Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Brining Ridicule to the Torah

Recently Life in Israel had a post about a new Surfer Statue in Yehud.

The statue is in the middle of a fountain in a traffic circle (roundabout) very close to my work. Until I read the post on Life in Israel, I had no idea whether the surfer was male or female as other than long hair and a long wetsuit, there are few distinguishing charactersitics.

However, now that Shas have determined that it is female, the statue must be covered - and so it was. Earlier this week a red cloth was placed around the torso of the surfer, and today black material was placed around the waist.
The result is not only an eyesore, but it is causing drivers to slow down and stare, yesterday when I stood by thee statue for a few minutes I saw several near-accidents as drivers suddenly stopped to try to figure out what had happened to the "Surfer Dude" (who was apparently a "Surfer Gal").

Hard to see how an eyesore and road hazard brings honour to the Torah or makes this city a more modest environment, but I'll let you judge for yourself.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Israel at War

As Daniel Pipes pointed out, the current escalation between Israel and Hamas is being waged primarily in the media. Hamas know that they have no chance of winning the battle on the battlefield, their only tactic is to hope that Israel gets enough bad press to turn world opinion further against the Jewish state.

This is why it is essential that all supporters of Israel keep an eye on the local media, and send letters to the editor or comments to correct any mistakes or propaganda designed to make Israel look bad.

The New Zealand Herald just ran a story about Journalists injured in an Israeli attack. Below is my response. I'll let you know if it is published or I receive feedback from the New Zealand Herald.


Your article Journalists injured in Israeli attack failed to mentioned key details that are needed to put the story in context. The Israeli army is proud of its record of minimizing civilian death and injuries, even in cases when terror groups like Hamas deliberately put their own civilians in harm's way by positioning military infrastructure adjacent to civilian facilities.

The "Media Centre" described in the article is an excellent example of the Israeli Defense Force’s use of precision bombing to minimalize casualties. The “Media Centre” was located in buildings that also housed Hamas' operational communications network. Because there were civilians present in the building, instead of destroying the buildings, the IDF destroyed only the military equipment and antenna on the top floor and roof of the buildings, resulting in zero casualties.

Placing military infrastructural in heavily populated civilian areas is a war crime, but a known tactic of Hamas who deliberately place civilians in harm's way hoping that if civilians are hurt, even with moderate injuries, the media will blame Israel. Articles like the one you published without proper context are wonderful propaganda tools for Hamas and encourage them to place further civilians at risk.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Are walls to protect our ignornace?

I used to believe that there was very little difference between the Religious Zionist / Modern Orthodox world and the Charedi world. I used to believe that all Orthodox Jews were in agreement on almost all major theological issues (Truth of the Torah, Obligation to Keep Halacha, etc), the differences were only on smaller (but still significant) issues which tend to be exaggerated, particularly Zionism and approach Secular Education.

Over recent years I have come to realize that the gulf between Charedi Judaism and religious Zionism / Modern Orthodox / Centrist Judaism is far deeper than the question of whether you say Halel on Yom Ha'atzmaut.

This point was hammered home by an article in Forward "Gentiles at the Gates". I cannot understand what the author was trying to say. She tells a story about a friend who had a daughter that was taught in school that Only Jews have suffered Genocide. This is a silly statement for anyone to make, especially a school teacher, especially when anyone with even a minimal knowledge of current events or world history would know that it is false.

Sure enough, the daughter Googled "Genocide" and discovered that she had been lied to in school and there were many other examples of genocide. 
What happened was this: Chani, Miriam’s 16-year-old daughter, was writing a report on the Holocaust, and Miriam, putting the little ones to sleep, gave Chani permission to search online. The teenager typed in the word “genocide,” and there in front of her eyes was a Wikipedia entry with phrases like “Rwandan genocide,” and “Armenian genocide.” So Chani, knowing there’d been only one genocide, the Holocaust, Googled the word again, and a few frustrated clicks later she found that the Internet’s mistake was even greater than she realized; now there was something called the Sudanese genocide, too. And when she clicked on it, photos appeared, taken days earlier, that showed Sudan’s genocide up close. Up very close.

This is a classic example of a "teachable moment". The mother or teacher could have sat down with the girl and discussed how Judaism approaches the concept of Evil in the World. They could discuss the difference between the Holocaust and other types of Genocide, they could explore ways that we as Jews and as Human Beings can try to make this world a better place.

Instead of seizing the educational opportunity, the family threw out the computer and tried to restore a state of ignorance.

Miriam immediately shut off the computer, but Chani had gone into shock. When Miriam wasn’t looking, she searched obsessively for the genocides of the past century: Sudan, Rwanda, Armenia, Serbia, Cambodia, Pakistan, Guinea. Miriam realized this only two weeks later, when she checked the browser history. But by then Chani had questions, questions about God, misery and the stunning discovery that Jews, after all, held no monopoly on suffering.
It was a betrayal devastating to her faith. Up until that evening, Chani had known with certainty that only Jews really suffered, because we are the chosen people. The rest of the jealous planet, therefore, wanted to destroy us because they hated our morality.

It was a traumatizing ordeal for a devout Jewish mother, watching the daughter she’d lovingly raised to care only for her own show the same compassion for others.
Eventually Miriam had had enough. She wanted her daughter back. She wanted the pious Chani who cared deeply but for the right folks, who had a generous heart but clear priorities. She wanted the girl for whom the world ended where her knowledge did, and who did not care about what she was not supposed to know. The computer had done a terrible thing: It had allowed her child to encounter humanity up close, eye to suffering eye, and in the deceiving light of that reality, it was impossible to properly tell the superior from the inferior. Agony looked the same everywhere.
Miriam tried explaining it. It wasn’t that others didn’t suffer, she said, but that we suffered more, and for better reasons. They because of sin, we because we were chosen.
So Miriam threw out the computer, as her rav advised her to do. Though a return to ignorance was difficult, he explained, nothing was impossible. The gates of repentance were always open, and with time, they hoped, her daughter would forget about a country called Sudan and its suffering.
The Rav's advise - instead of learning about the world and appreciating G-d's role in it, maybe we should move back into a world of ignorance and darkness.

It is no wonder that the daughter abandoned her parent's lifestyle. How could anyone stay with a belief system that answers questions by trying to shut out reality.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Of Shuls and Rabbis

Chopping Wood has an interesting article about the quest for a Rabbi at a shul in Yad Binyamin.

Over the past few years our congregation in Modi'in has been going through a similar process. Five years ago when I joined the shul, there was a small group that was actively pushing for a Rav for the shul, and a few individuals who were absolutely against the concept of having a Rav dictate to the shul what it can and cannot do.

To me, having a shul Rabbi is one of the most important aspects of a congregation. Even though the concept fo Shul Rabbi is less common in Israel, and many people have their own rav that they can turn to with personal halachic questions, I think that a part time Rabbi is important to any congregation for a variety of reasons, including the followng:
  • Stops the shul being a "free-for-all", where anyone feels that they can do whatever they want, whether changing the Nussach, changing the acceptable practice, or changing any other acceptable norms.
    Some change is warranted, other change can be harmful or divisive, and some change may not be halachicly acceptable. The job of the Rabbi is to make sure that practice in the shul is acceptable to halacha and appropriate for the membership.
  • A Rav who knows how to assert his authority can help prevent arguments. There are always disagreements in a shul over how things should be done, the role of women, who should get aliyot etc. If the Rav has the authority to stand up and say that this is the way we do things here, that can help prevent arguments, or at the very least rephrase the argument as a discussion with the Rabbi instead of a screaming match between congregants.
  • The Rav helps set the tone of the Tefilla. His presence can help the speed of the tefila and decorum suitable for the congregation.
  • The entire atmosphere in the shul changes when there is a designated Rav present. I know that I behave different when I am next to someone that I respect (A good tip for improving your behaviour, especially in Elul,  is to always imagine that you Rosh Yeshiva is in the room with you)
  • Most importantly, having a Rav present is an important educational tool. Kids can see that decisions in the shul are based on an Halachic authority, and the see how to give Kavod, even with something as small as waiting for the Rav to finish Shema before continuing with the Tefilla.
Some of the issues above can be achieved if there is a recognized Posek for the shul, such as a city Rabbi who is accepted by the congregation and is involved in the running of the shul. However even having a designated Possek is rare in Israel, as far too many congregations let the Gabbai, Ba'al tfilla, or individual members do whatever they want in the running of the shul, or leave halachic decisions up to a vote.

The lack of Rabbi in our shul has been a sore point for me since I joint the congregation when I moved to the neighborhood five years ago, however there is only one shul in the neighborhood that has its own Rabbi, and even though I regularly daven at their Hashkama minyan on Shabbat, I don't see myself as a member of that congregation for a variety of reasons (which are beyond the scope of this post).

I was hopeful that our shul would eventually appoint a Rabbi, and in the mean time the Gabbai'im have taken all halachic questions to Rabbi Lau, Chief Rabbi of Modi'in.
Over the past year the Va'ad has been working on a "Takanon" for the congregation, and I was really hoping that the issue of Rav/Possek would be addressed formerly there. Today they sent out a draft of some of the clauses that have been drafted for the Takonon so that they can be voted on at a meeting next week.
Most of the clauses addressed questions of Nussach that have been controversial over the past few years, but they had the following proposal regarding the question of Rabbi (I deleted the names of the individuals involved):

שאלות הלכתיות
באם תתעורר שאלה הלכתית בהלכות תפילה,  בית כנסת, ס"ת והקריאה בלבד, יפנו הגבאים אל חברי ועדה  הלכתית, שתכריע בנושא. לצורך כך הועד מציע שתוקם ועדה הלכתית בראשות הרב ___es__ והחברים _____ ו_____.
בסמכותה של ועדה זו להכריע הלכתית בנושאים שיועלו בפניה על ידי הגבאים או להביא את השאלה בפני סמכות הלכתית  אחרת בהתאם לשיקול דעתם.

Halachic Questions
As Halachic questions arise with regard to prayer, the Beit Knesset, Sefer Torah, and Leining only, the gabaim will refer to  members of he Halachic committee that are familiar with the issue. For this purpose, a committee will be established under the leadership of Rabbi ____ and members _____ and _____.
This committee will have the authority to establish halachic practice for issues that are brought to them by the Gabbaim, or to take the question to a different recognized halachic authority based on their judgement.
Even though I have utmost respect for the three members proposed to establish the "Halachic committee" and I respect their judgement and knowledge of halacha, if this clause is voted in as it is currently worded, I think that I will not be able to continue as a member of the congregation.

I think that this clause is the opposite of the concept of congregation rabbi for the following reasons:
  • Instead of a Rabbi, this is a committee, there is no one individual who can say "The Buck Stops Here".
  • It limits the issues that the "Halachic Committee" can rule on (prayer, Beit Knesset, Sefer Torah, and Leining only). I don't know what other issues may come up, but I think that there should be a halachic authority over all activities run by the shul, including  social activities, Chessed programs, or children's activities run under the auspices of the congregation.
    (Note - I am not aware of any halachicly questionable activities under the auspices of the shul, but if we have a Rabbi, he should be involved in these committees)
  • The committee will only respond to issues raised by the Gabbaim, they have no formal authority to take an initiative if they feel that they can contribute in other ways, for example they see something in shul instituted by the Gabai'im which is halachicly questionable or have suggestions how thigs could be improved.
    (The present Gaba'im are very careful on halachic matters, and I assume that when they step down the new Gaba'im will be equally careful, but it is still a good idea for someone to have the authority to oversee their decisions).
  • The proposal went out of its way to not designate a Posek for the shul (who until now has been by default Rabbi Lau) rather it is deliberately vague in referring to a "recognized halachic authority".
  • Other proposed clauses for the Takanon dealt with Nussach of Tfilla, If Nussach is not regarded as a Halachic issue that should be referred to a Rabbi, but decided by a majority vote, I'm not sure what type of issues would be considered the responsibility of the "Halachic Committee"
I sincerely hope that there will be significant changes to this clause before it is voted on next week. But should it pass in it's current format, looks like I'll be in the market for a new shul for Yom Tov this year.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is Larry Derfner now a Settler?

One of the things I love about Modi'in is the variety of people who live there.

Modi'in has all types of religious, social, ethnic, and political outlooks living in relative harmony.

This includes some of the most extreme political activists. For example, Larry Derfner describes himself as "an ultra-liberal Zionist". He has repeatedly spoken out against the "Occupation", and last year was fired as a columnist for the Jerusalem Post when he justified a terrorist attack against Israelis ("I think the Palestinians have the right to use terrorism against us”).

I disagree strongly with almost every thing that Larry has ever written ("almost" because actually a couple of years ago I did agree with a column he wrote about the importance of Jews and Arabs interacting).

Anyway, a common theme of the extreme left is that all of Israel's problems are directly or indirectly the fault of "The Settlers" or "The Occupation". I'm not sure what the definition of "Settler" is; the 48 cease fire line is not clearly demarcated on any maps, and is not recognized as a political border by  the Israeli Government or the Palestinian Authority, I think that the only bodies that place any significance on the '49 cease fire line are groups like the European Union.

Now that the EU has declared Modi'in to be part of the disputed territories, will left-wing activists like Mr Derfner move, or is his opposition to the "Settlers" only apply to other people, not liberal minded people like him who should be entitle to keep their home in Israel-Occupied Modi'in.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thanks to the EU, the population in Judea and Samaria is growing

Moetzat Yesha should be delighted with EU who managed to increase the population of Judea and Samaria without relocating a single person.

The EU just updated their list of "Non-Eligible Locations" to include many locations that have been "occupied" by Israel since 1948. This includes my beautiful city of Modi'in (check page 4 of the PDF which lists my zip code).

If you are not familiar with the history of Modi'in, the city was planned during the Rabin administration, partially as a possible solution for residents of Judea and Samaria, should residents of any of those areas be expelled from their homes and need to relocate to pre-67 Israel.

You can see the former cease-fire lines on Google maps, none of Modi'in was occupied by Jordan before 1967. The edge of Modi'in (Maccabim and part of Malibu) was in "no-mans land", the area between the Israeli and Jordanian cease-fire lines.

However, non of this seems to be of interest to the EU, they seem to be convinced that "קרוב למחיצה כמחצה דמי"; that just like in Horseshoes or Gimatriyas, close is good enough - and my home being close to the former green line is enough to define me as a settler.

Following is the official response from The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Newsletter
MFA Newsletter

Israel's reaction to EU customs list of non-eligible locations
There is not the slightest doubt that the Modi'in, Maccabim and Re'ut localities are an integral part of Israel. The EU ignores reality when it extends the domain of conflict to places and issues that do not belong there.
(Communicated by the Foreign Ministry Spokesman)
For anyone who deals in reality, there is not the slightest doubt that the Modi'in, Maccabim and Re'ut localities are an integral part of Israel, and their future is not in question.
The EU ignores reality when it extends the domain of conflict to places and issues that do not belong there. As for the other locations mentioned in the EU list, the European approach, though not new, is not acceptable in Israel's view, and it is being addressed through ongoing diplomatic engagement.
Remarkably, by the unilateral publication of the locations list on the internet, the EU has unacceptably cut off a negotiating process regarding this very issue. This action, conducted "ex abrupto", has therefore been the object of an official protest lodged by the Mission of Israel in Brussels to the European Union.

Monday, August 6, 2012

013 Netvision Again

As I've said on this blog before, one of the worst customer services experiences I've ever encountered was with 013 Netvision.

From comments on this blog and conversations with many people, it seems that for 013 Netvision, charging people for services they didn't request, need, or use, happens so often that I don't believe it is an error; it seems like a deliberate business policy.

"Netvision Customer Service" (and similar terms) are the most common search terms bringing people to this blog, so I guess I can thank Netvision for the extra traffic.

Since my last encounter with Netvision I did the only thing that makes sense - cancelled all payments to Netvision on my credit card, and make sure to stay clear of any services or products offered by the company.

Sure enough today I received another bill from them for services I never used, never asked for, and didn't pay for. No idea what they claim I owe them for, but I don't have a spare three hours today to wait on hold so that I can speak to a client service rep to find out.

If anyone else has similar mastery bills from Netvision, feel free to leave a comment.

And, if anyone from Netvision customer service is reading this (and if you aren't, you should be), feel free to leave a comment as well with a direct number that I can use to speak to someone without a 3 hour wait.

Monday, July 30, 2012

הדרן עלך תלמוד בבלי

I just returned from the Modi’in City Siyim HaShs, together with the city Chief Rabbis, as well as Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau (who in Modi’in is known as “Rabbi Lau’s Father"), Rabbi Bakshi Daron, and about 300 other people.DafYomiCertificate

This wasn’t in a football stadium or large hall, rather it was a deliberately smaller affair in the Yeshiva Beit Midrash for the Rabbanim and participants who have spent the last 7 1/2 years working our way through the 2711 pages of the Talmud Bavli.

However, with great sadness, I have decided that after 7 1/2 years of effort, I won’t be continuing with the 13th cycle of Daf Yomi (although אי”ה I will return to Daf Yomi at some point).

Daf Yomi is an excellent learning cycle, the gruelling pace means that you are always struggling to keep up, always looking for an extra 10 minutes to learn, always have a book to open if you have some free time.

Also, for children in a family to see their father (or mother?) going out to a shiur every evening or morning (or both) is an important educational message.

However Daf Yomi comes at a price. The many hours and fast pace mean that there is little time for real learning; you almost never use your thumb in a Daf Yomi shiur. Even a serious student will only understand a limited amount of each daf, some students not even that.

It is for these reasons that I have decided that for the next while, instead of Daf Yomi, I’ll start learning some of the things that I’ve wanted to learn but never had time. This includes:
  • Mishna Yomi – 2 Mishnayot a day only takes a few minutes, however in those few minutes it is possible to get a good understanding of the Mishna and within a few years it is possible to finish all of Shas Mishnayot (even without booking a football stadium)
  • Nach Yomi – A Perek of Nach each day, also only takes a few minutes, and in just over a year it is possible to finish all of Nach – how many people are Baki in Gemara, but aren’t familiar with basic stories in Tanach?
  • Gemara B’Iyun – Instead of a Daf a Day, I’m planning to join Rabbi Lau’s weekly Baba Metzia Shiur. He doesn’t cover a daf each session, on a good day he will cover a few lines. To learn gemara and build a personal relationship with someone who has a serious understanding of Shas has enormous value.
  • Learn with a Chavruta – I have set up two Chavrutot, one to learn Nach, the other Gemara. The active process of learning with a Chavruta is far more valuable than have Maggid Shiur do all the learning for you
  • And Acharon Acharon Chaviv, learning with my kids – last year I started learning Rosh Hashana with my son, and nothing gives me greater joy. If I have time in the evening when I’m not running out to Daf Yomi, that would be an excellent opportunity to learn with my other kids, each at there own level.
Even with this limited learning schedule (and we’ll see if I can keep any of it up), I think that I will get more value out of my time learning and still have more time free to spend with my family or help out around the house.

And אי”ה I will still be able to return to Daf Yomi (Hadran Alach), maybe not this year, but maybe next year or the year after – or maybe not until the next cylcle in 7 1/2 years time.

So, if you have 40 minutes extra each day to learn Torah - how would you spend the time?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Laws of Tisha B’Av After Shabbat

Rabbi David Lau, Rav of Modi’in just publicized a summary of the Hilchot Tisha B’Av B’Motzei Shabbat.
Following is my translation (original Hebre below):

Rabbi David Lau – Rav of Modi’in – Appropriate behaviour for 9th of Av on Motzei Shabbat

We should treat this Shabbat as every Shabbat of the year.

1. On Shabbat, after mid-day, even though according to the Rama it is permitted to learn only things that are permitted to learn on 9th of Av. However According to my teacher the Gaon Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach זצ”ל I learnt that we should rely on the Taz and the Gra who wrote that on Shabbat you can learn whatever Torah the heart desires.

It is appropriate not to cancel regular classes, however it is correct to learn topics relevant to the day.
People who recite a chapter of Pirkei Avot, if you didn’t recite it before mid-day, you can recite it in the afternoon.

2. The Shulchan Aruch (552:10) rules that if the 9th of Av falls on a Sunday or on a Shabbat, you can eat meat and drink wine at the final meal (Sudat Mifseket) [on Shabbat afternoon] and fill your table even like a banquet of King Solomon during his reign.

The Mishna Brura (Sif Katan 160) quotes the Magen Avraham, who says that this meal should be eaten alone, but the Bachor Shur argues that if you avoid sitting with friends and singing Zmirot, it has an appearance of public morning on Shabbat, which is forbidden.

So, the Halacha is that it is appropriate to sing in honour of Shabbat, even at Sudat Shlishit, even though this is the Sudat Mifseket.

Ideally you should bentch before sunset, however if you do not manage to bentch in time, you can still bentch after sunset.

You should stop eating before sunset on Shabbat which is 7:41 pm [in Modi’in].
It is correct to delay the time of Maariv in shul so that preparations for the fast will not take place on Shabbat.

When Shabbat ends, at 8:20 pm [in Modi’in] you should say “Baruch Hamavdil Bein Kodesh Lchol”, remove shoes, change out of Shabbat clothes and into weekday clothes, and take you Kinot book and Megilat Eicha with you to shul.

In shul, after the Amida of Maariv, before reading Eicha, someone should light a candle and the chazan should recite “Borei Morei Ha’aish” on behalf of everyone else. Any man or woman who didn’t hear the chazan make this bracha, should make the bracha for themself.

Anyone who is not fasting should make Havdala on Motzei Shabbat, or on Sunday morning before they eat, but not use spices. Ideally they should make havdala on a “Chamar Medina” (for example beer or natural fruit juice). If there is no other suitable beverage for havdala, it is permissible to use grape juice and drink the minimum shiur, and no more.

And the end of Tesha B’av which falls on the 10th of Av, it is permissible to have a haircut at night, wash, and do laundry. The custom is to avoid eating meat and drinking wine until the next day.

הרב דוד לאו רב העיר מודיעין - ההנהגה הראויה בתשעה באב שחל במוצאי שבת היא כדלקמן:

 אנו נוהגים בשבת זו כבכל שבתות השנה.

1. בשבת אחרי חצות היום, אמנם דעת הרמ"א היא שמותר ללמוד רק דברים שמותרים ללמוד בתשעה באב. אבל ממו"ר הגרש"ז אויערבך זצ"ל למדתי שסומכים על דברי הט"ז והגר"א שכתבו ללמוד בשבת תורה היכן שליבו חפץ.
ראוי שלא לבטל שיעורים קבועים, אם כי נכון ללמוד בעניינים הקשורים למהותו של יום.
אומרים את הפרק בפרקי אבות. מי שלא אמרו לפני חצות היום יכול לאומרו אחר חצות.

2. פסק השולחן ערוך (סי' תקנב ס"י), חל ט' באב באחד בשבת או בשבת וכו', אוכל בשר ושותה יין בסעודה המפסקת, ומעלה על שולחנו אפילו כסעודת שלמה בעת מלכותו.
המשנה ברורה (ס"ק פג) מציין שהמגן אברהם ישב בסעודה זו בדאבון נפש, אבל הבכור שור הוכיח שאם לא יישב בסעודה זו עם חברים, וישיר ויזמר, יש כאן גילוי אבילות בפרהסיא, ואסור הדבר.
לכן להלכה ראוי לשיר ולכבד את השבת, כראוי, גם בסעודה שלישית, למרות שהיא סעודה מפסקת.
רצוי לברך ברכת המזון לפני השקיעה, מי שלא הספיק יכול לברך גם אחרי השקיעה

מפסיקים לאכול לפני השקיעה ביום השבת, בשעה 19:41.

נכון לאחר את זמן תפילת ערבית בבית הכנסת, כדי שההכנות ליום התענית לא יתחילו בשבת.

בצאת שבת 20:20 אומרים "ברוך המבדיל בין קדש לחול", חולצים נעליים, מחליפים את בגדי השבת לבגדי חול ולוקחים את ספר הקינות ומגילת איכה לבית הכנסת.

בבית הכנסת, אחרי שמונה עשרה של ערבית, לפני קריאת איכה, מדליקים נר ומברך החזן להוציא את כל הציבור "בורא מאורי האש". איש או אישה שלא שמעו את ברכת החזן יברכו אחר כך בעצמם.

מי שאינו צם יבדיל במוצאי שבת, או בבקר יום ראשון לפני האכילה, ללא בשמים. לכתחילה ראוי להבדיל על חמר מדינה, משקה (כגון: בירה, מיץ פירות טבעי!). אם אין משקה אפשר להבדיל על מיץ ענבים ולשתות כשיעור הנדרש ולא יותר.

במוצאי תשעה באב השנה, שהוא י' באב, מותרים בלילה בתספורת, רחיצה וכיבוס. נוהגים להיזהר מאכילת בשר ושתיית יין עד למחרת.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A new class opened in the Heavenly Beit Midrash

Yesterday, a new class arrived to the Heavenly Beit Midrash. Five Israeli tourists holidaying in Europe, who died על קידוש השם, together with their guide and bus driver tragically had their vacation end in tragedy.  And the Maggid Shiur in that new class would be none other than Rav Elyashiv זצ"ל.

Rav Elyashiv was escorted to his final resting place by quarter of a million mourners. The tourists in Bulgaria, like Eliahu HaNavi, were taken in a chariot of fire.

I don't know anything about the identities of the victims of yesterday's terrorist attack, but if they are admitted to the World to Come together with Rav Elyashiv, together they will be able to answer the questions, "Did you set aside time to learn Torah" and "Did you see My Alps".

What to me was tragic about yesterday's news, besides the loss of life and families in morning, was the divisions within Israeli society that were highlighted. While driving home yesterday, the radio stations that I tuned in to all had a dedicated broadcast to the breaking news story. The only problem was that some stations were talking about Rav Elyashiv and the legacy he left behind without mentioning terrorism in Bulgaria, while other stations talked about the tragedy in Bulgaria, without mentioning the death of one of the leaders of our generation.

It seemed like the radio stations were broadcasting to audiences who lived in different worlds from each other. Unfortunately, that is the reality of today's society in Israel, we have broken into different groups living completely different existences. Not so much "Sinat Chinam" as just oblivious to the reality that other people live in.

Rav Elyashiv married in the courtyard of Merkaz HaRav; the shadchan that introduced him to his wife was Rav Tzvi Yeuda Kook.
Today it is almost inconceivable that a student of Rav Elyashiv would even visit Merkaz, let alone meet his Bershet through one of the Rabbanim of that Yeshiva.

I didn't attend the funeral last night (I was at a shiur on Web Yeshiva - highly recommended), but from the pictures it looks like it was a sea of black hats,with very few people with other headcoverings. Similarly, at Rav Mordechai Eliahu's funeral 2 years ago, there were few people there without a Kipa Sruga.

As we approach Rosh Chodesh Av and the 9 days, we should all take a few minutes to stop and think about "the other", those people  who don't think or dress the same as us.
As soon as their news is our news and their pain is our pain, maybe, just maybe their joy will be our joy as we dance together in Jerusalem this Tisha B'Av.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Don't challenge Bibi to a game of chess

I think that the whole country woke up this morning to the surprising news that after 70 days in the coalition, Mofaz has had enough.

When Mofaz joined the coalition I though that it was a great life saver for him; the only thing that could stop Mofaz was if he was unable to implement a new draft law.

I though that passing a draft law would have been the easiest undertaking of any politician ever, given the support of the three biggest parties, the supreme court, and a large percentage of the population.

To make it even easier, the irrational opposition from the Chredi leadership (e.g., claims that it was based on antisemitism, or that there was an unprecedented attempt to eradicate Torah from Israel) meant that their objections had lost all creibility.
 But always able to grab defeat from the hands of victory, Mofaz decided to go for an "all or nothing" approach to the negotiations (negotiations with supports of universal draft, not with opponents), and as most negotiators know, if you adopt an "all or nothing" approach, you probably won't get "all".

Now the ball is in Bibi's court, if he was really smart, he should sit down quietly with Liberman and over the next 2 days hammer out the details of a draft law. Think where that would leave him:
  • Mofaz and Kadima would be history - 70 days of negotiations and committees and headlines to create a universal draft bill couldn't achieve as much as 2 days of quiet backroom talks.
  • Bibi would get the support of the majority of Israelis who favour a universal draft.
  • The Charedi politicians would reluctantly accept the new law, which at least saved them from  Plassner, which would have been worse
  • Yair Lapid would have the wind taken out of his sails as he was a one-issue party and the one issue would have been taken off the national agenda
  • There would be opposition to Bibi's new law from both Charedi and anti-Charedi politicians (no matter what the details of the law), which would prove that Bibi hadn't given in to extremist demands on either side. 
  • While the headlines are dominated by the new Bibi-Liberman bill, and the whole country is distracted (especially if there are colourful demonstrations in Kikar Shabbat and Kikar Rabin),  Bibi could quietly implement whatever economic and security measures he thinks necessary, and no one would even notice.
Bibi - the ball is in your court.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Amazing Meeting - where?

I was just reading about "The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM)", a "celebration of science, skepticism and critical thinking" that just took place in Las Vegas (Apparently even atheists have a problem with Hadarat Nashim).
Anyway, I found it very confusing - I thought that everyone knows that this type of conference isn't suitable for Vegas, isn't the Atheist Conventionin LA?

PS - sorry that this blog has been so quiet lately, I recently started a new job and have had less free time :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cause and Effect

2 weeks ago I was in Paris. A beautiful city, but one of the things that I noticed was that the only visible security I saw was around national monuments (such as the Eiffel tower or museums) and Jewish Institutions (Shuls and the Jewish Museum).

Looks like anti-Semitism is still very much alive and well in the host to Europe’s largest Jewish community.

Of course, this was further proven by the horrific events in Toulouse this week – but what may have motivated the gunman (other than raw anti-Semitism?)


Last week UN employee Khulood Badawi tweeted a picture of a school girl, covered in blood who died in a schoolyard accident in 2006 with the caption “Palestine is bleeding. Another child killed by Israel … Another father carrying his child to the grave”

This week a gunman in France murdered 4 people in a schoolyard including 3 children at close range, and today French police described his motive as "He wanted revenge for the Palestinian children and he also wanted to take revenge on the French army because of its foreign interventions."

Anyone out there think Ms Badawi of the UN is at least partially responsible for inciting murder?


Meanwhile, The European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, was quoted in Maariv as responding to the shooting by comparing children gunned down in cold blood with “what’s happening” to the children in Gaza:

“When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we also remember what happened in Norway last year, and what is happening now in Syria and Gaza, and other areas of the world,”

I’m not sure what in particular Ms Ashton is referring to in Gaza, did she also take Ms Badawi’s false tweet at face value, or does she really believe that that there are Israeli actions equivalent to walking into a schoolyard, pointing a gun at a small child, and firing at short range?

It seems like there are employees of International agencies who have no problem encouraging and inciting anti-Semitism.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rainbow in the Night

If you haven’t yet seen it, you should watch the following short film / music video

From the producer:

Rainbow in the Night, a short YouTube clip, is a brief but exceptionally powerful video created specifically for today's fast paced generation. Using stunning cinematography, a haunting score, hard hitting lyrics and vocals that will touch the deepest recesses of the soul, this historical work offers a glimpse into World War II Krakow as seen through the eyes of a survivor. Beginning with footage of a 1939 original oil painting of a synagogue being ravaged by the Nazis, shown at a private event in the survivor's home, Rainbow in the Night is an exquisitely emotional journey, as the survivor recalls first the warmth of his childhood home, then the shock and disbelief as people are forced to leave their homes for the Krakow ghetto, taken to an extermination camp and after enduring unspeakable cruelty, finally liberated. Set against a backdrop of utter despair and hopelessness, the survivor relives the inexplicable power that enabled him to persevere, the rainbow in the figurative night that promised better days to come. Culminating triumphantly with our hope for the future, the faces of hundreds of modern day Jewish children, Rainbow in the Night is both a euphoric tribute to the indomitable human spirit that enabled the Jewish people to survive against all odds and also a call to arms, to rekindle the spark of Jewish pride and unity among Jews worldwide, as we continue to rebuild the generations that were destroyed by the Nazis.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Follow up on Netvision Fiasco

I said that if I would post any follow up from Netvision.
This morning I got a call from Tami at Netvision who had read my last post and was keen to try to make amends.
She again repeated that I must have agreed to the Internet plan when they called, she said that they would not have given me an Internet account unless they provided me with a user name and password.
I repeated that I definitely did not agree to open an Internet account and I am certain that I never received a user name or password. Again I asked for a copy of the original conversation, and again she said that they could not provide it without a court order.
She did however agree to a full refund and she said that she would personally review the original call to verify what happened.
She said that the refund will take up to 30 days – Bli neder I’ll leave a comment to this post if/when it arrives.
So it seems that the only way to get any service from Netvision is to write about it on the Internet. With that in mind, if anyone else has a story that they would like posted on this blog, please leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

013 Netvision – Customer Service at its worst

If any readers are considering 013 Netvision as an Internet Service Provider or long distance phone carrier – don’t.
If you already have an account with 013 Netvision, you should carefully check your monthly statements to make sure that there are no additional charges for services that you did not agree to.
If you want details of what really bad customer service looks like, take a look at the following (sorry that this is such a long post). If anyone else has had an interesting customer service experience with 013 Netvision, whether good or bad, please leave a comment.
For the past several years, we have used 013 Netvision for long distance phone calls. About 3 months ago, a representative of 013 Netvision called to offer us their Internet service. She offered a similar service to what I’m getting for a better price and the first moth free.
Because I never agree to any deals over the phone without first seeing the details in writing, I asked her to email me further information, including specific technical details that she was unable to provide me on the phone. They never sent a follow-up email, and because I am very happy with my current ISP and had no interest in changing, I never followed up with them.
To my surprise, when I opened my 013 bill last month, I was astonished to see that they were charging me for the Internet Service, in spite of the fact that I never agreed to it and never used it – nor did I ever get the technical details how to connect to them, so I could not have used it even if I had wanted to.
Assuming that this was a simple misunderstanding, I called their client services number to explain what had happened and to get a refund.
After more than half an hour on hold, the agent I spoke to transferred my to Omaima, a manager in the Client Services department. She pulled up my information, and said that according to their records I agreed to the deal. She then had the Chutzpah to try to sell me the deal instead of cancelling it. I explained several times that I was not interest in their Internet Service, I just wanted my money back and for them to cancel the account.
After a long conversation, Omaima agreed to get someone to review a recording of the original sales call, and if I had not agreed to the deal, she would refund the money and cancel the service. She said that she would call me back later that day or the next business day to confirm that the issue had been resolved.
When she didn’t get back to me the following business day, I again called, was put on hold for almost an hour and left a message with Bracha who said that someone would get back to me (which they didn’t).
The following day, after almost an hour on hold, I spoke to Rinat who said that the case was being reviewed and someone would get back to me later that day or the following day (which they didn’t)
2 days later again I spent an hour on hold. This time I spoke to Irene (who was the only representative I spoke to who even sounded sympathetic), who said that she would investigate the case and get back to me later in the same day (which she didn’t).
Irene did transfer me to a senior representative, Yasmin, who said the same thing – that the case was being reviewed and she would get back to me the same day (which she didn’t).
This morning, I spent almost 2 hours on the phone with them. I spoke to a manger called Adi who outright lied to me claiming that I must have given a credit card number to the sales representative, which I am 100% certain did not happen. When I asked for a recording or transcript of the verbal contract she said that there was no way for them to send me a copy without a court order.
She also had the chutzpah to again try to sell me their Internet plan service based on their terrific client services (I kid you not!).
She said that there was no way for them to refund the money, I asked if they could compensate me in a different way, for example credit in long distance phone calls. She said that she would get someone from the phone service department to call us back, which (surprise surprise) they did – to offer us almost the same phone deal that is advertised on the radio (great compensation).
So bottom line, we are looking for a new long-distance provider.
I have sent a copy of this post to 013 Netvision’s Customer Service department. If I get a response, I will post it as a follow-up message.
If anyone else has any 013 Customer Services experiences, please leave a comment.