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



29 Sep 2010

A guten kvitel

"The seventh day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, 21st day of Tishrei, is known as Hoshana Rabbah (Aramaic: הוֹשַׁעְנָא רַבָּא, "Great Hoshana/Supplication"). This day is marked by a special synagogue service, the Hoshana Rabbah, in which seven circuits are made by the worshippers with their lulav and etrog, while the congregation recites Hoshanot...
Hoshana Rabbah is known as the day of the final sealing of judgment which began on Rosh Hashana. The Zohar says that while the judgment for the new year is closed on Yom Kippur, it is not "sealed" until the end of Sukkot (i.e., Hoshana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot), during which time one can still repent. Consequently, the blessing which Jews give each other on Hoshana Rabbah, פסקא טבא (piska tava), which in Yiddish is "A guten kvitel", or "A good note", is a wish that the verdict will be positive."

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

28 Sep 2010

The best first lines

This morning I was directed to "Read the 100 Best First Lines From Novels
as determined by the American Book Review."

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2010/09/read_the_100_best_first_lines.html?f=most-commented-vulture-7d5

Clicking on the American Book Review link, I came across some oldies but goodies including Jane Austen's, "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."
It is perhaps fitting that I came across the best first lines list the week of Shabbat Parshat Bereshit, when we begin to read the Torah anew, starting with the opening verse, "In the beginning, G-d created the heavens and the earth."

This morning, I received an email from Derech emet containing a quote of the day.
"You should realize that you are unworthy of the abundant kindness that G-d gave you. Place this thought in your mind until it burns with love of your Creator."

As we read the first verse in the book of Genesis this week, we realize the abundant kindness provided by our Creator.

Touchdown

Below is an amazing video about a high school football team who allowed a young man with Down Syndrome to achieve a special dream - to score a touchdown. With the score 35-0 and 0:10 seconds remaining in the game, the Lake Stevens football team provided some easy defense to give the opposing team their first points on the scoreboard. The score ended 35-6, but Ike Ditzenberger, both teams, coaching staff and fans in the audience all came away the big winners.
Read full story: http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Down-syndrome-football-player-scores-TD-in-Washi?urn=highschool-272803

27 Sep 2010

The mother of all life

According to the Jewish mystical tradition, there are three main concepts connected to the Hebrew name Chavah. The first comes from the explanation given in the Torah itself: because she is em kol chai - the mother of all life (Genesis 3:20).
The medieval commentator Rashi explains this phrase. The name Chavah is a derivative of the Hebrew word chayah, meaning “living one.” Chavah embodies both the essence of life itself and the creative ability to grant that life to others. The idea of “mother of all life” expresses not only the ability to physically give birth, but also to create, nourish, and enhance all facets of life. This is the ability of a mother - to take something from the state of potential, develop it, and bring it to actualization through her creative abilities.
Read more: http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/335943/jewish/Chavah-Mother-of-All-Life.htm

While on the subject of mothers, here is an email that I received this morning.

Word to the Wise on Mothers

If we are available, we encourage dependency.
If we busy ourselves, we are detached.
If we offer advice, we are controlling.
If we refrain, we are disinterested.
If we visit often, we are pests.
If we don't, we are thought uncaring.
If we hide our needs, we are martyrs.
If we reveal our needs, we are demanding.
If we provide for our old age, we are selfish.
If we don't provide, we are burdens.
If we don't pitch in, they question our competency.
If we do pitch in, we question their competency.
If all this is true, we might as well do as we wish, and do it outrageously.

by Ruth Harriet Jacobs
Wellesley College Center for Research on Women

Perseverance

Just read an inspiring article about Liz Murray, author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard.
She describes the days when she and her sister were starving.

"We ate ice cubes because it felt like eating. We split a tube of toothpaste between us for dinner."
It is an amazing story of perseverance and she urges people not to "use childhood hardship as an excuse not to take opportunities."
Read full article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/sep/26/liz-murray-bronx-harvard

17 Sep 2010

Gmar chatima tova

Wishing you a gmar chatima tova. May we be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year.
Click here to read an inspiring article about the blowing of the shofar by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

The video is a message from Rabbi Sachs. Although it is from last year, the message is for the present.

Eiruv down

As news of a massive storm that hit the New York area last night has been reported in the media, an important consideration for Jews is the impact the storm has had on the eiruv in their communities.
YWN has reported that "the Kew Gardens Hills Eiruv and Hospital Eiruv will be down for Shabbos/Yom Kippur. There will be an update regarding the Eiruv for next Shabbos."
http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/70556/VIDEOS-%26-PHOTOS%3A-Massive-Storm-Tears-Through-NYC---Numerous-Major-MVA%27s-%26-Heavy-Damage-Reported%3B-Fatality-Confirmed-%5BUPDATED-12%3A18AM-EST%5D.html

Please check the status of the eiruv in your area before the Sabbath to determine of you are allowed to push a stroller or carry a machzor to shul.
Below is a clip from a few months ago about opposition to an eiruv.

16 Sep 2010

The wave of the future

Before Yom Kippur, in order for Hashem to forgive us for our aveiros committed against another person, we must receive Mechila from the person we harmed (Shulchan Aruch OC 606:1). Typically we ask all the people we may have caused harm, if they are Mochel us for everything we did to them. Is this enough or must we get into specifics?
Read full article: http://www.revach.net/halacha/tshuvos/Rav-Shlomo-Zalman-Auerbach-quotAre-You-Mochel-Me-For-Everything-I-Didquot/4097

This morning I received an email with the following request. "Please be mochel (forgive) me if I hurt you in any way over the past year."
I admit I am used to people calling before Yom Kippur asking if I am mochel them. Likewise, I have made calls to relatives and friends, wishing them a good year and asking them for forgiveness if I did anything wrong.
But, the above email marked a first- a new way of asking for forgiveness. And, I was a bit shocked about the removal of a voice at the other end of the line. I guess I will have to get used to it, as lack of personal contact seems to be the wave of the future and here with us to stay.
That fact really hit home when I read about 300 employees at Connaught who were fired via a conference call.
Read full article: http://money.uk.msn.com/news/city-news/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=154679883

So, for all those I've wronged over the past year - Please be mochel me. I'm sorry.

Think before you speak

The following is part of an excerpt from an email I received from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. To receive a daily email, click here.

"...A Torah scholar once posed the following question: If one has failed to concentrate while reciting the Shemoneh Esrei prayer and finds himself near its conclusion, with what approach can he inspire himself to pray the remainder of the prayer with proper concentration? The scholar offered a solution by way of a parable:
A young girl was standing in the marketplace with a large basket of apples for sale. Suddenly, a thief approached and began to snatch apples out of the basket. The girl became confused and stood helplessly, not knowing what to do. Someone who was watching from a distance called out to her, “Why are you standing still? What are you waiting for —that he should grab everything? Just as he is grabbing, so should you grab- whatever you can get will still be yours!”
And so it is regarding prayer. If one was overcome by lethargy and mindless daydreaming at the start of the Shemoneh Esrei, and suddenly finds himself near the prayer’s end without having “grabbed any apples,” this does not mean that he should give up and leave himself with nothing. Rather, he should strive with all his inner strength to concentrate on the remaining blessings.
And so it is, exactly, with shmiras haloshon. You stumbled this morning and spoke the forbidden? Then stand ready this afternoon to overcome your evil inclination and refrain from forbidden talk...."

There is a video on YouTube where President Obama claimed that his father served in World War II. Since both his father and stepfather were too young to serve in the war, his words were being dutifully scrutinized. One comment posted stated, "It was a misspeak. His grandfather, on his mother's side, served in WWII."
Here we have a vivid example of how we have to speak carefully. Our words are being judged. Once spoken, they can't be taken back. So, let's make an effort to not cause insult to others, or bring harm upon ourselves. Think before you speak.

15 Sep 2010

A letter to a pupil

I received the following email a while back - author unknown.
To my star pupil,
I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of you. Up here in heaven things are not like they are down on Earth. Over there, people only know what they can see. If they see a person is "successful", they think that he is the greatest guy. When they see somebody struggling, they think he might be one of the weaker elements.
Let me tell you something. Hashem gives every person certain abilities that nobody knows about down where you live. Some people are capable of tremendous things, while others were put there for much smaller purposes. Only Hashem in His infinite wisdom is able to give every person exactly what he needs, to reach his potential.
I am very misunderstood. Most people hate me, and I don't really blame them. Most people think that my job is to make sure that they fail in all aspects of Mitzvos, and that I rejoice every time they sin. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Did you ever watch a boxing coach train his student? It is really a funny sight. The coach will put on gloves, and fight against his student. At first, he won't hit him so hard, or throw his best punches. But, as the student gets better and better, the coach will start to fight him harder and harder. He does this so that the student will improve his skills, and become the best boxer he can be. This is where it gets strange. Every time the coach knocks down the student, the student gets yelled at!! But finally, when the coach threw everything he has at his student, and not only does he withstand the beating, but he knocks the coach down, there is nobody in the world happier then the coach himself!
This is exactly how I feel. If you fail right away, and don't even try to fight back, I see that there is not much talent to work with, and so I take it easy on you. But if you get back up swinging, I realize that I may have a real winner here, and so I start to intensify the beating. With every level that you go up, I increase the intensity of the fight. If you finally deal me a blow that knocks me out, I will get up and embrace you and rejoice with your success.
Sometimes my job is very disappointing I see a person with a lot of potential and I start right in on him. He fights back for a while, but when the fight gets too tough, he quits and just remains on whatever level he was on. (And he usually ends up going down!) I feel like yelling at him, "Get up you fool! Do you have any idea how much more you could be accomplishing?!" But I am not allowed to do so. I just leave him alone, and go try to find another promising candidate.
If I have chosen you to be the target of my more fierce battles, it was not for no reason! You have tremendous ability! You were born into a very special family, you have Rabbeim who really care about you, and parents who would help you grow in Torah and Mitzvos. You are a very respectful and kind person.
I am writing to you now, because I have a very serious request to ask of you. Please don't stop fighting! Don't give up! I have been beating too many people lately, and I am losing patience, Believe in yourself, because I would not be involved with you as much as I am if I didn't think you could beat me. Know what your strengths are! A great Rabbi once said: “Woe is to he who doesn't know his weaknesses. But, 'Oy Vavoy' to him who doesn't know his strengths - for he will not have anything with which to fight.”
Always remember one thing: you have a secret weapon at your disposal. I shouldn't really be telling you - but I will anyway. Hashem himself is watching our "training" sessions very closely. I'm pleased to inform you that He's rooting for you! If things should ever get tough, almost too tough to bear, just callout to Him with a prayer, and He will immediately come to your aid. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that after 120 years when your time is up in that world of falsehood, you will come up here to the world of truth, where I will be waiting for you with open arms, to congratulate you on your victory, and personally escort you to your place next to the Kisey HaKavod.
Sincerely, and with great admiration I remain,
Your Yetzer Hara

14 Sep 2010

Revised

Dear Imam Rauf,
In a Washington Post article titled How Islamic Law Can Work you wrote, "at the core of Shariah law are God's commandments, revealed in the Old Testament and revised in the New Testament and the Quran."

If G-d is omniscient, why would His commandments have to be revised?

The five prohibitions

In addition to the prohibition of work, as on the Sabbath, there are five activities specifically prohibited on Yom Kippur:

eating and drinking,
anointing oneself with perfumes or lotions,
marital relations,
washing (for pleasure), and
wearing leather shoes.

http://www.jewishaudio.org/cgi-bin/calendar?holiday=tishrei602

I got a good laugh out of a young man's list of prohibitions for Yom Kippur. Notice what he says is prohibited at 40 seconds into the video. Does that mean that after Yom Kippur, it is allowed?
But, seriously, I must commend him for his poise and speaking ability. I doubt I could speak in front of a camera as well as he does, especially without a teleprompter.
(Incidentally, the Hebrew date should read 5771.)

13 Sep 2010

A Rosh Hashana fateful decision

I caught a video describing Rabbi Sinai Adler's Rosh Hashana at a concentration camp the other day. After seeing it, I developed a greater appreciation for being able to celebrate the High Holidays at a shul of my choice in a country that respects freedom of religion.

It's never too late

Perusing Yahoo News this morning left me with the message that it is never too late to correct a wrong and it is never too late to change. In the week building up to Yom Kippur, it is a message worth internalizing.
One article I read was about someone who had returned an overdue library book that had been checked out 35 years ago.
Yahoo also had a series of videos titled "Second Act" about middle aged people who had changed their lives for the better. Below is a video of Terry Peterson who took up unicycling to get into better shape.

Seating request form

I received the following email - thought I'd pass it on.

Subject: SYNAGOGUE SEATING REQUEST FORM

HIGH HOLIDAYS APPROACHING, IT IS BEST NOT TO TAKE CHANCES. FILL OUT THE FORM BELOW.

SYNAGOGUE SEATING REQUEST FORM FOR HIGH HOLY DAYS

During the last holiday season, many individuals expressed concern
about the seating arrangements in the synagogue. In order for us to
place you in a seat which will best suit you, we ask you to complete
the following questionnaire and return it to the synagogue office as
soon as possible.

1. I would prefer to sit in the... (Check one)
___ Talking section
___ No talking section

2. If talking, which category do you prefer?
(Indicate order of interest)
___ Stock market
___ Sports
___ Medicine
___ General gossip
___ Specific gossip (choose from below)
___ The rabbi
___ The cantor
___ The cantor's voice
___ The cantor's significant other
___ The rabbi’s significant other
___ Fashion news
___ What others are wearing
___ Why they look awful
___ My neighbors
___ My relatives
___ My neighbors' relatives
___ Presidential Election, results from ____________
___ My children/grandchildren
___ Other : _______________________________

3. Which of the following would you like to be near for free
professional advice?
__ Doctor
__ Dentist
__ Nutritionist
__ Psychiatrist
__ Child psychiatrist
__ Podiatrist
__ Chiropractor
__ Stockbroker
__ Accountant
__ Lawyer, General Practice
__ Criminal Lawyer
__ Civil Lawyer
__ Real estate agent
__ Architect
__ Plumber
__ Buyer (Specify store :_____________ )
__ Golf pro [tentative; we're still trying to find a Jewish One]
__ Other :____________________________

4. I want a seat located (Indicate order of priority)
__ On the aisle
__ Near the exit
__ Near the window
__ In Aruba
__ Near the bathroom
__ Near my in-laws
__ As far away from my in-laws as possible
__ As far away from my ex-in-laws as possible
__ Near the pulpit
__ Near the Kiddush table (not applicable on Yom Kippur)
__ Where no one on the bimah can see/hear me talking during services
__ Where no one will notice me sleeping during services
__ Where I can sleep during the rabbi's sermon [additional charge]
__ Where I can use my blackberry (SHHHH)

5. (Orthodox only.) I would like a seat where :
__ I can see my spouse over the mechitza
__ I cannot see my spouse over the mechitza

6. Please do not place me anywhere near the following people:
(Limit of six; if you require more space, you may wish to consider
joining another congregation.)
_________________________
_________________________
_________________________
_________________________
_________________________
_________________________

Your name : _________________________________

Building fund pledge (acknowledging and in grateful appreciation for this change)
$________________________

12 Sep 2010

Interfaith dialogue

In a CNN interview, ICNA spokesperson Azeem Khan stated that, "the type of campaigns we run are to promote tolerance and dialogue."

In a Fox News interview, ICNA spokeperson, Malika Rushdan, spoke about the Islamic organization.
"And I'd like to mention that the Islamic Circle of North America is a mainstream, national, non-profit organization that has been actively working for 42 years in the United States. We are partnered and funded by the Department of Homeland Security … and I invite everyone to go on to our website, icna.org, to learn more about our mission."

Having been invited to check out the ICNA website, I did so.
I read about the Southern California chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America's announcement of distributing thousands of copies of the Quran.
I read the comment posted under the article by sideboom about the misguided Americans and the Zionistic Jews and found it a strange that this comment was allowed to be published and wasn't rejected in the spirit of promoting tolerance and dialogue.
http://www.icna.org/2010/09/quran-burning-877-whyislam-southern-california-responds/#more-4363

I read about the outreach activities including the initiation of a whyIslam project. I wondered why the project was called whyIslam. I would have thought whatisIslam is a more appropriate title, if the goal of the organization is to promote interfaith dialogue, rather than conversion.

The ICNA website made note to visit a site where one can find information on how to convert to Islam.
Is the ICNA really interested in tolerance and interfaith dialogue?



The wedding yarmulke

A New York Times article describes a collection of skullcaps kept in a wicker basket at a lower East Side synagogue.
The journalist traced the history of some of these yarmulkes, based upon the inscriptions inside. One yarmulke was handed out at the wedding of Sandra and Jack Marquis. Mr. Marquis was interviewed. His wife had passed away last year.

"It was a beautiful marriage. She was a lovely woman. Kind, considerate; she was my blessing in life."
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/12/nyregion/12yarmulkes.html

What a beautiful statement from a spouse after 40 years of marriage. Let's look at our spouses as blessings in our lives.

11 Sep 2010

Tzom Gedalya

The day after Rosh HaShana, the third day of Tishrei, is the Fast of Gedalya. The Gemora in Rosh HaShana explains that we first see this fast mentioned in Zecharia 8:19, when the verse speaks about "...the fast of the seventh...." As the seventh month (starting from Nissan) is the month of Tishrei, the fast mentioned in that verse is referring to Tzom Gedalya, the third day of Tishrei. ..On this day, the Gemora says, Gedalya ben Achikam was killed by Yishmael ben Nesania. The Gemora concludes that this fast teaches us that the death of a righteous person is on par with the burning and destruction of the Holy Temple.
...We see that after the two days on which the whole nation of Israel prayed for life and a good year, we suffered a great downfall. On this day, we should truly feel troubled and worried about our devotion to Hashem. We should focus our prayers on requesting mercy from Hashem. We should not be so confident that the prayers we just completed on Rosh HaShana sufficed. We should ask from Hashem that not only should He raise us from the depths to which we have sunk after our downfalls, but He should decree a good and long life for the whole nation.
http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/yomkippur/vol1no39.html

2 Sep 2010

Tav, Shin, Ayin, Aleph

Every year people try to find significance in the letters of the coming Jewish New Year. I was trying to come up with some words of meaning, but Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis beat me to it.

In previous columns, I mentioned that my husband, HaRav Meshulem HaLevi Jungreis, zt"l, would always form an acronym from the letters of the forthcoming New Year. I believe that were he with us today, he would say that this New Year of Tav, Shin, Ayin, Aleph be a symbol of "Tehei Shnat Am Echad." Let us unify our nation around our Torah and G-d, and if we do that, we can bring redemption to ourselves and the entire world.
http://www.jewishpress.com/pageroute.do/45080/

Tipping the scales

During the funeral of Kokhava Even-Chaim, one of the victims of the deadly terrorist attack, her husband eulogized her with the following words.
“We are not the ones accompanying you. You are accompanied by the angels you created by the learning of a daily page of Gemara, by saying Tehillim [Psalms] - just in the past two weeks you finished the book of Psalms 22 times – and by the angels you created by guarding your speech. Few people know that you led a group of women committed to avoiding speaking ill of others.”
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/139443

Let's create more angels - Let's tip the scales before Rosh Hashana by reciting Psalms and trying to guard our speech.

1 Sep 2010

Chazak V'Ematz

In the parsha (31:7) Moshe gives Yehoshua Chizuk about his ability to conquer Eretz Yisrael. He says to him, "Chazak V'Ematz, Ki Ata Tavo Es Ha'Am Hazeh El HaAretz; Be strong and courageous because you will lead the people to the land." When it comes to learning Torah and enforcing the Mitzvos, Hashem tells Yehoshua (Yehoshua 1:6) "Rak Chazak V'Ematz Me'od Lishmor V'Laasos..." The pasuk uses the word "Me'od", strengthen yourself very much. Why the extra effort for Torah as opposed to conquering the land.
Rav Elyashiv in Divrei Agadah says that when it comes to Eretz Yisrael, Hashem leads us in battle. When it comes to Torah the Mishna in Avos says, "Im Ein Ani Li Mi Li?; If I am not for myself then who is for me?" When we conquer Torah and Mitzvos, Hashem wants us to lead the battle. When we are leading and manning the dangerous front lines, we need an extra measure of strength and courage to win our battles.
http://www.revach.net/parshas-hashavua/quick-vort/Parshas-VaYeilech-Rav-Elyashiv-Conquering-Eretz-Yisroel-Is-Easier-Than-Conquering-The-Torah/2831