"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 Jul 2009

The good and the bad

The last post dealt with realizing that both good and what we consider 'bad' come from Hashem. Both are planned for us by Hashem.
After publishing the last post, I went to a store in my area to buy Shabbos necessities. As soon as I walked into the store, I heard a woman talking in Hebrew.
"I know that all that G-d does is good," she told her friend.
"I recognize the voice," I thought to myself, and looked in the woman's direction. The woman has not had an easy life. She lost her son, a number of years ago, in a crash. Another child recently broke her engagement and the woman's husband has been in and out of hospital for the past few months. It was as if G-d was sending me a message. He was telling me that I post about accepting the 'bad' along with the good but SHE LIVES IT. LEARN FROM HER on how to truly believe that everything G-d does is in our best interests.
Yesterday, I read a wonderful article by Seth Mandell, someone whose 13 year old son was murdered in a terror attack. He and his wife could have been mired in self pity and given up on life and on Hashem. But, they used their grief to establish Camp Koby, a camp for bereaved children. To the woman in the store and to Seth and Sherrie Mandell, I say to you that I have the utmost admiration for you. You serve as sterling examples for the rest of us. From now on, I will try to say the words, Gam zu letovah -Everything is for the best - with more conviction.

Middas Harachamim and Middas Hadin

Parshat Va'etchanan, this week's Parsha, contains the "Ten Commandments" as well as the first paragraph of the most famous Jewish prayer, the Shema.
"The kli yakar gives us a great insight into the words Shema Yisrael HaShem (Yud-keh-vav-keh) Elokeinu HaShem (Yud-keh-vav-keh) Echad. The name Elokim represents middas hadin - when HaShem deals with us in a strict way. The name yud-keh-vav-keh represents HaShem dealing with us with middas harachamim - with mercy. (Rashi Bereishis 1;1 'bara elokim') The kli yakar reads this back into the famous pasuk of Shema: 'Listen Yisrael, HaShem is middas harachamim and middas hadin, and they are one.'In other words, when everything is going well we can be quick to praise HasHem. But we do not realise that sometimes in life we feel we have been mistreated and bad things happen; that is also min hashamayim. That is also planned out perfectly by HaShem for whatever reason. The middas hadin and middas harachamim come from the same source.
That is what the gemarra pesachim (50a) says that in olam haba we will make the same bracha on good news and bad news - because they will then realise that good and 'bad' came from the same Source; they are both planned for us by HaShem."

30 Jul 2009

Fallacious headlines

The headlines below demonstrate how initial reports in the media may prove fallacious. It's certainly a lesson for me that I shouldn't believe all that I read or hear and that man is innocent until proven guilty.

The headlines from July 11 abounded with reports of a boxing champion's death and that his wife was suspected of his murder.
Cops think wife strangled Arturo Gatti, 37, to death
Brazilian media is reporting that police are focused on former boxing champion Arturo Gatti's wife, Amanda Rodrigues, is the main suspect in the fighter's murder Saturday.

The headlines from July 30 paint a different story.
Brazil police rule Gatti’s death suicide
A Brazilian police investigation has determined that the death of boxer Arturo Gatti was a suicide and a court has ordered the release of his wife, once suspected of killing him, officials said Thursday.

Appreciating life

Two articles taught me the meaning of appreciation today as I read about a father who had to bury his three daughters, who were killed in a car crash this past week.
"Just enjoy every minute with your kids, OK, every single minute," a devastated father said through sobs yesterday at the wake for his three young daughters, tragically killed in a wrong-way crash on a Westchester highway.

The second article that caught my attention was about a man who was hit in the head by a branch of a tree.
"A Google engineer enjoying a quiet walk in Central Park yesterday was hit on the head by a large branch that snapped from a tree -- a freak accident that left the father of two in a coma. Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, 33, was alone on a footpath between Central Park West and West Drive near 63rd Street at 8:15 a.m. when the rotting branch suddenly broke and fell on him from 20 feet above."
Blair-Goldensohn, who earned a Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia, was described as "super-smart" and a wonderful person by his relatives and co-workers.

The two stories have deepened my appreciation for my family, my health and all the little things I take for granted with each passing day.
Thank you, Hashem, for all that you have given me.
May Sasha Blair-Goldensohn be granted a speedy recovery.

The seeds of honesty

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

A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to
choose a successor to take over the business.
Instead of choosing one of his Directors or his children, he decided
to do something different.

He gathered the young executives in his company. He said, "It is time
for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to
choose one of you. "

The executives were shocked. The boss continued "I am going to give
each one of you a SEED today - one special SEED. I want you to plant
it, water it, and come back one year from today with what you have
grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the
plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO."
One man, Jim, went home and excitedly told his wife the story. She got
a pot, soil and helped plant the seed. Everyday, he'd water it and
watch to see if it had grown.

After a few weeks, the executives began to talk about their seeds and
the plants that were beginning to grow.
Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.
Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing.
By now, others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn't have a
plant and he felt like a failure.
Six months went by - nothing. Jim knew he killed his seed. Everyone
had plants and trees...he had nothing.

Jim didn't say anything to his colleagues, however. He just kept
watering and fertilizing the soil - He so wanted the seed to grow.
A year went by and all the executives brought their plants to the
CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn't going to take an
empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim
felt sick to his stomach, it was going to be the most
embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was right.

He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was
amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They
were beautiful -- in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on
the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for
When the CEO arrived, he greeted his executives.
Jim tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees, and
flowers you have grown," said the CEO.
"Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!"
All of a sudden, the CEO saw Jim at the back of the room with his
empty pot and ordered Jim to come forward.

Jim was terrified. He thought, "The CEO knows I'm a failure! Maybe he
will have me fired!"
When Jim got to the front, the CEO announced, "Behold your next
Chief Executive Officer! His name is Jim!"

Jim couldn't believe it. Jim couldn't even grow his
"How could he be the new CEO?" the others said.
Then the CEO said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone in this
room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and
bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds; they
were dead - it was not possible for them to grow.
All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers.
When you realized that the seed would not grow, you substituted
another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the
courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore,
he is the one who will be the new CEO!"

* If you plant honesty, you will reap trust
* If you plant goodness, you will reap friends
* If you plant humility, you will reap greatness
* If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment
* If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective
* If you plant hard work, you will reap success
* If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation
* If you plant faith in Hashem , you will reap a harvest

So, be careful what you plant now; it will determine what you will
reap later.

HaZor'im B'Dim'ah...B'Reena Yikzoru.

29 Jul 2009

A day of mourning

Arutz7 has reported the following:
"Rabbi Moshe Chait, the Dean of Yeshivat Chafetz Chaim in Jerusalem, passed away on Tisha B'Av eve, at the age of 87. He had been hospitalized in Hadassah Mt. Scopus Hospital.
Rabbi Chait was a long-time Young Israel rabbi in Far Rockaway, New York, as well as a revered teacher at James Striar School (JSS) in Yeshiva University. He made Aliyah with his family in 1970 and founded the Jerusalem branch of Yeshivat Chafetz Chaim.
....His funeral will begin at 10:30 PM outside the Chafetz Chaim yeshiva in Sanhedria/Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem."

Rabbi Moshe Chait was the father of Rabbi Baruch Chait, a Rosh Yeshiva and one of the most important Jewish religious songwriters of recent times. He founded the Rabbis' Sons band in the late 1960s.
HaMakom yenachem et'chem b'toch shar avay'lay Tzion vee'Yerushalayim.
May Hashem comfort all the mourners of the destruction of Jerusalem and bring the redemption bekarov.

On the same team

As a follow up to the previous post, please click here to read an article entitled "On the same team."

Hashiveinu Hashem elecha v'nashuva
Bring us back, Hashem, and we will return to You;
chadesh yamenu k'kedem
Renew our days as of old.

28 Jul 2009

Requiem for a newspaper

It started with The politics of fasting on Tisha B'Av .
It continued with Haredi rabbis must speak out in child-abuse cases .
It was followed by The painful cost to Israel of its settler adventure.
The boiling point was reached with Haredis vs. seculars - The end of the Third Temple.

Two days before Tisha b'Av - to be subject to such articles in an Israeli newspaper - al eleh ani bochiya.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu to you. I will not be reading your newspaper anymore.

Two days before Tisha b'Av, we should be focusing on ahvas chinam.
"The Jerusalem Talmud explains the Mitzvah to love a fellow Jew with a parable: If a man was to cut a piece of meat with a knife, and by mistake the knife cut his hand, would one imagine that one hand would hit the other to reprimand it? Each Jew must view the other as part of the same body. Living with a day to day awareness that all Jews are limbs of the same body is the true fulfillment of the Mitzvah."

If a second Hitler should arise, chas veshalom, he would not differentiate between charedi, secular or settler. We are all part of the same body. Let's unite and treat all our brothers with the utmost respect and love. May this be the last Tisha B'Av of mourning, of strife and disunity.

The efficacy of prayer

This past week, I heard two rabbis speaking about the power of prayer. One rabbi related an anecdote about a young boy who had been paralyzed for twelve years and was lying in a hospital bed in Poland. Two of his friends went to collect expenses for his hospital bills and they found themselves at the home of the Chofetz Chaim. They poured out the tragic story to the gadol, whereupon he began to daven for the boy. When the friends returned to Poland, they were amazed to see the boy sitting up in his hospital bed. The rabbi then told us, 'You see, tefilot work." My friend turned to me and said, "The tefilot of the Chofetz Chaim work. But our tefilot wouldn't have worked."
The rabbi must have heard her comment because he said, "You know, we daven veli'Yerushalayim Ircha (And to Jerusalem Your city return in mercy, and dwell within as You promised) and people are discouraged. They think to themselves that if the prayers of the Ari z"l and the Chasam Sofer haven't brought about the redemption, how can our prayers help?"
The rabbi continued, "Imagine a great wall is being built. First, large stones are laid for the foundation. More and more stones are laid atop the foundation until the wall is finally built. So too, the rabbis laid the large stones of the wall with their prayers, whereas we have contributed with our tefilot to the layers on top. At some point, the wall will be finished. Who knows which prayer will constitute the end of the construction of the wall?"
Yesterday, I heard a second rabbi talking about the power of prayer. He said that no prayer is for naught. One might not be answered immediately and it can take even a second generation to see the results of the tears shed by the parents to prove the efficacy of prayer. He related two stories where grandchildren were helped by the prayers uttered by their grandparents years before.
The power of prayer is great. No prayer is for naught.

The video link below is from Tisha B'Av a couple of years ago.


27 Jul 2009

A beautiful definition of beauty

Arutz 7 has reported about a Saudi beauty queen who was crowned last Thursday the “Queen of Beautiful Morals” – without showing her face. She was dressed in a head-to-toe black abaya.
"No swimsuit or evening gown competitions took place in the pageant. Instead, al-Mulla and the other contestants were exposed to a three-month battery of tests demonstrating their loyalty to their family and their service to society. A runner-up, a 15-year-old highschool girl, was cited for taking care of her home and family on weekends when her mother was away."

26 Jul 2009

A mistake

The first סעיף in סימן תיח states that is it prohibited to fast on Rosh Chodesh.

I wrote a previous post about Taanit Tzedek, a group of "rabbis" who describe themselves on a website as an ad hoc group of rabbis who are committed to fasting for the people of Gaza and calling for the lifting of the blockade..
Last week, I clicked on their site and noticed that they had called for a fast on Rosh Chodesh. (see above)
Today, I see they have changed the date to the day before Rosh Chodesh.
What precipitated the change? Could the rabbis have made a mistake in going against a Mishnah Berurah? If so, perhaps this whole fasting idea is a big mistake.

Rabbi Wallerstein hits a home run

I must confess that I've been addicted to Rabbi Wallerstein's lectures on torahanytime.com since a friend told me about the site a number of months ago. Last week, I listened to his lecture on the hunt for emunah and highly recommend listening to his words. Click on the link below to access the video.

25 Jul 2009

The Clock is Ticking

I found this wonderful poem in a Jewish Press article entitled The Clock is Ticking by Cheryl Kupfer.

Time, I've concluded, is both foe and friend.
It launches a beginning - but also brings an end.
It stops for no one, despite fervent pleas
To slow down, to halt, to reverse, to cease.

The clock is ticking, steady and unrelenting,
Not heeding the sorrow of those repenting.

The time they wasted, time needed to retrieve,
But there's no U-turn, there is no reprieve.

The hands move forward, steady and resolute,
To dream of a rewind is an effort that is moot.
For despite your regrets, your sorrow or pain,
You cannot revisit past moments again.

There is no returning; there is no second chance
To fix a damaged moment, to improve or enhance.
It is a one-time gift that should be wisely used,
For there is no going back if it's wasted or abused.

The hands of time almost seem to mock,
As they move tenaciously over the face of the clock.
No doubt they would warn us, if they could talk,
That they will not waver, they will never balk.

Time can't be caught like a passive fish,
To be set aside and retrieved whenever you wish.
Each moment is fleeting, never to come back,
Once it is gone, it's a moment you now lack.

The clock is ticking; time does not hesitate,
Whether we are ready or not - it does not wait.
It brings on all change, whether too early or too late,
We are at its mercy - that is man's fate.

The hands move boldly, they have no shame,
Time is uncontrollable, a force we cannot tame.
It has no favorites, it treats everyone the same,
If it is squandered, we have only ourselves to blame.

The clock is ticking; time does not waver,
Each moment is one we should cherish and savor.
To be appreciated and used well at whatever cost,
For once it passes, it is forever lost.


“Al Tomar LiChSheEfneh Eshneh, Shema Lo Tipaneh,”
“Do not say, ‘When I have free time, I will change,’ lest you have no free time.”
Avot 2:4

24 Jul 2009

Shabbat Chazon

This Shabbat is called "Shabbat Chazon" after the beginning of the Haftarah, “Chazon Yeshayahu ben Amotz,” the "Vision of Yeshayahu, the son of Amotz.” Rashi explains the word “Chazon,” Vision, as the hardest, the most stringent of words introducing a prophetic message to a People, such as “Masa,” Burden, “Dvar HaShem,” the Word of HaShem, etc.
It is chanted to the same haunting melody as is “Megilat Eichah,” the Scroll of Lamentations written by the Prophet Yirmiyahu, who was an “eye-witness” to the Destruction. Yeshayahu was an “eye-witness” as well, but only in the mind’s eye of his prophetic vision. In the external reality, it hadn’t yet happened. It still could have been averted, if only the People would have repented.
Yeshayahu (1:3)
“The ox knows its owner,
And the donkey its owner’s trough;
But Israel does not know,
My People does not understand.”
The ox and the donkey are not subject to “reward and punishment;” yet, they perform their appointed tasks unquestioningly. But the People of Israel, who know or should know full well that they will be rewarded if they follow the Laws of the Torah, and will be punished if they don’t, refuse to obey the Commandments of My Torah. (RASHI)

Can't live without cell phones

I attended a shiur yesterday which was interrupted by the ringing of a cell phone. It took the owner of the cell phone a good few minutes to rummage through her handbag, find the device, and turn it off. In the meantime, the attendees couldn't concentrate on the lecturer's words.
I recall a few years ago, I was notified by my cell phone company that I would have to exchange my old cell phone for a new one, as the company wouldn't be able to provide service with my old phone which didn't have the latest technology installed. I gleefully exchanged my old cell phone for a brand new one, at no cost. But, soon after, I was dismayed by the small size of my new phone. It took me ages to find my new phone amongst the odds and ends in my handbag.
Today, when I read about the world's smallest cell phone currently under development, I envisaged the scenario of people searching for hours for their cell phone, while the rest of us would be subject to the incessant ringing.

"An Israeli firm has launched the world’s smallest cellular phone. The tiny phone, which has won an entry in the Guinness Book of Records, measures 7.2 centimeters (2.83 inches) by 3.76 cm. (1.47 inches) by .78 cm. (less than a third of an inch).
It has a memory of 2 GB.
Modu, whose chief executive officer Dov Moran also came up with the Disk On Key, said it will market the phone through Cellcom and later in Europe, South American and Southeast Asia. No plans have been developed yet for marketing it in the United States."

Do we really need to accumulate all the things that we are being encouraged to buy? The New York Times printed an article about people giving up air conditioning because they could no longer afford it. One family, in particular, discovered a few unexpected benefits after making do without air conditioning.

“It was when the family put up an awning and fan over their patio — effectively transforming it into their living room, where they spent about three hours a night grilling, playing games and talking instead of going their separate ways — that they discovered the upside of an uncontrolled climate.

“We spent an entire summer getting to know our kids by sitting outside trying to keep our electricity bill down,” said Ms. Holmes, who estimated that the family saved $2,100 last summer; they are repeating the experience this year. “It was very therapeutic and we got closer. We also got thinner — all of our diets changed because we were eating a lot of grilled food. And by the time fall came around, with the change in the economy, we had learned to live off less.” http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/garden/23air.html

Marbeh nechasim marbeh de'ogoh .– The more possessions, the more worry.

23 Jul 2009

Play ball - but not on Tisha B'Av

After my post about Israeli tennis players who will be competing in the Davis Cup on Rosh Hashana, I was gratified to read about the Haifa soccer team who requested to play on a day other than Tisha B'Av.

Maccabi Haifa to Play in Kazakhstan – But Not on the Fast
The Maccabi Haifa soccer team is to play against the Kazakh team, Aktobe, in Kazakhstan in the next stage of the play-offs for the European Cup.
After beating Ireland’s Glentoran team, Maccabi Haifa will be playing its first game against Aktobe on July 28th.Aktobe accepted a request by the team and also the Jewish community in Kazakhstan, which is led by Rabbi Yeshayah Cohen, and the director of the Euro-Asiatic Congress Alexander Mashkevitch, to play the game two days earlier than planned. The game was originally scheduled for July 30th, which is when Tisha B’Av, the fast of the Ninth of Av, will fall this year.


One city

In an article entitled "Jerusalem - one city, undivided" by Jeff Jacoby, published in the Boston Globe, the journalist writes about the Obama adminstration's demand that the Israeli government stop the construction project slated for the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem. He asks, "Why, then, does the administration want the development killed? Because Sheikh Jarrah is in a largely Arab section of Jerusalem, and the developers of the planned apartments are Jews. Think about that for a moment. Six months after Barack Obama became the first black man to move into the previously all-white residential facility at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, he is fighting to prevent integration in Jerusalem.

...There was a time not so long ago when Jerusalem was anything but an open city. During Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the Jordanian Arab Legion invaded eastern Jerusalem, occupied the Old City, and expelled all its Jews - many from families that had lived in the city for centuries. “As they left,’’ the historian Sir Martin Gilbert leter wrote, “they could see columns of smoke rising from the quarter behind them. The Hadassah welfare station had been set on fire and . . . the looting and burning of Jewish property was in full swing.’’
For the next 19 years, eastern Jerusalem was barred to Jews, brutally divided from the western part of the city with barbed-wire and military fortifications. Dozens of Jewish holy places, including synagogues hundreds of years old, were desecrated or destroyed. Jerusalem’s most sacred Jewish shrine, the Western Wall, became a slum. It wasn’t until 1967, after Jordan was routed in the Six-Day War, that Jerusalem was reunited under Israeli sovereignty and religious freedom restored to all. Israelis have vowed ever since that Jerusalem would never again be divided."
To read full article, click here.

Close to two years ago, Prime Minister Olmert was also facing unprecedented pressure to give up territories. This is the answer given by Esther Jungreis as to how to withstand the pressure.

"I recall a conversation many years ago with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, a"h. He had just returned from that infamous Camp David meeting with then President Carter. He related that Carter wanted to initiate discussions on Jerusalem, which Begin adamantly refused to consider. But Carter pressed on, "Let's just discuss it," he insisted. To which Menachem Begin responded with a story from our High Holy Day liturgy.
Some 1,000 years ago, the Bishop of Maintz, Germany who wielded tremendous power, pressured Rabbi Amnon, the beloved leader of the Jewish community, to convert. On one occasion, after being subjected to much abuse and harassment, Rabbi Amnon, seeking some respite from the bishop's constant badgering, said, "Give me a few days to think about it."
No sooner did Rabbi Amnon return to his home, than he fell into a terrible depression and flagellated himself. "How could I have possibly uttered those words? How could I possibly have allowed them to escape my lips? G-d Forbid that future generations should think that I would ever have considered renouncing my faith?"
When a few days passed and Rabbi Amnon did not appear before the bishop, he sent his soldiers to arrest him. "I would like to declare my own punishment," the rabbi said to the bishop. "The tongue that spoke and declared that I would ever even entertain the idea of renouncing my faith, sinned, and should be severed."
"No," responded the bishop. "That tongue spoke correctly. It was the legs that did not carry you here that are traitorous." And with that, the bishop ordered his hatchet men to sever Rabbi Amnon's limbs and after each amputation he asked, "Are you ready to convert?" But throughout this torture, Rabbi Amnon remained strong in his faith and refused to succumb. Maimed and mutilated, he was sent home with his limbs at his side.
It was just before Rosh Hashanah, and when the Holy Day arrived, Rabbi Amnon asked to be taken to the synagogue where, in front of the Holy Ark, he composed the awesome prayer, "U'Nesaneh Tokef," and when he concluded, his soul departed.
Three days later, Rabbi Amnon appeared in a dream to Rabbi Kalonymus ben Meshullam and taught him the prayer and asked that it be sent to every Jewish community and be incorporated into the High Holy Day liturgy. And to this very day, Jews recite it everywhere with great fervor.
"If I were to agree to discuss Jerusalem," Menachem Begin told Carter, "I too would have to suffer the fate of Rabbi Amnon and proclaim that my tongue be severed."
There are certain things that we Jews cannot negotiate, and what's more, there is no need to negotiate them. If Prime Minister Olmert and the members of his government would just take a few steps closer toHashem and His Torah, then all those who seek to destroy us would vanish. It's as simple as that - Jewish history testifies to this truth.
Perhaps some of our readers are now smiling, thinking that I am naive and simplistic. Things just don't happen that way.
To these people I say, "Let's test it out." Let Olmert and his government proclaim to the nations of the world that we, the people of Israel, sealed an eternal covenant with G-d at Sinai - and it is through that covenant that the land became our eternal inheritance. Therefore, we cannot and dare not relinquish it! Moreover, our deed to the land is available for all to see. It is documented in our Torah.
.....As to what Olmert and his followers should do on the home front - Indeed, here too we have a precedent for our predicament. Long ago, in the very same country from whence Ahmadinejad is plotting his satanic scheme, there was a man just like him - Haman. He too wanted to wipe our people off the map.
So what did our leaders do? Simple - they invoked two magic words... "Kiymu V'Kiblu" - they called upon the nation to reaccept and recommit to Torah. Overnight, the miracle occurred - darkness was converted into light - terror into joy and gladness. And to this very day, the holiday of Purim is testimony to it. So, let's try it - It's the only formula that is guaranteed to work for our people."

Shaming another

"Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Lubochinski succeeded his father as Rabbi of Baranovich, Poland. One of the first issues with which he was faced was brought to him by the community leaders. They requested the rabbi’s permission to fire the elderly shamash (caretaker) of the main synagogue.
The shamash’s work was taxing. He woke while it was still dark to start a fire in the oven in the synagogue so that the early risers who came to learn before daybreak would find the place warm and lit up. Then at the end of the day, he was supposed to assist the late-night learners, providing as many candles as they needed. When the last person left, the shamash would straighten the benches, replace the books on the shelves, clean the candle holders, wash the drinking glasses, put out the fire, and shovel the coals. How much time remained for him to sleep, until his early wakening? Just an hour or two, no more.
The beadle had fulfilled his position loyally for decades, but old age had taken over. He was no longer agile, and he was nearsighted and short tempered. But the most serious complaint was that after he would lock up the shul at night, he would go home to sleep, and not wake up until after the prayers. The congregants would find the synagogue locked, cold, and dark. This could not continue. They asked the rabbi’s permission to find a new shamash.
They were right. But what would be with the shamash? He had given the community his best years; now they would throw him away because he was no longer useful? This wasn’t just shaming/embarrassing… there was no pension fund, no social security. How would he live? Would he have to beg?
“Talk to him,” the peace-loving rabbi suggested. “Maybe he’ll try harder.”
The delegation shrugged. “We spoke to him, but he’s not neglectful; he just can’t do it anymore. He’s just too old.”
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ll speak to him.”
The rabbi spoke with the shamash, and the community was happily surprised to see that, apparently, his heartfelt words reached the old man. The early risers, with the rabbi at their head, were once again greeted by a lit up, warm shul. The shamash, nowhere to be seen, had gone back to sleep. The issue of firing him was forgotten.
No one would have guessed that although the rabbi had spoken to him, it was to no avail. The rabbi saw that the elderly man was doing the best he could, and he was filled with compassion. So the rabbi began a new early morning routine. He would get up at two a.m., unlock the shul, set up the candles, arrange the firewood in the oven, fan them into fire, and slip away back home. Then he would return with the first group of synagogue-goers and loudly praise the shamash who had returned to performance.
One night, the shamash couldn’t fall asleep. His clock chimed one, one thirty, two, two thirty. “Well, if I’m up, I can at least fulfill my duties,” he figured. He got dressed and shuffled through the snow, shivering in the frost. When he neared the shul, he was taken aback at the light that shown from the windows.
As long as he was young and able-bodied, the homeless had feared him. But now, look, how they had made the shul their home. What chutzpah!
He was suddenly filled with indignation, which lent him borrowed strength. He ran up to the shul and threw open the door. Yes! He was right. There was a guest running the place. Not only had this vagabond set up candles, he was now at the business of heating up the big oven, just like he owned the place!
“How dare you? This belongs to the synagogue! Put out that fire!”
The rabbi was stooped over the cool logs, coaxing the fire to them. It wasn’t easy work. He heard the beadle’s voice in the background, and froze. If he would stand up, the shamash would see him and know who had been taking care of the shamash’s nightly job. He would see that it was the rabbi himself who was covering up for him, and that would shame him. Rabbi Lubochinski didn’t move.
The shamash was right behind him now, yelling obscenities. Now for sure I can’t get up. He’ll see who he is cursing at.
“Are you deaf?” the shamash screamed, and dealt blows to the part of the rabbi’s body not in the furnace.
Now I really can’t show my face.
Fortunately, the shamash’s strength ebbed away, having not slept yet, and after exerting himself with his anger, he dragged his legs away, enraged.
Meanwhile, the rabbi’s efforts had taken effect, and the fire caught onto the twigs with a jolly crackle. As the fire spread, the rabbi heard the shamash’s footsteps leaving the doorway, and he drew his head out of the burning oven at the last minute. But his beard was already singed.
He slipped away as stealthily as he could so the beadle wouldn’t see him, and arrived home via a circuitous route. His wife was appalled by the sight of his red face and burnt beard, so he told her the story, with her promise not to share it during the shamash’s life. He wrapped a scarf around his chin as though he had a tooth ache.
Before he left, his wife said, “Yaakov Yisrael, just one question. What would you have done if the shamash had stayed there another two minutes?”
“I don’t understand the question,” the rabbi said gently, turning back to look at her. “Our sages said it is better to jump into a fiery furnace than to shame a fellow man. Surely then I would not have been permitted to leave the fiery furnace.”
Although this story may seem extreme, and certainly not the choice I would make if my face were inside a burning oven, this is our North star, our guide. We are bombarded by the other extreme: of embarrassing others merely for fun, or out of habit.
A high level of sensitivity is displayed in this week’s parasha as well.
In Moshe’s (Moses) last speech to the Jews in the desert, he felt the need to remind them of the big mistakes in their recent history. However, he didn’t want to shame them by recalling their sins, so he found a subtle way to bring up the offensive incidents – by mentioning the place names where they had occurred.
These events that Moshe brought up so delicately happened nearly forty years earlier, and almost all the adults involved were by now no longer alive. So the rebuke was mostly impersonal: a general warning. Why was Moshe being so careful?
We see from this how far we have to go to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, or impinging on their honor. Our early sages say, that after forty years Moshe wanted to say to the Jewish people, “Remember how you said, ‘Is the Almighty in our midst?’” But then he said to himself, “If I say that, I will shame them. And one who shames another has no portion in the World to Come.”
In a culture where a wise crack is a cool thing, even when it comes at someone else’s expense, we need lampposts of sensitivity to remind us of the appropriate way to behave. To point out that sticking up for a friend’s honor is where it’s at.
Why knock someone down when we can build someone up?"

21 Jul 2009

Respecting sensibilities

This afternoon, I came across two articles about wearing modest clothing.
Article 1
"Religious minister's staff adopts modesty codes
Since ultra-Orthodox MK Yakov Litzman took office as deputy health minister, female employees working with him have started wearing less revealing clothes in his presence. 'We respect his sensibilities,' one worker explains.
The appointment of Yakov Litzman as deputy health minister has led to a significant change in the ministry's offices: Secular female employees working in proximity to the ultra-Orthodox minister have started wearing more modest outfits, and some even keep a shawl at the their desk's drawer in case they are asked to meet with Litzman directly.
Litzman did not order this new "dress code," and staff members explain that the ministry's women simply felt it was more respectful towards the new boss.
One senior female employee, who has toned down her attire since Litzman took office, said there was no coercion involved in her decision to do so."
To read full article, click here.
Article 2
"Several people have been killed in a series of attacks by Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan.
A group of gunmen and suicide bombers attacked four key sites, including the governor's compound, in the city of Gardez.
...In Gardez, the militants attacked the police chief's office, a police station and the intelligence directorate, as well as the governor's compound, Afghan officials said.
A local trader said there was panic and confusion.
"I was at my shop and I suddenly heard a loud explosion and then gunshots. I saw fire being exchanged between the police and attackers," the trader told the BBC. "
Reports said that at least two of the male attackers were wearing women's burkhas.
To read full article, click here.

What constitutes illegal construction

Chief Rabbi: Obama 'Settlement' Stance Opposes Torah
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar called on American Jews this week to explain to the Obama administration the religious obligation of every Jew to live in every part of the Land of Israel, according to the Jerusalem Post. The newspaper obtained a letter addressed to American rabbinical organizations and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, in which Amar wrote that "the Torah commands the Jewish people to live in Israel. And we hear that the US is putting pressure on the Israeli government to prevent Jews from living or building their homes in large parts of the Land of Israel."

Apparently, the American adminstration is only interested in opposing legal Israeli construction.
Informed security sources in Jerusalem told WND the PA is acting on three fronts to increase its presence in Jerusalem and to thwart property sales to Jews. First, the PA is leading a campaign to terrorize Arabs thinking of selling land to Jews. Second, the PA is attempting politically to become a larger player in Jerusalem, competing with Jordan for influence over strategic Arab areas. The PA also is attempting to fund popular Israeli religious leaders associated with Jerusalem, such as Islamic Movement chief Raed Shallah. Third, the PA has increased its intelligence activities in Jerusalem to thwart property sales to Jews.

The Obama administration has called for a halt to Jewish construction in eastern Jerusalem and the strategic West Bank in line with Palestinian claims on eastern Jerusalem as a future capital, even though the city was never a part of any Palestinian entity.
To read full article, click here.

Illegal Arab construction is promoted. The following are excerpts from a WND article published in April.
Under intense American pressure and following a nearly unprecedented behind-the-scenes U.S. campaign, the Israeli government has decided not to bulldoze Palestinians homes built illegally on Jewish-owned property in Jerusalem, WND has learned.

Like tens of thousands of other Arab housing projects throughout eastern Jerusalem, the Palestinian homes in Silwan were illegally constructed on property long ago purchased by Jews. The Israeli government ordered the structures' legal demolition.

WND has learned that in the weeks since Clinton's visit here, the U.S. has mounted an intensive campaign lobbying the Israeli government against tearing down the illegal Palestinian homes in Silwan. The campaign included letters from the Middle East section of the State Department addressed to various Jerusalem municipalities, with copies of the letters sent to the offices of Israel's prime minister and foreign minister. The letters called on Israel to allow the illegal Palestinian homes in Silwan to remain and stated any demolitions would not foster an atmosphere of peace.

A WND investigation last month determined the U.S. has been aiding the Palestinians in developing infrastructure in eastern Jerusalem, including on property owned by Jews.
The situation has been unfolding in the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods of Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis, which are close to the Jewish neighborhoods of Neve Yaacov and Pisgat Zeev in Israel's capital. Kfar Akeb, Qalandiya and Samir Amis are located entirely within the Jerusalem municipality.
Much of the property there is owned by private Jewish landowners or by the Jewish National Fund, a U.S. Jewish group that purchases land for the states purpose of Jewish settlement.


20 Jul 2009

One nation, under G-d

The Christian Science Monitor recently published an article entitled "Devoted Atheists Grow in Numbers, Goals."
"Some 15 percent of Americans claim no religious affiliation, up from 8.2 percent in 1990, according to Trinity College's American Religious Identification Survey, released in March. Also, the American Humanist Association claims 20,000 financial supporters. That marks a doubling from five years ago, says spokeswoman Karen Frantz. "

An article about atheists trying to revise American history can be accessed here.
With atheists trying to eliminate the word G-d from our currency and national monuments, I stumbled upon two news items today where G-d was specifically mentioned. The first item was about a man who has been building a model of the Temple. The second is a video clip in which a woman challenges President Obama's birth certificate and calls upon members of the audience to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

In a small town in eastern England lies a 1,800-square foot project that is still a well-guarded secret from most of the world: possibly the most accurate model of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in existence.
Its builder is a retired property-developer named Alec Garrard, who has been working on it for nearly 30 years – and expects to continue to do so until his dying day.
Asked whether he plans to sell the model, or put it on display for educational purposes, Garrard said, “I’ve been guided throughout my life by the hand of G-d… so I don’t know what will happen to the model, but I’m sure that whatever happens to it, it will be guided by the hand of G-d.”
To read full article, click here.

On that day, G-d will be One

The following are a few choice words excerpted from an article about the Mashiach.

What is the Messiah supposed to accomplish? The Bible says that he will:
A. Build the Third Temple (Ezekiel 37:26-28).
B. Gather all Jews back to the Land of Israel (Isaiah 43:5-6).
C. Usher in an era of world peace, and end all hatred, oppression, suffering and disease. As it says: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall man learn war anymore." (Isaiah 2:4)
D. Spread universal knowledge of the G-d of Israel, which will unite humanity as one. As it says: "God will be King over all the world -- on that day, G-d will be One and His Name will be One" (Zechariah 14:9).
If an individual fails to fulfill even one of these conditions, then he cannot be "The Messiah."

...The Messiah will lead the Jewish people to full Torah observance. The Torah states that all mitzvot remain binding forever, and anyone coming to change the Torah is immediately identified as a false prophet. (Deut. 13:1-4)

....The world is in desperate need of Messianic redemption. And to the extent we are aware of the problems of society, is the extent we will yearn for redemption. As the Talmud says, one of the first questions asked of a Jew on Judgment Day is: "Did you yearn for the arrival of the Messiah?"
How can we hasten the coming of the Messiah? The best way is to love all humanity generously, to keep the mitzvot of the Torah (as best we can), and to encourage others to do so as well.

...The Messiah can come any day, and it all depends on our actions. G-d is ready when we are. For as King David says: "Redemption will come today -- if you hearken to His voice."

For ful article, click here.

The shiksa - I mean - shidduch crisis

Last night, I saw a posting on OnlySimchas for the engagement of Ivanka Trump to a Jewish man. Subsequently, I read that she is planning to convert and has contacted an Orthodox Rabbi regarding the conversion process.
A while back, I read that Chelsea Clinton was supposed to get married this summer to a Jewish man - yes she is -no she isn't.
Years ago, I was shocked when a Jewish doctor married a famous actress who was 18 years his senior. The woman was past child bearing age and I was upset that this man would sacrifice having children, sending a message to his parents that if you expected Jewish grandchildren from your son, you can forget about it.
Why is Ivanka's groom so enamored with her? Is it because she is so beautiful? Beauty dissipates.
Is it because she is fabulously wealthy? In these troubling financial times, one sees how easily the money you had today can be gone tomorrow.
The real question he should be asking about his future wife is whether she can make a good chulent. I would venture to say that a woman who did not grow up with an upbringing of a weekly Sabbath chulent will be unable to produce the delectable soul food that his mother has served him throughout the years, no matter how hard she tries.
On a more serious note, there was an article in the Hamodia, this week, about a global shidduch event.
L'Chaim invites you to join its eighth biannual shidduch event during the nine days, July 21-30.
Once again, L'Chaim encourages women in communities throughout the world to come together in arranging, hosting and attending local...shidduch meetings.
This inspiring initiative offers participants the opportunity to transform chodesh Av into chodesh Menachem Av.
Please register your meeting before Monday, July 20. ..If you wish to attend a meeting, you can obtain information about locations and dates as of Monday, July 20. Send your email to
Times are hard. Let's help bring about shidduchim and may those searching for the right one merit their zivug hagun bekarov.

19 Jul 2009


Today, I read three different articles with three different approaches to the city of Jerusalem.

Article 1.
Ynet News reported that thousands of Arab children were in Jerusalem this Saturday to celebrate the Al-Aqsa Children's Fund initiative, which urges Muslim youngsters to donate their allowance to the mosque and Islamic Movement institutions.
The movement's Northern Branch's Deputy Chairman, Sheikh Kamel Khatib, spoke to the children and stressed that Muslims will never give up any parts of the holy Muslim site.

In his speech to the youngsters, Khatib said: "We have no partners here at the mosque," referring to Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich's recent visit to the site. "The al-Aqsa Mosque is a holy and occupied place, just like the whole of Jerusalem, which was occupied by the IDF in 1967. The occupation must be removed from the mosque in particular, and from Jerusalem in general."
"The Jews should not be thinking that they can build their Temple on the ruins of the al-Aqsa Mosque," Khatib said. "This day won't come. Those who dream that we, the Muslims, will renounce part of the al-Aqsa mosque should know that their dream will not see the light."

Article 2.

"The United States has told Israel it must halt an East Jerusalem construction project in accordance with the Obama administration's demands for a complete freeze on settlement building, Israeli radio stations reported on Sunday. The State Department summoned Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren over the weekend to advise him that the project developed by American millionaire Irving Moskowitz should not go ahead, according to both Israel Radio and Army Radio."


Article 3.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem was not a matter up for discussion. The prime minister's comments came after the U.S. State Department told Israeli envoy Michael Oren that Israel must halt a construction project in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting that Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel and that all citizens are allowed to purchase property in any part of the city they choose. "


How will peace be achieved with disparate views among the nations on how to resolve the status of Jerusalem?

"Malki-Tzedek, King of Shalem, brought out bread and wine." (Bereishis 14:18) "Avraham called that place Hashem Yireh." (Bereishis 22:14) Both of these saintly men - Malki-Tzedek, who was Shem, son of Noach, and his descendant Avraham - were referring to the site upon which stands Jerusalem (whose Biblical name is Yirehshalem). When Hashem wished to name His holy city, He faced, as it were, a Divine dilemma. "If I call it Yireh like Avraham did, the righteous Shem will feel slighted, and if I call it Shalem like Shem did, the righteous Avraham will feel slighted. I will therefore call it Yireh-Shalem like both of them called it." Shalem means both peace and perfection, while Yireh, as Targum Onkelos translates, means human service of Hashem. Only when man serves Hashem can he hope to achieve the peace and perfection symbolized by Yirehshalem.
(Bereishis Rabbah 56:10)

As the nine days are fast approaching and we in the period of mourning the destruction of the two Temples, I will try to say the beracha in the Shemoneh Esrei of "V'liYerushalayim ircha berachamim tashuv" with greater kavanah.
"Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city and dwell therein as You have promised; speedily establish therein the throne of David Your servant, and rebuild it, soon in our days, as an everlasting edifice. Blessed are You L-rd, who rebuilds Jerusalem."

May we merit to see the building of the third Temple and true peace in Yerushalayim bekarov.

18 Jul 2009

The failure of socialism

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

"An economics professor at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before, but had once failed an entire class.
That class had insisted that Obama's socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer.
The professor then said, "OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Obama's plan".
All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A.
After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B.
The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy.
As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.
The second test average was a D!
No one was happy.
When the 3rd test rolled around, the average was an F.
The scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.
All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.
Could not be any simpler than that."

I searched the internet to find a thought about reward in Jewish teachings and came up with the mishna in Pirkei Avot 1:3 and a devar Torah by Rav Moshe Taragin.

Antigonus Ish Socho would declare: "Do not act as a servant who serves his master solely with the anticipation of reward; instead, worship as a slave without expectation of reward, and let the fear of Heaven be upon you."
....Antigonus demanded that Judaism not be converted into a childish religion promising rewards for self-restraint or self-control. Instead, at least ideally, a person should recognize the self-sufficient value of a religious lifestyle and pursue this behavior with no need for external justification or incentive. As the Rambam writes in Hilkhot Teshuva (10:2), in an approximate citation of this mishna, "he should act correctly because it is correct" (oseh et ha-emet mipnei she-hu emet).
To read full devar Torah, click here.

17 Jul 2009

Rachem na

This morning, an article about the swine flu in a French camp came as a shock to me, as I was personally acquainted with a number of campers attending the camp.
"French Jewish campers are donning face masks after some of their fellow campers were found to be suffering from swine flu symptoms. Dozens of Bnei Akiva Jewish youth group participants from Belgium and Israel at its campgrounds in Normandy, France are affected. At least two campers from Belgium have tested positive for H1N1 virus, according to Zev Schwartz, executive secretary of the World Bnei Akiva movement."

I called up a friend whose two daughters are currently quarantined. They are not experiencing any symptoms and I wish a complete recovery to those affected.

A while later I read the following article about swine flu and the dire predictions for the UK this winter.
"Up to 65,000 people in the UK could die after contracting swine flu this winter, the Government has warned. It made the announcement after confirming that 29 people in the UK - 26 in England and three in Scotland - have already died after getting the virus.
....Cherie Blair, the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair, has pulled out of a series of public engagements while she battles the virus."

Reading about Cherie Blair made me realize that no one is immune. Speaking to my friend this morning me jolted me into the realization that the threat is real. This Shabbos, when I recite the blessing of 'Rachem na' in the Grace after Meals, I will concentrate on the meaning of the words and hope Hashem will listen to my prayers.
"Please have pity, Hashem our G-d, on Your people Israel, on Your city Jerusalem, on Zion the dwelling of your exalted countenance, on the kingdom of David Your anointed, and on the great and holy house that is called by your name."

Religion and sacrifice

This past Shabbos, I attended a shiur where the rabbi related a story about the tremendous sacrifice a young boy was prepared to make to live according to his religious beliefs. Subsequently, I found the story on a website. No, I am not Lubavitch, but I thought the story was amazing.
“I have no idea when the dead will come back to life, but I am certain,” said Israel’s President Shimon Peres, “that your work that gives life to the living, is no less important.”
Speaking to Chabad-Lubavitch representatives from the FSU at their annual convention in Jerusalem, the President, visibly inspired, said, “From Mumbai in India, to Siberia in Russia, Chabad Shluchim are in the trenches, breathing life into places remote and removed from centers of Judaism."
...Rabbi Berel Lazar, Russia's Chief Rabbi, who enjoys a bird’s eye perspective on the change in this region, shared his recent experience working with the Russian government to get state exams rescheduled so that they don’t conflict, with Jewish holidays.
“Two months ago,” he told the convened, "a young boy, Nikolai, approached me in the synagogue on Shabbos. He said he had a halachic question to ask me. State board exams were scheduled for Shavuot, and he wanted to know if he is allowed to take them.”
The Rabbi told him that he is not permitted to violate the holiday to take the exams, but that he would try to see if he can get the board of education to reschedule the test. Indeed, Rabbi Lazar contacted the minister of education, who told him that it would be impossible for him to change the law.
Rabbi Lazar met the boy again two weeks later and asked him what he plans to do. “I’ve decided not to take the exam. I won’t receive a diploma,” he said.
“After 11 years of studying, this young boy,” said Rabbi Lazar, “was prepared to forgo his diploma out of his respect for yiddishkeit, for Torah.”
The anecdote ended happily, not only for Nikolai but for all of Russia’s Jewish students, when Rabbi Lazar met with Russia’s President Medvedev, who readily implemented the change that would no longer present a conflict....
Incidentally, I wrote a post the other day about Israeli tennis players who are scheduled to play the semi-finals of the Davis Cup on Rosh Hashanah. I took out a Jewish calendar to corroborate the dates and noticed that this coming year will correspond to the letters תשע. Those letters form the root of the word תשועה, which means salvation. The numerical value of the letters תשע is equal to 770. (The letter ה is placed in front of the other letters to correspond to 5000 so that this year will be Rosh Hashanah 5770.) Anyone familiar with the address of Lubavitch headquarters on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn?
May we merit to see a salvation bekarov. And sorry about the gematria. I am sure you will be innundated with word plays on the letters of the upcoming new year but I couldn't resist.

16 Jul 2009

The bar mitzvah with atmosphere

A wealthy businessman wanted the most lavish, unique, memorable bar mitzvah for his son that money could buy. He'd already been to the Cohen's safari bar mitzvah and realized there was little in this world that hadn't already been done. So he called NASA and arranged to have the space shuttle take the rabbi, his entire family, friends and business associates to the moon. Naturally, this was an affair the press wanted to cover. Reporters were rabidly waiting at the landing site for firsthand accounts from attendees. The first person off the shuttle was the grandmother.
"How was the service?" one reporter asked.
Grandma answered, "OK."
Another reported wanted to know, "How was the bar mitzvah boy's speech?"
Someone else asked, "How was the food?"
Finally, a reporter says, "Everything was just OK? You don't seem very impressed. Was there a problem?"
Grandma shrugs her shoulders and says, "Personally, I didn't like the atmosphere."
My husband attended a bar mitzvah dinner last night. The dinner was held at the bar mitzvah boy's home. Twelve men were present, including the boy's father, grandfathers, two rabbis and a few family friends.
My husband left the house and returned two hours later, sated from a heimische meal replete with divrei torah and good company.
And do you know what? Even without a lavish bar mitzvah for hundreds of guests and even without receiving four Ipods and three sets of machzorim, the boy is still bar mitzvah. And he is entitled to put on tefilin for the rest of his life and fulfill all the mitzvot incumbent upon him upon reaching the age of thirteen.
I received an invitation through email to attend the davening to be followed by a kiddush this coming Shabbos. This Saturday, I will, G-d willing, be present when the boy is called up for an aliyah to the Torah. And afterwards, I will wish a hearty mazal tov to his mother along with a yasher koach for being a trend setter. I hope others will follow suit, especially in such financially challenging times.


The other day, I read an article about a lawsuit being brought to prevent the engraving of "In G-d We Trust" at a Washington tourist site.
"The nation's largest group of atheists and agnostics filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to block an architect from engraving "In God We Trust" and the Pledge of Allegiance at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington."

One day later, the message that "G-d is one"(Hashem1) was plastered all over the newspapers and television channels as a little girl was safely reunited with her parents after a man stole a van with the girl inside. Check the video at 1:50 to see the message.
Check out Shirat Devorah for full story.

15 Jul 2009

The message of Shimon Peres'

President Obama and the birth certificate

WorldNetDaily has been covering the issue of President Obama's birth certificate for quite some time. Yeterday, the site posted an article entitled,
"Bombshell: Orders revoked for soldier challenging prez
Major victory for Army warrior questioning Obama's birthplace."

What is shocking to me is the lack of coverage of this issue in the major news media. Googling information about the case provides you with links to many blogs, but few major media outlets.
Here is one take on the issue.
A number of people have written and asked me to weigh in on the ongoing controversy surrounding a Florida Army reservist who has refused to deploy to Afghanistan, arguing that Barack Obama was born overseas and therefore is constitutionally ineligible to serve as president of the United States and cannot issue lawful orders, especially following a report from WorldNetDaily that Maj. Stefan Cook's deployment orders have since been rescinded.
When it comes to the issue of what the mainstream press undoubtedly considers to be Barack Obama's virgin birth, I share the opinion so concisely and perfectly expressed by Atlas Shrugs' Pamela Geller: "BO, it's so simple. Release the vault copy and put this baby to bed. What's the problem?"
Indeed, whether you view the controversy surrounding Obama's birth certificate to be undeniable, unassailable fact or a boneheaded, tin foil-heavy conspiracy theory--or anywhere in between--we all can agree that very few such so-called "conspiracy theories" can be resolved as easily as this one. Obama himself wrote about the vault copy of his birth certificate in one of his books. He must have it. Why not settle any questions once and for all. Why not, as Geller says, "put this baby to bed?"
Update: Click here for WND article entitled:
Pentagon orders soldier fired for challenging prez
Army warrior terminated from job after questioning Obama eligibility

Hillel and Shammai

20. Any controversy waged in the service of God shall in the end be of lasting worth, but any that is not shall in the end lead to no permanent result.
Which controversy was an example of being waged in the service of G-d? Such was the controversy of Hillel and Shammai. And which was not for G-d? Such was the controversy of Korah and all his company.

Choose Life

Yesterday, I read about a couple who decided to end their lives in an assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland.
"He spent his life conducting world-renowned orchestras, but was almost blind and growing deaf — the music he loved increasingly out of reach. His wife of 54 years had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. So Edward and Joan Downes decided to die together.
Downes — Sir Edward since he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1991 — and his wife ended their lives last week at a Zurich clinic run by the assisted suicide group Dignitas. They drank a small amount of clear liquid and died hand-in-hand, their two adult children by their side. He was 85 and she was 74.
......Edward and Joan Downes are survived by their children and grandchildren. The family said the couple had no religious beliefs, and there would be no funeral. "

When reading the above article, I couldn't help but think of a video I had seen about Dr. Rachamim Melamed-Cohen who had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease. I found an article based on an interview with him and the following are his words regarding mercy killing.

Equally essential to Melamed-Cohen's determination to carry on is his religious faith. "I feel at times that G-d has allowed me to live in order to show the world that even in such a condition one can continue to be creative and contribute to society... The message of Judaism is that one must struggle until the last breath of life. Until the last moment, one has to live and rejoice and give thanks to the Creator."
Melamed-Cohen has gained a certain prominence in the Israeli media for his outspoken opposition to the euthanasia movement. "What is mercy-killing?" he asks. "For whom is the mercy? Is it for the person with an illness? Or is it for the family, so that they should not have to suffer? For the medical establishment, to reduce expenditures? For the insurance companies? Mercy means helping others to live, and with dignity. Helping people to cut their lives short cannot be called mercy."


Below is a video link to "In a blink of an eye."

14 Jul 2009

The remnants of the luchot

"Moshe sent them . . . and Pinchas . . . and the sacred vessels." (31:6) The gemara explains that the "sacred vessels" included the Aron Hakodesh. Inside the Aron were housed the Shivrei Luchot - the remnants of the luchot that Moshe broke on the 17th Tammuz, when he witnessed the people sinning with the Golden Calf.
The great R' Yissachar Dov Rokeach z"l (the "Belzer Rebbe") asks: Why would the Bnei Yisrael take the shivrei luchot which were held in the Aron - a vivid reminder of the shameful sin of the Golden Calf - to the battlefront; a place in which they needed as many merits as possible to protect them!! Should we not fear that it will "testify" against Bnei Yisrael before the Heavenly Court & Chas V'Shalom cause defeat in war?!
He answers: Just the opposite - the broken luchot are in fact a constant reminder that no matter how low the Jewish people fall, Hashem always remains willing to accept their repentance and take them back, just as He did after the incident with the Golden Calf.

13 Jul 2009

Soil and Soul

A relative of mine attended an opening ceremony for a soup kitchen in Israel this past week. The man who was responsible for bringing the idea to fruition spoke at the event. He said that when man was created, the verse stated that G-d took earth from the ground and blew into it, infused into it a soul of life (vayipach b’apov nishmas chayim). In other words, man is comprised of soil and a soul.
The speaker stated that the difference between the words soul and soil is that the word soul has a 'u' and the word soil contains an 'i'.
The fast of Tisha B'av is fast approaching when we mourn the destructions of the two Temples. The second Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam. Let us focus on ahavat chinam and bettering our relationships. Let us think with our souls on the 'u' in our lives. How can you be helped?
There is no better time in the Jewish calendar than now to open a soup kitchen, to concentrate on others, behaving with our godly souls rather than behaving like dirt- like soil, thinking only of 'I', of ourselves.
May we merit the rebuilding of the Temple speedily in our times.

The high holy days and tennis

I was thrilled to hear the news that the Israeli National tennis team has succeeded in reaching the Davis cup semifinals.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Israel Tennis Association Director-General Moshe Haviv on Saturday and congratulated him on the Israeli national team's historic win over Russia in the Davis Cup quarterfinals. "We are again on the map," the Prime Minister said. "You have filled the nation's heart with pride."
Israel won a place in the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time ever Saturday after completing a stunning victory over tennis giant Russia.
...Israel will play either Germany at home or Spain away in the semifinals, which take place on September 18-20. "
"There really couldn't be a more Israeli triumph than the one we witnessed this weekend: two sabras, two immigrants, 10,000 screaming fans and one country thrown into a frenzy in the most extraordinary of circumstances. "

I took notice of the fact that the Israeli team will be playing their matches on the weekend of September 18-20, which corresponds to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. In my mind, I have already written the article on the day after Israel's victory over the Spanish team which will catapult the team to the finals.

Rosh Hashanah is celebrated on the the first and second days of the month of Tishrei and marks the beginning of the Jewish new year. It is on Rosh Hashanah that the whole world is judged for the coming year. It is a day of solemnity and proclamation of G-d as our one and true King.
This year, however, Rosh Hashanah 5770 made way for the Davis Cup semifinals. A proclamation of G-d as our King was replaced with a proclamation of Israeli tennis players as kings. The wailing sounds of shevarim normally made by the shofar were replaced with the broken sounds of fans, wailing as the team looked perilously close to losing the match.
Instead of the ceremony of Tashlich which involves the casting away of our sins, the tennis players were busy casting away tennis balls that had lost their bounce.
Apples dipped in honey were replaced by bananas dipped in Gatorade, to provide the athletes with the crucial energy needed to sustain the frenetic pace of the grueling match.
The prayer of who shall live and who shall pass away was substituted with who shall win (the Davis Cup) and who shall lose (the Davis cup).
In the end, it was all worth it, as the Israelis rose to the occasion and beat Spain.
Prime Minister Netanyahu called the athletes to congratulate them on their victory. "We are again on the map," the Prime Minister said. "You have filled the nation's heart with pride."
Prime Minister Abu Mazen said that Netanyahu had previously called upon the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. But, since the Israeli athletes had succeeded in putting Israel on the map, Abu Mazen had no problem with allowing all the Israelis to emigrate to Spain, and play in the Davis cup, thereby putting the Jewish state on the map of Spain.
Other world leaders asked the Israeli Prime Minister to clarify his definition of a Jewish state.
"You play tennis with the rest of us on one of the holiest days of the Jewish year. You spend the Sabbath, like the rest of us Gentiles, in a frenzy, urging on your athletes, just like the rest of us non-Jews. What makes you Jewish?" they asked.

Hashem has a plan

Passover is supposed to be a time for celebration and thanksgiving, a time for family and for children, but in Brooklyn, there is little joy for Rachel Matyas.
The Orthodox Jewish matriarch still struggles with the horrible memories of a fire three years ago that killed her two youngest boys and a grandson.
The so-called Passover Fire that swept through her apartment on April 25, 2005, also injured 10 others and left her family broken in ways that can never be fixed.
"It's very hard to talk about it," Matyas, 64, told the Daily News. "The wound is still open. It's such a hard time of year because I just keep crying all the time."

...."The only way to survive is by having faith in whatever Hashem [God] does," she said. "Hashem has a plan. We don't understand, but we believe. That gives us the strength to go forward."

Moshe emet vetorato emet

This week, I came across a story about some photos which were withdrawn from the New York Times after it was found that the photos had been digitally altered.
"In the July 5 edition of The New York Times Magazine, a photo essay by Edgar Martins was run entitled ’Ruins of the Second Gilded Age’, and included the disclaimer saying that the photos were being run ”without digital manipulation”. The problem was that they were indeed digitally manipulated, and rather obviously so."
Next, I came across an article about a telethon in Greece for a Christian hospital in Gaza, supposedly destroyed by Israel.
"A campaign in Greece to raise money to rebuild a Chrisian Palestinian hospital in Gaza allegedly destroyed by Israel appears to be a scam, JTA has learned.
The hospital that was the focus of a campaign, which included the participation of Greece’s president and foreign minister, never actually existed.
For nearly a week in February, Greece’s official state television network inundated viewers with news about a telethon that would take place Feb. 9 to raise money to “rebuild the Christian hospital in Gaza that Israelis destroyed with their bombs” during the Israeli army's operation there in January.
...A JTA investigation revealed, however, that no Christian hospital was on the list assembled by the United Nations and the Red Crescent Society of structures in Gaza damaged and destroyed as a consequence of the Israel-Hamas war in January."
I then read about a Sheikh who denies that Jews have places of worship in Jerusalem. Sheikh Ikrema Sabri spoke in a sermon on Friday about the fact that Jewish rabbis had discussed the dividing of the Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews. He said that noone had the right to give up a single grain of sand of soil from the area . Additionally, he denied that Jews have places of worship in Jerusalem, citing that in over 40 years of excavation work in Jerusalem, not one stone was found to have Jewish origins.

Finally, I read about news sites changing the name of the hospital where President Obama was born.

"If you happened to read online news sites such as United Press International or the popular hoax-busting Snopes.com anytime up until Tuesday night, you would have seen definitive statements that President Obama was born at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.But checking back now, both sites are suddenly providing an entirely different location, the Kapi'omani Medical Center for Women and Children, also in the capital of the Aloha State."


In conclusion, I would like to end with these words. "Moshe emet vetorato emet. Moses is truth and his Torah is truth."

"The Gemara (Bava Basra 74a) tells of a story where a certain Arab showed Rabba bar bar Chana the site where Korach and his followers were swallowed. Upon witnessing the site they heard from within the ground Korach cry, "Moshe and his torah are true and we are liars."
...Truth is something that survives the test of time. It is something that remains "true" forever and is never subject to change. Something that changes over the course of time cannot be classified as true. Truth, for our purposes is a synonym of eternal."

12 Jul 2009

Racial discrimination

"Jewish schools are guilty of racial discrimination if they reject children on the grounds of their parentage, a British court has ruled. In a decision that has shocked the country's 300,000-strong Jewish community, the Court of Appeal held that ongoing personal acts of faith, rather than birth or conversion, must define who is a Jew. In doing so, the court overturned an earlier high court judgment upholding the decision of the JFS in London (the oldest and largest Jewish school in Britain) to deny a boy admission because it did not recognize his mother's conversion.
The three judges, one of them Jewish, ruled that any selection criteria that gives ethnic priority to a Jew is showing racial discrimination. They cited the Race Relations Act 1976, which was introduced to prevent discrimination on the grounds of race. The ruling means that Jewish schools of any denomination, whether privately or state funded, will be barred from giving priority to children who are born Jewish or who convert, and instead must consider how the children and their families practice their Judaism.
... The United Synagogue, the denomination to which JFS belongs, already has spent almost $250,000 in legal costs to fight the case, and is now planning a challenge at the highest court in the land, the House of Lords.

"JFS has been told it must reconsider admitting the boy at the centre of the recent court case.
The Court of Appeal ordered the school to think again about offering a place to the boy, known as M, who was originally refused entry two years because his mother was a non-Orthodox convert.
Two weeks ago the court ruled that the school’s entry policy as unlawful, because allowing entry on the basis of whether a parent is Jewish contravenes the Race Relations Act."
Reading the above articles, I was disheartened to learn that the Court of Appeal in London has the right to determine who is a Jew. According to the article, "Jewish schools are guilty of racial discrimination if they reject children on the grounds of their parentage."
I would like to be involved in the appeals process but, unfortunately, after reading that the JFS has spent close to $250,000 in legal costs to fight the case, I realize that financially, I would be unable to challenge the case. The only way I would be able to secure the costs to fight the case would be if I were the Queen of England, provided with a substantial income from English taxpayers. However, it seems I am unable to become Queen of England, due to my parentage. The circumstances of my birth, (not being born into the royal family) leaves me out of the running as a contender for Queen of England. Hey, I wonder if I can sue the government for racial discrimination.

11 Jul 2009

Texting and cell phones

A number of years ago, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis spoke to a packed audience in my neighborhood. Before her speech, a woman introduced her and asked the women in the audience to turn off their cell phones.
The rebbetzin started speaking and, wouldn't you know, she was interrupted by the ringing of a cell phone. She asked the members of the audience to turn off their phones. A few minutes later, the next ring tone interrupted her once again.
Where is the derech eretz? Where is the kavod for davening when the cell phone goes off in the middle of shemoneh esrei?
If this is not enough to stir you to be sparing with your use of cell phones, maybe the following article will spur you to action.

"Walking while texting can be dangerous — especially when an uncovered manhole is in your path. A Staten Island teenager — who was walking and text-messaging at the same time — fell into an uncovered manhole yesterday and now officials are looking into why the sewer was left unattended. Alexa Longueira, 15, was texting while she walked along Victory Boulevard at about 5 p.m. Thursday when she plunged five feet into the open manhole.City workers standing nearby helped to pull her out and she was taken to a local hospital, but only suffered minor injuries and checked out last night."