"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 2010

Religion in schools

Italy, backed by a dozen countries, began Wednesday its appeal against a European court ruling condemning the display of crucifixes in Italian schools in a case that could affect all of Europe.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in November the display of crucifixes in schools breached the rights of non-Catholic families, restricting "the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions."

A latest publication from the Australian Curriculum Studies Association is described as follows:

This new resource for primary and secondary teachers offers practical advice and strategies about meeting the needs of Muslim students, and incorporating Islam and Muslim related content into the curriculum.

The following paragraphs are a review of the publication.

Having already scanned through the text, we are totally shocked at the contents and false pro-Islamic claims that will be pushed into schools.
...The book is called ‘Learning from one another - bringing Muslim perspectives into schools’ and is by Eeqbal Hassim and Jennet Cole-Adams. In it our children are told not only how to be Muslims but are given activities like finding Mecca and given Islamic prayers. Why do our children need such information? Why does Islam need to be pushed into the classroom? Is Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Shinto, Taoism, Wiccan or crystal worship... to be pushed into the classroom? I thought our secular schools were NOT to promote religion.


28 Jun 2010


Radio star David Fane has been suspended for a week for commenting in a speech that "Jews were expendable", "Hitler had a right" and HIV sufferers deserved to be "roasted".
...Fane would be suspended for the remainder of this week and then take previously scheduled leave next week, returning on-air on July 12...

A one week suspension? Seems quite a lenient penalty.

From learning Yiddish to the chuppah

The other day I came across a song about Mashiach which began with the folllorwing words.
Strings of pearls, and banners made of gold
Mashiach Ben David is coming we are told
Holding a goblet in his right hand
Making a blessing, blessing all the land
Shneeraleh, peraleh, gildeneh fohn
Ma'shiach ben Dovid, ehr zitzt oybn ohn
Halt ehr a becher in der rechtin handt
Macht ehr a b'rucheh
Oyfn gantzen landt
I thought that the lyrics sounded nicer in Yiddish.
This morning a NYT wedding announcement caught my eye.

...Yiddish still holds the power to bring people together and start romances, and, in the case of Yael Kornfeld and Avram Mlotek, a marriage.
“Theirs is a story of the vibrancy and tenacity of Yiddish, the passion that Yiddish can inspire,
...The actor Fyvush Finkel, a star of the Yiddish theater before taking on Hollywood, attended one Manhattan gathering — his first ever — in honor of the bride and bridegroom.
“In Hollywood they don’t have sheva brokhes,” he told them. “In Hollywood, you’re lucky if the marriage lasts seven days.”

So, let's begin our Yiddish lessons with a few words defined in an article titled The joy of Yiddish by Michael Bywater.

Babkes Lit. beans. Fig. nothing. "What did he give me? Babkes, he gives me."

Bissel A bit, usually large. "What harm can a bissel fruit cakeleh?"

Lig in drerd Lit. lie in the earth. Fig. die, G*d forbid.

Meshuggener A crazy person.

Nu The most useful of words. Lit. "now". Fig. so; so what; and?; yes?; what am I supposed to do about it?; therefore?; etc etc.

Schmendrick Low down in the pantheon of klutzes, one up from the schlemiel. Look: a schlemiel, a schlemazl and a schmendrick go for a drive. The schmendrick crashes the schlemazl's car and the schlemiel apologises.

27 Jun 2010

Where has the empathy gone?

Sara Konrath, a researcher at the University of Michigan, has " found that college students today are 40 percent less empathetic than those of 30 years ago, with the numbers plunging primarily after 2000.
....Previous studies have documented an increasing narcissism among college students since the late 1980s. And Americans in general perceive decreases in other people’s kindness and helpfulness.
....What happened? “We don’t actually know what the causes are at this point,” Dr. Konrath said. But the authors speculate a millennial mixture of video games, social media, reality TV and hyper-competition have left young people self-involved, shallow and unfettered in their individualism and ambition."

Perhaps we should begin with the basics. A class in Ethics of the Fathers is in order.

A salute to the youngsters

Two articles this week detailed the amazing accomplishments of two youngsters. Hats off to them. May they serve as shining examples to others.

The Daily Telegraph describes how an "11-year-old boy from Atlanta drove his family to safety after his mother blacked out from a sudden seizure while behind the wheel."
Read full article: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/breaking-news/boy-11-drives-to-safety-after-mother-blacks-out-behind-the-wheel/story-e6freuz9-1225884440982

Click here to watch and read about how Randy Pausch's "eight-year-old son Dylan Pausch is carrying on his father's work, joining the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network to lobby Congress to increase funding for research."

25 Jun 2010

Darkness into light

On the fourth anniversary of Gilad Shalit's capture, let us remember to have him in mind when we say the brocho of matir asurim - the One who sets the captives free.
Please daven for Gilad ben Aviva
Sholom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivkah
Yonatan ben Malkah
May they see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Have a good Shabbos. I leave you with a beautiful Torah thought. As I am currently in the States, posting will iy'h resume later than ususal on Motzaei Shabbos.

The keeper of Israel

Two car accidents occurred yesterday. Baruch Hashem, everyone escaped major injury.

David Sparrow was celebrating his daughter's middle school graduation at Bagel Boss of Hewlett at 11:30 a.m. on June 24, when a black Mercedes careened through the glass front of the store, almost directly to where his daughter, Emily, 14, was sitting.
His daughter, who graduated from Woodmere Middle School that morning, climbed over the table to escape the vehicle's path as it crashed into the store's counter.
She suffered only minor injuries and was taken to South Nassau Hospital.
"It was purely God's grace," said Sparrow an hour after the accident. "I was helpless to do anything."
...Laura Kornblum, a Woodmere resident who frequents the restaurant often, drove by the scene after the accident.
"It's terrifying," she said. "There's usually a big line. Thank God no one was [seriously] hurt."

No one was injured when a chartered Monsey Trails bus went up in flames on traveling on the northbound Thruway in Tuxedo at mid-day Thursday.
The bus was carrying an unknown number of children to Camp Munk in Sullivan County. No one was reported injured and most of the luggage was also saved.

When one seees the pictures of the burning bus, one realizes what major disaster was avoided and one recalls the words of Psalms 121:4.

Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
Hineh lo yanum v'lo yishan
Lo yanum, v'lo yishan
Shomer Yisrael

24 Jun 2010

Bilam blinded

Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells — a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

Occasionally, I try to find a link between the parsha of the week and current events.
In this week's parsha the Gentile prophet Bilam is hired by Balak, the king of Moav, to curse the nation of Israel. Blinded by avarice, Bilam attempts to do that for which he is hired. But, upon seeing the Israelites, Bilam becomes spiritually sighted and can only bless them.
"How good are your tents (nation) of Yaakov, your dwelling places Yisroel." (Numbers 24:5)

With every passing day, Israeli actions are being condemned and boycotts are being organized. Anti-semitism is rife.
But, let's choose to focus on the good of our people. This week saw a unified people who gathered in the thousands to pour out their heart in prayer for a fellow Jew to avert a lengthy prison sentence. Our brother's pain was our pain.

An INN journalist writes the following.
A second-hand clothing charity fund based in Efrat that helps Jews across Israel has also helped its Arab neighbors for more than 20 years, according to Ora Yannai, who co-founded the project with Rebbetzin Vicky Riskin, whose husband is the city's Chief Rabbi. The gemach, as it is called in Hebrew, has blossomed from its humble beginnings as a small distribution of second-hand clothing to Ethiopian immigrants in Kiryat Arba some 25 years ago, into a massive country-wide operation.
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/135741

Incidentally, I came across a devar Torah by Rabbi Chaim Dovid Green in which he asks what Bilam noticed about the nation of Israel when he uttered the words of blessing.
Rashi (11th century) explains that the tents were situated in their encampments such, that the doorways did not face each other. This was done for the sake of privacy.
There are two important values which we gain from this knowledge. Firstly, the Torah praises the Children of Israel for keeping private things private. In counter distinction to modern western culture where all dirty laundry is washed in public, the Torah attitude is that not everything is for the public eye....
Secondly, we see that the nation of Israel voluntarily situated their tents such that they should not violate the privacy of their neighbors. That means that they were not interested in their neighbor's business....

Let us, by virtue of doing good deeds, studying the Torah and taking Rabbi Green's words to heart, merit to have the nations of the world bless the Jewish nation.

A child's dream

Reading an article in Joods Actueel alerted me to a catchy children's tune. Hope the lyrics of this song don't catch on.
In the video below, a young girl proclaims, "When we die as martyrs, we will go to heaven."
As for me, I will continue singing another song with my children.

To life! To life! L'chai-im!
L'chai-im, l'chai-im, to life!
A gift we seldom are wise enough
Ever to prize enough,
Drink l'chaim, to life!
God would like us to be joyful
Even though our hearts lie panting on the floor;
How much more can we be joyful,
When there's really something
To be joyful for...

It's raining frogs

Jozef alerted me to a Hungarian article published on June 22nd regarding frogs raining down from the sky. The following is a Google translation. Sorry, I can't do any better but Hungarian is just not my language.

Within a week twice potyogtak frogs from the sky in Jasz-Nagykun-Szolnok county Rákóczifalva - reported the incident to the Szoljon.hu.
"It was pouring with rain on Sunday, and when I went out into the open, all covered with a layer of two to three centimeter mass Frogs" - told a Rákóczifalva lady.
"Not really surprised with the case because the frogs are also potyogtak last week, the same way when it rained." Bondswoman Incze Elizabeth reported that the town was actually gone the other end of the street, and something began to play the drums in the umbrella. Frogs, however, much of the time were larger.

A Huffington Post article on May 27th described the same subject - frogs.
A major highway in Greece was shut down Wednesday after a horde of frogs took over the road. Yes, frogs.
"There was a carpet of frogs," a traffic police chief said, according to the AP.
The police chief said 'millions' of the creatures appeared on the road, forcing authorities to close it down after a number of drivers skidded off the road in order to avoid hitting the amphibians.


People are likening the oil spill to the first plague in Egypt. The second plague was the raining down of frogs.
Earthquakes felt in Canada and New York this afternoon, plagues, existential threats to Israel. Dutch police going undercover disguised as Jews to catch those who are committing anti-semitic acts. Are we getting the message? Rabbi Lazer Brody certainly has. Click here to read his latest post.

Click here to read a previous post of mine Earthquakes - a sign from Hashem.

VIN posted a tragic story about a 3-year-old girl who drowned with her babysitter in a backyard pool. We would do well to heed the words written in the first comment posted.

All the Chachumim are going to comment on why it happened. Lets not do that we know we need to fix ourselves up in many areas. I am getting of the internet now and going to learn a little. We need more Torah in the world.

23 Jun 2010

The bride's forefinger

Prince Albert II of Monaco, son of the late Hollywood actress Grace Kelly, is to marry South African former Olympic swimmer and model Charlene Wittstock, the prince's office said in a statement on Wednesday.
At age 52, it's about time.

And speaking of weddings, the following is an excerpt from an email by Rabbi Eli Mansour about the placing of a ring on the bride's forefinger.

It is customary for the groom to place the ring specifically on the bride’s forefinger, meaning, the finger immediately next to the thumb. One reason for this custom is that the forefinger is the finger that people use most frequently, such as when they point to written text when teaching children. Therefore, placing the ring on the forefinger helps to publicize the Kiddushin to the greatest extent, informing everybody present that the bride has been betrothed.Others explain this custom as a subtle allusion to the nineteenth chapter of Tehillim, which makes reference to marriage (verse 6 - "Ve'hu Ke'hatan Yoseh Me'hupato"). This chapter also contains five consecutive five-word phrases (verses 8-10), each of which has Hashem's Name as its second word: 1) "Torat Hashem Temima Meshibat Nafesh" 2) "Edut Hashem Ne'emana Mahkimat Peti"3) "Pikudeh Hashem Yesharim Mesameheh Leb"4) "Misvat Hashem Bara Me'irat Enayim"5) "Yir'at Hashem Tehora Omedet La'ad"The five words in each phrase correspond to the five fingers on the hand, and the second word - Hashem's Name - parallels the second finger on the hand, the forefinger. By placing the ring on the forefinger, the groom brings to mind the Name of Hashem which is the second word in these phrases which appear in a chapter of Tehillim that mentions marriage. Through marriage, a man and woman complete the Name of God. The letter "Yod" in the word "Ish" ("man") combines with the "Heh" in the word "Isha" ("woman") to form the divine Name of "Yod"-"Heh." The groom therefore places the ring on the bride's forefinger to allude to the Name of Hashem which is completed through their marriage.If the groom mistakenly placed the ring on a different finger, the betrothal is nevertheless valid.Rav Moshe Feinstein (Russia-New York, 1895-1986), in his Iggerot Moshe (Eben Ha'ezer, vol. 3, Siman 18), rules that a bride and groom should not perform a "double ring ceremony" under the Hupa. It is customary among many non-Jews and non-observant Jews for the bride and groom to exchange rings at the wedding, as opposed to the traditional Jewish practice that only the groom gives a ring to the bride. There is absolutely no Halachic significance to a ring given by the bride to the groom, and doing so under the Hupa might violate the prohibition of imitating the practices of the gentiles. If the bride wants to give the groom a ring, she may give it to him after the Hupa ceremony, during the Yihud (seclusion). She should not give him a ring under the Hupa.Summary: Before the groom gives the bride the ring or coin for the betrothal, it should be shown to the witnesses who affirm that it is worth a "Shaveh Peruta." They should not make any other comments, and should not say - even jokingly - that the ring is worth more than a "Shaveh Peruta." The groom must ensure that the ring or coin legally belongs to him before he gives it to the bride. When betrothing with a ring, it is customary to place the ring specifically on the forefinger, but if the groom mistakenly placed it on a different finger, the betrothal is nevertheless valid. A bride and groom should not perform a double ring ceremony. If the bride wishes to give her groom a ring, she should do so only after the Hupa ceremony.

Selling out

by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple
Moses was the father of the prophets. The Torah is sure that “there never arose in Israel a prophet like Moses” (Deut. 34:10). The Midrash (Num. R. 14:20) comments, “There never arose such a prophet in Israel, but amongst the nations there did”. Who then was the prophet amongst the nations? Bil’am, one of the central figures in this week’s portion. The sages think he was one of the greatest philosophers ever to appear in history.
Yet what happened to him in the end? After the episode between Bil’am and Balak, the prophet set out for home (Num. 24:25). Then there came a battle against the Midianites. “They slew the kings of Midian… they also put Bil’am the son of Be’or to the sword” (Num. 31:8).
An ignominious end. No mention of a great funeral or an impressive monument. Simply “they put Bil’am… to the sword”. He was a great mind, but his judgment was not always sound. He allied himself to the wrong cause because they offered more money. His praise of Israel – “How goodly are your tents, O Jacob – your dwelling places, O Israel” (Num. 24:5) – resounds through history… but Bil’am’s own name does not. He hitched his wagon to the wrong star.


22 Jun 2010

Easing security measures - At what cost?

When I first read that the Israeli Supreme Court had ruled that highway 443 must be opened to PA traffic, I was thankful that I was not a judge that had issued the ruling because, heaven forbid, if there is one fatality due to the easing of passage, I would feel responsible. Click here to read a post titled Terror on Route 443.

Yesterday I read that Prime Minister Netanyahu is not allowed to travel on that road. This morning I read that the US Embassy in Tel Aviv is telling its staff to avoid using that highway.

Despite a number of rock attacks during May, prior to its reopening to Palestinian Authority drivers, the IDF and government in May fulfilled a High Court order to allow PA traffic to use Road 443, one of the two east-west highways connecting Jerusalem to metropolitan Tel Aviv. The opening went ahead, despite appeals against the road's opening by MKs, security officials, and drivers, who fear an increase in terror attacks on the road.
In response, the security establishment said that the IDF had taken “sufficient steps” to ensure the safety of Israelis using the road. But the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) has decided that at least one Israeli citizen – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu – cannot risk using the road.

Further demonstrating the ludicrous nature of international pressure for Israel to prematurely ease security measures against the Palestinians, the US Embassy in Tel Aviv this week told its staff to avoid using a highway connecting Jerusalem to Tel Aviv at night after it was recently reopened to Palestinian traffic.
Highway 443 was the scene of numerous murderous roadside attacks up until 2002, when Israeli security forces finally banned all Palestinian traffic on the road.


A chance meeting

This week I came across three articles relating how couples met.

On a crowded train somewhere in Pennsylvania in the aftermath of World War II, Robert Kagan gave up his seat to Gloria Gittelman, a fellow student from Pennsylvania State University, on a trip home during a school holiday. He was bound for Brooklyn, she for South Philadelphia.
That chance meeting led to a courtship and then marriage in 1950, after Mr. Kagan had begun studying at Yale Law School.

An article details the wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, and Daniel Westling on June 19th.
Daniel Westling now Prince Daniel, was Princess Victoria’s gym instructor once. They met back in 2002, when the Princess started working out in Daniel’s gym.

The New York Times has a wedding announcement in which the bride's best friend played a major role in finding a match for her friend.

The next morning, while going for coffee in Park Slope, Ms. Larson saw a good-looking fellow across the street. She thought to herself, “Too bad he wasn’t there last night — I bet Dimple would’ve liked him,” she said. They made eye contact and kept walking. Next thing she knew, she was running toward him. “Sir! Excuse me! I have this friend. ... ”

Whether it's through a friend, a chance meeting, or a matchmaker, may we merit participating in happy occasions. And let's learn from the couples above. First it pays to be chivalrous. Second, don't think a shidduch is not good enough for your daughter, the princess. And, finally, if something good comes your way, chase after it.

21 Jun 2010

Banning vuvuzelas

A hotel chain has said it was banning vuvuzelas so noisy football fans would not disturb sleeping customers.
Premier Inn said it was prohibiting the plastic horns after a number of customers took the instrument to watch England's disappointing clash with Algeria in the hotel bars.
There have already been calls to ban the instrument from inside stadiums in South Africa with broadcasters, players and some fans complaining about the incessant din.

Last week I ranted and raved about the loud music played at weddings. As a hotel chain is planning to ban vuvuzelas, perhaps wedding halls can start banning loud music. Either that, or I am going to buy a whole bunch of vuvuzelas. The next wedding I attend where the music is too loud, I will hand out the horns to the people who are sitting at my table and we will commence to blow at full blast. We will stop making incessant noise if you will, as well.

The three keys

Death toll from French floods continues to rise

Deadly floods kill twenty in north-east Brazil

Toll in China flood rises to 147

Death toll from Myanmar floods, landslides hits 63


Eliyahu prayed that God give him the key of the resurrection of the dead, but he was told from Heaven: Three keys were never entrusted to a messenger but remained with God, namely: the key of childbirth, the key of rain, and the key of the resurrection of the dead. You already have the key of rain, and you [also] want the key of the resurrection of the dead? It will be said that two keys are held by the disciple and one by the Master! Give back the key of rain, and take the key of the resurrection of the dead. Accordingly, after Eliyahu revived the widow’s son, the biblical text states (Melakhim I 18:1): “Go, appear before Achav; then I will send rain,” because he had to return the key of rain and stop the drought (Sanhedrin 113a).
This fascinating gemara relates that three keys are usually held by God alone: those of childbirth, rain, and resurrection. The common factor between these three keys is that they each represent the keys of life and death. Human birth and the resurrection of the dead are quite obviously issues of giving or creating new life. However, the rain also shares this central feature in that it determines who will live and who will die.


An article on Fox News described how "state senators in Louisiana have designated Sunday as a day of prayer aimed at seeking an end to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster."
One of the comments posted was, "Prayer? What a nation of hypocrites - the only time prayer is acceptable is when we are in need. No wonder our nation is no longer blessed."

Hashem is there for us to turn to, in both good times and bad. And it is Hashem who holds the three keys that determine who will live and who will die.

20 Jun 2010

The right to wipe Israel off the map

The United Nations is marking World Refugee Day Sunday, June 20, with events worldwide.... Leaders in Fatah and Hamas made use of the occasion to demand that Israel allow millions of Arab descended from those who fled during the War of Independence to “return” to the cities in which their grandparents and great-grandparents once lived.
Izzat Rishak of Hamas told the Arab paper Filistin, “The Palestinian refugees have the right to return to the houses from which they were expelled in 1948... As long as there is one Palestinian refugee who has not returned to his village, the resistance will continue.”
The article states that "an estimated 10 million Arabs claim descent from a resident of pre-state Israel."
more Israel news: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/138166

The following is an excerpt from a petition online to President Obama.
"We invite you to Islam and want to inform you that if you become a Muslim you will be safe..."

They are not being secretive in their demands. So, why are we continuing to go along with our destruction?

I'm off to say Tehillim 83 . And then I will add another chapter, praying for Shalom Mordechai Halevi ben Rivkah who is scheduled to be sentenced this Tuesday.

Cookies a short little poem

This week there were two instances in which I jumped to the wrong conclusions. In one case, I wrote an email to the person that I had thought wronged me. I wrote that I would be dan lechaf zechut and assume that I was unaware of the true facts. The person wrote back that, indeed, I didn't have full knowlege of what had transpired. Thankfully, a quarrel has been prevented.
A while later I received an email from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.
To register to receive a lesson a day, email alessonaday@chofetzchaimusa.org.
The following is an excerpt from the email.

The Torah states:”With righteousness shall you judge your fellow” (Vayikra 19:15), which our Sages interpret as a commandment to give one’s fellow the benefit of the doubt (Shevuos 30a). This precept is among those “whose fruit one enjoys in this world and whose principal reward is preserved for the World to Come” (Shabbos 127a). Development of this trait is crucial for perfecting the quality of Shmiras haloshon.
To give one’s fellow the benefit of the doubt is to decide in one’s mind that someone who is said to have committed a misdeed did so either unwillfully, out of ignorance, or correctly (i.e. that, in fact, a sin has not been committed). When the report does not lend itself to any of the above interpretations, one should consider the possibility that the speaker added or omitted details which completely alter the nature of the report.
To judge others favorably is also to bear in mind the teaching: ”Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place” (Avos 2:5).
The more one accustoms himself to judge others favorably, the less he will transgress the sin of loshon hora.

19 Jun 2010

The forgotten

Let's not forget the victims. Let's not forget Gilad Shalit. And let's not forget to recite Tehillim 83. It's the least we can do.

18 Jun 2010

Turn down the music

Two Brooklyn synagogues and their worshipers sued Borough President Marty Markowitz yesterday over his summer concerts and plans for a Coney Island amphitheater to host it.
The suit argues that the concert series violates a city law prohibiting amplified sound within 500 feet of religious institutions when services are taking place. It seeks a court order to block future concerts.
Sea Breeze Jewish Center and Temple Beth Abraham are across the street from the existing bandshell at Asser Levy Park, and both say they host services daily.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/coney_shul_sour_notes_VihVsxiCXzs8da74iAOTvM#ixzz0rD23HCBC

A while ago, I wrote about the dangers of loud music and how I would love to get musicians to lower the volume of music at weddings. Last week a friend of mine told me she was at a wedding and didn't get a chance to speak to any of her relatives because the music drowned out her words. I spoke to a doctor about asking him to conduct a lecture on the dangers of loud sounds. He told me that he walks out of weddings because he can't take the noise. Every other week there is a letter of complaint in the Hamodia about loud music at weddings. When are we finally going to do something about it? Please help me in my efforts to turn down the music level. Any ideas would be most appreciated.

Rabbi Blech scores big

Some months ago, I wrote a post titled Rabbi Wallerstein hits a home run. I was so impressed with what he had to say during one of his lectures, that I thought this should not be missed.
Last week, I came across an article by Rabbi Blech that was wonderful. Since the article related to basketball, I wanted to come up with a corresponding title of a basketball metaphor, but was unable to succeed. Rabbi Blech scores big? Rabbi Blech hits a layup? If anyone has a better title, please help me out. In the meantime, click here to learn how precious mitzvot are and how keeping even one mitzvah can lead to incredible spiritual journeys.

17 Jun 2010

Torah Scrolls on their way back!!!

The Jewish magazine Joods Actueel reports that some of the Torah scrolls that were stolen from Antwerp's main synagogue last month have been found and are now on their way back. This has been confirmed by Pinkhas Kornfeld, secretary of Antwerp’s Jewish community. It is thought that they were taken by a gang of East European thieves.
A 200-year-old Torah which survived the Holocaust is one of the Torah scrolls that is being returned. After the scrolls had been stolen, the Jewish community declared a day of prayer and fasting till midday.

A Jewish mother worries

The other day I saw a cartoon about Abby Sunderland. A young girl asks her parents if she can go out to the movies with her friends and they interrogate her as to how many girls will be there with her. Then Abby asks permission from her parents to sail around the world solo and they respond, lackadaisically, "whatever" as they remain glued to the television.

An article in the Huffington Post asks, Abby Sunderland Rescue: Who Should Pay?
The first day Abby Sunderland was stranded in the Southern Ocean, Australia's rescue agency chartered a jet to fly over the area where her emergency beacon was activated.
The 11-hour flight cost an estimated 110,000 Australian dollars (US $94,500).


Today an article provides details of a young girl who wants to be the youngest to sail solo around the world.
A 14-year-old Dutch girl who wants to become the youngest person to sail solo around the globe will remain under state supervision for another month, a court ruled Thursday, days after a California teenager was rescued during a similar attempt.

Contrast the parents' attitudes with the attitude of the Jewish mother below who said that Jewish mothers worry about everything. "If one of my sons is late, I can write scenarios of what has happened to him that Hollywood would give millions to hear."

11 Jun 2010

Jerusalem reunited

Click on image to enlarge.

At the end of April, I wrote about how the folks at Yahoo weather had divided Jerusalem, Israel into Jerusalem, Yerushalayim and Jerusalem, West Bank. This week a number of sites reported about the division and the above image has replaced the one that had appeared previously. The reference to Jerusalem, West Bank is no longer an option. Thank you, Yahoo, for reuniting Jerusalem.

Have a good Shabbos. I will leave you with a thought on the Parsha adapted from Rabbi Yissocher Frand's Tapes.
Rabbi Frand began by describing the content of the parsha. "The main topic of Parshas Korach is inner-communal squabbling amongst the Jewish people (machlokes)."
Rabbi Frand related an anecdote aboout two neighbors. One named Reuven had a subscription to a newspaper while Shimon did not. However, Shimon took the liberty of reading the paper and returning it to his neighbor's porch during the early morning. When Reuven spoke to Shimon about what he had done, Shimon felt no remorse and continued taking the paper every day.
When Reuven consulted his Rabbi as to what to do, the Rabbi advised him to buy Shimon a subscription to the paper.
Reuven was incredulous but heeded the Rabbi's advice. Years later, he realized what a good investment he had made, as relations with his neighbor remained cordial.
Rabbi Frand continues:
But, one may ask: It cost Reuven money to buy that subscription for his neighbor. Why should he have to do that? The answer, the Chofetz Chaim says, is as follows: An Esrog and lulav costs money. Matzos costs money. Making Pesach costs money. Kosher meat costs money. Every year a person has to make a calculation that he needs X amount of money for mitzvos. The Chofetz Chaim says a person should put away money at the beginning of the year in a "machlokes fund". This is the money earmarked to forgo or to layout to avoid machlokes, to preserve peace among family and community members.
Read full article: http://www.torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5770/korach.html

From bashing to Sinai

Why did I click on the article? I knew it would only raise my blood pressure as I prepared myself for another round of Israel bashing. But, I was totally flummoxed by what was written in this particular article.
My parents once attended a lecture by Roy Neuberger, author of From Central Park to Sinai and 2020 Vision, among others. During his speech he remarked that he based his writing on the question of whether his words would be a kiddush Hashem - a sanctification of G-d.
The article I read this morning was just the opposite. I was so upset upon reading what the author had written that tears started to form. I tried to think of the appropriate action I should take. Should I write an email to the author? Personally, I think that a person's views are very much set and he will not be persuaded by anything I have to say.
Should I call for a boycott of his articles and the newspaper for which he writes? But, in the past, when I asked some people to boycott a specific newspaper, they canceled their subsriptions for a little while, only to reinstate them when they felt they were missing out.
In the end, I did the only thing I thought I could do. I took out a coin from my purse and dropped it into a charity box. And, while I was performing the act, I prayed to G-d with all my might that the journalist should merit to write articles that bring about a Kiddush Hashem.

A $400 million aid package?

The White House recently announced a $400 million aid package for Gaza and the West Bank.
Upon perusing the American Consulate's website in Jerusalem, I read about other aid packages.

At the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem on June 2, 2010, the United States Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), announced $75 million in new activities to support the Palestinian Authority’s work to improve infrastructure throughout the West Bank and Gaza.

As part of the United States Government’s ongoing support of the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to strengthen the private sector and improve the business and investment climate, U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) Chief Operating Officer Alonzo Fulgham announced approximately $30 million in new activities aimed at enhancing the Palestinian private sector’s competitiveness.

On the Gaza E-Consulate site, (news to me that there was such a site - why don't the Americans open up an office in Gaza?), I read the following:
“Basma” (Smile), a Gazan cultural arts organization, held its first performance of John Steinbeck’s classic story “The Pearl” on May 12 in Gaza. With a $20,000 grant from the Consulate General’s Public Affairs office...

I have one small question for President Obama. Does the $400 million aid package include the previous pledges, or are the Palestinians receiving a bit more than $500 million?

10 Jun 2010

A small fish

This morning I read a post by a blogger who accused another blogger of not crediting him for being the first one to break the story. It could have been an honest mistake. The blogger might have gotten a tip from someone and he was unable to trace the source. So, let's not rush to judgment that a blogger is untrustworthy. However, it would be nice if a blogger does give credit to the source of his news, if at all possible.
Soon after reading the article, I read about Yahoo weather dividing Jerusalem into two. Some articles reported that the change came about last month, while some said it happened a few days ago. As I wrote a post titled Jerusalem, IL or Jerusalem, PS, on April 25th, it seems that Yahoo
divided Jerusalem more than a month ago.
And no, I don't think those who reported the story saw mine a month and a half ago. I'm just disappointed that my post wasn't picked up by anyone. It humbles me to realize what a small fish I am in a big sea.

Worthwhile reading

"Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, and Israel is a Jewish state, so of course some criticism of it is malevolently motivated."
Tony Judt

Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell may prohibit the translation of his popular books into Hebrew after the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, he said in an interview published on Thursday.
"I am a best-selling author in Israel and I must consider seriously whether I should block my books from being translated to Hebrew," the author of the popular Wallander series of detective novels told daily Dagens Nyheter.


Iain Banks discusses imposing a cultural and educational boycott on Israel.
...but appeals to reason, international law, UN resolutions and simple human decency mean – it is now obvious – nothing to Israel, and for those of us not prepared to turn to violence, what else can we do? For the little it's worth, I've told my agent to turn down any further book translation deals with Israeli publishers.

I shall not be reading books by Henning Mankell and Iain Banks. Instead, I will be utilizing my time on worthwhile reading such as the article below.
Israel, human decency, common humanity (by Eve Garrard)

9 Jun 2010

What makes a great leader

The following is a devar Torah by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple about what makes a great leader. (hint - it's not talk - it's achievement)
Korach seems to have a case. The people’s leaders, Moses and Aaron, have failed. It is time for them to be replaced. All the people are holy; let someone else take over. I, Korach, offer myself. I have lineage. I have brains. I can do the job. Nominate me! That’s the argument, and it sounds eminently reasonable. Yet God – and the Jewish tradition through the ages – do not support it: but why shouldn’t Korach have his chance?
In a sense the whole issue boils down to two similar-sounding words, “tzitzit” and “tzitz”. The first means fringes, the second means blossom. It is because of “tzitzit” that we know Korach has flaws in his argument, and because of “tzitz” that we know he does not deserve to be the leader.
According to the sages, Korach ridicules Moses by saying, “You want a four-cornered garment to have a blue thread? What about a completely blue garment – does that need a blue thread too?” Not only is the argument populist and without context but its tone is provocative and disrespectful – no ifs and buts, no acknowledgement that Moses has his positive sides, nothing but demagoguery. That’s the issue of the “tzitzit”.
What about the “tzitz”? The names of the leaders of the tribes are to be inscribed on twelve rods. The rod which produces blossoms denotes the tribal leader whom God approves. The one with blossoms is that of Aharon of the tribe of Levi. Not only does the real leader need God’s endorsement; he must also have the capacity to produce results. Korach is good at talking and rabble-rousing; Aharon is a worker and an achiever.

The real impact of rumors

A blog on CNN had a post about "celebrity death rumors that often swirl around cyberspace." The author of the post had to check out a rumor on Twitter that actor James Avery had died.
The actor was reached by phone.
"Did you see that on Twitter?" he asked. "I don't even know where it came from. Pissed me off, I know that. I mean, really, they're going to take away what little career I have left. My mother was scared....
..It's yet another example of how the echo chamber of the Internet can magnify falsehoods and innuendos, and a reminder of the real impact rumors have on people's lives.

One week after former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, dropped their separation bombshell, friends of the family quietly confirmed to PEOPLE on Wednesday that the eldest of the couple's four children, daughter Karenna Gore Schiff, is separated from her husband of 12 years.
A friend of the couple said,"It's amicable and they are in counseling. They are not divorced."
...But the two friends who spoke to PEOPLE said they wanted to be frank about the state of the Schiffs' marriage to head off any misinformation or rumor-mongering as people scrounge around the Gore family's private life.

The following is an excerpt from an article titled Shemiras Halashon: Standing Guard by Rabbi Yosef Levinson.
Although speaking lashon hara does not cause bodily harm, often the 'victim' suffers more than if he had been physically abused. Cuts and bruises heal, but the humiliation and shame from lashon hara can leave deep emotional scars that might never heal. In addition, one is oblivious to the scope of damage his words can cause. A gunshot cannot kill out of the gun's range but lashon hara can travel and cause havoc throughout the world. A word spoken in Melbourne could cause someone in Eretz Yisrael to lose a job. A thoughtless conversation in Yerushalayim could break up a shidduch (marriage match) in Chicago, and a letter written in New York could cause humiliation and embarrassment in London.
Read full article: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/threeweeks/guard.htm

Reuters under fire

The British-based Reuters news agency has been stung for the second time by charges that it edited politically sensitive photos in a way that casts Israel in a bad light.
...Reuters on Tuesday denied it intended to alter the political meanings of the photographs.
“The images in question were made available in Istanbul, and following normal editorial practice were prepared for dissemination which included cropping at the edges," the news agency said in a statement. "When we realized that a dagger was inadvertently cropped from the images, Reuters immediately moved the original set as well."
Read full article: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2010/06/08/reuters-fake-photos-ihh-gaza-blockade-commandos/

Click here for amazing Fox News video coverage of the incident.

Rabbi Eliyahu Zatzal's prayer

INN reported that "Rabbi Shmuel Zaafrani, Rabbi Eliyahu’s longtime assistant, found an important, 53-year-old note in the rabbi’s wallet." The note contained a prayer which Rabbi Eliyahu had composed when he became a Dayan and recited every day before entering the courtroom.

“Master of the Universe, it is revealed and known before You that it was not my idea to stand and serve Your holy nation, to judge and teach. I well know my small worth. I did not seek to do what is beyond me, but my rabbis instructed me to take this path, and this is how You arranged matters… Your wisdom has decreed that I serve the holy nation, teaching and judging… But trembling has overtaken me, fear and shaking have come over me, regarding the terrible danger that faces me and the vast abyss that is open before me…"

Read full prayer and article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/137955

Kol haboreach min hakavod hakavod borei’ach acharov. One who runs away from honor will find honor chasing after him. (Ethics of the Fathers)

In this week's Parsha, Korach approaches Moshe because he feels he didn't receive an honor that should rightfully have been his. Korach's end was being swallowed by the earth.
In reading Rabbi, Eliyahu's prayer, we are treated to his humble nature and his not seeking honor. The verse in Ethics of the Fathers was realized when an estimated 100,000 people attended his levaya, hoping to accord the Rabbi his final honor.

8 Jun 2010

Thank goodness for Photoshop

According to scientists, even photos taken of family outings when the child is as young as five can show a glimpse of the future.
"Smile intensity predicted whether or not participants divorced at some point in their lives," the researchers said, adding: "The less intensely participants smiled, the more likely they would be divorced later in life."
...It found that those with the weakest smiles were more than three times as likely to have been through a divorce, according to the journal Motivation and Emotion.
...A second experiment, which included pictures taken of people as young as five, backed up the conclusion.
The researchers believe that those who are generally happier are therefore more likely to try to work through difficulties in relationships and

After reading the above article, I came to the conclusion that, in addition to asking the shadchan for a recent picture of the person she proposed, I would also ask her for one taken when the subject was about five years old. Those of you who don't have smiling pictures needn't worry. I contacted my made-up sponsor PSSP Inc. who would be happy to photoshop your pictures.

Attention girls of shidduch age. Do you dread the shadchan’s words, “send me a picture?”

Now, you no longer have to fear. Contact PSSP Inc. We guarantee the highest quality shidduch pictures ever. Photo Shop Shidduch Pictures Inc. makes use of the latest technology to remove unsightly facial hair, acne and warts. We also turns frowns into smiles.
Call PSSP Inc. at 1-800-555-YOFI or email hevel.hayofi@hotmail.com.

Why look like this?

When you can look like this?
This week's special: Cropping weapons from Turkish photos of humanitarians.

A prayer for a soul mate

Tzidkat Rashbi sent me an email about saying prayers at the kever of Rebbe Yonatan Ben Uziel on his Yarzheit, Tuesday, June 8th. ( the 26th of Sivan)
"Tradition has it that Rabbi Yonatan Ben Uziel gave a blessing to all those who are unmarried that if they visited his resting place they would merit to meet their soul mates 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 soul mates by Divine Intervention of their prayers at the Tomb of Yonossan Ben Uziel."

Dreaming of Moshiach has a post titled Prayer for you in Amuka.

May those who go to pray at his kever and those who have prayers recited for them have their prayers answered letovah - for the good.

7 Jun 2010

A fictitious story

A US cruise missile carrying cluster bombs was behind a December attack in Yemen that killed 55 people, most of them civilians, Amnesty International says.
The London-based rights group released photographs that it said showed the remains of a US-made Tomahawk missile and unexploded cluster bombs that were apparently used in the December 17, 2009 attack on the rural community of Al-Maajala in Yemen's southern Abyan province.

After reading the above news, I imagined what would have happened had Israel been the one behind the attack.

Hello, this is Ms. Bash Israel reporting for the Fictitious News Network.
Our top story tonight is that Israel has killed 55 civilians, the majority of them women and children in an unprovoked clearly illegal attack on pro Palestinian activists. Within minutes, the United Nations convened a special assembly, condemning Israel for the massacre, resulting in many civilian deaths and ordered a special investigation into the incident. A fact finding mission has been appointed, headed by Richard G. and unbiased White House Correspondent Helen T. Asked if she would maintain impartiality in investigating the facts, Helen T. said that she would investigate both the pro peace activists and the occupiers who should go back to Germany fairly.
As news of the report started filtering in, Home Secretary T. M. said, it would be "wrong to react before we know the full facts". No, sorry, that was in reference to the gunman who killed 12 people in Britain.

In a move that doesn't appear to be politically motivated, rock star X. has canceled his concert in Israel because of what he says are political reasons.
The U.N. Secretary-General condemned Israel for using "excessive" force.
Prime minister of Israel and former Arab MK, of the no weapons on board flotilla, who was recently elected to her position on a wave of popular leftist support for her slogan , Yes , we can - get rid of the settlers said, "I think this is just another escalation in a policy of utter lawlessness and cruelty by the enemies of our people, the Israeli occupiers."
In a terse statement, Devorah,
Mashiachiscoming blogger, said, "Yisrael, betach BaShem."
Pro activist supporters marched through the streets of Yemen, Gaza, England and France, burning Israeli flags, carrying signs that Israel has committed a holocaust while the Turkish Prime Minister demanded an apology for this heinous atrocity.

But seriously, Amnesty International is accusing America of being behind the attack. Searching the internet, the following are articles about demonstrations and condemnations of the attack.

Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, Zatzal

I know that I've posted the first video before, but, upon hearing about the petira of Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu Zatzal, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, my mind flashed back to seeing the Rav distributing challah to the needy at the Chasdei Yosef soup kitchen. May the niftar be a meilitz yosher for all of us.
In the second video, Rabbi Eliyahu, Zatzal, gave his endorsement to Keren HaTzadik, an organization that assists needy families in Israel.
The Rav stated at the end of the video, "Tzion b'mishpat tipadeh, v'shaveha b'tzedaka - Zion will be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through "tzedaka" - righteousness.
The Rav further assures us that "in the merit of doing good deeds, and through charity, Hashem will do chesed to us and will send us the Redeemer speedily in our time, Amen.
UPDATE: INN is reporting that the Rabbi's funeral, "will depart from Heichal Yaakov, the rabbi's synagogue and Torah study hall in Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem, at 10 PM. The police have already announced that streets in the area will be closed to cars, and that they will be out in large numbers."

1 Jun 2010

Where's the condemnation?

Below are two reports about targeted attacks, resulting in the deaths of a number of people. Following the reports are a smattering of condemnations of the attack. But, which attack was condemned? And which one is considered to have struck a blow in the fight against terrorism?

An Israeli helicopter missile strike killed Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi today, Saturday, April 17, 2004. Two other occupants of the car struck by the Israelis were killed as well.

Reports say the man viewed as Al-Qaeda's No. 3 leader, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, has been killed.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there is strong reason to believe that Yazid was killed in an American drone attack in Pakistan's tribal areas in the past two weeks.
...A message from Al-Qaeda posted on Islamist forums said Yazid had been killed along with his wife, three daughters, a grandchild, and other men, women, and children.
...The news agency said that attack targeted a house owned by a tribesman near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a militant stronghold bordering Afghanistan. Intelligence officials at the time said six militants were killed, but residents said 12 people, including four women and two children, died.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan condemned the assassination, saying "extra-judicial killings are violations of the international law.."

A statement issued by EU foreign and policy security chief Javier Solana said the EU had consistently condemned extra-judicial killings.

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who was in Paris to meet the UN Envoy to Iraq, Lakhdar Brahimi, said: "Germany has always rejected targeted killings. We consider that these means should not be employed.."

...Russia said it had always opposed the practice of "targeted liquidation".

And, finally. Were these statements made about the American drone strike which killed innocent civilians, or about Israel's raid on the flotilla?
The European Union demanded an inquiry into the incident, with member nations voicing their own individual calls on the matter over the course of the day.
..."I deplore in the strongest terms the killing of civilians. This is certainly a grave act," said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

Credible reports

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Adam Shapiro stated that, "we now know that at least 14 people have been confirmed killed, and perhaps as many as 20 killed."
Amy Goodman then asked, "we are reading Israeli military reports that say when they boarded the Turkish ship, that they were attacked by sticks and knives. What do you understand has happened?"
Mr. Shapiro's response was that, "our people on the ship reported live as the soldiers came onto the ship, and reported that soldiers were opening fire as they were coming onto the ship, and they were descending from helicopters. So, our understanding is that the Israeli soldiers opened fire first. I have not seen or heard any thing else about - and there are many journalists on board that ship - anything else about our people, the passengers on that ship, posing any kind of threat. There was a live feed coming from the ship using satellite, video satellite, on satellite, that has been rebroadcast on CNN, on CNN Turk, on Al Jazeera, on Press TV, on numerous media outlets, not one image from this entire footage shows any of the passengers holding any kind of object that could be construed as a weapon. So, I mean, I am sure that the Israelis would like the world to believe that they were the ones being attacked as they assaulted these ships, but this is just Israeli spin."

In a Huffington Post article, rabbi Daniel Gordis writes, "what we know is that on five of the ships, the commandos (among them friends of our kids, by the way) boarded the boats, and there was no resistance and no fighting.
On one boat, however, the first soldiers to land on the boat were attacked with metal rods and knives. There's video of it. It's playing all over Israel and all over the internet. In some cases, soldiers' weapons were stolen and used against them. One was stabbed, apparently in the abdomen. Another was tossed from a desk and trampled when he landed."

An INN article reported that Israel’s U.N. envoy Daniel Cameron said,“this flotilla was anything but a humanitarian mission. What kind of humanitarian activists demand to bypass the United Nations, the Red Cross, and other internationally recognized agencies? What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?"

So, are we to believe the first account or the second and third?