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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Kumah Kall 1 - In the Snow

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Photos: Snow in Jerusalem

I took the photos below on my way to work today in Jerusalem. Enjoy!

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Video: Snow in Jerusalem

An uncommon heavy snowfall hit Jerusalem today turning bustling streets and busy shopping centers into ghost towns. This video was taken on Jerusalem’s usually very busy Kanfei Nesharim Street which is also in one of the higher altitude areas of the city.

Photos, Bez"H are on the way!

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First Pictures of the Snow Storm

Jerusalem usually gets snow once a winter. Sometimes it'll just be a flurry, sometimes a full storm. During the last month, we've had unseasonably cold temperatures a few times, but without precipitation. This winter has also seen unseasonably little precipitation, which is quite bad. But this week has already been full of precipitation, Baruch Hashem, and now the cold temperatures have caught up with it, which means snow in Jerusalem! It started tonight and is predicted to continue through Thursday morning, making it quite a blizzard for Israeli standards. For the rest of tonight's pictures:

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

State of the Union

Fom the State of the Union Address January 28, 2008

"We're also standing against the forces of extremism in the Holy Land, where we have new cause for hope. Palestinians have elected a president who recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel. Israelis have leaders who recognize that a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state will be a source of lasting security. This month in Ramallah and Jerusalem, I assured leaders from both sides that America will do, and I will do, everything we can to help them achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of this year. The time has come for a Holy Land where a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine live side-by-side in peace. (Applause.)"

Good stuff, eh? Listen to this talk and you'll think peace is about break out everywhere. But the truth is that we are much closer to war then peace. The Palestinian president is an arch-terrorist. 3 of 4 most recently murdered Jews were murdered by his 'police'. The Palestinians also elected Hamas with a platform to destroy the Jewish State. A "Holy Land where a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine live side-by-side" is myth and a lie designed to destroy us. See how Gaza has turned into a haven for terrorists who are decimating Sderot with their rockets.

Here is what this week's Torah portion (Exodus 23) recommends:

23. "For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.
24. "You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.
25. "But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.
26. "There shall be no one miscarrying or barren in your land; I will fulfill the number of your days.
27. "I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.
28. "I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.
29. "I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.
30. "I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land.
31. "I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you.
32. "You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods.
33. "They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you."

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Romance, Kibbutz Galuyot Style

A descendant of long extinct Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, weds new Oleh from United States in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue. "I can't think of better example of ingathering exiles" says Shavei Israel chair, who organized ceremony

A groovy kind of love: A historic and very special ceremony took place last Thursday in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem: Shoshana Rebecca Li, of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, wed Ami Emmanuel, am immigrant from the United States.

The wedding ceremony, with over 150 guests, including other members of the Kaifeng Jewish community, was organized by Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel – a Jerusalem-based organization that reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

The Jewish Community of Kaifeng flourished for over 1000 years on the banks of the Yellow River in China. Jews first settled in Kaifeng, when it was an important stop along the Silk Route.

The community flourished, and numbered as many as 5,000 people in the Middle Ages. After the last rabbi of Kaifeng died in the first half of the 19th century, assimilation and intermarriage prevailed, eventually leading to the collapse of the community.

Nonetheless, around 700 Jewish descendants still live today in the city of Kaifeng, China, and many of them are seeking to reclaim their Jewish identity.

Shoshana Rebecca Li, 29, a descendant of that community, made aliyah to Israel in 2006, and recently completed her formal conversion back to Judaism by Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

Ami Emmanuel, 25, made aliyah two and a half years ago from Florida. The newlyweds intend to live in Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Arava region.

"For me, to have a proper religious Jewish wedding in Israel – it is a dream come true. I am very excited," said Li.

"No one in the world is as happy as I am. I thought it impossible to marry a Jewish woman from China. However, it seems miracles do happen, and this is the biggest miracle of my life," added Emmanuel.

"This wedding symbolizes the beginning of the return of the remnants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel," said Michael Freund.

"This is a special and unique occasion… 150 years after Kaifeng Jewry essentially ceased to exist, a wonderful young woman descended from the community is getting married to a new Oleh from the US, under a Jewish wedding canopy in Jerusalem. I can't think of a more poignant example of kibbutz galuyot – the Ingathering of the Exiles," he added.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Work in the King's Palace

Saving Israel, one paycheck at a time:
1. Executive Assistant for the Overseas Department of the City of David. • English mother tongue • Hebrew proficient • High level writing and communication skills in English • Experienced in organization and coordination • Ability to multi-task and work under pressure • Excellent computer skills • Available to work flexible hours, including some evenings • Creative, energetic, assertive, detail oriented, dynamic and warm.

2. Position available in the Reservations Department of the City of David English and Hebrew proficient, high level of expression, ability to provide a professional service over the phone. Full time position, One year commitment.
Please send your resume to

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Leave Olmert Alone

The Israeli right has achieved very little in the 14 years that have passed since the Oslo disaster. Therefore, its ideologues and motivators must comport themselves with a little more modesty, and a lot more originality, than they currently seem to. Yet the opinion columns and the conference podium microphones all seem to be broadcasting the same tired old messages to us: don't give up this or that territory, don't give up this or that principle, let the IDF win, take back Gaza, bomb it from the air, don't give them guns, give them homes, free the girls, Olmert is a traitor.

As a consumer of messages, I find this fare dull and unsatisfying. And after 14 years of this menu, I would like something new please, waiter.

Here is what I find myself thinking lately: of course Olmert has no right to discuss giving up Jerusalem. Of course Israel is losing its last shreds of self-respect and deterrence in the way it is dealing with the Gazan bombardment of Sderot. Of course throwing money at Abbas and his "moderate" murderers is no solution to anything.

But maybe there is a reason for this loss of direction, and maybe just saying the current leaders have lost touch with Judaism and are an "erev rav" does them a certain degree of injustice.

Let's say we bomb Gaza into oblivion (a move I support, by the way. It is certainly better than sending our boys in there to get killed by the barbarian hordes). What then? Well, here is what happens then: the US administration disowns us, in a series of speeches by the President in which Israel is branded "a state overcome by fanaticism" and its government a "rogue leadership." The UN adopts a series of resolutions condemning Israel's genocide and the Hague court demands Israel extradite war criminals Olmert, Barak and Ashkenazi, for starters. No Israeli officer can expect to step on British, French, Russian or American soil any more, or anywhere else for that matter, without being arrested immediately. NATO begins training for bombing Tel Aviv. Iran develops and tests its bomb unimpeded.

What will Israel do then? Oh, I know – we will publish dozens and dozens of opinion columns in which our finest minds say "they are an erev rav!"… and at the same time, our hilltop youth will build another ramshackle hut somewhere and declare victory, even as the boots of the Border Guards are climbing the hill to tear everything back down.


Now that everyone hates me, let me say this: I have the greatest respect for our heroes and heroines. I admit that do not have in me an ounce of the courage they seem to pack in tons in each of their Jewish hearts. I am no good at facing the police, I am no good at climbing the mountains, I do not have in me one percent of the bravery of the little girls who refused to identify themselves in court, not to mention the bravery of those who face the enemy every day as they drive about the roads of our beloved heartland, laughing in the face of the monsters of Ramallah, Shechem, Kalkilya, Jenin and Hevron. I was not even a very tough soldier in my army days (although I do have a green tank driver's license somewhere in my files).

Really, I have nothing in me that can compare to these people's courage and spirit.

But practically speaking (governments are, first and foremost, in charge of practical solutions) what do we want from the government? Think about it: a Yitzchak Shamir is not enough here. It is not enough to be able to stand fast and give up nothing. We can stand fast and give up nothing, but the Kassams will keep humiliating us. And the only way we can stop them is by creating mass carnage on the Arab side. Targeting the Hamas leadership won't do the job. They will just go underground. Besides, they grow heads back faster than skinks grow back tails, and the new ones are always just as ugly as the previous ones. I will say it again: practically speaking, only by creating mass carnage on the other side can we stop the Kassams for good.

Benny Elon's plan for voluntary Arab evacuation and compensation is nice for parlor talk. Hamas will only understand a "plan" like the one wreaked upon the Arabs by the combined forces of Haganah, Palmach, Etzel and Lechi in 1948. We all know this in our heart of hearts. So do we do to Gaza – and possibly Hevron, Ramallah and Shechem, what we did to Tzfat and Lod three score years ago? Yes or no?


This is the stage at which people say – "okay, smart-aleck, we get what you are saying. But what do YOU suggest?".

I will not fall into that trap. Not just yet. Let's see how this article goes down before we proceed to Stage Two. What do you think about this, dear readers? Practically speaking, how does Israel deal with the aftermath of a Gaza operation that costs thousands of Arab lives, half of them women and children? Please use the talkback function to express yourselves.

Speak, and spell out a long term practical policy, please – or leave Olmert (or "mert", or "Olmerde," as he is affectionately known in these parts) alone, because you don't have a better idea of what to do than he does.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Get Behind Me Satan!

(Must see video above) I am always trying to bring across to people the concept that Amalek wants to stop the Jews from coming home. The Baal HaTurim on the beginning of Parshat Ki Tavo explains that there is a reason why Ki Tavo, the Torah portion dealing with entering the land and tithing to Hashem there, is directly preceded by Parshat Zachor, the Torah section dealing with the commandment to blot out Amalek's name. Why? Because we are only commanded to get rid of Amalek when we are in the Land of Israel:

"Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget."

Only when we are united in the land do we have the power to fight this dark force. When we are in the Diaspora, we are not in our natural element, and we are divided. This is the source of Amalek's strength against us. Here is the Amelekite creed:

"Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king's laws, so it is not in the king's interest to let them remain."

The Baal HaTurim further explains that Amalek will do everything in his power to stop the Jewish people from coming home. It was Amalek who told Laban that Jacob had fled Haran and was en route to Israel: "It was told to Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled." It was Amalek who told Pharoah the Jews had fled: "The king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, Pharaoh and his servants had a change of heart toward the people, and they said, 'What is this we have done, that we have let Israel go from serving us?'"

Why did he tell them this? Because he wanted to stop the Jewish from reaching home. Finally, when Amalek saw that he could not use puppets to do his dirty work, he went after the Jews himself: "Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim."

Amalek is alive and well today. He is out there. Call him the Serpent, Satan, or Darth Vader, whatever. The point is that the dark force of this world will stop at nothing to keep us away from home. All the wars against us are instigated by this energy. More importantly, all the wars within us are supported by this power. Division within our ranks is a classic tool of Amalek who always attacks those who are weakest, who are holding on least tight: "Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God."

Once you are attuned to this you can begin to hear the shrieking cry of Amalak as the the Jewish people continue to ingather. It is certain death for him. The death of cynicism and doubt, the death of division and darkness. This is why I love the video I posted above. The gospel singers knew that on the way to Canaan Land, Satan is going to do all he can to stop you. "Get behind me Amalek!" is what they are singing.

KNOW THIS: if you are being attacked by doubt and cynicism about making Aliyah and making your life here, you are probably very dangerous to Amalek. You are probably a great asset to the Jews and to Israel and the dark energies want to keep you down and darken your eye. Don't let 'em. Keep coming and keep singing "I'm on my way...."

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Tu B'Shvat in Beit Shemesh

Seder Tu B' Shvat & "Peirot Tish" w/ Rav Simcha Hochbaum (of Chevron) & Judah Mischel; Live Music, Divrei Torah, The 7 Species and over 60 Fruits & Nuts from Eretz Yisrael
@ Yeshivat Reishit, 21 Rechov Rashi, Beit Shemesh, 7:30pm (Men Only Please)

ברוכים הבאים

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kumah's Tu B'Shevat Seder

Does anyone know what tomorrow is?

If you are living in the United States of America you will probably answer “Of course - it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

No, silly! Tomorrow night is Tu B’Shvat!

(Those of you in Israel would say “Of course – It’s Tu B’Shvat tomorrow night!” And would say – “Really? MLK day? I had no idea!”)

Tu B’Shvat – yet another reason to make Aliyah. Here this “forgotten holiday” is actually widely celebrated. The sad truth is (even though, or perhaps because, I grew up in Yeshivish surroundings) I never even heard of a Tu B’shvat seder until I actually made Aliyah. Here everybody makes them.

Last year Kumah’s own Malkah put together an absolutely stunning Tu B’shvat Haggadah! (Special thanks the Yechiel for helping us dig it up.)


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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Making "Making Aliyah" Too Easy

Making Aliyah has become easier than ever before in history. Conventional wisdom dictates that this is a good thing. And that the easier making Aliyah becomes the more Jews will return home to Israel.

But is that always true? Could it be possible that if making Aliyah were way too easy there would be Jews that upon experiencing something in their homeland that they don’t particularly like - they would simply throw everything away?

Now wait a second before you start telling me I sound a bit deluded. Look at the very first pasuk (verse) of last week's Parsha.

Pharaoh had let the people go. G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was shorter. G-d said, “The people might change their minds when they encounter war, and return to Egypt.” (Shemos 13:17)

Contrary to popular belief the Meam Loez explains:
Pharaoh had personally escorted the Israelites when they left Egypt, and had asked them to pray for him. The Torah therefore states that “Pharaoh had sent forth the people.” He had escorted them, hoping to entice them to pray for him. (Shemos Rabbah;Zohar on lech lecha).

Some say they G-d repaid Pharaoh for this good deed by giving the commandment, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a guest in his land” (Devarim 23:8) (S.R. cit in Yeffeh Toar).

All the Egyptian aristocrats accompanied the Israelietes until they came to Etham (13:20). Pharaoh and his men went along with the Israelites until they left Egypt. Pharaoh also sent many of his officials to accompany them on the way. (Targum Yonason; Rashi).

The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Whether or not they took to heart this fact that they were slaves in someone else’s land - they felt safe and secure there. They felt at home. And they felt that Pharaoh had their best interest in mind.

This is a very important point! “Pharaoh had let the people go.” The Jews did not feel like slaves escaping.

As the Meam Loez puts it:
Slaves escaping their master do not return. But since Pharoah had even gone so far as to escort them, they were left with good feelings toward Egypt. At the slightest hint of hostility, they would run back into Pharoah’s arms.

G-d knew the shortest route from Egypt to Israel leads straight through Gaza!

As the Meam Loez tells us - that route was problematic:
The logical route from Egypt to Canaan would take the Israelites along the Mediterranean coast through the Philistine territory. Although this was the shortest path, G-d did not let the Israelites use it.

G-d did not let the Israelites take this road precisely because it was short. If anything had frightened them, it would have been too easy for them to return to Egypt. G-d knew that the slightest hostility might cause them regret leaving Egypt and drive them to return.

Today, when Jews makes Aliyah from America, they certainly don’t feel like slaves escaping. One wonders if today as well, at the sight of hostility (such as in Gaza perhaps) would the American Jew run back into Pharoah’s arms?

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Did Gaza break my faith?

Did Gaza break my faith?

I don’t know. I have thought about this before. Often in fact. Losing one’s faith in God is no small thing. And I not only lost mine, it has died and been buried.

I literally had a dream as I was becoming secular where I was walking through the Judean Hills, a stream was within earshot, and I went to look for it. As I approached the stream, with a waterfall sounding the background I noticed a cemetery near the creek. I saw mourners, and as I approached they came to comfort me. Who had died? What was I mourning? Why was I being comforted? And then I saw it, a sefer torah was being buried, and it was my loved one, my sefer torah, that had died. I suddenly realized what was taking place, this funeral was for my loved one, these mourners were there to comfort me! Next to the sefer torah I saw the tombstones of my grandparents. My god! I cried. I said goodbye. I buried torah.

Please understand. I am not looking for theological reasons to come back to religion. It can’t happen. I have buried her. I loved her. Once. She was a major influence on my life, much like my grandparents. Will remain so. But she is gone now, dead. I am sad at this loss, but I can no more resurrect torah in my life than I can resurrect my dead grandfathers.

I woke up from that dream shaken. That was the moment when I stopped pretending that I could maintain my religious lifestyle. It was a lie, and I am not a hypocrite. From someone who dreamed of being a rav to a secular Jew. It was unforeseen. I believed so strongly, so completely. I never thought it could die. But it did.


I don’t know.

I know that it happened the same time as the Gaza expulsion. I do know that Gaza still haunts me. Did Gaza cause it? Not entirely, but it certainly played a part. It must have. I wake up in the middle of the night usually once a week, deeply upset and hurt. I’m waking… what happened? What was I dreaming? Right… Yehuda was being expelled from the home he built in Shirat HaYam. My friends were being dragged from their homes. I am being dragged away from the beach house. By Jews. Because we are Jews. The orange flag flies against the orange sun on the horizon. The greenhouses spring over with their bounty.


No more. Houses torn apart, bulldozed. Greenhouses ripped asunder, crops turning brown without the water and love they were given by their caregivers.

I know that my friend’s children still wet their pants at the site of police officers. Imagine. Don’t just read the sentence. Imagine what that means. Take a minute, it takes a minute to imagine something so horrible after all. Jewish policemen, in a Jewish State, scaring children so badly for the crimes their colleagues committed that they wet themselves in fear. That their memory and understanding of a Jewish Army and Jewish police force is identical to the memory of someone grabbing them from their parents and dragging them from their homes.

I know that my belief in the power of what I assume to be a destiny to triumph over evil is not a given. That when good people do nothing evil prevails. That those who came and chanted near the gates of Gaza about how terrible this was but dared not enter Gaza chanted with empty voices. The song of canaries. It may have sounded right and beautiful, but it lacked any meaning.

I know that no one seemed to take it seriously. That at best it caused my fellow countrymen to lament how sad it was that Jews had expelled Jews, lacking any real empathy or understanding for the pain those Jews must be in. That Israel must be in. That the Jewish Nation should be in.

I know that I lost faith that I would be able to continue living where I was without facing the same fate. I would dream, no, I would nightmare, every night about the screaming and fighting and crying that would greet me, my wife, our future children, our loved ones, our neighbors, when our turn came. I suddenly feared that it would indeed come.

I know that my grandmother, a kind woman of over 90 years, a doctor, a healer, a liberal, a former German, a current American, a democrat, told me bluntly, that this was the first time Jews were being expelled from somewhere simply because they were Jews and she didn’t understand how or why Jews could do this. This, from a survivor of the Shoah. How it pained me. She never thought she would live to see it again. How empty the chant of ‘Never Again’. How empty.

I know that the beaches in Tel Aviv were full when Gaza was emptied of her Jews.

I know that we speak of Gaza and act (forget?) as if the four yishuvim expelled of their Jewish residents in Samaria are just an after thought.

I know that I still wake up with shivers, sweating, nightmaring of the expulsion of my people. I bleed orange. I love my people and my land and my heritage. I wish we had the courage to be what I know we could be.

I know we have learned nothing. Nothing. Our government is now ready to do to the Jews of Judea and Samaria, of the Jordan Valley, of my home, of the suburbs of Jerusalem, of our holy Temple Mount, of the Old City, of our most ancient graveyard, what she did to Gaza and North Samaria. Palestine must be Jew free. But Israel can have Israeli-Arabs. Why no Jewish Palestinians? If this is an issue of a majority people ruling their land? There is no logic here. No peace. Just hate. This I know. And what do we do? What do I do? Nothing.

When will this nightmare die? When will a new hope arise? Is the awakening of American Jews to the reality of Israel, to her realness, is the Arising of American Jewry as she returns Home the glimpse of this new hope amid the nightmare? Can we be our people’s savior? Certainly we have waited long enough for our turn to fight for our people (shame on us!). Are we ready for the challenge? I don’t know.

I know that when I am casually looking up fun Israeli music on the internet I can’t help but have search strings that return sites about the expulsion from Aza. And I know that I still break down and cry when I see those pictures. Those horrible pictures.

When one has buried God, has seen Torah buried, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find comfort in the words of our prophets, for all of their comforts rest on knowing that God loves us and will comfort us, will lead us out of darkness. I know that I can no longer believe that.

Man, excuse me, humanity, we make our fate. We make our destiny. We decide. And right now, we seem to be deciding to appease evil, to stand by evil, to ignore the plight of others, to pretend they deserved it, or that it is all part of a Divine Plan, and all will be alright, as if the damage has not already been done when children wet themselves at the site of Jewish police, or suicide rates among evacuees is through the roof, or divorces occur because of the trauma, or even, dare I be so self centered, a 27 year old man cries himself to bed when reminded about this trauma because he was foolish enough to think he could look up Israeli music without accidentally coming into contact with his nightmare.

I want to wake up.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

EHS: Rav Sonnenfeld: Don't be a Spy!


Eim Habanim Semeichah - Page 506:

I also saw in Eileh Mas'ei an idea which the righteous mentor of Eretz Yisrael, R. Sonnenfeld, used to say [on the verse] And you shall see the goodness of Jerusalem (Tehillim 128:5): One must always see only the good of Eretz Yisrael, that is, the positive sides of Jerusalem. One must be careful not to be a "spy," G-d forbid. The spies were punished because they slandered Eretz Yisrael at a time when there were no Jews there; how much more so now, when there are many Jews in the Land.

Praise to my beloved friend, the young and exceptionally sharp scholar, the magnate, our master, R. Eliezer Sussman shlita, the son of our brilliant and righteous master, R. Efrayim Fischel Sofer z"l, rabbi and av beit din of [Budapest]. He copied for me parts of a manuscript of his father's eulogy for our brilliant mentor, R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld:

Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem, and who will bemoan you, O beloved Land! He never cursed anyone, under any circumstances. He was distressed more than anyone else about those who came and defiled the Land by desecrating the holy Sabbath, eating forbidden foods, and eating leavened bread on Pesach. He invoked merit upon these lost souls, saying, "The Land which they work with such great devotion will bring them back to the proper path and purify their hearts."

He would rebuke anyone who even slightly slandered the residents of the Holy City. He once told me that the Shulchan Aruch states that righteous people fast on the seventeenth of Elul because of the spies, who spread the evil report about the Land died on that day. The Magen Avraham asks, does it not say, When the wicked perish, there is jubilation (Mishley 11:10)? The Shelah answers that the spies were righteous men (tzaddikim.) Thus, even tzaddikim can be spies!

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The Same Jews

Sometimes I feel like I'm beating the Jews-need-to-return-to-Israel-and-their-collective-lack-of-initiative-is-a-sign-of-their-lack-of-faith-in-G-d issue like a dead horse. I don't know how we could express this seemingly obvious fact any further.

But I'll try.

One thing that really bugs me is when people read the Torah as a legend of days gone by. The Children of Israel coming out of Egypt are usual catalysts for a sort of global Jewish headshaking - we wonder at their ability to be so kvetchy all the time, to make golden gods, to ask for ridiculous things in the face of miracles. Yet I find that the post-traumatic-stress-riddled Jews of Egyptian slavery time are not a whole lot different than the average Moishe of Central Parkway. Granted, the Hebrews saw wildly unnatural-seeming miracles, splitting seas, weirdly selective plagues like darkness and firstborn slaying and what have you. They had a lot of chutzpah being so faithless.

But it's not like your snazzy LA Jew hasn't seen miracles. His bizarre success wherever he goes, the way he is so oddly and frequently spared from tragic or disasterous events, the birth of the State of Israel far across the ocean and its uncannily rapid growth and prosperity in its old haunts, with its old language. Honestly - it's pretty obvious that G-d is still taking care of His people Israel. There are a lot of American Jews who would heartily testify to the omnipotent kindness of our Lord to the Jewish people, and latch on to many of his commandments in loyalty and affirmation.

But when we talk about getting out of good old Flatbush... ooohhh nooooo. Suddenly, everything is too hard, too scary. To me, it sounds something like this: "Let us be and we will serve Egypt, for it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness." This wilderness was a place where the Israelites' every need would be cared for, where they would learn the Torah and eat to satiety. At least we can give them the benefit of the doubt in regard to their disbelief - though they should have known that Hashem would take care of them in the Wilderness, they had no forward lines who had preceded them, whose well-being they could take comfort in.

Yet the American Jew of today has that very thing. Israel is filled with flourishing beauty, holy Torah, rich agriculture and comfortable living, experienced currently by almost 6 million of his relatives. But he sees his road to Israel, his Wilderness, as not being worth the potential costs. Yes, he knows he's giving up SOMETHING. But his lack of faith causes him to seek comfort in that which is killing him, and to see his ladder up and out as certain death.

As an aside, one could say similarly of those living in Israel today who believe that we are sure to face doom and destruction, who mock those of us who begin to get a whiff of the burning offerings in a future Temple or plan our vacation homes in Basra. To them, anything bespeaking growth and uncharted territory is farcical, impractical, or dangerous. Better to be safe than sorry.

How ironic it is that all of these people rely on things which are utterly unsafe and uncertain and don't run like hell for the Wilderness, which is in fact the only safety there is.

May we all embrace our personal Wilderness, and let it lead us on a path to all things holy, right here in our holy land.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Shevat 5768

The month of Shevat began this past Tuesday!

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. For more information on what these dates mean see here.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

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

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

Butternut Squash
Cabbage (Red)
Corn (Fresh)
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 Shevat:


On 10 Shevat:


On 15 Shevat:

Pepper (Jalapeno)

On 25 Shevat:


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Cabbage (Red)
Corn (Fresh)
Peas in Pod
Zucchini (Squash)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.

On 1 Shevat:


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Mr. President, Somewhere the Sun is Shining


Mr. Bush learned an important lesson this morning. A basic fundamental in Judaism is that while man indeed has free will to choose good or evil, everything down to the smallest detail is controlled by God. These are not contradictory.

So the President "made a request to watch the sun rise over the Old City from his suite at the King David Hotel." What a plan! Israel officials had even better plans. "To make the scene more dramatic, the authorities [planned] to turn off the lights illuminating the limestone walls before dawn." Brilliant! (Haaretz even wrote about what the president would be thinking at that time and called Mr. Bush a courageous man and even praised him for being a God fearing man. Imagine liberal Haaretz ever calling a staunch conservative courageous! Or ever praising anyone for being God fearing!)

So what did the President see when he looked out his $2,500 a night Presidential Suite at the King David Hotel at 5:30 in the morning? Brilliant rays of the sun peeking over the ancient walls? Golden halos sheening off the Dome of the Rock? Actually he probably didn't even see the artist neighborhood of Yamin Moshe just meters below right outside his hotel window. See, as the Yiddish expression goes, "Men tracht und Gott lacht." Man plans, and G-d laughs! Man proposes, God disposes.

As Mr. Bush pulled apart the posh hotel curtains he didn't see the sunrise scene that he and Israel authorities has planned. What he saw was probably nothing. A thick fog moved in overnight along with some heavy rain and even a bit of snow. By morning the fog was so heavy the President's entourage had to cancel plans for him to fly by helicopter to Ramallah and chose to drive instead.

Indeed President George W. Bush is a God-fearing man. And perhaps he, and all the leaders of the world should heed the advice of another God-fearing leader. The leader from whom the hotel Mr. Bush is staying by gets its name. King David wrote: "The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples." Psalms 33:10


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bush's Israel Welcome

Jerusalem Puts Up Flags that blow in today's rain and fog

Freedom for Pollard organization put up Banners
telling Bush, Nasrallah, and Haniyeh to free their Jewish captives

President Bush is coming to Israel for the first time as president of the USA tomorrow and the city of Jerusalem has gone mad. The country is spending $400,000 to welcome Bush, American as well as Israeli flags have gone up all over Jerusalem, and the city and its residents are bracing themselves for many roads being closed and traffic jams. In the meantime, there have been a few rallies (for freedom for Pollard, an undivided Jerusalem, and more) already this week and more coming up (Thursday night in Kikar Tziyon).

The other day I was stuck in traffic on a bus because the city has rushed to finish some construction projects related to the new train/monorail that will eventually be finished to make Bush's commute easier. I was all the way in front of the packed bus and the driver was complaining about all this craziness for Bush. I told him that I was American and I really couldn't care less that Bush was coming. I said that as an American and an Israeli, I don't feel that the city should drive its residents crazy, even for the arrival of a president I voted for.

I was talking to someone tonight who had an important dental appointment canceled because the office is in 1 of the closed-off-for-Bush areas and the dentist either didn't think it was worth the trouble for him to come in or the patients wouldn't bother coming because it would be too hard to get there.

Another friend and I were talking and were upset that Bush was getting such royal treatment. It's as if our government is treating him like some sort of king or something. We just hope that when Mashiach comes, may that be immediately!, He gets treatment many times greater than this!

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15 Seconds With The President

There's a lot of hubbub surrounding the visit of US President George W. Bush.

The Post-Zionist Left, face it, is wetting itself with anticipation over the prospect of Bush backing Israel into a corner and, as the uberscuzzy editor of Haaretz so Haaretzly put it, raping our country of any last vestiges of meaning or dignity. They're hoping Bush will pizzazz the land right out from under us, hacking away at the most biblical of our biblical lands, and ultimately bringing down the Zionists, who are like so many pesky cockroaches revealing themselves after a bug bomb.

This morning, as our mountaintop was covered with a welcome low-hanging cloud after some much needed nighttime rainfall, we heard a familiar sound - the approach of a Blackhawk.
Because of our proximity to both Ramallah and Baal Hatzor, as well as our possession of a nice, uninhabited flat space, we are frequented by practicing pilots, who land and take off, land and take off.

As we were listening to the buzzing and swooshes, my husband commented to me that perhaps they are practicing bringing in Bush - after all, Bush's entourage is rumored to be planning a Ramallah visit, making a helicopter landing and drive through Beit El somewhat likely. Olmert's government is going to be doing everything in its power to keep Bush away from any real people or places during his visit (we wouldn't want the endearing qualities of the Jewish people to get in the way of our cold, heartless peace plans, now would we?), so it's quite possible that he will be whisked above the annoying realities, and come to Ramallah via helicopter.

So I asked my husband: "What if he does land here, and we have the chance to speak to him for 15 seconds? What would you say?" That got us thinking.

By the by, you never know. I recommend that you all prepare 15 seconds worth of material - who knows if G-d will make you the shaliach for His message to this King of America.

What would you say? "Free Jonathan Pollard!" "Go back to Texas!" "Please, don't divide Jerusalem - you don't want that kind of Wrath, trust me."

So I leave it to you: What would YOU say to President George W. Bush if you ran into him in Israel?

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Monday, January 07, 2008

If Everyone Would Be This Honest....

Shalom Yishai!

thank you for some of ur comments about making aliyah...

I'm struggling right now with the fact that I had originally wanted to make aliyah this month... I however, accepted a "good job" that will allow me to save some extra money, yet there in is a trap, saving money in the USA is like trying to collect water with a stainer! expenses always mount and "needs" are always pressing... I am sensing my galut/exile more and more... I do not feel at home even though I struggle to "be at home" - I work for a yeshiva here in chicago... a good paycheck.

I am struggling with not with my desire to make aliyah yet with the timing and functionality of my aliyah. Everyone has said "make sure you have a job when u go to Israel" yet when I went to Israel for the 1st time in 2004 I went with no expectations and no agenda, $900 in my pocket... I stayed three months, and got a job in Tel Aviv, where I actually made more money there then i would have in the USA... SO WHY AM I STILL IN USA/Galut? because I allow my passions for what i'm familiar with to override my concern for what Hashem has for me!

chas v'Shalom... I should use this job to save some mony and get the H*ll out of here... it means breaking up with a girl who may (or may not) be a good shidduch for me, it means leaving my mother (aging, nearly 75), it means leaving a child here in the USA (divorce situation), it means going beyond what is "commonly thought of as common sense" - emunah...

thanks for letting me vent! I have an open TIK, I have paperwork to complete might take me a month or two... who knows perhaps Hashem has put me in this situation so I can fight a little harder...
am chai Yisrael!

Hey, this year would be better than next year, yet next year might be more realistic than right now! whichever it is bezraht Hashem "not by might, nor by power, yet by His Spirit..."

todah! chaver,

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Friday, January 04, 2008

baruch's video

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Where's Waldo?

So I finally bit the bullet and joined Facebook. I resisted for a long time, but it's sort of like hanging out under water - eventually, you have to come up for air.

When I built my profile, I thought it would be nice to jazz it up a little. I got myself the Jewish Gifts application, sent out some Flowering Gifts, and decided to have a whirl at the Where I've Been application. I've been to some cool places, and have even more dreams of travel (location number 1: The rest of the GREATER LAND OF ISRAEL!!!! - you'll be visiting me soon in my snowy winter residence in Damascus, B"H), so I thought - hey, why not.

So I quickly labeled countries (I'm sure there are more for me to add), and then stepped back from the page. This is what I got:

I looked at all the countries and states, and noticed one particular thing - I can't see Israel. Can you? If it's there, it's like, a pixel. And that got me to thinking about the political situation here in Israel (yes, you're right, even pancakes could get me thinking about the political situation in Israel, but still). All we have is a pixel. And the world wants me to split up my pixel? I took too much from the world? - a whole pixel? The world looks so large next to Israel - it's as if we're not even on the map. Yet we are the focus of frontpage stories of newspapers in every country and every language in the world. So I zoomed in further:

Now, thanks to good genetics and religious usage of sunglasses, I can see Israel. Compared to Africa (where Kenyans are currently slaughtering hundreds of children and old people with machetes and burning down churches, amidst a sweeping plague of HIV - is that making your front page?), not large.

Then I maxed out my zooming capability:

Now I ask you - HAS THE WHOLE WORLD GONE INSANE?! What am I looking at here? What the hell is that? And perhaps more importantly in the context of Facebook, where am I in this picture? I told the stupid program that I live in Israel, but I don't see my town, or even my region on this map. And furthermore - who designed this program? You know, sometimes I feel like the whole world is against us, but COME ON! Can I NEVER escape the seething urge of the nations to divide up my country and kick me out of my house? Even on Facebook, I have to face the so-not-subtle angst of the world's hatred? Geez....

I could tell you to bombard Facebook with your complaints, but this is only one small example of a much bigger picture - a whole map full of it.
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Thank You CNN For Spreading The Truth

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"Defiant West Bank Settlers Vow To Stay On"

From the Toronto Star's Middle East Bureau
by Oakland Ross

BEIT EL, Israel - Do not talk to Yishai Fleischer about peace.

The 31-year-old Israeli radio-station manager has heard it all before, and he doesn't believe a word.

"I don't buy any of it," said the bearded, rapid-talking ideologue who also hosts a thrice-weekly current-events program on Arutz Sheva, an Internet radio station that promotes a conservative Jewish agenda. "We're not living in a time of peace. I don't think Israel should make any concessions. Israel should be strong."

For Fleischer, the concept of strength includes an all but absolute refusal to live anywhere other than this airy hilltop settlement high in the Samaria Mountains, some 20 kilometres north of Jerusalem.

It is a fair bet the same defiant sentiment is shared by his neighbours, who number about 5,300 people, almost all of them religious Jews who did not wind up living in Beit El by accident.

The town's name means "House of God" in Hebrew and it is one of dozens of Jewish communities speckled across the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on rocky, arid real estate that most of the world considers to have been confiscated from Palestinians.

Many differences separate Israeli and Palestinian negotiators who this week formally launched a new Middle East peace effort during an international gathering in Annapolis, Md., but none of the challenges ahead is likely to be more daunting than the task of sorting out which tracts of land belong to whose side.

"The key is the territorial," senior Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo said in a recent interview. "If we solve the territorial, other issues will be easier."

After 40 years of nearly relentless expansion, approximately 450,000 Israelis now dwell on soil that much of the world considers to be Palestinian land – 270,000 of them in the West Bank and an additional 180,000 in East Jerusalem, which the Israeli government annexed in 1967. If the new round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks goes ahead more or less as planned, the Israeli government may soon find itself under intense pressure to withdraw people from some of these settlements and to give at least a portion of this land back.

Just be careful broaching this subject in the presence of Yishai Fleischer.

"To envision it happening is almost impossible," he says. "The underpinning to our presence here is spiritual and religious. Our essence here is our antiquity, our legacy here, our promise from God. This is our heritage, our gift. Our return was prophesied."

In other words, his people were here yesterday, he's here now, and he damned well means to be here tomorrow, along with his wife, their six-week-old daughter, and a lot of their equally determined friends.

As the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proceeds along a road that may – or may not – lead to an eventual peace agreement with approximately 3 million Palestinians, it will have to confront a plenitude of adversaries, no small number of whom will be in possession of Israeli passports.

Fleischer is just one of them, an Israeli-born, U.S.-educated young man who moved to Beit El four years ago, largely for religious reasons, and who won't be leaving town without a fight.

"I could have been a hotshot lawyer in New York City," he says. "Instead, I live in a trailer home. Our project is not greedy. It's a holy project."

Almost no one believes that Israel will withdraw entirely from the West Bank, if only because any government rash enough to propose such a measure would not long survive in power.

"This would be civil war," said Arnon Sofer, head of research at the Israel Defence Forces' National Defence College and a leading Israeli demographer.

Sofer believes some 70 settlements might be dismantled and about 60,000 settlers withdrawn. The rest of the settlements would remain in Israeli hands, but the Palestinians could be compensated with land swaps, mostly involving territory in the Negev Desert of southern Israel, some of which could be added to the West Bank and some to the slender Gaza Strip.

But Sofer's vision would also see Israel retaining control of the entire Jordan Valley as a military buffer zone, to prevent the possible smuggling of weaponry into Palestinian territory in the West Bank from the Kingdom of Jordan, which stretches to the east of the Jordan River.

Even that rather stingy arrangement would fail to satisfy Fleischer, who flat-out rejects the idea of peace between Arabs and Israelis, either now or, quite possibly, ever.

"I respect Arabs," he says. "I don't hate them. But you have to be tough. Israel needs to fight.'

As an example of what happens when Israel fails to fight, Fleischer points to the Gaza Strip.

Under a policy championed by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, Israel unilaterally withdrew from the coastal territory two years ago, removing some 8,500 Israeli settlers by force and closing down its military posts.

Now Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a militant Islamist movement.

"It wasn't months before Gaza became a terrorist state," says Fleischer, who predicts the same pattern would unfold here if Israel withdrew from parts of the West Bank – a prospect he and others vow they would mightily oppose. "There would be resistance, civil disobedience on a grand scale."

But Fleischer does not believe it will come to that, primarily because he does not believe the current search for Middle Eastern peace will prove any more successful than have all the failed searches of the past.

"We have been through this wringer before," he said. "We Jewish people are not terrorists. We're here because we love the land."

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Take That Santa!