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*** THE ALIYAH REVOLUTION ALBUM ***

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nefesh B'Nefesh Hanukkah Flash Mob








Thursday, September 17, 2009

NBN 5769 In Review - Shana Tova!








Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My New Tisha b'Av Video: Rectifying the Sin of Spies








Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kumah Kleanup for Shavuot: The Tomb of Ruth and Jesse



Clean Up Tomb of Ruth and Yishai

An amazing chance to help Israel honor our Matriarch, right before Shavuot
*Sunday, May 24, 2009(Rosh Chodesh Sivan)
*9:30am - 6:30pm
*Meet at upper level of Central Bus Station Jerusalem at 9:30AM (bus stop for the 160 line)

This coming Sunday, before Shavuot, we meet at the Central Bus Station, and get a bus to Hebron. When we get there, we go to the 'Tomb of Ruth and Yishai' and we CLEAN IT UP. Weed work, dust cleaning, fixing some tiles, moving rocks, maybe painting. We will be treated to FREE PIZZA and hopefully and reading of the Scroll of Ruth. Please bring clothes to dirty and gloves to work with. Email Yishai at kumah.org with questions, and if you're a member of Facebook, add yourself to the event.

Sponsored by Kumah - The NeoZionist Lobby

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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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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

61 Years of Gastronomic Miracles



Time flies while you're having fun!

This is why we've come to expect so much from our tiny little baby state (I think 62 years old is the national equivalent of a kindergartner), and why this post is going up so many days after Israel's 61st Independence Day.

I just wanted to share a little thought I had at the makolet (small grocery store)the day before Yom HaAtzmaut.

Before I begin, let me just say that makolets are the intellectual breeding grounds of many Israeli women. A lot of socializing, informational exchange, and checkout-line-thinking-time happens in those locales, making the makolet one of the revolutionary thought centers of Israel.

The day before the holiday celebrating the erection of a Jewish State, I joined the throngs to procure charcoal, chicken, marshmallows, and french fries, standard celebratory fare for Israel's most beloved barbecue holiday (soon to be replaced by Pesach, G-d willing!).

After elbowing a lady in the eye to get the last bag of mehadrin pink and white marshmallows (I will never understand strawberry marshmallows - sue me for my white-only Exile mentality), I toed up to the long line of shoppers waiting to leave with sacks full of party food.

For a moment, I wanted to be irritated. "Oh man, another 25 minute grocery line?! Give me a break," I thought.

Then I had two realizations which filled my heart.

1. 61 years ago, there were only about 645,000 Jews in the entire country, barely enough to fill one Mister Zol (ok, a little more than enough) - now there are over 5.5 million. It's a miracle there are so many Jews to stand in line before me at the store.

2. 61 years ago, I wouldn't be purchasing 85% of the things in my cart for one of two reasons: 1. the item wouldn't be available, or 2. it would be so expensive, I would never dream of using my ration cards to obtain it.

With these thoughts in mind, my trip to the makolet transformed from a source of annoyance to a joy of Zionist patriotism. Standing in that line, I felt a surge of a gratitude, and pride in the beeping of the bar code reader and clinking of change in the cash register.

Israel is on the up on up, just gearing itself up to exceed our most terrific expectations. May you be blessed to get nachas from the process of Israel's growth, in every situation, whether you score the last bag of marshmallows or not.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Am Yisrael - One big humus eating happy family





Every Pesach since I first became religious I've essentially had a repeat of the seder experience- a well groomed black hat sporting North American kiruv rabbi sitting at the head of the table spending the night sharing light-hearted parables tied into the story of Yetzirat Mitzrayim, everyone calmly getting their fill of matzah and maybe a cute performance from the kids. This year however due to me now having Israeli in-laws, I merited getting an up close view of the Moroccan and Yeminite worlds of Israel not so commonly available to those in the English speaking circles of Jerusalem.

The cultural challenges included things like trying to keep up with a table full of people who can read Hebrew 5 times faster than the speed of light and trying to reach halachik agreements over how to handle the intricacies of the Pesach laws with people who were often less then thrilled to have some yeshivish American kid come and start telling them what to do. In fact one thing I've noticed of quite a few of the non-Charedi Sephardim in Israel is that for many, opening up a Shulchan Aruch, Mishneh Breur or Yalkut Yosef and stating the halacha point blank seems to be no match in their eyes against claims of, "Who are you to tell me what to do? I was born in the neighboring town to where the Baba Sali lived!" Or, "My great grandfather was the Ben Ish Chai's milkman! You think I don't know what I'm talking about!?"

As difficult as it was at times to bridge the culture gap, I witnessed something really beautiful that put the whole idea of Am Yisrael and family in perspective for me. During Chol Hamoed one day we had a bbq up in Haifa. Here I was, wearing my frummer-than-though black and white "penguin" uniform surrounded by sabras in jeans and flip flops when my wife and I looked into a neighboring yard nearby. We saw another Israeli family quite similar to ours grilling their own food "al-ha'eish." Smack dab in the middle of the group was a man with a long beard also sporting the "uniform" with his super-tznious wife helping direct the festivities. My wife smiled and commented, "I guess there has to be one of those couples in every family!" Then it hit me, I looked at the people surrounding me that were in many ways so entirely different and yet had totally welcomed me into their family. I also looked down the street at the guy whom I'm sure had such similar Pesach experience to mine that he could probably write this post for me. I realized that's the story of Am Yisrael. As corny as it sounds, no matter how different we may look or feel we are all as Jews bound up by some common thread. What the thread is and how it works I'm not exactly sure bit it's definitely there and doing its thing. My rabbi gave several classes in Jerusalem in the last week or so and during one of them said that he never calls himself religious, just a Jew. People tell him things like, "Well look at your big beard!" He replies, "Goats can grow beards too, so what of it?" No matter how different we may look speak or act, we really are just one big family.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Stephen Frees His Jews








Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Only in Israel...



...do the buses wish you a Happy Purim instead of telling you where they are going!

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Shtikel Purim Torah





There are many new years throughout the Jewish calender. Rosh Hashanah is the main new year but there are others such as Tuv b'Shvat which is the new years of trees and Rosh Chodesh Nissan which is the new years of kings. Pesach is the new years of the Jewish holidays. Rebbe Nachman once said regarding this, “All beginnings started from Pesach but now...” Reb Natan said that from the Rebbe's gestures it was clear he meant Purim, i.e. Purim was now the holiday from which everything would start. Purim is the holiday of flip-flops and opposites. All year long we are studious and responsible yet on Purim we not only allow ourselves to get completely drunk but are expected to. Instead of dressing like respectable people we dress in light-hearted costumes. Why is it that Rebbe Nachman made this statement about Purim and why is it that everything is backwards from how it normally is on Purim?

Chazal says that in the time to come we won't celebrate any of the old holidays except for Purim which will continue to be celebrated even after the Mashiach comes. Why is this? By all our major holidays we say “Zecher l'yetziat Mitzraim” (in remembrance of the exodus from Egypt) because they all center around the miracles that happened when we left Egypt. We recognize these miracles because we always go after the biggest chiddush and the miracles that occurred during the exodus from Egypt were the greatest ever witnessed in the history of humanity therefore it would be a lesser statement of Hashem's greatness to proclaim lesser miracles. Yet when Mashiach comes Hashem will perform miracles that are even greater than those of Yetziat Mitzraim and therefore we won't need to remember those miracles anymore. But unlike the other main holidays which were based on the past redemption, the redemption of Purim was actually based on the future redemption of Mashiach which has yet to happen. This is why we will still celebrate Purim even after Mashiach comes. This is also why everything in Purim is backwards of how things normally are- instead of reaching into the past redemption and pulling the kedusha forward like the other holidays, Purim pulls into the future and pulls the kedusha backwards to the past.

Sefer Daniel describes a statue with a head of gold, arms of silver, thighs of copper, and legs of iron with the feet are made of part iron and part clay. Then four kingdoms are described corresponding to the four parts of the statue. The last part of the statue- the iron with some of the feet iron and some clay is described as a divided kingdom. The statue and kingdoms represent the four nations which will oppress the nation of Israel- the four exiles. The gold is Babylon, the silver Persia, the copper Greece, and the iron is Rome and by extension Edom and modern day America and Europe. Exile, or GaLuT (גלות), has the same root as MeGiLLah (מגילה) suggesting a link between the Megillot and the exiles, but there are five Megillot and only for exiles. Where is the fifth exile? In the iron part of the statue at the very bottom it becomes partially mixed with clay and the kingdom is divided. In the current exile of Edom that we are in, we are reaching the end of it and the kingdom is becoming divided by a new rival to America and Europe- Islam and the arabs. The fact that it is in the feet of the statue corresponds to sefer B'reshit when three angels came to Avraham and he asked them to wash the dust off their feet. Rashi comments that this is because the angels appeared to Avraham as arabs and since arabs would worship the dust on the feet he wanted to prevent them from doing their idolatry. Just like clay is mixed in with the iron, the fifth exile is mixed in with the fourth one. A hidden exile connotes a hidden megillah- the Megillat Ester as Ester means hidden. How is this exile we are now in hidden? Because the concealment is so deep that it's a concealment within a concealment- the concealment is such that people don't even know they are in it and therefore don't know to try and get out. Many of us have returned to Israel and we have a government here, yet right here we are still in spiritual galut. Many Jews don't even know there's a G-d or anything it says in the Torah. Yet this is the exile of the “Megillat Ester.” Megillah can be read as “MeGaLeh” or “reveal.” This Megillah is the revealing of the hidden. Since the clay was at the feet of the statue- the end, this current exile is nearing its own end when the hiddeness of Hashem will be revealed to the world.

In Sefer Daniel it tells of a rock that will smash the statue and then become a mountain that encompasses the world and a kingdom that will never be destroyed. This rock and kingdom is Israel when Hashem brings the final redemption. This time and experience can most be tapped into on Purim when we are spiritually speaking actually in the future redemption at the present. How do we know that we are currently tapping into the future redemption right now? At what point in the Megillat Ester do things start to turn around from bad to good for the Jews? In the sixth chapter when the king realizes that Mordecahi was never rewarded for reporting the conspirators who had planned to assassinate him. In second chapter of the megillah the name of one of the two conspirators written Bigtan (בגתן) yet in chapter six when the things start turning around his name is written Bigtana (בגתנא) with an extra aleph. Hashem was showing that by implanting that aleph into the bad situation He would turn it all around into a redemption. So to with our current and final exile, Hashem doesn't even need to make a new situation but can take this very one itself and make it a redemption, for what happens when you implant the aleph into the root of GaLuT? You get GEuLah (גאולה) (redemption)! It should be Hashem's will that we tap into the future redemption this Purim and help bring it in it's entirety soon and in our days, amen.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

"Purim, An Aliya Story"



by Stewart Weiss

Is the Bible relevant? As we read the Book of Esther during these days of Purim, I find myself wondering just what this story is all about. On the surface, it is a classic morality play. The forces of injustice and cruelty become ascendant, threatening to exterminate a whole people simply because they are different. A reluctant band of heroes enters the scene, eloquently pleading their cause and ultimately gaining the favor of the King. The despicable tyrant is vanquished, Good triumphs over Evil, and all live happily ever after. Neat, sweet and complete. But hark, fair reader. Purim doth teach that all is not as it seemeth; that masks of many shapes and sizes disguise a much deeper message hiding behind the poetry and prose.

I suggest that one of the central themes of the Purim story is the ancient, yet ongoing, interplay between the Jew of the Diaspora and the Jew of Israel. It is precisely this motif which not only makes the Megila eternal, but among the most popular and well-known of all the books of the Bible...

THE JEWS of Shushan are your archetypal Diaspora Jews. They seem to live quite comfortably under a benevolent ruler who respects their rights and ignores their idiosyncrasies. They are even invited to royal banquets – where the food is glatt kosher – and are called upon regularly for advice. Yet, for all their prominence, the Jews still tread that thin line between security and suspicion. Can they trust their hosts, and can their own loyalty to the crown be trusted? Among themselves they perpetually debate – with no foregone conclusion – whether they are Persian Jews or Jewish Persians.

Haman and Mordechai enter the scene, bringing the deeper issues into focus. Haman is no stranger to Jews, having lived among them and observed their rites and rituals for quite some time. He has no love for Jews, to be sure, but is quite prepared to strike a modus vivendi with them – if they demonstrate that their first allegiance is to the state and its sovereign. Haman therefore prepares a test, convincing the king to hold a party celebrating the end of Jewish independence, even using the vessels of the Temple to toast Jewish subservience to the mighty Persian Empire.

Alas, the Jews submit and enthusiastically attend the party celebrating their own demise. They laugh and make merry, hardly realizing the joke is on them. But there is one Jew who will not abdicate his soul. Mordechai is of a different character. He remembers Jerusalem, having survived the Temple's destruction. He dresses like a Jew, and prefers Hebrew to Persian. He will neither bend nor bow, despite the intense pressure from both the grand vizier and his own co-religionists. Mordechai may live in the exile, but he is a son of Israel in form and substance.

When Haman sees Mordechai unbowed, he understands – better than the Jews themselves –that they will not forever be compromised. He therefore employs the age-old charges of "dual loyalty" and "fifth column" against them, convincing the Persian monarch that "once a Jew, always a Jew," and that this "certain people" will never mesh with the pure Persian pedigree. In the battle of wills that follows Mordechai must convince his people that abandoning their heritage will not keep them safe. Eventually, their salvation lies in reasserting their unique character and "casting their lot" with the King of Kings rather than with despots of flesh and blood.

Esther, for her part, is the story's most tragic figure. Caught between being a daughter of Israel and queen for a day, she never does make a whole and final peace. While she will save her people from disaster and gain lasting fame, in the process she will leave her home, intermarry, and bear a child for a man she does not love.

On stages all over the world this same little piece of theater is played out each and every day. Jews in countries throughout the exile live in various conditions of pain or pleasure. They pray to be left alone, yet know that their own personal Haman may be lurking right around the corner, just waiting to take advantage of their precarious position. They fear the day will come when they will be tested and have to choose between fealty and faith, and they are afraid they will choose wrong. They wonder if a Mordechai or Esther will arise to save them, too.

But there is a big difference between Persia then and the Jewish world now. Today, we have a place where a Jew can live as a Jew, with no fear of religious persecution, at present or in the future. We have a homeland where no Jew need divide his loyalty. We have a country and an army that will do battle with every Haman that tries to torment us, that will quash every plot that tries to destroy us.

The Jews of the Persian Empire are largely a footnote of history, but Israel is the center of history in the making, beckoning every Jew to come home, where we truly belong. And that, as they say, is the whole Megila.

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach and Ohel Ari Heritage Center in Ra'anana.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Happy 2B Shvat Israel Photos!






MORE OF MY GREAT 2B-SHVAT PICTURES CAN BE SEEN HERE!!!

I hope you will avail yourselves of our frankly awesome Tu b'Shevat seder, which Malkah compiled many moons ago. Gather your little fruits (and wines), your favorite folks, and pray for the good of Israel, and for all life, wherever it flourishes.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Some Old Friends Wish You a Happy Hanukkah








Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Fifth Night!


Chabad rocking the Machne Yehuda Shuk in Yerushalayim!

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Not Xmas!








Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Chanukah Day One








Friday, October 17, 2008

Chag Sameach from Kumah!








Monday, September 29, 2008

Next Year in Shul (or Temple) in Jerusalem!








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, August 15, 2008

Jewish Love



Jewish love is about union - and there are many types of love and union. Surely there is union between man and woman, between parents and children, and between friends. But there are other unions which matter very much: the union between people and G-d, between Jews and their land, and between the broader family of the tribe of Israel, and even between the tribe of mankind which we call the human race...

In this week's Torah portion we learn: (6th Portion - Chapter 6)
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our G-d; the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart.

When one decides to live his life with this concept in mind - to love G-d with everything one has - there comes a great relief because one is freed from the many self-serving choices that are put in front of him today and everyday. We are here to serve G-d, to make His name great, to bring a greater consciousness of Him into this world. Now that is love, that is dedication, that is freedom and that is real fun! He wants us to use all of our gifts to the max - but this world is not about self-actualization, it's about G-d-actualization.

What's really amazing is that to do all that, (to make His name great through loving Him), G-d commands us to love ourselves and to love each other. For Hashem, His greatest joy comes from when people, and especially Jewish people, get along and have peace in our homes.

This Tu b'Av, may we see the union of the Jews through a physical as well as spiritual union, that is, may we serve G-d together in the Land of Israel as a united family. We may have love for Him individually, but the full vision is of union - the union of all Jews in one place with one heart. That is what we yearn for, yet we are still divided. After 2000 years of division, it is time for the next era - the time of love and unity, selflessness and joy.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Video Blog From The Kotel on Tisha B'Av 5768








Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yom Yerushalayim- Come Join Us!!


You and your friends are cordially invited:
Yom Yerushalayim Celebration @ Beit HaRav Kook (next to Ticho House) in Jerusalem! Join the Kumah chevrah, yeshiva students and new olim for a song-filled Tefillah Chagigit & Musical Hallel led by R' Shlomo Katz this Monday at 8:30am. Divrei Torah, great music, & free breakfast too! Marking 41 years since the open miracles of the Six Day War!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Live Arutz-7 Feed from Meron!




Click here to watch!

Or read about it here (hebrew).

Plus here are photos from two years ago when I was there.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Declaring Independence - On Israel's 60th Birthday




On this, the holy occasion of the 60th birthday of the Modern State of Israel, I want to share with you how truly happpy I am, with all my heart, to be living in the State of Israel today. So many good Jews have fallen prey to the cynicism and dysphoria sown by lost souls and destroyers, causing them to reject and slander the State of the Jews, decrying its birth and publicly deploring it.

I reject this attitude and practice, now and forever. I declare that the Ehud Olmerts, Dorit Beinisches, and Yisroel Dovid Weisses of this world will NOT steal this state from me, nor will they rape me of my love, joy, and hope for the future of this incredible, flourishing project. I'll be damned if I will budge one inch in ceding my country or my spirit to them, or to those who join them in their practice of shaming, violating, and quashing the Jewish people on their soil.

I declare Independence, on behalf of all the good, sweet, hard-working Jews of Israel, from the mind-control of repression, injustice, and lies perpetrated by a small group of oligarchs, and vow that I will make it my life's mission to establish the Jewish people, proudly, eternally, as a "free nation in our Land". Free to embrace our identity, to love one another, to work together, to seek justice, to serve G-d without shame or inhibition. This is MY country, and if I have to fight my own small War of Independence everyday for the rest of my life, that is what I will do.

At this time, 60 years ago, after a global attempt to annhilate them utterly, the Jewish people struggled with the last breath left in their body to wrest life from the clutches of a cruel world. Some of those whose lives were built on hardship and dreams for the future survived the camps to die on the battlefield. They did not give in to the mighty evil which had battled them for so long, in so many permutations, but rather declared their independence from fear and faced their destiny boldly and simply, fighting for the establishment of a small, precious Jewish State.

Because of these, and so many who have lived and died for the nation of Israel in the last 60 years, as well as the last 600 and before, we are here on our holy soil today. Let us not give any more power to the forces of gloom and doubt, but rather take up the torch of our fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers who carried Hashem's promise to the Jewish people deep in their hearts. Damn those who place obstacles in our path, cloud our minds, and darken our hearts. Declare your Independence today, and let's pray that together, we will live to celebrate the destruction of our enemies and the defeat of evil forces within and without. Let's pray that together, we will celebrate the 100th birthday of the Modern State of Israel on the Holy Land of Israel, the glory of the world, the rightful inheritance of our people.

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Our Flag



Listeners of my show asked how they can support Israel's 60th celebrations. I responded by saying that everyone should put out a flag of Israel - especially non-Jews! I also asked that people email me photos of the flag. Here are a couple of responses:



Yishai,

You asked for a flag of Israel flying in Oklahoma. You got it. I am in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Pronounced Chick-ah-shay. I would like to wish Israel a happy birthday. I listen you guys every day.

Letting you know we care.

Thanks,
James




Dear Yishai,

I'm HAPPY to submit pics of my support for Israel. My husband also helped put both flags up, side by side.

I dream of one day moving to Israel, but need prayers. Holding fast to the promises given to the Land of Israel and with faith that I may see Her become whole in every way as She was intended to be, I dream one day of moving to Israel.

I enjoy your shows and all the shows at Israel National Radio. Continue in that work. It's the only news I listen to. With LOVE and HOPE for Zion,

~Sharon
Colorado

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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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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Straight to G-d




With Pesach having come to a close I’m now looking forward to a short vacation. The funny thing is, with a month off from yeshiva for the chag, technically I’ve already been on vacation for several weeks. Yet with all the excitement of Pesach and the different Chol Omed activities going on around the country last week, I find I actually need a vacation from my vacation.

Thank G-d, I was able to do a lot of traveling this past week, from one end of the country to the other. Bus rides to Beitar, bus rides to Hebron, bus rides to Tzfat, even an amazing two day Carlebach music festival at the Dead sea. I’m left feeling much more connected to Hashem after tapping into these holy places but I’m also left something else as well… exhausted! As I now look forward to a short visit to America to make the mandatory family visits and get some well earned relaxation, I realize this rest is from more than just running around all last week. In some ways, the hustle and bustle of Pesach and Chol Omed has been a microcosm of a larger life here in Israel.

This land is called “Eretz Yisrael”, and if you split up “Yisrael” in half you get “Eretz Yishar El” (The land straight to G-d). Through the name of the land itself we understand it’s nature, if you want to be taken straight to G-d this is the place to do it in. The thing is, G-d is indescribably powerful, and being much closer to Him can infuse a lot of energy into a person, place, or thing. Often this high-energy state of being is a very good thing, but one has to be careful to channel it in the right direction or else you can get burnt. It’s no coincidence that this land produces the gedolim-hador, rabbis of saintly stature able to take spirituality to the utter heights, as well as suicide bombers who grab hold of that same spiritual energy and are driven to take it to the utter depths. While speaking with my rabbi this weekend he was describing how last Shabbat he saw huge amounts of Greek Orthodox Christian tour groups walking around Jerusalem and bearing huge crosses no less, and he said he was very pleased about it. Not expecting to hear such a reaction I asked him why and he replied that the holiness of this land is now such that all the non-Jews of the world are vying to get a hold of it. Not only is it a sign that Hashem is really doing something special here, but also that now it has gotten to the point where it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the Jewish nation also wakes up to this fact as the non-Jews already have.

Life in America now seems like watching a movie… something that’s not quite real and at any moment someone may hit the stop button. Comparatively, life here is quite real, sometimes almost too real. When things are good they’re really good, but when they are bad they can be very stressful. Often you only get a split second to jump from great to horrible and back again, not being afforded a moment to catch your breath. I was speaking to a police officer here after a heated protest recently and commenting on it he told me, “You see, it’s not always so easy to be here.” To that I replied that I’d rather have a hard life in truth than to live an easy life in falsehood. Sometimes facing reality can be uncomfortable or worse downright painful. But it’s not our purpose to use this life we were given to sit back in a lazyboy and grow fat and weak, it’s our job to seek out the truth in this life. To do that the best, we must go “Yishar El”, straight to G-d, and this is the place to do it!

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Priestly Blessing - Jerusalem 5768








Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Valid Sale


As I sit munching another crunchy sheet of Jewish flatbread, I can't help but recall all the effort it's taken to get to this point. True, I didn't have to tie the deity of my taskmasters to my bedpost or tread lightly through towering walls of sea water this year, but I did undergo a certain degree of suffering and hard work in order to sit at my plastic-draped table this Pesach.

Usually, my husband and I sell any chametz to non-Jews through our local Rabbi, Rav Zalman Melamed. However, we missed the deadline this year, leaving us with a nasty pile of wheat-infused products with which to deal even after Rav Melamed had conducted the sale of Beit El's chametz through the non-Jew of his choice.

Frantic to unload our medicines, perfumes, and wheat-kissed soaps and shampoos on a gentile willing to buy, we started making some calls. One friend mentioned that he had sold his chametz online - through Chabad.org.

We were nervous to conduct this kind of transaction in such a seemingly non-legal sense. After all, if the sale isn't actual and is only symbolic, you are still the owner of chametz during the time in which it is forbidden according to Torah law, and you are therefore not really observing the commandment to rid your home of leaven.

Yet when I arrived at the website of Chabad, I saw that the amazing Jewish outreach organization was taking the sale quite seriously, and that I could once again rely on that enthusiastic and committed group to navigate me through the holiday with confidence and halachic certainty.

On behalf of my husband, myself, and my daughter, I completed the online form, which delegated power to sell my chametz to a Chabad rabbi named Yosef Landa after confirming my location for the holiday, address, contact information, and providing me with a space to specify the exact location of any chametz and how the purchaser could collect his purchases. I subsequently received a receipt of sale, ensuring me that my chametz would be sold to a gentile around noon on Friday, and suggesting that if the gentile were amenable, Chabad would purchase back the chametz for me after the holiday and I could begin using it by 10pm after Pesach ends.

Chabad, what would we do without you? Your knack for enabling Jews to perform mitzvahs never ceases to amaze and gratify me. Whether on the streets of New York, or in my living room in Beit El, you are still the greatest. Thank you!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Searching for Chometz


Some ideas on how to "enhance the search" (Audio)
Chag Sameach!

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This Might Help...








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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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tzfat Tzfat Rosh Hashanah!



Have you heard that catchy tune? Uman, Uman Rosh Hashanah! Uman, Uman Rosh Hashanah! No no, it’s not actually Rosh Hashanah and I’m not actually talking about Uman. But this last Sunday was Rosh Chodesh Nissan which, while not the main Jewish new year, is a minor new year and begins the calendar for all the holidays of the Jewish year. Rosh Chodesh Nissan also marks the birthday of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. The holy city of Tzfat is a stronghold for spirituality and Chassidus in Israel today, and especially for Breslov Chassidus. As such there are few places more fitting to spend this past Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh Nissan and a several friends of mine from yeshiva and I did just that.On the bus ride up from Jerusalem we met a guy who learns at Yeshivat Derech Hamelech, also in Jerusalem, and quickly hit it off. When we arrived at the room we were renting for the weekend we found that it was also being rented out by several other guys who learn at the Mir Yeshiva and we quickly became friends with them as well. Even though we ranged from Chassidish to Litvish, “black and white” to polo or t-shirts, everyone got along perfectly as though we had all been friends for several years. What’s more, this attitude was but a reflection of the greater mood throughout Tzfat’s old city.

Tzfat is truly a magical place and for those of you who haven’t been, or haven’t spent much time, I recommend you change that ASAP. Aside from all the amazing art galleries you can browse through, it also boasts the famous Arizal mikveh as well as the graves of such tzaddikim as the Arizal and Rabbi Yosef Caro, author of the Shulchan Aruch. Plus the fresh mountain air can’t be beat!

I wasn’t able to find a single person in low spirits during the whole weekend. It seemed like everyone had a smile on their faces and you never knew when you would walk around a corner and all of a sudden hear some mystical insight being given over. Even the man running the coffee stand in a t-shirt and jeans with no kippa on had a large poster of the Lubavitcher Rebbe next to his Yitzchak Rabin poster and offered holiday blessings. A local bookstore was offering a sale on all Breslov books in honor of the Rebbe’s birthday.

Friday night davening was a beautiful mix. Like our makeshift chevra of yeshiva guys, so too the shul we were at was a chullent of Chassidim, Misnagdim, Carlebachers, and basically anything else you could imagine all singing and dancing together passionately. Saturday night we had seuda shlishit at the Breslov yeshiva/kollel. I was treated to things like beautiful children with long flowing peos that didn’t look a day older than ten arguing over gemeras with each other and some incredibly beautiful niggunim being belted out by several hundred shtreimel wearing Chassidim. At the table we were at you would have taken one look at the people and not expected them to know a word outside of Yiddish, yet at least three men started talking to us in perfect English with clearly American-born accents. Though it was obvious my friends and I weren’t always religious, they could care less and were so happy to have us there as they eagerly asked questions to get to know us. I don’t know what was more refreshing, seeing charedi people breaking the mold we so often stereotype them with or seeing Americans that were able to leave behind everything in the States to come live a life tuned into an entirely different and spiritual frequency.

Basically the whole weekend was a birthday celebration Rebbe Nachman would have been proud of and one that I think the people of Tzfat should be proud of as well. I think we as a country and more importantly as a Jewish people should take an example from that kind of open Ahavat Yisrael without any judgment and service of HaShem with pure happiness.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Videos: Pesach, Our Past and Our Future...


First see this following AWESOME video - reenacting Pesach, which was posted on tsofar.com. It's really worth a watch!

Note: In IE you may have to hit play again after the intro plays.
Or launch it in an external player.

Next, watch this video of the Temple Institute who recreated the way a korban pesach was actually done. It's important to view because it's obvious in the not so distance future, G-d willing, every Jew will have to partake in a Korban Pesach in the third Bies Hamikdash! (Warning: It IS very graphic!)



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Monday, March 24, 2008

Jerusalem Factor of Purim



Above picture is the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem, decorated for Purim. Click here to see my pictures from the early part of the Kumah Purim Seudah at Kever Shmuel HaNavi.

While I was celebrating Shabbat Purim, the middle of the 3 day Jerusalem Purim celebration this year, I took the time to read the lead tidbit of the OU Israel Center Torah Tidbits. Phil Chernofsky explains how our sages could have just kept Purim as the Galut (exile) holiday it was, but instead put a special emphasis on Jerusalem, essentially turning Shushan Purim into Jerusalem Purim, thereby bringing out the uniqueness of the Geulah (redemption), or Israel, celebration. I'm copying the article below in the full post, or you can read it on OU's website.

And now let's look at the Forest...

There's an expression that's been around for at least 500 years, "can't see the forest (or wood, woods) for the trees". It is defined as, "to focus only on small details and fail to understand larger plans or principles". It is equally true - even without an old saying to back it up - that some people "fail to see the trees for the forest". In Torah Life, there are countless details of halacha and custom - those are the trees, and there are the concepts and the hashkafa that give the practical details a healthy and helpful way of looking at the whole picture. Last week's Torah Tidbits contained an 8-page Pull-Out on Purim, with the major emphasis being on the special situation in Jerusalem this year of Purim M'shulash. Aside from all the details about the mitzvot of Purim, there are the many questions that arise when a Jew finds himself in different places at different time over the two-day period. These we presented last week. Those are the trees. But here is the forest - or, at least, one of the forests to behold.

Why is there a difference in the day of Purim between Yerushalayim (and several other places due to doubt) and everywhere else. And especially this year, when, because of the ban against reading Megila on Shabbat, we in Jerusalem read on Thursday night and Friday, like Jews all over the world. Why didn't our Sages say to move everything to Friday and for this 11% occurrence, we would have Purim on the 14th of Adar? They pulled back Megila. They pulled Matanot La'evyonim with it. Why didn't they go all the way? And even if you want to say that Al HaNisim and Torah reading should stay on the 15th, since there is no objection to their being done on Shabbat, why not pull Seuda and Mishlo'ach Manot back to Friday? They postponed these two aspects to Sunday. To the 16th of Adar. Beyond the two Purim days that the Megila said should not be bypassed.

We are not looking for the simple reason: The Megila tells us that the Jews all over the kingdom fought on the 13th of Adar and rested on the 14th and celebrated on that day. And the Jews in Shushan fought on the 13th and the 14th and rested from their fighting on the 15th and celebrated then. This doesn't address the question as to why the Sages perpetuated the split observance of Purim. There seems to be no imperative to do so. Let's look in the Megila. Although Esther 9:19 tells us: Therefore the Jews in open cities and villages make the 14th of Adar a day of festivities and of sending gifts to one another - what follows seems to suggest that Mordechai's original plan for Purim was different from the way we have it. From 9:20 on we read that Mordechai wrote to Jews throughout Achashveirosh's kingdom - far and near - to accept upon themselves the 14th of Adar AND the 15th of Adar in every year (to come); as days that the Jews rested from their enemies and in the month that was turned from sadness to joy... to make them (plural - the two days of Purim) days (there's the plural again) of parties and festival, and of exchanging gifts one with his fellow, and giving gifts to the poor. And the Jews did accept this on themselves... Look in the Megila; there is repeated reference to these two Purim days - without the distinction that we apply to them.

Why? Or. perhaps, what does this draw our attention to. Even if this isn't THE reason, we certainly have a focus and a message here.

We call it Shushan Purim, but in fact it is Jerusalem Purim. Maybe that's what evolved, but Chazal definitely pushed us in that direction. The always remember the Jerusalem Factor in the Purim story and in the Purim celebration.

Besides Shushan, which is mentioned in the Megila 19 times, there is only one other city named. ISH YEHUDI... There was a Jew who was in Shushan the Capital, and his name was Mordechai ben Yair ben Shim'i, ben Kish, ISH Y'MINI (a Benjaminite). But the description of Mordechai does not end there. Who was exiled from YERUSHALAYIM...

The Purim story happened in Galut, in exile. And more than its venue is the frame of mind of the Jews who lived in that exile. About 70 years had past and already the Jews were so comfortable in their exile that they went to Achashveirosh's parties and enjoyed themselves. The party at which Achashveirosh arrogantly flaunted the plunder of the Beit HaMikdash and paraded around in the holy garments of the Kohen Gadol. It was Mordechai, whose identity is not just a Jew in Shushan. He was also one who was exiled from Jerusalem. The other Jews might have wanted to forget Jerusalem; it might have been more convenient and politically correct to be to be Jewish Persians, to be Shushanites.

But not so very many years before, they swore not to forget Jerusalem. They did, and that's why Haman's sword hung over their heads for almost a whole year.

We, who commemorate and celebrate Purim must keep the Jerusalem Factor in the forefront of our thinking and feeling and reacting to the Purim story.

Our Sages gave us a startling way to do exactly that. First they established a "regular" Purim and a Shushan Purim. Then they gave us the criteria for who keeps the 14th and who keeps the 15th. They did not have to make the Walled City like Shushan rule. They could have kept Shushan Purim for Shushan only. But they didn't. They could have said walled cities from that time, but didn't do that either, because Jerusalem would have been left out. They could have moved Jerusalem's Purim to Friday this year, but they didn't do that either. Because Jerusalem would lose the focus. And it mustn't. What does one do if he goes to Jerusalem at night, in the daytime, etc. What does one do if he travels from Jerusalem, etc. Jerusalem. Jerusalem.

And Jerusalem is not just a city; it is the flagship city of Eretz Yisrael. And that brings us back to the Galut point. Shushan Purim calls attention to Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael. To Zion. People who sit down to their Seuda on Sunday will be acutely aware of Jerusalem's special role in Jewish Life. And so too will Jews elsewhere who are not having their Seuda on Sunday.

Celebration of Pesach includes a "Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem" declaration. The Dayeinu song brings us beyond the Exodus all the way into Eretz Yisrael and to Jerusalem.

So too Purim. IM ESHKACHEICH YERUSHALAYIM, if we forget Jerusalem, TISHKACH Y'MINI, then you might as well forget Mordechai, the Y'MINI, because without the Jerusalem Factor, we miss the point of Purim.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

THE BIG EVENT!



Kumah is inviting all Jews who are down with Mordechai (Down with Haman!) to converge on the Prophet Samuel's tomb just north of Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood at 1PM on Shushan Purim.

This is a deep and beautiful place for the King of Shushan Purim feasts. It is a place where all the conquerers of the land have torn down and built and where the man who anointed the first Jewish king is interred. Shmuel is also an Amalek killer and that is what we need today!

If you come, YOU MUST BRING FOOD and like something parve or basari,and some HOLY DRINK and also bring MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.

When the revolution comes, this is where you'll want to be.

If you can't figure out where it is, ask a Jerusalemite, use the Internet or call *2800 and find out how Egged can get you there. There are challanges to get there, but if you overcome, you will be rewarded!

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Tu B'Shvat in Beit Shemesh


Seder Tu B' Shvat & "Peirot Tish" w/ Rav Simcha Hochbaum (of Chevron) & Judah Mischel; Live Music, Divrei Torah, The 7 Species and over 60 Fruits & Nuts from Eretz Yisrael
@ Yeshivat Reishit, 21 Rechov Rashi, Beit Shemesh, 7:30pm (Men Only Please)

ברוכים הבאים

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kumah's Tu B'Shevat Seder



Does anyone know what tomorrow is?

If you are living in the United States of America you will probably answer “Of course - it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

No, silly! Tomorrow night is Tu B’Shvat!

(Those of you in Israel would say “Of course – It’s Tu B’Shvat tomorrow night!” And would say – “Really? MLK day? I had no idea!”)

Tu B’Shvat – yet another reason to make Aliyah. Here this “forgotten holiday” is actually widely celebrated. The sad truth is (even though, or perhaps because, I grew up in Yeshivish surroundings) I never even heard of a Tu B’shvat seder until I actually made Aliyah. Here everybody makes them.

Last year Kumah’s own Malkah put together an absolutely stunning Tu B’shvat Haggadah! (Special thanks the Yechiel for helping us dig it up.)

DOWNLOAD IT IN PDF FORMAT BY CLICKING HERE!

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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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Friday, December 07, 2007

Publicizing the Miracle At The Kotel



A new, large and magnificent Menorah was placed at the Western Wall Plaza this year and festivities are being be held every night! This is what the third night looked like with Mayor Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and Police Commissioner Aharon Franko.


Don't miss out!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Chanukah Night One at Jerusalem Malchah Mall



There is something special about Chanukah in Israel, and I got to start off the holiday feeling it. From lighting a Chanukiyah outside my apartment door with a little girl and her grandmother, to a Chabad Chanukiyah in front of a Kosher Pizza Hut at the mall, restaurant chanukiyot, and of course all the bakeries selling Sufganiyot, Chanukah is a holiday that happily unites all Jews, especially in Israel, whether religious or secular. For more fun details and first night Chanukah experiences, read the full post.


I light my Chanukiyah in the hallway of my apartment, right outside my door, something common in Israel. I happen to be on the ground floor so people going to the elevator will notice if they happen to look the other way. A little girl wearing paper candle crown and her grandmother walked into the building while I was lighting tonight. The grandmother took the girl over and started singing Maoz Tzur with me. Then we sang a few Israeli Chanukah songs with the little girl. Then the grandmother started spinning the girl's cool electric laser dreidel on the stand with my chanukiyah. It's too bad I didn't have my camera out - the little girl was really cute, and her and grandmother really added to my joy of lighting the first candle.

Then I went to the Jerusalem Malchah Mall to celebrate Chanukah with my fiance. The first thing that caught my eye was the big Chabad Chanukiyah by the fountains. Nothing like getting a chanukiyah and a Kosher Pizza Hut in the same picture! While I was putting my camera away, a guy came up to me and asked me to be the 10th man for a Ma'ariv minyan in the mall's synagogue.

After Ma'ariv, we went out to eat at the Korusin, a fancy Chinese restaurant on the top floor. While we were there, the waiters found a few quiet minutes to themselves, took out a chanukiyah, lit it in the window of the restaurant, and sang a bit.

I didn't buy a sufganiyah (jelly donut - 1 of the traditional Chanukah foods) because I was already full, but not because there was any lack - there are a few bakeries in the mall and not only were they selling sufganiyot, but there were even a few stands set up in other parts of the mall selling them.

Finally, in Jerusalem there is no such thing as a Christmas sale, but many of the stores had Chanukah sales.

Chanukah in Israel - the way it should be! Happy Chanukah to all!


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Milchik Menorah and Chanukah Guide



Eight pudding snacks for eight pudding nights. Jewish children, lucky to be living in Israel, will remember the miracles of Chanukah by eat this super-kosher milchik treat. It's deeper then it appears.

Also, check out this great online Chanukah Guide

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Hosha-na-na


From the sacred Hoshanas of Hoshana Raba:
Tribes of Israel
A voice - Saviors shall ascend upon Mount Zion, for Zion has delivered and given birth - heralds and proclaims.
A voice - It is heard within all your boundaries, "Expand the area of your tents!" - heralds and proclaims.
A voice - Set up your dwellings until Damasek, receive your sons and your daughters - heralds and proclaims.
A voice - Be joyous, O rose of Sharon, for those sleeping in Hebron have arisen - heralds and proclaims.

Chag sameach!

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Hoshana Rabbah: More Water at the Kotel?



Tonight, Hashana Rabbah, I visited the Kotel for Mishna Torah - where we read the entire sefer Devarim. Standing in one spot for so long I couldn't help notice something a little unusual.I was standing inside the section known as Wilson's Arch and every ten minutes or so a drop of water would fall from the ceiling. There was one poor guy sitting there that kept getting hit by these drops looking up and wondering where they came from. On my way out I saw another drop fall from another spot in the arch area closer to the exit. Don't get me wrong. It was just a few drops over a long time but considering we haven't had rain in six months it is strange.

Where could these drops be coming from?


Two years ago I remember reading in the Jerusalem Post a story complete with photos of water flowing out of the Kotel. Reb Lazar wrote about it and explain that it was no doubt water from the Gihon river (which gets a cameo appearance in the Torah reading this Shabbos) which lies directly beneath the Dome of the Rock. That wouldn't be too far from the Wilson's Arch area at all - and water would flow down toward there as water always flows down.

Reb Lazer explains:
As mentioned in the previous post on this subject, by Islamic tradition, if the Gihon spring begins to rise on the Temple Mount, it signifies the beginning of Jewish redemption; if Yisrael must rise, then Yishmael must fall. By our own tradition, the moisture at the Western Wall of the Holy Temple indicates the impending redemption of the people and land of Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of Moshiach ben David, speedily and in our time, amen.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The spiritual significance of Sukkot



Succot is the most prayer- and mitzva-laden holiday on the Jewish calendar, full of the symbolism which makes Jewish life so rich.

A Succah, a booth of sorts, must have at least 3 walls, but its most striking feature is the schach.

Schach, the roof of the Succah, must be made of plant material like tree bark, bamboo, reeds, or palm branches. The Schach must come from the earth, yet be detached from the earth. The Schach is not meant to be a very useful roof -- you must be able to see sky through it. It is this unusual thing called Schach which make the Succah unique and filled with symbolism.

LIFE CYCLE AND THE SUCCAH
The Womb: The Succah, with its peaceful inner-sanctum and its semi-permeable Schach, resembles the womb. Inside its safety the Jew is protected from the slings and arrows of persecution, and manages to reproduce spiritually and physically generation after generation.

The Canopy: The wedding canopy [chupah] is the Succah of Peace which descends upon a bride and groom at their wedding day. So too, the Succah is the canopy of the marriage of the Jewish people and Hashem. The Holiday of Succot is the wedding which follows the cleansing period of Yom Kippur.

The Grave: the Schach above our heads, made of earth-grown plants, also symbolizes the earth itself. We are buried under the earth, and yet we are still alive. The message of Succot is the cycle of life: we are born, we marry, we die, and we continue on through the next generation and through our faith in Tchiyat Hameitim, the Resurrection of the Dead.

Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 37:
1. The hand of Hashem was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Hashem, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.
2. And he caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord, thou knowest.
4. Again he said unto me, Prophesy over these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of Jehovah.
5. Thus saith the Lord unto these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live.
6. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am Hashem.
7. So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and, behold, an earthquake; and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
8. And I beheld, and, lo, there were sinews upon them, and flesh came up, and skin covered them above; but there was no breath in them.
9. Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
11. Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are clean cut off.
12. Therefore prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, O my people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel.
13. And ye shall know that I am Hashem, when I have opened your graves, and caused you to come up out of your graves, O my people.


It is because of this life cycle focus of Succot that we read Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) Chapter One, which laments this very cycle:

4. One generation goeth, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.
5. The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to its place where it ariseth.
6. The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it turneth about continually in its course, and the wind returneth again to its circuits.
7. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; unto the place whither the rivers go, thither they go again.
8. All things are full of weariness; man cannot utter [it]: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
9. That which hath been is that which shall be; and that which hath been done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.


It is also for this reason that we invite the Ushpizin, the Holy Guests Avraham, Yitchak, Yaakov, Aaron, Moshe and Yoseph, into our Succah. Tzaddikim pass away, but they never die. They are bound up in the great cycle of life and they join us again and again every Succot.

The Seed: Looking up from our Succah we see the Schach, but now instead of being buried, we are planted. "A person is like the tree of the field" (Deut. 20:19) We are a seed planted beneath the soil, and rain is coming soon. G-d is giving us the gift of life, the chance to make the most of this world - to reach out of the Schach and into the world beyond.

The Bird Nest: Seeing Jews prepare for Succot is like seeing birds prepare their nests. Everyone is fluttering around looking for material for their nests. Indeed, we are but chicks, and it is Hashem who "Like an eagle arousing its nest hovering over its young; he spreads his wings, he takes it, he carries it on his wings." (Devarim 32:11)

IN JEWISH HISTORY:
Yaakov: Jacob is the forefather associated with Succot. Immediately after Jacob's successful duel with his brother Esau it is written: "And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth." (Bereishit 33;17) Jacob originally ran to Haran to escape his brother's wrath - coming to Succoth signaled the end of his personal exile and his return to the Land of Israel.

The Succah's characteristic is of an impermanent mobile structure. Jacob's characteristic too is always to be mobile -- always on the go: "How fair are your tents, O Jacob" (Bamidbar 24;5) Settling down is not for him, he goes from place to place in the Land of Israel and in the world -- his is always a spiritual journey.

Bereishit (Genesis) 28 reads:
20. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear,
21. and I return to my father's house in safety, then the LORD will be my God.
22. and this stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God's house"


Yaakov asks for three things: food , clothing, and protection on the journey. But what is missing? A request for permanent housing of course! Yet this construction of permanent housing, Jacob reserves for He Who needs no housing -- for the Lord Himself. This is Succot -- we, the Jewish people, will live in impermanent dwelling all our generations so that our journey could lead to us to the construction of His permanent dwelling.

Mishkan and Mikdash - [The Tabernacle and the Temple]: the Succah resembles the Tabernacle in that it too was an impermanent structure, and sadly our Holy Temple in Jerusalem was impermanent as well for it was destroyed twice because of our sins. "In that day I will raise up the fallen Succah of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old" (Amos 9;11) The fallen Succah of David, is a term of endearment for the Temple - may it be rebuilt in our lives.

Clouds of Glory: Our rabbis tell us that the Succah represents the clouds of glory that escorted the Jewish people in the desert. The clouds kept our cloths clean, and kept danger away from us. These clouds were also a form of womb, raising a new Jew to enter the Land of Israel. They also directed us:

Shemot (Exodus) 40:
36 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys.
37 But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up.
38 For the cloud of HaShem was upon the tabernacle by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys.


The Holy Ark: The wings of the Cherubs above Aron Hakodesh [the Holy Ark] acted like the Schach of the Succah, protecting the Holy contents within. It is written in "And the cherubim shall spread out their wings on high, screening (Sochechim) the ark-cover with their wings, with their faces one to another; toward the ark-cover shall the faces of the cherubim be" (Shemot [Exodus] 25: 20) In the Succah, we are the Holy objects which G-d protects with his wings, we are the carriers of the living Torah.

Hashem sends His canopy to us to nurture us, to marry us, to protect us. Through the sliver of sky seen through the Schach we are reminded of G-d's nearness: "My beloved is like a gazelle or a young stag. Behold, he is standing behind our wall, He is looking through the windows, He is peering through the lattice. (Song of Songs 2;9) No wonder this holiday is called Zman Simchateinu -- the time of our happiness.

May we merit the words of the Sabbath prayer:

"Safeguard our going and coming, for life and for peace from now to eternity, and spread over us the Succah of Your peace. Blessed are you Hashem, Who spreads the Succah of peace upon us, and upon all of His people Israel and upon Jerusalem."

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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

(IsraelNN.com) 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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Sunday, September 23, 2007

So How Many Seeds Does a Pomegranate Have?



Okay. Sorry I missed posting it two weeks ago but this is too cool.

So it's like this. Everybody knows the age old question "how many seeds does a pomegranate have?" And every little Jewish kid at Rosh Hashanah knows the answer. Exactly 613 - parallel to the number of mitzvos of the Torah. Hmm.

But do they really have 613?

A Columbia University professor (likely for a statistics course) collected data by counting seeds from 206 pomegranates from all over the world. The least number of seeds one had was 165 (an Iranian one...hmm...) and the max number was 1370 (from one grown in the USA).

But the average number of seeds was remarkably exactly 613!

The entire study including all the data can be found here.

Hat Tip: existwhere?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shana Tova! - Remember to do a Pruzbol!




As you all know by now (if you follow Kumah) the Shmittah year is just about upon us. One of the laws of Shmittah is that loans are nullified. 2000 years ago Hillel saw that people stopped lending out money because they were afraid they would never get it back since the loans would be nullified. Hillel's solution to this problem was the Pruzbol. The Pruzbol is a legal document that gives the court, the beis din, the right to collect the money for you. There is a disagreement among the halachic authorities when this document must be completed. Most say by the end of the Shmittah year but some hold it must be completed today!

The picture above this post is one text published by the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel in Hebrew.

The RCC publishes a Pruzbol in English here.

Here's another one.

Chabad actually has an Online Pruzbol form that they say to use as a last resort.

Shana Tova!

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Rosh Hashana September 2003



"T'ka b'Shofar Gadol L'cheruteinu" by Ben

I would like to add to Ze'ev's post below. We say three times a day: "Teka b'shofar gadol l'cheruteinu, v'sa nesh l'kabetz galuyoutenu, v'kab'tzenu yachad me'arba kanfot haaretz (l'artzenu)" - Sound the great shofar to announce our redemption, and raise a banner for the ingathering of our exiles, and gather us together from the four corners of the earth (to our land). (Nusach Ashkenaz leaves out "l'artzeinu" - to our land. I say this word anyway, because we must be clear about the destination of kibutz galuyot!)

Why is it the shofar which will announce our return to Israel? The main function of the shofar, as Ze'ev said, is to call us to repent. It is a wake-up siren, waking us from our sleep to a state where we are conscious of our sins. Sometimes, when I wake up, I don't remember where I am, or what time of day it is. It takes a few minutes before I am fully aware. This is the case on the national level as well.

When we in the exile wake up this Rosh Hashana, we may feel like we are at home. But the shofar calls to us to remind us to wake up fully, and realize where we are - we are in exile, that is, not home, not where we are supposed to be. We are not in exile because we have been forced here; we are in exile because we've chosen not to return to the land which God has given us. We can only make this choice if we are not fully awake- if we are not conscious of our exile.

May the shofar this Rosh Hashana awake in us a new consciousness, to lead us to a full ingathering of the exiles to our land!

K'tiva v'Chatima Tova!

==============================

"Teshuva - More than just repentance" by Ze'ev

From Rosh Chodesh Elul, when the Shofar was first blown, through the conclusion of the Neila prayer on Yom Kippur, the main theme is Teshuva - traditionally defined as repentance. When one considers the purpose of teshuva, the idea is that through confessing our sins, experiencing true remorse over having commited them in the first place and resolving not to commit them again in the future, that we are bringing ourselves closer to Hashem.

The Rebbi m'Slonim, in his Sefer Netivot Shalom, says that the purpose of all the mitzvot is for one, through observing the mitvot to become closer to Hashem. If closeness to Hashem is the purpose of performing mitzvot, as well as being the goal of teshuva, then I suggest, that we approach this idea of teshuva from a different perspective.

If our goal (and purpose) as a Jew is to strive to become close to Hashem, then there is no other place more conducive towards this end more so than Eretz Yisrael. Teshuva should be defined, not as merely repentance, but as an actual call for us to return Home - to return to the place where we can experience true closeness with Hashem.

"Hashiveinu Hashem Eilecha V'nashuva, chadeish yemeinu kikedem" - "Return to us Hashem, and we shall return to you, restore things to how they once were". Hashem has returned to us - He has given every Jew in the world the chance to come home - it is up to us to make the move.

May this year be a year where "V'shavu banim l'gvulam" - "where the children (the Jews) return to their borders".

Shanah tova!

=================================

"READERS!" by Malkah

Shalom, Readers! As Rosh Hashanah rapidly approaches, I would like to ask a favor from all of you who care about Aliyah, from all of you who care about the State of Israel, the Land of Israel, the People Israel, all of these or any combination thereof: Push.

Push your friends and family to sign up with us on our website, and with any organization that does its best to help the Jewish people/land. Push them to support such organizations with their time, their money, and their voices. Push them to talk about Jewish issues with THEIR friends and THEIR families. Push them to sacrifice MANY more hours and MANY more dollars, to the point where they wonder whether they might actually be giving too much (the answer, I assure you, will always be "No.").

Push them to move to Israel - it's in them to do it, anyway.

Push yourself. Push yourself to dare to do more than you're comfortable with. Push yourself to take risks for the greater good. Push yourself to try harder, dream larger, sleep less, sweat more. Push yourself to believe. Push yourself to believe that everything will turn out for the best (because, honest to G-d, it will), that Faith will land Goodness right on your doorstep, that you can accomplish more than you ask from yourself, that naysayers aren't any wiser than optimists and that you CAN live in Israel, you WILL find that job and you'll be better than fine, you'll be great.

Push every Jew you ever meet to love you and to love every other Jew that he or she will ever meet. Push them to be as much a part of our amazing people and our amazing land as they can possibly be.

Push yourselves, dear, dear readers, to always, always arise, arise, arise.

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NOT Wishing You a Shana Tova



My inbox is filling up with a lot of spam, and it's really annoying.

The subject is invariably the same: Shana Tova.

I've been hearing from acquaintances with whom I haven't spoken for years who probably hit "send" to everyone in their contact list; PR companies for whom it'll be a good year if they get some press out of the people on their mailing list; random people whose names I don't recognize. My particular favorites are those from old flames who take advantage of the Jewish New Year to reconnect with me. (Many singles out there use the holiday as an excuse to flirt - you know who you are...) It's a Rosh HaShana spam fest, and it's doubly annoying when they include files or pictures over 1 MB. Stop cramming my computer!

These Shana Tova greetings are impersonal and disingenuous. I know the majority of these Jewish spammers don't really mean to wish me a good year. They're being polite, getting over a formality, and kissing tails (and not the heads). But it's not polite. It's actually very rude. If you want to wish me a happy new year, personalize the greeting so that I know you mean it, send it to ME only, or else end up in my junk folder.

So this Rosh HaShanah I'm not wishing anyone a fake "good year", but I will wish everyone who reads this an original, thoughtful new year's greeting inspired by Britney Spears. There's been a lot of media buzz over her allegedly failed performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). I agree the performance lacked her usual power and verve, even though the ex-pop goddess always holds a special place in my heart.

And so, to all my readers and friends, may you be like the head: like Britney's performance at the 2000 VMA’s: full of passion, strength, beauty, certainty, power, focus, concentration, successful and lots of fun.
[Editor's note: Be forewarned. Britney is not wearing much at all in either video.]
Click here to view

And may you not be like the tail: like Britney's failed performance at the 2007 VMA’s: unfocused, uncertain, inauthentic, stumbling, floppy, and lazy.
Click here to view

I wish Britney Spears and the Jewish people a year of healing, self-knowledge, personal growth, inner strength and some sanity (including yours truly).

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Idol Worship on a Fixed Rate Mortgage



Lately, Madonna's arrival for Rosh Hashanah has been raising a lot of talk - the woman who's only LIKE a vir... well, you know, is coming to Israel, sporting her red string and expensive, sports drink-like Judaism... but thinks Rosh Hashanah is cool, reportedly dresses respectfully in Israel, and will probably get at least a few hundred unaffiliated Jews thinking about why Madonna has cast a kind eye on the Jewish State, and why they themselves had never considered it.

If Madonna had never studied with the infamous Kabbalah Center, she would probably be more welcome here. As it is, she is undergoing much good ol' fashioned scrutiny.

But considering what her roots are, I'd say she's taken a giant leap into legitimate monotheism.

After all, she could be touting St. Joseph, the patron saint of home sales.




Here's what you do, if you still maintain faith that tiny clay models of people have major power over your life:



For just $9.95 (or $13.95 for REAL believers who want the larger idol), you buy the Original 4" St. Joseph Statue Home Sales Kit.



You plop the made-in-China deity in a bag, flip 'im upside down, and face its factory-formed face toward your property, and watch those offers come rollin' in!

This kind of stuff makes the Kabbalah Center look like the foyer of the Beit Ha Mikdash. NOT THAT I'M ADVOCATING IT (I can just see all those indignant comments)!! If you want some REAL Judaism, Esther/Madonna, here's a link for you. In the meantime, an apple and honey should cost you no more than 10 shekels - don't let Rabbi Berg fleece you.

And welcome to Israel!

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Elul Niggun: Father in the Forest


A Father Calls out to His Children

"...This soulful melody is a dialogue between the Almighty Father and His children, the people of Israel. The Father looks for His children in the Diaspora, Galut, and implores them to return Home to the Holy Land..."


"Where have you been that you have forsaken Me?" He inquires of His children, "Dear children, please return Home, I feel forlorn without you."

The children's answer is "But, Father, how can we return when there is a guard blocking the door?"

*Matisyahu's more recent version of the niggun HERE

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

THIS Year In Jerusalem!



The Chagim are coming! Every year here at Kumah we post pictures of how amazing the Chagim are here in Eretz Yisrael and every year I have the same thoughts. "It would have been cooler if we could post these awesome photos before the Chag to encourage people to make Aliyah before the Chag." Not just post them after it's all over! So this year I'm getting a head start. I'm posting some photos I took a couple of years ago... but don't worry you could be sure to expect the same wonderful chag here this year (or should Moshiach arrive an even more wonderful one, of course!)

Well if there was a lulav shortage you couldn't tell by visiting the "Arabah Minim Shuk" (Four Species Market)on Rachov Strauss...




There were "Simchot Beit Hashoavot" (Sukkot Parties) all over the Land. Here's the band "Simply Tsfat" playing at Shappel's.


And of course the traditional "Birchot Cohanim" at the Kotel where thousands of people from all over our Land are "Oleh Regel" and "rise up" to visit Jerusalem. Here the Cohanim bless us.


(Photo Credit: Woman Section Photos taken by "Leah").




Rain Threatened...




...But the sun persevered.


The Chief Rabbis were on hand...


...and in the Sukkah nearby.


A concert in the Old City's "Rova."


Ahh...cotton candy and popcorn. It must be Sukkot!


Singing and dancing at the Mir Yeshiva...


And at any of the many random enormous Sukkot around...


Sometimes even with a "Rebbe."


Yep... cotton candy and popcorn.


And at the Kotel on Hoshana Rabba Night...


...reading "Sefer Davarim" for the traditional "Mishana Torah" custom...


...While at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue Rav Herschel Schecter teaches Torah as part of the custom to learn Torah all night.



THIS Year - experience it LIVE!

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Total Immersion



Today, Rosh Chodesh Elul, begins an intensive 40 day period of Teshuva- Return, spiritual cleansing and transformation...

Historically, following the episode of the Golden Calf and breaking of the Luchot, Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Mount Sinai for the second time, and after 40 days of intensive prayer, D'veikut and Teshuva, returned to Am Yisrael with the Luchot Sheniot (second Tablets)- a symbol of Tikun and Hashem's forgiveness.

Since then, these 40 days on the Jewish calendar have been tagged as "Yemei Rachamim v'Ratzon"- days where Hashem's mercy is manifest, an opportune time for Teshuva and Divine yearning, of purity and spiritual transformation: a Mikvah in Time.

According to Halachik standards, a Kosher mikvah must contain 40 Se'ah (about 200 gallons) of flowing or gathered rain water, and each Se'ah is made up of 24 "Lugg" of water...

The Taharah/purity, spiritual rejuvination and fresh start that we can attain in the 40 se'ah of a Mikvah, is represented in time by the 40 days stretching from Rosh Chodesh Elul to Yom Kipur (10th of Tishrei).

The Mikvah's 960 Lug correspond to the 960 hours of the time period we are now beginning(40 days x 24 hrs.); every moment is an opportunity for us to immerse ourselves in the Teshuvah process, to Return to our Source and be purified...

The Mikvah is a fundamental and culminating step in the conversion ("transformation")process, and the key to monthly marital rejuvination.

The idea that 40 represents a measurement symbolzing transformation and spiritual development toward a new status is a theme that runs throughout Jewish life and history:

>LIFE: 40 days from conception to the point where a fetus is considered by Jewish Law to be a life; transformed from potential to actual existence...
>THE FLOOD: The world and all of creation needed to be transformed and "fixed" during the 40 day/night Mikvah-Mabul
>MT. SINAI: Millions of individuals are transformed into a Nation while Moshe ascends the Mountain for 40 days/ nights
>MIDBAR: It took 40 years of desert transformation until we merited to enter Eretz Yisrael
>SHABBAT: The Laws of Shabbos are based on 39 categories of work performed in the building of the mishkan- the Gemarah categorizes the list of melachot as "One less than 40" (Same goes for the 40-1 Malkot/ Rabbinically administered lashes, that transform a person who is guilty into a new man with a clean slate...)

Kabbalistically, even the form of the letter "Mem" (40 in numerology/ gematriah) represents this theme: at the beginning or in the middle of a word, the "Mem" is broken, open and incomplete; at the end of a word its appearance is transformed to being a "whole" letter, closed and complete.

May Hashem help us and strengthen us, so that we may make the most of this great opportunity- to be transformed and purified- and blessed with a Chodesh Tov & Shanah Tovah.

(For more, please see Rav Aryeh Kaplan ztl's Waters of Eden)

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Exile Today



After the evil king Jeroboam split off the kingdom of Israel with its ten tribes from the kingdom of Judea, he erected a wall and posted guards along all the roads leading to Jerusalem, to prevent his people from going up to the Holy City for the pilgrimage festivals, for he feared that such pilgrimages might undermine his authority. As a "substitute," he set up places of worship which were purely idolatrous, in Dan and Beth-el. Thus the division between the two kingdoms became a fait accompli and lasted for generations.

The last king of the kingdom of Israel, Hosea ben Elah, wished to heal the breach, and broke down the wall and removed all the guards from the roads leading to Jerusalem, thus allowing his people to make the pilgrimage again. This act took place on Tu B'Av.

Today a wall is being erected to seprate off Hebron, Shechem, Beit El, Shiloh, and Beit Lechem from the rest of the country. Today the Biblical heartland is being cut off and exiled, just as Jeroboam exiled Jerusalem. It is time to tear down the wall so that we may have a true Tu B'Av, reunited in love with our land, our people and our G-d.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Say Unto Zion, "Kumah - Arise"



Today is the fast day of the 17th of Tamuz. It commemorates the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached (once it on that day and once it was a little earlier), 3 weeks before both Temples were destroyed, as well as the day the Moshe came down from Mount Sinai to find the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf and destroyed the tablets. A Roman officer burned a Torah scroll on this day at the time of the destruction of the Temple, idols were placed in the Temple (commentaries differ on who did this and when it was done), and this day starts the 3 week mourning period for the destruction of the Temple and many other calamities in Jewish history.
In selichot (prayers said asking for forgiveness on fast days and around the new year) this morning, we said:
"Turn to us, You Who dwells on high, gather in our dispersion from the ends of the earth, may Your hand once more acquire this awe-struck nation, and may You say to Zion, 'Kumah - Arise!' - and transform the 17th of Tamuz for us to a day of salvation and consolation."

May we see Zion arise speedily and may we all merit to take part in it!

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Yom Yerushalayim Photo Essay



A week and a half ago was the 40th anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem. There were all sorts of events in Jerusalem on and around the 28th of Iyar to celebrate. I participated in a few of them - I was at the Kotel at night for a festive prayer service and dancing; went to Hebrew University's Student Night concert; joined some other Kumah bloggers, recent Olim, and yeshivah students at a festive Shacharit as Rav Kook's House, featuring Shlomo Katz leading a musical Hallel; marched for part of the RikuDegalim (flag dancing parade) from Kikar Tziyon through Sha'ar Shechem and part of the way to the Kotel. I'm saving a few pictures of some reclaimed Jewish apartments in the Arab Quarter for a later post, but here are 28 (not intentionally, but coincidentally in honor of the 28th of Iyar which is Yom Yerushalayim) pictures from these festivities.

At the Kotel the night of Yom Yerushalayim - the soldiers are volunteers from South Africa (if I remember correctly)


The Old City and parts of the new city lit up for the 40th Anniversary




This banner means "Jerusalem [with 3 letters in the middle, which by themselves mean 'mine', italicized], something special for everyone":

Hebrew University's Student Night (part of their 2 day Student Day) Concert, featuring Shalom Hanoch and Aviv Gefen, among others



Shlomo Katz leads a musical Hallel at Rav Kook's House with his guitar and yeshivah students sing and dance

RikuDegalim - flag dancing parade







It rained quite a bit (odd weather for the season) and it left a big reflecting puddle at the end of Yafo Street


Entering through the Damascus Gate - Sha'ar Shechem

Dancing through the Arab Quarter of the Old City







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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fire on the Mountain



Music for Shavuot HERE (Track 5), HERE, HERE & HERE

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Confessions of a Shavuot Hater - by Benyamin



The following is an essay called "Confessions of a Shavuot Hater" by Benyamin, the same mysterious semi-anonymous contributor who won Kumah a silver metal for Best Humor Post for his "Becoming a Real Israeli" confessional.



Thoughts on Shavuot
by Baruch Ben-Galut

My earliest memories of Shavuot are of my Consecration ceremony. Although I was very young, I was nevertheless aware that Consecration was not cool. No matter how satisfying or memorable your synagogue experience was, you can probably find something disturbing. My large suburban conservative American synagogue had many. Although I appreciate the religious basis I received, there was a healthy dose of synagogue experiences that turned me off to being Jewish as well. One of these was Consecration.

Somehow I knew even back then that this was some kind of a set-up. Some kind of trick to get me to go to Sunday School or Hebrew School or both every week so I could get a quality Jewish education. Not too Jewish, because, heaven forbid, I could end up making aliyah and then I would not grow up to be a dues-paying synagogue member with a doctorate and 2.5 kids.

Consecration involved the graduating class of 1st grade Sunday School marching around the synagogue with little miniature Torah's. The thought alone of standing in front of that many people was traumatic. On top of this terror, I was convinced there was something worse.

The word Consecration did not sit well with me. It sounded way too much like the word circumcision and I was still trying to figure out what that one meant and if it made me any less of a man then my classmates in public school. Further more, the word Consecration sounded suspiciously Christian to me. It definitely didn't sound Hebrew. And I wasn't going to be tricked into being Christian. I heard some of the students in public school talking about some kind of consecration at their church. I didn't know much about being Jewish, but I knew that we Jewish folks didn't go to church and that we had some kind of unspoken obligation to think of church with aversion.

My Jewish consciousness was strong at a young age. That is until I ruined it by abandoning my people by moving to a strange Middle Eastern country on the shores of the Mediterranean where they barely had any conservative or reform synagogues let alone a Sunday School.

Being Jewish to me meant being a Grinch. I was compelled to flip the TV channel whenever a Christmas movie came on. We received presents on Hanukah, not that other holiday. That's what made me special. But the word 'special' doesn't always have positive connotations.

This brings us up to the holiday of Shavuot, the most forgotten holiday of them all and yet perhaps one of the most important. I get presents on Hanukah. I eat apples and honey on Rusha Shonah. On Passover my whole family comes over and I get to eat a big meal. On Yom Kipper, I don't eat anything, that is, if I�m hardcore enough and punk rock enough to go through with fasting an entire day.

Every holiday seems to have something. Shavuot has nothing. Nothing that is, except Consecration. I eventually went through with the ceremony but it was but a precursor to my Bar Mitzvah. I failed in finding a good way out of that as well. I also failed in my elaborately planned protest against the degradation of Hebrew School Graduation. But I tricked them all by moving to Israel and thus sparing my children from the same experiences.

Shavuot. The day we received the Torah. One of the three pilgrimage festivals. This is a big one. Surely there should be some kind of ritual to celebrate it. But there isn't. Maybe that's the point. The concepts expressed on Shavuot should be taken on their own merit without any extras.

Eventually I discovered that there more to being Jewish then the fact that I get presents on a different day then the people on TV do. I also found that my Jewishness does not end at my bar mitzvah in a 13 year old mentality. That doesn't mean that my thoughts at age 13 are not legitimate. They are. But I'm not 13 any more and my Jewishness has to grow along with me. Because you can't be proud of who you are if you're walking around apologizing for what you are.

My synagogue experience didn't make me feel particular proud of my roots, but I discovered something that did. It had something to do about fighting for a cause and protesting against injustice. I learned all about a movement to create an independent nation in the face of great adversity. It went by a name that begins with the letter Z but I also learned that we're not supposed to use that word anymore. In college it had negative connotations.

By the time I got to college I felt strongly enough that I refused to go to school on Shavuot. Instead I went to shul. Finals happened to be on the same day as Shavuot, the second day, that is. I asked the professor if I could take the test a day later. A fellow Jewish student overheard the conversation. "That's right! Shavuot IS next week, isn't it." He too asked the professor if he could take finals a day later. The professor, smiling, refused on the grounds that he knew I would go to synagogue while my classmate just wanted an extra day to study. The student admitted the professor was right. I took the test a day later and passed.

It wasn't always that easy. Once in high school, I got in trouble and had to get a note from the principal's office. The next day was Shavuot. I thought I could get away with not bothering to go to the principal's office at all. But I didn't get away that easy. At home it was insisted upon that I get the note either before or after synagogue.

And thus came the great dilemma. What would the others students say when they saw me waltzing into school with a button-down white shirt and black slacks? Should I wear the clothes I usually wore to school? But then what would the rabbi in synagogue say? Should I leave my kippah on or not? What would the other students say when they saw me in a kippah? Would I get a nasty comment? Did it make any sense for me to walk in school with a button-down white shirt and black slacks and no kippah? Would that be even more awkward?

That day, I cut school, went to shul, then went to school, got the note and then went home. The next day in school the only comments were the fact that I had cut school. In my school, it was just as likely that I was dressed up because I had to appear in court. Most of my friends just assumed that I cut for fun. My Jewishness wasn't questioned in the least. By the next school year I was wearing a kippah every day, both in school and in the street.

Although my non-Jewish acquaintances were understanding, the yom tov dilemma always cropped up. I dreaded holidays because it meant asking off from work and explaining why I couldn't use electricity. But worse then that was trying to explain why the holiday was celebrated two days in America when it seemed to be that technically it was really only one day. Shavuot was the worst, since, as discussed earlier, it is the least known and least celebrated of the holidays. Even Jewish people didn't exactly understand. In Conservative and Reform Judaism, of course Shavuot is only one day.

Two-day yomtovs are great when it means Passover with two seders and all my favorite foods two days in a row. But on a holiday like Shavuot, especially when it comes on a Shabbos, it means up to three days without showering. It was a happy occasion if The Jewish Press arrived before sunset so I could devour the screaming blue headlines that predicted utter catastrophe for Israel at any minute. And I dreamed of that far off country with blue skies and palm trees where I could fight for the struggle and watch TV on the second day of yomtov.

But those concerns are now worlds away. This year, Shavuot will take on a new meaning. We learned in Sunday School that Shavuot was a day when the entire Jewish people made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Then we were taught of the importance of not chewing gum during synagogue services. I doubt any of the students in 1st grade Sunday School believed that Jewish people in modern times actually make pilgrimages to Jerusalem for Shavuot. Growing up, travelling to Shavuot services required either the Volvo or the Honda. Today I can walk to the site of the Holy Temple where Shavuot has been celebrated for generations.

In Israel, I've barely thought for a second what the reaction would be if I wore a kippah in public or how I'm going to explain to my boss why I need off for yet another Jewish holiday. I'm still afraid, however, to use the Z word in certain circles, let alone neo-Z.

Moving to Israel did not magically transform my life for the better. It's a challenge which I've taken up. The new challenges that are far preferable to the once I grew up with. My identity issues have been transformed for the better.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Aish.com Yom Yerushalayim Video








Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tonight the Kotel is the place to be!!!


This video was taken on Jerusalem Day last year.



Expect more of the same tonight!

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I love you, Jerusalem!








Sunday, May 06, 2007

Just Came Back From Meron...




Check out this awesome article featuring my photos from Meron.

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Lag Ba'Omer Night in Yerushalayim



I did not make it up to Meiron last night, but Yerushalayim has its fair share of bonfires too. I saw a lot more bonfires from my friend's car window than I was able to photograph, but here's a 3-4 story high one outside the Chevron Yeshivah (you can find history about it in this biography of former Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yechezkel Sarna ZT"L) in Givat Mordechai, the smoke floating around Gan Sacher (actually taken 2 years ago, but I saw pretty much the same site last night), and a very small sample of Har Nof (2 out of 100s):


Small neighborhood bonfire
The Big Bonfire with a kid posing to show how large it was
Putting on the Lighter Fluid
Starting to Light
Starting to Light
Catching Fire
Bright Fire
Chevron Students Dancing and Singing Bar Yochai
People Must Stand Away as Fire Heats Up the Whole Block
People Must Stand Away as Fire Heats Up the Whole Block
Bonfire with Lights of Jerusalem in the Background
Flames Higher than Buildings
Dancing with the Flames in the Background
Burning in the Fire
Smokey Mist Rising from Gan Sacher (from 2 years ago, but same scene last night as we drove by)
Chabad Mobile in style for Lag Ba'Omer
Chabad Mobile in style for Lag Ba'Omer
Side of the Road in Har Nof
Starting to Walk Down to Ya'ar Yerushalayim
In the Middle of the Jerusalem Forest

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Belated Pesach Sheni Recipe




I don't know about you, but I still have leftover matzah (luckily, my husband will eat it all year round).

Because it was Pesach Sheni (aka: Redo Passover), I decided I would try and make something with matzah to commemorate the special day (it is a custom to eat matzah on Pesach Sheni). I searched the web for matzoh recipes, and found one that ROCKED THE HOUSE!

It's easy, tasty, and uses matzoh - you can't get much better than that.

If you, too, still have leftover matzoh, experiment for next year with this TOTALLY WORTH IT recipe from Epicurious:

MY TRADEMARK, MOST REQUESTED, ABSOLUTELY MAGNIFICENT CARAMEL MATZOH CRUNCH



An outstanding, unique, and easy confection. If you make only one thing at Passover, make this.

4-6 unsalted matzohs
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.
Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.

In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).

Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.

**Malkah's additional tips: 1. You might want to add a pinch of salt to the ingredients at the beginning. 2. You can sprinkle chopped nuts or coconut on top of the matzahs before the chocolate is set to make it super fancy.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Two Great Audios For You




Justice Jew asks why do we need a Winograd commission, and who should we really blame. (3 min 45 sec)

Rabbi Judah expounds on the magic of Lag BeOmer, Meron, and Rabbi Shimon (9 min 42 sec)

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Zikaron








Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pride - In the Name of Love




I am really excited for this years Israel Independence Day. Why? I had a dream the other night, and I have no idea what it was about, I only remember the conclusion. The State of Israel is the greatest thing that has happened to us. Yup, the State, not only the Land. Jewish sovereignty, problematic as it is, is simply a gift.

It's beyond my mind, it's in my heart and soul. I can simply feel that Israel is the greatest blessing, and while I am understanding and sensitive, I feel awful and angry about the continued exile.

There hasn't been a day in the past 4 years where I haven't thanked G-d for letting me live in Israel, for helping me eek out a living. What did you think, that you could marry the greatest girl in the world and be filthy rich as well. No, something must give, and making a living in Israel is hard - but at least it's a really LIVING, unlike being loaded but partially dead. Lo Toda.

40 years since the Six-Day War when G-d showed His true hand, when He revealed Himself in the greatest of revelations. Man, it's hard to fathom how incredible it is when Hashem fulfills His promise. And we... why do we merit it? I don't know. All I know is, we are here, so might as well make it a good run.

Sometimes you need to put on some loud pump-up music, and go crazy, feel the energy and passion coarse through you. Sometimes you need to breath in the warm evening air and remember being young and alive. There is something so ALIVE in Israel. Life is a gift, and life in Israel is the greatest gift of all, living with this crazy government and these amazing stiff-necked brothers.

I saw a low-flying big-eagle today as I was walking my dog and I remembered two separate ideas involving the eagle in our sources:

1. "Be light like an eagle" - Don't let things get to you, fly above them, look from above, have equanimity.

2. G-d is like an eagle, brooding over His young, tending to His chicks.

The first idea is that you shouldn't let things get to you like the situation in Israel, be patient, be above it, have a birds-eye-view.

The second is that there is providence watching out for us - so have faith and DO NOT FEAR.

Happy Israel Independence Day - celebrate with pride. Mazal tov!!

Here is a great audio about a modern day Jewish pioneer - Rabbi Menachem Listman

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Zionist Photo Album







If you need some inspiration this Yom Ha'Atzmaut, I put together an album of 40 Zionist pictures I took (a few are from Johnny Stein).

Feel free to use them and be inspired!!! Click here for the album.

Also, if you need a great one-page Sefira calender - check out this dandy one from YU (thanks to EphShap!)

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

If you missed the Priestly Blessing at the Kotel... Don't worry!




You can CLICK HERE to see the whole blessing and get some yourself!!!

If you missed the party at Hebron... don't worry!



Click HERE to see the whole album!!!

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Burning Your Personal Chametz!




Here I am with Elan and Guy and we are burning our Chametz. On Rav Judah's advice I threw in a paper with a list of my internal bad traits - my own personal Chametz. May we burn out internal evil and merit to have an EXODUS from slavery to a place of FREEDOM!!


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This Pesach Become An Active Part of the Jewish Nation!


First of all, I must apologize for not posting for a while (and for the lack of photos in this post). Unfortunately I am in America for Pesach (my parents like to have me around for the Seders), and I had to spend my last few days in Israel finishing a final project so I can graduate Machon Lev this year (maybe I'll write more about that another time).
Anyway, after my first Shacharit minyan back in the old country, my rabbi asked me if I could speak at the shul's Shabbat HaGadol luncheon. I jump at the chance to teach the Torah of Eretz Yisrael to the Jews of the diaspora, and I'll take every opportunity I can get to tell them to make Aliyah. So I agreed and put together a Dvar Torah about Jewish nationhood, final redemption prophecies coming true including the day's haftarah, and the Aliyah Revolution. This can also be good for your seder table, especially if you're with Jews who don't live in Israel yet.
Chag Kasher V'Sameach! Enjoy:


Some of this Dvar Torah is from Rabbi Ari Waxman (much of the background of the nation idea), some is from a couple of friends (the V'Haisheiv idea), some from an old Kumah post (the miracles of the Final vs. Egyptian redemption), and some is my own.

When we sit down at the Seder on Leil Shlishi, this Monday night, we will be telling the story of our exodus from Egypt. The Torah tells us that when Hashem took us out of Egypt, He took a nation out from amidst a nation (Devarim 4:34). We came down to Egypt as a big family, but we left as a nation, Hashem's nation. The prophet Yechezkel also refers to the exodus from Egypt as the birthday of the Jewish nation, "the day that you were born" (Yechezkel 16:4). Along with our release from the shackles of bondage placed upon us in Egypt, our collective existence was broadened as we gained the new status of "Am Yisrael."

However, there is more to our nation than this. We received the Torah "like one man, with one heart" as we stood united at Mount Sinai. The Torah is our national guidebook and without it, our nation would not be complete.

There is yet another part to our nationhood. The Maharal of Prague explains (Netiv Hatzedaka, Chapter 6) that true "arevut" - mutual responsibility of every Jew for every other Jew - was only achieved when we crossed the Jordan River and entered into Eretz Israel. It is only here in Eretz Israel that we are able to reach our full potential as an interconnected and unified nation. We can also see that there are parts of our nation that depend on being in Eretz Israel – setting up a kingship / government, the Sanhedrin and court system, the Beit HaMikdash and sacrifices, Mitzvot that are connected specifically to the Land of Israel (like Shemitah and others), etc…

Unfortunately we are still in exile, Mashiach is still not here, and there is no Beit HaMikdash. However, we are starting to see the sprouting of our final redemption and the rebirth and revival of the Jewish nation in Israel. Hashem has revealed so many miracles to us in Israel throughout the last 59 years, and we are starting to see prophecies coming true. The desert is blossoming, Israel has won wars in which it was heavily outnumbered, and even amidst the attempted terror attacks (suicide attempts, rockets, etc…) there are so many miracles happening every day to save us. One of the clearest signs of the redemption is the ingathering of the exiles. Jews are coming home from far and wide, from the four corners of the Earth. Even Jews from Western countries, who are not leaving their countries because of pogroms, but are leaving good lives willingly, are coming home. Nefesh B'Nefesh has brought over 10,000 English speaking Olim in the last 5+ years. According to most censuses taken, Israel has more Jews than any other country (recently surpassing America), and with the unfortunate trends of world Jewry, Israel will have the majority of the Jews in the world by the next generation! The course of Jewish history is changing in ways that have never been seen!

Another prophecy that is coming true is that of the end of today's Haftarah: "He will return the heart of the fathers upon the children, and the heart of the children upon their fathers." (Mal'achi 3:24) We can understand the first part easily – fathers teach their sons Torah, thus returning a Jewish heart unto them. However, the second part sounds a little strange. We see today that so many young people are making Aliyah by themselves. A number of youth from this shul have made Aliyah by themselves and I can tell you from all the Nefesh B'Nefesh welcome ceremonies I have attended, that there are many young olim coming by themselves these days. We in turn are returning our hearts of Aliyah and redemption upon our families. We see that through Aliyah, this prophecy is to fruition as well.

This Pesach, as we celebrate our national birthday, I urge you to pay attention to the events beholding our people. It is said that our final redemption will be so great that people will stop talking about the exodus from Egypt: "Behold days are coming... when they shall no longer say, 'The living G-d who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt,' but 'The living G-d who brought... the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all the countries where I had driven them, so that they dwell in their own land.'" (Yermiyahu 23:7-8) In other words mass Aliyah itself is such an awesome miracle that it will actually replace the great miracle of the Exodus from Egypt as what will be used to describe Hashem's glory! What would be greater than to see this happening live; to get a front row seat as prophecies come true; to be there when Mashiach comes and the Beit HaMikdash is rebuilt?!? Well you can! All you have to do is join the Aliyah Revolution! Get the exile mentality out of your system, and come home to Israel! This Pesach - take an active role in Jewish history and become an active part of the Jewish nation!

Am Yisrael Chai!
May we see our Final Redemption speedily in our days, even this Pesach!
Chag Kasher V'Sameach!

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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 29, 2007

Pre-Pesach Preparations Israel-style!




Malkah shops for Kosher-for-Pesach food - here is some Holy Mama Chicken


...and there is all kinds of Matza


For those who still don't eat Kitniyot - it is marked well on packages


And all kinds of sweet cakes to supplement the Matza


and of course...


Now it's time for the traditional Arutz-7 Matza bake - here Baruch is manning the oven


Ezra cuts the dough into workable pieces


Boaz takes out his aggession on innocent dough


Binyamin is wild with the Pesach bat


Kumah wishes you a happy Pesach - the holiday of EXODUS!

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Kotel is the Place to be Tuesday


Two awesome Rosh Chodesh prayers tomorrow at the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount:

6:45 AM - Nusach Eretz Yisrael minyan with Rabbi Bar Hayim, the man who has revived the original unifying tradition of prayer in Israel.

8:00 AM - Joyous Reb Shlomo/Rebbe Nachman Rosh Chodesh Minyan led by Master of Prayer Rabbi Ezra Amichai (nee Friedland-Wechsler), known for hosting scores of Jews for Shabbat meals and elevating hundreds each time he leads prayers at the Wall.

My hope is that folks turn up for both minyanim - a double-header of holistic indigenous Jewish prayer to ring in Nissan, Redemption Month according to our sages.

As for the Nusach Eretz Yisrael minyan - this is truly a historic event. Though there are weekly Nusach Eretz Yisrael (NEY) prayers in Givat Sha'ul at the Machon Shilo Beit Midrash (and last year, mincha on Purim at Sde Boaz) - this is the first time it is being returned to such close proximity of the Temple Mount.

For Rav Bar Hayim's (the spiritual leader and inspiration of the not-militant-enough Kitniyot Liberation Front)main mission statement in essay form click here. I recommend his essays on Mordechai's reception by the 'gedoilim' of his time, lulav on shabbat, shofar on shabbat and especially his examination of the blue Techeilet as representative of the deep-seated problem that affects many in our people's God-fearing rabbinate.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Unfinished Business



Haman and his sons were hanged, their estate taken over by Mordechai. Even though we read Parshat Zachor last week, the evil of Amalek still lurks.


Check out a great article on the continuous Purim Struggle (in Hebrew) HERE


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Huge 2 Day, 3 City, Purim Photo Essay including Eclipse!


This is a really long photo essay. Here are 60 pictures from: a few days before Purim around Yerushalayim, Purim night in Ramat Beit Shemesh, a concert in Yerushalayim, the total lunar eclipse, Purim day Seudah by a friend near Bar Ilan University, Purim night in Yerushalayim at Machon Lev, and Purim day in Givat Mordechai and Har Nof. Enjoy!

Yerushalayim on Wednesday, 10 Adar, Feb 28
Girls in costumes even before Purim, 1 was dressed as a laundry machine

Stores all around the Shuk were selling costumes



A candy store in the Shuk was selling packaged Mishloach Manot


Colored hair even a few days early

Angels Bakery across the street from the Shuk was in the Purim spirit

Israelis tend to like America, even when choosing Purim costumes

Kohen Gadol costumes for sale

Dressed up, running toward the bus...

... which they took to Sha'arei Tzedek Hospital to bring some pre-Purim joy!

Purim Night in Ramat Beit Shemesh







My friend dressed as a terrorist, his French wife as an American, and his daughter as a butterfly.

Kids were throwing fire crackers, and other such really loud noise makers, in the street.





A concert in Yerushalayim that featured Naftali Abramson and his band, among others





During the night, there was a total lunar eclipse

Full moon before eclipse

Full moon during eclipse


Seudat Purim at an apartment near Bar Ilan University




L'Chaim!

My friend, Ilya, who hosted the seudah

Waldo, from "Where's Waldo?", was a popular costume (above and below)


Purim night in Yerushalayim at Machon Lev - Jerusalem College of Technology







Purim Day around my neighborhood, Givat Mordechai

I'm on the left, next to my friend Moshe (thanks to his wife for taking this picture)










First Seudah - at my friend's house


The baby really wanted the wine


My friends who made the seudah

On and From the Bus to Har Nof






Har Nof, where I went for my 2nd Seudah



Dressed up kids watch the craziness on the street from their window

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Shin is for Shushan




I was spotted and snapshotted by Mobius of Jewschool whilst on the prowl for the mother of all Shushan Purim photo essays (to be posted on A7 tomorrow, hopefully). A prize for whoever can explain exactly what my costume is.

Good Purim everybody. I don't remember saying havdala, do you? OK then. Still Purim, since there is a safek - at least until seder night.

In that spirit, check out my story on the Old Winemaker. He is the real deal.

In other news, little kids everywhere, as well is bigger kids who like candy, have begun pesach cleaning - by that I mean they have been eating copious amounts of leavened junk food they received in mishloach manot from their friends and neighbors.

I leave you with my top ten items received in mishloach manot and invite readers to post their own lists in the comments section:

10: Mekupelet (who knew chocolate became so good when you ran it through a pasta machine)
9: A giant tub of assorted Marzipan bakery stuff (with the rugs on the bottom)
8: Pancakes al haboker
7: Pumpkin Pie Hamentashen (oznei Haman, for those of you with contempt for any remnant of yiddish)
6: Pickled veggies
5: Reese's PB cups
4: Homemade apple butter
3: Smirnoff Apple something-or-other Vodka in a super cool bottle
2: Homemade granola (actually given to someone else who then left it at our place)
1: Dudaim (Mandrakes)

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Go and Gather All the Jews..."


Ta'anit Esther is above all, a day of Teshuva, fasting and prayer when our primary concern must be to follow Queen Esther's powerful directive: to strengthen Jewish Unity.

All too often we focus on what divides us, as opposed to what we share in common...
In 1933, Rav Avraham Yitzchok HaKohen Kook zy''a wrote:

"...it is incumbent upon us to draw near to the path of teshuvah which brings redemption and healing to the world.The Jewish people have become divided into two camps, through the categorization of Jews as Charedi and Chofshi.

These are new terms, which were not used in the past. Of course, not everyone is identical, especially in spiritual matters; but there was never a specific term to describe each faction and group...Emphasizing this categorization obstructs the way towards improvement for both camps. One who feels that he belongs to the Charedi camp looks down upon the secular camp. If he thinks about teshuvah and improvement, he immediately casts his eyes in the direction of the Chofshi camp, devoid of Torah and mitzvot. He is confident that full repentance is required by the irreligious, not by him.The secular Jew, on the other hand, is convinced that any notion of penitence is a Charedi concept, completely irrelevant to him.

It would be better if each person would concentrate on discerning his own defects, and judge others generously. It could very well be that others have treasure-troves of merits, hidden from sight. We must recognize that there exists in all of the camps a latent force leading towards goodness. Each camp has much to improve upon, and is capable of learning much from the light and goodness of the other camp.Let us be known to each other by one name: "Klal Yisrael"{Adapted from Moadei HaRe'iyah, by Rav Chanan Morrison of Mitzpeh Yericho}

This Taanit Esther, let's try to respect and care for each other - at least as much as Haman (and Hitler, Arafat, Ahmadinejad etc.) desire(d) to destroy us!

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Smokers Beware: Torah Still In Effect On Purim (Graphic Photos)


So here's the story. I remember back in tenth grade we were invited to our high school rebbe's house on Purim. And it was loads of fun. One guy even had a pack of cigarettes because after all on Purim you don't have to keep the Torah. A few of my classmates snuck outside to smoke including "A" (we'll leave his full name out.)

That was "A's" first cigarette but not nearly his last. He started smoking regularly and then even became a heavy chain smoker. Later he developed severe respiratory problems. Last August my friend "A" passed away at the ripe old age of 27.

Smoking Kills. The Torah demands one to "heed to yourself and guard your life strongly" (Devarim 4:9). Remember all Torah laws, both positive and negative, remain in effect for both Purim and Shushan Purim. You don't have to break Torah laws to celebrate on Purim!

Have fun! Be jolly! Stay safe!

Now for the graphic photos if you smokers are not convinced. (Warning: if you get queasy easily don't continue viewing the rest of this post...)

This is what a healthy lung looks like:


And this is what smoking does to it:


Let's review. Healthy:


And the smoker's:


Still not convinced:


Here's more:


Think about it!


Chag Samayach!

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Monday, February 26, 2007

We're Dreamin' of a Persian Purim



Mekubal Rav Batzri has attracted the attention of the Associated Press with his organizing of thousands of Jewish children to pray for a modern Nahafoch Hu for the modern day Hamanadinejad (notice, all I switched was the first three letters - a Persian friend tells me that the local pronunciation is actually more similar to what I just wrote than Ahmedinejad). AP writes (reprinted in the Int'l Herald Tribune):

Batzri's idea came from the biblical story of Purim, whose protagonist Mordechai organized mass prayers to stop Haman, a royal counselor, from killing all the Jews in the ancient Persian kingdom. In the end, the king hanged Haman instead. Purim starts the evening of March 3.

When asked what the purpose of the current prayers was, Rabbi Menachem Bassi, head of the school, said: "You know what happened to Haman."


Jpost printed the story and had the last quote slightly different. "You know what happened on Purim," it read. Indeed, it was not just Haman who met his demise and it was not just the king who got his hands dirty.

Click here for full story

(Hmmm, Jpost has now left out that last paragraph)

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Led Zepplin Knows Purim




Led Zepplin (one of the great bands of all time) has a song - it is called Gallows Pole. I find it to be a great Purim anthem, and I shall explain.

Here is the song and here are the lyrics of "Gallows Pole":

"Hangman, hangman, hold it a little while,
Think I see my friends coming, Riding a many mile.
Friends, did you get some silver?
Did you get a little gold?

What did you bring me, my dear friends, To keep me from the Gallows Pole?
What did you bring me to keep me from the Gallows Pole?"


[What is this silver and gold that the song refers to? Could it related to the strory of Haman's attempt to destroy the Jews? Here is the text of the Megilla:

3;8. Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people and they do not observe the king's laws, so it is not in the king's interest to let them remain.
9. "If it is pleasing to the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry on the king's business, to put into the king's treasuries."
10. Then the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.
11. The king said to Haman, "The silver is yours, and the people also, to do with them as you please."]

The song continues:

"Hangman, hangman, turn your head awhile,
I think I see my sister coming, riding a many mile, mile, mile.
Sister, I implore you, take him by the hand,
Take him to some shady bower, save me from the wrath of this man,
Please take him, save me from the wrath of this man, man."


[The wrath of which man? Who must the Jews be saved from?

7;3. Then Queen Esther replied, "If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request;
4. for we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated. Now if we had only been sold as slaves, men and women, I would have remained silent, for the trouble would not be commensurate with the annoyance to the king."
5. Then King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, "Who is he, and where is he, who would presume to do thus?"
6. Esther said, "A foe and an enemy is this wicked Haman!" Then Haman became terrified before the king and queen.]

The song continues:

"Oh, yes, you got a fine sister, She warmed my blood from cold,
Brought my blood to boiling hot To keep you from the Gallows Pole
,
Your brother brought me silver, Your sister warmed my soul,
But now I laugh and pull so hard And see you swinging on the Gallows Pole"


[Who is this fine sister? You can guess...

2;15. Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, came to go in to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai, the king's eunuch who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her.
16. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus to his royal palace in the tenth month which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
17. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.]

The song ends:

"Swingin' on the gallows pole!"

[Yes indeed, may we seen Haman swinging on the gallows pole!!

7;10. So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king's anger subsided.]

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Pssst! Purim's Coming.




(You know, MoHo from the Danish cartoon.)



From a 1990 NY Times:
SHLOMO CARLEBACH AND ORCHESTRA, in a Purim concert, at Martin Luther King Jr. High School, 65th Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Tomorrow at 8:45 P.M. Information: 969-0950.


Dov Shurin, Jerusalem's Dylan, is a deep poet, but not so concerned with political correctness. He is a Purim Jew - all year round - and on Purim he just goes wild. So here is Dov live on Purim Kattan, 5763. It may offend most. If that might be you - bookmark the page and wait till Purim to watch it:


Heck, while I'm at it - check out his magnum opus:

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Pictures from Tu BiShvat Keep Making Aliyah Shabbaton in Beit El


Tu BiShvat Tree Planting for all ages...
... on the Jewish Artis Hilltop in Beit El


The almond tree blossoms, as the classic Israeli
folk song goes, HaShkediyah Porachat - תחרופ הידקשה

Some other cool trees in Beit El:




More Tree Planting:







The Group on the Artis Hilltop of Beit El, then walking down to the cave, and listening to Tour Guide Yishai:





Arutz-Sheva Studio Tour and Recording, Motzaei Shabbat:
Yishai and Zev, Arutz-Sheva radio hosts

The group listens as we record...

Never too young to be on Arutz-Sheva!

Yishai loves his live studio!

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Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat


Hey All, this is my first time posting, so any sweet and kind constructive criticism would be appreciated :)

Well Happy Tu B'Shvat!!!! ( Better late then never)

So when I heard it was the new year for the trees, I was a little curious what exactly that meant. I mean, our new year, Rosh Hashana consisted of many different prayers, the prohibitions nearly as stringent as Shabbat ( no use of any electronic items...), and the like. However, the new year for the trees didn't seem as "hard core," I mean we don't even add the "yale veyavo" blessing in our daily prayers. So I wanted to know what is so special about having a new year for the trees. Soooo, I went to the Shlomo Carlebach Shul, in the upper west side (NYC) and boy did I get what I asked for!!!

Apparently Tu B'Shvat is quite a cool holiday, even though it doesn't have all the hype of our new year or other holidays. It is steeped in mystical innuendos and the combination or our material world to the higher realms above. The meal (or as you will soon find out Seder, yeh like Pesach) lasted quite a while, but I will try to give you a little taste of the Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat.

Ready....Nice... Aight here we go.

So the Kabbalistic Tu B'Shvat Seder was created in the 1500's by the Kabbalists of Sefad, Israel which were followers of the Ari Hakadosh ( Rabbi Issac Luria). The Seder is modeled like the Pesach Seder. We drink 4 cups of wine, but they start off as white wine, and a drop of red wine is added to each cup thereafter, until the last cup is totally red. You eat a total of 21 fruits, in 3 orders, corresponding to the 3 of the 4 Kabbalistic worlds; Olam Hab'riya ( world of creation), Olam Yetzira ( world of formation), and Olam Asi'ah ( world of action). There are set phrases and blessings that are recited during each world phase, and before going from one world to the next, a slight mediation is done, to allow the participants to fully internalize the spirituality of the fruits before they internalize the physical aspect (taste) of them.

So you can ask, what can be spiritual about fruit? Well one part of the Seder discusses that each person, while participating in the Seder, should have the intention that the fruit they are eating is a way to fix the sin of Adam and Eve with the Tree of Knowledge. The fact that a little orange can have the spiritual ability to fix the first sin of this creation, was quite cool.

Anyhow, I will end with one last interesting idea. One main part of the Seder was all the various blessings over the different fruits. One reason for this is because each thing G-d created, including fruit, has a specific angel that looks over it. When you make a blessing over the fruit, you enable that angel to produce more fruit, and help the spirituality of the fruit to spread over the world. ( side note: I love angels, so I particularly liked this one).

So that's the gist of if. Hope you enjoyed, comments are encouraged :)
TTFN, DFTSS. ~ Shulamit

Question: What fruit can be eaten whole, without throwing anything away?

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Tu B'Shvat in Beit El (Photos!)


Kumah, Yavneh Olami, and Am Segula teamed up to put together an unbelievable Tu B'Shvat Shabbaton in gorgeous Beit-El!

On Friday the group planted trees in one of the highest and most breathtaking points in the region. If you weren't there here's a bit of what you missed!

Yishai shows the group the stunning view.













Everyone helped out!

Keep making a splash!

More photos are on the way!

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Friday, February 02, 2007

The Rising


"Planted in the House of Hashem, in the courtyard of our God they will blossom" (Ps. 92)

Rebbe Yisrael, the Maggid of Koznitz explained that while the physical body of The Holy Temple has been destroyed, the essence of the Beit Hamikdash, the heart of the Jewish Nation, remains vibrant and intact.
Although no longer manifest physically as a tangible structure, the spiritual reality and influence of The Temple continues pump and direct Divine Life Force to the collective body of the revealed world.

"Man is as the tree of the field": Regardless of how brittle and weak we may appear externally, to the extent that we are connected to our Roots, the tree will continue to live, be rejuvenated and thrive. On Tu B'Shvat, when the sap begins to Rise within the fruit bearing trees, the process of rebirth begins (continues?) for Am Yisrael and all of creation. After a long and difficult winter- a long and difficult Exile- we are blossoming, and signs of renewed strength, life and growth begin to appear...

Tu B'Shvat is a time for a renewed commitment and strengthening of our National Mission, and a Return to our "Roots". At the core of our identity is the Heart of Am Yisrael: The Beit Hamikdash.

While we sing, enjoy and celebrate the fruits of The Land this Tu B'Shvat / Shabbat Shira, let's renew our "Temple consciousness" and remember the focal point of our spiritual and daily lives.

This Shabbat, when the Sea is splitting once again, let us pray that we merit the fulfillment of the Divine Promise described in the Shirat HaYam, and the Ultimate Goal and Purpose of our Nation:

"You will bring them and plant them on the Mount of Your Heritage, the Foundation of Your dwelling place that You Hashem have made..."

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Kumah Reloaded!




Above is the actual promo poster for The Matrix: Reloaded. But why did they pick 5.15 to launch the film? Could it be because Shevat is the fifth month? (Count 'em: Tishrei, Cheshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat.) And the 15th of Shevat is symbolic of rebirth and rejuvenation, being the Rosh Hashana of the trees?

Of course not! We Jews start counting from the month of Nissan... so tomorrow, Tu B'Shvat, would be 11.15 - not 5.15.

(Incidentally, 5.15 is Tu B'Av on the Jewish calender. Hmm.)

Still Kumah does find Tu B'Shvat to be the perfect backdrop to unveil our new look, and a whole new team of star bloggers!

(And yes, we know all about all the kinks we still have to work out on the site and will shortly finish up those renovations.)

I'm honored to be the first blogger on this new site to help you free your mind...

Enjoy the ride!

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Malkah's Brand New Tu B'Shevat Seder!




There are several good Tu b'Shevat seders available on the internet, which will enable to celebrate the New Year of the Trees and the mystical and delicious fruits of the Land of Israel.

But when searching for one to conduct for myself and my friends this year, I couldn't find one that truly spoke to me.

So I made one.

Thanks to Aish, Yavneh Olami, Ahavat -Israel.com, the Jewish Women's Center of Pittsburgh for their contributions.

I hope you have a holy and meaningful Tu b'Shevat, here in the Land of Israel!


CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR OWN!

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Monday, December 18, 2006

HAPPY HANUKKAH!!!!




Okay, I know this is cheating - no inspiration, no brilliant new insight into anything, no personal touch. But that doesn't mean it won't be tasty.

Here's a recipe for Sufganiyot (Jelly Doughnuts) by www.about.com - Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!

INGREDIENTS:
25 grams (1 ounce) yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. flour
3 cups flour
50 grams (1/4 cup) margarine, melted
dash of salt
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/4 cups water (room temperature)
jelly (strawberry is recommended)
oil for frying (canola is recommended)
powdered sugar

PREPARATION:
1. To make the dough: Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. Mix well, cover, and wait until it rises. In another bowl, mix 3 cups of flour with the melted margarine, salt, sugar and egg yolks. Combine the yeast mixture with the flour mixture. Slowly add water while stirring. When batter is smooth, cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit and rise.
2. To make the doughnuts: After the batter has risen, pour it onto a floured surface and roll it out. Use a glass with a small opening to cut out circles of the dough. Place a drop of jelly in the middle of each circle, and then cover with another circle of dough. Make sure that 2 circles attach well to form a closed ball with jelly in the middle. Cover the doughnuts with a towel and let rise.
3. To fry the doughnuts: Heat oil in a deep pot until very hot. Drop the doughnuts into the oil and fry on both sides until brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

TIP: These sufganiot are only good fresh. After you make the dough, only fry a few at a time. Store the rest of the dough in the refrigerator.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Lulav Shake