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26
Jun
0

@ Camp SAC

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Though the camp has its very own blog, I thought it might be nice to offer my perspective on life here at Sephardic Adventure Camp 2012.  I just returned this morning with Miriam and our daugther Shani from a night in Seattle, where we visited Gail Ben-Meir in Swedish, as she recuperates from last week's urgent surgery.  Thank G-d, she is slowly recovering, but it's a long road, and we wish her a Refuah Shelema/speedy recovery.  Gail's Hebrew name is Rivka bat Sarah.

birdhousesThis morning, following our camp-wide Tefila, led by Ezra Cohanim and Albert Mezistrano, we came back to the dining hall, only to find that NCSY director Ari Hoffman had arrived with several dozen (low-cal?) Krispy Kreme donuts for the kids and staff. at 9:45 (camp time!) I led the second of a series of learning sessions with the 9-10 year old boys.  Our topic today was halacha and Mesora, and the distinction between halacha and minhag.  An energetic group of boys, including Sammy from Portland, but featuring home-grown talent such as Jo Jo Gladstein, Eli Almo, Ori Amiel, Sivan Shriki, Jacob Benezra and AJ Maimon joined me in a 45 minute session packed full of information and creative thinking. I'm really enjoying the opportunity to learn with the kids this summer! climbing

Speaking of Torah study, I have also had the opportunity for a daily Chevruta with EB's very own Uriel Cohen and SBH's Albert Mezistrano.  Uriel and I are learning Masechet Succah while Albert and I are learning Masechet Bava Metziah.

More updates to come!

(pictures: top left: building birdhouses in the art room
bottom right: "Climbing!" - thank you Rubisa Miriam!) 

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26
Jun
0

JT NEWS to Feature Rabbi Lau

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This past weekend former Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, made a historic visit to Seattle. The youngest survivor of Buchenwald, in this photo he meets with Margaret Hollinger, 102, at Kline Galland. Margaret was an army nurse at Buchenwald upon liberation. Stay tuned for the whole story online and in the next issue!

thelaus with the nurse

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24
Jun
0

Reflections on the Rabbi Lau Visit

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From Thursday through Shabbat Perashat Korach, hundreds of members of the Seattle Jewish community were treated to a Shabbaton featuring Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. It's now Sunday morning, five lectures and hours of informal conversation later, and I finally have an opportunity to process the experience.

ymlauRabbi Lau, whose personal journey from the Holocaust to the Chief Rabbinate is elucidated in his autobiography, "Out of the Depths" embodies the qualities of a true leader of  Israel. As I mentioned on Shabbat morning, in his greatness - personal, professional and moral - Rabbi Lau is able to relate to absolutely everybody. This is reflected not only through his warm personal interactions, but in his engaging and inclusive stories that speak to each and every person who attends his talks.

Rabbi Lau's effectiveness stems from his skills as an orator and his effective, nuanced use of humor.  For me, his message derives its authority from his extensive world travels.  We heard the story of Latin-American woman on a plane who, after watching him put on Tefilin reveals that she, too, is Jewish. Sadly, she was denied a Jewish education, since her grandmother chose not to reveal her Jewishness to children and grandchildren.  Rabbi Lau made a plea for Jewish unity by sharing with us a conversation between an unnamed U.S. politician who explained that cracks in the Israeli political consensus and unity is the key to appreciating US political pressure on Israel. The Rabbi skillfully weaves these encounters into profound Torah lessons; his worldly interactions, instead of weakening his strength of spirit and resolve, give his perspective authenticity and authority.

lauTo the left is a photo of Rav Lau and myself following a 4:30 am minyan that gathered at the home of Eli and Rebecca Almo prior to the Lau's flight from Sea-Tac this morning. (In the background are Avi Behar and Dovid Amsel.  Thank you to Michael Behar for the picture)

My sincere hope is that this Shabbaton can serve as a model for future joint initiatives aimed at inspiring and strengthening Jewish life in our community.

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21
Jun
0

Rav Lau as Ambassador of Peace

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Here is an excerpt from a Turkish talk show from this past fall.  Rabbi Lau is guest of a controversial Muslim personality, Adnan Oktar.  

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21
Jun
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Rabbi Lau Visit - Details

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19
Jun
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'Son of Hamas' visits the Knesset this week

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This video features former Hamas terrorist Mosab Hassan Yousef discussing peace in the Middle East:

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14
Jun
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Eulogy for Daniel Ben

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Today, family and friends are gathering to reflect on the life of Mr. Daniel Ben. Daniel is survived by his wife, Jeanne Ben; brother, Albert Benaltabe; son, Steve Ben; and his daughters, Claire Dingle, Maurene Wardell, Ricka Leeser, Cindy Meyer, and Tari Brown - 12 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Daniel was born Jan 2, 1925, in Seattle, WA, to Isaac and Clara Benaltabe. After graduation from Garfield High School, Daniel enlisted in the United States Navy and served during World War II on the Pacific Fleet from 1942-1945.

He returned to Seattle and opened a flowers, fruits, and vegetables stand in the University District. He loved flowers, sports, friends and family. He loved to travel with the extended family to warm places to soak up the sun and just people watch whether it be Palm Springs in the winter or Chelan in the summer. He was always up for shopping as long as there was a bench where he could sit.

Daniel was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Victoria Mayo Hodges; brother, Vic Ben; daughter, Esther Lee Ben; and of course, Lucy Ben.

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to get together with Daniel's family to survey the life of this very unique man.

How many of us in Daniel's difficult situation would have exerted themselves to hand-write a thank you note to our nurses? How many of us would have spent a moment thinking how we were going to tip our caregivers?

But this is the kind of man that Daniel Ben was. He was an appreciative and giving person. He spent his life providing for others while, in return, demanding very little for himself. Through University Fruit and Produce, many young kids of the Seattle community worked thanks to Danny.

For Daniel Ben, enduring, close relationships - triggered by his giving - were the priority. That's what provided him with life's joys and sense of satisfaction. Becky says that when her husband, Daniel's brother Albert, had surgery in back in 1993, Daniel came every day to see his brother. Daniel would always make sure that the kids were fed before him. His love for his children spilled over into his appreciation of their friends. Claire recalls that as a child, when she took the initiative of inviting friends home, her father, upon discovering the invitation after the fact, would always give the official okay…

The warmth that he bestowed on Claire and Steve carried over to all of Jeanne's daughters and their families; He was a true father to Jeannie's girls, and his generosity both in terms of his time and resources, they reciprocated most intensely in the last few weeks, when the tables turned, and he became someone in real need. Those beneficiaries of his giving, on the receiving end of his warmth and kindness, naturally wanted and needed to give back to him.

Alongside this gentle personality, Daniel had his share of idiosyncracies. Steve says that Daniel didn't trust banks too much, and at one point ensured the security of his personal wealth under the lettuce in the refrigerator. Another interesting quirk, stemming as much from his concern for safety as it did from his love of order, was his ritual of turning off appliances when he would leave home for a day in the park with the family. Halfway to the park, if there was not absolute certainty that the stove was completely turned off, he would turn around the car and go home just to make sure...

And if he did not care for what was being served for dinner on a particular night, he would cordon off the area by surrounding his place setting with cereal boxes!

Happy is the man whose life story is summarized by these kinds of reflections, a person about whom we can only critique a few quirks! Happy is the man whose personal qualities mimic those of our Creator. Chesed Olam Yibane….It was through kindness and giving that G-d created the world. Chesed Olam Yibane. And it was through kindness and giving that Daniel Ben created his world.

מנוחתו בגן עדן
May his resting place be in the Garden of Eden


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04
Jun
0

Zuckerberg and Jewish Identity

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zuckerberg

One of the topics that preoccupied me as a new Ba'al Teshuva (newly religious) young man back in the 1980's and early 90's was the extent to which the theology of Reform Judaism offered absolutely no rationale, no basis for a religious imperative to adhere to Jewish law, or, for that matter, a uniquely Jewish lifestyle.  

Eugene Borowitz, one of the premiere thinkers of Reform in the late 20th century, wrote extensively on this topic.  The Wikipedia article on Borowitz explains:

His work has concerned itself with the dilemma of the postmodern Jew: committed to individual autonomy, but nevertheless involved with God, Torah, and Israel.

Now, how exactly "individual autonomy", read: the lack of a Divine imperative to adhere to mitzvot, was to be synthesized with the idea of being "involved with God, Torah and Israel" was anybody's guess.  I read this man's books and essays over and over again, and could not (for the life of me!) figure out how he ever meaningfully reconciled the contradiction.

Since the early 90's, I have moved on; for the last two decades, I have been primarily interested in disseminating what I feel is the authentic Torah tradition - instead of engaging in analysis of Jewish movements like Reform. But today, one of my colleagues in the Rabbinical Council of America, Rabbi Doniel Kramer provided a link to an eye-opening article in the Jewish Daily Forward.  The piece, entitled, "Losing Zuckerberg" is written by Reform rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan, and it's a VERY worthwhile read.  Here's an excerpt:

We failed Zuckerberg and will continue to fail young people like him because the pluralistic theologies of Reform Judaism articulated since the 1960s make it difficult to grasp what we Reform Jews believe on any given issue. Our faith is too amorphous. Math and science nerds, in particular, may be the type most likely to bolt. This is ironic because one of the raisons d’être of Reform Judaism was to create an approach to Judaism that would be scholarly and scientific. But we have lost our way, ignoring scholarship in favor of any type of “spirituality,” no matter how vacuous.

To read the entire article, click on: 

http://forward.com/articles/157074/losing-zuckerberg/?p=all#ixzz1wmtDRDeM 

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01
Jun
0

Am I Missing Something?

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With all of the pressing issues in the Jewish world - security in the Mid East, cost of day school education, intermarriage.... somehow, I can't so excited about the chocolate chip crisis. Am I missing something?  I'm a week behind the times, but it's worth checking this out:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304840904577422074030275122.html

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30
May
0
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Click on the following link to see my article in the recent JT News.  You have to scroll down three pages or so - the article is called "From Crackers to Cheesecake..."

http://www.scribd.com/doc/94616037/JTNews-May-25-2012

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30
May
0

The Art of Investing....and of Letting Go

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As if we did not hear enough about Aharon's sons, Nadav and Avihu - and their sad demise, Perashat Bemidbar makes yet another mention of them. We are told once again how they died for bringing a "strange fire" to G-d, but this time, the Torah tacks on "And they did not have any sons".

Ostensibly, this unit, which aims at tracing the geneology of each tribe, is simply telling us that Nadav and Avihu fathered no children prior to their death. If the Torah had intended to continue discussing this family line, though, then why, when mentioning Aharon's two remaining sons, Elazar and Itamar, did the Torah not discuss their children? 

Rabbi Avraham Sofer ("the Ketav Sofer") offers a unique explanation of this passage: He suggests that not having sons itself is the unacceptable offering, the "strange fire" brought by the two: In their religious zeal, their desire for a pristine, hassle-free life, they chose not to have children. Fearing that their children may well go "off the Derech" - and not live a life faithful to the ideals of Torah, they both decide not to bring children into the world. G-d's rejection of this approach is signalled by the premature, joint death, of Nadav and Avihu.

In his commentary, Ketav Sofer cross-references the Talmud, Tractate Berachot 10a: There, Yeshaya Hanavi (the prophet Yeshaya) comes to reprimand Hizkiyahu Hamelech (King Hezekiah) and informs him that not only will the latter die in this world, but is not destined for life in the World-to-Come. The reason? Like Nadav and Avihu, Hizkiyahu refrained from engaging in the mitzvah of procreation. The King's defense, "I saw in my Ruach Hakodesh (Divine Inspiration) that any son I produced would be evil" - does not impress the prophet.

Yeshaya, instead, rebukes him: "What business do you have engaging in calculations of Divine secrets? You do what you have to do!"

In other words, adhere to the mitzvot, and the let the proverbial chips fall where they may!

Hizkiyahu counters: "Why don't you offer your daughter's hand to me in marriage - and the merit of both of us will produce righteous children!"

According to various manuscripts of the Talmud, and recorded in Eyn Ya'akov, Yeshaya responds by marrying off his daughter to Hizkiyahu.

One day, the King is carrying his two young sons, Menashe and Ravshaka, to the Bet Midrash, (House of study). Perched atop their father's shoulders, one remarks to the other, "Father's head is perfect to fry fish on!" The other son disagrees, "No, I think it's better as the surface of an altar to bring a sacrifice to Avoda Zara (idolatry)!"

Infuriated, Hizkiyahu hurls both boys to the ground; killing Ravshaka. Menashe lives.

What a bizarre story! What are we supposed to learn from it?

As parents, we understand the importance of a solid education for our children. As committed Jews, we invest our whole selves in ensuring that our kids receive an intensive and meaningful Jewish education. Its role in fostering meaningful individual and communal lives cannot be understated.

Hizkiyahu was hoping that the combined merit of himself and Yeshaya, along with his strategy of exposing the boys to the Bet Hamidrash at an early age, would secure their fidelity to Jewish values and Jewish life. He was exasperated to discover that all his efforts were in vain: One son chooses a life of physical indulgence, while the other abandons Jewish values in favor of another system. Hizkiyahu's "head" in the story represents the thoughts, the strategy of a devoted father.

The verse says:

רבות מחשבות בלב איש

Man has many thoughts and plans

ועצת ה' היא תקום

But G-d's counsel is that which will prevail in the end.

We certainly must do our part, but it is only G-d who decides whether our efforts will be rewarded. At a certain point, even devoted parents have to "let go" and understand that, however essential, we are only part of the process; ultimately, our success is ensured only by a Divine blessing, a nod from above.

This theme paves the way for Sefer Bemidbar: the Jewish people travel through the wilderness, and it's only their trust in G-d's benevolence that spurs them on.

לכתך אחרי במדבר בארץ לא זרועה

You followed me in the desert, in a land that was not sown.....

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29
May
0

Funeral Announcement

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FUNERAL THIS WEDNESDAY, MAY 30 AT 11AM

We regret to inform you of the passing of Rebecca Boguch. Funeral services & burial will be held at the Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery (1230 N. 167th Street, Shoreline, WA 98133) on Wednesday, May 30th at 11:00am. May the Lord comfort the family amongst the mourners of Zion & Jerusalem

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24
May
0

Vida Behar's Bat Mitzvah Derasha

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This past Sunday at EB, I had the pleasure of participating in a celebration in honor of Vida Behar's Bat Mitzvah. She showed great dedication and poise in delivering her Dvar Torah, which you can read by clicking on the link below:  

http://ravron.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/vida-behars-dvar-torah1.pdf

Congratulations to Vida, her parents Dana and Rena Behar and the entire family for putting together such a meaningful and thoughtful event!

 

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22
May
0

The Kiddush Man

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I think that this is a profound and wonderful short film.  Comments welcome! (You have to click on "watch it on youtube")


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21
May
0

The Sound of a Summer Shofar

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This past Shabbat, we completed Sefer Vayikra with the first of two of the double Torah portions, Behar. (not to be confused with the family of the same name!) In the fiftieth year of the Shemitta cycle (seven rounds of leaving the land fallow in the seventh year) Jewish servants are released from their masters.  Triggering the event is a shofar blast - announcing the release of the slaves. 

Rabbi Frand cites the Sefer Hahinuch who offers a creative explanation for this ritual: A master who, although he must take care of room and board, has access to years of free labor - was surely hesitant to free his servant.   It involved taking a tremendous (thought expected) financial hit!  In order to encourage Jewish masters to carry out their obligation to free their slaves, the shofar was sounded throughout the land - as if to say, "We know it's difficult - but everyone is in the same boat!"    

Misery loves company!

All of us are subject to "peer pressure" as teenagers.  The dynamic of this social pressure may change over the years, but even as we age, we, too, look to our community for cues for the proper way to behave, to respond. The Torah, here, is bidding us to respond to the positive social pressure that comes with the fiftieth year. Knowing that everyone else is being called upon by the halacha to forgo the financial benefits of free labor - makes it easier for us to part with these same benefits. 

Rabbi Frand notes that the shofar blasts we sound during the Jubillee year mirror the format of those sounded on Rosh Hashanah, a mere ten days earlier. On the New Year, we relive the "Akedat Yitzhak" - the binding of Isaac.  Avraham and Yitzhak, father and son, were ready to pay the ultimate price in response to a Divine command.  The Torah says we must love G-d with all of hearts and souls, and they were ready to do so.  But there is one more way we are bidden to love
G-d: בכל מאדך - with all of your "might".  This phrase is understood in the Talmud as "with all of your wealth."

This recalls the character developed by the late great Jack Benny:

In an episode that was broadcast March 28, 1948, Benny borrowed neighbor Ronald Coleman's Oscar, and was returning home when he was accosted by a mugger.... After asking for a match to light a cigarette, the mugger demands, "Don't make a move, this is a stickup. Now, come on. Your money or your life." Benny paused, and the studio audience—knowing his skinflint character—laughed. The robber then repeated his demand: "Look, bud! I said your money or your life!" Benny snapped back, without a break, "I'm thinking it over!" 

Our Holy Torah recognizes that some people, however preposterous it seems, value their money sometimes more than life itself!  This is why the Torah bids us to love G-d with all of our wealth. Jewish masters in the Jubilee year were asked not to "think it over", but to respond promptly to the sound of the Shofar....

This past Shabbat, I made a plea for broader and more consistent attendance at Kahal.  Our daily minyan has had some challenges in the past month, as people take vacations, have other family responsibilities and the like. For modern man, time is money - and leisure time is greatly valued, too. It's much easier to pray Minha in midday or before dinner, and settle in for the night.  It's not always so convenient to pick up and come to Kahal for Tefila.  But as I noted on Shabbat, the value of Tefila B'Tzibur, communal prayer, is great.  It's not that "we need a minyan, so will you please come?" We as a community have to experience a paradigm shift, and appreciate the value of communal prayer as the means by which we approach Hashem as a single community, offsetting each other's individual foibles.

Let the shofar of Tefila B'tzibur be sounded!

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17
May
0

We have moved!

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Welcome to the new location and format of the Ezzy Bezzy Blog.  For nearly a year, we have been in wordpress, but now, with the unrolling of our new EB website, the blog is fully integrated into the EB site.  Keep posted on the latest classes, EB events, Divrei Torah and my thoughts on what's going on in the world by checking in with our blog on a regular basis.  I look forward to your comments!

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