all the little jumping beans in the group. “Now Brian, you know it’s nap-time now, you must go back to your desk,” I said, trying to hide the tension in my voice.
“No it’s not!” he said. “It’s not nap time until later. Now it’s snack time. You’re supposed to give us cookies and juice.”
I couldn’t believe it. I had finally settled these little dynamos down, and this punk was suggesting that instead I start pumping them all back up with sugar!
“Now Brian,” I said firmly, “no more trouble. Go put your head down on your desk right now.”
But he wouldn’t budge. “No, I just learned how to tell time, and I know it’s not nap time until later!”
I was sure he was trying to pull a fast one on the sub, but just to make sure, I turned and pulled the small schedule out of my pocket my sister had given me, and took a quick glance at it. I couldn’t believe it. The kid was actually right! I had misread the schedule; it really was snack time. Nap time wasn’t for another 45 minutes!
I looked at the nearly-settled play group, I looked at Brian and started getting angry. What a nerve this kid had … who was he to tell me what to do … I was more than twice his age.
“You know what, Brian…” I could see him getting scared and I was about to send him into the next room and maybe even threaten to call his mother if he didn’t tow the line. After all who knew better? They were the little kids, I was the big kid; they were my flock, and I was their leader just like Moses. ‘Just like Moses…’ I got a lump in my stomach as I remembered the story I had just finished telling them about how Moses didn’t get upset when someone told him he was wrong. He only cared about doing what was right. And what about me? I took a deep breath.
“You know what Brian … you’re right. The cookies are in the closet. Could you please bring them to me?”
He flashed a big smile, happy he could tell the time.
“Nap-time’s in a while guys. Everybody line up for your snacks,” I said.
All the kids popped up like Jack-in-the-boxes. I put my book in the drawer, and grabbed a couple of cookies myself for a boost. The rest of the afternoon went really well — even nap time, once it finally happened. I still looked forward to giving the job back to my sister the next day, but felt good that I accepted Brian’s comment.
Even though I was supposed to be the teacher, I think I learned the biggest lesson of all.
Discussion Questions
Ages 3-5
Q. How did the teenager in the story feel when little Brian first told him he had made a mistake?
A. He felt like since he was older he didn’t have to listen even if what Brian said was right.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt that like Moses – he should do what’s right, no matter who told him.
Ages 6-9
Q. What did the older boy in the story discover from the events that happened?
A. He discovered how not to let his feelings of being upset or embarrassed stop him from accepting constructive criticism and changing his behavior when necessary.
Q. Why was it so hard for him to accept the criticism at first?
A. Nobody enjoys being told he made a mistake. It’s even harder when the one who tells him is younger than he is, or supposed to know less than he does. However, the greater a person is, the happier he’ll be to find out about any mistakes he has made so he can change things for the better.
Q. Can you think of a time someone told you that you were making a mistake? How did it make you feel? Did you accept the criticism?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that one of the signs of a wise person is that he loves rebuke. What do you think this means?
A. A wise person became that way because he loves wisdom so much that he’s willing to pay nearly any price to acquire it. When he is rebuked and discovers he has done something wrong, he isn’t offended. On the contrary, he’s thrilled because now he has a chance to change, and become even wiser. To him it’s much more important to actually do what is right than to appear as if he’s always right.
Q. What distinguishes constructive criticism from the destructive kind?
A. It is a question of whether we are criticizing someone to build him up (as in construction) or to knock him down. Do we genuinely want to help the person we are criticizing or is it just an excuse to make ourselves feel bigger at his expense? The first type is an act of kindness; the second, one of the cruelest acts there is.
Q. Can you think of a time someone told you that you were making a mistake? How did it make you feel? Did you accept the criticism?

                                                                                           *   *   *

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Don’t be afraid of disovering that the ‘real you’ may be different than the ‘current you’
                                               — Rabbi Noah Weinberg (a”h)

 

JOKE OF THE WEEK

Morty and Saul, are out one afternoon on a lake when their boat starts sinking.
Saul says to Morty, “So listen, Morty, you know I don’t swim so well.”
Morty remembers how to carry another swimmer from his lifeguard class when he was just a kid, so he begins tugging Saul toward shore. After ten minutes, he begins to tire.
Finally about 100 feet from shore, Morty asks Saul, “So Saul, do you suppose you could float alone?”
Saul replies, “Morty, this is a heck of a time to be asking for money!”

*   *   *
Shabbat Shalom!
Staff: Rabbi Yosef David, Rabbi Shmuel Greenwald, Mimi David, Caren Goldstein, Claire Wolff
Board of Directors:  Adam Herman, Brett Fox, Marc Jacob, Bob Kaiser, Malcolm Klearman,
Joy Marcus, Mike Minoff, Leila Redlich, Mike Towerman, Bruce Waxman, Tziona Zeffren

Jewish Women’s Society Programs

Dear Sisters,

In cased you missed it, here’s the podcast of my interview on the topic of Be Proud to be a Woman with Vera Kessler who leads America’s Top Rebbetzins.

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Mimi David

PS:
The words of Yaakov’s blessing to his grandsons Menashe and Efraim are sung every night in the bedtime Shema.  Here’s my favorite tune for the famous Hamalach Hagoel:
I had the privilege of being interviewed on a podcast for women this week.  I chose a topic I really feel passionately about:)  Here’s the link if you would like to listen!

We are working on a private trip to Israel this spring for St. Louis women (or former STL women) only!  Small group of women, best tour guides, deeper-level trip and deeper learning.  Contact me for more details!

COVID guidelines  for in-person programs at Aish:  masks required for your safety as well as for the safety of others.  If you’re not feeling well, we look forward to seeing you at another time when you’re feeling well.

For more information about The Jewish Women’s Society of St. Louis, contact Mimi David at mimidavid@aish.com

 

A Shabbos Message for My Sisters from Mimi…January/22/2022 Shevat/20/5782

Dear Sisters,

Have a wonderful Shabbos!,
Mimi David
The words of Yaakov’s blessing to his grandsons Menashe and Efraim are sung every night in the bedtime Shema.  Here’s my favorite tune for the famous Hamalach Hagoel:
I had the privilege of being interviewed on a podcast for women this week.  I chose a topic I really feel passionately about:)  Here’s the link if you would like to listen!

We are working on a private trip to Israel this spring for St. Louis women (or former STL women) only!  Small group of women, best tour guides, deeper-level trip and deeper learning.  Contact me for more details!

COVID guidelines  for in-person programs at Aish:  masks required for your safety as well as for the safety of others.  If you’re not feeling well, we look forward to seeing you at another time when you’re feeling well.

For more information about The Jewish Women’s Society of St. Louis, contact Mimi David at mimidavid@aish.com