Friday, April 30, 2010

Shabbat Shalom


Thousands of Jew are gathering in Meron for Lag Ba'Omer. I didn't make it but promised myself doing so next year. In about two weeks, I am traveling to the north in order to visit some Kivrei Zaddikim such as the Rambam in Tiberias, Rabbi Me'ir Ba'al HaNes, Rabbi Akivah, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto and the ARI.

It was raining in Jerusalem this morning. A small miracle because rain at the end of April is not very common. While looking for some material for this post, I opened a chassidic tale book and found this story which really fits the subject:

The Thirst of the Plants

The Ziditzover (Rebbe) told the following story:
"Rabbi Joseph Caro (Kabbalist and author of the "Shulchan Aruch") was accustomed to express a holy intention in words before doing anything. Once he arose in the night for a drink of water, but he could remember no words of holiness to utter. Finally he said:
As I am about to quench my thirst with this water, may it please Almighty to still the thirst of plants and trees.
This prayer was accepted and rain which was sorely needed, came down in abundance".


"The Hasidic Anthology"
Translated by Louis I. Newman

Going to Mea Shearim tonight, as the Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe is giving a Tish. I haven't been to his place for a few months and thus I am really looking forward to see him. He is the most entertaining Rebbe I know so far and he doesn't make any effort to hide that he is uplifted. When Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov is raising into the upper worlds, nothing can stop him anymore from dancing and moving his arms wildly.
This is real Chassidut.

"Shabbat Shalom - Gut Schabbes" to all of you !

Purim 5770 in Toldot Aharon

Toldot Aharon Rebbe with Amshinov


The previous Toldot Aharon Rebbe Avraham Yitzchak Kahn (died in December 1996) with the Amshinover Rebbe. Rebbe Avraham Yitzchak was the father of Rebbe David Kahn (today's Toldot Aharon Rebbe) as well as of Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn (today's Toldot Aharon Yitzchak Rebbe)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Rabbi Mordechai Machlis (Jerusalem) on Lag Ba'Omer

Christian Missionaries and their Lies


They come, lie to Israeli Jews and pretend being part of a conversion course to Judaism. Afterwards they slowly slowly start spreading their real message: The believe in the false Meshiach J. or in other words: Idol – worship.
If the conversion course lie is too inconvenient, they claim straight away to be Jewish.

Christian missionaries usually love the second possibility - Claiming to be Jewish. They men wear a Kipa and Zizit and they think that they look so Jewish now. What they cannot change is their Christian look and behaviour. A religious Jew usually recognizes these fakes from far away, as I did with a Christian family which just recently moved into the highest building in Jerusalem's Agrippas Street 111 right across the Machane Yehudah Market. So far, this particular family seems to only give idol – worship classes to Christians but I have just been waiting for their missionary attempt.

Despite the great work of Israel's anti – missionary organization YAD LE'ACHIM, missionaries keep on their vicious mission. They like to use Jewish expressions such as "Baruch Hashem" in order to convince other Jews that also Jews can believe in the false Meshiach J. The churches have been faking the Torah as well as the Book of Prophets for centuries. Mistranslations done on purpose in order to keep up the lie about the false Meshiach J.

In most cases, Christian missionaries don't approach religious Jews, as then their lies fall apart. They rather prefer secular Jews who have no idea about their own religion. In particular they hate Haredim and anything connected to them. John Hagee from the Evangelists used to state that because the Jews didn't follow G – d's will (converting to Christianity) the Nazis punished them by putting them into the gas chambers. The Holocaust was a G – dly punishment for the Jews for not believing in Christendom.

Haredi shopping at Kikar Shabbat


The haredi shopping area in Jerusalem - Mea Shearim / Ge'ulah:
Shabbat Square - Kikar Shabbat.


All photos HERE !

The Israeli Supreme Court, the Haredim and Beit Yaakov

Photo: Kikar Shabbat


There is nothing new about the division of Sepharadim and Ashkenazim in Israeli society. The same in haredi society where haredi Sepharadim are known to Ashkenazim by the nickname "Frenk".
Ashkenazi Haredim don't marry into Sephardi society; Sepharadim, on the other hand, seem to have less problems with marrying an Ashkenazi Jew. However, an Ashkenazi Haredi marrying a Sephardi usually means that there is something wrong with him / her. Problematic to society, handicapped or whatever. Not suitable for another haredi Ashkenazi.

The haredi girls' school "Beit Yaakov" is also divided between Ashkenazi students and Sephardi students. First of all, both groups keep different customs within Judaism and secondly, Ashkenazi parents see the Sepharadim as a kind of primitive and not suitable for studying with their children. It is harder finding a good Shidduch when your kids studied together with Sephardi girls.
This is a fact and a society issue.

The Israeli town Emmanuel has a Beit Yaakov and made the usual division. The Sephardi parents, however, went wild because they consider the Ashkenazi reaction as rassist behaviour. Now Israel's Supreme Court decided that the Ashkenazi Beit Yaakov cannot make a division anymore but Ashkenazi and Sephardi girls have to learn together. Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv and most Ashkenazim went beserk and the Ashkenazi parents in Emmanuel are even prepared to go to jail than following the verdict of the Supreme Court.

Honestly I don't see the point of Sephardi parents why they want to send their children to an Ashkenazi school. A school where the students don't say "Shabbat Shalom" but "Gut Schabbes", for instance. Why doing so when, on the other hand, Sepharadim gossip about this kind of Ashkenazi language ? Just because it is better for their girls to have an Ashkenazi education ? If I had children, I wouldn't insist on sending them to a Sephardi school.

Last night I heard a report on the issue on a haredi radio channel. One of the Ashkenazi parents from Emmanuel was interviewed and this father said that Emmanuel is flooded with newly Baalei Teshuva. Many of the Sephardi girls are not even yet religious because their parents have only recently started their Teshuva process. Furthermore, many of those girls don't even keep Shabbat (yet). Baalei Teshuva always come with problems and it takes time to solve them. If they are being solved. Beit Yaakov girls, however, are supposed to be religious and various Sephardi girls living in Emmanuel are not.

The problem is that Beit Yaakov belongs to the Agudath Israel and is financed by the Israeli government. The result is that the State of Israel has the right to interfere into internal Beit Yaakov matters. Even a secular and anti - haredi Supreme Court. Other groups such as Dushinsky or Toldot Aharon don't accept education support from the government and are thus independent.

The secular Israeli newspaper "Yediot Acharonot" is making a big fuss in huge headlines today. How rassist Ashkenazi Haredim are and what all the mess is about. It is very easy though to make claims when one doesn't know society. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court will not change haredi society in any way and Baalei Teshuva parents should think before sending their (secular) children to a haredi school. One should take a teshuva process in tiny steps and not "Ort School" today and "Talmud Torah" tomorrow. This doesn't work !

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why are we so happy on Rabbi Shimon's Yahrzeit ?


I heard a nice explanation from a Sephardi Rabbi on the question "Why are we so happy and celebrating Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai's Yahrzeit on Lag Ba'Omer ? Shouldn't we rather commemorate it by sitting down, having a meal and talking Torah in order to lift up his Neshama (soul) ? Why are the Jews so extremely joyful and dancing around a bonfire next to the Rabbi's grave in Meron ?"

The Sephardi Rabbi explained that we are expressing our joy because everything connected to Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai has to do with G - dly miracles. His escape from the Roman's together with his son Elazar. Due to their flight, they both hid in a cave for 12 years. Talmud Shabbat 33 teaches how Rabbi Shimon and Rabbi Elazar dug themselves into the sand in the cave until only their heads stuck out. A miracle occured and G - d created a carob tree and a spring of water for them in order to provide nourishment. The whole day they learnt Torah and finally, after 12 years, Ceasar (the Roman procurator) died and Rabbi Shimon was free.

Father and son left the cave and outside they saw some farmers working. Rabbi Shimon and his son were on such a high spiritual level after discussing the secrets of the Torah for the past twelve years with the result that Rabbi Shimon was unable to refer to the physical world anymore. He couldn't accept that there were commoners earning their living through work and not with Torah study only.

G - d punished both of them for destroying His world. The Rabbis had to go back to the cave and they there for another year in order to find their way back to reality.

Here we see that G - d miraculously provided them with food and drinks. The other miracle was that Rabbi Shimon escaped the vicious Romans and died a natural death.

The miracles are the reason why we celebrate his Yahrzeit !

Tish in Toldot AvrahamYitzchak

Purim in Chassidut Toldot Avraham Yitzchak. Rebbe Shmuel Yaakov Kahn is sitting in the center.


The Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe is returning from his trip to Canada today and will be giving a Tish this upcoming Erev Shabbat ! His Tish is the most lively and popular in Mea Shearim. No. 2 are the Toldot Aharon.

Meron, Meron, Meron


I was listening to an Israeli haredi radio channel yesterday and the most important subject being discussed there was Lag Ba'Omer in Meron. Before Shabbat and the beginning of the holiday, countless buses will go up to Meron. You are lucky when you find a seat despite that the Egged bus company is adding hundreds of buses.

I would love to go to Meron on Lag Ba'Omer but I do have to work. However, I keep on telliung myself that it will be too packed anyway. On the other hand, the atmosphere must be incredible. Especially with so many chassidic Rebbes around.

I am planning a trip to the north (Tiberias + Meron + Safed) in about two weeks. Visiting some graves of Zaddikim and enjoying the landscape. All photos from the mountain in Meron HERE !


Lag Ba'Omer Preparations in Meron


Meron is getting ready for the huge Lag Ba'Omer event this upcoming Shabbat + Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of Jews are being expected. I am sure it will be a big mess but it will also be enough spiritual.
Nevertheless, I do have a practical question:
Where are also these people supposed to go to the toilet ?

All photos may be viewed HERE

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pessach Sheni - The Second Pessach


There are minor Jewish holidays of whom many Jews simply don't know that they exist. First of all, those holidays are not official and secondly, you necessarily won't find them on every calendar.

In the days of the Second Temple, the Jewish had many more holidays than we have today. Minor holidays which were forgotten after the Temple destruction. Talmud Shabbat 13b, for instance, is teaching us about a scroll called "Megillath Ta'anit" listing at least another 35 holidays compared to the amount we have today.

Tomorrow, Wednesday (28 April), we celebrate "Pessach Sheni - the Second Pessach". Originally the day was thought of providing Jews who were impure during the first Pessach and thus unable to offer the Pessach sacrifice (Korban Pessach) with a second offering chance. The author of "Sha'arei HaMoadim", the third Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn, 1789 - 1866, said that whoever is leaving out Pessach Sheni after being impure on the first Pessach, is doing so on purpose. Furthermore, the Rebbe stated that people converting to Judaism between the first Pessach and the second Pessach are thus able to sacrifice their Korban Pessach on Pessach Sheni. They are even obligated to keep the second Pessach.

Today we mostly eat a piece of Mazza in order to commemorate Pessach Sheni. The Rambam (Maimonides, 1135 - 1214) explained that Pessach Sheni is an independent holiday from the first one.

What do we learn from having a second Pessach ?

That there is always a second chance in life. If we fail for one or the other reason and it wasn't our fault then G - d may provide us with a second chance.

Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn (the third Lubavitscher Rebbe) stated that Pessach Sheni is an obligation only for those Jews who were unable of sacrificing their Korban Pessach on the first Pessach. Today it is for those who didn't have a Seder on the first night. However, you don't need to start a Seder neither have to clean the house "kasher le'Pessach".

The Chabad - book "Sha'arei HaMoadim" considers Pessach Scheni as a day of Teshuva (return to G - d). We receive the Torah on Shavuot and should therefore dig into ourselves and become aware of the purpose of our lives. How do we cause some Teshuva on Pessach Sheni ? By studying Torah !

The first Pessach is being celebrated in the Jewish month of NISSAN whereas Pessach Sheni is being celebrated in IYAR. In Nissan the upper spiritual worlds influence us in our physical world. On Pessach Sheni, however, it is us in the lower world to influence the upper worlds. Both Pessach holidays thus stand for a completion.

The Pessach sacrifice is only for Jews because the other nations were not Paraoh's slaves in Egypt (see Sha'arei HaMoadim on Pessach Sheni).

Lag Ba'Omer Pashkevilim

Come to Meron on Lag Ba'Omer but don't start traveling too early and thus break the Shabbat ! Wait until Shabbat is over and buses only leave haredi neighbourhood (to Meron) at 9:15pm on Mozzaei Shabbat.

Meron is going Business

Chassidut Satmar (Rebbe Zalman Leib) having its bonfire in front of the Beit Midrash in Yoel Street / Jerusalem.


When is Lag Ba'Omer (the 33rd day of the Omer) ?
A very good question because Israel's Chief Rabbinate and further Rabbis are considering to delay Lag Ba'Omer onto Sunday. This year, Lag Ba'Omer is supposed to start on Mozzaei Shabbat and the tradition is to light bonfires. However, as there may be a temptation of finishing the Shabbat too early (Chillul Shabbat) in order to get ready for the bonfire, different Rabbis may delay the holiday.

Nevertheless, hundreds of thousands of religious Jews are going up to Meron where the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is located. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai is associated with the kabbalistic ZOHAR and was a Tanna in the Talmudic period. Rabbi Shimon passed away on Lag Ba'Omer.
Furthermore, the mourning period during the Omer is coming to an end on the 33rd day, as the plague during the time of Rabbi Akiva stopped. Our Sages say that there was a plague killing 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva because they spoke Lashon HaRah (slander) among each other. They died as a punishment because they should have been on a higher level than occupying themselves with arrogance and gossip.
However, there are different opinions by historians that the plague never took place and the students died because Rabbi Akiva told them to become soldiers and join Bar Kochba in his war against the Romans. I do very much agree with this opinion !

Meron will be packed and thousands are going to camp outside. Entire families and chassidic groups together with their Rebbes. Prices are going up and Meron is making money: 700 Dollar for a bed on this Shabbat ! Not in a hotel but in a storage room.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Catastrophes in the Morning


A few times I have already written about it and some time ago I even published something concerning the matter on the blog of "A Simple Jew". 

I do consider myself as Orthodox although I am not perfect (who is after all ?) and wear pants. While I was still joining a litvish seminary in Jerusalem some years ago, I wore skirts (of course) but missed my pants from "the old days". While walking through the streets of Jerusalem I envied any woman wearing pants. When I went away for Shabbat, mostly to my friend from my Kibbutz Ulpan days, I changed clothes. My skirt became a pair of jeans and I was happy. The same person but I felt more comfortable and just better. Freedom but not leaving the religious path.

I was always afraid that someone from the seminary would catch me. Sometimes I only changed clothes as soon as I arrived at my friend's who then lived near Rehovot. However, it happened that I changed my clothes even before. In staircases near the seminary I was studying. Actually I was lucky that no one caught me in the staircase changing my skirt into pants because it would have been hard explaining that I am not a pervert but studying at a seminary.

After all I a kind of left haredi society and if I am now on my way back - well, I don't know. Sometimes yes and sometimes not. I was glad that I kept my friends in Mea Shearim although I am not like "that" anymore. They, on the other hand, are aware of the fact that I am different but still see me somewhere on the path. At least on the modest path. 
I don't know if any of them has ever thought about me not being like on Shabbat when I come to their houses. They probably did but never let me know. 
I didn't intend to make a religious frummy show but we never got to the subject of how my life looks like during the week. This morning I was sitting with my usual cup of coffee next to our bakery window. Suddenly I see a haredi woman passing and I thought that I would know her. She looked at me but didn't give any sign of knowing me. I wasn't sure but it could have been one of the daughters of a Mea Shearim family I know. Nevertheless, I told myself that it cannot be her because she has nothing to do in the Nachlaoth area that early in the morning. On the other hand, it could have been her. If so, she saw me sitting there in pants.

Afterwards I was walking down Shilo Street in Nachlaoth and thought and thought if it was her or not. If yes, could I ever show up again at my friends ? I probably could but they would be disappointed because they had expected more from me.
While I was walking a litvishe guy passed me. I have seen this guy at exactly the same family and was just thinking about their daughter having seen me. The guy looks at me, says nothing and continued walking.  Even if it was not the daughter of the family, the guy will definitely tell my friends that he saw me. 
Well, you caused the situation yourself because you wear pants - People may say this now and they are right. However, I don't make shows but still feel uncomfortable by thinking about my friends and them being disappointed. 

This is how the day began and it can just become better.

Vishnitzer Rebbe against "HaMevaser" and "HaModiah"


The Vishnitzer Rebbe (Bnei Brak), Rabbi Israel Hager, said in a recent speech that Yeshiva students should not bother reading the daily haredi newspapers. Then he added: "Such as "HaMevaser" and "HaModiah". Further should a Yeshiva student refrain from possessing a cellphone.
All this would not help the student's soul (Neshama).

The hightech as well as the social networking world has long reached the haredi world. And it is especially Haredim I see walking around in Jerusalem and using the most modern cellphones. No matter who. Even the Toldot Aharon women.

In a way, Rebbe Hager is right but who is able to refrain from all this today ? No question that one doesn't need to bother with the "HaModiah" but Yeshiva students have their own little secret sources.

After his speech, the audience wished the Rebbe a "Mazal Tov" to his 65th birthday.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hamas published animated short movie about Gilad Shalit


And again, the Hamas is making jokes about Israel's feelings. The terror group published an animated video showing Gilad Shalit's father, Noam, how he is walking the streets and looking at all the politician slogans of freeing his son. But nothing has ever come true.

In the end, a meeting between father and son is taking place. Noam Shalit grew old and Gilad is returning in a coffin.

Israeli sources say that the Hamas intends to put more pressure on the Israeli government by releasing this video. The idea itself is just disgusting !

"National Religious : Haredi"


Photo: Israelity


Last Erev Shabbat (Friday night) I went for a Shabbat meal to Mea Shearim. One of the couples I know there likes to invite several guests every Shabbat. Either haredi Yeshiva students or haredi seminary girls.

As soon as they have guests in the house, men and women sit in different rooms. When the host is making Kiddush, we females don't see him very much but only hear his words due to the separation. Those of you who have been to the Rebbitzen of Toldot Aharon on Shabbat know that the same procedure is taking place there. Only that the two gender rooms are only connected by a small window inside the wall.

The day before yesterday, about thirty males were streaming in and we females became a minority. The result was that the women had to change rooms with the men, as their room was much larger. The females stepped into the kitchen and were waiting there until the men had entered the larger living room. Then we got to our smaller room.
We females consisted of four haredi Israeli women, one American, the host, her daughter as well as some grandchildren. After making Kiddush, a group of seven or eights young national religious girls walked in. They were still in school and about 17 or 18 years old. Just before their social service (when national religious girls don't join the army, they do social service) Sherut Leumit. Usually Israeli national religious don't respect the haredi population too much. The worst gossip against Haredim doesn't come from secular Jews but from the national religious movement.

There have been complaints from chassidic groups lately that the national religious come to chassidic Tishes and start arguing with the Chassidim as well as with their wives. As soon as those girls walked in last Friday night, they started arguing with our chassidic host.
I don't know what national religious schools such a Noam teach their students about Haredim. Probably nothing but if I don't like Haredim I don't go there for a meal in order to start a fight !

Furthermore, one has to know our host because she is hard to describe. Her life is based on the theology of the Chatam Sofer: No changes in Torah and in life. Whatever she learned from her mother, she keeps up and sticks to tradition. She once told me that whatever her mother kept and was good for her, cannot be bad for the next generation.
Our host is a very nice and friendly woman. It is possible to talk to her and she does listen. However, she has her priorities and expresses them sometimes too fast.

As soon as the national religious girls started eating, they also started arguing. That Haredim would be strange.
"In what way "strange" ?" our host asked.
"Well, everything is always separated. Men and women don't sit together".
"Why should they ? Our family has traditions and we keep them alive", said our host.
"But you don't have to make a gender separation. What if your kids are different from you and don't keep up tradition ?"
"My children are very happy and took over even more Chumrot then I ever did".
"But did your children have the chance to choose if they really won't to be haredi ? Why haredi ? Maybe they want to be like us (national religious) ?"
"My children are happy in haredi society and don't want to be anything else".

I was sitting there and listening to this and just thought that, if it wasn't Shabbat, I would love to record the argument for Youtube.

However, the national religious didn't give up:
So, you are wearing a wig. Can't you just put on a hat or Schmattes ?"
"The wig is my hair cover and I like it. I am modest even if other Haredim don't think that I am modest and oppose wigs".
"Do you read newspapers and what about Zionism ?"
"I don't want to get into the subject". Our host still remained friendly.

The National Religious 

Then the girls started arguing with one of the other haredi female guests.
Our host wanted to change the subject and asked for the girl's names. Most of them didn't have a biblical name but something modern Israeli. This is what our host cannot stand because the Jews had kept their names in Egypt and today Israeli parents love to change the tradition and call their children something in modern Hebrew.

The discussion about the gender separation continued and our host was a kind of fed up for a minute. She said that Haredim are no animals and don't act according to their personal desires.
This drove the national religious mad, as they thought that our host meant that everyone else is an animal. One almost walked out and the others started arguing with everyone haredi in the room.

In the end, our host became very friendly with two of the girls because she found out that they have chassidic ancestors (Gur and Sadigura). The atmosphere began to change towards the two girls whereas the rest of the national religious was still arguing.

It was an interesting evening and not boring at all. Nevertheless, I would not go to a national religious family and tell them that their life is wrong and they have to become Haredim. Members of the national religious movement have that desire but, on the other hand, have no idea about haredi society.

Rare Photo of the CHAZON ISH

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Sikarikim versus Sisalek


Just a few months ago, the first super kosher ice - cream store "SISALEK" opened its gates in Malchei Israel Street; located in the ultra - Orthodox neighbourhood Ge'ulah in Jerusalem. The haredi population seemed to be so happy and I went to Sisalek myself in order to buy an ice - cream. 

However, those days were over last week when at least twenty Sikarikim demonstrated outside the ice - cream store. Saying Tehillim (Psalms) and making a big fuss. 
Someone from the neighbourhood told me last night that the demonstrations took place because Sisalek didn't have a Hechsher (koscher certificate) from the Edah HaCharedit and now they would. I thought they had one from the beginning, as otherwise, people definitely would not have bought there in masses. 

The secular Jerusalem weekly "Yediot Yerushalaim" lists a few different reasons:

1. Sisalek used to open on Mozzaei Shabbat and now they stopped doing so.

2. Sisalek was open until late on weekdays. From now on they close half an hour earlier.

3. Sisalek now also closes earlier on Fridays.

4. Furthermore, the Sikarikim demand a separate gender seating and this "problem" hasn't been solved so far.
It looks like it is getting really weird in the Mea Shearim / Ge'ulah neighbourhoods. The fanatic Sikarikim (a small group of extreme Haredim from the neighbourhood) is everywhere and whatever shop in the hood doesn't follow their orders is being boycotted.

The Sisalek owner said that they try to fulfill all demands because they don't want fights and try to show respect to the local population. Nevertheless, Sisalek is not the only shop on the Sikariki list: A few women's clothing stores in the same street have not fulfilled the demands of the fanatics and still show female dolls in their shop windows. Fashion dolls dressed in modest clothes. 

Shwarma and Falafel places are also disliked by the Sikarikim because they draw all the Shababnikim (Haredim who are only dressed in haredi clothes but stopped being religious) into the neighbourhood. 

So, what is left ? Soon shops have to have separate gender entrances. Local restaurants already offer separate seating. Only people in modest clothes are welcomed. 
Does a woman may have to stay at home and close all windows in the house in order not to be seen ? Separate sidewalks ? What else is there to separate or divide ?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Shabbat Shalom

Six Chazzanim ar singing "Adon Olam" at the Great Tel Aviv Synagogue.
(Organized by Chazan Chaim Adler)


Almost on my way back to Jerusalem (from Tel Aviv). The sun is shining and I will definitely go out and enjoy some nature tomorrow afternoon.

The Toldot Avraham Yitzchak Rebbe from Mea Shearim is still visiting Canada. Today he will be in Toronto. And I was so much looking forward to go to his Tish tonight. 
Maybe next Shabbat because he is returning to Israel on Wednesday.

On Sunday evening, most Israelis (accept for strong anti - Zionists) were standing attention to the siren for Yom Hazikaron (Memorial for fallen Israeli Soldiers). I did so at our bakery in Jerusalem and saw a litvishe Haredi standing outside. He stood attention and, moreover, he even stood longer than all other people, as he was finishing his prayer.

Exactly a week ago, I had a bad experience at the beach in Tel Aviv. American Christian missionaries were streaming into the beach promenade area in order to missionize Jews. I didn't know what to do. Where are Yad Le'Achim and the modesty police on Fridays ?
They are urgently needed !

A good beach experience I had on Tuesday, on Yom Ha'azma'ut itself. The Breslover Nanas were dancing at the promenade for hours; giving the Israeli holiday finally a slightly religious touch.

"Shabbat Shalom" to all of you !

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How do I get closer to G - d ?


"How do I get closer to G - d ?" is one of the major question in life.
How should I do that ? Actually I don't know Him (G – d) at all. At least not the side of G – d one can see, smell, touch, understand or build a relationship you usually do with other people.

Officially it says that we should keep the Mitzvot (Gentile the Seven Noachide Laws and Jews the Torah laws) as well as pray. Then we would have a relationship with our creator.

And how does this work ?

Do I love G – d or do I fear Him ?
In case I don't do what He wants from me, I may be punished by Him.
What kind of a relationship is this supposed to be ?

If you look around for an appropriate way to find yourself getting closer to G – d, you may notice a vast amount of literature on the subject. Each author is giving you his recipe in order to succeed. To tell you the truth: When I read those books, they didn't help me at all. Eventually you will come to the conclusion that every individual has his or her own way approaching G – d. "Finding the way" can turn into a lifetime task. Who, after all, is able to confirm to me that my way is the right way ? How am I supposed to know all that ?

Where actually lays the root of our fear of G – d ?
Within our human intellect because deep inside of us we know what is right and what is wrong. Do we act against G – d, our intellect is pushing the alarm button and it is up to us whether we listen to it or not.

Chassidic literature teaches us that G – d punished His creations because of love. First of all He wants to put a person back onto the right path. On the other hand, G – d punishes people in order to prevent from them even a worse punishment in Olam Habah (or before getting there). G – d just doesn't find any pleasure in punishment but acts like a parent towards a child.

The Chabad founder Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (Tanya, Likkutei Amarim 43) said that there is no wisdom without fear of G – d. If someone is starting to fear G – d due to His powers and uniqueness then the person will find the best conditions for keeping the Torah Mitzvot. This level of fear would be a higher level, as the person is becoming aware of G – d surrounding and sustaining all of His creation.

And how does that help me now ?

The Baal Shem Tov suggested the following:
Someone needs to be constantly aware of G – d being close to him. He (G – d) surrounds me every second. Without any break. Thus, G – d is turning into the focus of my life and He is always there. If I want Him or not.

Our soul has an unconditional love for G – d and this is one of the best conditions for getting closer to Him. However, there are so many other things in our environment that many times we forget about Him. We start telling ourselves that we don't really need Him. We live, so what !
But how about when I seriously start searching for G – d but always fail ? Then counseling literature may not be of any help.

One thing you should avoid is sitting down and forcing yourself to find a closeness NOW. You simply cannot force it.
On the other hand it can happen that we are on the right track but don't even notice it. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov constantly repeated the concept of "Hitbodedut". Once a day, a Jew should withdraw himself from society and go into a room or a forest in order to talk to G - d. Alone and tell G – d your feelings or whatever you like.

And if I don't know what to tell G – d ?
So, tell G – d that you don't know what to say.
Pray that He enables you to pray !

"Why ORLAH "? - Thoughts on this weeks Parashat Kedoshim


This upcoming Shabbat, we read two Torah Parashot: Acharei Mot and Kedoshim
In previous Parashot such as Vayikra, Zav, Schmini, Tazria, Metzorah and Acharei Mot, G - d gave us various Mitzvot in order to keep us pure (Tahor). He commanded us (the Jews) to be a holy nation because He (G - d) is holy. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch commentated that the Jews are commanded to keep certain rules and thus fulfill the will of G - d on this earth. His Mitzvot are the fundament for the Jews living their Judaism.

Parashat Kedoshim provides us a wide range of social Mitzvot. About how humans should relate to each other and not only to G - d. However, my special subject at this point is ORLAH. Not eating the fruits of a tree for the first three years.

Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus), Parashat Kedoshim, 19:23 - 25:

And when ye shall come into the land and plant any tree for food, then, during a time of restriction of its use, ye shall be restricted in the use of its fruit. Three years it shall be restricted for you, shall not be eaten.

Then in the fourth year all its fruit becomes holy wherewith to praise the Work of G - d.

And in the fifth year shall ye eat its fruit, that henceforth it may increase its produce unto you: I, G - d, am your Lord.

Eating a produce of a newly planted tree for the first three years is forbidden. In the fourth year, the Jews used to carry the new harvest (fruit) to the Temple in Jerusalem, ate it there while thanking G - d for His kindness of letting the fruit grow.
However, Orlah only applies in Israel and only to fruit trees whose produce is meant for consumption but not for trees which are supposed to be a kind of hedge etc.

Why was the Orlah law given ? Don't we thank G - d already in the blessings (Berachot) we say before and after eating the fruit ?

I found a great comment on Orlah written by Rabbi Moshe Sofer (the CHATAM SOFER, 1762 - 1839):

We already find the Orlah concept in Gan Eden (Paradise) with Adam HaRishon and his wife Chava (Eve). As we all know, Adam failed to fulfill his Tikun (soul rectifiation) and thus became mortal. G - d had commanded him to eat from any fruit tree in Gan Eden but not from the Tree of Knwoledge (Etz HaDa'at). Adam and Chava failed in their tasks and were thrown out of Paradise.

The Chatam Sofer comes up with the famous Rashi commentary from Genesis (Bereshit) 1:11 - 12 where G - d is commanding the earth to bring forth trees which are fruit. ETZ PRI - this is G - d's demand from the earth. Rashi sees in ETZ PRI a fruit tree whose branches, leaves, etc. taste like its fruit.

Just imagine a cherry tree whose leaves you eat and they taste like the cherries themselves. This is what G - d originally had in mind.

The next sentence:
VATOZE HAARETZ = And the earth brought forth …
ETZ OSSEH PRI = Trees yielding fruit …
VE LO HAETZ PRI = But the tree itself was not fruit …

This is why when Adam was punished, the earth was taken into consideration, as it had sinned years before. The earth hadn't listen to G - d's commandment and willingly created the wrong kind of tree. Later, the first human (Adam HaRishon) was formed from the dust of the ground, and thus the bad influence of the earth entered him. Of course, he could have resisted and not eaten from the Tree of Knowledge but he didn't.

The Chatam Sofer quotes from the kabbalistic ZOHAR (published in Spanien in 1290): Only after three years, the earth is bringing forth "Kedusha - Holiness". In the years before, too much "Koach HaChizoni" - external negative powers would be ruling and this is why the consumption of such fruit is first forbidden. There is a possibility that the bad influence of the earth is being passed onto into the human.

A brilliant conclusion from the Chatam Sofer !

"Shabbat Shalom"

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Yeshivat PONIBEZ and the Israeli Flag

The same discussion every year: Is the leading litvishe Yeshivat Ponibez in Bnei Brak hanging out its Israeli flag on Independence Day ?

Yes, it did !

Leading Rabbis on Israel's Independence


The words of our sages:

Rabbi Avigdor Miller
"The State of Israel solves nothing. All 'problems' remain the same, and new ones are created: 1) The Arabian lands have been rendered uninhabitable for Jews; 2) constant wars with neighbors must be waged, incurring huge military expenditures and loss of many lives, in addition to constant peril; 3) it has exacerbated Jew-hatred in the nations, due to Arab influence and also to embroilment with the foreign policy of the nations; 4) and the proponents of the State of Israel attempt to kindle a fire under the Jews in all lands in order to make their position untenable so that they emigrate to augment the population of the new State." (Sing You Righteous, p. 25)

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn of Lubavitch
"I am against the proposed Jewish state. It would be a calamity for the Jews, and in a short time they will realize what a calamity it is."

Rabbi Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik
"The Rambam says that Meshiach will bring the Jewish people out from under the rule of the nations. Whoever believes there can be a redemption from the rule of the nations without Meshiach, is lacking complete emunah in Meshiach." (Yalkut Divrei Torah)

"Reb Meir Soloveitchik related that the Brisker Rav once asked: Why is the wording of the last oath different from the first two? In the first two (Shir Hashirim 2:7 and 3:5) it says "If you arouse and if you awaken," and in the last one (8:4) it says "Why do you arouse and why do you awaken?" The answer is, he said, that the first two oaths are said to the Jewish people before they make any attempt to throw off the yoke of exile. "Do not do it..." for if you do it will be bitter. But Shlomo Hamelech foresaw in his ruach hakodesh that there would come a time when the Jews would indeed try to force the end. After they have already tried, and seen the bitter consequences ("I will permit your flesh") Hashem calls to them: Why do you continue in your folly of fighting with the nations? Don't you see what the results are? Why are you asking for more?" (Uvdos Vehanhagos Leveis Brisk, v. 4 p. 187)

Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik
"The Jewish people have suffered many plagues - the Sadducees, Karaites, Hellenisers, Shabbesai Zvi, Haskalah, Reform and many others. But the strongest of them all is Zionism." (Mishkenos Haro'im p. 269)

Rabbi Aharon Kotler
"Rabbi Wasserman, Rabbi Kotler, Rabbi Rottenberg from Antwerp, and the rabbis from Czechoslovakia and Hungary were unanimous in rejecting any proposal for a Jewish state on either side of the Jordan River, even if it were established as a religious state, because such a regime would be a form of heresy in our faith in the coming of Moshiach." (Hapardes, August 1937)

The Chazon Ish
On the fifth of Iyar in the last year of the Chazon Ish's life, he was honored to be sandek at three different brisin. Still, he requested that Tachanun be said, lest someone come later on and testify, "The Chazon Ish did not say Tachanun on the fifth of Iyar," without revealing the circumstances. He once said, "It would have been proper to declare the fifth of Iyar a public fast day." (Mishkenos Haro'im, p. 1196)

The Satmar Rebbe, Rav Yoel Teitelbaum
"If we were to put all the sins of this generation and all the transgressions committed in the entire world on one side of a scale, and the Zionist state on the other side, it would outweigh everything, for it is the poisonous source of the worst defilement, the worst cause of damage in the entire world, and they are ones who defiIe the entire world." (Vayoel Moshe, Introduction, p. 11)

The Chazon Ish
"Why do we mention the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt every day, but not the miracle of Purim? It was a very great miracle, in which the entire Jewish people was saved from death! The answer is that regarding the future redemption, Scripture states, "I have adjured you not to arouse or awaken the love before it is desired" (Shir Hashirim 2:7). We are forbidden under oath to force the hour, to make any effort toward the redemption and the coming of mashiach. This is why our Sages say that mashiach will come only when we take our minds off him (Sanhedrin 97a). This is the meaning of the verse, "I will show wonders like in the days when you went out of Egypt" (Michah 7:15): the future redemption will be similar to the Exodus, which happened when we took our minds off it· Israel did not force the hour, nor did they make any efforts toward the Exodus. They continued their labor and affliction until G-d sent Moshe, His chosen, to take them out. This is why we remember the Exodus every day, to teach that the future redemption
will be similar to the Exodus. Israel will not force the hour or take any physical action toward the redemption, but rather everything will be done on its own, an act of Heaven. In the miracle of Purim, on the other hand, Mordechai forced the hour by sending Esther to the king in violation of the law, thus endangering her life, although there were still many months left before the fulfillment of Haman's decree. Perhaps Jews would learn from this story that now as well, we must force the hour and take action to bring mashiach by force. Therefore, we do not mention the miracle of Purim daily."

Rav Chaim Elazar of Munkacz
"After the sin of the spies, Moshe told the Jewish people, 'Do not go up and do not fight.' But they went up anyhow, 'and the ark of the bris of Hashem and Moshe did not move from the camp.' This is a prophecy about our time: the Zionists go up to Eretz Yisroel with a strong hand to found colonies and fight with the gentiles. This is against the command of Hashem Yisborach, who warned against this way, and said it would be bitter in the end. But the ark and Moshe - the Torah, the Torah leaders, and the loyal Jews - did not move from the camp to join the Zionists. 'And they beat them and destroyed them until Chormah' - refers to the destruction and the killings we have seen in Jerusalem near the Kosel Hamaaravi (in 1929)." (Chaim Veshalom)

The Neturei Karta was Mourning


As every year, the Neturei Karta / Jerusalem was making its point very clear:
Mourning and fasting on the Israeli Independence Day.

Actually I do like their sackclothes ! Has anyone an idea where I could buy a pair ?

All pictures HERE !

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Happy Independence !


As we all know, not every Jew is celebrating Israel's INDEPENDENCE today. The Neturei Karta in Mea Shearim ( and elsewhere in the world) is having a Shiva sitting today. Shiva, fasting and crying about the present "Zionist" State of Israel. 
Probably the two Mea Shearim groups such as the one from Rabbi Yoel Kraus (Kroisz), head of the YIrah veTorah Synagogue as well as Rabbi Israel Hirsch. 

The Edah is not recognizing the state either and their children go to school. Business as usual whereas the rest of the country is on holiday. Most shops are closed and the Israeli's love their Independence Barbecue (Al HaEsh). 

Last night I went to the main celebrations which were broadcasted on TV: The Independence show at Kikar Rabin (Rabin Square) in front of the Tel Aviv municipality building. Some Rabbis called the public for prayer services and Torah study but in Tel Aviv, thousands of people went to Rabin Square. I saw a few light national religious Jews but no Haredi at sight. Actually one haredi Sephardi guy walked around but he used the opportunity for collecting Zedaka (charity). 

While I was watching the rather boring show on stage, I was asking myself what all this has to do with G - d allowing a Jewish state coming into existence. When we consider that G - d is in charge of everything happening in the universe, He definitely allowed a Jewish state to come into existence. Seemingly as a pathway for the final redemption and Meshiach. 

Althought the main entertainer tried to give the show a religious touch (he was talking about Avraham and the Prophet Yechezkel), the show itself was anything but modest or religious. Man and women dancing together, for instance. 
That's okay because what do you expect when you go to a secular Tel Aviv show ?
However, I started asking myself why entire Israeli societies are being left out. It is not that the national religious and Haredim don't want to participate. Many of them would when the celebrations were more modest. Not always necessarily with Mechitza (gender separation) but rather the performance itself. However, the secular celebrated themselves. David Ben Gurion announcing the foundation of a new state, the army, the pioneers. But what about the vast religious community in Israel ? It gave the impression that they don't exist. Hardly anyone was referring to them and why then should they show up ?

The show was rather boring and bound to a tight schedule. Dancing group here, dancing group there. Fireworks. 
The real celebration is taking place today when then population lights their barbecue fires or sits at the beach. Other's learn Torah and I think that besides viting free museums or going to the beach it is not such ad idea to thank G - d for letting the Jews have a place to live after 2000 years in exile (Galut). Although the place may not be too perfect for now.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Danger of Looking Backwards


Ramban (Nachmanides, 1194 - 1270) referred to the warning given to Lot by the angels who carried out the destruction of Sodom: "Do not look behind you". Nevertheless, Lot's wife Irit (the Midrash - "Sefer Seder HaDorot" - mentions her name) did turn around and, as a punishment, turned into a pillar of salt.

The Ramban says that we should never underestimate this warning. Not even in the future. Rashi comments that Lot sinned with the people of Sodom and that only in the merit of Avraham, he is being saved. Thus, Lot has no right to turn around and witness the actual destruction.

The following question comes up:
What kind of an impact would it have on Lot when he witnessed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha ? Wouldn't he be so afraid that he only serves G - d out of terrible fear ? Fear that by not keeping the Mitzvot, he may be punished and die as well.

G - d's intention is that we serve Him by using our "Free Will". He doesn't want to be a dictator but provided humankind with a "Free Will" in order to decide what we should do. Serve G - d our Creator and get closer to him or do the opposite. We are no robots and a Tikun (soul rectification) is not taking place too much when a person acts out of fear or automatically. The true intention is to fulfill the Mitzvot with love and by using one's own will.


"Strive for Truth"
by Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler


According to Jewish (Talmudic) thought, Sodom and Gomorrha were not destroyed because immoral sexual behaviour but the inhabitants were involved in other sins and therefore G – d caused the destruction of the two cities.

What does actually happen when we look back ? Don't we develop at the moment a longing for our past ? I didn't behave according to G – d's rules and, from now on, try to make it better. However, at the very moment I turn around, I actually show that I still miss my (sinful and imperfect) past.

When the Secular write about Haredi Society


It has become a fashion lately that secular Jews write books about anything concerning haredi society. The more extreme some haredi / chassidic groups are, the better. Haredi "extremism (fanatism)" sells (especially to Gentiles) and this is what these kind of authors want: 
SELL ! Make money, and become famous; no matter what.

Everyone has the right to do whatever he wants but when secular Jews, let alone Gentiles, start writing about haredi Rabbis or anything haredi, mostly a big mess is coming out.
In the eighties, the Israeli left - wing journalist Amnon Levy wrote "The Haredim". A quite well written book and the reader is aware that Levy actually did research within haredi society. However, a Gerrer Chassid once told me that Amnon Levy made a big mistake: 
He wrote his book from a viewpoint of a secular leftist Jew and this doesn't fit.

Various secular Jews sneaked or tried to sneak into haredi society in order to gather information. Usually without great success, as they don't understand society and are not at all interested in religious teachings let alone Mitzvot. The only thing which counts is CASH. The "authors" don't even make an attempt to understand chassidic ideology but search for scandals. Who is whith whom and maybe a high Rabbi has a secret to uncover. This is what they are after.

I sometimes see a university professor searching for information and he complains that haredi society won't speak to him. Quite selfish ! Does he think that only because he is a professor at a (Zionist) university haredi society has the duty to speak to him. 
No, they won't. Your are not in society and keeping Mitzvot - You are out !
In fact, it takes years to get in.

Such behaviour of faked writers drives me up the rooftop. Not only because they count their cash but because they hand over false information to their readers. Other people who have no clue about haredi society believe what they write and get a totally wrong impression. Those authors lie at their readers in order to sell.

Additionally, most of such writers (at least the Israeli ones) are left - wing and hate haredi society. You can imagine then how their book content looks. The same with the professor I mentioned. Because no one wants to talk to him, he is even more against society.

One of the only authors I can recommend is the former Gerrer Chassid YITZCHAK ALFASSI. He wrote more than seventy books and I think that some of them were translated into English as well. Yitzchak Alfassi taught at Tel Aviv University and his books on Chassidut are totally reliable.