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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Rav Avraham Shapira, ZT"L

Rav Avraham Elkanah Kahanah Shapira, 94, one of the Gedolei HaDor (Torah giants of our generation), Rosh Yeshivah (Dean) of Merkaz HaRav (the Yeshivah Rav Kook started) for the last 25 years, former chief rabbi of Israel (1983-1993), passed away on Yom Tov (the only day in Israel - Thursday) and was buried on Friday (Chol HaMoed in Israel). Click here to read more about him. Here are 5 albums of 300 pictures I posted from the funeral, which started at his yeshivah in Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem and proceeded past Binyanei Ha'Umah (the International Convention Center), up Sarei Yisrael (Ministers of Israel) Street, turned on Malchei Yisrael (Kings of Israel) Street through the Chareidi/Chassidic Ge'ulah neighborhood, past the former location of the yeshivah (Beit HaRav Kook - Rav Kook's house), along Yafo, Shlomtzion HaMalkah, Agron Streets, around the walls of the Old City, and finally to Har HaZeitim (Mount of Olives) for his final resting place, overlooking Har HaBayit (Temple Mount):
Album 1
Album 2
Album 3
Album 4
Album 5

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

"Woe Unto the Ship that has Lost Its Captain"

Baruch Dayan Emes:
Moreinu HaRav Avraham Shapira zt"l, Rosh Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav & Former Chief Rabbi of Israel, niftar at 94

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The spiritual significance of Sukkot

Succot is the most prayer- and mitzva-laden holiday on the Jewish calendar, full of the symbolism which makes Jewish life so rich.

A Succah, a booth of sorts, must have at least 3 walls, but its most striking feature is the schach.

Schach, the roof of the Succah, must be made of plant material like tree bark, bamboo, reeds, or palm branches. The Schach must come from the earth, yet be detached from the earth. The Schach is not meant to be a very useful roof -- you must be able to see sky through it. It is this unusual thing called Schach which make the Succah unique and filled with symbolism.

The Womb: The Succah, with its peaceful inner-sanctum and its semi-permeable Schach, resembles the womb. Inside its safety the Jew is protected from the slings and arrows of persecution, and manages to reproduce spiritually and physically generation after generation.

The Canopy: The wedding canopy [chupah] is the Succah of Peace which descends upon a bride and groom at their wedding day. So too, the Succah is the canopy of the marriage of the Jewish people and Hashem. The Holiday of Succot is the wedding which follows the cleansing period of Yom Kippur.

The Grave: the Schach above our heads, made of earth-grown plants, also symbolizes the earth itself. We are buried under the earth, and yet we are still alive. The message of Succot is the cycle of life: we are born, we marry, we die, and we continue on through the next generation and through our faith in Tchiyat Hameitim, the Resurrection of the Dead.

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 37:
1. The hand of Hashem was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Hashem, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.
2. And he caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord, thou knowest.
4. Again he said unto me, Prophesy over these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah.
5. Thus saith the Lord unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.
6. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am Hashem.
7. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and, behold, an earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
8. And I beheld, and, lo, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.
9. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
11. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.
12. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.
13. And ye shall know that I am Hashem, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O my people.

It is because of this life cycle focus of Succot that we read Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Chapter One, which laments this very cycle:

4. One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.
5. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to its place where it ariseth.
6. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it turneth about continually in its course, and the wind returneth again to its circuits.
7. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again.
8. All things are full of weariness; man cannot utter [it]: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9. That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

It is also for this reason that we invite the Ushpizin, the Holy Guests Avraham, Yitchak, Yaakov, Aaron, Moshe and Yoseph, into our Succah. Tzaddikim pass away, but they never die. They are bound up in the great cycle of life and they join us again and again every Succot.

The Seed: Looking up from our Succah we see the Schach, but now instead of being buried, we are planted. "A person is like the tree of the field" (Deut. 20:19) We are a seed planted beneath the soil, and rain is coming soon. G-d is giving us the gift of life, the chance to make the most of this world - to reach out of the Schach and into the world beyond.

The Bird Nest: Seeing Jews prepare for Succot is like seeing birds prepare their nests. Everyone is fluttering around looking for material for their nests. Indeed, we are but chicks, and it is Hashem who "Like an eagle arousing its nest hovering over its young; he spreads his wings, he takes it, he carries it on his wings." (Devarim 32:11)

Yaakov: Jacob is the forefather associated with Succot. Immediately after Jacob's successful duel with his brother Esau it is written: "And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth." (Bereishit 33;17) Jacob originally ran to Haran to escape his brother's wrath - coming to Succoth signaled the end of his personal exile and his return to the Land of Israel.

The Succah's characteristic is of an impermanent mobile structure. Jacob's characteristic too is always to be mobile -- always on the go: "How fair are your tents, O Jacob" (Bamidbar 24;5) Settling down is not for him, he goes from place to place in the Land of Israel and in the world -- his is always a spiritual journey.

Bereishit (Genesis) 28 reads:
20. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,
21. and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.
22. and this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house"

Yaakov asks for three things: food , clothing, and protection on the journey. But what is missing? A request for permanent housing of course! Yet this construction of permanent housing, Jacob reserves for He Who needs no housing -- for the Lord Himself. This is Succot -- we, the Jewish people, will live in impermanent dwelling all our generations so that our journey could lead to us to the construction of His permanent dwelling.

Mishkan and Mikdash - [The Tabernacle and the Temple]: the Succah resembles the Tabernacle in that it too was an impermanent structure, and sadly our Holy Temple in Jerusalem was impermanent as well for it was destroyed twice because of our sins. "In that day I will raise up the fallen Succah of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old" (Amos 9;11) The fallen Succah of David, is a term of endearment for the Temple - may it be rebuilt in our lives.

Clouds of Glory: Our rabbis tell us that the Succah represents the clouds of glory that escorted the Jewish people in the desert. The clouds kept our cloths clean, and kept danger away from us. These clouds were also a form of womb, raising a new Jew to enter the Land of Israel. They also directed us:

Shemot (Exodus) 40:
36 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys.
37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
38 For the cloud of HaShem was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.

The Holy Ark: The wings of the Cherubs above Aron Hakodesh [the Holy Ark] acted like the Schach of the Succah, protecting the Holy contents within. It is written in "And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, screening (Sochechim) the ark-cover with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the ark-cover shall the faces of the cherubim be" (Shemot [Exodus] 25: 20) In the Succah, we are the Holy objects which G-d protects with his wings, we are the carriers of the living Torah.

Hashem sends His canopy to us to nurture us, to marry us, to protect us. Through the sliver of sky seen through the Schach we are reminded of G-d's nearness: "My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, He is looking through the windows, He is peering through the lattice. (Song of Songs 2;9) No wonder this holiday is called Zman Simchateinu -- the time of our happiness.

May we merit the words of the Sabbath prayer:

"Safeguard our going and coming, for life and for peace from now to eternity, and spread over us the Succah of Your peace. Blessed are you Hashem, Who spreads the Succah of peace upon us, and upon all of His people Israel and upon Jerusalem."

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Place Your Lemon On the Conveyor Belt, Sir"

(Click to Enlarge)

You lucky, lucky American Jews. Do you know that the United States' vigilant anti-terror watch, which has become so vigorous as to ban potentially explosive shampoo and expose feet, has been downgraded just for you?

Apparently, despite your suspicious appearance and strange rituals, you will be allowed to board planes with the most dangerous weapon of all:

Your Etrog.

U.S. Allows Carrying 'Four Species' on Airplanes

( The United States Transportation Administration has stated that the "four species" (arba minim) of a palm branch, myrtle and willow twigs and the etrog are not on the TSA's list of prohibited items for carrying on airplanes in the country. ["Sir, we have a 458 subsection B here. That's right, we believe several passengers are potentially smuggling illegal substances inside suspicious vegetation which they have brought on the plane..... yes sir, I believe that one of the leafy materials resembles marijuana... Okay, I'm taking him in."]

The department noted that the arba minim used on the Sukkot holiday are significant for Jews and has advised workers and security officials at airports that Jews may be meditating and using them in prayers while waiting for airplanes. ["*gasp* Dear G-d in Heaven, is that bearded man wobbling and shaking that green sword and that yellow grenade looking thing?! I just KNEW that it would be my plane, I KNEW it!! Our G-d, who art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name..."]

On one recent flight, passengers were suspicious of an Jew who was meditating while praying.

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A Mini Jerusalem Vacation

Last night Malkah and I had a half hour "to live" (instead of the common expression "to kill") in Jerusalem, and we could not find parking close to where we had to be. So we drove on and parked close to the King David Hotel. Suddenly Malkah noticed an attractive cafe and a proud kosher certificate in the window. But this was no regular cafe, rather, it was a chocolate specialty cafe named NONA. The place is brand new and will sport a ritual booth for the holiday of Sukkot. We had a Belgian waffle with blueberry cheesecake ice cream and a hot white chocolate drink. As you can tell from the plate, the place is recommended. (NONA is found on 28 King David St. in Jerusalem. Tel: 02-624-4129)

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Calling All Bleeders

If you're blessed enough to be in Israel for the holiday of Sukkot, healthy, AND a good bloodletter, then step up to the needle and donate some blood to alleviate Israel's severe shortage!!

Israel's Magen David Adom is conducting blood drives at two Jerusalem hotels and has extended its blood collection center hours because of the special need.

Visitors and citizens alike can donate blood at the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem on Sunday, September 30 from 9 am to 1 pm, and at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem on Tuesday, October 2 from 9 am to 1 pm or at numerous Magen David Adom sites throughout the country.

Additional blood drives will be scheduled through the beginning of November.

For more information on donating blood to the MDA, please contact American Friends of Magen David Adom at (212) 757-1627 or in Israel at 057 761-4220.

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Kumah Exclusive: Sacha Baron Cohen and Sara Silverman Are Mossad Agents

by Aaron Fox

The famous question: Could a holocaust every happen on American soil? Not yet famous answer: It already happened.

Simple math. In the year 1950 there were were 150 million Americans and around 5 million Jews. Today there are 300 million Americans and around 5 million Jews. American population doubled. Jewish population stayed the same. That's a loss of 5 million Jews. Then to take into account that there are only 3.5 million Jews that sport a Jewish mother from this count of 5 million. Since the 1950s count of Jews it's safe to assume all had Jewish mothers, let's add another 1.5 million to the loss. Add it up and we get 6.5 million Jews lost on American soil. At least the German holocaust had the mercy of making itself known as a destructive force. The American holocaust has us smiling down the aisles of Walmart as we quietly waste away.

The American holocaust is amongst us, the only question is how long will it linger on until the Jews of America are no more.

The Israeli government is asleep on many issues but lately the American holocaust has taken top priority amongst top officials. During the Sharon government a classified agency was formed to save the American Jews from perishing altogether. This agency's objective is to bring the American Jews back home to Israel.

Knowing full well that the American Jew would not leave on his own volition, a special strategy was devised. World history has proven that the only way the Jews leave their host country is by the host country itself expelling the Jews by violent means. A tall order of old fashioned antisemitism was needed.

Enter special Israeli Mossad agents Sacha Baron Cohen and Sarah Silverman. Specially trained to infiltrate American culture and plant the seeds of Jew hatred and general racial hatred for good measure. Click on their names to see them do their holy handiwork. Notice that these aren't just your run of the mill comedians. They are able to sing and write clever tunes; act and write for movies; there is no end to their creative talents. Their success has been enormous. It has become cool once again to hate Jews.

Stand by for stage two where special agent Michael Bloomberg will single-handedly bring Wall Street and all of New York to its knees thereby creating a world panic and economic disaster. And we Jews know what that means.

This just in: many smart Jews are coming to Israel just because Israel is better. If only all Jews were so wise, these covert actions by Mossad's celebrity spies would not be needed.

Editors note: Aaron Fox discovered the story while being a candidate for the Celebrity Mossad agency. He went half-way through a grueling 6 week comedy training camp whereby he was dismissed. The fatigued Aaron noted being unfunny as the reason for his abrupt termination.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aliyah Is Something Only Russians Do, Right?

Jewsweek reports about The Jewish Reconnection Project which joins five young Jews in New York with four young Jews in Jerusalem. (Why not five on five? I guess Israel always does more with less!) In the series a host of issues are discussed. Naturally the one of most interest to Kumah is Israel vs. Diaspora. Some thoughts of mine follow below the clip.

When asked what "Aliyah" is, one young American Jew (or Jewish American depending on who you ask) responded matter-of-fact-ly, "Aliyah is like coming from Eastern Europe." She caught herself and very quickly added "or coming from wherever, and immigrating to the land of Israel."


Here's something odd:

Secular Israeli guy remarks how if he grew up outside Israel he might have a stronger Jewish identity because here he takes it for granted because "everybody is Jewish." Now aside for the fact that the rate of Jewish intermarriage in America has proven that statement to be utterly ridiculous and of flawed logic, I was struck by something else I saw. On the words "[in Israel] everybody is Jewish" the film editor cuts to, if I'm not mistaken, scenes from Maron on Lag B'Omer. We see hundreds of Chassidim dancing. This is curious. When this Chiloni said he was surrounded by Jews in Israel I don't think he was thinking of Maron. He was more likely thinking of night clubs in Tel Aviv. And yet when the American producer of the video heard the words "everyone is Jewish in Israel" he thought of Chassidim dancing at the Kever of Reb Shimon Bar Yachi. Most curious indeed! Pray tell, why?


Israel is a bad place for a Jew to live another American concludes because it's "too easy" to be Jewish and you don't have to "think about it." And here we are at Kumah using the very same logic to promote Aliyah! (Truth be told you ALWAYS have to "think about it" no matter where you are. It might just be a bit easier to find kosher pizza and falafel here. That's a bad thing?)


Best line. "Well I find that kind of sad!" remarked by a young secular Israeli lady responding to a religious American Jew when he explains he doesn't wear his Kippa in college because he wants to hide his Jewish identity. Sad indeed.


Other words of wisdom from the same chiloni, responding to the Americans who said how important the "Homeland" is (it's nice to visit, but they wouldn't want to live there):

"If you feel that Israel is a place for the Jews, and it should be there, then you should step up and do something about it." We, here at Kumah, agree.


She also (the very same chiloni) got the last word in:

"I don't love this county because it's the prettiest country or it's the nicest country, you know, I love it because it's mine, and it's the only - the only home I've got."

Excellent! But, just for the record... it IS the prettiest! :)

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So How Many Seeds Does a Pomegranate Have?

Okay. Sorry I missed posting it two weeks ago but this is too cool.

So it's like this. Everybody knows the age old question "how many seeds does a pomegranate have?" And every little Jewish kid at Rosh Hashanah knows the answer. Exactly 613 - parallel to the number of mitzvos of the Torah. Hmm.

But do they really have 613?

A Columbia University professor (likely for a statistics course) collected data by counting seeds from 206 pomegranates from all over the world. The least number of seeds one had was 165 (an Iranian one...hmm...) and the max number was 1370 (from one grown in the USA).

But the average number of seeds was remarkably exactly 613!

The entire study including all the data can be found here.

Hat Tip: existwhere?

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Road Trip - From the Golan to Beit El

After Rosh Hashanna Malkah and I drove back home to Beit El from our friends new house (above) located on Moshav Yonatan in the Golan. We decided to take pictures from the car so that you could see the beauties of the land! This is our Israel-style road trip, enjoy:

Golan Rt. 98

More Rt. 98

Afik Junction Rt. 789

Going down 789

Me and Malkah having fun!

First View of Kinneret on 789

Our Alps

Nice eh?

Close to Ein Gev on Rt. 92

Stop at Kinneret

At Tsemach Junction in Jordan Valley

Best Meatballs - Beit Shaan

Cliffs on the Alon Road

Open Spaces on the Alon Road

Mehora - Lone Community

Looking out on the Jordon Valley

The Shiloh Valley

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How To Pray for Aliyah

By Adam Kenigsberg

As many of you know, one of the central components to Jewish practice is prayer. Three times a day, we engage in a conversation with our Creator. The central portion of this conversation is known as the Shemoneh Esrei (which means 18, although there are 19 parts to it - long story, not for now). This prayer is also known as the amidah (which means standing) because it is said while standing.

Of the 19 sections, the first three are praises of G-d, the last three are "thank yous" to G-d, and the middle 13 are requests.

What you may not know is that one is allowed, and even encouraged, to add personal prayers within the paragraphs of the Shemoneh Esrei. It is preferable to do this sometime before the last line of each paragraph (which always starts with "Baruch...") and should be related to the general topic of that request - as you will see below.

What I noticed from my own prayers is that EVERY ONE of the requests has something to do with a Jew living in Israel!

Below is a list of the 13 requests in the Shemoneh Esrei. Each paragraph is noted by the first few words of that paragraph, transliterated and in quotations. Then, I put in my own personal Aliyah-related prayer that relates to that specific paragraph. You can find a copy of the standard Shemoneh Esrei in any traditional Jewish prayer book (I believe the most popular publisher today is Artscroll - particularly if you want an English translation of the prayers)

Anyway, here it is:

"Atah Chonein" - Please give me understanding to realize how important it is for my soul to dwell in your holy land.

"Hashiveinu Avinu" - Just as you "return" me from transgressor to righteous again, please return me to the land that you promised my righteous ancestors.

"Selach Lanu" - Please erase any of my sins that may be stopping you from granting me the privilege of doing Your Will in Your Holy Land.

"Re'eh B'anyeinu" - Please make me part of the beginning of the redemption by placing me in the land of redemption.

"Refaeinu Hashem" - Please heal me from my own doubts and worries about moving and give me full spiritual health in the land that you created for the Jewish soul.

"Barech Aleinu" - Please give me the money I need to (get out of debt here, and) move to Israel - and please provide me with a livelihood in Your Holy Land.

"Tikah B'Shofar" - You promise through prophecy to eventually gather in all Jews from the four corners of the Earth and bring them to Israel. I volunteer to go now!!! Please gather me first!

"Hashivah Shofteinu" - Please remove me from the laws of a foriegn nation (U.S., Canada, UK, wherever you are) and bring me to the land where only You, G-d, are in control.
{Jewish teachings say that G-d appointed an angel for each nation on Earth, to control day-to-day life - except for the nation of Israel, where G-d controls every detail directly}

"V'Lamalshinim" - The Talmud compares one who lives in the Diaspora to an idol worshiper!!! Please remove my wicked status of idol worshiper and bring me to the only land that You created for the Jewish people to serve You!

"Al Hatzadikim" - In the merit of the truly righteous, both those that are with us today and those that have passed into the world of Truth - please consider my pleas to live in the Land of Israel.

"V'Lyerushalayim" - The return of the Jewish people to Israel is the first step to rebuilding Jerusalem and the Holy Temple - please enable me to be a part of this rebuilding.

"Et Tzemach David" - The Kingdom of (a descendant of) King David can only be established when the People of Israel dwell in the Land of Israel. Please bring me to Israel as one more step towards this Kingship.

"Shema Koleinu" {This is traditionally where the person praying will insert any additional requests. Pray for Aliyah, as well as any other personal needs, in the middle of this prayer}

I hope that this will improve your focus and intention in your prayers. Obviously, feel free to re-word any or all of these personal requests as you like. Also, feel free to copy and distribute this to anyone.

May we all merit to live in the Holy Land of Israel very soon!!!

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The Pink and Red Flag

The pink and red flags are both Jewish to a large extent (I guarantee you a large proportion of the activists you see in the above clip from a demo in Washington, DC last weekend are Jewish). They are also representative of a sick, sick ideology, that served us well when we were stateless, but are only harmful to us as Jewish redemption approaches.

If fascism is dictatorship by the strong, marxism is dictatorship by the weak. We want leadership of the strong - the Jewish nation. It is not fascism but it sure as heck isn't marxism either.

I believe redemption will come when these red/pink Jewish flags are furled (is that a word?) and the Israeli flag is waved high. Or maybe we should have a new flag, with the colors of the parochet that hung at the Temple, which actually combined two shades of red, white and blue -

"Tchelet veargaman vetolaat shani veshesh mishzar."


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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Chareidi Community Funding Terrorists

No this is not about the Neturai Karta but about the "mainstream" chareidi community.

It's like this. There are four options for observing Shmittah.

1. If possible use 6th year produce, use imported produce from non-Arab countries, or produce from the southern Aravah.

2. Otzar Bet Din

3. Heter Mechirah

4. Arab Produce

A sizeable portion of the chareidi community has decided to embrace (as in past years) the 4th option, even though options 1 and 2 are 100% halachiclly sound!

Option 4 is extremely harmful. Aside from putting Jewish farmers that are observing the Torah and Shmittah out of business they are providing revenue to mass murderers that will use the very money they make from this to build rockets to fire at Israel and to build bomb belts to use on Israeli buses - Heaven forbid! One has to ask how option 4 can be permitted hachically at all. It can't be. Public pressure must be applied to the kashrus organizations that use this method. Boycotts should be arranged. And the chareidi public must be informed about what is going on. I did see one Chareidi publication - Mishpacha - was promoting the option of Otzar Bet Din over the other methods and that is an excellent start. But more needs to be done.

Here is a link to a story posted on The Yeshiva World. At the time of this post no comments were posted there yet. It will be interesting to see the discussion that develops.

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

JOBOPP: Jerusalem of Chocolate

From the Efrat list:

"worker required for centrally located jerusalem chocolatier - cafe.

twentyish, diligent, to operate coffee machine, make sandwiches, serve, wash
dishes. afternoons (4-10 p.m.) and fridays.

call etty 054-8081001"

Mmmmm. Chocolate in Jerusalem.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Reminder: In EY, Clocks Go Back One Hour Tonight!

Don't forget to change your clocks tonight. This will allow to fast to end one hour earlier. So tomorrows Tzom ends 6:11pm in Yershalayim instead of 7:11pm. Woo hoo!

Israel will remain 6 hours ahead of New York till mid-November.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shana Tova! - Remember to do a Pruzbol!

As you all know by now (if you follow Kumah) the Shmittah year is just about upon us. One of the laws of Shmittah is that loans are nullified. 2000 years ago Hillel saw that people stopped lending out money because they were afraid they would never get it back since the loans would be nullified. Hillel's solution to this problem was the Pruzbol. The Pruzbol is a legal document that gives the court, the beis din, the right to collect the money for you. There is a disagreement among the halachic authorities when this document must be completed. Most say by the end of the Shmittah year but some hold it must be completed today!

The picture above this post is one text published by the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel in Hebrew.

The RCC publishes a Pruzbol in English here.

Here's another one.

Chabad actually has an Online Pruzbol form that they say to use as a last resort.

Shana Tova!

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Rosh Hashana September 2003

"T'ka b'Shofar Gadol L'cheruteinu" by Ben

I would like to add to Ze'ev's post below. We say three times a day: "Teka b'shofar gadol l'cheruteinu, v'sa nesh l'kabetz galuyoutenu, v'kab'tzenu yachad me'arba kanfot haaretz (l'artzenu)" - Sound the great shofar to announce our redemption, and raise a banner for the ingathering of our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth (to our land). (Nusach Ashkenaz leaves out "l'artzeinu" - to our land. I say this word anyway, because we must be clear about the destination of kibutz galuyot!)

Why is it the shofar which will announce our return to Israel? The main function of the shofar, as Ze'ev said, is to call us to repent. It is a wake-up siren, waking us from our sleep to a state where we are conscious of our sins. Sometimes, when I wake up, I don't remember where I am, or what time of day it is. It takes a few minutes before I am fully aware. This is the case on the national level as well.

When we in the exile wake up this Rosh Hashana, we may feel like we are at home. But the shofar calls to us to remind us to wake up fully, and realize where we are - we are in exile, that is, not home, not where we are supposed to be. We are not in exile because we have been forced here; we are in exile because we've chosen not to return to the land which God has given us. We can only make this choice if we are not fully awake- if we are not conscious of our exile.

May the shofar this Rosh Hashana awake in us a new consciousness, to lead us to a full ingathering of the exiles to our land!

K'tiva v'Chatima Tova!


"Teshuva - More than just repentance" by Ze'ev

From Rosh Chodesh Elul, when the Shofar was first blown, through the conclusion of the Neila prayer on Yom Kippur, the main theme is Teshuva - traditionally defined as repentance. When one considers the purpose of teshuva, the idea is that through confessing our sins, experiencing true remorse over having commited them in the first place and resolving not to commit them again in the future, that we are bringing ourselves closer to Hashem.

The Rebbi m'Slonim, in his Sefer Netivot Shalom, says that the purpose of all the mitzvot is for one, through observing the mitvot to become closer to Hashem. If closeness to Hashem is the purpose of performing mitzvot, as well as being the goal of teshuva, then I suggest, that we approach this idea of teshuva from a different perspective.

If our goal (and purpose) as a Jew is to strive to become close to Hashem, then there is no other place more conducive towards this end more so than Eretz Yisrael. Teshuva should be defined, not as merely repentance, but as an actual call for us to return Home - to return to the place where we can experience true closeness with Hashem.

"Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha V'nashuva, chadeish yemeinu kikedem" - "Return to us Hashem, and we shall return to you, restore things to how they once were". Hashem has returned to us - He has given every Jew in the world the chance to come home - it is up to us to make the move.

May this year be a year where "V'shavu banim l'gvulam" - "where the children (the Jews) return to their borders".

Shanah tova!


"READERS!" by Malkah

Shalom, Readers! As Rosh Hashanah rapidly approaches, I would like to ask a favor from all of you who care about Aliyah, from all of you who care about the State of Israel, the Land of Israel, the People Israel, all of these or any combination thereof: Push.

Push your friends and family to sign up with us on our website, and with any organization that does its best to help the Jewish people/land. Push them to support such organizations with their time, their money, and their voices. Push them to talk about Jewish issues with THEIR friends and THEIR families. Push them to sacrifice MANY more hours and MANY more dollars, to the point where they wonder whether they might actually be giving too much (the answer, I assure you, will always be "No.").

Push them to move to Israel - it's in them to do it, anyway.

Push yourself. Push yourself to dare to do more than you're comfortable with. Push yourself to take risks for the greater good. Push yourself to try harder, dream larger, sleep less, sweat more. Push yourself to believe. Push yourself to believe that everything will turn out for the best (because, honest to G-d, it will), that Faith will land Goodness right on your doorstep, that you can accomplish more than you ask from yourself, that naysayers aren't any wiser than optimists and that you CAN live in Israel, you WILL find that job and you'll be better than fine, you'll be great.

Push every Jew you ever meet to love you and to love every other Jew that he or she will ever meet. Push them to be as much a part of our amazing people and our amazing land as they can possibly be.

Push yourselves, dear, dear readers, to always, always arise, arise, arise.

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Media Analysis for Rosh Hashana

Mama said knock you out!

Class, let us look at this piece in Ynet B'Ivrit, shall we?

The headline says - Soldier's Mother: "I'm Calm, the Kid Isn't Going Back to Zikim"

You see, this item and the talkbacks to it actually encapsulate much of Israel's pacifist problem, and its solution.

As we learned in the first semester of this course, the Left in Israel has been using a Cindy Sheehan "Mother" type approach very successfuly over the past 20 years. The discourse is 50% radical post-marxist feminism, 50% Yiddishe-mameh castrative.

The article's heading and the use of of the word "child/children" with regard to the soldiers doing basic training in Zikim are classic Yiddishe-feminist-pacifist defeatism. The Middle East's toughest army, the IDF, is not being bombed by terrorist scum, the subtext says. Jewish children are being bombed and their mothers/parents will save them by evacuating them from Zikim. There is no masculine army defending us, it says. There are only children who long for their mothers' comforting hug.

Sub-subtext: WE ARE DOOMED.

As of 8:15 Wednesday, the item is top story in Ynet. The lowdown on the attack on Syria is (pardon me) lower down, despite being much more significant militarily and more recent. Taking it a step further - the headline actually tries to answer the criticism that the editor (probably one of the feminist-pacifists who abound behind the scenes in Ynet) knows is coming: no, the mother says, I'm not being hysterical. "I'm calm." But my child is staying home, i.e. refusing to serve. Because the big bad men of Gaza shot a rocket at him.

Those of us old and wise enough to know how this kind of discourse took over our lives during Shelly Yechimovich's years in Voice of Israel, and how it featured in the "Four Mothers" campaign, and how IDF bases have been taken over by mothers (and fathers) with the help of Yechimovich sidekick Carmela Menashe, and how sick and weak this made the army - know what the danger is.

What I am happy about is the talkbacks. If you want to enjoy them, you'd better learn you some Ivrit.

Shana Tova - this bodes well.

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NOT Wishing You a Shana Tova

My inbox is filling up with a lot of spam, and it's really annoying.

The subject is invariably the same: Shana Tova.

I've been hearing from acquaintances with whom I haven't spoken for years who probably hit "send" to everyone in their contact list; PR companies for whom it'll be a good year if they get some press out of the people on their mailing list; random people whose names I don't recognize. My particular favorites are those from old flames who take advantage of the Jewish New Year to reconnect with me. (Many singles out there use the holiday as an excuse to flirt - you know who you are...) It's a Rosh HaShana spam fest, and it's doubly annoying when they include files or pictures over 1 MB. Stop cramming my computer!

These Shana Tova greetings are impersonal and disingenuous. I know the majority of these Jewish spammers don't really mean to wish me a good year. They're being polite, getting over a formality, and kissing tails (and not the heads). But it's not polite. It's actually very rude. If you want to wish me a happy new year, personalize the greeting so that I know you mean it, send it to ME only, or else end up in my junk folder.

So this Rosh HaShanah I'm not wishing anyone a fake "good year", but I will wish everyone who reads this an original, thoughtful new year's greeting inspired by Britney Spears. There's been a lot of media buzz over her allegedly failed performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). I agree the performance lacked her usual power and verve, even though the ex-pop goddess always holds a special place in my heart.

And so, to all my readers and friends, may you be like the head: like Britney's performance at the 2000 VMA’s: full of passion, strength, beauty, certainty, power, focus, concentration, successful and lots of fun.
[Editor's note: Be forewarned. Britney is not wearing much at all in either video.]
Click here to view

And may you not be like the tail: like Britney's failed performance at the 2007 VMA’s: unfocused, uncertain, inauthentic, stumbling, floppy, and lazy.
Click here to view

I wish Britney Spears and the Jewish people a year of healing, self-knowledge, personal growth, inner strength and some sanity (including yours truly).

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

A 'Fringe' Response to Anonymous

Anonymous comments on this post:
"The Kumah mascots and the Kumatrix disagree. "What Kumah won't do to make their brand of fringe politics hip."..."Got home?"

It's just that some of you guys spew so much vitriol. And at the same time you do the things you criticize. I think it's important for someone to show you your hypocrisy. And I don't even get into the depths of it- the superficial is revealing enough.

There is good in these pages- the shmittah discussion, for example. And the basic aliyah message. But that's gotten lost in your larger fringe ideology. To really get into this website you have to believe that Jews and only Jews belong in Israel and the territories. You demonize the "enemy"- be it Palestinians, Olmert, Livni, the US, conservative Judaism.... This polarization is isolating- you can't have a real dialogue with anyone because we are all the enemy. So what do you accomplish? You become more and more convinced of your own agenda and more removed from the mainstream. And I don't care what you do in a vacuum, but your words and work have impact. I think it's important that someone point out your hypocrisies and let visitors to this site know that your views are far from universal.

My response after the jump

Dear Anon,

While I don't really understand the repeated allegation of hypocrisy, the decision to widen the scope of Kumah's Neo-Zionist message beyond promoting mass Aliyah was not taken lightly. I certainly understand the danger of all the strongly-held positions and sniping providing ear-plug fodder for anyone who is looking for it. But the point of the blog is to provide an honest, authentic voice of a real movement that can't be made to disappear by repeating "fringe" as a mantra.

In this day of media saturation, the only blogs I find worth reading are those with passionate arguments based on strongly held values. There is a huge swamp of timid journalism and self-congratulatory moderate extremists (extreme in their belief in the merit of an idea purely based on its being devoid of ideological bone structure).

I truly believe that there a Neo-Zionists on the left and would be completely open to having them join the blog as readers, commenters and bloggers - but I do not regret widening the scope of the blog's message to include politics though I myself am also sometimes annoyed by individual bloggers' posts picking fights with entire denominations over little things dug up by the amateurs at Ynet (i.e. The Great Mezuza Controversy). Not because these aren't discussions that should be had, but because the Ynet-based route to dialog is paved with ill intentions.

Lastly, your point about the lack of real dialog when opponents are considered the enemy is a blogosphere-wide issue. When someone who is but a bunch of pixels to you attacks your entire worldview, it takes a very secure an confident individual to respond in a loving, yet honest way. Sometimes a good thrashing is truly in order. Often it is not and reflects poorly on a blogger or the blog he/she writes for.

Post-lastly; you wrote: "I think it's important that someone point out your hypocrisies and let visitors to this site know that your views are far from universal."

I do not state or believe that our views are universal. I believe it rubs you the wrong way to see Jews, with and without kippot, unapologetically saying the things we say. That alone threatens your thought-stopping mechanism of being able to label something "fringe" and dismiss it without letting it roam free in your consciousness alongside other ideas, allowing for the survival of the fittest.

Thank you for reading. Please keep it up. You are welcome to choose a moniker that gives you just as much anonymity as "anonymous" but allows us to know it is you when you comment and respond. The Kumah community is universal in its openness to dialog - and I bless our bloggers on this eve of Rosh HaShanah to always type with love and think twice before ripping entire communities of Jews or gerei toshav.

Shana Tova,
Ezra HaLevi
Neo-Zionist Blogmaster

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tishrei 5768

The following list is not fully comprehensive at all but includes some common everyday produce most people use. It is largely based on Rabbi Marcus's "Shmittah 5768: A Pratical Guide" (which we recommend you order for yourself here) and other sources. Please also note that there are many other shmittah calendars out there that may provide different dates that those posted here. These dates should therefore not be used "halacha lemisa" but for educational purposes only. You should however use this information to consult with your Rav as for the proper actions to take. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

Many items should begin being treated as having Kedushat Shevi'it this month including:

On 1 Tishrei

Corn (Fresh)

On 3 Tishrei

Butternut Squash
Cabbage (Red)
Peas (in pod)
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Sweet Potatoes
Zucchini (Squash)

Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

There are no items that Kedushat Shevi'it ends this month.

Sefichim Begins

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Tishrei

Corn (Fresh)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.


There are no items that will require biur this month.

Additionally, please note:
The following items are items are imported and not affected by the laws of Shmittah:
Kidney Beans
Kimmel (Caraway Seeds)
Peas (Dried)
Pepper (powder - both white and black)
Poppy Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds

Also Sesame is Godulei Nochri in Israel and not affected by the laws of Shmittah.

Also most Wheat used in Israel is imported. However there is wheat which is grown locally and certain bakeries specifically use it. Organic wheat is likely grown in Israel. Read labels carefully and ask your baker and then ask your local Rav for a final posak.

Oh, and one more thing! Apples - since they are in the above picture for Tishrei - they don't get Kedushat Shevi'it till Iyar, but they keep it till the following Iyar so this Rosh Hashana you don't have to finish the whole apple you dip in honey...but next Rosh Hashana you might need to!

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fun with Shmittah!

Are you ready for some Shmittah?

Well first let's get one thing straight once and for all. The word "problem" should never EVER be used when referring to one of Hashem's commandments and certainly not by anyone living in Eretz Yisrael regarding Shmittah. Shmittah is not a problem! It's a mitzvah! And what's more? It's a mitzvah only us Jews zoche (worthy) to be living in Eretz Yisrael this year can keep! Yes, by the use of exclamation points in this post you could tell I'm a bit "pumped" and excited about what begins in just a few short days! I just got back from an awesome shuir on Shmittah that cleared up a whole bunch of questions I had.

Do you realize you get a mitzvah for every bite you take out of something that has Kedushas Shvius? And you get a mitzvah when you treat that Holy produce the right way as well. You know what else? All those Jews sitting in Brooklyn, New York... no better... all those Jews sitting in Lakewood, New Jersey know less about Shmittah than your average four year old playing on the monkey bars in Ramat Beit Shemesh! Here is a whole important section of the Torah that these Jews just "don't care about" because it "doesn't apply." I don't know about you... but if Hashem gave us a few more mitzvos to do, and all we have to do to keep these mitzvos is change our zip code... ehh, nevermind. Just a thought...

Now for the important points. The halachos of Shmittah are detailed and numerous with many different opinions and many different approaches. I was thinking of somehow trying to summarize them right here and now but I tell you, the best summary I have ever seen online was written by Rav Asher Balanson of Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalim. It is an absolute must read if you are just waking up now and realizing that Shmittah is just a few days away. Aside from that it is recommended that you go into any bookstore and ask about books on Shmittah. Many bookstores have them all laid out on tables in front. And finally ask questions to your LOR. If you don't have a Rav to ask all your halachic questions now is a VERY good time to get one. And in Eretz Yisrael B"H rabbis are not hard to find.

Okay... now for the fun part. Various organization put out "Shmittah calendars." These calendars contain three important dates.

1. When a certain produce can be considered to have Kedushas Shvius.
2. When a certain vegetable or grain can be considered Sefichim.
3. The date that Biur must be done on the produce.

These dates vary for all different grains, fruits and vegetables. To understand what these dates mean read the Rav Balanson summary.

In any case I have obtained the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel's "Shmittah 5768: A Practical Guide" (which you can order for yourself here.) It was compiled by Rabbi David Marcus who I had the pleasure of meeting tonight. And I do recommend you get the guide!

So here's the plan. Here at Kumah, Bez"H before every Rosh Chodesh we will post the important dates that will become relevant for various produce that month. It should be exciting and we'll get to learn a lot more about how, when and where things grow. For example much to my chagrin I now know that both cashews and pistachios (that I would bring to NY to brag about how great the produce here are) are actually imported! (The good news about that is that this mean I can still bring them outside EY to NY.)

Anyway stayed tuned to this blog as a whole lot of produce can already be considered to have Kedushas Shvius come sundown on Wednesday night!

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Temple Mount Trip

In light of recent news events, and the High Holiday's approaching, we decided to go to the holiest place on Earth, the interface between G-d and this world.
Enjoy the pictures...

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Idol Worship on a Fixed Rate Mortgage

Lately, Madonna's arrival for Rosh Hashanah has been raising a lot of talk - the woman who's only LIKE a vir... well, you know, is coming to Israel, sporting her red string and expensive, sports drink-like Judaism... but thinks Rosh Hashanah is cool, reportedly dresses respectfully in Israel, and will probably get at least a few hundred unaffiliated Jews thinking about why Madonna has cast a kind eye on the Jewish State, and why they themselves had never considered it.

If Madonna had never studied with the infamous Kabbalah Center, she would probably be more welcome here. As it is, she is undergoing much good ol' fashioned scrutiny.

But considering what her roots are, I'd say she's taken a giant leap into legitimate monotheism.

After all, she could be touting St. Joseph, the patron saint of home sales.

Here's what you do, if you still maintain faith that tiny clay models of people have major power over your life:

For just $9.95 (or $13.95 for REAL believers who want the larger idol), you buy the Original 4" St. Joseph Statue Home Sales Kit.

You plop the made-in-China deity in a bag, flip 'im upside down, and face its factory-formed face toward your property, and watch those offers come rollin' in!

This kind of stuff makes the Kabbalah Center look like the foyer of the Beit Ha Mikdash. NOT THAT I'M ADVOCATING IT (I can just see all those indignant comments)!! If you want some REAL Judaism, Esther/Madonna, here's a link for you. In the meantime, an apple and honey should cost you no more than 10 shekels - don't let Rabbi Berg fleece you.

And welcome to Israel!

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Fatah Gets Hip

What Abu Mazen won't do to make his brand of Jew-killing-while-receiving-training-from-the-Americans-and-money-from-Israel hip.

(Photos: AP's Jihadist stringers)

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Cartoons for the Soul

Just in time for the High Holidays!!

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