Wednesday 31 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy, 3 Communities, 3 Reactions

I found this so cute and part of our "Divine Comedy"

Due to the impending Storm Sandy -

1. Breuer's immediately cancelled its reception for Rav Gelley Sh'lita

2. Breslover adamantly stuck to its plans for a gala siyyum

3. Cong. Mt. Sinai in Wash Heights and Cong. Beth Aaron in Teaneck too a "wait and see" attitude.

I found this so "stereotypical" and it brought a big smile to my face.

Stay safe!

Shalom and Best Regsrds,

Tuesday 30 October 2012

"To Bigotry No Sanction..."

I'm very Impressed.

So far, no one in Bergen County has made any disparaging remarks to me about the President's Race. It seems that we've grown past racial bigotry

Yet, oddly enough, I've heard many reservations about the Mormon [LDS] religion. Have we gotten past religious bigotry yet - at least here in Bergen County?

Shalom and Best Regsrds,

Should Rabbis Engage in Partisan Politics

«Given this background, and given the close presidential campaign, one might think that I would jump at the chance to sway the election by signing up with one of the competing lists of rabbis supporting President Obama or Governor Romney ... But instead, I find the entire enterprise unsettling.»

This Rabbi Is Against Rabbis for Obama/Romney - The Huffington Post


My take is simple. Rabbis in pulpits should stay clear of partisanship.

Since I no longer have a pulpit and effectively I only "dabble, I don't feel constrained to avoid partisanship

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Monday 29 October 2012

R Broyde on Prayer Direction

«Direction in Prayer

A. The Two Talmudic Sources

The Talmud discusses the issue of direction in prayer in two different places—Berakhot and Bava Batra. The two sugyot take different forms—a Beraita about the direction of prayer and a series of Amoraitic statements about the presence of God—and come to seemingly divergent conclusions as to the direction one ought to face while praying.

In Berakhot 30a the Talmud states that one should pray facing Israel and the Beit ha-Mikdash:...

Yet, in a series of Amoraic statements, the Talmud in Bava Batra 25a-b seemingly contradicts the aforementioned Beraita.»

Orientation During Prayer | Hirhurim – Torah Musings

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Sunday 28 October 2012

How To Get Free Movies Online - Legally

Hoepfully this will show us How To Get Free Movies Online - Legally AND ethically!

Shalom and Best Regards,

P. Lech Lecha - Guarantees

Guest Blogger R Joe Potasnik, EVP of the NY Board of Rabbis

Parsha Thought...
Sometimes when I officiate at a wedding, a couple will ask, "Rabbi, do you guarantee this marriage?" My response is always the same. "I will guarantee it for the duration of the ceremony." Obviously life does not come with iron-clad guarantees.
Perhaps this week's parsha Lech Lecha reminds us that we cannot succeed unless we are willing to take necessary risks. When we select a college, we are not certain we have picked the right place until after we are there.  When we choose a profession, we do not know that we will enjoy it until we are in it. When we pick a life partner we cannot receive any assurance the relationship will last a lifetime.
Our past president and colleague Rabbi Charles Klein, reminded me that the Almighty took a chance when creating the world since God's inner cabinet of angels advised that humans had potential to be destructive.  Rabbi Saul Teplitz in his popular book, Life is for the Living, writes about Rafael Solaro who was discouraged in his attempt to find any precious stones.  Rafael and his two companions spent months prospecting for diamonds in a Venezuelan water course in 1942. As he was about to abandon the project, one of the seekers suggested that he pick one more which would be the millionth pebble. Solaro listened and pulled one out of a pile that was the size of a hen's egg.  For that millionth pebble New York jeweler Harry Winston paid him $200,000 - a record amount during that period.
Thus Abraham took a chance by embarking on a difficult journey. It may be the reason we as a people are here today.

Shalom and Best Regards,

Saturday 27 October 2012

Mussar: Today I Can!

From Derech Emet Group

TODAY I CAN by Ralph Holt

What kind of day shall I choose today?

Today I can complain about my health,
Or I can celebrate being alive.

Today I can moan that it is raining,
Or be joyful at all that grows from the rain.

Today I can regret all I do not have,
Or rejoice in everything I do.

Today I can mourn everything I have lost,
Or eagerly anticipate what is to come.

Today I can complain that I have to work,
Or celebrate having a job to go to.

Today I can resent the mess the kids make,
Or give thanks that I have a family.

Today I can whine about the housework,
Or celebrate having a home.

Today I can cry over the people who do not care for me,
Or be happy loving and being loved by those who do.

I choose to have a good day today!!!


Choose Tov
Choose Chaim
Choose to make Today the Best Day!

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Friday 26 October 2012

Conservatives Walking Intermarriage Tightrope

«In two new books and a poll, the middle movement struggles to find balance on thorny issue.....

It's long been a truism that, of the major streams of American Judaism, the Conservative movement is the one with the largest gap between bima and pew.»

The Jewish Week | Connecting the World to Jewish News, Culture, and Opinion

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Thursday 25 October 2012

Jewish Tribune: A Child and Decision to Convert (3)

There was a case recently, in England, which was reported as allowing a Jewish ten-year-old girl to convert to Christianity. That was not the actual decision, though. What the case still revealed, however, were not adversities for us from the outside world but, rather, problems and weaknesses in our modern understandings of Jewishness.

In a series of articles in the Jewish Tribune, I further investigate this. For the third in the series, please see

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Wednesday 24 October 2012

FYI: OU Biennial Convention

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Bring Alan Gross Home!

«Alan Gross has already spent over 1,000 days in prison and is approaching  his third year of unjust incarceration in Cuba.  Since being detained, Alan has suffered immensely.  He has lost 105 pounds, has degenerative arthritis, and has a concerned mass behind his right shoulder.  In addition, both his mother and daughter were diagnosed with cancer.
Judy Gross, Alan's wife, is requesting that members of the rabbinical community sign a letter to President Raul Castro (provided beneath Judy's letter) urging his immediate release on humanitarian grounds, or at a minimum, to permit him to receive an independent medical assessment, by a doctor of his own choosing.»

Bring Alan Home - Home Page

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Rabbi Michael Broyde on Women’s Only Torah Reading

«My own view is that a women's Torah reading on Simchat Torah (without brachot), like women's tefillah groups generally, are unwise and halachically improper, although not a technical violation of halacha.  I have two reasons for this position – the first is a halachic approach and the second a sociological one grounded in halachic values.


As to the substance of my view: I favor increasing women's participation in Orthodox life and in the synagogue through increased participation in Torah study and other mitzvah-centered activity. As a general rule, I believe that women should be supported and encouraged to do genuine mitzvot, and not directed to activity that only has the superficial appearance of a mitzvah. The halachic defense of women's torah reading (without brachot) is exactly that it is not a proper Torah reading at all (because no minyan is present, women are reading, etc.), and thus I think it an unwise idea because it focuses women away from the central purpose of religious conduct – the performance of mitzvot.  Although I do not feel such conduct is assur in the technical sense of the word, I think it is imprudent and unwise, since it is conducted in a way that is designed to mimic the mitzvah of Torah reading in the synagogue, without fulfilling that obligation at all.[2]  Women are better served as a matter of halacha attending a regular Torah reading and not merely mimicking a mitzvah.»

Women's Only Torah Reading | Hirhurim – Torah Musings

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Monday 22 October 2012

To Boycott or Not to Boycott? - Jewish Leaders Weigh Response to Protestant Letter on Israel

"Liberal Protestants live side by side with Jews, and rabbis have relationships with local ministers," Marans said. "Once the antipathy toward Israel of some national leaders is communicated in the context of these relationships, the local religious leadership is heard from and communicates to their national leadership their concerns...."
Incensed Jewish groups weigh response to Protestant letter on Israel | The Times of Israel

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Sunday 21 October 2012

Is Obama a Modern Nimrod?


Comment -
Note that this was written in 2009. How prescient was it?

I'm not sure how far to carry this analogy. It does seem fair that Obama is a "centralizer" eager to collect more power in Washington at the expense of private enterprize and local government, and also more power to the UN at the expense of Washington.

Regardless of the degree of this analogy, it seems wise to be vigilant with regard to those who save us from ourselves at the expense of our freedom. See EG Erich Fromm's "Escape from Freedom"

Also note, while the post itself is slanted against Obama, the comments section has sufficient rebuttal to allow this to comply with "equal time".

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Saturday 20 October 2012

Mussar: 10 Steps to Greatness

From Derech Emet Group:

10 Steps To Greatness by Rabbi Avigdor Miller
(Orthodox, born 1908, died 2001) from tape # 706

Do the following once a day
(if this is too much, maybe do one a day):

1. Spend 30 seconds thinking about Olam HaBa.

2. Say once privately: I LOVE YOU HASHEM!

3. Do one hidden or anonymous act of kindness.

4. Be like HaShem who lifts the humble;
say something to encourage someone.

5. Spend 1 minute about what happened yesterday
(Cheshbon HaNefesh).

6. Make all your actions should be LeShem Shamayim;
(say once during meals that you eat LeShem Shamayim.

7. Look at the face [of a righteous Jew] and think:
I see the Image of G_d (tzelem Elokim).

8. Give someone a big or full smile.

9. Appreciate your clothing for 30 seconds.

10. Sit briefly on floor and mourn the
Churban Beit HaMikdash.

He recommended doing the above exercises for thirty days.

"If you feel exhausted, take a break and come back slowly.
To become great, you have to be extreme."

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Friday 19 October 2012

The Resurgence of the Sabbath - A Dialogue between Rabbi and Minister

«...An insistence on creating sacred time and space is one of the key components of nearly all faiths. Traditional Jews and many Christian denominations observe one day a week of sanctified rest. Muslims around the world pause five times a day to bow in prayer. Many religions derived from Eastern traditions include a daily meditative practice. While many Americans feel distant from religion, establishing fixed times for personal renewal has universal appeal...»

A Rabbi and A Minister Talk About a Resurgence of the Sabbath – Tablet Magazine

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Thursday 18 October 2012

Jewish Tribune: A Child and Decision to Convert (2)

There was a case recently, in England, which was reported as allowing a Jewish ten-year-old girl to convert to Christianity. That was not the actual decision, though. What the case still revealed, however, were not adversities for us from the outside world but, rather, problems and weaknesses in our modern understandings of Jewishness.

In a series of articles in the Jewish Tribune, I further investigate this. For the second in the series, please see

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Wednesday 17 October 2012

A Hashkafic Statement and Campaign Request

“And why was it that the law was established like Beit Hillel?
...they studied their words and also the words of Beit Shammai
and, even more so, always presented the words of Beit Shammai first.”
T.B. Eruvin 13b
Dear Friend:
Most of us have heard this famous statement from the gemara at some point but how many of us have really considered its profound implications?
Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai were each adamantly committed to the Halacha as they understood it. Yet, Beit Hillel made a point of ensuring that the view of Beit Shammai – the view with which they fully disagreed – was still articulated, studied, even presented first.
Imagine how fundamentally this policy must have underlined and influenced Beit Hillel’s entire world view? Now, go one step further -- imagine how different the world would be today if we all followed Beit Hillel’s example!
Every day we are confronted -- individually, communally and nationally -- with a multitude of important questions. Israel, women in Judaism, the influence of secular culture – these are just some of the serious issues facing today’s Jew committed to living a life rich in Torah insight. How different would the language of debate and discussion be if each of us respectfully presented the opposing view? Not only would this encourage greater harmony within the Torah world but it is only by considering every Halachic opinion that we are able to immerse ourselves in the full Wisdom of the Divine.

This is no easy utopia to achieve. Learning how to truly think from a different perspective is a strenuous intellectual and moral challenge. However, as Jews, this challenge is our inheritance and, most importantly, our duty. Nishma’s objective is to further this ideal. Nishma offers education and guidance to Jews across the world with the goal of developing a community seeped in this value of Beit Hillel. Our numerous articles and extensive on-line library of classes delve into the important issues of our day with in-depth analysis that incorporates and promotes our core principle: Eilu v’Eilu Divrei Elokim Chaim.
At Nishma, we firmly believe that true love of Torah comes after struggling with the vastness found in the spectrum of ideas inherent in Judaism - not because we are to be any less steadfast in our positions but because we recognize that this is the Divine Will.
Please join us in this vision by generously responding to this request. Donations can be made on line, by PayPal,through the appropriate icon in the right hand margin.  Thank you for  support.

With Torah blessings for the New Year,
Rabbi Benjamin Hecht
Founding Director

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Reclaiming Religious Liberty - the Most Cherished American Freedom

Guest Blogger: Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

"Reclaiming Religious Liberty the Most Cherished American Freedom"
 An address by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz,
Spiritual Leader of Agudas Achim North Shore Congregation & founding Chairman of the Legislative Commission of the Chicago Rabbinical Council
Delivered at Halas Hall, Lake Forest, Illinois, October 14, 2012

The First Amendment to our Constitution, in a heretofore-unprecedented statement, restricts the government from placing limits upon any religious practice or establishing a specific religion.  Yet, in his farewell address to the nation, Pres. George Washington advises:

"Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports." He continues "… And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."

 Considering the revolutionary period, it is a bit odd that George Washington, the gentleman from Virginia, the General who led our forces to victory, who occupied the famed chair of the rising sun during the deliberations of the Continental Congress, as Benjamin Franklin noted, symbolic of the very birth of our nation, presents us with the seeming paradox of our country's unique principle foundation. While stressing the pivotal importance of religion in determining morality, he, as our other founding fathers, elected to create a society in which the government and the church are separate with the law protecting the church or more appropriately, the free expression of all religious denominations, from any interference by the government.

How did Washington understand this unique approach was to function?  If religion is indispensable, how was it to affect our society, and the manner in which we govern ourselves?

May I suggest that it was understood by our first President, and indeed by all our founding fathers, that the principles by which our society would function both in terms of the daily interpersonal relationships of its citizens and the enactment of law by its government, would be based upon what we commonly refer to as the Judeo-Christian ethic, the shared moral values of Judaism and Christianity.

It is for us then to determine what exactly this cornerstone of society, this Judeo-Christian ethic actually means. May I, as a Rabbi, offer some understanding of it in terms of my Jewish tradition.

Unlike Christianity, which seeks its moral and ethical guidance through the concept of agape, love, as evidenced by G-d to man, and as expressed in the life of Jesus of Nazareth, Judaism sees its morality in the law. The first five books of the Old Testament contain 613 specific G-d ordained commandments. Expressed both in the positive and the negative, they constitute the rules and regulations by which a society must function and, in turn, its morality. Indeed they encompass the entire spectrum of human endeavor. In administering these laws, this Jewish morality, our judges, our rabbis, are instructed that, in situations where a specific law is not clearly found, they must go beyond the letter of the law,  "doing what is right in the eyes of the L-rd" Deuteronomy 13:18, extrapolating from the law the moral direction required to deal with the situation placed before them.  It is these laws, the laws found in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Torah, to which our founding fathers referred when developing our Constitution.

To highlight this point – It is clear from the Torah that, in administering justice, the individual whose actions are to be judged is considered innocent until proven guilty. It is the task of the prosecutor to bring forward the evidence necessary to convict the individual. One can postulate that this principle is premised upon the fact that G-d is our Creator and therefore our true judge, and only out of necessity is man allowed to stand in judgment over his fellow.

Considering the basis of British Common law, the law that was in force in the colonies prior to the Revolution, this foundational principle of American jurisprudence is a major departure. Rooted in the Divine right of kings to rule over their subjects, British law accuses an individual of wrongdoing. It falls to the individual to prove his innocence. Rooted in the Judeo-Christian ethic, American law charges an individual with wrongdoing. It falls to the State to prove the guilt of the individual beyond a reasonable doubt.

America's own history tragically bears witness to the suffering experienced when our society ignores these definitive moral guideposts. Our collective Judeo-Christian heritage makes abundantly clear that a touchstone of a moral society, a G-dly society, which walks in the paths of righteousness, is that compassionate society, which cares for the poor and the afflicted. It is this compassion that creates the human being out of a mere homo-sapien.

Yet, in 1927, a case was brought before the United States Supreme Court known as Buck versus Bell. The case dealt with a woman by the name of Carrie Buck, who was determined unfit to reproduce because she was considered to be retarded. She had been placed in the Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, where she was convinced to undergo a form of tubule ligation.

That determination of retardation was made by Harry Laughlin of the Eugenics Record Office in Cold Springs Harbor, New York, then the premier institution in the United States in the field of eugenics. Laughlin never met Carrie Buck, basing his decision largely upon the statement of a nurse who said the following regarding the Buck family. "These people belong to the shiftless, ignorant, and worthless class of antisocial whites of the South."

 Laughlin determined that sterilization would be "a force for the mitigation of race degeneracy."

Basing his ruling on a Massachusetts law mandating vaccination for public school children. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, an icon of the liberal and progressive movements in the United States, wrote the following in his one-page ruling, "the principle that sustains compulsory vaccination is broad enough to cover cutting the fallopian tubes. It. is better for all the world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind. Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

The only Justice dissenting from this opinion was Justice Pierce Butler, a Catholic, following the then common practice of the court not to write dissenting opinions. In a time when eugenics was considered all the rage in the United States, it was the Catholic Church, which stood in opposition to this godless approach to human life. It is important to note that the Supreme Court never formally rejected the fundamental principle in Buck versus Bell, generally referred to as negative eugenics, removing, in this instance, sterilizing "undesirable" individuals in society, much as one thins out weak cattle from the herd. The ultimate goal is the same – to create a super human being – the perfect American human specimen.

There comes to mind, the hellish spectre of a decrepit Hitler, slowly rising from his exalted seat in the pit of eternal damnation, with a confident smile of victory upon his face, raising his hand in the Nazi salute, mustering his last ounce of strength and shouting:  "Ach meine kinder, meine kinder - Amerika über alles!"

President Washington, the proverbial Biblical Prophet, exorts us to be ever on the alert, ever vigilant, warning, "that no national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle." We must be ready to do battle in defense of this fundamental underpinning of American society, taking on those who would distort, and thereby weaken, the Judeo-Christian ethic, the very basis of this magnificent experiment in governance we call, the United States of America. The concept of religious freedom encapsulated in the first amendment to our Constitution defines our society. The very future of the United States depends upon it.

Monday 15 October 2012

My Debate with Pastor Ted Haggard over Same Sex Marriages

The debate lasts just 10 minutes but it clearly was a thoughtful exchange. 

Please take a look at is a new website, based in Israel, that promotes the opportunity for debates -- from serious to humorous. Watch or set up your own.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 14 October 2012

Understanding the History of M'zigat Hakkos

«... But the most dramatic difference between Roman and modern wine is that the Romans never drank wine on its own; they always mixed it with other ingredients. Indeed, the practice of drinking wine straight was regarded as barbaric. Most often, wine was simply diluted. The amount of water added depended on the circumstances (it was up to the host to decide) and the temperature, *but the proportions were typically one part wine to three parts water.* Diluting wine served two purposes:
• it made it into a thirst-quenching drink that could be consumed in large quantities, and
• the presence of alcohol also made the water safe to drink, an important consideration in the growing cities of the Roman Empire, as it still was in 18th-century Europe.»
The history of drinking: Uncorking the past | The Economist

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Friday 12 October 2012

Torah, She Wrote - A Sign of the Times

« In 2007, Taylor Friedman, now 32, was believed to have become the first known soferet, or female ritual scribe, to complete a Torah scroll in modern times. Today she is working on her fourth, and estimates by various people of the number of other women working as sofrot range from nine to 50. But acceptance of the practice is still confined to a small community.»

Torah, She Wrote - Jerusalem Post - Jewish Ideas Daily

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Thursday 11 October 2012

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Jewish Tribune: A Child and Decision to Convert (1)

There was a case recently, in England, which was reported as allowing a Jewish ten-year-old girl to convert to Christianity. That was not the actual decision, though. What the case still revealed, however, were not adversities for us from the outside world but, rather, problems and weaknesses in our modern understandings of Jewishness.

In a series of articles in the Jewish Tribune, I further investigate this. For the first in the series, please see

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Israel's Prospects under a 2nd Term

«In my view, the number one danger Israel faces is not Iran, but Egypt.

A radical regime now exists in Cairo that wants to wipe Israel off the map, is willing to help Hamas - which rules the Gaza Strip - on that project, and might get directly involved itself.

During Obama's second term, Israel is likely to face sporadic attacks from the Gaza Strip that periodically it will have to retaliate against. Obama will remain aloof on this problem, which isn't good but is manageable. The real difficulty is whether Hamas launches an all-out attack as it did in late 2008.

But this time it would have some level of Egyptian support. Such help could take many forms: ...»

What Does Israel Do If Obama Is Reelected? | JewishPress

Shalom and Best Reagrds,

Saturday 6 October 2012

Mussar: Say Something Positive

From Derech Emet

from Positive Word Power by The Chafetz Chaim Heritage Foundation, based on the work of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin:
The positive word is so powerful that one may not bypass the opportunity to speak it.

Noticing something positive about someone, thinking it, but not saying it is wrong.

Gmar Tov,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Friday 5 October 2012

Ve'yerei Shamayim Yeitzei et Kulam

Many have "alleged" that the Mishnah B'rurah and others invented or devised a system to be Yotzei y'dei kol Hasheetot

Yet in a Recent M"B Yomit I ran across this same sentiment in the M'chabbeir

See SA O"Ch 15:4 with regard to torn corners of a begged having Tzitzis. The 2 Sheetot mentioned are Rashi and Rav Amram Gaon. There are also 2 Sheetot as to how to "read" or to "understand" Rav Amram Gaon's P'sak.

Ayyein Sham.

Gmar Tov,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Thursday 4 October 2012

US Supreme Court Rejects Rubashkin's Appeal

«In urging justices to deny the appeal, the Office of the Solicitor General argued Rubashkin failed to prove that Reade should have recused herself or that he suffered any actual bias as a result. Reade has said that she was never informed who the target of the raid would be or where it would take place. Instead, she was involved in bringing in enough judges and court staff to have hearings at an offsite location, the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, which was used because of the large number of defendants.

The solicitor general's office also noted that Rubashkin's sentence was within advisory guidelines.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentence last year.»

Gmar Tov,
Best Wishes for 5773!

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Is Attacking Jihad Equivalent to Attacking All Moslems?

«... woman who stood between a self-professed activist's spray painting attack of an anti-jihad poster in New York City told MailOnline she plans to sue over the encounter.
Speaking exclusively, Pamela Hall said that during her 'defense of free speech' her clothing and her equipment was damaged by Mona Eltahawy, 45, an Egyptian-born U.S. activist.

Eltahawy was arrested Tuesday on charges of criminal mischief and making graffiti for spray painting an advertisement equating Muslim radicals with savages inside a subway station.»

Mona Eltahawy: EXCLUSIVE: Woman 'attacked' while defending anti-jihad subway ad plans to sue 'activist' who sprayed HER | Mail Online

Gmar Tov,
Best Wishes for 5773!