Sunday, September 28, 2008

Shana Tova

It's late, I just got home from the marathon Erev Rosh HaShana Slichot. There are many things I would like to write about, but just don't have energy right now...

I'd love to write about the wonderful Tiyul Slichot I went on with my son's class last Thursday night

I feel that I need to address the issue of shuls in Modi'in, particularly here in Buchman where we have a grand total of ZERO dedicated shul buildings.

Tshuva - as Ellul draws to a close, I'd love to follow up on my tshuva psot from the beginning of the month.

Politics, there are elections in New Zealand coming up where it looks like they'll elect a Jewish Prime Minister, the US also has elections in a few weeks, not to mention here in Modi'in where we have municipal elections in November, I have opinions on all of the above that I'd love to share,

But as I said, it's late and I have a busy day tomorrow, so I just wanted to wish all my readers and all of Klal Yisrael a Shana Tova, that it should be a year of peace, health, happiness, and achdut for all Am Yisrael and the entire world -
Ohh - and in case you missed it, here's a quick greeting from the US presidential candidates:

Thursday, September 25, 2008


It's almost the end of Shmitta, that means that between now and Rosh HaShana everyone should sign a Pruzbol (or Prozbol) to prevent all debts from being cancelled.

For people in Modi'in, HaRav David Lau made a Pruzbol available on the Modi'in Dati list. Direct link here
You should sign this document in front of a Beit Din consisting of three religious Jews.

If people prefer an English Translation, the Beth Din of America has a Pruzbol complete with instructions and text in both Hebrew and English available here.

For more information and background about Pruzbol, there was an article written by Rabbi Avraham Rosenthal made available on the "Shmitta" Yahoo list. The file is available at the link below, but you may need to sign up to the list to access it (you can sign up for this lest and choose not to receive emails)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What are the odds

"Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action."
~~Ian Fleming

One of the differences between Amalek and Israel is that Amalek is desribed as "אֲשֶׁר קָרְךָ בַּדֶּרֶךְ" - "Happened upon" us, I.e., Amalek is associated with coincidence, happenstance, "It just happened that way"

Israel, on the other hand believed in Providence - nothing is a coincidence, it is all planned by a Planner.


When I first heard about the terrorist attack earlier this week, one of my first questions was "I wonder who neutralized the terrorist" - the previous three attacks in Jerusalem had all been stopped by civilians (while security forces either got in the way or stood by and did nothing) - would this pattern be continued this time?

I was then curious to find out more about this hero, did he match the profile of the other heroes who were all young men from the Religious Zionist camp? Well not only did he match that profile, but it turns out that he had a direct relationship to the heroes of the past attacks.

Well The Muqata did the homework, and look at this relationship between the latest group of heroes to emerge from the ranks of the religious Zionist camp -

  • David Shapira was a passer-by who, along with Yitzhak Dadon, shot the terrorist in the Merkaz HaRav massacre in Jerusalem on the night of March 6.

  • Moshe Plesser, the passer-by who shot the first bulldozer terrorist in Jerusalem on July 2, is David Shapira's brother-in-law.

  • Yakki Asa-el, the passer-by who shot the second bulldozer terrorist in Jerusalem on July 22, was Moshe Plesser's yeshiva high school teacher.

  • And today, we find out that Elad Amar, who shot the terrorist in the attack last night, served in the Paratrooper unit commanded by David Shapira.
(see: )

What are the odds that these people would all be connected, I'm not a statistician, and it could be that the odds are quite high, given that a disproportionate number of people in Jerusalem who carry guns are from the Religious Zionist camp, and almost all people in the Israeli Religious Zionist camp are connected by 1-2 levels of separation, however these connections seem quite close and on the surface it looks improbable.

Maybe G-d does play dice after all...


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When they Beat their Plowshares into Swords

Earlier tonight, at 11:00 pm, as many Israelis were coming home from or heading to Slichot, a Palestinian took a private vehicle and rammed it into a group of pedestrians in Yerushalayim with the intention to kill and hurt as many people as possible.

According to initial reports, no one was killed, although about 15 people were injured.
May HaShem guard and protect the injured and grant them a full and speedy recovery.

According to initial reports, the driver was neutralized by armned civilians in the area.

This is the third attack in recent months by Palestinians using vehicles. In each case it seems like the attacker was neutralized by civilians, not by the many many police security forces that are employed to guard the streets of our Holy City.

Again the chief of police was quoted as saying that there is little or nothing that they can do to prevent such attacks.

Well guess what, if the only way that these attacks can be stopped is by relying on civilians, while the police say that there is nothing that we can do, why do we even have police in this country?

It is time for the police and army in this country to return their job, to protect the citizens of Israel - no excuses.
For years security "experts" said that there was nothing they could do to prevent suicide bombers. It turns out that all the needed was the will to do it, and in one operation, Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, the entire suicide-bombing infusdtructure was broken up, and almost all all suicide bombings were stopped.

I don't want to hear excuses from the security forces or the dysfunctional government that control them. I want a statement loud and clear that Israel does NOT accept this type of behavior, ramming vehicles into predestrians is NOT a legitimate form of protest, and the army/police has a definitive plan to put an end to it - and if any Palestinians are planning similar attacks, they should know that Israel Intelligence already has their name and number.

I'm sorry if the tone of this post is angry, the attack happened just over an hour ago and I am still upset - lucky that I have a blog for therapy.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Slichot in Modiin

As a "public service", I'm posting some of the times of Ashkenaz Slichot in Modi'in.

As far as I know, all of these minyanim are כמינהג פולין

If you have any corrections or additions, please leave a comment.

  • Pergolla on Shlomtzion Hamalka: Ma'ariv 10:15 followed by Slichot
  • Parking Lot in Mashav Project (corner of Shivtei Yisrael and Ester Hamalka): Slichot at 10:30 pm
  • Lev Achim (Yeshiva on Reuven Street): Ma'ariv 10:30 followed by slichot
  • Buchman Ashkenaz ("BKA"): Ma'ariv 10:30 followed by slichot
  • Odaya- Z'chor l'Avraham (Cnr Nahar Hayarden and Nahal Zohar): Ma'ariv 10:15 followed by Slichot at 10:30 ( monday -thurs)
  • Merkaz Modi'in ("The Bunker", corner of Nachal Tzin and Nachal Faran): Ma'ariv 10:30 followed by slichot at 10:40
  • Tzerei Modi'in (in Dorot School on Emek HaChula): Ma'ariv 10:45 followed by Slichot at 11:00 pm

  • Home of Walles family (56 Miriam Chashmonait): Slichot at 8:00 followed by shacharit at 8.15am
  • Lev Achim (Yeshiva on Reuven Street): Slichot at 5:25 and 6:00, both followed by Shacharit
  • Odaya- Z'chor l'Avraham (Cnr Nahar Hayarden and Nahal Zohar): Slichot ( Monday - Thurs) 6:00, followed by Shacharit at 6:25
  • Merkaz Modi'in ("The Bunker", corner of Nachal Tzin and Nachal Faran): Slichot at 5:30, followed by Shacharit at 5:50, and Slichot at 6:45 followed by Shacharit at 7:20

כי בא מועד- Ki Va Mo'ed


Just in time for slichot - here's a rendition of Rav Shlomo's "Ki Va Moed" as you've never heard it before.

If you aren't familiar with the words, hey are found in 'זכר רחמיך ה which is said at the end of Slichot each day (before Shema Koleinu)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I found it - song for the chuppah

Last week I posted some songs that I thought might help my sister find suitable music for her wedding next Shvat.

There was one song that I had in mind, but couldn't remember who sang it or what it was called. Well, with sone help from GalPaz in Ramat beit Shemesh I found the song that I was thinking of - it is להינשא הלילה by Yani Ben Mashiach on his disk For You Dear God.

If you want to download it in MP3, I found a link here.

You can listen to the song on YouTube. My apologies that some of the images are not exactly what I would have chosen to show a traditional wedding....

Here are the lyrics and my rough translation:

Lhinasei Halila - To marry tonight
(Tune: Yaniv Ben Mashiach, Lyrics: Rami Lev)

The stars above are shining
And the Gates of Heaven are open
And Prayer is hovering in the air
To marry tonight

They are standing under one chuppah
The veil is like snow and the heart trembles Every moment takes an eternity and every glance/hope Is engraved in the heart of the night

"To me you are betrothed" he says with emotion
And the silence is broken with this heart of joy

And the Angels in Heaven are singing
As two worlds are intertwined
Through a path of happiness they are coming
To marry Tonight

And the cup is broken in the celebration
I never saw such a wonderful evening
"He who makes happy the Chatan and Kala" (from Sheva Brachot)
And betrothes in happiness

Long was the path to this dream
But the heart knows that in this day
That she will be a "Ezer Knegdo" ("Helper opposite him", See Genesis 2:18) From now and for always

"To me you are betrothed" he says with emotion
And the silence is broken with this heart of joy

And the Angels in Heaven are singing
As two worlds are intertwined
Through a path of happiness they are coming
To marry Tonight

להינשא הלילה

כוכבים למעלה זורחים
כוכבים למעלה זורחים
ושערי שמיים פתוחים
ותפילה נישאת באוויר להינשא הלילה

הם עומדים מיתחת חופה אחת
ינומה כשלג ולב נירעד
כול דקה היא נצח
בכול מבט ניחרט בלב הלילה

ולי את מקודשת
הוא אומר ברגש ודימעה נישברת
בליבה של השימחה

מלאכי שמיים שרים
שני עולמות ניקשרים
בדרך אל האטושר באים להינשא הלילה
ומלכאי שמיים שרים שני עולמות ניקשרים
בדרך אל האושר באים להינשא הלילה

והכוס נישברת בהילולה
לא ראיתי לילה כזה נילפא
אירוע משמח חתן כלה ומקדש באושר
ארוכה הדרך אל החלום והלב
יוודע בזה היום שהיא תיהיה
לו עזר כנגדו מכאן ועד לנצח
ולי את מקודשת
הוא אומר ברגש ודימעה נישברת
בליבה של השימחה

מלאכיי שמיים שרים
שני עולמות ניקשרים
בדרך אל האושר באים להינשא הלילה
ומלכאי שמיים שרים שני עולמות נקשרים
בדרך אל הארושר באים להנשא הלילה.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Da'as Torah

Rabbi Maryles on his blog Emes Ve-Emunah often brings up the topic of Da'as Torah, among other Hashkafic issues.

Earlier this week he brought up the topic of on of the "Askanim" who was responsible for the "Slifkin Scandal". Rabbi Maryles describes the scandal as follows:
The Bizayon HaTorah that has resulted from that one event [The Slifkin Scandal] is immeasurable. Gedolim formerly held in high esteem by the vast majority of religious Jews of all stripes have been ridiculed and denigrated way beyond any sense of right and wrong. Many Orthodox Jews have begun questioning their very faith because of it. And some have crossed the line into skepticsm about their faith. Of course some of these people may have been going in that direction anyway. But not all and this certainly spurred the process for those who were.

Well, I can say that I was certainly someone who "questioned my very faith" as a result of that event and other similar events that happened around that time.

It wasn't just the Slifkin case, there were many other rulings that came our around the same time (or in the following year or so) that radically changed the way that I perceived the Leadership of our generation. I'm thinking of the concert bans (which has appeared in the news again), book baning (not only Rabbi Slifkin's but also Rabbi Kamenetsky as well as others), Rulings on conversion, Shmitta, and Gush Katif.

These rulings were not limited to Charedi leadership, but were also heard from leaders in the Zionist community (particularly concerning Gush Katif).

My concern wasn't so much the rulings or proclamations, surely it is the responsibility of our leadership to guide us on critical matters, rather it was the way that these rulings were made and publicized, in several cases destroying people financially and emotionally (not to mention shidduch options for their kids) without even the common decency to discuss the issue with the people involved before hand.

Many people have said that these attitudes aren't really the opinions of the "Gedolim", rather they are being misled or misrepresented by a small group of Askanim. This may be true, but surely it shows either a profound lack of leadership or an widespread lack of respect for their leadership if they cannot control what people attribute to them.

The reason that this whole issue challenged my view of the world is that I am a firm believer that the Massorah that we have has been carried from generation to generation on the shoulders of these leaders, or their predecessors in former generations.
If they are really out of touch with reality, or are being misrepresented to the masses, how can I trust anything in our Messorah.
The only reason that my Tfilln is Black or that I use the siddur that I do is that this is the messorah that was passed to us from former generations. After all, as Rashi says in this week's Parsha:
ובאת אל הכהן אשר יהיה בימים ההם... (דברים כ"ו, ג')
רש"י: "אשר יהיה בימים ההם" - אין לך אלא כהן שבימיך כמו שהוא

We only have the Cohanim (and by extension leaders) of these days, as they are.

The truth is that this "crisis of faith" is one that I'm still not at peace with - I am still confused as to how I should regard Da'as Torah if "Da'as Torah" is regarded as a method to destroy lives without even a simple discussion beforehand.

I find it hard to believe that leaders of former generations would have acted in this manner or allowed themselves to be represented in this way - can anyone imagine Rav Shlomo Zalman, Rav Moshe, or Rav Kook signing any of the proclamations that come out on a seemingly weekly basis.

I really believe that one of the biggest problems facing our generation is a lack of strong leadership that we were privileged to have in former years. This is certainly true on the political front, but tragically also true in the Torah world.

On a more positive note, there are still leaders that are prepared to take a stand on important issues and show that they do have concern for the welfare of the people who look up to them.
One example is the booklet about Tfilla on an airplane that was distributed by El Al which shows concern for the safety of passengers, as well as the Kavod of HaShem.

We also see strong leadership in the Hassidic world. I'm thinking particularly of the Ger Rebbe and how he shows compassion for the welfare of his Hassidim.

A little closer to home, tonight in a Sfardi shul here in Modi'in I saw a letter from the Rabbanut of the city where our chief Sfardi Rabbi, Harav Alchara calls on people to be extremely careful with slichot that they do not disturb their neighbours. Blowing the Shofar loudly during the 13 Midot (as is the custom of Sfardim) is a mitzvah haba'ah b'aveira if it includes Gezel Shaina.

That type of concern for your fellow Jew is what I would expect in leadership.

They say that a generation gets the leadership that it deserves. May HaShem please send us a true leader who can guide us out of this darkness.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Man From Vilna

I feel like sharing a song, for no reason in particular other than sometimes a good cry makes you feel better, and this is certainly a good song to cry to.

The song is The Man From Vilna, from the disk Journeys 4.
Apparently it's based on a true story, lyrics are below.

I met a man last Sunday, who was on his way back home
From a wedding in Chicago, and was traveling alone
He said he came from Vilna, a survivor I could tell
And I helped him with his suitcase, he could not walk very well

A steward gave us coffee as we settled on the plane
And I asked him why he bothers, at his age there'd be no blame
He said "no simcha is a burden, though I miss my dear late wife"
And then he shared with me a story that has changed my view of life:

    "We danced round and round in circles as if the world had done no wrong
    From evening until morning, filling up the shul with song
    Though we had no sifrei Torah to clutch close to our hearts
    In their place we held the future of a past so torn apart

I remember liberation, joy and fear both intertwined
Where to go and what to do, and how to leave the pain behind?
My heart said 'go to vilna', dare I pray yet once again
For the chance to find a loved one, or perhaps a childhood friend?

It took many months to get there, from the late spring to the fall
And as I, many others, close to four hundred in all
And slowly there was healing, darkened souls now mixed with light
When someone proudly cried out, 'simchas Torah is tonight!'

    We danced round and round in circles as if the world had done no wrong
    From evening until morning, filling up the shul with song
    Though we had no sifrei Torah to clutch close to our hearts
    In their place we held the future of a past so torn apart

We ran as one towards the shul, our spirits in a trance
And we tore apart the barricade, in defiance we would dance
But the scene before our eyes shook us to the core
Scraps of siddur, bullet holes, bloodstains on the floor

Turning to the eastern wall, we looked on in despair
There'd be no scrolls to dance with, the holy ark was bare
Then we heard two children crying, a boy and girl whom no one knew
And we realized that no children were among us but those two

    We danced round and round in circles as if the world had done no wrong
    From evening until morning, filling up the shul with song
    Though we had no sifrei Torah to gather in our arms
    In their place we held those children, the Jewish people would live on

    We danced round and round in circles as if the world had done no wrong
    From evening until morning, filling up the shul with song
    Though we had no sifrei Torah to clutch an hold up high
    In their place we held those children, am yisrael chai"

    We danced round and round in circles as if the world had done no wrong
    From evening until morning, filling up the shul with song
    Though we had no sifrei Torah to gather in our arms
    In their place we held those children, the Jewish people would live on

      Am yisrael chai
      The Jewish people would live on

      The Jewish people WILL live on

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It's the End of the World as we know it

My two oldest kids both came home from their respective schools today worried that the world was about to end.
They both had friends who had told them about the Large Hadron Collider which made is maiden experiment today. The both had managed to mangle almost all of the details except for the fact that some people have raised the possibility that the LHC would create a black hole which would destroy the planet. (You'll be grateful to know that if you're reading this, the odds are that the planet wasn't destroyed).

I first heard about the LHC in the book Angels & Demons but didn't really understand the purpose of the world's biggest science experiment then, and having read a bit more over the past few days, still don't really get it.

If you're smarter than me, you may be able to make head or tail of this description from Fox News:

For those PWB readers who must know, the Collider is set up to accelerate protons to energies of 7 trillion electron volts, an amount referred to by one expert as “ … a heck of a lotta’ juice.” After revving up these little proton fellas and shooting them around the track for a while, they all smash together in a big proton pileup. The scientists, most of whom will be wearing 3-D goggles and rubber gloves, will then learn the mysteries of the universe.

Apparently, what the smart guys and gals hope to learn is what exactly happens when the Collider reaches temperatures and energies equal to those just after the Big Bang.
Avital seemed genuinely concerned that the World was about to end, and very interested as to what this whole experiment was about. I tried to explain it as best I could (which wasn't very).
She then asked a very profound question - "Is it true that these scientists are trying to find out how the world started? Don't they know that HaShem created the world?"

This question about the relationship between Torah and science was one that I was not prepared for - even though a few weeks ago during a discussion about dinosaurs, Yehoshua asked whether they lived millions of years ago, were they what caused the Tohu V'Vohu?

I tried to explain to Avital that Scientists weren't denying G-d, rather they were trying to discover HOW he created the world. Berashit describes creation in very general terms. Scientists are trying to fill in the blanks. In fact, this machine that they discovered is hopefully going to lead to what they call the God particle.

I'm not sure whether she followed what I was saying, but personally I've never felt that there is a contradiction between Torah and science. Particularly the Big Bang theory (or at least my limited understanding of it) seems to accept that the world started with a moment of creation - surely a creation implies a Creator (even though their are scientists who are dogmatic and try to deny this).

Anyway if you have an explanation of God and the Big Bang that even my 9 year old daughter could understand, feel free to leave a comment.

Ohh - and for those who are believers in Evolutionism, you may be interested to know that a miraculous image of Darwin appeared on a wall in Dayton.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More About Chabad

A reader got me thinking about why Chabad arouses such emotion in me, yet other groups with questionable or anti-Jewish practices don't generate the same reaction.

Firstly let me say that I have nothing but respect for the tremendous influence that Chabad has had over the world, at least during the lifetime of the Rebbe זצ"ל. No other individual has had such an impact on the entire world from India to Tel Aviv.

Also, there can be no doubt about the Gadlus of the Rebbe himself. When I was in Canada I was often asked to speak at a local minyan that was being established and I would often go to the Shul on Chabad Gate to find a suitable thought in the Sichot of the Rebbe. It took me a while to figure out why some were in Hebrew, others in Yiddish, but once I saw the pattern I found the Rebbe's sichot to be a treasure trove of wonderful ideas.

Possibly it is because of this deep respect for Chabad that I am so saddened by the fact that the movement has been Hijacked by non-Jewish beliefs such as the idea that the Messiah may be of the Dead and not of the living.

In spite of my great admiration for the Chabad movement and the Rebbe זצ"ל himself, I have always had issues with Chabad, separate from the Messianic nonsense.

Firstly I think that Chabad has taken on an enormous responsibility - they are often perceived as the (sometimes only) voice of Torah-true Judaism. In many parts of the world people regard the term "Chabad" as synonymous with "Orthodox Jew". Even here in Modi'in, if someone is looking for a Sofer to check their Mezuzot, they will often be referred to Rav Slonim in the Chabad House, even though there are many qualified sofrim in or around Modi'in (look up "Mezuzot" in Stella's list). Simply said, for many people as soon as they hear "Jewish" "Kosher" "Mezuza" or many other terms, they immediately think "Chabad" - Chabad has one of the most successful marketing and name-brand recognition campaigns ever.

Because Chabad has come to represent "Judaism", I believe that they have a responsibility to represent main-stream Judaism, and not just Chabad Minhagim.

It is well known that there are sheilot as to whether Chabad Tfillin, Mikvaot, or Shchita Knives are Kosher. I have no problem with the fact that they have different De'ot on these halachot. Sfardim, Temanim, Chassidim, Yekkem, Briskers, etc, all have different minhagim, some of which are assur according to other opinions.
My problem is that Chabad seem to be on a mission to convert all other Jews to adopt their Minhagim.

For example, if a chabad community wants to build a mikva according to the Chabad minhag, that is entirely appropriate. However if there is a town with no Kosher Mikva and many non-Chabad people, shouldn't they feel obligated to build a mikva that is kosher according to all de'ot (or at least the Shulchan Aruch), not one that is only kosher according to their minority opinion.

Another more personal example. The Rabbi that taught me for my Bar Mitzva was a Chabadnik, Rabbi Chaim Fishchweicher. He was employed as the Rav of a congregation that had been around for more than 100 years. It was not a Chabad shul, it was an Ashkenaz shul with established minhagim. However when Rabbi Fischweicer taught me to put on Tfillin, he taught me the Chabad way of doing it. He must have known that this was not the minhag of the community, nor was it the minhag of my father or grandfather. It is possible that he did not know any other way of laying tfillin, but if he knew that he was going to a community with established minhagim, how difficult would it have been to find out what the accepted practices are in that community, and to make sure that those are the traditions being passed on to the next generation.

In spite of his Tfilin lessons, I had a very close relationship with Rabbi Fischweicher and his wife Priva. I spent many many Shabbatot in their home, and am grateful for the strong foundation they gave me in Judaism. When learning Chmush Shmot with Rashi I still hear Rabbi Fischweicher's voice and remember those Tuesday afternoons in his office.

Maybe it is becasue of this warm association with Chabad that I am so saddened by their Messianic distortion of Judaism.

Monday, September 8, 2008


Several blogs recently have been talking about a letter published recently by an anonymous Chabadnic that is very critical of the Messianic movement within Chabad.

The letter was published on a Chabad Website ( and has been discussed by several bloggers (see for example Emes Ve-Emuna).

I don't want to get into the details of his letter, a lot of it is history of the Messianic influence in Chabad, he makes a convincing argument against Chabad Messianism, but I'm not in a position to comment on the historical accuracy of his comments.

I've always been in two minds about Chabad, or more accurately, I find the whole messianic issue sickening and a terrible distortion of Judaism. I feel uncomfortable if someone with a "Yechi" kippa walks into shul, and even more uncomfortable if the person is needed for a minyan or even asked to Daven.

However within Chabad there seems to be different opinions. When I was on shlichut in Canada, I often davened on weekdays at the Israeli Chabad Centre downstairs in the Chabad-Gate building. Rabbi Landau (The son of the Bnei Brak Rabbi Landau) who ran that minyan was (as far as I could tell) against the whole Messianic approach.

On the other extreme, next to my in-laws is a small Russian Chabad Centre which is very openly messianic. On occasion I have davened there on weekdays, but every time I walk out feeling physically sick by the comments, signs, and literature in that shul. I once asked a Sheila whether it was mutar to daven in a place like that. The answer that I got was given that most kosher meat comes from Hassidic Shochitim, many with problematic beliefs (whether Chabad or otherwise), so unless I am prepared to give up meat it would be hypocritical to boycott a Chabad shul - provided that they are not violating Halacha (e.g., deifying the Rebbe, as this guy has).

I wanted to touch on a bigger problem with the Chabad Messianic movement. Dr Burger in his book points out that rejection of the belief that the Messiah would die and be resurrected was one of the key differences between Judaism and Christianity. If an organization that claims to be an Orthodox Jewish movement has adopted what was formerly thought of as a Christian belief, this will hurt us in our battle against missionaries.

Sure enough, today I cam across a booklet written by a Russian Christian Missionary where he advises his fellow missionaries to use Chabad philosphy as a starting point for a discussion about "Oto Ha"ish".
You can download the whole pamphlet in doc format here, but I think that his attitude can be summarized in his closing paragraphs:

I believe this is very important for our evangelistic witness to the Russian Jewish community at large around the world. Nearly all Russian Jews have heard of Schneerson – the pervasiveness of Lubavitch literature and activity makes that very hard to escape. Though there are some exceptions, it is my observation over the last 25 years that relatively few Russian Jews have responded to the Lubavitch message. Nevertheless, these developments within the movement provide an excellent backdrop against which to present the claims of the Gospel.

Taken together, these are amazing developments within the Orthodox Jewish world. They provide us with tremendous opportunities in seeking to reach these communities with the Good News of the one and only True Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

Let us hope that very soon Chabad will publicly distance itself from the Messianic beliefs before we give additional strength to those who would pull us away from the faith of our fathers.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Kamtz and Bar Kamtza - Gittin 56

In Daf Yomi we just covered one of the most famous stories in the Gmara - kamtza and Bar Kamtza.

I'm sure that all my readers are familiar with the story, in case you're not, feel free to look it up on Wikipedia or on the OU's website.

A number of years ago I remember hearing an interesting take on the story. The G'mara starts off by saying that "It was because of 'Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza' that Yerushalayim was destroyed" - it is easy to see how Bar Kamtza was responsible for the destruction of Yerushalayim, but how was Kamtz responsible? He wasn't even there.

The Maharal asks this question, and you're welcome to look at his answer, however I heard a different approach from Rav natan Segal (I don't remember if he quoted this approach in the name of someone else).

Kamtza was not at the party to begin with - that is why the host of the party had to send someone to call him. The unasked question is WHERE was Kamtza - why wasn't he at his close friend's party? We don't know why the party was being held, but presumably he was celebrating an event such as a Brit or a Wedding - how could Kamtza have a close friend celebrating an important event and not take the time to even show up?

That is the antithesis of ואהבתה לרעך כמוך that you don't take an interest of care about your own friends. This lack of true friendship on behalf of Kamtza may seem trivial, but it started a series of events that lead to the destruction of Yerushalayim.

Now that Elul is upon us, lets all start worrying about each other a little more, and maybe we can start a series of events that will see Yerushalayim returned to her former glory.

Shvua Tov

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Kol Chatan V'Kol Simcha - Jewish Wedding Music

I just got off the phone from a lovely chat with my sister who lives in London, but אי"ה is getting married in February in New Zealand (a Summer wedding).

Among other things we talked about the fact that it looks like she'll be getting married under the same chuppah that our parents married under more than 40 years ago. She'll also be using our mother's veil.

We also talked about music for the wedding. She's trying to find great dance music as well as a nice song to which she can walk to the chuppah (of course she is looking for disks, not to fly performers out to New Zealand).

Well, below are a few suggestions, if anyone else has any ideas or recommendations, please fee free to leave a comment.

Arutz 7 has a Jukebox at:
If you click on the "Chassidic" link, there are dozens of collections of chassidic songs.

For the Chuppah, "Shalom Alechem" from this mix is very nice:
(Shalom Alechem is Song 8 at 34:45 on this mix)

There are also nice wedding mixes here and here, and a Tu B'Av mix here (although the first few songs on that mix aren't so great)

For the dancing, I suggested that she definitly look for Yehuda Glantz.
You can see him doing a wedding on YouTube here or you can hear extracts from all of his albums at MostlyMusic or at Nachum (You can also hear his songs here and here.)

One of my favorite singers right now is Lipa Schmeltzer, I even blogged about him a while ago, you can also find samples of his music at Mostly Music.

And of course don't forget the Piamenta. (Band's home page is here).

And Arutz 7 has a dance mix.

So - any other suggestions for music for a Jewish Wedding?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Elul is upon us and collectively the Observant community is getting into Tshuva Mode.

Beyond BT poses an interesting question which I think applies to many people who are Ba'al Tshuva, or have moved in the level of observance over a period of years:

When I first became a BT, Teshuva was so easy. Over the course of 2 years, I was keeping Shabbos, Kosher, Davening regularly and performing all the seasonal mitzvos.

After 8 years it has become a lot harder to do Teshuva, even at this time of year. When I look over the last year, the changes are much smaller and were much more difficult to make.

Have other people experienced this change in Teshuva?

Are there a different set of tactics and goals at this later stage?

Is there anything special about the Teshuva of a BT at this point or am I now fighting the same battles that a FFB faces?

“Former Teshuva Master”

I think in a nutshell the problem is that the focus of one's tshuva must change, and the new focus is often more difficult.

Many people going through a transition towards more observance have a list of things that they know deep down they should be doing but aren't yet. This list may even be subconscious, but come Rosh Hashana time it's relatively easy to find the item on the top of the list and commit oneself. If last year I didn't daven, than this year I'll start davening. If I'm already davening, maybe I'll increase the Tfilllot I say each day, or attend minyan each day, or be more careful with kashrut, or Brachot, or some other easy-to-identify Halachic obligation.

This type of Tshuva is relatively easy, and it's a wonderful feeling to look back over the past year and say "two years ago I ate traif, last year I stopped eating non-kosher meat, this year I'll be 100% kosher".

The proble is that eventually you find that you're living a complete halachic lifestyle - there is nothing quick and easy on the top of the list. Sure you could improve your kavana during davenng or cut down on Bitul Zman or Lashon Harah, but these things are hard to quantify, they aren't the sort of thing that you can put a check mark next to on your list. I think that this is one of the reasons that suddenly a “Former Teshuva Master” can find it very difficult to have a meaningful Elul.

To make matters even more difficult, this question is seldom addressed directly. In Yeshiva whenever there was a talk on Tshuva they always used a simple example like "lets say someone wants a cheeseburger and stops himself, that's tshuva" - the problem is that most tshuva is not so easy to qualify, and besides I've never had a cheeseburger in my life, and don't have a particular ta'ava for one, so the metaphor really doesn't talk to me.

Anyway, the article from Beyond BT got me thinking, and I tried to put together a list of things that I really can work on. I probably wont achieve all of these improvements this Elul, it is possible that I wont achieve any of them, but at least if I have a list it'll be a place to start on this year's tshuva adventure.

These items are just off the top of my head, if you have suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. Bli Neder over the next 40 days (until Yom Kippur) I'll review this list, maybe modify it, maybe just think about it, but hopefully this will help give me some direction to move in during Elul, and maybe - just maybe, after Yom Kippur I'll have at least one measurable improvement in my life.
  • I'll make a conscious effort to appreciate my wife more, especially her non-stop effort to keep the household running smoothly. I'll identify additional ways that I can help around the house and show additional support for my wife both physically and emotionally.
  • I'll make a conscious effort to spend more time with each of my kids. They all need time with their father on a daily basis and I'll try to make sure that spending time with them is part of my daily or weekly routine. This could include learning Gemara with my oldest, or practicing reading with the girls (each at their own level), or maybe riding a bike or playing a board game with them - each of them.
  • I'll work on anger, especially with my kids. It is very easy to loose patience with your own kids, but I'll try to never raise my voice to them and to treat them at least as well as I would the kids of a neighbor (I can't imagine myself yelling at someone else's kids).
  • I'll try to use all my time as constructively as possible. When I'm working I should be 100% at work, when I'm with the kids I should be 100% with the kids, when I'm in a shiur I should be 100% at the shiur.
  • I'll slow down with my Brachot, especially Birkat Hamazon. Does mumbling and skipping words in Birkat Hamazon really show my appreciation for the food that I just ate? Is it really so difficult to make sure that I say ALL of the words?
  • I'll try to start off my day by being ON TIME for shul - how difficult should it be to get to shul a few minutes before it starts to put on Tfillin, recite Korbanot, and maybe even look at Parsha Shavua?
Well, I think that's a pretty good start, IY"H over the next few days I'll see how I can further refine this list.

Please feel free to leave comments.

Monday, September 1, 2008

וכתבתם על מזוזת ביתך ובשעריך

On Which Side you you Place the Mezuza on your Back Yard?

One of the interesting privileges of living in Eretz Yisrael is that unlike Chutz L'Aretz the obligation to attach a Mezuza applies from the first day that you move into a house. So last summer when we moved into our own home, before going to bed the first night we made sure that there was a Mezuza on every door.

I had a few questions about some of the doorways - did our storage room need a mezuza? What about the archway before the house which sort of had a lintel, but not really. Fortunately a few days before we moved in, I saw Rabbi Lau walking past and he agreed to step in for a few minutes to answer my Mezuza questions.

One of the doorways that I didn't ask about was the door from the back yard leading into the house - to me it seemed obvious that the house had two entrances, front and back, and each entrance would require a mezuza on the right side when entering the house - well at least to me it seemed obvious....

My brother was here the other day, together with an old school friend who was visting Israel, and the both asked why I had put the mezuza on the left (leading into the yard) - I pointed out that this was the right (leading into the house), but my brother pointed out that there was no way to access the yard except through the house, therefore the doorway was primarily entering the yard and the mezuza should be on the other side - or at least I should ask a question.

Well, tonight on my way to the Daf I passed Rabbi Weitzman and asked him, turns out things aren't as simple as they seem. He said it was a Machloket: Rav Moshe (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De'ah 1:17) says that the Mezuza should be on the right side as you enter the house, Rav Shlomo Zalman and the Chazon Ish (Yoreh De'ah 168:7) say that it should be on the right as you enter the yard.

With that background, I thought that I should look deeper into the question, and found that the Achronim seem to be split down the middle on this issue. She'arim Metzuyanim Ba'Halacha (11:3) discusses this isse, here is a rough translation:
On Which side should you place a Mezuza?

The Taz writes (289:104):
If a courtyard is closed from all sides, and there is doorway from the house to the courtyard, we consider this an entrance from the house to the courtyard and should affix the mezuza on the right as you enter the courtyard.

The Beit Meir (289) disagrees with this opinion:
Since by the letter of t
he Law a courtyard is exempt from a mezuza altogether, because it is not roofed, so the obligation of the courtyard is only from the strength of the house.

The Daat Kedoshim (289:109):
At first he disagrees with the opinion of the Beit Meir, but later he accepts his words with hesitation.

Also the Lechem Hapanim is doubtful, and disagrees with those saying that you should place it on the right of the entrance to the house.

The Minchat Patim (289) rules like the Taz.

All of these disagreements also apply to a balcony or railing or exit before the house.