Thursday, July 31, 2008

The 48th Oral Torah Conference at Mosad HaRav Kook

This looks like it will be interesting. I hope to make it to some of these lectures. Here's a translation and summary of what's written on the poster:

Mosad HaRav Kook

The 48th Oral Torah Conference

Leadership, Morality, and Government in Light of Jewish Law

Opening Session Sunday 2nd of Av

18:00 Rabbi Yehudah Leib Refael: Opening Statement

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef: Redeeming Captives

Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau: "Ish Al HaEidah" according to Jewish Law

Rabbi Shlomo Amar: Establishing the Moment of Death

Monday 3rd of Av

10:00 Rabbi She'ar Yashuv Cohen: "Dina DeMalchuta Dina" with regards to Jewish Government and a Gentile Government in the Land of Israel

Rabbi Eliyahu Schlesinger: Matters of Fraud in Kashrut

Rabbi Ben Tzion Nesher: A "State's Witness" From a Moral and Halachic View

Rabbi Menachem Bornshtein: Moral Dilemmas and Problems in the World of Medicine

18:00 Rabbi Simcha HaKohen Kook: Laws and Manners with Regards to Protecting the Consumer

Rabbi Shlomo Shelush: The Faithfulness of Charity Collectors

Rabbi Dov Landau: "And Don't Take Bribes"

Professor Eliav Shochatman: The Purity of Elections

Tuesday 4th of Av

10:00 Rabbi Shlomo Daichovski: And You Shall Love the Convert?

Rabbi Yaakov Ariel: Redeeming Captives

Rabbi Yaakov Shapira: Contributions of Gentiles For Building the Torah and the Land

Rabbbi Yosef Eliyahu Movshovitz: Municipal Bylaws

18:00 Rabbi Avraham Sherman: The Public Responsibility of a Conversion Court

Rabbi Yosef Efrati: Towards the End of the Seventh Year

Adv. Rabbi Refael Shtub: The Authority of the rabbinic Courts and Their Influence

Rabbi Natan David Shapira: Closing Remarks

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Olmert is on the Way Out!

At a suddenly-called press conference Wednesday evening, the Prime Minister announced he will not participate in his party's primaries. He said he would resign when a new party leader is chosen, "in order to enable the new leader to form a new government."

Kadima's primaries are to be held on September 17.
Let's hope that his replacement will do a better job.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Lehisha'er Yehudi"(To Remain a Jew)

That's the title of the latest book that I read . The book was written originally in Russian and later translated to Hebrew. The author, Rabbi Yitzchak Zilber zt"l, was born in Latvia in 1917 and lived most of his life in the Soviet Union. In 1970, he along with his family received permission to immigrate to Israel after years of being "refuse-niks". Rabbi Zilber passed away about four years ago.

Most of the book deals with the efforts of himself and his family to observe the Torah in spite of the anti-religious oppression of the Soviet regime. Against all odds they never desecrated the Sabbath and never ate non-kosher food. Throughout the book the reader is exposed to countless miracles that the author experienced that enabled him to "remain a Jew". Rabbi Zilber's story is one of faith and self-sacrifice. This is the winning combination that makes miracles happen.

Rabbi Zilber was not a tzaddik only for himself. He spent much of his time helping other Jews learn and observe Torah. He became the unofficial rabbi of the Russian Jews that emigrated to Israel. The effort that he exerted to disseminate Torah among them is mind boggling.

"Lehisha'er Yehudi" is an inspiring book. If Rabbi Zilber and his family were able to observe Torah so diligently in Communist U.S.S.R., in spite of the danger involved, what does that say to those of us that live in countries where one is free to observe Judaism as he pleases? Does this not obligate us to try harder to be better Jews?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Very Bad Deal

To my great dismay the disgraceful deal that Olmert and his lowlife cronies cut with the Hizbollah has been executed. I'd like to share with you my thoughts on the matter.

1) Like I said, the deal is a disgrace: trading a despicable child killer, a few other terrorists, and the bodies of 199 dead terrorists for the bodies of two IDF soldiers and "information" on Ron Arad. This amazingly lopsided deal in favor of the terrorists will only encourage more kidnapping and terror.

2) The Israeli MSM really went to bat for this deal. MK Eitam correctly describes the phenomenon:
The media, Eitam said, "not only did not report objectively but enlisted itself completely to this campaign. It has been a long time since we saw media that was so enlisted for what it believed was the right thing to do."
They have failed miserably in doing their job once again.

3) The fact that the corrupt Kadima party would initiate such a deal is no surprise. The party was born in sin, and its policies up to now are a reflection of the low morals of its members. The attempt to spin such a deal as an example of "Jewish morality" is a boldfaced lie, as anyone who is familiar with the way Jewish law relates to the freeing of captives knows.

4) The behavior of the Labor party is consistent with the defeatist attitude and their "let's give the Arabs what they want and everything will be okay" mentality. The beginning of the State of Israel's surrender to terrorism was initiated by the Labor Party in the "Jibril Deal" during Shimon Peres' first stint as Prime Minister. This deal, in which over 1000 terrorists were released from Israeli jails in return for three Israeli POWs in Lebanon, was the spark plug of the First Intifada. It caused the death of hundreds of Israel civilians and the wounding of thousands of others.

5) Most puzzling is the behavior of Shas. How could Torah Jews support a deal that is so anti-Torah? I wish that I had an answer. Apparently the need to ensure government funding for their institutions was the deciding factor. How unfortunate it is that Shas, as well as the other religious parties when they were part of the coalition, have failed so often to serve as a moral compass for the government.

Shame on all of those that gave a hand to this deal! The nauseating behavior of the present government makes us realize how much we really need Mashiach. We want Mashiach now!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bad Laws Promote Terrorism

I had an interesting conversation the other day with a friend of mine, a policeman in the Israeli Police. I was interested in certain details regarding the incident where a couple of weeks ago where an Arab bulldozer operator went on a rampage, using his bulldozer to kill three Jews and tens of others here in Jerusalem.

The official version of the story is as follows. A policewoman shot and wounded the terrorist, causing him to pass out and stop the rampage. Then another police officer climbed on the bulldozer and checked his pulse to see if the driver was indeed dead. At this point, according to the police, someone threw a rock at the terrorist, and this caused him to regain consciousness. (Please stop laughing. Stranger things have happened here!) He continued the rampage until Private M., an off duty soldier, took a gun from a security guard and shot the Arab. Afterwards a member of the SWAT team fired two more bullets into the terrorist.

According to rumors the policeman that took the terrorist's pulse instead of making sure that he would no longer murder was himself an Arab. My friend the policeman said that he didn't know the policeman but that he had also heard the rumor. As our conversation progressed I realized that this policeman knew less about the incident than I did. However, he told me some interesting facts that help explain why the police behaved the way they did.

He told me that police are not allowed to fire their weapons unless it is to stop an imminent danger. For example, if a policeman sees someone holding a Molotov cocktail he is forbidden to fire. If the person cocks his arm in order to throw the cocktail, the policeman can fire at him. Once the cocktail leaves the person's hand, the policeman is not allowed to fire, since this will not prevent anything; the Molotov cocktail is already airborne!

My policeman friend justified the action of his pulse-taking colleague, saying that he acted according to the law. He also claimed that it was against Jewish morality to kill the terrorist when he was lying there unconscious. I quickly corrected him and told him that according to Judaism killing this terrorist was a big Mitzvah. He replied saying that we don't live in Biblical times and that Israel is a democracy.

I then asked him another question: Why did the SWAT team guy fire at the gravely wounded terrorist? This was apparently contrary to the law which he had so eloquently and passionately explained to me! My friend did not have an answer.

I learned from this conversation that all a terrorist has to do after going on a killing spree is to play dead or raise his hands in surrender. If he does so no one is allowed to kill him and he will enter one of Israel's jails, complete with VCRs, DVDs and cellular telephones. He can sit and learn for his college degree in prison until the next "prisoner swap".

A victim of Arab terror and a victim of Israeli law:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Rabbi Samson's Yeshiva On Wheels

This article appeared on INN over a year ago:
A new Israeli yeshiva high school embraces young men who have dropped out of the conventional educational system – and brings them on the ride of their lives.

The school, called Yeshivat Lech Lecha (meaning ‘You shall go out’ –G-d’s words to Abraham telling him to sojourn from his birthplace to the Land of Israel) is based in Jerusalem’s Lifta valley - but is also on wheels. Twice a week students and teachers board Land Rover jeeps and embark to a different part of Israel for a study expedition.

Read the rest. The article has a lot of pics. I also found a video about the Yeshiva:

Monday, July 07, 2008

Daled Amos: Haveil Havalim #172: The Old Fogey Edition

Daled Amos: Haveil Havalim #172: The Old Fogey Edition

The Amazing Private M., Bravery, and the Spirit of the Lord

Here in Israel acts of bravery take place every day. Some get publicized and some don't. Last week the entire world was witness to a remarkable act of bravery that happened here in Jerusalem. Private M., an off duty soldier, became an international hero last Wednesday by killing the Arab terrorist that used a bulldozer to murder three and wound many others. For the benefit of those that still haven't heard the story:
"As far as what happened," M. continued: "I was bicycling from the center of town [westward] towards my home, when I saw a bulldozer battering a bus lying on its side and a lot of commotion. I immediately realized that it was a terrorist attack. I threw the bicycle to the side, and I ran towards the scene, trying to get as close as I could to the bulldozer so that I could get on it and stop the driver. As I got closer I tried to somehow get a weapon. When the bulldozer stopped, a policeman climbed up, and I climbed up right behind him, screaming at him to shoot."

"Oron Ben-Shimon, with whom I was privileged to cooperate in stopping the terrorist, also climbed up, and he and the policeman tried to stop him with their hands. At first I could not shoot him, because the policeman stood in between us and the terrorist. The terrorist suddenly got up and started to drive again, screaming out Allahu Akbar, and Oron was able to turn the steering wheel so that the bulldozer wouldn't run over more cars. Finally, I was able to grab Oron's gun and shoot over the heads of the policeman and Oron, three bullets to his head. Then a Yassam policeman got on and fired again to ascertain his death."
Last Shabbat morning I happened to pray at the same synagogue where Private M prayed. The congregation honored M. by calling him up to the Torah. As I saw M. receive his aliyah, I could not help but make the connection between Private M. and the portion from the Prophets that Jews all over the world read that Shabbat morning.

The portion, from the book of Judges, tells us about Jephthah the Gileadite. In those days the Ammonites made war against Israel, claiming that the Israelites stole their land (sound familiar?). Jephthah soundly rebutted their claim, but the Ammonites wouldn't listen:
"Howbeit the king of the children of Ammon hearkened not unto the words of Jephthah which he sent him."
Jephthah has no choice but to go to war:
Then the spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon.
What was this "spirit of the LORD"?

The Targum Yonatan translates this in the following way:

ושרת עלוהי רוח גבורה מן קדם ה

And a spirit of gevurah (courage, bravery, strength, might) from before the Lord rested upon him.
In other words Jephthah's extraordinary gevurah was something Divine, something that came from Above. Maimonides, in The Guide for the Perplexed, defines this as being a low level of prophecy:
The first degree of prophecy consists in the divine assistance which is given to a person, and induces and encourages him to do something good and grand, e.g., to deliver a congregation of good men from the hands of evildoers; to save one noble person, or to bring happiness to a large number of people; he finds in himself the cause that moves and urges him to this deed. This degree of divine influence is called" the spirit of the Lord": and of the person who is under that influence we say that the spirit of the Lord came upon him, clothed him, or rested upon him, or the Lord was with him, and the like. All the judges of Israel possessed this degree, for the following general statement is made concerning them --" The Lord raised up judges for them; and the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them" (judges ii. 18). Also all the noble chiefs of Israel belonged to this class. The same is distinctly stated concerning some of the judges and the kings:--" The spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah" (ibid. xi. 29):
I can't help but think that Private M.'s extraordinary courage and valor came from the same source! The Torah that he received from his home and from the various institutions that he learned at, instilled within him the purity of heart that made him an appropriate vessel to receive this Divine gift.

By the way, M.'s aliyah to the Torah was accompanied by singing from the congregation. It was obvious from the expression on his face that M. did not enjoy the attention that he was receiving. Not only does he dislike being a hero on a national or international level, he is also quite uncomfortable about being the neighborhood hero.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Terror Victim Jan Relevy

Calev Ben-David wrote an excellent article about one of the victims of this week's terror attack in Jerusalem, Jan Relevy. A snippet:
When the names and occupations of the victims of the bulldozer terror rampage were announced on the news Thursday morning, my wife exclaimed, "Jan... an air-conditioning repairman... isn't that the Jan who came to fix the heating? He's still supposed to come back."

Jan Relevy, 68, was the first to die of the three people killed on Jaffa Road Wednesday, when the bulldozer driven by Husam Taysir Dwayat crushed his car. I met him last winter after our heating unit went on the blink, and a friend referred him to us as a reliable repairman.

When he first came into our apartment I thought the small, gray-haired man looked a little old to still be doing this work, but he seemed to handle himself well. More surprising was his conversation; hearing I was originally from the United States, he began speaking excellent English, which he said had come from the years he had studied in the UK.
Read the rest.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Terrorist Attack in Jerusalem

I heard the sirens. I wanted to believe it was just Olmert's motorcade that was passing somewhere nearby. Not too long afterwards I tried calling my wife by cellular telephone. I couldn't reach her. Instead I got a message that "the network is busy" that is to say overloaded. I didn't put two and two together and continued working as usual. Only later, when I went to daven mincha I heard what had happened.

Kudos to Jameel and all the others that gave of themselves to help the victims.

Update: The names of those murdered by the Arab terrorist have been released:
Lili Goren-Friedman, 54, Bat-Sheva Unterman, 33 - both teachers - and Jean Relevy, 68, were the victims of the brutal bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem.

Bat-Sheva Unterman, 33, was a nursery school teacher in the Jerusalem neighborhood Har Homa. She is survived by her husband Ido (grandson of former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Isser Yehuda Unterman), and their five-month old daughter, Efrat. Though there have been conflicting reports about exactly what transpired, Bat-Sheva apparently saved her daughter's life when she saw the bulldozer bearing down upon her by unfastening the baby's seat belt and handing her out to a passerby. Bat-Sheva was unable to open her own seat belt, however, before the murderous terrorist destroyed the car, with her inside.

Baby Efrat was brought to a Jerusalem hospital, and hours went by before her father learned what happened and came to claim her; he had not suspected that his wife and daughter were involved in the attack.

Elizabeth (Lili) Goren-Friedman, 54, of the Gonen area in Jerusalem, was a teacher and former vice-principal in the Jewish Institute for the Blind in the capital. Lili is survived by three children: Tzvi and Yisachar, graduates of the Horev Yeshiva High School, and Yael, a student in the Tal Ra'yah Girls High School in Beit El.

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