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Friday, February 19, 2010

Lori: Practicing what was preached

Once upon a time Malkah posted a clip from Aish Hatorah's Lori Platanik where she praised her students for making Aliyah, but felt that was only possible because she, personally, stayed behind in America. So as much as she wanted to make Aliyah, she was needed where she was in D.C.

Yechiel (Jonny) posted a followup post where Rabbi Pinchas Winston rebuts that argument. The Rabbi explains that it's not her personally that is needed in D.C. but her role. And that Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, explains, just like Hashem decided the role was needed and then filled that role with her - if she made Aliyah Hashem will find someone else to fill that role, if that role was indeed still needed. He speaks from the experience of his very own Aliyah when he asked his Rosh HaYeshiva for advice.

Well Rebbetzin Platanik just spoke about Aliyah again. She remarks how it's hypocritical to teach our children how important Eretz Yisrael is but get upset at them when they decide to make Aliyah. An excellent point and a very good watch.

Check it out above!

I just wonder if it's also hypocritical to teach our children about the importance of Eretz Yisrael, not get upset when they make Aliyah, but still not make Aliyah yourself?

At Kumah, we hope to greet Lori and everyone else in the airport when they make Aliyah very soon! Amen!

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Crisis Spurs Migration to Israel

By SARA TOTH STUB of the Wall Street Journal

JERUSALEM -- Immigration into Israel and the Palestinian West Bank is surging after the financial crisis and economic downturn evaporated jobs elsewhere.

After years of a brain drain from the region, and despite the lack of a peace settlement, by the end of this month about 4,000 North American Jews will have immigrated to Israel this year, an increase of 33% over 2008 and the most in one year since 1973, according to Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization that oversees and assists with immigration to Israel from North America.

Immigrants to Israel often have a longstanding desire to move, but the economic crisis has pushed them to make the jump this year, said Danny Oberman, executive vice president of Israel operations for Nefesh B'Nefesh. "The economy has a lot to do with it," Mr. Oberman said.

The crisis is also having an impact on the West Bank, which is seeing the return of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly from the Persian Gulf, looking for work as the economy there sours. The West Bank economy -- separate from Israel's -- is expected to grow 5% in 2009.

No official figures are available yet for how many Palestinians have made the move, but the International Monetary Fund is planning to study the issue over the next month.

"The economic crisis worked to our advantage," said Bashar al-Masry, a Palestinian real-estate developer overseeing an $800 million project to build a new Palestinian city north of Ramallah. "We're seeing more and more people willing to come back."

Amjad Sandoka, 36 years old, a civil engineer from Jerusalem, said he went to work in Dubai seven years ago, but came back in October and found a job in Ramallah. He took a job in the West Bank because he figured he would likely lose his Dubai post, after watching hundreds of people around him being let go.

"I started to feel the crisis there; on the other hand, I heard there was lots of work in the West Bank," Mr. Sandoka said.
More on Israel

Israel's economy, fueled mainly by the software, biomedical, weapons-manufacturing and diamond sectors, has grown at least 4% a year from 2004 to 2008. And Israel has a lower unemployment rate than the U.S., at 7.8%, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, next to 10.2% in October in the U.S. The Bank of Israel has raised interest rates twice since August, to its current level of 1%, at a time when banks around the world are cutting rates or leaving them low.

Israel also has almost no exposure to Dubai debt because the Arab League boycott prevents Israelis from investing there. That boycott also lessens the impact the Dubai crisis might normally have had on Israeli exports.

Palestinian Minister of National Economy Hassan Abu-Libdeh cautions that the Palestinian economy might ultimately suffer from the downturn in Dubai, because many Palestinian families rely on remittances sent from relatives working there. Oussama Kanaan, IMF representative in the West Bank and Gaza, said Palestinian remittances made up 10% of Palestinian gross domestic product in 2008. Income from Palestinians working in Israel makes up an additional 12% of Palestinian GDP.

Any impact of lower remittances would most likely be softened if those workers find work in the West Bank. With a building boom under way in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities, fueled partly by international aid money totaling $1.7 billion in 2008, many returning from Dubai are finding jobs.

In Israel, North American immigrants are making significant contributions to the economy, according to a recent study by consulting firm Deloitte Information Technologies Israel Ltd. U.S. immigrants who came between 2002 and 2008 have contributed directly 989 million shekels ($262 million) to the Israeli economy, the study said.

Zumi Brody immigrated to Israel with his wife and four young children in August. Mr. Brody, a vice president of a bank, said he had to sell his home in St. Louis for less than what he paid for it to make the move, but paying at least $10,000 per child to attend Jewish day school would have been burdensome. In Israel, his children can attend a state-funded school and still learn Hebrew and Jewish studies.

The increase in immigration from America also shows a change in the image and economy of Israel. The country is in the process of entering the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and has been upgraded from a developing to a developed economy, said Glenn Yago, an economist at the Milken Institute in Jerusalem.

This wave of American immigration suggests that Israel is shifting "from its primary, historical role as a refuge of last resort to a human- and financial-capital destination of first resort," Mr. Yago said.

Separately, on Wednesday, Israeli police arrested the mayor of a West Bank Jewish settlement after protesters blocked security forces from entering the community to enforce a construction freeze, the Associated Press reported. The showdown was the most serious incident of settler unrest since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week announced the 10-month building freeze, which bars the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Video: Kosherfest with Yishai and Malkah

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Land and the Daf #1: Olive Oil

Last year I joined up with countless others on the noble project of learning Daf Yomi. We learn a daf, two side of a page, of Gemara (Talmid) every day. The beauty of this is you can discuss what you are learning with Jews all over the world no matter where you go since everyone learns the same thing at the same time.

One of the things I noticed right away was how many times the subject matter somehow relates to living in Eretz Yisrael. Sometimes the connection is quite obvious and jumps out of the page and other times it's more subtle but it’s still there. I thought it might be nice to share some of these thoughts as I came across them.

In today's daf for example (on B.B. 67B) the Mishna discusses what is included in the sale of an olive oil factory if nothing was explicitly specified. The Mishna actually uses very mysterious terms like “the sea” and “the maidens.” When learning this difficult Mishna I actually understood it a lot better today, now that I live in Israel than I would have before I made Aliyah.

The reason is because Yishai was nice enough to show me an ancient olive oil factory that was discovered right behind his home in Beit El. Actually there are many of these ancient olive presses all over Israel. Having become familiar with that it was a lot easier to understand all the parts of the press the Mishna is describing.

It’s very easy to learn Gemara, Mishnayos or even Chumish in America and to feel completely disconnected from the subject matter as if it’s only theoretical and not “real.” However when you live here in Israel the Torah really comes to life. I can't imagine how anyone that loves Torah wouldn't want to live in the land of the Torah.

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Monday, September 07, 2009

The Jerusalem Gap

Well, it had to happen. For better or for worse Jerusalem now boasts her very own GAP store. (And Baby GAP too!) Now the pros and cons of this development can be easily debated and I’m sure they will be (comment away). But there is one thing people should be careful not to say: “Jerusalem now has everything.”

Indeed there is a “gap” between those that believe bringing this large American cooperation is the pinnacle of Zionism and those that pray for a renewed Zionist spirit, which through the same sort of effort used to produce this accomplishment can bring the third Beit Hamikdash to Jerusalem as well.

In the meantime, happy shopping! It’ll be good for the economy.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Talking with Mike Huckabee about Israel

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going Home

If you live in Jerusalem you may have noticed some extra Nesher Airport Taxi vans whizzing around the city this week. And many of the streets around town are missing something uniquely Jerusalem.

That's because it's that time of year again. Time when all the yeshiva guys and seminary gals have finished "their year" and are all set to head "home."

Some will come back for a second or third year. Some will even be on a Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah flight this summer. (Studying at Bar Ilan instead of YU/Stern is becoming a hot trend!) But some, won't.

It's an interesting thing, that year. I have some of the fondest memories of my life from my year and it certainly is a life changing experience. A great many students are so impressed by Eretz Yisrael while they are here that they decide to seriously consider moving here (even in the places that aren't pushing Aliyah and certainly in the ones that are.) I hear students that I know never dreamed of Aliyah say things like "If I made Aliyah I would live over here." That's a huge step.

The best advice I can offer to those so many students that have been inspired this year is not to wait! If you have a plan - like studying for a degree at Bar Ilan - stay here or come back with NBN this summer. And if your plan calls for a brief stop over in Chutz L'Aretz (mine did) then make sure the keep the flame alive because if there is one thing Golus is great at it's burning out that Aliyah flame. If you don't actively keep the dream of Aliyah alive it will quickly change from a goal to "a nice thing to maybe do one day" and later in some cases Israel will become "a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there."

So how do you keep that flame alive? Get involved. Many colleges already have Aliyah clubs - join them! In my case the Aliyah Club at my college was defunct so I restarted it myself. Then I joined Kumah. And I made sure to visit Israel every free chance I got! As long as you keep that connection with Eretz Yisrael alive your dream of Aliyah will come true. And then you'll finally really go Home!

We'll greet you at the airport!

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Temple's Response To Obama

Thursday, June 04, 2009

President Obama

Dear Yishai,
I am truly sorry about the stance Pres. Obama has taken. I did not like the path the Bush administration took either. What I truly believe is the US State Department sets the path and it is up to the president how strongly they push. In my heart I knew Pres. Obama would be more ruthless. The church he attended for 20 years was obviously anti-semetic. As biblically promised the US is being cursed. We are cursing G-d's Chosen and trying to force them to give up their inheritance. Just stay strong and remember Leviticus chapter 25 starting in verse 23 the Land of Israel belongs to G-d and is not yours to give away...

The Bible is full of promises to you regarding the Land. My hearts desire is to encourage more Jews to make aliyah. Also to encourage Christians to encourage G-d's Chosen to be strong. Their return to eretz Israel is all a part of G-d's redemptive plan. The quicker we get this show on the road the quicker we will see the Meshiach. I am saddened to see what is happening to the USA. Last week I attended my grandson's High School Graduation. When the "Color Guard" marched in, Ralph and I were amongst the few that stood. I found myself grieving. Grieving for the "Norman Rockwell" country that I grew up in that is nowhere to be seen today. Pres. Obama is destroying this country daily. A man who bows to the King of Saudi Arabia will do so again. I am sure their greeting this week will be done outside the view of cameras. I do believe the demise of the USA is rapidly coming upon us.

Sometimes it scares me to see what is ahead of us. What I do know is my belief in G-d and His written words are a comfort to me. I pray HaShem will see fit to allow me to make more trips to His Land to work on the water park in Kdumim. That this will continue until I take my last breath or the Meshaich comes. Many of us at Fellowship are doing our best to encourage PM Netanyahu to stand up against the nations including the US. Also trying to impress upon Pres. Obama and our Washington representatives the importance to side with Israel and G-d and not with allah. I am afraid our words are falling on deaf ears. What I do know is our prayers are not falling on deaf ears. Remain strong and stand tall on every hilltop in Judea and Samaria. You have a friend in the highest of places. Remember one thing, those of the Jewish faith in Israel are the only people in the world to have G-d on their side.
Shalom, Geri

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fire From Sinai

If you were some sort of head of State, and you decided to pay an official visit to Israel on say, Lag B’Omer, you would probably return home and tell people, “it's a beautiful land, but the locals there, those Jews, they sure are a bunch of pyromaniacs!”

I’ve written before about how in America I used to think Lag B’Omer was about softball. After all the softball is symbolic of Torah and the light that shines forth from it symbolizes the light that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai brought to the world by authoring the holy Zohar. Now, however, I know that using bonfires in place of softballs fit the symbolism much more aptly.

This year I didn’t go to Har Meron. Instead, I hung out in Jerusalem. What struck me the most about last night, was not how many fires there were around the city, in every park, and open lot, but the absolute breadth of the types of people enjoying them. From the most charedi godal hador down to the most secular Jew that never even heard of the Zohar, let alone Rashbi, all were singing and smiling at a huge bonfire somewhere in the country.

And that got me thinking. Even if one isn’t particularly religious, just by living in the holy land of ours some religion is going to rub off on them. Take Purim as another example. Every single eight year old in this country - from ultra-secular to ultra-religious - dresses up for Purim and could likely relate to you the entire Purim story. This is not the case in America, where many secular Jews there never heard of Purim.

I came across an interesting Rashi on this week’s Parsha. Perhaps the most commonly found verse in the Torah is “And G-d spoke to Moshe saying.” This week the Parsha opens with an interesting variation. “And G-d spoke to Moshe, on Mount Sinai, saying.” Rashi asks, “Why here?” Hashem said all of the Torah to Moshe on Sinai! Why is only this one spot, which discusses the laws of Shmittah (the Sabbatical year) singled out?

Without going into depth (see it inside for details) Rashi answers that we could learn out from here that all commandments with all the details and fine points they involve, were taught on Har Sinai and completely repeated with full details by Moshe “at the Plains of Moab.”

A question that came to me is that the Torah could still have applied the words “on Mount Sinai” to any other commandment in the Torah and we would have been able to come to the same conclusion. Why did it specifically choose the commandment of Shmittah?

Shmittah is an example of something, even the most religious Jews living in America know very little about. It’s something that simply doesn’t apply there and so not much effort is spent studying it. The Talmid Bavli (which was written in Babylonia) doesn’t even have a tractate on it. Whether one was written but lost or never written is debated but the reason for either scenario would simply be because those laws “didn’t apply” to them. (Incidentally, the Talmid Yerushalmi written in the Land of Israel does contain a tractate on the laws of Shmittah.)

Two years ago, I remember being terrified by the upcoming Shmittah year, which I knew nothing about! I attended shiur after shiur trying to get up to speed on what all the laws are (and there are many of them!) The shiurim were all very heavily attended which demonstrated that lots of people felt the same way. Now that we have to keep these laws we should learn what they are.

And now we can understand why Hashem chose this commandment out of all the others to apply the words “on Mount Sinai.” First, this commandment was given to us by G-d via Moshe on Har Sinai just like all the other ones. There is no reason not to be studying it regardless of where you are living. Don’t forget about it! And second, just like all the other commandments, this one, was also given on Har Sinai and it’s one that you should be keeping too. And if the only way to keep it is by living in the Land of Israel, then what are you waiting for?

Make Aliyah!

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Stephen Frees His Jews

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Zionist Destiny and the End of the Exile

Jewish Population Inside and Outside Israel During the Last Century by Yehezkel Laing

As we look around us we see the world economy taking a nosedive which financial experts say may be unprecedented. At the same time we see the totalitarian regime of Iran approaching the creation of a nuclear bomb. The question is why are these and other cataclysmic events happening davka now?

It appears we are approaching a critical moment in the history of the Jewish people. For almost two thousand years little changed for the Jewish people regarding national independence. We lived scattered all over the world, subject to the whims and mercies of our host nations. However, over the course of less than a century we have seen the rapid decline of the exile and the growing influence of the State of Israel. Today the number of Jews in the diaspora is one third of what it was only 70 years ago.

On the other hand the number of Jews in Israel is rapidly approaching 6 million. Currently there are about 5.7 million Jews in the Jewish homeland. Every year, due to births and aliya, there are 100,000 more Jews in Israel and every year, due to deaths and assimilation, there are 100,000 less Jews in the Diaspora. At the current rate, in a little over three years time, the State of Israel will hold the majority of the Jews in the world – that is the Jewish people will have officially “returned home”. Coincidentally we also see that those who contest Jewish national independence are reaching their greatest opposition as they instinctively realize the significance of the moment.

Jews typically wield disproportional influence to their numbers. The countries which were strongest 30 years ago were the two world super powers, the Soviet Union and the US. Similarly, the two countries which contained the most Jews 30 years ago were the Soviet Union and the US. When the Jews left Russia the country collapsed and it is no longer considered a super power. In the past couple of years the State of Israel surpassed the US regarding size of Jewish population. Coincidentally we see the United States economy has begun to implode.

The Jewish Bible tells us that one day God will gather in His People. “Therefore say, 'So says the Lord GOD, ‘I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.'” (Ezekiel 11:17). While the present situation presents us with many great challenges we should always remember how lucky we are to be able to witness the fulfillment of this great prophecy. How lucky we are to be able to witness the Redemption.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Financial Crisis Leading to Immigration Surge from West"

"Advocacy groups: Financial crisis leading to immigration surge from West" by Raphael Ahren of Haaretz

The financial crisis has "drastically" increased Western Jews' interest in immigrating to Israel, several immigration advocacy groups said this week. It is not clear whether the additional inquiries will translate into actual immigrants, the groups emphasized, yet they are bracing themselves for unprecedented numbers of new arrivals this summer. However, these predictions meet a measure of academic skepticism.

"Literally all over the world, we have registered a significantly higher interest," said Noga Maliniak, the director of the Jewish Agency's aliyah division. "Some of our offices received double the amount of inquiries." Nefesh B'Nefesh, which assists British and North American immigrants, expressed similar experiences. During the period from September 1 until December 31, 2008 - the first four months of the crisis - NBN's call center recorded 2,947 inquires, while during the same period in 2007 only 1,398 people called, an increase of 111 percent. Downloads of immigration applications more than doubled from 300 in February 2008 to 750 last month.

"We won't be able to tell whether this dramatic surge in interest will translate into real numbers of immigrants before July or August, when people actually arrive," said Danny Oberman, NBN's executive vice president of Israeli operations. "It is difficult to make an exact prediction, but there will definitely be a huge increase in aliyah."

"The economic crisis has had a tremendous effect on aliyah," another NBN spokesperson told Anglo File. "It has shaken Diaspora Jewry and caused aliyah-minded individuals to reconsider their time line. We have seen an increase in the number of people who are attending our pre-aliyah seminars, workshops and one-on-one meetings who have mentioned that the economic crisis has led them to expedite their plans."

Oberman speaks of three population groups driven by the current economic climate to consider aliyah: College graduates and young couples who cannot find a job and are no longer able to keep up with the cost of living, as well as finance, marketing and high tech professionals who are either laid off or perceive dim financial prospects. "Above all, the financial crisis causes people to focus on their values," he added. "It's dramatically shaking up people's thoughts on how and where they see themselves."

Yishai Fleisher, the founder of pro-aliyah group Kumah, also expects the number of Western immigrants to rise. He attributes this trend not only to the economic downturn but also to "a lessening of social comfort for American Jews through the advent of the Muslim influx into the U.S., the rise of the Obama administration and scandals such as [the multi-billion dollar swindle committed by Bernie] Madoff."

Fleisher added that he sees young Jews coming in particular. "They are in it for the romance," he said. "Israel provides a life of challenge and an adventure, and that is why almost all NBN flights have young, cool college kids on board."

But not everybody agrees with these predictions. Sociologist Chaim Waxman, a former Jewish studies professor at Rutgers, told Anglo File that he suspects the economic situation to have a negative effect on Western aliyah. "This is in contrast to what some people in the Jewish Agency and other places are expecting, but I think they're very wrong," he said. "Their rationale is that when people are having difficulties they would be more likely to make aliyah, because the economic situation seems to be better here - I am sorry, I just don't see it. The fact of the matter is: the areas where potential [immigrants] work in are especially suffering here."

Waxman, who himself recently made aliyah, said he "love[s] the work that NBN does" but that he has never been able to substantiate its predictions. "Their data is usually much higher than that coming from the Central Bureau of Statistics or any place else."

He added, however, that the financial crunch could potentially draw Israelis living abroad back home. "If the situation is equally bad here and there, many of them might come back," Waxman said. "People prefer the place they are used to, so Israelis might come home but American Jews will probably stay where they are."

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Big Project

Dear Yishai,

This was the response from my friend who moved to New Jersey from Tiverya to your last Blog post... He doesn't sound too impressed....and perhaps he brings up a good point.

"Yes, there are yordim (people who leave Israel) and people who do not make it and I am sure they do their best to discredit the Big Project "

For lack of a better term... words of a pompous fool...

The big project is Hashem and attaching to Hashem, not sacrificing your children and well-being for fulfilling Zionist agenda (not Hashem's aganeda per se)...

Many people have experienced Israel for the good, but just as many have ruined their family by believeing that we must sacrifice everything (including our children!) for the propaganda that right now the only place a Jew can be a Jew is in Israel.

Its not that we didnt "make it" in Israel, its that we made a choice regarding what would be best for our family...


Yishai responds: Sounds pretty angry. And I am sure he had some tough times. But... what a joke... what did he think I meant by the Big Project? The State of Israel is NOTHING BUT A KLI, a vessel, for the G-d's plan to ingather the exiles, the return us to Torah, and to build the Beit Hamikdash - that is the Big Project!

He writes: "Its not that we didnt "make it" in Israel, its that we made a choice regarding what would be best for our family..." Yes, he did what is best for his family, but not best for Hashem or the Jewish people - he is thinking about himself and that is ok, but there is a national calling right now and national thinking is what is needed.

(By the way, why did he move to Tveria - a totally un-American place with no people like him - setting himself up for failure??) In any case, setting up your children in Eretz Yisrael is best for them in the long run.

He also wrote: "Many people have experienced Israel for the good, but just as many have ruined their family by believing that we must sacrifice everything (including our children!) for the propaganda that right now the only place a Jew can be a Jew is in Israel."

Just as many? I don't think so. I think he would like to think so. But absolute numbers speak the whole story: in the 70's there were 3 million Jews here, now there are almost 6 million - doubles in 40 years. Can American Jewry say that? No. The future is here, and ask any economist and he will tell you, the future is not in America. Certainly for a G-d fearing Yid! A Jew can be a Jew anywhere - but not a fullfilled Jew... Just ask Moses what he would have chosen...

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jew Hatred and Fear

Shalom Yishai,

Sorry I haven't written in a while as I was busy studying for my actuary exam. Which I failed twice. I am going to give it one last change on May 21...

Yishai: I know you, and I know how smart you are. So your failure in this test can only mean one of two things: 1. This is not the career that Hashem has in mind for you - He may want you to be a great Rabbi, a great teacher, or a high-tech entrepreneur. Sometimes, when things don't go easily it is a sign that you need not push on this door. On the other hand, the common saying is 'if at first you don't succeed, try try again' and also 'three times a charm.' I wish you much success, but pray that Hashem will take you on a good direction - I think He is sending you a sign of some kind.

The only time I can really listen to you is when my real estate appraisal job is busy which it has been lately...I still really enjoy your show and get tremendous inspiration (and information)..but I must say stick to your old plan of encouraging Aliya because it is the right thing to do. At least in America, I have not felt or heard anyone talk about the slightest uptick in Jew hatred (notice I am not calling it Anti-Semitism), not to say that couldn't change on a dime. But the economy seems to be tanking and the Jews are suffering with the rest of them, but thank G-d Jew directed hatred hasn't changed. You seem to be trying to scare Americans into making aliyah "or else" the baddies will come get you. Stick to the positive message of choosing to move...

Yishai: I have been speaking of the positive reasons for making Aliyah for the last 10 years and I will always continue to do so. This is because the light of Israel is no propaganda tool. Living in in the Land of Israel is a great privilege, while building the State of Israel is the greatest project of the Jewish people in 2000 years. I have also refrained from talking about Israel-Jew-Hate for the last many years because I firmly believed that it was not palpable to most American Jews, and not even to most Jews of the Western Diaspora. However, things have changed, and Jew-hate has factually risen throughout the whole world including America. Talking about the rising levels of Jew-hate as a reason for Aliyah is not a propaganda tool or a PR tactic - it is simply a reality. Believe me, I wish it weren't so, and that all Jews would come home because they too would see the light and choose to be close to G-d. But the way it has always worked for the Jews is simple: either by hook or by crook - either the Jews choose Israel because of a higher vision, or the Jew-haters will boot them out. As a commentator and a broadcaster it is my duty to warn of the dangers and the shifts in society. I will continue to talk-up the light of Israel, but a dark cloud looms and I will keep calling them as I see them.

On a personal note, I feel as though aliyah is further and further away from me as being an actuary looks like it may not happen. I am stuck. NBN says not to change careers and move to a new country at the same time as that is a recipe for disaster (besides my wife would never go for that, she needs me to at least have a plan of how I will provide for her). So the plan is to get a job here that I could support a family with over there first, then make aliyah. Good luck finding that... I would love to work in media and do what I can to push our shared agendas. But I have no resume, no formal training, no education for anything of that sort. I get very frustrated hearing you say all I have to do is log on to ELAL with my credit card and fly to the land of milk and honey and all my problems will go away. You make it sound so easy...One of my best friends just moved back with his wife and 3 kids from Tiberius to Fair Lawn after having moved there in 2004 ( though he never was a the Zionist type), but still no one wants to move 9000 miles with three young kids.. Not to mention all the Israeli's coming to my shul looking for handouts....

Yishai: Faith and stubbornness, patience and prayer - these are your weapons. The Land of Israel is acquired through hardships but they are surmountable. Yes, there are yordim (people who leave Israel) and people who do not make it and I am sure they do their best to discredit the Big Project - but... there are almost 6 million Jews here, immigrants, Israelis, and the rest, who are eeking out a living and making it. It is not a fairy tale, but it is living the dream. When I talk about logging on to ELAL with your credit card and flying to the land of milk and honey I am talking about the ease with which you can break out of the slavery of the Exile in your mind. Bottom line is that you know that Israel is home - you want to live a full Jewish life with proper Shabbat, holidays, and Jewish education that is affordable and on a high level - you want to be close to Jerusalem!

You will make it here in the Land because you want it more than anything, because you will not leave this place no matter what, because America is not an option, because you are madly madly in love with this thing called Yiddishkyte, Torah, Hashem, EretzYisrael, and Mashiach. Clearly, the dark forces are trying to stop you from coming here - you have a high soul and you will make Hashem very happy when you bring your family Home to Him. You will find a sustenance, because He Who makes money is the Ultimate Provider. Simply put - don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid! You may not have an immediate job waiting for you in Israel - but you certainly have a mission...

Keep up the good work and regards to your wife,

Yishai: All the blessings on you dear brother. I am looking forward to seeing you get off the plane and greeting you with a big hug. I pray that day will come soon.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Ignorance Really is Bliss

Everyone has their pleasure buttons. For some it's cigarettes, for others that slice of chocolate cake on the table. Me? I'm a news and politics junkie. If left to my own devices I would spend all day online reading news articles and blogs, and when I ran out of those I would go on Wikipedia and look up everything I had read about. Recently I took on a resolution (yes it was around New Years, no it wasn't for New Years) to cut down on my media consumption. It was inspired when I went out to dinner with a few of my frummie friends, most of which were serious talmidei chachamim in their own right. Yet a little ways into the night I found us discussing things like electric cars and George Bush. I thought silently to myself, "If we were having this discussion ten years ago it would probably include something about Bill Clinton and maybe the internet or G-d knows what. Yet I could look back on that conversation today and the content would be meaningless for me. So too I could look back on this current conversation 10 years from now and it would be equally meaningless. I was sitting here with Torah learners who could be imparting upon me and each other thoughts of Torah which, Torah being eternal, would be just as enlightening and relevant 10 years into the future as right now. Indeed, Torah thoughts and insights are like a fine wine, as you come to understand the insight better through life experience it often improves with age.

Upon this realization I decided that I spend to much of my time concerning my brainwaves with things that, while interesting or fun to talk about, really have no bearing in the grand scheme of things and therefore I needed to trim some of the intellectual fat. There's a lot of stuff going on in the world, and probably 90% of it has absolutely nothing to do with my day to day life. While the thought of giving up all news was a little to intimidating, I decided from now on Bli Neder (that's a BIG bli neder!) I would try to stop reading non-Jewish and non-Israel related news websites. This was an especially tough move for me because of the main English language Jewish news sites, I find Haaretz way too leftist and JPost mildly too liberal and often too bland. Though I get the feeling Ynet is somewhat anti-religious I'm keeping them around (for now) because they usually have up to the moment updates of what is going on in Israel and of course there's always good ole' Arutz Sheva. Plus I've developed a deeper appreciation of Rabbi Lazer Brody's "Lazer Beams" of which I was already a big fan.

So how has it been? Well first of all it's interesting how when one tries to go up a level the Sitra Achra combats them with extra challenges to block the path. On day one of this new resolution the country went to war in Gaza. So I had a few peaks at the Drudge Report but other than that I'm proud to say I've been pretty good about it for the past couple of weeks. And you know what? It feels great! I can actually see extra time in my day that I'm spending in much more fulfilling ways and while I'm still keeping informed of issues facing the Jewish people, I no longer carry the weight of the entire world on my shoulders. I did take a quick peak again a day or two ago and was shocked at two things: A)How much is going on in America and the world I didn't know about (apparently some miracle jet crashed into the Hudson without anyone dieing and America is going to have a new president tomorrow or something like that... who knew?) and B)How I suddenly could care less about all these things I was missing out on knowing about- their importance suddenly became non-existent, as if they weren't real headlines but just some irrelevant fiction story written by an author nobody has ever heard of. For anyone thinking of trying this I really recommend it. If your as into the news as I am then you might have to get rid of things in stages but I've found the age-old adage really is true... ignorance turned out to be bliss after all. And besides- you've always got Kumah to read!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Working To Bring Redemption Safely

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Those who don't learn from history...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Are the Dominoes Lining Up?

Many people often speak of doomsday prophecies involving horrible fates awaiting the Jews of America. Skeptics answer that such things as befell our people in past countries of residence would never happen in such an accepting place as America which has been better for the Jews than any other country in history (in some cases it could even be argued America is better to its Jews than the modern state of Israel). To this the Doomsdayers counter that the same was said of Germany at the turn of the century, and that the German Jews would never in a million years have seen something like the Shoah coming. Just like by Germany, so too by America (G-d forbid) they say. And just as German anti-Semitism is historically said to have been enabled by great financial hardships being blamed on the Jewish populace, often the Doomsdayers predict that all it would take in America for a similar scenario to play out would be a hard enough financial crisis to hit the USA.

Could the current economic downturn be just the conditions that these prophecies were waiting for? I, for one, am not sure. But I will say this- if ever a scenario were to prove those who made these predictions right, I think this could be the one. Not only are the leading corporations of industry after industry in America failing to keep their heads above water and requesting a share in the government bailout (Al tikra "bailout", elah "handout"), but following the recent headlines Joe anti-Semite could most certainly make an argument blaming it all on the Jews which could be accepted by his average like-minded bigot (or maybe even desperate average American?). Why is this? After the mortgage issue had been looming for quite some time, the world finally woke up to the seriousness of the situation with the headline that Lehman Brothers had gone under. What could have instantly come to the minds of many? "Lehman" Brothers equals Jewish... Lehman Brothers going under somehow equals Jews sabotaging the economy. Now add on to that the latest economic debacle to hit the US economy- a Jewish investor getting caught in possibly the biggest fraud case involving a single person in history, one involving upwards of 50 billion dollars. To add an even more interesting twist, apparently a bulk of his investors comprised some of the top money holders of the American East Coast Jewish scene. So what can be seen so far is that Hashem has arranged it that the wealthy Jews of America are already losing their assets in a big way. What remains to be seen is whether suspicious headlines like this will keep showing up in the news, and if so whether or not Jew-haters will use it as fodder for their propaganda (as well as how well received it will be by the American public). Like I said, I don't want to be shouting that this is for sure doom and gloom, but if ever the Doomsdayers' theories were able to be put to the test, this looks like it's shaping up to to be the chance.

$50 billion at stake after Wall St broker Bernard Madoff is arrested over ‘world’s biggest swindle’

Tim Reid in Washington

Some of America’s wealthiest socialites were facing ruin last night after the arrest of a Wall Street big hitter accused of the largest investor swindle perpetrated by one man.

Shock and panic spread through the country clubs of Palm Beach and Long Island after Bernard Madoff, a trading powerbroker for more than four decades, allegedly confessed to a fraud that will cost his wealthy investors at least $50 billion – perhaps the largest swindle in Wall Street history.

Mr Madoff, 70, a former Nasdaq stock chairman, was apparently turned in by his two sons and arrested on Thursday morning at his Manhattan apartment by the FBI. Andrew Calamari, a senior enforcement official at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, described the scheme as “a stunning fraud that appears to be of epic proportions”.

The FBI’s criminal complaint states that when two federal agents arrived at Mr Madoff’s apartment, he told them: “There is no innocent explanation.” The agents say that he told them “he paid investors with money that wasn’t there”, that he was “broke” and that he expected to go to jail.

Many of his investors came from the enormously wealthy enclaves of Palm Beach, Florida and Long Island, New York, where people had invested billions in Mr Madoff’s firm for decades. He was a fixture on the Palm Beach social scene, and was a member of some of its most exclusive clubs, including the Palm Beach Country Club and Boca Rio Golf Club, where he drummed up much of his business.

The FBI claims that three senior employees of Mr Madoff’s investment firm turned up at his apartment on Wednesday to ask questions about the company’s solvency. Two of them are believed to be his sons, Andrew and Mark, who have worked for their father for two decades.

Mr Madoff told them that he was “finished”, that he had “absolutely nothing”, and that “it’s all just one big lie”. He said the investment arm of his firm was “basically a giant Ponzi scheme”, and that it had been insolvent for years.

A Ponzi scheme, named after the swindler Charles Ponzi, is a fraudulent investment operation that pays abnormally high returns to investors out of money put into the scheme by subsequent investors, rather than from real profits generated by share trading.

The FBI complaint states that Mr Madoff told his sons that he believed the losses from his scheme could exceed $50 billion. If that is the case, his fraud would be far greater than past Ponzi schemes and easily the greatest swindle blamed on a single individual.

There has been scepticism for years on Wall Street over how Mr Madoff managed to pay such consistently high returns. Ponzi schemes inevitably collapse, and Mr Madoff found himself to be no exception. This month, clients asked for $7 billion to be returned, the FBI says.

Mr Madoff ran the scheme separately from his main business and his sons had no involvement in it.

Mr Madoff has been charged with a single count of securities fraud. He declined to enter a plea in Manhattan’s US District Court and was released on $10 million bail. He faces up to 20 years in jail and a $5 million fine if convicted. His lawyer, Dan Horwitz, said that his client was “a person of integrity. He intends to fight to get through this unfortunate event.”

One investor told The Wall Street Journal: “This is going to kill so many people. It’s absolutely awful.” Ira Roth, from New Jersey, said that his family had $1 million invested, and that he was in a state of panic.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama In The Torah Codes

Okay, here we go. Yes, whether you believe in the Torah Codes or not, this one is interesting. Or not. Well let's just say it (since it's already spreading all over the blogosphere.)

The name Obama spelled אובאמה appears exactly two times in all of Tanach having a 7 letter skip forward pattern. (A 7 skip forward pattern is considered the most significant kind in Bible Code land.)

The first place is in Yermiyahu 30:10-11. Yermiyahu 46:27-28. (See "Update" at bottom.)

This is how it reads:

וְאַתָּה אַל תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם יְקֹוָק וְאַל תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁיעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק וְאֶת זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם וְשָׁב יַעֲקוֹב וְשָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד: אַתָּה אַל תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם יְקֹוָק כִּי אִתְּךָ אָנִי כִּי אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדַּחְתִּיךָ שָׁמָּה וְאֹתְךָ לֹא אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה וְיִסַּרְתִּיךָ לַמִּשְׁפָּט וְנַקֵּה לֹא אֲנַקֶּךָּ

This is how it translates:

10 27 Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the L-RD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.
11 28 For I am with thee, saith the L-RD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

Okay, so it sounds like now is a good time to make Aliyah. Shall we go on to the second place it's found?

The second place is in Yechezkel 38:2-3.

It reads:

בֶּן אָדָם שִׂים פָּנֶיךָ אֶל גּוֹג אֶרֶץ הַמָּגוֹג נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ מֶשֶׁךְ וְתֻבָל וְהִנָּבֵא עָלָיו: וְאָמַרְתָּ כֹּה אָמַר אֲדֹנָי י-ה-וִה הִנְנִי אֵלֶיךָ גּוֹג נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ מֶשֶׁךְ וְתֻבָל

Which translates as:

2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him
3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign L-RD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.

Okay, so maybe not only is it a good time to make Aliyah... but you better make it quick!

This is the code that is being emailed around and what was posted here.

Okay - now for the debunking part. The first code simply doesn't work unless you spell Yaakov with a vav - which we don't. There are only 6 letters skipped between the second letter and the third letter. So that's out... but the second code still works... and amazingly the code starts on the letter aleph of the word
נְשִׂיא which besides meaning prince also means President!

Gil, is Obama Gog?

UPDATE: The site I linked corrected their error. It seems there are two places in
Yermiyahu where almost identical verses appear. There is one difference. The second time Yaakov, for some reason is indeed spelled with an extra vav. And that extra letter does allow the 7 letter skipping to spell out Obama. I have corrected the error above.

Hatip: Moshi

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Obama Roasts Emanuel in 2005 + Abunimah Worried

Monday, November 03, 2008

Okay, Gil, Now For My Prediction

The winner of the 2008 election for the next United States President will be none other than G-d, himself. (No, wise guy, I don’t mean Obama!) It will be our father in Heaven. See, we here at Kumah have a tradition of not endorsing any candidates for U.S. President.

Why? Don’t we feel that one candidate is far better for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people in general, than the other? Of course we do. Don’t we feel that one candidate’s rise to power will actually put Jewish lives at danger? It may sound like hyperbolic talk, but frankly, yes. Do we feel that every Jew has to do everything he or she can to prevent a calamity from befalling us? Certainly.

But that’s not our focus. Our focus is getting the Jewish people to return Home. Furthermore, we also realize one important reality. Every occurrence in life, whether a large world event or the smallest personal incident, is completely in G-d’s hands and more importantly, everything, large or small, that G-d orchestrates in his world is for the best. Period.

Make no mistake. G-d still demands we do our best to influence his world in the way we think will lead to the best outcome. But all the while we must acknowledge that G-d is in the driver’s seat. And that is a good thing.

So if one candidate is more of a catalyst for Aliyah. So be it. And if the other helps Israel defend herself, excellent. Whatever G-d decides is best. Nevertheless, one truth remains. The great Shofer is sounding calling Jews from around the world to return to the land of our heritage. And that Shofer will not stop sounding regardless of who G-d chooses to elect on Tuesday night.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Stock Plunge Could Raise Aliyah

MK Eliyahu Gabbai sent a letter Monday to Israel's Minister of Absorption Eli Aflalo, Chairman of the Absorption Committee Michael Nudelman, and Chairman of the Jewish Agency Ze'ev Bielski to convene a discussion of the committee to prepare for a possible wave of Olim (immigrants to Israel) from the United States because of the global financial crisis.

MK Gabi warned that the global crisis strengthens the need to stress Aliyah as a central issue, and to prepare accordingly. He cited disturbing reports from the Anti-Defamation League about increasing anti-Semitism that has mainly taken place on-line, blaming Jews for the world's financial woes. He suggested that this should cause not just real concern, but concrete and practical thinking.

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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Obama - the Jewish and Kikish Views

Melanie Phillips brings a Jewish angle on Obama:

Barack Obama appears to sit on a nexus between Marxist revolutionary activists, unrepentant former terrorists, Black Power racists, Chicago mobsters – oh, and a Saudi who is trying to buy up America. If you were to turn up at US immigration control with a background of such associates, it’s a fair bet they wouldn’t let you off the air-bridge. Yet this man may well become President of the US!

This guy brings the Kikish angle:

I offered my young American friend an election scenario, in which the Jews overwhelmingly vote for McCain, and Obama is defeated by losing both Florida and New York. “It’s simple,” he said, “Many will blame this catastrophe on the Jews. Why? Because the Jews were the single most powerful voice against Obama.” “That is untrue,” I told him, “This is pure anti-Semitism.” “True,” said the bright young man, “but if they repeat it enough it will become the truth.” I believe that if Obama loses the election it will be because America is not ready to put its destiny in the hands of an inexperienced young man, whose challenge against the establishment frightened more potential voters than attracted them. I do not believe for a second that Jews in America will have any direct hand in his downfall. There is no Jewish conspiracy, no invisible hand pulling invisible strings, and no organized ethnic support against his candidacy. However, I do believe that the election of the next president might be a negative turning point for Jews in America.

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Viral Video: Who Shall Live

This was forwarded to me from three people already.

I have a few serious issues* with it. But aside from those it's great.

(*See the full post for those issues.)

*1. Who are they to claim Naftoli Smolyansky, z"l, died before his time? Are they implying he was being punished by dying young for being a bad person and more importantly how will his family feel when they see this?

2. Using the images of the Merkaz Harav attack is in very poor taste and seems to imply they deserved it.

3. Is AIDS, a completely preventable STD, really a "plague?"

4. The Gush Katif expelled still wander, and it's their fault?

5. If these are all evil decrees, and repentance, prayer, and charity remove the decree... either that is false or we really blew it last year! Or is that the point they are trying to make?

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Friday, September 12, 2008

What's the point?

While surfing the headlines recently I came across an article that left me scratching my head. It's about a dwindling Jewish community somewhere deep in the south that is taking drastic measures to ensure their numerical survival. Apparently they view their situation as dire enough that they are willing to fork over fifty G's to any Jewish family that agrees to move into town.

The question I'd like to ask is with that kind of money to burn why are they choosing to invest it in their community that has relatively (as far as the Jewish people are concerned) no Jewish past and from the current state of affairs also no Jewish future? Instead of trying to build up Jewish life in Dothan Alabama why not build up Jewish life in the land of Israel? Why not help feed the some of the hungry children of Jerusalem? If they'd like to keep the money closer to home, why not invest in some sort of Torah learning institution in the states? Heck, they could even give it to me! I wouldn't mind having pre-paid yeshiva tuition for the next half decade or so! Now it's not really my place to tell them what to do with their own money. You know how I know this? Because Hashem decided to put it in their wallet and not mine! That being said, it still doesn't sit quite well with me that amounts of cash that could help klal Yisrael so greatly seem to be being directed towards things that at best don't accomplish much of anything at all.

Being Elul and all I think the most important thing is not to get too depressed or frustrated over news such as this. Perhaps it's just Hashem's way of reminding us that while we may be finding fault in these things, we should really looking harder at the faults from within. But still! (sigh)...

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - Larry Blumberg is looking for a few good Jews to move to his corner of the Bible Belt.

Blumberg is chairman of the Blumberg Family Relocation Fund, which is offering Jewish families as much as $50,000 to relocate to Dothan, an overwhelmingly Christian town of 58,000 that calls itself the Peanut Capital of the World. Get involved at Temple Emanu-El and stay at least five years, the group's leaders say, and the money doesn't have to be repaid.

More Jews are living in the South than ever—about 386,00 at last count in 2001, according to Stuart Rockoff, historian at the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life in Jackson, Miss. But young Jews are leaving small places like Dothan in favor of cities like Atlanta and Birmingham, Rockoff said, and dozens of small-town synagogues have closed.

"A lot of the older people have died, and not many of the younger ones have stayed," said Thelma Nomberg, a member of the Dothan temple who grew up in nearby Ozark, where she was the only Jewish student in public school in the 1940s. "We are dying."

Being outside the Christian majority was never a problem, Nomberg said, even six decades ago: She won the Miss Ozark beauty pageant at 14 and sometimes attended church with friends after sleep-overs.

Now a widow, Nomberg has watched two of her four adult children leave for Florida as Temple Emanu-El lost nearly half its membership, down to about 50 families. She can only hope the recruitment plan works for her synagogue.

Launched in June, the Blumberg program has put advertisements in Jewish newspapers in Boston, Miami, Providence, R.I., and Washington, and it plans to expand the campaign.

"I think it's important that we try to find young people that we could use in our religious school, our Sunday school and help in the way of trying to create more of a family-type atmosphere in our temple," Blumberg said.

Groups offered financial aid for Jews to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Jewish organizations around the country offer moving assistance for relocating families. A congregation has loans and other benefits for Jewish families moving into an area near Boston.

"Our program is distinctive because it's Dothan, but it's also distinctive because of the type of financial assistance," said Rob Goldsmith, executive director of Blumberg Family Jewish Community Services, which will screen applicants and administer the grant program.

Trying to lure Jewish families to a quiet Southern town in a state with a reputation for hard-right politics and racial intolerance might be difficult. About 20 Jewish families have sought information about Dothan, though none has made the move.

Rockoff credits Blumberg and the rest of the congregation with fighting to remain in Dothan, where the synagogue has a full-time rabbi and the temple, which is aligned with the reform movement, hasn't missed having a Friday night service in decades.

"It is a small community, but they have some deep pockets to be able to do this," said Rockoff. "As a historian it is fascinating to see them trying to buck this trend."

Dothan lies at the heart of the South's peanut region, in Alabama's southeastern corner just minutes from Florida and Georgia. It's dotted with big fiberglass peanuts painted to resemble characters and people—there's even an Elvis peanut.

Little things are big here: The city boasts what it calls the world's smallest city block, a triangular traffic island near the civic center.

But the Blumberg foundation is selling prospective Jewish residents on Dothan's quality of life—its low cost of living, the heritage of its synagogue and its proximity to Florida beaches, about 80 miles away.

The city is the site of the down-home National Peanut Festival each fall, and it has a full schedule of community cultural events. It has two hospitals, a branch of Troy University and is just a short drive from Fort Rucker, the Army's main helicopter training base.

Downtown is filled with quaint red-brick buildings and colorful murals, and traffic never gets too bad on Ross Clark Circle, the perimeter road.

"We have Friday afternoon rush minute, and that's about it," said manufacturing executive Ed Marbletree, 69, who grew up Jewish in Texas but married a Dothan girl and has lived in the town since 1961.

Valerie Barnes grew up in Panama and moved several times before settling 20 years ago in Dothan and becoming active at the synagogue. She's never experienced any anti-Semitism and can't imagine living anywhere else.

"The biggest thing Dothan has to offer is that it's just a very family-oriented community," said Barnes, who directs a hospital foundation. "Our congregation is very vibrant, and we have a lot of things that we get involved in."

Rabbi Lynne Goldsmith didn't know quite what to expect when she moved to Dothan a year ago to lead the congregation at Temple Emanu-El, which was founded in 1929. She came with her husband, who directs the Jewish community services group.

A Connecticut native, the rabbi halfway expected the Alabama of old with wide-open racism and dirt roads.

"The Northeast has a really warped perception of what the South is all about, and I found out it was all wrong," she said. "The South is a wonderful place to be. The people are warm and friendly. There's very little traffic. And best of all, there's no snow."

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back From the US

Yishai, Shalom,

Back from the US (SR) (United States Socialist Republic)

I just returned from my first trip to the US in 7 years.

It was great to see my friends and relatives, but everything else I found repugnant.

The US appears to me to be a country in decline. People still live in their McMansions, they handle laptops casually like notebooks, they are awash in IPods, IPhones, and other IGadgets, but there are worrying signs.

Americans always complain about the poor service in Israel. Yet in the US, I found myself being served by people lacking basic skills, who could hardly speak English, and when competent, they were rude. Whenever I called a 1-800 number for assistance, I reached a call-center in India.

In Israel, one can usually convince people to make an exception for extenuating circumstances, whereas in America, everything is by the book, if they are capable of reading it. Many American also complain about Israeli chutzpah and lack of manners. I have noticed some improvement since I have moved here, but I admit that there is room for more improvement.

On the other hand, I saw the famous American talent for waiting in lines in an orderly fashion, in an entirely different light. I found myself inadvertently behaving like an Israeli on several occassions, and the condemnation was swift. In addition, the same willingness to follow orders could be used for "other ends." Besides, the Torah was given to the Jewish people, a stiff-necked people, and not to well-mannered Lutherans in Minnesota.

As for the American dream, people spoke of declining real-estate values, many others lost a good part of their savings in the wreckage of Fannie Mae. Americans will not admit their attachment to "Gashimut" though. If "Gashmiut" were a shop at the mall, it would have a plastic faux-wood finish and would be called "Ye Olde Gashmiut" shop.

kol tuv,

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dangerous Threats?

We usually don't post about American politics but I figured since there's already precedence why not?

Well this ad came out today:

It's supposed to appeal to Americans that care about Israel I guess... well it's nice to know at least someone thinks Americans care about Israel...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Rebranding Israel: FM Just Doesn’t Get It - Still!

This is not the first time Kumah has written about this.

Last week I attended the Nefesh B’Nefesh First International Jewish Bloggers Convention along with the rest of the Jblog world. One segment of the program featured Zavi Apfelbaum, the Director of Brand Management of the Foreign Ministry. At the time I did not know that she represented the State of Israel. (I didn't read the program, okay?)

(Click the video for a transcript we posted on YouTube.)

Which is why when blogger Moshe Burt (“Israel and the Sin of Expulsion”) began screaming at the top of his lungs “this is a Jewish State!,” though I agreed with him, I thought he was taking the wrong approach. But now that I realize exactly what was going on I think he was exactly right and that might be the only way to keep making the point, as Burt wrote, “until it sinks irrevocably into their consciousness.”

Let’s start at the beginning. The Foreign Ministry spent millions of shekel of taxpayer money to figure out that, guess what, the world thinks Israel is a bunch of thugs and a very cold (not weather-wise), dull, place to live or visit. Well obviously the world has branded us waaay wrong! Apfelbaum, again blaming the victim, claimed it was not the world that did it but we did it to ourselves. Perhaps I’ll grant that as a half-truth but that’s for another discussion.

So once again the Foreign Ministry plans to spend waste millions of shekel “rebranding” Israel.

Akiva, summarized it like this:

The future brand and marketing image of Israel:
1. Tel Aviv Fashion Brands
2. Tel Aviv Modern Dance Troupes
3. Tel Aviv Beach Life
4. Israeli High Technology Developments
5. Tel Aviv Night Life
6. Israeli High Technology Medical Developments
7. Israeli Wine
With the exception of 4 and 6, basically they are trying to brand Israel as Italy, France or Spain.

When will they learn? Israel is a Jewish Country!

Here’s what I wrote a year ago:

Once Israel becomes "a nation like any other" we are thrust onto a world scale we have no right being on. On that scale, Israel appears to be a pretty crummy nation with nothing special at all. Hence the post-Zionists. But if we stay on the scale we are supposed to stay on, the "light-to-the-nations" scale we are untouchable! When we promote G-d, no nation anywhere can come close in terms of history, culture, food, family life, beauty, and spirituality. Indeed we have something no other nation has.
To summarize, Israel already has an excellent – but discarded - brand. The powers-that-be in the government just don’t like it very much. But this brand has been around for over 3,300 years! Let me explain it in simple terms:

New York is to “The Big Apple” as Israel is to “The Holy Land.”

Gee, whiz. Brilliant! Why didn’t anyone ever think of that before? It’s a brand we have and it’s a brand we should use. It’s a brand that will stick because it already sticks, much to the dismay of the government. Basically the country is spending millions because we don’t want people to think of us as holy! Stop pretending to be the Europeans we are not, because the world is not dumb enough the fall for it. Start being yourself, Israel, and good things will happen. In the 60 years since she was founded Israel never got to be herself - not for one day.

And Moshe Burt is right. In terms of Holy we are talking Judaism. No Muslims are going to view Israel more favorable if we tell them Israel is important to them. And the Christians already know the real deal and love the Jewish people for it. Just talk to any Christians you meet. They know the Holy Land is G-d’s gift to the Jews and they are cool with that. Very cool with it.

So here is a small part of Pinchas’s plan for “rebranding” (that’s "re" as in repeating something not as in changing something):



Jewish Tradition

Jewish Children

Holy Things

The problem is the government is working backwards. Instead of displaying the beauty of Judaism and Shabbat for the world, the government does everything it can to destroy our image as a holy nation by doing things like attempting to have buses run on Shabbat. Sometimes the only way to get the message across truly is to yell it, and to yell it again, again, and again!

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Why American Aliyah? It's the Economy, Stupid.

Abraham Waxman, a prominent Jewish-American sociologist who has written much about American Aliyah, recently wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post, arguing that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it may make economic sense for American Jews to make Aliyah:
THE HIGH cost of Jewish living has had an impact on patterns of American aliya. Those for whom living a Jewish lifestyle is more important are those who are most likely to make aliya because their lifestyle costs are much lower in Israel. Ironically, although American Jews have traditionally associated making aliya with economic sacrifice, aliya can make economic sense...
Waxman ends with these words regarding the potential consequences of America's economic downturn for US Jewry:
Although America's Jews have enjoyed unprecedented degrees of equality and a sense of being at-home that they have not experienced in any society in which they were not sovereign, there are no guarantees that this will not slow down, if not reverse direction. While such a forecast is not on the radar screen, anyone with a sense of history cannot be too certain that it cannot develop.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Growing Up Frum

For some Jews, the under-35-frum-from-birth crowd, the name Uncle Moshy invokes many of the fondest childhood memories. What Orthodox child, growing up in North America, didn’t attend at least one Uncle Moshy Chol HaMoed concert? What Frum child didn’t own all the Uncle Moshy records or tapes?

I recently happened upon some Uncle Moshy clips on YouTube of all places. One was the song Uncle Moshy sings at the very end of his albums. This is how it goes:

Now it’s time to say Shalom*
Uncle Moshy is going home
But you know he’ll be back again
Teaching the mitzvos of Hashem

Let us hope and let us pray
That Moshiach will come our way
And we will hear that Shofar blow
To Yerushalayim we will go


*This line is from memory.

And then it hit me… like a truckload of bricks! It always bothered me why, especially among FFBs the most prevalent attitude is that when Moshiach comes everything will magically change and poof we will all be transported to Yerushalayim in a snap. And until that happens everything is just fine and we should continue living here in New York.

Popular belief is that this is the only way Moshiach will come and there is no reason to move to Yerushalayim before Moshiach comes. I was never able to pin down exactly where this notion originated. But now I think I’ve got it. From Uncle Moshy! “Let us hope and let us pray/That Moshiach will come our way/And we will hear that Shofar blow/To Yerushalayim we will go.”

It might sound far-fetched but children of Uncle Moshy listening age are extremely impressionable. And influences introduced at that age easily stay with someone their whole lives. So there is a generation of Uncle Moshy fans davening every day for Moshiach, and waiting for that “great shofar,” so that we can finally return to Yershalayim, when in reality Hashem has already answered our prayers and is sounding the great shofar! And if we will only hear it we could simply board an Aliyah flight as a couple of hundred Jews are doing next week (look for Yishai on that flight!) and return to Yerushalayim in ten hours!

In truth I’m being a little hard on Uncle Moshy. I’m still a fan and think he is great and has contributed more to the Jewish Project, as Kumah calls it, than almost anyone I could think of. But sometimes we have to stop thinking like children and we have to grow up. There are a great many Jews that made and are making Aliyah, both from those that did and from those that didn’t grow up with Uncle Moshy and his Mitzvah Men. I wonder if we could learn from them how to see Judaism though adult eyes and not continue to live Judaism through the eyes of a child.

To be fair this issue existed long before Uncle Moshy was even born. Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal zt"l, wrote about it in 1943 in Eim Habanim Semeichah:

"Do not be so quick to conclude that we should sit back and do nothing about redemption, and that we should wait for Mashiach to come and carry us off on the wings of eagles to our Land and our inheritance. Many of our fellow Jews, even rabbis and Gedolei Torah, imagine that the redemption will occur in this way. One great rabbi [even] preached in public that we must not act at all, not even build and settle the Land. Rather we must wait for Mashiach to swoop down and carry us to Eretz Yisrael on clouds. He came to this conclusion because he did not delve into this halachah, which is one of the deepest and most obscure halachot. He who does not delve deeply into it has no grasp on it whatsoever."(p. 268)

Rabbi Teichtal concludes:

"He who says that Mashiach ben David will initiate the redemption, as the lowly masses anticipate, is like someone who says the sun will rise before dawn. Nonsense! The great evil that arises from this harmful outlook is tangible, as experience proves. It is a mitzvah to publicize this matter to the ignorant, and blessed is he who sanctifies G-d's name among the multitudes. In my opinion, he who hides this matters, desecrates G-d's name in private."

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Yishai Speaks in Passaic NJ!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Watch Aliyah LIVE!

Today Nefesh B'Nefesh announced that for the first time ever everyone all over the world will be able to watch an Aliyah flight arrive in Israel! NBN will be web-casting the historic event for the world to see.

"We wanted to enable those close to the people making Aliyah to get a better idea of the excitement and the Olim experience upon arrival in Israel," said Nefesh B'Nefesh's VP of Operations Danny Oberman. "This new technological addition will allow them to follow the arrival of their loved ones, almost as if they were there."

Check out the The Live Webcast this Thursday, July 10th at 12:10 am EST/7:10 Israel time right here. ( )

Count how many Kumah bloggers you can spot there. And spread the word!

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Mainlining Zionism

Shalom Folks,

I am in the States right now and will speaking in a few venues - you are invited to attend:


When: Sunday, June 29th 2:00-3:00pm
At the 1st World Conference of the Noahide Nations

Where: Ft. Lauderdale Airport Hilton Hotel
1870 Griffin Road
Dania, FL. 33004
Phone 954-920-3300

Topic: "INR Support for Future of The Noahide Movement"


When: Thursday July 3rd at 8:30pm
Where: Passaic NJ, Ahavas Israel Congregation 181 Van Houtan Ave

Topic: "How is a Jew to Celebrate The 4th of July?"


When: Sunday, July 6 at 7:30pm
Where: Baltimore, MD, Moses Montefiore Anshe Emunah Congregation
7000 Rockland Hills Drive

Topic: "Aliyah to Israel: A Modern Haven or Mandated From Heaven?"


More dates may follow. Hope to see you at one of these events!


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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama and Aliyah

Or maybe... Because America isn't so different after all...

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Obama's Speech at AIPAC

Shalom Yishai,

I have only heard snipits of Obama's speech at AIPAC. It is hard for me to believe what he said are his true feeling. Yes, his speech sounded very favorable to Israel and the Jews. Simply, Obama was fishing for Jewish votes. For 20 years this man sat in a church listening to Rev. Wright and his very anti-semitic sermons. How could he stay other than under belief of agreement? In the past, I attended a church and became a member of that church because of agreement of that church. Later as I systematically studied the scriptures I found the importance of G-d's land and His people. As the truth of the scriptures was revealed to me the truth of the true anti-Jewish nature of this pastor was also revealed to me. I could not stay with this church and feel comfortable. It took me a matter of weeks to make my decision to leave ---- not 20 years! Remember, Obama's reason for leaving his church (of 20 years) was to take the media heat off of that church not the teachings of Rev. Wright. So I do not believe his speech came from his heart but his drive to become president. Yet so many American Jews continue to support him --- how sad! The one thing we can count on is HaShem is in control........

Good Shabbos, Geri

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trivia Game and New Birthright/Masa Aliyah Grants

In honor of Israel's 60th Birthday Enhanced NBN Grants are available for Birthright and Masa Alumni Who Make Aliyah in 2008. Read about it here.

Tell all your Birthright and Masa friends about the trivia game and the grant! And make Aliyah together!

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The hot new summer style: Israel Bashing

For those who wish to think that there will always be a safe Jew-friendly alternative to living in Israel in the form of America, perhaps you would be interested in what was slated to hit clothing store racks this season. Clothing supplier Urban Outfitters was, until caving to a slew of angry complaints, carrying a t-shirt from graphic designer FreshJive of palestinian youths wearing Arafat style scarfs, armed with machine guns and boasting the line “Victimized” (because an individual armed with an assault rifle is ever the classic image of a victim). The shirt also featured a few other images including a palestinian flag. Not only is this hot little number machine washable but it sells for the cool price of $9.99!

As disgusting as this propaganda cloaked in the guise of fashion may be, it's not even the first time Urban Outfitters has made such a move. They have previously marketed scarves akin to the arab neck-piece made famous by Yassar Arafat, grandfather of the modern terrorist movement (may his name be wiped out), as has been pointed out by Little Green Footballs.

While I was in college Urban Outfitters was known as a pretty trendy and popular store on my campus. This glorification of terrorism via t-shirts has precedent with the “Che Guevara” t-shirt featuring the face of said communist thug made popular by Rage Against the Machine. Historically ignorant youth all over America rushed out to stores to buy one and thus turned Che into an anti-hero icon of the modern day want-to-be counterculture that American junior high through college age students somehow think they are reviving. It appears marketers are attempting to take advantage of American youth and do the same with palestinian terrorists, in the oh so ideological name of higher profits.

What's really disturbing about this is that it isn't some rhetoric spewing out of a fringe group or even the ivory-tower intellectual elites of the academic world. This is a mainstream company that, while having pushed controversial items in the past, is more well known for selling designer jeans than for making political statements. Often Jews perceive our biggest threats in the west as coming from loud-mouthed bigots who choose to use their freedom of speech to demonize us in the public square. I'm more afraid of a society that seems to love us on the surface, but dig a little deeper and there is anti-Israel sentiment (and the anti-Semitism that comes with it) slowly but surely making it's way into the POPULAR attitudes. It can start with fashion trends manipulating people to buy into a cause they probably don't even know that much about. Before you know it, it becomes an accepted thing in their mind and now when the issues are brought up in a debate they've already made up their mind before they've even done any research. Things such as these may just seem like a piece of cotton in the small picture, but in the big picture they are chinks in the armor of the Jewish Americans' cherished status of being an “accepted people.'' The thing about small chinks in the armor is that they aren't so noticeable, but when you add enough of them up together over time, the armor ends up failing to protect you against a major blow.

The Jews of America have apparently dealt with this in a reasonable fashion. It appears that enough angry emails and/or phonecalls were made that Urban Outfitters has taken the item off their website. While this is indeed a great temporary solution it remains only that- temporary. The fact that a major clothing distributer feels comfortable enough braving potential criticism and pushing an item like this to see how people take it could be a sign that things are slowly but surely changing for the American Jew. If such a gradual and cloaked change is underway, once it picks up enough speed it will have no need to hide itself anymore and by then all the store boycotts and angry letters in the world won't help to stop it.

So my suggestion to the Zionist of American persuasion who wants to make a much larger impact against those that wish to destroy the Zionist dream is this- combat them by actually living out that dream! Come back home! Every single Jew that moves to the land of Israel to connect to Hashem and make their life here does more for for the positive than a million ridiculous t-shirts could ever do for the other side. After all, the only thing better than not wearing a pro-arab terror shirt is not wearing it in Israel!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Audio: A Talk With Jon Voight

Malkah and I had the opportunity to speak with Academy Award winning actor Jon Voight on our show. Jon was in Israel for the state’s 60th anniversary festivities. While here, Voight joined Chabad-Lubavitch in welcoming children evacuated from the devastated Chernobyl region of the Former Soviet Union to Israel. He also toured Sderot and strengthened the people there.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Envy in the Diaspora

The following is an excellent JPOST article by David Forman:

Here I am in sunny California, in the dreamlike town of Santa Barbara. I was invited to participate in the Jewish community's celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary. As I was introduced to the crowd, a loud roar greeted me. While I would have liked to believe that the extended applause was for me, I knew better - it was for the Jewish state, which I had the honor to represent.

I gazed out at the mass of people - like me, the vast majority being the oldest of the baby-boomer generation. I could not help but wonder: What is it about Israel that pulled at the heartstrings of these 60-somethings? Why would they want to assume the headaches of Israel, and the need to defend it from the onslaught of the ultra-liberal members of the local community, many of whom were affiliated with the California university system, that included the Santa Barbara campus - a hotbed, like its sister school, Berkeley, of virulent anti-Israel activism?

With Israel mercilessly and oftentimes unfairly attacked because of its continued occupation of the West Bank, one would think that Jews abroad would lower their Israel profile.

So, why such an impressive turnout to fete Israel? Jealousy.

LET ME explain. A while ago, I attended my 40th high-school reunion. The night before the main event, 15 of the Jewish members of the class gathered together. In the course of our conversations, I learned that most of my childhood friends had amassed wealth I will never approximate, live in homes so big my entire apartment would fit into their living rooms, had traveled the world, visiting places I only read about, and were engaged in important work that significantly impacted people's lives.

And yet all of them, by their own admission, were jealous of me by virtue of the fact that I live in Israel.

As children of the '60s, we were social activists - civil rights, anti-Vietnam, Soviet Jewry. More important than feeling a moral compulsion to create a new social order or espousing liberal slogans was translating our social concerns into action - being carted off to prison demonstrating against segregation in Selma, Alabama, Oxford, Mississippi and Little Rock, Arkansas; blocking entrances to army recruitment centers; and chaining ourselves to the gate of the Russian embassy.

As the activist '60s gave way to the mellow '70s and the reactionary '80s, concomitantly with the natural aging process that saw us become grandparents in the '90s, the rigor of youthful activism diminished. My friends felt a measure of guilt for their lack of involvement today, but also felt a vicarious satisfaction in knowing that their classmate in Israel was still carrying a torch of social concern. It mattered little what side of the political spectrum I was on. The fact of my engagement made them envious.

Throughout their lives they believed that to be socially involved was a central moral value, but as they grew older, they felt they had failed to fulfill their ethical obligation to remain active and pass that value on to their children. They mused about what it would be like to live in a country like Israel, where social commitment seemed to be a national trait. They wished that the requirement to serve in the army or do national service was something their kids had experienced.

I might add that of the 15 participants in our pre-reunion get together, only 13 were still married to the same person. Even though most of my friends were married to non-Jews, their sentimental attachment to Judaism was such that they preferred their children to marry Jews, as is natural in Israel, but not the case for almost all of their kids.

They rightfully believed that there is less of a generation gap in Israel, and that parents and children here share a commonality of experiences that binds them closer to one another. Virtually all the children from their blended families lived nowhere near them, unlike the normal family configuration in Israel, where kids live in a small radius of their parents and each other - another reason for my classmates' envy.

I expected my friends to ply me with questions about the occupation, Gaza, settlements, Hizbullah and Hamas, along with terrorism, war and the threat of a nuclear confrontation with Iran. Not that they were disinterested in such weighty matters or did not have their criticisms of Israel, but surprisingly that was not their focus when we talked, although they admired Israelis' resilience in the face of danger and their ability to be leaders in the fields of literature, art, medicine, technology and science.

Most interesting of all was that they were envious of the excitement that descends upon Israel, with the greatest amount of envy being directed to our living in sealed rooms during the Gulf War (the kind of excitement we could live without). They saw my life in Israel as being far more adventurous than theirs in America; as one classmate longingly put it: "You do not live a boring life."

And so, as I looked out at the crowd, I recalled my reunion and realized that with all the monumental challenges we Israelis face, we lead an enviable life. In acknowledgement and appreciation of this simple fact, throngs of people filled the public square to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Welcome to The Happiest Place On Earth!

Guess what? Israel is the happiest place in the world! So concludes noted Asia Times Online columnist Spengler after compiling the number of suicides in counties against their fertility rates, arguing that those choosing to create life and avoid death must be happy. And not only does Israel score higher than everyone else, she scores leaps and bounds higher, simply blowing away the competition.

It this fantastic article Spengler explains why this is so. And in a nutshell it's about Jews keeping the Torah together as a nation. He explains how we declare in the Aleinu prayer "G-d did not make us like the nations of other lands, and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. G-d did not place us in the same situations as others, and our destiny is not the same as anyone else's."

On her 60th birthday Israel remains a nation UNLIKE any other. And that is precisely the secret of her happiness.

The articles is below and I have bolded important portions.

Hat Tip: DQ

Why Israel is the world's happiest country
By Spengler

Envy surrounds no country on Earth like the state of Israel, and with good reason: by objective measures, Israel is the happiest nation on Earth at the 60th anniversary of its founding. It is one of the wealthiest, freest and best-educated; and it enjoys a higher life expectancy than Germany or the Netherlands. But most remarkable is that Israelis appear to love life and hate death more than any other nation. If history is made not by rational design but by the demands of the human heart, as I argued last week , the light heart of the Israelis in face of continuous danger is a singularity worthy of a closer look.

Can it be a coincidence that this most ancient of nations [1], and the only nation persuaded that it was summoned into history for God's service, consists of individuals who appear to love life more than any other people? As a simple index of life-preference, I plot the fertility rate versus the suicide rate of 35 industrial countries, that is, the proportion of people who choose to create new life against the proportion who choose to destroy their own. Israel stands alone, positioned in the upper-left-hand-quadrant, or life-loving, portion of the chart [2]. Those who believe in Israel's divine election might see a special grace reflected in its love of life.

In a world given over to morbidity, the state of Israel still teaches the world love of life, not in the trivial sense of joie de vivre, but rather as a solemn celebration of life. In another location, I argued, "It's easy for the Jews to talk about delighting in life. They are quite sure that they are eternal, while other peoples tremble at the prospect impending extinction. It is not their individual lives that the Jews find so pleasant, but rather the notion of a covenantal life that proceeds uninterrupted through the generations." Still, it is remarkable to observe by what wide a margin the Israelis win the global happiness sweepstakes.

Nations go extinct, I have argued in the past, because the individuals who comprise these nations choose collectively to die out. Once freedom replaces the fixed habits of traditional society, people who do not like their own lives do not trouble to have children. Not the sword of conquerors, but the indigestible sourdough of everyday life threatens the life of the nations, now dying out at a rate without precedent in recorded history.

Israel is surrounded by neighbors willing to kill themselves in order to destroy it. "As much as you love life, we love death," Muslim clerics teach; the same formula is found in a Palestinian textbook for second graders. Apart from the fact that the Arabs are among the least free, least educated, and (apart from the oil states) poorest peoples in the world, they also are the unhappiest, even in their wealthiest kingdoms.

The contrast of Israeli happiness and Arab despondency is what makes peace an elusive goal in the region. It cannot be attributed to material conditions of life. Oil-rich Saudi Arabia ranks 171st on an international quality of life index, below Rwanda. Israel is tied with Singapore on this index, although it should be observed that Israel ranks a runaway first on my life-preference index, whereas Singapore comes in dead last.

Even less can we blame unhappiness on experience, for no nation has suffered more than the Jews in living memory, nor has a better excuse to be miserable. Arabs did not invent suicide attacks, but they have produced a population pool willing to die in order to inflict damage greater than any in history. One cannot help but conclude that Muslim clerics do not exaggerate when they express contempt for life.

Israel's love of life, moreover, is more than an ethnic characteristic. Those who know Jewish life through the eccentric lens of Jewish-American novelists such as Saul Bellow and Philip Roth, or the films of Woody Allen, imagine the Jews to be an angst-ridden race of neurotics. Secular Jews in America are no more fertile than their Gentile peers, and by all indications quite as miserable.

For one thing, Israelis are far more religious than American Jews. Two-thirds of Israelis believe in God, although only a quarter observe their religion strictly. Even Israelis averse to religion evince a different kind of secularism than we find in the secular West. They speak the language of the Bible and undergo 12 years of Bible studies in state elementary and secondary schools.

Faith in God's enduring love for a people that believes it was summoned for his purposes out of a slave rabble must be part of the explanation. The most religious Israelis make the most babies. Ultra-Orthodox families produce nine children on average. That should be no surprise, for people of faith are more fertile than secular people, as I showed in a statistical comparison across countries.

Traditional and modern societies have radically different population profiles, for traditional women have little choice but to spend their lives pregnant in traditional society. In the modern world, where fertility reflects choice rather than compulsion, the choice to raise children expresses love of life. The high birthrate in Arab countries still bound by tradition does not stand comparison to Israeli fertility, by far the highest in the modern world.

The faith of Israelis is unique. Jews sailed to Palestine as an act of faith, to build a state against enormous odds and in the face of hostile encirclement, joking, "You don't have to be crazy to be a Zionist, but it helps." In 1903 Theodor Herzl, the Zionist movement's secular founder, secured British support for a Jewish state in Uganda, but his movement shouted him down, for nothing short of the return to Zion of Biblical prophecy would requite it. In place of a modern language the Jewish settlers revived Hebrew, a liturgical language only since the 4th century BC, in a feat of linguistic volition without precedent. It may be that faith burns brighter in Israel because Israel was founded by a leap of faith.

Two old Jewish jokes illustrate the Israeli frame of mind.

Two elderly Jewish ladies are sitting on a park bench in St Petersburg, Florida. "Mrs Levy," asks the first, "what do you hear from your son Isaac in Detroit?" "It's just awful," Mrs Levy replies. "His wife died a year ago and left him with two little girls. Now he's lost his job as an accountant with an auto-parts company, and his health insurance will lapse in a few weeks. With the real estate market the way it is, he can't even sell his house. And the baby has come down with leukemia and needs expensive treatment. He's beside himself, and doesn't know what to do. But does he write a beautiful Hebrew letter - it's a pleasure to read."

There are layers to this joke, but the relevant one here is that bad news is softened if written in the language of the Bible, which to Jews always conveys hope.

The second joke involves the American businessman who emigrated to Israel shortly after its founding. On his arrival, he orders a telephone, and waits for weeks without a response. At length he applies in person to the telephone company, and is shown into the office of an official who explains that there is a two-year waiting list, and no way to jump the queue. "Do you mean there is no hope?," the American asks. "It is forbidden for a Jew to say there is no hope!," thunders the official. "No chance, maybe." Hope transcends probability.

If faith makes the Israelis happy, then why are the Arabs, whose observance of Islam seems so much stricter, so miserable? Islam offers its adherents not love - for Allah does not reveal Himself in love after the fashion of YHWH - but rather success. "The Islamic world cannot endure without confidence in victory, that to 'come to prayer' is the same thing as to 'come to success'. Humiliation - the perception that the ummah cannot reward those who submit to it - is beyond its capacity to endure," I argued in another location. Islam, or "submission", does not understand faith - trust in a loving God even when His actions appear incomprehensible - in the manner of Jews and Christians. Because the whim of Allah controls every event from the orbit of each electron to the outcome of battles, Muslims know only success or failure at each moment in time.

The military, economic and cultural failures of Islamic societies are intolerable in Muslim eyes; Jewish success is an abomination, for in the view of Muslims it is the due of the faithful, to be coveted and seized from the usurpers at the first opportunity. It is not to much of a stretch to assert that Israel's love of live, its happiness in faith, is precisely the characteristic that makes a regional peace impossible to achieve. The usurpation of the happiness that Muslims believe is due to them is sufficient cause to kill one's self in order to take happiness away from the Jewish enemy. If Israel's opponents fail to ruin Israel's happiness, there is at least a spark of hope that they may decide to choose happiness for themselves.

Why are none of the Christian nations as happy as Israel? Few of the European nations can be termed "Christian" at all. Poland, the last European country with a high rate of attendance at Mass (at about 45%), nonetheless shows a fertility rate of only 1.27, one of Europe's lowest, and a suicide rate of 16 per 100,000. Europe's faith always wavered between adherence to Christianity as a universal religion and ethnic idolatry under a Christian veneer. European nationalism nudged Christianity to the margin during the 19th century, and the disastrous world wars of the past century left Europeans with confidence neither in Christianity nor in their own nationhood.

Only in pockets of the American population does one find birth rates comparable to Israel's, for example among evangelical Christians. There is no direct way to compare the happiness of American Christians and Israelis, but the tumultuous and Protean character of American religion is not as congenial to personal satisfaction. My suspicion is that Israel's happiness is entirely unique.

It is fashionable these days to speculate about the end of Israel, and Israel's strategic position presents scant cause for optimism, as I contended recently. Israel's future depends on the Israelis. During 2,000 years of exile, Jews remained Jews despite forceful and often violent efforts to make them into Christians or Muslims. One has to suppose that they did not abandon Judaism because they liked being Jewish. With utmost sincerity, the Jews prayed thrice daily, "It is our duty to praise the Master of all, to acclaim the greatness of the One who forms all creation, for God did not make us like the nations of other lands, and did not make us the same as other families of the Earth. God did not place us in the same situations as others, and our destiny is not the same as anyone else's."

If the Israelis are the happiest country on Earth, as the numbers indicate, it seems possible that they will do what is required to keep their country, despite the odds against them. I do not know whether they will succeed. If Israel fails, however, the rest of the world will lose a unique gauge of the human capacity for happiness as well as faith. I cannot conceive of a sadder event.


[1] There are many ancient nations, eg, the Basques, but no other that speaks the same language as it did more than 3,000 years ago, occupies more or less the same territory, and, most important, maintains a continuous literary record of its history, which is to say an interrupted national consciousness.

[2] The countries shown in the chart are:

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yet One More Reason Passaic Is Better Than Israel

Shalom Yishai,

Once again as is my want, I found myself on Sunday at another chasuna in Lakewood, NJ trying to inspire the few Jews I spoke to about the importance of living in the Land and at least making them have to justify why it is "okay" for them to be living here. I must say, that as I continue to listen to your show and others at INR, I am getting better at articulating the case for aliya.

But an argument came up from a BT that I wasn't sure how to answer convincingly. It goes as follows: Why should I make aliya when here in Passaic I have a great job, a nice house, I am growing in learning and ruchnious with my morning in night sedarim, etc. Who knows what will be if I move there. Furthermore, as both my brothers already made aliya, who will take care of my ageing parents? That would be selfish of me. Ever hear of Kibud Av v'aim? He went on to further say (in a nice way) you Zionists only focus on one mitzvah which is a machlochus rishonim if it is even a mitzvah! If I move there, I know my shalom bayis will suffer, my parnossa will suffer, and my learning will suffer. So any gain from living in the land will be outweighed by the augmes nefesh from being there. Lastly, we are supposed to wait for Moshiach! (I have yet to find a source for this last "proof".)

In anycase, I do think he made some good points, namely: Why should someone who is growing in Torah and mitzvos, who is happy with the schools, community, etc., who has a decent parnossa make aliya? Why should he risk throwing that all away? We have plenty of aliya failures in the New York area who made aliya with starry eyed idealism only to have it crushed by the realities of the "harshness" of life on adamas ha kodesh...In my own reading of Eim Habanim Semeichah R' Teichtal seem to intimate that the call for aliya is to those Jews who are suffering in the gulus not those that are thriving...



Shalom Yisroel,

Thanks for your letter. Please listen to my 7 minute audio response by clicking ))))HERE((((


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Friday, May 09, 2008

Update from chutz-la'artetz: It's enough to make a lazy man cry

I'm a lazy person. Well, I like to call myself relaxed but my mother, she says it's laziness. I'm not all that into things like working out, I think one of the best things about dressing in black in white is that I never have to pick out what I'm going to wear, and I recently switched dorm rooms in the yeshiva citing having to go walk a shorter distance to the beit midrash for davening in the morning as one of the key points of the move. About a week ago I stepped off a plane from Tel Aviv to Newark and I got hit by a really emotional moment. It was the first time in months I walked through a doorway without a mezuzah on it and I almost started to cry. But... now after about a week in chutz-la'aretz with my emotions having calmed down, it's now become else entirely that almost has me in tears- all the extra hustle and bustle my poor lazy rear-end has to go through.

In Israel, especially in cities like Jerusalem there is a shul on every corner. To find a minyan you literally don't have to walk more than ten minutes. Heck, if your really gutsy you can try and just grab ten guys off the street and daven on the corner of King George and Ben Yehuda, which several friends of mine and I have done so don't think I'm exaggerating! Now I find myself lost in a strange land where I sometimes have to sit in traffic for 40 minutes do daven with a minyan. Before I had to decide between which of eight kosher pizza places to eat at. Now I'm faced with choices lie getting pizza or not eating because there's only one kosher restaurant in town and that's all they serve.

Now perhaps if you live in Monsey, Boro Park, or LA then you don't feel my pain. For the rest of you “out of towners” there might be those who cite the fact that in the old days we had to deal with pogroms and inquisitions and feel we should be overjoyed these are the biggest problems one should have to face as a Jew in America today. But I know in my heart of hearts that there are those out there who are like me, those who dream of something better. There are those who strive for a more happy and carefree life of not having to worry where your next kosher steak is going to come from. To you, my brothers and sisters, I say no more! We're the few, the proud, the lazy, and we deserve to live in a country where you don't have to sit next to a non-Jew on the the bus happily chowing down on some fresh McDonalds while you look on with longing eyes! Pack your bags now, come home, and take comfort in the fact that if you want a chalav-yisroel candy bar all you need do is get off your chair and walk to the corner store!

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Busted for Praying!

Shalom Yishai,

Freedom of religion in America? Only if you are muslim. Then they will install footbaths for you in airports. It's true that Jews are arrested on the Temple Mount for praying, but those who use it as an excuse not to make aliyah should read the stories below:

Praying passenger removed from flight. An Orthodox Jewish man, who wanted to travel to San Francisco by plane, left his seat and went to the back of the plane to pray before the Flight 9 to San Francisco took off. He didn’t follow the flight attendants’ advices to return to his seat. As a result, he was ejected from the flight....

Jewish man removed from airplane for praying.

Some fellow passengers are questioning why an Orthodox Jewish man was removed from an Air Canada Jazz flight in Montreal last week for praying. The man was a passenger on a Sept. 1 flight from Montreal to New York City when the incident happened.

Man arrested at a Rosh Hashanah prayer meeting.

A group of about 100 people in Central Florida claim they were harassed by deputies during a Rosh Hashanah prayer service that ended with an arrest. The group was celebrating the Jewish New Year at an off-campus house near the University of Central Florida Wednesday night when deputies were called to the house.

Jewish passenger saying morning prayers on Chicago train causes panic by putting on tefillin, which other passengers thought to be wires of explosive belt.

A Jewish passenger on a Chicago train was arrested after fellow passengers accused him of being a suicide bomber

City of Los Angeles sends inspectors to shut down "illegal" Kol Nidrei Tefillah

kol tuv,

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

No Pictures This Year

So I just returned Home last night. I didn’t fly El Al (that’s for another blog post) but I flew Israir – another airline of Israel. And so toward the end of the flight, last night, the pilot came on and announced that Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was just starting and he would now shut off the entertainment system (the movies, video games, and much of the audio selection.) There was a large group of Christians on the flight (that’s for that other blog post too.) It struck me that all those Christians were eating Kosher meals (special glatt kosher meals, by the way, again another post someday) and observing Yom HaShoah, because guess what? They were flying on our airline. Not to compare anything to Yom HaShoah, but when a Jew has to wait extra long for a bus in New York City on December 25th is it because that Jew is in their country?

And when the siren sounded at 10 O’clock this morning I found myself standing in exactly the same spot I stood one year ago, a busy Jerusalem street. Last year I took pictures (Arutz-7 wanted some for a photo essay, and it is important to share with those that are not here,) but I felt just awful snapping photos then. But this year, would be different.

I also wondered what those Christians tourists felt when they saw everything stand still as motorists stood outside their cars. And what about those Birthrighters I saw in the airport coming to Israel for the first time. (That’s also for that other post.) On the very first day they arrive the siren is the very first thing they experience? What would it remind them?

It no doubt reminded all of them this morning as it reminded me, of way too many terrible, sad and haunting thoughts. But it also reminded me of one powerfully inspiring thought. Indeed, this is our country, our Home!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Aliyah or Assimilation?

Shalom and Happy Passover!

My family was very secular, so I was raised as a very secular Jew. I awakened as an adult and decided to make aliyah. I had a very hard time because I was unable to think of a way to make aliyah (our shaliach we had at the time was NOT very helpful). I finally went and found some proof (duh, if my father's military records would prove Jewishness, why wouldn't mine?). Right on my VA (Veterans administration) records it states "Jewish". If this record would work to prove I am Jewish if it was on my father's records (which I could not get because of privacy laws) it will have to prove it if it is on my records. I have been trying now for 11 years and finally got the idea to try my own records to see if it is on them and sure enough it is...

Any way, I am so tired of the complacency in my local community. We have a building but no services. I had to twist their arm and finally got them to hold a half hearted Shabbat service. (Their is not one scheduled again for the time being. They only use the building for funerals and a communal Passover Seder.) They all are afraid to even admit their Jews in public (this is the reason for lack of services I was told). They all want to just ride below the radar and not be noticed and stick out. This is the type of fear and apathy, etc. that allowed the holocaust to happen. If we were more willing to fight for our rights, etc., less of us would have been killed by the Nazis and their supporters. I want info about how I become a member and what your organizations stands for and does.


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sorry Zeyde, but I'm a slave to my leather bucket seats!

This weekend marks the beginning of the Pesach holiday, the time of which G-d freed us from our slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt was not just a one-time occurrence, but rather something that replays itself out in every generation. As such it’s important that we recognize how Pesach is occurring now in our times. Who is Pharaoh? Where/what is Egypt? How are we enslaved and what must we do if we want to free ourselves?More than any other available option of countries around today, without a doubt I would say America is the Egypt of our times. Boasting the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, America keeps our brethren trapped within it’s borders and keeps them from re-uniting with the homeland of their fathers much as ancient Egypt did thousands of years ago.

But hold on a minute here, hasn’t slavery been outlawed in America since the civil war you say? And hasn’t America traditionally been “good to the Jews?” True, this slavery may not come in the form of whippings and beatings, or building pyramids. It does, however, come in the form of an addiction to yearly vacation, a bigger swimming pool in the back yard, more trips to the hair salon, or driving the latest German import. So who is Pharaoh? I’ll give you a hint- he’s small, green, fits in your wallet, and has the face of George Washington.

Egypt was the lone world superpower of its time, America is the world’s lone superpower today. During the great famine, the starving masses flocked to Egypt. In our time masses of those seeking the American dream of ending their famine of not being rich flock, some even braving the journey by sea on death-trap rafts just to get their fair crack at it. And just as there were no guards on Egypt’s borders to keep people in, so too in America you are free to leave whenever you choose and yet very few are actually packing their bags.

The number one excuse I hear from people as to why they cannot or will not leave America for Israel is, “While I’d love to live in Israel, the money factor is just too big for me.” For many it’s debt. The more they try and climb their way out the deeper they seem to fall in. A friend once told me that this economic labyrinth from which people can’t seem to escape is not original to our times but actually comes from Egypt. Apparently Pharaoh would promise people the good life, offering them a great house in a nice neighborhood, maybe a sturdy horse or donkey too, and all for free! Sort of… these things were all offered on credit, to be paid back later but people were fooled into the illusion that they were somehow getting something for nothing, failing to see how their debts would come back to haunt them later. Sound familiar?

For those who are keeping their heads above water, their monetary excuse is that they wouldn’t be able to afford the same lifestyle in Israel that they now have in America. Excuse me but since when is an easy and comfortable life necessarily a fulfilling one? How many celebrities do you see that have much more money, toys, vacations, etc. then you will ever have and yet they are so unhappy they end up killing themselves? Besides, while you sit comfortably in your big house in America think about your ancestors who would have given everything in their lives to be able to come live in the land of Israel. Not only do we now have a state that enables us to do so but you can even get hooked up with a free plane ride over here and a welcome basket of government benefits and money (read: You get paid to move to Israel)! Be honest with yourself for one minute and imagine if your zeyde came back from the grave to ask you why you’re still in America. Just try to think of a persuasive way to tell him that you’d rather have a nice BMW with heated leather bucket seats then to live in the land he only saw in his most beautiful dreams.

So for all our brothers and sisters who are still in America, this year when you do your Pesach seder, instead of just paying lip service why don’t you actually put some serious thought into the freedom from slavery that it represents. How about freeing yourself from the Egyptian slavery of that dollar in your wallet and finally making the move home to be with the rest of us? After all… it’s no coincidence that the dollar has a pyramid on it!

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Run Home Jews, Run Home

Below is a cute article about a reform rabbi who is altering his diet before running the marathon in Boston to fit the requirements of Pesach. There are also other Jews in the article who have decided that eating chametz in preparation for the Marathon trumps Pesach concerns. The article seems to have some elements of Kidush Hashem by showing the devotion of Jews to Pesach, and some elements of Chilul Hashem by showing how some Jews are willing to throw away tradition of 3000 years in order to run 30 miles in Boston.

However, the truth is that once again our focus is lead astray by a mis-framing of the entire issue...

The real issue is that Jews, with their tremendous spiritual and activist energy, are spending it all on unimportant things. The Jews in this article feel proud that they can run a marathon on a stomach full of Matzah. They thing it is some kind of religious sacrifice and athletic sacrifice all at once. But they are wrong. The whole purpose of the Jewish religion is to serve G-d and not to run marathons on foreign soil. On Pesach, instead of running a marathon on a stomach full of matzah, these Jews should consider packing up their house and preparing for Aliyah on a stomach full of matzah. Then they too can relive the Exodus from Egyptian materialism and bondage.

In general, American Jews find "important" issues to take part in or debate vigorously. The Orthodox deal with things like the endless Eruv construction debates, mini-bugs in water, and blood-drawing during ritual circumcision. The Reform-Conservative care about Darfur and running marathons in Boston. All of these have one thing in common: they are excuses not to deal with the central issue of our time and that is building the nation of Israel through the advent of the Jewish State. By making themselves feel as though they are involved in important issues, or by deluding themselves with the belief that American Jewry somehow helps Israel, American Jews quietly create an atmosphere where their existence is never challenged. Sadly, the fact remains, that the Jewish State is waiting for the last naglah (load) of Jews to come home so that we can move forward. They are holding up the show.

Hey Jew, your home is not America! You don't need to run a useless marathon around Boston! Run home Jew, run home!


"Is It Kosher? Jewish Marathon Runners Balance Passover With Prep For Boston"

BOSTON - Jonah Pesner is looking ahead to his crucial carb-loading, fuel-up meal on the night before running his first Boston Marathon. On the menu: matzoh.

It’s not the usual choice for marathoners loading up on carbohydrates to drive their run, but Pesner, a rabbi, has limited options.

Passover begins just two days before the April 21 marathon, and the holiday’s strict dietary rules mean Jewish runners can’t eat bread and pasta, the normal staples in the days before the big race.

Besides matzoh, which is unleavened bread, Pesner plans to pound down foods such as potatoes during a rare "carb-load seder" the night before the race.

Pesner never considered breaking the dietary rules for the sake of the race, which he is running with his wife for an autism charity.

"For me, running the marathon is a very spiritual quest," he said.

The marathon is always held on Patriots [team stats] Day, a state holiday that falls the third Monday in April, and often comes within the weeklong Passover holiday.

Marathon organizers try to be sensitive to religious concerns, but major changes to suit various religions aren’t practical, said Marc Chalufour, spokesman for the Boston Athletic Association, the marathon’s organizer.

"You’ve got 25,000 runners and you obviously want to be sensitive to the needs of all of them," Chalufour said. "But you can’t make a change to accommodate some of the runners at the expense of the majority."

The dietary restrictions for Passover forbid eating leavened foods, such as bread, cake, beer or pasta, which have yeast or other fermented grain products.

The prohibition is traced to the roots of the holiday, which marks when God sent an angel to kill first-born Egyptian sons, but spared the houses of the Israelites. Soon after, Pharaoh freed the Jews, who fled in such a hurry that the dough they took didn’t have enough time to rise.

Jews usually hold a Passover seder, a meal with religious rituals, in their homes on the first two nights of the holiday, which is usually observed for eight days.

The level of observance varies. An Orthodox Jew, for instance, does not work or drive on the first two and the last two days of Passover, so he or she would not run a marathon on those days.

It’s not an issue for Pesner, whose liberal Reform branch generally suggests followers hold a seder on just the first day of the holiday, though the dietary rules are observed the entire week.

Pesner, 39, acknowledges he has questions about the effects of his diet on his race. Matzoh is known to have a binding effect on the digestive tract.

"It’s definitely a concern," Pesner said, chuckling.

Sandy Karpen, a real estate agent from Scottsdale, Ariz., said he and his wife, Sharon, are changing their tradition of attending seders the first two nights of Passover to accommodate their training. The second seder is the day before the race, and Karpen and his wife wanted to rest, rather than attend a seder on what is typically a long night.

Their rabbi from the Conservative Jewish tradition advised them that Jews may fulfill their obligation by observing only the first day, and said they could do the same.

The 17-time marathoner admits to some guilt about straying from his lifelong tradition, but has no regrets.

"I guess sometimes you’re looking for justification for what you’re doing," he said. "My rabbi said it was acceptable to do, and that was good enough for us."

Karpen, 49, and his wife ate fish and potatoes before their last long runs as sort of practice.

"The last thing you want to do is change your diet or change anything you’ve been doing throughout your cycle," he said. "You never want to experiment the day of the race."

Wayne Cohen, from Houston, figures that on the day before the marathon, he’ll have egg whites and fruit for breakfast, rather than pancakes, and salmon with potatoes for dinner, instead of a carb-filled pizza.

But Cohen, 51, has decided he’ll break Passover rules on the morning of the race, when he’s planning to eat oatmeal without water and likely some pieces of bagel. Cohen has run about two dozen marathons, and decided he doesn’t want to mess with his normal race day routine.

And he’s not feeling guilty about it.

"I’ve pretty much convinced myself I would be a hypocrite if I said it would," he added. "It’s not like I’ve been perfect in my religious beliefs.

"I’m beyond that," he said. "I’m not going to worry."

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Woodmere Making Aliyah?

Perhaps the best model for North American Aliyah (or all Aliyah in general for that matter) is mass Aliyah. Making Aliyah as a community. Rabbi Riskin proved it could be done in 1983 when he founded Efrat by making Aliyah together with many of the congregants from his Lincoln Square Synagogue. Kumah has always be a strong promoter of mass Aliyah.

Well, today, Rabbi Shalom Rosner of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere New York, plans to follow in Rabbi Riskin’s footstep and will bring a whole community on Aliyah together. Nofei Hashemesh – located in Beit Shemesh in central Israel - is the name of this new community. You could read more about it on their website.

May this be the first on many new “Aliyah communities” to come!

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Motherland

Recently, on a shopping trip in Jerusalem, I stopped by a Superpharm, Israel's largest drugstore chain. Being the kind of girl who used to meander through Duane Reade back in the day to see what our friends at Maybelline were thinking up, or if there had been any advances on the toothpaste front, I popped in, with an eye toward some Ahava products to give out in the Exile on my upcoming trip. Nothing says "Israel is WAY more awesome than America" more than a jar of scented sea salts or a packet of squooshy, nutritive mud.

As my 5 and a half month old daughter needs some early training in the shopping arts (get them while they're young, ladies), I took her along, pushing her eager, pudgy little body through the store in her stroller.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Israeli drugstores, they aren't the casual browsing experiences you recognize from the Diaspora. Israeli drugstores also contain WILDLY overpriced American and European cosmetics and their corresponding makeup counter ladies. These aggressive but friendly women are squeezed together in the middle of the store, guarding the really expensive makeup and perfume and concurrently trying to get you to wear it, making that the very, very last place in the store one wants to go. However, like an onion with so many layers, there is a second layer - the lamer European cosmetics and the Israeli stuff, like Ahava and Dr. Fischer. These articles are found in the aisles on either side of the main center aisle, and are serviced by only a few women, who are generally more relaxed, though equally as made up as their Estee Lauder-touting counterparts.

So I maneuvered my carriage through the tightly-stocked store, arriving finally at the Ahava section. At that point, my daughter started to cry, so I took her out of the carriage, and carried her with me as I looked through the products. That's when she saw us - I don't know her name, but you know her. She sports a big grin, powerfully highlighted hair heretofore unseen in her native Morocco, long acrylic nails and a snug cotton/lycra shirt not stamped with the Badatz seal of approval.

"[Gasp!]" I turned around quickly to see what could have gone wrong, who fell, who died, whose pants ripped up the back.

"Wai wai wai!!!! Aizeh metukah! Chamudah! Kapparah aleichem!! tfoo tfoo tfooo!" Translation: "Wow, wow, wow! What a sweetie! Cutie! ...[not translatable - if you want to understand, come live in Israel]"

She approached us with enthusiasm generally reserved for long lost relatives or the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. She asked if she could hold my baby, who, like a true Fleisher, was glowing from all the attention, and smiling a big toothless smile. So I agreed, inherently trusting most Moroccan women of any hair color. She started to play, to coo, to dance with my baby. She asked her name, which I told her, and she started talking and singing to the baby. I thought to myself "that's so sweet. Gosh, people are nice."

And then it happened. "Rachel!! Come over here! Did you see this baby?!" Rachel (not necessarily the actual name, but bear with me for purposes of the story) turned around, saw my daughter, and the same ecstatic greeting was repeated. Rachel skittered off to another aisle to alert the cell phone saleswomen, who turned the corner, saw my baby, and emitted a high pitched noise I have only heard from dog whistles and Russian women. The cell phone saleswoman, with high, scary heels, asked if SHE could hold the baby, which I acquiesced to. Then the first lady scurried over to the main cosmetics area to get the other cosmetics saleswomen, who arrived in a group of about 5, while the second lady went off to help a customer in the now service-free store.

At some point, I just kind of walked away, and found the Dead Sea creams and salts I was looking for, while my baby was celebrated and shared, passed from a Russian lady to a Yemenite, to another Moroccan, to a German. They squeezed her legs, pinched her cheeks, bounced her up and down and blessed her with a long life and good health. When I came back, the newcomers asked me her name, where we were from (good PR for Samaria!), and wished me lots of nachat (nachas for you in the Exile) from her, with glowing faces and real warmth. Some of them saw her and proposed shidduchim (marriage proposals) with their sons and grandsons. One by one, after wishing me a good day and a mazal tov, they returned to their work, pushing eye shadow and body creams to the Israeli masses.

Twenty minutes after arriving in the Ahava aisle, we left the store with our purchases. I put the baby back in her carriage, where she lay quietly gurgling to herself, fully satiated by all the love and admiration.

I thought about America, where "other people's children" are rarely handled, except by a licensed professional, and then frequently with some sort of supervision or bio hazard barrier for fear of someone being accused of or contracting something. I was gratified by the honest, effervescent love of these Jewish women for my baby, and for me by warrant of being her mother. Superpharm ladies, we love you, too.

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American, Israeli, or neither?

After spending the last four years dreaming about living in Israel I've now spent the last four months actually living out that dream. This is a place where many people come to "find themselves" and I too expected that to somewhat happen to myself. One thing I didn't consider though, is that in order to find yourself, maybe first you have to lose yourself a little bit. When most people talk about the difficulties of moving to Israel, they speak of learning Hebrew, living with the arabs, or trying to make a living. Not always do they speak of dealing with a new and not so clear identity. Though it should be obvious that coming to a place halfway across the world with a different economy, language and overall society should affect you and by being surrounded by it change you somewhat as a person, it’s something that could in the excitement of things be very easy to overlook.

Though for some it may be simple semantics I tend to think there is a certain importance to the labels we choose to apply, or not to apply, to ourselves and present to others. And while this is the land I plan on making my life in, I’m not so sure if somebody were to ask me, “What are you?” that “Israeli” would be the first word off of my lips. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a point of traveling to places such as the Mearat haMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron and Rachel’s Tomb, which has tremendously increased my connection to this land. Also as my Hebrew improves to the point where I can proficiently order a baguette of schwarma or argue with cab drivers without having to resort to English I start to feel much more like a native. Yet despite this, Israeli society and the many different mentalities of the people here can often be a far cry from what you find back in “the old country.”

So if I’m not an Israeli then I guess I’m just an American in Israel right? Maybe not. While I have no ill will towards America and wish it the best of luck so long as that doesn’t conflict with Israel’s success, in general I feel somewhat detached from it. This is my home now and I care what goes on here, how high gas prices are or who won the Super-bowl back in the States doesn’t have much of an impact on my day-to-day life in Israel. More than that, often I’ll see a bus load of American college students here on a trip making fools of themselves or American tourists doing some of the behaviors that has earned the American tourist a stereotype status around the world and I cringe while I mutter to myself, “G-d, they’re acting so American!” But wait, aren’t I American too? Does the fact I live here and not there give me the opportunity to get on a high horse and think I’m now qualitatively different?

Recently a new idea has crept into my head. What if I don’t need to be either? What if I’m just a Jew who’s come back home and while figuring out what that means doesn’t need to check either box A or B. And as I look around this country I’m in I realize that is the very essence of Israel itself. This country is only several decades old, made up of people from virtually every place in the world. In many ways the country itself still hasn’t figured out who it is. And maybe what it could use is more people who aren’t so sure of who they are yet either. There is a big comfort in the safety of staying wherever you are and however you are. Let's not kid ourselves, to go to a new place often involves becoming somewhat of a new person, which can be pretty scary. But while change can be a scary thing, it often is the best thing that could ever happen to us. It's also only through change that we ever grow. And maybe as more of us come home and find out who we are on an individual level, the fact that we are doing it together in the land of Israel will help our country and people to ultimately find out who we are as a nation.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Will It Take?

Dear Yishai,

I realize there are lots of American Jews that live in the U.S. that support Israel in a lot of substantive ways. There also seem to be a lot of American Jews that don't care. Period. Just don't care. Which brings me to a thought...but there needs to be a digression and I hope you don't mind.

I am literally the only full time staff person at the library where I work who is Jewish. My supervisor once wondered about my connection to Israel. I told her, and it's true that if the anti-Semitism ever got to be as bad in the U.S. as it is in Europe that I would feel unsafe. I would have to leave and come to Israel. That seemed to take care of whatever concern was driving my supervisor's question. I could have copped out I suppose and pointed out my elderly parents who would be unable to survive the move to Israel or my mortgage or my age (I'm 53 just recently), but the right "spin" to put on my answer to my supervisor's comment seemed to be the way I answered (you'd have to know the supervisor to understand that last).

My thought though is that what about American Jews? What would it take for them to say, "Hey we may have comfortable lives here, but enough is enough!" and then make aliyah...en masse??? I'm not just talking about traditional Jews or Chabadniks or the Satmarim, but the reform Jews who live in Bloomfield Township in their million dollar houses. The ones who have intermarried and drag their bored or acting out children to "Sunday school." Who join a shul just long enough for the bar or bat mitzvah and "confirmation." What would it take, I wonder, to get them off their duffs and on to a NBN plane?

Just a few thoughts...and a question that I think is worth exploring...


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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Kosher-Style Strikes Again!

Here is my favorite line from the Forward article entitled "High Cost of Living Leads Orthodox To Look Beyond Borders of New York"

Synagogue leaders from 14 cities will attempt to demonstrate that their towns have all the necessities for an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle...

Now, just so we understand, we are talking about an OU sponsored conference to sell to American Jews their new home in Indianapolis, New Orleans and Edmonton, Charleston, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Memphis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Omaha, San Diego, Seattle, and Vancouver.

Just so we get it straight, Israel, that small affordable suburb mentioned in the Torah a few times, will not be represented.

Once again, the American Orthodox establishment, and the biggest body of Kosher certification is PERPETUATING THE GALUT by selling us the the un-Kosher line that some hole in the middle of Nebraska has all the necessities of an Orthodox Jewish life!

Yet one thing is missing in this Kosher-Style formula: Eretz Hachayim, the Land of Life, as opposed to Eretz Nochriya, a foreign land, the Exile, dispersion, PUNISHMENT!!!

Even if there was a good reason for such an event, would it not make sense to bring in a few stands from Israel to represent the ALIYAH ALTERNATIVE??? These stands should NOT be in a separate event just for the Aliyah saps, it should be in the foreground of the consciousnesses of all OU events, especially those dealing with the migration of Jews. Don't offer Jews Omaha, without at least giving their soul a chance in Raanana!

No, Galut is Kosher; OU all the way baby! Give me "O" Give me a "U" - whats that spell? "Oy, You!" The OU loves Galut, that's where their power is, that's where they are comfortable, that's where they can live a good Jewish life, and that's where, like Iyov, they can run away from G-d's command. By the way, the main reason stated for this conference is money, money, money. America Shel Kesef.

'All the necessities' eh? Kosher-style strikes again!


From the Forward:
Early next month, representatives of Orthodox Jewish communities from across North America — from cities such as Indianapolis, New Orleans and Edmonton, Alberta — will gather in Manhattan to make the case that their hometowns offer something that New York City can’t: affordability.

The Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization representing some 1,000 Modern Orthodox congregations, has organized a showcase for small Orthodox communities to market themselves to New Yorkers. Synagogue leaders from 14 cities will attempt to demonstrate that their towns have all the necessities for an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle — plus the virtues of living in a comparatively small town — at a fraction of New York’s prices.

New York is in many ways at the center of Orthodox Jewish life in America today, home to everything from Modern Orthodox institutions like Yeshiva University to myriad ultra-Orthodox sects. A decade-long boom in real estate prices, however, has made this famously pricey city even pricier. For Orthodox Jews, who tend to have larger families and suffer higher rates of poverty than Jews in general, and for whom the high costs of observant Jewish life are necessities rather than luxuries, that pinch is raising the question of whether Orthodox life can continue to thrive in New York.

“I think a lot of people are feeling the crunch. Young couples getting married, especially Orthodox young couples, want to live within an Orthodox Jewish community, and communities are just so expensive,” said Steve Savitsky, the O.U.’s president and the initiator of its emerging communities program. “Young people are having a very hard time, and even older people who want to upgrade to their next level house can’t keep up any more.”

The price of housing in and around New York has skyrocketed over the past decade. According to data from the National Association of Realtors, median home prices in the area have more than doubled over the past decade, when adjusted for inflation.

Orthodox Jews are particularly susceptible to the high cost of living because the price of an observant lifestyle — keeping kosher, living walking distance from a synagogue, sending children to day school or yeshiva — introduces expenses that many other Jews opt not to bear.

Over the past few decades, many Orthodox Jews have fled the high costs of New York City by moving out to the suburbs or to semi-rural enclaves such as the Satmar Hasidic community of Kiryas Joel in upstate New York. Recently, an editorial in the Satmar-affiliated newspaper Der Blatt argued that New York had become too expensive and urged readers to leave the city behind.

The suburbs, however, are becoming expensive in their own right. In upstate New York, the heavily ultra-Orthodox town of Monsey has become so pricey that many would-be residents are instead moving to the neighboring town of New Hempstead. Rabbi Ronald Price, who leads an Orthodox congregation in the heavily Orthodox suburb of Teaneck, N.J., said that young families are moving to Teaneck to escape the high prices of New York City, and that many more are bypassing established communities like Teaneck for cheaper, less-established suburbs such as Passaic.

Now, the O.U. is attempting to redirect that mobility to much smaller Orthodox communities in other parts of the country that offer the basics of Orthodox Jewish life at a fraction of New York’s cost. According to the Web site, the cost of living in Indianapolis, for example, is nearly 40% less than that of suburban New York. Along with Indianapolis, New Orleans and Edmonton, other communities participating in the O.U. presentation include Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; the San Francisco Bay Area; Omaha, Neb.; San Diego; Seattle, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Savitsky said the O.U. will also bring the community marketplace to other expensive cities, such as Boston and Philadelphia. “I’m not saying it’s a big trend, but people are interested now,” he said.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

Don't Miss This Opportunity To Keep Sleeping!

The OU is organizing a great opportunity to keep perpetuating the Galut while enjoying it too!! Here it is:

Emerging Jewish Communities Showcase in New York

Date: 06 Apr, 2008

Description: Your next community is coming to visit you!

Pursue your dream of a professionally enriching, religiously and personally rewarding life in a community with affordable homes in a friendly, supportive neighborhood, where you can be a key person, helping to bolster the Torah environment.

Register online!

On Sunday, April 6, 2008, at New York’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, the OU will showcase a dozen growing Jewish communities from around North America. You will meet community representatives and learn directly from them about:

• synagogues, day schools and yeshivot
• kosher stores and other Jewish communal resources
• exciting and lucrative job opportunities
• affordable housing
• close-knit and warm communities
• Torah atmosphere in which to raise children
• rewarding retirement opportunities

List of Communities:

Charleston, South Carolina
Columbus, Ohio
Dallas, Texas
Denver, Colorado
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Houston, Texas
Indianapolis, Indiana
Memphis, Tennessee
Oakland, California
Omaha, Nebraska
San Diego, California
Seattle, Washington

Sunday, April 6, 2008, 12:00 am – 6:00 pm

Register in advance for the chance to win valuable prizes!

For more information and for reservations, call 212.613.8188


Even prizes will be given out at this perpetuation of the Exile! Here is what it reminds me of:

1. The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying,
2. "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."
3. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. So he went down to Jaffa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.
4. The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
5. Then the sailors became afraid and every man cried to his god, and they threw the cargo which was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone below into the hold of the ship, lain down and fallen sound asleep.
6. So the captain approached him and said, "How is it that you are sleeping? Get up, call on your god. Perhaps your god will be concerned about us so that we will not perish."


G-d is sending us on a mission - to go home and to be a light unto the nations, but good Orthodox Jews prefer to run to the Galut and to be lulled to sleep by "exciting and lucrative job opportunities" and "rewarding retirement opportunities". Chaval.

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Video: Exposing The New Christians

(Or click here.)

Last year on a flight to New York I was seated with a group of what I thought were traditional American Christians. But I noticed they were all wearing a logo I had not seen before. It was a combo of the fish (you know which one I mean), the Star of David, and a seven branch menorah. I now know this is the symbol for Messianic Judaism , the latest religious craze sweeping across America. Here is just one of many lists of Messianic Congregations in North America today.

Movements and organizations have sprung up with names like:

Chosen People Ministries
Coalition of Torah Observant Messianic Congregations
Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship
International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
International Federation of Messianic Jews
First Fruits of Zion
Messianic Bureau International
Messianic Israel Alliance
Messianic Jewish Alliance of America
One Law Messianic
Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
Union of Torah Observant Ministries

Now many of these “messianics” have their eye on Israel and even Aliyah! "MiTzion Productions" put together a five minute informative video about what’s going on and why you should care.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

When Passaic Is Jerusalem, Rav Leff's "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West"

The following essay by Rav Zev Leff, Shilta, entitled "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West?" appears as the introduction to "To Dwell in the Palace" by Tzivia Erlich-Klein (1991, Feldheim - a MUST read - order it today!).

Though I always wanted to post this here, I'm posting it now as a response the post "Passaic is Better than Israel."

Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
from “To Dwell in the Palace - Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”

DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”

The question is not of recent vintage, nor was it posed by a representative of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. It was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who addressed these words, some sixty years ago, to Rav Yitzchok Breuer. The rav of Yerushalayim further told the Agudah leader, “Now I understand the words of musaf for yom tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country’ - by HaShem; `and we were distanced from our Land’ - this we have done voluntarily.” (Moriah, p. 191)

Another quote from Rav Sonnenfeld is perhaps even more pointed: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his failure in the future world.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)

A generation or so later, a yeshiva student from the diaspora who had been learning in an Israeli yeshiva came to bid farewell to the Chazon Ish before returning to his home. “Is one permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel?” the gadol asked him. The student stammered and replied, “I understood that if one came to Eretz Yisroel with the intention of returning eventually, he is permitted to leave.” The Chazon Ish spoke in a tone of disappointment: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to settle here and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)

Baruch HaShem, Torah is flourishing in Eretz Yisroel to an extent scarcely even dreamed of by these great sages. But their questions still loom. Indeed, the extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is “involved in finding ways” out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.

Factors Cited

The economic situation in Israel is often mentioned. Indeed, the Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 75, no. 6) rules that since living under conditions of economic privation can endanger, or at least compromise, one’s spiritual life, one is exempt from settling in Israel if he will be forced to live under conditions of dachkus (hardship). Now what constitutes the “dachkus” to which the Pischei Teshuva refers? The inability to afford $25 per pound gourmet chocolates? Not being able to acquire an elegant, very large wardrobe of `from” designer clothing? Is the definition of dachkus being too destitute to afford a $500,000 home that one would not think of inhabiting until it was gutted and elegantly redone? Or is dachkus a dearth of elegant glatt restaurants of various nationalities, pizza shops with all the trimmings, and frozen glatt kosher convenience foods and snacks?

Not to belabor the point, in essence the ruling of the Pischei Teshuva refers specifically to one who will be forced to live from tzedaka in Israel as opposed to being able to earn a living in chutz laAretz. By comparing employment possibilities in Eretz Yisroel today with those available either in the time of Rav Sonnenfeld or that of the Chazon Ish, we are soon forced to eliminate the exemption of the Pischei Teshuva for most cases. B’ezras HaShem one can earn a livelihood in Israel that would have been considered luxurious by most of prewar European Jewry. Even more significant, however, is this point: the more modest lifestyle typical in Israel today not only does no harm to one’s spiritual life, but it is likely to do much good.

The Torah sages of all generations warned against extravagant lifestyles, flaunting our wealth in the eyes of the nations, and becoming too comfortable in golus. The Maharsha (Shabbos 119) makes the following observation: “Most of the sins of this generation… can be attributed to the fact that… everyone wishes to conduct himself in an extravagant fashion in regard to clothing, houses, and all other matters; and this leads to theft.”

More recently, the Chafetz Chaim, in the Biur Halachic (siman 529), rebukes openly: “Many people err in this area and do not take to heart how to conduct themselves properly concerning their household expenses, to distance themselves from luxuries. Many have been damaged by this kind of conduct which ultimately brings one to theft and dishonesty and to shame and disgrace….” In Sfas Tamim (chapter V) the Chafetz Chaim blames the suffering, trials and tribulations of his times on the dishonesty promoted by overspending on luxuries, especially costly clothing; by overextending oneself through buying on credit; and by lavish weddings with unreasonable demands made on parents for dowries.

Another facet of the economic argument, one cited as a reason to delay aliya indefinitely, is financial “security.” (”How can we face the future without a sizable sum put safely away?”) The gemara (Sota 48) says: “One who has bread in his basket and worries what he will eat tomorrow is one of little faith.” The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the “little faith” is not evidenced by the uncertainty of tomorrow, but rather by this man’s certainty of today. By worrying only about to morrow, he shows that he puts his trust in the presence of bread in his basket, and not in HaShem. A believing Jew, by definition, does not hang his security on large bank accounts; he certainly would not compromise his Torah life in their pursuit.

All this considered, there do remain legitimate economic factors to weigh when planning aliya. The laws of tzedaka demand that we provide for one who falls on hard times not merely at subsistence level, but at the standard to which he was accustomed. This is because a drastic change in lifestyle can be very painful. In light of this insight gleaned from the halacha itself, an individual may and should consider very carefully his family’s present standard of living, the prospects for their situation in Eretz Yisroel, and the ability of the family to modify or adapt accordingly. Of course, a Jew who has been properly educated to the importance of aliya, and one who takes the admonition of the Chafetz Chaim cited above seriously, will be cautious from the start lest his family grow accustomed to exaggerated standards.

The second factor that could qualify as a reason for postponing aliya under the guidelines of the Pischei Teshuva concerns the individual’s predilection for a specific occupation. Chazal tell us that it is part of a man’s nature to find satisfaction in doing that for which he is best suited. We all know that there are many people who retrain in the middle of one career for an entirely new one, for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, one who finds satisfaction in his occupation should plan to pursue the same one in Eretz Yisroel. Where this would be impossible, one should weigh the available options for suitability and for the prospects of success and satisfaction inherent in each one. Failure to deliberate this issue could result in a potentially frustrating or unsuccessful aliya. Here too, however, if one teaches oneself to strive always towards aliya, then, at every crossroads in his training, he will have Eretz Yisroel in mind. Such a person will consider possible occupations in light of their transferability to Eretz Yisroel from the beginning.

And then there’s the matter of physical security. After all, the halacha does not permit us to put ourselves in danger.

Visiting New York, I have been asked: “Aren’t you afraid to live in the Shomron?” I find it amusing if not ironic when the question is asked while the host secures both his locks and activates his alarm system.

In the years I’ve lived on Moshav Mattityahu, there have been no incidents, no crime. My children can go out to play at any hour, and we do not bother to lock our doors even at night. How safe are the streets of any city in America that it should be recommended as a place of safety while Israel is rejected as dangerous?

On the streets of Eretz Yisroel, the only men carrying guns are the soldiers protecting us. At least here in Eretz Yisroel the security measures taken have an excellent record of effectiveness. And added to those security measures (which the halacha requires of us) the observable fact is that in Eretz Yisroel we merit an extra, supernatural, measure directly from the Ribbono shel olam. No, the safety factor does not really seem to be an issue.

Some claim to fear the problems that they would encounter trying to live a life of Torah under a secular Israeli government. Isn’t the negative attitude to Torah values and Torah observers exhibited by certain segments of Israeli society a significant detriment, they ask.

One wonders, however, if non-Jewish Western society, or for that matter the secular Jewish community elsewhere, is really a better environment for Torah ideals. Is the attitude there towards Torah values less hostile? Does kindly tolerance of observant Jews demonstrated by secularized brethren create a better atmosphere for growth?

Before the reader rushes to answer these complex questions, the following should be considered: When the Israeli government passed the law of conscription for women, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with a challenge: “Does the Rav still feel that Jews are obligated to come and settle here [i.e.., when there is a government that drafts laws such as this, subjecting our daughters to military service, which the gedolim forbid (they have even ruled that one must surrender her life if that is the only alternative to compliance)]?” After a brief, pained silence, the Chazon Ish answered in the affirmative with forceful resolve and clarity. (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 43)

Today, although conscription of women has yet to be annulled completely, any woman claiming to be religious is exempt. It would therefore appear, by kal vachomer from the psak of the Chazon Ish, that the objection posed above does not affect our obligation.

Those in positions of communal responsibility cite additional grounds for remaining in chutz laAretz. Clearly, consideration must be given to the effect their aliya will have on those for whom they bear responsibility. There are indeed many community rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, klei kodesh, and community heads who are crucial to the growth and stability of their respective institutions both spiritually and physically. It would, however, be absurd and somewhat haughty for every rabbi or communal leader to assume that the fate of his community rests on his shoulders alone.

In many cases the aliya of the leader would be an incentive and inspiration for those he leads to follow, for the benefit of all concerned. And there are leaders who would be even more effective and successful in Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Sonnenfeld directed his impoverished grandson to decline the offer of a prestigious rabbinical position in chutz laAretz and to remain in Eretz Yisroel. “I maintain that it is better to be a plain working man in Israel than a rabbi in chutz laAretz,” Rav Sonnenfeld told him. (This is not to be taken as a blanket principle for all cases. The comment is important, however, in that it challenges our preconception that the reverse is the rule.)

It must be emphasized that each situation is unique. When doubts exist, the advice of a Torah authority should be sought. I myself know of a number of cases where important rabbis and leaders were advised by a posek to go ahead and make aliya.

Another factor that sometimes discourages prospective olim is reports of problems encountered in chinuch of children, particularly those of high school age. This may seem surprising, since there is an abundance of excellent institutions of learning to be found in Eretz Yisroel on all levels. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of Hebrew language skills acquired in many US. yeshivos, coupled with cultural differences which are due to the infusion of foreign values, can create difficulties for the young oleh. Discrepancies of style between available options here and those one was accustomed to in the United States can cause considerable pain for children and parents alike. With proper planning and guidance, however, many of these problems can be reduced or avoided entirely. Furthermore, additional aliya from the US. will, inevitably, lead to the establishment of more schools tailored to these olim. (Indeed, recent years have witnessed the development of “American-style” yeshivishe education in Israel with a unique flavor all its own.)

There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.

And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish….

The purpose of this article is not to enter into a halachic debate, nor to be so presumptuous as to rush in where giants have trodden before me. Yes, there are reliable halachic opinions which would mitigate the obligatory nature of yishuv Eretz Yisroel in our times; but the list of opinions in support of the imperative of fulfilling this mitzva today - only fractionally mentioned in the above paragraph - is a formidable one.

There is one point on which all Torah authorities are in agreement. That is that living in Eretz Yisroel affords one a unique opportunity for spiritual development and growth. While it is true that this opportunity must be considered in conjunction with many other factors that affect the spirit, one cannot simply ignore or disregard the special qualities of Eretz Yisroel and of the mitzva of yishuv haAretz.

Strangely, consideration of settling in Eretz Yisroel is overlooked by many in the Torah community. This most certainly is not the Torah view. The move to Eretz Yisroel must at least be considered, discussed, and investigated. As a musmach of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, who learned in kollel there for many years, then went on to serve the community I grew up in as rav of the North Miami Beach kehilla for nine years, and then, with the advice and encouragement of gedolim, was oleh to Eretz Yisroel several years ago, assuming the position of rav of Moshav Mattityahu - I feel that my experience may be instructive to the Torah world. I believe I can provide some insights gained on both sides of the ocean which will clarify the case for settling in Eretz Yisroel, and bring the topic to the forefront for personal deliberation. Perhaps others like me, neither exceptionally brave nor wealthy, may benefit from my perspective.

If living in Eretz Yisroel is viewed as “just a mitzva” (as I once heard someone say with a shrug), then all the considerations discussed above could be deterrents. But this is a mitzva which is “equal to all the rest,” it is fulfilled every moment with every part of one’s body, and it carries with it a host of other mitzvos which one can fulfill only by residing in Eretz Yisroel. Clearly, there is something more encompassing at issue than any single mitzva. Let us therefore suspend our analysis of practical questions while we address the larger picture. What is this particular Land, and living in it, all about?

The Role of the Jewish Nation

Some of what follows is basic and surely known to the reader. Nevertheless, as the Mesillas Yesharim warns, that which is basic and self-understood is often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.

Am Yisroel was selected by HaShem to be a sanctified nation whose raison d’etre would be to represent HaShem to the world in all areas - a “mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh.” The Torah was given to us to guide us - individually and collectively - in conforming with this lofty mission.

To achieve our goal, HaShem exhorted us to separate ourselves from the other nations. We are to be a nation apart, distinct in our holy purpose. As the Torah instructs, “Va’avdil eschem min ha’amim lihiyos li” (I separated you from the nations to be Mine). (Vayikra 20) The Sifrei comments on this verse: “If you are separated then you are Mine, but if not, you belong to Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts.” The simple meaning seems to be that if we separate ourselves, we will merit Divine protection, and if not, HaShem will deliver us into the hands of our enemies. The literal wording of the Sifrei, however, does not bear this explanation out. I would like to suggest an alternative one:

A non Jew is required to observe only seven mitzvos. His lifestyle can be secular, devoid of holiness. As long as he maintains harmony with the basic ethical code dictated by HaShem for civilization, he will merit a share in the world-to-come. One might conclude that a Jew living the same type of lifestyle, although remiss in the observance of 606 mitzvos, has a positive basis for his life - no worse than a non Jew. The Sifrei informs us otherwise. The Jew exists for an entirely different purpose: to create a mikdash - a place of holiness and sanctity where HaShem’s presence will be found, and felt. This mikdash finds expression in the person of every Jew. Thus, any Jew who fails to sanctify himself, to lead a life of exceptional holiness as defined by the Torah’s commandments, is in fact destroying his personal mikdash. He has joined the ranks of Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts, destroyers of the Mikdash.

To promote our being a “nation that dwells apart,” HaShem “measured every land and found no land more suitable to the Jewish people than Eretz Yisroel, and no people better suited to Eretz Yisroel than am Yisroel.” (Vayikra Rabba 13) Eretz Yisroel is a holy Land, the Land that HaShem personally supervises at all times, the Land that HaShem calls His own. Am Yisroel is the nation that is a holy nation - the nation that merits direct Divine providence, the nation that HaShem calls His own. Hence Eretz Yisroel and am Yisroel complement each other perfectly.

Eretz Yisroel provides the setting where we can develop our potential to be a sanctified nation unlike any other. (This, it should be noted, is the very antithesis of secular Zionist ideology, which envi sions Eretz Yisroel as the setting for us to develop at long last into a nation like all other nations, with all their vices and weaknesses.)

The idea of Eretz Yisroel as the home of a uniquely holy people is implied at the very beginning of the Torah. “The Torah should have commenced with hachodesh hazeh lachem, the first mitzva the Jewish people were commanded. Why then does it open with Bereishis…?” (Rashi on Bereishis 1, 1) The answer quoted by Rashi is the following: Lest the nations of the world claim that we are thieves who stole the land of seven nations, HaShem informs us that He created the world and it is therefore His to take away from whomever He chooses and to give to whomever He chooses.

This answer is not for the nations; obviously, they do not accept it. Rather it is we who are supposed to see clearly that Eretz Yisroel is legitimately ours, given to us by HaShem. But there is a deeper lesson here. Why was it ordained that we should have to conquer Eretz Yisroel from seven nations who inhabited it for hundreds of years? Why was it arranged that we should have to kill the men, women, and children of those nations? Why did Eretz Yisroel have to become ours in a manner so open to question that the whole Torah would have to start from Bereishis just to provide an answer?

It seems that HaShem sought to teach us a lesson so significant that it is the foundation of the entire Torah. It is the preface necessary before we can approach even the first mitzva. This lesson is that the basis of our ethics and morals, standards and values is one sole source - HaShem Yisbarach. If He says to conquer and kill, that is what is “ethical’ and “moral.” Where HaShem mandates mercy and peace, they are “ethical” in that case. Our value system can have no other basis than the written and oral Torah. By mandating the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in an apparently disputable manner, the Creator forced us to focus our attention on the only basis we have for our actions. He is the Creator of all that exists; only He can dictate proper conduct among the peoples and lands He created. Only on the basis of this reasoning are we not thieves nor murderers. The Torah, at the very outset, is laying the foundation for our frame of reference to mitzvos, and to the world.

It is not incidental that this lesson is taught through Eretz Yisroel. Our sources emphasize that only in the Land of Israel can a Torah society not influenced by foreign values and standards be created - a society based on the ethics and morals of Torah alone, a society apart, rooted in and enhanced by the special qualities of the Land.

This is something we neglect to study in the day-to-day pursuit of our lives as individuals. But since the ideal Torah society is something we yearn and pray for, it would be edifying to delve into the structure that it is meant to have.

The Brisker Rav, zt”l, explains (on parshas Chayei Sara) that klal Yisroel is comprised of two complementary factions. The first is made up of choice individuals whom the Rambam refers to as an extended “shevet Levi” - those devoted exclusively to Torah study and avodas HaShem. This is the elite corps of HaShem’s army, toiling in the yeshivos and kollelim, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They create the spiritual energy source necessary for the survival of klal Yisroel and are therefore supported by the klal as were the Kohanim and Leviim. This group is the minority.

The other sector, comprising the majority of klal Yisroel, are those who follow the dictum of Rebbe Yishmael (Brachos 35) and combine Torah with a worldly occupation. Torah is, of course, the focal point of their lives, their worldly occupation secondary and peripheral. Nevertheless, Torah is not their exclusive pursuit.

I believe this thesis of the Brisker Rav has an analogous application to the Land. It too is to be divided into two sections. Yerushalayim is the primary domain of Kohanim and Leviim with the Beis HaMikdash at its center. The remainder of Eretz Yisroel is predominantly the territory of the other tribes.

The gemara (Pesachim 8) questions why the choice fruits of the Galil were not found growing in Yerushalayim instead, and why the hot springs of Teverya were not situated in Yerushalayim. The answer it gives is that when the Jewish people ascended to the Beis HaMikdash three times a year to fulfill the mitzva of aliya laregel, HaShem wanted them to perform the mitzva entirely “leshem shamayim.” He did not want them to have the possible ulterior incentive of delicious fruit or hot springs.

And yet, delicious fruits do grow in the Galil, and hot springs are found in Teverya, which are also part of Eretz Hakodesh. This fact points to an important insight into the total picture of Eretz Yisroel. Although Yerushalayim is reserved for the spiritual, the entire Land is holy. Yerushalayim it hakodesh is representative of shevet Levi and the unique role of that minority. The rest of this holy Land corresponds to the rest of our people and the majority role, which is the synthesis of spiritual and material.

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation, undertaken in Eretz Yisroel, is included in the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, and it is in Eretz Yisroel that Rebbe Yishmael’s ruling (that one should take on a worldly occupation) applies! Agriculture or commerce, industry or social work, medicine or engineering… whatever helps settle the people in the Land, as this-wordly as it may seem, is, by definition, a mitzva in Eretz Yisroel. Consequently, the physical and material aspects of the Land are also objects of holiness, vehicles of service to HaShem.

This idea is further borne out by the Gra’s version of the bracha acharona. The Gra omits the phrase “and let us eat from its (Eretz Yisroel’s) fruit and be satiated from its goodness.” His source is the gemara in Sota (14). Of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter Eretz Yisroel the question is asked: “Was it to eat from its fruit that he wished to enter the Land?! Rather his desire was to fulfill the mitzvos of the Land.” The implication is that eating from the fruit is not a commendable reason for desiring Eretz Yisroel and the Gra therefore omits it from the bracha.

How then can we understand the Gra’s version of the beginning of this bracha, which contains the following phrase: “… and for the desirable, good, and spacious Land that You desired and bequeathed to our forefathers to eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness….”

The discrepancy is explained when we apply the above-mentioned concept of a division of the Land of Israel. The opening part of the blessing refers to Eretz Yisroel as a whole. We mention the fruit since it is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of Divine service in greater Eretz Hakodesh. The conclusion of the bracha, however, refers specifically to the building of Yerushalayim, where reference to the fruits and material goodness is out of place.

The gemara in Sota pertains to Moshe Rabbeinu, a Levi whose place would have been in Yerushalayim. Hence the negative connotation of desiring to enter for the fruits.

The midrash (Bereishis Rabba 38, 8) relates that Avraham avinu traveled from land to land seeking the best place for his children to live. In Aram he observed people eating and drinking and partying, and he hoped that his descendants would not reside there. In contrast he observed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel weeding and plowing and planting and hoped that this would be the dwelling-place of his offspring.

This midrash is surprising in that it points to qualities inherent in the atmosphere of a certain land. (The inhabitants of both these countries were, after all, idol-worshippers.)

The very air of chutz laAretz is conducive to materialism, to the utilization of the physical aspects of the world for immediate gratification and sensual stimulation - an olam hazeh approach. Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, is conducive to toiling for future gratification, for future fruits - even in the material sense. This is an olam habba orientation. Avraham avinu recognized that in this setting his descendants would be able to realize their full potential, whatever their occupation.

It is true that the environment, whether of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz laAretz, can be overcome to a great extent. A Jew living outside the Land can resolve not to succumb to materialism. Even in Eretz Yisroel one who is determined to do so can lead a life of indulgence; after all, Sodom was in Eretz Yisroel. However, for one sincerely seeking to give HaShem the best service, Eretz Yisroel is the only place in the world providing a fertile, favorable environment. Not only in the past and in the future, but also in the present.

We are reminded daily of this truth. Every time we eat a meal, after satisfying our physical appetite, we are required by the Torah to recite birkas hamazon. It consists of three brachos of Torah origin and a fourth that is rabbinic. The first of the three Torah blessings acknowledges that HaShem is the source of all sustenance. The second thanks HaShem for the food and for Eretz Yisroel. It is in this bracha that we also mention HaShem’s covenant with us and the Torah. The third bracha is a prayer for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash and the Davidic dynasty.

Reciting all of this after each addition of a few ounces to our physical constitution, no matter where we live, may not seem particularly relevant. But it is. A Jew must focus his attention on the ultimate purpose of the creation of the material. Any thank-you for food must include mention of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, for only through the Land of Israel are the world’s material components put to use in the most sublime and ideal fashion.

And yet we may imagine that we can daily acknowledge the ideal while continuing to live our own lives among the nations in a lessthan-ideal fashion. Dwelling apart would be nice, we may say, but as for me, blending in with my host country will suffice. The Torah tells us otherwise. If we dwell apart, then “Israel will dwell apart in security.” (Devarim 33) If, however, we choose not to do so willingly, then solitude of a different, nature will be forced upon us. “How does she dwell apart in solitude?” is, we will recall, the opening verse of Lamentations.

How often have we tried to assimilate! Yet we, like the oil which can never blend with other liquids, are doomed to remain separate. Rav Chaim Volozhiner put it succinctly: “If the Jew does not make kiddush then the goy makes havdala.” Either we separate and sanctify ourselves, or the matter will be taken care of for us in much more painful ways.

The ultimate “cure” for all the woes of the Jew among the nations can only be a return to our own Land, there to live a life absolutely unique in its sanctification.

Consider the verse: “No man will covet your Land when you ascend to greet the Presence of HaShem thrice yearly.” (Shemos 34) Would it not have been sufficient if no one took the Land? Why was it necessary to promise that no one would “covet” the Land?

In light of our discussion regarding the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, we can explain this verse in the following manner:

The Ibn Ezra explains that the prohibition of Lo sachmod - do not covet - demands that a person recognize that all possessions are Divinely ordained for their owners. One does not covet that which is totally removed from his sphere (e.g., the peasant does not desire the king’s daughter, whom he merely admires from afar).

With this in mind, the verse quoted above takes on new meaning. The Jewish people are to renew and revitalize their relationship to HaShem three times each year by immersion in the holiness of Yerushalayim. They then go home to live their everyday lives in Eretz Yisroel proper - a sanctified people in a sanctified society, observing numerous agricultural commandments with the produce of a sanctified Land. The nations of the world will recognize that Eretz Yisroel is something outside their orbit. Perceiving how ill-suited it is to their olam hazeh ways and goals, they will lose interest in it. It is only when we dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a secular manner comparable to theirs that the nations imagine it has relevance to them also - and that is when they covet the Land.

This is a general picture of the way things are meant to be for the people of Israel living in the Land of Israel. Although every person must act in accordance with his unique circumstances, the Jew must maintain an awareness of the task of klal Yisroel in Creation. While an individual Jew may reach a relatively high level anywhere, there is no possibility of fulfilling our national destiny except in Eretz Yisroel.

An important point for the ben Torah to consider is this: only those who accept the full implications of the Torah’s starting from Bereishis, as explained above, are in a position to bring HaShem’s plan to fruition.

It thus behooves us to readdress the question: Where is the aliya from the Torah communities of the West? Having dismissed so many excuses, I would now like to focus on what I believe are root causes.

Underlying Factors

One factor which should not be underestimated is Zionism. The secular Zionist movement sought to replace the Torah, which it rejected, with nationalism - the Land of Israel, the Hebrew language, and “culture” - as the sole foundation of Jewish identity.

This had a variety of consequences. One which is rarely discussed, but which is especially relevant and particularly tragic, is the effect on the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. Somehow, G-d’s commandment seems to have become tainted by the Zionist idea. Interestingly enough, there is a precedent for de-emphasizing a mitzva when it is thus “cut off from the tree of life” by some. When the minim (early Christians) discarded the 613 mitzvos for the “Ten Commandments” exclusively, the Rabbis removed the recitation of these aseres hadibros from the tefilla. They feared that mentioning only these might mislead the masses into following the minim. They did not, however, stop observing the aseres hadibros! It is interesting to note that the need to cease publicly emphasizing the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, based on the above reasoning, was suggested ninety years ago by none other than Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l. (Hapeles, 5661, issues 1 - 4, quoted in Le’or Hanetzach pp. 121 - 122) Indeed, this could be one reason why gedolei Yisroel to this day do not publicly emphasize the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

For the Torah community, however, to fall into the trap of equating Zion with Zionism, and avoid the tremendous mitzva involved because it appears blemished, is a great tragedy.

Ben Gurion once said that if the Knesset voted for Shabbos observance, he would observe it as the law of the land. Would there then be justification for us to cease observing Shabbos because the Zionists were observing it for the wrong reason and in a distorted fashion?!

The Sadducees distorted the Yom Kippur service, the counting of the omer, the celebration of Shavuos, and countless other mitzvos. Did chazal then react by neglecting or ignoring these mitzvos? Rather they emphasized proper observance in defiance of the falsifiers, even in times when the Sadducees were in power and had the upper hand.

Therefore, the subtle negative effects of Zionism must be brought to the surface of our thinking, so that each of us can attack them in a rational fashion, without negating the importance of the Land or the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

The final element which must be confronted is a formidable one. It is the difficulty involved in aliya. The mitzva of tzitzis, after all - including all shitos and hiddurim - is one thing. Leaving one’s birthplace, family and friends, and all that is comfortable and familiar, is quite another. Nevertheless, the ability to do so, says Rav Chaim Volozhiner, exists potentially in the very fiber of every Jew. It is our legacy from our forefather Avraham, programmed into our spiritual genetic makeup ever since he heeded the command of “tech lecha” on that very first aliya laAretz. (Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos 5, 4)

The difficulties of yishuv Eretz Yisroel do not end when one arrives, just as one’s aliya does not stop at Lod Airport. Rather, it is an ongoing process of realizing ever higher goals. The hurdles are testified to by chazal as a permanent component of the mitzva and should not be considered a new result of modern bureaucracy. What chazal say about this is deserving of our consideration. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Israel three precious gifts, and all were given only through suffering. They are: Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and the world-to-come.” (Brachos 5) These words of our sages underscore something every Torah Jew knows: In serving HaShem we do not neglect a mitzva because it is difficult. That which comes hardest is often the most valuable, hence, the most precious gift.

Another category of “difficulty” must be mentioned. The learned and G-d fearing individual knows that Eretz Yisroel is the “palace of the King.” A higher, more exacting standard of behavior is demanded here. One might reason that he should not introduce himself into a situation that may demand more of him spiritually than he can deliver. He may therefore opt to remain in chutz laAretz rather than to abuse the sanctity of the Land. (Such logic might have validity for a Jew absolutely uninterested in Torah and mitzvos. In chutz laAretz, his transgressions would be less devastating. On the other hand, for such a person, settling in Eretz Yisroel might be the very thing that would provide a positive influence and move him to teshuva.)

By the above line of reasoning, all Torah study should cease. The more one learns, after all, the more is demanded of him. The higher his level, the more strictly is he judged. Should he not therefore opt to learn as little as possible so as not to magnify his failings and avoid abusing the sanctity of the Torah? The fallacy here is that we are required by the Torah constantly to elevate ourselves, to accept added responsibility. The Torah we possess will aid us in accommodating ourselves to our raised level. Likewise the merit and kedusha of Eretz Yisroel will elevate us, actually aiding us to live properly in the King’s palace. Furthermore, if we are in danger of transgressing despite Torah learning and Eretz Yisroel, how much lower would we fall without their saving powers. (See Michtav MeEliyahu, vol. II, pp. 54 - 55)

In Conclusion

No, Eretz Yisroel is not “just another mitzva.” For ben Torah or baal bayis it represents an elevation to higher levels of sanctity in every aspect of life, availability of mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled anywhere else, and the potential - however remote it may appear for the moment - of a consummate Torah society.

To our great dismay, the geula has not yet come. According to our gedolim we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, the last stage of golus. Ours is a time of paradoxes and great tests. On the one hand we have witnessed many miraculous and marvelous events. We have been zocheh that a large portion of Eretz Yisroel has been returned to Jewish hands and is thriving and flourishing. Aliya is now within the relatively easy grasp of millions of Jews. HaShem in His kindness has granted us access once again to our mekomos kedoshim (the Kosel Hamaaravi, Me’aras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel…).

At the same time, however, a secular government with a secular system of law reigns in Israel today, a government that can be hostile to Torah values and Torah-observant Jews. The media may, on occasion, spew forth such hatred for Torah that one can only be astounded and deeply ashamed that the language of such blasphemy is Hebrew. Missionaries peddle their wares, apparently unchecked. We must demonstrate against public chillul Shabbos and other types of desecration. The confusion over “Who is a Jew” and the introduction of the deviationist Conservativism and Reform even in this holy Land add to our heartache. All of these shadows loom over Eretz Yisroel.

And yet, there is so much light. Yeshivos and other mekomos Torah are proliferating at an unbelievable pace and are bursting at the seams. Thousands of previously estranged Jews are returning to our Torah heritage. Torah cities thrive and new ones are being built, Torah neighborhoods with all their accoutrements flourish in all the major cities, and even Torah moshavim and kibbutzim dot the map of the Land.

Chazal have instructed us that it is better to dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a city that is predominantly non-Jewish than to dwell in chutz laAretz, even in a city predominantly Jewish. (Kesubos 110) This does not mean that living in the band of Israel per se is more important than living in a Torah environment. But rather, I recently heard the idea that in Eretz Yisroel, the potential for positive change is inherent. The trend is for more and more Jews to come and transform the previously non-Jewish city into a Jewish one. Chutz laAretz, on the other hand, is doomed to negative change for the Jew. Permanence is, by definition, impossible there. Neighborhoods are destined to flourish temporarily, wane, and ultimately fall into non-Jewish hands. (Who has not seen this?)

So, if the dark patches described above trouble you, think in terms of potential for change. Imagine the impact of an influx of hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of Torah-observant Jews, rabbanim, mechanchim, bnei Torah, and balebatim - men, women and children - on society in Israel and on the very character of the “Jewish State.”

Lest the reader think that mere numbers are not the issue, let me cite an exchange reported to have taken place between the Chazon Ish and Ben Gurion. The prime minister had asked the gaon’s prediction of who would ultimately be victorious in shaping Israeli society - the secularist camp or the Torah camp. The answer of the Chazon Ish was: “I am not a prophet, but I am certain that we will win out in the end. Our birthrate exceeds yours by far and one day we will be the majority!”

And if you are concerned that Israel may be unable to accommodate a vast influx, socially and economically, take this into consideration: I have heard secular Israeli leaders say that they would welcome and be able to handle tremendous numbers of immigrants. If they, presumably relying and depending on their “own” resources and means, feel so sure, how much more should we, who trust in the Ribbono shel olam? Eretz Yisroel is referred to as “Eretz Tzvi” (the Land like a deer). Just as a deer’s skin constantly expands to accommodate its growth, so too Eretz Yisroel can always accommodate additional Jews. As Rav Sonnenfeld put it, “When children return to their mother’s home there is no question of space. They squeeze together to sit but the mother never complains of lack of room.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 153)

HaShem Yisbarach has blessed us with wonderful gifts in our generation. It stands to reason that He is watching to see if we appreciate all that He has done. Do we consider it sufficient to admire from afar, and maybe visit once in a while? Or are we grateful enough to sacrifice some physical and material comforts in order to benefit from these spiritual luxuries? Perhaps an exhibition of genuine appreciation of His gifts will earn us the final crowning of a hastened geula!

With all of this, however, it would be overstated to advocate unconditionally that every religious Jew pick up and leave the diaspora tomorrow. Each individual situation must be studied carefully, and all of the legitimate factors considered.

This means asking a posek. During my years of experience as a community rav, I was impressed by the number of balebatim who, for example, would not break their fast on Taanis Esther despite a serious headache, without a psak halacha. Is such conscientiousness nothing more than a big show on a small matter? I prefer to believe it is the expression of a genuine desire to fulfill HaShem’s will. If it is, it would not allow the Jew to exempt himself from a mitzva as important, as all-encompassing, as yishuv Eretz Yisroel, before asking a shaila. One should not interpret the absence of public exhortations from gedolim on this or any other issue to be an indication of a negative attitude or even of indifference. There are a great many factors which may mandate public silence on some matter, even one viewed favorably, even one of great importance, even a question of mitzva and aveira.

If in the final analysis your particular circumstances dictate that you yourself remain in chutz laAretz, be ever sensitive to the fact that you are missing something. Recognize that no Jewish community in chutz laAretz - Y rum” and established though it may be - can ever replace Eretz Yisroel. If this is an important awareness for the lay individual, it is crucial for the teacher or community leader. In striving to raise the level of Torah and mitzva observance of those under your influence, you should stress the inevitable incompleteness of Jewish life outside the Land of Israel.

If you do not merit settling in Eretz Yisroel presently, aspire and fervently pray for the day when your circumstances will change, so that you will be able to fulfill this mitzva and reap the spiritual benefits of living in our holy Land. It would also be advantageous to visit Eretz Yisroel from time to time if your finances permit, to keep the fires of your dreams and aspirations glowing. The Chazon Ish (Kovets Igros, vol. 1, no. 176) supports this recommendation.

It is not sufficient to admire and appreciate the advantages and benefits of Eretz Yisroel in theory. In part this was the sin of the spies who, while extolling the beauty and goodness of the Land, lacked the bitachon to take advantage of those merits and concretize their personal connection to the Land. Rav Yaakov Emden, in his Siddur, emphasizes this point. “The mere hint of facing towards Yerushalayim when we pray is only sufficient when more than that is impossible. But, if we are not prevented by circumstance from physically being in Eretz Yisroel, then just facing in its direction will not suffice. Therefore, every Jew must resolve in his heart to settle in Eretz Yisroel as soon as he has the means to finance his move and to be able to eke out a meager livelihood by means of a trade or business…. Don’t think to become entrenched in chutz laAretz for this was the sin of our forefathers who `despised the desirable Land.’ This sin has caused all the calamities in our golus. We have been like one totally forgotten because we have completely forgotten the mitzva to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.”

Other Torah sages too have warned of becoming too settled in chutz laAretz. Some even went so far as to prohibit the erection of permanent stone dwellings outside of Eretz Yisroel. The Keli Yakar at the beginning of parshas Vayechi explains why the date of the arrival of Mashiach was hidden from us: to prevent us from becoming too settled in foreign lands, and losing the sense of anticipation of his arrival and of our imminent return to Eretz Yisroel. He goes on to bemoan the lack of success of even this measure, noting that so many Jews feel so settled in the lands of their dispersion that they build luxurious, permanent homes, and ignore even the possibility (let alone the fervent desire) that Mashiach may come at any moment and bring us all back to the Land of Israel.

We must refrain from feeling settled and fulfilled as long as we are outside the Land. This attitude need not lead to melancholy but should instead actually enhance one’s spiritual life. It affords direction in aspiring towards the proper values and lifestyle. Interestingly, it may also provide physical protection for the community in which one resides now, as illustrated by the following account from the Shearis Yisroel, in the name of Rav Yehoshua Falk, the author of the SMA.

The city of Worms was devastated twice during the Crusades. Why did a city blessed with pious Torah scholars merit such a fate? When Ezra hasofer returned to Eretz Yisroel to begin his work on the second Beis HaMikdash, he sent letters to all the major kehillos of the time inviting them to return with him. The kehilla of Worms, which had been established since the destruction of the first Temple, responded: “Peace unto you, Ezra hasofer! May you be successful in establishing the grand Beis HaMikdash in the grand Yerushalayim. We, however, will remain here in our `small Yerushalayim’ and with our mikdash meat, our small Temple.” This attitude, tragically common even in our own day, spiritually blemished the city to such an extent that it was especially vulnerable to the attacks of the Crusaders many years later.

And if in fact your personal circumstances do not exempt you from fulfilling this magnificent mitzva, then do not delay. If you keep in mind the benefits which will accrue to you personally, as well as the tremendous advantage to the klal, you will surely act with alacrity. Preparations need not be elaborate. The most important preparation that one can make is learning and teaching his family the importance of Eretz Yisroel in the total picture of avodas HaShem - for each Jew, and for the Jewish nation.

The sefarim relate the minhag of leaving the doors to one’s home unlocked all through the night of Pesach. This was in keeping with the tradition that an opportune time for our future geula will be the anniversary of our first one (geulas Mitzrayim). Eager for the advent of Eliyahu hanavi to herald the geula, we do not wish to delay the process even the few seconds it would take to unlock the door.

We are all anxiously awaiting the geula daily. To come and await Mashiach in Eretz Yisroel will avoid much needless delay when he arrives.

May HaShem Yisbarach grant us the ability to hear the echoes of Rav Sonnenfeld’s call: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?” May we be blessed with the perceptiveness to respond, “We are investigating, we are preparing, we are on our way!”

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Video: American Olim Rock!

An immigrant from Seattle opens an American-style dog grooming parlour in Raanana, Israel!

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Killing In the Name Of...

I woke up this morning, and as usual, asked my husband, who always gets up early to hear the news, what was going on in the world. He told me that America had suffered another shooting attack at a school, this time at an Illinois university.

So I went online to check out the story, which is still unravelling. Some alumnus came into a science class, shot up the teacher and some random students, and then killed himself. Six are dead, including the killer, and over a dozen are hospitalized. Wow.

Then came the shocker, which I will quote verbatim from the Associated Press:

The shooting was the fourth at a U.S. school within a week.

On Feb. 8, a woman shot two fellow students to death before committing suicide at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In Memphis, Tenn., a 17-year-old is accused of shooting and critically wounding a fellow student Monday during a high school gym class, and the 15-year-old victim of a shooting at an Oxnard, Calif., junior high school has been declared brain dead.

Now I have to say, that sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the sense of violence in Israel, what with maniacal Muslims looking to murder me all the time and whatnot. But I'm starting to get the sense that America's not such a safe zone these days, either. And at least violence in Israel is related to some sort of meaning, a stated religio-cultural war, rather than the I-have-nothing-better-to-do glutted slayings which are ramping up in America.

So I'd like to wish the people of America, the people of Israel, and the people all over the world a holy, meaningful, and peaceful Shabbat. I hope we'll all do what we've got to do to end the victimization of good people.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Israeli Judaism is Authentic!

So said Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua in May 2006, at the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Centennial Symposium.

He reiterated similar sentiments in the clip below.

Unsurprisingly, many both in Israel and the world Jewish community disagreed.

In response, the AJC complied a booklet of responses, both for and against what A.B. Yehoshua said, entitled: The A. B.Yehoshua Controversy: An Israel-Diaspora Dialogue on Jewishness, Israeliness, and Identity

It makes for a good read.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Making "Making Aliyah" Too Easy

Making Aliyah has become easier than ever before in history. Conventional wisdom dictates that this is a good thing. And that the easier making Aliyah becomes the more Jews will return home to Israel.

But is that always true? Could it be possible that if making Aliyah were way too easy there would be Jews that upon experiencing something in their homeland that they don’t particularly like - they would simply throw everything away?

Now wait a second before you start telling me I sound a bit deluded. Look at the very first pasuk (verse) of last week's Parsha.

Pharaoh had let the people go. G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was shorter. G-d said, “The people might change their minds when they encounter war, and return to Egypt.” (Shemos 13:17)

Contrary to popular belief the Meam Loez explains:
Pharaoh had personally escorted the Israelites when they left Egypt, and had asked them to pray for him. The Torah therefore states that “Pharaoh had sent forth the people.” He had escorted them, hoping to entice them to pray for him. (Shemos Rabbah;Zohar on lech lecha).

Some say they G-d repaid Pharaoh for this good deed by giving the commandment, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a guest in his land” (Devarim 23:8) (S.R. cit in Yeffeh Toar).

All the Egyptian aristocrats accompanied the Israelietes until they came to Etham (13:20). Pharaoh and his men went along with the Israelites until they left Egypt. Pharaoh also sent many of his officials to accompany them on the way. (Targum Yonason; Rashi).

The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Whether or not they took to heart this fact that they were slaves in someone else’s land - they felt safe and secure there. They felt at home. And they felt that Pharaoh had their best interest in mind.

This is a very important point! “Pharaoh had let the people go.” The Jews did not feel like slaves escaping.

As the Meam Loez puts it:
Slaves escaping their master do not return. But since Pharoah had even gone so far as to escort them, they were left with good feelings toward Egypt. At the slightest hint of hostility, they would run back into Pharoah’s arms.

G-d knew the shortest route from Egypt to Israel leads straight through Gaza!

As the Meam Loez tells us - that route was problematic:
The logical route from Egypt to Canaan would take the Israelites along the Mediterranean coast through the Philistine territory. Although this was the shortest path, G-d did not let the Israelites use it.

G-d did not let the Israelites take this road precisely because it was short. If anything had frightened them, it would have been too easy for them to return to Egypt. G-d knew that the slightest hostility might cause them regret leaving Egypt and drive them to return.

Today, when Jews makes Aliyah from America, they certainly don’t feel like slaves escaping. One wonders if today as well, at the sight of hostility (such as in Gaza perhaps) would the American Jew run back into Pharoah’s arms?

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mr. President, Somewhere the Sun is Shining


Mr. Bush learned an important lesson this morning. A basic fundamental in Judaism is that while man indeed has free will to choose good or evil, everything down to the smallest detail is controlled by God. These are not contradictory.

So the President "made a request to watch the sun rise over the Old City from his suite at the King David Hotel." What a plan! Israel officials had even better plans. "To make the scene more dramatic, the authorities [planned] to turn off the lights illuminating the limestone walls before dawn." Brilliant! (Haaretz even wrote about what the president would be thinking at that time and called Mr. Bush a courageous man and even praised him for being a God fearing man. Imagine liberal Haaretz ever calling a staunch conservative courageous! Or ever praising anyone for being God fearing!)

So what did the President see when he looked out his $2,500 a night Presidential Suite at the King David Hotel at 5:30 in the morning? Brilliant rays of the sun peeking over the ancient walls? Golden halos sheening off the Dome of the Rock? Actually he probably didn't even see the artist neighborhood of Yamin Moshe just meters below right outside his hotel window. See, as the Yiddish expression goes, "Men tracht und Gott lacht." Man plans, and G-d laughs! Man proposes, God disposes.

As Mr. Bush pulled apart the posh hotel curtains he didn't see the sunrise scene that he and Israel authorities has planned. What he saw was probably nothing. A thick fog moved in overnight along with some heavy rain and even a bit of snow. By morning the fog was so heavy the President's entourage had to cancel plans for him to fly by helicopter to Ramallah and chose to drive instead.

Indeed President George W. Bush is a God-fearing man. And perhaps he, and all the leaders of the world should heed the advice of another God-fearing leader. The leader from whom the hotel Mr. Bush is staying by gets its name. King David wrote: "The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples." Psalms 33:10


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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Bush's Israel Welcome

Jerusalem Puts Up Flags that blow in today's rain and fog

Freedom for Pollard organization put up Banners
telling Bush, Nasrallah, and Haniyeh to free their Jewish captives

President Bush is coming to Israel for the first time as president of the USA tomorrow and the city of Jerusalem has gone mad. The country is spending $400,000 to welcome Bush, American as well as Israeli flags have gone up all over Jerusalem, and the city and its residents are bracing themselves for many roads being closed and traffic jams. In the meantime, there have been a few rallies (for freedom for Pollard, an undivided Jerusalem, and more) already this week and more coming up (Thursday night in Kikar Tziyon).

The other day I was stuck in traffic on a bus because the city has rushed to finish some construction projects related to the new train/monorail that will eventually be finished to make Bush's commute easier. I was all the way in front of the packed bus and the driver was complaining about all this craziness for Bush. I told him that I was American and I really couldn't care less that Bush was coming. I said that as an American and an Israeli, I don't feel that the city should drive its residents crazy, even for the arrival of a president I voted for.

I was talking to someone tonight who had an important dental appointment canceled because the office is in 1 of the closed-off-for-Bush areas and the dentist either didn't think it was worth the trouble for him to come in or the patients wouldn't bother coming because it would be too hard to get there.

Another friend and I were talking and were upset that Bush was getting such royal treatment. It's as if our government is treating him like some sort of king or something. We just hope that when Mashiach comes, may that be immediately!, He gets treatment many times greater than this!

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Yerushalayim, Sir, Yerushalayim!

Dear Sir,

A few weeks ago I started receiving an unusual type of spam in my work email. I was subscribed (without my permission) to your excellent halacha mailing list. (It happens to be a wonderful idea and I wish you much success with this endeavor.) While I felt it was not proper derech eretz to subscribe someone to a list without their permission, even if it is for Torah, ("derech eretz kadmah laTorah" after all), especially using someone's work and not personal email address, it is still nice to learn a few halachos a day. Surely no one would object to Torah and this no doubt was exactly what the conceivers of this new Halacha list were thinking when they scoured the web looking for any email addresses they could find listed on the Internet of people working at frum organizations.

The email I received read:
Welcome to the Daily halacha e-mail!

Two short halacha's each day - Monday through Friday - plus Friday a special Halacha L'kovod Shabbos and candle lighting times for NYC.

The last part upset me. You listed candle-lighting times for "the heart and soul" of the Jewish people, New York City - but completely omitted Yerushalayim! So I wrote to you:
Please unsubscribe me.

I don't need to be part of a mailing list that forgets to list lighting time for Yerushalyaim Ir Hakodesh!

Kol Tuv,

And you promptly replied:
Hi Pinchas,
You have been unsubscribed.
We do not list lighting time for Yerushalayim because we only have some 50 subscribers from EY, but we have 2500 in the NY area. I hope you understand that.
Of course I understood - but there was even more that you didn't understand! Still I decided not to pursue the matter until today. When I was once again subscribed to this list but this time you used my Kumah mailing address (and presumably everyone else here at Kumah.)

Well, if you are going to start emailing Kumah we are going to explain to you, and all our visitors why omitting mention of Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh is not a light matter. It demonstrates the golus-yid's (exile Jew's) total and complete detachment from his roots.

Now let us forget the obvious question of how you could claim you only have 50 subscribers from Eretz Yisrael, when you are subscribing people without permission and don't even know who we are or where we live. Let us set that aside. Let us pretend all 2550 subscribers were living in New York City, the center of the Jewish world, after all. I would still argue that Yerushalayim should be mentioned if another city is listed.

I quote Gil Troy, who wrote:
In synagogues throughout the world, when taking the Torah out of the Ark, Jews sing "kee mi tzion tezeh Torah, u davar Hashem me'Yerushalayim," the Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. "Zion," the Biblical name for Jerusalem, is not just the three-thousand-year-old capital of the Jewish people, it is the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual center of Jewish gravity. Mentioned over six hundred times in the Bible, it was the city of David the heroic, who conquered it, and of Solomon the wise, who built the first of the two Temples there. During the many centuries of exile, Jerusalem symbolized both the glorious past of the Jewish people -and their hopes for the future. Much of Jewish prayer, in fact, entailed reflecting on what once was in Jerusalem as a way of conceptualizing what again might be there.
Sir, the Jew must always be focused on Yerushalayim. The clearest example of this we learn from celebrating Purim in Yerushalayim on the 15th of Adar. Our sages explained that because of the extra day needed in Shushan, that city would celebrate a day later then the rest of the world. But this presented a dilemma! How dare could the Jewish people honor the Persian city, the New York City of the day, above Yerushalayim? What an embarrassment to Yerushalayim it would be - even if only 50 Jews lived there at the time! A solution was devised (all cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun would celebrate on the 15th and this would include Yerushalayim) just to avoid this embarrassment and to keep Yerushalayim central in the minds of the Jewish nation.

Today, more than ever, at a time when the nations of the world and some of our misguided Jewish brethren speak openly about plans to divide Yerushalayim, about plans to rip apart our true heart and soul, is it absolutely imperative that we ALWAYS keep Yerushalayim in mind and that we not forget about it while giving other cities precedence. For if we ourselves forget about Yerushalayim how could we have the audacity to complain to others about the injustice of dividing it?

So I repeat, and I speak for everybody at (and Please unsubscribe all the accounts you signed up from our organization so long as you continue to forget to list the candle-lighting time for Yerushalayim ahead of the candle-lighting time for New York City.

I will close with Mr. Troy's eloquent words:
"Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemeeni": If I forget, if I FORSAKE, you O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth. If we abandon Jerusalem, we betray the essence of our being, that which makes us human, our hands and our mouths, our bodies and our souls.

UPDATE: After 5 days we did NOT get a reply, though we were unsubscribed from their mailing list immediately. Presumably the still forget Jerusalem...

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Message to HappyJoel - When You Make Aliyah You Will Sing a Different Tune

I saw half of your video (see warning below), man, and I hope you are having fun blowing smoke up the Christian folks', ummm, toes.

Maybe I should have seen the light side of it, but to me it looked like you just want to get on the good side of the folks in power at the expense of your home team. Which is really the essence of being a galut Jew.

Notice: contains obscenities. And like I said, I only watched half, so be careful.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Matisyahu the Maccabee, From the Belly of the Babylonian Beast

So I caught Matisyahu and the Wailers on the second night of Chanukah. Read about it here - check out the videos.

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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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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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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Aliyah Revolution - Alive and Well in Chicago IL

The Aliyah Revolution is full steam ahead at the University of Chicago where over 25 students have already registered for an aliyah shabbaton on November 16th and 17th. Will post details after the event - if you have any ideas please leave a comment!

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Neo- Zionism Outlets


I know its been a long time, and I will get at it again, but I just got this email, and I think People should know about it.

Enjoy :-) ~ Shulamit


Oops! A fly on the wall informs us that the Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor and the Israeli Consul General in NY, Asaf Shariv, have apparently gotten NO PROTESTS from anyone about the attempts to set up a new Palestinian terror state just a bike ride from divided Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, and Israel's only international airport (Ben-Gurion). So... write, fax, email, or swim and say it to their face:

Ambassador Sallai Meridor, Embassy of Israel, 3514 International Drive, NW, Washington, DC 20008 202-364-5590; FAX: 202-364-5560

Ambassador Asaf Shariv, Consulate of Israel in NY, 800 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017, 212-499-5450 - Fax: 212-499-5455


Some great people in the United States have begun lobbying mainstream Rabbis and Jewish organizations to speak out against a Palestinian State. Their motto: "10 phone calls each day is good, but even 1 phone call is better than none". Background: "Our personal focus is the Rabbanim. The security dangers of a Palestinian State are real, but we are emphasizing the Torah perspective to the Rabbanim.

Their reason for Silence is that "they don't make political statements". Our answer to them is that Silence is a political statement in favor of a Palestinian State. A Torah statement would be that only the Nation of Israel is obligated to keep the Commandments in the Land of Israel and that Torah and the Land of Israel and the people of Israel are one and the same. There can not be a separation without a negation of the other. Eretz Yisroel is our Biblical Inheritance and a Palestinian State is contrary to Torah."

These great people need us to join in: "What follows is a list of mainstream Rabbis in the Hareidi and Orthodox circles that influence hundreds of thousands of Jews. Please find the time to call these Rabbanim or Organizations and ask them to personally speak to their Rabbinic mentors, contacts, Organizations and PR people to unite and to create a strong unified Jewish Voice against a Palestinian State:"

Agudath Yisroel of America :
* 212 979 9000 Rabbi Gertzulin (son in law of Reb. Jungreiss),
* Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel PR 646-254 1650 and fax 646 254 1650
* Rabbi Shafran,

* Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Executive Director Michael Rothchild 845-352-3505
* Spirtual Mentor Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky (Yeshiva in Philadelphia) 215 477 1000

Rabbi Hillel David 718 252 4579

Rabbi Pesach Lerner National Council of Young Israel. Rabbi Lerner is one of the United States leading rabbinical activists who has made numerous distinguished contributions to the struggle for Jonathan Pollard and against the expulsion of Gush Katif. Ask him to use his sterling reputation to unite the mainstream Haredi and modern orthodox and Secular Organzations to make a joint statement.

Rabbi Perlow, the Noveminsker Rav - extremely influential in Haredi circles in America 718-436-1133

Rabbi Matisyahoo Solomon (very influential in Lakewood and Yeshivish communities) 732-363-8928

Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum - President of Iggud Harabonim. Very vocal against territory expulsions. The only mainstream Rabbinic group in America that we know of that came out against the expulsion of Gush Katif. Please encourage him to rally his members to become activists and unite with other major mainstream Rabbinic Leaders and organizations to come out with a strong voice against a Palestinian State. 718 871-0913

Rabbi Vigler Meorot Center - A dynamic Chabad Rabbi in Marine Park Brooklyn, Please ask him to use his leadership connections and contacts in the Chabad world and the orthodox world so that the mainstream Chabad leaders will rally against a Palestinian state.

Rabbi Yosef Jacobson, Mailing address: Algemeiner Journal, 508 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, NY 11225 Telephone: 718.771.0400
Fax: 718.771.0308
Rabbi Shimon Jacobson

Rebbetzin Jungreiss Please ask her to ask the Rabbanim to end the Silence on the "Palestinian state" issue. Write to: Hineni Heritage Center, 232 West End Avenue, New York, NY, 10023
Tel: (212) 496-1660 Fax: (212) 496-1908

Orthodox Union Offices
* National Headquarters: Eleven Broadway, New York, NY 10004, Tel. 212-563-4000, Fax 212-564-9058,
* Washington, DC OU Institute for Public Affairs, 800 Eighth Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
Nathan Diament, Director, Tel: 202-513-6484, Fax: 202-289-8936,
* West Coast: 9831 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035.
Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director, 310-229-9000, Fax: 310-229-9011,
* Israel: Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center, 22 Rechov Keren Hayesod, P.O. Box 37015, Jerusalem, 91370 Israel * Rabbi Avi Berman, Director-General, * Menachem Persoff, Director, * Phillip Chernofsky, Director of Adult Education,

NCSY: Rabbi Michael Fredman, Director, NCSY-in-Israel,
972.2.560-9100 Fax: 972.2.561.7432

List of all email addresses above (if you don't have time to call/fax and would rather send one quick email to all:);; ;;;;;;;;;;

Example of a suitable email:

"Dear Rabbis, The security dangers of a Palestinian State are real, but we are emphasizing the Torah perspective. Eretz Yisroel is our Biblical Inheritance and a Palestinian State is contrary to Torah. Unfortunately, consistent silence is a political statement in favor of the notion of a Palestinian State. Please can you personally speak out and unite with your Rabbinic mentors, contacts, Organizations and PR people to create a strong unified Jewish Voice against a Palestinian State. Thanking you very sincerely, (name)".

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

What the Ingathering of the Exiles Will Look Like

People ask me why I follow the happenings of the "Yated world" especially here on Kumah. The truth is that this "Yated world," while claiming (and I believe the claims) to have a deep love for Eretz Yisrael they still don't "get it." But I'm convinced that one day - one day they will wake up and "get it" at last, and then another stream of the floodgates of Aliyah will stream forth. In the meantime they will write beautiful articles about how wonderful it is to visit Eretz Yisrael. Yes, one day they will "get it" - one day. Till then though they'll write things like this (bold mine):

"Watching Jews of all stripes streaming to the Kosel, parading down the ancient streets of the Old City of Yerushalayim with their lulavim held aloft, I couldn't help think that this is what the kibbutz goliyos will look like."

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Place Your Lemon On the Conveyor Belt, Sir"

(Click to Enlarge)

You lucky, lucky American Jews. Do you know that the United States' vigilant anti-terror watch, which has become so vigorous as to ban potentially explosive shampoo and expose feet, has been downgraded just for you?

Apparently, despite your suspicious appearance and strange rituals, you will be allowed to board planes with the most dangerous weapon of all:

Your Etrog.

U.S. Allows Carrying 'Four Species' on Airplanes

( The United States Transportation Administration has stated that the "four species" (arba minim) of a palm branch, myrtle and willow twigs and the etrog are not on the TSA's list of prohibited items for carrying on airplanes in the country. ["Sir, we have a 458 subsection B here. That's right, we believe several passengers are potentially smuggling illegal substances inside suspicious vegetation which they have brought on the plane..... yes sir, I believe that one of the leafy materials resembles marijuana... Okay, I'm taking him in."]

The department noted that the arba minim used on the Sukkot holiday are significant for Jews and has advised workers and security officials at airports that Jews may be meditating and using them in prayers while waiting for airplanes. ["*gasp* Dear G-d in Heaven, is that bearded man wobbling and shaking that green sword and that yellow grenade looking thing?! I just KNEW that it would be my plane, I KNEW it!! Our G-d, who art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name..."]

On one recent flight, passengers were suspicious of an Jew who was meditating while praying.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Kumah Exclusive: Sacha Baron Cohen and Sara Silverman Are Mossad Agents

by Aaron Fox

The famous question: Could a holocaust every happen on American soil? Not yet famous answer: It already happened.

Simple math. In the year 1950 there were were 150 million Americans and around 5 million Jews. Today there are 300 million Americans and around 5 million Jews. American population doubled. Jewish population stayed the same. That's a loss of 5 million Jews. Then to take into account that there are only 3.5 million Jews that sport a Jewish mother from this count of 5 million. Since the 1950s count of Jews it's safe to assume all had Jewish mothers, let's add another 1.5 million to the loss. Add it up and we get 6.5 million Jews lost on American soil. At least the German holocaust had the mercy of making itself known as a destructive force. The American holocaust has us smiling down the aisles of Walmart as we quietly waste away.

The American holocaust is amongst us, the only question is how long will it linger on until the Jews of America are no more.

The Israeli government is asleep on many issues but lately the American holocaust has taken top priority amongst top officials. During the Sharon government a classified agency was formed to save the American Jews from perishing altogether. This agency's objective is to bring the American Jews back home to Israel.

Knowing full well that the American Jew would not leave on his own volition, a special strategy was devised. World history has proven that the only way the Jews leave their host country is by the host country itself expelling the Jews by violent means. A tall order of old fashioned antisemitism was needed.

Enter special Israeli Mossad agents Sacha Baron Cohen and Sarah Silverman. Specially trained to infiltrate American culture and plant the seeds of Jew hatred and general racial hatred for good measure. Click on their names to see them do their holy handiwork. Notice that these aren't just your run of the mill comedians. They are able to sing and write clever tunes; act and write for movies; there is no end to their creative talents. Their success has been enormous. It has become cool once again to hate Jews.

Stand by for stage two where special agent Michael Bloomberg will single-handedly bring Wall Street and all of New York to its knees thereby creating a world panic and economic disaster. And we Jews know what that means.

This just in: many smart Jews are coming to Israel just because Israel is better. If only all Jews were so wise, these covert actions by Mossad's celebrity spies would not be needed.

Editors note: Aaron Fox discovered the story while being a candidate for the Celebrity Mossad agency. He went half-way through a grueling 6 week comedy training camp whereby he was dismissed. The fatigued Aaron noted being unfunny as the reason for his abrupt termination.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aliyah Is Something Only Russians Do, Right?

Jewsweek reports about The Jewish Reconnection Project which joins five young Jews in New York with four young Jews in Jerusalem. (Why not five on five? I guess Israel always does more with less!) In the series a host of issues are discussed. Naturally the one of most interest to Kumah is Israel vs. Diaspora. Some thoughts of mine follow below the clip.

When asked what "Aliyah" is, one young American Jew (or Jewish American depending on who you ask) responded matter-of-fact-ly, "Aliyah is like coming from Eastern Europe." She caught herself and very quickly added "or coming from wherever, and immigrating to the land of Israel."


Here's something odd:

Secular Israeli guy remarks how if he grew up outside Israel he might have a stronger Jewish identity because here he takes it for granted because "everybody is Jewish." Now aside for the fact that the rate of Jewish intermarriage in America has proven that statement to be utterly ridiculous and of flawed logic, I was struck by something else I saw. On the words "[in Israel] everybody is Jewish" the film editor cuts to, if I'm not mistaken, scenes from Maron on Lag B'Omer. We see hundreds of Chassidim dancing. This is curious. When this Chiloni said he was surrounded by Jews in Israel I don't think he was thinking of Maron. He was more likely thinking of night clubs in Tel Aviv. And yet when the American producer of the video heard the words "everyone is Jewish in Israel" he thought of Chassidim dancing at the Kever of Reb Shimon Bar Yachi. Most curious indeed! Pray tell, why?


Israel is a bad place for a Jew to live another American concludes because it's "too easy" to be Jewish and you don't have to "think about it." And here we are at Kumah using the very same logic to promote Aliyah! (Truth be told you ALWAYS have to "think about it" no matter where you are. It might just be a bit easier to find kosher pizza and falafel here. That's a bad thing?)


Best line. "Well I find that kind of sad!" remarked by a young secular Israeli lady responding to a religious American Jew when he explains he doesn't wear his Kippa in college because he wants to hide his Jewish identity. Sad indeed.


Other words of wisdom from the same chiloni, responding to the Americans who said how important the "Homeland" is (it's nice to visit, but they wouldn't want to live there):

"If you feel that Israel is a place for the Jews, and it should be there, then you should step up and do something about it." We, here at Kumah, agree.


She also (the very same chiloni) got the last word in:

"I don't love this county because it's the prettiest country or it's the nicest country, you know, I love it because it's mine, and it's the only - the only home I've got."

Excellent! But, just for the record... it IS the prettiest! :)

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

Reminder: In EY, Clocks Go Back One Hour Tonight!

Don't forget to change your clocks tonight. This will allow to fast to end one hour earlier. So tomorrows Tzom ends 6:11pm in Yershalayim instead of 7:11pm. Woo hoo!

Israel will remain 6 hours ahead of New York till mid-November.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fun with Shmittah!

Are you ready for some Shmittah?

Well first let's get one thing straight once and for all. The word "problem" should never EVER be used when referring to one of Hashem's commandments and certainly not by anyone living in Eretz Yisrael regarding Shmittah. Shmittah is not a problem! It's a mitzvah! And what's more? It's a mitzvah only us Jews zoche (worthy) to be living in Eretz Yisrael this year can keep! Yes, by the use of exclamation points in this post you could tell I'm a bit "pumped" and excited about what begins in just a few short days! I just got back from an awesome shuir on Shmittah that cleared up a whole bunch of questions I had.

Do you realize you get a mitzvah for every bite you take out of something that has Kedushas Shvius? And you get a mitzvah when you treat that Holy produce the right way as well. You know what else? All those Jews sitting in Brooklyn, New York... no better... all those Jews sitting in Lakewood, New Jersey know less about Shmittah than your average four year old playing on the monkey bars in Ramat Beit Shemesh! Here is a whole important section of the Torah that these Jews just "don't care about" because it "doesn't apply." I don't know about you... but if Hashem gave us a few more mitzvos to do, and all we have to do to keep these mitzvos is change our zip code... ehh, nevermind. Just a thought...

Now for the important points. The halachos of Shmittah are detailed and numerous with many different opinions and many different approaches. I was thinking of somehow trying to summarize them right here and now but I tell you, the best summary I have ever seen online was written by Rav Asher Balanson of Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalim. It is an absolute must read if you are just waking up now and realizing that Shmittah is just a few days away. Aside from that it is recommended that you go into any bookstore and ask about books on Shmittah. Many bookstores have them all laid out on tables in front. And finally ask questions to your LOR. If you don't have a Rav to ask all your halachic questions now is a VERY good time to get one. And in Eretz Yisrael B"H rabbis are not hard to find.

Okay... now for the fun part. Various organization put out "Shmittah calendars." These calendars contain three important dates.

1. When a certain produce can be considered to have Kedushas Shvius.
2. When a certain vegetable or grain can be considered Sefichim.
3. The date that Biur must be done on the produce.

These dates vary for all different grains, fruits and vegetables. To understand what these dates mean read the Rav Balanson summary.

In any case I have obtained the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel's "Shmittah 5768: A Practical Guide" (which you can order for yourself here.) It was compiled by Rabbi David Marcus who I had the pleasure of meeting tonight. And I do recommend you get the guide!

So here's the plan. Here at Kumah, Bez"H before every Rosh Chodesh we will post the important dates that will become relevant for various produce that month. It should be exciting and we'll get to learn a lot more about how, when and where things grow. For example much to my chagrin I now know that both cashews and pistachios (that I would bring to NY to brag about how great the produce here are) are actually imported! (The good news about that is that this mean I can still bring them outside EY to NY.)

Anyway stayed tuned to this blog as a whole lot of produce can already be considered to have Kedushas Shvius come sundown on Wednesday night!

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Aliyah To Lakewood, NJ, Hashem's Temple

Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!

BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!

What's got Pinchas so worked up? Well "a former Talmid of BMG" wrote a letter to the editor of the Yated and it was printed on page 88 of the 10 Elul - Aug 24 edition. In this letter the former Talmid continually compares Bais Medrash Govoah (BMG) to the actual Bais Hamikdosh! He ponders as he approaches BMG if he is feeling "what oleh regel felt like." At one point in the letter he calls those that live in Lakewood "choshoveh bnei aliyah." To this guy there are two buildings one can refer to as "bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov." And by feeling BMG is one of them, he concludes, we will merit for the other one to be built.

What more can I write but Berlin is Jerusalem Syndrome strikes again.

However there is a ray of hope. I happen to know for a fact there actually are holy Jews from Lakewood, New Jersey that are indeed making Aliyah (the kind where you move to Eretz Yisrael.) May the merit of these Jews protect those "lost ones" and the Jewish community in Lakewood and may it inspire them to wake up and realize that "Ain Torah K'Toras Eretz Yisrael!" And may they all become true "choshoveh bnei aliyah."

Hashem Yeracham!

Because Yated has no real viable website the letter in question is reproduced below in its entirety. Be warned though... it may get you worked up a bit...



Dear Editor,

We returned a few days ago from a bain hazmanim vaction in Lakewood, or rather, I should say a week's worth of recharging our batteries and basking in the light of the greatest makam Torah in America.

Although I have never written a letter to the editor before, I want to use this forum to share my feelings and deep hargashas with the choshuveh yungeliet who are zocheh to make up this makom kadosh, and the parents, who in large part are the ones who make it possible. I hope my words can serve as divrei chizuk to these all important members of Klal Yisroel.

We approached the buildings of Bais Medrash Govoah during bain hazemanim with great anticipation and emotion. I thought to myself that, in reality, we are approaching a bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah Shimcha olov; a place that is great, a place that is holy, a place where Hakadosh Boruch Hu is mashreh Shechinah, a place which creates a tremendous Kiddush Hashem - (I wondered to myself that, perhaps, this is a sample of what oleh regel felt like during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh as the Yidden approached Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdosh.)

It is in the halls of this makom kadosh that I was zocheh to learn for many years. Much of our ruchniyus, both my own and my family's, has come from these botei medrash. My rabbeim and roshei yeshiva were omel b'Torah in this very yeshiva for years. My children's rabbeim shteiged here. Leaders of our generation, roshei yeshivos and rabbeim, have grown in Torah, tefillah and yiras Shomayim in these very buildings.

I toured the various botei medrash. I reminded myself that in this corner we learned this mesechta, on the other side of the bais medrish another mesechta and on the stage of Bais Shalom a third. I remember where I was standing during Rav Matisyahu Salomon's first shmuess, and where my seat was for the Yomim Noraim…

We thoroughly enjoyed our bain hazmemanim, from the yeshiva davening, slowly enunciating each word with its own sweet taste, to learning sedorim in the various botei medrash, surrounded by Bnei Torah, yungeliet and bochurim learning with hasmada even during bain hazemanim, I found myself imagining how much more geshmak it much be during the zeman with six botei medrish packed with lomdei Torah learning with a bren.

Which brings me to the point of this letter.

The Chofetz Chaim writes that when Dovid Hamelech also davened, "Shivri b'vais Hashem kol yimei chayai... u'livaker b'haychalo," the he should dwell and visit the Bais Hashem, he was really davening for two things. First and foremost, he davened to dwell constantly in the Bais Hashem to feel the enthusiasm and the hispailus that only a visitor can feel and that can sometimes be lost on the permanent resident of the Bais Hashem. Dovid Hamelech was mispallel that he should never lose the hispailus and appreciation that only a visitor can feel. (In fact, the Chossid Yaivitz explains that the reason a visitor to the Bais Hamikdosh much leave through a different door than the one he entered is so that he should not lose the hispailus that he felt when he saw the Bais Hamikdosh from the first angle and seeing it again from the very same angle. Instead, each door should be seen only once, to create a lasting and breathtaking first impression.)

It is with this thought from the Chafetz Chaim in mind that I want to take the opportunity to share with those who are zocheh to be shivtie b'vais Hashem the feelings and impressions of a visitor, a mevaer b'haychalo. I'm well aware of the daily tirdos of the choshoveh bnei aliyah who learn in this bayis gadol v'kadosh, including babysitting, carpooling, playgroups, wives working full time, parnassa issues, etc., and the koach of hergel on top of it all. But I wish that each and every one of you should be zoche to fell the excitement, the magnitude, the awe, the hispailus, the love, and the longing the we, the former talmidim - those who were once zoche to be shivti babayis hazeh - feel when we are mevaker b'haychalo. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu help you feel anticipation and excitement each day as you enter this great makom Torah and walk its hallowed halls.

To the parents, in-laws and relatives of these choshuveh yungeleit, I would like to share the following. As we were leaving Lakewood, something I saw got me thinking. We all have different ways in which we are able to support out precious chavrei hakollel. Some offer financial help directly to the yeshiva. Others can afford to give financial help to their children and relatives. Others support yungeleit in the form of gifts and clothing, and yet others can supply emotional support, a compliment, a good vort, or words of appreciation to our young treasures who do so much for, and are tremendous zechus to, their families and the entire Klal Yisroel.

Whatever it is that we can do, let us do it proudly, with a deep understanding and great appreciation of the chashivus of Torah, chashivus of lomdei Torah, chashivus of a makom Torah, and while bearing in mind what Torah, limud HaTorah and a makom Torah does for us, our families, for Klal Yisroel and for our future.

May Hakadosh Boruch Hu bentch us that our appreciation and understanding of what this bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov means to us and Klal Yisroel should hasten the bulding of the bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov that we refer to in our bentching.

A Former Talmid Of BMG

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Monday, July 16, 2007

New Orleans Jewish Federation Offers Financial Incentives For Jews

From YNET: In an ambitious bid to bolster New Orleans' Jewish population following Hurricane Katrina, the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans has announced a program of financial incentives to families who make their home in the city.

The incentives are modeled on the Nefesh B'Nefesh immigration to Israel scheme, which enables Jewish families to settle across Israel. "Young people who are looking for new opportunities but do not want to relocate as far as Israel would do well to look southwards to the Jewish community of New Orleans," a press release by the city's Jewish federation said.

The package includes "moving grants, day school scholarships, loans and other benefits as part of its $500,000 Newcomer's Incentive Plan," the press statement added.

"Two years ago when Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, the New Orleans community lost 30 percent of its Jewish members," the city's Jewish Federation said.

"Today, with rebuilding efforts well underway, the Jewish community is looking to recruit 1,000 new families over the next 5 years. Already, close to 200 new Jewish families have moved to the area and more than 50 have begun to inquire about incentives," the statement said, adding: "Now, with funding support from United Jewish Communities and a recent grant of $100,000 from the Los Angeles Federation, the local Federation has half a million dollars available for returnees and newcomers."

The Incentives Plan also contains a strong sell of New Orleans, which is described as being warmer than many US cities, "with a choice of nine synagogues, two JCCs, two day schools, two kosher restaurants and other facilities... It is also a city with soul, featuring jazz, Mardi Gras, great food traditions and a strong local culture."

"Young professionals say that they are moving to the city because they can sense the exciting opportunities which are open to them," the statement added.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Two Years...

Today is my two year anniversary. Two years ago, today (secular date) I came home. So what's it like two years later? Well I feel at home, that's for sure. The Rechavia neighborhood now feels familiar to me. I know all the shortcuts that tourist will never know about. I know the Rambam was given a much nicer street than both the Rif and the Ramban. In fact I think it's the most beautiful street in all of Yerushalayim while Radak and Ramban remains my most favorite intersection. It's nice living somewhere where the streets are named after Rishonim. Every time I walk up my block I'm reminded of Shabbos Zemiros (the block nearby being named after an author of one.)

But what's even more amazing now is what I see when I visit America and see it now through the eyes of somebody who hass been living in the homeland for the past two years. I am even more amazed than ever at how American Jews could live their lives without giving any sincere consideration toward returning to their true home. I have often maintained there are legitimate reasons for postponing Aliyah (while there are also poor excuses) but I don't see how a truly Torah observant G-d fearing Jew can wake up each and every day without making some sort of effort to return to where we really belong. How such a Jew can live life fully content with the status quo as if living in chutz l'aretz was the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people is beyond me.

The question remains why is it this way? Why in 1948 after Israel independence was declared and permission for every Jew to return home granted (or did that happen in 1917) didn't the floodgates of Aliyah open? Was it too soon after the war? Were we too devastated after the horrors of the Shoah to realize the opportunity that G-d had presented us?

What about in 1967? After the world witnessed open miracles and Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 2000 years! Certainly then the call for the Jews to return home was louder than ever. And the shofer has been sounded just as loudly ever since.

Every Frum Jew living in America has to ask himself if the true purpose of our nation here on earth is for every Jewish family to have a five car garage, a swimming pool, a manicured lawn, and a fireplace. For if acquisition of wealth is the Jewish People's purpose than certainly America is the Promised Land and we are living up to our mandate.

But when people say they can't earn a parnussa in Israel are they really saying they can't acquire wealth here? When did we forget the difference between earning a respectable living and getting rich. (Again I understand that there are circumstances where one can't even earn a livelihood and that is a valid heter not to make Aliyah.). But actually I’ll tell you on every trip to America more and more people come up to me and tell me they are making Aliyah. So the truth is maybe we didn't forget the difference at all...

NBN brought three flights of Olim to Israel this week. Perhaps we are starting to get it.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sins of Omission

""One long year has passed since IDF soldiers Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser, and Eldad Regev were kidnapped by Hamas and Hezbollah. Show the world we have not forgotten and will not forget them. Join us in demanding their immediate and unconditional release...""

Unfortunately though, it seems that the organizers of next week's rally for the MIA's at the UN have "forgotten" the rest of our missing soldiers...

In addition to praying daily for Gilad ben Aviva, Ehud ben Malka & Eldad ben Tova,
we won't stop davening for:
Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah (Katz)
Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam (Baumel)
Zvi ben Penina (Feldman)
Ron ben Batya (Arad)
Guy ben Rina (Hever)

Their families and all of Am Yisrael who await their return will not forget them (even if the Conference of Presidents has)

Rally @ The UN
Monday, July 16th, 2007
12:00 noon / Rain or Shine
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza (1st Ave. and 47th St.)

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

With Freedom's Holy Light...

In honor of July 4th I thought it would be nice to post the lyrics of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" were written in 1831 and which served as the USA's de facto national anthem for much of the 19th century. In many ways this song is fitting for Israel:

My country, 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims' pride,
From every mountainside
Let freedom ring!

My native country, thee,
Land of the noble free,
Thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
Thy woods and templed hills;
My heart with rapture thrills,
Like that above.

Let music swell the breeze,
And ring from all the trees
Sweet freedom's song;
Let mortal tongues awake;
Let all that breathe partake;
Let rocks their silence break,
The sound prolong.

Our father's God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing.
Long may our land be bright,
With freedom's holy light,
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King.

Sadly, America is moving away from a G-d centered consciousness - check out the new dollar coin with the hidden "In G-d We Trust" (above). I held the coin in my hands and could barely see that cherished motto. Congress is trying to rectify this omission, but I think it's a good indicator of where America is going.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Aliyah Week

This week the nation will move just a bit closer to making Shemittah a mitzvah d'Oraysa (i.e. Biblical rather than Rabbinic, for which a majority of Jews inside the borders of Eretz Yisrael are needed) thanks to the efforts of Nefesh B'Nefesh.

On Monday a group of NBN olim from Canada will be arriving. That will be followed up on Tuesday by a full NBN chartered Aliyah flight due in on Tuesday morning from New York's JFK. There will be a huge ceremony greeting them at the airport! And to top off the week on Wednesday night a group of NBN olim will be arriving from the UK.

Of course as always, Kumah plans to bring you all the action so stay tuned. Or better yet come take part in it yourself. Unfortunately registration for this week's ceremony is already closed but the good news is there are FIVE more ceremonies planned this summer!

Register here!

Another week like this won't happen again for... like another three weeks!

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Israel's Yankees

They look like the Yankees (pinstripes), hit like the Yankees (lead the league in HRs) and win like the Yankees (8-0... okay maybe not like the Yankees this year...)

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Make Aliyah .... before it's too late.

Dan wrote:

Many American Jews have various excuses for not making aliyah, usually complaints about the system in Israel, i.e.

1) I won't be able to make a living in Israel
2) Israel is not a real democracy, it's a banana republic.
3) I wouldn't want to live in a country that expels Jews from their homes
4) Why doesn't Israel defend itself ?

For my brothers in the exile, I would like to point out the following uncomfortable facts:

1) America is broke. The dollar hasn't been fully backed in gold since 1913, and in 1971, the U.S. completely went off the gold standard. So what is the dollar ? It's a piece of paper, an I.O.U. Because of the huge trade deficit, China has $800 billion in reserves, i.e. 800 billion I.O.U.'s.
See article here

Japan has a similar amount. When they cash in their dollars, the dollar will free fall and Americans will lose all their savings and will have to bring their money in a wheelbarrow to do grocery shopping like during the Weimar republic

(unless America becomes a cashless society. Then if the government decides that you are causing problems, they can make all your money go away with the push of a button.)

2) America is becoming a dictatorship. While you have been following Paris Hilton's escapades, President Bush has been dismantling the Bill of Rights.

"President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president."
See article here

Then there's the military commissions act which overturns habeas corpus, the NSA eavesdropping program, the so-called Patriot act, etc.
"3 Santa Barbara Elementary Schools to Fingerprint Students Before They Buy Cafeteria Food"
See article here

3) America is outsourcing all it's jobs. In your future job, you will say,"do you want that with fries?"

Economist Alan Blinder wrote, "... In some recent research, I estimated that 30 million to 40 million U.S. jobs are potentially offshorable."
See article here

4) America is becoming a third world country. There are currently 20 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. and not only is the Bush administration not doing anything to stop the flow, it is doing the opposite, such as throwing border patrol agents in jail for shooting drug dealers. It is also trying to push an amnesty bill through Congress.

These immigrants are not assimilating, they think that America belongs to them, and they are bringing Mexico's corrupt culture to America. Comprende Espanol ?

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Real Jewish Conspiracy

From the The Forward by David Chinitz:

There is a Jewish conspiracy at work. It is not the one portrayed in the pernicious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." It is not Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust hoax, or a Zionist plot to undermine Islam. Nor is it Jewish control of the media or the world economy as Jihadists, Ku Klux Klanners, neo-Nazi skinheads and Mel Gibson conjure up for themselves. It is not even the so-called apartheid security wall that so inflames Britain's self-righteous, hypocritical, antisemitic academics and labor unions.

No, the only real Jewish conspiracy is the one aimed at undermining the future existence of Israel, and, consequently, the survival of the Jewish people worldwide. Iran, Holocaust deniers, the British left and all the rest of the mosquitoes carrying the antisemite bacillus are child's play compared to this threat.

There is a Jewish conspiracy to prevent massive immigration of North American Jews to Israel.

The plot began when the word Zionism was hijacked by the professional Jewish and Israeli world and applied to every possible Jewish enterprise other than aliyah. Need a term for Jewish education in the Diaspora? Why not use Zionism? Need a word for patriotic Israeli spirit? Zionism. Need a word for Jews who contribute money, use Israel as a booster program for Jewish identity, or even just for tourism? Call all that Zionism, too. Nice, concise and misleading.

In a way exceeding the machinations of George Orwell, the word Zionism has morphed into newspeak to the point of losing its core meaning and providing an umbrella for any old thing that functionaries, bureaucrats, fundraisers and Jewish identity wonks can use to make a living. Having obfuscated the term's meaning, the conspirators have set about suppressing the notion of aliyah.

What are the motivations? On the North American side it is simply to prevent the kinder from considering aliyah as an option and threatening the vitality of golden Diaspora. Birthright participants can see Israel as a museum, a Holocaust memorial, a refugee absorption center, the home of soldier-heroes and a catalyst for Jewish identity. They can meet generals, prime ministers and suffering Ethiopian immigrants.

But God forbid, don't let them meet with people exactly like their parents who actually moved to and live in the real Israel, because they might get some ideas.

Israelis have preferred taking in American Jewish money over taking in large numbers of strong competitors laden with human and financial capital. The vested interests here are fully aware that many patterns of behavior would be very difficult to maintain if another half-million North American Jews made aliyah.

How would Moshe Safdie's backward, environmentally unsound plan for developing West Jerusalem even emerge from committee? How would the Orthodox establishment hamstring conversion processes? How could politicians behave corruptly, impervious to notions of accountability? How could the education system continue to teach rote knowledge and base admission to university on psychometric puzzles, rather than on the skills of independent thinking, broad horizons and competent writing skills? How could the World Zionist Organization have its annual meeting and dream up all kinds of fatuous programs but not once mention aliyah?

Aliyah is the Occam's Razor for so many problems, and yet it is the only solution not considered for any of them.

The Reform movement decries the conditions of its members in Israel? Send money, but sending more members, forget it. North American Jews have identity problems? Invest billions in convoluted educational programs that lead nowhere, but don’t give every American Jew a direct link to an actual cousin who lives in an actual Jewish state.

Jerusalem Day is conducted under the cloud of a lost Jewish majority in the city? Disenfranchise the Arabs of East Jerusalem, but don't change the balance by actually getting more Jews here. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust and says it was an excuse to create Israel? Hold conferences, speak indignantly, give him attention he doesn't deserve, but don’t disabuse him and make his claims irrelevant by proving that masses of Jews want to live in Israel by choice, and not only as refugees.

When the history of Zionism is written, it will become clear that post-Zionism started when the word "Zionism" became an instrument of this conspiracy.

Unless organizations dedicated to - and only to - aliyah garner the lion's share of Jewish philanthropy in place of expenditures on Jewish identity fetishes and continued waving at post-Zionist windmills, these philanthropic efforts will fail every cost-effectiveness test one can imagine. Unless young Jewish minds in North America are exposed to the idea that aliyah is a realistic option that can ensure the future of Israel and the Jewish people everywhere, the next century will find the Ahmadinejads, Ismael Haniyehs and Ken Livingstones of the world wondering why they worked so hard when the Jewish conspiracy succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

And no one will be left to read the Book of Lamentations.

David Chinitz, a senior lecturer at the Hebrew University-Hadassah School of Public Health in Jerusalem, made aliyah from Washington in 1981.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Overheard in Five Towns

Lady #1: Oh, I would make Aliyah.

Lady #2:
You would? [Surprised look] Why?

Lady #1:
Well, were gonna be living in Israel anyway eventually. Might as well go now.


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Sunday, June 03, 2007

You Just Don't Get It!

My Sefardi former roommate used to tell me that Ashkenazi Jews have no idea how to deal with Arabs. That only the Sefardim understood how to because they lived with Arabs for hundreds of years and understood the Arab mind set. And so when a Torah Giant like Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, shlita, (former Sefardi Chief Rabbi) implores the Prime Minister to carpet bomb Gaza to stop the Arab attacks - he is not only speaking with the full wisdom of the Torah but also from an intimate knowledge of Arab culture. But when Western thinking people hear this they will cringe - like shooky who commented on this very blog - "And last time I checked, killing of innocents is forbidden by Judaism." Yet anyone who feels this way and can't understand how a great rabbi could advocate such "an evil notion" feels that way simply because they are clueless as to Arab culture and to Arab ideology.

My Rebbe back in Queens, Rabbi Shafier, ( discussed this in depth. If you want to truly understand the middle east conflict in a new light you must watch this video. It will be an hour very well spent. It gets really good 20 minutes into it - though I strongly recommend listening to the whole thing as the first 20 minutes are necessary to explain the last 10 minutes.

Here are some excerpts:

...and the fact that the United Nations doesn't have a clue, the fact that the European Union doesn't get it, is a rather curious fact. But what is even more astounding is the fact that most secular Israelis don't get it. They don't get it. They assume it's our fault. Clearly we've been too oppressive. Clearly we're a totalitarian regime. We've occupied their land - even though again, there was no Palestinian people before 67 - Jordan is their place - they're not oppressed - the Arabs in Israel have a better standard of living than the Arabs in all the other Arab countries. But we're too oppressive and the average secular Israeli feels guilty and has a real problem dealing with our participation in the "Palestinian oppression."

...There is no answer to anti-Semitism. There's no logical reason, no sociological factor, no logic based on history, it's a very different sort of animal you are dealing with.

...If you'd like to understand why is it that western culture can't get it it's because the Palestinian people, what they speak about, what they dream about, has no basis in Western culture. You see, if you live, eat, sleep and drink the acquisition of wealth, if making it means a bigger house, a fancier car, and you assume everyone is like you, you have a very difficult problem understanding why a 20 year old will strap 20 kilos of explosives to his chest, to destroy himself just to take a few Jews with him. And because there is no logical answer within the context of your ideology the answer clearly has to be that Israel is doing something so heinous to them, so criminal, that we can't even understand it, but it's clear that they're being oppressed.

But the Palestinians make no beef about it. They say clearly. It's not about the homeland. It's not about occupation. It's about religion. It's about God. It's about the Jews. Their charter says it. They say it. And no one gets it. And the reason why no one gets it is because it doesn't fit in to Western culture.

Because you see, when you talk about God I get a bit uncomfortable. I'm not really sure I believe in God to being with, and to believe that people actually give up their lives for God? It doesn't make sense!

And rather than believe what they say, rather than listen to their words, the UN, the European Union, the vast majority of the population of the world, believe some very, very silly ideas.

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Dissing the American Government

From Dan:

The American GOVERNMENT IS ISRAEL'S NUMBER 1 ENEMY. Yes, the Arabs like nothing better than killing Jews, but without the required diplomatic cover from the U.S., the game couldn't be played.

American Jews prefer things simplified: In the white hat, George W. Bush, defender of Israel and in the black hat, Osama Bin Laden, arch-terrorist.

But the so-called defender of Israel sends money and weapons to the terrorist Philistine authority. (oh, I'm sorry, that's to support the good terrorists of Abu Mazen against the bad terrorists of the Hamas).

Besides, in Tehillim, midrashim, etc., it says that Edom and Yishmael will attack Israel, Edom being the West and Yishmael the Arabs. In fact, the Abravanel says that Yishmael will do this under the command of Edom.

If these American Jews recognized that America is the real problem, then they would have to choose sides: stay in America and support Israel's demise or move to Israel.

What is the diplomatic game: The Arabs attack Israel, then Israel tries to defend itself and Condoleeza Rice is rushed to the region to "manage" the problem, thus equating the victims to the attackers.

Or Israel is forced to fight an "asymmetrical war of attrition," a concept invented by the mandarins at the State Department, against the terrorists, instead of doing what any normal country would do and carpet bomb the Philistines.

People say that it's "our" fault because Israel's leaders give in to the US. But the Israeli people have lost control over their government. This was proven when Olmert, number 33 on the Likud list and no big favorite of Sharon, was chosen as Ariel Sharon's Vice Prime Minister (perhaps, because he had the most vice).

Why would Sharon chose an unpopular politician whom he couldn't stand. Olmert was probably chosen because the U.S. ordered Sharon to do so. Then, a putsch was carried out, when Sharon remained in control of the gov't after leaving the Likud and forming Kadima. Sharon was not elected personally, the Likud was elected, whose MK's are chosen by the Likud party institutions so there was no precedent for taking the gov't away from the Likud. But why didn't Bibi challenge this, perhaps he's also controlled ...

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Better Israel?

Do you remember my now infamous blogpost with the pig picture? My main claim was that American Jewry has created a better Israel abroad with everything one needs to be Jewish, happy, and secure in the USA. Not only American comfort, but full-blown Judaism as well. AND NOW... Now you can have real Israeli products in America and you wont be missing a thing! Have your cake and eat it too, dance in two wedding, live in the US but eat the produce of the Land, and support Israel as well! Being an American Jew has never been better! Being an Israeli Jew on the other hand is Pikuach Nefesh, and only a measly Mitzva Kiyumis. NOT.

By the way, here is letter I recieved from someone who gets it:


Shalom Yishai,

I cannot believe I'm writing to you and I'm sure you're much to busy to read this, much less respond. But here goes.

I want to make aliyah. I know that my place is in Israel. In fact, I think the place of every Jew is in Israel, unless you are a shaliach helping others to make aliyah. We as Jews have no right to forsake what Hashem has given us and I worry that by staying in the diasporah, it is akin to spitting on His blessing. And I wonder how long Hashem will put up with it before He decides to wash His hands off for a time.

So anyway...I have no doubt that I should be there. Here's the thing...I have no family in Israel, no friends. I am married with three children--13, 11, 8. None of us speak Hebrew nor do we have college educations nor skills. My husband has only ever worked in restaurants and I have only done data entry work. We don't know the first thing about where to live or how to get jobs. We don't have the money to make a pilot trip. So when we go, it will be for good.

So, what do you think, Yishai? Should I just give up this dream and stay here in my comfortable apartment in America...going to Israel Independence Day festivals like a total hypocrite. Or do you think we'd have a chance at making it in Israel? I have no illusions of a luxurious life. I know it will be hard and difficult and lonely and I'm ready for that. But I mean in terms of basic survival --- eating, a place to live, schools.

Do you have any advice for us? Any ideas about where in Israel would be a good match for us? Anything we should do or look into (I am already looking into Nefesh b'Nefesh). Ideally, I would like to be there by next summer. But just don't know if we are cut out for it or even have anything to offer Israel beyond simply being five more Jewish souls in the land.

But yeah, anything you can help with would be great!

Thanks so much, Batya

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Is the U.S. Really Israel's Friend?

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a "friend" can be defined as:

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement
5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.

According to that same dictionary, a "foe" is defined as:

1. A personal enemy.
2. An enemy in war.
3. An adversary; an opponent: a foe of tax reform.
4. Something that opposes, injures, or impedes.

Israel and the United States have always professed to be "friends" and good friends at that. Yet, a recent examination of U.S. policy toward Israel over the past several weeks, may have you checking your definitions a little more closely.

In June 1967, Israel was forced to defeat the attacking armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel tried to avoid war at all costs, but as diplomacy failed (as it often does here in the Middle East) Israel had no choice but to take pre-emptive action to defend its borders and protect its citizens.

In the stunning victory, Israel swiftly repossessed the Golan, Gaza, Sinai, Yehuda, Shomron, and re-unified a divided Jerusalem. The re-unification of our nation marks perhaps the highest spiritual point in Israel's brief 59 year history.

This week according to IsraelNationalNews, the United States Ambassador to Israel will not be present at celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the miraculous Six-Day War.

This week's festivities are certainly the type in which Israel would like its friends to be present. It is not that our friends are busy with prior engagements, but rather that the United States is boycotting the festivities, along with member nations of the European Union.

According to the INN report:
"The U.S. did not issue an official statement explaining why the current Ambassador, Richard Jones will not be attending the ceremonies, but Ambassador Dr. Harald Kindermann from Germany, which heads the European Union (EU) this year, specifically said EU countries will not participate because of Arab claims of sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Old City."

Perhaps this incident can be brushed aside as part of some grand political game the U.S. must play to appease others across the globe. But some other recent occurances are harder to overlook.

When Winograd Commission released its interim report into the Israeli government and military's mismanagement of the Summer War in Lebanon, the Jewish nation was engaged in sharp condemnation of its leaders, and calls for their resignation. Winograd dominated news coverage for a solid week, and still appears in the headlines on a regular basis.

Just two days after the report was released to the public, there was another, no less important news story in the headlines: The United States had presented Israel with a detailed timetable of commitments for Jewish State to satisfy, in line with the U.S.'s renewed push for the creation of a Palestinian state.

This seemingly important top news story only managed modest news coverage, and barely any opinion, because as mentioned, Israel was engulfed in Winograd.

One may ask whether a timetable, or the creation of an Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan represent acts of friendship to Israel at all. But to present Israel with this kind of wish list when it did, was intentional.

The State Department could have easily pushed off its diplomatic attempt by a week or more, as proved by Condoleeza Rice's postponement of her scheduled trip to Israel this past week. She claimed that Israel was too busy with its own domestic issues to engage in diplomacy.

So why then was the timetable given to Israel when it was? Specifically to dodge any media criticism of the document, and to attempt to have the commitments accepted and in place, just in case Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was man enough to resign his post following the damning Winograd report.

While the timing of the document may or may not be friendly, the contents of the timetable further reveal the nature of the United States toward Israel.

The first commitment called for in the document presented by the State Department requests that Israel ease passage between Gaza and the provinces of Judea and Samaria--also known today as the West Bank.

Since the Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, during which Israel destroyed 21 Jewish communities and forcibly expelled upwards of 10,000 residents, Gaza has turned into a terror state. Hamas has taken control of the region, sponsoring terror activities including the firing of nearly 2000 Kassam rockets into Israel. Well over 60 tons of weapons and munitions have been smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, and the rival factions in the newly autonomous area have engaged in murderous street fights that fall somewhere in between anarchy and civil war.

Now, the United States is suggesting, strongly, that Israel allow Arabs of Gaza passage into Judea and Samaria. This despite the fact that there is a large landmass of indisputed Israeli territory between the aforementioned regions, and also despite the fact that Judea and Samaria wrap directly around the borders of Jerusalem, and end within ten miles of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan population center.

Obviously the United States knows all of these facts, particularly when you consider that they are openly arming, funding, and training members of the Fatah terror faction in their struggle for control of the Palestinian Authority with Hamas.

By the way, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah wrote his doctoral thesis on Holocaust denial, and openly calls for the very weapons donated to his cause by the United States should be turned against the Jewish people.

So to summarize, the United States is funding and arming sworn enemies of the Jewish State and asking the Jewish State to ease their travel near Israeli population centers. They ask us to do this when the media is too caught up Winograd to rightfully comment on the request.

And the U.S. who is acting squarely against the interests of safety for Israeli citizens and security for Israel's borders, won't celebrate with as friends the greatest demonstration of Israel's independent ability to protect those interests: The miraculous Six-Day War.

Many Americans and Israelis alike believe claims by their respective governments that Israel and America are friends. But actions speak louder than words.

"Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6).

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Rav Frand on Behar: Olim Are Not Normal

Do not let the title fool you. Rav Frand means that in the nicest way possible. The following was published several years ago.

Aspiring to not be Normal: Holy Fruit Are Consumed by Holy People
By Rabbi Frand on Parshas Behar - Bechukosai 5762

Parshas Behar contains the parsha of the Shmita [Sabbatical] year. Shmita is a mind-boggling concept. Shmita teaches us that an apple that grows in the Land of Israel has holiness. An Esrog that grows in the Shmita year has holiness. We generally think of holiness in terms of a Torah scroll which has G-d's Name written therein. An animal acquires holiness if it is dedicated to G-d. However, we (who are outside of Israel) do not usually encounter the concept of fruits, vegetables and grains that have holiness. Such is the power of the Land of Israel. Eretz Yisroel is a different land. Wheat that grows there is different wheat!

Rav Mordechai Gifter (1916-2001) related an incident involving the Ponevezer Rav (1886-1969). In a Shmita year, the Ponevezer Rav went over to a tree, kissed the tree and said "Good Shabbos to you". Just like there is a special day - Shabbos -- on which we have to feel special, so too in Eretz Yisroel during the Shmita year, it is Shabbos for the land.

Several years ago, I recall listening to "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio. To commemorate the signing of the then-recent Peace Accords, there was a segment about Israel in general. It was a piece about the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This program reminded me of the concept that Eretz Yisroel is not a normal land.

What is the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? They interviewed several people. The thrust of the responses was that Tel Aviv is a "normal city". Tel Aviv is a pragmatic city. "It is a city which is unencumbered by history. Tel Aviv is like Miami!"

Jerusalem is not Miami. Jerusalem is not pragmatic. Jerusalem is not "normal". Jerusalem is "encumbered by history" - thousands of years of history that the city must bear on its shoulders.

They contrasted the differences between a Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv and a Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. They had excerpts of the sounds of Tel Aviv: teenagers listening to 'Rap music'. They commented "this is so normal". A person on the street Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv could shut his eyes and just listen to the music and think he was in downtown Baltimore. Tel Aviv is 'normal'.

On the other hand, "the Orthodox Jews, many of them dressed in the broad brimmed hats and the long caftans, are scurrying through the streets of Jerusalem trying to prepare for the upcoming Sabbath". Tel Aviv is "normal". Jerusalem is "abnormal".

This is saying that the wish of many Israelis has been achieved. The wish of many of them has been "let us be like all the nations" [Samuel I 8:20]. We just want to be "normal". We do not want to have this burden of history, this burden of theology, this burden of Judaism. We want to be normal.

They fail to realize -- and this is sad to say what is happening -- that if the goal in life is that Tel Aviv should be like Miami, then it makes more sense to just go to Miami. If the goal is to imitate Miami, where one can find drugs and vice 24 hours a day and there is no need to worry about history -- then why shouldn't they just go to the real one?

In fact, many of them are leaving. Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, who now spends most of his time in Jerusalem, recently wrote the following:

They abandoned the Kibbutz in droves, physically and spiritually, for the less austere life and ultimately the greater comforts and the material opportunities of Canada and the United States. The most sacred tenet of secular Zionist canon - settling in Israel - is utterly ignored. As the secularists painfully know, 'Yerida' from Israel is primarily a secular phenomenon while 'Aliya' to Eretz Yisroel is primarily Orthodox.

According to conservative estimates, there are close to a half million former Israelis now living in the West. That is to say that while those raised on a religion-less diet abandon Israel for the West, those raised on Mitzvah observance apparently do not find it difficult to abandon the luxuries of the West for a less comfortable life in Israel. This has resulted in the following anomaly: Hebrew spoken in American electronic stores on 42nd street in New York and on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, while English is spoken in Israeli Yeshivos like Kerem B'Yavneh and Brisk. The Orthodox in Israel, whether they are Chassidim, Charedim, Sephardim, or Kippot Serugot ask a troubling question of the secularists. Who today, are the real 'Lovers of Zion'? That is the real irony of ironies. Who are the 'Zionists' today? Who are the 'Chovevei Tsion'? It is those who observe Torah and Mitzvos. Those are the real Zionists. Those are the people that are willing to live in an 'abnormal' land.

This is what we must understand about Eretz Yisroel. It is in fact NOT normal. It is not normal that when an apple grows, I must consider all types of ritual considerations regarding how to treat the apple. It is not normal, but that is what Eretz Yisroel is all about. This is what being a Jew is all about. A Jew is encumbered with history. He is encumbered with theology. If one fails to realize and appreciate that, there is really no reason to live in Eretz Yisroel.

There was a recent article in the New York Times that noted that the secular Israelis look upon the immigrants (olim) who come from the United States to Israel as if they are crazy. In their view, there is no sane person that is living in the United States and has a livelihood in the United States and a house in the United States who gives it up for living in Israel. They feel that anyone who makes Aliyah from the United States nowadays must be out of his mind.

In a sense these secular Israelis are right. It does take people who are not 'normal' to live in a Land that is not 'normal'. But this non- normalcy is something that we must admire and something to which we must aspire. People who are willing to give up the lap of luxury to fulfill a mitzvah - those people can live in a land where apples and grapefruits are holy.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Boro Park Bathroom Holier Than Tel Aviv

Wasn't gonna let a gem comment like this get away buried at the bottom of a two week old post...

At 9:16 PM , Der Shygetz said...

This is one kosher Jew who will never make yerida to the failed Bolshevik "Israeli Soviet Socialist Republic."

There are only 2 places in the world (and I've lived in a supposedly anti-Semitic European country where never once did I have any problems) where I have been made fun of for my typical "charedi" dress. One was Copenhagen, Denmark, and the culprits were Muslim teens. The other was Yerushalayim, and it did not happen just once, either. And the culprits were deracinated descendants of tayere Yidden who were forced to secularize by the Bolshevik regime in the medina.

The Israelis, religious, secular, and yes, chareidi, are "playing country" the way we played store or house as little children. And Daddy, made up of the USA, Jews from abroad, and a few suspicious characters like Leviev and Gaidamak (intelligence-mafia operatives), Arison (fortune inherited from Daddy who left Israel and made in the USA), Tshuva (pushtak who got lucky), etc who made their money abroad and are laundering it through Israel, are paying the bill.

Your country is kosher style. It sticks out its kosher feet which is eretz hakedoisha that it occupies, but the rest is glatt treyf. It is an occupation force that is defiling Eretz Yisroel. There is more kedusha in a bathroom in Boro Park than in most of Tel Aviv.

Talk about a fat pitch...

Any takers?

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Is Christian Support for Israel Legitimate?

Is Christian support for Israel legitimate? Israel National News has an article up about the Chief Rabbinate banning Jewish participation in a Christian group's (Bridges for Peace) women's conference scheduled for next week in Jerusalem. They claim that the organization's concentration on "Judeo-Christian values" and the study of "the Jewish foundations of Christianity" are forbidden. The rabbis ruled that these efforts are actually part of a long-running campaign to bring Israeli-Jews to believe in Jesus.

At the same time Pastor John Hagee gave a rousing "sermon" at the AIPAC conference which people are talking about.

My opinion:

I hate when people say "Israel - you are not alone".

A. We are not alone, so you don't have to worry about it, G-d is on our side, and so are people who are truly with G-d and B. We don't mind being alone. Nothing wrong with individualism. Sometimes when your leading you are alone at the head.

I hate when people say "Israel - we support you". Support means that there's a big entity and a small entity, the bigger helping the smaller. I don't think Israel needs Christian help (nor do I think Evangelical Christianity has helped Israel one iota) and detest the email I get from Christians who tell me that I should stop ripping Jesus if I want to continue receiving their support. The good people of this world do not need to flaunt their support if it comes from the heart. Have you ever heard Micronesia make demands on Israel in return for its support?

BUT while I hate "support", I do not mind cooperation and friendship. I have met Christians who are leaving their false beliefs in favor of a more Bible-oriented world-view. I have met Christians who believe in Israel with all their hearts. I have met Christians who inspire Israelis to believe in the Torah, and to our right to the whole land of Israel.

If we do not come to Christians from a position of the low-self esteem and neediness we will be able to recognize our true friends. If we impress upon them that missionizing will not be tolerated, they will learn to sublimate whatever false beliefs they have left in them. Israel does not need support, nor is Israel alone, however, Israel does know how to appreciate a good friend, colleague, or partner.

When it come to the "word" - I never stand for any Jesus-talk - I say plainly "We do not believe in that, and it goes against the Torah - do yourself a favor and rid yourself of false beliefs." Christians love when I talk this way because they know they are not dealing with someone who is trying to smooth talk them to get something. We must always know and radiate the fact that we are the Chosen people and we are the guardians of the Torah - anyone who is thirsty may come and drink. We, on the other hand, are not thirsty. This is they key to a healthy relationship.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Rabbi Avi Weiss about being a Zionist

Thursday, April 26, 2007

An Open Letter To Yishai

Dear Yishai,

I love you but this latest post of your's doesn't sit well with me. I don't feel it has a place on the Kumah website. Just as a picture of Neturei Karta burning an Israeli flag, which I posted, has no place here. Do people really need to see these pictures of pigs? You may be the co-founder of Kumah but the Kumah message has taken on a life of it's own. And that post is not Kumah. Perhaps it's Kumah-style but it's not Kumah!

Let's go straight to the point? Jews living in Chuz L'Aretz are responsible for Yerida? That's like saying the Israeli aggression is responsible for Arab attacks on Jews.

Who is responsible then? There are only two correct answers.

A. Hashem.


B. The Yared.

As I wrote in my comment, if Hashem decrees you can not enter the Land you could be Moshe Rabbanu himself and you are not going to enter the land. By your logic you could be Moshe Rabbanu - and even want very much to live in Eretz Yisrael - but nevertheless your presence in Chutz L'aretz makes it easier for Yardim. So are you saying Moshe C"V is a Chazer? Are you saying our own beloved Shulamis, by residing in Chu"L is responsible for Yardim?

Another point. Do you think most Yardim are Dati? And actually think they say about American Jews, "I could be just as frum as these American Jews?"

Reality check: Most Yardim are not Dati and never even heard Lecha Dodi sung on Shabbat. They grow up in places like Haifa and Ramat Gan raised to be like the other nations especially America. And so where better to live the American dream but America. That's why they choose America! Not because there are Jews there but because there are cars and big houses and because money grows on trees in America.

And do you know what happens to these Yardim? Some Yardim who are after the American dream end up in places relatively void of Jews. But others - since they have the option - choose to live in Jewish areas because they might as well be near Jews. And do you know what happens? They start going to shul on Friday night because it's right next door. The shul in Haifa was a mile away. And they start getting closer to Hashem. Closer then they ever could have gotten in their setting in Eretz Yisrael. I have seen this happen with my own eyes countless times!

And then you know what happens next? They return. They come home. And then they get even closer to Hashem here than is possible anywhere else in the world. I see this happening too!

Ultimately every Jew has Eretz Yisrael inside of them. Every Jew has the yearning for her. That yearning is awakened best by positive thoughts. (It's easier for the Yared to come Home since they have the language and the culture.) A Jew native to America will need an even more positive message as they will face more challenges to make Aliyah successfully.

Yishai, it bothers me too that it doesn't seem enough American Orthodox Jews seriously consider Aliyah or even give a single thought to it. But the way to get them focused on it is by promoting the positive aspects of Aliyah and the beauty of life in Eretz Yisrael. This is a message Kumah has been building up for years since it's inception and it is the proper authentic Kumah message.

Everybody out there - click on this link !!!

This is link if FULL of Klassic Kumah posts. Scroll through the whole thing! Authentic Kumah. Go on click it! Look at those post. Each and every one of them. Then tell me what we should be posting on Kumah.

B'Ahavat Yisrael,

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Orange alive in NY and FL

Hey all hope you had an amazing Independence Day.

While looking at some pictures from here and here I notices that Orange was still popping up everywhere. So I decided to check and see if we here in America still have "it" and here is what I found....

So this is to show, that even after all this time, and an ocean away, we still remember and we still support and we still believe that eventually we will get Gush Katif back, and the WHOLE land of Israel, that was promised to us. Amen!!!

Have a good one, don't forget the omer

~ Shulamit

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Recently, a listener to my show took exception when I said that American Jewry was Kosher-Style. "How", the incredulous listener asked, "could you compare the treif misrepresentation of the restaurants to living in America?"

So please let me explain: American Jewry is not kosher-style, it's American Orthodox Jewry which is kosher-style.

There they are, parading their black hats to everyone, making sure to keep Shabbos, and Kashrus. But Eretz Yisrael? Even though every page of the Siddur mentions it in one way or another, even the Torah seems obsessed with it, the American-Orthodox seem Exile-content.

Is this Kosher? No, its Kosher-Style. It has the trappings of Kosher - looks like a Jew, seems like a Jew, but in the final analysis, not acting like a Jew. A Jew needs to strive to get closer to Hashem, to serve Him, and not to serve himself. Our forefathers gave up everything to live here and they set an example for how we should behave. The Matriarch Rachel cries waiting for her children to come home, but we say "whatever". For American Jews "Next Year in Jerusalem" means "next year… maybe - but definitely not now."

Kosher-style is, of course, treif, a harsh accusation. Is it fair for me to call all those good Jews treif, when they may be very pious? Yes, there is one thing that makes American Jewry totally treif, and it's not only that they don't make Aliyah - rather it's the fact that AMERICAN JEWRY CAUSES YERIDA!

Have you ever wondered why Israelis who make Yerida almost invariably move to the States? The US is of course a great place to live, but it is American Jewry which gives secular Israeli's the legitimization to move there. An Israeli who is fed up with Israel's challenges needs only look to his Orthodox Jewish-American "brother" and ask himself: "Am I frumer than he is? He goes to Shul, he eats Kosher, he lives a Jewish life. So what do I need this Israel for, for ideology? Not. I'm not more idealogical then he is. Let me move to the US where I won't have to send my kids to the army and I'll get to live the good life - Kosher-Style!"

We all know that American Jewry transgresses a sin of omission in not making Aliyah. But the real truth is that American Jewry can be faulted for a sin of greater severity: taking Jews away from the Holy Land. Yerida, going down, choosing the exile. Choosing the Exile.

This sin can be overcome in an instant; this mitzva is beckoning at every moment.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Yom HaZikaron 5767

You can feel the heaviness of the day. It's nothing at all like Memorial Day in America - which to most Americans is simply about sales and the beginning of Summer. Here almost all Israelis know of one (or sadly more) soldier personally that fell so that Israel could be. Here it's personal.

The flag on the Knesset is lowered to half staff (above.) And the nation grinds to a halt to remember who made this all possible as the siren sounds (below.)

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

America does NOT have the Answers!!!

Heyo, hope you all had an amazing Pesach, and next one G-d willing we will all be in Israel.

I have been out of the loop for a while, meaning I haven't had Internet for a week. But when I went to surf the net for some interesting info, I keep hitting a topic, that is really old, but still seems to hold clout and be really annoying. "For the first time in years the US and Israel are not seeing eye to eye regarding key issues" stated in an article on ynet

But its not only ynet that feels this way, I think its a running theme in Israel today. They no longer think or speak from themselves. Instead they look to the high and mighty America for the answers and cures to everything. Well since I don't want to sound like broken record, instead, I'm going to let you know why America not only has no answers anymore, but its a tad on the confused side itself.

As one reporter states "America's government is broken and its leaders corrupt. Our homeland security is being jeopardized as is our economy due to poor border control and unwillingness to tackle tough issues on our own soil. Before going abroad to police the world, we should get our own nation in order." Hey, doesn't this sound familiar? Isn't this what Israel is doing also? Maybe America is learning too much from Israel? America has Al Sharpton, Israel has Abbas. It seems like both countries are in the same boat... But one is Israel, a Jewish nation, that has its roots buried in the land for over 3000 years. And America is but a child compared to Israel's linage, why do we continuously feel the need to look up to them? And when we don't see "eye to eye" we start getting nervous, as if we can't stand on our own. I wish I could give out t-shirts that say " I don't look for answers, I HAVE THEM." Because if Israel continues to look to America for guidance, and continue to depend strongly on anyone but themselves, things aren't going to get better.

Okay, so its known that Olmert and his posy's are all corrupt... done. Its been established that the Oslo accords were a waste of time...check. We know relying on other counties for support is weaning thin... kapish. So now what?

Well now, we run our government, with out kissing up to anyone. We close our eyes, put our feet on the ground, know that this soil has a story to tell and that story is still being told, and we are going to be its tellers. Deep down, every Israeli knows what is right, that's not where the fight comes. The fight is when we know whats wrong, and convince ourselves and everyone else that that's right. But as Jews, like cats ( I like cats, I do a really good impression) we have second chances. Throughout history we are known for screwing up, but then, royally rectifying it.

I think its been established that we messed up. Now its our time to work our magic that has been passed down through each generation since our fore father Avraham, and as New Yorkers would say "work it."

So stop looking to America or other countries for answers, look inside, its all there, if you don't believe me, I got the oldest book in the world to prove it, the Torah.

Aight... work it...

ttfn, Dftss ~ Shualmit

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Photos and Free Orange Minutes!

I always say the first sign that I'm not Home is when I get into the terminal at JFK airport and reach for the mezuzah and it's not there! Just last week I was in the Post Office and the clerk wished me a "Chag Samayach!" That's what I'm talking about. Home!

You know what I mean. Speaking of which... Orange is giving its customers 200 FREE minutes on Pesach (see details below) as a holiday gift. Awesome! Home!

Here are some photos I took of our beautiful Land on the way out. I miss you already and will be back soon.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Best That American Jewry Has To Offer...

Manischewitzville is no substitute for a homeland with Jewish substance.

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