"Where does it say that you have a contract with G-d to have an easy life?"

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

"Failure is not the enemy of success; it is its prerequisite."

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

29 Oct 2009

With all your heart and soul

Bringing light to the world

Promises Promises

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to America. She told me that most airlines had instituted a new policy of limiting a passenger to one suitcase. An extra charge of 50$ would be imposed on a passenger who wished to travel with two suitcases.
The woman told me that someone had asked her and her husband to buy a number of sefarim for him. When she apprised the man of the new airline policy, he said that he would contribute to the cost of the extra suitcase.
When she returned from her trip, my friend brought the sefarim to the man's house. He asked her for a receipt of the books and paid her in full. However, he had forgotten that he had promised to contribute to the cost of the suitcase and my friend was too embarrassed to remind him.
We've got to be careful with our words and promises. The following story relates how a tzaddik remembered to fulfill his words, many years after he had uttered them.

When Rav Yaakov Kamenetzky, who was renowned for his devotion to the truth, turned 80, he began donning an additional pair of tefillin, known as the tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam, each morning. Because there is a legal dispute regarding certain details about the writing of the parchments in tefillin, some virtuous individuals have the custom of wearing a second pair to fulfill the opinion of Rabbeinu Tam. Although Rav Yaakov certainly possessed the piety required for one who wished to take on this stringency, some of his students were puzzled by the fact that he had never done so previously. What suddenly transpired which made him change his practice?
When they asked him about this, Rav Yaakov explained that many years previously, an elderly Jew in his minyan began to put on the tefillin of Rabbeinu Tam at the end of the morning services. One of Rav Yaakov’s students asked him why he hadn’t also adopted this praiseworthy practice. In his humility, Rav Yaakov attempted to avoid the question by noting that the other man was much older, adding that if Hashem would allow him to reach that age, perhaps he would also adopt the practice.
Although the comment was said only casually, Rav Yaakov immediately worried that his commitment to truth obligated him to fulfill his words. Upon ascertaining the age of the man, Rav Yaakov waited many years until he reached that age, at which point he immediately adopted the practice in order to keep his “promise.”

28 Oct 2009

Like the Goyim

The other day, I received a facetious email about the differences between Jews and Gentiles. The following lines are excerpted from the email.

Judges Are Jewish
Juries Are Goyish
Cruises are Jewish
Walking tours are Goyish
Grabbing lox from the back of the buffet first, is Jewish
Grabbing melon from the front is Goyish
Passing bars is Goyish
Passing the Bar Exam is Jewish
DIY (Do it Yourself) is Goyish
PAG (Pay A Goy who knows what he's doing) is Jewish
Sitting quietly to get served is Goyish
Standing and waving one's hands is Jewish
Tattoos and piercing are Goyish
Diamonds and pearls are Jewish

A short while later, I read an article about Jews who are opting for tattoos.

"..They are Jews with tattoos, a trend that began on the fringe and is moving toward the mainstream. Ink-wearing Jews are not as omnipresent as in some other groups, given the proliferation of tattoos in sports and the entertainment industry, but their numbers are increasing, according to tattoo wearers, artists and the rabbis who bear witness to the branding of their flock."
A conservative rabbi weighed in with his opinion about tatoos.
“Tattoos are just incompatible with Jewish values,” said Rabbi Brian Schuldenfrei of the Conservative Sinai Temple in Los Angeles. “We see the body as a holy and beautiful vessel, created by God. A tattoo only takes away from that divine beauty. So, we dismiss the practice of tattoos — but must remember not to reject the person with tattoos.”
A reform rabbi spoke about acceptance for the increasing number of tattooed Jewish youth.
“They’re wearing it the same as they would clothing or jewelry,” he said. “You have to be respectful as you would with any part of a person’s expression.”

The following words are the beginning of a poem about tatoos. Frankly, I give credit to Stanley Siegelman for finding rhyming words for Leviticus.

A fad’s erupted ’mongst the Jews:
An impetus toward tattoos.
There’s growing preference, it seems,
For body-art with Jewish themes.

Some rabbis, angered, make a fuss.
They point out that Leviticus
Quite pointedly forbids such art
Adorning any body part.

A beauteous vessel is the bod,
A gift that comes direct from God
And should not be despoiled by ink —
That’s what the pious people think.

To read the rest of the poem click on the link below.

Finally, to hear what comedian John Oliver thinks about Jews, you can listen to the clip from the Jon Stewart show, starting at the 3 minute mark.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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When tragedy strikes

Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. ln those transparent moments we know other people's joys and sorrows, and we care about their concerns as if they were our own.
Fritz Williams

The following paragraphs are excerpted from Rabbi Harold Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People.

God does not cause our misfortunes. Some are caused by bad luck, some are caused by bad people, and some are simply an inevitable consequence of our being human and being mortal, living in a world of inflexible natural laws.
The painful things that happen to us are not punishments for our misbehavior, nor are they in any way part of some grand design on God's part. Because the tragedy is not God's will, we need not feel hurt or betrayed by God when tragedy strikes. We can turn to Him for help in overcoming it, precisely because we can tell ourselves that God is as outraged by it as we are.

........ Martin Gray, a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust, writes of his life in a book called For Those I Loved. He tells how, after the Holocaust, he rebuilt his life, became successful, married, and raised a family. Life seemed good after the horrors of the concentration camp.
Then one day, his wife and children were killed when a forest fire ravaged their home in the south of France. Gray was distraught, pushed almost to the breaking point by this added tragedy. People urged him to demand an inquiry into what caused the fire, but instead he chose to put his resources into a movement to protect nature from future fires.
He explained that an inquiry, an investigation, would focus only on the past, on issues of pain and sorrow and blame. He wanted to focus on the future. An inquiry would set him against other people--"was someone negligent? whose fault was it?"--and being against other people, setting out to find a villain, accusing other people of being responsible for your misery, only makes a lonely person lonelier. Life, he concluded, has to be lived for something, not just against something.
We too need to get over the questions that focus on the past and on the pain--"why did this happen to me?"--and ask instead the question which opens doors to the future: "Now that this has happened, what shall I do about it?"


In the video below, Rabbi Krebs discusses why Avraham Avinu had to suffer. Unlike another South African, the rabbi has something intelligent to offer us.

27 Oct 2009

Mama Rachel

The Yarzheit of Rachel Imeinu falls on the 11th of Cheshvan (after sundown Wednesday October 28th). To have a prayer recited for you at Kever Rachel on the day of the yarzheit, click here.

"When the Bais Hamikdosh was destroyed, Moshe Rabbeinu, the Avos, along with the Imahos stormed the heavens, and pleaded with Hashem to bring the Jews back to Eretz Yisroel. But, the Jews had sind - and the almighty sealed the judgment against them. And though Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov and Moshe tried, though they spoke of the great things they had done in their lives, the gates of mercy were sealed tight.
In her merit - in the merit of her love to her sister Leah, and in the merit of her refusal to shame her at great personal sacrifice - The Almighty annulled His decree. To her Hashem said - מנעי קולך מבכי - stop crying, because your prayers have been heard. And they continue to be heard, to this day."
יש שכר לפעולתך, ושבו בנים לגבולם


My last visit to Rachel Imeinu's kever was made all the more poignant by seeing part of the wedding dress that Nava Appelbaum never got a chance to wear being used as a Torah cover at the holy site. Nava and her father were killed on the eve of her wedding during a terror attack at Cafe Hillel.

This evening, brings the news of another tragedy, as a father mistakenly ran over his two-year-old son while reversing his car in Ashdod. The toddler is in serious condition and tehilim are requested to be said for Naftali Zvi ben Rachel Nechama.
UPDATE: haredim.co.il has reported that the child's condition has stabilized and he is fully conscious, baruch Hashem.

Mama Rachel, won't you shed a tear for your dear children?
Let us pray for a positive outcome to this unfortunate accident.

26 Oct 2009

Passion and enthusiasm

I came across a video about achieving happiness. It details ten items which an American psychologist believes is the key to living a happy life.
Number one on the list is to do a work that you love.
Subsequently, I came across an article on CNN about top management looking to fill positions in their companies.
"These rising stars from Fortune's 40 under 40 list have great jobs to fill. What are they looking for and how can you impress them?"
One CEO stated, "What we look for in a candidate above just about everything else is passion and enthusiasm."
Another CEO said, "If you're interested in working here, you should be someone [who's] passionate about what you do."
To read the full article, click on the link below.

A friend of mine sent me an email with a link to three people who certainly bring enthusiasm and passion to their work. Enjoy and here's hoping that you have jobs you are enthusiastic about.

25 Oct 2009

Avraham Avinu

Cuando el rey Nimrod al campo salía,
When King Nimrod went into the fields,

Mirava en el cielo y en la estrellería,
He looked at the heavens and at all the stars,

Vido una luz santa en la judería,
He saw a holy light above the Jewish quarter -

Que havía de nacer Avraham Avinu.
A sign that Abraham our father was about to be born.

Avraham avinu, padre querido,
Abraham our patriarch, dear father,

Padre bendicho, luz de Israel.
Blessed father, light of Israel.

Luego a las comadres encomendava
Immediately the midwives recommended

Que toda mujer que preñada quedava
That every pregnant woman should tarry

Y si hijo pariere al punto lo mataran
Because if a son were born they would have to kill him

Que havía de nacer Avraham Avinu.
(That told of the birth of Abrahm our father).

La mujer de Terah quedo preñada,
When Terah's wife was pregnant,

De dia en dia el le demandava,
Daily he asked her the question:

"De que teneij la cara tan demudada?"
"Why is your face so pale?"

Ella ya savía el bien qu tenía.
Already she knew the good she had within her.

En fin de mueve mezes parir quiería,
At the end of nine months she was determined to give birth,

Iva caminando por campos y viñas,
She walked through the countryside and vines,

A su marido tal no le descuvría
She didn't tell her hasband anything,

Topó una meara ayi lo pariría.
She found a cave in which to give birth.

En aquella hora el nacido havlava:
At that time the newborn spoke:

"Andavos, la mi madre, de la meara,
"Go out of the cave, mother.

Yo ya topó quien m'alechará
I have already found someone who will remove me.

Malakh de cielo me accompañará
An angel from heaven will accompany me

Porque so criado del Dió bendicho.
Because I was created blessed from heaven.

En fin de veinte días lo fué a vijitar,
After twenty days she went to visit him.

Lo vido d'enfrente, mancevo saltar,
She saw in front of her a young man leaping,

Mirando al cielo y bien atinar,
Looking at the sky, aiming to understand,

Para conocer el Dió de la verdad.
In order to know the God of truth.

"Madre, la mi madre, qué buxcaij aqui?"
"Mother, my mother what are you looking for here?"

"Un hijo preciado parí yo aquí.
"I gave birth to a precious son here.

"Vine a buxcarlo, si se topa aquí,
"I came to look for him here.

Si está bivo me consolaré yo."
If he is alive I will be consoled."

"Madre, la mi madre, que havlas havlaj?
"Mother, my mother, what are you saying?

Un hijo preciado, como lo desíij?
How could you leave your precious son?

Afin de veinte días, como lo vijitáij?
After twenty days how is it that you're visiting him?

Yo so vuestro hijo preciado.
I am your precious son.

Mirad la mi madre, que el Dio es uno,
Look, mother, God is one,

El crió los cielos uno per uno.
He created the heavens one by one.

Decilde a Nimrod que perdió su tino
Tell Nimrod that he has lost his common sense

Porque no quiere creer en el Verdadero.
Because he does not want to believe in the True One.

"Lo alcanzó a saver el rey Nimrod esto,
"King Nimrod did not manage to learn.

Dixo que lo traigan aína y presto
Bring him here immediately

Antes que desreinen a todo el resto
Before they cause a rebellion

Y dexen a mí y crean en el Verdadero."
And encourage others to believe in the True One."

Ya me lo truxeron con grande albon
They brought him in great humility.

Y el travó de la silla un buen travón.
He strongly grabbed Nimrod's throne.

"Dí, raxa, por que te tienes tu por Dió?
"Tell me, evil one. Why do you think you are God?"

Por que no quieres creer en el Verdadero?
Why do you not wish to believe in the True One."

"Acendiendo un horno, bien acendido,
"Light a fiery furnace,

Echaldo presto que es entendido,
Throw him in immediately,

Llevaldo con trabucos, que es agudo,
Protect yourself from him because he is sharp.

Si d'aqui el Dio lo escapa, es el Verdadero."
If God allows him to escape, then He is real."

Echándolo al horno, iva caminando,
He was thrown into the furnace, wherever he walked

Con los malakhim iva paseando,
He walked with the angels

Y todos los leños fruto ivan dando;
The trees gave forth fruit

De aqui conocemos al Dio verdadero.
And that's how we know about the true God.

Grande zekhut tiene el señor Avram
Great merit has honorable Abraham

Que por el conocemos el Dio de la verdad.
Because of him we recognize the true God.

Grande zekhut tiene el señor parido,
Great merit has the father of the newborn

Que afirma la mitsva de Avram avinu.
Who fulfills the commandment of Abraham our father.

Saludemos agora al señor parido,
We wish to greet the father of the newborn

Que le sea besiman-tov este nacido,
We wish mazel tov to the newborn.

Que Eliahu Hanavi mos sea aparecido,
Because Eliahu the prophet appeared

Y daremos loores al Verdadero.
And we give praises to the True One.

Saludemos al sandak y tambien al mohel,
We greet the godfather and the circumciser,

Que por su zekhut vos venga el goel,
Because of his merit the redeemer will come to us,

Y rihma a todo Israel,
And comfort all Israel

Y daremos loores al Verdadero.
And we give praises to the True One.

23 Oct 2009

Careful with your words

A Chasidic tale vividly illustrates the danger of improper speech: A man went about the community telling malicious lies about the rabbi. Later, he realized the wrong he had done, and began to feel remorse. He went to the rabbi and begged his forgiveness, saying he would do anything he could to make amends. The rabbi told the man, "Take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the winds." The man thought this was a strange request, but it was a simple enough task, and he did it gladly. When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had done it, the rabbi said, "Now, go and gather the feathers. Because you can no more make amends for the damage your words have done than you can recollect the feathers."


A relative of mine just returned from a wedding in another country.
When I asked her how the wedding was, she replied, "The music was too loud."
This morning, my husband's friend was describing a wedding that he had attended the night before. He complained to him that the music was so loud that he couldn't even speak to the person sitting next to him at his table.
At one point, the volume of wedding music was a topic that was being addressed with regulations starting to be introduced to lower the decibel level at wedding halls.
But, it seems that the problem is with us to stay.
Please be considerate when making a wedding. There are guests who have arrived from overseas who are absolutely exhausted and do not want to be subjected to the pounding rhythm that won't go away.
The nicest wedding I attended was when a relative told the band he wouldn't pay them if their music exceeded a certain decibel level. At one point, they were approaching the threshold, and I saw my relative dashing towards them with fire in his eyes. Needless to say, the musicians started to play more softly.

Speaking about noise, the following is an excerpt form an article in the New York Times entitled, For Some Parents, Shouting Is the New Spanking.
Many in today’s pregnancy-flaunting, soccer-cheering, organic-snack-proffering generation of parents would never spank their children. We congratulate our toddlers for blowing their nose (“Good job!”), we friend our teenagers (literally and virtually), we spend hours teaching our elementary-school offspring how to understand their feelings. But, incongruously and with regularity, this is a generation that yells.
“I’ve worked with thousands of parents and I can tell you, without question, that screaming is the new spanking,” said Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, which teaches parenting skills in classes, individual coaching sessions and an online course. “This is so the issue right now. As parents understand that it’s not socially acceptable to spank children, they are at a loss for what they can do. They resort to reminding, nagging, timeout, counting 1-2-3 and quickly realize that those strategies don’t work to change behavior. In the absence of tools that really work, they feel frustrated and angry and raise their voice. They feel guilty afterward, and the whole cycle begins again.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/fashion/22yell.html?_r=1&hpw

22 Oct 2009

Perceived misfortunes

The following is an excerpt from an email by Rabbi Yissocher Frand.

"The pasuk at the end of Parshas Bereshis [5:32] says: "And Noach was 500 years old and he gave birth to Shem, Cham, and Yafes". Rashi asks why others of Noach's generation gave birth to children at the age of 100 on average while Noach did not have any children until much later in life. Rashi answers that G-d did Noach a favor, so to speak. If he had children at a normal age and they turned out to be wicked, G-d would have had to kill them out with the rest of their generation. If, on the other hand, they were righteous, then by the time of the Flood they in turn would have already had several generations of descendants and Noach would need to build several Arks to house all his descendants. Therefore, Noach's children were born close in time to the Flood, such that Noach's oldest son was not yet a "bar onshin" [at the age when he would be subject to Heavenly punishment] when the decree concerning the Flood was issued.
Let us put ourselves in Noach's shoes for a minute. Noach was the greatest Tzadik in his generation. Everyone else was having children and grandchildren. Noach was infertile and childless. Where is there justice in this world? Noach must have had such thoughts for 400 years! He must have been asking himself "What does G-d have against me? What does he want from me? Why is he doing this to me? I am the most righteous person of my generation!"
The answer is that the Almighty has His calculations. He knew that there would be a Flood and everyone would be destroyed. He knew that it was best for Noach that he not have children for those 400 years. So the Almighty does Noach a favor and makes him infertile.
Our own perceived misfortunes are one of the hardest things for any of us to understand. We are limited by time and space and can only see what is happening in front of our eyes. There are times when we can't believe the things that happen to us and we perceive them as the greatest punishment. We must have this bedrock faith, which is so much easier to preach than to integrate into our psyche. This is the true Jewish outlook on life. If we could all know what the Almighty has in mind for us, we would understand that G-d is not doing us a disservice, but He is doing us the greatest favor!"

The video below is about helping someone after a tragedy befalls him. It reminded me that, while people are quick to offer help right after a tragedy occurs, a few years down the line, they forget about the widow who is eating Shabbos meals alone. It is a stark reminder to help people in need, even after many years have passed.

An eye on recession

An article entitled "Bar mitzvahs trim down amid recession" by Adam Sosnik, reports on bar mitvah festivities undergoing recession-era adaptation.
He reports that some families are holding joint celebrations.
A caterer said that average spending has dropped over the past few years.
"The last time we did a full weekend event with kiddush meals, breakfast, luncheons and dinner buffets was a year-and-a-half ago,” said the caterer, who asked not to be identified. “Most families are looking for simplicity."
Read more: http://jta.org/news/article/2009/10/21/1008642/bar-mitzvahs-trim-down-amid-recession

It is being reported that an OB-GYN who helped deliver hundreds of babies in Brooklyn has decided to throw in the towel after a 12 year career. While her income has dropped by 20 percent, her malpractice insurance has skyrocketed to approximately $160,000.
“I've decided to retire from obstetrics,” said Perlman, 42. "It breaks my heart. Malpractice costs are a big part of it. It's a very sad story.

Speaking of bar mitzvahs, I caught this video clip about preparations for a bar mitzvah on the cooljew . For those of you who missed it, here goes.

21 Oct 2009

Has the BBC affirmed the rights of Jewish settlers?

This is absolutely AMAZING.
I had just published the previous post about how the Torah is relevant even in today's times. I noted that it is interesting that in the week that we will be reading about how the generation after the flood rebelled against G-d by building the tower of Babel, the New York Times had published an article about a campaign to promote atheism.
A little while later, I came across an article on the BBC website entitled The death of language.
Midway through the article is an image of the tower of Babel with the underlying caption, "The story of Babel bestowed great power on societies with one language."
Fascinating - The very same week Jews will gather in the synagogue to read about the tower of Babel, a reference to the incident has been published in a leading newspaper.
Later on in the article, Tom Colls discusses how Hebrew had been revived.
"Hebrew, says Claude Hagege, was a dead language at the beginning of the 19th century. It existed as a scholarly written language, but there was no way to say "I love you" and "pass the salt" - the French linguists' criteria for detecting life.
But with the "strong will" of Israeli Jews, he says, the language was brought back into everyday use. Now it is undeniably a living breathing language once more."

To your left is a partial screenshot of the article containing an image of a section of the Torah and the underlying caption, "Hebrew was successfully revived from a written to a living language."
I was convinced that out of all the portions of the Torah that could be selected as an image showing an example of the Hebrew language, there must be a reason why this one was published. There must be a hidden message in the text selected. Nothing happens by chance.
The following is an English translation of the words the text, including some sentences before and after the text which will put the message into context.

Deuteronomy 26:1
When you come to the land that God your Lord is giving you as a heritage, occupying and settling it,
you shall take the first of every fruit of the ground produced by the land that God your Lord is giving you. You must place it in a basket, and go to the site that God will choose as the place associated with His name.
There you shall go to the priest officiating at the time, and say to him, 'Today I am affirming to God your Lord that I have come to the land that God swore to our fathers to give us.'
The priest shall then take the basket from your hand and place it before the altar of God your Lord.
You shall then make the following declaration before God your Lord: 'My ancestor was a homeless Aramean. He went to Egypt with a small number of men and lived there as an immigrant, but it was there that he became a great, powerful, and populous nation.
The Egyptians were cruel to us, making us suffer and imposing harsh slavery on us.
We cried out to God, Lord of our ancestors, and God heard our voice, seeing our suffering, our harsh labor, and our distress.
'God then brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm with great visions and with signs and miracles.
He brought us to this area, giving us this land flowing with milk and honey.
I am now bringing the first fruit of the land that God has given me.'

Thank you, BBC, for reminding the world the eternal words of the Torah וירשת וישבת בה
(occupying and settling it).
To read the full article, click on the link below.

Nothing new under the sun

One of the blessings we recite in the morning before studying Torah or before being called to an aliyah is said in the present tense – notain hatorah ("who gives us the Torah") – to indicate that G‑d gives us the Torah every day. It is just as relevant today as thousands of years ago.
The author of Ecclesiastes wrote, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (The lyrics to the song in the video link below are these words in Hebrew.)
The same week that we read in Parshat Noach about the Dor Haflagah who sought to rebel against G-d by building the tower of Babel, The New York Times published an article about atheism.
Atheism is coming to the subway — or at least subway ads promoting it are. Starting next Monday, a coalition of local groups will run a monthlong advertising campaign in a dozen Manhattan subway stations with the slogan “A Million New Yorkers Are Good Without God. Are You?”
Read more:

The following is a devar Torah by Yair Manas.
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Noach, the Torah tells us of 2 generations of sinners, The Dor Hamabul (the generation of the flood), and the Dor Haflagah (the generation of division). The Dor Hamabul lost their fear in Hashem. They partook in all types of immoral and destructive activity, as the Torah states, ותמלא הארץ חמס “The Earth was filled with robbery” (6:11). In short, the description of the Dor Hamabul is very bad.
Yet, the Dor Haflaga is even worse. The Dor Haflaga lost themselves even more. They rebelled directly against Hashem’s authority. They attempted to build a tower, go up to Heaven, and conquer the heavens (Bereishit Rabbah 38:7). This is defiance at its peak.
However, if we examine their respective punishments, we find something very interesting. The Dor Hamabul was wiped off the face of the Earth, while the Dor Haflaga was only dispersed around the world. Why was the punishment of the Dor Hamabul more severe if it appears that the sin of the Dor Haflaga was a graver sin? Why did Hashem punish the Dor Haflaga with such leniency?
Chazal explain that there was a substantial merit that the Dor Haflaga possessed that the Dor Hamabul did not. As rebellious and defiant towards Hashem as they were, the Dor Haflaga possessed Shalom, peace, which brought leniency toward them. As wicked as they were, there was still peace and harmony among them. The Dor Hamabul was filled with robbery and crimes, which are Bain Adam Lechaveiro. Therefore there is a more lenient punishment for the Dor Haflaga.

20 Oct 2009

Mishalot Libenu

I miss the High Holiday season when friends, relatives and neighbors would call or see me on the steet and offer heartfelt wishes for the new year. When someone wished me that Hashem should fulfill my desires, I would add the word letova - for the good.
Every month we pray that Hashem grants us "chayim sheyemalu mishalot libenu letova" "a life in which our heartfelt requests will be fulfilled for the good." We don't know what is best for us and we have to have bitachon, the realization that Hashem does what is good.
So, even though the month of Tishrei has come and gone, I would still like to wish you that your heartfelt requests should be fulfilled for the good.

Mirror mirror on the wall

Spurred by an article by Rachel Davids in Aish.com entitled Another Break Up, Sylvia Miner penned The Cruel Dating Game in which she tries to provide reasons as to why there are problems in the dating system.
Ms. Miner writes, "Obviously there are many reasons. But I suspect that it is one manifestation of an underlying attitude about what makes for happiness — the idea that I will be happy if I get just what is perfectly suited to Me. Our society constantly promotes the idea that, among the available options, I owe it to Myself to obtain the optimal option."
One of the comments posted included the following statement.
"There is a famous Shadchen in Crown Heights who has the couples that he sets up for dates come to his house prior to the set date. He then lets each go into a room where there is a full length mirror and tells them to take a good look at themselves from head to toe!!"

I was reminded of the above statement when I bumped into an acquaintance this morning at the local supermarket. Her son, who was in his late twenties, had gotten engaged recently and I wished her a hearty mazal tov. She pulled out a picture of the kallah, telling me what a sweet girl she was. She said that her son had been suggested top shidduchim from the best of families and ultimately ended up with a girl whose parents were divorced.
As I took leave of her, I realized it was rather ironic that this woman was bemoaning the fact that the kallah came from a broken family, when my friend was exactly in the same situation. She had also been divorced and had subsequently remarried.
Nobody's perfect. It is up to us to look in the mirror and to see ourselves as we really are. The person we will ultimately marry will not be getting 100% and will have to make compromises, so we shouldn't expect absolute perfection from our future spouses.

Criticism of HRW

In an article entitled UN Human Wrongs Council, David Harris posed the question as to whether the countries that voted on the adoption of the Goldstone report could "admit that the UN Human Rights Council was so viscerally anti-Israel, as evidenced by the stunning fact that 80 percent of its resolutions adopted over the past three years have focused on Israel alone, that it could not be deemed an objective body?"
Towards the end of the article, Mr. Harris stated, "Courage and principle are always in short supply."
I believe courage and principle was demonstrated by Robert L. Bernstein today.
Mr. Bernstein, chairman of Human Rights Watch from 1978 to 1998, is the author of an article that appears in the New York Times which is highly critical of the organization which he headed for two decades.
All I can say is kudos to Mr. Bernstein for realizing that the baby he helped to create is losing its moral perspective.

"AS the founder of Human Rights Watch, its active chairman for 20 years and now founding chairman emeritus, I must do something that I never anticipated: I must publicly join the group’s critics. Human Rights Watch had as its original mission to pry open closed societies, advocate basic freedoms and support dissenters. But recently it has been issuing reports on the Israeli-Arab conflict that are helping those who wish to turn Israel into a pariah state.
... in recent years Human Rights Watch has written far more condemnations of Israel for violations of international law than of any other country in the region.
...Meanwhile, the Arab and Iranian regimes rule over some 350 million people, and most remain brutal, closed and autocratic, permitting little or no internal dissent. The plight of their citizens who would most benefit from the kind of attention a large and well-financed international human rights organization can provide is being ignored as Human Rights Watch’s Middle East division prepares report after report on Israel.
Human Rights Watch has lost critical perspective on a conflict in which Israel has been repeatedly attacked by Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations that go after Israeli citizens and use their own people as human shields.
Leaders of Human Rights Watch know that Hamas and Hezbollah chose to wage war from densely populated areas, deliberately transforming neighborhoods into battlefields. They know that more and better arms are flowing into both Gaza and Lebanon and are poised to strike again. And they know that this militancy continues to deprive Palestinians of any chance for the peaceful and productive life they deserve. Yet Israel, the repeated victim of aggression, faces the brunt of Human Rights Watch’s criticism."

Read more:

16 Oct 2009

Farewell and thanks

After receiving a hateful email last night and for a number of other reasons, I have decided to discontinue the blog.
Just wanted to leave you with this final thought.

Chazal tell us: "when they escort a person to his final, Heavenly judgment after his death, the Heavenly tribunal says ... 'did you wait in hope for the salvation?'" (Shabbat 31a) - were you waiting with eager anticipation for the arrival of the Moshiach and the redemption of the Jewish people? If this is the question asked at a person's final judgment, it appears that awaiting the redemption is an obligation. The Brisker Rav zt"l deduced from the writings of the Rambam, that awaiting the redemption is not only an obligation, it is one of the principles of our faith. While the other twelve principles of faith focus on BELIEF (Belief in Hashem's existence, His uniqueness, etc.), this principle in addition to belief in the arrival of the Moshiach also commands us to actively await his arrival ("I anticipate every day that he will come.")
Read more: http://www.yna.edu/torah/wx-display.php?id=OUZCKTOK&fn=p_ne61pnch.html&search=&print=yes

R’ Alexandri said: R’ Yehoshua ben Levy said: It says “In its time” and “I will hasten it"(Yishayahu 60:22).
If [Israel] merits, I will hasten it. If not, in its time…

(Sanhedrin 98a)

I thank you for your kind attention and am grateful to those who sent encouraging emails and positive comments. Wishing you a good Shabbos and may we merit to see Mashiach Tzidkeinu bimeherah beyamenu, Amen.

One voice

Reading the news this evening got me dejected as more people are joining the bandwagon in singling out Israel as the nation impeding progress in achieving a comprehensive peace. The Spanish Prime minister called for a settlement freeze and a disturbing television program aired in Turkey showing a fictional scene in which an Israeli soldier shot a young Palestinian girl at point black range.
An excerpt from an article by Rabbi Pinchas Lipschutz spoke directly to me.

"Since time immemorial, Jews have been singled out for hatred by the nations of the world. They have accused us of every conceivable sin and have sought our destruction. The Torah opens with the statement of creation and Hashem’s dominion over the world to remind us that where ever we are and no matter what the nations of the world accuse us of, we should not become dejected."

Yes, we are a lone voice, but, with unity and steadfastness in basing our lives on Torah values, we can make a difference.

15 Oct 2009

Keeping children safe

UPDATE: A six-year-old boy feared to be aboard a helium balloon was found safe, hiding in a box in the attic.
An article in The Jewish Press by Cheryl Kupfer entitled 'Playing' It Safe For Your Children offers tips on how to provide a safe home environment for your children. Among the advice given is to empty bathtubs immediately after usage, to keep medications out of children's reach and not to place heavy objects on shelves where they can be pulled and fall on a child.
This evening, reports are being published about a six-year-old boy from Colorado who is believed to have climbed into a box attached to a helium balloon owned by the boy's parents. The balloon crashed, but the basket wasn't found.
Let's hope and pray for the boy's safe return to his parents. And let's heed the words of Ms. Kupfer by providing a safe home environment for our precious children.


“Atah horeit la-da-at ki HaShem hu haKelokim, ein od mil’vado.”
("To you it was shown, that you might know that HaShem, He is G-d, there is none else beside Him.” Deuteronomy, chapter 4, verse 35)

And it was good

Just returned from Rabbi K.'s shiur and he mentioned a number of interesting points.

At the time of creation, G-d said, " it is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper opposite him” (Genesis 2:18).
The next verse following this statement discusses Adam's naming of the animals rather than the creation of Eve. Only after the naming of the animals does the Torah relate that a helpmate was created for Adam.
Rabbi K. explained the anomaly by stating that Adam had to name and classify all the animals to realize that he would not find a shidduch among them. Consequently, Adam had to pray to G-d since he realized that only the Almighty had the power to find Adam a wife.
Yes, we make our efforts by contacting shadchanim, going out and trying to meet the right one. But, ultimately, we should realize that the right one will come along with the help of G-d. We should not forget prayer as a key tool in our efforts to get married.

As an aside, Rabbi K. spoke about the turtle and the deer. The turtle is called a צב in Hebrew and it is the slowest of all animals. The deer צבי is the fastest animal. The difference between the two words is the letter yud. The yud represents G-d. With the insertion of a yud, the slowest creature can achieve great feats.

14 Oct 2009

Simon says

I found a clip of Lou Goldstein leading a game of Simon Says and it brought back fond memories of summer days in the Catskills, watching him hold an audience spellbound. He could get any person to follow any instruction he issued, without fail.
Throngs of people lined up to join the game and tried valiantly to be crowned the winner by heeding his words, only if they were prefaced with "Simon Says."
Imagine if Mr. Goldstein would have been chosen to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Probably he would have done a better job than most of the envoys that have endeavored to bring peace to the region.
And, if people would heed the words of the Torah in the same way that they followed the instructions of Lou Goldstein, no doubt Mashiach would have arrived by now.

Advice from centenarians

An article on msn.com entitled Top tips for a long life conveys advice from a number of centenarians on how to live to an old age.
The following tips are taken from the article.

Marge Jenner, a 105-year-old from California, believes that the key to a long life lies within your beliefs.
"I don't know what you young people believe, but I couldn't imagine life without God," she said.
Some research does suggest that a belief system, whatever that may be, is healthy.

Jack Borden, 101, from Texas had the following piece of advice.
"There's an old saying," he said. "If you have one friend, you're a millionaire. I'm worth more than the national debt.
"And if you have a desire and you have the determination, there's not any limit to where you can go. "

What are 104-year-old Ushi Okushima's tips for a long, happy life?
"Stop worrying about getting something in your future and worrying about what you missed in your past.
"Living in the present, more than anything, keeps you young."


Also on the MSN website was an article detailing a worrying development at airport security which is being trialled at Manchester airport.

"A human X-ray machine which produces "naked" images of passengers has been introduced at an airport, enabling staff to instantly spot any hidden weapons or explosives."
Read more:
Can we get a psak halacha from a respected rabbi on whether one can be scanned? Apparently, passengers can refuse to be scanned and can opt for a body search, instead.

13 Oct 2009

Game theory

An article in the Guardian by Aditya Chakrabortty discusses a professor who seemingly predicts word events using a laptop and maths.

"Let's start with some news from the near future. Iran won't build a nuclear bomb. With extra aid money, Pakistan will become more peaceful. And the Copenhagen summit on climate change this December is doomed to failure.
If Bruce Bueno de Mesquita is right, those are the headlines you'll be reading over the next few months. The author of a new book called Predictioneer, he makes big-picture forecasts employing maths, and a laptop that has been so heavily used its letters have worn away."
Bueno de Mesquita's hit rate is 90%.
"...His specialism is game theory, a branch of maths that studies how people negotiate with each other. To arrive at that prediction on Iran's atomic bomb Bueno de Mesquita has crunched four sets of data: who the key decision-makers are in Iran, America and elsewhere; what they say they want; how important the issue is to them, and how much clout they have. His model has then worked out how these players will interact with each other – like so many chemical elements."
Only time will tell if his predictions are correct. I didn't read the book but I am curious what are his predictions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Robert Aumann , an Israeli/American mathematician, won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005 for his applications of game-theory analysis. In an article entitled Game Theory in the Talmud, Professor Aumann explains Talmudic passages according to the principles of game theory.

11 Oct 2009

Personal empowerment

The final sentence in this article is "Dream big and empower yourself." President Obama dreamed to reach the stars and he achieved becoming President and winning a Nobel Prize.
As the high holiday period has ended, let's try to follow through on the resolutions that we made during Yom Tov.
"Yes we can - Yes we can."

"Use Empowering Words When You Talk to Yourself
(whether you are speaking out loud or silently)
How do you talk to yourself?
Do you use the words "can't", "won't", "don't need to", "why try"?
Many people do.
Do you find that what you say to yourself turns out to be true?
Why is this?
You see your brain is like a computer that you feed each day. It doesn't know always know what's real or not unless you tell it.
Example: If someone you love has hurt you, you may tell yourself that all people who love you will probably hurt you too.
Your brain just files this information for reference, it's data, little zeroes and ones and no column that asks "true or not true?" Now your brain thinks, based on what you told it, that everyone you'll ever love will hurt you.
How do you think you will respond the next time you get hurt?
Now, what if we instead told our brain:
"Okay this person ripped my heart out - but that's only one person. I'm lovable and have many loving people in my life who are not out to hurt me. I know that the right people are coming into my life all the time. If someone hurts me, I will forgive them and bless them on their way."
Words can be empowering.
I can
I love to
I want to
I will
I must
I am
We can reach a new level of living, if we feed ourselves empowering words and practice saying them until they become a habit.
I know first hand that it takes time.
And I also know that it's worth it.
Try it for a week.
Catch yourself saying, "I can't", when you don't really mean it and instead try, "I can", and see how you think and feel about yourself.
Remember, the words you use to empower yourself will have a lasting effect, only if you practice them and they become a habit (an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary).
They say it takes at least 28 days to develop a habit. After a week, you will see that it becomes easier. It's a mindset and you can control your thoughts. Be proactive and not reactive - give yourself some good words.
Dream big and empower yourself! Believe you can and you will."

9 Oct 2009

Four wives

"A South African man married four women at the same time during a ceremony attended by hundreds of people.
..South African law recognises traditional polygamous marriages. Even President Jacob Zuma has three wives.
..44-year-old Mbhele said the joint celebration would save money by combining the festivities."

After reading the above article about a man who married four women simultaneously, I came across the following inspiring story. Have a good Shabbos, a good yom tov and let's remember to nourish our souls.

"There was a rich merchant who had 4 wives. He loved the 4th wife the most and adorned her with rich robes and treated her to delicacies. He took great care of her and gave her nothing but the best.
He also loved the 3rd wife very much. He's very proud of her and always wanted to show off her to his friends. However, the merchant is always in great fear that she might run away with some other men.
He too, loved his 2nd wife. She is a very considerate person, always patient and in fact is the merchant's confidante. Whenever the merchant faced some problems, he always turned to his 2nd wife and she would always help him out and tide him through difficult times.
Now, the merchant's 1st wife is a very loyal partner and has made great contributions in maintaining his wealth and business as well as taking care of the household. However, the merchant did not love the first wife and although she loved him deeply, he hardly took notice of her.
One day, the merchant fell ill. Before long, he knew that he was going to die soon. He thought of his luxurious life and told himself, "Now I have 4 wives with me. But when I die, I'll be alone. How lonely I'll be!"
Thus, he asked the 4th wife, "I loved you most, endowed you with the finest clothing and showered great care over you. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No way!" replied the 4th wife and she walked away without another word.
The answer cut like a sharp knife right into the merchant's heart. The sad merchant then asked the 3rd wife, "I have loved you so much for all my life. Now that I'm dying, will you follow me and keep me company?" "No!" replied the 3rd wife. "Life is so good over here! I'm going to remarry when you die!" The merchant's heart sank and turned cold.
He then asked the 2nd wife, "I always turned to you for help and you've always helped me out. Now I need your help again. When I die, will you follow me and keep me company?" "I'm sorry, I can't help you out this time!" replied the 2nd wife. "At the very most, I can only send you to your grave." The answer came like a bolt of thunder and the merchant was devastated.
Then a voice called out : "I'll leave with you. I'll follow you no matter where you go." The merchant looked up and there was his first wife. She was so skinny, almost like she suffered from malnutrition. Greatly grieved, the merchant said, "I should have taken much better care of you while I could have !"
Actually, we all have 4 wives in our lives
a. The 4th wife is our body. No matter how much time and effort we lavish in making it look good, it'll leave us when we die.
b. Our 3rd wife is our possessions, status and wealth. When we die, they all go to others.
c. The 2nd wife is our family and friends. No matter how close they had been there for us when we're alive, the furthest they can stay by us is up to the grave.
d. The 1st wife is in fact our soul, often neglected in our pursuit of material, wealth and sensual pleasure.
Guess what? It is actually the only thing that follows us wherever we go. Perhaps it's a good idea to cultivate and strengthen it now rather than to wait until we're on our deathbed to lament."

Hoshana Rabba

The Bluzhever Rebbe, R' Yisroel Spira, who was an important Chassidic leader in Galicia before WWII, experienced indescribable suffering during the Holocaust, and lost all of his immediate family. He eventually moved to America and emerged once again as a prominent and much-loved Torah leader. He was known for his deep emotion and outpouring of love for Hashem while performing mitzvos. On Hoshana Rabba, his face radiated with an otherworldy glow as he circled around the bima, and the whole congregation was drawn to look at his radiant face. His tears would flow, especially during the world, "Hosha Na - for the sake of the kedoshim who were cast in the fire."

Unlike many other shuls, the hakafos on Simchas Torah in the Bluzhever beis midrash were not performed with unrestrained joy. The congregation was affected by the flowing tears of the Bluzhever Rebbe during each Hakafa. The Rebbe was known to say, "Whatever salvation one can possibly attain can be attained during the Hakafos." An example he gave was "Ozer dallim hosha na" which he said was a tefillah for children. The initials of the words, ayin, daled, heh, and nun, spell out a world, ednah, a world which appears only once in the Torah - when Avraham and Sarah were told that they would soon have a son. (Torah Luminaries)


8 Oct 2009

Simchat Torah

Simchat Torah and Shemini Atzeret are one day. Outside the Land of Israel, however, where all Festivals are observed for two days, they are separate. The first day is reserved for the joy of the Festival and for the prayers for rain, while the second day is reserved for the celebration of the conclusion of the cycle of reading from the Torah...
In Israel, where Simchat Torah is not celebrated on a separate day - since all Festivals are observed for a single day, the customs of Simchat Torah are observed together with those of Shemini Atzeret.
Simchat Torah comes on the last day of the festivities. At this time the last portion of the Torah is read, and since we never finish the Torah reading, we begin the reading from the very beginning again to show the Torah is beloved to us like a "new command to which everyone runs".

Click on link below to read full article.

I came across a list of 32 songs traditionally sung during Hakafot. The list contains the lyrics as well as an audio recording of each song. Perhaps you would like to check it out before Simchat Torah.

Not sure which brochos to recite when you light the candles?
Click here for info.

Protect yourself

I heard the following statistics on a BBC radio programme.

Three-fourths of deaths due to breast cancer occur among women who do not undergo regular screening mammograms, a large study shows.
Researchers studied 6,997 women who were diagnosed with breast cancer in Massachusetts between 1990 and 1999. Surveys indicated that 80% had regular mammograms, defined as at least two screening mammograms every two years.
Over the next 13 years, there were 461 deaths from breast cancer; 345 (75%) were among women who did not receive regular mammograms and 116 (25%) were among women who were regularly screened.
....But when looked at by their mammogram history, only 5% of those who were regularly screened are expected to die by 2022, he says.
In contrast, 56% of those who skipped regular mammograms are expected to die over the same period.

...Other studies have shown that regular mammograms, which help detect breast cancers at earlier, more curable stages, cut the risk of dying from breast cancer by anywhere from 25% to over 50%.

Read more:

I refer readers in Israel to Michael Freund's post "The Battle Against Breast Cancer."

I just came across an article about billions of dollars that charities are missing out on because people aren't writing wills with specific donations to their charities. Click here to read info.

Long lost relatives

Britain's minister for energy and climate change, Ed Miliband, received an unexpected phone call on a radio phone-in programme from a long lost relative.
An elderly woman by the name of Sofia Davidovna Miliband called to tell him that she was the only relative of his left in Russia.

"After much translation and a call to his mother in the UK, the British minister - whose brother David, is the UK's foreign secretary - worked out that his great-great grandfather was the brother of Sofia's grandfather.
Both of them had been born in the Jewish quarter of Warsaw in Poland.
Ed Miliband's grandfather fled Poland in the 1920s and ended up in Belgium. He fled again ahead of Hitler's invading army and made it to Britain on forged papers with his son, Ed and David Miliband's father.
Unknown to them another part of the Miliband clan had come east to Moscow."

Read more:

7 Oct 2009

In the name of G-d

A Lockland resident has filed a lawsuit against the village, claiming a display of the Ten Commandments outside the town hall is unconstitutional.
Christopher Knecht wants the sign removed and a court order to prevent any future displays of “religious fables and myths.”

Read more:

An article in the JewishWorldReview by Alan Luxenberg aroused my interest about an episode of The Twilight Zone. I found an abridged version of The Obsolete Man. It is a powerful visual affirmation of the saying, "There are no atheists in foxholes."
(As an aside, look how modestly women were dressed in early episodes on television.)

Mazal tov to Ada Yonath

Mazal tov to Ada Yonath on becoming the first Israeli woman to win a Nobel prize.

Israeli scientists Ada Yonath and Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz won the 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for mapping ribosomes, the protein-producing factories within cells, at the atomic level.
......This year's three laureates all generated three-dimensional models that show how different antibiotics bind to ribosomes.
"These models are now used by scientists in order to develop new antibiotics, directly assisting the saving of lives and decreasing humanity's suffering," the academy said in its announcement.
Read more:

For those boycotting Israel and its academics, I would like to issue you a word of caution. In the future, refuse to take antibiotics because you never know if your life may have been saved due to an Israeli academic.

Wiping the slate clean

Last night, I came across an article about Mel Gibson succeeding in having his DUI arrest expunged from the record.

He can't deny it ever happened, but Mel Gibson succeeded Tuesday in getting his anti-Semitic drunken-driving incident scrubbed from his record
....Gibson, 53, was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving in July 2006 and unleashed a tirade of profanity and religious epithets on his arresting officer, according to an arrest report. "F------ Jews," the actor stormed after he was cuffed. "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world."
...."I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable," Gibson later said in a statement. "I have battled the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2009/10/06/2009-10-06_judge_grants_mel_gibsons_request_to_expunge_dui_arrest_from_his_record.html#ixzz0TEB7VwNY

The following is an excerpt from article on repentance about wiping the slate clean.

"One of the great principles of teshuva is that it is not a right but a privilege, an act of mercy which defies natural law. Mesillat Yesharim puts it as follows:
According to strict justice, there should be no correction at all for a sin, for in truth, how can a man straighten that which he has made crooked, when the sin is already done? If a man murdered his neighbor ... how can this be corrected? Can he wipe out the act from existence? ... Rather, repentance is granted to sinners as an act of pure lovingkindness, so that the cancellation of the will be considered the cancellation of the act.
In other words, history is history. Even if regret itself is worthy of approval and reward, it should not have the power to erase the actual transgression. In fact, human justice embodies this very principle. Once a crime has been committed, the mere expression of regret and repentance does not suffice to protect the criminal from conviction (though it might be a mitigating factor when meting out punishment). Repentance, then, and its ability to wipe the slate clean and return a man to a state of innocence, belongs not to the realm of justice or law, but to that of mercy. God, in His infinite grace, redeems undeserving man from the results of his own actions, relying on his change of heart ("the cancellation of will") to effect a change in history ("the cancellation of the act")."

To continue reading article "Regret and redemption" by Rav Ezra Bick, click on the link below.

6 Oct 2009

Bumps in the reader's path

The following paragraphs are taken from an article by Philip Corbett about grammar, usage and style.

"I keep stumbling over prepositional phrases that come at the wrong point in a sentence. At best, such lapses are like bumps in the reader’s path; at worst, they can seem ridiculous. Let’s take care.
The latest examples:
Federal health officials banned the sale of flavored cigarettes on Tuesday in the first major crackdown since the Food and Drug Administration was given the authority to regulate tobacco.
Is it still O.K. to sell them on other days? Put “on Tuesday” before “banned.”
The legislation will be discussed at a conference on distracted driving in Washington, starting Wednesday, organized by the Transportation Department.
A reader pointed this out, wondering when officials will discuss distracted driving that takes place elsewhere."

Read more:

All I can say is I'm glad Mr. Corbett is focusing his comments on articles from the New York Times. Otherwise, I would be nervous about writing anything, afraid to have my postings put under the microscope.
I must say that if Mr. Corbett branched out to reviewing errors on blogs, websites and comments posted on blogs, he would have a field day. This evening, for instance, I came across a comment about wearing seat belts because "your life is at steak."

Last week, Newsweek published an editor's note admitting to an article containing several errors.

Personally, I will stick with reading the Torah which contains no errors, no misplaced modifiers and no superfluous words. The only mistakes that can be made is in our interpretation of the Divine words.
As we approach the holiday of Simchat Torah, let's celebrate our greatest gift with utmost joy.

5 Oct 2009

It is never too late

This morning, I came across an event listing at a synagogue where Mitch Albom will be discussing his latest book "Have a Little Faith" in a few days time. Curious to find out more about the theme of the book, I found a book review. The following text contains a few excerpts from the review.
"Albom’s first nonfiction book since Tuesdays with Morrie, Have a Little Faith begins with an unusual request: an 82-year-old rabbi from Albom’s old hometown asks him to deliver his eulogy.
Feeling unworthy, Albom insists on understanding the man better, which throws him back into a world of faith he’d left years ago. Meanwhile, closer to his current home, Albom becomes involved with a Detroit pastor – a reformed drug dealer and convict – who preaches to the poor and homeless in a decaying church with a hole in its roof.
....As America struggles with hard times and people turn more to their beliefs, Mitch and the two men of God explore issues that perplex modern man....
...In the end, as the rabbi nears death and a harsh winter threatens the pastor’s wobbly church, Albom sadly fulfills the last request and writes the eulogy. And he finally understands what both men had been teaching all along: the profound comfort of believing in something bigger than yourself.
Have a Little Faith is a book about a life’s purpose; about losing belief and finding it again; about the divine spark inside us all. It is one man’s journey, but it is everyone’s story."
While not being able to recommend the book, since I haven't read it and am unsure of whether the author's views are according to halacha, the messages in the review and in the video link below are inspiring. In the video, the author's message comes across loud and clear. "It is never too late to turn your life around."

4 Oct 2009

Increasing our efforts

This evening, I came across an article by Diane Faber Veitzer entitled "Standing before God."

"Two years ago, I approached the High Holidays with a certain sense of "here we go again." Having just turned 43, never married, no kids, I was having a tough time getting up the enthusiasm to pray for these same things. How many times can you ask for the same thing, and get the same answer?
In shul Rosh Hashanah morning, I saw that two of the young women in our community were standing up throughout the repetition of the Musaf service. These two girls, Sara and Tova, were the daughters of close friends my age. Both about 18 or 19, they were each just back from a post-high-school year studying in Jerusalem, and now, according to our community's custom, "ready to get married." I knew that these girls would be praying fervently to find their basherts (soul mates) quickly and easily."

To read how the author's prayers were finally answered, click on the link below.

The author's story served as a source of inspiration to me to increase my efforts in prayer. Hopefully, our prayers will be answered for our good as we demonstrate to Hashem our determination to achieve a better and more fulfilling life.

To everything there is a season

The executive editor of the Jewish Exponent wrote an article explaining the decision of the newspaper to accept publish notices of same-gender unions.

"The holiday of Sukkot is rich with many rituals, but none is more symbolic than the sukkah itself, the makeshift hut we build to welcome our family, friends and other guests. Exposed to both the elements and the stars, it reminds us simultaneously of the fragile nature of our existence and the joy we find when we join together to celebrate Jewish tradition."
The executive editor then goes on to say that perhaps it is fitting that the board of directors has seen fit to include notices of same-gender unions "as we approach this most welcoming of holidays."
The article concludes with the following paragraph.

"Another important Sukkot tradition is to read Kohelet, which includes these eternal words of Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens." This holiday season, the time has come to take one more step to widen our communal hut, to create a place where all who wish to share in the Jewish enterprise feel welcome and validated."

To the executive editor of the Jewish Exponent, I am not taking issue with you on what you print or don't print. I take exception with you for using Jewish rituals, symbols and texts to lend credence to your decision. With your reasoning, a person who wishes to commit adultery is perfectly justified because "to everything there is a season." Perhaps the newspaper will publish notices of marital affairs, in keeping with the evolution of societal norms and because, just as the sukkah is welcoming, the newspaper should aim to be all inclusive.
You quote one sentence from Kohelet. What about the sentence in Kohelet (9:9) "Enjoy life with the wife you love.....?"
So, go ahead and write your justification and the reasons behind your decision, be it increased readership, not alienating certain segments of the society, being afraid of being sued if the newspaper is deemed to be discriminatory in its ad acceptance policy, or whatever the real reason may be. But, please don't use a sentence from a religious text or a Jewish holiday to justify your actions.

2 Oct 2009

A time of rejoicing

As we usher in the holiday of Sukkot, described as "zman simchateinu," the time of our rejoicing, let us pray for the Shalit family to experience a full happiness when they are reunited with their son, Gilad, hopefully in the very near future.
To watch the video of Gilad Shalit and to read a translation of his words, click on the link below.

Wishing you a chag kasher vesameach. Have a good Shabbos and a good yom tov.

A few questions

IsraelNationalNews published an interesting article about the U.S. Consulate's website in Jerusalem.
"Both Jews and Muslims celebrated holidays in September 2009. However, the United States Consulate in Jerusalem – America's representative in Israel's capital – chose to focus entirely on Islam this year, while ignoring the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur completely.
The consulate's website features Eid il-Fitr greetings from U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Consul General Daniel Rubinstein. Its staff was involved in Ramadan celebrations in Jenin and Shechem, and hosted a meal in Jericho for the Muslim holiday of Iftar."
Read more:

Click on the links below to check out the disproportionate focus on one religion in the following websites.

For instance, one article is entitled, "Consulate General Jerusalem Celebrates Ramadan with Youth from Jenin and Nablus. "
Where is the corresponding celebration of Rosh Hashanah?

"Deadly crash leaves three people dead. Three Palestinians were killed and 17 more were injured in a brutal car crash on route 443 near the Maccabim checkpoint in the Modiin area. Three of the wounded are in serious to critical condition.
The commercial vehicle transporting some 20 West Bank Palestinians who entered Israel illegally, overturned in the middle of the road."

With Palestinians decrying that Israel is committing heinous crimes against their people, why are Palestinians dying to get into the "occupying" country?

"Civilians, including women and children, were killed in an airstrike by coalition troops in southern Afghanistan, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Thursday.
The airstrike occurred Wednesday when NATO-led forces were targeting militants at a compound in Helmand province, according to an ISAF statement.....

....About 1,500 civilians died in Afghanistan from the beginning of the year to August, according to a U.N. report released this week.
The United Nations said civilian deaths jumped more than 20 percent this year compared with last year."

1500 civilian deaths? That number exceeds the civilian deaths in Gaza. Where is the Goldstone report about intentional killings and war crimes in Afghanistan?

A bare physical existence

"The Michtav Mei'Eliyahu says that anyone who thinks he can bring his life to the point of perfection and stay that way is kidding himself. Every person knows that all worldly pleasures come and go and cannot be sustained over the long term. Life is constantly evolving. The only pleasure that is eternal is torah and mitzvos. Our challenge in this world is to live in it without becoming its next victim. To live a spiritual life in a physical world. Hashem puts our spiritual neshama in a physical body and sends it down to a physical world and instructs us to make sure that our Neshama reign supreme despite this completely physical environment, starting with our own bodily desires.
After spending Yom Kippur ridding ourselves of mistaken attitudes and refocusing our goals heavenward, we go into the Succah for seven days before coming back into the world, and testing ourselves once again. The succah is a bare physical existence and the best spiritual habitat we can carve out in this physical world. It has none of the standard luxuries that our earthly homes have, which blur our spiritual vision. It has four walls and barely a roof overhead, allowing you to always see the heavens above you. You remember that someone is watching your every move, and keep in mind where you will spend eternity after this short life is over. These are the baby steps we need to take before jumping back into the "real world" convinced that this year will finally be different."

1 Oct 2009

Mincha and Dunkin' Donuts

Yesterday, I ate a Dunkin' Donut. To you it might not seem such a big deal, but, you see, I live in Europe and I don't have the luxury of driving a few blocks to the nearest Dunkin' Donuts store and buying a donut.
Yesterday, I was making my purchases at the butcher shop when a young man in his twenties entered and looked around, seeming a bit lost. When asked by the proprietor if he needed help, he responded by saying that he was on his way to Israel in a few hours. He had arrived from America, had a ten hour stopover in Europe and was utilizing the time to see the sites in a country which he had never been to before.
As I walked out of the store, we got to talking and I ended up inviting him to my home, to utilize the computer and to have some lunch. Later, my son served as his tour guide as he showed him points of interest in our city.
The young man's main concern was to return to the shul where he had davened the morning prayers because he had found out they were davening Mincha (afternoon service) at 2:15 pm. I pointed out to him that he would be missing some tourist attractions if he returned to the same shul and that perhaps he should continue seeing the sites and he would probably find a minyan at the airport. But, he was adamant. He knew that there was a Mincha service at 2:15 and he wanted to make sure that he would be there.
I was impressed with this young man's insistence on setting praying in a minyan as his overriding priority. Tourist attractions could be missed but a Mincha minyan was a necessity.
After he departed to the airport leaving us a box of Dunkin' Donuts (with a hechsher) as a token of appreciation, I reflected on my strange day. I invited a stranger into my home, based upon his wearing a yarmelca and attending the same yeshiva as my nephew. But as he was a fellow Jew in need, I felt an instant camaraderie.
This young man openly walked the streets of Europe, proud of his heritage and unwavering in his devotion to fulfilling the mitzvot.
A.H. - you lost. Am Yisrael Chai. - The nation of Israel lives.

Special note:
As reports of hundreds dead as a result of the earthquake in Indonesia are dominating the news, let's offer a prayer for the victims. May the miraculous rescue of one of the victims of the earthquake be repeated many times over.

A daughter's plea

A daughter's plea

The video below contains a plea from the daughter of Sholom Rubashkin, former head of Agriprocessors, who is standing trial in October on charges of employing illegal workers.

"Some 300 workers, mainly immigrants from Guatemala, were convicted of felony document fraud charges after the raid, and Iowa prosecutors had faced mounting criticism for punishing those workers but not Agriprocessors’s executives and owners." http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/us/31immig.html?scp=2&sq=rubashkin%20agriprocessors&st=cse

By contrast, American Apparel did not face a raid this past week on charges of employing illegals.
"A clothing maker with a vast garment factory in downtown Los Angeles is firing about 1,800 immigrant employees in the coming days — more than a quarter of its work force — after a federal investigation turned up irregularities in the identity documents the workers presented when they were hired. The firings at the company, American Apparel, have become a showcase for the Obama administration’s effort to reduce illegal immigraton by forcing employers to dismiss unauthorized workers rather than by using workplace raids." http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/us/30factory.html?scp=1&sq=american%20apparel&st=cse

Incidentally a number of days ago, I posted a poem about computer spell checkers in which a document can pass the spell checker test but still make no sense as it is logically incorrect. While researching Agriprocessor articles in the New York Times, I found the following line. "... is accused of lying about the value of the plant's collateral so it could get a lone." Somehow, I doubt a person lied because he wanted to be by himself.

A plea for Efrat
During the high holiday season, I received a brochure from Efrat, an organization dedicated to saving the lives of unborn babies in Israel. I heard the founder of the organization speak a number of years ago and I was impressed by his self sacrifice and devotion to the cause. I was disturbed when I read the following. "This year, to our infinite sorrow and pain, we were forced to refuse aid, due to lack of funds." To learn more click on the link below.

A plea for Tehilim
Please be Mispallel for Esther bas Batya, a student of Shulamis high school, who was struck by a car yesterday evening. Read more: http://www.theyeshivaworld.com/news/General+News/40100/TEHILLIM+NEEDED+-+Pedestrian+Struck+In+Flatbush+In+Critical+Condition;+Driver+Arrested+For+DWI.html

A Moving Video of the Daughter of Sholom Rubashkin from Zalman Tevel on Vimeo.