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

the Lubavitcher Rebbe

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

Rabbi Nosson Scherman

25 Dec 2012

Ben Poras Alei Ayin

"Ben Poras Yosef, Ben Poras Alei Ayin." (Vayechi 49:22) Rashi says that this means that Yosef will multiply and be beyond the reach of Ayin Hara. As a reward for not taking his master's wife, no one will be able, through jealously, to inflict any harm on what belongs to him.

The Shulchan Gavo'a brings from Rav Eliyahu Dessler, that no matter how rich a person is, no one is ever jealous of a totally selfless person whose whole life is about giving. An element of jealousy stems from the intended or even unintended flaunting of oneself before others.

Yaakov gave Ephraim and Menashe a bracha, "V'Yidgu LaRov; They should multiply like fish." There are two attributes of fish that Yaakov had in mind. Fish are not seen from the dry land. Moreover the fish live a life totally separated from the inhabitants of the land. They don't compete with them in any way. That is why the Ayin Hara does not affect them.

If a person lives a life of Yosef, where he doesn't want what doesn't belong to him, and he lives and enjoys his material assets out of the public eye, he, too, will not suffer from any unwanted evil eyes.

Left viewers laughing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

24 Dec 2012

Dressing modestly

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

The nothingness of non-distinction

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

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

About G-d

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

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

23 Dec 2012

In vino veritas

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

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

The letter

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

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

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

21 Dec 2012


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

Moshe Sokolow reflects on the Newtown massacre.

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

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

Hebrews in their graves

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

The Jewish Cemetery at Newport
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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

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

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

20 Dec 2012

Order of priorities

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

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

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

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

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

Happy people

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

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

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

19 Dec 2012

The smallest major religion

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

Giving back

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

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

12 Dec 2012

Cultural insensitivity

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

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

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

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

Judah the Maccabee and Chanukah

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

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

11 Dec 2012

Food glorious food?

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

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

Four periods of teshuva

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

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

10 Dec 2012

Pride and kindness

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

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

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

A meaningless life

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

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

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

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

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

A meaningless life, indeed.

9 Dec 2012

The dreidel decoy

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

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

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

Finding your zivug

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

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

8 Dec 2012

Feelings of alienation

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

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

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

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

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

7 Dec 2012

Torah thoughts and segulahs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The hamsa

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

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

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

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

6 Dec 2012

Two additional years

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

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

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

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

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

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

The stamp briefings

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

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

MR. TONER: Yes, I did.

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

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

QUESTION: But not this time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Into the West Bank?

MR. TONER: -- into the West Bank.

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

30 Nov 2012

Israel and the Palestinians

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has detailed the terrorist activities and affiliations of Palestinians the New York Times claimed were simply “cameramen” in a report that accused Israel of targeting journalists in the Gaza Strip.

The IDF titled its rejoinder “How Hamas and Islamic Jihad Use Journalism as a Cover for Terrorism.” The title is a jab at the Times, which had headlined its story “Using War as Cover to Target Journalists.”
Continue reading: http://freebeacon.com/idf-to-nyt-we-targeted-terrorists-not-journalists/

Jewish groups reacted with dismay over the decision of the United Nations General Assembly to vote in favor of upgrading the status of the Palestinian Authority to observer state today. Many concluded that the impact of the outcome on efforts to achieve peace with the Arabs will be profoundly negative. Below are some of the reactions:
AIPAC: “The United Nations General Assembly recklessly set back the chances for peace between Israelis and Palestinians today when it granted non-member observer state status to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Continue reading: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/11/29/american-jewish-leaders-and-groups-blast-united-nations-palestinian-authority-vote/

29 Nov 2012

The voice of prayer

Rebbetzin Jungreis writes about the power of prayer in her latest column.

What is our secret weapon? I’ve written about it frequently but it bears repeating – for we simply don’t get it. It is all found in one easy word: “Torah.” The voice of Jacob, of Israel, is the voice of Torah and the voice of prayer. Yes, the power of our people is in our voice and in our supplications. It is found in our Torah studies, in our observance of mitzvos and in our commitment to Hashem. Sadly, we have forfeited these precious gems. We no longer know how to sing to our G-d and have allowed Yishmael to seize our weapons. Yishmael prays five times a day. How many times do we pray?
Read full article: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/the-secret-to-defeating-our-enemies/2012/11/28/

Holocaust restitution

A global Jewish group urged central and east European countries on Wednesday to return or provide compensation for property seized during the Holocaust and accused Poland, Latvia and Romania in particular of foot-dragging.
After a conference in Prague, the World Jewish Restitution Organisation (WJRO) said tens of thousands of Nazi Holocaust victims and their heirs had not been able to resolve claims on stolen property despite two decades of trying since the fall of post-war communist regimes in central and eastern Europe.

More than 67 years after the Holocaust, Jirina Novakova refuses to give up her battle to regain property confiscated from her family.
Her hopes got a boost two years ago when 43 countries vowed at a Prague conference to back global guidelines for the restitution of property confiscated from Jews during World War II to their rightful owners or heirs. The nations pledged to try harder to return real estate stolen by the Nazis, open archives that might help those dispossessed and to process claims for restitution faster. She thought that show of international determination would pressure her country, the Czech Republic, and help her finally win a court battle to get back a button factory seized from her family by the Nazis.

On another topic, somehow I ended up clicking on a link to a CSMonitor quiz on religion titled Are you smarter than an atheist?
I am happy to report that I scored higher than the average atheist.

Finally, "Powerball officials say tickets sold in Arizona and Missouri matched all six numbers to win the record the record $579.9 million jackpot. Now the hunt for the winners begins."
So, it looks that those people who were hit by Hurricane Sandy will have to think of another way to recoup what they lost.

28 Nov 2012

Overcoming struggles

At the conclusion of the struggle between Yaakov (Jacob) and a strange man - which the Medrash clarifies was Satan himself, functioning as the Guardian Angel of Yaakov's brother Esav (Esau) - the Angel of Evil begs Yaakov to allow him to depart. "Then [the angel] said, 'Let me go, for dawn has broken.'" (Beraishis/ Genesis 32:27). The Talmud (Tractate Chulin 91b) explains that Yaakov initially asked him if he was a thief or a gambler, since he feared the break of dawn. The stranger replied, "I am an angel, and from the moment of my creation I have never had the opportunity to sing Shira (song of Divine praise) until now!" Why did this angel, just defeated and disgraced, and never before allowed to sing Shira, have to sing right now?
Continue reading: http://www.torah.org/learning/kolhakollel/5763/vayishlach.html

Zig Ziglar died today at age 86. A World War II veteran, Zig Ziglar became the top sales person in several organizations before striking out on his own as a motivational speaker and trainer. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kevinkruse/2012/11/28/zig-ziglar-10-quotes-that-can-change-your-life/

Hitting the jackpot

So you just won the $500 million Powerball jackpot, the second highest in lottery history. Now what?
Perhaps it's time for a tropical vacation or a new car. There are bills to pay, loans to settle, debts to square.
Past winners of mega-lottery drawings and financial planners have some more sound advice: Stick to a budget, invest wisely, learn to say no and be prepared to lose friends while riding an emotional roller-coaster of joy, anxiety, guilt and distrust.
Continue reading: http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/big-winners-share-lessons-risks-powerball-win-17824625?page=2

Yesterday I posted about a video/book titled The Secret which claims that one can attain his/her desires through positive thoughts. Someone wrote a comment referring to Rabbi Manis Friedman's thoughts on The Secret.

Anyway, if you don't win the Powerball jachpot this evening, I just listened to Rabbi Lazer Brody who asked his audience whether they would be willing to sell their eyesight for a million dollars. No one applied in the affirmative. So, I guess that makes us all millionaires, whether we win the jackpot or not.

The other side

Bereishit 14:13 "And the fugitive came and he told Abram the Hebrew..."

the Hebrew: Heb. הָעִבְרִי. [So called] because he came from the other side (מֵעֵבֶר) of the [Euphrates] river (Gen. Rabbah 42:8).
“All the world was on one side, and he was on the other side.”

Below are a few questions asked to State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland at the November 27th briefing.

 Your oldest ally, France, says today that it’s going to vote in favor of the Palestinian resolution as prepared, not any alternative. So I’m wondering if you can comment on that.

...But when you see something like that happening...does it not give anyone pause? Because this is going to be – whatever the final vote is, it’s going to be a lopsided outcome. The Palestinians are going to win. You don’t dispute that, right?

...Okay. But it doesn’t give you pause – in this case or in the case of the Cuba embargo vote, whichever year is the same, it doesn’t give you pause that – to think that maybe you are not actually taking a principled stand and that others are taking a principled stand when everyone – virtually everyone else in the world disagrees with you on the fundamental aspect of your policy? That doesn’t give anyone in this building pause? You just – or this Administration pause? You just charge right ahead regardless of what the rest of the world is saying?
Read full transcript: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2012/11/201105.htm

All I can say is that it was a good thing that Noah, Abraham and others just charged right ahead, regardless of what the rest of the world was saying.

27 Nov 2012

Twitter action

France's main Jewish students union (UEJF) has started legal action against Twitter to force the site to reveal details on people who posted a slew of anti-Semitic hate messages, its lawyer said Tuesday.
A hearing is set for January 8 at a Paris court, attorney Stephane Lilti said, adding that the group was also seeking the implementation of French laws on illicit content.
Continue reading: http://www99.bangkokpost.com/tech/computer/323450/french-jewish-body-takes-twitter-to-court

The BBC’s Jon Donnison, together with the head of the BBC Jerusalem Bureau and head of the Foreign Press Association, Paul Danahar, has been summoned by the Government Press Office in Israel to a hearing this coming Wednesday (November 28th) on the subject of Donnison’s Tweet of a picture of a child casualty from Syria as though it were from Gaza – as first publicised by BBC Watch on November 19th 2012.
Read more: http://bbcwatch.org/2012/11/27/bbcs-jon-donnison-summoned-to-government-press-office-hearing/

On another topic, EJP is reporting the following:

Poland's top court Tuesday ruled that the ritual slaughter of animals, a key tenet of the Jewish and Muslim faiths, was illegal, but the government insisted that new EU rules would still allow the practice.
Continue reading: http://www.ejpress.org/article/63623

Receiving your request

A friend and I went to a screening of "the Secret" which was aired at a local center. When I came home, I discussed the movie with another friend. She was very distraught and berated me, "This doesn't sound like Jewish Hashkofa. We don't always get what we want and we have to know that Hashem does everything for the best, whether we understand why our requests are fulfilled or not."

This morning I received an email from Rhonda Byrne from the Secret Daily Teachings. The reader is asked to imagine sending an email with a request to the Server of the Universe.

If you begin to worry and stress that you haven't got what you wanted, then you have just sent another email to the Universe to stop your order. And then you wonder why you haven't received what you asked for.

Once you Ask, know that the Server of the Universe is an automatic infallible system that never fails, and expect to receive your request!

Once I read the above words, I realized that my friend's words were so right. It is dangerous to think that anything we ask for will be greeted with a positive response. Sometimes our requests are not in our best interests. Imagine if I had really wanted a job at the World Trade Center during September 2001. Had I been turned down for the job, I could have been disappointed and upset that G-d had not fulfilled my request for something I really wanted. But, on September 11, I would have realized how being turned down for the job was the best thing that could have happened to me.


A woman named Yael

Shoftim 4.
21. And Yael, the wife of Heber, took the tent-pin, and placed the hammer in her hand, and came to him stealthily, and thrust the pin into his temple, and it pierced through into the ground; and he was in a deep sleep and weary; and he died.
22. And behold, Barak pursued Sisera, and Yael came out to meet him, and she said to him, "Come and I will show you the man whom you seek," and he came to her, and behold, Sisera lay dead, and the pin was in his temple.

A knife-wielding intruder broke into a woman’s home early Monday morning in a community in the Eshkol border region and was fought off by a tenacious mother protecting her four children. Later in the day, the mother, Yael — who was only identified by her first name and who was lightly injured in the attack — had her version of the story related to Ynet by her father.
Read more: http://www.timesofisrael.com/stabbed-in-the-face-and-shoulder-woman-fought-off-her-gazan-attacker/

If the attacker would have read the book of Judges - Shoftim, perhaps he wouldn't have started up with a woman named Yael.

26 Nov 2012

Twitter times two

Amnesty International U.K. official reprimanded after tweeting anti-Semitic joke

A senior official with the human rights organization Amnesty International has been reprimanded for making an anti-Semitic joke about several British lawmakers.
Read more: http://freebeacon.com/an-anti-semite-walks-into-a-bar/

A twitter feed associated with Hamas’ military wing, Izzedin al-Qassam, posted this photo of a chocolate frosted cake to celebrate what it’s calling a victory over Israel in the week of fighting that ended last Wednesday. Hamas called the operation in which it launched 1,506 rockets at Israeli civilians “Shale Stones,” and on the chocolate cake that phrase appears in Arabic, as does an M-75 long-range missile. The green used as the decorator gel is a color closely associated with Hamas and other Islamist movements.
Continue reading: http://www.theblaze.com/stories/food-fight-hamas-tweets-out-missile-cake-while-one-israeli-reveals-how-he-used-a-pastrami-sandwich-to-take-cover/

A Dutch news show has stirred controversy by airing a fake satirical video of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bragging to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about civilian deaths in Gaza.
“We are trying to maximize the number of civilian casualties. We prefer that,” Netanyahu is seen telling Clinton in the video, which the broadcaster Vara aired on Nov. 21, as part of the satirical corner of the prime-time news show De Wereld Draait Door. Approximately 1.5 million viewers watch the show every evening.
Read more: http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/11/26/3112791/dutch-tv-airs-fake-netanyahu-speech-about-targeting-gaza-kids

The obvious enemy

by D. Fine

The scene is set as the two heads of completely opposed nations (Yaakov and Esav) meet each other for the first time since Yaakov got his bracha from Yitzchak. Before this meeting, Yaakov davens to HaShem to 'please save me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esav (32;12).' Why repeat things (why repeat things!) by saying 'the hand of my brother' AND 'the hand of Esav?'

An answer is that these two concepts ('my brother' and 'esav') represent the 2 tactics employed against us as individual Jews and as the Jewish people as a whole. One is the enemy who overtly and obviously comes against us by force to annihilate us (that is called 'esav' -the obvious enemy) anti-semitism. The other is much more dangerous, and that is 'achi' - my brother.
Continue reading: http://www.shortvort.com/component/content/article/114-rotator/11586-enemy-tactics

Anti-Israel demonstrators gathered on Friday in the heart of Vienna, protesting Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense and chanting slogans calling for the murder of Jews and bashing the Jewish state. Read more: http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?id=293435

Two children

CNN has a moving video and article about two children from both sides of the MidEast conflict who are being treated in the same Israeli hospital.

Four-year-old Yosef lies in a hospital bed with curiosity gleaming in his eyes as he listens to a family friend tell him the age-old story of Jonah and the whale.
The young boy is surprisingly bright-eyed after the traumatic ordeal he's endured as a result of the latest outbreak of warfare between Gaza and Israel.

25 Nov 2012

Eight days

Jews the world over will celebrate the holiday of Chanukah this month to commemorate the eight days that the flask of oil burned.

YnetNews reports about a different type of celebration of the eight days of the Gazan Israeli confrontation which led to a ceasefire last week.

Less than a week after the declaration of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Operation Pillar of Defense has already left its mark on the people of Gaza, in a rather unexpected way.

Some parents from the Strip have decided to name their newborn babies after operation-affiliated icons – from assassinated Hamas commanders to long-range missiles fired at Israel.

Muhammad al-Shafi'i Abu Nassat named his son, who was born Friday, after the Fajr missile. Naming his baby Fajr, Abu Nassat told Gaza media, was his way of expressing his gratitude to Iran, which was responsible for supplying Gaza with rockets that, according to Abu Nassat "struck the enemy for eight days."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague on Sunday urged the United States to take a more active role in seeking a lasting settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, warning of a "final chance" for a two-state solution.

Masculine and feminine

Hurricane Sandy’s $50 billion damage demonstrated the vulnerability of America’s largest cities to the effects of global warming. Christiana Figueres, the top United Nations diplomat for international climate negotiations, said Sandy serves as “yet another wake-up call” for the U.S. to cut carbon pollution.

The other week I was listening to Rabbi Wallerstein speak about Hurricane Sandy and he mentioned that he was looking for some verse in the Torah which ties in the elements of nature in the storm such as trees, wind, etc. Someone in his shul came up with the verse from Chapters of the Fathers 3:17, "One whose wisdom is greater than his deeds, what is he comparable to?  To a tree with many branches and few roots; comes a storm and uproots it, and turns it on its face..."

While he was discussing the elements of nature, my thoughts immediately turned to the Rashi in this week's parsha 32:9.

And he said, "If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it down, the remaining camp will escape."
ט. וַיֹּאמֶר אִם יָבוֹא עֵשָׂו אֶל הַמַּחֲנֶה הָאַחַת וְהִכָּהוּ וְהָיָה הַמַּחֲנֶה הַנִּשְׁאָר לִפְלֵיטָה:

one camp and strikes it down: Heb. וְהִכָּהוּ הַמַחִנֶה הָאַחַת. [The word] מַחִנֶה is used both in the masculine and feminine genders. [Other examples are:] (Ps. 27:3):“If a camp encamps (תַּחִנֶה) against me.” This is feminine. (Below, 33: 8)“this (הַזֶה) camp.” That is masculine. Likewise, there are other things (nouns) that are used both in the masculine and feminine genders, e.g. (above 19:23):“The sun (הַשֶׁמֶשׁ) came out (יָצָא) upon the earth” ; (Ps. 19:7):“From the end of the heavens is its source (מוֹצָאוֹ) .” These are masculine. (II Kings 3:22):“the sun shone (זָרְחָה) on the water.” This is feminine. And likewise, רוּחַ, wind (Job 1:19):“when, behold, a great (גְדוֹלָה) wind came (בָּאָה) .” This is feminine;“and struck (וַיִגַע) the four corners of the house.” This is masculine. [Another instance is] (I Kings 19:11):“and a great (גְדוֹלָה) and strong (וְחָזָק) wind, splitting (מְפָרֵק) mountains.” This is both masculine and feminine. Likewise, אֵשׁ, fire, as (Num. 16:35):“And fire went forth (יָצְאָה) from before the Lord,” feminine gender; (Ps. 104:4):"burning (לֹהֵט) fire, masculine gender.
  המחנה האחת והכהו: מחנה משמש לשון זכר ולשון נקבה. (תהלים כז ג) אם תחנה עלי מחנה, הרי לשון נקבה, (לג ח) המחנה הזה, לשון זכר. וכן יש שאר דברים משמשים לשון זכר ולשון נקבה, (לעיל יט כג) השמש יצא על הארץ, (תהלים יט ז) מקצה השמים מוצאו, הרי לשון זכר. (מ"ב ג כב) השמש זרחה על המים, הרי לשון נקבה. וכן רוח (איוב א יט) והנה רוח גדולה באה, הרי לשון נקבה, (שם) ויגע בארבע פנות הבית, הרי לשון זכר, (מ"א יט יא) ורוח גדולה וחזק מפרק הרים, הרי לשון זכר ולשון נקבה. וכן אש (במדבר טז לה) ואש יצאה מאת ה', לשון נקבה. (תהלים קד ד) אש לוהט, לשון זכר: http://www.chabad.org/parshah/torahreading.asp?aid=15554&p=1&showrashi=true

I am, by no means, supplying a reason for Hurricane Sandy but I find it interesting that it happened in an age when we try to obscure differences between males and females. This past month  "Six women were arrested at the Western Wall on Thursday for wearing prayer shawls during services in a manner that has been disallowed by the site’s management and police." This past month a man wrote an article about how he broke gender norms and baked challah at a class where the instructor defined the act as a traditional woman's mitzvah. This past month people may have voted for allowing a man to say to another man "Harei attah mekudash li."

Hurricane Sandy destroyed our machaneh - our secure encampment through wind and fire, through words that don't have a secure gender identity.

19 Nov 2012

Shmirah and Mitzvot

Crown Heights Info has an article titled Students Perform Mitzvos for The Holy Land.

Rav Kanievsky addressed the residents of Bnei Brak about the words of yesteryear from the Chazon Ish that the city will not be struck by bombs. Rav Kanievsky wrote in a letter that it is not a kiddush Hashem if the words of a tzaddik  are only fulfilled during his lifetime and not upon the tzaddik's petirah. Thus, Rav Kanievsky reassured the residents that the words still apply to this day.

Shirat Devorah posts about The Shmira Project - For Soldiers and Residents in Danger.

Chadrei Charedim reports about an initiative to pray for every soldier. Click here for information in Hebrew.

BBCWatch discusses BBC’s Jon Donnison Tweets malicious fauxtography.

For the Twitter uninitiated, Donnison is retweeting to his 7,971 followers a Tweet by one Hazem Balousha – a Palestinian ‘journalist and social activist’ – including a picture titled “Pain in Gaza”, to which Donnison adds his own commentary – “Heartbreaking”.

Except – as has already been pointed out to Donnison – it does not come from Gaza.
Read more: https://twitter.com/JonDonnison

Jon Donnison has tweeted the following clarification.

A photo I retweeted from another journo yesterday showing children injured was NOT in Gaza as I said but apparently from Syria. Apologies.

Did he find this photo heartbreaking enough to retweet when the child was identified as one from Syria?

18 Nov 2012

Two approaches

The Klausenberger Rebbe zt"l says Yaakov's ladder symbolizes the two approaches to self improvement. One way is to decide what you want to improve and map out a plan where you improve step by step until you reach your decided goal. This slow but steady journey has a good chance of success. If you work hard you will ultimately get there. That is what the pasuk says "V'Hinei Sulam Mutzav Artza V'Roishoi Magiah Hashamayma"; if the ladder is planted firmly on the ground, by climbing it one rung at a time you get you all the way as far as the heavens.

The second way is to go straight to the top and immediately begin to act according to your loftiest ideals, like the perfect tzaddik. This method usually ends rather quickly in miserable failure. To this the pasuk says "V'Hinei Malachei Elokim"; if you want to be like a malach right away, then "Olim V'Yordim Boi" you will rise very quickly but you will go right back down just as quick.

Honest reporting

Honest Reporting discusses the death of a Palestinian four-year-old boy and refers to a Sunday Telegraph report.

But there were signs on Saturday that not all the Palestinian casualties have been the result of Israeli air strikes. The highly publicised death of four-year-old Mohammed Sadallah appeared to have been the result of a misfiring home-made rocket, not a bomb dropped by Israel.
Continue reading: http://honestreporting.com/gaza-child-killed-by-hamas/

At 4:43 AM MaanNews reported about a strike at a building of journalists.
Khader al-Zahhar, a cameraman with al-Quds TV, had a leg amputated due to injuries sustained in the attack.

At 5:54 AM Asmaa Alghoul blogged, "More than three journalists were injured with different levels of injuries. Al Quds channel said that they amputated the leg of journalist Khader Al Zahar, but my friends at the Al-Shifa hospital said that they might be able to save it and it hasn't happened yet ..."

Why would a journalist blog about an amputation that didn't occur an hour after it was reported that the amputation did take place?

Every living thing

Kikar Hashabat reports on Shmuel Scharf, the husband of Mira Scharf who was killed in Kiryat Malachi this week during a rocket attack. He said that it was a miracle that he was alive and he thanked Hashem for keeping him alive.

Chadrei Charedim reports that Harav Kanievsky, who often visits a Rav in a hospital after Shabbos, also paid a shiva call to Shmuel Scharf who was at the same hospital.

Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi said in his weekly parsha shiur that when an individual recites Poteach et yadecha umasbia lechol chai ratzon”, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing," we should be thinking of all our brethren and not only of ourselves.
Speaking of that verse, Rabbi Eliezer Kessler shares his thoughts in relation to tefillin.

When Jewish men put on tefillin in the morning, why is the tefillin strap wrapped around the left arm exactly seven times? Almost every observance we perform in Jewish life is full of deep symbolism. Wearing tefillin is no exception. Almost every aspect of tefillin has a metaphoric or kabalistic aspect connected to it. The reason we wrap our tefillin seven times around our arm is because each winding corresponds to the seven words of the following pasuk: “Poteach et yadecha umasbia lechol chai ratzon”, “You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” As we wrap our arm, we ask God to open His, so to speak, and provide sustenance for all He has created.

17 Nov 2012

Taking sides

On November 15, Anderson Cooper hosted a report by CNN correspondent Sara Sidner. During the wind up to her report Cooper played a few video snippets of "victims" being dragged off the streets of the Palestinian held areas.
But one of those "victims" wasn't a victim at all but was instead a man merely acting injured all for the benefit of western cameras.
Read more: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/11/16/CNN-Uses-Faked-Palestinian-Casualty-Video-in-Coverage

Free Beacon reports, "Two Muslim advocacy groups closely allied with the Obama administration are aggressively attacking Israel and defending the terror group Hamas as it continues to fire rockets at Israeli civilians."
Continue reading:  http://freebeacon.com/obama-allies-accuse-israel-of-slaughter/

What is AP style for the city of Jerusalem? Friday morning, The Associated Press blasted this tweet for a story on Gaza-Israel conflict: “Air raid sirens wail in Jerusalem, signaling a possible rocket attack aimed at Israel's capital: http://apne.ws/U3UaeK -KH.” Just over a half hour later, the AP issued a “correction” tweet: “Air raid sirens in Jerusalem signal a possible rocket attack aimed at Israel's self-declared capital: http://apne.ws/ZXOoMR -KH (correction).” http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2012/11/the-aps-jerusalem-correction-149801.html

16 Nov 2012

Diametrically opposed

Avrohom's death seemed to have sparked a chain reaction. On that same day Nimrod died, murdered at the hands of Eisav. Eisav, with that violent action, commenced his evil career. Coincidence? Of course not. But what is the connection between these history shaping events? Maybe the connection between all these events is the purpose of creation and the reason for evil in the world. At our core we are all good. Hashem would like to reward us so he challenges us to remain good in the face of evil. Therefore the evil we face must be diametrically opposed to the goodness we contain.

Avrohom's mission was to teach the world that there is only one Hashem who tends to every minute detail. Countering this, Hashem brought him a nemesis in the form of Nimrod whose whole lifelong goal was to extinguish Hashem's name from the face of the earth. His two famous appearances in the Torah were both wars. One against Hashem himself and the other against Avrohom when the four King's, among them Nimrod waged war on the five kings with Avrohom being the real target. Once Avrohom died, Nimrod had no reason to exist and he was immediately removed from the scene. By who? The next great evil, Eisav. He was an exact twin of Yaakov and the polar opposite.

Yaakov represented the Koach HaTorah and Eisav went out his way to commit the most horrendous aveiros of the Torah. Unlike the evolving nature of good that builds on the previous generation's work, as we first discover Yaakov cooking lentils in mourning for his grandfather Avrohom, the passing of the torch among the bad comes out of acts of violence with Eisav murdering his predecessor Nimrod. Not surprisingly Eisav's head was chopped off as Yaakov was being laid to rest.

The following is an excerpt from a State Department briefing of November 15th.

MR. TONER: We’re obviously in close consultation with Israel, as you well know. The President spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. Let me finish. Let me be very clear that Israel has a right to self-defense. As of yesterday, I believe the Israeli Government noted that since the beginning of 2012, more than 768 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza, and over 12,000 in the past 12 years, and I believe over a hundred today alone. They have a right to self-defense.


MR. TONER: The onus – let me be very clear – the onus here is on Hamas. And as Jay Carney just said from the White House, it claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, but through its actions it’s showing a far different agenda.

QUESTION: Are you counting the number of rockets and air raids that Israel has conducted on Gaza into (inaudible)?

MR. TONER: Again, we need to see Hamas stop its rocket attacks and then we can see a de-escalation of the violence.

QUESTION: Do the Palestinians in Gaza have the same right to self-defense?

MR. TONER: This is violence instigated by Hamas. We have – as we’ve said very clearly in our statement yesterday, that we extend our sympathies to the victims, innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians that have been affected by this violence. But let’s be very clear where the onus likes.
Read all: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2012/11/200598.htm

15 Nov 2012

Nosei be'ol chaveiro

Chadrei Charedim reported about a speech given in the wake of the situation in Israel.

Rosh Yeshiva of Ponovezh, Rav Povarsky,  addressed the yeshiva students today about the power of Torah to protect and save  and how we are losing the protection because of people's dismissive attitudes towards the Torah and its Sages.

The Rav referred to an interpretation of Chazal to the verse in kings 1:1 about King David and how "they covered him with clothes, but he couldn’t keep warm." Rabbi Yosi ben Hanina said that he who shows contempt for his clothes doen't enjoy them. Since "David arose and cut the coat," therefore he could not be kept warm with clothes.

The Rav stated that this also extends to any holy thing. When a person is dismissive of something holy, it will not stand in his merit. For example, a person who shows disrespect to prayer should not be surprised if  prayer will not help in time of trouble.

Rav Povarksy said that the state of contempt with respect to Torah and its sages was unheard of in recent generations, and thus it is no wonder that the lack of honor serves to weaken the power of the protection of Torah. We should do all within our means to strengthen it.

We must also share in the burden of the hundreds of thousands of our brethren in Southern Israel and it is our duty to strengthen ourselves in learning Torah and in relations with our fellow men.

Below is an incredible video of remarkable individuals who are sharing in the burden and heeding the Rav's call of strengthening our relations with our fellow men.

Finallly, check out this post titled Jerusalem predictions.

The hidden lights

Rashi says on the words in Bereishis, Vayar Elokim Es HaOr Ki Tov, that Hashem saw that the special light created at the time of the Bria, which enables people to see from end of the world to the other, was not suitable for Reshaim, so he hid it L'Asid Lavo. This light is said to be hidden in the Torah. It is what gives the great tzaddikim of each generation, who dwell in the depths of the Torah, their unique ability to know and comprehend things beyond what can they have seen or heard.
The Medrash tells us that Adam HaRishon enjoyed this light for 36 hours before it was taken away. The Rokeach says that we light a total of 36 candles during Chanukah (1+2+3...8=36), to celebrate the light hidden in the Torah, which shines during Chanukah. 36 is also the number of Masechtos in Talmud Bavli. 36 is also the number of tzaddikim that Hashem promises will exist in every generation.

The Bnei Yissaschar says that this is hinted in the word Kislev. The first two letter of Kislev are Kuf Samech as in Kisuy or covered. The last two are Lamed Vuv or 36, for the 36 hours of light that are hidden in the Torah and lit on Chanukah.

Yesterday I posted a verse from Sefer Nechemia Chapter 9 which refers to "Amud Annan," the name the IDF chose for the current Gaza operation.
12. And with a pillar of cloud You led them by day, and with a pillar of fire at night to illuminate for them the way in which they should go.

Unfortunately, the same chapter in Nechemia ends on a sad note, after Bnei Yisrael turned their backs on G-d time after time. 

As we read about the casualties in Kiryat Malachi this morning, we find ourselves in great distress. May Hashem have mercy, light the way and may we merit peace.

36. Behold, today we are slaves, and the land that You gave our forefathers to eat its fruit and its goodness-behold we are slaves upon it. לו. הִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ הַיּוֹם עֲבָדִים וְהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה לַאֲבֹתֵינוּ לֶאֱכֹל אֶת פִּרְיָהּ וְאֶת טוּבָהּ הִנֵּה אֲנַחְנוּ עֲבָדִים עָלֶיהָ:
37. And it lavishes its produce upon the kings whom You have appointed over us because of our sins, and they rule over our bodies and over our cattle as they wish, and we are in great distress.
לז. וּתְבוּאָתָהּ מַרְבָּה לַמְּלָכִים אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה עָלֵינוּ בְּחַטֹּאותֵינוּ וְעַל גְּוִיֹּתֵנוּ מֹשְׁלִים וּבִבְהֶמְתֵּנוּ כִּרְצוֹנָם וּבְצָרָה גְדוֹלָה אֲנָחְנוּ:
The Blaze discusses the  biblical name behind Israel's military strike over here.

TheBlaze asked Haifa University bible scholar Dr. Jonathan Ben-Dov why he thinks the IDF chose this biblically significant reference as the name of the operation to strike Hamas. He said:
They chose it because it’s something for defense. The pillar of cloud stood to absorb the arrows of the Egyptians. That’s I think what they had in mind. It was in front of them and then behind them and then back in the front of them. The pillar of cloud is there to defend.

14 Nov 2012

Pillar of Cloud

The IDF has launched a major Gaza operation named “Amud Annan (Pillar/Column of Defense)” with the goal of taking “out a large piece of the (Hamas) command structure without toppling the regime,” a knowledgeable source in Jerusalem told The Algemeiner.

Yeranen Yaakov discusses the derivation of the name of the latest IDF operation in Gaza,  "Amud He'anan" which translates to "Pillar of cloud." (Pillar of defense)
He references the verse in Exodus 14: 19.

I discovered a few more references here including the one below.
Nechemia 9:19

But You,with Your abundant mercies, did not forsake them in the desert; the pillar of cloud did not turn away from them by day to lead them on the way, neither did the pillar of fire at night to illuminate for them the way in which they should go.

יט. וְאַתָּה בְּרַחֲמֶיךָ הָרַבִּים לֹא עֲזַבְתָּם בַּמִּדְבָּר אֶת עַמּוּד הֶעָנָן לֹא סָר מֵעֲלֵיהֶם בְּיוֹמָם לְהַנְחֹתָם בְּהַדֶּרֶךְ וְאֶת עַמּוּד הָאֵשׁ בְּלַיְלָה לְהָאִיר לָהֶם וְאֶת הַדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵלְכוּ בָהּ:

May Hashem illuminate for us the way to go and protect us. I'm off to say some Pirkei Tehillim.

Questions at the briefing

Thank you, Mr. Mark Toner, for reminding people that Israel has the right to self-defense. Below is an excerpt from a State Department briefing of November 13th.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about – I don’t recall there’s been yet a United States reaction to the shelling that happened between Israel and Syria over the weekend because of our long weekend. I just wonder how the United States is viewing this and whether you were concerned by what happened in the Golan Heights.

MR. TONER: Well, right. No, we very much condemn Syrian shelling across the ceasefire line in the Golan Heights and we stand closely with our friend and ally, Israel, and are continuing to consult closely on the path forward.

QUESTION: But you don’t condemn the Israelis firing back then?

MR. TONER: They have a right to self-defense.

Below is another interesting exchange about how diplomacy works.

QUESTION: Despite the President’s direct expression of displeasure to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority President, it seems that they are going ahead to the General Assembly. So – which will engender reaction, I guess, or then enforcement of the law as on the books. Could you share with us how, mechanically, how this happens? I mean, they go to the UN, they get accepted, then you shut off, let’s say, the PLO office like immediately?

MR. TONER: I’m not going to get into next steps. We’re still at the stage where we’re actively trying to convince them that this is a bad idea, that this is not going to get them the results ultimately that they seek. So we’ve been clear in the past about what some of the consequences that this would generate or engender. I think we put out a taken question about it a couple weeks ago. But in terms of next steps, our focus remains on convincing the Palestinian Authority that the only way to achieve the goals it seeks is through the negotiation table.

QUESTION: Can I ask how much more active can you be than having the President of the United States with an hour-long phone call to the President of the Palestinian Authority?

MR. TONER: Well, I think that shows how active and how serious --

QUESTION: And he still came out --

MR. TONER: -- and how seriously we take it.

QUESTION: -- in less than 24 hours and said basically I’m not going to listen to you, I’m going to go ahead and do it. What more active trying – what more active are you doing --

MR. TONER: Well, look, I mean --

QUESTION: -- to get them to change their mind when it’s clear when an hour-long phone call with the leader of the free world doesn’t do it?

MR. TONER: I think that we’re going to continue to press our case. David Hale is actually going to Europe this week. He’ll be in Bern and he’ll meet with President Abbas there.

QUESTION: And so you think that the Special Envoy for the Middle East – for Middle East Peace efforts has more weight than the President, than the recently reelected President of the United States?

MR. TONER: This is not a question of who has more weight. This is a question of us continuing to pursue --

QUESTION: Well, I’m just – do you --

MR. TONER: -- what we believe is the best course of action.

QUESTION: Is it your hope that David Hale’s meeting with President Abbas is going to produce a result that was different than an hour-long phone conversation from the President?

MR. TONER: You know how diplomacy works, right? This is – there’s --

QUESTION: Yeah, I do. And it’s usually when you get to the presidential --

MR. TONER: It’s incremental and it’s --

QUESTION: Yeah, but usually it goes the other way around. You start with the special envoy and get to the President.

MR. TONER: Well, again, our engagement speaks for itself.

13 Nov 2012

Making sense

This makes a lot of sense.

President Obama is holding on to Eric Holder as the nation’s top law-enforcement official, The Post has learned.
The newly re-elected president asked his controversial attorney general to stay for the second term, and Holder has agreed despite enduring a firestorm of criticism from Republican lawmakers.

This doesn't make a lot of sense.

Below are two screenshots of  what I got when  I typed in the words, "Jerusalem" and "West Bank" in the google toolbar.

When I typed in Jerusalem  I received a screen which included a map of the city and the words of explanation that "Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, though not internationally recognized as such..."

When I typed In West Bank I received a screen which included a photo of two Israeli soldiers, with their rifles raised, standing next to an elderly man, linking to an article titled The West Bank Isn't Occupied?  

After trying other locations, I saw that the screens only showed maps of the areas. Why does the West Bank screen link to a picture relating to the "occupation?" Why not show a photo of a "a luxury house under construction in the village of Mazraa al-Sharqiya near the West Bank city of Ramallah" pictured in this article?