Tuesday 31 March 2015

After the Election: Thoughts on Israeli Politics | Douglas Aronin | The Blogs | The Times of Israel

Douglas Aronin:
«None of these lessons is breaking news.  Collectively, however, they go a long way toward explaining the results of this election.  Israelis have a wide range of views on economic, social and religious issues.  But for many, there is a threshold determination that precedes consideration of those issues.  Many Israelis, before casting a vote that could help bring a new prime minister into office, first need to feel comfortable that the would-be prime minister is tough enough to entrust with the country's security.  Yitzchak Herzog, the Labor Party's leader, has yet to succeed in making that case.  It's not that Israelis dislike Herzog — Netanyahu is more widely disliked – it's that they don't know Herzog well enough to feel comfortable leaving the safety of Israel's people in his hands....»

Kol Tuv,

Sunday 29 March 2015

United with Israel: The Priority of Unity

No matter what issues exist within the Jewish People, we must always consider the value of unity. I expand upon this thought, in the context of our present issues involving Israel, in my latest blog post on United with Israel, "The Priority of Unity".

The post can be seen at http://unitedwithisrael.org/the-priority-of-unity/ where it has 1,373 likes and 1 comment. It is also available on the UwI Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/unitedwithisrael   where it has 1,331 likes, 100 shares and 14 comments. Feel free to comment here or there.

Saturday 28 March 2015

Mussar: The Proper Love for God Is

The Proper Love for God Is -

To be constantly enraptured by GOD like a love-sick individual
whose mind is never free from the passion that fills his heart at all times

Rambam as per
Artscroll comment on Shir Hashirim

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 26 March 2015

The Exodus in History: Can There Be Archaeological Evidence of Supernatural Events?

Rabbi Hecht's latest video shiur on Koshertube

The Exodus in History: Can There Be Archaeological Evidence of Supernatural Events?

It's not the question and/or answer which is really the focus but, rather, the recognition of what acceptance of Yetziat Mitzrayim must include -- a time when there was a supernatural reality which we can neither fathom or even comprehend.

B"H Not Everyone is Drinking the Kool-Aid

Black ministers siding with Netanyahu


Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 25 March 2015

A Speaking God

Guest Blogger:
Rav Yehuda Rapoport

«My article "A Speaking God," has been published in the newest issue of HaYidion (my article starts on page 30). 

All the best,
Rav Yehuda Rapoport

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Caution: Please Inform People of this Danger

Guest Blogger
Rav Dov Fischer:

In light of the recent tragedy in Brooklyn yesterday, killing 7 people* – I urge everyone to follow these advisories:
Every bedroom and hallway should have a working smoke detector. Batteries should be changed religiously twice a year when you change the clock.  Smoke detectors are effective in waking up sleeping residents in time to escape.  If you have an alarm system – get smoke detectors hooked up to your central monitoring station.
Plan an escape route with all home residents – even minors.  In case of
fire, doors should be closed as a barrier to the fire spreading even if one is fleeing.
Install Carbon Monoxide detectors on each floor as well.  CO is odorless and
is formed from incomplete combustion from any non-electric device such as ovens, ranges, dryers, water heaters, etc.  It causes people to sleep rather than flee – which is why CO detectors save lives.
Use common sense when lighting candles or placement of hot plates – far away from any fire hazard. Place the candlesticks for Shabbat candles on an aluminum tray.
Do not use extension cords for high-wattage and high-voltage items.

When using timers for items like an electric blech or a hot-water urn, use
the kinds of timers that are labeled as strong enough to handle window air conditioners.

Do not bypass your fuse boxes and electric "trippers" or "breakers."

Avoid off-brand hot plates, like some that are sold in "heimish" stores. Be
certain to use only UL-Listed hot plates.
* http://nypost.com/2015/03/21/3-kids-killed-in-tragic-brooklyn-blaze/  
Rabbi Dov Fischer
Kol Tuv,

Monday 23 March 2015

Fire Safety and Shabbos / Yom Tov

I just sent the e-mail below to my Shul.
Feel free to copy and re-send
Besoros Tovos.
Akiva Males
         Rabbi Akiva Males
    Kesher Israel Congregation
         2500 N. Third Street
       Harrisburg, PA  17110
            (717) 238-0763

abc-2Kesher Israel E-Mail Update

Fire Safety and Shabbos / Yom Tov
An unfathomable tragedy occurred in Brooklyn, NY this past Shabbos. A Jewish family's home caught fire, and seven wonderful children perished. (An account of yesterday's heart-rending funerals can be read HERE.)
The cause of the fire seems to have been a hot plate that had been set up for Shabbos.
As the holiday of Pesach approaches, let's all be sure that we've done our utmost to protect our homes and families.
Here is a partial list of safety recommendations:
1) Each floor of our homes should have at least one smoke detector
2) Each home should have at least one carbon monoxide (CO) detector near the sleeping areas (please ensure all smoke / CO detectors are in working condition)
3) The batteries in those detectors should be tested / replaced whenever the clock is changed
4) Every home should have a simple-to-use and highly accessible fire extinguisher on each floor (yesterday, I found one at Lowe's for under $15)
5) Create and familiarize your family with a fire emergency plan
6) Shabbos / Yom Tov candles should be lit in a safe place (i.e. on a sturdy and non-flammable surface, away from curtains, out of reach of children / pets, etc.)
7) If gas stoves / ovens are left on, a kitchen window needs to be left open a few inches to provide ventilation (thereby avoiding potential CO poisoning)
8) Electrical appliances (i.e. hot water heaters, crock pots, hot plates, etc.) should be UL listed
9) Extension cords should not be used for kitchen appliances
10) Only 'heavy-duty' electrical timers should be used with kitchen appliances
11) In all emergencies, do not hesitate to call 911
After doing our best to keep our homes and families safe, we can truly wish one another a Chag Same'ach / Good Tom Tov.

Kesher Israel Congregation | 2500 N. Third Street | Harrisburg | PA | 17110

Sunday 22 March 2015

Fire Safety Information, Please share with your communities

Fire Safety for Jewish Observances
(City of New York Fire Department)

From the OU


Chaya Malka Burn Foundation

Teaneck Fire Department

National Fire Protection Association

Posts on Teaneck Shuls

Fire Safety for Children

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 21 March 2015

Mussar: Just Light One Candle

"The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom."

------ Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook

Kol Tuv,

Thursday 19 March 2015

“He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate”

Eliav Shochetman: "He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will Ultimately Become Cruel to the Compassionate"


Scorchin' Torah and Strange Thoughts: Quote for the Day: Cruel to be Merciful?


Perhaps less absolutely:

"He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel Will Likely Become Cruel to the Compassionate"


"He Who is Compassionate to the Cruel is Prone to Becoming Cruel to the Compassionate"

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Huffington Post: All Religious People Aren't the Same

There is so much talk in the world these days about religion and being religious. There is a problem, though, in that people are locked into their own perceptions of these terms. See further on this in my latest Huffington Post blog: All Religious People Aren't the Same.

My original title for the post, btw, was 'God' but it was changed by the editors.

Please feel free to comment here or there.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Sacrifice Terminology - Korban

Here is some trivia to contemplate...

In which Books of Tanach can the term "Korban" [in its many forms] be found regarding various sacrifices; as opposed to using terms like Zevach, etc.

Credit for this insight goes to R Sacha Pecaric who has translated the Humash into Polish wherein he discussed this curious phenomenon.

Consult a good, robust Concordance. See if a pattern emerges.

Kol Tuv,

New Zealand and the Jews


Kol Tuv,

Monday 16 March 2015

Shiur Central: Tahara and Tumah Through the Eyes of Rambam


Kol Tuv,

'People are really good at heart'

Guest Blogger: Eli Rubenstein

Anne Frank's short life came to a tragic end in the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen Belsen some 70 years ago this month. This article by Eli Rubenstein addresses her remarkable legacy and one of her most famous - and perhaps controversial - quotes. The article, originally published in the Canadian Jewish News, can also be downloaded here:

Eli, who has been involved with Nishma for many years, is the national director of March of the Living Canada, a program sponsored by Jewish Federations of Canada and local Jewish UJA/CJA Federations. This piece is excerpted from Witness: Passing the Torch of Holocaust Memory to New Generations, to be published by Second Story Press,  Fall 2015. 

* * * * *

'People are really good at heart'
Seventy years after her death, it's time to ask: was Anne Frank right?

As we mark 70 years since the death of Anne Frank – in Bergen-Belsen some time in March of 1945, just weeks before liberation – it is worth recalling the dev-astating critique Cynthia Ozick wrote for the New Yorker almost 20 years ago.

In her well known essay, Ozick actually suggested that it would have been better if Anne Frank’s work had been burned, and never seen the light of day

Yet, when one re-rereads her writing one can’t help but be amazed by the literary skill and idealism on display in The Diary of a Young Girl, a work that has been translated into 67 languages and read by 30 million people.

Anne Frank was thinking and writ-ing about subjects that many –  myself included – would only begin to contem-plate much later in life, and expressing herself in ways which most writers far be-yond her years could only hope to aspire to. And this from a 14-year-old girl locked in an attic for two years…

Here are just a few small examples

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go out-side, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sor-row, whatever the circumstances may be.”

“You can be lonely even when you are loved by many people, since you are still not anybody’s one and only.”

Perhaps her most famous quote is this one: “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of every-thing, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

So what disturbed Ozick so much?

Of course, Ozick was not criticizing Anne Frank but, rather, what had become of her after her death –  the way her story was diluted and distorted  – especially by the overuse and misuse of the  “good at heart” quote mentioned above.

Ozick argued that the Broadway play and film about Anne Frank removed almost all references to Anne Frank’s Jewishness and the culpability of the Germans, along with most expressions of pessimism and sadness recorded in her diary, transforming her ultimately tragic story, into an upbeat, redemptive tale of humour and hope.

Ozick was especially infuriated by the prevailing usage of the phrase “people are really good at heart,” because it eclipsed many other foreboding statements Anne makes in her diary. Most importantly, Oz-ick felt that Anne’s betrayal, deportation to Auschwitz and death in Bergen-Bel-sen, belie the sentiment that “people are really good at heart.” In Ozick’s words, the damnable phrase is “torn from its bed of thorns,”  “pulls the wool over the eyes of history,” and obscures the ultimate fate of the person who wrote it.

Perhaps camp survivor, Bruno Bettel-heim best summed up the challenge to Anne Frank’s most famous line by re-sponding: “If all men are good (at heart), there never was an Auschwitz.”

Indeed would Anne Frank have ever written these words in Auschwitz or Bergen-Belsen? Would she have stuck by them had she survived?

So, then, how do we preserve in our young people the innocent belief in the goodness of humanity, expressed by Anne Frank, when faced with the grim reality of Auschwitz? Should we? Does the Holo-caust, in fact, not teach us that humanity is inherently evil? And if we concur, are we not, in a strange twist, proclaiming Hitler victorious? For, if humanity is so utterly hopeless, so beyond salvation, why should we indeed care one whit about each other?

Here, I believe, lies the answer to the divide between Anne Frank and Cynthia Ozick/Bruno Bettelheim. Anne Frank was right – one may argue. The majority of people are good at heart –  but that is not nearly enough. We must also act, stand up, make a difference. Otherwise we become accomplices to the victimizers – and ultimately, the enablers of Auschwitz.

This message, indeed, has much res-onance in Jewish thought, for, as often noted, Judaism is a religion of “deed and not creed.” We care much more about your actions, than about the interior landscape of your thoughts and beliefs. Moral action is always to be preferred over pious sentiment.

Indeed the Holocaust did not happen only because of its infinitely evil perpe-trators – but because most of the world’s good people did not stand up straight enough or soon enough.

Anne Frank died because not enough people who were “good at heart” mostly people like you and I  acted upon their beliefs.

Perhaps Anne Frank’s words were more of a wish, a prayer, than a hard and fast statement about human nature.

It is up to us to not only fulfill Anne’s words, but to surpass them, to not only be good at heart, but to act on those good intentions.

So that one day, no more precious children like Anne Frank and millions of others, will have their pure and hope- filled ideals so utterly betrayed, and left to a fate no child should ever suffer.

Sunday 15 March 2015

Parsha Vayakheil - Reflections of Love

«...The Midrash dramatises this contrast between eros and agape as an argument between God and Moses. Moses believes that closeness to God is about celibacy and purity. God teaches him otherwise, that passionate love, when offered as a gift to God, is the most precious love of all. This is the love we read about in Shir ha-Shirim. It is the love we hear in Yedid Nefesh,(1) the daring song we sing at the beginning and toward the end of Shabbat. When the women offered God the mirrors through which they aroused their husbands' love in the dark days of Egypt, God told Moses, "These are more precious to Me than anything else." The women understood, better than the men, what it means to love God "with all your heart and all your soul and all your might."
Mirrors of Love

Kol Tuv,

Saturday 14 March 2015

Mussar: Purpose

Jeremy Gimpel:

"The entire purpose of our existence is to overcome our negative habits."

~ Vilna Goan on Proverbs 4:13

Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 11 March 2015

The Tatoo to Remember


Please read the little cartoon carefully - it is powerful. Then read the comments at the end.
I'm doing my small part by forwarding this message. I hope you'll consider doing the same.

holocaust.jpg Photo by genewunderlich | Photobucket

It is now 70 years after the Second World War in Europe ended. This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians,
10 Million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated.
Now, more than ever, it's imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.
                                                               Can you say, " ISIS "?

Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the World. It will only take you a minute to pass this along. Thanks!
Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Save A Child's Heart program

The Jewish Standard:

Whether at war or at peace, Israeli doctors save the lives of hundreds of children from Palestinian-controlled Gaza as part of the Save A Child's Heart program.

Every year, 150 children from Gaza and the West Bank are treated as part of this project. "We're physicians, our job is to take care of people. The children who come here didn't do anybody any harm, They need our help and we will continue to help them." a physician at Israel's Wolfson Hospital told the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which produced this amazing video.

YouTube link:


Kol Tuv,

Sunday 8 March 2015

Jewish Dairy farmer Max Yasgur

The Jewish Standard:

Jewish Dairy farmer Max Yasgur, who hosted the famed Woodstock festival, died on this day in 1973, less than four years after welcoming thousands to his Bethel, New York dairy farm.

Yasgur was the largest milk producer in Sullivan County in the 1960s, with 650 cows. Although he was a Republican and supported the Vietnam War, he was angered by the opposition of his neighbors to the hippie festival.

Thanks to Jewish Currents for the reminder:



Kol Tuv,

The Real Truth About The Talmud


«Talmud: The Real Truth About The Talmud
Talmud: Statement of Purpose
There are many lies circulating the internet about the Jewish Talmud. These allegations are supported by "direct quotations" from the Talmud that are frequently wrong or taken out of context. However, most people lack the scholarly background to verify these claims. Most people have no way of knowing that these accusation are false and malicious. What we are attempting is to demonstrate in detail how these accusations are both wrong and intentionally misleading. We are trying to show to the world the real truth about the Talmud.
Written by Gil Student»

Kol Tuv,

Friday 6 March 2015

The Use of Electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov / Rabbi Michael Broyde & Rabbi Howard Jachter

The topic of electricity in halacha is unique to our generation since there are no direct precedents in the Talmud or rishonim and the halachic discussion of this topic has been ongoing for less than 100 years. It is only since the technology developed and appliances became electrically powered that many of these questions arose... Over time many works were printed and it has become an established part of rabbinic literature. ("Electricity," Encyclopedia Talmudit 18:642).
The advances of technology have posed practical challenge to decisors throughout the ages. One of the hallmarks of Jewish law is its ability - and desire - to assimilate technological advances into the practices of observant Jews. The application of ancient and venerated principles of halacha to new situations has been, and remains, one of the essential tasks of modern decisors of Jewish law. In the last one hundred years, this task has become considerably more difficult due to the rapid and frequent changes in the state of technology.
This article surveys halacha's response to one of the technological breakthroughs of the last 150 years: the invention of electricity. In particular, it explores halacha's understanding of the use of electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov within the rubric of prohibited work (melacha).1 The technological revolution caused by the widespread use of electrical appliances has led to great discussion and debate within halachic circles. Thousands of monographs, responsa, and books have been written by halachic authorities in the preceding decades relating to the use of electricity on Shabbat and Yom Tov.2»
Kol Tuv,

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Tombs of Mordechai and Esther

The Jewish Standard:

Incredible to be able to pay a virtual visit to the tombs of Mordechai and Esther in Iran on the eve of Purim.

Thank you to Hershel West and Diarna: Geo-Museum of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish Life

More resources, including a way to navigate around the site virtually, in the comments.

YouTube link:



Kol Tuv,

France is very threatened

UN Watch:
"For the first time in its history... France is very threatened and cannot speak freely anymore... because part of the population makes it impossible. Part of the Islamic population has become more radicalized and is willing to kill to keep people from speaking up."
— Charlie Hebdo Former Editor Philippe Val

Watch his remarks here:

Kol Tuv,

Tuesday 3 March 2015


Congressional Black Caucus chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-North Carolina) last week accused Israel's prime minister of being "disrespectful" to President Obama, and caucus member Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) said the controversy over Prime Minister Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress is "about President Barack Obama being a black man disrespected by a foreign leader."

But not all the African-American congressmembers joined the anti-Netanyahu chorus. U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who is the only senator in the Congressional Black Caucus, refused to toe the line; when reporters asked Booker where he stand regarding the speech, and he pointedly dissented, saying "I've been asked that a number of times--I'm not commenting."

Kol Tuv,

Bibi At Aipac

The Jewish Standard:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a speech [yesterday] reassuring Israelis, Americans and the global community that despite occasional disagreements, the relationship between Israel and the United States is unbreakable.
Source: AIPAC


Kol Tuv,