All Alone … Again – Reflections on Tisha B’Av 5766

All Alone … Again
Reflections on Tisha B’Av 5766

By: Yakov Horowitz

“Eicha yashva vadad – Alas; she sits in solitude (Eicha 1:1).” The haunting words of Megilas Eicha resonate in our hearts and minds as we sit on the ground commemorating the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash 1,938 years ago.

Sadly, history is repeating itself once again. Our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel are being subjected to horrific destruction and terror with more than 100 rockets on average each day. A sea of enemies sworn to our destruction surrounds us. Today, the leader of Iran once again called for the eradication r’l of Israel, and publicly stated that, “Israel’s destruction is the solution [to the conflict]”. The vile, hate-filled, anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from many leaders in the Arab world – and most of the ‘Arab Street’ – is at least equivalent to that of the Nazi propaganda machine in the late 1930s. The vast majority of nations would deny us the right to protect our women and children by any means possible.

It is hard to avoid the feeling that Klal Yisroel is isolated and alone … again.

So what does this mean for us? How are we, who live in comfort and security in America, to respond to the unfolding tragedy in Eretz Yisroel? After reading the haftoros of ‘The Three Weeks’ and the poignant words of Megilas Eicha; after reflecting on the kinos we just recited – what are the messages we ought to internalize?

We all know that we ought to increase our tefilos. And we are. We all know that we need to share the burden with our brothers and sister in Eretz Yisroel. And we are; in many ways. This week, I received emails from two parents in Yeshiva Darchei Noam, where I serve as Menahel. They both are members of the local volunteer fire corps and they independently decided to travel to Eretz Yisroel in order to assist the overworked Israeli firefighters battling the many blazes caused by the barrage of rockets.

But how can we honestly relate to the agony of the hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters living in the northern portions of Eretz Yisroel – Tzfas, Haifa, etc. – who have become homeless and unemployed due to the incessant and deadly rocket attacks?

How can we honestly relate to the sheer terror – and bravery – of the parents of Israeli soldiers who are in active combat in Southern Lebanon or Gaza? We, who become anxious when our adult children are driving on the highways in thunderstorms, how can we relate to the sleepless nights that these parents must be undergoing?

Several members of our extended Horowitz family created a family group email list that we use to communicate with each other. We normally use the list to exchange mazel tov notices and occasional requests to daven for a grandchild who is not well. The past few days, we received two emails from our cousins who have children serving in the Israeli army. They speak for themselves. (I included some excerpted lines from their emails at the bottom of this column.)

So; what are we to do?? I guess I would divide the “take-aways” in two groups:

1) Offer material and emotional support to our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Especially now, with the advent of the Internet, there is so much you can do. Purchase items online in Israeli stores. Send emails of support to your relatives in Eretz Yisroel. Support the organizations that are helping our brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel. Daven for the soldiers who are risking their lives to protect our brothers and sisters. (My chaver Rabbi Pesach Lerner recently created an email partnership to provide the names of soldiers to include in our tefilos. To sign up, go to and click on the large box titled “Israel Crisis” in the upper right-hand corner.)

Adopt a family, community or school. Last September, our yeshiva ‘adopted’ the elementary school of Atzmonah, Gush Katif, as they relocated to the Netivot area. We bought them school supplies, sports equipment, and for Pesach, we partnered with a chesed organization and bought each of the children a brand-new bicycle. Our children and theirs exchanged letters and cards throughout the year. It was so much appreciated by them – and so rewarding for my talmidim.

(Please drop my assistant Esty an email at if you would like more information on the logistics of the program. Here is a link link to an article that I wrote on the subject.)

2) On a more personal and spiritual note; I think we all ought to read the stirring and timeless words of our nevi’im in the haftoros of Shabbos Chazon and Tisha B’av – and make a sincere cheshbon hanefesh.

There are two recurring themes in these lines. One relates to the Jews of those times serving idols and forsaking Hashem. That, however, at least on the surface, is not very relevant today. The second theme, on the other hand, is very much germane to our lives. It speaks to the fact that the Jews of those times were concentrating on spiritual trappings (bringing korbanos) and not on the essence of Hashem’s Torah (honesty, integrity, and kindness).

“Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? (Yeshaya 1:11),” asks Hashem. The Navi exclaims that Hashem is “weary of your korbanos (1:14)”, and that He “will not listen to your prayers (1:15).” Why was that so? It was certainly a great mitzvah to purchase and bring karbonos to the Beis Hamikdash. But, as the Navi relates, those mitzvos were mere adornments to the core values of our Torah. And the Navi clearly describes what the Jews needed to do in order to redeem themselves. “Purify yourselves, seek justice, strengthen the victim, and take up the cause of the widow/orphan (1:16-17).

I suggest that we engage in a constructive cheshbon hanefesh regarding the essential elements of the qualities noted by the Navi – honesty, integrity, true ahavas Yisroel, supporting those among us who are weak and unable to conduct their lives with simchas hachayim.

We should be asking ourselves if we are doing all we can to make a true kiddush Hashem in our interactions with non-Jews, non-religious Jews, and frum Yidden who may be of different backgrounds. For these qualities is the essence of what Hashem’s Torah produces.

In these troubling times, when we are surrounded by our enemies, isolated and alone, we ought to be striving to fulfill the timeless charge of Yirmiyahu in the closing words of today’s haftorah, “For only with this may one glorify himself; become wise and [get to] know Me [contemplate how to better emulate the ways of Hashem], for I am Hashem who does kindness, justice and righteousness …” (Yirmiyahu 9:23).

May Hashem dry our tears and comfort us with the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash.

© 2006 Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, all rights reserved

Excerpted emails from our family email list:

Dear Cousins,

The past 3 weeks have been very difficult ones here in Israel. The fear and terror that residents of the North and the South live with is unfathomable. People’s lives have been disrupted, businesses have come to a standstill and the rhythms that make up the fabric of daily life have ceased to exist for many thousands of Israeli citizens. Living in bomb shelters for 3 weeks is something that we can barely imagine, let alone identify with. Living in a heightened state of anxiety 24/7 sounds like a psychiatric diagnosis, not a fact of life. Yet, Am Yisrael are strong and resilient. Our daughter … just returned from Nahariya where she volunteered to go from bomb shelter to bomb shelter doing anything that needed to be done, i.e. playing with the kids, talking to teenagers, to parents and just letting the residents of that scarred city know that others care. She came back with many stories of courage and bravery in the face of
adversity, along with many invitations to return and visit when things return to normal. We are humbled by her commitment and love for the people of Eretz Yisrael.

Our son Efraim is currently in Lebanon. (Efrayim celebrated his marriage a few short months ago. YH). We last spoke with him on Friday, Shabbat Parshat Devarim. He and his unit entered Lebanon sometime on Shabbat. We do not know his whereabouts or what his mission is… Please keep Efraim Moshe ben Rachel Miriam, along with all the other soldiers, in your tefilot. May they all return home safely to their parents, wives, children and siblings.

With wishes for an easy fast,


And, from another cousin of ours:

Dear Cousins,

I too want to add some words to Mindy’s. Our Noam has been in Lebanon on and off almost from the beginning. There are many heroic acts like in the article that Mindy sent in her letter. Noam … said that he must say birkat hagomel (a blessing recited when one miraculously survived a life threatening situation) many times over. He was with the paratroopers that were … serving in Lebanon.

Please daven … for Noam Simcha ben Shprinsa Aviva and for all of our chayalim … who are doing their best for Am Yisrael.

Have a meaningful fast and hopefully we will see this day of Tisha B’av turned into a day of gladness.



Maintaining One’s Moral Compass in the Workplace

Dear Mentor:

I don’t know who you are or where you live, but I really need your guidance and inspiration at this stage in my life. Please get back to me ASAP.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Shmuel (I’m called Steve at work), and I am a junior partner in a prominent law firm in New York City. I’m happily married, and we have 3 lovely children, Baruch Hashem.

So why am I writing to you? Because as I have grown professionally and personally, I find myself faced with a set of nisyonos far different than those I had a few short years ago when I was a bachur in yeshiva. My nekudas habechirah has shifted dramatically, and I need someone who can regularly touch my neshama in a way that will enable me to maintain my spiritual compass. My soul needs to be uplifted, as there are so many temptations that beckon.

A few short years ago, my wife and I were living hand-to-mouth. Now, I am invited to dinner meetings in $150-a-plate restaurants and all I do is rearrange the salad and sip soda while my business associates dine on $70- steaks and drink from $100 bottles of wine.
Read more Maintaining One’s Moral Compass in the Workplace

Keeping Your Ethics on Par in the Workplace

An Open Invitation From Rabbi Yakov Horowitz:

How would you like to spend an inspiring and enjoyable morning in the company of your friends – with an opportunity to meet new ones?

How would you like to opportunity to network with other frum professionals?

How would you like to attend lectures and shiurim by business professionals addressing the opportunities – and challenges – of today’s business climate? (Please read the article below on this subject.)

How would you like to spend a relaxed, enjoyable afternoon in a beautiful setting with a full array of sports facilities at your disposal?

If the answer to one or all of these questions is yes, please accept our invitation to join us for a one-day retreat in the beautiful Hudson Valley Resort on Monday, August 14th. The resort is conveniently located 15 minutes from Ellenville NY, and 90 miles from New York City.
Read more Keeping Your Ethics on Par in the Workplace

Answers About Questions – A Primer on Seeking Rabbinical Guidance

We’ve seen a few posts and comments here and elsewhere in recent weeks on when it is appropriate to ask a Rav a question outside of the halachic (does this dairy fork need to be koshered?) realm. We decided to repost this article by noted Menahel, speaker and Beyond BT Advisor, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz which strikes a nice balance between developing your own Torah wisdom and asking for advice.

Dear Readers:

As so many posts and comments on this site relate to the importance of finding a rebbi/rebbitzen/mentor who can offer direction (and one who understands Ba’al Teshuva issues), I would like to share with our readers an article that I wrote on this complex subject which was recently published in the Jewish Observer.

A few points, please:

1) The article was written for the general Torah Observant community, not particularly for Ba’alei Teshuvah.

2) I find that getting poor advice – or not having a clear understanding of the mechanics and hashkafa (Torah philosophy) of seeking such guidance – is often worse than getting no advice at all.

3) In the article, I did not touch upon the issue of halacha vs. chumrah (what is halachically mandated as opposed to what would be considered to be ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ as far as halacha is concerned). I think that this is an important issue that probably deserves an entire article. These distinctions are especially critical for ‘newer’ Ba’alei Teshuva who may not yet be attuned to the nuances between halacha and chumrah.
Read more Answers About Questions – A Primer on Seeking Rabbinical Guidance

The Plan – An Open Letter to Yeshiva Bachurim – By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Dear Yeshiva Bachur:

With the start of the new z’man, I would like to encourage you to properly plan for this zman – and for your future life. For those of you who may not have the patience to read this open letter in its entirety – or for those of you whose parents placed this in your hands, and said, “Please do me a favor and read this carefully,” :-) I can sum up this rather long letter in a few words:

Sof Ma’aseh B’machshava Techilah (‘Begin With The End in Mind’)

This means that you develop a clear idea of what your goals are and you create a mental image of yourself successfully reaching them. This is an integral component of your development as a ben Torah and a contributing member of our Klal. The difference between having a plan and not having one at all is like comparing putting together a jigsaw puzzle with or without the picture on the box cover to guide you. You might be able to do an OK job without that picture, but it is so much easier when you have it there.

I hope that you find this letter helpful.



May the personal growth generated by the dissemination of this open letter be a zechus for the neshama of my father, Reb Shlomo ben Reb Yakov Moshe Horowitz a’h, whose forty-third yahrtzeit will be observed this Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh Iyar.
Read more The Plan – An Open Letter to Yeshiva Bachurim – By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz – One Week Later – Time for Some Questions

By: Rabbi Yakov Horowitz

It is almost exactly one week after the chilul Hashem in Boro Park where fires were set in the streets and a police car was torched after a respected 75-year-old man was roughly treated by police officers while being issued a summons.

I spent this past Shabbos in Boro Park celebrating a simcha in our extended family. Walking the streets and enjoying the tranquility of Shabbos in a predominantly Shomer Shabbos neighborhood, it was hard to imagine that such mayhem occurred in those streets just a few days past. Over the course of Shabbos, I spoke to many people who were in the vicinity during the melee. The vast majority of adults spoke of their horror and disgust at what happened. Several people told me that they found it to be the most embarrassing experience of their lives.
Read more Rabbi Yakov Horowitz – One Week Later – Time for Some Questions

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz on the Boro Park Chillul Hashem

With a heavy heart and firm resolve, I would like to use this forum to publicly repudiate the actions of those in the Boro Park community who shamed Jews worldwide yesterday with their lawless and violent actions.

As a Torah Jew, I am obligated to judge people l’kaf zechus (favorably). With that in mind, and considering the fact that I was not there to witness these protests firsthand, perhaps I should listen to those in our community who defend or excuse the actions of the protesters by pointing out that there were allegations of police brutality that sparked the protests.

However, there is no set of circumstances that permit the torching of a police car and the setting of fires in this malchus shel chesed (benevolent country). These criminal acts are a dark stain on our community and constitute a disgrace of Hashem’s Torah. And I firmly believe that those who perpetrate these actions are ‘rodfim’ who are putting all of us in danger.
Read more Rabbi Yakov Horowitz on the Boro Park Chillul Hashem

Purim and The Search for Yossi

“The more often and earlier a child smokes, drinks and uses marijuana, the likelier that child is to use harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.”

“It’s all about children. A child who gets through age 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually certain never to do so.”

“Teens who smoke cigarettes are 12 times likelier to use marijuana and more than 19 times likelier to use cocaine”.

– Joseph A. Califano, Jr., CASA Chairman and President

Read more Purim and The Search for Yossi

How Would You Spend The Money?

Some people are ‘starters’. They love to create and develop new products and ideas. Others are ‘finishers’. They are systems people. They may not be that creative, but they can take ideas and turn them into reality.

A ‘starter’ will invent and patent a why-didn’t-I-think-of-that idea (a Shabbos lamp, for example). But without a ‘finisher’, that creative idea may never take off. The ‘starter’ will lose interest when the bulbs get hot too quickly or if production gets bogged down. And, in all likelihood, he or she will be spending many of his or her waking hours thinking about the next invention.

I think that just about sums up the dilemma that many ba’alei teshuvah face. The vast majority of outreach efforts are focused on starting and very few resources are focused on the finish. And if Shabbos lamps have a hard time making it without finishers, imagine how parents with teenagers and tuition bills are coping.
Read more How Would You Spend The Money?

The Pierced Teen and I

I hardly ever sleep on airplanes. So after an eleven-hour Thursday night flight to Eretz Yisroel, I arrived Friday noontime, jet lagged and exhausted.

I came to spend Shabbos with my daughter, who is studying in a seminary in Yerushalayim. Together we walked through the winding streets of the Jewish Quarter and enjoyed a beautiful, spiritual Kabbolas Shabbos at the Kosel. After the conclusion of the tefilos, we returned to our hotel, which was almost exclusively occupied by Shabbos observant guests, for the evening seudah (meal). I ate rather quickly and was in my hotel room getting some much-needed sleep by seven o’clock. By midnight, I awoke, already having had a full night’s sleep. I quietly left the room and made my way down to the lobby with a sefer, some reading material, and an assortment of roasted nuts that my daughter had purchased for me.

Sitting in the deserted hotel lobby, I looked up and noticed a teenage young man sauntering through the lobby. He was wearing jeans and a tee shirt, sporting a spiked, Israeli-version- of-a ‘mushroom’ haircut and several body-piercing ornaments. Not your average yeshiva bachur.
Read more The Pierced Teen and I

Of Eagles and Turkey

You grew up in Philadelphia and you are a passionate Eagles (the local football team) fan. Somehow, you were able to land two tickets to the New Jersey Meadowlands Arena to watch the NY Giants play your beloved Eagles in a crucial playoff game in January (Sorry, Eagles fans, not this year).Here’s the question: What color jersey do you wear to the game? Do you proudly wear Philadelphia green, do you ‘wimp out’ and wear the despised New York blue, or do you ‘punt’ and wear some nondescript color?

Well; are you a conformist or not? Do you go with the flow, are you indifferent, or does part of you enjoy walking against traffic? The question is not about if you could wear Eagles’ green (you certainly could, if you look like a linebacker and if you don’t particularly mind getting a beer bath from the upper deck), but also if you should – or if it is prudent to do so.
Read more Of Eagles and Turkey