Friday, December 11, 2020

In The Footsteps of The Maccabees

Happy Hannukah!

I've updated an old post containing the lectures of Dr. Hagai Ben-Artzi, where he explains the battles of the Maccabees in eight short videos. Go ahead and click here!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

COVID-19 and the Courtyard Minyans

Not long after the COVID-19 pandemic started it became known that the virus spreads quickly when there are a lot of people gathered in a closed space. For those of us who attend synagogue, davening became a potential "superpreading event". In Israel the government has put various limitations on public prayer, sometimes entirely forbidding worship inside buildings. These government regulations were the impetus for the creation of "courtyard minyans".

One can find at least one of these minyans on almost every street in Jerusalem. They may be taking place in the courtyard of a synagogue or an apartment building, in a parking lot, on a dead end street, or even on the median dividing a boulevard. Special canopies, tents, plastic "keter" chairs, and tables, in places where you would not expect to see them, were all signs that here is a courtyard minayn.

An interesting byproduct of these minyans was the creation of new congregations, based on geographical location more than on the religious rite or the style of the congregants. Asheknazim, Sefardim, Hasidim, National-religious Jews, each of which would usually prefer to daven in their own synagogues, were now davening together. Not that we needed any proof, but this once again showed that we really are one.

Now that the rainy season has begun, it will be interesting to see what will happen to these minyans.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Biden, Harris and the Decline of American Jewry

At the moment that I am writing this, the final results of the 2020 presidential elections are not official.  The media has crowned Biden as the winner, although the Trump team has not given up and has turned to the courts for justice, claiming corruption and that a recount is needed.  But what I am about to write is true, regardless of who will be in the White House on the 21st of January.

American Jewry, as a community that is connected to world Jewry at large, is in free fall.  If the polls are to be trusted, 70% of American Jews voted against the man who moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.  70% of America's Jews voted against the man who signed an executive order making Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act apply to anti-Semitic acts.  70% of American Jews voted against who advanced peace between the State of Israel and several Arab countries.   This is a shocking lack of solidarity, not only with the Jews of Israel, but also with their own children who suffer abuse from the radical left on college campuses.

Now let us take a look at whom they did vote for:  Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.   These two people are living examples of the destruction of American Jewry through intermarriage.  Joe Biden's daughter is "married" to a Jew.  I blogged about that "marriage" and some of its disgusting aspects way back in 2012.  Kamala Harris is "married" to a Jew named Douglas Emhoff.    

When learning the history of Jewish communities in the Diaspora, a pattern becomes clear.  Each community has a period of growth until it reaches its pinnacle.   Eventually, there is a decline:  "But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot...".   Sometimes the decline is gradual. Sometimes the decline is speedy and violent.  Remember what happened to the Jewish communiites in Babylon, Spain, France, Germany, and Poland.  It seems to me the  Golden Age of  American Jewry is now officially over.  It is time to come home.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

In Honor of the 13th Yahrzeit of Rav Avraham Shapira zt"l

Rav Shapira passed away on the first day of Sukkot 13 years ago. Here he is with Rav Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l and the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l talking Torah:

Sunday, August 30, 2020

A Compilation of Elul Thoughts

Way back in 2008 I wrote a series of posts called "Elul thoughts". Most of them, if now all of them, are still relevant. It is hard to believe that 12 years have passed since I wrote these posts:

Elul Thoughts #1

Elul Thoughts #2

Elul Thoughts #3

Elul Thoughts #4

Elul Thoughts #5

Elul Thoughts #6

Elul Thoughts #7

Friday, August 07, 2020

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz passes away at age 83

Baruch Dayan HaEmet. I am so sorry to hear this. This man had a tremendous effect on our generation. May his memory be a blessing:
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, an Israel Prize laureate best known for his translation of the Babylonian Talmud, has passed away, at the age of 83.

The funeral procession is scheduled to leave for the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem at 2:00 p.m.

Rabbi Steinsaltz had been hospitalized at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, where he was being treated for a lung infection not related to the coronavirus.

Along with his translation of the Talmud into modern Hebrew, Rabbi Steinsaltz was also well-known for his writings and commentaries on the Hebrew Bible, the Talmud, and the Tanya.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Isaiah: End TImes and Messiah in Judaism

Here is an interview with Yisrael "Jay" Rosenberg talking about his new book, Isaiah: End TImes and Messiah in Judaism:

Friday, May 22, 2020

Jerusalem Day and COVID-19: Natural Miracles

The liberation of Jerusalem from the Jordanian occupiers during the Six Day War was a miracle. It was not a miracle in the sense that the laws of nature changed, rather it was an example how Divine Providence, working through the laws of nature brought about a miraculous result.

Today we are also witnessing a miracle. The deadly COVID-19 virus, which has up to this point brought about 10,843 deaths in my old stomping grounds (New Jersey), has so far caused only 279 deaths in Israel. Israel and New Jersey are comparable in population and land mass. Even so, a person was 39 times more likely to die of COVID-19 in New Jersey than in Israel!

It is well known that Israel did not expect such a great victory in the Six Day War.

"In the last days of May, Israelis were digging mass graves, knowing how quickly mass graves could fill."
Similarly with regard to the COVID-19 outbreak, the healthcare establishment here in Israel was expecting a march harsher result than what we have experienced.

Miracles do happen, you just have to open your eyes, and especially your heart to see them. Happy Jerusalem Day!

In Israel You Matter More (Bamidbar 2020)

Thursday, April 16, 2020

A Psalm of Thanksgiving During the COVID-19 Pandemic

A regular part of our morning prayers is the recital of Psalm 100:
1 A Psalm of thanksgiving. Shout unto the LORD, all the earth.
2 Serve the LORD with gladness; come before His presence with singing.
3 Know ye that the LORD He is God; it is He that hath made us, and we are His, His people, and the flock of His pasture.
4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise; give thanks unto Him, and bless His name.
5 For the LORD is good; His mercy endureth for ever; and His faithfulness unto all generations.
This is a major theme in Judaism: to be thankful for what is, for the blessings you have received. This of course is diametrically opposed to those who are always complaining about what they lack, and are therefore in an almost constant state of depression to some degree. The thankful person lifts up the spirits of those close to him, while the chronic complainer is like air pollution to those who can see him or are in earshot.

Interestingly enough, during the seven days of Passover (and on the day before the holiday), Psalm 100 is not recited. The reason being is that part of the Thanksgiving Offering associated with this Psalm contains chametz, "leavened bread", which is forbidden to be consumed during this time:

And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace-offerings, which one may offer unto the LORD. If he offer it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the sacrifice of thanksgiving unleavened cakes mingled with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes mingled with oil, of fine flour soaked. With cakes of leavened bread he shall present his offering with the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving. And of it he shall present one out of each offering for a gift unto the LORD; it shall be the priest's that dasheth the blood of the peace-offerings against the altar. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until the morning.
But that does not mean that we refrain from being thankful. The opposite is true! Passover is the ultimate expression of thankfulness. It is during Passover that we remember God's kindness and mercy towards our nation, from the times of our forefathers, through the slavery in Egypt and the following redemption, His giving us the Torah and the land of Israel, up to the building of the Holy Temple. Even after the destruction of our Temple and the expulsion from the promised land, we are grateful that the Nation of Israel was able to survive against all odds dispersed around the globe.

Our generation has an even greater reason and obligation to be thankful than previous ones. We have merited to live in an era of renewed Jewish sovereignty in the land of our forefathers. Similarly we are witness to a generation where the Torah is being learned in perhaps unprecedented numbers.

We have to remember all this especially this year, when our feeling of being free men was somewhat cramped by the restrictions imposed upon us as a result of COVID-19. Yes, we really did miss celebrating the seder with our extended families. We would have loved to travel and enjoy Israel's beautiful flowering landscapes that come to life at this time of year. We certainly miss the throngs of Jews visiting the Old City of Jerusalem, giving us a taste of what the festival will be like when the Temple is finally rebuilt. The things we lack cannot stop us, and will not stop us, from serving God with joy.

"For the LORD is good; His mercy endureth for ever; and His faithfulness unto all generations."

Monday, January 06, 2020

Make the 10th of Tevet Fast Meaningful

I hope that these words from Sefer Hasidim (ch. 226) will make your fast more meaningful:
Know and understand, even though the Sages said fasting for a (bad) dream (cancels it) like a fire (burns) fibers of flax, they only said this with regard to one who does teshuvah together with the fast...Since one is shown a bad dream in order that he will examine his actions, because the fast is in lieu of a sin offering. Just as a sacrifice is not effective without teshuvah, as it is written "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination..."(Proverbs 21:27), so it is that fasting for a bad dream is not effective without teshuvah.
Have a meaningful fast, together with sincere teshuvah, and may we merit to see the Holy Temple rebuilt!

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi and Secular Jewess Join Forces to Fight Assimilation

It is nice to see that there are people who not only realize that there is a problem, but are actually doing something about it:
It is Friday afternoon in Hollywood, Florida. Dr. Neta Peleg-Oren, a secular psychotherapist, and Yehuda Kornfeld, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and educator, are sitting opposite me. Both are former Israelis and they are worried.

“This Won’t Happen to Me” is the name of the workshop they conduct together and it is also the title of their soon-to-be published book. “This won’t happen to me” is the sentence that almost every Israeli parent in America utters regarding the assimilation and intermarriage of his/her children, but it happens. There are more than half a million Israeli-Americans and a significant majority of their children marry non-Jews.

Read the rest.
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