Saturday, November 25, 2023
Friday, November 24, 2023
Gertrude Hirschler was born on August 11, 1929 in Vienna, Austria to Bernard Hirschler and Alice Dukes. She was the elder of daughters.
Her father was a successful businessman and the family lived comfortably until forced to flee the Nazis in 1939. They landed in Baltimore, Maryland.
Hirschler attended Baltimore Hebrew College, the Teachers Training School, and Johns Hopkins University night school from which she graduated with with a B.S. in 1952.
In addition to her translations of Hirsch, Hirschler translated numerous other works such as Rabbi Alexander Z. Friedman’s Wellsprings of Torah. She also penned numerous articles for encyclopedias and edited Ashkenaz: The German Jewish Heritage.
Hirschler, who was Torah observant, passed away in 1994 and is buried in Baltimore.
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
"The Mishnah says openly that all human beings have b'tzelm Elokim. The truth is if you take an Australian bushman, a wild fellow, Aborigine, and if you train him he can become a mentch. He can become a great man. He can become a big tzadick. As long as he's a human being, there's no limit to the greatness that he possesses within him. Hashem breathed into him a neshama and he's capable of becoming one of the greatest man who ever lived. Of course he doesn't know it and that's why he doesn't do it."
Rabbi Avigdor Miller, #947, Skill of Silence.1:27:40
Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Monday, November 20, 2023
I attended a funeral yesterday. The deceased was a 21-year-old soldier who was killed in Gaza. He lived 100 meters from the synagogue where I pray every morning. He prayed there sometimes. I didn’t know him well, but a friend of mine was at his bar mitzvah eight years ago. The family is from England. My friend noted how polite the boy was. “Very English,” he said.
A group of around 500 friends and neighbors gathered down the street from the family home to send them off. The mother approached on foot. She was so distraught she had to be held up by two escorts. The father was the same. They were shaking with grief.
We took 6 buses to the funeral at the military cemetery. Usually at cemeteries you see the graves of old people. 80 years old. 95 years old. Sometimes you see that of a young person. These graves had photos on the tombstones – all youth.
It gets to you. But when the pallbearers bring out the coffin, then it really gets to you. The photos of the soldiers that are getting killed every week and the photos of the victims of the Gaza pogrom as I call it and the photos of the Gazan children, it’s heartbreaking. But they are photos of the people when they were alive, usually smiling for the photographer. But when you see a coffin, you don’t picture a living person, you picture a motionless corpse inside the box. Then you start to understand what war really is. I have been running into bomb shelters for a month. My body has shaken from explosions overhead. One time I was outside with my son and we couldn’t get to a shelter so we leaned next to the wall of a health clinic. With us was a young couple with an infant child. The Iron dome projectile hit the terrorists’ missile right above our heads. It certainly felt that way. I know of numerous soldiers who are now in Gaza. I know of people who were killed in the pogrom. But this was my first glimpse of a coffin. This is for real.
The ceremony went on for two hours in the pouring freezing rain. Nobody moved. The feeling of camaraderie was extraordinary. I can’t say I ever felt anything like it before. I saw that in New York after 9/11. But this was on another level.
The speeches were heart wrenching. The father talked about what a fine boy he had – an idealistic boy who never asked for much, who was embarrassed by attention, who was helpful and funny. The mother spoke as did his younger siblings. One promised to teach her even younger siblings about their big brother. Rabbis spoke. At several points the rain came down in buckets. It may seem cliché to say, but it did feel as if heaven was crying.
The war isn’t over. There no doubt will be more like this. We are still learning more about the atrocities of October 7. And we have video. When you were a kid in school learning about Atilla the Hun you imagined things. Here, you can watch it. No imagination required. The arrogance and violence of the terrorists is something to behold. And there are 240 hostages being held by the fiends who would do such things. Among the hostages are infants and other children, several whose abduction we have on video, including that of a terrified little boy. The young man whose funeral I attended – he went into Gaza to try to rescue those people.
Today I’ll do a shiva call to the family. I’ll appreciate that I am alive and try to figure out a few ways to be a better person. And I’ll try not to be bitter about the human race. All my friends from America that have called me over the month to express their support, and the feeling of unity around here, that surely has helped remind me that people aren’t all bad. The bad ones are bad. So I send my support back to the good ones. They need encouragement too. They need encouragement too.
Thursday, November 16, 2023
How could Esav – a child of Yitzchak and a grandchild of Avraham – have turned out so badly?
Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch suggests (based on earlier sources) that the fault partially lies with Yitzchak and Rivkah in that they ignored “the great law of education chanoch la’naar al pi darko, ‘bring up each child in accordance with its own way’ – that each child must be treated differently with an eye to the slumbering tendencies of his nature.”
Rav Hirsch argues that Esav and Yaakov possessed very different natures and thus should have been raised differently. “To try to bring up a Yaakov and an Esav at the same school desk, make them have the same habits and hobbies, want to teach and educate them in the same way for some studious, sedate, meditative life is the surest way to court disaster,” he writes.
But isn’t there one Jewish archetype to which parents should raise their children? No, writes Rav Hirsch. “The great Jewish task in life is basically simple, one and the same for all, but in its realization is as complicated and varied as human natures and tendencies are varied.”
Rav Hirsch points out that on his deathbed, Yaakov, speaking to his 12 children, prophesied of a Jewish nation that included – yes – scholars but also merchants, farmers, and soldiers, “and he blessed all of them.”
Saturday, November 11, 2023
Why do they allow secular library books in the major frum yeshivas? I want to avoid loshon hara so I won’t mention the names of the yeshivas.
The trouble is that in the yeshivas, the principal of the high school should be the rosh yeshiva himself. That’s how it should be. The rosh yeshiva with the big white beard, he should be the principal of the high school because that’s where we need him most.
In Frankfurt-am-Main, the frum German community had a gymnasium, a high school, and the teachers of the secular subjects were very frum Jews.
A man once told me this - many years ago he was brought up there and he said that the man who taught him algebra taught him mussar and yiras Shamayim in the algebra class. He taught him algebra too.
That’s how it used to be. In Frankfurt-am-Main, together with the secular subject, they taught him Torah and mitzvos.
You can do that. You can show everything is connected with Torah. It’s very important to utilize that.
But what do they do? They take somebody who once went to the yeshiva who has a college degree. He’s a frum Jew, but he’s shallow and he becomes a principal. He doesn’t really have the spirit of Torah in him. And therefore, is it a surprise that sometimes he lets things get past him? Not such good things pass his inspection.
That’s why I say that the rosh yeshiva should be in the high school office and should supervise everything. And then from the high school will go forth boys that are tzaddikim.
You know many boys are failures in Gemara. They’re discouraged in the Gemara and therefore they turn away from the yeshivah. Even though they're in the yeshivah, they lose their idealism. But in the secular department, you can win them back. You can win them back in the secular department. It’s easy because they're at home there. And if the teachers had idealism, then they could talk yiras Shamayim always in the secular department.
TAPE # 724 (January 1989)