Friday, May 24, 2013

Picture from a Wedding

I do not get Chasidus. What makes all these people want to look like clones of each other? Why is there such an attraction to a Rebbe? Why do they venerate him so much - as though he were near God-like! This picture is an enigma to me... as is all of Chasidus. Cannot figure them out at all. What does anyone who becomes a part of this world really gain?

This picture depicts a Chasidic Kallah doing a Mitzvah Tanz. She stands there - face fully covered (including her eyes), standing straight, not moving a muscle while holding on to a very long rope or belt while Chasidim are asked one at a time to come up and 'dance' with her while holding the other end of the rope. What in heaven's name are they doing? Why is this done? What kind of holiness does this represent? ... at the wee hours of the morning?!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Agri Star's Kiddush HaShem

Agri Star Donates More Than $50,000 Worth Of Meat Products To Oklahoma Tornado Relief
by Shmarya Rosenberg 

Heshy Friedman, CEO of Agri Star
Happy to cross post a Kiddush HaShem from Failed Messiah:

Agri Star, the successor company to Agriprocessors, has donated 20,000 pounds of meat products to Oklahoma tornado relief in partnership with the haredi chain of soup kitchens Masiba.

The meat and poultry products, which Agri Star says have a wholesale value of more than $50,000, were shipped from Postville, Iowa late yesterday afternoon, Agri Star’s Jo-Ann Chadbourne told me yesterday.

Masiba was attempting to raise the appoximately $3,000 shipping costs but had not raised most of the money when the National Council of Young Israel stepped in and pledged to cover whatever amount Masiba was short, Chadbourne said.

The round trip from Postville, including loading and offloading, takes approximately 30 hours. An additional 10 hours of rest time for the driver before he returns to Iowa is required by law.

The food – much of which is already cooked product like chicken nuggets or deli items – will be delivered to Chabad of Oklahoma City, which has turned itself into a shelter for victims and a resting place for rescue and recovery workers. 

Chadbourne told me that 3 out of 4 pages of the invoice is made up of glatt kosher items under Shor Habor/Aaron's Best Brands; “random items on the fourth page are blended” kosher and non-kosher.

She also said that Agri Star donated a large amount of meat during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Other Women of the Wall

Women of the Wall
I think this woman makes a very important point. I'ts not only about demanding your own rights. It's also about respecting the rights of others. From the Jerusalem Post:

Before my first trip to Israel in 1977, the Reform Movement, which sponsored the trip, told the girls to pack a wrap skirt in their backpacks, so they could cover themselves at Jewish and Christian holy sites. When I came back in 1981 having spent my sophomore year attending an egalitarian minyan and reading from the Torah, I still kept a wrap skirt in my backpack so I could cover my shorts when I ventured into Geula or spent a Shabbat with Ger hassidim in Bnei Brak. When my daughter asked for special vegetables during the last shmita year, I took a bus to a distant makolet every week for a year to accommodate her.

My dear sisters, I love you and so do all the women with whom I prayed at the Kotel on Rosh Hodesh Sivan. All of us were heartbroken to see the riots, and I for one wish I could have protected you from the mob. I was disgusted at the hilul Hashem, and not one person I know feels differently.

Tolerance works both ways, and so does respect. It doesn’t matter whether you understand why some Jews are devastated when they see you praying.

Where is our right not to have you pray at the Kotel in this manner? By your insistence on moving from Robinson’s Arch to the Kotel, you are literally preventing thousands of Jews, many of whom have gone daily to the Kotel for years and years, from praying.

It’s not just a matter of “you do your thing and I’ll do mine.”

There is only one Kotel, and unfortunately there cannot be a win-win situation. I have absolutely no doubt that your prayer comes from the purest place. I know you are sincere and that you yearn for connection with Hashem as strongly as we do. But we all learned when we were toddlers that sometimes we don’t get what we want.

There is something called “compromise” in this world.

For the sake of Jewish unity – yes, your praying at the Kotel is doing more to splinter the Jewish people than any “fanatical” protests are – please discontinue your insistence on praying your way at the Kotel. There will be no place under the tent for us if you insist on your “rights.”

Please think twice about all those you are hurting by your actions.

The Book of Numbers is filled with census after census of the Jewish people. Long lists of names are recorded. The 12 princes all bring the same sacrifice, yet the Torah mentions each and every one of them individually. This is because each and every Jew is precious to Hashem. But we have to accommodate each other.

The Kotel issue is a biggie.

Worship however you want elsewhere, but please give us the same consideration as most Orthodox people give you. The chair-throwers are but a small fraction of our population. If you are as sincere about your love for Hashem as I know you are, then extend that love to include all of His children. Allow us to uphold the status quo at the Kotel.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why the Naysayers Ought to Just Be Quiet!

Rebbetzin Esther Jungries - Photo Credit: Jewish Press
If anyone wants to know why we owe the Zionist founders an enormous debt of gratitude ask Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis. What about all the supposed evil they did? What about Perfidy, the Altelena, Rudolf Kastner, Yaldei  Tehran, and just about any other excuse for cursing those founders? I don’t know how true those stories are but there is always two sides to every story. Some would say that there are 3 sides – the third being the truth. Be that as it may Rebbetzin Jungreis’s words  blow all those negatives out of the water. Nowhere is there a better explanation of why we owe them a debt of gratitude than  in last week’s column by her. It follows.

Last week I wrote about the many disappointments in life. So often we dream of something, wish for something, pray for something – only to discover that when it happens, it is not quite the way we envisioned it. I illustrated this concept through a Hungarian story I recalled from my childhood about a little boy who more than anything else wanted a rocking horse, a coveted toy in Hungary. One day his mother became ill and died. He looked out the window and saw a hearse pulled by black horses outside the house. With tears streaming down his face he cried, “This is not the horse I wanted.”
We all have occasions when with broken hearts we too cry out, “This is not the horse I wanted.”
A few weeks ago our Young Leadership group held its usual monthly gathering. As it happened, that evening was Yom Ha’Atzmaut – Israeli Independence Day. At these events participants are always invited to ask questions on any subject. Some of the young people expressed their confusion regarding Yom Ha’Atzmaut. “Why, they asked, are some Jews ambivalent, indifferent or even negative about this celebration while others are totally unaware that it even exists?”
I wrote last week that my saintly mother, Rebbetzin Miriam Jungreis, a”h,never tired of telling us about the “candy trees” in Jerusalem. Even in the darkest moments in the concentration camps my mother would relay the story again and again, and we children never tired of it. The image of those trees imbued us with strength and hope. They became part of our lives, part of our dreams. When I came to Jerusalem for the first time, I searched for those trees. To me Jerusalem was always a city of sanctity and healing, a city where the winds embrace us with love, where G-d hears our prayers, even if we just whisper them. Yes of course, it was a city of “candy trees.”
I realize that our contemporary generation laughs and ridicules such nonsense. How can a mature, intelligent woman believe such fairy tales? But I believed and I continue to believe. To me Eretz Yisrael was always a land of magic, a land where G-d Himself resides. I know G-d resides everywhere; there’s no dot on earth where His presence is not felt. But still, in Jerusalem it’s different. Over there you don’t have to search too hard, you just have to yearn – with all your heart and soul. Just be patient and never give up. If we stay steadfast and cling to our G-d we will hear His answer and discover our own “candy trees.”
The miracle of Eretz Yisrael should touch even the most hardened among us. The living skeletons of Auschwitz, Treblinka, Dachau and Belgen Belsen arrived in our Holy Land only to find their lives once again in jeopardy. With one hand they held a gun and with the other they irrigated the lifeless soil. They planted forests and orchards. They turned a desolate land that was dormant for almost 2,000 years into magnificent garden – and this despite the fact that they had no knowledge or experience with farming.
We who were oppressed, enslaved, tortured and beaten, and who for almost two millennia were not permitted to hold a weapon in our hands, were called on to fight. And, miracle of miracles, we became David and our slingshot defeated the Goliaths. It all happened before our very eyes but we chose not to see. We remained blind and deaf.
King David predicted it all: “When G-d will return the captives of Zion we shall be like dreamers.” Yes, we were like dreamers and have yet to awaken from our slumber.
I remember when I graduated from Bais Yaakov and took my first job. I saved every penny because it was my dream to go to Eretz Yisrael and help my brethren who were arriving home from the four corners of the earth. My parents never thought of stopping me. They understood the fire that was burning in my soul, for they were the ones who kindled the flame.
I boarded a ship to France, traveled by train to Paris and from there to Marseille. It was in Marseille that for the first time in my life I saw a Jewish ship. I saw Jewish uniforms. I couldn’t stop crying. After a long journey during which every moment was filled with prayers and hope, we were told our ship would soon be approaching the shores of Eretz Yisrael. All of us stood on deck the entire night so that we might catch the first glimpse of our Holy Land. When we spotted Haifa we burst out with songs of praise to Hashem. Our joy knew no bounds. I remember the very first time I walked on the soil of Eretz Yisrael. I fell to the ground and kissed every speck of dust I could. And I wept uncontrollably.
Today we travel to Israel on jets and arrive at a state-of-the-art airport. We rush to collect our luggage but instead of falling to the ground or kissing the soil we hail a taxi and ask one another, “Where should we go to eat? Are there any new good restaurants in Jerusalem?” The Psalms blowing in the wind are all but forgotten. We are busy. We are running. We have no patience for sentimentality. We get to our hotel and examine our accommodations. Often they do not meet our expectations.
I recall my first trip to Eretz Yisrael and then I think of today. And once again the Hungarian allegory comes to mind: “This is not the horse I wanted.”
Life goes on. The miracles of G-d continue, but we do not see or hear them. Israel is called upon to battle, and those battles never cease. And yet we survive. It is G-d who is leading us in our battles. Goliath is still determined to blot us off the map. With G-d’s help we are David, we are triumphant. “Ki lo yitosh Hashem es Amo – G-d will not forsake His people.”
Israel is one more proof that He has not forsaken us. But we in our deep slumber congratulate ourselves on our strength and proclaim, “Kochi v’otzem Yadi – my power and my strength did all this.” And so it’s business as usual as we continue to build the walls of hostility, animosity and jealousy that divide us and we fail to see the larger picture – the miracle before us.
Where did we go wrong? Where did the confusion start? We Jews have an uncanny way of doing things in reverse. We celebrate Israel’s Independence Day but fail to ask, “Independent from whom, from what?” The answer to that is the answer to our survival – to our very lives. Yes we are independent of the nations of the world and we do not bow down to their will. But this can only work if we recognize our total dependence on our G-d. Until we understand this basic truth and absorb it in our hearts, I’m afraid the struggle will continue and, G-d forbid, the wars will go on.
In one of my first speeches in Eretz Yisrael – this goes back many years – I spoke of the tragedy of our times: that so many of us speak the holy tongue yet know not how to pray, that so many of us live in the Holy Land yet have no faith. It would be so different if only we opened our hearts and turned to our G-d.
It is so simple and yet so hard. When will we wake up?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Stephen Hawking - Moron!

Stephan Hawking
You know what? Sometimes even a genius can be a Moron. From JTA:

JERUSALEM (JTA) – British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking clarified Wednesday that he decided to cancel a planned visit to Israel to adhere to an academic boycott of the Jewish state.

Earlier on Wednesday, University of Cambridge spokesman Tim Holt said Hawking's cancellation of the trip planned for June, to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference: Facing Tomorrow 2013, was due to health reasons, not a boycott. The statement came after the U.K. Guardian reported that the reason for the cancellation was a boycott.
But the university spokesman corrected himself late Wednesday, saying Hawking's office had contacted him to make clear that the decision was due to the boycott.
“We have now received confirmation from Professor Hawking’s office that a letter was sent on Friday to the Israeli President’s office regarding his decision not to attend the Presidential Conference, based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott," Holt said an e-mail sent to the Canadian Jewish News and shared with JTA. “We had understood previously that his decision was based purely on health grounds having been advised by doctors not to fly.”
Israel Maimon, chairman of the Israeli conference, expressed dismay at the news.
“The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission," Maimon said in a statement issued Wednesday after the publication of the Guardian article. "Israel is a democracy in which all individuals are free to express their opinions, whatever they may be. The imposition of a boycott is incompatible with open, democratic dialogue.”
The Guardian reported Wednesday that Hawking, 71, wrote Peres a letter last week saying he would not participate in the June conference. According to the Guardian, a statement published with the scientist's approval by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine said it was Hawking's "independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there."
After his participation in the event was confirmed in early April, Hawking was "bombarded" with messages to change his mind by boycott supporters, according to the Guardian.
Hawking, head of the practical mathematics and physics department at Cambridge University, last visited Israel in 2006 at the invitation of the British Embassy. He visited Israel three times prior to that as well, according to the newspaper.
The conference, which is in its fifth year, draws world leaders and intellectuals for public discussions on a variety of subjects. Some 5,000 people from around the world, including executives of major global technology companies, academics, Nobel laureates, artists, and past and present heads of state have confirmed their attendance for this year.
Hawking, who has ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, cannot move his body and uses a wheelchair. He communicates through a computerized voice system.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Portrait of a Hero

Charles Ramsey
A true American hero, Charles Ramsey saved 3 young women yesterday - ending a 10 year long captivity. As he was passing by the huose they were in he heard one of the young captives banging on the door of the house where they had been held captive screaming for help. He immediately went to the door and asked what was wrong.

The young captive said that she had been kidnapped 10 years ago and was being held captive in that house by three brothers.  He asked why she didn't just come out. She answered that the door was locked and she couldn't open it. He broke through from the outside and set them free. The men who held them captive have been arrested.

What is remarkable about this man is that he is a black man in a white neighborhood acting alone under suspicious circumstances. This would not have been the first time that a black man would be looked at as some sort of out of place violent criminal bent on doing harm to 'white folk'. Mr. Ramsey nevertheless put the welfare of those women ahead of his own without giving it a second thought... and ended a 10 year ordeal - not only for those women, but of their families who no doubt had little hope of ever seeing their loved ones alive again.

My hat is off to this man. A truly selfless individual who should set an example for all of us.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Jewish American Heritage Month

The President of the United States - Photo credit: Reuters via Jerusalem Post
It's always nice to hear a good word about the Jewish people from the President of the United States. And we hear it once again today on May 1st, 2013 - the start of Jewish American Heritage Month. Yet another holiday for Jews to observe. Who knew? :)

It was apparently established by congress in 2006. Somehow, that one got by me.Here is what the President said as quoted in the Jerusalem Post (JTA)
"Jewish immigrants from all over the world wove new threads into our cultural fabric with rich traditions and indomitable faith, and their descendants pioneered incredible advances in science and the arts," Obama said Tuesday in declaring May as Jewish American Heritage Month. "Teachings from the Torah lit the way toward a more perfect Union, from women's rights to workers' rights to the end of segregation."
Among other Jewish American contributions, Obama listed "scientists and teachers, public servants and private citizens, wise leaders and loving parents."
He said Americans could see Jewish "accomplishments in every neighborhood, and we see them abroad in our unbreakable bond with Israel that Jewish Americans helped forge."

Yay us!