A Forgotten Tzadik
Compliments and hatzlachah to Rabbi Daniel Kleinman for his heroic efforts to collect the writings of Rabbi Yosef Eliyahu Henkin, zt’l (as described by Rabbi Yair Hoffman in the April 5 issue).
Rav Henkin personified scholarship, leadership, tzidkus, and, most notably, modesty and humility; his rejection of material possessions and of honor are legendary. Aside from being America’s forgotten poseik, Rav Henkin is also America’s forgotten tzaddik.
I know this (almost) firsthand from my grandfather, Yaakov Hellerstein, z’l, who was Rav Henkin’s right-hand man and confidant for 40 years. As executive secretary of the Agudas HaRabbonim from 1929 to 1973, my grandfather interacted daily with two generations of American gedolim, but was especially close to Rav Henkin, assisting him with all aspects of Ezras Torah.
My mother, Menucha Hellerstein Zinberg, often speaks of Rav Henkin’s seiver panim yafos, his gentle and friendly manner toward everyone, including a young girl visiting her father’s office.
NORPAC Mission To DC, May 8
Ever feel like you want to do something for Israel but not sure if you can actually effect change? You can soon . . .
A couple of years back, I was proud to join the board of NORPAC upon learning of this organization’s most valuable assistance to the State of Israel vis-à-vis the relationship with United States lawmakers. Last year, over 1,150 people joined the mission (a fair number of them from the 5 Towns area) and held over 450 meetings on the Hill with key members of Congress. Taking my children to this mission has been an incredible and worthwhile experience.
NORPAC is a non-partisan political action committee whose primary purpose is to support candidates and sitting members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives who demonstrate a genuine commitment to the strength, security, and survival of Israel. Funding is often of critical importance to the ultimate success of a candidate’s campaign. Perhaps of equal, or even greater, importance is the moral support as well as the personal relationships that NORPAC and its members provide. Examples of this kind of support include educating candidates on important issues (e.g., the Iranian threat, foreign aid, energy-research funding, and the peace process), connecting like-minded members of Congress on a particular project, and simply ensuring that a public position taken is appreciated within our community.
These efforts have resulted in a strong U.S.–Israel relationship in Congress and, in particular, the shaping of important and concrete pro-Israel policies emanating from Washington. In the process, NORPAC has grown into the largest pro-Israel PAC. More important, it has a well-earned reputation as one of the most effective PACs promoting the U.S.–Israel relationship.
Go to http://norpac.net/mission-to-
washington for further information.
I hope you and your family can make it.
The Key Reason
While I normally enjoy Rabbi Yair Hoffman’s halachic discussions, I was quite puzzled by his recent articles defending the practice of schlissel challah (April 5 article and April 12 letter). In the first instance, I think that it is immaterial whether we can directly trace the practice to another religion. The practice, as I hope to show, goes against the fundamental tenets of Judaism.
Torah was given to the Jewish nation by Hashem to allow us to live a different type of life than the average individual. The average man lives his life primarily to provide for his physical needs. While the Jew also must provide for his physical needs, the Torah shows us that the physical is only a means for us to be involved in a higher purpose, namely, the world of Hashem’s ideas as given to us in the Torah. As Chazal say, “This world is a corridor for the World to Come.” The purpose of Torah is to engage our minds in a world of beautiful and deep ideas.
Despite the above, a disturbing trend has emerged in Torah Judaism. Torah and mitzvos are increasingly being seen as a means to our physical success. We are encouraged to bake schlissel challah so we can achieve material success. We are told to perform the mitzvah of hafrashas challah to achieve some physical gain. Mezuzah is no longer a mitzvah to teach us ideas about true knowledge of Hashem, it is now a means to protect ourselves and our houses. Where have the days gone when preparing for Shabbos was done for the love of the mitzvah? Have we forgotten that the ultimate purpose of mitzvos is to teach us ideas and improve our character, and not to enrich us or guarantee us physical health?
I remember my grandmother lovingly baking and cooking food for our whole family for Shabbos. She didn’t do this because she expected, quid pro quo, something in return. She did it simply because she wanted us to fulfill the mitzvah of oneg Shabbos in a more beautiful and delightful way. Shabbos teaches and imbues in us the idea that Hashem is the Creator of the universe. This the fundamental benefit of the mitzvah.
Encouraging the practice of schlissel challah is not wrong simply because it may or may not have come from non-Jewish origins. It’s wrong because the underlying idea of schlissel challah undermines the very idea that Torah is trying to teach us. The ultimate goal of man is to dedicate his energies to knowledge of G‑d, not to his selfish material needs.
Rabbi Dr. Jeffry Beer