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!"