"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

30 Apr 2014

Light and splendor

Click here to see a "really exuberant work of art" - a mural of the "Ten Commandments and a throne supported by two lions of Judah" painted by Ben Zion Black.

Yesterday's State Department briefing gives us pause to relect on the power of words, as most of the briefing was devoted to the use of the word "apartheid."

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s very important, as we all know, that the use of the word, the way that people interpret the word – the power of words – is a major factor here.

Allen West asks, "Hey, Sec. Kerry. If Israel is an apartheid state, how come Arabs serve in the Knesset?"

It is related in the Prophets (Kings I, 6:1) that King Solomon began the building of the First Temple “in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Ziv, which is the second month, he began to build the House of G-d.” The Radak explains: “The month Ziv is the month of Iyar… and it is called Ziv, as our sages explain, because of the splendor of the trees, namely the brilliance of the flowers and buds.” Ziv means “splendor” or “brilliance.” In this month of “brilliance” King Solomon “began to build the House of G-d.

The two names of the second month of the Hebrew calendar are Iyar and Ziv. Both are related to light. Iyar (אִיָיר ) is cognate to the word “light” (אוֹר ). Ziv (זִיו ), which means “splendor” or “brilliance,” is one of the 13 synonyms for light in Hebrew. Both names allude to the special light that shines in this second month of the Jewish calendar.

Wishing you a good Chodesh.

29 Apr 2014

No baby

Haaretz has an article titled U.S. demanding swift solution for equality at Western Wall, says Israeli official.

The U.S. administration is highly involved and interested in reaching a suitable and swift solution to non-Orthodox prayer arrangements at the Western Wall, according to an official in the Prime Minister’s Office, who also said the issue affects Israel’s foreign relations.

A comment posted at the end of the article reads, "And, I presume, equally for a plan to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount. After all, discrimination is discrimination, isn't it?"

KikarHashabat has an article which reports that Rav Aharon Leib Steinman warned that excessive expenditure at weddings may cause "ayin hara" and might even lead to fertility problems.

This afternoon I attended a Tehillim gathering organized to pray for those who are single and are trying to find the zivug hagun.
Before we began, a woman related that she recites the whole book of Tehillim every Shabbos. She said that she told Hashem, "Don't be afraid. Even if my daughter becomes engaged, I won't stop saying Tehillim."

Below is an excerpt from a State Department briefing of July 29th at the start of a nine month process to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Matt Lee asks the following question.

QUESTION: Can you point to a single – just, I’m just curious; I’m really not trying to be a jerk about this. I just want to know what example can you point to as being something that has worked in the past?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out for you their discussions of what lessons they’ve learned from the past and how they’ll apply them moving forward.

QUESTION: Sorry, the nine-month timetable, when does that start from? That’s starts --

MS. PSAKI: Starts now.

QUESTION: -- from today?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

...QUESTION: So a child conceived today, if all goes well – (laughter) – should be born with a Palestinian state.

Nine months later - no baby and the Free Beacon reports on the exchange between reporter Matt Lee and State Department Spokesperson Psaki in which she "declined to name a single benefit from the now failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations Tuesday in the State Department press conference."
Click here to listen to the exchange.

An ear that listens

Breitbart has a Foxnews report containing the audio of John Kerry speaking at the Trilateral Commission using the word "apartheid" in connection to remarks about Israel. At the end of the report a journalist at Foxnews relates that they have has obtained a letter from the Trilateral Commission which was written to Secretary of State Kerry "apologizing for the breach of privacy" and suggesting that the reporter who initially broke the story had surreptitiously recorded it.
Click here to listen to the audio recording and to view the Foxnews report.

So, if one believes his words aren't being recorded, is he free to say whatever he thinks?

Ayin Roah Veozen Shomaat – There is an eye that sees and an ear that listens

A surreptitious recording would really come in useful as far as bearing witness to the exchange betweeen J Street leader Talia Lepson and pro-Israel student Daniel Mael in which both sides have witnesses to back up their completely contradictory accounts.

Close relatives

A Kohen may become Tamei to his close relatives. A Nazir may not. Why? The Shem MiShmuel says in the name of his father the Avnei Nezer that the Kedushas Kohen is inherited. It is a family kedusha. Therefore, just like he received his kedusha from the family, he may not turn his back on them, even if dealing with them would make him Tamei.

The status of a Nazir is reached purely by the individual, through his holy aspirations. It is not received in any way from other family members. He has no debt to pay and, therefore, may not defile himself to bury a family member. Similarly, to become Kohen Gadol one must elevate himself through his own efforts. Therefore, the Kohen Gadol also may not become tamei to family.

Hill Republicans call on Kerry to apologize, resign for reported Israel 'apartheid' remarks

28 Apr 2014

BMI (body mass index) - what the experts say

Yitzchak Schechter, PsyD,  published an article in 2012 titled Creating a Resting Place for the Shechina: Ideals, Expectations and Reality in Marriage in which he described how a study was conducted to assess differences in BMI "weight categories in a sampling of self-identified Modern Orthodox, Modern Yeshivish and Yeshivish women."
He writes, "Many surmised that the Modern Orthodox sample would be lower in weight due to increased exposure to media and the “Hollywood” ideals of thinness and beauty. Others predicted that the Yeshivish sample would lean towards thinness, due to the pressures of shidduchim. In actuality, the Yeshivish and Modern Yeshivish groups were skewed towards thinness to a statistically significant degree. More important than the socio-religious comparison, this finding potentially highlights that unique internal systems (e.g., shidduchim) can have even greater influence than external ones (e.g. media exposure).

Incidentally, if you want to lower your BMI you might do well to read the following article.

The Daily Mail reports Almonds, perfect snack for health: Handful a day can keep heart healthy and beat the flab, results of six new studies conclude.

Then again, it might pay to have a higher BMI as cardiologist Dr. Carl Lavie reports his findings.

Q: You cite a 2013 finding that people with a body mass index of 25 to 30, which is considered overweight, have the lowest mortality rate. [BMI is a measure of body fat based on weight and height; 25 or greater qualifies as overweight, while 30 or greater is obese.]

A: That was a meta-analysis of 97 studies of 2.9 million people, and they analyzed greater than 270,000 deaths. They showed the absolute best survival was in the 25-to-30 BMI range. That group had a six per cent lower mortality than did the normal BMI group.

16 Apr 2014

Next year in Jerusalem

The HuffingtonPost writes about three junior staffers working on the 2008 Presidential campaign who conducted an impromptu seder at the Sheraton hotel. They were joined by Senator Obama.

Eric: And at the end everybody raises their glasses and there is a tradition when you say: Next year in Jerusalem. So we all raised our glasses and said ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ and then we all put our glasses down and then Obama raised his glass and said: ‘Next year in the White House.’ And we all said yes, and raised our glasses. It was a very poignant moments because it was really one of the lowest points within the 2008 campaign.

Frank Bruni writes about The Oldest Hatred, Forever Young.

Following 9/11, there was enormous concern that all Muslims would be stereotyped and scapegoated, and this heightened sensitivity lingers. It partly explains what just happened at Brandeis University. The school had invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a celebrated advocate for Muslim women, to receive an honorary degree. But when some professors and students complained, citing statements of hers that seemed broadly derisive of Islam, the invitation was withdrawn. Clearly, university officials didn’t want their campus seen as a cradle or theater of Islamophobia.

But other college campuses in recent years have been theaters of anti-Israel discussions that occasionally veer toward, or bleed into, condemnations of Jews.

Thomas Friedman opines, "Kerry, in my view, is doing the Lord’s work."

Does Mr. Friedman have a version of the Old Testament with the verse "And the Lord said to John Kerry, Thou shalt pressure My nation to release prisoners who murdered my people but Thou shalt not free Jonathan Pollard"?

His version of the Haggadah must read "Next year in a divided Jerusalem.

14 Apr 2014

Matza on Pesach

In the Hagadah we say that the reason we eat Matza on Pesach is because the dough did not have a chance to rise until the Melech Malchei HaMilachim appeared to us and redeemed us. Why is this so integral to the story of our redemption that Matza takes center stage and plays the leading role on Pesach?
The Maharal explains that the whole point of the ten makos and all the miracles in Mitzrayim was to teach the world, and Bnei Yisroel as well, that Hashem created and controls everything that happens in the world. Man is so egocentrical that despite all of Hashem's miracles and all our own shortcomings, we easily forget this point. Without constant reminders we oftentimes believe that we control our own fate and destiny.
So too the Bnei Yisroel in Mitzrayim, despite witnessing all the miracles, at the time of leaving Mitzrayim may have entertained notions that they somehow freed themselves through their own efforts. Therefore Hashem caused them to leave at a time that was clearly not desirable to them. They would have preferred to finish baking their bread before embarking on their treacherous desert trek. Hashem wanted to leave this mark on us for generations and Matza symbolizes what Pesach is all about, belief in Hashem.

13 Apr 2014

A child's morals

The Hagada tells us regarding the Rasha, "U'Lfi SheHotzi Atzmo Min HaKlal Kafar B'aIkar", because he removed himself from the tzibur he is a Kofer. Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer asks shouldn't it say the opposite way around, since he is a Kofer he has removed himself from the tzibur?

He answers with a story from his Rebbi, Rav Chaim Soloveitchik. A person who had left the Torah way came to Rav Chaim and said that he had a number of questions about Judaism. Rav Chaim said to him that if he has questions, he has no problem to answer them for him. However he doesn't really have questions, he only really has answers. He has answers and excuses why he has left Yiddishkeit, cloaked in the form of questions. However he left Torah because it was convenient for him and he merely concocted the questions to justify his actions. Questions like that can never be answered to the questioners satisfaction.

This is what the Baal Haggadah says about the Rasha. Since he has chosen to remove himself from the tzibur that keeps Torah in order to chase his heart's desires, therefore he is Kofer BaIkar. His Kefira is only a justification for separating from the religious way of life and is not a real theological issue. http://revach.net/moadim/hagadah-shel-pesach/Rav-Chaim-Brisker-The-Rasha-What-Comes-First-The-Kefira-Or-The-Lifestyle/4475

The NYT has an interesting article titled Raising a Moral Child.

In a classic experiment, the psychologist J. Philippe Rushton gave 140 elementary- and middle-school-age children tokens for winning a game, which they could keep entirely or donate some to a child in poverty. They first watched a teacher figure play the game either selfishly or generously, and then preach to them the value of taking, giving or neither. The adult’s influence was significant: Actions spoke louder than words. When the adult behaved selfishly, children followed suit. The words didn’t make much difference — children gave fewer tokens after observing the adult’s selfish actions, regardless of whether the adult verbally advocated selfishness or generosity. When the adult acted generously, students gave the same amount whether generosity was preached or not — they donated 85 percent more than the norm in both cases. When the adult preached selfishness, even after the adult acted generously, the students still gave 49 percent more than the norm. Children learn generosity not by listening to what their role models say, but by observing what they do.
Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/12/opinion/sunday/raising-a-moral-child.html?_r=0

Professing the Jewish religion

The Telegraph has an article titled Britain's 'first Jewish PM': does Disraeli have the title?

British Jews have been allowed to sit in Parliament since the passing of the Jews Relief Act in 1858.
The same law — which remains in place — says that no person “professing the Jewish religion, directly or indirectly” may advise the monarch on appointments in the Church of England.
Read  more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ed-miliband/10761635/Britains-first-Jewish-PM-does-Disraeli-have-the-title.html

Jonathan Tobin writes about Brandeis and the Real War on Women.

12 Apr 2014

NYT reporting on Israel

This week the Times of Israel reported that a "Kfar Saba court denied a request from the Loewenstein Hospital Rehabilitation Center Thursday to enforce a decision to discharge a girl who was wounded when Palestinians threw rocks at her family’s car in the West Bank last year."

Adele Biton is the victim of the non-violent resistance esposed by those opposing Israel. For over a year she has remained largely unresponsive and her family must prepare the house for her homecoming, as well as hire carers. It is unlikely she will ever run a marathon.

Yet, Jodi Rudoren in a NYT article titled Mideast Tensions Sideline a Gazan Marathon Runner, chose to focus on a Gaza victim, who was unable to run in a marathon this week because Israeli authorities denied him a permit to travel to the West Bank.

Ms. Rudoren, how about devoting a lengthy article to a real victim, one who will be unable to run for life, not because of being denied a travel permit but, because of a policy in which a country allows those bent on its destruction to travel freely through its territory?

The NYT has another article titled Are Iran and Israel Trading Places?

11 Apr 2014

It would have been enough

The Wall Street Journal has an opinion piece by N

Dipping twice at the Seder

Rabbi Yehuda C Aronovitz provides us with an explanation as to why we dip twice at the Seder. Click here to read Dipping into the Waters of Change.

Collive has posted a video of an event of tribute for "Rashi Minkowicz obm, Shlucha to North Fulton, Georgia who passed away recently at the young age of 37."

At the 1'13 mark in the video,  one of her young sons can be heard speaking about the last words his mother uttered to him, "Don't give up, no matter what situation you're in."

10 Apr 2014

Being helped

KikarHashabat has a story about a soldier who entered the army with a beard and tzitzit but forsook his religious lifestyle after serving in the army for a number of years.

Tomorrow, the 11th of Nisan, is the yarzheit of Rav Elchonon Yosef Hertzman, who the Yeshivaworld described upon his passing 5 years ago, as "a prominent alter Mirrer, baal mussar, and mechaber of seforim, including Neis Hatzoloh on the Mirrer Yeshivas miraculous escape during the WWII period, who was close to the Mirrer mashgiach Rav Yeruchem Levovitz zt'l."

Chadrei Chareidim writes about the request in his will in which the Rav states that people should learn for an elevation of his soul, as he didn't leave any children.

I am going the way of all humans if  Mashiach doesn't come speedily. Those who toiled for Shabbat will eat on Shabbat - this refers to the next world. Unfortunately, didn't serve even a small percentage of what I owed to the Creator, especially for all the  favors that were granted to me, having surviced the great fire of war.

...The Rav requested that one should give charity in memory of his neshama, Elhanan Yosef ben Shmuel and Tzipporah. Those who say 10 perakim of Tehillim,  ט"ז, ל"ב, מ"א, מ"ב, נ"ט, ע"ז, צ', ק"ה, קל"ז, ק"נ
at his grave or anywhere, or learn mishnayit, he will try to help them with what they need.
Since his passing, many can bear witness to being helped after heeding his words and gedolei Yisrael are advising people to go to his grave. The Rav is buried in Bnei Brak.

Incidentally, don't use the translation tool on this article because, just seeing from the headline, it may come up with strange results.

Lois Lerner and Elijah Cummings may need help, but probably not.

Legal Insurrection writes about the vote at Cornell regarding divestment from Israeli companies which is scheduled to take place over the Passover holiday.

Jewish and pro-Israel groups are organizing, and have started a Facebook Page and Petition to the Assembly against the Resolution (the Petition is open to “members and friends of the Cornell University community” — that would include not only students, but family, alumni and anyone else).
Read more: http://legalinsurrection.com/2014/04/cornell-anti-israel-divestment-group-doubles-down-on-passover-strategy/

A new and viciously anti-Israel ad is running on Washington, DC buses, reading “We’re Sweating April 15 So Israelis Don’t Have To! Stop US Aid to Israel’s Occupation” and featuring a grim-looking Uncle Sam waving an Israeli flag.
 - See more at: http://pamelageller.com/2014/04/pamela-geller-breitbart-american-muslims-palestine-anti-israel-ads-run-dc-buses.html/#sthash.mi7K1bBT.dpuf

9 Apr 2014

Live the impossible

A pro-Palestinian campus group at Cornell University is apparently trying to push through a resolution urging the school to cut ties with Israel, slipping it onto the books on the eve of the Passover holiday.
Continue reading: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/04/09/pro-palestinian-campus-group-plans-passover-meeting-to-push-anti-israel-resolution-while-jewish-students-are-away/#

I just finished reading an interview with David Copperfield in Hello magazine. He describes how he became hooked on magic early on but met resistance form his family, especially his mother when he wanted to make it his career.

Desperate, one night I threw out all my blueprints, plans, drawings, etc. in the rubbish before I went to bed," remembers David. "My father asked me; 'What's wrong?' I rold him that everyone was trying to make me believe my dream was impossible, so I had decided to quit."
"I was so overwhelmed that I cried myself to sleep. The next morning when I woke up, all my blueprints, drawings and plans were spread out around me, and with them was a note form my dad: 'You have to live the impossible.'"