"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

30 Nov 2009

Rambam diet


Positive thinking

I came across a New York Times article entitled Positive Thoughts Give Elite Athletes The Vital Edge.
When the difference between winning and losing can be a fraction of a second or the unexpected bounce of a ball, encouraging positive thoughts and banishing the fear of failure is a consistent theme in the lives of successful athletes.
England cricket captain Andrew Strauss is a recent convert to the power of positive thinking, praising the controversial self-help book "The Secret" after his spell in the international wilderness.
"The theory is what you think about happens," said Strauss in his own book "Testing Times." "If you think positive thoughts, then those thoughts will come about."

Read full article:

The video below contains quotes which deal with positive thinking.
"Don't judge yourself each day by the harvest you reap, but the seeds you sow."
Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuition and vacations

The other day I read about a Jewish school that was suing a family for unpaid tuition. One person who commented maintained that tuition should be paid before all those extras such as going to Florida on vacation and buying summer homes. It reminded me of a story that happened to a close relative of mine many years ago.
He had joined the school board of a local yeshiva that his children attended. It came to the attention of the members of the board that a man who owed school tuition had sent his wife to Florida on vacation. The members of the board made their way to the man's apartment and knocked on the door. The man opened the door and sheepishly welcomed them inside. The board members were shocked by the poverty that greeted them. The living room was sparse with a badly tattered sofa and not much more. The man explained that even though he had very little money, his wife had gone to Florida because she needed a rest and would have suffered a breakdown, had she not had time to escape her destitute surroundings.
My relative walked out of the apartment and went straight to school where he announced his resignation from the school board. And he has never judged a person's circumstances since that incident.

29 Nov 2009

Fulfilling your pledge

Click here to read a story about Carolee Hazard, who was standing in line behind Jenni Ware at a store, waiting to pay for her purchases. Ms. Ware had lost her wallet, and couldn't pay the 203$ owed to the store. Ms. Hazard paid her bill and the gave her address to the grateful lady. When she arrived at home, she wrote on Facebook about how she was torn between whether she had done something good or something stupid.
A while later, she received a check for 300$. Ms. Hazard asked her Facebook friends what to do with the extra money. Many advised her to donate it to charity. She donated the money to a food bank project and many people who heard the story are taking up the cause and contributing, as well. Amazing how a simple act of kindness has mushroomed into a worldwide charitable project.
In the video below, the rabbi talks about Yaakov's pledge of giving 10 percent of his possessions to G-d and how important it is to fulfill a pledge. I heard a story a number of months ago about a father-in-law who had passed away and had appeared to his son-in-law in a dream. He told him that he had neglected to pay a shul pledge of 300$. The son-in-law went to the gabbai of the shul that week and paid his father-in-law's pledge. Again the man appeared to the son-in-law in a dream, telling him, "you have made me very happy."

The consequences of the freeze

The muqata blogger writes about the fact that he is unable to even add a porch to his home, due to the settlement freeze. Worthwhile reading.

A step in the right direction

I came across an opinion piece written by Avi Solomon about a new initiative in helping along shidduchim.
"Shidduch NetVision is a new method of dating where people who live far from one and another can date via a teleconference first to see if the date is worth pursuing."
There were comments posted about this new initiative, with some stating the idea was a good one, while others begged to differ. One of the comments posted was the following.
"I want to say that as someone who did some time in the shidduchim trenches too, I think this is a great idea…And I want to wish a big Yashar Koach to the people who organized it!!! This thing is not going to solve the shidduchim crisis, but I am sure it is a big step in the right direction…"
I recently spoke to a shadchan and asked her if she thought her job was getting harder as the years passed. She responded in the affirmative, saying that parents were getting so overprotective that they weren't allowing their children to meet to judge for themselves if the girl/boy was too quiet etc. One woman turned down a shidduch because she said the girl was too Swiss. (for example - I really don't know which country she was referring to, but the girl was too much of that country, whatever that means)
This evening, a friend of mine called and told me her daughter hosted two friends on Friday evening. One of the girls was engaged and getting married in a couple of months. My friend asked her how the shidduch was made. She told me that her friend's mother had received a call about a certian boy for her daughter. Realizing that the boy was not a match for her daughter, she said, "it's not for my daughter, but how about suggesting it to my daughter's friend? The rest, as they say, is history.
I was impressed by this woman who had the grace to think of others. The shidduch crisis is all too real, but with initiatives like Shidduch NetVision, and the efforts of a lone woman to help her daughter's friend, "it is a step in the right direction."

28 Nov 2009

War stories

Miriam Shaviv's blog post pointed me to a BBC article about a Polish woman who recently found out that she was Jewish.
A BBC reporter questioned her whether she would tell her small children that she was Jewish.
"If I tell them, then my oldest child, Agatha, will probably go and tell her other grandmother - my mother-in-law," Bogomila explains.
"And my mother-in-law doesn't like Jews. As for my husband's grandmother, she hates Jews."

Read full article:

Click here to see a video and read an inteview by Steve Rosenberg of a survivor of Sobibor's death camp.

The flower gift

Author unknown
The park bench was deserted as I sat down to read. Beneath the long, straggly branches of an old willow tree. Disillusioned by life with good reason to frown, For the world was intent on dragging me down.
And if that weren't enough to ruin my day, A young boy out of breath approached me, all tired from play. He stood right before me with his head tilted down And said with great excitement, "Look what I found!"
In his hand was a flower, and what a pitiful sight, With its petals all worn - not enough rain, or too little light. Wanting him to take his dead flower and go off to play, I faked a small smile and then shifted away.
But instead of retreating he sat next to my side And placed the flower to his nose and declared with surprise, "It sure smells pretty and it's beautiful, too. That's why I picked it; here, it's for you."
The weed before me was dying or dead. Not vibrant of colors, orange, yellow or red. But I knew I must take it, or he might never leave. So I reached for the flower, and replied, "Just what I need."
But instead of him placing the flower in my hand, He held it mid-air without reason or plan. It was then that I noticed for the very first time That weed-toting boy could not see: he was blind.
I heard my voice quiver, tears shone like the sun As I thanked him for picking the very best one. "You're welcome," he smiled, and then ran off to play, Unaware of the impact he'd had on my day.
I sat there and wondered how he managed to see A self-pitying woman beneath an old willow tree. How did he know of my self-indulged plight? Perhaps from his heart, he'd been blessed with true sight.
Through the eyes of a blind child, at last I could see The problem was not with the world; the problem was me. And for all of those times I myself had been blind, I vowed to see beauty, and appreciate every second that's mine.
And then I held that wilted flower up to my nose And breathed in the fragrance of a beautiful rose And smiled as that young boy, another weed in his hand About to change the life of an unsuspecting old man.

27 Nov 2009

Giving thanks

We have already seen that the sages understand that the word “He arrived,” ויפגע , means “prayed.” When Jacob arrived at Mt. Moriah, the place where Isaac was bound to be offered as a sacrifice, he prayed and in doing so established and instituted the evening prayer, called aravit, for all generations to come. We also saw the Talmud passage where it is explained that Abraham instituted the morning prayer called shacharit; Isaac instituted the mid-day prayer, called minchah.
Now, let us see what the Midrash teaches us regarding the three daily prayers:
“He arrived at the place.” He prayed. The patriarchs instituted the [daily] prayers. Said Rabbi Shmu’el bar Nachmani: they [the daily prayers] correspond to the three times during which the day shifts. At night fall a person should say: “May it be Your will, Havayah my God that You shall take me out of darkness and into light.” At daybreak a person should say: “I give thanks before You, Havayah, my God, for taking me out of darkness and into light.” At mid-day a person should say: “May it be Your will, Havayah my God, and the God of my forefathers, that as You blessed me with seeing the sun rise, so shall You bless me with seeing it set.”

Read full article:

The video below is a one and a half minute clip in which President Ronald Reagan imparted a Thanksgiving message to the American people. Notice how many times he referenced "G-d" in his short speech. I'm impressed.

25 Nov 2009

Under the chuppah

As I wrote in a previous post, this past Saturday evening, I saw a video presentation entitled “Eternal Imprints” presented by the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation. The first speaker, Chani Juravel, stated that Yaakov married Leah and Rachel. The Hebrew word “Rachel” means lamb. She said that the word “Leah” comes from יללה which means a whine, or a moan. Ms. Juravel said that it is easy to like a lovable lamb as represented by Rachel, while Leah represented the dreariness of marriage. The challenge for a spouse is to weather the dreariness, as well, and she reminded the audience that it was Leah who produced the child who would ascend to the throne.
Ms. Juravel explained that the first brocho recited under the chuppah is “shehakol bara lichvodo.” – Who has created everything for His glory. Hakol – every action that we undertake in marriage, we should be aware that it should be done lichvodo- for His glory. We should emulate Hashem’s ways and, just as G-d restores our soul every morning and has faith in our abilities, we should wipe the slate clean and give our spouses another chance. We should remember that Hashem is the creator and the spouse that we were given was carefully crafted into Hashem’s plan to provide us the opportunity to reach our full spiritual potential.

23 Nov 2009

Shalom to you my Charedi brothers

This afternoon, I came across a letter written in Hebrew by a policeman who was called to be present at the demonstrations this Shabbos held by Charedi protesters against Intel employees working on the Sabbath.
I was taken by his spirit of unity to his fellow Jews and was educated into the mindset of a policeman, as well.
Here is a very loose translation of what he wrote.

Shalom to you my Charedi brothers
I'm Yoel, a Jerusalem Special Patrol Unit policeman, aged 32, married with two children.
With these words, directed to you the ultra-Orthodox public, and especially to the protesters who came from within that sector, I want to impart to you a very important lesson, and I hope you listen to me, because I come for your benefit. I come for your benefit as a believing Jew who is traditional and someone who respects religion. I'm coming to you as a person who can appreciate the true quality of the ultra-Orthodox public.
It is important for me to refute the stigma attached to the Special Patrol Unit cop that they are bad and tough and that are really looking to beat people up and act wildly. So, like everywhere, like in any community, there are bad people and kind hearted people. Most of the Special Patrol Unit are ordinary people and hate violence despite the gray uniforms.
Now is the time to understand our side in the demonstrations.
A cop like me, who works hard all week (There is no rest in police work, always something to do), awaits the Sabbath like all the nation of Israel. Saturday morning, I usually go to the synagogue in the neighborhood, and then enjoy spending time with the children. These are my only leisure hours of the week. But it hasn't been like that the past few months as there is no more peace and quiet.
These are the facts: Every cop who comes to a Charedi demonstration on Saturday, the district commander, etc. are already angry that there went the Sabbath for them. But still, how do you say, we're cops, you demonstrate, these are the rules of the democratic game, there's nothing to do about it and we do not complain.
Believe me, when we go to the demonstrations, we say to each other 'Come on - let it be over with', hoping that it ends soon and that we could return home quickly. No, we don't come prepared for battle, but rather we are calm.....
Okay, we are at a demonstration, suppose with Intel....It starts calmly. First come respected Orthodox Jews shouting "Shabbos" in a dignified manner. You know what? Sometimes I want to shout with them, I support it.
Then, without warning, a 15-year-old boy, no more, spits in your face. You must understand. Someone like me, most cops like me, I'm honest and respectable, the family breadwinner and wonderful father, a man who served in Lebanon, a full service of 3 years and even got injured lightly once, I get spit on by a child with a skullcap?
At first you go into complete shock. Then comes anger. It's not just a personal insult, something also breaks inside and you ask yourself, who, who raised a child to spit on someone, even if he's a cop. Then you ask yourself, what do I do if my children or my wife will see on the evening television how I was spit upon?
I'll tell you the truth. At once all calm disappears. It happened to me last Saturday, at the demonstration against Intel, and if I was not an adult in control of myself, I have no idea what would have been the fate of the child that I allowed to escape. I wiped the spit off my face, I told myself at the first moment that the ultra-Orthodox leaders have simply lost control.
Then I calmed down and then began calls of "Nazis" after the policemen caught a demonstrator who was acting wildly.....
The calls and abuse against us did not stop, though it was really a handful of some 15 guys who enjoyed annoying us, including adults, with whom I really got angry. Believe me, I know to hit when needed but this Saturday I didn't hit anyone. I could not. I went to the commander and asked him to release me from the demonstration.
I returned to headquarters, and went home early, while my friends were still subject to confrontations. On the way I felt bad and went home in low spirits. I do not like to desecrate the Sabbath, I hate to leave the kids at the weekend, I have no interest in hitting, I hate even more for someone to throw a stone at me, but mostly, I hate to be spit in the face by my brother.
What shall I say to you, my Charedi brothers? We still remain brothers. I love you, and I even identify with your struggle. Too bad the way you carry out the struggle makes me desecrate the Sabbath.... You are right, but take my advice: Go demonstrate for whar causes you pain, but, but only if you can control your public 100%.


To read the full letter in Hebrew, click on the link below.

Two videos

I came across two emotional videos this morning. One link to a video was sent to me by email. The other video (in Hebrew) is on the Haredim website.
A rabbi gave a shiur to a group of men who came together to learn Torah in the merit of Gilad Shalit's release. (Hopefully, the reports of his imminent end to captivity that are making the rounds on the internet will come true speedily.)
For those of you who don't understand Hebrew, I have translated the beginning words of the rabbi. Those who wish to see the entire video, can click here.

The Talmud [Chullin 7A] relates that Rabi Pinchas ben Yair was on his way to perform the mitzvah of redeeming captives. He came to the Gina'i River which he was unable to cross. "Gina'i," he commanded, "divide your waters so I may pass." The river retorted, "You are going to do the will of the Creator, and I, by having my waters flow, am doing the will of the Creator. You are uncertain if you'll be successful or unsuccessful in your mission. I am certain that I am succeeding. Rabi Pinchas ben Yair sharply responded: "If you don't split for me, I'll decree that water will never again flow through you!" As the Iyun Yaakov explains, Rabi Pinchas ben Yair was telling the Gina'i that the will of the Creator is that it submits to the will of His servants. The waters immediately split.

The rabbi conducting the lecture in the video said that the river had a legitimate claim. It asked "I am definitely fulfilling my purpose in creation, but there are doubts as to whether you will succeed in your task. So, why should I split for you, if you are unsure of the outcome of your actions?"
The rabbi explained that Rabi Pinchas ben Yair was teaching us an important lesson that our actions should not be predicated on a successful outcome. It is up to us to do all that we can to fulfill a certain task, regardless of the what happens.
So too, the men who are learning along with the rabbi, in order to increase the merits for Gilad Shalit, are unsure whether their actions will contribute to the desired effect. But, they must strive with their actions, and with their learning Torah and reciting Tehilim, to do all in their power to help Gilad Shalit eventually win his release.

The video sent by email is a short movie from the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.
To access video, click on the link below.

Leah - the first to thank Hashem

As America gears up to celebrate Thanksgving this week, Jewish people will be reading in Parshat Vayetzei about how Leah named her fouth son Yehudah because "HaPaam Odeh Et Hashem," "This time I will praise Hashem."

The Gemara (Berachos 7b) relates that from the day Hashem created the world, no one thanked Him until Leah thanked Him for the birth of her fourth son Yehudah. At first glance, this Gemara defies understanding. Didn’t Adam, Noach, Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Sarah, Rivkah, and Rachel have countless reasons and opportunities to thank Hashem? And why didn’t Leah herself thank Hashem for her first three children?
...From the time the world was created, no one ever felt that the bounty given to them by Hashem was totally undeserved. Even the greatest people thought that what was given to them was part of God’s plan for the world, and therefore not completely undeserved. But God’s plan could have been equally fulfilled if the fourth son born to Leah had been born to any of her sisters. Thus Leah felt his birth was totally unearned, and required the full measure of gratitude.
To read full article, click on the link below.

22 Nov 2009

The art of miscommunication

Last night, I attended a video presentation entitled "Eternal Imprints" which offered helpful advice to women on prioritizing, communicating with spouses and the role of women in creating a happy environment. One speaker talked about how men and women fail to communicate their desires to one another.
She used an example of a woman who wanted a pearl necklace for her tenth anniversary and kept on dropping hints about it to her husband in the six months prior to the happy event. When the actual day arrived, he bought her a blender, telling her that she must have wanted it because she kept on talking about how much she loved milkshakes.
Another example was when a woman told her spouse that she had an appointment the next morning at 9:00 AM. The following day, she was waiting expectantly for her husband to return to the house before that time so that he would babysit while she was out. When he arrived an hour late, he couldn't understand why she was so upset. He hadn't realized that he was expected to be home to watch the children. If she would have just asked him the night before, the morning scenario could have led to a happier outcome.
This morning, my husband arrived home from shul and I told him the light had one out. Normally, those few words would be sufficient to convey the message that the bulb had to be replaced. But, after seeing the video presentation, I added the words, "Could you please change it?"


19 Nov 2009

Twins in the news

It is fascinating how current events mirror happenings in the Parsha of the week. In Parshat Toldot we read about Rivka being barren . She and Yitzchak prayed for children and their prayers were granted when Rivka gave birth to twins.
This week's headlines were dominated by a story about twins.

"A team of 16 surgeons and nurses successfully concluded 25 hours of delicate surgery Tuesday to separate twin Bangladeshi girls who had been joined at their heads, sharing blood vessels and brain tissue."

Last night, I read a news story on the Haredim Hebrew website about a seventy-one-year-old man from Bnei Brak who became a father for the first time after his fifty-two-year-old third wife gave birth to twins. The shalom zachar will take place iy"h this coming Friday night, Parshat Toldot.

18 Nov 2009

Where the money goes

New York officials say telemarketers keep an average 60 cents of every dollar they raise for charity in the state.
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says some charities across New York received even less than 39 cents of each dollar. He’s introducing a new tool on his Web site so donors can check where their money goes.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/telemarketers_keep_percent_of_funds_ooEyRNQFFsymbOuOE0AnAN#ixzz0XBz58jTB

Leona Helmsley, billionaire real estate investor who died in 2007, left most of her fortune "to a charitable trust to be administered by close friends and relatives for 'purposes related to the provision of care for dogs.'"
However, "when the trust started doling out her cash earlier this year, only $1 million of the first $136 million in grants went to canine causes.
The ASPCA, the Humane Society and Maddie's Fund filed suit in Surrogate's Court in August, charging the trustees had turned up their noses at Helmsley's directions. Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/leona_kin_crew_the_pooch_suit_ruFOFNsJaABmtyyWFuUeGM#ixzz0XC4L5uMc

Speaking about animals and money, the song in the video below is about a duck who doesn't have any money.
CAUTION: The punchline to the song might make you "quack" up.

17 Nov 2009

Deep faith

Hamodia published an interview with Toldos Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe, shlita, whose son-in-law, Harav Leibish Teitelbaum, Hy"d, perished in the terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai.
The Rebbe related some wondrous stories and words of tzadikim that he had related at the levayah. He mentioned a story about Harav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, zy"a, whose young child pased say. The rav considered whether to use the powers of tefillah or to combine several holy Names of Hashem to revive him. (The Rebbe added that the Berditcever possessed this capability.) Then the Rebbetzin said to him, "Are you smarter or more compassionate than Hashem? If His wisdom decreed that our son should die, then that is the true good, and we should not work against His will." Indeed, the Berditchever agreed and immediately began preparing for the levayah.

Today was the levayah of twenty-three-year old Adira Boltshauser a”h, wife of a photographer for Chareidi news organizations. Her husband stated that there are no hespedim on Rosh Chodesh but he said a few words which marks his deep faith in Hashem. He said that his wife made sure to be in shul every Shabbos Mevarchim, the Shabbos when the congregation blesses the new month that will soon be upon them. The last vort that he told his wife had to do with the new month's blessing, as she had attended the synagogue this past Shabbos Mevarchim.
He wondered why we ask for chayim arukkim (long life) every month. Isn't it enough to make that request on Rosh Hashanah?
His answer was that a long life can refer to one's tafkid (purpose) in life, namely to follow the will of G-d each and every day. He said that his wife had "chayim arukkim" because she had fulfilled her tafkid in life early.

14 Nov 2009

Jumping to conclusions

When Canada's transport minister decided to name his cat Thatcher, he likely never thought it would cause quite the stir it did during a gala dinner earlier this week.
During a tribute to Canada's military in Toronto, some 1,700 luminaries, including Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were in the middle of dinner Tuesday night when smart phones throughout the room began to buzz with the news: "Lady Thatcher has passed away."
Dinner chatter abruptly veered to expressions of shock and reminiscences of Margaret Thatcher, the 84-year-old former British prime minister, as news of her apparent passing spread like wildfire.
Harper's aide Dimitri Soudas,.. was dispatched to confirm the news and start preparing an official statement.
Soudas immediately e-mailed his contacts....They had no idea what he was talking about.
Lady Thatcher, they informed an embarrassed Soudas, was still very much alive.
About 20 minutes after the rumor mill started churning, a corrective e-mail message began to circulate among the diners at the hall.
Turns out it was Transport Minister John Baird's beloved 16-year-old cat, whom he'd named Thatcher out of admiration for one of his political heroes, who had ceased to be.
Soudas is said to have quipped since: "If the cat wasn't dead, I'd have killed it by now."

The following is part of an email I received from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

We have learned that if someone says, “This isn’t loshon hora. I would say it right in front of him!” the Torah still classifies the statement as loshon hora and we are not permitted to believe it.
Now the Chofetz Chaim takes the case one step further. What if the speaker actually does say the loshon hora in front of the other person? For example, Reuven says in Shimon’s presence, “I saw with my own eyes how Shimon cheated on yesterday’s exam.” Shimon responds with silence. Can we interpret his silence as admission of guilt?
The Chofetz Chaim says that we cannot surmise that the information is true, because there can be a host of reasons why Shimon would stay quiet in such a situation, even if the information were not true. For example, Shimon might reason that people are more likely to believe Reuven’s words which were said about him in his presence, than to believe his denial. Or, he might be silent simply because he wants to avoid conflict.
The Chofetz Chaim suggests that the person may have chosen to be counted among the “those who suffer insult.” He is alluding to an important Talmudic teaching (Shabbos 88b):
“Those who suffer insult but do not insult (in response), who hear their disgrace but do not reply, who perform (God’s will) out of love and are happy in suffering, regarding them the verse states ‘But they who love Him (God) shall be as the sun going forth in its might’ ” (Shoftim 5:31). As the commentators explain, this means that those who bear insult in silence will not be diminished because of this1, while their antagonists will be humbled in the end.
The Torah demands that we never jump to conclusions, even when matters seem as clear as day. The case of one who is silent in the face of insult is an excellent illustration of this truth.

13 Nov 2009

Chayei Sarah

Yechiel Shaffer askes the question as to why two parshiot in Sefer Bereishit have the titles Parshat "Chayei Sarah" and Parshat "Vayechi", referring to life, when, in actuality, these parshiot deal with the deaths of Sarah and Avraham (in Chayei Sarah) and Yosef (in Vayechi).
He answers the question in the following manner.
"In Melachim I, Chapter 3, we read of the famous dream of Shlomo Hamelech. In it Hashem allows Shlomo to ask for whatever he wants. Shlomo asks for only one thing, wisdom, and Hashem grants him this. Furthermore, Hashem grants Shlomo everything else that he could have asked for, including long life. We know that Shlomo only lived for 52 years; how is this a "long life"? We can explain that life is not only measured in physical terms but also in spiritual terms, which is where life is really lived. Shlomo was granted a reward of long life in Olam Habah (the World to Come), not in Olam Hazeh (this world).
In Pirkei Avot, there is a famous statement of Rabbi Yaakov: "This world is like a lobby before Olam Habah; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall" (4:21). This means that every person must prepare himself in this world by keeping Torah and Mitzvot so that he can enter Olam Habah and take part in the "wonderful banquet" that is waiting there for him. This is when life really begins."
Read more:

Have a good Shabbos and I'll leave you with a song of tribute to Sarah Imeinu, a true "Eishet Chayil."

The whole world is against us

The following is part of a speech given this week at the Swedish Paliament.
Earlier this year a friendly David Cup tennis match in Malmö had to be played without a live audience since the mayor of the host city explained that he "could not guarantee the safety of the event." He also admitted that he "very much disliked the behavior of the Israeli army during Operation Cast Lead" and that he could "well understand the crowd that had gathered outside the match to shout anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish slogans." A small solidarity event in support for Israel had to be broken up "because the police could not guarantee their safety." Later an Israeli tennis player explained that "it felt odd to be able to play professional tennis in Qatar and Dubai but not in Malmö."

In a Ynet article, Eitan Haber describes the growing sense of isolation Israel is facing.

Israelis who watch every news update and show great interest in current events have been experiencing a sense of freefall lately; everything seems to be collapsing, certainly in respect to the world’s attitude to us. We are back to the good old “the whole world is against us” tune: The UN, Turkey, the US, the Goldstone report. Who isn’t against us these days?
The easiest solution common among many Israelis is to utter the following: They’re all anti-Semites and they should all go to hell. God will save us from them.
Those who count on God only are happy people. They are only concerned about not missing a prayer session; the rest is not in our hands anyway. Those who believe that everyone is an anti-Semite and that they simply hate us and will be against us regardless of anything are not as happy. In their view, and based on their experience, the gentiles will end up losing and the Jews will end up winning. Just look at all the nations and states that no longer exist; look at them and look at us.

Read more:

Mr. Haber doesn't provide a solution and I certainly won't try to come up with one. But saying a prayer can't hurt.
Oseh shalom bimromav. Hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu. V'al kol Yisrael V'imru, v'imru amen.

12 Nov 2009

Supernatural solutions

A retired Rikers Island guard who thought he'd won $1,500 in the lottery got an amazing surprise when he went to cash it in -- the ticket was actually worth a cool $6 million.
Norris Henry, 76, of Amityville, LI, said the confusion came because his wife misread the numbers on his Oct. 14 Lotto ticket, leading him to believe he'd gotten only five of the six numbers.
When he showed his ticket to a lottery official, "She got a chair and told me, 'You better sit down because you might pass out on me,' " Henry said at a press conference yesterday.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/big_lotto_winner_shock_uPzhQx6YcKkgWJ8gWiMQIL#ixzz0WaBykdNF

Rabbi K. Was preparing for this week's Tehilim shiur and came across an interesting thought.

"As for me, upon G-d shall I call and Hashem will save me." (Psalms 55:17)
Rabbi K. asked why the Psalmist used two different names for G-d in the above verse. One reason is that the numerical calculation of the word "Elokim" is the same as the word הטבעִ(the nature) while the word "Hashem" signifies that G-d was, is and will always be. "Hashem" is beyond the natural laws.
He further learned a unique explanation to the saying that earning a living is as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea. When the Israelites reached the waters, they prayed to G-d to save them. They never imagined a supernatural salvation like having the waters split for them. So too, when it comes to earning a living, sometimes our parnassah comes from unexpected sources and from somewhere we could never have imagined, with our limited human thinking.
The very same evening that Rabbi K. had been preparing his shiur, a man from Israel came to the rabbi's door and poured his heart out that he had no job and was collecting money for his family.
Two days later, the man met the rabbi and told him his problems had been solved. He had met a man in the synagogue who had arrived from Israel a few days before. When he found out about the man's situation, the Israeli stranger offered him a job.
The rabbi was flabbergasted. It was as if the hand of G-d directed the two men to meet in a synagogue in Europe, thus providing the auspicious outcome for the poor individual.
The lesson for us is clear. We shouldn't despair. With our limited understanding, we can't see a way out of our problems. We pray to "Elokim" but "Hashem" answers, in a way that is completely unexpected, like winning a lottery.

A Torah Response to Terrorism

Close to a year after the tragic deaths in Mumbai, the Jewish response to terrorism is to bring light to the world - dedicating a Sefer Torah in memory of the victims.


11 Nov 2009

UN General Assembly Resolution 181

Taking steps towards statehood? The Palestinian Authority is looking into the possibility of turning to the Security Council and urging it to adopt a resolution recognizing the Palestinian state’s borders, senior Fatah member Mohammad Dahlan said Tuesday.
The PA will seek a state in line with the 1967 borders, including east Jerusalem, Dahlan said. He added that all options were open at this time, including the possibility of a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence.


Mr. Dahlan - your people had a chance for a state years ago and the offer was rejected, leading to the deaths of countless innocent people.

UN General Assembly Resolution 181
Adopted on November 29, 1947

...Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, set forth in Part III of this Plan, shall come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than 1 October 1948. The boundaries of the Arab State, the Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem shall be as described in Parts II and III below.

Serve Hashem with happiness

This morning, I received the following image in an email with the caption "A smile from heaven."
Let's give G-d a reason to smile on us.
Yesterday, I listened to a lecture by Rabbi Z. Wallerstein about the art of giving. He said that marriage is not about give and take, but rather about give and give.
He then went on to speak about our relationship with G-d. During Shemoneh Esrei, we normally beseech Hashem with all sorts of requests for financial security, good health and the like. The rabbi suggested that we take the opportunity to give back to Hashem. We can try to bring about a kiddush Hashem as a method to give back to G-d and repay all the kindness bestowed upon us.

10 Nov 2009

Sticking with your tradition

For those of you who can't wait till next Chodesh Elul to hear the sounds of the shofar, you may be interested in a new piece of music that was first performed in October.

Meira Warshauer has composed a concerto for shofar/trombone soloist and orchestra, called “Tekeeyah (a call)” which premiered last month with shofar/trombone soloist Haim Avitsur .
“The sound is meant to grab the heart and rally the person,” he said. “There’s so much this instrument is capable of producing that we miss when we only hear it go ‘Tah!’”
.....Warshauer’s exploration of the shofar mirrors her own journey through Judaism. Raised in South Carolina in a Reform Jewish home, she experimented with Eastern religions and meditation. She found comfort in the universal teachings of Sufism, which focuses on the healing vibrations of sound. At a Sufi music camp, she encountered a melody by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, “Return Again,” which motivated her to return to her own tradition. “I had never heard of Carlebach,” Warshauer said. Now, she said, she “sees the world through Jewish eyes. That’s the spiritual door for me. Music is the way I can communicate the wisdom of our tradition both for Jews and non-Jews. I can do that in an honest and enriching way because it is my tradition, I haven’t borrowed it.”


To listen to a piece of the concerto, click here.
Does the shofar blower need to say a brocho before his performance?

7 Nov 2009

Rambam's 24 Aveiros That Prevent A Person From Doing Tshuva

Dear Sir:
You may be a top chef and good enough to open your own restaurant, but I was disappointed that you have decided to serve a dish called bacon wrapped matzo balls in your new restaurant.
Somehow, taking a food which signifies Jewish tradition and having it wrapped around by a food which is the antithesis of a kosher food product is the height of gall.
Furthermore, It hurt me to see a what I assume to be a Jewish journalist taking a taste of your dish and pronouncing it "good."

Journalist: "So I’m about to try the bacon wrapped matzo balls. How do you feel about making a sin?
Chef: "I feel great about making a sin. A little sin is good for everybody."

Mr. Chef, I refer you to an article entitled "Rambam's 24 Aveiros That Prevent A Person From Doing Tshuva."
And now, I better stop wasting my time. A relative told me, "Forget about him. You're not G-d's policeman. Work on yourself."
He's right. I will try to heed his advice.

I. 4 that are so bad that Hashem won't let you do Tshuva

1. Causing the public to sin or preventing them from doing a Mitzva
2. Swaying your friend from the right path
3. Watching idly as your son or anyone you have power over goes in a bad way
4. If you say you will do aveiros and then do tshuva later

II. 5 whom the path of tshuva is blocked before them
1. He who cuts himself off from the Tzibbur
2. He who argues with the Chachomim
3. He who makes fun of the Mitzvos
4. He who embarrasses his Rebbi
5. He who hates rebuke

III. 5 who can never do full tshuva because they identify exactly whom they must ask for Mechila.

1. He who curses a large group of people
2. He who assists a thief
3. He who finds a lost item and doesn't try to find the owner
4. He who benefits from the plunder of the poor, widows, and orphans.
5. A judge who accepts bribes

IV. 5 who will probably never do tshuva becomes the crime is something that they don't consider criminal.

1. If you eat from a Seudah where the owner himself does not have enough to eat.
2. Using the collateral of a poor person such as his hammer
3. Staring at forbidden women
4. Gaining honor from your friend's downfall
5. He who is Choshed B'Ksheirim. Always suspecting innocent people.

V. 5 aveiros that are difficult to separate from.
1. Rechilus
2. Lashon Hara
3. Anger
4. Bad thoughts
5. Associating with bad people

6 Nov 2009

The Shabbos candles

This week marked the yarzheit of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach. IsraelNationalNews published an English translation of the eulogy delivered by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Shlita, Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv and former Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, at Rabbi Carlebach's funeral, 15 years ago.
"I believe that I will not have fulfilled my duty if I do not speak for many who need to beg for forgiveness from HaRav Shlomo Carlebach. We did not relate to him with enough respect,we did not value him sufficiently, we did not guard the honor which he never sought but to which he was truly entitled."
Read whole article:
I was witness to seeing the rabbi in action. If we were to emulate his heartfelt love of all Yidden, whatever their persuasion, and his joy in doing a mitzvah, I dare say, the world would be a better place.
Have a good Shabbos.

5 Nov 2009

A piece of cake

I received the following email the other day - author unknown.
Sometimes we wonder, 'What did I do to deserve this?' or 'Why did God have to do this to me?'
Here is a wonderful explanation!
A daughter is telling her mother how everything is going wrong:
she's failing algebra; her boyfriend broke up with her and her best friend is moving away.
Meanwhile, her Mother is baking a cake and asks her daughter if she would like a snack,and the daughter says, 'Absolutely, Mom, I love your cake.'
'Here, have some cooking oil,' her Mother offers. 'Yuck,' says her daughter.
'How about a couple raw eggs?'
'Gross, Mom!'
'Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?'
'Mom, those are all yucky!'
To which the mother replies: 'Yes, all those things seem bad by themselves..
But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!
God works the same way. Many times we wonder why He would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!
God is crazy about you.
He sends you flowers every spring and a sunrise every morning.
Whenever you want to talk, He'll listen.
He can live anywhere in the universe and He chose your heart.
Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.
I hope your day is a piece of cake.

4 Nov 2009

Jumping on the wagon of hate

In a Ynet article entitled "A thorn in the world’s side," Sever Plocker discussed "the accelerated deterioration in Israel’s status and image. We are in the midst of a freefall on the foreign affairs front. The cold peace with three Muslim states – Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey – has turned into a cold war. Israelis are unwelcome guests in these and many other states, where in the past we were embraced."
He continues by asking the question, "Does everyone hate us? Possibly so, yet the fact is that up until six months ago Israel enjoyed an extraordinary boom on the foreign affairs front, both in terms of its foreign ties as well as in global public opinion. This fact points to one source for the deterioration we’re seeing: The new government in Jerusalem."
Read more:

Mr. Plocker conveniently ignores the worldwide demonstrations against and resolutions calling for a boycott of Israel prior to Netanyahu assuming the role of prime minister.
Rather than blaming Netanyahi's government for the deterioration in Israel's standing, how about blaming the nations of the world? Recently, I received the following quote in an email which is just as valid today as when it was written. To put the words in a more succinct fashion, "Eisav Sonei Ya'akov."

"Indeed it is difficult for all other nations of the world to live in the presence of the Jews. It is irritating and most uncomfortable. The Jews embarrass the world as they have done things which are beyond the imaginable. They have become moral strangers since the day their forefather, Abraham, introduced the world to high ethical standards and to the fear of Heaven. They brought the world the Ten Commandments, which many nations prefer to defy. They violated the rules of history by staying alive, totally at odds with common sense and historical evidence. They outlived all their former enemies, including vast empires such as the Romans and the Greeks. They angered the world with their return to their homeland after 2000 years of exile and after the murder of six million of their brothers and sisters.
They aggravated mankind by building, in the wink of an eye, a democratic State which others were not able to create in even hundreds of years. They built living monuments such as the duty to be holy and the privilege to serve one's fellow men.
They had their hands in every human progressive endeavor, whether in science, medicine, psychology or any other discipline, while totally out of proportion to their actual numbers. They gave the world the Bible and even their "savior."
Jews taught the world not to accept the world as it is, but to transform it, yet only a few nations wanted to listen. Moreover, the Jews introduced the world to one God, yet only a minority wanted to draw the moral consequences. So the nations of the world realize that they would have been lost without the Jews. And while their subconscious tries to remind them of how much of Western civilization is framed in terms of concepts first articulated by the Jews, they do anything to suppress it.
They deny that Jews remind them of a higher purpose of life and the need to be honorable, and do anything to escape its consequences. It is simply too much to handle for them, too embarrassing to admit, and above all, too difficult to live by.
So the nations of the world decided once again to go out of 'their' way in order to find a stick to hit the Jews. The goal: to prove that Jews are as immoral and guilty of massacre and genocide as some of they themselves are.
All this in order to hide and justify their own failure to even protest when six million Jews were brought to the slaughterhouses of Auschwitz and Dachau ; so as to wipe out the moral conscience of which the Jews remind them, and they found a stick.
Nothing could be more gratifying for them than to find the Jews in a struggle with another people (who are completely terrorized by their own leaders) against whom the Jews, against their best wishes, have to defend themselves in order to survive. With great satisfaction, the world allows and initiates the rewriting of history so as to fuel the rage of yet another people against the Jews. This in spite of the fact that the nations understand very well that peace between the parties could have come a long time ago, if only the Jews would have had a fair chance. Instead, they happily jumped on the wagon of hate so as to justify their jealousy of the Jews and their incompetence to deal withtheir own moral issues.
When Jews look at the bizarre play taking place in The Hague , they can only smile as this artificial game once more proves how the world paradoxically admits the Jews' uniqueness. It is in their need to undermine the Jews that they actually raise them.
The study of history of Europe during the past centuries teaches us one uniform lesson: That the nations which received and in any way dealt fairly and mercifully with the Jew have prospered; and that the nations that have tortured and oppressed them have written out their own curse."--
Olive Schreiner, South African novelist and social activist

Shalom Bayis

After the passing of Rebbetzin Bascha Scheinberg a"h at the age of 96, Hamodia published an interview with Rebbetzin Altusky, her oldest daughter.
Married to Harav Pinchas Scheinberg for 80 years, Rebbetzin Scheinberg and her husband's marital harmony was clearly demonstrated to the immediate family. Rebbetzin Altusky related that both her parents slept with a hot water bottle.
My mother always nudged me to check on my father's bottle, while my father would say, "First check Mama's."
Rebbetzin Altusky further adds, "they lived for each other. Do you know what it means - married 80 years and not a single fight.
She also attributes the remarkable atmosphere in the home to the amazing shalom bayis her parents had.
May we offer the same kind of atmosphere to our children by focusing on giving to our spouses and living for one another.

3 Nov 2009

Halacha and advice columns

I came across an advice column on the Jewish Daily Forward's website where readers send in questions with subjects ranging from wedding protocol to career advice and parenting. One question sent in by a reader regarded a woman whose husband wanted to have a large family, "but I think that in today’s world with all of the suffering and the need, no one family should have more than two children."
The sage advice of the advice columnist, whose credentials include being a journalist and an author contained the following words. "I could not agree more. With all the unwanted children in the world, the ethical choice would be to adopt.... Yes, God told us to be fruitful and multiply but God also told us a lot of things that clear-thinking Jews have rejected over the centuries as sexist, cruel to animals, homophobic or out of touch with modern values." http://blogs.forward.com/the-bintel-brief/117141/0

Personally, I believe that the Torah laws were given for all generations, not simply to be discarded because they clash with modern values and the clear thinking of people who have a better understanding of the laws of the Torah than G-d. But, I suppose, if the woman writing the question would have wanted an answer based upon halacha, she would have directed her question to a rabbi, and not a newspaper.

2 Nov 2009

Baruch Haba

Parshat Vayera opens with Avraham recuperating from his brit. Avraham was circumcised at the age of 99 whereas Yishmael, his son, was circumcised at 13. Yitzchak was the first person to have a brit on the eighth day after his birth.

The word “Brit” (“covenant”) is mentioned 13 times in connection with the mitzvah of circumcision. 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)”
Q. When the child is brought into the room for the Brit (circumcision), everyone greets him with the words, “Baruch Haba.” What is the significance of the words “Baruch Haba?”
A. “Baruch Haba” means, “Blessed be the one who entered!” In addition to the simple meaning there is also a reference in these words for the Brit. The numerical value of the word “Haba” is 8 (5+2+1) and represents the 8th day of circumcision!
Q. At every Brit two chairs are prepared. One is for the “Sandek” (the person who holds the baby at the time of the Brit). The other chair is called “Kisei shel Eliyahu (HaNavi)” – “Chair of Elijah (the prophet).” Why is it customary to have a special chair for Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet) at every Brit?
A. In Biblical times, Ach’av, king of Israel, under the influence of his wife Izevel (Jezebel), banned circumcision throughout his land. The Prophet Elijah, saddened at this event, retired to a cave and complained to G-d that his people had deserted G-d’s covenant. Therefore, G-d ordered Elijah to be present at every circumcision so that he should witness how careful the Jewish people observe this Mitzvah. In Elijah’s honor we provide a special chair for him at every Brit.


1 Nov 2009

Money earned honestly

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik made a Seudas Mitzva in his house. The table was set with his finest glass and china in honor of the occasion. One of the the participants got up from the table and accidentally took the tablecloth with him as he got caught on it. The tablecloth crashed to the floor with all its expensive and delicate contents falling to the ground.
Everyone was horrified and turned to look at Rav Chaim, waiting for his reaction. Rav Chaim told everyone not to worry and assured them that nothing broke. They slowly approached the wreckage and unraveled the tablecloth. Sure enough every single piece was intact and nothing was damaged.
All eyes turned to Rav Chaim for an explanation. Rav Chaim explained that he is not a Navi or a miracle worker. He only knows the kabala that he had from Rav Chaim Volozhin. Rav Chaim Volozhin said that no harm will ever come to something bought from money earned honestly and fairly. Rav Chaim said that since all his money was earned fairly he was sure that nothing could have broken. And so it was.


The 90/10 Principle

I received the following email and decided to pass it on.

10% of life is made up of what happens to you.
…90% of life is decided by how you react…
What does this mean?
We really have NO control over 10% of what happens to us. We cannot stop the car from breaking down. The plane will be late arriving, which throws our whole schedule off. A driver may cut us off in the traffic.
The other 90% is different. You determine the other 90%.
How?... By your reaction.
Do not let people fool you. YOU can control how you react.
Let us use an example…

You are having breakfast with your family. Your daughter knocks over a cup of coffee onto your business shirt. You have no control over what has just happened. What happens next will be determined by how you react.
You curse. You harshly scold your daughter for knocking the cup over. She breaks down in tears. After scolding her, you turn to your wife and you criticize her for placing the cup too close to the edge of the table. A short verbal battle follows.
You storm upstairs and change your shirt. Back downstairs, you find your daughter has been too busy crying to finish her breakfast and getting ready to go to school. She misses the bus. Your spouse must leave immediately for work. You rush to the car and drive your daughter to school.
Because you are late, you drive 40 miles per hour in a 30 mph speed limit zone. After a 15-minute delay and throwing $60.00 traffic fine away, you arrive at school. Your daughter runs into the building without saying goodbye.
After arriving at the office 20 minute late, you realize you forgot your briefcase. Your day has started terrible. As it continues, it seems to get worse and worse. You look forward to coming home. When you arrive home, you find a small wedge in your relationship with your wife and daughter.
Why? Because of how you reacted in the morning.
Why did you have a bad day?

A) Did the coffee cause it?
B) Did your daughter cause it?
C) Did the policeman cause it?
D) Did you cause it?
The answer is "D"
You had no control over what happened with the coffee.
How you reacted in those 5 seconds is what caused your bad day.
Here is what could have and should have happened.

Coffee splashes over you. Your daughter is about to cry. You gently say: "It's okay, honey, you just need to be more careful next time." Grabbing a towel you go upstairs and change your shirt. You grab your briefcase, and you come back down in time to look through the window and see your child getting on the bus. She turns and waves. You arrive 5 minutes early a cheerfully greet the staff.
Notice the difference?
Two different scenarios.
Both started the same. Both ended different.
Why? Because of how you reacted.
You really have no control over 10% of what happens in your life.
The other 90% was determined by your reaction.
Here are some ways to apply the 90/10 Principle.
If someone says something negative about you, do not be a sponge. Let the attack roll off like water on glass. You do not have to let the negative comments affect you.
React properly and it will not ruin your day. A wrong reaction could result in losing a friend, being fired, or getting stressed out.
How do you react if someone cuts you off in the traffic? Do you lose your temper? Pound on the steering wheel? (a friend of mine had the steering wheel fall off), Do you curse? Does your blood pressure skyrocket? Who cares if you arrive 10 seconds later at work? Why let the cars ruin your drive?

Remember the 90/10 Principle and don't worry about it.
You are told you lost your job. Why lose sleep and get irritated? It will work out. Use your worrying energy and time to find a new job.
The plane is late. It is going to mangle your schedule for the day. Why take out your frustration on the flight attendant? She has no control over what is going on. Use your time to study, get to know the other passenger, why stress out? It will just make things worse.
Now you know the 90/10 Principle. Apply it and you will be amazed at the results. You will lose nothing if you try it.
The 90/10 Principle is incredible. Very few know and apply this Principle.
The result?
You will see it by yourself!
Millions of people are suffering from undeserved stress, trials, problems and headaches. We all must understand and apply the 90/10 Principle. It can change your life! Enjoy it!

It only takes willpower to give ourselves permission to make the experience. Absolutely everything we do, give, say, or even think, it's like a Boomerang. It will come back to us.
If we want to receive, we need to learn to give first. Maybe we will end with our hands empty, but our heart will be filled with love. And those who love life, have that feeling marked in their hearts.
--- Stephen Covey