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July 23, 2016 / 17 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘gold’

Guck To Gold: Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Years ago I was introduced to a compelling logical argument that helped me a lot later on when I would struggle with difficult Talmudic passages: If someone gives you too many answers to a question, it probably means there is no real answer.

So many answers have been offered to the question of why bad things happen to good people. Here too, the answer remains elusive. Indeed the Mishnah (Pirkei Avot 4:15) teaches: “Rabbi Yannai would say, We have no comprehension of the tranquility of the wicked, nor of the suffering of the righteous.” Despite various approaches to this question that were known at the time, Rabbi Yannai believed the ultimate answer was yet to be known.

Does this mean we can never have even an inkling of understanding of human suffering? No, there are many small but meaningful and compelling answers that help along the way and offer hope and relief. And focusing on making sense of at least the tip of the iceberg of suffering can be pivotal for transforming oneself from victim to victor, from overpowered to empowered.

I will highlight some of those answers, which in many ways correspond with the Kübler-Ross model of emotional stages experienced by individuals upon the death of a loved one (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance).

The first is answer is that anger and frustration are legitimate, understandable, expected – and desired. The importance of communicating one’s feelings to God can be found throughout Jewish sources, from the most basic to the most advanced. The expression of one’s frustrations should come not in a disrespectful way, not in a demeaning way, but in a way that expresses a person’s feelings.

What is essential is to make sure one is angry at God – not angry about God. When a person is angry at God, it means he has a healthy and robust relationship with the Creator, but when a person is angry about God, it suggests the Creator is no longer in his life. Anger and frustration can – should – be expressed, but as part of one’s relationship with God.

The second point that is essential to remember is that no suffering is meaningless. Whatever the reason for suffering, it is not in vain; we may not know where it is leading to or the reason for it in the first place, but it is neither meaningless nor arbitrary.

The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 91:6) states that Yaakov Avinu never said anything wrong except for asking his sons “Why did you harm me?” When God heard Yaakov saying this, He responded: “I am busy bringing his son to kingship in Egypt and he says why did you harm me?”

Sometimes, more painful than the suffering itself is the inability to see any reason for the suffering. While the reasons for struggles, pain, and loss may vary, they are not meaningless.

The third thing we must always remember is that we are never alone in our suffering. When Hashem first reveals Himself to Moshe, He purposefully speaks from a thorned bush. The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 2:7) teaches that by doing so God was saying: When my people are in trouble, I am right there with them though the hardship.

The verse in Exodus famously says, “And the children of Israel sighed…and they cried, and their cry came up unto God…and God heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob; and God saw the children of Israel, and God took cognizance of them.

No pain goes unnoticed. God is there and takes consideration of every bit of our pain.

A fourth key realization is that this world, with its suffering and strife, is not the final destination. Though that may sound to some to like a cheap “out” from the profound questions related to suffering, it is powerful enough to be at the epicenter of religion. We believe in an afterlife. Suffering is not our final fate but a temporary one.

The Talmud (Arachin 16b) says that if a person puts his hand into his pocket with the intention of pulling out three coins and instead finds only two (so that he has to put his hand back into his pocket), even that “suffering” is noted above. God did not create us to suffer, so when the smallest suffering does occur, God takes that into account.

We don’t know why we suffer. We do know that Someone is looking at our suffering, listening to our cries, and factoring it all into His considerations. We are not suffering to no end. It is all accounted for and will be factored into a broader scheme of things.

The fifth idea to have in mind is that although we don’t necessarily see or understand the positive outcomes of our suffering, such outcomes should not be ruled out. Not knowing why we suffer goes both ways – we may not know what good could possibly come of it but we cannot say with any certainty that nothing good will emerge. An example that comes to mind is that of Joseph. Sold into slavery in a foreign land and then imprisoned for making a heroic moral choice, Joseph had every reason to question his suffering. But that very suffering was what brought him to the throne of Egypt.

Does this mean we should wait for a magical outcome or fairytale-like solution to difficult situations? No. But a healthy way of dealing with suffering is to immediately ask questions such as: “What opportunities do I now see of which I previously had been unaware?” “How can this help me to help others?” “How will this experience leave me stronger, smarter, or more sensitive than I was before?”

Finally, look to others for help. Yes, God is with you in your pain. Yes, prayer should be used at every possible point. But we should still look to others who care for us and will look out for us.

The Torah teaches (Vayikra 13:22) that one of the things a person with leprosy should do is vocally let people know of his affliction. The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) understands this to be teaching us that a distressed individual is obligated to alert people to his distress.

Letting others know can help. It can help because they will pray. It can help because they will sympathize. It can help because they will offer social support or have relevant advice that might help us. Will everyone be as sympathetic as we would like? Not necessarily, but we will also be touched to discover those special people who come our way and can help.

So while we will never understand, at least not on this side of eternity, why bad things happen to good people, we do know what good people can do when bad things happen. And we know that good people, often utilizing the tools described above, are able to take really tough situations and turn them around.

It is our task to make sure we take the guck that sometimes is handed to us and to turn it into gold.

Rabbi Elchanan Poupko

70 Years Later, Auschwitz Inmate’s Gold Ring Found in Double Bottom Mug

Saturday, May 21st, 2016

The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum staff found a mug with a double bottom that had jewelry hidden inside it. The mug is one of tens of thousands of enameled pieces of kitchenware looted by the Germans from people deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

“During the works to secure the enameled kitchenware located at the main exhibition, it turned out that one of the mugs has a double bottom,” Auschwitz Museum employee Hanna Kubik said. “It was very well hidden, but due to the passage of time, the materials underwent gradual degradation, and the second bottom separated from the mug.”

Auschwitz mug with gold ring / Photo credit: Miroslaw Maciaszczyk

Auschwitz mug with gold ring / Photo credit: Miroslaw Maciaszczyk

“Under it, among other objects, was a woman’s ring made of gold and a necklace wrapped in a piece of canvas,” Kubik added.

Auschwitz inmate’s gold chain / Photo credit: Miroslaw Maciaszczyk

Auschwitz inmate’s gold chain / Photo credit: Miroslaw Maciaszczyk

Despite the passage of more than 70 years since the liberation of the camp, there are still cases of accidental discovery of objects hidden by the victims, museum officials say. “The Germans incessantly lied to the Jews they deported for extermination,” said museum director Dr. Piotr M. A. Cywiński. “They told them about resettlement, work and life in a different location. They allowed the victims take with them a little luggage. In this way, the Germans were confident that in the luggage — including clothes and items needed for life — they would find the last valuables of the deported families.”

“The hiding of valuable items — which is repeatedly mentioned in the accounts of survivors, and which was the reason for the ripping and careful search of clothes and suitcases in the warehouse for looted items, the so-called ‘Kanada,’ proves on the one hand the awareness of the victims of the chance of being robbed during the deportation, but on the other hand it shows that the Jewish families still had a ray of hope that these items would be required for their livelihood,” Cywiński noted.

An X-ray of the Auschwitz mug with gold ring

An X-ray of the Auschwitz mug with gold ring

All findings are carefully documented and secured by the conservators, because they are the most recent traces of individual victims of the camp. Unfortunately, quite often the owners of these items remain anonymous, because there are no traces left on the objects to help identify them.

In the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum collection there are more than 12,000 pieces of enameled kitchenware: cups, pots, bowls, kettles, jugs, and crockery decorated with images of children playing and images of animals.

JNi.Media

Arab ‘Gold Rush’ in Jerusalem

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Israeli soldiers discovered approximately NIS 2 million worth of gold bullion hidden within the side door of a car from eastern Jerusalem when the driver, an Arab with Israeli identification, arrived at the Derech Avot (Patriarchs’ Way) tunnels checkpoint this week.

The driver, who identified himself as an interior designer, told the soldiers that the gold — wrapped in five packages, each containing five individual 1.5 kg gold bars — belonged to him, and he was bringing it in his private Ford from Hebron to Jerusalem.

Since the man’s ID had checked out, and nothing else was found, the soldiers turned the matter over to Israeli customs authorities, who continued the questioning.

Customs officials requested the routine paperwork that generally accompanies gold bars in such amounts. At that point, it became clear there was no documentation, no accounting to back up the claims and no taxes having been paid on the massive sum involved.

At that point, the “interior designer “changed his story and said instead that he was taking the gold to Ramallah (not Jerusalem) from Hebron as a middleman between those who work in the jewelry trade.

Customs workers at the Israel Tax Authority seized the gold bars since there was no accounting paperwork to back up the claims.

The investigation is continuing, authorities said.

Hana Levi Julian

Polish Army Securing Nazi Gold Train Area

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

(JNi.media) Polish Soldiers and explosives experts on Monday launched a six-day operation to secure the area where authorities suspect a Nazi-era train loaded with looted gold is buried, news agencies are reporting. The soldiers are searching some three feet below the surface, checking for mines or any other dangerous objects, before municipal workers begin excavations come Oct. 3.

A press officer for the local government confirmed in August that a military train had been discovered in Walbrzych, near Poland’s border with the Czech Republic.

Local lore describes a train loaded with valuables that was stored in a tunnel by the retreating Nazis in 1945. In August, the town’s deputy mayor Zygmunt Nowaczyk told reporters: “The city [of Walbrzych] is full of mysterious stories because of its history. [But] now it is formal information — [we] have found something.”

“Our goal is to check whether there’s any hazardous material at the site,” Colonel Artur Talik, who is leading the search for explosives, told RT.

The discovery was made by two amateurs, one Polish, one German, who informed authorities through their attorney that they plan to reveal the location of the train if they were guaranteed a finders’ fee of 10 percent of its value. Marika Tokarska, a Walbrzych city council official, said: “In the documents they sent us, they inform us that they have found a military train from the second World War and that outside the train some guns and weapons can be seen. They also said there could be gold and some other precious things inside.”

The news site wiadomosciwalbrzyskie.pl said the train may contain as much as 300 tons of gold on board.

JNi.Media

Indian National Caught with Smuggled Diamonds in His Underwear

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Israeli officials at a Jordanian border crossing have arrested an Indian tourist who literally was caught with his pants down, exposing smuggled diamonds and gold worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Customs officials apparently did not have any advance knowledge of the smuggling attempt but noticed that the man showed discomfort from his clothing.

A detailed search turned up gold in the tourist’s toothbrush holder and approximately 150 carats of diamonds in his underwear. The smuggler admitted he intended to sell the diamonds in Israel.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Bitcoin ATM Launches in Israel

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

The first Bitcoin ATM machine has launched for the first time in Israel, at a location in Tel Aviv.

Bitcoin, a new form of virtual currency, has recently begun to make the rounds of the global economy.

The new machine, operated by the Bits of Gold company, returns Bitcoin credit in a virtual wallet in exchange for a deposit of cold hard cash. The new ATM is located at the nonprofit Bitcoin emBassy organization offices.

The new currency appears to be creating an alternative underground world economy, independent from any other national system by virtue of the fact that it operates internationally, solely via the Internet.

In Israel, one Bitcoin (BTC) fluctuates around the NIS 1700 mark, according to the website of the Bits of Gold company. Users who prefer extra security are offered a USB key called a “Yubikey” by the company. For business owners, the company also offers a “checkout with Bitcoin” service.

 

Hana Levi Julian

An Even More Centralized Israel: Cashless and Criminal

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Centralization in Israel is a two-headed coin (or perhaps a two-headed monster).

There’s no doubt, that so many bureaucratic activities go much smoother in Israel than they do in America, because we have ID numbers and our cards are inter-linked to everything. Of course, sometimes that doubles the frustration when obvious things need to be manually duplicated over and over for no reason.

On the other hand, that centralization provides no flexibility or a safety net. Having problems with one government office can easily spill over to an unrelated one, since you’re linked together everywhere on record.

Then there is the basic issue of personal privacy and civil liberties.

And now, the Israeli government is attempting to implement two extreme decisions that threaten civil liberties more than ever.

They’re testing a biometric ID system. God forbid that should ever become mandatory.

Right now, even though your personal bio-data is out there with different organizations, there is still some semblance of privacy and protection because of the separation that naturally exists between your health fund, the army, the government, and so on.

But once that goes away, there goes your privacy. You will have no control over your personal information at all, and you’re reliant on the government, which as we know, is not the most effective of protectors of personal data.

The other move is even scarier.

The Israeli government is actually considering trying to find a way to abolish cash.

There was a unanimous cabinet decision to explore how to do that (Hey Naftali Bennett, I didn’t vote for you to lose my civil liberties – remember that come election time).

They want to get rid of cash, and give everyone rechargeable “cash cards” that will allow the government to track every single transaction you do. EVERY. SINGLE. TRANSACTION.

I can’t even begin to describe the civil liberties and privacy violations that implementing this system will create.

And if they actually believe this will get rid of cash, or the black market, they’re even stupider than I thought.

Bitcoin, gold, barter… you name it. Smart (and dumb) people will find their way around it. Not to do illegal transactions, mind you, but simply to protect their privacy away from the government’s snooping eyes.

And then we’ll all be criminals, because of a dangerous legislation which is an intrusive attempt to suck more tax money out of us and spy on us, and not just spy directly, but with data mining too, to study our purchase and transaction behavior, and find every last penny they can suck out of us and understand what we do with it.

I guarantee one thing. If this legislation passes, if the party I voted for, and the ones I didn’t, don’t stop this in its tracks, I will do everything (legal) to make sure those people do not get elected again, and be replaced with people who do care and understand the importance of civil liberties and fear the tyranny of government.

JoeSettler

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/muqata/an-even-more-centralized-israel-cashless-and-criminal/2013/09/18/

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