Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Glimpse of Inspiration in a Bowl of Chicken Soup: A Shavuot Message

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Failure Lessons: Why a Good Plan B is More Important (120 Second Inspira...

Friday, May 15, 2020

Be Strong, and We Will be Strengthened: Chazak v'Nitchazek

Crisis and the Formation of Community: The Lessons of the Damascus Blood Libel

On February 5, 1840, the Capuchin Friar Thomas, an Italian who had long resided in Damascus, disappeared together with his Muslim servant Ibrahim ʿAmāra. The monk was known to have been involved in shady business, and the two men were probably murdered by tradesmen with whom Thomas had quarreled. Nonetheless, the Capuchins immediately circulated news that Jews had murdered both men in order to use their blood for Passover.

As Catholics in Syria were officially under French protection, the investigation was conducted by the French consul. But the consul, Ulysse de Ratti-Menton, allied himself with the accusers, and the investigation was conducted in a barbaric fashion. A barber, Solomon Negrin, was arbitrarily arrested and tortured until a "confession" was extorted from him. He was coerced to tell a tale in which the monk was killed in the house of David Harari by seven Jews. The men whom he named were subsequently arrested; two of them died under torture, and one of them converted to Islam in order to be spared.

This revival of the medieval blood libel sent shockwaves through the Jewish world. After multiple diplomatic interventions, a delegation of European Jews, whose members included Moses Montefiore, his secretary Louis Loewe, Adolphe Crémieux and Solomon Munk, liberated the prisoners on September 6th. This was a remarkable achievement for the European Jewish community, which had just received political rights in the prior 50 years.

But there is a significant American element to this story. The Damascus Blood Libel represents the first stirrings of communal engagement in the United States.

American Jewry got involved rather late. The news took a long time to travel across the ocean, and it took even longer for the American Jewish community to organize themselves.

Joseph Jacobs, who writes one of the first historical accounts of the American reaction in 1902 explains that “So far as I can ascertain, it took about 30 days for the European mails to reach America, yet it was not till Aug. 17, more than two months after the Board of Deputies (of British Jews) meeting in London, that a meeting was held in New York.”

This slow response make sense. The Jewish community in the United States in 1840 was tiny: 15,000 Jews out of a total American population of 17,000,000. (For comparison, 56,000 Jews currently live on the Upper East Side.)

This small, scattered group had never organized before. But at this moment they took action, holding meetings about the Damascus situation in six cities around the United States. In Philadelphia they were led by one of the remarkable figures of 19th century American Jewish history, Rabbi Isaac Leeser of the Mikveh Israel synagogue. (Leeser was the founder of the first American Jewish newspaper, the first American translation of the Siddur and Tanakh, and the Jewish Publication Society.)

The speeches and resolutions for this meeting were published as:

Persecution of the Jews in the East, Containing the Proceedings of a Meeting Held at Mikveh Israel, Philadelphia, on Thursday Evening, the 28th of Ab, 5600, Corresponding with the 27th of August, 1840, C. SHERMAN & CO. PRINTERS, 19 ST. JAMES STREET.”

It is moving to read the resolutions. They demonstrate how this far flung Jewish community had not forgotten their brethren overseas, and at the same time, this growing young community was ready to unify and organize.

You can see their sense of solidarity with the Jewish world in three of the meeting’s resolutions, quoted below:

 Resolved, That they experience the deepest emotions of sympathy for the sufferings endured by their fellows in faith at Damascus and Rhodes, under the tortures and injuries inflicted on them by merciless and savage persecutors...

Resolved , That they will cooperate with their brethren elsewhere in affording pecuniary aid, if required, to relieve the victims of this unholy persecution, and to unite in such other measures as may be devised to mitigate their sufferings.

Resolved , That this meeting highly appreciates the prompt and energetic measures adopted by our brethren in Europe, and elsewhere, for the promotion of the object of this meeting, and the noble undertaking of Monsieur Cremieux and Sir Moses Montefiore, in coming forward not only as the champions of the oppressed, but also as the defenders of the Jewish nation; and this meeting expresses the hope that the God of Israel will shield and protect them, and restore them to their families in the enjoyment of unimpaired health.

To summarize these resolutions, the Jews of Philadelphia express their love for their fellow Jews in Damascus, commit to fundraise for them, and to work with Jews around the world to release the imprisoned Jews.

Then there were additional resolutions worth noting as well.

Resolved, That we invite our brethren of Damascus to leave the land of persecution and torture, and to seek an asylum in this free and happy land, where all religions are alike tolerated—where every man is allowed to enjoy his own opinion—where industry prospers, and where integrity is sure to meet its just reward!

This resolution reminds us how proud American Jews were to be Americans. They were standing up for the Jews of Damascus not just as Jews, but as proud Americans; so proud, that they were inviting the Damascus Jews to join us here.

Another resolution deserves our attention as well:

Lewis Allen, Esq., laid before the meeting letters accompanying a copy of the proceedings …. with instructions to furnish a copy of the proceedings of this meeting to every Jewish Congregation in the United States.

This resolution tells the story of a new national initiative taking shape, with Jews around the country working together on a matter of mutual concern. 

The letters sent from the 6 communities to President Van Buren received a very encouraging response. The Secretary of State, John Forsyth reported that the United states had already intervened on behalf of the Jews of Damascus. In addition, Forsyth in his letter recognizes that Jews are “some of the most worthy and patriotic of our own citizens”. For Jews to be considered valued citizens is something we take for granted now, but was not at all a given in 1840.

What does the American response to the Damascus Blood Libel represent? These petitions were too late to be effective; not only were negotiations for the release of the Jews close to their conclusion, but the United States government had intervened even before these petitions were sent.

But these meetings are significant because in 1840, American Jews  for the first time decided to work together for a mutual cause. Joseph Jacobs notes that  “it was not for naught that they had taken a worthy share in the universal protest of Israel….Their part in the Damascus affair was thus the beginning of the diplomatic or international phase in the history of the American Jews, and in this sense, I venture to think, deserves somewhat fuller attention than has hitherto been given” . The Damascus Blood libel transformed a scattered group of Jews, at a distance from the centers of Jewish life, to build a community.

This was a transformational moment, born out of a difficult crisis.

Sometimes it seems that Jewish unity is only possible when our community is in crisis.

Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik describes this connection as a "covenant of fate";  our shared suffering as a people is what unites the diverse elements of our community, from the atheist to the ultra-Orthodox.

But I believe that the connection is far more profound. The Jews are called the children of Israel in the Bible. The Book of Genesis makes it clear that Jews don’t see themselves as an ordinary nation, but rather as a family writ large. We are still Israel’s children, and one large family, with all of our tribes and squabbles. I would not call it a covenant of fate; I would call it a covenant of family. Jewish unity goes beyond shared suffering; it is born in love, the love of a family.

Sometimes families drift apart, and forget to show their love; but in crisis they pull together. The Jewish people are much the same; we may forget about each other, but we are always there for each other in times of crisis.

I sat on a panel yesterday with Rabbi Angela Buchdahl and Rabbi David Wolpe. The panel was organized by JJ Sussman of Gesher, for a group of Israeli leaders.

There were many questions; about how we connect within our own synagogues, how we connect to others in the community, and how we connect to Israel, during the time of the coronavirus.

The answers were all insightful and nuanced; but the questions were even more important. The beauty of this panel, and hundreds of others like it, is that we are searching. We want to find a way to connect with each other even when this virus keeps us apart.

In one of the most beautiful verses of the Bible, when Joseph is on a mission to find his brother, he is asked by a stranger what he is doing. Joseph’s answer is:

את אחי אנוכי מבקש

I am searching for my brothers.

There could be no better description for what the Jewish world is doing right now. We are searching for ways to connect, ways to support, and ways to help our brothers and sisters around the world.

When it's a crisis, you need to be there for your family.

Friday, May 08, 2020

Kiddush Hashem, Now More Than Ever

On April 14th, 2000, the New York Times wrote a moving article about two families, one in Brooklyn and one in Italy.
Miriam and Rabbi Ronald Barry had gotten tested in 1991 to see if they could be bone marrow donors. A few months later, a match came up for Rabbi Barry. There is a small risk, 1 in 20,000, associated with giving bone marrow. It is a small risk, but it is a risk nonetheless. Rabbi Barry decided to be a donor. As the New York Times wrote:
''How many people,'' Mrs. Barry asked, ''get the opportunity to say, 'I saved a life'? What a thing to take up with you at the end of days.''

After the bone donation, the recipient's family decided to reach out to the Barrys. The donation had gone to a 9-year-old boy named Nicola Trevisan in a small village of Tonco in the Asti region of Italy. The families began to correspond and to become friendly.

And then in 2000 the Barrys went to visit Italy.

The Trevisans, who had never met Jews before, took a crash course on the rules of Kashrut in order to host the Barry's. The Trevisons set up an entire day's tour for the Barry's, and located a nearby historic synagogue and had it opened. In the synagogue's guest book, Armando Trevisan wrote:

''This is the reunion of the Barry family of Brooklyn and the Trevisans of Tonco..".

And that night, at the Tonco city hall, the entire village came out to welcome and thank the Barrys. One act of kindness had touched hundreds of people on the other side of the world.

This is a story of Kiddush Hashem. This commandment is in our week’s Torah reading. To my mind, it is the central commandment of Judaism.

Let me explain why.

As you go through life there are three questions that you will ask yourself on a regular basis.

The first is what do I need? How do I ensure that I am nourished, clothed, and sheltered.

The second is what do I want? How do I find friendship, respect, love, and success.

The final question is why am I here? This is a question that we don't ask ourselves often enough, and it's a question we ask more frequently as we get older. We ask it more often at 18 than at 13. And we certainly ask it more often at 28 and 48.

Kiddush Hashem is the Jewish answer to the question of "why am I here?"

Through the ages, there have been two ways that kiddush Hashem has been practiced, what I would call “Yitzchak Kiddush Hashem” and  “Avraham Kiddush Hashem”.

Sometimes Kiddush Hashem demands a difficult sacrifice, like the Akeidat Yitzchak.

And since then, Jews have made enormous sacrifices to retain their Jewish faith; at times being called to make the ultimate sacrifice, and at other times giving up jobs and opportunities to maintain their observance of Shabbat and mitzvot.

But at other times, Kiddush Hashem has been about finding our mission in life, and sharing that mission with the world; this is what Avraham did his entire life, bringing spirituality and kindness to those around him.

In 2013, Rabbi Noah Muroff, then a Yeshiva High School teacher in Connecticut, bought a used desk off of Craigslist. It was too large to fit through the doorway of his office, so he had to disassemble it. And when he did, a large envelope of cash fell out. In it was $98,000.

Rabbi Muroff didn't hesitate and didn't wait; he immediately called the previous owner and returned the money. The previous owner had forgotten where they put the money, and thought it was lost forever.

This story made national news, and it made a Kiddush Hashem.

Rabbi Muroff wasn't thinking about what he needed, he wasn't thinking about what he wanted; He was thinking about the question of Kiddush Hashem: why am I here?

We are living in complicated times. I know that many of us are focused on what we need and what we want. That is absolutely necessary. We need to take care of ourselves first. But just as necessary is finding an answer for why I am here.

And that is what we must do.

I take enormous pride in how so many in our community have been making a difference in people's lives. Doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals fighting on the front lines against the coronavirus. Initiatives like collecting iPads, sending meals to healthcare workers, and helping the unemployed find work have been organized. And multiple acts of kindness in our own community have been coordinated by our Chesed committee.

This difficult time has brought out the best in our community. And when we look back at this time, what we will remember most are these acts of kindness; how dedicated people made a difference and made a Kiddush Hashem, and reminded us what our mission in life is supposed to be.

Lag B'Omer and Seeing the Unseen

There is the Lag Baomer of Meron, and a Lag Baomer of the rest of the world.

Our Lag Baomer is a tepid affair in which we omit the tachanun prayer and send the students out on a field trip at school.

But the Lag Baomer of Meron (a small village in northern Israel) is very different. Chava Seltzer, an American immigrant who visited Meron in 1920 writes:

“And the eve of the holiday has arrived, and on the road going up to Meron, crowds of men, women, and children; some are riding donkeys and some are on foot. Here is a group of Yemenites in their unique clothes, some Bukharim, some Ashkenazim, and here is also the big eye-catching group - a group of Yemenites from Damascus, wearing Arab clothes and galloping on their horses, all of them wearing weapons: pistols, swords and lances…”

In actuality Lag Baomer has two different meanings. For most of us, it is a day of respite during the mourning period of Sefirah. Until Lag Baomer we mourn the loss of the students of Rabbi Akiva, which many theorize took place during the Bar Kochva rebellion. Lag Baomer is the day in which the deaths stopped, and on it we celebrate the end of grief.

The Meron celebration is about the Hillula (the date of death) of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai. The great Kabbalistic work, the Zohar, is attributed to him. And according to a tradition from the great Kabbalist, Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is buried on Meron.

Today the celebration in Meron is a spiritual carnival. Tens of thousands flock from all around Israel. It is filled with people singing and dancing, eating and drinking. Others praying intently, for desperate needs and divine miracles.

The Meron celebration brings with it unusual practices. There is a custom to give 18 Rotel of alcoholic beverages, roughly 54 liters, for the celebration of the crowd. Boys aged 3 have their upsherin, their first haircut, in Meron that day. And at midnight the bonfire is lit. People throw expensive garments into the oil to be burnt with the bonfire. The right to light the main bonfire has been given to a rabbi who comes from the Rizhin dynasty, but many other rabbis light other bonfires as well. The Lag Baomer of Meron is a surreal mix of Purim and Yom Kippur,a mixture of tears and laughter, solemnity and silliness.

Yet every aspect of the Lag Baomer story raises questions.

Did Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai write the Zohar? It was first disseminated by Rabbi Moshe de Leon, who lived in 13th century Spain. But there are serious questions about the Zohar, and many Rabbis, including Rabbi Yaakov Emden and Rabbi Yachia Kafach, have questioned whether it was written by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

Is Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai even buried in Meron? Two visitors to Meron in the late 1100’s, Petachiah of Regensburg and Benjamin of Tudela, only mention seeing the graves of Hillel and Shamai and their students on Meron; they make no mention of a grave for Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Their silence raises serious doubts about attributing the grave to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

 And finally, why would we celebrate the date of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s death? This riddle was particularly perplexing, because for centuries there was a custom to fast on a yartziet, on the anniversary of a death; Rabbi Moshe Sofer and Rabbi Joseph Saul Nathansohn, two renowned Rabbinic authors, found the idea of celebrating an anniversary of a death too strange to accept.

Lag Baomer is a grand celebration with an uncertain foundation.

But that may very well be the point. It is a holiday to see the unseen.

Someone just reminded me of a line in The Little Prince that says:

“Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

That is the foundation of Lag Baomer. Much like the poetry of Midrash and the insight of Kabbalah, there is another way of seeing reality, grounded in imagination, potential, and vision. And that is what Lag Baomer celebrates. 

When seeing the world through Lag Baomer eyes, an unknown mountain can be a new Mount Sinai, the death of a great man can bring illumination to the world, and after hiding and running, an exiled people can find their way.

Lag Baomer teaches us to see differently, and to look beyond darkness and beyond dejection.

In the last century Lag Baomer has been an inspiration to two very different groups who seek redemption. It inspires mystics looking for a way to bring the soul out of its exile in this material world. But it also has inspired those who wanted to bring Jews out of their exile in the material world.

For Zionists, Lag Baomer is also about seeing the unseen. They saw Lag Baomer as a way of completing the rebellion of Bar Kochva, and seeing within what was once a historic defeat the possibility of a future victory.

For this reason Zionist youth organizations sponsored Lag Baomer events, with archery contests and long hikes. They were building a new generation that would return to the land ready for whatever challenges might arise. Yes, they were pursuing what Theodor Herzl would refer to as “a fairytale”. But they were inspired to see unseen, and to find a way to bring the fairytale to life.

In 1949, the first Lag Baomer after The War of Independence, Meron was filled with the representatives of the Israeli government and Israeli army. Just a year earlier there had been a dramatic battle in Tzefat and Meron, and the local community was overjoyed that they were now part of the State of Israel. Rav Yehuda Leib Fishman, the Minister of Religion for the new Jewish State spoke, and lit the torch for the bonfire. The newsreels of Lag Baomer1949 show groups of soldiers singing and dancing, carrying a Torah came to join in the festivities at Meron.

The participants in 1949  knew that Jews had long been inspired to see the unseen on Meron; but that year, they could see a miracle with their own eyes.

Lag Baomer that year had come to life.

Friday, May 01, 2020

What Could be Wrong with Musar? A Meditation for the Self Quarantined

I want to speak to you tonight about a tale of two Slabodkas.

There was a Yeshiva in Slabodka, which split due to a controversy over the study of Musar, which focused on improving character, piety, and ethics.

The Musar controversy seems extremely strange. Why would a movement dedicated to spiritual growth engender a battle that lasted over 30 years?

And in its most shocking moments, in 1904 and 1905, during revolutionary years in Russia, an anti-mussar student pulled a gun on the Mashgiach in the Slabodke yeshiva, and another group of students took all the mussar books and threw them into the sewage filled latrines.

But this controversy began with a debate between great rabbis. When a leader of the Musar movement, Rabbi Isaac Blazer, went to visit the Volozhin Yeshiva in 1882, he was prevented from speaking by Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik.

The height of the controversy occurred in the years 1896 and 1897, when the Yeshiva of Slabodka split.

What was once one Yeshiva became two. The mussar one, led by the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, was called Knesset Yisrael, and the other, non-mussar one, was Knesset Beit Yitzchak.

Now to many of you Slabodka may be an unfamiliar name. It is a suburb of the city of Kovno (Kaunas) in Lithuania. But these Yeshivot are  the father of most modern Yeshivot.

Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore was started by a student of Slabodka, Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman and named after Knesset Israel.

And other Yeshivas like Chofetz Chaim, Mir, Chevron are direct descendants of the Knesses Yisroel Yeshiva.

What caused this rift? As Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg notes, it seems strange to disagree about Musar, which is the spiritual equivalent of apple pie.

The Musar movement began with an intellectual giant, R. Yisroel Salanter.

To underline what a brilliant mind he had, Rav Weinberg recounts a story about one lecture. Like many Rabbis of the time, R.Yisrael would generally send ahead his sources for each lecture to have them posted on the bulletin board of that synagogue. Someone who opposed R. Yisrael decided to play a prank on him; and the prankster took down the sources R.Yisrael had sent, and put up a random list of other sources.

When R. Yisrael arrived at that synagogue, he stood for a few minutes looking at the new list. And then he began a lecture utilizing all the sources the prankster had written out. Such was the brilliance of Rav Yisrael's mind.

Yet what Rav Yisrael worried about most was a general failing of character.

One story R. Yisrael would tell, was about a Yom Kippur eve. A man was praying and saying the al chet prayer. Al Chet is a list of every possible sin, some quite remote, written to insure that everyone's confession on Yom Kippur is thorough. This man was saying Al Chet with incredible intensity, with tears coming down his eyes. Rabbi Yisrael approached the man, hoping to pray along with him in this moving prayer. But when Rav Yisrael came near, the man violently pushed him away!

As Rabbi Yisroel would put it, the man was crying about sins he never committed, and he was crying about this man, who had entered Yom Kippur and had no idea what it was all about.

But Rav Yisrael felt that Book study of Musar was not enough.

Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg notes, many decades before Freud, Rav Yisrael Salanter understood the workings of the human unconscious.

And for this reason Rav Yisrael recognized that there needed to be both an immersive technique, that was deeply emotional. I'll just note in passing some of the methods the Musar movement used.

       A separate Musar house
        intense inspirational talks
       deep self criticism
        repetition of phrases
       making oneself emotional before studying musar
       and thinking about one's ultimate death.

But let’s return to the question: what could be wrong with this method of spiritual growth?

Actually, the  opposition to Musar had bubbled under the surface for nearly 40 years.

People were unwilling to oppose it openly because both Rabbi Salanter and the Chief Rabbi of Kovno, Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan Spector, supported and protected those who studied Musar.

But after they both passed away, the opposition came forward.

On 8 Iyar 5657 - 1897, a letter named למען  דעת   Lemaan Daat came out.

It was signed by 9 Rabbis, including the son of Rabbi Yitzchak Elchanan, Rav Tzvi Hirsch Rabinowitz.

There are several arguments mentioned.

One is that the Musarites were seen as schismatic. Lithuanian Jewry was deeply opposed to Hasidism, and now they believed they were seeing a repeat of that movement.

And the Musar students acted weirdly. The opening of the Novardok Musar Yeshiva brought with it a strange way of doing Musar. Students would actually act strangely, to invite the insults of others; the point of this was to give the musar students a stoic detachment, and a willingness to do what is right no matter what other people say. But to outsiders, this was bizarre.

Even in an ordinary Musar Yeshiva, very often students would continually meditate on one phrase repeating it over and over out loud. This too seemed incredibly strange.

There was also the sense that those who studied Musar, even those who knew very little in terms of Torah, would look down on great scholars. And the feeling was that this secret arrogance was pure hypocrisy. The accusation is that they turned their outward piety into a way to act superior to others.

There is a well known joke from the opponents of Musar, in which a new student joins the Yeshiva, and everyone sits down in the Beit Midrash to study Musar on their own.

All of a sudden, the two most senior students break out in tears and say with all humility: ich bin a gornisht - I am a nobody!

The new student figures this is the way things are done, so he too calls out “ich bin a gornisht - I am a nobody”. Seeing this, an older student turns to his friend and says: “look who thinks he’s a gornisht - a nobody!

The suspicion was that Musar piety was hypocritical, and that the students would carefully check who was a bigger nobody than the next!

The other concern was that this would lessen the study of Torah. For Lithuanian Jewry, the theology of Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin was paramount. He saw Torah study as the ultimate goal of religious life. In his commentary to Pirkei Avot, Rav Chaim of Volozhin says that the amount of musar you need a day is 5 minutes for 15 hours of Torah study.

And this  last accusation is quite possibly the center of the dispute.

In this week’s Torah reading, there is a verse that says “Kedoshim Tihiyu” you should be holy.  But how do you define being holy?

To the Rashbam, this simply means: keep all the commandments about to be listed in the next section, and you will be holy. This is very similar to the Volozhin view: Torah at the center. Keep the Torah and you will be holy.

But the Ramban sees holiness as going beyond what the Torah says. You must develop goodness and character. The Torah is merely a framework; One must develop their character beyond the basic responsibilities of the commandments.

And it is this message the Musar movement adopted, and it was revolutionary. They saw creating a complete human being as the ultimate goal.

For an educational purist, this was unacceptable. The entire goal of Judaism is the study and performance of Torah.

Studying Musar would not only take time out of the daily schedule, but it would also displace Torah as the most important goal.

Now it is easy for us to sit in our armchairs and take the side of those who studied Musar. Choosing character over scholarship would seem simple.

But We need to recognize that we actually pay lip service to character most of the time, and need to reflect on what choices we make in our own lives.

Would we be willing to sacrifice our children getting into an elite university so they could spend more of their time developing their character?

When I speak to high school students, I tell them that it is far more important to be a good person than get into a good university. But if we are honest, that is not an easy choice for any of us.

It was that type of choice that the Musar movement was demanding. You can't always have it all.

Rabbi Yisrael was saying he would rather have less scholarship and more character. And that was revolutionary.

Rabbi Yisroel's revolution upended the way people saw things.

He placed great emphasis on interpersonal commandments, both because he perceived that people were far more interested in ritual commandments and ignored the interpersonal ones; and because interpersonal commandments demanded a well-developed personal character.

He would instruct his students that the most important religious stringency in producing Matzah for Passover is to make sure that the widows employed in the Matzah bakery are treated with dignity, and never shouted at them during the baking process.

When the Cholera epidemic arrived in Vilna in 1848, the story that Rav Yisrael is best known four is making kiddush on Yom Kippur, to encourage everyone to follow his example and eat. But more dramatically, Rav Yisrael turned his Beit Midrash into a makeshift hospital to care for those who are sick, and told his students to leave Yeshiva and help others.

We live in a time where Rabbi Israel's legacy seems more relevant every day.

The importance of compassion and the importance of building character are critical in these days of stressful isolation. We are looking for ways to teach ourselves and our children to develop the virtues of dedication, optimism,and courage. We need to bring back Rav Yisrael!