"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 Jul 2012

Arsen's aliya

Many many years ago my family attended a cousin's wedding. A rabbi spoke under the chupah, explaining the importance of marriage, wishing the couple success and concluding with the words, "May you build a bayit neeman beyisrael." My young brother turned to my my mother and told her, "I didn't know they were planning to live in Israel."

They weren't but Arsen Ostrovsky details the reasons that he is leaving a comfortable life in the diaspora to make aliya this coming Thursday. I wish him much mazal and hatzlocha.
Having been involved in a multitude of Jewish and pro-Israel organizations in Sydney and New York, both on a voluntary basis and, in the past few years, professionally, it also occurred to me that I could continue trying to do my bit for Israel from “the outside,” or I could do it from here; that I could either watch history unfold, or be a part of it; that I could either sit on the sidelines, or help effect change from within.
Yes, I feel like I have something to contribute here; but honestly, I feel that Israel has so much more to offer me than I could ever hope to repay: a sense of belonging, of home, of pride, that I cannot find in any other place on earth.
Continue reading: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/07/30/why-im-making-aliya/

Last night I spoke to a friend of mine who made aliya a number of years ago. "Are you happy with your decision to make aliya?" I asked her. She replied in the affirmative. There was a quality of life that she had gained when she chose to live in Israel.
"In the neighborhood where I used to live," she told me, "we were judged by our material possessions. In Israel it is different."

Telling the truth

A federal court in Washington, DC, held last week that political appointees appointed by President Obama did interfere with the Department of Justice’s prosecution of the New Black Panther Party.
Read full article: http://washingtonexaminer.com/federal-court-finds-obama-appointees-interfered-with-new-black-panther-prosecution/article/2503500

Charles Krauthammer asks White House dishonest about Churchill's bust?

Geography quiz

Here's an interesting quiz to see if you can identify all 50 states.Let me know how well you did without cheating and then I'll post my score.

And here's another quiz about country capitals.

What is the capital of France?

What is the capital of Turkey?

What is the capital of Bulgaria?

What is the capital of Saudi Arabia?

Finally, the capital with the longest amount of words (35) is: (scroll down for answer.)

QUESTION: What is the capital of Israel, from the U.S. Government’s point of view?
MS. NULAND: You know the answer to that question very well, which is that with regard to the status of Jerusalem and this complex of issues altogether, all of this needs to be settled through final status.

24 Jul 2012

His medical bills

An Aurora shooting victim could face millions in medical costs because he faces a common problem: He doesn't have health insurance.

The family of Caleb Medley has been told that his medical bills could cost up to $2 million if he fully recovers, CBS News reports (h/t ThinkProgress). Medley, who lacks health insurance, is currently in an induced coma after he was shot in the eye during Friday's Colorado tragedy. His wife, Katie, gave birth to their son in the same hospital Tuesday.
Read full story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/24/caleb-medley-health-insurance_n_1699092.html


"Ki Hi Chochmaschem U'Binaschem L'Eini HaAmim," (Devarim 4:6). This is the mitzva of calculating the calendar based on the moon. Rashi explains that if we do it correctly, the nations will consider us wise. If we make mistakes they will consider us fools. Why is it so critical how we appear in the eyes of the world?

Rav Shimshon Pincus answers that the nations are compared to the sun which inherently gives off rays of light. Each nation has a dominant strength or ray of light that characterizes its people. Bnei Yisrael, however, is compared to the moon. The moon does not generate any of its own light and only reflects the light of the sun.

Rav Shmishon tells a mashal about a home with many different things in it. It has a table that has a specific function. Similarly, a bed, chair, spoon, and fork all have specific functions. A mirror, however, has nothing. Yet, it can look beautiful by reflecting the right things, or bare if it is dark and reflects only the darkness.

Bnei Yisrael only shine when we reflect the light of Hashem. If we keep the Torah, we will reflect a brilliant light and be respected by the nations. However, if we choose the path of darkness, we will be totally void of any light and be considered to be fools living in the dark by the nations of the world.

Olympcs, sports and health

Click here to see Efrayim Goldstien hold the Olympic torch. the caption reads, "Efrayim Goldstein takes the flame in Catford - he's set up 7 charities to help his local community."

Not bad for a guy in his early twenties. How many of us have set up even one?

Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple discusses the Olympics and the sporting industry in an article titled The Olympics - an exercise in idolatry.

Sarah Schochet writes about The Importance of exercise.

Speaking of health, here's an article about a study which claims that energy saving light bulbs can cause cancer.

23 Jul 2012

Life is a blessing

The Blaze has an article about Jessica Ghawi, one of the victims of the Colorado shooting.

Shockingly, she was also present at a mall shooting  in Toronto roughly six weeks ago that left one dead and several wounded. In a chilling blog post linked from her Twitter account, Ghawi recounts her experience:

...I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders’ faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don’t know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. For one man, it was in the middle of a busy food court on a Saturday evening.
I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift. After Saturday evening, I know I truly understand how blessed I am for each second I am given.

In her Twitter account, under the name of Jessica Redfield, she posted the following on July 18th.

How do people know where they want to be in 14 years?! This is absurd to me! I don't even know where I want to be in the morning!!

These are the devarim

"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.

22 Jul 2012

The Gedolim

Baltimore Jewish Life has a Proclamation from Gedolei Eretz Yisroel about participating in the elections.

Rabbi Ahron Lopiansky writes about Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv z'l in an article at Aish.

He did not like things that were contrived or pretentious. I once asked him about taking on a particularly popular stringency. He answered softly, “Why doesn’t following the letter of the law suffice?”
I once asked him about a particular obligation that our community wished to undertake for the sake of piety, but may impact some people negatively. He replied, “Piety that impacts people negatively is highly suspect.”
Read full article: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Rabbi_Yosef_Shalom_Elyashiv_Man_of_Truth_Tranquility.html

Gavriel Horan also writes about Rabbi Elyahiv z'l.

“He was meticulous about utilizing every moment of the day to study Torah, even during the hours he would receive people. When one person would leave the room and the next entered, Rav Elyashiv’s eyes would be on the page of the book before him, and his attention was wholly on the subject that he was presently studying to such an extent that one could stand before him for several minutes until he noticed that someone had come into the room.”

The Olympic torch

Mishpacha Magazine recently published an article(May 30)  about Efrayim Goldstein, a religious Jew, who was selected to be one of the Olympic torchbearers.

"Originally chosen to carry the Olympic flame on Shabbos, he applied for an alternative date and was given Sunday instead. Moreover, a fabric swatch of the fold and white uniform to be worn during torchbearers' relay has been submitted for shatnez testing."

A Muslim teen tried to grab the Olympic torch out of the hands of its bearer as she passed through the town of Gravesend, outside London, on Friday.
Continue reading: http://www.timesofisrael.com/teen-shouts-allahu-akbar-and-lunges-at-olympic-torchbearer/

21 Jul 2012

Come and take it

A little while ago I posted about a special individual named Yisrael Landesman who was stricken with cancer. For those who missed the post click here and you can view a video of him singing "Everything Hashem does is always for the best."
On Friday afternoon I received an email containing the following excerpt.

"When HaRav Hagaon Rav Yehuda Zev Segal zt”l was niftar 18 years ago a sign was posted on the bulletin board in Machzekei Hadas Shul in Manchester. It was a photocopy from a sefer that had a very important message for all of us.

The sefer said that when a tzadik leaves this world, he leaves behind all the treasure rooms of Torah and middos tovos that he acquired…whoever wants can come and take it.

That means that right now Reb Yisrael Landsman zt”l has left impossible-to-imagine treasure houses of Ahavas Hashem and Ahavas Yisrael.

As we come closer and closer to the Geulah, those who are wise would be smart to grab the treasure of Ahavas Hashem and Ahavas Yisrael that are waiting to be taken."

20 Jul 2012

The Colorado tragedy

And if there's anything to take away from this tragedy, it's that life is very fragile. Our time here is limited and it is precious. And what matters here isn't the small things, not the trivial things, which often consume us in our daily lives. Ultimately, it's how we choose to treat one another, and how we love one another.
                            President Obama

This week I caught a columnist who had made a mistake in accusing someone unjustly. I posted a comment and the article was withdrawn soon after and an apology was made.

Today ABC issued an apology.

An article titled ABC News apologizes for speculation that theater shooter James Holmes linked to Tea Party relates the following information.

An earlier ABC News broadcast report suggested that a Jim Holmes of a Colorado Tea Party organization might be the suspect, but that report was incorrect. Several other local residents with similar names were also contacted via social media by members of the public who mistook them for the suspect.

ABC also issued an online apology: “ABC News and Brian Ross apologize for the mistake, and for disseminating that information before it was properly vetted.”
Read full article: http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/mediawire/181843/abc-news-speculates-theater-shooter-jim-holmes-linked-to-tea-party/

President Obama spoke about the tragedy which you can view here.

Alternatively, you can read the transcript here.

The willingness to overlook and forgive

Rabbi Wallerstein talks about bullying in his latest shiur. He also related a story about a woman who was childless for many years and was counseled by a rabbi to get a blessing from one who remains silent and overlooks an insult. (Incidentally, speaking of childless couples, there is an amazing story I just read about triplets born years apart.)
The incident reminded me of something I read in an email this week sent to me by the Chofetz Chaim Heritge Foundation.

At times, the willingness to overlook and forgive can cause a person’s life on this world to be extended, even after Heaven has decreed that his time has come. The Talmud relates (Rosh Hashanah 17a):
R’ Huna, the son of R’ Yehoshua, fell ill. R’ Pappa went to visit him. Upon seeing that he was unconscious, R’ Pappa told them [R’ Huna’s attendants], “Prepare provisions for him [i.e. ready his burial shrouds].’’ In the end, R’ Huna recovered. They [R’ Huna’s attendants] asked him [R’ Huna], “What did you see [while unconscious]?’’ He told them, “Indeed, that is how it was [that death had been decreed upon me]. But the Holy One, Blessed is He, instructed them, ‘Because he does not exact his measure, therefore, do not be exacting with him.’ As it is written, ‘He forgives transgressions and passes over sins’ (Michah 7:18) — whose sin does He forgive? One who passes over sins.’’

Therefore, one should cling to this sacred attribute constantly. In this way, it will be good for him in this world and in the World to Come.

19 Jul 2012

Holes in the wall

The following is an excerpt from an email about the parsha by Rabbi Eli Mansour about the effect of harsh words.

The story is told of a woman whose husband frequently insulted her. She would respond angrily, which in turn provoked an even more offensive response, resulting in a spiral of back-and-forth shouting and name-calling. Exasperated, the woman consulted with her Rabbi, who gave her a curious piece of advice. He said that each time her husband said something hurtful to her, instead of responding, she should take a hammer and bang a nail into some surface.

And so, that day, when the husband insulted the woman, she didn’t say a word. She went upstairs with a hammer, and banged a nail into a wall. When he insulted her again for doing something so foolish, she again banged a nail into a wall.

This went on for several weeks, until finally the husband wanted to know what was going on. The wife told him about the Rabbi’s suggestion, and showed him the approximately 100 nails in the wall.

“I offended you so many times?” the husband asked.

“Yes,” the wife confirmed. “Each nail is another time you said something hurtful to me.”

“Well,” the husband said, “it should work the other way, as well. Every time I say something nice to you, you should remove a nail from the wall.” The idea sounded reasonable, so the wife agreed.

Sure enough, the husband starting showering his wife with compliments. He praised her for her meals, her appearance, and her personality, told her how much she meant to him and said that he loved her. Each time, a nail came out of the wall. Finally, the day arrived when the last nail was pulled out.

“You see?” the husband said. “It’s all fixed now. The nails are all gone.”

“Not quite,” the wife replied. “Yes, the nails are gone – but look at all the holes that are left in the wall. They still need to be filled.”
Read full devar Torah: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/WeeklyParasha.asp

Moral stature

America’s ABC News on Thursday reported that Bulgarian officials denied Bulgarian news reports that the Burgas bomber was identified as Mehdi Ghezali. The Atlantic Wire also reported Swedish officials making identical claims.

Earlier on Thursday Bulgarian media had named the suicide bomber who blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists, killing five Israelis and a local bus driver, in the Black Sea resort of Burgas on Wednesday as 36-year-old Mehdi Ghezali.

Do as your mouth spoke

“Lo Yachel Devaroi, K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh”, do not profane your words; do as your mouth spoke. The Torah tells us that we must keep our word and not violate it.

Rav Levi Yitzchok MiBerditchev in the Kedushas Levi makes a play on the words to explain how mortal people can perform miracles. He reads the words as follows. If “Lo Yachel Devaroi”, you do not profane your words, then they will be holy and meaningful. Therefore, “K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh” whatever comes out of your mouth will happen.

This is the concept of “Tzadik Gozer, VHaKadosh Boruch Hu Mikayem”, a tzaddik decrees and Hashem makes it happen . He further explains that this why the Parsha is called Matos. Matos also means to turn (Netia). When a person watches his mouth, Hashem turns the Midas HaDin into Midas HaRachamim.

13 Jul 2012

The definition of pro-Israel

On April 3, 2011 Congressman Allen West was awarded the “Defender of Israel” award by Chabad of East Boca.

J Street opened up a new front in its lobbying efforts Thursday, releasing ads that attack two candidates for not being “pro-Israel” because they don’t endorse a two-state solution.
Continue reading: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=277350

The J Street site has the ads uploaded on a webpage with the following question.

Is this your definition of 'pro-Israel'?

J Street also has a petition to sign on a page titled Ahead of her visit to Israel, J Street asks Secretary Clinton to oppose the Levy Committee report.

After watching the videos below and being asked to sign a petition conveying opposition to the Levy report, can I ask if J Street is your definition of 'pro-Israel'?

Hayshiv Es Chamosi

"Pinchas Ben Elazar Ben Aaron HaCohen Hayshiv Es Chamosi Mai'al Bnei Yisroel"; "Pinchas, son of Elazar, son of Aaron the Kohen, turned back my anger from upon the Bnei Yisroel" Instead of saying "Hayshiv"- "turned back" my anger - it should have said "Bateil"- "nullified"?

Dovid HaMelech says in Tehillim,"Pinchos arose and executed judgment and the plague stopped. It was counted to him "LiTzdakah"- as a righteous deed - for all generations forever." What does the act of Pinchas have to do with Tzdakah?
The Vilna Gaon answers, according to the Torah every Jew is obligated to give annually a Machatzis HaShekel - a half Shekel- for the purchase of Korbonos Tzibur - communal offerings. The word "Machatzis' consists of 5 letters, the middle one being a "Tzadi", the first letter of the word ‘Tzdakah". Immediately flanking the Tzadi are a "Ches " and a "Yud", which spell the word "Chai" - life - and at the outer ends are the letters "Mem" and "Tof", which spells the word "Mais" - death.

This is an allusion to the adage "Utzedakah Tatzil MiMaves" - Tzedakah saves from death. Pinchas through his zealousness removed the plague from the Bnei Yisroel, thus committing an act of Tzedakah whereby life prevailed and death was excluded.

In the word "Chamosi" - "my anger" - it is the reverse. The middle letters are "Mem" and "Tof", which spells "Mais" - "death" - and the outer letters "Ches " and a "Yud", which spell the word "Chai" - life. Hashem was saying that Pinchas "Hayshiv Es Chamosi" - inverted the word "Chamosi " - chasing death away and bringing life.

12 Jul 2012

Daily commitment

Click here to read We ARE building the Beis Hamikdash!

Money and politics and Palestine

Israel Matzav reports NJDC takes down Adelson campaign.

Richard Baehr writes Campaign Cash from Jews Is Bad Only if It Goes to Republicans.

Breitbart reports Chicago: Socialists Scream for Free Palestine and Free Abortion on Demand.

The Blaze reports Soros-Backed Super PAC Plans to Take Out Rep. West.

Walking through the streets

The following is an excerpt from an Aish article titled Tears on Tisha B'Av.
The story is told of Napoleon walking through the streets of Paris. As he passed by a synagogue, he heard the sound of people weeping inside. He turned to his assistant and asked, "What's going on in there?"
"Today is Tisha B'Av," came the reply, "and the Jews are mourning the loss of their Temple."
Napoleon looked toward the synagogue and said, "If the Jews are still crying after so many hundreds of years, then I am certain the Temple will one day be rebuilt!"

Fast forward to 2012.
The story is told of Napoleon walking through the streets of Jerusalem. As he was walking through the streets, he heard the sounds of laughter and discussions. He turned to his assistant and asked, "What's going on in there?"
"Today is Tisha B'Av (nidche)," came the reply, "and some Jews are meeting with Mitt Romney who is laying out his Midddle East policies.
"Oh," said Napoleon.

11 Jul 2012

Always for the best

Over the past few weeks, I have received e-mails from Michael Rothschild from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, asking to daven for a man who has tremendous ahavat Yisrael.
Today I received the following email.

"On Monday, I asked a friend of mine to ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky, Shlita for a brocho for the Landsman family. They asked that Yisrael wake up from his coma so they can speak to him one last time.

R’ Chaim sadly answered, “Tell the family that they should accept the gezeira (the decree)”.

Yesterday, less than a day later, Mrs. Landsman discovered a video of Yisrael that was shot five years ago at a Purim seuda. She and several of her children had never known of this video.

I have attached a link to the video. Listen to the message (recorded 5 years ago!) that Yisrael Landsman sent his family yesterday.

P.S. If this email was forwarded to you and you don’t know who Yisrael Landsman is:

Yisrael is a 54 year old talmid chacham, father of 13, who lived in Eretz Yisrael and taught shechita and safrus. He lost one child to crib death and another, Nechama, to a 5 year battle with cancer. His love of life, Hashem, His Torah and His people is legendary. He is in the end stages of a ferocious battle with an extremely rare and horrific skin cancer. He told me several weeks ago that his suffering (which is impossible to describe) should be a kapora for Klal Yisrael.

Please daven for Yisrael Refoel ben Sora Nesha and do mitzvos as a z’chus for him, particularly mitzvos of Ahavas Yisrael and Sholom."

Click here to listen to Yisroel Landsman's motto for Life. Be inspired and do something!!

The dinner and Tisha B'Av

Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will host a fundraising event in Jerusalem at $60,000 or more per plate on July 29, The Jerusalem Post learned on Wednesday.
Read full article: http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=277050

My question is whether dinner will begin to be served at 8:04 PM, which according to this calendar, is when Tisha B'Av ends in Jerusalem.

The candidate

Adam Kredo writes, "A Democratic Party caucus chairman vying to become Missouri’s next secretary of state is a 9/11 Truther who has associated with a radical Muslim cleric and trafficked in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories."
...“That the DNC would in any way affiliate itself with a 9/11 Truther who spews such anti-Semitic lunacy, and defends and repeats such bile when confronted, is beyond deeply troubling, it’s simply wrong,” said Josh Block, a Democratic strategist and former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Read more: http://freebeacon.com/secretary-of-truth/

10 Jul 2012

A sweet deal

This morning I read a fascinating article in the New York Times beginning with the question, "HOW much money do you need to be happy?"        

Imagine walking down the street to work and being approached by our student Lara Aknin, who hands you an envelope. You open the envelope and find $20 and a slip of paper, which tells you to spend the cash on something for yourself by the end of the day. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Now imagine instead that the slip of paper told you to spend the cash on someone else. Being generous is nice, sure, but would using the money to benefit someone else actually make you happier than buying yourself the belt, DVD or apps you’ve been dying to get?
Yes, and it’s not even close. When we follow up with people who receive cash from us, those whom we told to spend on others report greater happiness than those told to spend on themselves.
Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/dont-indulge-be-happy.html?src=me&ref=general

This afternoon I was sitting in a room at the city hall, awaiting my turn to ask about a document a relative needed. A Chassidic woman approached me and asked me if I speak Yiddish. She then told me that she was missing a small amount of money for an official governmental card and could I possibly lend it to her. After I gave her the money, she asked me where I lived so that she could come and repay me. When she heard that I lived at the other end of town, she asked whether she could put the money in a tzedakah pushka, instead. When I nodded in the affirmative, she blessed me with "kol tuv." After she obtained the card, she made sure to stop by, once again, to thank me and to shower me with more blessings.
I can attest to what was written above in the NYT article. I sure was happy to use my money to benefit another person. And it felt great to be the recipient of a shower of blessings.   

Zionist militants but no Zionist victims

A New York Times article discusses the welcoming of a member of a designated terrorist organization to Washington.

"In his first major speech last month, Mohamed Morsi, the new Egyptian president, pledged to seek the release of a notorious Egyptian terrorist from a North Carolina prison. Not long before that, a member of a designated terrorist organization, Gamaa al-Islamiyya — who also happens to be a recently elected member of the Egyptian Parliament — was welcomed to Washington as part of an official delegation sponsored by the State Department."
The New York Times makes sure to be politically correct by searching its archives for other instances where militants have been allowed into the country and uses the example of Gerry Adams  as well as Zionist militants.
"A longtime supporter of the Irish Republican Army, Mr. King lobbied for years for a visa for Gerry Adams, head of what was the I.R.A.’s political wing, Sinn Fein, before it was granted in 1994.
“But that took years of negotiation, and it was done openly,” Mr. King said, by contrast with the visit by Mr. Eldin, which was not known about publicly until it was reported by The Daily Beast.

An earlier precedent might be the Zionist militants who took part in terrorist acts against the British before the creation of the State of Israel, then became leading politicians who were warmly welcomed in Washington."

So, in relation to being terrorists, Israel is warmly welcomed into the fold. But, when its citizens become victims of terrorism, that's another story.

Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, delivered a speech in Spain yesterday.

 Last September at the official launch of the Global Counterterrorism Forum, I had the privilege to introduce the premier of a film “Hear their Voices”,which tells the stories of eleven survivors of terrorist attacks from Pakistan, Jordan, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Turkey, Indonesia, India, Spain, Columbia and the United States. The film, which was produced by the Global Survivors Network, is a powerful plea for audiences around the world, especially those sympathetic to the grievances expressed by extremists, to recognize the human cost of terrorism and I am delighted that our Spanish hosts are planning on showing this film here later this afternoon.

Below is a question and answer session at a United States Department Daily Press Briefing regarding Ms. Otero's speech.

QUESTION: Under Secretary Otero was at a meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Coalition this morning in Spain (inaudible).
QUESTION: She gave a speech or a short speech. Do you know about this?
MR. VENTRELL: I have no information on this (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it was released – it’s a tab on your website.
QUESTION: Anyway, in it she goes through – this is a conference about victims of terrorism. And I’m curious to know why she doesn’t mention Israel or Israelis in her comments talking about victims of terrorism. Does the Administration believe that Israel and Israelis specifically have been victims of terrorism?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, of course, but --
QUESTION: Yes. But not --
MR. VENTRELL: Matt, I don’t have the details of the Under Secretary’s speech.
QUESTION: Well, this – this --
MR. VENTRELL: I know we have a forum with – let me finish.
QUESTION: -- grows out of the forum to which the Israelis have not been invited, which was talked about a little bit a month or so ago when the Secretary attended a meeting Istanbul.
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah, and I don’t have anything further for you.
QUESTION: Okay. So at the time the – someone came back and said that, yes, you were doing your best to get Israel included in these types of events. In the month that has passed, nothing has changed on that. Is that what you’re saying?

9 Jul 2012

The Gaza Strip

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes, "Someone should tell Julie Hurley that kids are not a political katyusha to be fired against Israel in the ongoing effort to delegitimize the Jewish state."
Read more: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/07/08/getting-the-story-wrong-on-the-plight-of-palestinians/

A Gaza sniper on Monday night fired from the Gaza side of the border on Israeli cars near Yad Mordechai on the Israeli side of the border with Gaza south of Ashkelon, damaging a vehicle and a nearby restaurant.

A photograph provided by the IDF showed that the sniper bullets shattered the back windscreen of one of the cars, leaving broken glass on the car seat of a seven-month-old baby.

Running for cover

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not.

 Blessing for thunder shekocho u’gevurato malei olam.
                                  Whose strength and might fills the world

Sometimes it takes a simple baseball game to show us who is really in charge.

The video below shows players running off the field after a huge clap of thunder and some lightning strikes down at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on 7/8/12 vs. Minnesota Twins.

The fast-moving storm came from the west; the sky turned suddenly black, and Indira Tursunova and her family were atop the sea wall, rushing to get off the beach when lightning struck, killing the 48-year-old woman.
H/T NYPost

8 Jul 2012

Arranged marriages

For the past eight years, Robert Epstein, the Harvard-educated Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, has studied arranged marriages, interviewing more than 70 people from a variety of backgrounds, including some Orthodox Jewish couples. His findings are in sharp distinction with the current air of suspicion that surrounds the practice of arranged marriage in many democratized societies.

According to Epstein, feelings of love in arranged marriages tend to gradually increase as time goes on in the relationship, whereas in so called “love marriages”, where attraction is based on passionate emotions, a couple’s feelings for each other typically diminish by as much as fifty percent after only eighteen to twenty-four months of marriage. In fact, according to a study conducted in India, arranged marriages appear to surpass love marriages in intensity at the five year mark, and to be twice as strong as love marriages within ten years.
Continue reading: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/07/06/study-on-arranged-marriages-reveals-that-orthodox-jews-may-have-it-right/

Speaking about marriages, I just heard a story about a woman married for a short while who was accosted by two men in England. One grabbed her while the other bit her finger and removed her wedding rings. Asolutely vile.

4 Jul 2012

Frogs everywhere

Rav Yechiel Michel Stern in the Nishmas Kol Chai points out that we find time and time again the frogs taking up their mission for Hashem fearlessly without any concern for their own death. By the Maka of tzefardei'a we find frogs jumping into burning ovens. Then we find in the medrash, when Hashem wanted to kill a person in Eiver HaYarden with a scorpion who couldn't swim across the Yarden, the frog carried the dangerous scorpion across without worrying that the scorpion will bite him. In the Hakdama of Perek Shira we find the frog offering himself as food for a species that lives on the edge of the river that eats frogs. The frog doesn't run. He makes himself readily available to fulfill the Tzivui Hashem.

To have a moment of clarity and be Moseir Nefesh is a great thing. Once you have earned your wings and still come out alive, you may be more reluctant to take your chances again the next time. Not so with the frogs. Their whole essence is Kiddush Hashem, over and over again. They sing day and night and don't ever stop croaking. What are they croaking? The song of complete Mesiras Nefesh to the great King, "Boruch Shem Kevod Malchuso L'Olam Va'ed." Hashem's Kingdon is blessed for all eternity.

Frogs in Egypt are now protected by a fatwa that forbids individuals from eating them. It's the first fatwa to appear by Egypt's highest fatwa council since the Muslim Brotherhood came to power.
Read more: http://times247.com/articles/egyptian-frog-fatwa-protects-croaking-praise-to-allah#ixzz1zbGZjPy6

3 Jul 2012

A mother and a volunteer

Jewish Mom has a letter from a reader of Binah Magazine in a post titled What Rabbi Scheinberg told an Autistic Child’s Mother, in which the rabbi describes Rachel Imeinu's merit.

Israel National News writes about Efraim Goldstein,  a 22-year-old religious man who will be among those carrying the Olympic Torch.

"Goldstein had established seven volunteer organizations by the age of 16. The groups he set up now have a total of several hundred volunteers.

Efraim currently volunteers for the Shomrim Patrol, an emergency search and rescue group that he established. He also runs a soup kitchen for the homeless, and visits sick children through the Helping Hand organization."
Read more: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/157356

Incidentally, I wanted to learn more about Mr. Goldsein so I googled his name and, would you believe,  the first site that pops up relates to a different Efraim Goldstein who writes on his site that he believes in ... and that he and his wife "have been serving the Lord in ministry to the Jewish people" for many years. Isn't that an oxymoron?

Gratitude and love

This morning I was woken by the alarm. I wasn't in the greatest of moods since my heart was pounding as I recalled the dream I was having about something unattainable. Later on I checked my emails and the first email I came upon opened with the following words:

It is so important that you are grateful for everything in your life. Many people focus on the one thing they want and then forget to be grateful for all the things they have. 

My heavy mood began to lighten as I processed the words. Thank you Hashem for all the good I have in my life and thank you for sending the message that I needed to receive today.

On another topic, here is an interesting item (reported in Hebrew) which I came across this morning. Apparently, google confused the Hebrew calendar this morning as the logo reflected the theme of Tu B'Av which takes place on August 3 rather than July 3. Click here to see the google logo that was captured today before it was removed.

2 Jul 2012

On the subject of Israel

Anne Bayefsky notes the following:

Today, at the United Nations, the Obama administration is turning its back on Israel. For the very first time, the U.N. Security Council has invited the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights to “brief” the Council specifically on the subject of Israel and the commissioner’s list of trumped-up sins. Though the U.S. is a veto-holding power, the extraordinary move has full American approval, despite the fact that the global soapbox will be handed to Navi Pillay, a notorious anti-Israel partisan.
Read full article: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/304559/obama-turns-his-back-israel-un-anne-bayefsky

Click here to read Democratic official's shock emails: Israel guilty of "crimes against humanity."

Scroll down the article to read the comments.

The closest

The other day I was shopping at a kosher supermarket in the neighborhood when I bumped into a distand cousin of mine. She told me that she was on her way to Israel later that day. I wished her a safe trip, told her to send regards to her family and asked her to have me in mind when she prays at the Kotel.

"I have such a desire to take a trip to Israel," I told her, "particularly since I listened to a rabbi's lecture where he spoke about soliciting advice and blessings from a rabbi, as well as a special woman living in Israel." I told the woman that I would love to go and make the rounds of rabbis, asking for brochos. She reminded me, "the Aibeshter is the closest." "Thank you for the reminder," I thanked her sincerely. As if to reinforce the point, I made my way to one of the supermarket aisles when I was struck by a tune playing in the background through the store's loudspeakers. The lyrics of the song were “Pischu Li Pesach K’Chudo Shel Machat, V’aani Eftach Lachem Pesach K’Pischo Shel Ulam - Open for me a hole like the eye of the needle, and I will open for you [the rest] like the entranceway to a great hall”. 

Coping with life

The following is a guest post by Josh Anderson.

Tips For Coping With Life That Every Adult Should Take To Heart
Life is never easy and it is not supposed to be. The most enjoyable moments are often produced by an individual's hardest labors. Unfortunately, learning how to appreciate the ebb and flow of human existence is something that many people never manage. Following are a few tips for coping with life that will show you how to appreciate your own existence to the fullest.

Know Who Your Real Friends Are

Try to steer clear of people who are only your friends when the sun is shining on your side of the street. When stormy clouds roll over these are the same individuals who will be hard to find. The best friends to have are those who will stand by your side come what may. They do not take pleasure in tearing others down with their mouths and they are not attracted to others based upon what they have. Surround yourself with people who love you for you and who remain loyal even when the going gets tough. False friends and their many betrayals can make the trials of life far more difficult than they really have to be.

Stop Worrying About What Others Think

Don't let what other people are saying about you sway your actions or the way that you feel about yourself. Those who are extremely invested in analyzing your life, your actions, your financial circumstances or any other personal aspect of you, are typically people who do not have fulfilling lives of their own. Live your life and live it to the fullest, absent of any concern about how others might perceive you. Stay true to your goals, your ethics and your ultimate loves and all things will be well, even when your ears are burning with the gossip of naysayers.

Never Be Afraid To Throw The Towel In
It takes courage to fail. The people who are afraid to fail in life are generally the very same ones who never try their hands at anything new, adventurous or exciting. The hardest part of failing, however, is often simply admitting your failure and knowing when to stop wasting your efforts. Take stock of where your time, emotions and resources are invested and make a dedicated effort to stop investing these things in failed efforts. This will allow you to take your life in utterly new directions, without embarrassment or fear. To have tried at all makes you courageous and understanding when to quit investing yourself in something that has proven itself unable to improve makes you wise.

Pamper Yourself More
Taking care of those you love is good, but it is vital that you take care of yourself first. Do things that make you feel loved, pampered and appreciated. When you do, you will stop looking to others for the validation, attention and support that only you can give yourself.

Work To Achieve Balance
Overworking, over-playing and overachieving in any way will eventually drain you. Work hard instead at achieving balance. Take care of your physical self, your mental self, your home, your children, your family and your soul. If you place all of your efforts and energies in only one life area, only this one area of life is guaranteed to succeed.

Never Be Afraid To Cry
Sorrow, grief, loss, sadness and any other negative emotion that you can think of are all essential for enjoying a passionate and fulfilling existence. You will never know true happiness until you have experienced its opposite. Loss will help you to appreciate what you still have and your tears will make you exceedingly grateful for all of the things that make you smile.

In the modern world, people are far too concerned with maintaining a constant state of happiness. People who suffer from mild to moderate depression are far too likely to seek medical attention for what is commonly a very natural and necessary experience. Sometimes, it is good to relish both the bad and the phenomenal, to appreciate your ability to experience a great range and depth of emotion. When you understand that it is perfectly natural and okay to feel disheartened, disenfranchised and even utterly alone in life, you will also know that these things will certainly pass away with time. You will also have much more realistic expectations about how life really works and you might even stop looking for the grass to be greener somewhere else. When you accept life for the complex and often unpredictable experience that it is, you will be truly content, no matter where you are, what you own or what you are doing.

Ryan O'Haver writes about self help, personal finance & finding cheap boat insurance.
Guest Post U
The University of Great Content

1 Jul 2012


The following is an excerpt from a daily email by Rabbi Eli Mansour which gave pause to both my friend and me as we reflected on the unintentional consequences of the words we speak.

The Rama (Rabbi Moshe Isserles of Cracow, 1525-1572), in his glosses to the Shulhan Aruch (Yoreh De’a 376), mentions the Halacha that one should not “open his mouth to the Satan.” This means that one should not speak about events that he does not wish to transpire, such as disasters and catastrophes, as words have the power to cause these misfortunes to happen. The Sages teach, “Berit Keruta La’sfatayim” – there is a “covenant” made with the lips whereby they have power to cause that which they speak about. The word “Dibbur” (“speech”) is derived from word “Dabar” (“thing”), which generally refers to tangible objects. Speech has substance and force, and therefore it must be used with great caution.

Thus, for example, if a person has not heard from somebody in a long time, and that other person has not returned his phone calls or letters, he should not say, “I haven’t heard from him; he must have died.” The mere utterance of these words could cause the misfortune to happen, and thus these words should not be said.
Read full article: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/Display.asp?PageIndex=&ClipID=2344

The extra second

Horologists around the world carried out one of the strangest operations of their profession on Saturday night - they held back time.

The last minute of June 30, 2012 was 61 seconds long with a "leap second" added to compensate for the erratic movement of the Earth.

The brief halting of the second hand compensates for the creeping divergence from solar time - the period required for Earth to complete a day.

Speaking about time, a friend lent me the book Trust Me by Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff in which he shares a thought from Meva'er Ha-Inyanim as cited in Yalkut Lekach Tov. The thought relates to the passuk in Kohelet, "There is a time to be born and a time to die." Obviously something additional is being taught here rather than the obvious statement. He further goes on to relate a story about a couple who have been married for a long time and haven't been blessed with children. After consulting doctors and making the rounds of rabbis for many years, to no avail, the couple hears about a tzaddik who has great success in helping childless couples. They go to the rabbo, receive a brocha and, within a year, a child is born. They are ecstatic but have one regret. Had they gone to the tzaddik earlier, they would have spared themselves many years of anguish.

 "It is this attitude that Shlomo Hamelech comes to address. No! There is a right time to give birth. It is not that the cause brought about the right time; rather, it is the right time that brought about the cause. Since it was the right time, Hashem sent them a tzaddik who would aid them through his prayers. If this same tzaddik would have come a few years earlier, his blessings and prayers wouldn't have accomplished anything..."

We all gained an extra second last night. Did we utilize the time wisely?