The Matzav Shmoooze: Do We Get it Or Are We Fooling Ourselves?



I walked down the hallway of the children’s ward in Sloan Kettering Hospital and I cried. Although it is arguably the best place for children with cancer to be in, it doesn’t make it any easier to understand the pain and fear these families are experiencing.

Yet, here I am, a few days before the Yom Hadin, trying to get myself to truly realize what it feels like to be in a position where you need to beg for your life. I wanted to learn from and watch those who are living this. I wanted to see how they daven, see how they cry, see how they use every moment to connect, see what a person who actually is in a life or death situation does in order to make it through their day.

I watched. I learned. I cried. I thanked Hashem for not putting me in this situation. I begged Hashem to never send me this nisayon. I promised I would be better and made two kabbalos to strengthen myself and my emunah. I left.

As I was walking back to my car, I was sent an email with a link to a video of a kumzitz style selichos. I watched it and I cried one more time. I cried for all those people who think this is how one brings in the awesomeness of the time of year we are in.

I challenge anyone there to spend the hour in this hospital as I did and walk away with even the thought that perhaps Hashem wants this type of a davening. They will claim that dveykus is what this is about – clinging to Hashem, coming closer, tuning in, and connecting. Well, if that video is how it is supposed to be, then I wonder why nobody in Sloan is singing and dancing, because they, more than anyone, truly understand what it means to want to be close and connect to Hashem.

Those families get it. They live it. They and only they can be our real life proof of who is right and who is off.

Go ahead and publish this letter on and watch the comments. Many will agree and many will not – until they are in Sloan Kettering, and then they too will agree.

Lakol zeman vo’eis. There is a time for a concert, a time to sing and dance, a time to let the power of shirah penetrate. Now is not that time. Iran is ready to attack, lomdei Torah are being threatened for not enlisting, and Hakadosh Boruch Hu is opening the shaarei dema’os. He is waiting for us to come in, b’eimah uveyira.

Lakol zeman vo’eis. There is a time for everything.

Ah gut yohr.

Name Withheld

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  1. I was thinking the same thing, but, did not have the courage to elucidate it as you did. Yaasher koach. I am waiting and trying to feel the kedusha of the yimei haslichos i’m not there yet but I am trying through crying for myself, and people who just don’t get it.

  2. Great article. Yiddishkiet is a kaleidescope of style’s, ashkenaz, s’fardi, chasiddish, etc… accordingly there are myriad ways of serving hashem. perhaps one can also learn from spending time in a childrens hospital that just as illness doesnt discriminate, maybe we also shouldnt.

  3. This Matzav Shmoooze is a lot better than the one criticizing Rabbi Yair Hoffman.

    On a different note the author of this article hits the nail right on the head. I would like to wish him and everyone else on Matzav a Shana Tova Umetuka!

  4. I volunteered for over 20 years , & all I had to say every week when I left the hospital was ” Tov Lahodosh Hashem” that I was leaving on my own 2 feet with my health intact. It is not something to take mildly. May Hakodosh Boruch Hu send all of those who need it the Refuos, Yeshuos(from all thing, parnoso, shidduchim ……………..) that we as a Klal and those individuals need. BEKAROV!!!!!!!!!

  5. When I first saw it I thought: If Chas Veshalom Moshiach doesn’t come fast what will be in the next generation, will they danc on Tisha B’av?…

    I’m sure there’s nice ways to justify it, and I’m sure Hashem will judgeeach one according to his level etc. But the message of ‘Eimas HaDin”, which was so stark in our grandparents generation – Litvish & Chassidish alike – is very much lacking.

    Couple that with concerts and rock music videos being released within days of Rosh Hashana, and ‘frum’ sites promoting them, and we really need Moshiach now…

  6. “Dvaykus is what this about – clinging to Hashem, coming closer”

    Watching clips on YouTube is far far from that ……. We should be busy coming closer to hashem and not watch clips on Youtube

  7. Did it occur to you that different people connect to HKBH in different ways?
    Did it occur to you that for all your feeling inspired and moved, if you can write off 1000 Jews and the way they get inspiration you are not ready for Rosh Hashana after all?
    Did it occur to you that HKBH sends each person what they need to prepare for yamim noraim?
    How about we work on loving each other and being less judgmental of others whether they have a sick child or they are singing and dancing and serving HaShem out of love?

  8. Our esteemed Rov, HoRav Simcha Bunim Cohen Shlit’a always says “If anything is bothering you, just visit Sloan Kettering. You’ll walk out realizing how lucky you are and you’ll sing Hashems praises”.

    This letter should be mandatory reading for everyone and distributed to every shul.

    I applaud the writer and wish him the following. May you and all of Klal Yisroels ‘shluchim’ in that location have a K’Siva V’Chasima Tova and be Zoiche to a complete Refua Shlaimah, Yeshuos ViNechomos Bimheirah!

  9. Is it ethical to walk around a hospital ward full of seriously ill children to watch their parents cry?

    Please don’t encourage people to do this. How would you feel if it were your family going through a health crisis and the hospital hallways were suddenly full of frum Jews peering in, looking for inspiration?

  10. I did not see the video, so I am not aware of the details of it. You are right in that we need true connection, but many people do connect through singing. Although I am not one of them, but I do understand there is such a phenomenon. I feel connection through true avodas Hashem, I hope to daven with R. Dan shlita this RH and YK.

  11. What you wrote is all true, But I believe that most of those people have inside feelings that they just don’t know how (& were) to get it out, Song pulls (does not have to have any Kidusha), Maybe if everyone will just be nice to each other & give a smile or nice word, those broken hearts will find the right place & true way of tifilah & bring us all closer to Meshiach & solve most or all of our hardships

  12. The letter writer makes a good point that this contrasts strongly with the wrenching Tefillos of a parent Rachmanah Litzlan davening for their child’s life in a children’s cancer hospital.

    I personally am one who has never gone to this type of Slichos, and after viewing the video, wouldn’t trade my Slichos for this kind of Tefillah BUT, that is not a blanket statement for everyone.

    There are many people who feel they connect better through a Carlebach style Tefillah – again – not my cup of tea and definitely not yours, and no one is telling you to Daven that way, so don’t – but please consider other people before criticizing.

    Additionally, if this is a draw to people who would not Daven Slichos otherwise – and I’m sure there are those who now did Daven – Are you capable of viewing that through Hashem’s eyes and saying that yours/mine/their Slichos is preferable?

    May Hashem answer ALL of our Tefillos L’Tovah this year and a Shana Tovah Umesuka to every stripe of yid across Klal Yisroel!

  13. We can not objectively respond with out seeing what you saw. Nevertheless, singing is never a bad thing especially when Jews get together. Remember the reason the second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed was due to sinat hinam (baseless hatred) and it will not be rebuilt until that baseless hatred is destroyed. So what better way than to sing in unity?

  14. Of course this is not to judge what’s in each individual heart, chas veshalom, of thos there. I’m sure they all were very inspired and had alot of Kavonoh etc. Just saying that we’re lacking the very important ingridient of ‘Eimas HaDin’. No doubt about it.

    Just 10 – 15 years ago in was unthinkable to make a concert 2 weeks before Rosh Hashana (and the ‘rock level’ at these concert has just gone up since…).

  15. Who could know exactly what Hashem likes?

    L’moshol, if somebody is Mispallel for Refuahs, but adds on words to explicitly exclude sick people who were born to a different ethnicity, who knows how the RB”Sh’Olom looks at it.

  16. “I cried for all those people who think this is how one brings in the awesomeness of the time of year we are in”.

    These are the types of articles which throw sterotypes, assumptions and misconceptions in your face. There is no debate that those who are fighting serious illnesses are connecting, beseeching & trembling before Yom Hadin. Yet those who are singing, dancing, hugging, and swaying with the music….are connecting in a simchadik way at that moment. PERHAPS they needed that “Freilich Moment” to reconnect, clean out the cowwebs, uplift themselves to continue with the avodah of greeting Yom Hadin. There is YIRAH and there is SIMCHA, not everyone prepared like Kelm & Navordic, there were and are several derachim to bond and feel hashem. Find yours and be pleased that you have!!!!

  17. The author asks, “I wonder why nobody in Sloan is singing and dancing.”

    Maybe you are unfamiliar with the phenomenon of Jewish singers (MBD, A Fried, Lipa, Schwekey, Sruli Wulliger, and many others)who volunteer to visit patients in hospitals and sing for them.

  18. Why are they hypocrites? Please I would love to hear why you see yourself able to denigrate a Frum website that does a great service for the Frum community.

  19. “14. Comment from kweansmom
    Time September 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Is it ethical to walk around a hospital ward full of seriously ill children to watch their parents cry?

    Please don’t encourage people to do this. How would you feel if it were your family going through a health crisis and the hospital hallways were suddenly full of frum Jews peering in, looking for inspiration?”

    My thoughts exactly. Don’t use other people’s tzaros for your inspiriation.

  20. I would love to comment on the website directly but I feel like no one will care.
    I think the author left us a couple clues about his personal theology and I think that is where he is wrong, and I do think he is wrong. He wrote that he tried to get in the mindset of a person begging for his life. We can conclude that he views the Yom HaDin not as Reb Shlomo saw it but in a more dross way. When asked why Reb Shlomo was so happy around this time he answered, “The judge is my father.” Reb Shlomo knows that the odds are stacked in his favor because the Judge loves him and will do anything for him. By trying to feel like a cancer patient, he is assuming the odds are against him and just like nature tends to screw over cancer patients, God will do the same to him.
    With that mindset, the rest of the article falls into place. Why would someone be happy to sing words like “Chatanu LiFanecha?” It’s a terrible thing to sin and by announcing my sin I am reminding myself that the prosecution has a damn good case. But that’s not the only way to read that line. It can also be uplifting. If I had no sins, I would have nothing to learn from and nothing to strive towards. I would essentially have no worldly purpose. By looking back at what I’ve done, I can see where I need to go.
    The pasuk “Ivdu Et Hashem B’Simcha” does not discriminate times. It doesn’t say “sometimes,” it doesn’t say “only of Simchat Torah,” it just say serve God with joy. Rebbe Nachman goes as far as to say it’s a Mitzvah to be happy. According to Heschel’s definition of a mitzvah (“Every act done in agreement with the will of God”) then if slichot are want God wants us to do, we need to do it with simcha.
    It could be stated that one of the goals of a Jewish life is to live in conjunction with God’s Will. An offshoot of that would to always be happy. The art of being happy is the art of turning the bad into good. Essentially reversing the process of Tzimtzum (on some level) and bringing the broken pieces of the world back together. There are times when it’s hard to be happy. It’s damn hard on Tisha B’av or Yom HaZikaron, but to at least try is a mitzvah.
    (Granted this is all assuming that singing brings about happiness but in the context of the article, it is implied that the songs being sung are not of a “durgy” nature.)

  21. To # 27:

    First, get your head out of the sand. Afterwards, I will try to educate you.

    I did explain why I made that statement, but because I didn’t walk in lockstep with the mainstream idiots, Matzav blocked out the main point of my comment! So you’re right. Not only are Matzav Hypocrites, they are also immature babies!
    Ah gutta yoer!

  22. Have you thought for a second, how the families who are trapped in pediatric oncology wards react to your article? You have the freedom to exit, walk out of their purgatory, and go home to your healthy family. They don’t.