Monday, September 29, 2008

Shana Tovah U'Metuka

The countdown is in full swing, but I figured I better get my greetings in while I still can...

With every passing year, as any of you who frequently read this blog know, I come to recognize the value of health, peace, and happiness above everything else. So, I wish everyone a happy, healthy, sweet new year, one filled with goodness in all its manifestations. May Hashem grant you everything that you need to succeed in all your endeavours, spiritual and otherwise.

And, before it's too late, I humbly ask that if any of you readers have been offended by my sometimes rants (and hopefully that's not one of you), please mochel me.

May this year be the year of Mosiach, immediately! Shana Tovah!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Majority Rule

A thought for the Shabbos table:

In reference to this week's parshah (Nitzavim), Midrash tells the story of Reb Eliezer ben Horkenos. In this famous incident, Reb Eliezer chose to steadfastedly teach his view of a given halacha. While his view was indeed correct, as evidenced by various occcurences, his view was in opposition to the view held by the other chachamim. After being excommunicated, Reb Eliezer came to understood the error of his ways.

The question that comes readily is what error could there be in expounding the correct view?! If something is right, it's right! Yet we all understand that often multiple truths co-exist, and this situation is certainly true of Torah itself. Moreover, this situation is precisely the reason for the dictate that the majority view in Torah is the correct one, in order to prevent both the confusion and disharmony that results from competing perspectives. To put it differently, while the Torah consists of multiple truths, one truth must prevail for a given topic, even as the validity of the countering truths is acknowledged. That is why Reb Eliezer was excommunicated: by persisting to teach his view of the given halacha, he ran counter to the dictate to must abide by the majority rule.

Views come and go in popularity, i.e., truths shift with time. The same event can be viewed differently by its participants based on their perspective at a given moment. Underlying the concept of the majority rule is that multiple views will always co-exist, but one must prevail and inform one's actions. To disobey this concept is to leave oneself open to a fracturing of the community: arguments ensure, people take sides, and a cloud of doubt develops over the majority opinion. Conversely, when the majority view is upheld, even the less popular views garner respect, because they win favour by virtue of comparison- this opinion in relation to this opinion has merit, etc.

In short, conformity to the majority view results in respect for all. We would do well to extrapolate from this and apply it to our everyday, hum-drum lives. When faced with arguing our point ad nauseum, we should rather take pause and consider the opposing view in relation to our own. When such pause is taken, often meritous characteristics of the opposing view are found. Such an application of Torah then, results in increased harmony in all our relationships- and increased wisdom. As the adage goes, wise is the man who learns from everyone (and everything).

Good Shabbos.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mazal Tov

One of my very good friends just became a kallah!!! So take that, all of you who say that someone who has been divorced for a very long time won't end up getting remarried.

She is a smart cookie, not to mention has a big heart, so he is one lucky guy. And they are very cute together, B'H'. The chatunah is set for right after the chagim, so you know I'm counting the days.

Hm. Now what should I wear..? ;=)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


During my first marriage, I extended to my then-husband a business loan. When our marriage dissolved, the one stipulation in our divorce settlement was that he pay me back the loan at a rate of a small sum monthly over the course of 5 years. Since he has not made it a habit of paying me promptly however, the majority of the loan remains outstanding. So this morning I went to make a prozbul.

I find it quite interesting that you can use a prozbul to circumvent releasing debts during shemitta. As I was waiting for the Rav though, I found myself stressed out instead of mentally preoccupied with the legal ins and outs of the contract. The main source of my stress was the fact that I had been unable to find a shop that sold the contract, as the Rav had recommended. Instead, after failing to purchase the document, I did a search and found a yeshivah online that seemed to have the appropriate wording. The other source of stress was that I was the only woman around, and I was worried about contacting the Rav and otherwise having the proceedings occur without causing a stir. I just prayed that everything would go smoothly.

When I finally met with the Rav, he examined the document and said that it would be fine. Then he told me to meet him at the Beit Din's office. Phew! First hurdle over! I had never been inside the Beit Din's office (B'H'), and was impressed: I found it to be modern, clean, yet mildly inviting. The Rav told me to have a seat, and then collected some information. Then he went and got two witnesses, who took their jobs most seriously. They discussed/argued a bit in Yiddish before each signed. One witness even returned to discuss one more point and review the document a second time.

The Rav gave me the prozbul, wrote down my name and number and that was it. Not so painful in the end. All I can say is, I finally understood why my friend always claims that this "Beit Din is known to be honest". They were thorough and did everything very visibly with yirat shemayim. What started out as a fretful ordeal wound up being an inspiring one. A nice turn of events indeed, eh?

Friday, September 19, 2008


My new job has quickly disintegrated into full-blown chaos.

When I departed training on Monday, all new writers were tasked with completing two documents by 5 PM Wednesday. While that seems fast-paced, we all figured (Management and writers alike) that because we had completed our assessment assignments satisfactorily in about half a day, we should be able to hit that deadline. Well, we all assumed incorrectly. Upon waking up bright and early Tuesday and looking at the website to find my assignment materials, I found hundreds of pages that I had to perform gap analysis on before condensing the pertinent details into one short document. Since we were left without resources to whom we could pose questions, none of us were able to start writing. I took it upon myself to convey our common roadblock to Management (how I wound up being the team leader is beyond me), who was displeased by my communications. But I figured that it would have been unprofessional of me if I didn't inform them that I would be unable to deliver as per the stated schedule. We wound up having several telephone conferences, and I spent much of the week on the phone and IMing the various writers (B'H' for digital phone).

Last night I figured that of my employer is obviously that I simply produce. Forget accuracy or quality- the client obviously wants to just see words on a page in the (still-changing) agreed-upon format ASAP. While I was worried about submitting a document that contains errors to the client for review, because that will reflect poorly upon not only myself but my employers, evidently I was alone in my concern. So I figured the heck with it- I would just wake up bright and early and cobble something together for noon. And that's what I did. Not surprisingly, once I submitted my first document, Management suddenly became much more pleasant and accommodating. I have to work Sunday so that I can finish the second document, but at least I ended the week in their good graces (bli ayin hara).

This contract is certainly looking like it's going to be quite the adventure...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Number 2

Yesterday was our second wedding anniversary. And today was my first day at my new job. So it's been an eventful few days (yes, nothing new for us, I know!).

Since my husband payed a surprisingly large bill for my birthday dinner the other week- due to the astonishingly high gratuity and taxes that the restaurant automatically charges (we had split an appetizer and entree)- I was most willing to keep things simple and have dinner last night at one of our favourite cheapie restaurants in Flatbush. The only downside to the said haunt is that the service consists mainly of attitude from the young, tourist/Israeli wait staff. In short, between the language barrier and just plain lack of interest in their job, service is a gamble. We tried a new dish though, which was as usual very good. Hence why we frequent the spot- the food is as consistent as the service is spotty. For a decently priced meal these days, it's worth the compromise. Unfortunately, dinner ended poorly, with my husband's credit card being double charged instead of having the initial bill, which was incorrect, credited back. I guess that's just our mazel.

My husband meet me this morning, and we had brunch together before he drove me into the city for my job training session. It was such a nice few hours. Brunch was good, we sat for a bit afterwards in Dunkin Donuts, and the drive in to town was fun. The training session ran over, naturally, and I think they were a little short on information we needed immediately- such as how we submit our time- but the team was very nice, and my fellow new writers seemed like a good bunch. Our managers even bought snacks (treif), coffee (treif), and Pelegrino (SCORE) for us. So I left feeling very positive. Hashem even smiled on me with my metro ride home, which was blissfully quick (I love lower Manhattan), relatively clean, and remarkably quiet.

All in all, an exceptionally good day, B'H'.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

La Lettre

Last night, when my husband brought up the mail motzei shabbos, there was a nice fat package from our lawyers. Silly bird that I am, I actually thought that maybe they had managed to reach a settlement. But no, it turned out instead to be a set of forms I had to sign to authorize release of all kinds of medical records. I then remembered that after the deposition there was mention of making records available to the opposing counsel and the insurance company. Ah well, what can you do?

But then I read the accompanying letter. That's when I noticed two things. First, the opposing counsel and insurance company made errors in their requests, requests that resulted from their conflating information I gave during my testimony. So that was vaguely disconcerting- was nobody checking the transcript from the deposition?But second, and what most raised my blood pressure was the the thinly veiled impetus for the requests, namely an attempt to defame me. That is when all bets were off, as they say.

I promptly left a voicemail with our paralegal, and followed up with emails to both her and the deposition lawyers. It is bad enough that I was an innocent bystander impacted by an accident that has so far irrevocably compromised my quality of life, but to stoop to immoral tactics in an attempt to plant blame on me for my injuries- well, that I refuse to tolerate. Thankfully the deposition lawyers responded and concurred that that the requests were outrageous, premature, and would be contested. A minor victory perhaps, but given how agitated I was from motzei shabbos until I received that email Monday afternoon, it was a significant victory for morality.

All of which is a way of saying, B'H', I now have an even greater appreciation for the Torah's requirement that the judicial system exemplify the highest degree of morality. Now if only the rest of the world would catch on...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Triangle of Kindness

I have been very busy the past few days, B'H', in preparation of starting a new job on Monday. That being said, here is a little thought of mine about this week's parshah (Ki Saitzai).

This parshash contains several references to marriage: the captured woman, acceptable converts from certain nations, gittim, and yibum. Each of these instances constitutes "unusual" circumstances; they are not commonplace unions, and involve a loss of comfort while carrying the risk of stigma, as underscored by the proximity to the various mitzvot in the parshah that deal with "forbidden mixtures. Yet even more interestingly, what does this proximity also underscore?

Elsewhere in the parshah, the prevailing theme is a desire to prevent unsavory middot- dishonesty (false weights/measures), greed (leaving yield to the poor and underprivileged), insensitivity (neglecting to consider someone else's safety, i.e. leaving a pit uncovered, a roof unfenced), and even downright evil (Amalek). The point therefore is that these marriages are ones that may seem to require less compassion on the part of the Jew, because the circumstances are abnormal. Why show compassion to someone who belonged to a nation we can war against, to a person from a nation we rightly feel negatively about, to a woman who is unable to remain with her husband because they become incompatible, to a woman who did not bear a child to her deceased husband? Isn't it only 'natural' to think of these individuals as lacking in some way and consequently warranting less favourable treatment?

The Torah answers No for exactly this reason. We should indeed overcome this inclination and remember that above all else, these marriages still require the one ingredient required of all marriages to succeed: compassion. By considering these persons as marriage partners then, we must strive to always demonstrate compassion towards them, for it is precisely this compassion that purifies the relationship and renders it a suitable abode for the Shechina. The parshah in turn underscores a primary trait that must exist in all marriages if they are to remain spiritually feasible.

Good Shabbos!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ha Ha (Squared)

Today being a day of commemoration, I would like to share a story that my mother told me yesterday about my Uncle Leo, who passed away last week (see Tale of Two Uncles).

As a young man, he and his brother went to buy a present for their mother who was not well at the time. Since she was constantly cold, they thought that a bed coat would be a perfect gift. Upon presenting her with the gift however, she responded "What am I going to do with a bed coat? I want jewelry". So the boys diligently exchanged the gift for a bracelet. One evening soon after, their mother commented that she was cold. To which they quipped: "Why don't you put on your bracelet?".

My uncle, olev hashalom, was , like everyone in my family (yours truly included), a character. But one thing that you could definitely say about him was that he had a wonderfully dry wit. More to the point, he was incredibly sweet to me, and treated me as if I was his own daughter, always assuming a loving stance towards me that was simultaneously protective and attentive. In short, I loved him, I miss him, and I hope he knows that although as I grew up we became less involved in each other's lives, I will always think of him with love and appreciation. Here's to you, Uncle Leo!

To all of you whose lives were affected by the event that happened 7 years ago today, may your hearts and minds be filled with only fond memories of those you lost too early and may Hashem ease your pain.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Double Ick

I wish I could say I was just taking a break from it all since my last post, but instead I've just been running ragged, comme toujours.

First, I received a response to my application for a job posting that, while failing to mention either pay rate or duration, sounded interesting. It did indeed turn out to be interesting, but only because the headhunter who was subcontracting the position turned out to be the Headhunter-from-Hell. On top of the position paying the same rate as I received during my internship 10 years ago while also requiring a 4 hour assessment, the said headhunter wound up being Mr. Condescending. Why is it so difficult to find people at staffing agencies who are respectful and refrain from treating you like you are either a child or someone who should be gratefully kissing their feet? But since I have been looking for a chance to return to the same type of work that caused me to begin my current career, I persevered with the process. The end result? I spent from Friday to midnight last night dealing with all of the job requirements, which had to be in by first thing this morning, only to receive no reply by noon as had been promised. Since the situation is unfortunately common, I have decided that going forward I will refrain from wasting my time on assessments, etc. If they want samples of my work, fine, but otherwise, why squander hours of my life for jobs that ultimately prove painful (long hours, heavy workload, bad commute, poor pay, high pressure, etc.)?

Then, there the medical visit yesterday required by the insurance company for my lawsuit. The visit was ostensibly a "followup" to the claims I made during my deposition. However, the insurance company in question is for the car in which I was travelling, i.e., the company who should be covering the bills stemming from my hospital visits/recovery. Since the other driver had such a paltry policy, "my" insurance company, or rather the insurance company of my in-laws/husband, want to avoid having to pay anything out to me. In short, their insurance company is treating my husband and in-laws as requiring defense against my claims. To add insult to injury, they made me travel to East Flatbush to view a physician, which is not exactly the safest neighbourhood on the planet. The visit proved comical, involving lots of questions from the examining physician, who then attempted to abruptly curtail my answers/explanations. The purpose of the charade was to prove that I am just fine and dandy now, thank you. Yet more farcical fodder for my future memoirs, I suppose.

So that's what I've been up to the last several days. I think I should spend the afternoon doing some much needed R&R to recuperate; I'm thinking a homemade facial as I read my library book. I have, after all, only renewed the book twice because I've been busy dealing with all of this other ballyhoo. And who knows? If the R&R goes well, I might even go whole hog and allow myself to (gasp) take a nap. ;=)

Friday, September 5, 2008

Justice Twined with Humility

I figured that since it is my birthday parshah, I had better say a few words. No more excuses!

As evidenced by its name, Parshah Shoftim details the judicial infrastructure: the three levels of courts, kingship, ariyeh miklot, sorcery/witchcraft, warfare, and the eglah arufah. Moreover, each of these concepts concern defining justice in relation to compassion. That is, whereas one's natural inclination may be to spare an individual, ultimately true justice and mercy dictate that one should destroy the evil that the individual represents, so that the common good can prevail.

Interestingly, the key to creating and maintaining the judicial infrastructure al pi halacha is humility. Both judges and kings must be tzaddikim who fear only Hashem and His laws, else the temptation to veer from halacha could result, thereby leading the way for spiritual and physical downfall/destruction. We consequently see how justice requires the judges to ensure easy passage to ariyeh miklot by maintaining the roads and signage thereto, and implies their guilt if a solitary passenger falls near their given city. The implication, in other words, is that the leadership of the nation sets the spiritual tone of the nation, and forgetting even momentarily that the leadership is responsible for its members can result in an omission that can result in bloodshed.

Last week, we learned that the wayward city must be burned to the ground and its inhabitants slain. The purpose for this destruction is to atone for having been complacent when increasing numbers of inhabitants were turning to prohibited practices. Because we failed, chasve shalom, to do kiruv, to speak up against those practices, the inhabitants sinned. Our omission therefore lead to an entire city being destroyed. Similarly we learn this week how the leaders of Klal Yisroel are instructed remain humble in order to be perennially vigilant against deviating from the Torah and Hashem's delineation of justice.

Justice must always be tempered then by humility, not vanity, ego, or other by-products of the yatzer hara. It is only by intertwining humility with leadership that true justice can prevail.

Good Shabbos!

Birthday Notes

In one's youth, your birthday is such an important event. Unfortunately though, the celebration factor often obscures the true value of the day, namely that you are a year older and hopefully wiser.

This year I had all kinds of plans for how I was going to spend the day. Last year my birthday wound up being basically a washout, so I wanted to ensure that this year I marked the day in a more positive, productive fashion. The phone rang early (7:45 AM, to be exact), and it was my mother calling to send me her wishes. Given how difficult it is for my mother to use the phone these days, I was so touched by how important calling me on my birthday was to her. Not only did she call first thing in the morning, but she had tried me the night before, and when neither attempt proved fruitful, she had someone help her construct a Birthday Wishes email. On my end, the most important thing for me was to speak to her on the day, so I made sure to catch her.

Her example though got me thinking about what the proper priorities should be for the day this year. And I decided that really, at this point in my life, the day is about being in touch with all the people I love and care about. Since most of my friends are scattered across North America, I wound up spending a nice part of the day on the phone and emailing. I turned out to be a wonderful day as a result. Of course, I was so grateful to my DH, who bought me a present I really needed (a camera, hopefully one that will enable me to take multiple pictures before expiring, unlike my last model) and took me to dinner at a relaxing restaurant just up the street. We had a light but delicious meal, the staff was very cordial, and my husband managed, yet again, to arrange for a cake for me...every year I fall for that one. What a sucker I am! In a good way, of course.

So, B'H', the day did indeed prove productive and meaningful. And in the end, that's what milestones are all about. To 120, bli ayin hara!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

An Inspirational Milestone

Today is a very special day. My friends the Grunwalds are celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary! 57!!! And, G-d Bless Her, when I called Mrs. Grunwald to wish her a happy anniversary, she blessed my husband and myself along the lines that we should also know at least 57 years of only happiness together. What a is her husband. B'H', bli ayin hara, I am so very blessed by Hashem and so very grateful to Him for giving me such wonderful friends!

Tale of Two Uncles

Yesterday was the first time in more than 25 years that I had been to the Bronx Zoo. The prior occasion was back when I was a preteen with my Uncle Pen. Uncle Pen was a dear friend of my aunt's whom I adored. He was just such a kind-hearted man, who also happened to be very good with kids. Anyhow, on the same trip that we went to the Bronx Zoo, he gave me a most elegant necklace, a timeless piece that had a beautiful pearl solitaire with diamond accent. The style is actually back in vogue, if my visit to Macy's yesterday afternoon while waiting for a lift from my husband was any indication.

Before I set out yesterday morning, I thought to myself that since I am going to the Bronx Zoo, it would be only fitting if I wore the necklace. Since I had not worn the necklace in about 20 years, because the chain is delicate and consequently gets knotted easily, I took out a needle and proceeded to undo a set of three knots so that I could wear the necklace. It still was beautiful after all of these years. In the evening when I returned home, I took off the necklace to start preparing for bed. As I cupped it into my hand, the pearl popped out of its setting into my palm. I couldn't believe it! That necklace has travelled at least 40 000 miles around the world with me intact, yet came apart the same day as I wore it to the Bronx Zoo. I was just very thankful that I didn't lose the pearl while we were out and about, and counted my blessings.

Then this morning I received a voice mail from my aunt, who informed me that my remaining uncle had passed away and the levayah will be this Friday afternoon. Once my shock and sadness wore away slightly, I suddenly clued in to what had happened the night before. I realized that it was no coincidence that the pearl came out when it did- it came out when my uncle passed away! In death as in life then, the two uncles remained bonded. And in my choosing to wear the necklace today of all days, I hopefully paid respect to them both in a way that demonstrated how fond of them both I was.

So, here's to you Uncle Leo! May your neshamah immediately ascend to Gan Eden, and may you experience the ultimate peace and joy. Because you deserve nothing less.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Woes and Perks

So today was my UI appointment. I trudged downtown and found myself in line as soon as I got off the elevator. Most people were busy filling out the forms that we had received in the mail, and I narrowly avoided being the receiving end some big-time fury when I accidentally nudged the woman behind me with my bag. So I whirled around and said in my most polite Canadian "Oh, I'm so sorry"! Hashem was with me, because her glare softened ever so slightly, and that was that.

It turns out that in New York, they do a combination of what they do in the South. On one occasion when I was living in the northern part of the state, they had me attend a group session, but then when I moved to the southern part of the same state, I had an individual appointment. Well today, first we had a group session, which consisted of instructions on how to complete our forms, and then we met individually for an interview with a Benefits Associate. The group session was not bad, simply boring. My enemy of a few moments before actually wound up sitting at my right, and we became friendly amidst the boredom of waiting for one of the 15 available Associates to fetch us for our one-on-one interviews. Unfortunately, it seems that of the 15 associates, 13 were on perennial smoke break, so between that and the fact that 2 group sessions were being conducted concurrently, it wound up being only the gentleman who handled our group session who came to fetch a lucky few for one-on-ones.

B'H', I was one of the lucky few. He was an affable individual, and actually very encouraging. Plus, I appreciated that when he asked me where I had been interviewing and I took out my job search spreadsheet, he said "Wow, that's so organized!". For a yekki Virgo, that's a high compliment. :=) Anyhow, my appointment with UI wound up being unprecedented: relatively short (clocking in at an hour and a half) and surprisingly uneventful.

Since my birthday is this week and my husband's day off was today, we went to the Bronx Zoo. After two years of talking about it we finally made it! The only snafus were that there was no mention about the steep price of parking ($12? It's the BRONX!) on the zoo's website, and we arrived at the standard time for anyone in my husband's family- late aka 2 hours before closing. So it was a bit of a mad dash. I think our favourite animals for this zoo (aside from the tiger, which if you know me, you could predict I would love), were the anteloupes and the giraffes.

Despite the zoo being incredibly relaxing though- you are immersed in nature as you walk in hilly woods with gurgling brooks and beautiful lakes- I was oh so slightly disappointed by the outing. Maybe after two years of anticipation, disappointment was inevitable, because that's a lot of anticipation. But I found the exhibits to be nothing special. I loved seeing the animals, but even the animals were blah in demeanour. Almost every last one of them (and there was only one animal for many of the exhibits) were at the back of their enclosures, if they were out at all. The giraffes however were a notable exception on both counts. The mama giraffe came right up to the front of her enclosure and ate from a bush a foot away from the crowd of enraptured onlookers. That definitely made the trip worthwhile! I just wish I could've seen a bit better overall, not to mention see both the species who were MIA and more interaction amongst the animals, i.e. two or more per species. But hey, at least I went to the Bronx Zoo finally. And with my husband no less.

In short, a pretty good day (B'H')!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Notes on Contentious Issue

Last night (well, really this morning), I happened on an article in the online version of the New York Observer that dealt with the "Mosiach" divide in Lubavitch.

Now, before I get started, I want to be perfectly clear on my stance so that nobody goes all hog-wild with their comments. I will go on record as stating that Chabad has done a tremendous job of bringing wayward Jews back to the fold, as well as providing religious infrastructure to Jews who find themselves in Nowhereville, Anywhere. Moreover, and not least of all, I am personally indebted to Chabad, since during my years in the Southern US, Chabad was the only orthodox option available.

The article described in detail the current divide in Chabad between those who believe that the Rebbe was/is Mosiach/has not passed on to the Olam Habah. The particular focus of the authour was on how the divide between Mosiachists and non-Mosiachists (according to the journalist, the latter were the minority) has subdivided Chabad into two parties, which do not intermingle. This divide has been evident for quite some time, as evidenced by the fact that the last community I lived in consisted exclusively of two Chabad shuls: one ostensibly non-Mosiachist, the other Mosiachist, and they were located, naturally, kitty-corner from each other. But when I read the article, there was a woman who was featured as the cornerstone of the extreme Mosiachists, who acknowledges being unlearned and looks to the Igros for answers if need be. To each their own I said...until I read how, on either Tisha B'Av or 17 Tammuz (the journalist does not specify, due), the same woman ate and drank because "when the Mosiach is here, all rules are turned on their head".

One bone of contention that I have always quietly held with Chabad is the emphasis on the Rebbe above all else: the favouring of learning Sichos versus Gemara, of telling a Mimar of the Rebbe versus a Divar Torah proper, etc. Granted, I understand that Chassidic sects operate with a focus that differs than that of Misnagim. But I do not believe that placing one's Rebbe on par with Hashem is sanctioned by anyone. Throughout the Torah, emphasis is placed time and again on foregoing agents as conduits to Hashem. We are the sole nation who have a direct relationship with Hashem, so why render things murky with such a heightened relationship with the Rebbe to the end that emphasis on Hashem is lessened? My issue, in other words, is with balance. Perhaps a brief story will illustrate how imbalance in this regard is inappropriate and downright reminiscent of Christianity and other revolutionary-minded sects.

While attending a Chabad shul, there was a girl there who came to shul quite frequently. For her, shul was mainly a social versus spiritual event; whenever she attended, she unfailingly managed to talk throughout davening, even throughout Kriat HaTorah. However, one afternoon over Seudah Shlishi, while her husband was giving over a Mimar, I whispered something to my friend- something along the lines of "Please pass the potato salad". She shushed me so loudly that I had to go over once the men had returned to davening and ask her why she chose to shush me so vehemently. She responded: When my husband is saying a Mimar, the berachas are raining down from Shemayim. I could not help but wonder why complete silence had to be maintained during a Mimar, but Kriat HaTorah was a free-for-all. As far as I am concerned, who actually believes that talking during Kriat HaTorah is mutar? Unfortunately, the girl in question was born and raised FFB in Crown Heights. I doubt that neglect of Torah is what she learned there, so how did she arrive at her then-mindset? I do not mean to single out this girl by any means, but her words and actions are illustrative.

To summarize, I find the focus on the Rebbe as Mosiach dangerous for two reasons. First, as has been exemplified by other Chassidic sects recently, divisiveness in any group is spiritually lacking, if not destructive. Given that we are supposed to have ahavah and respect for each other, any issue that so divides a party should be carefully examined in order to find a solution. Achdus, in other world, should be of primary importance, and the refusal to co-exist amicably, to "intermingle" is both troublesome and problematic. But secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, emphasis should alway remain primarily on Hashem. Look at Breslov. Here is a group whose Rebbe has been gone for centuries, yet Breslovers manage to live and breathe the teaching of their Rebbe as a way to increase their personal relationship with Hashem. To put it differently, while they put great importance on the teachings of their revered leader/founder, those teachings serve only to create a feeling of closeness to Hashem that is not reliant on Rebbe Nachman as a conduit. Instead, his teachings serve as a method of improving one's spiritual health, which in turns improves one's physical/emotional health in this world.

I hope that Chabad, an organization that does so much for kiruv, can remember to apply the fundamental message of kiruv to itself: that the reason and purpose for our existence in this world is loving and serving Hashem and Him alone. In the case of Klal Yisroel, there is neither need nor tolerance for either intermediaries or revisionism- without propagating evil, chasve shalom! I consequently hope that the two factions can find a common ground and that achdus can prevail. For what, in the end, is achdus but a way of demonstrating love for Hashem?