Sep 28, 2006
At least someone in the government is trying to take the upper hand in negotiations.
But his position does not make sense (though I am all for it). Here is Shimon Peres. A person who has spent the last 14 years actively (and much more than that in stages) pushing his plans for his vision of a new Middle East. A Middle East in which the "settlements" would be abandoned by Israel in exchange for peace. In case no peace would be offered, we would abandon them anayway.
Shimon Peres jumped ship from his Labor party, of which he has been member of since its inception. He has led it many times and even served as Prime Minister under the mantleship of the Labor Party, pushing platforms of giving up land for peace. After deacdes of doing that, he was even willing to abandon his Labor home for a new home in which he felt presented a better opportunity for abandoning the settlements (without even an illusion of peace in return).
Now, this same Shimon Peres is threatening the Palestinians. He is saying if they do not shape up, if they do not stop shooting Kassam rockets into Israel, they will have to be aware that Israel will begin allowing construction in the settlements again. Israel cannot get hit from both sides, he says, where we are forced to live wth rockets, yet still restrict the "settlers" for pursuits of peace. If there is no peace, then the settlements will continue to grow.
In my opinion, that is the threat that should have been used all along. Until the Palestinians are ready to work out a deal and have peace with Israel, Israel has no reason to and should not stop building in the settlements,
However, for Shimon Peres to say that is a real shocker!
It is pretty transparent, if you ask me. The Palestinians will probably (unless they are really stupid) see it as an empty threat. After all, how can Shimon Peres have the legitimacy to use the continuation and expansion of settlement activity as a threat when he has dedicated his career and life to exactly the opposite? They will likely assume it is just a threat.
But at least someone on the Israeli side is finally taking the strong negotiation tactic. Finally suggesting a forceful threat of repercussions that might actually make the Palestinians think twice about their methods and styles. Rather than just responding to the tone and offers set by the Palestinians, womeone on our side finally steps forward and is forcing a new situation.
Kol Hakavod, Shimon. Even if you are transparent.
Last night, Dudu Topaz performed an outrageous, and in my opinion stupid, stunt. Why he did it, I do not know. There does not seem to have been a point to it, other than the fact that it has not yet been done (I have no idea if that is true) and would increase ratings. It was not a test of endurance and stamina, which despite the stupidness of some of David Blaines stunts, at least they had that factor. It was simply a stunt for stunts sake.
NOTE: I did not see the stunt performed. I read about it in the newspaper this mornign on the way to work. It has been on the radio and people have been talking about it.
What was the stunt?
Dudu Topaz lit himself on fire. He coated himself with protective materials and coatings and lit the match. I am told by people who saw it that it was a very impressive display.
I do not see the attraction in this that people should run to watch his show. I even find it kind of stupid and boring. Yes, it was risky, but he took all the proper precautions (I guess it was not enough as you will soon see), so what he did was really kind of pointless and unimpressive. I would be much mroe impressed with a fascinating stunt that actually tests his skills and abilities.
Anyways, the local news have been reporting that Dudu Topaz did not come out of his stunt unscathed. He came out with an injury to his ear. He seems to have burned something, despite the precautions he took, and is undergoing examinations to determine how much damage and how permanent it will be.
People are glued to their radios listening for an update to his condition. When the radio says something about him everybody starts clucking their tongues (one of the Israeli gestures that Americans usually hate, such as the upturned squeezed fingers meaning wait a minute, the tsk of the tongue, the shoulder shrug, among others) meaning "poor guy".
Is this guy deserving of our condern and mercy? He did an incerdibly stupid act and he knew the risks involved. It is not like something beyond his control happened. He did it to himself. yes, we Jews are Rachmanim B'nei Rachmanim, but does that apply to this situation. Are we meant to be concerned with people who bring such misfortune upon themselves?
My initial thoughts were that the guy is an idiot and deserves whatever damage they find in his ear or anywhere else on his body. He does not deserve our rachmanus.
Then, as I was writing this post, the thought struck me. We are in the midst of the Aseres Y'Mei Teshuva, the Ten Days of Repentance. We are asking of Hashem every day to forgive us for our sins. In a few days is Yom Kippur when we will spend the whole day in shul fasting and praying, beseeching Hashem for rachmanus and mercy we probably do not always deserve. We will be asking Him to forgive us and change our fates/destinies/futures for good. We will be asking Him to cancel our punishments, even for punishments we brought upon ourselves by our blatant sinning.
Maybe during these Aseres Y'Mei Teshuva we should show compassion and mercy even to those not necessarily deserving of it, so we can go with a clear conscience to Hashem and ask Him to show compassion and mercy to us even if we do not deserve it.
Refuah Shleimah Dudu.
Sep 27, 2006
Where I work, there is a team from Magen David Adom that comes every few months to have people in the area donate. I usually try to go to either that one or to a local Bet Shemesh blood raiser (instead of fund raiser).
Today was the day for the blood drive near work. I saw a sign near the elevators. So, off I go to give blood. I get there and find out I am disqualified. It is too soon since my knee surgery. She said there still might be "batzeket" (whatever that is), from the swelling.
Oh well. Bet Shemesh is having the blood drive in a couple of weeks. Hopefully they will let me give then.
Sep 25, 2006
That is in brief. There are more specifics, such as how Rosh Hashana became 2 days instead of one, etc..
This year Rosh Hashana fell out on Shabbos and Sunday. In keeping with tradition, shuls did not blow shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Most shuls that is.
About 100 years ago there was a Rabbi in Jerusalem named Rav Shlezinger. Rav Shlezinger was an erudite man and very learned and talented. He studied the issue and felt that the ban on blowing shofar should be cancelled. I do not remember what exactly the reasons were, but he wrote a very scholarly article supporting his view. He travelled around to the Rabbinic leaders of the time trying to drum up support for his view.
Most Rabbis did not support him, though some gave him their quiet support. They liked the idea but were concerned about having their name behind such a drastic change. After much debate, he ended up having to go it pretty much alone. He held his own small minyan in jerusalem in which he blew the shofar (when Rosh Hashana fell out on shabbos). He had to do it very privately as he had been threatened by the zealots of Jerusalem. Rumors have it that some of the gedolim of his time would go to listen to the shofar blown, but would do so in secret. A number of responsa have been written about the issue.
This year, reports have it (I have not yet personally substantiated the reports but will try), that a minyan in Jerusalem blew the shofar on shabbos. The minyan was a small minyan in the Old City consisting of about 25 people. It was under the auspices of the "New Sanhedrin" (you can go to their website by clicking in the links section in my sidebar).
The New Sanhedrin considers themselves a continuation of the original Sanhedrin. While not yet universally accepted as such, they are working on drumming up the support. They paskened that the shofar should be blown on shabbos, as it was originally meant to be. I do not know the details of how they came to the psak, but it seems they were following in the trail blazed by Rav Shlezinger. The minyan supposedly consisted of mostly members of the Sanhedrin, which is a very diverse body of scholars, including (and were present at the minyan) Sefardic and Ashkenazic Rabbis, members of Toldos Aharon, Ger Chassidim, Litvishe Rabbis, etc..
Sep 21, 2006
You should all have a good year coming up that brings you happiness, health, wealth and the fulfillment of your dreams, goals and wishes. The new year should bring quiet and peace to Israel and to jews around the world, wherever they might be.
The coming year should be one in which our brothers and children who have been forcefully separated from their families shall be returned to their brethren and families.
And may the coming year be a year of the final geula with the building of the Beit Hamikdash.
Sep 20, 2006
My friends son was driving last night. He did not have his drivers license with him, as he had forgotten it at home. He was stopped 4 times by police at random checkpoints. The police often set up random checkpoints where they will stop cars for spot checks, to make sure cars are not stolen, for example. Often these checks will take place in the middle of the night. This 19 year old kid was stopped 4 times last night at different checkpoints at around 3 in the morning!! With no license. He talked his way out of the ticket each time.
That is Israeli!
Sep 19, 2006
Dan Halutz, the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, today made an interesting announcement. He said that "ALL (emphasis mine) troops would be home in time for Rosh Hashana.
Has the IDF now adopted the FDA policy? Does "all" only mean "most"? Will the abducted soldiers also be home by Rosh Hashana?
Sep 18, 2006
What is Uman? Uman is a town in the Ukraine. It is the "home" of the Breslav hassidim and the burial place of the Breslav Rebbe, Rav Nachman (of Na, Nach, Nachma, Nachman M'Uman fame). His hassidim, students, fans and those looking for a spiritual boost or just an interesting or good time make the pilgrimage to his grave for the holiday prayers. It is supposed to be (according to Breslav Hassidim) a special "segula" to having your tefillot answered, as supposedly Rav Nachman promised that people who pray by his grave would be answered with his help in bringing the teffilot to Hashem.
Interesting factoid - Rav Nachman died at the young age of 32! He accomplished a tremendous amount of Torah and teaching and writing and achieved greatness by the young age of 32. I am 34 and have pretty much accomplished nothing (other than writing sometimes interesting posts on a blog a few people read). Treppenqitz posted today an interesting factoid noting a similar discrepency - Hertzl died at age 44 having accomplished much writing and thought and having laid the blueprints for a modern Jewish Israel. Check out his interesting post (in the sidebar in my blogroll).
Anyways, back to Uman.
Now is the time of year Breslav Hassidim are in a high. They are going to visit their Rebbe. Many non-Breslavers go as well. I have one friend going with his wayward son, hoping it will bring a bit of a spiritual boost to his son. His son is psyched about going and I hope it works and invigorates him.
I have a friend who is a Breslaver Hassid. I asked him if he is going to Uman this year. He said of course he is, as he does every year. I asked him if Rav Nachman really meant everybody should come to his grave. Was Rav Nachman really intending for his followers to leave Israel to pray at his grave or maybe he was telling his followers living in the Ukraine to come to the grave, never intending for hassidim in a later time living in Israel to come back? His response was even from israel. he told me that Rav Nachman was very clear in writing and giving over that all the hassidim, wherever they are, should daven by his grave. He then told me that Rav Nachman even wrote that Mashiach himself, when he eventually comes to us, will leave Israel to pray by his (Rav Nachman's) grave. I never heard that before and thought that was very interesting.
Rabbi Lazer Brody wrote an interesting piece and linked to an article from a Breslav website about Hassidim going to Uman and how their wives deal with being left alone with the kids for the holiday. It was a very interesting piece and you should check it out (Lazer Beams in my blogroll), to read about another aspect of going to Uman.
A friend of mine told me that somebody he works with will not ever consider going to Uman. She told him, her father barely escaped from Uman during the holocaust. She told him the town had an extremely vibrant and large Jewish community and they were decimated by the local gentiles in the holocaust. She considers it a shonda that people go there now and pay big money to goyim who killed the original residents of the town and stole all their belongings. That people should have to pay many hundreds of dollars for beds in houses that were originally Jewish but stolen during the holocaust by goyim is not even a consideration in her mind.
Having asked a Rabbi what his thoughts were on people leaving Israel to pray by the grave, this was his response. He was not dealing with the issue of going to a grave to pray, he was only dealing with the issue of leaving Israel for this adventure and whether there is something to it. He said that in hassidic thought the average person is not considered worthy enough to have his prayers answered affirmatively by Hashem. It is only by attaching oneself to a Rebbe, someone of great stature who is worthy and has the power to move heavens, that one has a chance of having his prayers accepted. Therefore many hassidim travel around the world to daven with their Rebbe, so their prayers will make the trip to hashem bundled with the Rebbe's prayers. That is why Breslaver hassidim go to Uman - so their teffilot which on their own might not be worthy will be bundled with the multitudes of other teffilot and the push of Rav Nachman and make it to Hashems ears.
There are a number of aspects of going to Uman for the holidays and nothing I said should be taken as a psak halacha one way or the other. It is food for thought and if you are interested in going and are unsure whether it is appropriate or not, you should speak to your own Rav to clarify the issues.
Sep 17, 2006
Sep 15, 2006
Wednesday evening I decided I would not start walking normally again if I kept using the crutches. I put the crutches aside and walked around the house. I do not think you can actually call what I did "walking". It was more like a combination between baby steps, shuffling, hobbling and spasms. But I made it around the house without collapsing in pain. After a bit of that I went back to the crutches.
Thursday morning I went to the doctor for a checkup. He changed my bandages and told me that I only need to use the crutches as much as I feel is necessary. That was the end. Despite the fact that I could not walk without them, and was hobbling in a way that was likely to throw out my back and destroy my other knee, I decided the sooner I start the quicker my walking will get back to normal.
No more crutches no matter how much my wife pleaded with me. I walked around all day without touching the crutches. And yes I had pain in my back and knee (other knee). But as the day went on, my walk got more and more back to normal and the awkwardness and discomfort went away more and more.
I am still not walking completely normal, but I am getting there.
There is a lesson in there somewhere. We all have our crutches we lean on in life and they make us feel comfortable, but they hinder our progress. We have to find them and wean ourselves off them (or go cold turkey which is the method I prefer when possible).
Sep 12, 2006
I had my arthroscopic surgery last night. It was real quick and went pretty well, I guess. I will only know when my leg gets back to normal. What was really cool about it was I got to watch the surgery on the monitor screen and the doctor explained at times what he was doing.
They gave me a spinal anaesthetic which paralyzed the lower half of the body. The shot was pretty wierd. I had to squeeze my knees up and my head down so he could get a good shot in my spine. When he gave me the shot I felt a wave going through my body.. After a few minutes my whole lower half of the body was completely paralyzed. Amazing what a few drops of "water" can do!! Feeling my legs made me think I was feeling a large lump of dead meat, which is what I guess is really all we are (doesn't it say that in pikei avot or somewhere?). The flesh felt flaccid and not like live limbs. It was pretty funky.
I was trying to see if I could have my mind overpower the numbness and make my feet move a bit, but I was unsuccessful. I did not really try too hard because I was worried that if successful I would mess things up with the surgery. I do not know if I could not do it because I did not try hard enough or because I was paralyzed. Probably the latter.
I watched him cut out and suction the torn meniscus and before I knew it it was over. I was in the recovery room and less than 2 hours latter I had full feeling back in my legs and was hobbling out of the hospital on crutches. On the way home we stopped for a shwarma and ate by my in-laws house. Then homeward and off to sleep.
Sep 10, 2006
On Thursday my 7 year old son fell down in school on a fence (don't ask) and ended up with a metal pole in his leg. He got some stitches but over shabbos it looked infected. Last night we went to the hospital and it was deemed to be infected. He was admitted. Today they ripped open his stitches and cleaned out the infection. Hopefully he will get better fast and get to go home. I slept with him last night and will be there tonight replacing my wife...
Tomorrow evening I will be having arthroscopic surgery on my knee.
On Friday my computer exploded. I bought it about 5 years ago and it was already then about a year old..
So I have and will have little time in the near fututre for blogging. When I can, I will.
Some interesting things noticed:
1. about 98% of the doctors and nurses in Shaarei Tzedek hospital are wearing Crocs.
2. (my wife pointed out to me) The reason why someone admitted ot a hospital is called a patient is because that is exactly what he needs - patience. Everything is so slow in the emergency room. We got there about 10:30 pm last night and until everything was done and he was sent to a room was 2:30 AM. We were exhausted and frustrated by then. You must have patience.
3. The girl in the bed next to my sons had an mistaken appendicitice. They took out the appendix and found it to be clean. Poor girl. Good thing doctors have no idea what the appendix is for anyway, so hopefully she will not miss it too much. Hopefully her pains went away, because it would be really nasty if they took it out and she still had her stomach pains..
Sep 7, 2006
When I find the whole clip, I will link to that.
I just located the clip.. click here to watch it
Sep 6, 2006
This is the third video in a series created by Olah Chadasha of Greetings from the French Hill. This one focuses on soldiers in prayer on the battlefront. She has put together another great clip and we are waiting impatiently for the last couple clips in the series (of 5)..
If you wish to see the 1st part of the video, as it was aired last night, click here
Sep 5, 2006
Our train was sitting outside of Kfar Chabad. We had been sitting there for a bout 15 minutes already with no end in sight. The elderly fellow (not religious) across from me was on the phone with whoever was expecting him. He was informing them that he would be late to the meeting.
Then he said, "Maybe we can all go into Kfar Chabad and pray so the train will start moving.". It was pretty funny at the time...
Sep 4, 2006
We are almost at the point where we will have no government and no president.
No government because everyday something new happens that brings the demise of the current coalition a bit closer. Today it is a budget crisis, along with the increasing seriousness of the investigation into Olmerts bribery affair and political appointments affair.
No president because of the investigation in his sexual offenses affair.
The chaor would be because according to the laws of our political system, the government elects the president, and the president forms the government (he is responsible for appointing the appropriate minister to form a coalition).
We are almost in a situation where the president might be forced to resign, and the Knesset might have to dissolve (and the PM might be forced to resign, depending on the outcome of the multiple investigations in his affairs). Who will then elect whom?
I have noticed an unusual trend for which I do not have a satisfactory explanation or understanding. People come to Israel and they flip out. I am not referring to the Jerusalem Syndrome when I say "flip out". I am talking about their level of religious adherence.
Many people come to Israel and all of the sudden they do everything to the extreme.
For example, some people will eat only food items bearing the certification of the Badatz Eidah Chareidit kashrut authority. I have no problem with that. If somebody feels the Badatz is much more careful than other hechsherim and they are aware of the differences, more power to him! But let us look at what commonly happens. Somebody eats only Badatz. Yet when he goes back to America for a visit he is not careful to limit himself to the most stringent limiting hechsher and only eat food from some small satmar style hechsher.
Generally these people will eat every OU product on the shelf (I am not talking about the chalav yisrael issue here). There are dozens of hechsherim in Israel that are similar to the OU. I am not an expert in the differences between them, but all (or at least almost all) the mehadrin hechsherim in Israel have adhere to a superior level of stringencies and it is ignorance to reject the hechsher of Rabbi Landau or the Chatam Sofer organization (these are just 2 examples I picked out of a hat) when they will then be eating OU products in America (or imported from America) or other hechsherim.
We had some yeshiva boys over recently. They go to an extreme yeshiva. After having gone on a tiyul on a very hot day my wife brought them some artiks (ice-pops) to help them cool off. They saw the hechsher on the artiks was Chasam Sofer and they said no thank you. Is it ignorance? I do not think so. What can be wrong with an ice pop that has a mehadrin hechsher? We are not even talking about meat which is more complicated and would be more understandable (though I am not convinced about that either), we are talking about ice-pops that had a mehadrin hechsher, yet anything other than Badatz Eidah Charedit was unacceptable.
We have friends who only eat Badatz Eidah Chareidit. They are baalei teshuva from the US who moved to Israel and have hooked up with extreme elements in the neighborhood and now reject most things they considered normal until recently. The accept the rejection of Rabbanut Yerushalayim L'Mehadrin that Badatz supporters adhere to claiming the Jerusalem Rabbinate has been taken over by political elements. They reject the Badatz of Agudas Yisrael (Ger chassidim community) claiming they adhere to lower standards of kashrut (I cannot even imagine what those lower standards are and nobody has even been able to give me an example of a lower standard held by that hechsher, yet they reject it saying it is not as good), etc. They recently went to a restaurant in Jerusalem that had the hechshers of Jerusalem Rabbinate L'Mehadrin and Agudat Yisrael. They came back and commented how all these frum people were there and so many chassidim. They could not understand why all these people eat that hechsher (they were compromising on their own "standards" because of relatives in town they had to take somewhere and their own standards limit them to going practically nowhere). We asked them why they do not. They did not have an answer.
Another example I have in my head is schools, though this applies more to kollel families than to working families (it is much less common among working families). I know somebody who was living in Israel learning in Kollel. This person was very serious about his learning and was truly a talmid chacham. He was "a bit" extreme and the local Bais Yaakov was not good enough for his daughter. He had to send her to a different neighborhood to a school that only taught in yiddish and was considered pretty radical. That is fine, it is his (and his wife's) prerogative to choose such a school. Yet recently they left Israel to be involved in starting an "out of town" kollel in a place where there is no religious community. he will be sending hsi daughter to a school where her classmates are from families of shabbos transgressors and probably co-ed, at least until they have enough funding and ability to start their own school. So, in Israel the average frum family was not good enough to associate with but in yehupitzville you can let her associate with kids who might not even be Jewish, let alone shomer shabbos?
I know somebody else who lived in Israel for a couple of years and he learned in a very serious kollel here. This fellow was also a person very serious about learning. When in Israel they were a very extreme couple limiting who their kids could associate with and what hechsherim they would accept. A number of years ago they left Israel to be involved in an "out of town" kollel. He has been pretty successful there and has developed a nice small community, from what I hear.
What is their situation today? Their 11 year old daughter's best friend is a boy, because he is the only other frum kid in the class. In Israel he would never have considered letting her even speak to a boy, let alone go to a coed school, let alone go to a school with anyone less than the most observant in town. Yet in the USA he finds a place to live where he sends his daughter to a coed school with children who are mostly not religious. That is in addition to the fact that each of their kids have their own computer and are involved in all the latest cultural norms, when in Israel they would have been on the bandwagon looking down on anybody who did so.
I have no problem with somebody doing any of the things mentioned above. You want to send your kid to a co-educational school - go ahead. You want to eat a certain hechsher not acceptable to others - go ahead. I am a very accepting person. What disturbs me is the hypocritical aspect of the issue. In Israel all these things would be banned by such people and anybody doing those things would be looked down upon, yet they feel comfortable doing it themselves outside of Israel. That is what i do not understand.
I am not talking about people who have no choice and do the best they can. If they lived in a small community and became religious and that was the only school in town and the only kosher food in town and they could not move because he had a job he could not change or whatever, that would be understandable. But these are people who chose where they want to live. They chose to live in small communities with no or little religious infrastructure. They moved away from places where they kept (adopted) certain ideals. Why were they willing to give up on the ideals they were so strict about in Israel? Is it so easy to sacrifice your ideals on the altar of doing kiruv or making a decent kollel salary for a few years?
Those are a few examples of situations I am familiar with in which this hypocricy is clear. People who are normal and accepting in the US or wherever they come from come to Israel and reject everything but the most extreme. People come to Israel and flip out. I do not know why - maybe someone can explain it to me. Sometimes it can be written off as either ignorance, lack of thought, sheep mentality, politics or other inane reasons, but usually it is just fliiping out. Why?