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

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

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

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

31 Mar 2010

Eine kleine rich man

A friend emailed me the following video link. It's a Mozart piece played in a way you've never heard before.

29 Mar 2010

Happy Pesach

Taking a blogging break till after Pesach. Wishing all a kosher, happy and healthy Pesach.

28 Mar 2010

It's all relative

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton took advantage of some rare dry conditions in the second session to clock Friday's fastest practice time in Melbourne.

British Formula 1 ace Lewis Hamilton apologised today for spinning the wheels of his silver Mercedes sports car, describing his behaviour as 'silly'.
The 2008 world champion was booked by Melbourne police under what are commonly known as 'anti-hoon' laws after they saw him turn onto a public road and accelerate so hard that the wheels spun and smoke billowed from the tyres.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1260963/Lewis-Hamilton-booked-spinning-wheels-left-Melbournes-grand-prix-track.html?ITO=1490#ixzz0jIlBTEZQ

When I read about Lewis Hamilton being booked by the police for speeding, it struck me that, on the race track, the same action would have been lauded. The incident reminded me of the laws of lashon hora and relative comments.

The Chofetz Chaim then discusses the issue of “relative statements.” A given statement might be loshon hora when spoken about one person and high praise when spoken about another.
For example, imagine two people who are discussing the charity habits of some community members. “He’s good for $5,” one comments about a certain individual. If that individual is one of the richest men in town, then the statement would be loshon hora.
If, on the other hand, the subject is a poor person, the statement would not be loshon hora at all.
The Chofetz Chaim offers another example. If someone said of a rabbinical student, “He learns for four hours a day,” the listener would not construe this as praise. Yet if the same statement was said of a businessman with a hectic work schedule, it truly would be exceptional praise.

25 Mar 2010

An undivided Jerusalem

A New York Times article entitled Can an Undivided Jerusalem Be Shared? by Robert Mackey a proposal is discussed involving Divine sovereignty in order to resolve the stalemate in the Middle East process regarding Jerusalem.
...Yet, when push came to shove, the question of who would rule one small part of the city — the holy site known as the Haram al-Sharif to Palestinians and the Temple Mount to Jews — seemed impossible to resolve. At Camp David, Mr. Malley recalled, a fair amount of attention was devoted to was called the “divine sovereignty” compromise:
The Americans spent countless hours seeking imaginative formulations to finesse the issue of which party would enjoy sovereignty over this sacred place—a coalition of nations, the United Nations Security Council, even God himself was proposed. In the end, the Palestinians would have nothing of it: the agreement had to give them sovereignty, or there would be no agreement at all.

Even after the Camp David talks ended, President Clinton tried to keep the idea of letting God rule that sensitive part of Jerusalem alive.
Read full article: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/25/can-an-undivided-jerusalem-be-shared/

As we approach the Pesach seder, may we merit seeing the fulfillment of the words at the end of the seder. L'shana Haba'a b'Yerushalayim Habenuya.

The tombstone inscription

A friend of mine forwarded me an email with a PowerPoint presentation of photos from Jewish life in Poland. It was a fascinating glimpse into the life of yesteryear. One of the slides featured a photo of a family visiting a grave. The inscription on the tombstone read,
"A righteous man who led a life of good deeds, who lived from the fruits of his labor all his years, who died young, who was a giver of charity, the worthy one."
The words gave me pause as I reflected upon what I would like to be written about me. And I realized I should work on myself to be worthy of the words, "who led a life of good deeds."

24 Mar 2010

Israeli aid to Haiti, according to Syria

I received an email this evening with a link to a Syrian TV report of Israel's medical aid to Haiti.
The demonization of Israel and the Jews is reprehensible.


Grab those apples

The following is an excerpt from an email from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage foundation.
To get daily email click on the link below.

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

23 Mar 2010

Schindler's list for sale

A list that saved hundreds during World War II may earn millions for one collector.
One of only a handful of surviving copies of Oskar Schindler's list, made famous in Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film, is going up for sale for a whopping $2.2 million.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/2010/03/23/2010-03-23_collector_offers_up_original_oskar_schindler_list_up_for_sale_for_22m.html#ixzz0j1den9q7

Moshe Rabbeinu's name

Why Isn't Moshe Rabbeinu's Name Mentioned In The Hagada? Vilna Gaon, Kli Chemda, Yichi Reuven
Moshe Rabbeinu was the Shaliach of Hashem and the human hero in the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim. How could it be that on the night that we regale in telling the story Moshe Rabbeinu's name is completely absent?
The Vilna Gaon answers that the only real force behind Yetzias Mitzrayim was Hashem. On this night it is forbidden to speak about Moshe's role as if he were a partner to Hashem.
The Yichi Reuven answers that the first retelling of the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim was in the Midbar by Moshe Rabbeinu himself. In his incredible modesty he did not mention his own name, only HaKadosh Boruch Hu. Moshe's version of the story was passed down from generation to generation and therefore his name is omitted.
The Kli Chemda answers that in Mitzrayim there were two redemptions, the Geulas HaGuf and the Geulas HaNefesh. While Moshe was the key player in physically releasing Bnei Yisroel from the iron grip of Paroh, it was Hashem who redeemed us from our spiritual bondage. Today we are still in Galus but we celebrate our spiritual freedom. That story is about Hashem and not Moshe.

22 Mar 2010

The Kohein and the convert

An article that I read today had me searching the following question. An answer was provided by Rabbi Shraga Simmons.

Question: Does Jewish Law permit a Cohen to marry a convert to Judaism?

Answer: A Cohen is not allowed to marry a convert, a divorcee, or a "zonah." (see Leviticus 21:14, Maimonides' Laws of Forbidden Relations 18:3, and Talmud Kiddushin 78a)
..A Cohen is forbidden to marry these women, not because she is a bad person, but because there is metaphysical reality that is created which prevents a Cohen from being able to create the proper bond...
On a practical level, the Kohanim, who are charged with being the spiritual leaders and role models for all of Jewry, must therefore preserve a more scrutinizing level of holiness. The fact that a particular Cohen today may not see himself in such a lofty role does not diminish his obligation to live up to that.

Read full answer: http://judaism.about.com/od/jewishweddingsmarriage/f/cohen_convt.htm

A child of a Kohein from a woman he was not allowed to marry is a chalal and doesn’t have Kohein status (the Kohein himself doesn’t lose his status but can’t duchen..).

The lost and found cat

"If you see another person's animal, you shall not hide from it; you must return it to the owner. If the owner is not known to you, then you should bring the object into your house, where it shall remain until the owner inquires after it, and you will return it to him. So shall you do for his donkey, his garment, or any lost article that you may find..." (Deut. 22:1-3)

"Returning lost objects" is one of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah.

As I made my way home the other day, I happened upon a notice that had been taped to a tree. There was a picture of a lost cat with the owner's contact information. Nothing unusual about this commonplace sign. But, that day, someone had written an addendum. "Cat has been found."
A smile crossed my face upon reading the happy ending for some cat owner. I was pleased that an individual had taken the time to notify the great news to all in the neighborhood.

The following incident was reported in Ynetnews yesterday.
Modiin resident finds bag with hundreds of thousands of dollars and in act of Good Samaritan hands it over to local police station. Bag's owner yet to be located; should he not be found – money to be returned to finder.
Read full article:

21 Mar 2010

Unplugged on the Sabbath

As the story goes, God spent six days creating the world and then rested on the seventh day. He told the Jewish people to always rest on the seventh day of each week, which was to become known as the Sabbath for them for eternity.
This was before Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerries and iPhones, of course. Adam and Eve didn't have friends who would get upset if texts weren't returned promptly, parents who wanted to know where their children were all the time or bosses who had complete access to their employees via work-issued devices. There is no excuse good enough to ignore the boss, even on a weekend.
But one group is trying to take back the Sabbath: Reboot -- a nonprofit organization aimed at reinventing the traditions and rituals of Judaism for today's secular Jews.
Read full article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/03/19/national.unplugging.day/index.html

Shabbat Hagadol

Q. Why is the Shabbat before Pesach called “Shabbat HaGadol”, “The Great Sabbath”?

A. The explanations include the following:

* Great (“gadol”) events happened in the lead-up to Pesach.
* The haftarah (from Malachi) refers to “the great and awesome (“gadol v’nora”) day of the Lord” (Mal. 3:22-24).
* In days when rabbis did not give regular sermons, the great scholar (“gadol”) of the community gave a discourse on that day, which made it “the Sabbath of the Great One”.
* Adding sections from the Haggadah to the afternoon service, and listening to the extensive discourse, made the day “gadol” (longer than usual).
* The name might originally have been “Shabbat Haggadah”, later corrupted to become “Shabbat HaGadol”.

20 Mar 2010

The Middle East envoy

Tony Blair waged an extraordinary two-year battle to keep secret a lucrative deal with a multinational oil giant which has extensive interests in Iraq.
The former Prime Minister tried to keep the public in the dark over his dealings with South Korean oil firm UI Energy Corporation.
Mr Blair - who has made at least £20million since leaving Downing Street in June 2007 - also went to great efforts to keep hidden a £1million deal advising the ruling royal family in Iraq's neighbour Kuwait.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1259030/Tony-Blairs-secret-dealings-South-Korean-oil-firm-UI-Energy-Corp.html#ixzz0idy4I6yj

The chief executive of a South Korean oil firm which secretly paid Tony Blair undisclosed sums of cash has reportedly served a two-year prison sentence for bribery after one of his country’s most notorious corruption scandals.
...The disclosure raises fresh questions about Mr Blair’s judgment. He has been accused of cashing in on his time in Downing Street by accepting consultancy deals with investment banks and global corporations, earning him an estimated £20million in the three years since he stepped down as Prime Minister.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1259496/Boss-Korean-firm-gave-Tony-Blair-secret-cash-jailed-bribery.html#ixzz0il7tmmhG

Middle East envoy Tony Blair said on Friday he hoped that a package of measures would be announced in the next few days that would lead to indirect peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
..."The only thing that will give people confidence that meaningful negotiation can take place is if things aren't done that disrupt this process, which is why the announcement on settlements was unhelpful," Blair added.

Speaking about giving people confidence, how confident are you about Tony Blair?
BBC has just aired the Doha debates. At the end of the programme, the audience members were asked to vote on the following question.
Do you have confidence in the current Palestinian leaders?
The results were: 11% yes 89% no

18 Mar 2010

Chain-reaction accident

A word of caution. After reading about the following tragic accident, perhaps drivers will take more care when opening their car doors.

A Bronx woman nicknamed "Mother Teresa" for opening her home to poor and sick kids was killed Wednesday when her bike ricocheted off a car door into the path of a city bus.
Megan Charlop, 57, died under the wheel of the bus in the chain-reaction accident on Crotona Ave., sparking waves of anguish from her Norwood community.
...Charlop was riding south near E. Tremont Ave. about 8:25 a.m. when a man opened the door of his Toyota Camry. She clipped the door and shot in front of the bus, police said.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/03/17/2010-03-17_bronx_bicyclist_who_swerved_to_miss_car_door_is_hit_killed_by_city_bus.html#ixzz0iY33GcjS

A number of questions

European Union's foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, is due to arrive in Gaza today.
1. Will she meet with Gilad Shalit?
2. Will she condemn the rocket attacks from Gaza including two that hit Sderot on Wednesday evening?
3. Will Joe Biden condemn the rocket attacks?
4. A blogger is organizing a conference call to the parents of Rachel Corrie in an initiative to help lift the siege in Gaza. I left the following comment.
"Can you have Gilad Shalit for the next conference call, followed by Alan Johnston"?
Why did he neglect to publish my comment?
5. Finally, did anyone read Martin Sherman's article entitled Rethinking Palestine?
It is time for the proponents of the two-state solution to admit that the Palestinians have failed the test of history in staking their claim for statehood.
A dispassionate evaluation of the events of the past two decades inexorably compels one towards an increasing evident conclusion: The Palestinians seem far more focused on annulling Jewish political independence than on attaining Palestinian political independence; far more committed to deconstruction of the Jewish state than to construction of a Palestinian one.


Palestinian militants fired a rocket into Israel from the Gaza Strip Thursday, killing a Thai agricultural worker, while the European Union's foreign affairs chief was visiting the Hamas-controlled enclave.

17 Mar 2010

Matza or Moitza

The Yagdil Torah relates that at the Chasuna of one of the most Chashuv Chasidim of Kotzk someone wrote him a Bracha, using the words of the pasuk "VKomatz HaKohen Mimena", the Kohen should take a Kometz from the Korban Mincha (Vayikra 5:12).
The meaning of this was that the gemara in Brachos (8a) says that in Eretz Yisroel after the Chasuna they would ask the Chosson "Matza" or "Moitza". Matza from the pasuk Matza Isha Matza Tov (Mishlei 18:22), he who finds a wife finds good, meaning he found a good wife. Or "Moitzei Ani Mar MiMaves Es HaIsha", in my wife I found something more bitter than death (Koheles 7:26). The difference between Matza and Moitza is whether the Mem has a Komatz or Cholam. The bracha was that the Chosson should have a Komatz like the pasuk, and have a wonderful marriage.
Rebbi Akiva Eiger was asked why by a Chasuna is there is minhag to grab the Challa of HaMoitzi from the Chosson. He answered that we grab the "Moitzi" in order that the Chosson should have the Matza and have found a fine wife.
What is the secret to the Komatz that it signifies a good marriage while the Cholam tells a story of bitterness? Maybe we an offer that Komatz means to restrict to close. Our mouth takes on a very restrictive shape when we say the Komatz sound as opposed to the Patach which means to open wide and is the sound we are told to make when the doctor needs us to look inside. The secret to a happy marriage is to close the mouth and not let everything on our mind come tumbling out. Our words should be restricted like the three fingered Kemitza of the Kohen, and so should our expectations and creams.
On the other hand Cholam is the word for dreams. If we have big dream and expectations from our spouses, we are surely to be disappointed and frustrated along the way as our fantasies are not played out in the tough place called reality. These dreams if not curtailed will end in bitterness and finger pointing if we don't close our mouths. With these dreams we will find a life more bitter than death.
It is up to us to take the Komatz route and close our mouths and then we will find a wonderful wife. Or we can dream on about how it was supposed to be, and never realize the wonderful women on our side. So, Matza or Moitza, what will it be?

Your servant heareth

The portion opens with three Hebrew words where we would expect four. It says, Vayikra el Mosheh – “And He called to Moses” (Lev.1:1). The missing fourth word is the name of God. In line with normal Biblical style, we would have thought the verse would say, Vayikra HaShem el Mosheh – “And the Lord called to Moses”. The problem is not apparent when the translators insert the word “He” in the verse, but how do we really know that “he” should have a capital letter? How do we know it was God who was calling? Maybe it was another human being, possibly Aaron!
A statement in the works of the Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, is relevant. He says that a person who suddenly feels like crying on Rosh HaShanah knows by instinct that the Divine Judge is scrutinising him in the heavenly court. How can he be so sure? Maybe some other factor is at work! Yet the person concerned cannot be talked out of his conviction that he is on trial On High. Back then to Moses. The verse does not identify who was calling to him, but he knew who it was. There are moments like that in everyone’s life, when we know we have so say, “Speak, Lord, for Your servant heareth” (I Sam. 3:9).


The victim of the article below was tuned out to the message that was being sent to him, ultimately leading to tragic consequences.

A simple jog ended in a bizarre tragedy on Monday when a small plane made an emergency landing and struck a man exercising on the sandy South Carolina shoreline.
Robert Gary Jones, a father of two from Georgia, was killed instantly as he ran along the beach of Hilton Head island, officials said on Tuesday.
The 38-year-old was listening to his iPod and did not hear the approaching plane.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2010/03/16/2010-03-16_man_on_south_carolina_beach_struck_killed_by_plane_making_emergency_landing.html#ixzz0iPlWDhPD

16 Mar 2010

The texting of the dead

"Techiyat HaMetim" - (f.); Revival or resurrection of the dead; one of the fundamental beliefs of the Jewish Religion, and the last of the RAMBAM's list of thirteen such beliefs (one source of this list is the set of "Ani Maamin"s at the end of "Shacharit," the Morning Prayer).

The above tenet came to mind when I read the following article:

Kids are texting. Parents are texting. Even grandparents are texting. But we'd never heard of the deceased texting - until now.
A new high-tech device that can be implanted into a headstone will allow the deceased to speak from the grave through text messages sent to other people's cell phones. The company claims the headstone can send messages for up to 3,200 years.
..Before he/she passes away, the consumer will write a message on the Personal RosettaStone. The message then can be transmitted to anyone who has a web-enabled cell phone. The information is stored on a microchip and is beamed via text message when the tag recognizes compatible technology on a visitors phone.

Grandma's packages and vehicular bullets

In the past two days I have read two articles about two organizations that have helped others. My admiration knows no bounds to the founders of these organizations whose foresight and perseverance brought their ideas to fruition. May they merit seeing the fruits of their labors serve as an inspiration for others for many years to come.
In the JPost, Jessica Silverman writes about her grandmother's packages delivered to soldiers.

On a hot Thursday in 2000, my grandparents were driving past a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem. The soldiers at the checkpoint were sweating, and, according to my Jewish grandmother, far too skinny. She decided that instead of simply cooking a Shabbat meal for two that evening, she would also cook for the soldiers at this particular checkpoint. Late that night, she and my grandfather filled the car with chicken and kugel, drove back to checkpoint and distributed the food to the grateful soldiers. They did the same the next week, and the week after that and so on and so on, and even added additional checkpoints to their route, until it seemed as if this had always been part of her pre-Shabbat routine. There was no way she could know it at the time, but my grandmother had started a project that would ultimately change the world, person by person.
...Ten years after her first food delivery to a lonesome checkpoint outside of Jerusalem, and with 150,000 packages sent to IDF soldiers at every base in the country and to combat units in the field, A Package From Home (APFH), has become a well-established organization.

Read full article: http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/guest/entry/a_jewish_heroine_the_contribution

In a YeshivaWorld article entitled Misaskim: 24hrs Of Non-Stop Chesed Following Wicked Storm, the activities of the organization are described in full detail.
In the video below, Misaskim Founder Yanky Meyer describes an autopsy that was to take place because the medical examiner wanted to retrieve a bullet lodged in the person's ventricle. The rabbi pointed out that the police report stated that the bullet was in the vehicle, not in the ventricle.

15 Mar 2010

Wise decisions

* Who is wise? The one who foresees the outcome [e.g. of present actions or decisions; Tamid 32b].
* If a jar has one pebble in it and is shaken, it makes a disturbingly loud noise; if a jar is full with pebbles and is packed it makes no noise [Bava Metzia 85b]. Rashi: this is a metaphor for wisdom (when a wise person is "shaken," he responds with calm and substance quietly; when an empty person is "shaken," he responds with disturbingly loud noise and not with substance].

Read the article entitled Get the whole picture before a CT; doctors, patients must weigh risks vs. rewards of medical imaging in order to make an educated decision on whether to take a CT scan.

Traveling with BA airways before Passover? Read Would you book a flight with BA? to ensure that you are making a wise choice.

14 Mar 2010

A human egg raffle

This morning I read an article about a fertility clinic in London which is set to raffle a human egg "to promote a new IVF service that circumvents UK law."
The article described a woman who received two eggs from a 27-year-old donor.
"I wanted someone who looked a bit like me as an adult, but the main consideration was the quality of her eggs,” she said.
“This woman produces 30 at a time, and they were split between me and another woman, otherwise the cost of donation would have been double the £9,000 we actually paid.”
“I don’t want anyone to know these babies are not mine. Not my family or any of my friends. We don’t intend to tell the children, either.”


With the number of couples utilizing IVF treatment on the rise, it is possible that siblings might date, unaware of their close family relationship. As there are organizations that screen for genetic diseases, perhaps they should include a test to ensure that prospective mates do not share the same DNA.
And speaking about shidduchim, wishing the White Shul much success in their shidduch program. May we merit participating in many simchas. Click here to read about the program.

Jewish psychology

I received the following email this morning - author unknown.
Jewish holidays are for people with illnesses: Purim is for alcoholics. Pesach is for OCDs. Shavuos is for insomniacs and Lag Bomer is for pyromaniacs who weren't satisfied with Chanuka. Tisha B'av is for manic depressives and Rosh Hashana is for people who are obsessed over dying. Yom Kippur is for anorexics and Sukkos is for the homeless. Simchas Tora is for those in their happier stages of bi-polar. Mi keamcha yisroel - yet people still wonder why the Jews invented psychology.

13 Mar 2010

Undone by foliageous

Two light articles in the Daily News.
The first is about a golden retriever who swallowed a $20K diamond.
Read more:

The second article is about a spelling bee where yarmulca sporting Jacob Mazor placed second.

Age was no obstacle to fifth-grader Arvind Mahankali - and neither were the words "foliageous" or "calumny."
The 10-year-old from Forest Hills Montessori School in Queens was one of the youngest students competing in day two of the 46th Annual Daily News Spelling Bee contest yesterday.
Yet he still came out on top of the pack and earned himself a place in the national finals in Washington.
...Arvind beat second-place finisher Jacob Mazor, from East Midwood Hebrew Day School in Brooklyn, who was undone by the spelling of "foliageous."

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/03/13/2010-03-13_victory_was_meant_to_bee_for_qns_boy.html#ixzz0i5nCEYmD

12 Mar 2010

Parshas Hachodesh

This Shabbos, in addition to the two parshas of Vayakel and Pekudei, there is an additional reading in the synagogue of Parshat Hachodesh.
An article by Yehuda Marks in this week's Hamodia discusses the mitzvah of Kiddush Hachodesh - sanctifying the new month.
He writes that "Until 1700 years ago, the beis din sanctified every Rosh Chodesh on the basis of evidence supplied by two witnesses who saw the new moon."
Furthermore, the author writes that this practice will be adopted at the time of the coming of Mashiach, when the Sanhedrin is once again established.
It is to this end that the Israeli New Moon Society has been formed to educate its members on how to spot the new moon.
The initiator of the project, as well as the Society members, can respond in the affirmative when they are asked, "Tzipita liYeshuah? — Did you hope for salvation?"
May we merit seeing a return to the sanctification of the new month based upon the testimony of two witnesses bimhera beyamenu.
Have a good Shabbos.

They all did like Hashem commanded

Kudos to Rabbi Emanuel for consistently producing a shot vort for the parsha of the week.

11 Mar 2010

Would they be pleased?

In the previous post, I discussed attending a tea last night in honor of the 75th yarzheit of Sarah Schenirer. (the yarzheit begins this evening)
The keynote speaker related how she told her students year after year at the time of the yarzheit to imagine that Sara Schenirer was visiting their households. Would she be pleased with the kashrut standards of the households? Would she be satisfied with the meals these young women were serving to their children? Would she be pleased with the atmosphere at the Shabbos table?
Perhaps it is a good idea to devote a moment or two at the time of a parent's or grandparent's yarzheit to reflect upon the same questions. Would our parents be pleased with the directions our lives have taken?
The speaker also noted that on a yarzheit, a person is judged anew. She asked that if the person is judged at the time of his death, what is the meaning of being judged again year after year? She answered that a person is judged not only for his actions but for the far reaching consequences in future generations. Thus, when a student or a grandchild of a student of Sara Schenirer performs a mitzvah based upon what the great educator taught, those positive deeds are added in her favor and her soul achieves a higher elevation.

A beneficent eye

One of the character traits the Talmud praises is called "a beneficent eye" (Ethics of the Fathers 2:13). This is cited as one of the outstanding features of the patriarch Abraham's character. "A beneficent eye" means taking pleasure in another person's good fortune, based on the profound faith that whatever is destined to be mine will be mine. No one can encroach on what was preordained for me.
Living Each Day By Abraham J. Twerski

Last night I witnessed something I've never experienced before. I saw someone rejoice at another person's good fortune to such a spectacular degree that I realized I was seeing something special.
Yesterday I attended a function in honor of the 75th yarzheit of Sarah Schenirer (1883 - 1935) the founder of the first Jewish Orthodox education system for girls. (Actually, the yarzheit begins Thursday evening.) Seated behind a table at the entrance to the auditorium were a number of women. I recognized one and struck up a conversation with her. I asked her if she had heard the good news that the youngest of the three Israeli bochurim currently in jail in Japan was en route to Israel. She hadn't heard the news. As I related to her the good tidings, a broad smile lit her face. She jumped up from the table and gave me a big kiss on the cheek and wished that we should hear more good news in the future.
This woman exhibited unadulterated happiness for a stranger. It is a genuine joy that I will never forget.
Let us continue to pray for a positive outcome for Yoel Zev ben Mirel Reesa Chava and Yaakov Yosef ben Raizel.
This morning I read on IsraelNationalNews how Knesset member Uri Ariel, "directed a plea to US Vice President Joe Biden plea to free Jonathan Pollard."

Unfortunately, I don't think the timing is that great after Biden condemned Israel just the past day.
Let's pray for Yonatan ben Malca and Gilda ben Aviva that they should be released from imprisonment. And may we rejoice in others' good fortunes.

SImchat Hachayim

Simchas Hachayim

Be wise, my son, and my heart will gladden. (Proverbs 27:11)

Many of us aspire to great levels of purity and avodas Hashem (service to G-d) but find it arduous and our labors unfruitful. We may lack a principal ingredient in our lives, that of joy. Without happiness in our hearts, we are unable to rise to the great heights of achievement we set for ourselves. We serve Hashem and perform mitzvos to the letter of the law, but frequently lack the spirit with which we are intended to perform these acts. A person cannot serve Hashem properly with a heart full of pain. At times, it feels as though we are riding an emotional roller coaster and we are stuck in a maze of obstacles that block our way on even the simplest, most direct path. We search for answers, sometimes without knowing the questions. When we can finally identify the problem, the solution may elude us. The only way to truly search for answers is through a joyous heart. “You shall emerge with joy (Isaiah 55:12) from your troubles.”[1] If we are not emotionally healthy, nothing else matters.

Doctors call ours the Prozac generation: Never before have people struggled so much to find relief from emotional distress. “A happy heart is as healing as medicine.”[2] The only way to have a truly happy heart is to “Cast your burden on Hashem, and He will sustain you.”[3] Many of us keep our emotions bottled up inside until we are ready to burst. Tell Hashem your troubles. Do not live a life of sorrow. As difficult as it might be to confide in someone, find a person to whom you can unburden your heart. There is no need to inflict our souls when there is so much help waiting if we reach out. When you start to talk to someone about what troubles you, it helps to put it in perspective and you might see that the problems aren’t as overwhelming as you thought. What seems overwhelming when you keep it to yourself might seem almost trivial once you verbalize and share the problem.

Do you find it difficult to think positive thoughts? There is so much for which we can all be thankful. Rabbi Avigdor Miller says, “A person who is depressed has a lack of hakaros hatov (appreciation) for what he has been given.” Make a list of everything for which you are grateful and read it every morning.If you find your mind dwelling on negative thoughts during the day, read the list again. Do we ever thank Hashem for the simple things? Walking the hallways of a hospital or nursing home, it is virtually impossible to ignore all the things we take for granted. Does seeing someone on a respirator help us realize how much we should value our ability to breathe? Are we thankful for our functioning extremities when we see someone in a wheelchair, being fed because they lost use of their arms as well as their legs? Do such sights encourage us to take better care of our bodies and appreciate the gift of life? Or do we squander our lives depressed about things we cannot change, failing to recognize the limits of our own mortality? Rabbi Chayim Zaitchyk said, “Be aware of the great value of being alive. When you realize the great treasure that lies in every second of life, you will experience the great joy that is in inherent in each moment. This awareness will motivate you to utilize each moment to its fullest.”[4] A lonely man once asked the Nikelsberger Rebbe why he didn’t have many friends. The Rebbe answered, “People don’t want to be around someone who is sad.” We have to work on our happiness so we can enter the palace of the King and people will enjoy our company.

We are often faced with trying to find joy in our busy and confusing lives. Not knowing what to do, we reach for some object that we think will make us happy. If you believe the media, the road to happiness is paved with diamonds, new luxury cars, confounding electronic equipment and extravagant vacations. Unfortunately, many people seek these material answers, only to find that after they get what they yearned for, they are still unhappy. To make matters worse, not only have they yet to find their happiness, but now they are deeply in debt, paying for the tangible representation of an intangible goal. Chazal teach that a person dies with only half of the materialistic possessions they wanted. The more money you have, the more you crave. No one sets their sights on earning a specific amount of money, then stops when they’ve acquired that amount: The goal is to earn as much as possible. How is a child supposed to grow up to be self-sufficient and happy with what they will be able to afford if we give them everything they desire and more, spoiling them for eighteen or twenty years? Will our children learn how to be content without the newest, most popular toys if they see us desperately craving the latest state-of-the-art gadgets? Can anyone find happiness within him- or herself instead of at the nearest discount electronics store? Hashem accepts and loves us, regardless of the car we drive, where we live or what we do for parnosa (livelihood). We need to incorporate that love so that we can have faith in Him. Our lack of joy can stem from not having enough emunah – trust - in Hashem. Rebbe Nachman teaches that talking about trust in Hashem helps one to increase their emunah. Even when your initial goal is to help someone else increase their emunah, it will help increase your own. When you have trust in Hashem you have no alternative but to be happy.

If you were stuck on a desert island, could your family enjoy each other’s company without some electronic contraption? Let us all learn to be happy with life itself. We must show those we love that we appreciate spending time with them. We don’t need box seats for the ball game to spend time with our loved ones. In fact, we need nothing but each other to create treasured memories. When your children are grown, will they recall the time you took them to the store to buy another toy or will they remember the special times spent together as a family? Our grandparents lived a much simpler life and appreciated what they had. Family was a cherished gift and multiple generations lived under one roof. We, on the other hand, are never satisfied with our possessions, our families or ourselves. The abundance of self-help books gives testimony to our dissatisfaction with our lives. We need to learn self-love, but not to the exclusion of loving others. The basis of Torah, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’, clearly instructs us to love others, but we can only do so if we first love ourselves.

Time should be specifically reserved for some form of enjoyment in our overloaded schedules. There will always be something to worry over; families, health, our homes, cars, children, finances, work. If we constantly fret over these things, we may never have a moment’s peace in our lives and will, chaz v’sholom, end up physically or emotionally ill. Medical science has identified who is most likely to endure serious illness, based on a particular set of character traits. People with the ‘Type A’ personality are known to have a greater chance of suffering such medical problems as heart attacks, strokes and gastrointestinal disorders. They rarely stop agonizing over things long enough to relax and enjoy life. We transmit this stress to our children by overloading their schedules as well. Whereas the only after-school recreation activity children used to attend were scout or youth groups, today their calendars resemble that of a busy executive. There are music and foreign language lessons, sports and tutoring, not for remediation but so they will excel. Our children are getting the message at a very young age that it’s not enough to go to school, come home, do homework and join an extra-curricular activity at school. Psychologists agree that children today are growing up with much too much stress from the pressure of all these activities. They have less time to enjoy being children due to their parents’ lack of satisfaction with some aspect of their own lives.

Rebbe Nachman says that the way to release oneself from illness is to be joyous. When a person is happy, they are able to reflect upon themselves and their lives. This brings a person to complete teshuvah (repentance) and health. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson taught, “Depression comes from haughtiness. If you would realize who you really are, you wouldn’t be so disappointed with yourself.”[5] He explains that depression, while not a crime, sinks a person deep into an abyss. It originates within our own self-destructive elements and once depression takes hold, a person can easily sink further. Depression can cause a person to stop doing mitzvos. In an attempt to find relief from the depression, a person might sin, simply because they don’t care enough to avoid doing aveiros. Rabbi Nosson once remarked that the evil inclination cares less about the sin than about the depression that follows it. By means of the depression, it can further trap the person and gain much more than from the first sin. If we make the mistake of committing a transgression, we should be remorseful but not allow ourselves to become depressed. It is vital to fight depression as one would fight their greatest enemy, run from it as they would from death itself.[6]

When a person becomes ill, their legs feel heavy. When you feel depressed or sick you can feel this heaviness. Man’s right and left legs correspond to the sefiros (spiritual realms), netzach and hod. The judgment for a person’s sins corresponds to these sefiros. If you are sick or depressed, Rebbe Nachman recommends that you dance, elevating these divine judgments back to their source, binah, which corresponds to ones heart. “Through dancing and body motions, joy is aroused.”[7] There doesn’t have to be anyone around and you don’t have to know how to do any specific dance. Jump around and clap your hands. Dancing is a universal happiness. I was once faced with tremendous confusion and pain. In a distance I spotted a back parking lot so I walked there and I just started dancing. The Holy Baal Shem Tov used to dance in order to increase his religious hislahavus – enthusiasm - and d’vekus – connection to Hashem. He taught his followers, “The dances of the Jew before his Creator are prayers.” “All my bones shall say, Hashem, who is like onto Thee?” (Psalm 35:10)[8]

Every Shabbos night a crowd would surround Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov to watch him dance in honor of the Queen Shabbos. The entire house was filled with the light of kedusha (holiness). Though not seen by observers, the angels came to dance with Rabbi Moshe Leib. For hours he would dance without tiring, drawing close to Hashem.[9] Hashem blessed us with the ability to keep Shabbos with an extra neshama shining into us. Observing the festivities of Chanukah, Sukkos, Purim, Shavuous and Rosh Hashanah is as if we have all been born with a silver spoon of joy.

Hashem would love nothing more than for us to serve Him with simple joy and love of life. Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid taught, “The root of all prayer is a joyous heart before Hashem. “Glory in His holy name, rejoice you hearts that seek Hashem.”[10] King David accompanied all his prayers and Psalms with the harp, filling his heart with joy and love of Hashem.[11] A person should create ladders by which he can ascend to heaven. A niggun (melody) is one such ladder, especially when you sing after experiencing the joy of performing a mitzvah.[12] A cantor or singer is called a chazan, from the word chazon, meaning vision and prophecy, since his music is derived from the same place as prophecy.[13] An expression of fervent love is singing songs of love, as we should before Hashem.[14] “Which is the service of joy and happiness? It is song.”[15] The essence of d’vekus is through melody.[16] Musical instruments and melody have power to draw a person closer to Hashem. Especially on Shabbos and holidays, it helps to enliven the day with a melody and connect with Hashem.[17]

The Baal Shem Tov said, “The main rule in serving Hashem is that you should keep yourself from sadness to the very best of your ability.”[18] “Without joy, it is impossible to be attached constantly to Hashem.”[19] When you perform a commandment with joy, it is a sign that your heart is completely with Hashem.[20] Nothing in the world is more pleasant than a mitzvah performed with gladness. When you do a mitzvah, you should concentrate on the positive feelings that come with the action itself and not on the potential of receiving a reward in olom habah (the world to come). Having the opportunity and ability to perform another mitzvah is the reward Hashem sends as the reward for the first one.

Your joy is in the mitzvah,[21] which is the perfection of holiness.[22]

A person can do good deeds all their life, but if they do so without simchas hachayim, the joy of life, what meaning does it really have? “Because you did not serve Hashem with happiness…” (Devarim 28:47), the Kotzker Rebbe explains, “Our nation was warned that if they do not listen to Hashem and follow in His ways, they will provoke severe chastisement. They will be punished specifically because they ‘did not serve… with happiness.’” If a person does not serve Hashem with happiness, does that warrant this stern rebuke? Not only did you not serve Hashem, but you were happier that you did not serve Him![23] Hashem does not want us to go through life with sadness. I have met people whose hearts were so broken and full of sadness I don’t know how they managed. There is no life in a world of sadness. There is no reason for someone to dwell in this pit of depression when all around is a joyous world.

“G-d chastises those He loves” (Proverbs 3:12). How can we explain why suffering is a sign of G-d’s love? Think about parenting. Why do we set limits and punish our children when they don’t obey the rules we have set for them? We love our children and want them to grow to be responsible, kind, generous adults. If they don’t learn when they are young, they won’t know the proper way to act when we are not longer standing over, coaching their every move. The same is true of Hashem. He gives us rules – the Torah and its mitzvos – to which we are expected to adhere. No one is totally free of sins; even the greatest tzaddik has a few sins for which he must do tshuva. In order for us to go on to olam habah – the world to come – free of spiritual blemishes, we must be cleansed of our sins in this world.

There are people who seemingly have no cares in the world. They go through life smiling, singing and spreading cheer to those around them. It’s often surprising to find that some of these people lead very difficult lives. Reb Zusia lived in poverty and constant pain. One day, a stranger passing through asked the village rabbi to explain how one could be expected to thank Hashem when bad things happen. The rabbi told the traveler to go ask Reb Zusia. The stranger found Reb Zusia living in a tiny hut with only the dirt on the ground for a floor. There was little furniture, no heat and scarcely any food to feed the large family. When the stranger asked his question, Reb Zusia replied ‘I don’t know why the rabbi thought I could help you. You see, I’ve never experienced anything bad in my entire life.’ The traveler left, understanding the rabbi’s lesson about being thankful for what we are given and achieving peace of mind.

The Vilna Gaon said that all of our actions are comparable to planting a seed. We plow and sow and the rest - the rain, dew, blight and rot, are up to Hashem. A person has to put forth the effort but should not be consumed with worry over the outcome, which is in Hashem’s hands. If a person spends his whole day in Torah study, he should be happy that he has done most of what Hashem asks of him. He should move forward each day, without worrying about yesterday’s results. At the same time, he must beg Hashem for success, but his desire for progress should not blind him to his slow daily growth. Fruits that are born after a long period of effort, and after having overcome many obstacles and trials, are much sweeter than the success, which might come in a moment.[24]

Almost everyone has good days and bad days. Our individual paths are full of curves and blind spots. When the road is flat and straight, you don’t have to search to find happiness, it is there. When a fog permeates, as on a bad day, you keep searching but your heart comes up with nothing. There are times when visibility drops so much, we think to ourselves, ‘How will I get through the next hour?’ We must have emunah - faith.

When everything goes well, we think it’s because we did something right and we forget to thank Hashem. If we are born into wealth, we think that everything comes our way because of our parents and we do not learn to be dependent on Hashem. Does a child who grows up with servants to cater to their every need learn to be self-sufficient? We must struggle to build strength of character, to draw closer to Hashem.

Rebbe Nachman says, “Life is a narrow bridge; the main thing is not to fear.” During difficult times, separate yourself from your current slump and focus on your good points. Think about the mitzvos you have done today or one you did in the past. View yourself in a positive light. Make a list of the chessed you have done for others. Remembering ones good points during emotionally trying times should be a common practice in a person’s avodas Hashem. Keep the mitzvos and halachos that day very simply without any unnecessary hanhaga (stringency) you have taken upon yourself. When you are in better spirits, you can add them back. By giving 100% on those days, bad days will rarely come.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that thinking about the precious gifts we are given, simply by being Jewish, bring us happiness. We have been given the gift of olam habah - the world to come and the opportunity to perform 613 mitzvos to draw us close to Hashem. Rebbe Nachman says that overcoming sadness is one of the hardest tasks given to man. The Seer of Lublin, in the name of the Arizal, said, “When a person is sunk in a depressive state, no advice can help him. He must simply wait until the anger passes.” “When the moment of happiness suddenly arrives, all of his problems will then be solved.”[25] We must place our thoughts in a world of happiness. Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev would always recite the birchas hashachar (morning prayers) aloud before the congregation. As he was leading the prayers one morning, he passed over the blessing sheloh asani goy, which praises Hashem ‘for not making me a gentile.’ After the prayers, a few congregants asked him the reason for this omission. “Upon awakening this morning,” The Rebbe replied, “I was overcome with intense joy at having been born a Jew. I could therefore not contain myself and I felt obliged to recite this blessing without any hesitation.”[26]

The Torah is a splendid light and brings joy to ones heart, yet we rarely recognize its value to our lives. Rarely does someone say, ‘I am depressed, I must learn more Torah.’ We may think that observing all the mitzvos is too difficult most of the time, but especially when we are depressed. If we recognize that all of our strength comes from Hashem, we will see that nothing He expects of us is beyond our ability. The Torah provides spiritual strength for those who seek it. If you normally exercise everyday, you know how energized you feel. If you miss even one day, it is difficult to complete your regular exercise routine the next day and may be tempted to skip another day. When you return to exercise after a few days away, you have to struggle to keep up with your normal pace. The same is true of Torah: If you ignore it for one day, it will ignore you longer. When adversity come our way, people frequently lament ‘Why me? I can’t take it anymore.’ Hashem knows exactly how much we ‘can take’ and never gives us more than we can handle. It’s often difficult to find something positive in troublesome situations, but we must remember that what we see as negative may turn out to be positive. We don’t know Hashem’s intentions, which is exactly how it is supposed to be when we are without the emes – truth - of the future times of Moshiach.

Sometimes, the only way to overcome depression can be through lightheartedness. If you look at the tzaddikim of our generation, you will see that many have a humorous, lighter side to them. To take on such an important role in Klal Yisrael and carry so many burdens on ones shoulders, one must be able to joke around a little bit. I once met a great scholar who translates some of the most difficult Torah passages into English. Before meeting him, I expected he would have a serious, harsh nature; instead I encountered a pleasant, down-to-earth man. Rabbeinu Bachya teaches “The pious person carries his pain within, while his face radiates joy.”

Everyone likes to give and receive gifts, but sometimes we worry that the gift we’ve chosen will not be the right size or color or to the liking of the recipient. Still, we know that simply receiving the gift will elevate the spirits of both the giver and receiver. There is a gift that anyone can give, regardless of their financial situation and the best news is that one size fits all. We can give the gift of a smile and a joyous greeting. It costs nothing to put on a happy face. Try this experiment when you are walking in a crowded area: Nod your head and smile to each person you see. Smiling and happiness are contagious: It keeps getting passed on to the next person and soon everyone will be smiling. There is bound to be at least one person who is having a bad day, but when they receive a smile, their troubles will be lifted, even for a moment. When enough people smile and greet that person, he won’t be able to keep his troubling thoughts and the collective unit of people will have helped to raise his spirits. If each of us practiced smiling, what a happy world it would be! Even if we fake our outward smile, it’s bound to have a positive impact on us. Rebbe Nachman says, “If you have to, force yourself to be happy and soon after it will become a reality for you.” Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski, the noted psychiatrist, says that smiling, even when one is alone, leads to a positive outlook toward life.

Every time a person thinks of something joyous, the satan counters it with sadness. The only thing the satan cannot degrade is the thought that we are Jews, not heathens. This is our greatest joy, which cannot be confounded by outside forces. The Jewish heart and soul are special. When one feels as if all hope is lost, the key to rising above these feelings is to reflect on how lucky you are to be a Jew. Being Jewish is so powerful, that one cannot lose their status as a Jew. A Jewish soul lives forever, in this world and the next. Our good deeds carry on for eternity and not a single good deed is lost. For this reason, we have a great responsibility to the world. Each and every one of us can make a difference just because of our Jewish neshama - soul. We have an obligation to find that special treasure within ourselves and share it with others. Our sages tell us that each of us is from a part of a limb of the original man, Adam Harishon.

The Midrash teaches us that Hashem gave Adam and Chava (Eve) a blessing, as they were about to leave the Garden of Eden. He said, “I give you the gift of forgetfulness.” Simcha spelled in Hebrew, means shin – she - maha - removed or eradicated - as in the verse, “And Hashem will wipe away tears from off all faces” (Isaiah 25:8).[27] What is the secret for attaining joy? If you recall every hurt ever done to you, you will never be able to smile. If we never forgive others for hurting us, we will always have enmity in our hearts. Even if we mend the relationship, if we have even a slight amount of animosity toward another person, we hurt ourselves as well. No one can be happy if they harbor resentments. Once we forgive, we must let go of the anger, even towards ourselves. Forgetting is easy, it happens whether or not we desire it. Forgiveness takes conscious effort but is vital to our happiness.

Tefilah Simcha

Master of the world, I am grateful for all with which you have blessed me. You sustain every creature from a human being to a tiny fly. Never, do you forget my family or me as You continually provide for all of our needs. With all that You give me, I may sometimes forget to be thankful and appreciative. Some of this stems from the sadness and depression into which I often slip. I know that there is no reason to be sad as you provide so well for me, but being human I am far from perfect. I cannot say I do not know how to be happy because truly I do. All I have to do is look at the family and friends I have. I think about what I lack rather than all that I have, which is more then I need.

We are taught that the greatest joy comes from performing mitzvos and the blessing of being a Jew. As easy as this should be, I seem to live without realizing how blessed I am. When I perform mitzvos, I do so without reflecting on their importance and meaning. Please help me remember and recognize all the good that surrounds me.

Lead me to a life with the utmost joy and harmony in my heart. One of the ways to attain joy is to dance and sing zemiros. Sometimes laziness overcomes me and I don’t want to exert myself. Other times I am embarrassed that my family or friends might see me dancing and make fun of me. This is not a valid excuse, as it will not only bring joy to me but others around me. Please aid me in dancing and singing with joy and may all my sadness turn to joy. Let the judgments of Klal Yisrael and myself be full of mercy and not strict din. So many sins weigh heavily upon my shoulders, please lighten the weight and help me to make a new beginning in my avodas Hashem.

Assist me please Hashem in my emunah and bitachon. I know that my lack of emunah is the reason for much of my sadness. Help me to increase my emunah to believe that my future and mazel is very bright ahead of me. It is in you, Hashem, that I trust: Hashem is my salvation. Please give me assistance that I should always put in all of my effort into my every day religious activities. Thank you Hashem for taking the time to hear my prayers and for looking past the mistakes I have made while overcome by depression.


[1] Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

[2] Mishlei 17:22

[3] Tehillim 55:23

[4] Consulting The Wise, Zelig Pliskin

[5] Bringing Heaven Down to Earth #120

[6] Ibid. #114

[7] Sefer Hamidos, Simcha #8

[8] Encyclopedia Judaica, Dance, vol 5, p.1267

[9] Tiferes Banim Avotam, p. 177

[10] Chronicles 16:10

[11] Sefer Chasidim 18

[12] Tzav v’Zairuz, #36

[13] Likutey Moharan 3

[14] Sefer Charedim, Chapt. 34

[15] Talmud Arachin 11a

[16] Likutey Aytzos, Neginah, #3

[17] Ibid, #11

[18] Likutey Yekarim 1b

[19] Ibid, 2b

[20] Sefer Hamidos, Simcha

[21] Likutey Etzos, Simcha #2

[22] Likutey Etzos, Simcha #9

[23] And Nothing but the truth p. 18

[24] In All Ways p. 38Your

[25] Zichron Zos

[26] From my Fathers Shabbos Table p.79

[27] The secrets of Hebrew Words

10 Mar 2010

The Mourner's Kaddish

Just heard an interesting edition of Heart and Soul about the Mourner's Kaddish which gave me a greater appreciation of why it is said and the significance of the words. Those of you who have a spare half hour can listen to the BBC programme by clicking on the link below. I venture to say that those who do listen will develop a greater awareness of the significance of the prayer. Perhaps, they might even stop to respond to the mourner's words, instead of talking or making preparations to hurriedly return home from shul.

Rabbi Akiva was strolling through a cemetery when he saw a naked man, black as charcoal, carrying much wood and hurrying like a horse.
"Stop!" the rabbi ordered him. And the man stopped.
"What is with you?" demanded Rabbi Akiva, "What is this harsh labor of yours? If you are a slave and your master is so harsh, then I will free you. And if you are poor, let me make you wealthy."
The man answered, "Please, rabbi, do not delay me! My supervisors may become very angered if I am late!"
Rabbi Akiva responded, "Who are you and what do you do?"
The man replied, "I am dead. Every day, they send me to chop wood upon which they burn me every night."
Rabbi Akiva asked, "And when you were in this world, what was your work?"
"I was a tax collector," the man answered. "I would favor the wealthy and persecute the poor."
"So," asked the rabbi, "have you heard anything from your supervisors about any way you could be redeemed from your punishment?"
"Yes," the man replied. "I heard from them, but it is something that could never happen. They said that if I had a son and if that son would stand among the congregation and say kaddish and the congregation would answer, "Amen! Y'hay shmai rabba m'vorach!"—then they could acquit me from my punishment."
Continue reading: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/514617/jewish/Rabbi-Akiva-and-the-Orphan.htm

9 Mar 2010

Six days shall work be done

by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple
This week’s sidra reminds us about Shabbat – but with a difference. In the Ten Commandments we are told, “Six days shall you work” (Ex. 20:9); in this sidra the phrase is “Six days shall work be done” (Ex. 35:2). One could say that the result is the same – Shabbat is a day without work. But the Torah does not use words carelessly. Every nuance has significance.
The passive phraseology (“six days shall work be done”) could suggest that work must not become a dominating obsession leaving no time for cultural or spiritual activity; work must not rule our lives to the exclusion of everything else. If we are able to find the right balance and keep work in its place, work thereby becomes a means and not an end.
Read full article: http://www.oztorah.com/2010/03/the-worker-the-work-vayakhel/

Zman and money

Picked up a new magazine entitled Zman. Intigued by the subjects of the articles, I decided to purchase the magazine and have been reading it cover to cover. The first item I came across was an adaptation of a Rabbi Paysach Krohn lecture about seven strategies for dealing with the financial crisis.
Strategy # 5 caught my eye as it discusses going on vacations and many people are in the midst of planning their Pesach vacations.
"My mother always used to tell me: Blessing comes when you keep a low profile.
The Gemara in Taanis (8b) teaches us as well: "Blessing comes only with things that are hidden from the eye."
If you have a great job and take vacations do not talk about them. ...If you merit having a livelihood, especially in these difficult days; do not talk about it. If something good happens in your life there is only one person you should call who is guaranteed to be happy for you: Your mother. No one else. Not your brother-in-law. Not your sister-in-law. No one!

8 Mar 2010

The internet - a source of communication or lack thereof

Three articles about the internet this morning. The first declares the access to the internet a human right. The second is a bizarre article about how a baby lost her life due to her parents preoccupation raising a child online. And the third is about the Haredi concerns of using the internet.

Almost four in five people around the world believe that access to the internet is a fundamental right, a poll for the BBC World Service suggests.
..."The right to communicate cannot be ignored," Dr Hamadoun Toure, secretary-general of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), told BBC News.
"The internet is the most powerful potential source of enlightenment ever created."


Police have arrested a South Korean couple whose toddler starved to death while they were raising a virtual child online, authorities said.
The couple fed their 3-month-old daughter once a day between marathon stretches in a local Internet cafe, where they were raising a virtual child in the fantasy role-playing game Prius Online, police told local reporters Friday.

Haredi concerns about the dangers of Internet would be shared by most parents if they had not thrown in the towel on guiding their children.
Read full article entitled Haredim declare war on the Internet by Jonathan Rosenblum.

What's the rush?

Sunday's news included stories about car crashes involving speeding motorists and those who lost control of their cars.
Let's resolve to be patient. We might get there later, but we will not be a menace to others on the road.

Police said that four people were killed Sunday in a car accident involving four vehicles in the Negev Junction. One of the cars caught fire and several of the victims were trapped inside the wrecked vehicles.
...According to an initial investigation, a military vehicle travelling north apparently attempted to overtake the vehicle in front of it and collided with a military truck and two cars that were heading south. The two cars caught fire as a result of the collision. Four scorched bodies were found in one of them.
...Five more people were killed in road accidents overnight Sunday. Two men were killed in south Tel Aviv after their vehicle hit a pole during a police car chase. The two, aged 28 and 26 were speeding as they ran from police.

Tom Cruise was slightly hurt Sunday when he crashed his motorcycle at a Los Angeles intersection while trying to avoid colliding with a car.
Cruise had to veer his red Ducati bike after an SUV ran a stop sign, causing the bike to spin out, according to a report in HollywoodLife.com.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/03/07/2010-03-07_tom_cruise_slightly_injured_after_crashing_motorcycle_as_he_tried_to_avoid_colli.html#ixzz0hYySCuVR

An out-of-control van slammed into five people today in a Brooklyn church parking lot, killing a woman, police said.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/van_crashes_into_klyn_crowd_killing_U7a66mhC3h5Tc1Z3sAhzcI#ixzz0hYyeMRUD

A 37-year-old Brooklyn woman was killed early today after being mowed down by a hit-and-run driver near her Dyker Heights home, police said.
Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn_woman_killed_in_hit_run_kDOIqxNXP5CHznXQDQALmK#ixzz0hYyqf25V

7 Mar 2010

In the merit of the righteous women

Had a busy Shabbos dividing my time between two aufrufs and a bris in two separate shuls. As I wished a mazal tov to a mother of the chasan, I apologized for coming late as I first stopped at the aufruf of one of my closest friends. The mother asked me if I was going back for the kiddush. When I responded in the affirmative she told me, "Please wish your friend a mazal tov from me."
I was flabbergasted. At the height of her simcha, she had the presence of mind to think of another and to extend a mazal tov to her.
Last Shabbos, I attended another aufruf and as I arrived late, I didn't find an empty seat. Suddenly, I heard my name being called. The mother of the chasan was gesturing to her table at the front. Someone had just vacated a seat and the woman told me to sit down at the front table opposite her. A few minutes later, I saw a look of worry on her face. I overheard her telling her daughter, "You see the woman over there? She is standing with a baby in her arms and she doesn't have a seat. Please go over to her and point out that seat in back of her."
Again, I was touched by how this woman could think of others during her simcha.
The two women are special people who do a lot more than I just described. They are following in the footsteps of Yocheved and Miriam, who sacrificed personal convenience to help others.
In the merit of righteous women, our fathers were redeemed from Egypt.
In the merit of the righteous women in our generation, may we see a redemption bimhera beyamenu amen.

In memory of George

Interesting article in the New York Times entitled Palestinian Sees Lesson Translating an Israeli’s Work.
Six years ago, when violence was the order of the day here, Elias Khoury’s 20-year-old son, George, was killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack. The Khourys are Palestinian, so the murder of George — who was out for a jog and shot from behind by gunmen in a car — produced an apology. Sorry, the killers said, we assumed the jogger was a Jew.
Read full article:

6 Mar 2010

Financial loss and charitable donations

This past week I attended a tehilim lecture where the rabbi related an anecdote about a person who had suffered a downturn during the financial crisis. Just before he had lost much of his money, he had made a significant contribution to a charitable organization. The head of the organization, hearing about the losses that the donor had incurred, went over to the man and offered to return the money that he had donated. The man refused, saying that before the crisis, he had thought that he was in a secure position, knowing that he had money in his bank account. Now that he had lost the money, he realized the only money that was truly his was the money that he had earmarked for charitable distribution. That money would stand him in good stead at the right time.

5 Mar 2010

Positive attributes

אדרבה, תן בלבנו שנראה כל אחד מעלת חברינו ולא חסרונם, ושנדבר כל אחד את חברו בדרך הישר והרצוי לפניך, ואל יעלה בליבנו שום שנאה מאחד על חברו, חלילה, ותחזק אותנו באהבה אליך, כאשר גלוי וידוע לפניך, שיהא הכול נחת רוח אליך... אמן כן יהי רצון.

God, rather, instill in our hearts the ability to see the positive attributes of our friends and not their faults. Let every person address his neighbor in a manner that is proper and desired by You. Let us not, God forbid, bear any hatred toward another individual. Strengthen us in our love towards You, as is apparent and known to You. God, let everything be pleasing before You. Amen, let it be Your will.

prayer by Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk

The levaya of the daughter of the Pshevorsk Rebbe was held last night in front of the Pshevorsk shul in Antwerp. Dayan Sternbuch asked the crowd to take upon themselves to focus on the positive attributes of our fellow brethren and not on their faults as a merit for the departed soul. It is particularly appropriate to follow the words of the prayer of Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk as his yarzheit is on the 21st of Adar, this coming Sunday.
May the Rav's words penetrate our souls. May we see the positive aspects of our friends and neighbors and rejoice in their simchas. May her illustrious family be comforted "betoch sha'ar aveilei Zion v'Yerushalayim."
Suri, your smile and special character illuminated those with whom you came into contact. May you be a meilitz yosher for us.

4 Mar 2010

Old age

Vayikra (19:32), “Before a saivah you should rise, and you shall honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your G-d; I am the L-rd.”

The other day I came across an article in the New York Times which discusses the positive aspects to aging. Nice to see an optimistic article in this era centered around the pursuit of eternal youth.
Click on the link below to read the article.


Just the facts

In the rush to be the first to post the news, facts become distorted or embellished. People in the know write comments that are untrue. Such was the case in the reporting of a special young woman who was niftar this afternoon. The reports included the fact that she was hit by a school bus carrying children. One of the sites even carries a picture of the police investigating the scene and one can clearly see that the bus involved was a city bus, not a school bus. Details of the levaya are offered with the time of the levaya scheduled to begin at 7:00 this evening. Actually, the levaya is at 10:00 tonight.
Then, there's a comment about the woman's age. Untrue.
A number of weeks ago, the news was spreading about a couple that got divorced. Untrue.
Let's be careful with our words and check the facts before we open our mouths. And, even if we are aware of the facts, perhaps we should just keep quiet.

The soul lives on

"The son of a founder of the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, Tuesday told CNN that he was a spy for Israel.
For 10 years, Mosab Yousef said he gathered information about Hamas terrorist plots and fed them to Israel's domestic security service Shin Bet.
Yousef, in an exclusive interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, said he did it because he came to believe that Hamas was practicing "exceptional cruelty" against its members and "killed people for no reason."
...Asked if he feels in danger because of what he's done, Yousef says he is not afraid. "Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a human being, physical death. The worst, spiritual and soul death. This is what really scares me."

Read full article: http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/03/02/hamas.spy/index.html

Yousef's discussion of the soul led me to an interesting video. Worthwhile watching, if only for the first few minutes.

3 Mar 2010

Barred for refusal

I was shocked to read that "Two women, one a Muslim, have become the first people to be barred from boarding a flight because they refused to go through a full-body airport scanner.
Manchester airport confirmed today that the women, who were booked to fly to Islamabad with Pakistan International Airlines, were told they could not get on the plane after they refused to be scanned for medical and religious reasons."
I had assumed that one could either be scanned or opt for a physical search But, apparently, "While American transport authorities offer passengers a choice between going through the full-body scanner or going through a metal-arch scanner and a physical search, the British government has said that a refusal to go through the body scanner would bar passengers from boarding aircraft."
Read full article:

Now that scanners are a part of everyday life, what do the rabbis have to say about the new technology? If you have discussed this with your rabbi, I would love to hear from you.

What's good for the goose

Supreme Court President Justice Dorit Beinisch called to protect Israel's judges in a speech given Monday in memory of slain judge Adi Azar. Threats against judges are a threat to Israeli democracy, she said.
Beinisch called violence against judges “criminal terrorism,” adding, “The relevant authorities should show as much determination in their war on this kind of terrorism as they do when fighting other kinds of terrorism.”
More Israel News: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/136268

Terrorists shot several bursts of automatic gunfire at an IDF position near the community of Beit Horon Tuesday evening. The position is adjacent to Highway 443, and initial reports say that the terrorists had been driving on that road. No one was reported hurt.
In December, a High Court panel ruled that Highway 443 - which connects the city of Modiin with the capital city of Jerusalem - would be opened to Arab traffic from the Palestinian Authority....
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch, who headed the panel, noted in her decision that “despite the understanding for the security needs, the use of security means such as these, which create absolute separation between different populations in the use of roads and prevent an entire population from using the road, give rise to a feeling of inequality and even an association of unacceptable motives.”

We've got to be strong against terrorism - against judges. For the regular people, security needs must be tempered with empathy to the other side.

1 Mar 2010

In our hands

This past week Hamodia quoted Harav Yisrael Hager, who asked why we lein the parsha of Amalek in Ki Teitzei on Shabbat Zachor and on Purim we lein the parashah of Amalek from Beshalach, even though the order is first Beshalach and later Ki Teitzei.
"The answer," said Rav Hager, "is that we first lein 'timcheh es zecher Amalek,' and only later can we lein, 'ki macho emcheh es zecher Amalek, that Hasehem will obliterate Amalek.' We must first do what is in our hands to do, and then we can ask for help from Hashem.

For those of you celebrating in Jerusalem, wishing you a freilichin Purim.