Sunday 29 June 2014

Why are Reform and Conservative Judaism dying: An important lesson for all Jews

«...Here's the something they did.  In the year 2000, they decided to borrow one million dollars to invest in the future growth of the congregation. After the long-serving, beloved rabbi retired, they hired a high-priced rabbi.. who lasted less than two years. That cost one-half million dollars. The other half-million was spent on programming, all kinds of programming­ big events, concerts, community lectures with high-priced nationally  renowned speakers, highly touted initiatives to get more people into  the synagogue on Shabbat-all sorts of things. Many of the programs had clever names, good marketing, and high appeal to specific segments of the community. Lots of people showed up for the programs and, by all accounts, enjoyed them. And then ... they left.
Nothing was done to change the ambiance of the congregation, which was widely considered cold and unwelcoming. Nothing was done to engage the people with others in attendance. Nothing was done to connect individuals with the congregation itself. Nothing was done to find out who they were. Nothing was done to follow up. Nothing was done to convince the members that the institution truly cared about them.  The result: after ten years of this initiative, the congregation was a million dollars in debt, and membership had shrunk to 300 households. By the time 1 got there, the leaders were kicking themselves, asking me what they could do to reinvigorate their community.  I told them what I will tell you.  It's all about relationships.   People will come to synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Federations, and other Jewish organizations for programs, but they will stay for relationships. Programs are wonderful opportunities for community members to gather, to celebrate, to learn. There is nothing "wrong" with programs; every organization has them. But, if the program designers have given no thought to how the experience will offer  participants a deeper connection to each other, with the community,  and with Judaism itself, then it will likely be another lovely evening,  afternoon, or morning ... with little or no lasting impact.  ...» 
Daas Torah - Issues of Jewish Identity: Why are Reform and Conservative Judaism dying: An important lesson for all Jews

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 26 June 2014

Jewish Tribune: The Power of Prayer

We all pray for the safe return of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali -- but how exactly does prayer work?

For further on this, please go to

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday 21 June 2014

Mussar: K'shot Atzm'cha ...

"As the Baal Shem Tov, z"l, explains, by turning our mind's eye toward examining our own faults, we come to find that the flaws of others occupy us less!"

Frequently this is the case:
When we find fault, then maybe it's time to look in the mirror

Kol Tuv,

Friday 20 June 2014

Simplifying the Complex

Rashi and Rambam are perhaps the most Popular Rishonim in history.

Ever Wonder how that happened?

Perhaps Einstein can help us understand how -
"The definition of genius is taking the complex and making it simple."

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius --- and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction."

~ Albert Einstein

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 19 June 2014

Can there be a Modern Day Korach?

Could it be that in this day and age we have people whose inspiration is Korach? And whose role models resemble Datan vaAviram?

Take for example Rabbi "Mered". A born rebel by nature, his main purpose in studying Torah is to show how everyone - especially rabbis - are wrong. The more wrong rabbis, the merrier!

Here are some telltale signs of the Modern Korach..

A. He looks to defy the establishment in general, the rabbinical establishment in particular

B. He shows up the "Moshe Rabbeinus" of his day with twisted or specious arguments, standing the simple understanding on its head

C. He posits that Torah is truly an egalitarian document by echoing "ki chol ho'eidah kullam Q'doshim ..."

D. He defends his minority point of view by arguing "So too were Koleiv and Yehoshu'a only a minority report". As if to say being a minority means he's correct somehow. Nd
While that's true that Koleiv-Yehoshua were indeed a minority - unlike Rabbi Mered - they did it to buttress Moshe Rabbeinu, not to defy him.

E. He will attempt to trump the authority of all rabbis by arguing from "higher authorities"

F He is continually stirring up machloqet.

G He will fail to see himself in any of his own attacks. IOW he lacks the introspection to see that he does the very things he attacks.

I. He holds platitudes such as "honesty" over the heads of his targets, yet isn't above cherry-picking
sources to further his own agenda.

If you run into some-one who fits this description you have found a Neo-Korach. For the mystically- minded maybe you've met Korach's "gilgul"

Disclaimer: while I myself have not met anyone who fits this description, it's possible that a composite made up of several people's characteristics would indeed resemble this portrait.


Wednesday 18 June 2014

Petition for Missing Israeli Teens

R Avrohom Gordimer -

Dear Friends,
Please sign the following petition on the U.S. government website to let the US government know that we are concerned about our missing teens in Israel.  Please pass this link onto anyone you can.  This petition is trying to get 100,000 signatures and needs signatures!
Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Doblin: Eric Cantor forgot voters will not be ignored - Opinion -
«Moderate Republicans lament the death of the party they know. Democrats rejoice at the prospect that the national GOP will move even further to the right, alienating mainstream voters nationally. All of this is worth noting, but a congressional district represents only a tiny piece of the national electorate. And primary voters are even a smaller slice.

This whole idea that the Tea Party is experiencing a renaissance is more myth than fact. Certainly, "House leadership" has been an oxymoron. Speaker John Boehner's Huckleberry Hound-dog face does little to inspire confidence in the Grand Old Party when he approaches a microphone. Listening to him Thursday bash President Obama for the chaos in Iraq made me ill. I'm not an Obama supporter, but the Iraqi quagmire was the gift of a Republican administration» 

Kol Tuv,

Monday 16 June 2014

Learn for #EyalGiladNaftali‏

Yeshiva Boys Dear Friend,

Jews across Israel and the world are consumed with worry and fear for the lives of Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel, the three boys kidnapped by terrorists in Gush Etzion this past week, on Thursday, June 12, 2014. Since then, the Israel Defense Forces and intelligence establishment have launched Operation Brother's Keeper and are leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to locate the teens and, with God’s help, return them to their parents unharmed.

Notwithstanding that ongoing heroic operation, the Jewish nation, since its inception, has known that in addition to such efforts on the ground, it must also “grasp the tools of their ancestors,” and appeal to God through Torah, tefillah (prayer), and ma’asim tovim (good deeds).

To that end, the Orthodox Union, with its international youth movement, NCSY, and its Department of Community Engagement and Synagogue Services, and in partnership with Bnei Akiva and the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), is launching a “virtual vigil” - an around-the-clock schedule of learning, prayer, and mitzvot, performed by OU/NCSY members and partners throughout the world. It is the hope of all involved that through these earnest efforts in the merit of Gilad Michoel ben Bat Galim, Yaakov Naftali ben Rachel Devorah and Eyal ben Iris Teshura, Hashem will see fit to bring them home safely and quickly.

Individuals interested in participating can go to and fill out a simple form to select a day and a 30-minute slot, and identify what activity they are committing to for that time. While it is our deepest desire that this campaign will become unnecessary even as it is launched, it is also our intent to continue this project non-stop until our boys are brought home.

Thank you.

Allen Fagin, Executive Vice President
Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, Executive Vice President, Emeritus

Learn now


OU Community ServicesNCSY at 60Rabbinical Council of AmericaBnei Akiva

Message from R. Adin Steinsaltz regarding the three kidnapped students.

Dear Friends,
This past Thursday evening, three teenage boys – two of them students at Rabbi Steinsaltz's Mekor Haim Yeshiva High School – were kidnapped. They were last seen in Gush Etzion, Alon Shevut. A massive manhunt is currently underway, by Israeli authorities.
We join the boys' families and Rabbi Steinsaltz in praying that the boys will return home safely and quickly.
The boys' names are:
Yaakov Naphtali ben Rachel Devorah
יעקב נפתלי בן רחל

Gil-Ad Michael ben Bat Galim
גיל-עד בן בת גלים 

Ayal ben Irit Teshurah.
אייל בן איריס

In light of this situation, Rabbi Steinsaltz has prepared a message for the people of Israel and for all Jews throughout the world, and asked us to share it with you. His message is included below.

May we merit to hear good news.

Message from Rav Steinsaltz:
The kidnapping of our students is a shocking, painful and frightening event. In a time and place that had seemed to us quiet and serene, we have been thrown into an event that we can do nothing to resolve.
Perhaps we are better off than in past times, when we were totally unable even to attempt rescue and deliverance. We are grateful to the Israel Defense Forces for all their efforts.
Still we, the families, the friends and the teachers of the kidnapped boys are standing with "idle hands" (Ecclesiastes 10:18.) All we have left now is to turn to our Father in Heaven and plead. We do not despair because we doubt our Heavenly Father. Rather we feel helpless because, "God is in Heaven and you are upon earth" (Ecclesiastes 5:1).
Thus, we can never know the extent our pleas and cries reach Heaven -- and also have some effect here, on earth. What we can do – and this has been the Jewish way from time immemorial – is to add more holiness and learn more Torah. If we can, each of us should take upon ourselves something additional, no matter how small, especially and explicitly devoted for the sake and well-being of the missing boys.
Furthermore, we Jews have always been accustomed to reciting the Psalms, and we certainly ought to do more of this, especially two psalms that seem to me most relevant: Psalms 142 and 143, chapters that literally deal with our plight.  We pray also for the safety of those who are working toward their rescue.
May it be God's will that in their merit, and for the merit of their suffering, together with our prayers and good deeds, we shall soon see our boys returned to us, God willing, safe and sound.
Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz

Sunday 15 June 2014


Nishma material can now be downloaded through J-APP, a free mobile application that gives you global, immediate access to Orthodox rabbis and educators.

Go to for more details.

Friday 13 June 2014

Why did the Jews get the Torah?

Anyone reading EG
The Ramban, Rabbenu B'chayei, or the Sefer HaChinuch can see how the various apsects of Pardeis inform and enhance each other. It becomes a tapestry of understanding truth and it's many facets

On the Other Hand, the mentality of many others seems to lack the Shiv'im Ponim Gene, and cannot fathom that the Torah is designed to be understood and examined from many and various perspectives.

EG -
«Nevertheless, are we to conclude that the philosophy taught through Kabbalah is godly? If it contradicts both Old and New Testament teaching, then how can it be from God? We conclude that it is not from God but is in reality yet another deception that proceeds out of the Garden of Eden where Satan said "you will be like God," (Gen. 3:5). The Edenic lie echoes through the hearts of mankind and has taken root in the philosophy of Kabbalah.»

What is Kabbalah? | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry

Torah understanding requires a large dose of ambiguity tolerance. It seems that this righly is a Jewish trait, a Gene legacy from Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, Sara, Rikva, Rochel, Lei'ah.

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 12 June 2014

Help Wanted: Youth Director for Anshei Olam Habba

Our ideal candidate will be:

1. Under age 30 with 25+ years experience.

2. Worth 100k a year but settle for 20K

3. Capable of running the entire shul's operations, but not be so ambitious as to threaten anyone already there.

4. In love with the youth, and with the elderly too, but not so much so as to be TOO lovable so as to cause friction with the parents.

5. Spontaneous and fun-loving and also super-organized paying attention tot details.

If you know anyone with these qualifications, please wake up from your dream ASAP

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Nishma Policy - Jewish Nationalism and the Challenge of Its Uniqueness: Yeshiva Students and the Draft

NISHMA: Policy is devoted to analyzing policy issues within the world of Torah.

I have just uploaded the latest post, entitled Jewish Nationalism and the Challenge of Its Uniqueness: Yeshiva Students and the Draft, which reflects on how shifts in God-consciousness in Jewish nationalism is affecting Israel.

I invite you to take a look...and comment.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Expand Your Knowledge of Our Liturgy - 2

More information -

In Memory Of Rabbi Isaiah Wohlgemuth Z"L

Designer Of The Beurei Hatefila
Method Of Study. By continuing our study of the סידור, we preserve his legacy.
יהיה זכרו ברוך

Kol Tuv,

Monday 9 June 2014

Expand Your Knowledge of Our Liturgy

«Man's true function is to know
G-d, and to make G-d known:
he can know G-d only through His
revelation, and he can comprehend that. revelation only by continued study»

~ Philo

Beurei Hatefila Home

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Shavuot: Assavim vs. Ilanot

See Rema O"Ch 494:3 who brings down "Assavim"

See there Ba'er Hetev 7 who adds "l'haamid Ilanot" quoting Magen Avraham [MGA]

See M"B 10
First he quoties Rema re: Assavim
Then he quotes MGA re: Ilanot

Apparently the way the M"B frames it, the GRA opposes Ilanots [MGA] and not [so much] Assavim [Rema]

This may be verified by Maaseh Rav who mentions davka Ilanot.

Kein Nir'eh Lee.

Kol Tuv,

Monday 2 June 2014

Jewish Tribune - Yizkor: There is joy in the holidays

The recitation of Yizkor on the holidays presents somewhat of an issue. Within the realm of Halacha, the emotions of Simchat Yom Tov, the joy of the holidays, are deemed to be inherently in opposition to those of Aveilut, mourning for those who have passed away. They're potential co-existence is, thus, always a halachic issue with the former, generally, overriding the latter. Is the recitation of Yizkor on Yom Tov, thus, not somewhat of a paradox -- why would it be recited on these days?

For further on this, please go to

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Sunday 1 June 2014

Akdamut, Y'tziv Pitgam

1. How come both Akdamut and Y'tziv Pitgam are in Aramaic?

2. How come Akdamut comes before the Laining, and Y'tziv Pitgam follows 1 or 2 P'sukkim?

3. Who is the Yehonatan in Y'tziv Pitgam?

One approach answers them all

Both were designed as introductions to the Targum on the Laining of the First Day and the Haftarah of the 2nd Day, respectively.

1. Thus they are in Aramaic

2. Thus they come after the laining of a passuk and before the Targum. And this was true for both during the era of the Rishonim. For some reason the Acharonim changed Akdamut to precede the b'rachah, but left Y'tziv Pitgam as is.

3. Yehonatan refers to Yehonatan Ben Uziel, the author of the Targum on N'viim, including Habakuk.

Kol Tuv,