"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

31 Dec 2013


Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss takes a look at secular New Year's resolutions and compares them with our resolutions.

 After studying these lists, I realized that they primarily revolve around the body: to lose weight, to get fit, to quit smoking or drinking, or to manage stress.  These are all the needs of the guf, our mortal bodies.  Now, while we also ascribe to the positive commandment of “V’nishmartem meod es nafshoseichem - To guard the health of our bodies,” it is the needs of our neshoma, our immortal soul, that is the primary focus of our existence.  Thus, our resolutions are quite different and revolve around character improvement such as:  1. I will not gossip about others.  2. I will avoid lying.  3. I will make up with people that I am at odds with.  4. I will try not to be envious of others. Rather, I will rejoice in their success and prosperity.  5. I will be more loving and attentive to my spouse.  6. I will be a better role-model for my children.  7. I will bring joy to my parents.  8. I will be more charitable.  9. I’ll try not to be selfish and self-centered.  10. I will work hard to curb my anger and will restrain myself from screaming and yelling.
Read full article: http://matzav.com/new-years-resolution-2014

KikarHashabat has an article about a man who refused to give his wife a get and fled to America a few years ago. He has now been extradited to Israel.

KikarHashabat has an article about Rav Kaduri seeing the Mashiach in the past.

Former minister Rafi Eitan, the former handler of Jonathan Pollard, believes that this time, Israeli efforts to win Pollard’s freedom may yield results.
Continue reading: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/175765

NPR has an article titled What Israel's Release Of Palestinian Prisoners Means For Peace.

Below is one comment posted under the NPR article. If one reads through the rest of the comments, one realizes that views are entrenched and opinions won't be swayed by the truth.

I was very surprised to see the article didn't include a link to the names and crimes of the actual prisoners, but it included a convenient link to an article about settlement expansions. One can't expect every article to be written by a non-baised robot, but NPR is usually better than this.

Call for prayer

Chadrei Charedim reports that HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman is calling for a global prayer day, tomorrow, erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat, against the conscription law aimed at yeshiva students. Rav Vozner has also added his voice to the call for prayer.

Click here to read the article in Hebrew.

30 Dec 2013

The sanctification of time

In the video below the speaker discusses the mitzvah of "Hachodesh Hazeh." He states, "There is nothing more aimportant for an individual than the sanctification of time.... We have a limited time to make a difference in the world."

Reading about Nochum Zvi Potash, I realize that he made a difference, even though he was granted but a few years on earth.

Crown Heights info reports on a levaya of a young boy from London.

Nochum Tzvi loved going to Shul. He loved his small community of Heichal Menachem. Each time he came, he always offered his help. Though young, he joined with the other children in cleaning the Shul after davening or setting up the Farbrengen. But there were two “jobs” he loved most. For many Shabbosim he would stand near the Bima and help cover the Sefer Torah in between Aliyos. The other job was helping his treasurer father, Yossi, in keeping record of the donations people pledged after their Aliyos.
...The Potash/Garelick families, together with the Heichal Menachem community, are launching a building campaign for a new Lubavitch Community Center in Golders Green, which will proudly bear the name Beis Nochum Tzvi – to never forget the child that loved his Shul.
Read more: http://crownheights.info/notices/419101/lavaya-of-nochum-tzvi-potash-to-take-place-today/

by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple
The 12th chapter of Sh’mot starts the history of the Jewish calendar: “This month (Nisan, the month of the Exodus) shall be for you the first of the months” (Ex. 12:2).
We might have thought that this command was merely addressed to Moses and Aaron, since the previous verse says, “HaShem spoke to Moses and Aaron…” But Ramban points out that our verse is linked with what follows, “Speak to all the congregation of Israel”, which indicates that the establishment of the list of months is addressed to the whole of the Jewish people.
The great founder of neo-orthodoxy, Samson Raphael Hirsch, used to say that if you want to know what Jews believe, you have to look at their calendar. On one level this means, “Look at the festivals”. Hence Pesach stands for freedom, Shavu’ot stands for duty, Sukkot affirms God’s protection, Rosh HaShanah represents destiny, Yom Kippur assures us of reconciliation with God.
But it is not only the festivals that tell us what Judaism stands for: the months too have a message about the principles of the Jewish way of life. Every month we see the moon wax and then wane, which symbolises the way in which faith functions.
There are times of gadlut emunah, greater faith, when no-one can have the slightest hesitation about believing in God; there are times of katnut emunah, when our faith is tested and events tempt us to deny the Almighty. That’s the way the human soul works, and our task is to contain the moments of doubt and return to the spiritual equilibrium in which we wholeheartedly affirm our Creator.
With the coming of each new month we overcome our hesitations and once more grow in faith and belief.

23 Dec 2013

Leading the sheep

by Rabbi Dr Raymond Apple

Whatever Moses did, the Egyptian magicians were able to counter it (Ex. 7:11). In today’s world, Moses wouldn’t have stood a chance.

The magicians were masters of show, while Moses was a mere stutterer. On television Moses wouldn’t have lasted a moment. He hadn’t an ounce of charisma.
From the perspective of history, however, judged by the criteria of a pre-television age, Moses had the more substance, and that’s why the Torah says (Ex. 14:31) that the people “believed in God and in Moses His servant” (possibly the words mean, “and that Moses was His servant”).

The lesson we learn is that no-one, not even a rabbi, especially not a rabbi, should be judged by spell-binding oratory or flamboyant theatricality. Some people are masters of magic, capable of manipulating minds and hearts, either for the wrong purpose or for no purpose at all other than the pleasure that they get out of wielding their magic.

Not that putting on a show is necessarily always bad, but the rational person should always ask,
“What’s behind the theatrics?” The rational person should never be swayed by the drama. It’s harder to ask the hard questions, but without them no decision will ever have real validity.

The pasuk tells us that Moshe led Yisro's flock of sheep in the Midbar. Chazal tell us that in the zechus of his outstanding service of leading the sheep of a mere mortal with perfection and compassion he was zocheh to lead Hashem's "Tzon Kodshim", Hashem's Holy Sheep, for 40 years in the Midbar.
The Ben Ish Chai in his sefer Ben Yoho'ada on Chumash says that the reason why the Bnei Yisroel are called "Tzon" is to remind us that we must serve Hashem with the four traits laid out by Yehuda Ben Teima in Pirkei Avos (5:20). Az KaNamer, audacious like a Leopard; Kal KaNesher, light like an eagle; Ruzt KaTzvi, run like a deer; Gibor Ka'Ari strong like a lion. The Roshie Teivos of these for animal Tzadi for Tzvi, Aleph for Ari, Nun for Nesher and Namer make up the word "Tzon". Hashem's flock must use all four of these character traits for avodas Hashem. If we do so then we are zocheh to be called "Tzon Kodshim" and be led by a merciful shepherd.

22 Dec 2013

Living with beliefs - living with passion

The battle for freedom rages on was an opening line in the trailer for Return of the Jedi in 1983. Now the call from the wilderness is return of the Girl Guide and their pledge to God. Select British Girl Guide groups continue to defy the national organization by refusing to change the part of their pledge that says “to love my God”, and replacing it with “be true to myself and develop my beliefs.”

...Writer and TV presenter Victoria Coren said the phrase “be true to myself” does not mean anything, but carries a suggestion of something “utterly individualistic”, while commentator Melanie Phillips said the Guides’ change was “nothing other than secular totalitarianism”.

Coren hits the nail on the head! To be “true to myself” is a self-centered concept. It leaves the idea of what you should be totally fluid. Children need standards to be impressed on them, this tells them to make up their own.
Read more: http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/60032?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=facebook

Chabad Crown Heights info has an article about two Jewish girls who were groped on the streets of Brooklyn. If I am true to my beliefs that "groping is good" have I fulfilled my Girl Guide pledge?

Chabad Crown Heights info features a photo of a Santa donning tefillin after some yeshive students found out that he was Jewish.Click here to view Picture of the Day: ‘Tis the Season for a Mitzvah.

True to one's beliefs

Adam Soclof interviews the Jerusalem snowboarder "with tzitzit flying"  who was featured on the Wall Street Journal's front page.

Do you feel any added pressure, now that you’re a publicly visible religious figure in popular media?

I feel pressured to try and represent the truest values of my being, and to try and express them in a way that’s true to myself and my beliefs — and hopefully to be an inspiration for other people to try and bring out their truth.
Read more: http://www.jta.org/2013/12/19/news-opinion/meet-the-orthodox-snowboarder-from-wall-street-journals-front-page#ixzz2oBjOExPZ

On Friday, Anti-Defamation League president Abraham Foxman blasted Huffington Post for its anti-Semitic splash page pushing against Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who is pushing for harsher sanctions against Iran. The page showed Menendez speaking at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and carried the headline, “SABOTEUR SEN. LAUNCHING WAR PUSH.”
Read more: http://www.truthrevolt.org/news/adl-blasts-huffpo-anti-semitism#.UrZieodPwog.twitter

Canada has called for the removal of a top U.N. official who accused Israel of having “genocidal intentions” against Palestinians.
Ottawa “completely rejects and condemns” the “appalling” remarks made by Richard Falk, U.N. Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said in a statement.
Read more: http://www.jta.org/2013/12/20/news-opinion/world/canada-wants-un-official-ousted-over-palesitinian-holocaust-comment#ixzz2oBikgSli

21 Dec 2013

The best man in the entire world

Nearly a week after 30-year-old Hoboken lawyer Dustin Friedland was gunned down in a deadly carjacking while returning to his vehicle in an upper level parking deck of the Mall at Short Hills, police this morning arrested four men on charges of murder.
Read more: http://www.nj.com/essex/index.ssf/2013/12/authorities_identify_4_men_arrested_in_connection_with_deadly_short_hills_carjacking.html

How many years do you think they will sit in prison. I would hazard to guess, less than Jonathan Pollard.

Two years ago, Jamie Schare Friedland married her "dream man."
Today, as she eulogized him, she called herself "the luckiest person I know."
"I still believe that because I married the best man in the entire world," she told hundreds of mourners who filled the sanctuary at Beth Am Shalom in Lakewood to memorialize her husband, Dustin Friedland. "I was lucky enough to be with him for the time we had — his forever, just as he wanted it.
"He was my perfect person, my everything," she said.
Continue reading: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/12/dustin_friedland_funeral.html

This weeked I read an anecdote in the Hamodia, which I have posted below, written by Rabbi Fishel Schachter about being grateful and not taking things for granted. Let's be thankful for "our best spouse" no matter how many years we have been married.

Harav Avigdor Miller, zt"l, told his daughter once (I heard this from his son-in-law), "Do you know that I thank Hashem that you found such a wonderful shidduch?"

"But tatte, I've been married for more than twenty years."

"Yes, and I have thanked Hashem every single day all those years."

19 Dec 2013

Israeli medical care

Eyad El Sarraj, a prominent psychiatrist in the Gaza Strip, died on Wednesday, Dec. 18. El Sarraj was 70 years old. He died of complications from Leukemia.

Throughout his professional life, Sarraj was a fierce proponent of resistance to the “Israeli Occupation” and vigorously promoted boycotts of Israel. But when his health failed, Sarraj sought medical care in Israel. He died at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, where he had been receiving treatment for more than a month.
Read more: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/gaza-bds-advocate-dead-sought-israeli-medical-care-at-the-end/2013/12/19/

Teenagers who love chewing, smacking and bubble-popping gum may be giving themselves a headache, according to research by Dr. Nathan Watemberg of Tel Aviv University-affiliated Meir Medical Center. His findings, published in Pediatric Neurology, could help treat countless cases of migraine and tension headaches in adolescents without the need for additional testing or medication.
Read more: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/israel-research-cites-teens-chewing-gum-as-cause-of-migraines/2013/12/19/

Those supporting BDS should continue to chew gum.

Democratic Leaks Aim to Scuttle New Iran Sanctions

Rabbi Eli Mansour discusses how we cannot outsmart G-d.

The Torah in Parashat Shemot tells of Pharaoh’s decree that every newborn Jewish boy be thrown into the river. The Sages explain that Pharaoh saw through astrology that the redeemer of Beneh Yisrael would soon be born. In an attempt to stop this from happening, he issued a decree that all newborns among Beneh Yisrael should be killed. He felt confident that this measure would prevent the leader from emerging.

In the end, of course, his plan failed, Moshe was saved, and Beneh Yisrael were led out of Egypt. But the plan’s failure runs even deeper. It was Pharaoh’s own daughter who rescued Moshe and raised him in the palace. Pharaoh was determined the kill the leader while he was still an infant, but in the end, the leader was raised in his own home. He himself fed and supported the man whose existence he feared.

We cannot outsmart G-d. As much as we would like to think that we can control our destiny, and that we hold the keys to our success, G-d exercises complete control over us.

Read more: http://www.dailyhalacha.com/WeeklyParasha.asp

Disagreeing to disagree

Commentary editor and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz abruptly exited the stage Monday night at the 92nd Street Y, after becoming too incensed to continue a discussion about Israel.
Read more: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/12/john-podhoretz-storms-off-stage-at-92nd-street-y.html

Jane Eisner wrote about her take on the evening.

Of course, I expected a feisty evening when the venerable 92nd Street Y asked me to moderate a panel about what it means to be “pro-Israel” (their words), with Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street; David Harris, executive director of American Jewish Committee, and Podhoretz. And from the outset, it was clear that Ben-Ami and Podhoretz were going to disagree about everything, with Harris positioning himself — literally and figuratively — in the middle.
Read more: http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/189373/the-exodus-at-the--street-y/#ixzz2nuah7KD8

John Podhoretz responded at Commentary.

Bottom line: I’d had a long day and I didn’t see the point in spending more of it getting booed and shushed. So I left. So sue me.

Ronn Torossian opines on the evening at IsraelNationalNews.

In New York City last night, there was a panel discussion on “What It Means to Be Pro-Israel.” In an ideal world, one might expect a balanced discussion. What one saw at the 92nd Street Y was three left-wingers opposing one ardent Zionist, and an audience which could hardly be considered friendly to the State of Israel.

Incidentally, the INN article begins with the following words, "Norman Podhoretz faced a trio of anti-Zionist panel members at the Y. At some point, he had enough self-respect to walk out."
Can you please change "Norman" to "John"? After all, there is a 30 year age difference between the two men so it shouldn't be difficult to identify which one is which.

To a different topic,  Francesca Kaplan Grossman writes about her feelings of wanting to celebrate every year in December the Jewish counterpart to Chanukah, only to find that she doesn't want to, now that she is married with her own children. She writes how she learned why it is important that she doesn't have a tree.

It took me more than 30 years to really get it. That being able to live with out it – because of, not in spite of, who I actually am, is really the important part.

18 Dec 2013

Giving it away - giving it back

A Canadian man who just won $40 million in the Lotto Max jackpot has big plans for his newfound wealth: giving all the money away to charity.
Tom Crist told Canadian news station CTV that he planned to give away all the prize money to different charities and organizations he chooses, including cancer research.
Continue reading: http://gma.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/lotto-jackpot-winner-decides-something-drastic-winnings-183548469--abc-news-topstories.html?vp=1

There are over 5000 comments posted at the end of the article offering unsolicited advice and thoughts including, "Its nice that he is giving it all to charity, but it is a shame that that money is going to line the pockets of the directors of the charities."

Chadrei Charedim has reported about an ultra-Orthodox resident of Bnei Brak who found a bag of diamonds worth 200 thousand dollars not far from the Diamond Bourse in Ramat Gan. He was able to return it to the diamond merchant who had lost the bag.

The young man said that this was the education with which he was raised. He did not have a moment where he was tempted to take it because he was brought up with the values that he won't touch something that isn't his.

The older diamond merchant was pleasantly surprised that the young man had returned the bag. He called him a tzaddik and gave him a monetary reward as a token of appreciation.


Thanks to Penn State Harrisburg for heeding the call.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County on Monday removed a controversial quote from its Nature Lab exhibit.
The quote, which was put up at the request of an anonymous donor, read:
"The Nature Lab is a gift to Los Angeles to celebrate all of God's creatures and enable NHM to broaden our understanding of the natural world through the process of scientific discovery.' Anonymous Donor - 2013 "
The use of the phrase "God's creatures" angered some scientists, including University of Chicago Department of Ecology and Evolution professor Jerry Coyne.

How many times have we heard this?  Moshe knew even before Hashem sent him back  to Mitzrayim to take out Bnei Yisrael, that he would not be zocheh to go into Eretz Yisrael. Moshe tells Hashem (Shemos 4:13), "Shlach Na B'Yad Tishlach."   Rashi explains that Moshe said, "Don't send me since I will not lead them to Eretz Yisrael."  Yet at the end of the parsha (6:1 Rashi "Ata Sir'eh") Hashem tells Moshe, "Because you complained about the way I treat Bnei Yisrael, you will only see them redeemed from Paroh and not the conquest of Eretz Yisrael."  Then again in Parshas Chukas (20:12) Hashem tells Moshe that his punishment for hitting the rock is that he would not be allowed into Eretz Yisrael.  How many times is Moshe going to be  punished with the same punishement?

The Maskil L'Dovid answers that this is similar to our yearly G'zar Din.  On Rosh HaShana Hashem decides our fate.  We then have until Yom Kippur to change it before it is sealed.  After it is sealed, it is not over yet.  Only on Hoshana Rabba is it double sealed and placed in the envelope.  Even then, the envelope is not given to the malachim whose task it is to carry out the Din, until Shmini Atzeres.

Moshe knew that his fate was not to go into Eretz Yisrael.   When he complained, his fate was sealed.  After he hit the rock, it was double sealed.  However, the envelope was still not given to the malachim.  This is why, in Parshas V'aEschanan, we find Moshe pleading to Hashem not to finalize his fate.

No matter your plight, there is always place for hope, tshuva, and tefila.

17 Dec 2013

Gam Zu L'Tova

How many of us would view getting lost in the wilderness for five days in the freezing cold as a blessing? I guess people who have a strong faith that G-d does everything for the best.

One individual's family views a harrowing ordeal as a blessing in disguise.

A 67-year-old grandfather who ran out of gas while driving his pickup truck through the freezing cold southern Washington wilderness has been found alive five days after he disappeared. And his ordeal may have saved his life, his family said today.

After Dick Sturm was rescued last Friday he was hospitalized and received a CAT scan that revealed a brain tumor and cranial bleeding...
...his daughter said the tumor might not have been found if he hadn’t gotten lost.
Continue reading: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2013/12/washington-man-lost-in-woods-gets-blessing-in-disguise-from-ordeal/

A Boston Marathon victim reflects on the worst day of his life. His hospital stay resulted in his getting acquainted with a nurse to whom he recently proposed.

"April 15 was one of the worst days of my life," James Costello, of Malden, writes in a Facebook post. "I soon wondered why and for what reason this had happened."
Eight months later, Costello would find the answer.
Read more: http://www.wcvb.com/news/local/metro/boston-marathon-victim-engaged-to-spaulding-nurse/-/11971628/23503832/-/abc0v0/-/index.html

Daniel Estrin has written an article titled New calls for Jewish prayer at Jerusalem holy site.

Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute, a group that has for years been advocating for Jewish prayer at the site, said police often harass and remove Jews who recite prayers.
"I'm asking for the right to move my lips," Richman said.
An aide to Israel's Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said the ministry has drafted a proposal allowing for limited Jewish prayer in the compound.
"We see great importance to allow equality in freedom of religion," said Idit Druyan, the aide. "There is no reason why one religion is allowed and another religion is not."
Read more: http://news.yahoo.com/calls-jewish-prayer-jerusalem-holy-170136823.html

On aging

Anyone interested in living to a ripe old age?

Matzav has an article titled Today’s Yahrtzeits & History - 14 Teves.

The article ends with the following words.

· Mrs. Miriam Dier in New York at the age of 103 years. Her grandson said that her longevity due to her never being critical of another person, she would greet everyone with sever ponim yafos, and that she possessed an inimitable Simchas HaChaim, despite the sufferings and illnesses that she had experienced in her life.http://matzav.com/todays-yahrtzeits-history-14-teves-5#more-96371

The NYPost has an article titled Botox losing face amid celeb backlash.

Julia Roberts, 46, has dissed Botox, saying, “I want my kids to know when I’m happy and when I’m confounded.”

...But it does appear that Botox’s moment in the sun as wrinkle-eraser-to-the-stars may be waning. As Roberts put it: “Your face tells a story, and it shouldn’t be a story about your drive to the doctor’s office.”

There's an interesting short clip and article in Hebrew about the snow in Israel over here.

16 Dec 2013

A state of neglect

A group of sociocultural activists here are on a mission to preserve 1,000-year-old Jewish monuments in Mala.
They are out to conserve the Jewish synagogue and cemetery, the only remaining structures representing the rich Jewish culture in Mala, which they say are in a state of neglect.
CONFIRMED: Jacob Ostreicher Has Been Released From Bolivia & Is Back In The United States - 

Incidentally, the Haftorah for Parshat Shemot begins with a verse mentioning Jacob and ends with two verses mentioning Jacob.

Yeshayahu Perek 27
6. Those who came, whom Jacob caused to take root, Israel flourished and blossomed and they filled the face of the world with fruitage.

Perek 29
22. Therefore, so said the Lord to the House of Jacob, Who redeemed Abraham, "Now Jacob shall not be ashamed, and now his face shall not pale.
23. For, when he sees his children, the work of My hands, in his midst, who shall hallow My name, and they shall hallow the Holy One of Jacob, and the God of Israel they shall revere.

Snow in Tevet

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow
Yeshayahu 1:18

אִם-יִהְיוּ חֲטָאֵיכֶם כַּשָּׁנִים כַּשֶּׁלֶג יַלְבִּינוּ

The words "yalbinu" - will be white  and "levanon" - Lebanon - share many of the same Hebrew lettters. Our hearts go out to the family of the soldier killed by a Lebanese sniper.

Shirat Devorah has an image of the tractate Yoma 35b which talks about snow on a Friday in Tevet. This daf was the one assigned for this past Friday, the 10th of Tevet, when snow fell in Yerushalayim.

If you click on the dafyomi calendar over here, you can see that the daf for today is Yoma 38.

On Friday, December 13, 10 Tevet, it was Yoma 35.

Our rabbis taught: A poor person, a rich person and a evil person come before the heavenly court. They ask the poor person, “Why did you not study Torah?” If the poor person answers, “I was poor and worried about earning a living,” they will ask the poor person, “Were you poorer than Hillel?” For it was told of Hillel that every day he used to work and earn one tropaik [small amount], half of which he would give as tuition to the doorkeeper at the House of Learning; the other half he would spend on his and his family’s needs. One day, he was unable to earn anything and the doorkeeper would not permit him to enter the House of Learning. So he climbed up to the roof and sat upon the window to hear the words of the Living God out of the mouths of Shmaya and Avtalion. That day was a Friday in the middle of winter, and snow fell on him from the sky. When the dawn rose, Shmaya said to Avtalion, “Brother Avtalion, every day, this house is light and today it is dark.” They looked up and saw the figure of a man in the window. They went up and found Hillel covered by four feet of snow. They brought him down, bathed and anointed him, and placed him in front of the fire...

The “snow siege” of Jerusalem is a God’s direct response to the recent jailing of yeshiva students who refused to accept draft orders to report for duty in the IDF, claimed Kabbalistic Rabbi Yaakov Addas Sunday.

“There is a general principle that when there is an evil decree, such as a tsunami, everyone must do some soul searching” he told the Kikar HaShabbat Haredi website.

Incidentally, the same daf discusses Potiphar’s wife who threatened Joseph with imprisonment. What was Joseph's response?

"G-d frees the imprisoned."

5 Dec 2013

False premises

You would think that the White House Press Secretary could ask the President a question directly without having to look up the answer in a book. Well, it took the Press Secretary a couple of years to come up with such a brilliant idea!

The White House on Thursday admitted that President Obama had lived with his uncle Onyango “Omar” Obama in the mid-1980s, after previously denying that the two had ever met.

...On Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that when they had first been asked about Obama's relationship with his uncle in 2011, they consulted the president's memoir Dreams from My Father and found no mention of him.

“There was no evidence they had met and that was what was conveyed,” said Carney. He added that at the time “no one spoke to the president” and asked him about the matter.
Read more: http://washingtonexaminer.com/white-house-admits-obama-met-uncle-omar/article/2540247

Rabbi Eli Mansour discusses false premises in a thought on this week's parsha which can be read here.

The moments of our lives

Sometimes one moment can transform entire lives. The DailyNews has an article titled Paul Walker's anonymous engagement ring gift: Couple finds out nearly 10 years later.
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/couple-finds-paul-walker-bought-engagement-ring-article-1.1537567#ixzz2maFiUFbM

Martin Bashir must certainly regret his moment of lashing out at Sarah Palin as he resigns from his MSNBC post. Todd Cefaratti writes about the power of our voices over here.

Here's a great thought at Israel Matzav about the rain that finally fell in Israel.

The rabbi in the video below offers a grreat thought about the moments of our lives.

4 Dec 2013

Vesein tal Umatar

At Maariv tonight, the last night of Chanukah, December 4th 2013, in chutz la’aretz, we begin saying Vesein Tal Umatar L’vracha during Shemonah Esrei in the bracha of Boreich Aleinu.
Continue reading: http://baltimorejewishlife.com/news/news-detail.php?SECTION_ID=1&ARTICLE_ID=44026

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.

Some advice

MBA student Jay Rhind writes about the advice a family member gave him which prompted him to start some introspective thinking.

“Jay, sit down with a pad of paper, a pen and an envelope. Write to future Jay. Write your first letter to future Jay in five years, the next to future Jay in 10 years, and lastly to future Jay in 50 years. Describe where you are personally and professionally. Once you’re done, read your letters. Future Jay is likely highly accomplished both personally and professionally. Now find out what is preventing present Jay from becoming future Jay and take action today.”

Mitch Karpp describes 5 critical lessons he learned on his path to getting engaged.

1. You Must Truly Desire Marriage

Two months before I met Megan, my fiancé, I was having a conversation with a woman at a Shabbat lunch about dating. She said to me, “Doesn’t the idea of marriage scare you?” I responded to her by saying that I was more terrified of not ever getting married and remaining single my entire life. It was at this moment that I realized I was ready to find my “bashert”.

A music-based training program that challenges both the body and the mind may improve brain function and mood among seniors, suggests a new study from Switzerland.
"The take-home message is that 6-months of music-based multitask training (i.e., Jaques-Dalcroze eurhythmics) - a specific training regimen which was previously shown to be effective in improving gait and reducing falls - has beneficial effects on cognition and mood in older adults," Dr. Mélany Hars, of Geneva University Hospitals, told Reuters Health in an email.

3 Dec 2013

The views of academics

Joseph Massad, an  associate professor at Columbia University, opines about Jewish suffering, Palestinian suffering.

...one should always stand with Jews as victims of European anti-Semitic violence and stand with Palestinians as victims of Jewish racist violence. There is no choice to be made between the two...

Actually, the Jews living in Germany were citizens who were contributing to the development of the country. They did not go around throwing stones at two-year-old toddlers, or conduct massacres on defenseless civilians, such as when 67 Jews were murdered in Hebron in 1929. The Jews did not send Katusha rockets towards German towns. There was no reason to conduct violent against Jews other than anti-Semitism.  So, yes, there is a choice to be made between the two and one cannot mention Palestinian suffering without pointing to contributing factors such as weapons smuggling, rocket firing, stone throwing and  Arab youths who commit acts of violence because they are motivated by hatred of Jews. 

Incidentally, there are some elucidating comments posted at the end of the article. But, at the end of the day, people will stick to their opinions.

This morning ElderofZiyon posted about an article Michael Bell, another academic, had written regarding a rock attack on Daniel Seidemann. In the original article Bell wrote,  "Given established patterns, however, the likely perpetrators are ultra-nationalist members of the settler movement."
In a subsequently amended article, he wrote, 'This time however those throwing stones were Palestinians."

A student named Christopher, who studied under the professor, opines about whether the original article's error was due to bias or ignorance.

Since the professor is so concerned about rock attacks, will he write an article or teach his students about an attack being reported in the Jersualem Post in which Arab youths were motivated by  hatred of Jews?

Can someone tell me how many times Joseph Massad talks about Israel as a racist state in this video? How does one expect students to form rational opinions if only one side is being presented? It's like being presented with only one side of a dreidel!

Jewish activists

Update: Click on the post at ElderofZiyon and scroll down to update 4.


ElderofZiyon writes about an article which is behind a paywall at the Globe and Mail authored by Michael Bell, who "has been Canada's ambassador to Israel, Jordan and Egypt. He is an adjunct professor of political science at University of Windsor and also teaches at Carleton University."

Mr. Bell wrote about his friend, Danny Seidemann, whose car was stoned in East Jerusalem two weeks ago.

No suspects have been identified. Given established patterns, however, the likely perpetrators are ultra-nationalist members of the settler movement,...

ElderofZiyon points out, "The only problem is that Seidemann was attacked by Arabs.

He was visiting a Palestinian friend in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, Sur Bahir. He admits having been targeted previously for being a Jew in Arab neighborhoods. Representatives of the Arab community visited him and expressed regret. The Jewish doctors that treated him all pretty much asked what he was doing in a neighborhood where Jews are routinely attacked if they step foot.

There are no Jews there.


As one can see from the above screen capture of a twitter account, Mr. Seidemann informed the ambassador of his error. Will the article be withdrawn or edited?

The WashingtonPost has an article titled Jewish activists set sights on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, raising alarm in Muslim world.

Two millenniums ago, this place was the site of the Jews’ Second Temple, destroyed in A.D. 70 by Roman legions under Titus, who cast the Jews into exile.

...The same courtyard is home to al-Aqsa mosque, one of the oldest in Islam, and the Dome of the Rock, the golden landmark where tradition says the prophet Mohammad made his night journey to heaven.

...“This place belongs to the Muslim people, and no others have the right to pray here,” said Sheik Azzam al-Khatib, director of the Waqf, the Islamic trust that administers the site.

Shouldn't the Palestinians, who claim the rights of a displaced people, respect the rights of the original displaced people?

2 Dec 2013

A life!!!

Those of you who regularly listen to Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein know his opinions about Facebook and the like. After receiving the cartoon below in an email, I decided to post it, along with a fabulous story told by the rabbi.

Mazal Tov, Avivit

KikarHashabat reports that Avivit Se'ar, who lost her husband and five children in a house fire in March 2012, got married last night to a man who she became acquainted with while she was sitting shiva. The principal of the school where she teaches offered the newly married couple a birchat kohein under the chupah. He also remarked that today we lit five chanukah candles, which are the five souls of  the children who are standing with us today.

Click here to read On Death and Undying Faith: The First Interview with Avivit Se’ar after the Loss of her Husband and 5 Children, which was posted in May, 2012.  

How can anyone know whether their marriage, years down the road, will be a truly happy one? According to one new study, we already do.
We know in our gut whether or not we’re happy in our relationship — even if we can’t, or won’t, admit those feelings to ourselves on a conscious level, suggests the new research, led by James McNulty, a Florida State University psychologist. McNulty writes in the paper, published Thursday in the journal Science, that "even though people may be unwilling or unable to recognize any deep-seated discontent they have toward their partners, that discontent may nonetheless shape their relationship outcomes.”
Read more: http://www.today.com/health/you-know-your-gut-if-your-marriage-will-be-happy-2D11661922

Regarding the latest report about a Hasidic man being a victim of the knockout game, perhaps some people might wish to consult Gary Moskowitz.

1 Dec 2013

Gratitude is an attitude

A prayer that relates briefly to the story of Hanukkah and Purim, [Al Hanisim is] inserted into the 18th benediction of the Amidah ("Modim") and into the second benediction of Birkat Hamazon [the grace after meals]("Nodeh L'kha"). 
...Since Al Hanisim serves as an expression of thanksgiving, it is most fitting that it is placed into the benediction called Hoda'ah ("Thanksgiving").

Since the al Hanisim prayer acknowledges that the Chanukah festival was established l’hodos u’l’hallel — to “thank and praise" G-d, I thought it would be interesting to post about an article which discusses gratitude.

Many people may think of gratitude as a "passive" gesture -- you wait for something good, then feel grateful, said David DeSteno, a professor of psychology at Northeastern University, in Boston. DeSteno studies the effects that thankfulness can have on people's behavior.

But a growing body of research is suggesting the opposite is true, according to DeSteno: By choosing to feel gratitude, people can make positive changes in their lives.
I came across the following quote attributed to anonymous in a book titled Real Moments by Barbara De Angelis. After you read it, perhaps you will feel gratefuul for what's in your life at this moment. 
"Just think how happy you'd be if you lost everything you have right now - and then, got it back again..."

21 Nov 2013

One's goal

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

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

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

a time to weep and a time to laugh

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

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

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

Undermining religion

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

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

The article also quotes pastor and author Robert Jeffress.

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

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

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

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

20 Nov 2013

Distractions, challenges, self-control and achievement

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

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

Click here to listen to the rabbi's words.

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

The Altar

INN has an article titled

Ancient Jewish Altar Found in Shilo

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

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

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

Georgetown University to Host Member of Egypt’s Nazi Party

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

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

A letter by Margaret Sullivan is posted at the site.

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

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


19 Nov 2013

Tablets and the Google effect

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

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

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

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

Change we believe in

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

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

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

18 Nov 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's an international term

from Jerusalem in Hebrew

It's an international term, Mr. Bennett

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

Click here to view interview.

The Thanksgiving turkey

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

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

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

Of marriageable age

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

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

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

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

7 Nov 2013

Integrity and modesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orthodox and Conservative

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

Harry Marylus writes about The Demise of Conservative Judaism.

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

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

6 Nov 2013

The newly hired columnist

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

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

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

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

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

Kikar Hashabat has a segulah for riches over here.

5 Nov 2013

Our own Thanksgiving

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

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

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

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

Malcolm Gladwell on faith and "desirable difficulty"

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

4 Nov 2013

Prayer and thanks

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

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

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

Kinus Hasheluchim

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

Edie Littlefield Sundby discusses her options for health care.

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

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

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

3 Nov 2013

Sold for a pittance

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

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

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

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

Karachi landmarks

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

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

26 Oct 2013

Three charged

In an image which will cause widespread outrage, two serving British soldiers appear to give Nazi-style salutes while standing to attention in front of the Union Flag.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2477639/SHAMEFUL-Fury-UK-soldiers-investigated-performing-Nazi-style-salute-Helmand.html

Police have charged three people over an alleged anti-Semitic attack in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
Four men and a woman were walking home from the synagogue in Bondi in the early hours of Saturday when a group of about eight young men began yelling anti-Semitic insults at them.
Continue reading: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-10-26/jewish-attack-antisemitic-bondi-charged/5047598

Shmuel Rosner discusses the end of Daylight Savings Time in Israel this Saturday night.

Most Israelis — 73 percent of them, according to a poll taken on May 30 — have been wanting to extend D.S.T. so that they can have light during more of their active hours, save on electricity and drive more safely. (Not all these expected benefits have been proved.) But ultra-Orthodox politicians have opposed the idea on the grounds that longer days make religious practices more burdensome.
Morning prayers can only begin with sunrise, but if sunrise comes later because of D.S.T. (this Saturday in Tel Aviv dawn comes at 6:53), some people might have difficulty completing their prayers and getting to work on time.
Let's hope the implementation won't cause too much hardship for people who daven Shachris before beginning their work day.