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1-on-1 Study Sessions

October 31, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

Bet Midrash One-on-One Learning for Men & Women 1-on-1-chavrusa

Have you been paired yet?

You choose the topic.
We make the connection.

Partner up with a Chavrusa/learning partner and prepare to dive into the sea of Torah learning. Knowledgeable and personable young men and women will be on hand to study one-on-one with participants.

The program will allow you to create your own course of study. Whether it’s the Talmud you crave, Chassidic thought, Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, history, contemporary issues, Hebrew and Yiddish language or any of the hot button topics of the day, it’s your choice!

Thursday evenings, 8:00-9:00pm Oct – June 2008/9

Please contact our project coordinator, Zalman, at IChavrusa@gmail.com or 347.406.1155 to discuss your options and begin your journey today.

The Bet Midrash sessions are held at Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights synagogue, located at 603 St Johns Pl bet Classon/Franklin Ave. (Subway: 3/4 to Franklin Ave)

Light refreshments served. Open to the public. No registration fee. Sponsors welcome

Remembering Mumbai Shabbaton/Dinner Friday Nov. 13

October 31, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

A Monthly Taste of Paradise in Brooklyn gabi & rivka

Join us for an evening of singing, discussion and introspection to honor the heroic lives of those tragically lost one year ago in the terror attacks in Mumbai, India. By adding light we dispel darkness.

As our community continues to grow, we want to introduce all the wonderful people, neighbors and friends to each other creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere, where people can meet, mingle, pray and sing and share Torah thoughts. Shabbatons/Dinner are held at Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights 603 St Johns pl.

To RSVP, please email info@BrooklynYid.com or call 347.787.0864 Vegan menu available upon request. The Friday night dinner and special program, is by reservation with a suggested donation of $18 mailed to: Chabad Prospect Heights, 340 Sterling Pl. Suite 1A Brooklyn, NY 11238

Friday Nov. 13th Program Notes
5:30pm Joyous and uplifting Kabbalat Shabbat service
6:15pm Delicious catered Shabbat dinner with Parsha discussion led by Rabbi Ari
Special guest and featured speaker during dinner TBA

Do Jews Celebrate Halloween?

October 31, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays


Do Jews celebrate Halloween? I know its origins aren’t very “Jewish,” but I’m worried that my kids will feel left out if they can’t go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood.


Let me tell you about a wonderful Jewish holiday: once a year, our children dress up as sages, princesses, heroes and clowns. They drop by the homes of our community, visit the infirm and the aged, spreading joy and laughter. They bring gifts of food and drink and collect tzedakah (charity) for the needy.

You guessed it–it’s called Purim, when it’s customary to send mishloach manot–gifts of food–to one’s friends and even more gifts to those in hard times.

Flip it over (October instead of March, demanding instead of giving, scaring instead of rejoicing, demons instead of sages, etc.) and you have Halloween. There you have it: a choice of one of two messages you can give to your children. I call that a choice, because one of the beautiful things about kids is that, unlike adults, they don’t do too well receiving two conflicting messages at once.

I know how hard it is to be different, but as Jews, we have been doing just that for most of our 3,800 years. Since Abraham and Sarah broke away from the Sumerian cult of gods and demons, we have lived amongst other peoples while being very different from them. And we dramatically changed the world by being that way.

That’s a proud and nurturing role for any child: To be a leader and not a follower, to be a model of what should be rather than of what is.

Make your kids feel that they are the vanguard. They belong to a people who have been entrusted with the mission to be a light to the nations–not an ominous light inside a pumpkin, but a light that stands out and above and shows everyone where to go. Forget about Halloween and wait for Purim to turn the neighborhood upside down!

Spiritual Farmers. Soul Pruning and Plowing

October 31, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

by Yosef Y. Jacobson

The Pretzels

An old Jewish lady sold pretzels on a street corner for 25 cents each. Every day a young well-dressed man would leave his office building at lunch time, and as he passed the pretzel stand, he would leave her a quarter, but he never took a pretzel.
This went on for more than seven years. The two of them never spoke. One day, as the young man passed the old lady’s stand and left his quarter as usual, the pretzel lady spoke to him.
“Sir, I appreciate your business. You are a very good customer, but I have to tell you that the pretzel price has gone up to 35 cents.”
The Farmers
The Midrash on this week’s Torah portion Lech Lecha relates a fascinating episode (1):
When Abraham traveled through various cities of Mesopotamia, he observed the people engaging in excessive eating, drinking and frivolousness. He said, “I do not want to have a part in this land.”
When Abraham arrived at the mountains surrounding the north of the Land of Israel (2) he saw the inhabitants engaged in “pruning during the season of pruning” and “plowing during the season of plowing.” Abraham declared, “I wish I could have a lot in this land.”
So G-d told Abraham: “To your offspring I will give this land (3).”
Upon reflecting on this Midrashic tale, four questions come to mind.
First, what was it about the agricultural labor in the Land of Canaan that inspired Abraham to “fall in love” (so to speak) with the country (4)?
Second, the fact that G-d promises this land to Abraham for all of his children, as the eternal homeland for the Jewish nation indicates that the agricultural nature of the country’s inhabitants somehow captured the legacy of Judaism (5). But what is the unique connection between Judaism and farming?
Third, why, given the multitude of labors associated with agronomy and farming, Abraham was impressed by the two particular labors of pruning and plowing.
Finally, the order in the Midrash seems amiss. The work of plowing – cutting and turning up the soil in order to make it fertile for production – must precede the work of pruning, which consists of removing weeds and harmful vegetation from the midst of the beneficial produce and takes place only after the plowing season. Yet the Midrash tells us that Abraham observed first the season of pruning and only afterward the labor of plowing (4).
Thou Shall Prune
The essence of the Jewish experience consists of two phases: pruning and plowing.
Every human being is a garden, containing within his (or her) psyche both weeds and roses. Man is a duality of heavenly grandeur and earthly beastliness, a vision of G-d and a mountain of dust, a ray of infinity and pompous aridity. Each of us operates on two levels of consciousness: a self-centered consciousness that makes us prone to narcissistic and immoral behavior, and a transcendental, divine consciousness which is the source of our ethical and spiritual yearnings and convictions.
Our mission in life consists of pruning, of removing the weeds from the roses. We must ensure that the mountain of dust does not eclipse the vision of G-d. Each day of our lives we are called upon to battle the forces of aridity and darkness in our psyche and to cultivate the plants of light and G-dliness within our heart.
Life is a daily battle for transcendence. On our own, we are a complex mixture of good and negative forces competing within us. Our choice and calling is to prune, to consistently cultivate the noble and pure dimensions in our psychological “garden,” to reign in the beast and reveal the Divine.
Thou Shall Plow
This work impressed Abraham deeply. But this was not all. He was even more moved by a philosophy and a lifestyle in which the season of “plowing” followed the season of “pruning.”
Many of us have engaged at some point in our lives in a battle against the noxious and poisonous “plants” in our psyche. Many of us have fought battles for our souls, integrity and happiness. With sweat and toil we pruned the weeds and – at least to some extent — our roses emerged.
Yet at some stage during the struggle we put down the tools in order to relax. At some point in our growing up, most of us make peace with the status quo; we become complacent with our garden, satisfied with our moral and spiritual condition. Once in a while we may look in the mirror and know that we can do better, but we learn to survive and even be happy with our destination.
Moral and spiritual complacency, though tempting and easy, is an invitation to the abyss because of two reasons. First, life is a cliff. If you are not ascending upward, you are falling downward. The forces of selfishness and darkness never leave you completely, and if you drop your guard, failing to fight them each and every day of your life, they may overtake you (6).
What is more, truth is infinite. The moment we become spiritually fixed in a particular mode and smug with our condition, we have lost touch with truth and with G-d. A relationship with G-d must include a steady yearning; an ongoing search. What was wholesome yesterday is broken today.
Abraham was transfixed by the vision of a human being who, following a successful season of pruning, returns to the plow to commence his spiritual process all over again, as though he never began (7).
1) Midrash Rabah Genesis 39:8.
2) The words used by the Midrash are “Sulamah Shel Tzur.” The English translation is based on Rashi to Talmud Eruvin p. 22a-b. Cf. Matnus Kehunah to Midrash ibid.
3) Genesis 12:7.
4) This question is raised in Maor V’shemesh to Parshas Lech Lecha.
5) The kinship between Judaism and the world of agriculture is also emphasized in that the three major Jewish holidays — Passover, Shavuous and Sukkos — were originally instituted in the Torah in relation to three seasons of farming: the time of ripening, harvesting and assembling.
6) See Tanya chapter 13.
7) This essay is based on the writings of the Chassidic Masters (Maor V’shemesh Parshas Lech Lecha).
My gratitude to Shmuel Levin, a writer and editor in Pittsburgh, for his editorial assistance.


October 15, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

Why do we care?

Why does it disturb us when tens of thousands of people are killed by an earthquake in Turkey? Why are we outraged when a crazed gunman mows down a flock of children in a schoolyard? Why are we pained by the sight of a homeless man dying a slow death in a doorway?

There seems to be something that we all — male and female, rich and poor, religious and secular, hippie and yuppie — agree on: that human life has value. That we not only exist, but also should exist. And that anyone who thinks otherwise is evil, crazy or both (remember the “crazed gunman”?).

But why? If our existence is an accident, something that just happened to have happened, why should it make any meaningful difference if we are or are not? Why, indeed, is the word “meaningful” in our vocabulary? If there is no purpose to our existence, why is “suicidal depression” an illness?

Atheists, too, believe in G-d — they just call Him something else. They believe that human life is purposeful — that there is something beyond our existence which our existence serves. Rationally, a person may reject this truth, but his every instinct affirms it. And when it doesn’t, the race will unanimously label him “not normal.”

Take a look at today’s headlines: “Heroic 30-Hour Effort by Surgeon to Save Mom’s Life”; “Tragedy on Mountainface: Mudslide Buries Four”; “Outlook Good for Burn Victim.” These are news items, supposedly devoid of any moral or religious value judgements. So why do they presume that their readers will agree that the doctor’s efforts are heroic, the mudslide tragic, and the possibility that the burn victim will survive “good”?

Why do we care? Because in the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth.

Sukkot Insight: The Temporary Dwelling

October 1, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

Are you a homeowner? If you are, you probably yearn for the open road. Imagine, a life without mortgage payments, plumbing, lawnmowers, snowblowers, meter readings or alarm systems! Who coined the term “homeowner” anyway”? “Homeowned” sounds more like it.

If you’re a tramp, you probably yearn for a home. For a spot of permanence on this spinning globe, for a cube of space that holds the capriciousness of the world at bay. The joys of the open road? Maybe in an adventure novel read in an easy chair by the fireside.

So what are we? Nomad or couch potato? Are we transient beings for whom movement is life and “at rest” an inscription for the gravestone? Or are we rooted souls, for whom the “journeys” of life are just so many guises of the singular quest for home?

How [does one fulfill] the mitzvah of dwelling in the sukkah? One should eat, drink, and live in the sukkah, both day and night, as one lives in one’s house on the other days of the year: for seven days a person should make his home his temporary dwelling, and his sukkah his permanent dwelling (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 639:1).

Perhaps the most interesting model of the dweller/journeyer duality in our nature is the sukkah, the branch-covered hut that serves as the home of the Jew for the seven days of the Sukkot festival.

The halachic (Torah law) definition of the sukkah is that it is a dirat ar’ai, a “temporary dwelling”. If the words “temporary” and “dwelling” sound contradictory, they are; indeed, they give rise to contradictory laws regarding the construction and habitation of the sukkah. For example, if the branches of the sukkah’s roof-covering are piled on so thick that the rain cannot penetrate, the sukkah is disqualified — it’s a house, not a sukkah. On the other hand, if it’s raining in the sukkah, you’re not obligated to eat in it — the sukkah is your home, and if it were raining into your home, you’d move to another room. Also: If the walls are taller than 20 cubits (about 30 feet) it’s not a sukkah — not a “temporary” structure; but if they’re too flimsy to withstand an average wind, it’s also disqualified — not a “dwelling”.

In other words, the Torah wants us to take an essentially transient structure and make it our permanent home. Or else it wants us to look at our permanent home and understand that it is, essentially, a transient structure.

Chassidim have an interesting habit. When asked to explain something, they offer a story. And then they tell another story, making the opposite point.

Two stories, then. The first story takes us back some 50 years. A young yeshivah student was about to embark on a trip and wrote to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for a blessing. In his reply, the Rebbe urged the young man to utilize the opportunity to accomplish something positive in every place he would stop during his trip. The Rebbe used the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that accompanied the people of Israel in the travels through the desert, as an example. At their every encampment, the people were instructed to set up the formidable structure — which consisted of hundreds of parts and required an army of more than 8,000 people to assemble — even if they were staying just a single night. For a Jew, concluded the Rebbe, there’s no such thing as merely “passing through” a place. Every moment in life has permanence, by virtue of the fact that Divine Providence has guided us to this particular point in time and space for a specific purpose.

The second story is told of the visitor who, stopping by the home of the great Chassidic master Rabbi DovBer of Mezheritch (d. 1772), was outraged by the poverty he encountered there. Rabbi DovBer’s home was bare of all furnishing, save for an assortment of rough wooden planks and blocks that served as benches for his students during the day and as beds for his family at night. “How can you live like this?” demanded the visitor. “I myself am far from wealthy, but at least in my home you will find, thank G-d, the basic necessities: some chairs, a table, beds…”

“Indeed?” said Rabbi DovBer. “But I don’t see any of your furnishings. How do you manage without them?”

“What do you mean? Do you think that I schlep all my possessions along with me wherever I go? When I travel, I make do with what’s available. But at home — a person’s home is a different matter altogether!”

“Ah, yes,” said Rabbi DovBer. “At home, it is a different matter altogether…”

Sukkot Insight: It Takes All Kinds

October 1, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

“It takes all kinds.” That, essentially is the message of the mitzvah of the “Four Kinds” — the etrog (citron), lulav (palm frond), hadas (myrtle) and aravah (willow) — over which we recite a blessing on the festival of Sukkot. In the words of the Midrash:

The etrog has both a taste and an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have both Torah learning and good deeds…. The date (the fruit of the lulav) has a taste but does not have an aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have Torah but do not have good deeds…. The hadas has an aroma but not a taste; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who have good deeds but do not have Torah…. The aravah has no taste and no aroma; so, too, do the people of Israel include individuals who do not have Torah and do not have good deeds…. Says G-d: “Let them all bond together in one bundle and atone for each other.”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe points out that the Midrash is not just saying that “all are part of the Jewish people” or “all are precious in the eyes of G-d” or even that “all are necessary”; it says that they “all atone for each other.” This implies that each of the Four Kinds possesses something that the other three do not, and thus “atones” and compensates for that quality’s absence in the other three.

In other words, it’s not just that it takes all kinds to make a people — it also takes all kinds to make a person. And Sukkot is the time when we bond with each other so that the other’s qualities should rub off on ourselves.

The etrog says: “I am perfect. I balance learning and doing in flawless equilibrium. In my life, knowledge and action do not overwhelm or displace one the other, but rather fulfill and complement each other.” This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while. We all need to know that we possess the potential for such harmonious perfection, and that we each have those moments in our lives when we attain it.

The lulav says: “I am utterly devoted to the pursuit of wisdom, awareness and self-knowledge. Doing is also important, but my first priority is to know G-d and (thereby) my truest self, even if this means withdrawing from involvement with the world.” This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while. We all need to know that there is the potential for such consummate knowledge in us, and that we each have those moments in our lives when we attain it.

The hadas says: “What our world needs is action. Knowledge of G-d and self-awareness are worthy goals, but I have a job to do. I need to build a better world — enlightenment may have to wait.” This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while. We all need to know that our mission in life is to “make the physical world a home for G-d”, and that there are times when the need for action takes precedence over everything else.

The aravah says: “I have nothing. I am nothing.” This is something we all need to say, at least once in a while.

Sukkot & Simchat Torah Schedule & Community Event

October 1, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Chabad  Prospect Heights and the Kirschenbaum’s  Invite you to our annual community Sukkot celebration. Experience Sukkot in an informal and inviting environment.

*Festive Sushi buffet *Shake the Lulov & Etrog *Live Music –bring your instrument- *Schmoozing *Shared Sukkot Torah thoughts & *L’chaim’s all around!

Suggested but not mandatory RSVP so we can plan accordingly. 347.787.0864 Info@brooklynYid.com —Invite a friend!

Wednesday, October 7th 7:30pm. The Kirschebaum residence 765 St Johns Pl. off Rogers Ave. Sukkah Entrance under stoop. Subway 2,3,4,5 to Franklin Ave. No Cover. All are welcome

Sponsored in part by Alex Novak in memoriam of his mother Leah bas Harav Alexander Ziskind and Menucha Novak A”H who’s Yartzeit is Shmini Atzeret. Thank you.

Sponsors welcome and appreciated $360

Simchat Torah – Dance with the Torah Celebration

Sing, drink and dance the night away in celebration of the Torah. The festive time of Simchat Torah is spent in joyous celebration as we honor our eternal heritage.

Plenty of  L’chaim. Funky flags for all children, Commit to a new mitzvah. Say some more L’chaim. Dance with the Torah. I look forward to seeing you and celebrating together. Please bring your kids with a special children’s Hakffah (dance). For more information please reply to this email or call 347.787.0864

It’s been said that if one is a “two day a year Jew” those two days should be Simchat Torah and Purim.

For these days are days that capture the Joy of Judaism. We at Chabad Prospect Heights Jewish Center would like to invite you to join us for unbridled joy as we close out the High Holiday Season!

Yizkor Memorial Service. We remember our loved ones during our seasons of celebration. Saturday, October 12:30pm, Followed by a Kiddush buffet.


Services will be held at Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights
603 St Johns Pl. | (Between Classon/Franklin Ave)

Please call 347.787.0864 for meal reservations in the Sukkah


Friday, October 2nd Light Candles 6:18 pm
Evening Service 7:00 pm
Shabbat, October 3rd Morning Service 10:00 am
Evening Service 7:20 pm
Light candles from pre existing flame after 7:16 pm
Sunday, October 4th Morning Service 10:00 am
Holiday ends 7:15 pm
Friday, October 9 Morning Service 10:400 am
Light Candles 6:08 pm
Evening Service & Hakafot 7:00 pm
Shabbat, October 10 Shachrit Service 10:00 am
Yizkor Service 12:00 pm
Saturday, October 10 Evening Service & Hakafot Celebration 7:05 pm
Light candles from pre existing flame after 7:05 pm
Sunday, October 11 Morning Service & Hakafot Celebration 10:00 am
Holiday Ends 7:04 pm

Children’s Corner. Short Sukkot Film

October 1, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

What if we built the worlds greatest Sukkah?

Your Complete Holiday Guide

October 1, 2009 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

The Season of Our Rejoicing | Sukkot & Simchat Torah 2009 | October 2-11

small sukkot bannerClick here or on image to launch site.