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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pro-Disengagement

I plan to be disengaged during the upcoming Passover holiday. With the help of the Almighty, Bli-Nedder, I will be disengaged from the internet: no blogging, no email. Similarly I will try to be disengaged from the Israeli MSM. After all, during the holiday we are supposed to be happy, and hearing Kol Yisrael's and Galei Tzahal's Pravda like dissemination of Sharon's propaganda makes my stomach turn.

I plan to devote myself 100% to the spiritual side of the holiday and to being with my family. G-d willing I will be back blogging after the holidays.

Chag Sameach to all.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rabbanit Channah Tau z"l

Rabbanit Channah Tau, a well known educator and wife of Rosh Yeshivat Har HaMor Rabbi Tzvi Tau, passed away yesterday. Hundreds of mourners took part in the levaya that started at the Tau residence in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood in Jerusalem. Yehi zichra baruch.

18 Ways You Know Pesach is Coming to Jerusalem

A great post from Judy at Jerusalem Diaries.

Pesach=Peh-Sach

Some people homiletically interpret the word Pesach as Peh (mouth) Sach (talks). On Passover night we have the very special mitzvah of "vehigadta lebincha", of telling the children all about the exodus. One who speaks at length about all the miracles that the Almighty wrought for us during the Exodus is praiseworthy.

Unfortunately all too often the discussions around the Passover table will be about other matters: politics, food ("I love the gefilte fish. What spices did you put in it to make it taste so good?"), the latest community gossip ("Did you see the way Feigie's daughter dresses? Such a shonde!"), etc. Instead of talking about Moses and the children of Israel we talk about Ariel Sharon and Shimon Peres. These kinds of discussions can often end up as nasty shouting matches.

If this happens, we have really missed the boat. We have wasted this once a year opportunity to keep the tradition of passing on the story of yetziat mitzrayim from generation to generation! We have traded it in for worthless gibberish and have often said the kind of things that we ask forgiveness for on Yom Kippur.

When we sit down at the Seder table Motzei Shabbos let's remember what the Seder is all about. Let's pay attention to the children and make it interesting for them. Let's not give in to the yetzer hara that wants us to talk about anything and everything except yetziat mitzrayim.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Simple Son Asks

Arutz 7 reports:
Speaking in Herzliya last night, outgoing Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon said, "Immediately after the disengagement, we can expect a burst of terrorism - especially in Judea and Samaria."
The simple son asks: "I don't get it, isn't the disengagement supposed to bring peace?"

For this question father Arik does not have an answer.

Haveil Havalim #18 At Soccer Dad

Kol HaKavod to David "Soccer Dad" Gerstman for finding time to post Haveil Havalim #18 during these frantic days before Pesach!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

This Year In Jerusalem

Jews all over the world are busy preparing for Pesach. In Jerusalem, and lehavdil in Monsey, Borough Park, Crown Heights and New Square the Yidden are very busy. There is a lot of work to do: the house has to be cleaned and the kitchen has to be kashered. The pesachdik dishes have to be taken out of the closet and the chametzdik dishes have to be locked away. A lot, and I mean a lot of groceries have to be bought: Matzot, wine, meat, and all the other food that we'll eat at the seder. The fathers are thinking of new ideas to keep the children awake and alert in order to hear the story of the exodus from Egypt. If all goes well all the mitzvot of Passover night will be fulfilled properly, and the family and guests will have an enjoyable and meaningful experience.

However, Passover was not meant to be this way. The entire Jewish People was supposed to leave their homes and come to Jerusalem. How could everbody fit in Jerusalem? This is one of the miracles that G-d did for our forefathers: "...nor did anyone say to his friend,'The place is too crowded that I should lodge overnight in Jerusalem'(Avot 5:5)." The mountains surrounding Jerusalem would be white from the multitude of sheep being brought as sacrifices. Each chavurah(group) would bring their korban pesach(paschal sacrifice) to the Temple. Afterwards the entire Jewish People would hold their seder in Jerusalem. The sacrifice would be eaten. The sound of people saying the Hallel would reverberate throughout the city.





At the end of the seder we sing "Leshannah haba'ah birushalayim habenuyah.(Next in in a rebuilt Jerusalem.)" Jerusalem today, with all of its neighborhoods, with the hundreds of thousands of Jews that live here, with all of its beauty and grace is still in a state of destruction. As long as the heart and soul of Jerusalem, the Temple is in ruins, the entire city is in ruins. "On Mt. Zion which is desolate, foxes walk upon it(Lamentaions 5:18)." Unless a miracle happens and the Temple is speedily rebuilt, our Pesach won't really be Pesach. Let's not forget that.

May we all merit to see the Beit HaMikdash(Temple) rebuilt speedily in or days.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

ZOA Report: Gaza: The Case Against Israeli Withdrawal

Here is a good article against the withdrawal. It was published over a year ago, but all the points are still relevant. (Hat Tip to Ice Viking at ENGAGE - For a Secure Israel.)

The Middle East's Only Democracy?

The violation of the right to free expression (if you happen to oppose the government's expulsion policy) is being violated so often now in Israel that I thought twice about posting this: This isn't news, this is boring! Then I changed my mind. Every despicable act of this government should and has to be publicized! If we value our civil rights we have protest every violation of them! From Arutz 7:
It happened last night, twice. A busload of 30 members of the Bnei Akiva youth movement from Peduel in the Shomron had arrived in Petach Tikvah, and was in the process of dropping off three groups of youngsters. Their mission: to hang banners against the withdrawal plan, and to distribute stickers and flyers to passing motorists.

Suddenly, a large group of Border Guard and special Yassam unit policemen surrounded the group of 8th graders, ordered them to return to the bus, and instructed the driver to turn around and head back to Peduel. In the meantime, another group had similarly been stopped, and forced to wait for the bus to pick them up.

The police even confiscated the passengers' identity cards, saying that they would return them only once the bus crossed the Oranim checkpoint on its way back to the Shomron.

Eitan, one of the 8th graders stopped by the police, told Arutz-7 today, "It was frustrating, because we were unable to do what we came to do, and it was also very embarrassing, being held there by the police in front of everyone..."

Shortly before this incident, another busload of people carrying Passover care packages from the Shilo area, north of Ofrah and Jerusalem, was delayed by police for 90 minutes. The bus was finally permitted to continue, but only with a police escort.

Last night, Yesha Council head Bentzy Lieberman phoned police officials, who did not deny that the incidents had taken place. The Council, which represents the Jewish communities of Judea, Samaria and Gaza, released a statement saying that if the police continue to "fall upon innocent citizens and do not maintain the delicate balance between the fundamental rights of protest and expression and the fear of public disturbances, we will call upon the public not to adhere to police instructions in the future, with all that that entails."

Acknowledging that the call is a harsh one, Council Spokesperson Emily Amrousi said that it comes in response to a harsh situation - namely, the police disruption of lawful and protected activities by which those who object to government policy may present their views to the public.

Amrousi said that the police are causing added tensions, instead of reducing them, by stopping innocent people and treating them like criminals. "They have turned the Yesha protests into something illegitimate," she said.

A police spokesman told Arutz-7 this morning that though he was not familiar with the details of last night's incidents, police are generally not permitted to confiscate citizens' ID cards. Only when there is a suspicion that the bearer is fraudulently using someone else's card, or that the card is forged, or when the bearer is under arrest or officially detained, or in similar cases, are the police permitted to take an ID card, the spokesman said.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Why Was Yusra al-Azzami Murdered?

According to Ha'aretz:
Hamas published an unprecedented statement Monday apologizing for the murder of a young woman by its gunmen near the town of Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian sources, several armed Hamas gunmen stopped a car with four passengers at around 9 P.M. last Friday. The gunmen who apparently were attempting to rob the couples - two brothers and their girlfriends - suddenly opened fire at the car for unknown reasons and killed 20-year-old Yusra al-Azami, a student at the Islamic University in Gaza.

According to Arutz 7:
(IsraelNN.com) An Arab woman was brutally killed and bludgeons with metal bars in front of her fiance by a newly established Hamas "vice and virtue" patrol in Gaza, set up to "safeguard Islamic values" according to PA security officials and residents.

22-year-old Yusra al-Azzami was killed after a Hamas "morality" member spotted her with her soon-to-be husband, walking along the beach in Gaza City. Azzami's younger sister accompanied the couple to ensure modesty, family members said. Eyewitnesses said the three got into a car to head home when five masked gunmen in another car opened fire at Azzami, killing her. The other two were severely beaten. Azzami's body was then dragged out of the car and beaten with clubs and iron bars.

Although the attack took place at a busy Gaza City intersection, no bystanders intervened.
Dear readers, which account is more credible?

HIGH NOON IN WACO

I found this article by Ellen Horowitz at Isralert . Here's an excerpt:
I'm just wonderin', because Sharon was shootin' from the hip and spoutin' words of war while in the Lone Star State. But he done got his enemies mixed up. "Looks like the eve of the civil war." Those are your words, Mr. Prime Minister. "All my life I was defending the life of Jews. Now, for the first time, I am taking steps to protect me from Jews." Imagine that - slanderin' your own people before the international media.
Now ya'all get yer butts over to Isralert to read the article, ya'hear?

Monday, April 11, 2005

The Death of Terri Schiavo: An Epilogue

Dr. Daniel Eisenberg has done it again! Another excellent article dealing with the death of Terri Schiavo:
Terri Schiavo died on March 31, 2005, after lasting 13 days without food or water. Her life and death had a profound impact on the American psyche and brought to the forefront the unresolved debate regarding how we treat severely disabled people and who should be their surrogate decision-makers. There is reason to be disturbed by the role that physicians play in molding public opinion regarding end of life issues, because their expertise is generally in medicine and not ethics.
Read the rest here.

Dulberg Sisters Update

As a follow-up to my previous post on the Dulberg Sisters, I sent an email to Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum, a journalist who published several articles about the subject five years ago. Rabbi Rosenblum graciously answered my email and wrote the following:
Curious you should ask today because I just received an update on Friday.
The day after my post! Rabbi Rosenblum informed me that the older girl lives in Israel and is studying in an institution of higher learning. The younger girl is still a minor and lives in Italy.

What can I say? I am happy for the girl that's in Israel and I hope that her younger sister will merit return to her homeland.

Jerusalem Mandate In The Old City

Be sure to see Jerusalem Mandate's one woman blog swarm on yesterday's events in the Old City, particularly her own firsthand account.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

An Interesting Article (In Hebrew) About Former Jerusalem Councilwomen Roni Aloni

Haveil Havalim #17 At Mystical Paths

This week's issue mentions two posts from yours truly along with other goodies from the jblogosphere.

The Prayer Rally At The Western Wall

Since I announced the special prayer on the "ENGAGE - For a Secure Israel" blog, and since I live in Jerusalem, I went to the special prayer that was held at the kotel on Thursday.

It is always a special feeling to go to the Old City. Jerusalem, even without the Old City, is very special. It is just teaming with synagogues and Batei Midrash. Every neighborhood has its own special personality. But the Old City is in an entirely different league. It is the diamond in the crown. Here we are close to the Temple Mount, where the First Temple and Second Temples stood and where the Third Temple will be built(may we all merit to witness this).

I'm walked fast, passing tourists and students, because I don't want to miss the prayer that was called for 5:30 PM. I entered Jaffa Gate and kissing the Mezzuzah that is fastened to it (Rashi on Deuteronomy 6:9 mentions that the gates of cities are also required to have mezzuzot). As I passed the Arab owned shops I noticed that some of them were selling Judaica: Shofars, Kipot, even Kiddush Cups. They may not like the Yahud but they sure like his money! On Shalshelet Street if I had continued walking straight I would have arrived at one of the gates of the Temple Mount. Instead I turned right and passed the security checkpoint located at the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza. I as well as my bag had to pass through a metal detector. We passed the test!

Now I went down the stairs to the Kotel. I look at the time on my cellphone (who needs a watch?): 5:20, I'm ten minutes early. There are plenty of people at the Kotel, mostly of the black-frocked-ultra-orthodox persuasion who had come to pray the special prayers of Yom Kippur Katan (or as they say, "Yoim Kipper Koton"). I didn't see too many "settler" types and I was wondering if I had made a mistake or if the prayer had been called off.

I found a chair and started to say Tehilim. This is always a worthwhile activity, and near the Temple Mount King David's Psalm's seem to be especially meaningful. I look up to make sure that there aren't any pigeons sitting on the ledge above me. I was afraid that they would give me an unwanted "souvenir" of my visit to the Western Wall. Once I thought that the presence of pigeons and other feathered friends at the kotel added a nice, pastoral touch to the place. I've since changed my mind. I thought about the "kale orev" that was on the roof of the Beit HaMikdash in order to keep the birds away, and I wished that there was some kind of similar device here.

5:30 arrived and still no sign of the promised mass organized prayer, except for a microphone. Someone who wanted to start his own minyan shouted "Mincheh, Yoim Kipper Koton." I considered joining his minyan but I decided that I came here for a particular purpose, and I should wait and continue saying tehilim. Twenty years in Israel, and I still show up on time. What an American! What a frier (sucker in Israeli slang)!

5:50 rolls around. With all due respect to my settler friends, and they do have my respect, I decided to find a minyan for Minchah (with or without the additions of Yom Kippur Katan) and to head home. That did not take too long and I found a Sefardic Minyan (without Yom Kippur Katan) and dovenned with them.

As the prayer service concluded (about 6:10) the special minyan finally started. They distributed a page with the special prayers that were to be said. The prayers were said with great feeling and devotion, with a mix of Ashkenazic and Sephardic melodies. One of the highlights was the sounding of two silver trumpets that Rabbi Yisrael Ariel brought from The Temple Institute. This is accordance with what is written in the Torah (Numbers 10:9) and the Rambam (Laws of fasts Ch. 1). At about 6:55 the special minyan started the regular Minchah prayers which I had already said so I left.

I have to break my nasty habit of showing up on time!

Thursday, April 07, 2005

What Happenned To The Dulberg Sisters?

For some reason I thought about a scandal that took place five years ago:
Two young Israeli citizens have been essentially imprisoned by their father, with the active assistance of an Italian court. We need your help in order to free them!

The Dulbergs married in Israel, had two daughters, and separated in Italy in 1991. For several years the mother remained the custodial parent. The mother gravitated towards observant Judaism with her daughters, while the father recently converted to Catholicism.

The father was so troubled by his ex-wife's religious choices that he filed in court to have the daughters removed from their mother's care, on the grounds that she was incompetent.

The court agreed -- and what is most alarming in this case is that the court's agreement was based upon little more than the malicious characterization of traditional Judaism as a "religious cult." The human rights of the daughters, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and Jewish tradition, were all trampled by the Italian court and a father filled with hate.

We regard this not as an issue of preference of one religion over another, but to the contrary, as an issue of ecumenical respect. Does a secular court have the right to refuse expert testimony about a religion, and simply accept as fact the lie that Jews cannot consume ice cream, pizza or Coca-Cola? Can a court accept religious adherence as prima facia evidence that a mother is unable to raise her child? Is it for a court to determine, without any psychological analysis, that children's claims to desire a religious life are "inauthentic," and are merely evidence that the children need to be forcibly deprogrammed?
Now I ask, whatever happened to these girls? Were they allowed to return to Israel and Judaism? I could not find any information on the WWW. If anybody knows please let me know.

Shiavo Case Redux In Georgia?

BlogsForTerri reports on the case of Mae Magouirk, who is being starved to death against the instructions of her living will! I have not been able to find any MSM reference to this case in the meantime.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

What's It Like To Learn Gemara?

This post is a based on what I heard a long time ago from Rabbi Amnon Yitzchak. The idea is to give those who have never learned Gemara an idea of what learning Gemara is like:

A professor comes to visit his friend the rabbi and finds him learning Gemara.

The Professor: I see you Jews learning Gemara all the time. I would like to learn Gemara as well.

The Rabbi: It's not for you professor.

The Professor: Why not?

The Rabbi: Because we Jews have a special way of thinking.

The Professor: Rabbi, I'm a professor! I have many years of learning under my belt. I am sure that I'll be able to catch on to your way of thinking. Give me an example.

The Rabbi: Fine. I'll ask you a question. Two men fell down a chimney. One man got dirty and the other did not. Which one has to take a shower?

The Professor: That's easy! The one that got dirty has to take a shower, of course.

The Rabbi: No, the one that didn't get dirty.

The Professor: Huh???

The Rabbi: The one that didn't get dirty looks at the one that got dirty and says to himself, "Just like he got dirty I also must be dirty. Therefore I have to take a shower." The one that got dirty looks at the one that didn't get dirty and says to himself, "Just like he's not dirty I am also not dirty. Therefore I do not need to take a shower." I told you professor that learning Gemara is not for you!

The Professor: Rabbi, ask me another question!

The Rabbi: Okay, I'll ask you another question. Two men fell down a chimney. One man got dirty and the other did not. Which one has to take a shower?

The Professor: No problem rabbi, you just taught me that! The one that didn't get dirty has to take a shower!

The Rabbi: Professor, what kind of logic is that? The one that didn't get dirty looks at himself and sees that he is clean, so he doesn't need to shower. The one that got dirty looks at himself and sees that he is dirty, so he realizes he needs to shower. Do you see professor that learning Gemara is not for you?

The Professor: Rabbi, give me another chance. Ask me another question.

The Rabbi: Okay, professor. Two men fell down a chimney. One man got dirty and the other did not. Which one has to take a shower?

The Professor: Uh, the one that got dirty...no, the one that didn't get dirty. One of them has to take a shower.

The Rabbi: Wrong, neither of them has to take a shower. The one that didn't get dirty looks at himself and sees that he is clean, so he doesn't need to shower. The one that got dirty looks at his friend that didn't get dirty and says to himself, "Just like he's not dirty I am also not dirty. Therefore I do not need to take a shower."

The Professor: Rabbi, give me one last chance.

The Rabbi: Okay professor, listen carefully to the question. Two men fell down a chimney. One man got dirty and the other did not. Which one has to take a shower?

The Professor: Rabbi, I don't know!

The Rabbi: Both of them have to take a shower, of course. After all, you can't fall down a chimney without getting dirty!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Siyum HaShas (Completion of learning the Babylonian Talmud)

Last Shabbat the group that I learn daf yomi (daily page of Talmud) with finished the tractate of Niddah and started Brachot, finishing the seven year task of learning the entire Babylonian Talmud and starting all over again. We finished approximately a month behind schedule, which is a bummer. It would have been nice to complete the shas together with all the other groups all over the world. In any case, we are planning, G-d willing, to have a festive meal in honor of the siyum some time soon.

There are disadvantages to this style of learning, as many have pointed out. The Talmud itself points out that one is supposed to review what he learns in order to remember the learning! Learning a page of Talmud in the confines of a one-hour lesson every day is difficult enough. Finding the time to review the page is even more difficult. I do recall days when I had to think really hard in order to remember what was discussed in the previous day's lesson. After finishing the seven-year cycle, I cannot say that I am well versed in Talmud. Far from it! I realize that I've only scraped the surface. Each and every page of the Talmud is a source of endless discussions among the commentators.

Critics of the daf yomi have also presented the Jewish learning version of the "butter vs. guns" dilemma. Perhaps the time spent learning Talmud would be utilized better learning tanach, halacha, or mussar? That is a question that everyone has to decide for himself. "A person learns Torah only in a place that his heart desires."

There are also advantages to learning the daf yomi. In the past I have learned with a chavruta (a learning partner). These arrangements usually started off nicely, but as time goes on they fell apart. One day a week there is a reason that I have and can't show up for the chavruta, one day the chavruta doesn't show up, and so on. After a while the chavruta just breaks up. I've had the same problem with lessons that are not given on a daily basis and lack predefined goals: Sometimes you can't make it; sometimes the Rabbi can't make it. In contrast to this, if you don't show up for the daf yomi, the learning continues. When the Rabbi can't show up, he sends a replacement. The daf yomi framework is durable and withstands the absence of whoever doesn't show up for the class.

I think the daf yomi experience had a positive effect on the family. My children see that their father has a fixed time every day that is set aside for learning Torah. Sometimes I have to leave the house to go to the shiur (lesson) when the rest of the family would prefer that I did not (i.e. someone needs help with their homework, etc.). The value of learning Torah is impressed upon the family in a way that a thousand lectures would not be able to do.

Although I have not become well versed in Talmud, I feel that I know how to learn a lot better than I did seven years ago. In addition, when I gaze at the 20 volumes of Gemara on the shelf in my living room, I feel a sense of familiarity with each and every volume. They used to be a source of guilt for me, twenty accusing fingers pointing at me saying, "Sure these books look nice on the shelf, but face it, there are tractates here that you have never even opened! Who are you trying to fool, having these books in your living room?" Like I said, I’ve opened them all, put an effort to learn almost every page (yes, there were pages that I missed). Now I can look at the Shas on the shelf without feeling guilty.

Now I have a problem with all the other books on the shelf: What's that set of Maharal doing on the shelf? When are you going to open it up? The Nach set still doesn't look worn! The Tur and the Shulchan Aruch also look very nice. Perhaps one day I'll learn these books as well.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A "Cleaning For Passover" Reminder

Dust is not chametz(a leavened product) and your wife is not the korban pesach(paschal sacrifice).

Consolations To The Schindler Family

I would like to express my deepest sympathies to the Schindler Family on the death of their daughter Terri Schiavo. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Schindler for providing an example of the boundless love that all parents should feel for their children. Let's hope that the law that facilitated Terri's murder by starvation will be changed!
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