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Followers of our weekly newsletter recently accompanied Rabbi Katz on a trip down memory lane to visit Adars of years past. (You can read his thoughts here

MMY 5779 was not intimidated by tales of previous years' shtick successes, rather they rose to the challenge. In fact, Rosh Chodesh Adar this year was one for the record books - and social media posts! 

The groundwork was laid on Ben Yehuda one Motzei Shabbat, when Ahava Sheer approaced the "Singing Koreans" (a group dedicated to the love of Israel) to help plot the perfect surprise. When the faculty arrived at MMY on Rosh Chodesh morning they were greeted at the door by festive cheer. Girls were singing and dancing in the streets and doing everything in their power to keep their teachers out the building. Racheli Lipner shared some Purim Torah (Read it Here!) before finally allowing teachers entry. 

Entering the familiar hallways of MMY the teachers found them redisgned to represent the Purim story leading them to the musical surprise awaiting them in the Chadar Ochel. Standing in front of a large sign proclaiming "קוריאה אוהבת את ישראל" an enormously well-populated band of Koreans were singing Israeli folk songs. Everyone joined in, sharing songs and spirit! Rabbi Katz even began playing a guitar, before being interviewed for the Korean news. The atmosphere was electric and a wonderful celebration of the love for Israel and the Jewish People the Koreans share with us. To quote from their Facebook post, "We sang and danced together to celebrate the begining of Purim in MMY and will stand together against the spirit of Haman".

After Rabbi Katz was jokingly named Advisory Rabbi for the Koreans we moved on to more Adar fun! 

The talmidot had created a Holiday Carnival celebrating the cycle of the Jewish Year. Each Dira took responisiblity for commemorating one Chag. For Rosh HaShannah Rav Dani and Rabbi Bronstein bobbed for apples. For Yom Kippur, Rabbi Katz had yet another new appointment: Kohen Gadol. After getting appropriately dressed in the bigdei kehuna, our Kohen officated appopriate korbanot, (no animals were harmed in the making of this shtick). In the Sukkah, the teachers were challenged to create Kosher edible Sukkot. The Chanukah corner included a game of "Stack the Latkes". For Pesach we shared a Seder and in the Purim area we created Mishloach Manot and dressed up to distribute them in the streets; Rabbi Emmett's grass skirt was particularly popular. The simcha of the whole year celebrated in just one morning!

Finally some MMY dreams came true. The Carmel Spa came to Jerusalem and was recreated in Rabbi Katz's office, a true path to peacefulness (Netivot Shalom) for its biggest fan. 

You can read a report from our Korean co-creators here! (Please be aware MMY is not responsible for  the views and philosophy contained within)

From the Director's Desk: "If These Walls Could Talk!"
with Rabbi David Katz

ראש חודש אדר שני יהיה ביום חמישי וביום השישי הבא עלינו ועל המדרשה שלנו לטובה. 
What will this week bring to MMY? On Thursday, weather and world events providing (we take nothing for granted here), the Shana Aleph girls are slotted to surprise us once again with their Rosh Chodesh Adar shtick. How did this custom even begin?
Well, the very first year (when most of our customs developed) the girls took us on a scavenger hunt through Kiryat Moshe which ultimately landed us in what was then the Churva in the Old City (before it was rebuilt) and the tradition was started. The next year the "scavenger hunt" concept continued, except they sent the clues via their cellphones, which had suddenly come on the scene, and they dumped them all into one bag - we had to dig to get to the ringing phone before we could get the next clue. The third year (picture on my wall) I was able to win the basketball competition in horse with an over the head shot at the buzzer. Fourth year (picture on my wall) all the MMYers dressed up as locals in the old city and that's how we got our clues. I chased a pregnant woman for blocks and blocks only to find out she wasn't an MMYer in costume but a regular pregnant local. My my.
One year we sadly had to postpone the fun due to a terrorist bombing that morning in Jerusalem. We take nothing for granted, as I said. That year the girls ordered a taxi (Zion) to park inside our Beit Medrash which had doors to the street, so we had to send the driver away. The next week (as Israelis and as Jews we aren't going to let the Hamans of the world spoil our Adar cheer. After all, that's the message that Adar brings with it!) the girls did the shtick again - taxi and all! I thought it would be fun to talk on the walkie talkie so I did, not realizing every taxi driver in the city could hear me. Sheesh. In our new building when the girls also brought in a car (this time Nati's Breslovmobile), I was already prepared for the concept and happily climbed up to dance on the hood.
The second most famous year (picture on my wall), in my opinion, was when the girls got me to go on a horse in 5774. I don't do horses. Especially not rental horses. But, pardon the pun, I wasn't going to rein on their parade. So I got on the horse and thought that would be that. They started singing ככה יעשה לאיש אשר המלך חפץ ביקרו. Ok, no big deal. Then they walked me to the Rakevet. A bit embarrassing, but passable. Then to Emek Refaim. Bad news. Every person I know was on Emek that day. Ok, they won.
But hands down, anyone who has seen the alumnae pictures on our wall and seen the "pink one," knows that "Katz for Knesset" from 5766 will forever be the classic. It was right before an election and the girls plastered the entire city with gigantic posters of me running for Prime Minister. I came in that morning and people on the street were pointing at me and gasping (I had no idea why). I got calls from relatives asking why my picture was hanging in the Tachana Merkazit and Malcha Mall and why cars had bumper stickers saying "Katz for Knesset." And then, finally, I caught on. The hysterical scavenger hunt they planned led to "Kikar Paris" near the Prime Minster's Residence where they had a full blown political rally, complete with posters and a bullhorn. Strangers came to say that they would vote for me. The Shabak came at the request of then Prime Minister Olmert to find out who is this Katz guy that is running against him. It was surreal. Front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day.
Every MMYer remembers their Rosh Chodesh Adar shtick years later. Apparently the joy of Adar isn't just a passing feeling. May this year's Adar(s), and every year's Adar, bring ultimate joy with the realization of G-d's protection of the Jewish people in every generation.

By: Vivvi Lewis, Current MMY Student                

להביא את ושתי המלכה לפני המלך בכתר מלכות להראות העמים והשרים את יפיה כי טובת מראה היא ותמאן המלכה ושתי לבוא  

Megillat Esther begins with a party thrown by King Achashverosh. The lavishness of the banquet is described in detail in the Megillah. On the 7th day Achashverosh calls for Vashti to come and parade herself, in front of his guests in order to show off her beauty (Esther:1:10-11). In refusing to do so she sets in motion a chain of events that opens the door for Esther to become queen and ultimately, save the Jewish people.  At first glance we might think that Vashti is a heroine in this story; refusing to come in to the party due to modesty. In fact however we will prove that this was not the case.

Who was Vashti?

The Midrash Rabbah on Megillat Esther explains that Vashti was the granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed the first Beit HaMikdash and sent the Jews into galut. Her father, Balshatzar the last of the great kings of Bavel. The famous story of Balshatzar is that he made a party and commanded his guests to drink from the keilim of the Beit HaMikdash. A finger appeared and wrote on the wall that the kingdom will be brought  to an end and will be conquered by Paras (Persia) and Maday (Medes). That night the kingdom was attacked and Vashti was the only survivor. This was Vashti’s lineage & heritage.

Vashti’s character traits are described by the Gemara in Megillah .יב We are told that Vashti would force Jewish women to work for her on Shabbat and work in a state of undress.The Talmud asks why she refused to come before Achashverosh when she was clearly not a modest woman? The Gemara offers two answers.  One, is that she developed tzaraat and two, she grew a tail. The Maharal teaches us that if a statement in the Talmud doesn't make sense we have to try to understand the underlying meaning. It doesn't make sense that Vashti would sacrifice her position as Queen and ultimately her life because of bad skin.

Jewish women made Vashti feel threatened through their dedication to the laws of Shabbat and Tzniut; their commitment to their beliefs and defining themselves by an internal measure rather than the external. Vashti wanted to destroy them. By doing so she sealed her own fate. In order to understand how, we can dig deeper. 

The Gemara describes two phenomena that befell Vashti, tzaraat and a tail. Tzaraat is the punishment for lashon hara (slander) a sin which is usually motivated by arrogance. Tzaraat affects the skin. The skin covers the inner organs of the body. Skin in hebrew is עור the same letters as the hebrew word for blind עור. Focusing only on the skin, on the external, blinds a person to the truth.

Putting others down and breaking their spirit gives people like Vashti a superior feeling without really being superior. By putting the Jewish women down, she did not raise herself up, she lost her own humanity. When she looked in the mirror she saw that lack of humanity - the growth of a tail.

The pasuk we opened with truly brings this point to life. In the Midrash (Esther Rabbah 3:14) says that when Vashti refused to come before Achashverosh she said  “You were my father’s stable boy. You had harlots parade in front of you. Are you going back to where you came from?” Vashti's true personality was shown. She tried to put him down in order to elevate herself.

Similarly, Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller quoting the Vilna Gaon and explains that when Achashverosh called for Vashti, he refers to her as “Vashti the Queen” as opposed to “Queen Vashti”. He did this to imply her royal status came only as a result of her marriage to him and was not inherent to her. Her need for ego and status meant she wanted to be referred to as “Queen Vashti”. She on the other hand being the arrogant person that she was called herself Queen Vashti to show that she was royalty. Their mutual destruction same from their shared sense of ego. Vashti was not suddenly paralyzed by modesty as we might have thought, rather, she was driven solely by self-serving arrogance.

 

Vivvi recently told her own story to her fellow MMYers. To see the video, and read the text, click here.To see the video, and read the text, click here.

 

From the Director's Desk: "If These Walls Could Talk!"
with Rabbi David Katz

ראש חודש אדר שני יהיה ביום חמישי וביום השישי הבא עלינו ועל המדרשה שלנו לטובה. 
What will this week bring to MMY? On Thursday, weather and world events providing (we take nothing for granted here), the Shana Aleph girls are slotted to surprise us once again with their Rosh Chodesh Adar shtick. How did this custom even begin?
Well, the very first year (when most of our customs developed) the girls took us on a scavenger hunt through Kiryat Moshe which ultimately landed us in what was then the Churva in the Old City (before it was rebuilt) and the tradition was started. The next year the "scavenger hunt" concept continued, except they sent the clues via their cellphones, which had suddenly come on the scene, and they dumped them all into one bag - we had to dig to get to the ringing phone before we could get the next clue. The third year (picture on my wall) I was able to win the basketball competition in horse with an over the head shot at the buzzer. Fourth year (picture on my wall) all the MMYers dressed up as locals in the old city and that's how we got our clues. I chased a pregnant woman for blocks and blocks only to find out she wasn't an MMYer in costume but a regular pregnant local. My my.
One year we sadly had to postpone the fun due to a terrorist bombing that morning in Jerusalem. We take nothing for granted, as I said. That year the girls ordered a taxi (Zion) to park inside our Beit Medrash which had doors to the street, so we had to send the driver away. The next week (as Israelis and as Jews we aren't going to let the Hamans of the world spoil our Adar cheer. After all, that's the message that Adar brings with it!) the girls did the shtick again - taxi and all! I thought it would be fun to talk on the walkie talkie so I did, not realizing every taxi driver in the city could hear me. Sheesh. In our new building when the girls also brought in a car (this time Nati's Breslovmobile), I was already prepared for the concept and happily climbed up to dance on the hood.
The second most famous year (picture on my wall), in my opinion, was when the girls got me to go on a horse in 5774. I don't do horses. Especially not rental horses. But, pardon the pun, I wasn't going to rein on their parade. So I got on the horse and thought that would be that. They started singing ככה יעשה לאיש אשר המלך חפץ ביקרו. Ok, no big deal. Then they walked me to the Rakevet. A bit embarrassing, but passable. Then to Emek Refaim. Bad news. Every person I know was on Emek that day. Ok, they won.
But hands down, anyone who has seen the alumnae pictures on our wall and seen the "pink one," knows that "Katz for Knesset" from 5766 will forever be the classic. It was right before an election and the girls plastered the entire city with gigantic posters of me running for Prime Minister. I came in that morning and people on the street were pointing at me and gasping (I had no idea why). I got calls from relatives asking why my picture was hanging in the Tachana Merkazit and Malcha Mall and why cars had bumper stickers saying "Katz for Knesset." And then, finally, I caught on. The hysterical scavenger hunt they planned led to "Kikar Paris" near the Prime Minster's Residence where they had a full blown political rally, complete with posters and a bullhorn. Strangers came to say that they would vote for me. The Shabak came at the request of then Prime Minister Olmert to find out who is this Katz guy that is running against him. It was surreal. Front page of the Jerusalem Post the next day.
Every MMYer remembers their Rosh Chodesh Adar shtick years later. Apparently the joy of Adar isn't just a passing feeling. May this year's Adar(s), and every year's Adar, bring ultimate joy with the realization of G-d's protection of the Jewish people in every generation.
I wanted to speak today to all of you- not only to tell my “story,” but to show that being different is a beautiful thing and to convey that life doesn’t always go your way, but to be happy with what you have been given. I also wanted to convey that being open and accepting and loving to all kinds of people is the biggest chessed someone can do. 
 
The first time I spoke publicly was my first summer on Michlelet where there was a panel of 4 girls who told the story about their lives. My sister at the time, Rikki Lewis-Kahn, was the program director and she thought it was a great opportunity for me to tell my story. I didn’t want to do it and I was afraid to speak out loud in front of so many people, but Rikki finally convinced me to speak after a long time. Last minute, I decided to speak and from then on, I just was so excited to give over ideas and stories. I just want  to take a moment to thank my sister  for always believing in me and pushing me to greater heights.
 
 I was born on a bitter cold snowy Friday afternoon at 4:15 PM. At 33  weeks of my mother’s pregnancy,  she did not feel the baby (me) kicking. She was smart enough to call her doctor to ask what do to and he said don’t worry the baby is probably sleeping you should drink something to wake her up and that was the end of the call. However, my mom had a bad feeling about it. My mom talks about always waiting to say modeh ani in the morning until she felt her babies moving. Well, on that day she didn’t feel movement. She decided to go to the hospital to check it out. I was ready to come out and meet the world even if no one was ready for me! They decided to do a c section to make sure I was getting enough oxygen and on January 21 (Tu B’shvat) I was born 7 weeks early! 
 
I was in the nicu for a week and the doctor said I was the biggest baby there at only 4 pounds 10 ounces. Unfortunately, I was tangled in the cord that resulted in me losing oxygen  to my brain. When babies get stuck in the cord sometimes it can affect the baby for the rest of their lives. Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common motor disability in childhood. It is a neurological disorder that affects a child's movement, motor skills, and muscle tone. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage that develops while the baby is still in utero, during labor and delivery, or shortly after birth.
 
 I have a weakness on my right side. But I don't view myself  as being disabled. I view myself as being very able. I have a lot of hakaras hatov to my parents and my siblings, because without them I would not be here today. My family had to adjust their lives to make things comfortable and easier for me and I am very grateful for that.
 
 I have had 3 surgeries to try to help me improve my daily functions, one  on my heel so my foot touches the floor and to help me balance better, one on my arm to straighten out my wrist and one on my hamstring. These surgeries truly gave me the ability to use my limbs better. All my life I needed to wear braces on my hand and wrist to make stretch my muscles.  I grew up not knowing I had a speech impediment. I always knew I went to speech therapy, but it was so routine for me I didn’t know anything different. I always knew I had a hard time communicating, but it was something that wasn’t a big deal for me . Yes, at times, I got very frustrated and I felt like giving up, but I said to myself why would I want to give up if I have so much to give to the world? 
 
When I was younger, my amazing parents tried and continue to try to find new techniques to help me in any way they could. I had a communication device to try to help me express what I wanted to say. I also learned sign language to help me communicate all I wanted to say. My mom took lessons also so she could help me learn and communicate in an easier way. My brother and I would run around the house playing with it my communication device all day. I even got a heter  to use it on Shabbos.  In today’s society, everyone communicates easily with the Touch of a button. When I speak, it is difficult for others to understand me. However, what I hear, is the way you would hear yourself speak. I always have someone by my side whether it is a shadow, family member or one of my amazing friends that I know that I can always count on. 
 
In high school, I was placed  into track 4 - not because I needed the extra help but because they didn’t know how to test me. I believe that people don’t have to be at the top to be successful. In reality, being at the bottom and propelling  yourself forward you can truly can rise to the top. For me, that shows that the person's capabilities are even stronger than for an individual for  whom it was so easy for, since he had to fight for it. Every person should be seen as a whole person and not as someone who has tiny mistakes. I think that everyone has good in them and that each person is born with a Tzelem Elokim. Sometimes you have to search for it but it’s always there.
 
I try to be a role model when life doesn't go my way. Even if I fall, I always get back up. I had a lot of interesting experiences throughout my life and they have taught me to never give up.  For example, I used to walk with my heel up but I had surgery and persevered through physical therapy. I had one PT who never gave up on me and taught me that I could do anything I put my mind to. I have learned that when something doesn't work- try to be flexible- if you can't go up, go under. I have many people around who are there to help me but I always try to overcome on my own. I have reached the same destinations as others. I  have just taken different roads to get there. 
 
I don’t take anything for granted. Most people don’t think about tying shoes, zipping ones coat, putting your hair in a pony, opening a bag of snacks, opening a bottle and putting on a seatbelt, going into a store and ordering something. But for me I had to learn to do all these things differently than everyone else, down to the most minute detail. I had to learn to do daily activities with one hand. Things don’t come that easy for me, but I try to do everything that others do! I had and still have an amazing occupational therapist that worked with me on daily activities. We strategize all kinds of ways to help me accomplish all I set my mind to. From learning how to cut food, to learning how to put on shoes- it was a roller coaster! 
 
For example, in order to cut food, I used a curved knife, since it gave me more stability. I had a dycem Mat, which is a material used to help stabilize objects, hold objects firmly in place, or to provide a better grip.
 
Because people don't always accept me as they should, I have learned to be patient and accepting of others. I always try to be happy even if life doesn't go my way and smile so that others will smile too because you never know what other people are experiencing in their life at the same time. 
 
I wanted to share some Torah with you today that connects not only to the parsha but to my life’s story as well.  In the Parshios that we have been reading in Sefer Shmos, one of the main characters that appears in almost every Parsha (except for last week’s Parsha, although he is referenced constantly) is Moshe Rabbeinu.  
 
 
Moshe is the leader of the Jewish people, got to speak to Hashem face to face, took the Jewish people out of mitzrayim, he defended the Jewish people multiple times to Hashem and of course was the brother of Aaron and Miriam.  
What is so special about Moshe? 
In what way do I relate to him?
Moshe was all of that but what stands out the most to me is that he was born prematurely (the medrash tell us that Yocheved hid Moshe for 3 months so he could survive).  In addition The Torah tells us clearly in 3 different ways that Moshe had a speech impediment (Aral sefasayim, K’vad Peh, K’vad Lashon)  and yet he led the Jewish people out of Mitzrayim, went up to Har Sinai received the Torah and spoke Panim el Panim to G-d Himself.  
 
Here are some questions that the Mefarshim ask about Moshe’s speech impediment. What was the precise nature of Moshe’s disability? How did it develop? Why did Moshe constantly refer to it as being a challenge to his being an efficient Jewish leader, even after Hashem had assured him that he would be great? Why didn’t  Moshe daven for its removal? Why did God give Moshe a disability at all? And lastly Why did God not heal it?
 
According to the Ibn Ezra, Moshe's condition included both a medical condition from birth as well as a lack of eloquence stemming from not having spoken Egyptian in many years. The Ibn Ezra differentiates between "כְבַד פֶּה" and "כְבַד לָשׁוֹן", and derives from the use of 2 terms  that there was a dual difficulty.  The Shelah sites the famous story of the Malach Gavriel pushing Moshe’s hand to the coals and subsequently burning his tongue causing a speech impediment is one we all learned since preschool.  Some mefarshim describe the speech disorder as stuttering or stammering , yet others describe it as being an articulation or phonological disorder.
The Ran, explains that Moshe was not able to daven for the healing of his disorder nor did Hashem heal it on His own and that  Hashem created Moshe with a speech impediment as a buffer against the claim that one man’s charisma caused the people to be taken by  the Torah. By deemphasizing the messenger, the Torah’s Divinity is affirmed.  
 
R. Itzele Volozhiner says beautifully that  Moshe was not able  to pronounce certain letters. Some versions have a dalet on the list and others have the letter pei. Either letter was critical to articulate the code phrase pakod pakadeti (I shall remember Bnei Yisrael) that proved that Moshe was the chosen one sent by Hashem according to  Rashi and the  Ramban. It turns out, Rav Itzele says, that the code was verified specifically because of Moshe’s speech impediment and his ability to persevere. His speech obstacle was necessary to make him the undisputed leader of the Jewish people.  
The Maharal explains that Moshe was a lot neshama (soul) and a little guf (body). Speech belongs to the body and not the soul (even as humans alone are capable of reflective speech). Moshe’s neshama, so refined and deep, was simply not able  to articulate the depth of his machshava (thought). For Moshe, the word profaned the thought.
 
Greatness is neither a birthright nor a default destiny. It is to be found only by those who dare to acknowledge their vulnerabilities and are willing to do the real work to overcome them.
May Hashem give us that tremendous strength and confidence to face the real challenges of our lives; within them lies the seeds of our greatness.
 
I believe that Hashem picked him for a reason and even though he had a speech impediment Hashem saw greatness in him that even Moshe did not realize he had. Moshe over came so much in his life time and I’m sure he wanted to give up multiple times but he never did and he kept going. Moshe has his siblings standing with him (and like I do) throughout it all and they were happy for him and in turn they were happy for them.
 
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