"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 May 2010

And they spread an evil report

Bamidbar 13:
30 And Caleb stilled the people toward Moses, and said: 'We should go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.'
31 But the men that went up with him said: 'We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.'
32 And they spread an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying: 'The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature.
33 And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.'

Kudos to Lt. Col. (Res.) David Benjamin, Advocate, Israel Defense Forces, and International Law Consultant, for his literate presentation and clear explanations on BBC Have your say in defending Israeli conduct regarding the boarding of an aid ship early this morning. He is truly a Joshua or a Caleb of our times.
It is interesting that the Parshat Hashavua this week details the sins of the ten spies in producing a bad report about the Land of Israel. Today, the spies are not the ones denigrating Israel, but rather, the international community.
(Incidentally, BBC has reported that at least 12 people died in a Pakistani hospital when gunmen opened fire a short while ago. Some of the patients were being treated there after Friday's attack at a mosque. Will Foreign Secretary William Hague deplore the loss of life of those patients? Will the attack be called a massacre?)
Israel's public relations can well be improved with articulate speakers such as Mr. Benjamen. But, ultimately, we would do well to listen to Moshe Rabbeinu.
Bamidbar 14:41 And Moses said: 'Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD, seeing it shall not prosper?

This evening the headlines read, "President Barack Obama's Memorial Day observance was stepped in its tracks on Monday by a torrential downpour accompanied by bolts of lightning and booming thunder."

Human beings, no matter what powerful position they occupy, can have their plans disrupted through nature and the like. It is better to place our faith in Hashem and heed His words.

The bar mitzva celebration

The JPost has reported that following the bar mitzva ceremony of Rahm Emanuel's son near the Western Wall, "the busload of guests went to Alyn Hospital for physically disabled children and youths, in the capital’s Kiryat Hayovel neighborhood, to meet patients and bring them gifts."

A number of years ago, when a relative celebrated his son's bar mitzvah in Israel, he arranged for the family to donate time at a food distribution center. We were given a tour of the premises, followed by everyone rolling up their sleeves and making hundreds of tuna sandwiches. Additionally, his father-in-law presented the organization with a sizable check.

A friend of mine, who comes from a very wealthy family, celebrated her daughter's bat mitzva by having the girls assemble packages at her mother's home. Afterwards, they walked the few blocks to an old age home and distributed their packages and spread good cheer among the elderly residents.

In an age when bar and bat mitzva celebrations are lavish and spending has exceeded the boundaries of good taste, let us focus on the mitzvah and impart a truly special lesson to the next generation.

30 May 2010

Remember Khaybar

"Witnesses reported Sunday morning that they had heard hate chants from those on board a flotilla of ships heading from Cyprus to Gaza. The ships bear hundreds of foreign activists who plan to challenge Israel's control of the sea off Gaza's coast.
The chants, which were recorded, included, “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud, jaish Mohammed saya'ud.” The cry means, “Jews, remember Khaybar, the army of Mohammed is returning.” The reference is to the seventh century, when Mohammed, revered by Muslims as a prophet, led an army that slaughtered Jews in the town of Khaybar in what is now Saudi Arabia."
More Israeli news: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/137777

Click here to watch a Hamas cleric state that "the annihilation of the Jews here is Palestine is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine."

Torah Scrolls stolen

Congregants of the Beth Hamidrash Hagadol at Oostenstraat in Antwerp, Belgium were in for a rude shock when they gathered for Saturday morning prayers. Upon arrival, they were dismayed to find that the Ark had been broken into and at least five Torah Scrolls had been stolen. A number of people burst into tears upon the discovery.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time that a theft had occurred in the same shul.
Let's hope that the Scrolls are recovered quickly and that extra security will now be installed to prevent a recurrence.

29 May 2010

A salute to the doers

The Reader's Digest recently published an article about Regan Payne who vowed to complete 50 charity activites in one year after her grandfather passed away. Her blog, thegoodmuse.com chronicles her activities.
I was impressed by her take action approach.
A few weeks ago I read about the IDF’s civilian administration issuing a demolition order against the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva at Yitzhar. I was disturbed that a yeshiva would be razed and wished I could do something about it.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner also read about the demolition order and began an investigation. He has written a letter stating that "we must put pressure upon Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to forcefully and publically rescind this order. We cannot sit back and allow a yeshiva, a beautiful building of Torah and tefillah, to be destroyed."
Those who wish to view his letter can click here.
Rabbi Pesach Lerner and Regan Payne are individuals who accomplish, who don't sit back and let life pass them by. I salute them and wish I could emulate them.

I have been complaining for months about the loud music played at weddings. I would love to get involved in trying to get people to lower the volume. I have been told that the young people like it that way. So what? The older people don't enjoy it, besides the fact that loud music contributes to hearing loss. Why do the eldely have to cater to the young? Olam Hafuch - an upside-down world.

Hopefully, reading about individuals who accomplish small and great feats might inspire me to stop complaining and start acting.

28 May 2010

Who will feed us meat?

Bamidbar 11
4. But the multitude among them began to have strong cravings. Then even the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, "Who will feed us meat?
5. We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.
6. But now, our bodies are dried out, for there is nothing at all; we have nothing but manna to look at."
In verse 11:4 the marginal element among the Jews "lusted a lust" and began to complain. Rabbi Meir Simcha of Dvinsk in his classic text, Meshech Chochmah (3) asks what does it mean to "lust a lust"? Before we answer this let us look at verse 11:5. Here the Israelites go on to complain that they remember the free fish they enjoyed in Egypt. Yet as Rashi points out, nothing in Egypt was free. So what did the Jews mean? Rashi states that they really meant they wanted to be free from mitzvot. Rabbi Meir Simcha explains that since fish needs no special laws to eat it, such as shechitah, it was unencumbered, "free" food. So their lust for meat was a desire to eat meat like they used to eat fish - easily, with no mitzvah or spiritual element.

Agriculture Minister David Carter has rejected a recommendation from advisers that Jewish ritual slaughter of livestock be exempted from animal welfare rules to allow killing animals without preliminary stunning.
Animal welfare advisers had called for the ritual shechita slaughter to be allowed under the Bill of Rights - which provides for freedom of religious practice - but Mr Carter has issued the new code of welfare with a requirement that all animals commercially slaughtered first be stunned.
Read more: http://www.odt.co.nz/news/politics/108181/minister-denies-nz-jews-a-kosher-kill

This morning when I read the article titled Minister denies NZ Jews a kosher kill, I immediately thought about the passage in this week's Torah portion about the Israelites complaining about the lack of meat. It struck me as amazing that the day before we read Parshat Behaalotcha in the synagogue which contains the passage about the lack of meat, a newspaper article reports that obtaining kosher meat will be harder. It seemed like G-d was sending a message. You complained about who will feed you meat in the desert when there was no need to as you were being sustained by the manna. - Now, thousands of years later, you do have reason to complain.
We frequently ask why a wicked person goes unpunished. We might not see the end result but there is reward and punishment, even of it comes about generations later.

Discarding the undesirable

This week I purchased a strainer to place over the drain in the kitchen sink. Coincidentally, the following day I received a daily halacha email from Rabbi Eli Mansour with the subject line of Pouring Into a Sink With a Strainer on Shabbat. The Rabbi wrote that "often, a liquid with large pieces is poured into the sink, and the insert catches the large pieces while allowing the liquid to fall down the drain. The question arises as to whether one may pour liquids into a sink that has such a contraption on Shabbat. The Shabbat prohibition of Borer forbids separating mixed items. When one pours a liquid with solid pieces into a sink, he in effect separates the liquid from the solid pieces, as the strainer catches the large pieces and removes them from the liquid. Seemingly, then, pouring into a sink on Shabbat would violate the prohibition of Borer."
The rabbi answered that, "in truth, however, it is permissible to pour liquid into a sink with a strainer on Shabbat, even if the liquid has solid pieces that will be separated from the liquid. One of the conditions for violating the prohibition of Borer is that one separates "Pesolet" - something which he deems undesirable - from "Ochel" - something which he desires. When a person pours something down the drain, his intention is to discard all of it - liquid and solid alike. Although he indeed separates the solid pieces from the liquid, he is not separating something he doesn't like from something he likes; he doesn't like either substance. Therefore, it is permissible to pour liquid containing solid pieces into a sink with a strainer on Shabbat, and doing so does not transgress the prohibition of Borer. This is the ruling of the work Shemirat Shabbat Ke'hilchata, and also appears to be the position of the Mishna Berura."

I can't pitch

U.S. President Barack Obama launched Jewish Heritage Month on Thursday as he hosted some 200 guests at the White House to honor the contribution of Jewish Americans. In his address, Obama said that Jewish people's belief that a better future is always possible should be a lesson for all Americans.
...Among those in attendance were former baseball great Sandy Koufax. Obama joked that while Koufax said he could not pitch on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, the president himself simply could not pitch - a reference to his rocky appearances on the mound when he has been asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at baseball games.

Read more: http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/obama-jews-outlook-on-the-future-should-be-a-lesson-to-all-americans-1.292662

27 May 2010

Taking responsibility

Yahoo reported about a woman who fell asleep on a plane who is suing the airline for emotional distress.

Ginger McGuire was aboard a United Express flight from Washington, DC to Philadelphia. She says she fell asleep during the flight. It landed shortly after midnight Tuesday but no one woke her up until a cleaning crew found her four hours later.
...McGuire has hired Geoffrey Fieger who is filing a lawsuit for false imprisonment, emotional distress and negligence.


Responsibility quotes
Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one's neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. ~Ambrose Bierce

When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself. ~Louis Nizer

Husbands and wives

A henpecked husband was severely depressed and was advised by a friend to take an assertive training course. After following the class, he returned home and told his wife, "From now on when I come home, I expect you to lay out my slippers. Then, I expect you to have a four course meal prepared for me. And when I am finished with my meal, do you know who is going to draw the water and wash me?"
"I certainly do," said his wife calmly, "the Chevra Kadisha."

I read an interesting post by Rabbi Lazer Brody titled Two sides, one coin.
He begins with the following words.
"A coin has two distinct sides, yet it’s one coin. Each side might look completely different, yet it’s still one coin. In essence, a husband and wife are two sides of the same coin."
One point that the Rabbi makes is that "We therefore see that a wife’s deficiencies are an exact reflection of our shortcomings. If we want our wives to be better in a given area, we first have to better ourselves. Comments and criticism won’t make a better wife – they’ll only destroy a marriage."
In an age when I hear about one divorce after another, let's resolve to work harder on achieving marital harmony.

26 May 2010

Turning an enemy into a friend

The following thoughts are excerpts from an article titled The humanity of our enemies.

Usually on a holiday we chant the full Hallel, Psalms giving thanks to God for His kindness to us. Not so the last six days of Pesach. We shorten Hallel, recognizing that we may have escaped from Egypt, but they had to suffer ten plagues, they drowned in the sea. For the second of the four cups of wine on Passover, we remove a drop for each plague, diminishing our joy just a bit. And who can forget the famous passage in Megillot, when the Israelites crossed the sea and the angels on high began singing God's praises. God rebuked them, "My children are drowning, how can you sing praises."
...How should we relate to our enemy? Judaism is clear. "Who is strong?" Avot de Rabbi Natan teaches, "Whoever turns an enemy into a friend." The Talmud tells the story of Rabbi Meir and his wife Beruriah. Meir had a vicious enemy that used to stalk him as he walked to the Beit HaMidrash. Once he stood praying for his enemy's demise. His wife stopped him, "Don't pray for his death, pray that he change his ways."


Robert Avrech has blogged about a clip shown on Egyptian TV in which a Muslim cleric "instructs that if you want to learn how to hate Jews, just study the Koran. It's the authoratative text."
He writes, "And make no mistake about it, the hatred of Jews has nothing to do with so-called occupation or so-called settlements, just as the Arab-Israeli conflict has nothing to do with national boundaries.
Mr. Avrech concludes that "the so-called peace process is and will remain a dangerous delusion until the Arab Muslim world frees itself from the malignancy of Jew-hatred."
To watch the video, click here.

22 May 2010

Have some patience

The other week an elderly relative was driving through a neighborhood with which she was unfamiliar. She drove slowly, stopping to follow the instructions someone had written down for her. A young man who was driving behind her lost patience and passed her car, giving her the finger as he drove by.
What unmitigated gall.
We are losing any sense of decency these days as we have no patience for anyone who impedes our getting to our destination two seconds earlier. Let's be a bit more mindful of elderly drivers and let us regain some common courtesy when we drive.
If we have to wait for an old lady with a walker to cross the street, let's take a moment to be grateful and thank Hashem that we don't need to use walkers. And SMILE - you never know who is watching. You may even be on Candid Camera.

21 May 2010

A short vort

Glenn Beck's advice

The video below is one part of a speech delivered by Glenn Beck at Liberty University. At the 3 minute 30 mark, he says, "Turn to G-d and live. I think of the advice that I could possibly give to you and first among them is turn to G-d and live."

20 May 2010

False advertising

Last year, the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a report concluding that test prep courses have minimal impact in improving SAT scores - about 10-20 points on average in mathematics and 5-10 points in critical reading. The NACAC report noted that this evidence is "contrary to the claims made by many test preparation providers of large increases of 100 points or more on the SAT."
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100518/ap_on_bi_co_ne/us_fea_parenting_sat_scores_3

18 May 2010

Judea and Samaria

Shavuot (Festival of the First Fruits) was originally an agricultural festival - "You shall observe the festival of the harvest, the first fruits of your labors, which you will sow in the field…" (Shemot [Exodus] 23:16). The Mishnah (Bikurim, C.3) gives a detailed account of the procession of people bearing their first fruits to the Temple: "The inhabitants of the district assembled in a city of the district and spent the night in the town square. Early in the morning, their leader said: 'Let us rise and go up to Zion, to the house of the Lord our God.' (Mishnah Bikurim 3:2.) Those who lived near Jerusalem brought fresh figs and grapes, and those who lived far away brought dried figs and raisins. . . . The sounds of the flute announced the pilgrims’ coming until they neared Jerusalem, when they sent messengers ahead and arranged their first fruits for presentation. . . . (Mishnah Bikurim 3:3).

A song I learned as a child about Chag Shavuot was called Saleinu al k'tefeinu, (Baskets on our shoulders).
It describes how our ancestors proceeded to Jerusalem, bearing fruits.
Miy'hudah (u)mishomron
min ha'emek vehagalil.
They came from Judea and Samaria, from the valley and from the Galil.
Why is Israel being asked to give up land which is connected to our ancestors?

This afternoon I read about a concert scheduled for Sunday which is "dedicated to a united Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to Israel standing up to Iran."
The 17th annual Israel Day Concert in New York City is quickly approaching, and organizer, Dr. Joseph Frager, whose indefatigable efforts for the Jewish people include helping found Arutz Sheva, expects a record 20,000 people to attend. The event will take place Sunday, May 23, in Central Park. Admission is free.
The concert aims to bring together supporters of a united Israel and attracts at least 10,000 every year.


Two amazing stories

Yesterday I came across two amazing stories. One regarded an incident which was related in the book Holy Woman. The book was writen by Sara Yocheved Rigler and describes the greatness of Rebbetzin Chaya Sara Kramer.
Matzav.com posted a story regarding Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Kramer, the Rebbetzin's husband. It is worthwhile reading, as is the book.
To read article, click on the link below.

The second story was related by Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein in a lecture called Do I Need It or Do I want It. Rabbi Wallerstein describes an encounter with Rav Shteinman and how he learned about the distinction between want and need when he requested a blessing from the Rav.
To listen to the story, click here. The lecture is about 45 minutes. Even if you don't have time to listen to all of it, I recommend listening to the first six minutes to hear the story.

17 May 2010

And may I add one other thought?

Here's an addition to a previous post about Facebook.

A group of dissatisfied Facebook users have teamed up in an effort to organize a mass, coordinated exodus from Facebook--and they're using social networks to do it.
Their site, QuitFacebookDay.com, asks users to "commit to quit" Facebook on May 31 by signing their name or Twitter handle to the list of pledges.


And an addition to the post about the J Call petition.

There is a war being waged on the Internet over a petition sent around the world wide web and to the European Parliament by a group of French intellectuals. Entitled "A Call for Sanity", it called on Israel to freeze “settlements.”
...In response, Nirenstein exhorted followers to sign
a counter petition that asked people to “Stand for Israel, Stand for Reason.”
Read more: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/137557

Never been happier

A music teacher, Frano Selak, who was dubbed the world's luckiest man after cheating death seven times before winning the lottery has now decided to give away his fortune.
The 81 year-old won £600,000 five years ago in the lottery in Croatia, to celebrate his fifth marriage, after earlier surviving plane and train crashes.
..Now the pensioner has decided that "money cannot buy happiness" and has decided to live a frugal life.
..Mr Selak said he has never been happier.

Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7721985/Frano-Selak-worlds-luckiest-man-gives-away-his-lottery-fortune.html

16 May 2010

Two crises

A kosher meal crisis
"At least two charities that deliver daily meals to homebound seniors say they no longer have enough money to pay for the more expensive kosher food.
In order to cut costs, the groups -- which are contracted by the city -- may soon stop delivering kosher lunches and dinners to some clients, and are trying to determine who's Orthodox and who isn't in an attempt to implement cutbacks."

An oil crisis
To misquote Shakespeare in Macbeth, "Double, double oil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble."
As BP attempts to seal the oil spill, The New York TImes is reporting that, "Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots."

We know what's best

For the past week I had meant to write about my feelings towards the J Call movement launched in Europe which urges the European Union to press Israel to end the occupation and sign a peace treaty with the Palestinians, but it seems that Hamodia beat me to it.
The petition that was signed by leading European intellectuals included the following statements.
We are citizens of European countries, Jews, and involved in the political and social life of our respective countries.
Israel faces existential threats. Far from underestimating the threats from its external enemies, we know that the danger also lies in the occupation and the continuing pursuit of settlements in the West Bank and in the Arab districts of East Jerusalem.

Hamodia published an article regarding the proximity talks and the petition.
"What's extraordinary about the statements is its arogance: We know that the 'occupation... poses no less of a threat.' And this certain knowledge must take precedence over the contrary views of Jews who live in Israel, who serve in the army, who stand to pay the heaviest price if a peace agreement unravels on unfavorable terms for Israel, and who went to the polls and chose a government that promised not to give the Palesinians a state of their own."

The Globe also wrote an article about the petition which stated, "The president of France's leading Jewish association, CRIF, declined to sign, saying he objected to its tone and some of its language.
'Do Israelis need the Jewish Diaspora to know what is ‘the right' decision, what should be the borders of a country that their sons and daughters are protecting?' Richard Prasquier wrote in Le Figaro."

My feelings? If you live in the diaspora, it is chutzpah to exert pressure on Israel to make any decision. If, on the other hand, you choose to live in Israel, you and your children serve in the army and live within range of the rockets that might fall because of a hasty decision, then go ahead and speak to your elected minister serving in the Israeli Cabinet, about your concerns.

15 May 2010

Facebook in the news

Various articles about Facebook have been making the news recently.

'How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?' Query Soars In Popularity
Facebook's latest round of changes has triggered a backlash from users, many of whom fear the site is now sharing too much of their personal information with too many.
In response, many are taking to Google to figure out how to permanently delete their Facebook accounts.
And another.

7 Things to Stop Doing Now on Facebook

And another.
A 21-year-old man died after an accident at a huge alcohol-drenched party organised on Facebook..

And another article asks readers to sign a petition.
We, the undersigned, call upon Facebook to remove any pages that promote hate against Israel and the Jewish people.

14 May 2010

Every individual counts

This morning I listened to a short devar Torah about this week's Parsha. Since the parsha relates how the children of Israel were counted in the desert, the rabbi began with a short anecdote about the importance of every individual. He spoke about a small town that had exactly a minyan for prayer. Week after week, precisely ten men would show up to shul. One day, someone moved into town and the people were quite excited that they would finally daven with more than just a regular minyan. When Shabbos morning arrived, they walked into shul to find only three people had shown up.
The rabbi concluded, "Apparently, everyone said, what difference does it make anyway if I'm not needed."
And here's another thought about the importance of each and every person.

Certification of live birth

On April 21, the New York Times published an article about the state House of Arizona passing a bill which would require President Obama to show his birth certificate if he intends to seek re-election. The journalist wrote that "A scanned image of his birth certificate released in 2008 says he was..."

On May 13, the New York Times published an article in which the following was stated.
"So when questions about Mr. Obama’s birth first surfaced during the 2008 presidential election, his campaign posted a copy of his “certification of live birth” on a Web site.

A question was posed on wiki.answers.com about whether a certification of live birth is the same as a birth certificate in Hawaii.

"The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands accepts both Certificates of Live Birth (original birth certificate) and Certifications of Live Birth because they are official government records documenting an individual's birth. The Certificate of Live Birth generally has more information which is useful for genealogical purposes as compared to the Certification of Live Birth which is a computer-generated printout that provides specific details of a person's birth. Although original birth certificates (Certificates of Live Birth) are preferred for their greater detail, the State Department of Health (DOH) no longer issues Certificates of Live Birth."

Although I don't believe that President Obama was born outside the United States, I am curious why he hasn't produced his original birth certificate, thus providing greater details about the man who was elected to the presidency.

13 May 2010

Yes or no?

I came across the following article a few minutes ago. To read full article, click on the link below.

This YouTube clip from the attorney general's testimony today will be the most painful two minutes of video you will ever watch. Mr. Holder would obviously rather get a root-canal than utter the words "radical Islam"...
How can you ever hope to stop something when you refuse even to speak its name?


Towards a mutual goal

It was only after a year in the Midbar, that the Bnei Yisroel were counted in order to be set up under the Degalim, where each Shevet was given their own flag. Why did Hashem wait so long to give them this mitzva?
Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky (Emes L'Yaakov) says that in principal creating the Degalim was a dangerous move. By dividing up a group of people with each one having their own banner and motto, competition could evolve with feelings of nationalism. However if all of the groups have the same goal and each contribute to the cause in their own unique way this danger doesn't exist. The eyes don't compete with the ears since their roles are different. This way various factions can work together towards their mutual goal.
The Mishkan was only put up in Nissan of the second year. Hashem wanted to wait for the Degalim until the Avodas HaMishkan become the focal point of life in the Midbar. Only then was it safe to give a clear identity to each Shevet. That is why the pasuk says (Bamidbar 2:2), "Ish Al Diglo B'Osos L'Bais Avosam... Saviv L'Ohel Moed Yachanu", only when their lives revolved around the Mishkan did Hashem divide them up and give them each their own specific mission.

Family values

"At the Family Conference which took place Monday in Elkana, in western Samaria, a research report concluded that among the three groups in a young boy or girl's life –family, educators and friends – the family has the most influence on the child's level of religious observance. "

The death of LPGA golfer Erica Blasberg was announced a few days ago. When I googled her name, I came up with an official website. A number of questions were asked by her fans and her responses were posted on the site.
In answer to a question of whether she was Jewish, Erika responded by saying that she was a mix of Christian, Catholic and Jewish. She wrote that she respected the teachings of all three but didn't practice any.
(Her website is currently offline and the following message appears.
"Out of respect for the Blasberg family and due to the overwhelming inquiries relating to Erica's untimely and tragic death, EricaBlasberg.com is currently offline until further notice.")

Her response got me thinking about intermarriage. Which messages aboout their parents' religions do the children of an intermarried couple receive? Which religion is the right one to practice, or should none be observed?

Condolences to the young woman's family. A bright star has been extinguished.

12 May 2010

May our prayers be answered for the good

Shirat Devorah has a post about a prayer on behalf of children which is recited on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan (Thursday, May 13).
Additionally, I received an email from Tzidkat Rashbi about sending a kvitel (a small note with a request) which will be recited in Tiberius at the Tomb of the Shela Hakadosh on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan. Click here to send a kvitel.
Dreaming of Moshiach asks, "Do you want us to pray for you in the grave of Rabbi Yonatan Ben Uziel in Amuka for a decent match? If yes, please email nava998@yahoo.com and b'h and b'n I'll pray for you at the Tzaddik's Tzion tomorrow, erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan."
May all our prayers be answered for the good.

Exits and entrances

Al tivtechu binedivim, biven adam she'ein lo teshuah - trust not in princes, in men that have no salvation.
Psalms 146:3

Last night I watched as Gordon Brown made his way to the palace of Queen Elizabeth to tender his resignation. After a fifteen minute audience, he was filmed leaving the Queen's residence. The journalists reported that he walked in as a Prime Minister and left as an ordinary citizen. A few minutes later, they were reporting, "He's stuck in traffic. He's stuck in traffic." On the way to the Queen's palace, Gordon Brown was a Prime Minister and, as such, traffic was cleared for him. But, upon leaving, he was treated as an ordinary citizen and the amenities once afforded to him ceased in an abrupt fashion.
I couldn't find a video on YouTube of the journalists' description of Gordon Brown reverting back to an average citizen. But, it should be watched by all, from dictator to President, from elected officials to leaders of terrorist organizations. It is a stark reminder that,
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;"

Pharohs come and go. Those in whom we put our trust cease to be.

A few months ago, I posted a rendition of the prayer of Adon Olam.
In the beginning of the video, the musician explains the name of the Almighty.
"It is written with four letters. This is called the Tetragrammaton. The four letters spell all possible combinations of the verb to be and can be translated as ‘the One who was, is, and will be.'” .

Let's put our trust in Hashem, "the One who was, is and will always be."

Correction Lag b'Omer

When Trymaine Lee wrote an article for the New York Times a few days ago about the return of five Torah scrolls that were stolen from a Brooklyn synagogue, little did he know that his spelling of a Jewish holiday would be corrected.

In a column called After Deadline, Philip Corbett detected the following spelling error in Mr. Lee's article.
Issac Abraham, a well-known figure among Brooklyn’s Hasidim, said that much of the synagogue’s congregation, including its rabbi, was in Israel preparing for the holiday of Lag Baomer when the theft occurred.
“Issac” appears to be a typo. But for the name of the holiday, our preferred dictionary (Webster’s New World, 4th Edition) and several others render it “Lag b’Omer.”

Mr. Corbett, please don't check out my blog until I purchase your preferred dictionary. But in the meantime, is the upcoming holiday Shavuos or Shavuot?

11 May 2010

What happened to the cross?

On April 28th, the Supreme Court handed down a decision regarding a cross in the Mojave Desert.
"By a 5-4 vote, the court refused to order the removal of a congressionally endorsed war memorial cross from its longtime home atop a remote rocky outcropping in California's Mohave Desert."
Read more: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36824827

At the end of the video below, a journalist reporting about the case remarks that "the cross itself is sure to stay." Apparently, the journalist was not omniscient as it is being reported that the "Seven-foot-tall cross in California's Mojave Desert that sparked U.S. Supreme Court dispute has been stolen." - AP

Face to face happiness

Nothing makes us happier than our families and loved ones, a new study shows, with face-to-face socializing beating reaching out to people online hands down.
..."Despite our celebrity driven culture, fame is not likely in itself to be a primary source of happiness. Instead, real happiness depends on our connecting with people, especially through love and kindness," the study said.

In an age where hookups, breakups, and makeups are increasingly initiated via text or online, the social dynamic of face-to-face interactions has changed drastically and in some cases disappeared entirely.
...One friend, a junior who’s on the shy side, told me she relies heavily on her electronic escape hatch. “I’ll walk by someone, I’ll have my iPod in, even if it’s not on, and they’ll think I didn’t say hi because I was distracted. So it gives me an excuse.’’
..But the tragic, isolating thing is that we reach for our devices because we don’t want to seem lonely — which is causing us to avoid our peers and actually be lonely.

So, next time we pass someone on the street and we are busy talking on our cellphones, find a few seconds to connect with someone. Reach out and say "hello."

9 May 2010

The sunshine after the storm

by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple
The Book we open this Shabbat is Numbers in English, “B’midbar” in Hebrew. The Hebrew title means “In the Wilderness”. Jewish and human history have always oscillated between Wilderness and Promised Land. Sometimes the dichotomy is between Diaspora and Israel – the one symbolising ambiguity, the other identity. Sometimes it is between Sturm und Drang and the sunshine after the storm. Sometimes the pendulum wings between persecution – even in one’s own land – and freedom. There is both tragedy and triumph in the dichotomy. The tragedy is when someone gets so used to the wilderness that they come to terms with it and no longer yearn to break free. The triumph is to continue to believe even when it is hard. A now famous inscription found on the wall of a cellar in Cologne where Jews hid from the Nazis reads:
I believe in the sun even when it is not shining.
I believe in love even when not feeling it.
I believe in God even when He is silent.


The Jewish question - two book reviews

Today's New York Times features a book review written by Harold Bloom about A History of Anti-Semitism in England by Anthony Julius.
He begins his review by thanking his father for having the good sense to migrate to New York City, after moving from Odessa to London.
He concludes his review with the following paragraphs.
"To protest the policies of the Israeli government actually can be regarded as true philo-Semitism, but to disallow the existence of the Jewish state is another matter. Of the nearly 200 recognized nation-states in the world today, something like at least half are more reprehensible than even the worst aspects of Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. A curious blindness informs the shifting standards of current English anti-Zionism.
I admire Julius for the level tone with which he discusses this sanctimonious intelligentsia, who really will not rest until Israel is destroyed."

A second review discusses a book by Emmanuel Faye in which he discusses Martin Heidegger’s Nazi affiliations. Click on the link below to read the review.

This site rests on Shabbos

Click on image to enlarge.

Last Shabbos, a friend of mine mentioned a book that she had just finished reading. Wanting to know more details, I searched for it on the web after Sabbath was over. I thought it might be a book published by ArtScroll. When I clicked on the ArtScroll website, the above image appeared.
Since I live in Europe, Sabbath had ended earlier for me than for those living in America.
In contrast, a non Orthodox rabbi in America published a comment on his blog before Sabbath had ended in America. I left a comment, asking whether he was out of the United States at the time he published the comment. He rejected my comment. It shouldn't bother me what he does in his spare time, but, when he calls himself a leader of a congregation, wouldn't it be nice if he set an example and took a day of rest from his computer?

8 May 2010

Courageous parents

An emotional article in the Washington Post chronicles a young couple dealing with the death of their young daughter. Emily Mandell died a few weeks after a brain tumor was discovered.
Her parents transformed their grief to raise money to fight brain tumors.
The article ends with the following words.
"If you can, go to the walks or donate money. But Katie and Brian will be thrilled if hearing Emily's story makes you hug your kid a little tighter, call your mom, chill out on the mess the boys made in the back yard or forgive the fact that brunch was a catastrophe.
It's the eternal reminder of how ephemeral being a parent can be, and how amazing those moments, months or years are

A coupke of days ago I received a link to a blog established in the memory of Nosson Deitsch, who suffered a tragic accident on Lag Baomer.
The site states, "We have established a fund to perpetuate the memory of Nosson."

Let's take a moment this morning to thank Hashem for our children. My heart goes out to the parents of those who lost young ones. Their courage to live and transform their grief into a worthy cause is incredible.

7 May 2010

Unfounded rumors

Citigroup Inc (C - News) said there was no basis for rumors that it was responsible for a massive trading error that caused the markets to plunge on Thursday.
"Based on our review, rumors about a trading error by Citi are unfounded. It is troubling that inaccurate and unfounded rumors were spread as far as they were,"..

Reading the above about Citigroup is a reminder to one and all to be careful what we say and what we publish because the damage can be incalculable.
Wishing you a Shabbos free from rumors and gossip, I will leave you with a devar Torah from Revach.net.

Parshas Behar starts with the mitzva of Shmita, but instead of the usual introduction Vayidaber Hashem El Moshe it adds "Behar Sinai". Hashem told Moshe on Har Sinai. Rashi asks the famous question of "Mah Inyan Shmita Eitzel Har Sinai", what does Shmita have to do with har Sinai? He answers that this teaches us that every single mitzva and all their details were given on Har Sinai. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh asks why did the Torah choose Shmita as an example from all the other mitzvos to teach us this lesson?
He answers that the next pasuk tells us that this mitzva will begin when we arrive to Eretz Yisroel, "Asher Ani Nosein Lachem", the land that Hashem has given us. The Torah is teaching us that the reason why we received the great gift of Eretz Yisroel, was because we received the Torah on Har Sinai. Eretz Yisroel is gift that is totally dependent on keeping the Torah...

Parshat Behar and the Liberty Bell

The first parsha that will be read this Shabbos is Parshat Behar. Words that are inscribed on the Liberty Bell are taken from a verse in the parsha.

The bell was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1751 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges. Whitechapel Foundry produced the bell, which cracked as it was being tested. The bell is inscribed with the words from Leviticus 25:10 "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." It tolled for the reading of the Declaration of Independence on July 8, 1776. During the British occupation of Philadelphia in 1777, the bell was hidden away. After it was rung for Washington's birthday in 1846, the crack widened, rendering the bell unringable. It is now ceremoniously tapped each Fourth of July.

6 May 2010

Marry an Ivanov

A JPost article describes how renowned Moscow-born pianist Lilya Zilberstein, was told to change her last name in order to progress in her career.
“I was probably the only student there who tried to enter international music competitions,” Zilberstein says. But in order to represent the school, she had to undergo internal competitions, which she somehow always failed to win. Eventually one of the professors told her openly, “Lilya, with a family name like yours, you’ll never go abroad. You should fictitiously marry some Ivanov.”
“I was shocked,” Zilberstein says. “I was a naïve 21-year-old girl, and according to what we were told, the Soviet Union was a family of the equal. Nationality was never a criteria for me in choosing my friends.”


No sooner had I read the above article when I was sent an email with a joke about a family named Goldberg.

The four Goldberg brothers, Lowell, Norman, Hiram, and Max, invented and developed the first automobile air-conditioner. On July 17, 1946, the temperature in Detroit was 97 degrees.
The four brothers walked into old man Henry Ford’s office and sweet-talked his secretary into telling him that four gentlemen were there with the most exciting innovation in the auto industry since the electric starter.
Henry was curious and invited them into his office. They refused and instead asked that he come out to the parking lot to their car. They persuaded him to get into the car, which was about 130 degrees, turned on the air conditioner, and cooled the car off immediately.
The old man got very excited and invited them back to the office, where he offered them $3 million for the patent. The brothers refused, saying they would settle for $2 million, but they wanted the recognition by having a label, ‘The Goldberg Air-Conditioner,’ on the dashboard of each car in which it was installed.
Now old man Ford was more than just a little anti-Semitic, and there was no way he was going to put the Goldberg’s name on two million Fords. They haggled back and forth for about two hours and finally agreed on $4 million and that just their first names would be shown.
And so to this day, all Ford air conditioners show — Low, Norm, Hi, and Max — on the controls.


Rabbi Boteach interview

Governor Linda Lingle was interviewed on New York's WABC Radio by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
More than a year and half after Barack Obama was elected commander in chief, the governor of Hawaii is now publicly voicing the alleged exact location of Obama's birth, saying "the president was, in fact, born at Kapi'olani Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii."

Click on link below to read article and listen to the interview.

After the statement about President Obama, Rabbi Boteach and the governor spoke about Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin.
The governor stated, "it is obviously an outrageous situation....This would be unprecedented. I don’t think there would be another sentence like this anyone could point to anywhere for financial fraud where someone gets life in prison."
To hear her words, click on the link below and listen at the 81 minute mark.

5 May 2010

A better opportunity?

Congratulations to Laura Bergman, a post-high school student from London, England, on winning the Mathematics Ulpaniada in Jerusalem.
An INN article about the competition focuses on a brain teaser made famous on the televsion show, "Let's Make a Deal."
The problem features three large doors, behind which are two goats and a new car, respectively. The contestant is asked to pick a door, and his prize will be whatever lies behind it. After the choice is made, the host, who knows what is behind each door, opens one of the other two doors, showing a goat. He then asks the contestant, "Do you want to change your choice of door?" The problem is: Is it to the contestant's advantage to switch his or her choice?
Rabbi Prof. Daniel Herskovitz, the Minister of Science and a mathematician at the Technion, was given five minutes to attempt to answer. He said that from a religious believer's point of view, there are two choices: Either trust in G-d that He led you the right way originally, or trust that He is now sending you a better opportunity.

Prof. Mertzbach, a professor of mathematics, then went on to explain that "mathematicians have proven that the chances of winning increase significantly if the choice is changed."
Read the professor's explanation and full article in more INN news.

Receive every man with joy

Rabbi Ishmael would say: ... and receive every man with joy.

Rabbi Matya the son of Charash would say: Be first to greet every man.

When you frown at other people, you rob them of their happiness. They ask themselves, "What did I do wrong? Why is he or she mad at me?", and they lose confidence.

This past Shabbos, I attended a Pirkei Avot shiur. As I was approaching the entrance, I recognized a woman and wished her a cheery good Shabbos. She responded "hi" in a pretty somber tone and I felt like a glass of cold water had been splashed on my face.
I reminded myself that this woman was a naturally quiet and shy woman and I shouldn't be upset that her greeting wasn't more effusive.
The opening words the Rabbi offered at the shiur were about being the first to greet every person. I assumed that the Rabbi would launch into a shiur about the importance of saying hello to people that one meets, and I thought that the topic was an important one for our community.
Yesterday afternoon, I was walking on the street and came upon a woman I didn't know. Recognizing a fellow yid, she smiled broadly and greeted me with a "hello." My mouth immediately curved into a smile and I responded in kind. I was left with a warm feeling.

4 May 2010

All the news that's fit to print

A number of months ago, I was sent a video link of an interview with Rona Ramon, the widow of Ilan Ramon. I was shocked to hear that reporters were the first ones to notify her about her son's death in an Air Force training accident.
This morning, it was reported that Rona Ramon, "expressed support on Tuesday for a bill that would ban reporters from making contact with the family of someone who was killed before the family was officially informed by the state."
Read more INN news: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Flash.aspx/185609

As news of the arrest of the man who planted an explosive device in Manhattan has been reported in the media, I congratulate the authorities who were able to identify the man and capture him before he fled the country. But, as the media reports on the methods that led to his capture, I can't help thinking that not all information has to be made known to the public. Future terrorists will certainly use the information to their benefit. So, no, I don't want to know that he was traced through his cell phone, or that police were able to identify the VIN from an engine part.
Let the media have more sensitivity for grieving family members and use greater discretion when printing all the news that's fit to print.

Shocking abuse

Those of you who didn't see the shocking Ynet video of a caretaker abusing an elderly woman, should click on the link below. It is a stark reminder to be careful of whom we employ to enter our homes and care for our infirmed.
A private investigator, hired by the woman's family to investigate suspected theft of money, suggested installing surveillance cameras and captured on tape more than he bargained for.
Read full article and watch video: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3884499,00.html

Let's err on the side of caution before hiring someone to care of our elderly and young. Perhaps, surveillance cameras are in order, not only to catch abuse and theft, but to make sure our kitchens are kept kosher.

3 May 2010

Back into Irish airspace

Two articles about restrictions to be imposed.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has warned that Dublin, Shannon and some regional northern airports may see flight restrictions tomorrow.
North easterly winds are causing the volcanic ash cloud to drift south and, potentially, back into Irish airspace.
"Current information from the Volcanic Ash Advice Centre (VAAC) suggests that a no-fly zone may have to be imposed over Ireland tomorrow that may affect Dublin, Shannon and some regional airports," the IAA said in a statement.
Read more: http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/new-ash-cloud-threat-to-dublin-and-shannon-flights-456228.html#ixzz0mthWuFRn

The Supreme Court announced today that after 75 years, visitors no longer will be able to enter the majestic columned building from the front doors at the top of the steps for security reasons.

Let's hope that the words of Justice Stephen Breyer will come true, in the not too distant future.

"I thus remain hopeful that, sometime in the future, technological advances, a congressional appropriation, or the dissipation of the current security risks will enable us to restore the Supreme Court's main entrance as a symbol of dignified openness and meaningful access to equal justice under law."

B’har and B’chukkotai

by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple
Is there a connection between the names of the two parshiyot, B’har and B’chukkotai? Not really, but we could think of one. What does B’har mean? “In the mountain”. And B’chukkotai? “In my statutes”. Of course everyone is impressed by mountains. Those who try to climb them are not only impressed by the vision but daunted by the task. People rate mountains by their levels of difficulty. It applies metaphorically too. Some ambitions are harder to fulfil; others are less of a strain. In the Bible, Abraham was told to ascend Mount Moriah: Moses was summoned to the peak of Mount Sinai. We are not given much detail about the climb even though there are not likely to have been well-trodden paths up either mountain. Maybe they almost sailed up the heights, carried along by the Divine command.
Religion confronts all of us with heights to try to reach, heights of spiritual exaltation, heights of ethical excellence. In our case there are paths which have been marked out by predecessors who found that the Divine statutes and commands were the way to go. It could never have been easy. It required perseverance and dedication, and it still does. We might not reach the final peak, but we will certainly get higher than those who wouldn’t even contemplate making the effort.


2 May 2010

The aging brain

A New York Times interview with Barbara Strauch, the author of a new book “The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind,” provides glimpses into the aging brain.

Is there anything you can do to keep your brain healthy and improve the deficits, like memory problems?
...Exercise is the best studied thing you can do to your brain. It increases brain volume, produces new baby brain cells in grownup brains....

Do social connections and relationships make a difference in how the brain ages?
There is a whole bunch of science about being social and how cognitive function seems to be better if you are social. There is a fascinating study in Miami where they studied people who lived in apartments. Those who had balconies where they could see their neighbors actually aged better cognitively than others....
Read full article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/30/the-talents-of-a-middle-aged-brain/?src=me&ref=homepage

Luckily, I haven't encountered any signs of an aging brain.
I wanted to add something to the above, but, I forgot what I was going to write about. In the meantime, you can test your awareness by clicking on the video below.

Not by happenstance

...And you behave casually with Me. I will behave towards you with a fury of casualness.... (26:27,28)
This coming Shabbos, we conclude the Book of Vayikra by reading the parshiyot of Behar and Bechukotai in the synagogue. As we read in Parshat Bechukotai about the consequences of viewing what happens to us as happenstance and leaving Hashem out of our lives, chas veshalom, various secular newspapers remind us about G-d.

Most Broadway shows went on in spite of the bomb, with curtains going up 15 to 30 minutes late, for people who could actually get to the theaters. Shows that started late included “Red” and “God of Carnage” — which are both playing at houses on the block of 45th Street where the bomb was found..

"When I saw them going at it with the bomb-checking machine, I thought, 'My God, I was close to disaster.'"
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/05/01/2010-05-01_times_square_evacuated_after_smoking_vehicle_sparks_emergency_probe.html#ixzz0mkngCllr

1 May 2010

Lag Baomer

Lag Baomer - finally I can post a video with music!