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Jul 31, 2008

a tzaddik with no kipa

I fell a little behind in my reading this past week, so I just read this inspiring story in the Hebrew Mishpacha magazine of last weeks edition:

The story is about a secular man, who had become frum, but refused to wear a yarmulke.
This fellow became exposed to the work of the Lev L'Achim organization. An avreich knocked on his door and suggested they learn a bit of Torah together. At first he wanted to toss this avreich down the stairwell. But he agreed to the suggestion and experienced a shiur like he had never before experienced.

They continued learning together and over time he became closer to religion, taking upon himself more and more mitzvos; Shabbos, family purity, tefillin, etc. But through all this he refused to wear a kipa.

One of the Rabbonim of Lev L'Achim asked this fellow why he refused, despite his process of becoming frum, to wear a kipa.

His response was "The avreich learning with me is waiting for me to have done a complete teshuva, so that he can move on to his next "project" - to another Jew to suggest a shiur to. I do not want him to move on. I want him to continue learning with me. As long as I do not wear a kipa, as far as he is concerned I have not yet done teshuva, and he therefore continues learning with me.

the animals might eat you

The Zoo Rabbi has a great zoo sign posted...

variety is the spice of Judaism

Guest Post on the topic of Minhagim


We were having some meat for dinner last night. As I was preparing it, my 4 year old daughter asked if we were going to be eating "cow or sheep" for dinner...

How many 4-year olds ask that kind of question? hmmmmm

Jul 30, 2008

Quote of the Day (qotd)

Israel is a nation of grumblers who complain about most everything...

------ PM Ehud Olmert

Didn't Hashem get upset at Moshe in the desert when he said a similar statement?

What is a shooting star? (video)

Wow. Did you know this about shooting stars? I did not...

(HatTip: sbw)

fit to be a commando

The Yisrael Hayom newspaper today had an article about how a commander of the elite commando unit "Egoz" has come up with a new feature in the training program for his soldiers. He has decided that in order to train properly, so they will not later, when in action, be suddenly surprised by blood and gore, they have to experience it during the training.

This commander was one who received awards for his excellence during the Second Lebanon War. But he realized that many of his soldiers came back traumatized from having seen all the blood and gore...

No, training will not be conducted with live fire, "shirts and skins" style, or anything like that.

What this commander did was take his soldiers, after the war, to a slaughterhouse. By seeing up close the internal organs, the blood, the guts and all, by getting a visual understanding how it all works and getting used to the blood, his soldiers came out of their trauma and shock.

Since then he has included it as a regular part of his training regimen. He takes his unit for a day of learning in the slaughterhouse to watch the shechita and the butchering.

Another officer praised his ingenuity saying that doctors also go to similar places, to get used to seeing the blood so they will not be affected by it later.

So it turns out that I am fit to serve in the elite commando unit of Egoz! Where do I sign up?

12 seconds

I just received this story by email...

In a United States convention of neurologists from all over the world, one of the main topics was the phenomenon of people fainting upon getting up from bed.

One of the speakers was Professor Linda McMaron of Great Britain and she gave a lengthy speech regarding her study on this issue. She elaborated that after many years of study and investigation on this subject, she came to the conclusion that the fainting is caused by the sharp transfer between laying down and standing up. Professor McMaron said that it takes 12 second for the blood to flow from the feet to the brain. But when a person quickly stands up upon waking up, the blood gets 'thrown' to the brain too quickly and the result is fainting. She suggested that each person, even one that does not have a tendency to faint, upon waking up should sit on the bed, and count slowly till 12 to avoid dizziness, weakness, and/or fainting.

Her speech was rewarded with loud applause and enthusiastic feedbacks.

Another Professor, a Jewish religious man, asked permission to speak.

He said: "By us, the Jews, there is an old tradition, thousands of years old, to say a prayer of thanks to the Creator of the World for meriting us to wake up healthy and whole. The prayer is said immediately upon waking up, while one is still on the bed and sitting down. There are 12 words in this prayer and if one regulates himself to say it slowly with concentration, it takes exactly 12 seconds to says it... 12 words in 12 seconds.

He said the prayer slowly in Hebrew:
Mode Ani Lefanecha Melech Chai VeKayam, Shehechezarta Bi Nishmati Bechemla Raba Emunatecha
"I thank Thee, O living and eternal King, because Thou hast graciously restored my soul to me; great is Thy faithfulness."

The auditorium burst into a standing applause that roared throughout the auditorium. This time, it was for the Creator of the World.

Headline of the Day (hotd)

I know it is still early in the day to be declaring the HOTD, but here goes...

Abbas vows to dismantle PA if Israel frees Hamas prisoners for Shalit

----- Haaretz

First of all, what's the big threat? The PA hardly functions anyway.

Second of all, Hamas took Shalit captive. Abbas has been ineffective in helping get him released. Who should we trade for Shalit if not Hamas prisoners? Is he simply suggesting we should let Shalit rot in some pit is Hamastan, because releasing him will be bad for Abbas?

upcoming projects

Last night I kashered over 10kg of liver - beef liver and lamb liver.

My next few projects include (not in any specific order):
  1. crash studying to finally take my final exam on hilchos treifos, which I have procrastinated for a while now....
  2. Try to make shofars from the horns from the sheep we shechted this week. 2 of the horns are a bit on the small side. They are well over the minimum length for a kosher shofar, but they will still be a bit small.. I think those might be good for practising technique of shofar making on. The other two horns are a decent length, and if I can get the process right, they might be good shofars. I have done some research, but if any of you have made a shofar before, feel free to leave me a tip or two on the subject...
  3. Another project, as of now undisclosed, as I have not yet made a final decision whether to embark upon it or not... Will decide soon.

She'Lo Asani Goy (video)

Oh, the irony!

Jul 29, 2008

how do the kids pick it up so young???

What do you think of this pshat?

A guy was just mentioning to me how he is having difficulty doing a very basic activity on his computer. He mentioned maybe he would ask his 6 year old child to do it for him, as they seem to be born with it, and he cannot understand how they understand these computers so quickly.

So I suggested to him that we all know the famous midrash/gemara that says an angel teaches a fetus in the womb all over the Torah. So perhaps, nowadays, the angel also gives the fetus a course in computers.

a badatz sues the Rabbanut in secular court, and loses

I recently wrote about a report on the state of hechsherim in Jerusalem in which a rav investigated a number of restaurants under various hechsherim to see whether those hechsherim were actually supervising up to acceptable standards, as they purported to be.

When reading the report, and writing the post, I was wondering about a certain hechsher that was missing from the report. The Badatz of Nahalat Yitzchak. Nahalat Yitzchak is a hechsher that uses the name of Rav Kaduri zt"l, and purports to be a badatz, or a mehadrin hechsher.

I remember the first time I saw Nahalat Yitzchak. I was going to a shwarma place near work and passed another one that had been Rabbanut and they had this Nahalat Yitzchak hechsher hanging up. I thought that was great, as there are more mehadrin places near work. Over the next few weeks I saw a few more restaurants in the area that were hanging this Nahalat Yiztchak hechsher up in their windows.

One day I go into one of these shwarma places and was surprised to see a number of large murals on the walls of the restaurant. Some were benign, but one of them was a large mural of a woman in a bikini. I must say I was shocked that a place with a "badatz" hechsher would have such a painting on the wall. I left the place and questioned whether this was actually a reliable hechsher or not.

Shortly after that, someone told me about Nahalat Yitzchak that it is nt a reliable hechsher, and it is a grandson of Rav Kaduri who is more connected with the mafia than with religion, and he uses his grandfathers name for the hechsher, and the rest of the family rejects any connection to it. Basically, it is not reliable. It is a hechsher that is there just to charge a fee and make people think the restaurant keeps certain standards, and the mashgichim never show up.

Over time, Nahalat Yitzchak has taken on some popularity. Possibly because it is a cheap hechsher with a mehadrin sign. So why was it not included in the report? It would seem to be a perfect fit with the investigation that the rav was performing.

I do not know why it was not included. Perhaps that was one of the ones the rav wrote about where they did not let him in. Perhaps something else.

Regardless, Nahalat Yitzchak sorely needs to be addressed. Over the years, the Rabbanut has issued a number of warnings to people to not rely on the Nahalat Yitzchak hechsher.

It turns out that Nahalat Yitzchak has sued the Rabbanut for claiming they are nt a reliable hechsher. The suit was filed in the Supreme Court. Just the fact that they filed suit in secular court and not in beis din, that alone tells me something is wrong with this "badatz". But they went ahead and sued the Rabbanut.

In the court decision (see image of decision attached below), the court decided with the Rabbanut. The court said that based on the materials supplied by the Rabbanut, they are correct for not approving of Nahalat Yitzchak, and for warning people against them.

Jul 28, 2008

Can the Charedim Save Israel

A Guest post by Joshua Shapiro

Rabbi Yonasan Rosenblum recently wrote an article in the Jewish Observer called, "Can the Charedim Save Israel".

Read this document on Scribd: Can Charedim Save Israel?

This is the "Letter to the Editor" I wrote to the Jewish Observer in response to Rabbi Rosenblum's article....

Dear Rabbi Nisson Wolpin,

Regarding Rabbi Rosenblum's article "Can the Charedim Save Israel? From the Jewish Observer Summer edition 2008

R' Rosenblum asked, "Can the Charedim save Israel?” The answer to the question, as it was posed, is no. As long as you have people that despise the state, and only want to take from it, and think they are better than others, then the answer I have to say is no.

The Charedi community in Israel is different than the Charedi community in the USA. In the USA, the Charedi community is a full partner in the community at large and in general society. In Israel, the general Charedi community (obviously with exceptions) is cloistered and stays mostly within itself, withholding its potential influence on general society.

A more appropriate question would then be "Can the Bnei Torah save Israel?” Bnai Torah from the Charedi community, and from other communities as well, do attempt to influence general society by way of chessed organizations and outreach, opening schools for the general public (such as noted by R' Rosenblum among others), etc.

Most people in Israel are not happy with the present government, but we still appreciate the fact that we have the State of Israel and that there is a possibility one day of having a government to our liking. When you have leadership that does not realize that Eretz Yisroel is sacred like no other land, that is how they are able to negotiate and chas vshalom give the entire country away.

Bottom line, the issue is leadership. This is not a battle that can be won with a few successful couples in kibbutzim. There need to be religious people (chareidi and dati leumi) in positions of power in industry and government. Until that happens, there is no chance for meaningful change.

Rabbi Rosenblum talks about the success of some chareidim in the business community. That message needs to get out within the Chareidi community. The success of the charedim in the business world is really limited, in Israel, to individuals. Until the day that it is sanctioned and promoted by Rabbinic leaders, the success will stay small, limited, and uninfluential.

It is my fervor and hope that some how that we can get the entire religious segment together and vote as one block. Then we would be able to see some serious changes.

Joshua Shapiro

Shechita: trash talk

Yesterday's shechita was a bit of a different experience for me. Because of a technical problem at the place we usually go to shecht, they brought us to their cousins place a few blocks away. The cousin, also Bedouin Arabs, had a larger place overall, with a pen of different age bulls and cows and calves, along with pens of sheep and lamb of varying sizes and ages, but the slaughtering area itself was a bit smaller.

When they move the animal out of the pen into the slaughtering area, they moves him through cages and fenced off walkways, locking him in at different positions, closer and closer to the final destination. As he was waiting in his final spot before the slaughtering area, and as the Arabs were getting themselves prepared, I went over and had my usual "eye to eye" with Mr. Meat. I don't know why I do it, but I stand there in front of him, we stare each other down for a bit, and then I talk to it, telling him to behave as he is about to be shechted. I guess you could call it trash talk.

It was interesting to see the different methods used. They brought down the animal differently, they tied it down differently, and they held it down differently. These guys, instead of just tying it to the back of the car and pulling until it lost its footing, actually fought with the animal to get him down. They tied a lasso of sorts around him, they moved him out of the pen, they inched him forward and got a rope around his leg, they pull, they leveraged, they pulled some more, and some more, and worked hard to get him down.

Once they had it down, they tied him to a couple of rings in the ground, kind of like the rings that were in the slaughtering area of the Beis Hamikdash. I never really understood those rings, and am not sure what I saw yesterday is similar to how it worked in the Beis Hamikdash. But that is what I thought of when I saw it tied to the rings.

They held it slightly differently, and I will add that they did not hold it as firmly or as well as what I was used to. The angles were different as well. The calf was still moving around alot, even though they were holding it down. As I shechted it, it moved its head. Had I gotten startled, I would have jumped back (as I have seen happen once or twice by other shochtim) thinking I was about to be knocked over. But I was not startled and held my position and kept going, moving my knife with his head motion all the way through and the shechita came out perfect.

Another problem with the angle used, and with the way the calf shifted his head, was the potential to hit the ground with the tip of the knife during the shechita. Doing so would have rendered the shechita passul and the animal treife. But I was careful and I did not hit the ground with the knife.

For some reason, I got hit with more of the spray of blood this time than previous times. Maybe because of the different angles used, or maybe because we were working in tighter quarters than the previous times. Also the drain was right net to the slaughtering area, and the blood was drained out, and washed away, very quickly. These guys were much more efficient in quickly cleaning the area, and keeping it clean, than the other guys we shecht by.

The Arab guys are nice. They show us a lot of respect and trust. They call us Rav, they offer us coffee and chat. After the shechita and helping weigh the animals, I sat down for a moment to rest. I sat near the grandfather who had stopped by and was watching.
He started chatting with me, and I asked him if he had been in this business as well. he told me he had not been. He had been a career army man. he was in the army 33 years, and was released as an injured soldiers, as his legs had been shot up. He told me he served in two wars (I did not think of asking which ones), and if he understood my question, he was a tracker in the army, as is common by Bedouins. He was very proud of his boys and told me they both were (and one still is) officers in the army.

The rest of it was fairly routine - we moved the meat (the calf, along with another 2 sheep we shechted) to the other location where we broke it down, kashered it, and butchered it.

I brought it home where we cut it down some more, labelled and packaged it all, and stuck about 100kg of beef and lamb in my freezer.

Man, am I sore from hauling sides of beef. Maybe I'll have a steak - or a lamb chop!

(If I get any good pics later, I will add them to the post...)

I went to my shrink today...

.... and guess who I saw sitting in the waiting room?

Hassan Nasrallah!

right. sure. Because he came out such a loser with the bad deal he recently was forced into with Israel....

who won't sit with whom?

The Syrian Ambassador to the United States has called upon Israel to"Come sit down together with us, and let's make peace."

Funny he should be so forthcoming to Israel and act as if Israel is delaying the peace by refusing to talk.

Just two weeks ago, Assad walked right by Olmert and stood less than 10 feet away from him at the Mideast Conference, but could not even look at him, let alone shake Olmert's hand, despite Olmert's embarrassing attempts. Then Assad walked out when Olmert got up to speak at the conference.

But it is us who refuse to sit down and talk.

Ehud Olmert only thinks about today

This morning's newspapers were all over a report by Yuval Diskin, chief spy who runs the Shin Bet, that the "truce" in Gaza is a farce and Hamas is using it to smuggle in more, and greater, weaponry, and to re-strengthen themselves.

All the politicians discussed it and most criticized the truce, except for Ehud Barak who said it is the right thing, and we were right to not respond to the violations of the truce. Hamas has taken control and has been able to stop the smaller organizations from breaking the truce, etc..

Ehud Olmert, our wily Prime Minister, said the most unusual thing of them all. He spoke against the truce, and he said that in five years we will ask ourselves how we could have made this mistake.

Needless to say he did not bother providing an answer to the question. he simply knows it is wrong and that down the road we will all regret it. So why did we make the deal? Why do we keep the deal? Why do we allow the violations to continue on the other side in Gaza, while we say and do nothing about it?
He provided no answer. He might not care because he knows he will not bear any responsibility in five years. He will by then be long forgotten, possibly sitting inside some dusty jail cell for the crimes he has committed against the Israeli people (probably not, but one can hope!). So he has a truce now that he keeps, despite knowing it is dangerous and bad for us, and that we will regret it later, but who cares about later. We need to only think about today.

sorry for the dearth

Sorry for the lack of posting. I took a day off to go shecht (a post on it will be coming) and now I have a ton to catch up on....

Jul 24, 2008

Kannoim of RBS riot over what they call a pogrom

A big deal is being made in over a local incident that occurred in Bet Shemesh.

The other day, a small group of people (of the kannoim of RBS B) took over an empty plot of land and put down 2 caravans and called it a shul. Yesterday morning, the iryah sent in their tractors, after having sent tzavei pinui (orders to evacuate the premises) that were ignored, and removed the shul, destorying it in the process. The Eidah has distributed pictures calling it a pogrom.

In response to the Iryah's move, the kannoim of RBS B have rioted yesterday and today, attacking a city vehicle, and then burning it, and destroying other city equipment as well.

While perhaps the City's response was heavy handed, and maybe they should not have destroyed the shul, I do not see why people are upset at the City and saying Vaknin is anti-Haredi over this.
A small group of people took over a plot of land that was slated for something else. I am told it was meant to be a park for those in the immediate vicinity. Supposedly neighbors called City Hall and complained when these people put down the caravans - they saw "their plot of land for their park" being usurped for a decrepit caravan so 10 people could daven in their own shul.

I see nothing wrong with the city throwing them out and removing their caravan. You want a plot of land, petition the city. If they see the request is justified, they will get it. I am not aware of any kehilla in all of Bet Shemesh that was denied a request for land for a shul. But to go and steal a plot of land so you can establish a status quo hoping people will not fight back, they took a risk and their bluff was called. The neighbors called it in, and the City responded.

Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes projecting this as an example of how anti-Haredi Bet Shemesh is. They stole a piece of land, and it was taken back. In no city in Israel, in no city in the world, would or could the authorities allow such a theft to go unanswered.

kannoim of today compared to those of yesteryear

Ba'Kehilla newspaper reported on a speech given by the Admor of Toldos Aharon to 200 avreichim about kannaus.

To summarize the article, he basically told them that today's kannoim are nothing like those of the past. True kannuas, such as by Rav Amram Blaui, stemmed from his love of all Jews and yiras Hashem. He felt true pain when he discovered a Jew sinning, and he had to protest it.
Comparing that to kannoim of today, the Admor said, today's kannoim work from a corrupt point.
They wake up in the morning and try to think how they can hurt someone today. Their heads are not busy with serving Hashem, or with trying to effect an increase in
kavod shamayim. All day long they deal with pashkevilim and vilification. There has not been a single gadol or leader that they have not yet vilified. This is not kannaus - this is the worst possible corruption of middos.

See the article below for more of what the Admor said.

Jul 23, 2008

Olmert on Talansky (video)

This video is fascinating. It is Ehud Olmert speaking on video about his good friend Moshe Talansky in honor of Talansky's 70th birthday 5 years ago.
The video speaks for itself. Compare it to the things we heard Olmert and his lawyers say recently about Talansky...

Picture of the Day (potd) - Baruch Obama

Now we really can call him "Baruch" Obama....

Hussein or Yankel? smear of liver or fried chicken? (funny video)

This is absolutely hilarious... The Daily Show reporter goes down to Florida to meet with elderly Jews to talk about Barak Obama and whether or not they will support him....

putting the Yated Ne'eman in cherem!

As you can see, the Yated Ne'eman is announcing the strengthening of the dollar against the shekel to a rate of 3.427.

Considering that the yated has advertised over the past few months that the Rabbonim have set the exchange rate at 4 shekel to the dollar, this latest announcement leaves me to believe in one of two things:
  1. The Yated Ne'eman is clearly speaking against the Rabbonim. I do not know from where they have the chutzpah to put their opinion in places where the gedolim have already spoken, and yet to argue with them!
  2. The Yated is indicating that there is a secular dollar and a Haredi dollar. While they do not specify that, it seems this notice would be referring to the secular dollar, and not the Haredi dollar.

I find option #2 hard to believe. If it were true, Yated would clearly speak out the difference between Haredi and secular, not leaving it to the imagination of its readers. So, I am only left with option #1 and therefore I must demand that the gedolim declare the Yated in cherem for their brashness in opposing the gedolim..

Jul 22, 2008

Good riddiance Zippi Livni

Globes claims that Zippi Livni, one of the front runners to take over leadership of Kadima, is considering bolting from Kadima and forming her own party.

It seems she is very concerned about losing in the upcoming primaries to Shaul Mofaz (amazing that he even has a chance of winning them), and she refuses to consider being #2 to Mofaz. She is in contacts with fellow Kadima members who support her to join her in starting a new party.

Zippi is another Kadima opportunist. Ariel Sharon brought her in and gave her a big position. She was a relative nobody with little political experience, but she was a yes-man to Ariel Sharon, and Sharon was always good at rewarding people who followed him. His demise, that which left olmert in the right position at the right time to take over the premiership, also left Zippi with much more power than she ever deserved or earned.

And since then, she has shown little leadership capabilities. She almost stood up to Olmert and his corruption, but backed down when he confronted her. Since then she has almost said nothing and when she does talk she only talks in hints and ambiguities about Olmert, but she never says anything straight out.

Good riddance Zippi. Go form your own party and head back into oblivion. That way Kadima can disappear, and you can disappear from leading Israel down the gutter.

shooting the terrorist (video)

Here is the video of the shooting of today's terrorist

(HatTip: Jameel)

Outstanding Organizations: Hakshiva

I posted a couple weeks ago about having shechted a turkey named"Billiam" for some teenage boys I know.
Those boys, and many others like them, are in an organization, located in RBS A, called Hakshiva.

A common problem, not unique to RBS, but perhaps it stands out more in places like RBS because of the high percentage of Olim, is when families make aliya, the children can have a hard time adjusting. Especially if the child is a teenager, or approaching his/her teens, it might be difficult for the kids to adjust and acclimate, make new friends, fit in to schools while overcoming language barriers, and the like. Sometimes these kids do not succeed right away, and end up having difficulties, both academic and social.

The kids end up just hanging around and acting wild in the streets and parks, their situation continuously deteriorating, often because nobody deals with it and assists in getting them back on track.

Hakshiva has seen the need and has stepped up to the plate.

Hakshiva offers three major areas of support:
  1. The Individual Mentoring Program helps kids while problems are small. Kids spend time twice a week with a mentor who really is just an older friend. Mentors give support, and the results speak for themselves.
  2. The Group Mentoring Programs support kids whose struggles have gone a bit further already. Still, the basis is the same: support them, love them, don't judge them, and things just get better.
  3. They also offer parental support.
A representative of Hakshiva once spoke in our shul. He said something very interesting (in response to a question). The problem is not unique to RBS. One can look at any Jewish community around the world and see the problem. In Israel it is rampant and the boys are known as "noshrim" a.k.a. dropouts. One can see them hanging out in downtown Jerusalem, Bnei Braq, and scores of other places. In the US the problem exists as well with kids "dropping out", not having a framework, getting into trouble. Each kid ends up in that situation out of his own individual circumstances, and it is not specifically a RBS problem.

The thing is that it is a bit more acute in RBS and similar places. Because of the aliya issue, the problem is more acute. A child is starting out with a challenge, and if it is not dealt with early on, it often ends up with needing Hakshiva to step in and get involved.

I should add that not every family that makes aliya ends up with his kids falling through the cracks. Plenty of families make aliya, perhaps most of the families who make aliya (but I have no numbers), do so successfully and the kids integrate and interact socially and educationally and succeed.

But some do not. And Hakshiva has really stepped forward and made an impact on the lives of these kids and their families.

So, check out the hakshiva website and get familiar with them. If you have a way to help them - offer tutoring, mentoring, Big Brother, whatever, do so. If you need to use their resources for your own child, please do so. If you can make a donation to them, funds are always vital and I am sure they would appreciate that as well.

Hakshiva is a very important organization operating in RBS. Any other neighborhood that does not have a similar organization, should quickly set one up modelled after Hakshiva and begin dealing with, and not ignoring, their problems.

It's a small world after all!

What a small world we live in!

the Merkaz Ha'Rav terrorist attack was stopped by a civilian shooter. The first Jerusalem tractor attack was stopped by his brother in law. The second Jerusalem tractor attack, that just happened a short while ago, was stopped by the teacher of the shooter in the first tractor attack!

the tractor as a weapon

Considering the terrorist attack that just took place a few minutes ago in downtown Jerusalem (right outside the hotel Barak Obama will be staying in tonight) using another tractor, I have three initial points to make:
  1. After the last tractor attack, a number of people said, some of the from abroad, that maybe it was not a terrorist attack, rather just a crazy guy who killed people. Comparisons were made to murderers in the US, such as Columbine, the DC sniper, and many others - they do not call them terrorists but murderers. They suggested maybe that tractor terrorist was just a murderer and not a terrorist. This seems to show that this has become the new modus operandi in jerusalem for terrorist attacks.
  2. Now that the tractor has become an official weapon in the fight against Israel, it would behoove Israel's government to give to the PA, perhaps even as a goodwill gesture, but at least in negotiations, thousands of tractors, just as the government gave the PA thousands of rifles and weapons, and recently even armored vehicles. Once we are giving them weapons to use against us, we should give them tractors as well.
  3. Considering that, once again, it was a civilian on the scene that stopped the terrorist and killed him, the government should consider disbanding the police and army, considering they do not actually bother protecting us anyway, and privatize it by hiring private citizens in its place. As well, they should consider distributing guns to all private citizens - it would seem to be our best strategy for stopping terror.

Is Mashiach coming in September?

Akiva writes about a rumor he has heard, from highly placed sources, that Mashiach will be coming this coming Tishrei (September).

Go to Mystical Paths to read the events surrounding the rumor.

I do not know if the story is true or not and I have no idea if Mashiach is coming this Tishrei or not. But, as I wrote in the comments there, "Ha'levai" this should come to be true!

As to the events related, perhaps this is one of the reasons mashiach has tarried until now. Do we really believe or do we not, even if we say the "Ani Ma'amins" and claim to believe in them? For Rabbonim to hear about mashiach and write him off like that saying they do not believe or it is a joke? How do they expect him to be announced? In what way would he be announced that they would not think it is a joke or a scam?

I do not know if this story is true or not and I am not commenting on it except to say "Ha'Levai". But we must check our reactions to such stories - at what point will we believe mashiach is coming, if when we hear about it we simply "blow it off"?

Status of Kashrut in jerusalem restaurants

The following document is a report on the status of hechsherim in restaurants in Jerusalem.

Rav Katz from Elon Moreh was appointed by Rav Elyakim Levanon to go around the jerusalem restaurants and nvestigate the status of their kashrus. The following report is his review and his recommendations. He writes about the standards supposedly used by some of the hechsherim, and how it is implemented, or not, in the actual restaurants.

Rav Katz went to restaurants bearing certificates from; Rabbanut jerusalem, Rabbanut Jerusalem Mehadrin, Machpud, Rubin, Beit Yosef, Badatz Eidah, Badatz Aguda, Badatz Belz, Badatz Keter HaKashrus, and Badatz Nezer Ha'Hiddur.

The last two listed in the list are "unrecognized" Badatzes. That means there is no oversight on what they do and nobody knows their standards. Even worse is that he found, with these two, that the mashgiach shows up usually no more than once a month, if that often, and then generally just to pick up the check.

In the report, you will read about problems he found, such as how often the mashigach actually shows up, or who checks the rice and beans, who lights the fire (and when that is an issue he differentiates between Ashkenazim and Sfardim because Sfardim are more machmir on who can light the fire and cook the food) and stuff like that. Some more serious issues that arose were he found restaurants with packages of meat that had no labels, and no hechsher, on them. Some would not talk to him, some threw him out, etc.. And more.

After his description of what he found "Ba'Shetach" (in the field), he lists all the restaurants around Jerusalem that he visited and his recommendation regarding whether one can rely on the hechsher or not to eat there. When he recommends against eating there, he writes specifically why and what the issues in that specific place were.

I did not look too much at the list, as most of the restaurants are names I did not recognize. I did look for one, out of curiosity, to see if it was included.

What yeshiva guy and seminary girl spending a year or two learning in Israel has not been, regularly, to "Massov Burger" near the "Tachana" (Central Bus Station)? That place has been around for many many years and has become practically a landmark in the yeshiva world. When I was in yeshiva, it was simply a falafel and shwarma place with a couple of other dishes like jerusalem mixed Grill and the like. I went back a number of years after I left the Yeshiva and found they had revamped the menu according to the whims of the yeshiva guys and girls and included things lile "Chetzi Chetzi" (half half) which was something like a lafa bread with half shnitzel and half shwarma, and other crazy combinations, and it had only gotten more popular over the years.

Masov, or more affectionately know to yeshiva guys as "Massive" is listed in the report. It seems they have taken on one of these cheaper Badatz hechshers, one o the extremely unreliable ones. Rav Katz recommends not eating there. He notes the problems as a problem with "Bishul Akum" according to Sfardim (as per the mashgiach), along with the general problems of Badatz Keter Hakashrut (them being totally unreliable).

Read this document on Scribd: Restaurants Jerusalem Casher

I have embedded the document, but if you find it hard to read like this and want the original pdf, email me and I will be happy to send it to you....

Interesting Psak: Instant Replay

Are you familiar with the term ,"Instant Replay"?

We all know that the NFL has used Instant Replay technology for years to settle disputes and appeals on close calls. Sometimes going back to the video shows the ref got the call right, and sometimes they have to overturn a bad call.

The MLB has been discussing implementing Instant Replay on and off for years already. I think it is a bad idea - let the umps make the decisions, even if once in a while they get a close call wrong.

What about Instant Replay in Judaism and Halacha?

There was recently an incident at a wedding in Jerusalem - they concluded the ceremony under the chuppa. The groom and bride headed into the yichud room, while the guests began to eat their appetizers.

Someone present at the wedding claimed that he had heard the person making the 5th bracha, which concludes with "M'Sameach Chassan v'kallah", confuse it and mistakenly say the conclusion of "M'sameach chasan im ha'kallah". The halacha clearly says that when the bracha is mistaken in this way, the brachos, all of them, under the chuppa must be repeated.

They asked the Rosh Yeshiva present what to do. He said if Instant Replay is good enough for the NFL, it is good enough for me! Just joking, but he did instruct them to check the videos from the photographer to see if the mistake was really made.

Upon confirmation that the bracha was really recited incorrectly, they decided the sheva brachos had to be recited under the chuppa again. They called out the chassan and kallah and redid it.

So, if Instant replay is good enough for deciding halacha, I guess it should be used in the MLB as well!

Shmitta: French Fries and Onion Rings

We "took out" dinner tonight from a local burger place called "Grill Burger".

It happens to be that in our family most of us prefer Onion Rings over French Fries. So when we order the meals, we always ask for most of them with Onion Rings instead of French Fries, and then we will also get an order or two of Fries. When we get just Fries, there is always tons left over, as nobody ever finishes them.

Tonight we asked, as usual, for Onion Rings instead of Fries.

The proprietor responded that he does not have any onion rings. When asked why not, his response was, "Because of Shmitta".

It seems that there is a shortage of Onion Rings because of shmitta. I have no idea why. They have plenty of onions in the supermarket.

But that is an unexpected result of shmitta. No Onion Rings, and we had to take our order with Fries.

Jul 21, 2008

Breaking news: kannoim recognize the State!

Remember this guy? Moishe Friedman, one of the heads of the kannoim of RBS B?

According to my sources, he has recently met with one of the representatives of UTJ, Dovid Veiner, requesting a plot of land for his shul.

While it is hypocritical for him to meet with the Zionist enemy requesting land when he rejects the Zionist rule, I see this as a positive step. Perhaps this is an indication that he is toning down his level of extremism...

The first jbloggers conference has been announced!

I received this by email..... It sounds to be promising. I am told that my commenters can register as well, though because space is limited, priority will go to bloggers. I already registered to go, so I look forward to seeing (some of) you there!

I wonder what anonymous bloggers will do? What will they answer when introduced to someone and asked "What blog are you from?" Will they just not go?

And what will anonymous commenters say - "Hi, I am anon from 6:42"?

Anyways, even if you cannot make it in person, if you register you will still be able to participate by viewing it over the internet....via webcam and a forum that will be created..

Dear Bloggers,

I am thrilled to announce the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention – Hosted by Nefesh B’Nefesh, and Powered by WebAds.

The theme of the convention is “Taking JBlogging to the Next Level”.

This convention will be a great opportunity to meet other Jewish bloggers from all around the world, to network, to learn, and just have fun.

There will be panel discussions with leading Jewish bloggers from around the world on issues such as how to be a more influential blogger, how to increase your traffic, and blogging on issues related to Israel and Aliyah.

The keynote speaker will be Zavi Apfelbaum, Director - Brand Management Team, Foreign Ministry of the State of Israel.

Zavi is in charge of a new initiative by the Government of Israel, to promote pro-Israel branding and PR on the Internet, particularly in interactive forums such as blogs.

Among the bloggers on the various panels will be Treppenwitz, Jewlicious, Hirhurim, My Shrapnel, and others (see the website for all the name).

Also offering a special guest performance, direct from America, and right off the special Nefesh B'Nefesh Blogger flight, will be the comedy of FrumSatire.

As it’s a convention (of Jews), there will also be great food.

The convention will be on Wednesday, August 20th from 5pm to 9pm (Israel time) in Jerusalem.

Space is limited and registration is required, you can register to attend in person, or watch it all by webcam and forum.

Registration is here...

This promises to be an exciting event and we look forward to seeing you all there.

a waste of a million dollars

I was learning with my chavrusa the other day and as we finished and were leaving the beis medrash we saw a sign by the door. The sign was informing the public of a certain kehilla announcing their upcoming move into their new building.

This is a kehilla that negan many years ago in the neighborhood with its Rav in America, supposedly travelling once in a while to be with his flock in Israel. I had heard way back when they wer e located in a small beis medrash and had moved, and then I had heard nothign of them for a long time.

So, we see this sign and I mentioned to my chavrusa in shock that I thought they had closed down a long time ago. He said tey still exist but number around 20 avreichim and move around from place to place.
So I asked him where the building is. As we walk outside, he points to a building under construction nearby and says that is it.

This is a building that has not been worked on in a long time. It has sat there in its current state of being slightly more than a shell, for at least many months if not years. The building is huge, and might possibly be the largest shul building in RBS.

I asked why a congregation of 20 people needs to build a 1 million dollar building (I had just guessed at the number), and he responded "$1,000,000??? It is more like a $2,500,000 building!".

I do not know the exact number of how much it cost to build the building. 2.5 might also be a guess, or an inaccurate estimate, but he lives in that part of the neighborhood and knows more about them than I do, so I asusme he is closer to right than me.

I do not understand why a shul of 20 people needs to waste resources of the Jewish community, local and international, with their fundraising efforts, to build a massive shul. I know of at least one other shul in the neighborhood in which someone decided to open a shul. He has connections with donors and he built a million dollar shul building. He built it in record time because he raised the money very fast. And he can hardly get a minyan. one can see fairly regularly outside of his shul people standing out calling others in to complete the minyan.

You might say if he (not any one specific person, but anybody building a large building that will not be used by more than a handful of people) is able to raise the money and build his building, so be it.
But I say not. He (again, not any one specific person) probably told his donors how much the building is necessary, how another shul is necessary, how he has so much to offer the community, in order to get them to give him money for this project.

In the meantime there are 1 or 2 million dollar buildings sitting practically empty, and those in our neighborhood are not the only ones like that, when that money could have been used for communities that really do need it, for the poor, for yeshivas, for any one of dozens of other needs in the Jewish community.

Headline of the Day (hotd)

I must add - much of our "long history" with Britain has not been good... but I guess Dalia Itzik felt that was better left unsaid....

Is Olmert digging his hole deeper?

I really do not understand the strategy of Ehud Olmert and his defense attorneys in this cross-examination of Moshe (Morris) Talansky.

We now have a headline, from today's cross examination that reads, "10:54 Olmert`s lawyers: Talansky ordered transfer of fund despite insistent denial (Haaretz)"

Wow. What a revelation.

But how does that help Olmert? While, yes, perhaps they are successfully making Talansky look worse than he did before, but how does any of this exonerate Olmert?
So instead of taking money from a guy who arranged cash donations, he took money from a money launderer (if Olmert's lawyers are correct) and all around sneaky guy...

How does any of this help Olmert's case?

The Satmar Rebbe on extremism

On Shabbos, we had a yeshiva bachur over. He said over a dvar torah in the name of the Satmar Rebbe (I do not know which, but it seemed like one of the previous rebbes).

He asked, why does the story of Pinchas killing the Nasi and the princess of Midian get split spanning the end of the parsha of Balak and the beginning of Pinchas, with the names and reward only coming in Pinchas? Why not put it all together at the end of Balak where it related the story itself?

He answered, in the name of the Satmar Rebbe, that the reason is because cheider boys only learn the parsha until sheini (the first section of every parsha) before Shabbos in school (I guess this was the custom of the time).
If the Torah would have rewarded Pinchas at the end of Balak, where the story happened, the cheider boys would never have learned that kannaus is a goal deserving of reward. So the Torah split the story spanning it into the first portion of Pinchas, thereby assuring the cheider boys would learn about his reward for his kannaus.

I then suggested that perhaps that is why our kannoim are the way they are - because they never actually learned past sheini in the chumash. If they would ever sit down and learn beyond sheini, perhaps they would get a fuller picture of the Torah, develop middos, and learn how to behave and when kannaus is appropriate and when it is not.

Jul 20, 2008

comments open again

I have re-enabled comments - for everyone. Even anonymous. Hopefully the spammer is gone, but for now I am at least leaving it set to moderation, so there might be a slight delay in your comments actually being published.

If I see the guy is gone, I will remove moderation as soon as possible.

Thanks for your understanding and sorry for the inconvenience.

PSA: daven opposite the Holy of Holies!

The Rav Ha'Kotel, Rav Shmuel Rabinowitz, in conjunction with the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, will be opening the Kotel tunnels to allow people to daven opposite the Holy of Holies.

If you have ever taken the Kotel Tunnels Tour, you will remember that there is that huge stone, and when you continue down to the left, you get to a certain point that is directly opposite the Holy of Holies.

During the last days of the "Three Weeks", specifically the days of 4, 5 and 6 Av, during which we mourn the destruction of the Batei Mikdash, the area opposite the Holy of Holies will be open to the general public for round the clock prayer. They are planning on having three days, 72 hours, of round the clock prayer at this site.

The thing is the area can only hold up to 40 people at a time, so they require you to register in advance if you want to daven there.

The phone number for registering is: 02-678-8452.

For anybody who will not go up to Har Habayit, this is the closest you can possibly get to the Holy of Holies, so it is a special opportunity for you.

Haveil Havalim 174

Yaaqov Ben-Yehuda is hosting this week's edition (#174) of Haveil Havalim. It is huge...check it out. He begins with some interesting facts on the history of 17 Tammuz.

Jewish wife of Arab leaves to go back to the jews (video)

This story is being talked about all over..

(HatTip: sbw)

No more commenting for now

Sorry, but my comment spammer has been incessantly attacking this blog non-stop. I set moderation, and that just gave me a ton of work because he still left me tons of spam that I had to sift through. So for the next few days I have disabled comments completely (except for blog members which is just me).

Hopefully he will then move on to someone else's blog and leave me alone, and allow me to open it up to you again..

Shimon Peres, the Dreamer (video)

Shimon Peres has always had a dream of what he calls the "New Middle East". Here is a part of it, the "Valley of Peace", the part being planned for the Dead Sea region. It looks like a paradise.
Is Shimon Peres just a dreamer, or can he really pull this off?

up in flames (video)

I do not know where this clip comes from, but it seems appropriate for 17 Tammuz - except for the music. So watch this depiction of the Beis Hamikdash being overrun and destroyed, the events that began historically on 17 Tammuz, but keep your speakers turned off.

Jul 17, 2008

Is this really who we want for mayor?

This story was related to me by someone who had firsthand knowledge, and was then confirmed by someone else involved.

At yesterday's plenum meeting in City Hall, under discussion was the debate over continuing the construction of the shopping center at the edge of RBS B (Kanyon Rasido) that has currently been stopped by the protest of the kannoim.

As the meeting was beginning, the Haredi representatives received calls from Rav Kopshitz that they must vote to oppose the continuing of the construction.

Montag voted "no", as Rav Kopshitz directed him. Berger voted "yes" claiming he had previous agreements with Rav Rottenberg and others on the issue.

Abutbol, the main candidate for mayor at this time, claiming to be open to keeping the status quo, busy formulating agreements with the secular parties to show how open he is and not connected to the radical right, was in a quandary. Here he is, with Rav Kopshitz telling him to vote no, and he has always been loyal to Rav Kopshitz, but he has a problem with the agreements he came to with the secular members of his "Gush Chevrati" coalition supporting him for mayor. They want him to vote yes and would not look kindly upon his giving in to the kannoim on this.

What did Abutbol decide to do?

He could not come to a decision, so he hastily left the meeting, claiming he had another meeting to attend to. Others said wait a few minutes, we are bout to vote, but he said he had to go. He told the other members of Shas to abstain in the vote, and he left.

Is this who we want for mayor? is this the representative we can rely upon to keep the status quo, as promised? Is he the one who will not give control of the city to the kannoim in RBS B and the Kirya?

Rav Kopshitz is a wonderful rav. I know people who are close with him and they tell me he is straight, he is direct, he is honest, and he is a talmid chacham of the highest caliber. the problem is that he is the Eidah rav in Bet Shemesh. Do we want the Eidah Charedis running Bet Shemesh? We all eat their kashrus, because they have a great reputation on controlling their standards in kashrus. But most of us do not live our lives according to the hashkafa of the Eida Charedis.

If Abutbol is going to be controlled by Rav Kopshitz and the kannoim, how can he really be our candidate for mayor? And if he is going to be controlled by Rav Kopshitz and the kannoim, how quickly will his secular party counterparts drop out of his "Gush Chevrati" coalition, rendering him unelectable?

Support Shalom Lerner, in November, for mayor of Bet Shemesh. The only candidate who has opposed the kannoim and their attempt to control the city.

The Burqa is a prison cell

A Muslim minister in the French government was behind the rejection of citizenship, which was later upheld by the High Court of France, of a Muslim immigrant applying for citizenship.

the reason for the rejection?

Because she wears a burqa. While claiming religious needs as the reason for her wearing a burqa, the French Muslim minister says the burqa has nothing to do with religion, rather it is a form of forced submission and is like a prison. She says that the woman cannot possibly integrate into French society while wearing a burqa and her practice of radical Islam is not cohesive with French society and its norms.

On the one hand, being raised with Democrat (rather than Republican) values, to me this is reprehensible. To discriminate against someone just because of what she wears? They did not see in her behavior anything specific linking her to radicalism or anti-French sentiments. What if a religious Jew wants to become a citizen of France - will they reject such an appilcation as wll, because the applicant wears tzitzis and a kippa, or a hat and jacket, or a shtreimel and long coat?

On the other hand, having seen the effects of radical Islam, after seeing the effects of radicalism in general, both by living in an ever increasing radical society of frumkeit, and by living in the Middle East in general, it seems to me to be a good move, even if it impinges on this individuals personal rights. By giving too much in the way of freedoms and rights, by being too liberal with people who are anti-liberal, that is how it came to be that radical Islam has been gaining power in Europe, and even in the USA (though less so). The threat is real, so perhaps certain liberal rights need to be curtailed in order to fend off the deterioration of any specific nations identity.

If this court decision will be one that deters radical Islam from gaining a foothold in French society, perhaps it is worth curtailing her rights, and perhaps France made a good move, from the nations perspective.

I wonder if either the USA or Israel would be able to get away with rejecting someone for such a reason....

Jul 16, 2008

Anonymous spam

No more anonymous commenting. Sorry for the inconvenience. Some anonymous comment spammer has been leaving way too much spam recently, so this is, my hopefully a temporary, effort to urge him to leave his spam elsewhere.

If it works, I will open anonymous commenting again as soon as possible.

Poor Kohanim

Have you ever noticed that sign near the front door of many hospitals in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem? The sign that says whether a kohein can or cannot enter the hospital? Unless you are a kohein, you likely did not even notice it.

So for the kohanim among you, that sign that has been a disturbance on your life might soon become obsolete.

Obviously if a kohein needs treatment, he can enter the hospital. The problem is when his wife gives birth, he might not be able to be present, or might have to leave ion the middle. A kohein might not be able to visit sick relatives and friends, or take his own relatives for treatment.

The newly reinstated Minister of Religious Affairs has been working with the hospitals and with Rabbonim to come up with a solution for kohanim. They are working on designing partitions that can be set up in time of need - if someone dies, or if a limb is amputated for example - that will , halachically,, not allow the tum'ah to pass to the rest of the hospital. So if someone dies, they will no longer need to put up the sign telling kohanim not to enter.

Actually, until now the kohanim have had a good excuse to not have to go visit people (or attend births :-) ). Now, if this solution actually gets implemented, they will have the same obligations as the rest of us...

the trade can still be made even

So the bodies of Elded Regev and Ehud Goldwasser have been returned in coffins. Will Olmert have the courage to order Samir Kuntar shot dead in order to make the trade even?

I doubt it.

Another option is to cancel the deal and tell Hizbollah to take back the 2 bodies now that we know they are dead to make the trade even..

Jul 15, 2008

Egged's response to the busjacking

The other day I wrote about an incident in which passengers of the 497 Egged route from Bnei Braq to Bet Shemesh "busjacked" a 402 bus. They were frustrated that Egged had not provided enough buses and they were on the verge of being stranded overnight in the streets as the last bus had passed. They did not take it sitting down and filled up a 402 bus (that was meant to go to Jerusalem) and "forced" the driver to change his route to that of the 497.

Egged has responded to the claims, and another article, this one online (though only in Hebrew) provides more of the details, along with Egge'ds response.

According to the article, the violent takeover of the bus caused a family, expecting to go to Jerusalem, get split up in the mass confusion. One child ended up lost and after a multi-city search they located the child in abother city, after he alighted another bus in the confusion.

Egged claims that they are under attack from a group of hooligans from Bnei Braq who have systematically been attacking their buses and causing delays. They even bring videos to take pictures for publicity so people will see Egged buses full of Haredim delayed and stuffed to the rafters, in an attempt, according to Egged, to portray Egged as treating the Haredi passengers poorly. According to Egged, they do this to assist their efforts in calling for opening up the transportation industry to more players.

Regarding that specific incident with the busjacking of the 497, Egged responds that the supervisor on site called requesting more buses. Immediately they went to work arranging more buses to be dispatched. When the buses arrived on site, the hooligans attacked the buses, standing in the street not allowing the buses to proceed, sowing anger among the other passengers, and causing delays of over an hour until orderliness could be implemented.

The question is which article is more accurate about what happened... but regardless, while possibly Egged might be right that passengers are angry at Egged and they cause greater delays, Egged has always provided poor service on many lines in the Haredi community (and other lines as well), whether it be in the form of not enough buses on a route, tardiness, overstuffing passengers on a bus and more. That has angered the passengers who are paying for a service that they cannot get elsewhere, as there is no competition.

For Egged to blame all their troubles on a group of hooligans, that does or does not exist, is a "cop-out" in my opinion.

Egged has to improve their service. They are well-known for providing horrible service, and many cities are starting to open up their routes to alternate bus companies because of it. It is high time Egged started improving their service.

Yes, the public wants competing bus companies. Competition is good for everybody. It brings prices down. It forces companies to improve their level of service and the quality of the product. the only loser in an open market would be Egged who would no longer have a free hand in making money off the public who has no alternative. So yes, the public wants more options. But they want this because of the poor service you have been providing for years. Not that your poor service is because of their desire for competition.

Jul 14, 2008

A Professional Shabbes Goy

A professional shabbes goy!

In the Bible Belt neighborhood of Mattesdorf in Jerusalem, the shabbes goy recently took on official employment. They set him up with a hut in which to spend shabbes. Part of the time he spends in the hut waiting for people to come to him for assistance, and part of the time he patrols the neighborhood to see if people need help.

He is armed with a price list so peope will know how much it costs to turn on the air conditioner, to turn on the lights, to get a ride to the hospital, etc.

The halachos involved in the issue of telling a goy to do things for you are very complex, but the basics are the goy has to be doing it for himself, and you cannot tell him directly - you can only hint to him. So the goy in Mattesdorf has some keywords, depending on what you need done, and with that he will set off to do your "work" for you.

I do not know if you are meant to tell him where the money is so he can take it when he does the "work", or if he extends credit on payment until after Shabbos.

I think every religious neighborhood should have one of these!

Headline of the Day (hotd)

"Illegitimate"? ok, that can be your opinion. No problem, even if I argue.
But "non-existant"? Are you living in the same universe as the rest of us?

You are in Bnei Braq now!

(My wife told me the following story. She heard it firsthand from the person involved)

We had a ganenet who got married and moved to Bnei Braq. She is starting her new life, and for whatever reason she is also changing professions. She is now going to be working in an old age home with old people and then also with disabled children.

She will be great at her new job - no doubt about it - she is a warm, loving and happy person..

She had to register some stuff with the Iriya in Bnei Braq. She went in and waited on line.

She finally gets her turn at the desk:

One clerk is davening.
Then next clerk is also davening.
The last one is bentching.

In her words, she finally loses it (hard to imagine, knowing her, but ok).

The clerks are all "Emm" ing and gesticulating, but not talking because they are davening. All the other people in line are ok with it - she says they seem used to it, but she said she got her turn, she wants to do what she needs to do and get out of there.

The 'bentcher' clerk finished and kind of apologized but explained that they also need to live and daven and eat and bentch and that's life - get used to it - you are in Bnei Braq now!!

I don't know - yes, they need breaks to go to the washroom, snack, daven, whatever. But all at the same time?

Train minyan introduces new Torah!

How many Torah scrolls does your shul have? My shul only has two Torah scrolls.

I am always amazed by shuls that have 8 or 10 Torahs stacked up in their Aron Kodesh, and continue to receive donations of new Torah scrolls. I wonder, when I see it happen, what do they need it for? Most of the Torahs never get used, except for maybe once or twice a year (on the yahrtzeit of the donor or some other stipulated date), and there are plenty of other shuls with not enough Torahs that could make much better use of an additional Torah.

About 4 months ago, the passengers of the 8:23 train from Bet Shemesh to Tel Aviv introduced the first "Train Torah" to its minyan with a respectable ceremony.

Last night, the passengers of the 6:23am train introduced the second "Train Torah" with a ceremony in the shul of the donor in RBS.

So now the train has two Torah scrolls - as many as my shul.

Tzedaka - l'mehadrin min haMehadrin

Just the other day, there were a number of articles about how hard of a hit various institutions have taken because of the decrease in value of the dollar.

For a charitable organization, the hit can be three times as hard. The value of the donations decrease (if donations are given in dollars), and donors are giving less as the economy gets worse, and prices are going up as inflation rises.

Lema'an Achai has been hard hit by the shrunk dollar & the economic downturn in the US, combined with the rise in basic food and living costs in Israel, hitting us from both sides.

Donations are down 50%, while the need for our help is going up daily....

This has severely impacted Lema'an Achai's ability to help the two hundred local impoverished families we assist - and we are faced with having to say No to new families in crisis.
Lema'an Achai is the only organization servicing the population of RBS with professional in-house teams of social workers, financial counselors, employment counselors, legal/rights advocates, and over 25 volunteer manned programs of aid and rehabilitation services.

For families IN crisis, Lema'an Achai is their route OUT.

Lema'an Achai has no major funders - all our support comes from private donors from the general public.

This dire situation can only be fixed by donors taking up the challenge, and increasing their financial support for Lema'an Achai's critical activities.
Donations details: http://www.lemaanachai.org/donate.asp

Here is a letter, unprecedented in the wide spectrum of local Rabbis lending their name and support to Lemaan Achai, calling upon the public to donate..

Tizku L'Mitzvos

Jul 13, 2008

The "Get Out of Jail Free" card!

Why do many criminals who end up being arrested and taken to court arrive wearing a big black kippa on their head?
Do they think the judge will be lenient on them because they appear religious? As if they have suddenly turned their lives' around and improved themselves?

What do they think they will gain from it? The kid in this case was not religious. He murdered someone in cold blood, for no particular reason. He has expressed no remorse. Suddenly he shows up wearing a kippa.

What does the kippa do for these criminals? Do they think it is a "Get Out of Jail Free" card?

Touring in Eretz Yisrael: Hebron: Rocking the Casbah (not!)

This edition of the Touring in Eretz Yisrael series is about Shabbos in Hebron.

Someone put together a group of families from our shul to go to Hebron for Shabbos this week. We joined the group, as Hebron is always an exciting, and inspiring, place to go visit, especially for a Shabbos stay.

We were a group of about 10 families plus a few individuals. Most went on the armored bus, but we drove our car (along with two other familes), due to a shortage of space on the bus.

Friday afternoon we drove down to the Hebron area. We started off the trip with a visit to the Noam Federman farm in Hebron. Federman has been in and out of jail and house arrest for many years for 'extremist' activities, some of which have been proven false. He moved a few years ago out of Hebron proper and bought this farm on the outskirts. He raises some sheep and goats, has some fruit trees, and lives off the land. We had some activities on the farm, such as feeding the goats, kids rode the horse, we made fresh pita bread on the saaj (not sure of proper spelling), a rock climbing wall for kids, and relaxing in the open field with a guitar and everyone's company.

Rafi G.'s hand feeding a goat

Noam Federman looking on

Pita baking on the saaj

a "Settler Scarecrow" (dubbed by me). Not sure if meant to scare away the crows, invading Arabs, or police coming to arrest Noam...

After we spent some time enjoying the farm life, we moved on as it was getting closer to Shabbos. We went to visit a fairly new "community" on a hilltop on the outskirts of Hebron/Kiryat Arba. I think it was called "Maalei Gal", and is a community of three families right now.

They met with us and described the ideology of living in practical solitude among a sea of people, both Arabs and government, who want you out. Some of them move from place to place every year or two as they get thrown out of each place, usually by the government.

The person living in this house (really a caravan), had gotten hold of an old Egged bus in disuse and lived in it for almost a year and a half! Only then did he get a caravan/container and attach it to his bus/house to add a living room and another bedroom. It was really funky.

Yifat Alkoby, one of the residents, met with us and explained how and why they live there. Yifat is more famous for having been involved in an incident in January of 2007 in which she was videoed in Hebron "attacking" a Palestinian. The video actually only showed her screaming at the Palestinian and did not show what led up to it, but she is awaiting trial for that harassment. I asked her about it and she did not seem worried. She said her trial is due in a few months and whatever will be will be ok. Hashem takes care of us. The whole story was nothing big.

The community "park"

Then we went to Hebron for SHabbos. We settled in in the Beitar Guest House. We davened at "the Me'arah" and had a great Shabbos. The kids had a great time hanging out with the soldiers who seemed to enjoy all the kids talking to them (I am surprised they do not get tired of it). They made friends with a few of the soldiers and the soldiers gave them a bit of a tour as they allwed the kids to come along on one of the patrols. We visited a resident who is an artist named Shmuel Muchnik. He is an amazing artist and had a room full of beautiful paintings.

We were then supposed to join the weekly tour of the Casbah. The Casbah is the market in Hebron. Much of the property within is owned by the Jewish community, but it has been declared a closed military zone and Jews cannot go in. They only allow Jews in with the army once a week (I think) under very tight security. They recently started limiting the Casbah tours to a maximum of 30 people, so my family, and most of our group, did not make it in. Maybe next time. That was the one disappointment - not being able to rock the Casbah. Instead somebody else gave us a tour of another part of Hebron.

This is the building that until a year ago were populated by residents. the High Court threw them out calling it a provocation, even though all had been legally purchased from the Arab owners, and even though it is all property that had been owned by jews before the 1929 massacre and then taken by the Arabs. Everything is now gutted. You can still see sinks and some cabinets attached to the walls. They just sit empty, and they are within the Jewish area, so I am not sure what the provocation is.

One ironic item of graffiti the guide pointed out to us was this (written in Hebrew so it rhymed, but I am translating it to English so it does not rhyme):
Dear Sharon:
I wanted to say tehillim for you, but the seforim were locked away in the container.
I wanted to daven for you, but the shuls were burned down and destroyed.
I wanted to cross my fingers for you, but the yasamnikim (riot police) broke them

You can never get enough of Hebron!

Busjacking in Bnei Braq!

The local rag 'Chadash' ran a story of an incident that happened last week.

The mishaps and inefficiencies of Egged have been very well documented all around the country. An extreme example was on Lag B'Omer there was a complete failure of the system and people waited hours on end for Egged to bring buses. The Lag B'Omer situation was so bad that there was even a drive to have it discussed in the Knesset.
In Bet Shemesh the problem has been pretty bad with buses not showing up, being late, overpacked, etc. The 417 line is actually pretty decent, though it is often overcrowded during the peak hours with not enoughbuses on the line, but many of the other lines provide horrendous service.

One such line is the 497 line between Bet Shemesh and Bnei Braq. I have heard nothing but complaints about this line. Buses that never show up. Buses that are overfull. Delays. etc.

So the incident is that last week on Motzai Shabbos, people were waiting in Bnei Braq at the bus stop for a 497 to go back home to Bet Shemesh. The 9:30 bus only left half an hour late, and filled up very quickly, leaving many people around Bnei Braq stranded, as they could not get on the bus.

An Egged supervisor passed by and promised them that another bus was being dispatched right away. A short while later anothe rbus passed also packed to the gills, not letting anybody on.

11pm had already come and gone, and the people realized they would soon be stuck there overnight unless they did something drastic. They got an empty 402 bus to pull over, thinking they would be going to Jerusalem. Everybody got on the bus and told the driver that he has to take them to Bet Shemesh. The driver insisted his route is Jerusalem and not Bet Shemesh, but the passengers refused to give in and insisted he take them to Bet Shemesh.

the article did not describe any violence or threats of violence used during the confrontation with the bus driver, but eventually the driver agreed and took them to Bet Shemesh.

This is what happens when a company is provided with a near monopoly on providing a public service. Kol Hakavod (not knowing what they actually did) to the passengers who stood up to the Egged behmoth.

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