This newspaper has been in circulation for 23 years. There are a lot of components that need to be pulled together week in and week out to deliver the stellar product we’re known for, and although it is demanding and often time-sensitive, in the period of time that we have been doing this, it has become routine. I am always amused when a passerby, looking to make small talk with me, comments on a Wednesday, “Deadline day today, no?” I usually just give a courteous smile of acknowledgment, but it isn’t as stressful as some might imagine.

My role in the newspaper is twofold, as an ad salesperson and a columnist in the form of the words, sentences, and paragraphs that you are currently perusing; if you are reading this, that is. Officially, this column is meant to be submitted by Tuesday to be edited by our team of editors and sent for printing on Tuesday or Wednesday evening, depending on where in the paper my column is situated on the given week. So often, on Tuesday morning I will get an e-mail from Michele, our lead editor, saying, “Please send your article in for this week.” Instinctively, I’ll usually click on the arrow in the address section of the e-mail to see who else hasn’t yet submitted their column, but Michele in her thoughtfulness and sensitivity usually BCCs the other recipients of the e-mail in order not to disclose their identities. Then, considering that it’s Tuesday and I am in receipt of that e-mail, I’ll begin racking my brain for ideas to write about in that given issue. However, even in that situation there is a modicum of order within the mental chaos.

It is usually in the context of yom tov when my perceived cool, calm, and collectedness get thrown into a whirlwind. Instead of having Sunday and Monday to collect my thoughts and put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard in this case, often the need arrives to submit multiple articles in the same week. In the current situation I submitted my latest article on Tuesday of last week and today I am being asked for this article as mishloach manos is strewn around me and while trying to bring some money in on the sales end due to the abbreviated week. Having written the last few weeks of ideas related to Purim, and since said holiday is literally hours away, it’s extremely challenging to move on to the next topic when this one hasn’t completely passed. And to write about Purim 5783 before experiencing it would be disingenuous, and I hope not reflective of the experience that we are anticipating in the next few hours and over the coming day.

If you are an avid reader of this newspaper or if you are familiar with our family then you know my grandfather was a journalist of note. He left a huge impression in the world of Yiddish journalism in the Tog Morgen Journal and then the Algemeiner Journal in which he wrote multiple columns a week over a number of decades, over that time interviewing chassidic rebbes and heads of major organizations and universities, leaving an impact on the mind and heart of many a Jewish reader.

The following story may have been published previously by me or by my father who was a young child when his parents decided to take him and his siblings to a major organization’s event at a ritzy NYC venue. It was a frigid and snowy late November evening. The family was all bundled up, waiting at the front door for their father who was delayed in the basement. When my grandfather finally emerged, he excused himself for the delay, saying that he had been finishing up the article for the event they were on their way to attend. Perplexed by the incongruity, they asked how he could write a recap of an event he hadn’t yet attended, to which he responded dismissively, “They say the same things every single year.”

This reminds me of a story I once heard about the Ponovezher Rav, Reb Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, zt’l, who opened his keynote addresses at one of the Ponovezh dinners by saying:

“Everyone who spoke before me spoke passionately about Torah, but they really meant money. I am going to speak about money, but I really am referring to Torah.”

Disingenuousness is good for organizational functions and yeshiva dinners. The truth is, newspapers have a bad reputation for telling the truth as it is; that being the case, I need to be extra vigilant about imparting words I can vouch for and that I am feeling from the depths of my heart. Rabbi Gershon Ber Jacobson, who was the editor of the Algemeiner Journal, once quipped, “There is not a truthful word in a newspaper. Even the date, which is reflective of the day you are reading it, is a lie, as it was put on the printer the day prior.”

It’s hitting me right now that people reading this column usually do so for the insights and spiritual perspectives that I strive to impart in this space, and up until this point, aside from a story of my Zaide and Ponovezher Rav, I haven’t yet done that.

Over the course of Shabbos Zachor, the verse from Bamidbar 24:20 found itself circling in my head. The verse states, “Amalek is the first of the nations and will meet extinction and their end.”

With Purim now upon us and soon to be in our rear-view mirror I was thinking ahead to the next month of Nissan, which our sages have taught us is inextricable from the month of Adar. In a leap year, the law is that Purim is celebrated in the second Adar to juxtapose one redemption with another redemption. In many respects these two months of Adar and Nissan are seen as one continuous month. Then I began to think about the verse, “This month is for you the head of all of the months; it is the first for you, of all of the months of the year” and was struck by the successiveness of the term “reishis” and “rishon” regarding Amalek and the month of Nissan that lies just a couple of weeks ahead. It occurred to me that there is an interesting interplay or dynamic at the backdrop between Amalek, who is the enemy of the month of Adar, and Pharaoh, the villain of the Pesach story. The word “Amalek” is derived from the word “umalak,” or “melika,” which is the severance of the head of a bird during the kohen’s service in the Holy Temple.

Amalek’s objective, in a sense, was to spiritually sever the head from the body, encouraging academic pursuit of knowledge of Torah but fighting, at all costs, against the integration and ultimate performance of those values. The verse states: “Ki yad al kes yud-hei milchamah l’Hashem b’amalek m’dor dor.” On this verse our sages remark that G-d’s name is incomplete as long as the offspring of Amalek endures.

Amalek was fine with the ideas to be studied and discussed as long as they were detached from the active realm of the body. Pharaoh, however, was the ruler of the land of Mitzrayim, which derives from the term “meitzar ha’garon,” the neck or esophagus which acts as a continuum connecting the head and the rest of the body.

I had a lot on my mind when Michele’s e-mail entered my inbox this morning. I had an outside thought of skipping this week due to the stress of having to put this together on such short notice. But then I thought of the importance of connectivity and not allowing one week to be detached from the next with a vacancy in the middle. I hope to continue to develop this idea in the weeks to come as we prepare for the holiday of Pesach.


Yochanan Gordon can be reached at Read more of Yochanan’s articles at


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