"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

28 Aug 2011

Getting over it and giving back

The following is an excerpt from an article by Barry Rubin titled A Lesson from Egypt for American Politics.
I’ve been told directly by an Arab friend who had been to China the following story that he claims is true:
Arab visitor: “How do you Chinese deal with the fact that you suffered so much from foreign invasion and imperialism?”
Chinese official: “We got over it.”


Some people give back to their community. Then there's Fresno County School Superintendent Larry Powell, who's really giving back. As in $800,000 — what would have been his compensation for the next three years.
Until his term expires in 2015, Powell will run 325 schools and 35 school districts with 195,000 students, all for less than a starting California teacher earns.
"How much do we need to keep accumulating?" asks Powell, 63. "There's no reason for me to keep stockpiling money."
..."Our goal has never been to have things," Powell said of himself and his wife, Dot. "We want to give back."
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/school-superintendent-gives-800k-pay-150206667.html

A building forever

In this week's haftorah ( Yeshaya 51:12-52:13) Hashem tells the Bnei Yisroel that He will console them. The Yalkut Shimoni says that Avraham couldn't console them because he called the Bais HaMikdash "Har" a mountain, neither could Yitzchok because he called it a "Sadeh", and neither could Yaakov who called it a "Bayis", house.
Reb Yehonoson Eibushitz unravels this enigmatic Medrash and says that Bnei Yisroel couldn't be consoled with a promise of the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash because they were afraid that eventually their aveiros would cause it to be destroyed just like the previous ones. Avraham's consolation fortelling of the future rebuilding didn't satisfy them. Avraham referred to the Bais HaMikdash as a mountain and the pasuk says in tehilim "Mi Yaaleh BeHar Hashem...Neki Kapayim..." who can go onto the mountain of Hashem only people with innocent hands and hearts etc. In that case they knew the Bais HaMikdash would rise and fall on their purity, not a good thing for them to hear. Yitzhchok called it a Sadeh, a field which is open to all, including the Goyim with whose help it was built allowing them to stake a claim to it as well. It was this influence of theirs that allowed the Bais HaMikdash to ultimately fall into their murderous and destructive hands. Yaakov called it a house. To enter Hashem's house requires the utmost modesty and humbleness, a level that they were afraid they could not maintain.
Only when Hashem said Anochi, Anochi, Hu Minachemchem, Hashem whose building and handiwork survives forever with no preconditions were the Bnei Yisroel finally consoled.


Yeshaya 51:15
15. I am the Lord your God, Who wrinkles the sea and its waves stir; the Lord of Hosts is His name.

Part of a comment posted on an article about the hurricane:
"if klal yisroel had only started doing teshuva when 7 tzaddikim left this world in a matter of 5 WEEKS & gotten the message from Hashem.
we would not need an earthquake & a hurricane to bring us to teshuva"

A friend opined that Hashem is showing us that what we consider important and where we invest our money - in luxurious houses and the like - can come tumbling down in the blink of an eye. As we approach Chodesh Elul, let's get our priorities straight and put our trust in G-d and not in our temporary dwellings.

The video below is a united effort of six Israeli singers.

27 Aug 2011

The report

A Nigerian man accused of trying to blow up an airliner near Detroit with an explosive hidden in his underwear has asked to be judged by the Koran rather than U.S. law, documents filed with a federal court in Michigan show.
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/accused-underwear-bomber-wants-judged-koran-171736547.html

Ed Lasky has written an article about a report released by the Center for American Progress.
Clearly, this is a well-funded effort to chill legitimate criticism of Islamic extremism in America. There are also political motivations behind this report since it also tries to refute allegations of ties between Muslims and Barack Obama. But what is most shameful about this "report" is that it employs classic anti-Semitic tropes, blaming conspiratorial Jews for stoking fear and hatred of Muslims.
Read full article: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2011/08/the_soros-supported_center_for_american_progress_blames_rich_jews_for_stoking_islamophobia.html

The report seems to be quite one-sided. For instance, it mentions the video taken at a rally held at Yorba Linda, California, in February this year when crowds shouted at Muslim families on the way to attend a fundraiser event. The report fails to mention that the keynote speakers at the event were Abdel Malik Ali, a supporter of Hamas, and Siraj Wahaj, an unindicted co conspirator in the first World Trade Center bombing.

26 Aug 2011

Ein mayim ela Torah

Ein mayim ela Torah
The prophet then invites the thirsty to acquire "water," namely those who are thirsty for spirituality should study the quenching words of Torah.


"All who are thirsty go and drink water, acquire without pay wine and milk." (55:1) Chazal(Yalkut ad loc.) explain that water refers to Torah knowledge and wine and milk refer to spiritual sustenance.

The above sentences are taken from two articles regarding this week's haftorah which is to be read in the synagogue this Shabbat.
As the hurricane approaches, Hashem, please rain down upon us Torah knowledge, rather than torrential waters.
Have a Shabbat Shalom.

A female's right

David J. Seidemann has written an interesting article about a court case in which he was involved titled A Fight For Yiddishkeit where a rabbi was questioned about the rights of females in Orthodox Judaism.
And speaking of females, WND has an article about the First Lady.

25 Aug 2011

In the sky with diamonds

A newly discovered alien planet that formed from a dead star is a real diamond in the rough.
The super-high pressure of the planet, which orbits a rapidly pulsing neutron star, has likely caused the carbon within it to crystallize into an actual diamond, a new study suggests.

Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/surprise-alien-planet-made-diamond-discovered-181402842.html

Reading the above article brought to mind the Gemara in Sanhedrin 100a.

R. Johanan was sitting and teaching: The Holy One, blessed be He, will bring jewels and precious stones, each thirty cubits long, and thirty cubits high, and make an engraving in them, ten by twenty cubits, and set them up as the gates of Jerusalem, for it is written, And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles.12 A certain disciple derided him saying, 'We do not find a jewel even as large as a dove's egg, yet such huge ones are to exist!' Some time later he took a sea journey and saw the ministering angels cutting precious stones and pearls. He said unto them: 'For what are these?' They replied: 'The Holy One, blessed be He, will set them up as the gates of Jerusalem.' On his return, he found R. Johanan sitting and teaching. He said to him: 'Expound, O Master, and it is indeed fitting for you to expound, for even as you did say, so did I myself see.' 'Wretch!' he exclaimed, 'had you not seen, you would not have believed! You deride the words of the Sages!' He set his eyes upon him, and he turned in to a heap of bones.


With the financial markets unsteady, people are wondering whether to invest in gold which has risen steadily, only to drop yesterday. My advice? Invest in lulavim.

On Tuesday, ElderofZiyon.blogspot posted an article titled Egypt bans selling "lulavim" to Israel.

In 2010 INN reported the following.
Giving Jews plenty of time to prepare for the Sukkot holiday, three and a half months away, Egypt has announced that it will not export lulavs this year.
Egyptian Agriculture Minister says he will ban the export of lulavs – palm tree fronds – this year, leaving Jewish communities around the world and particularly in Israel without its major source of lulavim for the Sukkot holiday.


After reading the above articles, I discovered through Google that this year was not the only one where a threat of a shortage of lulavim was imminent. The following is an excerpt from Lessons of the Lulav: Zaide Reuven and the Lulav Shortage of 5766.

...and we hear that the Egyptians have decided to ban the export of lulavim. After thousands of years of growing date palms, (and probably thousands of years of cutting lulavim) someone has just realised that cutting the lulav damages the tree.
So what now? My partner reminds me to trust in the Almighty who will see to it that His people will not be without the materials to perform the mitzvah of the Four Species. I opine that perhaps this is a wakeup call to Am Yisroel on the subject of unity. After all, the mitzvah of the Four Species is about unity – recall the Midrash that relates each of the Four Species to a particular segment of the Jewish People. Those with taste and smell (they know and perform mitvot – esrog), taste but no smell (they know but don’t perform – lulav), smell but no taste (they perform but do not know – hadas), and neither taste nor smell (no knowledge or performance – aravos). In taking all Four Species together we unite the Jewish People in the service of God.
In jeopardy this year are the lulav Jews. Those who know their responsibilities, but fail to keep them. But they stood to jeopardize all of us. Our unity. Was this a wake up call that had something to do with the some focus of infighting? Perhaps the Disengagement/Expulsion from Gush Katif? Am Yisrael was certainly disunited over that one. Were we being given a message that went something like this: “So you want to perform a mitzvah that has to do with unity?, You must show Me some unity first.”?

Read full article: http://www.esrogfarm.com/2008/09/lessons-of-the-lulav-zaide-reuven-and-the-lulav-shortage-of-5766/

24 Aug 2011

A forty day program

My parents once attended a lecture given by the author, Roy Neuberger, where he stated that when he writes, the question that he asks himself is whether what he writes will be a kiddush Hashem.
His Jewish Press article titled Forty Days - Forty Suggestions discusses ways to come closer to G-d and closer to one another.
Click here to read his suggestions.
May we merit seeing the words written at the end of the article come to fruition.


Re'eh Anochi Nosein Lifneichem", see that I have given before you (Re'eh 11:26). All the meforshim ask, why does the pasuk start in the singular and end in the plural? The Kotzker Rebbe answers as follows. The pasuk refers to two experiences of the Torah. "Nosein", the giving of the Torah and "Re'eh", the seeing and understanding.
When it comes to the giving of the Torah, it was given to everyone in Am Yisroel together. It belongs to all of us and we are all responsible to learn it. However when it comes to the actual learning, each person is an individual. Each person must plumb the depths with all the talents bestowed on him. He cannot satisfy himself with a level of knowledge of the average man. "V'Sein CHelkeinu B'Sorasecha", each person has his own cheilek that he is responsible for.
In this vain quipped the legendary Rav Shalom Schwadron, the beauty of our Torah is that both a five year old child and an eighty year old man study the same holy words. The sad part is that they learn it with the same initial understanding. Similarly Rav Yaakov Kaminetzky would say, we must advance past our shallow vision of the stories of Parshios as our Rebbe taught us in Cheider.

23 Aug 2011

Fins and scales

Sept. 11, 1941:
In Arlington, Virginia, the U.S. Department of Defense starts construction on its new headquarters, the Pentagon.
On the same day, a new immigrant to the U.S., Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, later known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, writes in his private journal concerning two traits that make a moral and productive human being: “fins” and “scales.”
A few days later, the German army captures Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, and massacres 100,000 people in a ravine named Babi Yar.

Read full article: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/137607/jewish/Fins-and-Scales.htm

22 Aug 2011

Scrubbed, biased and incorrect articles

Sometime one sees news articles and one is incensed with the incorrect information being reported or the bias which is blatant in the article. Well, today, one individual achieved results after calling to cancel his subscription to a newspaper.

IsraelMatzav posted about a headline in the JPost titled Israel, Hamas attempt truce after 3 days of mutual attacks. Upset with the word, "mutual," the blog author's wife called up the newspaper to cancel her subscription. If you check out the JPost article now, the word "mutual" has been scrubbed from the headline.
But sites which linked to the post still have the word "mutual" in the headline.

Unfortunately, I cannot use the threat of cancelling my subscription to the following website which reported false information, according to elderofziyon.blogspot.com.

He writes about WAFA, the official PA news agency.

But this symbol of the "moderate" Palestinian Authority has no compunctions with lying about recent history either.Sunday was the anniversary of the attempted firebombing of the Al Aqsa Mosque by a deranged Austrialian Christian named Denis Michael Rohan.Yet WAFA, in its article about the anniversary, says that Rohan was Jewish. Three times.

The WAFA article was written in Arabic, but if you submit it to a Google translation, you will see that "Israeli authorities continued to work hard in order to Judaize Arab Jerusalem, and always try to hide the image of the Dome of the Rock which is the symbol of Arab Jerusalem to the world..."

One comment posted stated that Al Jazeera also identified Mr. Rohan as Jewish, only to change the religion in a later version of a published article.
In 1969, for example, Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian Christian who set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem,

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Denis Michael Rohan as Jewish.

But, those who copied the article onto their sites did not bother to update the correct version.
In 1969, for example, an Australian Jew who set fire to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem...

Finally, we have an article discussing the delay of the flotilla report which reports that both sides are blaming the other country for the delay. It is interesting to see if other articles are just blaming Turkey or Israel for the delay.

The United Nations on Monday again delayed the release of a report on Israel’s raid on a Turkish-led aid flotilla to Gaza because the two sides had not agreed on the document, a UN spokesman said.
..“The demand to postpone came from Israel, like the previous demands,” Selcuk Unal, Turkish foreign ministry spokesman told Turkey’s Anatolia news agency.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli official told AFP that “the Turkish side asked for the delay.”


Baruch Hashem, great

When something bad happens, we are supposed to say, "gam zu letovah" -everything is for the best. If we miss a plane, we are upset but, if the plane crashes, we thank G-d that we missed the plane. I was reminded of "gam zu letovah" when I read the following story in the Jerusalem Post titled Heart attack saves man from rocket attack.

The heart attack Meir Dimri suffered on Tuesday saved his life on Saturday night when a rocket hit the garage near his small Beersheba home.
The projectile lodged in the pavement between his home and a neighbor’s.
It destroyed a small makeshift garage, shattered the windows in both houses, left pock marks on the walls and killed his dog Ze’ev.
But it did not harm Dimri or his wife who that night was with him in the hospital, where he was recovering from his heart attack.

The other week, I listened to a lecture by Rabbi Wallerstein and his words have made a deep impression on me. At the 38'50'' mark, he speaks about our cell phone use and our complete disregard for others, while we are on the phone, including mothers who don't attend to their babies because they are too busy texting. He speaks about not giving enough time to family members while they are alive while we think they will live forever. He talks about our lack of enthusiasm. He relates a conversation with a rabbi in Israel.
There's a rav in Eretz Yisrael - everytime he asks me - "nu Wallerstein, how's it going?"... I always say, "Baruch Hashem." He says, nu, how's it going?
"Baruch Hashem."
"Baruch Hashem good or Baruch Hashem bad?"
Cause there's a halacha that you have to make a beracha on the good and the bad.... When you say Baruch Hashem, it could be something bad, it could be something good. He says, that's not the answer. Baruch Hashem is very nice, but Baruch Hashem what?
So, now I say "Baruch Hashem, amazing."

This week, I've made a conscious effort to answer, "Baruch Hashem, great," when someone asks me how I'm doing.

16 Aug 2011

Car accidents - venishmartem lenafshotechem

An Israeli site reported about an accident involving an overturned vehicle. If you look at the pictures, one can only be amazed that nothing serious happened to those traveling in the car. Emergency services said their lives were saved because the people in the car had worn seat belts.

Unfortunately, an accident in New Square did not have a happy ending, as it resulted in the death of a two-year-old girl.
Her cousin, also the same age, was killed in the same area a number of months ago.

Let's make sure we fasten our seat belts when entering a car and hold on to toddlers when walking down the street.

And here's an article about protecting your health.
Doing just 15 minutes of moderate exercise a day may add three years to your life, a large study in Taiwan has found.
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/15-minutes-exercise-day-extend-life-three-years-234343836.html

15 Aug 2011

Loving the convert

This week's parsha contains the words regarding loving the convert. The following is a devar Torah from Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple about the subject.

Recent conversion controversies in Israel have caused great distress amongst large numbers of people whose acceptance of and into Judaism has been blithely brushed aside – without apology or courtesy – apparently because certain rabbis have decided that certain other rabbis don’t know what they are talking about. I can’t help but contrast the furore with a moment at an Australian rabbinic conference where a certain rabbi asked why we didn’t keep in regular touch with converts and make sure they were maintaining their religious observance. A veteran halachist whose rulings were widely respected objected strongly to the suggestion. “When a person becomes Jewish,” he said, “they are part of the community and we have no right to spy on them” – though his exact words were, “We don’t bodek anyone’s tzitzis, we don’t check anyone’s fringes”.
The rule in the Torah is Va-ahavtem et ha-ger, “You shall love the ger” (Deut. 10:19). The original meaning of ger is “stranger” and in that sense it is basic to Jewish ethics that we love the alien, the foreigner, the outsider. In rabbinic Hebrew, ger means a convert, and many of our greatest assets have been people who came into Judaism through conversion. Having had some contact in Israel with classes that prepare people for conversion there is no doubt in my mind but that in most cases the convert gains from Judaism and Judaism gains from the convert. We are told to respect and love the convert because they have – often with considerable spiritual and moral courage – chosen to throw in their lot with the Jewish people (Num. R. 8:2). It seems to me that rabbinical decisors are duty bound to find the words to apologise to thousands of converts and assure them that they have indeed come under the wings of the Sh’chinah and are welcome in Judaism.


So, let's make a special effort this week (and every week) to love the convert. Do we know someone in the neighborhood who is a ger tzedek and might not have an invitation for a Shabbos meal? Many have no family to turn to so let's make a conscious decision to welcome them into our family. Just as we wouldn't let a family member eat a Shabbos meal alone, we shouldn't let the opportunity go by to invite a ger into our household.

The 2012 candidates

Alan Keyes discusses Rick Perry's recent prayer rally in an article titled Is Rick Perry the answer to GOP's prayers?

Yet justice is, or ought to be, the primary concern of a political leader. It is, as President James Madison said, the end or aim of both government and civil society. Anyone sincerely committed to restoring the principles and integrity of America's republic would never omit to remind people of faith that America is founded on the acknowledgement of the fact that the Creator of heaven and earth and all humanity is therefore the source and rule for all that is just.
There is no doubt that boldly reminding people of this fact must these days surely incur the wrath of the forces bent on driving God from His rightful place as the Sovereign of the sovereign people of the United States. But that is the difference between leaders who trust in and serve God in their pursuit of political goals, and those who simply seek to call on his Divine power (and the votes of the faithful) to serve their own political ends (as did the rulers of old when they called on ancient pagan gods to buttress their authority.)

In an article titled Perry's Problematic Pals, Pamela Geller writes, "Rick Perry must not be the Republican nominee. Rick Perry must not be President. Have we not had enough of this systemic sedition?"

Meanwhile, Air Force Staff Sergeant Refusing Orders Until Obama's Eligibility Dealt With.

IsraelMatzav writes, "The more I see of Allen West, the more I like him."

I agree. Run, Allen, run.

14 Aug 2011

Choose wisely

The last Mishnah in Masechet Taanit says, "There were no holidays so joyous for the Jewish People as the Fifteenth of Av and Yom HaKippurim, for on those days, daughters of Yerushalayim would go out dressed in borrowed white clothing (so that they would all look the same).
The King's daughters would borrow from those of the High Priest. Daughters of the High Priest would borrow from the Assistant High Priest's daughters; daughters of the Assistant would borrow from the daughters of the Priest designated to lead the People in times of War, the Kohen Anointed for War's daughters would borrow from the daughters of the Ordinary Priest. And the daughters of the rest of the Jewish People would borrow from each other, so as not to embarrass those who didn't have."
"And the daughters of Jerusalem would go out and dance in the vineyards located on the outskirts of the city. And everyone who didn't have a wife would go there."...
..."And what would they say?"
"Young man, lift up your eyes and choose wisely. Don't look only at physical beauty - look rather at the family - 'For charm is false, and beauty is vanity. A G-d - fearing woman is the one to be praised...' ("Mishlei"/Proverbs 31:30)"

Read full article: http://www.ou.org/chagim/roshchodesh/av/tubav.htm

This morning Ynet published an article titled Marriage proposal gone wrong: Ring falls off cliff.
Yes, it's sad that the ring might be lost forever, but, the article didn't say whether the bride accepted. If she did, then it certainly wasn't a marriage proposal gone wrong but a cause of great rejoicing.
Nowadays, the shidduch problem is recognized as a large scale one. So, on Tu B'Av and all through the year, let's do our bit to alleviate the problem. Let's think of a shidduch and make a suitable suggestion to a single friend.
And parents, make sure to ask the right questions.
Hamodia conducted an interview with Devorah Goldstein, who became famous after the book titled The Bamboo Cradle was published.
When asked about shidduchim, Ms. Goldstein said the following.
"And when we look into prospective mechutanim, we won't ask if they use paper or plastic dishes. We will ask: Are they parents who go to pick up their children when they need a ride? Are they the kind of parents who avoid machlokes? Do they have a happy Shabbos seudah? There are the things that really matter."
May we merit to dance at many simchos this year.

Ashes to urns?

Sybil Sage has a whimsical article about the serious topic of death, discussing cremation as a serious alternative to traditional burial. She writes, "Cremation is also substantially cheaper."
She does inform the reader that, "The practice is prohibited by traditional Jewish law.... Some Conservative and Reform Jews, however, are now choosing to be cremated." So, if some Reform Jews eat pork products, does that make it kosher?
This week's parsha is all about following in the ways of G-d and the consequences of not heeding His commandments.
Perek 10:12 And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul;
The verse doesn't say "what doth the LORD require of thee, to walk in the ways of some Conservative and Reform Jews."
Ms. Sage ends her article by plugging her website where people can order personalized urns. Since she writes that, "cremation is also substantially cheaper," I'm sure one can find much cheaper urns made in China.
Finally, who gets the urn? Does one child display it in his/her living room for the winter months while another gets it for summer? Or, do the children fight because none of them want a continuous reminder of their dead parents in his/her living room?
A teenager posted a comment at the end of Ms. Sage's article,
I sit here literally wretching as I read this article, and I'm feeling myself begin to cry. Ignoring the fact that Jewish law prohibits cremation - if you decide you want your last action in this world to be an aveirah, your choice - how can you want to go the same way 6 million went?
...It's a sad day when a 16-year-old needs to give adults mussar.

Rabbi Avi Shafran writes an excellent article about the issue of cremation. And, before making such a momentous decision, I urge you to contact an Orthodox rabbi such as Rabbi Shafran.

Speaking about burials, the rabbi in the video below explains what they have to do with tomorrow's holiday.

13 Aug 2011

Agree or disagree

For those of you who missed it, the HuffingtonPost has an article titled The Seven Most Powerful Teachings in Judaism by Rabbi Chaim Miller. It's up to you to agree or disagree.

And here's an op-ed by Abraham Foxman titled Op-Ed: Shout down the Sharia myth makers. Again, it's up to you to agree or disagree.

12 Aug 2011

Parshat Hashavua in the news

In an amazing reflection on this week's parsha where the Ten Commandments are read, the Blaze has an article titled Floridians Fight to Keep 10 Commandments Monument on Gov’t Land.
Click here to read full article and see a photograph of some of the commandments.
In a week where full scale rioting and looting occurred in England, the Ten Commandments, including "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet," are as relevant nowadays as they were thousands of years ago.

11 Aug 2011

The rebuttal

David Yerushalmi offers a strong rebuttal at the American Thinker to a NYT article The Man Behind the Anti-Sharia Movement by Andrea Elliot.

Ms. Elliot contacted me several months before the "anti-sharia movement" article was to run saying she wanted only background on the movement since she knew I was involved. I conditioned my agreement to provide background on an explicit commitment from her that the article was not about me. She agreed. When we finally sat down for a three-hour lunch, it was evident at the end of the "background" discussion that Ms. Elliot was focusing too much on personalities, me especially, and not enough on the substantive arguments against sharia. Every time I pressed her, though, she assured me that the story was "not about you."
Well, that little bit of journalistic dishonesty we all know is part of the tradecraft....

Read full article: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/08/nyt_searches_for_the_leader_of_the_anti-shariah_movement_finds_me_instead.html

Hearing the message

I caught this article on INN the other day.
Israeli comedian Eli Yatzpan has decided that Torah observance is not a joke. Since the recent brutal murder of renowned kabbalistic Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, Baba Elazar, grandson of the famed Baba Sali, Yitzpan says he has begun to observe the Sabbath.
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/146519

How Mr. Yatzpan internalized a message in the Rabbi's murder, while others did not, reminded me of a story I heard during a rabbi's lecture about Rav Yechetzkel Levenstein. I found the story on shortvort.com and am posting the pertinent excerpt.

He was in a taxi in Israel and the secular taxi driver turned to him and said,
"You know, I have a very religious best friend. He wasn’t always religious, in fact we were army buddies and he was as irreligious as me. After the army as most of us did then, we went off to India to have some fun and we went camping in the jungle there. In the middle of the night we all woke up to hear muffled screams and we saw our friend with a huge boa constrictor around his neck squeezing tighter and tighter. Of course we screamed at the snake and hit it with sticks but it was just going tighter around his neck. Nothing we were doing was helping and our friend was quickly losing consciousness. With nothing else we could do one of us shouted to him "say shema yisrael" – so with his last ounce of strength our friend said shema yisrael and all of a sudden the snake unloosened his grip and crawled away. It was a miracle!! - So now our friend wears a hat with a religious wife and kids in yeshivas."
"That's a great story" the Rav exclaimed "but why are you not more religious after witnessing all this?"
"Well" said the taxi driver " the miracle didn’t happen to me!"
Read full article: http://www.shortvort.com/component/content/article/114-rotator/11516-my-miracle-in-the-skies

Many of us heard about the brutal murder of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, but how many of us heard the message?

10 Aug 2011

Which side of the fence?

Chazal tell us that Moshiach will only come in a generation that is Kulo Zakkai or Kulo Chayav completely innocent and worthy, or completely guilty with not a morsel of good. Under these criteria it is hard to see Moshiach coming. "Completely good" sounds like a fantasy and not something we can imagine in today's world. Similarly we see so much good and so many wonderful people that it is equally incomprehensible to imagine a generation without a single good person. So what do Chazal mean?
Rav Elya Weintraub says that the Chofetz Chaim explains as follows. "All innocent" and "all guilty" does not mean that everyone is on the same side of the fence. It just means that everyone sits squarely on one side of the fence. In order for the Moshiach to come the world must be completely polarized. Everyone must choose where they belong, with Hashem or Chas V'Shalom the opposite.
Continue reading at http://www.revach.net/galus-geula/moshiach/Chofetz-Chaim-When-Moshiach-Comes-No-One-Will-Be-Sitting-On-The-Fence/4792

And speaking about sides, which side is the White House taking in regard to Jerusalem?

On Tuesday, The Weekly Standard’s deputy online editor, Daniel Halper, made a noteworthy charge against the White House.
...Halper claims that the White House “cleansed” its site of references to the city being definitively tied to the Jewish homeland.

Read full article at: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/did-the-white-house-cleanse-references-to-jerusalem-israel-from-its-web-site/

Hits, scolds or cause of concern

Israel Matzav has an article titled State Department: US 'deeply concerned' about - what else? in which he discusses the US State depatment reaction to the construction approval of new homes in Har Homa. He also takes issue with Politico for stating that the State department said Israel and Palestine must continue....
"No, the State Department briefing did not refer to 'Palestine.' Hey Politico - there ain't no such thing as 'Palestine.'"

Here are a few articles and headlines about the topic. Notice any difference?

US scolds Israel over new construction plans

U.S. hits Israel on settlements
In its rebuke, the State Department said Israel and Palestine must continue to work for a peace agreement through the negotiating process.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0811/60959.html#ixzz1UbfMtt3M

US Israel Construction Plans Cause Of Concern
Alongside its rare rebuke of a close ally, the State Department said Israelis and Palestinians should settle their differences on Jerusalem through negotiation.

The following is an excerpt from the State Department daily press briefing of August 9th. Has anyone reported this or is it only about Israel?

QUESTION: The Palestinian-Israeli issue. Palestinian sources say they are studying or weighing in postponing the submission of their application to the United Nations beyond the General Assembly. Is this something that you’re discussing with them, not to let go of the idea, but actually to postpone it?

MS. NULAND: Our position on activities at the UN General Assembly has not changed. It didn’t change in the weeks of my summer leave. We think that this is a bad idea, which is going to make the kind of negotiation that we want to see for a lasting long-term peace more difficult.

QUESTION: Would that be an idea that you would encourage, for Mr. Abbas to climb down from that tree?

MS. NULAND: I think we’ve encouraged from the beginning that the Palestinians reconsider this ill-advised course that they have been on.

9 Aug 2011

Tisha B'Av in England

On Tisha B'Av 1290 an edict was signed by King Edward I regarding the expulsion of Jews from England.

On Tisha B'av 2009 - England burning.
There's an interesting article titled London’s Burning by Iain Murray at National Review.

They are your children

Perhaps England can learn from Philadelphia mayor, Michael Nutter, who announced temporary curfews on minors.

Nutter also called out parents, saying "it is your responsibility to know where they are, what they are doing and who they are with. They are your children. You need to raise them. You are responsible for them."
Read full article: http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/local&id=8294759

4 Aug 2011

At fifty counsel

… בן חמישים לעצה …
וּמִבֶּן֙ חֲמִשִּׁ֣ים שָׁנָ֔ה יָשׁ֖וּב מִצְּבָ֣א הָעֲבֹדָ֑ה וְלֹ֥א יַעֲבֹ֖ד עֽוֹד׃

- במדבר ח:כה

Pirkei Avot Chapter 5.
"He [Yehuda ben Taima] used to say: At five [one should begin the study of] Scriptures; at ten, Mishna; at thirteen [one becomes obligated in] the commandments; at fifteen [the study of] Talmud; at eighteen the wedding canopy; at twenty to pursue; at thirty strength; at forty understanding; at fifty counsel; at sixty old age; at seventy fullness of years; at eighty spiritual strength; at ninety bending over; at one hundred it is as if he has died and passed on from the world."

BBC has an article titled Happy Birthday, Mr President in which advice columnist Amy Dickinson counsels the President on achieving the milestone of reaching 50.
"If President Obama asked me for advice on this mid-life milestone (he told me once that he reads my column), I'd point out that at 50, when you start every day by seeing your parents stare back at you in the bathroom mirror, the real gift is that you're forced to reckon with the unavoidable, inescapable truth - that the luckiest of us will escape middle age into old age.
The idea is to do the least amount of damage while we get there."

Read full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/14398036

3 Aug 2011

Click here

Boy, I got a rude awakening this morning when I found a link to a 2010 MSNBC article about the birther movement. Scrolling down, I came across an interview with MSNBC contributor and former Slate political reporter, Dave Weigel, who was offering a crash course on the birthers. At 2'43, he states, "birtherism began because the Obama campaign put out the short form version you can get if you lose yours ....- the one that says born here Island county hospital..."
Nowhere in the short form version is there mention of a hospital.
Click here to read article and see video.
So, does that mean I can't believe everything I see and read from the mainstream media?

And on an unrelated note, I received an email from Tzidkat Rashbi regarding the Yahrtzeit of the Holy Kabbalist, the Ari, Thursday August 4-5.
"On Special Yahrtzeits such as the Ari Hakadosh, Amuka, Shala Hakadosh, Rebbe Meir Bal Haness, Rachel Imenu, Tzidkat Rashbi will conduct a special prayer service and recite your prayers there."

Click here to make a donation or to request that a free prayer should be recited on the day of the yahrtzeit.

A seeing eye

הסתכל בשלושה דברים ואין אתה בא לידי עבירה דע מה למעלה ממך עין רואה ואוזן שומעת וכל מעשיך בספר נכתבין.
Contemplate three things, and you will not come to the hands of transgression: Know what is above from you: a seeing eye, a listening ear, and all your deeds being inscribed in a book.

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers
Source: Rabbi Yehuda Ha Nassi - Pirke Avot 2:1

The New York Post has an article and a video of a man snatching a purse from an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Shocking.

2 Aug 2011

The immutability of the Torah

Among the 13 principles of faith by Maimonides is the belief in the immutability of the Torah.
9. I believe with perfect faith that this Torah will not be changed, and that there will never be another given by G-d.

So, when I read an article questioning whether certain biblical laws are eternal, my answer was an unequivocal "yes". The authors of the article, however, wrote about one prohibition in the Torah, "one should recognize that the biblical prohibition is not one that is eternal and unchanging."
The authors also demonstrate the danger of interpreting biblical words according to their own understandings and not relying on far more erudite scholars and Rashi's exegesis.
For example, the authors point to words of Abraham:
"She is, in fact, my sister, my father's daughter but not my mother's daughter, and she became a wife to me" (Genesis 20:12).

They write that "the law in Leviticus explicitly forbids such relations with a half-sister" and come to the conclusion, "so what is not a to'ebah in the generation of the patriarchs has changed and become one in the generation of Moses."

But, Rashi writes that since Abraham's father was someone who worshipped idols, the law prohiniting a man from marrying his father's daughter did not apply in the case of Abraham.

So, even if the authors were educated at Queen's University in Canada and Harvard, I'll stick with Maimonides and Rashi.

Sit up straight

My grandmother had great posture. When the grandchildren would come to visit, she would say, "sit up straight. You don't mind if I'm telling you this, it's for your own good." I thought of her constructive rebuke as I read a thought on this week's parsha.

"These are the Devarim / words that Moshe spoke to all Yisrael." (1:1) R' Yehuda He'chassid zt"l writes in Ta'amei Mesorot HaMikra: The word "Devarim / words," suggests "Devoirim" or "bees." The words of the Torah are like bees (and bee products). In other words, the Torah, especially Sefer Devarim which contains many harsh rebukes, are as sweet as honey to those who keep them, but will sting as painfully as a bee to anyone who mistreats them.
It is noteworthy that the Gematria of the word 'Mussar' = 306, which has the same Gematria as the word 'D'vash' (Honey), as well as, 'Av HaRachamon' (A reference to Hashem as our Merciful Father). Although Mussar may sting, ultimately it is as sweet as honey, and should be used to refine one's character and reaffirm our connection to our Merciful Father.


1 Aug 2011

Alter or altar

Lee Fang takes issue with an article by Pamela Geller about the killings in Norway. Ms. Geller explcitly states, "There is no justification for Breivik's actions whatsoever."
So what is the title of Mr. Fang's article? Pam Geller Justifies Breivik’s Terror: Youth Camp Had More ‘Middle Eastern or Mixed’ Races Than ‘Pure Norwegian’

And here's a comment to the teacher of history who holds a PhD and offers such thoughts that "the Zionist hold over U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East" is "part of the reason we were attacked on 9/11 and why we subsequently invaded Iraq."
You wrote, "that reject any demand that they do obeisance at the alter of Zionism."

alter - Change or cause to change in character or composition
altar - An elevated place or structure before which religious ceremonies may be enacted or upon which sacrifices may be offered.

I think you meant altar.

Av and the nine days

Rosh Chodesh Av is the Yahrzeit of Aharon HaKohen. It is the only Yahrzeit mentioned in the Torah. It is recorded, not in Parshat Chukat where we read of Aharon's passing, but in Mas'ei - which we read on the Shabbat closest to Rosh Chodesh Av.
...Let us each put into action the qualities of Aharon HaKohen - love peace and pursue it, love people and bring them closer to Torah - so that the times we yearn for will become a reality, speedily in our time, Amen.
Read full article: http://www.ou.org/chagim/roshchodesh/av/default.htm
Click here to read about the laws of the nine days.