R’ Ginzberg And
The Pursuit Of Happiness
I would like to respond to Rabbi Aryeh Zev Ginzberg’s question following his article Simchas HaChayim, in your pre-Sukkos edition. He asks: since we know that mitzvah gedolah lihiyos besimcha tamid, why isn’t it counted as one of the constant mitzvos that people are obligated in?
The answer is that the saying he quotes is not a halachic statement. It’s not mentioned in Gemara or Shulchan Aruch. The Rambam, Sefer Hachinuch, etc., do not list a mitzvah to be constantly happy when they count the mitzvos.
One of the early Chasidic leaders, Rav Aharon of Karlin, who preceded Rav Nachman of Breslov, taught that simchah is not a mitzvah, but it can bring one to the greatest mitzvos, and atzvus (sadness) is not an aveirah, but can bring one to the greatest aveiros.
One cannot draw halachic conclusions from lyrics of songs, however popular they may be at one time or another.
At the end of his recent article, R’ Ginzberg asks for responses as to why the mitzvah of being b’simchah tamid is not included the Rambam’s six constant mitzvos. Perhaps it is because if you fulfill the constant mitzvos of emunas and ahavas Hashem, then being b’simchah tamid follows m’meila. Stated somewhat conversely, one cannot truly be b’simchah tamid in the face of sad and tragic circumstances without the emunas and ahavas Hashem that are part of the six constant mitzvos.
Jews Should Not Take Outlandish Risks
I have to admit that I was so greatly moved by the story last week of those two Orthodox Jewish girls who spent the summer in Nairobi volunteering [From New York To Nairobi: YU Students Make a Difference in Kenya, September 13] in a medical clinic that I was brought to tears. The story stood in stark contrast to the picture above it of the Bobover Rebbe inspecting his etrog, in that it depicted what most would consider to be the more authentic example of the Jewish mission of tikkun olam. Yet, the tragic events that have unfolded recently in Kenya have led me to question whether, in fact, these girls did the wise thing.
While I am curious as to what a qualified posek would say about the matter, I have been brought to the troubling conclusion that the Torah demands that before any Jewish youth are sent to far off and alien locations, there should at the very least be a consultation had with a UN diplomat or State Department official to determine exactly what the risks of terrorism are in that particular region. After a thoroughly qualified opinion is solicited, a top Rebbe should then be consulted to determine whether the journey intended will be perceived as a Kiddush Hashem. This is because Jewish life is so holy that any foreseeable loss of it, such as occurred in India several years ago, might constitute a severe desecration of the name.
While actions taken toward genuine tikkun olam without a doubt enhance the image of Jews worldwide, we should first know and accept our potential without having the need to compulsively activate it and ignore potentially fatal risks.
To Aryeh United
In the September 20 edition of your paper, you published an article by Yoni Glatt about his new summer travel program called Aryeh United. I wanted to share my son’s experience with your readers as well as extend a public yasher koach to Yoni and his amazing staff.
An incredible thing happened this summer to my 15-year-old son, Joey. Unbelievably, he went whitewater rafting for the very first time. Now, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal? Plenty of kids go whitewater rafting–nothing incredible or unbelievable about it.” Let me explain . . . Joey has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism, which, along with other deficits, can affect an individual’s sensory-integration abilities, resulting in a range of sensory sensitivities. To put it simply, Joey hates getting water splashed in his face and the sensation of wet clothing. When he was younger, one drop of liquid on his shirt meant its immediate removal (whether in public or non-public domains) regardless of whether another one was available to replace it. Today, he strongly prefers bathing over showering to avoid the spray of water in his face. So, now that you know Joey’s relationship with water, you can understand the significance of his first rafting experience. It was huge! For this “first” and numerous other “firsts,” our deep appreciation and thanks goes to Aryeh United.
Last January, I received an e-mail describing this brand-new travel camp with the goal of integrating high-functioning special-needs teens with typical teens for a 10-day adventure to America’s South. I was thrilled. I was ecstatic. I would have cartwheeled across my living room if I could. What a potentially perfect opportunity for Joey! Our human GPS who loves geography, maps, and anything mass-transit, to actually go to the places he constantly reads about–this was nothing short of amazing! I contacted Yoni Glatt immediately and, a short time afterwards, Joey was interviewed and accepted. I can tell you that for the next six months (the trip was at the end of August) all Joey would talk about was travel camp! He took out from the library every travel book he could get his hands on about the Smokey Mountains, Atlanta, Savannah, Orlando, and other areas of the South. He studied maps, he devised travel routes (he became close buddies with the bus driver), he reviewed traffic patterns of the major cities they would be travelling through, and personally rated all the attractions they would be visiting.
Finally, Sunday, August 17, arrived and the adventure began. We dropped off Joey at Newark Airport with the Aryeh United group. Yoni and his incredible staff greeted us warmly and we could tell that Joey would be in patient, competent, sensitive, and professional hands. For the next 10 days, my husband and I followed the group via Facebook–pictures of Joey experiencing his “firsts”: whitewater rafting (with a big smile!), horseback riding, water-tubing (yes! more water!), sharing a hotel room with people he barely knew, adapting, adjusting, and modifying his behavior or expectations in novel situations (with some guidance from the adults) and, most importantly, being afforded the opportunity to travel with his peers in a setting that created a sense of normalcy for a teen whose life is often far from it. Sure there were some bumps along the way. But any issues that arose were handled by Yoni and staff with compassion and the utmost understanding and professionalism.
Joey is still raving about his trip (to anyone within earshot) and is already suggesting (or should I say, strongly recommending) what Aryeh United’s travel plans ought to be for next summer (expect an e-mail, Yoni!). I cannot express in words what it means to be able to have your special-needs child experience what is readily possible for a typical child but next to impossible for your own. For Joey, Aryeh United has made the impossible possible. I thank you for your vision and unwavering determination in getting this trip off the ground. And now that you are up and running, don’t stop . . . you’ve got a great thing going. Besides, Joey’s got his bag packed and ready to go . . .
In reference to your recent article of August 30, “Orthodox Rabbanim and Community Lay Leaders Endorse Appointment of Lisa Septimus as Five Towns Yoetzet Halacha,” you mentioned several communities that have appointed a yoetzet halacha. We would also appreciate your noting that we are very proud that our own Rebbetzin Avital Weissman has recently graduated and will be serving the Plainview and surrounding communities on Long Island. Thank you.
President, Young Israel of Plainview