Thursday, September 29, 2022

More Tzedaka Shenanigans

Kupat Ha'ir, the charity with the unfortunate tagline of "100% Pure Tzedaka," sent out an interesting campaign before Rosh HaShanah:

GO INTO ROSH HASHANA WITH THE PROMISE OF MARAN SAR HATORAH

In previous years, year after year, Maran Sar HaTorah HGR' Chaim Kanievsky zt"l, took the responsibility upon himself to say that whoever would give $355, the gematria of "shanah
," or "year," - "Certainly they will remove from him any unfavorable decrees and he will come out meritorious in judgment."

Of course, Rav Chaim is no longer alive, but we are told that Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, Rav Shimon Gala'i, and Rav Shraga Steineman sat as a Beis Din and decided that it's still true: 

"Tzaddikim are greater after their deaths than they were during their lifetimes, and the merit of Maran ztvk"l from Above will certainly influence that … his decree to be found innocent in judgment will be fulfilled in Kupat Ha'ir donors, also in the year 5783."

I have to say that I found this rather striking. It was always my understanding that traditional Judaism relates a person's fate to their merits and sins. Certainly, this fate can be changed, but that requires an actual change in the person - i.e. teshuva. Now, apparently, no teshuva is required - it just takes $355 to be assured of a meritorious judgment. I know many people who would pay $355 to avoid having to go to shul and davven with sincere kavanah!

Rav Chaim's promise seems to be written in his actual handwriting. Still, I think that there is room to judge him favorably and presume that such a rash promise reflects the fact that, as his sons noted, for the last ten years of his life he was not at the height of his mental acumen. 

But, looking at his handwritten letter, there's something else odd going on. Rav Chaim wrote about giving 355 shekels, not 355 dollars! 

Kuppat Ha'Ir adds a parenthetical explanation that the segulah only works with 355 of the currency of the country that you're living in. But what on earth is the justification for that? And they should still mention that one can give either 355 dollars or 355 shekels, depending on where you live - after all, the website is read by many people in Israel. And does this mean that if you're in Mexico, you can give 355 pesos - about 17 dollars - and get salvation? And if you give an extra 355 of your currency, can you get salvation for someone else? I have a fifty billion Zimbabwe dollar note - what kind of salvation can I get for Klal Yisrael with that?!

Not to be outdone with the magic Rav Chaim segulos, the outreach organization Hidabroot offers some very special for their elite $1800 donors. It's not just a silver segulah knife - it's a silver segulah knife that has been blessed by Rav Chaim. A rabbinic colleague asked me about this. Blessing objects is a prevalent phenomenon in Christianity, but is there any source in Judaism for such a thing?  

I discovered that this question has already been asked. In Birkat HaMazon, we ask that Hashem blesses the table from which we ate. Someone accordingly asked Rav Benzion Mutzafi how one can bless an object. Rav Mutzafi responded that indeed one cannot bless an object. (If your table breaks and you get a new one, you haven't lost the blessing!) It's not the actual table that is being blessed; the prayer uses the word "table" to represent a person's conduit of sustenance from God. 

But this explanation means that the blessing is not connected to an object. And so surely blessing a knife has no basis in Jewish tradition and is a Christian custom? I suggested to my colleague that he poses this question on Hidabroot's "Ask the Rabbi" page.

Meanwhile, at the Biblical Museum of Natural History, we don't offer our $1800 donors something that has been blessed by others; instead, we give them something that they can make a beracha on. It's been very well received - although there was one person who asked how much money he has to give us in order for us not to send him a jar of locusts....


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64 comments:

  1. With rabbinic/chareidi judaism emphasizing the theurgic recitation of the 13 middos and the practice of simanim, vicarious atonement via kaparos and tashlich, is it any wonder that tzedakah has devolved into being viewed as another “segulah” attempt at securing divine favor, with the logical conclusion to get the biggest bang for ur buck? We need to get back to basics with the practice of authentic teshuva and doing good with the proper intentions

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    Replies

    1. Agreed. Just curious, what do you mean by the "theurgic recitation of the 13 middos"?

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    2. The Rav used to point out that the Gemara in Rosh Hashana regarding the 13 middot does not say "let them recite..." but "Let them do ..." The recitation is to remind us to immitate God's middot of Chessed.

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  2. A chassidishe rebbe came to Jerusalem this Rosh HaShana and made a minyan in the main lobby of our shul's building. Leaving aside a lot of other things we witnessed about them, one thing that struck me was that the lengthy auctioning off of kibbudim, mid-tefilla, was done in dollars (and in a *lot* of dollars).

    Maybe it's an anti-Zionist thing, or maybe it's a "stuck in the early 80's when the shekel wasn't the powerful currency it is today" thing. Or maybe it's just a "fleece the tourists" thing, or a "supported by parents/in-laws/donors in America" thing.

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  3. RNS, this is one of those times that I'm inclined to agree with you. In fact, I would say most Chareidim find Kupat Ha'ir's intense and silly marketing campaigns to be quite childish, to put it nicely. Although I still think that you're weirdly obsessed with Chareidim. Did you ever entertain seeing a shrink?

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    Replies
    1. You do know his history, don't you?

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    2. So you know and you still don't get it? He has a right. What have the Modern Orthodox ever done to *you*?

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    3. Nachum:

      You're not getting it. I am not talking about whether he has a 'right' or not. The fact that he is so consumed with Chareidim, to the point that he seems unable to talk or think about anything else, is an unhealthy sign. I seriously think he should see a shrink specializing in PTSD to help him out of this.

      And it doesn't look too 'academic' to have a blog purportedly dedicated to 'exploring the legacy of the rationalist Rishonim', which in fact is dedicated solely to personal gripes and grievances. It actually looks quite juvenile!

      Delete
    4. "It actually looks quite juvenile!"

      It does. And you are very polite.

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    5. Mecharker, only 2 days into the new year and you are being extremely nasty and judgmental

      It is you who is extremely juvenile if you think that a shrink who specialises in PTSD can press a magic button and undo years of justified grievances that someone has against people who subjected him to years of agmas nefesh

      I had a jewish builder who screwed me over more than ten years ago when renovating my house. I still have trouble getting over it. I dont think i'll ever forgive him. and this is much more trivial than what happened to RNS.

      Lastly - if you don't like the blog, dont come here... no-one is forcing you to.

      Delete
    6. Maybe he goes to therapy and this blog is his way of dealing with his past. It's a bit presumptuous to say that "he seems unable to talk or think about anything else" considering this blog probably only represents around max 5% of things he does overall. Do you know him personally and know how he acts in general?
      -D

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    7. I'm kinda with Mircharker. This is in no way a blog that lives up to is name.

      Delete
    8. I wouldn't say it's a matter of whether the grievances, which are obvious and real, are justified or not. How healthy is it to nurse such for years, now running to decades, on end? It's not, period.

      I have a, well, I'll call him a friend, who has battled his own emotional and psychological trauma (without getting into details), dating back to childhood, so in many ways it is far more visceral. I have told him more than once that the way this trauma manifests itself will infect his wife and children too, sadly, to his and their detriment. He didn't disagree, and even mentioned I wasn't the only one who said such a thing. He does seem to be doing better of late, B"H.

      Is this what these bitter people really want? This is how trauma passes from one generation to the next. It's not retarded. But it is pathetic.

      Delete
    9. Last things first. Who ever said that I don't like this blog? It should be quite evident by now that I enjoy it immensely! I enjoy posts that I agree with (this one actually had me laughing out loud, especially the line about the Zimbabwean money), as well as the posts that I don't agree with! I love an intellectually honest debate and if you knew what I do for a living in my real life you would not be surprised. And that's besides for the fact that I think that it's only right not to leave these many objections to Chareidism on this high-visibility blog unchallenged.

      I don't know why you're getting all huffy about my suggestion to the good doctor. This obsession of his is starting to get me a little concerned and I think he should seek guidance. I never said that a shrink can 'press a magic button', but after close to 20 years of work should be able to make at least some headway.

      Delete
    10. You are totally missing the point that Mecharker is making. All reasonable people can agree that he has earned the "right" to be royally ticked. And that the whole tragic episode of the ban on his books saga was one of the most egregious examples in recent history of the chareidim (if I can indulge in the unavoidable practice of labeling such a multi-faceted community with such an inadequate single word) shooting themselves in the foot. The problem is that there is absolutely nothing in the world which is less "rational" than trying to have intellectually honest discussions about topics that you are incapable of seeing in an objective light due to intense emotional damage. I personally read the blog because a lot of these topics are extremely interesting and need to be discussed among the moderate members within both camps (since the extremists on both sides will never be swayed by anything). But I find it sad/funny /strange /weird that the blog is being led by a self proclaimed rationalist who ends up making himself look more and more pathetic with each post. So if he is seeing a shrink for his ptsd I highly recommend finding a different one :)

      Delete
    11. מכרכר
      Are you a Yid?
      Have you not heard that Yom haKippurim is coming up?
      Do you have even one milligram of yiras Shomayim that you can publicly post in such a way about an identifiable person?
      (If you actually cared on a personal level, you could have sent your advice privately, not publicly.)
      You are a sick and nasty person and I feel sorry for anyone who has the misfortune to live within your dalet amos.

      Delete
    12. Predating the incident with the book-banning by years was the incident where Slifkin was brutally gaslit in high school (I think) in a very clever and elaborate but very cruel prank, as retold in great detail in a post some months back. It sounds like it too was deeply traumatic. The trauma of the book-banning just piled on. Perhaps his high school peers were also Charedi, or Charedi-ish.

      Delete
    13. Woah, Dovid. Someone is getting a little carried away here! Mental health is a REAL thing. We do not live in the dark ages anymore. In the 21st century we know this and it is no longer taboo. Everyone and their brother goes for help. If someone is so publicly suffering, what is so 'sick and nasty' about dropping a hint that he should seek professional help? It is no different than if one were to have a blog and announce publicly that he had cancer and seem totally unaware with how to deal with it!

      I find it extremely ironic that I am routinely denounced as being mean and nasty by others far meaner and nastier than myself. I generally try to keep my comments devoid of personal attacks.

      I guess Chareidim are held to a higher standard not only by themselves!

      Delete
    14. LOL. It's interesting that it's only the charedi commentators who are convinced that Slifkin's critiques of charedi society reflect a mental health problem.

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    15. No, Amused. You aint getting it. It's not his critiques of Chareidi society. It's his obsession over it!

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    16. Amused, do you have a line between what is healthy and robust critique and obsessed with a topic that has very little relevance to the blog title or stated purpose? One post a year? One per month? Weekly? Daily? We do, even if it's nebulous to you. Non-charedim here have occasionally chimed in in agreement in principle with us. You don't seem to have any line at all. You may need help too. LOL, indeed.

      Delete
    17. Yeah מכרכר you're right, Charedi commenters here hold themselves to a very high standard. One little problem: it's not the non-charedi commenters calling everyone and their brother a "retard" on this site.

      Delete
    18. Peanut Butter & JellySeptember 30, 2022 at 6:35 PM

      Bob, I don't think that's fair of you to lump everyone together with one extreme commenter. I have protested Shimshon's vicious tone here numerous times. I happen to know Mecharker personally and he agrees with me.

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    19. מכרכר
      Given your great interest in publicly offering free advice in the comments section and (to your credit your positive feelings about removing stigmas from mental health treatment), here's some free advice for you, for you to take to an appropriately-trained mental health professional, qualified to make a differential diagnosis and identify co-morbidities : DSM-V 301.81 (F60. 81).

      Delete
    20. Bob, you have an extremely narrow definition of what it means to hold to a higher standard. Are you a hater of Hashem like Slifkin is both by definition of Rabbeinu Yonah as well as self-admitted in a response to his definition? Personally, I'd rather be called a retard than hater of Hashem, but that's just me.

      All מכרכר has done is use the word juvenile to describe what he observes instead of retard. See other comments to this post. Those who are not retarded understand we are saying the same thing. My words sting more, but it would certainly be mild by Talmudic standards. People like you always try to shift the debate from the subject at hand, or the substantive content of my comments, to the occasional use of an accurately, if insultingly, applied word.

      It only works in your little mind but no one else's. I have noted many comments by those who bristle at my use of the word but express understanding of and even sympathy at why I use it. The rest who bristle? Why should I care, if the comment is direct at them?

      As far as your specific comment, you know nothing about me beyond what I say about myself here, and my practically trademarked use of the word retard. Whatever you think about me is based 10% on that and 90% projection on what you imagine me to be.

      Further, you smear all charedim who comment here by my use of the word. That's 100% projection on your part, given that not a one actually expresses outright approval or has joined me in using it. Retard.

      Delete
    21. PB&J, these people here on the rationalist spectrum are intellectual lightweights. Their arguments are weak in every possible way. They aren't even very good writers. Their arrogance knows no bounds. Some of them will openly literally sacrifice their children to their ideology.

      You know this and I know this, and so does everyone else not on the spectrum.

      They are also very vicious. It is kind of you to not act so yourself. But don't kid yourself about the nature of the people who I label as retarded (except you, because other than your vociferous resort to the Genetic Fallacy, you clearly are not). I'm not the only one who notices this.

      The fact that Bob could say what he did is proof enough. Your protest is irrelevant, as would be his correction, even if one is forthcoming.

      Delete
    22. Dovid, you are just further proving my point. I lightly recommend to RNS that he get some help for his trauma and you are calling me a narcissist. Like I said on Friday, wildly and nastily accusing others of being nasty is quite hypocritical. And may I add, narcissistic.

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    23. What about wildly and nastily labelling others (in nearly every post!) "retards?" Is that ok?

      Delete
    24. Bob, why does it matter to you what I think? Do you have a pressing need for me to agree with you? If not this, then something else. What does this have to do with other Charedim?

      I note no clarification or apology for the wrashly worded broad condemnation. Just a further attack on me or my argument style.

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    25. No, it's not ok. Have you ever seen me do that?

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    26. Of course not מכרכר, but have you expressed your deep revulsion at such nastiness?

      Delete
    27. Ruh roh מכרכר! You better disavow now or you will be deplatformed and canceled. This is simply absurd levels of narcissism on display. It's not enough to vent at me. Like Haman, you must swipe at all Charedim to satisfy your ego. And you would have gotten away with it too, were it not for my meddling.

      And I further note there is still no clarification, retraction, or apology.

      Have a Scooby Snack on me Bob.

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    28. I agree with you Shimshon. It is kinda absurd!

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    29. Just so we're clear, מכרכר: you have strong words of disapproval for "nasty" criticism if it comes from the "other side" but the most you'll say about one who routinely calls people "retarded," is that it's "not ok?"

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    30. Bob:

      Huh? No comprende amigo. I pointed out to Dovid the glaring hypocrisy of his ad hominem attack on me for being nasty. Why in the world does that make it incumbent on me to denounce every nasty Chareidi guy on this site?? I don't know Shimshon, never met him, and am not his Mommy. Am I attacking you for not denouncing every nasty MODOX guy on this site?? There are plenty of them.

      There we go again, holding Chareidim to a higher standard than yourselves!

      Delete
    31. To my mind "retard" is the nastiest and most despicable insult lobbed on this site by FAR. It is uniquely worthy of universal condemnation, especially if we're comparing Charedi vs non-Charedi standards.

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    32. Okay Boomer.

      https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/talmudic-curses-and-insults/

      Retard doesn't even rise to the level of Talmudic insult.

      If you were around during the time of the Amoraim, instead of arguing substantively, at the first hint of an insult, you would be excised from contributing to the mesorah because you always turn the discussion around to the insult. Stick to the topic, Bob.

      Why is it uniquely worthy of condemnation? Is "hater of Hashem" something you embrace?

      Delete
    33. Bob, whether or not it is the 'nastiest and most despicable insult lobbed on this site by FAR' (I tend to think that it's NOT and this is some grandstanding manufactured outrage!), I still don't get what it has to do with me! Why aren't you haranguing Slifkin to condemn it? Nachum? Not a fan? Jefferey? Even the lowly kofrim Uriah's Wife and Hat? It seems quite bigoted to me that you feel that I am somehow responsible for someone I never met before in my life just because I also happen to be Chareidi!

      Delete
    34. You're not making sense. Why would Slifkin, Nachum et al. who were labelled "retarded" by this fine gentleman, need to condemn it? It's precisely because you're nominally on his "side" and you clucked your tongue at other people being "nasty" that I find it curious that you have no words of disapproval (other than that it's "not ok") for this particular nastiness.

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    35. Bob, you demented ostrich, fool, and idiot (all insults found in the Talmud), the reason Slifkin should be singled out by you, you retard, is because this is his blog, and he exercises editorial control over both the posts and the comments. Why are you not directing your irrational tirade at him? If he told me to cut it out, I would, if I want to comment here.

      I don't remember if I called him retarded, but I have called him a pathological liar due to his gaslighting (technically, I did not, I only said he could be accurately labeled as one), which has now expanded to creating non-existent sources like Troy, and perhaps sock-puppetry in the comments as PB&J alleges. I also noted that according to Rabbeinu Yonah, he, and all of you who are endlessly critical of the emphasis on Torah learning by Charedim, are "haters of Hashem". Yet this one word bothers you more than anything. And yet, the other insults are far worse, and very accurately applied. Is "retard" accurately applied to you, and all the others who protest its use? If you are not a retard, why do you care so much?

      Heaping calumny at מכרכר serves no purpose at all other than to prove my point in spades. You condemn all Charedim because I identify as one and use a word not one other Charedi commenter here uses. He didn't cluck his tongue. He noted the hypocrisy of people posting nasty comments taking umbrage at someone who is not one of their own returning the treatment in kind. Not only will you not back down, you double down again and again.

      Remember my mention of the Three Laws of SJW, which are just as applicable to the Orthodox Jewish equivalent, the Modox.

      1. SJWs Always Lie.
      2. SJWs Always Double Down.
      3. SJWs Always Project.

      Each of your comments are a demonstration of all three at work.

      Delete
    36. Bob: YOU'RE not making sense. Why, because I share some of the same beliefs as Shimshon, am I responsible in any way for what he says?? Are you a Republican? Then condemn Donald Trump! A Democrat? Then condemn Ilhan Omar!

      big·ot·ed
      /ˈbiɡədəd/
      adjective
      obstinately or unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion, or faction, in particular prejudiced against or antagonistic toward a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular group.

      Delete
    37. non se·qui·tur
      /ˌnän ˈsekwədər/

      a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.
      "his weird mixed metaphors and non sequiturs"

      Delete
  4. R' Slifkin - When you talk about blessing a table in Birkat HaMazon, are you referring to in the HaRachamans? Because we actually ask for the table to be blessed - we ask G-d to send US blessings "in this house and on this table". The blessing is on us, not some inanimate object.

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  5. This practice is like of the "selling of indulgences" in Catholicism.

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    1. Precisely. And the fact that many people would find that comparison offensive and, indeed, kefirah, is typical—it's a mental sleight-of-hand in which goyim who believe in astrology, or performing little rituals to ward off the Evil Eye, etc. are superstitious fools… but medieval Jewish sources "know how these things really work", and so on.

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  6. According to Rabbi Ribner there may be halachic precedent for this kind of thing
    https://rebgershonribner.com/illustrations-of-tzaddikim-being-sneaky-and-devious

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    Replies
    1. Rabbi Miller says that the truth is the will of Hashem. When Yakov Avinu deceived Esav, it was the epitomy of the truth because Hashem wouldn't have wanted the blessings to go to Esav. I never understood this logic, but this is what he says and it seems to be widely practised and accepted. ספר בראשית נקרא ספר הישר so he must be right. קטונתי מלהבין.

      Delete
    2. Woah, quite astounding! If RDS hears it, it will provide him with enough material for a month's worth of posts!

      Delete
    3. I heard recently "reality" is a better translation of "emes" than "truth."

      This makes sense both because of the story of Yaakov and the brachos, as well as Hashem "bending" the truth in relating Sarah's thoughts and laughter about Avraham.

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    4. Yakov, how did stealing the brachot work out?

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    5. @Nacum

      I'm a poshuter yid, like I'd said.

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    6. Yakov: it doesn't make any sense. Do you have Rabbi Miller's quote?

      Delete
  7. In fairness, giving tzedaka *is* one of the things to do. Just not alone, and it's not magic.

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  8. “Certainly they will remove from him any unfavorable decrees and he will come out meritorious in judgment." See, you can engage in white collar crime or worse, but don’t worry. For 355 you can walk free. great news for the criminals amongst us, ACJA

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  9. Let’s call it what it is: Fraudulent Manipulation.

    Then again, I am beginning to think that description applies to all organised religion.

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    1. It applies to any human organization.

      Delete
  10. We are too indulgent. Martin Luther where are you?

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    Replies
    1. I've always wondered what would happen if some enterprising soul nailed a copy of the 95 theses to the door of the Kupat Hair offices.

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    2. If you've bothered to read them, what would happen would be a melee. Try reading just the first. You're not funny and your desire for schadenfreude overwhelms your ability to think rationally. I suggest you do the deed and find out for yourself what happens.

      Delete
  11. For those hoodwinked by Slick's pseudo-rationalism into anti-superstition (so-called) and anti-religion (not the defanged specimen), I suggest Nassi Taleb's explanation why true rationality does not superficially look like rationality, since "Survival comes first, truth, understanding, and science later". Of course, Taleb's well hated by the ivory-tower types.

    Chaim S.

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  12. "Tzaddikim are greater after their deaths than they were during their lifetimes"

    The problem here is that once you expand the candidate pool to dead people you add an awful lot of competition from people like R' Chaim Volozhin, R' Chaim Soloveichik, R' Chaim ibn Attar (or hachaim), and R' Chaim Medini (sde chemed), and that's if we limit ourselves to people named Chaim.

    ReplyDelete

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