Sunday, August 31, 2008

Cake in Karlin - Stolin


The chassidic group Karlin is famous for two things: for hospitality and its extraordinary enthusiastic unique prayer.
Those of you who have never been to Karlin, have never faced a real chassidic prayer service. The prayers are being shouted out loud and thus, the Karliner seemingly reach the highest Devekut (closeness to G – d). Almost every Friday night, I spend the Kabbalat Shabbat prayer at the Karliner – Stolin Synagogue in Mea Shearim (Jerusalem).

Today, Chassidut Karlin is divided into two groups: Into a small group called "Karlin – Pinsk", located in the religious neighbourhood of Beit Israel (Jerusalem) and a much larger group, "Karlin – Stolin", located in Yoel Street in Mea Shearim (right across Satmar). Karlin is one of the oldest chassidic groups. Founded by Rabbi Aharon the Great of Karlin in approx. 1770. The place Karlin itself is a suburb or the Lithuanian town of Pinsk.

Rebbe Aharon the Great (1736 – 1772) was a student of the famous Rabbi Dov Bear Friedman, the Maggid of Mezritch. And the Maggid, on the other hand, was the successor of the Baal Shem Tov. Besides Chabad, Karlin is one of the oldest chassidic groups and both of them have their roots in Lithuania. Today you can find the Chassidim of Karlin – Stolin in New York, Bnei Brak, Beitar, Jerusalem and in the Jerusalem suburb of Givat Ze'ev where the present Stoliner Rebbe built his headquarter. Unfortunately, the Rebbe doesn't come too often to Jerusalem and throughout all my time with Karlin, I have only seen the Stoliner Rebbe once.

The present Stoliner Rebbe, Rabbi Baruch Yaakov Me'ir Shochet

As usual, I went to Karlin – Stolin last Erev Shabbat (Friday night). Actually I passed the Munkatch Synagogue first and thought about walking in. Maybe it is good having a change. However, a Karliner Chassid I know had told me about the Aufruf of his son the next day, so, I felt a little obligated going to Karlin. And when I walked into the Karliner Ezrat Nashim, a elderly woman was already praying there. I know her by sight, as she is there every Friday night. After the service, she came up to me. This is nothing new and we always exchange a few words. I asked her about the Aufruf the next morning and she told me that there are three and not only one.

Last Shabbat morning, again I went to the Karliner in Mea Shearim and this time, I took a friend with me. For some time, I have been starting using the Karliner Sidur (called: Beit Aharon ve'Israel) while I am in their synagogue. Although my own Sidur is chassidic, some parts being said during the Karliner service are obviously missing.

As we entered, the Torah reading was almost finished. The Ezrat Nashim was packed but we found a great place behind the Mechitzah. The Stolin Mechitzah consists of huge glass windows and fortunately, the women are able to see everything. The men downstairs, on the other hand, cannot look into the Ezrat Nashim. Due to the special glass, the only see windows.

The three grooms were called up to the Torah and all of them looked quite proud with the new Streimel (fur hat) on the head. It is a chassidic custom that a groom getting married, is wearing his Streimel the entire week before his wedding. Otherwise the Streimel is only being worn on Shabbat, Semachot or holidays. After the Torah reading, the women opened one of the windows and threw down sweets and little plastic bags full of junk food. The young boys downstairs were pushing and grabbing for the bags. I just wondered if really all the boys got a share, as some walked away with four or five bags. I asked a woman and she assured me that all of them are sharing. But I am still not too convinced.

The elderly lady came up to me and told me that there is a special Kiddush for the women downstairs. The men were already eating their Kugel inside the synagogue. My friend and I walked downstairs into a small room with set tables. It was a little embarrassing being their as outsiders among all the Karliner women. We were standing like something lost until one woman came up to us and organized some chairs. However, you can hardly imagine what kind of cakes they had set up. Marzipan, chocolate, rum balls, fruits cake.
We took our seats and starred at all the cakes but we were too embarrassed to run over and grab. Instead, we took a little, as we just didn't want to make a greedy impression. Kugel and pickles were served. The traditional Jerusalem Kugel consisting of noodles. A woman in a brown costume came up to me and investigated who were after all. I told her that we were told to go downstairs and that I write about chassidic groups. It turned out that she grew up Karlin but married a Vishnitzer Chassid. She lives in Bnei Brak now and is the sister of one of the grooms. We had a nice chat about Bnei Brak and different groups. And, as the Vishnitzer always do, she told me to come to Vishnitz and look at the Tish.

When we were making our way out, the Vishnitzer came again and invited us for another meal. She said that all the women are now going to a hall in Chassidut Zhvil and if we would like to join. I agreed and somehow she had to explain to her mother that she had invited two strangers. So, the mother came over and asked me a few questions. I told her the same things and didn't hide that I write about Chassidut on the Internet. The mother seemed to agree and we were taken along to the hall for the meal.

To be honest, we had expected that all the Karliner will be there. But as we entered this rather small room with a wooden Mechitzah in the middle, we realized that this was a family meeting only. And we were the only outsiders which was embarrassing to us. Again we stood around a little lost until someone came up to us and placed us at a table. A waiter started serving and we had all kinds of salads, gefilte Fish, meat, Tsholent, cake and water melon. It was hard to eat, as we were so full from the Kiddush. Too much marzipan and coconut cake. And now Tschund and more fruit cake with cream.
In the meantime, a few more women sat down at our table and they started talking to me in Hebrew. There was the mother of the groom, another woman from Karlin and two women from the Chassidut Slonim. Somehow their families were all related. It was interesting talking to the Slonim women, as I had never done so. Although I went to their Tish in Jerusalem, I never saw their women there. However, the Slonimer told me that usually only their young girls go to the Rebbe's Tish. But we should definitely come for Simchat Torah. Then there will be action. I admitted that I found the Slonimer niggunim rather heavy and sleepy. The women started laughing and said that this is true. They feel the same way and the Slonimer Rebbe of Jerusalem is slowly slowly trying to bring about a slight change into their niggunim. More melodies and not so heavy anymore.

After we walked out, we were finished. Actually we couldn't even walk anymore and promised ourselves a diet for a few days. We made our way to Rabbi Mordechai Machlise's lunch. Not in order to eat but just to be there. And we weren't far anyway.

The third meal (Se'udat Shlishit) we were planning to spend with Ruzhin – Boyan, as their Rebbe was giving a Tish. When we arrived, the Ezrat Nashim was locked and either we were too early or the women gathered somewhere else. So, we went back to the Machlises and had our third meal. After Shabbat was over, I couldn't see any more food but was still dreaming about the marzipan.

A great thanks to Karlin and the family whose name I don't even know.

Nevertheless, the Karliner weren't the only ones having an Aufruf last Shabbat. Also the anti – Zionist group "Mishkenot HaRoim" celebrated an Aufruf and unfortunately, we missed it. But you cannot be at two places at the same time and we really enjoyed Karlin.

Belz versus Machnovke

Chassidic Tish in Chassidut Belz (Jerusalem)


This last Shabbat, Mea Shearim as well as Ge'ulah were full of small pamphlets thrown into the streets. Chassidut Belz had spread them out and not, as last Shavuot, its enemy Machnovke (Machnovka) from Bnei Brak.

More then a week ago, Chassidut Belz commemorated the Yahrzeit of its former Rebbe Aharon Rokeach who died on 21st Av in 1957. At about the same time (at the Yahrzeit ten days ago), a Belzer Chassid found the grave of Rebbe Aharon desecrated. Paint was all over the tombstone and the police were informed. As expected, the Belzer Chassidim suspected their rivals from Chassidut Machnovke in Bnei Brak of having the grave desecrated.

Belz (Jerusalem) versus Machnovke (Bnei Brak). The two groups are arch - enemies although the Rebbes are actually from one family. The Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, resides in Jerusalem and the Machnovker Rebbe, Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach, is in Bnei Brak.

The dispute seemingly started while the former Rebbe Aharon Rokeach and his brother, Rabbi Mordechai Rokeach, where still alive. Already at that time, some rebellious Belzer Chassidim didn't want Rabbi Mordechai to become the successor of Rebbe Aharon and played an unfair game.

Later, when Rabbi Mordechai's son, the present Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, became the new Belzer Rebbe, some older Chassidim began to rebel because they didn't want to accept him as Rebbe. As a consequence, those rebels left Belz and joined Machnovke. So, it is Machnovke and its Mordim versus Chassidut Belz. All politics but a huge dispute which even became violent when one of those rebels, Eli Englander, recently came from London in order to pray at Rebbe Aharon's. The Belzer caught him and beat him up. Thus, Machnovke is furious and Belz is furious.

If Machnovke really desecrated the grave of the former Belzer Rebbe Aharon Rokeach or not, I think that the whole Machloket is a disgrace on both sides. We just entered the month of Elul, and none of either side should run after tombstones or spread all the hate pamphlets in the Ge'ulah neighbourhood. Of course, the Belzer consider it as their right to protect their dynasty, Rebbe and honour. On the other hand, Machnovke is officially allowed of calling itself "Belz - Machnovke". There has been a Psak - Din (verdict) in this matter. So, why not simply ignore each other, as then, at least, violence would stop. Instead all the little provocations continue. A very sad issue.

Chassidut Machnovke in Bnei Brak

Rosh Chodesh Elul - ראש חודש אלול


"The King is in the Field - HaMelech Ba'Sade" - A Teshuva concept from "Shir HaShirim (6:3)", interpreted by the Baal Shem Tov.

In this new month of Elul, G - d is most approachable and thus, gives us a great opportunity for doing Teshuva (repentance).

Last night (Mozzaei Shabbat), the new Jewish month of Elul began. Until Monday, we celebrate the beginning of the new month (Rosh Chodesh).

A great, successful and healthy month of Elul to all of you.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Frum Party


Having a girl's party.

Chana Kanisch (left) and me (right).

Yahrzeit in Belz


At the end of last week, the present Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach, went to the grave of his uncle and previous Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon of Belz.

The 21st Av marked the 51th Yahrzeit of Rebbe Aharon Rokeach who is buried on Jerusalem's Har Hamenuchot Cemetery.

Unfortunately, his grave was vandalized and the police are investigating. The Belzer Chassidim are furious about the desecration of the grave of their previous Rebbe.

Kiddush Levana in Belz (2008) and the present Belzer Rebbe, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach.

The forgotten Zarki


Lucja Morawska took the below pictures at the Jewish cemetery in a town called ZARKI.

Zarki is located near Lelov in Western Galicia.

A trader in Zarki. The bottom picture was taken in Zarki in approx. 1936.
It is unbelievable how much chassidic life and history got lost due to the Holocaust.

Aufruf in Karlin - Stolin

Karliner Chassidim on Purim Shuschan in Jerusalem


Tomorrow morning (Shabbat), at Shacharit (morning prayer), another AUFRUF is taking place at the Karlin - Stolin Synagogue in Yoel Street (Mea Shearim).

No Aufruf of the Rebbe, but from a regular Karliner Chassid who I actually know. He is marrying off his third son and I just met him in downtown Jerusalem, where he invited me to come.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Talking to Frum Girls


Talking to the frum and having a party at the same time.

For all those of you being extremely religious:
Close your eyes and don't look, as I am not wearing modest clothes on the photo below. I am in pants.

I am the one eating, second from the left in the front row (with black shirt). Right next to me, to the right, is Diana Campuzano who was severly injured in the Ben Yehudah bomb attack in September 1997. She is wearing a white shirt.

"The King is in the Field - HaMelech Ba'Sade"


Next Sunday we are going go celebrate the beginning of the month (Rosh Chodesh) of ELUL. Elul together with Tishrei (following Elul) are my personal favourite months of the year. Others love Purim or Pessach, I am tremendously in love with Rosh HaShana and Sukkot. It doesn't mean, I am leaving out Yom Kippur but, as you know, food is missing although we have to be like angels on that day and lift ourselves up without earthly needs.

Especially in Chassidut, the month of Elul is extremely important because on the 18th day, we celebrate the birth of the great chassidic master, the Baal Shem Tov (born in 1698 or 1700)

Generally, Elul is the month of Teshuva (repentance) and this concerns all of us. On Rosh HaShana, G - d is going to judge the whole world, including Jews and non - Jews, and all of us should make some kind of an effort by getting closer to the Creator and especially by looking into ourselves. Use Elul and look at all your actions throughout the year. In Hebrew this is called "Cheshbon Nefesh" and means that you should ask yourself, where you are standing in this world. How is each Jew connected to his fellow Jew and is he having a relationship with G - d ? Could he do better and how ?

The Baal Shem Tov said that in Elul, "The King is in the Field - HaMelech Ba'Sade". Meaning that every person is able of having an easier approach to G - d Himself. Throughout the rest of the year, G - d is usually judging or listening to our prayers through intermediaries such as His Sefirot (symbolic for His character traits). During Elul, Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, we can reach such a high level where we make G - d Himself refer to us.

Going out in a field is not to be taken literally although many people (such as Breslover Chassidim) do go out in order to talk to G - d. And, as I said before, Elul is the time of looking and analyzing our own actions. Are we as approachable to others as G - d is ? Maybe we should learn from Him how to show some more Chesed and judge people more favourably. What would we say if G - d judged us as harsh as we sometimes judge other people ?

Chesed (kindness), prayer and giving charity (Zedakah) are the attributes of the month of Elul. Show mercy upon others and look at the other side of a person.

How else can we do Teshuva in Elul ?
By studying more Torah and thus getting closer to G - d. The Torah is not to be seen as a little story and book full of laws. We have to realize that the Torah is talking to us today and is giving us a special message we need to understand. If we do get the message, we will have a great and successful month of Elul and be successfully inscribed into the Book of Live (by G - d).

Yom Kippur Katan


Next Sunday, we celebrate Rosh Chodesh Elul which has an extremely important meaning for "Teshuva - Repentance". It says in chassidic sources that especially in the month of Elul, we are as close to G - d as possible. "The King is in the Field" is the famous saying. Meaning that in Elul, we can approach G - d much easier than at other times. This is all in preparation of the soon upcoming Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur.

Today, Thursday, we are celebrating "Yom Kippur Katan - The small Yom Kippur". Usually it is celebrated on the day before Rosh Chodesh Elul, but as this would be a Shabbat this year, Yom Kippur Katan is already celebrated today.

On Yom Kippur Katan it is customary to recite "Tikun HaKlali":

I am planning to write much more chassidic interpretations on the month of Elul as well as about the special customs of the Baal Shem Tov !

Celebrations in Ruzhin - Boyan


One of the sons of the Boyaner Rebbe got married this Tuesday, and therefore, the group is celebrating the traditional "Sheva Berachot". Every night, for the following seven days after the wedding, the new couple is invited at different places for dinner.

Tomorrow night, Friday (Erev Shabbat), public Sheva Berachot are taking place in the great Boyaner Synagogue in Ge'ulah (Jerusalem). The celebration is due to start at 11.30pm. The following day, the Boyaner Rebbe is having a chassidic Tish at the third Shabbat meal (Se'udat Shlishit). I couldn't find out if there will be food for the women as well.

The great Boyaner Synagogue in the Jerusalemer neighbourhood of Ge'ulah.

Ruzhin - Boyan has a custom celebrating the Rebbe's Tish at different times. The Tish is always taking place at the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the new Jewish month). During the summer months at the Se'udat Shlishit and during the winter months on Erev Shabbat (Friday night).

At the beginning of next week, I am going to meet someone from Boyan and ask him further details. If you have any questions, just let me know and I will ask him.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yahrzeit of the Satmarer Rebbe


Today is the 29th Yahrzeit of the Satmarer Rebbe, Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum.

The Rebbe and his wife Feiga are buried in Kiryat Yoel. Would be interesting to know if also Rebbe Zalman Leib Teitelbaum's followers find their way to Kiryat Yoel.

If so, maybe the Yahrzeit of Reb Yoelush helps making some peace between the two fighting parties.

Photos from Lelov


These pictures of Malchut Lelov were taken by Lucja Morawska who allowed me to publish them on my Internet sites. Lucja, I am very grateful for that.

If any of the readers knows more about Chassidut Lelov, please get in touch !!!

This picture was taken at the Lelov grave in Poland on April 1, 2008.

Lucja's further comment on the picture:
The grave yard doesn't exist any more and matzevot have been used by Nazis to pave the roads.The tomb itself has been located uncovered at the back of small hardware shop for at least 50 years.Inside there's no room for more than 5 people and you can imagine that while praying everyone would like to be as close as possible...this is what's left from the former glory of shtetl...

The grave of the great Rebbe David of Lelov

Today's town market in Lelov / Poland

Lelov / Poland

One of the last Shtetl gravestones in Lelov

External handwritten inscription, just by the entrance.

Modern pray books left behind by chassidim inside the Ohel.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tram versus Spirituality


The haredi (ultra - orthod.) population of Mea Shearim is considering Jerusalem's tram a spiritual danger. The new tram is still being built and only due to start running in another few years. However, the present traffic situation downtown Jerusalem is a catastrophe. Especially the junction Jaffa Road - King George - Nathan Strauss. Only buses and some taxis have access into Jaffa Road and the street is only open on one side. Otherwise all the construction work for the tram is taking place. The present result is that many more buses are going through Strauss Street and this causes neverending traffic jams at Kikar Shabbat (Shabbat Square). Kikar Shabbat is quite famous as it is also the border between the two haredi neighbourhoods of Ge'ulah and Mea Shearim.

The architect's picture of the future tram

Already for some time, the local Haredim have spotted out certain changes in their neighbourhood. More and more secular people as well as secular businessmen are passing the streets. The secular even try to open up stores in haredi neighbourhoods, as they realized what kind of a high profit they would make. The anti - Zionist umbrella organization "Edah HaCharedit" has been warning the local population for a long time not to get involved with any secular and their issues.

Is secularism gaining too much influence in Mea Shearim ? What kind of example are the secular for haredi children or society ?
Secular women pass haredi neighbourhoods in immodest clothes and exhibit lots of their flesh. What does the moral downfall of the secular have to do in Mea Shearim ? No wonder that more and more shops in the neighbourhood ask their customer to wear modest clothes only before entering the store. There is no entrance at all for the secular into the Batei Ungarin, the Toldot Aharon backyard as well as to the local market.

What should the kids think ?
Chassidic children in Mea Shearim.

And soon the new tram is supposed to run. No, not through Mea Shearim but the catastrophic parking situation downtown might cause a transformation of Mea Shearim into a huge parking lot. People have to reach the tram and those from the outskirts need more parking lots in order to continue their way by tram.

Kikar Shabbat: Junction Strauss, Mea Shearim, Ge'ulah

Fact is that Jerusalem is becoming more and more haredi. Many secular just leave the city or move to the neighbourhoods of Rehavia or to the French Hill where the secular society is still in the majority. Nevertheless, haredi families have more children and they are going to be the next generation of voters. If they vote. In case they don't, the municipality cannot overlook and decide not to care about them. The demand for "kosher buses" is still valid and many Haredim are not willing to ride on regular buses where they have to sit or, at least, face immodest people. How they are going to explain the behaviour of the secular to their kids ? At least, in kosher buses, men and women would sit separately.

Personally, I am very much against kosher buses, as they are not a proper solution. I do understand the haredi point of view that there is a danger of loosing spirituality but, on the other hand, G - d created us in order to do Tikunim (soul rectifications) and, moreover, religious Jews should be an example for the secular. And being a good example doesn't include force.

Jerusalem has never been and will never be an easy city to live in. Not in the past and not in the future. Thus, it is impossible to make any prognoses.

Narrow streets in Mea Shearim

Fire in Mea Shearim


Within the past week, several members of Mea Shearim's modesty police (Mishmeret HaZniut) got arrested by the "Zionist" police of the State of Israel.

This is the latest news from Mea Shearim.

After a woman got attacked by the haredi modesty police in the Jerusalem Maalot Dafna neighbourhood, Israel's police seem to have enough of such incidents. We are a democratic society where everyone can live according to his personal freedom. The modesty squad however, thinks differently and wanted to force the woman, who had escaped from a haredi lifestyle, back into her former frum life.

Now the police are taking action and decided to arrest several modesty police members in the Mea Shearim and Ge'ulah neighbourhood. Last Shabbat I saw two bigger police cars standing in front of a building in Ge'ulah. This was very unusual because you only see ambulances driving around there on Shabbat. Let's say one police car but two big ones. I suspected that something is going on and I overheard a conversation between two local kids where one was asking the other about what is going on. The other child answered that it has no idea.

Due to the arrests, new confrontations with the police took place and some Haredim started burning trash or lit other fires in the middle of Kikar Shabbat (Shabbat Place). I don't know yet, which groups are involved but I am trying to find out.

I could tell my whole opinion about the modesty police and what they do but this is material for a separate article. However, I got the impression that the people involved belong to the Baalei Teshuva movement or am I totally wrong ? I don't think that real group members of the Edah got arrested, as then the Edah HaCharedit would make a huge fuss.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Not welcomed ?


Two recent events caused me to spend lots of thoughts on some society matters.

Last Shabbat I was invited for lunch by a chassidic family in Mea Shearim. Our host told me that the night before, she had advised a young newly religious woman not to jump into Chassidut.

Although I don't know if this young woman was a convert to Judaism or a Baalat Teshuva (born Jews who become religious later on in their life), I don't necessary agree to the idea of telling someone not to do something. Especially not when it is about finding one's right direction within Orthodox Judaism. Our host, on the other hand, insisted on her idea that a newly religious Jew should first learn basics; those basics mainly include Torah and Halachot. Only when I know the basics and build myself a fundament, I am able to reach stability. I have to know Halachot (how to keep Shabbat or how to cook kosher) and only then I can search for my personal direction: national religious, litvish or chassidish.
Not doing it like Chabad throwing their newcomers into mysticism without learning Halachot or any other preparation. This way, one cannot build up a proper basis.

Yesterday, I had a similar experience, as the subject was a little the same.

A certain Chassid asked me if I know any frum girls under the age of 26, as he wants to marry off his sons. I told him that I know some girls from the litvishe Yeshiva "Neve Yerushalaim" but they are litvish and not chassidic. The Chassid wasn't interested because he only wants to marry off his sons to girls who grew up chassidic and not became Baalei Teshuva or converted to Judaism. I asked him why and he gave me several good reasons.

First of all it is always a mess when the parents of the future spouse are either secular or not Jewish at all. It causes too many problems and misunderstandings. The second point he made is that a newcomer (either convert or Baal Teshuva) is many times mentally or emotionally unstable. It is not a good idea marrying off a born Chassid to a girl who converted. The religious newcomer has false expectations and cannot master the chassidic life. Getting adjusted in a totally different lifestyle is anything but easy and the born chassidic spouse cannot understand all the crises of the newcomer. Suddenly the newcomer wants to watch a movie or listen to pop music. This doesn't work.

Many chassidic groups don't force their members to marry someone from within the same group. Of course, if someone marries out of the group, the future spouse should somehow fit into the former lifestyle and have the same basic concepts and ideas. For instance, Boyan fits with Karlin, Chernobyl or Bobov. Chabad doesn't fit anywhere, as they only marry within the group and don't even teach other chassidic concepts.

Our Shabbat host married off her daughters to guys from different chassidic groups; although her group belongs to the Edah HaCHaredit. I had an interesting and long talk with one of her daughters who is married to a Bobover Chassid. I asked her if she didn't underwent many changes in her chassidic life ?
"No, not at all", she said. When she started looking for a Shidduch she told her father what kind of a guy she wants. However, she didn't mention any chassidic groups or preferences. First she cared about finding the right future husband.

Chassidic Shidduchim are always interesting to me, as it really makes me think how people deal with the whole situation of not really knowing the future spouse but still getting married. It is never easy making the right choices in life. It doesn't matter if it is Kiruv or Shidduch. There are always plenty of challenges and crises waiting. And especially Baalei Teshuva should be realistic and not set their expectations too high.

In case you know girls under the age of 26 who grew up chassidic and are looking for a Shidduch just let me know and I will start my life as a Shadchanit.

Video and Photos of the Blogger Convention


Those of you who missed watching last week's Blogger Convention in Jerusalem can do so now:

Photos are available here:

About the Danger of accepting Money from Christians


Unbelievable !

Many religious Jews, including myself, always point out to others not to accept donations from Christians. Even if you (the Jew) is so certain that those donors are such great people and don't plan to buy or influence you. There is always a time when Christians donating money to Jews, demand something in return.
Do never forget that !

Here is a terrible example for what can go so wrong:

Pictures of the Edah HaCharedit


Pakshivili of the anti - Zionist Edah HaCharedit in Mea Shearim

Congress of the Edah HaCharedit in Mea Shearim

Sunday, August 24, 2008



Mea Shearim has a basically new Pakshivili (poster) hanging on its walls. The text is extremely long and you definitely need some time to read everything.

I read parts of it and wasn't too surprised. A poster without a clear signature claims to announce the TRUTH (HaEmet).

"The Shabbabnik, the Chief Rabbi of the Kotel (Western Wall), Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, only works and supports Israel's Zionist government. He thinks to be in charge of the holy site but he is not. Rabbi Rabinovitch does anything the Zionist government tells him; even severe changes desecrating the site".

Already some years ago, someone reliable told me that Rebbi Shmuel Rabinovitch receives donations from certain Christian organizations. This takes place in order that no one can officially kick out the even weird behaving fanatic Christians from the Kotel (Western Wall).

I wouldn't be surprised if there is lots of truth in it, as Christian organizations even give money to the national religious radio station ARUTZ 7 as well as to "The Jerusalem Post".


Shabbabnik: Someone who looks religious but doesn't behave that way.

Semachot and Head Covers


It is quiet during the summer months of July and August. The Yeshivot are closed and most Rebbes are gone on vacation. Someone told me that the Rebbes really need those long vacations in order to get some rest. Once back at home, all their Chassidim don't leave them alone for one minute. Questions, blessings, anything, and a chassidic Rebbe has hardly ever off.

This Shabbat, however, there was some action, as the chassidic group Ruzhin – Boyan is celebrating a huge wedding this Tuesday. One of the sons of their Rebbe is getting married to an English girl, and the "Aufruf" took place last Shabbat. I went but missed the whole ceremony with throwing the sweets for about five minutes. This happens when one celebrates too much the night before and cannot get up in the morning.

After the Synagogue service, the Boyaner gave a huge meal on the ground floor of their Synagogue in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Ge'ulah. Many women helped setting up the tables. So far, I have only been to one chassidic Tish of the Boyaner but already then I got to know a woman who obviously is in charge of the Ezrat Nashim (women's side of the Synagogue). As soon as I entered last Shabbat, she recognized me, came up to me and shook my hand. But she was so busy organizing the upcoming meal that we didn't have time to talk. The Synagogue, however, was extremely crowded. As usual, the space around the Ezrat Nashim looked like a parking lot for baby carriages. Downstairs, in the men's section, were many Chassidim from other groups. Apparently many Karliner. The night before, I had been to the Karlin – Stolin Synagogue where it was also packed. At least the men's side.

Unfortunately, I didn't have time to stay for too long at Boyan and thus wasn't able to participate in the meal. Really a pity but I was invited to a family in the nearby Mea Shearim.

Every time I am going to this family in Mea Shearim, the host asks me at least twenty times, not to mention their name, location or group name on the Internet. I do respect their request but I am able to say that men and women sit in two separate rooms. This takes place out of modesty reasons and whoever thinks that this sounds radical should take into consideration that, at least, we females are not being permanently starred at by some guys looking too desperately for a Shidduch (match) or go otherwise on the women's nerves.

The family lives in one of the backyards and many outsiders keep on asking me if the Chassidim in Mea Shearim invite outsiders. After some inquiries I can say that there are actually quite a few places for Shabbat hospitality. Even within the extreme group Toldot Aharon. However, many times it is an advantage to speak German or Yiddish. The best example is that I got to know one Toldot Aharon woman whose family does Shabbat hospitality but they prefer speaking German to the guests. German orthodox Jews and no Gentiles.

According to what I was able to find out, Gentiles don't have a chance of getting invited into Mea Shearim. It used to be a little different some years ago but in the meantime, many neighbours complained because you never know if there aren't missionaries walking around in the backyards. Another reason is that Gentiles didn't mostly behave too nicely.
Nevertheless, even we Jews need certain connections in order to get invited and it is definitely not so easy sometimes. But once you are in, you are in.

I was placed right across our host and next to me was an elderly woman from the neighbourhood (a grand – daughter of a very famous rabbi). Again, we had a great discussion in German and Yiddish and the two Israeli guests felt slightly lost.
I witnessed an interesting discussion which felt a kind of strange to me. Both women told me very openly about their head covers. Our host admitted that she shaves off her hair about every second week as soon as it starts growing again. She would cover her bald head with a tight head cover called "Haube" (Yiddish and German) and then she puts on her wig. This tradition was taught to her by her mother and our host was proud of keeping this tradition.

My thoughts turned out to be more practical and I asked if all these covers aren't too hot in the summer. "No", both women responded right away. "No, not at all".
Our host considers a Shmattes (rag) around the head as not modest enough because it could move and then everyone can see parts of the head. She only wears wigs made out of artificial hair. "This feels just like silk".
The elderly woman sitting next to me claimed that there is nothing wrong with wearing a Schammtes around the head. Some women would look much better wearing that than a wig. Especially those having a round head shape.

Our discussion continued for four hours and both women showed extreme fear that the younger generations wouldn't stick to the old traditions anymore. Just as the famous Chatam Sofer said: "Any change or new idea is forbidden".

I very much enjoyed our discussion and later on, our hosts daughters as well as the granddaughters join in. We talked about women's issues in chassidic society, as well as about Shidduchim (matches). In other words, plenty of material for me and I am still sorting out my thoughts. I am invited back and especially in September, I am going to call up further families. Especially those who like to speak German (even if can't stand this language). Additionally I am going to spend parts of the upcoming high holidays with the Mea Shearim family.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back to Work !


After all the Convention excitement, reality is coming back and this evening, Shabbat is coming up.

Unfortunately, most chassidic Rebbes are still somewhere abroad. Either having a good time in fancy hotels or running after donations for their own group. That's why there is not too much to write about at the moment. Nevertheless, everyone will be back in Elul.

Tonight I am going to the chassidic group Karlin - Stolin for Shabbat, and tomorrow morning there will be an AUFRUF in Boyan (Jerusalem). One of the Rebbe's sons is getting married next week.

At least some spirituality and great Chassidism.

A great Shabbat to all of you ! Shabbat Shalom and Gid Shabbes !

Conference brings together virtual Jewish world in real-time


Article from the Israeli daily HAARETZ

By Raphael Ahren

More than 200 Jewish bloggers, most of them immigrants from North America, attended the First International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem this past Wednesday. Attendees seemed as much if not more interested in meeting fellow bloggers than in panel discussions dedicated to the agenda of taking Jewish blogging to the next level. "Everybody knew already how to get traffic, so there was nothing new," said German-born Miriam Woelke, publisher of several blogs about Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel.

"It's kind of nice to see faces of people that I only read online," David Abitbol, one of the panelists and founder of Jewlicious, told Haaretz. The anonymous author of Chardal, who moved from Los Angeles to Yad Binyamin last year, said that putting faces to names was indeed his main reason for attending the conference. "I have conversations with these people all the time, but they are faceless people. It's nice to have a normal conversation." Advertisement

While all blogs represented at the conference dealt in some way or another with life in Israel, the spectrum ranged from immigration through carrying guns in Israel to discussions of Jewish law, board games and interior design. Another 1,300 bloggers followed a live Web cast of the event on their computer screens.

The keynote event of the half-day conference, which was organized by the pro-immigration group Nefesh B'Nefesh, was a speech by former prime minister and current opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, which touched on his campaign more than blogging. The Foreign Ministry also made a presentation on branding Israel in a better way.

Nefesh B'Nefesh's Danny Oberman announced the launch of a new Web 2.0 project called My Aliyah Idea, where users are encouraged to post and discuss ways to increase and improve immigration to Israel. While some bloggers said they write for purely recreational and not for any political reasons, many attendees and panelists were exploring ways in which their efforts could help the Jewish state.

"The blogosphere gives everyone a voice and there's lots of great hasbara [public relations] we can do at a grassroots level," said Texas-born Benji Lovitt, a 33-year-old comedian and author of What War Zone???, a blog that takes a humorous look on everyday life in Israel. "My approach is to try to show that Israel is more than you see on CNN. It's actually not the scary, depressing place you think it might be but it's a place of vibrancy and fun and blogging is a way to spread the word about that."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review of the "First International Jewish Bloggers Convention"


I can imagine that those of you who hadn't been to the Nefesh Be' Nefesh Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem are anxiously waiting for a report about the event. Despite more than a thousand live participants on the Internet, a web cam never shows the real impressions.

But first I want to state that I didn't put any links to the bloggers mentioned in my report. You may call it uncooperative but I simply don't have the time putting several links. If anyone is interested in looking at those blogs, you may google them.

The Aliyah organization Nefesh Be' Nefesh organized its first international blogger convention and thus, the organizers didn't exclude failures. There is always a first time. What the organizers probably didn't expect was the large amount of participants. The room was packed with about 200 bloggers.

Even before the event actually started, many blogs called for a boycott and I am not going to list any more reasons, as they are well known already. However, the reason why many bloggers, including myself, did participate was mostly curiousity. See some other bloggers and learn a few things about traffic and how to find sufficient time for running a blog.

At the entrance we all got this stickers where we wrote down our blog name and family name and stuck them onto our shirts. Then everyone just started walking around looking at the batches and see if there is someone familiar. Honestly, most blogs I had never heard about. The funniest blog name I saw so far was the "Westbank Mama".

There was a great variety of participants; from national religious to Chabad or Breslov and secular. It wasn't a necessarily religious frummy event, that's for sure. I am not the typ who is looking for communication all the time. Instead I went to the food first. And by the way, you may complain about anything but not about the food. The meat, salads and cake were delicious.

Besides our name tags, we also received black bag for our laptops. Inside the bag was some propaganda material by Nefesh Be' Nefesh. I only knew three of the participants and we sat together right somewhere in the front. In order to see everything, of course. One of my friends said that Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu is going to show up. I didn't even know that, as Nefesh Be' Nefesh hadn't announced it long before.

People were busying running to the buffet and in the meantime the organizers offered bloggers to give interviews. Immediately some bloggers lined up and enjoyed promoting their blog in front of the camera. It was interesting to see how some bloggers are so much into promotion; you wouldn't believe it. The worst one of the whole event was Batya Medad, the wife of the blogger (MyRightWord) Yisrael Medad. When later people were allowed to ask questions, Batya jumped up and started about talking her new cooking blog. No one wanted to know this and she really made a fool of herself. This went on and on until finally one of the panel members interrupted her by asking: "So, what is your question".

The first panel members were introduced and it turned out that David Bogner from Treppenwitz is a good speaker but this doesn't make me reading his family stories. And Gil Student from Hirhurim is hyperactive and once you let him talk, he cannot stop himself anymore. He just gets lost in the middle of nowhere and in the end everyone is bored.

Suddenly Benjamin Netanyahu walked in. Together with his bodyguard and a young female journalist soldier from the army radio channel "Galei Zahal". By the way, I saw many journalists and I started asking myself why this event was so important that they came. Netanyahu had to rush and started his speech right after David Bogner had finished. The radio journalist only recorded those parts of his speech where he attacked the government or talked about his future plans.

"Yes, he does have his won blog but uses a ghost writer".
Well, at least Netanyahu was honest about that. In general, he is a very good speaker and is able to express himself in fluent English. Thanks to G – d that we didn't have to suffer through Olmert or Mofaz stutterings. If there are any at all.
Unfortunately, the whole discussion got lost after a while. Although Netanyahu started off well, he later got lost in political issues. But this was rather the fault of the participants, as many of them seemed to belong to his fan club. Nevertheless, the opposition leader seems to be the only person in the Knesset realizing and using the power of the Internet. Most other politicians still rely on the yellow press because of nice little pictures and the fact that no one needs a brain to read that.

What I had expected from the event was much more information for bloggers but instead there were either politics or Aliyah propaganda. Of course, Nefesh Be' Nefesh follows a certain agenda called Aliyah and bringing Jews to Israel. Throughout the whole convention we served as examples how great new immigrants can be absorbed. "If they can make it, I can make it", this was the message Nefesh Be' Nefesh tried to give you via camera. Nevertheless, in the end, everyone has to decide for himself if he wants to move to Israel or not.

After an endless while, a 10 – minutes break was announced. I started going into the buffet direction, as a journalist from a German Jewish paper stopped me. He had a few questions and I almost missed my coffee. After the break, a lady from the foreign ministry started her lecture about how to give Israel a better image and use its potential. The lecture was good but the new ideas of the ministry are due to fail. Providing Israel with a better image is more than necessary but not the way the ministry wants to do it. The plans were made up by people sitting in an office and have nothing do to with reality. We need to find a logo just like NYC and its apple. What Israel doesn't have a logo ? What about the Torah, the Temple Mount (without any mosques) and the Kotel (Western Wall) ? Isn't that enough ?

Moreover, the lecturers hardly stopped emphasizing that we Jewish bloggers are a community or an establishment.
Well, I have to say a lot on that, as I don't belong to any community nor am I an establishment.

I don't promote our government nor the opposition but rather write how I see things happening in Israel. And for this reason, I am independent and are able to write about whatever I want. Israel and the Jews have a special task in this world and I am trying to give this message over to other people. As a religious Jew, I am not the type of multi cultural Blabla and beating about the bush. I have nothing against other religions but do see it as my mission to write and warn against Christian missionaries. Against people misusing the Torah and fake our own Jewish history for their own vicious purposes. And as Benjamin Netanyahu said: "Only if we know our own history, we are able to expose all the false propaganda and accusations of our enemies".

Personally I don't do anyone favours by receiving money and then write about them. I don't pretend to be such a nice person just in order to make a good impression on the whole world. And whoever wants something softer, can go somewhere else and get his brain washing part.

Generally I am glad I participated in the convention; it was a great experience. On the other hand, I found out for myself that I am going on with my own agenda and don't intend to cooperate too much. Every blogger and his blog should stands for something individual and it is extremely important keeping this uniqueness. Thus no one can say that this or that blog is bad. There is something unique in each blog even if you don't read it.

Nefesh Be' Nefesh announced a second convention for the coming year. I wish there would be less politics and much less Aliyah propaganda. My second wish won't be fulfilled, as NBN' s agenda is Aliyah. However, I would rather prefer some more blogger information.


Photos of the convention are following soon !

Informative Blogs


The author of "The Key of Redemption" launched a new anti - missionary Blog called "Esav Exposed".
Highly recommended !!!

In "Coffee and Chemo", Rivka writes about her cancer disease.
Highly recommended !!!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Live - Broadcast from Bloggers Convention


Those who refuse or simply cannot participate in the "First International Jewish Bloggers Convention" sponsored by Nefesh Be' Nefesh, have still a chance to see everything live.

From 5.30pm (Israeli time), Nefesh Be' Nefesh is offering a live broadcast on the Internet:

So, see you this afternoon !!!

Seventh Anniversary


In August 2001, a Palestinian suicide bomber entered the Sbarro - Restaurant in Jerusalem (at the old location in King George) and killed 15 people (including seven children). 130 people were wounded. One of the severely injured was Channah Nachenberg.
Here is her story:

Every Shabbat anew, people come to join the Machlis - Family for very different reasons.

Rabbi Mordechai Machlis, his wife Henny and his 14 kids are the greatest Shabbat experience you could ever have. They accept everybody and have been doing so for more than 20 years. Mordechai and Henny are originally from Brooklyn and both are children of rabbis. Almost 30 years ago, they made Aliyah and have been living in the Maalot Dafna neighbourhood in Jerusalem since. You could call Rabbi Machlis national religious or Chardalnik (Haredi Leumi). His children, however, are mostly married to Haredim and the two oldest sons are students at the MIR Yeshiva.

The Machlises are famous for their Shabbat food. In other words, for the amount of food. Anyone can come without calling and take as much as he likes. And this is one of the main reasons why people come. Food.
Me and my friends see the Machlis home more as a social meeting. Throughout the week, each of us is busy, so on Shabbat we meet at the Machlises.

In May 2001, I showed up at the Machlis home and met an old friend of mine, David Nachenberg. Some time ago, he had got married and he introduced me to his wife Channah. They also had a two - year - old daughter called Sarah. A happy family with a home in Modi'in. They made jokes about their income but most Israelis have an overdraft. Channah told me that she wants to find a job in order to make things going smoother.

On 9th August 2001, I was on a bus when I heard the news. A suicide bomber had blown himself up inside the Sbarro Pizzeria. Corner King George - Jaffa Road. It was at about 2pm when a guy with a guitar entered the Sbarro and exploded himself. Inside the bomb were also nails and screws to injure or kill more people. The streets and the Sbarro were crowded and the suicide bomber had waited for the traffic light turning green. Thus, people were crossing the junction and he could kill even more. Many people were killed inside the Sbarro. A whole family was wiped out. The "Shijveshurder family" who had emigrated from Holland. Five family members almost died on the spot.

A few months later, I read the "Jerusalem Post" and suddenly saw a picture of Channah and David Nachenberg. I only got to know then that Channah had been badly injured in the blast. She had gone with her daughter Sarah and a relative to eat pizza. The relative was only slightly injured. Daughter Sarah showed no sign of injury at all.

After the blast, her relative got up and saw that Channah had been falling over the table. She was taken to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital and the doctors found out that she had a nail in her heart. However, they succeeded in operating her but Channah never woke up again. Until today, she is still unconscious and the doctors don't know why. Laying in the Re'ut rehabilitation center with open eyes but not responding to anything. Her husband David visits her as much as he can. Sarah keeps on drawing pictures for her mother although she grew up. They play music to her.

The Nachenberg Family

However, they also had further horrible experiences when Christian visitors popped in. They started praying to J. and claimed that if the family converted to Christianity, Channah would wake up.
How horrible and ignorant can people be ? Since the incident occurred, David allows only Jewish visitors in.

After the blast, no more traffic ran through downtown Jerusalem. Only ambulances.
The bus driver opened the doors and we got off the bus. It was in the Ge'ulah haredi neighbourhood and we walked avoiding the nearby scene. I had just walked a few meters when a teenager girl walking not too far away received a phone call. She spoke a few words and then started screaming and crying. She was national religious and just sat down in the middle of the sidewalk and cried. A haredi Mea Shearim woman came up to her and everybody else around just knew why the teenager was crying. Something terrible had happened to a friend or relative. The haredi woman embraced her and said a few encouraging words to the girl.

It was one of the most incredible scenes I have ever witnessed.
All the time we hear about people from Mea Shearim. They hate everybody else and keep themselves separate. And here was, a woman from Mea Shearim, embracing a teenager from the outside world. Unfortunately, the secular press wasn't around to take a picture.

I don't know what exactly happened to the teenager and don't know where she is today. Unfortunately, Channah Nachenberg, the last victim of the Sbarro bombing, seems to be almost forgotten.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to the Source – The Age of the Universe, Part 2


As already mentioned in PART 1, the kabbalistic book "Sefer HaTemunah" estimated the age of the world of 42.000 years at the time when Adam was created. Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko (1250 – 1350) wrote in his book "Ozar HaChaim" that those 42.000 years are not to be understood according to human terms but as g – dly years. According to plenty of Midrashic literature, ONE g- dly day stands for 1000 human years (see also Sefer Tehillim – Psalms). And one g – dly year with 365,25 days stands for 365,250 earthly years. Therefore, Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko concludes that our universe is 42.000 x 365,250 years old. The result of this multiplication is 15.349.500.000 years. Today, NASA and scientists estimate the age of the universe of about 14 – 15 billion years. And now look at the calculation of Rabbi Yitzchak of Akko. Already 700 years ago, he came to the same conclusion which tells us that we are not more intelligent than the people in the Middle Ages.

Every time we study the first chapter of the Book of Genesis (Bereshit), we are always amazed by the unusual longevity of the Generation of the Flood (with Noach). And as usual, there are different opinions saying that those years of the Generation of the Flood were much shorter than our years today. After the Flood, nature changed and due to the impact of the Flood, even the orbit had changed and countries and continents faced slightly different locations. Man's life expectance had also changed, although people could still live up to hundreds of years. Furthermore, illnesses came into existence which hadn't been the case before the flood. Before, people just died after hundreds of years but they didn't die because they were sick. They just dropped dead when their time had come. No illnesses were known in the time before the Flood.
Until the times of Avraham, people also didn't age. We know about they famous Talmudic story of Avraham and his son Yitzchak who looked alike because no one was aging.

The first mentioning that the years in the Torah were shorter was Josephus. And Josephus gave a few reasons why the Generation of Noach live for such a long time. First of all, they lived closer to the time when the world was created and because G – d loved them. In those days, G – d's influence and Shechinah (presence) were much more visible than today. Until the Flood, the people were vegetarians and there was no pollution or poisoning fields and forests. Nutrition was healthy because everything was pure without any pollution. The Generation of the Flood ate plants and drank water or sometimes milk. The Ramban (Nachmanides) comments that those people were a perfect biological creation and this is the reason for their longevity. Today, our DNA is much different from those former generations.

All changes after the Flood are considered by the Sages as a g – dly punishment. Following generations were supposed to take the events as a warning but they failed to do so. Just the opposite; everything and each generation got worse. The Flood was a warning but more than 300 years later, the Tower of Bavel (Babylon) was built. Another disaster.

The Flood could only occur because G – d Himself changed a star constellation (see Talmud Rosh HaShana 11b – 12). The average lifespan before the Flood was 929 years and afterwards 445 years. After the Tower of Bavel, the years were diminished once again down to 228 years. According to Jewish literature, mankind is getting back longevity in the days of Meshiach (see Isiah – Yeshayahu 65:20). The we will reach the age of 900 plus.

I want to mention that there are many many opinions on the days of Meshiach, the Resurrection of the Death and what is going to happen, how and the results of it. In the next article, I am going to list various different opinions but it should be very clear that no one knows for sure what is going to happen.
Only G – d, as usual.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Meshiach is Moving

From the outside: The Chabad Meshichistim branch in Ben Yehudah


The Chabad - Meshichistim (those Chabadnikim believing that the last Lubavitcher Rebbe is the Meshiach) are moving apartments in another two months or so. From Ben Yehudah No. 5 to the nearby Rivlin Street.

The "Meshiach" is moving out of Jerusalem's shopping mall, and despite my opposition to the Meshiach movement, I am going to miss them and their posters. Even if the Messianic Rebbe Shneerson movement inside Chabad is totally out of control, the local Meshichistim were still somehow part of the Ben Yehudah.

Entrance door in the staircase Ben Yehudah No. 5

Dancing Chabad - Meschichistim in the Ben Yehudah (with yellow "Meshiach - Flag")

The public loves to watch "Chabad - Meschichistim"

Traitor, Schnorrer or "Agenda Slave"


Despite all the criticism in different blogs, I admit that I signed up for Nefesh Be'Nefesh's (NBN) International Bloggers Convention. A friend of mine told me about it and she said that she will be there. So, why not me ?

As the event is taking place in Jerusalem (this coming Wednesday) and I am in town at the moment, so why not taking place. I have never been to such a meeting before and thus, don't come with any expectations. However, I am very curious to see it.

The Israeli daily Haaretz stated that at least 200 bloggers have signed up. Well, hopefully, we won't all step on each others feet while jumping onto the food. Maybe getting to know some people, and if not, schnorring the food. So, what ?

Of course, NBN has its own agenda and everybody participating should admit that he has his agenda as well. NBN announced some panel discussions about how to increase blog traffic etc. It would be interesting to hear from other bloggers how they succeed.
One of the panel members has a more or less family oriented blog. I usually don't read him because I think that one's own family should be a private and not a public matter. But especially those family stories receive plenty of hits.

So, what could he say in this discussion ? Everyone else should put in pictures from spouses or children. Well, how is the neighbour doing today and have I been blown up by a terrorist ?

There are those boycotting the event but I think that the vast majority of participants just goes out of curiousity. Why not ? Spending four entertaining hours for free ? I don't think that I am seeing myself as a traitor by participating. My experience shows that those bloggers with the biggest mouth on the Internet mostly sit very quietly when it comes to personal meetings. Hopefully this won't be the case at the Convention. However, last Friday night I met the person who wrote the famous "I've been Aished" article in the "Jerusalem Post", and she very much kept quiet at the Shabbat table.

To all participants: Enjoy the Convention.

To all those boycotting: Enjoy the Live Cam and don't forget preparing the popcorn.

Aufruf in Boyan


This upcoming Shabbat (Parshat Ekev), Chassidut Ruzhin - Boyan is celebrating an Aufruf in their great Synagoge in Malchei Israel Street in Jerusalem. One of the Rebbe's son is getting married next week.


Aufruf: On the Shabbat before his wedding, the groom is called up for the Torah reading and afterwards, all the women throw candies into the men's sections. You should see all the little boys grabbing for those candies.

Kabbalat Shabbat in Karlin – Stolin


Most Yeshivot are closed due to the summer vacation and only start opening up again in the month of Elul. This is the annual routine; closing from Tisha Be' Av before the High Holidays. But still a few Yeshivot keep on going and among them is the women's seminary "Neve Yerushalaim" in the Jerusalem neighbourhood of Har Nof. This year, the Neve girls won't have off.

Many chassidic Rebbes already left the country in July. Many of them went on their summer vacation to fancy places in Austria or Switzerland. Later they go on their regular donation (Schnorrer) trip. Small chassidic groups depends on donations. For instance, the Toldot Aharon depend on Satmar (with Rebbe Aharon Teitelbaum).

Everybody seems to be gone and many places are closed or seem to be abandoned. There is not too much going on at the moment and my reports have been much less lately. Nevertheless, I still sometimes go for Kabbalat Shabbat to the Karlin – Stolin Synagogue in Yoel Street in Mea Shearim (right across the Satmarer Beit Midrash).
The Karliner Synagogue is not an impressive but rather a large simple concrete building. As usual, the men's entrance is easy to find but the Ezrat Nashim (women's entrance) can hardly be found without a guide. Once you know it, it is easy but first you have to get there. If you do, be prepared climbing up endless stairs.

The interior decoration is mostly light – coloured wood and so is the Aron HaKodesh (Torah shrine). A Chassid from a different chassidic group once asked me if I do take any earplugs to Karlin. The Karliner Chassidim are very famous for their extremely loud enthusiastic prayers. They actually shout out their prayers and thus reach a higher Devekut (closeness to G – d). The Karliner prayer is very unique and energetic. First, I faced some difficulties following the Friday night service. Due to all the screams, you can hardly hear any words and then you never know where we are in the prayer. Nevertheless, after a while you get just used to it and even feel like screaming as well.

The Karlin – Stolin women usually don't join the Kabbalat Shabbat service. There might be two or three other women when I arrive. Mostly a young New York born young Karlin woman or an elderly Israeli one. The elderly women is really into the prayers and sometimes wildly waving her arms. And it was her who I met last Friday night.

After the Kabbalat Shabbat service, all the little boys line up in front of the Aron and anxiously await their Shabbat presents. I love to watch them grabbing for those little plastic toys. The elderly woman came over to me and said that the presents are always toys. I was a little surprised because sometimes it looked like they were getting candies.
"No, only toys, the Karliner woman said, because we haven't made Kiddush yet".

By the way, the girls receive their presents on the next day at Shacharit.

This particular elderly lady loves to explain everything and whenever you ask her or don't ask her, she will tell you something. Before we left she said that there are donors giving money for those toys.

"Was this meant to be a statement or a hint ?"

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The LIKUD and the Christians


Benjamin Netanyahu's LIKUD party makes alliances with fanatic Christians. The following two articles are very worth reading but don't get too caught up in those Christian schizophrenic ideas.

The latest update

Ashkenazim Stink !!!


There are not too many occasions I would agree with the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef; but this time, however, I couldn't agree more.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef gave another of his famous speeches in his Jerusalem Beit Midrash on Mozzaei Shabbat (right after Shabbat was finished). He announced that Ashkenazic Jews stink when they don't take showers during the nine days preceding Tisha Be' Av. It is unbearable when someone sits next to such a smelly Ashkenazi religious Jew on the bus. Who is able to suffer all the smell from religious Jews not showering ?
Does the Torah command us to do so ?

Exactly a week ago, we commemorated the destruction of the two Temples (Tisha Be' Av) and in the nine days preceding this Fast, we keep special strict Halachot such as abstain from showers (including washing one's hair) or putting on fresh clothes. During the nine days, all this is only allowed on the Friday before Shabbat starts.

Ashkenazi Jewry begins these nine days very much on time. Sephardi Jews, however, only begin the nine days on the Mozzaei Shabbat before Tisha Be' Av. Example: If Tisha Be' Av is falling on a Tuesday, Sephardic Jews only keep the nine days from Mozzaei Shabbat until Tuesday night.

The nine days, including Tisha Be' Av, always fall into the months of July and August. The hottest summer season in Israel with more than 30 degrees Celsius every day. People sweat and are desperate for showers. And thus, every year, we have the same discussion: Taking showers during the nine days or not ? Fresh clothes - Yes or No ?

The Torah commands us to be clean and no one should smell and bother other people. Sometimes the smell is very strong on buses with lots of Haredim. Most of them, especially the men, keep the strict rules of the nine days and don't necessarily seem to consider the noses and senses of the other bus passengers. Once I changed seats because I was surrounded by an immense smell. And as I am talking about myself - I do not keep the Halachot of not showering or not putting on fresh clothes during the nine days. I wash and change clothes. What I do is not eating meat or listening to music. But I definitely need water. Especially in our Israeli summer heat.

Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef agrees and considers the Ashkenazi non - shower behaviour as disgusting and unnecessary.

WALMART and the Definition of Halacha


At the Se'udat Shlishit (third Shabbat meal), Rabbi Mordechai Machlis raised a certain halachic topic and everyone else, including the Rabbi himself, was unable to find the proper halachic answer.
Maybe the readers of this site can make a few suggestions.

The story goes as follows:

Someone from the States told Rabbi Machlis about a friend (a religious Jew) who seems to use a special Walmart offer a little too much. The Walmart chain is taking back electric appliances if the customer finds out that there is a defect. Walmart takes back the appliance within 30 days and refunds all the money to customer. Moreover, the customer doesn't have to give any reason for the return but just bring back the item and get the money.

This religious Jew someone knows always goes to Walmart before he and his wife are going on vacation. For example, they buy a camera, use it during their vacation and then go back to Walmart, return the camera without giving a reason and getting the money back.

This religious Jew feels that he is acting totally according to Halacha and has done this kind of procedure a few times. He buys, goes on vacation, brings back the appliance and gets the money back. Furthermore, he spoke to one of the Walmart managers and told him what he is doing. Unfortunately, we don't know the exact words of this conversation.

The questions is if this behaviour is really according to Halacha.

The religious Jew claims that Walmart is so wealthy and wouldn't loose any money anyway. And when they already make such an offer, so why not use it ?

More than ten people participating in the third meal and debating the issue where against the behaviour of this person; he would not act according to Halacha. Rabbi Machlis, however, was looking for the famous "Kav Sechut - Benefit of a Doubt" and suggested that if the customer shows up again in order to return the appliance, he has to pass the huge Walmart building. And on his way to the electric department, he passes countless shelves. Then he sees more and more other items and might purchase here and there. In other words, spend more money until he finally reaches the electric department. This way, Walmart wouldn't loose any money.

Everyone else, including myself, considers this kind of behaviour (using items and then returning them) as theft because Walmart cannot sell the appliance as brand new anymore.

Someone claimed that, in the meantime, Walmart has obviously changed its policy and asks people who return something for their name, address and other details. Additionally, the customers are only allowed to make three return visits.

Apparently Walmart is aware of customers misusing the return and money back offer.

But still, we couldn't find a precise halachic decision and maybe one of the readers here can make a halachic response.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Welcome to Reality - The Baalei Teshuva Frustration


Definition :
"Baalei Teshuva" - the ones who weren't born religious but became religious later in their lives.

There are plenty of people and blogs criticizing the Kiruv - Movement. Young Jews would be drawn into Yeshivot or religious programs. There they undergo a brainwashing procedure and finally transform into a black hat or a long skirt. Then they terribly go on the nerves of the born religious Jews, as the new Baal Teshuva "surely" knows everything better. He just saw the light and lets us know about it.

On the other hand, blogs criticize that religious institutions miss telling the Baalei Teshuva as well as haredi converts to Judaism the truth. Israeli haredi reality shows that those newcomers are not always fully accepted by the born haredi society.

This accusation is justied and I asked a student of the litvishe Yeshiva Neve Yerushalaim about her opinion. "Neve" is a huge institution for female Baalei Teshuva located in the Har Nof neighbourhood in Jerusalem. Mostly young girls from Anglo countries, Russia or Israel study there and the final goal is finding a Shidduch and getting married.

Throughout the past twelve years, I got to know many Neve girls. The majority loved the seminary. I also met a few dropouts and as soon as they heard the name "Neve Yerushalaim" they felt like throwing up (according to their own words). Others loved Neve but after leaving the seminary, they went back to a modern - orthodox life but regard Neve as an important experience in their religious lives.

I have already written quite a few times about the difficulties of converts and Baalei Teshuva getting accepted by haredi society. As a newcomer you might get the impression that you are accepted but after a while you find out that it is not so. Of course, I won't deny that there are exceptions and it mostly depends on your surrounding. However, Israeli reality is that many born haredim look down on Baalei Teshuva or at least don't consider them as equal. The best example is the Shidduchim business. Although a convert or Baal Teshuva may be better off by marrying another convert or Baal Teshuva, it cannot be denied that usually the Shadchan (Matchmaker) only offers them other converts or Baalei Teshuva. A Shadchan hardly sends a convert to a born Haredi. Maybe only to those who are three times divorced, have twelve kids or mental problems. In haredi society, and especially in chassidic society, you usually get your counterpart. This may be better for you but sometimes it can also be offensive.

Nevertheless, there are also those Baalei Teshuva or converts who want to escape all this prejudices and start inventing a new biographie. Suddenly a female convert to Judaism from Heidelberg (Germany) comes from a prestigious chassidic family in Heidelberg. By the way, where are Chassidim in Heidelberg ? No, I don't mean Chabad; I mean Satmar, Vishnitz or Belz.
And the grandmother was gased in Auschwitz although she is still very much alive and riding on her bike through Heidelberg.
A life full of lies in order to get accepted. Not only by society but also accepted by herself. In the end, the girl believes her own story. However, the Haredim know exactly what is going on because the haredi world is still a small world and everyone knows each other.

The girl I spoke to from Neve Yerushalaim gave me an interesting answer and hopefully it does help some readers who are in such a position:

"The problem of acceptance exists in every society. If I as a white woman would sit in the middle of twenty black women, who do you think is more likely to get attacked by the twenty other women ? The same happens in haredi society. Why should I be upset about the fact that I am "only" a Baalat Teshuva" ? It wouldn't change anything anyway and the most important thing is to strengthen one's own personal relationship to HaShem".

According to Halacha or Mussar, a convert or Baal Teshuva is on a much higher level than a born religious Jew. As soons as someone does honest Teshuva (repentance), all his former sins are forgiven. Thus, he enters a completely new stage in his life. Someone born religious usually doesn't feel all this little temptations like breaking Shabbat. He grew up with it and is so used to all the Halachot. Probably too used to them, as many times, he forgets about the Holiness of the Mitzvot and takes everything for granted. The Baal Teshuva, on the other hand, really has to fight the smallest temptations. All this little things he knows from his former life.

Even if we honour the converts in the Amida prayer and know that they and Baalei Teshuva are on extremely high level, unfortunately many religious Jews simply forget about this fact. On the other hand, converts or Baalei Teshuva shouldn't fake their identity and thus mislead haredi society.

Media Watch


Two great important sites of the "Media Watch"

Palestinian Media Watch

Have a look at the latest Palestinian schizophrenic ideas:

"Israel's Supernatural Rats"

And finally

Israel's Media Watch

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Back to the Source - The Age of the Universe, Part 1


Who doesn't want answers to all his questions ? If possible, G – d Himself should give us the answers, as it is Him knowing everything. And He doesn't err.

One of the greatest mysterious is the universe and its creation; even if Astronomers and Physicians might claim the opposite. What exactly is this mystery ? Didn't especially NASA determine that our universe is 14 billion years old ? In general, science determines the age of the universe of 15 billion years.

15 billion years ? Isn't this figure contradicting the Torah where it says that the entire creation process took place in six days ? And doesn't tell us the Jewish calendar that only after Adam's creation, time started running. This means the six days of the creation process plus 5768 years after Adam was created. How can that be ?

The scientific age of the universe can be proven, thanks to Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Thus, scientists found out that our universe has been constantly growing and if one measures the temperature back to its source, he is able to define the age.
After the BIG BANG, endless amounts of heat were released. After millions of years, this heat cooled down and only then, life on earth was possible. Scientists usually claim that the Torah errs when it talks about six days of creation and the amount of additional 5768 years. By the way, I am not planning to explain the opinion of the anti – Zionist umbrella organization Edah HaCharedit on this matter. It is well – known that the Edah takes these six days literally.

On the contrary, I want to quote commentaries of the Rambam (Maimonides), the Ramban (Nachmanides), the religious physician Gerald Schroeder (who is teaching at AISH HaTorah) or Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, who, unfortunately, already passed away. Furthermore, I want to mention teachings from the Talmud and the Torah itself. Everyone interested in the scientific basis of the Torah should read Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's book "Immortality, Resurrection and the Age of the Universe".

Until the sixties and seventies, religious Jews claiming that there could be alien existence on other planets were called heretics. But already Saadia Gaon (approx. 890 – 942) stated that alien life wouldn't contradict our Torah.

Basically there are two general opinions on how the age of the universe could be explained:

1. Every day of creation stands for millions or billions of years. Day one was not a day with 24 hours because time was only added later on. At least, according to our understanding of time. The Torah only mentions human age when Seth (Adam's third son), was born. Before, it didn't tell us the age of Cain and Hevel (Abel).

2. Another opinion claims that the whole universe was created with its history. G – d created the trees with rings indicating the age of the trees. The only problem of this claim is that it doubts the Torah. Why should G – d give us false information ?

The kabbalistic book "Sefer HaTemunah" is quite famous among those who take the Kabbalah study seriously. The great Kabbalsists from the 16th century, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero and Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, disapproved of the book and announced that its context is anything but realistic. However, until then, Sefer HaTemunah was greatly honoured and studied. Even after the criticism of the two famous Kabbalists, Sefer HaTemunah was still studied for a while but later on became forgotten.

But what is so special about "Sefer HaTemunah" ?
The author obviously seems to be the Talmudic Rabbi Nechunya ben HaKanah. Basically the book describes the Shemittah cycles, as mentioned in the Torah. Every seventh year, the land shall rest. Sefer HaTemunah takes the Talmud Sanhedrin as its source and states that our planet is going to exist for 6000 years and after 7000 years, it will be destroyed. The Talmud, on the other hand, gives as its source the six days of creation. G – d created the world in six days and He rested on the seventh day. Thus, according to Sefer HaTemunah, our planet exists 49,000 years (7 x 7000 = 49,000). The only problem is that we don't know in what year we are at the moment.

Furthermore, Sefer HaTemunah raises the theory that there were former worlds already before the creation of Adam. The Midrash Rabbah says: "And it was evening, and it was morning, one day". Hence evening was there before morning. But isn't it usually the other way around ? However, Sefer HaTemunah is not alone with its claim that before Adam, G – d created other universes and destroyed them all (see "Midrash Rabbah" or "Sefer Maarechet Elokut"). Even the Talmudic Rishonim knew about this thesis and it is mentioned in "Sefer HaChinuch" and the Ramban's and Ibn Ezra's commentary on "The Kuzari".

Whoever deals with the subject and has a close look into Torah commentaries or the Talmud (e.g.: Chagigah 11 – 15) knows that there are many opions on the creation. Opinions which, unfortunately, seem to be forgotten or excluded in our times. Today, many rabbis don't know anything about science anymore; biology, physics, astronomy or history. Many things banned today were very much accepted during Talmudic times until the Maharal of Prague. The greatest rabbis didn't consider those opinions as problematic and Avraham would definitely not see any difficulties.

Gerald Schroeder as well as Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan published very interesting statements on the age of the universe and the unusual longevity until the Generation of Noach. Moreover, Rabbi Kaplan also quotes different sources dealing with the resurrection in the times of Meshiach and many other topics. But those issues I am going to explain in Part 2.