"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 Dec 2010

The age of 80

The Torah tells us that Moshe was 80 years old and Aharon 83 when they stood before Paroh (Va'eira 7:7). Why is this so important to us? Rav Shimon Schwab explains that Aharon was born at the time that Paroh told the midwives to kill all Jewish born baby boys. Moshe was born three years later when Paroh decreed that every male born child must be thrown in the river. Both these decrees were made to ward off the prediction of the star gazers who foresaw that the redeemer of the Jews would be born at that time. Moshe and Aharon were sent to not only redeem Bnei Yisrael, but also to teach Paroh that Hashem controls the world and not him. For the first lesson Moshe asked Paroh to dig deep into his memory and recall the decrees of many decades ago. Then he proudly told him that he and Aharon were both children that should have never seen the light of day. Yet, because Hashem is in control, they both defied the decree and here they were alive and well... and ready to play the role of the redeemers that Paroh tried so desperately tried to kill.

And speaking of the ripe old age of 80, here is a Yahoo article I came across about foods to eat to help prevent cancer.

To reduce your risk of cancer, look no further than your fridge. "All the studies on cancer and nutrition point to eating plant-based foods for their phytonutrients and other special compounds," says Richard Béliveau, PhD, chair in the prevention and treatment of cancer at the University of Québec at Montreal and author of Foods to Fight Cancer.
Aim for five to nine daily servings of all kinds of fruits and vegetables—especially these six superstars.
Read full article: http://shine.yahoo.com/event/vitality/6-cancer-fighting-superfoods-2428408/

Travel and stress

A NYPost article titled Stories from the blizzard details people's experiences during the snowstorm in New York.
She got stuck at Kennedy Airport. The airline flew her luggage to London without her. She was trapped on the subway for seven excruciating hours, and she hasn’t had a decent meal in days.
Other than that, Doris Logie, how was your trip to New York?
“It was lovely,” said Logie, who has been trying to return to Scotland with her daughter, Alex, since Sunday. “We had a wonderful Christmas, but I’ll never come back at this time of the year.”
...Everyone knows something wasn’t kosher about the blizzard clean-up, and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa thinks he knows why — “gentile” salt.
“Kosher salt has always done miracles in New York City snowstorms,” Sliwa quipped. “Normally, when you have a big storm and you crunch in salt, your shoes get white. It’s not happening this time. There’s no crunching going on.

For those of you who have experienced distress while traveling, reading Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis's Rising Above Aggravation will perhaps help you gain a better perspective.

30 Dec 2010

The frogs

Two articles

Click here to read Victor Sharpe's article titled Two nations under Islamic duress -- Serbia and Israel.
Click here to read Abraham Foxman's article titled The Arab Press' Nazification of Israeli Leaders.

29 Dec 2010

To give

Caught a clip on CNN's heroes of the year about Narayanan Krishnan. Extremely inspiring and amazing what one person can do.

28 Dec 2010

The religion list

Click here to read an interesting article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach titled The End of the Rabbi As Mr. Nice Guy.
Click here to read an article titled HuffPost Religion's 10 Most Influential People of 2010.

I don't agree that all 10 should have made the list and I disagree with the reasons for their inclusion, but I'll let you decide for yourselves.

The possibility of the miraculous

27 Dec 2010

Light a candle of truth

I caught a video of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech at the 92nd Street Y in which he describes his meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

26 Dec 2010

To be the best you can be

"Hu Aharon Umoshe" (6:26); "Hu Moshe ViAharon" (6:27) Rashi points out, that there are places where the Torah places Aharon before Moshe and there are places where it places Moshe before Aharon. This is to teach us that they are of equal significance (Shkulim Haym). The obvious question is, how can we say that Aharon was equal to Moshe? Doesn't the Torah say that there never was or will be a Navi as great as Moshe?
The Maskil L'David answers, at this point they were of equal significance. It was only after Mattan Torah where Moshe was alone for 40 days and nights with the Shechina that he elevated himself above Aharon.
R' Moshe Feinstein offers a different answer. Of course Moshe was greater than Aharon even at this point. They were of equal significance in the aspect that each one of them fulfilled his Tafkid (potential) in this world. Hashem does not look how great one is, rather if he was able to "be all that he could be". If one reaches that level, he achieved the highest level. Aharon reached that level; therefore in this sense he was as great as Moshe who also reached the level of fulfilling his total potential. This is a comforting thought for all of Klal Yisroel. We too have the potential to be as great as Moshe in this sense.

25 Dec 2010

A second chance

Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live...

A few days ago a story was making the rounds about a couple who had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on a game show, despite having given the right answer.
A HuffingtonPost article describes how the couple have been invited back for a second appearance. Hopefully, justice will be served.

24 Dec 2010

Time to say Good Shabbos

I caught a review of a book by Chana Sharfstein about her struggles during a life filled with difficulties.
In the self-published Beyond the Dollar Line, a new volume available for purchase from the Kehot Publication Society,... she lays bare her philosophy of life, much of it gleaned from guidance given her by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. Over the course of 244 pages, she shares a multitude of stories, excerpts of conversations and correspondence, describing almost poetically how they continue to guide her more than 16 years after the Jewish leader’s passing.
...In another vignette, Sharfstein writes of some comments the Rebbe had to a draft of an article she wrote about encouraging other Jewish women to light Shabbat and holiday candles. In the article, she presented stories of women who had at first felt that it was “impossible” to commit to lighting candles each week.
The Rebbe, however, changed the word “impossible” to “very difficult.”
“Something that is viewed as impossible blocks change,” Sharfstein concludes in the book. But “very difficult means a challenge that can be overcome.”

This week INN and Yeranen Yaakov, among others, posted articles about Rabbanit Tzivya Eliyahu, widow of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi, who is encouraging people to observe the Sabbath.
Each individual can make a difference, she said, “When I asked the rabbi, he always said that even just one extra person keeping the Sabbath day could tip the scales in favor of everyone.”
“I am convinced that this is a favorable time,” the Rabbanit continued. “Many people have free time, and many Jews who unfortunately work on the Sabbath day can avoid doing so on the next two Sabbaths, the twenty-fifth of December and the first of January.”


So, those of you who want to give it a try for the first time, remember, it is not an impossible task, but rather a very difficult one. And for those of you who think you will be bored, not partaking of your usual Saturday entertainment activities, why not spend the time and read Chana Sharfstein's new book?

23 Dec 2010

The sighing and crying

"Vayei'anchu Bnei Yisrael Min HaAvodah Vayizaku; Bnei Yisrael sighed from the work and they cried." (Shemos 2:23). The Kli Yakar asks, "Why does the pasuk separate the sighing and crying instead of putting them together?"
He answers that there were two distinct reactions to the Koshi HaShibud. The first group were the good people. When they could no longer shoulder the pain, they cried to Hashem to relieve them. The second group cried but not to Hashem. They lamented their plight and complained against Hashem. "These two groups," says the Kli Yakar, "needed to be mentioned separately and not in the same breath."
History has shown this time and time again. Bnei Yisrael has faced many periods of oppression. Some people scream to Hashem, while some blame Hashem and walk away altogether. The Kli Yakar adds that pasuk ends, "Vataal Shavasam El HaElokim; The cries were heard by Hashem." But whose cries were heeded? "Min HaAvodah," only the group who cried to Hashem from the Avodah, and not the ones who rebelled because of it.


Emunah and Bitachon

Interesting article at Aish titled When bad things happen by David Baum.

15 Dec 2010

A fishy story

Hamal'ach hago'el oti mikol-ra yevarech et-hane'arim veyikare vahem shemi veshem avotai Avraham veYitzchak veyidgu larov bekerev ha'aretz.
May the messenger who redeems me from all evil bless the lads, and may my name be declared upon them, and the names of my forefathers Avraham and Yitzchak, and may they proliferate abundantly like fish within the land.

And speaking about fish....

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Israel Shark Conspiracy
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

The blessings of grandchildren

"Yesimcha Elokim k’Ephraim u’Menashe”
“May G-d make you like Ephraim and Menashe.”

One of the most beautiful customs in Jewish life is for parents to bless their children at the start of the Friday night Shabbat meal. Girls receive the blessing: "May God make you like the matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah." Boys, meanwhile, are blessed "to be like Ephraim and Menashe."
What happened to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?! Why were Ephraim and Menashe chosen instead as the subjects of this important tradition?
Ephraim and Menashe were the first set of Jewish brothers who did not fight. Abraham's two sons ― Isaac and Ishmael ― could not get along, and their disagreement forms the basis of the Arab-Israeli conflict until today. The next generation of Isaac's two sons ― Jacob and Esav ― were so contentious that Esav repeatedly sought to kill Jacob and instructed his descendants to do the same. And even the next generation of Jacob's sons sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt.
Ephraim and Menashe represent a break from this pattern. This explains why Jacob purposely switched his hands, blessing the younger Ephraim before the older Menashe. Jacob wished to emphasize the point that with these siblings, there is no rivalry. (see Genesis 48:13-14)
It is with this thought that parents bless their children today. For there is no greater blessing than peace among brothers. The words of King David ring true: "How good and pleasant is it for brothers to sit peacefully together." (Psalms 133:1)
Reaad full article by Rabbi Shraga Simmons: http://www.aish.com/tp/b/sw/48956426.html

14 Dec 2010

Turning a blind eye

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has launched a blistering attack on university authorities and warned that they must not “turn a blind eye and deaf ear” to the rise of antisemitism on campuses.
...“Let me be blunt. I believe that the inflammatory public speeches being allowed to take place on university campuses would, in any other context and directed against any other group, be prosecuted under the law forbidding incitement to racial and possibly religious hatred.”

Read full article: http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/42585/chief-rabbi-speaks-campus-extremism

Click here to see an ABC Primetime report about how people react to anti-semitic comments.

The blame game

After Adam and Chava ate from the Etz HaDa'at, they hid themselves from Hashem, apparently realizing they had done something wrong. When Hashem called out to Adam, asking, "Where are you?" (Bereishit 3:9), Hashem's intention was to give Adam an opportunity to admit what he had done wrong (see Rasag, Rashi, Radak), a key step in the teshuvah process. Unfortunately, the couple never admitted their sin. Instead, Adam blamed Chava, who in turn blamed the serpent.

The family of the Stockholm suicide bomber last night blamed Britain for his transformation from an “ordinary teenager” to an al-Qaeda fanatic.

A shark attack in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh being blamed on Mossad agents, the Carmel fire being blamed on the Prime Minister, the Interior Minister - anyone but the youths who started the fire, and a slew of other stories about people blaming anyone but the perpetrators..... Where is the personal responsibility? Instead of protecting those responsible, let's begin to teach them that their actions have consequences.

An article today in IsraelNationalNews discusses how Arab youths who throw stones are protected by liberal organizations.
“Today, when one of these youths is arrested, he is legally permitted to basically sit in an interrogation room and make fun of police,” Indor said. “The youth is required by law to have his father present, so of course no headway is made in the interrogation. And besides, the youths have a whole array of liberal and leftist organizations, like B'tselem, at the ready to defend them, regardless of what they have done.”

Imam Rauf partly blamed America for the September 11 attacks.
In 2001, Rauf told CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ that the U.S. was partially responsible for the September 11th attacks.
“I wouldn`t say that the United States deserved what happened. But the United States` policies were an accessory to the crime that happened,” Rauf said.

13 Dec 2010

The reward of a good deed

The other day I was standing in line at the local grocery at checkout counter 1. The problem with checkout counter 1 is that the cashier alternates between providing service to the customers on line and customers who walk into the store and stand on a second line behind the counter, needing special services.
An older lady approached me and asked me if she could jump ahead of me on line as she only had a few items. Graciously, I let her pass in front of me. However, after ringing up the woman's purchases, the cashier turned her back to me and went to deal with the customers on the special services line.
"Serves me right," I thought to myself. "No good deed goes unpunished. Had I not allowed the woman to get ahead of me, the cashier would have totaled up my purchases and I wouldn't have had to wait all those extra minutes as she serviced a few customers on the second line."
Reading the article, below, however, restored my faith in the fact that it pays to do a good deed. Actually, I knew it before I read the article. Doing a mitzvah is a reward in itself.

A man in the Phillippines has won the country's largest ever lottery jackpot after letting a woman push in front of him the queue to get her ticket first.
Read full article: http://news.uk.msn.com/world/articles.aspx?cp-documentid=155519509

Remembering Gilad ben Aviva

This morning I received a translation of a letter written by Gilad Shalit's mother. Today I will pray for Gilad ben Aviva's release from captivity which is long ovedue.

This is my son. The first life that I created. Part of my body my soul and my love. I heard his voice for 20 years. From the moment he arrived in this world to our last telephone conversation:
“ Mom, I am returning home, can you hear me. “
I heard his voice as clearly as I heard his first cry as a baby. I can still hear his cry at night when he was a child. You never gave me peace to
sleep at night. I used to lie next to you pacifying you. When you were sick the first time, I was so worried about you. I took you to your first day at school and you made me promise that I would return to bring you home. This I promised you. I have never broken my promises to you. I have all your drawings on the fridge and the walls of the kitchen so that you would know that this is your home amongst your drawings and the memories of you.
You grew up to quickly in front of my old and tired eyes. At your barmitzvah I suddenly saw how quickly you had grown. I was the proudest
mother in the world. You grew up to be successful, charming and clever. (This is my son, I thought then, this is my son)
When you started going out with your friends part of me would go with you. I used to hug you and ask you to be careful.
“Don’t worry mom, I am a big boy”
I used to wake up at night looking at my watch and thinking, where are you, I am waiting for you to return home. All I wanted was for you to come back safely. When I heard you falling into bed from exhaustion, I knew that you were home safely with me. Then I would be able to go to sleep myself peacefully. When you got your driving license, I used to pray that you would travel safely and not swerve into the gutter and you would not knock another car. I hoped you would not drive if you did not have to. You never disappointed me and you were always responsible and happy. I was always thrilled to see your smile even though I had had sleepless nights worrying about you.
When you received your first call up papers to the army, my heart skipped a few beats. You were only 17 years old. You came back very proud and happy with big bright shinny eyes. I wished that you would not have to go to combat and that you would not get called to a dangerous
You just wanted to protect your country. It is not the country that raised you, it is Me, I who raised you. The day that you shut the door behind you and you travelled to do your army service. I counted the days till you would return home. I decided then and there that I would go to shul and to thank G-d and ask him to return my son to me safely. Instead of going out I would wash your uniforms and prepare food for when you would come home.
The day that I heard loud knocking on the front door, I knew something was terribly wrong. I opened the door praying that I would not see what I saw. Two uniformed army personnel and an army medic. One was your commander and he held my hand tightly. I did not have to hear the words he was telling me. The darkness cut the blood supply from my veins in my arm and I understood that something was terribly wrong.
In the news they show your photographs. I go to shul and I pray. I pray all the time, even when I am sleeping, I am praying. This is my son, my son who was snatched into Gaza. My son who might never return.

12 Dec 2010

Threatened with destruction

A group of Islamists demonstrated on Sunday at the tomb of biblical Jewish queen Esther in western Iran and threatened to destroy it if Israel damages Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, Mehr news agency reported.

King Achashverosh chose Queen Esther as his second wife. Read full article below to find out about another individual who was looking for a second wife.

A suicide bomber who died in a terrorist bomb attack which rocked Stockholm city centre, is believed to be a graduate from a British university.
Read full article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1337930/Suicide-bomber-died-Stockholm-terrorist-blasts-studied-British-university.html

Alei Ayin

Ben Poras Yosef, Ben Poras Alei Ayin" (Vayechi 49:22). Rashi says that this means that Yosef will multiply and be beyond the reach of Ayin Hara. As a reward for not taking his master's wife, no one will be able, through jealously, to inflict any harm on what belongs to him.
The Shulchan Gavo'a brings from Rav Eliyahu Dessler that no matter how rich a person is, no one is ever jealous of a totally selfless person whose whole life is about giving. An element of jealousy stems from the intended or even unintended flaunting of oneself before others.
Yaakov gave Ephraim and Menashe a bracha "V'Yidgu LaRov" they should multiply like fish. There are two attributes of fish that Yaakov had in mind. Fish are not seen from the dry land. Moreover the fish live a life totally separated from the inhabitants of the land. They don't compete with them in any way. That is why the Ayin Hara does not affect them.
If a person lives a life of Yosef, where he doesn't want what doesn't belong to him, and he lives and enjoys his material assets out of the public eye, he too will not suffer from any unwanted evil eyes.


11 Dec 2010

A life not in vain

by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple
"Jacob’s life ended with 17 good years. Having settled in Egypt he derived pleasure from his son Joseph, whose high position in the Egyptian government gave him nachas. These 17 years paralleled another 17 years in which, so long before, he had derived nachas from Joseph as a child and young teenager. The father’s dream had come true. After the years of agony came the ecstasy of seeing all his children together, united in shalom bayit.
But there was still a worry at the back of Jacob’s mind. What would happen after his death? Would the idyll be shattered? Would the family survive? Would they compromise the values and standards he had tried so hard to teach them? He tried three things as his final endeavour on behalf of the family and the future.

1. He pleaded with Joseph, “Bury me not in Egypt”.
2. He called upon all his children, “Gather yourselves together and listen, O Children of Jacob”.
3. He urged, “Listen to Israel your father”.

The three statements all conveyed important messages: the first, “Know that Israel is your homeland”; the second, “Do not let family unity disintegrate”; and the third, “Remain true to the teaching of your forebears”.
What a contrast to the contents of so many last wills and testaments today. Money, material assets, tangible things – that is what most people are concerned with. Apart from the tragedies that come when the disposition of material things leads to friction in the family, where are the deeper spiritual, cultural, human dimensions? It is very nice to be grateful for a handsome yerushah, but isn’t it more important in the long run to remember your parents for their words, their ideas, their visions, their standards? When there is a crucial moment requiring a decision, is it not good to see father or mother in your mind’s eye and know which option they would prefer you to take?
The message for parents while they are alive is to remember Jacob and ensure that they leave their children not only things that are tangible, but also the type of message that will ensure that their life’s experience will not have been in vain.

Maomonides Hospital's chief patient rep, Douglas Jablon, was featurd in the Mishpacha magazine last week. He stated, "I'm nuts about my name. When my father died, he didn't have any money; he told me, 'take care of my name. It's all I have.'"

In contrast, Bernie Madoff accumulated many material possessions. What a sad ending to his son's life this weekend.

10 Dec 2010

How old are you?

An insightful thought about Parshat Vayigash explained by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson.

9 Dec 2010

Rain rain - don't go away

"The Ben Ish Hai says that it is a great segula to daven on a rainy day."

This morning I had a conversation with a woman about her family. She told me that her six-year-old granddaughter was very excited to see that it was raining. Her teacher had taught her that it was an auspicious time to daven to Hashem when it rains as G-d opens up the Otzrot Shamayim (heavenly treasures) during that time.
The girl began to pray to Hashem while her mother eavesdropped in the background. First she asked for Hashem to bring the Mashiach and that the Beit Hamikdash should be rebuilt. Then she asked that her father should be able to spend his days engaged in full-time Torah learning. Next she asked that her grandparents should move to where she was living so that she could see them all the time.
She ran over to her three-year-old brother, explaining to him that it was a special time to ask Hashem for those things he wanted. The boy asked for a car and a new toy.
A little while later, the children's mother overheard her "spiritual" daughter ask Hashem if she could have some videos to watch sometimes.
Yes, the little girl eventually asked for something in the material realm. But, at least, her priorities were spot on.
How about ours?

No smoking

Above is a photo from an email I received titled "Painted ceiling at smokers' lounge."
Yesterday I was walking behind a group of students that had just finished school for the day. I was shocked to see a young boy smoking a cigarette. "They are really starting early these days," I thought to myself.
Today an Israeli newspaper is reporting that MK Gideon Ezra of Kadima,with extensive support of parliamentarians, has filed a law requiring all high school age students to attend special classes and presentations explaining the dangers of smoking and the damage caused by cigarettes.
MK Gideon Ezra is a heavy smoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer recently. Because of his own experience he is convinced that it is important to avoid the first cigarette, which - generally is taken at a young age.
MK Ezra initiated the bill against the background of data indicating a growing percentage of boys starting to smoke at an early age.
Read article in Hebrew: http://www.bhol.co.il/Article.aspx?id=22321

8 Dec 2010

E pluribus unum

"Never codified by law, E pluribus unum was considered a de facto motto of the United States until 1956 when the United States Congress passed an act (H.J. Resolution 396), adopting In God We Trust as the official motto."

WND has an interesting article which states that "Members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus have written to President Obama asking him to correct a speech he gave in Indonesia incorrectly replacing the nation's motto of '"In God We Trust"' with '"E pluribus unum."'
...I believe that the history of both America and Indonesia should give us hope. It is a story written into our national mottos. In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum – out of many, one.
Read full story: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=237349

The actual letter, dated December 6, can be accessed here.

The haftorah of Parsat Vayigash is from Yechezkel 37: 15-28. It is interesting to note how closely the words of Yechezkel relate to G-d and unity. May the the words of the prophet be fulfilled. May we be as one. Why don't we begin by making amends with someone with whom we have fallen out? Pick up the phone and make the first gesture.

21 And say unto them: Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land;
22 and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all;
27 My dwelling-place also shall be over them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
28 And the nations shall know that I am the LORD that sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for ever.

6 Dec 2010

One man

Rabbi Levi Brackman writes a moving tribute for Rabbi Uriel Malka, who was niftar this week, a victim of the Carmel fire. It is eerie to watch a video in the middle of the article of his blowing shofar earlier this year, so full of life and joy.
Rabbi Brackman writes about Rabbi Malka's unique contributions to the Jewish community he served.

This week is Hanukkah, when we are celebrating the victory of the weak over the strong and the few against the many. Often we tend to want to just live our own lives as if we are detached from the wider Jewish community. We tell ourselves that we have too much of our own to worry about. But when tragedy comes around we are forced to face the fact that we are still few compared to the many – we Jews are collectively a relatively small community. Each person's contribution is important and no one should be taken for granted.
Read full article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3994800,00.html

Accidents and Tehillim

Last week I received an email with a weekly update from Manhigut Yehudit. Among the items was a progress report on Dovid Feiglin, son of Moshe Feiglin, who was critically injured in a car accident at the end of June. Michael Fuah writes the following:
I went to see David Feiglin today. He walked into the room on his walker. When I made the blessing for good tidings, he answered "Amen!" with a big smile.
He identified the friends sitting in the room by name, and gave each one a pat on the shoulder.
We feel that G-d is hearing our prayers.
The medical staff estimates that David will still need many long months of rehabilitation and does not know when they will end. Please continue to pray for the complete recovery of David Yosef ben Faigeh Perel. May we all dance together at the feast of thanksgiving for his recovery!

The Yeshiva World posted an item about a young man involved in a skiing accident.

Please be Mispallel for a 22-year old Yeshiva Bochur who is in critical condition Sunday night after being involved in a skiing accident in Vermont.
His name is Yitzchok Menachem ben Hadassa Blima.

One comment posted included, "Why don’t we split up the Tehilim, I’ll take 1-10 (incl.) May he have a refuah shleima."

As I read about the slow but steady recovery of Dovid Feiglin, I was reminded how grateful we should be when things are going right. May David Yosef ben Faigeh Perel and Yitzchok Menachem ben Hadassa Blima merit a refuah sheleima.
I'm signing off for now, as I am planning to say some chapters of Tehilim for the young men.

5 Dec 2010

Seizing the moment

Last night I caught an amazing video of a hero identified as "Angel" who pulled a man off a train track with only seconds to spare before being hit by an oncoming train.
An off-duty member of Spain’s National Police became a hero after rescuing a man who lost his balance on the platform and fell on the tracks at Puerta del Angel Station of the Madrid Subway.
...The National Police has only issued one piece of information on its agent who has chosen to remain anonymous: he was identified as Angel.
Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/301070#ixzz17GbyAsw1http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/301070

Kudos to "Angel" for seizing the moment and acting as an angel at Puerta del Angel station.

I found another article relating to seizing the moment in a New York Times wedding announcement of a 55-year-old widow and a 62-year-old widower.

“When you reach a certain age in life, you’ve had numbers of life experiences and the old adage of ‘seize the day’ becomes all the more meaningful,” he said. “We wanted to be together in an enduring way.”
Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/fashion/weddings/05singer.html?ref=weddings

Is my father still alive?

A number of times before he revealed himself to his brothers, Yosef asked them if their father was alive and they answered in the affirmative. Now when Yosef says "Ani Yosef" he immediately again asks "Ha'Od Avi Chai", is my father still alive. Why does he ask it again and why in the same breath as his great revelation? Furthermore we don't see that the Shevatim answered this question at all. The Bais HaLevi answers that the medrash says that great embarrassment the Shevatim had when Yosef revealed himself will be nothing compared to our embarrassment when we come to Shamayim to our own judgment day. What is the connection?
He explains that Yosef was questioning the consistency of his brothers in their protection of Binyomin. They claimed that they would fight to their death over him because it would kill their father if he were not brought back alive. To this Yosef retorts "I am Yosef", you told my father I am dead and he is still alive so why are you so concerned now?
When we come to Shamayim we will have many excuses to justify our behavior, says the Bais Halevi. However many of the charges we will face will deal with our own internal inconsistencies. You were too tired to help someone who needed a favor? Okay that sounds like a good excuse. But wait! Look here when you were doing something for yourself. Then you had plenty of energy! These are the most embarrassing questions of them all and this is the question that Yosef asked his brothers. For questions like this the Shevatim didn't have an answer and neither will we.

4 Dec 2010

The Chanukah flames

Israeli police arrested two suspects in connection to a deadly wildfire raging in the country's north, though a police spokesman said appears the fires started out of negligence.
...British Prime Minister David Cameron instructed the Royal Air Force to deploy two helicopters from Cyprus to help put out the fire, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday.
Hague expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and to the thousands who have had to be evacuated because of the blaze.
"This tragedy is all the more sad as it comes as the Jewish community around the world celebrates Hanukkah, a time of hope and joy," Hague said.

A Debka article reveals that "police spokesmen reported that an initial probe had shown the Carmel fire was set off Thursday, Dec. 1, by the carelessness of an Isfiya family who neglected to put out the nargilla they were smoking."

Click here to read an article titled Hanukkah in the Age of Wikileaks by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

3 Dec 2010

Making a spectacle

The following is an excerpt from an email by Rabbi Eli Mansour about this week's parsha - a lesson for one and all.

The Torah relates that Yaakob Abinu, too, sent his sons to Egypt to purchase grain. When he proposed the idea to his sons, he asked them, "Lama Titra'u?" (42:1), which literally means, "Why do you make yourselves conspicuous?" The commentaries explain that Yaakob and his family still had food provisions at this point; they had not reached the point where they needed to purchase grain from Egypt. However, Yaakob was concerned about what the surrounding peoples would think upon seeing him and his family enjoying financial stability while they were without food. Everybody else was forced to travel to Egypt to buy food. If they saw Yaakob and his family enjoying relative stability while everybody else in Canaan had nothing and had to buy grain from Egypt, they would naturally feel envious and resentful. Yaakob, wisely, knew he had to avoid these hostile feelings. He therefore said to his sons, "Why should we make a spectacle? Why should we appear wealthy while everyone else is struggling? Why draw this kind of attention to ourselves?
...Yaakob's remark to his children conveys a critically important message specifically for our day and age, when, by and large, we enjoy prosperity and material comforts. Contemporary society teaches, "If you have it, flaunt it." Yaakob Abinu, however, teaches us to do just the opposite.
...Yaakob understood what far too few people today understand - that showing off material success, especially in periods of financial instability, invites hostility, not admiration. When a person flaunts his wealth, people around him become resentful - not his adoring admirers.

Read full article: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/WeeklyParasha.asp

2 Dec 2010

Prayer for success of rescue efforts

Tehillim 89:
47 How long, O LORD, wilt Thou hide Thyself for ever? How long shall Thy wrath burn like fire?
מז עַד-מָה יְהוָה, תִּסָּתֵר לָנֶצַח; תִּבְעַר כְּמוֹ-אֵשׁ חֲמָתֶךָ

To recite full perek click here.
INN reports that "At 10:00 Thursday evening, a prayer will be recited at the Western Wall of the Temple in Jerusalem (Hakotel Hama'aravi) for the success of fire and rescue efforts in the Carmel Ridge fire, as well as a prayer on behalf of the victims."

...Due to the fire in Northern Israel, the Roshei Yeshiva of Ponavez have instructed the entire to gather in the Bais medrash and recite Tehillim.
...Hagon Chacham Ovadia Yosef Shlita reacted with tears upon hearing of the tragedy, and called on Am Yisroel to join him in davening that the fire be brought under control, and for the memory of the Niftarim.

Sweden's loss- Israel's gain

Marcus Eilenberg is a Swedish Jew whose family roots in Malmo run deep. His paternal grandparents were Holocaust survivors who found shelter in this southern Swedish city in 1945. His wife's parents fled to Sweden from communist Poland in the 1960s.
Now the 32-year-old law firm associate feels the welcome for Jews is running out, and he is moving to Israel with his wife and two children in May. He says he knows at least 15 other Jews who are leaving for a similar reason.
That reason, he says, is a rise in hate crimes against Jews in Malmo, and a sense that local authorities have little desire to deal with a problem that has exposed a crack in Sweden's image as a bastion of tolerance and a haven for distressed ethnic groups.
Anti-Semitic crimes in Europe have usually been associated with the far right, but Shneur Kesselman, an Orthodox rabbi, says the threat now comes from Muslims.

Read more: http://www.crownheights.info/index.php?itemid=30406

Swedish TV4’s investigative programme Kalla fakta has broadcast the first of a two-part documentary detailing how Queen Silvia‘s late father grew rich producing armaments in a factory stolen from the Jews.
When she married in 1976 the Queen’s German father Walter Sommerlath denied he had ever been a member of the Nazi party. That fiction was exposed some years later by a Swedish newspaper which proved he joined the movement in 1934.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1334729/Fresh-scandal-Swedish-royal-family-Nazi-past-Queen-s-father-revealed-TV-documentary.html#ixzz16wvL9pmZ

1 Dec 2010

Light one candle

As Jewish leaders in Germany set up a display of a prominent Jewish symbol, students at Indian University have to contend with anti-Semitic acts.

The leaders of Berlin's Jewish community set up a 20-foot (six-meter) tall menorah for Hanukkah on Wednesday against the backdrop of one of Germany's most historically important symbols, the Brandenburg Gate.
..."This square represents Germany like the Statue of Liberty represents America," Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal told The Associated Press. "Therefore, it has great meaning to us at this very spot that was once the essence of darkness and evil to set a tone of light."

Read full story: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101201/ap_on_re_eu/eu_germany_hanukkah

The Bloomington Herald-Times is reporting Hebrew texts were taken from the shelves at Indiana University's Wells Library and distributed to eight different bathrooms within the library, where they were urinated on.
...That's the latest in a series of anti-Semitic incidents this week, which includes rocks being thrown through windows at Jewish centers for students - twice at the Chabad House Jewish Student Center and once at the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center.
Read full story: http://www.fox59.com/news/bloomington/wxin-another-attack-on-bloomington-113010,0,1189019.story

Rejoicing with just a dreidel

Two views on dreidels. Spiritualism versus materialism. Which view is yours?

On Chanukah we spin dreidels upon which are inscribed the first letters of the words, "neis gadol ha'yah sham" -- a great miracle happened there. We rejoice with our dreidels, but we spin them specifically from their top part to constantly remind ourselves that Chanukah was a time when miracles came gratis, when God bestowed His infinite compassion upon His people and things began to spin down to us in the form of undeniable miracles.
...This Chanukah, let's get the inspiration started from below. We must do our utmost to unite as a nation, to work together as individuals and as a People on growing in all areas of spirituality, and hopefully we'll trigger God's mercy and miracles like never before. Let's increase our charity, good deeds, dedication to prayer,

Read full article: http://www.aish.com/h/c/t/dt/48965186.html

And there’s another way — for it is supposed to be a children’s festival, after all —in which Jewish children celebrating Hanukkah feel short-changed alongside their Christian friends gearing up for Christmas. The presents. Or rather, the lack of presents. No train sets or roller skates for Hanukkah, no smartphones or iPads. Just the dreidel, the four-sided spinning top with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet on each surface.
Read, full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/01/opinion/01jacobson.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&hpw