Sunday, May 3, 2009

#28 - PEACE: The FINAL Frontier

The title may remind you of Star Trek, and one of its goals is maintaining peace. Now, let's get to the real reality here.

The beginning of Kohelet/Ecclesiastes - Chapter 3 - lists 28 times of various actions. Let's list this here:
To every thing there is a season, and time to every purpose under the heaven:A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

There are a total of 28 "times", and the last of these times is the "time of peace". And so for our 28th post - peace will be the key theme here.

The connection of peace to the number 28 is nothing new. Following Pinchas' bravery of killing Zimri, leader of the tribe of Shimon (hopefully, I will be able to place my name in a better light in the future) along with his new lover the Midianite princess, Hashem rewarded him and his descendants with the Kehuna/Priesthood, something that he was not entitled to some 38 years earlier at the time that his father Elazar along with his brothers and their father Aharon were consecrated with the Kehuna which meant that only Elazar's future sons that would be born from him would be entitled to being a Kohen, but Pinchas who was alive at the time was not included. It was only through this brave action of killing a leader of one of the Jewish tribes due to his sinfullness (today, modern Orthodox Rabbis would be banging their fists on their podium denouncing Pinchas' "radical" decision of "murdering" a prominent Jewish leader of the community) that Pinchas merited the REAL peace prize - "Behold" did Hashem inform Moshe, Pinchas' great uncle "I give him My covenant of peace".

So, what does Pinchas or "covenant of peace" have to do with the number 28? As you will recall from Post #26 about Moshe, he was the 26th generation from Adam & Eve. Accordingly, his brother was Aharon, whose son and successor to the High Priesthood was Elazar, and his son and successor to the High Priesthood was Pinchas. Thus, Pinchas was the 28th generation from Adam & Eve. (There are exactly 28 words between Pinchas' name and the word Shalom/Peace in the Torah about rewarding Pinchas for his act of bravery (Numbers 25:11-12))

Now, we see here quite a few connections of peace with the number 28. There must be something going on here that the Torah wants to tell us.

As we had mentioned before, in the very first Rashi, the foremost commentator of the Bible & Talmud, his very first quoted verse as an answer to a question is Ko-ach Ma'asav Higid LeAmo Latet Lahem Nachalat Goyim "The strength of His deeds he declared to His people, to give them the heritage of the nations". This refers to the Land of Israel that was granted to the Jews upon conquering the land following their mass Aliyah with their leader Joshua. And the very first word of this verse - Ko-ach/Strength - spells the number 28 (Kof is 2o & Cheit is 8).

So in case anyone thought that giving pieces of the Land of Israel is the key to peace, we see from here that Shalom/peace that is connected with the number 28 is in fact the Ko-ach/Strength of the Land of Israel that we conquered - from the days of Joshua when the wall of Jericho fell down on 28 Nissan, shortly after the Jews' Aliyah, through the Six Day War when it included regaining our holiest site in the world, most importantly the Temple Mount, when on 28 Iyar 5727 (1967), the announcement was made "Har HaBayit Beyadeinu" - "The Temple Mount is in our Hands". And as Hashem tells us for our reward for following what Hashem wants "And I will put peace in the land" (Leviticus 26:6). Thus, it is HASHEM - not the United States, United Nations, or united nothings who aren't even capable of financing or guaranteeing their own statements - who will bring peace to Israel - if we just trust in Him which includes not giving away any piece of our Holy Land to anyone who is not a member of our faith, and certainly not to those who have more than proven and been outspoken about not recognizing Israel as a Jewish land or state.

So, why is our strength of the Land of Israel threatened? The problem is that Hashem has been virtually been left out of the picture in the 61 years since Israel's "Independence". The problem with this is that it that the Israeli government has not lived up to this "Independence". It has turned to the United States for money, recognition, and hopes that the United States will place Israel on stilts when it is just a farce, because the United States under the leadership of the last few presidents have put much pressure on Israel in giving in to the Arabs for their dreamland of Palestine, when they have 20+ countries to pick from instead of insisting on Israel giving away its land. The ultimate problem is when Kochi V'Etzem Yadi Asah Li Et HaChayil HaZeh - "MY strength and the might of my hand made me all this wealth" (Deutronomy 8:17) - when the Israeli government wants to show what it perceives as its own strength as in Kochi - adding a Yud to the end of the word Ko-ach, which makes it MY strength - instead of Hashem's strength, Whose name begins with a Yud, as it is Hashem Who created the world with 10 Statements, thus placing Hashem so to speak on the back burner. It is so ironic how the Israeli government wants to show "its strength" to the world by giving in to the Arabs for "peace" in the form of a PIECE of paper, when instead it has very unfortunately resulted in many PIECES of body parts as a result of suicide bombings. Indeed, in the double Torah portion of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim that we just read this past Shabbat - both of these portions tell us to behave while living in Israel or "the land will vomit us out, just as it vomited out the nations before us". Thus, if we have to be afraid of anything, it's our sins - not the Arabs or world pressure - about which we have to worry about and improve our ways if we don't want continued pressure of giving away our G-d given land.

The Vilna Gaon notes that the 28 times mentioned in Kohelet can be divided into the 6000 years alloted to this world's existance. Thus, every period would be a total of 214.28 years. Accordingly, we are still in the 27th of the 28 periods of history - and as we see in Kohelet - this is the period of war. World War I & World War II, the names of major world wars is nothing coincidental - Hashem runs this world and names are a way showing His manifestation. And so, the final war of Gog U'Magog, which began on the night of Hoshana Rabba (7th day of Sukkot) in 5762 (2001), shortly after 9/11, as its starting date of Hoshana Rabba, was predicted by the Vilna Gaon. This war not only is its not on its way of ending, contrary to the Democrats' promise of taking the United States out of its war that President Bush of the Republican Party began and continued, but Obama just invested tons of additional money into this war even as the economic crisis of the United States is getting continously worse despite Obama's supposed efforts of "cutting back".

According to one version in the Zohar, Techiyat HaMeitim/Resurrection of the Dead - which will take place some time after the coming of Moshiach - will be 214 years before the end of the 6000 years of the world's existance. Thus, it will only be in this era that the 28th and final period of 214 years that peace will reign, because before this, Moshiach will be fighting the nations who will make one last attempt to wipe us Jews off the map knowing that with Moshiach around, we Jews will reign forever, and so the nations will desperately attempt to stop this. Indeed, as I mentioned in my previous post - the Mishnayot ends with the word B'Shalom - "with peace".


As Rabbi Akiva comments on VeAhavta LeReiacha Kamocha - "You shall love your fellow as yourself" - one of the main Mitzvot that were included in this past Shabbat's Torah reading, this is the "great principle" of the Torah. Indeed, if we love our fellow Jew as we are supposed to, then we will have the ultimate peace.

Before I proceed, I want to point out that my previous two posts were based on the first Mishna of the weekly learning of Pirkei Avot/Ethics of the Fathers. Well, the very last Mishna of this past Shabbat's Ethics of the Fathers concludes with saying that the calendar cycles and Gematriot are Parperaot - can be translated as additions or deserts - to wisdom. While these bodies of wisdom are not what you would say Jewish Law or ethical instruction, they "whet the appetite" or "give the final touch" to learning wisdom, thus keeping one in the loop of Torah learning, which is supposed to be an exciting venture.

Now for a special treat, I will point out a Gematria in a way that I never saw it done in all my years of learning Torah, yet it is fully based on how the Parsha is learned every week - literally. You see, the Code of Jewish Law of the Section of Daily Conduct - Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim - on the laws of Shabbat (Chapter 285) mentions learning the weekly Torah portion learning it as reciting the original text of Hebrew two times, and its Aramaic translation, known as Targum Onkelos one time, which is preferably done on Erev Shabbat or can be begun on Sunday to be concluded before Shabbat. Now for those who aren't used to the Hebrew, and certainly will not understand what it is saying - learning it in English, especially with the Rashi commentary (Artscroll has virtually the best translation of Rashi) is a good start. In any case, using this method, I discovered something absolutely amazing, something that I never tried before. So, the Gematria of V'Ahavta LeReiacha Kamocha/"You shall love your fellow as yourself"- the phrase in the Torah referring to the Mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael/Love for a fellow Jew - is 820. As we read the original text twice, 820x2=1640. Now, the Aramaic translation for this is U'terachem LeChavrach Kevatach which equals 1360. Thus, the total Gematria of this phrase of "You shall love your fellow as yourself" - twice the original Hebrew text and its accompanying Aramaic translation is exactly three thousand (3,000)!

I have been fortunate a number of times when my birthday of Rosh Chodesh Iyar (1 Iyar) falls out on Shabbat - that when it falls out on Parshat Kedoshim, which includes this phrase, that I have been able to have this Aliyah for my birthday (it's the 2nd Aliyah of this Parsha when read alone, and the 2nd Aliyah is reserved for the Levite, and I am a Levite). While there are parts of the Torah/Chumash that are read in the Sefer Torah more than once every year, this is read ONLY ONCE A YEAR. Now, there are other years when my birthday when it falls out on Shabbat, that we read the two middle portions of the Torah - Tazria & Metzorah which was the case this year. Except for once, I had Maftir - the reading assigned for the one who will read the Haftara- section of the Prophets as it relates to the Parsha or festive occasion. The Maftir in this case is the section about the Korbanot for Shabbat & Rosh Chodesh, and the Haftara is the final chapter in Isaiah as it specially relates to Rosh Chodesh. For the one time that I didn't have Maftir/Haftara for my Shabbat birthday, I had the regular Levite reading. Why I say this is because there is in fact a letter found in this reading that is of a bigger size, a topic that I have written about before. This is in the first word of Leviticus 13:33 - VehitGalach - "he shall shave himself" where the letter Gimmel of the word is unusually BIG. The original context is referring to a situation where there is an infected spot that is suspected of being Tzara'at - a spiritual malady resembling leprosy, around which the hair is shaven, but not the area of the Tzara'at itself and the one having this is quaranteed for a week and is inspected afterwards for the outcome. Anyways, I have mentioned before, as in the big letter Alef in the very first letter of the Book of Chronicles where the letter in Adam's name is unusually big, referring in Gematria to 1,000 in contrast to the usual Gematria of 1, hinting to the 1,000 years alloted to Adam (he actually lived for 930, because he gave 70 years as a gift to King David). Thus, the BIG Gimmel in this case can be considered to be the Gematria of 3,000.

So, what's the connection here between the BIG Gimmel here and the Gematria of 3,000 as it relates to the phrase "You shall love your fellow as yourself" as the total of twice the original text and once its Aramaic translaton?

The Ba'al HaTurim, a commentary on the Chumash that points out many interesting Gematriot, tells us that this BIG Gimmel hints to three categories of people whose shaving is a Mitzva - the Nazarite, the Metzora (one inflicted with Tzara'at), and the Levites. The Nazarite shaved his hair of his head once his Nazarite vow is completed, the Metzora shaved off all his hair during his purification process after being healed, and the Levites who shaved off all their hair when they were first consecrated on 3 Nissan following Aharon's consecration of being the Kohen Gadol/High Priest.

Now, we have here three types of Jews. The Levites attained their position through being Hashem's devoted servants when Moshe commanded them to kill the Jews whom they knew to have worshipped the Golden Calf, and approximately 3,000 Jews were killed. The Nazarite is one who took on a vow in a quest of feeling more spiritual. Now doubt that if he was doing everything right that he wouldn't have felt a need to take on such a vow, but at least he realized his shortcoming on his own before Hashem would have to punish him to mend his ways. And then we have the Metzora who was punished by Hashem, usually for his lack of good behavior for speaking bad about other Jews, and was thus inflicted with a skin malady that sent him to be quaranteed from the rest of the Jewish people until he realized that he had been punished and resolved to mend his ways. So basically here, you have here the righteous, middle-class, and the wicked. And it is interesting to note that while the middle class of Jews, as represented by the Nazarite, had to shave off only the hair on his head, both the righteous and the wicked had to shave off ALL their hair with a razor - even though normally it is forbidden for a man to shave his beard off with a razor or entirely cut off his Pei'ot - sideburns/sidelocks. What can we learn from here?

It is very easy for some to judge others with a scrutinizing eye at times without knowing all the facts. Let's take a scenario of someone who is a regular worshipper in a synagogue who observes the behavior of various people who attend synagogue services. About a "half-observant" Jew, he says - "Well, this guy at least is nice to others, though he doesn't quite keep Shabbat the right way", and then about the rabbi of the Shul with whom he finds fault with "He didn't seem to talk so nicely this morning. I wish I had a better rabbi that I could turn to". And then commenting on how some young Jewish outlandish looking guy, "What nerve does he have coming to the Shul with a ponytail and an earing, and he didn't even have the decency of wearing a Kipa on his head or asking for one which was right there at the Shul entrance, until someone had to bring one to him. Doesn't he have any respect for a holy place?!" Besides the horrific sin of Lashon Hara for which one was afflicted with Tzara'at, which actually consists of up to 31 sins for EACH WORD spoken, amounting to hundreds if not thousands of sins in any given conversation, the narrator is judging people the way he wants to perceive them, whether right or wrong. O.K., the nice guy who doesn't quite keep Shabbat right is still a nice guy - maybe it will take just a little time until the narrator's fellow congregant will keep Shabbat the right way, which could be accelerated if instead of criticizing the half way observant congregant, he would invite him to a Shabbat meal to encourage him to be a fully observant Jew. And then for the rabbi who didn't seem to talk "so nicely" one morning, could it be that the rabbi was awake all night visiting with a family of a dying member of his congregation in the ICU unit of the hospital? And for the new young visitor to the synagogue, one's attitude can either make or brake this visiting Jew who might very well be a rabbi one day who will one day be into reaching out to other Jews becoming observant in turn, but it can be ruined by a few nasty words or nasty stares instead of making him feel welcome in the synagogue.

Yes, Hashem rewards or punishes according to His judgement, but if we want Hashem to judge us in a favorable light, we have to make an effort to judge others accordingly. If we have to take action against others like the Levites killing the 3,000 Jews who worshipped the Golden Calf, or Pinchas killing a Jewish leader to save the rest of the Jewish people from being killed by a plague, it is only because Hashem wants us to do so, not because we judge others as "not religious as we are". Indeed, it has been said that the word Tzibur/Congregation consists of the letters Tzadi, Beit, Vav, Reish - stands for Tzadikim - Righteous, Beinonim - Middle class, V - and, Reshaim - Wicked. The key here is the Vav - the letter for AND. Yes, AND even the wicked - even they are considered part of a Minyan - the necessary quorum of 10 men needed for certain important prayers in the synagogue, including the Kaddish, which are not recited when you do not have 10 Jewish men. There are times that people have to be reprimanded for their actions, and for which, a Beit Din/Jewish Court even today has power to declare excommunication on certain people who are not on the right track until such time that they improve their ways or agree to abide by the decision of the Beit Din. But otherwise, we have no right to judge as to who makes that Minyan. And yes, even the "wicked" Jews who don't have it quite right when it comes to Judaism, who haven't learned yet to even put on a skull cap when entering a synagouge, are included in the most fundamental Mitzva of "You shall love your fellow as yourself", represented by the BIG Gimmel equalling 3,000.

On a simple level, Gimmel equals the number 3. In fact, this is the number of peace. You see, when two are having an argument; quite often, it is a 3rd person or 3rd party that attempts to resolve the issue, and while Pinchas, who received Hashem's "covenant of peace" was the 28th generation from Adam and Eve, he was the THIRD generation from his grandfather Aharon, who was the epitome of peace, who lied to two parties not talking to each other to make peace between them, and after whom 80,000 Jews were named Aharon after him during his lifetime! Hillel, in the first chapter of Ethics of the Fathers, has this to say "Be of the students of Aharon. Love peace, pursue peace, love mankind and bring people close to the Torah". Indeed, the last of the 13 principles of how the Torah is interpreted, as I mentioned in my previous post, is when there are two verses in the Torah that seem to contradict each other, it is a THIRD verse that will shed light on the subject in question which will resolve the seeming contradiction. Indeed, the word ECHAD which means one, and is the root word for Achdut/Unity, is the Gematria of 13, so it is most fitting that this Torah principle is the 13th and FINAL one of the Torah principles of how the Torah is interpreted, as though it is in fact the NUMBER ONE in importance, but can be fully appreciated ONLY when everything else seems to be in order, but cannot be completed without the aspect of peace, the happy ending of how things our conducted in this world. And indeed, the word Gematriot begins with the letter Gimmel, the leading letter in this word. Perhaps, it is this finishing touch, the desert, that makes one feel that everything was worth it - the proof in the Gematria, the extra tip for a nice job done, the delicious little piece of chocolate or mint at the end of a meal.

Speaking of meals and priesthood, one of the types of sacrifices brought in the Temple was the Shelamim/Peace animal-offerings. Rashi comments on the wording of the name of this type of sacrifice as it places peace on the world, and that there is peace with these sacrifices that parts of it are eaten by the altar (meaning, being burnt as an offering to Hashem), by the Kohanim, and by the owners of the sacrifice. Thus, there are THREE different groups that are involved with consuming this PEACE-offering. This is unlike most other types of sacrifices where the owners did not have a part to eat in their own sacrifice unlike the Kohanim who ate them to atone for the owner's sin.

As I am writing this blog for this day - the 25th day of the Sefira - the count of 49 days from after the first day of Passover until Shavuot/Pentacost, it's most noteworthy to mention a theme that we recite for the very first words of Torah that we recite every morning - the portion of the Mitzva of Bircat Kohanim - the Blessing of the Kohanim, of which the blessing itself consists of THREE verses. Hashem instructs Moshe to speak to his brother Aharon and his sons starting with KO Tevarchu Es Bnei Yisrael - "SO shall you bless the children of Israel." The very first word of Hashem's spoken instructions here - KO, can spell the number 25, as Kof is 20 and Hei is 5. And how does the THREE verse blessing end with? Veyasem Lecha Shalom - "I will place upon you - PEACE".

And being that I just began my 40th year last week on the previous Shabbat on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, there is a direct connection between the number 40 and the Torah command of V'Ahavta L'Reiacha Camocha. You see, if you add the first 40 numbers - 1 through 40 - they add up to 820 - the Gematria of this very phrase V'Ahavata L'Reiacha Camocha.

As I had mentioned in my previous post right after my birthday about my name Shimon being the same Gematria as Makkot, the name of the Mishnaic tractate of which part of it writes about the Beit Din/Jewish court administering lashes to certain sinners,
the Torah itself says to give 40 lashes; though in time, the rabbis somehow interpreted the verse to mean that only 39 lashes are administered. In any case, the Torah that mentions the 40 lashes notes following the lashes punishment session "You shall not add to them, in order that your brother does not become disgraced in front of your eyes". Since it's easy for good people to look down on a sinner, the Torah had to make very clear that it is FORBIDDEN to add to the number of lashes prescribed by the Torah for the sin that he committed, and that the only reason he was given the lashes to begin with was because the Torah said so. After this, the Torah declares that we have no right to disgrace him; but if anything, to treat him afterwards as any other Jew in society that we treat as a brother and friend. In fact, even these 40 lashes is actually a favor for the sinner, whether he will admit it or not, to first of all, help prevent him from sinning again, and also, to shield him from worse punishment, especially from Hell in the world to come.

Thus, it is the number 40 - as used by the Torah - that actually demonstrates this very Mitzva of V'Ahavata L'Reiacha Camocha - even in the face of punishment, that is actually to serve as a beneficial service for the momentary sinner. Indeed, the first 40 numbers adding to the same Gematria as the part of the verse telling us to love Jews - 820, is most exemplified in a Mitzva that is supposed to place a sinner back in the right track, so he can be eligible for eternal reward, as it is doing a spiritual favor for someone causing him to keep Mitzvot that is the biggest favor and love that one can express towards another Jew.


Seven years ago, the world, especially the Jewish community in South Florida, lost a very special person - Rabbi David Bryn of righteous, blessed memory. As quoted by a friend of his, he lived 120 years in a third of the time. Indeed he made more use of his 40 years than many who would have to live many such lifetimes to reach a fraction of his accomplishments. And it wasn't just that he had such Ahavat Yisrael - love of other Jews that motivated him to reach out to so many people. He lived the second half of his life as a very sickly person which included a heart condition and poor eyesight, who under normal circumstances did not have a whole lot of Ko-ach/Strength. Yet. he went way beyond the extra mile that few others even touch upon in the height of their strength. Knowing him personally along with thousands of others, I felt like he treated me as a most special friend, as hundreds if not thousands others felt the same way. A member of the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, he was inspired to do outreach work immediately following his rabbinic ordination. While a most beloved rabbi of his congregation that grew virtually completely due to his outreach, not just as a synagogue that people felt that they had to attend as the only one in the immediate vicinity, his pet project was his organization called Chabad Chayil, his own outreach system in which he spent countless of hours visiting others without being able to physically drive a car on his own, relying upon and paying drivers to drive him around; yet, he knew better than most drivers where certain destinations were because this is where lost Jewish souls were waiting for him to be lit.

The date of his passing - 6 Iyar 5762 (2002) - can actually be remembered in another way. As it was this year, he passed away on a Thursday of the week of the Torah portions of Acharei Mot-Kedoshim. The 5th Aliyah of these portions, falling out in the portion of Kedoshim, corresponds to the 5th day/Thursday of the week. And guess what it says in the midst of this portion - you guessed it...V'Ahavta LeReiacha Kamocha - "You shall love your fellow as yourself"! (Many Jews learn the Aliyah of the Torah portion corresponding to the day of the week - so the 5th Aliyah of the Torah portion was learnt on the 5th day of the week - Thursday.)

In an act of Divine Providence, like my story of the previous Shabbat of my birthday at the Kotel, I spent this past Shabbat in the holy city of Tzfat/Safed. Lo and behold, on my way back from eating Shabbat lunch to where I was staying, I saw a flyer about...Rabbi David Bryn! The flyer was about a memorial festive gathering of his 7th Yahrzeit in this learning center established in this rabbi's memory. While I missed the event as I don't live anywhere near Safed in any case, I wanted to talk to the organizer of this. As it turns out, it was someone from my hometown of North Miami Beach, Florida with whom I had met perhaps only a couple of times, but who knew Rabbi Bryn from the time that he was fresh from receiving his rabbinic ordination, and had a very outstanding relationship with him over the years. To make a long story short, I spent two and half hours in this guy's place in Safed on Saturday night talking about Rabbi Bryn's life, this guy's own life, and his learning and prayer center, called the Bayit Tzfat - Kollel HaRav Dovid Bryn. For more information, check out, and yes, if you know of a Sefer Torah that is available, please contact Daniel Pozner, executive director of this place at the contact information on the website, as this is the only thing that is missing, and Shabbat morning services cannot take place without reading of the Sefer Torah.

There are those who are rabbis of synagogues or head organizations having nice sounding names such as the words Ahavat Yisrael, and seemingly do all kinds of favors for people. It's nothing new, doctors also do all kinds of "favors" for their patients, but a good percentage of them are helping their patients only to the extent of getting well paid; after that, they have no use for them. However, what both of these types of groups forget is around where it says to "love your fellow as yourself", there are basic acts of loving another Jew -not just by doing favors, but by NOT doing what one does not want done to oneself. Such as, not being a talebearer -going around saying bad about others to people, not taking revenge, not being a grudge, etc. Rabbi David Bryn was not only virtually the furthest removed from making trouble for others; but if anything, helped work out other people's problems, and kept plowing through time, not wanting to miss a single Jew whom he thought could come closer to the Torah, coupled with a deep psychological understanding of his or her needs. Indeed, he was the ultimate man of peace as Hillel described Aharon, and how we are supposed to emulate him.

The contrast of these two types of people running Jewish organizations reminds me of the story that took place in the times of the Second Temple when once the High Priest after the conclusion of Yom Kippur was being escorted to his home by the Jewish Nation. In the interim, the leading Sages of the generation who happened to come from a family of converts to Judaism- Shemaya & Avtalyon - appeared. It seems that almost instantly, everyone was turning their eyes to these Sages. Meanwhile, the Sages approached the High Priest and gave him greetings. The High Priest who was not exactly thrilled with the change of honor from the people, replied sarcastically, "Greetings of peace to the sons of converts". Upon this, these Sages replied, "Indeed, may peace be bestowed on the sons of converts who follow in the ways of Aharon, the man of peace. But for one who doesn't follow his ancestor Aharon (the ancestor of all Kohanim/Priests) in the ways of peace, may there not be peace for him."

I will conclude with a couple of stories about Rabbi Bryn, one of which was told to me from a good friend of mine showing Rabbi Bryn's non-judgemental stance. Once, he met a "Messianic" Christian Jewish lady who informed him of her status while passing by the synagogue. Now, how would we react to such a person who is not only not observing Judaism, but is following a religion and way of life that contradicts Judaism? Well, this is how he reacted to such a person. He told her, "Imagine how you can reach even greater spiritual heights if you come to our synagogue!" Not only did he not criticize her for her errant lifestyle, but he phrased himself in such a way to make this lady feel good pertaining to her issue of reaching spiritual heights!

Another story that comes to mind is pertaining to the time that a new attendee to the synagogue, who may not have been quite observant of Judaism as of yet, was talking with Rabbi Bryn when another person commented to the attendee that he must be an Orthodox Jew because he is coming to a synagogue of such a denomination. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Bryn was quick to respond "Maybe I am not an Orthodox Jew". Now, how many rabbis do you know would say such a thing about themselves? In foresight, this rabbi wanted to make sure that this new attendee would not feel being put on the spot and have to perhaps admit that he really wasn't all that observant of Judaism, so the rabbi commented that maybe even he himself, as the rabbi, isn't so much that way himself. Truly, a rabbi who put other people's feelings above his own!

10 Iyar 5769, 25th day of the Sefira - midway point between Passover and Shavuot.

Expect to have my next post, G-d willing, before Yom Yerushalayim/Jerusalem Day that will begin on the evening of May 21.

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