Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tsafrir Ronen - baruch dayan emet

Today I found out my dear friend, colleague and eternal fighter for the Land of Israel, Tsafrir Ronen, had died of a heart attack during Shabbat. He was 53 and leaves behind his beloved wife Judy and three beautiful daughters.
Tsafrir was incredibly special. He's "appeared" on this very blog several times, and has been an important friend to me since making Aliyah. We worked together extensively this spring and summer on the Israel World Television project, and I was expecting him at my wedding this coming Wednesday here in Jerusalem.

No one was a more passionate defender of the Jewish People's right to the Land of Israel. I feel like Tsafrir is in Heaven arguing with HaShem right now and demanding He save His people and His land immediatly.

Here is a report from "Writing the Wrong" -

Like the light that continues to travel from a star that has died - long after it has gone. We must continue in this light.
We shall see this through - with a sense of deep loss - and carry on with the courage that Tsafrir had.

This evening - after Shabbat - a message came through that Israel and the Jewish people have lost a hero - Tsafrir Ronen- a moshavnik from the north. He was an unusual man - fiery in his defense of Israel, had made documentaries about our history and rights to the land and was working to create a TV channel directly from here in order to tell the Jewish narrative to the world. . Tsafrir was unique- a secular Israeli in his 50s -with a completely traditional attitude towards Eretz Yisrael as he always called the Land. He knew where each of the tribes had lived, the Biblical name of each city and he cherished the dream of continuity in the future because he knew from where we had come.

Tsafrir was knowledgeable in the history of the region and the promise of less than 90 years ago by the League of Nations which committed to the re-creation of a viable Jewish homeland including what is today Jordan and Palestine. It pained him to see the continuous whittling down of even the western territory - that which is called 'Palestine' and comprises only 22% of the original promise - in an effort to appease others - and the ongoing efforts in the interest of a fictitious 'peace process'.

During Sharon's 2005 'expulsion' of Gush Katif and 4 northern communities in Samaria, one of the latter in this catastrophe was Homesh and Tsafrir was involved in Homesh First - a return to that place -as a start. He also traveled to Hevron frequently to stand with those who live there. This was a long trip each time from his home up north but he did what he thought was right for the country. Surely the recent forced expulsion of Jewish families from Bet HaShalom in Hevron and the policies of some Israeli governments played a part in undermining his health; he was so completely invested in preserving the integrity of Israel.

During some conferences where Tsafrir was among the speakers, others referred to their notes; Tsafrir spoke extemporaneously - from his heart - impassioned by his deep love for Eretz Yisrael and how this is a Land to be cherished. His spirit and actions transcended all of politics.

Today, Chanukah - a holiday that commemorates heroism of our people - we have lost a modern day hero. We are in a state of shock and grief; our response must be to continue his work. Our deepest condolences to his wife, children, and the other members of his family.

Jerusalem, Israel

Doris Wise Montrose, President and Founder
All Board Members
Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors

Eli E. Hertz, President
Myths and Facts, Inc.

Joel Blasberg, Filmmaker
Withdrawal From Gaza

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

b'ezrat HaShem ... Here Comes The Rain!

Israeli farmers perform rain ritual

December 22, 2008

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Israeli farmers re-created a ritual described by a 16th century Jewish scholar in the hopes of bringing rain.

The farmers from the Upper Galilee, led by Rabbi Eliyahu Biton, on Sunday encircled the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai located on Mount Meron while shaking the Four Species that are traditionally used on Sukkot, the daily Ha'aretz reported.

Yosef Karo, a 16th century religious scholar, composed the special prayer for rain. According to Karo's book "Maggid Mesharim," much rain fell after Karo and his students completed the ritual.

Israel is experiencing an exceptionally dry winter this year, with rainfall in most areas at about 40 percent of normal.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chanukkah in the Shuk

Erev Chanukkah in Mahanae Yehuda shuk, the giant menorah being prepared to light up the night for all. You won't see a Christmas tree here nor will you hear the jingle-jangle of bells, reindeer whinnying nor yuletide caroles being sung by a choir - although you may see folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My First Vote as an Israeli Citizen

"Democracy in Action" - at least that's what it looked like in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, where I exercised my civic duty by casting my first-ever ballot as an Israeli Citizen. The Jerusalem Mayoral race has been far more pressing than the recent US Presidential Elections, and, sticking with that analogy, it looks like my boy Nir Barkat will in fact be the next Mayor of the Holy City. Nir is a successful businessman who understands running the municipality of the world's most important city is no job for criminals or saints...just a "ben-oni" with a brain, some common sense and the wherewithal to get the job done. I loved the voting experience itself, which was preceeded by campaigners lining the street leading up to the school where the polling place was located - something that is actually illegal in the U.S. Once inside I was welcomed into a little room (pictured) where I was scrutinized by a nice mix of secular and religious poll workers, who gave me my ballot envelopes and sent me behind the secret "Voting Modesty Curtain" (pictured) where I put the pieces of paper into the colored envelopes (white into white, yellow into yellow). Can I just say Thank G_d I can read enough Hebrew to know for whom I am voting!!! Actually quite a satisfying experience.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan - Slither, Sting or Soar!

Happy Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan - although "happy" isn't usually an adjective associated with either the Hebrew month of "Mar" Cheshvan ("Mar" meaning "bitter") or Scorpio (Akrav), not typically perceived as a "happy" sign. Intense, yes. Powerful, yes. Transformative, yes. Painful? Often!
The gift of Cheshvan is the gift of intensity and the accompanying insights one obtains when turning that intensity within to discover the depths of one's own soul. Scorpio has three animal symbols usually associated with it - the Gray Lizard (the one who slithers), the Scorpion (the one who stings) and the Great Eagle (the one who soars). By elevating Scorpio's propensity to investigate the darkest and wettest of places within one's own psyche (or that of others), Cheshvan's energy can be used to find the nuggets of beauty, the sparks of holiness, and elevate them from beneath the mud and slime to the most exalted heights. Don't be satisfied with slithering through the mud, nor with stinging others with defensive poisons - transform that powerful energy into the eagle-like ability to soar and transcend even the uttermost depths of the darkest nights of your soul.

The following overview of Cheshvan is from the Gal Einai Institute, a United States non-profit organization dedicated to disseminating and implementing the inner wisdom of the Torah--Kabbalah and Chassidut--as taken from the teachings of Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

The Month of Cheshvan According to The Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah)

Each month of the Jewish year has a corresponding color, a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling organ/limb of the body.

Cheshvan (or Mar-Cheshvan) is the eighth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.

In the Bible, Cheshvan is called chodesh bul, from the word mabul, "the flood." The flood began on the 17th of Cheshvan, and ended the following year on the 27th of Cheshvan. The following day, the 28th of Cheshvan, Noah brought his sacrifice to G-d and G-d swore never again to bring a flood upon the earth to destroy all mankind, and then revealed the sign of His covenant with the world, the rainbow.

Cheshvan is the only month which has no holidays or special mitzvot. We are taught that it is "reserved" for the time of Mashiach, who will inaugurate the third Temple in Cheshvan.

In Hebrew:

Color: Violet

Letter: nun

Nun is considered to be the letter of Mashiach, as is said (with reference to Mashiach): "before the sun, is his name Ye-non [from nun]" (Psalms 72:17). As a verb-root, nun means "to reign." As a noun, it means "the heir to the throne" (from nin). The eighth month is the month of Mashiach, for eight signifies the eternal revelation of the supernatural (the consummate state of rectified nature being the secret of the number seven). Whereas the "harp" of this world possesses seven strings, the harp of Mashiach possesses eight strings. Just as 8 transcends 7, so does 50 (the numerical value of nun) transcend 49, 7 squared. In this world, the nun is bent over, confined by the boundaries of nature. With the coming of Mashiach, the nun "straightens out" (the shape of the final nun), breaks through the boundaries of nature, and descends "below the line" into the subterranean realms of reality in order to reveal there G-d's all-encompassing Infinite light.

Mazal: Akrav (Scorpio - Scorpion)

Our sages teach us that the scorpion is the most deadly member of the general category of poisonous creatures whose archetypal figure is the primordial snake of Eden. The word akrav derives from the word akev, "heel," as is said: "and you [the snake] shall bite him [man] at the heel" (Genesis 3:15). Thus the akrav symbolizes the consummate "bite" of the snake at the heel of man. While in general, the poison of the snake is "hot," the poison of the scorpion is "cold." The Mashiach is the one and only soul who can overcome, kill, and ultimately revive the primordial snake (in order to convert it to good). (The soul of Mashiach and his continuous state of consciousness manifest the ultimate rectification of "heat," "burning" solely in his love for G-d and Israel, as well as that of "cold"-absolutely "cold" to the false vanities of this world.) This is the secret of the numerical equation: Mashiach (358) = snake (nachash). Akrav (372) = Mashiach (nachash) plus David (= 14; nun is the 14th letter of the alef-beit). The root-letters of Cheshvan permute to spell nachash (in Cheshvan the nun is "straightened out;" in nachash it is "bent over").

Tribe: Menasheh

Menasheh is the firstborn of Joseph. Deriving from the word "to forget" (literally "to leap, up and away"), Menasheh implies the power of the tzadik (Joseph) to make us forget the hardships, trials and tribulations of this world, with the coming of Mashiach. By the power and sense of Menasheh, all of the pain of this world will transform and metamorphose into the pleasure of the Messianic era. The name Menasheh permutes to spell neshamah, "soul." Menasheh represents the sense to reveal the Divine soul in Israel. In the Bible, Moses is called Menasheh, for Menasheh is Moshe (Moses) with an additional nun (the letter of Cheshvan). Of Moses is said: "he is the first redeemer and he is the final redeemer" (See Shemot Rabbah 4:2; Zohar 1:253a; Sha'ar HaPesukim, Vayechi; Torah Or, beginning of Mishpatim). In his first lifetime (as "the first redeemer") he did not achieve the "50th gate of understanding" (the understanding of G-d Himself, as it were, and His deepest intention in the creation of the universe). When he returns as Mashiach, he will be given forever the "50th gate," the nun of Mashiach, the secret of Menasheh (Moshe-nun. In the Zohar we are taught that when Moses first passed from this world he received the "50th gate" and was "buried" in the Mishnah, another permutation of Menasheh, Moshe-nun. Through the study of Mishnah (in the time of exile) we reveal the neshamah of Israel and thereby merit the redemption of Moshe-Mashiach and the revelation for all on earth of the "50th gate."

Sense: smell

The sense of smell is the most spiritual of all senses. The Hebrew word for "smell," rei'ach, is cognate to that for "spirit" (ruach). Our sages teach us that smell is the one and only sense that "the soul enjoys and not the body." "Soul" (neshamah) is a permutation of Menasheh, as mentioned above. The sense of smell is the only sense (of the five common senses) that did not participate, and thereby was not blemished or polluted, in the primordial sin of man in the Garden of Eden. It is the sense which saved the Jewish people in the time of Mordechai and Esther, who are called Mor veHadas ("myrrh and myrtle," the two primary sources of fragrance). It is explicitly stated that the sense of Mashiach is the sense of smell. "And he shall smell in the awe of G-d"--"he shall judge by smell" (rather than by sight or hearing. Isaiah 11:3; Sanhedrin 93b). By his sense of smell (his ruach hakodesh, "holy spirit") the Mashiach will know how to connect each Jewish soul to its Divine root, and thereby identify its tribe (branch) in Israel.

Controller: intestines

The word for intestines (dakin) derives from the word "minute" (dakah) or "particle" (dak). It implies the power to dissect into fine, refined parts. In the process of preparing the incense for the Temple (the consummate expression of the sense of smell in the Temple service), one would say (over and over), "grind well, grind well" (hadek heitev, heiteiv hadek: hadeik from dak). All of the sacrifices in the Temple service are meant to produce a "satisfying aroma" (rei'ach nichoach) and please the Divine sense of smell, which implies the Divine "satisfaction" with the service of His children Israel in particular and with His creation in general. Our sages interpret the phrase rei'ach nichoach as "I am satisfied (nachat ruach), for I have spoken and My will has been fulfilled." This Divine satisfaction with man and creation was first expressed on the 28th of Cheshvan, when Noah offered his sacrifice to G-d. Due to His satisfaction, G-d swore to Noah never again to destroy the world by flood. As is expressed explicitly in laws of the Torah, it is the fats of the intestines that when offered on the altar produce the "satisfying" aroma for G-d. For this reason the intestines are seen to control the sense of smell.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

North American Jewish Database Created by Christians Targeting Jews for Aliyah - or Targeting Jews for "Removal?"

Tonight the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem hosted "Israeli Night," capping off their annual "Feast of Tabernacles" celebration which brought nearly 10,000 Christians from around the world to Jerusalem. Malcom Hedding (pictured), ICEJ's Executive Director, on stage with former Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Ayalon( pictured), introduced a mysterious pot-bellied Russian man (not pictured, as - unbelievably! - I didn't have my camera with me!), who who presented Mr. Ayalon (now co-chairman of Nefesh b'Nefesh, which just replaced the Jewish Agency as the sole provider of Aliyah in North America) with a database said to contain "the names, addresses and phone numbers of every single Jew in North America." The database was being presented to Mr. Ayalon ostensibly because of his role with Nefesh b'Nefesh, and the idea of happy Christian telemarketers phoning Jews all over America after dinner every evening offering them free one-way tickets to Israel sent the audience of thousands of already G_d-giddy Christians into fits of cheering, clapping and hallaluyah-ing. I the only one here who thinks that Christians who have a list of every Jew in North America can be scary, even sinister? Christians who want to "help Jews make Aliyah" can quickly turn into expulsionists. Jurgen Buhler, the ICEJ's International Director, strutted around the stage of tonight's event, quoting from the Book of Ruth and warning Israelis that, just as Ruth said to Naomi "Wherever you go I shall go, Your people shall be my people, your G_d shall be my G_d," we Jews "won't be able to get rid of us (Christians)." They're sticking to us - listen chevre, we've been warned!
Wow, the Christians are going to follow us everywhere. Why don't we take them to Yeshiva? Many have such a deep and sincere love of Israel and the Jewish People, but they don't know Torah and they worship idols. So - yesh ba'aya, there's a problem.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Kaparh, Chickens, Coins and pre-Yom Kippur Preparations

Feathers flew and brachot blew by all day in Jerusalem's Machane Yehuda Shuk, where pre-Yom Kippur "Kaparah" was being perfomed by a variety of vendors. One might swing a chicken overhead while reading the prayers (pictured) or one might give money to a local tzaddick who will hold it over your head while praying blessings down upon you. Either way, it's all part of the preparations for the most intense day of the year - Yom Kippur, which begins tomorrow night at sundown. We're loading up on carbs, giving tzadaka ("charity") to anyone who asks, hydrating like mad, learning special Torah, going to the mikvah, and generally running around like...a chicken with its head cut off!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Taliban Assasins Murder Ranking Afghan Policewoman

Just in case you forgot yet one more important reason we hate the Taliban -The Associated Press reports the following:

Two Taliban assassins on a motorbike shot and killed a senior policewoman as she left for work in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday and gravely wounded her son.
Malalai Kakar, 41, who led Kandahar city's department of crimes against women, was leaving home Sunday when she was killed, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her 18-year-old son was wounded, he said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility.
Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women.
The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the assassination, as did the European Union, which said it was "appalled by the brutal targeting" of Kakar.
"Any murder of a police officer is to be condemned, but the killing of a female officer whose service was not only to her country, but to Afghan women, to whom Ms. Kakar served as an example, is particularly abhorrent," the EU said in a statement.

May I just remind y'all that Islamic Fundamentalists - exemplified by the Taliban - have one and only one goal - ISLAMIC WORLD DOMINATION. Which means cliterectomies, burkas and not stepping outside one's home without a male relative escort/driver for all women. So, why exactly would you want to vote in the next American Presidental election for anyone who isn't willing to drive these animals back into the holes from which they crawled when we weren't looking?

You Say Goodbye, I Say...Hello!

I was lucky enough to get to see a once-in-a-lifetime event - Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv - with my (originally) British friend YERUSHALIMEY. As I have NO WORDS, his will more than suffice...Yerushalimey's review of the concert is, as follows....

It's difficult to decide where - or when - to begin an account of Sir Paul McCartney's "Friendship First" concert last night in Tel Aviv. I could describe the closest train station, a couple of hours before the event where, besides the steady flow of people of all ages wearing Beatles T-shirts there were about 20 women standing in line outside the shirutim (public toilets), presumably because they didn't expect to be able to relieve themselves comfortably at the Hayarkon Park venue. (There were, in turned out, rows of Portapotties lined up near the park's shirutim.) Or I could review the death threats from Muslim clerics; or the comments in The Guardian arguing that it is not hypocritical for someone to demand that McCartney boycott Israel yet, at the same time, enjoy Israeli cell phone and computer technology... Although I saw a security guard single out a lone male for what seemed to be careful questioning, for the most part the people at the gates seemed to be at least as intent on preventing large bottles of water from being brought in as detecting weapons. (The most lax security I've ever seen in Israel was at a reggae concert: at music events I suppose the people who don't belong are easily spotted.) I saw no weapons within the fabric wall. That's understandable, but noteworthy because so many people routinely carry guns in public in Israel.
Two hours before the show was scheduled to start, the area in front of the stage was filled. We spread our blanket a couple of hundred yards back and waited. There was a gigantic vertical screen on either side of the stage and the crowd became a little more energized when pictures form Paul's history rolled down them. No Israeli songs came over the sound system, just British and American music (and one Jimmy Cliff).
Ten minutes after the eight o'clock scheduled start, Paul began with a rousing "Hello Goodbye." Obvious opening choice, but especially canny because the audience couldn't resist joining in with the Hey La, Hey Hey Lo Ah.... Then came "Jet." This pair of songs was a taste of what was to come: 32 songs (if I counted correctly), the vast majority of which were Beatle songs, and only a handful from after 1975...
"Shalom, Tel Aviv!" Paul greeted the audience, who seemed delighted when he added, "Shana Tova!" It was the week before Rosh Hashana: maybe that was why there were so few men with yarmulkes visible - with the notable exception of the Chabad people outside, encouraging concert-goers to don tefilin...
"Baby You Can Drive My Car" was next, with an automobile sequence rolling behind him on the stage's rear wall.I confess I don't know what the next song was: I could blame the poor scrawl in my notebook, but truthfully I didn't recognize it...Next Paul addressed the audience in Hebrew again: "Zeh echad hayashanim." ("This is one of the oldies.) And it was! "All My Loving." The crowd loved it.
Next was "Flaming Pie," followed by "Let Me Roll It." This was, therefore, the second of four tracks - including the title song - from Band on the Run. Later, when he sang "Mrs Vanderbilt" the audience sang along, "Ho, hey ho!" as though we were in a jungle....
The audience listened attentively to his next number, especially since he introduced it, in Hebrew, dedicating it "L'Linda." It was a very moving "My Love." He followed it with another from his post-Beatle songbook ("Someone's knocking at the door"); then came "Long and Winding Road." He played "Dance Tonight" (from 2007's Memory Almost Full), which, apart from "Flaming Pie," I think were the only songs from after 1975! (But you can check the internet...)
Paul then talked briefly about how he and George - this was before they were Beatles - used to sit sometimes and play classical pieces on guitar. He demonstrated a piece of Bach's they used to play, and then showed how he stole a phrase and turned it into...."Blackbird"!
During one of his anecdotal reminiscences, one of Paul's spontaneous asides probably baffled the native Israelis in the audience. "A long time ago," he began, and then interrupted himself with "- this wasn't in Bethlehem." I figure he wasn't referring to his trip to the Church of the Nativity; instead he was alluding to the '50s song that began "Long time ago in Bethlehem" about Mary's Boy Child... This seemed to be the only Christian reference in the evening. (He has stated that the mother Mary in "Let It Be" was actually his own mother, Mary.) But he did make a point of saying "Ramadan Karim" twice during the evening, the second time almost asking us to be fair. (Sorry, I didn't catch his exact words.)
I watched virtually all of the concert on one of the screens. I think it was during "Let It Be" that I turned around to see the lights of a thousand cellphones held up instead of candles. At one point I went forward and stood on my toes and craned my neck and peeked and finally caught a glimpse of the tiny figure in a pink shirt, so I can say I actually saw Paul with my naked eye, albeit from a couple hundred yards away. During the show he addressed the people he could see outside in the park proper. I turned to see what he saw: thousands of people who didn't pay and who, sitting or standing on a hill, probably had a less obstructed view of the stage than many of the paying audience. He had nothing to gain by greeting them. Paul was playing for the people - not simply for the money."I'll Follow the Sun," "Mrs Vanderbilt," "Here, There and Everywhere." After "Eleanor Rigby" (with keyboard synthesized violins), Paul addressed us in Hebrew again" "Hashir hazeh l'George." And he played "Something" - on the ukelele! The band joined in after the middle eight, so it ended up sounding quite like the album version, with thousands of people singing along....Next he announced, "This is for John." I'm sure I wasn't the only one in the audience surprised - and delighted - to hear "A Day in the Life." It's just not something you'd expect at a concert (unless Phish decided to perform "Sgt. Pepper!). It was amusing to watch one of the band members on the big screen panting just before the "Woke up, fell out of bed" segment. Without the London Symphony Orchestra present, there needed to be a new ending - it was Paul singing "Give Peace a Chance." Clearly, Paul's tribute to John was, as Lennon himself would probably have wanted, a powerful political and very human declaration. Before the show I'd lamented that it's too bad that no one but Lennon could really sing the lead vocal. So I was happily impressed that Paul led about fifty-thousand Israelis in an indisputably sincere rendition of the plea for peace. I confess I felt smug, convinced that nowhere else in the Middle East could this anthem be sung by so many people. (Oddly, for me, this was not the most moving experience of the melody: the first time I heard "Oseh Shalom bimromav, etc." sung to "Give Peace a Chance," [at Kol Rina, in Jerusalem] tears came to my eyes: All we are saying...O-oseh shalom...)
"Band on the Run," "Back in the USSR" (with amusing old films of Soviet dancing in the background). Then "I Got a Feeling" with an extra hard biting extra ending...There were fireworks for "Live and Let Die." Rockets shooting up, mostly white, with some glowing red balls. Not the most expensive or elaborate pyrotechnics, but especially effective because they were unanticipated and because they emphasized the sudden violence of the title. I took it as a kind of affirmation. "Live! and (if those crazies want to go around killing each other) Let Die...""Let it Be" - more inspiration, instruction for the weary - but not, like Olmert and his gang, hopeless - Israeli. And "Hey, Jude!" Paul playfully acknowledged different sections of the audience, singing "Na, Na, Na, Nanananah". "Rak Hanashim!" (Only the women!) he called, hand on hip, mincing across the stage...He'd performed for two hours.
Now the end of the show approached. The first, faux end. Stage empty, screens blank for a minute, while they took a quick break. First encore? What would it be?"Lady Madonna." Then "Get Back." he chatted with the audience again, asked if they weren't real old rock and rollers, before he slammed into "I Saw Her Standing There." What was left? Of course: "Yesterday."He bid the audience goodbye again. Introrduced the musicians. Thanked everyone. Declared that the crew was the best in the world. (Maybe they were; but someone I was with said that the sound was off. I didn't know. I couldn't tell. I didn't care.)"Shana Tova! Ramadan Karim!"The final encore: "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (Reprise: "We're sorry but it's time to go...") And finally, "The End."Wow! From "Hello, Goodbye" to "The End." Great set. Great show.
Paul McCartney is an amazingly talented composer and performer. It was a privilege to see him live in concert. He clearly is genuinely devoted to peace and love. His tribute to Linda was an act of personal courage, exposing himself as a vulnerable human. His tributes to George and John were similarly mentschlich. The fact that he ignored threats and criticism from the Blue Meanies, exposing himself to the possibility of physical danger and censure from some of the media, show him to be a seeker of justice.Thank you, Paul.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Forget Bomb Shelters, Pass the Bottle Please!

From the "Better Living Through Science" Department - at last, one of my many (unfairly categorized as "wacko") theories has been scientifically proven. I've been saying for years that red wine has magical properties, and now science has proven that red wine protects humans from the effect of radiation!
So go ahead Iran, keep developing the bomb. I'm just going to sit here on my porch in Jerusalem sipping (kosher) red wine and sticking my tongue out at you in your general direction (hey, what direction is Iran from here?)

Reuters reports:
A natural antioxidant commonly found in red wine and fruit may protect against radiation exposure, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.
Tests in mice showed that resveratrol, when altered using a compound called acetyl, could prevent some of the damage caused by radiation, the researchers told the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology meeting in Boston.
Drugs made that way might be used in a large-scale radiological or nuclear emergency, said Dr. Joel Greenberger, a radiation oncologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
"Currently there are no drugs on the market that protect against or counteract radiation exposure," he added. "Our goal is to develop treatments for the general population that are effective and non-toxic," Greenberger said in a statement.
"Small molecules which can be easily stored, transported and administered are optimal for this, and so far acetylated resveratrol fits these requirements well."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

She's Got A Ticket To Ride...

I wouldn't say that spending 490 NIS on a standing room only ticket (no actual seat) to see Paul McCartney in Tel Aviv is a waste of money. I'd say that the fact that Isra-Card graciously divides the amount into 3 equal payments over 3 months is what turns a waste of money into a cultural and karmic necessity. Even if this is my entire entertainment budget for the next year - (comes to about $140-ish total or 3 easy payments of $46) - it's PAUL MCCARTNEY, for the love of G_d, in the Holy Land, for the first time ever (and probably the last time ever too, all things considered). I actually can't afford NOT to go. If I ever merit the great good fortune to have grandchildren and one of them asks me: "Safta, did you see Paul McCartney when he came to play in Tel Aviv in 2008?" and I said, "No, I couldn't bring myself to spend $140," I just couldn't live with myself.

Friday, September 19, 2008

And The Little Children Will Lead Them...

Ultra-kudos to my Facebook Friend Yosef Rabin, who organized the successful "Orange Day" protest by American school children this past Thursday.
Arutz Sheva reports:
( Students at Jewish schools across America wore orange clothing on Thursday and handed out informational materials to fellow students, teachers and staff members to protest Israel’s plan to expel Jews from their homes in Judea and Samaria and its negotiations over Jerusalem with the Palestinian Authority.
The event, organized by the United Jewish Student Council (UJSC), was originally planned as a one-period demonstration that would have been held during the first class of the school day, but was scaled back due to heavy pressure from school administrators.
The orange clothing was intended to spark memories of the days of fighting the 2005 Disengagement, when 25 Jewish communities were destroyed and more than 8,000 Jews were expelled from their homes in Gush Katif and northern Samaria.

According to organizer Yosef Rabin, the day’s events were a moderate success. In addition to students, some parents got involved with the project as well -- even parents whose children were in public schools, or whose children were too young to go to yeshiva, as in the case of the Packer family in North Carolina.

Students in eight states across the United States and Canada had originally planned to organize events at their schools, but at the last minute, the group from Canada pulled out, “because the school administration announced that all activity was strictly forbidden because of fear that the ‘tzniut [modesty –ed.] dress code would be infringed.’ This was of course ridiculous,” said Rabin, “but it put enough fear in the students.” (MY PERSONAL NOTE HERE: FURTHER EVIDENCE OF THE INSANITY OF SOME - not all but some - HAREDIM WHO HOLD SO-CALLED"MODESTY" AS A HIGHER VALUE THAN THE LAND OF ISRAEL ITSELF. WHAT IS INHERITLY IMMODEST ABOUT THE COLOR ORANGE????)

There were plenty of students who stepped forward, however, and even some schools that supported the process, itself a statement Rabin noted with deep appreciation.

For the budding young activists, Rabin had nothing but praise. “The schools did not drag the students to a protest; they got up and understood that something had to be done,” he said with great satisfaction. “This may spark something larger, and we will work to make that happen.”
Rabin was particularly impressed with the Jewish students in the public sector. “What I found very encouraging is that Jews in secular US public schools came forward and were eager to help. You could feel this love of the Jewish People and G-d,” he said.

Noting that a light rain had fallen for the first time this season in Israel the following morning, Rabin wondered if perhaps the Land had not been blessed “after this small tikun (correction) that occurred in Jewish schools in the US – you know that chazal [our Sages –ed.] teach us that Hashem listens especially to the tefilot [prayers –ed.] of children,” he added.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chillul HaShem - Islam Online Exposes Our Shame

G_d forbid I should say anything bad about Jerusalem, the Jewish People, or the Land of Israel in any way. Which is why I hesitated before publishing the following article from's web site regarding the recent rise in violence against Jewish women by gangs of young haredi (ultra-Orthodox) vigalantees dubbed "The Morality Squad." However, the tipping point for me is the fact that our Rabbis, our esteemed living Torah Sages have NOT come out with a ringing condemnation of violence against women. Now the press of our enemies, which is one of their most powerful weapons, reports this chillul HaShem - desecration of G_d's Name - for all the pan-Islamic World to see.
RABBIS OF ERETZ YISRAEL - It is incumbent upon you to protect Jewish women - ALL Jewish women, the entire spectrum from haredi to hiloni and everything in-between - from violence by the hands of G_d forbid their fellow Jews, and forbid any Torah-observant man from laying hands upon a woman to harm, or to enforce a standard of "modesty," whether that be in behavior, dress or lifestyle. I'm calling on YOU, our leaders, sages and Talmideem Chochamim, to issue a public decree and a private dictate within your own communities forbidding such actions.

This is the article from -

Jewish Morality Squads & News Agencies
OCCUUPIED JERUSALEM — Wearing black coats and wide-brimmed hats, Israel's ultra-orthodox vigilantes roam the streets, harass women dressed in "immoral" clothing and attack music shops.
"I don't know why I was treated this way. What has my life got to do with those guys,"
M., who just two weeks ago became the latest victim of the Jewish morality squads, told Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, September 15.
The 28-year-old woman, who refused to tell her name for fear of reprisal, was brutally gagged and beaten at the hands of two members of a Jewish modesty patrol.
"They beat me up, tied me up and threatened to kill me," M. said, holding back her tears.
They threatened to kill her if she did not move out of the ultra-Orthodox Maalot Dafna neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Shaking as she recalled the beating, M. says she will move out because she fears for her life.
"Who will prevent them from killing me?"
M. is not the only victim of the Jewish self-styled modesty squads.
In June, a 14-year-old resident of Mea Sharim neighborhood was taken to hospital with burns after an attacker hurled acid at her.
Israeli media said that at the time of the attack the girl had been wearing loose-fitting trousers and a short-sleeved shirt, enough to provoke the ire of modesty patrols.
Ultra-Orthodox Jews, also known as Haredim, follow strict interpretations of Jewish religious laws. Their life revolves around a strict dress code that has men sporting black coats, hats and long beards and women covering their heads, arms and legs.
Haredim Jews, who make up 8 to 10 percent of Israel's population, have been active in Israel for the past decade.
The Jewish morality squads have become increasingly visible in Jerusalem recently.
"For some weeks we've been seeing excesses," asserted Meny Schwartz, who heads the religious Kol Haredi radio station.
In the neighborhoods dominated by the Haredim, streets are sealed off for the Jewish day of rest and satellite dishes are considered a sign of heresy.
The ultra-Orthodox Jews have also led violent protests against swimming pools, cinemas and other establishments they consider immoral.
Failing to segregate the sexes is also unacceptable according to the Haredi rules.
They operate scores of gender-segregated bus routes whose buses move the ultra-Orthodox between Jerusalem neighborhoods.
In 2006, a 50-year-old American tourist on holiday was attacked because she refused to go to the back of a bus along with other women.
Police have recently detained a man accused of torching a store for selling what some residents considered "immoral" clothing.
David, a salesman at a store that sells MP4 players, says they have been targeted by the morality squads who have picketed outside the shop for weeks.
"They burned down our stocks," he said, declining to give his family name for fear of being singled out for attack.
"[They] are spreading terror in the neighborhood. Nothing will stop them."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Malkah's in 7th Heaven, how about YOU?

My friend Malkah Fleisher (pictured here with husband Yishai and daughter Leah Bat Zion), writes the following at

So we recently had this very interesting guest over, who was trying to get away from some issues in the US by finding himself in Israel for a week. When our guest arrived, fresh from the Crowne Plaza in Tel Aviv courtesy of an old school Israeli cab driver, we pulled a few chairs out of the house, plopped them down in the road, served up some steaming joe, and gave our guests a few minutes to soak up the oxygen-rich, vanilla puddingy delicious air that we so habitually breathe up on our mountaintop every day. They checked out the view, eyed a few twitting sparrows, and sipped their piping hot Turkish coffee, with a few fresh figs our friend picked for us from her tree the night before (incidentally, she said I could pick as many as I want for myself - yesh!).After a few minutes and some enthusiasting licking from Pilpel, our driver drove away, Yishai put the baby in a backpack, unleashed the dog, and took our guest on a hike all over our mountain while I recorded the Eyshet Chayil Show, assuredly showing him the Jewish burial sites, pointing out some frolicking gazelles, and telling the story of Jacob's dream, which happened here in holy Beit El. That night, we fed him meat and vegetables from a cauldron we and our friends/neighbors boiled around a campfire (say it with me: Poika!), as we talked about issues surrounding the Holy Temple, Jewish interrelations, and building on the mountain.The next day, after a big breakfast of organic eggs that are free-range raised by Avri Ran near Itamar and a big glass of fresh, 7th year-fallow-grapes grape juice squeezed by Hillel Mann from the vineyards of the Beit El Winery, we took our increasingly spiritually-inspired guest to buy brand new Tefillin from the world-famous Beit El Tefillin factory. After an hour tour (FASCINATING!), our guest was fitted for his tefillin, bought a mezuzah, was blessed by a Tefillin-making Cohen, and sent on his merry way.We dropped him off in next-door Ofra, where he rented a car to continue his adventures in the north.
Now I pose a question: was our guest on the best vacation ever.... or am I?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

If I Had A Hammer....

Yeah, it's a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this HOLY LAND OF ISRAEL, you better believe it! :)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Rav Kook's Yartzeit

In honor of the Yartzeit (anniversary of his passing, which is today, 3 Elul) of Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook (may his holy remembrance be for a blessing), here is a very special Elul-themed poem he wrote.

By Rav Avraham Yitzchok Kook
(may his holy remembrance be for a blessing)
(as translated by R. Ben Zion Bokser, published in Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook , The Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

All existence whispers to me a secret:
I have life to offer, take it, take it -
If you have a heart and in the heart red blood courses,
Which despair has not soiled.
But if your heart is dulled
And beauty holds no spell to you - existence whispers - Leave me, leave,
I am forbidden to you.
If every gentle sound,
Every living beauty,
Stir you not to a holy song,
But to some alien thought,
Then leave me, leave, I am forbidden to you.
And a generation will yet arise
And sing to beauty and the life
And draw delight unending
From the dew of heaven.
And people returned to life will hear
The wealth of life's secrets
From the vistas of the Carmel and the Sharon,
And from the delight of song and life's beauty
A holy light will abound.
All of existence will whisper,"My beloved, I am permitted to you."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hey Now!

I couldn't sleep again last night - Virgo / Virgo New Moon, Rosh Chodesh Elul...Mercury kept me awake, so I made this video.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

What do a Beheaded Snake and Prime Minister Olmert Have in Common?

QUESTION: What do a snake which has been beheaded have in common with Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert?
ANSWER: Both are VENOMOUS and DEADLY DANGEROUS, even though they've been effectively "disembodied." Every field-trained boy scout knows that the head of a snake is still full of venom and can bite and kill you for hours after it has been severed from its body.
Every Israeli and every Jew, no matter where they live, should also know that even though Prime Minister Olmert has "resigned," and is viewed by most as having been "disembodied" from his own political party, his talking, snapping, forked-tongue little head is still full of deadly fangs full of venomous poison and his mouth still has the power to harm the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.
Case in point: the following from HaAretz (a "lefty" publication by any one's standards, and yet even THEY are forced to report as follows...):
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were set to meet Sunday in Jerusalem, where Olmert was to suggest international involvement in the negotiations over one of the core issues on the agenda - Jerusalem. The meeting between the two leaders will likely be their final session before the Kadima primary on September 17, after which Olmert will step down from his post. Olmert will seek to convince the Palestinian leader to accept an agreement of principles on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that will represent a framework for a two-state solution,
As far as Olmert is concerned, the talks with Abbas have entered the "final straight" and there are about two weeks left to reach an agreement before the prime minister steps down. However, veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday that he does not expect the two sides to conclude a joint document during September. Erekat made the comments Saturday following various reports that the Bush administration would like to present a joint document of understandings between Israel and the PA before the UN General Assembly in September. Central in Olmert's proposal to the Palestinians is that the talks on sovereignty and control over the holy sites in Jerusalem be held under an international umbrella, where governments and other interested parties will be able to contribute their views. The negotiations will be held directly between Israel and the Palestinians, and international parties will not be able to impose their views on a solution. The role of the international parties would be to bolster the agreement that the two sides will agree upon in direct negotiations. According to Olmert's proposal, a five-year timetable will be set out for completing a settlement on Jerusalem. Olmert's proposal, which was discussed in recent talks with Abbas, is meant to bridge his promise to coalition partner Shas that Jerusalem will not be raised during the current round of talks, and the Palestinian demands that any agreement between the two sides would include mention of "all the core issues" - borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem. The solution offered by the prime minister is to agree to a mechanism for discussing the issue of Jerusalem, and delay the substantive talks on the subject to the future. This is the first time that Israel has proposed involving international parties on the Jerusalem issue, even if their role will be limited to a consultative one. The idea was raised during the Camp David talks of 2000, when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat argued that he does not have a mandate to decide the future of the holy sites - which are important to the entire Muslim world - and rejected the offer of then-prime minister Ehud Barak to divide Jerusalem. Olmert's proposal is meant to gain broad backing for the Palestinian leadership's decisions, and prevent any collapse of the agreement because of opposition from other countries and religious groups. Olmert is probably planning to include in the negotiations members of the international Quartet (the U.N., U.S., EU and Russia), as well as Jordan, Egypt, the Vatican and possibly the king of Morocco. From Israel's point of view, broadening the international, inter-faith element only increases the chances of finding an acceptable agreement, even though there is risk in involving parties who are opposed to Israel's sovereign control over the holy sites in Jerusalem. The prime minister presented his detailed proposal to the Palestinians to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her visit to Jerusalem last Tuesday. Rice told Olmert that "it is a very generous plan" for the Palestinians and discussed it with Abbas, with whom she met several hours after her talks with Olmert. Olmert told Rice that he presented his plan to Abbas a month ago, but the PA president had still not given him a final answer. In the past few weeks, Olmert sent a number of emissaries to Abbas and his aides, in an attempt to convince them to adopt the plan. Among the emissaries were Vice Premier Haim Ramon, MK Yossi Beilin and U.S. businessman Daniel Abraham, a personal friend of the prime minister. Abbas and his closest aides presented Olmert's emissaries with a series of reservations, and argued that they were being offered a "partial agreement" of the kind that will weaken Abbas. They also said that "the timing is not good for an agreement at this time." In response, Olmert's emissaries said that an agreement will allow Abbas to present an achievement ahead of the PA presidential elections scheduled to take place in January 2009.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Simcha "Simply Green" Gluck Says: "Jews of the Exile! Come Home Already!"

This essay, originally posted as a Facebook Note, is the work of Simcha "Simply Green" Gluck - musician, writer, thinker, husband of my friend Rachel Gluck, leader of "Ruach," Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem's house band. Simcha was one of the holy Jews who accompanied Rabbi Chaim Richman (along with me) to the Temple Mount on the morning of Tisha b'Av this year (Pictured, with Rabbi Richman and Liebe Shulman).

Much like the Jews of the Exile have traded in the Temple Mount for their own Temple-Mansions in Long Island where they live and raise their children, the Jews of Israel have traded in the Temple Mount for the little remaining “Western Wall” of the expanded Herodian site. Why are we OK settling for sitting on the floor by the Western Wall crying and mourning the destruction of the Temple, when we can halachiclly go up on the Temple Mount itself, see where our Bet Hamikdash used to be, and begin thinking about how we can rebuild it? Rambam, the great codifier of the Torah and its mitzvot, who himself went up on Har Habayit in the 1100s, clearly writes that one of the 613 mitzvot, among keeping Shabbat and Kosher, is the positive mitzvah of rebuilding the Beit Hamikdash. However, sadly, we the Jews cherish our pattern of mourning so much that we have seemingly replaced that mitzvah with the “mitzvah” of weeping, broken despair, and hundreds of Kinot that keep us in the destruction instead of the construction.

Many “knowledgeable” Rabbis who when asked why they choose to continue living in the Exile where the mitzvot that they do there are at best practice, instead of making aliyah to a place where they can live a Biblical holy life and easily fulfill over a hundred mitzvot that they are not able to keep right now, often respond with the words, “It’s not so pashut” as they wave a Yeshivish thumb in the air. Really? The mitzvah and responsibility of living in Israel is a lot more “pashut” than the “mitzvah” of wearing a black hat and jacket. It is so fascinating how people rush to wear a square garment in a time when no one does just to create a reality where they are responsible to wear tzizit and fulfill that mitzvah, when they really don’t have to. But yet, the 100s of available mitzvot that one can literally begin to fulfill just by being here in Israel, eating food (especially now that we are in shmitta), and walking the land, and people just casually wave off the idea of like it’s a joke that Israel is anything but a place for vacationing, year after Yeshiva learning, and a place to ship Jewish dead bodies for burial.

The “not so pashut” Rabbis, in an attempt to allay their guilt of Exile dwelling and their utter lack of Bitachon in Hashem who they believe is only able to provide parnasa for people in the vacuum of America but certainly not in Israel, will quote various sources to portray that they are doing the right thing. They bring up ideas of the Third Temple just descending from the Heavens already built – a perfect idea for the microwave generation of JAPS who would never want to get any dirt under their manicured fingernails, men and women both, and actually partake in the building of a Jewish dynasty that will be revered across the world. Perhaps if it’s not completely built when this big Disneyland drops from the sky, they can each send their housekeepers and maids to do any leftover labor. The “not so Pashut” Rabbis quote from sources about how we just have to sit and wait for Mashiach to come, and when he does, the houses of Galut will just sprout wings and fly to Israel; a perfect Santa Claus story for the Jews. This is what I grew up learning in the wonderful distorted values of the Yeshiva system of America. But, does this make any sense to anyone nowadays?!

It makes sense to 2 groups of people: Firstly, the Rabbis of hundreds of years ago who are being quoted. They only stated these ideas because in their times they could not possibly imagine ever being privy to a reality outside of the little Shtetl. Could these Jews ever foresee a reality where the Jewish people could freely pack up, pick up, make aliyah in less than 10 hours, receive dozens of perks and benefits for doing so, and then walk the streets of Jerusalem, full of Hebrew signs and beautiful Jews wearing colorful Kippot, eating great Kosher food in one of the hundreds of Kosher restaurants, all in Israel; a nation leading the world with its technology and innovation? Of course not, so they created these nice fantasies to explain how it’s all going to unfold when the Mashaich comes, in order to give both their people and themselves a little hope in impossibly dark times. Of course when a new time day arises and people can see further than the day that came before it, they can let the sages of old know that the horizon is not the end of the earth, since we indeed live on a round planet.

Secondly, the Rabbis of today who would like to continue living in the Great Golden Galut, a place that is uber materialistic, full of broken values, American Idols & Desperate Housewives. Interestingly, while being empty, it is so full, full of their great salaries, giant McMansions, Country Clubs, and getting to be one of the featured Rabbis at the “Passover in Cancun” trips. For the Second type of Rabbi – he’d like to believe that since he is imparting words of Torah there is no mitzvah to be anywhere else. It is as if he is a teaching Moshe of the wandering Jews but with no land of Israel to get to. Should he really choose to stay in America debating about the possible halachic ramifications of a Lipa Shmeltzer concert just so he shouldn’t be a little less comfortable in Israel and possibly encounter a “harsh Israeli Mentality”. “I’d live in Israel but there are just too many Israelis”

Please listen up brother and sisters: Your house will not just lift up the with the fairy wand wave of a Jewish Tinkerbell and float here to the Holyland, just like the Jewish people didn’t float out of Egypt directly to Mount Sinai. They had to choose it. They had to want it. They had to show the Egyptians that they were not scared anymore as they broiled the Egyptian lamb-Gods blatantly in public, and then smeared the blood of the animals on their doorposts, as they excitedly waited for the next part of the journey to begin through Hashem’s instruction. But there were many non believers even then, the “not so Pashuts” who still weren’t sure if Moshe was really meant to take them from the bowels of Egypt, the ones with broken self esteem who felt that maybe being an Israelite slave is the best reality they could ever have. Maybe the little fragment of Western Wall is the best Temple we can have. Those Jews – the 80 percent(!) died out in the plague of Darkness because their headspace was such darkness that they simply could never be a part of the proud emerging Jewish nation on a mission to bring Hashem’s light down to this world. When will we stop trading Jewish destiny for the Amercian dream? When will we stop singing God save the Queen and start singing God bring the Messiah King? Let’s make that time now. We are so close to the new year of Rosh hashana, May we all witness the Jews of today following their Father in Heaven as they join their brothers in Israel. We are excitedly waiting here for your return. Lshana Habah Beyerushalayim, Amen.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Over-Moisturized and Under-Medicated? Humidity Horror Stories!

Suddenly, Florida-like humidity has rudely invaded Jerusalem's normally very warm but dry summer days.
Remember, I'M A CALIFORNIA JEW. Not a New Yorker, not an East Coaster, not from the land of high humidity and low low bargain prices.
Basically, I don't know what to do. Everything seems damp and sticky. Including me. Is it possible I could be over-moisturizing during this weather anomaly? I don't know how to adjust myself to survive what I only hope and pray is a temporary glitch in the weather system...please G_d!
What I can't seem to stop doing is applying lotion. No matter how much I use, I need more. Chugging huge liter v'chetzi sized bakbukeem of water, throwing water all over myself, then feeling uncomfortably dry and needing...more lotion???
I'm so miserable!!! Please make this weather stop or please make me wake up in an air-conditioned hotel room being served breakfast in bed and covered in orchid leis. That's the only way this weather is going to make sense.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Tisha b'Av on Har HaBayet - The Temple Mount IS In Our Hands!

Today is Tisha b'Av (the 9th Day of the Hebrew Month of Av), a day of mourning and fasting during which we commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple, which happened not once but twice on this day in history.
Other destructive events which occured on 9 Av include: the fall of Betar, the last fortress to hold out against the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt in 132 CE, killing 100,000 Jews. In 1492, Spain ordered the expulsion of all Jews by the Ninth of Av. In 1914, Germany declared war on Russia on the Ninth of Av (August 1) which was the beginning of World War I, the event that led to WWII and the Holocaust.
So...why is this Tisha b'Av different from all others?
This Tisha b'Av was the first time that Rabbi Chaim Richman of The Temple Institute ( was allowed to enter the Temple Mount on this day, as usually it is closed to Jews because the Moslem authorities who hold dominion over the Holiest Place on Earth won't allow us to ascend...but this morning, at 7:30am, they did. Rabbi Richman led a small group of people (including myself) carefully around the perimeter of the Temple Mount, mindful of the strict halachic boundaries that forbid Jews from walking anywhere where the Temple itself might have stood, and G_d forbid, not to walk or step on any area that might be the location of the Holy of Holies.
Having spent all week preparing for this event (including a visit to the Mikvah as per halachic instruction) I could barely sleep at all last night. My friend Liba and I got up at 5am to make sure we would make it to the Kotel Plaza in time to daven Shachrit (morning services) before meeting Rabbi Richman at the ramp entrance to Har HaBayet.
The authorities confiscated all of our Teudat Zehuts (Israeli I.D. Cards) and held them for a short time to examine them, while tourists with passports of every country walked right through as we, Israeli Jews, were scrutinized, questioned, inspected and denuded of any visible means of prayer support (including prayer books, siddurim, tehillim or anything else that could be construed as a "prayer aid"). One of our group was told to remove or cover his talit katan (4-cornered fringed garment worn by observant Jewish men).
Finally we were allowed through the gates, and once we were inside, it was eerily quiet. The Temple Mount is a world unto itself and feels completely removed from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem's Old City, within which it exists. It's like walking through a door into another dimension - which, of course, is exactly what it really is.
The holiness of the place itself is powerfully magnetic, and yet it is mournfully sad. There is a feeling of great yearning which permiates the atmosphere.
The worst part is that after the 6-day War in 1967, the Temple Mount was literally in our hands. Why did General Moshe Dayan give control of the Temple Mount back to the Moslem authorities? While there is plenty of controversy regarding that question, a more pressing question is why we don't just take it back, right here and right now.
In the words of the Temple Institute's Yitzhak Reuven:
In the aftermath of the capture and liberation of the Temple Mount, and in light of the lack of readiness with which the nation of Israel was caught, 2000 years of yearning soon turned into fear: the secular Zionist political leadership of Israel feared the responsibility of being sovereign over the Temple Mount. They feared Arab/Moslem reaction to Jewish mastery over the Mount, and they feared the growing calls by their fellow Jews for a renewed Jewish presence on the Mount. Many observant Jews also feared the Mount. Centuries of yearning and praying for the return of the Holy Temple had manifested intellectually and emotionally as a perception that the Holy Temple no longer remained attainable in the realm of history, through the labors of the Jewish nation, as it had been during the times of both the first and second temples, but that it had become consigned to the end of time, the messianic era. This particular school of thought captured the souls of many Jews. On a purely psychological, or perhaps, physiological level, another truth was making itself known: people do not like change, and building the Holy Temple means changing everything. Not the least of those changes is the spiritual focus of the Jewish people, and this was perhaps the most difficult thing for the religious Jew to contend with. So a type of "collaboration" was engaged between the secular political leaders of Israel, and many of the rabbinical leaders, the purpose of which was to render the Temple Mount, and naturally, the Holy Temple itself, off limits to the Jews. Remarkably, for a people which had so diligently recorded every aspect of the life of the nation when it was centered around the Holy Temple, these rabbis - men of knowledge - who at their fingertips had recourse to every strand of knowledge necessary to begin the renewal of the Divine service - pleaded ignorance. And with that ignorance they locked the gate and drew a curtain over the Temple Mount.

But there did exist Jews who did not, could not accept this decision. These Jews saw the liberation of the Temple Mount as a heavenly summons for the Jews to return to their history, to fulfill their destiny as had been decreed thousands of years earlier by the prophets of theG-d of Israel. For these Jews, their religion wasn't a convenience, or an immutable way of life - it was a calling to perform the commandments as G-d had commanded them - and to create a dwelling place for G-d, here - on earth. Squeezed out politically by their observant and non-observant brethren, these Jews have had to go it alone. Reviving and restoring an entire body of knowledge, they have succeeded in bringing the future of the Temple Mount and the Holy Temple to the forefront of the Jewish experience. An awareness of the historical inevitability and the spiritual necessity of the Third Temple has reentered the consciousness of the Jewish people: A growing understanding that the fate of the political state of Israel as well as the spiritual nation of Israel is intrinsically bound to what will be on the Temple Mount, in a way no less profound than was the binding of Isaac by his father Abraham on Mount Moriah, at the dawn of Jewish history some 3,800 years ago. As more Jews are opening their hearts to the Holy Temple, those who have yet to be swayed have grown that much more fearful. And as a result of that fear, the oppression has grown harsher. Access to the Temple Mount by individuals has grown more prohibitive and often demeaning. Any outward acts of prayer are forbidden. Any talk of a change in the status of the Mount to accommodate the free spiritual expression of Jews in their holiest of places on earth, is met with hostility. But the movement of Jews back into the history of their people is a growing tide that cannot be stemmed. A great responsibility has been returned to our hands. The keys that the priests returned to the safekeeping of heaven on that terrible 9th of Av 1,935 years ago have been thrust back into our hands. G-d has entrusted us with our our fate - and with His future - as it were - on this earth. We must understand that the fast days of our times are the very last fast days to be. We have been blessed with the ability to make this happen. We have been entrusted with the responsibility to see to it that it happens. The days of mourning the destruction of the second Temple have ended. The days of mourning our own lethargy regarding the Third Temple will soon be over. The time has arrived to effect the tikkun - the repair - and to establish the 9th of Av as a day of rejoicing forever. The choice is ours - if only we close ranks, and unite to make it happen.
AMEN V'AMEN. Let's make it happen. The Temple Mount IS in our hands, if we truly want it!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ari haKodesh's Yartzeit

Today is the 436th yartzeit of the passing of the Holy Ari.

May our prayers ascend higher and higher in his merit.


Rabbi Isaac Luria Ashkenazi, known as Ari HaKadosh ("The Holy Lion") passed away on the 5th of Av of the year 5332 from creation (1572 CE). Born in Jerusalem in 1534, he spent many years in secluded study near Cairo, Egypt. In 1570 he settled in Tzfat, where he lived for two years until his passing at age 38. During that brief period, the Ari revolutionized the study of Kabbalah, and came to be universally regarded as one of the most important figures in Jewish mysticism. It was he who proclaimed, "In these times, we are allowed and duty-bound to reveal this wisdom," opening the door to the integration of the teachings of Kabbalah--until then the province of a select few in each generation--into "mainstream" Judaism.

Stylin' in the Shomron

From Nachlaot to the Shomron...six intrepid travelers determined to explore the beautiful Shomron area of Eretz Yisrael, guided by our friend David Ha'Ivri and ensconsed in an air-conditioned mini-van, we left Jerusalem on Monday morning and headed for SHILOH, where the Mishkan stood for 369 years. The feeling of holiness is still in evidence there, and we could have lingered for hours at the Tabernacle Cafe where original arts and crafts with Mishkan-themed motifs are on display and for sale. Then on to various stops throughout the Shomron including Mt. Garazim overlooking Shechem, and an intimate visit with Gershon Mesika, Mayor of the Shomron Regional Council (pictured).
Gershon Mesika has the unusual political distinction of being elected as the head of the local council of Elon Moreh for ten years...with an election being held EVERY YEAR. His vision for growth, development, sustainable prosperity and security for Israelis in the Shomron is that of a practical visionary, whose experience in bringing Torah-inspired principles into real-life government planning is invaluable, especially in our times. He's also an expert in hand-to-hand combat - perhaps one of the many reasons he successfully ran for office 10 years in a row?

The sensual highlight of our trip was Itamar, where we enjoyed nibbling on award-winning merlot grapes (pictured) at one of Itamar's kosher organic wineries...the grapes were hefker, of course, as all the growers in the Shomron strictly observe Shmitah (which we are in this year until Rosh HaShanah). Wine produced by the Kosher Organic farming communities of the Shomron is created under the strictures of halacha for use in the Holy Temple, may it be re-built speedily and in our day.
David Ha'Ivri provies a unique insider's view of our Land, our People and the Torah which is embedded in every rock and stone, tree and field, grain of sand and speck of dust in our Holy Land of Israel. Reach him at and book your tour to the Shomron today!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

United Nations - Beneficent Bestower of candies or Wicked Stepmother? You Be The Judge!

Who does the U.N. think it is, and why do WE tolerate its existence?

When I was a child in the American public school system, we collected pennies (yes we used to have pennies), nickles, dimes and even quarters for UNICEF during Halloween. Poor little children in Africa and other far-away places would be able to have candy and treats, just like us. We were programmed from childhood to associate the U.N. with sweetness, kindness and charity.
Kids, if you thought Halloween was scary, the most frightening web site I've yet discovered is the Jewish Virtual Library's' General Assembly Resolutions Related to Israel and the Middle East.

Beginning at the first U.N. Resolutions regarding Israel in May 1947 through today, each and every one of the U.N. Resolutions regarding the Jewish State is virulently pro-Arab and is the political equivalent of Cinderella's Wicked Stepmother telling her she may of course attend the Grand Ball, but only if she finishes in one day a chore list that would take a week to execute, and sew her own dress (with no materials provided).

In the ongoing saga of the modern State of Israel, the Wicked Stepmother (U.N.) never dreamed that the poor little Jewish State would survive her list of outrageously Sisyphean demands. The Wicked Stepmother never counted on the Fairy Godmother Factor in the story, and the United Nations never really expected Divine Intervention in Israel's fate.

Read them and weep, the U.N.'s resolutions, beginning with the 105 & 105 in 1947 and continue as far as you can (at least until 181 on November 29th 1947) until you are too nauseous to continue. The kind of nausea you get when you eat too many Halloween candies.
Like Cinderella, whose salvation from poverty and domestic servitude - IN HER OWN HOUSE, if you recall the story - her father had died and her Wicked Stepmother took over Cinderella's own home and property, making her a slave - came in the form of Prince Charming, we the Jewish People in the modern State of Israel too await our Prince Charming.

The Jewish Prince Charming is our Messiah, so as we sing "Someday my Prince will come, some day he'll call for me" remember when he comes we will be transformed from interlopers in our own land into Queen of the Realm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Aaron haKohen's Yartzeit

A word from our beloved Rabbi Sholom Brodt:

Erev Rosh Chodesh Av 5768

Dear Friends, ad 120 b'simcha,

This Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh Av, is the yarhtzeit of Aaron haKohen, the High Priest.In the merit of Aharon haKohen, may all our homes and relationships be blessed with peace.

Hillel and Shamai - received from them. Hillel says, "Be amongst students of Aaron, loving shalom and pursuing shalom, loving people and bring them close to the Torah."In the Sfat Emet on Pirkei Avot Ethics Chapter 1, Mishnah 12, I learned that why Hillel says, "be a student of Aaron," and doesn't just say, "pursue peace, love people," etc.

The Gerrer Rebbes say that it is entirely in the merit Aaron haKohen that every person is capable of being a lover of peace and pursuer of peace. Everyone can be a lover of all of Hashem's creations and bring them all close to Torah.

He further says that we should have no haughtiness when we're able to do this, and we should just think/realize that we're no more than students of Aaron the Kohen.

Aaron haKohen, we love you and miss you.ZCHUTO YAGEN ALEINU! MAY HIS MERIT BRING US PROTECTION!

Have a wonderful Shabbos!B'ahava u'bivracha,Sholom

Happy Jerry Day!

Today (August 1st) is the birthday of Jerry Garcia (zt"l), who, if he was still in his earthly body, would have been 66 years old today! (Gematria fans, please weigh in on this one).

What with the Solar Eclipse, Erev Rosh Chodesh Av and Jerry's Bday all in one big day, how can it get any better?

Happy Birthday Jerry, we all miss you...

"Sometimes the Light is shining on me

Other times I can barely see

Lately it's occurred to me

What a long, strange trip it's been!"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Full Solar Eclipse / Rosh Chodesh Av 5768 - THE LION ROARS!

Erev Rosh Chodesh Av 5768 - Friday August 1st 2008
Full Solar Eclipse at 9 degrees / 31 minutes (10 Degrees) Leo – 13:13 Jerusalem (1:13pm)
Mincha Gedolah (Jerusalem) – 13:19 (1:19 pm)
Candle Lighting: 6:56pm / Shekiah 7:36


According to The Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah), each month of the Hebrew year has a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, a zodiac sign, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, a sense, and a controlling limb of the body that correspond to it.
The Hebrew month of Av (or Menachem-Av, the consoler of Av) is the fifth of the twelve months of the Jewish calendar.
The name Av literally means "father." It derives from the root which means "to will" or "to desire."
It is the month of the "low point" of the Jewish calendar (the 9th of Av, the day of the sin of the spies and the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem) as well as the month of the "high point" of the Jewish calender (the 15th of Av--"there are no happier days for Israel than the 15th of Av and Yom HaKippurim" (Mishnah Ta'anit 26:)--the day of finding one's predestined soul-mate).
This accords with the teaching of our sages that "the Mashiach is born on the 9th of Av." Relative to all other souls of Israel, the soul of Mashiach, who comes to redeem Israel from her state of (spiritual as well as physical) exile, is like a groom to his bride. After his birth on the 9th of Av he reveals himself to his bride and betroths her on the 15th of Av.

Letter: TET
The letter tet, which resembles a womb, equals 9, corresponding to the 9 months of pregnancy. In the month of Av the 9 months are condensed and concentrated into 9 days, from Rosh Chodesh Av (the yahrtzeit of Aaron the high priest, whose name comes from the word "pregnant") to the 9th of Av, the day, which as mentioned above is the birthday of Mashiach.

Zodiac Sign (mazal): Leo - Aryeh
The aryeh symbolizes the superrational power of Divine will (the meaning of the name Av, as mentioned above). The initial manifestation of G-d's will to destroy (the Temple) was in truth purely for the sake of reconstructing (the Temple with all of its spiritual meaning and significance for Israel and the entire world) for eternity.

In the words of our sages (Yalkut Shimoni, Yermiyahu, 259 ): "The lion [Nevudchanetzar, who is referred to in the Bible as a lion--Yermiyahu 4:7] came on the month of the lion [Av] and destroyed the lion [the Temple, which is referred to in the Bible, especially with regard to the alter, as a lion], in order that the lion [G-d, of Whom is said 'the lion roars, who shall not fear'--Amos 3:8] come on the month of the lion and rebuild the lion."

This secret is also reflected in the numerical value of aryeh. Aryeh in gematria = 216 = gevurah ("might"). Gevurah is the Divine power responsible for tzimtzum (contraction and diminution of Divine light and energy, as is said with regard to the beginning of Av: "When Av enters we diminish in joy" [Mishnah Ta'anit 26:]) and destruction. But 216 = 3 ? 72. 72 = chesed ("lovingkindness"), the Divine power which "builds" all of reality, as is said (Psalms 89:3): "the world is built with [by the power of] chesed." Three times chesed corresponds to the building of all three Temples, who are all contained and find their eternal consummation in the third Temple, to be built speedily in our days by Mashiach. For this reason the aryeh appears to the right, in the place of chesed, in the Divine Chariot (Ezekiel 1:10).

Tribe of Israel: Shimon
Simon was one of the strongest tribes during the wandering in the desert but later became one of the weakest in consequence of losses suffered during the battles for the Promised Land. It was eventually absorbed by mighty Judah. Formerly the city of Shechem was situated within the boundaries of Simon and the gate of the city therefore appears on the tribe's. The biblical phrase on the tab is from Deut. 33:5, "...and the tribes of Israel were gathered together."

The name Shimon comes from the word "to hear." The sin of the spies on the 9th of Av entailed their speaking evil of the land of Israel and the people's accepting--"hearing"--the evil tongue. Thus the general rectification of the month of Av is the rectification of hearing.

Shimon is the only tribe that Moses did not explicitly bless at the end of the Torah. This was due to his "frustration" with the tribe of Shimon because of their involvement (more than all the other tribes) in the sin of Pe'or (prostitution with foreign women, which resulted in idolatry). The name Shimon divides into two words which spell sham avon, "there is iniquity."
In a certain sense, Moses (from the tribe of Levi) was most closely related (in spirit) to Shimon than to any other tribe. "Shimon and Levi are brothers" (Genesis 49:5) said our father Jacob in blessing his sons. The two together (Shimon leading his younger brother Levi) took revenge for the rape of their sister Dinah, and destroyed the entire city of Shechem.

In Kabbalah we are taught that the primary reincarnation of Moses is in Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, he who more than any other of the sages revealed the inner dimension of the Torah of Moses (in the Holy Zohar).

The "degeneration" of the power of Shimon leads to the destruction of the Temple. The rectification and elevation of that very power brings about the eternal reconstruction of the Temple.

The rectification of Shimon (the rectification of the sins and iniquities of Israel which brought to the destruction of the Temple in the month of Av, the month of Shimon) is by his clinging to the most essential attribute of Moses--humility. The word avon ("sin") permutes to spell anav ("humble") the unique term by which the Torah praises Moses (Numbers 12:3): "And the man Moses was very humble [anav], more than any other man on the face of the earth." The name Shimon transforms (in the month of Av) from "there is iniquity" (sham avon) to "there is the humble one" (sham anav).

The ability of Shimon to so "metamorphasize" depends upon his inner sense of hearing. Moses addresses Israel with the most all-inclusive statement of the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4) : "Hear [shemah] O' Israel...." Moses speaks to Israel through the soul-root of Shimon. Inner hearing (derher in Yiddish) comes with the deep sense of humility in the soul.

Even though Moses did not explicitly bless Shimon, our sages teach us that he alluded to him in the first word of his blessing to Judah (Deuteronomy 33:7): "Hear [shemah] G-d the voice of Judah...." (This phrase complements the verse "Hear O' Israel..."; in gematria, "Hear G-d the voice of Judah" = 602 = 7 ? 86 [Elokim, G-d], "Hear O' Israel..." = 1118 = 13 ? 86).
In the division of the land of Israel to the twelve tribes, Shimon inherited his portion within the larger portion of Judah (this is the only instance that one tribe inherited its portion within another). When the two names Shimon and Judah are added together: 466 plus 30 = 496 = malchut ("kingdom") Thus we learn that the malchut of Judah depends upon the "presence" and "partnership" of Shimon.

Judah corresponds to the month of Nissan and the sense of speech. Shimon corresponds to the month of Av (the first two letters and "sub-root" in Hebrew of the word aviv, the name in Torah for the month of Nissan) and the sense of hearing. Av is the 5th month from Nissan, whose letter is hei = 5.

The two senses of speaking and hearing are obviously a pair, just as in the sin of the people's hearing (accepting) the "evil tongue" spoken by the spies, the sin of the 9th of Av. Thus we conclude that the power of the month of Av (the month of [apparent] destruction) is to "hear" the message "spoken" by the month of Nissan (the month of redemption), and integrate the first and foremost power of Israel'sleadershipi nto the consciousness of the Jewish people.

This is the secret of the "pregnancy" and "birth" of Mashiach (the quintessential leader of Israel) from the 1st of Av (the beginning of his 9 day pregnancy) to the 9th of Av (his birth). He then fully unites with the consciousness of the people, "in matrimony," on the 15th of Av.

Sense: Hearing
"To hear" in Hebrew means "to understand," to fully integrate into one's consciousness (into one's heart, not only to understand intellectually in one's mind). To hear another is to fully understand his dilemma and emphasize with him. Hearing is receiving--kabbalah (first revealed by Rabbi Shimeon Bar Yochai).

In the beginning of Isaiah (read on the Shabbat before the 9th of Av), it says: "if you desire [tovu , from the word Av] and hear [the sense of Av], you shall partake of the goodness of the land."

The sense of hearing is the sense of inner balance, the foundation of rectified existence. (Imbalance is the source of all fall and destruction). A well balanced ear, a well oriented sense of hearing, possesses the ability to discern and distinguish in everything one hears truth from falseness, as is said (Job 12:11 and 34:3): "the ear discerns words" ozen malin tivchan (the initial letters of this phrase spell emet--"truth").

Controlling Limb: Left Kidney
The "advice" given by the left kidney is how to properly hear and integrate truth into one's consciousness.
In accordance with the general principle that "right" is always more spiritual than "left," the sense of thought (of the month of Iyar), controlled by the right kidney, is relatively more spiritual than the sense of hearing, controlled by the left kidney.
The two kidneys are the "male" and "female" advisors of the soul. The right kidney advises how to rectify one's character traits through the process of careful introspection (the sense of thought of the month of Iyar). The left kidney advises how to absorb truth into one's consciousness (the sense of hearing of the month of Av)

The word for kidney, kulyah, comes from kol--"all." Kol = 50. Our sages teach us that "at the age of 50 one is able to give advice." The two kidneys are two complementary sets of 50 (as the 50 parallel 50 loops of the two sets of the over-hang drapery of the Tabernacle). 50 plus 50 = 100 = 10 squared, the consummate state of rectification, 10 (powers of the soul) "interincluded" in 10.

Menachem Av
To the name of the fifth month of the Jewish year (according to the Jewish calendar, the months are counted from Nissan) -- Chodesh Av - - it is customary to add the name Menachem ("comforter," "consoler"; the name of Mashiach) -- Menachem Av.

Though in the scroll of Lamentations, that we read on Tisha b'Av, the day of the destruction of both the first and second Temples, we find: ein la menachem, "she has no consoler," the name of the month, which reflects its deepest essence, states that, in truth, there is a consoler, though in time of exile, he remains concealed.

The Ba'al Shem Tov teaches us that whenever the Hebrew word ein (spelled: alef, yud, nun), whose literal meaning is "no," appears in the Torah text, by changing its vowels to read ayin, the implied negation becomes transformed into a positive assertion. Ayin means "nothing," referring in Kabbalah to the Divine nothing from which all reality -- something -- is continuously recreated. The consciousness of ayin is identified by the Ba'al Shem Tov to be the source of the Jewish soul (based upon the rabbinic phrase, ein mazal l'yisrael, "Israel is under no astrological sign," which he reads ayin mazal l'yisrael, "the Divine nothing is the soul-source of Israel").

Thus, the above phrase from Lamentations, ein la menachem, may be read ayin la menachem, "the Divine nothing, the soul-source of Israel, is her consoler." In fact, the two words ein mazal, (read ayin mazal, as above), equal numerically the name Menachem (138).

Our sages teach us that from the outset of the month of Av, we are to "diminish" (mishenichnas Av, mema'atim...). This is the time to reach our soul-root of ayin, Divine nothingness, from which emanates our true, eternal consolation.

Av means "father." In Chassidut we are taught that just as our Father in heaven consoles us (as we read in the beginning of the haftorah of the Shabbat following Tisha b'Av: nachamu nachamu ami, yomar elokeichem, "Comfort, comfort My people, says your G-d"), so are we to console our Father in heaven (especially during the first nine days of Av), for, "woe to the Father who has exiled His children from His table" (Talmud, Berachot). We comfort Him by assuring Him that even in the darkest moments of our exile we retain perfect faith and trust in Him, that ultimately, all is for the good (though often we are unable to fathom this) and that our true and complete redemption is imminent.

The word Av is constructed of the first two letters of the Hebrew alphabet: alef, beit, which stand for (are the initial letters of) the two words emunah and bitachon, "faith" and "trust." In order to reach the initial alef and its subsequent beit, we ourselves, must return to our original alef, the Divine nothingness of our soul-root, as explained above.

May we merit this year to see our holy Temple rebuilt and standing eternally on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, with the coming of Mashiach, of whom it says, hinei zeh ba, "behold, he has come." The Hebrew word ba ("has come" or "is coming"; spelled: beit, alef) is actually the inversion of the word Av (spelled: alef, beit). The Mashiach's coming is Menachem Av. Amen.

The material contained in this blog entry has been prepared by gal einai institute, a United States non-profit organization dedicated to disseminating and implementing the inner wisdom of the Torah--Kabbalah and Chassidut--as taken from the teachings of rabbi yitzchak ginsburgh©5760-5765 (2000-2005) by Gal Einai Institute, All rights reserved