בס׳ד

"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 Jun 2009

Jewish law to be determined by non-Jews

I always thought Jewish law was determined by leading Jewish rabbis who spent many years immersed in the study of the Torah, Talmud and other holy texts. However, after reading about two court cases in Israel and in London, I am shocked by the absurdity of secular courts encroaching on religious realms and having the audacity to determine what is halachically acceptable. I am quite nervous about these new developments. Will I be able to walk into a restaurant in Israel which is under Rabbinate supervision and be assured that it is kosher according to the highest standards? Or, will the certificate be issued according to a non-Jew's interpretation of Jewish law?
A Haaretz article entitled "Court rules rabbinate can't deny kashrut certificate to Messianic Jew's bakery" by Tomer Zarchin states the following:
"Following a lengthy legal battle, the High Court of Justice on Monday ordered the Ashdod Rabbinate to grant kashrut certification to a local bakery owned by a Messianic Jew.
Justices Eliezer Rivlin, Yoram Danziger and Salim Joubran ruled that both the Ashdod Rabbinate and the Chief Rabbinate Council, which backed its decision, had exceeded the authority granted them by the Kashrut Law when they demanded that the bakery meet special conditions not demanded of other enterprises solely because the owner is a Messianic Jew."
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1096627.html

One of the comments posted by a reader on the VIN website regarding the article is the following:
"There is a story concerning Rav Yehudah Leib Malbim ZT"L. A Jewish butcher in his city joined the Reform temple, and Malbim revoked the kashrus of his butcher store. The Jew went to the Austrian secular court and sued to get his kashrus back. The Austrians ordered the Malbim to return the kashrus approval to the butcher shop and to announce it in his shul. the Malbim said, "As you know, I revoked the kashrus certification from Ploni's butcher store because he openly violates the mitzvos, etc. However His Majesty the Kaiser Franz Josef yorum hodo, holds a different halachic opinion and according to His Majesty's kashrus the Ploni butcher store is kosher and all of you who rely on the Kaiser's halacha can eat from there."
UPDATE: "The Supreme Court granted Konforti's appeal and ordered the Rabbinate to pay her NIS 200,000 in legal fees. The judges wrote in their ruling that: "The Rabbinate's conduct indicates that as far as it is concerned only Jews can receive this much coveted kashrut certificate." They also ordered the Rabbinate to issue Konforti a certificate as long as she adheres to the usual requirements. "

A second article which caught my eye was about a court ruling in England regarding acceptance to a Jewish day school.
"Jewish schools may have to change admissions rules after the Appeal Court held that ethnic tests of Jewishness amount to racial discrimination. A London school, the JFS, rejected a boy whose mother's conversion to Judaism it did not recognise. Faith schools may discriminate on religious grounds but the Court of Appeal held that this involved a test of ethnicity - which is unlawful. The United Synagogue says this will have "a very serious effect". In future schools would need to adopt a test of religious practice and guidance would be issued on this - pending a successful appeal or change in the law. "
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/8118828.stm

All comes from G-d


"Three workers hired to clean a putrid well at a waste transfer station apparently were overcome by toxic fumes, fell down a narrow shaft and died.
....The 3 victims have been identified as 49-year-old Shlomo Dahan, his 23-year-old son, Harel Dahan, both of Brooklyn, and 52-year old Rene Franc.
...The Dahan's are the owners of Dahan Sewer."


One of the comments on the above site pointed out that the Dahan website had the בס"ד on the upper right side.

"Besiyata Dishmaya is an Aramaic phrase, meaning "with the help of Heaven". The acronym Bs"d (Mostly written in Hebew: בס"ד) has become a Jewish term. The three letters appear at the top of every written document (beginnings of correspondences... etc.) as a reminder to the writer and reader that all comes from God, including the following content and to contextualize what's really important in the text, that without God's help we can do nothing of eternal value.
The reason for the common use of the three-letter acronym, בס"ד (Bs"d), is probably because it does not contain the Hebrew letter Hei ('ה), that is used to imply the name of God, and for this reason a page which contains the letters בס"ד (Bs"d), does not require Genizah, a process for writings that contain the name of God, and can be thrown away without a fear of desecration."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Besiyata_Dishmaya

May Hashen bring comfort to the mourners.

29 Jun 2009

Shalom Aleichem

This past week, Hamodia published an excerpt about assertiveness in which the author talked about being the first to greet another person.

"There is one kind of lack of assertiveness that disturbs me, because it is not in keeping with proper middos.
I see people passing each other on Shabbos ... and very few people say "Good Shabbos" unless they see someone they know and then they may stop and have a conversation.
I don't understand this at all. The Talmud says that the great Rabi Yochanan ben Zakai always initiated greeting someone he met in the street, even if that person was not Jewish (Berachos 17a).
... The Talmud teaches, "Receive every person with a pleasant facial expression" (Pirkei Avos 1:16).
... Harav Yisrael of Salant, zt"l, was on his way to shul Erev Yom Kippur and met a person who was preoccupied with the solemnity of the day and in doing teshuva, which caused him to be very down on himself. He passed Rav Yisrael without greeting him, and his facial expression was grim. Rav Yisrael said to him, "Because you are involved in doing teshuva, you take it out on me?"
... The Talmud says that initiating the shalom aleichem greeting is a segulah for longevity."

Another anecdote that illustrates the point of being friendly to one and all is the following story:
"The Makor Baruch once traveled to Switzerland to raise money for the yeshivah which his father, the Seret-Viznitzer, had established in Chaifa. Two Seret-Viznitzer chassidim who lived in Switzerland accompanied him on his fundraising rounds.
One day, they passed one of the largest and well-established banks in Switzerland, and one of the Swiss chassidim decided they would enter the bank. “Come, we will try to allow the Jewish bank manager, Dr. Koshland, the merit of tzeddaka and supporting Torah.” They entered the bank, and the chassid who knew Dr. Koshland introduced the Makor Baruch. “Please meet the son of the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe. He has mosdos in Chaifa and he came to Switzerland to collect money for the yeshivah…”
As soon as the bank manager heard the name of the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe, he excitedly arose from his chair and said, “You want to tell me about the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe?! You want to tell me? I’ll tell you who he was!”
The three men were shocked. How in the world did the bank manager know the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe? The bank manager sat them down and told them his story.
“Years ago, I traveled on vacation to Davos on a skiing trip. One morning in Davos, I went to the small shul to daven Shacharis already dressed in my ski clothes, in order to save time. An elderly man greeted me warmly with ‘Sholom Aleicham’.
“I was surprised by the warm greeting from a total stranger. I said, ‘Kavod Harav, I think you’re mistaken. I don’t recognize you. Maybe the Rav meant to greet someone else?’
“’I didn’t make a mistake!’ the Rav said, who was none other than the Seret-Viznitzer Rebbe who was in Davos recuperating from an illness. ‘I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve never seen you. You must be new here and you deserve a Shalom Aleicham. No?’
Dr. Koshland continued his story. “This greeting impressed me greatly. I thought to myself, ‘When in our generation does an elderly honorable man greet a young man – a total stranger?’ When I returned from my ski outing that day, I saw the Rebbe sitting on a bench. I approached him and inquired about his welfare, and he answered me warmly, as if I was his closest friend. From then on, I maintained a close connection to the Rebbe. I sought his advice often, and from then on I arranged my trips to Davos when I knew the Rebbe would be there as well.”
The two Swiss chassidim were astounded by the bank manager’s story. However, the Makor Baruch was not surprised by the story. He was well aware of his father’s habit to greet all Jews warmly, thereby fulfilling the words of Chazal to be the first to greet each person. One warm greeting to the bank manager had spurred a close relationship with the Rebbe which lasted for decades."

The wedding season is upon us. Next time you are seated at a table and there is someone at the table who doesn't know anyone seated next to him/her, why not initiate a conversation with that person?
And what about cell phones? Maybe, we can walk down the street and instead of talking on the cell phone, we can focus on the poeple passing us and greet them with a hearty hello or shalom aleichem?

Shidduchim info

The other day, I came across a a shidduchim info site. Clicking on the following link, produced a list of segulos and tefilot for shidduchim.
Segulos, Tefilos and Shidduch-themed Divrei Torah

I also came across a video regarding amukah. The person in the video has some sound advice for singles. May those who are looking to get married, merit to find their bashert bekarov.

Finally, here's a video about matchmakers.


28 Jun 2009

Calling off the search

"The Brazilian military said late Friday it is calling off the search for bodies of passengers and crew from the Air France plane that crashed into the Atlantic earlier this month.
It was unlikely that any more bodies would be found, the military said."
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/06/27/air.france.crash.search/index.html
After reading the above report, I couldn't help but think of the article that I read in the Mishpacha magazine about Mrs. Anidjar, wife of one of the victimes of the plane crash.

"A Paris beis din has ruled that a French woman whose husband was on board Air France Flight 447 may not remarry, but has instructed the couple’s son to sit shivah and begin the year-long mourning period for his father.
According to the Paris beis din headed by Rav Yirmiya Menachem Cohen, there is no concrete evidence that Shlomo Anidjar, who is presumed to have been on the doomed aircraft, is dead. This means Mrs. Anidjar is still married, at least until the beis din is able to obtain more information about the crash, and that usually means that family members of the deceased cannot begin sitting shivah.
But apparently the presumption of death in this case is strong enough to rule leniently with regard to the couple’s son...... "

http://www.mishpacha.com/getPdf/1/263/14/0/53

Mayanot (by Rabbi Noson Weisz) Ties That Bind

"If a man marries a woman and lives with her, and it will be that she will not find favor in his eyes, for he found in her a matter of immorality, and he wrote her a bill of divorce and presented it into her hand, and sent her from his house." (Deut. 24:1)
From this verse our rabbis derive the rules of Jewish divorce in the Tractate Gitin of the Babylonian Talmud.
The basic rules are familiar to most people. The husband must write a bill of divorce and hand it to the wife in order for her to be considered single once again in the eyes of the Torah. If his whereabouts are unknown, or if he is mentally incompetent or simply unwilling to hand her the bill of divorce or get, the woman is stuck in the special status called aguna, much publicized in recent times........

"A certain Jew who lived in Warsaw decided to leave his Jewish wife and family and convert to Christianity. On principle, he refused to give his wife a get even in return for ransom. Rabbi Akiva Eiger was in Warsaw attending a rabbinnic conference and the matter was brought to his attention. He arranged a meeting with the recalcitrant husband and pleaded with him to give his wife a get. Upon his refusal, Rabbi Eiger recited the first Mishna in the Tractate Kidushin to the husband; the Mishna states that a Jewish woman returns to single status in one of two ways, through receiving a get, or through the death of her husband. He asked the husband to take his choice. The husband scoffed and left in a huff. He collapsed dead on the stairs leaving the building."

To read full article, click here.

Let us hope that Mr. Anidjar will receive a proper Jewish burial and that his wife will not have an agunah status indefinitely.

Those men who are not giving their wives gets, all I can tell you is to reread the story attributed to Rabbi Akiva Eiger.

Sales in Belgium


The stores in Belgium conduct mega sales twice a year, in July and January. An Antwerp newspaper wrote an article this week about the upcoming sales. This is the picture that the paper published which corresponded to the article. As you can see, two Jewish women are walking past a store which boasts prices in the storefront window of 50 and 70% savings. I thought that there was a subliminal message being portrayed in the photograph, but my husband felt that the picture selected was a random one.
What is your take?
http://www.gva.be/she/shopping/aid843408/zullen-de-solden-dit-jaar-spectaculair-zijn.aspx

Jo Amar - a true pioneer

"World renowned Moroccan singer Jo Amar passed away in New York on Friday at age 79. ..... Amar, who immigrated to Israel in 1956, pioneered the fusion sound of Israeli eastern "mizrachi" music, merging classical Jewish Sephardic and Arabic tunes with Western musical sensibilities.... He was also a highly-regarded cantor. Amar's body will arrive in Israel on Saturday night. His funeral will take place Sunday afternoon at Yad Rambam, the moshav that was his residence in Israel in recent years."
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/167090

The previous post was about a brigade of soldiers who arrived at the kotel to thank G-d for his mercy. Lo and behold, I found a clip of Jo Amar singing at a wedding. The first song in the medley of songs that he performed was about giving thanks to Hashem.
יוֹדוּ לַה’ חַסְדּוֹ וְנִפְלְאוֹתָיו לִבְנֵי אָדָם
"Let them give thanks to Hashem for His mercy, and for His wonders to mankind."
If you look through Tehilim (Psalms) Chapter 107, you will notice that the above verse is repeated four times. The ArtScroll edition of the Psalms (pg. 1303) notes the following:
"The Talmud (Berachos 54b) derives a practical rule of Jewish conduct from this psalm: Four people must offer thanks to G-d - he who traveled over the sea; he who journeyed through the desert; he who was sick and then healed; and he who was jailed and then released. All of these perilous situations are vividly described in this psalm."

27 Jun 2009

It is good to thank G-d-טוב להודות לה

Yesterday, Ladaat net reported that a Golani Brigade arrived at the Kotel to thank Hashem for the miracles that occurred to them during the Gaza war and to pray for continued success in the future. Twenty soldiers in the brigade were wounded during the war, but, thankfully, noone was killed.
http://www.ladaat.net/article.php?do=viewarticle&articleid=5290
It is good to thank G-d-טוב להודות לה

26 Jun 2009

The role of miracles

In a devar Torah about Parshat Korach entitled, "The role of miracles in the process of belief", Rabbi Avi Weiss writes, "I’ve often heard people say, “if only God would reveal Himself miraculously, Jews would believe today much like they did when God performed wonders in Egypt and in the desert.”
But, surprisingly enough, from a Torah perspective, miracles have limited impact. If one claims to be a prophet by virtue of miracles he performs, the Torah states that it is not enough. Miracles do not authenticate one’s prophetic mission. (Deuteronomy 13:2-6)
Our portion expands on this idea. As the earth opened up to swallow those rebelling against Moshe (Moses), the Jews seemed duly impressed. In the words of the Torah, “All Israel that were roundabout fled at the cry of them.” (Numbers 16:34) Surely faith would follow such an impressive feat.
By the next day, however, the impact of the miracle had waned. The Jews complained to Moshe and Aharon (Aaron) saying, “you have killed the people of the Lord.” (Numbers 17:6)
In fact, miracles in the Torah usually do not have lasting effects. Consider the following: Even after the miracles of the ten plagues in Egypt, the Midrash insists that most Jews still refused to leave. Not long after the splitting of the sea, the Jews complained to God that they didn’t have enough to eat and drink. Finally, while revelation is considered by many to be the most powerful intervention of God in the world, in the end, the Jews rejected the Ten Declarations, building the golden calf just forty days later.
.... In the words of Nehama Leibowitz “miracles cannot change men’s minds and hearts. They can always be explained away….Our sidra…teaches that miracles convince only those who can and are prepared to see them. Lack of faith points to a lack of will.”
As has been noted—for the non-believers, miracles won’t help; for believers, miracles are unnecessary."

24 Jun 2009

Shema Yisrael

This morning I watched a video about Roi Klein, an Israeli soldier who died with the words of Shema on his lips.
A few hours later, I received the following email regarding Shema by Rabbi Eli Mansour. To receive a daily halacha email, click here.

There is a widespread custom to cover one's eyes while reciting Shema, something that is not generally done during the recitation of other parts of the prayer service. The source for this practice is a passage in the Gemara (Masechet Berachot) which tells that Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi would often be delivering a Shiur (Torah lecture) when the time for Shema came. At that point, the Gemara relates, Rabbi Yehuda would place his hand over his eyes and recite Shema. He covered his eyes in order to help him concentrate intensely on the words, and not be distracted by his students. The custom thus developed to always cover one's eyes during the recitation of Shema in order to ensure maximum concentration and focus.
...There is an additional reason for covering one's eyes during the recitation of Shema. The Shema recitation serves as an expression of "Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamayim" - our acceptance of God as the sole King and Ruler over the earth. When we look around us and see what transpires in the world, we will observe terrible misfortunes and injustices that could potentially rattle the foundations of our faith. When we see, Heaven forbid, children who take ill and die young, and righteous Sadikim who suffer while the wicked sinners prosper, we might start questioning whether the world can indeed be run by a fair, just Supreme Being. We therefore cover our eyes while reciting Shema to symbolize our decision to look beyond or ignore the unfortunate events that transpire around us. Twice a day, we close our eyes to the world's injustices and, with wholehearted conviction and unshakable belief, proclaim our acceptance of God as Ruler over the world. Even when we see misfortunes and suffering, we nevertheless affirm our belief in the Almighty - no less than we would if we would "close our eyes" and not see these disheartening events.

After watching the video, I resolved to follow the words of a comment posted on aish.com.

"It is inspiring to learn from Roi''s example. Next time I say Shema Yisrael I hope it will be with more intent."

23 Jun 2009

Gilad Shalit - 3rd anniversary in captivity
























"Activists seeking the release of Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit are attempting to block the entrances to the Hamas-controlled Gaza region Tuesday morning. In solidarity, shippers decided to suspend deliveries to Gaza as well. Hundreds of activists from the Im Tirtzu Zionist revival grassroots movement, Shalit family and friends, kibbutz members, national student unions and concerned Israelis from around the country converged on the Erez, Nahal Oz and Kerem Shalom crossings into Gaza in a protest against the continued captivity of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. Captured in 2006, Shalit is being held hostage by Hamas and its allies in an attempt to extort concessions from Israel. This week marks the third anniversary of his abduction. "
...."The protest at the Gaza crossings is the first in a planned series of events this week, marking the third year of Shalit's imprisonment. A large rally, drawing high-profile VIPs such as Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and former Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, is planned for Thursday at the Ministry of Defense."
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/132016
Egyptian sources are saying that abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit will be transferred from the Gaza Strip into Egypt within hours, the Palestinian news agency Maan reported Tuesday. Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June, 2006. Hamas, the rulers of the Gaza Strip, have demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinians prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for the captive soldier's freedom.
Security officials in Israel denied the report, describing it as "unfounded."
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1095057.html

Grow old with me....the best is yet to be

Rabbi Joshua O. Haberman recently celebrated his 90th birthday and he spoke to his congregation about the milestone. He talked about the line in Robert Browning’s poem, “Grow old with me . . . the best is yet to be" and how he had realized that there were six reasons to justify Robert Browning’s positive view of old age.
In a New York Times article by Paula Span, the journalist identified the six reasons.

Tranquility tops his list. “You have achieved in old age what you have wanted to, if you are fortunate,” he said. The important battles have been waged, the decisions made. “You no longer have to do the pushing, the striving, the struggle.”
Next, the cooling of passion. “You don’t rush to quick action,” Rabbi Haberman explained. “You’re more likely to stop and think.” These days he’s hardly indifferent to the world’s problems, he added, but he’s less inclined to think he can solve them, or that they’re soluble at all.
Number three: He’s learned “the art of submission.” Americans are activists by nature, but “more happens to us than we cause to happen,” he has found. “You have to accept the unalterable.”
Moreover, the rabbi confessed, he’s increasingly apt to consider the possibility he’s wrong, a gift of old age (fourth on the list) he labeled “liberation from the compulsion to set everyone else straight.” He has loosened up, he told me, since his more dogmatic youth.
The fifth benefit of growing old, “one of the most important marks of maturity,” is gratitude. “I’m more conscious of the little favors people do... "
Concluding the list: greater involvement with his family..."
http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/22/6-reasons-to-grow-old/
Rabbi Haberman concludes his remarks by stating, "As for death, I reject the term: “Departure.” We are not departing this world, we are not going anywhere. We’re staying in God’s world, and will be forever connected with our Maker. I can’t prove this by rational arguments. It is my leap of faith. In that faith, I recite each night the sentence from Psalm 31:6:
B’yado afkid ruchi, beyt ishan v’a-eera
V’im ruchi geviyyati, Adonai lee, v’lo ira
In God’s hand I entrust my spirit, when asleep and when awake,
My body and spirit, God is with me, I shall not fear."
To read full text of rabbi's speech, click here.

The above stanza is found in the last paragraph of the Adon Olam prayer which is recited at the beginning of the daily morning prayers and at bedtime, before retiring.



22 Jun 2009

A father's blessing

Slovie Jungreis-Wolff penned a letter to her father on aish.com, 13 years after his petirah. She described the scene in the hopital room when her father was alone with her and asked her to bring a chumash to his bedside.
You opened to the portion of Vayechi when Jacob became ill. You asked me to read. I tried but my voice broke as I read. "Read for me, shayfelah," you gently encouraged me.
I read how Jacob called his son Joseph and his grandchildren to his deathbed. He then bestowed his final blessing -- the blessing of the angels...Hamalach HaGoel.
You looked at me for a moment and then you spoke. "I came to this country all alone. I walked through the valley of death. I never thought that I'd see life again. And then God blessed me with new life, with your Ema, with beautiful children. So I knew that I, too, was given the blessings of the angels. I know that I am leaving you soon. What can I possibly give you? What has meaning and value forever?" I began to sob and buried my face in my father's neck. His hot tears mingled with mine.
"I leave you with my blessing, my child, the blessing of the angels. May they accompany you and your children and children's children wherever you may go."



This morning, I read that a father of a chasan was killed in a car crash near Elad last night when he volunteered to drive the bride's siblings to their home after the wedding. The man was in his forties.
As Father's day was celebrated yesterday, let's take a moment's pause, thank G-d for our fathers, appreciate them, honor them, soak up the wisdom they impart and give them a big hug, because we can lose them in the blink of an eye.

Daddy and Mommy - I love you. Thank you for being there, for your words of advice. May you be zocheh to see nachas from your children and grandchildren ad meah veesrim.

21 Jun 2009

The miser and his gold

The following text is from a Reuters' article.
"Shari Arison, Israel's richest woman and the controlling shareholder of the country's second-largest bank, said in a televised interview she receives messages "from above" and sees things before they happen......
"I receive them directly from above," she added, gesturing with her hands.
Arison, who is also known in Israel for her philanthropy, said that two years ago she got a message that there would be an economic crisis and people would go crazy.
But she said she believes the world is moving towards redemption.
"How long it will take isn't clear. Before the big light the great darkness comes, and I think we are in the period of darkness," she said. "
(Reporting by Tova Cohen and Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by Rupert Winchester)

A miser sold all that he had and bought a lump of gold, which he buried in a hole in the ground by the side of an old wall and went to look at daily. One of his workmen observed his frequent visits to the spot and decided to watch his movements. He soon discovered the secret of the hidden treasure, and digging down, came to the lump of gold, and stole it. The Miser, on his next visit, found the hole empty and began to tear his hair and to make loud lamentations. A neighbor, seeing him overcome with grief and learning the cause, said, "Pray do not grieve so; but go and take a stone, and place it in the hole, and fancy that the gold is still lying there. It will do you quite the same service; for when the gold was there, you had it not, as you did not make the slightest use of it."
http://tomsdomain.com/aesop/id50.htm

Recognizing Israel (not)

"A senior Hamas official praised former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on Wednesday, a day after he met with the group, but said he failed to persuade the Islamic rulers of Gaza to accept international demands, including recognizing Israel.
....But Youssef said Hamas turned down Carter's policy requests. "The visit has not led to a significant change. Hamas finds the conditions unacceptable, he said. Recognizing Israel is completely unacceptable." According to Hamas ideology, there is no room for a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East. The militant group has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, killing hundreds. "
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1093692.html
"Meanwhile, Hamas rejected a Red Cross announcement on Thursday that its officials be allowed to visit Shalit, as required by the Geneva Convention. Hamas officials charged that Shalit’s situation is similar to that of Gaza terrorists being held in Israel, although Israel has allowed the Red Cross to visit prisoners. "

"Hamas leaders want peace and they want to have reconciliation not only with their Fatah brothers but also eventually with Israelis to live side by side with two nations both sovereign nations recognized by each other and living in peace……"
Jimmy Carter, speaking on CNN.
Jimmy Carter speaks about reconciliation but I, for one, can't reconcile his words about Hamas with the group's words and actions. Anyone care to explain?
This week marks the grim third year anniversary of Gilad Shalit's kidnapping. Let us pray for his speedy release and have Gilad ben Aviva in mind when we say the beracha of Matir Assurim.

This Sunday evening, Erev Rosh Chodesh Tamuz, an atzeret tefila is planned at the Kotel at 6 P.M. with Rav Eliyahu and other Rabbis scheduled to be in attendance.
Check out two New York Post editorials: Israel Betrayed and The Real Roadblock.

20 Jun 2009

The kids who survived

Yesterday, I received the following email-author unknown.

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1940's, 50's, 60's , 70's and 80's!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads. As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren't overweight. WHY?
Because we were always outside, playing...that ' s why! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.. We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound or CD's, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet and no chat rooms. WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them. Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team.. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
If YOU are one of them? CONGRATULATIONS!
The quote of the month is by Jay Leno:
'With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mudslides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end to another, and with the threat of bird flu and terrorist attacks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?'

I then read an article in the New York Post about fines that will be imposed on people if they don't stand up and give a handicapped person a priority seat, when they are asked to. I couldn't help but think of the above email. The older generation would offer their seat without being asked. Perhaps the youngsters have something to learn from them.
Subway seat hogs who refuse to move for people who are disabled need to get up -- or they'll get fined, the MTA said.
The agency revealed new signs reminding people that there are several "priority" seats in every subway and bus car that healthy straphangers have to give up when asked, or else there are legal ramifications
"Please offer a seat. It's not only polite, it's the law," the posters read, adding that federal law "requires that these seats be made available to people with disabilities upon request."
....Not moving from a seat when asked could result in a $50 fine.

19 Jun 2009

A good eye

Parshat Shelach begins with the sins of the spies who spoke in a denigrating fashion about Eretz Yisrael.
Because the spies gave their negative report on the night of Tisha B'Ab, and the Jewish people cried bitterly, fearing their fate, Hashem decreed that the night of Tisha B'Ab would be observed as a day of mourning for generations since the destructions of the First and Second Temples would occur on that day.
An excerpt from an email I received from http://www.dailyhalacha.com/ by Rabbi Eli Mansour, states the following:
"The Sages also found an allusion to the sin of the Meragelim in Megilat Echa, which we read on Tisha B'Ab. The first four chapters of Echa follow the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet, as the first verse (or group of verses) of each chapter begins with the letter Alef, and the second begins with Bet, and so on. Curiously, however, the letter Peh appears (in chapters 2,3,4) before the letter Ayin, despite the fact that Ayin precedes Peh in the alphabet. The Gemara explains that this deviation from the normal sequence alludes to the sin of the Meragelim. The word "Peh" means "mouth," and the word "Ayin" means "eye." The letter "Peh" is placed before the "Ayin" to indicate that the scouts "spoke with their mouths that which their eyes did not see." Rather than telling Beneh Yisrael what they saw with their eyes, they placed their mouths before their eyes, so-to-speak, speaking about that which their eyes did not see...
The spies sinned, however, by "placing their mouths before their eyes" - by going into Eretz Yisrael with a negative predisposition toward the land.
....The Sages speak of a quality called "Tob Ayin," which literally means, "good eye." It means looking for the positive aspects of every person and every situation, rather than focusing one's attention on the negative. The lesson of the scouts is that two people can see the same event and interpret it in two different ways. Ten of the twelve scouts saw a land that was unconquerable and undesirable. Kaleb and Yehoshua, however, saw a land full of promise. It's all a matter of perception, through which lenses a person chooses to view the situation.
....We must all train ourselves in this skill of seeing the positive, viewing our peers and our lives from an upbeat, optimistic angle. One way of accomplishing this is to make a point of giving a compliment at least once or twice a day, and to greet people cheerfully and wish them well."

Tzaar baalei chayim

The following paragraphs are excerpts from an article by Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen about tzaar baalei chayim(avoiding cruelty to animals).
"Rabbi Yochanan said that the prohibition against tzaar baalei chayim is a Torah prohibition, as it is written, 'For what reason did you strike your she-donkey these three times?' " (Cited in "Nefesh Kol Chai")
Rabbi Yehudah HeChassid, a contemporary of Maimonides, writes that we can learn the following lesson from the story of Balaam and his donkey:
"For every act by which a person needlessly causes pain to his friend, he shall be punished. This applies even if he needlessly causes pain to an animal. For example, if he overloads an animal and then, when it does not move, beats it - in the future he will be called to judgement before the Heavenly court, because inflicting cruelty upon animals is a Torah prohibition. Thus, concerning Balaam it is written, 'For what reason did you strike your she-donkey?' And in response to his having declared, 'If there was a sword in my hand I would kill you right now,' he himself was (later) killed by the sword." (Sefer Chassidim, section 666)
After reading the widely reported incident of President Obama swatting a fly, I went on the PETA website to see if they had published any posts regarding the incident. Sure enough, PETA addressed the incident.
I then checked as to whether any articles had been posted on their website regarding the thwarted terror attack in Gaza using booby trapped horses. I couldn't find any mention of the attack or condemnation of the use of the horses.
I wonder why
A horse is less important than a fly.

17 Jun 2009

If at first you don't succeed

This past week, I bumped into a woman who I hadn't seen in some time. She had lost a lot of weight and she attributed her weight loss to her weekly visits to a nutritionist in the neighborhood.
A number of years ago, she had also lost quite a number of pounds, which crept back on through the ensuing years.
She could have given up after gaining back the weight, and I was amazed at her perseverance as she adhered to the maxim, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."
It reminded me of one of the sentences in the Don't quit poem that I posted a while ago.
"And many a failure turns about
When he might have won had he stuck it out."
By virtue of her losing weight the first time around, albeit with limited long term results, she was able to persevere the second time, knowing full well that the results were achievable.
A few days ago, I heard a speaker relate an anecdote about the U.S. space agency. (Whether the story is true or not, I can't say for sure but there is a lesson to be learned) They spent hundreds of thousand of dollars in trying to develop a pen that could write in space, subject to the laws of gravity. When they met their Russian counterparts some time later, they asked them how they had solved the problem of writing in space. They answered simply, "We used a pencil."
The Americans could have been dejected for not thinking of such a solution. But, instead, they marketed the pens to the American public for a steep price with the enticement that these pens could be used to write in space. The novelty pens were snapped up and the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on research were nothing compared to the profit generated from the ad campaign.

16 Jun 2009

Soul survivors

A little while back, I related a story to a friend of mine that I had read in a magazine. It was about a rabbi who took his students on trips to the concentration camps. One student of his had grown up in a conservative household. At a young age, he began to suffer from nightmares about being sent to the gas chambers. The parents took him to a psychiatrist, but he was at a loss to explain the nightmares, since the boy had had no exposure to holocaust films or stories. He finally came up with the diagnosis that the boy must be a reincarnation.
Years later, the boy went on a trip with a rabbi to the concentration camps. As he walked down the train tracks, he experienced a feeling of déjà vu. He recalled walking down the tracks and being sent to the left, onto the infamous showers where people were gassed to death.
My friend reacted with disbelief to the story. But, perhaps, after watching the video below, which I found on http://www.thecooljew.net/ , he might think otherwise.



Amuka - and the unmarrieds

This Thursay, June 18th, (26 Sivan) is the Yartzeit of the famous Talmudic sage Rabbi Yonathan Ben Uziel .
I received an advertisement for www.rashbi.org, relating to the aforementioned event. I clicked on the site where I saw the following text.

"Rebbe Yonatan ben Uziel passed away on the 26th of Sivan. He promised that those who will visit his burial site in Amuka, especially on his Yahrtzeit, will see their salvation. Health, Shidduchem, Children, Parnasah, Nachas from your children.
Tradition has it that Rabbi Yonosson Ben Uziel gave a blessing to all those who are unmarried that if they visited his resting place they would merit to meet their soulmates and marry within the period of one year. This blessing has worked for all these centuries and countless numbers of people have married their true soulmates by Divine Intervention of their prayers at the Tomb of Yonossan Ben Uziel.
Those seeking a match, have been known to intentionally forget their sidur, prayer book with their details or leave notes with their names, emails and phone numbers to help their future spouse with their task.
Amuka is located in the remote Biria forest near the mystical city of Tzfat. The liveliest day here is without a doubt, 26 Sivan – the day of yahrtzeit of Rebbe Yonatan ben Uziel. (may his zhcut protect us). And if ten years ago, hundreds of people would travel up to Amuka, today thousands of people bombard the gravesite on this day.
The Yahrtzeit of a Tzadik is a special occasion to pray on his burial site. Tzadikem after their death are greater than when they were alive. Kabbalah defines a Tzadik’s yahrtzeit as a time of celebration, as his soul soars higher and his lifetime’s achievements resonate more strongly through the world. Talmudic lore calls wicked people dead while they are still alive, and deems the righteous alive, even after their deaths. Jewish mysticism adds that a Tzadik’s impact on the world increases after his passing."
For those interested in having "Tsidkat Rashbi" help to find your shidduch, please click here.

For those who are asked for information about a prospective girl or boy, it behooves you to follow the advice that I read in a daily email from chofetzchaim.usa.org.
"The Rambam tells us (Hilchos Dei’os) that a person who exaggerates someone’s bad points is guilty of motzi shem ra, slander, a more severe form of loshon hora.
By requiring every one of us to observe these laws, Hashem, in His infinite wisdom, shows us the power of one word. In truth, we see this ourselves in everyday situations. For instance, if someone is asked for information regarding a shidduch (marriage match), there is a world of a difference between saying, “He is a quiet boy,” and saying, “He is a very quiet boy.” With that one word, a significantly different image of the boy is conveyed.
By saying that he is a quiet boy, the speaker characterizes the boy as thoughtful and reflective. But the description “very quiet” gives rise to the possibility that he is perhaps reclusive or dull. That one word, which very possibly is inaccurate, might be cause for this suggested shidduch to be rejected. This is what one word can do."

15 Jun 2009

The Good Wife's Guide

The other day, I received an email from a Good Housekeeping article published in 1955 entitled "The Good Wife's Guide."
The opening words of advice include:

°Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
°Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you"ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work weary people.
°Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
°Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

Click here to view the entire article.
A couple of weeks ago, Mishpacha Family First, published an article about Rivkah Bas Meir Tiktiner, a sixteenth cenury Yiddish authoress and a member of Prague's Jewish community.
The following is an excerpt from her book, Meneket Rivkah: A Manual of Wisdom and Piety for the Jewish Woman.
Chapter Two
This is the next chapter, which will speak of how a woman should relate to her husband, if they want to grow old with each other with respect.

She should not tell him everything that goes wrong in the house - she should excuse him from (involvement) since nothing good comes from a fight; .....(a fight) begins with a quarrel over one little word, and later a big fight grows out of it. That is why the verse says, "Before a dispute flares up, drop it." In Yiddish this means, before the fight begins, give it up. This means that one should quickly cut it off.
Year ago, my grandmother and I visited a Rebbetzin, the wife of a leading Torah personality. She led us into the study. She pointed to the chair at the front of the desk in the center of the room. She told us, "That's the Rav's chair. I never sit in it."
The woman accorded the greatest respect to her husband. Her utmost pleasure derived, not from sitting in a comfortable chair, but rather in helping her husband excel and achieve great heights in Torah learning.
As someone once told me, "Treat your husband like a king, and, by definition, you will be a queen."


A perfect match

The following story was sent to me by email the other day. The friend who sent it wasn't sure where it originated or whether it was genuine, but its message does give us a moment's pause to reflect on the notion that not everything is what it seems to be and that we should judge people favorably.

Mr. Honig, a young man living in a small town, contracted a fatal disease and needed a bone marrow transplant to survive. Complicating the search for a match was his extremely rare blood type of AB. Finally, after an arduous search, an appropriate donor named Mr. Robbins was found and contacted. He agreed wholeheartedly to help save Mr. Honig’s life, and a date was set to meet at the hospital to take care of the preliminary arrangements.
The night before the meeting, the Honigs received a call from the hospital informing them that Mr. Robbins was backing out. Despondent and desperate, Mr. Honig’s father phoned Mr. Robbins to plead with him to have a change of heart. “I’m actually willing to do it,” Mr. Robbins told him, “but my father absolutely forbids me.” The senior Mr. Robbins, however, refused to even speak to the senior Mr. Honig. Finally, with no other choice, Mr. Honig Sr. drove over to the Robbins’ to confront the obstinate man face to face.
“How dare you?!” bellowed Mr. Robbins Sr. the instant he opened the door. “You don’t remember me, but I remember you well. I was in the camp with my son Lulik. My wife and daughters were already dead. You were a rotten kapo. One day, I managed to find a hiding place for my Lulik in the rafters and began planning his escape. The details were falling into place, and two days remained until he’d get out and join the partisans. And then you, you miserable animal, you walked in
late at night with two Nazi guards and told them where my Lulik was hiding. They pulled him down and started leading him away to be shot. I begged for his life to be spared, and you refused, you cold-hearted beast. When I saw it was hopeless, I asked to hug him one last time. You laughed in my face!! I cried, and you laughed. And now you want me to help save your son’s life? Never!! There is a G-d in this world and He’s brought about justice at last.”
Mr. Robbins Sr. collapsed into heart-wrenching sobs. His son firmly told Mr. Honig that he had better leave. “Please let me say one thing,” Mr. Honig pleaded.
“Make it quick,” said Robbins Jr.
Mr. Honig began: “I was forced to be a kapo. I did as much as I could to help those whom I seemed to hurt. Having the Nazis think I was against my brothers allowed me to do what otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. I rescued Lulik from the Nazis and hid him in the forest. By the time I had a chance to return him to you, you had been transferred to another camp. I raised him all these years, and now he’s sick and needs you to save his life!”

14 Jun 2009

We stand as one

Salient quotes from Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech

But let me first say that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel has lasted for more than 3500 years.
But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged.
There are those who say that if the Holocaust had not occurred, the state of Israel would never have been established. But I say that if the state of Israel would have been established earlier, the Holocaust would not have occurred.
Jerusalem must remain the united capital of the Jewish people .
Settlers aren`t enemies of peace, they are our brothers.
With God’s help, we will know no more war. We will know peace.
For me, the most important words of the speech were the words,
"with G-d's help" and "unity among us is essential."
The Second Temple was destroyed because of sinat chinam. With unity among us, and with G-d's help, we will hopefully merit to see the redemption bekarov.


Love is superior

In an article entitled "Same sex marriage suggested by board of Church of Sweden" posted on stockholmnews.com, it was revealed that, "The Central Board of Church of Sweden has decided to propose that the Church Assembly should apply to the state for a continued right transact marriage in accordance to the new marital law. The new law was implemented May 1 and states that couples of same sex shall be given the same right of marriage as others.
The Central Board also suggests that the ecclesiastical constitution should be changed in order to make it possible for couples of same sexes to be married, with among else an alternative wording in the wedding ceremony. For example shall the saying ‘man and wife’ be changed to ‘married spouses’.....
......Arch Bishop Anders Wejryd says that the commandment of love is superior to other commandments and prohibitions in the bible."
http://www.stockholmnews.com/more.aspx?NID=3407
This past Shabbos, we read Ethics of the Fathers Chapter 2. The first mishnah of the chapter contains the words,
"Vehevay zahir bemitzvah kalah kivahamurah…"
"We should treat the minor mitzvot as seriously as the major mitzvot."
Nowhere do I see an addendum to the mishnah that states that love supersedes any of the other mitzvot. Perhaps the archbishop would be so kind as to guide me to the source of his words.

13 Jun 2009

The ant and the grasshopper

"Don't say I will study when I have time, lest you never find the time."
"And if not now, when?"
Ethics of the Fathers
The other day, I was passing by a Jewish old age home with literally seven minutes to spare before an appointment. I went in and proceeded to the dining room where I found my friend's mother. She was sitting in a wheelchair, looking out at the garden. Her eyes lit up when she saw me.
"Do me a favor", she asked of me. "Please close the window, it's getting cold."
I sat down next to her and related a brief synopsis of the news of the day. She related an anecdote to me from years gone by.
I asked her for a beracha for my family which she gave. But she told me to ask her daughter for one because her daughter was a bat kohein and a kohein's berachot are fulfilled.
I excused myself, telling her I had an appointment in a couple of minutes. I told her I would hopefully come back soon.
I left with a good feeling. And, even though the visit was brief, I am sure the woman appreciated a visitor, knowing that someone had taken the time to think of her.
When I had passed the old age home, I had hesitated about going inside, knowing my time is limited. But I told myself, "if not now, when?"

12 Jun 2009

Oseh Shalom

As Prime Minister Netanyahu prepares for a speech to be given this Sunday, and with pressure mounting with calls from around the globe stating that there is no aternative to the two state solution, I would like to propose an alternative - the Pray to G-d solution.
This morning, as I recited the last beracha in the Shemone Esrei, "Sim Shalom - May G-d grant peace, I prayed with extra fervor that Hashem should indeed grant the request of bestowing peace upon us. For, indeed, it is only G-d who can bring a just and everlasting peace to the world. So, let's concentrate on the words of the last blessing in the Amida, and not look at our watches to see if we can still catch the 7:51 train to work. Those who recite the blessing every day, why not recite it with the proper mindset? And those who never recite the blessing, why not pick up a prayer book and beseech Hashem to bring the elusive peace that we so desire?

Oseh shalom bimromav
Hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu
V'al kol Yisrael
V'imru, v'imru amen.
(May he who makes peace in high places, make peace for us and for all Israel, and let us say, amen.)


11 Jun 2009

Top Ten Myths about the Middle East Conflict

In President Obama’s push for Mideast peace, one key unasked question is: Can the Islamic world accept a non-Muslim state in the middle of an Arab-dominated region? If the answer is no, then all negotiated agreements are nothing more than subterfuge.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/06/opinion/l06mideast.html?_r=1&hpw

There's an interesting article on Aish.com entitled "Top Ten Myths about the Middle East Conflict". To access article, click here.

The following quotes from Benny Begin are taken from an article entitled "Likud minister rejects two-state solution on grounds Palestinians refuse to accept Israel as Jewish state."

Begin said he believed the Palestinians' two-stage plan was comprised of "two states on the path to one state – Palestine".

"The reason for the failures is not a lack of willingness to make concessions on the part of Israel," the Likud minister added. "The Palestinians are interested in two stages, not two states."

10 Jun 2009

Help Yourself to Happiness

by Helen Steiner Rice

Everybody, everywhere
seeks happiness, it's true,
But finding it and keeping it
seem difficult to do.
Difficult because we think
that happiness is found
Only in the places where
wealth and fame abound.
And so we go on searching
in palaces of pleasure
Seeking recognition
and monetary treasure,
Unaware that happiness
is just a state of mind
Within the reach of everyone
who takes time to be kind.
For in making others happy
we will be happy, too.
For the happiness you give away
returns to shine on you.
http://www.absolutelypoetry.com/author/helen-steiner-rice/help-yourself.html


Grant our wishes for the good

On the Sabbath preceding Rosh Chodesh, we recite a prayer for the new month. One of the requests we ask of Hashem is for "chayim sheyemalei Hashem mishalot libenu letova". We ask Hashem to grant our wishes for the good. Sometimes, we desire something that would not be to our benefit. Only G-d knows what is best for us.
A new mattress. Wouldn't everyone jump at the opportunity? To throw out the old and bring in the new? However, a new mattress might not always be to our benefit, as evidenced by the following story reported today on Ynet.
"An Israeli woman mistakenly threw out a mattress with $1 million inside, setting off a frantic search through tons of garbage at a number of landfill sites, Israeli media reported Wednesday.
The woman told Army Radio that she bought her elderly mother a new mattress as a surprise on Monday and threw out the old one, only to discover that her mother had hidden her life savings inside. She was identified only as Anat, a resident of Tel Aviv. When she went to look for the mattress it had already been taken by garbage men, she said. Subsequent searches at three different landfill sites turned up nothing."

Any other lessons to be drawn from this anecdote? Feel free to comment.

Searching for Love

I came across the following post the other day which describes what makes a good marriage. The blogger was saddened by two friends announcing that they were getting divorced. The post continued with a description of the relationship between Yitzchak and Rivkah. In Genesis 24:67 the Torah states, "And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah's tent, and took Rebekah, and she became his wife. And he loved her. And Isaac was comforted after his mother's death." The question arises as to why the word love comes after Isaac had married Rebekah. According to Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, there are two kinds of love.
" The first type of love is that which is based on fulfilling one’s emotional or physical needs. That type of love is nothing more than self-love, and is bound to dissipate.
But there is a higher type of love: that which relates to marriage as a mitzvah. A mitzvah is an act that reveals G-d’s presence in the world. Yitzhak and Rivkah wanted their marriage to act as a vessel to achieve this exalted goal. The story records Yitzhak’s love for Rivkah after marriage to teach that their relationship was founded on this higher love, a love of mitzvah, and not self-fulfillment.
A relationship that places God at the center changes the entire dynamic; the couple does not ask, “What have you done for me lately?” but rather, “How can we bring the presence of Hashem into our home?” It is this type of love that the Torah outlines as a foundation for a successful marriage... "
http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Message.aspx/3591
I then came across a post by Linda Cucher entitled, "Words are secret of marital bliss".
"As a rock star once sang, "You can't always get what you want ... but you get what you need."
In His great wisdom, God has put you together with precisely the person you need to be married to......
....So, you hoped and prayed for the Almighty to find you a wonderful bashert to spend the rest of your life with, and He said, "It's your lucky day - here he is/here she is."And so you get married, and it's wonderful and beautiful, and life is good..... After the honeymoon is over, in that inevitable moment of marital angst, how many of us have thought to ourselves, "Who is this person and what am I doing with them?" Now you begin to wonder - has this been some kind of big cosmic mistake?
The answer is no. These are the very first words to know and tell yourself: God manages the world well. There are no accidents. As Albert Einstein once said, "God doesn't play dice with the universe." You are married to exactly the person with whom God wants you to work out His will. This is the partner he has designated for you, with whom you will reach your potential and achieve something much more meaningful together than either of you would individually."
Linda Cucher counsels couples to speak gently and in compassionate tones to one another.
"The wisdom of our tradition teaches that we are each given a certain quota of words in our lifetime, and they are all recorded by the heavens above. What do you want your record to say about how you used words to create kindness, tolerance, forgiveness and compassion in your life? It is my conviction that when we behave with our partner in this way, the blessings follow. The power of words is indeed the way to marital bliss."
So, let's resolve to work on our marriages, to speak kindly to one another and to work to bring the presence of Hashem into our homes. As Rabbi Wallerstein stated, a couple who doesn't have a good relationship with each other, can't have a good relationship with G-d. Because you can't give what you don't have.

9 Jun 2009

Perek Shira - What the frog taught King David

The past few bi-monthly issues of a local community paper carried attests to the benefit of saying Perek Shira. One person wrote that she said 3 cycles of Perek Shira for 40 days and merited to see salvation. Perek Shira is the song that is sung daily by Hashem's creations.
People who are looking for a shidduch are advised by some to recite Perek Shira for 40 days.
Rabbi Lazer Brody has written a series of articles about Perek Shira. In the first article, he writes:
"Rebbe (Yehuda Hanassi) said, "Anyone who engrosses himself in Pereq Shira in this world merits to learn and to teach, to observe and to fulfill and to perform (Torah and mitzvoth), and his learning succeeds, and he is delivered from the Evil Inclination and from all harm, and from castigation of the grave and from the verdict of Gehennom, and from the birth pangs of Moshiach, and enjoys longevity of days, and merits life in the World-to-Come......
........Our sages of blessed memory said that when King David completed the Book of Psalms, he had a feeling of self-satisfaction. He said before The Holy One Blessed Be He, "Is there any creation in Your world that says songs and praises more than I do?"
That same hour, a frog appeared to him, and said to him: "David! Don't be complacent, for I say songs and praises more than you do. Not only that, but three thousand parables are said about every sonnet that I recite, for it is said (Kings I 5:12), "And he spoke three thousand parables and his songs were one-thousand and five." Not only that, but I involve myself in a great mitzvah, and this is the mitzvah that I involve myself with: There's a specie on the beach whose sustenance comes exclusively from (creatures that live) in the water, and when it's hungry, it takes me and eats me. I therefore fulfill the mitzvah of that what is said (Proverbs 25:21-22), "If your adversary is hungry, feed him; if he's thirsty, give him water to drink, for you shall heap hot coals on his head and Hashem shall reward you."
Full article can be accessed here.
In a previous post, I wrote about another segula for a shidduch and asked readers if they would like to particpate in saying Tehilim Perek 13 for 13 days and daven for 13 names on a list. If anyone is interested in adding a name and taking upon themselves to say Tehilim Perek 13 for 13 days, please contact me at devorah@live.co.uk.
May you merit to find a shidduch hagun bekarov. To see a video of a shidduch made through the comments section of a blog, click here.

If a tree falls in a forest

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"
If an attempted terror attack by Palestinian gunmen using explosives, mines and booby trapped horses against the IDF is not condemned by opposition leader Tzipi Livni, but, instead she harshly condemns threats and violence against both police officers in Jerusalem and IDF officers in the West Bank by Haredim and settlers, does that mean that the terror attack was never attempted? (Incidentally, click here to read an interesting article by Caroline Glick about Tzip Livni.)
If animal rights groups such as PETA do not condemn the use of booby trapped horses, but focus, instead, on shechita practices, does that mean militants are free to use animals in such a barbaric fashion?
If Secretary of State Clinton says that settlement expansion is unhelpful, but doesn't utter one grievance against the use of mines and explosives and a planned terror attack at the Gaza crossing, does that mean that such an attack is helpful?
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

The Don't Quit Poem

Shlomo Hamelech tells us in Mishlei Proverbs 24:16: "Ki Sheva Yipol Tzaddik Vekum, Ureshaim Yikashalu Berah.- A Righteous person falls many times and he gets up , and wicked people stumble with evil ."
After Abraham Lincoln lost a senate race he was quoted as saying, "The path was worn and slippery. My foot slipped from under me, knocking the other out of the way, but I recovered and said to myself, 'It's a slip and not a fall'"
Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. He had tried over 2,000 experiments before he got it to work. A young reporter asked him how it felt to fail so many times . He said, "I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2000 -step process."
The above quotes were taken by from an article entitled "Never give up" by Rabbi Shlomo Price. It is a most interesting article which I highly recommend to read in its entirety.




8 Jun 2009

A soul's sole concern

A friend of mine passed away on Erev Shavuos. Last night, her family organized a hesped for her in the synagogue where they prayed. A number of speakers related anecdotes of her life in an eloquent and moving fashion.
Two incidents stood out in my mind.
Rabbi S. spoke about her complete lack of ego with her sole concern being for the other. She was instrumental in establishing a telephone helpline for the community.
Once, a man approached her and he spilled out his troubles, explaining to her that he had no job. She listened to him and commiserated with him, but was unable to find the man a job.
She told Rabbi S. how bad she felt for not being able to help the man.
In an effort to console her, Rabbi S. told her the following story.
When the Nazi death camps were liberated, American soldiers saw the emaciated bodies of the survivors and started to give them food. Many people died when consuming the food, because they were unused to the large intake. Finally, the soldiers were issued a command that prohibited them from giving the survivors any food.
An emaciated eight year old boy went over to an American Jewish soldier and asked him for something to eat. With tears in his eyes, the soldier had to turn the child down. Instead, he embraced the boy with both arms and said, "I can't give you food, but I can give you love."
Soon, a line formed with other children, waiting to be hugged, as well. Some cried for their parents but they all were warmed by the embrace.
Rabbi S. told my friend that, although she was unable to help the man in finding a job, she had helped him by providing a listening ear and emotional support.
My friend wasn't consoled. She said that the soldier was forbidden to give the boy food, but she wasn't forbidden from helping the man find a job.
My friend's son spoke next and talked about her devotion to prayer. Towards the end, she was in a lot of pain and was very weak. Still, she wanted to pray. Too weakened to recite full prayers, she recited the letters of the hebrew alphabet one by one and said that Hashem should connect the letters to form words.
On my way home, there was a great downpour. As lightning streaked the sky, I uttered the blessing of "oseh maaseh bereishot" with great feeling. After reciting the blessing, I thanked G-d for giving me the strength to recite every word as I remembered my friend who had been unable to even form words, as she lay on her hospital bed.
It is my fervent hope that the prayers that were uttered on her behalf will pierce the heavens and that Hashem will grant her family many instances of joyful celebrations.

Sort of god



Thanks to Atlas Shrugs for making me aware of this video.

Dear Mr. Evans,
I caught some of what you had to say the other day about President Obama. When you said that he was some sort of god, I was jolted wide awake.
I would like to invite you to a Judaism 101 course that I am organizing just for you. I will begin by explaining that Jews recite myriad blessings throughout the day. The first three words of the blessings are "Baruch Atah Hashem - Blessed are you, Oh Lord". Note that the first word isn't Barack but rather Baruch. In other words, Jews don't recite "Barack atah Hashem - Barack (Hussein Obama), you are Oh Lord, but rather Blessed are you Oh Lord".
Admission to the course is free. All you have to do to gain entrance to the course is to recite the first two commandments with conviction.
1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
2. Do not have any other gods before me.
In other words, there is only one G-d. No human being can be a god or a sort of god.

Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
As you announced that you are going to make a speech about peace during the coming week, I am sure you are faced with pressures from all sides. The left wing wants you to say one thing, the right wing wants you to say the opposite. The Americans are expecting to hear about concessions, as too are the Arab states.

I would respectfully request you to consider whose opinion matters the most. As you recite the words that have been scripted for you, ask yourself one thing. Will Hashem be happy with what I have to say?
Wishing you much success in your endeavours and, with G-d's help, you will make the right choices.

5 Jun 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

Yesterday, Yahoo published an article entitled, "Be Careful What You Wish For" by Laura Rowley.
A number of years ago, psychologists Richard Ryan and Tim Kasser conducted a series of studies that found people who make the pursuit of money and materialism a top goal in life have lower well-being. They experienced higher anxiety, depressive symptoms, lower self-esteem, and more physical, behavioral, and relationship problems. They also scored lower on indicators testing for vitality (feeling alive and vigorous) and self-actualization. In studies done by Kasser and Ryan and others, the findings were similar across a variety of age groups, income levels, and countries.
Skeptics suggested that lower well-being was a function of the difficulty and stress involved in attaining those goals -- but once people achieved their aspirations, happiness would surely follow. Or, as the actor Johnny Depp told 'Vanity Fair' magazine this month, “Money doesn’t buy you happiness…but it buys you a big enough yacht to sail right up to it.”
A new study conducted by Ryan and two others followed graduating college students who set a range of goals at one- and two-year intervals. The goals were both extrinsic (money, status, personal image) and intrinsic (relationships, health, community involvement). The results confirmed the earlier work: People who sought riches and status -- even when they attained them -- were less satisfied with life than their peers. The research appears in the June issue of 'The Journal of Research in Personality'.
“Those who had the biggest increase in the amount of attainment of wealth, fame, and image actually showed no increase at all in well-being -- zero,” says Edward Deci, psychology professor at the University of Rochester, who co-authored the study with Ryan and Christopher Niemiec. “Even more startling, some of those people showed increases in ill-being, including depression and anxiety.”
... Says Deci, “We believe there are three fundamental needs that have to be met to be psychologically healthy: relatedness -- to have relationships with other people and feel a sense of belonging and inclusion; to feel competent, like you can effectively manage in the world and have an impact on the world; and autonomy or self-initiation -- that what you do is in line with your basic interests and values, and you’re not doing it just because someone is pushing you around.”

To read full article, click here.
The following is the Jewish take on the pursuit of happiness.
The possuk in Koheles states (6:7) that whatever man acquires will neither satisfy him nor make him happy. The Medrash explains by way of a parable that if a farmer marries a princess, he will never be able to satisfy her. Even if he buys her items which would be considered “luxurious” for a farmer - the most fancy dungarees with the most colorful patches, and a ton of straw to sleep on - it will not make her happy, since she is used to royal clothing and the most beautiful furniture. Similarly, Jewish souls come mitachas kissai hakavod (“from below the throne of Hashem”), and are used to being close to the shechina. All the money, yachts, and cigarettes in the world will not bring a Jewish soul satisfaction.
From Rosh Chodesh Elul until the end of Sukkos it is customary in many communities to recite the twenty-seventh perek of Tehillim at the conclusion of the tefillos. In that perek, Dovid Hamelech points out that he only has one real request of Hashem: “to be able to stay in the House of Hashem for the rest of his life.” The one and only thing that people are searching for is happiness, and Dovid Hamelech defines happiness as being “in the presence of Hashem.”

http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2007/moadim/rsch_elul.html

4 Jun 2009

The blessing of a Tzaddik

Former Prime Minister Olmert is recovering from prostate surgery which was performed in New York earlier today. Ladaat.net is reporting that the operation was successful. Before the operation, the former Prime Minister spoke to Rav Ovadiah Yosef and asked him for a blessing. The Rav gave him a beracha, wished him a refuah sheleima, and told him that the merits that he accrued in helping the Torah world would stand him in good stead.
http://www.ladaat.net/article.php?do=viewarticle&articleid=5056'

I came across the following question asked to Rabbi Ben Diction.
"What is the significance of a blessing from a Chassidic Rabbi? "
The following is the response that was given.
"In our prayers we say G-d "does the will of those who fear Him." As our Sages teach: A tzaddik (righteous person) decrees, and Hashem fulfills. Also: "Anyone who has a sick person in his household should go to a chacham (a wise person) to pray for him." Grand Rabbi Levi Yitzchak Horowitz (the "Bostoner Rebbe") says that a Chassidic Rabbi is in many respects like a plumber. Hashem wants only to bestow goodness upon us, and all a person needs to do is make himself into a vessel to receive the good. But our bad deeds "jam up" the pipes through which Divine goodness flows. A Chassidic Rabbi "unclogs" these pipes for the person. A righteous person has a power of prayer more than most of us. Torah scholars (Chassidic or not) who have virtually perfected their character are known to have such powers."
http://ohr.edu/ask_db/ask_main.php/198/Q1/

The Wisdom of the Rooster

by Michoel Gourarie

Every day, prayers begin with thanking G‑d for our basic needs like the power of sight, the ability to walk, our clothing, shoes and all other essentials. However, there is one blessing that seems to stand out a little. In this prayer we thank G‑d "for giving the rooster understanding to distinguish between day and night."
There are two difficulties with this blessing. Firstly, all the other blessings thank G‑d for providing our basic needs. While it is an amazing phenomenon that roosters crow at the beginning of each day, it does not seem to be a basic need. Secondly, telling the difference between light and dark is not so difficult. Why does it require special understanding to distinguish between day and night?

A friend once shared with me a great thought. Although a rooster crows at the beginning of each day it actually happens some time before it gets light. When it senses that dawn will break soon, and light is on the way to substitute the darkness, he emits the crowing noise that became the ancient alarm clock.
In every day there are periods of light—clarity, blessing, peace of mind and prosperity. But there are also sometimes patches of darkness—challenge, confusion and difficulty. It takes special strength not to be caught up in the moments of challenge. It takes maturity to look beyond the darkness and see the light that awaits us. A wise person learns from the rooster. He/she knows that the darkness is only temporary and light is on the way. The rooster is symbolic of an attitude filled with optimism, hope and belief. The rooster teaches us to envisage and celebrate blessing even before it comes.
Every day we thank G‑d for the wisdom of the rooster. It is the rooster's lesson that will carry us through every part of the day.

Constructive criticism

The following text is part of an interview in the New York Times between Adam Bryant and Dany Levy, founder of DailyCandy.com.
"Q. What was your approach when you first started managing people?
A. I joke sometimes that everything I needed to know about management I learned from working with emotionally disturbed kids, which I did for two summers. I don’t mean this in a negative way or derogatory way. But there are some basic principle human skills that I learned about this, like the criticism sandwich -- praise, constructive criticism, praise."
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/business/31corner.html

I found Ms. Levy used the right approach when delivering criticism. Sandwich it between words of praise. And for those on the receiving end of constructive criticism, here is a quote from an unknown source that I stumbled upon.

"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."