Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Arik Einstein z"l

In a country often marked by tension, Arik Einstein's soothing voice will be missed:

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Mitzvah of Donating Blood

Blood, blood, blood:
And Reuben said unto them: 'Shed no blood; cast him into this pit that is in the wilderness, but lay no hand upon him'--that he might deliver him out of their hand, to restore him to his father. And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stripped Joseph of his coat, the coat of many colours that was on him; and they took him, and cast him into the pit--and the pit was empty, there was no water in it. And they sat down to eat bread; and they lifted up their eyes and looked, and, behold, a caravan of Ishmaelites came from Gilead, with their camels bearing spicery and balm and ladanum, going to carry it down to Egypt. And Judah said unto his brethren: 'What profit is it if we slay our brother and conceal his blood? Come, and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him; for he is our brother, our flesh.' And his brethren hearkened unto him. And there passed by Midianites, merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they brought Joseph into Egypt. And Reuben returned unto the pit; and, behold, Joseph was not in the pit; and he rent his clothes. And he returned unto his brethren, and said: 'The child is not; and as for me, whither shall I go?' And they took Joseph's coat, and killed a he-goat, and dipped the coat in the blood;
And some more blood:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.
There was a blood drive where I work recently. Magen David Adom came with all the necessary equipment and staff and set up a room at the office for people who want to donate blood.

I decided to give a liter of the red stuff.

Before you can donate blood, you have to fill out a questionnaire. Not everybody can give blood. The Magen David Adom has strict criteria, which can be downloaded here. Some of these criteria were surprising. Among the conditions which make the blood unit unacceptable for transfusion::

Living in England for a cumulative period of 6 months between the years 1980 -1996 or receiving a blood transfusion in England since 1980... Living in Ireland or Portugal for a cumulative period of at least 10 years since 1980.
Less surprising was the following:
The donor practices a life -style, that in any way may increase the risk for the blood recipient (intravenous drugs use/sniffing , receiving payment for sexual relationship, sexual relations between men after 1977, etc.).
As the red (actually purple) stuff was flowing out of me into a plastic bag, the MDA guy told me that I should donate often, as my blood type (O-) is very special. It can be given to anybody. He mentioned that when there is a terrorist attack, the ambulances arrive with O- blood which can be given to those wounded without having to check their blood type.

I felt a little bit guilty that I do not donate blood more often. I started to wonder what the Torah has to say about giving blood. With the help of the good old world wide web, I found the following (in Hebrew), a summary of the laws of giving blood. I recommend reading it.

B'li neder, I will donate blood more often.

Will Freeing Arab Murderers From Israeli Prisons Bring Peace?

Take a look at this and decide for yourself:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Let's Not Grab That Dog by the Ears

This Shabbat we will read about how Ya'akov (Jacob) returns to the land of Israel. But before he returns to his homeland, he sends greetings to his brother:
And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother unto the land of Seir, the field of Edom. And he commanded them, saying: 'Thus shall ye say unto my lord Esau: Thus saith thy servant Jacob: I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now. And I have oxen, and asses and flocks, and men-servants and maid-servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favour in thy sight.'
The Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 75:3) describes Ya'akov's act as one who grabs the ears of a dog as it is written in the book of Proverbs (26:17):
He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife not his own, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
It is not a good idea to grab a dog by the ears. Dogs usually do not like people grabbing their ears, and they are quick to sink their teeth into the offending hand. Similarly, Ya'akov should not have aroused Esau, who at the time was busy with his own matters, with these greetings. As the adage says, "Let sleeping dogs lie!"

This verse about "grabbing the dog by the ears" came to mind recently as I read about the Weiss-Dodelson divorce case. I was disturbed to see people who were not directly involved in the case actively taking sides, ignoring King Solomon's wisdom:

He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife not his own, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
This case is a tragedy for those directly involved. There is no need to widen the tragedy by meddling in this strife, by grabbing the dog by the ears. It will most likely result in being bitten.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kiddush Hashem

I heard about this here:

This brings to mind the story about Rabbi Shimon Ben Shetach and the donkey:

There was a case in which the students of Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach, one of the greatest Tannaim of all time, tried to find him a new business because he was exceedingly poor. Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach was involved in Linen work. Obviously the linen work was not sufficient for him to make a living. His students urged him to leave this business and instead they would buy him a donkey. This way he would not have to work so hard and at the same time would be able to live comfortably.

They went ahead and bought a donkey from a non-Jew. According to the notes at the bottom of the Talmud Yerushalmi (and we do not know exactly who they are from), he was an Ishmaelite thief so the donkey was not really his to start with. This makes the story even more interesting because of what is about to come. The students discovered a pearl on the donkey and took it to Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach exclaiming that they struck it rich and that from now on he does not have to work anymore. But Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach asked the students: Did the owner of the donkey know that there was a pearl attached to it. They answered “NO”. Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach said to them: “Go give it back!”.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Shmuel Shkedi Suffers Stroke

Please pray for Shmuel Yirmiyahu ben Breyna:
Jerusalem city council member Shmuel Shkedi, who is in his 60s and heads the nationalist United Jerusalem faction, suffered a stroke on Thursday at his Jerusalem home.

He was taken by Magen David Adom paramedics to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital, and from there was transferred to the Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer where Srugim reports he underwent an intracranial catheterization.

Srugim further notes that Shkedi's condition is still defined as critical, and that at this stage it is still unknown if Shkedi will be able to return to his role on the city council.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

It is Good to Give Thanks to the Lord

MK Avigdor Lieberman after his acquittal:


This sums up the situation:

Lieberman has been a target of investigation by the State Attorney's Office for about 17 years, causing many to see him as a victim of political persecution by the state's legal system. Suspicions against him have come and gone, he has been questioned by police, and so have his relatives – but nothing "stuck" until last year, when charges were finally filed in the matter of Ben Aryeh.

One of the witnesses who testified against Lieberman was his former deputy, Danny Ayalon. Ayalon told the court that Lieberman had expressed preference for Ben Aryeh when the tender for ambassador was issued. This alleged fact, combined with Ben Aryeh's admission that he had leaked information about another investigation to Lieberman, were enough for the State Attorney to charge Lieberman with criminal behavior.

The judges found "problems" with Ayalon's testimony, which was given after Lieberman fired him as deputy minister.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

The Amazing Story of Ovadia and Aliza Baruch

The story of how the holocaust affected Greek Jewry is seldom told. Here is the amazing "love story" of Ovadia and Aliza Baruch:

Aliza describes the "experiments" she went through in block 10:

You can read more about Ovadia and Aliza here.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Baruch Kopold's Story

The Yad Vashem channel on YouTube has many excellent films. Here is the story of Baruch Kopold, a partisan fighter and holocaust survivor:

Friday, November 01, 2013

Leading Religious Zionist Rabbis Declare That MK El'azar Stern is an Epikoros

Rabbi Uri Cohen, Rabbi David Chai HaCohen, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, Rabbi Arye Koren, and Rabbi Yosef Badichi are among the rabbis that have declared that MK Stern is an epikoros.

What is an epikoros?

"AN EPIKOROS. Rab and R. Hanina both taught that this means one who disrespects a Talmid Chacham [erudite Torah scholar]. R. Johanan and R. Joshua b. Levi maintained that it is one who disrespects his neighbour in the presence of a Talmid Chacham. "

—B. Talmud, Seder Nezikin, tractate Sanhedrin, 99b

I already mentioned that a lack of respect for Torah scholars is a sign of a lack of yir'at shamayim.
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