"Where does it say that you have a contract with G-d to have an easy life?"

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

"Failure is not the enemy of success; it is its prerequisite."

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

28 Dec 2011

Straddling two worlds

An overflowing crowd came out on Sunday, December 18, to listen to actress Mayim Bialik speak about her journey in Yiddishkeit. Born to parents who chose a Reform lifestyle after being raised in Orthodox post-Holocaust homes, Mayim describes her path to almost Orthodoxy as “coming home.” The captivated crowd at the Young Israel of West Hempstead listened as Mayim described her current struggles to continue to grow in Torah observance and learning, while at the same time keeping her role in the popular award-winning television series, The Big Bang Theory.

Mayim had many of her own fascinating theories regarding how she became the woman she is today. She described her mother’s home as one in which certain traditions were observed but without explanation. For example, she laughingly told how she thought her mother’s two sets of dishes were for breakfast and dinner. She did not realize Shabbos included Saturday as well. Though her first words as a baby were in Yiddish, by her early teens she was reading Hollywood scripts, such as for her appearance in Beaches as a younger version of Bette Midler, and then moved on to the hit series Blossom.

Baruch Hashem, unlike most child stars, Mayim chose to focus on scholarship and spirituality after her starring role ended. She attended UCLA, where she majored in neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish studies and took an active role in the Hillel on campus. Her Hillel rabbi proved to be a major influence on her; she notes that after graduation, she wanted to create a home similar to what she had on campus. Though her mother warned her she would never meet a man if she went to services on Friday nights, she met her husband in Calculus class. She married and had two sons, while also receiving her Ph.D. in neuroscience. The executive producer of Big Bang, when noting this footnote on her resume asked, “Is this a joke?” Yes, Mayim is a rare person, straddling the intellectual and entertainment worlds.
Read full article: http://www.5tjt.com/local-news/12751-blossoming-into-yiddishkeit-mayim-bialik-visits-yiwh

In the video below, Ms. Bialik partnered with the Maccabeats to raise money for bone marrow tests. In the second video, the Maccabeats report on how much money has been raised, although I understand that amount has been updated upward.

Taking action

What kind of action did school board members take in reference to a complaint filed against a teacher who allegedly called a student a "Jew boy"?
Click here for details.

On a separate issue, on November 22, David Singer wrote an article about the Palestinians' membership of UNESCO.

Among other questions he posted to the UNESCO’s Director of Liaison Office in New York was the following.

II. Was the PA’s admission to UNESCO unconstitutional because the majority vote required for its admission under Article II 2 of the UNESCO Constitution was not reached?
The vote for the PA’s admission to UNESCO was 107 for, 16 against and 52 abstentions (which do not count as votes).

There are 194 members of UNESCO - so a two thirds majority vote required would be 129. As only 107 votes were in favour - Palestine’s admission to UNESCO did not satisfy the provisions of the Constitution and should be declared invalid.
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/10879

On December 27, INN published a further article from Mr. Singer in which he addreeses the fact that he has yet to receive a satisfactory answer to his questions and asks, "Should UNESCO be entitled to act in breach of its own Constitution and choose to studiously ignore investigating any alleged breach when drawn to its attention?"
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/10879

27 Dec 2011

Mitzvot in the news

The following is a notification from the Samoan Tourism Authority website.

Samoa International Date Line Change
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Samoa travels in time at the end of 2011 when it officially changes time zone to be in line with Australia and New Zealand. Samoa will jump from the 29th to the 31st of December and will be one of the first nations to greet the New Year.

The International Date Line Act 2011 (the Act) commences at 12 o'clock midnight, on Thursday 29th December 2011. In effect we will be waking up on Saturday 31st December 2011, and loose one day in our lives as there will be no Friday 30th December 2011 in the history of Samoa.

Do any Jews who keep Sabbath live or plan to travel to Samoa during the next couple of days? What are the halachic implications of going to sleep on Thursday and waking up on Saturday? As I am not planning to be in Samoa on December 29th, I am not going to call up a rabbi to render a halachic decision, but I would be curious to know how the issue should be dealt with.
One note to the Samoan Tourism Authority. Please change the word "loose" to "lose."

In other news, there is an article about a fire that broke out in a dormitory in a yeshiva, probably due to a candle falling on a mattress in one of the rooms. The bachurim succeeded in saving the tefilin in the room except for one. Miraculously, while the batim of that pair of tefillin had melted, the tefillin inside was undamaged.

A chareidi site was instrumental in helping in the performance of hashavat aveidah. Someone had found a memory card with photos of a chareidi man. The site published one of the photos of the man and asked if any of the readers would be able to identify him. The man was identified within a short while. However, some people posted comments to the article in which they asked that the picture and article be removed from the site as the mitzvah of hashavat aveidah had been accomplished and the man in the photo was embarrassed by having his picture on the site. Hopefully, the article will be removed, now that it has served its purpose.

Absence of gratitude

There's an excellent article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach at the Algemeiner titled Absence of Gratitude is the Source of Rabbinical Burnout. It pays to read it and focus on whether we thank the people who we come into contact with.

Just a reminder that today is the 2nd of the two Rosh Chodesh days of Tevet, so don't forget Yaaleh V'yavo, Musaf and a full Hallel.
Wishing you a good Chodesh and a happy Chanukah. And go ahead and thank someone.

26 Dec 2011

Chanukah celebrations

A friend sent me a link to the video below of Chanukah celebrations on the ice.
And here's a link to a Chanukah celebration at the home of Maran Harav Elyashiv.

The candidate's views

Fmr. senior aide to US Cong. Ron Paul, Eric Dondero, writes about Ron Paul and his views on Jews, Blacks, Israel, foreign policy, etc. He opines that Congressman Paul "wishes the Israeli state did not exist at all."
Read full article: http://rightwingnews.com/election-2012/statement-from-fmr-ron-paul-staffer-on-newsletters-anti-semitism/

The question is whether Mr. Paul's views on Israel will lead to a surge in the polls for the congressman. We'll find out soon enough.
H/T Memeorandum

Click here to watch Dr. Paul speaking about Hamas.

The miracles and the wars

Today is the first of the two Rosh Chodesh days for the month of Tevet...
The Yaaleh V'yavo prayer is added to the Amidah and to Grace After Meals, and the additional Musaf prayer is said...
Because it is also Chanukah today, the "full" Hallel (Psalms 113-118) is recited (and not the "partial Hallel" said on the Rosh Chodesh days of other months).

The Ponovezher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, once asked the following question. After having lit the Chanukah lights, we recite a prayer, "Al hanisim ve'al hamilchamos," for "the miracles and for the wars." Why should we thank G-d for wars? Are we bloodthirsty, do we live by the sword, that we are happy G-d provides wars for us? Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to highlight the victories in which we vanquished the enemy?

He answered that, in reality, it is premature to thank G-d for the victories because the fight that took place for the first Chanucah still continues today. The war against the Greeks was mainly a spiritual struggle, a war of sanctity against defilement that remains as yet to be won and so we thank G-d for the plain fact that we are fighting, that we strive, despite the most difficult conditions, for something better than our present situation.

One only has to read this article to realize that the spiritual battle continues to this day.

Click here to see the miracle of Chanukah updated.

Wishing you a gut Chodesh and a happy Chanukah.

25 Dec 2011

Chanukah tweets

I decided to hold a contest for the best tweet about Chanukah (posted on December 20th) from the presidential candidates. I will have to award first prize to Newt Gingrich for using the correct Hebrew words, and using the "Ch" spelling. However, in the music category, Jon Huntsman wins without a doubt.

newtgingrich Newt Gingrich
I would like to wish all those who celebrate a Chag Chanukah Sameach, or a Happy Chanukah.

MittRomney Mitt Romney
Tonight, as Hannukah begins, Ann and I extend our best wishes to all our Jewish friends celebrating the Festival of Lights.

JonHuntsman Jon Huntsman
As the celebration begins tonight, Mary Kaye and I would like to wish Jewish families across America & the world a Happy & Joyous Hanukkah

The fruits of victory

The Ran in Masechta Shabbos says that the word Chanuka is a combination of two words, Chanu, they rested from the war and Kuf Hey on the 25th day of Kislev. Why, asks Rav Elyashiv, do we celebrate the day we rested, shouldn't we celebrate the day we won the war?

The Shalal Rav says that Rav Elyashiv says, we learn from this a lesson regarding war. The great warriors in history saw war as a means of showing off their awesome power and ruling their conquests. They celebrate the crushing of their enemies which is their goal in war. However for some, war is just a means to remove a threat interfering with their real goals in life. For them victory in war is not an accomplishment, it is what they will achieve afterwards with their new-found peace that is the fruit of their victory.

The Chashmonaim may have been great warriors but only for the sake of Hashem. They did not enjoy battle. They enjoyed serving Hashem in the Bais HaMikdash. They enjoyed dveykus with Hashem through the light of Torah. All this was not possible with the Yevanim ruling the land through harsh decrees meant to snuff out the light of Torah.

"Binfol Oivecha Al Tismach", do not rejoice in your enemies downfall. Our victory was achieved not when the Yevanim were defeated on the battlefield, but rather the day we got back to the Bais HaMikdash and cleaned it up and started offering Korbanos once again. Chanukah is a celebration not of heroic victory, but about the freedom to learn Torah and do mitzvos.

Below is an excerpt from an article about a small victory achieved through exposure by Palestinian Media Watch.

UNESCO has halted its funding of a magazine promoting Hitler as a role model for the PA. It expressed “shock” over the incitement – but only after it was exposed by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) and Arutz Sheva and after the Simon Wiesenthal Center complained.

Zayzafuna, a magazine which ostensibly promotes democracy and tolerance, published an article by a ten-year-old Palestinian girl who said that in her dreams, Hitler told her, “Yes. I killed them [the Jews] so you would all know that they are a nation who spreads destruction all over the world.”
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/151047

24 Dec 2011

The connections

A version of an article which appeared in the online edition of the New York Times titled Israel Accuses 4 Countries of Meddling in Its Affairs by Isabel Kushner also appeared in the International Herald Tribune print edition on December 23 with the title Israel answers European crticism with a blunt warning. In making a comparison between the two articles, I discovered, among other differences, a sentence that was left out of the online edition. Both versons contain a paragraph beginning with the following sentence.

"In response, Israel berated the Security Council members for paying more attention to the settlers’ arson and vandalism, which was strongly condemned by Israeli leaders, than to the bloodletting in Syria."

But the IHT also had this sentence in its edition.

"The connection between the two, if any, was not clear."

Upon reading the IHT article, I was taken aback by Ms. Kershner's opining about the connection. The article appeared in the news section. As such, only the facts should have been presented. If she wished to opine about the connection, she could have written an opionion piece.

Here's a nice story about the connection between a menorah that was stolen and a triumph over adversity.

Here's a story about a Chanukah miracle after a Brooklyn family was involved in a serious car crash. May Shlomo Zalman Ben Raizel Chedva have a refuah sheleima.

23 Dec 2011

Come home

Victor Sharpe explains Jewish continuity in Israel.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Nothing could attest to that fact more than the Israel-Arab conflict, which in reality is the Israel-Islamist conflict.

This is not a territorial dispute between Israel and those Arabs who call themselves Palestinians, though it is framed as such. No, the stark reality of the Muslim war against the Jewish state is rooted in one fundamental fact: namely, the unchangeable refusal by Muslims to ever accept a non-Islamic nation in territory once conquered in the name of Allah, even if that nation -- the Jewish nation -- precedes Islam by millennia.

Read more: http://www.americanthinker.com/2011/12/israel_some_basic_facts.html#ixzz1hLb5JIuO

An interview with Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs begins with the following paragraph.
“People often insult me in public. It can happen almost anywhere, such as at the train station in Rotterdam or in the center of Amersfoort, the town where I live. For instance, someone may shout at me ‘Yehoud’ — a negative term for a Jew in Arabic. When I walked home from our synagogue a few years ago, a child of about 10 years old shouted out ‘Dirty stinking Jew.’

The first comment after the article offered this advice.

"So, come home already!
Would it help if we plead? Must you wait until the violence begins? Will you wait even then? Come home to Eretz Yisrael; bring as many Jews as you can with you. We need you but you need us even more. Please, stop the excuses and just come home."
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/11019

IsraelMatzav shows a Palestinian video about the holiday season. If you look at the last few seconds of the video, you will see a map of Palestine.

22 Dec 2011

You're never too old

INN had a small item about a holocaust survivor who was unable to celebrate his bar mitzvah at the age of 13 because he was sent to the concentration camps. Yesterday he celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Western Wall at the age of 82.

For those of you who missed the story of a centenarian who is still going strong, click here to view a video of Irving Kahn, a 106-year-old stockbroker who is a true occupier of Wall Street.

Yesterday I was involved in preparations for a Chanukah party for the older women in the neighborhood who attend a weekly shiur. A musician was invited and some women volunteered to make latkes. Jelly donuts were also on the menu. I asked two girls in their early twenties to provide some youthful enthusiasm and to encourage some of the older ladies to dance. I must say it was a resounding success. But what stuck in my mind were the comments made by one of the young girls. She was quite impressed with a woman who showed great respect to her older mother, making sure that she was dressed beautifully and taking care that her makeup was impeccable. The woman also made sure that her mother participated in the dancing which was no easy feat. The sight has left an indelible impression on the young girl.
Kol hakavod to all the volunteers who had a hand in providing much pleasure to the septuagenarians, octogenarians and nonagenarians. And to the daughter who took such good care of a frail mother, you are an inspiration to all.

Spinning the dreidel

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.

20 Dec 2011

The price of a tear

Kikar Hashabat has an article about a a town called Kotzk where people flooded the doors of the rebbe's house asking for blessings and salvation. As his sister, was afflicted with various misfortunes, she approached the rebbe's house to ask him to pray for her. However, he left strict instructions with his gabbai not to open the gate for her.

She approached the gate and burst out crying, beseeching the rebbe to bless her. When she saw no one was coming to her aid, she turned to the heavens and cried out to G-d in prayer, asking that she shouldn't be abandoned, as even her brother wasn't in a hurry to help her.

She cried and cried and, at that moment, the rebbe stood up quickly and opened the gate.

"Come in," he told his sister. "You should know," he said, "that this gate was not locked but I saw that your heart was locked from praying for yourself. You should know that no prayer is comparable to the one uttered by the person himself. And I wanted you to personally arouse the mercy of Hashem.

Another article discusses the sale at a Sotheby's auction of an extremely rare prayer book which had belonged to the Baal Shem Tov.

The siddur, which was over 250 years old, was sold at a price of $572,500 to a private collector who bought it anonymously.

The prayer book contains some Jewish drawings and, on one of the pages of the Yom Kippur prayers, there is a tear stain.

19 Dec 2011


Rabbi Benjamin Blech weighs in on the topic of assimilation as Chanukah approaches.

"Assimilation today takes many forms.

We've assimilated when all we want is to party, never to pray.

We've assimilated when all we care about is what we look like on the outside, not what we feel like on the inside.

We've assimilated when our greatest goals are fame and fortune rather than love and learning.

We've assimilated when more than anything else we want to envied by the eyes of our fellow man instead of being treasured in the sight of God.

We've assimilated when our chief goal is to accumulate more goods rather than simply to be good.

We've assimilated when we are far more interested in our inheritance than in our legacy, by what we get from the past rather than what we give to the future.

We've assimilated when we consider our children burdens rather than blessings and when we believe the best things we can give them are valuables rather than values."

Read full article: http://www.aish.com/jw/s/Assimilation__the_Chanukah_Oil.html

18 Dec 2011

First place for excellence

Students at the Elon Moreh Hesder Yeshiva, which is headed by Samaria Chief Rabbi Rav Elyakim Levanon, won first place Sunday in the Givati Brigade's competition for excellence Sunday. The company is composed of yeshiva students who were recruited last August outperformed all other companies in the brigade.

Rav Levanon was recently inundated with criticism by Israel's loud and ubiquitous leftists after he insisted that soldiers must not attend performances in which women sing on stage.
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/150830

Or read it in Hebrew:
קצת נחת • תלמידי הרב לבנון - מצטייני החטיבה

Here's a song that everyone can listen to.

Two guests

There is a fascinating episode of "Uncommon Knowledge" posted here with Christopher Hitchens and Newt Gingrich. Someone posted a question to the interviewer, Peter Robinson, as to whether he had any memories of how the pair interacted. The following is Mr. Robinson's response.

"Although at first each, was, as I recall, slightly wary of the other, by the time we all left the studio Newt and Hitch were entirely comfortable in one another's presence.

One other memory--one that may prove of particular relevance now that Newt is everywhere being attacked for proving high-handed, vain, and so forth. In all the history of Uncommon Knowledge--and we've shot more than 400 episodes now--only two guests have ever taken the time to walk around the studio, introducing themselves to every member of the crew. One was Ron Reagan. Whatever you think of his politics (and I think they're mostly mistaken), you can't deny that Ron is as irresistibly charming as was his father.

The other? Newt Gingrich."

After hearing Mr. Gingrich speak so intelligently, would it be so bad to have a President who talks without a teleprompter and who took the time out to introduce himself to every member of the crew?

Frank Bruni writes a NYT op-ed in which he describes the self-adoration of Newt Gingrich.
Mr. Bruni's description of the President.

Barack Obama’s arrogance resides in his eloquence — as a writer, thinker, symbol and story.

Mr. Bruni's description of Mr. Gingrich.

Asked about his stated resolve to rein in federal courts, he said that “just like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln and F.D.R., I would be prepared to take on the judiciary.” The company he keeps!

Mr. Bruni didn't address how the President answered a question on CBS the other day because, according to an article by P.J. Gladnick, CBS edited out the statement from its program.
"I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln -- just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history."

Read more: http://newsbusters.org/blogs/pj-gladnick/2011/12/16/60-minutes-broadcast-edits-out-laughable-obama-claim-4th-greatest-presi#ixzz1guKIeZ4i

His fate

Many have written articles about the death of Christopher Hitchens. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach penned his thoughts in "Christopher Hitchens and the Fall of a Worthy Adversary" in which he concludes, "No doubt you are now finally resting in peace Christopher given that, wherever you are, you finally have the answer to that great question of G-d's existence you always debated."

I'll let G-d be the judge as to the famous atheist's fate.

17 Dec 2011

The President and the parsha

The following is an excerpt from President Obama's speech at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism.

So this week -- (applause) -- congregations around the world will retell the story of Joseph. (Applause.) As any fan of Broadway musicals will tell you -- (laughter) -- there is a lot going on in this reading. (Laughter.) But many scholars have focused on a single word that Joseph uses when he replies to his father Jacob.

In Hebrew, that word is “hineni.” It translates -- (applause) -- it translates to “Here I am.” Hineni. It’s the same word Abraham uses to reply to God before the binding of Isaac. It’s the same word Moses uses when God summons him from the burning bush. Hineni. The text is telling us that while Joseph does not know what lies ahead, he is ready to answer the call.

The President also spoke about Israel.

We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share: a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam.
Read full speech: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/12/16/remarks-president-71st-general-assembly-union-reform-judaism

As a new leader takes the helm of the leadership of Reform Judaism, I draw attention to an article written by Mort Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization in which he expresses serious concerns.

Blogging religiously discusses a new chapter in the Reform movement.

The Reform movement is, of course, Judaism’s liberal wing. The URJ represents something like 900 congregations and over 300,000 households, but there has long been concern over how “connected” to Judaism many of those households are. A lot of teens basically drop out after their bar and bat mitzvahs and many of the interfaith families that belong to Reform congregations are not terribly active in Jewish life.
Read full article: http://religion.lohudblogs.com/tag/rabbi-eric-yoffie/

16 Dec 2011

A link in the chain

I came across a Torah thought which can be read here. It gives one pause to be aware that a sin is not committed in isolation but leads to dire consequences.

15 Dec 2011


וַיָּבֵא יוֹסֵף אֶת דִּבָּתָם רָעָה אֶל אֲבִיהֶם
and Joseph brought evil tales about them to their father.

The second verse in this week's parsha mentions the tales that Yosef brought back to his father about his brothers. Rashi comments how Yosef was punished for the words he spoke.

Today an article was withdrawn from a site and an apoliogy was issued. One of the comments posted compared words to feathers of a pillow that, once released, can no longer be retrieved.

An anguished single writes to Rebbetzin Jungreis about insensitivity and hurtful remarks. "It is admirable and noble to want to help with shidduchim, but be serious! Don’t drop names because you feel it shows you are doing something. Unless you have a concrete plan or serious information, don’t talk about it. If you do mention someone, follow up and get back to the single person."

So, let's be careful with our words, both written and vocal. And may the anguished single, as well as others, find their future spouses with the help of G-d and through our endeavors to alleviate the shidduch problem.

Calling all kamikazes

At least two advertisers have withdrawn commercials from “All-American Muslim,” a new series on the TLC cable channel, since an activist organization called the Florida Family Association condemned the show.
...Among the other advertisers that the Florida Family Association listed as agreeing to leave the series was Wal-Mart Stores.
...Ted W. Lieu, a California state senator, went further, stating in a letter to Lowe’s on Saturday that “if Lowe’s continues its religious bigotry, I will encourage boycotts of Lowe’s and look into legislative remedies.”

Utah Birds Crash-Land At Wal-Mart Parking Lot, Thousands Die.

The following is addressed to those birds who are contemplating further actions against companies who withdrew or ostensibly withdrew their advertising dollars from the televison program.
First of all, Senator Lieu called for action through legislation, not through aviation.
Secondly, those who are calling for boycotts against the companies are asking for commitment to the cause, not kamikazes for the cause.
Finally, this is no laughing matter. I regret the loss of life of Hashem's creatures. One of the blessings in the morning prayers is blessing G-d who gives the rooster the ability to distinguish between morning and night. May the birds be able to distinguish between Wal-Mart parking lots and ponds and rivers.
And, in these trying times, may G-d give us the moral clarity to distinguish between what we are doing and what we should be doing. Speaking of which, here is a story about a man who did see the light titled Shyne-ing in Jerusalem: How One Rapper Saw the Light and Moved to Ultra-Orthodox Judaism.

14 Dec 2011

The mythology of Jewish return

A couple of posts ago, I discussed an article by Karl Vick in which he details Palestinian hopes for recognition under UNESCO of various cultural sites.

"Genesis 23 lays out the details of his grave in Deed Office detail, including the price (30 shekels) paid for the cave and the adjoining field from Ephron the Hittite. There’s not much about the site that’s in doubt, including what Palestinian officials aim to do with the property if they get control of it — stop Jews from praying there."

As Israel Matzav pointed out, the correct price stated in Genesis was 400 shekels, not 30. Since Mr. Vick couldn't be bothered to spend one minute googling the correct information, one wonders what other untruths slipped through his reporting.

Curious to see if his error had been detected, I clicked on the article. Not, it hasn't been updated to reflect the correct amount.

While I was reading the article, I came across something I had missed before. There was a link to PHOTOS: The potential World Heritage sites of Palestine.
I clicked on the link and was led to a series of photos and captions about possible UNESCO sites.

First in the list was the Tomb of the Patriarchs with a caption that included "in recent years it has been a flashpoint of tensions between Israeli settlers and Palestinians."

Next photo was the Church of the Nativity with the caption, "During the intifada in 2002, Israeli forces laid siege to it after Palestinian militants took sanctuary there.
Wow! A bunch of peaceful militants seeking sanctuary while those brutal Israelis laid siege. Of course, there was no mention of this.

Rachel's Tomb came next.

"On the fringes of Bethlehem, Rachel's tomb is the supposed burial site of the Biblical Rachel, a figure of prominence in the mythology of Jewish return to the Holy Land. Like those of other Biblical figures, the tomb is of spiritual significance to all three Abrahamic faiths."

Interesting how the word mythology is only used for Judaic teachings.

Then, there's the photo of the St. Hilarion Monastery.

"But the ongoing stifling of Gaza by Israel's blockade and the intermittent bombings of the Strip by Israeli helicopter gunships imperil the ruins."

I suppose Time doesn't feel that Palestinian rocket fire imperils the ruins.
It must be the fault of those mythological Jews.

G-d's presence

Physicists are closing in on an elusive subatomic particle that, if found, would confirm a long-held understanding about why matter has mass and how the universe's fundamental building blocks behave.

Few people outside physics can fully comprehend the search for the Higgs boson, which was first hypothesized 40 years ago. But proving that the "God particle" actually exists would be "a vindication of the equations we've been using all these years," said one Nobel laureate.
Read full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/13/higgs-boson-cern-god-particle_n_1145593.html

How about proving that G-d exists? Those willing to find out more can attend a lecture by Rabbi Lazer Brody in Manhattan this evening titled "Hashem Where are you? Finding G-d within today's life challenges."

The following is a devar Torah by Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple on the parsha.

Joseph had a hard time. Despite his father’s love, one thing after another went wrong in his life. He deserved some nachas, but hardly ever did it eventuate. Yet the Torah is adamant that by heavenly standards he did quite well. How else do we understand the verse, “And the Lord was with Joseph” (Gen. 39:21)? God’s presence, protection and providence accompanied Joseph despite the vicissitudes of his life.

That the Lord was with him is seen not only from the verse we have quoted but from the fact that sometimes his name is spelled “Yehosef”, i.e. “Joseph” with the addition of the heh from the Divine name (e.g. Psalm 81:5). Quite literally, God was with Joseph and part of his being, as was the case with Abraham and Sarah, who also bore the heh of God’s name.

For us, of course, the same privilege is possible, of making God part of our being. If we have a Hebrew name that incorporates a Divine name or title, so much the better. But every human being can show that God is with them by living according to the Divine commandments.

Of Joseph it is said that d’mut d’yukno shel aviv – seeing his father in his mind’s eye – prevented him from sinning with Potiphar’s wife. In every generation, the thought of God, our Divine father, is what keeps us from going astray: that’s how we know and show that the Lord is with us.

Perplexed and shocked

An 18-month-old toddler has become the latest victim of an attack in Belgium by a man in possession of grenades and a rifle.

Herman Van Rompuy, a former Belgian prime minister who is now president of the European Council, said he was badly shaken by the attack.

"There is no explanation whatsoever," Van Rompuy said. "It leaves me perplexed and shocked."


An article in De Standaard reveals that Nordine Amrani was known by the police for various offenses related to drug and gun possession. In September 2008 he was sentenced to 58 months imprisonment after police raided his house and found 9500 gun parts, Kalashnikovs and a rocket launcher, as well as 2,800 cannabis plants. He was paroled in October of last year after serving two thirds of his sentence.

And Mr. Van Rompuy is perplexed and shocked? How about if Mr. Amrani would have been given the length of the prison sentence of Jonathan Pollard or Sholom Rubashkin?

13 Dec 2011

Good and evil

A senior Belgian police officer on Monday accused a member of the country's anti-racism centre of anti-Semitism for describing Jews as being "financially powerful".
Read full article: http://www.ejpress.org/article/55049

A grenade and gun attack in the eastern Belgian city of Liege left four people dead, including the attacker, and at least 75 wounded Tuesday, the Liege public prosecutor said.
...The attacker was identified as 33-year-old Liege resident Nordine Amrani, Reynders said.

A 2007 article details how the police, acting on an anonymous tip, searched the house of the attacker. During the raid, the article states that they not only found cannabis plants but an arsenal of weapons.

But why not release him into the general population so that he can use his arsenal of weapons on defenseless people? And why not allow a "27-year-old North Carolina native" who "had been locked up for armed robbery and drug possession and was a suspect in an August shooting in his hometown of Greensboro" out on the streets so that he could kill a cop whose life revolved around his daughters?

And, to restore your faith in humanity, "Today The Post writes a $25,000 check to launch the Police Officer Peter Figoski Education Fund — which is meant to guarantee the education of the slain officer’s four grieving daughters."

And here's another article titled Bay Ridge Toyota Donates Specially Equipped Van To Frum Family With Double Amputee Son.

The spiritual life

Both Reuven and Yehuda spared Yosef from death. First Reuven suggested that rather than killing Yosef and throwing his body in a pit, they throw him in and leave it to Hashem to kill him. Later, when he was in the pit and sure to die a painful death, Yehuda suggests they spare his life and sell him to the passing caravan. Reuven was considered a hero, while Yehuda is singled out from the rest of the brothers, who didn't show any second thoughts about killing Yosef, and blamed for Yosef's plight. Why?

The Lisitcha Elyon brings from the Ponevezher Rov that there was a big difference between what Yehuda did and what Reuven did. "Reuven," says the pasuk, "saved Yosef, LiHashivo El Aviv, to return him to his father, so that he can continue to learn Torah and thrive at his father's side. Yehuda had no grand ambitions for Yosef other than to spare his life. Yehuda's idea of salvation was to sell him as a slave to Mitzrayim which was the most promiscuous society at the time. Yehuda may have saved Yosef's physical life, but he more than buried any spiritual life that Yosef had in him. This is not called salvation. This is murder."

With understanding, the Ponovezher Rov explains the enigmatic Medrash in Shir HaShirim which says, "HaDudaim Nasnu Reich Zeh Maaseh Reuven; Reuven's saving of Yosef is like frangrant flowers."

"V'Al Pisacheinu Kol Megadim Zeh Ner Chanukah; On our doorstep are delicacies," this is Ner Chanukah. What is the connection between the two? He explains that just like Reuven's saving of Yosef was a salvation of his spiritual life, so, too, Chanukah was a salvation of Bnei Yisrael's spiritual existence, as the Yevanim did not aim to kill us, but rather obliterate our religious practice.

12 Dec 2011

Learning Torah

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".


The following is an excerpt from a Time article by Karl Vick.

Genesis 23 lays out the details of his grave in Deed Office detail, including the price (30 shekels) paid for the cave and the adjoining field from Ephron the Hittite. There’s not much about the site that’s in doubt, including what Palestinian officials aim to do with the property if they get control of it — stop Jews from praying there.

IsraelMatzav correctly points out, "Actually, the price was 400 shekels. Maybe Vick ought to go back and read the bible again."

One wonders why Mr. Vick couldn't be bothered to pick up a bible or to google the information that it was indeed 400 shekels. Perhaps he got confused with the 30 pieces of silver in the Judas story. But when an easy to research fact is recorded incorrectly, one wonders how much journalism is based on slipshod reporting and not on truth. Here's an article at Camera about Karl Vick. And here's another opinion about his reporting

Bereshit Chapter 23

14 And Ephron answered Abraham, saying unto him:

15 'My lord, hearken unto me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and thee? bury therefore thy dead.'

16 And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, which he had named in the hearing of the children of Heth, four hundred shekels of silver, current money with the merchant.

17 So the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the border thereof round about, were made sure

18 unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city.

The ten portions

Rabbi Lazer Brody recently posted a fabulous quote.

When things turn out OK, that's no sign of emuna.

When we're OK with whatever way things turn out, that's emuna.

Kikat Hashabat reports on a bar mitzvah celebration that took place in Bnei Brak. The father of the bar mitzvah boy was busy with the celebrations and conversing with his guests and did not notice a young child who was standing at the entrance of the hall where the bar mitzvah was taking place.. A waiter saw the child and pointed him out to the owner of the hall. It turned out that the child had come into the hall to ask for some food for his parents and his siblings as they had noting to eat at home.

The owner of the hall did not hesitate to dart into the kitchen and to generously pack ten portions of food for the hungry child and his family.

When the bar mitzvah ended, the bar mitzvah boy's father and hall owner met to discuss payment. The owner notified the father that he only had to pay for 290 portions instead of the 300 he had ordered and he told him about the incident that had transpired.

The father disagreed as he wanted to pay for the 300 portions.

"I ordered all the dishes in the kitchen, they're mine and therefore I will pay the full payment and earn the merit of the favor you extended to the needy family," he asserted joyfully.

An argument ensued with both sides wanting to have the mitzvah of tzedakah to their credit. Finally, both sides agreed to present their case to Rabbi Yitzhak Zilberstein, who told them that he would consult with his father-in-law, Maran Hgri"s Elyashiv. It was decided that the food had been ordered by the bar mitzvah boy's father and, at the time, belonged to him. Therefore, he would pay for all the portions plus earn the merit of giving charity to a needy family.

11 Dec 2011

The root cause

To: Ambassador Gutman:

Recently you made remarks at a Brussels conference which included, "an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism."

Have you checked with this Saudi textbook or with this cleric to ascertain the veracity of your statement?

England through the ages

Click here to listen to the opinions of the Republican candidates about Israel in last night's debate.

The following is an excerpt from a fascinating article in the book review section of the Weekly Standard which discusses Jewish history in England.

Emancipation, however, took another century and was not without further ironies. Himmelfarb focuses on the debate in 1847 over a bill to lift the last barrier to political equality: the ban on Jews sitting as members of Parliament. Lionel de Rothschild, elected for the City of London but barred from taking his seat by his refusal to take a Christian oath, became the occasion for a bill that was fiercely contested by the most eminent Victorian statesmen of all: Gladstone and Disraeli. Both supported the bill, but for contrasting reasons. Gladstone, still on the journey that would take him from High Tory to Grand Old Man of Liberalism, conceded Jews a place in the Mother of Parliaments only because their exclusion would be an anomaly after other non-Anglicans were included. Disraeli outraged many by asking how a Christian assembly could exclude those “who are of the religion in the bosom of which my Lord and Saviour was born,” and that consequently “every gentleman here does profess the Jewish religion.”

Read full article: http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/friends-indeed_610921.html

10 Dec 2011

As of that day

In an apparent reference to the verse "next year in Jerusalem" that Jews recite at the end of the Pesach Seder and at the end of the Yom Kippur service, the Wall Street Journal has an article titled "Newt Year in Jerusalem."

At the Republican Jewish Coalition debate the other day, Newt Gingrich declared: "So in a Gingrich administration, the opening day, there will be an executive order about two hours after the inaugural address; we will send the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as of that day."

The presence of the U.S. Embassy in Israel's largest city rather than its capital has long been a sore point for Americans who sympathize with the Jewish state. But Gingrich is far from the first presidential candidate to promise such a move, a history that leads the Associated Press to produce one of its "fact check" articles. The dispatch, by Anne Gearan, is titled "Fact Check: Israel Embassy Promise May Be Empty." It exemplifies what is wrong with the "fact check" genre, so much so that it shows the AP literally doesn't know the meaning of the word "fact."

Read full article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203501304577088432910124466.html

4 Dec 2011

Making the case

An EJU conference of Jewish lawyers and legal experts held in Brussels on December 2nd led to a decision "to establish [a] pan-European legal task force to combat anti-Semitism."

As is often the case, the media focused on the one speaker whose remarks did not sit well with many of the participants. H/T memeorandum

In an article titled Obama Fundraiser and Ambassador Blames Israel for Anti-Semitism (Update), Daniel Halper has the following update.
UPDATE: Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich responds on Twitter: "Pres Obama should fire his ambassador to Brussels for being so wrong about anti-semitism."

William Jacobson writes Can Israel Survive A Second Obama Term? Part 2. The article contains an excerpt from an interview with Charles Krauthammer.

What is important to remember is the fact that dedicated professionals took time from their busy schedules to come together and draw attention to a problem that must be tackled immediately. Let's focus on the positive that can come out of such an initiative and let us take the words of the slogan of the European Jewish Union to heart. "We are one people."

3 Dec 2011

The words of Psalms

A few days ago YNET published an interview with Ilan Grapel about his imprisonment in Egypt.

In the holding cell Grapel tried to keep himself busy by exercising and in order to make sure that he didn't lose his voice he says he "hummed the songs I had heard at the youth hostel." He added: "I also tried to make every meal last as long as possible. I washed my hands before eating bread, that's five minutes and the blessing on the bread is another five minutes.
Read full article: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4154554,00.html

Chadrei Charedim reports that one of the songs he sung was a song by Kobi Aflalo with lyrics from Psalms.
גם כי אלך בגיא צלמות
לא אירא רע כי אתה עמדי
שבטך ומשענתך המה ינחמני

Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no harm, for You are at my side. Your staff and Your rod comfort me. (Ps. 23)

I found a clip of Kobi Aflalo singing the song and have posted it below. If you look at the video on YouTube, you will see that someone posted a comment in Hebrew about a person who truly rose from the abyss. That man was forced to dig a hole in the ground along with other villagers. The Nazis then proceeded to shoot the people and the young boy fell under the bodies. Eventually, he made his way to America and relocated to Israel at an old age, having succeeded to establish a family and live with the belief, "I fear no harm, for You are at my side."

2 Dec 2011

Anti-Semitism in the parsha and the news

Judaism: Laban is the First Antisemite

Jewish lawyers establish pan-European legal task force to combat anti-Semitism

Interfaith dialogue and dinner

Larry Luxner wrote about an interfaith dinner that took place in February of this year.

...some 125 Muslims, Christians and Jews gathered at a Virginia mosque last week to enjoy traditional Arab food and discuss how to bring peace to a Middle East in turmoil.
Held in recognition of World Interfaith Week, the event took place at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling. Also speaking were Rabbi Michael Holzman of NVHC;

At a gathering on November 21 for a session on sharia and halacha, participants heard words from Imam Mohamed Magid and Rabbi Michael Holzman. The article details the words of the Imam.

He described how, linguistically, "sharia" means "source of water," and encompasses not only the practice of Islam, but belief in God and the Scriptures, etc. "To believe in the Torah is sharia," he said.

So, was the food served at the interfaith dinner that took place in February kosher?

And here's a Kuwaiti preacher sharing his views on Jews to his captive audience.


The following is an exchange between a journalist and the Deputy Spokesperson for the UN Secretary General made during the December 1st briefing.

Question: [inaudible] sent a letter to the Secretary-General informing them of the NATO deaths on Pakistani border’s force in which 25 soldiers, 24 soldiers were killed. Although I know the Secretary… the letter did not ask the Secretary-General for any action, but does he have a reaction to this attack?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, all deaths are tragic, and I think that is something that we all agree on. However, he has no specific comment on this issue because it is a military issue.

And for those of you who have read my last post, an exchange of emails has resulted in the author of the article acknowledging, "Yes. The wording should have been more precise.
Thank you."

1 Dec 2011

For shame

I wrote a post a few minutes ago about what I thought was an error in a Torah thought that I came across this evening. I didn't mention the name of the author but quoted the relevant pesukim in the Torah. I published the post, but, after a minute, I had misgivings. Perhaps, someone would recognize who I was talking about. And I did not want to embarrass the author of the article. After all, I heard a rebbetzin speak about this week's parsha and she described that Rachel realized what she would be giving up in terms of being the mother of all of the twelve tribes of Israel, if she taught the secret signs to her sister that she and Yaakov had agreed upon. However, in her mind, not wanting Leah to be embarrassed was paramount.
And so, I deleted the post and sent the author an email instead. Perhaps the author is right and I misinterpreted the words. I am looking forward to a reply.

Taking care

Chadrei Chadarim has an article about a Palestinian who was freed in the Shalit deal who ended up in Hadassah hospital after being wounded trying to escape during an IDF operation.
Two people complained about how his shouting was disturbing the peace of the other patents.
The response of the hospital included the following words.
"Hadassah is engaged in providing medical care to all who enter its gates."

And they call Israel an apartheid state?

Here's a video I caught at a Chabad site about "What do you think about when making a bracha?"

30 Nov 2011

Needed: a glass pane specialist

Yeranen Yaakov details what the Tzanzer Rebbe ZT"L said 37 years ago about Parshat Vayetze and the end of days.

•When we see Jews having peace and quiet and settling among the nations, that's when we have to worry about problems from the nations. On the other hand, when we see the nations all vowing to destroy the Jews, that's when we should be happy and know that the nations' accounting is full and that our salvation is near."

The Yeshiva World reports Highland Park, NJ: Jewish Businesses & Rutgers Chabad House Have Their Windows Smashed.

A friend of mine told me this evening about her son who works for a European firm. His Gentile colleagues are shocked when they walk with him to the train station after work and hear him subjected to jeers of "dirty Jew."

A relative was walking the streets of Europe on Yom Kippur this year when he was accosted by a man who said, "they should have burned you in the concentration camps."

These are two examples of unreported acts of anti-Semitism.

The Middle East

Evelyn Gordon writes about Iceland's decision to recognize the state of Palestine and the right of return. She writes that "there is no way to be both “pro-Palestinian” and “pro-Israel” as long as the Palestinians insist, as they have throughout 18 years of negotiations, that no solution to the conflict is acceptable if it doesn’t include eradicating the Jewish state via the 'right of return.'”
Read full article: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/11/30/iceland-palestine-right-of-return/#more-775981

Mathew Ackerman writes about Jeffrey Goldberg's column "that details some of the recent expressions of virulent Jew-hatred produced in the last year’s agitations in Arab countries."
He concludes, "In short, expressions of hatred for Jews may not be the Arab revolution hijacked, but the Arab revolution expressed."
Read full article: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/11/30/goldberg-jew-hatred-arab-countrie/#more-775952

Over and over

R' Chiya bar Abba said in the name of R' Yochanan: What is the meaning of that which is written (Mishlei 27:18), "He who guards the fig tree shall eat from its fruit?" Why are the words of Torah likened to a fig tree? Just as a fig tree - every time one handles it, he finds more ripe figs (the fruits of a fig tree ripen at staggered intervals), so too with the words of the Torah, every time a person studies them he finds in them new flavour. (Gemara Eiruvin 54b)

In his preface to Pe-as Shulchan, R' Yisrael Shklover writes of his master and teacher, the Gaon of Vilna, "He reviewed all of Talmud Bavli every month. His toil in the study of the holy Torah defies description. He would review each chapter and masechta (tractate) hundreds, and even thousands of times. Out of immense love for the holy Torah, he once spent a long winter night reviewing over and over a single Mishnah in Seder Taharos."
Read full article: http://www.torah.org/learning/olas-shabbos/5758/vaeschanan.html#

Chadrei Chadarim has an article about a sign that was recently erected next to a gravestone of a man who was niftar many years ago. In his will, Rabbi Eliezer Yoseph Lederberg requested that the words that he learned Mesechtot "Beitza" and "Rosh Hashana" over 4000 times should be engraved on his gravestone to perhaps inspire others to do the same. The sign was put up not long ago so that people should take notice.

A talmid of Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl describes the Rabbi's love for Torah.

One thing in particular that I shall remember about his love for learning was his reaction to the d'var Torah I once said to him. A few years ago during the Lebanon War, in order to encourage the talmidim to continue learning with the same vigour, he requested that we prepare a d'var Torah with our own novel ideas from the books we were studying, eventually to be compiled together in a book. I was so inspired from this ordeal that I felt that I wanted to give him some nachas, just as a child wants to give a parent, and so I decided to tell him my d'var Torah. He listened attentively, as if this were the first time he had ever heard such things, and then at the end he grinned from ear to ear and said 'emes', meaning, 'what you have said is true'. It didn't matter that he knew it already, every word of Torah from anyone, especially a talmid, was precious and exciting to him.

29 Nov 2011

Never forget

I was invited to attend a conference this week and one of the speakers will be Samuel Pisar. I googled the name and found that he is a lawyer, author and holocaust survivor. I came across an article he had written for the Washington Post. He describes how he heard the cries of those who were "herded into the gas chambers. Once the doors were locked, they had only three minutes to live, yet they found enough strength to dig their fingernails into the walls and scratch in the words 'Never Forget.'"

At the end of the video below, New York Daily News photographer David Handschuh echoes the same words, "never forget" regarding the events of 9/11 which he personally witnessed. And, perhaps he will never forget his experience this week at a Chabad shiluchim gathering when a rabbi helped him lay tefillin. Click here for photos.

About slander

The Yeshiva World reports Israel: Bill To Expose Bloggers Posting Slander.

Here's a website which doesn't slander Israel.

The following is an excerpt from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation from the sefer Shemiras Haloshon.

I offer the following advice to anyone who seeks to guard his tongue from speaking the forbidden: Train yourself to refrain from engaging in any conversation while in a beis midrash (study hall) or beis haknesses (synagogue). The benefits of this practice are many:

(1) One fulfills the great mitzvah of displaying respect for the awesome sanctity of these places.1

(2) His Torah study is untainted by disruption (see Day 61) and his prayers are likewise uninterrupted and not lacking even one Amen or Yehei Shemei Rabba, each a priceless, irreplaceable treasure. Conversely, to disregard these responses is a serious sin.

(3) The average Jewish male spends approximately four hours a day in the beis haknesses for the three daily prayers. (This figure takes into account the fact that most people remain in the synagogue [studying and praying privately] for a while after the prayer has ended.2) He spends another two hours in the beis hamidrash studying Torah — a total of six hours, or one-fourth of each twenty four period. Thus, one who scrupulously avoids idle conversation in halls of Divine service is assured of having spent at least one-fourth of his lifetime on this earth engaged in Torah study and prayer and having avoided all forms of forbidden speech.

(4) Having trained oneself to avoid conversation for these six hours, one will find it relatively easy to refrain from speaking loshon hora the remainder of the day.

Here is an accompanying footnote.
2. The Chofetz Chaim wrote these words in the late 1800’s.

To subscribe for a daily lesson email alessonaday@chofetzchaimusa.org with the word "subscribe" as the subject.

28 Nov 2011

Doing the math

Kikar Hashabat has two articles about the Syrian President. Click here to read in Hebrew what Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak has to say.
The second article discusses the words of Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi. At the end of the article, there were some comments posted.
ניר בן ארצי גימטריה משה רבינו

ניר בן ארצי גימטריה משיח צדקנו (עם חמשת המילים

I added up the letters of the name and came out to 613. Eerie coincidence? You do the math.

Unemployment as reported is at 9 percent. But it's actually more than 16 percent. Some smart statistician came up with a distinction. A slight of hand to make the unemployment number tolerable rather than frightening.
Read full article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barry-levinson/the-economics-of-abbott-and-costello_b_1115502.html

22 Nov 2011

Now is the time

The following is an excerpt from a devar Torah by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple.

Chapter 27, verse 2 sees Isaac telling Esau, Lo yadati yom moti – “I know not the day of my death”. Since no-one – with such rare exceptions that they do not count – knows the date they will die, the translators often decided not to render these words literally. One version reads, “I know not how soon I may die”. Another says, “There is no telling when I may die”.

When the day of one’s death is addressed by the rabbinic sages in Pir’kei Avot, they find a remarkable lesson for life. First comes the saying in the name of Rabbi Eliezer, “Repent one day before your death” (Avot 2:10). Then in Avot D’Rabbi Natan we hear that the students of Rabbi Eliezer asked him, “Does anyone know the day he will die, so that he will be able to repent?” The teacher replied, “All the more should one repent today, in case he dies tomorrow; let him repent tomorrow, in case he dies the next day. Thus all his days will be spent in repentance.”

The Talmud (Shabbat 153a) quotes Kohelet 9:8, “Let your garments always be white”, and adds a parable about a king who summoned his servants to a banquet without specifying a time. The wiser servants immediately put on festive garb so as to be ready whenever the time was announced; the others thought there would always be time.

The following is an excerpt from an email I received from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation.

The serpent, whose deceitful words created a barrier between God and man, was cursed: “And dust shall you eat all the days of your life” (Bereishis 3:14). The Talmud (Berachos 12b) interprets the phrase “all the days of your life” in another verse of the Torah (Devarim 16:3) as referring to the Messianic era. Thus, at the End of Days, all creatures will be cured of their maladies except for the serpent. And just as “the snake bites because it was not charmed” [i.e. cured of its curse] so too “there will be no advantage [i.e. remedy] for the master of the tongue” (from Koheles 10:11). Those who habitually speak loshon hora will, like the serpent, find no cure for themselves at the End of Days (Midrash Aggadas Bereishis 79:2 and Pirkei D’R’ Eliezer ch. 52). Their only hope is to repent now.

A call for concessions

Sultan Knish writes about the end of the peace process and states, "only the United States could make a call for concessions to terrorists sound noble."
I thought of his words when I read the brief to the Security Council by Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

"In a positive gesture, 51 alleged militants being held in protective custody by the Palestinian police in the West Bank had been granted amnesty by Israel on 4 November."

Wow! What a positive gesture.

"...After the decision by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to admit Palestine as a member, Israel had publicized its intention to invite tenders for the construction of 1,557 new units in East Jerusalem and 673 units in other areas of the West Bank. The Israeli Government froze the transfer of VAT and customs revenues it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority.
...In addition to acting on its settlement obligations, Israel should unfreeze the transfers immediately."

So, in other words, the Palestinians shouldn't suffer consequences for any of their actions.

In the video below, Glenn Beck and Michelle Bachmann talk about Israel at the 3:37 mark.

21 Nov 2011

Politics of grievance and blame

In a three page article titled The Suicidal Passion, Ruth Wisse discusses the ideology of anti-Semitism. Click here to read an erudite essay about the roots of anti-Semitism.

The following excerpts were taken from an article at Matzav by Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz a while back.

"Why is it that despite all that Israel has done to demonstrate its interest in living peacefully with its neighbors, it is never enough, and the world persists in blaming the tiny country for being the aggressor?

These logic-defying circumstances are meant to remind us that we are in golus. If we want to merit redemption, we have to want it, we have to pray for it, and we have to earn sources of merit...
For the Jewish people throughout the ages, every chapter of our history since the churban has reinforced the teaching of Rabi Shimon Bar Yochai that “halacha hi beyoduah she’Eisav sonei leYaakov.” ... The only way to suppress that hatred and to keep Eisav from destroying us is by strengthening our connection to Torah and mitzvos."

Parents and teachers

Thomas Friedman has an op-ed at the New York Times titled How About Better Parents? in which he discusses that teachers can "make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement."

He writes about a Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA which recently published the following conclusion.

“Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background. Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.”

Schleicher explained to me that “just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring.
Read full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinion/sunday/friedman-how-about-better-parents.html?_r=1&src=me&ref=general

Emunah Braverman writes an open letter to teachers on the eve of parent-teacher conferences scheduled to take place this week. She cautions the teachers to focus not only on the weaknesses and flaws but also to see the positive. She concludes with the following advice.

"I certainly don’t want to shirk my parental responsibilities and place everything on the school. And the reverse is also true. If you take the time to appreciate and understand my child, my gratitude will know no bounds and I will excited to work with you in helping her achieve her potential.

But if you are only harsh and critical – well, I won’t respond in kind but I will probably think you should have chosen another profession."

So, let's not blame one side or the other. Let's join in partnership to produce children who thrive and achieve to the best of their abilities.

Incidentally, I came across an article about Mr. Friedman which provides elucidating details about his life including that his sister became religious and "works for a Lubavitch Jewish day school, where her husband also teaches."

A childhood friend described him "as a '20-year overnight sensation. . . . Tom has become really smart,” he says. “I don’t know that he started out really smart. Now he has a gift because he’s worked hard for 20 years.'”

20 Nov 2011


This post doesn't have to do this week's parsha. Rather, it deals with parshat Shoftim.
This morning I read an article about the appointments of Israeli Supreme Court Justices being hindered.

The Committee for Appointment of Judges convened in Jerusalem Sunday afternoon in a stormy showdown between leftist forces led by Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch and centrist-nationalists, as three vacant Supreme Court positions wait to be manned. The meeting ended at around 8:00 p.m. with no agreement having been reached. The next sessions will be held in January and February.
Read full article: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/149930

If being a "rightist" or a "leftist" is the consideration for being appointed a judge these days, I resolved to find what theTorah has to say about the subject.

2.What qualifications should one look for when appointing a judge?
2.What qualifications should one look for when appointing a judge?
16:18 - That he is expert in the law and that he is righteous.

According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left (17:11)

Even if this judge tells you that right is left, and that left is right. How much more so, if he tells you that right is right, and left is left!
(Sifri; Rashi)

Wow! Rashi knew about right and left even in the old days.

And here's something that is perplexing to me from a hearing that took place on Friday.

On November 19, the deputy campaign manager of the Obama campaign posted that, "yesterday, four Republicans in the New Hampshire State House allowed a hearing requested by Orly Taitz..."
I thought that the hearing was based on an individual filing a complaint challenging the eligibility of a candidate. I didn't realize that the four Republicans had to allow the hearing before it could be addressed by the New Hampshire Ballot Commission.

Actions speak louder than words

Last week a lecturer gave a riveting speech to the women in the neighborhood. I was unable to attend but a friend told me that the message was that our children are a reflection of ourselves. The messages the children receive in the home, and the actions and sights they are exposed to will form the basis for their development.

I was reminded of the message when I read an article in the Hamodia about how the actions of Rav Nosson Zvi Finkel zt"l, influenced a talmid for years to come.

A talmid in the Mir Yeshiva had asked the Rav if he could learn with him. When the bochur arrived at the Rosh Yeshiva's home, he saw that the Rav was spent from a long day. In utter exhaustion the Rav walked over to the boy. When the bochur asked the rav what he wanted to learn the rav told him, "You're the boss, what do you think?" The student suggested leanrning "mussar, perhaps something about laziness."

At that point, the Rosh Yeshiva did something which would remain indelibly engraved in the boy's memory.

"Without a second thought, and as tired and as weak as he was, he jumped out of the chair, hurried to the bookshelf, and pulled out a mussar sefer. It was as if a suddent burst of energy filled his body. I watched in utter shock as a man who was completely exhausted just moments before came back to life right before my eyes."

The talmid concluded that he didn't remember what they learned that evening but he would never forget the lesson, not of words, but of actions. His memories of that night with the Rosh Yeshiva would galvanize him to action for years to come whenever he was too tired or not in the mood to do something.

19 Nov 2011

Stop complaining

I was in the middle of reciting a litany of complaints about my job to a woman in the neighborhood when she stopped me by saying, "stop complaining. I wish I had a job." She confided that she had been occupied babysitting for her young grandson the past couple of years, but now that he was in kindergarten, her services were no longer needed. She told me that there were days she had to push herself out of bed because she had no schedule to follow.
I learned a lesson from her and resolved not to complain about my job. It worked. For a while.

President in the news

Maddie Hanna reports on New Hampshire state election officials rejecting a petition to keep the President's name off the New Hampshire ballot.
Speaking of the President, the Daily Caller has a clip in which he appears on a televised Black History Minutes segment from 1991, the year that he graduated from Harvard Law School.
Sorry, I thought the President had said the word coterie in the clip, but an alert reader explained to me that it was cadre. Mea culpa.

18 Nov 2011

Lessons from Avraham

Rabbi Yissocher Frand discusses the "it's coming to me" attitude in relation to this week's parsha.
Such is the attitude of a person who does not go through life with an "It's coming to me" (es kumpt mir) philosophy. The opposite of the Yiddish expression "es kumpt mir" is "es kumpt mir gornisht" which means I deserve nothing. I take nothing for granted. Every little gift is a bonanza! This was exactly the attitude of Avraham. That is why he died a very happy and satisfied man and that is why the Torah praised him with this behavior.
When the Chofetz Chaim finished writing the Mishna Berurah, he said, "Ribbono shel Olam you have been so good to me. How can I finally pay You back?" If you or I wrote the Mishna Berurah, our attitude would most likely be "G-d, I wrote the Mishna Berurah. I put the Orach Chaim on the map for You. Now it is my turn. When is it going to be payback time?"

Read full devar Torah at http://www.torah.org/learning/ravfrand/5772/chayeisarah.html# by scrolling down to second article titled "Avraham Died A Happy Man -- For Good Reason."

In the video below, the rabbi discusses living every day to its fullest.

Two religions

Click here to read about a Toronto synagogue which was sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti.

The other day I posted about a Park51 book signing event. It seems that the developer of Park51 is not having it easy as Con Ed wants to evict Ground Zero mosque developer over $1.7M back rent.

17 Nov 2011

Question Time

A CNN poll has shown, "Americans have typically been optimists about the future, but when it comes to how things are going in the country, a new national survey suggests that may no longer be the case."

In the video below, a number of people were asked on the November 3 edition of Question Time what makes them happy. Listen to commentator Peter Hitchens' response about G-d.
And here's a quote from an email I received the other day.
"Honk if you like G-d; text and drive if you want to meet him!"

Infinite possibilities

Foro those who missed an article by Moshe Kempinski titled "Judaism: Reb Shlomo and Infinite Possibilities" click here to read about important lessons to be learned from Reb Aryeh Levin and Shlomo Carlebach.

16 Nov 2011

Two centers

A July Huffington Post article detailed a telephone exchange with Sharif el-Gamal, the developer of the Park51 cultural center and prayer space.

"Park51 is an Islamic community center modeled after the (Jewish Community Center) or YMCA," Gamal said. "It is open to all people but it is not an interfaith project."

"Hold on, Sharif," Goldsmith interjected. "You're wrong to say that. It is an interfaith project."

"That's what I said," the developer insisted. "It's an Islamic community center open to all people, serving all New York and based on pluralism and diversity."

So, in the spirit of interfaith dialogue, an event is scheduled for this evening, a review of the book, "In the Presence of Absence” including a Q&A with Adam Schatz, among others.

An excerpt from a review of the book states, "it is full of descriptions of Gaza and Deir Yassin and Sabra and Shatila."

Adam Shatz wrote a piece in the Guardian where he discusses the Mearsheimer and Walt paper on the Israel Lobby.
Alan Dershowitz, Israel's unofficial ambassador to Cambridge, Massachusetts, predictably denounced the paper as anti-Semitic, but then he would probably find the rumblings of a pogrom in a negative review of his favorite deli.

I checked out the website of the JCC, curious if such events were being presented at the center which Park51 is using as a role model.

The JCC events schedule included a November 10 premiere of Dolphin Boy about an Arab and his Jewish Israeli girlfriend, a Saturday afternoon screening of David & Kamal on November 12 and a screening of a movie, 77 Steps which is a love story between an Arab girl and her Jewish boyfriend, which is co-presented by the New Israel Fund.

Which center is doing more for Jewish identity? Isn't it wonderful that the Sabbath is a day for viewing peace and friendship films? Somehow, I don't think that this was what G-d had in mind in the issuance of the fourth Commandment of remembering the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

10 Nov 2011

Commanding respect

"Nazi-occupied Paris was a terrible place to be in the waning days of World War II, with Jews, Resistance fighters and ordinary citizens all hoping to escape. Disappearances became so common they often weren't followed up.
And one man used the lawlessness for his own terrible purposes, killing perhaps as many as 150 people."
Read full article: http://news.yahoo.com/doctor-turned-serial-killer-ww2-paris-122102122.html

I was shocked to read how Dr. Marcel Petiot, a person in a position to command respect, used his credentials to lure unsuspecting Jews to their deaths.

And speaking about respect, below is a video which explains just how we should respect our Torah scholars.

9 Nov 2011

Turkey Quake deja vu

A Turkish news agency says an earthquake with a preliminary 5.7 magnitude has caused some buildings to collapse in the eastern part of the country.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/11/09/earthquake-hits-eastern-turkey-collapses-buildings/#ixzz1dFFVm4Wy

טורקיה טורקיה - גם עליך תעבור כוס התרעלה

הרב עובדיה יוסף: הקב"ה מצפצף על טורקיה

A growth industry

In an article titled Anti-Semitism, a growth industry in bad times, Alan Caruba writes the following.

"In bad times, anti-Semitism seems to crawl out of the sewers like a repugnant odor. It is not subject to a rational response. It is pure emotion and a very nasty one at that. Lately we got a whiff of it at some of the Occupy protests."
Read full article: http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/caruba/111109

Rick Richman offers a synopsis of the case being argued in the Supreme Court as to whether Americans born in Jerusalem have the right to have “Israel” on their passports as their place of birth.
He concludes, "Ironically, this whole case could have been avoided if either President Bush or President Obama had simply done what President Clinton did with respect to Taiwan: faithfully execute the law, while making clear it did not change U.S. foreign policy as articulated by the Executive Branch. Better yet, the case could have been avoided if the President had simply chosen to recognize that the city that has been the capital of Israel for 61 years is the capital of Israel. Whatever past policy has been, and whoever has the authority to decide it, it’s time."

Read full article: http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-president-congress-and-menachem-zivotofsky%e2%80%99s-passport/2/

Click here to read about indoctrination in a Spanish classroom.