July 29, 2014 – 2 Menachem Av 5774

When I was an aveil twenty nine years ago mincha was an hour plus event. I either davened in Ohev Shalom, a 20 minute car ride from my office, or in the Israeli embassy where my friend Eli Rubinstien was the second in command and also an aveil. This time around, I am fortunate that when in town I can take advantage of the mincha minyan at the Washington DC Agudah office located across the street from my office.

The minyan is managed efficiently in all respects. First thing in the morning the volunteer minyan organizer sends out an email to the pool of “regulars” to determine those able to attend. Another email is sent out around the noon hour confirming whether or not there will be a minyan. (Over the last two months I can recall only one day when there were insufficient participants for a minyan.) At the appointed time, participants arrive, daven mincha, say tehillim and then go back to work. I have joked that anyone who sees this small group of Jews gather mysteriously every day, mid-day, for twenty minutes and then disperse must think that we are writing a modern day Protocols of the Elders of Zion!

One would think that an Agudah office minyan would be “charedi”. Not so. The minyan is a cross section of Jews of all types. Its participants include locals and visitors, payus and a ponytail, frum and non-Orthodox, young and old, lawyers, engineers, government workers, a building manager and even a frum cab driver. All come for the sole purpose of davening mincha with a minyan. And then there is me who on most days is the only aveil.

July 27, 2014 – 29 Tammuz 5774

As the war rages in Israel I think of those who have fallen in defense of the Jewish People, Hy”d, every time I say kaddish. On Shabbos I came upon Rabbi Abner Weiss’ book, Death and Bereavement. The following brief excerpts are particularly timely, meaningful and hopefully comforting to all who need comfort.

  • Kaddish “reflects the defiant, triumphant faith of Job, who declared, in response to his terrible, undeserved suffering, “Yea, though He slay me, I shall nevertheless trust in Him”.


  • “G-d’s ways are inscrutable to us, and often appear to challenge us to disbelief. The sufferings of the righteous, the sudden termination of a life which is full of promise, with dreams unrealized and hopes unfulfilled…all can shake our faith in the beneficent Creator. Instead, our response is the sanctification of His Name, perhaps reluctantly – even defiantly – at first, but, by dint of daily repetition, in loving reconciliation in the end.”


  • “…we begin to respond to the lesson of kaddish. The world is His. He created it, and directs it according to His will, with infinite, surpassing wisdom.”


  • “…although it is not clear why individuals and even nations suffer and perish, we become convinced that, ultimately, His kingdom will be established on earth, and that suffering will have been recompensed.”


  • “Our consolation is heightened by the requirement that the kaddish be recited publicly, in a minyan. We soon see that we are not alone. Others share our pain. Other people are tormented by grief and join us in the recitation of the kaddish. Our anguish is not isolated. We are part of the bereaved, which is united in its experience of the most inescapable aspect of life – its inexorable termination.”

And now I must leave to say kaddish.

July 25, 2014 – 27 Tammuz 5774

Baah Shabbos, baah menucha. When the Sabbath arrives, tranquility arrives.

As I approach the Shabbos on which we will bless the new month of Av; the month in which we will commemorate our national, ancient, and historic day of mourning Tisha Be’Av, my heart and mind is focused on the land of Israel; once again besieged by enemies sworn to destroy, G-d forbid, the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

For the brave chayalim (soldiers) on the front lines, I will continue to pray for their safety. For their families, I will continue to beseech the Almighty that their sons and daughters  return safely.

And for the holy fallen soldiers, Hy”d, who gave their lives for me, you and Jews everywhere, I will join with their parents, spouses and children in saying kaddish so that they may be rewarded with eternal tranquility in Gan Eden.

Good Shabbos.

July 24, 2014 – 26 Tammuz 5774

This week represents two months since my mother’s death. As slowly as those sad days in May passed, the time since then has flown by. I suppose that is to be expected once one resumes a normal routine. What has surprised me, though, is how difficult it has been to integrate into my day to day approach to the ups and downs of normal life those acutely sharp lessons which I learned in May.

Her final illness, (see, Sad But Inspiring), the days in the ICU, her passing Friday night after the lighting of the Shabbos candles one last time, and the shiva experience provided me a rather clear vision of what is, (or should be) truly important in life, death and thereafter. While as an intellectual matter I “get it”, my emotional integration of those lessons remains an ever present challenge.

Take for example this week. Various events have caused my work related stress to increase quite a bit. Truth be told if I were to look at any or all of them through the prism of the grand scheme of life none would matter very much. They are relevant and of such concern to me only because of the here and now. And when I reflect back on the recent past I ask, “Why all the stress if in the big picture they are of fleeting importance?” The answer lies in the difficulty of translating these lessons into one’s being.

Perhaps saying kaddish over an eleven month period will have the added benefit of “forcing” me to reflect on this issue often and thus to address it.

July 22, 2014 – 24 Tammuz 5774

Every day requires planning. When and where will I say kaddish?

Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it?

Well consider this past weekend. Shabbos in Queens. Sunday in New Jersey. Return to Silver Spring Sunday night. Fulfilling my kaddish responsibilities beginning Friday evening through Sunday night found me attending seven different minyanim at seven different locations and working my entire schedule around minyan times. Add to that the need to plan extra travel time due to summer traffic and the days began early and ended late.

Accomplishing all the the tasks of a day requires planning and careful time management.

And – I just realized – I need to leave my office now if I am to quickly eat dinner, learn the daf and make the 10 pm maariv at the Yeshiva.

Just another typical day saying kaddish.

July 21, 2014 – 23 Tammuz 5774

This Shabbos I celebrated life.

Shabbos was spent in New York celebrating with family my mother in law’s eighty fifth birthday. Mama, as we lovingly call her, is a very special woman whose life has but one purpose – family – her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She is the definition of unconditional love in its truest sense. Though age has begun to creep up on her and to slow her down a little physically, it has done nothing to change her life’s focus and purpose – intensely, unconditionally and generously loving her family. She and Papa have and will always be extraordinary role models. May they be blessed to celebrate many more birthdays and happy events ad meah v’eesrim (untill age 120) in good health and happiness.

This Sunday I again experienced the loss of my mother a”h.

Sunday I went through my mother’s papers and along with my brother and our wives started the process of disposing of my mother’s “things”. I use that word intentionally because I find this task to be a somewhat complicated, emotional and thought provoking experience; one that involves feelings of nostalgia, sadness- for what was and is no more, and an occasional laugh and chuckle. For me, the most compelling aspect of this activity is that it starkly demonstrates how unimportant material “things” really are in the grand scheme of life. When one’s life ends and he or she is returned to his Creator what difference do all those “things” make? What eternal value (or for that matter pleasure) do any of those “things” have? Who cares how large or small the house was; what make of car was driven; what designer’s label was on the suit; or how many carets the diamond was? Sunday’s exercise made it abundantly clear that for the departed, all those things that had been “important” during life are utterly meaningless after death.

And yet we, the living, still value them; still want them; still work hard to obtain them. Are we missing the point?

And this Sunday evening I grieved. With Jews across the world, I mourned the death of eighteen young brave Israeli soldiers who fell in battle in Gaza defending the land of Israel and the Jewish People.

How all the more intense my feelings became as I heard the news of the death of eighteen IDF soldiers. Eighteen – Chai – a word that means life not death. Eighteen young, brave men gave their lives for the Jewish People and the land of Israel. What greater, more meaningful life one can live…or die?

Another eighteen families will be reciting kaddish alongside of me this year. For them, as for me, every day will revolve around saying kaddish.

July 18, 2014 – 20 Tammuz 5774

I awoke to a dark world this morning; a world in which evil men shoot missiles at passenger planes flying 30,000 feet in the skies and kill 300 innocent people; a world in which the Jewish People are forced to send sons and daughters into battle against those who are actively fighting to destroy the land of Israel and to wipe the Jewish People off the face of the earth. And this morning Jews the world over awoke to one more kaddish – for Eitan Barak, Hy”d, a brave twenty year old IDF soldier – the first killed in the current war against Hamas.

Saying kaddish heighten one’s awareness and sensitivity to death. But one can never come to terms with the death of valiant Jews killed just because they were Jews. This month alone we have witnessed too many such murders.

Each morning we recite the blessing in which we bless the Almighty as “He who gives strength to the weary”. Almighty G-d, Master of the Universe, Your people are weary. Give us the strength to defeat our enemies. Bless your people with peace soon and in our days.

Good Shabbos.

July 15, 2014 – 17 Tammuz 5774

I am sitting anxiously in seat 1A on USAIR flight 3447. The flight was more than an hour late departing Columbus due to thunderstorms in DC. I had specifically asked my client to schedule today’s meeting to conclude no later than 4 pm today so that I could take this USAIR flight to DCA and then make mincha/maariv with ease.  My perfectly planned schedule which would have easily enabled me to make mincha/maariv is now in jeopardy.

Over the last several years, I have traveled to Columbus often; though this is the first time that I have attended shul while there.  Last night and again this morning I drove twenty minutes to Congregation Ahavas Torah where I bumped into a former Silver Springer, David Ginsburg, and my neighbor Aaron Mehlman’s father. Other than having to decline last night when my client invited me for a drink and I had to explain my need to attend services at a synagogue and leaving at 6 am this morning to be at shachris on time, it all went rather smoothly. The minyanim were well attended in what is clearly a frum and friendly community. Since the fast began at 5 am, about an hour later than in DC, I was even able to drink a cup of coffee before the fast started.

All was going well until I came to the Columbus airport this afternoon. My flight had no gate assigned…always a bad sign. Then I received a text from USAIR telling me that the flight was delayed an hour. Since I left yesterday from BWI and I am returning to a different airport I do not have my car at the airport.  Global car service is picking me up at DCA. As soon as I learned of the delay I called Global to ask if they could take me to Kesher Israel in Georgetown, wait for me and then take me home. Thankfully, they were very accommodating. Mincha/maariv will be longer than usual due to the fast and there is no late maariv tonight in the Yeshiva. So it is all or nothing; Kesher Israel or I miss saying kaddish tonight. I will be more than happy to pay Global’s waiting time if I am able to say kaddish. Time will tell.

Ten minutes into the flight, and the pilot announces that he has been instructed to hold in the air due to more weather in DC.

Fifteen minutes later the pilot announces that we have been were released to DC and should be arriving in forty minutes. Not great, but perhaps, salvageable at least for maariv. And then another announcement. Another hold. Who knows when we will land? I will surely miss both mincha and maariv. A total disaster.

And then from bad to worse. We are being diverted to Pittsburg to refuel! Surely, it is more than coincidence that today is Shiva Assar B’Tammuz the fast day that commences our national period of mourning for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (the holy Temple in Jerusalem)!

During my Silver Spring shiva there was discussion about the challenge of saying kaddish every day – especially for someone who travels often. Various people reminded me that if necessary one can learn a mishna to”replace” a kaddish. Halacha (Jewish law) clearly does recognize mishna study as a replacement for kaddish and excuses one prevented from performing a mitzvah due to an “oneis”, a condition beyond one’s control. Nevertheless, as I sit helplessly on this plane, hostage to storms and air traffic control, waiting to take off from Pittsburg, out of time, and with no chance of saying kaddish tonight, I am terribly disappointed.

It is 11 pm and I have finally made it home to break my fast and to privately learn a mishna.


July 13, 2014 – 15 Tammuz 5774

In a month we are scheduled, please G-d, to take our two oldest grandchildren to Israel. We are leaving out of JFK and pre-avaeilus it would have been routine. Fly up in the morning, check in and leave on the noon flight. Saying kaddish, however, makes it a bit more complicated. We have to take a 6:30am flight so that I can get to New York in time to leave the airport, go to a minyan, return, check in and leave for Israel. For me it might be a bit hectic but doable. For my wife Marilyn it will be more problematic because she and my granddaughter Adina will be stuck with all the luggage at the airport waiting for me and my grandson to return and for El Al to open so that we can check in. The perfect solution would be a minyan at JFK. I checked the JFK shul web site and the JFK shul does not have scheduled minyanim. It is catch as catch can.

Even though we have a month before we leave for Israel I have been searching for a solution. And then on Friday my daughter-in-law Jen sent me a link to a new IPhone app called MinyanNow. It is a minyan specific “social media” type app which allows similarly situated individuals to communicate with each other for the purpose of arranging a minyan where none otherwise exists. I will have to try this app for my Israel departure and see if it works. Amazing!

Tomorrow I leave for Columbus for two days of meetings. I have traveled to Columbus quite often over the last few years. But this is the first time minyanim are a must for me. I have arranged my schedule around the minyan schedule. This included telling my client that I have a hard stop at 4pm on Tuesday, which is Shiva Asar B’Tammuz, so that I can make a return flight at 5:30. That flight will allow me to daven mincha maariv at home. Not something I explained to my client.

July 11, 2014 – 13 Tammuz 5774

A very stressful week practicing law coming to a close; thank G-d for Shabbos.

The stress of this week has caused me to reflect on just how difficult it is to keep life (and death) in perspective.

When my mother’s life was coming to an end and during shiva I had such clarity as to what was and what was not really important. During those moments it was not simply obvious to me that I “had” to put my business life “on hold”. Rather, it was clear to me that when my focus was on the true meaning and scheme of life, my law practice and all that comes with it was just not as important as it otherwise seems to be. Of course, intellectually, I have always understood that lawyering is temporal, a means to a financial end. But what happened in May was that this intellectual “fact” became an emotional reality. I had clarity of focus. I knew and felt what was and what was not really important and had no trouble following through with my actions.

This week internalizing emotionally this intellectual fact to the point where I do not feel the stress “of this world” has been a challenge. And the thought came to me that perhaps if only I kept uppermost in my mind just why it is I am saying kaddish – to elevate my mother’s soul in the olam haemes (the true world)- then maybe I could get back to where I was a few short weeks ago.

Thank G-d for Shabbos.