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May 31, 2006

Staying up all night on Shavuos

Yes, I am planning on staying up all night on Shavuos to learn. If I am successful, it will continue my streak of about 20 years or so of staying up all night (I never actually counted and do not recall when I began staying up all night learning. I simply calculated from my bar mitzva and assumed that because that is when I began my yeshiva career, that is probably when I began staying up all night, though it might have been one or two years earlier or one or two years later).

I am sure some of those years I stayed up learning more and some less. Some I probably would have done better sleeping at night and some not. Bute every year I stayed up. Also, every year by the end of the night I say to myself that this is the last time I do this and next year I am going to sleep at night. By the end of the night many people, myself included, are sleeping through much of davening, definitely the parts of akdamus (why do we say that anyway? I don't think anybody knows what it means or why we say it..) and Ruth and Torah reading, if not other parts as well. The last hour or two of learning, even if one learned very well until then, is often spent trying to find something to nosh on, something to talk about, something to keep you awake. Not much actual learning.

So, every year before Shavuos I debate whether I am going to stay up this year or not. This year I have not yet debated it in my mind, but just assume I will as a fait accompli.

Is that the way it should be? Is it better to stay up all night, most of the time learning, if it will adversely affect your ability to function during davening or function the next day? Is it better, perhaps to learn part of the night, go to sleep and wake up at a normal time to daven properly? Maybe learn all night and then go to sleep for a few hours at alos and wake up later to daven (my shul is having that option for a second minyan this year) properly?

I do not have the answer. But I will be staying up this year again.

May 25, 2006

Freedom of Religion in our Government

PM Olmert today gave a speech in honor of Yom Yerushalayim, the day Yerushalayim was recaptured in the Six Day War. During the speech Olmert made a point of saying how he will keep Jerusalem united and it has never been more united as it is today, etc.. He also recalled the great day by quoting Motta Gur's famous statement of Har Habayit is in our hands. Olmert said that statement was the greatest moment in Jewish history and there never was and never will be another moment like that. Olmert said he would ensure freedom of religion and worship and promised to safeguard the holy sites.

I have written on this previously, but a speech like this creates a good moment to mention it again. Olmert says he promises freedom of religion and worship and will guard the holy sites. What is he talking about? A Jew cannot go up onto Har Habayit freely. He is practically strip searched before going up and he is not being searched for weapons. We are searched in case God forbid someone would try to bring up a prayer book. If someone is seen by the police on the Mount moving his lips, he is warned due to suspicion he might be praying and if the warning goes unheeded he will be thrown off the Mount and possibly arrested. Today the courts prohibited the Temple Mount Faithful group to go up on Temple Mount.

Are we allowed to go to the holy gravesire of Yosef Hatzaddik? No. They almost never even allow scheduled visits for Jews anymore. The other night was yesod she'byesod of the omer, which is considered Yosef Hatzadik's night where traditionally many would go to his grave to spend the night in prayer. I have gone in years past. This year they did not allow any Jews to go there, even on this night!

This is freedom of religion? Freedom of worship? This is not Communist Russia we are talking about, nor any other country that subjected Jews to persecution over the ages. This is modern day Israel that does not allow a Jew to pray in Judaism's holiest site. That is freedom of religion? Freedom of Worship?

Whose freedom does Olmert profess to protect? Is he trying to fool everybody with such statements? He is only protecting the rights of the Arabs and Christians, yet he tramples upon the rights of the Jews.

This seems to be the way of the government in general. Bend over backwards to do everything for the Arabs and nothing for the Jews. Since the elections, Amir Peretz, our Defense Minister, has acted more like the Defense Minister of Palestine than of Israel. He is always very quick to denounce settlers and Jews he does not like, but always finds excuses for the Arabs. He has done everything in his power for the Palestinians, but little to protect Jews. He opened border crossings and allowed more Palestinians in for work. He told people in Sderot to stay off the top floor of buildings, instead of protecting them from the nearly daily rocket attacks. Now the news sites are reporting that Peretz is transfering weapons to Abbas' people.

I am not saying that we should deny Arabs their rights. Their rights should be protected as well. But our governments priority should first be protecting us and guarding our rights to religion and worship.

in memory of

I went to be menachem aveil my friend last night. His 89 year old mother passed away on Friday night. They were finishing up the Friday night shabbos dinner and she passed a serving dish to someone. Somebody said something to her and she did not respond. They looked at her and her head was lolling backwards against the chair and they could not get her to respond. They called the paramedics (Hatzalah) and a doctor who lives nearby, but they declared her dead.

My friend decribed to me the unusual experience. They had to figure out what to do with her, because dead bodies are considered muktza on shabbos. He remembered we had learned it and discussed the topic not too long ago in daf yomi, but he could not remember the conclusion. So. he ran over to his Rabbis house to ask what is to be done. He ended up after some research putting a piece of bread on the body which then allowed him to move the body. But he had a hard time moving the body (let's not forget, the body is right next to the table. would not make for any sort of non-tense shabbos) because "chai nosei es atzmo" and a dead body seems to weigh much more and is unwieldy. Anyway, he and his son teamed up and moved the body downstairs to her apartment. They then spent the rest of shabbos through Sunday doign shmirah on the body until the funeral..

Tonight I went to be menachem aveil another friend. This was a man who came for a while to my daf yomi shiur a number of years ago for some time. He was 72 years old and passed away. I went to visit his son (also a friend of mine) and wife. They are sefardim and were preparing for a traditional seuda that sefardim make near the end of the shiva period. The son told me that his father had been born in Afghanistan and lived there until he was about 30. He then went to Calcutta, and eventually India where he met his wife and eventually Toronto then home to Israel the last few years.

His son told me that he had had intestinal cancer. He had a large growth which they surgically removed. The surgery made him very weak, but he felt it his responsability to do all he could to fight it. After a couple of months the growth returned in another lcoation but they could not operate as his body was not strong enough. They told him he has to eat a lot to build up strength so they would be able to operate. He could not eat because of the growth in the intestine. Anything he would eat he would almost immediately vomit out. But he was a fighter and tried to get his body some nutrients to make himself strong, despite how it made him so sick. Eventually he succumbed and passed on.

Somebody in my daf yomi shiur had a yahrtzeit tonight for his grandfather. He told us that his grandfather was from Europe and went to America to make money to send back to his family until he could bring them over. Then World War 1 broke out. He could not send them any letters and could not go back. He lived apart from his wife for 9 years until he could bring her and the kids over.. He could not deal with workign on shabbos or looking for a new job every Sunday, so he opened up his own little shop and slept in the back room.

These people's neshamos should all have aliyos and they should be meilitz yosher for us down here.

May 24, 2006


I just heard an explosion outside the window. No police yet but lots of smoke. based on the location and the type of smoke, some people here in the know think it was criminal, rather than terrorist.
I hope everybody is ok.

It seems the explosion was in a nearby carwash run by known mafiosa named Alperon...

Kwik Kosher

Check out this great video about Kwik Kosher

Thank you

Thank you to Shifra for the great new header/banner I put up. Great design and fast!!

May 23, 2006

Jewish or Israeli?

I was reading an interesting interview in the Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew edition). The interview was with Eitan Wertheimer. Eitan runs the family business named Iskar, most famous for having been sold a week or so ago to Warren Buffet for the grand total of 4 billion dollars. Many have wanted to interview the Wertheimer family members since the acquisition, but it seems they are very private people and initially gave a few interviews but have since stopped (they even rejected Forbes according to the article).

The impression I had from the interview is that the Wertheimer family is not religious (though they are descendants of Rashi). However they are also not anti-religious and in the interview he said many things that show his sensitivity to religion in different ways. He said one very interesting thing in the interview I wanted to comment on, as he said something that was similar to a topic I have written about previously.

The interviewer asked Mr. Wertheimer if during business dealing abroad does his Jewish identity, rather than just his Israeli identity, become more dominant?

Mr. Wertheimer's response was (my translation from Hebrew),"In Israel I generally think Israeli. Abroad - generally Jewish. When I am in Israel there is less meaning to being Jewish. Specifically when I am abroad I find myself putting on a kippa and visiting shuls.. etc.."

Something about Israel makes Israelis feel that just being here makes them feel Jewish and they do not need to act Jewish or perform the requiremensts of a Jew. I am Israeli - that is most important and supercedes yet includes Jewishness, and therefore i do not need to show my jewishness in any other way, as it is already manifested in my being Israeli.

This is a major factor in the argument of those who reject Zionism, specifically secular Zionism. Aside from the specific problems that upset them at the founding and early years of the State, what upsets them greatly is the fact that Jews no longer need to perform mitzvos or act Jewish in order to feel part of the Jewish nation. They can live in Israel and that makes them feel Jewish. Just the fact that when an Israeli leaves Israel and feels the natural need to show his Judaism in ways he normally does not proves the fact that Israel has replaced the concept and community of Judaism.

Thuis argument does have a point and if one pays attention he will see very commonly that Israelis travelling abroad (in jewish communities around the world - not necessarily backpacking in Thailand or Singapore) will act more "Jewish" than they do back at home.

It is an interesting phenomenon

no more non-Israeli conversions

In the latest edition of the conversion dispute, things have taken a serious turn. While previously we found out that the Rabbinate of Israel has decided to reject conversions by the RCA, even those signed on by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, now they have raised the level of conflict. Reports have it that they are now rejecting all foreign conversions. That is right - all.

The Cheif Rabbinate has decided to make procedures uniform and require any Rabbi abroad who wishes to be approved to effect conversions, will have to pass the Rabbanut exams for conversion, effectively making the Rabbanut the sole decider on conversions around the world. They have prepared a list of 50 Rabbis who are allowed to perform conversions without taking the exams. Rabbi Schwartz from the RCA is on the list. The Rabbanut response though is that only conversions actually performed by these 50 Rabbis will be accepted, but not those they sign on as part of the overall beis din, if they were not the officiating Rabbi.

I do not even know what to write about this. I am completely in shock as to how the Rabbanut can overtly reject Orthodox Rabbis all over the USA and Europe. How can the Rabbanut think that they are more of an authority on conversions and have the gall to reject conversions by others? Does that mean that converts, either those already converted or those future converts, will not be allowed to come to Israel, as they will be recognized as non-Jews?

May 18, 2006

Israeli bureaucracy? NOT!!!

My Israeli passport is due to expire in July. A little while ago I receive in the mail a letter informing me that my passport is due to expire. The letter continues to inform me that I have the option of mailing it in to them (via registered mail) using the attached envelope (not enclosed, but attached. You have to live here to know what an attached envelope is) and they will mail it back. Three days after I mailed it in, I already got it back in the mail. Painless. Simple. And free. The way it should be.

May 16, 2006

do as much as you can or try to be perfect?

We learned in daf yomi last night an interesting dilemma. We are concluding Tractate Pesachim, but are learning an earlier section, as we adjusted the schedule to learn the 10th perek before Pessach and then went back to complete what we skipped.

The Gemarah discussed whether the bones of the Korban pessach need to be burned the next day (really two days later because of the chag). The premise is that the Torah says not to leave over any meat. Any meat left over must be burned. No bones are allowed to be broken. The Gemarah's concern is regarding the bone marrow. The marrow has the status of meat and therefore must be eaten. however there is no way to access the marrow without breaking the bones, yet you are not allowed to break bones of the korban. A dilemma.

The Torah seemingly is giving a commandment that is impossible to fulfill. Eat all the meat, but you can't! By default, we are given a mitzva that we cannot completely do, and we are given a negative commandment that we have to transgress!

This obviously turned into a big discussion and debate during the shiur. What does God want from us? Are we meant to try to do things perfectly the way we are commanded to and complete things 100%? Are we meant just to try as hard as we can? Are we meant to just do as much as we can (even if it means not trying too hard)?

I know Rabbi Tarfon says in Pirkei Avot (2:19) that the task is not incumbent upon you to complete, but you are not free to desist from it. To me that means you have to try as hard as you can to do something properly and to complete something to the best of your abilities, even if you go into it knowing that you have no chance of doing 100%. You cannot do it halfheartedly, figuring you will accomplish whatever you accomplish and at least you tried. That is not good enough for a Jew. We have to try our best and put forth our best efforts.

Growing up

We used to have a neighbor who had 3 boys. These boys were in their young teens when they lived next door - ranging from 12 to 16 or so. Every year on Lag B'Omer, they ran the bonfire across from our building. They collected most of the wood, they set the wood up in bonfire style and they ran the lighting and maintenance of the bonfire. Other kids were only allowed to help to a certain extent, mainly with the schlepping of wood from its storage location to the bonfire. Every year they ran a very large and well organized bonfire.

This past year, that family moved away to a different apartment, further away. People assumed, myself included, that we would not really have a bonfire by us this year because there was not really anyone who would take charge. We all figured we would go up the street to the really big one the kids were making over there.

Sure enough, my nine year old son and a neighbors son decided they wanted to make the bonfire. They collected and schlepped the wood. They put it together and piled the wood up. They ran the whole thing, with no help from anyone else. It was not the biggest bonfire in town, not even close, but they did a great job. I decided not even to bother going up the street to the large fire, my son's bonfire was much nicer.

Kids grow up whether you want them to or not..

May 15, 2006

A lesson from my tile guy

We are retiling the floor of our porch due to some water problems we had...

I get home yesterday from work and go outside to check the progress of the workers. They were just finishing up for the day and getting ready to go. The main guy shows me what he did. As I step outside to look at the work, he warns me to be careful where I step. he says don't step on the edges of the tile, only in the middle. He then goes on to explain, that just like we say Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh L'Zeh (all Jews are gaurantors for each other) it is the same with tiles. If you step on one the wrong way and break it, it will ruin the whole thing, but if you step in the middle, they protect each other. With Jews too - hurt one of us and [it should fell as if] you have hurt us all, but we are all there to protect each other.

Even unfinished tiles on a floor can teach a lesson.

interview with Stephen Colbert

If you like watching Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report), check out this interview with him..


May 14, 2006

HS Trade Show to Israel in June

This press release announces an upcoming Homeland Security Trade Show from the State of Illinois to Israel in June, to promote business between Illinois companies and Israel on security related businesses.

On a personal note, this is very exciting. Why, you might ask, as it seems kind of boring?

The reason is because my father sells an item in his business which is related to security concerns. This trade show gives him an opportunity to come to Israel in the near future and see us and the new baby. Hopefully it will work out and he will come..

new rap song about Jews and Blacks


check it out

Variety at the Kotel

Disclaimer: The pictures later in the post were not photographed on Friday night. They were taken Friday afternoon.

We spent Shabbos in the Old City of Jerusalem - Ha'Ir Ha'Atika. Ha'Rova Ha'Yehudi (The Jewish Quarter). Walking around the Old City on Friday made me feel like I was back in Gush Katif erev-disengagement. All the residents we saw were wearing orange bracelets or orange ribbons. Some had orange items hanging from their cars and windows. We even saw a flag hanging from a windows. The flag was designed like the Israeli flag, but had a black background and the stripes and the star were orange. Unfortunately, for technical reasons, I could not get a picture at the time, and when I went back later to take a picture, the flag had blown in the wind and hooked on something so could only be partially seen. While the rest of us have moved on, for better or worse, in the Old City they still completely identify with the issues of the Hitnatkut.

The Old City is always special and unique and always provides an interesting and uplifting experience, especially on Shabbat. Here is a view you cannot get anywhere else..

On the other hand, they also have to put up with daily views of this:

Seeing that in front of your eyes all the time should be a stark reminder of what should be there. We are all too often caught up in our daily lives and forget that the golden dome known as The Dome of the Rock was built on top of the exact spot where our Kodesh Kodoshim sat in the Bet Hamikdash. Despite the fact that Moshe Dayan said, "Har Habayit Be'Yadeinu" (The Temple Mount is in our hands) when it was recaptured in the Six Day War, we still cannot go up and pray freely. Despite the fact that we believe in freedom of religion and allow access to all churches and mosques located in jewish areas, becasue it is anathema to us to prevent others from praying and worshipping in their holy sites, it seems to be acceptable to the Arabs to consider it harmful and inciting for us to pray in our holy sites located in Arab areas (e.g. see Temple Mount, see Josephs Tomb, see Joshua's Tomb, see any other grave or synagogue in Arab areas) and the Jewish Israeli government is willing to accept that as an excuse to prevent Jews from praying there. [Religious] Jews going up are severely restricted, we cannot go in groups of usually more than 10 or so, we are searched for inflammatory prayer material and stripped of it, if lips are seen moving (even silently) you can be thrown off the mount and possibly arrested, etc. Seeing the Dome of the Rock in front of your eyes daily is a stark reminder of the idea that things are not the way they shoud be.

(note: if you wish to go up to Har Habayit you must comply with various Halachik requirements of purity, and even if you do some Rabbinic authorities still say you cannot go up. Be in contact with your LOR for further discussion on the issue. If you are interested and do not know whom to turn to, email me and I can put you in contact with either Rabbis who support going up to Temple Mount or Rabbis who are against Jews going on Temple Mount).

Anyways, Friday night at the Kotel was much more crowded than I remember it being in the past. I davened mincha with one minyan and then looked around for other interesting minyanim to participate in. There were a lot of minyanim with singing and dancing, and I was looking for one of those to join. I stumbled across a minyan near the back finishing minha and I saw that the minyan looked very interesting. It consisted of about 40 teenagers, most of whom appeared to be not religious based on their dress and haircuts (though I could be wrong), and I noticed the minyan was being led by Moshe Feiglin and Shmuel Sackett, the founders of Manhigut Yehudit. I decided to join the minyan and went over to Moshe and wished him a Shabbat Shalom and introduced myself. Whether you like him or hate him, Moshe Feiglin is an interesting person.

The minyan turned out to be inspiring. Kabbalat Shabbat was sung completely in the stye of R' Carlebach and the kids really got into it. They were singing along and dancing. They were lifting each other on shoulders and it was very lively. All sorts of other people were joining in. My kids were getting antsy because all that dancing and Carlebach style davening also means it takes a long time, so we moved on after a bit to find another minyan.

I joined for a few minutes another minyan I found in the back corner. this minyan was mostly Israeli soldiers, some religious some not, with some regular civilians mixed in, and my cousins were there as well with their friends. My cousin is a student at Aish Hatorah so he and his freinds were there making the minyan leibedig. There was a lot of singing and dancing there as well.

As always happens around sunset by the Kotel, the birds start flying around in circles right over the heads of the worshippers. I told my children that even the birds are dancing to all the singing of Kabbalat Shabbat. It did not help and they were getting even antsier. We moved on and found a faster minyan.

I noticed while beginning the maariv service, that there was a minyan of Hassidim nearby in the middle of minha still. I looked around some more (notice that I obviously did not have enough concentration on my prayers but spent much of my time looking around enjoying the site of so many Jews praying together, each in his own way) and paid more attention to the various groups of people: Two minyans over was a minyan of Yemenite Jews singing some Yemenite song, there were the carlebach minyans scattered throughout singing and dancing, there was a minyan with a young man in the center wearing a tuxedo and bow tie- probably celebrating his bar mitzva (or maybe the tux was just leftover from his bar mitzva), the various hassidic groups each having their own minyan, the National Religious, the mixed minyanim (not men and women, but mixed with different types of people), the Litvish, the Yeshivish, etc.

Everybody was there in close proximity of each other, each davening in his own style and doing his own thing. It did not disturb any other minyan and the variety only enhanced the atmosphere. That is Shabbat in the Old City of Jerusalem!

May 11, 2006

Very exciting shabbos planned!!

We are taking advantage of a cousin having a kiddush for a newborn baby and doing something we have not done in a long time. We have decided to get an apartment for shabbos in the Old City of Jerusalem!!
We are very excited. The Old City is always very special, and on shabbos it is many more times so.

After shabbos I will post about our experience (asusming there is what to post)..

How old did you think was old?

According to this, the, possibly, oldest person in the world just celebrated her 128th birthday..

Mazel tov!! What do you say as a blessing to her? Ad Mea V'Esrim? Until 120?

more on the hachnasat sefer Torah

Check out Neil's blog here for a nice recap on the Hachnassat Sefer Torah..

May 10, 2006

Why I made aliyah

I have been tagged by WestBankMama over at WestBankBlog for her new quasi meme about why I made aliyah. This is the first time I have been tagged for a meme, so I am just a beginner at this.. give me some leeway. Heck, I do not even know what the word meme even means (in the way we bloggers use the word)!! Dictionary.com defines meme as A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

Anyway, here goes.

Why I made Aliyah. To give an Israeli answer I learned from my kids, I will just say "kacha" (because/that's the way it is). Alas, I was born in the United States of America, so that answer does not work for me.

As kids in my family, we were not raised particularly Zionistic. We were pro-Israel and all that jazz, but we never really spoke about Israel. We were Americans. We never vacationed in Israel (then again, when I was growing up we did not have money for vacationing in Israel), we did not go to Bnei Akiva, we did not participate in yom Ha'Atzmaut parades in town (if they even had them back then). Nothing. We went to school, came home, played baseball, ate hot dogs and baked beans and had a great time and a great childhood, and Israel was never really thought about. We were always religious and went to religious schools (generally the most religious school in whatever city we were living in at the time), and in school Israel was never discussed as well.

I was nearing the completion of my high-school years in Telshe Yeshiva and I was considering what I would do the coming year. I knew I had no intention of staying in Telshe for "Bais Medrash" (post high school learning), though that is what most graduates of telshe do for a couple of years before moving elsewhere. I wanted to leave Telshe (though I enjoyed my time there and have nothing but good memories and gratitude for my time there) - it was time for a change. I was looking at potential schools and yeshivas, Ner Yisrael in Baltimore being the leading candidate. I wanted to go to college and they offered what looked like the best combo of learning and college at the time.

As the school year was nearing its completion, Reb Tzvi Kushelevsky was on his yearly fundraising trip to America. He was in Chicago and happened to spend shabbos in my neighborhood by a friends house who was learning in his yeshiva. This was unusual because he usually spent his stay in Chicago by some distant relative in a different neighborhood. He davened in my shul and spoke at some point. Israel was not even in the picture at the time. I had not even thought about going to Israel. Telshe graduates did not go to israel. Period. It was not done until about the age of 22 or so when Brisk was the common yeshiva of choice.

As Reb Tzvi K finished his drasha, my father leans over to me and says, "Why don't you ask him to take a test for his yeshiva?" I said, "Dad, are you crazy? I am not going to Israel. I want to go to Baltimore and start college!". he said just take a test and you can decide later. I figured why not so we spoke to ym friend who arranged an appointment with the Rosh Yeshiva for a test that motzei Shabbos in his house. He did not tell me what I would be tested on, rather he told me to call at 8:00 (I think) and come at 10:00 for the test and at 8 he would tell me what to prepare. No problem. I thought the whole thing was ridiculous, as I had no plans on going there, but the yeshiva had a very good reputation and I "played along".

To make an even longer story shorter, I got accepted (somehow) to the yeshiva and after much deliberation and consultation decided to go there. Basically it was a fluke of nature, a complete "coincidence" that I ended up going to Israel (though we all know there is no such thing as a coincidence).

When I was in Israel, I took an immediate liking to the country. I travelled it whenever I could. Every vacation I went all over with friends on any tiyul I could arrange or find out about. I hiked up and down the Golan a few times, along with Ein Gedi and many places in between. From the Hermon to Eilat, I found my chance to go (often with friends from other yeshivas), many times in covert fashion, as the yeshiva would not have approved of either the location or the company I was with.. :-)

In addition to tiyulim, I made friends with the Israelis in the yeshiva and would go to their houses for shabbos. I went all over the country to spend shabbos with family friends or yeshiva friends. It was always exciting going to a place I had never been to before..

After my year in Israel was over, I was torn what to do about next year. I felt it was time to go home and start college, but I was having a great time in Israel and wanted to go back for more (BTW, I learned also. This sounds like I spent all my time travelling and never learning, but is not correct. I learned as well, and plenty. It was a tough yeshiva and everybody had to work hard to keep up. I am just not writing about that here.) After much deliberation, a few days before summer vacation was over I decided to go back to Israel. My father was ok with that (if I remember correctly, is that right Dad?) and we made the arrangements.

Second year (shana bet in the American yeshiva term) was more of the same and eventually Shana gimmel was more of the same. During Shana Bet I already started keeping one and a half day yom tov, a creation that most people still do not understand. In my third year I decided that was it I was staying. I loved it in Israel and this is where I was meant to be. During my fourth year in yeshiva I got engaged and married and we moved right back to Israel where we have been ever since.

Over the years since then, some people at various times have attempted to convince us to move back to the US (never our parents, and I thank them for that - both my parents and my in-laws were always supportive of our choosing to live in Israel), either because of the Gulf War or terrorism or economy, etc. The thought to even consider it never entered my mind. This is our home and this is where we belong. Our fates are tied to the fates of Israel.

Basically, I ended up in Israel by a coincidence, but I stayed because I developed a love for the land, the country and the people. I got a feeling being in Israel that I am part of everythign that happens. people here care so much about every little thing. In America everyone is just living their life trying to get by hoping nobody gets in their way. You are not really part of something. Here, we are making history. We are part of something bigger than our personal lives, for good or for bad. Every day something historic happens here and I am part of it. This is where the jew is meant to be.


I am tagging Jameel to tell us why he made aliyah, if he is so inclined... Jameel - send the link to westbankmama for her roundup..

no more kosher certifiation?

Ynet is reporting that due to the crisis with the bread prices, one of the members of the Pensioners Party has come up with an innovative solution.
MK Moshe Sharoni's solution is to abolish the Kashrut certification on food. The idea of this is that the fact that food manufacturers have to pay a lot of money to Kashrut organizations for certifications forces them to raise the prices on their food products, to cover the cost of the certification.. If certification would be deemed illegal, costs of buying food would go down tremendously, resulting in big savings to the consumer.

Very innovative idea. Once you are at it, Mr. Sharoni, why not also abolish certification from the Ministry of Health (similar to the FDA) and the licensing authorities? Why go through the very expensive certification process, which forces companies to pass those charges for licensing and inspections and whatnot on to the consumer. More places to save money!! Why force a vetrinary check on a meat importer if he will pass the charge on to the consumer?
Oh, those cover safety issues so they cannot be abolished? I am sure that if you look hard enough you will find many laws that force manufacturers to act in compliance with various codes and processes which their cancellation would not result in danger to society, yet would save us a lot of money.

Besides that, kosher certification has been proven to increase sales. It is in the companies best interests to keep the certifications because they open themselves up to many markets that only buy products with certifications, even if some or even many people do not care about the certification. In the USA wherever you are you can walk into a supermarket and find the most average all-American products on the shleves have certification. I would even dare to say that you would be hard pressed to find average products (not talking about specialty products or meats and the like) that are not certified. The manufacturers have found that it is beneficial to have the certification.
Often you will see on a product two or even three certification symbols!! This is because the company by law has to have certification by the local organization. In addition to the local org, they will also often want to have a nationally recognized organization supervise (e.g. Badatz, Chasam Sofer, Landau, Rehovot, etc..), simply to open their markets to people who do nto recognize that specific local org, and insist on the certification they prefer.

That is all aside from the religious aspect. to a religious Jew, food without certification is unacceptable. Who is gauranteeing that the food is kosher? Even with certification we often here about mistakes being found that allow us to briefly see how complicated the food industry really is and how difficult it is to ensure kosher status. mistakes can be made, and often these "mistakes" are deliberate attempts to make money (by using cheaper, possibly not-kosher additives and substitutes). If you abolish certification, who gaurantees the kashrut of the food? We should trust the manufacturer with no supervision? that guy who is trying to make the biggest profit he can (rightfully so), is to be unsupervised in his process, yet be trusted to not cut corners on the kashrut?

Now if they would abolish the kashrut certification on my laundry detergent and floor cleaner, that might not be so bad...

May 8, 2006

unusual hachnassat sefer Torah

My former shul in Chicago where my family still davens, and has always davened as long as I can remember, just celebrated moving into a new building and a special Hachnassat Sefer Torah. I was not there for it, but you can read about it here and here. The first link even mentions and quotes a fellow blogger, Neil Harris, who was present at the event.
It is an interesting story of a congregation over 135 years old in Chicago with a Sefer Torah over 100 years old. Worth your time reading it. Quote of note (from first link), "I am a goy. I am the gentile on the block."

Mazel tov!

Hat tip to YeshivaWorld.


Second link is fixed.

For those of you who do not want to click on the link of the article (I am told it requires registration), I am copying the article below:

Synagogue welcomes sacred textCongregation marks the opening of its new home with the arrival of a scroll of a Torah

By Jamie FranciscoTribune staff reporterPublished May 8, 2006

Clapping and singing, the celebrants flooded West Touhy Avenue on Sunday as Rabbi Zev Cohen carried the sacred scroll of a Torah to their new synagogue in West Rogers Park."When you bring a new Torah you welcome it, you parade it, you dance with it," said his mother, Ruth, visiting from New York. "We make a big celebration. It's a very big thing, a very holy thing."Cohen, leader of the Jewish orthodox Congregation Adas Yeshurun Anshe Kanesses Israel, cradled the Torah that has been in his family since 1904. He said his great-great grandfather brought it from Belarus to his family's Massachusetts farm in 1906.The jubilant event signified the opening of the synagogue's new building at 3050 W. Touhy Ave., he said."It's been in our family for seven generations," said Cohen, who has led the 131-year-old synagogue for 25 years. "We are adding another level of holiness by bringing another Torah scroll into our synagogue."Special rules govern the care of a Torah, which contains the five books of Moses, including how it is moved from one place to another. As Cohen carried the scroll from his home to the synagogue, members of the congregation held up a chuppah, a traditional Jewish canopy, to shelter the scroll as a band played Jewish folk music.The event drew hundreds of people from the community. Dozens of men wearing black hats surrounded the chuppah, singing songs, dancing and clapping. Children ran alongside the procession as mothers wheeled their young children in strollers on the way to the synagogue."It's a nice opportunity to show Jewish unity," said Neil Harris, who attended the event with his 6-year-old son, Eli. Harris just moved to the neighborhood from Indianapolis and read about the procession in a flier.Reena Yudkowsky-Sakols, 42, watched the procession with her husband and two daughters. She has been part of the synagogue since she was 6, and the event is a significant tradition in the Jewish community, she said."It's tremendously important to our hearts, our health and our relationship to the community," she said. "It doesn't matter if you're from the neighborhood."Neighborhood resident C. Vince Franco took a break from planting tomatoes in his backyard to watch his neighbors walk by in the procession."I'm a goy," Franco said. "We're the gentiles on the block."It was the first time Franco, who has lived in the neighborhood for eight years, has witnessed such a ceremony.The neighborhood's strong Jewish character is "one of the greatest things about living" here, Franco said.After its arrival in Massachusetts, the scroll remained at the Cohen family farm until Ruth Cohen brought it to her home in Boston in 1972, for use when family members or neighbors were too ill to attend services.After she moved to New York last year, the family decided to place the scroll in the ark of the synagogue when it moved to its larger, 25,000-square-foot facility.Although the scroll will no longer be in the family's direct care, they will still have access to it, she said."It's going to be mine forever," Ruth Cohen said. "I feel that everybody should use it rather than it just sit in the closet of my house. Whoever needs it will use it."----------

get updates by email!!

I do not know how many people are interested in this, but a couple of people asked me about it, so i did it. I added Feedblitz to my site. if you go the Feedblitz link on the right side near the bottom, you can subscribe to the blog by email.
If you do this, you will receive an email when I post something new to my blog.

If I see nobody is interested I will take it off. No skin off my back. Either way. let's see how it works out..

Going to the Movies!!!

Last night I heard the above phrase as a description of someone who goes to a daf yomi shiur.

I have heard similar attacks on daf yomi many times before. This one was new and a fresh comparison that I never heard before so I felt like ranting about it.

The fellow (A) who said it was upset about someone (B) who is beginning to learn gemarra, at a later stage in his life (58 years) than most people. "A" wants "B" to invest more time in learning the basics rather than getting the general picture. These are legitimate arguments and can be discussed and decided one way or the other. During the discussion "A" finds out that the student learns daf yomi. "A" began to criticize it as a waste of time and "B" should spend his time using the system "A" was pushing, which stresses fundamentals. As part of the criticism he said, "Daf Yomi is like going to the movies". Meaning all you do is sit back and listen to someone talking and it is not participatory, so you are not really learning.

Many people over the years have criticized Daf Yomi. That bothers me. yes, I learn daf yomi, so maybe there is some personal offense taken, but I think/hope it is not personal. I have no problem if a person does not want to learn daf yomi. Everybody has to find the style that talks to them and allows them to learn. Some people do not like daf yomi because it is too superficial, some because they do not have a chance to review so they forget it all. Some do not like "iyun" learning because it is very tedious, some do not because they want to see the scope of the Torah, which is limited by iyun (in depth learning).

I have no problem with someone coming along and evaluating that Daf Yomi is not right for you. You will gain more by learning like this or that. That is legitimate. It is wrong to criticize Daf Yomi in general as a bad system of learning. First of all, for some people it is very good. Second, does this guy (whoever is doing the criticizing at the time) think he knows more than Rabbi Shapiro, the founder of Daf Yomi, and all the gedolim throught the past 7 decades who have supported it? Who are you to talk about how daf yomi is bad? Third, how can you deride the thousands, and tens of thousands of people, ehrliche yidden, who are learning daf yomi, some more thouroughly than others, and many more thousands over the years who have learned it? Who made you so great that you can talk Lashon hara about the Jews like that? Even Moshe was punished by Hashem for suggesting that the jews were doing something that might be wrong. And now people are talking about how learning daf yomi is like going to the movies?

And finally, if it is like going to the movies, I must be watching the wrong movie. there are some very enjoyable movies playing in the theaters, I hear. I might as well go there instead of the beis medrash at night.. :-)

Damned if you do, Damned if you don't

The government has just been sworn in and we already have the first crisis. It seems that Ehud Olmert as Minister of Something or Other in the last government (when everything changed a dozen times because of Ariel Sharon's health problems and various ministers quit the government. Magically during that period the government was run by 10 ministers, yet now we need 27 ministers to fill those same jobs, but that is another discussion) approved a price increase on bread. The reasons are complicated and I was not interested enough to investigate it completely. It has to do with increasing prices of wheat on the global market combined with the discounts the wholesale bread makers (a.k.a. bakeries) are allowed to give to the supermarkets combined with the discounts the supermarkets are allowed to give the consumer. In brief,, someone says they are not making enough money and they need to raise the prices.

In a free market, supply and demand would regulate the price of bread, just as it regulates all other prices. If there is a lot of deman for bread for 4 NIS, they can raise the price to what they think will still retain the demand and get away with it. They can charge whatever people will pay. If they raise it to 8 NIS and find the demand decreases because people will not pay that much, they will lower the price. That is the free market. Israel is not a free market. Prices here, at least on staples, are regulated by the government. We are still left with strains of the original socialist government style and therefore we have controlled prices.

Bread, being a staple, is causing the current crisis. The price hike was due to go into law the first day of the new government, last Thursday, Talk about coincidence!! A majority of the current government ran on social platforms. Kadima, the largest of the parties and therefore controlling the government, did not, but its coalition partners all did. Kadima's partners in government are Labor, Shas and the Pensioners Parties. These parties all ran on social platforms, concern for the underprivileged, poor, retirees, etc.. The first item these parties have to deal with is an increase in the price of bread, which will hurt the poor people.

How can they sit in such a government? It goes against everything these parties stand for, at least during the elction campaigning. Are they really social agenda parties? Does Amir Peretz really care about the poor? Does Eli Yishai really care about the poor? Or do they just care about their seats, salaries and prestige? How will they be able to look their voters in the eyes and say we are fighting for a social agenda, sorry we had to raise the price of bread.? It goes completely against their whole essence.

For example, during the elections Kadima spoke almost solely about the upcoming disengagements. That is what they are all about. Nobody expects them to go back on that, as that is who they are. the disengagement defines them. Shas, Labor and the Pensioners all spoke about the poor and social agendas. That is their essence and nobody expects otherwise from them.

How will they deal with this crisis? Will Eli Yishai, the new Minister of Tama"t (Taasiya v'Mischar) cancel the price hike, irking the ire of Ehud Olmert? Will they all approve the hike, irking their constituents? It all remains to be seen. Today their will be a no confidence motion put forth by the Likud in regards to the price hike. How will Shas vote, for the government or against. How will Labor vote, for or against? The Pensioners are already threatening to bolt the government over the hike, so the wheeling and dealing has begun. Will Olmert capitulate in order to save his beloved disengagement?

Another interesting point, when asked how they could join the government despite their having been against the disengagement, El Yishai answered that it is all politics. he said Olmert wants the disengagement, but he may not be able to get it. He then rationalized that because he is not 100% sure Olmert will be able to carry out his wishes, Shas is able to join the government, allowing it to be established, and achieve social issues in the meantime. If/when the time for disengagment comes, they will deal with that then.
Regarding the budget, which had been prepared by the last government and needs to be voted on today, Labor and Shas had vehemently campaigned against it. they argued it hurt the poor and weaker sectors. Now they are in the position where they have to vote (today I thin) to approve or disapprove the budget. Will they stick to their principals and vote against, considering how they fought so hard against it? Will they find some way to vote for it, despite the fact that it goes against everything they said leading up to the elections, and in the last government? Labor already said they are voting for it, with a similar rationalization as that which Eli Yishai rationalized about the disengagement. Shelly Yachamovitch said it is politics and the budget still has to go through many stages of votes where things can be changed. Today's vote is just a formality.
I thought it was Kadima who said they are a party with no ideaology. I did not realize it was a requirement of all the parties in the coalition.

So, the title of the post, "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't"? If Eli Yishai and Amir Peretz vote against the government in the no confidence vote, and against the budget, there is no more government and we are back to elections. If they vote for the govt and budget, they are hurting their own constituents. Either way they are damned.
Today will definitely be interesting.

May 3, 2006

I love Israel!!

Happy birthday Israel!!! Happy 58th!! Happy Yom Ha'Atzmaut!! Hag Sameah!! She'nizkeh le geulah shleimah.

I love Israel. I love everything about it. I love the culture. I love the people. I love the country. I love the music. I love the food. Everything. Israel is the place a Jew is meant to be.

Sure there are things some do not like. I will not list them, as there are enough people who complain. I love it here, and none of those things bother me.

Yom Ha'atzmaut is the one day a year when people stop complaining about everything, be it government, be it prices, taxes, society or whatever, and just spend the day loving Israel. Everybody is happy on Yom ha'atzmaut. Israelis remember fondly the tough times, when they were idealistic and the country was special to everybody, despite all the hardships (or maybe because of the hardships?). New immigrants dream about what it must have been like, while trying to integrate and help imrove the future.

We just spent a day remembering our fallen. The juxtaposition of the 2 days is sharp and pronounced. the government set these two days, Memorial Day and Independence Day, to fall out one right after the other. On Memorial Day, we spend our day remembering. We remember those who fell in battle. We remember those who fell in terrorist attack. We remember those who gave their lives so we could live here. It is not just a holiday, as memorial Day is in other countries. here, we really remember. The radio programs spend all day talkign to people about their family members who fell in battle. The songs are slow paced songs fitting for the mood. The television programs are dedicated to the fallen - telling their stories, and each one is a story of heroism and dedication and selflessness. Here, we remember our fallen.

Memorial Day leads right into the celebrations of Independence Day. The music immediately changes tones to upbeat and faster paced. The radio plays mostly the beautiful Shirei Eretz Yisrael, songs of Israel. The beautiful tones and melodies romanticizing the people and the land and the hardships of settling it. The contrast between the two days is sharp. We go from somber moods and solemn consideration of our past, to jubilant celebration of our successes and looking to our future.
Only by remembering the fallen heroes, do we have the right to celebrate the successes of the past and the hope of the future. The fallen soldiers give us that hope and show us the way. Putting these two days together forces us to put things in perspective.

I love Israel. This is the place to be. Here is our past. Here is our future.

May 2, 2006

Yom Hazikaron with the haredim

It was reported in yesterday's news that there would be a ceremony by the "Haredi" public for commemorating those in their communities who were killed in terror attacks. In the J-Blogosphere and in the general media, there have been a number of attacks on this ceremony. The attackers are upset that Haredim are only memorializing their own victims, as of to say they are better and more worthy than others.

I would like to take this opportunity to comment on this issue, which I think is actually just an opportunity for some people to attack haredim, which they do at every opportunity. Do not get me wrong, it is fine to criticize (and I do that as well), but somtimes one needs to be aware of what they are criticizing, and do they just not like Haredim and look for everything wrong with them, or is something really wrong and worthy of criticism.

Now, onto the rant.

First off, from what I understood the event under discussion was not really a Haredi event, rather a memorial ceremony for the general religious public with a religious tone. The speakers (I did not receive a first hand account of what happened, just heard about some of the proceedings) were not Haredi Rabbonim, rather Rabbonim who are well known and well respected in the National Religious community, such as Rav Motti Elon and Rabbi Riskin. So right away, that should take the criticism off the Haredi crowd and put it on the general religious public for holding a ceremony commemorating "their own".

But for arguments sake, what if it were a Haredi event? Would they be worthy of criticism if it was a Haredi event?

Two points I would make, if that were true:

1. If the armored corps held a special memorial remembering the fallen among the armored corp soldiers, would you criticize them for ignoring everybody else? If the families of victims of bus bombs had their own memorial for these fallen victims, would you criticize them for ignoring everybody else? If the air force held a special memorial service for its fallen, would you criticize? if a specific hesder yeshiva held a memorial for the fallen alumni of its ranks, would you criticize?What is wrong with a group of people having their own ceremony to remember those close to them? I think it is completely natural. All over Israel today you will find small ceremonies, each commemorating the fallen of its own community. Maybe the Haredim could do more in addition to that, such as also participate in the general commemoration but for that see my next point.

2. Until now you/me/we/everybody criticized the Haredim for completely ignoring the day. Now they are starting to recognize it and you still criticize them. Change is slow. They cannot change their ways overnight. Step by step. Be happy that there is a metamorphasis going on, which is obvious, and call for more positive steps, rather than criticizing the first baby steps they have taken. This is big. For a community that until now has completely rejected any recognition of secular state's observances and special days, they are finally beginning to. Don't criticize these first steps. Accept them as the beginning of change and be aware that people cannot change overnight. Be happy they are starting to accept things. See the positive in it. Call for more, but see the positive.

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