"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

25 Dec 2012

Ben Poras 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.

Left viewers laughing

For many, Jack Klugman will always be the messy one.

His portrayal of sloppy sportswriter Oscar Madison on TV's "The Odd Couple" left viewers laughing but it also gave Klugman the leverage to create a more serious character, the gruff medical examiner in "Quincy M.E." His everyman ethos and comic timing endeared him to audiences and led to a prolific, six-decade acting career that spanned stage, screen and television.

Klugman died Monday at age 90 in suburban Northridge with his wife at his side. His sons called on his fans to embrace their father's tenacious and positive spirit.

"He had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it, and he would encourage others to do the same," son Adam Klugman said.
..."RIP Jack Klugman. You made my whole family laugh together," actor-director Jon Favreau wrote on Twitter.

Klugman was born in Philadelphia, the son of Rose, a hat maker, and Max Klugman, a house painter His parents were Russian Jewish immigrants.

The video below shows Jack Klugman speaking about the holiday of Chanukah, although I cringed when I heard him describing a meal consisting of meat and dairy dishes together.

...in the Talmud Taanis 27A Chazal relate that a Talmudic sage once "met" Eliyahu HaNavi in the market place and asked him, "Who is there here that is destined for Olam Habah, the World to Come?" Eliyahu pointed out two brothers. The sage approached and queried them concerning their business. They replied, "We are badchanim, jesters. Our function is to make sad people happy." This was their business. While some might laugh off such a position in life, these two men were going to "laugh" all the way to Olam Habah.http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/peninim/archives/behar67.htm

24 Dec 2012

Dressing modestly

While the Israeli left has been extremely critical of hareidi Jews who pressure others to dress modestly, it turns out that sometimes the left supports modest dress. The extreme-left Magazine Hakibush (Occupation Magazine) recently called on its readers to dress modestly and respect community norms – when visiting Palestinian Authority Arab areas.
Read more: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/163424

The nothingness of non-distinction

Just came across a fabulous article by Anne Lieberman titled Against Nothingness.

Thankfully, our Jewish children are now far removed from their homeless ancestors who doubtless roamed the globe, at one time or another, in search of peaceful refuge. Many of our children have grown up taking the re-establishment of the state of Israel for granted; it is "always there" to catch the Jew who might fall into some sort of insecurity. They may not understand that it is exactly Israel's existence that allows them to feel so assured of the security of their own existence. Herein lies the rub: in the nothingness of non-distinction, they risk believing that security is part of their being, the natural state of their shared humanity, and that it will follow them into the territories and homes of the enemies they do not recognize having.
We Jews, distinctly from all others, must teach our children well and foster for them access to their heritage, because someday, somewhere, it could provide them with the necessary strength to choose life... should Others seek to chase them "everywhere" to destroy them.
Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/12/against_nothingness.html#ixzz2FyVZC8RC

About G-d

In an interview with NBC Washington, NFL sensation Robert Griffin III ("RG3") told WRC-TV sports reporter Dan Hellie that his biggest fear coming to Washington, D.C. to be an NFL quarterback was God.
Hellie asked the Washington Redskins' star quarterback, "Everybody fears something. What was your biggest fear coming to Washington, D.C., to be an NFL quarterback?
"You try not to fear too many things. I fear God," Griffin responded.
Read more: http://cnsnews.com/blog/gregory-gwyn-williams-jr/rg3-coming-dc-i-fear-god

Speaking of G-d, for those who have some time, click here to listen to an interesting video by Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet titled When Bad Things Happen in G-d’s World.

23 Dec 2012

In vino veritas

Israeli-born, New York-based writer Tuvia Tenenbom likes to provoke and has landed his biggest bombshell yet with a book arguing that the vast majority of Germans today are secret anti-Semites.
He insisted it didn't take much to get Germans to "drop the mask".
"If I call you and I say, 'Lady, what do you think of the Jews?', you say, 'Oh they are quite nice, they are good people'," he said.
"But you talk to people with beer and wine and a little schnapps, another beer, whatever they like to drink, then something else comes out: the ugly Jews who are controlling this land."
Read more: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gJ0IRGeSNIrHFNlv8xikiFwLwIXw?docId=CNG.075f3c49d0ef92362a7050c9e8a9619d.281

How about we give some wine and schnapps to a person being grilled at a Senate hearing or to a candidate about to speak during a Presidential debate? Perhaps, then, the truth would come out.

The letter

A little over a week ago, Jeff Dunetz posted a letter to G-d in which he questioned how G-d could let a man walk into an elementary school and kill 26 people. My immediate thought turned to a post I had written a while back about how it is best not to ask G-d "why?" because you might be taken up to heaven for an answer.

This week I came across an interview of a journalst asking a rabbi "why did G-d do it?" No, I am not going to link to the interview as I disagree with what was said.

I asked a relative for his thoughts about the correct response to the question and he showed me an email with a photo of a T-shirt which is shown below. He didn't say that the words printed on the T-shirt were the right answer. And I am not going to provide one either. Because I am not 

21 Dec 2012


Silenced by shame. The brothers couldn’t speak. Yosef had just revealed himself, climaxing a 22-year ordeal initiated by their jealousy and misplaced justice. His heartrending explanation immediately clarified and exposed the hidden Divine Hand that orchestrated two decades worth of distressing events.
Nevertheless, the brothers saw their role in the affair and were shamed into silence.
And Yosef said to his brothers, ‘I am Yosef. Is my father still alive?’ But his brothers could not answer him because they were left disconcerted before him,” (Bereishis 45, 3).
He then kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; afterwards his brothers conversed with him,” (Bereishis 45, 15).
In both verses, Rashi cites the Medrash Tanchuma, stating that the brothers were rendered silent due to their shame (בושה), and were able to finally respond only after Yosef cried on their shoulders, emotionally removing their humiliation through sincere comfort and acceptance.
Embarrassment is an extremely unpleasant state of being. It is an emotional reaction a person feels when highly regrettable and inappropriate choices are exposed for others to see, or to admit to himself.
However, strangely enough, shame is one of the three sterling characteristics used to identify the unique greatness of the Jewish People: “הרחמנים והביישנין וגומלי חסדים – Merciful, Shameful and Performers of Kindness,” (Yevamos 79a).
Read more: http://baltimorejewishlife.com/news/news-detail.php?SECTION_ID=1&ARTICLE_ID=34320

Moshe Sokolow reflects on the Newtown massacre.

The Bible brands the angel of death a coward when he robs the cradle: “Death has ascended through our windows and entered our palaces; to cut off children from the streets and young men from the squares.” (Jeremiah 9:20) Rather than entering through an ordinary door, death has climbed furtively through the window. When its prey is a child, death itself feels shame.
Read full article: http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/5613/features/touch-not-mine-anointed-ones/?utm_source=jta_widget&utm_medium=jta_widget&utm_campaign=touch-not-mine-anointed-ones&jtahome

P.S. I am in a different location than usual. That is the reason for posting before Shabbos later than normal. Posting after Shabbos will likewise be later than usual.

Hebrews in their graves

In a find that local Jewish groups have described as highly significant, Greek police said Thursday that hundreds of marble headstones and other fragments from Jewish graves destroyed during the Nazi occupation in World War II have been recovered.
Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/lost-jewish-tombstones-found-greece-181312769.html

The Jewish Cemetery at Newport
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

How strange it seems! These Hebrews in their graves, Close by the street of this fair seaport town, Silent beside the never-silent waves, At rest in all this moving up and down!

The trees are white with dust, that o'er their sleep Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind's breath, While underneath these leafy tents they keep The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.

And these sepulchral stones, so old and brown, That pave with level flags their burial-place, Seem like the tablets of the Law, thrown down And broken by Moses at the mountain's base.
Continue reading: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173900

20 Dec 2012

Order of priorities

When Yosef revealed himself to his brothers they were mortified and ashamed. Why? After all they judged him properly and determined that he deserved to die. They even at the end decided to spare his life. Their only regret twenty years later was that they didn't have enough pity, but they never believed that they erred. Moreover Hashem agreed with them, as He was part of the pact to remain silent. Their every action was done with Ruach HaKodesh. Why were they ashamed?

Rav Isaac Sher says we learn from here a very important lesson. Divine assistance and consent proves nothing and doesn't justify any of our deeds. We can not use it as a barometer of our righteousness or an indicator of the path we should take. Why? Hashem gives each person Bechira, free will to do as he wants. This means that he will get divine assistance for any path he chooses. It is all part of life. Chazal say B'Derech SheAdam Rotzeh Leileich Molichim Osoi, the way a person wants to go Hashem helps him.

The Shevatim were convinced that their intentions were pure. Only when they saw Yosef was right and they were wrong, did they search deep inside themselves and find the hatred and jealousy that sullied their power to correctly judge Yosef. They realized they erred even with Hashem's apparent consent.

There is much confusion in today's frum world as to what Hashem wants from us. Our order of priorities has been turned on its head. There are all sorts of fads and segulos that promise proven results. This however is no indication that these things are important to do, or even desired by Hashem.

So if we can't trust Heavenly signs, how are we to know what's right and what's nonsense. The answer is that we complicate our own lives, when in fact things are quite simple. Our one and only guidance is the Torah and our Chachomim. Our Torah is eternal and does not change with the times. The things that were important for generation after generation remain important today, even if they aren't the latest and greatest. Torah, Davening, and Chesed have held up the world until now and will always continue to do so. There are clear guidelines in the Shulchan Aruch as to how they should be performed. Don't buy into the latest craze.

Happy people

The world's happiest people aren't in Qatar, the richest country by most measures. They aren't in Japan, the nation with the highest life expectancy. Canada, with its chart-topping percentage of college graduates, doesn't make the top 10.

A poll released Wednesday of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world's 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America.

...Some Latin Americans said the poll hit something fundamental about their countries: a habit of focusing on posivites such as friends, family and religion despite daily lives that can be grindingly difficult.
Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/latin-americans-rank-happiest-people-planet-223234118.html

19 Dec 2012

The smallest major religion

Of all the major religious groups in the world, Judaism is the smallest. According to a new report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Judaism’s 14 million Jews make up 0.2 percent of the world population.
Continue reading: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/12/19/judaism-shows-weakest-growth-prospects-among-major-religions/

Giving back

A Yahoo article describes how Ryan Lochte, snubbed by one of his boyhood swimming idols, decided that he would not do the same to his fans. It describes how Mr. Lochte presented one of his gold medals to 9-year-old Arda Cakmak.

"One of the main reasons for racing is because of my fans, so I always want to give something back," Lochte said. "If I took the medal, it would end up in a sock drawer. If I give it to a fan, they're going to treasure it."
Read more: http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/good-sports/201212/lochte-gives-away-medals-after-world-championships

12 Dec 2012

Cultural insensitivity

The National Post discusses new subway posters sponsored by the American Freedon Defense Initiative.

Anti-Islam posters with depictions of the World Trade Towers in flames will be plastered around 50 different New York MTA stations beginning December 17.
View poster and read article:  http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/12/11/extreme-anti-islam-posters-to-cover-new-york-subway-stations-next-week/

The last series of posters sponsored by AFDI were vandalized and defaced. These ads, however, contain a quote from the Quran so it will be interesting to see if they are defaced, as well.

American soldiers should brace for a "social-cultural shock" when meeting Afghan soldiers and avoid potentially fatal confrontations by steering clear of subjects including women's rights, religion and Taliban misdeeds, according to a controversial draft of a military handbook being prepared for troops heading to the region.
The proposed Army handbook suggests that Western ignorance of Afghan culture, not Taliban infiltration, has helped drive the recent spike in deadly attacks by Afghan soldiers against the coalition forces.
Read more: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324024004578171561230647852.html

Judah the Maccabee and Chanukah

For Mel Gibson and Joe Eszterhas—who had planned to collaborate on a recently shelved film on the life of Judah the Maccabee, one of the Hanukkah story’s heroes—it was an unlikely shidduch to begin with.
Continue reading about Mel Gibson the Maccabee? How an Irony-Filled Project Fell Apart .

Rafael Medoff writes about Defiance, Then Destruction: Chanukah in the Warsaw Ghetto .

11 Dec 2012

Food glorious food?

There's an interesting story at ladaat.info about a yeshiva bochur who went to get a brocha from Rabbi Karelitz before he underwent gastric surgery as a means to lose weight. According to the article, Rabbi Karelitz said that it wasn't sure that the operation was permissible, according to halacha. The rabbi suggested that the bochur should find another way to deal with his problem and said he would have to hear medical opinions before issuing a pesak. Rabbi Karelitz added that a ben yeshiva should work on the midah of Taavah - desire. 

Another article is about a father who stopped a Hatzalah volunteer in Bnei Brak when his daughter lost consciousness after a piece of a jelly donut got stuck in her throat. The volunteer called other members of the organization to help him and they were successfully able to dislodge the donut. The girl was taken to hospital in stable condition.

Four periods of teshuva

The seforim bring that the eighth day of Chanuka, known as Zos Chanuka, named after the Krias HaTorah of that day, is a very significant day. There are four periods of teshuva that are tied in with Rosh HaShana, three of which are very well known, Zos Chanuka is the fourth. The “Yimei Harachamim” begin with the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh Elul, calling to each of us to begin our teshuva process. The Gemara tells us that on Rosh Hashana, the tzadikim gemurim, completely righteous individuals, are immediately signed and sealed for a good year. This is the first period of judgment. Ten days later, on Yom Kippur, marks the second period of judgment, one that applies for most of us and after the completely righteous. For the stragglers, the grace period is extended and a third period of judgment culminates on Shmini Atzeres. Then, much after the others, comes the fourth period – Zos Chanuka.

These the respective periods of teshuva, works out to 30 days, 40 days, 52 days and 122 days from Rosh Chodesh Ellul. These four periods are hinted to in the amount of pasukim in the last few parshiyos of the Torah. The 40-day period, reserved for the majority of us, is hinted to in Parshas Netzavim, which has a total of 40 pasukim and speaks about how all of Klal Yisroel stands before Hashem in judgment. The 30-day period, reserved for tzadikim, is hinted to in the number of pasukim in Parshas Vayeilech, which begins with how the tzadik Moshe spent his final days inspiring the yidden to teshuva. The 52-day period is hinted to in Parshas Ha’azinu, as Moshe continues his message of teshuva. Finally, our fourth period, the 122-day program, culminating with Zos Chanuka, is hinted to in the amount of pasukim in Parshas Ki Savo, as a baal teshuva finishes their return to a new destination as a new person.

10 Dec 2012

Pride and kindness

Crown Heights info has two interesting anecdotes about people who lit the menorah this week. The first involves a rabbi who had to be rescued by the fire department.

 A Menorah lighting in Westchester took a turn for the dramatic when Rabbi Velvel Butman who, along with a ConEd worker, got stuck 20-feet in the air in the bucket of a ‘cherry-picker’ truck after it malfunctioned.
...Rabbi Butman said in a statement to CrownHeights.info “The Rebbe always said that when a Jew practices his Judaism with pride, then people respect and assist.” Adding, that “The firefighters were gracious and kind, and thanked us for the opportunity of being a help in lighting Westchester’s largest Menorah!”
Continue reading: http://www.crownheights.info/index.php?itemid=48882

The start of Hanukkah on Saturday night had special meaning for a Holocaust survivor in Ohio who turns 100 next week. Abe Weinrib was selected to light the first candle on a 13-foot public menorah at Easton Town Center in Columbus on Saturday evening.
...“Rather than blowing out 100 candles, he'd rather light one candle representing kindness and good deeds,”
Continue reading: http://www.crownheights.info/index.php?itemid=48895

A meaningless life

Drew Zahn reviews a recently released DVD called "“Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story.”

The Netanyahu brothers grew up in Israel in the days not long after it became a country again in 1948, but then moved with their parents to America.

For Yoni, however, there was a fullness of life in the dusty streets of Jerusalem that he could not find in the lush lands of the United States: “My home is terribly nice,” Yoni wrote, “surrounded by lawns and trees, an empty, meaningless life.”

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2012/12/an-israeli-soldier-shall-lead-them/#X2IXVA8wZYAqOdGb.99

J Street has a request on its site to take action to oppose E1 construction by signing a petition to tell President Obama that they "demand a reversal to the E1 settlements."

A meaningless life, indeed.

9 Dec 2012

The dreidel decoy

The simple story of the Dreidel or Sivivon is that it was a decoy used by the little children learning the Aleph Bais in case the Yivanim caught them. The Bnei Yisaschar brings some deep remazim regarding the dreidel.

The four sides of the dreidel have the letters, Nun, Gimel, Shin, Hey. These stand for the four forces in a person. Nefesh or spirit-Nun, Guf or physicality-Gimel, Sechel or intellect-Shin, and a higher spirit combining the other three, HaKol-Hey. The four nations of Bavel, Yavan, Rome, and Madai each opposed a specific one of these forces. Moshiach, whose gematria is 358 the same as Nun, Gimel, Shin, Hey, will annul these forces forever. Then Hashem's reign will be accepted by all. Hashem Melech, Hashem Malach, Hashem Yimloch L'Olam Va'ed also equals 358 like our dreidel and Moshiach.

The dreidel spins on its point. All these nations on each side of the dreidel all focus on Bnei Yisroel. The four side gradually decrease and disappear into this point, as the four nations will disappear and become batel to Am Yisroel.

Finding your zivug

Eyewitness News has a moving story about a couple who were married for 62 years and died within hours of each other. Click here to read and watch video.

Speaking about marriage, Matzav describes ZivugZone.com: A New, Exciting and Free Shidduch Website with Haskamos.

8 Dec 2012

Feelings of alienation

For those of you who missed this article, Ynet features Rare Shoah images from Nazi albums with photos of Jews suffering humiliation in the hands of the German soldiers.

The Jewish Press discusses an email sent to congregants of a synagogue.

“So the rabbis of B’nai Jeshurun are now expressing some ‘regret’ over their email endorsing the UN’s Palestine statehood vote, writes” JTA’s Daniel Treiman.

...“While we affirm the essence of our message, we feel that it is important to share with you that through a series of unfortunate internal errors, an incomplete and unedited draft of the letter was sent out which resulted in a tone which did not reflect the complexities and uncertainties of this moment,” the rabbis, Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol, wrote in their follow-up email.

The rabbis also wrote that they “regret the feelings of alienation that resulted from our letter.” http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/bj-rabbis-halfheartedly-walk-back-pro-palestine-email/2012/12/07/

7 Dec 2012

Torah thoughts and segulahs

A numer of weeks ago I was very interested in helping a relative with a job search and found a segulah for parnassa over here.  I took upon myself to recite six perakim of Tehillim for 40 days in the hope that my relative would be extended a job offer. I am happy to report that he has received an offer!!!  There were a few firms where he interviewed and I prayed to Hashem that he should get the job he wants. But, immediately, I had a change of mind and prayed that he should get what Hashem wants him to have..

Kikar Hashabat has an article in Hebrew about different segulot at Chanukah. Click here to read.

The following are two Torah thoughts taken from The Jewish Eye provided by Revach.net.

Yosef was thrown in to the pit. "VihaBor Rayk Ain Bo Mayim" - "The pit was empty there was no water inside. Rashi asks, if the pit was empty, obviously there wasn't any water inside! Why is it necessary to say," Ain Bo Mayim"? Rashi answers, "Mayim Ayn Bo Aval Nichashim ViAkrabim Yesh Bo" - "There wasn't water in the pit, but there were snakes and scorpions."

The Baalei Mussar explain this Chazal concerning Torah. The Gemara in Taanis says that Torah is compared to water. The pasuk is saying, "VihaBor Rayk Ain Bo Mayim" - if a person is empty without Torah (Mayim), "Nichashim ViAkrabim Yesh Bo" - you can be sure that he is filled with snakes and scorpions - Bad Middos and other Aveiros. A person can not say , "I can still be a good Jew without learning Torah".

VaYimtzaayhu Ish Vihinay Soeh BaSadeh" - "A man found Yosef and he was blundering in the field". Rashi tells us that this "man" was. Malach Gavriel. If you take a look in Parshas VaYishlach the pasuk says, "Vayaovek Ish Imo Ad Alos HaShachar". There Rashi says that the "Ish" was "Saro Shel Esav" - Esav's Malach. How did Rashi know to diffrentiate between the 2 words "Ish"?

I once heard a pshat, if you look in Parshas VaYishlach the pasuk says that this Ish was fighting with Yaakov ("Vayaovek Ish Imo") - that was the Middah of Esav (Yadayim Yiday Esav) - therefore Rashi says that it was Esav's Malach. However, in Parshas VaYeishev, this Ish asked Yaakov, "Mah Tivakesh" - you look lost, what are you looking for? This was a Malach that was concerned about the welfare of another person. This had to be Malach Gavriel!


The hamsa

Tiffany Gabbay writes about how her father survived a massacre in Baghdad and how he ended up in Israel in a fascinating article titled ‘The Hand of God’: How My Father Survived the Nazi-Inspired Farhud.

On June 1, 1941, as Jews in Baghdad were preparing festive meals in anticipation for the holiday of Shavuot, a heavily armed mob of Iraqi Muslims took to the streets in a vicious rampage, targeting the city’s Jewish communities. Thousands of Islamic men equipped with guns, swords, knives, homemade grenades and other crude weapons searched out and slaughtered any Jewish man, woman or child they captured.

An image of a “hamsa,” or “Hand of God,” was painted on Jewish homes to single them out for attack. Ironically, this symbol is meant to be used as a talisman for protection. The families inside had no choice but to band together and steel themselves with whatever weapons they could muster.

My father was there. He recalled the savagery in complete and utter detail for the entire duration of his life. Although he was only a child at the time, the situation demanded he become a man, and he did.
Continue reading: http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/the-hand-of-god-how-my-father-survived-the-nazi-inspired-farhud/

6 Dec 2012

Two additional years

Yosef was punished with two years additional years in jail because he asked the Sar HaMashkim to mention him to Paroh in the hopes of gaining his freedom. This request, says Chazal constituted a lack of Bitachon. The Meforshim ask that Yosef was merely doing Hishtadlus and trying to procure his freedom through normal ways. Isn't Hishtadlus not only permissible but required? To understand this we must first understand the true meaning of Bitachon and Hishtadlus.

Does Bitachon or reliance on Hashem mean that when I am faced with a problem I must be confident that things will turn out the way I'd like them to? No, says the Chazon Ish. Bitachon is an offshoot of Emuna, and the definition of emuna is that I believe that nothing in this world is by chance and everything is directed by the hand of Hashem. It follows that no matter what situation you face you must believe the outcome is the will of Hashem, and that Hashem can bring any outcome he desires without anything standing in His way. So back to our question. If I am facing danger I can't know if I will be saved, but I must believe that whatever happens is Hashem's will, and since Hashem only wants what's good for us, whatever happens is by definition good. There is no bad outcome to any problem.

So then what is Hishtadlus? How can my efforts change what Hashem knows is good? One would reason that the only Hishtadlus needed is to daven to Hashem, for everything else is for naught. So why would I work on my behalf at all? The Chazon Ish explains that Hashem wants us to take action that in the eyes of the the world seem to achieve our goals because Hashem wants to run the world according to the laws of nature. Hashem wants to remain hidden as much as possible and not need to reveal His hand in running the world.

This seemingly logical explanation has far fetched implications in dictating how we must behave with regard to Hishtadlus. Since Hishtadlus means achieving our goals in a perfectly natural way, it rules out any action that has only a remote possibility of succeeding. If one takes action that has little chance of working or doesn't make too much sense that is not Hishtadlus. Once something falls out of the realm of Hishtadlus it becomes an act of desperation and is forbidden since it shows a lack of emuna. It shows that you don't believe Hashem can solve your problem and will do anything to help yourself however remote.

The proper way to solve your problems is to daven to Hashem and hope for his salvation. At the same time you should take normal steps to solve your problem. Anything beyond that is a waste of time and a lack of emuna, so don't take a desperate shot in the dark. It will hurt you spiritually and won't help you come close to your goal even one iota.

Rav Dov Yaffa says that the Chazon Ish explained that this was the charge against Yosef for asking the the Sar HaMashkim to remember him. A minister of the stature of the Sar HaMashkim is not of the nature to return favors by humbling himself and rehashing his shameful past before the king. Yosef's request crossed the line of Hishtadlus and bordered on desperation, and for that he was punished.

The stamp briefings

The following is an excerpt from the State Department briefing of December 5th.

QUESTION: You announced that the Secretary is going to be attending the Global Counterterrorism Conference --

MR. TONER: Yes, I did.

QUESTION: -- in Abu Dhabi, which opens the can of worms about whether Israel has been invited to participate in any capacity at all. Do you know if they have or if there are plans to get them involved, if not at a ministerial level, at a lower level?

MR. TONER: You know where we stand on this, which is that we’ve discussed with our partners in the Global Counterterrorism Forum ways to involve Israel. We said this before. We’re committed to doing so. We’ll raise it again in this venue.

QUESTION: But not this time?

MR. TONER: I don’t know if they are going to be invited. I’ll try to get more information on that.

With all that's going on in Egypt, Syria, etc., which is the country that is of greatest concern to the reporters at the State Department briefing? Read through the briefings of December 4th and 5th to get the answer.

The following is an excerpt from the State Department briefing of Decmber 4th.

QUESTION: I have one last question on – if you indulge me – on the West Bank. The Israelis now are stamping visitors’ American visitors and others, when they enter the West Bank as Judea and Samaria. Are you concerned about that? Did you express your concern to the Israelis?

MR. TONER: I’ve looked into it. I don’t have much to say about it beyond the fact that it’s really a question better directed to the Israeli Government for their specifics on their border procedures.

My understanding is that this stamp is for – is an entry stamp that permits travel --

QUESTION: Into the West Bank?

MR. TONER: -- into the West Bank.

QUESTION: But you do recognize the West Bank as occupied territory; correct?