"Where does it say that you have a contract with G-d to have an easy life?"

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

"Failure is not the enemy of success; it is its prerequisite."

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

30 May 2009

Children, not trees

Rabbi Paysach Krohn wrote an article in jewishworldreview.com entitled, "To Blossom and to Grow", in which he described some children uprooting flowers from a neighbor's yard so that they could present their mother with flowers for Shavuot. After finding out where the children had received their flowers, the mother, with children in tow, went to apologize to the neighbor, Dr. Hurewitz. He accepted their apologies and did not berate them. A few days later, he even helped them plant their own tulip bulbs. Rabbi Krohn met the man some time later. He writes that, "Dr. Hurewitz confided in me that he did what he did because of what his spiritual mentor, Rabbi Jonathan Seidemann, once told him after some other children, years earlier, had ruthlessly cut down small but rare and expensive trees he had planted and nurtured. "Remember," said the rabbi to the-then visibly upset Dr. Hurewitz, "we are growing children, not trees."
How wonderful to plant priorities."
The story reminded me about an incident which my aunt related to me. She had met a woman in Israel who had raised ten marvelous children. She asked her what was the secret to her success. The woman answered that before she would berate one of her children, she would ask herself, "is what the child did today, going to affect his character ten years down the line?" She explained to my aunt that one of her children was playing up on the roof and had knocked down a dud shemesh - a solar water heated tank, causing water to come gushing all over the roof. She was about to rebuke him, but knew, that ten years into the future, this incident would not have affected his character development. So, she kept quiet.
A wise relative told me about a time when her child was playing with a model airplane in the house. She had asked the child to stop, but to no avail. Suddenly, the airplane came flying into her head. She hit the child and raised her hand to strike him a second time. As she was about to hit him, she paused and thought to herself. The first smack was to teach the child a lesson. But the second smack is for me, because I am hurting. Slowly, she let her hand fall to the side.

28 May 2009

Our children are our guarantors

No, I am not Lubavitch, but I couldn't resist this adorable video in honor of Shavuot. Have a good yom tov and may we merit the opportunity to be able to fulfill all the mitzvot.

Eruv Tavshilin

"One is not permitted to prepare foods on Yom Tov for Shabbat (or for any other day). Therefore, if the holiday falls on Friday, one may not prepare for the Shabbat unless an Eruv Tavshilin has been made.It is the function of the Eruv Tavshilin to indicate that the preparation for Shabbat actually began before Yom Tov commenced. Food is set aside before the holiday begins and then eaten on Shabbat (preferably for Seudah Shlishit). The ritual of Eruv Tavshilin is performed on Erev Yom Tov, before Yom Tov begins. Take a matzah (or any baked food) with a cooked food (such as an egg, a piece of chicken, or fish) and set it aside to be eaten on Shabbat. While setting it aside, recite the Bracha:
"Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melach HaOlam, Asher Kidishanu B`Mitzvotov, Vitzivanu, Al Mitzvat Eruv. "
One also recites an Aramaic declaration.
"Bahadayn aruva yehay sharay lanah la'aphoray ulevashoolay uleatemoonay oleadelookay sheragah ulesakana uleme'ebad tzarecanah, miomah tavah leshabesah" which translates as: "With this Eruv, it will be permitted for us to bake, cook, broil, preserve warmth, light candles, and do all necessary things on Yom Tov for Shabbat." The Declaration is also found in the Siddur."

Note, that since Jews in the diaspora celebrate Shavuot on Shabbat, in addition to Friday, the Torah reading on Saturday will be related to Shavuot. However, in Eretz Yisrael, the Torah reading will be the parsha of the week. Rabbi Lazer Brody notes that for six weeks, those outside of Eretz Yisrael will be one week behind the Parsha that is read in Israel.

27 May 2009

If you are Mikabel the Torah

"This week we celebrate Shavuos - the time of Kabalas HaTorah. The Chumash tells us that three months after leaving Metzrayim, Bnei Yisrael reached the desert of Sinai. There they camped before the mountain and began preparing themselves to accept the Torah. On the third day, the Shofar was blown and the nation gathered at the foot of the mountain -- "VaYizvu B’Tachtis HaHar."
The Gemara in Shabbos (Daf Pay Ches) teaches "V’Kafah Hakadosh Baruch Hu Alayhem Har Kigigis," Hashem held the mountain over them like a barrel. And He said to them "Im Atem Mikablim HaTorah Mutav," if you are Mikabel the Torah, all will be good. "V’Im Lav, Sham Tihay Kevuraschem," and if not, there will be your graves. This is pshat - the plain meaning of the words.
But there is a question to be asked - why does it say "Sham Tihay Kevuraschem" - there will be your graves? It should have said "Po" here would be your graves.
If we read the words just a little bit differently then it all makes sense. "Im Atem Mikablim HaTorah" - if you are Mikabel the Torah, "Mutav" - then things will be good for you. You will have good health, success, and a good life. "V'Im Lav" - and if things are not good for you - "Sham Tihay Kevuraschem" - there is your grave - in the Kabbalah.
Hashem promises us that if we are Mikabel the Torah, things will go well for us, but if things are not going well - then we need to understand that the problem lies in our Kabbalah.
Rashi tells us that as Klal Yisrael gathered at the base of Har Sinai they were "K'eesh Achad B'Lev Achad" - like one man with one heart. We also learned (see Divrei Mordechai for Rosh Chodesh Sivan) that this gathering was as important as Kabalas HaTorah. The word Achad is gematria Ahava, the Hebrew word for love. The truest form of Kabbalah is one that comes through Ahavas Hashem. May we all be Zocheh to share in this truest form of Kabbalah and "K'eesh Achad B'Lev Achad" go out to greet Melech Hamashiach B'Karov - speedily in our time."
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper, provided that this notice is included intact.

What has happened to Hakaras Hatov (gratitude)?

Hamodia published a letter to the editor the other week entitled, "What has happened to Hakaras Hatov (gratitude)?" The writer describes how she celebrated her daughter's wedding a little while ago and how members of the community had ensured a smooth running of the day. After the wedding, she sent thank you notes to those people who had helped out. She bumped into one of the people to whom she had sent a note and he told her that, although he had helped out at many weddings, this was only the second time he had been thanked after the event.

A number of years ago, four former students gave me the best present ever. One of the girls has a father who owns a store. One of the items that he sells is picture frames in which you can print your own message. The girls composed a poem entitled "Thank You!"

Two years together have come to an end
Two years of teaching with a helping hand
Two years to remember to look back and to say
Mrs. ___ has taught me English
She has helped me till today!
With warmest wishes and fond regards

As my eyes have wandered to the picture frame, over and over, I am struck with a warm feeling and I smile, in gratitude of my students' expressions of hakaras hatov.

A number of years ago, Time magazine published an article entitled, "The New Science of Happiness". The article featured "Eight steps toward a more satisfying life". Step number one was:
1. Count your blessings. One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful—from the mundane (your peonies are in bloom) to the magnificent (a child’s first steps). Do this once a week, say, on Sunday night. Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.
Step number four was:
4. Thank a mentor. If there’s someone whom you owe a debt of gratitude for guiding you at one of life’s crossroads, don’t wait to express your appreciation—in detail and, if possible, in person.

Without reading the article, my students had completed step number four. To read full article, click here.

26 May 2009

Rally promotes idea of Sabbath

By Matthew Hay Brown for Baltimore Sun
"For Yoel Benyowitz, setting aside work at sundown on Friday, lighting the shabbos candles and spending the next 24 hours in prayer and fellowship with family and friends "recharges our batteries, both physically and spiritually."It's an experience that he wishes more Jews enjoyed. The 47-year-old father of four, a computer information specialist with the state Department of Transportation, joined thousands of fellow Orthodox Jews in Park Heights on Sunday for a rally to promote observance of the Jewish Sabbath.
The event, the first of its kind in a dozen years, came as local Jewish leaders consider a plan to open a community center in Owings Mills on Saturdays."
To read full article, click here.
To read article entitled "Reflections on the Shabbos rally" by Yaakov Menken, click here.
There are many interesting videos of the May 19th rally to promote Sabbath observance.
Rabbi Moshe Hauer spoke eloquently about the unity of the Jewish people.

Letter from Jerusalem 1969

"One day after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu vowed never to divide Jerusalem, and pledged to keep the capital united under Israeli sovereignty, the French harshly condemned the comments, insisting instead that Jerusalem be a capital shared by the Palestinians and Israel.
"The declaration which the Israeli prime minister issued yesterday derives from prejudice regarding the final status agreement," Foreign Ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said on Friday.
"In the eyes of France, Jerusalem needs to turn into a capital for two states," he continued, emphasizing that French President Nicholas Sarkozy made the same point last year."

click on www.aish.com for interesting videos and articles.

25 May 2009

Staying awake on Shavuos night

We celebrate Shavuot to commemorate the day when G-d gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai. By studying all night, we show our love and enthusiasm for this precious gift.
Another reason for staying up all night is that the Jews at Mount Sinai overslept on that historic Shavuot morning. We rectify this by staying up all night, to ensure that we won't sleep late on this day.
Staying up all night is not a halacha, but rather a custom for those who feel they are physically up to it.
The following video raises some interesting questions for those who stay up all night.

Cell phones and a pleasant demeanor

I saw you walking towards me the other day, and I was ready to greet you with a big smile and a warm hello. Then, I noticed that you were talking on your cell phone. And so, instead of a cheerful greeting, we settled for awkward waves.
During the summer months, we study Ethics of the Fathers every week. One of the enjoinders in Ethics of the Fathers is "Hevei mekabel et kol ha-adam be-sever panim yafot: greet each person with a pleasant demeanor."
Avot d’Rabbi N. (33:4) teaches: “If a person gives his friend all the gifts in the world with a sour face, he has given him nothing. But one who receives his friend with a cheerful face, even if he has given him nothing else, has given him the greatest gift in the world.”
That same evening, I listened to Rabbi Wallerstein on torahanytime.com speaking about the use of cell phones. He described how people approached bank tellers and cashiers, gesturing to them, while talking on their cell phones and treating them with a total lack of respect.
The following day, I went to the supermarket. The cashier opened a new register and I was the first on line. Seeing that there was no one behind me, I started talking to her. I introduced myself and learned that her name was Tanya. She had been an owner of a Chinese restaurant for 20 years before beginning her stint as a cashier.
The next time Tanya sees me, I hope she will recall me with warmth, as the person who initiated a conversation with her, and not the one who treated her with total disregard as she was too busy talking on her cell phone.

24 May 2009

The image of Rachel Imeinu

I just listened to an interview in Hebrew of a soldier who fought in Gaza and said that the image of Rachel Imeinu saved him and a number of other soldiers from death. He reported that they were about to enter a house, when an image appeared before him and told him not to enter the house because there was death inside. When he asked her who she was, she responded by saying she was Rachel Imeinu. The soldiers discovered threads and munitions and realized the house had been boobytrapped.
Subsequently, the soldier told his story to some Rabbis who said that he had merited to see the Gilui Hashchina - a revelation from G-d and that he should publicize his story.
You can download the audio in Hebrew.

Public Asked to Write to Pollard

The IsraelNationalNews website published an article by Hillel Fendel about writing a letter to Jonathan Pollard.

"With the relationship between the new governments of Israel and the U.S. still not on a stable footing, and in the face of issues that divide rather than unite them, activists for long-time prisoner Jonathan Pollard ask both the government and citizenry of Israel not to forget him."
...“with Pollard’s health constantly worsening, it is critical that the public show him support. Letters, even short ones, are a real boost for him, and can help him get over this next difficult period.”
..."Letters, which must be written in English and to which Pollard cannot reply, can be addressed to:
Jonathan Pollard
P.O.Box 1000
Butner, NC U.S.A.
Zion, Will You Not Cry Out?
Pollard himself has written in the past, “As the medieval Jewish poet Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi has written, ‘Zion, will you not cry out for your prisoners?’ If Zion does not do so, this is not the problem of the prisoners – but rather of the entire nation dwelling in Zion!”

For more information, click here for the officially authorized website.

23 May 2009

Know G-d

"Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon the Rambam or Maimonides, was one of the first codifiers of Jewish law. His fourteen volume Mishneh Torah ("The Yad Hachazakah") covers all of Jewish law, belief and practice. He divides the 613 Mitzvot (commandments) into 14 books, with 83 sections."

The first mitzvah that the Rambam listed was:
1. Know there is G-d

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him, “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing – in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”
“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God. “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”
“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”
So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man. “No, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”

Click on the video link below to listen to Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt"l as he explains the first mitzvah, "Know G-d."

22 May 2009

The sound of potential

I came across this video the other day. Worthwhile watching to see the lengths a father will go to for his son and to appreciate the gift of sight.

"Pokeach Ivrim is a blessing which gives thanks to Hashem for giving us our eyesight. Rav Shimshon Pincus emphasizes that when we recite this "brachah", we should concentrate on the specific aspects and particular advantages of being blessed with the ability to see. Seeing is living! One who lives in darkness does not experience the beauty of life. We do not realize the many gifts that are accorded us until they are taken away. If one wants to experience the value of each breath, he only has to place his head under water for a few moments. The same idea applies to eyesight. Seeing is believing. Witnesses testify based upon what they saw - not what they heard. What one sees becomes ingrained perpetually in his mind. This occurs every day of our lives. When we say Pokeach ivrim, we should stop and think about this wonderful gift. Perhaps we should close our eyes for a moment and think about how it would feel if this gift had not been given to us."

21 May 2009

Love and respect

A number of days ago, I heard a rabbi talk about the difference between love and respect. A husband has to give honor to his wife yoter megufo - more than himself and to go beyond his self-serving motivations. He told the audience about the class he attended before he got married. The lecturer spoke about a commonplace occurrence in marriage. The wife brings home two dresses and she asks her husband which one he likes best. The man responds by saying, "whichever one you like." Or the wife might ask which of two menus he would prefer for supper. Again, the man will respond by saying, "whichever one you prefer." Love is when you think inside your own ego. To you, it makes no difference and your response to your wife is framed within your own thinking. Respect, however, is to go beyond one's ego and to place yourself in your wife's shoes. Obviously, she is asking the question because she would appreciate a definitive answer. To respect her would be to give her an answer to her dilemma.
Another example he spoke about was when a man came to him and said, "I don't feel comfortable buying flowers because I think it is a waste of money. If I buy my wife a dress, or an electrical appliance, I know that I am making an investment that will last for months, or even years. But flowers wither within days."
The man was counseled to step outside his way of thinking and to buy the flowers because his wife would appreciate the gesture.

Jerusalem undivided

In a ceremony to mark Jerusalem day Prime Minister Netanyahu had the following to say.
"United Jerusalem is Israel's capital. Jerusalem was always ours and will always be ours. It will never again be partitioned and divided," Netanyahu said at a state ceremony to mark Jerusalem Day.

"Only under Israeli sovereignty will united Jerusalem ensure the freedom of religion and freedom of access for the three religions to the holy places," Netanyahu added.
Additionally, President Shimon Peres added his own comment.

"When Jerusalem was in non-Jewish hands, the Jews weren't allowed to pray at the holy sites; but under Jewish control, it is open to all faiths, and all prayers," he said.

O Jerusalem

Throughout the centuries, Jews all over the world have turned towards the city of Jerusalem when praying. Jerusalem Day, the day which commemorates the re-unification of Jerusalem in 1967, begins at sundown on Thursday, 21 May 2009 (28th of Iyar, 5769).

Israel Harel writes in Haaretz in an article entitled, "Obama is dividing Jerusalem", "Today, Jerusalem Day, a state ceremony will be held marking 42 years since the liberation of Israel's capital. In his speech, Netanyahu can somewhat cool down Obama's messianic fervor and (politely) make clear to whom - exclusively - Jerusalem belongs. He can pledge that after the Paratroopers liberated the city in 1967, no foreign power will ever again pass through its gates."

Psalms:137:5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
Psalms:137:6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my highest joy.

At a Jewish wedding ceremony, a glass is placed on the floor and the groom shatters it with his foot. This act is an expression of sadness at the destruction of the Temple. Even at the moment of greatest rejoicing, the couple is mindful of the Psalmist's injunction to "set Jerusalem above my highest joy."

"Im eshkachech Yerushalaim tishkach yemini, tidabek l'shoni lechiki im lo ezkerechi. Im lo e'eleh Yerushalaim al rosh simchati."

20 May 2009

Not a road to G-d

As more New York schools are closed in an effort to contain swine flu, it would behoove us to heed the words from a comment posted on theyeshivaworld website.
"Hashem’s messages are coming fast and furious, yet we sit here frozen in our goldena medina –with our golus mentality."

Below is a video about swine flu from aish.com.

19 May 2009

Prayer on behalf of your children

Just a reminder that Sunday, May 24th, is Rosh Chodesh Sivan. It is customary to recite the prayer composed by the SheLah Hakadosh for parents to say on behalf of their offspring on Erev Rosh Chodesh. The SheLah Hakadosh said the optimal time for parents to recite this prayer is Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan for that is the month when Hashem gave us the Torah, and when the Jewish people began to be called His children.
Rabbi Eli Mansour writes in http://www.dailyhalacha.com/, "But in those years that Rosh Chodesh Sivan falls out on a Sunday, and Erev Rosh Chodesh falls out on Shabbat, we would then say the Tefilah on Friday, the day before Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. We have a rule that says, that the day before Rosh Chodesh is called Yom Kippur Katan. It’s like a miniature Yom Kippur. People have a custom to fast that day every month. People have the custom to say Tehillim. It’s a day of Teshuva. But when Rosh Chodesh comes out on Sunday, obviously you don’t fast and you don’t make all these Tikunim on Shabbat, so it’s usually pushed off to the Friday or even the Thursday beforehand. Therefore, we do not read this Tefilah on Shabbat, hence we read it before Shabbat."
I spoke to my Rav, who advised me to say the prayer on Thursday, May 21st.
Click here to access the tefila in Hebrew. Click here to access the tefila in English.
For a brief biography of the SheLah Hakadosh, click here.

Ornah's farewell

Recently, I came across a heartrending letter from a mother, diagnosed with a malignant growth, to her one year old son. Her story, as well as her letter, is an inspiration to all of us to rise higher in our service to G-d. Below is the letter, which I am posting, with permission, from Arachim, an organization dedicated to renewing Jewish values. To find out more about this outreach organization, click on the following link.

To read the story of Ornah's farewell, click here.

“Mark-Mordechai, my precious and beloved son!
“Every day of my life I thanked HaKadosh Baruch Hu for giving you to me. Such a wonderful present – my own son, a part of my soul and essence. Mark, I loved you with all my heart. I dreamed about how I would raise you, teach you and guide you, and more than anything – love you. But HaKadosh Baruch Hu wanted otherwise.
“Let me tell you what I always wanted for you. I wanted to raise you to be a talmid chacham who fears Heaven, with refined character and derech eretz. My son, you are the most precious thing that I leave behind on earth.
“I want you to be a sefer Torah. My dearest, you were born for Torah and I did what I could to provide the conditions that will allow you to grow up to be a sefer Torah. Once you are on your way, I don’t want anything to hinder you, so I have made provisions so you will have support and backing. With Heaven’s help, you will become a beautiful rose in HaShem’s garden.
“You have a father, two grandfathers and uncles, including Uncle Ilan, who loves you as his own son. They will guide you and take care of your needs. The greatest Father of all is HaShem – Father, Guide and Aid to all orphans. He will protect you and accompany you all of your days.
“When I get to shamayim, I will continue to pray for you, that HaKadosh Baruch Hu protect you from harm, light up your path, guide you in the proper direction, and provide you with all of your needs.
“Never forget, my son, the Torah and the mitzvos are our purpose for being on earth. The days of our lives are limited and we may not waste them. Every day you must try to climb higher spiritually, for the ultimate goal is not this world but the next. The more mitzvos that you do and the more Torah you learn, the closer you will come to that goal. I so much wanted to raise you, help you and guide you, but HaKadosh Baruch Hu wanted something else. There is no doubt that His Will is correct and this is what is best, for He is pure goodness, merciful and gracious, slow to anger and great to do chessed.’
“My son, it is impossible for me to describe how difficult it is for me to leave you, but I want you to know that all the while that I was ill, and now, too, I tried with all my heart to feel and believe that everything is from Heaven. Everything is for the best, even this agonizing parting from you. “I hope that you, your father and the whole family will grow together spiritually and reach the highest levels of the Torah, each of you helping the other, so that all of you constantly progress and succeed.”

The letter was read by her husband at her funeral.

Every good deed is a flame

I have just returned from a video presentation about tsnius, (modesty) and heard the sister of one of the bochrim imprisoned in Japan who read a letter from her brother. He requested that women should take upon themselves to strengthen their commitment to tsnius. Mrs. Blau, the sister of Yossi, described in heartrending detail, how the bochrim strive to keep mitzvot in their prison cells. On Rosh, Hashana, she related, one of the bochrim used his mouth to blow the sounds of the shofar (tekia, shevarim and teruah). On Chanukah, her brother drew a menorah, and each day, he drew another candle on his drawing. Mrs. Blau suggested that we, too, can contribute by doing a good deed. Every good deed is a spark, a flame.
Before the sentencing of the youngest boy, the women in my neighborhood gathered to recite tehilim on their behalf. A special prayer was handed out and we were instructed to recite the prayer daily. Please pray for these bochrim, as the trials of the two older ones draw near. Let's try to take upon ourselves to perform a good deed, in their merit and let us hope for a positive outcome. Thankfully, we are not in prison and mitzvot are easily available to us.
The Jpost published an article by Mel Bezalel about a reality tv show where two troubled teens went to live with a religious family in Israel for one week. Both the teens faced adaptation to a strict dress code. The following is what Gemma, a sixteen year old from Hampshire, had to say. "When they explained the reason behind it, I understood it more and wanted to give it a go," she said. "When I go back to England, I'm going to dress a lot more modestly."
To access full article, click here.
Let's give it a go, as well.

יהי רצון מלפניך אבינו שבשמים אב הרחמים והחסדים שתתמלא ברחמים ובחסדים על יואל זאב בן מירל ריסא חוה יעקב יוסף בן רייזל יוסף בן איטא רבקה ותבטל מעליהם כל מיני גזרות קשות ורעות ותקרע רוע גזר דינם לטובה וימצאו חן ושכל טוב לפניך ותתן חינם בעיני כל אדם. אבינו שבשמים אב הרחמים והחסדים מאוצר מתנת חינם תחוננו ותעננו ותעשה ברחמיך הרבים שלא יחושו צער וכאב ותשגיח עליהם ברחמיך הרבים ותמתיק הדין מעליהם, וכשם שריחמת על יוסף הצדיק והוצאת אותו מבית האסורים, כך תוציא אותם מבית האסורים. מלפניך מלכנו ריקם אל תשיבנו חננו ועננו, ושמע תפילתנו כי מלך חנון ורחום אתה

18 May 2009

Just say NO

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
Shalom Uveracha. I wish you the utmost success on your trip to America to meet with President Obama. Before speaking to him, I would advise you to read the following article by Yoel Meltzer.

"With the American leadership intensifying its demand that Israel accept the "two-state solution", the slogan "just say no" - used by former first lady Nancy Reagan as part of the 1980s campaign against adolescent drug abuse - keeps popping into my head. Although perhaps overly simplistic, many argue that her words went a long way in raising awareness of the problem. At this time, our present leadership would do well to adopt the same slogan.After removing our soldiers from Lebanon, missiles eventually fell in Haifa.
Thus, the next time the Americans demand that Israel accept the two-state solution, just say "no". Don't ignore their demands, don't try to evade answering them and don't state conditions for eventually accepting their demands; rather, just say "no".
Kindly explain to them that, although we understand the difficulties America is currently facing, as well as its need to appease various leaders in our region as a prelude to dealing with its own problems, nonetheless a two-state solution is not in Israel's best interest."
To read full article, click here.
I would also advise you to read the op-ed piece in the New York Times by Jeffrey Goldberg who writes about your father, among other things.
"The elder Netanyahu also argued that efforts by the Jews of Spain to accommodate their adversaries were futile, in part because the charges against them were devoid of logic or fact, and, perhaps most important, because the written or spoken expression of Jew hatred (his preferred term for anti-Semitism) inevitably led to physical persecution. “What emerges from our survey,” he wrote, “is that the Spanish Inquisition was by no means the result of a fortuitous concourse of circumstances and events. It was the product of a movement that called for its creation and labored for decades to bring it about.”A close reading of Benzion Netanyahu suggests a belief that anti-Semitism is a sui generis hatred, one that is shape-shifting, impervious to logic and eternal. The only rational response to such sentiment, in the Netanyahu view, is militant Jewish self-defense. "
To read full article, click here.
I would also advise you to read the following words.
"Chabad Chassidim, primarily from NYC, will on Monday travel to Washington, DC to protest outside the White House against any efforts to establish a Palestinian State in Eretz Yisrael. The late Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L was an ardent advocate of Eretz Yisrael HaSheleima (Greater Israel), opposing even discussion of land compromise with foreign nations."
To read full article, click here.

To complain is ingratitude

The phone rang twice before it was picked up.
"How are you?" I began the conversation.
"No complaints", he answered and went on to elucidate, "A wise man once told me to complain is ingratitude."
"To complain is ingratitude. To complain is ingratitude." I let the phrase roll over my tongue a few times, allowing the words to seep into my consciousness.
In the future, I am going to make a concerted effort to be an optimist and to stop complaining.
The Jewish optimist
A group of elderly, retired men gather each morning at a café in Tel Aviv. They drink their coffee and sit for hours discussing the world situation. Given the state of the world, problems with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear threat -- their talks are usually depressing. One day, one of the men startles the others by announcing, "You know what? I am an optimist." The others are shocked, but then one of them notices something fishy.
"Wait a minute! If you're an optimist, why do you look so worried?"
"You think it's easy being an optimist?!"

15 May 2009

A different concept of freedom

The following is an excerpt from the daily halacha by Rabbi Eli Mansour. To register to receive the daily halacha via email, click here.

"In the beginning of the Parashat Behar, we read of the Misva of "Yobel," the jubilee year. Every fifty years during the times of the Bet Hamikdash, a number of special laws took effect. Agricultural activity was forbidden (just like during the year of Shemita), purchased property returned to its original owner, and Jewish servants were released. The Torah sanctioned a system of indentured servitude - "Ebed Ibri" - whereby a person who was poor or could not repay stolen funds could "sell" himself as a servant. On the Yobel year, all servants had to be set free and released from their master's home.

In presenting this law, the Torah writes, "each of you shall return to his family" (25:10). The Torah places particular emphasis on the fact that the newly-freed servant shall "return to his family." Rather than simply stating that he leaves his master, the Torah found it necessary to stress that he must return home, to his wife and children.

This emphasis underscores the fundamental difference between the Torah's concept of "freedom" and the notion of "freedom" that is prevalent is today's society. In the world around us, "freedom" is understood to mean the absence of restraints and limitations, the ability to act as one pleases without restriction. People today think that being "free" means being able to indulge freely and act unrestrained on their instincts and impulses, without being bound to any structure or system.

From the Torah's perspective, however, "freedom" means returning to one's family, to the structured environment and commitments of Jewish family life. A person who is "free" is able to fulfill his obligations to his wife, children and parents as mandated by the Torah. For us, "freedom" means not the ability to do what one wants to do, but rather ability to do what one must do.

The Sages famously commented, "There is no one who is free other than someone who involves himself in Torah." The freedom to act on impulse is not freedom - it is subjugation, being enslaved to one's desires and passions. A person who is truly "free" enjoys the freedom to control his instincts and the lead a life of virtue and sanctity. Rather than being controlled by his evil inclination, he has he power to rise above his impulses and follow the path of Torah and Misvot."

14 May 2009

Losing your merits

Currently, I am learning hilchos shemirat halashon, according to the daily calendar set by Harav Yehudah Segal zt"l. The Manchester Rosh Yeshiva said, "There is no family that has taken on the daily learning of Shmiras Halason that has not seen a yeshua (salvation), whether for health, shidduchim, or children. It always helps in some way".

Today I read the following in Guard your Tongue by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin.
Part 4:4 Losing your merits
"On the day of reckoning many people will find unearned merits inscribed in their ledgers. They will say, "We have not performed these good deeds." They will then be told, "These are the good deeds of people who have spoken against you." Likewise, the people whose merits have been taken away will be told, "You have forfeited your good deeds when you spoke against others." Similarly, some will find offenses in their ledgers that they never committed and will be told, "These are the offenses committed by the people you have spoken against."
So, the next time you want to denigrate someone, remember that you are actually doing him a favor by causing his bad deeds to be written in your account.
The halachos immediately preceding what I learned today deals with what information is allowed to be reported concerning a shidduch. I would advise you to read Chapter 10:4-14 to familiarize yourself with what is allowed and prohibited to be said.

Nowhere does it say that you can tell a person, "The boy definitely doesn't want to live in Israel", when you haven't asked the boy directly. If a person is inquiring about a girl or a boy and you don't know the answer, don't make up one, but, rather, clarify the issue before giving information.

Also, I didn't come across a halacha which says that when you are asked for information, you are allowed to say, "It won't work". Let the boy and girl decide that and don't take it upon yourself to stop a shidduch before it begins.

Let's do our utmost to help singles find their zivugim. Do you have an idea? Suggest it. The worst they can say is, "It won't work."

13 May 2009

Time for a miracle

The previous post contains a video with inspiring quotes. The first quote is from Albert Einstein.

"There are only two ways to live your life.
One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle."

I was reminded of the above quote when I read an article about Farrah Fawcett, a famous American actress who is gravely ill with cancer.

"..Farrah Fawcett, looking gaunt and exhausted, vowed to keep fighting the cancer's that slowly killing her and appealed to higher powers for a "miracle" cure.
"I want to stay alive," a weakened Fawcett said. "So I say to God, because it is after all, in his hands. It is seriously time for a miracle."


In the end, Ms. Fawcett realizes that her life is in G-d's hands. Let's realize this from the onset of our lives. This morning, I said "Modeh Ani" with a greater sense of appreciation. "I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great."

This week, I read an article in which the author stated that the way you say your morning prayers affects your entire day. Since I have read this statement, I find that my morning prayers have been different. I take extra time to say the prayers, and try to recite them with joy and gratitude, hoping those feelings will accompany me throughout the day.

You lose if you stay down

"We are currently observing the period of Sefirat Ha’omer, when we mourn the tragic deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students. We cannot possibly even imagine how a calamity of this magnitude affected Rabbi Akiva, the pain and distress he must have experienced upon seeing all his students perish in such a short period of time. Remarkably, however, as the Talmud relates, Rabbi Akiva responded to this tragedy by moving to a different city and finding a small handful of gifted students to teach. Rather than wallowing in anguish and giving up on the whole enterprise of Torah, he put this dreadful experience behind him and moved on. Rabbi Akiva refused to let this tragedy crush his spirits. If this yeshiva was ravaged by a plague, then he would just go somewhere else and try it again."

The above text is an excerpt from the daily halacha by Rabbi Eli Mansour. To register to receive a daily email, click here.

A friend of mine just told me that her husband had gone to a Lag Baomer gathering in his shul last night and his Rabbi spoke about why we celebrate during a period when so many of Rabbi Akiva's students perished. Where is the simcha? He answered that Lag Baomer is a joyous occasion because we celebrate that Rabbi Akiva didn't give in to despair, but began to rebuild. When tragedy strikes, we don't give up, but start anew.
I came across a video with inspirational messages. One quote especially relates to the message of Lag Baomer.

"You don’t lose if you get knocked down; You lose if you stay down."

You hold the keys

This past Shabbos, I attended a lecture on the Ethics of the Fathers and the speaker related a story about a European rabbi and his student. The rabbi was murdered by the Nazis during the war and the student succeeded in emigrating to Israel. After the war was over, the student inquired as to the whereabouts of the rabbi's family and found out that the rabbi's daughter had married a Gentile and her son was studying at a monastery. Efforts to establish communication with the woman through telephone and mail contacts were rebuffed.
Finally, the former student booked a ticket to Europe and ascertained the woman's whereabouts. He knocked on her door, only to have the door opened and slammed on his face. After persistent knocking, he was able to request a glass of water from the woman and a chair to sit for a few minutes. As he got up to leave, he left her with the following words, "I just want you to know. You hold the keys". Met with a perplexed countenance, the student went on to explain. "You have the keys to defeating A.H. Your father wanted that his grandchildren should grow up in his footsteps and retain their Jewishness, while may his name be erased wanted to wipe out the Jews. You hold the keys to defeat him."
To make a long story short, the grandchild of the rabbi is now living in Israel as an observant Jew. I was reminded of this story when I read the article in the Jerusalem Post this week ago entitled, "Three priests" by Donald Snyder. The journalist describes three priests who were born Jewish, but embraced another faith.
I must say, I admire these men's self-confidence. Because one must have to possess oodles of self-assurance to be able to say, "My father didn't know the truth. My grandfather and the generations preceding him were stupid. My ancestors told me they were Jews. Thus, they accepted the truth of their religion as the only one to be followed by people born to the Jewish faith. But, I am smarter than them all and can unequivocally embrace another faith because I am the only one to see the truth."
Furthermore, one must possess great self-confidence to read the words of the Bible exhorting, "...Be fruitful and multiply..." (Genesis 1:28) and to read the words in Deuteronomy 6:7 about the Mitzvah for a father to teach his son Torah: “VeShinantam LeVanecha,” “Teach [Torah] thoroughly to your children” and not heed those words.
"G-d commanded me to bring children into the world and to teach them the Torah, but I am more intelligent. I will remain celibate and cut the branch off of my family tree. I will leave no one to follow in my path, no one to recite Yizkor for me or to do good deeds to elevate my soul, after I am gone from this world."
When the Pope visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, the other day, former Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was on hand to witness the occasion. Rabbi Lau is a survivor of the Buchenwald concentration camp.
To the three subjects of the Jpost article, I say, "You held the keys, just as Rabbi Lau, held the keys. He chose to establish a dynasty of observant Jews, following in their ancestors’ footsteps, and fulfilling their grandparents' dreams. You, as well, held the keys. And you chose to help an evil dictator fulfill his ultimate dream."

12 May 2009

What we are

"Our deeds still travel with us from afar

And what we have been makes us what we are"

George Eliot excerpt from Middlemarch

"Don't mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it; if unfair, keep from irritation; if it is ignorant, smile; if it is justified it is not criticism, learn from it."

Unknown source

Separate slides

First, there was separate swimming, then separate buses, and now there are separate slides (girls-boys)

Proud to be a Yid

Lag Baomer - finally music!!!!!!!

Enjoy the clip. Pity it's so short.

Rabbi Kahaneman and Shema Yisrael

"Some people are hesitant to learn Torah because they can't imagine ever becoming a scholar – so therefore why even get started? But that is faulty thinking. Every drop of Torah study is precious and eternal.
The story is told of Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, who lived in the Lithuanian town of Ponevich. In the 1930s, when the Nazi threat grew grim, he escaped and made his way to Palestine. Arriving on the shores of Tel Aviv, he proudly proclaimed: "I have come here to establish a Yeshiva."
Those who had come to greet the rabbi were perplexed: "Apparently you are not aware," they told him, "that Rommel's troops are now stationed in Egypt, and planning a total invasion of Israel. The Jewish Agency is destroying its records; the rabbis are distributing thousands of burial shrouds throughout the country. Our annihilation is imminent!"
"That will not deter me," replied Rabbi Kahaneman. "Even if I am able to spread Torah learning for only a few days, that in itself would be of eternal significance."
Rabbi Kahaneman built the Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, and named it after his Lithuanian town of "Ponevich." Today it is the largest Yeshiva in Israel with thousands of students."

8 May 2009

My special mitzvah

"I'm happy that I'll be able to go back to giving tzedakah. That's my greatest joy. The happiest days of my life were those in which I gave tzedakah. For me, it's not just the mitzvah of maaser, it's my special mitzvah. I believe my soul came to this world to give tzedakah to Jews."
Yosef Gutnick, Australian businessman quoted in Mishpacha magazine

Rabbi Pesach Lerner wrote an article in the Mishpacha magazine last week about chesed. He began with a story of a man who was extremely involved in communal affairs. His wife urged him to forgo his morning communal activites as she felt he was losing potential profit from his business because he was keeping customers waiting. The man agreed to go to the Chofetz Chaim to ask his advice. He spent Shabbos in Radin and heard the great sage speak during Shalosh Seudos. The Chofetz Chaim asked why the passuk in Mizmor LeDavid states, "Only goodness and kindness should pursue me all the days of my life". The Chofetz Chaim continues, "Why do we pray that we should be pursued? Why not just pray for tranquility?"
The Chofetz Chaim explained: "We are going to be pursued in this world. That is the nature of our existence. We should pray that if we are to be pursued, it should not be by issues of health, jobs or troubles with our families. If we are to be pursued, we pray that it be by the needs of others, by requests for doing good deeds of chesed."
Rabbi Lerner continues with the following advice.
"Hashem has given each of us a skill, a set of experiences, an opportunity to share. In addition to general opportunities to help Bnei Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael, we all have very specific opportunities to assist our shuls and schools, our communities, and various individuals.
Whether our specific expertise is as a plumber, electrician, printer, banker, lawyer, doctor, or another of the myriad professions or skills, if we were to share some of our expertise with community institutions or individuals, we would all gain from it."
Rabbi Lerner's words struck a chord when I read the following post.
"Recording artist Shea Rubenstein has announced his offer to perform free of charge at events held by charities and other nonprofit organizations for the duration of 2009. “Charities face so many obstacles in the current economic turndown, with more people in need, and fewer donations pouring in,” Shea explains. “I want to give back to those who give to many.”
To read full article, click here.
Kol Hakavod to Shea for utilizing his special talents to give to the community. Let's all grab our special mitzvah and use our skills for the good of the klal.

Ambassadors of Torah

The following is taken from an email that I received by Rabbi Eli Mansour.
"In Parashat Emor the Torah presents one of the most important of the 613 Biblical commands - the prohibition against "Hillul Hashem," defaming the Name of God: "You shall not desecrate My holy Name" (22:32). A religious Jew who acts in a discourteous or unseemly manner dishonors God, thereby desecrating His Name.

We currently find ourselves in the period of Sefirat Ha'omer, the weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, when we observe a number of mourning practices. Weddings and celebrations are not held, and we refrain from haircutting and shaving. During these weeks, we mourn the tragic death of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students, who all perished in the brief period between Pesah and Shabuot as a result of a severe illness. These students were outstanding Torah scholars, but, as the Talmud teaches, they did not treat each other respectfully ("She'lo Nahagu Kabod Ze La'ze"). They were punished for this disrespectful behavior, and all 24,000 students died a painful death.

Many have wondered why God visited such a severe punishment upon Rabbi Akiva's students. Certainly, it is understood that the Torah demands respectful treatment of other people, not to mention toward Rabbis and Torah scholars. But where do we find disrespectful behavior toward one's peers as a capital crime, which is punishable by deadly illness?

Two famous rabbis - the Ben Ish Hai (Rabbi Yosef Haim of Baghdad, 1833-1909) and the Hafetz Haim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, 1839-1933) - both answered that in truth, Rabbi Akiva's students were punished for transgressing the sin of Hillul Hashem. The manner in which they spoke to, and treated, one another left people with a very bad impression of the Torah world which they represented. It made them think that Torah tarnishes, rather than enhances, a person's character, and that the Torah encourages unseemly behavior, God forbid. And it was for this defamation of the Torah that Rabbi Akiva's students were punished so severely. Failure to treat others respectfully does not, in itself, render one liable to severe punishment, but Hillul Hashem indeed ranks among the most grievous sins in the Torah, and thus Rabbi Akiva's students were killed.

This terrible tragedy should send a stern warning to all observant Jews today. As one Rabbi put it, all religious Jews today serve as ambassadors of Torah. We are easily identifiable to outsiders, and they reach conclusions about religious Jews based on how we present ourselves. We must exercise extreme care to act and speak politely and with consideration not only because this is what the Torah demands, but also so that we make a favorable impression of Judaism. Even if we do not always realize it, each one of us is an ambassador, and bears the obligation to present the proper image of Torah values.

To register for a daily halacha, click here.

7 May 2009

Where is G-d's perfection?

"Our lives are a sum total of the choices we made."

"If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change."
Wayne Dyer

News snippets from today

1.The following is being reported by Fox news.

"Hawaii's state Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill Wednesday to celebrate "Islam Day" -- over the objections of a few lawmakers who said they didn't want to honor a religion connected to Sept. 11, 2001.....
"I recall radical Islamists around the world cheering the horrors of 9/11. That is the day all civilized people of all religions should remember," said Republican Sen. Fred Hemmings....

......The bill seeks to recognize "the rich religious, scientific, cultural and artistic contributions" that Islam and the Islamic world have made. It does not call for any spending or organized celebration of Islam Day."

Atlas Shrugs asks the question, "but why September 24th? Why not September 11th?"

She further asks, "Jewish day? Christian day? Sikh day? Pagan day? Wicca day?

2.The following is taken from the New York Times article about the opera "Samson" which is currently being shown in Antwerp.

"Red faced, spewing insults and standing nose to nose with the Flanders Opera’s general director, the businessman predicted the production would stir up anti-Semitism, which festers just below the surface here, he said, to which the flustered impresario blurted out that if the situation for Jews were really so precarious here, they should leave."

To read full article, click here.

3.The following is an opinion piece by Yoel Meltzer taken from israelnationalnews.

With the American leadership intensifying its demand that Israel accept the "two-state solution", the slogan "just say no" - used by former first lady Nancy Reagan as part of the 1980s campaign against adolescent drug abuse - keeps popping into my head. Although perhaps overly simplistic, many argue that her words went a long way in raising awareness of the problem. At this time, our present leadership would do well to adopt the same slogan.

Thus, the next time the Americans demand that Israel accept the two-state solution, just say "no".

To read full article, click here.

Guests in this world

In Pirkei Avot (4:10) the verse states, אל תהי דן יחידי . Do not act as a judge alone.
"Matnas Avot renders homiletically, “Do not judge the Unique One (יחידי).” Do not stand in judgment on G-d and the way He runs the world. Lovingly, accept his judgment.
The Chofetz Chaim compared the narrow vision of man regarding Divine Providence to the attitude of a guest at a synagogue. After watching the gabbai assign different people with aliyos(being called to the Torah) he approached the gabbai and asked, “Why do you pick certain people and skip others? Would it not be fairer to go in order, skipping no one?”
The gabbai answered, “Had you been here the last few weeks, you would understand everything. The ones I skipped today had received an aliyah in the last few weeks. Some had a family simcha or the like, and were given the proper privileges. On the other hand, many of the people I honored today have not hadText Colour an aliyah in weeks. You cannot judge because all you know is what you saw this morning.”
Man in this world is like a guest. In his seventy or eighty years here, one never gets to see the whole picture. Hence it is foolish to think that one can fully understand how G-d runs his world. Therefore let one not try to “second-guess” G-d."
Pirkei Avos ArtScroll Mesorah Series pg. 242

A number of months ago, I read a book by someone who had been raised in a religious environment, but had chosen to veer off the path of Orthodox Judaism. I can, in no way, judge him, as he grew up with an abusive father. I do question, though, his complete ingratitude to G-d. When things were going badly in his life, he rallied against the one Above. But, when things went well, there was no sense of thankfulness. As an example, all during his wife's pregnancy, he was afraid that she would miscarry or that the baby would be born abnormally. However, when his wife delivered a healthy baby, the author's reaction was to have a doctor perform a circumcision days before the eighth day when Jewish people are commanded to perform the ceremony.
Last week, I bumped into a woman whose grandchild was going to undergo an operation in the near future because the child was born without fingers. I remember when my first child was born, I asked, "Does he have ten fingers and toes?" I was relieved when I heard an affirmative answer, but did I thank Hashem properly for a healthy baby? If I was remiss, I would like to take the opportunity now, many years later, to thank Hashem for my healthy child.

6 May 2009

Time is more valuable than money

"The man in the street may declare that "time is money", but he is mistaken. Time is far more valuable than money; it is life itself.
Money can be transferred to others; it comes and goes. No one can give even his dearest friend another year to live. And no fortune, no matter how great, can purchase another day or week of life for a dying man. Yet the time we do receive from G-d, is given to us without payment of any kind.
Consequently, it behooves man to be fully aware of the value of time. How easy it is to let the hours and minutes slip through our fingers, to be lost forever! Time is the easiest commodity to waste; we don't even have to get up and go to the garbage can in order to "throw it out." It goes by without any effort on our part, never to return.
Not everyone uses the time allotted him with the same degree of efficiency. Someone who fills his days wisely, will derive pleasure and satisfaction from reviewing the accomplishments of the past. Not so, he who fritters away his days seeking fleeting pleasures of the moment. He finds no gratification in reviewing the "accomplishments" of days gone by, which he whiled away, "killing time." In truth, he destroyed not the time which Heaven allotted him, but himself.
Such a person tends to focus only on the future. He imagines to himself what further "pleasures" he can plan, what new pastimes he can engage in so that the days and weeks will pass by quickly.
When the time comes for man to pass from this world to the next, he takes with him only those days which he utilized for Torah, mitzvos, and good deeds. Time spent pursuing earthly pleasures for their own sake is left behind, lost forever.
When faced with the stark facts of his lifetime record, one who whiled away his days and years is overcome with regret. He might have done so much more, had he only utilized his time more constructively. Those who used their time constructively can look back on his lifetime with satisfaction and contentment.
Once man finds himself in the World of Truth, it is too late to correct his mistakes. We need to be made aware of the value of time here, and now, in this world.
Therefore, the Torah gives us a commandment, a mitzvah, which teaches us the value of time. This mitzvah is Sefiras Ha'Omer, the counting of the days between the first day of Pesach and the holiday of Shavuos, when we stood at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah.
These days are particularly dear to us; we can attain great spiritual treasures by exploiting them to the fullest. Therefore the Torah commanded us to count these days, that we be aware of the great gift they represent – time – and use it to the utmost to achieve accomplishments of permanent value, which will remain ours for eternity.

Shidduchim (older age)

Last night, my friend told me she called up a woman for information about the woman's friend's daughter. The woman told her that she, too, had a daughter, and spoke to her candidly about the shidduch crisis. She said it is a big problem, particularly for girls. She said that her daughter could go for months without anyone calling to suggest a shidduch.
A number of hours later, after speaking to my friend, I found a video of Rabbi Krohn speaking about shidduchim. The video image is not the best quality, but the audio message comes across loud and strong.

I saw an advertisement for a singles weekend and I would like to pass along the information.
Sasson V’Simcha is organizing a weekend from:
May 22-May 24 in Ontario
for ages 25-37
email: sassontoronto@rogers.com
6 singles met their matches in weekend 2008
Sponsored by
National Council of Young Israel
Orthodox Union

A singles weekend is being organized in Belgium sponsored by Project SEED of Antwerp:

May 22-May 24

for French speakers

email: seed-belgium@scarlet.be for information

The Vilna Gaon's Overflowing Cups

"In the first pasuk of Emor it says twice to tell the Kohanim, Emor and V'Amarta. Rashi quotes the gemara in Yevamos that says the double language is, "L'Hazhir Gedolim Al HaKetanim", to tell the adults to caution the children. How do Chazal see this from the fact that is says twice to tell them, asks Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro?
He answers that the Dubno Magid once asked the Vilna Gaon what is the most effective way to influence children. The Vilna Gaon answered with a Mashal. He said to take a large cup and surround it with smaller cups. Then pour into the large cup and keep pouring until it spills over the top right into the little cups. To have children absorb the lessons, you must fill yourself with an overdose of whatever traits you want to teach them. They will become filled from the overflow. The Kohanim were implored twice, to give them a double measure of Kedushas Kohen. The reason for this is obviously in order for it to spill over to the children."

I once heard a lecture where the Rabbi related how he had seen a young boy whizzing through the davening. The young boy had finished shemoneh esrei while the Rabbi was still reciting the first few berachos. A few weeks later, the boy's father davened in the shul and the Rabbi was witness to his davening. It was then he understood where the boy had picked up his davening mannerisms. As the saying goes, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

You're upset that your son doesn't pick up a sefer? Has he seen you engrossed in a sefer?

We can't just send our kids off to out-of-town yeshivas and seminaries, hoping they will instill the values in our children that we haven't imparted to them during their formative years. We have to set the example.

5 May 2009

What has been is what will be

Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), which is identified as being written by King Solomon, contains much enduring and wise counsel. The author analyzes the futility of a totally materialistic life and the second to last verse imparts the words, ""The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone."
As I read an article in Haaretz about anti-semitism once again rearing its ugly head in Spain, over 500 years after the expulsion of the Jews during the inquisition, I was reminded of the verse in Kohelet Chapter 1 verse 9. "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun."
A torrent of anti-Semitic epithets met Israel's ambassador to Spain, Rafi Shotz, Saturday evening as he walked home from a Real Madrid-Barcelona soccer match in the Spanish capital. Shotz said the three perpetrators, patrons of a pub, shouted slurs like "Jewish dog" and "dirty Jew" until they were driven off by Spanish police escorting Shotz.
Shotz and his partner Michal chose to walk from Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu Stadium to their nearby home. Three patrons of a pub noticed the ambassador, whom they apparently recognized from having seen him on television.
In a wire report Shotz sent the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem under the heading "Anti-Semitism - a personal testimony," Shotz wrote the perpetrators stood mere meters from him, shouting slurs like "Jewish dog," "dirty Jew" and others "which cannot appear in print."
To read full article click here.

3 May 2009

Financial ups and downs and ups

Mishpacha magazine published an article by Yossi Eituv about Yosef Gutnick, one of the world's wealthiest gold merchants who lost his fortunes over ten years ago and is now seeing a turnaround.
When asked whether he was able to see the hand of G-d through his ups and downs, he related an anecdote about when he wanted to make a deal with a very rich individual a number of years ago, but it didn't work out. Today, the wealthy man is bankrupt while, he, on the other hand, is successful. "Had I hooked up with him, I'd have been dragged down too." He said that sometimes it takes time to see divine providence at work.

The following are a few salient quotes taken from the article.

There's no getting around the fact that the economic situation is frightening. No one knows what the next day will bring. The world is reeling. But there are years of famine and years of plenty. There's a saying of the Tzemach Tzedek:
"Think good and it will be good."
This isn't just a way to boost morale, it's a solution. When a Jew ignores the financial catastrophes around him and casts his problems on Hashem out of complete faith that He'll lavish goodness upon him, then, measure for measure, he breaks through all natural barriers and draws down from Above a special effulgence that bypasses the laws of nature.
To all those friends I reiterate: Don't despair. You have to be happy, 'ki v'simcha teitzeiu,' because that's how you'll get out of tzuris. Things come full circle in the world. Sometimes you have to go through years of famine and sometimes not. Everyone has to strenghthen his faith and trust and to know that He who gives bread to all flesh is the One Who gives and will give. He's the one responsible for our livelihood.

When you ask me what to say to someone who has lost all his money, I ask you what to say to a Jew who has lost all his children. Now there's a person who's really being tested.

2 May 2009

A mal tiempo, buena cara

I received an email the other day with a link to an animated version of a takeoff on West Side Story with lyrics adapted to themes of the recession. To access the animation, click here.
Reading through the comments, I was particularly inspired by the following one:

"In Spanish we say "A mal tiempo, buena cara" meaning keep a positive attitude when faced with difficult situations."

Whether the words are in Spanish, English, Hebrew or Greek, I hope to remember the message. Keep on smiling. It's good and getting better.

1 May 2009

Listen to another

Isidore met his friend Irving every other week while doing business. "How are you, Irving?" Isidore always asked, "How's the wife and kids?" Irv always grunted back the perfunctory replies. "Fine." "A little under the weather." "My son Jack got a job."
This one-sided interrogation went on for years until one day Isidore exploded. "Irv," he said abruptly. "I don't understand. For six years, I ask you about your wife, your kids, and your business? Not once, mind you, not once did you ever ask me about my wife, my kids, or my business!"
Irv shrugged. "Sorry, Izzie. I was really selfish. So tell me," he continued, "how is your wife? How are your kids? How is your business?"
Izzie let out a sigh of anguish and began to krechts. He put his hand gently on Irv's shoulder, tightened his lips, and shook his head slowly. "Don't ask!" he replied.
Parsha Parables by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky Pg. 122 Feldheim Publishers

For those of you who won't know what a krechts is, I refer you to a previous post where the word is explained in truly comical fashion.
And for the rest of you, stop thinking only about yourselves and take a moment to listen to another's problems. Sometimes, all he needs is a sympathetic ear.

Positive thinking

The Talmud also tells of a time when, shortly after the destruction of the Temple, Rabbi Akiva and his comrades walked near the ruins of the Bet Ha'mikdash and saw a jackal scurrying about at the sacred site. Upon seeing this desecration, Rabbi Akiva's colleagues broke out in tears, but he laughed. He explained that the sight of the Temple's ruins proved the fulfillment of the prophecies of destruction; not one element of these prophecies went unrealized. The fulfillment of those prophecies, Rabbi Akiva said, reinforced his hopes for the fulfillment of the prophecies foreseeing the Temple's restoration. Just as all the prophets' predictions of destruction were fulfilled, similarly, their prophecies of Am Yisrael's return to glory and the rebuilding of the Bet Ha'mikdash will also be realized in full.
This was Rabbi Akiva - a man who could find the "silver lining" in even the most painful situations. When his students died, he seized the opportunity to begin a new institution of learning. When he looked upon the ruins of the Temple, he saw the hope and promise of Am Yisrael's glorious future. It was this outlook and attitude that made Rabbi Akiva the master of "Ve'ahabta Le're'acha Kamocha." An upbeat, optimistic person naturally looks for the positive aspects of those around him. If Rabbi Akiva could find the good side of the Temple ruins, then he could certainly find the good side of other people. What makes it so hard to love other people as we love ourselves is the natural inclination to focus upon one's own fine qualities and upon other people's faults. To overcome this tendency, we need change our overall attitude toward life, and follow Rabbi Akiva's inspiring example of optimism and positive thinking.
A famous story is told of Rabbi Eliezer Silver, a legendary 20th-century sage who served as a rabbi in Cincinnati and worked as a chaplain in the U.S. army. After World War II, he was sent to a displaced persons camp to serve as rabbi. Once, he was distributing siddurim to the people for prayers, and one man angrily refused."I don't want to ever look at or touch a siddur again!" he shouted. He proceeded to explain that in his concentration camp, there was one inmate with a siddur, and he turned it into a "business" of sorts, renting it out for use in exchange for food rations. The man was repulsed by that inmate's cruelty, using his siddur to deprive his fellow, starving Jews of their food, and he claimed he could never look upon a siddur again."Why do you look only at that man?" Rabbi Silver replied. "Why don't you look at those hundreds of hungry Jews who were prepared to sacrifice their food rations for the opportunity to pray?"
This should be our general attitude in life - finding the positive aspects of every situation. This attitude will naturally lead us to look at others, too, in a favorable light, helping us fulfill the timeless dictum of "Ve'ahabta Le're'acha Kamocha."
The above text was part of an email I received from www.dailyhalacha.com written by Rabbi Eli Mansour.

As the sentence was handed down today for the youngest of the bochrim who is imprisoned in Japan, let's practice the above precept of "Ve'ahabta Le're'acha Kamocha." Let's daven for him, as well as the other two bochrim who are in the midst of their hearings. Please pray for Yoel Zev ben Mirel Reesa Chava, Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel and Yosef ben Ita Rivka. Additionally, let's take upon ourselves an extra obligation in their merit.