Outside the Bubble – Chapter 32

December 5, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 32 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Someone knocked at the door. Martin looked through the peephole and saw a frum bachur, wearing a black hat and jacket, standing there. The boy’s body language conveyed tension, or nervousness.

Martin went back to the computer. The boy began to ring the intercom, and the device hanging on the wall in the office room kicked in. Martin stared at it for a minute, biting his lip, and then pressed the red button, cutting off the recording a moment after Perl’s voice began its endless recitation of, “I’m sorry, I can’t speak to you right now…”

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Flashes of Torah

November 28, 2022

LA315Flashes of Torah

Sometimes it takes a flash of something beautiful and bright to transform the ordinary into extraordinary—or in this case, a nice Shabbos seudah into a dazzling and uplifting one.

 Flashes of Torah is that bolt of luminescence.

It’s often challenging to come up with the perfect dvar Torah for your Shabbos table. You want it to be meaningful and thought-provoking, with a great lesson from the parshah, but at the same time you’d like it to be concise and to the point, for those at your table who may have a shorter attention span.

Then comes the question of which gadol/rosh yeshivah/rebbe to quote from. Do you love Chassidishe vertlach? Perhaps your family is Litvish, or Sephardi, or you have guests who are. Which sefer should you thumb through to find that perfect vort?

That’s the great thing about Flashes of Torah. This well-written, handsome book contains multiple divrei Torah and stories with lessons from each parshah, from gedolim of all segments of Yiddishkeit: LitvishChassidish, and Sephardic. Each piece is profound, yet brief and to the point. Using this book, you certainly don’t have to worry about your listeners falling asleep during your dvar Torah!

Of course some occasions call for a longer vort, and Flashes of Torah has that ma’alah too; in addition to the short pieces, it also includes a fascinating essay at the end of each parshah, which provides an excellent springboard for hashkafah discussions around the table. 

Want a taste of what Flashes of Torah has to offer? The following is a sampling from the nuggets in Parshas Vayeitzei:

Vayeitzei

וַיֵּצֵא יַעֲקֹב מִבְּאֵר שָׁבַע —Yaakov left Be’er Sheva (Bereishis 28:10).

The Midrash comments that when a righteous person leaves a city, a lessening of glory and holiness is felt. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev served as the rav of Zelikov. Due to the opposition there against chassidus, he was forced to leave the position. One of his detractors scornfully asked Rav Levi Yitzchak, “When Yaakov left Be’er Sheva, we are taught that his absence was felt. Why don’t I feel any loss now that you have left?”

Rav Levi Yitzchak responded, “I think I can explain that. Why does the Torah only tell us this principle by Yaakov? Avraham and Yitzchak also left their cities, yet we are not told that their absences were felt. The answer is that when Yaakov left Be’er Sheva, Yitzchak remained there, and a righteous person is able to discern the loss of holiness. However, when Avraham and Yitzchak left their cities, no decent people remained. Without righteousness, a person cannot even fathom what holiness is, let alone appreciate its absence. Is it any wonder that you don’t feel any loss?”

***

וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹקים עִמָּדִי…וְנָתַן לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ —Yaakov made a vow, saying, “If G-d will be with me…and give me bread to eat and clothing to wear…” (Bereishis 28:20).

Rav Shimon Schwab related that the Chafetz Chaim once informed his family that he had dreamed he had become wealthy, and it was necessary for him to fast because of it. The family was surprised and asked him why he felt a need to fast for such a dream.

The Chafetz Chaim explained, “The Gemara says that some dreams have no validity and are merely a reflection of what a person thinks about during the day. If that is true, then I must fast as repentance for an old man like myself who still dreams about wealth! 

By Rabbi Ephraim Nisenbaum

Click here to purchase online.


Outside the Bubble – Chapter 31

November 28, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 31 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

In one of the kitchen drawers he found an invitation to the wedding of Eliezer Monsenego and Rivka Lutati. It was printed in three languages: Hebrew, English, and Spanish, and the wedding had taken place in the Don Josef Plaza in Mexico City one month and one week earlier.

Martin turned the invitation over. There was a phone number for R.S.V.P. He glanced at it for a long moment, toying with his phone as he did. Let’s say he’d call; how would he introduce himself? Why should these people answer a stranger’s questions, especially questions as odd as whether or not someone named Michoel Perl had participated at their wedding, and if they knew of his plans for afterward?

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Outside the Bubble – Chapter 30

November 21, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 30 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Martin rubbed his eyes and stared at the table. He’d fallen asleep, and it was no wonder. He was in a severe sleep deficit from these past few days.

The conclusion of the day was that in another month, the clothing sale for needy families would be held at the Ohr Chaim hall. The clothing suppliers were requesting that Mr. Perl contact the directors of the hall to finalize the date.

This assuaged Martin’s conscience a bit. If Perl himself had arranged most of the matters, then clearly, he’d planned to pay for it.

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Outside the Bubble – Chapter 29

November 14, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 29 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

The search results for the word “Mexico” in Perl’s inbox revealed an airline ticket for April fifteenth. After some more nosing around, Martin discovered a few strange messages:

Mr. Perl, we need approval for the order of 500 kilograms of chicken from Rabbi Schwadron’s shechitah.

Five hundred kilograms of chickens? What was an old man doing with five hundred kilos of chicken?

There were also two messages on this subject in recent days, as well as some messages about discounted clothing for families, and stipends from the Oros Fund for Children, in regard to summer vacation. The most recent messages were basically saying that if Michoel would not give the final approval, they would consider all the initiatives for discounts and stipends to be null and void.

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Outside the Bubble – Chapter 28

November 7, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 28 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Enough, Penina, stop it.” Simi sounded irritated, and it took an effort on Penina’s part not to be insulted. She reminded herself that Simi was also after birth right now, and there was no reason to take her words too much to heart.

“Fine,” Penina said quietly. “When you get released from the hospital, go to the Eim V’Yeled. The loss is yours.”

Simi sighed. “Let’s talk about something else now, okay? How does your baby sleep at night?”

“Every night is different. Last night she cried a lot, and Hinda came and took her for a while.”

“Oh,” Simi said. “And other times?”

“She helps me when she can, and when she can’t, I try to manage on my own.”

“Oh,” Simi said again. She sounded tired. “When you come back, Penina, I’ll try to help you as much as I can…”

“Which won’t be too much,” Penina muttered darkly. “Simi, when you had Yehudis, what did you do?”

“I came to Abba and Ima’s house, of course.”

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Outside the Bubble – Chapter 27

October 31, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 27 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Penina pulled up a chair and sat down at the table near Hinda. “How do you manage?” she asked conversationally, revealing that she had heard part of what Hinda had been saying on the phone, even before coming into the kitchen. “Who works with papers today?”

“Me.” Hinda smiled and put the telephone aside. “And there are a few others like me. Afterward, I send the papers to someone else, and she builds the plan using a computer program.”

“Why does she do this for you?”

“That’s her job. Usually, the person who would do this step is a beginner interior designer, so it’s worth it for her to do just this part of the work. The woman I work with happens to have been in the business for years, but—” She paused. “We enjoy working together,” she concluded.

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Portraits of Prayer Vol 2

October 24, 2022

LA316Portraits of Prayer Vol 2

If we had a nickel for every phone call our office received, after the release of Portraits of Prayer Vol. 1, asking when Vol. 2 would be out…well, we would be very well off! There’s just something about the way Rabbi Eliezer Abish, the author, recounts beautiful thoughts and stories relating to the words of the siddur that really propels readers to daven those words with more kavanah.

For example, take the following story, excerpted from the book, in the section of Shema:

 

וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה’ אֱלֹקֶיךָ

You should love Hashem, your God

            For Nachman and Dassi, the news was delivered with such irrevocability and decisiveness that they couldn’t help but to be heartbroken and devastated. After all, this highly skilled doctor’s experimental treatment was their last real hope of ever bearing their own child. Now, with that last prospect dashed, their hopes and dreams for the future seemed to be dashed as well.

            Crushed, they made their way to Nachman’s rebbi’s house, just as they had done numerous times over the past seventeen years, to once again pour out their hearts in pain. 

            Their twenty years of marriage consisted primarily of deep, heartfelt, and tearful prayers pleading and begging Hashem to grant them a child. They already swallowed their pride and accepted the shame years before as they enlisted their family and friends to join them in davening for children. They already traveled the world to receive brachos from tzaddikim and to daven by mekomos hakedoshim. They spent all their savings on treatments, they borrowed money for treatments, and they turned to wonderful organizations that graciously financed even more treatments.

            As physically and emotionally painful as the treatments were, they were both focused on their goal and were accepting of everything necessary to attain it.

            But now, after hearing the specialist’s devastating prognosis and seeing their last hope dissipate into thin air, they were completely broken. Their rebbi, feeling their pain as his own, cried along with them, his tears mingling with theirs.

            Then, Dassi, regaining her composure, asked, “Maybe it’s time we adopt a baby? Maybe we should just accept the fact that we’ll never have our own child, although we have so much love to give. Perhaps our next best option would be to adopt a baby that we can raise and shower with love?” They discussed the idea and concluded that that is what they would do. Their rebbi suggested, for various reasons, that they adopt a Jewish baby. The couple reached out to adoption agencies in Eretz Yisrael, filled out numerous questionnaires, and had letters of references written on their behalf. They were then told to wait.

            “Wait? For how long?” they asked.

            “There’s no set time. Just wait. These things tend to take a while. We’ll get in touch with you when everything is ready.”

            It was a very tense seventeen weeks, but then the phone call finally came. A little baby girl was waiting for them! Nachman and Dassi were instructed to come to Eretz Yisrael in one week’s time to complete the adoption process. That week was a joyous one and it flew by quickly. They went shopping and furnished the bedroom beautifully for their new baby daughter!

            Upon their arrival in Eretz Yisrael, after checking into their hotel and refreshing themselves, they proceeded directly to the adoption agency to take care of all the paperwork. After meeting with a social worker, they were handed a rather thick stack of forms to sign. They dutifully worked their way through the mound, signing paper after paper. They finally affixed the final signature and passed the pile of papers to the social worker.

            “Okay,” she smiled, “just one more document for each of you to sign and then we’re done!” Simply enough, the paper had but one question with four blank lines for answers. “Please list the four things you love most in the world.”  

            While Dassi took her time thinking about what to write, it didn’t take long at all for Nachman to respond. He listed the following: 1) Hashem 2) Dassi 3) Learning Torah 4) Playing basketball.

            The social worker then told him to turn the paper over, sign it, and prepare to meet his new baby daughter! Nachman quickly flipped the paper over. There was only one sentence on the second side of the page, and a line at the bottom for his signature. He blanched as he read the sentence. “With my signature, I pledge to love my new adopted child even more than the four items I listed on the other side of this page.” Nachman’s hand began quivering as he put the pen down on the table. Alarmed, Dassi blurted, “What’s wrong? What’s going on? Why aren’t you signing?”

            “I can’t sign this paper. I just can’t sign it.”

            “What do you mean? Why not? Why can’t you sign it?” Dassi asked again as she grabbed his paper and read what he had written. Her eyes welled with tears as she sat in wordless agreement. The social worker took a look at the paper and quickly grasped the situation. 

            “What’s the big deal? Just sign the paper, and we will go introduce you to your new baby daughter!”

            “I can’t sign a document pledging to have a greater love for someone or something than my love for Hashem.”

            “Listen here,” the exasperated social worker said, “do you think people actually read what you write and then check up on you? Once you sign these papers they are going to be filed away and no one will ever see them. It doesn’t really matter what you write! Don’t be silly,” she urged. “Just sign and be done with it. It’s just a formality, it doesn’t mean anything.”

            “I can’t. I can’t sign such a paper,” Nachman responded resolutely. “My heart is breaking, but I can’t sign this paper!”       

            “You’re crazy! Don’t let this opportunity slip by. Are you aware that at this point, if you refuse to sign, you will have a very difficult time adopting a child from any adoption agency here in Israel, ever? Don’t be a fool, just sign the form so we can go right now to meet your beautiful new baby!”

            Nachman and Dassi looked at each other with unspoken resolve. He would not sign. Together, they slowly stood up and, to the utter shock of the social worker, made their way out of the office. They decided not to stay in Eretz Yisrael for the few days they had originally planned, but to return home immediately instead. They took a taxi back to their hotel, re-packed their bags, and headed back to the airport. On the way, they told the driver to make a stop at Kever Rochel for a few minutes. Once again, with broken hearts and dashed dreams, they poured out their hearts to Hashem. Although they were in such a muddle of pain that they couldn’t even properly compose their thoughts, they shed copious tears. 

            After landing back in New York, their first stop was at Nachman’s rebbi’s house. “Rebbi, did I do the right thing? Did I mess up? Should I have signed? What should I have done?” asked Nachman anxiously.

            Very moved after hearing what had just taken place, the rebbi was at a loss as to how to respond. After a few moments of emotional silence, he replied, “I don’t know if I would have the ability or gumption to respond in the same fashion as you did if I would find myself facing a similar set of circumstances. However, there is one thing that I am absolutely certain of. No one ever, ever, loses out when they act out of genuine love for Hashem.[1] You and your wife had so much riding on this signature and you both let it all go due to your love of Hashem. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Hashem will respond to your remarkable act of love toward Him with His own remarkable act of love toward you. Let us renew our davening and beseech Hashem for His salvation.”

            Eleven months later, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room as Nachman and Dassi, now the proud parents of a brand-new baby boy, listened as their rebbi fondly recounted the above incident at the seudas bris of their very own newborn son!

 

See what we mean?

Portraits of Prayer Vol. 2 goes from Birchos Krias Shema until after Aleinu. It is the perfect book to buy as a gift for a friend or family member, or for yourself. Chock-full of stories and thought-provoking insights, like Vol. 1, this book too will propel its readers to higher heights, as it enhances their everyday davening in a very real way.

Click here to purchase online.


Outside the Bubble – Chapter 26

October 24, 2022
outside-the-bubble

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 26 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

The conversation with Rabbi Eisenthal was friendly. The rabbi didn’t probe; perhaps he didn’t know anything about Martin’s current state of affairs. It was nice to hear that as his current custodian, he had deposited the money in Martin’s account.

The second phone call was to Dan, at one in the morning, as Martin strolled along the sidewalk near Perl’s house. Dan answered sounding rather sleepy, but grew much more alert when he heard Martin’s voice. “Hey!” he said, displaying commendable caution when he didn’t state the caller’s name. “I’m not sure that I’m right and you are who I think you are, but if it’s you, how are you? Where are you hanging out?”

“And if it’s not me?” Martin laughed. “In any case, whether you mean me or not, I hang out here and there, there and here.” It was so good to hear his own voice again, and to just be himself! “How are you? What’s new in your pretty settlement?”

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The Ever-Clever Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch

October 9, 2022

C655The Ever-Clever Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch

We’re not even up to Simchas Torah yet, but Candy Season is already in full gear where I live. I mean, we just went through a Rosh Hashanah! And a Yom Kippur! And for little kids, you know what that translates into, right? Jolly Ranchers. Laffy Taffies. Zazas. Twizzlers. Gum lollies. Winkies. Mike and Ikes. And the list goes on…

Well, how else would my kids let me daven, if their mouths would not be full of sugar and Red 40 and all the rest of that junk? And let’s not even start with discussing Simchas Torah pekalach, because just the thought of those HFCS-laden bags is enough to give me the shudders…

Fellow health-conscious (and teeth-conscious!) moms, wouldn’t it be amazing if we had a real, live Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch living in our own neighborhoods, who could cure our children of their nosh-guzzling habits the same way she cured Bella Scheiner of hers?!

Wait. You do know what I’m referring to, don’t you? If not, check out the second volume in the Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch series, called The Ever-Clever Mrs. Make-a-MentschIn this absolutely delightful book for young readers, there is a great story about Bella, whose candy-consuming habits has really gotten out of hand…until Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch steps in.

Go ahead. Let your kids read the story for themselves and find out what Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch did for dear Bella. You never know… Maybe Bella’s cure will be contagious, and you might just be thanking Mrs. Make-a-Mentsch, too, along with Bella’s grateful parents!

Click here to purchase online.