Practical Pulpit
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Volume 2 Nisan 5774 April 2014

Rabbanim Chashuvim,

The countdown until the Seder night has begun! For our dear congregants, shopping, cleaning, and querying are at the top of their list. What about the Rav- what’s on his list?
As Rav Tarphon teaches us in Avot, “The day is short, the work is abundant…but the reward is great!”
What an opportunity we have to interact with our baal habatim as we sell their chometz, answer their many questions and even  sometimes visit their homes to guide them how to prepare properly for the Chag of Pesach.
As great as that reward is, let us not forget our own families as we will be sitting b’yachad with our eishat chayal, sacred children and supportive extended families. May Hashem bless all our rabbanim with boundless energy and genuine simcha to create a Seder night for our families that exemplify true cheirut. May the hakarat hatov that we have for our spouses and children who partner in our Holy calling be an everlasting afikomen of nachat and bracha that will bring the final geula. Amen!  

Rabbi Binyamin Hammer
Director, Rabbinic Services
National Council of Young Israel

A Kehilla for Klal Yisrael  
Making Our Shuls Inviting for All Jews
by Rabbi  Jonathan Morgenstern
Young Israel of Scarsdale 
rabbi jonathan morganstern“Big Tent” is a major buzzword of 21st Century Judaism. Our organizations,  schools and communities are charged with being “big tents,” and we are constantly challenged to make our Orthodox “Tent” as “Big” as possible.  While this notion of a “Big Tent” is a fairly modern concept in Jewish life, the idea of having an “Open Tent” is one as old as Judaism itself.  We are familiar with the tent of Avraham and Sarah that was open on all sides – bidding a warm welcome to all passersby and inviting everyone into its midst.  It didn’t matter who you were, where you came from, or what you believed; in the “Open Tent” of Avraham and Sarah you were embraced and you felt that you belonged. 

Nowhere is this ideal more applicable than in our shuls.  A Beit Knesset is meant to be a model of the Ohel Avraham and Sarah – a place that is open on all sides to all types of Jews, regardless of denominational affiliation, level of observance, or Jewish knowledge.

The key to ensuring that everyone feels comfortable in your shul is to have this inclusive and welcoming attitude as part of the very culture of your shul.  All who walk through the doors of your shul need to know that this is a core value that runs through the fabric of your community. 

These are some ways that you can cultivate this culture within your shuls:
  • Market the Message – Talk about themes of achdut and respect for all of Klal Yisrael as much as you can from the pulpit.  Get the community to buy-in to this all-important mission.  
  • Greeters and Welcomers – Designate certain members (perhaps baalei teshuvah themselves) to act as ushers in the hallway, showing newcomers where to find the siddurim, yarmulkes, and politely instructing them to turn off their cellphones etc.  This is especially important on Shabbatot where non-observant family and friends may be coming for a simcha
  • Shabbat Greeting Card – Create a user-friendly manual  that explains the general procedures of a Shabbat morning   service – complete with a glossary of “frequently used terms,” page numbers for tefillot, brief explanations of tefillot and customs, and things to refrain from doing while in the shul.
  • If You See Someone, Say Something – If you see a new face in the pews, always go over to him or her and ask them where they’re from, what brings them to your shul, and how they’re finding their experience.  Train others to do the same. 
  • Take the Next Step – Always have certain congregants readily on-hand, or in mind, to invite newcomers home for a Shabbat meal…or do it yourself!

May we all merit to build our kehillot into inviting tents for all of Klal Yisrael.

Involving Newlyweds and Young Families

by Rabbi Yosef Weinstock
Young Israel of Hollywood – Ft. Lauderdale
rabbi yosef weinstockNewlyweds, graduate students, and couples with a young child (or children) have been an important factor in the significant growth in our shul’s membership over the past few years. This highly coveted demographic adds energy and vitality in the present and portends well for your synagogue’s future.

Respected graduate schools, available rentals, affordable starter houses, and a promising job market are factors that can make a community attractive to young families. Our synagogue also benefits from the economic and meteorological appeal that South Florida possesses in general (especially after the winter the northeast had this year!).

Though a Young Professionals (YP) Minyan raises humorous questions (“Who is considered young? Who is considered a professional?”), it is an important factor in making your shul a welcoming place to live, as well as an appealing place to stay for the long term. Our two year old YP Minyan fosters a sense of belonging and ownership among attendees that helps to shape their feelings towards our shul. Either our mora d'atra Rabbi Edward Davis or I davens and speaks each week at this minyan on a rotating basis. 

Adult sports leagues create opportunities for new members to get involved in a shul-sponsored event, create camaraderie among their age demographic, and to get to know more veteran members of the community.  Our shul sponsors popular weeknight basketball and Sunday softball leagues.

Our shul also hosts a weekly Mommy and Me. This class is open to non-members as well and can be used as a way to attract new members as well as servicing those young families who are already part of the shul. The fees collected just cover the instructor's salary, as we view this program as a worthwhile member service and investment in our future.

Identifying young professional leadership who can participate in a committee which organizes events for young families and serves as a liaison to the Rabbis and lay leadership concerning issues important to this demographic is one of the ideas on our drawing board. We are also in the early stages of planning for a renovation, and we envision designating some of the new space for infants and parents to use Shabbat morning.

Children who grew up in our shul who are returning with families of their own is one of our most exciting recent developments. Their return is a testament to the positive identification they have with their childhood shul. We celebrate this phenomenon and do not take it for granted. Our goal is to create a community in which young families, along with all members, feel welcomed, nurtured and invested. Circumstances may dictate that they move on to different communities one day. Our goal is that they do so begrudgingly and with fond memories of their time in the Young Israel of Hollywood - Ft Lauderdale community. 


A Unique, Impactful and Fulfilling
Career in Chaplaincy
by Rabbi Mitchell S. Ackerson
Chaplain (Colonel) US Army Reserve, Commander, 114th Chaplain Detachment

rabbi mitchell ackersonMost smicha students assume that when the graduate, they will assume a pulpit, go into chinuch, or a work professionally in a non-Avodas Hakodesh field. There is another option that they should consider- the Chaplaincy. Chaplaincy can be in hospitals, prisons, or the military.

I have spent most of my career in chaplaincy, for the past 29 years as a military chaplain in the US Army. This has allowed me to see the world. I have been to over 45 countries and 48 States- including ones that few Jews ever visit.

This is the ultimate kiruv opportunity- to reach out to young Jews (who often are estranged from the greater Jewish community) and be a positive role model. It also allows you to serve a Kiddush Hashem, as many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines have never seen, met, or spoken to a Jew. Everything they will know about Judaism will come from their interactions with you. Many will develop a respect and admiration for Judaism, Israel, and Jews in general from meeting you.

Professionally, it will expose you to a wide range of opportunities and excellent training. You will run services, provide counseling (and be taught how to do it correctly), teach adults, teens, and children, learn marketing, budgeting, fundraising, as well as hospital and (potentially) prison ministry. Your home will be a home away from home for young men and women serving our great country. It will also keep you healthy with regular exercise.

Military chaplaincy does have its down sides. You may be stationed in a remote location far from a viable Jewish community and school. There isn’t much of a chance of finding kosher restaurants and there is the possibility of a combat tour (I’ve done 4). However, the satisfaction is enormous, and the opportunities endless.

In my career I’ve helped dig wells and build schools in Central America, smuggle Jews out of Iraq, restore Jewish cemeteries, conduct sedarim in Saadam Hussein’s palace, brought 100s of Jews together in Saudi Arabia, and provided medical clinics for the poor around the US and the world. It has been both fulfilling and exciting.

I strongly recommend that one consider military chaplaincy early in one’s career, especially before one has children and when the children are young. While there are great benefits and the pay is good (especially if you stay for an entire career), no one can know if this is a lifestyle they and their family want to live long term. Consider doing a three year tour for G-d, Country, and the Jewish people. Afterwards, Military Chaplaincy can be done full time or part time in the National Guard or Reserves.

If you would like to discuss military chaplaincy, please feel free to email me
A Thorough How to Guide

A Script for Selling Chametz

to Your Friendly Local Gentile 

by Rabbi Chaim Wasserman 
Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel
rabbi wasserman pictureItems you need for the sale-  [1] A good looking sudar, [2] four real silver dollars, [3] about $150.00 in cash,   [4] a loose leaf binder or spring binder,  [5] three-hole punch (heavy duty),  [6] Scotch tape and good stapler.
Give the first three items to the buyer as a gift in some sort of plastic or large kraft envelope (matanah g’murah).
Explain why we are here- There is a biblical requirement that for the entire week of Passover, Jews do not eat, consume, own, buy or sell anything which contains five grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rye, barley) in any state. It is a symbolic reminder of an historical event: that which occurred at the point of the exodus of the Jews from Egypt.
What items are we selling? Bread, cookies, pasta, any food containing grain vinegar, whiskey, beer, and any alcoholic beverage, cereals, candy, condiments are chametz. Medications and cosmetics may contain chametz. Almost every form of pet food bought commercially contains chametz. There are hosts of other foodstuffs and other non-edibles which are the chametz we are interested in selling to you over the Passover holiday.
The reason we are selling chametz is that since chametz is primarily foodstuffs, to destroy or dispose of food, en masse, presents for Jews a moral and ethical dilemma: How can we destroy and dispose of food when most especially at this time a third of the world is suffering from starvation and malnutrition? In addition, businesses that sell food would have to go bankrupt each year over just this issue of disposing of chametz. It is for these reasons that rabbinic law has properly devised a system of overcoming such conflict.
Consent of the buyer- Based on everything I have explained, are you willing to buy the chametz in the various ways from me and from all of those who have empowered me to sell their chametz?
Our intent is that this sale be legal from two perspectives: (a) the laws of our government and (b) the biblical and rabbinic laws concerning. We are not engaged here in ritual matters and prayers. We will go through several modes of conveyance (kinyanim), since there are disagreements among various rabbinic legal scholars as to which are the appropriate ways to sell chametz.
To avoid the serious prohibition of Jews owning chametz on Pesach, we will utilize 8 different forms of sale-
1) Kinyan Sudar- In biblical times, businessmen would transfer property by having the buyer hand a sudar (a symbolic item such as a scarf or handkerchief) and the seller taking hold of the sudar. Similarly, I will accept a sudar from you and by this symbolic act you will take ownership of the chametz I have come to sell.
2)Kinyan Agav with a Sudar- With this second kinyan, again with a symbolic item passing between us, I lease to you the designated basement storage area of my home (mention the address), and by dint of this lease you shall acquire all of the chametz I  have there. At the same time, all of the places, rooms, closets, cabinets, desks, storage areas, garages and any other area which have been listed by all those who have empowered me to sell their chametz shall be leased to you. And by dint of this leasing you shall acquire all the chametz that these people have stored in these places.
3)  Kinyan Kesef for the Chametz- The biblical word for money is kesef which also means silver. I will accept from you a deposit of two silver dollars which would abide by the biblical definition of money. With this payment you shall acquire all of the chametz which I am here to sell. And though this is a mere token sum of the full value of the chametz, you shall nevertheless acquire all of the chametz being offered here today. Nothing in this sale shall be deemed conditional as a result of this being only a token payment. All of the chametz that we have for sale shall be acquired by this payment of kesef in the amount of two silver dollars. 
4)Tekiat Kaf- A handshake is a universal symbol of agreement between businessmen.
Let us shake hands and by this kinyan you shall become the owner of all the chametz which may be found in the basement storage area of my home. At the very same time you shall acquire ownership of the chametz belonging to all of those who have empowered me to sell their chametz to you in all of the places they have listed.
5)  Kinayn Kesef Leasing the Various Places of Storage- Once again I will accept a deposit of two silver dollars by which I lease to you the basement storage area at my home. At the same time and through this same kinyan all of the areas and places are leased to you where the chametz may be found belonging to those who have empowered me to sell chametz on their behalf.
6) Tkiat Kaf for the Leasing of Various Places- Let us shake hands once again and with this kinyan I transfer to you the rights of rental and leasing of the basement storage area at my home, and, at the same time, all of the other places where chametz may exist belonging to those who have empowered me to sell their chametz. Any and all chametz found in these places shall be yours.
7)   Mesirat Mafteach- Here is a key to my home which will allow you free access to the basement storage area which has been leased to you. You have absolute right of access to this area and all the other areas listed in the power of attorney forms by those who have asked me to sell chametz on their behalf. 
8)   Shtar For the Chametz and Leasing- This document is a written summary of all of the modes of conveyance which we just performed. Also, it states in further detail the terms by which we are selling you all of our chametz.
Let us read the document, sign it and by accepting it into your hand you shall have acquired all of the chametz of all of the people who wish to sell their chametz. At the same time you shall, by virtue of this document, acquire the rental and leasing rights to all of the places listed in the document. Read the document, sign it, place all the forms you acquied from your congregants in a binder, hand the binder over to the buyer.
Parting Words

1. Ask the buyer to accept the power of attorney forms from late comers. Specify how these forms will be conveyed to the buyer and what should be done with them upon receipt.
 2. Decide now when and where you will meet the buyer after Pesach.

All About Kohanim
Conference Call  Monday 4/7

rabbi moshe taubFollowing the success of our inaugural “Gabbai 2 Gabbai” conference call in March, we will b”eH have our next call with Rabbi Moshe Taub, mara d’asra of Young Israel of Greater Buffalo and all star gabbai, on the topic, “All About Kohanim.”

in time for Chag HaPesach, this presentation will review the laws of Birkat Cohanimbeing called for an aliyah and unique halachic situations that face the Kohein. So our friends on the West Coast can join, the program is scheduled for Monday April 7 at 9:00pm EDT. Please forward all gabbai questions related to the topic of Kohanim or pertaining to Chag HaPesach to

Sponsorships for our next call, in honor of a loved one, a yartzeit or just a local branch are available for $54; please contact to make arrangements. 

Participants Dial-In Number is  712-432-0927; Access Code:  : 772151 #

You Have Shailos, Ask The Posek! 

Rabbi Willig Answers 
Your Shailos

rabbi willig pictureRabbi Mordechai Willig will conduct his next conference call B”eH on Wednesday April 9 from 3:00pm to 4:00pm EST. The deadline for submitting shailos by email is the Monday before each conference call at 1:00pm. 63 rabbis partcipated live in Rabbi Willig's last biweekly call!

Rabbi Willig, a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS, Member of the Beth Din of America, Member of the National Council of Young Israel Vaad Halacha and in his 40th year serving as the rabbi of Young Israel of Riverdale, is uniquely qualified to answer the questions of rabbonim in the field.  
Recordings of the first five conference calls are available by emailing Rabbi Hammer. Topics covered include complex Niddah shailos, shovelling snow on Shabbos, womens megillah readings, and joint programming with non-Orthodox shuls. 

Join Us Live or Get the Recordings 
Professional Development
for the Busy Rabbi  

Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Berman will present a Rabbi's Practical Guide to Eiruvin at our Rabbinic Training Program at Lander College for Men on Thursday, May 1 from 5:00-10:00pm. Please RSVP to Rabbi Hammer if you'd like to join us- dinner is on us! 

Recordings and source materials from this year's Young Israel Rabbinic Training Program  seminars are available by emailing Rabbi Hammer. Topics this year so far have included Curriculum for Teaching a Choson, Making Congregants with Physical Challenges Feel at Home, Siddur Kiddushin, Mikvah Construction, Establishing a Chevra Kadisha, Domestic Abuse, and The Rabbi and His Finances. 

Over thirty aspiring rabbis are participating in this year (our 19th year)'s program. These trainees (who hail from a cross section of yeshivot) are available to intern at your shul.   

Have a Great Idea to Share?

Contact Rabbi Binyamin Hammer about writing for The Practical Pulpit 


published by 

The National Council of Young Israel

Rabbi Perry Tirschwell, Executive Director                 Rabbi Binyamin Hammer, Director of Rabbinic Services

Rabbi Chaim Wasserman, President Council of YI Rabbis in Israel


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