In just a few months, I will be traveling back home (and to an extent back in time) to take part in the newest Jewish simchah, which is just starting to gain traction. It is called “yovel habimah,” or loosely translated, the jubilee or 50th anniversary of being called to the bimah on your bar or bat mitzvah.
I have lived in New Jersey for the last couple of decades, but I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and it is to that city and my hometown shul where I will be returning for this occasion.
The simchah should be celebrated with acts of chesed and tzedakah, like any Jewish holiday.
Although this new holiday, the yovel habimah, is something of a personal holiday, a few simple rules apply to all participants. Most of these rules widen this scope beyond the self.
1. Try to hold it on when the parsha that was read on your bar or bat mitzvah, 50 years ago, is being read again.
2. There should be no presents this time, but there’s no harm in asking your guests to contribute to your favorite Jewish charity, such as the Jewish National Fund or the Jewish Federation, in your name.
3. As a minimum, try to do at least the same thing you did on the bimah on your original day. For example , if you made a speech and chanted the haftarah, then try to at least do that. There’s extra kavod — honor — if you can exceed what you did before, but it’s not necessarily expected. And it’s no fair giving the same speech. Times have changed.
As to your speech, or d’var Torah — take the time to study the Torah or the Talmud (or both) and enjoy the process of formulating something new and interesting to say about your parsha or haftarah. In the long run, this extra time you spend studying benefits you too and strengthens your attachment to Judaism. This is one of the reasons for this new tradition.
4. Sponsor a nice kiddush after services. If either or both of your parents have died, then further the connection to yovel habimah by making it in the name of your parents, the people who sponsored you not only at your bar or bat mitzvah but probably, in a way, throughout your life. ( Even if one or both of your parents are still alive, you can still sponsor the kiddush in honor of their anniversary, birthday, etc.)
5. Don’t wait until you are 83 to do this. There are many reasons, including the greater chance to include more of your friends and loved ones. I recently, and unexpectedly, lost a lifelong friend at the young age of 62, so I know this to be a sadly true statement.
So there you have it. Make yovel habimah your new tradition, and one that benefits your community and the larger Jewish community at the same time. Its has all the ingredients that make a Jewish tradition worthwhile — Torah study, celebrating with old friends and family, and of course, last but never least, a nice nosh at the end.
Another simcha? Who can argue with that?
Last Shabbat, our rabbi, Joel Pitkowsky, presented a lunch and learn program at Congregation Beth Sholom in Teaneck that supports Natan Sharansky’s compromise, providing space for egalitarian prayer services at Robinson’s Arch (“Chaos at the Kotel,” May 17).
He advocated for changes to be made to the current arrangements, which only allow access to this area at certain times and require payment of an entrance fee to this open air “museum.” Design modifications also would provide for a ramp that would enable worshippers in this space to be able to touch a section of the Western Wall, which they cannot do under the current configuration. This plan would meet the needs of Jews committed to equal participation of men and women in a mixed minyan, primarily diaspora Jews who now live in Israel or visit Jerusalem and wish to take part in the experience of prayer in a physical space as close to the sacred and historical Kotel as they are likely to be offered by government officials in charge of the area.
This solution must be acknowledged as a compromise. Robinson’s Arch is not part of the central plaza and open space where religious Jews go to pray, but it probably represents the best arrangement that the minority of egalitarian Jewish worshippers are likely to get. But it does not address the needs of Women of the Wall. This group of dedicated women, who have been coming to the Kotel for rosh chodesh services for 20 years, does not seek inclusion in a mixed minyan. It is a collection of diverse women who are committed to or have agreed to pray as a women’s tefillah group. Their need is to be allowed to conduct their service in the section set aside for women’s prayers, with those who chose to do so wearing tallit and t’fillin. What is needed is for the Orthodox authorities to proclaim that this practice is not against halachah, and to insist that they be allowed to pray undisturbed for one hour each month. These rabbis also must assert without ambivalence that men who curse, spit, scream, threaten, and throw objects at the Women of the Wall violate the sacred space.
Their hooliganism cannot be tolerated. They are the ones who must be arrested.
If these conditions can be implemented, a calm modus vivendi will replace the indecent conflicts that have boiled over in the very space where reverence and respect should prevail. Jews across a wide spectrum will be able to find a safe space for meditation and prayer without fear of angry, uncontrolled, and unacceptable disruptions. Then, perhaps, attention can be focused on even more challenging issues pertaining to the future of Jerusalem and the elusive dream for unity of the Jewish people.
The editorial “Not goodbye, Rabbi” (May 10) accurately elaborates the many accomplishments of Rabbi Neal Borovitz in the community. He has not only been a “tireless worker for the benefit of the entire community,” but a tireless worker as the pulpit rabbi of Temple Avodat Shalom. There is no better rabbi at life events; he is a brilliant educator; he is a true friend and confident.
It is good to see recognition of Rabbi Burstein’s production in your paper (“The play’s the thing,” May 10). The productions that Rabbi Burstein puts on each year have been recognized to be of superb quality, managing to do justice to the tragic and painful topic of the Holocaust. His skills as a teacher and Holocaust educator in the Yaveneh Academy brings out the best in all his students, be it in class or in his yearly productions. Through his book “The War Against God and His People,” Rabbi Burstein has managed to introduce this sensitive subject to young people in the States and here in London in an age-appropriate way. It is good to see how his efforts are recognized in a wider forum.
The Dear Rabbi Column, “ ...based on timeless Talmudic wisdom” (May 3), writes the following about the Kaddish: “Yet this prayer is especially apropos for a mourner because we believe that it is the Aramaic praise that the angels recite in God’s presence in the heavens.”
1.The Talmud (Shabbos 12 A) states that the angels do not understand and certainly do not communicate in Aramaic.
2.The prophets, Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 3, inform us of the praises that the angels recite to God, verses that are incorporated in the daily prayers as the Kedusha, not the Kaddish.
3.The rabbis have explained that the unique quality of the Kaddish, which elevates it even beyond the Kedusha ( Berachos 21 B), derives from the fact that it is the result of human initiative.
Dear Rabbi, aka Rabbi Dr. Tzvee Zahavy, replies:
I thank Mr. Polak for his letter. My column targets the issues of people, not of angels. Since I have not yet been to heaven, I can only speculate on the language skills of angels and their activities based on the assertions of our traditions. The Talmud passage Mr. Polak refers to cites the individual view of one rabbi regarding the language skills of angels. Other authoritative rabbis in the Talmud and later times argue that some angels do know Aramaic or that the question is moot, because angels know what you are thinking. Putting the language and angel issues aside, I do agree, as I proposed in my column, that the Kaddish is a powerful prayer of praise, a “human initiative” that mourners recite here on earth to act as if they are intercessors to gain heavenly immortality for the soul of a departed loved one.
Last week, my wife and I were the subjects of a cover page article in the Jewish Standard (“Art and marriage,” May 3.) The many compliments we received from our friends and others invariably mentioned the “excellent article,” not simply its subject. The writer’s judgment, apparently correct, was that a focus entirely on us was the most interesting approach. But I feel the need to comment.
We have found that our intense interest in art into our later years has made life more meaningful.
But others have equal passions. Some study religious content (our weekly women’s learning group); some perform acts of kindness (the volunteers in our food bank); some deal with medical emergencies; some are the family and social leaders on whom others depend, and of course there are the workers in our shuls and institutions.
Anyone can add themselves to the list.
Our idea is that the interests you develop in your early years give your later years more meaning.
Kudos to the Jewish Standard for reporting information that is factual, interesting, and emanating from a reliable source — Evan Sohn, Moriah’s president (“Faculty layoffs at Moriah,” April 19). The article highlights the rationale of inevitable changes that were made over time to benefit its student population. In contrast, a recent article in a NYC Jewish newspaper reported erroneous facts and left readers with a negative impression.
Moriah opened more than 50 years ago. It was one of the first yeshivot in Bergen County catering to the needs of a nascent modern Orthodox community. As a grandmother with four beautiful granddaughters in Moriah, I can attest to the school’s high educational standards in both secular and Judaic studies. With Dr. Prager at the helm, the school continues to flourish with warmth, stature, Yiddishkeit, and educational excellence. With a strong focus on secular and Judaic studies under the tutelage of a caring staff of wonderful qualified teachers, the positive and indelible impact the yeshivah leaves on its students is unmistakable. They are always proud to be Moriah graduates.
The parent body continues to be a very involved, creative and charitable group of energetic, enthusiastic people who are totally dedicated to upholding the values and traditions of their school. Moriah is truly a paradigm yeshivah in Bergen County.
Many people allude to a letter, sent out years ago, saying that Englewood residents took priority over Teaneck residents. Then, a lack of educational options led to overcrowding. The over-enrollment had to be addressed. It had a positive, far-reaching effect — the opening of a variety of yeshivot to serve various niches in a fast-growing community. Members of the Englewood community always have been supportive of other yeshivot emerging in their midst.
It is important to note that like all other yeshivot, Moriah is committed to making tuition affordable and sustainable for all. It is working diligently and collaboratively with Jewish Education for Future Generations to meet that goal.
While change is both inevitable and welcome, Moriah continues to boast a student population hovering around the 800 mark, with early childhood enrollment up 15 percenty for next year.
Isn’t Bergen County fortunate to have such quality educational institutions and programs in our midst?
The Jewish Standard continues to meet its goal, publishing news that’s fit to print, with the overriding commitment to benefit and enhance k’lal Yisrael.
I wonder how many readers advised you that the “Red Sea” south of Kadesh Barnea is really the Persian Gulf? (Cover, April 26.)
THE EDITOR REPLIES: Thank you so much, Mr. Eisen, but the map is correct. The map on last week’s cover shows two arms of the Red Sea; the Persian Gulf is farther east. We also thank you for allowing us to fix an error that we did make.
The map we used came from “The Picture-Book History of the Jews” by Howard and Bette Fast, published by the Hebrew Publishing Company on 79 Delancey Street on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1942. The labeling error was the Fasts’; the lack of acknowledgement of the art source last week was ours, and for that we apologize.