What should our response be to the 33 year old woman shouting, ‘Find me a husband’. Was Michelle correct in her Facebook status?

24 04 2013

ringIt was reported in the press, that a few weeks ago on Shabbat in the Reut shul in Jerusalem, a 33 year old female social worker, after getting the permission of the Gabbaim to make an announcement at the end of davening, shouted out to the whole community, ‘Help me find my husband’.

When I initially read the title in my Facebook newsfeed, I honestly thought it was some type of joke. However, when I actually read the article it wasn’t at all.

I was truly astounded, that this accomplished and educated woman, would be so willing to put herself out there in such an extreme way – in front of the entire community.

She was one person. But, the reality is there could be hundreds, if not thousands, or even tens of thousands of women and men, who feel as this woman did and just don’t have the guts to act as she did.

So, what should our response be? Do we have an obligation to help her and indeed all single people get married?

A married friend of mine, Michelle Shelemay Dvir, wrote this in her Facebook status when she ‘shared’ the article:

‘I definitely understand the frustration and admire the courage of this single, 33-yr old woman who stood up at the end of shul and announced to her community “help me find a husband”. On the one hand the article made me question whether I do enough to set up my (many and varied) single friends. On the other hand, I’m not comfortable throwing out suggestions without knowing what someone is looking for, whether they’re interested etc. So, here’s an open invitation to my single friends: If you’re open to receiving suggestions, pls send me a msg telling me a bit about what you’re looking for and I’ll do my best to try and help.’

Was Michelle right in giving an open invitation to her single friends to contact her, in the hope she may be able to set them up? Does she (and the rest of us) actually have an obligation to help single people get married?

After looking into this topic, I have concluded that yes, the community does have an obligation to help this women and in fact all single people get married.

I would like to address the following issues briefly:

A) What is the nature of this obligation?

B) Is the obligation primarily of the father towards his son and not his daughter?

C) What if the father can’t? Does the community also have a role, before it goes directly to the single person herself or himself?

D) Is there, in fact, more an obligation to help a single female, than male get married?

E) What practically can be done by all of us to help each other?

(The ideas I am quoting below are my own. I am sure there are many other sources and ideas that are relevant to this topic, that I did not have time to cover or include.)

A) The nature of the obligation.

What is the nature of the obligation? What area of Halachah does it fall into? I thought of the following, but there could well be more:

1) Hashavat Aveidah:

I have heard, that a single person who wants to get married is from a Halachik conceptual perspective classified as an ‘Aveidah’ and by helping her or him, one is performing the mitzvah of ‘Hashavat Aveidah’- returning a lost article.

Therefore, every Jew has an obligation to help the single person-irrespective if he is a male or female or if you know him/her or not.

2) Tzedakah:

הלכות מתנות עניים פרק ז
ב [ג] לפי מה שחסר העני, אתה מצווה ליתן לו–אם אין לו כסות, מכסין אותו; אין לו כלי בית, קונין לו כלי בית; אין לו אישה, משיאין לו אישה; ואם הייתה אישה, משיאין אותה לאיש: אפילו היה דרכו של זה העני לרכוב על הסוס ועבד רץ לפניו, והעני וירד מנכסיו–קונין לו סוס לרכוב עליו ועבד לרוץ לפניו, שנאמר “די מחסורו, אשר יחסר לו” (דברים טו,ח); ומצווה אתה להשלים חסרונו, ואין אתה מצווה לעשרו.

The Rambam here states that the obligation to help a man and woman marry is equal. He says it in the context of Hilchot Tzedakah-every Jew has an obligation to help someone find what he or she is lacking, in our context, their husband/wife.

3) Mitzvah Kiyumit of ‘Peru Urvu’:

A man from the age of 18 has an obligation of ‘Peru Urvu’, as is described at the beginning of Even Ha’ezer.

A woman performs a mitzvah kiyumit by having children. Without her, the man would be unable to fulfill the mitzvah of ‘Peru Urvu’.

Thus, women have a mitzvah kiyumit to perform and so every Jew must help her too, in finding a man to perform the mitzvah of Peru Urvu with.

4) Areyvut/Ahavat Yisrael/Kavod Labriyot.

Feeling responsibility and loving your fellow Jew and helping him or her if you can, is a Halachik concept and obligation, not just a chessed or something to do when you feel like it or are feeling generous spirited.

Furthermore, Kavod Labriyot and protecting the dignity and self respect of a human being is also a Halachik concept. There can be no greater act of kavod to a person, than helping them build a home and family for themselves.Irrespective of whether that person is a male or female, or if you know them or not.

5) Stories from the Tenach.

There must be a reason why the Tenach includes so many episodes of family life, including the searching for spouses and the yearning to have children. The purpose of these stories is to teach us, that they need to be high on our list of priorities and that marriage and having children is the basis to leading a meaningful Jewish life.

6) Emil Fackenheim-614th Commandment after the Shoah.

After the Shoah, as Emil Fackenheim said , there is another 614 commandment-to keep the Jewish people going and alive. At the top of the agenda for any community, should be the necessity to help their young people meet and get married.

B) On whom is the obligation? Just the father? Towards the son and not daughter?

The Gemarah in Kiddushin on daf 29a, quotes a Mishnah which lists 5/6 obligations a father has towards his son-one is to marry him off.

However, the Gemarah in Kiddushin 30 b and Ketubot 52 b based on a pasuk from Yirmiyahu chap 29, extends this to his daughter, and says that the father has an equal obligation to marry off his son and daughter.

C) What if the father cannot marry off his son or daughter?

Maybe he lives in a different country, has not got the connections or is no longer alive?

I would like to suggest that there are mitzvot that the father is obligated to do and if he cannot the Bet Din must step in- and the Bet Din represents the community and society as a whole.

The Gemarah in Kiddushin 29a when discussing the mitzvah of brit milah says that if a father does not perform the mitzvah, then the Bet Din has an obligation to step in.

Obviously, brit milah is unique as there is an issur of ‘arel’ and punishment of ‘karet’, but nevertheless, we do see there is a precedent in Halachah that the Bet Din as a representative body of the community and society, must step in before the obligation falls on the individual. We see the community has an obligation to act, if the father cannot perform the mitzvah. The Gemarah says, only if the Bet Din cannot perform the mitzvah, the individual has an obligation to.

We see in the mitzvah of brit milah there is a hierarchy in obligation and responsibility:

1) The father,

2) the community/society (Bet Din) and,

3) then and only then the individual.

I would like to suggest that the community, represented by the Bet Din in the case of milah, is an intermediary level between the father and individual. This intermediary level of the community and society at large, may also apply to other mitzvot and obligations, like helping a man or woman marry. Although this is purely based in svarah and I could not find any source for this.

D) Is there more of an obligation to help a single woman than man?

I would like to suggest, that despite the Mishna quoted in Kiddushin 29, there could be more of an obligation to help a woman, than man get married for the following two reasons:

1) The Gemarah in Kiddushin on 41 a says,’ Tav Melametav Tan Du Melmeytav Armalo’.The Gemarah is saying that it is harder for a woman to be alone than a man. This may have been for economic or psychological/emotional reasons, and may not apply nowadays. However, the Gemarah is still indicating that more sensitivity and concern needs to be shown to a single woman than to a man.

2) A woman also is involved in the mitzvah of ‘Peru Urvu’, albeit as a mitzvah kiyumit. She needs to be helped more, as in general, a woman has less time to have children than a man.

E) What can we do practically to help this woman and indeed all single people get married?

I remember hearing Rav Shlomo Aviner say, that all Jews are ‘shadchanim’ and I honestly believe he is 100% correct. Everyone is busy with their own lives and unless you are doing it professionally or helping family or close friends, it is hard to be expected to help every Jew, including those you don’t even know.

On the other hand, sometimes I think, what if all young people- both singles and young married, spent half an hour each week on the phone, networking for their single friends? What if after Shabbat, we all wrote down the single people we saw at shul and shiurim, meals, and walking around etc? I am sure there would be little or no need for dating sites, singles events or shadchanim.

If we would all react as Michelle did on her Facebook status, and behave with more sensitivity and responsibility to each other, things may well be different. This case of the women shouting out at the end of shul, ‘Find me my husband’ may not have even taken place.

As Hillel, quoted in the Mishnah in Pirkei Avot says-‘ B’makom She’eyn Ish, Histadel Lehiyot Ish’.

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Dr Tovah and Rav Mayer Lichtenstein on the Rav, together with my own thoughts.

11 04 2013

Rav_Joseph_Soloveitchik

Introduction:

Last night, there was a 20th anniversary Yahrzeit event for Rav J.B. Soloveichik at the Yeshurun Shul. It was packed. It was a testimony to the respect the Rav was held in, that so many people came. Rav Lichtenstein was present, as he was when Rav Mayer spoke at the Shteiblech during Chol Hamoed, also in memory of his grandfather.

I personally cannot relate to the emotional attachment that so many students of the ‘Rav’ had to him. Even though I learnt about the Rav and his writings and thought when I was in Gush, with Rav Reuven Ziegler, I do feel uncomfortable hearing people claim that Rav Soloveichik was their ‘Rebbe’, except from Rabbanim like Rav Lichtenstein or Rav Schechter, who genuinely were talmidim of the Rav and he perceived them as such.

Furthermore, the Rav did not want chassidim. The famous story goes, how a young talmid asked the Rav for a Brachah, and he responded, “Do you think you are an apple?” In addition, the Rav was an elitist and both his philosophical works like ‘Halachik Mind’ and his lomdus are very hard to fathom, even by the brightest.

Another issue that bothers me about people who claim they understand the Rav, is that few went through what he went through in his personal life. Being brought up and learning so intensely with his father, Rav Moshe. Then going to Berlin to study and then to Boston. He married late and his father did not approve of his ‘shidduch’. During his life, he suffered the tragedy of losing his mother, wife, and sister in the same year 1959, as well as having a cancerous tumor removed from his colon at around the same time. Therefore, it is difficult to say, as many do, that they understand him existentially.

Having studied the philosophy and machshavah of Rav Soloveichik myself, I am not convinced that: Firstly, some of his writings are relevant to Jews living in Israel, and secondly whether it is particularly healthy for well balanced and happy people to read about the tensions and struggles that Rav Soloveichik went through, as he describes, in for instance, ‘Lonely Man of Faith’ or ‘Halachik Man’.

On the other hand, there are some topics that he writes about, for instance, the Shoah in ‘U’vikashtem Misham’ , or Medinat Yisrael in ‘Chamesh Drashot’ that are relevant to us nowadays.
Having said that, the lomdus and learning of the Rav, is something that must be taught and passed on to generations. The Rav was first and foremost a lamdan and then philosopher. The challenge is making his lomdus accessible and understandable to the layman and people who aren’t used to learning and thinking in his analytical derech of concepts-based on the ‘Brisker Derech’, of his father Reb Moshe, uncle Reb Zev and grandfather Reb Chayim.

Dr Tovah Lichtenstein:

Dr Tovah spoke about two reasons, as to how the Rav managed to make such an impact on American Jewry:

1)As a lamdan and talmid chacham:

Above all else she said, he was a lamdan and Talmudist, and over four generations taught Torah and lomdus. He felt most comfortable surrounded in the Bet Midrash by his students and interacting with them. He took over the mantle of leadership of RIETS from his father, Rav Moshe, when he died at a relatively young age in 1941. He used YU as his base and travelled there from Boston, where he was a Rabbi and community leader. He also saw the Maimonidies school in Boston, as his life project.

He has a deep commitment to the mesorah and Torah. He loved being a chadshan in Torah and lomdus and his students loved his creativity, honesty, care, precision, attention to detail and passion for Torah and teaching. He was first and foremost a teacher, and his talmidim were like his children, even though he was very harsh with them.

2)The eternal relevance of Torah and Halachah to modern life:

He believed that Torah and Halachah was relevant and had something to give to the modern world. As long as you were committed to Torah and Halachah you could be part of the world-but not as an American, but as a Jew. He believed that Halachah gave the Jew a sense of autonomy, independence, and freedom.

He was not connected to the American values of consumerism and individualism and rejected them. He also was not at home in American culture and materialism. He was not bothered by the cognitive conflicts of the day, for instance evolution. He was a proud Halachist and believed in the viability and vitality of Halachik Judaism, both in the public and private sphere.

Rav Mayer Lichtenstein:

Apart from when he came to Israel in 1935 as a candidate for the Chief Rabbi, the Rav was physically detached form Eretz Yisrael and not really known here, although he writes about Eretz Yisrael and Zionism-particularly after the Shoah. He became more Zionist after the Shoah. Even nowadays though, the Rav is not well known here in Israel.

Primarily, the Rav was a lamdan and teacher of Torah, and then philosopher and not the other way round.
The Rav was a link in the chain of the mesorah between Europe and America, going back to the Vilna Gaon, the Netziv, Reb Chayim Volozhin, and his grandfather Reb Chaim Soloveichik. The Rav’s life was based on Talmud Torah and the centrality and autonomy of Halachah and he passionately believed that Halachah was relevant to modern life.

Being a lamdan and thinking in terms of concepts served him in leadership-how to deal with communal issues and when public speaking.

The Rav kept the mesorah alive and lived at a historical crossroads. He had a historical role and succeeded in transforming the mesorah from a Europe, which was deep in spirituality and Torah to American, which was void of it. The Rav believed in the eternity and relevance of the mesorah.

The Rav continued the work his father, Rav Moshe did in keeping the mesorah alive in America and bringing it from Europe. Unlike Rav Hirsch, Rav Soloveichik did not believe in synthesis-he was not an American. He was against the Christianization of Judaism, in the layout of shul for instance. He was against developing connections with the reform or conservative movements. The Rav did not call a reform synagogue a shul, but a community center.

The Rav’s writing, particularly after his wife died, focused on the human condition-human life, relationships, yissurim, and death.

The Rav was a very shy man and shared personal experiences and feelings very publically in his drashot and writing. He used Biblical characters to express his own feelings.

He saw the Shulchan Aruch as central to Judaism-that is what defines the Jew. He thought in terms of Halachik concepts. For instance, whether or not to say Hallel on Yom Ha’atzmaut was a Halachik question and not a political, historical or emotional one.

He had the courage to ask questions and deal with issues. For instance, Zionism, the value of secular studies and education and women’s issues which caused him alienation and profound loneliness.
Rav Mayer ended by saying, ‘The Rav did the impossible-to bring Torah to the new world, whilst recognizing the value of the new world and not feeling threatened by it’.

My own thoughts:

I personally think that the Rav was so popular and successful for four reasons:

1) He made being a learned, frum Jew respectable and acceptable. You could be a talmid chacham and makpid on Halachah, but at the same time be educated at university and be a professional-they were not mutually exclusive.
2) His drashot, particularly on Tenach and Agadah were powerful and moving and connected the human condition and experience, to Torah and Halachah. He was a brilliant writer and orator.
3) He was brave in confronting topics, like Zionism and women’s issues, which most other Gedolim ignored.
4) He was seen, as his father Rav Moshe was, as a link between Europe and America.

I hope these thoughts have made you think a little more about the huge contribution of the Rav to Orthodoxy and how much his void is felt amongst his talmidim and the talmidim of his talmidim.

Benjy Singer.





Two Sides of the Same Coin? The Shoah and Medinat Yisrael.

7 04 2013

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The next few weeks are for many Olim the most meaningful and significant of the year, and remind us of why we made Aliyah. Yom Hashoah, with the ceremonies at Yad Vashem and around the country, hearing the siren when we all stand still and forget our differences, listening to the survivors and refugees, who despite their experiences came to Israel and had the strength to re-build their lives and had families, and watching Rav Lau standing with the Ramatkal and Israeli soldiers at Auschwitz Birkenhau. Then, of course, next week, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut.

I always think of the days of Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut as a modern form of national Asseret Yemei Teshuvah-days of national cheshbon hanefesh, reflection and introspection.

There is an obvious link between the Shoah and the Establishment of the State. The establishment of a Jewish State, gave the Jewish People a sense of pride and identity, after the horrors of the Shoah. It gave us a sense that we had a future and a national project to work towards, after a third of our people, including 1 1/2 million children were murdered.

The growth of the Yeshivah Day Schools movement here, the growth and mushrooming of Hesder and Charedi Yeshivot, the re-birth of the Hebrew language, the revolution in Torah learning of Tenach, Gemara and Halachah and academic programmes of Jewish Studies at degree, masters and doctoral level, all reflect, that, in terms of Jewish learning, Israel is the center of the Jewish world and the Torah learning of Europe, that was destroyed, is being rebuilt here.

Rav Lichtenstein writes in an essay called, ‘Challenges of the Holocaust’: ’Let us strengthen ourselves and continue with the construction which they never completed through the building of the land and its development. Anyone who emerges from Yad VaShem experiences profound depression – and quite understandably so. But someone who emerges and sees the hills of Judah and Jerusalem rebuilt can take some comfort. We should not attempt to do “accounting” and to say that this is God’s compensation to us for the Holocaust. The State of Israel is not the solution to that problem but rather an opportunity for us to fulfill our mission; not an answer but rather a challenge and a destiny, and our responsibility is to work towards its realization.’

On a theological level, after the period of ‘Hester Panim’ of the Shoah, through the State, G-d ended that period of Hester Panim, and showed us that the relationship was back and alive, as Rav Soloveichik describes in ‘Kol Dodi Dofek’. Like during the Purim story, G-d’s face was revealed again, after a period of ‘Hester Panim’.

Practically, the state was also a place where the survivors and refugees could flee to, and rebuild their lives. Rav Amital zt’l saw the establishment of the State of Israel in terms of ‘Kiddush Hashem’, after the terrible ‘Chillul Hashem’ of the Shoah. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks remarked that after the Shoah we are all survivors, part of the two thirds of the Jewish People who survived-the state gave the Jews a collective means of celebrating our national survival.

At the same time though, we cannot just think in terms of slogans and sound bites. We need to be aware of the dangers and problems of linking the Shoah and the Establishment of the State, in an over simplistic and naive way, that ignores historical reality and what was going on at the time:

1)The term that is used in Israel to describe Yom Hashoah is ‘Yom Hazikaron Le’Shoah Ve’Lagvurah’ and refers to the Warsaw ghetto uprising. In fact the date of Yom Hashoah is to mark the uprising. However, we must remember that the vast majority of Jews did/ could not rebel and were murdered, silently and passively , ‘Al Kiddush Hashem’. Most Jews were deported and murdered immediately and could not defend themselves. They did not show ‘Gevurah’ in a physical sense, but were murdered saying ‘Shema Yisrael’ which was also a form of Kiddush Hashem- instead a spiritual, non physical ‘Gevurah’.

2) Furthermore, there were survivors and refugees who came to Israel or moved to communities abroad who were unable to rebuild their lives and were traumatized and scarred for life. All one has to do is read authors such as Primo Levi, Victor Frankel and Elie Weisel and hear the survivors themselves speak of their experiences in the concentration and labour camps to hear that, whilst they saw the creation of a state as a miracle and valued it, that did not in any way take away the emotional trauma or devastation they experienced-the creation of the state did not bring back their families and friends.

3) It was only in the 1960’s that people even started thinking theologically about the Shoah and it’s connection to the creation of a Jewish State. Until then, the Jewish People were unable to. As Rabbi Berel Wein said, the Jewish People were in intensive care until the 1960’s and couldn’t think or function. Since then, Rabbi Wein said we are all in ‘hospital’, even though we may not realize it-we have still not recovered from the Shoah and never will. To have suggested before the 1960’s as is said by some nowadays, that the creation of a Jewish state in any way would compensate or help cope with the horrors of the Shoah, would not have been suggested or heard. We were in a state of national trauma.

4) Eretz Yisrael is the historical and cultural homeland of the Jewish People, and was promised to us in the Torah, and is a central theme in the Tenach-it was not a result of the Shoah. Most of the Mitzvot are focused around living in Eretz Yisrael, including all the mitzvot connected to Korbanot and the Bet Mikdash, which was to be the focus of Jewish life in Yerushalayim. Had there not been a Shoah, would we have deserved a State? Of course!

The Shoah demonstrated we need and deserve a homeland of our own, but we can’t present Jews as victims and the state as a ‘Miklat’-Eretz Yisrael is our Biblical Homeland, and was promised to us, before Christianity or Islam existed as religions.

5) Even though the Shoah was the worst period of persecution-Jews have been persecuted since the fall and destruction of the First Mikdash, and if the establishment of the state is linked to us being persecuted, it should be linked to the whole of Jewish History, culminating in, but not solely with, the Shoah. Also, the Shoah must be seen as historically the culmination of 2000 years of Christian Anti-Semitism. Without the embedded hatred of Jews that Christianity had spread in Europe, the Shoah would not have happened. The Nazis were copying and building on 2000 years of European Christian Anti-Semitism.

6) The survivors and refugees from the Shoah, who came to Israel during and after the Shoah were treated badly and mocked by large sections of the Sabras living in Israel and were treated as outsiders and second-class citizens. They called them ‘Sabonim’, literally soap bars, ridiculing them, saying they were over passive and did not stand up to Nazis. Many Sabras, did not want to have anything to do with the refugees and survivors from Europe, who they saw as representing the ‘Galuti’ Jew, who was weak and defenseless. Israeli society was unable and unwilling to help the refugees and survivors integrate and they did not help them enough in overcoming the challenges and difficulties they faced-hence they created their own communities and shuls.

7) As documented, the Jews living in Palestine as it was called, like the Jews in America, before and during the Shoah, did not do as much as they could have to help the Jews who were being persecuted in Europe. Research shows they could have done more. Just like the Jews in America could have done more to convince the American administration to bomb the train lines to the concentration camps, so too the Jews in Palestine could have done more to help the Jews of Europe. Hence, the relationship between the Jews who were persecuted in Europe during the 1930’s and 1940’s and the Jews in Pelestine at the time, was more complex than many realise nowadays.

8) The creation of a Jewish state, made sense and was a completely justified and rational claim. Whilst the Shoah, in contrast, did not make sense at all, and was beyond human comprehension and understanding. Rav Soloveichik, describes the Shoah as a complete mystery. Whilst the establishment of the state was a miracle, it was not a mystery-it made total sense.

9) Even though the State of Israel has achieved wonderful things, to say that in a certain way it compensates or makes up for the Shoah is impossible to claim- the survival of the state despite the wars and security situation, is a miracle, but to say it somehow makes up for the destruction of quantatively a third of the Jewish people, as well as qualitatively the annihilation of the hundreds of years of European Torah learning and culture – the Yeshivot, 100 of years of Acharonim and Halachik tradition and works, producing people including the Ramah, the Shach and the Taz, Chassidut, The Brisk dynasty, The graduates of the Volozhin Yeshiva etc. is difficult to argue.

10) The process of the Establishment of the State and Modern Zionism started well before the Shoah, in the 19th century, even though, the Shoah did have an impact on the decisions of the International community and the UN in 1947 and 1948.

11) To say ‘Never Again’-that now we have a state, another Shoah could not happen again, is not a religious approach. The Ramban in Parshat Emor, says that in Eretz Yisrael, the Jews are judged on much higher standards, and that we will be forced to leave the land if we do not live up to these higher moral and ethical standards. As Religious Jews we believe as the Ramban states that our continued survival in the state depends on G-d, and is ultimately not in our hands. Although of course having an army, is a religious duty and is an expression that we want to take responsibilty for our destiny and survival.

Following the Shoah, the establishment of the Jewish State, gave the Jewish People a sense of hope and pride. An opportunity to take responsibilty for our destiny into our own hands. I cannot think what would have happened to us had we not been given a State of our own.

Through having a country of our own, we were able to re-built and start over again, and at least attempt to move on, despite the unthinkable horrors of the Shoah. At the same time, the connection between the Shoah and State of Israel is complex and not straightforward, as is sometimes suggested here in the media and educational system.

Benjy Singer.
Founder of the ‘My Shteiblech’ Project.
benjysinger@hotmail.com





Shir Hashirim, Korban Pesach and Chessed.

2 04 2013

untitled.png-helping othersA closing thought on Pesach, Shir Hashirim and the centrality of Chessed in Yahadut:

What is the central message of Pesach and why do we read Shir Hashirim on Pesach?

I think the main message of Pesach is to be found in the Korban Pesach.

The Mishnayot of Masechet Pesachim describe two types of Pesach. ‘Pesach Mitzrayim’ which was eaten in ‘Mishpachot’ and ‘Pesach Dorot’, which was eaten in ‘Chaburot’, which were selected. The mishnayot describe differences between the two forms of Korban Pesach, but the common denominator was that they were eaten in a group, a community, a collective.

Why? Rav J.B. Soloveichik ztl explained that the Korban Pesach is based around the concept of chessed. It is only when we are part of a community, a collective, that we can truly experience chessed. When we are alone, we cannot feel the needs, wants and pain of those around us. When we are with others, we realise that we all have hopes and dreams still to be fulfilled. It is only when we are part of a community-a ‘chaburah’, that we can share our fate and destiny with others.

Shir Hashirim, is a call for chessed. Twice, in Perek Gimel and Perek Hey, the Raaya is searching the streets, the markets for her beloved-she even has to ask the ‘Shomrim’ if they can help her. How can one read these pesukim and not feel her sense of helplessness, shame and humiliation? How can one not sense her dependency, lack of independence, and freedom. If one reads Shir Hashirim on a pshat level, unlike Rashi or the Malbim, it is a Megillah that demands sensitivity to the needs and worries of those around us.

Megillat Ruth, is the response to Shir Hashirim, also based on the concept of Chessed. Megillat Ruth teaches us, it is not just enough to be aware of other peoples pain and worries, but we must react and do something to help them. As a response to Shir Hashirim, Megillat Ruth is a call to action. If we don’t react and we remain passive, there is a problem in our own Yirat Shamayim and Avodat Hashem.

Rav Aaron Soloveichik ztl, speaks of the concept of ‘Torat Chessed’. It is interesting that Matan Torah, is sandwiched between two Megillot, Shir Hashirim and Ruth, which shows that Torah-what Rav Aaron called ‘Service of the Mind’, must be accompanied by sensitivity, kindness, being able to empathize with those around us and not being emotionally detached-what Rav Aaron called, ‘Service of the Heart’.

Chag Kasher Ve’Sameach,

Benjy Singer.