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



31 Jan 2010

The feathers of a peacock

This coming week we will be reading the ten commandments in Parshat Yitro, the Torah portion of the week. The tenth commandment deals with envy.

The following is taken from a sermon by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld.
“Lo tachmod beit reiekhah, do not covet the house of your friend. Lo tachmod eishet reiekhah ve-avdo ve-amato ve-shoro vechamoro ve-khol asher le-reoekhah, Do not covet the wife of your friend, nor his servant, maid, ox, donkey, nor anything that belongs to your friend.”
...How does the prohibition against envy fit into the Ten Commandments? Why include the sin of envy in this fundamental group? After all, envy is different than the other nine Commandments. It is the only one of the commandments where we are told not to have an emotion or a feeling. As if it is even possible!
...When one covets something in their heart, what they are really doing is demonstrating that they do not believe that everything they have in this world is from God. They are saying whatever I have comes from my own merit and not from God. When envy appears in a person it thus demonstrates a fatal flaw in their thinking; it is a flaw which arises from a denial of God in our daily lives. Envy is thus idolatry; it is a rejection of God’s role in our lives.
To read full article, click on the link below.
http://www.rabbishmuel.com/files/torah_sermons124.serm-yitro.doc

30 Jan 2010

The big boss

Can you imagine if we would fear the Big Boss the way the employees fear their boss in the video below?

video

29 Jan 2010

Earning a living

A couple of years ago a job interview was canceled at the last minute and I called up a friend of mine and told her how upset I was about the development. I will never forget her words.
She said, "At the beginning of the new year, Hashem determines how much money you and your husband will earn in the coming year. So, why not let your husband work to earn the money while you can be busy with other activities like taking care of the household, doing chesed and relaxing, as well?"
Yesterday I bumped into a woman who had lost her teaching position at the beginning of the year and was still searching for a new job. She told me, however, that the years that she had been teaching were years that her husband earned less than normal and he complained to her that her earnings were taking away from his earnings.

Yesterday I also received an email written by Rabbi Eli Mansour about earning a livelihood.
Parashat Beshalah tells the story of the Manna, the miraculous bread that fell from the heavens each morning to sustain Beneh Yisrael during their travels in the wilderness. In a number of ways, the Manna provides us with a model and example for the proper approach toward Parnasa – earning a livelihood. When Beneh Yisrael walked outside the camp each morning to collect their daily rations, it was readily obvious to them that they were supported by God. There was no possibility of taking personal credit for their sustenance, of denying God’s role in providing them with their daily needs. And this must be our attitude toward Parnasa – that only God decides how much a person will have. When we receive our monthly paycheck, we must realize that it is God who enabled us to work and to earn a living. As Moshe Rabbenu urges us in the Book of Debarim (8:18), “You shall remember Hashem your God, for it is He who gives you strength to accumulate wealth.”
....A successful businessman once had to be out of the office for extended periods of time because his son was in the hospital. That year, he spent less time than ever before tending to his business, in order to be with his son in the hospital. The man told me that, strangely enough, that was the business’ most profitable year. Specifically the year he worked the least brought him the most earnings.
This is just one of many examples that prove that it is ultimately God, and not our effort, who determines our earnings. Although we must certainly put in time and use our skills in securing a livelihood, we must constantly remind ourselves that “it is He who gives you strength to accumulate wealth,” that our financial success is determined only by Hashem.

Read full article: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/WeeklyParasha.asp

28 Jan 2010

Manna from heaven

I was watching an Arutz Shevathon Fundraiser and heard one of the hosts talking about the upcoming holiday of Tu Bishvat. He said that Tu Bishvat is the holiday of being makir tov, of showing gratitude to G-d for all the things he gives us.
This morning, I caught a video about Parshat Beshalach in which Rabbi Finman poses the question as to why we don't get manna from heaven just as the Israelites received their daily portion during their sojourn in the desert.
Rabbi Finman answered, "Ultimately we are getting manna from heaven. We just have to recognize where our food is coming from."
As I entered the supermarket to make my food purchases this afternoon, it was with a greater appreciation of all the good that G-d bestows upon us.

Far reaching consequences

Yesterday I attended a shiur where the speaker impressed upon us the consequences of our actions. He related a story he had just heard from a rabbi who had traveled to Mexico to raise funds for his yeshiva in Israel.
The rabbi embarked on a fund raising mission last year and had the occasion to speak to a Mexican audience. Since the rabbi had an illustrious heritage, he and his ancestors had met many Torah luminaries. The audience asked him to tell them a story about a great Torah sage. For some reason, unbeknownst to the rabbi, he started to tell the audience an incident about a man who had approached a great Torah sage, asking him for advice. His son had recently become engaged. After the engagement, he found out that the future bride had a medical condition that might preclude her from having children. The man wanted to know if his son should break the engagement.
The Torah sage excused himself and proceeded to another room where he began pacing to and fro. His wife observed his strange behavior. After the guest had left, she asked her husband what had happened.
The sage explained that he had thought about the problem and came to the conclusion that it wasn't right that the young woman should suffer an embarrassment of a broken engagement. He, therefore, beseeched G-d to provide the soon to be wed couple with children. He then counseled the groom's father to proceed with the wedding. A year later, the young couple was blessed with a child.
The rabbi concluded his story. A year later, he returned to Mexico and a man approached him. He told the rabbi that he had been in the audience the year before and had been facing a similar predicament, undecided about breaking a shidduch because it was unsure whether the future bride would be able to have children. After hearing the rabbi's story about the great sage, the man decided that the wedding should go through. The couple had recently been blessed with a child.
We can not envision the far reaching consequences of our actions and words. But, we see in the rabbi's case how his words contributed to the building of a family and the arrival of a new generation. The above anecdote demonstrates how much our words and actions can influence lives and contribute to a positive outcome.

27 Jan 2010

With faith

I came across an inspiring article on Revach.net entitled A Billionaire's Priorities - Rav Moshe Saba Z"L. The following is an excerpt from the article.


The gemara Shabbos (31a) says the first question they ask you in Shamayim is Nasasa V'Nasata BeEmuna. People translate this to mean did you deal honestly in business. Only after does Hashem ask about your Torah learning. This is a perplexing question to ask first. Why are we so concerned with business dealings? Sure there are lots of potential aveiros involved, but why those first. Why not did you watch your Kashrus or did you plant wheat in your vineyard?
Maybe the answer lies in the mistranslation. Hashem does not ask Nasasa V'Nasata Btzedek or U'BiYosher, did you deal righteously and fairly, rather BeEmuna with faith. Did you live your life as if you were the master of your financial destiny, or did you understand that everything you have is from Hashem. This is a fundamental question that tells a lot about if we succeeded in our earthly mission, and rightfully is the opening shot across the bow. Only after setting the record straight comes the question of how much Torah did we learn. Not how much did you delegate and how much did you support, but how much you actually learned. Sure they will get to that as well, but if it was truly important to you, you wouldn't leave it for others. Was it a permanent feature in your day and in your life, or was it lower down on your list and you only learned when all the important matters were taken care of?
There is nothing more painful than arriving Shamayim after playing out your life's mission on earth in a manner that you deep down knew was not your true mission, but looked kosher enough so you convinced yourself otherwise. Regardless of how many good deeds you did, the full weight of the truth and your failure to live up to it will hit you like a Mack Truck the instant life ends.
Read full article: http://www.revach.net/article.php?id=4324

Living longer

In a CNN article entitled Uncovering secrets to a longer life Dan Buettner discusses parts of the world where people live longer lives. He found that those areas "possessed the same nine lifestyle characteristics. Among them: a low-meat, plant-based diet (all of them ate a lot of beans) and a ritual of "downshifting" each day. They experience the same stresses we do -- kids, health, finances -- but they managed it through daily prayer, meditation, ancestor veneration or city-wide happy hours (like the Sardinians)."
Mr. Buetnner also speaks about centenarians.
Centenarians are still living near their children and feel loved and the expectation to love. Instead of being mere recipients of care, they are contributors to the lives of their families.
...Children and grandchildren in these families benefit from their grandparents' wisdom and care while the centenarians feel the motivation to stay active, to get out of bed in the morning, and live for a purpose.

Read full article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/01/26/buettner.long.life/index.html?hpt=C2

Judaic traditions include daily prayer and respect for elders. May we be blessed to live within close proximity of the older generation and may we benefit from their words of advice and provide them with motivation to continue living fulfilled lives for many years to come.

20 Jan 2010

The right order

Not being commanded to wear a tallit or to put on tefillin, I was unaware of the order of what should be put on first, until I came across the video below.

"When a Talit is worn during the prayer, the Talit should be put on first and then the Tefillin; but when the prayer is concluded, the Tefillin are removed first......., and then the Talit. "
http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/81815/jewish/Some-Laws-of-Tefillin.htm

19 Jan 2010

Thank you G-d

Click on the link below to see an incredible rescue of a woman in Haiti, trapped under the rubble of a collapsed bank for six days.
Her first words upon being freed? Thank you G-d.
http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/world/2010/01/19/neely.haiti.wife.alive.itn?hpt=C2

Terrorism in the news

The ringleader of a plot to set off truck bombs in front of a stock exchange and two government buildings was given an unprecedented sentence – becoming the first Canadian to receive a life term for terrorism.
The life sentence is the stiffest penalty yet imposed under Canadian anti-terrorism laws, but Judge Durno said Amara would be eligible to apply for parole after serving six years and three months in prison – around the time of his 30th birthday.
Read more: http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/life-sentence-for-canada-terror-plot-ringleader-442504.html#ixzz0d3WWysWP

The presiding judge stated that, "the attack would have been the most horrific crime in Canada’s history if the plot been successful." Seems to me that being eligible to be released after six years is a pretty lenient sentence.

Put on a happy face

The other day I attended a lecture on the power of positive thinking. The speaker ended her talk with an anecdote which teaches us the importance of projecting a positive countenance.
There was once a woman who worked in an office and she was miserable. No one greeted her when she entered work in the morning. Nobody befriended her or asked her to lunch. Day after day she went to work and remained isolated from her colleagues.
One day she arrived at work at an early hour, only to find the door locked. She saw that a hat store was open across the street and decided to peruse the store while waiting for someone to open the office building in which she worked. She entered the hat store and began trying on various hats. A child whispered to her mother, "Doesn't that woman look great with that hat?"
The saleslady rushed over to the woman and told her that she did look great. The woman smiled and decided to buy the hat.
She walked out of the store and returned to the office. One after another, he co-workers wished her a good morning. She was invited out to lunch, as well as dinner. She had a fabulous time and was still smiling when she returned home to the apartment she shared with her father.
"You look so pretty," her father complimented her.
"Why, it's the hat that I'm wearing which is making me look so good," she explained.
"The father looked puzzled. "I forgot to tell you. You received a call from the hat store this morning. They told me to let you know that you had forgotten the hat at the store. You can pick it up any time.

18 Jan 2010

Fast response

Last week, I posted about Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar issuing a plea to pray for rain this past Thursday.

Rabbi Amar called on all those who care about the continued presence and success of Jews in the Land of Israel to fast and pray on Thursday, the 28th day of Tevet. Those who have difficulty fasting, he says, should fast at least half the day. He also encouraged Jews to congregate in synagogues to say Selichot (penitence) prayers and Psalms.
If the Jews do these things, Rabbi Amar says, "the great G-d will not reject, He will hear His poor ones, He will see His impoverished ones and hear our prayers, and will fulfill our requests with kindness and mercy, return His winds and waters will flow… with mercy on our nation and on the inheritance of our fathers."

Read full INN article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/135500

Todat the weather has been making the news in Israel.
Significant downpours swept the land, especially in the Negev and northern Negev, where 49 millimeters were registered during the night.
The downpour started in the country's south, slowly moving northward. In Jerusalem, 17 mm. were registered, in Tel Aviv and environs amounts between 3 and 7 mm. were noted.
Read more: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1263147917096&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

If this isn't inspiration to heed the words of a great Rabbi, I don't know what is.

Crime doesn't pay?

This morning I heard on BBC radio that the man who shot Pope John Paul II was released from prison. The reporter said that Mehme Ali Agca was offered a lucrative deal to tell his story of why he shot the Pope.
And who says crime doesn't pay?

The man who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981 was released from prison today after completing his sentence for crimes committed in Turkey...
There have been long-standing questions about Agca's mental health based on his frequent outbursts and claims that he was the Messiah.
In a statement today...he raved again: "I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed in this century...."

Read more: http://www.breakingnews.ie/world/man-who-shot-pope-freed-from-jail-442355.html#ixzz0cxT5eZtM

...Agca served 19 years in an Italian prison for the attack, before being pardoned on the Pope's initiative in 2000.
However Agca was then extradited to serve a sentence in Turkey for crimes including the 1979 murder of a newspaper editor.

Read full story: http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/the-man-who-shot-the-pope-freed/story-e6frfku0-1225820959637

17 Jan 2010

Mastery over nature

I was looking for a devar Torah on this week's Parsha and came across Bo - Nature Unleashed by Rabbi Aron Tendler.
The following are excerpts from the rabbi's article.
"In this week's Parsha, the last three plagues are detailed. Locust, Darkness, and the Death of the First Born are the culminating display of Hashem's (G-d's) mastery over nature and humankind."
"Nature is the greatest miracle possible, and the greatest display of Hashem's mastery. However, the constancy of nature disguises the magnificence of its miracle. Occasionally, natural disasters occur which remind us of the awesomeness of Hashem's power, and his control."
"The plagues were intended to teach Jew and Egyptian that there is a Creator who maintains the universe by setting limits to the power of nature. The swarm of locusts that swallowed Mitzrayim showed nature's power unleashed without the usual and expected controls."

Read full article: http://www.torah.org/learning/rabbis-notebook/5758/bo.html

The following is an excerpt from an article about the Haiti earthquake.
Celebrating Mass at the once-proud pink-and-white cathedral, now a shell of rubble where a rotting body lay in the entrance, the Rev. Eric Toussaint preached of thanksgiving to a small congregation of old women and other haggard survivors assembled under the open sky.
"Why give thanks to God? Because we are here," Toussaint said. "What happened is the will of God. We are in the hands of God now."
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/cb_haiti_earthquake

A Reuters article quotes Dania Aly who stated,"This increases our faith, despite everything. He (God) has protected us."

Life among death

Amid the tragedy and devastation encompassing the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since Tuesday's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, a happy event took place Sunday inside the field hospital erected by the Israeli relief delegation in the city. Doctor Shir, who works at Hadassah, delivered the first healthy baby in the Israeli hospital.
The mother told Dr. Shir that she would name her son Israel. "Amid all the death around us," the doctor said, "it is very symbolic."
Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1143165.html

Actions speak louder than words

YYN reported that there was a break-in at the home of HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita where tens of thousands of dollars were stolen. The money was intended to be distributed to various institutions, as is customary, on Rosh Chodesh.

After reading the various comments, I was impressed with one person who wrote, "...Well, stop with the comments. Money has to be replaced. I am sending in money right away, so should everyone else."
http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/44939/Costly+Break-In+at+the+Home+of+Maran+Rav+Shteinman+Shlita.html

In Pirkei Avot , the sage Shammai taught (1:15): Emor me’at va-aseh harbeh , Say little and do much.
Or, in other words, "Actions speak louder than words."

Israeli delegation in Haiti

In an article entitled International Aid to Haiti: Who's Giving, a list was published of the countries donating monetary aid and those helping with the relief efforts.
Iceland and Portugal are each sending more than 30 rescue workers. Taiwan has sent 23 rescue workers and two tons of aid and equipment.
Israel plans to open a field hospital and is sending 220 rescue workers.

Read more: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/01/14/world/main6097735.shtml?tag=contentMain;contentBody

After googling the words Israeli delegation Haiti, I found the following post:
Just thought I'd pass on some of the links I've received about what Israel is doing to help the people of Haiti right now. Sadly, they have a lot of experience with rescuing people out of collapsed buildings, cleaning up and finding bodies... Not bad for a supposed racist state.
Not that the Israel-haters will care, but I like the fact that it's not just a team of Israeli doctors going to Haiti... it's an IDF rescue team!


A comment by Daniel included the following words:
Remember them? The IDF is supposedly the occupying brutal army that regularly commits [insert atrocity-of-the-day here] upon helpless Palestinians.
I've said before that there is no fighting force anywhere in the world more ethical than the IDF.
http://www.solomonia.com/blog/archive/2010/01/israel-in-haiti/index.shtml

Click here to read an article by Rabbi Benjamin Blech about Haiti and Israeli aid.

16 Jan 2010

Optimism vs. pessimism

I received the following email the other day - author unknown.

A family had twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other thought it was too cold. If one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. Opposite in every way, one was an eternal optimist, the other a doom & gloom pessimist.
Just to see what would happen, on the twins' birthday their father loaded the pessimist's room with every imaginable toy and game. The optimist's room he loaded with horse manure.
That night the father passed by the pessimist's room and found him sitting amid his new gifts crying bitterly.
"Why are you crying?" the father asked.
"Because my friends will be jealous, I'll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I'll constantly need batteries, and my toys will eventually get broken." answered the pessimist twin.
Passing the optimist twin's room, the father found him dancing for joy in the pile of manure. "What are you so happy about?" he asked.
To which his optimist twin replied, "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"


15 Jan 2010

Rosh Chodesh Shevat

This Shabbos we will also be marking the first of Shevat.
Click on the link below to read about the significance of Rosh Chodesh Shevat, the day Moshe Rabenu began relating the book of Devarim(Mishne Torah) to the Israelites.
"The later Sages have, therefore, said that the first of Shevat is comparable to the day of the giving of the Torah. Just as the sixth of Sivan, on which the Torah was given to Israel, remains forever suitable for the renewed acceptance of the Torah, similarly is the heart of the Jew newly receptive to the Torah on the first of Shevat, because on that day they began to receive the Book of Devarim from Hashem, through Moshe.
Because the period of transmission of the Book of Devarim was this thirty-seven day interval, all the days from the first of Shevat until the seventh of Adar are especially well suited for renewed inspiration in the study of Torah and the doing of Mitzvot."
http://www.ou.org/chagim/roshchodesh/shevat/default.htm

Wishing you a good Shabbos and a Chodesh tov.

The wedding invitation

Last week I received a wedding invitation from a former student. On the back of the dinner card, was the most heartwarming letter imaginable.

Dearest_______,
I feel honoured to invite you to my simcha.
Your attendance would really be appreciated.
Thank you for all the beautiful lessons. I will always remember the happy times we shared.
I would also like to take this opportunity to ask Mechila if my behaviour wasn't always so nice.
Waiting to see you.
_________


My answer to the kallah is as follows.
I would be honoured to attend your simcha. Thank you so much for making my day. Your words should serve as an example to one and all. You have already done a mitzvah by showing appreciation to your teacher and penning words of encouragement for me to continue. If you have inspired other students to write such letters to their teachers, then you have accomplished even more.
Wishing you a happy and harmonious life with your Choson,
_________________________

P.S. I forgive you.

Note: Normally, I would have added an accompanying video of a wedding with lively Jewish music, but, out of respect for and, in empathy of the people in Haiti, I have decided not to.

14 Jan 2010

The dangers of technology

Today, two reports about the dangers of modern technology have convinced me that it is perhaps time to go back to the days of reading books, playing board games, and shooting baskets at the neighboorhood park.
"A report released in Australia has shown that there is a risk of death to people who view too much television.
According to the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, every hour that viewers spend watching television increases the risk of premature death."
Read full story: http://story.argentinastar.com/index.php/ct/9/cid/c08dd24cec417021/id/588280/cs/1/

"Early research being conducted by the Clalit Health Maintenance Organization points to a possible connection between unrestricted Internet use and the occurrence of psychotic episodes.
Dr. Uri Nitzan, a psychiatrist at Clalit spoke about "patients who have developed delusions inspired by computer software or hardware, such as one man who believes that someone is trying to poison his fingers through his computer keyboard or to implant certain thoughts in his mind."
Read full story: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1142500.html

Luckily, I don't seem to have developed any psychoses from my internet exposure.
I would love to continue with this post, but I have just spotted two men trying to jump out of the computer screen. I think they're out to get me. Gotta run. Bye............

The stigma of mamzer

Rabbi Andrew Sacks recently penned a Jpost article entitled Preventing mamzerut - at what cost?
He writes that "A mamzer, according to Jewish law, is a child born to an adulterous or an incestuous relationship. Such a child may never marry another Jew (two mamzerim may marry) for generations."
He discusses a fictiotious case about a couple where the husband suspects the wife is cheating on him. The wife receives a divorce and gives birth to a child some months later. The court must determine if the ex-husband has to pay child support, as he claims the child isn't his.
The court refuses to carry out a test to determine if he is the father, so that the child might not be considered a mamzer if the tests prove that the ex-husband wasn't the biological parent.
The rabbi writes, "The court has in the above case attempted to show mercy to the child. But is there another alternative? Does Jewish law allow for a more creative solution? Could the concept of mamzerut even be all but nullified?"
The rabbi further goes on to say that "There may even be occasions when the needs of the times allow rabbis to "uproot the words of the Torah." ..." The prophetic vision of justice may sometimes triumph over the letter of the law."
Rabbi Sacks stresses the word compassion. We should find creative solutions to avoid stigmatizing a child as a mamzer. After all, isn't he the innocent by product of his parents' infidelities? Why should the child suffer for the sins of his parents?
It is not for me to determine the Torah's reasoning behind stigmatizing a child as a mamzer. But, perhaps the Torah did so out of compassionate reasons. After all, children of divorced parents suffer immeasurably. Maybe a parent who is attracted to someone other than his spouse will say to himself that he can't withstand the temptation and will conduct an affair, because he has no control over his emotions. His or her actions could lead to a breakup of his marriage, with devastating consequences to the entire family.
However, if he/she were to realize that by starting an affair, a possible mamzer would result, maybe that thought would prevent the affair from taking place.
So, what is more compassionate? Lifting the status of mamzer, or leaving it in place? A parent might suppress his desires if he were to realize that his future child would not be able to marry a Jew (unless another mamzer) for generations. Thus, two families would remain intact and the spouses and children would be living in two parent households. I would say that this scenario demonstrates the greater compassion for all involved.

13 Jan 2010

Calls for prayer

This morning I came across two articles which mention calls for prayer. One was in reference to the devastating earthquake in Haiti.
"The hospitals cannot handle all these victims," said Dr. Louis-Gerard Gilles. "Haiti needs to pray. We all need to pray together."
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/13/haiti-earthquake-capitol_n_421295.html

According to an INN article, Rabbi Amar has called for a day of prayer and fasting tomorrow, the 28th day of Tevet.
Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi (Rishon LeTzion), Rabbi Shlomo Amar has issued a plea to the public to fast and pray for rain as another winter season of paltry precipitation begins to fade away.
In a letter written on official stationery of the State of Israel, Amar explained to the public that most of the winter season has passed without the "rains of blessing", and with Israel's water flow "limited and coming with great suffering," after several years of below average rainfall. "The Kinneret is almost totally dry," he lamented.
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/135500

May G-d help the people of Haiti.
Click here to read a previous post about a letter which the Chofetz Chaim wrote pertaining to earthquakes.

Keeping kosher

The New York Times published an article about the growing popularity of kosher food, even among non-Jews. Glatt kosher food will be available for the first time at the Super Bowl.
The majority of people who buy kosher foods are not doing so out of religious motivation, but because they perceive the food as healthier and of better quality.
One person interviewed for the article "was raised in a mixed Reform and Conservative household that didn’t keep kosher. But after reading books and watching films that depicted horrific examples of conventional slaughterhouses, he was essentially scared kosher — at least when it comes to meat."
Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/dining/13kosh.html?8dpc

Why should the laws of kashrut be observed?
Because the Torah says so. A Torah observant Jew needs no other reason.

Treating depression

The New York Times published an article regarding how effective medication is in treating depression.
Some widely prescribed drugs for depression provide relief in extreme cases but are no more effective than placebo pills for most patients, according to a new analysis released Tuesday.
....“The message for patients with mild to moderate depression,” Dr. DeRubeis said, “is, ‘Look, medications are always an option, but there’s little evidence that they add to other efforts to shake the depression — whether it’s exercise, seeing the doctor, reading about the disorder or going for psychotherapy.’ ”
Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/09/opinion/09warner.html?scp=1&sq=the%20wrong%20story%20about%20depression&st=cse

12 Jan 2010

Miracles great and small

Last year on the eve of Passover, there was a special occasion when Jews gathered to recite the blessing of the sun, which takes place every 28 years. I saw a video prepared for the occasion and remember one distinct point one of the speakers made. He said that the sun is in the exact location it needs to be for life to be sustained. If the sun were any closer, we would broil to death. Any further and we would freeze to death.
In the video below, Rabbi Glasman discusses full blown miracles and ones that we would be hard pressed to identify as a miracle. The fact that the sun is where it is supposed to be, day after day, is a miracle.
Yesterday the headlines were filled with the deaths of Mexican tycoon Moises Sabba and three members of his family. A 104-year-old former boxer from Brooklyn was killed while crossing the street. Six soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.
As I woke up this morning and said my morning prayer of Modeh Ani, thanking G-d for restoring my soul, I said it with a deeper appreciation for the miracle of life.
And speaking of miracles, a puff piece about Israel in the New York Times.

Credible testimony?

A Palestinian fighter has been killed in an accidental bomb explosion in the northern Gaza Strip, according to the ruling Hamas faction.
....Hamas had initially said the explosion was caused by Israeli shelling...
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2010/01/2010111222829200567.html

The headline in the New York times article about the above incident Gaza: Bomb Blast Kills Militant, leaving ambiguity as to who was responsible.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/12/world/middleeast/12briefs-Gaza.html

Well, should we believe the initial report from Hamas or the latter one from the same organization? Let's go with the first report and tack it on as an addendum to the Goldstone report of an additional war crime.

10 Jan 2010

Mazal tov!

Perusing the New York Times website, I came across the wedding announcement of Batsheva From and Michael Altman. There was a quite interesting article accompanying a wedding picture, detailing the courtship of a single woman and a widower with two young children.

What got my attention was an incident that occurred on the first date, which showed the thoughtful character of the future groom. At the end of the day, it is the good character of our prospective spouses that we should be evaluating before making the decision that will lead to a lifetime of commitment.
On his way to their first date, at a kosher restaurant in Midtown, Mr. Altman called to make sure she was running on time. Ms. From said she had a headache. He offered to bring some Tylenol he had on hand; she asked if he could pick up some Excedrin instead.
“The clincher for me was, he also bought me a bottle of water to swallow it with,” she said. “I hadn’t even asked for it.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/10/fashion/weddings/10vows.html


Alef Bais Gimel

This weekend I read two articles in the Hamodia newspaper about people with tribulations in their life and how they cope with them.
The first article was about a prominent Pitsburgh judge, Dan Butler, whose son died of cystic fibrosis at the age of 24. Additionally, he has two sons that are autistic.
He lectures around the country, inspiring people with his threefold message.
First, he makes people aware of how "remarkably lucky we are to live in a frum society that is involved in so much chessed and offers so much support."
Secondly, he stresses that salvation can come in the blink of an eye.
Finally he tells people that, "we must be happy with what we have and appreciate the brochos that come to us every day."
A second article was about a rally in support of Sholom Rubashkin, former head of Agriprocessors. His wife, Mrs. Leah Rubashkin, was one of the speakers and she thanked the 1400 women and girls in the audience for their prayers , financial and emotional support.
"People ask me how do you manage?... How do you get through the day and face all your challenges?
The answer is simple - Alef Bais Gimel. Emunah and bitachon will bring the geulah we are waiting for..."

9 Jan 2010

Light within the darkness

The Jewish Star reported on a gathering at a synagogue in Lawrence this week where the audience had a chance to meet and hear Lt. Aharon Karov, who was injured when he entered a booby-trapped house in Gaza a year ago. He was called up to serve in the army the day after his wedding.
His mother related in a private interview that Aharon was born on the ninth of Av and the midwife didn't understand why the parents were happy that he was born on that day.
"...we said because the Moshiach will be born on the ninth of Av. I didn’t think much about that all these years but when he was injured I said Moshiach is not a person but an era, a way of behaving. It is an era where we get closer to Hashem, and darkness and light are together until the light shines out, as the redemption gets closer. From the moment he married and went to battle and was wounded and continued to fight to live I understood that this was the time of Moshiach and maybe that is why he was born on the ninth of Av. We have to see that within the dark is the redemption and in this way will come the Moshiach to see the good within the bad.”
Read full article: http://thejewishstar.wordpress.com/2010/01/06/wounded-cast-lead-hero-visits-five-towns/

Below is a video in which LT. Karov spoke at a Memorial day ceremony a number of months ago. His message was one of unity.

Commentators versus the academic

I was incensed to read Stephen Cohen's opinion piece on achieving peace in the Miidle East.
"MANY WHO believed in the feasibility of achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace have concluded that it is no longer a realistic hope, at least in the first term of the Obama presidency.
They are largely disillusioned by Israel’s dogged insistence on expanding settlements, even though Israel well knows that it angers Palestinians."

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/01/08/take_a_tip_from_eisenhower_truman_on_the_mideast/

You can read the whole article and find that nowhere are the Palestinians to blame for the failure.
Israel Matzav reported that Abbas sponsored "a ceremony celebrating the 50th birthday of Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist who directed the 1978 Coastal Road Massacre, the worst terrorist attack in the country's history, where gunmen hijacked a bus and murdered 37 people, including 10 children. Mughrabi was killed during the attack.
On her recent birthday, the governor of Ramallah named a town square after her."
But Palestinian incitement and the firing of rockets into Israel is not a reason for the failure of peace. No, according to Mr. Cohen, the solution to advance the peace talks is the following:
"Since nuclear nonproliferation is an Obama priority, he should make it clear to Israel that America’s protection of Israel’s “nuclear ambiguity’’ will be difficult to maintain if Israel has not reached out to make peace on his watch."
There are 130 comments posted regarding the Boston Globe article.
Vinyid wrote, "By focusing on Israeli settlements as the major obstacle, Cohen obscures what is (and always has been) the real reason peace between Israelis and Palestinians is impossible to achieve: Both Fatah and Hamas refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, regardless of Jerusalem's status, Israel's borders or the presence or absence of "settlements." The truth can be found in the Hamas and Fatah charters, both of which call for the destruction of Israel and for it to be replaced with an Arab state of Palestine. If the Palestinians are serious about the two-state solution, one Arab and one Jewish, living side-by-side in peace, let them show it by first changing their charters."

A comment by Smart Momma included the following:
....The main obstacle to peace is the Arab's hatred for Jews and their fixation on destroying Israel above all else. Nothing will satisfy them short of eliminating the Jewish homeland and destroying all traces of Jewish existence. This is no secret; they have said this time and time again. How is it that a so-called 'academic' fails to listen to the most basic facts and imposes his own standards and perceptions in preference to what the Arabs continually tell him?
....And G-d save us from 'academics' whose ivory-tower existence has robbed them of all rational thought.

8 Jan 2010

Don't ask

I just read a post about a woman who had a blog and she posted a poem a little while ago asking Hashem various questions. She was niftar in an accident this past week. It reminded me about how I've heard the advice, "Don't ask too many questions from G-d because you you might be taken up to heaven for the answers.
Everything Hashem does is for the best.

Persona non grata

Egypt on Friday declared renegade British lawmaker George Galloway persona non grata, accusing him of incitement after his harsh criticism of Cairo over delays in an aid convoy's entry into Gaza, the foreign ministry said Friday.
"George Galloway is considered persona non grata and will not be allowed to enter into Egypt again," a Foreign Ministry statement said. The activist left Egypt Friday morning from Cairo airport.

Read more:
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3831587,00.html

Maybe he should be banned from the United States and Great Britain?

The redemption

"When told by Hashem to go to Mitzrayim and take out Bnei Yisroel, Moshe Rabbeinu asks Hashem why Bnei Yisroel will believe that Hashem sent him. Hashem tells him to tell them "Pakod Pakaditi" (I have surely remembered) which is the Siman(sign) of the true Go'el(redeemer) that was passed down from Yosef throughout the generations. The Ramban asks, if everyone knew this siman then it wasn't much of a secret, so what guaranteed the integrity of the person saying it. Anyone can say it even an impostor?
He gives two answers. First that part of Hashem's promise for the geula and the simanim was that no impostors would come. The first one that would come would be the true Go'el.
Another answer he says is that this is the reason Moshe was cut off from his father's house. Had he grown up by Amram, they would not have believed him, and they would have thought he knew the siman from his father. Growing up in Paroh's palace and being exiled from Mitzrayim at a young age gave him credibility when he arrived fresh on the scene with the long awaited sign."

http://www.revach.net/article.php?id=4277


7 Jan 2010

H&M

I read a disturbing article in the New York Times about clothing companies discarding unworn clothes.

At the back entrance on 35th Street, awaiting trash haulers, were bags of garments that appear to have never been worn. And to make sure that they never would be worn or sold, someone had slashed most of them with box cutters or razors, a familiar sight outside H & M’s back door. The man and woman were there to salvage what had not been destroyed.
A few doors down on 35th Street, hundreds of garments tagged for sale in Wal-Mart — hoodies and T-shirts and pants — were discovered in trash bags the week before Christmas, apparently dumped by a contractor for Wal-Mart that has space on the block.
Each piece of clothing had holes punched through it by a machine.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/nyregion/06about.ht

Risa Alyson Strauss describes the Jewish concept of waste in an article entitled Waste Minimization, Bal Tashchit and Beyond.

The Jewish law of Bal Tashchit, which prohibits us from being wasteful or unnecessarily destructive, is rooted in the Biblical commandment to not destroy fruit-bearing trees while laying siege to a city:

יט כִּי-תָצוּר אֶל-עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ
לְתָפְשָׂהּ, לֹא-תַשְׁחִית אֶת-עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו
גַּרְזֶן--כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל, וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת: כִּי
הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה, לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר.
19 When, in your war against a city, you have
to besiege it a long time in order to capture it,
you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax
against them. You may eat of them, but you
must not cut them down. Are the trees of the
field human to withdraw before you into the
besieged city? Dvarim (Deuteronomy) 20:19


The Talmudic rabbis understood these verses as a prohibition against any type of willful destruction and expanded this injunction into the general law of Bal Tashchit, which disallows wasteful or destructive behaviour. We are instructed by the rabbis to not use more than what we need, to not needlessly destroy anything, to not use something of greater value when something of lesser value will suffice, and to not use something in a way that it was not meant to be used (which would increase the likelihood of it being broken or destroyed).
....
In Hilkhot Melakhim, Maimonidies wrote:
Whenever someone destroys a useful artifact, or rips clothing, demolishes a building, plugs up a spring, or senselessly destroys food, it violates the negative mitzvah of Bal Tashchit. Such actions are disgraceful. (6:10)

Read more: http://more.masortiworld.org/environment/space/community/Waste_Minimization_Bal_Tashchit_and_Beyond.pdf

Tehillim needed

"We've been in Israel since Tuesday, and we really love it here. It's awesome, and it's surreal that everything is Jewish." On Friday, December 11, Dmitri Salita, the famous light-welterweight boxer from the United States and his wife Alona were at KKL-JNF's Aminadav Forest near Jerusalem, where they had come to plant trees in honor of their visit. They were greeted by KKL-JNF's Avinoam Binder, former chief KKL-JNF USA emissary, who surprised them when he explained that most of Israel's trees were planted by KKL-JNF, since the land had been stripped of almost all its natural forests.
Dmitri and Alona were accompanied by Dmitri's Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Zalman Lieberov, who said that as Dmitri's rabbi, he never went with him to his fights: "But when I heard that he was going to plant a tree in Israel, I said that this was an opportunity I wouldn't miss!"
Read more: http://fr.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447427403&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

The same Rabbi who accompanied Dmitri Salita is now in need of our prayers.

A horrific car crash has left a 10-year-old Flatbush boy R"L dead, a newly married woman R"L dead, and the boy's father, a Chabad shaliach in Flatbush, fighting for his life.
Read more: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/44422/TRAGEDY+STRIKES+LUBAVITCH+COMMUNITY:+Adult+&+Child+R
Please say Tehillim l'zchus Shneur Zalman ben Dabrosho
(שניאור זלמן בן דברושא).

Below is a story about the Rabbi (unless it is someone with the same name) that was written in 2003.
Zalman Lieberov spent four hours one afternoon talking to an 80 year-old Jew who vividly remembers his hometown cheder, where he was schooled as a young child before the war.
But that was a long time ago, Shmuel Haiperman explained, and he has long since shed the Judaism of his childhood. He’s too far removed from traditional Judaism, now. It’s too late.

“No Jew is ever too far,” Zalman told him.
“And it’s never too late.”
So for the first time in his life, with Zalman’s help and some cajoling, the elderly man wrapped the leather straps of the tefillin around his arm, exactly as his grandfather did. Then he closed his eyes and said the Shema.
Between Zalman and Leizer Twerski, Chabad-Lubavitch rabbinical students on a five-week stint in Romania, these leather straps have been bound around the arms of hundreds of Jews. It’s a mitzvah, explain the rabbis who don tefillin daily, that connects the Jewish soul to G-d. “We want every Jew to have the spiritual benefit of that mitzvah at least once in a lifetime,” says Zalman.

http://lubavitch.com/news/article/2014792/And-Bind-Them-For-A-Sign-Upon-Your-Hand.html

6 Jan 2010

Al Hamichya

A friend sent me a link to the video below. It gave me a new appreciation of the beracha of Al hamichya, recited after eating. In fact, after viewing the video, the next time I was required to say the Al hamichya blessing, I reached for a siddur and carefully concentrated on the words.

Bircat M’ain Shalosh is a short paragraph with variations in wording that adapt it to the following three categories:*“
Al hamichya,” is said after foods made of any of the five grains — what, barley, rye, oat, spelt;*
“Al hagafen” is said after wine and grape juice;*
“Al ha-aitz” is said after one or more of the five fruits with which Israel is blessed — grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives or dates.
To read more about the blessings before and after partaking of foods, click on the link below.
http://www.ok.org/Content.asp?ID=117

As an aside, I just came across an inspiring YNET article with a great idea. Perhaps we can adapt it in our communities.
'Pay it forward' program takes Israel by storm
Young women doing national service grant wishes to groups who in turn volunteer for community

Read more: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3826445,00.html

5 Jan 2010

The girl with red hair

I was standing on line in a small store, waiting to buy some fish. There were two other customers before me and I couldn't help but overhear their conversation. An elderly man was describing his experiences during the war years. I heard him say that he was put on a train destined for Treblinka.
As we exited the store, I struck up a conversation with the man, curious as to how he had survived. He told me that he had been in the Warsaw ghetto. At one point, he was sent on a train to Treblinka but he jumped off. I asked him if others had done the same. He told me that he had seen only one other person jump. He had witnessed a girl with red hair jumping off fifteen minutes before he took the plunge. She gave him the idea. Rather, he clarified, G-d had planted the idea in his head. He told me that there was only a small space from which to jump.
"It was not for fat people," he said. "I was twelve at the time. I am now seventy-nine."
A Polish farmer risked his life and hid him for a year. He told me this part of the story wonderingly, astonished that someone had risked his life to save a young boy.
"I think it was my grandmother, who, from the heavens, must have beseeched G-d to spare my life."
He remembered her as a righteous woman, always with a Tehilim or siddur in hand, constantly praying to G-d.
The man showed me a picture of his two red haired grandchildren.
"They go to a Jewish school," he proudly told me.
May he see much nachas from them.

Click on the link below to see a short video of a man who was pushed out of the train by his father. The last words uttered to him by his father were, "Zol Zayn a mentsch - Be a good person." All his life he strived to live up to his father's last instructions.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A5kqZd1IAKw&feature=channel

Simple functions

Those of you who haven't read How An Ohel Bais Ezra Camper Transformed My Life! by Tova Nachman are missing out. The article describes the experience of the young author working in a camp for special needs.
"Every morning when I wake up I realize the beauty of each day and how fortunate I am to be able to perform simple functions without the necessary help of others. That I can stand on my own, breathe on my own, eat on my own—how I appreciate such basic abilities that are far from basic. They are such profound blessings we all have."
Read full article:
http://www.5tjt.com/news/read.asp?Id=5490

This morning when I recited birchot hashachar, I concentrated intently on the words, "Blessed be He who who opens the eyes of the blind", "Blessed be He who straightens the bowed" and gave extra thanks to Hashem for what I normally take for granted.

To listen to the first 5 blessings of birchot hashacha, click here.

4 Jan 2010

In the z'chus

This morning, I received a daily email from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. The email began with a request to become a sponsor as a merit for a departed loved one, or for a recovery from illness.
I was very touched and inspired when I saw the special dedication at the end of the Shmiras Haloshon Yomi.
"Dedicated in the z’chus that my husband, _________, grow in his learning of Torah."
What a beautiful idea. May the wife who made the dedication merit seeing her desire fulfilled.

Click on the following link to receive a daily email or to join a Machson L'fi program.
http://www.chofetzchaimusa.org/


Minor annoyances

"It's high time to grasp the essential fact that there exists a jihadist ideology driven by zealous belief, not downtrodden misery, which has us in its crosshairs -- in the air, on land, and on the high seas."
David Harris, executive director AJC
Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-harris/responding-to-the-critics_b_409903.html

In a piece entitled In Lockdown at Newark Airport, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach describes his hours long wait to pick up his family arriving at Newark airport during a major security lockdown.
He writes, "On the way to Chicago last week my eleven-year-old daughter's backpack somehow merited secondary screening. For ten minutes a TSA agent performed about seven explosive swab tests on every knickknack a young girl might carry on a plane. Her reading books seemed to be of particular interest. I could only roll my eyes and pray for patience. While this went on approximately fifty adults passed through without any secondary screening because my eleven year old occupied the rapt attention of the TSA. Could this have gotten any more ridiculous?"
Read full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/in-lockdown-at-newark-air_b_410016.html

Can the security agents do a better job of screening would be terrorists who usually don't come in the guise of an eleven-year-old girl?
And what about the new security rules in which people travelling from "countries of interest" will be searched? Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, was British born and I don't see Britain on the "countries of interest" list.
I do want to feel safe when I travel, but a bit of common sense is in order. I don't think that taking away the blanket of a sleeping toddler does much to ensure airplane safety. Rather, it creates minor (and major annoyances) for thousands of passengers.
Speaking of minor annoyances, The first time I used Google this morning, I was captivated by the logo amidst a branch of an apple tree. Suddenly, one apple fell from the tree, and I thought that it was a cute animation. However, after the third time that I googled something today, that falling apple was fast becoming a minor annoyance. Once is cute; twice (or more) - it's a nuisance.
I thank G-d that the falling apple was the worst annoyance to cross my path today. After reading about various tragedies that have struck the Jewish community over the past few days, I am grateful for the good that Hashem sends along my way.

A heaven sent email

A friend hurt me the other day, albeit unintentionally. An email that I received this week has helped put the relationship back on track.

"The following sublime insight is found in S’mag (9); its source is Talmud Yerushalmi (Nedarim 9:4):
Suppose a man were walking along a path and one of his feet would trip over the other, causing him to fall to the ground and suffer cuts and bruises. Would he seek revenge of the “guilty” foot and refrain from trying to heal its wounds? Would he harbor any ill will toward that foot? Obviously not, for his feet, hands, face, etc. are all parts of one body — his own. If anything, he might reflect upon his deeds, and view his sins as the true cause of his mishap....
....The Torah states: “All the souls of the house of Yaakov who came to Egypt, seventy” (Bereishis 46:27). The Hebrew word for souls is nefashos. Yet in this verse, the singular form, nefesh, is used, alluding to the fact that in Heaven, the souls of the people of Israel are like one. Each Jewish soul, while part of one whole, is distinct and unique, like a person whose body is a single unit comprised of many individual parts, each with its own distinct and unique function. All Jewish souls will eventually be gathered in to one source, beneath the Heavenly Throne, as it is written, “And the soul of my master shall be bound in the bond of life” (I Shmuel 25:29)."
It is only in this world, where each soul is clothed in its own physical body and is involved in its own personal matters, that one sees himself as a distinct entity, apart from his fellow Jew. In truth, however, all Jews are one in a very real sense."

To subscribe e-mail alessonaday@chofetzchaimusa.org.

3 Jan 2010

Chas veShalom

Below is a video of an interview on FOX news of retired Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, who suggested the use of racial profiling to prevent a terror attack on an airplane.
The anchor stated, "G-d forbid we actually did that..."
Many Jews, when speaking about a worst case scenario, clarify their words with chas veShalom, heaven forbid or G-d forbid. We describe the worst that can happen, but we express our desire that we should never come to that situation.
When the anchor began by saying G-d forbid, I thought she was going to continue , that G-d forbid a terror attack should happen. But, her further words communicated that G-d forbid racial profiling should be used as a strategy to prevent a terrorist from blowing up an airplane.

Doing a mitzvah with joy

Mishpacha Magazine published an interview with Yaffa Smolensky, a woman in her seventies who is active in chesed organizations in Tzefat, Israel. One quote attributed to her will, hopefully, stand me in good stead in my approach to doing mitzvot.
But I tell myself, "if you do a mitzvah with joy, you get two points. If you do it begrudgingly, you only get one point. So if you're going to do the same thing anyway, you may as well get more points, no?"

2 Jan 2010

Jealousy

"...G-d has a plan for every person, and what our neighbor has in no way impinges on us. In helping us control our feelings of jealousy, our sages suggest that we consider a bird. Would we be jealous of it because it has wings? Even as a bird has no bearing upon our lives, so, too, what others have is irrelevant."
".....Why should it bother them that someone else has what they have? But jealousy has no logic or reason. It is a disease that consumes you and gives you no respite."
The Committed Marriage Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

Just finished reading The Committed Marriage by Rebetzin Esther Jungreis. The words above hit home. Why should I be jealous if someone has more money, made a great shidduch, etc....? If my neighbor has less money, will that increase the amount that I have?
Less jealousy - more faith.