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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Be Very Afraid

Dear Mr. Fleisher,

Greetings! Quite often when I listen to Israel National Radio, I hear you, among many of the other personalities, recommend that Jewish listeners should seriously consider making "aliyah."

I wonder if that is such a good idea. G-d in His great wisdom sent the Jews into exile. Was this possibly a way of Him making you not quite such an easy target? I am thinking of the old adage, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket," or perhaps a more modern variation such as, "Don't put all of your United States Marines in one barracks in Beirut."

Or as I roared to one platoon many years ago when I served, "Spread out you ******** (expletive deleted)!"

I agree totally that the Jews were handed a raw deal for no reason whatsoever in many countries. However, "strength in numbers" is no longer all that accurate a statement considering the modern weapons of warfare and the devastation which they wreak.

Thank you. Keep safe and well.

Yours, ever faithfully,


Hello Yishai,

Why do you want all the Jews in America to go back to Israel? - It seems a strategic disaster to have them all in one place for their enemy to find.

Thanks, Becky


Subject: reverse aliya


I haven't read the news yet. I am scared! What happens now to all of you living in Israel, and not just the Shtuchim?

Will Israel be around long enough to make aliya to?

David from Brooklyn

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The Dumbest Magog

There are those who say that George W. Bush will herald in the end of days, that he and his father, George, must be the prophecied Gog and Magog (sounds like George m'(from)George), whose epic war will all but destroy the world and usher in the reign of the Messiah, who will redeem the Jews and return them to their rightful place as the moral flagbearers of the Lord.

Yet when I watch this movie, I have to wonder if it would be fair to the apocalypse to be brought in by these people.

Just one more thought - these are the guys who organized the Annapolis conference - try to wrap your head around THAT one. Next up: Sweatin' to the Oldies with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Online Videos by

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Analysis: Left Is Running Out Of Time

(Photo: AP)

Last week a very important, but easily overlooked story was reported in the Israeli media. Arutz Sheva reported it as well. I am pasting it below. I have written about this in the past. In a nutshell, the powers that be on the political and religious left realize they will not remain in power much longer as their population dwindles.

In March 2005 the Jewish Observer quoted a CBS Machon Yerushalyim study that found 50% of the Charadi population to be below the age of 8. The Dati Leumi population was likewise as young and growing just as fast. Simply put that means in 10-18 years, the voting power of these two demographics will double. Actually the hard number of legal voters in this population will double but the voting power may triple or even quadruple when you combine that fact with the statistic that shows non-religious couples were have a birth rate of only 1.2 per couple. A significant power shift in the next generation is obvious.

Fast-forward three and half years. What we see today is the geometric change is in fact occurring. This means not only will the change happen but the rate of the change will increase dramatically as each year passes. Today the latest statistics show just about half the population considers themselves traditional, a third religious, and only one in five call themselves secular - just half of what it was 35 years ago. It is no stretch by any means to say in another 35 years the secular population will consist of less that 10% of Israel, while the religious population will make up well over 50% of the country.

These statistics, nor their clear predictions, are a secret. And so this is why we are finding the left trying to inflict as much "damage" as they can while they can. For they know if their ideological goals are not realized now, today, they most likely will never be - ever!

The Arutz-7 article follows:

Israel Becoming Less Secular
15 Kislev 5768, 25 November 07 02:44
by Hillel Fendel

( An Israel Democratic Institute (IDI) demographic survey finds religious growth and secular decline - but most significant is that the proportion of religious in the public is highest among the youth.

The percentage of Jews describing themselves as secular has dropped sharply over the past 30 years, while the religious and traditional proportions have risen. The annual survey finds that the secular public comprises only 20% of the Israeli population - compared to 41%, more than twice as much, in 1974.

Nearly half the population, 47%, describes itself as traditional, while the hareidi-religious and religious-Zionist together comprise 33% of the public.

The numbers were compiled based on a survey of representative sampling of 1,016 Israelis Jews.

Tradition Reigns
Over the past seven years, according to IDI statistics, the proportion of secular Jews has dropped sharply from 32% to 20% today. The "traditionalists" have traditionally had the lead in polls of this nature - except for one year in 1974, when they trailed the seculars, 41% to 38%.

Other findings show that the Sephardic population is much more traditional and religious than the Ashkenazic sector. Ashkenazic Jews are those originating from European (Christian) countries, whereas Sephardic Jews lived in the Iberian Peninsula (now Spain and Portugal), African and Middle Eastern (Moslem) countries. Only 7% of the Sephardim describe themselves as secular, compared to 36% of the Ashkenazim. At the same time, 56% of the Sephardim are religious or hareidi, compared to only 17% of the Ashkenazim.

39% of those under age 40 are religious - more than those in their 40's and 50's (32%), and much more than those aged 60 and over (20%).

It can be inferred from the numbers that Israel is a traditional society, and that it will become even more so as the years go by.

Country is Right-Wing; the Religious - Even More So
Politically, the religious are more right-wing, but so are the others. Among the religious, many more identify with the right than with the left, by a 71-8 margin; among the traditional, it's 49-21, and among the secular, it's 43-27. In total, 55% of the population view themselves as right-wing, and only 18% are to the left.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Like Straw!

Because of the day you stood aloof, the day strangers plundered his wealth, foreigners entered his gates and they cast lots on Jerusalem - you were like one of them! (Obadiah 1:12)

This is what we read in this past week's Haftorah. You, nations of the world, should not "stand aloof," let alone encourage our enemies to "cast lots" upon Jerusalem.

Indeed the holy city of Jerusalem, herself, rumbles in outrage at such an evil notion. (Three earthquakes in one week!) Jerusalem is stronger than anyone. You can not defeat her. You my try...

But on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, and it shall become holy; and the House of Jacob will inherit its inheritors. The house of Jacob will be a fire and the House of Joseph a flame - and the House of Esau like straw; they will kindle among them and consume them; and there will be no surviver of the House of Esau, for Hashem has spoken! (ibid. 1:17-18)

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Awesome New Website

I want to make a blessing! Check out the new YMAP site. You can see Israel's roads, satellite photos, or a synthesis of the two. Since the invention of cartography, mankind has been zealously mapping out the Holy Land - this site takes it to the next level.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Return Again

3 atmosphere-related news items

1. There is a cool new feature on the Israel Meteorological Service website - RAIN RADAR.

2. Here is a snippet from a piece in IsraelNationalNews:

Labor Minister Ami Ayalon told the Labor party's central committee Sunday night that the party "fell asleep on its watch" in the lead-up to the Annapolis conference and allowed the political right to create an atmosphere that is preventing the conference from succeeding.

The word "atmosphere" is in bold because I think it is interesting that we are not just talking about political moves here. Yes, political moves were made but Ayalon hits it on the head when he says that it's the atmosphere that counts.

The things Israel needs to be doing do not necessarily require genius-level leadership. They simply require that people think straight. That is all! One does not need to be a genius, or even a hawk, to know that Abbas and friends are thugs and that any more territorial concessions will be suicidal. It's just that the atmosphere has been so crazy and distracting that people have not been able to think straight.

3. Cloud wave over Iowa.
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Sunday, November 18, 2007

And she shall be called in Israel...

With much thanks to Hashem, I am happy to share with you that at 10:10am Shabbat Morning, the 7th day of the month of Kislev, 5768 (November 17, 2007), Annie gave birth to a baby girl. Both Annie and our new daughter are doing well - and Hodaya is excited to be a sister.

Being Shabbat, we had the opportunity, a few hours later, during Mincha (afternoon service) to name our daughter.

And she shall be called in Israel... Eliana Racheil.

Eliana means: (My) G-d has answered - a combination of the two Hebrew words, Eli: (My) G-d, and Ana: has answered.

On the most elementary level, It is the hope and prayer of every couple to be blessed with children, and that, in the aftermath of childbirth, that both baby and mother should be well. It is all too easy to forget or take for granted that not every couple has yet to be blessed with children, and not every pregnancy ends well, either for the mother or baby (or both).

So, on this most basic and human level, Eliana - G-d has answered our prayers - and we have been blessed once again with a beautiful baby girl, and that both she and her mother are healthy and happy, if not a bit tired, understandably so.

Racheil comes from our Biblical matriarch Rachel, who happened to be one of the central figures from this past Shabbat's weekly Torah portion - Parshat VaYeitzei.

The Talmud (Niddah 20b) teaches us that when a baby is in the womb, "he / she is taught the entire Torah...". It is not surprising then, having already become familiar with this past Shabbat's Torah portion that Eliana Racheil chose to enter this world specifically on Shabbat Parshat VaYeitzei.

The Hebrew word VaYeitzei means: to go out - and that is precisely what Eliana Racheil did this past Shabbat - she went out of her mother's womb and entered into the world.

Additionally, one of the central themes of Parshat VaYeitzei is that of childbirth. Over the course of the Torah portion, 11 of the 12 sons of Jacob - the Tribes of Israel - are both born and named (another motivation for naming Eliana Racheil over this particular Shabbat), and in addition to the 11 boys born to Jacob, a daughter is also born to him - bringing the total to 12 children born to Jacob over the span of a single Torah portion.

However, in order to fully appreciate and understand the name, one must look at both names together.

There is a Midrash found at the beginning of the Book of Lamentations (Eichah) which recounts the following (copied from
As the Temple lay in ruins and the Jews were being led into exile as slaves, Abraham came before G-d and said: "Master of the universe, when I was 100 years old, you gave me a son, and when he was 37 years old you told me, 'Raise him as a sacrifice before Me.' I overcame my natural mercy and bound him myself. Will You not remember my devotion and have mercy on my children?"

Next, Isaac approached. "When my father said, 'G-d will show us the sheep for a sacrifice, my son,' I did not hesitate but accepted my fate and extended my neck to be slaughtered. Will You not remember my strength and have mercy on my children?"

Then Jacob beseeched: "I worked for twenty years in the house of Laban and when I left, Esau came to harm me. I suffered all my life raising my children. Now they are being led like sheep to the slaughter in the hands of their enemies. Won't you remember all my pain and suffering and redeem my children?"

Moses rose up and said: "Was I not a loyal shepherd of Israel for forty years? I ran before them in the desert like a horse. When the time came to enter Israel, You decreed that I would die in the desert. Now they go into exile. Won't You listen to my crying over them?"

Before all these virtuous defenders, G-d remained silent.

Then Rachel lifted her voice, "Master of the Universe, You know that Jacob loved me intensely and worked for seven years in order to marry me. When the time of my marriage came, my father substituted my sister for me. I did not begrudge my sister and I didn't let her be shamed; I even revealed to her the secret signs that Jacob and I had arranged.

"If I, a mere mortal, was not prepared to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate G-d, be jealous of idols, which have no true existence, that were brought into Your home? Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?"

Immediately, G-d's mercy was aroused and He responded, "For you, Rachel, I will bring Israel back to their place."

This Midrash is based on the verses found in the Book of Jeremiah (31: 15 - 17):
So has the Lord said: In Ramah there is a sound of crying, weeping and bitter sorrow; Rachel weeping for her children; she will not be comforted for their loss. The Lord has said this: Keep your voice from sorrow and your eyes from weeping: for your work will be rewarded, says the Lord; and they will come back from the land of their hater. And there is hope for the future, says the Lord; and your children will come back to the land which is theirs.

Returning to the name, Eliana Racheil...

Eliana Racheil is our 2nd child, and our 2nd child to be born in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish People. Annie and I have been blessed to make our home and start our family here, in the Land of Israel, and have our children born in Jerusalem, something which, today, is also something, B"H, that is easy to take for granted.

In response to our matriarch Rachel's tears on seeing the Jewish People led into exile, G-d promised her that "your children (the Jewish People) will return to their borders (the Land of Israel)".

Annie and I, along with Hodaya Leah and Eliana Racheil (and the many other Jews who have returned to the Land of Israel - who have returned home) are the living fulfillment of G-d's promise to Rachel - Eliana Rachel - G-d has answered Rachel's prayer - the Jewish People are coming home.

It is our hope and prayer, in giving our new daughter this name, Eliana Racheil, that she follow in the footsteps of her namesake, Racheil Imeinu, who serves as the embodiment of dedication and self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people, and that our Eliana Racheil devote herself to bringing about the redemption of the Jewish People - may we merit to see it speedily in our - and Eliana Racheil's - lifetime.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Surprise: More Jewish Poverty In U.S. Than Israel

That's what Haaretz's Ruth Sinai reports:

Study claims Jewish poverty rate in the U.S. is higher than in Israel

Some highlights:

- "Jewish poverty rate in the United States is higher than that in Israel."

- "One of every five Jews among Chicago's 270,000 Jews is poor or almost poor according to the federal government's definition."

- "New York also has a high rate of Jewish poverty."

- "More than a quarter of the members of the world's richest Jewish community live close to the poverty line."

- "The highest poverty rate is in Brooklyn."

So the next you hear anyone say "Make Aliyah? But there a so many poor people in Israel," simply show them this post. This is actually one of the excuses I do hear. People have said "You talk about how great Eretz Yisrael is, why don't you talk about all the poverty over there?"

How's this? We'll start talking about poverty in Israel when you start talking about poverty in Jewish America? Deal?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Comet Over Jerusalem - Mah Rabu Ma'asechah Hashem!

For those who have been following astronomy news of late, something caused a megaburst from Comet 17P/Holmes over 3 weeks ago, which shot 100 million tons of dust into space around the comet. This has made it visible to the naked eye, and especially visible with binoculars or a zoom lens. I took a few pictures of it in the sky above Jerusalem this week. It's the big fuzz-ball (the fuzz being all the dust).
For more info and close up pictures: Sky and Telescope Magazine
For more of my pictures: Facebook Album

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

The New Cult Classic

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Many Faces, One Country

Congratulations to the winner of the Nefesh b'Nefesh "Israel In a Minute" video contest, recipient of $3,000 (that's 11,871 shekels for people in Israel THIS minute - cha-ching!), and maker of one kickin' PR piece. Reminds me of some of the material I received when applying to college - young, edgy, idealistic, and there's a chick with dreads - all the necessary components!

If you like it, and you live outside of Israel, click HERE.

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Why Lefties Are Good

This is why Jews are lefties.

The leftie Jew is a totally reasonable incarnation of the Jew, when there is no Israel and as long as Israel is not ripe for true power.

(I'm assuming the text is correct and these people were carrying red flags, and some were anarchists).

We should be glad we have leftist messianics as our country-mates. They are Jewish and messianic and in Israel, so it's just a matter of flipping them over from left to right.
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Friday, November 09, 2007

U'M'Beit Avicha - And From Thy Fathers Home: Realizing the Dream of Lech Lecha

Based on what are the Jewish People deserving of having been chosen? What did Avram do that was so special? Why is Avram chosen to be the beginning of a Chosen Nation who will serve as the vehicle through which God perfects humanity?

Let us take a look at the parsha of Lech Lecha and Chazal's commentary on her, and see whether perhaps we are given an answer to this perplexing question.

At the beginning of the parsha, God commands Avram, "Go from your land, your birth place, and from your father’s house, unto the land which I shall show you." Very interestingly, God continues and says, "I will make you a great nation... and through you all nations of the world will be blessed..." (12: 1-3) So we see already, that from the very first words that God command to Avram (go to the land of Israel) God also tells Avram the reason that God is commanding him to do this, namely that you shall become a "great nation" and that "through you all the nations of the world will be blessed."

We will begin a departure here, that only in the end shall return to our original question with what I hope you agree to be a beautiful answer.

In the Talmud Bavli (Nedarim, Page 32a) it says the following:

R. Ammi b. Abba also said: Avram was three years old when he acknowledged the Creator, for it is written, Because [Heb. 'ekeb'] Avram obeyed my voice: the numerical value of 'ekeb' is one hundred seventy two (since Avram lived to be 175 years old, he "obeyed my voice" for 172 of his 175 years of life).

The Rambam sitting both this Talmudic passage as well as another source that says Avram recognized God at the age of 40, synthesizes the two. Rambam says that from the age of 3 Avram began searching out God, but he did not come to the conclusion of a single god until the age of 40.

A point of significance here. The many stories and details of Avrams life that were just stated (he recognized God at 3, 40, etc) along with the many more to follow are not in the Torah! Why not? Why are such important details such as the reason for Avram having been chosen (for comparison, when Noach is chosen in the previous parsha to be the one saved and continue humanity we are told why. It says that Noach was a tzaddik, a righteous man) left out? We are not told anything about Avram. Why? We will come back to this later. However, already now, we can see a great example of the way in which Chazal fill in these missing pieces with midrashim, which sometimes are claimed as part of the oral tradition and as 'true' and other time are merely being created by Chazal. But even in this later case, they are no less true. Rather Chazal are trying to teach us a very important point (or points) and do so through this method of midrashim and commentary.

Let us now look at one of the most famous midrashim on the entire chumash. Midrash Rabbah, Berishit 38.

AND HARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS FATHER TERACH [XI, 28]. R. Hiyya said: Terah was a manufacturer of idols. He once went away somewhere and left Avram to sell them in his place. A man came and wished to buy one. 'How old are you?' Avram asked him. 'Fifty years,' was the reply. 'Woe to such a man!' Avram exclaimed, 'you are fifty years old and would worship a day-old object!' At this he became ashamed and departed. On another occasion a women came with a plateful of flour and requested him, 'Take this and offer it to them.' So he took a stick, broke them, and put the stick in the hand of the largest. When his father returned he demanded, 'What have you done to them?' 'I cannot conceal it from you,' Avram rejoined. 'A women came with a plateful of fine meal and requested me to offer it to them. One claimed, "I must eat first," While another claimed, "I must eat first." Thereupon the largest arose, took the stick, and broke them.' 'Why do you make sport of me,' he cried out; 'have they then any knowledge!' 'Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying,' Avram retorted.

Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. 'Let us worship the fire!' Nimrod proposed. 'Let us rather worship water, which extinguishes the fire,' replied he. 'Then let us worship water!' 'Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.' 'Then let us worship the clouds!' 'Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds.' 'Then let us worship the wind!' 'Let us rather worship human beings, who withstand the wind.' 'You are just bandying words,' he exclaimed; 'we will worship nought but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.' Now Haran was standing there undecided. IF Avram is victorious, thought he, I will say that I am of Avram's belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod's side. When Avram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, 'Of whose belief are you?' 'Of Avram's' he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into the fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father's presence. Hence it is written, AND HARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF ['AL PENE] HIS FATHER TERACH.

There are two aspects to this Midrash that I find fascinating.

The first aspect is the similarity between Avram's pattern of thinking as he comes to recognize the One True God, and the thinking that became so famous and widespread as a result of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle in particular. Plato was most famous for his dialectic manner of speaking, the way in which he would engage in conversation through question and answers in an attempt to arrive closer to the truth about the topic at hand. What was most unique was Plato's gifted ability to ask the right questions in the right way, thereby leading the other person engaged in the dialogue to construct their own meaningful and logical truth. How fascinating that the father of philosophy and the father of monotheism and revelation would have such similar ways of thinking and approaching the world. For we see in the midrash that Avram engages in exactly the same sort of conversations. By asking the presumably innocent question of "how old are you" Avram prepares a comment to the answer he knows is coming that will force his counterpart in this conversation to realize the idiocy of avodah zarah (idol worship). [This being done of course, when Avram retorts to the man's answer of how old are you with the following reply, "Woe to such a man! You are fifty years old and would worship a day old object!"]

We see Avram perform the same type of logical and progressive thinking with his father. This time Avram engages in the seemingly destructive act of destroying the idols, which would serve to do nothing for his father's benefit except perhaps to enrage him. This it does. But Avram has his response ready to this as well, making up the story of the idols smashing one another and that Avram is innocent. This time, Avram's set the framework for the other person involved in the dialogue to come ot the same conclusion as Avram even more perfectly than before. For this time, Avram's father doesn't merely concede the point, he states it himself! "Have they then any knowledge?!" Asked Terach. An amazing achievement that Avram should be able to think up a way in which to cause his father to realize himself the silliness of avoda zarah. Avram wraps up this discussion with his reply of "Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying." It is implied (through the midrashes silence) that Terach, though extraordinarily upset with Avram, excepted and agreed with his son's point.

Lastly, and perhaps most fascinating, is the way in which Avram finally comes to believe in the One God. These first two examples indicate that Avram rejected avodah zarah, but they do not say with what Avram replaced it (if anything at all). But in Avram's discussion with Nimrod, we discover the way in which Avram came to believe in God. When Nimrod declared, "let us worship fire" Avram retorted with "let us worship the water which extinguishes the fire." And with every new object of avodah zarah named by Nimrod, Avram pushed the cause back further and further. And, as many Greek philosophers also believed, if pushed back far enough, one reached a Single God. This is known as the First Cause Proof of God.

Avram was indeed a philosopher.

As a quick side point, it is interesting to note, that Avram, though he had not had any revelation yet, and his belief in One God was based solely on his thinking and philosophizing, Avram was already willing to die for this belief. Yet Haran, Avram's brother, had no convictions. He was passive. He didn't engage his brain and think for himself. He was not committed to avoda zarah, not was he committed to the belief in God. I have heard Rav Chaim Eisen of Jerusalem say on many occasions, "it is better to be committed to avodah zarah, then to be committed to nothing at all." I always had difficulty understanding that, if it were to be taken at all literally. I think, and hope you agree, that Haran's attitude, his punishment, and this midrash as a whole help to explain it.

It is at this point, at the conclusion of our midrash, that God first reveals Himself
to Avram, and declares, "Lech lecha…"

So, what did Avram, (soon to be Avraham) do to deserve being the person to whom God declared "Lech lecha" and chose as the father of the Holy Jewish Nation? It should be obvious by now. Avram recognized God! Avram recognized God, and he did so by himself. His conviction in this recognition was so fierce, he was willing to die for it, and the truth that Avram was so positive lay behind it.

I heard it suggested by Rav Kahn, that there is no reason to assume that the commandment and revelation of "lech lecha" was given only to Avram. It could very well be that it was being said to all mankind, but it was only Avram who heard it.

Or was it?

In a brilliant suggestion, Rav Kahn of Bar Ilan University stated that Avram and Terach (his father) had a much closer relationship than we often take notice of. The expression that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree has much truth to it. And I see no reason to suspect otherwise in the case of Avram and Terach.

Now, at this point, we can notice a most bizarre pasuk in the torah. For in sentence 31 of our parsha it says:

And Terach took Avram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram's wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran, and lived there."
Now, why would Terach just all of a sudden take his entire family, including Avram, and pick up from Ur and head towards "the land of Canaan"? Perhaps, it is because Terach heard the exact same revelation that Avram did! That Terach too had this moment of clarity. That Terach also came to believe and understand that there was only one God. At which point Terach was given the commandment of "Lech Lecha" just as Avram was. And Terach, a believer of God, began to take both himself and his entire family to "the land of Canaan."

But it is difficult to make aliyah. Oh so difficult. It is not easy to travel from Ur (or Monsey, or California, or France, or many other places) all the way to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Canaan). And so, Terach, though he begins the journey, he does not finish it. "And they came to Haran, and lived there." Haran, according to many of the opinions of Chazal, was half way between Israel and Ur. Terach made it half way. But then he had to stop. Afterall, we must live in reality. Aliyah is not realistic. We must support ourselves, our family, etc. We must "live" as Terach understood, and so they stopped in Haran, "and they lived there".

God forbid this should ever happen to any of us!

Realize the greatness of the Terach's of the world, and realize the tragedy of their inability to see the mission to the end! Terach was a great human being and made an enormous achievement. He recognized God (as to so many of the Jews in galut today claim to do). And Terach heard the voice of God commanding him to leave, and go to Israel. And Terach listened. He experienced revelation and truth, both through his own thought process (as was seen with Avram in his conversation with Nimrod in the midrash) and also through the revelation of God saying 'lech lecha.'

But it is not easy to hold onto our moment's of clarity. It is exceedingly difficult. To turn dreams into reality, requires great strength. The Psalmist calls us K'Cholmim - As Dreamers. For the dream should never be seen as a fantasy. The dream can be fulfilled.

Avram did make it. Avram did continue. Avram realized the dream of aliyah, and fulfilled this most difficult test of God. Perhaps "Lech lecha" was not all uttered at once. For such would make sense. If Avram and Terach were traveling together from Ur to Canaan, then it was only when Terach gave up at Haran that God added "u'm'beit avicha" ("and from your father's house"). For it was together that Avram and Terach traveled from "m'arzicha, um'moladicha" (from his land and his birthplace). But when Terach gave in, and couldn't continue any more, when Terach "lived in Haran" then God had to say to Avram, "Do not stop! Do not forget your moment of clarity and revelation! Continue the journey! "Lech lecha m'beit avicha".

My wishes for all the members of Kumah and all who are reading this should be that we all keep our moments of clarity alive. That when we hear a "lech lecha" we chase after it, and do not stop walking until we have reached our goal.

"Lech Lecha" Those Who Are As Dreamers! Know that our God is One, that he watches over us, and that he has commanded to us (among his other wonderful and beautiful mitzvoth) to come home to Eretz Yisrael. To make aliyah. Let us not "live there in Haran". Kumah! Arise, it's time to come home.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shmittah Calendar: Month of Kislev 5768

The month of Kislev begins this coming Sunday!

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.

NOTE: Olive Oil that contains Kedushat Shevi'it can not be used to light the menorah on Chanukah. However this will not really be an issue until next Chanukah (and the Chanukah following that one) as there will be no Olive Oil on the market from the 7th year for almost another whole year.

Kedushat Shevi'it Starts

There are no new items that begin being treated as having Kedushat Shevi'it this month.

Additionally Kedushat Shevi'it for these items remains in effect:

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

Kedushat Shevi'it Ends

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

Sefichaim Begin this month for the following:

On 1 Kislev:


On 5 Kislev:


On 20 Kislev:


On 25 Kislev:


Additionally Sefichim remain in effect for the following:

Corn (Fresh)
Peas in Pod
Zucchini (Squash)

Sefichim Ends

There are no items that Sefichim ends this month.

There are no items that will require biur this month.

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Music for the (Spiritual) Revolution

Shuli Rand struggles and searches for God (From Hebrew Maariv Online)
Worth a listen & some thought!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Red Bull & Vodka vs. Exit & Shlivovitz

"It’s a drink the ultra-Orthodox lack...They make a lot of babies, they study the Torah and they dance. They need a lot of energy, and something to strengthen them."

New Mehadrin Energy Drink!

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Forget About Baseball...

Introducing: "Religious Zionist Rabbi Cards"!

...although a pretty narrow definition of "Religious Zionist"!

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

To Reverse the Rebirth

By Stan Goodenough, a Christian Zionist:

It will not surprise me at all if, when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to Israel next week to invite participants to the Annapolis 'Conference on the Creation of Palestine on Jewish Land,' that the date she has chosen to convene the event turns out to be November 29.

As Rice sees things, the irony of this choice of date would be positive, injecting some sense of hopefulness into the long-hopeless US-pushed pursuit of Arab-Israeli peace.

The State Department could spin November 29 to generate optimism: It would mark a return to the past, they could say; the chance to heal the sore at its source; a reversal of the disastrous decisions that ignited and continue to fuel the unending conflict in the Middle East.

For Bible-believing Christian Zionists, to hold this conference on November 29 would support what many of us already hold to be true: that the real aim of the land-for-peace process (whether Rice and her president know it or not) is the reversal of something different: the rolling back of the process of Israel's physical national restoration which God Himself has ordained and brought about.

As such, it is doubly futile - for who do the Quartet and the UN Security Council think that they are to go against the very will and purpose of the LORD of hosts?

Certainly, if November 29 is the date drawn, it will not be a mere coincidence.

It was on November 29, 60 years ago, that all creation appeared to hold its breath.

On that day in 1947, the nations watched, the Jews prayed, and the Arabs oiled their guns.

On that unprecedented day in the history of nations, the UN voted 33 to 13 (with 10 abstentions) to divide the British-mandated area called "Palestine" between the Jews and the Arabs laying claim to it.

Like a massive final contraction after years of birth pangs, General Assembly Resolution 181 opened the way through which the ancient nation of Israel could finally be reborn on its historic homeland.

Not that the battle for her independence was over. Within hours of the partition vote Israel's enemies began searching for a way to rescind and annul that decision.

But they were wasting their time. Less than six months later, on May 15, 1948, the State of Israel came into being on it's God-given land.

It was as foretold by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years before:

"...Who has heard such a thing?
Who has seen such things?
Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day?
Or shall a nation be born at once?
For as soon as Zion was in labor,
She gave birth to her children..."
(Isaiah 66:8)

From that day to this, those who hate Zion (and in truth they really hate the LORD who has chosen Zion) have sought to destroy her.

The surrounding Arab states have attacked Israel time and time again. The "Palestinian" Arabs have waged a relentless terrorism and propaganda campaign against the Jewish state to demoralize its citizens and delegitimise it in front of the international community. The industrial powers have sided "pragmatically" with the oil-rich Arabs and have pushed Israel into prejudicing its security and surrendering its millennia-old claim to its land.

The currently Christian-led United States is leading the charge and, for the Bush administration, decision day is already past.

Some die-hard Christian Republicans still insist that Bush and Rice are sincerely acting in what they believe to be Israel’s ultimate best interests. Even if they are [which I personally have a hard time hanging on to - Ed] they have gotten into bed with other "western" leaders who long ago ran out of patience with this "shxxty little country".

Leaders like European MP and former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, who reportedly told an audience in Cairo on June 17, 2004, that "the origin of the Palestinian problem is in the promise given by the British to the Jews to establish a nationalist state on the basis of the religious conviction that the Jews have a right to this land… It was an historic error on the part of the British to make such a promise, but this now belongs to history."

Such sentiments have also infected morer "ordinary" men on the street. On July 18, 2006, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote: "...Israel itself is a mistake. It is an honest mistake, a well-intentioned mistake, a mistake for which no one is culpable, but the idea of creating a nation of European Jews in an area of Arab Muslims (and some Christians) has produced a century of warfare and terrorism of the sort we are seeing now."

Yes, 60 years ago this month, a reluctant gentile world still somewhat shaken up by the horrific sights revealed by the liberation of Hitler's Death Camps, scraped together just enough compassion to support the establishment of a homeland for the Jews.

That compassion has long gone.

Israel is not much more than a nuisance; a thorn in the side of the world. The nation's Jews, then, must be made to pay, compensating the Arabs and mollifying them, so that the threat Israel's policies pose to world peace will be removed.

For the Islamic world, what the US wants to achieve at Annapolis is just phase one of the plan that will excise the Jewish cancer once and for all from their midst.

The creation of Palestine may appear to be more or less the belated implementation of Resolution 181. But not to forget, as Arafat used to say: the Arab world rejected that resolution, rendering it void.

For them, establishing a Palestinian state is not correcting that misstep. It is preparing for the correcting and erasing of the entire "mistake" that enabled Israel's rebirth.

How encouraging then to know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the Shepherd of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps; that He is and will continue to defend her; and that He who brought Israel safely to the time of her physical rebirth nearly has promised to also bring her to her glorious, national, spiritual rebirth, right here in her land.

The only One who is going to be doing any "rolling up" is Israel's God. And it is the self-important and arrogant nations He will gather, to place inside and crush in the wine press of His wrath.

For they have scattered His people and they have divided up His land.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Where Have You Come From - Where Are You Going?

This is the question that lies at the heart of aliyah. It is a question who was first asked by our sages as well as by Socrates. It is a question, that while seeming very simple to answer can prove incredibly complex.

For a Jew, the answer is even more complex. For I can not answer where I come from without also taking into account where the Jewish People comes from. While the why to that question may be complicated, in the briefest form, it is because the Jew is born into a covenantal community. The Jew is born with obligations and expectations. We are not a 'free people' in the sense that freedom is often used today. We are duty bound. To be identified as a Jew, at least in part, means to partake in the pains and triumphs of the Jewish Nation. To be Jewish is to be part of a nationality.

But that is not all. We all know much more obviously that to be Jewish is to be part of a religion. The covenantal community that is Judaism is a covenant of faith, of Sinai, of revelation, of God's truth as revealed in the Torah. So to be identified as a Jew requires our participation in torah as well.

But that is not all. The third prong to our identity is the hardest for Jews living in exile to recognize, as it requires a reworking of our own identities - a task that is never pleasant. The third aspect of Jewish identity is Eretz Yisrael.

The Land of Israel, pieces of rock, a geographical location, is part of a Jewish identity. It seems absurd, but it is true.

I will not go into the why. This is what usually attracts the most attention when someone is speaking to Jews in America and trying to prove to them why they must move. Why Israel really is so important. And everyone gives excuses ("Rashi didn't live in Israel" is always one of my favorites). People are not convinced by arguments, not when they have so much to lose, not when their hearts are telling them to stay in the rich lands of AmReika.

So I will not answer why Israel is so important. At root, my answers as to why the Torah or the Jewish Nation are so important are also weak - they fall flat on their face if you do not already agree with me. One does not partake in the torah because it was proved to him or her. One partakes in the torah because one has experienced the truth of torah, has experienced the truth of the Jewish God's existence. One has experienced reality.

To be K'Cholmim-As Dreamers, is to partake in the amazing path and mission that is Judaism. But such a path and mission is not an easy one. The reason for this is that we are entirely confused as to what constitutes a dream and what constitutes reality. We are unsure what the right path is for us to take as individual human beings. Therefore, we can not even imagine what is the correct path for us to take as Jews or any other specific group of people. We thus lack the capability to make a choice, let alone a meaningful choice about which path will lead us to take part in our greater community, in this case, to take part in the destiny of the mission of the Jewish People. This is the reason that those of us who are looked on as dreamers (by those who are so confused), and who have visions of a better future, those of us who do still believe in such things as that dirty word, 'idealism' or even worse, actually articulate such an *irrational * belief as our faith in God, or perhaps worse of all for American Jews dare to speak of our desire to make aliyah and join our people, are always met with a reply to "live in reality" and to be "realistic". It is for this reason that I am so attracted to that word K'Cholmim-AS Dreamers. For our vision and goal is not truly a dream, rather it is a goal and ideal of a better reality, a truer reality.

But not many are willing to see such a reality, or recognize its validity and existence. Such has always been the difficulty of those who speak wisdom and truth. It was the battle of Socrates, and it was the battle of the prophets. Rav Soloveitchik zt"l in the last chapter of his masterpiece "The Lonely Man of Faith" comments on our prophet Elisha, using Elisha as a model for all the prophets, that, " many a time he felt disenchanted and frustrated because his words were scornfully rejected." (Page 112) This great prophet Elisha had the same difficulty as all men of wisdom, that their words were "scornfully rejected" because most of us, are unable to tell the difference between true and false, between good and evil. We think Dream is Reality, and Reality a Dream.

Further on in "The Lonely Man of Faith" the Rav will comment on Elisha and his life, and will teach us how this relates to the great danger of living a lie and thinking it is a reality. Of confusing what is dream and reality, what is important and what is not. All of this relates to the vision required by someone living 'the good life' in America must have to even seriously consider aliyah - let alone make it. The Rav says that, "Yet unexpectedly, the call came through to this unimaginative, self-centered farmer. Suddenly the mantle of Elijah was cast upon him. While he was engaged in the most ordinary, everyday activity, in tilling the soil, he encountered God (the Truth) and felt the transforming touch of God's hand. The strangest metamorphosis occurred. Within seconds, the old Elisha disappeared and a new Elisha emerged." (Page 110)

It was not with arguments that Elisha was convinced of the falsehood in his life, but rather a life changing experience. It was the touch of God Himself that changed Elisha from the old to the new. From an Elisha of "an unimaginative, self-centered farmer" - a life of meaninglessness and falsehood to the Elisha of truth and prophecy. To an Elisha who would spend the rest of his days walking around Israel preaching God's truth, and this vision of idealism and Yahadut. And of course this is the greatest difficulty that we as K'Cholmim face, the battle for the truth and the ability to create moments of experience that will wake people up to that truth.

So the question is what experiences have you had? Elisha experiences God, and this changed his life. It wasn't with arguments that Elisha was convinced of what is true and what is not, it was with a simple but profound experience. Many of us are chozer b'tshuva, and we all have our own story about what mundane experience proved so profound as to reframe our entire existence and change the course of our life.

So too with Israel. Israel is to be experienced, not analyzed. Have you experienced Israel? Were you perhaps disappointed? When you were searching for God, were you ever disappointed there? I was. Sunday school is not a 'positive' experience of God and Torah for most Jews. But does that mean it doesn't exist, or that your teachers were inadequate? To experience the real Israel is not easy - especially when the places in Israel most laden with kedusha and history are considered 'too dangerous' to allow Jews to visit, or because low and behold, most of our holy places are on the wrong side of this magical green line and therefore we should not visit. Have you ever seen the mishkan in Shilo? Have you visited the hills of the Shomron? Have you looked over Shchem and imagined the fields in which Joseph and his brothers played, and ultimately, tragically, fought? Have you walked on the Temple Mount and infused yourself with the spirit of God - as you stand in awe of His presence? Have you sat in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, watching hundreds of religious children who at age 8 know more torah than you run around as they fulfill the words of our prophets that children will play again in the streets of Jerusalem? Have you seen the devastation caused to our people at a bus bombing because Jews don't care enough about Jewish blood to do what we must to protect ourselves? Have you seen a desert that after a year was greener because of your presence? Have you?

Israel is to be experienced. Home is a symbol - a symbol is something which has meaning underneath the apparent object. The rocks of Israel are a symbol - a symbol of our home. Chazal say that the redemption will only come when we yearn for the rocks and dust of Eretz Yisrael. Which means, when the Jewish souls remember where home is, when we return home. I can not convince you with arguments WHY Israel is your home. SHE IS! Kacha! And if you have the nerve then you will come and find out why that is true.

So for all those who don't know what the experience of Israel is - come and find it! KUMAH! ARISE! Return home.

But there is one last problem. What of those who HAVE had this experience and yet chose to live in galut? To them, I say, remember with all your might the intensity of that experience. The problem with dream and reality is we confuse them so quickly. My best friend in college and roommate woke me up one morning at 5:30 shaking me hard, "David David". "WHAT?" I asked him. We had been working together non stop to lobby for Israel and had just run two incredibly Aliyah Shabbatonim where we engaged over a 100 Chicago Jews to discuss aliyah - over 50 now live in Israel. So he woke me up and said, "David, I just had the most incredible dream." "Tell me about it" I said. "Well, I was in Israel David, and it was just amazing, I was there" and he started to cry. This friend is not one for tears and I was shocked, but I realized what had happened. He had experienced Israel - without even being there! Because of his commitment to her - she reached out to him. And he cried. And he said, "I have to go David, I have to, how can I go?" So we sat for an hour and a half discussing options and ways he could leave the prestigious education he was receiving at the University of Chicago without enraging his parents and make aliyah this summer. He was so excited. He called his parents. He went to the aliyah agency. And he never came. (I would like to happily add, that since this was written he has made aliyah, married and Israeli, and they are expecting their first native born daughter in the coming months, b?sha?ah tovah!)

But what happened that initially held him back. Why did he not come? He experienced it. There is no question about it. He experienced Israel - but in America he stayed. Why? Because dreams only last for a short while. The experience can shock us into reality, his dream made him wake up to reality - no pun intended. But it doesn't last. You must grab hold of it and act on it right away, or else it dissipates. My friend, for whatever reason, despite all his energies wasn't able to hold on to that dream - a dream with more meaning and reality behind it than many other people's lives. A tragedy. But God willing there will be other moment's of clarity for him (addendum: and there were!), and he will find his way home to Israel again.

I say to you who DO know the experience of Israel - DO NOT LET IT PASS! DO NOT LET IT SIT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND AND HEART. "One question I asked from God, to sit in the House of God all the days of my life?" The human mind is stubborn and complex, we prefer the easy 'reality' even if it is a lie. Don't live the sheker, remember your moments of clarity, remember what it felt like to walk down a street where there are more people wearing kippot than not, where there is a Jewish Army to defend us, where the air itself has a different taste - a Jewish taste.

Experience Israel, Remember Israel, Come Home to Israel. Your People await you.
Your people need you. Kumah.

Shabbat Shalom

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Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Let's Just Cancel the Country

"A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims, and he wears their face and their arguments, he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation, he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of the city, he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to fear. The traitor is the plague." Cicero 42 B.C.E.

Now read this:

Mocking Asian Jews, Gov't Minister Favors Selective Aliyah

Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit (Kadima) struck a blow to one of the central pillars of Zionism Tuesday, calling for an end to automatic citizenship for Jews who make aliyah (immigrate to Israel).

Addressing the governing board of the Jewish Agency, Sheetrit said that funds should be directed to helping immigrants already living in Israel instead of absorbing “lost tribes” from Africa and Asia. “Don't go finding me any lost tribes, because I won't let them in any more," he declared. "We have enough problems in Israel. Let them go to America."

Sheetrit said that new immigrants should not automatically receive citizenship, but have a five-year waiting period, take a pledge of allegiance and pass a Hebrew-proficiency test prior to becoming Israeli.

He specifically referred to a rise in cases of neo-Nazism among Russian immigrants, some one million of which immigrated to Israel in the past 16 years. Three to four hundred thousand of the Russian immigrants are non-Jews recruited by the Jewish Agency using Jewish donor funds.

As it stands, the Law of Return, passed in 1950, mirrors the classifications of “Jewish descent” outlined in the Nazi Nuremberg Laws, with the intention that anyone who would have been persecuted as Jewish by the Nazis be granted refuge in the Jewish State.

Under this law, the Jewish Agency has been accused of taking advantage of the Law to recruit non-Jews with tenuous connections to the Jewish people – via one grandparent or the marriage of relatives to a Jew – promising them a better economic situation so as to increase the numbers of immigrants it can report having brought.

Many groups have called for the Law of Return to be amended to open Israel's doors only to those considered Jewish by Halacha (Jewish Law).

The Interior Minister is, however, calling to make aliyah harder for all Jews. The ministry proposes to change the Law of Return to reflect absorption policies of other Western countries. "I want to see that he is not a criminal, that he is learning Hebrew and that he is here for five years before receiving citizenship," Sheetrit said.

The Jewish Agency said in response that "the State of Israel must remain open to any Jew, without any conditions” and continues to support the Law of Return in its current form.

Sheetrit said the funding spent on encouraging aliyah should be used to help immigrants already living in Israel, “whose lives are miserable.”

Michael Freund, who heads the Shavei Israel organization, which assists groups of Jewish descent in converting and moving to Israel called Sheetrit’s remarks “post-Zionism in its ugliest form.”

“Essentially, Mr. Sheetrit has lost sight of what Zionism and Israel are all about. The country was founded on immigration and meant to serve as a refuge for the entire Jewish people,” Freund said. Freund pointed out that Sheetrit’s own family, immigrants from Morocco, would themselves bear the brunt of his callousness had he been Interior Minister at the time of their aliyah. “It is as if he has forgotten everything that he and his family and millions of other immigrants went through.”

Commenting on Sheetrit’s mocking of descendents of the lost ten Jewish tribes, Freund alleged that Sheetrit has refused to study the issue or even meet with members of communities such as the Bnei Menashe, who have been converting and moving to Israel from northeast India. “Sheetrit is, unfortunately, exploiting recent news reports about the discovery of neo-Nazis among recent immigrants to Israel as an excuse to keep out other unrelated groups that sincerely want to tie their fate with the people of Israel. These are apples and oranges. One has absolutely nothing to do with the other.”

Freund went one step further: “Mr. Sheetrit has no place serving in the government of a Zionist Jewish state There is a strong element of racism and ignorance that runs through Mr. Sheetrit’s thinking on this issue. A person’s country of origin or the color of their skin has nothing whatsoever to do with their Jewish identity – nor should it. The return to Zion is a Divine process that is greater than any one man or institution. And no one, not even a minister in the cabinet, can stand in its way. The return of the Bnei Menashe to Israel can and will continue."

Israel's Chief Rabbinate recognized the Bnei Menashe as "Descendants of Israel" in March, 2005 and sent a a beit din (rabbinical court) on its behalf to the region to formally convert them to Judaism.

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