Young Israel of Great Neck

President's Message

The YIGN is a Modern Orthodox synagogue that was founded by six visionary families.  They dreamed of a participatory minyan that would be welcoming to all. After multiple small temporary locations, we moved to our present, beautiful facility at 236 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck, New York.  We are privileged to inhabit a newly constructed Beit Midrash and classroom building, as well as a full sized gym. Read more

Rabbi Lerner's Weekly Parsha Shiur

Seder Precious Gems 

You can’t just tell part of the story of the Exodus on the night of Pesach – you must begin with the low point - in the beginning we were slaves, and we end with our leaving Egypt, getting the Torah, and entering the promised land.

Moshe played a major role in the Exodus, and yet his name is mentioned just once in passing in the Haggadah. The purpose of the Haggadah is to highlight the role of Hashem, not Moshe. Moshe was 20 when he left the palace and killed the Egyptian slave master, and was forced to flee for his life. At the burning bush Moshe debated with God so as not to take on this mission to lead the Jewish people. Shmose 3:11: Moshe says to God, “Who am I that I should go before Pharaoh; am I the one who will take the Jews out of Egypt.” Hashem answers in 3:12: I will be with you, empower you to take the people out; this is the sign that I have taken you and sent you on this mission – when you take the people out of Egypt, they will serve Me on this very mountain. This was Har Sinai. Ibn Ezra: the word Sinai comes from the word Sneh, bush – Sinai was where Moshe experienced God. But what kind of a sign is this that will convince the people that he was sent by God? How will this promise prove that Moshe is legitimate? This is a useless sign to convince them that he was sent from God, since it was to first happen far in the future. It was just a promise – how was it to convince a broken people that Moshe was an honest prophet that was sent by God? The Rav: Hashem said I will be with you and this is your sign that I will take the people out. It was a sign for Moshe, not the people. Hashem had to reorient Moshe’s whole thinking. Moshe had two problems – first he had an issue with Pharaoh – how would he convince him about Hashem. Hashem answers that He will be with him, and will do all kinds of wondrous things and miracles to convince Pharaoh; Hashem will accompany Moshe to convince Moshe. But Moshe was also worried about the whole sense of leadership. He was the most humble person, and he was not comfortable being a leader with a lot of power; he did not want to be the king of the Jews; he wished to be far away from power. He asked Hashem how he would free the Jews – he didn’t want this, he was not comfortable as a leader of the people; he wanted to be left alone; he was not a leader type. Hashem refuted the argument by saying that He was not looking for a king, for a commander-in-chief. He was looking for someone to take the Jews out of Egypt straight to Har Sinai to give them the Torah and teach them; He was looking not for a warrior, but a teacher, and educator. It was not about power with Moshe’s being too humble to take the power; it was about teaching the Jews the philosophy of the Torah and mitzvohs. And the rest of the Torah is all about his being Moshe Rabbeinu – he spends the rest of the years teaching the people. When he came down the second time from Har Sinai on Yom Kippur, his face was aglow – he must wear a mask since it was almost like looking at God. He radiated the spiritual life of Hashem. The Rav said this was critical to understanding the Exodus – it was not about freedom from slavery; they had to be freed physically, but it was about spiritual redemption – they were to become God’s chosen and eternal people who will bring about the redemption of the world. We see this with a link between the Exodus and this spiritual role of involvement with the Torah by the immediate counting of the Omer on the second night of Pesach – Pesach is linked inextricably to Shvuos – Pesach is a means to Shvuos – the physical freedom didn’t mean much without the spiritual component. Judaism is not freedom from, but freedom to do something – to worship God and fulfill our role in this world. That is the essence of the story of the Exodus. We are a small nation, and our power does not come from numbers – it is from our role as God’s agents on this earth.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: relates a story from the Coveno ghetto during World War II. The Jews knew they were not going to escape. When they were davening in the morning, an old Jew leading the davening could not go on and say the prayer about God freeing us – Shelo Asani Eved - they were not free anymore. The Rabbi answered that we should never abolish this blessing – the enemy controls our bodies, not our souls; even here we see ourselves as free men awaiting God’s redemption. Where was God when His people were being killed in Europe? This question haunts us on the night of Pesach. Where is God’s redemption? God was in the heart of the Coveno ghetto who insisted on pronouncing a blessing as free human beings. The human spirit cannot be killed, and freedom will always prevail. The Rav: Pesach represents the freedom of the spirit. We must remember the physical bitterness – we eat the marror; but then we eat the Hillel sandwich – we place the marror between two pieces of matzoh which started off as a symbol of slavery, but then ended up as a symbol of freedom when we left Egypt. We can take the suffering and with the right spirit, the Torah can allow us to override all of the attempts to destroy us.

The first two steps of the Haggadah are Kadesh Urechatz. We first recite Kiddush to make the day holy, and then we wash our hands. Rabbi Dr. Twersky: the order seems to be wrong – we should first cleanse ourselves from spiritual impurity, and then proclaim the holiness of the day. If we did it that way, it would fulfill a pasuk in Tehillim – Sur Merah Va’asei Tov - first we should wash our hands, purify ourselves, and then do good with our lives. But Hashem didn’t tell us to do that in Egypt – first He took us out of Egypt with lightning speed, without giving ourselves the time to reinforce our belief in Him; He revealed Himself, did the plagues to redeem us – that was His kindness for us – and only after that did we offer the korban pesach. The symbolism of the slaughter of the lamb was slaying the pagan diety. God did much for us with all of the plagues, and only at the very end of the Exodus story did He ask us to nullify their gods – we should have slain their gods first. But this is the way God relates to us and wants us to relate to others. We should not first set up fences and barriers to people and only then become friendly with them. Hashem did all of these wondrous things for us before asking us to get rid of the idols. The pasuk in Tehillim is a strategy – you will get people to stop being immoral and sinning by first doing good things for them, showing them love and welcoming them. We must show them the beauty of the religion, we will bring them in with love and the result will be that they will give up the evil ways at the end of the process, not the beginning. They are our brothers and sisters – we should not turn them away and build fences – we should be the proper role models, and that will bring them around. Sur Merah AlYeday Tov is the way the pasuk should be. As an example of this, Rav Kook in Israel showed his passion for all Jews by taking an abandoned, irreligious Jewish teenager into his home, placing no demands on him. After awhile, the teen asked if he could wear a kippah; Rav Kook persistently told him not to until the teenager threatened to move out unless he let him wear a Kippah – that is how you make Jews love Judaism – love them without preconditions. That is how we will bring about the Moshiach. We must get rid of Sinas Chinam – the antidote is Ahavas Chinum.


Yachatz – we break the middle matzah into halves, and hide the larger piece, the afikoman; we eat the other broken piece earlier. There is a machlokes on the number of matzohs to have. The Vilna Gaon says there should just be two – we break the lower one only. Most commentators disagree because there are two simultaneous mitzvohs – we start the meal with lechem mishneh, two challahs – this commemorates the double portion of the manna that fell before shabbos. The other mitzvah is commemorating the slavery and the fact that we ate this simple food that symbolizes poverty. The Vilna Gaon felt that this concept was so strong that it should override the other mitzvah of lechem mishneh. Abarbanel: Matzah is unusual food with two contradictory symbols. We first say Ha Lachmah Anyah – this is the bread of affliction. Later on we pick up the matzah again and do what Rabban Gamliel said – why do we eat the matzah? Because there was no time for the dough to rise – it symbolized the lightning speed of our redemption from Egypt – we could not even wait for it to rise – there was not time to allow it to rise. It is the symbol of freedom, of redemption in the blink of an eye; the transformation left us breathless, with Pharaoh forcing us to get out. We say the paragraph of Lefichach which lists what we praise Hashem for – He took us from slavery to freedom, from mourning to happiness, from darkness to light – we say Hallel. It is a night of transformation. The symbol of the transformation is the food we eat. We call this Chag Hamatos – matzah is the perfect way to symbolize this dramatic transformation – it started off as the cheap slave food, and this same symbol is turned into the symbol of God’s salvation. We are then inspired to sing Hallel.

The Rav: what makes this meal special and this night different from all others is the transformation of the people then and now. The seder is a transformative meal, an amazing instrument to create a chessed community – a community who cares about itself. The Egyptians didn’t care about the slaves or each others – it was a lewd and immoral society that did not have respect for any others. All of the plagues had powerful symbols that showed the immorality of the Egyptian society. During the plague of darkness, they could not move for three days, and no one could see his fellow Egyptian; it was a Midah Kaneged Midah – they were evil towards one another – they made believe that they did not see their brother; they had no sense of self-respect, of derech Eretz – so the plague made it happen for real. The opposite was what was happening to the Jews in Egypt and what we do each night. We invite anyone in need to join us at the Seder – we want all to feel like brothers and sisters, all kin to one another. That is what happened in Egypt – they had to all get together to eat the korban pesach and not leave anything over. It was to create a chessed community with strong bonds. That is why we begin every single seder by inviting all in – Kol Dichfin Yesei Veyechal. We create a chaburah, a group to come together and eat the pascal lamb.

Another part of the seder is for us to be a teaching community – we want to share our values; those who know teach those who don’t. We don’t only share our food, our material goods, but also our knowledge and experience and hopes. Food is chessed, but so is sharing our thoughts and knowledge. To foster this community, Torah is to be taught at every meal. What goes on at the seder is all about learning and sharing – we get the kids and adults involved. We encourage questions – we must share our common value system. It was the first meal of the newborn nation – it was the covenantal meal. It is the unity of the generations – the seder unites us with the people of the past and the future. That is why the most important part of the seder is to speak and tell the story to our children – they are our future. They must know our past, and we teach them to guarantee our future. That is why there is a tremendous emphasis on teaching the children. If we cannot light a fire in our children, there is no hope for the future. It is an exalted evening that carries the heart and soul – that is what every seder is about.


Current Announcements

Mazel tov to Netti and Ari Herman on the birth of their son.
Mazel tov to Cindy and Cory Gold and Gabriella and Josh Gold on the birth of their grandson and son.

Mahin and Yakov Savage
Kimberly and Benjamin Soleimani

Condolences to Randi Luxenberg on the loss of her father, Bernard Beeber.
Condolences to Anne Jasse on the loss of her sister, Nettie Shrog.


There will be a new members event April 26th at the home of the Alana and Adam Gelnick, 55 Deepdale Drive at 9:30pm. For further  information, please email yignevents@gmail.com for details.

This year the Young Israel of Great Neck will be observing Yom Hashoah on Sunday evening, April 27 at 7:45 PM. This year’s commemoration is entitled  “Voices of the Second Generation” and will feature presentations by several of our shul members who are children of survivors. Their personal accounts of growing up in these families are worthy of our attention as a kehilah. We thank them in advance for graciously agreeing to participate. We look forward to seeing everyone there. If you have a child in the 5th, 6th or 7th grades who would like to light a candle at our Yom Hashoah program, please contact Ruthie Dienstag at 516-428-0443 or at twosdays@aol.com.

“Let’s Stay Safe” is a wonderful children's book about the rules of safety. There were 100 copies donated to the shul for its members - there are a few copies that have not yet been picked up - if you have not already done so, please pick up your copy at the shul office.

YIGN has established an account at Fidelity Investments to facilitate stock donations. You can pay your Shul dues, pledges, or any other obligation by stock, which may have tax advantages to you. For example, if you donate stock with a long term capital gain you may be able to avoid paying taxes on the capital gain while getting a charitable tax deduction for the full current value of the stock.  Please call the Shul office for stock transfer instructions.  Of course, you should check with your accountant to understand your specific situation.


There will be no teen minyan over Pesach
There will be regular groups over Pesach but no pregroups



The great neck community is invited to participate in the chometz burning event to be held Monday April 14th from 8-11am . Site is the Kings Point Park located at 187 Steamboat Rd. Please do not park in the driveway, only in the lots at the rear or on the street. Please do not bring your chometz trash, only the bread collected during the search. If you are available to  assist in this event,  your help would be greatly appreciated. Call or text Mitchell Siegel at 516-835-8832

We want to thank those of you who have participated so far in our yearly fundraising effort on behalf of our community Eiruv. If you have not yet joined with those who have already contributed, we ask for your help at this time. Please send in your contributions (Suggested amount $180) as soon as possible. Your fully tax deductible contributions can be made either on line at www.greatneckeiruv.org/donate OR by sending your check to : G N Eiruv Association, 15 Cuttermill Road, Box 182, Great Neck, NY 11021. Thank you in advance for your support in our community’s Eiruv!

Sunday, April 27, 11:30 a.m.: Yom Hashoah Rally at the Iranian Mission to the U.N. at 622 3rd Ave. (E. 40th St.)    WHY DO WE NEED TO BE THERE? 1) The Holocaust should be remembered publicly in front of the place that represents those who have fomented the demonization of Israel, who are committed to the destruction of Israel, and whose nuclear ambitions threaten the entire world. 2) We need to show our Congressional representatives that they have strong support for continued strong sanctions against Iran until there is a complete and verifiable termination of Iran's illicit nuclear program. Free round-trip bus transportation will be available from Great Neck:  Call Lynne or Nessim Tammam at 829-1430. 

The Shalom Task Force Annual Brunch will take place on Sunday, May 4th at 10:00AM at the Sephardic Temple in Cedarhurst, New York. The event is a memorial tribute in honor of Pess Epstein A”H, beloved mother of Malka Ismach. For more information, call 516-857-7581 or www.shalomtaskforce.org.

The annual North Shore Mikvah Association fundraising shiur for women will take place at the home of Marla and Micah Lemonik - 9 Myrtle Drive - On Tuesday May 13th at 7:30.  The shiur will be given by Rebbetzin Abby Lerner and is entitled, They Said What? The Surprising Rabbinic Attitudes Towards Intimacy.   Light refreshments will be served and orchids from "Blooming Flowers" will be for sale with proceeds to benefit the mikvah.  Suggested Donation - $36.00, Sponsorships - $100, Gold Sponsor - $180.00 The shiur will be in memory of Hadassah Ben Tzvi - if you would like to donate money to help her family, please send a check to YIGN Chessed Fund earmarked for the Ben Tzvi family. For more information - please email NSMikvah@gmail.com.

The North Shore Hebrew Academy Annual Journal Dinner celebrating its 59 year tradition of excellence will take place on Monday evening May 19th at Citi Field honoring Stephanie & Ruvane Vilinsky, Hannah K. Flamenbaum & Charles W. Segal and Sassoun Sassouni. Those wishing to place an ad, make a reservation or serve on the dinner committee, please contact Arnie Flatow at aflatow@nsha.org or call the Business Office at 487-868 ext 2.

The following donations have been made to the Young Israel of Great Neck:
Rabbi Meir Mitelman in honor of Rabbi Yaacov and Abby Lerner;  In honor of Stan Morris
Baruch Pelcovitz and Eli Schilowitz in memory of The Ultimate Warrior.  May he vigorously shake the big top rope in the sky.

Sun, 20 April 2014 20 Nisan 5774