Monday, April 30, 2007

A Teaching for Lag BaOmer


This coming Mozzaei Shabbat and Sunday we are celebrating the holiday of Lag BaOmer which is the 33rd day after Pessach. All over Israel huge fires will be lit and many religious Jews are dancing around them. Of course, the best place to be is the northern town of Meron where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai is buried. Hundreds of thousands of people will be there.

Last Shabbat I heard a great teaching from Rabbi Mordechai Machlis as well as from Rabbi Meir Weiner:
Whoever is the same person on Lag BaOmer he had been on Pessach has missed the point of the Sefirat HaOmer (the counting of the Omer). While counting the Omer, we should also spiritually grow and change in order to get ready for receiving the Torah on Shavuot.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Shabbat Shalom

A Litvak in the Bakery


About two weeks ago, we had a strange and also funny incident with a haredi in our bakery. The haredi was litvish which plays an important role in the incident.

He walked into the bakery and asked the two sales people if our products are kosher. Well, already this is a joke, as we have the Hechsher (kosher certificate) from the Belzer Chassidim (Badatz Belz).
Then he continued inquiring about the wheat harvest. Seriously, he asked if at the time of the harvest, certain shells around the actual wheat plant are being removed.

The two female sales people couldn't really follow his mind, as they are Chabad and Breslov. We knew what he meant but it was such a strange question. We have a Hechsher from the Beit Din Zedek and this should be enough.

However, nor for the litvishe haredi. He insisted on calling our Mashgiach (kosher expert). So we did call the Mashgiach who told us that he doesn't talk to Meshugaim. Of course, we didn't tell this kind of response to the Litvak but made very clear that our products are super kosher.
In the end, the Litvak left and prefered to ask his litvishe Rabbi first.

The two sales people were upset about the behaviour of the Litvak and called it typical. I think Badatz Belz should be enough and if someone wants to have special shells of plants removed, maybe he should plant his own field and take care of it.

However, this is not meant to be an offense to all the Litvakim.

Shabbat Shalom to all of you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Jewish Treasures in the Vatican


After the destruction of the Second Temple, 50 tons of gold disappeared from the Temple. Among the treasures was the golden Menorah. Obviously, the Romans took everything to Rome.
When one goes to Rome today you can still see the Arch of Titus which shows Roman soldiers coming back to their capital and carrying the Menorah.

At many shiurim (classes) I heart the teaching that years ago someone wrote the sentence "Am Israel Chai" (the Jews are alive) on the arch. Where are you Greeks, Romans, Persians and Babylonians ? You just disappeared but the Jews survived until today. If anyone wants to see an ancient people, look at the Jews.

In Israel and elsewhere, many historians are convinced that the Temple menorah and further Jewish treasures from the Temple are being hidden in the Vatican. There is no real proof, however in the past people claimed having seen the Menorah and the Zitz worn by the Cohen HaGadol.
Even if this matter is unclear, one thing is real. The Vatican is hiding ancient Jewish books such as the original writings of the Rambam, first editions of kabbalistic books etc. Two years ago, they lend three ancient books to the Israel - Museum in Jerusalem in order to exhibit them. Two manuscripts from the 15th century, one was the Rambam's Mishna Torah. The third manuscript was a Tehillim (Psalm) edition from the 13th century. It is ridiculous as the Jews should be the owners of their books and not a foreign religion.
It happens quite often to me that I study certain religious books and on the third page I see the note that the original is kept in the Vatican. I would like to see the Muslims what they would do if their literature was stolen by people from a different religion.

Every few years, the two Israeli chief rabbis go to see the pope and to negotiate with him the return of the menorah and further Temple treasures. The Vatican never denied nor admitted their possession of any Temple treasures. However, they are afraid that a return of the menorah to the Temple Mount could bring the Meschiach immediately. But not the Meschiach they would like to see.

Even former president Moshe Katzav asked the Vatican for a return but nothing happened. The chief rabbis and the president tried making a compromise with the Vatican. They offered to only exhibit the menorah at the Israel - Museum. The answer was no answer: No comment from the Vatican. One could write a great thriller about the issue. Maybe Dan Brown, the author of the Da Vinci Code.

Whatever the reaction of the Vatican may be, one thing is definitely for sure. The Meschiach is going to come, as the Vatican cannot lock up G-d's decisions and the Jewish Torah.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Day of the Bones instead Independence


This coming Tuesday, Israel is celebrating its 59th Independence Day. Then most Israelis go out into parks or to the beach and celebrate the day with barbecues. Most Israelis, but not all.
Every year we hear the same discussions why the haredim in the ultra - orthodox neighbourhood of Mea Shearim ignore the Independence Day. Not all of them but at least those belonging to the Edah HaCharedit such as Satmar, Dushinsky etc. For many chassidim it is just another normal workday. Especially Satmar and the Neturei Karta see the day as "The Day of the Bones" and as a day of mourning. The name "Day of the Bones" (Yom HaAzamot) is a play on the Hebrew words "Yom HaAzma'ut (Independence Day).

Mea Shearim has two groups not recognizing the present State of Israel: The Neturei Karta as well as the Edah HaCharedit. The Edah is an organization consisting of the chassidic groups Satmar, Toldot Aharon, Dushinsky and others. The Neturei Karta branch in Mea Shearim only consists of a few families living in and close to Beit Hungari backyard right at Mea Shearim Street. Their most famous activities took place in the fifties and sixties when their two charismatic Rabbis Amram Blau (Bloi) and Aharon Katzenellenbogen were in charge. Today as in the past, they are not an official member of the Edah HaCharedit but are being represented through the Satmarer chassidim.

According to the two groups, Israel can only exist when the time of the Meschiach has come. Anything else, as the present State today, is a Chilul HaShem (blasphemy). Israel could never be ruled by worldly law but only by Torah and Halachot. As long as Meschiach hasn't arrived, they mostly use the Yiddish language and not the Holy Tongue (Hebrew).
Neturei Karta, Toldot Aharon or Satmar do not use state - owned public transportation. They founded their own medical care systems and they refuse to receive any social benefit from the Israeli government. Instead rich chassidim from abroad, especially New York, support them financially.
It is not quite clear who represents the Neturei Karta in Mea Shearim today. Officially it is still Moshe Hirsch. However, there are rumours that he is suffering from the Alzheimer disease. Moshe Hirsch became famous when he served in Arafat's cabinet as a minister for Jewish affairs. Due to this job he became an outlaw in Israeli society.

Whoever walks through the streets of Mea Shearim on Independence Day will not find any Israeli flags hanging on buildings. There is absolutely no sign of a holiday. Life goes on as normal. 200 meter far away in Yaffa Road, people celebrate, but not so in the chassidic hood. Kids go to school and shops are open.

Personally I do not judge those people. We are a democracy and everyone can choose to celebrate or not. Once an acquaintance of mine, a chassidic woman from the Chatam Sofer group, asked me if I celebrate Independence Day. Our politicians are more than corrupt, the settlers are being thrown out of their homes and the economy is a mess. What reason is there to celebrate at all ? I told her that she is absolutely right but, however, after thousands of years in exile, the Jews finally have their own state. This is a reason to celebrate.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vishnitz and others


Today I spoke to a few people who know the chassidic world and I was told that Vishnitz in Israel (Bnei Brak) is not as anti - zionistic as it maybe used to be.
Some time ago, they left the anti - zionistic organization (in Meah Shearim) Edah HaCharedit and switched to the Agudat Israel.
Obviously this took place due to financial reasons, as Vishnitz in Israel is not as rich as Satmar which is getting plenty of money from Williamsburgh.

The Agudah has its own Knesset party called Yahadut HaTorah and the Vishnitzer are being represented by Shmuel Halpert.

In approx. 2 - 3 weeks, I am going to publish a long article about the chassidic group Toldot Aharon and its two split - offs. Toldot Aharon is an extremely closed society and I was very fortunate to get plenty of books on their chassidut. Some books are written in Yiddish but I am fihting my way through.

Chassidut Seret - Vishnitz


People visiting Eastern Europe in order to see all the famous chassidic sites do not find any living chassidim left in the area. They can just visit cemeteries. Buildings once serving as Batei Midrash or synagogues before the Second World War are now turned into theatres, cinemas or gymnasiums. The chassidic shtetl world in Eastern Europe is dead.
Those chassidim who survived the Holocaust moved to other places such as Jerusalem, Haifa (Seret - Vishnitz), Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, New York - Boro Park, Wlliamsburgh, Crown Heights or Monsey, Antwerp, Zurich (Gur), Manchester and London.

Outside Haifa, the chassidic group Seret - Vishnitz is almost unknown. However, in the mostly irreligious city of Haifa, their chassidim have an enomous influence. Seret - Vishnitz is mostly in charge of watching the kashrut and giving out kosher certificates.
After the Second World War, Haifa became the headquarter of Seret - Vishnitz. There they built their own neighbourhood called Ramat Vishnitz with approx. 200 families living there today. According to their own sources, 450 live in Ramat Vishnitz today. Worldwide there are about 600 families.
In the past years, the chassidut started to spread outside Haifa and built Batei Midrash in Jerusalem, Bnei Brak and New York.

The town Seret (Siret) is located in today's Romania, just 2 km far away from the border to the Ukraine. The region is called the Bukowina and the county is called Suceava (Shatz, Shotz in Yiddish).
From 1870 – 1940, Seret was one of the chassidic centers. Their Rebbes came from the Rubin family which was also related to the founders of the Vishnitz dynasty, the Hager family.
In 1936, the Jewish community of Seret chose the newcomer Rabbi Baruch Hager as their spiritual leader and Rebbe. Rabbi Baruch Hager was one of the sons of the third Vishnitzer Rebbe Israel Hager. At most chassidic groups it is customary to call the Rebbe by one of the names of the books he wrote. The same custom applies to Vishnitz, and the third Vishnitzer Rebbe is called "Ahavat Israel". His son Rebbe Baruch was later on called "Mekor Baruch".
When the third Vishnitzer Rebbe died his son Rebbe Chaim Meir Hager took over leadership and his brother Baruch moved to Seret where he served as Rebbe until 1941.

Both brothers escaped from the Nazis and moved to Israel right after the war. Vishnitz as well as Seret – Vishnitz very much empasizes the love to Eretz Israel. The Land of Israel is a miracle and every Jew should live there.
After the war, on Erev Yom Kippur, the two brothers arrived at Antwerp. Approx. six months later they received the permission to move to Israel. As soon as the boat arrived at Haifa port, the Seret – Vishnitz Rebbe decided to stay in Haifa in order to reopen a new chassidic center. His brother, the Vishnitzer Rebbe CHaim Meir Hager first moved to Tel Aviv and later on to Bnei Brak.

Rebbe Baruch Hager did not waste any time and built a whole neighbourhood in Haifa which is Ramat Vishnitz. When he was older he sometimes was forced to leave Israel due to health reasons. He went to Switzerland to get fresh air and medical treatment. He always said that in Switzerland one can have a great cure but the air in Eretz Israel is best for the soul. In 1963, Rebbe Baruch Hager died at the age of 68 years.
His successor was his son Rebbe Elizer Hager who is still the Rebbe today. He followed in the footsteps of his father and also emphasizes Torah study. It was him who built further synagogues and yeshivot in Ramat Vishnitz. The present Vishnitzer Rebbes in Bnei Brak and Monsey are his cousins. Rebbe Eliezer Hager's brother Rabbi Moshe Hager is or was head of the Seret – Vishnitz yeshiva in Haifa.

His nephew is the head of Shotz – Vishnitz in Haifa. The only thing I could find about Shotz is that Rebbe Moshe of Shotz, a son of Rebbe Baruch Hager, became Rebbe of Shotz in 1899. Later on, his son Chaim succeeded him.

What is really the difference between Seret – Vishnitz and Vishnitz ? First of all, Seret – Vishnitz originates in the town of Seret, and only under the leadership of Rebbe Baruch Hager the two names were merged together. In general, Seret – Vishnitz still sticks to the customs of Seret. Unfortunately, I cannot give you any examples, as I don't know their specific customs. Seret – Vishnitz has its own internet forum on an Israeli forum site. The information given there is rather limited and in order to get more, one needs to sign up. A process which was to inconvient for me.
It is very likely that Seret – Vishnitz took over certain customs from the Vishnitz group. At least, I couldn't find any differences in their clothing. What still interestes me is how Vishnitz can love the Land of Israel and still be somehow anti – zionistic ? It seems that they only love Israel for religios reasons.

My second question is how can you stress the importance of loving every Jew but, on the other hand, be such a closed sect. As we all know, chassidic groups do might accept newcomers such as Jews becoming religious later on in their lives or converts to Judaism, but even if, there are still differences being made. Especially when the subject Shidduchim comes up.
Maybe someone from Vishnitz or Seret – Vishnitz reads this and can answer.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Vishnitz at war


The Israeli press and the religious Blog - World is jumping on one subject these days. The war between the two Vishnitz brothers in Bnei Brak.

The present Vishnitzer Rebbe of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Moshe Yeshoshua Hager, is 92 years old and suffers from the Alzheimer disease. Officially, his oldest son Rabbi Israel Hager is now leading Vishnitz Bnei Brak. However, his younger brother Rabbi Menachem Mendel considers himself as the successor of his father. Now Vishnitz Bnei Brak is split into two oppositions fighting each other.

During Pessach the Srulik group (followers of Rabbi Israel) threw eggs on their opponents. And it is getting even worse. Before Pessach, someone stole the original writings of Rebbe Moshe Yehoshua Hager out of the Beit Midrash. The two brothers are accusing each other. Yesterday a Beit Din in Bnei Brak decided that the thief has got one week to return the writing. If not, he will be banned from the community.

I am asking myself what this whole war has to do with chassidut. What would the Baal Shem Tov say ?

Problems with Toldot Aharon


Menashe Darash earns a living by installing solar systems on the roofs in the city of Haifa. He said that once while he was working in a Vishnitz area in Haifa, he looked around and became interested in Chassidim. A little later he went to Jerusalem, put on a black Kipa and walked right into Mea Shearim. There he spoke to chassidim of the extreme group of Toldot Aharon and they took him to their Beit Midrash. They seemed to think that he might be interested in their chassidut and decided to teach him. For five years, Menashe Darash was sometimes studying with the group. Obviously, the Chassidim got the impression that he intends joining the group later on.

Suddenly everything was over. Darash never intended to join the group but was rather collecting material to write a book about them. He wrote a novel about the forbidden love between a Toldot Aharon girl and a non – religious Israeli.
The Toldot Aharon group was furious and according to Darash, the Chassidim were threatening him on the phone. Furthermore, they dumped 50 mice into his living room. The Toldot Aharon' lawyer tried to stop the book from being published. Reason: Menashe Darash was lying at the Chassidim in order to find out the secrets of the group which he now wanted to publish. Another reason was that the Toldot Aharon youth could read the book and get wrong impressions about their own chassidut.
So far, the book has not been published and the chassidim have to pay about 10,000 $ damages to Menashe Darash.

I think that Menashe Darash behaved completely irresponsible and selfish. He should have told the Chassidim, and they even might have accepted it. Who knows ?
Instead he kept his ideas as a secret and now other writers or people interested are likely to face the worst suspicion by the group.
One of my next articles will deal with Toldot Aharon and its branches Avraham Yitzchak and Shomrei Emunim (Guardians of Faith). For me it is quite hard to write about groups such as Vishnitz, Satmar or Toldot Aharon, as you never know how they react.
In the case of Menashe Darash, Toldot Aharon was afraid that he could publish certain modesty secrets. However, those things have already been published a long time ago by the Israeli writer Amnon Levy. And by the way, everyone can just buy those books written by Rabbi Daniel Frisch in any book store in Mea Shearim and read the "secrets" himself.

In the near future I am planning to write stories about Chassidim. However, I would never mention names of groups, let alone certain customs which would identify them.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Sukka in Auschwitz


Every Sukkot, Rabbi Mordechai Machlis keeps on telling the same story about a kosher Sukka in Auschwitz. He does it for his family and his many many guests.
This story is about his friend and teacher Rabbi Yitzchak Traube. Rabbi Machlis always concludes with the words that he does not know whether anything similar ever happened or whether this story has ever been published before.
Listeners are always shocked. I want to share the story with others in remembrance of Rabbi Yitzchak Traube.

Rabbi Yitzchak Traube was imprisoned in the Auschwitz death camp for quite a while. Every morning, he and other prisoners were forced to walk along a certain road within the camp in order to get to work.
The festival of Sukkot was approaching, and as Rabbi Traube walked along the road, he saw little branches laying there. He looked aside and saw a building which looked more like a ruin. Only the walls were left but without a roof.
From now on, every day he pushed with his feet more and more branches to the side of the road. He had to be very careful because the guards might suspect something.

On Erev Sukkot, he left his barrack and ran to the place where he had pushed the branches. One cannot imagine in what danger he was. Leaving the barrack at night and being caught meant instant death. However, the rabbi was lucky. He put the branches over the walls, and this way he built a kosher Sukka. Additionally, he had saved up some bread which he ate.

In the middle of Auschwitz, he fulfilled the Mitzwa of making a blessing on food and sitting in a kosher Sukka.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Yom HaShoah


Tomorrow night, the annual Holocaust Memorial Day will start in Israel. All restaurants, discos, theatres and cinemas will be closed. A great memorial service is taking place at Yad vashem.

Monday morning we will stand still for the two - minute sirene sound but restaurants etc. are open again.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Holocaust - Memorial Day


Next week, the national Israeli Holocaust - Memorial (Yom HaShoah) is taking place. The day is always depressiv for each of us. The whole day we hear about this only subject. Holocaust - survivors speak on the radio and TV, memorial services everywhere and in the morning, we stand still to a two - minute sirene sound.

Today's Israeli daily paper MAARIV reports about survivors. According to Maariv, today there are 250,000 Holocaust - survivors in Israel of whom 80,000 live below poverty line.
This is a disgrace for Israel. Offcials say that the government does not have any money to support survivor organizations and, therefore, has to make budget cuts all the time.

Here a video about the Holocaust - Day in Israel

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Eshet Chayil - the womens' role in haredi society


People meeting haredi women in the streets might automatically think of them as modern slaves to their husbands and haredi society. For outsiders, they seem to have hardly any rights due to the rabbis predominance. But how is the daily life of a haredit (haredi woman) and what does she think about her role ?

First of all, we have to differentiate between various haredi groups. The role of a haredit in Israel is not the same as the one in New York or London. Furthermore, there is a big difference between chassidic, litvish and modern - orthodox society.
For the haredit born into haredi society (who did not join the society later), her role already starts in her earliest childhood. At the age of three, they go to a haredi kindergarden and later join the haredi girls school Beit Yaakov. Almost each chassidic group has its own Beit Yaakov and even if there are other names for the schools, the systems remains the same. Litvishe haredim do have their own Beit Yaakov and do not mix with chassidim.
The Beit Yaakov system in Israel is very different from the one abroad. For example, in New York, Beit Yaakov is more open minded and more intellectual. This is one of the reasons why many Israeli haredim avoid marrying a girl from abroad. Some think that the girls might be too open minded. However, today many Israeli haredim changed their minds and do marry girls from abroad. Many times the reasons are money and a foreign passport. In general, Americans are considered as rich, and who does not want to live in the US ?

What exactly do learn haredi girls in Beit Yaakov or other haredi schools ? Also here we find differences between chassidim and litvish. In general, girls learn Torah, how to raise their future children, maths, geography, history and Tehillim (Psalms). The Torah level taught is not on the highest level, as you can surely imagine. Talmud is not taught at all and foreign languages such as English, are only taught in certain schools.

Haredim like to quote a certain Passuk from the Talmud where it says that men have different tasks in life than women. And the womens' task is not to study Talmud. However, we could discuss many interpretations of this Passuk but those women cannot, as they do not have the knowledge. However, the latest Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, decided that women do have to study the Talmud.

After high school, most girls are already getting married at the age of 17 or 18. Once they are married, they do not have to serve in the Israeli army, and also do not serve in the national social service (Sherut Leumi), as the girls from the national religious movement.
From the earliest childhood, hredi girls are being prepared for their future family life. The haredit should find a suitable husband, preferably a Ben Torah (a Torah student). I should mention, that many haredim have already changed their minds about this. At least among the litvishe haredim. There, the husband should go to work, earn money and not study Torah the whole day.
Nevertheless, in chassidic circles this is unacceptable. The husband has to study and the woman is earning the money and taking care of the household. The chassidim from Gur (Gerer) are quite helpful and support their wifes while the Belzer chassidim would only like to see their wifes earning the income and taking care of the house.

The main task of the haredit is raising the kids and taking care of the household. She should be the perfect Eshet Chayil and be very modest. Wear modest clothes and behave accordingly in public.
Besides her tasks she can have certain hobbies and go out. Usually the women go to shiurim (relig. classes). Furthermore, they join music groups and cooking or sports classes. They go on trips to cemetries where famous rabbis are buried or to famous synagogues. All events are organized by their own group and the harediot do stick to it. Each chassidic group has its own womens' organization for social services such as visiting the sick or collecting donations.

You hardly find any women in the haredi press. Neither as authors nor in articles about women issues. Photos showing women are strictly forbidden in the haredi press.

So far, your prejudices are probably being confirmed but there are harediot who have a different life. Not everyone is stuck in society. There are women studying the Talmud, even with their husbands. There are even famous wifes of rabbis. The wife of the former Satmarer Rebbe, Feiga Teitelbaum, was as famous as a popstar in chassidic society. Even men asked her questions.
The wife of a former Vishnitzer Rebbe advised her husband in many issues. In Chassidiut Belz, the wife of the Rebbe (Admor) should be an example for all the women. In Chassidut Gur, the womens' role is very limited.

There are academic women in litvish and chassidic society. Lawyers, doctors, professors, scientists etc. It very much depends on where you live, if the husband agrees and if society accepts it. Israeli harediot are less educated for two reasons: 1. They don't like to study at universities because of modesty reasons. At universities, men and women study toegether.
2. Most of them are not qualified for university studies, as the Israeli Beit Yaakov does not provide its students with higher education.

Now many of you will ask how those women suffer and still remain in haredi society. The common sense says that they should run away as fast as they can. However, your opinion about life is not their opinion. What seems best to me doesn’t mean it is the best for everyone else.
Whoever speaks to harediot will hardly hear the word "Feminism". They grow up in a certain way and never learned anything else which makes it much easier to accept their life style. They do not miss anything because they don't know anything else. In their eyes, they lead the most perfect religious life, and sometimes they do look down on the non – religious.
Neither world is perfect and as soon as a haredit starts to rebell, applies for divorce or is causing trouble in oher ways, she will be confronted with the mens' society which does not support rebells.

Each women has to make up her own mind in which society she will be happy. If there are no problems whatsoever, the women can be very happy and enjoy life. The problems only start when there is trouble. A rebellion against the system would never be successful or change anything. Convincing the rabbis is hard and sometimes it takes years or even centuries.
One thing should be very clear: In my home I can do whatever I want and it is no ones business. Not even the neighbour's business.

At the end, I should mention that I completely left out the sephardi women. In sephardi society is is totally unacceptable that women study Talmud or have an academic education let alone higher Torah knowledge.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chassidic Groups


After a long break I am going to continue describing chassidic groups. The next group I am writing about will be Seret - Vishnitz, and afterwards Toldot Aharon including its split - off Shomrei Emunim. In the near future I will continue with Satmar, Alexander, Karlin, Nadvorna and many more.

Customs of Chassidut Gur


For an outsider, it is very hard to find out details about the customs of the Gerer Chassidim (Chassidut Gur). If you know them a little better they can be very open minded, but the main problem is that they do not have a website. Unfortunately, they do not publish anything about themselves online and though, remain to most of us as a closed group.
One of the reasons why they are not on the internet may be that they very much emphasize modesty.

However, eventually I did find out a few of their customs. I found some great books and I asked a haredit who grew up with Gur.

1. There is no special Sidur (prayer book) for Chassidut Gur. In the synagogues, any chassidic Sidur can be used.

2. They usually do not shave or cut their beards but let them grow.

3. The men like to roll their Peyot (side curls) around the ears or just tight them around their heads under the kipa.

4. The famous Chassidic gartel (belt) is only used on holidays and during the daily prayer service.

5. Their traditional long black kaftan (coat) can also be of the colour blue. Blue is considered as modern, however, it is not issur (forbidden).

6. The Shabbat coat (kaftan) has four buttons.

7. One of the former Rebbes (Admorim) made a decree which forbade unmarried men to sleep in a pyjama until they are married. They are only allowed to sleep in long johns (long underwear) and a shirt. Getting dressed and undressed is only done under the blanket – for modesty reasons.
I am not sure if this decree is still valid.

8. They do not have any special Pessach customs and keep it as everyone else.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Back to Normal


We Israelis just finished Pessach and I am so glad that I can eat again. We ashkenazi Jews are so limited in our food habits on Pessach. As I learned for many years with Chassidim, I do keep certain chassidic customs as well, which makes it all worse. But after Pessach I am always proud of myself that I did it.

Actually the only custom I do add is not eating GEBROCHTS (Mazzeknedelsoup). I do not keep the Chabad custom eating the Mazzot from a plastic bag or not eating fish, as Vishnitz does.

Abroad Jews do have an additional day and they keep on celebrating tomorrow. Enjoy while we already line up in front of the bakeries.

Getting help


Of course, everybody wants his prayers to be answered. Each of us has special wishes he is praying for. No, I am not only talking about a lottery win but rather about health, a job, family matters etc.
Maybe one way to have our payers answered is that we start praying for others as well. If you go to the unemployment office, don't only pray that you are getting a job. Pray for all the people sitting there.
If you go to the doctor, don't only pray for your own health. Pray that everybody is being cured. We should take everyone into consideration.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Splitting of the Sea in the Beit Midrash


A strange custom is taking place on the 7th day of Pessach. The chassidim of Toldot Aharon will gather in their Beit Midrash and throw water onto the floor. This custom represents the Splitting of the Sea. Then their Rebbe (Admor) is going to dance while standing in the water.
He is going to dance in such ecstasy that it is said that his soul (Neshama) is going straight to HaShem.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Jews, Crusaders and Mazzot


I just finished reading the book THE CRUSADERS by Robert Payne. Whoever wants to know all the details about the crusades, the kings of Jerusalem and the battles with the Muslims should read this book.
However, the author entirely left out the murder of the Jewish population by the crusaders. The killings already started back in Europe and continued in Jerusalem.

After the destruction of the Second Temple, the Temple menorah was stolen by the Romans. Most people today agree that the menorah is being hidden in the Vatican.
Many years later the crusaders continued stealing Temple objects and sending them to Rome.
The present Israeli chief rabbis have been to the Vatican many times in order to speak to the pope. Until today, the Vatican refuses giving out any information about what kind of Temple objects they possess. Additionally, their library includes the greatest original works of the Rambam and other great Jewish writers. But no comment from the Vatican let alone a thought about giving it back to the real owners: The Jews.

A subject which always comes up on Pessach is the Blood Libel. During the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of baking their Mazzot with blood from Christian children. It is unknown how many Jews were persecuted just because this rediculous accusation. In last weeks Parashat Zav we were commanded not to consume blood. It is an Issur Deoraita.
How can other religions come to such stupid conclusions and make such false accusations ? Just read the Torah and see what commandments (Mitzwot) the Jews got.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Blessing of the Cohanim at the Western Wall


Tomorrow morning, at the end of the Shacharit prayer, the famous Bircat HaCohanim (the Blessing of the Cohanim) is going to take place at the Western Wall (Kotel). Here a video for all those who cannot be there live:

And here a link if you would like to see a few live pictures:

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Seder


The first Pessach holiday is already over. At least for Israelis. We only have one Seder which is enough for us. I don't envy the Jews abroad having two Seders (Sedarim).
Anyway I had a great Seder together with Chassidut Gur. It was a nice and warm atmosphere and I am glad I went. The food was great and I think that I need a diet now. I asked the chassidim and learned that neither Gur nor Bobov have special customs or rules for Pessach. They do everything just as everybody else.
However, the best things are always their teachings and I would like to share two teachings / thoughts from last night.

In the Haggadah we read the word "Nitzak" - We cried out....
The Israelites cried out to G-d due to their sufferings in Egypt. Only then He helped them.
From there we can learn that also today we have to cry out to G-d. Whenever we have a problem we should first cry out to G-d, as only He can help us. Afterwards we can still think about different solutions solving the problem.

Another thought from the Gerer Chassid Rabbi Shalom Mark:
Pessach is the holiday of freedom. When the Jews came out of Egypt they first had to learn again how to use freedom in a proper way.
What about us today ? Do we use our freedom in a proper way ?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Pessach Sameach


Have a great and happy Passover wherever you are.

Pessach Sameach ve Kasher.

פסח שמח וכשר !!!

Sunday, April 1, 2007