"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 Aug 2009

A plea from Gilad Shalit's parents

Please click on the link below to read a personal message from Gilad Shalit's parents and a request from them to help in their struggle to have their son released after more than three years in captivity.
Click here for an idea from David Seidemann to pray for Gilad Shalit before lighting Sabbath candles.

30 Aug 2009

The Religious Affairs Ministry and Halacha

Last week I posted a comment by Religious Affairs Ministry Ya'acov Margi where he stated, "According to the law for Jewish Religious Services, the Chief Rabbinate is the sole body responsible for providing religious services. And they do this in accordance with halacha. Since the Conservative and the Reform do not conform to halacha they are not eligible for state funds."

Natan Sharansky, Jewish Agency Chairman, penned a letter to Minister Margi last week in response to the Minister's claim.

"I was surprised to read your statements in The Jerusalem Post in which you claim that only institutions that are run in accordance with Halacha are eligible for Religious Affairs Ministry funding," wrote Sharansky. "I wish to remind you that the Religious Affairs Ministry is not a halachic body and is responsible for providing religious services to all citizens of the state of Israel from all religions, streams and congregations who need these services.
"The Religious Affairs Ministry must ensure religious freedom and prevent infringement of citizens' rights in this field. The Jewish Agency calls on the Religious Affairs Ministry to fulfill its responsibility to all the religious congregations in Israel and to foster mutual respect and brotherhood among different religious approaches and beliefs. By doing so the ministry will deepen appreciation and respect for Jewish tradition."
To read full article, click on link below.

One comment addressed to the Sharansky letter posted on the JPost website was, "Does that mean Messianic Jews should be funded as well?"

Another reader commented, "I'll start my own form of Jewdaism - the state can fund me - maybe not."

As for me, I fail to see how the ministry will deepen appreciation for Jewish tradition by catering to movements which don't conform to Jewish law and make up their own rules as they go along. As far as I am concerned, Torah laws are immutable and Halacha must be followed to ensure the continuity, respect and appreciation of Judaism.

Upcoming events

Rabbi Yissocher Frand is to deliver a teshuvah lecture Tuesday, September 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Young Israel of Forest Hills (71-00 Yellowstone Boulevard, corner of Burns Street).
For more information, call the Young Israel of Forest Hills at 718-268-7100 or the Queens Jewish Center at 718-459-8432.

Rabbi Paysach Krohn will be giving a public lecture for Ellul on behalf of the Pal organisation. This year’s event will be held at the Hasmonean Boys School in Hendon on 8 September 2009.

Former Chief Rabbi of France, Joseph Haïm Sitruk, will be speaking in French at the inauguration of a learning center for women in Antwerp on Tuesday, September 1, at 10:30 a.m. at Maria Theresialei 7.

Tzidkat Rashbi will have a special messenger, Rabbi Eliyau Reiter from Tzfat reciting your prayers in Uman this Rosh Hashanna. If you can’t be there, send a messenger. Please mention Uman in comments.

To send a message to Uman, click here.

For those unaware of where the European cities mentioned above are located, click the following link. Have fun & good luck!

Any second it can all be gone

This evening, I read about Adam Michael Goldstein (March 30, 1973 – August 28, 2009), an American disc jockey known as DJ AM. Less than a year ago, he was seriously injured when the Learjet in which he he was traveling crashed on takeoff.
Goldstein, born in Pennsylvania to a Jewish family, was found dead on Friday. An interview which he gave to People magazine after the crash reveals his spiritual side.

DJ AM considers himself "blessed" to have survived the September 19 plane crash that left him and Travis Barker with second- and third-degree burns and killed four others... In his first interview since the crash, AM told People magazine that during his recovery, he grew closer to God and that he now believes he was saved "for a reason." "I've prayed every night for the past 10 years. There's a lot more to thank God for now. My philosophy is 'live life to the fullest,' [and] I was saved for a reason," he told the magazine. "Maybe I'm going to help someone else. I don't question it. All I know is, I'm thankful I'm still here." ...He also said that while he's grateful to be alive, he's wrestled with guilt, knowing that four people didn't survive the crash. "My emotions go back and forth," he said. "At the first hospital, I screamed, 'Thank you!' Then I wondered, 'Why did I live?' I can't believe I made it. Any second, it can all be gone."

Durng the High Holy Days, the U'Netaneh Tokef prayer is recited. Part of the prayer contains the following words: "On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time;"
I will, hopefully utter these words with greater fervor as I recall Goldstein's words, "Any second it can all be gone." I thank G-d for the gift of life and pray that Adam Goldstein will merit a proper Jewish burial.

29 Aug 2009

A tzaddik keeps his word

This week, I read an interesting story in Hamodia about a Rabbi who was careful to keep his word.
The article by Rabbi Shimon Finkelman began with the following.
"Motza sefasecha tishmor ve'asisa - You shall observe and carry out what emerges from your lips." (Devarim 23:24).
While this verse refers to a statement that has the status of a neder (vow), its message applies to speech in general. A Jew must weigh his words and honor them."
In the 1960s, Rabbi Chaskel Besser had a son. He was close to the Bluzhever Rebbe, who was his cousin, but out of respect to his father-in-law, Rabbi Besser asked the Boyaner Rebbe to be the Sandek at the bris of his son. The Boyaner was going to be out of town on that day, so the Rebbe declined. Rabbi Besser then asked his cousin to be the Sandek and the Bluzhever Rebbe accepted the honor.
Because the baby had jaundice, the bris had to be postponed and the Bluzhever rebbe said that the Boyaner Rebbe should now be the Sandek, because he had been asked first. Both Rebbes attended the bris and both wanted to give the honor to the other. Finally, the Bluzhever Rebbe said that the Boyaner Rebbe would be the Sandek and that the Bluzhever Rebbe would be the mesader kiddushin many years later.
The years passed and Rabbi Besser's son became engaged. The Bluzhever Rebbe was 94 years old at the time, had two operations close to the time of the chupah, but assured Rabbi Besser that he would be the mesader kiddushin. And so it was.

28 Aug 2009

Not according to halacha

Two articles caught my attention regarding not conforming to halacha.
Article 1.
"If Reform and Conservative Jews want more synagogues or mikvaot [ritual baths] they should build them themselves with private money and not expect the state to foot the bill, Religious Affairs Minister Ya'acov Margi (Shas) said Wednesday.
"I recommend to those organizations that do not want to accept [Orthodox] halacha to build their own mikvaot and their own synagogues according to their own halacha," said Margi during an interview in his office in Jerusalem with The Jerusalem Post.
"According to the law for Jewish Religious Services, the Chief Rabbinate is the sole body responsible for providing religious services. And they do this in accordance with halacha. Since the Conservative and the Reform do not conform to halacha they are not eligible for state funds. Nor do they have the right to use existing mikvaot and synagogues....."

Article 2.
"The Tel Aviv Religious Council's ritual objects department has called on the wide public not to use a shofar (ram's horn) made in Morocco during the High Holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
The department workers say they have examined the shofarot, thousands of which have already been distributed to stores, and discovered that they were glued with polyester - making them unfit, as far as Jewish Law is concerned....."

Wishing you a good Shabbos, according to halacha.

Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetze

"Shabbat Parashat Ki Tetze:
One who did not fulfil the obligation to hear Parashat Zachor when it was read on the Shabbat before Purim may fulfill that mitzvah this week, since the verses of Parashat Zachor (Devarim 25:17-19) are found in this week's parashah. "
To read further divrei Torah on this week's parsha, click on the link below.

27 Aug 2009

Going out to war

Internal Wars
by Zev Feigenbaum

Why does the Pasuk say, Ki Teitzei Lamilchama Al Oyvecha, "When you go out to war on your enemy," when it should really say Ki Teitzei Im Oyvecha Bamilchama, "When you will be at war with your enemy?"
One possible answer is that we read this Parsha during the month of Elul, a time for Teshuva. This Pasuk speaks not only of a physical war but of a war that is both physical and spiritual. The spiritual war is between a person's Yetzer Hara and his Yetzer Tov. The Zohar compares the inner struggle of a man during prayer to a time of war. The Yetzer Hara tries very hard to stop a person from praying with Kavana and from doing Mitzvot. One must fight very hard in that war in order to win. Gemara Shabbat (104a) says, Ba Letaher Mesayim Oto, "One who wants to purify himself is assisted from heaven." The Torah is assuring us that if we want to go out to war, Ki Tetzei Lamilchama Al Oyvecha, with our Yetzer Tov, we will win the battle because Hashem will help us.


Click here to see incredible pictures on ladaat.net of a car which was totaled by a bus. A man had parked his car in Beitar Illit and a few minutes after exiting the car, a bus carrying children swerved into the car. Thankfully, noone was in the car.

For those who speak Spanish, the video link with a devar torah on the parsha is for you.
Para los que hablan español, el lazo vídeo debajo de es para usted. Gracias por su interés.

Life is for the dogs

Yesterday, I wrote about a mother who is only happy when she complains. Soon after, I found an article by Yaakov Lieder entitled "Stop Kvetching."

"A guy gets a new dog. He can't wait to show it off to his neighbor. So, a couple of weeks later when the neighbor finally comes over, the guy calls the dog into the house, points to the newspaper on the couch, and commands "Fetch!"
Immediately, the dog climbs on to the couch and sits, his tail wagging furiously. Then all of a sudden, he stops. His doggie smile disappears. He starts to frown and puts on a sour face. Looking up at his master, he whines, "You think this is easy, wagging my tail all the time? Oy vey... This constant wagging of the tail puts me in such pain, you should only know! And you think it's easy eating that stuff you call designer dog food? Forget it. it's too salty and it gives me gas. But what do you care? You try it!"
The neighbor is absolutely amazed. In astonishment, he says, "I can't believe it!"
"I know, I know." says the dog owner. "He's not yet fully trained yet. He thought I said, 'Kvetch!'"
At times we may find ourselves caught up in cycles, going around day after day and constantly complaining about the same things. To our friends it may sound like a broken record. I know some people who have been complaining about the same things for thirty years, "Why is it so hot? Why are my neighbors so loud? Why is my husband/wife so stubborn? Why is my boss so nasty? Why is my mother so demanding?" and so on.
Some people get so used to it that it starts to become part of their vocabulary. If we try to offer them solutions, their immediate reaction is, "It won't work", "I've tried it before", "You don't understand the problem" and so on. They give the impression that if they stopped complaining they would have nothing left to talk about.

Click on the link below to find out how to deal with problems so that you won't have to complain ever again.

Speaking about dogs, I am sure, by now, that most of you have seen the hilarious video about a man blowing shofar and a dog unexpectedly joining in.
The first time I watched the video, I burst out laughing. But, when I replayed it to my son, hours later, I thought to myself that the dog had heard the call of the shofar, had been inspired and had changed his behavior. What about me? A week into the month of Elul, have I heard the call of the shofar? Have I changed my behavior to merit the beneficence of G-d and to be judged favorably for the coming year? Rosh Hashanah is fast approaching. I have to pay more attention to the shofar's call.

26 Aug 2009

On mothers and mothers-in-law

Two articles drew my attention today. One was about a mother, and the other was about a mother-in-law.
"My mom had a favorite line: "You're not happy unless you're complaining." This, from a woman whose second vocation after cleaning was complaining. Often she'd complain about cleaning. Or complain how her sons never visited enough. Or complain about her neighbors. If happiness was derived from complaining, my mom was delirious. When she wasn't kvetch'n about us, she was on the phone wanting to know what we were complaining about. Five minutes into any conversation and Roz Lewis would cross all boundaries of privacy and decency and ask, "What's wrong?" "Nothing," I'd say. She'd say, "Bull——, I hear it in your voice. Tell me." She wouldn't stop until I came up with something to complain about. Anything. After spilling my guts and hoping to gain a morsel of compassion, she'd make some disapproving sound and say, "You know, you're not happy unless you're complaining." My mom was right."
To read full article, click on the link below.
The second article was about a mother-in-law who is suing her daughter-in-law.
...The mother-in-law is accusing Croonquist of spreading false, defamatory and racist lies with in-law jokes that have become a staple of her routine in nightclubs and on television channels like Comedy Central.
To Croonquist, the in-law jokes seemed like a natural routine after living through one comical culture-clash moment after another: She is half-black, half-Swedish, grew up Roman Catholic and married into a Jewish family.
And she's not shy about making the in-laws the butt of her jokes.
Take the one about her mother-in-law's reaction to news she was pregnant with her first child: "OK, now that we know you're having a little girl I want to know what you're naming that little tchotchke. Now we don't want a name that's difficult to pronounce like Shaniqua. We're thinking a name short but delicious. Like Hadassah or Goldie."
Or her first visit to her mother-in-law's house: "I walk in, I say, 'Thank you so much for having me here, Ruthie.' She says, 'The pleasure's all mine, have a seat.'" Then, in a loud aside, 'Harriet, put my pocketbook away.'"

To read full article, click here.

One of the comments I saw posted regarding this article was a joke to the effect that "I bought a special chair for my mother-in-law but my spouse wouldn't let me plug it in."
I recall once hearing that the Mashiach will be a descendant of Ruth because, if she and her mother-in-law could live in peace, then she is worthy of being the ancestor of the person who will ultimately bring peace to the world.
May we all live beshalom - in peace - and stop complaining.

25 Aug 2009

Born a Jew always a Jew

The following article caught my eye this morning.
US Jews Enraged by Catholic Document Urging Missionizing of Jews
(IsraelNN.com) A June document issued by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), suggesting that interfaith dialogue conducted by Catholics with Jews should be used as an opportunity to missionize them, has disturbed and infuriated American Jews from all streams of practice.
....The American Jewish world has erupted in response to the "Note on Ambiguities", with several organizations uniting to reply with "serious concern."
Signed on August 18 by the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), National Council of Synagogues, Orthodox Union, and Rabbinical Council of America, a letter posted on the ADL website says the "Note on Ambiguities" "engendered both uncertainty and considerable disappointment with respect to the position maintained by the Church and its spokespersons," with "invitations" to become Christian making Jewish participation in dialogue with the Church "untenable".

This afternoon, I came across the following anecdote.

"A beggar had been sitting by the side of the road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by.
"Spare some change?" mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his baseball cap."I have nothing to give you," said the stranger. Then he added, "What's that you are sitting on?"
"Nothing," replied the beggar, "Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember."
"Ever look inside?" asked the stranger."What's the point? There's nothing in there."
"Have a look inside," insisted the stranger.
The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, disbelief, and elation, he saw the box was filled with gold."
by Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

Those who were born Jewish are sitting on untold treasures. Why run off to the Indian ashrams, to the Peruvian Mountains or to Katmandhu to discover spirituality? All things good can be found within you and within your religion. There was a reason you were born Jewish. Learn about the beauty of your religion and discover your untapped potential. Particularly during the month of Elul, leading up to the High Holy Days, lets us strive to greater heights. You don't have to look farther than within yourself. And remember, once a Jew, always a Jew.

Venishmartem lenafshotechem

A number of months ago, I read an article on IsraelNationalNews that Rabbi Binyamin Finkel, a lecturer at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem, told students that the Torah admonition to take care of one's health includes smoking, which clearly damages one's health.
Today, I found an article on the BBC website entitled "Shisha 'as harmful as cigarettes'."
"Smoking a shisha pipe is as bad for people as smoking tobacco, the Department of Health and the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre has found.
People who smoke shisha, or herbal tobacco, can suffer from high carbon monoxide levels, its research revealed.
It found one session of smoking shisha resulted in carbon monoxide levels at least four to five times higher than the amount produced by one cigarette.
High levels of carbon monoxide can lead to brain damage and unconsciousness.
Shisha is a water-pipe, popular in many Arab countries, in which fruit-scented tobacco is burnt using coal, passed through an ornate water vessel and inhaled through a hose."

Click here to read full article. And, by all means, pass the article on to those people who frequent "hookah bars" or those yeshiva students who think this activity is a far less harmful alternative to smoking.
venishmartem lenafshotechem - and you shall protect your lives

24 Aug 2009

Torah versus science

This morning, I came across an article about circumcision.
"Public health officials are considering promoting routine circumcision for all baby boys born in the United States to reduce the spread of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS....
...Circumcision rates have fallen in part because the American Academy of Pediatrics, which sets the guidelines for infant care, does not endorse routine circumcision. Its policy says that circumcision is “not essential to the child’s current well-being,” and as a result, many state Medicaid
programs do not cover the operation.
The academy is revising its guidelines, however, and is likely to do away with the neutral tone in favor of a more encouraging policy stating that circumcision has health benefits even beyond H.I.V. prevention, like reducing urinary tract infections for baby boys, said Dr. Michael Brady, a consultant to the American Academy of Pediatrics

I was struck by the Academy's waffling on the subject. Yes-No. In other words, every few years, someone comes up with a different opinion about the subject. In contrast, the Mitzvah of circumcision was commanded in the Torah for all generations. It is immutable and not subject to change according to man's opinion or social mores.

In Breishit (Genesis) chapter 17, G-d tells Abraham about the mitzvah of "Brit" - circumcision, "I will make My covenant between Me and you... You shall keep My covenant, you and your children after you in all their generations." The word "covenant" ("Brit") is mentioned 13 times in connection with this mitzvah!
Our sages say, "From this we see the greatness of the mitzvah of circumcision, for thirteen covenants are associated with this mitzvah." The mitzvah of circumcision is not for health reasons. The discussion whether circumcision is physically beneficial for the child is irrelevant and has nothing to do with this mitzvah. The "Brit" is purely for spiritual reasons, as the Torah tells us, "And My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting sign. (Gen. 17:13)"

Jewish Unity

Parshat Ki Tetze
"The portion ends with a command to eradicate the name of Amalek. If you read the few verses you will notice that they are all written in the singular. ZACHOR, “remember”, ASA LECHA, “he did to you”, ASHER KARCHA, “he came upon you”, VAYEZANEV BECHA, “those of you who were at the end”. (Deut. 25,17-18) If you continue reading you will notice the entire passage is addressed to the individual. Why is this so?

It seems that the message here is that Amalek tried to attack individual Jews. He knew he could not defeat the Israelites collectively as one nation. He hoped to be able to destroy them individually, one Jew at a time. In that way he would nibble away at the structure of the Jewish people and thus annihilate them. There is a great truth involved here. When the Jews are united and stick together, they are strong and can survive any onslaught. When they act as individuals they are weak and can be destroyed one at a time. We find that assimilation today is eating away at the structure of the Jewish people one at a time. For the Jewish people to survive we must reverse the trend and start realizing that the only way we can survive is to stick together and adhere to our Jewish way of life."

הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד
Hine ma tov u’manayim
Shevet akh-im gam ya-khad
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony."

23 Aug 2009

Tolerance and respect

This morning, I was dismayed to read that there is speculation that under the Obama plan, the Temple Mount will be transferred to Arab-Moslem sovereignty.

Obama Plan: Temple Mount Under Arab-Muslim Sovereignty
The Middle East peace plan that United States President Barack Obama will unveil soon involves the creation of a Palestinian Authority state by 2011 and the transfer of Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem [presumably including the Temple Mount – ed.] to Arab-Muslim sovereignty, Saudi newspaper Al-Ukaz has learned.

When I read the above, I recalled what I had quoted in a previous post about when Jerusalem was not under Jewish sovereignty and speculated as to whether Jews would be allowed to visit their holy sites under the Obama peace plan.

"Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, when a Palestinian-Arab state failed to materialize, and the nascent state of Israel was invaded by Egypt and Jordan, Jerusalem was divided. The Western half of the New City became part of the new state of Israel, while the eastern half, along with the Old City, was annexed by Jordan. Jordan did not allow Jewish access to the Western Wall (known to non-Jews as the Wailing Wall) and Temple Mount, Judiasm's holiest sites, in the Old City. Jordan construced a slum within a few feet of the base of the Western Wall and used the area as a garbage dump, and converted some churches to mosques. …East Jerusalem was captured by the Israelis in the Six-day War of 1967, along with the Western Wall and the Temple Mount. Under Israel, members of all religions were largely granted access to their holy sites."

It seems I got my answer this evening when I read an article with the following headline.
Arab League Condemns Jewish Prayer on Temple Mount
Click below to continue reading about Secretary-General Amr Moussa of the Arab League's criticism of Jews praying at the Temple Mount and his claim that it is a violation of international law.

The above words come on the heels of President Obama's greetings to Moslems all over at the start of Ramadan. He stated "These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings." So, as I understand it, tolerance means restricting others' religious practices. Now I get it.

Religion and self-control

An article by Laura Rowley describes how those who practice self-control are able to achieve higher grades and higher rates of success.

"....My decision to ditch Comcast was fortified by a recent interview with researcher Angela Lee Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating from Harvard, Duckworth taught high school, and found a number of students were reading far below grade level despite high IQ. A lack of self-control was the problem. She returned for her Ph.D. at Penn to study something she calls "grit" -- a combination of courage, focus, the ability to delay gratification and persevere over the long-term -- that leads to success. (It's something I talk about in my values class at Seton Hall University, but we call it fortitude, one of the cardinal virtues of Western philosophy -- along with prudence, justice and temperance.)

Duckworth has conducted a range of studies with students, from middle school, to Ivy League undergrads, to West Point cadets, testing both their ability to delay gratification and their intelligence. "The basic findings are that we could predict grades much better from self-control scores than from IQ scores," Duckworth says. For example, a study of eighth graders she conducted with Penn's Martin Seligman found self-control was twice as predictive as IQ in academic success.

Learning Self-Control
Duckworth's research builds on the work of Walter Mischel, who pioneered self-regulation psychology. He conducted a series of experiments in the 1960s with four-year-olds, offering them a marshmallow treat and then testing their ability to resist. He continued to follow the participants and found that the pre-schoolers who could delay gratification had better outcomes as adults in a variety of areas. The child who could wait 15 minutes had an SAT score that was 210 points higher than one who could wait only 30 seconds. The more impulsive children also had a higher body-mass index as adults and were more likely to have had problems with drugs. What does all this have to do with our cable service? Self-control is not just a genetic blessing, but something that can be taught and enhanced with practice."

After reading the above text, I came across a New York Times article entitled, "For good self-control, try getting religious about it."
The following are some salient words taken from the article.

"If I'm serious about keeping my New Year's resolutions in 2009, should I add another one? Should the to-do list include, "Start going to church"?
This is an awkward question for a heathen to contemplate, but I felt obliged to raise it with Michael McCullough after reading his report in the upcoming issue of the Psychological Bulletin. He and a fellow psychologist at the University of Miami, Brian Willoughby, have reviewed eight decades of research and concluded that religious belief and piety promote self-control."
..."Researchers around the world have repeatedly found that devoutly religious people tend to do better in school, live longer, have more satisfying marriages and be generally happier."
..."Brain-scan studies have shown that when people pray or meditate, there's a lot of activity in two parts of brain that are important for self-regulation and control of attention and emotion," he said. "The rituals that religions have been encouraging for thousands of years seem to be a kind of anaerobic workout for self-control."
Click on link below for full article.

22 Aug 2009

Sins of comission - Sins of omission

Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man
by Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,
That all sin is divided into two parts.
One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,
And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,
And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission
and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from
Billy Sunday to Buddha,
And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.
I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as,
in a way, against each other we are pitting them,
And that is, don't bother your head about the sins of commission because
however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn't be
committing them.
It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,
That lays eggs under your skin.
The way you really get painfully bitten
Is by the insurance you haven't taken out and the checks you haven't added up
the stubs of and the appointments you haven't kept and the bills you
haven't paid and the letters you haven't written.
Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,
Namely, it isn't as though it had been a riotous red-letter day or night every
time you neglected to do your duty;
You didn't get a wicked forbidden thrill
Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;
You didn't slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,
Let's all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round
of unwritten letters is on me.
No, you never get any fun
Out of things you haven't done,
But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,
Because the suitable things you didn't do give you a lot more trouble than the
unsuitable things you did.
The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of
sin you must be pursuing,
Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.

21 Aug 2009

Shabbat Shalom

"Hello ... You have reached the office of the Board of Rabbis.
If you are Orthodox, press 1.
If you are Conservative, press 1 or 2.
If you are Reform, press any button you like.
If you are Reconstructionist, press all the buttons.
Please hold while I transfer your call .

(1) Hello. You have reached the Orthodox rabbi.
The answer to your question is that it is forbidden by the Torah.

(2) Hello. You have reached the Conservative rabbi.
The answer to your question is that we have ruled that either answer is
acceptable to some of us and neither answer is acceptable to all of us. We
hope this has been helpful.

(3) Hello. You have reached the Reform rabbi.
The answer to your question is: if you want to, sure, why not? Who are we to

(4) Hello. You have reached the Reconstructionst rabbi.

The answer to your question presumes there is an answer to your question.
However, my role is to empower you to answer your own question.
To answer your own question, please hang up now.

"Sadie Cohen lived in an integrated neighborhood on Long Island. A neighbor, a very friendly and generous black woman, stopped by one Saturday and offered, "Mrs Cohen, I have to go to NYC this afternoon to meet my daughter. Can I get you anything?" Mrs. Cohen thanked her and counter-offered, "Listen, I have a commuter's ticket for the train. Why don't you use my ticket, and you'll bring it back tonight. After all, it's paid for. Why should you pay extra?"
The neighbor thanked her and with the ticket in hand, made her way to the train station. When the train arrived, she boarded, and as the conductor walked through, he happened to glance at the ticket, noticing the name "Sadie Cohen.".
The conductor asked, "Excuse me, madam, are you Sadie Cohen , the person whose name appears on this ticket?"
The woman smiled sweetly and nodded her head in the affirmative.
More than a little suspicious, the conductor asked, "Would you let me compare signatures? Would you mind signing your name?"
The black lady turned indignantly to the conductor and snapped, "Man, are you crazy? You want me to write on Shabbos?"

Have a good Shabbos.

Tefillin and Chinese Acupuncture

Who of us doesn't know about Chinese Acupuncture? The Chinese discovered the medical treatment using needles to heal when they are inserted at certain points in the body. The Chinese have mapped out and named all the points of the body du 24 - du 70 - du 23, and so on. And the Chinese Journal of Medicine - to which everyone important in the field of Acupuncture subscribes - published an amazing article, absolutely astonishing. The main article in volume number 70 of the Journal deals solely with the Tefillin of the Jewish People. The article conclusively establishes that the contact and pressure points covered by the hand and head Tefillin are exactly those points at which the Acupuncture needles are inserted in order "to increase spirituality and to purify thoughts."

The above text is part of an email I received the other day. To read the article in the journal and see the corresponding illustrations, click on the link below.

This mitzvah is not for sale

The other week, Rabbi K. told us a story about Rabbi Yitzchak Eisenbach who came from a prominent family who lived in Jerusalem. One Sabbath afternoon, he was walking through a neighborhood densely inhabited by Arabs when he noticed a gold coin on the sidewalk.

"The value of the coin was such that it could support a family the size of his own for two weeks. The poverty in his home was wrenching, and he was thrilled at the prospect of being able to help his parents in their struggle for their family's survival.
However, because it was the Sabbath (and the money was forbidden to be handled), he would not pick up the golden coin. He immediately put his foot on the coin to hide it from view, and decided to stand there until nightfall (after the Sabbath), when he would take the coin home to his family. For another child his age, the time element might have posed a problem, but for the determined Yitzele there would be no difficulty, even though there were four hours left to the Sabbath!
After Yitzele had been standing immobile in the Arab street for more than an hour, an Arab teenager approached him and asked, "Why don't you move on? Why are you standing here like a statue?"
At first Yitzele didn't answer, but when the larger and stronger boy persisted, he replied innocently, "I have something under my foot that I can't pick up because it is the Sabbath today. I'm watching it this way, so that after the Sabbath I can take..."
Before the last words were out of Yitzele's mouth, the Arab boy shoved Yitzele to the ground, swiftly bent down, plucked up the coin and ran off. Yitzele lay in the street, stunned. By the time he got up, the culprit had long since disappeared over a fence, and Yitzele knew it would be hopeless -- perhaps even dangerous -- for a Jew to chase an Arab in that neighborhood.
Late that afternoon a dejected Yitzele made his way back to the synagogue of the Chernobyler Rebbe, Rabbi Nachum Twersky (1840-1936), where his father prayed Minchah (the afternoon prayers) and ate the third Sabbath meal. Yitzele usually helped set up the chairs and tables and put out the food for the men who sat down to eat with the Rebbe, but today he sat in a corner by himself.
The Rebbe, who loved little Yitzele, realized that something was amiss because the chairs and benches were in disarray. He looked around for a moment and then saw Yitzele sitting in a corner by himself, downcast.
The Chernobyler Rebbe approached the child and asked, "What's wrong? You look so unhappy. We all need you at the table."
Yitzele told the Rebbe what had happened earlier that afternoon, and explained how he felt about the opportunity he had lost. The Rebbe listened intently, then, taking Yitzele by the hand, he said, "Come to the table with me now, and after the Sabbath come into my house."
After the Sabbath, Yitzele followed the Rebbe into his home which was connected to the synagogue. The Rebbe opened a drawer and removed from it a golden coin similar to the one Yitzele had seen near the Jaffa Gate that afternoon. "Here, this is yours," said the Rebbe. "However, I am giving it to you on one condition: that you give me the reward of the mitzvah that you did this afternoon."
The startled young child looked up at the Rebbe. "The Rebbe wants the reward in exchange for the coin?"
"Yes," the Rebbe said. "You made a great Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God's Name) by not picking up the money because it was the Sabbath. The coin is for you, though. I just want the reward."
Yitzele was astounded. Was the mitzvah that great? Was it really worth so much? He looked at the coin and thought fleetingly about what it could buy for his family. He looked up at the Rebbe and said, "If that is what the mitzvah is worth, then the mitzvah is not for sale."
The Rebbe bent and kissed the boy on his forehead."


by Rabbi Paysach Krohn
Excerpted from "In the Footsteps of the Maggid." Published by ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications http://www.artscroll.com

20 Aug 2009

Gratitude after illness

The following are gratitude insights opined by Dana Jennings, someone who blogs about his prostate cancer battle. To read his full musings, click here.

"I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude lately, trying to put my finger on what exactly I’m grateful for in the year since I had surgery to remove my cancerous prostate.
When you have cancer, when you’re being cut open and radiated and who knows what else, it can take a great effort to be thankful for the gift of the one life that we have been blessed with. Believe me, I know.
And sometimes, in the amnesia of sickness, we forget to be grateful. But if we let our cancers consume our spirits in addition to our bodies, then we risk forgetting who we truly are, of contracting a kind of Alzheimer’s of the soul.

.....Gratitude is an antidote to the dark voice of illness that whispers to us, that insists that all we have become is our disease. Living in the shadow of cancer has granted me a kind of high-definition gratitude. I’ve found that when you’re grateful, the world turns from funereal gray to incandescent Technicolor.
There are, of course, the obvious things to be thankful for. There’s the love and care of my wife, sons and extended family; the concern and support of my friends, colleagues and community; the skill and insight of the doctors and all the other medical staff who have brought me to this very moment: "

The opposite of compassion

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to become involved with One Family Fund, which was founded in 2002 by Marc and Chantal Belzberg of Jerusalem. Their daughter, Michal, was celebrating her bat mitzvah at the time of the Sbarro pizza store suicide bombing and she chose to donate the money to be spent on her Bat Mitzvah party to benefit those affected by terror attacks in Israel.
I got the chance to meet a couple from Haifa who had lost their daughter, son-in-law and only grandchildren in a suicide bombing of a restaurant in Haifa. One Family Fund had sent them to Europe for a short period of time to be hosted by a European family, to have a change of scenery and to speak to others about the organization. I took them on a sightseeing trip of the area where I lived and they opened up to me. They explained to me how the female suicide bomber had walked into the restaurant, seen their granddaughter in a stroller, bent down to caress the toddler, and proceeded to blow her up with twenty other people.
What a display of humanity the suicide bomber exhibited as she caressed the child. What compassion.
The term compassion came up today regarding Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill stated that "al-Megrahi faces a sentence imposed by a higher party that is terminal, irrevocable and he is going to die. "
"...Mr. al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. ....But, that alone, is not a reason to deny compassion to him and to his family in his final days." Therefore, it is his decision that al-Megrahi be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die.

19 Aug 2009


"Why is no berachah / blessing recited before performing the mitzvah of teshuvah / repentance? R' Menachem Simcha Katz shlita (Brooklyn, N.Y.) offers an anthology of answers, including the ones below. (Note that the parenthetical objections to some of the answers are from the cited work.)
(1) No berachah is recited because it is not within man's ability to complete the mitzvah, as only G-d can decide whether one's repentance will be accepted. For the same reason, no berachah is recited when giving charity, as the completion of the mitzvah is dependent on finding a worthy recipient. (One can argue, however, that this reason is not valid because we are guaranteed that heartfelt teshuvah will be accepted.)
(2) No berachah is recited because teshuvah is a mitzvah that comes about via a sin. Likewise, no berachah is recited over the mitzvah of returning a stolen object.
(3) No berachah is recited because the mitzvah of teshuvah is performed primarily in one's heart. Likewise, there is no blessing for bittul chametz / nullifying chametz.
(4) The formula for the berachah on mitzvot is, "Who has sanctified us with His commandments and has commanded us to . . ." However, teshuvah is not a mitzvah that one should perform because he was commanded to do so. Rather, it should be performed because one is self-motivated to repent. Indeed, it would be an insult to G-d for a person to say, "I am repenting because You told me to."
(5) No berachah is recited because repentance is not complete unless G-d can testify that the penitent truly intends to never repeat his sin. This level is very difficult to attain, and, in effect, any berachah recited may be a blessing in vain. For the same reason, no berachah is recited on the mitzvah of honoring parents, since honoring parents to the full extent of the law is nearly impossible.
(6) No berachah is recited because teshuvah takes a long time.
(7) No berachah is recited because teshuvah often occurs spontaneously."
(Simcha L'Ish Ch.38)

18 Aug 2009

Money isn't everything

"A DEVASTATED dad told yesterday of the nightmare of seeing his toddler son fall to his death from a hotel balcony.
Millionaire Richard Kremer, 43, relived the moments when Brad, just 18 months old, climbed 3ft-high railings and tumbled 12ft on to a tiled roof below their second-floor holiday suite."


Let's take a moment to thank G-d for our spouses, our children, our parents, our health, the ability to see, the ability to walk, to read and comprehend and for experiencing a normal day without tragedy.

17 Aug 2009

A tree of life

This coming Shabbos, we will be learning Ethics of the Fathers, Chapter Six. The Chapter is all about Torah and its benefits to those who occupy themselves with studying its words. It is worthwhile to read the whole chapter but I have selected some salient points. Perhaps, if the Israeli educational system had put more emphasis on Torah, prayer and Jewish values, I wouldn't hear a BBC interview this morning where a Jerusalem born Jewish newly elected member of the Fatah Revolutionary Council would say, "No, I am not a Jew. I am of Jewish origin."
Eits chayim hi lamachazikim ba,Vetomecheha me-ushar.
A tree of life to those who hold fast to it, and all who cling to it find happiness.

Ethics of the Fathers: Chapter Six
1. ...Rabbi Meir would say: Whoever studies Torah for Torah's sake alone, merits many things; not only that, but [the creation of] the entire world is worthwhile for him alone.... The Torah enclothes him with humility and awe; makes him fit to be righteous, pious, correct and faithful; distances him from sin and brings him close to merit. From him, people enjoy counsel and wisdom, understanding and power... The Torah grants him sovereignty, dominion, and jurisprudence. The Torah's secrets are revealed to him, and he becomes as an ever-increasing wellspring and as an unceasing river. He becomes modest, patient and forgiving of insults. The Torah uplifts him and makes him greater than all creations.
2. Said Rabbi Joshua the son of Levi: Every day, an echo resounds from Mount Horeb (Sinai) proclaiming and saying: "Woe is to the creatures who insult the Torah." ..... And it says (Exodus 32:16): "And the tablets are the work of G-d, and the writing is G-d's writing, engraved on the tablets"; read not "engraved" (charut) but "liberty" (chairut)---for there is no free individual, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah. And whoever occupies himself with the study of Torah is elevated...
3. .... And there is no reverence but Torah, as is stated (Proverbs 3:35; 28:10), "The sages shall inherit honor" "and the integral shall inherit good"; and there is no good but Torah, as is stated (ibid. 4:2), "I have given you a good purchase; My Torah, do not forsake it."
4. Such is the way of Torah: Bread with salt you shall eat, water in small measure you shall drink, and upon the ground you shall sleep; live a life of deprivation and toil in Torah. If so you do, "fortunate are you, and good is to you" (Psalms 128:2): fortunate are you in this world, and it is good to you in the World To Come.
7. Great is Torah, for it gives life to its observers in this world, and in the World To Come. As is stated (Proverbs 4:22): "For they are life to he who finds them, and a healing to all his flesh." And it says (ibid. 3:8): "It shall be health to your navel, and marrow to your bones." And it says (3:18): "She is a tree of life for those who hold fast to her, and happy are those who support her."
9. Said Rabbi Yossei the son of Kisma: Once, I was traveling and I encountered a man. He greeted me and I returned his greetings. Said he to me: "Rabbi, where are you from?" Said I to him: "From a great city of sages and scholars, am I." Said he to me: "Rabbi, would you like to dwell with us in our place? I will give you a million dinars of gold, precious stones and pearls." Said I to him: "If you were to give me all the silver, gold, precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not dwell anywhere but in a place of Torah. Indeed, so is written in the book of psalms by David the king of Israel: `I prefer the Torah of Your mouth over thousands in gold and silver' (Psalms 118:72). Furthermore, when a person passes from this world neither silver, nor gold, nor precious stones, nor pearls accompany him, only Torah and good deeds...

Believe in yourself

by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
"For the next 30 days read this list at least three times a day.
1.I think appreciatively and gratefully. What five things am I grateful for now?
2. I speak and act joyfully and kindly. (When you speak and act joyfully and kindly, your brain produces the biochemicals that create joyful feelings.)
3. I assume there is a benefit. What is good about this?(Develop the skill of reframing. Find positive ways of viewing events, situations, and circumstances.)
4. I strive for meaningful goals. What is my goal for now?(Being clear about your priorities is the first step to accomplishing and achieving goals. Take a step forward.)
5. I see myself being the way I wish to be. How do I want to be?(As you picture yourself speaking and acting in ways consistent with your highest and wisest self, you create your ideal self.)
6. I focus on solutions. What outcome am I looking for? (If a problem arises, first clarify the problem. Then ask, “What can I do now to solve it?”)
7. I let challenges develop my character. “This too will develop my character.” (Look at difficulties as divinely sent opportunities to upgrade who you are. What quality can you develop now with a challenge that you faced or are facing now?)
8. I consistently access positive states. My awesome brain stores my best states. What state do I want for right now? (When you give names to your favorite and best moments, you will find them easier to access. Just tell your brain to access the specific state you want to experience now.)
9. I smile and wave to mirrors. They always smile and wave back to me. (Research has shown that smiling to yourself in a mirror creates positive chemicals in your body. This works even if you smile without a mirror.)"

For full article, click here.

16 Aug 2009

Tamara's Tehillim project

As a follow up to a previous post about saying Tehillim on Rosh Chodesh so that singles will find their matches, I received the following email this evening. All I can say is that I am very impressed with Tamara's efforts. I noticed that the list of single people has grown since last week. I also like her idea of encouraging us to give charity in the merit of the person for whom one is praying. I wish Tamara much success in her endeavors and may we merit participating in many happy occasions in the near future.

You have committed to being part of a world-wide tehillim group for this upcoming Rosh Chodesh Elul – Friday, August 21st (during daylight hours).
For a complete list, please go to
http://www.writeinvite.ca/tehillim/index.htm and choose your assigned Group. On Rosh Chodesh, please say your tehillim then recite the names of ALL the single people on your list.
I have instituted a new online Google document where you can list details of your single relatives and friends and assist in setting them up. Please see “Connecting to Connect” from the link above to fill out the form or see a list of other single people around the world. Please be smart and respectful with what you post.
Allow me to take this opportunity to encourage giving Tzedakah (charity) in the merit of what and who you are praying for. There is no shortage of organizations so please, give to your local charities.
As a suggestion, please check out Efrat (
http://www.friendsofefrat.org/, an organization which helps women (and their families) who are contemplating abortion.
May all our tefillot be answered sweetly and speedily!
Chodesh Tov !!!


An honest mistake

"A hotel near Venice has accepted that its rooms were mistakenly advertised online at a mere one-hundredth of a euro instead of up to 150 euros (£129).
Nearly 230 people took advantage of the offer, booking on average more than six nights per person at the Crowne Plaza.
...."Although a pricing error, IHG is committed to honouring the 1-cent rate for guests who have a valid confirmation," the hotel group's Monica Smith said.
The wrong pricing for 1,400 room nights could cost the company up to 90,000 euros (£77,800)."

Thirtieth Yahrzeit Of Reb Yolish Teitelbaum

"This Sunday, August 16 the 26th of Av, marks the 30th year since the passing of Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, zecher tzadik livracha, the legendary leader of the robust Satmar Chasidim.
Rabbi Teitelbaum, or Reb Yoilish (or, more formally, the Baal Divrei Yoel, and Baal Vayoel Mosha), as he was known, rebuilt a devastated Chasidic dynasty on American soil. More importantly, he presided over three decades of the transformation of the Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood into an entrenched, flourishing fortress of Chasidic life.
Reb Yoilish survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during WWII, arriving in the United States in 1946 after a brief stay in the Holy Land."

A relative of mine related an incident about Rav Yoel Teitelbaum which has remained indelibly inscribed in my mind. Whether the incident really happened, it is a lesson in genius and quick thinking.
Once, Rabbi Teitelbaum was davening in a shul when a congregant was called up for an aliyah. After he made the blessing on the Torah, he was asked to volunteer money for tzedakah. The man responded that he would give the amount of money that corresponded to the name of Rabbi Teitelbaum. Since the gematria (the number corresponding to the name יואל was 47, the man would give that amount to tzedakah. Immediately, the Rav said, they call me יוליש. The gematria of that name equals 356. Thus, the man would have to give a far greater amount to tzedakah.

15 Aug 2009

It's never too late

Library book returned 70 years late
"A library book borrowed before war broke out in 1939 has been returned - 70 years overdue.
Iris Chadwick took out the score of the musical Rose Marie from Cubitt Town Library on the Isle of Dogs, east London, when she was 13-years-old.
The drama of war breaking out meant she forgot to return the book and it has remained in her piano stool until now."
Rosh Chodesh Elul will be celebrated this coming week. It is a time where we begin our preparations for the days of Awe which follow in Tishrei. It marks a period where we take inventory of ourselves, and begin the process of repentance.
Let's also take a physical inventory. Do we have something in our possession which doesn't belong to us? Now is the time to return the overdue library book or the item you borrowed last year chich had completely slipped your mind.
My local Jewish newspaper invariably has a posting such as, "Would the person who borrowed ________ from our gemach please make sure to return it?"
Once, I was at the Jewish library in my neighborhood and the librarian enlisted my help in writing a text to be placed on stickers which would be pasted on the inside cover of each book. The text was to carry the admonition of returning books in good condition. She told me about the books that had been returned with coffee stains, and the like.
Wishing all a gut voch.

14 Aug 2009

Challah for Shabbat - Shabbat Shalom

"Parshas Re'eh: Vilna Gaon - Give Tzedaka And Watch Your Step
"Paso'ach Tiftach Es Yadecha Lo", open up your hand to the poor (Re'eh 15:8). The gemara in Bava Basra (10a) tells the story how Rav Papa was walking up the stairs and his foot slipped and he was about to fall. Chiya Bar Rav MiDifti said to him, "Maybe a poor person came to you and you did not support him." What is the connection between an accident on the steps and not giving tzedaka?
The Vilna Gaon explains this enigmatic comment with the "Trop" the notes used when reading in the Torah the words Paso'ach Tiftach. The notes are "Darga" and "Tevir" which literally means "Steps" and "Break". After seeing Rav Papa's accident on the stairs, Chiya Bar Rav MiDifti's first thought was this must be a tzedaka issue."

Last week, I was invited to a relative for Shabbos lunch. Her husband made the blessing on the challah and proceeded to slice half of the challah, and we all took a slice. During the meal, our hostess broke off a piece of the leftover challah and I told her about a video clip that had been emailed to my son. In the clip, a man walks into a store and requests a challah. He asks the woman behind the counter to slice it. She tells him that the Ashkenazim don't slice the challah, they break off the pieces, instead.
My hostess proceeded to break off another piece of challah and told me, "but it tastes better like this."
Wishing you a good Shabbos and hope your challah is delicious.

12 Aug 2009

Tehillim for soulmates

For those interested, I received the following email this morning.

A Mother’s Tehillim project / A Single’s Tehillim project

Rosh Chodesh Elul – Friday, August 21st

... people around the world will join together and pray for their childrens', relatives', or friends' soul-mates PROJECT 1.

…single people around the world will pray together for their destined soul-mates PROJECT 2.

2 exciting additions to announce:

1. CONNECTING TO CONNECT: At the request of many, I have setup a Google form where people can write a short description of their single friends/family. All information will be posted so give some thought before posting. You can also scroll through other entries and contact the person who posted. More information on the website.

2. For my sanity, I will only be sending out the email with your group’s assignment on August 13th. This means – please do not resubmit if you haven’t heard from me until after that date. Please get back to me by August 16th if you did not receive your assignment.

Please go to http://www.writeinvite.ca/tehillim/index.htm and fill out the respective form. After August 13th, I will send you your portion of tehillim to recite along with the names of the rest of your group and further instructions. Your allotted tehillim should be recited once on Rosh Chodesh day. Check your spam if you don’t hear back from me.

Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Lazeh. All of Israel is responsible for one another - pass this email on to others who may be interested in participating. Please also help me advertise for this project by posting on any email group you may be on.

May our prayers be answered sweetly and speedily,Tamara

Baruch Hashem

Reminder: Tonight at 7 p.m. prayer rally at the Kotel in Jerusalem in support of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.

Baruch Hashem, a missing 14 year old boy was found alive and well.

"Searchers found alive and well a few minutes ago Yaakov (Yankele) Schenkolewski, a boy who was missing. Hundreds of rescue workers converged throughout Tuesday night on the western slopes of Mount Carmel, searching for the 14-year-old boy.
The Bnei Brak youth earlier left his family, who was hiking in Nachal Sefunim in northern Israel, on what was expected to be a short detour. As the daylight waned and the boy failed to return, the family began searching for him. When they failed to find him, they called authorities, who called in extra hands by nightfall as the search continued."


Baruch Hashem, a relative of mine received a job offer during these financially troubling times.

I just received a link to http://www.epinetworking.org./ , the Emergency Parnossa Initiative which is a non-profit recruiter and central database connecting people in the community looking for jobs with prospective employers. May we merit parnassah and hearing much good news bekarov.

11 Aug 2009

The triumph of good over evil

An article in the LA DailyNews describes the emotional pain that endures in survivors of an attack which had transpired a decade ago.
"AFTERMATH: Echoes of childhood horror sometimes come back to haunt survivors.
For much of the decade since a white supremacist shot five people at a Jewish Community Center in Granada Hills and murdered a Filipino-American letter carrier in Chatsworth, victims and their families thought they could triumph over evil by simply getting on with their lives.
But things kept happening to suggest the echo of automatic-weapon fire will never fade away."

The article goes on to desribe the coping mechanisms of the survivors.
Finkelstein, Stepakoff and Ileto came to realize the best revenge for what happened that day is not to try to forget their stories but to keep telling them. They hope to inspire the passage of tighter restrictions on guns and ammunition and expanded laws against hate crimes.
Today, the three are scheduled to discuss hate-crime issues at a news conference held by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles.

...Bill Bender, president of North Valley Jewish Community Center Inc., sees the victims' activism as an ongoing triumph over evil.
"(The shooter) actually created a reaction I think he didn't expect, which was to bring people together to try to change attitudes," Bender said. "I think that's wonderful."

To read full article, click here.
While the survivors are testaments to good triumphing over evil, unfortunately, a comment that was published is an example of exactly the opposite.
The comment includes the following choice words.
"AIPAC, with their heavy handed thug tactics intimidating politicians to slaughter millions of youngsters in Iraq and Pakistan and perhaps soon in Iran needs to repent and change course or I'm afraid the few Jewish children killed in Granada Hills will be a grain of sand in a vast ocean in comparison to the many that will be murdered to avenge..., planting of bombs in the world trade center and building 7..."
Let's hope that good will ultimately prevail.

The flight to abolish illness

"On Monday morning an Arkia airlines plane took off from Ben Gurion Airport carrying rabbis and kabbalists and flew over the country in a flight aimed at preventing the swine flu virus from spreading in Israel through prayers.
"The purpose of the flight was to stop the epidemic, thus preventing further deaths," explained Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri whose father, Rabbi David Batzri had initiated the flight. "We are certain that because of our prayers danger is already behind us," he added.
During the flight the passengers blew the shofar seven times and said prayers intended for abolishing illnesses. "

Let us hope the rabbis prayers are answered. However, it is up to us to pray, as well. May Hashem bring a refuah to those in need.

Joking around

Just a few jokes that I came across last night and wanted to share with you.

Subject: Funny People.
Funny people, the Europeans, my paternal grandfather used to joke. When he left it in 1937, there was graffiti on the walls everywhere: "Jews, go to Palestine". And now when I visit a European capital, the graffiti says "Jews, get out of Palestine". Have they no memory, the Europeans?

Subject: The Ultimate Wedding Guest.
A man goes to a large catering hall on Long Island. He enters the hall and takes in the sites, 1000 people enjoying themselves, fressing, drinking, music, etc... Just then a man approaches him and says "Glad you could make it here!! Which side are you on, the Kallahs or the Chossens??" (Bride or Groom). He replied "The Kallahs side". The man instantly shouted, "GET OUT OF HERE!" "Why, what's wrong?" replied the newly arrived guest. The man answered, "This is a Bar Mitzvah!!!"

Subject: Religious Nuts.
A local priest and rabbi were fishing on the side of the road. They thoughtfully made a sign saying, "The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it's too late!" and showed it to each passing car. One driver that drove by didn't appreciate the sign and shouted at them: "Leave us alone, you religious nuts!" All of a sudden they heard a big splash. They looked at each other and the priest said to the rabbi, "You think we should just put up a sign that says 'Bridge Out' instead?"

Subject: Two Towels.
When Sam returned to the house one evening, his wife Sarah announced that the new cleaning woman they had hired had stolen two towels. "Yeah," said Sam very disinterested, and reclining on the sofa, "that wasn't very nice of her to do." "You're darn right it wasn't," Sarah said. "And they were the two best towels we had... the ones we got from the Hilton Hotel while we were on vacation."

10 Aug 2009

Baasher hu sham

Belgian news reported that Ashraf Sekaki, one of the three escapees from a Belgian jail on July 23, was arrested in Morocco. The other two escaped convicts had been captured prior to Sekaki's arrest.
A news article about the escapee described Sekaki as a career criminal.
"Sekkaki was described as a career criminal who had escaped from prison in 2003 and was on the run for five months before being recaptured.
He has spent much of the past decade behind bars for his part in about a dozen attacks on banks, some of them involving hostages.
In 2007 he was sent to a psychiatric unit because of his violent tendencies and constant threats to prison guards."
An article in a Belgian newspaper relates how Stephan Bonne, formerly a lifeguard, saved Mr. Sekaki when he almost drowned in a pool at the age of seven. He described how he had seen him at the bottom of the pool, pulled him out, and began to resuscitate him when he saw Sekaki's blue color. Mr. Bonne said he did not receive a thank you for his part in rescuing him. He also said that people tell him it would have been better if he hadn't helped him, but the former lifeguard said that he would save him anew, if placed in the same situation.
The near drowning incident reminded me of the bible story in which Yishmael was sent out to the desert and was in life threatening circumstances before an angel saved him. Below is part of a devar torah by Neil Zworth that I found about Yishmael and judging a person for his actions at present, and not his future actions.

"The Torah reading for the first day of Rosh Hashana begins with the birth and circumcision of Isaac. The story takes a nasty turn with the expulsion of Ishamel and Hagar from the house of Avraham. The expulsion is initiated by Sara's concerns of the negative influence that Ishmael was exerting over Isaac. Abraham is at first troubled by Sara's insistence on chasing Ishmael from their home. G-d, however instructs Avraham, "Do everything Sarah tells you" (21:12). So Avraham sends Ishmael and Hagar out into the desert with nothing more than bread and water.
At first glance, this selection begs the question, "Why do we read this particular parasha on the First Day Of Rosh Hashana"? Granted, tradition has it that Isaac was conceived on Rosh Hashana. The month of Tishrei is when all was created. But what is the real essence of Rosh Hoshana? And how does that relate to the text?
Much has been written about why Sara deemed it so necessary to have Ishmael removed. In the text it reads, "Sara saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking". Mocking or "mitzachake" is the term here. Scripture uses this verb to denote the three cardinal sins: Idolatry (Exodus 32:6), adultery (39:17) and murder (II Samuel 2:14). "Thus", according to Rashi, "Ishmael's behavior proved that he had become thoroughly corrupt and evil, and he had to be sent away".
Other commentaries suggest that Ishmael's mocking was making inferences to Sara that Avraham, at his old age, could not possibly be Isaac's father, although the Torah goes to great lengths to confirm that Avraham is indeed Isaac's father.
Clearly, the term mocking is intended to mean wrongdoing of some kind. The fact that G-d intervenes and tells Avraham to listen to Sara confirms that it is G-d's will that Ishmael be removed.
Once Ishmael and Hagar are in the desert the story takes a dramatic turn. The water of supply is consumed and Ishmael becomes deathly ill. Hagar distances herself from her dying son and cries. An angel of G-d calls down to Hagar and says, "Fear not, for G-d has heeded the cry of the youth in his present state. Arise, lift up the youth and grasp your hand upon him, for I will make a great nation of him". G-d opens her eyes to see a well of water and Ishmael is saved.
To me, this passage is paramount. "Ba-asher hu-sham" In his present state. Rashi (21:17) references the Gamara in Rosh Hashana (17b) that relates how the angels argued against G-d saving Ishmael. "Ishmael's decendents would one day be responsible for killing Jews, so why save Ishmael and suffer later on. Let him die now and avoid the future tragedy!" G-d answered, "At this moment is he righteous or evil?" G-d then responded, "As he is ­ I only judge the world as they are, in here and now!"
This is the essence of Rosh Hashana, teshuva, or return - that G-d only judges us as we are at the moment of judgment. If we should do teshuva right before the moment of judgment, even if G-d knows that we will not maintain our resolve, we are still judged to be righteous at the moment of justice. Presumably, Ishmael repented for his sins and was judged for what he was at that very moment."

Visiting the sick

The following is part of an email I received about visiting the sick, by Rabbi Eli Mansour.
"Rabbi Eliezer Waldenberg (Israel, 1915-2006) allocates a portion of his monumental work Sitz Eliezer to discussing the laws relevant to the Misva of Bikur Holim - visiting the sick.
...In chapter 27, Rabbi Waldenberg notes that the Misva of Bikur Holim includes the obligation to offer spiritual guidance and counseling. Of course, thought must be given to determine who should be the one offering this guidance. However, it is imperative that the ill patient receive spiritual guidance as to the measures he should take to earn the merits he needs to recover from his condition.
... A person visiting an ill patient should advise the patient to make an "inquiry," to conduct introspection and determine which areas of his religious life require improvement, so that he can earn merits through which to regain good health. This is particularly so in the case of serious illness, God forbid, when every merit earned could make the difference and enable the patient to survive.
Specifically, Rav Waldenberg writes, an ill patient should be advised to make amends with those whom he has wronged, and to forgive those who have wronged him. The Sages teach that one who accustoms himself to forgiving others will himself earn forgiveness from God.
...Rav Waldenberg also cites the Ahabat Hesed (work about acts of kindness by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan, 1839-1933) as advising ill patients to give charity as a means of earning merit. It is specifically advisable for a patient to donate charity to a public institution. If a person had, at some point, stolen money from the public, in which case it is impossible to return the funds to all the victims, he can earn atonement by donating to an institution which serves the public. In this way, he will be paying back at least some of the people whom he had wronged.
...It is proper for a woman who falls ill to recommit herself to the Misvot of Nida (family purity), separating Halla from dough used in baking, and the Shabbat candles, so that this merit will help her earn good health.
If a seriously ill patient has not yet put his affairs in order and determined the distribution of his assets after his death, it is critically important for him to do so when this is still possible. While it is certainly discomfiting to prepare for one's passing, one must do what he can to avoid strife and conflict among family members after his death. Ill patients must therefore be advised to resolve any outstanding issues of this nature.
May Hashem bless us that these Halachot should never become practically applicable, and that we have only happy occasions to celebrate with our families."

The following 50 second video won First prize at Cannes.

9 Aug 2009

No consequences

This morning, I read two articles about people not having to suffer consequences for their actions. This is an era of no blame, no assigning culpability and getting away with murder and penalty.
The first article is about a conservative rabbi who is bringing a lawsuit against his state's kosher law.
"A rabbi in Georgia is suing to have the state's kosher law declared unconstitutional.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Rabbi L...., says the state's Kosher Food Labeling Act de-legitimizes non-Orthodox definitions of "kosher." Lewis is Conservative.
The law, in force in Georgia since 1980, requires food sold as kosher in the state meet "Orthodox Hebrew religious rules and requirements."
The lawsuit notes differences in Conservative and Orthodox kashrut standards. The Conservative movement allows swordfish, forbidden by Orthodox authorities, and does not require a hechsher, or kosher supervision, on cheese or wine.
In his suit, L. says the law prevents him from exercising his faith when he seeks to certify kosher foods, and is a violation of church-state separation.
New Jersey changed its kosher laws following similar objections in 1992, and New York did so in 2005."
Mr. L. needs to be made aware that if he seeks to overturn the definition of what has been known as kosher since the time of the giving of the Torah, then there will be consequences to his actions. By the same token, why shouldn't I be able to sue the state with my definition of what is kosher? Why shouldn't a gentile be able to ascertain what is kosher?
The second article which caught my eye was entitled, "Shepherd Hotel: An end to the Arabs' war of limited liability?"
The columnist, Lenny Ben-David, writes, " For much too long Arab states, terrorist groups and Palestinian Arabs believed that they could wage "wars of limited liability" first against the Jews of Palestine and then against the State of Israel. They embraced a fantasy that they could unleash attacks with impunity in an attempt to wipe out Israel, convinced that if they were defeated they could return to a status quo ante, or even achieve diplomatically what they couldn't win on the battlefield. Territories captured by Israel would be returned and not annexed, terrorist leaders would be honored and not condemned, and Jews/Israel would be blamed and never indemnified. "
He further goes on to explain, "Yet, today, under the Arab concept of wars of limited liability, they and the UN demand a complete withdrawal from the West Bank and east Jerusalem - "100 percent" - and a dismantling of the security barrier erected to keep out Palestinian suicide bombers. In other words, there is no punishment, no price to pay and no indemnification for acts of aggression."
To read full article, click here.
Perhaps it is time for people to realize that actions result in consequences that may sometimes be unfavorable. There are many times when you can't have your cake and eat it too. But, these days, if you do something wrong, the pattern of shifting the blame, or suing the victim is all too commonplace. Unless people realize they can't get away with murder or changing the religion to suit their needs, I am afraid their behavior will continue for a long time to come. A case in point is the spurious article written in the Voice entitled, "“My Hell in an Israeli Jail”: Israel Prison Population 90 Percent Black Africans." One sentence in the article reads, “I shared a seven foot by seven foot cell with 14 others.” So what if the dimensions are larger? Does the paper have to print the truth? As long as there are no consequences, why bother withdrawing the article from publication? For a rebuttal of the Voice's article, click here.

Parshat Reeh - a blessing and a curse

by Elisha Greenbaum
See, I give you today a blessing and a curse... (Deuteronomy 11:26)
When the Torah proclaims that G-d is the source of both the blessing and the curse, this can be understood as G-d telling us not to complain, and just accept all curses and suffering as coming from Him. On a deeper level, the Torah is presenting us with a more complex understanding of the nature of suffering: that all things, the blessings and the curses, derive equally from Him, and are thus all positive; the blessing as a revealed kindness, and the curse as an opportunity for us to transform evil into an opportunity for blessing.
The era directly following the passing of Rebbe DovBer, the Maggid of Mezritch, was terrible for the Jews. After a long period of benign neglect, the government began to promulgate many new anti-Semitic decrees. Additionally, to add insult to injury, a number of plagues and natural disasters struck the local communities.
At about that time, one of the Maggid's principal disciples had a dream in which his departed mentor appeared to him. The disciple asked his master to explain an apparent anomaly: Departed tzaddikim (righteous people) are described as having more power to affect nature after their passing than they had while still mortal; why then did all those calamities, that the Rebbe's prayers had averted while he was still alive, resume upon his passing?
Rabbi DovBer explained. "While on this world I recognized evil as such and prayed to G-d to save us, and thank G-d my prayers were often answered. Now I reside in the world of truth, and from my new perspective I divine the rationale of the Divine. I now see how everything G-d visits on the world, even that which is apparently negative, is in reality part of G-d's celestial plans for our ultimate good.
"You, however, who are alive and still perceive the iniquity implicit in human suffering--you pray to G-d, and you ward off the evil."

7 Aug 2009

The prisoner's donation

This coming Shabbos, we read Pirkei Avot Chapter 4. The first mishnah begins with the words,
Ben Zoma would say: Who is wise? One who learns from every man, as is written: "From all my teachers I have grown wise, for Your testimonials are my meditation. " (Psalms 119:99)

Last night, I read about a special donation received by the Shuvu school system, after launching an appeal to help its schools, due to the financial crisis.
"How did Shuvu get a donation from prison?” Mrs. Schon asked herself. But then, as she read further, the answer became clear. The following lines read: 09185016, Pollard, Jonathan; charitable contribution.

I thought to myself that I should learn from Jonathan Pollard who used his meager funds to donate to a most worthy cause- the furtherance of Jewish education.
May he merit being set free from his lengthy incarceration.
I hope to write a letter to Jonathan Pollard and tell him how much his action inspired me.
Here is Jonathan's address:
Jonathan Pollard #09185-016
c/o FCI Butner
P.O. Box 1000Butner,
NCU.S.A 27509-1000
UPDATE The following is part of a comment I received from the Justice for Jonathan Pollard organization.
"About his donation to Shuvu, Jonathan feels strongly that Jewish education is critical and Shuvu must be saved. It should also be noted that out of his meager funds Jonathan always makes donations to worthy Jewish causes. This was just one of them that caught the eye of the media-- something Jonathan did not anticipate nor desire. He is glad if, nevertheless, it did some good."
I would just like to add that when I went shopping this morning for my Shabbos necessities, I was approached by two people to give tzedakah. With Jonathan's story in mind, I contributed more than I normally would have.

6 Aug 2009

A number of questions

Question 1.
Human Rights Watch accused Hamas of committing war crimes for its firing of rockets into Israel. For those who decried Israel's disproportionate response during the Gaza war, would it be right to assume that a proportionate response on Israel's part would be to commit war crimes?

Questions 2 & 3.
After Israel evicted Palestinian families living in two houses in occupied East Jerusalem, "Washington said the action was not in keeping with Israel's obligations under the so-called "road map" to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict."
"The Fatah Congress on Thursday unanimously concluded that Israel was behind the death of former PA President Yasser Arafat. "
Why isn't Washington, saying that the action is not in keeping with the Palestinians' obligations under the so-called "road map"?
Why did BBC radio state that an Israeli newspaper reported that Middle East envoy George Mitchell asked for a one year settlement freeze but did not report on the Fatah meeting or on the accusation against Hamas by Human Rights Watch?

Question 4.

A New York Times article about Obama's birthday was used to discredit the birther movement.
The article states ".....a small set of detractors have been obsessively fixated by this date in history: Aug. 4, 1961. That is the day, they argue, that proves that Mr. Obama should not be serving in office because he was not born in the United States. "
I have been following the birther controversy. Lou Dobbs, among others, publicy stated that he believes Obama is a natural born citizen. He, and Joseph Farah of World Net Daily , are just asking President Obama to produce his long form birth certificate which clearly states the hospital in which he was born and the name of the doctor who delivered him.
The New York Times article continues, "To satisfy the doubters, the Obama campaign released a copy of his Hawaiian birth certificate during the presidential race. But the fact that it was a copy and not the original, which according to Hawaii law cannot be released publicly, did not quell the furor."
I don't believe that Obama released a birth certificate. The document released is called a certificate of live birth. Furthermore, the article states that Hawaii law does not allow the birth certificate to be released publicly, but, according to what I read, I thought that Hawaii state law doesn't permit release of original birth records to anyone without a tangible interest in those records.
Why isn't Obama releasing his long form birth certificate and is the New York Times making misleading statements regarding the controversy?

Question 5.
An acquaintance married off her last child not long ago. This week, she announced that after 30 years of misery, she was getting a divorce.
Was it worth it to wait till all her children were married?

All I can hope is that Mashiach will come soon and usher in an era of peace, devoid of controversy and conflict.