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Jan 31, 2011

Interesting Posts #240

1. We All Pay For Payis

2. The Heavenly City

3. Punishment Of Egypt

4. My Apartment Burned, And How Was Your Weekend

5. What Parents Do

6. Only In Israel, IFL Pictures

Torah Redeemed From Church

Kikar reports on an interesting story that recently happened. A rav from Tel Aviv, Rav Avi Zarki, heard about a, antique and rare sefer torah that was being held in the basement of a church in Bethlehem, and it disturbed him greatly that the torah was being held in a place of tumah. He felt he needed to do something, to try to get it out.

Just a picture of an ancient torah, not the actual torah from the story
Rav Zarki tried to find ways of getting the torah out, through various connections, but nothing worked. It turned out that the heads of the church were only willing to part with the torah for an astronomical sum of money. Rav Zarki easily found someone willing to donate the sum of money required to redeem the torah.

Rav Zarki then went to Rav Shteinman to ask how to proceed. His question was if, to redeem a torah, he would be allowed to go into the makom tumah of the church. (personally I would think the bigger question would be if he would be allowed to spend "an astronomical amount of money" on redeeming a torah, as it might encourage them to steal other torahs for the purpose of selling them back to the Jews for a lot of money).

Rav Shteinman said it is allowed, and he gave him his blessing to proceed.

Zarki, with the blessing of Rav Shteinman, made the arrangements. He dressed up like a tourist from France posing as an antiques collector, and went to the arranged meeting place in Jerusalem. From there, the people he met took him in a United Nations car to where they had to go.

Rav Zarki says that at one point he felt that one of the Palestinian policemen suspected that he was Jewish. The policeman tried to talk to him in English, to test his cover supposedly, but he nervously continued talking in French and withstood the test of the policeman.

Rav Zarki describes how they went into the cellar of the church, and there he saw the antique torah sitting in a very secure safe. Keeping his composure, which he describes as being very difficult because of the emotions at the moment, so as not to cause them to raise the price even more, they proceeded to finalize the deal.

The bishop gave the final approval and signature for the transfer to be made, after ensuring that the money had been deposited in the bank account. When everything was cleared, he handed over the torah to Rav Zarki.

The torah is now in a shul in Tel Aviv being used the way it was intended.

(As to this torah from Amazon, I had no idea you could buy a torah on Amazon. Perhaps Rav Zarki should redeem this one as well)

Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi Says To Expect Rockets From Lebanon

Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi, the eccentric kabbalist who has started making his predictions again. His previous public prediction was publicized via his students, but this time he has come out himself and spoke on the radio.

Ben Artzi's latest prediction is that the world is now falling apart, and it is the time of the geula. The global economies are going to collapse, first America's economy, and then Europe's will follow. He then called upon the Jews from around the world to come and move to Eretz Yisrael immediately. The air train to Israel has already begun, he said, and it will soon pick up the pace. The Creator wants the jewish people to come together and be together.

Rabbi Ben Artzi says there will be an attempt to destroy what is in Iran, then Syria and Lebanon will get together with Gaza to cooperate with each other against Israel. Hashem won't let them. The Americans will give the go-ahead to destroy the Iranian nuclear reactor.

Ben Artzi predicts that under the ground of Israel there is a wealth of resources, and they will soon be discovered. The world is going to change, and the evil world is going to come apart. The whole world is suffering from madness, and only Israel is not, as Israel is protected.

Ben Artzi also predicted that we should expect rockets to be shot at us from Lebanon. The rockets will fall in the sea, but they will strengthen us.

He says there will be an earthquake in Israel. By Hashem there is no difference between those who are religious and those who are not.

Doesn't sound like anything major or unexpected earth shattering (except the earthquake) news...

Quote Of The Day

Specifically us, with all our disputes with the Palestinians, successfully keep the situation under control. You cannot compare the situation between us and the Palestinians to what is happening now in the Arab countries.
Therefore, to say that the problem of the Middle East is 2 caravans in Yitzhar or Nokdim - thats running away from reality....
The time has come for us to stand up for the truth and tell the whole world that they should solve the problems that really threaten the wellbeing of the world. Iran, fanning the flames of hatred and the lack of stability all over the Middle East. That is the main threat. Israel needs to stand up to the pressure and stand up to the attempts to run away from reality. We have to stick to our truth.

  -- Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman

Hosni Mubarak On SNL About the Egyptian Crisis

Egyptians are bad at recognizing signs, for example it took 10 (!) plagues before we let the Israelites go!

ElBharedei compares Muslim Brotherhood To Israel's Orthodox (video)

Christiane Amanpour of ABC News interviews ElBharsdei about the uprising in Egypt and his plans to form a government with the Muslim Brotherhood. At about 4:43 he compares the Muslim Brotherhood to the Orthodox in Israel...

The Wiggles: Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (video)

Jan 30, 2011

Quote Of The Day

I have been mandated by the people.

-- Mohamed ElBaradei on forming a new government in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood...

oh, did they hold a vote?

Egged Ignores Its Own Conclusions In Mea Shearim

Over a year ago Egged rerouted all bus lines that went through mea Shearim, because the buses were being attacked, there was too much damage, and they could not guarantee the safety of their passengers. They recently tried to restore the bus lines to route them through Mea Shearim, yet as soon as they began to drive through the local residents (a group of them) attacked the bus. Egged immediately canceled the route change. And that was a bus line that was primarily for the Orthodox passengers.

According to this report, because of the roadworks and the city's decision to close Jaffa Road to automobiles, many bus lines are being rerouted and are driving through Mea Shearim. I am not sure what Egged was thinking when they decided to do this. If they could not successfully drive a bus with religious passengers through Mea Shearim, did they really think they would be able to drive hundreds and thousands of secular passengers through? Do they not think before they make such plans?

I guess not, because they started to reroute buses through mea Shearim, and they upset the locals. Even the residents who did not throw rocks at the original bus lines got upset over this. The Eida arranged a protest against Egged due to the pritzus they were bringing through the neighborhood. The hafgana quickly deteriorated and people started blocking buses physically from driving through. Egged stopped the bus routes and decided to make alternate plans, before it got out of hand.

Interesting Psak: Black-On-Back Tefillin Straps

There is a chumra that has become fairly common in recent years, and that is painting both sides of the tefillin straps black. The concern is that the strap might turn over, as it is wont to do, and the white/grey/brown side would be showing. By painting the back side black as well, even if it flips over, it will be black.

I recently heard from a famous and well-respected sofer discussing this chumra that poskim he has discussed it with have basically deemed it unnecessary. There is no real indication form the gemara or halacha that it even helps, as it is not clear that the problem with the being flipped over is that white/brown/grey would be showing, a problem that painting black would solve, or that the problem is that the top side must be forward and if it flips over, even if it is black, it is a problem.

So, he said, it is a nice chumra, but not necessary and should only be incorporated into one's tefillin if it does not come at the expense of more important chumras and hiddurim - it costs extra money to paint the back sides black, and one must consider if that is money well spent.

Kikar reports that a battim machir from Bnei Braq went to Rav Elyashiv this past week and asked Rav Elyashiv what he thought of this hiddur of making the straps black on both sides.

Rav Elyashiv said he is not interested in this hiddur. Surprised, the battim macher asked why and if the hiddur is not important.

Rav Elyashiv responded, supposedly, that while it is a very good and important hiddur, he himself does not want to iplement it in his own set of tefillin. The reason being that if he gets such straps, everyone around the world will say that rav Elyashiv is makpid on davka using tefillin that is completely black on both sides. They will think that tefillin that does not have the back side black is not kosher, chas v'shalom. As well, people will run to switch their straps and that will be an unnecessary expense that will have been caused. He therefore said he wants to keep his original, black-on-one-side, straps.

Mubarak Should Beware Of The Zionist Sharks

Al Jazeera has had a major part in the uprising in Egypt, though not nearly as major a part as Twitter and Facebook have had. That is why the Egyptian government has already tried to block access to twitter and Facebook, and is now shutting down the local Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera reported yesterday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak might be fleeing the country, with Tel Aviv as his planned destination. They claim the source for the report is the Egyptian embassy in tel Aviv, as they are making plans for his arrival, after Saudi Arabia rejected his request.

Personally I do not believe it. Mubarak could go to many places, the favorite among exiled Arab leaders has always been London. Why would he go to Tel Aviv when he never even came to Israel on a diplomatic trip throughout the attempts to mediate in the peace process? Israel's prime ministers, presidents, and ministers went to Egypt many times, yet Mubarak has always refused to go to Israel. I don't see why he would start now, unless London and everyone else also rejected his travel plans. But then perhaps Israel should reject him as well, if he is being overthrown - why offer him refuge?

News reports are already saying the Mubarak's family has fled to London, and now Mubarak himself has fled to Sharm el-Sheik. Perhaps he is on his way to Tel Aviv. I would advise him while he stays in Sharm el Sheik that he should be careful of the Zionist sharks in the waters there.

SushiGate in RBS

With the comments flying on an unrelated topic, I have decided to make a post that is an open topic for the comments on "sushigate". Please do not let the comments get out of hand, be careful to not be disrespectful, discuss the topic, yada yada yada, or I will shut it down.

For some background, for those unaware of what "sushigate" is, for some reason Rav Malinowitz had JKN investigate the kashrus of a local sushi business, called Sushiagogo. It seems they were advertising that their business operated under the hechsher of Agudas Yisrael. Calls to the Aguda made it clear that this was not true, the Aguda said an announcement must be made to that effect, and if people ate food from the sushi place, it might not have been kosher and they should consult with their rav as to how to proceed.

After Shabbos it was further investigated and discovered that the sushi place was buyign their sushi from a factory that was under the supervision of Agudas Yisrael, but the sushi place was not itself under this supervision. They had made a private arrangement with the Aguda mashgiach and he certified that their sushi was kosher. Being that they were buying Agudas Yisrael sushi from the factory and using the Aguda mashgiach, plus the mashgiach used the Aguda name, they seem to have mistakenly been under the impression that the Aguda was giving them the certification.

It turns out that the Aguda was not aware of the arrangement, as the mashgiach had never mentioned it to them. Therefore, when they demanded the announcement, they were assuming someone claiming their hechsher falsel, so they were concerned the food was not kosher. Now that they have been apprised of the situation, they have said the food was kosher until now. The Aguda and the mashgiach have said that it was the mashgiach's error, and the food until now was fine, but the private arrangement will no longer continue. Food until now was kosher, but from now on it does not have their hechsher (perhaps they are arranging an alternate hechsher).

As only one side in this story has been heard until now, and that was via the emails they themselves publicized on the various email lists, I thought it would be helpful to get the other side of the story as well. I emailed a series of questions to the owner of Sushiagogo, and he sent me his responses.

1. Please help get the story straight - are you a store or a factory? do you buy from a factory? How did this all begin?
We are sushi chefs that made our sushi in a J-m restaurant under the Badatz Aguda. We don't buy from a factory. All of the sushi is made by us in the restaurant.
It began last year when we bought Sushiagogo.com from another owner. We continued to make the sushi in RBS under the Badatz mashgiach, Rabbi Neiman. Last spring we were hired to be the sushi makers in a restaurant. The owners and mashgichim knew that some of the sushi made there was being sent out to RBS.It was the exact same sushi being served in the restaurant.

2. Who certified Sushiagogo as kosher? Agudas Yisrael? a private mashgiach? if a private mashgiach, why did you say you were certified by the Agudas Yisrael?
While in RBS we had the supervision of the Badatz Aguda, Rabbi Neiman mashgiach. When we moved to the restaurant we just continued with the Badatz Aguda mashgiach there.

3. when you were told of the problem, did you call the mashgiach and ask whats going on, why are they saying you have no hasgocho? what was his explanation?
We really didn't know the extent of the issue until it hit the email lists and JKN. The only inkling was what we thought an innocent question emailed by a local rav. The question was: "I just want to make sure--you have Agudas Yisrael hechsher?" We answered yes as we believed that we were under the supervision (and as Rav Kroiser confirmed). It was lack of communication

4. did you try to make your situation understood by those investigating your kashrus? They didn't clearly clarify their intentions so we didn't have the opportunity to make the situation known.

5. now that the Agudas Yisrael mashgiach is saying you are no longer under his supervision, what kashrus organization are you taking for supervision? We are considering our options. In any case we will not sell sushi without hashgacha because we wouldn't eat it ourselves without proper hashgocha.

Do you have anything to say about what happened, a message you want people to hear that has not been mentioned? "Dan adom l'chaf zchus". We are frum people even though just teenagers. We personally feel that a better way would have been for the rav and JKN to say something like the hechsher may be in question or is under investigation. The very harsh and unclear language has stirred many people to think that we were serving treif, chas v'shalom, or trying to fool the public or lie. As it is now known this wasn't the case. In an email to our customers a foot note was written about the mitzva of "dan adom l'chaf zchus" with the mention that sometimes one detail is missing. The rav who started the investigation replied that he did everything correctly and there was no issue of dan adom l'chaf zchus. We see in the end however that the one detail..the lack of communication at the Aguda made all of the difference. I am not a rav but I think that everyone can learn the lesson of judging others favorably even when it look otherwise.

Open thread in the comments, keep it clean.

New Anti-Burqa Law Proposed

The Beatles Crossing Abbey Road In The UK

More realistic Looking Beatles Crossing Yarden Road in Bet Shemesh

The uprisings in Muslim countries do have an effect on Israel.

As a result of the uprisings in the various countries, specifically the uprisings in Egypt that are increasing in intensity, MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) is proposing a new law that will be discussed in the Knesset.

The law Solodkin is proposing is to ban the wearing, in public, of burqas, raalas and anything else that covers the face and hides a person's identity.

The law, if it passes, would punish a person who covers his/her face, even partially, in public, willingly, in a way that does not allow others to identify him/her, with jail time of a month or a 500 NIS fine. If one coerces someone else to do so, the punishment would be 6 months in jail or  a 10,000 NIS fine.

Solodkin says she is trying to prevent the increasing level of extremism in both Muslims and Haredim, and ban the wearing of raalas over the face in public. Solodkin says she understands the uprisings, and is satisfied that they are being driven by motives of a citizens revolution and not of a religious revolution because, as she says, she sees in the crowds in the street female protesters.

Solodkin said, "We should have done this a long time ago, but in Israel everyone is afraid of their "behinds". This is a universal law that establishes that a person, and it does not matter what race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual persuasion the person is from, cannot cover the face. It is the same for a man and a woman, for Arabs and for "the Taliban mother". I even heard that there are haredi men who cover their faces now. To see that in Syria there is a definitive law against wearing a raala in the university while here in Israel it is allowed - to me that is absurd." (source: Walla News)

Rabbi Yehuda Levin Defends Glenn Beck (video)

Lipa Sings Nebach nebach At Wedding (video)

Nebach, Nebach - a takeoff of Revach Revach...

Jan 27, 2011

The Jews of Djerba

With the spate of uprisings and increasing riots in the Middle East in different Muslim countries, and specifically the recent overthrow of the government in Tunisia, Mishpacha magazine (Hebrew) last week had an article about the Jewish community in Djerba.

The article talked with Rav Rafael Cohen, a rav in Israel of Tunisian descent. His ancestors had been rabbonim in Djerba, and he has been connected to the community in Djerba for a couple of decades, traveling a couple times a year to be with the community and speak in the shuls, along with general contact all year round between Tunisia and Israel by phone and the like.

It was a fascinating article, describing Jewish life in Djerba, and I wanted to share a few anecdotes and thoughts Rav Cohen described in the article.

1. I'll lead off with the story, as related, about the history of the Jewish community. The Jewish community of Djerba is dated back to at the least the First Temple period. The community consists of mostly kohanim and some yisraelim, but no leviim. The main shul in Djerba has one of the stones from the mizbeiach of the First Beis Hamikdash, as they took it with them when they were sent into exile by the destruction and then used it in the construction of the shul as a reminder of the Beis Hamikdash.

When the Jews were allowed back to Israel (probably called Judea at the time), and Ezra was planning on building what would be the Second Beis Hamikdash, he went to all the Jewish communities in exile and tried to persuade them to come back to Eretz Yisrael with hhim and to build the beis hamikdash. he was specifically looking for leviim for them to take their role in the Temple, the Levites of Djerba refused to join him in his quest. They said the new beis hamikdash would eventually be destroyed anyway, so they did not feel it necessary to bother uprooting the community, just to head back into exile a bit later and start anew.

Because of their refusal, Ezra cursed them saying they would not complete the year. Since then, there have been no leviim in Djerba - those that were there died out, and since then any passing through make sure to not stay for an extended period of time.

2. Rav Cohen related an interesting anecdote describing how dedicated they are to Torah study in Djerba and that the people there are tremendous talmidei chachomim that rival the chachomim of Eretz Yisroel, and the yeshiva there rivals the best yeshivas in Eretz Yisrael.

Rav Cohen related that you can give a shiur to them, talk in Torah, drush, pilpul, etc. and you will hear a response that is the same as a sevara provided by rishonim and acharonim, they ask questions and provide answers with amazing depth and clarity. And "it is difficult to believe that this bachur standing in front of you with a colored shirt and the unusual kipa, is the one that said this...there is a contradiction between the eyes and the ears. They don't have the white shirts and black kipa standards the way we do. Their mode of dress is deceptive."

I am amazed that Rav Cohen who comes off as so intelligent and dedicated really is shocked that people wearing colored shirts can be smart and say a good sevara...

3. 10 years ago Suha Arafat came to Tunisia. Lila Terbelasi (sp?), the wife of President Ben Ali (who has now been banished from Tunisia but was good to the Jews), brought her to the main shul in the Jewish community.

In the shul at the time there was a young girl, the daughter of one of the members of the community. the visiting women asked her what her name is. She responded "Sharon".

Arafat turned to Terbelasi in surprise and asked "Sharon has even come here?"

4. Rav Cohen talks a lot about the education system and that in Djerba there is no such thing as a mechalel shabbos. They are all frum and study Torah. The education system does not include most secular studies. He compared it to the Jewish community of Tunis, the capital city of Tunisia, where many are not religious.

In Tunis they are more mixed with the non-Jews and have decided to include more secular education. Many also left the Jewish area and live with everyone else near the market. They have been exposed to the French culture and have been influenced away from Torah.  When comparing the Djerban community to the Tunis community and explaining why in Djerba they stayed religious and kept away from the French studies,  Rav Cohen said they saw how they requested just a half hour of French education, and ended up with just a half hour of Torah education.

Cigarette Vending Machines No More!

It always bothers me when I see these cigarette vending machines placed out in public places such as in the shopping centers, near candy stores, etc. How can selling cigarettes in this fashion be allowed? How many times have you seen young teenagers buying cigarettes in these vending machines? It seems so wrong for them to be displayed out in public like that.

A cross-party group of MKs sponsored a new bill to be presented as law this week that would ban such cigarette vending machines. The bill has already passed it's initial reading with an overwhelming majority, and now has to go through the process of the subsequent readings and committees. (source: Srugim)

The vote on the initial reading was to the count of 45-1 in favor of banning the vending machines. I wonder which MK voted against the proposed law and is in favor of leaving the cigarette vending machines where they are...

Perhaps we have seen the last of these machines...

Banning Lipa, Ignoring The People

Lipa has upset the Rabbinic Committee For Holy Music and the one for Purity Of The Camp (or whatever they each call themselves).

The same week that Mordechai Ben David ignored their pashkevilim and bans and performed at a concert for women, Lipa came to israel as well to perform in a concert. Lipa performed in Eilat at a mehadrin vacation package for haredim.

They put up pashkevilim saying, in the name of various rabbonim/gedolim, that it is prohibited to listen to the music of "Klipa" Shmelczer because performs in front of mixed crowds, which is a very serious Torah prohibition.. (source: Kikar)

While perhaps it is easier to attack one person for going against them, they are ignoring the fact that at this performance for haredi families it was haredim who choose to sit together as families. Does that mean haredi families are ignoring the education they have received over the years that participation in such events is assur? Does it mean haredi families want to sit mixed, even though it is assur? Does it mean haredi families don't believe it is assur to sit together as a family?

It looks to me like the various committees ought to first be working on teaching the people what is assur and what is muttar (in their opinion obviously)... Either the people have no idea or they reject the askanim's definition of what is and is not allowed.

Gods Sense Of Humor

Either God has a sense of humor or MK Zeev Elkind does not.

The Knesset recently decided to appoint a parliamentary committee to investigate the source of funding of the extreme left organizations. The decision for an investigation passed despite the brouhaha it was made into, as if how dare anybody investigate the leftists. I did not get what the big deal was, as the rightists are regularly being attacked, investigated and lambasted, so why should the leftists think they are immune? Regardless, the decision was made to investigate despite the opposition.

Yesterday the Knesset was deciding the make-up of the committee that will be conducting the investigation. It got heated, and the Arab MKs were getting upset. During the session the Arab MKs called out to Elkin, the director of the government coalition who is responsible for establishing the committee, "Why not just have [National Union MK Michael] Ben-Ari investigate us and be done with it???"

The comment was obviously made in a cynical fashion, as Ben Ari is the loudest opponent to the Arab MKs and leftist organizations and has said numerous times that [certain] Arabs should be banned from the Knesset, he has said he would take care of them, he has been vocal against the leftist organizations, etc.

Somehow Elkin did not pick up on the cynicism in the remark, and actually appointed Dr. Michael Ben Ari as the head of the investigative committee.

The Arabs were obviously upset and left saying they will ban the investigation and not cooperate.

Ben Ari, on the other hand, said he was pleased with the unusual arrangement (unusual because his party, Ichud haLeumi is not part of the coalition yet he was tapped to head the committee), and the MKs from the Arab parties know that "I will deal with them and their friends the way I promised. I will protect the State of Israel from all its enemies, both internal and external, who want to destroy it."

God works in funny ways. A cynical comment by the Arabs actually led to Ben Ari being appointed to head the investigation.

Customer Service In Israel Improves - Example: Bezeq

People always complain about customer service in Israel, based on the history of bad service. The truth is that customer service in Israel has improved dramatically over the past 10 years. Many companies have representatives that listen to your complaint, are polite and helpful and try to get the problem solved to everyones satisfaction, and even reasonable compensation is no longer unusual.

Here is a good example of how far we have come in that regard.

On Tuesday Bezeq had a few hours of technical difficulty that led to the phone system across the country not working properly. Many customers suffered seriously. While in a home it might not be so bad, though it could be as well, businesses that rely on the telephone suffered serious losses - I read in the paper about a taxi stand that claimed they had almost no business during the outage, when usually they are very busy with about 5000 calls a day, leading to thousands of shekel of damage. A pizza store had no telephone business, which is a major component of their business, causing them tremendous losses. The pizza shop and taxi stand mentioned in the paper that they were each considering suing Bezeq for the loss of business.

Bezeq fixed the problem and said they would compensate their customers, probably to the skepticism of many customers. They came through quickly, announcing today that next week all phone calls will be free, up to 1000 minutes of calls, from Sunday morning until Saturday night. There is no need to register with them to receive this offer, as it will be automatically applied.

I don't know if 1000 minutes of free calls will make up for everybody's losses, as businesses might have lost more than that and perhaps a businesses losses were calls received rather than outgoing (for example, how many minutes of outgoing calls does a pizza shop or taxi stand really need anyway?), but it is good public compensation. Perhaps those businesses that were affected in ways that this will not make up for are being given other forms of compensation on a more individual basis.

Cantor Simon Cohen: Hallelu (video)

MBD and Avraham Fried: Sissu (video)

Jan 26, 2011

The Holiest Place To The Jews

Meoros Daf Yomi is working on arranging a massive daf yomi event, bringing 100,000 Jews to the Kotel for a daf yomi shiur. The people would be divided up into 1000 grousp of 20 people each, and along with learnign the daf they would also get, free of charge, tours of the area including the Kotel Tunnels.They have already run a pilot of this concept with 150 people, which they say was a success.

It sounds like a great idea.

Below is the ad copy the produced to raise money for the event. they want people to sponsor groups. As you can see, they call the project "Connecting With The Holy of Holies", They write "the goal is to bring 100,000 people to the Western Wall for a shiur in gemara at the holiest place of the Jewish Nation.

While the Kotel is a holy place, in light of it being used for the last 60 years as a shul, in light of it's proximity to the makom ha'mikdash, it on it's own is NOT the holiest place we Jews have. The holiest place on earth, we believe, is on the other side of the wall - the Temple complex on Har HaBayit, and the Kodesh Kodashim.

They should have written "the holiest place accessible to us today", or maybe "the closest we can get to the holiest place", or something similar.

Road To Beis Hamikdash Uncovered! (video)

This is the road/path on which Jews walked to and from the Beis Hamikdash, and on which thousands were killed escaping from the Romans. The road was just uncovered in the Kotel tunnels..

רשות העתיקות from bhol on Vimeo.

Soon To Be Recognized: BA In Torah Studies

There is talk about the possibility of the Ministry of Education recognizing a degree in Torah studies for avreichim as a full academic degree. This would allow qualified applicants to apply for both job opportunities that are relevant to Torah studies and for furthering one's education without having to start from scratch.

This began when an avreich applied for a job as a supervisor of charedi education in the Ministry of Education. He did not qualify for the job because it requires an academic degree, and his many years of study in yeshiva and kollel were not enough to qualify.

He took his petition to court, to have his study recognized, and the court asked the MoE the opinion. Gideon Saar, the Minister of Education, responded that he supports recognizing Torah studies as equivalent to a degree.

It is about time. There is no reason torah study should not be recognized as a form of a humanities degree, just like studying in university fields like other languages and cultures is a recognized degree and can be used to apply for basic jobs that require a basic degree, or for furthering study.

Obviously, if it will be allowed, it will need to be monitored, and regulations set in place - how many years of study, which yeshivas will be accredited to grant such degrees, a system of testing if necessary (perhaps require the bagruyot matriculation exams, along with some sort of testing of capabilities in Judaic Studies), and the like. Otherwise the system will be quickly abused, and its value will be instantly questioned and discredited.

This is done in the United States. Many yeshivas are accredited to be able to grant degrees in Judaic Studies, which then allows the student to go to college and study for a Masters rather than starting from scratch. It is true not all universities accept such degrees, and the ones that do also have requirements, but for the most part the system is pretty regular without glitches.

There is no reason why that cannot work here. And doing so will allow many qualified applicants to join the workforce. Many avreichim apply for government positions as clerks, but get rejected because they don't hold the minimum requirement of a degree. truth is that nobody needs a degree to file papers at the Misrad HaPnim, or to be a clerk taking complaints or accepting payments. Yet the requirement is basic and perhaps ensures a certain minimum level of education and abilities, and is understandable. Granting the Torah Studies degree wold be a good step in getting many of these people into decent jobs, and many others into educational programs.

Rav Nir Ben Artzi And The Apocalypse

Rav Nir Ben Artzi is a bit of a strange bird. He is a kabbalist, so that might explain his seeming strange to most "regular" people. He has been known to predict the future, whether correctly or not I dont know though his followers say he foresaw the 9/11 attacks. He has also declared himself as the mashiach on a number of occasions.

Ben Artzi disappeared for a while (4 years I think), supposedly he was abducted. He came back, or was released, over a year ago, but has mostly kept out of the limelight since then, not making public appearances.

He has now made his first public prediction since the abduction. Here is what he said:
People should minimize their travel, even stop it completely, if possible. The whole world is in danger. if one must travel for work, parnassah, or for a miztva or for bringing Jews back to Eretz Yisrael, that is fine. But not just for travel - there is no protection because the shechina is not in chutz la'aretz.

He then claimed the strange weather in the USA is a result of the demands on Israel to freeze construction. They first demanded it, so Hashem froze over New York. They demanded again, so He froze over New Jersey. Whenever they talk about a freeze, Hashem brings to them strong winds for them to have to deal with.

The floods are increasing in Australia. More countries will be flooded over and disappear from the world. There are problems with airplanes and flights, causing mix ups and confusion. Many radar systems and satellites have been messed up. Strange things will continue to occur around the world, birds falling out of the air, fish washing up out of the sea. All this is the hand of Hashem. Nobody can stop Him.

The economy around the world will continue to fall apart. The Chinese think they will conquer the world, but they will soon be hit badly. China was strengthened in order to bring about the downfall of the American, Russian and European economies, but then China will also come apart. (source: Bechadrei)

What do we do with this type of information, besides for changing travel plans? Believe it? Ignore it? I guess a good idea is to use it, whether true or not, even if skeptical, as an impetus for teshuva.

Mark Zuckerberg Gets Invited To A Facebook Wedding (video)

Avraham Fried: Tanya (video)

Nobody Comes To The Minyan No More (video)

Jan 25, 2011

Quote Of The Day

You talk today about peace and the deterioration of the political situation, yet during the time you were in charge there were two wars - one in the north and one in the south. In the north, besides for a dismal failure, we have seen Hezballah strengthen itself. Today is a symbolic day as we see Hezballah appoint the prime minister. Perhaps you should remind the director of your party about this, as she glorified herself with having brought about UN Resolution #1701.

  -- Minister Gilad Erdan to Kadima reps

Interesting Posts #239

1. Veils On Little Girls

2. Friends Don't Spy On Friends

3. Is Anything Secret Anymore?

4. An Upside Down World

5. Waiter, There's A Foreskin In My Cup!

6. Crying At The Kosel

7. Derech Eretz

8. The Zalmanovs And Their 19 Children

Survey At The Kotel

There is a survey being conducted by the Kotel. The survey is being run by activists from the secular organization (can an organization be secular?), "Hitorerut", in an attempt to fight what they see as the haredization, and the move to the extreme, of the Kotel.

Activists are giving out the questionnaire by the Kotel. The questionnaire contains a mix of questions, some with no connection to the issue, such as which way they came in, if the information desk was helpful, etc., while other questions are specifically targeted to the issue, such as did they see signs separating the sexes in the upper plaza, were they approached and instructed how to dress, were men told to put on a kipa, etc.

Representatives from the Eida are upset about this, considering it a provocation. However, they are saying, they would like to keep an eye on it and would be happy to see the results. The real concern is, supposedly, that the results will be skewed by impartial activists. if the activists hand out the questionnaire, that is fine. If the activists hand out the questionnaire in a way that prejudices the answers, such as by making anti-haredi comments or suggestions, than the answers will be improperly skewed and influenced.

Shmuel Peppenheim, the Eida "spokesperson" (unofficial?) expects that most people will be against such provocation and expect that there is a certain acceptable code of conduct and dress, just like when going into a mosque. (source: NRG)

Peppenheim and the Eida are expecting that the results of the survey will surprise the activists and validate the Eida. We wait and see.

I would suggest to the activists of Hitorerut that the best way to oppose the haredization of the Kotel is that they should promote more people of all types, secular, traditional, etc. to come more regularly to the Kotel. Since it is the religious people who come the most to the Kotel, they are the ones who set the tone.

Questionnaires won't really help much in changing things, when facts are being established on the ground. The only thing that will work is establishing new facts on the ground, in the sense of getting more people to come.

Glatt Video

There is a new frum video hosting website in the style of Youtube. The new site is called Glatube.

Their goal, as stated, is to provide a video site that is supervised. They have mashgichei kashrus that check every single video to ensure they do not contain any objectionable content, such as sexual, violence, or anything else objectionable.


Interesting Psak: No Davening For The Dead

Rav Reem HaKohein, the rav of Otniel, has written an interesting psak in a shabbos parsha sheet article.

The topic is the current hot issue of brain death and what is considered halachic death. There are some rabbonim who consider brain death to be the time of halachic death, while there are some rabbonim who hold brain death is not death but cardiac death is the halachic point of death. The ramification of the debate is at what point can one in such a situation possibly donate organs.

Rav Reem Hakohein is a proponent of organ donation, and he holds that brain death is halachic death. Rav Hahohein paskened in his article that one would not be allowed to daven for the recovery of someone who is brain dead. The reason is because once one has gone through brain death, there is no recovery. Rav Hakohein adds that even according to those opinions that are machmir to not call it death until cardiac death, and that one could not donate organs after brain death because the person is still technically alive, one still cannot daven for the recovery of a brain dead patient.

And the reason is because davening for such a person would be a tefillas shav, a prayer in vain, which one cannot say. There is no recovery from brain death, and therefore one cannot daven for such a recovery. Therefore, irregardless of whether or not you hold brain death is halachic death, one would still not be allowed to pray for the recovery of a brain dead patient. (source: ynet)

I see no reason to say person could not daven for the patient in other aspects, that he should not suffer, that he should pass quickly rather than languish, that he should have merit in shamayim, etc. The only problem is regarding praying that he recover, which is impossible.

Sick Of Getting Slapped (video)

This is the latest anti-haredi campaign.. It is the silent majority in Israel who are sick of getting slapped in the face

Livni = Kahane

Amazing. According to the Palestine Papers leaked by Al Jazeera, Tzippi Livni offered that all Arabs, including Israeli Arabs, be transferred to the Palestinian State under PA rule, except for some minor numbers of refugees that would be allowed into Israel and some Israeli Arabs that would be allowed to remain in Israel, and the PA basically accepted that condition, recognizing that Israel could not survive if it granted Arabs the right to return to Israel.

That was basically the agenda Rabbi Meier Kahane supported. Yet he was a racist for saying it.

Jan 24, 2011

The Leaked Palestinian Papers

I don't get the big deal with the Palileaks, or the leaks of Palestinian Papers by Al Jazeera that document what the Palestinians offered the Israelis for peace.. The Palestinians are pretty upset about it, and some (like Abbas) are denying the content.

If I were the Palestinians I would be pretty happy with these leaked papers. To me they seem to indicate that the Palestinians made a serious offer for peace, something they never had previously done, even granting the Israelis almost everything the Israelis could have wanted and expected in Jerusalem. Sure it was not a perfect offer, but the papers show the Israelis said no and did not even make a counter offer, working form that basis. The Israelis just said no.

To me, these leaked papers seem to make the PA look good and the Israelis bad.

So why are the Palestinians upset about it?

Quote Of The Day

Everyone agrees that it was Israeli hands that killed Abu Amar (Yasser Arafat). What they did to Abu Amar, Al Jazeera is doing to Abu Mazen today. 

  -- Yasser Abbed Rabo, member of PLO's Executive Committee

Machlokes Between Rav Chaim And Rebbetzin Kanievsky

An incident in Bnei Braq led to an unusual machlokes between Rav Chaim Kanievsky and his rebbetzin Rabbanit Kanievsky in how to resolve a shailoh.

The iryah of Bnei Braq hosted the director of the Social Welfares offices for a tour of the city and their social welfare organizations that operate in Bnei Braq. During the tour the mayor, Yaakov Asher, described how the organizations are famous for the level of assistance they offer, and described the tens of organizations and what they do.

They made a stop at the home of the Kanievsky family. During the visit, Rabbanit Kanievsky thanked the mayor. She said that every day she sits outside on her porch at 4am saying tehillim by the light from the street lights. Because the mayor was kind enough to connect the street lights to the generator, she is now able to also say her tehillim on Shabbos morning (at 4am), which she could not do before, as they hold using electricity from the electric company is completely assur as peer the psak of the Chazon Ish.

Rebbetzin Kanievsky also mentioned, by the way, that there is no prohibition of reading by the street lights because the gezeirah of shema yateh does not apply, as the street lights are so high up and inaccessible, there is no way she could try to adjust the light. Therefore she is allowed to read by the light provided by the street light.

Rav Chaim heard her halachic argument and could not remain silent. he argued saying that when chazal decreed against reading by the candlelight because of the concern that one might adjust the light, they did not differentiate by where the light is, and did not allow it just because it is high up and not easily accessible.

In an attempt to resolve the machlokes, the mayor stepped in and offered another possible leniency to consider. He said because the light in this case is at the top of an electricity pole it is dangerous to climb and adjust. Perhaps chazal did not make their gezeirah in a situation of danger, as there would be no need because nobody would put themselves in danger, in addition to the difficulty because of the height, to adjust the light. (source: Kikar)

I wonder who we pasken like in a machlokes like this, between Rav and Rebbetzin Kanievsky. It is definitely unusual.

Regardless, I am sure this machlokes is one that is l'shem shamayim and will not lead to any damage in their relationship...

MBD, Mixed Audiences, And Singing In Front Of Women

The Jewish/Hassidic music industry is still tumultuous with singers under attack regularly.

The latest attack is against Mordechai Ben David. He is scheduled to perform in Israel this week for an organization, Ohr Chaya, in a performance for women only.

Pashkevilim have been put up around Yerushalayim by the Committee for Purity of the Camp attacking MBD for performing in front of women, and they call on the women to stay away as the gedolim have prohibited singers from performing in front of women. (source: Kikar)

So now it is not just mixed performances that are prohibited, but they cant perform in front of women at all? Does that mean singers cannot perform in front of crowds that are only women or even mixed crowds that sit separately?

In another note on the same subject, Rav Yitzchak Yosef, one of the sons of Rav Ovadiah, has paskened yesterday that while singers should not perform in front of mixed audiences, and we must protest it and encourage them to stop, it is still permitted to listen to their music. The performer who does sing in front of such audiences does not become banned or prohibited. (source: Ladaat)

Jerusalem 2111, The Last Stand (video)

very strange

(HatTip: BJAT)

Diaspora 1983 in Chicago: Sim Shalom

Jan 23, 2011

Interesting Posts #238

1. Pop Culture Invades The Charedi World

2. Passive Aggressive Letter To Daughter In Law

3. Leaving $12 Million On The Table

4. Shabbos Is The Antidote To Modern Technology

5. Repent, Signed Anonymous

The Ex-Con Hero

It is unfortunate. Yosef Bondo was taken advantage of. he was a naive yeshiva bochur who trusted somebody who looked like nobody he ever suspected would lie or be involved in illegal and dangerous stuff like drug smuggling. He was caught, with his friends, he was tried, he sat in jail. It is unfortunate.

Now he is free. He has been pardoned and can now get on with his life.

Why does sitting in jail make a person into a celebrity? He was not martyred, he did not take the fall for someone else, he committed a crime, he paid his time, and now he should get on with his life.

Yet, now that he is out, communities are welcoming him and inviting him to visit as if he is some sort of a hero. The haredi media is following his every step as if he is a hero.

And I don't understand why this happens. I kind of get it when someone is perceived as having gone to jail protecting other people, so he is a selfless hero who went to jail to save someone else (if if this is only perceived rather than reality), but when he goes to jail for a crime he actually committed, what about that makes him deserving of being treated like a hero?

Should The Jerusalem Marathon Use Kids?

There is a debate going on in Jerusalem right now, as the city begins preparing for the upcoming Jerusalem marathon in March.

Marathons are very disruptive to a city's regular ebb and flow. they wreak havoc on traffic, as roads need to be closed for about 8 hours, businesses along the route are affected, schools and public transportation, and more. There are benefits as well, such as cultural promotion, sport, bringing money to the city as people come from all over the country and even from places around the world and spend time and money around the city, etc.

The debate is whether to take advantage of the disruption that is going to definitely happen, or to ignore it and let life continue as regularly as possible.

Sometimes a city can plan the marathon route easily enough with as minimal disturbance as possible. The route can sometimes be contained to one side of a city, or to one area, along the outskirts. With Jerusalem, the scheduled route cuts across through major parts of the city. It is sure to be a major disturbance in a city already clogged up.

Due to the disruptions, the question is what to do with some schools that sit along the marathon route. Should lessons continue usual and just deal with the disruptions, and kids who cannot get to school because of blocked roads, or should school be canceled and let the kids get an education experience by participating in various ways such as by manning water stations?

Mayor of Jerusalem Nir Barkat is in favor of canceling school for that day, for the schools affected, and having the kids man the water stations. It can be a great experience for them. The director of the parents association disagrees and says the kids should go to school. It is a time of preparation for the bagruyot, the kids need to be in school, and it is municipal employees that should be used for helping out with the marathon rather than kids.

What do you think? Should the kids be used, since their schooling will be disturbed anyway, or should they try to study as best they can even under difficult conditions?

The Bet Shemesh Middle Class Are The Ones Affected

The big news in Bet Shemesh over the past week has been the recent decision by the Ministry of Education to no longer subsidize the ganim in the city.

It is really simply a technical issue, rather than a new decision, as, at least if I understood the situation correctly, the decision to cancel the subsidies, which is a decision based on socio-economic factors, is due to the upgrading of the status of Bet Shemesh out of the status of a development town. The decision was made a bunch of years ago (5 I think), and was to take effect back then. It was appealed by then mayor Dani Vaknin and was re-evaluated. The delay for re-evaluation and the appeal took its time (government committees work slowly I guess) and the decision was to continue as planned with the upgrade of Bet Shemesh, and the cancellation of the subsidies. After some more minor delays, the conclusion to go ahead as planned was just announced last week.

While much of the city will now be paying full price for sending little kids to gan, the older neighborhoods of the city are going to retain their status as "neighborhoods in rehabilitation" and continue to receive a full exemption from paying for gan.

The ramification of this decision is that while currently, in RBS and some of the other newer neighborhoods, parents pay, on average, 160 NIS per month to send a 3 or 4 year old to gan, that will go up to 800 NIS. In most parts of Old Bet Shemesh, gan will continue to be free.

Mayor of Bet Shemesh Moshe Abutbol has declared that this decision is intolerable. he has declared to fight Minister of Education Gidon Saar over his latest "decree" against the haredi public (i.e. the haredi neighborhoods are the most affected by the decision), and he has shut down all gan registration for the coming year, throughout the city, until the issue is resolved completely. While partial solutions have already been proposed, such as staggering the increase in the fee, Abutbol says he is holding out for a full solution.

On a technical point, Abutbol declared war on Saar for his decree - it was not Saar's decision, just a process initiated a few years ago (before Saar was MoE) that came to its conclusion.

I don't know if it was a "decree" targeted at the mostly haredi residents affected by the new status, but it is unfair that this plays out in this way. On the one hand, they accuse the haredi residents of being poor, not working, and having a low socio-economic status, yet they then decide that the city, specifically the more haredi neighborhoods deserve an upgraded status. This, while the secular neighborhoods retain their poor status. Which is it? Are the haredim rich or poor? Do they work or do they not?

The one consolation for the haredi residents is that people can still qualify for discounts based on personal income. Just like with the arnona - anyone who is in kollel, and anyone who is out of a job and not earning income, will still qualify for income-based discounts, so most people who are affected by the "decree" claiming they were the target of anti-haredi decisions, will not be affected.

In my opinion, the "decree" is really against the middle class, not against the haredim. The haredim, whoever they are, for the purpose of this discussion let's say haredim are people who live in kollel and get discounts on their arnona, will continue to get the discounts on gan, and possibly even pay less than previously. Until now everyone paid 20% of the price, 160 NIS, while now they might qualify for 90% or even 100% discounts. They will have to go through some more bureaucracy, and file more paperwork applying for the discount, but they will get it.

The middle class of the city, the people who work hard to pay their bills with one, two or even three incomes, and don't qualify for any discounts are suddenly going to have to pay 640 NIS more, 800 NIS, per kid in gan.

Somebody famous (a singer but I dont remember who, but I read the interview with him a bunch of years ago) said, when asked about how he feels paying so much money in taxes being in the highest tax bracket, that he is honored to be earning so much money that he has to pay so much. That is wonderful, but when you are the middle class and suddenly have to pay 500% more for the same service with no noticeable benefit. I am not suddenly richer, so why should my status change?

This should not be a haredi issue, but should be an issue for the general residents. Unfortunately, it seems Abutbol only gets worked up when the haredi residents are affected negatively, rather than general residents. Perhaps there is a silver lining in it, as most public officials tend to ignore the average citizen and only fight for the "minority". Meaning, if the issue was discussed as bad for the people, influential MKs would probably just ignore requests for their intervention and say there is nothing they could do. Now that is has been made into an anti-haredi issue, at least the Haredi MKs will probably join the fight.

Chasidishe dude by Rashbi trying to teach Big Shimon how to sing in Yiddish (video)

New use for tapes (video)

Since tapes are pretty much worthless nowadays, these yeshiva boys found a new way to use the archive of tapes.. as dominos..

Jan 20, 2011

Quote Of The Day

I turn to that Party whose name I have no reason to mention - don't take Ben-Gurion's name in vain. It is an insult to the holy and you have defiled the values of this state.

  --MK Amir Peretz (Labor)

Eida Slashes Prices

I was in the supermarket today and I noticed Hiddurim chickens being at a cheaper price than I I have ever seen before. They are generally the most expensive of all the brands, and even when on sale they only come down to about mid-range among the various mehadrin brands. Today they were the cheapest by a a couple shekels per kilo.

Hiddurim brand chickens is under the supervision and kashrus certification of the Eida Haredis.

I wonder if because of the scandal with the mashgiach Rav Shwimmer accusing the Eida of treifus they feel the need to lower prices to try to get people to continue to buy Eida. Either they are losing business because of the controversy and are trying to get it back, or they are trying to keep current customers by price seduction. Maybe they feel if they can ride it out a bit, with lower prices dragging people in, maybe eventually people will forget the scandal...

Or maybe not. Maybe all it is is a sale.

First Permits Granted For RBS C Construction (video)

The first sets of building permits for RBS C were granted today. Here is a video of Mayor of Bet Shemesh Moshe Abutbol talking about the permits, building and other projects in Bet Shemesh.

Dr. Shach Talks About His Father Rav Shach

Srugim has an interesting interview with Dr. Ephraim Shach, the only son of Rav Shach zt"l the former Rosh Yeshiva of Ponevezsh and one of the gedolei hador.

Dr. Shach says a number of interesting things in his interview. These are the points I found partivcularly interesting to me:
1) Dr. Shach talks about his relationship with his father. Dr. Shach was famous for having abandoned the haredi community, going to get an education (in the days where there was no such thing as a machon for vocational training for haredim, going to the army and becoming Dati Leumi.

There was a period of time where Dr. Shach and his father had a falling out and were not talking to each other. Dr. Shach says that despite what people thought at the time, it was not because of the way he chose to live his life with Rav Shach bing disappointed and hurt. It was because of a spat between them when his mother died. At the time he was abroad, and his father told him he need not travel back, as they wanted to hold the funeral immediately and Dr. Shach would therefore miss it even if he got the next flight. Dr. Shach was hurt because he wanted to be there, and he was the only son (there were daughters as well). Rav Shach insisted because not having the funeral right away would cause a tremendous amount of bittul torah, as many students were saying tehillim around the body rather than learning.

Dr. Shach says he did not accept that at the time, but a year later he realized that his father only looked at Torah and nothing else was of importance to him in the place of Torah. While he knew that all along, it was only impressed upon him when his farther was sick with cancer and he still insisted on being taken home because at home he could learn while in the hospital he was not able to learn much.

When he saw that, he understood his father's position regarding the funeral a year or so earlier, and then they got back together.

2) Dr. Shach says that today the haredi community has portrayed his father as being keetzonee, holding extreme positions - it would be called today FRWO - far right wing orthodox. He says that perception that has been created is false and his father was really super-liberal. I dont think particularly much of the example he gave, of an avreich who was offered a job in a yeshiva in Afula and it would have required him at the time to be in Afula, away from his family, from Sunday until Thursday. Rav Shach told him not to take the job because his wife needed his help taking care of their 8 children. I don't think that shows him to be super-liberal, but ok.

I actually think something else he says later does show him to be more liberal than portrayed. He says regarding the army, his father thought boys should be in yeshiva. His father was of the opinion that to come out with a commando unit of top notch yeshiva students, one had to get thousands into yeshiva, and then a small group of those would be great. It even sounds like the rest of them, thousands of boys, were being sacrificed as casualties of war, in the attempt to get a small number of top notch talmidei chachomim.

However, Dr. Shach says, his father considered anybody who was in yeshiva who was not learning as a thief, and he would tell such a person to leave yeshiva, go to the army and get a job.

That says more to me than the example of the guy who he told not to go to Afula.

3) Dr. Shach says he made a mistake in the education of his own children, as some of them have gone off the derech and are not frum. He says he failed, while his sister, whose children are all frum in the haredi community, were successful. He still believes his path was correct, mixing ruchaniyus with general studies, as looking at the secular education system you see terrible things going on, but on the other hand you cannot live in the 21st century without using the tools that are available in the world.

While some may gloat and say he failed because he chose a bad path, I would say it has nothing to do with the sector he associated himself with. Unfortunately children go off the derech in every sector, and while our greatest hope is to perhaps see validation of our choices by seeing our children follow in our paths, no commuity and no house is immune from families seeing children going off and seeking their own way. One might even say that Rav Shach failed because his son chose a different path. So nobody is immune and there is tremendous heartache in every community equally, from DL to Haredi to MO to Secular, when parents see their children choose different paths.

The McFalafel Takes On The Falafel

In Israel, even the fast food is basically healthy. Perhaps a bit too much oil, but basically healthy. Israel's fast food is falafel, which consists of salad, tehina, falafel balls made from chick/garbonzo and chumus. How unhealthy could it possibly be?

The junky fast food that can be found in Israel is all recent "imports" from the US, such as McDonalds and the like. Now, after they ruined the hamburger (I have never eaten one, but I mean "ruined" in the sense of their contribution to obesity by making an extremely unhealthy menu of fast food), they are shooting for the falafel.

McDonalds has announced that they will begin serving the McFalafel in their restaurants in Israel. If the falafel stands are worried, they needn't be, considering that according to INN, McDonalds will be selling the McFalafel for 10 NIS, which is cheaper than the average falafel stand, but on the other hand for that price they are only including 3 falafel balls (in addition to the salad). It looks like they are not even including the french fries, a.k.a. chips. It looks like the McFalafel will be relatively much more expensive than the regular Israeli falafel. 

Google Celebrates Tu B'Shvat

Even Google found a way to celebrate Tu B'Shvat today. This is the image Google is using today for the logo in google search...

No Ice

This is just too funny...

(HatTip: ITP)

Ilan (video)

Ilan, Ilan Ba'Muh Avarechecha is a beautiful song that is very fitting for Tu B'Shvat. My favorite rendition of this phrase in song is the version sung by Abie Rottenberg on the album called AISH written by Yossi Green. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a version of it available on the internet. So instead you will have to settle for this version of Ilan sung by Yeedle.

Ben Ish Hai Tu B'Shvat Song (video)

Happy Tu B'Shvat!

Jan 19, 2011

Tu B'Shvat Song (video)

Tu B'Shvat Rap (video)

Mishpacha Magazine: New Heights, New Views

Mishpacha's feature article in this week's edition, which focuses mainly on various aliyah issues, is an article entitled "New heights, New Views". The article is very interesting as it gives a perspective of moving to Eretz Yisrael from the perspective of 3 community leaders.

Why would an American success story leave it all behind and start the painful process of putting down roots in a new country? Ever since Avraham Avinu passed the challenge of Lech Lecha, his descendants have had the yearning for the kedushah of Eretz Yisrael implanted in their genetic composition, and have been drawn there as if by gravitational pull. In a candid discussion, Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, the Bostoner Rebbe, and Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, all of whom were at the height of their “careers” as leaders of communities in America when they made the move, discuss the pull that they felt towards Eretz Yisrael, and share some insight into the prospects of making aliyah today
No Coca Cola?
An announcement from friends or relatives that they have decided to make aliyah will always elicit surprise, but when such an announcement comes from a rav or community leader, it is all that much more shocking. How and by whom will the void left in their wake be filled? Will the community continue to thrive with a new leader?

But devastating as the news may seem to those left behind, aliyah seems to be gaining popularity among leaders, with several North American rabbanim making the move each year.

Gathered at Mishpacha’s headquarters in Jerusalem are three people — giants, really, each in his own way — whose departure from America left great voids: Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, who built and led the Atlanta kehillah for several decades before making aliyah; Rabbi Mayer Horowitz, the Bostoner Rebbe of Yerushalayim, who founded and ran several Torah institutions in Boston before moving; and Rabbi Shmuel Bloom, who recently retired as executive vice president of Agudath Yisrael of America.

Geographic distance between their respective cities in the US notwithstanding, the three turn out to be old friends, and as we settle into our discussion, they commiserate about some of the banes of living here these days: the difficulty in finding parking and the continuous rise in the price of the shekel verses the dollar. The overwhelming mutual respect is obvious, and they all feel that the others should be the first to speak.

The first and most obvious question is: What would make a leader of American Jewry pack up and leave? Were you harboring thoughts of making the move all along and were just waiting for the opportunity, or was it a snap decision at some point?
Rabbi Feldman and the Bostoner Rebbe both yield to Rabbi Bloom, who, the Bostoner Rebbe notes, is “the youngest here” — i.e., the one who most recently made the move and had his “rebirth” in Eretz Yisrael.

Rabbi Bloom
“Back when I was living in America, whenever I used to visit Eretz Yisrael, taxi drivers would ask me, ‘Why don’t you live in Eretz Yisrael?’
‘Where does the Israeli ambassador to America live?’ I would reply. ‘In Washington DC, because that’s where his diplomatic mission is.’
“When you are an ambassador for the Ribono shel Olam, you may have an assignment in a different part of the world. But when the assignment is done or you find a new assignment, then it’s time to go back home.
“For me, the decision was simply to follow what I had been telling the taxi drivers all along.”

Bostoner Rebbe:
“Why did I come here? I want to answer from both my father’s standpoint and my own. My father came here for his bar mitzvah — perhaps one of the first boys to be brought to Eretz Yisrael for his bar mitzvah. My grandfather quoted a Zohar that states that if you become bar mitzvah in Eretz Yisrael, you are given a special neshamah, so he insisted on bringing my father here. For my father, being in Eretz Yisrael was a homecoming of sorts; he always wanted to be here.

“As for me, I benefited from the system that thousands of young Americans are gaining from until today — I came to learn in Eretz Yisrael as a bochur. When I came, of course, it wasn’t de rigueur. It wasn’t an accepted fact that everyone came to learn here. My older brother had been the trailblazer, and I followed in his footsteps. There were three or four Americans in Ponevezh at the time, and almost no Americans in Mir, which had less than 100 talmidim then.

“The experience was life altering. At first, I wasn’t sure if it was the right move for me. I had taken the SATs before I left America, and had scored high enough to make university studies a viable option. But I remember a turning point when I felt that I wanted to be here: I was about to walk up the hill to Ponevezh, and three young children were standing at the bottom of the hill. One of them turned to the others and said with pride as he pointed to me, ‘Hu lomeid b’Ponovezh’ (He learns in Ponovezh).

“When I saw that the recognition of the value of Torah, the importance of Torah, is so much greater here in Eretz Yisrael than it is elsewhere, I knew that I wanted to be here. I’m not putting down America, chas v’shalom. There are great yeshivos there, and a lot of Torah learning there. But there is a counterbalance: the focus on the money that one can earn, which is much less of a consideration here. As soon as you have something on the other side of the scale, the weightiness of Torah is not as significant.”

Rabbi Feldman
“Sometimes, when I’m standing in front of a Misrad Hapnim [Interior Ministry] clerk or some other government bureaucrat, I ask myself that very question: ‘Why am I here?’
“But when I see the side that the Rebbe just mentioned — the ruchniyus that’s available here that’s not available elsewhere — I know why I came. In truth, I wanted to come all through my life. About twenty years before I came, I asked my father, who was a rav in Baltimore, whether I could move. He told me that I have a tafkid, a purpose to fulfill in America, and I may not move. I also addressed the question to other gedolei Yisrael, and they told me the same thing.
“I still had a tafkid when I moved, but I left my son behind to fill that job.”

“My cousin, Rabbi Yosef Nayowitz,” adds Rabbi Bloom, “founded many Jewish initiatives in Memphis, and he made many baalei teshuvah. He wanted to move to Eretz Yisrael, but before doing so, he came here and visited gedolei Yisrael. They told him that he can’t move unless he finds someone to replace him. Their advice to him was always in the back of my mind. As long as I felt that there was no one to replace me in the Agudah, I felt that I had no choice but to stay. But when people came up in the ranks who could take over, I felt that it was time to make the move.”
(you can see more of the article on mishpacha.com (it is too long to post the whole thing here), buy the magazine, or wait until it appears here in full in a few days)

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