Monday, December 29, 2008

The Fiskie Award

Little Green Footballs is taking nominations for this year's Fiskie Award.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a lifetime achievement award for the person or group that most personifies the spirit of the “useful idiot.”

Previous winners are:

Jimmy Carter
Rachel Corrie
Cindy Sheehan
Michael Moore
Kofi Annan
Keith Olbermann

This year, I don't think that there can be any doubt - it must go to (self-proclaimed) "Rabbi" Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, or the entire organization.

Surely the photo-ops of Weiss embracing terrorist supporters has done more damage to the cause of common sense than almost anything any other terror its supporting individuals have done.

Definitely qualifies as a useful idiot par excellence.

What Type of Hossid was Moshe Rabbeinu?

There is a lot going on in the world right now, but plenty of people blogging about Gaza (the war that started a few years ago, but Ehud Barak came late to the party).
If you need a dose of war updates, stop by the Muqata.

I have something MUCH more important to settle - I stumbled upon this video which addresses the most important of questions - what type of Jew was Moshe Rabeinu.

You can watch the video for yourself, but if you're in a hurry the logic is as follows:

First we must establish whether Moshe was a Chossid or a Misnagged (evidently the possibility that he was a a Sfardi or a Temani, or plain old Poshiter Yid isn't not even worth consideration).

Well - clearly he was a Chossid - how could you even THINK otherwise (the alternative is too frightening to even contemplate)?

So now that we've clearly established that he was a Chossid, the only question is what type of chossid was he?

Well, we know that Moshe was 10 Amot tall, and the Mishkan was 10 Amot tall - and clearly he wouldn't have wanted a hat taller than the Mishkan, so he must have warn a hat which is flat on top of his head - and who wears a flat hat? Satmar (and a few Breslevers).

So there you have it Moshe was a Satmar - don't believe me - here's the proof:

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Public Figures with skeletons in the closest

There is an old joke:

Dear Abby
I have always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford to spend a lot of money to do it. Any suggestions? - Sam

Dear Sam
Yes. Run for public office.

Well apparently the concept of public figures being scrutinized for skeletons in the closet is not a new concept.

Yesterday's Daf said that we can assume that anyone who worked as a Gabai Tzdaka has no problems with his "yichus" (which in this case really means that he is a Kosher Jew). The assumption is that if his grandfather was a Mamzer, the information would have come out when he came round to collect money, i.e. the media would scrutinize him as a public figure:

מסכת קידושין דף עו, ב
וגבאי צדקה משיאים:
מאי טעמא כיון דמנצו בהדי אינשי דאמר מר ממשכנים על הצדקה ואפילו בערב שבת ואם איתא דאיכא אית ליה קלא
Kiddushin 76B
Or collectors of Tzedakah (don't have to be checked for lineage):
This is because they quarrel with people. We may take securities for money that people must give to Tzedakah, even on Erev Shabbos; If there were any lineage problems, they would be known.

I guess that the more things change, the more they stay the same....

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rain Rain (please don't) go away

Just got the following announcement from the Rabbanut in Modi'in:

הודעה מהרב לאו , רב העיר מודיעין:
הציבור מתבקש להוסיף את התפילה לעצירת גשמים "ועננו בורא עולם",
בברכת "שמע קולנו" שבשמונה עשרה. בתקווה כי במהרה לא נצטרך לבקש בקשה זו

Announcement from Rabbi Lau, Chief Rabbi of Modi'in:
The public is requested to add the prayer for times of drought "V'ananu Borei Olam" in the "Shema Koleinu" bracha in the Shmona Esrei. With the hope that we will soon no longer need to add this request.
For those unfamiliar with the "V'aneinu Borei Olam" addition, it is found in the back of many siddurim, or in Shacharit under "Shema Koleinu".

For those using a siddur from Chutz L'aretz that does not contain this Tfilla, the Nussach is as follows:
תפלה לעצירת הגשמים בשומע תפלה:
וַעֲנֵנוּ בּורֵא עולָם בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, בּוחֵר בְּעַמּו יִשרָאל לְהודִיעַ גָּדְלו וְהַדְרַת כְּבודו, שׁומֵעַ תְּפִלָּה תֵּן טַל וּמָטָר עַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, וְתַשבִּיעַ אֶת הָעולָם כֻּלּו מִטּוּבֶךָ, וּמַלֵּא יָדֵינוּ מִבִּרְכותֶיךָ וּמֵעשֶׁר מַתְּנַת יָדֶךָ, שְׁמור וְהַצֵל שָׁנָה זו מִכָּל דָּבָר רָע, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי מַשְׁחִית, וּמִכָּל מִינֵי פֻּרְעָנִיּות, וַעֲשה לָהּ תִּקְוָה וְאַחֲרִית שָׁלום, חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינוּ וְעַל כָּל תְּבוּאָתֵנוּ וּפֵרותֵינוּ, וּבָרְכֵנוּ בְּגִשְׁמֵי בְרָכָה וְנִזְכֶּה לְחַיִּים וָשׁובַע וְשָׁלום, כַּשָׁנִים הַטּובות, וְהָסֵר מִמֶּנּוּ דֶּבֶר וְחֶרֶב וְרָעָב, וְחַיָּה רָעָה וּשְׁבִי וּבִזָה, וְיֵצֶר הָרָע וְחָלָיִים רָעִים וְקָשִׁים, וּמְאורָעות רָעיִם וְקָשִׁים, וּגְזור עָלֵינוּ גְּזֵרות טובות מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, וְיִגּלּוּ רַחֲמֶיךָ עַל מִדּותֶיךָ, וְתִתְנַהֵג עִם בָּנֶיךָ בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, וְקַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצון אֶת תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Why are the Biggest Lunatics Jews

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally did something right - they Denied entry to Richard Falk. Who was coming as a representative of the UN Human Rights Council.

Evidently it takes a very type of stupidity to get a job for the UN Human Rights Council. Mr Falk is not only highly critical of Israel, comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, but is also a 9-11 "Troofer" and was also a supporter of Ayatollah Khomeini (may he rest in pieces).

Sounds like just the right person to work for the United Nations, after all you wouldn't want the crackpot dictators that control the UN to employ people that have even a minimal moral compass or common sense.

Among his recent quotes:
"Such a policy of collective punishment initiated by Israel to punish Gazans for political developments within the Gaza Strip constitutes a continuing flagrant and massive violation of international humanitarian law."

There you have it - what business is it of Israel to punish Gaza for internal political developments like lobbying dozens of missiles against our towns. I mean surely missiles are covered as part of free speech and for Israel to discourage it is a gross violation of human rights.

Ohh - BTW, did I mention that Mr Falk claims to be Jewish, which figures - the lunatic fringe is filled with Jews.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Does this year seem to be dragging on longer than usual

2008 has been quite a year, between economic meltdowns, political scandals, and generally more excitement than we wanted. Well the bad news that this year is longer than most, even longer than most leap years - in fact it's the longest year since 1992.
Yup, you guessed it - the official World Timekeepers are adding a Leap second to the year, making December 31st a second longer than ordinary days.
Don't forget to adjust your watch.

Wait a second: 2008 gets extended by timekeepers
Source: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) — With a brutal economic slowdown, 2008 may feel as if it will never end. Now the world's timekeepers are making it even longer by adding a leap second to the last day of the year.

Along with the economy, the Earth itself is slowing down, requiring timekeepers to add an extra second to their atomic clocks to keep in sync with Earth's slightly slowing rotation. So an extra second will be tacked on to Dec. 31 after 6:59:59 p.m. and before 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

That extra second will make 2008 — already long with an extra day on Feb. 29 — the longest year since 1992.

The decision to add an extra second was made by an international consortium of timekeepers, whose American arm announced it Monday. World commerce and digital technology depend on accurate to-the-second timekeeping, said Geoff Chester, spokesman for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, responsible for one-third of the world's atomic clocks.

Most cellular phone providers and computer operating systems check with the world's atomic clocks and update their time to add the leap second automatically, he said.

The world started adding leap seconds in 1972, sometimes twice a year. This is first leap second since Dec. 31, 2005. This is the fourth year to have a leap day and a leap second.

At the Naval Observatory they have a party at 6:59:60 p.m.

"We watch the clock and make sure nothing breaks," Chester said. "It's an early New Year's celebration." A brief one.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Viewing History at a Personal Leval

I've had very few opportunities to meet famous or historical characters, but the few times that I have met people who have a public image, I've found the personal impression very different from the image you see in the media.

What about the monsters of History? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to know a monster like Hitler not as a Historical personality, but as a Human being? Does it even make sense to think of someone like Hitler as a Human being with human characteristics.

Recently the Daily Mail had an article about Rosa Mitterer, who was a maid to Hitler in the 1930s and remembers him not as a monster out of history, but rather as a "charming" employer.

I found the article fascinating, here are some highlights:

... for one woman, the name Adolf Hitler evokes a smile not a shudder.
She is Rosa Mitterer, who worked as a maid for the Fuhrer at his mountain retreat in Bavaria in the 1930s.

And her verdict on her former master: 'He was a charming man, someone who was only ever nice to me, a great boss to work for. You can say what you like, but he was a good man to us.'

Rosa's remembrances of life at the court of the tyrant make gripping reading. She saw leading Nazis come and go. Himmler, the evil party secretary; Bormann, whom she described as a 'dirty pig'; and the club-footed, sexually-obsessed propaganda minister Goebbels.

Rosa went into Hitler's service at the age of 15 in 1932 when she was Rosa Krautenbacher. Her sister Anni had worked as a cook at Hitler's Berchtesgaden retreat since the late 1920s.

'She said he needed a housemaid and I would fit the bill,' Rosa recalled. 'I remember so clearly the first day I spoke to him in the kitchen. I said I was Anni's sister and that made him smile, because Anni was his favourite. I only ever knew Hitler as a kindly man who was good to me.'


Recalling her first direct request from her master, she said she was drying some porcelain cups when he came down the stairs.

'Hello,' he said softly. 'Sorry to trouble you, but could you make me some coffee and bring some gingerbread biscuits to my study?'

Coming into such close proximity to Hitler made her feel faint, she said, but she soon became accustomed to life at Berghof.


'That he had ordered such terrible things, I just couldn't believe it,' she said. 'Even now, I prefer to remember the charming facets of his personality.'

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moishale Holtzberg is Smiling again

One more video - no further comments necessary....

Chabad - Again

Since the tragedy in Mumbai last week, I've deliberately put out of my mind any crazy offshoots from Chabad, however I just saw this song written in tribute to the Kedoshim of Mumbai, and his chorus really bothered me:
Chorus: Oh Rebbe Show me, tell me why
Your Shluchim, so given over needed to die.
Their blood Our wounds heal and mend
Please Rebbe, make it end.
Is it just me, or dos it really sound like this guy is davening to the Rebbe.
Maybe Chabad don't have to travel all the way to India to see examples of Avoda Zara.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ya'akov's Tnai

I've always been bothered by the Tnai that Ya'akov makes at the beginning of last week's parsha (Vayetze).
Right after the famous dream with the ladder, Ya'akov makes the following "Deal" with G-d:

בראשית כח כ-כ"א
וַיִּדַּר יַעֲקֹב נֶדֶר לֵאמֹר אִם יִהְיֶה אֱלֹהִים עִמָּדִי וּשְׁמָרַנִי בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי הוֹלֵךְ וְנָתַן לִי לֶחֶם לֶאֱכֹל וּבֶגֶד לִלְבֹּשׁ. וְשַׁבְתִּי בְשָׁלוֹם אֶל בֵּית אָבִי וְהָיָה יְהוָה לִי לֵאלֹהִים

Jacob made a vow. 'If God will be with me,' he said, 'if He will protect me on the journey that I am taking, if He gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear,
and if I return in peace to my father's house, then I will dedicate myself totally to God.

To me this Tnai always sounded very superficial, similar to "If G-d helps me find a parking spot then I'll got to shul on Shabbat", or "I'll wear Tefilin every day if G-d helps me get this job".

This attitude seems beneath Ya'akov Aveinu, surely his commitment to HaShem is unconditional. What does he mean "IF God will protect me" - and what if he doesn't, does Ya'akov imply that he would be less committed to serving G-d?

I think a partial answer can be found in yesterday's Daf - Kiddushin 61A

דף סא, א משנה ר' מאיר אומר כל תנאי שאינו כתנאי בני גד ובני ראובן אינו תנאי שנאמר (במדבר לב) ויאמר אליהם אם יעברו בני גד ובני ראובן וכתיב ואם לא יעברו חלוצים רבי חנינא בן גמליאל אומר צריך הדבר לאומרו שאלמלא כן יש במשמע שאפי' בארץ כנען לא ינחלו:

Rabbi Meir says that any Tnai that isn't like the Tnai of Bnei Gad and Bnei Reuven isn't a Tnai....

Rabbi Meir's opinion is that a Tnai is only valid if you make a "Double Tnai" - e.g., "I will do X if you will do Y; If you do NOT do Y, I will not do X".
Without the second half, Rabbi Meir holds that it is not a Tnai, in effect what you are saying is "I will do X if you will do Y, however if you do NOT do Y, I may do X anyway"

Now Ya'akov's commitment makes sense according to Rabbi Meir - Ya'akov is asking / praying that HaShem will watch over him during this difficult stage in his life, and he is reminding himself and G-d that he is committed to serving HaShem, however he never made a "Double Tnai" - if HaShem does NOT fulfil that which is asked of him, it does not imply that Ya'akov will be any less of an Eved HaShem.


The Klausenberger Rebbe's prediction

Several blogs and news sites, including Life in Israel are talking about a Statement that the Klausenberger Rebbe made in 1982.

Apparently in the middle of a shiur, he interrupted himself and said the following:

העניין של פרסום אלוקות בעולם הוא לא רק עבור יהודים אלא גם בשביל גויים שרואים יהודי שמתפלל ועובד את ה', ויהיה יהודי יחיד שיסע להודו ובמקום זה יש מליונים עובד ע"ז והוא יגלה אלוקות והוא יהרג שם וכל האומה הזה ידברו עליו והוא מקדש שם שמים שעל ידו יתגלה למליוני אנשים שיש ה' בעולם
The issue of publicizing G-d in the world is not only for the Jews, but also for gentiles that see a Jew pray and serve G-d. It will happen that a single Jew will travel to India and in that place there are millions who worship false gods and he will reveal G-dliness, and he will be killed there and all the nation will speak of it and he will sanctify G-d's Name and through him will be revealed to millions that there is a G-d in the world.

If you want to hear a recording of the speech, it is available here in Yiddish.

Now, I don't speak Yiddish and it is possible that the above quote is not accurate, but if this what he said, it is very chilling.
I don't believe that there is still prophesy in the World, and don't pretend to understand what the quote means, but if you listen to interviews that Rabbi Holtzberg gave over recent years where he describes his encounters with his Hindu neighbours and how central idol worship was to many of them, the quote is strangely prophetic.

Follow Up
Apparently the Hebrew translation above (which I used for my English translation) is not accurate - here is the original Yiddish, if anyone wants to translate it to English 9or Hebrew), please leave a comment:

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

To G~d, Jerusalem

If you ever wondered what happens to letters addressed to: G-d, Jersualem?
Well now you know.... This just in from AP

Letters to God' delivered to Western Wall
1 hr 6 mins ago

JERUSALEM – Israeli postal authorities have delivered hundreds of "letters to God" from across the world to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

A popular Jewish custom holds that prayers will be answered by God if they are written and placed in the 2,000-year-old retaining wall of the ancient Jewish Temple. Every year Israeli officials bring letters addressed to the wall or to God and stuff them into the cracks between the stones in the wall.

The site's chief rabbi carried a cardboard box Tuesday marked "Letters to God" and containing letters in a variety of languages, including English, Russian, French and Spanish.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitz says prayers of people all over the world "ascend through this holy place." He says he hopes God grants all of the requests.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fiddler on the Roof

Rafi over at Life in Israel recently posted Fiddler in the Roof in Korean, worth taking a look.

There was also a Japanese version going round the Internet recently -just shows that Shalom Alechem's stories really have global appeal. Also worth taking a look.

But of course the ultimate interpretation of Fiddler on the Roof was Alister Cookie (Monster) in Monsterpiece Theatre - definitely worth clicking on the link.

And for those who like Tradition - here is Topol singing Tradition the way your bobby would have appreciated:

a question for all those feminist, atheist secular Jews

If you're a feminist, atheist secular Jew, living in an apartment in New York, and while in the lobby on Shabbat you see the guest of a Shomer Shabbat tenant of the same building trying to get into the building.

The person claims that as he is Shomer Shabbat he is unable to buzz the intercom and asks that you let him in. Do you:

A - say "why certainly", always a pleasure to help someone out", and then open the door.
B - explain that for security reasons you are not allowed to open the door for strangers, but if he could give some identifying information (e.g., a few details about the tenant that he is visiting) you would be happy to open the door.
C - explain that there is a hard and fast rule against letting people into the building, but offer to go to the apartment of the tenant that he is visiting so that he can come down and open the door.
D - write a letter to the Advice Column of a newspaper, pointing out how disgusted you are about those primitive non-feminist, non-atheist, non-secular intolerant individuals.

If you answered "D", you would be correct - take a look at this unbelievable letter sent to Salon. (And if you find the letter ridiculous, follow the link to look at the even more ridiculous answer).


Dear Cary,

I live in a doorman-less building. A Sabbath observer [an observant Orthodox Jew] recently moved in and invites friends to visit on the Sabbath; however, because of Sabbath rules regarding the use of machines, they won't use the phone or the building security system. They wait in the vestibule until someone lets them in.

I never admit strangers, but they are persistent. One stuck his foot into the doorjamb as I tried to enter, and pushed past me, as I was trying to explain to him that he would have to get permission from a resident to let him in.

Recently, there was an armed robbery nearby and I'm concerned about our security. My senile landlord is religious and I'm afraid that if I complain, my rent will go sky-high at the next lease renewal. As a feminist, an atheist and a secular Jew, my irritation about the security issue is increased by my disgust with their religious practices. I'm considering sending an anonymous note to this tenant, suggesting they find a more secure way of admitting Sabbath guests, but my fury is interfering with drafting a civil or constructive note.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Yosef Mokir Shabbat

One of my kids' favorite stories is Ysef Mokir Shabbat, the well known story from, based on the Gemara, Brachot 119.

If you aren't familiar with the story, there is an illustrated version here.
The story was also made into a song by Avraham Fried.

The story is basically about a poor man who spent a lot of energy and money each week preparing for Shabbat, and HaShem rewarded him with a fish containing a precious diamond.

If the story sounds a little far-fetched, take a look at this incident that was reported by AP

The one that didn't get away yields long-lost ring

Wed Dec 3, 9:37 pm ET

BUNA, Texas – The one that didn't get away held an unlikely surprise for a Texas man. The blue-stoned class ring of Joe Richardson, engraved with his name, turned up inside an 8-pound bass 21 years after he lost it while fishing on Lake Sam Rayburn.

"My first reaction was — you gotta be kidding," he said Wednesday.

The fisherman who discovered the tarnished ring inside his catch contacted Richardson on Nov. 28 in Buna, about 100 miles northeast of Houston, after tracking him down with help from the Internet.

His fisherman hero asked to remain anonymous.

Richardson, 41, said he lost the ring about two weeks after his 1987 graduation from Universal Technical Institute in Houston. His mom had bought it for about $200 and wasn't pleased when it went missing.

As a mechanic, Richardson said he doesn't wear jewelry so he tucked the undamaged ring away.

"I have not cleaned it," he said. "I told my wife I don't want to clean it."


Information assist from KFDM-TV:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A child crys out for his parents - but no one answers

By now we have all heard or seen accounts of Little Moshe Holtzberg calling our for his Ima during the memorial service in Mumbai yesterday.

There is no way to watch this footage without crying.....

I heard Rav Yisrael Meir Lau on the radio this morning - he reminded us that it's not just little Moishele standing in shul crying out for his parents, it is each and every one of us.

Aba, Tatty, Papa, Daddy where are You? Your children are in shul calling out to you, please now is the time to answer our call and pick us up and give us the embrace that we so dearly need.

As we say during Musaf on Rosh Hashana:

הַיּום הֲרַת עולָם, הַיּום יַעֲמִיד בַּמִּשְׁפָּט כָּל יְצוּרֵי עולָמִים, אִם כְּבָנִים אִם כַּעֲבָדִים, אִם כְּבָנִים רַחֲמֵנוּ כְּרַחֵם אָב עַל בָּנִים, וְאִם כַּעֲבָדִים עֵינֵינוּ לְךָ תְלוּיות עַד שֶׁתְּחָנֵּנוּ וְתוצִיא כָאור מִשְׁפָּטֵנוּ אָיום קָדושׁ

Today the world was made, and today we stand in judgement, all creatures of the World, whether as children or as servants. If we are Your children, have mercy on us as a father has mercy on His son ...

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Timeline of horror

AP has the following account of events at the Chabad House in Mumbai last week:


They were 10 gunmen, well-trained and armed with assault rifles and grenades, officials say. They had scouted their targets ahead of time. The knew the hallways and the basements. They even carried bags of almonds for energy. Police say they were Muslim extremists from Pakistan, and may be tied to India's long-running insurgency in the disputed, largely Muslim, Himalayan region of Kashmir.

They landed in an inflatable rubber boat not long after nightfall on a Mumbai beach, a semi-isolated stretch of sand and stone where fisherman bring in their boats during the daytime. From there, it was less than a 15-minutes walk to their major targets. The group fanned out across the city, hitting 10 spots in two hours. They chose some of the best-known landmarks, many popular with foreigners and the city's elite. Many of the attacks ended in minutes. But at two luxury hotels and a Jewish center they dug in, fending off hundreds of commandos for days.


About 9:30 p.m.

Nariman House , Mumbai headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch movement.

A gunshot startles the family of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and others inside the recently renovated five-story Jewish center on a bumpy, unpaved back road off a main street in Mumbai's trendy Colaba neighborhood. The pale yellow building, with its synagogue, kosher dining room and friendly rabbi, was a magnet for Israeli backpackers looking for a place to celebrate holidays while on vacation and an important religious center for Mumbai's small Jewish community.

Someone must be lighting firecrackers, thought Sandra Samuel, a maid at the center.

Then a gunman came up the stairs.

She and another employee duck into a room and hid in terror as explosions and gunshots rattle the building through the night.

"They destroyed everything, the lift, the dining room, everything," she says later.

At about the same time


Thursday mornin, 10:45 a.m.

Nariman House

The Jewish center is silent, except for the wailing of a child.

Samuel, the maid, cracks open the door of her hiding place and sees a deserted staircase. She runs up one flight and finds the rabbi's 2-year-old son Moshe crying beside his parents and two Israeli guests who lay still on the floor. His pants are drenched with blood. She grabs the boy, bolts down the stairs and out of the building.


The soldiers who fought the gunman say they were tough, bitter opponents.

"It's obvious they were trained somewhere ... Not everyone can handle the AK series of weapons or throw grenades like that," an unidentified member of India's Marine Commando unit, his face wrapped in a black mask, tells reporters after his units stormed the hotels. The attackers were "very determined and remorseless."


Frida, About 7 a.m.

Nariman House

Black-clad commandos fan out on the rooftops of the evacuated buildings surrounding the Jewish center and begin laying down covering fire.

A helicopter drops toward the roof. One after another, masked commandos slither down a rope. The helicopter returns with more commandos, then a third time with equipment.

Slowly, the assault team descends an outside staircase and begins clearing the building.

A small explosion erupts from the house. A few seconds later, two gunshots, a pause, then two more. For hours, a similar pattern is repeated. Holes are blasted in the building as hundreds of gawkers cheer from nearby streets.


5:39 p.m.

Nariman House

Indian commandos launch a rocket at one of the Jewish center's upper floors, shaking the neighborhood and blowing out windows in neighboring buildings.


6:15 p.m.

Nariman House

A small group of commandos appear in the street, raising their rifles in triumph. The crowd breaks through police barriers and floods the streets in celebration.

Inside the building, nine people lay dead, including the rabbi and his wife. According to Israeli media reports, some are wrapped in prayer shawls [MS - According to reports, when after his wife was murdered in front of him, Rabbi Holtzberg did one final act of chessed to his wife and covered her body with a Talit>.

This is news?

I just noticed this news story on AP.

I guess that this highlights the gulf between a traditional Jewish viewpoint of the world and non-Jewish values.

In the Torah observant community, a couple who refrain from kissing (or touching) before marriage is hardly front page news material.

Chicago couple wait for first kiss at the altar

Sat Nov 29, 5:04 pm ET
CHICAGO – Won't kiss on the first date? How about waiting until marriage?

Chicagoans Melody LaLuz and Claudaniel Fabien shared their first kiss Saturday at the altar. The two teach abstinence at the city's public schools and practiced what they preached to their teenage students.

The Chicago Tribune reports that the couple had never kissed and that they had never been alone together in a house.

A friend of LaLuz says wedding guests cheered and stomped during the two-minute smooch between the 28-year-old bride and the 30-year-old groom.

LaLuz and Fabien say they have no worries about how they will spend their honeymoon in the Bahamas.


Information from: Chicago Tribune,

source: AP

לקדש את שמו ברבים

Like many others, last night after Shabbat I anxiously turned on the radio dreading the possibility of bad news from the stand-off in India, and sure enough our worst fears were confirmed as we found out that the Jews in the Mumbai Chabad House returned their souls to their Maker in a tragic sanctification of G-d's name.

The tragedy was even more real for me after I spoke to a neighbour who often travels to India on business and has often stayed at the Beit Chabad and knew the Holtzbergs personally. He had a business partner who was in India last week, but Baruch Hashem was not hurt, even though he was in a hotel near the site of one of the attacks. He came home safely before Shabbat.

We should remember each of the victims in the attacks in Mumbai including:
  • Rabbi Gabi Holtzberg and his wife Rivka who dedicated their entire lives to spreading G-d's Holy word.
  • Bentzion Chroman who died while learning Gemara in the Library of the Chabad House, the Zaka volunteers found Messechat Brachot open and covered with blood in front of his lifeless body.
  • Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum, son of the Volover Rebbe from Boro Park, who was in India as a Mashgiach Kashrut for airline meals
  • Yocheved Orpaz and the other visitors who were in the Chabad House at the time of the attack
Of course we should also remember Gabi and Rivka's son, Moshe who celebrated his second birthday on Shabbat in the arms of his grandparents who flew to India from Israel. This child who is now an orphan and who will always celebrate his birthday together with the Yhartzeit of both his parents. Like his namesake, this Moshe was saved from almost certain death in the arms of a non-Jewish woman, Sandra Samuel the baby's metapelet who heroically carried little Moshe to safety as she fled the building.

May Their Souls Be Bound in the Bonds of Eternal Life

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Stop and Say Tehillim

A special request to please stop what ever you are doing and say a Perek Tehillim for the following hostages or individuals whose exact stiuation is unknown in the Beit Chabad in Mumbai India.

Gavriel Noach ben Freida Bluma
Rivka bas Yehudis
Moshe Tzvi Ben Rivkah
and anyone affected by the tragedy.

תהילים פרק כ

א לַמְנַצֵּחַ, מִזְמוֹר לְדָוִד.
ב יַעַנְךָ יְהוָה, בְּיוֹם צָרָה; יְשַׂגֶּבְךָ, שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב.
ג יִשְׁלַח-עֶזְרְךָ מִקֹּדֶשׁ; וּמִצִּיּוֹן, יִסְעָדֶךָּ.
ד יִזְכֹּר כָּל-מִנְחֹתֶךָ; וְעוֹלָתְךָ יְדַשְּׁנֶה סֶלָה.
ה יִתֶּן-לְךָ כִלְבָבֶךָ; וְכָל-עֲצָתְךָ יְמַלֵּא.
ו נְרַנְּנָה, בִּישׁוּעָתֶךָ-- וּבְשֵׁם-אֱלֹהֵינוּ נִדְגֹּל; יְמַלֵּא יְהוָה, כָּל-מִשְׁאֲלוֹתֶיךָ.
ז עַתָּה יָדַעְתִּי-- כִּי הוֹשִׁיעַ יְהוָה, יַעֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי עֲנֵהוּ, מִשְּׁמֵי קָדְשׁוֹ-- בִּגְבֻרוֹת, יֵשַׁע יְמִינוֹ.
ח אֵלֶּה בָרֶכֶב, וְאֵלֶּה בַסּוּסִים; וַאֲנַחְנוּ, בְּשֵׁם-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ נַזְכִּיר.
ט הֵמָּה, כָּרְעוּ וְנָפָלוּ; וַאֲנַחְנוּ קַּמְנוּ, וַנִּתְעוֹדָד.
י יְהוָה הוֹשִׁיעָה: הַמֶּלֶךְ, יַעֲנֵנוּ בְיוֹם-קָרְאֵנוּ

May Hashem speedily bring them to safety.

Updates on the situation available at

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Secret to a long life...


The Jerusalem Post just had an article that showed research linking regular attendance at religious services with a longer life expectancy.

Some 92,395 post-menstrual women - Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and women of other faiths - ages 50 to 70 were recruited on a voluntary basis from all over the US.


Those attending religious services at least once per week showed a 20% mortality risk reduction mark compared with those not attending services at all.

These findings corroborate prior studies that have shown up to a 25% reduction in such risk.

Full article here.

As if to prove the point, here is a video of the Great Great Grandson of Rav Elyashiv (that's his Grandson's grandson) .
Rav Eliashiv is 98 years old (Bli Ayin Hara) and still very much "with it".

I don't imagine that he was one of the people interviewed in the survey above, however I'm prepared to bet that he attends religious services at least once a week :)

Hat tip: Life in Israel

Monday, November 24, 2008

Shuls in Buchman

Well, it looks like they have FINALLY started construction on the first shuls in Buchman, so I thought now would be a good time to take a look at the status of the congregations in Buchman.

First a quick tally - there are currently ZERO dedicated shul buildings in Buchman, you can count them on the thumbs of no hands. Given that there is a large religious community here (probably 40-60%, higher in Buchman Darom) the fact that no shuls have been built in the past 4 years since people moved into the neighborhood is inexcusable (I hope that mayor elect Chaim Bibis is reading this).

The closest thing that we have to a shul building is the Yeshiva High School, which has three Batei Midrash, all of which have neighborhood minyanim on Shabbat. There are also minyanim that meet in Ganim, private houses or literally on the street.

Following are some of the congregations currently trying to get permanent buildings built:

Lev Achim
This minyan currently davens in the large Beit Midrash in the Yeshiva, and has minyanim on Shabbat and during the week (they get over 200 people on a regular Shabbat). After several years of applications, they were finally given permission to build on the lot on the corner of Yehuda and Yissachar. They had an official ground breaking ceremony a few weeks ago, and when I drove past the other day I saw that they have cleared the land so construction can begin.
They were originally supposed to be in their building by last Pessach - I don't think that they made it, maybe by Rosh Hashana?
(Photo is of Rabbi Lay speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony)

Klal Yisrael South (AKA Klal Yisrael Permanent)
Only Jews could create a minyan called "Klal Yisrael" and then before they even get their building split into 2 - however this was a necessary to accommodate the growing religious population in Buchman Darom.
Klal Yisrael South currently davens in people's home - every Shabbat they cram 100+ people into someone's living rooms (and houses aren't that big here).
For the Chagim they errected a large tent.
During the week they have Ma'ariv in the park at the end of Shlomtzion Hamalka.
They haven't yet started their building, but I believe that they have land on Rivka Eimainu - IY"H next year there will be Ganim in the area so that they will have a temporary solution.

Klal Yisrael Merkaz (AKA Klal Yisrael Mishav)
This minyan was also rotating between houses on Shabbatot, although for the past few weeks they have settled in a temporary location - the covered parking lot behind Ester Hamalka 40. Be interesting to see what that parking area is like if we have a wet Shabbat.
During the week they have Ma'ariv in the parking lot of the Mishav project.
This is one of three shuls that are supposed to be building on the lot on the corner of Ester Hamalka and Efrayim. They are supposed to start construction this month - we'll see how it goes.
There original target date was to have the building finished by last Rosh Hashana, I don't think that they made it - let's hope for next Rosh Hashana.

This minyan currently davens in the ganim at the end of Benyamin. It is an interesting minyan - both Ashkenaz and Sfaradi; they alternate each Tfilla, for example ShacharitNussach Sfard, Mussaf Eidot Hamizrach.
They are also building at the plot on the corner of Ester Hamalka and Efrayim, they were supposed to be the first shul built there, they cleared the land several months ago, but so far no construction has started.

Shivtei Yisrael
This minyan used to daven in Gan Tavor on Binyamin but for the Chagim they moved into a Beit Midrash downstairs in the Yeshiva, where they still daven on Shabbatot.
They have raised money to build on an empty plot behind Gan Tavor, but (surprise!) there is a neighbor that objects to the building which has held up the process (not sure how long but at least 6 months, and still not resolved).
I spoke to one of the Gabai'im who told me that he spoke to the neighbor leading the charge against the shul, but was unable to reach a compromise because the person was unable to articulate a reason that he objected to the shul - I guess that a good reason would make it to easy to negate.

Adir B'marom
They currently meet in a Gan on the corner of Shimon and Dan. Like all the other minyanim, the gan is too small for their current needs. They are trying to get permission to build a shul on top of the ganim, but (surprise again), neighbors are objecting.
Not sure where they stand in terms of their battle, but from what I gather they have a while to go....

Buchman Ashkenat (AKA "BKA" or "The American Minyan")
This is the only "Nussach Ashkenaz" minyan in the city, also one of the few minyanim to have its own Rabbi (Harav Sobol).
They have plans to build quite a large building on the corner of Ester Hamalka and Efrayim, the third and biggest shul on that plot, and construction started this week.
From what I understand, the construction process will take years.

Moreshet Sfard
This minyan currently meets in Ester Hamallka 21. The house is rented out to the minyan and they have minyaim there on both Shabbatot on Weekdays - last week they added a Mincha/Maariv minyan to their weekday schedule.
Although they have plans to build from what I understand they are still at the beginning of the approval process.

So there you have it - eight minyaim without proper facilities trying to build buildings, but each one with long delays.

IY"H our eldest will be celebrating his Bar Mitzva in just over a year, I really hope that by then there is at least one shul somewhere in the neighbourhood.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Weekday Minyanim in Modi'in

Note that this list was last updated December 2018
As a "Community Service" announcement, below is a list of some of the weekday minyanim in Modi'in.
This list is incomplete, but to the best of my knowledge the rimes listed below are still accurate. If anyone has any corrections or additions, please leave a comment or send me an email.

There is a list of Minyanim in Nof Ayalon here.

The "Modi'in Dati" site also has a list of Minyim here,

Mincha Gedola Options (Summer)
1:15 pm - Beit Knesset Moria (27 Esther HaMalka Street) (MAP)
1:15 pm - Hesder Yeshiva, Emek Beit Shaan
1:15 pm - Garin Torani - Beit Knesset Zachor L'Avraham ("Pizza Shul") (MAP)
1:15 pm - BEIT KNESSET KIPIDAN SFARDI (MAP) (Starts with Korbanot, Ashrei is at about 1:20 or 1:25)
1:45 pm - SuperTov, Shivtei Yisrael street
3:30 pm -  Kaiser Center (top floor)
5:25 pm - Ayelet Hashacha (In Kaiser, Opposite the Swimming pool - Mincha at same time in Summer and Winter) (MAP)

Mincha Gedola Options (Winter)

1:00 pm - Beit Knesset Moria (27 Esther HaMalka Street) (MAP)
12:25 pm - Reut (MAP) -
12:40 pm - BEIT KNESSET KIPIDAN (Ashkenaz, downstairs)(MAP)
1:15 pm - BEIT KNESSET KIPIDAN SFARDI (MAP) (Starts with Korbanot, Ashrei is at about 1:20 or 1:25)
1:00 pm -  Kollel Orot Yitzchak,  Beit Knesset Zachor L'Avraham ("Pizza Shul") (MAP)

Giva C / Malibo

("The Bunker" Corner of Nachal Tzin and Nachal Faran)

Shacharit: 6:00, (Mon, Th: 5:50), 6:30, 7:20,  (Fridays: 8:00)
Mincha: 1:30 (Fridays and Erev Chag only)
Ma'ariv: 7:30 (Winter), 9:30 (Summer)

(The "Sfardi Bunker", adjacent to Merkaz Modi'in)

Shacharit: 6:00, (Mon, Th: 5:55)
Mincha: Bzman

(Nachal Faran)
Shacharit: 5:55, (Mon, Th: 5:45), 6:40, 7:45 (In Yeshiva Migdal Torah Downstairs)
Mincha; B'zman
Ma'ariv: B'zman, 9:45 (Yeshiva downstairs), 10:30 pm

("Pizza Shul", Corner of Nahal Zohar and Nahar HaYarden)
Shacharit: 6:00, 6:25, 6:45 (Mon, Th: 5:50, 6:25 6;30), 7:30, 8:15
Mincha:  13:15 (Winter), 16:10 (Summer) (not always available, depending on on the kollel schedule), 10 minutes after candlelighting
Ma'ariv: about 25 minutes after Shki'a, 9:00 pm

(Above the Ganim on Nachal Tzin 42)

Shacharit: 6:15 (Fri 6:45)
Mincha: 7:00 (Summer only)
Ma'ariv: 8:30

TITURA (Malibo) (MAP)
Shacharit: 7:00 am
Ma'ariv: 9:00 pm

Shacharit: 6:00, (Mon, Th: 5:50), 8:30
Mincha: 1:20 (with Sfardim upstairs), before Shkia (also upstairs)
Ma'ariv: After Mincha (With Sfardim upstairs), 8:30 pm

Menorat Avner (ULPANA (MAP)
Shacharit: 6:25 (Su-Th), 7:00 (Frday)
Ma'ariv: 8:15

Buchman (Moriah / Shvatim)

SHIVTEI YISRAEL  (Corner of Binyamin and Dan)
Shacharit: 6:15, 8:10
Ma'ariv: 8:30 pm

ADIR BAMAROM  (Corner of Shimon and Dan (MAP)
Shacharit: 6:15 (Sun - Thurs), 8:10 (Sun - Fri)
Mincha: 10 minutes after candlelighting (summer only)
Ma'ariv: 9:00 pm

LEV ACHIM (Corner of Yisachar and Yehuda) (MAP)
Shacharit: 5:45, 6:20

ACHDUT (27 Esther HaMalka Street) (MAP)
Shacharit: Sun, Tue, Wed: 6:00, 8:15
Mon, Th: 5:55, 8:15
Fri: 6:15; 8:15

Kol Yehuda (Yael Gibora, Next to the Mikva)
Shacharit: Sun - Thurs: 6:30,
Fri: 7:00
Ma'ariv: 8:00 pm

MORIAH (27 Esther HaMalka Street) (MAP)
Shacharit: Mon - Thu: 6:20, 7:30
Fri: 7:00, 7:40
Mincha: 1:00 pm, 10 minutes after candle-lighting
: Aprox 35 minutes after Mincha, 9:30 pm

KSYM (AKA "BKA" or "Ashkenaz") (27 Esther HaMalka Street) (MAP)
Shacharit: 6:30, 7:00 8:15, (during school vacation there is also at 9:00 )
Mincha: About 15 min before Shkia
: aprox 18 minutes after Shkia,  9:00 pm

Shacharit: 6:30 (Sun-Thurs; Rosh Chodesh: 6:20), 8:15
Ma'ariv: 8:15 pm

Kaiser / Shimshoni

(6 Shesh Meshzar Street - entrance from Emek Zvulin 7, opposite the pool)
Nushach: Ashkenaz
Shacharit: 7:45
Mincha: 5:45 pm
Ma'ariv: 9:45

(11 Tkhelet Street  - entrance from Emek Zvulin 7, opposite the pool)
Nusach: Eidot Hamizrach
Shacharit: 6:15 (Mon, Thurs 6:00)
Mincha: B'Zman
Ma'ariv: B'Zman

(12 B'dolach St, Corner of Avnie Hachoshen and B'dolach Street in Kaiser)
Shacharit: 05:55 (Mon, Thurs 05:50), 06:30, 08:15 (Friday 7:00, 8:15)
Mincha: Korbanot about 15 minutes before candle-lighting
Ma'ariv: 1 Hour after Mincha, 9:00 pm

Corner of Inbar and B'dolach

Corner of Inbar and B'dolach
Nusach: Eidot Hamizrach
Shacharit: 06:10 (Mon, Thurs 06:00), Friday 6:45
Ma'ariv: 8:30 pm

28 David Elazar
Shacharit: 06:00 (Mon, Thurs 05:50, Friday 06:30)
Ma'ariv: 21:00

18 Emez Zvulun, opposite Keiser Center
Nusach: Sfard
Shacharit: 6:00 (earlier on days with Kriyat Hatorah)
Ma'ariv: 7:45 pm

Maccabim / Reut

Achva V'reut (in REUT)
(10 Haoranim Street, Reut - MAP)
Shacharit: Sun-Th: 5:30, 6:15; Fri: 6:30, 7:00
Mincha: 12:20 (Winter only), candle-lighting
Ma'ariv: Hour after Mincha, 8:30

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Was the Shoah (and WWII) Gog and Magog

One of the learning cycles that I'm working on (and desperately behind in) is the OU's Nach Yomi project.

We recently covered Sefer Yoel. Chapter 3 of that book describes the horrible events of Gog Umagog (AKA Armageddon).

I make no claims to be able to understand the hidden meanings of this Chapter (or any other part of Tanach), however I found the following description very chilling:

יואל פרק ג
ג וְנָתַתִּי, מוֹפְתִים, בַּשָּׁמַיִם, וּבָאָרֶץ: דָּם וָאֵשׁ, וְתִימְרוֹת עָשָׁן. ד הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ יֵהָפֵךְ לְחֹשֶׁךְ, וְהַיָּרֵחַ לְדָם--לִפְנֵי, בּוֹא יוֹם ה', הַגָּדוֹל, וְהַנּוֹרָא

Joel Chapter 3
And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 4 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come.
That expression "וְתִימְרוֹת עָשָׁן" ("Pillars of smoke") which is familiar to us from the Haggada may possibly be more accurately translated as "Palm Trees of Smoke" (this was according to Rav Dr. Gidon Rothstein).

Does the image of a palm-shaped cloud followed by darkness and the "terrible day of Hashem" bring up any chilling imagery from the final days of the Second World War?

Half way there....

For my readers keeping up with Daf Yomi - Mazal Tov.
Sunday this week we learnt Kiddushin 39 which is exactly half way through the 12th Daf Yomi cycle.

Only 1352 days until the end of the cycle.....

Now if only I could catch up and finish my review of Gittin.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Where to put your Chanukia...

A friend of mine from shul has designed a very clever solution to the problem of how to put your Chanukia in the window without rearranging all your furniture.

It's a simple shelf that clips onto a standard (Israeli) window ledge. It is sturdy, but doesn't require any screws or fasteners, and after Chanukah you can remove it and it doesn't leave any marks.

Best of all, he practically gives them away (25 shekel for the basic size which is big enough for a single chunkiah).

For further information, check out the following web page I threw together for him:

He's also looking for agents in other parts of the country, so if you would be interested in making a few shekels between now and Chanuka, feel free to call him directly, or if you prefer you can contact me (or leave a comment), and I'll put you in touch.

חנוכה שמח

Friday, November 14, 2008

Midat Sdom

This week's Parsh (Vayera) includes the story of Avraham's attempt to save the people of Sdom.

Our sources bring down many explanations / examples of what was wrong with society in Sdom. One example is how they lived "Lfnei Mishuras Hadin", for example if someone was building and had a supply of bricks, each person that passed would steel one brick. Each stolen brick was worth less than a Pruta, so no individual would by liable for the theft, so the victim would be left with no bricks and no way to recover his loss.

(couldn't find a source for this - if someome has it, please leave a note)

Anyway - as if to prove that this is possible in the Real World, Yahoo News has a story about an unused Russian Orthodox Church that was dismantled and sold brick by brick, each brick was soled for about 1 ruble (about 4 cents).

How do you say Midot Sdom in Russian?
Russian Orthodox church stolen — brick by brick

Thu Nov 13, 8:31 pm ET

MOSCOW – Wanted: One missing Russian church. Last seen in July. Reward for its return. Orthodox officials in a central Russian region say an abandoned church building that was to be put back into use has been stolen by local villagers.

Orthodox priest Vitaly of the Ivanovo-Voskresenskaya diocese said officials last saw the two-story Church of Resurrection intact in late July. Sometime in early October, however, people from the nearby village of Komarovo, northeast of Moscow, dismantled the building, he said.

Villagers apparently sold it to a local businessman, one ruble (about 4 cents) per brick, Vitaly said. Orthodox priests use only one name.

"Of course, this is blasphemy," he told The Associated Press. "These people have to realize they committed a grave sin."

Vitaly said police were investigating the theft.

The 200-year-old building, which no longer had its icons and other religious valuables, was a school for disabled children during the Soviet era before it was closed down in 1998 and turned over to the church.

Vitaly said the diocese was thinking of reopening it for services.

The Orthodox church has experienced a major resurgence in Russia and has restored or built thousands of churches.

In poorer, rural regions, vandals or petty thieves regularly steal gilded icons or donations from churches and sell them for alcohol or drugs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


For people interested why we chose the name Amichai, or more about the name, here is some background information to the name from HaRav Moshe Amiel (posted on
השם "עמי-חי" כולל שני ביטויים משלימים: עמי - חי ,והוא מבטא מהות לאומית ביחס לעם ישראל.

מהות זו מודגשת באמור בספר הושע פרק ב’ כך: "וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּחוֹל הַיָּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִמַּד וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר וְהָיָה בִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם לֹא עַמִּי אַתֶּם יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם בְּנֵי אֵל חָי", כאשר הביטוי הנלווה "חי" מתייחס לה’ - שהוא מקור החיים. ביטוי זה משפיע באורו על הביטוי "עמי", המקבל מתוך כך את ערכו הגדול בתור "עמי-חי".

הביטוי "חי" כאן מובן במשמעות של קשר, קרבה, חיבור, ומתוך כך חיים, חיבה, ומעלה חשובה.

במובן האישי, יש בשם הזה השלכה רחבה על הפרט להיות קשר ומחובר עם הכלל. הביטוי הלאומי כאן הוא בעל תכונה הזוכה להדגשה, המשפיעה על תכונות הפרט במובנים הנ"ל של התקשרות, חברתיות, חביבות וחיים פעילים, וההשפעה ניכרת גם ביחס של הפרט בעל השם לעניינים רחבים בחברה הקרובה ובעם.

ויקרא שמו בישראל

The Brit was this morning

Our son's name is עמיחי יוסף

Yosef was my grandafter (Apa, my father's father) who survived the war in Budapest and brought his family to New Zealand to start again.
Apa died when I was 7 and I have only snapshot memories of him, but since my trip to Budapest last year, I've found Apa to be a more real presence in my life and I'm very glad to be able to honour and remember him through our son Amichai.

Video of the Brit on my Brother's blog (Thanks David).

(PS - Thanks for sending the photos Miriam)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's a boy!

With thanks and sincere gratitude to Hashem, I'm happy to announce that Debbie gave birth to a healthy baby boy yesterday, אור לו' חשון November 3 at 6:10 pm in Hadassah Ein Karem hospital.

The baby weighed in at a healthy 3.85 kilo.

אי"ה there will be a Shalom Zachor this Shabbat in our home (entrance from 2 Ester Hamalka).

Brit Details

אי"ה the Brit will be on Tuesday, י"ג חשון (Tue, 11 November) in Beit Knesset HaSfaradi in Chasmonaim.
Shacharit at 7:45 (brit will be about 8:30)

The Beit Knesset is next to the Traffic Circle as you enter Chashmonaim.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Is Effi Eitam Reading my blog?


A matter of hours after posting how happy I was the Benny begin is talking about rejoining the Likud, and listing Effi Eitam as part of my dream team, Effi announced that he is considering rejoining the Likud.

In the past I have always voted Mafdal (although often had to hold my nose while doing so), now that the Mafdal looks like it's official disbanding, Likud have a real chance of winning my vote.

Natan Sharansky, if you're reading this - now is the time to pick up the phone for a chat with Bibi.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Debbie is due to give birth any day, which is why I haven't been blogging lately as much as I used to.

Trying to give the kids as much time and attention as I can so they don't feel that they've been neglected in the excitement before (and after) the arrival of Number Five.

Tuesday אי"ה Debbie's mother is arriving which will be a big help, however before then Debbie has a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and it is quite possible that they will decide that the baby is too big and she should head straight for the hospital.

I don't know if I believe in Segulot or not, but normally Peticha is a segula for an easy delivery - well.... on Shabbat i went to the early minyan (not very early, 7:00), and there was a problem with the lock on the Aaron Kodesh - the Gabai'im couldn't get the Aaron open at all and ended up davening Mussaf Before Kriya and then borrowing a Sefer from the Sfardim next door.

If Peticha is a segula for an easy delivery, I hate to think what it means if you can't get the Aaron Kodesh open at all.....

Stay tuned

At Last - Good news for politics in Israel

Today the local Israeli news is finally offering some good news, one of the very few honest politicians in this country is returning to politics and is is set to rejoin the Likud.

In recent years Israelis have had a very poor choice as the leaders of all the major parties have been particularly corrupt or unsavoury individuals.

I have always thought that the Israeli political system (maybe any political system) was designed for the worst type of individuals to rise to the top, and idealist honest individuals get pushed out.

The best examples of honest, ideological politicians in recent years were Natan Sharansky (one of my childhood heroes) and Benny Begin (who is very much like his father, also one of my childhood heroes), both of whom were unable to survive in the Israeli political system.

If the reports are true and Benny is really coming back to the Knesset, with a realistic place on the Likud list, that may well influence my vote (until now I have never voted Likud).
If they manage to bring Natan Sharansky back on board, they may have secured this vote.

My dream Government: Benny as Prime Minister, Natan Sharansky as Foreign Minister, Biby as Finance, and Effi Eitam Minister of Defence - hey, a guy can dream can't he?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More about the Tefillin Scandle

First of all, a big shout-out to all the visitors who got here from Life in Israel or DovBear, welcome to the club, feel free to stop by or leave a comment any time.

Before the Chagim I wrote about the high school student in Modi'in who was not allowed to bring his tefillin to school.

I said that I would follow up on the story, so here are further details as posted by a parent on the Modi'in list (as posted at the time):
1. The city spokeswoman said that a student IS allowed to bring his tefillin to school and use it privately (in a quiet corner of the library or empty classroom). However, a student is not allowed to *recruit* others. If other students want to join together, in a small group, they ARE allowed to do so. The emphasis is on not allowing an individual student to *recruit* others. The spokeswoman told me to also speak with the Education Minhal for further information.

2. I spoke with Tziona, secretary to the head of the Education Minhal. She was not aware of the article, or what had happened at the school. She said that she will check into the matter and provide us with an answer by Sunday.
Disregarding the rights and wrongs of the case, I think that the story points to a bigger problem within the Israeli Educational system. I think that the problem was best expressed by another secular parent on the Modi'in list who supported the school's move to ban Tefillin:
I can see where this "concern" comes from... parents who send their kids to secular schools do so as they do not want any extra religious curriculum or activities for their kids. Even though we respect the religious and what goes on in the religious schools we do no want religious activities to become part of a ritual in the secular school. Another example of this is when parents of kids in a secular school object to class run activities or birthday parties being held on a Friday night or a Saturday - unacceptable if the school is secular. Again this is not out of disrespect but rather a choice some of us made by not sending our kids to a religious school.
I think that there is a fundamental problem with her argument: There are no "Secular" schools in Israel; there are "State" (Mamlachti) schools. These schools cater to students from a wide variety of backgrounds who for one reason or another don't want to send their kids to "religious-state" (Mamlachti-Dati) schools (or private schools).

I think that the problem is that most Israelis don't fit neatly into one of 2 categories: "Dati" or "Chiloni"; a large majority of Israelis find themselves somewhere in the middle often categorized as "Traditional".

Almost all Israelis respect and observe at least some of the Jewish traditions for example have a Mezuah on their door, eat Matzah on Pessach, Make a Brit for their sons etc. Many many Israelis (particularly Sfardim) light Shabbat candles, keep some level of Kashrut, daven on a regular or semi-regular basis, keep Taharat Mishpacha, or accept many other mitzvot, even though they may not define themselves as "Religious/Dati".

Unfortunately when it comes to education, at least in Modi'in they have only two options at High School level: The Bnei Akiva Yeshiva, or State-High School. Neither of these options meet the requirements of these families.

This has two undesired effects:
  • Some kids go to a state high school where they are ridiculed or made to feel uncomfortable for any Jewish practices that they observe. This attitude is unfortunately not only from the students, but as we can see is also from the senior administration.
  • Other kids go to a Yeshiva, yet aren't comfortable with the structure of the yeshiva schedule. The yeshiva in Modi'in is doing the best to accommodate these students by providing different learning programs (long day, short day, shorter day), but the result is that the atmosphere on the yeshiva is more like a high school than a yeshiva, including many kids who don't regularly wear kippot or tzitzit.
What Modi'in needs is a religious high school that is not a yeshiva, possibly even co-ed. Or a school that follows the Tali model . This would help fill the gap for those people who appreciate Jewish tradition, but don't want to be confined to a Yeshiva environment. And most importantly, would help break down the artificial division between "Dati" and "Chiloni".

BTW - I am aware that Yachad is developing a high school program that would partially meet this need, and look forward to seeing that model grow and influence the city and the entire country.

PS - Two further points:
  • When my son heard about the Tefilin story he laughed as he said the exact opposite thing happened in his school. Yehoshua told me that one of the "traditional" kids in his class was being picked up by his older brother from Ironi Bet High School, when the Av Bayit (custodian) saw a kid show up with no Kipa and sporting an earring, he invited the kid into his office where he helped the young man put on Tefillin, possibly for the first time since his Bar Mitzva.

  • This story was similar to a case in Ramat Gan where the school forbade the students from Davening Mincha on school grounds. I believe in that case the official resolution was to allow the kids to leave school during a break to daven at a nearby Beit Knesst, however as there was no escort able to take them, they were in practice not allowed to go. From what I heard, the case almost went to court before the judge recommended to the principal that she should back down, as the judge was worried that he would be forced to make a precedent that the "secular" schools would not be happy with.