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November 27, 2015 / 15 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘shavuot’

From Rescue by Kindertransport to Fighting Nazis, and the Jewish-Israeli Holiday Relationship

Thursday, April 16th, 2015


Yishai is joined in-studio by Walter Bingham, 91 — rescued from the Nazis as a Polish child on the Kindertransport and ended up fighting against them with the British — shares his memories of Kristallnacht and of facing the German Foreign Minister who was first to hang at Nuremberg.

Then, VOI Knesset Insider Jeremy Saltan joins Yishai in-studio to discuss the relationship between the Jewish holidays established in the past and the new holidays born in the modern era of Jewish statehood. They point out that Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, the Day of Remembrance for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism, Israel Independence Day and Jerusalem Day all are marked during the “counting of the Omer” — the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost).

Yishai Fleisher on Twitter: @YishaiFleisher
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Rolling Stones into Shavuot

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Since the start time of The Rolling Stones concert was rolled ahead to 9:15 to allow for travel time after the end of Shavuot, I thought it would be fun to roll the opposite direction back into Shavuot.

If you read through the articles written before the concert, there were three main themes: 1) The Rolling Stones were performing in Israel; 2) The concert was scheduled to begin the night after Shavuot; and 3) BDS wasn’t working … again.

Now that we’ve isolated these three, let’s work to conceptualize them. Beyond the recent headlines, there is some enduring message here. Some inner reason why this story was so attractive and intriguing for so many. While we know what happened to make these recent headlines, we’d like to now ask why?

Why I am writing this?

To help us all see the bigger picture. While it may seem that our interests travel from one unrelated headline to the next, there are correspondences interweaving all these stories together. In this respect, the billions of pages that comprise the internet are indeed a www (world wide web). The challenge is in finding the correspondences between them and knowing what sites or data to leave out entirely.

Stones, Shavuot, and BDS

Back to our three. The first conceptual leap we’d like to take is to leap past this particular band, and into a concept called “rolling stones.” Even if future headlines speak about a rock band by another name, or something else to do with stones (e.g., arab stoning attacks), then we are still able to weave them together in our www of concepts. For instance on JewishPress.com, the article “Rolling Stones Play Tel Aviv” was posted 15 minutes before, “64 Stoning/Firebomb Attacks Over Shavuot.

Thinking conceptually enables us to acknowledge the relationship between the two, and open our eyes to begin appreciating (and promoting) the Divine Providence. Since King David passed away on Shavuot the ‘rolling stones’ that came to mind was the ‘stone’ that killed the Philistine giant Goliath.

What about BDS? Instead of a physical stone slung against the Philistine Goliath, the performance of The Rolling Stones in Israel was seen as a proverbial ‘stone throw’ against BDS and a fictionalized nation called the Palestinians. We have now corresponded all three of our concert headline themes with the original David and Goliath ‘headline.’

Why is conceptualization needed?

Because now we can begin to appreciate the why behind the what of the headlines.

For instance, while the band presently consists of four members, a fifth was invited to join them on stage (according to one report, for the first time in 40 years). Where did this thought to invite him on stage come from? That the four ‘stones’ should become five ‘stones’? From our original ‘headline’ of David placing five stones in his slingshot. While David killed Goliath with one stone (Samuel 1 17:49), David had put five stones into his slingshot (verse 40).

In contrast to the hate-filled stones thrown by arabs, as mentioned previously, the ‘stones’ thrown by Jews are non-physical stones of love. This is the inner lesson that 50,000 attendees in Tel Aviv hoped to receive yesterday. How to throw stones of love.

Because of the Divine Providence in the date chosen (presumably the band didn’t know the Jewish significance of the day beforehand, nor the significance of inviting a fifth ‘stone’ on stage), and because they went against BDS, even though the tickets were pricey, and the heat sweltering, the event was a near sellout. But while many of us were attracted to attend or read about the event, now comes the challenge to take these messages home.

Rolling Stones Delay Concert Start for Religious Jews

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Long time readers of yesterday’s papers know that JewishPress.com was instrumental in bringing the Rolling Stones to Israel, 2000 light years from home.

Our Rolling Stones Purim spoof was hot stuff and it was just like the hand of fate flipped a switch and suddenly the Rolling Stones are in another land.

Now time waits for no one, even the Rolling Stones when it comes to when the Shavuot holiday ends. But now it looks like time is on my side as the Rolling Stones have delayed the start of their performance to 9:15PM in little Tel (&) Aviv to allow religious fans to get to the concert. We love you!

Who says you can’t always get what you want?

Shavuos Tips From Tanya

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

1. As always, plan your meals ahead of time.  If you are eating at home, this is even easier.  If you are eating out, and feel comfortable enough, find out what is on the menu and make your choices AHEAD of time.  The general rule is, ONE plate with ONE serving of protein (or a combo of 2), ONE (small) serving of starch, and lots of vegetables.  Dessert can be a fruit (fruit salad, sugar free compote, low calorie ices, etc.)

2. Eat breakfast EVERY single morning.  Many people are tempted to skip this meal and “save up” their calories for the other meals, but this only backfires!  Eating a good healthy breakfast will stabilize your blood sugar throughout the day and will make you less likely to overeat at the actual meals.

3. Be a great guest or an overgracious hostess!  Make yourself busy serving, chatting, helping to clear, etc… Anything that distracts you away from sitting at the table for very long periods of time.

4. Stock up on Diet Center’s Say Cheese diet cheesecakes, or Global’s diet cheesecakes

    These are delicious, low calorie, and great for when everyone else is having “the real thing.”

5. Cheat… A little bit!  It’s ok to cheat a little but follow these guidelines:

  1. Make sure it’s worth it! Think your kids’ leftover noodles versus a spoonful of penne vodka, or cheesecake batter while you’re making it versus a (very small) piece of cheesecake for dessert.  If you’re going to have it, make it worth it!
  2. Plan for it!  Spontaneous cheating is always worse than planned cheating.  If you plan for it, you are in control of it.  So plan ahead what it is that you want to have and stick to that.
  3. No regrets! Have it and forget about it.  Don’t talk about it, think about it, or even worse, go off your diet completely because of it.  (Plus, no one wants to hear you vent)
  4. Make up for it!  If you had a piece of cheesecake for dessert on the first day, take a brisk walk afterwards, or skip dessert that night or the next day.  Treat it like a bank account, if you withdraw, you need to deposit, to keep the balance more or less even.

6. Write it ALL down! As soon as Yom tov is over, write down everything you ate.  This will give you the accountability and may even make you think twice before having something.

7. Walk it off! A brisk walk will not only burn some calories, it will also put you in the right mindset and get you away from the table/pantry/kitchen…

Remember: The goal on Shavuos (or any Yom tov) is not necessarily to LOSE weight, but at least not to gain weight!

Good luck, and enjoy!


  Zucchini Souffle – Low Carb, Fat Free (Dairy or Parve) From Nechama Cohen, Jewish Diabetes Association


  • non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 4 large zucchini or other summer squash, peeled
  • 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg whites, or 1 (4-ounce) container of Egg Beaters
  • 1 (8-ounce) package Farmer cheese
  • 2 tablespoons soy or regular flour
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13-inch casserole dish with baking paper. 2. Saute onion and set aside. 3. Grate the zucchini and squeeze out excess liquid. 4. In a separate bowl, combine eggs and cheese, mixing well. Add the flour and season with salt and pepper. 5. Combine zucchini with the cheese mixture. Add the onions. Mix well. 6. Pour into the prepared casserole dish. Bake for about 1 hour.

The Link Between Bamidbar And Shavuot

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

This week’s parshah, Bamidbar, is read prior to the Shavuot holiday. Rabbi Isaiah Halevy Horowitz suggests that this Torah reading teaches us important lessons about the holiday.

Bamidbar presents the names and leaders of each of the tribes of Israel. It can be suggested that the delineation of the leaders of each tribe is linked to Shavuot as it promotes the idea that the heads of the community should be paragons or teachers of Torah.

The parshah also describes the way the Jews encamped around the Tabernacle. Rav Umberto Cassuto echoes the similarity to Shavuot as he calls the Tabernacle a “mini-Sinai.” We simulated Sinai as we wandered through the desert, constantly reliving the experience of revelation.

Bamidbar begins by telling us that God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai desert. Rabbi Nachman Cohen in A Time for All Things maintains that the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot is “to underscore the great significance of the Torah having been given in the desert – no man’s land.”

Rabbi Cohen points out that the location of the vast expanse of the wilderness is significant for it teaches us that the Torah is not “the exclusive property of given individuals.” Living a desert existence makes us feel vulnerable. The fact that the Torah was given in the desert also teaches that “Torah can only be acquired if a person humbles himself.”

My colleague Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky inspired another idea. Perhaps the key relationship between Bamidbar and Shavuot is “counting.” Not only does our portion deal with the census – the counting – of the Jewish people, but the Torah, when mentioning Shavuot, stresses the counting of days between the holidays of Pesach and Shavuot. In the words of the Torah, “seven weeks shall you count” (Leviticus, 23:15). This teaches that as important as the holiday of Shavuot may be, equally important is the count toward the holiday.

An important lesson emerges. Whenever we are engaged in a particular project, whether working toward a professional goal or striving to achieve in our personal lives, it is important to reflect and to evaluate how much time has already been spent on the endeavor and how much is still required to achieve its realization.

Evaluating forces us to consider the gift of every moment we have. Rabbi Joseph Lookstein points out that we must not only realize what the years have done to us but what we have done with our years.

Hence the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot. In the words of the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days” (Psalms, 90:12). Bamidbar teaches the significance of each person and Shavuot teaches the importance of every moment for the individual.

The Lessons Of Sefirat Ha’Omer

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Our Torah portion talks of the fifty days between Passover and Shavuot commonly known as Sefirat Ha’Omer. From a biblical perspective, these days relate to the barley offering brought on the second day of Passover and the wheat brought on the festival of Shavuot. These are days of hope and prayer that the produce from the ground grows fruitfully and plentifully.

In addition, this period of time certainly has something to do with the counting of time from Passover, the holiday marking our physical exodus from Egypt, to Shavuot, the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah.

So great is the anticipation of Shavuot that we count joyously one day after the other for seven full weeks hoping to reach higher and higher as we approach that moment in history when the Torah was given. It is fitting that we count up to forty-nine. This is because the number seven in Judaism symbolizes completion, wholeness and spirituality, for it is the number of Shabbat. Forty-nine is seven sets of seven, therefore the Omer period is the ultimate completion of the completion, the holiest of the holiest.

As time progressed in the history of our people, these joyous days turned into sad ones. It was between Passover and Shavuot that the students of Rabbi Akiva died. According to tradition, death came because these learned men were involved in endless dispute. The relationships between these individuals who carried the potential for such greatness broke down resulting in backbiting and a totally ruptured community.

My son Rabbi Dr. Dov Weiss points out that perhaps it is not a coincidence that Rabbi Akiva’s students died during the very days when we count toward the giving of the Torah. No doubt the rabbis led the way in the count toward Shavuot, as rabbis are the teachers par excellence of Torah. Yet, it is these same rabbis who became involved in deep conflict. Rather than these days being joyous they became days of mourning.

Too often Torah scholars become so engrossed in the understanding of Torah that they begin to believe their approach is the only correct one. They often cannot see the truth in any other view. In our communities we too very often see how rabbis and community leaders fail to see any truth in someone else’s view even if it legitimate, creating havoc and endless strife.

It has been suggested that different views are recorded in the Talmud to remind us that while one should continue to focus and deepen his or her view of Torah, it should not lead to tunnel vision. Different outlooks should respect one another. Sefirat Ha’Omer reminds us that we should intensely journey toward Torah, but while we do so we should not possess tunnel vision; we should open the windows and let the winds enter our minds, our bodies and our souls.

Rosh Hashanah 2013 – Pain or pleasure?

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The Torah tells us very little about Rosh Hashanah, not even its name. The three harvest and pilgrim festivals are named, Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukot. These were the main focal points of national Jewish life in Biblical times, when as many as possible gathered in Jerusalem and attended Temple ceremonies. The Torah keeps on reiterating how they are supposed to be happy occasions, time to eat, drink, be merry, and share. Yom Kipur is the single Biblical holiday devoted to personal introspection, a serious and painful experience, physically and spiritually.

But when it comes to Rosh Hashanah, all we have to describe it is, “The first day of the seventh month is a Sabbath of remembering and blowing (the shofar)”! (Leviticus 23 and Numbers 29) It is up to the Oral Law to tell us more. The name we use universally nowadays, the New or rather the Head of the Year, came into Judaism much later than the Bible.

So I wonder, where does Rosh Hashanah fit in on the scale of pain and pleasure? Is it a happy, joyful festival like the other three, or is it painful and serious like Yom Kipur? Is it a self- analytical moment in which our very existence is examined and justified, or is it a mystical occasion when we should try, through ecstasy and experience, to get as close to Heaven as we can? Is it a case of “turn from evil and do good” or “do good and turn from evil”?

There is an alternative option, that it is a mixture of both. Just like good chocolate, it has salt as well as sugar. Throughout the history of human intellectual civilization we have always been expected to choose, to decide which one is right. Should we be happy or sad? Should we be enjoying life or suppressing and disciplining? Should we be rational or emotional? Should we be individuals or a community? Perhaps they are both right.

The Western philosophical tradition likes to be precise. It has no time for fuzzy combinations. Either you are Stoic or an Epicurean, an Aristotelian or Platonist, a Greek or a Roman, a Christian or a Muslim, a rationalist or a mystic, a capitalist or a socialist, a Freudian or a Jungian, a person who wants to have fun or a killjoy.

But surely we are a mixture of different ideas, opinions, experiences and feelings. So is Judaism. That’s why we can never agree on anything. Do we have to be scholars or populists, legalists or fabulists, have analytical minds or great memories, prefer gemarah or midrash, be Chasidim or Mitnagdim, Sefardi or a Ashkenazi, strict or lenient? Why can’t we combine lots of different elements and move in and out of different moods and situations?

History plays a part, of course. Zechariah was ready to scrap all the sad fast days and turn them into joyful celebrations. But then came years of oppression and suffering and exile and the number of sad days increased. Once we were exiled from Jerusalem, our liturgy overflowed with sadness, alienation, loss, and woe. Now we have penthouses overlooking the Old City, with swimming pools and saunas. Once Ashkenazi and Sefardi prayed in different worlds; now we are next-door and often visit each other, pray with each other and dance with each other, let alone marry each other. Once Lithuanians placed bans on Chasidim, now they imitate them. Rav Ovadia Yosef once implored his followers to stop dressing in black Ashkenazi gear, now his sons looks like nineteenth century Viennese doctors. Blurring the lines can be good. We should embrace it.

So historically we refer to the first ten days of the month of Tishrei as Yamim Noraim, Awesome Days, serious days, or the Ten Days of Repentance. Heavy days with much longer services than normal, lots of additional poems, much breast-beating and tears of contrition, and the expectation that being found unworthy we will be condemned in ten days to Heavenly punishment. Yet there is another side. We sit down to huge banquets. Our tables are laden with goodies. We dip apples into honey and wish each other a sweet year. We get hold of as many exotic fruits as we can to symbolize good things, and to be able to thank God “who has kept us alive and enabled us to enjoy this moment.” We buy new things and wear our best clothes. We are treated to the sounds of the shofar, and we go down to the water to remark on our never stepping into the same river twice (I bet you never thought of that association with Tashlich).

We can be happy one moment and reflective the next. That, according to the Talmud, is why we break glasses at weddings. It is why we thank God for the bad as well as the good, and vice versa. It is why we celebrate life and we record death. It is why we work but also rest, why we eat but also refrain. The more we do, the richer our lives. But the more we overindulge the less rewarding and enjoyable they become. Unless you add salt, the chocolate cloys. Unless you enjoy life and look on its bright side and remember your good fortune, however modest, the less significant each moment becomes.

Rosh Hashana has no Biblical name because it is sandwiched between the extremes of the delightful pleasures of harvests and the self-denial of Yom Kipur. It stands for the golden mean between them, the best of both harvest festivals and serious self-analysis.

Pain or pleasure? Yes. We all experience it when we look back at our lives, let alone the past year. There are things we did that give us a sense of success and satisfaction. And there are things we did that we regret, wish we had done differently or better, that cause us pain. It’s precisely that combination of the two that Rosh Hashanah reminds us of.

May we all have a sweet year.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/rosh-hashanah-2013-pain-or-pleasure/2013/09/02/

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