Thursday, July 8, 2010

Off topic

So this morning the gang celebrated the ritual snipping of the Gonging Gabbai's youngest. Mazal Tov to Mr and Mrs Gonging Gabbai. The brit deserves special mention because both Mr and Mrs Gonging Gabbai gave awesome speeches where there was a brief dvar Torah, a nice succinct explanation why they named their son what they did and very limited (almsot none!) mushy gushy stuff.

While mushy gushy stuff in a brit/simchat bat speech really has nothing to do with shul or nusach, the fact that britot/smachot bat are often celebrated in a shul is good enough for me to include some discussion here on the blog.

Did you ever notice that brit/simchat bat speeches often make people very uncomfortable. There are a number of elements that can casue this discomfort:
1. The hesped for the person that the child has been named for. Examples:
  • We have named our child Yosef after my great great great grandfather Reb Yosef Stalinsky. Zaide Yosef was a man of the people but also a leader. It was said that his appetite for cholent could cause famine and his strong belief in the abeshter as the lone רופא in the world caused him to have issues with doctors. Zaide Yosef was so machmir when it came bedikat chametz that he would do everything possible to purge his  house of items he did not thing were acceptable.
  • We have named our son Yankel after Shprintzee's great uncle. Yankel learned all of shas twice everyday. He would fast everday but shabbes. He loved dipping in ice cold mikvaos. And his conviction for money laundering, tax fraud, racketeering and pimping was anti-semitic. Yankel was the gabbi of the sfardishe minyan in Federal Prison and we hope that out little Yankel will follow in his footsteps.
  • We have named our daughter Gittle Genendal after Zalmi's bubbe. Bubbe made chicken soup (the speaker starts crying) and gefilte fish (more weeping)....Her jellied calf's foot was loved by all those that were willing to taste it (starts wailing). 
Yes people like to dress up their yichus or alternativly start telling us very banal information.  Why we have to hear about it is beyond me.

2. The couple decide to let everyone know that they love one another. Examples:
  • Sara'leh, I just want to tell you I love you so much (all the Americans in the room now go Ohhhhhh while the NF starts barfing) and I still would even if your father didn't agree to support me in kollel for another five years.
  • Oh Bracha, following the birth of our 8th child last week, I can tell you any lingering doubts I had about us are gone. (the NF was actually at a bris where I heard this)
  • Oh Chavie, Thank you for bearing my children. I love you and I'm not just saying because otherwise you'll make me sleep on the sofa
Folks, keep it to yourselves. I like to simply assume that a couple who are on child number 7 love one another. I don't need to hear it. And more often than not, the statement of love comes out cold or insincerely making me think that maybe the new father really does have lingering doubts (or is in love with his chavruta)

Anyway, Mazal Tov again to the Gonging Gabbai Family. שתזכו לגדלו לתורה לחופה ולמעשים טובים

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Baruch Dayan Emet

(Given the circumstances, I'm going to break my usual blogging protocol of using nicknames and initials)

Last night, a good friend and member of the neighborhood chevra, Marc Weinberg (שמעון אלימלך בן אלחנן דוד הכהן וסימה רבקה), passed away at the young age of 35 after a gallant three year fight with Leukemia and GvH.

Marc and I met back in 1993-4 while learning in Gush and despite Marc's general dislike for Americans, we became good friends. When my wife and I moved to England in 1999, Marc and I had a chance to reconnect --- by then he was dating his future wife, Natalie, an old friend of Mrs. NF's brother. Marc and Natalie in characteristic fashion were incredibly warm and welcoming. On Yom Kippur, the NF and his wife davened in the Bnai Akiva Bayit and each mitpallel was given a time to do shmira by the front door of the shul to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. The gabbai giving out the times gave me the 10 minutes at the end of Neila. Marc noticed this and insisted on taking my time slot --- telling me that giving a newcomer the worst shemira time slot possible is not appropriate hachnasat orchim.

Years later we all connected again in our new neighborhood in Modiin. Marc and Natalie insited on having us over for supper the day we moved into our new home. Something that Marc said that day really stands out in my mind. As Natalie brought drinks to the table, Marc quickly offered my two older kids some juice. He then turned to his older daughter, Yona (then about 3) and explained that part of hachnasat orchim is offereing your guests food and drink even before taking for yourself.  For me, Marc's simple statement to Yona was representative of a key part of Marc's persona --- a complete dedication to Jewish Education and making every opportunity an educational one.

Marc was the ultimate student (and teacher) of Judaism. the phrase "ושננתם לבניך ודברת בם" was central to him. Looking at his impressive library, Marc loved delving into classic texts, philosophy and history. Any new thought provoking book, article or film needed to be discussed and analyzed. When mentioning  that I had just fininshed a book or seen a film, his response was always, "Nu", an indication that he wanted to borrow what ever I had just finished so that we could discuss its contents.

When it came time to select a school track for his older daughter, we spoke for hours debating the pros and cons of each option. Marc wanted the educational framework that would ensure that his daughter would be a knowledgable, sensitive and engaged Jew when she reached adulthood. Marc ultimatly selected the option that would require the most effort from him and Natalie telling me that other options might provide a stronger framework in the early years but only significant investment at home would instill in his daughter the love of Judaism that he was seeking for her.

Marc was not just a student of Judaism. He was also an engaged member of the greater Jewish community that took the phrase "וכל מי שעוסקים בצרכי ציבור באמונה" very seriously. He was mazkir artzi of Bnai Akiva in the UK. Later, Marc was a founder of the Alei Ziyyon minyan in London and was a co-founder (with the NF) of the first Shabbat and Yamim Noraim minyan in our new neighborhood. Even after falling ill almost three years ago, Marc made significant efforts to fundraise for our shul.

Marc was blessed with a pleasant voice and an excellent ear. As a child he sang in the London School of Jewish Song and in honour of BA's 60th anniversary in the UK, he helped put out (and sang on) a CD. This past Rosh Hashana he led Maariv on the second night, davening beautifully inspiring those present.

Marc was much more than just student of Judaism and an engaged member of the commmunity. I'm sure that both at the leviya today (at 5 PM in the Modiin cemetary) and over the course of the shiva, people will provide their perspectives of this most unique and special person.

יהי זכרו ברוך

To his wife Natalie, daughters, Yona and Maayan, parents,  Henry and Sema and sister, Deborah  ---
המקום ינחם אתכם בתוך שאר אבלי ציון וירושלים