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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Needed: Shimshon ha-Gibor

Yishai, Shalom,

Welcome back.
I enjoyed listening to your "Yishai in America" series.
I would be interested in hearing more about attitudes to Aliyah among the people you met in the states.

Is a free El-Al flight not enough for them? Do they want to be "beamed up" to Israel when the Beit ha-Mikdash drops out of the sky in pre-fab fire construction.

Or are they waiting for us in Israel to build the Beit ha-Mikdash like in "Field of Dreams" -- if you build it, they will come?

I saw a really nice article by Rav Shmuel Eliyahu in the parsha sheets this weekend.
Here's my own take on what he said:

Needed: Shimshon ha-Gibor to "shake things up."

He said that his son asked who killed the terrorist this time. It was another settler who fired the 1st shot. Will the police chief investigate all these border guards who stood by and watched in the recent attacks. No, because the judicial system would then go after him.

Just like the rulers of Judah were made uncomfortable by Shimon's daring attacks on the Philistines, because they preferred their comfortable existence as a vassal state to Philistia, so too our rulers try to suppress any bit of Jewish activism.

I myself never understood what was the point of Shimshon's career as a judge. What did he accomplish. But from the Rav's article, it all began to make sense. Shimshon woke up the people of Judah from their complacency, from their slave mentality.

What? You want to settler the land of Israel? You can't, this is an illegal outpost. Settling the land of Israel violates "international law" (what is that? something the nations made up to prevent us from returning to our land)

You want to protect yourself against terrorists, even by only firing in the air. We'll find an Arab to lie and say that he was hit by a bullet from your gun and throw you in jail.

But when we try to argue and say that actually, according to the San Remo agreement, this is actually part of the Jewish homeland, they just laugh at us.

But when 13 year-old girls call their bluff and refuse to recognize the authority of their kangaroo courts, then they get nervous. They are nervous because others might see "the man behind the curtain" pretending to be a wizard.

kol tuv,

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seeing The Edge

Here is my new article:

I have just returned from a five week trip to the US. While there I dedicated half of my time to family and the rest of the time to lecturing about Israel and Aliyah and meeting with American Jews who want to take part in building the Jewish State -- the most important project of the Jewish people in two thousand years...

While my speeches hit their mark and the meetings went well, I had to contend with a constantly recurring question: "What's going to be with Israel's government? Are the people of Israel going to allow themselves to be led off the edge of a cliff, like lemmings?" This question came at me from every corridor and only then did I realize how hard it is for an American Jew to break out of the American Galut. From America, Israel seems like a crazy place of endemic instability, full of enemies from within and without. Add to that sentiment the amazing attraction of America, its convenience, its wide roads, its philo-Semitic tolerance, and its wealth and you end up with one thought: "There is no way in heck I'm leaving America for Israel."

I assured the people who asked me this question that as a Jew living in Israel and taking part in the building of our country daily, I am even more concerned by the policies of my government and am embarrassed by them. I told these questioners that it will take people like them and people like me to change our reality for the better and that we have no right to abdicate our responsibility to Israel in these hard times. I told them that we did not wait two thousand years to watch a reborn Israel go down the tubes, G-d forbid.

But there was another point that I had to make: I explained to American Jews that they are locked in a media loop in which their only information about our beloved homeland comes from reading the papers or watching the news. The media is notoriously negative, not just against Israel, but in general. I asked American audiences to relate the last time they saw something positive about America in the press? They could not recall the last time.

I continued: I, too, see and hear the painful dark headlines in Israel. However, when I walk past the Jewish kindergartens in Israel I see them full of kids, when I drive into Jerusalem I marvel at its grandeur, when I walk into the general store I see it packed with Israeli products and fresh food! My image of Israel is fundamentally different because I am not enslaved by the media's negative proclivities, nor do I think that my government's suicidal policies are the end all/be all of what Israel is really all about. I can see the bigger picture and I will not allow the media and others to minimize and trivialise our efforts.

When Balak king of Moab wanted to fight the Jews he called in the evil prophet Bilaam to curse the Jews and thereby weaken them. We read in Numbers 23:13

"Then Balak said to him [Bilaam], 'Please come with me to another place from where you may see them, only their edge you will see and you will not see the whole of them; and curse them for me from there.'"

What is going on here? If I were to curse a nation I would want to see the whole bunch of them splayed out in front of me and then let 'em all have it! Why does Balak offer Bilaam a tiny glimpse of the nation in an attempt to help the evil prophet issue forth a diabolical curse? Shouldn't it be the opposite?

The evil ones on this Earth have a well developed sense of cunning and these two bad guys were no exception. They knew the secret of the Jewish people: the united totality of the Jewish people is unbeatable and the big picture of Jewish history is the revelation of G-d's providence and kindness. However, if you focus in at the small picture you may find some dirt, some criminality, some all-too-human weakness that will darken the image. That is why Balak offered Bilaam to see only the edge of the Jews -- if Bilaam could only zoom in on some negative aspect of the Jews and disregard the big picture, maybe then he could muster the venom needed to curse G-d's people.

That type of zoom-in to the darker side of today's Israel is exactly what our enemies want. They want us demoralized, they want us to turn away from Israel. However, we, lovers of Israel, cannot allow ourselves to be minimalist observers who become dissuaded when we hear that our country is going "off the derech" -- off the right path. On the whole, the Jewish project of rebuilding our homeland is moving forward at lightning speed. Israel is soon going to be the home for the majority of the world's Jews, and is already far and away the cultural center of Judaism. All of our enemies and even our sick government cannot derail the forward momentum of this project -- unless we let them!

So let us not fall victim to our enemies' dark desires to see the edge of the Jewish people with a focus on negativity. Instead, let us see the grand vision of Israel and the nearer-then-ever horizon of destiny. Once we get our vision in order we will have a renewed burst of energy to help Israel get through this tumultuous time. And that will be our great merit.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Good Surprises...

The NY Post has an awesome Israel at 60 section - one which all Jewish organizations can be proud of and learn from. Click here to see it.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Good Things

Jacob Richman wrote:

Hi Everyone!

On Friday afternoons, I buy several newspapers including Hebrew ones. Every so often, the Hebrew newspapers include a special insert. If we get a new Israeli president there will be a picture of him / her; if a sports team wins a champinship there may be a picture of them; before Passover you can find a free Haggadah; and before Israel Independence Day there is a large flag folded inside the paper.

This past Friday (July 25), there was a small glossy, two-sided, flyer in the Yediot Achronot newspaper.

On the front of the flyer is a family eating together at the table. The Hebrew text reads: Friday is Reserved for My Family To talk, laugh, eat together. There is one day of the week that you can sit with the whole family and connect. So we declare: Friday is Reserved for My Family.

On the back of the flyer is the Shabbat Kiddush:

After close to 24 years in Israel, I still find nice surprises in the most unexpected places.

Shavua Tov,

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Video: Yishai Flies With NBN!

Not By Chance

From Haaretz (!?)

"It's no coincidence that men with knitted skullcaps - two of them soldiers - were involved in killing the terrorists who carried out the last three terror attacks..."

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Growing Up Frum

For some Jews, the under-35-frum-from-birth crowd, the name Uncle Moshy invokes many of the fondest childhood memories. What Orthodox child, growing up in North America, didn’t attend at least one Uncle Moshy Chol HaMoed concert? What Frum child didn’t own all the Uncle Moshy records or tapes?

I recently happened upon some Uncle Moshy clips on YouTube of all places. One was the song Uncle Moshy sings at the very end of his albums. This is how it goes:

Now it’s time to say Shalom*
Uncle Moshy is going home
But you know he’ll be back again
Teaching the mitzvos of Hashem

Let us hope and let us pray
That Moshiach will come our way
And we will hear that Shofar blow
To Yerushalayim we will go


*This line is from memory.

And then it hit me… like a truckload of bricks! It always bothered me why, especially among FFBs the most prevalent attitude is that when Moshiach comes everything will magically change and poof we will all be transported to Yerushalayim in a snap. And until that happens everything is just fine and we should continue living here in New York.

Popular belief is that this is the only way Moshiach will come and there is no reason to move to Yerushalayim before Moshiach comes. I was never able to pin down exactly where this notion originated. But now I think I’ve got it. From Uncle Moshy! “Let us hope and let us pray/That Moshiach will come our way/And we will hear that Shofar blow/To Yerushalayim we will go.”

It might sound far-fetched but children of Uncle Moshy listening age are extremely impressionable. And influences introduced at that age easily stay with someone their whole lives. So there is a generation of Uncle Moshy fans davening every day for Moshiach, and waiting for that “great shofar,” so that we can finally return to Yershalayim, when in reality Hashem has already answered our prayers and is sounding the great shofar! And if we will only hear it we could simply board an Aliyah flight as a couple of hundred Jews are doing next week (look for Yishai on that flight!) and return to Yerushalayim in ten hours!

In truth I’m being a little hard on Uncle Moshy. I’m still a fan and think he is great and has contributed more to the Jewish Project, as Kumah calls it, than almost anyone I could think of. But sometimes we have to stop thinking like children and we have to grow up. There are a great many Jews that made and are making Aliyah, both from those that did and from those that didn’t grow up with Uncle Moshy and his Mitzvah Men. I wonder if we could learn from them how to see Judaism though adult eyes and not continue to live Judaism through the eyes of a child.

To be fair this issue existed long before Uncle Moshy was even born. Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal zt"l, wrote about it in 1943 in Eim Habanim Semeichah:

"Do not be so quick to conclude that we should sit back and do nothing about redemption, and that we should wait for Mashiach to come and carry us off on the wings of eagles to our Land and our inheritance. Many of our fellow Jews, even rabbis and Gedolei Torah, imagine that the redemption will occur in this way. One great rabbi [even] preached in public that we must not act at all, not even build and settle the Land. Rather we must wait for Mashiach to swoop down and carry us to Eretz Yisrael on clouds. He came to this conclusion because he did not delve into this halachah, which is one of the deepest and most obscure halachot. He who does not delve deeply into it has no grasp on it whatsoever."(p. 268)

Rabbi Teichtal concludes:

"He who says that Mashiach ben David will initiate the redemption, as the lowly masses anticipate, is like someone who says the sun will rise before dawn. Nonsense! The great evil that arises from this harmful outlook is tangible, as experience proves. It is a mitzvah to publicize this matter to the ignorant, and blessed is he who sanctifies G-d's name among the multitudes. In my opinion, he who hides this matters, desecrates G-d's name in private."

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

YU Israel Job Listing

I know we don't generally post job listings. But I think we should, particularly considering how much concern I've heard from American Jews on my trip to America (which I am currently winding down) that they will be unable to secure jobs in Israel.

This one sounds like a mighty big fish - I hope you land it!

Director of the S. Daniel Abraham Israel Program

The Director will manage, develop and implement programs of direct and indirect recruitment and retention activities and services that will strengthen and/or build interest and relationships with heads of schools, staff, and prospective students and their families that effectively deliver information and benefits of a YU education. Typically, these activities include regular meetings with students. Also provided are on-site academic advising and registration activities, regular meetings with the administrators of the affiliated schools, and working with the schools closely on security issues.

While developing pro-active and aggressive engagement activities and programs, the Director will ensure that activities are conducted, whether personally or by staff, with exceptional political acumen and sensitivity. The Director will ensure that relationships with all constituents and entities, whether internal or external to the University, recognize, and are sensitive to, the impact and implications that decisions and information have on that specific entity (e.g., school, family, individual, congregation, etc.)

The Director will work closely with the leadership team located in New York in identifying program goals and standards, and specifying and measuring the success of efforts in Israel against established standards.

The successful candidate will be a creative, energetic, ethical and a collaborative professional with outstanding interpersonal skills.

· Demonstrated successful track record in student recruitment or a closely related endeavor.
· Strong knowledge of the mission, values, and culture of Yeshiva University, and especially both the Jewish Studies and Bachelor Degree components of the undergraduate programs.
· Must also have a thorough understanding of Modern Jewish Orthodoxy as well as the spectra of Jewish experience and observances.
· Experience in higher educational administration, with specific experience in admissions, student recruitment, and student activities.
· Understanding of the Jewish learning that takes place in the YU Israel Program affiliated schools.
· Demonstrated experience managing an office or other administrative team/staff in a higher education environment.
· Technology savvy individual with familiarity with technology including PC based office software, large student management information systems such as Banner, web-based administrative applications, and web-based instructional software such as Angel or Blackboard.
· Excellent communication skills in both English and Hebrew.
· Demonstrated experience and ability to develop and lead engagement activities that establish and maintain effective interpersonal and working relationships
· Demonstrated senior level political acumen and sensitivity.
· Candidates must have a bachelor's degree. Advanced degrees and/or Rabbinic ordination are desirable.
· Ability to travel extensively both within Israel and internationally.

The position is 9-5, Sunday to Thursday, 12 months

For consideration, forward cover letter, resume and salary history, in confidence, to: Michael Sica Associate Director, Human Resources Yeshiva University 500 West 185th St. New York, NY 10033 Fax: 212-960-0080 E-Mail:
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Home Made

Rivkah Lambert Adler, the great Aliyah Guru of the Bat Aliyah blog posted this:

"Tamar Weissman and Chanina Rosenbaum from Baltimore made this film as a gift to Noah and Risa Lasson, who are making aliyah next week. It's a 22-minute long love letter about Israel and the power of Coming Home.

If you haven't got time to watch the whole thing, make sure to see the first few minutes and the last part where Chanina is speaking, first to Noah and Risa and then to the rest of us (this part starts 19 minutes in).

May we all merit to have people in our lives who care so much about us and about bringing the family (literally in Tamar's case) Home."

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Yishai Speaks in Passaic NJ!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The American's Guide to Lesser Known Israeli Stereotypes Part 1: Fashionista Rambo

I would venture to say many if not most Americans have a generic picture of the average Israeli in their head... someone with tan skin, dark brown hair, and a funny middle eastern accent, possibly wearing a nice button down shirt and jeans, smoking a cigarette and talking on a cell phone. If one wishes to get fancy they might conjure up an image of a soldier with a machine gun or a charedi with long curled peos and a shtreimel. Only after having spent some time here have I started to realize just how numerous and varied the different "character types" of Israelis are. In order to better inform the American Jewish public who might be unaware of the existence of these people, I would like to post a several installment mini-series of these lesser known Israeli stereotypes. In this first installment I'd like to open with the Fashionista Rambo. While many girls serve in the army when they turn 18, if you were to spot one on the street while in uniform they would appear as just that- some girl in an army uniform. Yet walk the streets enough and it won't take you long to spot a particular special breed of army girl- the Fashionista Rambo. This is a girl who, although she may be confined to a wardrobe selection of baggy amorphous dull green slacks and shirt, isn't going to let that cramp her style.

What may be lacking in originality and fun in her uniform is more than made up for in everything else. She can be identified by her professionally painted fingernails, sandal shoes with some sort of heel instead of the standard brown or black boots, humongous designer aviator-like sunglasses that cover two thirds of her face and hair and makeup that she probably spent four hours in the bathroom that morning working on. Fashionista Rambo may not lug around a big sack like many of the men soldiers but you'll never find her without her purse. Rarely is she ever carrying her gun... perhaps she feels she is adequately armed with "looks that could kill." For some reason these girls seem to always get on the bus as the same time as another army girl who seems much more meek and just wears flip flops and has her hair in a plain old ponytail. Though they often aren't together, the fact they get on the bust at the same time makes it fun to compare and contrast the two.

There seems to be a variant of Fashionista Rambo in the police force as well. About a month ago I saw one of these women supervising a construction sight, or was supposed to have been though in reality she was busy sending text messages on her phone. She looked as though she could be a model on a runway, and I say this not because she was extraordinarily beautiful (though she did happen to be a very pretty Jewish girl) but simply because she had enough makeup on as to make one think she was prepared for a photo shoot.

Stay tuned for future installments including Pajama Men and Backpack Kids!

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Watch Aliyah LIVE!

Today Nefesh B'Nefesh announced that for the first time ever everyone all over the world will be able to watch an Aliyah flight arrive in Israel! NBN will be web-casting the historic event for the world to see.

"We wanted to enable those close to the people making Aliyah to get a better idea of the excitement and the Olim experience upon arrival in Israel," said Nefesh B'Nefesh's VP of Operations Danny Oberman. "This new technological addition will allow them to follow the arrival of their loved ones, almost as if they were there."

Check out the The Live Webcast this Thursday, July 10th at 12:10 am EST/7:10 Israel time right here. ( )

Count how many Kumah bloggers you can spot there. And spread the word!

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Torat Yisrael: Israel's Newest English Torah Publication

How often does the truth become distorted in the Israeli media? We live in a society where the major newspapers run stories of how terrorists are not antisemitic (See J-Post and Haaretz about the recent Jerusalem attack) and where companies who refuse to hire Arab workers are lambasted. In response to this trend, a new publication has been put together called Torat Yisrael. Torat Yisrael is Anglo Israel's first bi-weekly magazine of Jewish political and social thought. Based on Torah values, every article is filled with authentic, historical Jewish ideas and concepts. From economics to warfare, education to law, every topic is approached from the perspective of tradition.

Distributed bi-weekly in the main Anglo centers in Israel, Torat Yisrael is a sixteen page color mini-magazine available free in your synagogue. I am the associate editor, Kumah's co-founder Yishai Fleisher is a regular contributor, as well as such notables as the Likud's Shmuel Sackett and Nahal Hareidi founder, Rabbi Yoel Shwartz.

If you are interested in reading Torat Yisrael online, receiving copies, subscribing to the Torat Yisrael mailing list, or advertising to the English-speaking population of Israel, then you can find Torat Yisrael online at or you can reach editor Shmuel Sokol at or by phone at 0526720779. There is also a Torat Yisrael blog that you can check out at

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Facing the giant

There is an idea in Judaism that Hashem is constantly sending us signs and messages of which we must decode and figure out how to apply to our daily lives. One of the ways He does this is through the lessons in the parshat hashavua (weekly Torah section). In light of the recent terrorist attack on Yaffo Street this last week, what can we learn about it from that week's section Parshat Chukat?

At the end of the parsha the Israelites face a confrontation with the nation of Bashan and their king the giant Og. Hashem tells Moses, "Al tira oto," or, "Don't fear him" (referring to Og). This is commonly understood to mean that because of Og's immense size, combat with him meant certain danger if not death, and G-d needed to reassure Moses so he would have the courage to face such an enemy. However, if G-d was on the side of the Israelites, why would Moses need be afraid? The had just had a similar confrontation in which Hashem had granted them victory, and the Torah doesn't seem to mention any sin they had committed that would forfeit their divine protection. Even if Og was a giant, that is merely a physical advantage, and Moses of all people who had a closer relationship to Hashem than anyone else should have known that physicality is nothing compared to G-d's strength. So why the need for words of encouragement?

Back in B'reshit (book of Genesis) when Abraham's nephew Lot is captured, it says that the fugitive came to inform Abraham about it. The term fugitive refers to the giant Og. Og was of a time before the flood that destroyed the world but his life was spared and he was allowed to ride on top of Noah's Ark. Within the world there is klipot, spiritual shells that block Hashem's divine light and feed off the power of evil, and since the world was destroyed during the flood the Ark served as a temporary world in the meantime. Since the time had not yet come for a perfect existence there was still a need for klipot in the world, and Og was allowed to survive outside the Ark during the flood serve as the klipah. This is why he is referred to as the fugitive- though he should have died like all the other wicked people of his generation he was able to make it out alive.

When Og came to tell Abraham of what had happened to Lot his intention was that Abraham should rush off to battle in order to save Lot and end up getting killed, allowing Og to take Sarah as a wife for himself. Even though he had wicked intentions, the fact was he still did a good thing and because of that Abraham rewarded him by giving him a brit milah (circumcision). The brit milah is one of the most important mitzvot it the entire Torah and somebody who has one merits great spiritual reward.

With this in mind, let's take another look at what Hashem tells Moses, "Al tira oto." While the word "oto" means "him", it can also be read as a contracted form of "ot shelo", or, "his sign." Often a brit milah is refered to as a sign (ot), and while Moses may have not been intimidated by Og's physical stature, he knew that Og had a brit milah and therefore because of it may merit spiritual protection, making it much more difficult to defeat him. As it turns out though, Og had strayed in sexual deviancy and because of this had forfeited the holiness of his brit milah and any spiritual protection it may have afforded him. This is why Hashem told Moses not to fear him, for even though one might think that Og's brit milah would give him merit and protect him, his evil ways had caused him to lose any such merit.

Possibly the biggest enemy to the Jewish people and especially Israel today is the muslim nations who seek our destruction. Numbering in the billions, they are most certainly a giant as far as peoples go. If it weren't enough that they outsize us, they too, like Og, have a brit milah. They also worship G-d and often lead very devout lifestyles often willing to give their life on command in what they view as the service of G-d. If one wasn't worried enough by their sheer size, one could most definitely be worried that G-d may grant them success in the merit of their devotion to Him. More than that, this is an enemy that already lives amongst us. For all the high tech equipment and strategies Israel's government and Army employs, checkpoints, weapon confiscations, world class intelligence gathering, etc., our enemy can sidestep us and use simple every-day objects like a bulldozer from a local construction sight to try and destroy us as did the terrorist this last week (may his name be erased).

Yet scratch under the surface of their seeming piety and you don't have to look hard to find many contradictions. The same people who proclaim to be holy commit mass murders, bombings and countless other terrorist attacks, oppress their women and subject them to honor rapes and killings, as well as countless other horrible behaviors. This is certainly not becoming of a people that wishes to make themselves the representatives of G-d. Therefore when confronting this seemingly giant enemy in what often looks like a hopeless situation, we must have faith that G-d will protect us. Wicked murderous peoples lose any protection they may have been expecting from G-d while we have the promise laid out in His Torah that we will survive to the end and see our redemption, may it come soon.

Before mentioning the events of Og and Bashan, earlier in the parsha it described the Para Aduma, or Red Heifer. The Para Aduma was used to purify people of the impurity of death, which according to the Torah is the strongest of impurities. Just as Torah instructs us in a purification process before relating the story of the battle with Og, we need to understand that while our enemies' defeat hinges on their impurity, likewise our victory hinges on our ability to purify ourselves and cleave to Hashem. May it be His will that we have success in this and that we don't know from any more heinous attacks in our time.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Tamuz 5768

The month of Tamuz begins Thursday night! (Today is also Rosh Chodesh.)

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

On 1 Tamuz:
Grapes for Wine

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect (with *ed items already in Sefichim):

Butternut Squash*
Cabbage (Red)*
Corn (Fresh)*
Medlar (Shesek)
Peas (in pod)*
Pepper (Jalapeno)*
Plums (Japanese Round)
Sweet Potatoes*
Zucchini (Squash)*

Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

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

On 1 Tamuz:

Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Butternut Squash
Cabbage (Red)
Corn (Fresh)
Peas in Pod
Pepper (Jalapeno)
Sweet Potatoes
Zucchini (Squash)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.

On 1 Tamuz:

On 19 Tamuz:

Note: The following items already required Biur:

On 1 Shevat 5768:

On 14 Adar Bet 5768:
Sweet Potatoes

On 15 Iyar 5768:


On 1 Sivan 5768:

Medlar (Shesak)
Peas in Pod

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