Baal Teshuva: What Comes First
Rav Moshe Shternbuch: Shabbos Or Kashrus, Where Does A Baal Tshuva Start?
Rav Moshe Shternbuch says (1:350) that a Baal Tshuva is like a small child. He needs to start slowly and learn first how to lie down, than sit, and then walk. During this process the Baal Tshuva is still not complete and the person guiding them will need to choose wisely what they are ready to accept. It should not depend on the stringency of the aveira but rather on the ability of the Baal Tshuva.
Rav Shternbuch says that it is easier to start with Kashrus although it is only a Lav rather than Shabbos whose violators are Chayav Misa, capital punishment. The reason is, that finding alternative kosher food is relatively easy whereas keeping Shabbos is not. He cautions that burdening a Baal Tshuva with more than they can handle at each stage, is counterproductive and you may lose them altogether if they buckle under the load.
The main thing, he says, is to strengthen their Emuna that Hashem created the world and that there is reward and punishment. You need to ignite the spark and move forward judiciously.
Shabbat Shalom | Good Shabbos!
Shabbat Comes to the White House
First it was Joe Lieberman gaining notoriety as an Orthodox Jew running (unsuccessfully) for Vice President in 2000. Now comes the announcement of Jacob Lew being appointed by President Obama to serve in the powerful position of White House Chief of Staff.
Lew and his wife Ruth have a home in the Bronx, where they are members of the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale. They also have an apartment in Washington and attend Congregation Beth Shalom of Potomac. They have two grown children.
Lew observes Shabbat, which means that he leaves the office on Friday afternoons in time to get home before sundown, and for the next 25 hours does not use electricity, including the telephone.
Under the headline, “Lew Didn’t Answer Earthly Authority,” NBC News describes that while working for Clinton, Lew’s home phone rang one Saturday. He didn’t answer and the President’s voice could be heard from the answering machine, urging him to pick up the phone. Clinton said he understood the sanctity of the Sabbath, but that the call was important – and that “God would understand.”
Here’s the question: Is having an observant Jew in such a powerful position “good for the Jews”?
Is it good for the Lews?
Share your comments in the box below.
This article can also be read at: http://www.aish.com/ci/s/Shabbat_Comes_to_the_White_House.html
I Too Am Royalty
On April 29, 2011, I joined two billion people worldwide in watching Prince William wed Kate Middleton. I was so excited, I kept waking up to see if it was time for their ceremony.
It all brought back memories for me of the wedding of the groom’s parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, many years ago when I was a young child. Then, my mother and I set our alarms for two in the morning, and we watched the beautiful wedding on TV together. Looking back, that wedding was one of the most formative events of my childhood. We were so excited by the pomp, the pageantry, the beauty of that royal wedding. Everything about it was the opposite of my own life.
I lived in blue jeans, not fancy dresses. My parents’ house was comfortable, but looked exactly the same as every other house in our suburb, a far cry from the castles and palaces where the royal couple would live. We had wholesome meals together as a family most nights, but they were informal, sometimes eaten while watching TV in the kitchen. I was a happy, much-loved child, but I felt so ordinary. Nothing in my life felt remarkable; nothing made me feel beautiful and special and precious, as Charles and Diana seemed.
For years afterwards, in fact, I imagined the rooms Charles and Diana were occupying, the meals they ate. Whenever I saw pictures of them in magazines, I scrutinized them, not looking so much at the photos’ subjects, but examining the pictures’ corners and edges, hoping for a glimpse of a book that was just put down or an ornament that sat on a shelf, trying to guess from a stray piece of clutter what was going on off-camera, trying to get a sense of the life – the beautiful, royal life – they lived away from the public’s gaze.
As I turned on the television to watch Prince William wed Kate, I had the same momentary thrill. It was all so beautiful, so grand. But this time around I couldn’t relax. The wedding was early on a Friday morning, and I knew we were having lots of Shabbos guests that night. I went and fetched our silver from the dining room and polished as I watched.
As I shined our sparkling Kiddush cups, our Shabbos silverware and coffee service, I thought of the British crown jewels I’d once seen on a visit to London when I was a child. How I’d gaped at the gold and silver tureens, platters and objects d’arts on display. I longed for a life where I’d eat beautiful meals on such magnificent silver. It seemed to me then an impossible dream, a vision of loveliness I could never hope to share.
Yet today I was about to use formal silver, I thought, as I polished the modest pieces in my hands. All through that early morning as I watched William and Kate’s wedding, I padded back and forth between the kitchen and dining room, preparing that night’s Shabbat dinner, taking out an extra table and chairs, selecting tablecloths and china plates.
As a child, I’d longed for formality and specialness, and as an adult I found it. Not in Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, but somewhere closer to home. As a child, I’d yearned to be part of an ancient family, steeped in tradition, living a graceful life amid the informality of the modern age. And I found it, years later, in a most unexpected place.
Judaism teaches us God gave the Jewish people a day each week when we become royalty. A day each week when we are elevated to become partners with God, and are even imbued with an extra soul. The day is Shabbat, and though there are many mystical interpretations of the transcendence of this day, I have always been drawn to it for its practical beauty.
The beauty of eating in the dining room instead of the kitchen for one day a week. The beauty of having leisurely, formal meals. Of focusing on guests and our families without the distractions of the outside world intruding and stealing our attention.
Each Friday evening we - like countless other Jewish families the world over - sit down to a beautifully laid table. We begin our meal with songs and blessings. We thank God for the gifts He has given us. We sing a song of welcome to the angels who are sharing our Shabbat table. We formally bless our children, and we recall the majesty, the uniqueness, of the Jewish people.
This atmosphere of grace and beauty continues all of Friday night, and into Saturday morning, when we enjoy a gracious breakfast again in our dining room, take a leisurely walk to synagogue, enjoy another formal meal full of blessings and song, and then enjoy an afternoon of guests, of learning Torah, of taking walks outside, and generally of seeking to raise ourselves to higher levels of holiness.
When I was a child, glued to the television of the last British royal wedding, I so rarely felt exceptional. I never felt that I was interesting, or beautiful, or elevated in any way. Looking back, I recognize now that my very soul was crying out for validation, begging me to help it connect with something bigger, and to recognize its uniqueness and importance. My childish self seized on the specialness and beauty I saw in the British royal family, though obviously that could never be my home.
This time, long after William and Kate’s lovely wedding ended, I sat down to my own formal table. For the evening, I too was royalty.
This article can also be read at: http://www.aish.com/sh/t/pa/I_Too_Am_Royalty.html
Do I Have to Eat Meat on Shabbat?By Moshe Goldman
I keep hearing and reading various sources stating that it is absolute halacha that one must eat meat on Shabbat. Is this actual halacha or just a custom (albeit a very widespread one), and what is the reasoning behind the law/custom?
The reason I ask is that my wife and I are vegetarian. I have been vegetarian since I was a small child, because I simply do not like the taste of meat. If there is a halacha that I must eat meat to “enjoy Shabbat,” how can I enjoy eating something that I don’t enjoy?
Thank you in advance for your always wonderful and knowledgeable responses.
The prophet Isaiah enjoins us to “call the Shabbat a day of delight” and as a reward we will “delight in G‑d” in the time to come. What a great religion—you have a delightful day and you get rewarded for it!
But what exactly is delight? The rabbis of the Talmud determined that at least one major component of delight is by food and drink. In their days, a fine meal meant a big fish. In later times, meat usurped the place of honor over fish. Does that mean that today we must eat meat on Shabbat?
The best way to determine whether something is halacha or not is by seeing what the halachic authorities have to say. As it turns out, they say something quite different than what you have been told. The Shulchan Aruch Harav sums up the halacha as follows:
There is no obligation to eat meat or drink wine on Shabbat. Rather, since it is assumed that most people take more pleasure in eating meat than in other foods, and in drinking wine more than other drinks, therefore they should increase in [consuming] meat and wine according to their means.
In other words, what exactly the menu should consist of is entirely up to the tastes of the individual, with the stipulation that it be the best he can afford. The main thing is how you enjoy a meal—not how others think you should enjoy it. On the contrary, for people such as yourself, eating meat may be counter to Isaiah’s “delighting the Shabbat.”
While on the topic, here’s an excellent essay on vegetarianism in Judaism.
Rabbi Moshe Goldman