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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

Nitzavim – Rabbi Lerner – September 14, 2014

The  Mitzvah of Teshuvah

30:1-2: It will be that when all these things come upon you – the blessing and the curse that I have presented before you – then you will take it to your heart amongst all the nations where Hashem, your God, has dispersed you. And you will return unto Hashem, your God, and listen to His voice, according to everything that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and all your soul. This is really a prophecy for the End of Days. Rambam: it is a promise that come the End of Days, all of Klal Yisrael will wake up and realize that they have a special destiny – they will come back and listen to Hashem

            Meshech Chachmah: What does it mean you will return to your heart? It is not about love of God – that will come eventually. It is about love of our people. It was engraved in our hearts from the time of when we stood at Har Sinai. The purpose of this Teshuvah is to become tied in tightly to the Jewish people. It is not about religion yet. Ultimately, this will give rise to the real Teshuvah towards Hashem. How do we see this from the pasuk? When the Torah says you will return from all of the nations of the world who have all been so bitter to us, it means that we will realize that we need our own country, our own homeland. When dispersed among the nations and feeling tired of all of the hatred, feelings of nationalism will stir amongst us. It is because of the treatment of the Jews by all of these nations that these feelings will arise and become widespread. Zionism is the springboard towards the ultimate Teshuvah.

30:3-4: Then Hashem, your God, will bring back your captivity (Shevusechah) and have mercy upon you, and He will gather you in from all the peoples to which Hashem, your God, has scattered you. If your dispersed will be at the ends of heaven, from there Hashem, your God, will gather you in and from there He will take you. Netziv: How does this process of return work? The Ramban in his commentary on Shir HaShirim says that He will gather us from all the nations. The Netziv says that it doesn’t mean every last Jew, but just that the majority of the Jews will come back from key countries of Galus. He learns this from the word Shevusechah – the primary places. Then other Jews, the stragglers, will start coming in, until Hashem engineers a total coming together. The Netziv says all of the stragglers will ultimately follow. The Ramban says we are not just going back, but that many kingdoms will give permission for the Jews to go back – as happened with the UN declaration in 1947. Then the gates will open up and the Jews will pour in to the land.

            Rashi: Hashem will return your captivity. It should have been written VeHaishiv rather than Veshav, if it is God acting upon us; the Veshav would imply doing it by oneself rather than God doing it to us? From here we learn that the Shechina is with us in Galus; God does not leave us to ourselves while we are in Galus – when He drove us out of Eretz Yisrael, He came with us. We saw this from the first Galus, when Yaacov feared going down to Egypt, God promised that He will go down with him to Mitzrayim, and He will bring him back to Eretz Yisrael. How do we know that this was always to be the case, that God would accompany His people in every exile? That is why it says Veshav – He will be returning with the captivity; the Shechina is with us in Galus, offering some protection and also guaranteeing that there will be a return to Eretz Yisrael – the Shechina must ultimately reside in the Eretz Yisrael – it cannot remain in an imperfect situation in unholy lands – He must return to Eretz Yisrael as well, so we will benefit and return with the Shechina.

            Rav Baruch Simon: there is a Gemorrah in Yuma that says that Teshuvah is so great, it reaches the divine throne of Glory – it reaches all of the way up to God Himself. The Gemorrah adds that Teshuvah has the power to override a negative commandment from the Torah – Rashi says in Ki Seytzeh, that if a husband and wife are having a major spat about some issue and he divorces her, if she marries another person, she is forbidden forever to return to this man if she divorces again. The Gemorrah says this is the problem that Hakodosh Baruch Hu has – if the Jewish people worshipped other gods, can we return to God? Just as the behavior of a husband and wife who divorce, live with others, and come back together again would pollute the land, why would it be any different if we stopped believing in God and followed other idols and false gods? According to Halachah, He should never be allowed to take us back? But that shows the greatness of Teshuvah, which can reach the ultimate heights of heaven and convince God to take us back, even though He would be violating a lav, a negative command, from the Torah. The difference is that in one instance, that of the husband and wife, it is dealing with a yachid, an individual who went astray. But when dealing with the nation as a whole, there is a special segulah – a special power of the Teshuvah of the many, of the rabim – it is phenomenally greater than that of an individual – there is no stopping it and God is willing to override His law and take the nation back. God is so moved and stirred, it rekindles His passion and wants to take His kallah back.


30:11-14: For this commandment that I command you today is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, for you to say “Who can ascend to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?” Nor is it across the sea, for you to say “Who can cross to the other side of the sea for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?” Rather, the matter is very near to you – in your mouth and your heart – to perform it. Which Mitzvah is the Torah referring to? Some say it refers to the entire Torah, observing all of the Mitzvos – that it is not too difficult, it is not beyond our reach; it is accessible to all. Rambam: it is not the entire Torah, only the Mitzvah of Talmud Torah – it is available to all – if you put in toil and time, you will find success. Not everyone is equal, but all will find some level of success. The third opinion is that these pasukim are referring to Teshuvah, that it is a Mitzvah. Ramban: it refers back to 30:2, where it says you will return to God after having gone astray; you are not cut off from God – His outstretched hand is waiting to pull us in. The Ba’al Haturim agrees: Teshuvah is keneged all other Mitzvos – it saves us from being lost forever; it is placed on a pedestal; it saves Jews for generations to come. Sforno: you need to do Teshuvah while you are still in Galus or you will be lost in Galus; you will never get out of Galus.

            Rambam: when a person repents from his sins, he is obligated to say Vidui before Hashem – it is learned from parshas Nasoh. The spotlight is on how one does Teshuvah – if you are doing it, it must culminate in Vidui or it is not worth anything. The Rambam does not say one must do Teshuvah – it is just that when he does it, it must be done with Vidui if he wants credit for repenting – it cannot be done only in one’s heart, it must be verbalized. This is what the Minchas Chinuch says. The Rav was strongly against this – he says that when the Rambam talks about Yom Kippurim, he says all must do Teshuvah then, and it must consist of Vidui – the Rambam holds clearly that there is an obligation to do Teshuvah. Conceptually it doesn’t make sense any other way – God is the king, but before that He is also our father – that is why we say Avinu Malkainu – our father, then our king. A father will not just say to his children that if you want to return back from your treachery, the door is left open. If he will see his child going off on a bad path, He will do everything to make him come back. If we don’t succeed in our mission, then God’s whole plan for humanity will fail. We must make the world God’s kingdom. Even if God was selfish and only cared about Himself, His plan will fail and He will go down with us. So He will pressure us and force us to get us to do Teshuvah. The greatest proof for this is the Rambam’s introduction to the subject of Teshuvah that says when one sins, one must do Teshuvah with Vidui – it is an obligation.

            What will happen at the End of Days? Ramban: in 30:6 the Torah tells us that it will be better than it ever was for humanity: Hashem, your God, will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your children, to love Hashem, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. What does this really mean? What does it mean to circumcise the heart? Right now we have total free will and can choose good or bad. But in the time of the Moshiach, the choice for good will become part of our nature. There will be so much proof that God is God, we will lose any desire to do anything that is inappropriate. We will have no Yetzer Harah for doing these bad things – we will no longer struggle with the Yetzer Harah. There will be no more temptations to go astray – it will be part of our nature to do well. It is the negation of the Yetzer Harah; we are instinctively good people. Abarbanel: the circumcising of the heart is not the negation of free will; the ability to choose right or wrong is the essence of a human being with intelligence; without that we are like robots. What the pasuk means is that in a certain sense we will be fortified by God so that the choice to do good will be much easier than it is now. God will empower the Yetzer Hatov, making it easier for us to choose good than it is now. One can never eliminate the Yetzer Harah completely and still be a human.


Current Announcements

- Mazel tov to Frieda and Morris Lewinter, Karen and Alan Mazurek and Linda and David Lewinter on the forthcoming marriage of their granddaughter, niece and daughter Rebecca to Richard Zisholtz.

- Mazel tov to Edna Guilor-Segal on being honored at the AMIT Greater Long Island Gala.

- Condolences to Ellen and Mark Newman on the loss of their son, Ariel
- Condolences to Viviane Breitbart on the loss of her father, Chaoul Dabbah

Welcome New Members:     Lisa and Barak Greenfield


The YIGN Welcome-Back Picnic was a grand slam. Thank you to all the players who stepped up to the plate for the First-Ever Rabbinic Fall Classic -- and, to the following people who helped make the picnic a success: Stew Ashkenazy, Rabbi Shmuel & Malka Ismach, Julie Kalker, Rabbi Yaacov Lerner, Morris Lewinter, Elliott Ostro, Ryan Ostrow, Terry Rifkin, Eric Rosen, Roya Samuels, Eli & Lisa Schilowitz, Rabbi Eli Slomnicki, Bart & Judy Sobel, Ben Stern, Etan Walls, Ross Zuckerman. And, thank you to our Homerun Sponsors: Berger Family, Brownstein Family, Frank Family, Gelnick Family, Herman Family, Hoffman Family, Klein Family, Lewites/Janovic Family, Lustbader Family, Malen Leibowitz Family, Ostro Family, Peyser Family, Raven Family, Segal Family. (Photos from the picnic will be posted to the website shortly)

Shabbat November 15, for the Young Israel of Great Neck's fourth Bridge the Gap  luncheon.  It's a great opportunity to meet new members or other community members that you may not have previously gotten to know.  Meals will be hosted in members' own homes. Please RSVP at

If there is anyone who does not have a sukkah who would appreciate being hosted at other members' homes during the holiday, please let Shoshana know.  Also, feel free to let Shoshana know if you are available and would be interested in hosting these families at some point during the chag.  

If you have not done so already, please return your seating requests for the holidays as soon as possible. In order to reserve seats, your financial obligation must be satisfied

Our Book of Remembrance will contain Yizkor prayers as well as the names of those we remember during Yizkor recitation. Please consider memorializing one of our precious IDF soldiers as well. Cost for inclusion is $18 per name. To ensure your inclusion in the 5775/2014-2015 Book of Remembrance, please send in your names and a check for the appropriate amount to the shul office prior to Thursday, September 4, 2014.

It is with great excitement that we invite you and your Child to attend a Bnai Mitzvah Chesed Fair on Wednesday, September 17th from 5-7 PM in the Great Neck Synagogue,  The event is co-sponsored by The North Shore Hebrew Academy, Young Israel of Great Neck and Great Neck Synagogue. A Bnai Mitzvah Volunteer Agency Fair helps students and their parents select meaningful Bar/Bat Mitzvah projects. At the fair, representatives from local community organizations will introduce students to a variety of hands-on on-going volunteer opportunities. An Areyvut representative attends each fair and is available to offer guidance on finding agencies that meet each student's individual interests.  Each student will also receive a booklet highlighting the agencies at the fair. The fair is open to children in grades 5-7 and their parents.

We are once again able to offer the purchase of beautiful shtenders for your siddurim and chumashim. A sample is in our showcase in the lobby near the beit midrash. If you are interested in purchasing a shtender at the cost of $100, please call the shul office.


The traditional view of the period from Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur sees it as a time of anxiety riddled days. We stress out over a G-d who is highly judgmental and is making decisions about our coming year based on our past behavior. But should fear be the driving force behind spiritual improvement and elevation? Shouldn’t Judaism put more emphasis instead on love of G-d and inspiration from His teachings as the catalyst towards making us better people? Join us for a new look at what the High Holidays are all about. – Sunday, September 14 – Breakfast 9:30AM – Lecture 10:00AM

Please join us for a Special Evening as we install Karen Spitalnick as National President of EMUNAH of America, Monday, September 15th at 6:00PM at Temple Torah, Little Neck. Men and Women are invited.

Ann Greenfield is once again eagerly ready to pick up your very good clothing, the proceeds to benefit needy communities in Israel. This sale, known for its quality clothing, is collecting donations of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing in fine condition: suits, dresses, coats, slacks, separates, hats, shoes and handbags. Try to put clothes on hangers. Also gift items in original packaging would be appreciated. Please call Ann at 516-487-0940 to arrange for pickup time. Ann will give you a tax receipt at time of pickup.

Sunday, September, 14, 2014  - 9:30-11:00 a.m. -  The Mitzvah of Intimacy: Behind the Scenes of a Marriage - Speaker:  Dena Block, Yoetzet Halacha, Great Neck Synagogue - Where:  At the home of Davida Yehaskel,  9 Willow Lane, Great Neck

Outgoing, friendly young woman with  special needs and staff/roommate need an affordable two bedroom apartment (rental) in Great Neck near Middle Neck Road and walking distance to the Young Israel, if possible. Please contact Brigette Fixler at

Outgoing, friendly young woman with  special needs and staff/roommate need an affordable two bedroom apartment (rental) in Great Neck near Middle Neck Road and walking distance to the Young Israel, if possible. Please contact Brigette Fixler at

The following donations have been made to the Young Israel of Great Neck:
- Beth and Gary Orbach in memory of Frank Morgenstern; In memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Dodi and Jonathan Spielman in memory of Arthur Bruckner; In memory of Chaoul Dabbah
- Fariba and Saied Soleimani in memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Paula and Mark Lev in memory of Chaoul Dabbah; In memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Judy and Lanny Oppenheim in memory of Nettie Widman
- Cheryl and Ron Silverman in memory of Arthur Bruckner; In memory of Chaoul Dabbah
- Adele and Azriel Genachowski in honor of the engagement of Katie Peyser and Shane Safer; In honor of Rabbi Asher Abittan’s receiving semicha
- Goldye Laufbaum in memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Bonnie and Michael Orbach in honor of the birth of Chaim Leib Elsant; In honor of the birth of Barbara and Efraim Weinblatt’s grandson; In honor of the engagement of Mollie Jutkowitz and Sammy Bald; In honor of Rabbi Asher Abittan’s receiving semicha; In memory of Chaoul Dabbah; In memory of Alfred Haft; In memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Sari and Stuart Braunstein in memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Romina and Oded Weiss in memory of Chaoul Dabbah; In honor of the birth of Chaim Leib Elsant
- Fran and Bernie Mermelstein in memory of Chaoul Dabbah
- Rachel and Jason Applebaum in memory of Chaoul Dabbah; In memory of Arthur Bruckner
- Diana and Albert Schwartz in memory of Yitzchak Simkovic
- Rabbi Meir Mitelman for Larry Kerben’s refuah shelema


Thu, 18 September 2014 23 Elul 5774