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October 21, 2016 / 19 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘chance’

Jerusalem Mayor Awards Pollard Gold Pin in NY Chance Meeting

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, who is on business in New York City, on Monday ran into Jonathan Pollard and his wife Esther who were sitting in a Manhattan coffee shop just around the corner from a Barkat fundraising event.

According to the Jerusalem Municipality’s spokesperson, this was the very first meeting between a senior elected Israeli official and Pollard since his release from Federal Prison last November 20. Barkat, apparently, was thrilled to run into the former Israeli spy, whom he had awarded the medal of Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem while the latter was still behind bars.

Mrs. Pollard told Barkat that Jonathan was yet to physically receive the medal, and Pollard hinted that he would be delighted to get it, and so Barkat, ever the improvising Israeli, removed his gold Jerusalem pin from his lapel and put it on Pollard.

Barkat told the couple, “Since Jonathan is not allowed to go to Jerusalem, the eternal city of the Jewish people will come to him in New York or anywhere else in the world.”

“We are longing for the day when you can arrive in Jerusalem to make it your real home,” Barkat told Pollard.


Collecting Chance Encounters

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg’s website, The Foundation Stone}

Rav David Kronglas zt”l did not even need to open his mouth to inspire the hundreds gathered for High Holiday prayer; the mere presence of such a holy and righteous man as the one who would lead us in prayer filled us with awe.  I have since heard wonderful people lead services, but assumed upon leaving Yeshiva that I would never again be so inspired. I was wrong.


My assumption was shattered on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah 1991. I was facing away from the congregation to focus on my prayers. when I heard sweet and heartfelt prayers coming from such an elevated soul that they lifted me on their wings into the open arms of God. The person leading the prayers was not an old and holy rabbi, but an investment banker. I was so locked into certain definitions of holiness that I hadn’t considered that a man who did not spend his days in Torah study, but in engaging Mammon, could achieve a different holiness of spirit fortified by his nurturing and protecting his soul far away from the safe confines of Yeshiva.


I was the rabbi of this man’s synagogue, and, because of assumptions, was not honoring him for who he was. I had been repeating Amalek’s sin as described in this week’s portion, “Remember what Amalek did to you, on the way, when you were leaving Egypt, that they chanced upon you on the way (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).” Amalek shrugged off the significance of all that happened to Israel as they left Egypt, and treated the miracles as chance, not indicating any Divine intervention.


If I refused to shed my definitions of holiness I would treat all the extraordinary souls with whom I interact as chance meetings, not as opportunities. Once I learned to treat every person I meet as more than chance and as an opportunity, I was able to expand my collection of superheroes.


I’ve learned living as an infinite being from a businesswoman; compassion from a beautiful soul who works in advertising; honoring parents, from a veterinarian; the commitment to Torah study, from my dentist; courage, from people who work in a weight-loss clinic; attaching to God, from a family medicine doctor; and the demand for spiritual integrity, from a comedy writer. I’ve learned humility from a man, currently in his nineties, who, many years ago, stormed into my home from his Corvette to find out about the crazy ideas I was teaching his son who is also in my superhero collection. A “life strategist,” and a money manager have taught me communication and chesed. The man to whom I dedicate this newsletter is a paradigm of patience, goodness, constant growth, love and generosity.


No wonder the portion that ends with Amalek focuses on what happens, “Ki Teitzei,” when we go out into the world. I usually begin a fundraising appeal a few weeks before Rosh Hashanah, but I want to face God on Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, with my complete superhero collection, honoring the Creator with His creations, “out in the world,” who expand His presence in this world, and chose to begin by thanking you, those listed and those not, for enriching my life.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

Redeeming Relevance: Moshe’s Last Chance

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016

There are many differences between the book of Devarim that we will soon start reading and the four other books of the Torah that come before it. But there is one story whose two versions are so dissimilar that it requires its own treatment – and that is the recounting of why Moshe was not allowed to cross the Jordan. In the first version – in this week’s parsha – the Torah clearly states that it is due to his lack of leadership while procuring water from a boulder.

Yet at the beginning of Devarim, Moshe tells us otherwise: In the middle of his recounting the spy incident, Moshe tells the Jewish people: “God got angry also with me for your sake, saying: ‘You too will not go [over the Jordan].’” While some commentators (Ramban, for example) suggest that Moshe was not trying to say that God got angry with him over the spy incident, as He did with the rest of the Jewish people, this doesn’t appear to be the straightforward reading of the text. More in line with its plain meaning are the commentators (such as Ohr haChaim and Malbim) who write that both the spy incident as well as the story with the boulder contributed to Moshe’s punishment. According to this opinion, however, we must discover what Moshe did wrong in the case of the spies and why Moshe himself identifies only this one reason for his punishment.

Netziv’s explanation of how the spy incident contributed to Moshe’s exclusion from the Land of Israel is among the most helpful. He writes that the process that ultimately led to Moshe’s failure at the boulder actually began with the spies. For Netziv, this process centered around the need for radical diminution of Divine involvement in the lives of the Jewish people in the desert. Moshe had wanted to maintain a strong Divine presence, as embodied by the unusual providence the Children of Israel had experienced since leaving Egypt. However, this required an extremely high level of moral and religious discipline on the part of the Jews, the absence of which would lead to immediate punishment.

After several related mishaps, it became clear that the Jews needed to forego the intensity of God’s immediate presence. Instead, they would need to accustom themselves to a more hidden level of Divine favor in conquering the land. The first actualization of this was the sending of the spies.

Netziv writes that starting with the spies’ mission, the desert experience was to be the training ground for adjusting to this new modality. Although Moshe accepted God’s decision to lower the intensity of His presence, dealing with the change would prove to be an existential struggle for the rest of his life. The scene at the boulder was only the final chapter: Moshe is given one last chance to overcome his inability to adjust to what the Jews needed from their leader, which Netziv tells us was for Moshe to definitively teach the Jews how to earn God’s favor in more conventional ways. This included a more communal and subtle type of prayer than the dramatic petitions of Moshe that they were used to. At the boulder, then, Moshe needed to motivate and teach the people to pray. But apparently, it was beyond him. At that point, Moshe demonstrated once and for all that he could not be the one to lead the Jews into the Promised Land.

Netziv’s approach allows us to reflect on the nature of Moshe’s leadership more broadly. Moshe was ideally suited to the role of an intermediary between God’s highly immanent presence on the one hand and a nation capable of standing at Mount Sinai on the other. But he was not so well suited to leadership in front of a hidden God Who would not perform any new miracles for most of the time the Jews would be in the desert. With God in the background, so to speak, Moshe was challenged by having to deal with the more mundane political and social grievances that became the daily fare of a more banal existence. That type of leadership would have to be taken by someone else.

According to Netziv, Moshe correctly understood his punishment. He failed to make the transition to the hidden mode of Divine providence, which was what God had decided the Jews now needed, even if it would come at the expense of their faithful leader. Their sins led them to need the spies and it would remain to be seen whether Moshe might somehow miraculously pull off working with the transition that the spies represented. But he did not. From that point on, his fate was sealed. We can now appreciate Moshe’s claim that he was punished “for the sake of [the Jewish people]” as a result of [the process that started with] the spy incident.

Rabbi Francis Nataf

Russia Sees No Chance of Repairing Relations with Erdoğan

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Relations between Russia and Turkey cannot be restored, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news conference on Tuesday. “As far as Turkish officials are concerned, there are no prospects [for current diplomatic ties],” she said. “Those people did what they did. As we now perfectly understand, it was their conscious choice. As for relations between countries and peoples, they will be developing.”

Close to two months after Russian planes began flying combat missions to support Syrian president Assad’s ground forces against rebel and ISIS forces, on Nov. 24, the Turkish Air Force downed a Russian Su-24 fighter-bomber. The diplomatic fallout from that shoot-down was fast and stormy, and it has remained on that level, although there have been no more actual military confrontations. Since the incident, Russian trade relations with Turkey have all but ended, and both countries have been painting each other as supporters of terrorism.

In early February, Turkish president Recep Erdogan sought an audience with President Vladimir Putin, but he is yet to receive an invitation. Instead of agreeing to talk, Putin accused Turkey of stabbing Russia in the back.

“The house of cards of what [the Turkish authorities] decided to build in international relations has started falling apart,” Zakharova told the press. “As for relations between peoples and countries, they will certainly continue to develop. There can be no antagonism campaigns against the Turkish people, business and representatives of economic medium,” she added, suggesting it was all strictly about Erdogan.

David Israel

Bibi and Obama Growing Apart on Iran while Rouhani Is All Smiles

Monday, October 21st, 2013

The Associated Press reported that Israel and the U.S. have been growing apart on the Iran nuclear threat, so much so that there appears to be a rift between them these days. Essentially, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to sound the alarm tirelessly and at a high pitch, while the West sees genuine Iranian compromises in the Geneva talks.

The different views are only growing more so, threatening to leave Israel in isolation, as the talks between six global powers and Iran appear to be gaining steam, the AP surmises. western negotiators were upbeat after last week’s talks, going into the next round of negotiations, Nov. 7.

If you wanted a Munich moment – this is it, with the Czech ambassador sitting nervously in the waiting room while the British and French prime ministers and the Axis brutes decided his country’s fate.

Most references to the Munich moment usually show PM Neville Chamberlain waving a piece of paper and announcing "peace in our time." But the really scary Munich moment took place hours earlier, when these dubious characters signed on to the deal. It was about the West's willingness to knowingly embrace the lies of the thugs it was dealing with, leaving Czechoslovakia to pick up the tab. From left to right, Chamberlain, French PM Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count.

Most references to the Munich moment usually show PM Neville Chamberlain waving a piece of paper and announcing “peace in our time.” But the really scary Munich moment took place hours earlier, when these dubious characters signed on to the deal. It was about the West’s willingness to knowingly embrace the lies of the thugs it was dealing with, leaving Czechoslovakia to pick up the tab. From left to right, Chamberlain, French PM Daladier, Hitler, Mussolini and Italian Foreign Minister Count.

In fact, the louder Netanyahu cries out, the more shrill he is bound to sound in the face of the smiling Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

“I think that in this situation as long as we do not see actions instead of words, the international pressure must continue to be applied and even increased,” Netanyahu told his Cabinet on Sunday. “The greater the pressure, the greater the chance that there will be a genuine dismantling of the Iranian military nuclear program.”

The statement may reflect more how out of touch Bibi is with the winds blowing in Washington DC right now, than a practical strategy. Over the weekend, U.S. officials said the White House was going to offer Iran a chance to recoup billions of dollars in frozen assets—sitting there since the 1979 Islamic revolution—if it scales back its nuclear program. The sanctions will stay in place for now, but Iran would suddenly receive a windfall.

In other words, Iran will receive between $50 and $75 billion, tax free, not for eliminating its nuclear weapons program, but for merely slowing it down.

This is vintage Rouhani, incidentally – the man was the architect of Iran’s winning strategy of fooling the world while flashing many winning smiles. One gets the feeling the Rouhanis wanted their boy to go into modeling for toothpaste ads, instead of running one of the three most evil regimes on the planet, but one thing led to another.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said it was “premature” to talk about easing sanctions, but he did not endorse Netanyahu’s tough line, saying the U.S. is planning a more “incremental” approach in response to concrete Iranian gestures.

It’s 2005 revisited, and Rouhani knows he’s already won this round. He managed to separate Netanyahu from his American benefactors, and isolate Israel which now looks like it’s frothing at the mouth while Iran is all pleasantries and pragmatism. All he has to do from this point on is keep talking, host a couple UN inspectors, mess with their inspections a little, nothing serious, make it impossible to get a real read of what goes on in those plants – but keep on smiling, denying, and never say anything hostile or aggressive against israel or the West.

Bibi cannot win this one, any more than Czechoslovakia could win the diplomatic war against Hitler. Few people know today that on paper the Czechs were superior militarily to the Germans. If they had decided to strike against the Germans, they could have altered world history. They didn’t need British or French protection, they were completely self sufficient in manufacturing their military arsenal. Indeed, it was his bloodless conquest of Czechoslovakia that turned Hitler unstoppable.

Yori Yanover

Abbas’s Classic Thug Extortion Trick

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Watching Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas make his speech to the UN General Assembly, I suspect the same jolting thought passed through my head as it did for a lot of the viewers’: “Isn’t this guy meant to be the moderate?”

Coming so soon after the latest Hamas rocket-barrage against Israel, the almost physical need to hold onto that dead paradigm can still occasionally override most of the facts. On one side are the Palestinian rocket-launching squads about whom nothing apparently can be done. Then on the other side are the other Palestinians, led by moderates, who just want to sit down and negotiate if they could only find time out of their busy schedules.

Even those of us who know and follow the Palestinian Authority can find ourselves slipping into this narrative: These are the moderates and those are the extremists, and we have to choose between the two.

Except that then you get another golden opportunity to hear Mahmoud Abbas in full moderate flight mode, and you have to rethink it all over again.

When Abbas stood up to take the floor in front of the UN and the world last Thursday, he might have started with a concession. He might have started with a bid for peace or a reaching out to the Israelis. But no, he started once again, in time-honored fashion, with an attack on Israel. And the usual array of hilarious untruths and half-truths.

“Palestine comes today to the United Nations General Assembly…”

Not even a full sentence in and already the “Wrong” buzzer sounds. “Palestine” comes today? Which Palestine? Gaza? West Bank? “Palestine” is not a single entity. It is hopelessly divided. It makes the average boxing tournament look like a meeting of minds.

After all – and as he must surely know – Abbas himself has not even been to the Gaza since 2007. And not because the wicked Zionists have stopped him from doing so, but because his Palestinian brothers in Hamas have such a bad track record for shooting and hurling from high buildings most of Mr. Abbas’s erstwhile Fatah colleagues in Gaza, as during the 2007 Hamas coup.

But, undeterred by such trivialities, Abbas continued:

“…at a time when it is still tending to its wounds and still burying its beloved martyrs.”

The what? Martyrs? Oh well, perhaps it’s just a stylistic thing…

“…of children, women and men who have fallen victim to the latest Israeli aggression, still searching for remnants of life amid the ruins of homes destroyed by Israeli bombs on the Gaza Strip, wiping out entire families, their men, women and children murdered along with their dreams, their hopes, their future and their longing to live an ordinary life and to live in freedom and peace.”

Israeli aggression? Wiping out?

The question all of this begged for me, as I’m sure it did for plenty of others, was this: Does this sound like the opening number of somebody eager to engage in a peace process? Or the audition of a man who is hoping that he can take back extremism from the extremists?

Mahmoud Abbas spent his speech claiming that this was the last chance for the peace process. In reality, it was simply the last chance for Mahmoud Abbas to remain in charge. In recent weeks he has been phoning around the foreign ministries of Europe explaining that if they don’t back him this time in the non-state statehood bid, then it is all over and all we have to deal with is Hamas.

This is, of course, the classic thug extortion trick. They come to your door and tell you that you have to hand over the money. Not because they are going to do anything so bad if you don’t, but because their friend here is really, really mad, and they’re only just managing to hold him back.

On Thursday the UN General Assembly, with only a few brave souls holding out, finally gave in to this man’s gangsterism. Many of them did so in order – they thought – to avoid the rocket-firing terrorism of Hamas. So they ended up by backing the diplomatic terrorism of Mahmoud Abbas.

What he does with his new-found power we can already guess. He will use it – as he used his time on the UN stage – not to further the peace process, but to retard it, principally by demonizing the only negotiating partner that he, or any other Palestinian leader, will ever have.

Douglas Murray

Laptop Liability

Friday, November 30th, 2012

“Hi, Levi,” said his friend Moshe. “I’ve got a project to work on for the next two months. By any chance, do you have a spare laptop you’re willing to lend for the duration?”

“Funny that you’re asking,” replied Levi. “I just bought a new laptop but am planning to keep the old one as a spare. If you want to borrow it for two months, that’s fine.”

“Great!” exclaimed Moshe appreciatively. “When can I come by for it?’

“I’m not home today,” said Levi, “but any time tomorrow would be fine.”

The following day, Moshe came by and picked up the laptop.

A week later, while Moshe was working in the library, Baruch came by to visit. “I see you got yourself a laptop,” Baruch said. “When did you buy it?”

“Actually it belongs to Levi, a friend of mine,” said Moshe. “I borrowed it for two months to work on the project.”

While they were talking, Baruch accidentally knocked the laptop off the table. It fell to the floor and cracked.

Moshe picked up the laptop and examined it. “It’s ruined,” he said to Baruch. “The laptop is smashed and cannot be repaired. You’ll have to pay me for the laptop.”

“It wasn’t your laptop,” said Baruch. “I don’t owe you anything. When Levi asks for his money, I’ll pay him. For all I know, he’s not going to ask you to pay, anyway.”

Moshe called Levi. “A friend of mine, Baruch, broke the laptop you loaned me,” he said.

“Although I bought a new laptop, I still want the old one,” said Levi. “You’ll have to pay for it.”

“Baruch ruined the laptop, though,” Moshe said to him. “Ask him for the money.”

“I don’t know Baruch; I have nothing to do with him,” replied Levi emphatically. “You borrowed the laptop, you are liable for it. Either pay or get the money from Baruch and give it to me.”

Levi contacted Baruch, “Levi said that I should get the money from you,” he said.

“You’re responsible for the laptop,” said Baruch. “After you pay Levi, I’ll pay you, not beforehand!”

Frustrated, Moshe went back to Levi. “Baruch refuses to pay me until I pay you,” he said, “but why I should pay if he damaged the laptop? I don’t have the money to lay out.”

“It’s not fair that you push me from one to the other,” said Levi. “My head is spinning! Let’s take it up with Rabbi Dayan.”

Levi and Moshe went to Rabbi Dayan. “Who is liable for the laptop?” asked Levi. “Moshe, who borrowed the laptop, or Baruch, who damaged it?”

“The Gemara (B.K. 111b) addresses a similar case,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If someone steals an item and then another person comes along and consumes it, both are accountable to the owner. The thief is liable because he stole the item. Nonetheless, the item still belongs to its owner, so that the one who consumed it damaged his property. Therefore, the owner can collect from either party, or even partial payment from one and partial payment from the other. The same is true in your case.” (C.M. 361:5)

“But I didn’t steal anything here,” objected Moshe. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“True, but a borrower is accountable to the owner for his item, even if lost through uncontrollable circumstances (oness),” replied Rabbi Dayan. (C.M. 340:1) “Thus, you owe Levi. Still, since the laptop was Levi’s property, Baruch is also liable toward him, so that Levi can collect from either of you.”

“Can I demand payment of the laptop from Baruch now, or only Levi?” asked Moshe. “Does Levi owe me anything?”

“Because you are responsible to pay for the laptop, and Baruch caused you a direct loss (garmi) by breaking it, he has accountability to you also,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “On the other hand, let’s say Levi were to forgo payment, you would not be able to demand payment from Baruch, since he did not damage your laptop and did not cause you any loss.” (See Pischei Choshen, Geneivah 4:34)

“What about the fact that I don’t have use of the laptop to finish the project?” asked Moshe.

“The Nesivos (341:11) suggests a novel idea regarding this,” said Rabbi Dayan. “Since you borrowed the laptop for two months, you have a legal right to use the item for that time; Moshe could not demand it back until the two months were up. Therefore, the Nesivos maintains that the value of that usage, the laptop’s depreciation, is owed to you, the borrower – not Levi, the owner. This only applies, though, if the item’s nature and the duration of the loan are such that the usage entails an accruable depreciation of the item. (See Chukei Chaim – Hichos She’eilah 2:12; P.C., Pikadon 9:14)

Rabbi Meir Orlian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/laptop-liability/2012/11/30/

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