Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sefirat HaOmer – A Turtle’s Pace in Lavon

It was a turtle, of all things.

There I was, walking to shul on the morning of our first Shabbos in Lavon, when a small turtle incongruously appeared on the side of the road.  The closest lake is the Kinneret, some 25 miles to the East; high up in the mountains of the Galille is not a place that one would expect a turtle to roam.  But there it was, meandering down the street at its own pace, oblivious of the absurdity that it presented to those who chose to notice.  Turns out, however, that it was somewhat of an omen.

I really did not know what to expect on our first Shabbos in Lavon.   We discovered a Beit Knesset on the yishuv, but our first day there, on the last day of Pesach, was not encouraging.   I arrived for the Tefilla with my two sons and two sons-in-law, and figured that by bringing half a minyan with us, the odds of having a tefilla b’tzibbur were not too shabby.

No such luck.  No one was there but us crickets.

I tried to look at the bright side; there was plenty of time for us to daven at our leisure.  However, saying Yizkor by myself was a trip – I imagined my father looking down at me and saying “What the heck are you doing there?   Some brilliant move -- schlepping your Avreich sons-in-law to this seemingly Godforsaken secular yishuv for yomtov!”  But I had a hunch that there would be more to the story. 

When we came back for Mincha/Maariv, the first of the Mohicans arrived.   Soon after there were five more, and we launched into Shir Hashirim and the usual Sefardic Kabbalat Shabbat davening.  They wondered who this meshugga is and why he has come to live with them, but very soon accepted me and my family in their midst, and tried to make me feel welcome.   By the time Shabbat had ended, with a minyan on Fri eve, Shabbat morning, and even for Mincha , I knew that we had come to the right place.

Not one of them was Shomer Shabbat. (In fact, I later discovered, the reason that some had come back for Mincha was that an encouraging reminder email had been sent out after Shacharit . . .)  The last time the Torah had been used was on Chanukah, for a Bar Mitzva.  But there was an underlying thirst to have some of the mesorah present in their lives, and gratitude that someone had come to live with them, to accept them as they were, and to seek to live together in friendship, while strengthening them spiritually and in comradeship.

That was just the beginning.  This past Shabbos even more people came.  Furthermore, I was privileged to attend the ceremonies and festivities for Yom HaZikaron and the wonderful celebration of the 70th Yom HaAtzma’ut.  It is really a shame that so few of my American acquaintances have
ever attended this important event.  They missed out on witnessing the somber and painful reflection on the memory of those who sacrificed so much to provide us with the privilege of living in this blessed country, and – from that place of pain – rise up in joy, celebration and gratitude for the amazing gift and privilege that we have in our time, the State of Israel.  Warts and imperfections notwithstanding, it is an unbelievably wonderful present granted to us by the Ribbono Shel Olam, that has brought back Jewish life, and Torah life, to an unprecedented degree, and the incredible joy it should fill us with is incredible!

At these events I was able to meet and interact with many more of my new neighbors – including many who I would probably never meet at the Beit Knesset – and again experienced how open they are to being nice, friendly, welcoming, and supportive of a religious person after the smallest amount of friendliness and respect is shown to them.  It is so exciting to see their preconceptions fall, one by one, as they talk and share, and see that I am just another Jew who is excited to be with them and to be living in the midst of their secular yishuv, kippah and all.

The fact that I am living on Rehov Sapir made this particularly interesting.  It is named after one of the stones on the Choshen (breastplate) of the Kohen Gadol, as are most of the streets in this yishuv.   But it is also reminiscent of this time of year. 

We are engaged in Sefiras HaOmer – counting the Omer, counting and waiting for Shavuos.   Actually, this is but ont of the many “counts” that we are given in the book of Vayikra; the miluim, waiting of the metzora, the days of the zav and zava and niddah, the years of the shemitta and yovel, and so forth.   It is no accident that all of these are at this time; the time of waiting to receive the Torah. 

Furthermore, the Omer period starts with the mitzvah of telling the story of Egypt, Sippur Yetzias Mitzraim, about which it says:

כל המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים הרי זה משובח

(Whoever expands upon the tale of the Exodus is to be praised).  

Rav Mordechai Elon asked, “What does it mean, in Hebrew grammar, המרבה לספר ביציאת מצרים (to expand with the telling)?  The text should have read המרבה לספר את יציאת מצרים (To expand the telling of..)?   How is the teller of the story (literally) expanded?

But all these words are related.  סיפור, ספיר, ספירה
 Sippur, Sefirah, Sapir, all come from the same root  ספר .   They are related to Sapir – a Sapphire – a gem that contains an inner glow that is only revealed once it is rubbed and the outer level is removed, shined and given a chance to glow.   The story of the Exodus comes alive only when the teller of the tale allows it to penetrate him/her.  Similarly, counting the days and looking forward brings out the inner desire and longing for the anticipated goal.  It is only through waiting, anticipation, removal of the crust and seeing the gem inside that we appreciate the sublime beauty of what we have.

So we happily count the Omer on Rehov Sapir.  We look for the inner beauty of the supposedly blunted souls we live amongst.  We see their kindness and friendliness, their love of Israel and of other Jews, their many offers to help each other and their kindness to us, and we are continually blown away by how much good there is in these “lost” brother and sisters, who have so much of a yiddisher neshama in them, just waiting to be revealed. 

We will not get there quickly.  Like our friend the turtle, slow and steady is the way, having a thick skin for those who inevitably will be less appreciative, as we plod away, counting the days until not only will our neighbors appreciate our mesorah more and more, but our friends and family in the Diaspora realize how much they are missing and come and join us here, במהרה בימינו, (speedily in our days).

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Pesach: Confronting the Struggle

It has finally happened.  I write to you today from our wonderful new home in Lavon, a lovely community in the Galilee just north of Karmiel.  

We have finally joined our brothers and sisters in Israel and are thrilled to be the first Shomer Shabbos family in this beautiful Yishuv, which features breathtaking views.  Views not only of the surrounding hills and valleys, but more importantly to me, of the variety and depth of commitment to many Jewish values that even "secular" Israelis have just under the surface.  Rub these "ignorant", "hostile to Torah Jews" just a little bit in the right way, and you'll find their neshama shining beautifully underneath. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

It was a privilege to have been part of the spiritual leadership of the Queens Jewish Community, and the decade we spent in Forest Hills was a very special chapter in our lives.  We are grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the community and formed many friendships that we hope will always remain strong.   Nevertheless, we increasingly felt the tug of Eretz Yisrael calling.  Very much aware of Hillel's wisdom that "If not now, when?, we were determined to come Home when we were still able to do something significant, to try to earn the privilege of living in the Holy Land.  There is much wonderful work being done here by so many, but there is something for everyone to contribute – we feel that the area that we can best work on is to promote Jewish Unity.

It is a perspective primarily of Kiruv Levavot (bringing hearts closer together); not so much of Kiruv Rechokim (bringing those “far away” closer)

I did not seriously look to join the Rabbinate in Israel, not only because of the daunting supply/demand ratio but because I wanted to do something different.  I hope that one of my chief passions has come through over time in my writing: a deep desire to work on the divide between religious and secular Jews, which I strongly believe can be largely bridged if approached from a perspective of mutual respect, non-judgmental tolerance, and appreciation.  It is a perspective primarily of Kiruv Levavot (bringing hearts closer together); not so much of Kiruv Rechokim (bringing those “far away” closer).  It is recognizing that the majority of our fellow non-Orthodox Jews are usually open to having good relationships with us, are willing to listen to classic Torah concepts, are proud of their Jewish heritage and are concerned with its continuity, and are more than willing to grasp a hand extended in sincere friendship.  It is noting that although there certainly have been many non-Orthodox leaders who intentionally set out to uproot classic Torah observance and promote an anti-Torah agenda, it is also true that we in the Orthodox community have been too often guilty of not presenting a face of Torah that inspired Kiddush Hashem, which has driven people away from being willing to consider joining us.  It is developing an attitude of love and tolerance and determination to positively engage with our fellow Jews.  As Rav Nachman Bulman zt”l often told me, “it is not our task to ‘make them frum’; rather, it is to model, as best we can, the beautiful mesorah that we have, and, in a spirit of friendship and brotherhood, to gently communicate that they too have their own share in it, if only they would take it for themselves.  The Almighty will do the rest”.  And so, we moved to the secular Yishuv of Lavon.

(In doing so, we have been greatly helped and encouraged by a wonderful organization called Ayelet HaShachar, founded and led by the tireless and courageous efforts of Rav Shlomo Ra’anan. (Please see their website).  They have helped place many couples in secular yishuvim and moshavim around the country, with a great deal of success in Kiruv Levavot, and helping many Jews to find their way back to the mesorah.  We certainly encourage any of our friends to consider taking part in helping this wonderful initiative.)

When we first came there, we were told by a very nice couple that we met that although we seem friendly and reasonable enough, we should know that many residents would be put off by my black knitted kippah, as “we don’t want another Bet Shemesh here”. (For those unfamiliar, Bet Shemesh has repeatedly been the scene of much ugly Chillul Hashem, where extremist, so-called religious fanatics came to a town which has a majority non-observant population and have repeatedly exhibited repugnant behavior in an effort to coerce others to give in to their demands for “greater holiness”.)  Undeterred, we came anyway, confident that we can – and must – project a different image.  Although we have only been there for a few days, we have been greatly encouraged that we are on the right path.   I travel twice a day to Karmiel for minyanim; I don’t yet know if, or what kind of minyan we will have on Shabbos.  But we have been greeted with an outpouring of friendship, helpfulness and a desire by all we have met to make our move as painless as possible, and even with an appreciation for our desire to come and meet “the other side” on their turf.  

This project of ours, it seems to me, is very appropriate to begin as we approach Pesach, (besides the fact that this is a great time to move to a clean new home!).   The main positive commandment that we have is to eat Matzah on Pesach.   It is much more than to refrain from eating Chometz, which we could fulfill by eating tomatoes and (way too many) potatoes.   The mitzvah of specifically eating Matzah – the only Torah level mitzvah of eating – is interesting in that it can only be fulfilled with ingredients that can – and will – become Chometz if that eventuality is not intensely guarded against.  

Dear ones, I don’t want you to avoid the struggle;   I want you to face the struggle

Rav Mordechai Elon pointed out that the word Matzah, and the main word for Chometz Lechem, both come from roots that have “dispute, or “war” as their meaning.  “לחם”, related to “מלחמה” is the word we use for bread, the staff of life.  The two ingredients most needed to sustain human life – water and grain – are melded together (“מולחמים”) in order to help us subsist in our struggles in life.   But as we well know, too often in that struggle we allow the material to overpower us, and rather than the food being an aide to our struggles, it becomes a carbohydrate monster that causes us to becoming corpulent and over satisfied, and ultimately it controls our desires, rather than us controlling it.  This is the result of allowing the natural processes grow, uncontrolled.

“Matzah” is related to the word for the beginning of the struggle, 
תְּבַקְשֵׁם וְלֹא תִמְצָאֵם אַנְשֵׁי מַצֻּתֶךָ
(See Yeshayahu 41:12 and Metzudos ad loc).   Matzah is produced by engaging with the ingredients that will naturally grow, become bloated, and might even be objects of struggle, and – right at the beginning of the process – asserting control and preventing that dispute from taking place.  It is vital to use Matzah Shmurah; Matzah that has been carefully guarded.   It is as if Hashem is telling us, “Dear ones, I don’t want you to avoid the struggle; to stay away from engaging in the spiritual battle of life, subsisting on tomatoes and potatoes.  I want you to face the struggle, engage with those forces that might seek to overpower you, and assert control right at the beginning, and not allow that conflict to grow out of hand.”   

We are not supposed to avoid struggles in life.   We are called upon to engage and to make sure that we put things in their proper place and in the right perspective, so that ingredients that – were they unchecked – would develop into harmful substances and situations, will instead live together in peaceful harmony and grow to their and our mutual benefit.  It is only by fully engaging in the world we live in and the variety of Jews who are largely where they are spiritually due to no fault of their own, that we can positively control the temperature of our relationships with them, and live in true freedom that is the result of tolerance, love and respect for others.

As we are so fortunate to live in this amazing time when the fifth cup of the Haggada comes more and more into view, where the unbelievable growth and progress of the great gift and opportunity  Hashem has granted us – the State of Israel  is about to celebrate its 70th year of becoming the fulfilment of  “I will bring you into the land (והבאתי) that I have lifted My Hand to give to you as an everlasting legacy”, we gird ourselves to do our part to positively engage with the struggles Hashem has presented us with, and look forward to his help in bringing Kiruv Levavot between all of our brothers and sisters and our Father in Heaven.

Chag Kosher VeSameach

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Orthodox Union: Reaffirming the Standards

This was a great week for the Orthodox Union (OU). 

Despite enormous pressures that were brought to bear on the organization and its officers, they took the time, deliberated, and came up with a wise and compassionate decision, and re-affirmed my confidence in them.  I write this week to celebrate this great moment – but first, a bit of background.

From my earliest youth, the OU has been a major part of my life.  Long before most had heard of virtually any other Kashrus organization, we were trained, “if you want to know that a product was kosher, look for the OU symbol”.  I assumed that the OU was a Kashrus organization, and that was the extent of it.  I didn’t know how wrong I was.

As a young adult, I encountered the OU in a whole new light when I became an NCSY advisor on an Israel program.   The care and concern for all of Klal Yisrael, the innovative, spirited, the deeply spiritual way in which they demonstrated the importance of outreach and how to do it effectively, was a major influence on my life and that of thousands of others.  Around the same time, I witnessed the opening of the OU Israel Center in Jerusalem, and found a second home there attending many programs, and basking in the inviting and uplifting environment.  But I later found that I still had little clue of what the OU really represented.

When I became a Rabbi in Portland, Oregon, I began to more fully appreciate the raison d'être of the OU; what it meant to be a Union of Orthodox Congregations.  I discovered a large national framework that provided support and help for synagogues and shuls, with resources and assistance to help a broad range of shuls – a Big Tent – bring the light of Torah to communities large and small.   I realized that Kashrus, NCSY, Yachad, OU Torah, the wonderful magazine Jewish Action, and so many other “departments” of the OU were just parts of one overarching objective: Klal Yisrael.  I gratefully attended special “Mikdash Me’At” conferences tailored to help small communities, and benefitted greatly from the wise counsel of many great OU leaders in making my Rabbonus and our shul more effective.  In particular, I remember a talk given by Rav Nota Greenblatt שליט"א, who explained that he had to be at a conference, because “If the OU asks you to come, it is the Torah world itself that is inviting you”.  I became intimately involved in kosher supervision visiting many factories on behalf of several organizations, and saw that no matter whether the product carried a Kof K, or Star K, or Heart K, or many other symbols, it could do so only because a very large percentage of the ingredients were supervised by the OU, which is larger than all of the others combined.  Later, at the Young Israel of Forest Hills, I also was the beneficiary of OU help on many occasions – I was particularly proud to be part of the OU mission to Israel during the 2014 Gaza War, where I witnessed how much the OU does to stand up for Israel’s rights and provide support for her soldiers and citizens.

By virtue of its membership in the OU, a shul was saying that they adhered to standards and bylaws of the OU, and followed the recommendations of the Rabbinic leadership of the OU in regard to various issues of the day

But most of all, the OU has been important as a standard bearer.   Much like the trusted symbol on food items, it was a standard on the wall of a shul.   When a visitor walked into a shul and saw the OU symbol on the wall, they were assured that the shul is Orthodox.  Period.   By its membership in the OU, a shul was saying that they adhered to standards and bylaws of the OU, and followed the recommendations of the Rabbinic leadership of the OU in regard to various issues of the day.   In Portland there is a shul that once was a member of the OU, but refused to install a proper mechitza and had various other deviations from normative Orthodox practice.   When that shul left the OU and our shul remained, people knew which shul was the Orthodox, and which was only “Traditional”.  We were able to set certain policies and avoid arguments over them, by stating that we were acting as an OU-member shul where certain things were acceptable, and others were not.

Over the past few years, however, I  had begun to have my doubts.

I have written several times in the past about the plague caused by the so-called “Open Orthodox” (OO) movement, which has sought to introduce many negative changes and radical innovations into synagogues.  These changes included hiring female Rabbis (whether calling them Maharat, Rabbah, or Rabanit), having “partnership minyanim”, lowering standards for conversions, announcing mazal tovs for gay marriage members, publicly attacking the Chief Rabbinate, engaging in extreme leftist anti-Israel advocacy, and publicly denigrating many positions taken by Gedolei Torah, including the Roshei Yeshiva of Yeshiva University and poskim of the Orthodox Union.  In general, they flout established Rabbinic Authority, producing their “own poskim” and teachers who feel qualified to make changes against the stated positions of all recognized Torah authorities.   There is no need for me to discuss this unfortunate phenomenon at length, readers of this blog are well aware of the problem.

And therein lies the rub.  Unfortunately, several of the leading OO congregations, first and foremost the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, whose Rabbi Emeritus Avi Weiss is the founder of Open Orthodoxy, are longstanding members in good standing of the Orthodox Union.

As a two-term member of the Executive Committee of the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America), which has many unofficial ties to the OU, I have participated in countless difficult discussions over the past decade regarding the problem of how to deal with colleagues who support OO ideology.  There were discussions of whether to expel certain members who had publicly taken positions against established RCA policies; most of the more vocal ones thankfully left on their own accord.  But the festering problem that persisted was that several well established OO congregations remained as recognized members of the OU, and continuing to proclaim themselves as normative orthodox congregations.  Mounting pressure was brought to bear on the RCA and on the OU from both sides to define their standards and to decide whether or not OO innovations could be accepted within the “big tent”, or whether, by their actions, the OO supporters had defined themselves out of Orthodoxy. 

Much of the pressure was brought not only by Rabbis and members of those Congregations, but by their many friends and supporters in the Modern Orthodox world, who had been convinced that the innovations sought by OO were just efforts to provide more of a voice for women – an objective that all sides consider important – and therefore relatively harmless and not worth causing a rupture amongst Jews.  No one, after all, wants dissent or machlokes, and personal relationships especially make things difficult.  I saw this personally at the Young Israel of Forest Hills; the very week that an article that I wrote decrying OO was published in the Queens Jewish Link, a leading member thought it appropriate to publicly send their best wishes to Rabbi Weiss from the pulpit in response.  This dilemma has been the source of much angst and concern for the OU leadership, as they sought to balance the values of אמת ושלום (Truth and Peace).

One year ago, after many months of consultation and deliberation, the Orthodox Union published an simultaneous official statement and Halachic Ruling against hiring woman clergy, by whatever name they might be called, while at the same time calling for increased involvement of women in whatever leadership and Torah teaching roles that were proper within Halachic parameters.  There was hope in many quarters that this would put the issue to rest, and that the more “liberal” wings of Modern Orthodoxy would recognize that these statements, signed by a blue ribbon panel of Rabbonim and lay leadership, made it clear that the OO agenda was out of the bounds of Orthodoxy.

But for some, this was not enough.  Some statements coming out of the left included “The OU should stick to Tuna Fish”. . . “the OU will only divide the community if it starts to strip some of its member shuls which have female clergy of OU affiliation” . . . “Just as a Zionist would not ask the Satmar Rav for a psak regarding Zionism, the Modern Orthodox community should not look to [YU Rosh Yeshiva] for opinions on the role of women in our communities”, and even more intemperate comments.   More congregations announced they were considering hiring female clergy, and those Congregations that already had done so made it clear that they had no intention of complying with OU Policy.  The statement of last year seemed unserious – the OU was allowing member congregations to ignore its stated policy; implicitly saying that the policy would not be enforced.

As a result, more pressure built, both pro and con, for the OU leadership to draw a line in the sand, and to decide whether it would act to defend the sterling reputation that it had built up in over 100 years of representing the finest of what Orthodox Torah Judaism stood for.   Baruch Hashem, after much difficult deliberation and thought, the OU issued a statement this week, clearly stating that it will not allow any member congregations to hire woman clergy, while at the same time encouraging learning and positive roles for women.  As to the four OU congregations that now employ female clergy, a sunset clause was provided for a three-year time limit to allow those congregations to come into compliance with OU policy.   This was a difficult decision for the OU, given the great pressures put on them to not issue this policy, and they are to be applauded for it and supported.

We hope for a future in which these types of issues will no longer pull apart members of the Torah community, and we can focus on all of the laudable goals which the OU has pursued for these many years.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

In Appreciation of Rav Berel Wein, upon the passing of his wife Rebbetzin Mira Cohen Wein A"H

 I recently heard the devastating news of the passing of Rebbetzin Mira Cohen Wein, and I felt moved to write some words of chizuk to my esteemed Rav and teacher, who is going through this tragedy now for the second time.   It is self-evident to me that the wonderful teacher and mother-lode of inspiration who has greatly benefitted us all with much needed chizuk over the years, should surely be the beneficiary of whatever Chizuk we can offer to him in his time of need.

Although I met the Rebbetzin (and her predecessor Rebbetzin Jackie Wein) only very briefly, I was deeply impressed.  All the more so given the difficulty of being a zivug sheni (Second marriage spouse).  I hope that Rav Wein will take solace in knowing how much he means not only to his family, his direct talmidim and congregants, regular readers of his columns, books and essays, listeners to his shiurim, tapes, and lectures, but to many thousands of others who see him as a unique and special voice that represents -- more than anything else -- "common sense" (in Hebrew -- sechel hayashar) in the Torah world.  This quality is one that to this writer seems to have grown increasingly rare, in inverse proportion to the sheer vast amount of knowledge that is growing ever more prevalent.

This may seem counter-intuitive.  After all, clearly, the quantity, and even quantity, of learning and knowledge available in our world is unprecedented and growing at exponential levels.  In the secular world, the openness of society and tools such as the internet have made incredible amounts of knowledge available and useful to untold millions the world over, knowledge previously available -- if at all -- only to academics and experts.  Young children are knowledgeable about matters that seasoned adults could not fathom a generation ago; students have unbelievable resources with which to challenge their mentors.

In the Torah world, as well, although in many quarters the use of modern information technology is frowned upon, the amount and quality of learning is at levels not heard of for millennia.  While in our parent's generation there were less than two thousand yeshiva students in the entire world, there are now several Yeshivas that alone boast more than twice that amount; the total number of full time learners is closing in on 100,000.  The tens of thousands making a Siyum on Shas, the explosion of seforim being published, the unbelievable assortment of thousands of shiurim available for and by men and women of the highest levels of learning and scholarship, simply boggles the mind.

The primary reason that a person can attain great vast amounts of knowledge -- even Torah knowledge -- and yet not exhibit wisdom is that they lack one crucial ingredient -- common sense.

  And yet -- something is missing.  Without going into any specifics here, I am not alone in bemoaning that with all of this incredible knowledge, we are still too often confronted by far too many instances of statements of questionable wisdom, even as expounded by very informed individuals.   Although this is certainly not true of most of Jewish leadership, on some extreme occasions I am reminded of the Even Ezra quote I heard from Rav Wein regarding the  phenomenon of a chamor noseh seforim  (a donkey carrying books) -- a reference to someone with a great deal of knowledge, who remains -- a donkey.  I would venture that the primary reason that a person can attain great vast amounts of knowledge -- even Torah knowledge -- and yet not exhibit wisdom is that they lack one crucial ingredient -- common sense.

Although this sounds harsh, Victor Hugo said that in fact all too often, "common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education".  All of this knowledge may, in fact, be a mixed blessing.  Keeping one's moorings in the face of lightning speed shattering changes, in which values and "facts" unchallenged for millennia are being overturned, denied and uprooted, while the sheer volume data constantly streaming into our consciousness, is daunting.   Add to this the incredible pressures in the Orthodox world to conform to certain views and norms, which sometimes are the result of rulings by great Sages, but all too often are based on dubious reports regarding "Daas Torah" circulated by various self-appointed activists, or by people resistant to any type of change of views or practice, no matter how innocuous or necessary, simply because "that is the way we do things".  A great deal of wisdom is required to sort through all of this and to hold up the light of Truth and of the real call of our Mesorah, wisdom that is needed and all too rare.

Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls Wisdom

It is said that "Common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls Wisdom" (Samuel T. Coleridge).   There is certainly more to it than that, but there is no question that this quality is at the core of what we celebrate as chochmah.   It is an exceptional quality, in addition to saintliness, erudition, diligence, and incredible concern for others,  that a special few of our greatest Gedolim had in abundance.   Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky, Rav Yitzchok Hutner, Rav Mordechai Eliahu and the Pnei Menachem of Ger, were examples par excellence of this quality.  I daresay that the outpouring of grief and sadness at the very recent passing of Rav Shteinman zt"l was not so much because of the tragedy of his passing -- we did have the incredible gift of having him fully with us with all of his faculties intact until the age of 104, what more could one ask? -- but rather due to the fact that he possessed this quality of common sense wisdom, which is so often lacking.   It is this wisdom, which as Emerson put it: "Common sense in genius dressed in its working clothes", that we need so much, and which Rav Wein has been a grand source of for all these years.

As a Rav and Rosh Yeshiva and lehavdil  as an attorney, historian and astute observer of world events, Rav Wein has accumulated a great deal of yedios and bekius  in Torah and much knowledge regarding the world and the highs and lows of human foibles. But it his "common sense" wisdom that comes through in all of his amazing teaching and accomplishments, inspiring us to look beyond the often foolish and small minded statements and issues that so many get caught up with, to focus on the ultimate issues that matter, and to strive to make a positive difference in the world.  To enjoy and celebrate the beauty that Hashem has so bountifully placed in this world; to know and appreciate the timely lessons and wisdom that we should draw from knowing our history and the lives of great people; to recognize the good in ALL sections of the Jewish world -- these are some lessons that Rav Wein has taught me and so many others, and which has given us the chizuk to continue striving for sanity in this often crazy world.

May Rav Wein find comfort among the mourners of Zion, mourners who were so often inspired  by him to appreciate what mourning for Zion truly means.