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May 5, 2016 / 27 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘answer’

Ask Any Eight-Year Old

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Give this week’s Torah portion, “Lech Lecha,” to an eight-year old to read, ask him where God wants the Jewish People to live and he will answer “the Land of Israel” right away. Give it to a gentile to read and ask him the same question. “The Land of Israel” he will answer without batting an eye. Give it to a Jew in the Diaspora and ask him the same question, and you’ll get a dozen different answers:

“Well, it depends….”

“It’s not the same for us today….”

“What was true for Avraham isn’t a general rule….”

“In Brooklyn, New York….”

“In Australia….”

“Until the Moshiach comes, a Jew can live anywhere he wants….”

But the fact is that God starts off His relationship with the Jewish People by telling our first forefather, Avraham, “Get thee forth to the Land that I will show you.” God doesn’t tell him to keep Shabbat. He doesn’t tell Avraham to keep kosher. He tells him to live in Israel. This is where a Jew belongs. This is the only place where a Jew can truly serve God. This is the only place where the Kingdom of God can be established, and where Torah will go forth to all the nations. The Holy People are to live in the Holy Land. This is God’s plan for the world and for the Jewish People. This is the very first lesson that God teaches Avraham and his children who will follow after him. “Get thee forth to the Land.” Ask any eight-year old. Ask any gentile. If a monkey could read, he would reach the same conclusion. Living in the Land of Israel is the foundation of the Jewish Nation. #1 on the list.

To live in the Land of Israel, we need to keep the Torah, yes. But the first, basic understanding that God wants us to know is that just as every nation needs a land, the special holy Nation of Israel needs a special Holy Land. The Land of Israel is a part of our national identity. It is a part of our spiritual being. It is not something extra to Judaism. It is not just another extra mitzvah, or a nice place to visit. It is not something external like a new car or a summer vacation. It is a part of who we are. We cannot be the NATION of Israel without the Land of Israel. We can be scattered individuals, in scattered Jewish communities around the world. We can be advisers to gentile presidents and assimilated novelists and famous pop singers, but we can’t be a NATION with our own land unless we are congregated in the Land of our forefathers, the Land of the Jews. For a Jew to be true to himself, and to God, he has to be in the Land of Israel.

This is the very first lesson of the Torah: “Get thee forth to the Land.” It’s a part of our genetic make-up as the children of Avraham.  Just as Avraham left his birthplace to start a new life in Israel, we can too. It’s in our blood. It is a part of our psycho-historic heritage. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, it is difficult. But as the children of Avraham Avinu, we have what it takes.

During the 2000 year exile from the Land of Israel, we didn’t have a choice. So the Torah became our principle connection to God. But now that G-d has re-opened the gates to our Homeland, now that He has brought back millions of Jews to Israel, and given us a Jewish airline, and thriving Jewish communities, and a re-built Jerusalem, and more yeshivot than anywhere else in the world, it is time to remember the very first lesson He taught us: “Get thee forth to the Land.”

If you don’t believe me, ask any eight-year old.

Tzvi Fishman

Why Obama is Likely to Blow Debate No. 2

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

The short answer is: because he’s got nothing.  There is no record to run on, no argument to make for four more years.  The ideology that drives him is outdated and bankrupt.  He has, in fact, implemented his policies – Republicans have had little means of stopping him – and those policies are the problem.

But there’s a slightly longer answer too.  Obama’s advisors will read the mainstream media assessment of the vice-presidential debate – they actually think a debate that turned women across America off of Biden was a draw, or a Biden win – and conclude that what the president needs to do is find his inner Joe Biden.  Appeal to his base by going on the attack, perhaps interrupting, being visibly annoyed at the trend of Romney’s statements, and vigorously asserting untruths in the interest of racking up effective soundbites.

Petulant attack-doggery isn’t Obama’s style, so I don’t predict that he will simply adopt the Biden posture for this week’s debate.  What I do think is that Obama and his handlers will be looking to enhance the president’s trademark pace and balance in public speaking (which does descend rather often into a sonorous drone) with more Biden-like spice.  This won’t come naturally to Obama, any more than his occasionally put-on “black accent” sounds natural.  It’s not who he is, and he won’t be good at it.

Of course, the townhall format this week can be worked to Obama’s advantage, and no doubt will be.   Obama need not be thrown softballs, but he will get questions framed to suit the answers he is likely to have – and he probably won’t be troubled much with questions framed in a confrontational manner.

Romney probably will be.  He will have to think more quickly on his feet, turning hostile questions into jumping-off points for getting his message across, while conveying a sense of goodwill and avoiding red herrings.  If there is a “silly question” for the debaters – say, “If you were an Oscar-winning movie, which one would you be?” – it may well be barbed with false implications about conservatism, Republicans, or even Romney himself.

Romney will have more choices to make in his approach and substance.  There are a lot of things he could say; what will be the most effective?  We can reasonably suppose he will perform again as well as he did in Debate 1.

Obama doesn’t have those choices, because he’s trying to stay in office – to tend cronies and inflict ideological constraints on the people – using arguments that don’t accurately represent what he’s been doing for nearly four years.  He has no intention of changing course, regardless of what the current course is inflicting on the American people.  Yet he can’t argue in the campaign for his current course – at least not to anyone but his base – because it is so ridden with failure and the scent of corruption.  Americans continue to turn against his signature legislation, ObamaCare, and even the New York Times is beginning to doubt the effectiveness of his foreign policy.

So we can expect to hear more about Romney giving a “$5 trillion tax break” to the richest Americans, along with the other canards about Romney-Ryan policy (e.g., tossing Grandma off the cliff) being trotted out over and over by the Obama campaign.  These mendacious soundbites have lost their impact, but what else does Obama have?  Personal attacks on Romney?

If the president makes a decision on retaliating in Libya before Tuesday night, he may be able to speak at the debate from a perspective of putative decisiveness, the commander-in-chief moving forces around.  A new line of tactical operations would blunt Romney’s justifiable criticism of how the White House has handled the whole matter.  I don’t foresee this dynamic winning the debate for Obama – a belated military response has little hope of trumping the public’s nearer-to-home concern about the U.S. economy, the national debt, and constitutional freedoms – but if it comes off, it will probably be gratifying for his Amen corner in the MSM.

Gratifying them is not enough, however.  Whether he plays to his base or the MSM, Obama will not be playing to the constituency that matters: the majority of likely voters.  His appeal to that constituency in 2008 depended on his being an unknown quantity, and that’s what he no longer is.  Obama doesn’t have any more tricks in his bag.  This is it.

J. E. Dyer

Are Your Investment Decisions Rational?

Friday, September 28th, 2012

As a financial planner, I often ask new clients why a particular investment is included in their portfolio. One answer that I find somewhat worrying is: “I don’t really know how to explain it, but I just had a gut feeling that this stock was going to be a winner!”

Often the stock in question is anything but a winner, but that isn’t the point. If you were to fit a new kitchen, would you simply walk into a builder’s showroom and say that you wanted the kitchen cabinets that are in the storefront window because you had a “gut feeling” about them as soon as you saw them, or would you first visit several showrooms, research the types of materials used and other factors that are important to your decision? Of course you wouldn’t order home renovations based on gut feelings, because thousands of dollars are at stake, as well as the fact that you will have to live with the results of your decision for a very long time.  Just like investing.

Yet very often, investors base their financial decisions on irrational reasoning.

The way that emotions affect investing has become a science and much research is conducted into various phenomena such as loss aversion, mental accounting, and herding. Emotions influence investors’ decisions in many more ways than you would expect. Sometimes fear drives an investor to sell a stock because a sudden dip in the market makes him afraid he’ll lose everything. And, at the other end of the spectrum, is the person who did well with a certain small investment, and figures that because he did well once, he’s bound to do even better if he does it again. He continues to invest in something that might not be appropriate at increased levels, just because he wants to duplicate his previous “win.”

On my radio show, Goldstein on Gelt, I interviewed several researchers who study behavioral investing, including Professor Terrance Odean of Berkeley University, Nobel Prize Winner Professor Daniel Kahneman, and best-selling author Professor Dan Ariely (click on their names to watch videos of these interviews). Watch the videos and let me know if the research on behavioral finance jives with your investment decisions.

Doug Goldstein, CFP®

A Sweet New Year

Friday, September 14th, 2012

At the Ramat Gan Safari, near Tel Aviv, the animals were treated to sweet fruits and honey in celebration of the approaching of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year).

I went looking online for an answer to a troubling question: is honey good for bears? I mean, those beasts are heavy enough as it is, do they really need all that added sugar?

But I couldn’t find a single serious source on this issue. Some suggested the bears are really after the bee larvae inside the hive, but others said unflinchingly that bears have a sweet tooth and that’s it.

Except, with so much sugar, will they get to keep their teeth?

The bear in the picture was offered a lovely assortment of fruits and vegetables, which he is examining, but not yet devouring as of the snapping of this shot.

Do bears really subsist on fruits and vegetables? That’s so monkey…

Couldn’t they give him a nice, juicy salmon for Rosh Hashanah?

We’re celebrating our first new year in our old-new land. This, from now on, will be our only two-day Jewish holiday of the tear.

According to the sages, Rosh Hashanah is actually one long day stretched over 48 hours.

It’s a legal fiction.

When our Israeli guests ask what to bring for the holiday dinner, we say strange fruit. For the second night of Rosh Hashanah, so we can make a blessing over them and circumvent a halachic dilemma created by the concept of a 48-hour “long day.”

Our sages made up more legal fiction than Agatha Christie.

And I salvaged this one OK joke from an awful website full of bad polar bear jokes:

Q: What are polar bears called when they get caught in the rain? A: Drizzly bears.

Shabbat Shalom and a happy new year.

Yori Yanover

Why Me…Why Not me?

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

Just a few short days ago we were in summer mode, vacationing in the mountains, at the cottage, or on the road visiting family, friends or sightseeing. But with the start of September and school, we become all to aware that the Yamim Noraim – the Days of Awe – are upon us, that sobering period of time when a year’s worth of our actions and activities will be evaluated by our Creator. His ultimate assessment and judgement will affect the quality and quantity of the days of our lives.

For the Jewish people, it is a time to look inward and contemplate with equal parts of hope and dread what kind of year awaits us.

For some, the prayers and requests offered up last year did not have the outcome they so fervently asked for. Sadly, there are individuals, families and communities that have suffered life-shattering events. Many are still reeling from horrific news or events which occurred years before. They or those they love suffered unexpected serious injury or loss of life through accidents, violence or disease.

Others are dealing with more recent devastating news – that they or a loved one has a serious illness or affliction; lost their parnassah; some have had their hopes cruelly dashed by yet another miscarriage or mourn month after month for a pregnancy that never happens.

As is natural, their first reaction after they catch their breath from the blow they received is, “Why me? Why me?

The only way to perhaps answer this question – one that has been asked for thousands of years by slave and king alike – is to take yourself out of the situation and ask yourself, “Why not me?

Is there something that separates you from your friend, neighbor, fellow Jew or from the rest of humanity?

Do you have a greater number of good deeds than everyone else? Are you so much more special or outstanding or more needed than the rest of the klal that you should be immune from misfortune?

You know the answer. No, you are not better, nor more elevated than other human beings. You are just another noodle in the pot – indiscernible from the others.

The reality is that man is totally clueless as to why G-d allows unbearable tragedy to strike.

Some people may have be arrogant enough to assign a reason for why Hashem does not stop an unspeakable misfortune from occurring, but the truth is how could any mortal know Hashem’s will and be able to say that things happen for this or that “sin?”

Some who are more modest in their self-assessment have theorized (not insisted) that suffering may be a tikun, a rectification for actions done in a past life, however, at the end of the day, Hashem’s ways are inscrutable.

While it is very human, if you or someone you love is in pain, to try to understand why, ask yourself this question – if you were to win a multi-million dollar lottery, would you also scream out, “Why me?” Would you question why Hashem singled you out from all others? And when it is someone else’s face smiling as he holds the check with the one and the endless zeros following it, would you not sigh, “Why not me?”

Many great minds have wondered why bad things happen to good (read ordinary) people, undistinguishable both in deeds and lifestyle from millions of others. There is no answer. Only the Master of the Universe knows the “why” of what happens to His creations. After all he is the Celestial Architect and Judaism teaches that He orchestrates every detail of our existence. The only free will we have in this matter is how we react to our good and bad fortune.

Obsessing over “why me?” is futile, and takes away from your ability to handle (survive) whatever it is you are dealing with.

I have come to the conclusion that those afflicted with great misfortune have been given the rare opportunity to perform perhaps the hardest and most sacred mitzvah there is – the one found in Shema. The Shema is the ultimate affirmation of a Jew’s faith. Throughout our tragic history of persecution and brutalization, the last words gasped by our dying martyrs has been, “Hear O Israel, Hashem, our G-d, is One.” The pasuk that follows describes the hardest mitzvah to obey – “And you will love Hashem your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Cheryl Kupfer

The Master Conductor Of All Events

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The incident occurred during The Three Weeks when work at my place of employment for the summer months came to a standstill. I was to meet with a couple of high school buddies of mine at the train shelter in Cedarhurst, from where we had planned to walk to the park.

It was only a few seconds into our walk when I realized that I was missing my cell phone. Even as I searched my pockets, to no avail, I already knew that I had left my blackberry behind at the shelter and hoped I’d find it sitting idle on the bench.

My heart sank. The bench was bare and there was no phone to be found. I borrowed my friend’s phone and dialed my number. A woman answered but spoke only Spanish and didn’t seem to understand anything I was saying. I asked her to put someone on the phone that spoke English. A man said hello.

I explained that they had my phone and asked them to return it to the place where they had found it. The man replied that this would not be possible since he was on the train headed for Jamaica. When I told him he had no right to take it and that I would report him to the police, the phone went dead.

Despite my frustration, my gut instinct told me that my blackberry wasn’t gone for good and that I would be seeing it again. Still, I was no longer in a mood to visit the park and returned home where I used our landline to badger the thieves, determined not to lose track of my phone’s whereabouts. The scenario kept repeating itself; the woman would answer and upon my insistence hand the phone to the same man, until he abruptly terminated the call after saying he had reached his stop and needed to get off.

I called again, but there was no answer. Shortly thereafter our phone rang – the ID displaying my cell number. It was Nanda, my grandmother’s longtime housekeeper who’d been with the family since my mother was a little girl.

“Did you lose a phone?” she asked my mother.

“Yes, Josh did,” answered my mom. “How in the world did you end up with his phone?” she asked the woman who knew us well.

Nanda explained that she was riding the LIRR when a female commuter about to disembark tossed the phone at her.

A startled Nanda checked the blackberry and was even more surprised to find that several recent incoming calls were made from none other than our home number – one she was quite familiar with. That’s when she called us, figuring we’d be able to shed light on the mystery of her unexpected “gift.” (If they weren’t already aware that cell phones can not only be disabled but tracked as well, I had made sure to let the thieves know that their prize find could end up costing them dearly.)

Nanda was scheduled to work for someone in our neighborhood the following day and was more than happy to stop by with my phone. Needless to say I was immensely grateful to her, and more so to Hashem, who saved me the expense of acquiring a new phone, as well as the major hassle of attempting to replace all the accumulated personal data.

The chances of Nanda being in that car of that train at that time and the one passenger (among many) chosen to be the recipient of my blackberry was remote at best. It could only have been arranged by the One that coordinates every aspect of our daily lives.

Joshua Weiss

Nahal Recruits Swear Allegiance

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

New recruits were sworn into the Nahal Brigade at the Western Wall in Jerusalem a week ago.

Nahal is an acronym for Noar Halutzi Lohem, or Fighting Pioneer Youth. It was established in the early 1950s as a force that combined military service and establishment of new agricultural settlements along Israel’s borders. Many of those settlements were later turned into permanent villages. Some were then dismantled by delusional Israeli governments who sought peace with Arab thugs.

I’m convinced that the Nahal model is what gave the IDF its image of a humane military force. It was the citizen soldier model at its extreme, and it worked. Indeed, it worked as long as at the helm of Israel’s political system sat governments that were interested in the Zionist ideal of settling the land of Israel.

There was very little daylight on the settlement ideal back then between the most extreme Zionist left and the extreme Zionist right.

I’m proud to have served in the Nahal as entertainer during the Yom Kippur war, and then as journalist for the Bamahane Nahal, the force’s monthly magazine (war is hell).

The Nahal Infantry brigade was formed in 1982 to answer a growing need for infantry manpower in the wake of the 1982 Lebanon War.

No settlements needed any more, thank you very much.

Yori Yanover

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/nahal-recruits-swear-allegiance/2012/09/06/

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