By Chanita Teitz
We recently were off for two legal holidays, which I wrote about and enjoyed. This past week we scored a bonus holiday—a snow day! Actually, there were two days off from school. Fun in the snow—except for the frigid temperatures!
Late last Wednesday night, I looked out the window and it didn’t look bad. A little snow had fallen. Akiva also looked out around 4 a.m. and figured it wasn’t going to be as bad as they predicted. But by the time he went to shul in the morning, things had changed. It was snowing harder and the wind was blowing. We did go to the office, but by the time we went home, it was a real blizzard out there.
The weather people were calling it a bomb cyclone. But a blizzard is still a blizzard no matter what you call it, and trudging through the snow and climbing over the mountains of snow along the curbs is a challenge. The snow plows don’t help matters. They plow the streets but they dump the snow at the corners. Every year I see some people walking in the snow with ski poles. I think they’re smart.
We are supposed to have warmer weather as the week goes by—into the 40s and maybe even 50 degrees—a real heat wave!
In Israel, they also had stormy weather, with heavy rain and flooding in some parts. But rain is a siman berachah, a blessing that they depend on for water throughout the year.
I know that the snow and rain are important here, too, but when I think of the inconvenience of the snow, I feel like saying, “Been there, done that.” It’s pretty for a day and then let it melt and be on its way.
The winters of my childhood in Chicago were frigid and snowy from November and on. Below-zero temperatures and lots of snow on unplowed streets for months. But we were young and loved it. Ah, youth! Stay warm.
I just read an update on the IDF soldier whose car was stoned by a young chareidi boy in Beit Shemesh. He was taken to the hospital and the chareidi boy had been arrested. Protests have broken out between factions. What is going on? Since when do we have such hate for Jewish boys who serve in the army? Since when is it permissible to injure another Jew?
Bais Yaakov Of Queens Early Childhood Center
Parashah comes alive at the Bais Yaakov of Queens Early Childhood Center. The children learned about the beautiful berachah that Yaakov gave to his grandsons, “Ha’malach ha’goel.” They enjoyed turning out the lights in the classroom and pretending to go to sleep as they sang the familiar words. Each girl worked tirelessly to create a beautiful, unique sign with the words of the berachah, using hand-painted paper to punch out stars of all different sizes. Each girl’s project reflects her own unique abilities and ideas, no two looking exactly alike. The culmination was an enjoyable pajama party. The girls had so much fun wearing their pajamas in school. Even the morahs got into the act, wearing robes and Crocs!
The children made a “bedtime snack” of s’mores and hot cocoa. Food preparation is a wonderful way to incorporate all of the curriculum areas in a hands-on way. First the children thought about which ingredients they would need to create the delicious treats, and helped their morah sound out the words and write a list. Then each student applied her math skills, carefully counting out the chocolate chips and marshmallows to put into her own s’more. The morah then challenged the children to figure out how many they had in all. The best part, of course, was eating them!
The children enjoyed a “bedtime story” called All the Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep by Crescent Dragonwagon. Story time was especially cozy while wearing pajamas. The girls had a wonderful time discussing the many animals in the book that start with different letters of the alphabet, especially unusual ones like vole and sloth.
As the children lay on their mats in the darkened classroom, they thought about all they had learned during this fun day at the BYQ Early Childhood Center. They hummed the tune of “ha’malach ha’goel” and felt reassured that Hashem is watching over them always.
An Uplifting Night Of Remembrance
By Adam Suionov
On January 7, Chazaq and Chickens for Shabbos teamed up to remember the late gadol ha’dor Rav Yehuda Leib Shteinman. The event took place at Rabbi Haimoff’s Ohel Simcha on Main Street. The shul was filled with members from many different communities in Queens.
Robbie Neumann of Chickens for Shabbos opened the event with his trademark warmth and sincerity. He said that great power lies in the mouth. The words a person chooses to utter have the ability to turn over destinies and fortunes, both physically and spiritually. This power is especially potent in the place where G-d rests his Shechinah. The shul is a sacred place and we must show the proper respect. The mouth holds keys to death and life. Rabbi Avigdor Miller taught that even negative habits can be stopped by the mouth. For example, if a person talks to himself over and over about evils of lashon ha’ra, eventually it will sink in.
The Talmud contrasts the generations of King Achav and King David. Achav went out to war and never lost soldiers, but King David went out to war and lost soldiers. David’s soldiers died because people spoke evil about each other in his generation. Achav the idol worshipper had no such problem amongst his people and therefore lost no soldiers! The same King David said in Tehillim, “Praiseworthy is the one who never sat with bad company.” This is the crowd to avoid, and the opposite leads to all good traits and acquisitions.
Rabbi Aderet spoke next and stirred the crowd with his passionate words of Torah. He said that the Mesilas Yesharim teaches us that everything leads to Olam Ha’ba. Everything is a sign for us in our life; all events are purposeful. A great man who perishes is a sign for our people. Immediately after Rav Shteinman passed, the Jewish nation was struck with the great Azan family tragedy. How can a family be burned by a Chanukah candle? Yet at around the same time, another occurrence for our people—Mr. Rubashkin was set free. What is G-d’s message to His people?
After the Holocaust, Rav Shteinman immediately aspired to restore yeshivos for the Jewish people. Once somebody asked him how he could devote all his efforts to opening yeshivos after the destruction of the Holocaust. Rav Shteinman responded that our obligation in this world is to “help” G-d, as it were, to run the world. From the moment the Temple was destroyed, a heavenly voice decried the lack of Torah adherence which gave the world its spiritual sustenance. Like Rav Shteinman, a person must know his obligation in this world. Rav Shteinman’s life was simply about trying to keep the world going.
We owe our life to the Torah. It is our life and our strength. There is no other way the Jewish people exist. Rav Shteinman was the world’s Torah giant. His passing is truly a great tragedy and reminds us that we all have an obligation to the Torah. G-d told us that we are partners in creation; our involvement in the Torah is the backbone of existence.
When we witness a tragedy the magnitude of Rav Shteinman’s passing, we are aware that a fire exists in heaven because of prosecution which takes and consumes. The fire that consumes begins with the purest and burns out. The Azan family was a sacrifice for the Jewish nation. The purest are given the task of waking us up.
The Talmud tells us that the passing of a saint is compared to the destruction of the Temple. It is important to note that the tragedy is not the destruction per se; the real tragedy is what causes the fire. Rubashkin was not in jail for that length because of anything he did, but because we needed the message of emunah. He was a ba’al emunah who understood that everything is in G-d’s hand. The chariot of G-d is implemented in the world when we are ready to give and live for G-d. The more effort we expend, the more visible G-d’s chariot becomes.
Rav Shteinman feared no one and lived with the creed that this world is simply a hallway leading to the next world. When a wealthy businessman told him about the loss of $40 million, Rav Shteinman asked him, “Did you give $4 million to charity that year?” He was unafraid to remind people what life is all about. How do we honor his life and how can we try to make up for the great loss of such a servant of G-d?
At the age of 12, he was the youngest student in an advanced yeshiva. Some tough students put a toy doll on his bed as a slight to his age, but for months he had not noticed because he would fall asleep and awaken in the beis midrash. His dedication was immense.
Noach’s grandfather, Methuselah, the saint, died a week before the flood. G-d tested if people would mourn properly and thus collect merit to avoid the flood. G-d takes the righteous before the tragedy to alert the people to the need of repentance. We need to state that we get the message. The message is to serve G-d with his Torah and to give up our little comforts for what is truly important.
When we emulate Rav Shteinman and recognize the illusion of this world and its temporary, fleeting pleasures, we can truly be the chariot for G-d in this world. Outlook is everything. A prince may be concerned with the trappings of the kingdom, but his main desire is the propagation of his king’s honor. Rav Shteinman was such a prince, concerned exclusively with the manifestation of G-d’s honor in this world. We must ask ourselves every day: How have I this day built a chariot for G-d?
Rav Shteinman also focused on the prerequisite to being a chariot for the Divine—peace. Rav Shteinman shared a story: There was a yeshiva before the Holocaust which housed much strife. Only three boys from that yeshiva survived the war. We need to stay out of all conflict and strife. Strife is the antithesis to G-dliness and is the cause of all kinds of fires.
The lesson to learn from what befell the nation in the past few weeks is that we need to rekindle the Torah in our life. We need to make it our reality and realize that it is the centerpiece of our life. We cannot treat the Torah as a bygone. This world is fleeting, illusory, and deceptive. It seems permanent but we all know it is the exact opposite. We need to recalibrate and shift our mindset. Olam Ha’ba is the goal, not this world. Rabbi Shteinman’s life and lifestyle was a great testimony to this truth.
YCQ 77th Anniversary Scholarship Dinner, March 11
The 77th Anniversary Scholarship Dinner of Yeshiva of Central Queens (YCQ) will take place iy’H on Sunday, March 11. According to Israel Glaser, YCQ’s chairman of the board, the dinner committee has selected an outstanding slate of people and families who have excelled in their dedication to YCQ and other Jewish communal endeavors.
Guests of Honor: David and Toby Reich. An attorney by profession, Mr. Reich has devoted much of his free time and talent to the Jewish community and the community at large. Early in his career, he served as legislative counsel to NY State Senators Emanuel Gold and Seymour Lachman. As in-house counsel for Custom Care Concierge, he still finds time to serve as president of the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills and as an active member of the board of trustees of YCQ. His wife, Toby, is an accomplished practitioner and professor of speech pathology, who, with much devotion, provided speech and language services to YCQ’s students for many years. Their children Jonathan, Jennifer, and Allison are graduates of YCQ.
Keter Shem Tov: Michael and Evelyn Schussheim. The Schussheims’ involvement at YCQ spans five decades and three generations. Michael graduated from YCQ’s Jamaica campus in 1972 and has devoted much of his life to public service as comptroller of Rockville Centre for nearly three decades. He also heads a real-estate tax consulting firm. Michael’s wife, Evelyn, is a registered dietitian and nutritionist working at a Long Island nursing rehabilitation facility. The couple has long been involved in Jewish community affairs including Congregation Bais Medrash of Cedarhurst, SKA High School for Girls, and the Lander College for Men. They have previously been honored by Yeshivat Shaalvim and Hatzalah of Far Rockaway and the Five Towns. The Schussheims have three grandchildren currently studying at YCQ. Their son Justin, a dentist by profession, is a popular basketball coach at YCQ, and their daughter-in-law Alyssa brings Tanach to life as a morah to the girls in the junior high.
Parents of the Year: Avi and Shelly Peretz. As parents of Daniel (‘11), Naomi (‘14), Benyamin (‘17), and Atara, a sixth-grader, Avi and Shelly are passing on their exquisite middot and yirat Shamayim to their children. Since Daniel, their first son, entered YCQ 16 years ago, Shelly has been continuously active with the PTO on the book fair, Mother’s Day boutique, and the graduation committee. Her most notable endeavor has been the Chanukah boutique, which, with the moral and logistical support of her husband, Avi, she has successfully coordinated for many years.
Educator Award: Rabbi Yaakov Dovid Finkelstein. Rabbi Finkelstein is marking his eighteenth year as one of YCQ’s most effective and popular rebbeim. Having studied at the finest yeshivot in Canada, the U.S., and Israel, and possessing a master’s degree in education and special education, Rabbi Finkelstein embarked on a mission to utilize his boundless energy and creativity to continuously captivate the interest of his students as he prepares them for life as enthusiastic Torah Jews. The relationships that he has developed with his talmidim over the years continue to this very day.
Alumni Award: Marc Merrill (class of 2001). Marc has richly earned this award because he represents the essence of the yeshiva’s existence. Receiving much encouragement as a student, Marc used his innate strengths to progress in his educational path through Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), Lev HaTorah in Israel, and Yeshiva College, where he received a degree in history, followed by three years of postgraduate study in YU’s semicha program. He began his professional career by returning to his alma mater as YCQ’s director of alumni affairs, during which he launched a major effort to build up YCQ’s alumni database and social networking. He also organized a number of successful pilot fundraising projects. While Marc subsequently moved on to Yeshiva University’s Department of Institutional Advancement, he continues to take an active interest in the day-to-day happenings of YCQ’s alumni and continues to offer his valuable input on a voluntary basis. “Marc’s devotion to YCQ is truly remarkable,” said Rabbi Yaakov Lonner, YCQ executive director.
YCQ President Joel Wein has asked parents, alumni, and friends to express their hakarat ha’tov to the yeshiva and to the honorees by contributing generously to the YCQ Scholarship Fund to help subsidize the cost of educating the children of families who have had difficulty with their tuition. Dinner Chairperson Mrs. Reize Sipzner said all contributions will be listed in a Scroll of Honor to be published online and in booklet form. Mrs. Sipzner urged everyone to mark the date and make a reservation and contribution. Watch the website for more information at ycqdinner.com. v
Chanita Teitz is a real-estate broker at Astor Brokerage in Kew Gardens Hills, serving the entire Queens vicinity. For all your real-estate needs, call her at 718-263-4500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.