"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

21 Nov 2013

One's goal

In a move reinforcing the basis for its decision to sever ties with Al-Quds University, Brandeis University issued a statement on Thursday, Nov. 21, that Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, president of Al-Quds University, will be removed from his position on the Advisory Board of the Brandeis International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life.
Continue reading:  http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/brandeis-removes-al-quds-nusseibeh-from-ethics-center/2013/11/21/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brandeis-removes-al-quds-nusseibeh-from-ethics-center

Rabbi Yissocher Frand speaks about keeping focused on one's goal in life.

Yaakov sent Yosef to check on the welfare of his brothers and the welfare of the flocks. The pasuk says: "And behold a man found him and he was lost in the field" [Bereshis 37:15]. This was in the days before GPS. There was no address to type in. It was a big country. He tried to find his brothers and got lost. "The man found him and asked 'What are you looking for?'". The Rabbis tell us that the 'Ish' [man] alluded to in the pasuk was actually the Angel Gavriel. Gavriel haMalach literally led Yosef by the hand and took him to his appointed place. But before he did this, the Malach asked Yosef "What are you looking for?" (Mah t'vakesh?) There is a word in this pasuk that does not fit in -- namely the word "leimor" which means literally "to say over to others". This word is not typically used in direct dialogue between two individuals. The pasuk should read "Vayishaleyhu haIsh, mah tivakesh?" (and the man asked him 'What are you looking for?'); not "Vayishaleyhu haIsh LEIMOR mah tivakesh?"
Continue reading: http://www.torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5774/vayeishev.html

a time to weep and a time to laugh

Chadrei Charedim reports on the tragic passing of a mother of seven who had given birth only two weeks ago.

Chadrei Charedim wishes a mazal tov to Yaakov Yosef Grunwald upon his marriage to the daughter of someone who worked towards his release from a Japanese prison. The shadchan was the Satmer Dayan of Antwerp, who was moser nefesh in his efforts to help the three yeshiva students return to Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Y. Altman discusses what should be the the focus and goal of our tefilah.

Undermining religion

This week Costco made the news when Bibles that were being sold at the store were labeled 'fiction'. A Foxnews article writes about the apology Costco issued.

The national warehouse chain has apologized for labeling Bibles in a Simi Valley, Calif. store as fiction, calling it an error that they are working quickly to correct.

The article also quotes pastor and author Robert Jeffress.

“Christians need to call out organizations like Costco whose actions undermine Christianity – regardless of whether those actions are accidental or intentional,” ...

How about calling out an organization or religion whose purpose is to undermine Judaism?

Dennis Prager opines in the Jewish Journal about former President George W. Bush speaking at the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute this past week.

The only positive Jewish response to ...... is to figure out how to keep Jews Jewish so that they will not leave us for other secular or religious faiths. And the way to achieve that is to instill in young Jews faith in the Jewish trinity: God, Torah and Israel. Then they won’t seek any other trinity.

20 Nov 2013

Distractions, challenges, self-control and achievement

VIN posted a video of Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein lecturing at the Agudah conference in which he spoke, among other things, about distractions and challenges facing our children nowadays.

“Apple comes out with a new iPhone every single six months: fresh, new, shiny, exciting. They are throwing at our children fresh, new, shiny, exciting. The yetzer hara doesn’t put avak on that, so our kids are getting hit with all this new stuff, new technology. We have to fight it with a Torah that is shining…a Torah that is exciting, not something that is just a subject.”

Click here to listen to the rabbi's words.

Angela Duckworth speaks about today's challenges in a video below titled Will Power: Grit, Self-control, and Achievement. If you have an hour's time, it is definitely worth listening to.

The Altar

INN has an article titled

Ancient Jewish Altar Found in Shilo

Ongoing dig in the Samaria town of Shilo turns up ancient stone altar from First Temple times or earlier.
A reader asks a question in the comment section, "How do you know it was a Jewish altar?"

A reader responds, " Good question. There are a few ways: In close proximity to pagan altars, archaeologists find bones of non-kosher animals, such as swine. Pagan altars don't necessarily have a ramp, but steps leading up. And they are constructed of hewn stones. So if you find an altar (1) in an area that is already established by accredited archaeologists be an ancient Hebrew cultic site, (2) made unhewn stones, (3) with evidence of a ramp, and (4) with bones of only kosher animals, it can be safely assumed to have been a kosher Israelite altar."

TownHall reports on the testimony of a CMS Official: We Still Haven't Built '30 to 40 Percent' of Obamacare's Web Apparatus, Including Payment Systems.

Georgetown University to Host Member of Egypt’s Nazi Party

IsraellyCool reports on an article titled Attack on Israeli Worsens Tensions With Palestinians.

"It’s official, the New York Times made a “Wrong Choice” when they illustrated their story of the murder of sleeping soldier Eden Atias with a picture of the mother of his evil murderer."

A letter by Margaret Sullivan is posted at the site.

Hundreds of readers wrote to me in recent days to protest the prominent use of a photograph that accompanied an article in The Times last Thursday.
The photograph was an emotional and sympathetic portrait of a distraught Palestinian woman, whose son had killed an unsuspecting young Israeli soldier on a public bus. Although it was a powerful image (in fact, partly because it was such a powerful image), it was a poor choice, failing to put the focus where it belonged....

A comment published below the IsraellyCool post  includes, "This bias at the Times happens too often to be just another ‘poor choice”. The errors and “poor choices” always seem to occur when reporting on Israel. The negativity is ALWAYS directed at Israel. The “poor choice” always benefits the “Palestinian” cause and never seems to hurt it. There is a concerted effort to change the public’s perception of the Palestinian terrorist. This begins at the headline, which should read, PALESTINIAN KILLS ISRAELI.
This type of headline (with the nouns reversed) is often used when Israelis kill Arabs in self defense."


19 Nov 2013

Tablets and the Google effect

Tablets and toddlers: A warning for parents of tech-savvy children. The American Academy of Pediatrics says children under two should avoid all screen time.
...If they are always on the iPad and not actually doing those paper pencil activities that they should still be doing, those muscles are going to remain weaker,” said occupational therapist Lindsay Marzoli, Learning and Therapy Corner.
Read more: http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2013/11/14/red-flag-doctors-warn-tablets-can-actually-hurt-a-toddlers-developing-body/

Struggling to recall birthdays or the name of an actor in the last film you've seen? Then blame the Google effect.
Our growing reliance on the Internet for fact-checking and other basic information has resulted in growing levels of forgetfulness, according to scientists.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2510053/How-Google-rotting-memories-Young-people-today-worse-memories-parents.html#ixzz2l826fd9m

How about sticking with the two tablets brought down from Mount Sinai?

Speaking about writing activities and not forgetting, in the video below, Elie Farkas discusses how our actions are not forgotten but are written in a book which will be used as our judge and jury at the end of days.

Change we believe in

When the President ran on the "Hope and Change" slogan, few realized that the changes would involve higher insurance premiums, losing health plans and a faked jobs report.

Below is an excerpt from an article at 5 Towns Jewish Times which discusses CHANGE.

Bnos Malka Believes in CHANGE. Bnos Malka introduced its book-of-the-month program with the theme “CHANGE Begins with Me.” CHANGE is an acronym: Confidence, Honesty, Acceptance, Nurturing, Gratitude, and Empathy. These six character traits are needed to effect positive changes in the world. The program coordinator, Ms. Yocheved Landesman, explained, “Each month we will be reading a book that has a lesson about one of these traits. The goal is for our students, in every grade, to envision what kind of person they would like to be in the future and to identify the steps and tools they need to take in order have a positive impact on the world. The Book of the Month unifies the school and at the same time speaks to the age and maturity of each girl.”
As an introduction to the theme, the students will be reading the Dr. Seuss’s classic Oh the Places You’ll Go. The book is about embarking on the journey of life. It talks about being prepared to go out into the world and succeed, but does warn that there will be some bumps in the road.

18 Nov 2013


A Colombian baby came back from the dead more than 10 hours after being sent to the morgue.

The tiny tot - now-named Milagros (which means "miracles") -- was
born prematurely in Quibdo in the Pacific state of Choco in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/baby-back-dead-10-hours-death-article-1.1520478#ixzz2l2ONtoav

Israeli Economy Minister,  Naftali Bennett, was interviewed by CNN's Christiane Amanpour. At the 7' 38" mark of the video, an interesting exchange ensues.

I wonder whether you think it was wise of your colleague the Housing Minister to announce this massive new building in the occupied West Bank - even the Prime Minister didn't know about it and was pretty angry about it.

Well, first of all, Christiane, you talk about occupied - I just want to point out one thing.

No, no, let me just ask the question  - please

But, but since you say the term occupied, I have to point out - I'm holding a coin here

It's an international term

from Jerusalem in Hebrew

It's an international term, Mr. Bennett

I know, and I don't accept it. This coin, which says in Hebrew "freedom of Zion" was used by Jews 2000 years ago in the state of Israel in what you call occupied. One cannot occupy his own home.

Click here to view interview.

The Thanksgiving turkey

Rabbi Jeremy Gordon discusses Why turkey gave some rabbis a headache.

There is a list of birds known in the ancient Near East which are forbidden, but what of a bird unknown to the world of the Torah and Talmud? Rabbinic argument has split between those, such as the Rosh, who consider that there are simanim that, if they can be observed on a newly discovered bird, would allow that bird to be deemed kosher; and those, such as the Shach, who insist a bird can only be considered kosher if there is a clear tradition, or masorah, that such birds were always considered kosher — which would seem to render the turkey forbidden.

...The tale was made more complicated by the initial, erroneous, assumption that turkeys were nothing more than larger (and “Indian”, hence the Hebrew term hodu for turkey) versions of the European chicken. By the time this zoological confusion had been clarified, Jews had been eating turkey for some time and, in a coup of legal realpolitik, virtually all halachic authorities deemed turkey acceptable since it had both the simanim and, by this time at least, a demonstrated masorah.
Read more: http://www.thejc.com/judaism/judaism-features/113223/why-turkey-gave-some-rabbis-a-headache

Of marriageable age

The Rambam writes (Hilchas Ishus Perek 15 Halacha 2), a man should get married at the age of 17. The Magid Mishnah asks from the Mishnah In Avos that says, "Ben Shmoneh Esreh LiChupah" - a man should get married at the age of 18? How can the Rambam write 17? The Magid Mishnah anwers, when the Mishnah says that one should get marries at 18, it means in the 18th year of his life...,which is after his 17th birthday. The Mishnah is therefore saying the same as the Rambam.
Sefer Gan Raveh brings a proof to the opinion of the Rambam.  The pasuk in Parshas VaYigash lists the 10 sons of Binyamin. One of his sons was called Chupim. Targum Yonason Ben Uziel explains, all the names of Binyamin's sons were named after an episode that connected to his brother Yosef. He named his son Chupim - because Yosef was sold at the time that he was fit for Chuppah - fit to get married. We know, in Parshas VaYeishev the pasuk clearly states that Yosef was sold at the age of 17 ("Yosef Ben Shva Esreh Shana"). How then can Yonason Ben Uziel say that Yosef was at the age of marriage when he was sold? It must be that Yonason Ben Uziel agrees with the Rambam that "Ben Shmoneh Esreh LiChupah" means at the age of 17... in the 18th year!

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier discusses marriage and divorce at Mishpacha Magazine.

“We’re seeing significantly more divorces today than in previous years, and I attribute it to three reasons. Firstly, people are more fragile today; they lack a certain ‘wholesomeness,’ a sense of being comfortable with who they are and where they fit in the world.

He cites the “age of consumerism” as the second biggest factor in many divorces today, the premise of which is that there’s always a better, newer model out there.
Read more: http://www.mishpacha.com/Browse/Article/3679/The-Before-and-After-of-Great-Marriages

7 Nov 2013

Integrity and modesty

Rabbi Yissocher Frand discusses honesty and integrity in business dealings in a devar Torah on this week's parsha.

This week's parsha contains Yaakov's famous dream of the ladder with its legs on the ground and its head reaching heavenward. The Angels of G-d ascend and descend the ladder. The Baal HaTurim makes the following interesting but almost inscrutable comment: The numeric value of the Hebrew word for ladder (sulam) equals the numeric value of the Hebrew word for money (mamon). This common "gematria" of 136 obviously teaches some kind of symbolism between the Angels ascending and descending the ladder and money. What is this connection?
Read more: http://www.torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5774/vayeitzei.html

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff also discusses integrity in an article titled Parshas VaYaitzay - The Unfair Fare.

The NYPost has an article written by 14-year-old ella Epstein regarding her week living as a 1950s teenager, following the advice from “Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide.”

Most days, I wear jeans, a sweater and Uggs. However, the book suggests something more polished — the illustrations show a fuller skirt with fitted sweater, so I relied on below-the-knee skirts, Peter Pan collars, sweaters and dresses — mostly in Betty’s suggested neutrals of navy blue, gray or green. She also instructs teens to wear saddle shoes to school, but my interpretation — Oxfords and short heels in brown and black — were a little strange for a modern teenage girl to wear. All of my outfits were accented with a strand of pearls because Betty says, “Fads come and go, but a simple string of small pearls is still a young girl’s best friend.”
At first I got lots of strange looks from my friends. Halfway through history class, someone asked me why I was dressed like a history teacher. There were a few whispers and some laughing, but I didn’t mind. The Oxfords were stiff and gave me blisters, so I had to ditch them in favor of ballet flats. Still, I felt really feminine since my usual jeans and sweaters aren’t very gender specific.

Looking at the photos accompanying the article, one immediately notices how the 1950s outfits are much more tzinusdik (modest) than those worn now.

Orthodox and Conservative

NYdailynews identifies the Orthodox Jewish man who was photographed when he let a passenger on a train sleep on his shoulder.

Harry Marylus writes about The Demise of Conservative Judaism.

 I feel sorry for them. The leaders of Conservative Judaism are scrambling to make sense of a Pew Research Center report that says their movement is shrinking...
JTS Chancelor, Arnlod Eisen spoke to this issue long before the Pew report came out. He blamed their problems on allowing people to drive to Shul on Shabbos – and the suburban sprawl their congregants followed as a result. That led to most Conservative Jews to feel that driving on Shabbos was OK in all circumstances.
Mr. Eisen now realizes that this was a mistake as it destroyed the sense of community that Orthodox Jews enjoy. By not driving to Shul on Shabbos, Orthodox Jews are forced to live near the Shul they attend. This creates a sense of community. People interact with each other -especially on Shabbos and Yom Tov. By contrast Conservative Jews do not necessarily live in Jewish neighborhoods and have no sense of community as Jews.
Benjamen Barer asks, "Why study an ancient religion?"

It is easy, in the time we live, to harbor the misguided feeling that anything that has not occurred in the last 24 (or maybe 48) hours is nearly irrelevant. Constantly craving the new, we are all pulled by an invisible string to answer, in the most satisfying way, 'what have you done lately?' Keeping me balanced, in large part, is a millennia-old religion.
Unlike the Facebook and Twitter generation, Judaism exhibits the opposite tendency. If something was not said or thought about two thousand years ago or more, it is probably a blip best ignored.

6 Nov 2013

The newly hired columnist

FreeBeacon reports, "Newly hired New York Times columnist Alaa al Aswany’s “disturbing conspiracy thinking” about Israel played a role in World Affairs Journal’s decision to stop publishing his blog in 2012, according to sources at the magazine."
Continue reading: http://freebeacon.com/nyt-scribes-ex-editor-he-was-an-anti-israel-conspiracist/

Yesterday I caught an amazing article about Gershon Burd at Haaretz. Registered users can read it over here. Otherwise, it has been posted here, as well.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes about the terror his family faced at the New Jersey Garden State Mall where his wife and daughter were shopping when a gunman started shooting.

I am calling my wife every few minutes. I am thinking to myself that America has gone crazy. This past Friday night, for Shabbat dinner, the main point of conversation of our guests was the terrible shooting in Los Angeles at LAX and the other shootings that week at schools. Now, we’re at the center of it. Could this really be happening?

In the wake of Knesset Member Avigdor Lieberman's acquittal, those close to him point to blessings he received from Rabbis. One person said that just this morning, shortly before the hearing, Lieberman sent a personal emissary to receive the blessing of Maran Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky who expressed, "Do not worry, everything will be okay."

Kikar Hashabat has a segulah for riches over here.

5 Nov 2013

Our own Thanksgiving

Rabbi Shai Held writes about the matriarch Leah naming her fourth son Yehudah.

A Talmudic sage makes a surprising, even jarring statement about Leah. R. Simeon b. Yohai says that Leah was the first person in the history of the world who ever expressed gratitude to God (Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 7b). What could this possibly mean? Of course, other people before Leah had offered thanksgiving to God. According to Psalm 139, Adam expressed profound gratitude to God for how wondrously he was made (Psalm 139:14). What makes Leah's gratitude unique; what is it that establishes her as the first truly grateful person?

It is one thing to be grateful when everything is wonderful, when all of our dreams have been fulfilled and all of our hungers sated. But it is quite another to be grateful when life is complicated, when some of our most cherished dreams have remained painfully unrealized, when some of our yearnings are so intense that they threaten to burn right through us. Leah is the first person to feel and express gratitude even and especially amid profound sorrow and enduring disappointment.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shai-held/holding-gratitude-and-disappointment_b_4220057.html

Malcolm Gladwell on faith and "desirable difficulty"

Did you ever have the experience of learning a new word, only to see it over and over again in the days following your seeing the word for the first time?
This weekend I visited a friend who was reading a book called Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, an author I had never heard of before. She proceeded to give me a synopsis, and recommended that I read the book. I read the first chapter, found it interesting and asked her if I could borrow it once she was done with it.
Imagine my surprise when I was perusing the Blaze this morning and found an article titled The Biblical Insight From a Writer at The New Yorker That Left Glenn Beck Stunned which details statements made by Malcolm Gladwell in an interview with Mr. Beck.
“Sometimes people of faith don’t always understand how powerful their faith makes them,” he remarked.  “…There were lots of committed Christians in France who didn’t have the courage to go up against the Nazis because they thought they were at a hopeless disadvantageous … It’s just this little group in the mountain who thought, ‘Woah, armed with the spirit of the Lord, we can more than hold our own against a bunch of guys with tanks.’”
Gladwell also proceeded to highlight how David’s slingshot was far superior for the task at hand than conventional weapons, like a sword and shield.
“David understands that with superior technology and the spirit of the lord, ‘I am not the underdog,’” Gladwell remarked. “With those two things on his side, he’s the favorite isn’t he?”

4 Nov 2013

Prayer and thanks

Huffington Post has a slide show containing 50 stunning synagogues. for those interested in architecture, click here to view them.

Speaking about prayer, in an article titled Israel MPs mull Jewish prayer at al-Aqsa site,  aljazeera writes, "The compound, which once housed the Jewish temples, is the holiest site to Jews and the third holiest in Islam." Thanks for acknowledging that the Temples were once housed at the site.

Speaking about thanks, I was impressed with Senator Joe Lieberman's expression of thanks and Hakarat Hatov for the Sheluchim and the Lubavitcher movement which have assisted him in various ways during his career. Click on my last post, Kinus Hasheluchim, to learn more.

Kinus Hasheluchim

Chabad Crown Heights info has a selection of videos and photos from the kinus shluchim. Click here to hear Senator Joe Lieberman speak, as well as others. Below is Rabbi Mordechai Abergel delivering a short speech. May I add "Amen" to his words at the end of the video.

Edie Littlefield Sundby discusses her options for health care.

For a cancer patient, medical coverage is a matter of life and death. Take away people's ability to control their medical-coverage choices and they may die. I guess that's a highly effective way to control medical costs. Perhaps that's the point. http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304527504579171710423780446

The Atlantic Wire writes about how Three Guys Built a Better Healthcare.gov.

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

3 Nov 2013

Sold for a pittance

A collection of 1,500 artworks confiscated by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s has been found in the German city of Munich, media reports say.

The trove is believed to include works by Matisse, Picasso and Chagall, the news magazine Focus reports.

Some of the works were declared as degenerate by the Nazis, while others were stolen from or forcibly sold for a pittance by Jewish art collectors.
Continue reading: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-24794970

Citing concerns over traffic and water pollution, a group of Jackson residents have banded together to fight the construction of an all-girls Orthodox Jewish high school in their neighborhood.
The Asbury Park Press reports that a coalition of neighbors have formed the Jackson Citizens Defense Fund and hired a lawyer to fight the plan.
Continue reading: http://www.nj.com/ocean/index.ssf/2013/11/jackson_orthodox_jewish_high_school.html

Karachi landmarks

Not many people know that a number of Karachi’s landmark buildings were designed by a Jewish architect Moses Somake (1875-1947).
...Reading a paper at Karachi conference here on Saturday, Gul Hasan Kalmatti, traced the history of Karachi’s Jewish community and recalled their contribution in making Karachi a vibrant metropolis.
...Kalmatti regretted that the synagogue known as the Magen Shalom Synagogue was razed to the ground in July 1988, paving the way for a shopping plaza – Madiha Square.
Read more: http://tribune.com.pk/story/626468/secret-histories-the-jews-built-karachi-but-we-built-shopping-plazas-on-their-synagogue/

A photo posted above the article contains a gravestone with the inscription, "In ever loving memory of our beloved son ENOCH who passed away on 11 December 1933, born 18 December 1910. 'God takes our loved ones from our homes, but never from our hearts.'”
As we enter Chodesh Kislev and read about Chanoch, who passed away in Kislev and doesn't seem to have left any children, perhaps someone would consider performing a good deed leiluy nishmato.