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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Post  Admin on Mon 26 May 2014, 11:04 am

A Billion People Hate Me
Should the ADL global study on anti-Semitism be cause for alarm?
by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith         
On July 10, 1941 in Nazi-occupied Poland, half the town of Jedwabne brutally murdered the other half -- 1,600 Jewish men, women and children. Individual Jews were clubbed and stoned to death. Polish men cut the head of the youngest daughter of the cheder teacher off and then kicked it around. The majority were forced into a barn which was then set ablaze. Only seven Jews survived, hidden by a Polish woman. According to Jan Gross's chilling book, Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland, the Nazis tried to persuade the Poles to keep at least one Jewish family from each profession, but the Poles responded, "We have enough of our own craftsmen, we have to destroy all the Jews, none should stay alive."

The Jews of Jedwabne weren’t killed by faceless Nazis; they were murdered in cold blood by their neighbors who knew them.
The Jews of Jedwabne weren’t killed by faceless Nazis; they were murdered in cold blood by their neighbors who knew them, led by the town’s mayor, Marian Karolak, and sanctioned by the town council.
For decades Poland tried to cover up the pogrom, blaming Nazi and Gestapo soldiers for the massacre. Gross’s book definitively showed that it was the locals who committed the atrocities, sparking national debate.
Sixty years after the massacre, on July 10, 2001, Poland commemorated the deceased by unveiling a monument at the site of the slaughter, changing the text on the original stone memorial that shifted the blame to the Germans. The monument now reads, "In memory of the Jews of Jedwabne and surrounding areas, men, women, and children, fellow-dwellers of this land, murdered and burned alive at this site on 10 July 1941." Notice that it does not specifically mention the Poles.
In Sept., 2011 the memorial was defaced with a swastika and graffiti that read, "They were flammable" and "I don't apologize for Jedwabne."

I was in the middle of reading Neighbors when the ADL’s Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism was released. It shows that more than a quarter of the world’s population harbors intense anti-Jewish sentiment. Apparently 1.1 billion people hate me, even though 70% of those queried have never met a Jew. Is the survey cause for alarm?
Pew recently released a different study about Europe. The research study shows that anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe exceeds that against Jews by a significant margin. (See the chart below.)

Jews are not the only victims of bigotry. On a whole, people are bigots and hatred exists everywhere, anti-Semitism being just one form of it. In fact in some quarters it’s even worse for Muslims. And, as many readers point out to articles that discuss recent anti-Semitism, what’s the surprise? We know that many non-Jews hate Jews. The world is filled with bigots, so what’s the big deal about the ADL survey?
Perhaps Jan Gross’s book provides an answer. Anti-Semitism is different. Throughout history Jews have not only been discriminated against, they’ve been incinerated. They’ve been brutally murdered en masse by their neighbors. They’ve been the target of genocide, the Holocaust being only the most recent example.

Throughout history Jews have not only been discriminated, they’ve been incinerated.
Racism indeed exists, but Jew-hatred is unique in its intensity and virulence, as well as its universality and longevity. As Reverend Edward Flannery writes in The Anguish of the Jews, “As a historian of anti-Semitism looks back over the millennia of horrors he has recorded, an inescapable conclusion emerges. Anti-Semitism is different because of its longevity and consistency.”
Furthermore, anti-Semitism is completely irrational. Hatred of one group can usually be traced to concrete, well-defined (and mistaken) reasons. The reasons for given for anti-Semitism are contradictory. As the Aish HaTorah seminar Why the Jews? states, “Jews are hated for being a lazy and inferior race ? but also for dominating the economy and taking over the world. Jews are hated for stubbornly maintaining their separateness ? and, when they do assimilate ? for posing a threat to racial purity through intermarriages. Jews are seen as pacifists and as warmongers; as capitalist exploiters and as revolutionary communists; possessed of a Chosen-People mentality, as well as of an inferiority complex.” Clemens Heni, a young German scholar and author of Anti-Semitism: A Specific Phenomenon, writes, “No single group of people, except for the Jew has been singled out and blamed simultaneously for mutually exclusive developments like capitalism, communism or liberalism and humanism.”
It’s hard to imagine non-Jews killing their Jewish neighbors because they are Jews. But the town of Jedwabne was not on a different planet, and it didn’t happen a thousand years ago. The Holocaust was planned and executed by human beings just like you and me, who hated Jews enough to murder them. We cannot brush anti-Semitism under the carpet and blithely think that people are different today.
The ADL survey may have revealed that 46% of the world population has never heard of the Holocaust, but it is imperative that we know about it and learn a lesson or two. Jew-hatred isn’t just racism; it can conflagrate into genocide.

It’s also not rational because its roots transcend human thinking. God has made a covenant with the Jewish people; we are an eternal nation. He won’t allow us to disappear as a nation, despite the incessant pull of assimilation and intermarriage. Anti-Semitism is one of His ways to remind us that Jews can never fully assimilate into the non-Jewish world; Jews will always be reminded that they are different. As attributed to Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin: If the Jew doesn’t make Kiddush (the sanctification of Shabbat and holidays over wine), then the non-Jew will make havdallah (the service said at the end of Shabbat separating Shabbat from the weekdays).
Published: May 19, 2014

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Post  Admin on Sat 17 May 2014, 7:44 pm

Why Rabbi Akiva is My Hero
10 life lessons from an accessible giant.
by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld         
The period of counting the Omer is also a time of national mourning. The Talmud (Yevamot 62b) recounts that Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest scholars of the Mishna, lost 24,000 students to plague during this time of year. The world was “desolate” until he raised five new students – who were able to restore the Torah to its full glory in that dark period.
Rabbi Akiva’s life is a fascinating tale of inspiration, of a man of humble origins who overcame it all to achieve greatness. I would like to outline some of the highlights of his life story – and demonstrate why I feel he serves as a personal role model to us all.

1. He was of Humble Origins
Rabbi Akiva began his life as a shepherd. He was entirely unlearned until his middle years. He likewise had no Jewish lineage to speak of (Talmud Brachot 27b). He descended from converts. And as he rose to greatness in his later years, he never forgot who he was or where he came from. His favorite principle was “Love your fellow as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Rich or poor, simple or scholarly, tall or short, strong or weak: We are all God’s children. God and His Torah are not the monopoly of the wise or the well-pedigreed. We are all precious to God.

2. He Saw Inspiration and Acted on it
The Midrash (Avot d’Rav Natan 6:2) records the turning point of Rabbi Akiva’s life. One day, at the age of 40, Akiva passed a well. He saw a rock with a hole carved into it. He inquired who shaped the rock, and was told it was caused by the slow but constant dripping of water on top of it.
Akiva then reasoned: If a substance soft as water can penetrate a rock with slow, persistent motion, so too the Torah, which is hard as iron, can slowly but surely penetrate my heart. And this was Akiva’s turning point. He promptly set off to study Torah – for an uninterrupted 24 years.
So many times in our lives are we moved by inspiring words or events. We know they are speaking to us, that God has a message for us. Yet the inspiration fades before we do anything about it – and life moves on. Not R. Akiva. He saw his moment – and he changed his life right then and there.

3. He Patiently Started from the Bottom
When Akiva went to study, he did not exactly hire a private tutor or join an adult study program. Nor did he sign up for an anonymous on-line course. The Midrash describes how he, together with his young son, went to cheder to learn the alef-bet together with the youngest children. And his past humility showed. He wasn’t fazed by the awkwardness; he didn’t care for his own dignity. He set right down to work.

4. He was No Super-Genius
It is not as if Rabbi Akiva really had an IQ of 180 all along but was just withering on the vine during his years as a shepherd. He had to work – and work hard – to become who he was.
The Talmud (Yevamot 16a) records a meeting R. Akiva had with a monumental scholar, to discuss a debate they had about a touchy subject in Jewish law. The other scholar was the raving genius type. No one could keep up with him in an argument – not even R. Akiva, by then the acknowledged leader of his generation.
The other scholar, after R. Akiva failed to convince him, had nothing but snide remarks for the supposed leading scholar of the generation. But as the Talmud continues, it didn’t faze Akiva in the slightest. He was still the shepherd-turned-scholar. He had no airs about him whatsoever.

5. He Asked All the Tough Questions
Rabbi Akiva, in spite of his late start, had a distinct advantage over his colleagues. Unlike they who began their study as small children, he came to it as an adult. And as a result, he approached the Torah with mature eyes. Nothing was taken for granted or viewed as, “Well, that’s just the way things are.” R. Akiva probed every aspect of Judaism – and discovered truths where others failed even to look.

R. Akiva discovered truths where others failed even to look.

We thus find Rabbi Akiva posing some of the most profound questions of life. In Pirkei Avot (3:19) he grapples with the contradiction between man’s free will and God’s knowledge of the future. If God already knows what I will do tomorrow, do I really have the free will to decide? He likewise discusses (3:20) how God’s governs and judges the world. The Midrash (Avot d’Rav Natan 6:2) describes R. Akiva as a persistent student, leaving no issue unexplored and unexplained. His colleague characterized him with the comment – “Matters hidden from people, R. Akiva has brought to light.”

6. It was All Because of His Wife – and He Knew it
So much of R. Akiva’s greatness was on account of his devoted wife Rachel. She “discovered” him. He served as shepherd for one of the wealthiest men of his time, Kalba Savua. Kalba’s daughter took a liking to the humble shepherd, whom she saw as modest and refined. She proposed to him – on condition that he agree to study Torah. He agreed and they married secretly. Kalba promptly disowned his daughter and for years the young couple lived in abject poverty (Talmud Ketuvot 62b).

If not for Rachel, Akiva would have no doubt remained an anonymous shepherd with little future. But she believed in him. Rachel left a life of fabulous wealth to make home for Akiva – because she knew he could become great – and she had the faith and the patience to see it happen. And when he was ready, she encouraged him to leave home to study – which he did for an uninterrupted 12 years.

But that was only half of it. The Talmud (Ketuvot 62-3) records that on his return, already an accomplished scholar, R. Akiva was about to enter his home. Just then he overhears a conversation. An elderly man challenges Rachel: “How long will you live as a widow with your husband alive?” She responds, “If [my husband] would listen to me, he would remain for another 12 years in yeshiva!” On that providential note, R. Akiva returns for another 12 years of study.

At last, after 24 years, R. Akiva returns to his hometown, now the leading scholar of the generation, escorted by an entourage of 24,000 students. His wife, still dressed in her simple house clothes, goes out to greet him. She falls before his feet. It creates a scene – an elderly woman thrusting herself before great rabbi surrounded by scores of devoted students. They move to push her away. But R. Akiva stops them, uttering a line which has since become famous: “Leave her. What is mine and what is yours is hers.”

7. He Never Forgot His Origins
R. Akiva “made it” in every sense of the word. By the end of his life he was the acknowledged spiritual leader of world Jewry. He became wealthy. He was revered and admired by all. His opinion was sought and regarded on all matters Jewish. Yet he never forgot where he came from. He was still one of the masses. He knew what it was like to be poor, to be unknown, and to be unlearned.
And his love for humanity showed. His favorite verse was Leviticus 19:18: “Love your fellow as yourself” (Sifra 4:12). In Pirkei Avot (3:18), he states, “Beloved is man for he was created in the image [of God],” as well as, “Beloved are the Children of Israel for they are called children of the Lord.” We are all precious to God. There is no favoritism in Heaven.
R. Akiva in fact well remembered his past hatred for Torah scholars (Talmud Pesachim 49b). He knew what it was like to be coarse and ignorant. And he remembered the resentment – and the hatred – felt by the underprivileged classes. He had love and patience for all – because he was one of them himself, and he realized how difficult it is to outgrow one’s past mindset.

8. He Lost All – and Kept Going
After achieving fame, R. Akiva became teacher and spiritual mentor to an astounding 24,000 students. As the Talmud (Yevamot 62b) recounts, every one of them died in an exceedingly brief period of time – during the several week period between Passover and Shavuot – due to epidemic. And as the Talmud puts it, the world was desolate. The human tragedy was devastating, the loss to the Torah world unimaginable.
But apart from all of that, R. Akiva personally witnessed his entire lifeworks go down the drain. Years of training the greatest minds of the next generation were lost to R. Akiva, with nothing remaining to show for himself.
If there were anyone in this world who could be forgiven for spending his remaining years wasting away feeling sorry for himself, it was R. Akiva. Could there have been a clearer sign from heaven that God was not interested in R. Akiva’s works, that his precious legacy was just not meant to be? How could a human being not become paralyzed from misery and indecision at that point?
But R. Akiva picked himself up and started again. As the Talmud continues, he found 5 new students – five to replaced 24,000. Rather than attempting to amass students without number, he focused on 5 precious souls, who would between them restore the Torah to its past glory.

He didn't let his inability to explain stand in the way of achievement.

No doubt R. Akiva never recovered from the pain of the loss. As we saw, his way was to ponder the most difficult questions of life. Yet he didn’t let his inability to explain stand in the way of his life’s mission. We all have questions in life we cannot answer. Even with his great intellect – or perhaps because of it – R. Akiva was no exception. But questions and doubts did not stop him. The rabbi’s intellect was far from assuaged, but he kept on going – and ultimately persevered.

9. He Always Saw the Positive
Looking back at his difficult life, Rabbi Akiva saw God’s goodness in all that transpired – not only in his personal life but in all the events of the world. He became famous for the saying, “Whatever God does is for the good.”
The Talmud (Brachot 60b) recounts how R. Akiva was once traveling. He had with him a lantern, a rooster, and a donkey. He came to a village seeking lodging. No one took him in. Undaunted, his trademark reaction went through his mind: “Whatever God does is for the good.” He set up camp in the wilderness nearby. During the night a wind blew out his lamp, a fox ate his rooster, and a lion slew his donkey. R. Akiva took it all in stride.
He awoke the next morning to find that during the night soldiers had sacked the village which refused him lodging. Not only would the rabbi have been captured with the other residents had he been there, but had his light or animals betrayed his camp he would have equally been doomed.

His colleagues cried at the pathetic sight but R. Akiva laughed.

The Talmud (Makkos 24b) relates that once R. Akiva and a number of colleagues passed by the former location of the Temple in Jerusalem (they lived shortly after its destruction). They saw a fox run out of the place of the Holy of Holies. The colleagues began crying at the pathetic sight. R. Akiva, however, laughed. To his surprised colleagues he explained: "We have both the prophecy of Uriah and of Zechariah. Uriah foretold, ‘Zion shall be plowed like a field’ (Micha 3:12). Zechariah foretold, ‘Again shall old men and old women sit in the streets of Jerusalem... and the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls playing’ (Zechariah 8:4-5). Until the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled (fully and literally) I was fearful lest the prophecy of Zechariah not be fulfilled. Now that the prophecy of Uriah was fulfilled, it is clear that Zechariah's prophecy will be fulfilled – to the final detail."
R. Akiva lived through it all, yet he never lost hope. The very sights that brought others to tears of despair filled him with undying hope. All that occurs in this world, both the good and the bad, emanate from an infinitely-good Creator. But life isn’t always for us to understand. We must at times just be patient and wait.

10. He Died a Hero’s Death
We might hope that after living so troubled yet heroic a life, R. Akiva and Rachel would at last settle down to live happily ever after. But that was denied them as well.

The Talmud (Brachot 61b) describes Rabbi Akiva’s bitter end. He was incarcerated and tried by the Romans for his “crime” of publicly teaching Torah. He was found guilty as charged. They tortured him to death, flaying off his skin with sharpened iron combs.

R. Akiva spent his final moments on earth reciting the Shema, accepting upon himself the yoke of Heaven. His students asked him: “Our teacher, this far?!” He answered: The Shema teaches us to love God with all our souls (Deuteronomy 6:5), which I understood to mean “even if they are taking your soul.” My entire life I agonized over this verse: Would I really love God even if my soul were being taken? I at last have the opportunity to demonstrate this. How could I not do so now? And as the rabbi recited “the Lord is one” his soul left him.

R. Akiva is counted as one of the “ten martyrs” slain by the Romans – the ten leading Torah giants killed during and shortly after the destruction of the Second Temple. Most of the other scholars, in spite of their greatness, you might not have even heard of if you are not a Talmudic scholar yourself. But not R. Akiva. He was one of us: His story is our story, his life is our life. He began his days simply and humbly as so many of us, yet he grew to become whom we all know we too could be. May his memory be for a blessing.
Published: May 10, 2014

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Post  Admin on Fri 02 May 2014, 11:47 am

Anti-Semitism Adapts and Thrives
The oldest hatred has assumed a new form for a new age: hostility to Zionism and Israel.
by Jeff Jacoby         
It wasn’t a failure of Holocaust remembrance that explains why Frazier Glenn Miller opened fire outside two Jewish community facilities in Overland Park, Kan., murdering three people on the day before Passover.

Miller, a 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, knows all about the Holocaust – enough, at any rate, to extol Adolf Hitler as "the greatest man who ever walked the earth" and to shout "Heil Hitler!" after his arrest. Like his hero, Miller is obsessed with Jews. Asked once in an interview whom he hated more, blacks or Jews, he didn't hesitate: "Jews!" he said. "A thousand times more!"
Such anti-Semitic malevolence led 70 years ago to the Shoah – the industrial-scale annihilation of two-thirds of Europe's Jews: six million men, women, and children, among them my father's parents and four of his brothers and sisters. They were murdered not as a means to an end – not for their money or their land or because they posed a military or political threat – but as an end in itself. Hitler's purpose in exterminating the Jews was for the Jews to be exterminated.
For decades after the Holocaust, it was tempting to believe that such genocidal prejudice against Jews was a thing of the past, at least in the enlightened West. The world had seen what anti-Semitism at its most uninhibited could do. What people had been sure could never happen had happened – but by harnessing the power of memory, we could ensure that it never happened again. So Holocaust memorials and museums were erected in cities large and small. Concentration-camp survivors published their memoirs and spoke about their experiences. Students were taught about the Nazis and the Final Solution. Yom HaShoah – an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day, which we mark this week – was added to the calendar each spring.

But Jew-hatred hasn't been purged. On the contrary: It has erupted in recent years with shocking scope and strength. It has been revived "in the halls of parliament and in the streets," writes political scientist Daniel Jonah Goldhagen in a new book, The Devil that Never Dies. "Among elites and common people. In public media, places of worship, and in the privacy of homes. Where Jews live and where they do not."
An old-style white-supremacist neo-Nazi like the shooter in Kansas, evil as his crime was, is the least of this resurgent threat, especially in this country. Hitler-idolizing anti-Semites like Miller, widely regarded as abhorrent, are a negligible phenomenon in the United States. His deadly rampage was instantly condemned across the board; only among the kooks did anyone express support for Miller's vilification of Jews.
Where anti-Semitism is gaining market share today is not among those who yell "Heil Hitler" or demonize Jews as Christ-killers. The oldest and most protean of hatreds has assumed a new form for a new age: hostility to Zionism and Israel. The classic anti-Semitic motifs – Jews are aliens, Jews are murderous, Jews are rapacious, Jews are disloyal, Jews manipulate governments – have been repurposed for a post-Holocaust generation that speaks with a post-Holocaust vocabulary.

Sophisticated and educated Westerners today know better than to blame "the Jews" for society's ills, or to suggest that the best solution to the "Jewish Problem" is for Jews to disappear.

But it is widely acceptable in many circles to debate whether the world's only Jewish state has a right to exist. Or to insist that the Middle East's turmoil would be resolved if only that Jewish state would make peace with its enemies by conceding to their demands. Or to claim with a straight face, when Israel defends itself against Arab and Islamist violence, that it is behaving as the Nazis did.
This helps explain why anti-Semitism soared in recent years even as Palestinian terrorism against Israel soared. For if Zionists are tantamount to Nazis – if the Jewish state is the equivalent of Hitler's Germany – then decent people everywhere must oppose it. Through endless repetition of the most odious "Israelis = Nazis" canards, the memory of the most lethal horror ever inflicted on the Jewish people has been transmuted into a new bludgeon with which to batter them. Meanwhile, waves of incitement build against the largest Jewish community on the planet, whipped up by enemies who make no secret of their ultimate goal: to annihilate it.

Thus does the old plague bacillus of anti-Semitism mutate and flourish once again, in the very shadow of the Holocaust memorials put up as a warning of what unchecked Jew-hatred can lead to. Truly, it is diabolical.
This article originally appeared in the Boston Globe.
Published: April 27, 201

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Post  Admin on Fri 02 May 2014, 11:28 am


A mother and daughter are giving a voice to 77 million Iranians being denied their freedom.

For the past 35 years, Manda Zand-Ervin has been crusading on behalf of 77 million Iranians – an entire society – “held hostage” by a fanatical mullah regime that has denied the Iranian people their basic freedoms.
1980s: Manda Zand-Ervin (L) with her daughters Banafsheh Zand.As documented by human rights groups, widespread arrests, tortures and executions have been carried out against journalists and dissidents who speak out in the name of civil rights, women’s rights, and even religious rights. Iran hangs more people per capita than any other country in the world; the majority have no access to a lawyer or jury. Under the allegedly “moderate” President Rouhani, 687 Iranians were executed in 2013, with the rate rapidly rising. “The Iranian people have been terrorized into submission,” says Manda.

She speaks from experience.
In 1979, when the Islamic Revolution brought the Ayatollah Khomeini into power – along with his violent, fanatical brand of Islam – the regime began “eliminating” all existing political and educational leadership. At the time, Manda – with an MBA from NYU – was overseeing Iran’s imports and exports as Managing Director of the Customs Administration.
“My father told me: ‘They are coming after you. You have to leave,’” Manda told “But I said, ‘I haven’t done anything wrong – why would they kill me?’”
Manda started feeling the heat when her uncle, a general in the Iranian Army, returned from Japan on government business and was promptly arrested and executed - though he likewise said, “I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“The Ayatollah required no reason to eliminate people.”
“The Ayatollah required no reason to eliminate people,” Manda says. “The official accusation was ‘betraying the Islamic regime and warring against God.’”
As arrests and executions continued apace, Manda finally got the message. A high-ranking government official called her to his office and warned: “Now is a good time to take a long vacation.”
Manda grabbed the first flight out of Iran for herself and teenage daughter, Banafsheh. Flying to Frankfort, they got out just in time. Less than 24 hours later, the Ayatollah’s paramilitary force went to Manda’s parents’ home to arrest her.
A few months later, Manda and Banafsheh came to United States as political refugees and became U.S. citizens.
Meanwhile, Manda’s friends back in Iran wrote tearful letters of having not seen the truth in time.

Fight for Women’s Rights
Persia's ancient declaration of human rights, the "Cyrus Cylinder," now sits prominently in the British Museum.
For a Western world that cares so deeply about human rights, Manda is at a loss to explain the general silence about the fate of Iran’s 77 million citizens. “Iranians do not want the regime in power,” she says. “They are suffering and are desperate for moral support from the West.”
Manda’s primary focus these days is women’s rights in Iran. Since 1979, women have been forced to wear veils, and discrimination against women is woven into the fabric of Iranian society through a set of draconian laws:

The value of a woman’s life is half that of a man.
Women cannot work, go to school, or even leave the house without her husband’s permission.
Women do not receive custody of their children: Not only in the event of divorce, but also widowed mothers lose custody to the family of the deceased husband.

The age of criminal responsibility is 15 for boys and 9 for girls.
“The 1979 revolution was supposed to bring more democracy and political freedom to Iran,” says Manda. “But the Ayatollah hijacked our Western-friendly and progressive nation, turning it into a theocracy with zero political freedom. In one fell swoop, my homeland left the 20th century and turned backward to 7th century Arabia.”
What makes this especially painful, Manda says, is Iran’s long tradition of human rights. Going back 2,500 years, Cyrus the Great operated the world’s largest empire, based on a declaration of human rights that predates the Magna Carta by 1,700 years and was adopted by Jefferson and Franklin as a foundation of the U.S. Constitution.
“1979 - women in Tehran protest a new law forcing them to wear a Hijab.The situation in Iran gets worse every day,” Manda says. “Women and girls are treated like pieces of property, forced into marriage at extremely young ages. (The law sanctions marriage of girls under 13.) They suffer from female genital mutilation. Not to mention the honor killings.”

Iranian prisoners – women included - are often tortured and hanged, as depicted in the gruesome 2009 film, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” “This film needs to be seen by everyone turning a blind eye to the barbarism of the Iranian regime,” Manda says.
Today Manda lives in suburban Washington DC where, as founder and president of the Alliance of Iranian Women, she works at the UN and on Capitol Hill fighting for human rights in Iran. In one instance she almost single-handedly garnered support to pass a U.S. Senate Resolution on women’s rights in Iran.
“In this globalized world, how can powerful women remain so indifferent toward Iranian women trying to take back their place among the respected people in the world?” Manda exclaims. “With great hypocrisy, they utter not one word of support.”
Manda recently completed writing, “The Ladies Secret Society,” a book named for the 20th century group that fought for women’s rights in Iran. She hopes the book will inform the Western public – in particular the intellectuals – whom she says “have no idea who the Iranian people are.”
Manda’s fight has never been easy. In April 2014, in an act of gross hypocrisy, Iran won a seat on the United Nations Women’s Rights Commission, the principle global body dedicated to protecting women’s rights. It is a travesty that one commentator compared to “naming the arsonists as firefighters.”

Banafsheh’s Route
Manda’s 1979 escape partner, daughter Banafsheh, has taken up a parallel track to promoting Iranian human rights. "By example, my mom inspired me to be thoughtful and true-blue, independent, creative and focused,” she says.
1950s: Journalist Siamak Pourzand (R) interviews Alfred Hitchcock and Julie Andrews
Twenty-plus years ago, Banafsheh was an aspiring filmmaker, working at HBO's documentary department and doing independent projects. She was working on a documentary on the “Iranian Serial Murders” of writers, intellectuals and political activists who had criticized the Islamic Republic – then were assassinated following the issuing of fatwas against them.

“I was horrified by the viciousness of these murders,” Banafsheh says of the car crashes, stabbings, shootings and lethal injections. Many of the victims were friends of her father, the renowned journalist Siamak Pourzand, whose lofty media perch made him the top promoter of modernization in Iran.
“When the extremists seized power in 1979, my father took it upon himself to stay behind as a guardian of the Iranian identity and as a modernist,” says Banafsheh. “He was anathema to the autocratic mullahs: a progressive and worldly individualist who believed in the spirit of free inquiry. Yet here he was, bravely living in a conformist state theocracy, telling the truth to all who would hear.”
was arrested several times and served long months in prison. Then, after using a primitive cell-phone to live broadcast the slaughter of two Iranian intellectuals in their own home, Pourzand was kidnapped in Tehran.

“It was the fourth time in 22 years that the regime had actively harassed him,” Banafsheh told “I remember the moment so clearly. I was living in New York and got a call from my uncle who broke the news. Right after I hung up, I started calling journalists and Capitol Hill contacts hoping to influence his plight.”
The unfortunate end of the story is that in 2011, Pourzand – under house arrest at his modest apartment in Tehran – was mysteriously thrown from a sixth floor balcony.
“In a way, it was a final stand against an Iranian regime that did everything to break his spirit,” Banafsheh says.
Profoundly, this further ignited Banafsheh’s activist spirit. The torch was passed and she dedicated herself to daring to speak the truth – narrating the 2012 Internet video, “Set the Red Line,” which presented a realistic, nonviolent plan for stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
Banafsheh bemoans the many social ills in Iran, where per capita income is one-quarter of what it was before the revolution. Iran’s middle class is practically destroyed, with people suffering huge social problems that never get reported in the media.

“The condition of the Iranian proletariat is so painful,” Banafsheh says. “Regular housewives turn to prostitution just to feed their families; other parents sell their kidneys. Iran suffers from an HIV-AIDS epidemic, and has the highest number of drug addicts per capita in the world – thanks in large part to lucrative drug-trafficking promulgated by the regime itself.”
Iran, Israel & the Jews
Current diplomatic positions between Israel and Iran are at polar opposites, with the Iranian regime having vowed to “wipe Israel from the map.”
It wasn’t always the case. Banafsheh's childhood memories are of a healthy Jewish community in Iran prior to the revolution. “I have Iranian Jewish friends whom I’ve known since childhood,” she says, recalling as well growing up with the daughter of the Israeli ambassador to Iran. “We would go to their house on Jewish holidays and celebrate together.”

Iranians are angry that resources are used not to build, but to destroy.
Do the majority of Iranians really harbor no animosity toward Israel?
“Young Iranians don’t want anything to do with the fanatics and their nuclear bombs,” Manda says. “Iranians want to live modern lives as part of the international community, and are angry that the country’s resources are being used not to build, but to destroy.”

Possible Solution
World leaders have promised to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Yet given that the use of military force is a last resort, what possible option is available to stop Iran’s march toward nuclearization?
Banafsheh points to the economic sanctions which forced Iran to the negotiating table. "Though the sanctions impose hardship on the Iranian people, they are willing to endure it for the sake of disempowering the regime and bringing Iran back into the community of nations,” she says, adding that should the current 6-month negotiating period fail to produce a final result, harsher sanctions should be immediately applied.
“Whether through diplomatic pressure or regime change, one way or another the Iranian people want this reign of terror to end,” she says.
The Iranian activist spirit awakened in 1999 with the Tehran University student uprising. This seminal event convinced many Iranians – and other human rights’ activists around the world – that the Iranian people could successfully organize and overthrow the Ayatollah’s regime.

“Common sense tells us that the best weapon against the Iranian regime is the Iranian people,” says Banafsheh. “If you want a country to bring freedom to a fascist regime, you must do everything to help see the success of its self-determinant movement.”
In subsequent years, groups of workers, women and journalists have engaged in protests inside Iran. “Unfortunately the international press does not cover these protests,” says Banafsheh.

In the wake of the 2009 “election” of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the various factions united in their common desire to have the Mullahs replaced. Protests crowds estimated at 3 million took to the streets in support of the “Green Movement.” They were met with lethal force; dozens of protesters and bystanders were gunned down.
“Anti-U.S. mural on a building in TehranThe people of Iran gave their blood to shout to the world their demand to be freed from this regime,” Banafsheh explains. “They need to know that the free world is standing behind them. Unfortunately most world leaders have failed to supply proper moral support.”

Banafsheh is at a loss to explain why so many Americans fail to recognize the threat Iran poses as well to the West. In 1979, Iranian supporters of the Ayatollah stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. In 1983, the Iranians (through their proxy Hezbollah) killed 231 U.S. Marines in Beirut. In recent years the worst global terror attacks are linked to Iran.
“The Ayatollah associates the values of human rights and liberty with the United States, which he has nicknamed the ‘Great Satan’ to be destroyed. ‘Death to America’ is a common cry at government-supported rallies,” she says.
The issues of human rights and Iran’s nuclear program are closely linked, Banafsheh says, raising her voice in appeal. “Where are the so-called human rights organizations, protesting the brutal oppression of millions of non-radical Muslims in Iran? Don’t they understand that by Iran treating their own people this way, we see how the regime will act toward others – its Mideast neighbors, Europe and the U.S. – only this time with nuclear weapons to back them up?”
Banafsheh’s voice quakes as she implores: “We need to wake up before it’s too late.”

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Post  Admin on Thu 24 Apr 2014, 10:38 am

What to Include in an Ethical Will
What values and lessons do you want to pass on to your children and grandchildren? Here are 40 of mine.
by Bob Diener         
In addition to a legal will, I recently executed an ethical will because I believe that passing on the values and lessons I have learned during my lifetime is much more important that any physical assets I can leave my children. Many of these values and lessons I learned from my parents and grandparents and I am continuing the great tradition of passing these onto the next generation. And I learned many of these items from experience and making mistakes.
I share the following as a guideline for others who may also want to draft an ethical will. We are all unique and learned lessons that we want to pass on in different ways. What is important is to let your children know how you learned these values and why they are important to you.
Treat others well and you will be treated well, you will feel better about yourself, and you will have many more friends. This is true in the business world and in the personal world. Much of my success has come from following this throughout my career.
Put in your best effort in everything you do. There is no excuse for not putting in best efforts. You may not succeed every time, but you will succeed much more often when you give it your best.
Find something you love and become passionate about it. You may not be the best at everything but work hard to be the best at what is important to you.
Success comes with hard work, dedication, being relentless and believing in yourself.. There is no substitute for hard work. When you believe in something it is much more likely to happen.
Be a productive member of society. Find a career that allows you to support a family and that benefits others.
Be thorough. Make decisions based on analyzing all of the facts. Do not guess. Act through knowledge.
Establish goals. Work is much more exciting and achievable when working towards a goal.
Be charitable. The pursuit of capital and wealth for wealth in and of itself has no meaning. The pursuit of wealth to help others makes it worthwhile and meaningful. Spend as much time earning wealth as you do figuring out who and how you are going to use part of that wealth to help those in need. Learn about causes you care about.
Be honest in business dealings. It is much more important to be honest in a transaction that to earn a higher profit. There will always be opportunities for more profits – but once you are not honest in a transaction, this cannot be changed. It will affect future dealings by others having less respect and trust in you.
Take care of each other. Keep a close relationship with your siblings and look out for each other, especially in time of need.
Perform deeds of kindness. The secret to happiness and fulfillment is doing good deeds to others. There is no greater fulfillment than being able to help another person. The secondary benefit is that the person you help will look to help you in return.
Be modest and be careful not to get pulled into being pompous.
Be merciful. Have compassion on others and be forgiving. Holding grudges and being angry at others for long periods of time has no fulfillment.
Develop a close relationship with someone you can always bounce ideas off of and who you can confide in. It is always better to discuss a plan with someone and get feedback before acting alone. Listen to others and let others criticize your work. Do not assume you are always right. Sometimes it is difficult to see the other side of an issue until someone else articulates it.
Always be courteous. Regardless of how disrespectful your opponent is or how upset you are, always keep your decorum and remain respectful. Respect for you will grow greatly when people know you are always respectful.
Treat all human beings with dignity. Regardless of the social status of a person, we are all created in God’s image.
Remember that God can forgive you for sins against God, but you can only be forgiven for a sin against man directly from the person you harmed. If you do something wrong to someone, go back and make it right.
Be persistent when you believe in a cause. I have championed many causes when the majority did not agree with me. When you believe the cause is right and just, do not give up.
Integrity. Your word is everything and more important than a written contract. If you agree to something orally, fulfill your oral commitment.
When you fail to win an argument or negotiation, never end on bad terms.
Never state a fact that you are not 100% sure of. It never hurts to say that you do not know the answer.
No lashon harah – derogatory speech. Never talk about others in a negative way. Either remain silent or talk positively. There is no benefit to speaking badly about a person regardless of the circumstances, unless you are warning someone of imminent harm. If you hear evil talk of others – do not listen to it.
Be upfront with others and speak honestly.
Never allow an injustice to occur.
Be a leader, not a follower. Don’t be tempted by peer pressure.
Develop real relationships and friends. A true friend is someone that deeply cares about you, and you care about them in return. A true friend understands when you say no to something you believe is wrong. Take an interest in other people. When you show that you care, you will develop great friends. Go out of your way to help your friends and the friendships will grow even greater.
When looking for a spouse, look for a good heart. Look for someone that cares about other people, who is empathetic and honest. Look for someone that you can respect and grow together with, for someone that you can always rely on.
Make every day meaningful. Live a holy and spiritual life by striving every day to do a mitzvah - good deed. You will look back later in life and cherish the good deeds you have done. All you have is time. Make it meaningful.
Visit the sick. Attend friends and family celebrations. Visit friends and family in times of sorrow.
Your heart and mouth should be the same. Do not speak one way and think another. Be sincere.
The State of Israel is your inheritance. It is up to you to do everything in your power to keep it strong. Learn about your inheritance and spend time there.
Cherish the Jewish faith and community. This will tremendously enhance your life. Make sure the Jewish community and Jewish institutions remain strong, especially Jewish schools.
Become an active part of a community – this is important as it adds strength to everything you do.
Have a family. One is not fulfilled by being alone. There is a bashert for you; life is so much more meaningful by being able to share it with someone you love.
Make your spouse happy and your spouse will make you happy. Life involves compromise. Be accepting of the other person’s personality and remember that marriage is a long term commitment. Never say anything bad to your spouse regardless of how upset you maybe. Be forgiving and understanding. Do not let minor issues be bothersome. Always be loyal, honest and open.
Be positive about life. My business career was mostly about marketing. By being positive and upbeat and optimistic, others will flock to you or your products.
Be thankful every day. A wealthy person is one who is satisfied with what he has. This is true wealth. Do not take things for granted.
Learn about our people and heritage. The more you learn, the more you will appreciate our heritage. Make Jewish and Israel education available to others. This will insure our long term survival and success.
Keep the traditions. Attend synagogue, and make the Sabbath a special day – this is a great opportunity to renew ourselves, search your soul, take a break from work and spend time with the family.
Your family and friends come first. Remember this when deciding on priorities. Teach and spend quality time with each of your kids. You can never make up lost time with your children. Always stay balanced in your life. Your life will be much more fulfilling when you find the right balance between family, friends, career, community, charity and other things that are important to you.
Although an ethical will is a great way to record and transmit your values to future generations, the best way to teach these values to your children is to practice them yourself during your lifetime. I find that the most effective way to teach my children is by example. Your ethical will is meant to reinforce the values you have lived by and thereby taught your children during your lifetime.
Published: April 21, 2014

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Home   »  Israel   »  Jewish World
Anti-Semitism in AmericaAnti-Semitism in America
The Kansas City JCC murders remind us that virulent anti-Semitism does exists in the United States.
by Yvette Alt Miller          
On a quiet Sunday afternoon, the JCC in Overland Park, Kansas was full of kids. Some were there for a singing and dancing competition. Others were just arriving with their parents for an umpire clinic. Nearby, in Shalom Village, an assisted living facility, residents and staff were getting ready for Passover, which was starting the following night.

The calm of that afternoon of April 13, 2014 was shattered when Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73 year old white supremacist with a history of founding racist, anti-Semitic, paramilitary organizations, strode into both buildings, shooting at adults and children alike. A father who was visiting the JCC that day with his young son described the scene: “All of the sudden we heard a gunshot, a pretty loud gunshot… I turned to look to my right and I can see a man standing outside a car with a shotgun, what to me looked like a shotgun, and there was somebody laying on the ground.”
By the time the rampage was over, three people were dead: William Corporon, a local doctor; his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, who’d been looking forward to competing in the JCC’s singing competition; and Terri LaManno, who was visiting her elderly mother in Shalom Village.
As it happened, none of Cross’ fatal victims were Jewish, but Cross’ intentions to harm Jews by targeting Jewish institutions was clear. After his arrest, he shouted “Heil Hitler!” to the traumatized crowd around him.
It’s tempting to dismiss Cross as an aberration, one eccentric old man. But he’s hardly alone. In the days after his rampage, the mayor of a town near where Cross lived, Mayor Danny Clevenger of Marionville, Missouri, even praised Cross, echoing his anti-Semitic views, saying Jews are “destroying” the United States.
As the world prepares to mark Yom HaShoah to commemorate and honor the memory of the six million Jews who were killed in the Holocaust 70 years ago, it’s incredible to realize that today in America there are people who will proudly call out “Heil Hitler” as they shoot and murder innocent children – and shocking to realize that there are others who publicly support their odious views.
American Jews are used to hearing of high levels of anti-Semitism and reading of horrific attacks on Jews overseas. In the weeks leading up to Cross’ attack, for instance, the openly neo-Nazi political party Jobbik won 21 percent of the vote in Hungarian national elections and a seat in the government and France’s anti-Jewish National Front made significant gains in French local elections, winning control in several towns. Two weeks after the shooting, Jews in Ukraine were handed leaflets ordering them to register with local authorities. In some European countries today, clear majorities of people polled hold anti-Semitic opinions: 63% in Hungary, for example, and 53% in Spain.

The United States, in contrast, can sometimes feel like a country free of the taint of anti-Semitism. Tragically, the Kansas City JCC murders remind us that virulent anti-Semitism does exists in the US.
According to the FBI, nearly 20% of all hate crimes in the US are directed against people of a particular religion; of those, the vast majority target Jews. Even though Jews make up less than 3% of the population of the United States, more than 63% of religiously-motivated hate crimes in the US were directed against Jews.

The crimes range from ethnic slurs and insults, to vandalism, property damage, even life-threatening attacks. A 2012 survey found nearly a thousand reported anti-Semitic attacks in the US that year, including Molotov cocktails thrown into the house of a rabbi in New Jersey, a Jew punched in the face as he walked home from synagogue, swastikas and threats to Jews written on buildings, cemetery vandalism, and more.
And those are just the reported incidents. For many American Jews, anti-Jewish feelings create a climate of fear, eroding their confidence and comfort. One 2013 poll found that fully 81% of American Jews feel that anti-Semitism is a problem in the United States.
Other studies concur. A 2013 poll by the ADL found that fully 12% of Americans hold anti-Semitic views. And when it comes to specific questions about Jews, the numbers can be far higher.
15% of Americans believe Jews are more likely than other groups to use “shady business practices” to get what they want. 17% of Americans believe Jews “control” Wall Street. 14% of Americans believe Jews have “too much power” in the business world. 13% of Americans believe Jews don’t care about other people; 15% believe Jews have a lot of irritating habits.
The most widespread suspicion of Jews in America seems to focus on the age-old anti-Semitic accusation that Jews aren’t good citizens: fully 30% of Americans believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the US.
Given the hatred of Jews in some corners of American society, what can we do? Here are five ways to begin combating anti-Semitism today.

1. Become a teacher.
The ADL survey found that best-educated Americans are the least anti-Semitic: 8% of college-educated Americans admit to anti-Semitic views, for instance, while 19% of Americans with only a high-school education held anti-Jewish views.
Take opportunities to share your Jewish knowledge with others; you might just dispel some myths and change people’s minds when you do.

2. Educate yourself.
I’ll always remember a comparative religions professor I encountered when I was 17. He seemed dismissive of Jews and Judaism, and I felt he looked down on me as a Jewish student. He wasn’t Jewish, but even so, he knew much more about my own religion than I’d ever learned in Hebrew School as a child.
As irritating as he was, that professor did me a huge favor: I decided to take Hebrew classes and begin learning more about Judaism in college, in part to counter his negative statements.
It’s never too late to educate ourselves, and become more effective advocates for ourselves and our wider Jewish community.

3. Find your pride.
Tapping into our Jewish heritage – and immersing ourselves in it – is the best way to combat anti-Semitism. It gives us the strength and tools we need to combat prejudice – and also enriches our lives.
Get's Free Email Updates.
Consider taking on a new piece of Jewish observance, attending Jewish classes, or attending synagogue more regularly.
4. Speak out

When you hear anti-Semitic slurs, speak out. When you signal you won’t stand for anti-Semitism, it sends a clear message that this sort of discourse is unacceptable.

5. Connect your wider Jewish community.

You don’t have to combat anti-Jewish slurs alone. Connecting with other Jews and Jewish organizations can help give you the tools – and the courage – to stand up to anti-Semitism.

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[size=16.363636016845703]Why the Left Should Love the Jewish State, Again
By every conceivable standard of liberalism, Israel comes out surprisingly ahead.
by Joshua Muravchik         
This article is adapted from the author’s recently released book, Liberal Oasis: The Truth About Israel
In a 2011 blog post titled “A Few Notes on WHAT IS LEFT (or Toward a Manifesto for Revolutionary Emancipation),” the prominent radical intellectual Richard Falk endeavored to distill “what remains of the historic left” into a program of contemporary relevance. The starting point he proposed? “Support for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement.”
[size=16.363636016845703]This is not surprising, as Falk is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Palestine and a ferocious supporter of the Palestinian cause. But his views are not unusual. Falk was simply expressing what has been implicit among progressive academic associations, unions, churches, and human rights groups that single out Israel for censure or punishment. Championing the Palestinians and opposing Israel has become a touchstone, perhaps the touchstone, of the contemporary Left.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]This reflects a larger transformation of Leftist concepts from that of the working class versus the bourgeoisie to that of the Third World versus the First World, or “the rest against the West,” an idea that grew out of the struggle against Western colonialism. It places Israeli irredeemably in the wrong and bathes the Palestinian cause in nobility.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]But the Israeli hold on the West Bank and those that live there, oppressive as it can be, ill fits the mold of colonialism. It is an occupation that did not emerge out of greed or the desire for political power, but out of a defensive war, and most Israelis would relinquish it if the Palestinians would make it safe to do so.
Israel’s record with respect to these core values ranks among the best in the world, while that of its principal enemies, the Arab nations, is dismal.
Moreover, when viewed in the light of the core values of the Left – and, indeed, much of the contemporary Right – Israel actually comes off remarkably well; often much better than its most violent critics. These values are summed up by the great slogan of the French Revolution: “liberté, egalité, fraternité,” “liberty, equality, fraternity.” Israel’s record with respect to these core values ranks among the best in the world, while that of its principal enemies, the Arab nations, is dismal. Indeed, Israel’s record is in some cases better even than its European and other Western critics. Because this record is often obscured in the angry polemics against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians, it is worth examining it in depth.
[size=16.363636016845703]“Liberty” is usually understood as meaning freedom and democracy, which remain the most basic measures of a nation’s respect for human dignity. We can compare different countries’ records on this issue through the findings of the NGO [/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Freedom House, which each year issues a list of “electoral democracies” and scores all countries numerically, with 1 being the best possible score and 7 the worst. Countries that score from 1 to 2.5 are “free,” those from 3 to 5 are “partly free,” and those from 5.5 to 7 are considered “not free.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Freedom House considers Israel an “electoral democracy.” Its freedom rating is 1.5. This qualifies as “free,” but is a notch less perfect than most Western countries. However, it is worth considering the context. Even liberal democracies tend to become less free when their safety or survival is threatened. American civil liberties suffered because of the War on Terror, not to mention earlier, more fraught moments in American history; the right of habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War, and anti-war dissenters were imprisoned during World War I. During World War II, Japanese-Americans were notoriously interned, while in Britain, Prime Minister Winston Churchill jailed the Fascist leader, Sir Oswald Mosley, without any judicial proceedings. Had Freedom House been around back then, the US and UK would likely have scored worse than Israel’s 1.5.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]For Israel, moreover, it has always been World War II or the equivalent in terms of national security. Because of Israel’s size and isolation, as well as the proximity and often intense hostility of its enemies, few countries live within a narrower margin of safety. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful that even the most liberal states would preserve more essential freedoms than Israel has. At least, there is little evidence that they have done so in the past.
Comparing Israel to its neighbors and enemies, the Jewish state comes off even better. Of the 22 members of the Arab League, the only one ranked as a democracy for several years running has been the Comoros – four African islands with a combined population of 750,000. Lebanon is a democracy of sorts, but the presence of intense sectarian divisions, armed political parties, and – until recently – strong Syrian influence make it a problematic case. In 2013, Freedom House added Tunisia and Libya to the list of democracies. But not a single member of the Arab League ranks as “free”; not even its four democracies (three of them rather tenuous), which all rank as “partly free.” Two other countries do as well, bringing the total of “partly free” countries to six. At the same time, 17 members are considered “not free” at all. Another non-Arab Middle Eastern country, Iran, is listed as neither free nor democratic.
[size=16.363636016845703]Skeptics of democratic universalism say that it is unrealistic to expect democracy to emerge in states where there is no democratic culture or tradition. If this is true, Israel’s achievement seems even more impressive. The immigrants who built the State of Israel overwhelmingly came from places without a democratic culture or tradition. Half came from the Muslim countries, while the rest were predominantly from Eastern Europe. The only political regimes they knew were autocracy or Communism.
Israel is one of the most egalitarian countries on earth.
In terms of equality, so powerful a spur to the French Revolution and various Leftist movements ever since, Israel is one of the most egalitarian countries on earth. In all manner of social organizations, divisions of class and rank are remarkably weak. As Dan Senor and Saul Singer put it in their book Start-up Nation,
An outsider would see chutzpah everywhere in Israel: in the way university students speak with their professors, employees challenge their bosses, sergeants question their generals, and clerks second-guess government ministers. To Israelis, however, this isn’t chutzpah; it’s the normal mode of being.
[size=16.363636016845703]This is largely due to Israel’s citizen army, which is the great equalizer in Israeli society. Indeed, it is not uncommon for the distribution of military ranks within a unit to bear little correspondence, or even an inverse correspondence, to the income and prestige of the soldiers’ civilian occupations.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In terms of income distribution, Israel is not as egalitarian. Economists measure income disparities with a formula called the Gini coefficient. Israel’s ranks just slightly better than average in terms of economic equality. Perhaps the most important reason that Israel is not as egalitarian as it could be, however, is that it contains large groups of low earners.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]One such group is the large percentage of immigrants in Israeli society. People arriving in a country where they have not been educated, do not speak the language, and are unfamiliar with social customs are at a great disadvantage, to put it mildly, in the job market. Except for tax-havens like Monaco or oil-rich states like Qatar, where a tiny indigenous population is swamped by foreign workers, the proportion of immigrants in Israel is in a class by itself. According to the UN, immigrants make up 1.2 percent of the population of Latin America, 1.4 percent of Asia, 1.9 percent of Africa, and 8.8 percent of Europe, where the problems of assimilation have become a serious political issue. In the U.S., which prides itself on being a “nation of immigrants,” 13 percent are foreign born. But fully 40 percent of Israelis are immigrants. In this context, it is surprising that Israel’s Gini coefficient shows as little inequality as it does.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Two other population groups further skew Israel’s income distribution: Israeli-Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews. The philosophy of the ultra-Orthodox places enormous value on childbearing and religious study; as a result, employment rates suffer, and so does income and wealth. According to the New York Times, “Some 60 percent of ultra-Orthodox men do not work regular jobs, preferring religious study. More than 50 percent live below the poverty line and get state allowances.”
Israel’s Arab citizens, who make up roughly 20 percent of the population, also constitute a pocket of poverty in Israel. But not all Arabs. Research by Israeli social scientist Dan Schueftan shows a stark contrast along religious lines: Christian Arabs are much better off than their Muslim counterparts. Their scores on measures of education, income, and the like, resemble those of Israel’s secular Jews, while those of Muslim Arabs approximate those of ultra-Orthodox Jews. The critical variable, then, seems to be cultural and social values in regard to family size and the role of women. In other words, poverty and income inequality in Israel can be explained to a great extent by lifestyle choices rather than lack of opportunity. Ultra-Orthodox Jews and observant Muslims place faith before materialism. They would rather have a home full of offspring than a big house or two cars. Instead of a second income, they would prefer having a wife at home caring for their children. This is an issue of differing values, and it seems unfair to simply brand them as mistaken.
[size=16.363636016845703]What about equality between ethnic groups? Although there are strong differences among Jews, which I will deal with in the next section, the most difficult aspect of this issue is again the status of the Israeli-Arabs. Although there are substantial socioeconomic differences between Jews and Arabs, in part due to the contrasting values described above, Israel has done better in evening out these discrepancies than most other countries with sharply diverse nationalities.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]First, let us consider health. Life expectancy for Israeli Jews is 82.3 years. For Israeli-Arabs it is lower – 78.8 – but this is still higher than the average American and, according to UN statistics, ten years longer than Arabs living in Arab states. Moreover, it is higher than any individual Arab country except Lebanon. Another primary measure of public health is infant mortality. A report written by Ali Haider, Yaser Awad, and Manar Mahmoud for the Israeli advocacy organization Sikkuy – the Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality – notes “a large gap in the infant mortality between Jews and Arabs: 3.2 vs. 8.0 per thousand live births, respectively.” However, Sikkuy also reports that the figure for Arabs is elevated by conditions in the Bedouin community, and “the main reason for infant mortality among the Negev Bedouin is birth defects and hereditary diseases.” Other data shows that Israeli-Arabs are far less likely than Jews to undergo prenatal testing, and are thus less likely to abort abnormal fetuses, which are at higher risk of infant death. More importantly, whatever explains the disparity between Israeli Jews and Arabs, both are comparatively low numbers. The eight-per-thousand deaths suffered by Israeli-Arab newborns is less than half the global median of around 17 deaths per thousand and not much worse than the US, where the number is between 6 and 7.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]American Jews have roughly 40 percent more education than non-Jews. In Israel, however, Jews have only 14 percent more education than Arabs.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Education is another area in which Jewish Israelis show statistical advantages over their Arab countrymen. But again the differences are not large. Classroom size is perhaps the greatest and least excusable disparity. The average elementary school class has 24.6 students in Jewish areas, 29 in Arab areas. For high schools, the numbers are 27.6 versus 30.5. There are also disparities in educational achievement. The median number of years of schooling completed is 12.7 for Jews versus 11.1 for Arabs.
          Yet this differential pales in comparison to that between Jews and non-Jews in the United States. According to the 2008 Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, the average American Jew has a college degree and some postgraduate study. Other Americans average 12 years of schooling or a bit less. Thus, American Jews have roughly 40 percent more education than non-Jews. In Israel, however, Jews have only 14 percent more education than Arabs, who themselves average more education than the populace of any Arab country.
[size=16.363636016845703]A half century ago, moreover, Arabs throughout the Middle East had little education. Gains have been recorded everywhere, but those in Israel are especially impressive. According to a report by Yosef Jabareen for the Israel Democracy Institute, “between 1961 and 2007, the average number of years of schooling [for Israeli Arabs] rose from 1.2 to 11.3, which signifies a more than nine fold increase.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]It seems, then, that the most remarkable fact about the educational gap between Israeli Jews and Arabs is the astonishing rate at which it has diminished and how narrow it has become as a result.
An Israeli soldier offering emergency instruction to Arab schoolchildren. Photo: Israel Defense ForcesAn Israeli soldier offering emergency instruction to Arab schoolchildren.
Photo: Israel Defense Forces
[size=16.363636016845703]Now let us turn to economic issues. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an Israeli-Arab worker earns, on average, 70 percent of a Jewish worker on an hourly basis and 68 percent monthly. In his book The Israel Test, however, George Gilder observes that “similar gaps [exist] in every free country on earth with significant numbers of Jews. Jews, for example, out-earn other Caucasians in the United States by an even larger margin than they out-earn Arabs in Israel.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]It is true that Israeli-Arabs’ per capita income falls considerably below that of Israeli Jews, roughly 40 percent lower. But this is, again, likely because they average more children and fewer earners per family, with only 22 percent of women in the work force, as compared to 68 percent of Jewish women. Nonetheless, Israeli-Arabs’ per capita income is half-again as high as in the Arab states.
An additional useful comparison may be drawn regarding Jews and Arabs outside of Israel. Tom W. Smith’s work Jewish Distinctiveness in America: A Statistical Portrait notes that the largest number of Diaspora Jews resides in the United States, where their per capita income is estimated to be about twice as high as non-Jews. Similar disparities are found in France, Canada, and the UK. Arabs who live in these Western countries, however, are not similarly advantaged. In Europe, for example, quite the opposite is the case. In other words, the income differential between Jews and Arabs in Israel is no greater than the disparity between them in other countries where the two communities live.
[size=16.363636016845703]Finally, let us consider the status of women in Israeli society. There are few countries where women enjoy as much equality as in Israel, with the glaring exception of divorce law – where family law is impacted by religious authorities, meaning Jewish and Muslim men can divorce at will, but the barrier for women to initiate divorce is higher. From the military to political life, from the corporate suites to the Cabinet Room and the Prime Ministers office, women dominate modern Israel society in ways that are in deep contrast with anything else in the Middle East, and much of the rest of the world.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]This begins with military service, which is all the more important because of the central role the army plays in Israel’s social and economic life, as well as the prestige it enjoys. Women have played leading roles in defending the state in the military from before its founding, an equal status decades ahead of our own in America. A second major area is economic. The UN’s Gender-Related Equality Index for 2009 provides data on women and men’s estimated earned income in various countries and regions. The figures for Israel show that women earn 64 percent of what men earn. For the US, the proportion is 62 percent. For the OECD, which is mostly composed of Western European countries, including some of Israel’s harshest critics, it is 57 percent. In the Arab states it is a stunningly low 22 percent.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Several countries in northern Europe, along with Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, show differentials in earnings somewhat narrower than Israel. But Israel’s record is impressive considering that the leading cause of earning disparities between the sexes is maternity. Israeli women on average bear three children, while Americans and New Zealanders bear two, Europeans and Australians fewer than two, and Hong Kong women less than one. The fertility gap between Israel and these countries is larger than the disparity in income.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In the 2013 elections, three of the top eight parties in the Knesset were led by women.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In addition to the military and the workplace, Israeli women have a stronger role in politics than elsewhere. When Golda Meir became Israel’s Prime Minister in 1969, she was only the third woman in modern history to head a government, and the first to do so without being related to a male national hero. In the 2013 elections, three of the top eight parties in the Knesset were led by women. In just the last five years, women have held leadership positions including President of the Supreme Court, Speaker of the Knesset, Foreign Minister, and (twice) Leader of the Opposition.
In terms of “fraternity,” Israel also presents a more admirable model than its critics seem willing to admit. In particular, it has knit together a society composed of a dizzying diversity of Jews, including some of Judaism’s most far-flung and endangered remnants. This is more uncommon than one might think. In countries like Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, not to mention numerous countries in Africa, experiments in “nation-building” have often failed. Israel, by contrast, is a dramatic success story.
[size=16.363636016845703]It hasn’t been easy, and it still isn’t. The most prominent division in Israeli society is that between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. In addition to differences in language and tradition, the two communities lived in sharply contrasting cultures for centuries. The process of forming a modern nation out them was not smooth, but it has been remarkably successful.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In the past, Ashkenazi Jews tended to have the advantage over their Sephardi counterparts in most areas. Today, not only has the income and education gap between the two communities narrowed, but surveys show similarly high positive responses in their attitude toward being Israeli. Among native-born Israelis who are the children of Sephardi immigrants, 91 percent say they are “proud to be an Israeli,” as do 85 percent of the children of Ashkenazi immigrants. For the immigrants themselves, the numbers are virtually the same. At the same time, 97 percent of Ashkenazim and 94 percent of Sephardim say they are “emotionally connected to Israel.” Asked whether they experienced their Jewish identity in a religious, cultural, ethnic, racial, or other sense, an identical 91 percent of each group said it meant being part of “a people.”
Several other groups have been stirred into the Israeli melting pot. Ethiopian Jews, who believe they are descendants of the lost tribe of Dan, constitute 125,000 people, over two percent of the Jewish population. Within a couple of decades, these immigrants traversed a cultural distance of centuries. As the American scholar Edward Alexander put it in a 1985 article in Commentary, most had “to be taught to wear shoes, to use knives and forks and toilets, to take medicines, and to understand that electrical wires are not worms, that gas can be dangerous, and that you cannot remove food from grocery stores without giving money in exchange.”
[size=16.363636016845703]Another self-defined “lost tribe,” the Bukharan Jews, numbering an estimated 100,000, migrated to Israel from Central Asia – mostly Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. A third lost tribe, the B’nei Menashe or “descendants of Menashe,” have appeared on Israel’s doorstep in recent years. Of Tibeto-Burman descent from India’s northeast border states, their claim is viewed skeptically by experts, but Israel has agreed to admit them on condition that they undergo the ritual of conversion.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Whatever the difficulties involved, the absorption of these remote Jewish communities appears very different than in other places where two cultures have been thrust together, one of them often more advanced than the other. It is true that the task has been made easier by the fact that all these communities worship (or do not worship) the same God. But a common religion is hardly sufficient to assure peace, much less brotherhood, as we are reminded by the terrible wars within branches of Islam and Christianity.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]What about those who worship a different God? How well does Israel do in terms of extending a spirit of fraternity toward its non-Jewish citizens?[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Israeli-Arabs are far from being fully integrated with Israeli Jews; but in assessing Israel’s shortcomings in this respect, as with the socioeconomic disparities between the two communities, we must ask: Compared to what? Americans will be misled if they approach this issue by way of analogy to our own country, where there are no nationalities, only “ethnic groups,” and more or less everyone’s ethnicity is transcended by their sense of being simply “American.” Most states, by contrast, have a single national identity. But some have the far more complicated issue of multiple national identities existing in the same country.
Those that have tried to maintain these multiple national identities have not found it easy. Swedes and Norwegians once constituted a single country, but chose to divorce peacefully, as did the Czechs and Slovaks. Some national divorces have been far bloodier, such as that between the Croats, Serbs, and Bosnians, even though all three speak Serbo-Croatian and share the same ethnicity. The same may be said for some national “marriages,” such as the Kurds in Turkey, Chechens in Russia, Uighurs in China, Tutsis and Hutus, Ibos and Yorubas, and so on.
[size=16.363636016845703]Arabic is even an official language of the Knesset, 10 percent of whose members are Arab.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]The place of Arabs within Israeli society is, of course, greatly complicated by Israel’s conflict with its Arab neighbors. Nonetheless, in addition to efforts at closing socioeconomic gaps, and despite Israel’s place in the world as the nation state of Jewish people, Israel affirms, in ways large and small, the place of the Arab minority within the nation. Arabic is an official language. Road signs, food labels, and government announcements appear in Arabic as well as Hebrew. Arabic is even an official language of the Knesset, 10 percent of whose members are Arab. There are Arabic newspapers, an all-Arabic television station and radio channel, and the main networks, while mostly in Hebrew, have hours set aside for broadcasting in Arabic and many Hebrew programs have Arabic subtitles. Just as there is an institute devoted to sustaining the Hebrew language, an analogue to the Académie Française, there is also one for Arabic.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]It is certainly true that many Israeli-Arabs are deeply ambivalent about their country. In a 2006 survey for Israel’s Institute for Policy and Strategy, Uzi Arad and Gal Alon found that 44 percent of Arabs said they were very or somewhat proud to be Israeli, while 57 percent were not very proud or not proud at all. 27 percent said they were probably or definitely willing to fight for the state, while 73 percent said probably or definitely not. Yet there are also many examples of Arab Israelis – men and women – serving proudly in country’s armed forces, and many more would likely serve if the social pressure in their communities was less intense.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]And when asked whether they agreed that “Israel is a better country than most other countries,” the percentage of Israeli-Arabs who agreed or strongly agreed was an overwhelming 77 percent – exceeding that of Israeli Jews. Moreover, this is a higher positive response than in most Western countries. For example, only 62 percent of Norwegians, who live in one of the wealthiest per-capita nations is the West, answer this question in the affirmative. When asked to respond to the proposition, “I would rather be a citizen of my country than of any other,” 82 percent of Israeli-Arabs agreed or strongly agreed.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Israel certainly has its failings in regard to the treatment of its Arab citizens. But it nonetheless contrasts dramatically with the treatment of Jews in Arab countries. After the founding of Israel, some three-quarters of a million Jews were driven out, with only a few thousand remaining in Morocco and Tunisia. This is only one example of the contrast between Israel and its neighbors’ treatment of religious minorities.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Another striking example is that of the Baha’i, a faith followed by an estimated seven million people. Israel has allowed the Baha’i to establish its administrative center, a kind of mini-Vatican, in the city of Haifa. In Iran, where the faith was born, its adherents have always faced persecution. This turned deadly with the advent of the Islamic Republic. In Egypt, until a court order was implemented in 2010, Baha’i were not allowed to possess the official identity papers necessary for marriage, work, education, and the like, unless they disguised their faith. Baha’i have also been persecuted or banned at various times in Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]The treatment of Christians in the Arab world is another dramatic case in point. Bombings and other murders and persecutions have driven at least 100,000 Iraqi Christians into exile. The Christian communities of Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories are also shrinking due to flight and conversion to Islam. Coptic Christians are fleeing Egypt, where they have long endured a system of legal discrimination. Now, they are also suffering a wave of violence. In Saudi Arabia, home to hundreds of thousands of Christian guest workers, neither churches nor Bibles are permitted.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In Israel, Christians enjoy freedom of worship and control of their own holy places. Despite low birthrates and Muslim proselytization, their numbers are slowly growing. In addition, small Muslim sects, like the Ahmadis and Sufis, that face persecution in Muslim countries, live unmolested in Israel.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]Israel is one of the few newly-developed countries to widely offer foreign aid.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In a more international form of fraternity, Israel is one of the few newly-developed countries to widely offer foreign aid, which in recent decades has concentrated on medical aid. For example, the need to treat victims of terrorist attacks has forced Israel’s providers to acquire a rare degree of expertise in burn-care and emergency medicine, which it has shared in response to emergencies around the globe. Medical aid is even extended to enemies. Israel’s civil administration put the number of Palestinians treated in Israeli hospitals during 2011 at 115,000; while more than a hundred Palestinian doctors interned in Israeli hospitals. The one-year-old granddaughter of Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister of Gaza, was whisked to Petah Tikva in 2013 for treatment of an infection in her digestive tract. The year before, Haniyeh’s brother-in-law was treated for a heart ailment in another Petah Tikva hospital.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In 2013, Israel set up a field hospital in the Golan Heights to treat casualties of Syria’s civil war, in addition to many who have received care inside Israel. Reuters quoted one insurrectionary who awoke in an Israeli hospital as saying, “I was happy when I found I was here. Most fighters know they will get good care in Israel.”[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]The inherent harshness of occupation is certainly fair game for criticism, as are Israeli settlements and other policies that complicate the peace process with the Palestinians. But critics of Israel rarely stop at this. Instead, they try to portray Israel itself and its entire society as something inherently evil. As we have seen, this is not simply wrong, it is also hypocrisy. Many of Israel’s strongest critics, especially in the Arab world, have proved markedly inferior to Israel on many of the issues they cite in order to attack the Jewish state.[/size]
[size=16.363636016845703]In particular, the Leftist critique of Israeli society is deeply unjust. In any country, there are things that can and should be criticized. Israel is no different. But a Left of intellectual integrity would acknowledge the good as well as the bad. It would give Israel credit for its achievements, some practical and some moral, in fulfilling the Left’s core ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Few other countries have matched Israel’s record in the face of such overwhelming odds.
This article is adapted from the author’s recently released book, Liberal Oasis: The Truth About Israel (Encounter, 2014) and originally appeared in The Tower Magazine.
Published: February 22, 2014

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Post  Admin on Sun 23 Feb 2014, 11:18 pm

Inside the Mind of a Suicide Bomber
Dr. Anat Berko, a world-renowned terrorism expert, knows suicide bombers like nobody else.
by Shalom Tzvi Shore         
“The fundamental difference between male and female suicide bombers is in their level of fundamentalism,” explains Dr. Anat Berko.
She would know. For the past 20 years, Berko has devoted her life to understanding the mindset of both suicide bombers and their dispatchers through first hand research, by interviewing captured terrorist in their jail cells.
Anat BerkoPhoto credit: Noa Melamed

She explains: Whereas many male suicide bombers are motivated primarily by an ideology of hate, the female suicide bomber often has an additional motivating factor of emotional and physical abuse within her own family. They are often women who have culturally “shamed” their family and are “redeeming” themselves of this disgrace. These women are sometimes given the opportunity to die as terrorists instead of being killed in an honor killing.
That does not make them any less dangerous. Dr. Berko, who holds a PhD in criminology from Bar-Ilan University, points out that they are often able to exploit the lack of suspicion to sneak in beneath Israel’s defense systems and attack civilians. Moreover, they have been known to deliberately target other women and children, out of envy of Israeli women and children’s lifestyle and higher standard of living, or frustration with an inability to have children of their own.
“I use empathy as a tool to conduct my research. It doesn't mean I identify with the prisoners,”
However, a fascinating twist to their cynical abuse of society’s trust is the fact that their attacks are often less successful. Their lack of experience and terrorist training results in a higher rate of unsuccessful attempts, or attacks that don’t inflict as much harm as initially hoped. Additionally, they pay a higher price socially for being in prison: they are considered “used goods” in the Muslim world, partially because they interact with men to prepare to carry out their attack, and their biological clock continues to tick while in prison. The result is that women are a lot less likely to return to terror once they are released from prison, a very common phenomenon amongst their male counterparts.
As a criminologist, Dr. Berko attempts as much as possible to enter the mind of suicide bombers, to understand them and their world view. “Whereas others focus on tactics and diplomacy, my approach attempts to understand them a psychological, sociological perspective by getting inside their mind.”
To this end, she has spent countless hours interviewing terrorists in their cells. Her first interviewee, in 1996, was arc terrorist Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas who was responsible for multiple suicide bombings and deaths of many Israeli civilians and who was ultimately assassinated by Israel in 2004.

One of the insights Berko discovered is the fact that "The suicide bomber does not act out of suffering or inferior economic status, but rather out of a desire to win social recognition." Contrary to popular belief, suicide bombers are not motivated by poverty or lower socioeconomic status, but rather, to quote a dispatcher she interviewed in prison, they are “sad people” whose personal weaknesses are exploited by the terrorist organizations.
Although Berko’s entire career is built around “winning the hearts” of terrorists and trying as much as she can to “get into their headspace,” she stresses the difference between empathizing with a terrorist and sympathizing with one. “I use empathy as a tool to conduct my research. It doesn't mean I identify with the prisoners,” she explains.
Particularly fascinated by the mindset of the female terrorist, Dr. Berko realized that there were fundamental differences in their motivations and consequently devoted five years to study the subject. She discovered conflicted and challenging personal lives, which usually involve maltreatment and exploitation.
Today she’s hugging me and crying to me that she misses her mother. Yesterday she tried killing my children.
The complexity of the situation is not lost on Dr. Berko. “More than once the thought has crossed my mind: ‘Wow. Today she’s hugging me and crying to me that she misses her mother. Yesterday she tried killing my children’.” How does she cope with this? “It requires a certain mental distance, where you are aware of your feelings but you still carry on doing your job.”
While speaking to her, I couldn’t help but picture the dynamic between Hannibal lechter and Clarice in Silence of the Lambs. I was surprised when Dr. Berko made the same comparison herself, adding, “I do think that as a woman, I am less threatening to terrorists, which allows me to more readily access their deeper thoughts and feelings.”

Berko began her research while still serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. By the time she was discharged, she had completed 25 years of service in a variety of leadership roles, risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and had earned herself a PhD in criminology. What attracted her to the field? “In the mid 90’s there was a wave of suicide bombing attacks in Israel. I was consumed by a fascination to understand the mindset of these attackers, and I devoted night and day to the study.”
Dr. Berko’s unique expertise means she is continuously consulting for a wide array of governmental bodies and defensive institutions. A research fellow the International Institute for Counter Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, she has presented her research to the state department, congress, the United Nations, NATO, the FBI, the marines, and the New York Police department.
Her research has resulted in policy changes and interrogation techniques. For example, during the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit, Dr. Berko advised Israel to make a gesture with emotional significance. Her suggestion contributed to Israel’s decision to release 21female terrorists from prison; in exchange Shalit’s captors released a video of him that proved he was alive. This was in pivotal step in the negotiation process that ultimately led to Shalit’s freedom.

She has also written two books on the subject, The Path to Paradise and The Smarter Bomb. Interestingly enough, these have been adapted into an off-Broadway play entitled Paradise.
To prevent these attacks in the future, Dr. Berko believes, one needs to understand the mindset of these terrorists. What is the root cause behind the growing wave of female terrorism worldwide, whether in the form of Chechen black widows or amongst the ranks of the Kurdish PKK, the Sri Lankan Tamil or Palestinian terror groups? What is the force that is making this terrible phenomenon more and more common? “Few people have the patience to focus for 20 years on this area of research,” she says, “and it is my mission to share this knowledge with whoever can benefit from it.”
Berko regularly tours campuses throughout the United States, presenting her findings. At the University of Florida a group of anti-Israel students heckled her while she attempted to talk, bothered by the fact that she was “a researcher who is Jewish, who is Israeli, who is not embarrassed of the fact that she is a Lieutenant Colonel in the IDF reserves.”

There is no country better for us than Israel.
“They brought up the issue of Palestinian refugees. I showed them pictures of my Iraqi Jewish family and said, ‘they are also refugees. We are all refugees.’”
When the students continued to disrupt her lecture, and ignore Berko’s request to save their questions for the end of lecture, she shocked them by asking them to leave. The Jewish students at the event were impressed, and wanted to know why she wasn’t afraid. Dr. Berko said it was easy. “When you’re used to sitting a cell with terrorists and murderers, you think I’m going to be scared by a bunch of American college students? That’s my motto: don’t be scared, and don’t be embarrassed.
“Israel is my country, I was born here. And the more we see what’s going on in the world, and we look at our history, the more we realize that there is no country that is better for us than Israel. I have devoted a better part of my life to serve the country, and my children are serving the army as well. I am very proud of my identity.”

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Post  Admin on Sun 23 Feb 2014, 11:10 pm

20 Favorite Jewish Quotes
From King Solomon to Einstein, exploring the meaning of some of the best Jewish quotes.
1. “In Jewish history there are no coincidences.” – Elie Wiesel
If you would have asked me my favorite Yiddish word, I would have said bashert. It translates into the idea that Wiesel so beautifully captured as aphorism in my favorite quote. The older I get the more I am astonished by its truth, both in a national as well as personal sense. The seemingly haphazard, random, and arbitrary events that comprise the story of our lives begin to form a coherent and purposeful narrative when we view them from a divine perspective. With the wisdom of retrospective insight I have countless times learned to acknowledge that coincidence is but God’s way of choosing to remain anonymous. Rabbi Benjamin Blech
2. "A righteous man falls down seven times and gets up." – King Solomon, Proverbs, 24:16.
Life is all about the ability to get up from challenge. Greatness is defined as getting up one more time than what you've fallen down. The Torah defines someone who's righteous not as someone who had succeeded, but someone who has persevered. It creates a paradigm of what righteousness is – trying to do what's right, getting up from failure, and keep moving forward. Charlie Harary
3. "If you don't know what you're living for, you haven't yet lived.” – Rabbi Noah Weinberg, of blessed memory
Life is the most precious thing we have. Everyone wants to live a life of meaning. But we are so busy 'living' that we don't have a moment to really think about living. One of my father’s priorities was getting people to ask the big questions in life, to get out of the pettiness and focus on living a life of real purpose. Yehuda Weinberg
4. "I do not want followers who are righteous, rather I want followers who are too busy doing good that they won’t have time to do bad." – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
People who focus on being righteous can become self-absorbed and self-righteous. While those pursing good deeds and actions become righteous. Rabbi Ari Kahn
5. “Klieg, Klieg, Klieg-Du bist a Nar. You are smart, smart. smart – but you are not so smart!” – a Yiddish saying
It’s one of my favorite quotes because it is so true! And my mother used to say it quietly about people and whenever she did, she was right. Benjamin Brafman
6. “If I am I because you are you, and you are you because I am I, then I am not I and you are not you. But if I am I because I am I, and you are you because you are you, then I am I and you are you.” – Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk
A self-definition that is based on other’s perspective is untrue and deceptive. Rabbi Zev Pomeranz
7. “Gam zu l'tova. This too is for the good.” – Nachum Ish Gamzu, Talmud, Taanit, 21a
When things get "hard" it reminds me that this too is for the best and I need to reorient my thinking to this realization. Rabbi Yitz Greenman
8. "I don't speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don't have the power to remain silent" – Rabbi A.Y. Kook
This quote embodies the depth of love every Jew needs to feel for another. The connection between Jews is instinctive, therefor one has no choice but to speak. Caring for other Jews cuts to the core of who we are as a people and we need to reach a point where that is so deep that it is impossible not to say or do something. Yitzcahk Tendler
9. "People often avoid making decisions out of fear of making a mistake. Actually the failure to make decisions is one of life's biggest mistakes." – Rabbi Noah Weinberg.
I love this quote because it inspires me to keep taking the risks I need in order to grow. I want to be able to keep climbing even after I fall, and Rav Noah's words have always given me the courage to fail and keep trying anyway. Sara Debbie Gutfreund
10. “There are two things that are infinite, the universe and man's stupidity..... And I am not sure about the universe.” – Albert Einstein
I find it's a clever way of saying people are crazy. Rabbi Stephen Baars
11. “If you want to meet a princess, make yourself into a prince.” – Rabbi Dov Heller, Aish LA
To me that encapsulated everything about finding a wife. Totally practical and also spiritual. Mike Cooper
12. "There are no problems, only opportunities for growth." – Rebbetzin Dena Weinberg:
It gets me through almost everything. It means that God is sending me this so that I can grow. It prevents me from blaming others, including myself. It frames a situation not as something overwhelming that is impossible to solve, but as a puzzle that can be worked out, and the process of working it out is where real growth takes place. Words are powerful; as soon as you reframe from "problem" to "opportunity," you pull down the covers, get out of bed, pull up your boot straps and rise to the occasion. No one wants problems, but who doesn't want opportunities? Lori Palatnik
13. “If I am not for me, who is for me; and if I am (only) for myself, what am I. And if not now, when?” – Hillel, Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14
I find this to be the most inspirational and motivating message. I was created for a specific purpose – there is no other 'me.' Consider that I am here for others – bearing the 'me' in mind, how can I make the difference to the world? Lastly, there's no time like the present. Rabbi Chaim Cohen
14. “Who is wise? One who learns from every man… Who is strong? One who overpowers his inclinations… Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot… Who is honorable? One who honors his fellows.” – Ben Zoma, Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1
This is my favorite quote because it upends our society’s definitions of these things. We tend to think strength, happiness, wisdom and honor are reliant on external circumstances – how much wealth you have, how strong you are, how much you know…. Jewish wisdom shows all four are internal; it's all up to the person himself. Want to be rich? It's about your attitude, not about how much money you have. Want to be smart? You don't need Einstein’s genes, just the ability to open your eyes and watch people around you. Want to be strong as a hero? It's in your heart – just be strong enough to do the right thing. Nir Greenberger
15. "Torah is not education, it's transformation." – Rebbitzen Dena Weinberg
If you are just learning Torah for the education and not growing and transforming yourself, you are not really learning Torah. Bonnie Cohen
16. "Yeshuat Hashem k’heref ayin. The salvation of God is like the blink of an eye.” – Pesikta Zutreta, Esther 4:17.
No matter how bleak something may look, salvation could be just around the corner. God can change everything in the blink of an eye. This quote teaches us to always have hope; redemption can come at any moment. Danielle Haas
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17. “L’fum tzara agra, according to the effort is the reward.” – Ben Hei Hei, Ethics of the Fathers, 5:26.
This is the great equalizer. It doesn’t matter where you have started on the ladder of life; it matters how many rungs you’ve climbed. This is the true measure of man. As President Coolidge said: Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." Of course we cannot do anything without God’s help. The choice is in our hands, but the results are in His. Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith
18. "If you are not a better person tomorrow than you are today, what need have you for a tomorrow?" – Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
The purpose of human life is to improve one's character traits, by working on oneself every day. That's why God gives us today – and tomorrow. Sara Yoheved Rigler
19. “L’Chaim!” – a traditional Jewish toast.
Jews appreciate every moment of life. It doesn’t matter if things are going the way you want them, stop and pause, and raise your glass to the delicious opportunity life is giving you right now. You’ll never get that moment back again. Rabbi Jack Kalla
20. Yours!
Submit your favorite Jewish quote in the comment section below.

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Post  Admin on Mon 17 Feb 2014, 12:51 pm

Nazi Collaborator or Hero?
Claude Lansmann’s film, The Last of the Unjust, explores the moral ramifications of Benjamin Murmelstein’s pact with devil.
by Claude Lanzmann, the French documentary filmmaker who directed Shoah, the 1985 widely praised nine and a half hour movie on the Holocaust presenting testimonies by selected survivors, witnesses, and German perpetrators, has once again returned to the same theme that continues to fascinate him, but from a totally different perspective.
This time he focuses on one man – and on one profound question relating to the moral ambiguity of evil.
The Last of the Unjust is the product of lengthy conversations Lanzsmann had with a remarkable survivor. Benjamin Murmelstein, a Viennese rabbi, clearly brilliant and extremely capable, was first drafted by Adolf Eichmann to write reports to the Nazi authorities. Later he was put in charge of a program ostensibly to permit Jews to emigrate but primarily intended to financially fill Eichmann’s pockets. Eventually he was made an “Elder of the Jews” at the notorious concentration camp at Thereseinstadt, where he himself was prisoner, following the two Elders preceding him who were both brutally executed with bullets to the backs of their heads.

o follow his story, as the film does – admittedly from Murmelstein’s point of view as there is no one else interviewed to contest him – is to come face-to-face with perplexing challenges to our clearly defined concepts of morality.
Murmelstein helped the Nazis as they ingeniously used Theresienstadt, a cruelly fictional paradise, in propaganda films to the world.
Murmelstein was a collaborator. It is he himself who chose as self-description the words of the film’s title, The Last of the Unjust, an obvious wordplay on the title of André Schwarz-Bart’s powerful award-winning novel The Last of The Just about the 36 righteous souls whose existence justifies the purpose of humankind to God. Murmelstein helped the Nazis as they ingeniously used Theresienstadt, a cruelly fictional paradise, in propaganda films to the world, deceptively depicting it as a Potemkin like village given by Hitler as a gift to the Jews in which they could enjoy all the amenities of a prosperous, fulfilling and beautiful life. Used as a showcase for a visit by the Red Cross, and the site of a film showing happy Jews at work and play, it was in reality a concentration camp where disease and starvation killed nearly 100,000 Jews due to horrible overcrowding and appalling sanitary conditions and for many but the first stop in “relocation to the east” where they would be brutally exterminated.
These facts were enough to have Murmelstein fiercely condemned by many after the war. Though acquitted on the charge of collaborating with the Nazis by a tough Czech court, he never set foot in Israel in order to avoid facing a second trial. Gershom Scholem, the renowned Israeli historian and philosopher, publicly called for him to be punished by hanging – although, as pointedly noted by Murmelstein in the film, Scholem ironically pleaded that Israel spare Eichmann’s life after the court found him guilty of his role in planning and carrying out the Nazi “final solution.”
And yet… Here is where the film forces us to begin the tortuous process of reevaluating moral choices in the face of competing options that offer no satisfactory resolution. How can we find the correct balance between heroism and expediency? How much should the crime of collaboration be mitigated if its purpose is to achieve the better of two nightmarish solutions? Is there room on an ethical balance sheet to vindicate assisting the wicked in order to attain a somewhat more favorable outcome for at least some of the innocent?
In short, can we forgive or perhaps even to some extent approve the choice Murmelstein made to respond to the Nazi regime’s goal of genocide by assuming the persona of “a calculating realist”- making a pact with the devil in order to somewhat diminish his power for evil?
Through his efforts – and his cooperation with Eichmann – he saved the lives of 120,000 Jews.
Slowly but quite effectively we become drawn in by Murmelstein’s justifications for his actions. It is true that through his efforts – and his cooperation with Eichmann – he saved the lives of 120,000 Jews by arranging their emigration to Palestine and other places of haven. He recounts with gusto how he was able to get 2,000 inmates out of the Dachau concentration camp and send them to Portugal and Spain via occupied France. Though he could easily have emigrated to London himself, he stayed behind in Vienna because he felt he “had something to accomplish – a mission.”
Given the impossible task of serving as “King of the Jews” in Theresienstadt, Murmelstein worked to “embellish” its facilities, helping to eradicate typhoid and somewhat improving its structure for the sick and the aged – even though that meant the perpetuation of a lie for the sake of propaganda. Putting glass in windows, he insisted, kept the people inside warmer. As to the propaganda film he cooperated with, Murmelstein says, "If they showed us, they wouldn't kill us. That was my logic, and I hope it was correct."
By the end of the film, it is clear that Lanzsmann has become convinced. The closing scenes show him putting his arm around Murmelstein, telling him he considers him a friend.

But it is we, the viewers, who must make our own judgments.
Jewish Taskmasters
Walking out of the theater I heard a couple, taken by Murmelstein’s powerful charisma and intellect, saying they could not understand why, instead of being condemned, he wasn’t proclaimed a hero. To my mind that was a severe overreaction.
There is a biblical precedent to the Nazi genius of appointing Jews over other Jews to be complicit in their own enslavement. The Torah tells us that when the Egyptians forced the Hebrews to make bricks for their construction projects, they set over them taskmasters and officers. The taskmasters were Egyptians, the officers Hebrews. The ones directly in charge of the Hebrew slaves and tasked with making certain the full quota of work was produced were taken from their own people.
The text goes on to tell us: “And the officers of the children of Israel whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had appointed over them were beaten, saying, 'Why have you not completed your quota to make bricks like the day before yesterday, neither yesterday nor today?'" [Exodus 5:14] The Midrash explains that the Hebrew officers refused to comply with the strict orders of their masters. They would not beat the workers assigned to them to make them fulfill the terrible burden of their quotas. They chose to be beaten themselves rather than to oppress their brethren.
The Sages tell us that a remarkable thing happened years later to reward them: These were the very people who merited to be selected as members of the first Sanhedrin. It was upon them that “some of the spirit that was upon Moses was taken and placed on them – as it is said ‘Gather to me 70 men of the elders of Israel’[Numbers 11:16] of those about whom you know the good that they did in Egypt, i.e. the officers who preferred to suffer themselves rather than to impose pain upon others.” [Commentary of Rashi, Exodus 5:14]
Murmelstein was the first to admit that he was no saint in administering the harsh edicts imposed by the Nazis.
Jewish heroes cannot persecute fellow Jews, no matter the consequences. That is what earns for them the respect and admiration of our people. And any trade-offs for personal security or special privileges cast their actions into serious question.
 In a memorable line in the film he quotes Isaac Bashevis Singer as saying “There were no saints in the Holocaust; only martyrs.” But that is not true. Those who are familiar with Holocaust literature know of many thousands of holy and pious souls whose deeds were saintly beyond any human comprehension. The truly heroic figures could never have complied with the commands of their oppressors, no matter how much could be gained from compromising with evil.

There is no doubt that aiding an evil to subvert a greater evil cannot leave us unstained by the crime committed, no matter how noble our intentions. Murmelstein understood that when he referred to himself as the last of the unjust.
More, we will always be left to wonder whether the murder of six million could have become possible without any cooperation from its victims.
But truth be told the bottom line is that the Holocaust, being unfathomable, makes it impossible for us to offer a fair judgment. In this Murmelstein was correct: “We may condemn but we cannot judge.” And what Claude Landzmann in this unforgettable film has shown us is the profound difficulty of impugning guilt to any survivors – because there is no way we can possibly put ourselves in their place or realistically answer how we might have acted in their stead.
Published: February 15, 2014

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Post  Admin on Thu 13 Feb 2014, 9:45 pm

Skating to Schindler's List
by Yvette Alt Miller
Yulia Lipnitskaya's Olympic performance: breathtaking or bad taste?
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Video: Israel: A Look Back (Facebook Movie)
On the milestones you cherished and the memories you loved most - for the State of Israel.
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Shirley Temple Black and Fulfilling our Potential
by Yvette Alt Miller
She was a lot more than a famous actress.
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Cross-Dressing Kid?
by Lauren Roth
What should I do about my little sister who likes to wear men's clothing?
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Video: What's Your Dream?
by Mrs. Lori Palatnik
Dreams really can come true. Don't give up.
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Miracles Don't Really Matter
by Rabbi Boruch Leff
Judaism is not based upon the performance of miracles.
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Way #17: Marriage Power
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Intimacy is a powerful drive, second only to survival itself. Use it wisely.
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A Jewish Valentines Day
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech
Love is the ultimate mitzvah.
Read Article

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Post  Admin on Thu 30 Jan 2014, 6:57 pm

Way #14: Written Instructions For Living
Torah is not an arcane text of the ancient world. It is the essence of Judaism, which is the essence of ourselves.
by Rabbi Noah Weinberg         
The Jewish people have a set of "written instructions for living" – the Bible, and also "oral instructions for living" – the Talmud. Jewish wisdom is incomprehensible unless both parts are working together.

Way #14 is "b'mikreh," the written instructions. The Bible has three parts, totaling 24 books:
1.Torah – The Five Books of Moses, revealed to the Jewish people by God at Mount Sinai.
2.Prophets – God spoke to various prophets (e.g. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) who transmitted messages strengthening the Jewish commitment to Torah.
3.Writings – The Writings (e.g. Proverbs, Psalms, Esther) emphasize God's message in a poetic style.

The Bible is the all-time bestseller and has made an enormous impact on Western civilization. Everyone should study the Bible at least once in a lifetime.
"All men have an inalienable right" – straight from the Bible. "Love your neighbor" – the Bible. Isaiah's vision of peace adorns the United Nations. The biblical sanction to "proclaim freedom throughout the land" is engraved on the Liberty Bell.
You don't need to accept the existence of God to learn these basic lessons. Whether interpersonal relationships, self-awareness, community relations, or environmental concerns – Torah is the ultimate "owner's manual."
On a deeper level, Jewish tradition says that Torah is the "blueprint for creation." Everything in life can be found in Torah... if you ask the right questions, and possess the right set of tools.
Intergalactic Communication
Imagine you received a message from outer space. You might not fully understand its meaning, but you are fascinated. You will study every word and try to decode it.
Torah is the word of God, communicated to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai. If a piece of Torah doesn't seem to make sense, don't pass it off as irrelevant. Keep asking, searching, delving.

Look deeper into what each piece of Torah is telling you. All the stories and commandments are really philosophical messages waiting to be revealed by the intellectually active mind. The Flood, the Tower of Babel, the splitting of the Red Sea – all contain the deepest wisdom for living. Even dates, names, numbers, events and lineage all teach us something. The message is often between the lines. And when the message seems obvious, there's more below the surface.
Let's take an example. In Genesis chapter 18, Abraham is in the middle of conversing with God. Then three strangers pass by and Abraham immediately runs to serve them. At this point the alert reader should question: Why would Abraham stop talking to God in order to help strangers? It doesn't make sense. Even an atheist would admit that talking to God is the ultimate experience!
From here we learn a profound spiritual lesson: Even more important than talking to God, is to be like God.
What does it mean to "be like Him"?
God created the world for our pleasure. Everything he placed here – fruit, hands, love – are manifestations of His kindness. This world is one big hospitality inn. So when you take the role of host, of serving your fellow man, you are like God. Abraham was wealthy and famous, yet it was not beneath him to serve strangers. He understood the lesson.
Read the Bible intelligently. It is the guiding force of Jewish achievement, as fresh today as it was 3,500 years ago. Don't discount its value without first making an effort to study it. Respect the Bible. It is a hidden treasure, a special message from God.
The Original
If you want to understand the Bible, you need to learn Hebrew. There's no way to get the full meaning in translation.

For example, the Torah uses 10 different names for God. Each "name" refers to a unique aspect of God's essence: all-knowing, all-powerful, prime mover, merciful, etc. But in English, these names are all translated the same, and much of the depth is lost.
Worse yet, biblical translation promotes misconceptions. For example, you'll read a translation and come across the word "sin." Uh-oh. Sin, evil, punishment. But the Hebrew word Chet does not mean sin at all. Chet appears in the Bible in reference to an arrow which missed the target. There is nothing inherently "bad" about the arrow (or the archer). Rather, a mistake was made – due to a lack of focus, concentration or skill.
From here we learn that human beings are essentially good. Nobody wants to sin. We may occasionally make a mistake, lose focus, and miss the target. But in essence we want to do good. This is a great lesson in self-esteem. Simply adjust your aim and try again!
In translation, the message is lost. In fact, entire religions have arose based on mistranslations. So get it straight. Learn Hebrew.

Preconceived Notions
I once came across a magazine profiling a group of hippies who spent the day reading the biblical "Song of Songs." "Song of Songs" is written in the form of a poem, a love song between a man and a woman, symbolizing the relationship between the Almighty and humanity. The message is so deep and beautiful that the Jewish people call this book the "holy of holies."

On the commune, they had an experience where the men recited the man's lines, and the women recited the woman's lines. The magazine reports that they read through "Song of Songs" and had a fantastic experience.
Afterward, the women proclaimed that they finally found a portion of the Bible written by a woman, because no man could ever understand a woman's feelings so deeply and state them so powerfully. In other words, they concluded that only a hermaphrodite could have edited the Bible. But God? No, that's inconceivable.
Unfortunately, Bible critics usually come from a preconceived position, and when the Bible doesn't fit those parameters, they are forced to make far-fetched conclusions. They don't seriously consider the idea of Torah's divine authorship, of "national revelation."
Yet it is an unbroken Jewish tradition that 3 million men, women and children stood at Mount Sinai and heard the Torah directly from God. And in the 3,300 years since, no other religion has ever made such a claim – because it is impossible to fabricate.
Nature & Miracles
Some critics have trouble accepting the idea of divine intervention. For them, all the biblical phenomenon need to be explained in terms of nature. A book called "World in Collision," for example, explains the splitting of the Red Sea like this:

A tremendous comet approached earth at the time the Egyptians were chasing the Jews. At that precise moment, the comet was in position to tear the Red Sea apart by the force of gravity, leaving dry land between two walls of the sea. The Jews entered the sea, and sure enough, the Egyptians followed. Luckily, the Jews came out the other side just as the comet passed, and the water returned, drowning the Egyptians.
Simple, right? You don't need God.
How does this book explain the manna bread that the Jews collected every morning for 40 years in the desert? After the comet passed, particles of petroleum remained in the higher atmosphere. It eventually burned off and mixed with the dew. The falling dew combined with a particular micro-bacteria that digests petroleum products and converts it into protein.
Thus explains how every morning, for 40 years, a nation of Jews picked up manna bread – "dew containing predigested protein." On Fridays, there was a double portion, but he doesn't explain that...
These explanations are missing the point. Torah isn't a history book, a physics book or a storybook. Rather, it is Torat Chaim – literally "instructions for living." Every word, every phrase contains a message how to maximize pleasure in life. Look for the deeper message – the wisdom within – and you will reap immense rewards.
The Time Is Now
The first sentence a Jewish child is taught is "Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehilat Yaakov" – "Torah was commanded to us through Moses and is the inheritance of every Jew." Torah was meant for everybody. It is not the exclusive domain of some priestly class. Rather, it is a living, breathing document – the lifeblood of our Jewish nation. We are required at all times to involve ourselves in its study and practice. As it says, "You shall think about it day and night" (Joshua 1:8).

Your academic education may have ended, and there may come a point where you are as good a "professional" as you need to be. But learning Torah starts at a young age and continues for a lifetime. As you mature and your awareness of reality increases, so will your understanding of concepts you thought you once knew well.
Every Jew is supposed to review the weekly Torah portion three times, and then hear it again in the synagogue on Shabbat. We review, ask questions, discuss the topics. "What did you see, what was difficult, what didn't you understand?"
After learning a piece of Torah, organize it so it's at your fingertips. For example, the Five Books of Moses are organized into 54 weekly portions and 674 chapters. After learning one chapter, pause and assign a code word or phrase to the chapter. You'll have a handy device to recall the wisdom it contains.
Some people use the excuse, "I'm too old to begin learning." But the Talmudic scholar Rebbe Akiva didn't even learn the Aleph-Bet until he was age 40. This is the same Rebbe Akiva who became the greatest sage of his generation with 24,000 students!
Some people are hesitant to learn Torah because they can't imagine ever becoming a scholar, so therefore "why even get started?" This is faulty thinking. Every drop of Torah study is precious and eternal.
Tree of Life
There are two ways to acquire wisdom: through life experience, or through learning Torah.
Judaism says it's better to get wisdom through Torah. Why? Because even though you can learn from experience, there's a negative residual effect. True, a woman who goes through a series of failed relationships will eventually learn what's important in a husband. But if she'd first studied wisdom, she'd have saved a lot of needless headache.

We learn this lesson from the Garden of Eden. Here is a story that sounds like a real fairytale: two trees in the middle of the garden, and God instructs Adam that the Tree of Life (symbolizing the attainment of wisdom through Torah) is made to be eaten, whereas the Tree of Knowledge (symbolizing wisdom through experience) is better avoided. Adam's mistake? He eats from the Tree of Knowledge.
We don't have the patience to get to know ourselves and we want to learn from experience. Many people say: "After I make money, when my business is self-sustaining, then I'll take time out to learn Torah. But I need to experience life a little first."
Three divorces later...

Do not say: "When I have free time, I will study," for perhaps you will never have time. Realistically, once you're promoted to VP of the firm, do you expect to have more free time, or less free time?

The Torah is a "tree of life" for those who grasp it. When we study Torah, we are not studying an abstract and arcane text of the ancient world. We are in fact discovering the essence of ourselves.
Why is "Written Instructions" a Way to Wisdom?

  • Read the Bible from beginning to end. If you haven't yet learned Hebrew, buy an authentic Jewish translation. (Recommended: ArtScroll's "Stone Chumash")

  • Learn Torah. Discover God's instructions for living. Don't wait until your life is almost over.

  • Understand Torah. It's the book that changed the world. Ask questions until you know the message in detail.

  • Correlate any differences and resolve them. There are no "unintentional" discrepancies in Torah. Look in the book and you will find it.

  • Organize it. Wisdom is only useful when it's at your fingertips. Torah should be your encyclopedia, almanac and index to living.

  • Review Torah, in order to remember. You wouldn't head out on the open road without a map. When going through life, don't leave the Torah behind.

  • Integrate Torah. Make the ideas part of your reality. Rebbe Akiva said that a Jew without Torah is like a fish without water.

  • Update it. Renew Torah wisdom as your life situation changes. Don't "honor your parents" at age 25 the same way you did at age five.

  • Upgrade it. The first paragraph of the "Shema" contains 48 words, corresponding to the 48 Ways. Torah wisdom is infinitely vast. Always delve one level deeper.


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Post  Admin on Thu 30 Jan 2014, 5:29 pm

10 Ways to Tackle Your Challenges
How to embrace and overcome your challenges.
by Yaakov Weiland         
Throughout our lives we’re always struggling with something. Instead of feeling down over your difficulties, here are 10 strategies to overcome them.

1.Make a game plan. Try to get outside input from those you respect. (If there’s no one you can ask, often a recommended therapist can be very helpful.) Focus especially on the next step you will take to address your issue. Even if you have no idea how you will overcome the challenge, be optimistic things will work out; with God’s help, anything is possible.
Include in your game plan ways you will use the challenge as a catalyst for growth, to become a better and more spiritual person. Periodically review your plan to see if it is working or if you have to make changes. At the same time, accept that your challenges are given to you by a loving God for your benefit and that you will grow from them.
2.Keep your cool. When dealing with difficulties, patience is needed. Frantic and desperate measures are unlikely to help; these drain you physically, emotionally and financially. Success and healing come from God. All you need to do is put in reasonable, persistent efforts and ask God for help; leave the rest to Him.
3.Forgive. We often blame others or ourselves for our problems; this only exacerbates our pain and distracts us from addressing the issue. Since everything in our lives occurs because God wants it to, for our highest good, the question is not, “Who can I blame?” The question is, “How can I grow and overcome this?” (At the same time, when appropriate, we can still hold others accountable for their behavior).
4.Avoid dwelling on your problems. Often what wears us down most is not the actual problem, but the constant thinking about it, spending our days and nights consumed with the issue. Have a set time when you think about and update your game plan. In addition, have a set time when you express your pain, either to God, a friend, family member, therapist or in your journal. The rest of the time, try to keep your mind elsewhere.
5.Live life. You may think, “When will this problem be over with already, so I can get on with my life?” The truth is, right now, this is your life. This isthe best use of your time and how you currently fulfill your life’s purpose.
Don’t put your life on hold just because you’re struggling in one area. Give yourself permission to be happy and enjoy life, as best you can. Throughout the day, look for reasons to smile or laugh. Having a slight smile on your face, even for no reason, can shift your mindset to a more positive one.

6.Help others. Even if your life is full of struggles, see how you can be of service to other people. We’re all in this together; by assisting each other, we will get through our difficulties.

7.Focus on what’s going right. When dealing with an issue, our tendency is to hyper focus on the difficulty, to the exclusion of everything else. Instead, make sure to notice and appreciate your blessings, savoring each one.

8.Realize everyone has difficulties. Often, we compare our lives to others, especially the airbrushed Facebook versions, and wonder, “Why can’t my life be like theirs? Why is my life so full of struggle?” But we are only seeing a small part of the overall picture. If we knew all their issues, psychological problems or family difficulties, we would prefer to keep our own strengths and blessings, even if they come with challenges.
9.Take care of yourself. Don't overextend yourself. Many times, we become so consumed with our difficulties that we neglect our health, which only makes matters worse. Eat nutritious meals and get adequate sleep and exercise.
Set clear boundaries as to what you can and cannot do. For example, if you are caring for a child, spouse or parent who is in the hospital, decide how many days a week you can go, how many hours you can stay and how many nights you can sleep over, before it takes a toll on you. Then elicit the help of others to fill in the gaps.

10.Reach out for support. There are three sources of support. The first is God. Unburden yourself to Him; tell Him about your struggles and fears and ask for His help. If you feel overwhelmed and are having trouble coping, tell Him that and ask Him to strengthen you.
The second is other people. Let them know what you need, whether it is emotional or material support, or both. Don’t be ashamed; everyone needs help at some point.

Depending on the issue, you may want to consult with a social worker to see if there are any social services available to you. In addition, is there an organization that provides support for people in your situation? If not, consider starting one; that’s how many organizations where founded.
The third source of support is ourselves. We need to talk to ourselves with words of compassion and encouragement. Show yourself the same kindness, warmth and care you would show a family member or friend who is going through a tough time.
Living a meaningful life involves struggles. Instead of trying to avoid them, use strategies to meet your challenges head on and triumph.
To read Yaakov’s new, free e-book, Living with God: 30 Days to a Fulfilling Life, click here.

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Post  Admin on Wed 22 Jan 2014, 11:02 pm

My father’s unwavering faith in the shadow of cancer.
by Tzivia Reiter

It all started with a toe. A discoloration on a toenail, actually, that turned out to be melanoma skin cancer. My father, Rabbi Dovid Ross, was a tall, strong, healthy man. It seemed impossible that a little toe could cause him all this trouble. But it did.
We had never heard of melanoma. If we had, perhaps things would have been different. But melanoma was unknown to us. It was simply not on our radar.
The paradox of melanoma is that if it is caught early enough, it can be almost entirely treatable. If it is not, it is one of the most deadly cancers.
But my father was not the type to dwell on what could have been, what should have been. He believed that everything came from God. His cancer was decreed by God and only He could take it away.

During one of his first biopsies, he apologized to the technician for crying out in pain, making his job more difficult.
He approached his situation with complete faith in God and with sunny optimism. He never focused on himself or his discomfort, only on the feelings of others. In fact, when he went in for one of his first biopsies, he apologized to the technician for crying out in pain, making his job more difficult.
The Quest for a Cure
Immunotherapy is the treatment of choice for melanoma, and my father was accepted into a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital that combined two different immunotherapy drugs. This very same treatment cured a well-known journalist, who wrote about it extensively in her online column. My father was considered fortunate to have access to this cutting edge treatment. But God clearly had something different in mind. Not only did the treatment not cure my father’s melanoma, but it damaged some of his vital organs - wreaking havoc and rendering him almost unrecognizable from the healthy man he appeared just weeks before. It also made him ineligible for just about any further meaningful treatment. This was an incredibly traumatic blow for our family.
My father

Yet my father forged on, accepting God’s will while at the same time pursuing every avenue for treatment.
Our next step was finding out if my father’s cancer had any identified genetic mutation, as the newer field of personalized medicine targets the specific cancer mutation. Most of the research and available treatments focus around a few identified mutations, especially the BRAF mutation, which over 50% of melanoma patients have. My father’s test results came back and we learned that he was one of a small percentage of melanoma patients whose tumors had no identified mutation, excluding him from many of the treatment options.

Despite all the disappointments coming our way, my father was not discouraged. In fact, as amazing as this may sound, he did not even view these developments as bad. They were directed by God, and therefore, were exactly as they were supposed to be.
During some of these hard times, I would ask my father, “Daddy, are you okay?” His answer: “I’m the most okay guy in the world.” And he meant it.
Two Requests
My father rarely talked of the unspeakable fear we all had, that he wouldn’t win this battle. In the very beginning of his illness, though, he told me: “There are only two things I want from my children. The first is that you should always be close to one another. The second is that you should never have any complaints against God.” The first request was easy to fulfill, as my parents had always raised their children to be close. As my father’s condition worsened, the second request turned out to be a little harder.

While there weren’t many systemic treatments available for my father’s rare form of cancer, he was able to have several surgeries and treatments which provided some short-term relief. My brother called this the “whack-a-mole” approach– every time a tumor popped up, we nuked it – either through surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. And that worked, for a short while.
During one of his many surgeries, we heard of a Jewish man in the hospital who was alone and without family. My father urged us to go visit him, while he was in surgery. When we protested that we wanted to stay nearby, in case he needed us, he insisted, “There’s no better thing you can do for me.”
Before another one of his surgeries, I was in the room when the anesthesiologist was reciting his required script of risks created by the anesthesia for consent purposes. “There is a risk of stroke, cardiac arrest, etc.” He droned on. “Of course the risk is minimal, but you should be aware that you can have these side effects…” My father interrupted him. “I want you to know, if that happens, it’s not your fault!” The anesthesiologist stopped in his tracks. He looked at my father, stunned. I don’t think in the thousands of times he recited this speech, he ever got that response.
One particularly grueling surgery resulted in a recovery period where my father was not allowed to eat or drink. Not a morsel of food, a chip of ice, nor a sip of water for about 8 days. The day it was finally allowed, he rejoiced: “Do you know what a miracle a sip of water is?” I will always remember that moment, when he transformed what could have made him bitter into a blessing expressed to God with all his heart.
And in the midst of all the darkness, there were indeed glimpses of light. There were treatments that worked for a tantalizing few weeks; there were promises of other treatments that never materialized. At a very low point, we received word that my father may be accepted into a very exciting clinical trial at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. The treatment offered was considered to be very rigorous, but with a potential outcome of full remission. We sent my father's medical file, and eagerly awaited their decision. Expecting a call from the doctor, I was surprised when my father called me instead.
It seemed the nurse from the Cancer Institute accidentally copied my father in her email response to his doctors, letting them know they would not be accepting him. After breaking the news to me, my father's first words were: "I'm calling you because I know you'll be upset. I want you to know: I’m not upset. Not at all. And I don't want you to be either. It makes no difference to me if I am sitting in Bethesda, Maryland or Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital or in my living room. It all comes from God. Everyone else is playing their part."
Coping with Suffering
I will not even attempt to describe my father’s suffering as his condition worsened. I had never before seen such suffering up close on another human being, and hope to never again. For those who don’t know, may you never know. For those who do, no words are necessary.

Yet my father drew closer to God in those days of suffering than he was in his prior years of comfort and health. He knew that everything that was happening to him was being personally directed by God. He knew that God had an eternal plan, and that he was not privy to the details, but he trusted in it. He accepted the good and the seemingly bad with equal serenity, and boundless faith.
I never heard my father complain, even when treatment after treatment failed him. When every last vestige of comfort was taken away, when his vision started diminishing from new cancer that was cropping up behind his eye, he didn’t complain. The only distress I heard him express about his illness was that it prevented him from taking care of his mother, in the hands-on and completely dedicated way that he used to, and that it made it more difficult for him to learn Torah. This indeed caused him great anguish. I would hear him repeat to himself during the times when he felt most keenly the limitations of his illness: “This is from God, this is what I need to be doing right now, I have to strengthen my faith,” over and over again. Those thoughts strengthened his spirit and carried him through the depths of his pain.
Always To God
It was a particularly hard day. The kind of day where the sheer ringing of a cell phone was enough to make my father flinch. Where the constant battle my father waged, between the excruciating pain vs. the confusion of mind that the painkillers brought, left him no choice at all.
It was later that night, in the stillness of the room, that I finally broached the subject that had been bothering me for so long. For the words of my father were forever before me: "My children should never have any complaints against God." No complaints. My father truly had none. And the last thing I wanted was to disappoint my father.

“You can have complaints. Just turn to God with your questions. Not away. Always to God."
So I unburdened myself to him. And my father, whose love, faith and gratitude toward God was boundless, had the wisdom and generosity to let me work toward those goals at my own pace. I will never forget what he told me. " I didn't mean to put pressure on you. You can have questions. You can have complaints. Just turn to God with your questions. Not away. Always to God."
That was the first night since my father's illness that I had any semblance of peace. And these words carried me through the dark days still to come.
Over the next few weeks, every treatment attempted for my father failed. Even the palliative treatments did not seem to relieve his suffering. By the time he died, his cancer had spread from his toe to every single vital organ in his body. On March 12, 2013, his pure soul was returned to its Maker. The same God that had given me my most precious, extraordinary father, took him away.

I know that my father is finally at peace, that he is looking down on us, guiding us ever still. While we feel the pain of his absence every day, the light that he shone for us throughout his life can never be extinguished. And I know exactly what he would say:
"No complaints."

Melanoma can often be detected early, when it is most likely to be cured. Monthly skin self-exams and awareness of the warning signs of melanomas are the best prevention strategies. To learn more about melanoma, please click here:
Dedicated to the memory of my beloved father, Avrohom Dovid ben Alter Boruch
Published: January 18, 2014

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Post  Admin on Tue 14 Jan 2014, 5:03 pm

Ariel Sharon & Me
An incredible encounter with the prime minister is the reason my family and I moved to Israel.
by Hillel Scheinfeld        
January 2, 2014
To the Family of PM Ariel Sharon,
I am finally reaching out and putting down on paper what should have been done a long time ago and probably to the Prime Minister himself when he was still well but perhaps this letter will have more meaning now than before.
I am writing to tell you that I have and will always have tremendous gratitude and thanks to PM Ariel Sharon for my decision to make Aliya to Israel in January 2002. You will read in a second why I feel that the PM was my personal messenger from God, and the final and convincing inspiration to uproot my family from America and move to help build this great country of ours.

Here is my story.
The Scheinfeld Family in IsraelThe Scheinfeld Family in Israel
My wife and I are both from the USA and consider ourselves “national religious” Zionists. We lived in Teaneck, New Jersey after we were married. Life there was great. We had three boys and a house a great job and all our friends and family were in the US. We both studied after Yeshiva High School in Israel and although we loved Israel we never thought of ourselves as the ones to make Aliya. It was mostly a hypothetical discussion of something we would do if everything fell into place. At the same time the intifada in Israel was starting up again and every time something happened, we felt guilty that we were living a comfortable life in NJ while our brothers were risking their lives for our collective homeland. But these feeling would then pass and life went on in the wonderful USA.

Around 2001, my job had me traveling to Moscow every other week from NY integrating a company we had purchased there into the parent company. The work was definitely interesting but also taxing on the family with all the travel. I thought about looking into relocating to Israel and commuting from there to Moscow as the travel and jetlag were much easier to deal with and even approached my company in April of that year to do so. Of course, I knew it was a long shot but I felt that after 120 years I would be able to stand in front of God and say “I tried.”
As expected, my company turned down my request and I felt a feeling of mostly relief but also some disappointment. A few months had past and at the end of August 2001 my company came back to me and said that as they see this position extending for a long term they have reconsidered and now would like me to move if I was still interested. However, they needed an answer in the next 10 days and that we would have to move quickly thereafter.
Well, my wife and I were a bit taken aback and suddenly were faced with one of the hardest decision of our life. All our friends and the great majority of our family were in the US and we were not sure we were ready to leave it all behind to move to Israel. We were having trouble making a decision. That week I was scheduled to be in Moscow and I told my wife that we will both think this over and decide when I return from my trip.
I always left for my trips to Moscow on a Sunday afternoon from JFK in NY on the Delta airlines flight and always said the afternoon Mincha service at the airport right before boarding. I can still remember my prayer that day and how in the Amida (silent prayers), in the blessing of Shemah Koleiynu, where one can insert a personal prayer, I stopped and added a small prayer to God to help us make the right decision and to give us some insight in what we should do. I then boarded the plane and began a trip that would change our lives forever.
I landed on schedule in Moscow and as usual my driver picked me up and drove me to my hotel to check in and change. When I arrived at the hotel I immediately saw that there was more security than usual and that the group that was checking in with me were all speaking Hebrew. I asked one of them what was going on and they explained that PM Ariel Sharon had just arrived in Moscow for a summit and that everyone was now checking in as well with me at my hotel. I thought nothing of it and just said to myself that it was a funny coincidence and that security at the hotel will be much better than usual.
After check in, I got into my car and headed towards my office. While driving there I got a call from an American Rabbi that I was working with on a tzedakah project that Ariel Sharon was in town as was speaking that night at the Chabad center in Marina Roscha, and asked me if I would like to attend. I graciously accepted and he told me to be there at 7:30 and that he will save me a seat.
When I arrived there that evening the street outside the center was filled with people and I thought there was no chance I was going to get in to hear the PM speak. I called my friend and he came out to get me and said he had a seat for me in the front row. The event started with the PM and his entourage coming in and sitting on the dais table and right in front of me was the seat for the PM. I still did not think anything beyond that it was one of the most exciting events I have been to. After the playing of Hatikva everyone took their seats and the PM was introduced to speak.
There are moments in life people see Divine Providence and this for me was one of them. PM Sharon got up to speak and he said these exact words (of course in Hebrew). “I have come here today as the first stop on a mission to deliver a message to all Jews around the world. No matter if you are a Jew living in Moscow, Paris, London, New York, South Africa, Australia or anywhere in the world, the life you have today of freedom and prosperity could not exist without the existence of your homeland, the State of Israel. The fact that the State of Israel exists and that we have an army of our own that will always protect every Jew anywhere in the world gives us the freedom and life we have today even outside of Israel. However, this status can and will only continue to exist if we as a nation continue to strengthen the State of Israel and the Land of Israel. I am here to tell you that the best way to do this is to come to Israel and help us build our homeland. I am here to begin a worldwide campaign to get a million Jews to make Aliya today.”
Well, I was in complete awe and shock. I mean, here I am 8,000 miles away from home, in Moscow no less, by chance staying at the same hotel as the PM of Israel, attending a lecture given by the PM. Just 24 hours before, I had asked G-d for help with my decision to make aliyah or not. And now, here is the PM of Israel standing 4 feet from me saying that he came here tonight just to tell me to make Aliya. I had tears in my eyes as I called my wife on the phone and said “you have to listen to this speech.” PM Sharon spoke for about 10 minutes about this one message and at the end I told my wife… “we are going.” I mean what were the chances of all this coming together like this for me to hear that speech. I thought to myself, “Wow, I know I asked God for some help making the decision but he really didn’t need to send me the Prime Minister.” But the truth is maybe he did. Four month later we made aliyah and never looked back.

I always wanted to say thank you to your father directly but never had the opportunity before the PM fell ill. I know it is now too late to do this personally but I wanted to thank you, his family and let you know in this trying time that he had a huge impact on my life. I want to express my sincere appreciation for everything he did for me and the Jewish People. I cannot imagine the ordeal your family has gone through for the last eight years. But please know that I will never forget the Arik Sharon, who served our country with pride and lived for the betterment of the People of Israel, and shaped my life directly.
Yours truly,
Hillel Scheinfeld

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Post  Admin on Sun 12 Jan 2014, 11:37 pm

5 Things I Learned from Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Insights into fixing oneself and fixing the world.
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons        
Rabbi Noah Weinberg was a once-in-a-generation giant who deeply impacted thousands of people around the world, teaching what it means to be a human being and a Jew.
Here are five key lessons I learned during 20 years as his student

(1) Responsibility
Rabbi Weinberg always said: “When I’m gone, then you’ll grow up.” (He was told this by his own teacher, older brother Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l.) This message was that we’d been relying too much on him to get the job done; after his passing we would “grow up” – i.e. take responsibility and step up into the role of a leader.
Rabbi Weinberg made the story of Moses a constant refrain: “In the place where there is no man, be a man!” (see Exodus 2:12, Avot 2:5). By accepting responsibility to further the Almighty’s plan, we merit the Divine assistance to get the job done.

(2) Persistence
Rabbi Weinberg always spoke about how, prior to starting Aish HaTorah in 1974, he had many failed attempts to build a successful organization. He would quote the verse, “A tzaddik falls seven times and gets up” (Proverbs 24:16), and say that the key to becoming successful is precisely the act of falling and getting back up.
When Rabbi Weinberg failed, he would always engage in a rigorous process of self-evaluation, then make any readjustment to accord with God’s will. With deep belief, he would say: “The Almighty can do anything. We just need to want it badly enough.”

(3) Empowerment
The Talmud says: “Who is powerful? He who empowers others.” Rabbi Weinberg was enormously influential, not because he clamped down on others, but rather because he empowered them. He found a role for everyone, assisting and encouraging them to achieve their full potential.
In Jerusalem, he formulated the Aish Yeshiva as an incubator for creativity and innovation – producing groundbreaking Jewish initiatives such as the Jerusalem Fellowships, SpeedDating, the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project, Hasbara Fellowships, HonestReporting, and, to name a few

(4) Peace and Unity
In deciding whether or not to do something, Rabbi Weinberg’s only consideration was whether it would constitute a Kiddush Hashem – an infusion of God-consciousness into the world. His sole gauge was whether an action produced more peace and unity as defined by the Torah.
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Rabbi Weinberg lived by these principles throughout his personal life, and made them the cornerstone of Aish HaTorah. If an action would contradict the ideals of peace and unity, Rabbi Weinberg was willing to back down.

(5) Objectivity
The Talmud says: “Make God’s will, your will.” Rabbi Weinberg taught that the only way to discern “the Almighty’s will” is through a relentless process of self-evaluation. In order to attain this objectivity – and see where personal self-interest may be creeping in – he taught these principles:
Consistency: We must check ourselves regularly, using the tool of Cheshbon HaNefesh (self-evaluation). Minimally one should set aside 10 minutes a day; Rabbi Weinberg did so constantly.
Trusted advisor: Find someone who knows you very well – a spouse or close friend – and ask them to point out where your sense of objectivity is falling short.
Torah perspective: Whenever confronted with a serious decision – especially one with implications for Kiddush Hashem – we need to use the Torah as our guidebook and consult with Torah scholars. At the same time, Rabbi Weinberg insisted on “thinking for yourself” – by first formulating your own idea of the best option moving forward based on the Torah. Only then would he give feedback.
Perhaps most inspiring of all, Rabbi Weinberg taught that achieving this clarity and pushing toward our goal of peace, unity, and Kiddush Hashem is the greatest pleasure we could have in this world.

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Post  Admin on Sun 12 Jan 2014, 11:14 pm

The Death of Ariel Sharon
I didn’t know how deep Sharon’s love was for Israel and the Jewish people.
by Sara Debbie Gutfreund        
When Ariel Sharon first went into a coma in 2006, I remember thinking how eerie it was that it was just months after Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. Could Sharon see what was happening now somehow in his coma? Would he wake up and recognize it as a mistake? I kept waiting for him to wake up one day, transform back into a war hero, and say: I don’t know, let’s rebuild all those homes.

Every now and then there would be a news item that there had been some brain activity in response to his sons’ voices, and I would wonder about his coma. Where exactly was Sharon? Was he here, seeing everything going on around him but locked within himself? Or was he maybe halfway to the next world, seeing this world from a distance? Either way, eight years is a long time to be in a coma. So I was surprised when I felt a wave of sadness wash over me when I heard of his death yesterday - because for many of us, he had really been gone since 2006.
Sharon was a powerful, committed leader for the Jewish people for so many years (though he left many of us disappointed in his last years). From his early years working in the Haganah to protect Kibbutzim, to his leading an elite commando group for the first time in 1953, Sharon risked his life to protect our people.
In 1967, he was the major general of the army during the Six Day War, and commanded troops on the Egyptian front. When Israel won the Six Day War, Sharon went straight to the Kotel and called out the Shema, thanking God for the miraculous victory.
In 1973, Sharon served as a reservist-general, commanding troops that helped rout Egyptian forces in the Yom Kippur War. A photo of Sharon in the desert, dressed in his army uniform with his head bandaged, became the most famous picture of the war.
Eventually Sharon was elected prime minister in 2001. Soon after, he ordered strikes against Palestinian security installations to fight against the rising terrorism. Sharon did not back down during the terrifying intifada, defending Israel’s right to protect its citizens.
These quotes reveal the depth of Sharon’s love for Israel and the Jewish people during his years of leadership:
“I am the last person who would divide Jerusalem. I have said this many times. I don’t plan to discuss any division of Jerusalem.”
“Israel may have the right to put others on trial, but certainly, no one has the right to put the Jewish people and the State of Israel on trial.”
“For me, peace should provide security for the Jewish people.”
“As long as I’m needed. I’ll be ready to serve. I look forward with optimism. We need the Jews here. Move to Israel! Move to Israel!”
“I was born on a farm. My strength has nothing to do with political apparatus. I get my strength from nature, from flowers.”
“There is no bulletproof vest in my size.”

I didn’t know how deep Sharon’s love was for Israel and the Jewish people. And I didn’t know about his personal suffering: his only sibling, a sister who moved to New York and hardly ever spoke to Sharon again. How Sharon married his childhood sweetheart, Margalit, and lost her in a tragic car accident when their son was just five years old. And how six years after his first wife’s death, their son Gur was accidentally shot by a friend who was playing with a rifle in their yard. (His son died in his arms on the way to the hospital.) And I didn’t know that he lost his second wife to cancer in 2000. So much pain. So much I just didn’t know when I thought about Ariel Sharon.
But what I do know is that Sharon was a hero and a fighter for our nation. He was a proud Jew who shouted the Shema at the Kotel after the Six Day War. He lost close friends in battle and suffered many personal losses throughout his life. And he never gave up. He may have made mistakes. But he never gave up on the Jewish people. He wanted to serve for as long as he was needed. And he did. And so we thank you, Ariel Sharon, for your dedication and your courage. We thank you for your willingness to fight back against terrorism and for your strong stance on Jerusalem.

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Post  Admin on Sun 05 Jan 2014, 4:45 pm

Good Riddance Day
A new custom for removing trash from your life echoes the burning of chametz before Passover. The similarity is no accident.
by Rabbi Benjamin Blech

There’s a fairly new tradition in New York for the transition from one year to the next. It’s called Good Riddance Day, and we just witnessed its seventh annual observance.
Tim Tompkins, head of the Times Square Alliance, explained “It’s a great idea for all of those who treasure an opportunity to physically destroy reminders of negative events of the past year and to symbolically move forward to better days ahead.” And sure enough, New Yorkers turned out in droves to Midtown Manhattan just before New Year’s with their own individual and highly unique ways of commemorating a day dedicated to removing the trash from their lives and for expressing their contempt for the most harmful items of the past.
Good riddance to those aspects of our lives we want to discard.
Some used the moment to burn the letters from unfaithful spouses. There were the parents who shredded the-year-old medical diagnosis of their son’s kidney cancer which has now thankfully gone into total remission. Then there were those who brought documents they wanted to destroy, like medical bills, and objects they wanted to smash with a mallet, as a way to vengefully say goodbye to the troubles of the past year. What all of them shared was a cry of good riddance to those aspects of their lives they visibly wanted to discard, a commitment to keeping bad memories from interfering with the future.
Something like this has been part of Jewish tradition for thousands of years.

Jews are doubly blessed when it comes to New Years. We observe one in the fall, on Rosh Hashanah, commemorating the birth of mankind. We have another in the spring, when the calendar marks the month of Nissan, which the Torah refers to as the first month, because of its association with the Exodus from Egypt and the birth of the Jewish people. Passover is the holiday that commemorates this beginning, and it is preceded on the morning of the night of the Seder with a symbolic burning that resonates powerfully with the theme of Good Riddance Day.
On Passover Jews are commanded to eat matzah and are forbidden not only to eat leavened bread but to have the smallest crumb in their home or possession as well. Bread is something that needs to be totally renounced. Whatever is left over before Passover begins must be ceremoniously burned and verbally negated. Jews recite: “All leavened bread that is in my possession which I have seen or not seen, may it be nullified and rendered ownerless as the dust of the earth.”
What is this sudden aversion to bread all about? What does the food we normally consider the staff of life suddenly represent that is so reprehensible? Traditional commentators have offered various symbolic suggestions, comparing yeast to the evil inclination and bread that “has risen” to the sin of excessive pride.
Allow me to offer another possible, novel interpretation.
Historians tell us sourdough is the oldest and most original form of leavened bread and the oldest recorded use of sourdough is from the Ancient Egyptian civilizations1. Archaeological evidence confirms that yeast – both as a leavening agent and for brewing ale – was initially used in Egypt. Food historians generally agree that the land of the Nile, biblically known for its enslavement of the Hebrews, must be credited with the remarkable technological achievement that was to play such a crucial role in the progress of civilization.

Egypt’s expertise brought the world a great gift of nourishment and sustenance. Yet its “scientific breakthrough” was not matched by moral progress. The inventors of bread remained barbaric masters of slaves. The very people who discovered the staff of life didn’t hesitate to serve as the agents of death for the Hebrew children they drowned in the Nile.
It was a profound lesson about the disconnect between science and ethics that mankind learned millennia ago – and not much has changed to this day. In our own times, Albert Einstein famously warned us that “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” And he wisely cautioned us that “Our entire much-praised technological progress and civilization generally could be compared to an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal.”
Martin Luther King put it beautifully when he said, “We have reached a time when we have advanced enough to have guided missiles, yet we still remain primitive enough to have misguided men.” Technology has blessed us with smart phones but left us with stupid people in terms of ethical and honorable values.
Perhaps the burning of chametz is meant to publicize this great dichotomy between mankind’s achievements and its propensity to continue to embrace acts of evil. As the Hebrews were about to be freed from slavery they were to symbolically rid themselves of Egypt’s great technological innovation of bread to demonstrate that scientific progress divorced from a moral code needs condemnation, rather than unqualified praise and acceptance.
A world of nuclear giants is a dangerous place when filled with ethical infants.
Every year on the eve of Passover Jews have a Good Riddance Day. The “villain” isn’t bread but what it came to represent to the Jews in ancient Egypt - a powerful symbol of intellectual progress by their oppressors, devoid of any humanitarian concern for those they oppressed. The pioneering Egyptians ate bread; their slaves, never granted the dignity of human beings created in the divine image, were forced to eat matzah, the bread of affliction.
It is a message that bears repetition more frequently than in the context of the pre-Passover ritual.
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Those who came to the New Year’s Eve ceremony in Manhattan who didn’t bring items to destroy were encouraged to write down the things they wished could be eliminated from our future. Entries ranged from pop culture references – “Miley Cyrus’s fame” – to the serious: “cancer,” “war,” “human trafficking,” “poverty.”
All of these surely deserve inclusion. Allow me to add one more: “Technology without values, progress without prudence.” Because a world of nuclear giants is a dangerous place when filled with ethical infants.
1. Cambridge World History of Food, Kenneth F. Kiple and Kriemhild Conee Ornelas, Vol. 1 [Cambridge University Press] 2000 (p 619-620)

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Post  Admin on Thu 02 Jan 2014, 3:46 pm

Gratitude Leads to Happiness
How to bring the gratitude attitude into our homes and daily lives.
by Emuna Braverman        
“It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.”
A friend of mine posted this anonymous quote on Facebook the other day.  It dovetailed neatly with the recent Wall Street Journal piece “Raising Children with an Attitude of Gratitude” by Diana Kapp (12/23/2013).
Gratitude leads to happiness.  According to a study of teens that is cited in the article, it also leads to stronger GPA’s, less depression, less envy and a more positive outlook. To get our adolescents to behave like that, most of us would do just about anything.
But we don’t have to. It turns out that all we need to do is model gratitude ourselves (which will lead to the benefit of greater personal happiness regardless of how it impacts our teens!).
However “all we have to do” may be more difficult than it sounds.  May of us may not be in the habit of expressing gratitude. In fact, we may actually be in the habit of expressing frustration, complaints, and a sense of entitlement (where do you think our kids got it from?).
So of course we are the ones that need to change first. We are the ones who need to make gratitude and appreciation a regular part of our lives.  We are the ones who must develop the “gratitude attitude.”
It is not enough to think it or feel it.  To make it real, even just for ourselves, we need to say it out loud. Likewise, if we want to model it for our children.
“Thank you for making such a delicious dinner tonight” (to the designated cook in the home).
“Thank you for going to the store for me.”
“I really appreciate that you folded my laundry.”
“Thanks for taking us on that vacation.  It was really special.”
“Wow.  What an awesome sunset the Almighty made for us.”
“We are so lucky to live in this house in this neighborhood.”
“It was really the Almighty’s kindness that brought us to this community.”
Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (to quote one of my favorite musicals).
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Yes, some of this sounds awkward. Some of it sounds artificial. You need to find your own words. And it takes practice – lots of it.
Changing behavior isn’t easy.  Enlist your family in the effort.  Ask them to help identify what to be grateful for, who to thank, what to notice and appreciate. It will impact all of you.
Sometimes gratitude is difficult because we don’t like to acknowledge our debts; we like to feel we did it on our own.  But we can’t do anything without the help of others (that proverbial “village”) and certainly not without the Almighty’s help. He deserves the biggest thanks of all. And once we’re grateful to our Creator, we will also be grateful to His creations.

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Post  Admin on Thu 02 Jan 2014, 3:36 pm

Have money, avoid prison – and responsibility.

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