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Parshas Eikev - Do All Jews Have Stiff Necks Please Read This Important Letter from Rabbi Jonathan Aryeh Seidemann Sent This Evening to his Congregation Regarding a Kashrus Issue (Video) Updated as of Aug. 3, 7:16 PM - Please Daven for Rabbi Yitzchok "Itchy" Lowenbraun Seeking Yungerleit To Form Local Kollel Chabura For Elul Update as of 6:00 PM Monday, Aug. 3 - Distribution Until 7PM This Evening -TA Dinner Distribution This Week Will be Monday, Aug. 3 and Thursday, Aug. 6, From 4-6pm. DO NOT Arrive Before 3:45pm School Re-Opening Requires Collective Responsibility Baltimore Officials Outline Preparations For Tropical Storm Isaias Watch: Mesivta Kesser Torah Of Baltimore (MKT) Celebrates End of School Year with Grand Siyum Stocks Rise With Earnings, Stimulus Talks In Focus Baltimore County Announces Benefits Screening Call Center TeleKosher Webinar - KOSHER TRAVEL - ANNUAL EDITION: Wednesday August 5, 2020 @ 12 Noon Fed’s Kashkari: ‘Fear’ Driving Decline In Consumer Activity In US Pelosi Gives $14,000 To Omar’s Re-Election Campaign Jordan Calls On Israel To ‘End Provocations And Violations’ On Har HaBayis MD Counties Stripped Of Power To Order Blanket School Closures Coronavirus Antibody Drug Starts Testing In Nursing Homes Virgin Galactic Partners With Rolls Royce To Produce Supersonic Aircraft Firm Owned By Joe Biden’s Son-in-Law Benefited From Upwards Of $350K In PPP Loans 140 New Citizens from France Greeted at Ben Gurion Airport Bnei Brak: Infant Rescued After Being Forgotten In Car (Video)
Recounting the sad episode of the egel disaster, Moshe reminds the Jews that they are a people of "keshei oref"- which literally translates as a stiff-necked people. This term, is employed four times in Ki Tisa, twice in Eikev, and numerous times throughout Tanach, generally referring to the character flaw of stubbornness or obstinacy. Though, typically, stubbornness is character defect, sometimes stubborn adherence to our convictions is crucial to a life of idealism. Classically, a stiff neck describes someone unwilling to change or transform an aspect of their life or their behavior. Changi...
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Update as of 6:00 PM Monday, Aug. 3 - Distribution Until 7PM This EveningBaltimore, MD - Aug. 3, 2020: To the Baltimore Community,TA Dinner Distribution this week will be Monday and Thursday from 4-6pm. DO NOT arrive before 3:45pm.It has come to our attention that individuals have been coming to TA early and taking advantage of an earlier dinner distribution that is NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, but is open only to our TA Camp parents, as they are picking up their campers during carpool dismissal. Please note that having non-camp parents come onto campus before 3:45pm poses a serious safety risk to our campers and staff. Please be courteous and respectful of our camp needs as we run our carpool dismissal in a safe and efficient manner. B"H there are plenty of meals for all between the hours of ...
Baltimore, MD - Aug. 3, 2020 - The following was just sent by Rabbi Jonthan Aryeh Seidemann to his congregation: Dear Misspallelim,עמו״ש I ask you please to read this letter from my respected Rabbinical colleagues in The Five Towns in New York. As one of those  named restaurant establishments now seeks to purvey food here in Baltimore , I wish to inform you that I am not comfortable with their  hechsher. Please be aware as well that for any affairs booked in our Social Hall we cannot accept food or catering from those establishments. Respectfully, יהונתן אריה זיידמן
Aug. 3, 7:16 PM - The following updated information has just been received by BJL: BH the hospital removed the Bpap machine and our father is up and talking with difficulty. He is still in the ICU and continues to need our tefillos.  He is aware and appreciative of everyone's tefillos and well wishes.###Baltimore, MD - July 30, 2020 - 5:46 PM - Rabbi Yitzchok "Itchy" Lowenbraun is in serious but stable condition in the ICU. Please daven for Yitzchok Ben Yenta. May Hashem grant him a refuah shlaimah b'korov. 
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Most recent Statements/letters/etc. from the Baltimore Vaad HaRabbanimVaad HaRabbanim Of Baltimore: "Despite Our Diligent Efforts And Vigilance Locally, We Have Had A Slow Trickle Of New Cases In The Past 2 Weeks That Raises Concern." [July 2, 2020]Vaad HaRabbanim Of Baltimore: "Those Shuls Which Are Able To Open In A Manner Deemed Safe May Do So Already For Shabbos" (June 19) Vaad HaRabbanim of Baltimore: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Yesterday’s Vaad Harabanim Letter [June 11, 2020]Vaad HaRabbonim Of Baltimore: A Smorgasbord of Good News (June 10, 2020)  Baltimore's Vaad HaRabbanim: Please Make Sure to Vote This Tuesday (May 31, 2020 3:03 PM)  Vaad HaRabbonim Of Baltimore: Guidance For Hosting Company for Shavuos 5780 (May 24, 2020)Vaad HaRabbanim Of Baltimo...
Baltimore, MD - Aug. 3, 2020 - Seeking serious, mature, young Yunglerleit (in Baltimore due to COVID-19 or other reasons) looking to learn in Mir Yerushalayim-style local Baltimore Kollel Chabura. Shiurim, Chaburos and a monthly stipend will be offered. For more information, to apply or partnership opportunities please contact Dovie Censor at (516) 853-1112 or doviecensor@gmail.com
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Baltimore, MD - June 19, 2020 - N’shei Agudath Israel of Baltimore Summer Lecture Series.Click on the graphic below for a larger, printable copy
This morning on my way home from my overnight ER shift, I got a call from my 10-year-old son. He said “Hi Mom. My throat hurts.” Normally, when I get a call like this, I say something to the effect of “I’m so sorry that you’re not feeling well. But you shouldn’t miss camp for a sore throat. Get all ready and I’ll be home in a few minutes to say goodbye.” But this morning was very different. I have spent almost every waking moment of the last few weeks immersed in a document in which I and 18 other volunteer physician parents advise the yeshivot on how to open safely this coming year. We mulled over every possible scenario. And now, this morning, with that one little sentence, “Mom, my throat hurts,” it all came to life for me. If ...
Baltimore City officials are warning residents to expect flooding in all the parts of the city that tend to get it as Tropical Storm Isaias draws near. Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young said crews are working to clean storm drains and residents are being asked to pitch in if they see blocked storm drains around their property. "We're expecting downed trees and power outages and we're working with BGE (Baltimore Gas & Electric) and all agencies to get roads cleared and power restored during the storm," Young said. "I ask that all residents do their best to stay informed during the storm event." Residents are asked to use the hours before the storm hits to prepare. That includes obtaining a battery-powered radio, fully charging cell phones and making sure flashlights and battery...
Baltimore, MD - Aug. 3, 2020 - Mesivta Kesser Torah of Baltimore (MKT) celebrated the end of the school year with a grand siyum marking the completion of Maseches Rosh HaShanah (9th-Grade), Maseches Sukkah (10th-Grade), and Maseches Brachos (11th-Grade).  Despite the masks, limited attendance, and social distancing, the simcha in the air was palpable. MKT is known for molding its talmidim into bnei Torah who not only develop a love of learning but a love of Yiddishkeit as well. Divrei chizuk were delivered by Rabbi Tzvi Mordechai Feldheim, Shlit”a, Rosh Mesivta and 9th-Grade Rebbe, Rabbi Avrohom Feldheim, Menahel, Rabbi Dovid Rubin, 10th-Grade Rebbe, and Rabbi Yitzchok Hopfer, 11th-Grade Rebbe.  Each rebbe also presented every bochur with a sefer after speaking about his ...
Parsha Hashavua
Parshas Eikev - Do All Jews Have Stiff Necks

Recounting the sad episode of the egel disaster, Moshe reminds the Jews that they are a people of "keshei oref"- which literally translates as a stiff-necked people. This term, is employed four times in Ki Tisa, twice in Eikev, and numerous times throughout Tanach, generally referring to the character flaw of stubbornness or obstinacy. Though, typically, stubbornness is character defect, sometimes stubborn adherence to our convictions is crucial to a life of idealism.


Classically, a stiff neck describes someone unwilling to change or transform an aspect of their life or their behavior. Changing course in life demands 'turning our heads' to consider a new idea or a new approach. Inability to turn our heads or to change our opinions is symbolized by the image of a stiff neck. In fact, in Chapter 48, Yeshaya is so frustrated by indifference to his constant warnings to the Jews, that he actually laments their "necks of iron" which aren’t just rigid but completely immovable. Stubbornness to personal change can stem from disproportionate self-confidence or from our comfort with the "familiar". The Rambam describes stubbornness and resistance to moral input as a "blocker" of potential teshuva. Healthy growth is almost impossible once we have stopped listening and stiffened our necks against change.


Beyond the stiffening of our necks against moral challenges, there is an additional connotation to the syndrome of 'keshei oref'. Sometimes we actively turn our heads "away" from important values or experiences– flashing the back of our necks as we abruptly turn aside. Instead of 'facing' an experience and assimilating its consequences, we turn our backs and necks upon the past. Presumably, this type of turning away typifies Jewish behavior during the egel and warrants their designation as stiff-necked. By worshipping an idol, the Jews didn’t stiffen their necks against rebuke or moral correction. What angered God and frustrated Moshe was their sudden turning away from the glory at Sinai six weeks earlier. How could they so easily disregard the "face-to-face" communication they enjoyed with God, and swerve away to idol-worship. Sadly, human nature is fickle and cognitive dissonance compartmentalizes our experiences and creates 'disconnect'. After moments of great inspiration, we foolishly and sometimes easily "turn our necks" elsewhere, turning our backs on the great moments and wandering. Sometimes we stiffen our necks while blocking out moral input but other times actively turn our heads away, ridiculously ignoring experiences which once captured our full attention.


However, despite the dangers of this trait, stubbornness can also be a positive quality. In his Sefer HaKuzari, Rebbi Yehuda Halevi asserts that God chose the Jews for two reasons. Firstly, we possess the unique ability to perceive prophecy and to respond to a supernatural and indiscernible world. Additionally, Jews were chosen because we are a people of uncanny resolve, not easily budged from mission or principles. Knowing that this historical calling would expose His proxies to hostility and even persecution, God selected a particularly stubborn and resilient people who would not buckle under the inevitable historical and religious pressure. Jews have outlasted anti-Semitism, in part, because we are stiff-necked. Our rabbis (Devarim Rabbah, Va'etchanan) attributed our long and storied tradition of martyrdom to our national obstinacy. Evidently, obstinate adherence to seminal ideas in the face of derision or disputation is a value.

It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between healthy intellectual obstinacy and unhealthy adherence to outdated ideas. Certainly, religious ideas are fundamentally immutable and should not be overhauled as new ideas are introduced into the human discourse. Religion is based upon "historical hierarchy"- ideas and laws established at earlier stages of history have authority over the ideas and behavior which emerge in successive generations. Those closer to the seminal moment of Sinai possess a clearer transmission and a more authoritative tradition. Ideas may be adjusted or refreshed but the core values remain unchanged. Obstinate preservation of religious truths is basic to our Masorah.


However, ideas and opinions which lie outside the direct arena of religion and halacha are meant to be fluid and adjustable. In this arena, stubbornness to old, familiar ideas and the inability to pivot or adjust can cripple personal development. It is crucial to find people who can put our "heads on a swivel" – who can introduce fresh approaches as well as different perspectives upon old ideas to assure that our thoughts remain both emotionally deep and developmentally authentic, rather than rehearsed and formulaic. Too much inflexibility to outdated ideas hampers our developmental evolution.


Furthermore, though obstinacy to religious ideals is vital in preserving our foundational religious values, stubbornness is extremely harmful in personal relationships. Healthy relationships are based upon making difficult compromises and creating 'room' for the differing needs of another person. Obstinate people, less likely to compromise personal habits or needs are far more likely to struggle in relationship-building. Furthermore, every relationship includes feuds and disagreements and one of the secrets of a healthy relationship is the ability to apologize for even unintentional hurt. Stubborn people are often either too proud to apologize or oblivious to their role in the disagreement. Obstinacy and pride perpetuate disagreement rather than resolving them and enabling reconciliation.


Beyond unhealthy stubbornness and obstinacy, there is an additional connotation of being stiff-necked. Classic stubbornness is the inability to change our minds and the inability to turn our heads "completely around" to encounter a totally different idea. Changing our opinion would be equivalent to a 180-degree swivel- which sometimes reflects honest experience. Sometimes, however, life asks us to slightly rotate our necks to gain proportion and nuance even when retaining our previously held views. Too rigid a neck can impede these important "minor swivels" which typically lend subtlety and perspective to our opinions. Stiff-necked people remain very "frontal", highly opinionated and oftentimes simplistic. Life is complex and people are complex and rarely can black and white positions capture the diversity of the human condition. Even those who aren’t stubborn, are often simplistic and non-nuanced in adopting views and opinions. Elastic necks are necessary to help us understand the validity of differing approaches to life. We inhabit a very polarized world and are becoming fanatical of black and white thought. The stiffer our necks, the more exclusive we believe our truths to be, and the less sensitive we are to the diversity of human experience. Religious truths demand inflexible necks, but interpersonal relationships and the process of forming opinions are better served by "supple necks" which are capable of both minor swivels as well as fuller rotations.



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