Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Prejudice: Chassidut Satmar


Unfortunately, in Jerusalem we do not have a Satmar Tish and our only possibility is watching them on Youtube.

We usually hear many things about Satmar:
They are anti – Zionist, rich, and the gossip about the latest disputes between the two present Rebbes is everywhere.

Fact is that the Satmar dynasty suffered severe losses during the Holocaust and even the Rebbes were imprisoned in concentration camps.

Today Satmar fights with Chabad and Chabad fights with Satmar. The famous disputes are well known. A further argument between the two groups is the size of the group. Both claim to be the largest chassidut in the world.

Starting from next week, I will explain some comments of the greatest Satmarer Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, as well as the history and chassidut of the group. How Rebbe "Yoelush" thought about Zionism and the State of Israel.

But is Satmar only anti anti anti ?

Not at all, because people usually tend to forget about the positive aspects of the groups which is, among others, the famous Chesed.

Rebbe Moshe Teitelbaum dancing at a wedding

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Reb Shlomo and Rav Meir


Two controversial rabbis who knew and respected each other. This week many Jews celebrate the Yahrzeit of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach (today) and Rabbi Meir Kahane (this coming Tuesday).

I do not belong to the followers of any of these rabbis. Reb Shlomo is too hippie and freaky although I do like some of his songs. However, as soon as I meet the real "Carlebachers", I get the feeling that I just cannot stand their "freaky hippie waving around". It is simply too much for me.

The same with Rabbi Kahane. For me, he was a little too radical but, nevertheless, he was a rabbi with many great Torah teachings. Unfortunately, too many people only concentrate on his political views but forget about his Torah shiurim.

The late night Belz Tish


Last Friday we went to another Tish. Well, we did not have too much of a choice, since the two Rebbes of Avraham Yitzchak and Toldot Aharon are abroad. Again. Anyone knows where they are or when they coming back ?

Instead we went to Belz. Nice walk in an almost warm late summer night. By accident, we even found the synagogue of Chassidut Czernobyl.

When we arrived at Belz, the Tish was almost over. The traditional fruits were already being handed out. What we did not know was that during the "winter", Belz start their Tish already at 9pm and they finish by 11pm.

At this point, I want to apologize to a reader of this blog who, two weeks ago, went to the Belz Tish and, unfortunately, I did not give him the correct time. Sorry, but I did not know that they had changed times !!!

The Great Belz Synagogue in Jerusalem

Israel and external Criticism


I put one of these polls into my German religious blog and the answer was astonishing.

My question was if Jews in Galut have the right to criticize Israel.

The majority of the people voting was: Yes, Israel has to listen to criticism from abroad.

Yes, there is no doubt about it. But how can people, even Jews, judge when they do not live in our country ? How do they know about certain situations they have never been into ?

And it is not only the point that people do not live here but, furthermore, have no clue about local mentalities.

This coming Wednesday, the haredi town Beitar Illit is holding elections for the new mayor, and as I do not live in Beitar neither know anything about the two fighting candidates, I do not get involved.

But would I have the right to do so ?

Kibbutz Ramat Rachel wants to avoid further Damage


Since Sukkot, Yad Le'Achim has been accusing the Jerusalem Kibbutz Ramat Rachel of too much hospitality for Christian missionaries let alone messianic Jews. During Sukkot, the Christians stayed at the Ramat Rachel Hotel, and Yad Le'Achim asked Jews not to celebrate any further events such as weddings or Bar Mitzwot at the Kibbutz hotel. Or in other words: Boycott the Kibbutz.

Now Ramat Rachel ran some ads and claimed the following:

Ramat Rachel runs the Kibbutz hotel according to Jewish tradition and the hotel as a Hechsher "Kasher Le'Mehadrin".

It is true that Christian groups stayed in the hotel over Sukkot but just in order to participate in the Jerusalem March organized by the Christian Embassy and the Municipality.

Ramat Rachel distanced itself from any kind of missionary activity let alone would invite messianic Jews.

However, fact is, that Ramat Rachel has been the host of many Christian groups for a long time. At certain times during the year, radical Christians travel to the Kibbutz where fanatic lectures are being held. Also anti - Jewish lectures.

Maybe Ramat Rachel should pay more attention to what their guests are talking about.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Attack - Yes or No ?


I do not know if other Jewish religious bloggers received so many critical responses as I did within the past few days. Countless readers doubt that those incidents, where women got beaten up by Haredim on Israeli buses, took really place the way described in the media. Did the attacks took place or did the Israeli press just look for more some excitement to write about. And is it not true that especially the Israeli left wing press always gets excited when there is something negative to write about the haredi world ?

I do not know the answer, as I was not there when it took place or did not take place. The latest incident from Beit Shemesh was published by at least two Israeli papers: Haaretz and Maariv.

The only thing we can do is taking into consideration that it could not be true the way it was described. Obviously there are different opinions about the real truth.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Enough is Enough


Miriam Shear on the last bus beatings in Jerusalem.

(Thanks to Dov Bear giving the link)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Sarah and Rachel


Since I gave up my bakery job, I have much more time doing something more useful in the evenings. My former job kept me occupied almost every night until I decided to escape and do something else with my life.

On Sunday I went to a Shiur about the Rambam and his "Moreh Nevuchim". A friend of mine convinced me to participate, and as the the whole Rambam - course seems to be endless, I will be busy for the time being.

I like classes where the participants are on a higher religious intellectual level and where people are challenged to think. And there is so much to think about the Rambam's philosophies anyway. The teaching rabbi is national religious and the rationality of the Rambam seems to fit him well.

However, last night I went to a another Shiur. A different rabbi and totally different people but sometimes we need a change. In the rabbi's living room we study the prophets and are now in the middle of the "Book of Micha". When the rabbi's wife and some of his daughters walked in, he announced that they all are just returning from Kever Rachel.

Today is the Yahrzeit of our fore mother Rachel and for some days already, thousands of Jews have been traveling to Rachel's grave. Bus No. 163 is leaving every twenty minutes from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and the ride to Kever Rachel only takes about half an hour or so. You do not have to pass a checkpoint while traveling to the grave. The Kever itself is still on Israeli territory and the Palestinian Authority of Beit Lechem only begins a few meters further.

Rachel's Grave years ago

Rachel's Grave today. Due to security reasons, the Israeli army built a wall around it.

Another friend told me that she had also been to the Kever yesterday. Due to the great demand, she was forced to wait some time in front of the grave. On one side, people walked in and a second door was used as exit. My friend told me that people just pushed each other through which did not disturb the special atmosphere of the place. But I am not sure if I just want to be pushed through somewhere.

Already next week, another event is waiting. Then we read in Parashat Chaye Sarah about the death of our fore mother Sarah. Thousands of people are going to spend this particular Shabbat Chaye Sarah in Hebron. The Ma'arat HaMachpelah will be busy.

The Ma'arat HaMachpelah in Hebron

For the past years, the Ma'arat HaMachpelah has become the reason for another dispute between Jews and Muslims. As Adam HaRishon and Chava, Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka and Yaakov and Lea are buried in the cave, it should be out of question to whom the cave belongs. Furthermore, Avraham bought the Ma'arah from Ephron.

However, also the Muslims claim their right to pray in the Machpelah. Avraham (they call him Ibrahim) was their forefather as well, as they stem from Ishmael. As we all know, G - d chose Yitzchak as a forefather of the Jewish nation and not his brother Ishmael and there is another discussion whether todays' Muslims are the real descendants of Ishmael.

In 1994, the Jewish extremist Baruch Goldstein shot many Muslims inside the Machpelah and caused further violence. To whom does the Ma'arat HaMachpelah belong ? Two religions claim the inheritance.

For us Jews it is a disgrace that we only have access to all the halls inside the cave on special occasions. Of course, we can go there but sometimes the Hall of Yitzchak or the Hall of Avraham are closed for us.

As far as I know, Christians do not have access at all but I might be mistaken. Avraham is regarded as the forefather of Jews and Muslims and the Christians have no real connection to him anyway.

Further details about Kever Rachel and the Ma'arat HaMachpelah:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A White Lie ?


Parashat Vayeira teaches us that Sarah is laughing when she hears the angel saying that she will bear a child. Bear child at Avraham's and her age ? That's ridiculous.

According to Talmud Bava Metzia 87a she said at that very moment: "And my husband is old !"
But when G - d told Avraham about the incident, He turned around her words: "And I (Sarah) have grown old".

But is not anyone obligated to tell the truth and especially G - d Himself ?

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz commentates that Sarah's original comment might have caused a dispute between her and Avraham. Each of us has to secure harmony between people. People should react wisely and not always tell the whole truth when a relationship or a friendship is in danger.

However, this does not mean that everyone can turn around the truth and later claim that his only intention was not to cause distress. Each of us should be wise enough to know what to say or not to say in certain situations.

Is this a religious behaviour ?


Israeli dailys and many Jewish blogs have written about it already: A few days ago, a religious woman got beaten up by five haredi men on a public bus in Beit Shemesh.

Years ago, Beit Shemesh used to be a small united town but today, it is basically divided into two parts: The haredi part and the rest. This division alone has led to many disputes in the past, as the non - religious do not want to be ruled by the Haredim.

As it is not too far from Jerusalem, many Haredim moved to Beit Shemesh in order to buy cheaper apartments. When young members of different chassidic groups get married, they move to Beit Shemesh. And thus, groups like Toldot Aharon or Avraham Yitzchak etc. already have their own neighbourhoods.

Not only the haredi society of Jerusalem demands more public buses with separate seating from the state - owned bus company Egged. Now the Haredim in Beit Shemesh start the same discussion.

There are already a few "religious" buses in Israel providing separate seating. For instance, the No. 1 in Bnei Brak, No. 402 from Jerusalem to Bnei Brak and other local Jerusalem buses going to the outskirts of Ramat Shlomo or Ramot. Then ,a few months ago, haredi society wanted to turn bus no. 15 (from Yaffa Road to Har Nof) into a "religious" bus. I heard that there are already signs for separate seating inside the bus but cannot confirm this, as I have not used the no. 15 bus for quite a while.

The latest incident took place in Beit Shemesh and is to be taken seriously. A religious woman was sitting on a bus which is mostly used by the haredi community of Beit Shemesh. She was asked by haredi men to move into the back of the bus, and as she refused, she got beaten by five haredi men.

Is this only the beginning of another threat showing Egged what could happen if the bus company does not react in favour of the Haredim ?

I always thought that haredi men do not touch strange women but in this case, those guys broke the Halachot themselves. And how can five religious guys jump on a woman ? How are they justifying their behaviour ? Not only in front of the religious community but especially before G - d ?

In what times do we live when a group of religious men jumps on women in order to keep up their self invented modesty rules ?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Who watches Orthodoxy ?


Two German - Jewish Blogs uncovered the wheeling and dealing of Berlin's orthodox rabbi, Rabbi Yitzchak Ehrenberg. Rabbi Ehrenberg gives out a Hechscher (kosher certificate) to the first German kosher beer called "SIMCHA".

The only problem is that due to Germany's strict regulations, German beer does not need a Hechscher, as it is only produced from wheat, yeast and water. According to German law, not chemicals whatsoever can be added. Hence, the whole Hechscher is totally unnecessary because the beer is kosher anyway.

Furthermore, it was uncovered that the company producing the "Simcha" - beer is connected to a fundamental Christian group in Saxony. The question coming up is: Why does an orthodox rabbi provides an unnecessary Hechscher for a product which is kosher from the beginning ?

Obviously Rabbi Ehrenberg likes his new pay check and is pleased to be invited by the Christian group which gives him at festivities a great seat in the front row. What an honour.

Unfortunately, Rabbi Yitzchak Ehrenberg is not the only orthodox - unorthodox Rabbi working in Germany. Many of their rabbis are Israelis and a kind of escaped Israel, in order to work abroad where the communities usually do not know about a negative history those rabbis already enjoy. Some even have a criminal record in Israel. And who cares abroad ? German communities do not bother with calling the Rabbanut and asking questions.

When I went to Germany in January 1998, I experienced one catastrophe after the other. The orthodox rabbi in my community considered himself as litvish - haredi but in further articles, I will explain how a religious rabbi can turn into the opposite when there is just enough money and honour involved.

I am also going to explain whether the Israeli chief rabbinate is able to do something against orthodox rabbis abroad breaking any kind of Halacha. My experiences by dealing with the Rabbanut, the Ministry of Religious Affairs, the Jewish Agency, Yad Le' Achim and many many different rabbis seem to be a little older (approx. six years). However, I doubt very much that Germany is so much different today.

Maybe my articles can help other people standing up against certain unkosher rabbi's activities. Even if there is plenty of red tape and disappointment involved.

Kibbutz Ramat Rachel and its Missionary Congresses


Kibbutz Ramat Rachel is a wealthy Kibbutz which already says a lot. Most Kibbutzim are deeply in debts and can hardly pay their bills although productivity is still very high. Today their majority is facing disastrous problems and more and more high qualified people, especially the youth, are leaving the Kibbutz.

However, Ramat Rachel, located in the city of Jerusalem (near Talpiot) is wealthy because the members found a great income source. They built a huge congress hall which is also available for wedding celebrations. And as Ramat Rachel is nice and rich, it is surrounded by plenty of nature.

But the congress hall and further facilities are not only available for weddings. Obviously the Kibbutz has found great customers paying lots of cash. For at least more than two years it has been going on now, and the Israeli anti - missionary organisation Yad Le' Achim is running ads against going to Ramat Rachel. At least as long as the Kibbutz rents out its facilities to Christian missionary organizations as well as for messianic congresses.

Apparently the Kibbutz does nothing to stop its activities due to money reasons. Cash versus Judaism. And cash seems to be more important.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On Vacation in Beit Shemesh


For the past two weeks, a chassidic Tish neither took place at Chassidut Toldot Aharon nor at Toldot Avraham Yitzchak. The two rebbes, Rabbi David Kahn and his bother Rabbi Yaakov Shmuel Kahn, were on vacation in Beit Shemesh.

Beit Shemesh is a small town about 20 km far away from Jerusalem. It used to be a small town without anything to do or any kinds of attractions. But for the past few years, especially many new immigrants from the States settled in Beit Shemesh. Rents and estate prices are much lower than in Jerusalem and it is easy to commute. Additionally, many new jobs were created. Mostly in the High Tech field. And believe it or not, many High Tech companies only employ haredi women, as they are thought to be very reliable. But also chassidic groups realized certain advantages and built their own haredi neigbourhoods.

Toldot Aharon and Avraham Yitzchak are therefore not an exception. Their Rebbes went to visit their members and, additionally, used the trip as a brief vacation. However, this coming Friday, the Tishes in Jerusalem are going to take place as usual again.

Anyway, Mea Shearim seemed to be rather abandoned. Not too many Tishes took place last night. When we went to Chassidut Dushinsky, we were also told that there was nothing. Next Friday, we will be back at Belz and later on back in Mea Shearim.

Memories: November 1995


This coming Wednesday, 24th October 2007, Israel remembers the 12th anniversary of the assassination of former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Every year, the anniversary brings back all the pictures in our minds. Pictures we saw right after the shooting and afterwards. A country was in shock and, for a short period of time, helpless to deal with itself.

When Yitzchak Rabin was assassinated on November 4th, 1995, I was studying Hebrew in an Ulpan in Kibbutz Givat Brenner near Rehovot. Our Ulpan was almost over and soon we would leave the Kibbutz. As far as I remember, November 4th, was a Shabbat and the whole day I was thinking to join some friends who were planning to go to Tel Aviv in the evening. A huge celebration should take place in Ibn Gavirol Street, right in front of the Tel Aviv municipality.

However, we decided to stay in the Kibbutz, as we were not really in the mood to face all the crowd at the demonstration. Instead, we watched "Crocodile Dundee 2" on TV. As we were in the middle of the movie, suddenly a black screen appeared. First we thought that there was a technical problem but soon we saw a news studio. Journalists were running around and it was clear that something had happened. We did not get too excited, as such interruptions are nothing new in Israel where something happens every few hours. We are just used to it.

A reporter announced that apparently someone shot at Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin but nothing is certain. A female eye witness claimed that nothing whatsoever had happened and that Rabin was save. The nation took a deep breath and believed her.
We thought that the movie would continue now, but nothing happened. A few minutes later, the sad announcement took place. Yitzchak Rabin had died at the Ichilov - Hospital where he was taken. The country stopped breathing for a few seconds and none of us could really believe what had happened. Things like that take place in Hollywood or in Dallas, where President Kennedy was shot, but not in Israel.

The famous Israeli news caster Yaakov Eylon did not know what to say. He sat in his studio and probably thought that he is just in the middle of a nightmare. The rest of the evening was filled with media reports and we saw a young man with a black Kipa getting arrested. A Jew had killed a Jew ? Each of us expected a Muslim murderer. The message that a religious Jew had killed Rabin was an even greater shock for the whole nation.

The next morning when I came into the Kibbutz Dining - Room, things were bad. The Kibbutz members were speechless and it was totally quiet. A friend of mine, an elderly lady (born in Berlin before the Holocaust) asked me: "Nu, what do you say about this" ?

The teacher of our Ulpan class tried to teach us the words of the last song, Rabin had sung at the demonstration: "Shir Le'Shalom". There was not much to teach that day, as everybody was too shocked.

The following days were a catastrophe for the whole nation. Unfortunately, the press and Yitzchak Rabin's widow Lea started an unnecessary war against the religious population. It is understandable that Lea Rabin was mourning about her husband, however, there is no reason to accuse the whole religious population of being guilty. Her second war was against the opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu had done nothing when his followers held up posters showing Rabin in a Nazi uniform. Lea Rabin considered this as supporting certain extreme ideas.

Kibbutz Givat Brenner organized a bus to the Knesset. Members could get a ride in order to see Yitzchak Rabin's coffin in front of the Knesset. Some Ulpan members, including myself, were lucky to get a ride on the bus as well. After an hour we arrived in Jerusalem. Although it was after 10pm, the place around the Knesset was packed with thousands of people. We were told that it takes about another six hours until we are standing in front of the coffin.

The Kibbutzniks decided to go home.

A day or so later, I went to the funeral of Yitzchak Rabin. It was impossible getting near Mount Herzl and eventually I watched everything on a TV screen in a Jerusalem restaurant. I have never seen the streets of Jerusalem so abandoned as on that day.

Every day, we heard different news. Suddenly someone came up with the idea that not Yigal Amir had killed Rabin but the Shabak (interior secret service). Obviously some friends of Yigal Amir were involved in the assassination as well and even worked as informants for the Shabak.

There are rumours until this day that Amir shot Rabin but that the shots did not cause his dead. Rather, he was killed by Shabak agents inside the car; on the way to the hospital. More and more people believe in this theory and some books were written about it. Honestly, I am not sure whom to believe but it seems obvious that Yigal Amir killed Rabin.

Later on, the police took Yigal Amir to the place where the murder had taken place. Right in front of the steps on the backside of the municipality. Amir explained where he stood and how he shot the Prime Minister.

A video appeared. Someone had taken it before and after Rabin was killed. The person sold his video for lots of money to a TV channel (see below). The video was shown on TV but it did not solve too many questions. On the contrary, it even raised more questions such as, how could Amir have been standing there for such a long time without being checked ? How could he have access to a "sterile" location where famous politicians were walking around ?

A whole country was mourning. Rabin was never a great person to communicate. Some people even described him as autistic. He was a chain smoker, used to love his TV - set and ate lots of chocolate bars. Nevertheless, especially the young people mourned for him. Suddenly they saw in him a kind of a father figure who vanished.

Days later, I went to the Tel Aviv municipality and saw thousands of people in mourning. Youngsters were sitting on the floor and crying or drawing graffiti on the walls of the municipality.

When you visit the place today, you will find a monument at the place where Rabin was shot. And some of the graffiti are still on the walls.

We will never forget, this is how Israelis thought at that time. Who could have known that already one year later, everything was different. The years after the assassination made Rabin a forgotten figure. We had to continue life and new politicians followed. Of course, people remember but sometimes it seems that it is more and more a necessity. One day of remembrance and then business as usual.

Who speaks about Rabin today ?

Hardly anyone, to be honest. Life goes on the the sad fact is that the murderer Yigal Amir is more in the news than Rabin. Amir recently got married to the Russian born new immigrant Larissa Trimbovler and she is supposed to give birth to their first child any day. The worst would be when she does so on the very day, Rabin was killed. According to the Hebrew calendar this coming Wednesday.

Yigal Amir is always with us. Still smiling in his arrogant way and ignoring his deeds. He does not regret anything but wants his rights. Of course, he has the right to get married but has he ever thought about his future child ? The child of the most famous killer in the country. What kind of future does this child have ? The child would be better of living somewhere abroad instead of being the baby of the killer.

Fact is that Yitzchak Rabin did more for his country than Yigal Amir will ever do. The Prime Minister had won the Six - Day - War and it was him who decided to free the Entebbe hostages. Only because of such people as Yitzchak Rabin, people like Yigal Amir still have a country called Israel.

But it cannot be denied that despite all his successes in life, Rabin completely failed with his Oslo Agreements. Maybe due to his agreements, people are not really in the mood to mourn. Today, politicians talk about dividing Jerusalem and giving up more and more land. Rabin was the forerunner for this policy and soon, Israelis might be too fed up, as none of the attempts brought a real success.

The last minutes of Yitzchak Rabin

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A few Thoughts on Parashat Lech Lecha


The history of the Jewish People begins with Avraham. Before, neither Adam HaRishon nor Noach were Jews.

Avraham was the tenth generation after Noach and mankind had learned nothing and continued serving idols. Avraham's family lived in Ur Kasdim, in today's Iraq. When he was born, his father Terach was already 70 years old and Shem, Noach's son, was 390 years old. Avraham also still met Noach.

As I have mentioned before, the first generations after the Creation of the World, were created with a different DNA. A DNA which guaranteed them an incredible long life and G - d's intention was that people should use their life span in order to do Teshuva. However, they did not and, therefore, life expectancy was shortened.

Rashi interprets "Lech Leach" with Avraham being sent away for his best. G - d wanted to avoid that Avraham is being influenced by an idol worshiping environment.

Literally "Lech Lecha" means "Go to yourself" and the Sefat Emet sees the whole story metaphorically. When Avraham left Haran, he underwent a spiritual transformation. Each of us should do the same in a certain sense and strife for perfection. We should rise from level to level and never stop at one point in life and say "This is it".

It was the first of another nine tests, G - d gave to Avraham. But why did he need to be tested at all ? He never complained about leaving his family and moving to another country and he was always anxious to do G - d's will.

The tests show that each of us has a "Free Will" and can choose different options. To do G - d's will or not to. Without noticing it, we are tested every day in our life, and we should never rest upon our good deeds.

We can learn many things from Avraham which does not mean we should get depressed because we are not on such a high level. What each of us is able to do is searching for the ONE G - d who created the world. Nothing exists in this world without being created by G - d, and everything can be elevated to its original divine source (Noam Elimelech).

Every individual has different capabilities and limits. The Vilna Gaon said that each Jew can gain a certain Torah life according to his level and no one should be depressed over not reaching the highest levels of perfection.

As already the famous chassidic rabbi, Rabbi Susha, said:

After I die, G - d will not ask me: "Susha, why were you not like Avraham or Moshe" ?

Rather He will ask me: "Susha, why were you not Susha" ?

Means, each of us should try to use his own potential for the good.

Shabbat Shalom

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Chosen People


The misinterpretation probably started after the Torah was given to the Jewish people, and it became even worse after the Torah was translated into Greek and other languages. The fact that G - d Himself calls the Jews His "Chosen People" drove the Gentile world crazy. If G - d created our physical world and all living beings why is not everybody equal in His eyes ? Why did He have to choose a special nation, the Jews, as His Chosen People ? Why not everybody ?

In the cause of the centuries, this "Choseness" caused unbelievable anti - Semitism often resulting in Pogroms. Obviously, the jealous Gentile world was unable to grasp the "Jewish Choseness" until they eventually tried to take over the whole Torah and invented the idea that now the Christians are a chosen nation.

However, as we all know and as G - d says it at least several times in His Torah, the Torah is infinite and unchangeable. No one can come and express his own ideas.

But is there really a reason for the Gentile world to be jealous and what does the term " A Chosen People" really mean ?

First of all, there is no reason at all to be jealous, as no one in this world is better than the other. The only difference is that the Jews have a different task in this world. By the way, so do the Gentiles. The Jewish task is to keep the 613 Mitzwot and, thus, be a light to the nations.

The task of the Gentiles is to keep the "Seven Mitzwot of the Noachides" which are:

1. Do not murder.

2. Do not steal.

3. Do not worship idols but only ONE G - d.

4. Set up a court system.

5. Do not eat a limb from a living animal.

6. Sexual perversion is forbidden.

7. Do not blaspheme G - d's Names.

There are very different opinions on the subject whether G - d created the world for the sake of the Jewish people or whether He did not intend at all to choose a special nation.
Fact is that Adam HaRishon was supposed to rectify all the Neshamot of the "974 Generations" which were not created (see also Talmud Chagigah 13b - 14a). If he had kept his only Mitzwah, the world would have had its perfect Tikun. As we all know, he did not and G - d created more and more generations in order that they might bring the necessary Tikun. But more and more generations messed it up.

Only Avraham and his descendants believed in ONE G - d and this is the reason why G - d chose them. Other nations did not see the ONE G - d and busied themselves by worshipping all kinds of idols.

But what does "chosen" really mean ?

As I mentioned before, the Jews have to fulfill their task in this world which is a life according to the Mitzwot leading ultimately to a Tikun Olam. By living a life according to the Torah they should be a light to the other nations and everybody should recognize that there is only ONE G - d.

"Chosen" does not mean to be better than anybody else, and the world would be much nicer if each of us was just concentrating on her or his own task and not interfering with others.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Jerusalem is not a business deal


She is back and with her all the traffic jams. Condoleeca Rice is back in the Middle East and sees her mission in saving the region.

Oh, no, Ms. Secretary of State, why don't you just stay at home. In the White House, in Georgia or wherever.

What do you know about the people in the Middle East ? You are sitting in your office together with your team members and dare talking about us ? What do you know about Jerusalem ? Have you ever lived here ? Have you ever spoken to the inhabitants let alone faced a terror attack ?

What do you know about the history of the Jewish people and Jerusalem ? Obviously not too much.

You just come here and ask for more concessions. Do you have any idea how we Jewish Israelis are fed up with you and your unrealistic plans ?

You claim to save us and the whole region but you are missing the most important point. Territory concessions do not bring peace. You cannot divide a city given by G – d to the Jewish people. What are you going to tell Him at your next church visit ? Unless you might loose it and feel greater than Him.

After September, 11, we thought that the US might have learned some lessons about terrorism but apparently we were wrong. Instead of fighting terrorism you are supporting a Palestinian government which does not even recognize the existence of a Jewish State and only has one goal: To get rid of us.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Unwanted Prayers


The worst catastrophes in Jewish history always took place when Jews were fighting Jews. The best example is Nicholas Donin who lived during the 13th century.

Donin was Jewish but converted to Christianity. He was well known for is anti - Semitism and one day he went to the clerics and said that it is no wonder that the Jews do not convert to Christianity, as they have the Talmud. Shortly after, Talmud editions were burned publicly by the church in Paris in 1240. But not only in Paris. All over Europe the Talmud was seen as a Jewish secret coming only from evil.

As we know today, all the burnings could not stop Jews from being Jewish.

However, not only during the Middle Ages, Jews were forbidden to practice their religion openly. Also today this is taking place. Even in Jerusalem.

Sounds absurd ?

A week ago, a friend of mine participated in a tour on the Temple Mount (Har HaBait). Jews as well as Gentiles are permitted to visit the Temple Mount but there are clear differences.

First of all, a Jew cannot walk to any place on the Temple Mount. There are halachic restrictions, as we all know. At Temple times, many places were allowed to Cohanim only. Additionally, today we are in a state of Tumah (Impurity) and therefore not able to go to certain sites.

Not too many rabbis are in favour of visiting the Temple Mount at all. Those who are, are mostly from the national religious movement such as Rabbi Zephania Drori from Kiryat Shemona. Haredim usually refrain from such visits. Let alone the Edah HaCharedit.
When on of the Satmarer Rebbes, Rebbe Aharon Teitelbaum, visited Jerusalem a few weeks ago, he did not visit the Kotel at all but prayed on Mount Scopus facing the Kotel.

Only with the coming of Meschiach, we will loose our impurity due to the Geulah.

But there are not only halachic differences. As soon as Israeli Jews come onto the Temple Mount, Israeli police collect their ID - cards. Jews are treated differently by the police and not only due to security reasons. Obviously, ID - cards are being checked in order to make sure that no Jewish extremist is among the visitors.

Second step:

A Jew is forbidden to pray on the Temple Mount.

And praying also means moving one's lips. If the police catch you moving your lips and whispering a prayer, you are removed immediately. During the whole visit, Israeli police is watching Jewish lips.

A paradox ?

Jewish policemen do not allow Jews to pray.

One could argue that these restrictions are only because no one wants to provoke the Muslim Temple guards, the Wakf. However, does this justify Israeli policemen forbid other Jews to pray ? My friend told me that the police was very keen on watching the Jewish visitors.

The Muslims seem to understand more about the Jewish religion than the policemen themselves. They know exactly that a Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount theoretically could bring Meschiach. Theoretically.

In what times do we live nowadays when Jews forbid Jews to pray ?

It really seems like the Vilna Gaon was so right when he stated that in the times before Meschiach, most of the Jews will belong to the Erev Rav. The Erev Rav were Egyptian converts who converted because of selfish reasons to Judaism and left Egypt together with Moshe and the Israelites. G - d did not even want the Erev Rav out but Moshe insisted.

As we know too well, the Erev Rav always cause problems to the Jewish people (e.g. Golden Calf). The Vilna Gaon divided the Erev Rav into five groups and especially in kabbalistic literature, the Neshamot of the Erev Rav are of extreme importance.

Of course, today we are unable to tell who belongs to the Erev Rav and who does not. Nevertheless, certain signs are very obvious, and I would really like to know how those Israeli policemen justify themselves before G -d.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Chodesh Tov - חודש טוב


Today is Rosh Chodesh Mar Cheshvan. The official name for the new month is Cheshvan but we call it Mar Cheshvan because it is the only month not having any holidays. Mar is the Hebrew word for "bitter" and as we have not holidays, we call it the "bitter Cheshvan".

Why is it so "bitter" having a month without a holiday ?
Because we are not able to do any special Mitzwot.
There is an opinion which says that the month of Cheshvan is "reserved" for the Meschiach building the Third Temple because, so far, it does not have any holidays.

However, each beginning of a new month is also considered to be a new beginning in our life. If you want to change anything in your personal life, now is the time.
The month of Cheshvan is the month of Noach's Flood, the Mabul. It fits that we read in the synagogues all over the world Parashat Noach.

The Flood started on 17th Cheshvan and ended exactly a year later, on 27th Cheshvan. One day later, on 28th Cheshvan, Noach brought the Korban and G - d promised not to bring another flood in order to destroy mankind.

There is a Machloket in the Talmud (Zevachim) if the Mabul took place all over the world, in Israel or anywhere but not in Israel.

According to Sefer Yetzira (The Book of Creation), every Jewish month has a certain Mazal, letter, Jewish Tribe, etc.
The Mazal of Cheshvan is the Scorpion, the Tribe is Menashe, the organ are the intestines, the letter is NUN נ, the colour is violet and the sense is the SMELL.

What is the idea of Cheshvan having something to do with the Meschiach?

In Judaism it is very clear how the Meschiach should be and what his conditions are (see Talmud Sanhedrin 97 ff). One of his conditions will be having a certain sense of smell so that he can precisely tell who is a Jew and who is not. The smell is identified with a special kind of prophecy.
Some Gentiles might be surprised to hear from him that they are actually Jewish and vice versa. In the cause of the centuries, many many halachic Jews got lost. The most famous examples are the Inquisition and the Holocaust During the Holocaust, desperate Jewish parents took their children to monasteries in order to protect their kids. After the parents never came back to pick up their children, the Catholic church never told their new "students" about their original faith and parents.

One famous Jewish King who considered himself as the Meschiach, already failed fulfilling this condition. it was Bar Kochba whose real name was Bar Koziva (see Talmud Sanhedrin 93b). As he failed by not having the required smell, he was sentenced to death. According to a Mishna in Sanhedrin 89a, every Jew claiming to be the Meschiach but proving himself as a false Meschiach (Navi Sheker) is sentenced to death.

However, the Midrash Eichah and the Talmud Yerushalmi in Taanit 4:5 claim that the Romans killed Bar Koziva. According to our Mefarshim, the Rabbis did not kill him but his followers rather distanced themselves from him. This made him vulnerable and the Romans caught him.

I wish all of you a Shabbat Shalom and a great new month Cheshvan. Maybe it is not too bad not having a holiday for a while. Especially after all these calories on Sukkot.

שבת שלום וחודש טוב

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Simchat Beit HaShoeva Memories from Jerusalem


Simchat Beit HaShoeva at Toldot Avraham Yitzchak in Mea Shearim

Simchat Beit HaShoeva at Chassidut Toldot Aharon in Mea Shearim



Sometimes it seems like that there exists a basic misconception about the word ELOKIM. Unfortunately, especially this Name of G - d has been misused for negative purposes such as missionizing Jews. However, many other people including Jews do have a problem with seeing G - d as without any form. Our human understanding consists of touching, smelling or seeing things and in case we fail to do so, we are unable of comprehending anything else.

Another example is understanding the concept of complete nothingness before the creation process. There was only G - d and a great nothingness, and one might think by mistake that nothingness means universe. But nothingness means only nothingness without any universe, thought, speech and action.

G - d is infinite and He always existed and will do forever. When He created us He gave us a limited human intellect (especially after the sin of Adam HaRishon) and therefore it is understandable that some people might have difficulties understanding G - d's whole existence.

The Kabbalah teaches us that we are unable of grasping G - d at all and the only thing we can do is seeing Him through His actions and attributes. The kabbalistic term is "Sefirot".

It says in the Torah that G - d created man in His image. What does it mean "in His image" ? Do we look like G - d now or does He have a human shape ?

Not at all. The Rambam in his "Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nevuchim), Rabbi Chaim Luzzatto and Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin (student of the Vilna Gaon) in his book "Nefesh Chaim" explain what it means being created in G - d's image. And I am only mentioning here a few great Jewish philosophers and kabbalists. Of course, there is much more to say about the subject and I am planning to do so in later article.

Especially the Rambam (Maimonides) explains all the details right at the beginning of his Guide of the Perplexed. "G - d's image" means that we are created with an intellect and a conscious which other beings such as plants and animals do not have. Or have you ever seen an animal feeling mercy for you and sharing its food with a starving human being ? Well, I just know one animal like this which was called LASSIE (a TV series I could not stand).

"And G - d said: Let US make man".

Usually we understand the word US as plural. The Gemara in Talmud Sanhedrin asks why G - d created mankind only on the sixth day and not at the beginning of the creation process.
The answer is very easy. He did not want that people later on claim that mankind helped Him in creation.

But why does He say: Let US make man ?

First we have to understand His Name Elokim in order to get a clearer picture.

The name ELOKIM is not in plural, as some people might claim. Whoever does so, misinterprets the whole Torah. People who know Hebrew see it very clearly, as the verb always following the word Elokim is written in singular. Elokim created (singular) the world etc. Elokim did this and that and the verb is always singular.

But what exactly is Elokim ?

We usually interpret this Name of G - d as the judging G - d. However, Elokim includes all His internal powers when He does something. With all His powers he created man = Let us make man. Each of his power has a certain influence and all powers together led to the creation process.

His powers expressed in the Sefirot and mentioned in the Torah are not the only ones He has. As an infinite being with unlimited powers He probably has many more powers and attributes we do not even know in our physical world.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Did Noach mess it all up ?


The famous question on Parashat Noach is always: Was Noach a Zaddik (righteous), yes or no ?

It says in Sefer Bereshit 6:9 that he was a Zaddik but until today, many people think differently. Wherever you go this Shabbat, you might hear different opinions about Noach. My rabbi, Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, always emphasizes that Noach was a Zaddik.

Maybe, first of all, we should learn a few more details about Noach and his generation.

Noach was born in the year 1056 according to the Jewish calendar. When Noach was born, Adam HaRishon had died already. Noach's grandfather was the great Zaddik Methusalem (Metushelach). Noach followed his grandfather rather than his father Lamech who had left the religious path.

As the Generation of Enoch (Chanoch), the Generation of the Flood continued worshipping idols. Especially certain planets, as the sun. In their opinion, G - d had left them and those planets were in charge now. They started to do whatever they wanted, as they thought that G - d is too far away to see them. People just behaved like animals (Midrash Tanchuma). Each of their thoughts was only evil.

There was no need for them to pray. To whom ? G - d is far away and we are having a good life, so they thought.
And they were right; they had a convenient life. Life expectancy was unbelievable high and they only died when their time had come. Illnesses were never heard of and after a certain age, they just dropped dead. The reason for such an incredible life expectancy was to do a Tikun Neshama (see Sefer Adam HaRishon). However, also the air differed from ours today and thus ensured long life.
After a while they just abandoned G - d and claimed that they do not need Him anymore. The only thing we need is water and for that we have our springs and lakes (see Talmud Sanhedrin 108a).

Noach did not get involved in all the sins of his generation such as stealing, murder, sexual perversions,etc. and instead studied "The Book of Adam HaRishon" and "The Book of Chanoch".
Everyone has the power to change a certain fate through prayer but it seems that here Noach failed. He did not pray for his generation, as Avraham did later on in the case of Sodom.

At the age of 480 years, he started building the Ark, as G - d had commanded him. For the next 120 years, Noach was busy building the Ark. The Talmud Sanhedrin 108b explains the reactions of his environment. The people laughed about him and thought that he is an old fool. "What flood", did they ask.

Rashi asks why G - d saved Noach by letting him build an Ark. Why suffering through all the difficulties and the curses of the people ? All this was to cause people to repent. G - d never carries out punishments right away but gives people time to do Teshuva.

According to the Jewish calendar, the Flood occurred in the year 1656 (2104 B.C.E.). The Talmud gives stealing for the reason of the Flood but I do have my personal opinion. At the time before the Flood, the DNA of the population worked in a different way. As the Generation of the Flood used to have sex with animals, also the animals saw the behaviour of the people and did the same among each other. Only the fish refrained from any kind of perversion and were not killed in the Flood.

In those days, people gave birth to strange creatures after having sex with animals. They destroyed the whole Ma'aseh Bereshit which, for me, is the real reason for their destruction. G - d did the same to them when he changed His Ma'aseh Bereshit. According to Talmud Rosh HaShana 11b - 12a, He changed a certain star constellation called "Kimah" and made thus the Flood possible.
Boiling hot and cold water came onto the people and they mostly burned to death while Noach and his family were save in the Ark.

But why was he such a great Zaddik, as it says in the Torah ?
First of all, Noach did warn the people but after being curses all the time, he just gave up after a while. G – d saved him because He saw a great potential in Noach which could lead him to perfection (Shlemut). However, Noach did not use it in the end.

Changes of the world after the Flood:

1. The Shechinah went further away.

2. The air changed and the seasons started. Before the Flood, weather was always the same.

3. Health was not the same anymore and suddenly people needed hot springs to relax.

4. Life expectancy was shortened due to the changes of the air. Before, people became nearly 1000 years old and now only approx. 400 years.

5. Due to the changes of air, fruit and vegetables started to rotten.

6. Noach and his family received the "Seven Mitzwot of Noach – The Noachide Laws".

7. People were allowed to eat meat.

8. The Malbim claims that out planet had changed its location.

The question always bothering me was:
Where are all the dead bodied (skeletons) of the whole generation ? Although there are different Talmudic opinions about where the Flood really took place, should there not be any signs of thousands of skeletons or leftover ruins ?

I found the answer in Talmud Zevachim 113b. There is says that the dead bodies are in Shinar a place in Babylon. Shinar is the town where 340 years later, the Tower of Bavel was built.
All the dead of the Flood were dumped in Babylon and Rabbi Ammi said: He who eats earth from Babylon is as though he ate the flesh of his ancestors.

And can we learn from the Generation of the Flood ?

First of all that G – d is never far away or leaving us. It sometimes might seem so but He is always present and knows exactly all our good and bad deeds. We should never become arrogant in times when we have a great life and no sorrows.

But must Noach not have been in such a great shock seeing all the people die and being thrown into a completely new world ?

It says in the Yalkut Reuveni and the Midrash HaNeelam that he started to cry when he came out of the Ark.
Last night I went to a Shiur with Rabbi Mordechai Machlis and he said that he had heard many similar remarks by Holocaust survivors. As Noach, they saw a new world order after coming out of the camps.

There are times when it is very positive to have a new start in life. Things might change for the better. However, one can never forget his past but should try to learn from it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Enjoying to be "Normal"


Spending the Sukkot holidays mostly in Mea Shearim, was a little too much for me, and now I am taking some time off from the chassidic society. I am having some vacations from the real chassidic world but it does not keep me away from reading professional literature on the subject.

Within the past few weeks, I have just faced too many Mechitzot, restrictions and especially chassidic women who just do whatever society is asking them to do. I was surprised that the women do it without any complaints. Or at least, it seems like they do it without complaining, as about those cases we hardly hear.

On Erev Simchat Torah, I went to the Toldot Aharon synagogue and outside was a huge parking lot for baby carriages. At least 30 carriages were "parked" there. This made it very clear to me that within society is almost only one goal: getting married and having children.

Of course, you can claim, that these two things are everything in the religious Jewish world. However, I sometimes ask myself if this is it. Getting married and having children.

Maybe it is but how, on the other hand, can those women allow the Edah HaCharedit to restrict their world more and more. The unnecessary separation of Mea Shearim Street on Chol HaMoed Sukkot, for instance. Furthermore, the Edah made a new decree about the so called "modest skirt". By the way, the decree was also signed by the chief rabbi of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, and Rabbi Wosner.

The modest skirt has to have a certain width and, of course, a special heights, and no one should recognize the form of the body because of a tight skirt.

Another decree was, and I do not know if this was made up by the Edah or only Toldot Aharon, that women are forbidden to leave their homes only dressed in a Chaluk (house suit). Not even for just going to the store around the corner to buy bread.

The reason is that the Chaluk mostly consists of many colours which might cause the attention of males. This kind of behaviour was called "Haredi Prostitution" on special posters in Mea Shearim Street.

I do not understand where exactly the prostitution is but I am keeping away from the area. At least for the time being. I am just not the society - pressure - person.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Jehovas Witnesses and their anti - Semitism


Unfortunately, the public mostly concentrates on current victims of the Jehovas Witnesses sect. However, I found a great article on the website of the Israeli anti - missionary organization Yad LeAchim. The article describes the Witnesses involvement in the Hitler regime and their extreme hatred of Jews.

They claim that they suffered during the Holocaust but the historical fact is that they first supported Hitler by spreading anti - Semitic flyers throughout Nazi Germany.

I highly recommend reading the article !!!!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

More and more Jews live in the Arab Quarter


Next to the exit of the Kotel area stood a guy with a microphone: "Tours through the Arab Quarter for free", he shouted, "just gather here and we will leave every 15 minutes".

I decided to participate and it turned out that there was just a group of about 30 people including children leaving for the tour. It seemed that I was the only person born outside Israel. Our guide was called Yishai and he is a student at the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim.

Ateret Cohanim is run by the national religious rabbi, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, and is located in the Arab Quarter. Just a little outside the Kotel area. The yeshiva itself is very famous for being fundamentalist and buying Arab property in order to put in religious Jews. Slowly slowly, the Arab Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem is becoming more and more Jewish.

Their last big coup was when, three years ago, they bought the PETRA - Hostel, an Arab hotel next to the hostel and 27 further shops run by Palestinians. Of course, the Arabs were mad when they found out about the new Jewish owner and that the Greek Orthodox Church had sold its properties to Jews due to financial difficulties. The Arabs even threatened to kill the Church Patriarch who was speedily replaced by someone else.

First Yishai took us to the Kotel HaKatan, the Small Kotel. Through a small alleyway we came to the door leading to the Temple Mount. Two Israeli policemen were sitting at the entrance. We did not enter the Temple Mount but turned left where the Kotel HaKatan was. He explained us that the Kotel HaKatan is nearer the Kodesh HaKedoshim and therefore there is more Kedusha. Every Erev Shabbat a Kabbalat Shabbat is taking place. Women are invited as well.

The Temple Mount was loaded with Muslims walking around. We saw a huge area, the former Azarah, and Yishai pointed out that it is a great Mitzwah seeing the Azarah during Chol HaMoed. I belong to those people who do not enter the Temple Mount due to its and our own impurity. Of course, there are certain national religious rabbis claiming that Jews should go there and show the Arabs that we are still here. However, according to my opinion, HaShem has His reasons and Meschiach should come first. Anyway it was exciting seeing it from far away but it is so hard to imagine how it once used to be having a Temple and how it will in the future having the Third Temple.

One of the participants asked Yishai if this whole Arab Quarter trip is safe at all and Yishai responded that there is army everywhere. A claim which did not always prove right later on.
While we kept on walking through Rehov Chagai, Yishai took us to different houses now owned by Jews. He said that we can always recognize a Jewish house when we see a thick bullet proofed wooden door and an Israeli flag hanging outside.

We entered a few houses and found out that sometime one or two families bought a house in the middle of the Arab Quarter. They had paid a huge amount of money; not only to take over the property but also to guarantee the former Arab owner his escape. If he would not, his Muslim brothers would look at him as a traitor and kill him.

The houses were all under high security. On each roof top was a small security building where private guards were sitting. Outside in the street were Muslims walking around and Hamas flags could be seen all over.It was a rather strange atmosphere and I am sure that I could not live like that. One needs to be an immense faith in Zionism.

At the very end we watch a short movie made by Ateret Cohanim and they emphasized that they are going to continue buying Arab property. So far, there are 60 families living in the Arab Quarter.

Maybe all of this is at stake now because Abu Mazen claims that he has a paper signed by Ehud Olmert. The Israeli Prime Minister is ready to divide Jerusalem which would mean that Jews again have to flee from their property in the Old City. At least former politicians such as Yitzchak Rabin, Ehud Barak or Ariel Sharon were always against a division of Jerusalem. But Olmert, a man with no boundaries and conscience does not think about our country but only about himself and his advantages.

Against Christian Missionaries


Posters were hung up too late and therefore not too many people knew about the demonstration that should be taking place outside the Jerusalem International Convention Center. It was also the night of Hoshana Rabbah which was another reason for people not showing up in masses.

A few hours before, Christians from all over the world had held their Jerusalem Parade and they did not seem to care too much that the Chief Rabbinate banned the event. Probably most participants did not even know about the ban.

In the evening hours, the Christian Embassy, located in Jerusalem, had organized a special event inside the Convention Center (Binyanei HaUma across the Central Bus Station). Among others, missionaries were supposed to report about their success converting Jews.

An unanimous organization called for a demonstrations against such activities. I arrived at 6.30 pm in front of the Center and found only a bunch of people. Around 50 participants and the majority were Litvaks. First the organizer did not show up at all but who did come was Benjamin Kluger from the anti - missionary organization Yad LeAchim. I exchanged a few words with him, as he had come to find out who had planned the demonstration. According to Benjamin, the demonstration was totally unnecessary, as the Christians were among each other inside the Center and there was no need for them to missionize. The Litvaks, on the other hand, claimed that Christian missionaries invited Jews to the event and gave out free tickets.

Benjamin Kluger (Photo Yad LeAchim)

Suddenly the organizer appeared on the stage and he was a friendly national religious Jew. He handed out pamphlets in English and Hebrew and we participants awaited the buses shipping in the Christians. Also the police showed up and tried to keep us as far away from the incoming buses as they could. Well, we found a way around the law, divided ourselves into three groups and each group was placed at a different entrance.

The Christians reacted very differently. First it seemed that they thought we were a kind of welcoming wagon for them but as soon as they understood what was really going on they started cursing us. We, on the other hand, just told them "Missionaries go".

The missionaries yelled at us:

"Joshua Meschiach", "Shut up" or "Oh, they (the Jews) don't love us".

Well, what a surprise.

The whole time we were watched from the organizer of the missionary event. Although we were only a few people, Christian organizers seemed to be alarmed.

Additional remark:

Not all Christians are missionaries and have bad intentions. There are many good people among them but the so called black sheep use certain events for their own negative purposes.

Maybe some Christians supporting those missionaries financially should know where their money really goes. There are Christians in Israel who are supported financially but do not do anything the whole day but watching TV at their hostels. Others use the money for buying themselves expensive property and just use it for their private purposes.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Chag Sameach


Due to the holidays, I do not have too much time to write. However, next week, I am going to write much more about the holiday celebrations in Mea Shearim, about an anti - missionary demonstration where I participated as well as an article about the Yeshiva Ateret Cohanim and how they buy houses from Arabs in the Arab Quarter in order to move in Jewish families.

Have a great holiday - Chag Sameach !!!!!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Rabbi Avraham Shapira passed away


The famous Jerusalem Rabbi, Rabbi Avraham Shapira died at the age of 94 last Thursday. In the years from 1983 – 1993, he was the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel and afterwards he became the Rosh Yeshiva of the well – known national religious Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav in Kiryat Moshe.

He was buried last Friday and about 4000 policemen were securing the funeral. The procession started at Merkaz HaRav and led to the Mount of Olives (Har HaZeitim). 25,000 people participated in the funeral and someone said that there were very kind people handing out cold drinks, as it was a hot summer day.

The successor of Rabbi Avraham Shapira will be his son Rabbi Shlomo Shapira.

Rabbi Avraham Shapira

Photo Arutz 7

Different Worlds


Sukkot in Jerusalem is a completely different world. However, celebrating Sukkot in Mea Shearim is even more different. Of course, nothing is as special as spending the high holidays in the Old City but no where there is so much joy as in Mea Shearim. Not to mention the exaggerated prices of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City. Even the price of the tiniest bag of junk food is horrendous.

Also the most enjoyable Simchat Beit HaShoeva celebrations are taking place in the ultra – orthodox neighbourhood but this year, only Jews are really welcomed.
As every year during Sukkot, thousands of Christians are coming to Jerusalem. On October 2nd, they are having an organized parade through the city center and the Rabbanut (chief rabbinate) as well as other leading rabbis have warned against this kind of parade and Jews are not allowed to participate. In charge of the Christian parade is the so called Christian Embassy, missionary organizations and messianic Jews.

There are many honest Gentiles in the world but this year, they all have to suffer due to too many Christian missionaries in Jerusalem. Jews just ban the parade and hardly anyone is interested. The result is that at the moment, Christians are not wanted in Mea Shearim. Especially not for the chassidic celebrations.

But not only the Christian parade is highly controversial, also Chabad has its pros and cons. Last Thursday night, Chabad had planned one of their Simchat Beit HaShoeva celebrations in Channah Street, near Bar Ilan Street. Right in front of one of their Yeshivot they set up a stage and invited everybody. For those of you who know the area, the Yeshiva is located next to the synagogue of the Kaliver Rebbe.

Mea Shearim was full of posters condemning the Chabad event. The Agudat Israel claimed that this kind of event was totally immodest. People told me that there obviously was no Mechitzah and men and women were dancing together. Additionally, the Agudah including leading litvishe rabbis (whose names were not mentioned) planned a demonstration in a street nearby.

I decided to check out both events and with a friend I went to the Chabad celebration first. We arrived on time at 9 pm and already many people had gathered in Channah Street. Wherever there is something to earn, businesspeople are there. Channah Street was full of little stands selling junk food and popcorn.
Further down, the street was divided into a men's and women's section. As a matter of fact, there was a Mechitzah and in order to assure everybody to see what is going on on stage, Chabad has set up three huge screens.

To make it short, the event was not too exciting. Actually it was pretty boring and the only excitement was three fireworks. Some Chabad rabbis made a speech which no one really followed, as the volume of the microphone was too low.
After an hour we decided to have a look at the demonstration. We later found out why the Chabad Simchat Beit HaShoeva was considered immodest. People who live in the houses nearby were able to look into the women's Mechitzah from above.

The demonstration consisted of about 100 people. Mostly Vishnitz, Satmar and litvishe Haredim. Gur and Belz did not participate.
Actually there was not too much going on either. Sometimes they shouted and the police were busy keeping them away from entering Channah Street. Some of the demonstrators through firecrackers and a policeman hit a Haredi. First we thought that this would cause a panic but it did not.

Later on, further firecrackers were thrown and a young Haredi got arrested. He was thrown into an army jeep and other demonstrators shouted at the police. The cops lost their attention and the Haredi jumped out of the jeep and was about to escape. In this very moment, some policemen ran after the run away and others were beaten by the demonstrators. A big mess followed where the demonstrators threw garbage cans into the street.

This was basically the end of the event. Chabad had finished without noticing the demonstration and two demonstrators got arrested. People started going home.

We left as well and went to Mea Shearim where another surprise was waiting for us. Certain main roads were divided into men and women's sections. Approx. in the middle of Mea Shearim Street, leading down from Kikar Shabbat to Shivtei Israel, was a Mechitzah. Women had to make their way around through Shomrei Emunim Street and thus got to Shivtei Israel.

I did not really understand the logic of this Mechitzah, as everybody got mixed up anyway. Posters had proclaimed the division but no particular names were mentioned. I could not find out about who was really in charge of the division, as someone had signed with: The Purity Committee.

Eventually we arrived at the Toldot Aharon synagogue and let me say one thing; Toldot Aharon really knows how to celebrate and everyone who has seen them does not think about Chabad anymore. Unfortunately it was so crowded that we did not see too much.

We went to Toldot Avraham Yitzchak and there, we were able to see a bit. They had a band playing chassidic music and some members were dancing enthusiastically. This was so great to see and the spectators had lots of fun.

Tonight we are going to a private party at Rabbi Mordechai Machlises house but later on, we will be back in Mea Shearim.
Maybe I should not say it, as the Jewish Quarter in the Old City is a special place and used to be the sight of the Beit HaMikdash. Anyway, today, the greatest Simchat Beit HaShoeva celebrations are taking place in Mea Shearim.