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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘answer’

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Bais Yaakov Dropout: So Where Were My Parents?

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

Editor’s Note: This article is a follow up to Batsheva’s previous article “How Bais Yaakov Almost Ruined My Life”, where Batsheva wrote how Bais Yaakov education almost turned her off to Judaism. 

I want to say, before anything else, that I never expected this type of response from my blog post. I’m overwhelmed and amazed by how many people have had the same or very similar experiences to mine, and hearing their stories is more inspiring then anything else.

Had I known that 9,000 people would be reading what I had to say, there are a few things I would have added. For one, I’d like to answer the question that I’ve seen on every comment thread: Where were the parents?

My parents are incredible, open minded people. They have always supported me in every decision I have made and I have never blamed them for sending me to Bais Yaakov. In my community, it was the best option at the time and I can’t say I would’ve made a different decision had I been in their shoes. They made me follow the school rules, because as many of you pointed out – when you are part of an institution, you must follow the rules of that institution.

When I was younger, I didn’t tell them how I was feeling, because I felt that I was wrong. I didn’t tell them when I got in trouble in school, because I didn’t want to get in trouble at home too. However, as I got older it was pretty clear that Bais Yaakov was not for me. As soon as I was old enough, they sent me to a much more open minded boarding school in another state where they felt I could find my own place in Judaism.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people who felt unaccepted religiously. Most of them, at one point or another, threw religion away. I never did that. I have never intentionally broken Shabbat, never eaten at a restaurant that wasn’t Kosher. I credit that completely and totally to my parents. My parents are YES people. Shabbat was not the day where I couldn’t go on my computer or go rollerblading – it was the day that I got to spend time with my family and friends. The dining room table was always covered in board games, popcorn, and chocolate chip cookies. Chagim were the same way. My father loves to learn. Dinnertime was centered around what time minyan was that day. Religion was a very positive thing in my home. As a kid, I didn’t connect THAT Judaism with what I was learning. It was just our lifestyle.

When I said I wish someone had been there to tell me all the things I know about Judaism now, I was wrong. There were people who would have told me, had I been brave enough to ask. I have had many amazing influences in my life – my siblings, friends, families in my community. Now, looking back, I can see the effect that they had on me. But when I was fourteen and feeling like I didn’t fit in, I didn’t think anyone would understand.

One other thing I’d like to clear up is that I didn’t write the post to place blame. To quote Rascal Flatts, “God bless the broken road”, and I wouldn’t go back and change anything. All of my experiences have led me to the place I am now, and I’m very happy here. As I said, the Bais Yaakov system works for some. My friends graduated from there and most of them have no idea why I wrote what I did. My intention was never to hurt or offend – I just had something I felt that I needed to say. Based on the amount of positive responses I received, I think I made the right decision by posting it.

Visit Batsheva’s blog, They Call me Shev

Keeping the Faith

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

I am wholly inadequate to deal with this subject. That said I cannot leave it untouched. There is a phenomenon taking place that is highly disturbing to a believer and a rationalist like myself. The phenomenon I refer to is that of an increasing number of Orthodox Jews that are questioning their faith. Emunah has never before been tested like it is now. At least in my lifetime.

It used to be a bigger problem in the more open world of Modern Orthodoxy. That is where Rabbi Eliyahu Fink suggests the majority of the problem lies. But with the advent of the internet, everyone is at risk.

Tablet Magzine has an article by Ari Margolies, an 18 year old that is going through this. He was raised in a religious home. He was someone that loved his Judaism as a child. But then after his Bar Mitzvah he started asking the difficult questions. Questions that are difficult to answer. Thus he has become a skeptic – joining the community of skeptics who have had the same questions.

These are not people who went OTD because of dysfunction in their lives. Nor are they particularly the ones whose educational needs are not met because they are not up to the fierce completion in Yeshivos, whether it is in the area of Limud HaTorah or in the area of academic studies. These are the bright kids. These are the good kids from good families. And in some cases these are adults who at some point in their lives ask hard questions that end up leading them into becoming skeptics.

I have dealt with this topic in the past. I have offered my own views as to why I have Emunah. But I fully admit that I do not have satisfactory answers to all the questions asked by these highly intelligent people. For example it is almost impossible to answer a question put to me many times by different people – and one that precipitated Ari’s descent into the world of skeptics. From the article:

One morning, I woke up and a thought fell on me like a ton of bricks. I realized I was only an Orthodox Jew because it was what I had been taught since birth. I knew no other way. If I had been born into a Christian family, I would have been on the Jesus train. If I’d been born into a Muslim family, I would’ve jumped on the Allah bandwagon. If I had been raised in the splendor of the flying spaghetti monster, then I’d have spent my mornings praising his noodle appendages. I was an Orthodox Jew by chance, I realized, and the realization shook me to my core.

I honestly do not know how to answer a question like this. And yet I have complete faith in Judaism as it has been handed down to me by my forefathers. Am I lucky to be born a Jew in a religious home? Yes! You bet I am. But that does not answer the question of why I get to be so lucky.

One of the things I deal with here (which my last post touched upon) is the fantastic stories of faith that strains credulity. As described by Ari:

I would hear stories of people who had their lives saved by their tefillin. One guy was praying while driving and got into a car accident; the only thing that stopped his head from smashing through the windshield was his headpiece. Another devout man, about to board a plane, realized he left his tefillin at home and missed the flight while retrieving them, and—you guessed it—the plane crashed. It all sounded like a bit much.

These kinds of stories tend to bring out the skeptic in me as well. Not that they are impossible to believe. But that they are so frequently used to prove that a miracle occurred because of an act based on one’s religious belief… Or taken a step further, because one participated in one of those Segula Tzedaka campaigns.

When people start questioning their faith, stories like this only accelerate the process.

I don’t have any answers to this increasing problem. But at the same time, there is absolutely nothing being done to address them in a communal way. At least not as it pertains to nipping it in the bud in one’s formal educational experience.

Separate But Wet

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Haredi guy floating in the men only beach of the Dead Sea.

This so reminded me of the story of the man who can’t fall asleep because he can’t decide if he should sleep with his beard above or below the blanket. The answer here is clear: beard above the water.

The Dead Sea seawater has an exceptionally high density, which makes swimming there more floating than swimming.

When I was in the second grade my legs were covered in a strange kind of eczema that didn’t itch so much but was pretty unsightly. Then the family took a trip to the Dead Sea and my condition was cured for good.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/separate-but-wet/2012/08/09/

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