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Young Israel of Great Neck

North Shore Mikvah Fundraiser May 5

Lag B'Omer BBQ May 7

Rabbi Moshe Miller - Shabbat Parshat Emor May 9

Pictures from YIGN's 2015 Annual Dinner 

President's Message

The Young Israel of Great Neck (YIGN) was established over 40 years ago through the efforts of six visionary families.  What started out as their dream has resulted, after four decades of tremendous growth, in a large, thriving, modern orthodox congregation with over 250 family members, located at 236 Middle Neck Road in Great Neck. In addition to our beautiful main sanctuary, our state-of-the-art Justin Family Center contains a large Beit Midrash, several classrooms, as well as a full-sized gymnasium. Read more



Mazel tov to Trudy and David Justin, Kitty and Zoltan Justin and Sandra and Jeffrey Justin on the engagement of their daughter, granddaughter and niece Nina to Josh Mak.

Mazel tov to Rebecca and Eric Senderowicz, Aviva and Bob Zausmer and Abby and Seth Weiss on the birth of their daughter, granddaughter and niece, Ariella Maya.

Mazel tov to Joan and Henry Katz, Jamie and Michael Katz and Linda and Jay Zucker on the bar mitzvah of their grandson, nephew and son, Alex.

Mazel tov to Alex Tarras on his engagement to Nechama Lewis.

Mazal tov to Sara Manasseh, our junior high school girls youth leader, on her engagement to Omri Duani.


Condolences to Aziz Basalely on the loss of his mother, Sara Basalely.

Condolences to Gina Aharonoff, Rozita Basalely and David Basaleli on the loss of their grandmother, Hana Bessaleli.



Please join us Shabbat Parshat Emor (May 9) as we host Rabbi Moshe Miller, author of Rising Moon, Unraveling the Book of Ruth. Rabbi Miller will speak twice on Shabbat:

Shabbat Afternoon, one hour before mincha

7:25 pm: The Rabbi Akiva Syndrome and Kabbalat HaTorah

Seudah Shlishit

8:25 pm: Boaz, Ruth and the Joys of Tolerance

Rabbi Miller received smicha from the Ner Israel Rabbinical College and an MA in philosophy from Brown University. Formerly Rosh Kollel of the Boca Raton Community Kollel, he and his wife, Grizzy, made aliyah in 2010 and live in Jerusalem where he writes and teaches.

Praise for Rabbi Miller’s new book on Megillat Ruth

In Rising Moon, Moshe Miller has written a profound meditation on the Book of Ruth, shot through with fresh insights and arresting interpretations. A bold, original and deeply thought-provoking work.  Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks



The above quotation is recorded in the Talmud. It was a proposal made by a prospective convert first to Shammai, then to Hillel. Shammai was furious at the preposterous offer and drove the man out of his Bet Midrash. Hillel, on the other hand, took up the challenge and proceeded to do just that. His response: “What is distasteful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the entire Torah, everything else written there is commentary. You are now a convert, go forth and study the rest.” This amazing story contains huge insights and truths about the nature of Torah but, also, about the process of conversion to Judaism. At a time when so much controversy swirls around the conversion process, especially in Israel, let us take a hard look at lessons to be learned from this story that may be very helpful in giving us guidance concerning conversion to Judaism today. Sunday, May 3, Breakfast - 9:30am, Lecture - 10:00am

Please join us for our Annual Fundraising Event in Memory of Bella Goldwyn, Z”L, co-sponsored by Great Neck Synagogue and Young Israel of Great Neck.

A Health and Halacha Evening:  Introspection For Women By Women

An informative panel discussion: Enhancing our physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing through self-awareness


Heather Appelbaum, MD FACOG: "BRCA, biopsies and beyond: An overview of current recommendations for gynecologic health screening"

Dena Block, M.A., GNS Yoetzet Halacha: "Entrusted and empowered: The Mikvah advantage"

Rachel Hercman, LCSW: "Due for an upgrade: Improving ourselves, our relationships, and our intimacy"

North Shore Hebrew Academy, 16 Cherry Lane, Tuesday, May 5th at 7:30 PM

Light refreshments will be served

Ambassador John Bolton
, nationally known TV foreign affairs analyst and author, will speak at Great Neck Synagogue, Sunday evening May 3rd. The event is sponsored by Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) Long Island Chapter and Men’s Club of Great Neck Synagogue. There is no charge for admission.

Dr. Joyce Weg Rydzinski from Great Neck will be honored at the upcoming EMUNAH Spring Luncheon “Empowering Women.”  The event will be held at the Prince George Ballroom in NYC on May 19th.  Anyone interested in making a reservation or a donation in honor of Dr. Rydzinski can contact the EMUNAH office at 212-564-9045 ext 315.  All proceeds will benefit children in EMUNAH’s 5 children’s homes throughout Israel.

Congressman Steve Israel, representing New York's 3rd Congressional District, and Ron Prosor, Permanent Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, will address the Great Neck Jewish Community with a comprehensive discussion on the state of play in the Middle East on Sunday, May 17th, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Great Neck Synagogue. All are invited.


The following donations have been made to the Young Israel of Great Neck:        

Judy and Fred Lewis in memory of Rita Wenig; In honor of the birth of Julie and Eliot Kalker’s daughter

Adele and Azriel Genachowski for Phil Seider’s refuah shelemah

Erica and Ron Strauss in honor of the birth of Penny and Jerry Koss’ granddaughter; In honor of the engagement of Ari Pelcovitz and Sara Segal

Rabbi Lerner's Weekly Parsha Shiur

Parshat Acharei Mos - Kedoshim 

Gilui Arayos

18:1-5: And Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Bnai Yisrael and say to them: I am Hashem, your God. Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled; and do not perform the practice of the land of Canaan to which I bring you, and do not follow their traditions. Carry out My laws and safeguard My decrees to follow them; I am Hashem, your God. You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live (Vachai Bahem) – I am Hashem. This phrase of Vechai Bahem is the source of the mitzvah of desecrating shabbos for pikuach nefesh, to save lives – the concept of Hashem’s Halachos and the Torah is for us to live by, not to die because of them.

What is the point of pasuk 18:2? We know that Hashem is certainly our God, after all of the miracles in Egypt, splitting the sea, giving us the Ten Commandments? Why place this pasuk here? Rashi: It means that I am the God who said at Sinai that I am Hashem your God who took you out of Egypt. Hashem is saying that “back then when I introduced myself, the upshot of that revelation was that you accepted My kingship upon yourselves, to listen to My laws; therefore, now accept My ordinances. If you accepted Me as king you must accept My gezairos.” But why was that necessary at this point? Because the subject matter coming up now is difficult – they are the laws of Gilui Arayos that entail severe punishment and are very difficult to keep. God reminds the people that they accepted Him as God and therefore have to adhere to these difficult laws as well. Rashi quotes Rabbi Yehuda: it was already revealed, since Hashem knows all of what will happen, that the people will pull away from these laws because it is such a difficult concept; they will violate these laws in the future. We know this happened in a rampant way during the time of Ezra, when the Jews were still living in Bavel – the people partied a great deal, with promiscuity – just as we see in the time of the Megilla, with the people being used to gala parties. When the Jews went back to Israel to establish the Second Commonwealth, even though these were the best of people who followed Ezra to return and rebuild Eretz Yisrael and the Temple, Ezra had to give impassioned pleas for the people to give up their non-Jewish wives. This topic of Gilui Arayos is most challenging, and that is why Hashem had to reiterate that He is the one decreeing these forbidden relationships, and it is He who will punish transgressions of these sins in a big way, but will also reward in a big way if they adhere to them.

Sifsei: when Hashem says He is the one to punish and reward, it comes from here where the Torah uses the wording of Hashem Elokim, using both of God’s primary names – God is the one who will pay back reward with blessings – this from the name Hashem, that of Midas Harachamim, but also to mete out punishment from Elokim, the name of Midas HaDin.

Ramban: why say Daber El Bnai Yisrael in 18:2 after 18:1the pasuk of Veyadaber – what does it add? Because Hashem was talking to all the people, not just the Kohanim or higher echelon Jews – the Torah comes down harshly on all people when it comes to these sins. That is why this is repeated – Moshe must tell this to every Jew, as it applies to each and every Jew.

Ohr Hachayim: it is known that all of the mitzvos God commanded his holy people are within the power of His people to follow; we have free will to do God’s commands. The mitzvos that pose the greatest challenge are those involving the sexual drive – man lusts for it, has a strong inner desire that nearly takes over him, forces him to violate them. We have to distance ourselves from them. These drives are a result of what our eyes see, and or thoughts, how we feel, our emotions. We have to avoid going astray after our eyes and hearts, as we say in Shema. What gets us into trouble is what the eyes see and the heart wants. If we don’t control this, we will end up having our desires overpower us. The Gemorrah in Kedushin tells us of Rav Amram, a great Rabbi, who was pure, but one time he came into contact with a beautiful woman and only at the very last moment was he able to refrain from falling into deep trouble – it doesn’t take much to have us fall into sin. This is what it takes to control these drives: if we can control these two things – what we see and our thoughts, then we will be able to control our passions. If we taste is a little, then we will lose control – we must control it even in the smallest way. The strategy to prevent succumbing to these sins is control of what we see and what we feel with our emotions. This pasuk 18:2 expressly comes to talk against the Yetzer Harah – when it says I am Hashem your God, it tells us that He is always watching and listening to us, and we must always remember that – He is constantly observing us. The Midrash Rabah says that the difference between decent and immoral people is that Tzadikim control their hearts, while the hearts of Resha’im control them; that defines the difference between the tzadik and rasha. Desire comes from the heart, and emotions from the mind – God gave us these two things, and when we have attractions toward ervah, the heart first desires it; the mind is more rational and can override it and put a stop to sinning – the mind can stop completion of the desires. The ultimate will to go forward with the sin comes from the mind; it has the power to put a stop to it. We fast several times a year not because the body wants it – if anything, the body is against satisfying needs – but the mind can override all of our desires, for food and pleasure; the mind controls the heart and the desires. So even if we have these strong, lustful desires, the neshama in our body, our minds can control these feelings. Resha’im are in the hands of their hearts; they have no will power to overcome what their hearts desire. We have the power to say no.

Meshech Chachmah: the chachamim explained that the Torah did not command anything that would be impossible for a human to achieve; these laws are difficult, but we have to the power to do them; we have to work on them. There are 248 positive mitzvos, corresponding to what the parts that the human body is made of. Hashem created man straight, as it says in Koheles – each mitzvah targets a part of our body, to purge sins and elevate us. If we do the mitzvos, we sublimate our bodies to our minds, allowing our nefesh to rule over our body and make us more spiritual. The Torah does not forbid us to enjoy foods – it just puts certain limits on them. Similarly, Hashem places limits on sexual desire for our own good, but allows us to have pleasure within guidelines, to balance the physical and spiritual. We must follow the mitzvos that keep us within this proper balance. That is why it says I am Hashem – He created us and we need to follow His game plan.

18:3: The Torah talks about two lands that are the paradigms of the worst sexual behavior – we left one hell of Egypt and were heading towards another horrible place of Canaan. Rashi: this tells us that the behavior of the Egyptians and Canaanites were the most perverted of all the nations that existed in the ancient world. The place where the Jews lived in Goshen was the worst of the worst of Egypt. And the nations of Canaan were even worse than the Egyptians. That is why we were warned not to follow their behavior. The two kinds of sins that are talked about here are pervasive in both of these places; both of these lands were really bad, particularly with Gilui Arayos.

There is a different opinion advocated by the Ibn Ezra. Previously in 17:7 the Torah discusses the topic of slaughtering an animal in the camp – this was forbidden. Instead, the animals had to be brought as a korban at the Ohel Moed – it was in close proximity to all people, being in the center of the camp, and the animals had to be shared with God; this was the law during the entire 40 years of travel in the desert – you had to sacrifice part of it on the Mizbeach. At the same time, when sacrificing, the Torah warns it must have the right focus and not be sacrificed towards Avodah Zarah (the pasuk uses the word Se’irim – it was a form of Avodah Zarah; Rashi says it means demons, shaidim); when we sacrifice it must be to Hashem. The Ibn Ezra says that in Egypt they worshipped these Se’irim, and the sexual immorality was what was going on in Canaan. The Torah tells us not to imitate these societies, each noted for different major transgressions; Egypt was more of an issue with Avodah Zarah, while Canaan was more of an issue with Gilui Arayos.  Most meforshim, particularly the Ramban, reject this and say that Egypt was just as bad with Gilui Arayos as Canaan. However, at the end in 18:24 it says these are the sins of the nations that God will be casting out from the land we are going to – this would suggest that the Canaanites were worse with Gilui Arayos, as the Ibn Ezra suggests.

Kli Yakar: challenges much of Rashi. Rashi suggests that when we went down to Egypt, Yaacov preemptively sent Yehuda down to establish a yeshiva in Goshen in order for his family to remain spiritually intact; so how can Rashi say that Goshen was the worst place of Egypt? Furthermore, we would think that Yosef would bring his family down to a safer location, since he knew the Egyptian culture well; he would try to protect his family. So, they probably went down first to a place that was not so bad. So Goshen was actually a comparatively good place. But because the Jews were in a somewhat spiritually better place, they did not want to leave Egypt and go to a place that was a spiritual sewer; Hashem had to force them out; that is why most people did not leave. And the Jews came up with several reasons during their travels not to enter the land of Canaan where there was so much evil. Hashem was telling the Jews that they were to enter the land, but not to act in Canaan as they did in Egypt; but they should not stall in going to the land where they need to go. The Jews shouldn’t delay in entering the land; we should not keep repeating these mistakes; we should want to enter the land of Canaan. We are always doing the opposite of what Hashem wants and getting into trouble. They were not in the worst of places and had to be forced out. Hashem wanted them to leave Egypt, even if not so bad, to go to the land of Canaan, which even though was worse from the standpoint of Gilui Arayos, the Jews would do well there by scouring and purifying the land and following God’s commandments. Then they would not fall spiritually. 

Sun, 3 May 2015 14 Iyyar 5775