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Post  Admin on Wed 19 Nov 2014, 10:04 am

My Parents vs. My Own Life
When does, “I have to live my own life” become selfishness?
by Sara Yoheved Rigler         
I loved my parents, but of course I had to live my own life.
My parents were from the “Us Generation.” In that long-ago era, adult children lived at home until they married. They worked, and handed over their earnings to the family coffers. Irving Levinsky, who would become my father, was a pharmacist. He owned a drugstore in Camden, New Jersey. What he made paid the rent and the bills for his Russian immigrant parents, his younger brother Harry, who was in law school, and his two younger sisters, Sadie and Mamie, until they finished college and got married.
Levinsky Family taken during my ashram years 1982Levinsky Family taken during my ashram years (1982)
Both my parents came of age at the onset of the Great Depression. Of course, most young adults were not so selfish as to get married during the Depression. Marriage meant renting your own apartment, buying your own beds and icebox and stove, and ceasing to contribute to the family’s meager income. It was like jumping ship to your own private lifeboat in the middle of a storm, when your job was to keep the Family Ship afloat.

10 Years in Siberia
by Leah Abramowitz as told by Rabbi Nachman Kahane
The remarkable story of Eliezer Nanas.
I was working at the Ministry of Religion about 40 years ago as an assistant to the Ministry of Religions, the noted and learned Zerach Wahrhaftig. One day an aide put his head through the door and said, "Come into my office,” he beckoned to us. “There's a man here you have to meet." We went into the adjacent office to see an elderly, slightly bent Jew who had made aliyah from Russia only two days earlier. His name was Eliezer Nanas.
In those days it was highly difficult to get out of Russia; the Cold War was at its height and Jews were severely restricted. Yet this clearly religious Jew had made it and his story was indeed fascinating. It turns out that he tried to observe all the mitzvot, even when it was nearly impossible while living in Moscow. In the end he was apprehended for the sin of attending a heder to teach Judaism to youngsters whose parents were willing to take the risk.
He was sent to Siberia for ten years, a death sentence for most prisoners. 

The Tree on Fire
by Shlomo Horwitz
Sometimes the most beautiful things are hiding in plain sight.
"Not again," I groaned through clenched teeth, struggling with the lawn mower. My tree was shedding for the umpteenth time this fall. Twigs, branches and leaves surrounded the tree like a moat, impeding my access with the mower.
Never a fan of yard work, I resigned myself with a sigh to the thankless task of cleaning up after my tree, which had made its mark on the walkway and on down to the street. I raked the leaves into piles, gathered the twigs and branches and cut them into smaller pieces so the trash man wouldn't complain.
Don’t think I hate all trees. I love trees, like the way grandparents love grandchildren. They're fun to visit from time to time, just don't ask me to clean them up when they get dirty. In fact, our family loves hiking on forest trails, soaking in the lush greenery and shade of massive trees under a brilliant blue sky.
Shortly after this miserable clean-up, a person I knew from shul who shared our family's love of nature and hiking came to me excitedly with an important bit of tree news. "Shlomo, have you been to Oregon Ridge Park in the last couple of weeks?"
"No. What's happening there?"
"The trees are a gorgeous color right now! I just took the kids!"

Divorce and Parenthood
by Sheryl Golding
Divorce is not always rational.
“If you want to learn about Asperger’s,” a friend said to me last year, “you should watch the TV show Parenthood. It’s the most realistic ‘fictional’ portrayal around.” I tuned in and quickly became addicted. And an informal and completely unscientific polling suggests I’m not the only one.
The exploration of the challenges of children with Asperger’s and their parents is fascinating, moving, compelling and even educational. I hope it has increased my compassion; it has definitely increased my understanding.
But this is television after all – and the show wouldn’t work without its myriad of side plots involving the other characters in the family.
One of these, the story of Joel and Julia, has always puzzled me. Stay tuned: you don’t need to have seen the show to get the point. They seemed to have a warm and loving marriage, not perfect but whose is? A few misunderstandings, an inability or unwillingness to talk them through and the next thing you know they’re in separate residences discussing divorce.

Video: Reach Out for Help
by Rabbi Tzvi Sytner
Don't be afraid to show your weakness in order to let people help.

Editor's Pick:    Unprotected
by Judy Gruen
A college campus psychiatrist tells students everything they really need to know about intimacy.
In her long experience as a college campus psychiatrist, Miriam Grossman had treated students with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and broken hearts. Their pain touched Grossman, but as a medical professional, she had learned to leave office concerns at the office -- until she met Brian.
Dr. Miriam GrossmanBrian had come to her for help in quitting his cigarette addiction. But Grossman was alarmed that Brian, openly gay and equally open about his promiscuity, had never been tested for HIV and had no intention to do so. "It's hard to be monogamous," Brian shrugged, adding that he preferred simply not to think about the possible consequences of his lifestyle.
Knowing how dire these consequences could be, Grossman advised Brian to limit his partners and use protection. But when she began to look into what other steps she could do to protect him from himself, she hit a brick wall. Like other doctors, she has the right to report those who may be carriers of a dangerous infectious disease, such as tuberculosis. She has the legal right to hospitalize a suicidal or homicidal patient, even if it is against their will. Yet there was nothing she could do to compel Brian to get tested for HIV or to inform his partners of their risk for developing the virus.

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Post  Admin on Wed 19 Nov 2014, 9:23 am

Palestinian Red Line

Terror at a Jerusalem synagogue crosses another red line.
The synagogue is a place of intimate communion with God, where we strive to understand God's ultimate perfection and the meaning of our world.

Today that sanctity was desecrated as Jews – in the Holy City of Jerusalem, immersed in morning prayers, adorned in tallit and tefillin – were slaughtered in cold blood by jihadists.

The synagogue held dozens of worshipers at 7 a.m. when the terrorists struck with guns and axes.

This attack hits extremely close to home, as the synagogue attacked was where many Aish alumni and staff pray every morning.

Aish HaTorah's Director of Administration, Rabbi Daniel Schloss, was 10 seconds away from entering the building when he heard shots and saw the wounded running out.

Four murdered men, may the Almighty avenge their blood:

The esteemed Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, was mentor to Aish senior lecturer Rabbi Gav Friedman.

Rabbi Kalman Levine was born in the United States and the beloved father of 9.

Rabbi Aryeh Kopinsky, age 43, was also an American citizen.

Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Goldberg is the father of Ms. Libby Goldberg, who for years was a mainstay of the Aish Finance Department.

Four widows and 24 orphans are now on one street.

We mourn this grossly horrific act of inhumanity.

Holy War

Perhaps it should not surprise us that terrorists struck our holy place – given that the entire focus of this battle has become Jerusalem and the Temple Mount – the Jews' most holy site.

Forget the fact that the inaugural PLO charter from the 1960s never once mentions Jerusalem, and that it only became a jihadist hotspot once the Jews reunited the Holy City.

Jihadists now realize that Jerusalem – holy to the Jews for 2,000 years before Islam ever existed – is where the big battle is taking place.

That is why Hamas launched a public campaign against Aish HaTorah, whose rooftop panorama overlooking the Western Wall includes a scale model of the Second Holy Temple. It is this very aspect of Aish's mission – to educate people about the Jewish connection to Jerusalem – that so undercuts the Islamist's false revisionist version of history.

It is what PR legend Charley Levine called "Jerusalem Denial Syndrome."

Anyone who doesn't recognize that jihadists are fighting a "holy war," has yet to recognize the true root of this conflict.

Incitement and Tolerance

Israel is sitting on a Mideast powder keg. Iran is charging toward the nuclear goal line. Egypt Syria and Gaza are what Ken Abramowitz calls some of the 10 existential threats to Israel today.

Palestinian leaders have repeatedly inflamed incitement against Israel. Last week, on official Palestinian Authority TV, officials praised recent terrorists for heeding the call that "Jerusalem needs blood to purify itself of Jews."

Even in the wake of this horrific Har Nof synagogue massacre, official PA television showed images of Bethlehem residents handing out candy in support of the attack, and the official Fatah website praised the attack as a "heroic operation."

Living in Israel for 20 years, many red lines have been crossed:

• The incessant rockets and terror at bus stops and cafes.

• The Second Intifada, where friends were murdered by suicide bombers, and bullets whizzed by my house.

• Recent wars with Hamas and Hezbollah, which sent virtually every Israeli resident scrambling to bomb shelters.

I may have somehow "tolerated" all of that.

But today, as mass murder invades the synagogue, a red line has been crossed.

Our hearts wrench at the horror of this attack.

Our love and concern goes out to the victims and their families.

We pray for the recovery of those wounded.

And we pray that soon, our land will be blessed with peace.

This article can be read on-line at: http://www.aish.com/jw/id/Palestinian-Red-Line.html

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Post  Admin on Fri 14 Nov 2014, 12:54 pm

In the Moment
by Emuna Braverman
We are too busy posing and snapping to just savor today.

My friend’s teenage daughter is on a class trip. “All the other girls are posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram – or they’re texting them. You’re not doing any of it,” complained my friend to her child. “I want to see what you’re doing.”
“But mom,” responded the wiser-than-her-years (or peers) adolescent, “I want to be able to focus on what I’m seeing. I want to be able to understand it and enjoy it and not be preoccupied with photographing it and emailing it.”

My friend was taken aback – in a good way. It made her stop and think. I pointed out to her (ever so tactfully) that her daughter’s position has support in a recent study led by Linda Henckel, Ph.D. Her researchers discovered that people remember events less well if they spend them snapping multiple pictures. It prevents them from engaging in the moment.
I would add that it also prevents them from enjoying the moment. In an effort to save them for that elusive and ill-defined phenomenon known as “posterity,” we miss the opportunity for pleasure in the here and now. We are too busy posing and snapping to just savor today.
This is an attitude I have always sympathized with and have adopted personally – to the chagrin of my children and the videoing mothers around me. They anticipate frustration at some future date when, in a fit of nostalgia and in that all too brief moment when all is calm, they will want to watch their third grade Torah play or their fifth grade dance recital.
 I won’t have it (even if I had recorded it, it would be on a video cassette that no one has the ability to watch anymore!).

But they can take pleasure in knowing that I was there – alert and focused only on them – and not on any camera or phone equipment. I wasn’t concerned about the battery dying or fiddling with the on and off switches.
It’s very difficult to be “in the moment.” We’re either obsessing over the past or agonizing about the future. So if I can capture some brief family time – a play, a speech, a concert, a picnic, an afternoon at the beach – where I am present and accounted for, I don’t want to distract myself by trying to capture it on film. I want to just stop - and quietly enjoy. I want to store it up internally, as a memory that I can take with me wherever I go. Maybe I’ll bring my friend’s daughter with me…

The Kindness of Strangers
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
The pillar of Jewish life is kindness.
Chayei Sarah(Genesis 23:1-25:18)
The Kindness of Strangers
In 1966 an eleven-year-old black boy moved with his parents and family to a white neighbourhood in Washington.(1) Sitting with his two brothers and two sisters on the front step of the house, he waited to see how they would be greeted. They were not. Passers-by turned to look at them but no one gave them a smile or even a glance of recognition. All the fearful stories he had heard about how whites treated blacks seemed to be coming true. Years later, writing about those first days in their new home, he says, "I knew we were not welcome here. I knew we would not be liked here. I knew we would have no friends here. I knew we should not have moved here ..."

Way #30: Be Loved By Others
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
The human desire to be loved is deep and natural. If you give warmth, you'll attract warmth.

Sometimes we have the attitude of, "I don't need anybody else. I can do it alone!"
Ahuv literally means "being beloved." Because whether with family relationships, business partners or friends, the human need to be loved is deep and natural. We need it like oxygen.
Of course, that love has to be earned. King Solomon said: "As water reflects a face, so does a person's heart." In other words, if you project coldness, you will attract coldness; if you give out warmth, you will attract warmth.
When people love you, they want to help you become wise and wealthy. They'll invite you to social functions, and patronize your business. They'll give you good advice – and eagerly accept yours. You will succeed in all areas of life.
What Do You Love About Others?

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Post  Admin on Fri 14 Nov 2014, 10:07 am

Israel Mourns
by Eli Levine
With tensions rising, the country mourns the tragic murder of two young people in two separate incidents.
Israel is mourning this week for two of its perfectly innocent young people in their 20’s, both of whom were stabbed by terrorists in two separate incidents on Monday.
Dahlia Lemkus, a 26 year old child therapist, was killed while waiting for a bus in Gush Etzion. Another terrorist attack took place that day at a Tel Aviv train station, killing Almog Shiloni, age 20. As they were laid to rest on Tuesday, the pain in Israel was palpable. The murders come on the heels of various similar attacks in the Jerusalem area, in which “loner” terrorists attacked pedestrians with cars, knives, and hand pistols.
Whereas most violence over the last ten years had been limited to the areas surrounding Gaza and the North during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, these attacks are a flashback to the days of the intifada, the Arab uprising, when Israelis lived in constant fear of terrorist attacks on buses, malls and every day destinations. Government officials have said that the recent upsurge in attacks do not indicate a popular uprising. But there is no question that Israelis living in Jerusalem are living with a greater unease.
Dahlia LemkusThe Israeli public has gotten to know the two victims and their families very quickly. Dahlia was known for baking delicious cakes for parties and for helping brides with their make up on their wedding days. Dahlia’s father drives Tekoa’s ambulance as a volunteer, and Dahlia would babysit any children on the occasion that their parents had to rush to the hospital.
“Dahlia did a lot of charity work. A lot. She made beautiful art with oil painting and acrylic,” Liora Bedein, a close friend of Dahlia’s, told Aish.com. “She was a beautiful person. Everyone who knew her knows she just loved to give and do good. She was very special.”
The mother of one of Dahlia’s patients echoed that sentiment. “She was a truly amazing young woman. She made so much progress with the kids,” Avital Trebelsky told Aish.com. “She loved the children as if they were her own.” Dahlia made the 2-hour trip from Tekoa to Sderot on a weekly basis to work with Avital’s 4-year-old daughter with special needs.
Almog ShiloniAlmog Shiloni was a twin. He had been with his girlfriend for two and a half years, and according to his brother, planned to marry her. He was talking to her on the phone when he was stabbed by an Arab terrorist.
Israel’s tight-knit nature breeds a certain identification with the victims. Many Israelis remember standing at that train stop in their army uniform, just like Almog. Those shared experiences make Almog and Dahlia more than a statistic. The Jewish nation is mourning alongside the families. For every murder there is a ripple effect, hurting all of those associated with the victim and the attack.
Statistics, as are often presented in the international media, do not capture that. Statistics cannot put a reader in the shoes of the man who gave the hitchhiking Dahlia the last ride of her life. He dropped her off at the bus stop only a few minutes before the attack. One can only wonder how he feels.
Statistics do not capture the effect on the families of the injured man who attempted to rescue Dahlia. They do not capture the story of the guard who shot Dahlia’s attacker just a minute too late.
The media does not capture the feeling of the community of Tekoa, which is going through this for a second time. Twelve years ago, 14-year-old Koby Mandell was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists. He was strikingly similar to Dahlia. They were the same age. Both were children of English speaking immigrants. Both were from Tekoa. Their families know each other. One can only imagine the horror of a community living through that again.
The mood in Gush Etzion, where Tekoa is located, was captured at a Monday night vigil. One resident told Aish.com, “There is crying. There are no chants of ‘death to the terrorist’ or anything like that. It’s sadness.”
Indeed, the recent attacks, all committed with cars and knives, have revealed a certain chink in the armor of Israeli security. It seems that if anyone can be attacked with everyday items, the crisis will be difficult to solve.
It is worth noting, however, that there was heroism displayed on Monday as well. Both attacks were stopped by bystanders, albeit too late. The Tel Aviv attacker was punched in the face by a 50 year old man, while the Gush Etzion attacker was wrestled by one man, and then shot and wounded by a volunteer security guard. While nobody is in the mood to celebrate the heroes who prevented further damage, they are indicative of the strength of a society that looks out for its own.

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Post  Admin on Tue 11 Nov 2014, 9:47 pm

Campus Mezuzah Attacks
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
At one California college, anti-Semitism repeatedly rears its ugly head.
College is a time of making new friends, expanding horizons, and learning how to get along with others.
For Bryan Turkel, a senior at Claremont McKenna College near Los Angeles, this week was a grim lesson in how U.S. college campuses are falling short of these ideals – especially when it comes to anti-Semitism.
In three separate events this past month, vandals:
tore the Mezuzah off Turkel's dormitory door
pried open a window and stole the Israeli flag from his wall
stole a replacement Mezuzah from his door
Following the first incident, the local Chabad replaced the one mezuzah with 30 mezuzahs – for the dorm rooms of every member of Turkel's AEPi chapter (the Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi with 10,000 member students worldwide).
"The proper response to such a situation," says Rabbi Ben Packer of Jerusalem, "is to increase that same Jewish identification that the anti-Semites are trying to blot out."

Amnesty International's Jewish Problem
by Yvette Alt Miller
The once laudable organization is obsessed with demonizing the Jewish state.
On Wednesday, November 5, 2014, Amnesty International released its latest attack on Israel: a highly biased report that accuses the Jewish state of war crimes in its fighting in Gaza over the previous summer. Avoiding the use of the word “terror” in relation to Hamas, and failing to mention the terrorist tunnels Hamas built in order to infiltrate Israel and carry out attacks, Amnesty’s report was followed up later in the day with a Tweet from a senior Amnesty official, equating the Jewish state with the terror group ISIS, which has beheaded countless Muslims and Western journalists across Syria and Iraq.
A senior Amnesty official equated the Jewish state with the terror group ISIS.
The report is typical of Amnesty’s highly critical style towards Israel. As Israel responds that Amnesty “serves as a propaganda tool for Hamas and other terror groups” it’s worth asking how such a worthy organization as Amnesty International could have fallen so far, and wound up obsessed with demonizing the Jewish state.
I remember as a child our class writing letters to the USSR, protesting the jailing of Soviet Jews who wanted to immigrate to Israel. We relied on information and names of Jewish prisoners of conscious often provided by Amnesty International. The very term prisoner of conscious was Amnesty’s coinage, and it conveyed the profound injustice facing the refuseniks: Soviet Jews whose petitions to move to Israel had been denied. In those dark days of Soviet repression, it was Amnesty International who detailed the horrendous conditions the prisoners were kept in, and who made sure the world knew their names. Many refuseniks, such as Ida Nudel and Natan Sharansky, today head of Israel’s Jewish Agency, were first identified by Amnesty researchers.

How to Pay a Proper Shiva Call
by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg
Proper etiquette and practical advice.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…a time to keep silent and a time to speak.”
The wisdom in this song is not for the Byrds, it comes from the wisest of all men, King Solomon. While the picture of many shiva homes today filled with people, food, and conversation is anything but silent, the Midrash interprets “the time for silence” as proscribing our behavior when comforting the bereaved. When Job, the very symbol of human suffering, experienced devastating loss, three of his friends came to comfort and console him: “They sat with him on the ground for a period of seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job, 2:13).
Consolation can be provided with words, but it is communicated even more powerfully through silent companionship, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it may feel for the visitor. The acknowledgement of pain and willingness to share it by simply being present is the essence of a shiva call, nichum aveilim. The Talmud in fact states in the name of Rav Pappa, “The reward that comes from visiting the house of a mourner is for one’s silence while there” (Berachos 6b).
Consolation is powerfully communicated through silent companionship, no matter how uncomfortable it may feel for the visitor.
In an article in Jewish Action in the Fall of 2000, Rabbi Edward Davis shares the story of the time he went to get a haircut while visiting London. As he sat down in the chair the barber asked, “Talk or no talk?” The barber was sensitive to Rabbi Davis’s preference and comfort and didn’t impose a conversation on someone who preferred to sit in silent contemplation.
The Code of Jewish Law (y.d. 376:1) mandates that the visitors are not allowed to speak until the mourner speaks first. Essentially, the proper etiquette in a shiva home is to sit with the mourner and through our patient silence offer him or her – talk or no talk?
It is natural to struggle with silence. Sitting silently is intimidating, awkward and uncomfortable. Well-intentioned people therefore sometimes fill the silence by saying things that are in fact insensitive, thoughtless or even hurtful. When people do things like tell the family members about treatments or doctors that may have healed their loved one, or say to someone who has lost a child that at least they have other healthy children, they mean well, but their words are unkind. A woman who lost her father reported a visitor asking her why her mother doesn’t look as perky as usual. An older person who lost his wife shared that someone told him “Speak to me after shiva, I have a great shidduch idea for you.”

Taking the Plunge
by Libby Lazewnik
No one is ever completely ready for life's challenges. So what are you waiting for?
I nearly cried at a bar mitzvah I attended recently.
Heshy, the bar mitzvah boy, was neither friend nor relative – he was a student of my husband's and someone I knew only vaguely. And yet, as he stood at the podium looking so small in his painfully new suit – so vulnerable for a boy about to step into man's estate – my eyes filled.
They filled again as Heshy's grandfather stood up to speak about him. At the love and pride in the old man's voice, my heart came near to breaking. That grandfather knew – as I knew – that the bar mitzvah boy could not be ready for what lay ahead. How could any 13-year-old shoulders, only a short time ago lying peaceful and safe in a cradle under a lovingly crocheted blanket, be fully prepared to bear the responsibility of the Torah and its myriad expectations?
At Water's Edge
Fast-forward a few years, and he'll be standing beneath the chuppah, as women sniffle softly in the audience. They'll sniffle because they know what lies ahead – the indescribable joy of marriage and parenthood, along with the responsibility and apprehension. They'll know that – whatever his age – he is too young to contend with the challenges he will inevitably be called upon to face.
There is sweet, red wine to hearten the new couple at the start of their journey – and to highlight their pleasure at taking on an awesome new responsibility together. If Heshy's heart beats a little faster than usual, it is with excitement and joy as he contemplates a brand-new future, with a brand-new partner to make it shine. The ceremony winds its way to its conclusion, amid shattered glass and cries of "Mazel tov!" And all along, we know – as I knew at Heshy's bar mitzvah – that he is not fully prepared for the challenge that lies ahead.
The people were afraid. But Nachshon – as scared and unready as the rest of them – took the plunge.
There was someone else who was unprepared. 

Brittany Maynard's Tragic Death
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
A Jewish perspective on assisted suicide.
Brittany Maynard got her last wish. The beautiful 29-year-old who recently appeared on the cover of People magazine and has been featured in hundreds of news articles took her own life last week in order to avoid the slow deterioration and pain of the debilitating illness with which she had been diagnosed.
As a post on her website said, "Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to die with dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness. She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland." In a statement, Compassion & Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy group that had been working closely with Maynard, said she "died as she intended – peacefully in her bedroom, in the arms of her loved ones."
Maynard was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last January, barely a year after she and her husband were married. After several surgeries, doctors said in April that her brain tumor had returned and gave her about six months to live. She moved from California to Oregon to take advantage of that state's law which allows assisted suicide – one of five states in which the practice is legal.
Maynard is survived by her husband and his family, her mother and stepfather. And in the aftermath of her death the media have reported the remarkable support her life-ending decision seems to have garnered from the public.
It is hard not to feel compassion for this young woman who movingly explained her resolution on CNN.com: “I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms. Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.”

Through the Roof
by Mordechai Schmutter
Today's topic: how to save on home-heating costs.
Today’s topic, now that winter is upon us, is how to save on home-heating costs.
It’s not easy to save money, because no one else is really helpful about it. You sit down and try to make a budget, which you hate to do because it means cutting things you want in favor of things you need. You figure out how many extra jobs you have to take on and how many expenses you have to cut (“Wait. I can’t get a job and stop getting haircuts.”), and somehow you manage to bring ends into the same basic neighborhood, and as soon as you do that, half your expenses go up for no reason at all.
My heating costs are through the roof. And I mean that literally.
Just the other week, for example, your health insurance went up. Great. Does this mean you have better coverage? No. Does this mean they hired more people to make sure the statements you get will at least be accurate? No. You have the same coverage, only now it costs more.
So now you have to figure out a budget – again – because your expenses went up and your income did not, even though you just figured out not ten minutes ago that there’s nothing else you can cut. Plus your house is only getting older and springing more leaks, and so are you, and as soon as you make another budget – Hey, the price of gas went up! Oh, is it better gas? No!
It’s like these places have no respect for budgeting.
And this year – Surprise! Heating costs are through the roof! And I mean it literally. Heat rises, and I’m pretty sure I have holes in my roof. These aren’t major holes – it’s not like I can lie in my attic and count the stars. They’re basically damp spots that show up on the underside of the roof after major rainstorms. But I know enough about homeownership to realize that this is not a good sign, probably.

Confessions of a Clutterphile
by Marnie Winston-Macauley
I thought of going on one of those "Hoarding" reality shows, except they'd make me throw out my stuff. And my stuff is important.
I admit it. My “design” preference is “clutter.” I have the only apartment with “Detour” signs to insure that anyone entering, should he/she actually move, won’t trip and break something (a bone, or my “stuff”). I thought of going on one of those “Hoarding” reality shows, except they’d make me throw out my stuff. And my “stuff,” unlike “their” stuff is important.
I have the only apartment with “Detour” signs.
We’re not talking here about 4,000 broken light bulbs, 30 bat wings, or turning aluminum foil into the Unisphere. No. My stuff is valuable. They’re collections.
When people stared at my “stuff” incredulously, I’d say: “We’re writers,” figuring that would give me carte blanche on clutter. I have jotted down critical ideas on gum wrappers, matchbook covers and return envelopes (from the IRS and mortgage company). Then there are five hard copies of everything I wrote, published, might publish, the notes, research. Ten years of Yellow Pages, newspapers, and catalogs from defunct publishers have held a place of honor at the head of the table.
I’ve often wondered where this came from. After all, mom was the queen of the Balabustas, or as liked to call her, The “Lysol Lady.” She wasn’t just tidy. The defense department could enlist her to maintain a “clean room” that would disarm nuclear reactors and render the free world safe from explosion-by-clutter. No speck of shmutz had the temerity, let alone the death wish, to enter her orbit.
Maybe this is why I rebelled against whatever balabusta gene made it to Ellis Island.
Some time ago, instead of counting my day’s calorie intake to put me to sleep, I tried counting how rich I’d be today had we not been “clutter-free.”
How Rich I’d Be If Mama Wasn’t a Balabusta …

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Brittany Maynard’s Tragic Death
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
A Jewish perspective on assisted suicide.
Brittany Maynard got her last wish. The beautiful 29-year-old who recently appeared on the cover of People magazine and has been featured in hundreds of news articles took her own life last week in order to avoid the slow deterioration and pain of the debilitating illness with which she had been diagnosed.

Rider on the Storm
by Rabbi Chaim Amster
The storm came and suddenly I was being hit with six-foot waves, zero visibility and a sinking kayak.
On Tuesday, July 8, 2014, I decided to join eight other kayakers to practice safety skills and enjoy the serene waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Essex, MD. I was originally planning on staying home to relax because my stress level from work and life were through the roof and I did not have the energy or motivation to go anywhere. Nonetheless, I decided at the last minute to join them, knowing that the waters of the Chesapeake Bay would probably rejuvenate me.
Understanding that a possible storm could be developing, we stayed pretty close to the location we started from, so we could get back quickly if we saw the storm coming. On the Chesapeake Bay, you can always see a storm coming because the visibility on the open water is typically great.

IKEA & Peace in the Middle East 
Why does my acquisition keep collapsing, and where’s the warranty?
by Rabbi Berel Wein         
The Swedish furniture maker IKEA made the headlines last week, even though it was an innocent bystander to the war of words between the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his female Swedish counterpart. Reacting to Sweden's recognition of a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Lieberman caustically said that “the Middle East and the Palestinian – Israeli dispute is slightly more complicated than is assembling an IKEA furniture product.”

My Grandfather and Kristallnacht
by Gav Cohn
My grandfather woke up that morning in Berlin to see the synagogue engulfed in flames.
Kristallnacht marks the beginning of the end, leading to the destruction of European Jewry. It was a nation-wide pogrom of looting and beatings in which synagogues were destroyed and cemeteries desecrated. It was an event that shattered the hopes of a future for Jews in Germany and Austria, those who could then fled. It was a lot more than crystal that was shattered on that night.
I would like to share my family’s story with you.

Living with Courage
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
Alan Lock was going blind. Here's how he fought to get through the darkness.
Alan Lock was slowly going blind. He began his career in the Royal Air Force as a navigation officer and he noticed that towards the ends of his shifts his navigation charts were beginning to look blurry. At first he thought it was just because he was tired, but even after he had slept his eyes continued to ache and shadows began to cloud his vision.

My Son's Bar Mitzvah: My 5 Big Mistakes
by Yvette Alt Miller
Don't sweat the details and make sure you focus on the meaning of the day.
My son’s bar mitzvah was beautiful and we all were so proud, but I realized I made some mistakes. Here are my five biggest blunders and what I’d do differently today.
1. Being detail-obsessed.
For me, it was the centerpieces on the tables during Shabbat lunch. There were plenty of details to organize, but for some reason I got hung up on the flowers. With gorgeous centerpieces, I was sure, the room where we were having Kiddush would look great – without them, I pictured it looking terrible.

Suffering and Consolation: A Father's Perspective
by Rabbi Asher Resnick
My daughter's battle with leukemia taught me how to find consolation even in the midst of terrible pain.
In the midst of teaching a series of classes in San Francisco on the topic of suffering, my wife and I received the diagnosis that our daughter Rivka had leukemia – a cancer of the blood system. This began a very long process of dealing with our daughter's illness, beginning when she was two years old and continuing until she passed away at age 14.

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Quarantining Ebola
A contemporary lesson from the Torah’s application of quarantine.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech         
A sad but fascinating aspect of the Ebola epidemic is a procedure which has an ancient biblical source, albeit for a decidedly different purpose.

In order to protect their population, the Ebola epidemic is forcing concerned countries to quarantine suspected carriers of this fatal disease. To the question of whether the government can confine people to what is basically house arrest without due process, the law agrees that both states and the federal government have the legal authority to isolate people in their homes or at other locations if they pose a substantial danger to public health.
Historians tell us that the practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect European coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This procedure, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days.
But its source is much older. In fact it comes from the book of Leviticus. Long before the world knew anything of germs nor understood the concept of sickness being transmitted from person to person, the Torah established rules for the separation of the healthy from the infected. Those afflicted with what the biblical text called metzora were to be sent outside of the camp, isolated from human contact, until diagnosed well enough to return.
Of course the quarantine of the metzora had nothing to do with preventing the spread of physical contamination. Jewish commentators are agreed that the word metzora, almost always incorrectly translated as “leprous,” was used to designate an entirely different disease – not a physical failing but an ethical corrosion, a disease not of the body but one of the spirit.
A metzora was literally a motzi ra – someone who put forth evil: a slanderer, a gossiper, a spreader of malicious rumors and accusations. His sin was social; that is why his punishment was to be removed from society. His speech caused harm to innocents; that is why he needed to be isolated. His words caused lasting wounds; that is why the Kohen (priest), in his role as spiritual doctor, removed him from the opportunity to cause further harm to others by sending him outside of the camp and separating him from all those he could ethically contaminate.
It was an amazing concept that took the idea of infection far beyond the province of modern medicine. In the very first instance of the Torah giving warning of disease transmission, it chose to stress the pollution of the soul above the plagues of the body. Yet in spite of its different focus it opened the gate to the consideration of isolation as a means of protecting the pure from the impure, the healthy from the ailing, and the potential victims from the “carriers” of the tainted.
Some academics have even suggested that the reason for the choice of 40 days for quarantining was adopted to reflect the duration of major biblical events such as the great flood as well as Moses’ stay on Mt. Sinai. (Foundations of public health: history and development. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health; 2001).
By acknowledging the biblical source of quarantine in its original context, we can perhaps draw an important lesson from our present fixation with the threat of Ebola. Ebola is indeed deadly. It requires the utmost effort on our part to eliminate it. It justifies quarantine and isolation to prevent its spread. Yet long before the Torah dealt with the fears for our physical health it demanded we be concerned with isolating and quarantining the deadly contagion caused by the cruelty of words coming from our mouths and evil talk given voice by our lips.
Indeed how much more relevant has this become in our day of the internet, the tweet and the twitter, Facebook and the smart phones that have turned gossip and slander into the most voraciously consumed texts of our time.
For our age there is no greater wisdom than the Talmudic proverb that “Slander slays three persons: the speaker, the spoken to, and the one spoken of.”

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People Can Change
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
How to access the transformational power of Yom Kippur.
Can people change?
After breaking so many resolutions, encountering the same bad habits and mistakes each and every year, it is understandable that deep down many people don’t believe they can really change.
Understandable, but wrong. And damaging. That attitude undermines our confidence and sabotages our efforts at teshuva, repentance, even before we start.

Yom Kippur and the Secret to a Happy Life
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The connection between envy and the holiest day of the year.
Do you want to know the secret for having a happy life?
Strangely enough, we can derive the answer from Yom Kippur, the day that seems to be dedicated to depriving ourselves of pleasure. But to really understand it we have to grasp the deeper purpose of this last of the 10 days of repentance.

Midnight in the Old City
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
What draws tens of thousands of Jews, night after night, to the midnight Selichot service?
Tens of thousands of Jews from all over Israel, most of them not religious, come to the Old City of Jerusalem, night after night at this time of year. What draws them? Not a rock concert, nor a massive sale, nor a political demonstration. They come to participate in “Selichot,” penitential prayers appealing for God’s forgiveness.

The Power to Change the World
by Rabbi Yonason Goldson
Don't miss your opportunity for greatness.
The collective effort of bystanders saved three lives due to one man who convinced them to act.

Sticking to Your Resolution
by Emuna Braverman
Just because I did it imperfectly today is not a reason to give up the fight.
Okay, I did the preparation. I did the introspection. I figured out what to work on. I made a decision (not a hard and fast commitment but a decision). And here it is, the day after Rosh Hashanah and it’s hard to put it into practice. Am I a failure already? Without being too personally revealing, my resolution involved engaging in certain specific spiritually-related tasks before beginning all the other more mundane chores of my day. But my morning was like “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” mommy-style.

Video: Living for Your Résumé ... or Your Eulogy
by David Brooks and TED Talks
Can we balance our drive for success with our drive for meaning and virtue?
Within each of us are two selves: the self who craves success, who builds a résumé, and the self who seeks connection, community, love – the values that make for a great eulogy. Can we balance these two selves? Based on Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik’s The Lonely Man of Faith.

Video: Yom Kippur: Coming Clean
by Charlie Harary
Try your best, and God takes you all the way.

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A Vision in AuschwitzA Vision in Auschwitz
Walking to the crematorium, she suddenly saw her mother from whom she was separated weeks earlier.
by Hindy Rozenberg, as told to Yitta Halberstam         

Miriam Perlstein was one of eight siblings who survived Auschwitz. It was so unusual for a family of eight – seven sisters and one brother – to emerge intact from the notorious death camp that when they landed on Ellis Island after the War, they became a media sensation. Repeatedly photographed and interviewed, they were besieged by reporters who wanted to know: How was this possible? What made you so unique? Practically everyone else’s family was decimated. Most of the survivors who limped into “The New World” had lost parents, children, spouses, siblings. But for an entire family of eight to have survived and found each other! How could it happen?
“Miracles,” the siblings answered patiently to everyone who asked.
And it was true. Miracles had abounded in all of their lives during their incarceration at Auschwitz, but Miriam’s, they agreed, was vastly different from those experienced by Esther, Faigy, Sima, Yitu, Monci, Binyamin, and Leishu. While their miracles fell under the realm of what could be called the rational, Miriam’s belonged to a different category altogether.

Miriam had been directed to join the column of prisoners marching slowly towards the crematorium that would turn them into ash

Several weeks after her arrival at Auschwitz – after having survived several “selections” and having kept death at bay – sixteen-year-old Miriam was suddenly pulled out of the row of prisoners lining up for “roll call” one morning, and transported to a separate section of the camp where a different procession was in place. Perhaps something about Miriam’s demeanor that day had displeased the Nazi soldier whose gaze had settled upon her, or perhaps there was simply a quota to fill. For whatever random reason that no one could ever explain (and was there an explanation, after all, for the Nazis’ haphazard and merciless decrees?) Miriam had been directed to join the column of prisoners marching slowly towards the crematorium that would turn them into ash.

The Ray Rice Video
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
We are all caught on tape. A timely Rosh Hashanah lesson.

5 Inspiring Ways to Start the New Year
by Yvette Alt Miller
Spiritual growth based on scientific research.

Video: The Gaza War in 5 Minutes
by JerusalemU.org
Col. Richard Kemp defends Israel's actions in the Gaza War.

Video: Think Ahead First
by Rabbi Tzvi Sytner
If you could change anything this upcoming new year, what would it be?

Uniting Out of Love, Not Hate
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
How to free ourselves from the burden of isolation and anti-Semitism.

Am I a Grinch?
by Emuna Braverman
I don't want to strike up personal conversation with the salesperson.
At the risk of seeming contrary, after writing last week’s blog on the importance of courtesy and decency, I’m about to advocate the opposite. Actually I’m not really coming out in favor of rudeness but I am wondering if there’s such a thing as too much friendliness.

Video: Take The Un-Selfie Challenge
by Kurt Stein
No selfies until after Yom Kippur! Spread the word.

The Death of Klinghoffer Controversy
by Yvette Alt Miller
It is a disgrace that The New York Metropolitan Opera insists on performing this offensive, anti-Semitic work.

Video: Why I Think This World Should End
by Prince Ea
A musical plea to meet anger with sympathy, hatred with compassion, cruelty with kindness.

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Joan Rivers: Can We Talk?
She used her acerbic wit to defend Israel and the Jewish people.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund         
On June 8, 1933 a little girl, Joan Alexandra Molinsky, was born. Her parents, Beatrice and Meyer, were Russian Jewish immigrants who raised their two daughters originally in Brooklyn before settling in Larchmont, New York. Joan graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Barnard College in 1954 and before entering show business, she worked as a tour guide at Rockefeller Center, as a writer at an advertising agency and as a fashion consultant at Bond Clothing Store. She changed her name to Joan Rivers when she entered the acting world, and in February 1983, she became the first female comedian to ever perform at Carnegie Hall. She became famous for her direct sense of humor and for her insistence in "telling it like it is."

Though Joan was not an observant Jew, she was a member of Temple Emanuel in New York and often stated publicly that she "loved Israel." In the middle of Operation Protective Edge this past summer Joan told the media: "Let me just tell you, if New Jersey were firing rockets into New York, we would wipe them out. And Palestinians, you cannot throw rockets and expect people not to defend themselves. Don't you dare put weapon stashes in private homes. They started it. You're all insane. How do I know? Because I have been over there. That's how I know. And I wish the world would know. And BBC should be ashamed of themselves and CNN should be ashamed of themselves and everybody stop it already."
Joan Rivers -- GOES OFF on Epic Israel/Palestine Rant

When Joan died on Thursday afternoon at the age of 81, from a series of cardiac complications following a routine surgery, the Jewish people lost one of our most outspoken and unapologetic voices. We may not have appreciated all of Joan's jokes or her satirical humor style, but we can learn from her courage and strength. Here are ten of her quotes that teach us how to follow our own dreams and stand up for who we are:
1. Appreciate the moment. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery, today is God's gift, that's why we call it the present."
2. Be grateful. "I enjoy life when things are happening. I don't care if it's good things or bad things. That means you're alive. Things are happening."
3. Examine your beliefs. "Don't follow any advice, no matter how good, until you feel as deeply in your spirit as you think in your mind that the counsel is wise."
4. Speak up. "I succeeded by saying what everyone else was thinking."
5. Learn to smile. "Life is very tough. If you don't laugh, it's tough."
6. Be true to yourself. "I'm in nobody's circle, I've always been an outsider."
7. Pursue your dreams even when the world tries to take them away. "What are people going to do? Fire me? I've been fired before. Not book me? I've been out of work before. I don't care."
8. Face your fears. "I lived to be on stage and I'm terrified. Terrified before every show."
9. Use every opportunity. "I was smart enough to go through any door that opened."
10. Have confidence in your work. "You can find my book at your favorite bookstore and if it isn't there find a new favorite."
But the greatest legacy that Joan Rivers left the world is her famous expression: “Can we talk?” Joan was a person who lived her life as a connector, as someone who wanted to reach audiences, small and large and share ideas and struggles with others. In 1997, Joan published a candid book describing her struggle with bulimia after her husband’s death. And despite undergoing multiple plastic surgeries, Joan was open about her continuing challenges with her self- image culminating in her bestselling book “I Hate Everyone Starting with Me.”

Speech helps us to get out of our self-absorption and self-contained world. We do not need to face our struggles alone. Can we talk? Can we share our struggles and our triumphs with each other? Can we be proud of who we are and where we come from? Can we stand up for what we believe in? Can we talk? Can we admit that we are afraid and show up anyway? Can we talk? Can we learn to smile even when life is tough? Can we remember how to laugh with each other even when we see things differently?
Can we take this precious lesson from Joan Rivers and use it to change our own lives? To speak up when we need to. To face our fears. To share our struggles. To reach out to the world and to each other even when it seems like no one is listening.
Is there someone that you need to speak to? Is there something you have been wanting to share? Is there a conversation you know you need to have, but you can’t seem to build up enough courage? Try Joan’s three words: "Can we talk?" Sometimes that is all you need to say.
Thank you, Joan for teaching us how to speak up and how to share our struggles with each other. And for using your talents for defending Israel and the Jewish people.
READ MORE http://www.aish.com/ci/a/Joan-Rivers-Can-We-Talk.html

Ban Ki-moon, Why Are You Silent?
by Gila and Doron Tragerman
A letter by Daniel Tragerman's parents to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Text of a letter sent by Gila and Doron Tregerman, parents of 4.5 year-old Daniel, who was killed during a mortar attack on his kibbutz, to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
For UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon
Dear Sir,
My name is Gila, I am an Israeli citizen, and I am a resident of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, near the border with Gaza.
A week ago, we lost our eldest son, Daniel 4.5 years old, when he was killed by a mortar shell fired from Gaza into Israel.
I address you after your announcement to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to establish an international investigation Committee to investigate "Israel's crime" in the recent fighting in Gaza.
About us: Doron and I were married five years ago and we have three amazing kids: Daniel 4.5 yrs, Yoval 3.5 yrs and Uri 4 months old. We were a happy family. We lived in Kibbutz Nahal Oz near Gaza, and found ourselves constantly debating whether not to abandon Nahal Oz and move to another location, quieter, safer, far from rocket fire from Gaza, and far away from the alarms.
Then came the threat of terrorist tunnels, which Hamas members dug from Gaza to Israel under our home to hurt us. At night we heard noises and voices digging beneath us. Thus, in the last six months our children slept with the window closed and locked. We were afraid that they will be kidnapped from us.
Can you imagine our life, Mr. Secretary-General? How do you live in constant fear of mortar shell and terrorists emerging from tunnels?
Then, last Friday [August 22], Daniel was killed. All the precautions we had taken failed. Daniel, 4.5 yrs old, was killed in our House, while playing with Yoval in a tent built indoors and not outside, because it's dangerous. He was killed from a mortar shell that was shot by terrorists from Gaza, he died in our hands. Daniel died in front of his little sister and his best friend Yoval, 3.5 years old; he died in front of Uri, only four months old and right before our eyes, his mother and father.

We failed. We couldn't protect our beautiful and talented baby. Daniel was killed from a mortar shell that was fired by Hamas members from an elementary school for boys in Gaza City. It wasn't a stray shell. It wasn't accidental death. From that school terrorists fired deliberately at the kibbutz to murder civilians — children, women, old people. This time, they also achieved their goal. Daniel was killed almost immediately. Daniel's father, Doron, covered him with a blanket while crying bitterly and we escaped from home with two small children, leaving our precious son behind, in order to protect them from bombings that continued to explode around the house. Yoval, Daniel's sister, saw the terrifying sight and understood that something terrible happened.
It is unbearable to watch that little child staring at the wall, in overwhelming silence with teardrops from her eyes.
This week, during the "shiv'ah"(Jewish ritual of mourning) at Doron's parents home, we heard of your decision to appoint an international investigation committee to investigate "Israel's crime" during the recent fighting in Gaza. You informed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu half an hour after our Daniel was killed, perhaps while he was lying dead in our living room, covered in a blanket.
The investigation committee will examine the "crimes of Israel" during the fighting.
The investigation committee is not asked to investigate how terrorists shoot out of U.N buildings and schools.
The committee is not asked to investigate how inside buildings of the United Nations and in hospitals in Gaza terrorist infrastructure flourishes and is maintained over time, or how from these places terrorists depart for activity aimed against innocent people.
It won’t investigate how Hamas abuses the Palestinian people, and how its members force residents of Gaza, even children, to dig tunnels aimed only for terrorism against Israel.
It won’t investigate how after these excavations, carried out under duress and in slave-like conditions, the Hamas murdered the diggers, even the children, just to be sure they won't be able to pass information to Israel.
Why are you silent? Does your silence indicate consent with the abuse of the Palestinian people and the Israeli people?
The answers to these questions will remain unknown.
And I want to ask you, Sir:
Do you and the U.N not see the links that make up the global terrorism picture?
The terrorists units, fully equipped and full of hatred that attacked us in our homes, are the same units that kidnapped 43 UN observers in Syria; They are the same units that decapitated innocent people in Syria and Iraq; these units crashed aircrafts into crowded buildings in 2001 in New York; these units threaten the essence of democratic life, and life itself, in Europe, in the United States and anywhere on the planet.
Let me tell you some more about the history of our lives here, on the border with Gaza. My husband's parents, Doron, also live near the border fence and three and a half years ago a Qassam rocket exploded and destroyed their home.
Up until a few years ago they had good relations with the residents of Gaza. They hired workers from Gaza to work in their fields and Paulina, Daniel's grandmother, drove them home – to Rafah, every evening after work. They used to invite each other for weddings and other celebrations and often traveled to Rafah or Gaza to enjoy life at cafes there.
All that ended when Hamas rose to power and ordered the civilians who worked in Israel to kill their Israeli employers; otherwise, Hamas would hurt their families. Daniel's grandparents used to tell us this, longing and hoping that the good proximity will resume. They even found ways to maintain contact with their friends from Gaza during the mortar shelling. Like the parents of Doron and their friends from Gaza, we want to live in good proximity, in peace and security. It is our hope that our neighbors, the people of Gaza, will be able to live peacefully in their homes and build and develop their beautiful country. We believe that the vast majority of the people on this planet do not want to see the sights of blood, tears and fire of the radical Islam movement, but to live peacefully, enjoy kid's laughter, wait for a better tomorrow.
We do not seek the people responsible for our Daniel's death.
We only wish your response and your voice against this crime and the crime Hamas has committed against their own people.
Gila and Doron Tragerman
Parents of Daniel (RIP), Yoval and Ori

Identifying Your Life's Mission
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
This Rosh Hashanah, electrify your life with purpose.

Why They Were Beheaded
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
The profound meaning of this gruesome death.
Daniel Pearl, James Foley, Steven Sotloff all shared a gruesome death that has become the signature murder carried out by Islamic fanatics. It is the kind of killing that Isis and its followers promise to inflict upon Americans and all other infidels around the world.
And it is the kind of butchery that creates perhaps the most primal visceral response of disgust, of fear, and of horror.
Murder by any means is a crime beyond compare. Yet beheading seems to comprise a category all of its own. We shudder as we contemplate it. Our mind cannot absorb its reality. In the most powerful sense of all we cannot grasp a divide between the self-awareness of our heads as distinct from the responsiveness and wholeness of our bodies.
The very thought of beheading is in an ironic way almost enough to make us lose our minds.
Yet that has become the preferred method of execution by the contemporary enemies of civilization. And I believe there is a profound subconscious motive, aside from the obvious desire to create dread, which guides today’s terrorists to choose decapitation.
Human beings, we are told in the Bible, are created in the image of God. It is not in our physical appearance that we share a likeness to our Creator. It is in our minds that we share of his wisdom, intuit his greatness, and sense his sanctity. That is why our heads are given the task to direct messages to the rest of our bodies. From there come the signals that oversee all of our actions.
No wonder that Jews are commanded to daily bind tefillin – phylacteries - “for a sign upon their hands and for frontlets between their eyes.” There are two components to this mitzvah, two symbolic boxes to serve as reminders of our link with God and our need to live lives of holiness. One box is placed on our hand to symbolize that we dedicate our deeds to God. The other is on our head, over the seat of our intellectual activity. Its message is to make clear that we understand ultimate sovereignty of our actions comes from the free willed decisions of our minds, keys to our shared image with our Creator.
Head and body linked define our spiritual identity.
There is a fascinating story in the Talmud which at first glance seems almost incomprehensible. It tells us of a beheading that took place in biblical times at the time of the burial of our patriarch Jacob.
Jacob’s body was brought to Hebron, to the Cave of the Patriarchs, Me'arat Ha'machpelah. There were eight burial plots in the cave; Adam, Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca and Leah were already buried there, leaving only a single available grave. Esau, Jacob’s twin and older brother, acknowledged that he had sold his birthright to Jacob but maintained that he hadn’t given up his right to be buried in the Cave and with armed force prevented his brother’s burial from proceeding. Jacob’s children sent fleet-footed Naphtali back to Egypt to bring the proof of ownership.
While all this was going on, Chushim, the deaf son of Dan, asked what the commotion was all about, and was incensed to learn that Esau had halted the funeral of his revered grandfather. With a mighty blow of his sword, Chushim severed Esau’s head, which rolled into the Cave of Machpelah and came to rest in Isaac’s lap, where it remains to this day. Thus it came to pass that “Esau’s head lies in the bosom of Isaac.”
So ends the story. And so we are told that to this day the holiest tomb of our people contains not just the remains of eight holy ancestors but the head of one other, held close to the bosom of his father.
What is the meaning of this strange tale?
Esau was a villain. Of course he knew better. He was the son of Isaac. As Jacob’s twin, he assuredly had the same potential for spiritual greatness. But Esau followed a different path. His life was that of a hunter and hedonist. Between head and body, he chose the latter as guide for his behavior.
His body did not deserve to be buried in a place of holiness. It would not be accorded this honor. But his head, his link with the image of God and blessed with the potential for greatness, was granted the gift of internment together with his father who loved him not for what he was but for all that he might have become.
Head and body together unite us in thought and deed. Separating them conveys a statement of profound meaning; its intent is to reject the power of mind. It seeks to destroy the influence of the one divine gift that is the distinctive feature of civilized mankind. Its mission is literally to make human beings mindless, barbarians motivated solely by bodily desires.
That is why today’s battle against the Islamic savages videotaping their murders by decapitation is a war that must be waged if civilization is to survive.
Published: September 6, 2014

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Post  Admin on Wed 27 Aug 2014, 7:11 pm

ISIS, Jim Foley & Confronting Evil
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
It's not enough to condemn evil; it must be confronted and conquered.
In the aftermath of the Holocaust, Romain Gary, in his powerful masterpiece The Dance of Genghis Khan, summed up civilization this way: “The ancient Simbas, a primitive tribe of cruel cannibals boiled their victims and then consumed them. The modern day Germans, heirs to thousands of years of culture and civilization, turn their murdered victims into soap. This, this passion for cleanliness – that is civilization.”
Last week James Foley, an American journalist, was brutally and sadistically beheaded with a 6 inch knife by a masked terrorist with an educated British accent, and a video of the gruesome murder was immediately available for viewing around the world on YouTube. This, this technological wonder that allows for the virus of violence to spread its message across the globe in an instant – this is what is fast becoming the sign of 21st century civilization.

Not to worry, says the President of the United States in his response to but the latest of horrors emanating from ISIS, the jihadist Islamic state in Iraq. He is well aware of the killing of innocents, the genocide of those with different beliefs, the abduction of women and children subjected to torture, rape and slavery. He knows, he tells us, that ISIS has no place in the 21st century. But he reassures us that based on his understanding of history “people like ISIS will ultimately fail.”
The reason? Pres. Obama explained, “They fail because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.”
But that is not what both history as well as the Bible have taught us.

The good will not triumph over evil simply because an overwhelming majority of humanity are appalled by it
Yes, in many ways history has moved forward. There are civilized societies that value human life and reject racism and prejudice. But the future of mankind has not been secured. There is still far too much evil for anyone to feel complacent. And the one thing we need desperately to recognize is that the good will not triumph over evil simply because an overwhelming majority of humanity are appalled by it.
Nazi Germany had a vision for world supremacy. It included the genocide of an entire people, the subjugation of all other nations and cultures, as well as the eventual extermination of non-Aryans. At first the scope of its horrific intentions went unrecognized by a world which couldn’t imagine the reality of evil of this magnitude – even when its author didn’t hesitate to make clear his goals and his “final solution.” Hitler published his manifesto, Mein Kampf, and the civilized world was appalled. But it did nothing. The Chamberlains preached passive acceptance of evil for the sake of peace. The world continued to be appalled as the Nazis built their concentration camps and crematoria. Yet moral outrage accomplished nothing.
Civilization and the values of civilized society survived to this day, at least to the extent that they did, is for one reason only. The United States and its allies thankfully realized that being appalled isn’t sufficient response to the kind of evil which threatens the very justification for the continued existence of human kind.
What saved the world was “the greatest generation” that took to heart a biblical truth: evil must not just be condemned – it must be confronted and conquered.

A Biblical Paradigm
Shortly after the children of Israel acquired their identity as a nation and found deliverance from the bondage of Egypt at the Red Sea, they were attacked by a people known as the Amalekites. It was then, at that moment, they were shown the divinely approved response required of them. “And Moses said to Joshua choose for us men and go out and fight against the Amalekites.” Only then Moses, Aaron and Hur ascended a hill overlooking the battle and prayed to God for victory.

When Joshua and his soldiers prevailed, God then commanded Moses to write this down in an everlasting book for a memorial. The Amalekites became a paradigm for evildoers in every generation and the response in the recorded story in the Torah was meant as a message for all time. Pray, and do not become the victim of evil by refusing to challenge and fight it.
There are Amalekites in every generation. Jews in particular have been very familiar with them. And history has taught us, in the immortal words of Ecclesiastes, that “there is a time for peace and a time for war.”
Speaking at a recent Holocaust commemoration this past August, at Platform 17 at the Holocaust Memorial Site in Berlin, Yair Lapid, the Israeli Minister of finance, wondered “Why didn’t they fight? That is the question that haunts me. That is the question that the Jewish people have struggled with since the last train left for Auschwitz. And the answer – the only answer – is that they didn’t believe in the totality of evil.”

We can only pray that the question asked by Lapid won’t be asked years from now as historians struggle to understand the perilous decline of the West and its values in the face of Islamic barbarism. Why didn’t they fight? Why did America, once the most powerful country in the world and the torchbearer of democratic ideals stand back and feel content to merely mouth its appalled disapproval as modern day Amalekites destroyed the very fabric of civilization.

As Bernard Lewis was perceptive enough to point out years ago, what we are involved in today is a veritable “clash of civilizations and rearrangement of world orders.” In an astounding echo of the biblical choice offered to the Jewish people in the book of Deuteronomy, we are now facing the same choice verbalized by Moses: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, so that you may live, you and your seed” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

The butchery of James Foley must spark more than moral outrage. It needs to become the clarifying moment for all those committed to the survival of the sanctity of life over the cult of death. It needs to alert us to the reality of an evil that we dared not imagine and that in our naïveté we still continue to refuse to acknowledge.
Most important of all it requires of us to recognize that we are far beyond a time for mere condemnation. We must be much more than appalled. We must come face-to-face with evil and destroy it if we do not wish to be guilty of suicide.
Published: August 24, 2014

Why Jews Are Worried
The renowned historian on the rising anti-Semitism in Europe.
by Professor Deborah Lipstadt         
An old Jewish joke goes like this: “What’s the definition of a Jewish telegram? ‘Start worrying. Details to follow.’ ”

I am often asked by fellow Jews about contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe. “Is this just like 1939? Are we on the cusp of another Holocaust?” Until now, my answer has been an unequivocal “no.” I have criticized community leaders who, either out of genuine concern or to advance their own purposes, use Holocaust analogies to describe contemporary conditions. These claims are ahistorical. They overstate what is going on now and completely understate the situation in 1939.

The differences between then and now are legion. When there is an outbreak of anti-Semitism today, officials condemn it. This is light-years away from the 1930s and 1940s, when governments were not only silent but complicit. Memory also distinguishes the present from previous events. Now, in contrast to the 1930s, we know matters can escalate. Jews today are resolute in their determination: “Never again.”

And despite all this I wonder if I am too sanguine. Last month, pro-Gaza protesters on Kurfürstendamm, the legendary avenue in Berlin, chanted, “Jews, Jews, cowardly swine.” Demonstrators in Dortmund and Frankfurt chanted, “Hamas, Hamas; Jews to the gas!” And a pro-Hamas marcher in Berlin broke away from the crowd and assaulted an older man who was quietly standing on a corner holding an Israeli flag.

On the eve of Bastille Day, a group of Parisian Jews were trapped in a synagogue by pro-Palestinian rioters and had to be rescued by the police. A few weeks ago signs were posted in Rome urging a boycott of 50 Jewish-owned businesses. In central London last week, anti-Israel protesters targeted a Sainsbury’s grocery, and the manager reflexively pulled kosher products off the shelves. (The supermarket chain later apologized.)

It would be simple to link all this outrage to events in Gaza. But this trend has been evident for a while. In March 2012, four people were killed at a Jewish day school in Toulouse, France. (Last month, a Jewish community center there was firebombed.) In December 2012, Israeli officials warned Jewish men who wanted to visit synagogues in Denmark not to don their skullcaps until they were inside the building. It is increasingly common for Jewish tourists in Western Europe to avoid carrying anything that might distinguish them as such. A shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels in May, a month before the latest Gaza conflict began, killed four people.

I am unpersuaded by those who try to dismiss what is happening as “just rhetoric.” It is language, after all, that’s at the heart of the ubiquitous slippage from anger at Israeli military action to hatred of Jews.

Nor am I comforted by the explanation that these actions are being taken by “disgruntled Muslim youth.” (By one estimate, 95 percent of anti-Semitic actions in France are committed by youths of Arab or African descent.) Many of these Muslims were born in Europe, and many of those who weren’t are the parents of a new generation of Europeans.

In the past century a distinct strain of Muslim anti-Semitism has emerged.

It’s true that this is not the anti-Semitism of the 1930s, which came from the right and was rooted in longstanding Christian views that demonized the Jews. Traditionally, Islam did not treat Jews this way. But in the past century a distinct strain of Muslim anti-Semitism has emerged. Built on a foundation of antipathy toward non-Muslims, it mixes Christian anti-Semitism — imported to the Middle East by European missionaries — and a more leftist, secular form of anti-Semitism. It is evident in political cartoons, editorials, television shows and newspaper articles.

The Hamas charter is an example. It contains references to “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a notorious forgery created by Russian czarist police officers in 1903 and later used as Nazi propaganda. The charter accuses Jews of relying on secret societies to foment global economic and political disasters. It calls on adherents to prepare for “the next round with the Jews, the merchants of war.”

The rationales — “it’s just rhetoric,” “it’s just Muslims” — bother me almost as much as the outrages. Instead of explaining away these actions, cultural, religious and academic leaders in all the countries where these events have occurred should be shaken to the core, not just about the safety of their Jewish neighbors, but about the future of the seemingly liberal, enlightened societies they belong to. Yet when a Hamas spokesman recently stood by his statement that Jews used the blood of non-Jewish children for their matzos — one of the oldest anti-Semitic canards around — European elites were largely silent.

Seventy years after the Holocaust, many Jews in Europe no longer feel safe. Hiring an armed guard to protect people coming for weekly prayer is not the action of a secure people. In too many cities worldwide, directions to the local synagogue conclude with, “You will recognize it by the police car in front of the building.” France has seen a sharp rise in the number of Jews who have decided to emigrate (though the figures are still fairly small).
The telegram has arrived. Jews are worrying. It is time for those who value a free, democratic, open, multicultural and enlightened society to do so, too. This is not another Holocaust, but it’s bad enough.
This op-ed originally appeared in The New York Times.
Published: August 24, 201

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Aug 2014, 12:15 pm

What Do I Know?
When not knowing is true wisdom.
by Sara Yoheved Rigler         
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In the Calcutta orphanage where I worked in the 1980s, the girls used an expression that challenged my worldview. When I would ask a simple question, such as, “Where’s Bhavani?” or “What time is Didi coming back?” they would usually answer with two Bengali words: Ki jani? Rather than a specific, “I don’t know,” ki jani is a more sweeping, “What do I know?” It’s a global confession, an existential declaration of the sheer inability of mere mortals to know.

In the Western world where I was raised, knowledge was the ultimate value. Textbook knowledge got you into a good college or grad school. Knowledge of current events and national politics won you the approbation, “well-informed.” Even knowledge of trivialities, such as where Babe Ruth was born or what year Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo, became a passion, spawning a million-dollar trivia industry. During my twenties, I used to devour Newsweek and Time, lest someone at a cocktail party would ask me about some recondite political figure and I would have to publicly confess to the cardinal sin of not knowing. (Alas, in my life I was invited to only one cocktail party, and no one asked me anything, not even my name.) Not knowing was an embarrassment, a public pillory to be avoided at all costs. If I didn’t know, I would guess. If I couldn’t guess, I would fake it.

Of course, knowledge is one of the important motivators of humanity and has great inherent value. But for many of us, the thirst for knowledge can turn into an alcoholic-like compulsion to know, an inability to accept the insecurity of ignorance. Then we fill in the blanks at any cost, stamping the imprimatur of “truth” on every supposition. The knowledge-addicted mind can turn fantasy into fact, assumptions into character assassination, and conjecture into condemnation.

No wonder I felt challenged every time my Calcutta orphans humbly declared, “Ki jani? — What do I know?”
Related Article: How Can We Be Sure of Anything?

Insufficient Evidence

Reb Shlomo Carlbach was once praying in a South African synagogue. Much to his horror, the cantor appointed for that service was terrible. He could barely carry a tune and garbled the Hebrew words. As Reb Shlomo listened to this affront to his musical sensibilities, he became more and more irritated. How could they let such an incompetent lead the services? he wondered with mounting indignation. He surmised that the man must be a wealthy donor and the synagogue leadership had kowtowed to him by giving him the honor of leading the prayers. What a sacrilege! What a capitulation to the power of money!

After the service, Reb Shlomo complained to shul’s rabbi. He was told that that man had, before the Holocaust, been the most prominent cantor in all of Europe. Hearing of his reputation, the Nazis had deliberately targeted him for torture. They had mangled his tongue with iron instruments and had injured his hearing. The rabbi, in deference to who this cantor had once been and what he had suffered, honored him by asking him to lead the prayers that day.
The Nazis had mangled his tongue with iron instruments and had injured his hearing. The rabbi asked him to lead the prayers that day.

The Nazis had mangled his tongue with iron instruments and had injured his hearing. The rabbi asked him to lead the prayers that day

Reb Shlomo told this story with the anguish of one who has judged harshly — and wrongly. He heard the man’s incompetent singing. What did he know of his past? How could he know the whole story? Ki jani?

Individuals are commanded to give the benefit of the doubt (See Leviticus, 19:15). This means that even if you witness someone doing something wrong, unless the person is a known miscreant, you are obligated to find some favorable interpretation. Often your “not guilty” verdict will be based on “insufficient evidence,” your admission that you don’t know the whole story. Can anyone ever know the whole story?
Here’s how this looks in real time:
You ask your rich friend to sponsor you in a charity marathon, and he offers you a paltry sum. You conclude that he’s stingy, but is it possible that he’s suffered financial reverses that you don’t know about?
Your new supervisor is acting tense, critical, and unfairly demanding. You conclude that she’s cantankerous by nature, but is it possible that she’s going through a divorce that you don’t know about?
Your intelligent child comes home from school with bad grades. You conclude that he’s lazy and isn’t trying, but is it possible that he has a learning disability that you don’t know about?
Your neighbor is neglecting his property. The grass is too long and the garbage is starting to pile up on his side of the fence. You conclude that he is shamefully negligent, but is it possible that his wife was diagnosed with cancer and they are preoccupied with life-and-death matters?

My friend Jen is a 35-year-old widow with four young daughters. She used to rent out the roof of her former apartment for events. The day after she got up from sitting shiva for her husband, her phone rang. When Jen answered, the woman on the other end inquired about renting the roof for a wedding. “I don’t rent out the roof anymore,” Jen said simply, and hung up. A moment later the phone rang again. This time it was the inquirer’s husband, ranting and yelling at Jen for hanging up on his wife. What do we ever know?

All the anger and resentment we feel starts with a negative judgment: s/he is doing something wrong. If we could quell the negative judgment by telling ourselves, “I really don’t know the whole story,” we would save ourselves and others so much grief.
Judging God
The most destructive negative judgments we make are when we judge God. “How could God have let that child die?” “How could God have let the hurricane destroy the home of that wonderful couple?”

Here, more than anywhere else, we are judging with insufficient evidence. As Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller says, we are on page 324 of a 400-page book. All we are able to see is pages 310 through 340. The rest is hidden from us.

The sacrosanct name of God, uttered only on Yom Kippur by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem, can be understood as the condensation of three verbs: He was, He is, He will be. That is, God’s infinitude encompasses all time, from the primordial beginning of time to its ultimate end. Only God knows the intricacies of all our past and future incarnations and how every single action affects every being on the planet. Such mega-ecology is far beyond our ken.
When I gave up the presumption of knowing, I started to learn.

When I started to learn Torah 26 years ago, my insistence on my ability to know was perhaps my greatest obstacle to actually knowing God. My questions – about the Holocaust, the suffering of the innocent – were arrogant demands that the Infinite God fit into the confines of my three-pound brain. My turning point came when Rebbetzin Heller said to me, “This world, olam in Hebrew, comes from the root word meaning ‘hidden.’ God is essentially hidden in this world. No matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know, you will never fully know God.” Then she added, “And would you really believe in a God that was no bigger than your finite mind’s ability to grasp?”

When I gave up the presumption of knowing, on that day I started to learn.
Obvious Conclusions
Alex, at age 39, was intelligent, artsy, sensitive, handsome, and spiritual. No wonder my friend Denise fell for him. I would see them sitting on a bench in the neighborhood square, engrossed in deep conversation. A few months went by. Then, when we were all anticipating that they would announce their engagement, suddenly Alex broke it off. Denise was heart-broken.
I was angry. Denise was kind, generous, and smart, but she had an acne-scarred complexion. Obviously Alex, for all his vaulted spirituality, couldn’t get past the externals. Is his sense of beauty only skin-deep? I protested under my breath. And if he was so turned off by her bad complexion, why did he lead her on?

A few months later my friend Shirley phoned. She told me she was interested in a match with Alex and asked me to speak to him about her. Shirley was pretty, stylish, and spiritual. Like Alex, she had become observant several years before. Thirty-eight years old, Shirley was eager to get married. It sounded to me like a perfect match, so I called Alex. He told me he wasn’t interested in going out with her. “Why?” I insisted. "What are you waiting for?” Alex stonewalled me. I hung up annoyed.
Obviously he wants someone younger, probably much younger, I concluded. But why would a topnotch 25-year-old want to marry Alex? He overrates himself. This is why there are so many wonderful women who never get married. Guys like Alex are always looking for girls half their age.
A couple months later the head of our local Chesed Committee called. She told me that Alex was sick with bronchitis and she asked me to make soup for him. I cooked the soup—grudgingly. If he had married one of my friends, I sputtered to myself, she would be taking care of him instead of the neighborhood women.

During that spring, I sporadically saw Alex, thin, pale, and all wrapped up, sitting on a bench in the sun. Once, I stopped to speak with him. I told him that his problem was that he needed to get married, that the bachelor life obviously did not agree with him, that there were many wonderful women who would be happy to make a home with him. He nodded silently, pursing his mouth, making me feel like a meddlesome neighbor.
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Three months later Alex died of AIDS. What, indeed, did I know?
For the aliyat neshama of my mother, Leah bas Yisrael, on her 20th yahrzeit. She truly embodied the humility of not judging others negatively.

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Post  Admin on Mon 25 Aug 2014, 11:51 am

Higher Standard or Double Standard?
Don’t set a double standard for Israel on norms of war.
by Natan Sharansky         
The pictures of destruction and mourning in Gaza that have filled media around the world for the past several weeks have been very painful and sad to view. One would be hard-pressed to find an Israeli who does not sympathize with the suffering of Gaza’s victims.

Yet there are also few Israelis who feel we are responsible for this suffering. For us, the tragedy of Gaza is inseparable from the tragedy of the entire Middle East. Over the past three years, in countries around our tiny state, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed in the most horrific ways. This wave of terror recognizes no official borders. The only border at which the savagery stops is Israel’s.

Hamas and Hezbollah are doing their best to change this. So what protects us? The United Nations or human rights groups? No. Only the military power of the Israel Defense Forces. In response to our enemies’ relentless campaigns, the army is constantly developing new ways to defend us. One new weapon, Iron Dome, has in the past few weeks protected civilians from almost 3,000 missiles.

But while Israelis have developed missile shields to protect children, Hamas has been using children as shields to protect missiles. This perverse strategy is the brainchild of a society that hails death. For Hamas, using living shields serves the double function of increasing the number of martyrs and galvanizing a free world that values life to pressure Israel to stop fighting.

The sad irony, then, is that while the world can do so little to stop the terror in Syria or Sudan, it can do a lot to press Israel to stop defending itself. We ask ourselves, is this hypocrisy? Is this a betrayal by the free world whose values we are defending? And in response, Israel hears from the international community, “Of course you are judged differently. You insist that you are part of the free world, so we hold you to a higher standard than neighboring countries, where wanton destruction of human life is the norm.”

I strongly agree with this argument.

Israel, like any other free country, should be held to a higher moral standard than its unfree neighbors. As the war against terror becomes increasingly global, it is imperative that all free countries develop and uphold common norms in our military conduct against armies of terror. Israel, with its decades-long experience, can contribute much to this effort.

For example, 12 years ago, during the Second Intifada, I was a member of the Israeli security cabinet when the army first decided to use aviation to target terrorist leaders. In nearly every cabinet meeting, Israel’s attorney general insisted that our targets must be chosen not on the basis of crimes already committed, but solely in light of proof that they were planning new terrorist acts. In other words, no matter how much death and destruction someone had caused, a targeted killing could be justified only by documented intentions to carry out another attack. A serious case had to be prepared for each assassination attempt, and therefore the number of such operations could be counted on one hand. Now that targeted killings are practically the norm – when the United States uses drones for this purpose all over the world – I would hope others are as scrupulous as Israel has been.

Around the same time, we in the cabinet also discussed the importance of using weapons that minimize civilian deaths, even if this meant decreasing an operation’s chance of success. Many operations were modified or canceled because of this. Today, Israel goes even further. Before the IDF bombs an area in Gaza, residents are alerted by radio, e-mail, phone and text message telling them to leave. The Israeli army also uses small warning missiles to let civilians – that a real missile will soon be fired. Do other free countries go to similar lengths?

In 1999, when NATO launched its offensive against the criminal Milosevic regime in Yugoslavia, hundreds of civilians were killed in the bombings. Many more civilians were killed when U.S. warplanes hunted down Saddam Hussein’s family and supporters, and later al-Qaeda terrorists. They were killed in cafes, cinemas and even a wedding procession.

Let me be clear. I believe that it was the free world’s obligation to fight against the Milosevic regime, which carried out ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe. I believe it is the obligation of the United States and free countries to lead an uncompromising struggle against terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. But the obligation of the IDF to protect Israeli citizens from thousands of missiles and from underground terrorist infiltrations is just as sacred. In view of the developing global war between the free world and terror, it is time that leading military experts from Israel, the United States, Britain and other countries, along with international lawyers and politicians, compare their experiences and agree about the standards according to which the free world can defend itself.

But once these standards are accepted, they should be applied to every free country. Otherwise, stop calling it a higher standard and call it by its real name: a double standard.
This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post.

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Post  Admin on Sun 17 Aug 2014, 8:57 pm

The Muslim Spy who Became a Jew
Avraham Sinai was a Hezbollah informant who risked his life for Israel.
by Avraham Sinai, as told to Chananya Bleich         
I grew up in a non-religious Muslim home in a small village in Lebanon. My family supported the Western-oriented Lebanese government. But the Beirut government was very weak, and in reality, Palestinian terrorists ruled the area. They made sure to harass and punish those of us in various ways because of our political opinions.
In 1982, the Israeli army came to Lebanon and life improved. Even before they arrived, I admired Israel. I could see the hills of northern Israel from Lebanon and wished I could go there. It seemed so peaceful. Not like Lebanon. Our lives before the Israelis came were filled with terror. The Israelis made our lives better in so many ways. The Israeli Army restored order. Suddenly everyone had a job, money, a good life and peace.

Of course, it was to their advantage as well. Anyone who wanted to live in peace accepted the Israeli presence gladly. There is a saying in Arabic: “If your neighbor is happy, then you are happy as well.”

In the eyes of the terrorists I was a traitor and a spy.

Over time, I bonded with the Israeli soldiers. I connected with them. They were good to us and I wanted to return the favor. If I saw terrorist activity, I would tell the soldiers, so basically you could say I became an informant. Yes, in the eyes of the terrorists I was a traitor and a spy. But I wanted to have a quiet village, a normal life. The terrorists’ activities were making life difficult for us, the local people. I wanted to help get rid of them.

In 1983, Hezbollah began staging more attacks against Israel, just like Hamas is doing now. Actually Hezbollah terrorists are the same Palestinians, they just changed their name to Hezbollah in order to get Shiite support, as the area has a Shiite majority. My family is Shiite, but we continued to reject the radicals and Hezbollah began harassing my family more and more, because they knew what we thought of them. They didn’t trust us.


In 1985, Hezbollah actually tried to kill my entire family, so we fled to a town in southern Lebanon, which was near the Israeli army base that controlled the area. By day the men in our family would tend to business back in our village but at night they’d return to the safety of the south. Until one day Hezbollah ambushed us in our house. My father and I and two of my brothers were kidnapped. We were locked in an underground bunker. We were held there for a whole year. It was very difficult. They tortured me often, cut me with knives, and the worst was when they burned my nine-month-old baby son in front of my eyes. You cannot imagine the suffering I went through there.

During that year, I had lots of time to reflect. I had grown up in a non-religious Muslim home; I never went to the mosque. We didn’t even have a mosque in the village. Growing up, I never read the Koran, so I didn’t know too much about the religion. In the bunker, I found a Koran, and I started to read it. I wanted to know what Hezbollah believed. Maybe they were right and I was ignorant. To my surprise I discovered that what they preached is not in the Koran at all.

The Koran makes no mention of martyrdom or warring against the Jews. That is all the invention of the terrorist extremists. In fact, according to Islam, someone who commits suicide is not permitted to be buried in a Muslim cemetery. All the Islamic violence is for political reasons, when they started to mix religion and politics. There is nothing written about fighting. What I did find, in the opening chapters, were all these remarkable stories about the Jewish patriarchs, about the Exodus from Egypt, about the giving of the Torah. [The Koran incorporates much of the Chumash, with some specific changes according to Islamic belief.] I started to believe that God was watching over me and didn’t want me to die. My life was in His hands.

I decided to try to join the inner circle of Hezbollah in the hope to help Israel

After a year in the bunker, our captors released us believing that we had all become true believers in Hezbollah’s cause. The first thing I did was go to the mosque, but when I heard the sheik say: ‘If you commit suicide and become a shaheed [martyr] you will be escorted over a river of fire and go to heaven.’ I thought to myself: If everything is so good there, why doesn’t the sheikh go himself? Besides, I had now read the Koran and knew that what he was saying was baseless. After my new realizations while imprisoned, I knew I would not follow this sheikh’s exhortation. I decided to do something else: I would try to join the inner circle of Hezbollah, in the hope to help Israel. I was determined to rid my country of Hezbollah so we can be free to practice true Islam.

Joining Hezbollah
At first they suspected my reasons for joining, so I explained to them that all the political problems I had had before were because of my brothers, and they shouldn’t blame me because of them. I was soon accepted into their ranks and lived among them. I saw everything. At one point, I was even part of a squad of terrorists that planned to attack an Israeli military base. That was the opportunity I was waiting for. I slipped out of the camp and hitched rides and walked and ran, until I reached the Israeli Army base in the south. I recognized some of the soldiers and gave them the information. There was one particular Israeli who had been to our house previously. I met with him privately and told him I wanted to work for Israel from within Hezbollah. He tried very hard to dissuade me.

He said “They already burned your child. If they catch you they will burn your whole family.” But I insisted. I told him: “Look what they did to me. Let me work with you. I hate them and want revenge for my baby.”

Of course, the IDF doesn’t just hire any Lebanese Muslim who claims he wants to be a spy for Israel. They have a rigorous system of background checks and personality tests. But after several months of being investigated, I became an Israeli plant in the echelons of Hezbollah.

For security reasons, I cannot discuss details of my time in Hezbollah. All I can say that I interfered with many of Hezbollah’s plans, prevented attacks and saved a lot of soldiers’ lives. I did a lot. God wanted me to succeed.

But I will tell you about that first attack I prevented. There were 150 terrorists, including suicide bombers, who were supposed to enter the base and kill many Israeli soldiers and kidnap others. I knew everything about this operation: where the missiles were; who would take part in the operation; who planned it; what vehicles would be used. I gave over all this information and, thank God, our forces prepared themselves. The Army buried mines along their intended path prior to the attack, killing many of the terrorists. I have many similar stories, how Israel dealt with those men who had the blood on their hands.

I worked from within Hezbollah for 14 years, from 1986 until 2000, helping prevent many terrorist attacks

Each time, I traversed 60 kilometers at night, to meet with the Israelis and transfer information. I loved the Israelis so much, I made the tremendous effort to reach them and bring them information. I know they relied on me to prevent attacks and I felt responsible to be a reliable conduit and bring them as much information as I could.

Crossing Over
In 1997 some members of the group became suspicious of me. I knew my time in Lebanon was coming to a close. One wrong move and I would be killed. It was time for my dream to be realized and move to Israel. With swift planning with the Israelis, my wife and children who were young then met me at a checkpoint and we crossed over. We settled in Tzfat. I continued to assist the IDF, this time from the other side of the border, for three more years. Knowing that my family was safe in Israel gave me encouragement to serve even more. I worked at gathering information with all the security forces: the Army, the Shin Bet and Mossad. To them I was better than any other soldier because I knew the area and the people very well.

On Erev Yom Kippur, in 2000, my life changed again, this time spiritually. I was sitting on the porch with my wife, and I saw all my neighbors are going to shul. I said to my wife: “A mosque is God’s house and a synagogue is also God’s house. I want to go there.” I asked my neighbor if it was permitted for me to go, and he said yes. The rabbi of the shul of course didn’t recognize me, and he gave me a kippah to put on figuring I was a non-religious Jew.

The day after Yom Kippur, I went back to work and I told my friend there that I went to the shul on Yom Kippur and they made me feel very welcome. He started to laugh. “What were you doing there?” Despite that, I started to go more often; I was drawn to Judaism. I felt it was part of my belief, my truth. It got to the point that I wanted to convert, but everyone turned me away. Finally, after great effort and a long time studying, I was converted by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, chief rabbi of Tzfat.

Today we are a regular religious family. Anyone who sees me or my children could never tell of our past

My children cannot even converse in Arabic. But now we are having this war in Gaza and I think back to my earlier days. I know how terrorists work, how Hamas thinks. They have no goals except for destruction. Their sole intention is terror and destruction. Even their own self-destruction is meaningless to them. Peace in not what they seek. With them it’s all or nothing. I have dealt with suicide bombers. They do not think like humans. They do not love themselves so they treat others with total disregard.

We have given them so many options to make peace. We worked with Arafat and Abbas. Israel wants peace so badly and what did we get in return? Dozens of terror cells and tunnels. Remember, it’s not only the Jews that Hamas is fighting. They are fighting against the Palestinian Authority as well. They just need to fight. That’s all these terrorists know. Their lives have no purpose. With God’s help we will be strong and win.

I still have connections in Lebanon. I speak to my family and others. I also know many Arabs here in Israel and believe me, most of them want to live in peace and quiet. I think 90% would prefer to live under Israel than under Arab rule.

By the way, my family is very proud of me, that I have chosen a pleasant path to live my life. We are in touch and speak often. The Koran respects Judaism. If you do not believe in Moses, you do not believe in Islam. Choosing Judaism does not go against the Koran. Islamic terror groups murdering thousands in Syria to create a Muslim state? That is going against the Koran.
People ask me if I am afraid, if I have received threats from Hezbollah. I know if they could, they would kill me. I have heard that they are looking for me. But it doesn’t concern me. I feel safe here. I am not afraid. God put me here and my soul belongs to Him.
This article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.

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Post  Admin on Sun 17 Aug 2014, 8:20 pm

Saying Shema in Gaza
The Jewish prayer may have stopped a would-be suicide bomber who was Jewish.

by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
I am rather skeptical when it comes to “miracle stories” – especially ones that emerge from war. So I did not believe the story about the female suicide bomber in Gaza who flinched upon hearing the Israeli soldier cry out “Shema Yisrael”, allowing them to apprehend her. Turns out the terrorists' mother was an Israeli Jew who married an Arab, and the would-be suicide bomber was in fact a Jew whose soul was rattled upon hearing Shema.

Well, apparently the story might be true. An unnamed Israeli military source spoke to Breitbart News, revealing details about the attack that killed Lt. Goldin and two other soldiers, and he also mentioned the incident with the Jewish suicide bomber. The article reports:

The officer explained how, after the suicide bombing that killed Lt. Goldin, a second kidnapping team of Hamas terrorists... ran back into the tunnel from which the terrorists emerged. The tunnel led back into a mosque. From the mosque, they escaped in a clearly marked UNRWA ambulance. 

The terrorists then made contact with high-ranking Hamas officials hiding in the Islamic University.
Israeli intelligence intercepted a conversation between the kidnappers and the Hamas officials at the Islamic University and thus got all the particulars regarding the hiding place of the kidnappers. 

Within minutes, the IAF attacked both the kidnappers' location and the Islamic University.
In the midst of this attack, a second force of IDF soldiers--which had gone into a mosque looking for weapons, explosives, and rockets-- encountered a female suicide bomber who was about to detonate the belt she wore, which would have resulted in the deaths of the soldiers. One of the soldiers instinctively recited the opening words of the holiest Jewish prayer “Shema Yisrael”. The female suicide bomber hesitated and began trembling, giving the soldiers a chance to grab her and disable the device.

The soldiers then took her prisoner and turned her over to a counter-intelligence unit. Their investigation uncovered that the female suicide bomber’s mother was a Jew who had married a Palestinian in Israel and, after the wedding, was smuggled against her will into Gaza. There she lived a life filled with abuse and humiliation, and was basically a captive. In addition to the female suicide bomber, there were two smaller children as well. An armored force went in and rescued the two small children.

The story is reminiscent of Rabbi Eliezer Silver who rescued Jewish children in Europe who had been hidden during the Holocaust in Christian orphanages and monasteries. The children themselves, raised as Christians for years, no longer knew they were Jewish. And there were times the local priest denied harboring any Jewish children. So how did Rabbi Silver discover the Jewish children? Dressed as a high ranking U.S. army officer, he would visit the children during bedtime and loudly proclaim “Shema Yisrael” – "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One!"

Many children burst into tears and cried out “mommy” in the various languages they spoke. The Shema which their mothers had said to them each night was so deeply ingrained in their minds they had not forgotten it. And that is how the chaplains were able to identify the Jewish children.
The Shema saved those Israeli soldiers and rescued three Jewish souls – the suicide bomber and her two children -- from the bowels of Gaza. Something she heard startled her. Her Jewish soul, buried by years of indoctrination, hate and abuse, was stirred.

My teacher, Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory, would tell the story of Rabbi Silver as a lesson that the Jewish soul always has a pulse. It is our responsibility to find the words that will penetrate. If this story is true, then through his tragic death Lt. Goldin enabled three bewildered Jewish souls to be brought back to their people.
With thanks to Rabbi Stephen Baars

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Post  Admin on Wed 13 Aug 2014, 9:17 am

Hamas' Phony Statistics on Civilian Deaths
by Alan M. Dershowitz
Reliable sources say half of those killed were combatants.
It's a mystery why so many in the media accept as gospel Hamas-supplied figures on the number of civilians killed in the recent war. Hamas claims that of the more than 1800 Palestinians killed close to 90% were civilians. Israel, on the other hand, says that close to half of them were combatants. The objective facts support a number much closer to Israel's than to Hamas'.

Walking To Shul With My Dad
by Jeffrey Dunetz
I was a three-day a year Jew who stopped by McDonalds on the way to the golf course every Saturday morning. Now I'm being called an observant Jew. What happened?
My face felt flushed and I tried to retain my composure. "This is volunteer work. I don't need the fights, the name calling." The rabbi sat across from me quietly. I was telling him why I felt it necessary to resign from the board of trustees. When I ran out of reasons (and breath), there was a moment of silence as he studied me. He leaned backwards into the chair and began to speak very softly. The rabbi had his own checklist of reasons why I should remain in my position. The last item stopped me dead in my tracks. He said I was an observant Jew who encouraged other people to embrace Judaism.

With Rifle and Baby in Hand
Hamas’ perversely brilliant strategy in using human shields should serve as a wakeup call to all of humanity.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
In the nuclear age, more nations have the capacity to totally obliterate not only other countries but the entire world as well. With unprecedented and unlimited power comes the fear that civilization is doomed. Will the world end as it began, with a big bang not of creation but of final and total destruction?
To prevent this doomsday scenario concerned leaders have placed their hope on disarmament treaties, on limiting the muscle of the mighty, and the deterrence of MAD – mutually assured destruction where the threat of using strong weapons against the enemy prevents the enemy's use of those same weapons. It has been almost universally assumed that evil can only triumph when the wicked are stronger than those whom they seek to destroy.

10 Reasons Why We Need the Messiah Right Now
With outrageous levels of insanity overtaking the world, we need him now more than ever.
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
Who needs the messiah? you may be wondering. Isn’t that a Christian concept?
The notion of the messiah is as Jewish as Shabbat, the Shema and chicken soup.
Who is the messiah? He will be a great leader, pious and wise, who will become the next Jewish king. He will oversee the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem, gather all the Jews to their homeland, Israel, and most importantly usher in a new era of world peace and spiritual awakening when the entire world will recognize the truth of God and Torah; "The earth will be full of the knowledge of God, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). (Click here for more elaboration and sources.)
With outrageous levels of insanity overtaking the world, we need him now more than ever. Here are my 10 reasons why:

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AISH  - Page 13 Empty 10 Myths and Facts about Gaza War

Post  Admin on Wed 06 Aug 2014, 5:40 pm

10 Myths and Facts about the Gaza War
by Yvette Alt Miller
Key facts you need to know to defend Israel.
It is said that truth is the first casualty of war. Here are some lies that have been spread about Israel in recent weeks – and the truth behind these slanders. Only by clarifying the facts can we look forward to a realistic solution to the tensions.

(1) Israel started this war, using the murder of three Israeli teens as a pretext.
In the first half of 2014 – prior to the outbreak of fighting – Hamas launched nearly 200 rockets at Israeli civilians. When the three Israeli teens were brutally kidnapped, Israel went looking for them in the West Bank; they were later found murdered. To divert attention from Hamas accountability, the terror group launched hundreds of rockets at the length and breadth of Israel, sending 80 percent of the Israeli population racing into bomb shelters.
Israel responded by rooting out the rocket sites in Gaza – in the process fortuitously discovering a vast network of terror tunnels that Hamas reportedly planned to used to stage a single day of mass kidnappings and murder of Jews.

(2) Fighting Israel is the only way Hamas can build a better life for its people.
If Hamas were serious about building a better life for its people, it wouldn’t have violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2006 and suppressed all future elections. Instead, Hamas imprisons and kills political opponents with impunity. Hamas “morality police” punish women for smoking and wearing “un-Islamic” clothes such as jeans and t-shirts. Honor killings of women are punished lightly, with as little as six months in jail.
It takes millions of dollars, tons of cement, and a year’s worth of labor to build a tunnel from Gaza into Israel. In the past two weeks, Israel has uncovered 30 such tunnels – representing millions of dollars Hamas could have spent on the population of Gaza, but instead spent on fighting Israel.
If Hamas truly wanted a better life for Gazans, it wouldn’t have spurned trade and development in favor of terror and dictatorship. In 2005, when Israel removed all Israeli residents and soldiers from Gaza, Hamas and other looters destroyed 3,000 greenhouses donated by American Jews to help build their fledgling country – leaving a sorry symbol of Hamas corruption and terror.

(3) Hamas is trying to minimize Palestinian casualties.
Instead of minimizing human casualties, Hamas seems to be courting them. They have launched thousands of missiles at Israel from locations adjacent to or within schools, mosques, hospitals, and residential buildings: a staggering 11,000 since 2005. Far from building bomb shelters to protect their population, as Israel has done, Hamas has deliberately used the entire civilian population as human shields.
Hamas has turned Gaza's largest medical facility, Shifa Hospital, into a military command center – knowing that Israel's higher morality makes it a safe haven from Israeli fire.
(4) The rate of Palestinian civilian deaths is alarmingly high.
Hamas claims that 75% of those killed in the current conflict in Gaza are civilians. Israeli sources found the overwhelming majority – two thirds – are males between the ages of 18 and 60, despite that demographic accounting for only 20% of Gaza’s population.
During a brief humanitarian ceasefire on July 24, Hamas executed 25 people without trial, accusing them of spying for Israel. These 25 were later added to the tally of people killed by Israel, and hailed as “martyrs." In the words of Bassem Eid of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group, Palestinian casualties are ultimately "in the interest of Hamas."

(5) Israel’s actions are contrary to international law.
Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of “violations of the laws of war” and the United Nations has opened an inquiry into alleged war crimes by Israel – though not of Hamas, which deliberately targets Israeli civilians as an ongoing policy.
In attacking legitimate military targets lodged among civilians, international law places full responsibility for any civilian deaths on the fighters who've embedded themselves. (The Conduct of Hostilities Under the Law of International Armed Conflict, Cambridge University Press, 2004)
Caught in the difficult situation of responding to rocket fire from within civilian areas, Israel’s army has taken unprecedented actions to limit human casualties, calling the cell phones of people near or in targets to warn them of imminent bombings, and dropping Arabic-language leaflets warning civilians, as well as the “knock on the door,” whereby Israel fires a small round to warn people to leave an area before a strike.
Alarmed that this might reduce civilian casualties, however, Hamas has forced Gazans to act as human shields for the many rocket launchers imbedded in private homes. The New York Times dramatically described the recipients of one such warning, who quickly marshaled family members – including children – to enter the targeted building, forming a human shield.

(6) Israeli actions are "disproportionate."
Brazil has recalled its ambassador to protest Israel’s “disproportionate” response to Hamas rockets and terror tunnels. But proportionality isn’t measured in terms of death toll on either side: Israel, which has invested in bomb shelters for its citizens, in anti-rocket ammunition to protect its cities, and which doesn’t place its rocket launchers in civilian areas, has protected its people; even playgrounds in southern Israel have been ‘missile-proofed’ with millions of dollars of reinforced steel. Should Israel be blamed for properly protecting its citizens?!
In World War Two, 67,000 British civilians and 12,000 American civilians were killed, compared to the Nazis who lost over one million civilians. Clear responsibility for these deaths rests on the Nazis who started the war. More recently, in the 2004 urban warfare of Fallujah in Iraq, the U.S. killed 800 civilians and destroyed 9,000 homes. Did we hear cries of "disproportionate"?
As military analyst Colonel Richard Kemp concludes: "I don't think there has ever been a time in the history of warfare when any army has made more efforts to reduce civilian casualties and deaths of innocent people, than the IDF is doing today in Gaza."

(7) Hamas is a humanitarian organization.
Hamas bills itself as a "humanitarian organization," yet it’s anything but. As the people of Gaza endure high unemployment and limited economic growth, Hamas’ leadership skims off profits, collecting ruinous taxes on business transactions, and steals international aid outright. Ismail Haniyah, Hamas’ leader, reportedly owns numerous homes throughout Gaza, and in 2010 paid $4 million for a beachfront home in Lebanon. His deputy, Khaled Mashal, controls a $2.6 billion fund donated to Hamas by the governments of Qatar and Egypt.
If Hamas were truly fighting for the rights of ordinary Palestinians, it also would hold elections, ensure human rights, and stop pursuing political opponents. But it chooses to spread terror.

(8) Hamas just wants to live in peace.
Gaza's leaders encourage violence, allowing Islamic Jihad to run “terror summer camps" for children as young as six, where kids learn hate and practice kidnapping Israeli soldiers. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calls Hamas’ indiscriminate firing on Israeli civilians “a violation of international law.”
The Hamas Charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the death of Jews around the world: “the Zionist plan is limitless” and “our struggle against the Jews is very great... until the enemy is vanquished.” Who can doubt that, if given the chance, Hamas would inflict mass casualties on Israel and Jews? Given this existential threat, Israel has no choice but to try to demilitarize Hamas and destroy its tunnels.
Ironically, in 2013 Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh boasted that Hamas had acquired new rockets that were capable of hitting Tel Aviv – at the very time that his own granddaughter was being treated in Schneider Children’s Hospital near Tel Aviv!

(9) All the Gaza casualties are Israel's fault.
Many of the rockets Hamas has launched into Israel have fallen short, hitting targets in Gaza instead; often, Israel is blamed for these hits and their resultant civilian casualties. One high-profile case is the UN-run school bombed on July 24 with 16 casualties. Israel categorically denies bombing the school when anyone was present, and has produced aerial footage proving its case.
Four days later, a Gaza park was bombed, killing nine children and an adult. The Israeli army explained that the incident was carried out by Gaza terrorists whose rockets fell short and hit the Shifa Hospital and the Beach (Shati) camp.
Further, at least 160 children were killed in constructing Hamas' extensive terror tunnel network.

(10) Israel must stop occupying Gaza, denying humanitarian aid, and committing genocide.
Israel does not occupy Gaza, having unilaterally disengaged – withdrawing every soldier and civilian – in 2005. Despite the thousands of terrorist rocket and missile attacks emanating from the Strip for years, Israel continues – even during this crisis – to truck in tons of medical supplies, food, humanitarian goods and fuel.
Despite the war, Israel has kept the Kerem Shalom crossing open to a steady stream of humanitarian aid into Gaza, and allows humanitarian access at the Erez Crossing in northern Gaza. The Israeli military also operates a full-scale hospital at the Erez Crossing, treating Palestinians from Gaza. Both crossing points are under a steady stream of attack every day from Hamas forces.
While many Gazans are indeed suffering from a supply shortage, signs point to Hamas intentionally exacerbating the crisis as a propaganda weapon against Israel – while creating a flourishing black market that filled the pockets of Hamas thugs.
Get Aish.com's Free Email Updates and Be Inspired.
Soon there will be calls for shipments of tons of concrete into Gaza to "rebuild." Past concrete shipment have gone to construct terror tunnels. Will the international aid agencies be fooled again?
If Israel is perpetrating genocide, it is doing a terrible job. Why hasn't Israel acted worse? Where are the slave labor camps and the nightly massacres? It is difficult to reconcile the idea of "genocidal Israelis" with 1,000 Palestinians, mostly combatants, killed in the fighting. Two-thirds of European Jewry exterminated by the Nazis? That's genocide. 800,000 Tutsis (7 out of 10) killed in Rwanda? That's genocide.
Israel has faced difficult choices in Gaza and has acted at every step to minimize casualties, protect her citizens, and help build a better life for all the people – Jews and Arabs – in the region.
Published: July 31, 2014

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Post  Admin on Wed 06 Aug 2014, 5:15 pm

The Shocking Murder of Ilan Halimi
In 2006 a young Parisian Jew was kidnapped and brutally murdered because he was Jewish. French authorities initially refused to believe it was a hate crime.
his article originally appeared in Ami Magazine.
Little did Ilan Halimi know that day that the customer walking into the cellphone store where he worked as a salesman would be the agent of his death. The young woman looked around at the merchandise, asked questions and engaged him in friendly conversation. They hit it off so well that before leaving, she asked Ilan for his phone number.
The next evening Ilan received a call from his new acquaintance, inviting him out for a drink. Only 23 years old, Ilan had no suspicions. He was ambushed by a gang of thugs, held prisoner in an apartment in the Bagneux neighborhood of Paris for 24 days and tortured until they finally abandoned him in a forest. When Ilan was found, he had burns over 80% of his body. He was the first French Jew murdered after WWII simply because he was Jewish

How You Can Defend Israel
by Robert Walker
We put together a successful Israel rally. You can make a difference too.
Does it frustrate you to know that according to recent polls most of your neighbors see no real moral difference between Israel and Hamas? Or that while anti-Israel protesters assemble freely in cities around the world, people who publicly stand up for Israel in Canada, the U.S. and Europe have been harassed and even abused by swarms of thugs?
I felt frustrated and helpless sitting in Toronto doing nothing to make a difference while Israeli soldiers were risking their lives – and some dying – to defend the Holy Land.

Until my wife and I decided to take urgent action and try to make a difference.
What Are You Going To Do?

Proportionality in Gaza
by Dore Gold
The accusation that Israel is acting disproportionally has no merit. Here's why.
The images of destruction after the battle between the Israel Defense Forces and Hamas that began July 20 in the Shajaiya neighborhood in the Gaza Strip have caused many to declare, in a now-frequent refrain, that the IDF is behaving “disproportionately.” Some commentators are simply dressing up in sophisticated language their belief that Israel is using excessive force, but others clearly mean to accuse Israel of violating the laws of war — specifically, of violating the doctrine of proportionality. These accusations have no merit.
Shajaiya was not just another neighborhood in Gaza, but rather a crown jewel of Hamas' effort to intertwine civilians and terrorists to complicate Israel's ability to defend itself. Shajaiya was crisscrossed with an elaborate network of underground bunkers and tunnels containing equipment for the manufacture of rockets, storage facilities for rockets and other weapons, and launching sites from which the rockets were fired at Israeli towns. It was a civilian area where Hamas embedded its most important military capabilities, precisely to encourage condemnation of Israel should the IDF be forced to fight there.

Hamas Vs. Israel: Moral Fog Awards
Those who refuse to grasp the simple, stark truth.
by David A. Harris         
In the current conflict, there are those who refuse to grasp the simple, stark truth.
Although the distinction between Israel and Hamas couldn't be clearer – between a democratic nation and a terrorist organization, between the victim and the aggressor, between a society that protects its civilians and one that uses them as human shields, and between a military that operates by a strict code of conduct and a group governed by no scruples whatsoever – some consider all that irrelevant, unimportant, or beside the point. When moral clarity is needed, they live in a moral fog.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said: "We have been witnessing this systematic genocide every Ramadan since 1948. Now, [Israel's] barbarism has surpassed even Hitler's."

But, then again, what else would we expect from the recipient of the Muammar Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights (named for the late Libyan strongman), host of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (who is wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court), and author of the unforgettable statement, "A Muslim could never commit genocide"?

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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Jul 2014, 10:13 pm

What If Terrorists Could Shoot Rockets at Your Country?
Imagine if Gaza terrorists were your neighbors and could shoot the deadly M-302 rocket at your home.
by Idfblog.com         
It is now clear that Hamas has received powerful M-302 rockets from Iran, placing over 3.5 million Israelis in danger. Yesterday, an M-302 rocket hit the city of Hadera, which is 100 km (62 mi) away from Gaza. The Israel Navy found the same type of rocket onboard the Klos C vessel in March. The ship, intercepted in the Red Sea, was carrying Iranian weapons destined for Gaza terrorists.
The M-302 has a strike range of 160 kilometers, allowing Hamas to target most of Israel.
Imagine if Gaza terrorists were your neighbors and could shoot the M-302 rocket at your home. Click here to see an app we created to help you put Hamas’ threat in perspective. You can type in your home town and it will show you just how far these rockets can reach.
Imagine if Gaza terrorists were your neighbors and could shoot this rocket at your home
Here is a series of illustrated maps that show the Gaza Strip next to other countries throughout the world. The maps demonstrate the reach of the M-302 rocket inside each of these countries. Share these with your friends and neighbors to show them what living under Hamas terror looks like.
United States
If Gaza was in New Jersey or New York

If Gaza was in California

If Gaza was in Canada

United Kingdom
If Gaza was in England
Click here to view the article on idfblog.com and the app they created.

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Post  Admin on Thu 10 Jul 2014, 10:05 pm

Israel Under Attack
What you can do when your brothers and sisters are at war.
by Sara Yoheved Rigler         
Growing up in New Jersey, war was something we read about in history books. Since moving to Israel 29 years ago, I’ve lived through five wars.
The first was the Gulf War of 1991. Saddam Hussein’s threats to incinerate all of Israel had us making “sealed rooms” of plastic and tape. When the siren went off, we ran to our sealed rooms and donned our gas masks. My three-year-old daughter refused to wear her mask. Panicked, I forced the mask onto her. The next morning the news reported that, while there were no casualties from the Scuds, a four-year-old Israeli Arab girl had suffocated to death when her parents forced her gas mask onto her. I listened to the radio trembling. Thirty-nine Scud missiles landed in Israel, decimating buildings but killing only one man. Instead of poison gas, the air of Israel was thick with miracles.

Instead of poison gas, the air of Israel was thick with miracles.
Not so the Terror War of 2000-2004. The front lines of that war were on our busses, in our malls, at our Bar Mitzvahs and Seders, and in our downtown areas. Over 1,000 Israelis were murdered in that war, mostly by suicide bombers. For four years we lived in fear and prayer. We tired of attending the funerals of children. Our Books of Psalms were drenched in our tears.

The Second Lebanon War, in the summer of 2006, started as an effort to retrieve two reserve soldiers abducted by Hezbollah terrorists at the Lebanese border. Hezbollah fired a barrage of missiles on northern Israel. Forty-four civilians were killed in the bombing, and most of the residents of the North fled southward. When all the hotels of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem could not hold the refugees, community centers with army cots and thousands of private homes opened their doors. Taking a walk one night, my husband and I passed a young couple pushing a baby in a stroller. They had fled from their home near Haifa and had stayed for three nights in a Jerusalem hotel. Now, however, the hotel had evicted them because someone else had reservations. We invited them into our home, and they lived with us until the war was over. Tragically, 121 of our young soldiers were killed. And when the two abducted reservists were finally returned, in exchange for arch terrorist Samir Kuntar and four other Hezbollah prisoners, we got back only their corpses.
While Israel’s North was struggling to recover and rebuild, the South came under repeated rocket attacks from Hamas that Gazans had democratically elected as their government. Hamas launched over a thousand missiles on civilian targets in Israel. Life in Israel’s South became a continuous nightmare of Code Red sirens, sending children and adults desperately scurrying for shelter. So, in December 2008, Israel mobilized Operation Cast Lead, sending in ground troops to stop Hamas. Our role in that war was to pray, and to send food packages and warm socks to our soldiers at the front.
After a short period of quiet, rocket attacks from Gaza, now augmented by longer-range Russian Grad missiles that terrorized major cities such as Beer Sheva and Ashdod, gradually increased again. So in November 2012, Israel launched Operation Pillar of Cloud. The international community, silent as Israel was bombarded by Hamas, loudly condemned Israel’s military campaign to stop the rockets. Fighting Hamas on one front and international opprobrium on the other, Israel was hit by 1456 rockets and missiles, which killed six Israelis, injured 240, and sent another 200 into shock. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder became an epidemic in southern Israel.
At War Again
And now we are at war again. Some 40,000 reservists – mostly husbands and fathers – have been called up. Our soldiers – those who can be spared from quelling the Arab riots throughout Israel – are amassed at the border of Gaza. Over the last eight days, close to one million Israelis have sought refuge in bomb shelters. Some 225 Hamas missiles have been fired at Israel in the last 36 hours, some reaching Tel Aviv and almost to Haifa.

On Tuesday night I was giving my weekly Marriage Webinar from my Jerusalem home to women all over the world – in France, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Israel, and throughout the United States. In the middle of the webinar, a comment appeared in the Question Box from a woman in Ashdod: “We had a Code Red siren so we had to go down to the bomb shelter. Now I have to put my children back to bed. I’ll have to listen to the webinar recording tomorrow.”
I resumed giving my class, but a few minutes later I heard the wail of a siren pierce the air.
I was taken aback by this live message from the war zone. I recounted to my listeners that the night before, my daughter was at an outdoor wedding near Beit Shemesh, a 40-minute drive from Jerusalem, when the Code Red siren went off. The dancing stopped, and the bride, groom, and wedding guests, having no building to take refuge in, ran to a decorative wall. Looking up, they saw the missile from Gaza as a beam of light streaming across the sky. Suddenly it was hit by the Iron Dome (Israel’s anti-missile defense system), creating a loud explosion and a brilliant glow in the sky. Happy wedding!

At that point in the webinar, I told the participants that we were going to stop and pray. Israel is at war. We should pray for the residents of the South and the safety of our soldiers. After a minute, I resumed giving my class, but a few minutes later I heard the wail of a siren pierce the air. I was puzzled. We had not heard air raid sirens in Jerusalem since the Gulf War had sent us dashing to our sealed rooms. “I’m hearing a siren,” I told my listeners across the world.
Our building has no bomb shelter. We are supposed to use the bomb shelter across the street, but it can barely hold the residents of that building. So I simply sat here, feeling shaken, and asked my listeners to pray, this time not just for the residents of the South, but also for the Jews of Jerusalem. It turned out that Tel Aviv, Rehovot, and every major town in the crowded center of the country was also under attack.
Then comments started to pour into the Question Box:

  • Siren in Beit Shemesh now!

  • My friend is currently in Jerusalem and told us that a rocket just landed in his neighborhood.

  • Don't continue the workshop if it's not safe for you! [from Texas]

  • My son and grandchildren are in Tel Aviv [from New Mexico]

  • Please know that every Jew in Ireland & I'm sure worldwide are praying for you in Israel! [from Dublin]

What Doesn’t Help
We are at war again. Here’s what doesn’t help:

  • Worrying and hand-wringing

  • Blaming – anyone on the other end of the political or religious spectrum.

  • Obsessing on the news. (Phoning an elderly relative will help Israel more than your checking the news for the 8th time today.)

  • Wasting energy on hating our enemies.

  • Cancelling your upcoming trip to Israel. (Such cancellations make us feel abandoned.)

Here’s what will help:
Pray for the safety of our soldiers, for the protection of every Jew in Israel, and for the wisdom of our political and military leaders.

Sign up for the Shmira Project, an ongoing, grassroots program that pairs IDF combat soldiers with Jews around the world, who do acts of kindness, prayer or Torah learning to increase the soldier’s spiritual merit and protection.

Support Israel by disseminating the truth in Letters to the Editor, letters to your government, blogs, Facebook, and internet comments: That Hamas in Gaza, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, has launched hundreds of rockets and missiles at civilian targets in Israel, and Israel must defend its citizens.

Support the I.D.F. by sending goodies, care packages, and letters of support. 
Undertake mitzvot, good deeds, donations to charity, and Torah learning in the merit of the people of Israel. Judaism teaches that every mitzvah generates merit, and just as you can send your money to wherever you choose, you can send your merit to wherever you choose.

And one last thing: Go against your basic human drive to avoid pain, and allow yourself to feel the pain of your brothers and sisters in Israel. 
Feel the pain of mothers and fathers whose precious sons have been sent to the front lines, of wives whose husbands have been called to active duty. Feel the pain of children throughout southern Israel who live in daily trauma: ten-year-olds who have reverted to bedwetting, teenaged girls whose periods have stopped, four-year-olds who cannot sleep for fear of the next siren.

Feel their pain, and allow it to move you to the constructive actions outlined above. Now is not the time for numbness.

Click Below and Scroll down 15 second Video

Watch the short video below to feel what it is like to have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter.

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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Jul 2014, 2:38 pm

For Being a Jew
by Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein
Rabbi Akiva, Daniel Pearl and our three boys.

In defiance of the mighty Roman Empire, which destroyed Jerusalem and our Temple, Rabbi Akiva taught Torah to his disciples, for which he was arrested and brutally murdered on a bed of nails. In his last moments he said the words of the Shema and became one of the greatest symbols of Jewish martyrdom in history.
And yet the Talmud tells us that as he was dying the angels in the heavens cried out before God the terrible question: “This is Torah and this is its reward?!” At this time of agony, as we see the pictures of the pure shining faces of Gilad Shaer, Eyal Yifrah and Naftali Fraenkel, and of their bereft parents, when we see the sad, lonely, flag-draped coffins, we can almost hear the angels in heaven thunder in protest: “This is Torah and this its reward?!”
But we remember in our grief how the Talmud describes God’s response that the angels be silent; we remember the brave and unflinching faith of Rabbi Akiva and generations of Jews who, in the spirit of King David’s Psalms, walked “in the valley of the shadow of death” and did not fear “for God is with me.” And so too at this time of terrible pain, we bow our heads before God in humble, yet resolute, acceptance of the tears of this unredeemed world.

My 18 Days of Waiting
by Yehudit Channen
My story is different, but I relate to the horror the three families experienced not knowing if your child will survive.
Eighteen days is a long time to wait for the verdict of life or death. Although my 18-day ordeal cannot compare to the horror of a kidnapping, I am familiar with the waiting game. My daughter, Shani, spent 18 days in a coma when she was 16, and I dwelled in that twilight zone of waiting for my child to come back. Thankfully I knew where she was and that the people surrounding her were competent and kind, so unlike the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered by monsters.
But I understand something about waiting for answers to “How long will this go on?” “If she does come back, what condition will she be in?” and “Why is this happening? And why to us?”
Shani was on her way to a babysitting job and I was taking my youngest daughter to a school fair. She had run ahead of us so she wouldn’t be late. Two minutes later we came upon her dying in the road. She was having Sudden Cardiac Arrest.

The Unified Nation Theory
Thoughts from the funeral of the three teens.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons         
The Mideast desert heat melted away our socio-political-religious-ethnic differences. We flowed as a single human river, moving in steady unison along the winding path where the Maccabees once called home, to accompany three innocent boys to their resting place.
There were no shouts for revenge, no angry cries. Groups of young people spontaneously broke out in song.
Why is everyone so calm and peaceful?, I wondered.
Then I understood. For 18 days, three Jewish mothers had courageously stood up and declared: I believe with perfect faith, that God is just, that God is kind, and that God is one.
In doing so they lifted an entire generation. Whether it was yeshivas and synagogues saying Psalms for the boys, or Israel's Finance Minister praying for the first time in many years, millions of people strengthened their faith in God.
This serenity is only possible for one who flows with the twists and turns of Divine orchestration – in recognition of a higher purpose behind it all.

An Extraordinary Wedding
Two young adults with Down syndrome got married and we witnessed a miracle.
by Emuna Braverman         
I went to a wedding last week where the hosts were extra considerate of the needs of their guests. What was the mark of their thoughtfulness? There was a small package of tissues on every seat. They knew everyone was going to need them.
This marriage was something extraordinary, the product of hard work, determination, grit and the kindness of the Almighty. It was the marriage of two young adults with Down syndrome, of Danielle Magady and Shlomo Meyers. (It didn’t hurt that Danielle’s parents met in our living room so I felt an extra share of nachas!)
As the groom, Shlomo, told me on the day before the wedding, “Everyone is going to cry happy tears tomorrow.” And boy was he right! Not just because we had a glimpse of the work involved in getting to this moment (none of us could actually claim to really understand what was required). Not just because we had seen the bride’s parents fight and push and struggle to mainstream their daughter and give her the same opportunities as her classmates. Not just because of the drive and determination and just plain old-fashioned effort required to bring about this moment. But because we all felt that we were witnessing something out of the ordinary, something where the world “special” just isn’t enough, something perhaps that we would never witness again.
It was like seeing a revealed miracle in our times. And yes, those happy tears flowed and flowed. As one of the guests whispered after the chuppah, “If this doesn’t bring the messiah, I don’t know what will.”

 A 3-Step Formula for Unity
by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
We all agree that we need to love each other. But how do you do it?
View SHORT Video

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Post  Admin on Sun 06 Jul 2014, 2:06 pm

Could You Ignore a Holocaust?
Chief Editor's BlogCould You Ignore a Holocaust?
Without this quality, it's likely you would. With it, we can remain united.
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
The Frankel, Shaer and Yifrach families are about to get up from sitting shiva, and many of us are wondering: now what? After all the prayers, Torah learning, and extra mitzvot, after experiencing such anguish that unified our people, where do we go from here? How do we ensure that this unity doesn't evaporate?

I think there is one foundation upon which our unity rests that is simple but profound, and also rather difficult to do: feel someone else's pain.
We are naturally selfish beings; we live in our own bubble, consumed by our own needs and desires. The kidnapping and tragic murders of Gilad, Naftali and Eyal pierced our individual bubble and woke us up to the very real pain that someone other than ourselves is experiencing. Their searing agony forced us to get out of ourselves and compelled us to act. No one had to tell us that we should do whatever we can. There was a spontaneous, natural outpouring of prayer, concern and dedication of good deeds in their merit because we felt their pain and were motivated to act.
Unfortunately sometimes it takes a tragedy to wake us up to someone else's suffering.
1941: What Would You Do?
Imagine it's 1941 and you are studying in a university in North America, and find out that thousands of Jews are being herded onto trains and headed towards a concentration camp. I have presented this scenario to over a thousand students and asked them: How many of you would drop everything you're doing and try to save some Jewish lives?
Invariably a smattering of students raises their hands. The vast majority would do nothing.

Then I change the scenario slightly: Imagine it's 1941 and you are from a small town in Eastern Europe. Your parents have sent you to North America to attend university, and you discover that your entire hometown – your parents, grandparents, siblings, neighbors – they are all being herded onto a train heading towards a concentration camp. How many of you would drop everything you're doing and try to save their lives?
Invariably every single person raises his hand.
Does it make any difference if the woman sitting on that train is your mother or your friend's mother?
What's the difference? Objectively speaking, does it make any difference if the woman sitting on that train is your mother or your friend's mother? Jewish people are heading towards a concentration camp! The reality is exactly the same in both scenarios.
The only difference is that when it is your family on the train, now you feel the pain. Only now do you see the reality of the situation which compels you to do whatever you can. How many of us would be able to sleep at night?
The ramifications of this are sobering. If we don't put in the effort to get out of our bubble and feel the pain of others, the fact is that the majority of people are willing to turn their heads away from a holocaust and not do anything to help. They will continue to live with their heads in the ground.
It is not because we don't care. We do care. When we feel the tragedy we are motivated to act and live up to our responsibilities. But when we are disconnected from each other, stuck in our own universe, we are inured to someone else's pain.
The past few weeks we broke out of our self-contained world and we felt the pain of a Jewish parent not knowing if and when her son is coming home; we felt the horrific anguish of parents whose son is murdered by barbarians. We felt as if it was our family. We got out of ourselves and connected with families we did not know, who are just as real as we are.
How to Retain the Unity
Feeling someone's pain is the foundation of the mitzvah to "love your neighbor as yourself." Treat someone as you would treat yourself, because he or she is just as real as you. When we connect to this reality we naturally spring into action.

Unity happens when we break down our shell and truly connect to the other. We enter someone else's world and out of genuine care, respond to his pressing need. We don't need to be told what to do; no one has to give us a laundry list of action items to build unity. It's organic. When we step out of ourselves and realize the aching needs of those around us, we reach out and give, bridging the distance that separates us. That other-centeredness, that love, builds family, community, our nation and the world.

It doesn't come naturally. It takes concerted effort to break down our walls and feel the reality of another person's universe. For the merit of Eyal, Gilad and Naftali, we can work on retaining the unity by putting our focus on unity's primary catalyst: feeling another person's pain. Start in your home – your spouse, your kids, your community – and you will know exactly what action needs to be taken, and be motivated to reach out with love. Everything stems from that recognition. Without it, we can ignore a holocaust.

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Post  Admin on Tue 01 Jul 2014, 6:31 pm

Heartfelt Prayer Is Never in Vain
Rachel Frankel said, “If tomorrow, God forbid, I’ll hear the worst news, I don’t want my children to feel that where did all my prayers go?”
by Rabbi Dovid Rosman         
I am feeling intense pain. Pain for those beautiful teenage boys whose lives, full of potential, were cut short in a horrific way. Pain for their families. Pain for their friends and communities where they lived. And pain for the entire Jewish nation which unified during this time to do what they could to bring them home.

In addition to the incredible efforts of the IDF to find the boys, people around the world were doing anything they could to try to help the cause.
Sitting in my office that faces the Western Wall, I witnessed thousands of people from all walks of life coming daily to pray for them. There were 24-hour Torah learning programs set up in the boys’ communities to serve as a merit for their well-being. People accepted upon themselves to be more meticulous in their speech and in the way they treat others. Shabbat was accepted early. The nation united; we felt like one family.
Now we are left reeling, devastated by the vicious murders. And many are wondering: what happened to all of our prayers over the last 18 days? Were they for nothing?

The Hebrew world for prayer “tefillah” comes from the root “palel” which means to connect. A successful prayer doesn’t necessarily mean that we get what we ask for. God is not a vending machine and there are times when the answer we receive is “no.” But the prayer may still be deemed “successful” since the primary goal of prayer is to connect with God. That has been accomplished.
Our responsibility to this terrible situation was to do whatever was in our power. We prayed, we performed extra mitzvot, and we united in a unprecedented manner. We gained a greater appreciation of preciousness of life, of the Jewish people, and we genuinely connected with God. All that will go to the merit of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal.

The parents of the three boys displayed enormous strength and faith in God. In an interview with the Times of Israel last week, Rachel Frankel said this: “We repeatedly requested people to pray, and people from different faiths, and people that are secular. They each have their own way of sending positive energy, whatever it takes, and prayer means a lot to me. I just want it clear and I kind of repeated myself a few times: Prayer is very powerful but it’s not a guarantee for anything.
“I didn’t know they were taking pictures then [at the Western Wall] but I think the words they caught me saying were, “God doesn’t work for us.” Just because I’m praying with all my heart. It might help. I believe it could help, especially when thousands and millions are praying. They are. 

But nobody owes me anything. And if tomorrow, God forbid, I’ll hear the worst news, I don’t want my children to feel that where did all my prayers go? It was a group of children I don’t know and I feel a responsibility. God forbid, it shouldn’t be a crisis for them.”
No prayer goes wasted. Our sages teach us that all prayers, even ones which seem to go unanswered, are stored away by God and come into fruition at a later date. Kind David says to the Almighty, “You have counted my wanderings, place my tears in your flask, are they not in Your record?" (Psalms, 56:9) Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus explains that every tear shed in prayer is saved and kept by God until it is used at its designated time of need. Only God can know when that time is.

The holy Steipler Gaon of Bnei Brak once said, “Do not be dismayed. There is no such thing as a sincere prayer that goes unanswered. Any heartfelt request addressed to God must be answered. It can’t be otherwise. If it is not answered today it will be answered tomorrow. If not tomorrow it will be answered in a week. If not a week, in a month. If not answered in a month it may be answered in a year, or in ten years, or in one hundred years or more. If your prayers are not answered in your lifetime they will be answered for your children or for your children’s children. We cannot say for sure when a prayer will be answered, we can rest assured only that every prayer will be answered somehow, someday.” (A Letter for the Ages, Artscroll)
Our pain is great and we cannot understand how this fits in with God’s greater plan. In just over two weeks these boys were able to create great change within the Jewish People, more than some are able to do in a lifetime.
May we be comforted together with the family and may all our prayers, extra study of Torah, and performance of mitzvot serve as a merit for these holy souls and the Jewish People.

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Post  Admin on Sun 15 Jun 2014, 6:33 pm

The Kidnapping of Three Israeli Teens
by Sara Yoheved Rigler
How should Jews respond to crisis?
We did not find out about the kidnapping on the Internet. Early Friday afternoon, my husband was praying the afternoon prayer in an ancient synagogue in our neighborhood, the Old City of Jerusalem. The prayer leader appended Psalms 121 and 130 onto the regular liturgy, as is done when an extra dose of heavenly mercy is urgently needed. Afterwards, my husband asked who was sick, and he heard the heart-stopping news.

Cardinal O'Connor Was a Jew
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
Does it really matter?
So it turns out the Cardinal John Joseph O’Connor, the Catholic Church’s top official in New York for 16 years until his death in 2000, was a Jew.
Mary O’Connor Ward, the cardinal’s 87-year-old sister, recently discovered that their mother was Jewish, a daughter of an Orthodox rabbi, while digging into her genealogical roots.

The Kidnapping in Israel by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
Focus your efforts on prayer. It makes a difference
Home   »  Current Issues   »  Salomon Says Weekly Video Blog
The Kidnapping in Israel by Rabbi Yaakov Salomon
Focus your efforts on prayer. It makes a difference.
Published: June 15, 2014
Please pray for the safe and speedy return of 
Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah, Gilad Michael ben Bat Galim, and Eyal ben Iris Teshura.

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Post  Admin on Mon 02 Jun 2014, 2:22 pm

King David’s Heart
Life’s difficult challenges aren’t interruptions. They’re what we need to compose our unique song.
by Batya Burd         
It is no coincidence that Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, is the yahrzeit of King David. On Shavuot, the Jewish people received their national mission to be a light onto the nations. King David teaches us about our unique mission in the world as an individual.
I have always admired King David. I even named a son after him, who was born on Shavuot. King David inspires me.

The youngest son of Yishai, from an early age David was sent out to tend the sheep and forced to eat at a separate table because of his family's embarrassment of his seemingly questionable lineage. After being secretly anointed as the new King of Israel by the prophet Samuel, David revealed himself as more than a harp-playing shepherd and poet when he courageously stood up to the 9-foot giant Goliath, slaying him with a few rocks and sling. After marrying King Saul's daughter Michal, he spent years being chased by his father-law who out of jealousy attempted to kill him several times. David responded with compassion and love, trust and devotion to His Creator who he knew orchestrated the ways of His world. He lost a baby at birth, one of his son's raped his daughter, and another son attempted to kill him and oust him from his throne.
Through it all he remained our hero, fought and won many battles on behalf of Israel and had his son Solomon build the Temple of Jerusalem. But the depth and heart of David remains most revealed in his poetry-turned-prayers called Psalms.
In the Psalms, King David moves me because of the intensity of his experience of life, because of his honesty, candidness, rawness and courage to expose his frailties and fears. Because of his humility and yearning to be closer to His maker in the light and in the dark times. He was not embarrassed to be him. He was not shy about his feelings. He exposed himself and then gave it all back to God. Nothing he felt or experienced was wasted. All was used to connect back. All was sanctified through his actions.
I also love that he was a singer. It is written that the highest gate of prophecy is through song, sung with pure intentions.
Each one of us has a unique song that lies deep in our soul. It is the most pure type of music that stems from who we truly are, in all of our splendor and beauty, the one that reveals us completely, imperfections and all.
Every experience of anguish is a note that we weave together to make a song that no one else can sing.
When we have a difficult challenge in life and experience some suffering, some of us view it as an interruption to life, a blip. But those troubles aren’t distractions – they’re precisely what create us. The pains and the uncomfortable parts of our story help craft our unique personality and character. The moments of distress create the peaks, dips and special viewpoints we have; they create the flats, the sharps and the octaves of our song. Every experience of anguish
is a note that we weave together to make a song that no one else can sing. And when we sing that song back to God through prayer, just as 

King David did, we fulfill the spiritual purpose for the suffering we were given.
This was part of King David's greatness and the lesson he teaches to every one of us.
Suffering, pain and turmoil are not intermission times in our lives; they create our intricacies, depletions, accents and twists for a reason. When we are honest with our pain and lacks, and allow ourselves to laugh or cry or scream as a vehicle to come closer to our Maker, that's part of our chorus. That’s part of our song that no one can sing but us. We can transform the darkness into sparks of light. When we turn pain into a vehicle for connection with the Almighty, we invest meaning into the suffering and make it holy. God doesn't do that; that choice is in our domain.
King David became King David not despite his difficult life, but because of it. Can you imagine if he had a normal, steady and balanced life full of everything he wanted and no struggles? He would not have become King David. We would not have written the psalms to open up the Heavenly gates. He would not have become the spiritual hero that we aspire to be.

The world is our classroom. We face the tests that are given to us, to overcome a weakness and write new stanzas to our life’s song. And we can rely on God for His help and guidance. My kids recently lost their father. At the shiva I continuously heard from friends who lost parents at an early age that a hole remained with them for life. But they also gained a special connection to God that none of their friends seemingly felt. A double dose of God's help and closeness in place of that parent, just as King David writes in his Psalms.
Would my kids have chosen that combination if asked? I don’t think so. But who chooses anything? When we stop fighting against why we have a certain life circumstance and accept the Divine plan, embracing what we do have and are here to do. That’s when we can finally make use of all the beautiful, awkward-like and seemingly off key notes we possess to compose the special song only our soul can sing.
Easier said than done. Trust me, I know. But time is so precious, and so are you.
Published: May 31, 2014  

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