A Mother In Israel
“These are the names of Bnei Yisrael who went down to Mitzrayim.”
Last week, twelve children and a patriarch mourned the passing of a mother, as we read about the petirah of YaakovAvinu and YosefHaTzaddik. Just as they requested to be buried in EretzYisrael, so did Rebbetzin Rochel Flaum. How fitting that the shivah for our beloved macheteinista concluded with the beginning of ParashasSh’mos. As told to those who came to console, Rebbetzin Flaum knew prophetically at a young age that she wanted to raise 12 children, and Hashem answered her prayers.
She dedicated her life to that pursuit and sustained her children through every step of their development. When they married, she became “Mommy” to their spouses. She called every day, concerned about their welfare, with the intent of making their lives easier. Be it a new oven or a set of Magnatiles for the grandchildren in Israel, she found a way to provide for children and grandchildren with a generous hand. The beautiful, warm winter coats enveloped and “hugged” the kids though Bubby was far away. I heard said during the shivah that Rebbetzin Flaum was everyone’s Bubby—always kind and caring and wanting to help.
We have only known Rebbetzin Rochel Miriam Flaum, a’h, for a short time, but she has been in our prayers for the two-and-a-half years that she fought valiantly to stay alive. I never heard her complain of pain during seven rounds of chemo. Indeed, she did not want to burden others by recounting endless trips to Manhattan for treatments and quickly changed the subject to children and grandchildren.
May her family be comforted by the thought that she will now intercede for them in the Shamayim just as she did on earth.
Beyond The Call Of Duty
I would like to share an amazing occurrence that happened to me last week. I was driving on Beach Channel Drive on my way to Brooklyn when I heard my tire pop and the air escaping. I immediately pulled over and saw that my tire was flat. I called Chaverim and got out of the car to check the address of my location. Just then I saw a religious man passing by. I approached him in order to find out the exact address, and realized that it was none other than Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. He told me the address and then asked if everything was OK. I explained to him that my tire was flat and I was on the phone with Chaverim. He responded that he would take care of it and I shouldn’t worry. So I told Chaverim I was OK and showed Mr. Goldfeder my flat tire. He unassumingly got on the ground in the rain and changed my tire. I am truly proud to have him as our community’s representative in state government and wish him continued success. Our community is fortunate to have such a caring and dedicated elected official who not only serves the community as a whole, but cares about individuals.
On an early Friday morning this past December, a selfless hero rushed from his home in Hewlett to fight a fire raging in the Woodmere home of someone he never met, not knowing whether that day he would be the rescuer or the one in need of rescue.
When 17-year Hewlett volunteer firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr. died several days later from injuries he sustained while battling that blaze, he left behind a family and a legacy of community service and supreme bravery.
Joe’s memory will be forever associated with the spirit of altruism and his sense of duty; he was a good man who gave everything for his community, expecting nothing in return. For that alone, we must make sure he is remembered in a meaningful way that leads others to emulate his example and perpetuate his calling.
The Lawrence School District recently announced a comprehensive restructuring plan, which will include renaming the Lawrence Middle School. The district trustees have already issued a public call for suggestions. On the evening before Joe’s funeral, I launched an online petition to gather support for renaming the Lawrence Middle School in memory of fallen firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr.
The petition has since drawn over 300 signatures and more than 100 comments celebrating the beauty and purpose of Joe’s life.
Like me, many did not know Joe in his lifetime. But in his absence, we understand that the lesson he taught is universal, and possibly larger and greater than any school can teach.
I urge everyone to join the call for Joe’s good name to grace the Lawrence Middle School. As the newly renamed Joseph Sanford Jr. School, countless students of future generations will spend crucial years of personal development enveloped in an atmosphere personified by his civic duty, volunteerism, selfless acts, and personal sacrifice.
The Lawrence District’s Board of Education plans to discuss the idea at Monday’s meeting at the Lawrence Middle School at 8:00 p.m. You can show your support for this important opportunity by attending.
To sign the petition to rename Lawrence Middle School after Joseph Sanford Jr., please visit www.ipetitions.com/petition/re-name-lawrence-middle-school-in-honor-of-fallen.
Rabbi Yair Hoffman’s articles are generally well written, well organized, and very informative. His vast knowledge of halachah is evident in his analysis of the topic about which he is writing.
However, I believe that Rabbi Hoffman has fallen into the same hole as other rabbinic leaders. For some reason, current thinking is to add on more stringencies to those that already exist. Stringencies are not for the community at large, but rather for the individual who wants to personally increase his/her piety. A term used for this type of observance is “ba’al nefesh yachmir.” The poskim of previous generations tried to find leniencies as opposed to stringencies.
I am referring to Rabbi Hoffman’s article relating to Tropicana Orange Juice. After raising the issues and giving the impression that it is prohibited to drink the juice, he concluded the article by stating that the issue is debated by the halachic authorities.
His article reminded me of the first chapter in Isaiah, verse 11: “What need have I of all your sacrifices?”
It would better serve the community if Rabbi Hoffman would focus on the halachos relating to the ills that are plaguing our community (i.e. theft, sexual abuse, child abuse, lack of kavod ha’brios, agunot, chillul Hashem, etc.) as Isaiah states in verses 16 and 17: “Wash yourselves clean; put your evil doings away from my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good. Devote yourselves to justice. Aid the oppressed. Uphold the rights of the orphan. Defend the cause of the widow.”
An Open Letter
To The MTA
To The MTA:
Thank you for removing the pane of glass etched with a swastika from the Cedarhurst Long Island Rail Road station shortly after my office requested your agency do so on January 2, 2015.
This station, as well as others nearby, experienced these hateful displays on far too many occasions. I urge the LIRR to install cameras on the train station platforms here and in other stations that have been defaced by perpetrators of hate crimes. Such cameras would aid law-enforcement authorities in catching those who commit these terrible acts, or deter such acts in the first place.
I look forward to our continued partnership to stamp out hate-graffiti and prevent your stations and platforms from being a vehicle for intolerance.
Member of Assembly
The Greatest Sins
It was with much awaited-relief that I took Rabbi Hoffman’s column “Sky High Prices and Halachah” as a golden opportunity to finally publicly air my viewpoint about a troubling issue within the Jewish community.
As the article makes clear, excessive rental prices can fall within the prohibition of ona’ah although as “real estate” they are perhaps not subject to voiding or refunding of the excess.
During the past three years, because of a major population increase in New York City and particularly the borough of Brooklyn, we have witnessed rental prices going through the roof, and many of the people who are charging these vastly inflated rates are Jewish landlords. Just to give an example of this, two years ago I vacated a large studio apartment in Brooklyn for which I had been paying a reasonable rent of $900 per month for three years, but which was admittedly slightly below market rate at the time due to certain unusual factors. Nevertheless, when I vacated the apartment, the rent rose to a whopping $1,200 per month! The reason? Simple supply and demand.
If Jewish landlords comprise a prevalent enough portion of the suppliers of rental property in the city, there might be a legitimate halachic question of whether they are permitted to raise their rents as a response to market forces. The question that is therefore begged here that Rabbi Hoffman’s article does not address is: What happens when it is the Jews themselves who help create the market prices by responding to market forces? Are Jewish suppliers allowed to raise their prices purely in response to supply and demand?
Even if the morbid rent prices charged by Jewish landlords can be justified halachically today, which Rabbi Hoffman’s article suggests that it can, does that still make it right? Certain Kabbalistic and chassidic works suggest that the greatest of all sins fall within the realm of the permitted. I can proudly state that my parents never had the audacity to charge anything close to what the market rent was for the basement apartment they sometimes rented out in the house where I grew up in Canarsie. To the opposite extreme today, landlords charge as much as they think they can get, and greedily refuse to lower the rent even if they have to leave a rental space vacant for several weeks or even months. I was given a lecture not too long ago by a prospective Jewish landlord who was charging a vast sum for a small basement apartment that “today you have to pay a certain price just for the roof over your head.” To me that just sounds like a weak excuse for the right to exploit one’s brother.
We now need to ask ourselves: If we regarded each other as brothers would we be so willing to drain each other’s pockets? This question may be answered by the Talmud in Tractate Sanhedrin where it speaks about how high the cost of everything will be before Mashiach arrives. And if what I am implying about who is to blame for these high costs is to any extent true, I hope that it comes as a shock and a surprise to those who think that we can simply continue blaming everything on the goyim.