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Oct
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Defacement of Jerusalem Church - A Statement from the RCA

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Rabbinical Council of America on the Defacement of Jerusalem Church

The Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the largest organization of Orthodox rabbis in the world, condemns the recent defacement of The Church of the Dormition on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem, as well as other recent acts against the sites and clergy of other religions. The hateful language that was scrawled on its walls are against the respect and decency called for by the Torah whose "ways are ways of pleasantness and whose paths are those of peace."

From the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, then Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog, of blessed memory, declared it an obligation, rooted in both religious tenets and international obligations, to protect the integrity of the minority religious communities, including the persons and buildings of Christianity and Islam in the Jewish State.

Jews, who have suffered from religious persecution and oppression by members of other faiths in in the name of their religions, call on all people of faith to conduct themselves in respectful ways with other faith communities. Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the RCA, said, "We expect the legal authorities in Israel to do all they can to protect these religious sites and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. We extend our words of encouragement and support to Fr. Pierbattista Pizzabolla."

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27
Sep
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A World of Clarity - Yom Kippur 5773

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About fourteen years ago, we received a call toward the end of the week saying that the yishuv
(BetEl) where we lived at the time, was making a fundraising video and they needed to capture a family “making Kiddush” on Friday night. Of course, the filming could not take place on Shabbat itself – so it would have to happen before Shabbat. Our mazal, the Meyers family was picked as the feature family! Since candle lighting was slated for 7 pm that week, I asked that the videographer come at 6:45 pm. “He needs at least an hour,” came the reply. “Please be ready by 6 pm….”

Now, most Friday afternoons we worked down to the wire…showering up to candle lighting time. Once we heard that the video man would be there at six o’clock, we rushed to cook and shower – and were waiting by the door by five minutes to six!  When Hashem needed us to be ready by a certain time, we’d been waiting till the last minute, but when a human being says be ready by six, we’re early…

This incident helped me appreciate the tendency of our sages to say, “If you would respond this way to an earthly King…how much more so to G-d, the King of Kings…”  I have since made an effort to understand my relationship to G-d based on simple daily experiences.

In the past, a few of our discussions have been triggered by sporting events.  I am not going to presume everyone is interested in or follows sports, but something happened on Monday night – less than 24 hours before Yom Kippur, that got me thinking.

goldentateSeattle’s football team, the Seahawks, were losing by five points to the Green Bay Packers.  It was the last play of the game and there were eight seconds left to play in the game.  Seattle’s Quarterback, Wilson, in an act of desperation, hurls the ball to the end zone, in – you’ll excuse the term – a “Hail Mary” pass - over the goal line of Green Bay. The Seattle receiver, Tate, surrounded by three members of the opposing team, gets his hand on the ball and thereupon engages in a furious struggle with one of those defenders. As the two fall to the ground, one referee, one judge - signals that the pass was intercepted by Green Bay; the other referee has the opposite reaction, he signals that Tate had caught the ball, scoring for Seattle.

After the dust had cleared, the referees upheld the view of the second judge, and – a touchdown for Seattle.  One of the rules of NFL football is that a simultaneous catch goes to the offense.

Now, if you look at the replay, not only was there lack of clarity and confusion between the refs, but it seems that the final decision was actually incorrect:  It seems that the defensive player had full control of the ball.  Many have attributed the poor call to the fact that the NFL has locked out the permanent staff of referees due to a contract dispute.  

The game, and its timing led to several Pre-Yom Kippur discussions on the internet. Someone designed the following e-card:

ecardyk

Another blogger wrote: “Good thing Yom Kippur starts tonight: NFL owners can atone for their sins.”

Even President Obama took time off from his busy schedule Monday night to relate to the game; according to Bloomberg Business Week, 

President Barack Obama said a controversial ruling by officials at the end of last night’s National Football League game was “terrible” and shows why the league should settle a dispute with the union representing referees. “I’ve been saying for months we’ve got to get our refs back,” Obama said ....

The message for Yom Kippur?  The fallibility of human judgment.  Angry as some are with the replacement referees, a similar incident could have taken place with the permanent referees.  We are mere flesh and blood.

On Rosh Hashana, G-d’s judgment is exact. Before G-d, all is clear, precise, transparent.  

We have an opportunity to have our judgment held in abeyance until Yom Kippur, but today, Ne’ila, marks the end of the period of grace…  

We have been given a Torah with clear directives, and with clear priorities.  For Rabbi Shelomo Wolbe in his book, “Alei Shur”, the Jew has been gifted an  עולם ברור – a world of clarity. The Torah establishes clear values and priorities that at times may not necessarily jibe with the those of the society around us.  In fact, the Talmud (Pesachim 50a) tells a story of Rav Yosef ¸who became ill “fainted and his soul departed. After some time he returned to life.  His father R’ Yehoshua asked him what he saw. He replied, “I saw an upside down world. People who were considered important in this world are not held in high esteem in that world, and people considered lowly in this world were elevated in that world.”  A follow-up midrash (Ruth Rabba 3:1) records that Rav Maysha, the son of R. Yosef,  was dead for three days!  (Maybe the reference is to a coma, and not literal/clinical death…) Rav Yosef asked his son what he’d witnessed in the World-to-Come; he offered a similar report.  

So not only does G-d have an objective, clear assessment of our actions, He allows us to partner with him in the process by giving us His Torah.   Our Torah’s system of values and the accompanying mitzvot present us with a way of life that has ultimate meaning; these values are clear and constant, whether or not they are completely embraced by broader society.  

This theme of “birur” – clarity is very prevalent in Jewish sources.  A well-known verse in the 24th chapter of Tehilim,  reads,

“Who shall ascend to the mountain of G-d? Who shall stand in His holy place? One who has clean hands and a pure heart.”  In other words, only an honest person can forge a close relationship with G-d.  The midrash, however, has a different reading of the Hebrew term בר לבב; instead of someone with a “pure heart”, the midrash understands the term בר as associated with the word ברור – clear.  It cites Moshe Rabeinu, our teacher Moshe, as a prime example of someone who strove for clarity.  Instead of jumping at the opportunity to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt, Moshe politely insists that G-d clarify the many details of this mission: “When they ask who sent me, what should I tell them?”  Moshe’s predisposition towards clarity continues with his appreciation of the value of transparency for leaders.   According to the midrash, Moshe heard murmurings after collecting donations for the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, in the desert; some began to accuse Moshe of diverting funds for his own personal use instead of investing them in the building of the Mishkan.  What did Moshe do? He immediately appointed Itamar to run an audit; guiding Moshe is a love of clarity and transparency.   Upon hearing G-d’s plan to eradicate Sodom and Gemora, Avraham asks, “Will the Judge of the entire world not act justly?” Avraham surely believed that G-d is just – but needed to internalize, to “own” the Divine logic for himself. Before he could accept the decision, he needed to have the logic clarified.

This focus on clarity and transparency has important ramifications for our Yom Kippur experience: What are we doing in Kahal on this, the holiest day of the year? 

I would like to submit to you that we must look at Yom Kippur as a day of self-audit.  Our Torah has given us clear guidelines in both the realms of Ben Adam L’makom – laws between Man and G-d, and Ben Adam L’chavero – laws between man and his fellow. 

This internal audit may include the following kinds of questions: “Have I engaged in conversations this past year in which I allowed myself to be drawn into discussions about others that could be classified as Lashon Hara, gossip that reflects poorly on others?  Am I still perhaps holding a grudge against someone else; have I allowed difficulties with certain people to percolate under the surface, with no closure in sight?

In the realm of laws between myself and G-d – we regularly mention the centrality of the two cornerstones of Shabbat and Kashrut observance:  With all of the resources available teaching us how to connect to Shabbat – are we making an effort to join the Kahal for Shabbat Tefilot; are we careful to recite Kiddush and a prepare meal in honor of Shabbat on Friday evening and Shabbat day? When it comes to Kashrut, the Torah has provided us with clear guidelines on permitted and forbidden foods; just as we must take care of what comes out of our mouths, we have to ensure that we are more aware of what comes into our mouths – both at home and outside the home….

We have a tradition that emphasizes the value of clarity and transparency; let each of us use the time that we have left on Yom Kippur to engage ourselves in this personal, private self-audit!

 

 

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21
Sep
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Eulogy for Judy Menashe z"l

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Today, we pay our respects to Mrs. Judy Menashe. Judy is survived by her husband Victor, children Phillip, Shelly and husband Paul, David and wife Shannon, grandchildren Sarah and husband Tygh, Jamie and husband Chris, Jeff, Jacob, Josh Jesse, Kelly, Jamie Marie and great grandchildren Ashton and June.

On the Jewish calendar, we find ourselves in the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, the tens days of repentance.  It is an intensely reflective time of the Jewish year. Just a few days before Yom Kippur, our holiest day - we've come together to share our reflections on the life of Judy of blessed memory. Judy’s children Phillip, Shelly, and David helped me put together these thoughts:

Judy was an outgoing person.  From a very young age, Judy was undoubtedly THE most popular girl in her social circle.  She was also a superior athlete: In fact, many of her contemporaries remarked that when it came to sports, there was no real point in attempting to compete with Judy...Her love of sports continued into her adulthood and married life - she was an avid golfer and tennis player...the list goes on.   Judy successfully passed on her enthusiasm for sports and athletics to her children and grandchildren, it was from Judy that her kids learned the ropes of football, baseball and basketball... A devoted mother and grandmother, she could always be counted on to attend various sporting events, gymnastics competitions and the like...

Judy was also a very talented singer, channeling her love of singing primarily to her grandchildren, whom she treated to a regular medley of folk songs.

These are just some of the reasons those that knew Judy used to say that if they had to live life again, they would love to "come back as Judy"...

Her children recall that the kids playing on the back porch would wait for the honk of Judy's horn so they could help her take in the groceries – their help was not totally altruistice; it was in exchange, of course, for Judy’s generous allotments of popsicles and fudgicles. 

Family was Judy's top priority, and life had taught Judy that  her kids' well-being would be enhanced by a rich circle of friends and social connections. 

The most fascinating aspect of Judy's vivacious personality seems to have been her unique ability to straddle two worlds.  Rooted in the values and customs of her Rhodesli Sephardic heritage, she simultaneously reminded people of an elegant, cosmopolitan Jewish Jackie Kennedy.  While comfortable with the traditional role as wife, mother and homemaker who consistently deferred to her dear husband of 60 years, Dr. Victor Menashe, Judy developed a keen sense of her own place in an ever-evolving American society; she independently acquired the skills to navigate that culture, directing her family accordingly.   In a nutshell, Judy was a paradox: as comfortable on the golf course as she was in formal attire, with meticulous attention to the way she presented itself....At ease as a supportive wife, mother and grandmother, but with a dynamic and inquisitive eye to the broader culture..

I think it's safe to say that those who have come together today to honor Judy understand those who, if they could have a second go-round, would love to "come back as Judy."  Judy Menashe was  truly a complex woman who lived life to the fullest, with no regrets.  And during this time of the Jewish year, we Jews place great value on living a life of no regrets.

Menuchata B'Gan Eden

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19
Sep
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Eulogy for Dave Agoado z"l

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As we prepare ourselves to usher in Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, one theme that appears in the Musaf Prayer on Rosh Hashana day is Zichronot: Memories.  In that section of the Musaf, we concentrate on how G-d remembers all that we did, said, and even thought.  Before G-d, nothing is hidden  - everything is revealed. The slightest nuances of both thought and deed go into His calculation, His final Judgment of each and every one of us.

Two short days ago, none of us imagined that we would getting together to compose our own Zichronot our own memories of a man who was a real legend in the Seattle community, Dave Agoado.  I had the privilege of spending some time last  night, after Shabbat, with Dave’s family – and they helped me compose their Zichronot, their memories of their beloved father, grandfather and great grandfather.

The great Ribi Akiva declared that “Va’ahavta Lere’acha Komach” – love your fellow as yourself – is the most all-encompassing mitzvah of the entire Torah.  Dave Agoado excelled at this mitzvah.  He literally loved all people.  This love expressed itself in many ways – from social interactions with visitors to the Summit, where he was the keeper of the keys in the foyer, to his 17 years of volunteer work at the Kline Galland, where his concern for others triggered the famous Shmoozers program. His dedication to Kline Galland  complimented the hard work of the Home’s leadership, as it became increasingly known over the years as a first class, premiere organization, a home for elderly people that cares for and ensures the integrity of its residents.  

If you were fortunate enough to be a recipient of one of Dave’s Keshes – his love barbs – it just meant that he had a special fondness for you.

Dave’s love for people expressed itself in a more concentrated form in the case of his family. 

As the only grandparent Amy and Jennifer came to know, Dave was the quintessential Grand Papoo. He took on this role with great enthusiasm. Oblivious to the aging process, Dave – at the time I think in his 80’s -  was on time for a party for Amy and Jennifer’s friends – who were 60+ years his junior – donning a the garb of a youngster – including wrap-around sunglasses and a tacky purple shirt.   His joy with his great grandson Solomon knew no bounds, peppering the unsuspecting tike with kisses at every opportunity.  

Dave was a proud, supportive and loving father to Joe.  Dave was a very active father, always looking out for Joe’s best interests.  When it came to his son’s welfare, Dave was an out of the box thinker – he founded a Jewish Cub Scouts pack Ezra Bessaroth back in the early 1960’s.  In the 90’s, when Joe sought his Dad’s advice on whether to take on the position as President of EB, Dave told him he was crazy for considering it.  Once Joe took the position, Dave would walk into the sanctuary on Shabbat mornings, gaze proudly at his son, and give him two thumbs up.  Dave had an unshakable connection to EB – helping youngsters, including three year old Stanley (donning an oversized Tallet up the many steps into the old EB synagogue building some 70 years ago) to serving as a chauffeur, ensuring the continuity of the Kehilla’s daily minyan.  Joe’s love for Ezra Bessaroth to this day flows from his father Dave’s lifelong devotion.

These are the Zichronot, the memories of Dave as an engaged father and grandfather and member of the community.

The strongest theme running through many of the anecdotes, the zichronot of Dave, is that he was a nurturer.

There is a Talmudic principle that asserts Mitzvah Bo Yoter M’beshlucho – it is preferable to perform a mitzvah yourself than to do so by way of someone else.  Dave’s character as a nurturer meant that when he had the opportunity to give to someone else, to care for someone else – he would do everything within his power to give himself, instead of assigning another person to do so on his behalf.

This came out most clearly when his wife, Joe’s mother Anita, became quite ill. For over six years, Dave steadfastly took care of Anita himself.  Only when it became very clear that Anita needed assistance that he could not provide, did Dave agree to have his wife move to the Kline Galland home. But even after Anita entered the Kline Galland, Dave continued his nurturing by visiting with her all the time, every day; he would not leave at night until he gave his wife a kiss.

A similar pattern – of engaging personally in the care of others – characterized Dave’s care for his daughter Joanne; A devoted father, Dave insisted on taking care of Joanne’s every need until the law changed, and her needs could be provided for by Kline Galland, even though she was under the age of 65. Dave’s sensitivity to Joanne’s emotional well-being prompted him to set up regular social outings with Joyce, Amy and Jennifer.  Mitzvah Bo Yoter M’beshlucho – at every turn, perform a mitzvah yourself if at all possible. That was Dave’s guiding principle.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, as we pray that G-d remember, attend to our mitzvot, our positive thoughts and actions, we ask that G-d take note of our Zichronot of Dave Agoado.

For sister Francis Salzberg,

Children, Joe and Joyce Agoado

Grandchildren, Amy Agoado, Jennifer and Max Strassberg  and Dave’s great Grandson Solomon Strassberg, and for all Dave’s extended family and friends, this is a painful loss.  Dave Agoado will be sorely missed by us all.

Menuchato B’Gan Eden

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10
Sep
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RCA Statement on German Circumcision Ban

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Sep 10, 2012 -- The Rabbinical Council of America, representing more than 1,000 rabbis worldwide, calls upon German Bundestag to expedite the passage of legislation that assures the right of Jews to practice ritual circumcision. Furthermore, we call upon the courts of Bavaria to immediately drop all criminal charges filed against Rabbi David Goldberg, the Chief Rabbi of the Bavarian city of Hof, for performing a circumcision.

We applaud the strong support voiced by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for such legislation. However, we note that until legislative action occurs, a single maverick German citizen can use a decision by the Cologne court to press charges against those who follow Jewish tradition. Such actions have fanned the the flames for contempt of Judaism and of religious freedom.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America has noted that "history has taught us that the use of bans against circumcision are a way of disparaging Jewish tradition. That such action can occur in a democratic Germany of today is shameful."

As rabbis, we pray that this most regretful episode in modern history will soon end and will, through true moral leadership, lead to greater understanding and the full protection of religious rights for all Jews and other minorities.

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24
Aug
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This Shabbat @ EZZY BEZZY !

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21
Aug
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A Must-See Film on Modern-Day Israel !

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21
Aug
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Felix, Melky, and Kosher Fish

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After several weeks in Israel, last week, I once again went through a bit of culture shock upon my return to America. The headlines in the respective newspapers of the two countries are so vastly different!  Israelis are of course fixated on the Iranian threat, while American newsmen prophesy about the upcoming elections. 

felixHere in Seattle, last week's topic was the hot summer weather.  And at the top of the headlines: Felix's Perfect Game.

Until this past week, I had never heard of the concept of a perfect game. Back in my home and native land (Canada) hockey and football are popular; we Canadians have minimal interest in baseball.

But I am now enlightened. I now know that a Perfect Game is not synonymous with a no-hitter.  In a perfect game, the pitcher retires each and every batter, without even giving up a walk!

By the middle of the eighth inning in the Seattle-Tampa Bay matchup,  Felix Hernandez had faced and disposed of 24 consecutive batters.  The announcer declared : "One inning until immortality". 

After the contest, the New York Times reported:

"Hernandez Latest to Achieve Perfection, to Fans’ Delight."

Rabbi Chanan Morrison reviews the approaches of Rambam and Rabbeinu Bachaye on man’s striving for perfection:

According to Maimonides, human perfection is attained though the faculties of reason and intellect. Our goal is to gain enlightenment and knowledge of the Divine, through the study of Torah and metaphysics…..By hiding his face at the burning bush, Moses lost a golden opportunity to further his understanding of the spiritual realm. If our fundamental purpose in life is to seek enlightenment, Moses' demonstration of humility was out of place.

The author of Chovot HaLevavot ('Duties of the Heart'), however, wrote that our true objective is the perfection of character traits and ethical behavior….What Moses gained in sincere humility and genuine awe of Heaven at the burning bush outweighed any loss of knowledge. Since the overall goal is ethical perfection, Moses' action was proper, and he was justly rewarded with a radiant aura of brilliant light, a reflection of his inner nobility.

In the sports and entertainment-focused society that is 21st century America, we vicariously live through the achievements of great athletes.  As much as we admire those who excel in the realms of the intellectual and ethical, the Perfect Game of Felix Hernandez is often the closest we come to internalizing the exhilarating drive for perfection. 

I think I have watched the final pitch of the game, Felix’s flinging his arms heavenward, at least a dozen times.  Though I try to avoid clichés, it was truly….. a magical moment.

aaaaaa

We are now in Hodesh Elul, less than a month before Rosh Hashanah. It’s a time of reflection and self-assessment: We each have to ask ourselves how far we have come in connecting to G-d, whether through the intellectually challenging and spiritually uplifting study of Torah, or through our Mitzvah performance. 

Question: How close have we come to connecting to G-d, the ultimate Perfection?

This past week’s Torah portion was Re’eh.  One aliyah is devoted to the laws of Kashrut; specifically: the signs that differentiate kosher from non-kosher animals, including cattle and wild animals, birds and fish.

Our classical commentaries have struggled to understand the significance of the criteria the Torah sets forth: Why do cattle have to possess split hooves and chew their cud? Why do fish need fins and scales?

A unique approach to the question of kosher fish appears in the works of the late great Lubavitcherfscales Rebbe:  Back in 1941, the Rebbe explained:

As the armor that protects the body of the fish, scales represent the quality of integrity, which protects us from the many pitfalls that life presents. A man of integrity will not deceive his customers, in spite of the financial profits involved. He will not lie to a friend, despite the short-term gain from doing so. He will not cheat on his wife, in the face of tremendous temptation. Integrity means that one has absolute standards of right and wrong and is committed to a morality that transcends one’s moods and desires. Integrity preserves our souls from temptation. Fins, the wing-like organs that propel fish forward, represent ambition. A healthy sense of ambition, knowing one’s strengths and wanting to utilize them in full, gives a person the impetus to traverse the turbulent sea of life and to maximize his or her G d-given potential. It propels us to fulfill our dreams and leave our unique imprint on the world.

Rabbi Yosef Jacobson cites the Talmudic principle that all fish that have fins also have scales.  But the reverse is not the case:

Symbolically, this means that a human being who possesses ambition but lacks integrity is “unkosher.” Such a person may be full of confidence, driven to make an impact on society. Yet educating ambitious and confident children does not guarantee their moral health.

As we strive for perfection in our professional and personal lives, as we exercise those fins that propel us forward, we cannot run roughshod over those values and behaviors that preserve our integrity. 

This message is a meaningful approach to the new year.

The tension between integrity and ambition is quite evident in baseball. One theme that came out in the wake of Felix’s perfect game was his personal integrity and commitment to be a team player and a leader:

"Felix knows the game and he respects the game," Seattle manager Eric Wedge said. "He's our leader. To get 27 outs like that, you need a little bit of luck. But he also has the intangibles that separate him from the rest. That's the kind of teammate he is."

This stands in sharp contrast to another Major league player.  Ironically, on the exact same day as Felix pitched his perfect game -  August 15 – Giant’s outfielder Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games without pay after testing positive for high levels of testosterone, suggesting usage of performance-enhancing drugs. cabreraHe admitted using a banned substance and accepted the suspension.  One of Cabrera's associates purchased a website for $10,000 and faked its contents in a way that would have allowed Cabrera to challenge his suspension by claiming that the positive test was caused by a substance sold through the website. However league officials and federal investigators used forensics to trace that website back to Cabrera.  (Wikpedia).

Cabrera’s suspension is predicted to seriously harm the Giants as the playoffs approach.

Using the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s framework, Felix Hernandez could be seen as someone whose scales are in place; he has a team-centered focus that serves as a springboard for his “fins” to thrust him forward.  Melky Cabrera is preoccupied with his own success, with a focus on “fins” over “scales”….

(I couldn't resist):

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17
Aug
0

The IDF Rabbinate....Wants You !

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The IDF Rabbinate Wants You!

idflogoMy good friend, Lt. Col. Rabbi Yedidya Atlas has once again contacted me regarding the needs of IDF soldiers over the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashana through Sukot.  Here is an excerpt from his letter:

 .... Approximately 40,000 soldiers and officers are scheduled to participate in “Operation Slichot” this year. Among other items, the IDF Rabbinate has leased three locations with multiple lecture halls and rooms in Jerusalem for the pre-Slichot discussions and lectures following the walking tours of the Holy City’s old neighborhoods. 35,000 copies of the special user-friendly Slichot book ….with easy explanations of the T’filot, clear instructions and translations of difficult words and their meanings to clarify context etc. have been printed ....the soldiers and officers walk through the Old City...and end up at the Kotel at 12:30-1:00 AM to join the multitude of their fellow Jews who come every night to recite Slichot. As part of the on-going activities of the IDF Rabbinate to strengthen the IDF soldier’s Jewish awareness and identity and to strengthen the Jewish fighting spirit, “Operation Slichot”, which began 4 years ago with 10,000 participants and last year nearly 30,000 came, and this year there is another increase of some 30%

…..the production and outfitting of another score of Field Beit Knesset kits and Field Aronot Kodesh  for combat companies in the field.. preparing for the upcoming Chagim from new Shofarot to expanded Sukkot; educational projects such as publishing the newly completed and especially written (but as yet unprinted due to lack of funds) book on Jewish family values for married couples where one or both of the spouses serves as an officer or non-commissioned officer in the IDF regular forces.... And third and last, but certainly not least, the on-going Chesed projects, which while concentrate  around Chagim also solve problems of individual soldiers throughout the year. Such cases are the result of the requisite officers dealing with welfare issues in their respective units asking for special assistance for specific cases who cannot get either sufficient or fast enough help through the normal framework in the Ministry of Defense. 

I will take donations from now until Rosh Hashanah for the needs of IDF soldiers—both spiritual and physical.  Last year, we as a Kehilla donated $2000 and provided 3 sukkot for IDF soldiers. Can we rise to the challenge again this year? Any checks should be made out to the EB Discretionary Fund.
On behalf of Lt. Col. Atlas, I thank you!  -
Rabbi Meyers

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17
Aug
0

Dr. Levine's Efforts

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waWhile I was in Israel, I was contacted by Dr. David Levine.  He is a Seattlelite who has been working selflessly in West Africa for some years now. His request? A young mother of three needs heart surgery and he is collecting money to make that a reality.  I responded by sending a contribution from my discretionary fund; the sages teach us that we should give Tzedaka to members of the broader world community alongside our own community's needy people.  To the left is a picture of the young mother, Aram with her kids.  Anyone wishing to learn more about David Levine's work should feel free to write him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  His website is www.westafricamedicine.org 

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12
Aug
0

Updates from Israel

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09
Aug
0

JT NEWS Story on EB's new Live Online Learning Program

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See this link for a great article by Olivia Rosen about our new Live Online Learning Program for kids and adults!

www.jtnews.net_downloads_jtnews_081012_web.pdf

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07
Aug
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Letter to Sikh Community

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lettertosikhcommunity


Our Congregation has just sent the above letter, on congregational letterhead, to the local Sikh community in response to the Sunday massacre in Wisconsin.

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06
Aug
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A Bio-Hug from the State of Israel

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We've noted on many occasions how the Jewish mission to be a "Light Unto the Nations" reflects itself not only in meaningful Torah study, but in its contribution to scientific and medical knowledge. Here's a video - courtesy of Israel National News/Arutz-7 -highlighting the latest Israeli innovation - the Bio-Hug vest. Enjoy!

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05
Aug
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Adding and Subtracting: Paving the Way for Ba'al Pe'or

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Each year on Perashat Va'etchanan, I am reminded of a profound article penned by the students oftaryag Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz of blessed memory. Last year, I delivered an afternoon class on the topic, but did not have the opportunity to relay the ideas in print.

No Addition or Subtraction
There is a Torah concept called "Bal Tosif/Bal Tigra". Broadly speaking, the Torah prohibits adding or detracting mitzvot - or details of mitzvot - from the Torah. So, for example, I cannot claim that there is a 614th mitzvah in the Torah, or suggest that there are only 612 mitzvot. Another violation would involve inserting an additional species to, or removing a species from the Lulav, Willow, myrtle and Etrog.

What is surprising about the passage in Va'etchanan is that, after introducing this law, Moshe Rabenu adds,

ג עֵינֵיכֶם, הָרֹאוֹת, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה יְהוָה, בְּבַעַל פְּעוֹר:
כִּי כָל-הָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ אַחֲרֵי בַעַל-פְּעוֹר--הִשְׁמִידוֹ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did in Baal-peor;
for all the men that followed the Baal of Peor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from the midst of thee.

What's the Connection?
Rabbi Shmulevitz asks the obvious question: What is the connection between these two passages?  How does caution not to add or detract from the Torah relate to the idolatrous worship of Ba'al Pe'or that claimed so many Jewish lives?

The answer lies in the nature of the worship of Ba'al Pe'or. The Talmud (Sanhedrin) records that even the most devout idolaters of other cultures were revolted by the cult: Worshippers of Ba'al Pe'or consumed whiskey and fruit, then defacated in front of their statue!

Question: Certainly, religions the world over worship their gods by showing reverence to them, not disgracing them. What, then, is the secret message of the Peoritic cult? 

Answer: For Ba'al Pe'or, nothing is sacred! Ba'al Pe'or is the epitome of religious and moral anarchy! This stands in sharp contrast to the Torah lifestyle, which defines parameters of acceptable and unacceptable behavior and belief. 

Rav Shmulevitz then cites several examples of how the Torah makes every effort to keep each Jew within the framework: At times, the Torah seems to capitulate to man's frailities by permitting behaviors that should most reasonably be forbidden.

Wartime Pressures
In the case of the "Eshat Yifat To'ar"; the Torah permits the Jewish soldier - in the heat of war - to take a woman he finds there, convert her, and marry her. The acceptance of human fraility, and the codification of this element in halacha is known as דברה תורה כנגד יצר הרע - the Torah spoke in response to man's evil inclination. Says Rav Shmulevitz: The Torah is intent on keeping the Jew within its framework; instead of forbidding such behavior as illicit, the Torah instead created a halachic framework to permit it.

Cities of Refuge
The phenomenon of Cities of Refuge - into which a manslaughterer runs for his life from the vengeful relative - is yet another instance of the same concept: In it, the Torah recognizes the passionate desire for revenge of a person whose relative was killed through negligence. Instead of requring him to suppress this natural inclination, the Torah gives it expression, within limits. Once again, a halachic framework is initiated to keep Jews "in the fold".

Back to Bal Tosif
Returning now to "Bal Tosif and Bal Tigra" - adding or detracting from the Torah:

Jewish tradition recognizes 613 mitzvot. Although the classical commentators debate just what mitzvot comprise the 613, the number is not disputed. One who adds or detracts a mitzvah has shattered this framework, blemishing the integrity of the system.

What links Bal Tosif and the cult of Ba'al Pe'or is disregard for boundaries. The difference between them is a matter of degree, and not of kind. Moshe therefore follows his warning not to add or detract from the Torah with a review of the punishment for those who worshipped Ba'al Pe'or; the ultimate result of adding or detracting from the Torah - is moral anarchy.

As I mentioned during our shiur last year, the Torah's stretching of its framework to keep Jews in the fold has crucial ramifications for child-rearing: For many years, we have allowed our children to sip wine and other spirits at the Shabbat table under our supervision and guidance. We don't want a situation in which our kids, because of the "mystique" of alcohol, find themselves in a bar at a young age! Similarly, one could argue (though I know many in the Orthodox Jewish world disagree with me) that moderate, structured usage of the internet and other technologies is a good recipe for avoiding clandestine abuse of those same technologies.

For a continuation of the discussion of the Torah "giving in" to man's inclinations, see Rabbi Michael Rosensweig's article: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2007/parsha/rros_kiteitsei.html%20

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03
Aug
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Erev Shabbat: Is a Strike on Iran Imminent?

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We have had a great visit so far here in Israel. I look forward to seeing you all again in about 12 days' time.

Though it continues to have its share of internal issues, the country continues to flourish, with the threat of a strike on Iran, and G-d forbid, an extended war, preoccupying the Israeli media.  Here are some of today's articles in the Israeli dailies on the issue; the ideological leanings of the papers are somewhat evident in their respective approaches:

Times of Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/efraim-halevy-if-i-were-an-iranian-i-would-be-very-fearful-of-the-next-12-weeks-ex-mossad-chief-tells-ny-times/

Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Features/FrontLines/Article.aspx?id=279955

Maariv (for Hebrew speakers)http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/392/040.html?hp=1&;cat=875&loc=1 ("Netanyahu does not have the patience to wait for a US strike on Iran")

Yediot Acharanot (op-ed) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4264089,00.html

Haaretz: (op-ed) http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/as-netanyahu-pushes-israel-closer-to-war-with-iran-israelis-cannot-keep-silent.premium-1.455672

Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/158563#.UBvT9k1lQ1E

Debka: http://debka.com/article/22237/Iran-prepares-for-60-percent-uranium-enrichment


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01
Aug
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Passing of Mary Israel

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We regret to inform you of the passing of Mary Israel (Max M. a''h) member of Ezra Bessaroth.  Funeral services Sunday August 5th at 1:00pm at the Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery (1230 N. 167th Street, one block east of Aurora).  

May the Lord comfort the family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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29
Jul
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Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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tishbvnightKudos to veteran EB photographer and media whiz Michael Behar for this beautiful e-poster.  The picture doesn't just capture what took place at Ezzy Bezzy on Tisha Be'av evening this year; it expresses the sentiments of our people throughout the generations since the Hurban Bet Hamikdash, the Destruction of our Temple.  Our sages say that anyone who mourns for Jerusalem merits to see its joy.  Rabbi Mirsky, in his Sefer, Hegyoney Halacha points out that someone who does not believe that they have yet lost a loved one cannot have closure; Ya'akov Avinu, our forefather Jacob, refused to accept words of consolation from his children because he subconsciously sensed that Joseph was still alive; similarly, we Jews hold firm in our belief in the reconstruction of our Bet Hamikdash - we refuse to be consoled!! Paradoxically sitting on the ground on Tisha Be'av is a mourning that expresses a confidence that this mourning will come to an end.

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27
Jul
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Pressure for a Moment of Silence: 40 years since the Munich Massacre

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27
Jul
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2012 Guide to the Three Weeks PT II: Laws of Tisha Be'av

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1. The Shabbat prior to Tisha Be'av is called "Shabbat Hazon" - the Shabbat of foretelling - as we read the Haftara portion from the prophecy of Isaiah (1:1-27), as the final of the "three of affliction," readings.   Isaiah does not lament because the Bet HaMikdash (The Temple) was destroyed; rather he laments over the underlying causes of that destruction. It's not enough to bemoan the great loss suffered by our people with the destruction of our Land, Jerusalem and the Mikdash. We must use our mourning as a way of initiating an examination of our present-day feelings, thoughts and deeds.  What have we done to eliminate the attitudes and practices that thousands of years ago sent our ancestors into exile - not once, but twice? (courtesy of ou.org) tishabeav

  1. Even those who have refrained from meat and wine since the beginning of Av, are permitted to eat meat and drink wine and grape juice on Shabbat Hazon.  In fact, it is a mitzvah to eat meat on Shabbat for those who enjoy it.   Wine is required for Kiddush.   We set aside any public displays of mourning on Shabbat.  Consumption of meat and wine is permitted even during Seuda Shelishit, on Shabbat afternoon.
  2. We stop eating prior to Shekiya/sunset. The seudah cannot be consumed past 8:47 pm.   The customs of a "Seuda Mafseket" –sitting on the floor, eating hard boiled eggs and bread, etc – are set aside this year since Erev Tisha Be'av is Shabbat.  Your Seuda should be eaten as a regular Shabbat meal.  Once Shabbat has concluded @ 9:33 pm, recite "Baruch Hamavdil Ben Kodesh L'chol" – Blessed is He who distinguishes between the holy and mundane – and you can now do melacha that was forbidden on Shabbat.  This is to be followed by the "Boreh Me'orei Ha'esh" blessing on the Havdala candle.   The Havdala blessing is to be recited on a cup of wine or grape juice Sunday  night following the fast. (see #11) 
  3. Once the fast begins, one should not eat, drink, wash, anoint oneself, wear leather shoes, or have marital relations.
  4. Washing in both cold and hot water is forbidden on Tisha Be'av.  It is of course permitted to "spot clean" dirt that has adhered to your hands or another part of your body in the course of Tisha Be'av.   Ritual washing of the hands, such as the morning Netilat Yadayim, cannot extend beyond one's knuckles.
  5. It is also forbidden to learn Torah "as usual" on Tisha Be'av, since Torah study is joyful.  Sources that deal with the destruction of the Temple, such as the accounts of the Destruction in the Talmud, commentaries on "Eicha" - the book of Lamentations, and the like, can be learned on Tisha Be'av. 
  6. Even pregnant and nursing women, who generally do not fast on the rabbinic fast days, do fast on Tisha Be'av.  
  7. Elderly people who feel too weak to fast, and whose doctor advises that they eat, are permitted to eat on Tisha Be'av.   Children are not required to fast until they are Bnai or Bnot Mitzvah (13 for boys and 12 for girls).  However, to educate them about the nature of the day, we do not give children treats like ice cream, chocolate, etc.
  8. One is not allowed to sit in a regular chair/couch on Tisha Be'av until midday Sunday (1:15 pm).
  9. We do not greet each other on Tisha Be'av, in the same manner that one does not greet a mourner.
  10. Once the fast is over @ 9:28 on Sunday night we say Havdala over a cup of wine, but with no besamim (spices) or candle.  Meat and wine can be consumed as of Sunday night; laundry, hot showers, shaving, are all permitted as soon as the fast is out.
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