Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Ki Savo 5775

Ki Savo 5775

New Stories Ki Savo 5775

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Ki Savo 5775

Shabbos and Joy, Even During Hard Times


The commentators grapple with the idea that Shabbos is a day of happiness, as we recite in Shemone Esrei yismichu vimalchuscha shomrei Shabbos vikorei oneg, they shall rejoice in Your Kingship – those who observe the Shabbos and call it a delight. Yet, throughout Jewish history, the Jewish People have suffered greatly and the day of Shabbos was not an exception. In this week’s parashah, the Torah discusses the consequences that will befall the Jewish People if they do not adhere to the Torah. It is said (Devarim 28:47) tachas asher lo avadata es HaShem Elokecha bisimcha uvituv leivav meirov kol, because you did not serve HaShem, your G-d, amid gladness and goodness of heart, when everything was abundant. The Gerrer Rebbe, the Bais Yisroel, writes that the Gemara (Chulin 101b) states that Shabbos is kivia vikyama, permanent and stationary. This alludes to the idea that despite the fact that the Bais HaMikdash has been destroyed, the power of Shabbos remains in a permanent state for the Jewish People. The Sfas Emes writes that the destruction was a result of the Jewish People not serving HaShem out of joy. It then follows that when the Jewish People are in exile and lacking abundance, and still they serve HaShem with joy, they will merit the Ultimate Redemption. The Bais Yisroel continues by saying that although it is said (Devarim 28:65) uvagoyim haheim lo sargia, and among those nations you will not be tranquil, this refers to the weekday. On Shabbos, however, the Jewish People will find peace. This idea, however, still requires further explanation. Have we not seen that even on Shabbos the Jewish People have suffered? During the Holocaust, Jews were at times tortured on Shabbos even more than they were tortured during the week. How, then, can we always be instructed to be joyful on the Holy Day of Shabbos? Perhaps the answer to this question can be found in our understanding of joy and redemption. While it is certainly easier to be at rest and full of joy when we are not persecuted by our enemies, there is a concept of inner joy that exists even at times of persecution and suffering. The Sefarim (Degel Machanei Ephraim quoting Tikkunim) write that although we read the tochacha, the rebuke that is found in this week’s parashah, as curses, concealed within the curses are blessings. The Bais Yisroel writes that one can overcome the curses by cleaving to HaShem. This, he writes, is reflected in Shabbos, as Shabbos is a blessing, and a curse cannot become attached to a blessing. It is noteworthy that the end of last week’s parashah discusses the commandment to eradicate Amalek, the nation who attacked us without warning when we left Egypt. The beginning of this week’s parashah discusses the commandment of bringing bikkurim, the first fruits, to the Bais HaMikdash. When one brings Bikkurim, he opens his declaration of gratitude with the words (26:5) arami oveid avi, an Aramean tried to destroy my forefather. Thus, at a time of heightened jubilation, we invoke the painful memory of destruction and exile.

The Shabbos Connection

This is parallel to the idea that is reflected in Shabbos, where we demonstrate that despite the apparent curses that surround us, we are truly ensconced in blessing, and the curse will never be associated with the blessing. Thus, the idea that we must be joyful on Shabbos is not just a fantasy, but a reality. Shabbos is a day of joy, and HaShem should allow us to merit the ultimate joy, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkienu, speedily, in our days.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

בְּרֹב הַצְלָחָה, שַׁבָּת מְנוּחָה, with abundant success – Shabbos of contentment. We know Shabbos is the source of all blessings. It would be worthwhile to incorporate into our vernacular the words, “I am doing this in honor the Holy Shabbos,” and then the Holy Shabbos will certainly reciprocate and shower its blessings on our efforts during the week.

Shabbos Stories

Only Food for Guests

At the turn of the 19th century, before the First World War, there were still great rebbes that could heal; there was the Kerestirer Rebbe, Reb Yeshaya. He did not place his hands on a person or speak – but if you ate food in his house, you went away healed. When his wife Sarah died, the Rebbe wept terribly and would not be consoled. He told the Chasidim, “You probably thought that people who ate in my house were healed because of me. That’s not true. It was because of my holy wife, Sarah. Now that she’s gone I can tell you. Listen to this story of what happened. ‘In our younger days we were desperately poor. If we ate one meal a week we would have food to eat on Shabbos, but we wouldn’t be able to have any guests. So we fasted from Shabbos to Shabbos. Then we had enough food for ourselves and for some guests. One week, my holy wife was cooking on Friday for Shabbos, when a drunkard knocked on the door and was invited in. He was reeking of alcohol but he said to my wife, ‘I’m starving, do you have anything to eat?’ We had not eaten that whole week, but who knows how long he had been without food, and when someone says they’re starving, how can you not feed them? So my wife gave him from the food she had prepared for Shabbos. After finishing what she gave him, however, he asked, ‘Is there more?’ Each time he ate whatever was put before him and asked for more, until she said, ‘There’s not a crumb left.’ She gave him everything she had prepared for our Shabbos meals. She gave him everything gently and respectfully, because she was doing a great mitzvah and good deed. She didn’t judge him by how he looked or for his crude behavior, for who knows what troubles he had suffered? “Then this drunkard did something unusual. He asked, ‘Can I speak to your husband?’ My wife came to my room and told me about his request and, when I agreed, my wife sent him to me. When he came in, he no longer smelled and he didn’t appear drunk. In fact, his face was glowing, and I realized at once that this was Elijah the Prophet. He said to me, ‘I only came here to bless your wife. Her kindness has made a great impression in heaven. But we wanted to give her a final test to see if she was worthy of the great blessing we have in store for her. She passed the test.’ “What was the great blessing? It was the blessing of healing.” And that,” said the Rebbe, “was why the food my holy wife served healed whoever ate it.” [Mai Ber Yeshayahu, pp. 43-44.] When Rebbe Yeshaya of Kerestirer was on his deathbed and close to his final hours, he called over one of his intimates and whispered, “In a little while there will be a ‘funeral’ here and many people will be coming from far away. So please put a very big pot on the stove and boil a lot of potatoes, and then cook them with a lot of chicken fat, because I want all those Jews to have some tasty food after their long trip.” [Reshumim Bishimcha, p. 360]

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Improving Upon an Existing Mixture
  1. Adding Solids to a Mixture

Adding Solids to a Thick Mixture

When adding solids to a thick mixture, one does not have to reverse the order in which the ingredients are added to the bowl. The reason behind this is that since the binding agent used to blend the new particles is the original thick mixture (which is not thick liquid), the new solids added do not bond until the mixture is stirred. [This is the equivalent to using a coagulated substance, such as mayonnaise, as the binding agent.] However, one must employ one of the recommended shinuim when stirring in the new ingredients to the original mixture [i.e. stirring in a crisscross manner or bare-handed).

To illustrate: Vegetable bits may be added to a completed egg salad. However, they must be stirred into the salad with cross-cross strokes or with the bare hand (bit not with the handle of a utensil).

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Ki Savo 5775

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New Stories Ki Savo 5775

A Modern Day Oskar Schindler

Steve Maman has saved 130 Christian and Yazidi women. His Jewish ethics are driving him to do more. An exclusive interview.

by Yvette Alt Miller

(Reader discretion advised)

“The defining moment for me was when ISIS (released) pictures of children crammed up in a cage dressed up in orange jumpsuits while outside a soldier held a flame to them. I said to myself, ‘Steve, you’re going to act.'”

By now we’ve all seen the photos of prisoners and refugees; we’ve each read of the atrocities unfolding across the world. For most of us, the daily parade of misery and unthinkable brutality we see in the news can feel numbing: when we read of tragedies unfolding thousands of miles away, it can seem natural to feel that nothing we personally can do possibly could make any difference.

”I cannot and will not stand idle,”

For one Jewish businessman in Montreal, averting his eyes wasn’t an option. Steve Maman, a 42-year old father of six, would seem at first to have little if anything to do with the Iraqi victims of kidnapping and slavery a world away in Iraq. A crystal wholesaler and antique car dealer and father of young children, Maman might be forgiven for feeling that he was too busy to try to help.

In an exclusive interview, Maman explains that doing nothing simply wasn’t an option: “It’s my Jewish education.” As a child, Maman attended Montreal’s Maimonides school which stressed the interconnectedness of all Jews and all people. When Maman and his classmates learned about the Holocaust, he recalls learning “it didn’t happen to the Ashkenazi community – it happened to the Jewish community overall. My teachers removed the barriers, teaching that we are all connected. This is what prompted me to recognize the pain that was being inflicted on those people and feel a visceral connection with the Christians and Yazidis in Iraq.”

Maman takes the Torah’s obligation to push ourselves to help others very seriously. “I said to myself, I cannot and will not stand idle,” Mamon explains, echoing the Torah’s injunction “you shall not stand by the blood of your brother” (Leviticus 19:16). “As I was always taught, ‘’One who saves a life, saves a world'” (Mishna Sanhedrin 4.5).

The situation of Christian minorities and Yazidis, a mostly Kurdish ethnic group with its own distinctive religion, in Iraq is desperate. After ISIS forces took over the region around Mosul and Sinjar in August 2014, they massacred and enslaved the many non-Muslims who lived in these areas. Over 9,000 Yazidis were executed, many by beheading. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, 7,000 Yazidis were enslaved. Boys taken as slaves face forced conversion to Islam and brainwashing to join ISIS. ISIS fighters distributed female “slaves” as a spoil of war, and these women and girls face horrific abuse: malnourished, kept in cages, and sexually brutalized in almost unthinkable conditions.

In the past year, some of them have escaped; others have been bought and freed. In fact, a whole business has grown up, made up of Arab and Kurdish brokers who buy the freedom of female slaves – often at the behest of their families – and sell them to relatives who release them. While some Yazidi and Christian “slaves” can be bought for as little as $125, the middlemen who do the buying and selling take a huge cut, and it costs between $1,000 and $3,000 to buy the freedom of one of ISIS’s slaves. While many have been freed, an estimated 2,700 female slaves remain.

In the words of Cannon Archer White, formerly pastor of St. George’s Church in Baghdad and today the head of a foundation to help resettle Yazidis and Christians in non-ISIS-controlled areas of Iraq, there is no easy way to free these girls. “You have to buy them out. There’s no other way.” It is these helpless, brutalized girls that Steve Maman has resolved to free by buying them out of servitude.

In December 2014, Maman set out to raise funds to buy their freedom, and set up a CYCI-The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children in Iraq. On the ground in Iraq, CYCI works closely with Cannon White and his local foundation to facilitate the ex-slaves’ transitions to freedom. Once released, the girls are relocated to safe areas in Kurdish-controlled Iraq and, if possible, reunited with their families. In addition to buying their freedom, CYCI also helps provide them with desperately needed food, shelter and medical care. For those with no more family living, CYCI provides assistance to relocate and start anew. So far, CYCI has freed 120 women and girls.

At first, virtually all of CYCI’s funds came from Montreal’s Sephardi Jewish community.

At first, virtually all of CYCI’s funds came from Montreal’s Sephardi Jewish community, as Maman turned to his friends and business contacts with his plan. Maman characterizes his community as “remarkably generous.” Kelly Amram, one of the volunteers making CYCI work, described the fundraising: “People are donating as if it were their own children” and explains why: “When we say ‘never again’ as Jews, we really mean ‘Never again’.”

Seeking additional funding, Maman approached 60 Christian organizations across Canada – and was ignored by each one. In recent weeks, as word about CYCI and Steve Maman has spread, donations have begun coming in from diverse groups and people around the world. Donors in Ireland, Germany, Britain, Australia and the United States have started funding CYCI, which has seen its funds swell to $450,000. Rabbi Saadia Elhadad, an early backer of Maman’s work, speaks for many in the organization when he says, “I would like to see more and more people around the world emulate this kind of action.” Maman is now hoping to find a celebrity to back his cause, and hopes to raise $5 million so he can free each remaining slave in Iraq.

Asked how he finds time to work on CYCI while running his business and spending time with his family, Maman, laughs: “I steal time that doesn’t exist. I don’t sleep any more, I sleep a few hours a day. (And) I have a very strong wife.” Though it isn’t easy, Maman shares something he has learned: “We can put aside a little bit of ourselves to save other people.” Meeting Cannon White (whom Maman contacted after reading about him online), and being in a position to set up CYCI, Maman says was Divine providence, and he feels fortunate to be in a situation where he can help. Praying and having faith help give him the energy he needs these days, Maman explains.

In a recent post on Facebook, Maman tried to explain what motivates him. Underneath a gorgeous picture of his family, he explained:

“I received many messages of people wondering why I founded and am so involved (in) ‘CYCI-The Liberation of Christian and Yazidi Children of Iraq’. Many also wondered who we are and what we do. Well, this picture of my family sums it up. This is who we are and we do it for the reasons you see on every face in this photo. Every Yazidi or Christian child, innocent, held hostage in Iraq is entitled to such a family photo, and smiles. If we do not assist them in this time of hardship, they will never get a chance at having such a family portrait. The only way to make a difference is to share our CYCI efforts and achievements, as well as donating any amount. Act now, don’t remain a spectator to the horrors they are enduring.”

Some have called Steve Maman a modern day Oskar Schindler, referring to the German industrialist who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. Although he says he’s “two planets away” from Schindler’s level, Maman credits Schindler with inspiring him, as well as Sir Nicholas Winton, a British Jew who recently died, in July 2015, who brought 669 Jewish children to Britain from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II.

Maman says “I never planned for this to take off the way it did. I never called myself a Jewish Schindler or a Canadian Schindler…The only way I’m able to help children is to get help from others. I realize it was probably God who put me in this position” to help. All he did, Maman insists, is internalize the timeless Jewish lesson he was taught in school: “The Torah teaches the laws of assistance (to captives). I removed the names and borders that separate people… I helped people without labels.” To those who criticize his paying money to ISIS to free slaves, Maman points out that each time people fill their car with gas they are giving money to regimes that encourage terrorism; each time Maman pays to free a Christian or Yazidi girl, he says, “I’m getting lives back.”

Maman is not the only Jew to mobilize his community to help Iraqi Christians. In 2015, Lord George Weidenfeld, the British publishing magnate who escaped Nazi-occupied Austria for Britain with the help of a Christian group, explaining “I had a debt to repay,” established the “Safe Havens Fund” to help rescue and resettle Christian families fleeing ISIS from Iraq and Syria. He hired a private plane to carry the first group – 150 Syrian Christians – to Poland in July 2015. Aided by other Jewish donors and the Jewish National Fund, Weidenfeld has pledged to rescue over 2,000 Christian families eventually.

To help support Steve’s rescue work, visit (

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