Friday, December 22, 2017

Parsha Vayigash, TV distraction, two stories

BDE Rabbi Aryeh Rothman founder of Mercas HaTorah passes away.

Rabbi Rothman learned under the Gaon Rabbi Chaim Kreisworth TzZal in Chicago. He later became the Rabbi of the Young Israel of North Miami Beach and then the Young Israel of Long Beach, LI, NY. I met him in late 1969 and found him after my Aliyah to Israel in 1970 where I spent Yom Kippur near his first apt in Israel. He founded Mercas HaTorah a few months prior to my arrival at the end of the first half of 1970. He remained spiritual Mashgiach of the boys until his passing. He helped me a lot in my early molding in Yiddishkeit and Shalom Beit. He was a big inspiration to me. His Mussar and advice for peace in the home has been my guide for years and I in turn have helped others. Unlike my firebrand of Torah, he was very mild in his ways. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I RECEIVED FROM THE RABBI WAS HAKARAS HATOV (thanking and acknowledging a favor) as well as Shalom Beis advice.

Parsha Vayigash

Paraphrasing a Drasha by Rabbi Ben Zion Yisraeli Shlita with some additions by me: Up until now in our story Yacov sends Yosef, the dreamer of dreams, to search for “peace” of his brothers. 13 And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them.' And he said to him: 'Here am I.' 14 And he said to him: 'Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me back word.' So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem. However, what transpired was not peace. Yosef is sold into slavery. Yosef proves himself wiser than anybody else in Egypt. Yosef becomes the Prime Minister of Mitzrayim and in charge of avoiding the famine.

22 years prior it was Yosef who was despised by all the other brothers so there was no Shalom. He wanted to protect Benyamin from them but it was also a test if there was now Shalom between the brothers. Yehuda has yet to make a Tikkun for his actions in selling Yosef and Reuven failed at leadership of his brethren. Reuven is now a Baal Mussar to them. It is at this point that Yehuda steps up and pleads that he be taken as a slave instead of Benyamin.

We can say that this comes from three things. The first is that Yehuda suggested selling Yosef and so it will be his Tikkun. The second is that Benyamin had nothing to do with the selling of Yosef and does not deserve to be punished. The third reason is that it literally might kill Yacov. With Shalom between the brothers and true love and sacrifice for Benyamin, Yosef can reveal himself and complete his mission given to him by Yacov 22 years prior.

44:18 Then Judah came near unto him, and said: 'Oh my lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against thy servant; for thou art even as Pharaoh.

Here today buried in a Pyramid thereafter as Rashi says. However, the Pshat is the you are a great and powerful person and we simple country bumpkins.

19 My lord asked his servants, saying: Have ye a father, or a brother? 20 And we said unto my lord: We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loves him.

Why did he say dead this time as previously he said not which could mean missing? Yehuda reasoned that he could not produce Yosef or explain to this great leader that Yosef was sold into slavery. If Yosef was dead for diplomatic reasons, this would save the reason to bring him.

21 And thou said unto thy servants: Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. 22 And we said unto my lord: The lad cannot leave his father; for if he should leave his father, his father would die. 23 And thou said unto thy servants: Except your youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see my face no more. 24 And it came to pass when we came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the words of my lord.

Again your servant, my father and Yosef says nothing.

25 And our father said: Go again, buy us a little food. 26 And we said: We cannot go down; if our youngest brother be with us, then will we go down; for we may not see the man's face, except our youngest brother be with us. 27 And thy servant my father said unto us: Ye know that my wife bore me two sons;

Again your servant my father with the narrative about Rachel his wife.

28 and the one went out from me, and I said: Surely he is torn in pieces; and I have not seen him since;

Even though the brothers tried to find Yosef when they came to Egypt, he could also have been sold further so Yehuda uses the story that they sold to Yosef.

29 and if ye this one also from me, and harm befall him, ye will bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. 30 Now therefore when I come to thy servant my father, and the lad is not with us; seeing that his soul is bound up with the lad's soul; 31 it will come to pass, when he sees that the lad is not with us, that he will die; and thy servants will bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave. 32 For thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying: If I bring him not unto thee, then shall I bear the blame to my father forever.

Yosef realizes that he is talking about his Olam HaBa.

33 Now therefore, let thy servant, I pray thee, abide instead of the lad a bondman to my lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. 34 For how shall I go up to my father, if the lad be not with me? Lest I look upon the evil that shall come on my father.'

Now the Tikkun of Yehuda is complete and Yosef can reveal himself. This also answers the question that if Yosef was Prime Minister for the past 9 years why didn’t he send a servant to advise Yacov.

45:1 Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried: 'Cause every man to go out from me.' And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.

They were shaking in their boots as they did not know what vengeance he might do to them! How did he reveal himself in full, he showed them with pride that he was circumcised.

2 And he wept aloud; and the Egyptians heard, and the house of Pharaoh heard. 3 And Joseph said unto his brethren: 'I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?' And his brethren could not answer him; for they were affrighted at his presence.

4 And Joseph said unto his brethren: 'Come near to me, I pray you.' And they came near. And he said: 'I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt. 5 And now be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither; for God did send me before you to preserve life. 6 For these two years hath the famine been in the land; and there are yet five years, in which there shall be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to give you a remnant on the earth, and to save you alive for a great deliverance. 8 So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God; and He hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. 9 Hasten ye, and go up to my father, and say unto him: Thus saith thy son Joseph: God hath made me lord of all Egypt; come down unto me, tarry not. 10 And thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children's children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast; 11 and there will I sustain thee; for there are yet five years of famine; lest thou come to poverty, thou, and thy household, and all that thou hast. 12 And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you. 13 And ye shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that ye have seen; and ye shall hasten and bring down my father hither.' 14 And he fell upon his brother Benjamin's neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck.

And he fell on his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept: for the two sanctuaries which were destined to be in Benjamin’s territory and would ultimately be destroyed. [From Meg. 16b] And Benjamin wept on his neck: for the Tabernacle of Shiloh, which was destined to be in Joseph’s territory yet would ultimately be destroyed. [From Meg. 16b, Gen. Rabbah 93:12]

The Pshat is that after not seeing each other for 22 years that they cried. Rabbi Mimran asked the question why would Yosef cry for the two Mikdashim and Benyamin cry for the Mishkan?

15 And he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them; and after that his brethren talked with him.

This goes with Pshat of the last Pasuk but not with the Rashi there.

And he kissed: He continued to kiss and afterwards: After they saw him weeping and that he was wholehearted with them. His brothers spoke with him: whereas previously they had felt shame before him. [From Tanchuma Vayigash 5]

And the brothers saw the result of: 37:19 And they said one to another: 'Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into one of the pits, and we will say: An evil beast hath devoured him; and we shall see what will become of his dreams.' First they saw the result upon their father and now upon Yosef of their actions.

16 And the report thereof was heard in Pharaoh's house, saying: 'Joseph's brethren are come'; and it pleased Pharaoh well, and his servants. 17 And Pharaoh said unto Joseph: 'Say unto thy brethren: This do ye: lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan; 18 and take your father and your households, and come unto me; and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

This Pharaoh saw the Bnei Yisrael as an asset to his Nation. They were intelligent and industrious in their work not like successor Pharaohs in Shemos.

19 Now thou art commanded, this do ye: take you wagons out of the land of Egypt for your little ones, and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. 20 Also regard not your stuff; for the good things of all the land of Egypt are yours.' 21 And the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons, according to the commandment of Pharaoh, and gave them provision for the way. 22 To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver, and five changes of raiment.

This was a test of their jealousy of the garment of many colors. Then they failed because of jealousy but this time they were happy even for Benyamin that Yosef his full brother was alive.

23 And to his father he sent in like manner ten asses laden with the good things of Egypt, and ten she-asses laden with corn and bread and victual for his father by the way. 24 So he sent his brethren away, and they departed; and he said unto them: 'See that ye fall not out by the way.'

This is my command aka Mitzvah to you and make haste to do it.

25 And they went up out of Egypt, and came into the land of Canaan unto Jacob their father. 26 And they told him, saying: 'Joseph is yet alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt.' And his heart fainted, for he believed them not.

Yosef was gone for 22 years without a word and now is back! Yacov cannot believe this for he had seen the bloody coat. But just as he deceived his father with goat gloves it was his Tikkun that his children would deceive him with goat blood to repair his deceiving his father.

27 And they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said unto them; and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived. 28 And Israel said: 'It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive; I will go and see him before I die.'

The Pshat is that when he saw Egyptian Wagons with the crest of Pharaoh and at that time perhaps gold and silver, that Yacov believed them. The Drasha is in the Rashi that Yosef was learning Egel Arufa with his father (the young bull that has his neck broken for finding a dead body near a town). Wagon is Agala in Hebrew so the play on words.  

46:1 And Israel took his journey with all that he had, and came to Beer-Sheba, and offered sacrifices unto the God of his father Isaac. 2 And God spoke unto Israel in the visions of the night, and said: 'Jacob, Jacob.' And he said: 'Here am I.' 3 And He said: 'I am God, the God of thy father; fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation. 4 I will go down with thee into Egypt; and I will also surely bring thee up again; and Joseph shall put his hand upon thine eyes.'

Where was Yacov’s prophecy all these years? The answer is that one should serve his CREATOR with joy. Since Yacov remained for 22 years depressed due to Yosef’s “death”, he could not get prophecy. I believe that it is given by HASHEM when needed and not like the non-Jews have it like Bilaam and recently Edgar Cayce. It is possible that the Lubavitcher got his via kosher Meditation.

5 And Jacob rose up from Beer-Sheba; and the sons of Israel carried Jacob their father, and their little ones, and their wives, in the wagons which Pharaoh had sent to carry him. 6 And they took their cattle, and their goods, which they had gotten in the land of Canaan, and came into Egypt, Jacob, and all his seed with him; 7 his sons, and his sons' sons with him, his daughters, and his sons' daughters, and all his seed brought he with him into Egypt. … 26 All the souls belonging to Jacob that came into Egypt, that came out of his loins, besides Jacob's sons' wives, all the souls were threescore and six. 27 And the sons of Joseph, who were born to him in Egypt, were two souls; all the souls of the house of Jacob, that came into Egypt, were threescore and ten. 28 And he sent Judah before him unto Joseph, to show the way before him unto Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen.

Yacov trusted only Yehuda with responsibility. Reuven was a poor leader, Shimon and Levi were paired in anger and the only one with a cool head and leadership quality was Yehuda.

29 And Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen; and he presented himself unto him, and fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while.

It is said that while he was tempted to sin with the wife of Potiphar for there is a “Shalsheles” in the Trop (a long note in the Torah reading) which was stopped by Yosef seeing in his mind “Yacov’s face” per the Medrash.

30 And Israel said unto Joseph: 'Now let me die, since I have seen thy face, that thou art yet alive.' 31 And Joseph said unto his brethren, and unto his father's house: 'I will go up, and tell Pharaoh, and will say unto him: My brethren, and my father's house, who were in the land of Canaan, are come unto me; 32 and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have. 33 And it shall come to pass, when Pharaoh shall call you, and shall say: What is your occupation? 34 that ye shall say: Thy servants have been keepers of cattle from our youth even until now, both we, and our fathers; that ye may dwell in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is an abomination unto the Egyptians.'

Since the Egyptians worshipped a sheep god, it was necessary to have the Bnei Yisrael and their animals kept far from view of the citizens.

47:1 Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said: 'My father and my brethren, and their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have, are come out of the land of Canaan; and, behold, they are in the land of Goshen.' 2 And from among his brethren he took five men, and presented them unto Pharaoh. 3 And Pharaoh said unto his brethren: 'What is your occupation?' And they said unto Pharaoh: 'Thy servants are shepherds, both we, and our fathers.' 4 And they said unto Pharaoh: 'To sojourn in the land are we come; for there is no pasture for thy servants' flocks; for the famine is sore in the land of Canaan. Now therefore, we pray thee, let thy servants dwell in the land of Goshen.' 5 And Pharaoh spoke unto Joseph, saying: 'Thy father and thy brethren are come unto thee; 6 the land of Egypt is before thee; in the best of the land make thy father and thy brethren to dwell; in the land of Goshen let them dwell. And if thou know any able men among them, then make them rulers over my cattle.'

It started with this Pharaoh with good pay and later on as a voluntary honor and finally conscription until they were enslaved. However, this Pharaoh is honorable with his intentions unlike his successors.

7 And Joseph brought in Jacob his father, and set him before Pharaoh. And Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 And Pharaoh said unto Jacob: 'How many are the days of the years of thy life?' 9 And Jacob said unto Pharaoh: 'The days of the years of my sojournings are a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojournings.'

If the leader of the free-world or even Kim in North Korea asked you how old you are would you tell him your aches and pains like Yacov did?

10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from the presence of Pharaoh. 11 And Joseph placed his father and his brethren, and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had commanded. 12 And Joseph sustained his father, and his brethren, and all his father's household, with bread, according to the want of their little ones.

Despite the evil done him and his years as a slave, he realized that his soul was repaired and did not give evil back but he is called Yosef HaTzaddik as he always acted righteously.

13 And there was no bread in all the land; for the famine was very sore, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished by reason of the famine. ... Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's bondmen.' 26 And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests alone became not Pharaoh's. 27 And Israel dwelt in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen; and they got them possessions therein, and were fruitful, and multiplied exceedingly.

A little Mussar upon myself regarding children and TV vs. the Torah attitude

You know from my writings that I grew up as a completely assimilated Jew. So if one was to give me a quiz on the Mishnah or Talmud I would look at them like somebody from out of space. But if one would ask me to fill in the sentence: “Slowly I walked step by step …” I could tell you what the man gave to his fellow in which city and which State. I could tell them what show the “Peanut Galley” was on and the characters. My younger brother used to watch “Captain …” with Mr. Green Jeans. Or even what the Merry Mailman sang or who was born on a Mt. top in TN. What a waste land.

As you know I am raising a 12.5 year old who can quote Mishnayos by heart and must of the Torah. But I watch his mind picking up his trivial like quotes from “Harry Potter”, “Back to the Future” and two TV series in Hebrew.

This week, he was asked to make a Drasha for his friend’s Bar Mitzvah. He originally wrote down 4 written pages and my wife told him to trim it down. He then took a few hand written notes and spoke for 8 or 9 minutes of Dvar Torah. It is a sad thing to see that his potential to be a Torah Giant is being trampled upon by nonsense. Rav Ovadia Yosef Zal and the Gaon from Vilna Zal did not have these distractions and grew strong in Torah because that was the only thing they had.

So I have limited the internet to school holidays and his too smart for his own good phone to Friday Afternoon. I cannot fight against what my father called “The idiot’s lantern” others called it “Idiot’s box” just reduce as much as possible the poison because I don’t need enemies in my house. With the exception of news or in the gym the business channel, ( In Israel National Geographic or History Channel sometimes) I don’t watch it.

Was Alexander Hamilton Jewish? By Dr. Yvette Alt Miller

An interview with Prof. Andrew Porwancher, a history professor at Oklahoma University, who thinks the founding father was, in fact, a Jew.

According to generations of biographers, Alexander Hamilton, the Revolutionary War hero, first US Secretary of the Treasury, and co-author of The Federalist Papers, was a Christian. Now, University of Oklahoma Professor Andrew Porwancher is questioning that assessment. He explained his fascinating research in an exclusive interview.
According to Prof. Porwancher, several elements of Hamilton’s early life seem to indicate a Jewish connection.
Hamilton was born in 1755 (there is some disagreement about the exact year) in the Caribbean island of St. Croix, then a Danish possession. Hamilton’s mother was named Rachel Faucette, and in 1745 she married a Danish trader named Johann Michael Lavien. (Lavien wasn’t Alexander Hamilton’s father. Rachel and Michael Lavien had a deeply unhappy marriage and soon separated; Rachel later lived with a Scottish nobleman, who was Hamilton’s father.)
It’s possible that the Laviens were Jewish. Lavien is a variant spelling of Levine, the Jewish surname derived from the priestly tribe of Levi in Biblical times. “The name Lavien can be a Sephardic variant of Levine” notes Ron Chernow, in his biography Alexander Hamilton, on which the hit musical Hamilton was based. But Chernow notes that “if he was Jewish he managed to conceal his origins. Had (Michael Lavien) presented himself as a Jew,” he wouldn’t have been accepted into St. Croix society.
For generations, Hamilton scholars seem to have dismissed the idea that Michael Lavien and possibly his bride Rachel were Jews. Prof. Porwancher learned Danish in order to read the original St. Croix documents relating to Hamilton’s family for himself. This was no easy task; time and hurricanes, as well as insects, have degraded many official papers through the years. Tracking down other documents required research in a number of other languages too, including Dutch, Portuguese and Hebrew.
Several points began to convince Prof. Porwancher to re-think conventional wisdom that Hamilton could not possibly have been a Jew. Many historians base their assertion that Michael Lavien wasn’t Jewish on the fact that official documents don’t identify him as such. Yet Prof. Porwancher found that no other Jews living in St. Croix at the time were identified by their religion in official documents either. It’s entirely possible that Lavien was Jewish and this fact was not officially noted.
Moreover, marriage between Christians and Jews was forbidden in St. Croix in 1745, when Hamilton’s mother married Lavien. (It was only in 1798, Prof. Porwancher found, that Denmark’s King authorized the first marriage between a Christian and a Jew.) It seems that if Hamilton’s mother Rachel did indeed marry a Jew, it might have been the law in St. Croix at the time that she first convert to Judaism.
When Hamilton was a child, he, his parents and his brother moved to the nearby island of Nevis. There, incredibly, Hamilton attended a Jewish school. “The Caribbean was the center of the Jewish world in the Western Hemisphere” at the time, Prof. Porwancher explains, and Nevis was then 25% Jewish. In Nevis, Prof. Porwancher even retraced the route Hamilton would have taken from his mother’s house to his Jewish school, wending his way through what once was the island’s Jewish quarter; the trip took a mere six minutes.
Alexander Hamilton’s son wrote that his father looked back on his years in Jewish school with pleasure: “Rarely as he alluded to his personal history, he mentioned with a smile his having been taught to repeat the Decalogue (10 Commandments) in Hebrew, at the school of a Jewess.”
Historians have long dismissed this evidence of a possible Jewish connection for Hamilton by noting that his illegitimate birth would have made it impossible for Alexander Hamilton to be baptized, and therefore barred him from attending a Christian school. Jewish school would have been Hamilton’s only option, they say. Yet here too Prof. Porwancher has found documents that question this entrenched belief. Perusing Nevis parish records, Prof. Porwancher found many examples of children born out of wedlock who were baptized at the time. He also found that Rachel Lavien, who died in 1768, was not buried in a Christian cemetery.
“My mother has a saying when something doesn’t quite add up,” Prof. Porwancher chuckles, “that dog don’t hunt.” As he researched Alexander Hamilton, Prof. Porwancher found himself thinking of that saying. “If, as generations of historians would have it, Hamilton was not Jewish, he’d be the only person whose mother was named Rachel Levine (a variant spelling), who went to Hebrew school, and who wasn’t Jewish.” The more Prof. Porwancher read, the more he felt “to my mind, the weight of evidence pointed to a strong Jewish connection.”
When Hamilton moved to the United States, his connections with the new country’s tiny Jewish population only deepened. As a lawyer in New York, Hamilton took on a large number of Jewish clients, the only founding father to do so.
In fact, one of the most important cases of his career saw Hamilton defending a French Jewish merchant, Louis Le Guen, in a New York court in 1800. As the case progressed, Louis Le Guen’s opponent’s lawyers resorted to crude anti-Semitism, accusing the Jewish merchant of age-old anti-Jewish stereotypes of being dishonest and lying under oath. Hamilton not only defended his client, he issued an eloquent defense of Jews in general: “Why distrust the evidence of the Jews?” Hamilton passionately told the court. Jews “once were...under the immediate government of God himself, and they were selected as the witnesses of His miracles and charged with the spirit of prophecy”. Hamilton won that case, in what was at the time the largest award in American history.
Hamilton also had personal and professional ties to Jews. His children also had Jewish friends, which Prof. Porwancher notes “might be the best test of how accepting one is of Jews.” And Hamilton worked tirelessly to eradicate anti-Semitism in public spaces.
Hamilton graduated from King’s College in New York, which was renamed Columbia after the Revolution. In 1781, Hamilton worked with his friend John Jay to rewrite the university’s charter. One unique change the pair made was eliminating the requirement that the school’s president be Christian. This was a highly unusual step at the time: other Colonial-era schools such as Brown and Rutgers maintained that their presidents had to be Christian well into the 20th Century.
Six months after amending Columbia’s charter, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay, along with James Madison, embarked on another project: writing The Federalist Papers, setting forth their visions for the United States Government. Less well-known in modern times is the name of another collaborator who worked with Hamilton to rewrite Columbia’s charter: Gershom Seixas.
Seixas was the chazan (cantor) at the New York synagogue Sheareth Israel, and the first Jew to sit on the board of an institution of higher learning in the United States. (In fact, at Columbia, there wouldn’t be another Jew on the board until Benjamin Cardozo, the US Supreme Court Justice and descendant of Gershom Seixas, joined.) Hamilton and Seixas served on Columbia’s board together for over two decades, and Seixas became one of the most prominent Jewish supporters of Hamilton’s federalist cause.
Later, when George Washington penned his famous “Letter to the Jews of Newport”, promising American Jews that “the Government of the United States gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” and memorably promises “everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid”, Hamilton seems to have had some role in helping Washington draft the letter. It was delivered to Moses Seixas, the brother of Hamilton’s old friend Gershom Seixas in New York.
Thanks to Hamilton’s guidance, the new US Federal Government, unlike most of the state governments at the time, staunchly opposed anti-Semitism and banned religious tests for political leaders. The early years of the US saw a resurgence of anti-Semitism in much of America, and the new nations Jews were increasingly drawn to Hamilton’s and the other Federalists’ vision of a strong central government. In the case of Hamilton, this support seemed to go both ways, with Hamilton taking extraordinary steps to make sure Jews felt welcome in the new United States.
In one notable case, that meant rescheduling a major political event. When the new US Constitution was being ratified by the states in 1788, Hamilton led the movement to promote ratification in New York. This was the total of his life’s work, and he threw everything he had into the cause. In July of that year, Hamilton and others arranged a parade to promote the constitution. Through his Jewish contacts, the parade organizers found that the parade conflicted with a Jewish fast day: the 17th of Tammuz. Even though Jews were less than 1% of the New York population at the time, the parade was rescheduled for the following day.
For Prof. Porwancher, these extensive ties with Jews set Hamilton apart from the other founding fathers. Although Hamilton married a pious Christian woman, Prof. Porwancher, notes, he never joined a church or took communion. And many of the religious Christian sayings attributed to Hamilton are not found anywhere in Hamilton’s writings. “Hamilton is the only founding father to attend Hebrew school, and he was the most enmeshed in the Jewish community of any founder,” Prof. Porwancher observes.
Prof. Andrew Porwancher’s book The Jewish Founding Father: Alexander Hamilton’s Hidden Life is being published by Harvard University Press in 2019.

Rabbi Shteinman, Humble Giant by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Serving God and the Jewish people for 104 full years.

December 12, 2017 – Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman, the leader of Torah Jewry, passed away today at the age of 104. An estimated 600,000 people attended the funeral, held on short notice.
Visiting the small apartment on Chazon Ish Street in Bnei Brak, Israel, one could be excused from failing to identify this as the home of a global leader. Stucco-cement, simple plastered walls, unfinished wood cabinets – and rows of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves filled with Torah commentaries.
Yet here, in an office that doubled as his bedroom, Rabbi Shteinman received visitors from every stream of Jewish life – educators seeking guidance on curriculum; politicians formulating key legislation; schoolchildren tested on their studies.
The door to his home was always open. No problem was too trivial for him, and people came from around the world to line up outside his door – sometimes waiting hours – to speak with him. Legend has former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak jumping through the window to bypass the crowds.
Rabbi Shteinman authored 15 volumes of commentaries on the Talmud, plus a series on the Five Books of Moses, all under the title Ayelet Hashachar. He was a highly-sought expert on education, and author of Leading with Love: Guidance for Our Generation.
Sage Advice
Rabbi Shteinman was born in 1913 near the Polish-Lithuanian border. Just prior to World War Two and faced with forced induction into the Polish Army, he fled to Switzerland. He eventually landed in a refugee labor camp, and was the only member of his family to survive the war; both his parents, and all five brothers, were killed during the Holocaust.
He arrived in Israel in the early 1950s, and for six decades slept on the original plank-board and thin mattress issued by the Jewish Agency. For the next six decades, he led various Torah institutions, including Gaon Yaakov, the yeshiva he founded in Bnei Brak.
Following the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in 2012, Rabbi Shteinman assumed the title of Gadol Hador, widely acknowledged as the final word in Torah Jewry. In this role he influenced hundreds of thousands of Jews through teaching, direct counsel, and public policy.
Rabbi Shteinman had a vastly broad perspective that comes from living across multiple generations and traveling the world. But his most important asset was having plumbed the depths of millennia of Jewish wisdom – which he then extracted expert on everything from education to parenting, diplomacy to spirituality.
A few years ago, when I was publicizing the dangers of nuclear Iran, I consulted with Rabbi Shteinman. While supporting my efforts, he cautioned on one point: "Avoid direct personal attacks on Iranian leaders," he said. "There is some evidence in our history – whether the biblical Esav, or the early days of Hitler – that one must be careful not to agitate a personal confrontation."
I left the meeting in stunned silence. Here was a frail old man, sitting on a hard bench, and illuminating a sensitive diplomatic issue – referencing not only the Torah-based paradigm for dealing with foreign enemies, but also evidence in his lifetime that certain anti-Nazi protests may have been used to "justify" actions against the Jews.
When my youngest son was born, Rabbi Shteinman graciously agreed to be Sandek, holding the baby for the circumcision covenant.
Torah Leadership
In contrast to the Western style of choosing leaders – often a self-aggrandizing popularity contest between egocentrics – Rabbi Shteinman was chosen with no elections, campaigning, or brash publicity antics. He became leader based on his deep humility, compassion, respect for God, and commitment to serve – with no thought to personal compensation or glorification. He served with no salary, no palatial office, no private jet, and no term of office – maintaining his position solely on the people's trust.
When it came to Torah study, Rabbi Shteinman was a purist. He defined "yeshiva" as not simply a place for high-level Torah study, but as a safe haven free of forces antithetical to Torah. Particularly in the digital age, where negative influence is impervious to physical barriers, he believed that the best protection is unswerving commitment to Torah values.
Rabbi Shteinman was known as a moderate. He provided an opening for some to serve in Nachal Charedi units of the Israeli army. For this, Rabbi Shteinman took some heat, and for years courageously stood up to criticism. Rabbi Shteinman instituted a policy of "no child left behind," starting schools for less-talented children, children of immigrants, and others at risk. And he increased Torah influence in Israel by approving the inclusion of a charedi minister in Israel's cabinet.
Rabbi Shteinman was a role model for anyone trying to steer clear of the many trappings and pitfalls of a modern lifestyle. When Israeli Ambassador to Japan, Nissim Ben Shitrit, visited Rabbi Shteinman's small and humble apartment, he astonishingly remarked: "I've never seen anything like it."
On weekdays, his entire daily food intake was one cucumber, one boiled potato, and few spoons of oatmeal. Rabbi Shteinman had trained his body to desire food only for pure motives – to keep his body healthy – without a drop of hedonism. On Shabbat, he ate different foods in honor of the holy day. When he was offered delicacies as a guest, he obliged by eating half a grape.
Rabbi Shteinman typically sat on a wooden bench with no back. He used various techniques to stay awake for long hours and study. Over the years, many people offered to upgrade his accommodations, but Rabbi Shteinman always refused, insisting that he has precisely what he needs and no more.
In 2005, Rabbi Shteinman announced he was travelling the world to strengthen those Jewish communities geographically removed from the great Torah centers. He did so out of a great sense of responsibility, in keeping with the important Jewish tradition of leaders "travelling from place to place" (Midrash – Eliyahu Rabba 11). Though his students and doctor tried to dissuade this arduous trek, Rabbi Shteinman replied: "It is not up to the doctor. It’s up to God, and if He wants it, nothing is too difficult.”
Rabbi Shteinman's iron will prevailed over his frail body, and these trips continued – to Mexico City, Los Angeles, Montreal, Buenos Aires, Berlin – until his 100th birthday.
On these travels, the frail Rabbi Shteinman would sometimes visit 4 cities and deliver 10 speeches – in one day! Once, after collapsing from exhaustion, and in the face of doctors' orders to cancel the rest of his trip, Rabbi Shteinman declared: "As long as God allows me, I will continue what I came to do."
In Lakewood, New Jersey, 15,000 people came to greet Rabbi Shteinman. When he visited Gibraltar – a Jewish community that numbers just 600 – 700 people showed up to see the rabbi. The community declared a holiday and all Jewish businesses closed down. If a Torah scroll is welcomed with great fanfare, they reasoned, all the more should we honor a living Torah.
During his trip to Ukraine, the streets surrounding the synagogue were filled with hundreds of people at 4:30 a.m, hurrying to join Rabbi Shteinman's sunrise service. The rabbi's ability to generate such enthusiasm in a community that not long ago had trouble putting together a minyan.
In preparing for his first foreign excursion, Rabbi Shteinman had to choose between two candidates to accompany him. He asked each to describe their motivation for travelling abroad. One said he wanted to witness huge crowds honoring Rabbi Shteinman and the Torah. The other candidate said his main motivation was sight-seeing. Rabbi Shteinman chose the second person – though his motivation was less "lofty" – Rabbi Shteinman felt he was being more honest.

On a visit to the United States, Rabbi Shteinman was asked why America, alone among the great historical powers, had been largely spared foreign invasion. He ascribed it to an ethos of kindness and compassion (Malchut Shel Chesed) which, he added, is America's best shield moving forward.

With his inspiring global travels, Rabbi Shteinman fulfilled the words of Rabbeinu Yona (Sha'arey Teshuva 3:147) describing the effect of greeting Torah leaders: "Sleeping hearts will reawaken when they see the splendor of honoring Torah and recognize its grandeur. This will cause a great thirst for Torah, and desire to serve God wholeheartedly."
Indeed, the people of one community formed a group to undertake communal projects which had been previously rejected as too difficult or time-consuming, "If Rabbi Shteinman can do it, so can we," they said
Living on a Miracle
Not long ago, a young doctor said to Rabbi Shteinman: "You're living on a miracle." Nonplussed, the rabbi replied: "You are also living on a miracle."
This is how Rabbi Shteinman lived: with clarity that the future of the Jewish people is predicated on Torah, and with complete trust in God. During a wave of rocket attacks from Gaza in 2012, he said: "There are dangerous threats every moment, and if God would not protect us, there would be complete chaos... God wants our prayers, so He tries to shake us up however He can, so that people will start to pray."
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that Rabbi Shteinman "bore the entire weight of the Jewish people’s existence on his shoulders... Despite his firm positions, he knew how to convey his ideas gently, in a pleasant manner, and with a great love of the Jewish people... He was a man whose wisdom was exceeded only by his humility."
Rabbi Shteinman inspired an entire nation that we are truly a "nation of priests and a holy nation. It is now our obligation, to honor Rabbi Shteinman's memory, by living up to those responsibilities.

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SAFETY FIRST: Always put the candles in an area with a metal base such as aluminum foil or metal tray or marble beneath and flammable material far enough away that it will not catch fire. Oil Candles are dangerous and less so wax ones. While the oil is preferred and if prepared correctly, no sparks will fly, the prime standard is safety and perhaps even a bucket of water on hand in a wooden house or with a wooden floor or wood paneling.

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Have a wonderful and peaceful Shabbos,

Rachamim Pauli