Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Alcohol Be Gone

Readers here certainly know my views about getting drunk on Purim, or any other time as well. A commenter on one of the alcohol-related Purim posts mentioned that Simchas Torah in her area is as bad as Purim is when it comes to the drinking.

Posted below you are going to see a letter that was sent out to all residents from the mayor of the Incorporated Village of Lawrence, Nassau County, NY.

Dear Resident:

Over the past several years, our Village has become a desired destination for large numbers of teens duering the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which falls this year on September 29-30. We are concerned with the health and welfare of the children and their guests, the safety of residents and the protection of private property.

The Police Department has advised that they will be actively patrolling our Village during the holiday period.

Underage drinking, vandalism, congregating in streets impeding the flow of traffic and dangerous behavior will not be tolerated. The police can and will make arrests if the need arises.

Furthermore, you will be liable for criminal prosecution under the Social Host Law if an underage drinker is served alcohol in your house. A copy of the law is included with this letter.

We have reached out to our local synagogues, schools and social organizations with the hope that they will initiate activities for teens during the holiday period.

We expect all government personnel to enforce compliance with the laws of our County and we appreciate your doing so as well. Please communicate our message to the teens and guests staying your home so that their well-being is ensured.

Apparently Nassau County has a Social Host Law that went into affect in July of 2007, and the County is serious about upholding it.

Reading the letter I have to wonder just how much Sinchas Torah has changed since I last lived in the Far Rockaway area many decades ago. But whatever is the case, at least in Lawrence (and all other parts of Nassau County) getting drunk and wandering the streets could land you in a whole lot of trouble, and land your host in that trouble as well.

Plenty of food for thought in the letter.

Surely of Importance Now

In case any of you are wondering how you're going to fill your day today, having all that free time and nothing to do, someone, somewhere, has given you a perfect activity. Today is "Hug a Vegetarian Day." So go ahead, find a vegetarian and hug the dickens out of him/her. And when they scream for help loudly be sure to remind them that these special calendar days are part of our cultural uniqueness and tell them to just stand there quietly and get hugged. At least it beats getting mugged, sort of.

Did a little checking and there is no "Hug a Non-Vegetarian Day." I'm truly miffed. My civil rights are being violated. Time for a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission. How dare someone establish a day I can't participate in.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Hurray for Yom Tov

The past month has been fraught with some tension as my mom ended up in the hospital not once but twice, and no one quite knew just what it was that was causing her to feel unwell. She was so not a happy camper, having to spend Yom Kippur in the hospital. And me? I was not happy because she was unwell and also because for only the second time in my life I was not going to be spending sukkos together with my mom.

Well, there's an old Yiddish saying, usually applied to things we don't want or that can harm us: "foon vie sot gekommen, aheen zol is geyen"--from wherever it came from, let it go back there. Apparently whatever was bothering mom listened and headed out. And we are all gleeful that mom is going to be coming to us for the second days of sukkos. All is now right in our little world and we can't wait to have her here. I was in something of a funk Sunday morning, really not looking forward to getting into harness again and bonding with my pots and kitchen. And then the news came, and right now I have enough energy to not only cook up a storm but to cook up a category 5 hurricane.

Sure, we all like to eat something that appeals to us, but for my family it's not so much what is on the table as it is who is around the table, and with mom coming yom tov is going to be lustig and freilich.

Let me wish you all a gutten yom tom, and may your hearts and spirits be as well fed as your stomaches are sure to be.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A History of Esrogim

A comment on the sukkah posting this morning asked about how esrogim would have been purchased in the middle ages. The link below gives a really fascinating history of the esrog from ancient times on.


The Luxury of a Sukkah

We think of using a sukkah as the ultimate of getting back to basics--a few flimsy walls, a roof open to the sky, no heat, no air conditioning and just enough lighting so you're not sitting totally in the dark. We certainly don't go around thinking of our sukkahs as the ultimate in luxuries. Too bad that we don't, because we really should.

Do you really think that all those people living in der heim in Europe each had a sukkah for their own private use? Many, many of Klal living in Europe were the poster children for poor and living in poverty. Their regular dwellings were barely a step up from a sukkah, if that. In the small towns and rural areas there was land available to put up a sukkah by your home, if you had that home, that land, and the money. Many of Klal lived in the big cities, in apartment-type dwellings. They had no space where to build a sukkah of their own. Shuls would put up a sukkah for the use of their mispallelim. In many cases it was only kiddush that was made in the sukkah--there was no room to accomodate everyone for eating a full meal. In some cases only the men would eat in that shul sukkah. My grandparents had a hotel and restaurant in Europe in one of the smaller towns. They had a sukkah, and many of those in town who didn't have where to put one or couldn't afford one came to their sukkah to make kiddush.

Now fast forward to America. Where did the majority of immigrants live when they came here? In the crowded urban areas, in apartments--think the lower east side. Sukkahs? Where?! Again, if you were fortunate, your shul had a sukkah. And those sukkahs were not the gigantic edifices you see in some parts of Brooklyn today. Even in the areas where houses were mixed in with apartment buildings, there wasn't much land available to those houses for sukkah building. Some of those sukkahs were built on the small porches and balconies that fronted the homes--just enough room--maybe--for everyone to squeeze in to hear kiddush and then dad and the boys ate their meal in the sukkah, if there was room even for them.

I remember my really early years in Portland, living in apartments and no, we didn't have a sukkah because there was nowhere to put one. Kiddush was in the shul sukkah. When my aunt and uncle bought a small house it had a yard and suddenly we were all eating every meal in the sukkah. When we bought our own house then we, too, had room for a sukkah, one that my dad built from scratch each year--wooden walls and the schach was tree branches that we cut in the woods bordering our area. Many of our decorations were real flowers we had picked from the garden and full corn stalks we got from a farmer not too far away.

My in laws rented part of a two-family house in Boro Park. Their landlord was frum and put up a sukkah that basically filled the space of the tiny parcel of back yard. Only the men in the family ate in the sukkah because there simply was not enough room to accommodate two full families. I spent exactly one sukkos with my in laws precisely because of the sukkah situation. My parents, by then in Far Rockaway, had a bigger back yard and space for a sukkah that we could all sit and eat in--no segregation of the sexes necessary.

Even today there are plenty of people who don't live where they can have their own sukkah. When my cousin, living on the West Side of Manhattan in an apartment, needed a sukkah it was to the shul they went. However, if you wanted to eat a meal in that sukkah, you had to pay for it--the shul caterer provided any food, and no, it wasn't cheap. Where do you suppose all those living in Manhattan now go if they want to eat in a sukkah? Or those who live in the apartment towers in Brooklyn and Queens?

So yes, a sukkah is a luxury. And if your sukkah can accommodate your entire family and then invited company it's a higher level of luxury. We don't tend to think of sitting huddled in the sukkah, wrapped in warm jackets against the cold of an autumn night as luxurious living. Those who don't have this luxury would disagree with you.

So have a wonderful, joyous yom tov. Those of you in your own sukkahs give thanks for the opportunity to fulfill the mitzvah. And it wouldn't hurt either if you thought of those who can't have their own sukkah and offered an invitation to use yours.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Yom Tov is for Families Conundrum

Unless your children live around the corner from you, all families will eventually hit the stage of the "Yom Tov is for family togetherness" problem. Yes, problem, if you make it one.

In the first few years of married life, married children come home to their parents fairly often, at least those for whom the travel is not extensive, costly, time consuming or in conflict with work schedules. Once the children's children number more than one the dynamics begin to change. It's hard enough to pack up two adults and one infant for a few days stay elsewhere; it's a real challenge when that involves many more children. And so the request comes: "Mom and dad, come to us for yom tov. It's easier for you two to pack up and come here than for us to pack up five and go to you."

Sometimes the parents do go to the children. Other times they can't--there are still unmarried children at home that the married child cannot accommodate, or there are still young married couples coming home to the parents. And if there are many married children staying at home, parents get on the merry-go-round of "being fair" to all the kids and visiting each of them at some point over the yom tov season. And sometimes the cost and time in traveling makes it difficult or impossible to get together.

In addition there is another point that comes up. In making my calls before Rosh Hashanah I asked one relative if the kids were coming home for yom tov. He answered that no, they weren't, because the sons wanted to daven in their own shuls for yom tov. And there weren't any children for their children to see and play with in the parents' neighborhood. Well, this man wanted to daven in his own shul as well, so everyone was staying in their own homes over yom tov.

In short, it's wonderful when the whole family can get together, especially over a yom tov. But everyone needs to be realistic about how long that may last for. Yom tov is not something to wage a war over between parents and children. If getting together is possible, then enjoy. If it's not, wish each other well and try and schedule some together time when it's mutually convenient and/or acceptable.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Moment of Chizuk

I have, here and elsewhere, taken real exception to the way we designate our singles, using age as a delineator. Hit 21 as a girl and you are now "officially" a borderline older single. Go over 23 or 24 and you are no longer borderline. Hit your late 20s and the community begins the head shaking. Make it into your 30s and still single and the community sighs and shrugs its shoulders.

Listen up everyone. While there may be a communal suggested age for looking for a shidduch or getting married, it is only that--a suggestion. It's not based on anything logical or rational and is completely and totally the product of human minds "inventing" norms.

I believe, fully and with no holding back, that Hashem is me'zaveg zvugim. I believe that HE does not play practical jokes, nor does HE go back on his word. It is human beings, with their limited views, who give tzar to those who have not yet found their intended spouse. Yes, there is someone for everyone, if we will just open our eyes wide and our minds wide and keep our mouths closed unless it is to give chizuk that is positive.

The last few days have brought news of not one, not two but of three shidduchim that have been made. In each case both choson and kallah are in their 30s and one in their 40s. Looking at those shidduchim I am crying tears of happiness, for the choson and kallah and for their families. These people did not follow the public's view of them as over the hill and out of the race. These people kept their bitochon and continued the search. These people believed, and their beliefs were vindicated. Someone made a comment about the last shidduch that I heard about that is fairly typical--this person knew of both the choson and the kallah and somehow never put them together in his mind as a possible couple that he would introduce. His comment ended "If I would have known this was a possibility I would have introduced them years ago and they could already have been making a bar mitzvah by a child instead of first getting married now." Nope. Apparently it was bashert that things go this way. We need to remember that old yiddish saying: "Die richtige shidduch in die richtige tzeit"--the right shidduch at the right time.

To these chosonim and kallahs, a heartfelt mazel tov and hopes that their lives will be full and joyous. And to those out there who have as yet not found their bashert, hang in there. YES, it can and will happen. Forget what some others with limited and distorted vision may tell you. Your time will come. All you need to do is believe, keep your eyes and mind open, and put your faith in HaKodosh BoruchHu.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Gmar Chasimah Tovah

I think the title of the posting says it all. And may we be zocheh to be here next year wishing each other the same.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Case You Didn't Have Enough to Worry About

Today's JWR also had an article on the connection between tooth/gum health and Alzheimers disease. Not felicitous reading on a day I have a major appointment with the dentist. Not enough that I'm going to lose a couple of teeth--I could also lose my mind along with them.

Nonetheless, it's one more very good reason to see to it that we and our kids spend that two minutes in serious brushing.


Not Electronically Dependent? Think Again

I wouldn't imagine that the article in the link below applies to my readers here, but I found it of interest given a discussion in one of my classes last night.

The subject of that discussion was electronic communication devices and being connected 24/6. I mentioned that we have gone beyond USING such devices to having become totally dependent on them--we've become addicted to them. And like other addicts craving a fix, our addiction has spilled over into all areas of our lives, becoming dominant. Let one of these devices develop a problem and the owner frequently exhibits the behavior that we once expected to see if a loved one was in mortal danger.

Now granted, observant Jews do not use these devices on Shabbos and Yom Tov--one day a week they manage to control the addiction. But watch men davening in shul and you will frequently see them put their hands where their cell phones or blackberries normally would be. It's almost as if these devices have become an integral appendix to the body, and their absence bothers us in the same way that a missing limb would bother us. One student remarked, apropos of the reaching for the device during davening, that it's phantom vibration--not really there but you think it is because it should be.

Amazingly enough, on Yom Kippur our voices, not enhanced by electronics, will soar upward to The One who needs to hear them. We're going to be talking to God directly, no little gizmos required. If we can do this, when the importance of the conversation is so critical, we might just ask ourselves if there are not other areas of our lives where such direct conversation, "face to face" as it were, would not also work better.


An Oldie but a real Goodie

My father introduced me at a young age to the recordings of some of the finest chazonim the world has ever known. He loved the music of Yossele Rosenblatt, and particularly before Yom Kippur he would spend time listening to Rosenblatt's rendition of Kol Nidre. The link below is to Rosenblatt's Kol Nidre, and for those of you who appreciate the output of a talented chazan, even the age of the recording cannot take away from the obvious feeling that poured forth.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

I recently got a lift to a simcha with a friend in the neighborhood. On the drive we played catch up on what we were all doing. The husband had retired from the public school system and last I knew he was teaching in the yeshiva system, more particularly in the chasidishe yeshiva system in Boro Park. Apparently that is no longer the case.

He lasted all of two months in that system. I asked if the school was really that bad. He answered that the school he was teaching in was actually supposed to be the top school in that system--admission is by passing an entrance exam, and they are very selective. So what was the problem?

Among other things he was supposed to be teaching history and geography to his high school students. And then the principal told him it was forbidden to bring in a map of any kind. Yes, you read that correctly--maps were forbidden as teaching tools. The principal also instructed him that he was to draw no maps on the board either.

Now I'll grant you that there could be some real discussion about a choice of reading matter for an English class. And perhaps there would need to be some discussion about how to present--or even whether to present--certain scientific theories. But maps?!

It's a few weeks now and I still can't fathom what halachic/hashkafic dictates a map could possibly contravene. It cannot be that chasidim are forbidden to know that there are other countries in the world besides the US--the vast majority of these students are certainly grandchildren or great grandchildren of immigrants who came here from elsewhere, and many still have relatives residing outside of the US.

So go ahead, make my day and give me any reason for why maps are ossur.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Beginnings

Finally, the first day of the new semester has arrived. No first day jitters yet. Too many other things on my mind to give one complete day over to wondering how the new term will go. Falling as it does in between the days of yom tov it's competing with planning the shopping and preparing for the rest of yom tov and a major dental appointment this week. Or just maybe the gift this year is my finally realizing that what ever is going to happen today and throughout the term is going to happen whether I spend the day contemplating all the possibilities or not.

I've decided I'm just going to enjoy the day, the meeting of the new students, and stop anticipating any glitches that might occur. This term all the students are going to be committed, organized and enthusiastic, full stop. I've started my day so relaxed that my family has to wonder who this "masked man" really is. Normally they tiptoe around me on the first day of classes.

Lesson learned? You're never too old to change a way of doing things, to break with a pattern that's been around forever. Saying that something has always been done one way doesn't mean that another way cannot be substituted, bringing new benefits with it. There is a big difference between being stuck in a rut and accepting that and having chosen a particular approach because of its benefits. Took me a while but I think I've finally figured out that anxiety before the fact is not a benefit. Planning is one thing; obsessing is quite another.

Hopefully I'll remember all this as the time for class arrives.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rain, rain, can't you delay?!

Rain has been threatening all week here in the NYC area, threatening but not arriving. That is until today. Actually, we should have known it was going to arrive today. A lot of people had plans to put up their sukkahs today rather than wait to do it next Sunday, figuring it was easier to do it now than right after a taanis. What " better" weather to put up a sukkah in than typical sukkos weather.

My men folk are working around the brief breaks in the rain. First break, take out the sukkah parts. Brief break right now, start to get the walls up. Hopefully there will be enough breaks today to get the whole sukkah up and waiting. And it's not just us. With the doors and windows open I can can hear the hammers and drills buzzing up and down the block.

Clearly going to be a day for plenty of hot drinks and a hot, steaming dinner. The best line for today, however, was just delivered by one of my next door neighbors. They are out in the rain break putting away the patio chairs and the son asked his dad "Why are the neighbors building things in the rain?" The dad's answer? "They're Jewish." Yup, the whole explanation in a nutshell. We kill ourselves to afford a house with all the amenities, that will shelter us from all the weather elements, and then we go out in the rain and build a temporary dwelling that has none of those amenities. And we look forward to doing so.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A To-do List Reminder

Just a friendly reminder of a few things to have on your to-do list for yom tov. In the hustle and bustle to get ready some things could slip your mind.

1. Eruv tavshilin--because yom tov goes straight into Shabbos you'll need this if you want to do any cooking for Shabbos on yom tov.

2. Toilet paper--whatever amount of pre-torn paper you use for Shabbos, quadruple it for this yom tov/shabbos combination. Having company? Add even more.

3. Foil and plastic wraps--those pre-cut foil sheets are great if you only need them for something small. Be safe--tear a few extra sheets of the larger foil and some sheets of the plastic wrap just in case you need them for yom tov. They won't go to waste.

4. Shabbos clocks--whatever shabbos clocks you use for the lights may have to be adjusted as to on/off times due to the longer davening on yom tov. Look at your schedule now and adjust accordingly. Eating by candlelight is only "romantic" in a novel.

5. If you have a sabbath mode stove, make yourself a visible reminder note to set the stove to sabbath mode before yom tov. Cold chicken is okay, but cold raw chicken could cause a problem.

6. Power off any electronic devices you won't be using over yom tov, such as your computer, cell phone, blackberry etc.. You don't need the drain on the power source and neither does the environment.

7. Take out your smile and paste firmly on your lips. Sure, yom tov is a lot of work, but it's work that brings joy in its wake. Don't forget to put that joy on the to-do list.

A Wish for the New Year

I wish for all of you and your families a shanah tovah u'mesukah. May it be for you and for all of us in Klal a year of good tidings and good happenings. May we be blessed with the abundance of the good things that Hashem has to bestow upon us. May each in Klal receive what is needed to sustain life and make that life a full, sweet and contented one.

May this be the year that Klal finally opens its eyes and truly sees that acheinu kol Yisroel--that we are all brothers. Chepping with each other is one thing, as siblings sometimes do--outright sinah is quite another.

Let there be for us so many smachot, so many good occasions to come together that they will push away and blot out any discordance.

When the year comes to its end, may we look back with joy and happiness at what was our portion.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Talking about Schools...

Lest we think that it is only the yeshiva educational system that has deep problems with sustainability, our system of higher education seems to be suffering from some of the same problems. Interesting to me was the mention in the article below of administrative bloating that is affecting many universities and colleges as well.

Michael Barone
The Higher Education Bubble: Ready to Burst?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

So it's Official Now

While waiting for my dentist appointment I was speaking with the dentist's wife, who runs the office. Inevitably the subject of yeshiva tuition came up. This is a family with nine children so tuition is a big issue for them.

Their oldest child is going into his senior year in high school in New Jersey. Another child is entering her freshman year in high school, also in a Jersey school. According to the mother the schools were straight out blunt in telling the parents what the schools expect: the high school time period is now expected to be 5 years: 4 years in the high school proper and one year in Israel. The school expects no exceptions. That optional year in Israel is no longer considered optional for these two schools. The schools tell the students they are going and push the parents to fall in line.

She mentioned that a few other of the boys high schools she had looked at had a different schedule they were mandating. One major boys yeshiva in Far Rockaway tells parents straight out that the boys are to have three years of post-high school learning in the yeshiva before they take the recommended at least one year of study in Israel. College is not mentioned in this scenario. This same high school does not offer a full schedule of secular studies in the senior year for all of its students.

You had to know that it was coming down the road: post-high school limudei kodesh, in Israel and/or in the States, is now a requirement that schools are telling parents they must provide for their children.

This mother of nine is struggling with regular tuition right now. She absolutely refuses to consider the post-high school year in Israel because she plain does not have the money to fund any of it. And the pressure on the part of the schools and yes, on the part of the children's friends, is building up steam. Oh yes, and well-meaning friends in her neighborhood are adding to that pressure as well, pointing out that to be so radically different from all the other children will not be good for her kids.

This particular set of parents have tempered steel for backbones and they won't give in to all the pressure from the yeshivas and friends and neighbors--they can't. But why should they be put in this position to begin with?! I've said it before, and yet here we are again: since when do yeshivas get to make decisions about what children will or won't do instead of parents making those decisions? Since when did in loco parentis for the hours that children are in elementary and high school extend itself to apply to all parenting decisions?

Orthonomics has already reported on two yeshivas that won't be opening this fall--there are many more teetering on the brink. And yet high schools think it's the "right" thing to do to say that all students must extend their education beyond the four years of high school, to make this mandatory? Well, here we have it, proof positive that there are more worlds than just ours on earth in existence. How? It's clear that school administrators and roshei hayeshivot are living in a different world than the one that parents of yeshiva children do. It's clear that in the yeshiva system world money actually grows on trees or can be willed into existence through magical incantations. It's clear that in the yeshiva system world parents are only vessels to be used for creation purposes and then they bow out of their children's lives. Someone in that yeshiva system is mixing up science fiction with real life, and can't tell the difference.

I'd suggest building a bomb shelter in your homes because a gigantic implosion is heading down the turnpike and the fallout isn't going to be pretty. May not happen tomorrow but it's inevitable.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Beating that same Horse

It has been three years since I began this blog. By anyone's reckoning three years is a long time. I went back into my early postings to see what was being talked about back then and to compare it to now. Guess what? The more things change (or the more time that passes) the more things stay the same.

On the discussion radar back then were the following topics: the shidduch crisis, the high cost of tuition, the lack of transparency on the part of yeshivas, school schedules that don't take into consideration family/parental needs, the rising tendency of piling chumrah upon chumrah, a lack of achdus between various of the frum sub-groupings, a lack of proper preparation in some of the frum sub-groupings for getting a job, a disconnect for some of the frum sub-groupings from the general secular society, a lack of foresight and planning for the needs of an aging boomer generation, the world attitude towards Israel, excess consumerism, smachot whose costs are sky high, the unbalanced distribution of money in Klal, abuse in the community, dishonesty in the community, etc., etc., etc..

Look at that list and one thing becomes clear: in three years we've pretty much remained static as regards the problems we identified three years ago (and some were identified long before that). I'm hard put to name even one major innovation that Klal has put into place--or even discussed with real seriousness--that would apply to any of these problems. Even with the added impetus of an economic depression, what can we point to that has been a real change? It may well be that an individual here and there has made changes in the way they do things, but nothing that can be said to be making an impact on the general behavior and attitudes of Klal. If anything, there seems to be more of a disconnect between reality and our practices.

There's a new year coming and we each of us have to make a cheshbon hanefesh. It would be nice of we could also take a few moments to make that cheshbon on behalf on the practices of Klal as a whole. Wouldn't it be wonderful if next year I could excitedly point to even one major innovation, one major change that Klal made for the benefit of all? It would be lovely if next year I could point to doers rather than only to talkers/complainers. It would be lovely if next year would not be a repeat of this year and the years that came before it.

I'm going to take a positive stance here and say that there WILL be changes made this year, changes for the better, there WILL be actions taken, actions that will make a positive difference. And oh how I would love to see these words become reality. At least for now I'll put my pessimism in a dark recess of a closet somewhere. Wouldn't it be lovely if it could stay buried?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Respect, Reverence and Idolatry

My parents raised us to be conscious of and to practice good manners. This went beyond just saying please and thank you. We were taught that one speaks to people considerably older than ourselves in a more "serious" fashion than we would if speaking to someone our own age. We were taught to be respectful of those who have attained more than general knowledge, both secular and knowledge of limudei kodesh. We were taught to speak with respect to the rabbi of our shul. We were taught to speak with respect about those on the higher rungs of rabbanus, the gedolei ha'doar. Full truth? We were taught to speak to everyone respectfully, regardless of their status or position in the world.

We were also taught the posuk that begins "Anochi Elokim--I am the Lord thy God. Thou shall have no other gods before me." That one my parents stressed. They carefully pointed out that there is a real difference between respect and reverence for one on a higher level of learning and idolatry. I believe that today those lines have become exceedingly blurry. In point of fact, there are any number of practitioners of Judaism who idolize their leaders, and not in any positive sense of the word.

Nowhere in any of our writings have we ever been shown a "perfect" human being to model ourselves after. Every one of those written about in Tanach was clearly human, with human fallabilities. My parents would point out to us that one thing we must learn is that even the greatest among us has to keep a strict vigilance over their words and actions, precisely because they are human beings and subject to human error. In fact, they must be even stricter than most of the rest of us, because their words and actions are looked at as being on a higher level. Their words and actions affect not only themselves but the rest of us, who look to them as examples, who look to them for guidance.

When we get into the my rabbi/rebbi/rosh yeshiva/godol is better than yours slanging matches we have gone from reverence to indulging in a form of idolatry. When we refuse to believe that anyone but our chosen godol can possibly have any of the answers we need, we are heading towards idolatry. When we refuse to recognize that anyone else but our chosen godol can see what needs to be done in any and all given situations, we are on the way to idolatry.

In the secular world we would scoff at anyone who claimed expertise in all fields based on their expertise in one field. Look at those anointed to greatness in the general scientific fields. Just because a doctor found a breakthrough in epidemiology would you go to that doctor to have your fractured hip fixed? Rational people don't go to their dentist for heart problems, nor to their heart doctor for dental problems. We recognize the brilliance of each in their field, but we also recognize their limitations. Respect yes, reverence yes, but idolatry no.

But leave the scientific arena and the idea remains the same. I don't call my plumber for accounting advice, nor my accountant to fix a clogged drain; each has their area of expertise, and those areas do not overlap. Even in the accounting and plumbing areas there are sub-divisions and sub-specialties--as there are in most other fields as well. Not every accountant, not every plumber, not every one in any profession you can think of is super well-versed in every area of their field. We recognize this as truth in the secular world, but things break down when we move from the secular to the religious.

Years back we had a question of halacha relating to a medical/scientific problem. We asked our local rabbi for a referral to a rav who would have the knowledge to paskin on that particular issue. We were given the name of someone high in the hierarchy who was absolutely the rav to go to. We didn't question that statement. We went, asked, were given a psak and followed it. The result was almost catastrophic, as a family member almost lost his/her life. The problem wasn't this Rav's ability to understand what the words of the halacha were; the problem was the Rav's lack of total information about the medical problem, and his inability to see/know all that was medically involved. He did not say to us, "I will have to consult with medical specialists to get all the information I might need to give you a psak." He paskened based on what he already knew, and he didn't know enough.

This experience didn't send us off the derech nor destroy our belief that rabbanim high in the hierarchy are learned people. What it did do was point out a basic fact of life that applies today: no one person can know everything about everything. The vastness of the knowledge and information available to us today, information that is expanding even as I write this, precludes any one person from being an expert in everything, and certainly would preclude any one Rav from being "the" Rav to whom all is known.

There is a very fine line between respecting/revering a Rav and idolizing that Rav. Respect says that the Rav has a great deal of knowledge, and sufficient humility to know what he doesn't know and go to others, many others if need be, to gain further knowledge before giving out a psak or admitting that he can't give out a psak because he doesn't know enough to do so. Idolatry places a Rav in the category of "all-knowing," a patent impossibility today.

In the internecine warfare that categorizes so many of the sub-groupings of frum Klal, idolatry has taken a front seat, and it is more than time that it be banished as forbidden. I will respect and revere a Rav for the knowledge he does have; I refuse, however, to practice idolatry and mistakenly infuse that Rav with knowledge and/or characteristics that would make him an "ultra being," outside of the parameters of what is possible for a human being.