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The Case – The Wig Party

Sara ordered a custom-made wig from Yocheved, a local sheitel macher, at the whopping price of $3,500. Upon payment Sara brought her new wig home, only to hear comments from her family members that the wig was clearly not worth the price. Sara ignored the ongoing comments for a while, but when her mother-in-law expressed her disappointment with the wig’s quality, Sara called Yocheved and demanded a refund. Since Sara has been a regular customer for years, Yocheved agreed to take the wig back and make the necessary changes to improve its quality. Yocheved suggested to Sara during a phone conversation that if Sara was not satisfied with the wig after repairs, she would consider reimbursing her with a thousand dollars. Sara replied that she felt that a thousand-dollar refund is the least Yocheved should do. Sara sent the wig back to the store with Debbie, her neighbor, who was going there anyhow. Debbie did some shopping on the way and negligently lost the wig in a department store. Admitting to her negligence, Debbie was willing to pay $2,500 for the loss of the wig. Debbie explained that Sara herself acknowledges that the wig is worth only $2,500. Furthermore, Debbie claimed that Yocheved already consented to paying Sara the additional thousand dollars. On the other hand, Yocheved claimed that she is by no means willing to participate in the loss since she intended all along to improve the wig’s quality and not reimburse Sara a thousand dollars.

The three appeared in our Bet Din to resolve the dispute. How should the Bet Din rule and why?



Torah Law

According to the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch a customer returning a defective item is liable for its theft or loss until it is given back to the seller. Although the sale is reversed because of the defect and the item once again belongs to the seller, nevertheless, the customer is responsible for damages until the seller takes physical possession of the return. Like collateral that must be returned to a borrower if a lender wishes to be reimbursed for his loan, a seller is not required to give a refund unless the item is returned.

Even in instances in which the buyer and seller disagree on the value of the item being returned, nevertheless, since the seller received and possesses the higher sum already paid, he can withhold the money in full until the item is returned. Hence, the buyer is not even entitled to a partial refund to offset his claim for the inflated price since the item was not returned.

By rule of the Shulhan Aruch, an unpaid messenger that negligently loses an item is responsible for damages. Even in instances in which a buyer sends a messenger to return an item that in the buyer’s opinion is grossly overpriced, the messenger is liable for the entire sum that was paid to the seller. The messenger may not withhold payment for his negligence claiming that the buyer himself agrees that the item was of lesser value. The underlying reasoning for this ruling is that since the seller is legally entitled to withhold the entire sum paid until the item is returned, effectively, the messenger by losing the item damaged the buyer for the entire sum paid.

Leading halachic authorities agree that if the price paid by the buyer is undoubtedly more than the value of the item, a messenger is only responsible for the actual value of the damage he caused. However, in instances in which the value of the item was not appraised, a messenger is liable for the amount paid to the seller.

A Bet Din will attempt to resolve a matter amicably, by suggesting a compromise to the disputing litigants. This method usually helps promote peace and tranquility between disputing parties. Although the letter of the law does not require payment, sometimes a token payout can restore relationships. At times, a Bet Din will strive to encourage litigants to settle with a compromise from the very onset of their dispute. By doing so, a Bet Din can prevent unnecessary struggle and strife between the parties.

While many factors and considerations are weighed before implementing a compromise, in a financial dispute, a Bet Din will not consider the levels of religiosity, relative wealth of the parties, or gender. Rather, the compromise is formulated based on the truthfulness and strength of the litigants respected claims.

VEREWDICT: The Party’s Over

According to Torah law Debbie is required to pay the entire sum of $3,500 to Sara for losing the wig. Her claim to pay only $2,500, because Sara herself agrees that is the value of the wig, was rejected. By law, Yocheved can withhold the entire sum she received from Sara, since the wig was not returned to her. Yocheved has possession of the money paid and is entitled to claim that she had no real intent to discount the price, but rather to fix the wig to Sara’s liking.  Effectively, by losing the wig, Debbie directly damaged Sara with a financial loss for the entire sum. Nevertheless, our Bet Din implemented a compromise to settle the matter amicably, by making the three parties involved share equally in the thousand-dollar discrepancy. The basis for the compromise was that Yocheved was spared the inconvenience of adjusting the wig to Sara’s liking. Upon inquiry by our Bet Din, fixing a wig to a customer’s liking is tedious and very often not successful. As per Sara’s participation in sustaining a third of the loss, our Bet Din viewed her opportunity to rid herself of a wig she was not happy with as a gain. After all she was reimbursed for nearly the full amount she paid. Lastly, since by law Debbie was liable for the full one-thousand-dollar discrepancy, she is required to share in a percentage of the loss.


Lawyer’s Creed or Greed?

Abe, an accomplished lawyer, was hired to negotiate a settlement on behalf of his client. Due to his client’s advanced age and inability to withstand the pressure of the negotiation process, Abe’s job included reviewing the relevant documentation prior to negotiations without his client’s assistance. The client signed a contract compensating Abe with a flat fee of fifty thousand dollars for his services, and the client immediately wired Abe ten thousand dollars in payment. After Abe’s office spent a few hours reviewing the material, Abe made a total of three phone calls and several text messages in negotiations over the next two weeks. Abe’s work was clearly only in the preliminary stages of development. Surprisingly, shortly thereafter, Abe’s client somehow managed to settle the entire dispute on his own in a single meeting with his opponents. Abe appeared in Bet Din claiming payment of the forty-thousand-dollar balance due as per the contract. He explained that he performed his services in a professional manner and the specific time frame of two weeks is irrelevant. He asserted that he charged a flat rate regardless of the duration of time required. Additionally, a contingency clause in the contract enabling Abe to collect 30 percent of any amount awarded was crossed out. Collection of percentage was not a relevant term in this case, as the client was not claiming payment from his opponents.  Strangely, the next clause which was not crossed out did entitle Abe to collect 30 percent from the amount awarded even if his client privately settled the matter without his knowledge. Abe claimed that the latter clause was not crossed out, only to ensure under the same terms, his flat fee of fifty thousand dollars from his client. The client countered that he is unwilling to pay an additional forty thousand dollars for a few hours of preliminary work which did not even assist him to settle the dispute. He expressed that the ten thousand dollars wired was already an outrageous sum for the services received. The client further defended that the clause ensuring payment in the event he privately settled, is only relevant as stipulated, to cases with a 30 percent contingency fee, and not for flat rate fees.

How should the Bet Din rule, in favor of Abe or the client and why?

Let’s Get Our Share of the WZO’s $4 Billion Budget!!

David Silverberg

Voting is already underway for the 38th World Zionist Congress – the legislative body of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) which sets priorities and policies regarding funding and points of focus for the organization’s wide range of activities.

All Jews living in the United States age 18 and over are eligible to vote, the only requirement being affirming their commitment to the WZO’s official platform (called “The Jerusalem Program”), which consists of the basic principles of Zionism.  Voting began on January 21, and ends on March 11.

Voters have the opportunity to choose between 15 slates, one of which is Ohavei Zion – World Sephardic Zionist Organization (WSZO), the only slate with members from our Sephardic community.  The organization was founded by Rabbi Elie Abadie and Rabbi David Bibi in 2015, in advance of the 2016 elections for the World Zionist Congress.  WSZO is a member of the American Zionist Movement (AZM), and is not affiliated with any political party or faction in Israel.  The body won seven seats in the 2016 elections, but unfortunately, three were disqualified due to technicalities.

WSZO’s mission statement explains that the organization was established “so that the Traditional Sephardic community will have a voice and an influence on the direction of Jewish education within our communities and throughout the world.  This will enable us to provide funding for programs in support of Jewish Education and Identity, Zionism and the support of the State of Israel as the Jewish Homeland.”  It expresses the view that Sephardic Jewry “must chart our future within the Jewish People in our unique way based on our Torah Tradition, values and inclusiveness.”  Bemoaning the fact that “for too long we have been silent,” WSZO seeks “to take responsibility to share the beauty of our Sephardic Heritage with our Jewish brethren and to allow our voice to be heard.”

The World Zionist Organization is expected to distribute some $4 billion for Jewish education in the Diaspora during this coming year alone.  Budgetary priorities will be determined by members of the Congress who are now being voted in, making the current elections a matter of great importance.

WSZO is running on a platform that includes “furthering Jewish and Zionist education,” “promoting spiritual and cultural Sephardic values and heritage,” “instilling a love of Torah values and the appreciation of Missvot,” and “pursuing Jewish unity and respect for each other.”  Additionally, it pledges to work towards fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, as well as “combating assimilation through Jewish pride and identity,” and “protecting and defending Israel and the Jewish People from the secular onslaught and watered down Judaism.”

The organization hopes to have a large representation in the Congress, which will mean access to vitally important funds for Sephardic institutions and programs.

WSZO is running an impressive and diverse slate, consisting of prominent and influential figures from across the spectrum of the Sephardic community.  These include:

  • WSZO cofounder Rabbi Elie Abadie, M.D., rabbi of Manhattan East Synagogue, former rabbi of Edmond J. Safra Synagogue, founder of the Moise Safra Center, NYC, and of Sephardic Academy Manhattan, and President of Justice for Jews from Arab Countries.
  • WSZO cofounder Rabbi David Bibi, rabbi of Long Beach Sephardic Congregation and editor of Sephardic Congregation Newsletter.
  • Rabbi Sion Setton, Principal of Yeshiva Prep High School and Rabbi Emeritus of Magen David of Manhattan.
  • Rebecca Harary, founder and President of CASEpac, and founder and board member of Imagine Academy, Gesher Yehuda Yeshiva, Yeshiva Prep, and Propel Network.
  • Sarina Roffé, head of Sephardic Genealogy and Sarina Roffe Group, and President of Sephardic Heritage Project.
  • Lea Srour, executive director of Bnai Yosef Congregation.

More information about the upcoming elections, as well as instructions for registering and voting, are available at www.zionistelection.org.  A video about the elections was produced by the American Zionist Movement and is available on YouTube under the title, “Vote in the World Zionist Congress Election.”

The current elections offer our community a rare opportunity for our voice to be heard in the boardrooms of one of the largest and most influential Jewish bodies in the world.  With $4 billion at stake, it behooves all of us to take a few minutes to cast our vote in order to help strengthen our own community, the State of Israel, and worldwide Sephardic Jewry.

One on One with Lois Sutton

 “You can have it all – but not all at the same time.” ~~ Lois Sutton

Ellen Geller Kamaras

I am grateful to be celebrating my third anniversary of writing this column.  My very first interview was with Gloria Bijou and I have been hooked ever since! Gloria and I were both downsizing at the time and we connected immediately. Gloria has introduced me to other candidates for the column and I consider her a friend.  I have enjoyed meeting so many remarkable women from the community and always take away meaningful life lessons, which I share with you.

This month, I am delighted to introduce you to a dynamic woman, Lois Sutton.  She is not only a traditional mother and homemaker but is also an attorney with her own private practice. She melds family, community values, and her career successfully and in varying proportions, with each phase of her life.

The Early Years

Originally a Brooklyn girl, Lois was born in December 1954, the eldest of four children. Her parents  Eli (Sonny) and Selma (Mahana) Cohen, were also born and raised in the Syrian community in Brooklyn.

Lois is very proud of her Sephardic cultural heritage, which comes from both sides of her family:  the Cohens from Damascus and  the Mahanas from Aleppo. Her Jido, Basil Cohen, came to America in the early 1900s and helped found the Ahi Ezer Synagogue.

Lois speaks lovingly about her traditional Brooklyn childhood in the community. She grew up shomeret Shabbat with Syrian parents who imparted a strong sense of family, community, religious observance, and education.  She was very bookish; the family  joke was that she would walk down the aisle with a book.  She attended Magen David Yeshivah, graduated from Brooklyn College, Magna Cum Laude, and in 1980 was awarded her Juris Doctorate with Honors from Rutgers University School of Law.

“My parents were, and continue to be, a big influence, just by who they were and what they did.”

Her father Eli used to say that Lois could be the first Jewish female president! How empowering is that?!   He instilled in Lois a strong work ethic and a sense of adventure.  Her mom, Selma,  is a dynamo who believes in celebrating every life event.  When Lois invited her parents to come to the law school to watch her present a case for Mock Trial, they brought over thirty members of her extended family, including both sets of elderly grandparents!

Meeting Her Naseeb

Lois was only 15 years old when she met her naseeb, Sammy Sutton.  Sam, also Sephardic, was  a year older. They married in  May 1976 after she graduated college. She started law school that August. Lois and Sam lived briefly in Brooklyn, then moved to West Deal, NJ in 1978.  They are founding members of Congregation Magen David of West Deal.

“Sam is my best friend and my number one fan.  When I decided to go to law school, he made it clear that it was important that I finish.”

Sam was in the wholesale shoe business, known for his friendly nature and positive outlook. The couple has five children, Victoria, Joey, Eli, Selma, and Albert. All are married with families of their own.  Lois and Sam are proud that they have each successfully followed their own path in life.

What Lois is All About

Let’s get back to Lois, what defines her, her passions and accomplishments, her professional journey, and her challenges.

Lois has been described as outgoing, determined, creative, and funny.  While taking her role as an attorney very seriously, she tries to find humor in every aspect of life.  Lois added that she is stubborn as well.  If someone tells her she can’t do something, she will find a way to make it happen.

Her husband calls her atypical and she concurs saying she is always a little bit different, in a good way, of course.  I found Lois to be savvy, focused, resilient, driven, flexible, and practical.

First and foremost, Lois is passionate about family and grandchildren.  The couple’s ultimate joy is to be celebrate hagim and semachot with their children and grandchildren. “My grandchildren are my life and I am proud to be the babysitting Grandma!”

“What else?  I am passionate about what I do!”  Lois has practiced law for nearly 40 years, and among her clients are generations in the same family.  Her areas of expertise are real estate (residential and commercial), wills, trusts, estate planning, probate, estate administration, and business.  Lois considers herself a problem solver.  Instead of suing, she helps fulfill goals: to buy or sell a house, open or close a business, form a trust. She enjoys people and giving them the benefit of her knowledge and years of experience.

Why Law?

Lois admits she didn’t intentionally set out to become the first Sephardic female lawyer in the community, but that is what happened. She excelled at writing and analysis  and a college professor encouraged her to become a lawyer.

As Lois described her journey through law school  and the different stages of her career, I noted how clever she was, always knowing that her priority was her family, yet finding the right fit professionally for each stage of her life.  She went straight through law school, with a one semester break to have her first child, Victoria.   She was expecting her son Joey when she took the bar exam.

Life after law school was unchartered territory.  Judges and fellow counsel would assume she was the secretary.  Law firms would not consider flex-time or maternity leave. Working until late and on weekends was the norm. “I entered the profession with a triple whammy: an Orthodox married female with a family”

Lois decided early on that she wouldn’t be on the partnership track, but that she would find the right position professionally to keep her roles as wife and mother a priority. Sometimes it worked and at other times it didn’t.

Ingredients to Success

Lois always had the support of her husband, children, parents and in-laws, Joe, a”h, and Vicky Sutton, a”h. Law school was very demanding but Lois credits being shomer Shabbat as an important ingredient to her success.  It gave her an opportunity to put the books away, spend time with friends and family, and recharge.  She managed to complete her work during the other six days and graduate with honors.

Over the years Lois has been in-house counsel for a bank, worked for several large law firms, and was Endowment Director for Jewish Federation of Greater Monmouth County. She opened  her own law office in 2010 in Ocean Township, New Jersey, and practices law full-time.

Lois is thankful to Hashem for surrounding her with so much support and opportunity, but insists that all mothers are working mothers, being the CEO’s of their homes. Lois’s own kids bragged about their “Mom the Lawyer.” Now they bring their own children to visit Lois in her office, just like they used to!

Family Challenge – Sam’s Kidney Failure

Nothing could have prepared Lois and her family for what happened about eight years ago, when Sam’s kidneys suddenly began failing. During the whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, testing, and hospitalizations that followed, it became clear Sam needed a kidney transplant. It was a race against time. On July 3rd, 2012, Sam received the gift of life, a kidney from their youngest son, Albert.

“It was an unreal experience that I couldn’t even process at the time. How did I do it? I just put one foot in front of the other and kept going. B”H, it was successful.”

Renewal, a Jewish organization that facilitates kidney transplants, was instrumental in navigating the process and assisting them every step of the way.  Exactly one year later, Lois chaired an event that introduced Renewal to the Syrian Community.  Lois is a committed volunteer whose service has benefited Hillel Yeshiva, Congregation Magen David of West Deal, and Sephardic Bikur Holim.

Work and Play

What does Lois do for fun?  She still loves to read, but also loves trying new recipes, planning family parties, exercising,  walking outdoors, and of course, playing with the grandkids.

Lois is consistently growing professionally and can handle not only her clients’ New Jersey matters, but also New York and Florida matters, facilitated by strategic alliances with local counsel. She also offers her clients halachic estate planning in conjunction with their rabbis and bet din.

Lois enjoys mentoring aspiring lawyers. Her advice, “You have to love the law to be a successful attorney.  First, intern with a lawyer and speak to other attorneys to make sure it’s really what you want.”

In every phase of her life  Lois is constantly prioritizing and recalibrating. It’s an ongoing equation – there are always things we want to do; and at the same time things we have to do. The solution is to figure out what we actually can do at that moment in time.  Lois says she learned the hard way to enjoy being in the moment.  And now she makes sure she always does.  Her mantra is: “You can have it all, but not all at the same time!”

You can connect with Lois by calling her office at (732) 245-4500

or by emailing her at lsutton@loissuttonlaw.com.

Photos by Bert Cohen

The Do`s and Dont`s of Dating

Kelly Sabbagh

Here are some practical tips to consider before, during, and after a date. May you have siyata d’shmaya in finding your naseeb!


Alternate color or use a shaded background for every other line so each point is clearly distinct from each other.

Do your hishtadlut – don’t just sit back until things happen to you – be proactive.

Be open-minded – you never know how and where a match will come from.

Don’t get upset if a suggestion is not what you expected to hear-  try it! You never know.

Do your own homework if someone suggests a name.

Have a mentor – either a rabbi, matchmaker, or a parent help guide you.

Don’t rely on any one means of meeting. Try them all.

Believe that Hashem will find the right one at the right time. Pray!

Don’t rely on social media photos – you need to see someone in person to appreciate them.

Don’t look for perfection- it doesn’t exist.

Don’t say no to a friend or say you know them already.  You don’t really know someone until you’ve dated them.

Always look your best and always smile.


Be discreet – don’t tell everyone your business.

If a shadchan made the match you may allow her to set up the date for you if that’s what you both agree on, or tell her you’d prefer direct communication instead.

Don’t text to ask her out. Only permissible text is “Hi, would like to speak to you – when is the best  time to reach you.”

Don’t push off the date to accommodate your social calendar.

Think of interesting stories and topics to discuss on date.

Men should advise girls where they are taking them so she knows how to dress.

Approach the date with realistic expectations.

Go for coffee or a soda if it’s a blind date and you don’t want to commit to a full evening just yet.

Focus on one date a time.  Don’t make plans to date someone else until you know for sure your current date is not a match.

Approach the date with care. Don’t  squeeze a date it in because you are busy, take time to prepare  yourself properly.


Go with a positive attitude. Talk positive.

Be on time.

Men – Don’t text or to say you are at her house and she should come outside. Be a gentleman and go to her door to pick her up.

Relax and be yourself – have fun!

Don’t talk too much about yourself – listen and ask questions as well.

Don’t disclose too much on the first date- some things are best saved for subsequent dates.

Don’t brag, show off, or name drop.

Don’t send a girl home in a cab or train. See to it yourself that she gets home safe.

Don’t dismiss the date prematurely.

Don’t worry about the little things.

Ask questions with meaning – don’t just discuss topical things.

Trust your own instincts.

Don’t talk about your ex or previous dates.

When asking questions, don’t make it sound  like a job interview.

Don’t check your phone all night.


If you are not sure about the person keep dating until you know 100% they are for you or not for you.

In a timely fashion,  let your matchmaker, mentor, or rabbi, know how the date went.

Remember it may take more than one date to know if this is a match or not. First dates are often awkward. Always  go on a second date even though you are unsure.

Space dates in timely fashion – not every other day and not every two weeks. Don’t lose momentum!

Straight Talk

The purpose of our lives is to acquire da’at (wisdom), not to lose da’at. When a person becomes very intoxicated, to the point where he resembles an animal, that’s no praise for him at all.

Sometimes, in order to raise the airplane off the ground, you have to put high octane fuel into the tank to help get liftoff. And therefore, in order to make yourself more enthusiastic. there’s nothing wrong with imbibing a certain amount. But to get out of control, that’s a mistake. It’s not a kiddush Hashem (glorification of Gd’s Name); you make yourself look disgusting. I don’t approve of that. It’s very, very wrong.

There is a mitzvah on Purim of nichnas yayin yatza sod (“wine enters, the secret come out”). One has to be very careful that nichnas yayin – the wine comes into him, and yatza sod – his inner “secret” comes out. The gematria of the word yayin (wine) is 70, as is the gematria of sod (secret). The wine comes in and pushes out the secret that the Jew keeps inside him. The Jew has in his neshamah (soul) a love of Hashem, but he is too bashful to talk about it. He’s enthusiastic about the Torah and mitzvot, but he’s embarrassed to show it. When the wine comes in, the truth comes out, and he shows his true inner self. When he’s a little bit intoxicated, the Jew shows the real enthusiasm that he possesses, things that he never showed before.

Thus, Purim is a great opportunity for people to demonstrate their loyalty to the Torah, their emunah (faith) in Hashem, that He’s protecting us at all times, and that eventually we will triumph and outlive all our enemies. All this and much more we can demonstrate on Purim; and we are able to do it when we evoke, we elicit, the greatness of which we are capable. We have it in ourselves! And a little bit of drinking helps that happen.

We should try to make Purim as important as we can in the eyes of our children, and in our family and in our community. Make a big fuss out of Purim! The Purim seudah (feast) should be a very important affair. If we make Purim very prominent in our lives, then it will become one of the most beautiful, precious tachshitim (jewels) on the  Jewish calendar.

The Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles) says that if a person is unable to drink wine on Purim, then he should go to sleep. What is the rationale behind this ruling?

If you can’t drink wine, then you should demonstrate some other form of simcha (rejoicing). Sleeping is a simcha, too. It doesn’t mean you should sleep all day long. If you can’t drink wine, you can also open a Gemara. Why not? And if they don’t let you learn in the house, go to the public library with your Gemara. Sit in the public library and learn Gemara. Nobody will bother you there – I can guarantee you that!

Revealing Our Hidden Essence

“There is nothing more joyful and exciting than discovering that we are so much more than we thought we were, that we have capabilities that we never realized we had.” 

Judaism teaches that the human being is comprised of two components – body and soul.  Our bodies are physical, and our souls are spiritual.  The body comes from the earth, and the soul comes from the heaven.  The Torah makes this very clear in describing the way Adam – the first human being – was created.  It says that the body was made from earth taken from the ground, and the soul was “blown” into the body by Gd.

Jewish life could be described as a “balancing act” of sorts between these two.  We are to focus on the soul, but without neglecting the body.  We nurture the soul by studying Torah and performing mitzvot, which can be done only if our bodies are intact, strong, and healthy.  And thus we are expected, and required, to tend to our bodies, but to focus our attention on the soul.

This “balancing act” is discussed by the Talmud in reference to the observance of our Yamim Tovim (holidays).  In Masechet Pesahim, the Gemara cites two verses that appear to give opposite prescriptions for how our joyous festivals are to observed.  One verse describes the holidays with the word “lachem – for you,” implying that they are given to us to enjoy, through feasting.  But another verse defines the Yom Tov observance as “l’Hashem Elokecha” – geared towards Gd, suggesting that they are to be devoted to spiritual matters, specifically, prayer and study.  The Gemara cites Rabbi Yehoshua as reconciling these verses by explaining that Yom Tov is to be observed as a day of both feasting and spiritual devotion.  We are to spend part of the day praying and learning, and part of the day enjoying fine food and beverages.

This is true not only of Yom Tov, but of Jewish life generally.  Gd wants us to tend to both our bodies and our souls.  We are to enjoy the physical delights of the world, but within the framework of religious devotion, focusing our attention on faithfully serving our Creator.

Connecting Polar Opposites

There are, however, two days on the Jewish calendar when this balance is disrupted – and dramatically so.

One is a holiday which we celebrate this month – Purim, which, we might say, breaks all the rules.  On Purim, we focus almost entirely on the body.  We spend the day exchanging gifts of food, eating, and drinking to the point of (moderate) inebriation.  Even the synagogue is different on Purim.  People come in costume, and in a merry, jovial mood.  On Purim, the body-soul scale is tilted decidedly towards the body.

Just about seven months later, we reach the opposite extreme, with the observance of Yom Kippur.  On Yom Kippur, we go to the opposite extreme, refraining as much as possible from any kind of physical engagement.  We neglect all our physical needs to the extent that we can without endangering our wellbeing, focusing exclusively on the spirit, spending the day in the synagogue praying, reflecting, introspecting, crying, begging, pleading, and reaching higher.

Neither Purim nor Yom Kippur represents the norm of Jewish life, which, as mentioned, is characterized by a delicate balance between body and soul.  On Purim we focus almost exclusively on the former; on Yom Kippur, we focus almost exclusively on the latter.

This is what makes a famous passage in the Zohar Hadash so puzzling, and so mysterious.  The Zohar Hadash comments that the Torah refers to Yom Kippur as “Yom Kippurim” because it is “yom ke-Purim” – “a day like Purim.”  That is to say, according to Kabbalistic teaching – Yom Kippur is like Purim!!!

Yom Kippur is like Purim?

How can two polar opposite occasions possibly be compared to one another?  How did the Zohar take the two most drastically different days on the Jewish calendar and say that one is like the other?  What can this mean?

Two Halves of the Same Day

The Gaon of Vilna (1720-1797) found the answer to this mystery in the Gemara’s comment cited above, regarding the nature of the Yom Tov observance.

As we saw, the Gemara’s prescription for Yom Tov is a combination of physical indulgence and spiritual devotion.  Half the day is to be spent feasting, and the other half is to be spent praying and learning.  The Gaon asks a simple question about this prescription: What about Purim and Yom Kippur?  How do we get away with feasting all day Purim, and fasting and praying all day Yom Kippur?  If a Jewish holiday is characterized by a combination of physical and spiritual engagement, nourishing both the body and the soul, then why do we engage almost entirely in physicality on Purim, and almost entirely in spirituality on Yom Kippur?

The Gaon’s answer is both simple and profound.  He explained that Purim and Yom Kippur are, in fact, two parts of a whole.  They are two halves of a single holiday.

Most holidays, of course, are contiguous, observed on one day or over a period of consecutive days.  Purim and Yom Kippur, according to the Gaon of Vilna, are unique.  They form a single holiday, separated by seven months.  Half of this holiday – the Purim half – is spent feasting, and the other half – the Yom Kippur half – is devoted to spirituality.

This teaching of the Gaon of Vilna needs to be further developed.  What exactly is this Purim/Yom Kippur holiday?  A holiday needs a consistent theme that runs through and brings together all its various aspects.  What connection is there between the celebration of Haman’s downfall on Purim and our prayers for forgiveness as we stand in judgment on Yom Kippur?  How are these two occasions part of the same holiday?  What is the exact nature of this unique holiday?

Internal and External Pressures

A beautiful explanation of this concept is offered by Rav Yitzchak Hutner (1906-1980) – one which can profoundly enhance our appreciation of the special day of Purim.

The background to his explanation is a fascinating passage in Masechet Shabbat that tells of a conversation that will ensue between Gd and our patriarch, Yitzhak, in the future.  Gd will approach Yitzhak and report that his descendants have been unfaithful to Gd, violating His laws, and thus deserve severe punishment.  Yitzhak will immediately jump to our nation’s defense, and plead with the Almighty to forgive us.  Like a bankruptcy lawyer negotiating with a bank on his client’s behalf, Yitzhak will offer a bold “deal.”  He will say, “Palga alai ufalga alecha” – which means, “I’ll take half, and You’ll take half.”  Yitzhak offered to take personal responsibility for half of the Jewish People’s sins, and then pleaded to Gd to forgive the other half.

How does Yitzhak take responsibility for the Jewish People’s sins?  What does this even mean?  How can he assume responsibility for our wrongdoing?  And why should Gd forgive the other half?

The answer, as Rav Hutner cites in the name of Rav Yitzchak Blazer, the famous rabbi of St. Petersburg (1837-1907), is based on yet another Talmudic passage, in Masechet Berachot.  The Gemara there records various supplications which different sages would recite upon completing the formal Amidah prayer each day.  One sage, Rabbi Alexandri, would offer the following petition to Gd:

“Master of the worlds!  It is revealed and known before You that our will is to fulfill Your will, but what stops us?  The ‘yeast in the batter’ and the ‘subjugation of the kingdoms.’  May it be the will before You that You save us from them, so we again wholeheartedly observe the statutes which You willed.”

Rabbi Alexandri here reveals a powerful truth about each and every Jew: our innermost desire is to serve Gd.  At our core, we are devoted to Gd and firmly and passionately committed to fulfilling His will.  “Retzonenu laasot retzonecha – Our will is to fulfill Your will.”  But there are two reasons why we often fail to fulfill our religious obligations: the “yeast in the batter,” and the “subjugation of the kingdoms.”  The phrase “yeast in the better” is a euphemistic reference to the evil inclination, our sinful impulses.  Just as yeast transforms a batter into something bearing no resemblance to its origins, our evil inclination has a way of making us look so very different from who we really are.  Natural human vices such as greed, jealousy, lust, impatience, arrogance, anxiety, and anger are the “yeast” that makes us act in ways that do not in any way reflect our true inner goodness and purity.  The second obstacle we must overcome in our quest to serve Gd is “the subjugation of the kingdoms” – our living under the influence and pressure of a foreign culture.  We Jews comprise a minuscule minority, and no matter how hard we try – especially in the modern era – we are overwhelmed by foreign influence.  It is so difficult to strictly adhere to the Torah’s beliefs, ideals, principles and lifestyle when everyone around us isn’t.

These are the two factors that make it difficult for our inner essence to shine forth – our internal tendencies, and external pressures.  We, like Rabbi Alexandri, must pray to Gd each day to save us from these powerful forces, to give us the help we so desperately need as we struggle against ourselves and against foreign influence so we can serve Gd the way we truly want to.

Rav Blazer explained on this basis Yitzhak’s mysterious “deal” with Gd.

Yitzhak was defending his descendants, arguing that they should not be held fully accountable for our wrongful conduct.  Our sins are the result of their evil inclination, with which Gd created us, and of the influence of the foreign nations – primarily of Esav, the son of Yizhak.  And so Yitzhak turned to Gd and argued that they – he and Gd – together bear ultimate responsibility for the Jewish People’s wrongdoing.  Gd will “take the blame,” so-to-speak, for sins resulting from our sinful impulses which He implanted within us, and Yitzhak will “take the blame” for the sins resulting from the overpowering pressure imposed by the nations who descended from his child, Esav.

Two Days of Perfection

If so, Rav Hutner explained, then we can understand the meaning of the “Purim/Yom Kippur” holiday.

The Gemara in Masechet Yoma observes that the word “haSatan” (“the Satan”) in gematria (the system of numerical values assigned to Hebrew letters) equals 364 – one less the number of days in the year.  The reason, the Gemara explains, is because the Satan is given the power to try to mislead, tempt, and lure us 364 days a year.  On one day a year, Yom Kippur, the Satan is powerless against us.  We know this from personal experience.  Have we ever felt an impulse to sin on Yom Kippur?  Have we ever gotten into a fight on Yom Kippur?  On Yom Kippur, we are free from the Satan’s trap, and so we soar to the greatest heights.  We spend hours in the synagogue and spend the day in an aura of intensive reflection, disengaged entirely from our ordinary human vices.  The Yom Kippur experience, Rav Hutner said, shows what we can become when we are freed from the “yeast,” from the evil inclination.  When the Satan leaves us alone, our true inner essence can shine, and we become pure, pristine beings.

On Purim, we were freed from the “subjugation of the kingdoms” – from the pressure of foreign nations.  As the Megillah describes, after Haman’s downfall and Mordechai’s appointment as vizier in his place, the Jews were instantly transformed from the Persian kingdom’s condemned outcasts, to their most respected sector.  So much so, the Megillah says, that many Persians sought to convert to Judaism, out of fear and respect for the Jewish Nation.  And how did the Jews respond to this sudden change of status?  The Gemara says that in the wake of the Purim miracle, the Jews collectively and formally reaffirmed their acceptance of the Torah.  Whereas at Mount Sinai the Torah was forced upon them, after the Purim miracle they announced their commitment of their own accord, voluntarily, enthusiastically, and wholeheartedly.  They exchanged gifts with one another, and generously distributed charity to the needy.  They feasted heartily, giving joyful and soulful praise to Gd.  All this, of course, is the way we celebrate Purim, too, each and every year.  Purim, then, shows what we can become once we are freed from the “subjugation of kingdoms,” from foreign pressures and influences.  Once we defeat Haman, a scion of Amalek – a nation that descended from Esav – we shine.  We excel.  We achieve.  We become the great people that we were chosen to be, that we are capable of being, and that we are expected to be.


This, Rav Hutner explained, is the meaning of “Yom ke-Purim” – the notion that Purim and Yom Kippur are two halves of a single holiday.  Together, they celebrate and show us our true essence, our inner core, our fundamental nature, our real selves, who we are capable of becoming.  Throughout the rest of the year, when we live under the pressure of our natural vices and foreign influence, we might forget just how good we really are, how much potential we really have.  On Purim and Yom Kippur, we show that “retzonenu laasot retzonecha – our will is to fulfill Your will,” that deep within our hearts, even if this is not always apparent in the way we conduct ourselves the rest of the year, we are firmly committed to Gd.

Behind the Masks

The words “Megillat Ester” can be understood to mean “revealing the hidden.”  One of the themes of Purim is concealment, the contrast between appearance and reality.  On one level, this theme relates to Providence – even when it seems as though Gd is not present in the world, and events unfold randomly, His really is here, micromanaging every detail of the world, behind the “mask” of the natural order.  The bizarre, unlikely sequence of events that resulted in the Purim miracle reveals for us the hidden Hand of Gd in the world.

Additionally, however, the Purim story – and its annual celebration – reveals our own hidden essence.  It shows what we can become once we eliminate external pressure, how we joyfully celebrate our Jewishness, our connection to Gd, and our relationship to our fellow Jew.  Freed from foreign influence, we display an outpouring of joy, of love for Gd and love for one another – feelings which are always present within us, but are too often concealed and hidden.

Purim is a precious opportunity for us to reveal what lies behind the “masks” that we wear all year, to discover just how great we can become, what immense potential we have.  This is the special joy and excitement of Purim.  There is nothing more joyful and exciting than discovering that we are so much more than we thought we were, that we have capabilities that we never realized we had.

Please Gd, we will all be inspired and driven by this wondrous experience to tap into our vast potential, and to work to become the outstanding people that we are meant to be, amen.

Amalek Within – Defeating the Power of Cynicism

As we all know, the time of Purim is dedicated to fighting the influence of Amalek. But who exactly is Amalek? What is their power, and why must it be eradicated?

Rabbi Yehuda Beyda

The Prophecy of Bil’am

In the prophecies of Bil’am harasha (Bamidbar 24; 20) it is written, “Amalek is the first of the nations, and his end will be everlasting oblivion.” The Torah describes Amalek as a nation that, at the end of days, will cease to exist. Even in the Days of Mashiah, when the entire world will be brought to its perfect state, Amelek will not exist. When every other nation in the world will be fulfilling its function assigned to it at the dawn of time, Amalek will best serve the world by leaving it. But why is this so? What is it about Amalek that precludes any hope of salvation? Why is this one nation the only one that cannot be brought to fulfill a higher purpose?

The answer is alluded to in the beginning of the above pasuk, that Amalek is “the first among the nations.” Though all the nations of the world opposed the existence of B’nei Yisrael at one point or another, Amalek was the first to do so, thereby earning everlasting destruction. Let us probe this idea further.

The Power of Cynicism

In the Torah, the attack of Amalek on the Jews in the desert is immediately followed by the words, “Vayishma Yitro – And Yitro heard.” What did Yitro hear? The Midrash Rabba says that he heard about the war of Amalek and Hashem’s decree in its aftermath, that He would erase all memory of Amalek from the world. The Midrash applies the pasuk (Mishlei 19; 25) that states that when a cynic is punished, the fool gains wisdom. Amalek and Yitro were both involved in Par’oh’s scheme to destroy us, but when Yitro heard of Hashem’s intent to destroy Amalek, he took the lesson to heart and repented. Though the cynic himself gets no benefit from being punished, he serves as a lesson for others to improve their behavior. Amalek here is labeled a cynic, who by definition lets all rebuke roll off of him with no lasting impact. Yet, he can serve as a lesson for others. Where, though, does this label of cynic come from? How does Amalek’s behavior earn him the title of letz? Let us examine this.

The Gemara (Megilla 25b) tells us that all cynicism is prohibited, besides that which mocks idol worship. Certainly this applies to all mockery of evil, on any level. The reason that the Gemara chose to single out idol worship for this statement is that the essence of cynicism is to devalue that which others hold in high esteem. Rabbenu Yona explains the pasuk (Mishlei 27: 21) that states, “as a crucible is for silver and a furnace for gold, a man according to his praise.” He says that this means that the essence of a man can be discerned by that which he praises. If one is constantly praising and admiring those who are far from the will of Hashem, then we can know for certain that he himself is far from Hashem, as well. Though he may spend his days studying Torah and doing mitzvot, by seeing where he puts his admiration his true allegiance can be known. Conversely, we may find someone who does not study Torah as much as he should, and doesn’t expend much effort in doing mitzvot. Yet, when a talmid hacham enters the room, he shows honor and respect. His children hear the way he speaks with reverence about those who study Torah. His admiration and praise are reserved for those who are following in Hashem’s ways. This man is closer to Hashem than the other, who studies the Torah but has no respect for it. A man according to his praise.

The Natural Tendency to Put Down Others

Yet before the discernment is made about what one’s praise is for – a different question must be asked. Does he have the capacity for praise and admiration in the first place? In each of us lurks a powerful urge to devalue and bring down anything that others hold dear. We will seek out and find the “chink in the armor,” and expand that to totally destroy any admiration we may feel for someone or something worthy of such.

“That rabbi? People think he’s so great. I remember when he was a kid, we used to play basketball every Shabbat together!”  “You’re saying tehillim with 40 people? Waste of time. All these are tricks and segulot.

We have the tendency to try and knock anything that may lead us – or others – to a higher state of existence. This is the power of cynicism – leitzanut – which is anathema to all spiritual growth. Leitzanut has the power to negate even the most powerful and awe-inspiring display of Hashem’s presence. Indeed, Eliyahu Hanavi himself, when making his demonstration at Mount Carmel, gave a special prayer that no cynic should toss out a careless word and undo all his work. Cynicism is among the most destructive powers that exist, and those who practice it are excluded from the Presence of Hashem.

The Power of Praise and Elevation

So, before we can ask if we are praising and admiring those people or actions that deserve our praise, we must first ask ourselves – do we have the capacity to admire in the first place? Are we bringing ourselves and those around us to a higher plane of existence, or do we indulge in leitzanut to denigrate and devalue the Word of Hashem? Once that question can be satisfactorily answered, we may then examine the direction of our admiration and ensure that its targets are the proper ones.

This, then, is why chazal chose the example of idol worship to illustrate the proper use of mockery. Idol worship is the extreme case where men built up and admired – to the point of worship and servitude – a false ideal. They used the power of elevation not for its intended purpose of increasing the honor of Hashem, but rather to promote falsehood and debauchery. This is the perfect illustration of what we must mock, and all other examples flow from this. This form of mockery is not the destructive leitzanut, but rather is a natural outgrowth of the power of elevation – of the proper type – by which we must negate all that which opposes the will of Hashem.

Amalek the Cynic

This returns us to the actions of Amalek. The simple test to determine whether we are on the path of elevation or of mockery is to examine how we react to being corrected or rebuked. If we cannot stand to be told that we have been doing wrong – that is the classic symptom of the letz. Only one who is actively seeking a higher existence can be rebuked effectively. When we can thank the one who points out an error in what we are doing, then we know that we are on the path of elevation.

Amalek, on the other hand, is the embodiment of that destructive power of leitzanut. Rashi (Devarim 25:18) tells us that Amalek “cooled down the boiling water” of the fear that gripped the nations when they attacked us so soon after we left Egypt. All the world had witnessed the might of Hashem and the strength of His love for us, and they were all in awe – and admiration – of Hashem and His nation. Amalek couldn’t stand that. They set out to prove that we were just like all the others. The Jews aren’t untouchable. We can be attacked, and though they were defeated Amalek made a real fight of it. They cooled the ardor. They found the chink to exploit.

Amalek embodies the essence of mockery and cynicism. And that is why they must be destroyed forever.

In a world that has returned to its intended mission, a world where every nation is serving its higher purpose, all will be on the path of elevation. The time of Mashiah will usher in a reality where every person and every nation will know their place, and how they are expected to increase the honor of Hashem. Even the bitterest enemies that we have known will be devoted to and praising Hashem. As we say each morning in Pesuke d’zimra – “Malchei eretz v’chol leumim…yehallelu et Shem Hashem. Kings of the land and all nations…will praise the name of Hashem.” That world has no place for a cynic. Amalek and his power can serve no purpose on the path of elevation, for theirs is one of mockery and denigration.

The only thing they can do is disappear, may we see it soon and in our days. Amen.

Adapted from the Sefer Pachad Yitzchak, by Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, zt”l, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivat Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin.

PROPEL Is Proud to Present The PROPEL List

“Last year, our PROPEL graduates collectively earned $3.8 million!”

Bonnie Azoulay

If you’ve heard about PROPEL through one of our workshops, events, or from Community  Magazine, by now you know that our mission is to invest in community women by helping them discover their passion, profession, and earning potential. Until this point, we’ve connected over 400 of you with our career coaches, who guide women on the career paths that best fit their needs and lifestyles.  Last year, our PROPEL graduates collectively earned $3.8 million! Additionally, we’ve connected with over 1000 community women through career guidance, workshops, mentoring, and events.

Through our program, PROPEL finds the PRO in you by helping you discover your professional abilities. Now, we’re proud to expand our services by presenting The PROPEL List to the community to find the PRO for you.

This expansive print and digital directory will showcase working women with different businesses and careers in hopes of growing their clientele. Expect to take part in a working women’s community that will instantly market your business and give you the opportunity to network with thousands of people. Beyond that, users will be able to access your contact information and direct message you.

You will be able to find what you’re looking for by searching for a business, profession, or name on the user-friendly website that will host this list. As the first-ever professional working women roster in our community, we hope that you’ll join us in expanding the names of incredible women we’ve already gathered. At PROPEL, we believe in “women helping women.”

If you or someone you know provides goods or services, we’d love to hear from you. The next time you are looking for a makeup artist, graphic designer, baked goods, apparel, or anything else, you can refer to this list that will provide you with the person and business that you’re looking for.

As an organization with an eye to the future, we’re looking forward to printing and digitizing a directory that will serve the entire community.

To be included in The PROPEL List, go to: http://bit.ly/PROPEL-List or contact us at:

Info@thepropelnetwork.org  / 646-494-0822.

Bonnie Azoulay is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with works published in Glamour, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, and more. She currently works on PROPEL’s writing and marketing materials.

Once upon a Thyme – Portobello, Cremini, and Shiitake Mushroom Galette

Adina Yaakov

Savory or sweet, a galette is a French pastry that doesn’t require a pie dish. Rustic and flavorful, this portobello, cremini, and shiitake mushroom galette is flavored with white wine and caramelized onions and is wrapped in a flaky, melt-in-your-mouth pastry dough.

Making your own pastry dough can be time intensive, but unquestionably is worth it. If you want to save time, you can use a store-bought frozen pie crust. Just remove the tin, cut off the fluted crust, and you’re ready to go. Feel free to substitute other mushroom varieties or use the basic white mushrooms for the mushroom filling. Just don’t use the canned variety – those are for desperate times only.

Unlike the standard pie, the free-form galette is adaptable to any shape. Try shaping it into a triangle for your Purim Seudah or just stick to the classic circular shape. Don’t be scared to try – any snafu only improves its rustic appeal.

Flaky Pie Crust:
1½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
1 stick trans-fat-free margarine cut into small cubes
7 tbsp ice water

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz cremini (Baby Bella) mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
8 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
8 oz portobello mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme, plus more for garnishing
1 sprig fresh rosemary
½ cup white wine
1 tbsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
* Optional – microgreens for garnish


Prepare the Crust:

1. Place cubed margarine in the freezer for 30 minutes.
In a processor, pulse flour, salt, and sugar. Add cubed margarine, and pulse for about 10 seconds, until the mixture just begins to get crumbly. Don’t overmix.

2. Slowly drizzle half the water and pulse until it just begins to hold together. Add
the rest of the water and pulse for about 15 seconds. If the dough is too dry, add
1 tablespoon of ice water at a time, and pulse

3. Place dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap. Form into a ball and use your
hands to press and knead the dough gently until it comes together. Flatten into a
thick disk, and wrap loosely in plastic wrap. Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes or
up to 3 months if making ahead.

4. Unwrap dough from saran wrap and place onto a floured sheet of parchment.
Flour the top of the dough as well and place another sheet of parchment on top,
sandwiching the dough between both sheets. Using a rolling pin, roll until about
¼ inch thick. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes before adding filling.

Prepare the Mushroom Filling:

  1. In a large baking tray, place all the sliced mushrooms. Add minced garlic, olive
    oil, salt, and black pepper and toss to coat evenly. Tuck the whole thyme and
    rosemary sprigs in between the mushrooms and bake uncovered on 350°F for 25
    minutes. When cooked, discard the rosemary and thyme sprigs. Add white wine
    to the mushrooms and toss to coat. Set aside.
  2.  Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add canola oil and sliced onions. Sauté the
    onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Season lightly with salt.
  3. Gently combine mushroom and onions. Allow mixture to come to room
    temperature before assembling the galette.

Assemble and Bake the Galette:

  1. Remove the dough from the freezer. Spread the mixture into the center, leaving a border on all sides.
  2. Fold the edges of the dough over the mushrooms, leaving the middle exposed.
  3. Lightly brush the edges of the dough with the lightly beaten egg. Bake at 380°F. for 40 minutes, rotating the pan after 20 minutes.
  4. Garnish with fresh thyme leaves and/or microgreens.Recipe, Photo, and Styling By Adina Yaakov, Dietetic Intern and Recipe Developer.
    For more recipes follow @OnceUponAThyme__ on Instagram NEW! Find more recipes on ​www.OnceUponaThyme.us​




A Halo Around His Head

Miriam Malowitzky

It is in our DNA to do acts of kindness. Our forefather Avraham marked us with his love for every man. This is one of the defining traits of our existence, a calling that one man in Brooklyn takes very seriously.

This man has a heart bigger than the borough he lives in. His alias is “The Mitzvah Man.” His finger is on the heartbeat of those who are in need. The Mitzvah Man is the address to know when a hesed needs to be done.

I joined the Mitzvah Man list of volunteers over ten years ago. I was between jobs and had free time. I saw a cute ad with a superhero mouse flying to do mitzvot. It was looking for volunteers to do various kind deeds. The idea appealed to me. Maybe I can be a superhero too.

Once I joined, I began receiving texts about people’s needs. For a while my favorite activity was to deliver flowers to seniors on erev Shabbat. Part of the fun was picking up the donated flowers in the designated shop without having to pay for them! They were adorned with a decorated card of Shabbat greeting. The delighted senior accepted the colorful bouquet with appreciation and of course an abundance of blessings on my head. Really, it was my heart that swelled with joy for the opportunity to bring cheer to a lonely, homebound man or woman. The warm feeling kept me company throughout Shabbat.

I soon learned the extent of Mitzvah Man’s deeds. Hundreds of texts are sent each week. Once, I had the privilege of contributing money to help someone with groceries. It was easy to give knowing with certainty that my dollars were going directly to feed hungry mouths.

Recently, I had the chance to pay for someone to have a sukkah. As a single “older” woman, I sometimes feel removed from the preparations of the holidays. As I do not have my own home, or my own sukkah, giving in this way gave me some ownership in this beautiful mitzvah. I feel like I gained more than the recipient, cliché but the truth.

As I am friends with Mitzvah Man on Facebook, I am privy to the myriad of Hasadim done on a regular basis. During the sweltering summer months, he has helped people get working air conditioners. He has supplied coats to the homeless and boots to needy children. He networks to find jobs for special needs individuals. If there is a shiva house that needs men for a minyan, he is on it. No deed is too big or too small for the Mitzvah Man organization.

Equally heartwarming to his kindness, are his hashgacha pratit stories. One time, someone called for their needy neighbor requesting a gas top-loaded washer and dryer. Mitzvah Man didn’t know where to get something like that. The very next day, an appliance store owner called to say that he is closing his business. “Do you know anyone that can use a new gas top-loaded washer and dryer?” “I am willing to donate it.” Mitzvah Man was in disbelief. It was delivered the very next day and the woman was overjoyed.

It all started with a (not so) ordinary man who decided to devote as much time as he could to doing mitzvot. That decision has morphed into a hesed organization that spans the tri-state area and has hundreds, maybe even thousands of volunteers who wait eagerly for their phone to beep with the next hesed opportunity. If you’re wondering how you will recognize the Mitzvah Man, he is the one with the halo around his head.