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

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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.

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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!

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Rocking Horse

April 11, 2022

 

Rocking Horse

Historical fiction. That beloved genre that so many readers gravitate toward. It’s got all of the ma’alos of an entertaining fictional story, yet it runs so much deeper than a frivolous novel. A well-researched historical fiction book will transport you to another era, educate you as to what exactly went on during that time period, even make you feel like you lived during that time.

And when the author of that historical novel is as eloquent as Leah Gebber, whose writing virtually sings and dances off the page…well, you know that the book in your hands is an absolute jewel!

With this background in place, let me introduce you to Rocking Horse, Leah Gebber’s latest historical novel. Set in Europe of 1881, when the winds of the Haskalah movement were blowing strongly enough to uproot even sturdy roots, the book explores what life was like for a frum shtetl girl who married into a modern-society family, and the agony and decisions she had to face as she attempted to straddle two worlds.

Other intricate subplots are deftly woven into the storyline as well—all beautifully crafted, and all based completely on true historical facts.

Reading Rocking Horse will bring you to tears, but it will also warm you, as it shows you the strength and resilience of our nation. For no matter how much we are rocked, shaken, and tossed about, we have the Torah to anchor us and to always keep us secure.

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I Know 6

April 6, 2022

 

C628I Know 6

Yes, after reading this book title, you probably have strains of Uncle Moishy’s “Who Knows One; I Know One” wafting through your head, fast becoming an earworm. But Rabbi Dubin’s newest book and sing-along CD actually refer to a different set of “Sixes”: the Six Constant Mitzvos and the Six Remembrances, both of which we are all supposed to know cold. And boy, will these songs become fast favorites among your entire family, with everyone knowing them backward and forward!

I speak from experience. After playing this CD just a couple of times at home, my kids were already singing the Sheish Mitzvos Temidios and Sheish Zechiros songs by heart! They were enjoying themselves, flipping through the attractive illustrations while humming along, and me? I was beaming! I mean, is this free tuition or what? My kids had just learned these important concepts without any of us even realizing it!

That’s the amazing power that Rabbi Dubin and his books have. They slip in the most fundamental lessons in such a sweet and fun way, that no one ever realizes that they are actually learning—because they’re just having such a good time at it!

If you’re looking for a great afikoman present for your kids, I just know you will love I Know Six!

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Right Angles

July 21, 2021

LA225

Right Angles

You know those first-year teachers you can spot from a mile away? The ones who clickety-clack into the classroom in their high heels and blazers, with nary a smile in sight, because, as any fresh seminary grad who completed her teaching course will tell you, the rule of thumb is not to give the faintest hint of a smile to your students until Chanukah time.

That’s the kind of teacher Perri had. Yet despite Miss Fishman’s strict demeanor, and all her carefully prepared lessons, Perri thought nothing of acting out in her class and behaving otherwise obnoxiously toward her teacher.

How could Miss Fishman have known about all the water under the bridge in this student’s life?

In this well-written, emotion-laden novel, we meet a fun-loving, outgoing teenage girl, whose breeziness and air of extreme nonchalance tightly mask the turbulence and heartbreak going on beneath the surface. As the story progresses, the characters become alive in the reader’s mind, and our hearts go out to both Perri and her family and to Miss Fishman, who, through no fault of her own, has no inkling as to why her student is giving her such “royal” treatment.

Right Angles is a thought-provoking and enjoyable read, whose subtle message of the importance of seeing the bigger picture, rather than just one angle of it, comes through beautifully and clearly.

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Danger Deep Down

June 10, 2021

C611

Danger Deep Down

If you know someone with a disability, then you know how awful and misunderstood it feels when you see that person being, well, misunderstood by others.

I’ve had personal experience with this. A close relative of mine has Down’s syndrome. Once, this relative and her disability came up in a conversation I was having with a friend. I was very taken aback when my friend flippantly remarked, “Oh, so she’s unwell.”

Huh? I remember thinking. Unwell?  Someone who is sick is considered “unwell.” But what does Down’s syndrome have to do with being sick?! I know that Down’s syndrome often comes along with health issues, but baruch Hashembli ayin hara, this relative is doing just fine health-wise. Why would my friend immediately equate a disability with a physical sickness?!

In Danger Deep Down, a beautifully written novel for tweens and teens by Sarah Feldbrand, we meet Shai, a boy on the autistic spectrum who is similarly misunderstood by his peers. Shai is a brilliant and sensitive boy who has so much to offer, but the parents of many of his classmates don’t want to see that. They don’t want their “normal” children interacting with a “strange” kid, and they want Shai out of the mainstream school.

It takes an exciting—though frightening—mystery, and lots of sleuth work on Shai and his friend Motty’s parts, for people to start realizing what a wonderful kid Shai really is…

If you’re looking for a great book for your kids to read, filled with suspense, adventure, and excellent lessons, not to mention layers of depth…then Danger Deep Down is the book you want.

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I Believe!

December 21, 2020

C583

I Believe!

The power of a song…it’s really incredible.

Ask me a question on something I learned in third grade, and I’ll give you a blank look. I mean, who remembers what they learned in third grade?! But ask me to tell you a pasuk from Birkas Yaakov, and I can rattle it off for you, though that was something I’d learned in third grade too. What’s the difference? You see, we learned Birkas Yaakov in a song, and my classmates and I must have sang it 100 times or more over the years in elementary school, every Parshas Vayechi, and every time we met our old third-grade teacher in the hallway and wanted to impress her…you get the picture.

There’s no question about it: songs stick in the mind. You don’t even have to take my word for it; there are scientific studies to back this up! And that’s why we believe so strongly (excuse the pun!) in Rabbi Mordechai Dubin’s new, groundbreaking book-and-CD, I Believe!

Rabbi Dubin, a talented mechanech who also has a passion for music, wanted to ingrain the thirteen Ani Maamin’s into the minds and hearts of his young students. With this goal in mind, he took the words of the Ani Maamin’s which are found in the siddur, translated them into easy English, and then put the words to a beautiful and catchy tune. The results? A stunning song that, once you listen to it a few times, you’ll find yourself singing over and over again.

The book that goes along with the CD is a masterpiece in and of itself. The illustrations are gorgeous and lifelike, and really bring the words of the song to life. The beauty of the two—book and CD—is that with them, you can teach your kids the Thirteen Principles of our faith without delivering a single lecture or lesson. Just pop the CD into a CD player, hand your little ones the book…and watch the magic begin. It won’t be long before your kids will have these fundamental concepts memorized, and you’ll hear them singing the precious words of the Ani Maamin’s as they go about their day.

And really, as ma’aminim bnei ma’aminim—isn’t this something all frum parents for their children?

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Framed

December 16, 2020

C557Framed!

“All of my kids loved this book, from my 3rd grader up to my 9th grader!”

“My son could not put this book down!”

This is some of the feedback we’ve been hearing from parents whose kids have read Framed! Or perhaps “gobbled up” would be a better way of putting it!

There’s something unusual about this book. It’s a top-notch, spine-tingling, bona fide thriller novel, yet there are no phones (certainly no cell phones!), cars, or planes anywhere in the plot. That’s because the story takes place in long-ago Eastern Europe, when fervently religious but illiterate peasants were mainstays at Jewish-owned taverns, and Catholic priests were often conniving, insincere individuals who wanted nothing more but to harm the Jews…and line their pockets with money.

Against this historical backdrop, skilled author Chayele Kohane weaves a dramatic plot that will keep your tweens and teens on their toes, from the first page until the very last. This is a most wholesome novel, and it contains plenty of wonderful lessons as well. But at the same time, there’s no skimping on the fun and suspense with this book!

Read Framed! for yourself (adults have loved it too!), and you’ll see just what we mean!

 

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NEW RELEASE: Middos Man – Vol. 6

December 8, 2020

MiddC584os Man – Vol. 6

There’s nothing like being pulled frantically in four different directions, all at the same time, to make you feel like you’ve earned your stripes in mommy-hood.

The first kvetch isn’t so bad: “Mo-o-m-m-m-y-y! I’m hungry! I want something to eat, NOW!!” Then comes the plaintive call from the bathroom: “Mommy, could you help me?” This is followed by the telltale signs of a fight in progress—slap, pinch, bang—and then, “Mommy! He hit me!” and, “She started it! She took away my ball!” (Of course that’s usually just about when the phone will decide to ring, the doorbell will chime, and your pot of soup on the stove will boil over—but that’s all besides the point.)

What should you do first?!

As the cries and calls escalate in their intensity, you throw your hands up in frustration and ask, “Can’t all you kids just have a little bit of PATIENCE?!

But you know, patience is not just something that’s helpful to mothers. Patience is actually an important middah that everyone—not just kids—needs to acquire and demonstrate in many situations in life. Of course the best place to start is by teaching it to our children when they’re young.

And what better way to do that than with good ‘ol MiddosMan???

Join MiddosMan on yet another adventure to combat Mr. Yetzer Hara—this time while teaching kids how to have patience. The read-along CD makes the experience even more entertaining for kids, while the fun illustrations and exciting details (check out MiddosMan’s awesome fly shoes!) make the story come alive!

If your kid is one of MiddosMan’s many fans, this is the best gift you can give him. And if he hasn’t met MiddosMan yet—well, what are you waiting for??? (This is not the time to have patience!)

Click here to purchase online.