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Post  Admin on Wed 01 Aug 2018, 2:56 pm
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
Aug 3, 2013 | by Rabbi Dov Heller, M.A.
Pay Attention to Your Feelings
Don’t ignore your feelings. They are keys to self-discovery.

Feelings are information and listening to them is essential for personal and spiritual growth. Every feeling has a unique meaning attached to it. Feelings educate us. They are the royal road to self-discovery and self-development. To ignore, dismiss, or avoid what we feel is like choosing not to open an email that’s marked “Urgent – open immediately!” Our feelings teach us what is good and what is not good about ourselves and our lives. They are our quality control monitors.

Uncomfortable feelings such as sadness, anxiety, shame, loneliness, anger, and jealousy serve the same function as physical pain. Just like physical pain informs us that something is wrong and needs to be attended to, so too emotional pain. Ignoring a stomach pain, might result in having a ruptured appendix. Sadness that is ignored and not explored could result in depression. As a psychotherapist, I have found that all too often at the core of people’s problems is some degree of disconnect from their feelings and an inability to process their feelings effectively.

Listening to our feelings doesn’t mean following them impulsively or blindly. To learn from our feelings, we need to process them. There are three steps to processing our feelings:

Identify what I am feeling by naming the feeling, for example, sad, mad, glad, fear, shame etc.
Clarify why I am experiencing this particular feeling, at this particular moment and in this particular context.
Decide what I want to do about this feeling now that I understand the meaning of it.
I realize something is bothering about something my wife said to me. I identify that I’m feeling sad. The reason I’m feeling sad is that within the context of the situation, this sadness means that she doesn’t understand something important about who I am. I feel distant from her. I decide that I need to have a conversation about how I feel and see if I can help her understand me better so we can reconnect.

I am waiting to meet my wife for lunch. She’s late. I am not only upset, I’m boiling with rage. Upon reflection, I recognize that my wife’s lateness is triggering painful memories of my father who consistently missed important events in my life. I realize that my anger has little to do with my wife being late. When she arrives, she apologizes profusely. I greet her with a hug and a kiss.

I open a professional journal in my office and am surprised to see that a colleague’s article has been published I immediately experience a sinking feeling in my stomach. I am feeling jealous and sad. I read the article and console myself by thinking, “It wasn’t such a great article.” I go on with my day and fail to explore the meaning of my jealousy and sadness. Although I have relieved my discomfort, I have missed a huge opportunity for self-discovery and growth.

Distrusting Emotions
Understandably, there are some who distrust human emotions. After all, giving into ones feelings blindly or impulsively “doing what feels good” can certainly lead to disastrous results. From this perspective, it is understandable why some believe it is best to try to get rid of bad feelings while opting to rely on reason and logic.

By understanding the meaning of our pain, we can learn to tolerate and ultimately integrate it.
Nobody wants to be in pain. Patients come in with an expectation that my job is to help them get rid of their pain. Instead, I tell them my job is to help them understand the meaning of their pain, which will help them to tolerate and ultimately integrate it.

The desire for comfort is king in our culture. The drug industry is a multi-billion dollar business because so many people want to get rid of their uncomfortable feelings. (This is not to say, that there are certainly good and appropriate uses for such medications.) When we try to get rid of them we lose precious opportunities for self-discovery and growth. Rather than taking an adversarial stance vis-a-vis our feelings, we need to take a friendly and curious stance. We shouldn’t be afraid of our feelings.

Dating & Feelings
A final illustration of the importance of listening to our feelings is in the realm of making good decisions. In my work with singles, I tell them that in dating it’s very important to be aware of your feelings when choosing the right person to marry. How does this person make me feel? Is there something that consistently doesn’t feel right? What is my greatest fear if I marry this person? Do I respect this person? Do I trust this person?

Many well-intended friends, parents, and counselors inadvertently end up advising people not to listen to or trust their feelings. “Don’t worry about that, I had the same feelings when I was dating and it was nothing.” This type of advice is essentially telling the person not to listen to and process their feelings and can lead to disastrous results. When a person doesn’t listen to his or her feelings, he or she runs a risk of not seeing those infamous red flags waving in front of their faces. It also denies the person the opportunity to introspect and become fully aware of the issues involved in this relationship.

So don’t run away from your feelings. Listen to them, process them, and use them as an opportunity for self-discovery.


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Post  Admin on Sun 22 Jul 2018, 11:50 am
#PrettyPlaneGirl and the Power of our Words
Jul 18, 2018 | by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
#PrettyPlaneGirl and the Power of our Words
A digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, shaming and hurtful words.
It started as a cute online romantic tale.
A woman began tweeting photos and updates of a supposed “love story” that was happening before her eyes while flying on an Alaskan Airlines flight. After requesting a seat change to sit beside her boyfriend, the passenger thought that the strangers who now sat side by side may be discovering each other and “the love of her life.”

She began photographing the pair from her seat that was directly behind them. The trip was documented step by step. When deplaning, the mystery duo was still photographed and posted from behind as they walked through the airport. The unidentified woman was dubbed #PrettyPlaneGirl.

The tweets went viral. Over 20,000 likes and reactions hoping for this couple’s ending up together spurred a fiery discussion from the online public.

The male seatmate was revealed to be a former professional soccer player who became known as #Plane Bae through a wild social media storm. He was interviewed and appeared on a number of morning shows. The story continued to spread. Social media users tracked down #PrettyPlaneGirl.

Then there was a drastic change of attitude. Comments about invading the unnamed woman’s privacy opened people’s eyes to the damage done.

#PrettyPlaneGirl recently broke her silence. She blasted the photographs and the false narrative that was created.

“I am a young professional woman. On July 2, I took a commercial flight from N.Y. to Dallas. Without my knowledge and consent, other passengers photographed me and recorded my conversation with a seatmate. They posted images and recordings to social media and speculated unfairly about my private conduct.

Since then my personal information has been distributed online. Strangers publicly discussed my private life based on patently false information. I have been doxxed, shamed, insulted and harassed. Voyeurs have come looking for me online and in the real world.

I did not ask for and do not seek attention. #PlaneBae is not a romance-it is a digital-age cautionary tale about privacy, identity, ethics and consent.”

Is there any way to repair the damage done to reputation, the public shame and embarrassment? How often do we think about the consequences of our posts?

I am reminded of the famous feather story. A man who spread many malicious stories about others and gossiped incessantly wished to make amends. He was told by his rabbi to take a feather pillow, cut it open, and scatter the feathers to the wind.

“That’s it?” the man replied.

When he returned to tell the rabbi that he had followed his instructions, he was informed of the second step. “Now go and gather all the feathers.”

“Impossible! The wind blew them in all directions.”

“Exactly,” said the rabbi. “You cannot make amends for the damage your words have done as you cannot collect the feathers that have spread.”

Our words are like arrows. They’re sharp and penetrate. And once they’ve been shot they cannot be retrieved.
The Talmud teaches us that words of lashon hara, evil speech that wrongs others, are compared to arrows because they are sharp and penetrate. And once they’ve been shot they cannot be retrieved. There really is no remedy to the harm done.

Lashon hara isn’t conveyed only through words. Harming and shaming others through tweets and texts are also included in the prohibition.

Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagen, known as the Chofetz Chaim, made it his life work to reveal the evils of slander and malicious gossip. He wrote “If the message is negative it makes no difference if the lashon hara was communicated through speech, writing, or hinting. It applies whether verbally or in writing.” (Laws of Lashon Hara 1:8)

We need to think hard before we push send. Too many hurts have been hurled online without considering the ramifications. Even photos or clips one thinks is funny can be a serious source of shame to the person who’s being laughed at. Remember, this is someone’s father, mother, child, spouse or family member. This person has a life that is now being dissected; maybe even ridiculed.

The woman who sent out the original tweets apologized. “I wish I could communicate the shame I feel in having done this, but I truly feel that at this point my feelings are irrelevant. This may be coming too little too late.”

She is right. There is no going back.

The Torah gives us practical guidelines to help us be more mindful of the impact our words are making and to create greater harmony. Here are a few to think about:

Rechilut: telling someone what other people said about him
Lashon Hara: derogatory or harmful speech even if it is true
Motzei Shem Ra: slander that is untrue.
Ona’at Devarim: causing emotional pain or embarrassment with our words or actions.
Avak Lashon Hara: saying something whose implied meaning is derogatory or harmful, or saying a derisive joke with fake innocence

The Torah considers pain caused by our words as a real injury. It’s as if you’ve poured acid on someone’s soul. The wounds blister.
Our Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed on Tisha B’Av because of baseless hatred. As long as this malice continues we will remain in this bitter exile. Think about how much harm is caused each day through our words, both in person and online. With greater awareness and sensitivity, we can heal a fractured world. This is the key to rebuilding Jerusalem.

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Post  Admin on Wed 18 Jul 2018, 8:46 pm

Praying at My Father’s Grave
Jul 14, 2018 | by Shoshanah Shear
As a child I had very little contact with my father. After his death, my connection to him grew increasingly stronger.

I found my parents' divorce very difficult to come to terms with. As an eight-year-old child, I didn’t understand much of what was happening. All I knew was that I did not want to live in a different country than my father. I didn’t want to lose my father. My hurt ran deep enough that instead of discussing my feelings with the father I loved so much, I did the opposite. I virtually stopped talking to him.

I always thought that the time would come when I’d be old enough to have the discussion that we needed to have. I naively presumed that my father would always be there when I was finally ready to talk. But life isn’t how we presume it will be.

Since my paternal grandfather died four and a half months prior to my father's birth, my father was raised very much by his grandparents. He grew up in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), where the community was very traditional. My father was very talented and intelligent. By Bat Mitzvah age he had achieved BA level of Hebrew and was fluent in Yiddish. He completed his schooling two years before his peers with a desire to become either a rabbi or a chazan.

My father, around 45 years old
My father's uncle offered to pay for my father's tuition, provided he became a lawyer and not a rabbi. He had learned to lein (read the Torah) and blow shofar. He would sing in shul together with the chazan and had a very active role in shul. When I was two years old, my father faced a tough challenge. The rabbi of the shul, who was his father figure, stated that since he was such a leader and role model in the shul, he needed to begin to observe Shabbat.

As a young lawyer, he often had to go to court on Saturday morning. While my father grappled with what to do, the rabbi ended his own life. The loss of his father figure and the timing of his demise were very hard for my father and he began to test anything related to Jewish observance. He gave up eating kosher and much later he married a non-Jewish woman.

The one place I felt close to my father was when I went to shul on Friday night, flooded with the memories of my father.
It was when his third wife began to convert to Judaism that my father expressed his feelings about a Jewish home and how much that meant to him.

Having moved countries, I no longer attended a Jewish day school. But the one place I felt close to my father was when I went to shul on Friday night, flooded with the memories of my father singing with the chazan or blowing shofar. I also vividly remembered my father's amazing Passover Seders. If only I had been confident enough to share these feelings with my father. If only I had the confidence to ask my father to record his singing. I loved his deep, reach singing voice that had touched my heart and soul. Perhaps sharing these feelings and compliments would have bridged the gap and the difficulty in finding what to talk about.

A Sudden Death
Eight years passed with little contact or interaction with my father. Then out of the blue I was informed that my father had unexpectedly and tragically died. I was only 16. All of our unfinished business made the pain of the loss even greater. For reasons beyond my control, it would take five years before I could finally stand at my father's graveside for the first and only time.

All of our unfinished business made the pain of his death even greater.
I had rarely gone to a Jewish graveside. Family friends directed me to my father's grave and left, giving me privacy. I have no idea how long I stood at the graveside. The experience was totally surreal. I was finally standing face to face with the grave of my father. The gravestone had my father's name on it.

Living in different countries all this time, his death didn’t cause any changes in my life. Especially since this took place before the internet or cell phones. It felt as though life was just continuing. But standing at his grave, there was no more pretending that he had just gone away for an extended period of time and not bothered to call or write. The finality suddenly hit home.

My father’s gravestone

I stood there and after some time I told my father that I forgave him. There is so much that I wish I would have said that day. The words got stuck in my throat, just as they did the few times we spent time together since my parents divorced.

But the power of the experience didn’t require words. Surprisingly, somehow an unexpected connection to my father was formed. It was as though an invisible hand reached out of the grave and held on to a part of me, guiding my journey from that moment on.

While I prayed at my father's grave moments in time blended into one. So many questions, so much left unsaid. And yet, as I began to embrace the myriad of ways that Judaism teaches that it is possible to maintain a connection with a deceased parent, a path appeared. Through my yearning for the father who I loved dearly and how to ease the guilt at not having told him that, I began to discover that I could express that love in ways that are quite magical.

Taking tentative steps in my Jewish growth strengthened my connection to my father.
On one plane, I live my life in this world and my father is in another dimension, another world. But there is something that transcends time and space. Just as the memory of my father singing, blowing shofar and conducting a Passover Seder formed a connection where words could not be expressed, so too, every time I entered a shul, prayed from a Jewish prayer book, and took tentative steps towards fulfilling some of the commandments of the Torah, I felt our connection strengthened.

Gradually, over time, with each step in my Jewish growth, that fine thread I felt between my father and me was reinforced and bolstered. I slowly gained an appreciation for the path my father desired when he was younger but was denied him.

In some ways, the connection I now have with my father has never been stronger. And as I continue to build a vibrant Jewish life with my husband, who is a rabbi and a Torah scribe, in some ways I am fulfilling my father’s dream and can sense the pride and joy he must be experiencing in another dimension.


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Post  Admin on Wed 18 Jul 2018, 8:45 pm

When Death-Defying Stunts Go Tragically Wrong
Jul 15, 2018 | by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
When Death-Defying Stunts Go Tragically Wrong
What are YouTube daredevils truly after?

Last week, three young adults – Internet famous for videotaping death-defying stunts in canyons and cliffs – died falling over a 100-foot waterfall while filming another dangerous stunt.

Under the moniker "High on Life," the group travelled to exotic locales risking life and limb to entertain social media millions. After the fatal incident, their official YouTube channel declared that the three "stood for positivity, courage, and living the best life you can."

While mourning these tragic deaths, we must wonder: Do these activities indeed represent the values of "positivity, courage, and living the best life you can"?

This incident is part of a wider trend toward more extreme and lethal escapades:

soaring through a canyon at 150 mph in a wingsuit
free-climbing a sheer mountain face or tall building (grasping for a tiny rock or crevice with no rope or safety gear)
scuba diving to record-breaking depths
solo slacklining – tightroping between two mountaintops with no harness or net.
What drives these young people – smart, vibrant, driven, and brimming with limitless potential – to take such risks?

Whether it's for the adrenalin rush or the quest for digital fame and fortune (one YouTube stuntman, who died on camera, said he was seeking “more viewers”), the pursuit of one's goals via highly dangerous stunts is clearly reckless and wrong.
World Record Free Solo - Insane Slacklining!

Spiritual Yearning
Ingrained in the human psyche is a call that beckons us beyond physical limits. We seek to soar higher, to defy gravity, to fly!

Kabbalists explain that just as every physical entity is drawn to its source – pulled down by gravity and ultimately biodegrading into earth – so too the human being, created with a spiritual soul, is drawn upward toward its pure spiritual Source.

Rabbi Shmuel Dov Eisenblatt writes: "This constant search for the 'something that forever alludes us' is really an expression of our deep-seated aspiration to capture the inner, spiritual vitality that courses through the universe... Our main sources of happiness [requires] a more profound dimension than the purely physical, to satisfy our emotional and spiritual needs to their deepest levels... When we try to quench our thirst for spiritual pleasure, with the saltwater of shallow physical acquisition or experience, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Our fundamental craving has not been satisfied."

The human soul seeks expansive outlet in the form of new, untried sources of excitement. (As well, the urge to travel is primarily the agitated, unsatisfied soul seeking its place of purpose.)

Short of base-jumping off a tall building, how do we replicate that energy in a kosher way?

Rollercoaster Thrills
Imagine you're at the amusement park, watching people getting off the rollercoaster. At first, everyone giggles with joy: “It's great to be alive!” But keep watching. A minute later, they're more serious, as the realities of life resurface. Another minute, they're buried in their cellphones, distracted by nonsense.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg zt"l said that the secret of life is to feel like you're constantly getting off the roller coaster. Each morning, awaken feeling refreshed and restored: I can see! I can hear! I can walk! Capture those moments with a few words that consciously express gratitude for the gift of life.

A child gleefully bounding around the room, said the Kotzker Rebbe, demonstrates the normal human condition of joy. Life itself is enough reason to rejoice: the brilliant colors, array of textures, intoxicating aromas, beautiful music, and exquisite foods.

The key is to connect every exhilarating moment to your higher purpose, using the five senses as an inspiring means to an end – sparking our deepest spiritual drives.

Trivial Stunts
Years ago on the Golden Gate Bridge, I witnessed first-hand the human spirit exerting itself through death-defying stunts as my friend set the world record for the longest Tarzan Swing. (This proved to be artificial, ultimately unsatisfying, and over the years in constant need of bigger boosts.)

Standing on the bridge as this media stunt unfolded, I was struck by the absurdity of it all. Is an act of dangerous, trivial entertainment what society should be glorifying?

It is in our hands to pull our culture back from the brink. The next time we're scrolling through Facebook and see a cool death-defying stunt, reflect: Does my attention encourage such activities?

Before signing up for hang-gliding lessons, ask yourself: Is there a more lasting, genuine way to appreciate the thrill of life?

The recent death of the three young people over the waterfalls is tragic because it didn't have to happen. Let their memory inspire us to rethink the very idea of society granting social and financial capital to those risking death for fame, fortune and thrills.

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Post  Admin on Mon 16 Jul 2018, 6:24 pm

The Last Nazi Trials: The Case Of Auschwitz Guard Reinhold Hanning
Jul 7, 2018  |  by Time Magazine
The 94-year-old former SS guard was prosecuted more than 70 years after the Holocaust. Irene Weiss, an Auschwitz survivor, explains why she testified against him.


In 2016, Reinhold Hanning was convicted and sentenced to serve five years for facilitating the killing of at least 170,000 people. The presiding judge branded him a "willing and efficient henchman" in the Holocaust. Hanning appealed the judgment. He died in June, 2017, before a court could rule on his appeal and he could serve a prison sentence.

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Post  Admin on Tue 10 Jul 2018, 8:22 pm

Invitations to Heaven
Jul 7, 2018  |  by Yael Zoldan M.A.
Invitations to Heaven
As we prepare for our son’s wedding, I’m thinking of all the people who touched our lives.

We are preparing the invitation list for my son’s wedding and the decisions feel sensitive and complex. In a community of friends, in a family that has spread far and wide, it is hard to winnow out the must from the maybe, the friend from the friendly, the obligation from the affection. We lift the names up one by one, examining each relationship in the light.

At last we are ready to send the spreadsheet to the printer. This, finally, is the list of all those with whom we feel connected enough to share our joy. Inscribed in Excel cells, here is everyone we want with us on this momentous occasion. We review and revise. We press Send.

But something inside me says, not yet.

In the age of Whatsapp and Facetime they are still and always inaccessible to me.
Because there is another list of invitations that I would like to issue. People without whom my joy and my husband’s is incomplete. But I cannot figure out how to reach them. In the age of Whatsapp and Facetime they are still and always inaccessible to me.

I speak to them in my heart.

Zaidy, how I wish you were here! It’s a year since you’ve been gone and I can still hear your rumbling voice in my mind. Your glorious smile would have lit up the hall and made me forgive you for being an hour late.

My husband, our son and me

Babbi, you died years before my wedding and I still think of you so often. You were such an impossible mixture of wisdom and beauty, strength and grace. You should be here tonight.

Zaidy, when you died I was a self-centered teenager and while I mourned you, I didn’t quite understand what I was losing. I didn’t know enough about your heroism, your unshakeable faith, your determination; it was all masked in the twinkle of your deep blue eyes and your clever hands and stubbly kisses. But I know it now. I mourn it now.

Babbi, you died when I was already a mother. By then I knew enough to know that you had suffered unthinkable losses; parents, a child, a whole world literally burned before your eyes and still you sat with quiet devotion, whispering Psalms, faithful to Him until the end. I wish you were here with me. I wish I could give you this nachas.

I would invite my husband’s grandparents. His grandmothers, women of faith and kindness whom I knew. And also his grandfathers who I never met. They are only stories to me, but they are stories of Jews who survived and thrived and rebuilt against all odds. They were loved by my husband and they loved him deeply. They should share this night, this is their simcha too.

A picture frame I keep in my study with the few of pictures we have of relatives who died in the war.

I would invite you George, my good neighbor, who pronounced at 99 years of age, that every day was a good day and actually believed it. You would have loved to see your little buddy married and we would have loved to see your love.

And you, Mima Luchi, a woman of profound kindness. Although you spoke only Yiddish and I spoke only English, we understood each other through our hearts. I wish you were here, wearing the smell of fresh kokosh cake and squeezing my fingers in your warm, soft hands.

They’d give the couple gifts not found on wedding registries. Gifts of faith and strength, hope, love and the special protection granted to the righteous.
There are others I don’t know, but know of. Great grandparents who died sanctifying God’s name in the raging inferno of Europe. There are cousins who fell defending our Land. There are friends who are with us but not with us, lost in the fog of dementia and sickness. My uncle who died too young, the victim of a hard and lonely life. The uncle I never met, murdered as a baby in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. It hurts my heart to think that there are so many honored guests who did not make the printer’s list.

But I know this. As we prepare to see our child marry, move on, build his own home with God’s help, I carry with me the memories of the ones who came before. They shaped us and they shaped him, whether he knows it or not. I imagine that they give the young couple distinctive gifts, not found on wedding registries. Gifts of faith and strength, hope and happiness, love and the special protection granted to the righteous. I imagine this and I know that the wedding hall will be full of so many who weren’t on the spreadsheet. Every one of them is welcome.

Your Divine Soul: An Introduction
Jul 7, 2018
by Rabbi Dr. Aryeh Leibowitz

Your Divine Soul: An Introduction
A Jewish perspective on understanding the nature of the divine element that exists within man.

The Torah relates that mankind acquired a soul – a neshamah – when God “breathed” it into him at creation.

“And God formed man from the dust of the ground, and He breathed into his nostrils the soul of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7).”

Why does the Torah use this peculiar imagery of breathing to describe God’s granting to man a soul?

Our Sages explain: “One who breathes, breathes from within himself.”1 Breathing requires one to exhale air from deep within themselves. When the Torah states that God “breathed” a soul into man, it teaches us that God gave over to man something of Him, so to speak. The breath of God imparted to man a spiritual, transcendent, and even God-like essence.

The abstract idea of a divine element existing within man is hard to understand in concrete terms. Therefore, our sages utilize borrowed terms – such as divine “light” or “energy” – when referring to this divine element in man. When the divinity of man’s soul is actualized, illuminating an individual with divine light, man is referred to as “holy” or “sanctified” (kadosh). Holiness exists when the divine is revealed in a physical entity.

Location and Allocation
The divine energy of man’s soul is so intense, so spiritual, so other-worldly, that it is not able to fully reside within man’s physical being. It is simply too overwhelming for a human body to contain. For this reason, only a small amount of man’s soul resides within him. The rest remains outside or “above” him.

Man’s potential for spirituality is far greater than he senses.
This means that man’s potential for spirituality is far greater than he senses. Like the deceptively small tip of an iceberg that barely protrudes above the ocean surface yet hides a huge mass of ice below, man’s divine soul barely finds a foothold in man. The lion’s share of its divine light remains beyond man’s reach, its power and illumination imperceptible to man himself. (Nonetheless, all of the divinity of man’s soul is part of him. It is given to him from God, and is part of his personal identity, even though a large segment of it does not actually enter his physical body.)

Yet, the allocation of the divine soul is not stagnant. It is possible for man to increase the flow of divine energy into his physical being. When this occurs, man becomes more spiritual, more holy, more divine. The same is true in the opposite direction. The divine energy of man’s soul can flow out of his physical body. This makes man less spiritual, less holy, and less divine, as the soul’s energy returns to the reservoir of divine energy that exists outside of him, concealed from the physical world.2

A Three-Part System
Due to this relationship between the part of man’s soul that exists outside of him and that which resides within him, the Sages describe the soul as containing three parts.

The first part of the system is the “lowest” part. It is the part of the system most closely linked with man’s physical self, and it is the receptacle within man that can receive the divine light and store it within man. It is called Nefesh in Hebrew, a word stemming from the root “to rest,” for through it, the soul’s divine light “rests,” or resides, within man and enlightens his body with holiness.

On the other extreme is the “highest” part of the system. It is the reservoir that contains the part of man’s soul that is unable to enter him due to its intensity and his inability to house it. It is called Neshamah, a term already used for the entire system.

The final part of this system is the agent that links the two other parts. It is the channel that connects the vessel within man that can house divinity with the reservoir of divinity that is concentrated outside of man. In other words, it is the “pipe” that allows for a flow between the two parts of man’s soul. This facilitator of divine flow is called Ruach.

The classic parable for this system is an oil candle.

The flame defies physicality and hence represents the reservoir of divine light that exists outside of man.

The wick is a physical object and represents the human body. It has the potential to be illuminated by the flame, but can also be consumed due to the intensity of the fire.

The oil is the agent that brings the flame to the wick in a fashion that it can reside within the wick — i.e., illuminating the wick without consuming it.

Together, the oil, wick, and fire produce a lit oil candle, representing the successful flow of divine light into man and resultant illumination of his physical self with spirituality, holiness, and divinity.

Increasing the Flow of Divinity
The amount of divine light that can enter man and reside within him is dependent upon man himself. When man begins life, he has a greater identification with his physical being and is, by nature, a foreigner to holiness. Therefore, only a very small amount of divinity can initially enter and reside within him. But through great human effort, man is able elevate himself and upgrade his inner receptacle for divinity.

The amount of divine light that can enter man and reside within him is dependent upon man himself.
It is important to remember that for man to introduce more divine light into his physical self, he does not have to “create” divine light. The light of his soul was already given to him and is waiting to flow into him. He must simply make himself into a better vessel for containing it.

Let us consider an overly simplified parable (from an electrical standpoint) of an electrical system in a home. In our parable, the physical body is compared to a darkened room. The light bulb that is in the room is part of the room. Outside the room, there is a source of electricity, such as the local power station. Between the light bulb and the power supply are electrical wires that bring power to the light bulb and light to the room. If a person uses very thick wires, the flow of electricity from the power source is great. If the wires are thin, the flow of electricity, and resulting light, is less.

How can greater illumination occur in a darkened home? The light bulb is already in place and ready to be illuminated. The store of electricity is already in the power station and ready to flow into the home. At this point, Illumination is solely dependent on the electrical wiring.

Man’s mission is to work on his “pipe” (or in our parable: the capacity of his wiring), and to increase the flow of divine energy into himself. Through increasing his capacity for divine energy, man is illuminated with more divine light and emerges as a more spiritual being. As this occurs, man begins to change his purely physical existence into a spiritual, holy, and divine-like existence.

This is the Torah’s commandment to man (Leviticus 19:2): “You shall be holy.” Man is charged to continually seek to increase the amount of divine light that can reside within him, and through this increase his level of spirituality, holiness, and divinity.

This is an edited excerpt from a new book by Rabbi Aryeh Leibowitz: “The Neshamah: A Study of the Human Soul.” It can be purchased online (from Feldheim Publishers or Amazon) or at a local Jewish bookstore.

1. Sefer Ha-Peliah s.v. שאל משה, See also Ramban’s commentary on Bereishis 2:7; R. Moshe Cordevero’s Shiur Komah, chap. 51; and Likutei Amarim Tanya, chap. 2.
2. The foundational concepts in this article are found throughout Jewish literature, but are discussed most directly in Hassidic thought. A brief introduction to some of the basic concepts discussed here can be found in R. Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira’s Sheloshah Maamarim, maamar 1.

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Post  Admin on Sun 08 Jul 2018, 10:59 pm
Daring Rescue in the Thailand Cave
Jul 8, 2018  |  by Rabbi Shraga Simmons
Daring Rescue in the Thailand Cave
Humanity has come together to declare the absolute value of human life.

July 8, 2018 – The rescue mission is underway.

People around the world are holding their breath today as a team of expert divers attempts a perilous 5-hour underwater rescue mission to extract 12 Thai boys who've been trapped for two weeks in a flooded, remote cave.

With monsoon rains imminent and oxygen levels in the cave at a debilitating 15%, rescuers are now attempting to extract the boys in a feverish race against time.

The rescue path is a perilous 3-mile maze of zero-visibility tunnels – full of sharp boulders, excruciatingly narrow passages, wild currents, and boulders the size of a building. It is a journey one expert diver called the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest.

The precarious rescue is compounded by the fact that most of the boys cannot swim, much less use diving gear.

In today's connected world, this event has galvanized the attention of all humanity. Rescue squads, divers, medical personnel and engineers from around the globe – everything from Israeli communication technology to Elon Musk's multi-discipline team – have gathered to assist rescue operations.

This global outpouring of compassion and concern comes at a time when the value of human life is at times questioned. Two recent examples:

Some U.S. hospital administrators – in order to maintain high "productivity metrics" – have resorted to turning away dangerously ill patients.

A Florida court elected not to prosecute a group of teens who mocked and videotaped a drowning man – refusing to assist him during critical distress or to even call 911.

In Thailand, we now see the opposite side of the coin: going to great lengths to save the boys. A team of Thai Navy Seals has pledged to risk their lives for the mission; one former Seal has already died trying.

Another diver, a U.S. Air Force rescue specialist who has dived the world's most dangerous spots, flew to Thailand to assist the rescue. “Normally, I’d just turn around,” he said about his harrowing journey through the cave. “But then normally I don’t have 12 boys, and their entire lives, as an endpoint.”

The collective compassion for the fate of these boys, strangers in a faraway land, and the enormous resources expended to save them inspires hope in mankind. Along with the prayers of billions worldwide, this is a true Kiddush Hashem, fulfilling God's instruction to "be sanctified among the people " (Leviticus 22:32).
As we pray for a successful outcome in Thailand, one thing is certain: Humanity has come together beautifully, in common cause, to lift beyond ourselves and care about a fellow human being created, just as we are, in God's image.

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One In Ten Million
Jul 3, 2018  |  by Rabbi Yoel Gold
About the Author
An incredible true story. VIDEO 
Rabbi Yoel GoldMore by this Author >
As an ordained Rabbi who is dedicated to serving the Los Angeles community and renowned for his impactful sermons and popular lectures, Rabbi Yoel Gold currently serves as Rabbi of Congregation Beis Naftali. The organization, which comprises Holocaust survivors and modern American professionals, also provides charitable services throughout Southern California to people in need of food, clothing and shelter.
In addition, Rabbi Gold is a ninth-grade Rebbe with Mesivta Birkas Yitzchok (MBY), a boys’ yeshiva high school catering to the strictly observant Jewish Community, whose educational emphasis is to produce students steeped in Torah learning and yiras shamayim.
Rabbi Gold is also a sought-after motivational speaker throughout Southern California, sharing his love for life and passion for the torah. His contagious inspirational messages have inspired countless audiences, including Jew in the City, Chayenu, such universities as UCLA, Manchester and Leeds, and companies like BCBG Max Azria.
He was previously appointed as the fulltime Rav of Aish Manchester in England, and has led a trip to Poland, where Rabbi Gold taught and inspired youth about past generations and orthodox heritage.

The Last Jew of Peki’in
Jun 30, 2018  |  by Galia Berry
The Last Jew of Peki’in
Peki'in has had a Jewish presence since the Second Temple period, until Arab riots in the 1930s. Meet the remaining member of the Zinatis, the only family who returned.
My husband and I recently visited the village of Peki’in, 40 minutes from our home in the Galilee. It was incredibly moving to meet Margalit Zinati, the 86-year-old lone surviving Jew of Peki’in, and to visit the cave where some speculate Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai hid from his Roman oppressors. I love that every single corner of Israel not only has such a wealth of geopolitical and religious history, but that we feel a genuine spiritual connection and link to the Land we now call home.
When the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans, there were a few families who survived the starvation and massacres; they managed to flee to other areas in Israel. Twenty-four families of Kohanim (priests) thus settled in different parts of the Galilee, including three places near where I live, but these villages today (Kfar Yasif, Shraram, and Arrabe) are strictly Arab (Muslim, Christian or Druze).

 Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots
Jul 2, 2018  |  by Dan Fellner
Elvis Presley’s Jewish Roots
I was all shook up in Mississippi.
Inside a museum next to the modest two-room house where Elvis Presley was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Miss., visitors will find all the things you’d expect to see in a shrine celebrating the early years of a boy who would grow up to become the King of Rock ‘N’ Roll.
There are guitars, childhood photographs, old record albums, performance costumes and other memorabilia from Elvis’ illustrious career.
But amidst all the artifacts inside the Elvis Presley Museum, there’s something else that one wouldn’t expect to find – a gold menorah with nine Hanukkah candles.
The menorah at the Elvis Presley Birthplace Musuem (Photo: Dan Fellner)
Could it be that the great American cultural icon of the 20th century was a member of the tribe?
Well, sort of.
Elvis’ maternal great-great grandmother, Nancy Burdine, was believed to be Jewish.
Turns out, Elvis’ maternal great-great grandmother, Nancy Burdine, was believed to be Jewish. Her daughter gave birth to Doll Mansell, who gave birth to Elvis’ mother, Gladys Smith. That, according to a Jewish law, which confers Jewish lineage by way of the mother, makes Elvis technically a Jew.
Elvis in front of Tupelo City Hall, Mississippi (Photo: Dan Fellner)
While Presley was aware – and even proud – of his Jewish pedigree, there is no evidence he ever practiced the faith.
I recently went to Tupelo, Miss., to learn more about Elvis’ upbringing and his Jewish roots. Despite the sweltering June heat in the hills of northeast Mississippi, I opted to take a newly inaugurated, self-guided, Elvis-themed bike tour that takes visitors to 13 marked sites throughout the city tracing the early years of Presley’s life.
I began at the humble, two-room dwelling where Elvis was born and lived the first two years of his life. The house is the centerpiece of a 15-acre park that includes a “Walk of Life,” a series of concrete blocks that traces each year of Elvis’ life. Next door sits the Elvis Presley Museum, which contains memorabilia – including the menorah – related to Elvis’ legendary career.
The menorah was originally owned by the family of George Copen, who moved to Tupelo from New York in 1953. Copen, now 75, told me that his childhood best friend in Tupelo was a boy who lived across the street named Jim Hill. Jim’s mother, Janelle McComb, was a close family friend of the Presleys. She first met Elvis when he was just a two-year-old, beginning a friendship that would last until Presley died in 1977 at his Graceland mansion in Memphis.

The Amazing Tie Between Ancient Israel and America's Founding Fathers
Jun 30, 2018
by Rabbi Meir Soloveichik and CBN News
The Hebrew Bible lies at the center of the American imagination.
Rabbi Meir SoloveichikMore by this Author >
Meir Soloveichick is a Contributing Editor of Azure. He is Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan, and is currently working on his doctorate at Princeton University. His last contribution to Azure was "Locusts, Giraffes, and the Meaning of Kashrut" (Azure 23, Winter 2006).

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A People That Dwells Alone
Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)
Jun 24, 2018
by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
A People That Dwells Alone
Assimilation is no cure for Anti-Semitism.

This is an extraordinary moment in Jewish history, for good and not-so-good reasons. For the first time in almost 4,000 years we have simultaneously sovereignty and independence in the land and state of Israel, and freedom and equality in the Diaspora. There have been times - all too brief - when Jews had one or the other, but never before, both at the same time. That is the good news.

The less-good news, though, is that Anti-Semitism has returned within living memory of the Holocaust. The State of Israel remains isolated in the international political arena. It is still surrounded by enemies. And it is the only nation among the 193 making up the United Nations whose very right to exist is constantly challenged and always under threat.

Given all this, it seems the right time to re-examine words appearing in this week's parsha, uttered by the pagan prophet Balaam, that have come to seem to many, the most powerful summation of Jewish history and destiny:

From the peaks of rocks I see them,
from the heights I gaze upon them.
This is a people who dwell alone,
not reckoning themselves one of the nations. (Num. 23:9)

For two leading Israeli diplomats in the twentieth century - Yaacov Herzog and Naphtali Lau-Lavie - this verse epitomised their sense of Jewish peoplehood after the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. Herzog, son of a Chief Rabbi of Israel and brother of Chaim who became Israel's president, was Director-General of the Prime Minister's office from 1965 to his death in 1972. Naphtali Lavie, a survivor of Auschwitz who became Israel's Consul-General in New York, lived to see his brother, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, become Israel's Chief Rabbi. Herzog's collected essays were published under the title, drawn from Balaam's words, A People that Dwells Alone. Lavie's were entitled Balaam's Prophecy - again a reference to this verse.[1]

For both, the verse expressed the uniqueness of the Jewish people - its isolation on the one hand, its defiance and resilience on the other. Though it has faced opposition and persecution from some of the greatest superpowers the world has ever known, it has outlived them all.

Given, though, the return of Anti-Semitism, it is worth reflecting on one particular interpretation of the verse, given by the Dean of Volozhyn Yeshiva, R. Naftali Zvi Yehudah Berlin (Netziv, Russia, 1816-1893). Netziv interpreted the verse as follows: for every other nation, when its people went into exile and assimilated into the dominant culture, they found acceptance and respect. With Jews, the opposite was the case. In exile, when they remained true to their faith and way of life, they found themselves able to live at peace with their gentile neighbors. When they tried to assimilate, they found themselves despised and reviled.

The sentence, says Netziv, should therefore be read thus: "If it is a people content to be alone, faithful to its distinctive identity, then it will be able to dwell in peace. But if Jews seek to be like the nations, the nations will not consider them worthy of respect."[2]

This is a highly significant statement, given the time and place in which it was made, namely Russia in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. At that time, many Russian Jews had assimilated, some converting to Christianity. But Anti-Semitism did not diminish. It grew, exploding into violence in the pogroms that happened in more than a hundred towns in 1881. These were followed by the notorious Anti-Semitic May Laws of 1882. Realising that they were in danger if they stayed, between 3 and 5 million Jews fled to the West.

It was at this time that Leon Pinsker, a Jewish physician who had believed that the spread of humanism and enlightenment would put an end to Anti-Semitism, experienced a major change of heart and wrote one of the early texts of secular Zionism, Auto-Emancipation (1882). In words strikingly similar to those of Netziv, he said, "In seeking to fuse with other peoples [Jews] deliberately renounced to some extent their own nationality. Yet nowhere did they succeed in obtaining from their fellow-citizens recognition as natives of equal status." They tried to be like everyone else, but this only left them more isolated.

Something similar happened in Western Europe also. Far from ending hostility to Jews, Enlightenment and Emancipation merely caused it to mutate, from religious Judeophobia to racial Anti-Semitism. No-one spoke of this more poignantly than Theodore Herzl in The Jewish State (1896):

We have honestly endeavored everywhere to merge ourselves in the social life of surrounding communities and to preserve the faith of our fathers. We are not permitted to do so. In vain are we loyal patriots, our loyalty in some places running to extremes; in vain do we make the same sacrifices of life and property as our fellow-citizens; in vain do we strive to increase the fame of our native land in science and art, or her wealth by trade and commerce. In countries where we have lived for centuries we are still cried down as strangers … If we could only be left in peace … But I think we shall not be left in peace.

The more we succeeded in being like everyone else, implied Herzl, the more we were disliked by everyone else. Consciously or otherwise, these nineteenth century voices were echoing a sentiment first articulated 26 centuries ago by the prophet Ezekiel, speaking in the name of God to the would-be assimilationists among the Jewish exiles in Babylon:

You say, "We want to be like the nations, like the peoples of the world, who serve wood and stone." But what you have in mind will never happen. (Ez. 20:32)

Anti-Semitism is one of the most complex phenomena in the history of hate, and it is not my intention here to simplify it. But there is something of lasting significance in this convergence of views between Netziv, one of the greatest rabbinic scholars of his day, and the two great secular Zionists, Pinsker and Herzl, though they differed on so much else. Assimilation is no cure for Anti-Semitism. If people do not like you for what you are, they will not like you more for pretending to be what you are not.

Jews cannot cure Anti-Semitism. Only Anti-Semites can do that, together with the society to which they belong. The reason is that Jews are not the cause of Anti-Semitism. They are the objects of it, but that is something different. The cause of Anti-Semitism is a profound malaise in the cultures in which it appears. It happens whenever a society feels that something is badly amiss, when there is a profound cognitive dissonance between the way things are and the way people think they ought to be. People are then faced with two possibilities. They can either ask, "What did we do wrong?" and start to put it right, or they can ask, "Who did this to us?" and search for a scapegoat.

In century after century Jews have been made the scapegoat for events that had nothing to do with them, from medieval plagues to poisoned wells to inner tensions in Christianity to Germany's defeat in the First World War to the underachievement of many Muslim states today. Anti-semitism is a sickness, and it cannot be cured by Jews. It is also evil, and those who tolerate it when they could have protested are accomplices to evil.

We have nothing to apologise for in our insistence on being different. Judaism began as a protest against empires, symbolised by Babel in Genesis and ancient Egypt in Exodus. These were the first great empires, and they achieved the freedom of the few at the cost of the enslavement of the many.

Jews have always been the irritant of empires because of our insistence on the dignity of the individual and his or her liberty. Anti-Semitism is either the last gasp of a declining culture or the first warning sign of a new totalitarianism. God commanded our ancestors to be different, not because they were better than others - "It is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land" (Deut. 9:6) - but because by being different we teach the world the dignity of difference. Empires seek to impose unity on a plural world. Jews know that unity exists in heaven; God creates diversity on earth.

There is one fundamental difference between Anti-Semitism today and its precursors in the past. Today we have a State of Israel. We need no longer fear what Jews discovered after the Evian Conference in 1938, when the nations of the world closed their doors and Jews knew that they had not one square inch on earth they could call home in the Robert Frost sense, namely the place where "when you have to go there, they have to let you in."[3] Today we have a home - and every assault on Jews and Israel today only serves to make Jews and Israel stronger. That is why Anti-Semitism is not only evil but also self-destructive. Hate destroys the hater. Nothing was ever been gained by making Jews, or anyone else, the scapegoat for your sins.

None of this is to diminish the seriousness with which we must join with others to fight Anti-Semitism and every other religious or racial hate. But let the words of Netziv stay with us. We should never abandon our distinctiveness. It is what makes us who we are. Nor is there any contradiction between this and the universalism of the prophets. To the contrary - and this is the life changing idea: In our uniqueness lies our universality. By being what only we are, we contribute to humanity what only we can give.


1. Yaacov Herzog, A People that Dwells Alone, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1975. Naphtali Lau-Lavie, Balaam's Prophecy, Cornwall Books, 1998. In the Introduction, Amichai Yehuda Lau-Lavie quotes this verse. In Hebrew, however, the work was entitled Am ke-Lavie, a reference to the later words of Balaam, "The people rise like a lion; they rouse themselves like a young lion" (Num. 23:24) - a play on the Hebrew name Lavie, meaning "lion".
2. Ha-amek Davar to Num. 23:9. 
3. Robert Frost, 'The Death of the Hired Man.'

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15 Quotes from Charles Krauthammer
Jun 24, 2018
by Charles Krauthammer
15 Quotes from Charles Krauthammer
Thought-provoking, insightful and eloquent.

1. Israel is the very embodiment of Jewish continuity: It is the only nation on earth that inhabits the same land, bears the same name, speaks the same language, and worships the same God that it did 3,000 years ago. You dig the soil and you find pottery from Davidic times, coins from Bar Kokhba, and 2,000-year-old scrolls written in a script remarkably like the one that today advertises ice cream at the corner candy store.

2. I knew I’d always be a Jew, and I’d always be an outsider.

3. Where religion is trivialized, one is unlikely to find persecution.

4. Science has everything to say about what is possible. Science has nothing to say about what is permissible.

5. …the Jews have done something never done before by anybody else. Even the Jews didn’t imagine it could be done, they returned. No one’s ever returned. We can’t even read the Etruscan language. Everybody disappears. The ten tribes have disappeared… This is a story that is so improbable, the revival of Hebrew. That’s never happened. No language has ever been revived to become the language of everyday life, ever. This is the uniqueness of our history.

6. Obsession with self is the motif of our time.

7. Loyalty to the President is great, but loyalty to truth, integrity, and country is even better.

8. Life and consciousness are the two great mysteries. Actually, their substrates are the inanimate. And how do you get from neurons shooting around in the brain to the thought that pops up in your head and mine? There's something deeply mysterious about that. And if you're not struck by the mystery, I think you haven't thought about it.

9. Great leaders are willing to retire unloved and unpopular as the price for great exertion.

10. My theology can be summed up as, the only theology I know is not true, the only one I’m sure is untrue is atheism. Everything else I’m unsure about…I have this sense that there is transcendence in the universe, but we are in no position ever to understand it…I have an enormous attachment to the Jewish tradition and to the depth and the subtlety of its understanding of life, morality, and of metaphysics. I’ve always been interested in it, and that to me, I think, is important for Jews to try to continue that tradition, to make sure it lives, and to make sure that culture is nourished.

11. Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, it is something between eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal—indeed, deeply human—to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty. Should we not be moved when it produces a vision—a creature—of the purest sweetness?

12. There is no comparing the brutality and cynicism of today's pop culture with that of forty years ago: from High Noon to Robocop is a long descent.

13. The joy of losing consists in this: Where there are no expectations, there is no disappointment.

14. Some geopolitical conflicts are morally complicated. The Israel-Gaza war is not. It possesses a moral clarity not only rare but excruciating. […] For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians.

15. You’ve got to learn the texts, you have to know Talmud, you have to be able to read Rashi, you have to know what’s there. My father said, “I can’t make you religious. I can’t make sure that you’ll be religious, but I am going to make sure that you’re not ignorant.”

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Post  Admin on Sat 16 Jun 2018, 12:16 pm

Over-Zealous Parenting is Harming our Children
Jun 9, 2018
by Slovie Jungreis-Wolff
Over-Zealous Parenting is Harming our Children
How to raise independent kids in today ‘s world.

One of my favorite childhood memories is riding my bike Sunday afternoons and peddling through the sidewalks of North Woodmere. I lived in a quiet suburban community with open spaces, shady trees and lots of winding roads.

These were the days before Amber Alerts, 9-11, constant after school programs and hours spent texting or checking out social media on your phone. We kids loved to be free and explore our world. Today’s children are growing up in a totally different environment. It can be stifling.

Andrea Petersen’s recent article, “The Overprotected American Child”, in the Wall Street Journal laments the lack of independence in our children today. Fewer kids walk to school on their own. Parents have been charged with neglect when they allowed their sons and daughters to play or walk unsupervised. As a result psychologists are seeing more children and young adults with anxiety disorders. “Over-zealous parenting can do real harm,” Petersen writes.

Encasing our children in bubble wrap makes them even more anxious.
The connection between anxiety and lack of independence is strong. Studies show that the more autonomy given, the less anxiety exhibited. When we encase our children in bubble wrap, we mistakenly believe that we are safeguarding them for life. In reality, we are making them even more anxious.

Overprotecting children doesn’t shield them from harm. Instead, it conveys the message that the world is frightening and dangerous. Children feel ill equipped to handle stress. They remain over dependent on mom and dad, seeking their solutions instead of finding their own as they grow. When decisions need to be made, they doubt themselves because parents have always stepped in.

We don’t want our children to be scared of life. We want them to become self-sufficient, self-reliant, and self-assured.

Yes we need to deal with the reality of the world today. There are some really bad stories out there. Parents need to have a sense of safety and awareness and guide their children accordingly. Different cultures and different neighborhoods bring different rules. I recall being astounded when visiting my daughter in Israel and seeing young children running errands for their mothers at the local supermarket. But that does not mean that just because you live in a more guarded society, your children cannot find their own spirit of independence. The question is: how?

First, examine if you are doing for your children that which they can do for themselves. Parents struggle with time crunch, pressure, and tight schedules. We don’t want to deal with tantrums and explosive outbursts. It becomes easier to just handle the task ourselves. We let our children off easy.

If you’d like to teach your child independence, begin with age appropriate skills they can learn in the home. Don’t rush to put their things away, solve their situations, or serve their meals and prepare their lunches and snacks. Even young children can clear their plates, prepare knapsacks for the next morning or put dirty clothing in a hamper. More than chores, these are ways we allow children to master moments that lead to feelings of self-sufficiency.

As children grow they can be involved in their food prep and even cooking with a parent’s watchful eye. Teaching safety and techniques allows for self-reliance instead of greater expectations for parents to do it all. The result is self-confidence and self-esteem, not based on empty praise, but because they, themselves, see how they are naturally growing into capable and competent young adults.

Independence outside our home is more difficult to achieve but it is possible. Again, it is up to a parent’s wisdom and discretion. Besides thinking about how to navigate street crossings, mall outings and venturing outdoors, here are some guidelines for parents to keep in mind:

Provide clear rules and understandings about curfews, distances, what to do when feeling lost or unsafe and expected responsibilities.

Speak about consequences if rules and responsibilities are not followed

Teach children to own their behavior. Explain: You are responsible for your mistakes, causing harm, damage, and bad behavior. If you hurt others you need to make amends. Don’t make excuses or seek to blame others. It’s not about who else did it, who pushed you to do it, or somehow everyone else’s fault but yours. Be accountable.

Allow children to overcome fears, take risks and gain courage. For example, talk together about how shyness can be conquered in small steps, or seek solutions instead of remaining frightened of dogs or heights. Empower your child.

Realize that we cannot manipulate our children’s friendships, sleepover invitations and social lives. Yes, when they are small we can help with playdates. That stops early on, though, and then our children need to navigate on their own. We can try to guide them, help them recognize the meaning of true friendship and open our homes and hearts. Ultimately we hope that they make good choices because we have taught them well.

Guide children to help and do for themselves. They can fulfill their needs and requirements without expecting parents to come to the rescue. One gym teacher told me that I cannot imagine the amount of students who blame their moms for not packing their sneakers.

Making Changes
If you desire to bring more independence to your child’s life, begin with these 5 steps:

Communicate that you would like to see more self-reliance. Say something positive like “Now that you are in middle school, you can….” And be clear about responsibilities.

Give a sense of time. Show through clocks, watches, and phone alarms that children can stick to a schedule and learn how to appropriately balance their time.

Acceptance: Don’t get stuck on perfection. Recognize efforts and then work on bettering skills.

Begin with the good. If your son dressed himself, recognize that before mentioning that his shirt is on backwards. Energize instead of criticize.

Teach solution skills. No matter the age, you will find your child struggling with something. Don’t rush in to fix the problem. Instead encourage him to find solutions.

When we cannot step back and allow children to make mistakes or discover life’s magic on their own, they lose the power to spread their wings. As children grow they want to rely less on us but still be aware of our love and inspiration. We are here to guide, to teach, to strengthen and to discipline. We have the ability to help our sons and daughters flourish, gain independence, and nourish their souls so that they can make a difference in this world.

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Post  Admin on Tue 29 May 2018, 8:02 pm

How to be a Spiritual Role Model to Your Children
May 26, 2018  |  by Rabbi Jay Goldmintz
How to be a Spiritual Role Model to Your Children
The four key steps to being a spiritual exemplar in your family.

How exactly does spiritual modeling work? Social psychologists refer to it as “observational learning.” You watch your role models do stuff and then you end up doing it too. If only it were so easy!

Instead, it has been said that observational learning works when certain specific things take place and, if you want to be a spiritual role model, you need to put those things into effect. First, for example, get their attention. It’s not enough that you are doing something; you need to draw it to your child’s attention.

My wife (the real spiritual exemplar in our family) signed up to help cook meals whenever someone in the shul gave birth. Women banded together to help the newborn’s family get through the first week without having to worry about meals for the rest of the family. In her modest way, my wife did this without announcing it to our own kids until one day, one of the kids noticed there was an extra lasagna in the oven. Only then did they realize what their mother had been doing all along and they thereby learned that chesed, doing acts of kindness, was something that their mother had incorporated into her life on a regular basis. In retrospect, it was a mistake to not draw it to the kids’ attention sooner. They can’t learn what they don’t know they’re supposed to learn.

A second factor in observational learning is retention. A child needs to remember what they see and hear and the only way for that to happen is if the actions and behaviors are repeated over and over again. In the present example, they needed to see their mother cooking extra food for strangers or neighbors over and over again. But it would also apply to singing songs at the Shabbat table every week until the songs are memorized, or repeating aloud the blessing one is supposed to say when one hears thunder, so that the child’s response will be automatic when the situation again presents itself, or retelling the stories of the Torah portion every week to highlight the actions of the characters who are our collective spiritual exemplars. Behaviors, feelings, stories, experiences need to be repeated and internalized until they are a part of the fabric of one’s being if there is going to be any long-term impact.

A third related factor is that for observed learning to be impactful it must be reproduced by the child himself or herself. It’s not enough to see someone else doing it; the child needs to feel what it’s like and needs feedback from the adult model about whether it is being done correctly.

Kids need practice and, like any skill, be it playing an instrument or a sport, they need trainers and coaches, and, when it comes to spiritual skills and practices, parents are the ones most likely to provide that feedback…or not.

Finally, there needs to be motivation, some inherent system of reward that energizes a child and tells him or her that this activity is worth doing. It could be the self-satisfaction that comes with the act or it could be the praise that comes from the parent or community, but as much as we’d like to think sometimes that kids will just learn how to do the right thing on their own, they still need something a little more self-serving along the way.

Being a spiritual role model for one’s child requires thought and planning and routine. Being a spiritual exemplar is tough work, or as Mom always used to say, “Wait until you’re a parent one day and then you’ll understand.”

This article originally appeared on

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Post  Admin on Tue 29 May 2018, 11:16 am

Ten Things I Wish I Knew at My Graduation
June 13, 2015  |  by Sara Debbie Gutfreund
Ten Things I Wish I Knew at My Graduation
Print and post on your fridge and read regularly.
I wish I would have spent more time in college figuring out my life goals instead of figuring out where I wanted to go to graduate school. I wish I would have had the courage to look honestly at myself instead of looking at other people. I wish I would have tried to find my own core values instead of searching the world for meaning.
I wish I would have learned more and studied a little less. I wish I would have treasured my friends instead of taking them for granted. I wish I would have somehow known the following ten things.
1. If it doesn't challenge you, it won't change you. When I first graduated college, I thought that if something didn't come easily to me, it meant that something was wrong. Every challenge looked like an obstacle instead of an opportunity. I wish I would have known then that nothing worthwhile is easy.
2. The secret to having it all is believing that you already do. I wish I would have known then how to be grateful for everything that I had, to be happy even while striving to reach new goals, instead of telling myself "I'll be happy when..." because "when" never comes since we always want more. I wish I would have known that the time to be grateful is now.
3. A negative mind never gives you a positive life. I wish I would have known how important it is to believe in yourself and to look at life through an optimistic lens. I wish I would have known how much complaining is a waste of time and energy and how powerful positive thoughts can be in creating a happy life.
4. If plan 'A' fails, remember there are 25 more letters. I wish I would have known how many different ways there are to succeed, that there are many unique paths and solutions to reach the same goal. I wish I would have understood that real persistence means being open to new strategies when the old ones no longer work.
5. Nothing goes away until it teaches us what we need to know. I wish I would have known that every situation and person that I would encounter was sent to teach me something. Pain is a lesson and the faster I learned its message, the quicker it would pass.
6. Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. I wish I would have known that I was already in a position to give, to teach, to change the world, that no one is ever "ready" to try something new, and that successful people don't wait until they feel ready.
7. If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse. I wish I would have known that I could accomplish extraordinary things if I wanted them badly enough. Putting off dreams is like giving up on them because "someday" never really arrives.
8. The sign of a beautiful person is that she sees beauty in others. I wish I would have known then not to focus so much on how others perceived me and to instead focus on seeing the beauty in others.
9. If you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results. I wish I would have known that we can't always see the results of our work immediately. The important thing to remember is to believe in change itself and to keep growing. If you’re patient, you will eventually see the results of your efforts.
10. Your life is the result of the choices you make. If you don't like your life, it is time to start making better choices. I wish I would have known then that I was – and would always be – responsible for my own happiness. If my life isn't working out the way I want it to, I can start making different choices today.

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Post  Admin on Thu 24 May 2018, 3:29 pm

Children of Nazis
A new book delves into the lives of the sons and daughters of the Third Reich’s most notorious henchmen.
by Chad Smith 
How would you cope if your father were an infamous Nazi? Would you disown the man or accept him? Would you respect him as a father but not a person? Or would you just change your name and try to forget the past?
In “Children of Nazis” author Tania Crasnianski explores the impact of being the child of a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, showing the vastly different ways children dealt with their fathers’ legacies.

Brigitte Höss with her father, Rudolf

It is unlikely that readers will have heard of any of the Nazi progeny examined in the book, but they will certainly recognize the names of their fathers: Heinrich Himmler, Herman Göring, Rudolf Hess, Hans Frank, Martin Bormann, Rudolf Höss, Albert Speer and Josef Mengele.

These were National Socialists who were responsible for some of the world’s most reprehensible crimes. But according to the author, they still strove to provide their kids with normal and happy childhoods.

Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and architect of the Holocaust, would regularly call home to talk to his young daughter, Gudrun, and would even send her flowers and chocolates. Herman Göring commissioned elaborate dresses for his daughter, Edda, whom he always kissed goodnight before going to bed.
But after the war life changes dramatically for these well cared for children. Overnight, their fathers go from heroes to villains, and they need to wrestle with the consequences of having had a Nazi for a father.

Some of the children are refused entry into schools due to their last names; some are victims of schoolyard bullying. Edda Göring and Gudrun Himmler actually lived in an Allied prison for several years, not because they were jailed there but because their mothers were so desperate and fearful after the war that they begged the warden for shelter.

The book is at its most interesting when the children reach adulthood and are forced to come to grips with the enormity of their fathers’ crimes. The children cope in strikingly different ways. Gudrun Himmler, Wolf Hess and Edda Göring defend their fathers; Niklas Frank denounces his; Brigitte Höss tries to forget her past; and Martin Bormann Jr. and Rolf Mengele think their fathers are abominable but still accept them as their blood.

Ironically, the chapters that deal with the children who clung to the notion that their fathers were somehow conscionable people are easier to digest. We somehow “understand” that Wolf Hess wanted to hold onto the belief that his father was a crusader for peace and Gudrun Himmler never could admit her father was guilty. These children find comfort in their delusions.

Much more difficult to process are the chapters about the children who struggled to reconcile the men they knew as fathers with the monsters those men were. Reading about these children forces us think about how we would have reacted in their shoes.

Brigitte Höss, left

For example, Brigitte Höss knew that her father, Rudolf Höss, commandant of Auschwitz, was guilty. His crimes caused her so much distress that after the war she left Germany, settled in anonymity in the U.S. and made a vow never to speak of her history with anyone.

So why, knowing that her father was so evil, does she sleep with his wedding photo over her bed? Apparently, she simply cannot forget that her father was very kind to her and her family.

“He was very good to us,” she has said of him, recalling how he had played with her and her siblings, read fairytales to them and took them to ride horses.

Rolf Mengele, with his father Josef

And then there’s Rolf Mengele, son of the infamous Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele, the “Angel of Death.” Rolf Mengele has said that his father’s actions horrified him and that his own personal political views were “diametrically opposed to that of my father’s.” Yet even after Rolf confronted his father about his ghastly crimes (the two met as adults once, in Brazil in 1977), Rolf still couldn’t find it in himself to tell Nazi hunters where his father was hiding. Asked why, he said, “I would never betray my father. No one in the world can ask me to do that.”

Making sense of the complicated coexistence of love, disgust and other emotions that lived inside some of the children in respect to their fathers can be difficult, but Crasnianski does try.

She quotes, for example, Martin Bormann Jr., who had an interesting theory on why he was able to feel love toward his father. Citing the Bible, Bormann said, “The Fifth Commandment demands only that children love and respect their parents, as parents, and not individuals exercising a role in society.” 

Though Crasnianski works hard to try and help us understand her subjects’ complicated feelings, some of the questions raised in the book still never get answered. That’s because she mostly didn’t speak to her subjects. In fact, the only Nazi descendent who granted her an interview was Niklas Frank, son of Hans Frank, general governor of occupied Poland. Unsurprisingly, the chapter about him is very rich and completely answers why he took the stance he did on his father.

Hans Frank, left; Niklas Frank, right

In one particularly illuminating passage, Frank tells the author, “It wasn’t long before I saw photos of the camps on the front pages of the newspaper: piles of naked bodies, skeletons in rags and children holding out their tiny wrists to show their numbers. ... They were the same age as me, they were being held so close to the castle in Poland where my father was stockpiling his gold and where I was acting like a prince in my pedal car. It was a horrifying realization.”

More first-person accounts as penetrating as Frank’s would have enhanced the book. Still, “Children of Nazis” is a fascinating read and considering that the sons and daughters of the Nazi notables are now elderly, Crasnianski is able to tell the story from a unique vantage point, one that distinguishes her book from others on the subject.

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Post  Admin on Wed 23 May 2018, 2:00 pm

The Jews of Djerba: 9 Facts about This Ancient Jewish Community
One of the oldest Jewish communities in the world exists in a Muslim-dominated region.
by Barbara Penn
9 Facts about This Ancient Jewish CommunityThe Jews of Djerba: 9 Facts about This Ancient Jewish Community
1. Djerba, an island off the coast of Tunisia, Africa, stands like a citadel among an ocean of unrest. Besides being home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, Djerba is also one of the only Jewish communities living in a Muslim-dominated region. Locals work side-by-side and in relative harmony with their Muslim neighbors, speaking the local language of Arabic.

By Bellyglad from Tunisia - Synagogue at DjerbaUploaded by stegop, CC BY 2.0,

2. As equally fascinating as the age and locale of this 2,500-year community is the people’s ancestry. The unique community has been dubbed “The Island of Kohanim (priests)” since approximately 80% of the community is descended from priests, according to the biography From Djerba to Jerusalem. According to the book, following the destruction of the First Temple, the high priest Tzadok, along with his fellow Kohanim, escaped to this distant Island and settled there. Locals maintain that the priests carried a stone with them from the altar of the destroyed Temple, and incorporated it into the building of the famous synagogue, the El Ghriba synagogue.

Jews of Tunis, c. 1900

3. While there are a sprinkling of Israelites in Djerba (Jews who descend from tribes other than the tribe of Levi and its family of priests), the lack of Levites might seem puzzling. According to tradition, their absence is a result of their refusal to return to Israel after the Second Temple was built. Travel writer Ari Greenspan’s article The Jews of Djerba notes that when the prophet Ezra heard about their refusal to return, he cursed them and said that the Levites there would not live out the year.

4. The community, reminiscent of the shtetl-style life of yesteryear, remains a source of pride for the Djerban Jews. Most men contribute to the largely self-sufficient community by taking on blue-collar jobs, working as craftsmen, jewelry makers, storeowners, and vendors at the marketplace.

5. Locals of Djerba maintain scrupulous adherence to Jewish law and hold their 2,500-year-old customs sacred. Their kashrut customs, marriage practices, and education system remain virtually unchanged since it was established.

Jewish money changer in Tunisia

In his article, Rabbi Greenspan relates that community members still bring their pots and challot to the local baker on Friday afternoon to have them heated in a warm oven over the course of Shabbos – a custom no longer in place anywhere else in the world. (While their kitchens are modern enough to keep their food warm in their own homes, they continue to practice this custom in order to keep it alive.) Rabbi Biton, the community rabbi, can be seen on the rooftops every Friday afternoon blowing a ram's horn to remind everyone to close their shops before the approach of the Shabbos – another ancient custom still held sacred.

6. The El Ghriba synagogue, which literally translates as “the extraordinary one”, is one of the oldest-standing and most architecturally beautiful synagogues around today and attracts thousands of tourists every year. Tunisian Jews hope to gain a UNESCO World Heritage status for the building.

Inside the El Ghriba Synagogue By Chapultepec, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The story behind how the synagogue got its name is a strange one. Locals of Djerba told Rabbi Greenspan that legend has it that a beautiful, pious woman who lived alone died as a result of a fire on the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer. Though her house burned, her body remained untouched by the flames and the community attributed this to her saintliness. The unknown woman, nicknamed “the extraordinary one”, was buried next to the synagogue.

7. One unique custom and highlight of the year for Tunisian Jews is the yearly pilgrimage to Djerba. During the time of Lag BaOmer, thousands of Jews make a pilgrimage to pray at the El Ghriba synagogue in honor of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, two great sages who died during that time of year. A festive parade is made in their honor, where a giant cloth-decorated candelabra mounted on three wheels is marched through the streets while the attendees sing in honor of the sages. The menorah is beautifully decorated with representations of the 12 tribes of Israel, the names of rabbis of Tunisia, the names of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, and crowned with a star of David containing an inscription of the Divine name. According to Beit Hatfutsot, the Diaspora Museum in Tel Aviv, the menorah, decorated in veils, is made to resemble a bride and the parade is made to resemble a wedding ceremony, signifying the union between the people of Israel and God. Pilgrims also pay homage to the gravesite of the woman buried next to the synagogue. Visiting her grave has become auspicious for helping barren women bear children.

Lag Ba'Omer procession returning to the El Ghriba synagogue in Er-Riadh (Hara Sghira), Djerba 2007 By Chesdovi - Own work, CC BY 2.5,

8. Despite the relative communal harmony, it is not completely immune to anti-Semitism. In 1985, a local policeman responsible for watching the synagogue opened fire, killing three people, among them one child. In 2002, a truck belonging to a suicide bomber affiliated with Al Qaida exploded near the shul and killed 21 people, mostly German tourists. In January 2018, a firebomb was thrown at the synagogue in an attempt to burn it down. Fortunately, it only caused minor damages.

9. The age-old community faces an uncertain future. What was once populated by 100,000 individuals is down to a few families consisting of one thousand people. Most of the Jews have emigrated to France and Israel. The terror attack in 2002, growing social unrest, and religious extremism in the region has made tourists wary of visiting, effectively hurting the income of many locals who rely on tourists to buy their products. According to Haaretz, while some are weighing the idea of traveling en masse to Israel, they have mixed feelings about abandoning such a rich heritage behind. “Everybody’s thought about leaving,” says local resident Ben Zion Dee’ie. “It feels wrong to leave where my ancestors lived for so many years.”

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Post  Admin on Thu 17 May 2018, 11:02 pm
I Was at the Gaza Border, We Did All We Could to Avoid KillingI Was at the Gaza Border, We Did All We Could to Avoid Killing
What I saw and heard was a supreme effort from our side to prevent, in every possible way, Palestinian deaths and injuries.
by Kinley Tur-Paz 
I’m writing this for my good friends, my moral humane friends, and for all those who are concerned and angry over the Palestinians killed and injured on the border with Gaza.

In the biblical Exodus from Egypt, when the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea just before overtaking the Israelites, our sages say that God prevented the angels from singing and rejoicing, scolding them with the words “my creations are drowning in the sea and you are singing?!”

I write these words with great caution, and from a sense of mission. I can understand and identify with all of those good and moral Zionists who fear that the many Palestinian victims may be our fault, the result of mistakes made by our side. I’m writing because I am one of the few who was there, in uniform, in the reserves, but I was there. Yes, right there on the fence where the demonstrations are happening. It was last Friday, but I saw it with my own eyes; I was on our side of the fence but I could see and hear and understand everything. I want to testify from my firsthand knowledge, not a theoretical point of view. Because I was there.

I want to testify that what I saw and heard was a tremendous, supreme effort from our side to prevent, in every possible way, Palestinian deaths and injuries.

Of course, the primary mission was to prevent hundreds of thousands of Gazans from infiltrating into our territory. That kind of invasion would be perilous, mortally dangerous, to the nearby communities; would permit terrorists disguised as civilians to enter our kibbutz and moshav communities, and would leave us with no choice but to target every single infiltrator. That’s why our soldiers were directed to prevent infiltration, in a variety of ways, using live ammunition only as a last resort.

The IDF employs many creative means of reducing friction with Gazans and uses numerous methods, most of which are not made public, to prevent them from reaching the fence. In addition, over the past few weeks there have been serious efforts to save the lives of children and civilians who have been pushed to the front lines by the Hamas, who are trying to hide behind them in order to infiltrate and attack Israel.

When there is no alternative, and live ammunition must be used to stop those who storm the fence, the soldiers make heroic and sometimes dangerous efforts not to kill and to only injure those on the other side. The IDF stations senior commanders at every confrontation point to ensure that every shot is approved and backed up by a responsible figure with proper authority. Every staging area has an especially large number of troops in order to make sure that soldiers are not put into life-threatening situations where they will have no choice but to fire indiscriminately.

A situation where thousands of people rush you is frightening, even terrifying. It is extremely difficult to show restraint, and it requires calm, mature professionalism. Sixty-two dead is an enormous number. But I can testify from my first-hand experience, that every bullet and every hit is carefully reported, documented and investigated, in Excel spreadsheets. Literally. I was there and I saw it with my own eyes.

This isn’t the time or place to discuss the situation in general and the desperate plight of the residents of Gaza. I’m not interested in starting a political discussion here, although I do have a clear position. What I’m trying to do is present, for everyone who really wants to listen, the extent of the IDF’s enormous effort to protect Israel’s borders while minimizing injuries and loss of life on the other side.

And despite all this – the situation on the border with Gaza is deteriorating. I hope that we won’t be called up again soon for reserve duty to protect our country. But if we are, we will go with the knowledge that we are serving a morally just cause. We do not rejoice when we must go to war, but we also don’t go like sheep to the slaughter.

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King Tut & the Revolution of Torah
I didn’t expect to walk away from a King Tut exhibit with a new way to make Shavuot meaningful.
by Emuna Braverman 
There is a King Tut exhibit on display at the California Science Center. The discovery of the tomb illuminated much about the Egyptian culture. Fun fact: the archaeologist who was credited with discovery packed and shipped 5,398 items from the tomb to a museum in Cairo. That’s a lot to be found in one burial site. And a lot to learn about the customs and beliefs of the Egyptians.

As we left, my husband and I turned to each other in awe, and said in unison, “That was the perfect exhibit to see right before Shavuot.”
How could that be? In delving into the lives of the ancient Egyptians, we discover, among other things, a big focus on magic, myriad forms of idol worship and a seeming obsession with death. This helps illuminate the life of the Jewish people before they were redeemed and taken out of the land. It helps us understand why Moses originally approached Pharaoh with some magic tricks. It helps us understand the Almighty’s strategy in demonstrating His overarching power. It helps us recognize what state the Jewish people must have been in at the time of Passover story. And so much more. I am only skimming the surface here.

But the real insight came when contrasting Egyptian culture and beliefs with the Torah. From looking at their lifestyle, we get a glimpse of what a complete revolution the giving of the Torah was. We get a taste of how it completely changed humanity, that it was a new and unique way to look at life and ourselves.

Belief in only one God challenged the Egyptian way of life that was completely immersed in idolatry, that credited idols with all the good in their lives, that blamed them for the bad and that spent significant time and resources trying to propitiate them.

Prohibitions against magic that fill the Torah taught the Jewish people that any real growth had to be generated internally, had to come from hard work and not from some special spell, potion or amulet. It also reminded us of the concept of Divine providence, the idea that the Almighty is running the world and that it is all in His hands.

Although the IMAX movie shown in advance of viewing the exhibit proclaimed that the Egyptians loved life, everything about the exhibit seemed to suggest the opposite. There was so much preparation and focus on what material goods went with people into the afterlife that the whole point of both this world and the world to come seem to have been missed. It highlighted our view that this world is a tremendous opportunity – to grow, to change, to connect to God – that we don’t want to waste. And that the afterlife is a completely spiritual existence, a world of souls, with no more ties to the material.

Appreciating the revolutionary nature of Torah, no wonder there was complete silence when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai. The world was being completely upended and everyone and everything could only listen awestruck.

I didn’t expect to walk away from a King Tut exhibit with a new way to make Shavuot meaningful this year, with a deeper appreciation of the revelation of Torah. But if you make yourself receptive, you never know when the opportunity may strike.

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Post  Admin on Wed 16 May 2018, 9:21 pm
5 Misconceptions about the Violence in Gaza5 Misconceptions about the Violence in Gaza
Some clarity in a world filled with media distortion.
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller 
As thousands of Gazans clash with Israeli forces along Israel’s border with Gaza, the number of casualties continues to grow – and so has public condemnation of Israel. Here are five misconceptions fueled by the media about the current violence in Gaza – and what really is going on.
1. Gazans are protesting the new American Embassy in Jerusalem
“Tens of thousands protested along the frontier against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem” declared Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Many media outlets followed suit – misreporting the riots that rocked parts of Gaza as a spontaneous eruption sparked by the United States’ decision to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Israel’s capital Jerusalem.

That overlooks the fact that the ongoing riots were planned months ago: back in February 2018, the Hamas terror group that governs Gaza announced there would be six weeks of riots along the border, set to culminate on May 15, 2018. That’s the day after Israel’s 70th anniversary of its founding as a modern state: May 15 is day mourned as the “Nakba”, or disaster, by many Palestinians and other Arabs. For weeks, crowds of Hamas militants have been gathering at points along Israel’s border with Gaza, burning tires and attempting to break down the fence and storm Israel. They’ve billed it as the “March of Return”, allowing Gazans to relocate and live in what they claim are their ancestral homelands inside of Israel.

It’s not the first time in recent years that Hamas has attempted to invade Israel. The 2014 military conflict with Gaza showed that Hamas had spent years building highly engineered terror tunnels into Israel, designed to allow terrorists to infiltrate and carry out attacks. Israel’s army uncovered ammunition, maps, Israeli army uniforms, and plans to attack an Israeli kindergarten where one of the terror tunnels ended. Since that conflict, Hamas has lobbed scores of rockets into Israel, and has even sent explosives attached to kites over the border to attack the Jewish state. Efforts to tunnel into Israel continue unabated. In April 2018, Israel uncovered the longest and most sophisticated terror tunnel yet.

Hamas doesn’t recognize a state of Israel in any borders, and last week, Yahya Sinwar, since 2017 the leader of Hamas in Gaza, reiterated his group’s position, declaring that he intended to amass enough militants to launch a major invasion of Israel. “What’s the problem with hundreds of thousands breaking through a fence that is not a border?” he asked. Sinwar’s remarks were widely reported in the Israeli press. It’s impossible that the reporters from Western media outlets tasked with covering this conflict don’t know of Hamas’ plans – to pretend this is a spontaneous uprising sparked by the US embassy’s move is disingenuous at best and deliberately misleading at worst.
2. Israeli forces massacred protesting Gazans
Turkey said that Israel and the US shared responsibility for a “vile massacre” as dozens of Palestinian rioters were killed by Israeli fire on May 14. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has a political sharing agreement with Hamas, declared “today once again, the massacres against our people continue.” In the US Security council, only a veto by the United States averted yet another condemnation of Israel.

In the past six weeks, 40,000 Gazans have stormed the border with Israel in 13 locations along the Gaza Strip security fence. Fighting these military forces, many of whom traded live fire with Israeli soldiers, doesn’t constitute a massacre. As White House spokesman Raj Shah explained, “The responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas…. Hamas is intentionally and cynically provoking this response.”

As the fighting has escalated, Israel’s army has taken steps to tell civilians to stay away from the riots and to minimize deaths. On May 14, for instance, the Israeli Defense Forces put out media statements telling civilians to stay away from the riots, and dropped two rounds of leaflets warning people to stay away from the fighting.
3. The Gaza rioters are peaceful civilians
In a column in the New York Times on May 14, 2018, a Gazan named Ahmed Abu Ratima claimed that he was one of the first people to dream up the current six-week period of rioting – and admits that it has become out of control, violent and militarized. The riots “cannot be completely controlled. We discouraged the burning of the Israeli flags and the attachment of Molotov cocktails to kites.” he claims; “We have also tried to discourage protesters from attempting to cross into Israel. However, we can’t stop them.” After six weeks of riots, it seems Hamas and other terrorist groups like Islamic Jihad are now calling the shots.

In a typical day of rioting, on May 6, 2018, Israeli soldiers shot at a group of terrorists who succeeded in breaching the border and made it into Israel. They were found to be carrying an axe, wire cutters, an oxygen mask, gloves, a camera and petrol bombs. On May 14, the most violent day of riots in this bloody six-week period, Hamas deployed at least a dozen separate terror cells to breach the border with Israel in different spots; they were ordered to confront and kidnap Israeli soldiers. In two locations, teams of Hamas fighters opened fire on Israeli soldiers, and in one spot terrorists planted a bomb along the border. Israeli Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis called the multiple military threats Israel faced on that day “unprecedented”.

In the context of these military-style attacks, the fact that Hamas is encouraging civilians, including women and children, to provide cover for hardened fighters is tragic. These civilian Gazans are nothing less than human shields. For weeks, Hamas has been using its own people as cannon fodder, encouraging civilians into a war zone of its own creation.
4. Hamas is seeking peace with Israel
Back in March of 2018, when the six weeks of violence at the Israel-Gaza border were just getting started, Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh attended one of the gatherings and declared that the demonstrations marked the beginning of Gazans return to “all of Palestine” – meaning all of Israel. Since then, Hamas’ Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar, has escalated Hamas’ rhetoric, appearing at the riots declaring that the Gaza rioters will “eat the livers” of the Jews, and that he won’t rest until he has personally broken into Israel and marched on Jerusalem.

Hamas, which adopted a new charter in 2017, continues to call for the destruction of Israel. In fact, it won’t even name the Jewish state, calling Israel the “Zionist entity” instead. Speaking with reporters in 2017 when he became leader of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar declared Hamas would disarm only “when Satan enters paradise” and explained “there’s not one minute of the day or night when we aren’t building up our military might.” The current riots at the Israel-Gaza border are Sinwar’s first chance to show his military might, and he seems to be reveling in the hatred and violence he’s causing.
5. There’s no way to fight misinformation and bias
For weeks, international media have adopted Hamas’ version of events, painting the Gaza riots as peaceful protests and Israel’s reactions as disproportionate and indefensible. For Israelis and Israel’s supporters, it can seem nearly impossible to counter the hate. But it is possible. Here are three suggestions to help inject more fairness and balance into discussions.

First, educate yourself. Read Israeli newspapers online. Subscribe to bulletins from organizations like the Israel Defense Forces and Honest Reporting ( Speak with Israelis. Despite the violent nature of the current Gaza riots, Israelis have been remarkably unified in supporting their military’s response to the terror and infiltration and live fire they’ve come under. Learn how Israelis are responding to the violence on their border, and to international efforts to blame Israel for the riots.

Second, don’t be afraid to speak out. When you see unfair reporting or hear Israel slandered in the media or elsewhere, say something. Write letters to the editor. Blog about Israel. Speak up when people discuss the news as it relates to Israel. It’s crucial that lies and distortions about Israel don’t go unnoticed and uncorrected.

Finally, do all you can to educate those around you. It can be hard to believe that Hamas is sending bombs attached to kites sailing into Israel. It can sound incredible that they are cynically using human shields in their campaign to invade and destabilize Israel. It seems much easier to blame Israel’s military for the recent violence instead. It’s up to each of us to spread accurate information, showing that far from conducting peaceful, measured protests, Hamas is cynically orchestrating violent protests that harm their own people. As Israel fights at its border, we all have a responsibility to fight misinformation and distortion that slanders the Jewish state.

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5 Signs You Need to Take a Fresh Look at Judaism5 Signs You Need to Take a Fresh Look at Judaism
So many Jews, myself included, stopped their Jewish education when they were kids and never examined the depth of Judaism through adult eyes.
by Dr. Yvette Alt Miller 
A recent survey found that fully 62% of American Jews feel that being Jewish is merely an accident of birth. For so many of us, Judaism isn’t where we look for answers to life’s big questions.

And that’s a shame, because Judaism is chock-full of wisdom and insights for creating a meaningful, joyous life. But so many Jews, myself included, stopped advancing their Jewish education when they were children and never examined the depth of Jewish wisdom through adult eyes.

Here are five signs that it might be time to take a fresh look at Judaism as an adult.

1. You think Judaism is all about guilt.
Judaism gets a bad rap when it comes to guilt. Many Jews think our religion is one long guilt trip, replete with beating ourselves up and feeling shame. Perhaps it’s because Yom Kippur is one of the most-observed holidays among Jews that we mistakenly think Judaism is focused primarily on blame and fault.

Unlike some religions which regard people as innately sinful and bad, the Torah explains we each are created betzelem Elokim, in the image of the Divine (Genesis 1:26). We each contain a pure soul that reflects our celestial origins. Our essential core is good. What we do with this divine spark is up to us, but Judaism gives us infinite opportunities to grow and develop and to reinforce our connection with the Almighty. The Torah is our playbook, giving us tasks and guidelines that enable us to reach beyond ourselves, become more refine and connect to God.

When we make mistakes and come up short – which is guaranteed to happen – instead of fostering feelings of guilt, Judaism encourages us to pause, restock, and figure out how to do better. As King Solomon said, “The righteous person falls seven times, and gets up” (Proverbs 24:16). Recognize the mistake, get on track and move on.

2. You feel that Judaism doesn’t speak to you personally.
A friend recently told me that her strongest feelings about being Jewish stemmed from the Holocaust and pride in the modern day state of Israel.  Both of these issues are crucially important to the identity of modern Jews, but I asked her, “Do you relate to Judaism personally? Does being Jewish affect your day-to-life? Your relationship with God?”

These questions elicited a confused shrug.

Judaism is replete with meaningful mitzvahs that have the power to transform us, turning us into more spiritual beings.  Each time we enjoy a delicious Shabbat dinner, we’re not only taking our place in a chain of countless generations of Jews who have done the same, we’re deepening our connection with the Divine.  When we give tzedakah, perform acts of kindness, celebrate Jewish holidays, and put Jewish teachings into practice we are connecting to eternal truths and spiritual principles that stem from a transcendent, Infinite dimension that brings out our inner potential, elevating us and the world.

Being Jewish isn’t only about Jewish history; it’s a vehicle for transforming our very souls as well.

3. You think there are no female Jewish role models.
I grew up hearing this and it took me years to learn that in fact many of Judaism’s central role models are women. In our darkest time during slavery in Egypt, it was women who kept the Jewish people going, never losing hope that days would get better and would triumph, and refusing to give in to despair. Later, when the Jews sinned at Mount Sinai by building an idol to worship, it was Jewish women who remained steadfast in their belief in God, and refused to take part. In every generation, Jewish women have sustained us, strengthening the Jewish body and nurturing the Jewish soul.

Indeed, our tradition teems with women who inspire and shape our religion. We model our behavior towards guests on the hospitality of our matriarch Sarah, and we model the way we pray on a Jewish woman in the Torah named Chana. Each Purim we read the story of Queen Esther who saved the Jewish people. On Shavuot, we recall Ruth, the ultimate model of choosing Judaism and accepting the Torah. On Chanukah, we celebrate two Jewish heroines, Judith and Chana, and each year we recall the military victory wrought by Yael. From their ancient times to now, Jewish women have been a key part of our history, nurturing and guiding and inspiring us all.

4. You believe that Judaism has little to say about life’s pressing issues.
Growing up, I thought that the Talmud was archaic and irrelevant. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sent my kids to a Jewish school and they took Talmud. Well, it didn’t take long for my son to put what he was learning into practice. One day he found a $5 bill on the sidewalk and picked it up, exclaiming “I know what to do with this!” He’d been learning the Talmudic chapter on how to treat lost property and was thrilled to put the Jewish laws to use, asking neighbors if they’d lost any money and not resting until he’d found the bill’s rightful owner.

The Talmud is an encyclopedic work that addresses every topic under the sun –sharing its timeless wisdom on issues such as property rights, environmentalism, the ethical treatment of animals, settling disputes, treating people with respect, behavior in times of peace and conflict, and countless other real-world dilemmas.  

From ancient insights from King Solomon to modern day thinkers, Judaism is teeming with knowledge that addresses myriad issues we face every day.

But only if we make an effort to learn it.

5. You think the synagogue is where Judaism takes place.
When I was a child, just about everything we did that was Jewish was performed in the synagogue, from praying and eating kosher foods to socializing with other Jews and learning things about our religion.  Very few of those activities had a place in our regular, day-to-day life. It was only once I learned more about Judaism that I realized that for thousands of years the Jewish home has been the center of Jewish life.  

My first glimpse of this was during my first visit to Israel when I arranged to have Shabbat lunch with a local Orthodox Jewish family.  I arrived at their house and was surprised to find the mom sitting quietly studying Torah until her guests arrived. I’d never seen anyone study Jewish texts outside of a synagogue class before.  Shabbat lunch was leisurely: slowly, over sumptuous food, we sang Shabbat songs, discussed religious topics, listened to the family’s children talk about the week’s Torah portion, and chatted. Hours later, when lunch was finally over, it knew that was the sort of home I longed to build: a place where Jewish holidays and Shabbat are celebrated, a place where guests are welcomed and where Jewish values permeate the very air.  

In Hebrew, the Jewish home is referred to as a Mikdash Me’at – a mini Temple that each of us has the power to create. It’s a place where we instill Jewish values in the next generation, where we teach and learn, and where we watch with pride as Judaism is lived and performed.

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Home   »  Holocaust Studies   »  Issues
Confronting General Eisenhower Over Allies’ Refusal to Bomb AuschwitzConfronting General Eisenhower Over Allies’ Refusal to Bomb Auschwitz
In a direct and sharp rebuke, the Klausenberger Rebbe said the Americans and England shared in the guilt along with Hitler.
by Dr. Rafael Medoff 
“The Americans and England share in the guilt along with Hitler because they had the ability to bomb the railways leading to Auschwitz or the gas chambers.”

That sharp rebuke was delivered by the Klausenberger Rebbe directly to General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945, according to the new Israeli documentary film, “Astir Panai.”

The Rebbe, his wife, and nine of their 11 children were deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Various accounts describe him as often going hungry because of his refusal to eat non-kosher food in the camp. He was transferred to a slave labor brigade in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, and then survived several death marches to sub-camps of Dachau before the Allies liberated the region at the end of April 1945.

The Rebbe ended up in Feldafing, a Displaced Persons camp established by the American occupation forces near Munich. The Rebbetzin and ten of their children had been murdered months earlier by the Nazis. Unknown to the Rebbe, their eldest son survived the Holocaust but died soon afterwards, in another DP camp nearby.

On Yom Kippur, in 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe—and subsequently President of the United States—paid a visit to Feldafing. In the documentary, Reb Moshe Reich describes what happened that day, based on what he heard from his father-in-law, Reb Yaakov Yitzchak (Horowitz) Barminka, a Sanz-Klausenberger chasid who was with the Rebbe both in Auschwitz and in Feldafing.

The DPs were deeply divided as to who should have the honor of greeting General Eisenhower and speaking at the welcoming ceremony, according to Reich. “The Communists said they were entitled to the honor, because they [the Soviets] had liberated Auschwitz,” he recalled. “The Zionists said that they should have the honor, since they were building a state.” As a compromise, “they went to the Rebbe and said that he, as a holy man, should be the one to greet [Eisenhower]. But they said one thing to him—that he shouldn’t speak as if he were giving a sermon, and he shouldn’t recite the whole story of the Holocaust, but rather he should focus on revival.”

“A million Jews could have been saved… If the Americans had intervened just a little bit earlier, it wouldn’t have happened.”
In the film, Reich continues: “The Rebbe said nothing in response. Eisenhower arrived. As the Rebbe went to go up to the podium, he asked for a talis and he put it on. It was too late for anyone to do anything about that, because Eisenhower had already arrived. The Rebbe proceeded to speak about all the events of the Holocaust. The Rebbe said, ‘The Americans and England share in the guilt along with Hitler, because the Americans knew, for at least several years [what was happening in the death camps]. And they had the ability to bomb the railway lines [leading to Auschwitz] and they could have bombed the places [where Jews were being murdered]. A million Jews could have been saved—[including] all the Jews of Hungary. If the Americans had intervened just a little bit earlier, it wouldn’t have happened.”

The Rebbe spoke in Yiddish. A simultaneous translation into English was provided to General Eisenhower by Lieutenant Meyer Birnbaum, a young Orthodox Jewish soldier from Brooklyn who had been assigned to the American forces governing the DP camps. “Lieutenant Birnbaum told me that Eisenhower had tears in his eyes when the Rebbe finished,” Moshe Reich told Ami in an exclusive interview.

“At the time, the Rebbe didn’t know the details about the requests that had been made to the Allies to bomb Auschwitz,” Reich noted to Ami. “He spoke in general about the obvious fact that they were bombing in the area and could have hit Auschwitz. But after the war, when the Rebbe remarried, he became close to Rav Michoel Dov Ber Weissmandl, who in fact made the shidduch, and both of them were now sons-in-law of Rav Shmuel David Ungar. Rav Weissmandl then told the Rebbe about the efforts to get the Americans to bomb Auschwitz, and the Rebbe mentioned the issue a number of times over the years to his chasidim.”

Rav Weissmandl was part of a group of rescue activists in Czechoslovakia and Hungary who, in 1944, received detailed maps of Auschwitz from two escapees. The rabbi then sent numerous messages to Jewish leaders abroad and Allied diplomats, urging the bombing of the railway lines leading to Auschwitz, as well as the gas chambers and crematoria. His pleas were sent to senior Roosevelt administration officials, but they were rejected.

General Eisenhower asked the Rebbe afterwards if there was anything in particular he needed. He had one request.
According to Reich, General Eisenhower asked the Rebbe afterwards if there was anything in particular he needed. “The Rebbe could have requested a visa to America, or all sorts of other things from him,” Reich said. “He had one request—Sukkot was coming in four days, and they didn’t have the arbaah minim (the four species). Eisenhower sent the arbaah minim for the Rebbe, and they arrived just before Yom Tov began.”

The website of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum describes General Eisenhower’s visit to Feldafing, but does not report what the Rebbe said. Yad Vashem’s website quotes excerpts from what it calls “the Rebbe’s sermon on Yom Kippur,” although it is not clear if the words it quotes came from the Rebbe’s address to Eisenhower, or from another drashah he gave on Yom Kippur. In any event, Yad Vashem likewise makes no mention of the Rebbe’s remarks about bombing.

The release of “Astir Panai” coincides with a new controversy over a staff historian at the US Holocaust Museum, who has suggested that the Roosevelt administration had good reason to refuse to bomb Auschwitz.

The historian, Dr. Rebecca Erbelding, told the Times of Israel on April 15: “I’m extremely cautious about saying that bombing the gas chambers would have saved a lot of lives… [Bombing] would have killed a lot of people. There were about 100,000 people in Auschwitz [in 1944]. And so if the [US] had carpet-bombed the camp, most of the camp would have died.”

Erbelding set up a straw man. In fact, a number of Jewish organizations urged the US government to bomb Auschwitz in 1944, and asked not for “carpet bombing,” but for precision strikes either on the gas chambers and crematoria, or on the railroad lines over which hundreds of thousands of Jews were deported to their deaths.

The Allies carried out a number of successful precision bombing raids in World War II, including an attack on a rocket factory in the Buchenwald concentration camp. The planes hit the factory, but avoided striking the prisoners’ barracks. In another famous precision raid, British planes swooped low over a German prison in Amiens, France, and bombed the guard tower and outer walls, so that hundreds of prisoners could escape.

Erbelding is the one of the curators of a controversial exhibit opening this week at the US Holocaust Museum, titled “American Responses to the Holocaust.” It presents a revisionist view of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s response to the Nazi genocide, claiming there was very little the Roosevelt administration could have done to rescue Jews.

But historians who have studied the question of bombing the camps or railways have pointed out that American planes flew over Auschwitz on a number of occasions in the summer and fall of 1944, when they were bombing German oil factories that were less than five miles from the gas chambers. Therefore, it would have been entirely feasible for them to strike the gas chambers or the railways. Since 12,000 Jews were being gassed daily, even a brief disrupti

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Judaism’s Golden RuleJudaism’s Golden Rule
Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man.
by Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
The Talmud tells the story of a gentile who came to Shammai requesting a quickie McConversion to Judaism. He asked to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Shammai had no patience for the ridiculous and disrespectful request and chased him out of the study hall.

Undaunted, the fellow then proceeded to visit Shammai's colleague, Hillel with the same request. Hillel instructed him, "Whatever is hateful and distasteful to you, do not do to your fellow man. This is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary. Go learn."

It seems a little bold of Hillel to claim to summarize the entire Torah in one sentence. And even if he could, what is it about this particular principle that defines all of Judaism? Would not, "I am the Lord your God..." the first of the Ten Commandments or "Shema Yisrael..." and the notion of One God been a more logical place to start?

It takes a genius to be able to distill something into its simplest and most basic component the way Hillel did. Hillel was instructing this gentile about the most crucial component that is the basis of all of Judaism. He was pointing out the most essential ingredient of Judaism before one can even begin to understand the myriad of responsibilities and mitzvot that are part and parcel of being a Jew.

All of Judaism depends on the ability to view another person as real as one views one self.
All of Judaism depends on the ability to view another person as real as one views one self. Understanding God's word cannot begin without the realization that the person next to me is just as real as me; that another person travelling through life has the self-same experiences of love, pain, hurt and joy from the ups and downs and curveballs in life that I experience so intensely and seriously.

And as simple as this may sound, the fact of the matter is that it is a lifelong and difficult duty to try to accomplish on a daily basis.

This notion that Hillel is describing is expressed at the very beginning of Creation going back to Adam and Eve. After God created Adam and declared that, "It is not good for Man to be alone", He made a helpmate for him. But before God put Adam into a deep sleep to create Eve from his side, He brought the animals to Adam for him to name. Only after this zoo-naming exercise did God finally provide Adam with his wife.

Why the interruption? Why have Adam name the entire animal kingdom before he met Eve? A prerequisite to the very first relationship in the history of mankind was the need for Adam to be able to practice and master the ability to relate to something outside of himself. He needed to realize that he was not the center of the universe. If he thought he was, his relationship with his soon-to-be wife would be doomed. Adam needed training in relating to something – anything, even an animal – before he’d be ready to begin a serious relationship with another.

While this lesson may be obvious, too often people cannot adjust to their new reality of putting another on equal or even higher footing than the self. It is not easy for a person to make the necessary and continuous effort to exercise heart and mind to look beyond oneself and see others as real beings with similar needs, fears, cares, goals and everyday concerns.

All of the Torah's instructions for living rest on the ability to treat someone else as seriously as you would want another to treat you; to see another as a full human being created in God's image just as you know with certainty that to be the case about yourself.

Once this becomes clear, the rest of the Torah is merely the commentary and details of how to carry it out.

Jews, Hats & Modern Anti-SemitismRabbi Benjamin BlechJews, Hats & Modern Anti-Semitism
The only antidote to anti-Semitism is pro-Semitism.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Just over 70 years after the Holocaust, has anti-Semitism returned once again as a powerful evil force threatening contemporary world Jewry?

To respond, let’s talk for a moment, of all things, about hats. Hats not as a statement of fashion but as a statement of faith. Hats known as yarmulkes by some, kippot by others. Hats worn by observant Jews to publicly identify themselves by way of a tradition going back thousands of years.

Hats symbolize our belief in a Supreme Being Who is above us – the Almighty who transcends our heads, our minds and our intelligence.

Hats played a central in what happened last week in Berlin. An apparently Jewish man wearing said skullcap was viciously attacked and beaten. His assailants made clear, as they continued to pound him, that his only crime was the fact that he was a Jew. It was a racist attack fueled by the ancient venom of anti-Semitism.

But in the aftermath of this beating, the police made a remarkable discovery. The victim was not a Jew, he was an Israeli Arab. The reason for his wearing a yarmulke? He had made a bet that anti-Semitism is no longer a problem in Germany today and to prove it he decided to walk the streets self-identified as a Jew.

The Arab paid a heavy price for his mistaken assumption. And it seems he is not alone in his misreading of the current mood of anti-Semitism.

Copenhagen is a city renowned for Denmark’s historic generosity to non-Danes. Jews exploring Nørrebro, a neighborhood of immigrants who left their home countries for the stability of a welfare state, were advised to heed the advice of Israel’s ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon, who strongly suggested that Jews traveling in Copenhagen exercise extreme subtlety: “Don’t speak Hebrew too loudly, cover up any visible Star of David jewelry, fold your kippot and slip them into your pockets.”

In short, in the very place which served as an illustration of the goodness of people to triumph and for anti-Semitism to be abolished, it is now the official advice to keep your Judaism to yourself – and to get rid of that piece of clothing on your head which lets everyone know that you’re Jewish.

The famous Danish journalist Martin Krasnik went to great pains to inform readers that the Israeli ambassador “was misunderstood or mistaken.” Clearly, he maintained, the ambassador was only offering advice to Israelis visiting the rest of Europe. He couldn’t possibly be speaking about Copenhagen which has a long history of hospitality to Jews. “Anti-Semitism is endemic in immigrant neighborhoods. It’s the same in London, it’s the same in Paris.” But not here. Not in Denmark.

So Krasnik, just like the Israeli Arab in Berlin, decided to do his own “hat test”. He put on a yarmulke and walked the streets of Nørrebrogade.

Can you guess what happened to him?

Krasnik describes numerous encounters in which he just barely missed being severely abused. He writes: “The threats were veiled, like thugs in a mafia protection racket. One of the anti-Semitic interlocutors explained that while ‘perhaps your religion tells you to wear this, it doesn’t tell you to get killed.’ Another explained that the kippah was ‘not a problem for us, but my cousin killed a guy for wearing a ‘Jewish hat.’” Finally, after another demand was made for the “hat” to be removed, Krasnik refused and hurriedly fled.

Attacks in New York
Berlin, Denmark – but surely not in the great state of New York with close to 2 million Jews? An organization representing more than 950 US Orthodox rabbis has condemned an “alarming” increase in violent attacks on Jews in New York City, saying it would work with authorities to provide protection to “neighborhoods under siege” after the latest anti-Semitic assaults within a week.


Last Saturday, an ultra-Orthodox Jew was violently assaulted while walking home from Shabbat services in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn. The attacker threatened to strangle him, cracked his ribs, told him while knocking the hat off his head into a neighboring garden that he hated Jews and was going to kill him.

In a frightening sign of the times, German Jewry has come up with what it believes is “for now, the best solution.” The head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, warned against wearing religious symbols on city streets for fear of attack, with a stark caution that Jews who wear the kippah or the Star of David could be courting danger on German streets.

The head of the European Jewish Association, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, however criticized Schuster, saying he was “mistaken in the cure for the serious problem. Not wearing a skullcap due to fear of anti-Semitism is in fact the fulfillment of the vision of anti-Semites in Europe.”

It is ironic that hats play such a significant role in these anti-Semitic incidents. Sigmund Freud, the Jewish founder of psychoanalysis, emphasized an incident in his life which he considered life changing – he called it “the primal scene in his life” – which helps us shed light on the matter. John Murray Cuddihy, in his fascinating book “The Ordeal of Civility”, tells how Freud himself described it:

I may have been ten or twelve years old, when my father began to take me with him on his walks and to reveal to me in his talk his views upon things in the world we live in. Thus it was, on one such occasion that he told me a story to show me how much better things were now than they had been in his days. “When I was a young man,” he said, “I went for a walk one Saturday in the streets of your birthplace. I was well dressed, and had a new cap on my head. A Christian came up to me and with a single blow knocked off my cap into the mud and shouted, “Jew! Get off the pavement!”

“And what did you do?” I asked.

“I went into the roadway and picked up my cap,” was his quiet reply.

This struck me as unheroic conduct on the part of the big strong man who was holding the little boy by the hand.

Freud went on to describe his disappointment and shame at his father’s weak response. Cuddihy relates this moment too much of Freud’s work – his ambivalent relationship with Jews and non-Jews, his theory of the Oedipus complex, and his strange assertion in Moses and Monotheism that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian.

Wear It with Pride
A head covering, the very symbol of Jewish pride, became a lifelong reminder of shame – and for Freud had lifelong consequences. For Jews, a kippah is a way of publicly declaring religious affiliation and identity. The Talmud tells us there were three reasons why the Jews survived in spite of being enslaved in the land of Egypt. Their merit was threefold: they did not change their names, their language and also their garments. Those are the three reasons which kept us from assimilation at the very beginning of our history; they remain the keys to our unique survival from amongst all of the nations in the world to this day. The Jew maintains at least one special garment which declares his faith – and his unwillingness to hide his great pride in being a descendent of Abraham.

Jews need to have the fierce determination to be guided by self-identification as a Jew rather than self-negation.
Is a hat that important? No – only what it stands for. To meekly succumb to the horror of racism, even by as minor a gesture as removing our yarmulke in order “to avoid conflict” is not just to lose our hat – but to lose our heads. Anti-Semitism must be fought with full force and energy, with all of our political strength, with all of our efforts on the college campuses, in the press, and all the other arenas where it has begun to infuse its deadly poison. The antidote to anti-Semitism – the only antidote which has a chance of succeeding – is pro-Semitism, the fierce determination to be guided by pride rather than fear, by self-identification as a Jew rather than self-negation.

If we remove the signs of our Jewishness to appease our enemies, we have already lost. The hat is but a symbol – yet it is a mighty symbol of our firm belief that the Almighty rules the world and, as He promised in the Torah, He will bless those who bless us and those who curse us He will curse.

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Yom HaAtzmaut TraditionsYom HaAtzmaut Traditions
This Israel Independence Day, shpritz people with white foam. In Israel, that’s just what we do.
by David Kilimnick 
Yom HaAtzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, is a fairly new holiday. Seventy years ago, we came back to Israel as a Jewish nation and now we celebrate it. How? That is a question that has caused many arguments. Nonetheless, there are certain traditions that are ubiquitous for the celebration of Israel’s independence, and many we can add to make the holiday more enjoyable.

1,000 years from now, people are going to be talking about the Yom HaAtzmaut traditions we practice today. We are creating the traditions, this is our chance to make it meaningful.

Celebrate with a tiny BBQ known as a “Mangal”. Nothing says Israel like a grill that is difficult to use.
Wear Jeans
Jeans are very expensive in Israel, and thus classy. Class is defined by money, which is why I usually wear a suit. I don’t have enough money for jeans. Keep Yom HaAtzmaut with the appropriate respect for the day and wear show up to synagogue for the special prayers of the day with dyed jeans, a bedazzled shirt with no collar, and plastic shoes. Crocs are also expensive in Israel.

Shpritz People with White Foam
Take any white foam and spray people who will not appreciate it. Look for people in suits. They are not dressed for a holiday – the foam is hard to get out of their clothes. Making them not happy helps us all celebrate with more joy.

Shaving cream works well for the practice of this tradition, as seen by the Israeli children on the major streets of all cities. Due to the laws of not taking a razor to the corners of the face, this is a great use of shaving cream. Even better, use toothpaste. It’s harder to get that out of the clothing and hair.

Bop People
Take a plastic bopper that looks like a hammer and bop people. This is a tradition practiced by Israeli children who cannot find somebody in a suit.

Anything Annoying
If you can’t find a foam spray or a bopper, just run up to people and touch their ears. The idea is that kids have off from school and we celebrate by allowing them to bother adults.

Walk In Israel
All Israelis living in Israel do this on Yom HaAtzmaut. Hence, it is now a tradition.

If you want to make your walk feel more Israeli, do what they have done on every hike I have been on with a group in Israel. Carry a 5-gallon bottle of water with you. Known as a jerrycan, this will make your hike heavier and harder to finish. Also, make sure to have a bus waiting for you at the end of the hike, to drive you back to where you started the hike from.

Flag Parade
Israeli kids walk the streets waving flags. That’s the tradition. We don’t celebrate with floats. There is already enough traffic in Israel.

Outside of Israel, you must also walk down the streets with Israeli flags. For parades, you usually have to obtain a city permit and a police escort. But don’t worry. If you walk down the streets of your town outside of Israel with Israeli flags, at some point the cops will probably show up.

Hang an Israeli Flag from Your Car
Tradition is to hang the flag from the car and keep it there until you start driving and realize the window is open. By the end of the day, it mustn’t be there.

Travel to the Old Area of Your City
Israel is ancient, and thus we must connect with old stuff. If you’re not in Israel and can’t find a walled city, this requirement may also be fulfilled by traveling to any area where there is a Kmart.

Barbeque it Mangal Style
Make sure your BBQ is tiny. Known in Israel as the “Mangal”, it should be no bigger than a matchbox. Israeli Independence Day is celebrated with a grill that is not easy to use. With that in mind, it is forbidden to use a gas grill.

Burn Eight Mangals
Why not bring the Chanukah feeling to your Yom HaAtzmaut. Burn eight Mangals and celebrate the miracle of having enough room on the grill to feed the whole family.

Bring a Portable Speaker to Your BBQ
This will allow you to connect with the Israeli tradition of playing the music you like very loudly, even though you don’t know the other people at the park.

Make sure you play the music they play on Israeli radio stations, like Adele.

Leave the Garbage Out
Make sure that you don’t clean up the garbage that was left from your Mangal. It is not celebratory to clean.

American Immigrants Must Learn a Hebrew Word
This is a tradition I created. On this one day, Americans have to try. They must put a little effort into acclimating; either by trying to speak Hebrew or by using an Israeli accent to speak English. If neither of those work, they must try to sound French. Anything to show they are trying to fit in.

Do Something Israeli
Play soccer on a basketball court. Make Israeli coffee that doesn’t dissolve, so that when you finish drinking your coffee there is more coffee in there then when you started drinking it. Pretend like you are part of the Knesset and argue with people. Eat falafel or anything that doesn’t require utensils like burritos. Dance in a circle and then move back and forth in one spot. Give the Jewish National Fund money to plant a tree for you in Israel that you will never see.

Some of these traditions may change over the years. Arguments may occur over the required amount of coals for the Mangal and how many BBQs you should light. Some rabbis may ban spraying people with white foam. Flags may be required to be taped to the windows so that they don’t fly away. I don’t know how traditions will change. One thing I know that never will change is kids are off from school and they will make life difficult for the rest of us.

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Israel at 70: More than a Start-Up NationIsrael at 70: More than a Start-Up Nation
Israel's flag testifies to our miraculous, unfinished mission.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons 
When I first visited Israel at age 24, a proud American who adored the Statue of Liberty and the Fourth of July, I was struck by Israeli flags waving everywhere from government buildings to private homes to yeshivas. Then, as I studied Torah and walked in the footsteps of Abraham and King David, I began to sense that this flag – its six-pointed star and two blue stripes – bespoke an ideal unparalleled in human history.

This intuition was punctuated a few weeks later when Natan Sharansky – after a decade in harsh Soviet prison for the audacity of wanting to go to Israel – was finally freed. That same evening I joined thousands of euphoric Jews at the Western Wall, raising Sharansky on our shoulders in a triumphant cry of Am Yisrael Chai – "the Jewish nation lives!"

What was the secret of this magical land?

When the State of Israel was proclaimed, the world watched with great anticipation. Everyone knew of the Jews' awesome impact – from the rabbinic greats Maimonides and the Vilna Gaon, to the groundbreaking work of Freud, Einstein and countless Nobel laureates. If the Jews could achieve this despite difficult exile – Crusades, Inquisition, pogroms, and Holocaust – then reunited in their ancient homeland they would surely transform the world.

The Jewish rebirth in their homeland is unprecedented in the annals of history.
Israel's first 70 years have been nothing less than astounding. The population rose from 800,000 in 1948, to 8.6 million today – multiplying more than 10-fold. (By contrast, the U.S. population has slightly more than doubled in that time.) Prior to the Holocaust 80 years ago, only 3% of Jews worldwide lived in Israel; today that number is 45% – marking the first time in 2,000 years that the largest Jewish population center is Israel.

On a broader scale, Israel's growing economic, military and diplomatic clout now ranks it one of the world’s top-10 superpowers. Israel has achieved the unimaginable by reviving Hebrew as a spoken language, while miraculously "ingathering the exiles" – nearly a million immigrants from Middle Eastern countries, and another million from the former Soviet Union, plus dramatic returns of Ethiopian Jews and "lost tribes" from the Far East.

This rebirth of the Jewish people in their homeland is totally unprecedented in the annals of history.

Along with the remarkable emergence of Israel as a start-up nation, modern Israel has witnessed an explosion in the field of Torah education, led by citadels such as Ponevich, Chevron and Mir – the largest yeshiva in the world with 9,000 students. It is here that Jewish ethics are honed: the balance of individual and communal rights; end-of-life issues; and the moral code of modern warfare. And it is here that Jews learn of the obligation to inspire the rest of the country, to create positive PR for God and His Torah. As Maimonides writes, the definition of Kiddush Hashem is where somebody sees a religious person acting with kindness, compassion and integrity, and thinks: "If this is what Torah does for a person, then I want it, too."

Each Jews is obligated to create positive PR for God and His Torah.
Given all we have achieved in 70 years, the Jewish historical mission – to bring the light of Torah to all humanity – is not yet complete. The prophet assures us that wisdom emanating from Torah academies will one day "fill the land with knowledge of God, as water covers the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).

As Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah, said: "I've seen it time and time again: When a Jew is turned on to Torah, it sparks enthusiasm, energy and unbridled passion. Imagine an entire nation of Jews empowered to carry forth the Jewish message of rational, relevant wisdom for living. With technology, the message can go forth rapidly and effectively. How beautiful this would be!"

So what will be our national passion? Israel's founding father, the staunch secularist David Ben-Gurion, was torn. On one hand, he proclaimed Israel's "dream to be a normal people with our own prostitutes and thieves." On the other hand, appearing in 1936 before the British Peel Commission he declared: “The Bible is our mandate to the land.”

Herein lies the dichotomy.

Yes, we have succeeded in building the finest hospitals, roads, schools and industry. Yes, we are lauded as the “start-up nation," a hi-tech leader in science, medicine, agriculture, energy and security, with the largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies outside of North America. These are indeed tremendous achievements, and we did it all amidst boycotts, terror and war.

But there is more. If this infrastructure is the "body" of Israel, Torah is our nation's soul.

Moral-Spiritual Revolution
Let's take a closer look at the Israeli flag. In the center is a Star of David, its six points symbolizing God's universal presence in all six directions. The triangle pointing "up" symbolizes the Jewish people turning to God, then activating a reciprocal flow of goodness into the world, symbolized by the triangle pointing down. Through our long and often difficult history, ultimately our only hope is trust in God.

Framing the star on the Israeli flag are two blue stripes. What do they represent?

One of the most recognizable symbols of the Jewish connection to God is the tallit. Striped prayer shawls were found in the caves used as hideouts for Jews during the second century revolt against Rome, and these stripes have been used by practically all Jewish communities for millennia. It is these tallit stripes, legend says, that adorn the Israeli flag.

Which brings us to the Jewish mission: to teach the world about ethical monotheism, and how the sanctity of human life is rooted in every individual's "Divine image." This is why the Ten Commandments were given on two parallel tablets – five on one tablet, and five on the other. The first command on the first tablet is belief in God, corresponding to first command on the second tablet, "Do not murder." Respect for others is predicated on respect for God.

From here flows the revolutionary ideals that Judaism introduced to the world: universal education, justice, integrity, kindness, literacy, peace, social responsibility, charity, dignity and equality, to name but a few.

During the golden era of the Holy Temple, Israel thrived as the world's spiritual and moral epicenter. Non-Jews visited the Temple – "the house of prayer for all nations" (Isaiah 56:7) – and rulers like the Queen of Sheba journeyed to Jerusalem to study Torah wisdom.

In the process, Torah values became the bedrock of Western civilization. As non-Jewish historian Paul Johnson wrote: “Certainly, the world without the Jews would have been a radically different place... To them we owe... the basic moral furniture of the human mind.”

Achad HaAm called Israel "the historic center of a roving spiritual idea," a living workshop where lofty Jewish ideals can become reality.

Which brings us to the crucial question: Moving forward, what will be our global persona? Do we celebrate our secular universalism – rock concerts, Olympic medals, beautiful beaches, and Wonder Woman? Is this how we define the expression of "light unto the nations?" Is this the culmination of 2,000 years of struggle and suffering?

A few years ago, when a delegation of Russian health officials visited Israel, the itinerary included Alyn Hospital in Jerusalem, a world-leading rehabilitation center for physically challenged and disabled children. The group toured a sprawling complex of advanced occupational therapy, physiotherapy, hydrotherapy, speech therapy, and psychological counseling. At which point one of the Russian representatives turned to his Israeli counterpart and said, "These children are infirm and handicapped. Why do you bother making such an effort?"

This is our mandate moving forward. Whether assisting orphans in Jerusalem or a village in Thailand, we must teach the world how to care passionately for every human being.

We have achieved so much. Yet Israel remains a work in progress. As long as corruption and abuse still exist in the world, more Torah light is needed to push away the darkness. We yearn for the day when "the wolf dwells with the lamb" (Isaiah 11:6) will be the new norm. No aggression, no duplicity. On this 70th Israel Independence Day, this is our hope and our prayer.

Home   »  Israel   »  Jewish World
Israel and the Secret of 70Rabbi Benjamin BlechIsrael and the Secret of 70
The number 70 was singled out for special attention in ways that make this Yom HaAtzmaut particularly meaningful.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech 
In Jewish tradition numbers have special meaning and can convey crucial insights for our understanding of Jewish history.

On the eve of celebrating the 70th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel and the miraculous return of our people to our national homeland after almost 2000 years of exile, let us ask: “Who knows seventy?” Who knows its secret and deeper meaning?

Seventy isn’t merely a nice round number. Long ago the number was singled out for special attention in ways that make this Yom HaAtzmaut particularly meaningful.

At the Passover Seder we almost tangentially met the number 70. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azarya admitted that he never knew the biblical source for the commandment to remember the Exodus from Egypt every night as well as day until he merited learning the source from another sage. Strangely, he introduces his joy in his newfound wisdom with the words “Behold I am like someone 70 years of age.” Commentators are all perplexed. We know that Rabbi Eliezer was in fact only 18 years old at the time. Many fanciful explanations are given to resolve the question. But the fact remains that in order to express the idea of old age he used the number seventy.

And why was that? Surely it was a reference to the verse in the book of Psalms: “The days of our lives are threescore and ten” (Psalms, 90:10).

Seventy is the proverbial biblical lifespan. Those are the number of years we are normally granted to achieve our mission on earth. Rabbi Eliezer, although he was only 18, feared he would live out his days without knowing a fundamental truth of Torah. His great happiness was the feeling that he was now “like someone seventy years of age”, the age at which we are to measure our achievements, reflect on our accomplishments, and take stock of our life’s journey and purpose.

It is true for our lives. It is also true for our land.

Seventy is the number which demands reflection. It is the number which defines a generation. It is intimately linked with judgment – so much so that in Jewish law the Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin, was composed of 70 members, just as there were 70 elders in the days of Moses.

More, 70 was the key to the creation of the Jewish people. The book of Exodus, moving the story of our ancestors from family to nation, tells us “And it was that all those who were direct descendants of Jacob were seventy souls” (1:5). The entire Passover story, the slavery as well as the Exodus, had its beginning with the very same number identified with biblical lifespan. Seventy is opportunity. Seventy is potential. And 70 is the number which reminds us that we are judged by the same divine standards that governed the rulings of the Sanhedrin.

In a remarkable commentary of the midrash on the verse in the Torah which tells us that there were 70 who originally descended to Egypt, the problem was raised that a count of Jacob’s family members gives us only 69. Why does the Torah tell us 70? Of the various answers given, the one which perhaps has the most relevance to this year’s 70th anniversary celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut is that God included himself in the number! God could not exclude himself from his people.

That is why those who went into the first exile were able to survive. And that is why, too, the state of Israel, surrounded by enemies who from its inception threatened its destruction and attacked it numerous times, nonetheless survived; more than survived, Israel prospered. It was God who was part of the original 70. It is God who remains the only rational explanation for the 70-year miracle of modern-day Israel.

To speak of Israel today after its first 70 years from birth is to acknowledge a dual reality. On the one hand, it would be foolish to maintain that Israel has achieved the vision of the prophets, that it has realized the perfection of its messianic destiny. There is much that remains to be done.

Seventy years witnessed the accomplishments of one generation. History requires additional 70-year periods, future generations to each one of whom is given the task of bringing us closer to the final goal. But we should not minimize what we have lived to see, what has already been accomplished.

We do not know when Messiah will come. But the rabbis have left us one clue to alert us to his imminent arrival. It is recorded in the Midrash by way of a fascinating parable.

A student once asked his rabbi: “We have been waiting so long for the Messiah to come, yet he still has not made his appearance. How will we, the Jewish people, know when he will at last reveal himself? What is the sign we can look for that will announce his imminent arrival?”

The rabbi responded, “I will answer you by way of a story. A father and son journeyed together on a long trek through a desert. Their destination was a faraway city. Weary from the trip, the young boy pleaded with his father to give him some kind of sign so that he might know when they were close to the final destination. In response, the father told the boy, ‘This will be a sure indication before you. Remember this sign. When you will see a cemetery, you will know that the city is near.’ This parable,” the rabbi continued to his student, “is the answer to your question. When you will see a cemetery, you will know that redemption is near. So, too, did God reveal to his children that in the aftermath of being beset by horrible tragedy, death and destruction, the Almighty will have mercy and answer the prayers of the Jews, as it is written (Psalms 20:4) ‘And the Almighty will respond to you in the day of great hardship.’”

The parable is perhaps a key to the proximity of the Holocaust to the creation of the state of Israel, to the link between Yom HaShoah and Yom HaAtzmaut.

The Holocaust came to an end in 1945. Just three short years later, when many thought that the genocide of 6 million meant the end of the Jewish story, we began anew fulfilling the first stage of the prophetic promise of redemption.

Seventy years, a biblical lifespan, brought us a major step forward to complete fulfillment. That is why we need to celebrate. And that is also why we pray that the next generation will be granted the opportunity to speedily complete the task – and the dream.

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Honoring Israel’s FallenHonoring Israel’s Fallen
My act of kindness is the least I can do to say thank you.
by Michal Nordmann 
Dear Yael and Yonatan,

Yesterday I read about your son Gilad. I read about his life, his personality, his hobbies, and his tragic untimely death.

Gilad Mishayaker
I read that your beautiful boy Gilad was born on May 13th, 1976 in Jerusalem. He was a playmate for big sister Sharon, and later, a big brother to Dan. He was a huge basketball fan, playing until 11th grade for the Hapoel Jerusalem Youth Division and how his school’s basketball team won the Jerusalem School Championship. He even aspired to become a professional basketball player.

I also discovered that he was a good and beloved friend. His friends describe him as an amazing conversationalist, a loyal friend, a source of support. I was so moved by the way your son Dan eloquently described Gilad: “First of all, you listened. Then you advised. Only later would you tell what you were going through. You, who were on the front line, fighting for your life and our lives, would first of all listen to my problems at school, to everyone's various love problems, and to a whole lot of other things that were small compared to what you went through. But you treated our problems with amazing importance. You were my ‘proportions’ man. Always when I was upset by something, or when I was crying from the losses of Hapoel Jerusalem in basketball, you would bring me back to earth and remind me of the really difficult problems. You always helped me solve problems after you said to me, 'First of all, take it in the right spirit and remember that it is fluid and solvable. Now I'll tell you what I think about the problem’.”

In November 1994, Gilad enlisted in the IDF and on the evening of February 4, 1997, a helicopter disaster occurred on its way to operational activity in Lebanon and 73 soldiers died. It should have been 74, but on a list of men drafted to go onto the helicopter, Gilad’s name appeared twice. They mistakenly believed that the helicopter was full when, in fact, there was one place left and the last soldier was sent back home. Even in his death, Gilad saved the life of another.

He was not yet 21 when he died.

Yael and Yonatan, I did not personally know Gilad but after reading about him I now feel like I do. After reading about his life on I wanted to do something to honor Gilad’s memory, something that would befit his character. I donated money to help Israeli schoolchildren in disadvantaged neighborhoods have access to more sports facilities and opportunities.

Yael and Yonatan, thank you. To you and the thousands of other families of fallen soldiers and security forces whose loved ones sacrificed their lives so that we can celebrate Israel, our home.


Michal Nordmann

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The Goering Brothers: Heredity is Not DestinyThe Goering Brothers: Heredity is Not Destiny
While Herman Goering was killing Jews, his brother worked tirelessly to save them.
by Salvador Litvak 
Hermann Goering was Hitler’s right-hand man and the founder of the Gestapo – may that monster suffer true justice for his deeds.

Albert Goering was Hermann’s younger brother. While his maniacal sibling was killing Jews, Albert worked tirelessly to save them.

The Goering brothers, only two years apart, grew up in a Bavarian castle. From an early age, the two were obviously different. Hermann was bold, confident and obsessed with war games; Albert was shy and thoughtful.

Later, Hermann would tell a psychiatrist from his Nuremberg cell, “Albert was always the antithesis of myself."

In the 1930’s, ruthless Hermann rose in the ranks of the Nazi party to become Hitler’s top military commander.

Albert was strongly opposed to Nazism and left Germany in protest. He moved to Vienna, where he worked in the film industry and counted Jews among his closest friends.

As Hermann's campaign against the Jews intensified, so did Albert’s determination to help them.

In Vienna, Albert once came upon a group of Nazi thugs, who had put a sign around an old woman’s neck proclaiming, “I am a Jewish sow.” A crowd gathered to mock the woman.

Albert pushed through the mob, and punched two Gestapo officers to save the woman. His life might have ended right there, as the crowd turned on him. The SS men demanded to see his papers.

When they saw his name, they escorted him to safety in deference to Hermann.

When Albert’s Jewish friends in Vienna were arrested by the Nazis, Albert again used his unique position to save them.

He forged documents, using his brother’s name, to help longtime pal Jacques Benbassat escape to Switzerland, and used his influence to get his former boss Oskar Pilzer, and Pilzer’s entire family, freed. Again and again, he saved Jewish lives.

Whole families owe their present existence to Albert. He saved many Jews by sending trucks to Nazi concentration camps with requests for workers. Once aboard, the trucks would take them into a forest and allow them to escape.

After the war, Albert was imprisoned at Nuremberg and interrogated for 15 months. Nobody believed his story until 34 Jews he’d rescued submitted sworn statements on his behalf.

He was freed, but soon found that his name made him an unemployable pariah. Albert sank into depression and alcoholism, surviving on a small government pension and food packages sent by Jews he had saved.

He died in obscurity in 1966.

Albert’s wartime heroism was unknown until documents were recently unearthed in British archives showing that he saved hundreds of Jews. His life demonstrates that it is our choices that define us, not our relatives.

Reprinted with permission from the Accidental Talmudist.

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Israel vs. Hamas: The Case for Moral ClarityIsrael vs. Hamas: The Case for Moral Clarity
The difference between Hamas and Israel couldn’t be greater, yet you wouldn’t know it when listening to some observers.
by David A. Harris 
Two centuries ago, the great German poet Goethe said: “The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your eyes.”

It’s as true today as it was then.

The difference between Hamas and Israel couldn’t be greater, yet you wouldn’t know it when listening to some observers.

For them, whether it’s Turkish President Erdogan or Swedish Foreign Minister Wallström, it’s basically all about Gaza’s innocence and Israel’s guilt. With nothing else to do but consider how to provoke peaceful, serene, Hamas-ruled Gaza, the big, bad Israelis have decided to make life difficult for local residents.

For a fair share of the media, it’s above all a story of Palestinian suffering at the hands of Israel’s military machine.

This is a perfect illustration of reverse causality. Hamas threatens and harasses Israel, but it is only Israel’s response that warrants close attention and scrutiny.

Indeed, Goethe was right. There are those who can’t, or won’t, see what’s right in front of them.

Ideological blinders get in the way. Or a failure of imagination about the true nature of Hamas. Or a gullibility that allows people to believe whatever the Hamas propaganda machine churns out. Or, in some cases, downright hostility to anything that Israel, the Jewish state, does.

It’s high time for moral clarity, not moral fog.

Hamas is a terrorist organization. That’s its official designation by the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and others.

Israel is a democratic country with an independent judiciary, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and a robust civil society.

Hamas is anti-Western, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and anti-intellectual.

Israel is the exact opposite.

Hamas has territorial ambitions on Israel. In fact, that’s putting it too mildly: it would like to replace Israel in its entirety with a Muslim Brotherhood-ruled state.

Israel has no territorial ambitions on Hamas-ruled Gaza. To the contrary, Israel left it totally 13 years ago, with the hope of never having to return.

Hamas has a vested interest in using its Gaza base for permanent confrontation with Israel.

Israel, which, alas, can’t change its geography, has a vested interest in a peaceful, moderate, and developing state on its border.

Hamas, the sole ruler of Gaza since 2007, has used the last 11 years to smuggle in weaponry and develop military punch, rather than building the foundation of a responsible state.

Knowing this arsenal has been stockpiled for the sole purpose of being used against it, Israel seeks, as any nation would, to prevent Hamas from attaining its lethal goal.

Hamas has no compunction about deploying terrorist cells and weapons in the midst of civilian population centers in Gaza, or, most recently, deploying people along the border and encouraging breaches, fully aware that Israel would have no choice but to appear to be targeting “innocent” people.

Israel goes to unprecedented lengths to avoid falling into the Hamas trap, even phoning and dropping leaflets in advance to warn civilians to leave target areas.

Hamas cynically tells the civilian population to stay put, not to react to Israeli warnings about imminent strikes. The more Palestinian casualties, the better, as far as Hamas is concerned, including women and children.

Israel makes every effort to alert its entire population, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, to Hamas missile strikes and move people into shelters as quickly as possible.

Hamas uses mosques for storing arms.

Israel uses houses of worship, including mosques, solely for prayer.

Hamas uses schools as weapons depots.

Israel uses schools solely to educate its children, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim.

Hamas uses hospitals as terrorist redoubts.

Israel uses its hospitals solely to cure the ill and injured, including residents of Gaza who can’t find adequate care there.

Hamas aspires to kill as many Israelis as possible, firing rockets indiscriminately in all directions.

Israel seeks out only the Hamas terrorist infrastructure, and has aborted many operations when the risks of civilian casualties were too great.

Hamas, as the record amply shows, has no qualms about falsifying information, doctoring photos, staging scenes, and inflating numbers to make its case to the outside world.

Israel, by contrast, goes to great lengths, even to the point of sometimes losing the edge in the “media race,” to verify information that it presents about its operations.

Hamas supporters explode in paroxysms of glee when Israeli targets are hit.

Israelis don’t honk horns, shoot in the air, and pass out candy for doing what they wished they didn’t have to do in the first place, and voice regret when the inevitable mistakes in warfare occur.

Hamas wouldn’t know how to spell the words “international humanitarian law,” much less adhere to it.

Israel’s defense forces have specialists in international humanitarian law assigned to every unit in an effort to ensure maximum compliance.

Hamas shouts from the rooftops that Israel is a brutal enemy.

Israel, unlike any other targeted nation in history, is actually providing — right now — most of Gaza’s electricity and much of its fuel and foodstuffs, even as Hamas leaders call for Israel’s annihilation and refer to Jews as targets to be exterminated.

Hamas celebrates death, something few people of good will can understand.

Israel celebrates life, something all people of good will should understand.

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