Stories Of Greatness

No Leniencies

The commandment to eat matzah on the holiday of Pesach is prefaced with the words: “U’shmartem es...

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The commandment to eat matzah on the holiday of Pesach is prefaced with the words: “U’shmartem es ha’matzos–And you shall guard the matzos.” Jewish tradition calls for keeping watch over the matzah from the time the wheat is taken to the mill to be ground into flour, and it is kept under careful supervision to ensure that it does not come into contact with water or any other moisture.

In the area of shidduchim, there are numerous rules and regulations that are adhered to in the matchmaking process. For example, it is prohibited for either party in a prospective match to provide false information or to withhold pertinent information, for doing so could result in the actual invalidation of the marriage (Igros Moshe, Even HaEzer 1:79-80). Information regarding serious physical or mental illness, infertility, lack of religious observance, and other such serious issues, may not be withheld. However, one is not required to divulge a deficiency that most people do not consider an impediment, including a minor illness or physical weakness, and there is a dispute between contemporary poskim as to whether it is permitted to slightly “adjust” the age of a boy or girl, when declaring their age. Often, older singles will answer vaguely when asked about their age, and according to some, there is legitimacy to this practice.

During World War II, the United States government enacted a rescue commission known as the War Refugee Board, which achieved a few notable results (although not as much as it could have), including the rescue of over 100,000 Jews and the distribution of vital relief services when the war ended. In one unique instance, roughly 1,000 refugees were brought from Italy to Fort Ontario, an abandoned army base near Oswego, New York. Vaad Hatzalah, the Orthodox relief organization, offered a wide range of support services, a model for its postwar efforts. Among the refugees were 300 Torah-observant Jews.

Legend has it that the city of Vilna was founded many centuries ago through an amazing tale involving a young child. But we have it on no greater an authority than the holy Ben Ish Chai, Rabbeinu Yosef Chayim of Baghdad zt”l, that this story is absolutely true. Close to eight centuries ago, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Gediminas, was hunting in the forest near the Valley of Šventaragis. Tired after a successful day’s hunt, he went to sleep and began to dream. A huge iron wolf was standing on top a hill and the sound of hundreds of other wolves inside filled all of the surrounding fields and woods. Upon awakening, the Duke consulted his pagan priests to interpret the meaning of his dream. He was told, “The iron wolf represents a castle and a city that will be established by you on this site. This city will be the capital of the Lithuanian lands and the dwelling of their rulers, and the glory of their deeds shall echo throughout the world.”

There is an intrinsic difference between the natural state of klal Yisrael and the nations of the world. There is no real concept of achdus (unity) between one gentile and the next. Whatever “achdus” they possess is not intrinsically part of their makeup; it is superficial and self-serving. The achdus of klal Yisrael, however, is a reality. It is part and parcel of the Jewish people.