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

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

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

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

30 Nov 2010

Seeing the blessing

An article in the Mishpacha magazine by S.Y. Djlilmand describes a woman's childlessness.

"It was really depressing at times, but you can only try to batter down a locked door for so long. Our spiritual growth helped us internalize that Hashem always does what is best for us."
...."I had a lot of spiritual turmoil then but the bottom line is, if you lose your connection to Hashem, what else do you have left?"

This evening I read about a one woman who viewed an unfortunate circumstance in her life as a blessing.
When Lola Gonzalez, owner of Florida-based Accurate Background Check, realized that she had to begin layoffs to keep her company afloat, she couldn't bear to let go of anyone.
So she fired herself instead.
...she took on a new, lower-paying job as a social worker. She has found a surprise passion for her new role, and calls the job "a blessing.."

A similar story was described by someone who had attended a lecture by Rabbi Lazer Brody. After the lecture, the man went over to the rabbi and told him he had been out of work for 4 months.
Rabbi Lazer Brody counseled him, "Good - now you have time to talk to Hashem with no excuses. Thank Him for being out of work."
Read full article: http://lazerbrody.typepad.com/lazer_beams/2010/11/the-power-of-thanks.html

P.S. The man was offered a job within a week at a better salary.

Buy buy

An article titled StandWithUS Buycott Challenges Anti-Israeli Movements discusses the boycott of Israeli products and urges, "Just don't remain silent! Let November 30th be the beginning of a global 'buycott' for Israel." I urge you to read the article about reasons to buy Israeli products by clicking here.
Israel Matzav writes that "An organized campaign to buy Israeli products is planned for the New York City area and anyplace else you are located next Tuesday, November 30."
How many of us identify with what is going on in Israel? Yesterday, the Chief Rabbis of Israel called for a day of fasting and prayer for rain with Israel facing a severe drought. How many of us made an effort to include thoughts of the water shortage in Israel in our prayers ?
Yesterday, instead of standing with Israel and calling for extra prayers for rain, a "rabbi" posted about how he stands with the Palestinians.
Yesterday, I prayed for rain. Today, I will go to my supermarket and make sure to buy Israeli products. It is the least I can do to show my support.

29 Nov 2010

What are you worth?

"Don't weep for the dead. Keep all your love for the living. As one grows older one should escape from the captivity of physical belongings, for all is lent to us, possessions, friends, loves, even time."
Santa Montefiore

Bubbe mayseh

Years ago, former NYT columnist William Safire wrote an article for his column about language and grammar in which he asked for a word to explain an in-law in-law relationship. Readers wrote in with ideas. He wrote that one reader had suggested the Spanish word "consuegro." Since that word was in a foreign language, Safire opted to use the Yiddish word, "mechutan" as there is no counterpart for the word in English.

A New York Times article about the revival of Yiddish has taught me the derivation of the expression bubbe mayseh. Live and learn.

As in a university, some teachers are particular draws. Michael Wex, a Canadian author and philologist, taught one group about the derivation of the term bubbe mayse — literally “a grandmother’s fable” but an expression used for any implausible tale. It was, he revealed, based on a 16th-century chivalric story about a Christian knight named Bovo who improbably marries a princess under a chupah — a Jewish wedding canopy — and arranges a circumcision for twin sons. Over time, few Jews were familiar with Bovo, so the expression morphed into something said by a bubbe.
Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/26/arts/26klezmer.html?src=me&ref=general

28 Nov 2010

Weather or not

As Israel is being pressed for a three-month building freeze, it seems that a two-month freeze is on the way for the United Kingdom.

Fourteen inches of snow was dumped on the North in 12 hours… as weathermen ­warned we face a TWO-MONTH big freeze.
Read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2010/11/28/fourteen-inches-of-snow-dumped-in-the-north-in-12-hours-115875-22745807/#ixzz16ZCZ6oni

The cold snap gripping Britain dragged temperatures to historic lows with Wales and Northern Ireland shivering through their coldest November night since records began, the Met Office said on Sunday.

And speaking of weather, "Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Rabbi Yonah Metzger, and his Sephardic counterpart, Rabbi Shlomo Amar, declared Monday a day of fasting and prayer for rain, as the drought continues in Israel.
Meteorologists do not expect any rain this week either. The situation is so bad that even secular farmers from kibbutzim – Israel's socialist agricultural cooperatives – are expected to join the prayer session in Jerusalem.
...Bnei Akiva Director Ze'ev Schwartz said that Jewish communities worldwide are following the drought situation in Israel with great concern. “The sense of mutual responsibility is motivating our emissaries worldwide to join the prayer day and ask for the good of the Land of Israel from every place upon the earth.”

Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/140878

Last week, I posted about adding a prayer for rain. I recited the prayer last Thursday and will hopefully do the same tomorrow. May Hashem answer our prayers for the good. May we merit blessings and continue to bring about harmony between our brothers.

The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has decreed that we add the Request for Rain (below) in Shmone-Esrei, in the
"שמע קולנו" blessing, after "חננו ועננו ושמע תפילתנו"
תפלה לעצירת הגשמים בשומע תפלה:
וַעֲנֵנוּ בּורֵא עולָם בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, בּוחֵר בְּעַמּו יִשרָאל לְהודִיעַ גָּדְלו וְהַדְרַת כְּבודו, שׁומֵעַ תְּפִלָּה תֵּן טַל וּמָטָר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וְתַשבִּיעַ אֶת הָעולָם כֻּלּו מִטּוּבֶךָ, וּמַלֵּא יָדֵינוּ מִבִּרְכותֶיךָ וּמֵעשֶׁר מַתְּנַת יָדֶךָ, שְׁמור וְהַצֵל שָׁנָה זו מִכָּל דָּבָר רָע, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי מַשְׁחִית, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנִיּות, וַעֲשה לָהּ תִּקְוָה וְאַחֲרִית שָׁלום, חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ וּפֵרותֵינוּ, וּבָרְכֵנוּ בְּגִשְׁמֵי בְרָכָה וְנִזְכֶּה לְחַיִּים וָשׁובַע וְשָׁלום, כַּשָׁנִים הַטּובות, וְהָסֵר מִמֶּנּוּ דֶּבֶר וְחֶרֶב וְרָעָב, וְחַיָּה רָעָה וּשְׁבִי וּבִזָה, וְיֵצֶר הָרָע וְחָלָיִים רָעִים וְקָשִׁים, וּמְאורָעות רָעיִם וְקָשִׁים, וּגְזור עָלֵינוּ גְּזֵרות טובות מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, וְיִגּלּוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ עַל מִדּותֶיךָ, וְתִתְנַהֵג עִם בָּנֶיךָ בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, וְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצון אֶת תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ:

A conference and a website

Reading about an Islamic Revival Conference which was advertised to take place in London on November 27, I was shocked to see that one of the speakers scheduled to be video linked was Sheikh Abdullah el-Faisal, a man who has been in the news in recent days.

The website states that the event has been cancelled.

An article in the JPost reports about the Electronic Intifada website whose executive director is Ali Abunimah.

Below is the last of 13 parts of a video where Ali Abunimah is questioned about the United Nations partition plan. To see what was really written in the UN resolution, click here.

27 Nov 2010

Full of optimism

A belated happy birthday to Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest holocaust survivor, who celebrated a special occasion yesterday.

While her tale of survival is astonishing, what's perhaps more remarkable is that, despite seeing humanity at its worst, Sommer remains a fierce optimist and a believer in the fundamental goodness of mankind. "This is the reason I am so old, even now, I am sure," she recently told the U.K.'s Sunday Express. "I know about the bad things, but I look only for the good things. The world is wonderful, it's full of beauty and miracles, art and music."
Read full story: http://www.aolnews.com/ca/article/life-is-beautiful-for-107-year-old-holocaust-survivor/19733676

26 Nov 2010

The light of Mashiach

The following is an excerpt from an email by Moshe Feiglin.

"And it was at that time, and Judah went down from his brothers." (From this week's Torah portion, Vayeishev, Genesis 38:1)
This verse opens the entire story of Judah and Tamar, which took place after Joseph was sold to Egypt by his brothers. Our Sages in Breishit Rabbah have an interesting perspective on the events described in these verses:
"The tribes were preoccupied with the selling of Joseph, Joseph was preoccupied with his sackcloth and fasting, Reuven was preoccupied with his sackcloth and fasting, and Jacob was preoccupied with his sackcloth and fasting and Judah was preoccupied with taking a wife and the Holy One, Blessed Be He was busy creating the light of Mashiach."
Read full article: http://www.jewishisrael.org/eng_contents/update/5771/7110.htm#Mashiach

Ben Zikunim

The pasuk says about Yosef that he was Yaakov's Ben Zikunim. Literally this means the child born in his old age. Yet Targum Unkelus chooses to veer from the literal meaning and translates it as "Bar Chakim", his wise son. Why does Unkelus do this?
The Chinuch Malchusi explains that baby of the family usually gets the most love. The older children must endure the father's vision and his desire to raise the ideal child, the child of his dreams. When they fall short they pay the price and become a disappointment to their parents.
Not so the baby who is often treated more like a grandchild than a child, as he is overloaded with love and affection. Reality has set in, expectations are lowered, and age has softened the staff of the parents. The parents learn how to appreciate the good in the child, a thing that a well seasoned parent no longer takes for granted.
In this environment the child can flourish. His mind is at ease and his emotional needs satisfied. "Do not hit a child too much", says Rabbeinu Gershon (Bava Basra 21a). "No one ever got smarter from being beaten." With love you can do so much more!

25 Nov 2010

Teenagers adrift

As we read Parshat Vayeshev this week where Yaakov believes that his son Yosef was killed, news reports are rife with a story about three teenagers found alive after they were feared dead. There are many lessons to be learned from the incident. One article began with the headline, "Three teenagers survive 50 days adrift in Pacific."
We can learn that no matter how far we have drifted, there is always hope of coming back.

"The teenagers survived mainly on coconuts and rainwater Three teenage boys have been found alive after being lost in their boat in the Pacific Ocean for 50 days.
The boys, from the Tokelau Islands, a New Zealand-administered territory in the South Pacific, had been given up for dead after an unsuccessful search.
A tuna fishing boat picked them up near Fiji and is taking them to hospital for treatment for severe sunburn.

Even though a memorial service had been held for the boys, an aunt of one of the boys said, "My mum, she cried every day and every night," ... "We believed he was still alive anyway, we thought that God was still with them."
...After speaking to Sam on the telephone, she said: "He was asking for forgiveness. I think they did learn a big lesson".
Read full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11836284

For us, it is a lesson of not giving up hope, even when things look bad.
Don't despair אל תתייאש

Do not fear

An article in a Belgian newspaper is reporting that Danish TV is scrapping a sitcom about bungling terrorists for fear of repercussions.

And the Danish TV network SBS is afraid to run a comedy series about incompetent Muslim terrorists. There’s been a new terror warning in Denmark, and it has the TV executives cowering under their beds.

The video below is the second of two parts by Rabbi Harold Kushner in which he examines the sentence that is repeated the most in the Bible. "Don't be afraid." Click here for Part 1.

24 Nov 2010

The turkey pardon

In one of the White House's sillier annual rituals, Barack Obama on Wednesday pardoned the second Thanksgiving turkey of his presidency.
He has, however, yet to pardon a single human.
Read full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/11/24/turkey-spared-but-obamas-_n_788073.html

Moris Pollard, the father of Jonathan Pollard, wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post this week titled Why Obama should commute Pollard’s sentence.
The message of those still opposed to Pollard’s release is that, apparently, we can wink at espionage on behalf of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China; we can limit the punishments of those who expose American agents, compromise sophisticated US electronic intelligence capabilities, advance the development of enemy weapons systems and even fight alongside enemy combatants – but unauthorized transmittal of classified data about Arab states to warn Israel of existential threats is unforgivable. For that crime, even 25 years in prison is not enough.

Let us have Yehonatan ben Malka in our prayers.

Speaking of prayers, I received the following email about adding a special prayer for rain tomorrow.

ע"פ קביעת הרבנות הראשית, עלינו להוסיף בקשת הגשמים להלן בתפילת שמונה-טשרה, בתוך ברכת "שמע קולנו," אחרי "חננו ועננו ושמע תפילתנו"
The Chief Rabbinate of Israel has decreed that we add the Request for Rain (below) in Shmone-Esrei, in the
"שמע קולנו" blessing, after "חננו ועננו ושמע תפילתנו"
תפלה לעצירת הגשמים בשומע תפלה:
וַעֲנֵנוּ בּורֵא עולָם בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, בּוחֵר בְּעַמּו יִשרָאל לְהודִיעַ גָּדְלו וְהַדְרַת כְּבודו, שׁומֵעַ תְּפִלָּה תֵּן טַל וּמָטָר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וְתַשבִּיעַ אֶת הָעולָם כֻּלּו מִטּוּבֶךָ, וּמַלֵּא יָדֵינוּ מִבִּרְכותֶיךָ וּמֵעשֶׁר מַתְּנַת יָדֶךָ, שְׁמור וְהַצֵל שָׁנָה זו מִכָּל דָּבָר רָע, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי מַשְׁחִית, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנִיּות, וַעֲשה לָהּ תִּקְוָה וְאַחֲרִית שָׁלום, חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ וּפֵרותֵינוּ, וּבָרְכֵנוּ בְּגִשְׁמֵי בְרָכָה וְנִזְכֶּה לְחַיִּים וָשׁובַע וְשָׁלום, כַּשָׁנִים הַטּובות, וְהָסֵר מִמֶּנּוּ דֶּבֶר וְחֶרֶב וְרָעָב, וְחַיָּה רָעָה וּשְׁבִי וּבִזָה, וְיֵצֶר הָרָע וְחָלָיִים רָעִים וְקָשִׁים, וּמְאורָעות רָעיִם וְקָשִׁים, וּגְזור עָלֵינוּ גְּזֵרות טובות מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, וְיִגּלּוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ עַל מִדּותֶיךָ, וְתִתְנַהֵג עִם בָּנֶיךָ בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, וְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצון אֶת תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ:

22 Nov 2010

Bayamim Hahem Bazman Hazeh

December 2009 - Bayamim Hahem - In those days
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that a 10-month freeze of new construction in West Bank settlements was only a "one-time, temporary" move, in an apparent bid to ease settlers' fears.

November 2010 - Bazman Hazeh - In this time
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has convened his top mini-Cabinet of seven ministers for an emergency meeting in which they will vote on the United States demand that Israel re-freeze Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria for another three months.

21 Nov 2010

Hackers beware

Just came across an interesting article by Rabbi Benjamin Blech about how his email account was hacked. The twist to the story is that he contacted the hacker and the hacker wrote back to him. Click here to read full article.

Good people

Last night I posted about an octogenarian woman who had her motorized vehicle stolen. Fortunately, there has been a happy ending to the story. Also, a lesson to be learned - never jump to conclusions and don't underestimate the goodness of people.

She "was reunited with her chair Friday night - and cops say it wasn't stolen, after all.
Elinor Krach beamed after detectives returned her motorized scooter, which was taken by two cleaning ladies who thought it had been left as junk on the sidewalk.
"I think it's amazing that they found it," Krach crowed. "I feel wonderful about it. I'm really glad."
... The recovery capped an emotional day for Krach. An exclusive story about the theft in yesterday's Daily News prompted a raft of readers to come forward with offers to buy Krach a new scooter.
The offers of goodwill left Krach awed.
"For every bad person out there, there are a hundred good people, maybe thousands, beautiful people who don't even know me and are trying to help me. . . .It's incredible."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/11/20/2010-11-20_manhattan_woman_gets_her_wheels_back_after_its_discovered_cleaning_ladies_took_i.html#ixzz15u8tZsHZ

And, speaking of good people, here's an old clip that demonstrates just that.

20 Nov 2010

The philosophical response

I read an article the other day about how, "cold-hearted crooks swiped an 86-year-old woman's motorized wheelchair Thursday after she parked it outside an upper East Side church."
Beside disbelief, the octogenarian women's response was one that we could all learn from.
"Nobody's sick. I didn't get hit by a car,...You have to look at the things that could have been. For my own sake, I just try to make peace with it."
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/11/19/2010-11-19_feisty_octogenarian_visiting_church_falls_prey_when_crooks_scoot_off_with_her_wh.html#ixzz15jsEsfnv

19 Nov 2010

Because we are complacent

This morning I received an email about complacency. The following is an excerpt from the words of Dr. Emanuel Tanay.
A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

Soon after, I came across an article by Larry Gordon.
The enemies who seek the destruction of Israel and to marginalize Jews are engaging us in a new theater of operation right here in our backyard. And guess what? They are winning, essentially because we are complacent.
Read full article: http://www.5tjt.com/international-news/8769-the-battle-begins

All in your head

The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

I received an email from Manhigut Yehudit with a Torah thought by Moshe Feiglin.

And the messengers returned to Jacob and said: We have come to your brother, to Esau and he is also coming to meet you and four hundred men are with him. And Jacob was very frightened and he was distressed and he divided the people that were with him and the sheep and the cattle and the camels to two camps. (From this week's Torah portion, Vayishlach, Genesis 32:7-8)
"And he was very frightened and he was distressed." Why write the same thing twice? We understand that Jacob was frightened, we understand that he was feeling pressured. Why re-emphasize this as two separate issues?
There are many answers given to this question. But one Chassidic commentary captured my eye. "And he was distressed -" because he was frightened. Jacob naturally reacted toward Esau with fear. But immediately afterwards, he felt great sorrow for having felt fear.
...A person is where his thoughts are. If you feel that you belong in Israel and that this Land is yours, then you are not afraid. Your internal world projects to your surroundings, reflecting as a world that is, indeed, not dangerous.
...It all begins and ends in the world we create inside our heads and hearts.

The video below captures the positive energy and thoughts of Ron Nachman, mayor of Ariel. May he merit a refuah sheleimah.

18 Nov 2010

Two minutes

The following is an email that I sent this afternoon to the boss of a bank employee (let's call him Mr. Smith) who was very helpful to me.

Dear Ms. ,
I am writing to commend and thank Mr. Smith for the professional service he extended to me last week.
I have been a customer of your bank for many years. On Friday, November 12, I discovered a small problem with my bank account statement when I received a printout from the ATM. Mr. Smith graciously explained to me what the problem was. He was very courteous, calm and informative. I was most impressed with his friendly demeanor and wish him continued success in his career.

Sincerely yours,

Within one hour, I had received a reply.

Dear Ms. ,
It gives me great pleasure to read your e-mail.
I am very happy that you are so pleased with the professionalism and friendliness of my colleague Mr. Smith. And even happier that you made the effort to let me know.
I have immediately written him a small letter to thank him for his (continuously) outstanding work.
Thank you as well.

Yours sincerely,

How long did it take me to express hakarat hatov (gratitude) for somebody's actions - two minutes? And if I can make someone happy, why not?

Preparing for Mashiach

"Anyone who believes in Moshiach is waiting for Moshiach. The Talmud says our waiting for Moshiach is one of the issues that will determine our portion in the World-to-Come:
When a person is brought to judgment they will say to him, "Did you deal faithfully in business? Did you fix times for learning Torah? Did you try to have children? Did you look forward to the arrival of the redemption? ..." (Shabbos 31a)
...We have heard the stories of the Chofetz Chaim, who left his Shabbos coat out all week long in anticipation of having to change his clothing quickly to greet Moshiach, who surely was just moments away..."
Click here to read full article by Rabbi Winston titled, "In Advance of Moshiach."

A while back, I wrote a post about Senora Ivonne Michan, a"h, who was called the Sarah Imeinu of Mexico City. I quoted an excerpt from a Mishpacha Magazine profile of her.

When she became ill, a rav advised her to sell a valuable item and to use the money to buy challah and wine for Shabbos for a poor family in Israel. She told her daughter, "Go under my bed. There's a small box of my jewelry." Her daughter found a thick gold bracelet but her mother told her she couldn't sell that item. When her daughter asked her why, she answered, "Because that bracelet is already hekdesh. I put it aside for when Mashiach comes and the Beit Hamikdash is rebuilt. Don't you have a jewel put aside as well?"

How many of us are living with such anticipation and are thinking about Moshiach every day? Last night I read an article about a booklet "introducing the latest project of The International Moshiach Campaign: Moshiach Day by Day. This monthly guide will make Moshiach a natural part of your consciousness, while helping your community members join you."

Click here to download PDF file for the month of Kislev. It is full of concise thoughts about the Moshiach and will help raise your consciousness about the topic.

17 Nov 2010

Facebook and the seventh Commandment

A few months ago I wrote a post about getting off Facebook.
I quoted Rabbi Wallerstein's words from a lecture he had delivered a while back.
"For all those who don't believe there is a problem with Facebook. This week three broken marriages that I know of because of Facebook. Eleven children between the three of them.... Get off Facebook. Get off the internet. It is destroying klal Yisrael."

This evening I came across an article about a pastor urging church leaders to get off Facebook.
Thou shalt not commit adultery. And thou also shalt not use Facebook.
That's the edict from a New Jersey pastor who feels the two often go together.
The Rev. Cedric Miller said 20 couples among the 1,100 members of his Living Word Christian Fellowship Church have run into marital trouble over the last six months after a spouse connected with an ex-flame over Facebook.
Because of the problems, he is ordering about 50 married church officials to delete their accounts with the social networking site or resign from their leadership positions. He had previously asked married congregants to share their login information with their spouses and now plans to suggest that they give up Facebook altogether.

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/rev_to_church_leaders_thou_shalt_HUscrnGh91rjLmlmii9OJM#ixzz15ZipZryN

As an aside, click here to view Time Magazine's person of the year nominations. How about getting the Chilean miners to the number one position?

Out of the mouths of babes

The video below features a two-year-old boy being quizzed about capitals of the world. Watch till the end of the video for his answer to the capital of Israel.

16 Nov 2010

An interesting pesak

Just read an article on an Israeli website about a 90-year-old woman who had made aliyah from New York four years ago. She moved to Bnei Brak to live with her children after the death of her husband. But, she moved to Israel on condition that upon her passing she would be buried next to her husband in New York and specified her wishes in her will.
Hagaon Rav Vosner was asked whether one should respect her wishes and the answer was in the affirmative.
To read the article in Hebrew, click here.

Anti-Semitism in the news

According to Professor Robert S. Wistrich, Neuberger chair for Modern European History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, anti-Semitism is very much alive and growing worse every day.

British organization Just Journalism on Monday published a scathing study on the way Israel is being covered by London Review of Books – one of the most important and widely circulated literary magazines in the world.
According to the comprehensive study, the magazine systematically publishes articles clearly criticizing Israel. "The State of Israel wishes to inculcate in its soldiers a neo-Nazi ideology wrapped in Judaism" or "the Israelis think of Arabs much as they think of chickens of cats" are only two of the many statements which appear regularly in the luxurious magazine's articles.
Read full article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3985263,00.html

Finally, there is an article in Hebrew about 3 anti-Semitic acts that occurred in the U.S. in the space of a couple of days.

15 Nov 2010

Why the discrepancy?

A couple of questions.
Two reputable newspapers described the life of Imam Abdul Rauf. Why the discrepancy in his personal life?
In his 20s, Mr. Abdul Rauf dabbled in teaching and real estate, married an American-born woman and had three children.
...Later divorced, he met his second wife, Ms. Khan, when she came to the mosque looking for a gentler Islam than the politicized version she rejected after Iran's revolution.


He married, first to an American who converted to Islam, and a second time to a Malaysian woman. He has two children from each of the marriages.
In the late 1990s, he married his third wife, Daisy Khan, who has actively supported the Islamic center proposal.

Google "PETA and Kapparos" and you will come up with many articles about PETA's stand against the use of chickens for the Jewish ritual of Kapparos. So, this morning, upon reading about Eid Al-Adha and the preparations of animals to be slaughtered, I clicked on the PETA website, expecting to see the website devoted to statements opposing the practice. Nothing, but there was a cute story about the 2010 cutest mutt alive winner. Why the discrepancy between opposing Jewish ritual practice but no statement regarding another ritual?

Animal rights activists tried to disrupt the Jewish custom of using live chickens for Kapparos - atoning before Yom Kippur - in the Brooklyn section of Crown Heights.
The group of 7, said to be affiliated with the PETA organization, came Wednesday to the neighborhood to "save the chickens from being slaughtered."

14 Nov 2010

Atheism and morality

Right in time to spur awkward theological discussions with extended family members, the American Humanist Association and other related groups are preparing to launch a holiday advertising blitz aimed at drawing stark distinctions between believers and their less devout brethren.
"We’re going further in our attempt to challenge the intolerant view that atheist and agnostic humanists can’t be good without Bible derived morality," stated a release by the organization, which is planning a $200,000 ad buy that includes a commercial on NBC's Dateline.
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/atlantic/humanistgroupsaimtopushbackatbiblederivedmorality5785

After reading the above article, I was curious as to why "the percentage of American adults who say they have no religion has doubled in the last two decades, to 15 percent." This morning I posted about how clergy from all faiths got together to pray for rain. I read about the deaths of people in Indonesia, due to the Merapi volcano. And I thought that one reason that people are turning from G-d in America is because they are not facing natural catastophes. The sun continues to rise every morning, storms do not lead to excessive flooding and people can go on with their daily lives without giving much attention to the fact that the world is operating according to the laws of nature. When an event out of the ordinary occurs, such as the tragedy on September 11, people turn to their houses of worship to find solace.

An article by Jeff Jacoby illustrates why "reason alone is not enough to keep human beings humane."

In our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization. "We know that you can be good without God," Speckhardt tells CNN. He can be confident of that only because he lives in a society so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that he takes those values for granted. But a society bereft of that religious heritage is a society not even Speckhardt would want to live in. Read full article: http://www.aish.com/sp/ph/Good_without_God.html

Praying for rain in unity

...Well, seven years of drought in the Holy Land has been so bad that it has brought together Muslim, Christian and Jewish clerics to offer prayers for rain.
...“Look up, it’s dry, dry,” said Rabbi Menachem Froman, an Orthodox rabbi from the Tekoa settlement near Bethlehem, who has close ties with Palestinian religious leaders.
“Before anything else, to live we need rain. If there isn’t any rain, there won’t be any Jews or Muslims or Christians here.”
“According to our traditions, the Jewish and the Islam, rain is due to the deeds of man, and if we make any step of peace between us, perhaps that will open the treasures of the skies and rain will fall,” Froman told The Media Line.
...Froman said God was looking down from above.
“I believe that if God sees his children working together, the heavens will open and not only will rain come down, but so will peace,” Froman said.

Read full article: http://www.jpost.com/VideoArticles/Article.aspx?id=195209

13 Nov 2010

Save me from my brother

Parshas VaYishlach
Yaakov davened to Hashem ‘Hatzileini Na MiYad Achi MiYad Eisav"; Save me from my brother from Eisav. The Bais HaLevi asks why does it need to say Achi and Eisav? He answers that the Zohar says when you daven for something you should be as clear as possible in your descriptions. He then asks why does it need to say "MiYad"; from the hands of, twice? Let it just say MiYad Achi Eisav.
He answers that Yaakov felt trapped. The two logical outcomes of meeting Eisav were that Eisav would kill him or the other outcome which was no less frightful for Yaakov was that Eisav would forgive him and they would live together like brothers. As far as Yaakov was concerned Eisav's closeness would cause religious erosion that was as dangerous for Klal Yisroel as physical destruction. He wanted to keep his children as far away from Eisav and his lifestyle as possible. That is why he davened that he should be saved from both being murdered at the hands of "Eisav" as well as "Achi" the brotherly hand that Eisav may want to extend to him.
This says the Bais HaLevi was indicative of the future Galus Edom. During some periods we face destruction from cruel and murderous enemies. At other times we self destruct from the brotherly closeness of our host nations. This freedom ends with assimilation of ideals and lowering our level of Avodas Hashem as well as unfortunately assimilation itself.

12 Nov 2010

The ultimate destiny

Out of the daughters of Lavan, it would seem that Rachel was destined for a better life. She was beautiful and Yaakov preferred her to her older sister. But, as Rabbi Shimon Isaacson explains in the video below, Rachel, who starts out with great promise and optimism is the one who has fewer children and is not buried with Yaakov.
Let's learn a lesson from this that we shouldn't be jealous of someone's beauty or someone's wealth, because, ultimately, we might be better off than the one of whom we are jealous.
Wishing you a good Shabbos.

Happiness is a state of mind

The following is an excerpt from an email I received the other day.
A 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud man, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o'clock, with his hair fashionably combed and shaved perfectly, even though he is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.
His wife of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, he smiled sweetly when told his room was ready.
As he maneuvered his walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of his tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on his window. I love it,' he stated with the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old having just been presented with a new puppy.
Mr. Jones, you haven't seen the room; just wait.'
'That doesn't have anything to do with it,' he replied.
Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time.
Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged .. it's how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it. 'It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.
Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open, I'll focus on the new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life.
Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from what you've put in.
So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories'!

11 Nov 2010

What were they thinking?

An Al Qaeda leader, the head of a designated terror organization and a confessed jihadist-in-training are among a "Who's Who" of controversial figures who have participated in weekly prayer sessions on Capitol Hill since the 2001 terror attacks, an investigation by FoxNews.com reveals.
Read full article: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/11/11/congressional-muslim-prayer-group-terror-ties/

In the tradition of Men tracht und Gott lacht (Men plan and G-d laughs), the following video is an illustration of man's thinking gone awry.
A nearly 300-foot smokestack being demolished at an old Ohio power plant toppled in the wrong direction and sent spectators scrambling Wednesday before knocking down two 12,000-volt power lines and crashing onto a building housing backup generators, officials said.
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101111/ap_on_re_us/us_demolition_debacle_4

War and Peace

Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day or Veterans Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth countries to remember the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. This day, or alternative dates, are also recognised as special days for war remembrances in many non-Commonwealth countries.
Remembrance Day is observed on 11 November to recall the official end of World War I on that date in 1918, as the major hostilities of World War I were formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. (Note that "at the 11th hour", refers to the passing of the 11th hour, or 11:00 am.)


As the bodies of the the two pilots involved in an F-161 accident were found this afternoon, we are reminded of the consequences of the inability to achieve peace.
Tragically the pilot, 28-year old Amichay Itkis of Sde Warburg, had an older brother, Barak, who was killed while serving as a young officer in the Navy in 1998. Barak dreamed of becoming a pilot in the Air Force, but suffered vision impairment that denied him the job.
Itkis was the deputy commander of his squadron and recently left the position in order to complete academic studies. He was recently engaged to be married. He was survived by his parents and sister.

New York Congressman Eliot Engel was set to speak at a rally on the National Mall in Washington DC Thursday to encourage the release of Gilad Schalit, said a press release Wednesday.
The event called, “1600 for 1600: A Humanitarian Rally for Gilad Shalit,” aims to draw in at least 1600 to represent each of the 1600 that have passed since Schalit's capture.

Oseh shalom bimromav Hu ya'aseh shalom aleinu
V'al kol Yisrael V'imru, v'imru amen.

May he who makes peace in high places, make peace for us and for all Israel,
and let us say, amen.

10 Nov 2010

Showing appreciation

"A bitter person is never grateful, but a grateful person is never bitter."
As I read the quote above on Lazer Beams this morning, I was reminded of the post I had written connected to this week's parsha and the giving of thanks.

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

And here's a piece of advice from an article titled Vitamin for Marriage.
Make sure to exchange at least one expression of appreciation every day (or night) with your spouse. These do not have to be for dramatic gestures. They do not have to be flowery or excessively mushy; in fact, it’s probably better if they’re not. It’s just important not to let a day go by without saying thank you.

3 Nov 2010

The use of prepositions

Just read an interesting article by Mike Robbins titled Seeing Adversity As Happening for Us, Not to Us. Would that I could take his advice to heart.

Do you ever ask yourself the question, "Why is this happening to me?" Most of us do, especially when things aren't going the way we want them to or we're dealing with something that's difficult or painful.
A few years ago I was talking to my friend Brian about this, and he said, "If you change the word 'to' to the word 'for' in that question, it can change your life." When Brian said this, it really resonated with me, and I never forgot it.
Instead of asking ourselves, "Why is this happening to me?" we could instead ask, "Why is this happening for me?" Wow, there's a world of difference in those two questions. The first one leads us down a path of victimhood, martyrdom, or feeling as though there's something wrong with us. The second one takes us in a direction of deeper growth, awareness, appreciation, responsibility, and healing.

Read full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-robbins/embracing-adversity_b_771162.html

A young woman who will have plenty of time to focus on why this is happening to me was jailed today for a minimum of 15 years because she stabbed a Labour MP after being radicalized by watching online videos. It is a sad tale of a woman described by a lecturer in terms of "the world was her oyster." Instead she chose to ruin her life.
Read full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1326208/Al-Qaeda-inspired-Roshonara-Choudhry-tried-kill-MP-Stephen-Timms-jailed.html

The plight of others

The top five finalists in this year’s Jewish Federations of North America Jewish Community Heroes were announced this week. One individual will find out next week if he will be named the 2010 Jewish Community Hero and be the recipient of a $25,000 grant for his organization.

One finalist, a man whose name is familiar to many, is Jay Feinberg, who "founded the Gift of Life Bone Marrow Foundation , after enduring a grueling four year search for a bone marrow donor to combat the leukemia that nearly took his life due to the under representation of Jews in the nationwide bone marrow registries. Today, over 170,000 donors are listed in the bone marrow registry and 2,100 matches have been made."

This morning I came across a story about a young hero who chose to celebrate her bat mitzvah in a special way.
Eleven-year-old Shaina Agami, preparing to celebrate her bat mitzvah next year, could have chosen any number of fun things to do to infuse meaning into the special day. Instead, the South Florida girl is working to ensure that people will always remember her brother Danny, a vibrant 25-year-old cut down in the prime of life in the middle of Iraq by an insurgent’s bomb.
She is selling skullcaps like the one her brother wore, "now emblazoned with his name and rank, to benefit the Aleph Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitch program that caters to the spiritual needs of Jewish military personnel and their families."
Read full article: http://www.crownheights.info/index.php?itemid=29679

Kol hakavod to this young girl who, on her special day, is thinking of the needs of others. May we be inspired to celebrate our happy occasions, bearing in mind the plight of others.

2 Nov 2010

Being positive

In an article titled Do Positive People Live Longer? David Hamilton reports on studies that show that positive people do indeed live longer. He gives the following advice:

How do we turn our minds to more positive things? Counting blessings is a simple way. Make a list of five to ten things that you are grateful for that have happened in the last 24 hours, and do this every day for a month. Or challenge yourself to go three weeks without complaining, moaning, or criticizing.
Or do you have a tendency to "make mountains out of molehills"? If so, try out the opposite just for a week. Try making molehills out of mountains.

Read full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-r-hamilton-phd/positive-people-live-long_b_774648.html

Anyone who has heard Rabbi Paysach Krohn speak may have heard him offering the same sage wisdom. He advises people in the audience to think of five positive things in their lives when reciting the prayer of Modim anachnu Lach (we give thanks to You) in the daily amidah.
Speaking of Paysach Krohn, below is a one minute clip about what made Moshe a great leader. Appropriate for an election day in which we are choosing new leaders.

The digging of the wells

As the media reported about a huge sinkhole which appeared in a town in Germany, this week's parsha deals with Yitzchok digging holes to be used as underground wells.

After Yitzchok moved from downtown Grar to the valley because of jealousy of the local people, the Pilishtim continued to harass him and stuff up up his wells. This whole episode is recorded in the Torah, and is one of the few stories we have about Yitzchok. Why is this so significant?
Rabbeinu Bachaye tells us that these Be'er Mayim Chaim refer to the Bais HaMikdash, which is the source of Mayim Chaim or Hashem. The first one representing the first Bais HaMikdash, was called Aisek, because it was the subject of a number of wars and attacks until it was finally stuffed up or destroyed and the Shechina no longer flowed through there. The second one was called Sitna, as in Satan or obstruction. Achashveirosh obstructed its building, and there were always obstructionists during its entire existence, until it too was finally destroyed.
The third well was called Rechovos because Hashem gave us room and let us blossom. This refers to the third Bais HaMikdash in which there will be no opposition. In describing this well, the torah uses Hashem's name, "Ki Hirchiv Hashem Lanu". Because unlike the first two that were built by man (Shlomo and Koresh respectively), the third Bais HaMikdash will be built by Hashem.

1 Nov 2010

The Lamplighter

Just came across a beautiful article by Harold Witkov titled Lamplighter for God and for the Constitution.
I recently attended a Jewish Chasidic funeral and a new concept came my way that I have begun to embrace. During the eulogy, the presiding rabbi referred to the deceased, a lifelong acquaintance of mine, as a "lamplighter."
Read full article: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/witkov/101101

My tea is nearly ready and the sun has left the sky;
It’s time to take the window to see Leerie going by;
For every night at teatime and before you take your seat,
With lantern and with ladder he comes posting up the street.

Now Tom would be a driver and Maria go to sea,
And my papa’s a banker and as rich as he can be;
But I, when I am stronger and can choose what I’m to do,
O Leerie, I’ll go round at night and light the lamps with you!

For we are very lucky, with a lamp before the door,
And Leerie stops to light it as he lights so many more;
And O! before you hurry by with ladder and with light;
O Leerie, see a little child and nod to him to-night!

Robert Louis Stevenson

Click here to listen to a beautiful rendition of the poem set to music.

Jew jitsu

Most fighters put faith in their power. All our power comes from our faith.
Yehoshua Sofer