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)