Friday, December 30, 2011

The Dateline and Halacha

One of the most famous Halachic questions to come out of New Zealand (and Japan) is the question of where the Halachic dateline is.

Briefly the question is where the dateline should be. The International Dateline marked on maps is loosely based on 180 degrees from Greenwich. Given that Halacha doesn’t (necessarily) recognize Greenwich as the center of the Earth, there doesn’t seem to be reason for Halacha to accept the arbitrary dateline in common usage today.

There are various Halachic opinions as to where the halachic dateline should be, most famously the Chazon Ish who moves the dateline West of its current location, making Shabbat on Sunday in New Zealand and Japan. Rav Tucazinsky moves the dateline East, which would make Shabbat on a Friday in Hawaii. (For further background to the issue, see this article by the Star K.)

A lot of people have trouble understanding the question, because they think of the dateline as something that is fixed and universally accepted. How can there be a question whether a day is Friday or Saturday. To put the question in perspective, you should realize that historically there have been many changes to the dateline, and in fact there will be another adjustment this week.

The South Pacific Islands of Samoa and Tokelau have decided that they should be on the Western Side of the Dateline to make their time zone more similar to their closest neighbours and major trading partners, New Zealand and Australia.

This means that on these Islands, Thursday December 29 was followed by Saturday December 31.

As far as I am aware, there are no Jewish Communities on these Islands, but the Jewish Virtual Library estimates 100 Jews in Oceania outside New Zealand and Australia. If any of these Jews are in Samoa or Tokelau, they would be faced with an enormous Halachic issue.

Assuming that until now any Jews in Samoa followed the opinion of the Tucazinsky, and kept Shabbat on Saturday, seven days after last Shabbat will be Sunday January 1st, which according to Tucazinsky should be Shabbat.

It would be difficult to justify keeping Shabbat on Saturday one week, and then keeping the following Saturday which is only six days later, based on an arbitrary decision of the government to modify their time zone.

If anyone has a Halachic solution for the Jews of Samoa and Tokelau, feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, December 12, 2011

OK - Here's my favourite Christmas Song

Simply Jews just asked "What Is Your Favourite Christmas Song?" and responded with a really funny "They ain't making Jews like Jesus any more" (click on the link above, you won't regret it).

However, I prefer a more traditional Christmas Song, like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - in the Moma Loshon (Yiddish):

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shana Tova to all

Shana Tova to all my readers,

May the comming year be a year of health, happiness, Yirat Shamayim, and Peace for all klal Yisrael and the entire world.

See ya'll in 5772

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ethics Question of the Day

The following question was posted today in the Ethics Column of the New York Times:

My husband and son took a New York-to-Milwaukee flight that was supposed to leave Friday at 11:29 a.m. The flight boarded after 4 and didn’t leave the gate until 4:40, and a half-hour later the pilot announced it would be another hour until takeoff. At that point a devout Jewish family, worried about violating the Sabbath, asked to get off. Going back to the gate cost the plane its place in line for takeoff, and the flight was eventually canceled. Was the airline right to grant that request? M. W.,NORWALK, CONN.

Before looking at the response from the NY Time’s resident Ethicist, consider some of the following points:

  • Is it reasonable for an Orthodox Jew to book a ticket on a short flight leaving late Friday morning in the Summer (the flight took place in August).
  • If there is a 4 hour delay before boarding, is it reasonable for a passenger to refuse to board and demand that their luggage be removed from the plane, which could would cause further delays to other passengers.
  • If you end up on a plane close to Shabbat, is it reasonable to ask the crew if you can get off. If so, If the crew is unable to accommodate your request, how much of a “fuss should you make?
  • What are the Halachic implications of being stuck on a plane when Shabbat comes in? Could you deplane? If there is a hotel in the airport terminal, or within walking distance, could you check into it? What about issues of Tchum Shabbat, could you leave the terminal on Shabbat?

Now, go and take a look at the answer in the NY Times, take a look at the comments, and draw your own conclusions.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Taranto Does it Again

One of my favourite columnists is James Taranto who writes the conservative-leaning humorous “Best of the Web Today”, published by the Wall Street Journal.

Below is his take on the Palestinian Statehood bid, I couldn’t have said it better.


You Do Have to Live Like a Refugee
How seriously should one take the Palestinian Authority's request for the U.N. to grant statehood without peace with Israel? Not very, we'd say, especially after reading this piece in the Daily Star of Beirut, Lebanon:

Palestinian refugees will not become citizens of a new Palestinian state, according to Palestine's ambassador to Lebanon.
From behind a desk topped by a miniature model of Palestine's hoped-for blue United Nations chair, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah spoke to The Daily Star Wednesday about Palestine's upcoming bid for U.N. statehood.
The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. "They are Palestinians, that's their identity," he says. "But . . . they are not automatically citizens."
This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that "even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens."

In other words, the statehood drive is a fraud. Its purpose is not to resolve the conflict but to keep it alive. Why does America continue giving money to these hucksters?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Do You Support Peace in the Middle East.

A few weeks after I wrote to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign affairs about the Durban III conference, New Zealand decided to boycott the conference.

In the coming days it looks like the Palestinians are going to go ahead with the bid for statehood at the UN.  A while ago I blogged about my thoughts on a Palestinian State. My opinion hasn’t changed, although if i get a chance I may follow up with additional thoughts.

In the mean time, here is a letter that I just sent to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign affairs:

Subject: Palestinian Statehood Bid


Hon Murray McCully

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Minister,

As the minister is aware, the Palestinian Authority has threatened to renege on its obligations under the Oslo Accords and attempt to bypass peace negotiations with Israel by asking the United Nations General assembly to recognize an independent Palestinian State.

A growing number of Western Democracies including Australia, Canada, and the United States have publically opposed this move in the firm belief that the only way to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians is through direct negotiations, not unilateral actions.

Recent history has shown us that when one side takes unilateral actions or refuses to negotiate, the result has been an increase in violence. This was the case in 2001 when Yasser Arafat cut off negotiations with Israeli Prime Minister Barak which was followed by a violent wave of terrorism that lasted years and costs thousands of lives. Similarly, when Israel unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip without a negotiated agreement, the result was an influx of thousands of missiles fired at Israeli towns bordering the Gaza Strip.

As a New Zealander currently living in Israel, I sincerely hope that New Zealand will join Australia and other democracies and take a stand for negotiated peace and oppose the resolution on Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.

We all dream and pray for the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live side-by-side in peace, however if the Western Democracies are unable to stand up against one-sided actions that jeopardize any chance of negotiations, I fear that the dream of Palestinians and Israelis living peacefully together will remain a distant dream.

Yours sincerely,


Michael Sedley
Modi’in, Israel

Friday, September 16, 2011

Parshat Ki Tavo - Who Knows Eleven

The weeks Parsha, Ki Tavo includes the ceremony of Blessing and Curses that took place on Har Eival and Har Grazim. Six tribes went up Har Grizim (the Mountain of blessings), the other six went up Har Eival (the Mountain of curses) and parts of the tribe of levy stood in the middle reciting blessings in one direction and curses in the other and after each blessing or curse the nation replied Amen (one of the few uses of the word “Amen” in the Torah)

The list of curses seems to be a strange collection of prohibitions, not to create an idol, not to move a property marker, not to curse your parents, various sexual sins,

Many Rishonim point out that the connection between these prohibitions is that they are all done in private, hidden (בסתר).

Kli Yakar points out that the language of the blessings is active but the curses are written in the passive voice:

11. And Moses commanded the people on that day, saying,  

יא. וַיְצַו מֹשֶׁה אֶת הָעָם בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא לֵאמֹר:

12. When you cross the Jordan, the following shall stand upon Mount Gerizim to bless the people: Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin.  

יב. אֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת הָעָם עַל הַר גְּרִזִים בְּעָבְרְכֶם אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן שִׁמְעוֹן וְלֵוִי וִיהוּדָה וְיִשָּׂשכָר וְיוֹסֵף וּבִנְיָמִן:

13. And the following shall stand upon Mount Ebal for the curse: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naftali.  

יג. וְאֵלֶּה יַעַמְדוּ עַל הַקְּלָלָה בְּהַר עֵיבָל רְאוּבֵן גָּד וְאָשֵׁר וּזְבוּלֻן דָּן וְנַפְתָּלִי:

Kli Yakar says that this passiveness gives the impression that G-d isn’t there; that these curses happen by themselves. When we commit sins in private, HaShem hides himself, a state known has הסתר פנים it is this hiddenness of G-d’s Presence that gives the appearance of curses or evil in the world.

The Kli Yakar also notes that there are 11 curses (other meforshim count 12, but the Kli Yakar doesn’t count the last general statement).

Eleven is an unusual number in Judaism. Twelve we know represents the complete nation, the 12 tribes.

Thirteen can represent the Attributes of G-d or the 12 tribes with the addition of Levy. This is actually 2 manifestations of the same idea; when we add Levy to the nation, Levy who “escorted” (מלווה) the mishkan or the Divine Presence (physically in the Dessert, or spiritually in later generations when Levy served as teachers), we bring G-d’s Attributes into the nation; we become as one with G-d.

If Thirteen equals the 12 tribes plus the Divine Presence, it makes sense that Eleven is the Twelve tribes, without the Divine Presence. When we commit sins in secret, we are in fact banishing the Divine spark that exists amongst us.

11 are also the stars in Joseph’s dream. It was this dream that lead to the hatred of the brothers against Joseph, which lead to the attempt to kill Joseph and our eventual descent into exile.

I.e., Eleven is not only the exclusion of the Divine Spark through sins in private, it also leads to Sinat Chinam and Exile.

As Rosh Hashana approaches, may we all manage to perfect our actions so that we act the same in private as we do in public, and thus restore the Divine Presence amongst us and bring an end to this Sinat Chinam and bring the Redemption.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Words to Live By

Saw this image in an email today, I’m reposting here with no additional comment (other than to say the Princess Bride was possibly the best movie ever made)


Monday, September 5, 2011

People who live in glass houses

As I from time-to-time need to remind my kids, you should never throw stones. it is dangerous and can even be potential lethal.

Sometimes the “first” intifada is described as “non-violent” as it consisted largely of stone throwing (or stone shooting from a slingshot). Far from being non-violent, this type of attack can cause death or injury, especially if you fire the stone at a car which could cause the driver to loose control of the vehicle.

Well if you’re wondering what the correct response is to assault with a potentially deadly rock, take a look at the following article from the Associate Press.

Boy Throwing Rocks Hit By Crossbow

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- San Diego police say a 16-year-old boy throwing rocks at a sport utility vehicle was struck by a crossbow arrow fired by a passenger.

Police say the shirtless boy and a friend were throwing rocks at a black Toyota RAV4 in the Linda Vista neighborhood Monday afternoon when a passenger fired a crossbow out the window.

The boy was shot in the right side and was taken to a hospital. The San Diego Union-Tribune says his injuries are not life-threatening.

His name wasn't released.

Nobody has been arrested.

Anyone know where you can by a decent crossbow in Israel?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Have you contacted you MP yet

If there are any readers out there who are citizens of countries that are still planning to attend the “Durban III” hate-fest at the UN on September 22, I would strongly recommend that you write to your MP or Foreign Minister and question why your government is attending.

Below is the letter that I just sent to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs. Bli Neder, if I receive a response I’ll post it on this blog.

Countries that have pulled out so far include the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Austria, Israel, Canada, and the United States.

If you are a citizen of a country not in the above list, NOW is the time to write to your government.

Subject: Durban III Conference


Hon Murray McCully
Minister of Foreign Affairs


Dear Minister,

As a New Zealand citizen currently living in Israel, I find it distressing that New Zealand is still part of a shrinking number of Western Democracies that are attending the “Durban III” conference at the United Nations later this month.

As the minister is no doubt aware, the original Durban conference that took place a few days before the September 11 terrorist attacks, was slated to be a conference against Racism and intolerance, but in fact turned out to be an openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate-fest.

That a respected body like the United Nations could allow such a conference to take place shows that anti-Semitism is still an acceptable form of racism in many parts of the world.

That New Zealand has not yet publically distanced itself from the conference is an embarrassment to all New Zealanders who believe in equality and civil rights for all.

I sincerely hope that the New Zealand government will follow the lead of Australia, Canada, the United States and many European nations, boycott the conference, and show the world that New Zealand does not regard anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism to be an acceptable practice.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Sedley


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jerusalem, Palestina

A few blogs (The Muqata and DovBear) have posts on the following wedding invitation which lists the location of the wedding as ירושלם תובב”א פלשתינא (Jerusalem, May it be built speedily, Palestine)

Needless to say, there has not been a “Jerusalem, Palestine” since the end of the British Mandate.


In addition to the location, there are a few strange things about this wedding invitation:

  • The time is 7:00 on a Friday afternoon with the time zone listed as “7.00 לשא”י” or “2:00 אירופית”
    I have no idea what time that is supposed to mean, לשא”י probably stands for “לשעון ארץ ישראל” (Eretz Yisrael time), as opposed to “Zionist Daylight Saving time” It is quite common for people in Mea Sharim to not change their clocks for Daylight Saving time, so it most likely means 6:00 PM Israel time (IDT), but I have no idea what “2.00 European Time” would correspond to; 6 PM IDT is 3 PM GMT, but as far as I can tell, there is no place in Europe that would be 2 PM when it is 6 PM here in Israel.

  • Shabbat comes in this week in Jerusalem at 6:27, so if they do mean 6:00 PM Israel time, that is less than half an hour before Shabbat. If the wedding was 7:00 Israel time, that is a few minutes after Shkiya when it would be forbidden to get married under normal circumstances (I know that there is a Rama where he discusses a wedding that he performed after Shkiya on Erev Shabbat, but that was far from a normal circumstance)

  • The wedding is to be held in the home of the bride’s parents in Mea Sharim. Given the small size of homes in Mea Sharim, I assume that it will be a very small wedding.

  • An erev Shabbat wedding is not as strange as it seems, at one time it was very common to get married on Erev Shabbat, particularly in Jerusalem where people didn’t have money for lavish weddings. This way the 2 families could eat Sudat Shabbat together which would also be the Sudat Mitzva for the wedding.

However what is not mentioned on the invitation is the ages of the Chatan and Kala.

The Kala is the Granddaughter of Moshe Hirsch, the former leader of Neturei Karta (until his death last year), she was apparently 17 when she got engaged last year and is now 18 (or maybe even 19)

What is more worrying is the Chatan who was 15 last year when he got engaged. Below is a video from his Irusin (engagement). He looks like a scared Bar Mitzva kid with a Shtreimel, not a young man ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage.

Video hat tip: Gruting

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Mossad Strikes Again

The New Zealand media (followed by other media outlets and Honest Reporting) is all abuzz about an alleged spy scandal that the Israeli who died in the Christchurch earthquake was a Mossad agent.

Having lived in New Zealand for the first 20 years of my life I can assure you that not much happens there, so a spy scandal makes for great entertainment.

According to the Southland Times (link has since been updates with confirmation that the story is false) that originally broke the story, the story is basically that (from the original article):

Three Israelis were among the 181 people who died when the earthquake destroyed most of Christchurch's central business district on February 22. One was found to be carrying at least five passports.

An unaccredited Israeli search and rescue squad was later confronted by armed New Zealand officers and removed from the sealed-off "red zone" of the central city.

The response of the Israeli government to the three deaths appears extraordinary. In the hours after the 6.3 quake struck:

  • Prime Minister John Key fielded the first of four calls that day from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
  • Israel's Ambassador in the South Pacific, Shemi Tzur, who is based in Australia, booked flights to Christchurch, where he visited the morgue.
  • Israel's civil defence chief left Israel for Christchurch.
  • A complete Israeli urban search and rescue squad was assembled and flown to Christchurch, arriving about the same time as ...
  • Three people who had smashed their way out of a van crushed by a concrete pillar in the central city, leaving a fourth person dead in the vehicle, arrived back in Israel.

Soon after the article was printed, it was debunked by the DimPost, but in case you need it spelling out, there is nothing unusual or suspicions about this story. Nothing, zero, just people acting as you would expect (it must have been another slow news month in New Zealand, for about the 200th month in a row).

The Southland Times that originally broke the story got so many verifiable facts wrong it's surprising that the editors let it print, let alone on the front page. But in case the editors missed the non-news of this item, here are the facts:

  • Turns out that the Israeli was not carrying 5 passports, just one – it is however possible that the 4 people in the car had multiple passports between them – not particularly newsworthy.
  • The Israeli PM called the New Zealand PM because Israelis were hurt and Israel is often the first to offer assistance after a major disaster, just ask the PM of Haiti, Japan, Turkey, or any other country which as suffered a major natural disaster.
  • Shemi Tzur is not “Israel's Ambassador in the South Pacific … based in Australia”, he is Israel's Ambassador to New Zealand based in Wellington. I realize that Wellington is in the North Island, but I would have thought that the fine people of the Southland Times would have heard of it, after all it is their capital city. This is the most glaring error, because it is so obviously wrong and would have been easy to check.
  • The three people who smashed their way out of the vehicle left the country the next day were following directives of both the Israeli and New Zealand Governments who recommended that all travellers who are able to leave as quickly as possible.
    I guess Israelis following government directives are by definition suspicious and were probably Mossad.
  • This Israeli Search and Rescue team were trying to help even though they didn’t have authorization from the NZ Government.
    I guess Israelis going against government directives are by definition suspicious and were probably Mossad.
So basically the entire story was that an Israeli died in the earthquake, his travelling companions followed government directives and returned home to Israel, Bibi Netanyahu called the NZ Prime Minister to offer assistance, and an Israeli search and rescue team arrived without being asked.

Except for the fact that there was no illegal, suspicious, or even unusual activity there is every reason to believe that this was a good spy story.

Like I said, it’s been a slow news decade in New Zealand, almost like last decade.

No true Scotsman (or Yid) …

I just saw one of the most disgusting responses to last week’s tragic murder in Boro Park.

This letter printed on The Yeshiva World, and other places, puts the blame for the murder on Klal Yisrael, in particular our “Goyisha type materialism”. Of course Pizza, Sushi, Large houses, and Tznius are the reasons that this little boy was murdered – not only that, but the “Bedika of Shechita is very lax”. No indication as to how much Pizza or sushi this little chassidic boy ate, how big his house was, or how often he did spot inspections of Shechita knives before purchasing meat.

To make the letter even worse, it claims to have been written by “a handicapped child” without even attempting to mimic the style of a child, let alone a handicapped child.

But what made me laugh was the following paragraph:

A true Yid would never kill a child as this man did, only if he is totally deranged. And even so, a real Yiddishah Neshomah could never be guilty of such cruelty; therefore he died Al Kiddush Hashem. The Goyishkeit in us is what killed him.

Without even trying, the author of the letter paraphrased the “No True Scotsman” Argument:

Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the "Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again." Hamish is shocked and declares that "No Scotsman would do such a thing." The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again and this time finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says, "No true Scotsman would do such a thing."

—Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking

Wikipedia describes this type of argument as an intentional logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion.

Hat Tip: Wolfish Musings

Monday, July 18, 2011

Herman Cain Said What About Islam?

As Americans are getting ready for the 4-yearly power pageant (AKA Presidential Elections), the entire world gets an entertaining several months as Americans put on the ultimate reality show – primaries.

Even though I am not an American and don’t get a vote, I love following US politics and always have candidates that I’m rooting for, much like many Israelis root for various English soccer teams.

One of the GOP candidates who initially impressed me but may have just lost my support is Herman Cain. In the early debates he struck me as about the only rational speaker, however his approach to religious freedom seems to be seriously misguided with reports that he said that communities 'Have the Right' to Ban Mosques.

Cain was quotes as saying:

"Let's go back to the fundamental issue that the people are basically saying that they are objecting to, … They are objecting to the fact that Islam is both religion and (a) set of laws, Shariah law. That's the difference between any one of our other traditional religions where it's just about religious purposes.

I’m not sure what Cain defines as “traditional religions”, but I can think of at least one other established religion widely practiced in the US which defines itself as “both a religion and a set of laws”.

Hint – the religion is widely practiced in Israel, and the set of laws is not called Shariah, rather it’s Halacha.

The US is correctly concerned about Islamic extremism, but if a GOP candidate defines the all aspects of Islam unacceptable to the point that he feels that mosques could be banned anywhere, than as a religious Jew, I am very concerned about the direction the world’s uni-power is headed.

I hope that Cain issues a clarification. In the mean time, I’m headed back to the list of GOP candidates to see if there is anyone else worth rooting for.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Can we use computer analysis to prove that G-d Wrote the Torah?

For many years various outreach organizations, most notably Aish Hatorah have used the “Torah Codes” to “prove” that the Torah must have been written by G-d.

Basically the argument was that using “highspeed computer analysis of the letters of the Torah” they found hidden messages that could not have been put there humanly which proves that the Torah was written by G-d who decided to hide secret messages in the Torah in this manner.

There are many flaws in this argument

  • Similar codes can be found in other text
  • The Torah we have is not letter-for-letter identical to older manuscripts. The Rama on Shulcah Aruch (Orach Chayim 143:4) says explicitly that an extra letter or missing letter does not invalidate a Torah Scroll, as our Torah Scrolls are not so accurate.
  • In spite of what Aish claims at Discovery seminars, the codes have been reviewed by statisticians, and rejected as a statistical anomaly which would prove that there is unique about the patterns of letters in the Torah.

However, the biggest problem with basing belief in the Divine Authorship of the Torah on computer generated statistical analysis is what would happen if there was computer-generated Statistical Analysis that indicates that the Torah was written by multiple authors?

Well, now we’ll find out. NPR has an article on recent statistical and linguistic analysis which indicates that “multiple hands wrote the Bible”.

Unlike the Torah Codes, this analysis has gone through a robust scientific process and was not written by people who had an agenda to prove or disprove anything about the Torah, in fact 3 of the 4 scientists that worked on the project are religious Jews that belive in the Divine Origin of the Torah. The analysis was developed to analyze historical and modern texts, not specifically to analyze the Torah.

I accept as a tenent of our Faith that HaShem revealed Himself on Sinai and gave to Moshe the Torah, however I don’t believe that we need to find secret codes to prove or disprove that article of faith.

I would be interested to see a response from Aish HaTorah or other outreach organizations that taught that you can base or strengthen faith based on computer-generated textual analysis.

Hat Tip: Modern Orthoprax and DovBear

Monday, June 20, 2011

Are you planning to go sailing to Gaza this Summer

In case any of my readers are planning on joining the “Freedom Flotilla” to support the poor people of Gaza who only have a one small border with Egypt through which they can smuggle missiles to fire peacefully at the evil Zionist occupiers who go to kindergartens and schools in the Israeli towns near Gaza – well think again. I just received the following travel advisory from the new Zealand Government.  And when the New Zealand Government issues a travel advisory, you know that things are serious….

Reviewed: 17 June 2011, 16:20 NZDT
Still current at: 21 June 2011

There is extreme risk to your security in the occupied Palestinian territory of Gaza and we advise against all travel due to the threat from kidnapping, acts of terrorism and retaliatory military operations.  The security situation in Gaza remains dangerous and unpredictable despite the ceasefire that has been in place since January 2009 between Hamas and Israel.  Israeli strikes on Gaza have occurred since the ceasefire.  Tensions within Gaza also remain high.  Foreign nationals, including a New Zealander, have been kidnapped in Gaza in the past.

We strongly advise against any attempt to enter Gaza by sea in breach of Israeli navy restrictions or participating in any attempt to break the naval blockade, including participation in flotillas to deliver aid.  In May 2010, an attempt to breach the naval blockade along the coast of Gaza was intercepted by Israeli security forces and resulted in the injury, death, arrest and deportation of a number of foreign nationals.

New Zealanders who decide to travel to Gaza against our advice should ensure that appropriate personal security protection measures are in place at all times.  We strongly recommend you consult a reputable security company (with experience in Gaza) for advice on security arrangements.  Security arrangements should be reviewed on a regular basis.  Such measures may mitigate the risks to your safety but cannot eliminate them entirely.  As there is no New Zealand diplomatic presence in Gaza, the ability of the government to assist New Zealand citizens who get into trouble is severely limited.


Don’t say that you weren’t warned…

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"It's a pity they can't both lose"

Henry Kissinger, when asked about the Iran-Iraq war is quoted as saying “It's a pity they can't both lose". That about sums up my reaction when reading about  demonstration against the “Westboro Baptist church” by none other than the Ku Klux Kan.

I never thought that I’d find myself on the same side of a debate as the KKK, but the Westboro Baptists are truly vile. They are well known for protesting military funerals with hate-filled messages such as “Pray for more dead soldiers” and “God hates your prayers”. These messages are designed to upset and provoke a reaction, and they normally succeed.

JewsKilledJesusNot only are they against civilized debate, show zero respect, and re opposed to US values, they are also openly anti-Semitic. The text on the demonstrator’s TShirt says “” (and no, I haven’t checked out the web site, and wouldn’t link to it).

If anti-Americanism is so closely linked to Anti-Semitism, it is no wonder that America can still be regarded as Israel’s closest friend, and the US people by-and-large support the Jewish State.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My thoughts on a Palestinian State

One of the email lists that I’m active on is the New Zealand Jewish list.

Not surprisingly, after Obama’s speeches over the last few days, there has been discussion on the list about the pros and cons of a Palestinian State and “Defensible Borders”

On of the regulars on the list, who in the past has expressed opinions against a Jewish Sovereign State in a long message included the following comment:

I do not believe that there is an existential threat to  Israel  whether or not the Palestinians recognise Israel or not.

Below is my response:

I have no idea whether there is an “existential threat to Israel”, however if there is a Palestinian State under present circumstances, I think that it a near certainty that there would be missiles on or near my home within a short space of time (probably within a year, certainly within 5 years).

I live in Modi’in, which is regarded by much of the Palestinian leadership as “Occupied Territory” as, like Tel Aviv, it has been occupied by Israel since 1948. I cannot conceive of the possibility of a Palestinian State that would not necessitate me preparing my bomb shelter for use.

If the Palestinians were ready to live in peace alongside Israel, and accept the existence of a Jewish State next to their borders, and would be prepared to accept Jewish Residents in their state, it wouldn’t matter where the border was any more than the Americans and Canadians are bothered by the exact location of their border – people are free to cross the US-Canada border relatively easily and there is no risk of life crossing from Windsor to Detroit, or from Niagara NY to Niagara Ontario.

On the other hand, in the present circumstances when it is extremely dangerous for Jews to enter any areas under Palestinian control and Palestinians regularly fire missiles from their territory to Israeli towns and cities, I don’t think that there are any safe borders that would allow Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist.

What would it take for me to support a Palestinian State? A show of willingness to co-exist from the Palestinians; they need to say clearly in English and Arabic that they respect the right of Jews to live in Israel, and would be happy to accept and protect a Jewish minority in their state (The way that Israel accepts and protects an Arab minority within its borders).

They need to educate their children to live in peace and have their mosques and media preach co-existence, the way that co-existence is taught in Israeli schools.

They need to crack down on ALL attacks against Israel, and live up to their obligations to provide safe access for Jews to visit sites within Palestinian security control.

As soon as Jews can freely visit Joseph’s Tomb in Shchem, or the markets in Janin, or set up joint-ventures with firms in Ramallah, the way that Arabs can safely walk around in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Modi’in, then I would support the existence of a Palestinian State; in the meantime, I want to make sure that I don’t have to teach my children how to run to a bomb shelter within 15 seconds (would actually be less than 15 second warning if Modi’in came under attack).

Happy (Belated) Lag B’Omer

I love a well written cartoon, and I think that the best cartoon is when you would not have anticipated the ending. There is a style of humour known as the “brick joke” where the ending shows up where you’d least expect it. (See for example the Garfield cartoon where he kicks Odie into next week)

Well full marks to Dry Bones – Last March he ran the following cartoon to make “Israel Apartheid Week”


Cartoon, was OK – but at the time I thought that he’s done much better in the past.

Until yesterday, with the following Lag B’Omer cartoon.


Sheer Brilliance.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Orthoprax Jew on Yom Hashoah

Over recent weeks, many blogs have been talking about the recent Ami article about a practicing Jew who keeps Torah and Mitzvot, yet doesn’t believe in HaShem.

It is impossible to know details about the story, to understand exactly what this person does or does not believe, and how it effects his performance of Mitzvot; however I found the story inspiring – that Torah and Mitzvot have meaning and purpose, even without belief.

But I wanted to share a different story about a different Jew who possibly could be defined as Orthoprax.

Three years ago I was privileged to visit Budapest with my father who was born there in 1934, and lived there until the age 13 in 1948.

We were walking back from shacharit down a wide street not far from the shul. The street was busy with street cars and traffic and had a large supermarket with large signs in the window advertising various kosher products. At the end of the street was a sign saying that this had once been the edge of the Jewish Ghetto; in 1945 the ghetto housed the remaining Jews of Budapest, including my father who shared a tiny room with his younger brother and grandfather – his parents had both been taken away

When we passed a small doorway my father stopped and told me that in 1945 he was walking down this street with his grandfather, when suddenly a plane appeared overhead, strafing the street with machine gun fire. My father and his grandfather managed to duck into the doorway and weren’t physically hurt but were very shaken.

In that small doorway, my great-grandfather looked at my father and said one phrase: “There is no G-d”. I’m not sure whether this caused my Great-grandfather to abandon belief, possibly he had already given up belief years earlier, or possibly he still believed in spite of everything.

In any case, it didn’t matter – the following morning my great grandfather woke up in the tiny room that he shared with his two grandsons, and did the same thing that he had done every morning since his Bar Mitzvah, he put on his Tfillin and prayed to the G-d in whose very existence he had questioned.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Song for Yom Hashoah

In honour of Yom HaShoah tonight, here is Yaakov Shwekey’s “Shema”.

The song retells the legend of HaRav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman. After the Churban in Europe, Rav Kahaneman travelled throughout Europe trying to find Jewish orphans and bring them to Eretz Yisrael.

Legend has it that Rav Kaheneman heard rumours that a Jewish child was hidden in a convent orphanage, however the people who ran the orphanage denied that there were any Jewish children there, and invited the Rabbi in to see for himself that none of the children were Jewish.

When confronted with a room full of orphans the Rabbi stood up and loudly cried out Shema Yisrael. Sure enough, a small child started crying “Mama! Tate!”. And so Rav Kaheneman was able to leave with the child he came looking for.


He raised his hand to wave goodbye
Saw the pain in mother's eyes
Who left her little precious boy of four
In a citadel of ashen stone
That preached a faith unlike his own
Perhaps he may just yet survive this war
In the shadows stood a man in black
My child he said, you must not look back
Yet one image lingered, the tears on her face
And mother's words from their last embrace

Shema, Shema Yisrael
Know that there is but one G-d above
When you feel pain, when you rejoice
Know how He longs to hear your voice
Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad

Deep within the iron gate
Far from the stench of war and hate
He knew not of a world gone insane
You must believe us, he was told
Our faith alone can save your soul
Please let us heal your wounds and ease your pain
He tried not to forget his past, his home
But he was so very young and all alone
While visions of his shtetl, so vivid and clear
Began to fade, and all but disappeared

Shema, Shema Yisrael
Know that there is but one G-d above
When you fel pain, when you rejoice
Know how He longs to hear you voice
Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad

The winds of war had finally passed
One man took on a sacred task
To bring the scattered Jewish children home
He travelled far, from place to place
A quest to reignite the faith
Of those sent into hiding long ago
He entered the fortress grey and cold
Your kind is not among us, he was told
Hashem above, he whispered, please don't let me fail
As he began to sing Shema Yisrael

Shema, Shema Yisrael
Know that there is but one G-d above
When you feel pain, when you rejoice
Know how He longs to hear your voice
Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad
Shema, Shema Yisrael
Know that there is but one G-d above
When you feel pain, when you rejoice
Know how He longs to hear your voice
Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem Echad

Thursday, April 28, 2011

He Who Gives Salvation to Kings and Dominion Unto Princes

Growing up in New Zealand, a central part of Shabbat Morning Services was the following Prayer for the Royal Family, recited in English throughout the British Commonwealth (although I never saw it in Canada). The wording is based on the prayer composed by Chief Rabbi Dr Hertz for the Royal Jubilee Service in 1935. Text in blue is said in New Zealand (and I assume other commonwealth nations).

He Who gives salvation to kings and dominion to princes,
Whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom – may he bless







So, in honour of tomorrow’s royal wedding (also being celebrated here in Modi’in a few doors up from my house), I thought that I’d share some Prayers for the Royal family from older siddurim.

This סדור ויעתר יצחק published in Berlin 1785 blesses an anonymous “King Ploni”


This סדור אשי ישראל published 1968 in Tel Aviv has standard text in Hebrew, with a blank space to insert the monarch of your choice:


סדור שפתי ישנים published in Warsaw in 1865, complete with Polish translation blesses “the Father of Our Nation”, Alexander the 2nd, together with his wife Maria and his son Alexander


This Siddur Beit Yaakov published in 1889 in Bazitamar (sp?) has a prayer for Kaiser Alexander, his son Nikolai, and his wife Maria. I found another edition of the same siddur was published 1881 in Warsaw, with the same royal family.


And here is a prayer for Nikolai when he grew up to be Kaiser from סידור דרך החיים published in 1839 in Vilna.


Over to America, This School Siddur from Philadelphia, 1904 has a prayer for The United States and its President, complete with inter-linear Yiddish translation.


This סדור חנוך תפלה החדש from New York 1940 expands the prayer considerably to bless not only the rulers, but also the country itself. The name of the ruler is listed as “President” and his assistant the “Vice President”. The same Nussach is in the 1916 סדור שפת אמת החדש also from New York.


And finally, here is the prayer as it appeared in the 1975 Singer Siddur that I received for my Bar Mitzvah:


With Best Wishes to William and Kate, may they enjoy many years of happiness together, and may G-d grant them the wisdom to rule with love and compassion towards the People and Land of Israel

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Seder Plate According to the Rama

Every Pessach, a few minutes before Chag, as I’m about to leave for shul, I realize that again I’ve forgotten how to set up the Seder Plate (קערת הסדר).

I start frantically looking through haggadot until I manage to find one with a picture of the קערה על פי הרמ”א

This year, in a bid to be a bit more organized, I prepared this diagram:


סדר הקערה על שלחן הסדר לדעת הרמ"א ז"ל

:אומר השו"ע:

"מביאין לפני בעל הבית קערה שיש בה שלשה מצות ומרור וחרוסת וכרפס או ירק אחר (רמ"א: וחומץ או מי מלח) ושני תבשילין, אחד זכר לפסח ואחד זכר לחגיגה, ונהגו בבשר וביצה."

הרמ"א: מביא את המאכלים של השו"ע, ומסדר אותם בקערה ע"פ הכלל ש "אין מעבירין על המצוות", לכן צריך שהדבר הראשון שמברך עליו יהיה יותר קרוב אליו, השני אחריו וכן הלאה, כדי שלא יקרה מצב שבו הוא רוצה להגיע אל הכרפס, לדוגמא, יעבור מעל המצות ויש בכך מעין ביזוי למצה.

הגה: ויסדר הקערה ... הכרפס יהא למעלה מן הכל והחומץ סמוך לו יותר מן המצה, והמצות מן המרור והחרוסת, והם יהיו יותר קרובים אליו מן הבשר והביצה."

הרמ"א מוסיף על השו"ע את המי-מלח או החומץ, כדבר שיש לשים בקערה, ולא בצידה. וניתן להסיר אח"כ את המי-מלח מהקערה.

בב"י הביא את מחלוקת הפוסקים, האם מניחים על הקערה שתי מצות או שלוש, ומרן חורג ממנהגו להכריע כדעת הרוב ופוסק כדעת הרא"ש והתוס' (ולא כמו הרי"ף והרמב"ם) והסביר בב"י שהעולם נוהגים כדעת הרא"ש והתוס'.

.ע"פ הציור אין מצות בקערה, כי ע"פ הרמ"א המצות צריכות להיות באמצע. ונהגו לשים את שלושת המצות מתחת לקערה במעין מתקן בעל שלושה מדפים שעל כל אחד מהם מניח מצה אחת.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We Were Slaves to Hitler - A Seder in Munich 1946

I was looking for an on-line Haggada to use for a source sheet that I needed to prepare, but instead I stumbled upon this “Passover Service” booklet printed in Munich Germany in 1946 for a Seder held for the Jewish Members of the US armed forces.

The booklet contains snippets of the Haggada as well as text in Yiddish, Zionist text written in Hebrew, together with chilling illustrations.

Here’s part of the introduction:

And the khaki-clad sons of Israel com­manded by Lt. General Truscott gath­ered together as was the custom in Israel, to celebrate the Passover festival.
They came from the Ninth Division in the West and the First Division in the East. They came from the 98th General Hospital and from the 24th Dispensary. They came from the CIC, the CID, the lCD, the UNRRA and the American Joint Distribution Committee, all of them came to the city of Munich, there to relate as of old, the miracle of freedom.
They spoke of Pharaoh and the Egyptian bondage. They spoke of slave labor and the torture cities of Pitham and Ramsees and they spoke of the inevitable force of liberty which will lay waste to every tyrannical design.
But in their hearts they felt very close to all that which was narrated. Pharaoh and Egypt gave way to Hitler and Germany. Pitham and Rarnsees faded beneath fresh memories of Buchenwald and Dachau.

Or take a look at this short snippet:

ברוך שומר הבטחתו
לישראל. ברוך בלפור שחשב
לעשות את הקץ. לעשות כמו
שנאמר: ידע תדע כי שוב
לא יענו אתכם ארבע מאות
שנה ובית יקום לכם כםו
שנאמר: אל יהיה זרעך גר
בארץ לא להם

ברוך שוםר הבטחתו
לישראל וחבר את הספר
הלבן, אסר על העליה וקנית
הקרקעות וחשב לעשות את

My Approximate Translation:

Blessed is He who guards his promise to Israel. Blessed is Balfour that calculated how to bring the redemption.
To do as is written: You shall surely know that when you return you will not be afflicted four hundred years”
And a house will be established as it is written “Your descendents will not dwell in a land which is not theirs”

Blessed is he who guards his promise to Israel, yet wrote the White Paper that is is forbidden to make Aliya or to purchase land, yet calculated how to bring the redemption.

What is most chilling about the Haggada are the illustrations, following are some examples with their captions:


שֶׁלֹּא אֶחָד בִּלְבָד עָמַד עָלֵינוּ לְכַלּוֹתֵנוּ


”זכרנו את “הדגה


שֶׁפַּרְעֹה לֹא גָזַר אֶלָּא עַל הַזְּכָרִים וְלָבָן בִּקֵּשׁ לַעֲקוֹר אֶת הַכֹּל


לְפִיכָךְ אֲנַחְנוּ חַיָּבִים

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"The Last Time"

The entire nation is in shock over the horrific massacre last Shabbat.

I have nothing to add to the comments that have already been made on other blogs and news sources, however I wanted to repost a few of the more powerful images.

The Muqata has a copy of the Tfilla that was hanging above 11 Year Old Yoav Fogel's bed, we could should all internalize the message of this Tfilla:

May it be Your will, the Lord my G-d and the G-d of my fathers, that I should merit to love every individual in Israel as if they were my soul, and with my might, and to properly observe the mitzva (commandment) of "Love your Neighbor as Yourself."

And may it be Your will, the Lord my G-d and the G-d of my fathers, that You place in the hearts of my friends, love for me, and that I will be accepted by all, that I should be loved and caring, and find favor in the eyes of all.

As a face is reflected in water, so should the hearts of man be to each other.

And all for the sake of heaven, to observe Your will.


Life in Israel, and A soldier's Mother both talked about Rami Levy's act of chessed towards the orphans.

Several bloggers have commented on the inspiring words and courage of 12 year old Tamar who found the bodies and talked about her new responsibilities as a "mother to her sibling"

And finally, there is this new song and video by Shmuel Schwartz

May this indeed be the last time, and may Klal Yisrael (and the entire world)know no more sorrow.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

News Flash: It wasn’t the Lutherans

The Washington Times has a scoop. Apparently, contrary to initial assumptions, it seems like the attack on the Moscow airport wasn’t carried out by extremists Lutherans, but may have in fact been Islamic Militants.

Islamic militants suspected in Russia airport bombing

At least 35 die, 170 injured in ‘terrorist attack’

As Russian authorities sift through the wreckage of the Moscow airport attack, the world’s attention will be drawn to the Muslim separatists who experts suspect carried out the Monday bombing.


Seems like the Washington Times scooped every other major news organization on linking the terrorist attack to Islamists. Sounds like they either had inside information, or possibly they’re covering for the Lutherans.

Good thing that the attackers wee only “Militants”, not “terrorists”. Seems like it wasn't a terrorist attack after all, just a friendly disagreement over theology. I guess that’s why they put “Terrorism” in scare quotes.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lutheran Extremists Launch Terrorist Attack in Moscow Airport

According to breaking news reports, there was a major suicide Terrorist attack carried out by Lutheran Extremists in Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, killing at least 33.

CNN say that the terrorist attack was “attributed by Russia's Investigative Committee to terrorists” – boy they’re really going out on a limb (no mention of the religious or political affiliation of attackers)

Fox are saying that the suicide attack may have been carried out by a “Suicide Bomber”, again no assumption as to possible affiliation of the attacker.

BBC is being more cautious, saying only that the suicide attack “may have been the work of a suicide bomber. Russia's chief investigator said the explosion was the work of terrorists.”

So far the only speculation from major news sources is that this suicide terrorist attack may have been carried out  by Suicide Bombers, and they may have been terrorists.

Given that no reports so far have mentioned religion or political affiliation of the attackers, I’m guessing that they were Lutheran, or possibly extremist Social Democrats. Unless of course they were environmentalists who have a history of supporting violent attacks.

I can’t think of any other religious group that could carry such an attack, and the media seem to be avoiding any assumptions.

Our prayers and thoughts go out to the casualties, wishing the wounded a speedy full recovery.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cool Video

Take a look at this cool video from the Jerusalem2111 project, it does not end the way you would expect.

You could check out some of their other videos as well, some are really neat.

Hat Tip: Frum Satire.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Ehud Barak’s Priorities

Well – Ehud Barak has done it again, he turned the Israeli political system on his head in order to serve the interest of Ehud Barak.

In a recent quote he summarized the priorities of his new party (in order of importance) as follows:


Of course this is Israel, so it reasonable to assume that he is reading the list of priorities from Right to Left….

Friday, January 14, 2011

Parshat Bshalach – The Bones of Yosef

This Shabbat I was asked to give a short Dvar Torah between Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the ideas I plan to use….

Shmot 13:19 tells us:

ויקח משה את עצמות יוסף עמו כי השבע השביע את בני ישראל לאמר פקד יפקד אלקים אתכם והעליתם את עצמתי מזה אתכם

Moses took Joseph's remains with him. Joseph had bound the Israelites by an oath: 'God will grant you special providence, and you must then bring my remains out of here with you.'

Why did Moshe, in the middle of the action and excitement surrounding the Exodus, need to stop to take Yosef’s bones, and why does the Passuk only talk about Yosef? Chazal tell us that the remains of all the brothers were brought out from Egypt, why is only Yosef mentioned specifically? What is unique to Yosef that makes him an essential part of the Exodus?

Ibin Ezra gives us a brief history lesson, that it was because of Yosef that they went down to Egypt, and Yosef swore his decedents that they would take his remains with them, an oath which was passed down through the generations until Moshe was able to fulfil the commitment to previous generations.

I think that part of the message that Ibin Ezra is trying to convey is that as we move forward in life it is important to remember who we are and where we come from.

As Bnei Yisrael started this next chapter in their history, it was important that they not abandon the past, rather they carried the past with them in a very physical way.

But what were the attributes of Yosef that we needed to take with us as we left Egypt and entered the Desert?

Firstly we refer to Yosef as “יוסף הצדיק” Yosef The Tzadik. Tradition identifies Yosef with righteousness. The Kli Yakar says that there were 2 Aaronot that we carried with us through the dessert, the Ark of the Covenant (Aaron Habrit) and Yosef’s coffin, and these 2 aronot were equivalent – one carried the Physical Ten Commandments, the other carried Yosef who was a personification of the Ten Commandments. It was that image of complete righteousness that we took with is as an example into the Wilderness.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe “ויקח משה”) takes this idea one step further, Yosef represented not only righteousness, but also, in spite of his important position in Egyptian society, remained humble. Moshe realized that if he was going to serve as a leader of the people, he would have to learn this humility from Yosef, which is why Moshe personally took responsibility for carrying Yosef’s bones, instead of delegating the task to someone else.

The Slonimer Rebbe (Rabbi Shalom Noach Barzovsky (1911-2000) in his Netivot Shalom (פרשת בשלח, ויקח משה) says that Yosef not only represents Righteousness, but also Holiness (Based on the Zohar). Moshe realized that the reason that we were leaving Egypt was not only to escape slavery, but to build a Holy nation, and in fact building a Holy nation is a major theme of the rest of the Torah. Moshe wanted to bring this image of Holiness, represented by Yosef with them as an example to emulate as they built a nation.

Finally, the Lubavitcher Rebbe in his Sichot (Volume 26, Page 85) had a different understanding of the essence of Yosef. The “bones” (עצמות) of Yosef represent hiss “Essence” (עצמיותו). What is the Essence of Yosef? We learn it from when he was named (Berashit 30:24)

וַתִּקְרָא אֶת שְׁמוֹ יוֹסֵף לֵאמֹר יֹסֵף ה’ לִי בֵּן אַחֵר.

She named the child Joseph (Yoseph), saying, 'May G-d grant another (yoseph) son to me (“ben acher”).'

The Passuk says that his mother (Rachel) prayed for “Another Son” (בן אחר). In Jewish Tradition “אחר” (Another) has come to represent someone who is removed or far from Jewish tradition – The Tanna Elisha ben Abuya was referred to as “Acher” after he adopted heretical beliefs and removed himself from Klal Yisrael.

The Rebbe points out that Yosef’s name refers to “Ben Acher”, that even though someone can be far removed from the Jewish People, he should still be regarded as “Ben”, a son of our people.

Before the Jewish people could leave Egypt, Moshe had to find the essence of Yosef – the “Ben Acher”, who is removed from the Jewish people, but is still our brother and son.

It is only once we find that person and include him in our journey that the Bnei Yisrael were able to leave Egypt.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Auditions in the Heavenly Choir

When I was kid, I was given a couple of tapes of Megama, a duo made up of Moshe Yes and Shalom Levine.

How I loved those tapes, I played them so many times that I must have driven my family crazy, but I loved the music, even if even back then I found the lyrics a little silly (“What page are we on the prayerbook”, “G-d is Alive and well in Jerusalem”, and "Throw away that Ham”) however I found the Dollar Bill, My Zaidy, and especially "Yosef My Son" very powerful.

It was with great sorrow that I heard that Moshe Yess, the star of Megama returned his soul to it’s Maker last Motzei Shabbat.

Interesting that this week another big name in Jewish Music also passed away. Of course I am referring to Debbie Friedman. I don’t know if Moshe ever met Debbie in this world, but I’d love to see their expression if the meet for the first time at an audition for the Heavenly Choir.

Debbie Friedman has been described as the Shlomo Charlebach of the Reform movement. When I worked with NFTY’s Summer Program in Israel, all the kids with a Reform background were very familiar with her music, both as liturgy and as campfire music. one of her most popular tunes was “Lechi Lach”, which was a feminine version of “lech lecha”. The corruption of a Hebrew Possuk made no sense to me, but the kids loved it.

Only later when I found out that in addition to being a driving force behind the modern-musical style of Reform services, she was also a radical feminist and a Lesbian, did the concept of re-writing a passuk in the feminine make sense (and drove me even more crazy).

So this week, the Jewish world lost 2 influential singers, although singers with radically different world views. Both were very well known, although I wonder how many people were familiar with both of them.

May their memory be blessed.

Yosef My Son

Moshe Yess

A child was born into this world, in 1933
a blessing for a Jewish home, in Frankfurt, Germany
his father taught him Aleph-Bais, he learned to read and write
each night he heard his mother say these words to him

Yosef my son, the Lord our G-d is one
G-d is very near, Yosef my dear
Yosef my son, we are the chosen ones
do not fear we'll always be together

Yosef was a boy of 9, in 1942
he had a secret hiding place, like all young children do
horrified, he saw them take his Mom and Dad away
alone, he heard his mother's final words to him

Yosef my son, take some food and run
G-d is very near, Yosef my dear
Yosef my son, we are the chosen ones
do not fear we'll always be together

To feel his hand on the Western Wall, was a life-long dream come true
he'd made it to Jerusalem, the city of the Jew
and he opened up his Siddur, as he had done each day
and he prayed to G-d for his mother and his father

and an old man stood there praying, for a son he thought long dead
that voice! thats my fathers voice! was all that Yosef said
and he looked into the old man's eyes, tears came down his face
and he fell into his father's embrace

Yosef my son, the Lord our G-d is one
Now come your mother's here, Yosef my dear
Yosef my son, a miracle has been done
from now on, we'll always be together

Yosef my son, the Lord our G-d is one
G-d is very near, Yosef my dear
Yosef my son, we are the chosen ones
from now on, we'll always be together
from now on, we'll always be together

Friday, January 7, 2011

If you're late for Shacahrit ….

A wise man once said that is you are late for Shacharit, the first thing to get sacrificed are the korbanot.

Unfortunately the reality is that relatively few people take the few minutes that it takes to read the Korbanot each morning. Many people skip them all together even if they are not late for shul. As we started Missechet Zvachim in Daf yomi, I heard Rabbi Lau point out that people should realize that the siddur does not start on page 20, and to include the Korbanot in your daily Tfilla would not be a big imposition.

That said, it is very seldom that I am in shul with Tfilin on early enough to read through all the Korbanot, I do however try to read at least the first Mishna so that I start each day with some Torah Shba’al peh.

In spite of this. as we started Perek איזהו מקומן in Daf Yomi, I realized how painfully unfamiliar this perek was to me (and everyone else in the shiur).

The Maggid Shiur had a great suggestion as to how we could become more familiar with this Perek – given that (almost) no one seems to be able to spend 2 minutes reading the entire Perek each morning, how about a single mishna each day – but instead of the first mishna every day, divide the 8 mishnayot over the week – each day read a different Mishna, and the final 2 on Shabbat. That way you can review the entire perek each week, and hopefully over time the perek will seem less unfamiliar.

A great idea, so far I am almost one week into it – we’ll see if I manage to keep it up.

(BTW – Yisha Koa’ch to the The Rebbetzin's Husband on starting a new Daf Yomi shiur. Next time I'm in Toronto I'll try to check it out – בלי נדר)