web analytics
September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘spring’

IDF to Become ‘Kosher for Passover’ by Thursday

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

As of Thursday, the Military Rabbinate will render all IDF bases kosher for the Jewish holiday of Passover. After weeks of heavy-duty spring cleaning, soldiers across the IDF will be joined in the field by military rabbis who will certify the bases and assist if need be. By the end of the day, with the mission accomplished, the IDF will be declared Kosher for Passover.

“Our duty is to guarantee that every soldier will eat well during the holiday, whether on base, out in field, in the midst of operational activity, on a vessel or on a plane – in a setting no less elegant than back home,” assured Chief Military Rabbi, Brig. Gen. Rafi Peretz.

Israeli military attaches in faraway countries are cared for as well: the Military Rabbinate has sent them a holiday package with a Hagada, grape juice for four people, and traditional holiday foods including Matza, celery, horse radish and Charoset. The packages also include popular Israeli foods which are difficult to come by abroad.

Soldiers whose service prevents them from sitting around a table for the holiday meal will receive packages with all the traditional holiday foods, enabling them to partake in every tradition and to feel the holiday spirit while out in the field.

‘Living in De Nile’

Friday, March 30th, 2012

I love Pesach. Really, I do. Even with the stress and preparation associated with March Madness (I still have no idea why my father thinks it has anything to do with basketball), I enjoy it. Maybe it’s because of my mother’s spinach kugel, or the way I still love actively searching for the afikoman. Maybe it’s the Manischewitz brownie mix that gets more expensive every year. Maybe it’s singing “Who Knows One” as fast as possible, or maybe it’s the way my brother sneaks extra wine into the charoset when he thinks my mother isn’t looking. Maybe it’s the way you can find the entire Jewish population of Columbus in Graeter’s ice cream an hour after Pesach ends. Whatever the reason, I love Pesach.

I also love cleaning for Pesach. (Yes, you read that right). Every year some newsletter always addresses the fact that Pesach cleaning does not have to be spring cleaning, and every year almost everyone ignores it. I love the lack of clutter as much as the next girl, but believe me, I’ve seen households take it to a whole other level and not only wash the mattresses, but the walls too. I think it should be simple. Putting things back in their place. Donating the toys and clothes no longer used. Finding a drivers license from years past. The dust is gone, the whole house smells fresh, and you can now start to deal with the chametz.

But, in this case, the chametz isn’t the last stale cookie crumbs in your sock drawer or the M&M’s wedged in your sofa cushions. It’s your limitations. Chametz can be anything that prevents us from being the person that we know we can be. And during the year, it is so easy to become so enthralled with our own ego that we actually lose ourselves. We forget that the real present is not the wrapping paper at all, but the neshama inside.

This is where the matzah comes in. Matzah is more that just a cracker that we wave around at the seder (although, even I admit that after the first couple of bites, it really does become the “bread of affliction”). While yeast causes chametz to rise with it’s own self-importance, matzah remains flat and humble.

In order to achieve this level of humility, we need to take away the distractions. We can’t focus solely on our outside. We must cultivate our minds and perfect our souls. A person with this level of humility is not in constant competition with others, and although they realize that physical attributes and goals are important, they also know that they need to constantly work on their inner attributes, for it is those that make them truly unrivaled.

During the weeks leading up to Pesach, we must try to work on ourselves as well as our households, for in order to establish and maintain a good relationship with G-d, we must first establish one with ourselves. That’s why we have Pesach. By eliminating the chametz and making room for the matzah, we have the opportunity to recreate ourselves. Pesach is known as Chag HaAviv (The Holiday of Spring) for a reason. Think about it. Spring is a beautiful season. Everything that’s gloomy and lifeless during winter is renewed. From barren trees cherry blossoms begin to bloom. Daffodils shyly start to open their buds. And we, too, are given the chance to renew ourselves. Pesach breathes new life into us. We can recreate. Refresh. Renovate. Repair. And if once a year I had that opportunity, I would take it. Wouldn’t you?

Wishing you a chag kasher v’sameach!

Khaled Abu Toameh: Arabs Are Beginning to Miss the Dictators

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

On the first anniversary of the “Arab Spring,” many Arabs are beginning to wonder whether they would soon start missing the corrupt dictators who ruled them for the past few decades.

The “Arab Spring” was supposed to bring democracy, transparency and reform to the Arab world. It was supposed to end human rights violations and see the birth of a free and independent media.

The “Arab Spring” was supposed to promote the rights of women and minorities in the Arab world and encourage young Arabs and Muslims to abandon extremist views and terrorism.

The “Arab Spring” was supposed to be led by young and charismatic Western-educated activists who would bring moderation and pragmatism to the Arab world.

The “Arab Spring” was supposed to turn the Arab countries into attraction for tourism and investors from all around the world.

But judging from the outcome of the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, it is evident that the ‘Arab Spring” has failed to achieve any of these goals. As far as many Arabs are concerned, their “spring” has thus far proven to be a total disaster.

Residents in several Arab countries affected by the “Arab Spring” protests said they feel less safe now than they did before the uprisings, according to a study conducted by Abu Dhabi’s Gallup Polls.

The four Arab countries where the leaders have been toppled are now in the hands of Muslim fundamentalists, who used the “Arab Spring” as a vehicle to rise to power.

Tunisia’s Islamist party, Ennahda, is already demanding an Islamic state. Human rights activists say that with the arrival of the “Arab Spring,” freedom of speech in Tunisia, instead of growing, has died.

Nabil Karoui, owner of a Tunisian TV station, is currently on trial for blasphemy after airing the French-Iranian animated film “Persepolis,” which features a cartoon depiction of God. About 150 lawyers filed lawsuits against Karoui for “violating sacred values” and disturbing public order.”

Two weeks ago, hundreds of Muslim fundamentalists who follow the radical Wahhabi doctrine of Islam took to the streets of Tunis to demand the implementation of Sharia laws in their country.

The “Arab Spring” has also seen the rise of Islamists to power in Egypt, where the country is jointly controlled by a military dictatorship and Muslim Brotherhood.

The military rulers are responsible for massive abuse of human rights and freedom of expression, while the Muslim Brotherhood and their even more radical rivals, the Salafis, are working hard to turn Egypt into an Islamic state.

Libya and Yemen, the other two countries affected by the “Arab Spring,” are on the brink of civil war. Libya has fallen into the hands of dozens of armed ruthless militias, some of which are affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda. In Yemen, Arab political analysts say that it is only a matter of time before the country falls into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

In these four Arab countries, women, Christians, journalists, human rights activists, and political opponents are being targeted, and in some instances slaughtered, on a daily basis either by the new rulers or militiamen and Muslims fundamentalists.

The “Arab Spring” is anything but a “great revolution.” It is a spring of massacres, destruction and violence, as Patriarch Beshara al-Rai, the head of Lebanon’s Maronite Church, put it.

“We are with the Arab Spring but we are not with this spring of violence, war, destruction and killing,” he told Reuters. “This is turning to winter. We cannot implement reforms by force and arms. How can it be an Arab Spring when people are being killed every day?”

 

Originally published by Stonegate Institute www.stonegateinstitute.org

Slow, Steady Growth

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

After three-plus years of economic challenge and uncertainty, we remain anxious for positive news, the kind that will finally let us believe the worst is fully behind us. Unfortunately, the outlook for the 2012 global economy remains uninspiring: recession in Europe, anemic growth in the U.S. and a sharp slowdown in China and other emerging-market economies all weigh on economist forecasts. Middle East turmoil means oil prices will likely remain high and continue to constrain global growth.

Even the news that the U.S. economy picked up speed at the end of 2011 – GDP grew at a 2.8 percent annual rate in the last quarter as businesses substantially built up their inventories and consumers increased their spending – could not lift investor spirits much. The news seems to fit neatly with the Federal Reserve’s lower outlook for the economy; it announced last week that it plans to keep the federal funds rate near zero until late 2014 because the recovery remains too slow to warrant higher interest rates.

While the recovery has taken much longer than originally hoped, most economists remain confident the worst is behind us. We remain in a slow pattern of growth, particularly in the U.S., and will need to continue to learn lessons from past errors as we seek to pull ourselves out of this fiscal morass.

Perhaps we can glean some additional insight into this process of decline and restoration from Tu B’Shevat, the traditional New Year for trees.

Tu B’Shevat draws our collective attention to nature’s inherent cycles of deterioration and growth. The botanical realm follows a steady, predictable pattern of budding and development, and, eventually, stagnation and decay, only to be followed again by a new period of advance and vitality.

History has shown that this cycle also applies to the human condition. On both a personal and national level, life is full of highs and lows, gains and losses, successes and failures. The Torah itself alludes to this symmetry between man and botany when it compares us to trees (Devarim 20:19).

While this cyclical aspect of nature is apparent throughout the year, it is most perceptible when one observes the extreme disparity between the seasons of winter and spring. Winter represents stagnation and unrealized potential, when all signs of growth lie hidden from sight. There are no external signs of development, no expressions of vitality.

Spring, on the other hand, symbolizes burgeoning vigor. Everything is new and exciting. Trees that have remained dormant for months start to show new signs of life. Buds begin to sprout, flowers start to open. Nature once again reveals its true beauty.

For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing bird has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. [Shir Hashirim 2:11-12]

This same contrast applies to human life. Circumstances sometimes force us into our own personal or collective “winter,” when struggles and challenges strip us of our innate vitality. There are other times in which we seemingly experience only joy and excitement in our lives. Everything points toward growth and accomplishment. We must realize, however, that there are two distinct ways for a person to approach the winter-like situations in his own life. The aforementioned contrast between winter and spring is only true if one views winter as the death-knell of summer. The beauty of the seasonal cycle, however, is that one can alternatively view winter as ushering in the upcoming spring. No matter what challenges a person faces, there are always better days awaiting him. Such a person knows no limitations, no dormancy. Life is a continuous cycle pointed in the direction of growth.

This is the message of Tu B’Shevat. In the middle of the winter, when everything around us seems so cold and bleak, think of spring. Eat fruit. Sing joyous tunes. Plant new trees. Always look for the good.

But the message goes one step further. Not only are we charged to maintain a continuously upbeat attitude regardless of our personal circumstances, we must also realize that those very circumstances are the ones that form the basis of our eventual success. The basis for our success, namely the trials and challenges we have had to overcome, is already in place. The only difference is that this foundation still lives in the realm of potential, hidden from the outside world. It takes the warmth of spring, literally and in our own lives, to allow that potential to blossom into its eventual reality (see Ramban’s commentary to Bereishis 22:1).

Interestingly, the Hebrew word for winter itself, choref, illustrates this exact point. Rabbis Samson Raphael Hirsch notes that choref is related to the word charfi, which means dormant vigor. “As I was in the days of my winter [i.e. dormant vigor]” (Iyov 29:4). Winter here alludes to the days of a person’s youth, a time when his vast talents are waiting to emerge. It is a person’s “spring” that helps to bring those latent talents to the forefront.

Postponing Those Joint Maneuvers: A Very Big Deal

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

No one in the know is talking about the reason(s) for the abrupt postponement of the of those much ballyhooed joint U.S.-Israel military maneuvers that had been scheduled for this spring.

Some point to Obama administration’s apparent unease about the possibility that Israel would strike Iranian nuclear facilities while thousands of U.S. troops were in Israel. They note that the cancellation came soon after reports that Israel had refused to reassure the U.S. that a strike was not imminent.

Others believe the maneuvers, which were to center around anti-missile defense, might precipitate a rash judgment by the Iranians that the U.S. was going to protect Israel against a retaliatory strike following an Israeli assault on their nuclear sites.

On a related note, there is speculation that the U.S. is concerned that the Iranians, who’ve been making noise about disrupting free navigation through the Straits of Hormuz, would view any joint U.S.-Israel exercise as a cover for a massive stockpiling of American armaments to be used in thwarting any such attempted blockade – and perhaps take reckless action as a result.

Still others suggest the Arab world, aghast at this powerful demonstration of a US “tilt” toward Israel at a time of great anxiety over the moribund peace talks and the uncertainties of the Arab Spring, effectively communicated its displeasure to the Obama administration.

We suspect that more information will be forthcoming in the next few days. For now, though, the overriding concern is that the mullahs in Iran not read this development as an American “blink,” which of course would send a message of American weakness or uncertainty at the worst possible time.

Abuse And The Brain

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

We may not want to accept it, but abuse occurs everywhere, even in our own communities. The effects of abuse are devastating and long lasting – not only on those individuals who are abused but on their families as well. Even one act of abuse against a person, regardless of age, can have a significantly negative impact that may last a lifetime.

The impact is often much worse when the abuse occurs to a child. People, especially children, who are abused can and often do develop a constellation of different mental health problems including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideas and acts, post-traumatic stress, eating disorders and a variety of other problems most notably character flaws referred to as personality disorders. We understand that abuse is wrong and harmful and should not be tolerated but we are not all that clear on why and just how severe abuses’ bearing is on the most basic quality of life issues.

Recent neuropsychological research is beginning to explain why abuse can harm even the most resilient of individuals. What we are learning is that the old nature versus nurture controversy is simply a straw man. Both components – the genes we are born with and the nurturing we are provided – work together, virtually in equal measure, in forming who we are. This finding has led to an area of research entitled epigenetics. The epigenetic approach has found that the environment an individual is exposed to has an impact on both the expression of the underlying genetics a person is born with and can also actively alter the internal structure of genes themselves. Advertisement

Not only genes but certain basic structures within the brain may be altered by the exposure to abuse. Two structures set deep within the brain, the hippocampus and the amygdala, have been found to be smaller in people abused in childhood as compared with people who were not exposed to trauma. The hippocampus is known to be involved in the process of learning, memory and depression. The amygdala helps to regulate emotions, mood, fear and sleep. It is no wonder, then, that traumatized people can suffer from so many problems. While the young, developing brain may be more vulnerable to these actual physical changes, trauma has been found to alter brain make up regardless of the age of the maltreated person.

What is most interesting is that just as the brain may be altered by horribly traumatic experiences, positive experiences may also alter the brain. Loving, nurturing, supportive and encouraging experiences help the developing brain make connections at the cellular level that enhance experiences later in life. A warm early life has been linked to the development of a resilient approach to life. People who are resilient tend to see challenges as opportunities and have a “can do” attitude about life. They have a healthy network of social and family support, are often very spiritual and have a religious perspective on the meaning of life.

Abused people are more likely to avoid social involvement and discount the spiritual aspects of life. Treatment is predicated on the concept of “plasticity.” Just as the brain may be molded by traumatic experiences it may also be reshaped into a healthier functioning mode by the right therapy and the correct positive social and emotional experiences. For some people the process of change may take many years, even decades; for some the change may never come; but for many it may happen in just a few years.

Of course, one of the best ways to help stop the spiraling negativity and subsequent pathology that traumatized people experience throughout their lives is to stop their abuse and give them the social support and nurturing they so desperately need. That unfortunately does not seem to be a real possibility just yet. Abuse will probably continue and in most communities there is still an entrenched habit of blaming the victim.

While abusers are likely to have been abused themselves when they were young, only about 20 percent of those who were abused become abusers. The remaining 80 percent tend to lead internally troubled lives. Both these groups need to be identified and dealt with. There is not much clinical or research evidence that supports a treatment that successfully stops abusers from continuing their abusive behaviors there are however ways to contain abusers so that they no longer hurt others.

Baseball Shakes Off Its Winter Slumber

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Baseball is back. And for the first time, half the 30 major league clubs are holding spring training in the Phoenix area.

 

I recommend Phoenix over Florida for fans thinking to spend their vacation getting a first-hand view of spring training. Traveling between training sites is quicker and hotel-motel rates are much more reasonable in Arizona; most of the time you can get from one facility to the next in about 15 minutes just by using surface streets.

 

Kosher food is no problem as Phoenix has a kosher eatery and neighboring Scottsdale has one you should try (check out The Jewish Press Dining Guide) with a shul next door and another nearby. Only a couple of miles down the road is the spring home of the World Champion San Francisco Giants. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies also train in Scottsdale about six miles from the Giants and the kosher eatery and adjoining store is almost in the middle.

 

Other teams in the Phoenix area are the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers.

 

Florida, though, is where most of us will focus. The Red Sox in Ft. Myers are expected to run away with the American League East this season now that speedy outfielder Carl Crawford and slugging first baseman Adrian Gonzalez have joined Red Sox Nation.

 

The Yankees in Tampa are older and lost pitcher Any Pettitte to retirement. The Tigers in Lakeland are in their 75th year of training in that mid-Florida town where Hank Greenberg spent his springs. While things looked great for a super season when training camp opened for Detroit fans, superstar first baseman Miguel Cabrera, who’s had problems with alcohol in the past, was arrested for being heavily intoxicated and spent a night in a Florida slammer. If he can stay away from the bottle and approach last year’s stats (.328 average, 38 homers), the Tigers have hopes of a post-season berth.

 

 


Media people keep a close eye on the Yankees at

George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida

 

 

The best first baseman – possibly the best player – on the planet is training in Jupiter. Florida, that is. Albert Pujols (.312, 42 homers last year) claims he’s playing out the last year of his contract and won’t negotiate until the end of the season when the Cardinals will have a small window of opportunity to overpay him before he opts for free agency and collects the biggest contract ever given in sports.

 

While megabucks players get the most publicity, spring training is a time for hope for those holding on to their dream of trying to make and stay in the big leagues.

 

A sad scene is always played out a few weeks into spring training at the players’ exits in the various ballparks, The happy chatter of the waiting wives is quickly interrupted by total silence when a player exits carrying all of his belongings over his shoulder in a large duffle bag.

 

That means, of course, the player was just told of his outright release or is being sent down to a minor league level. Only those who have lost a job or been informed they can only stay with a company if they relocate and receive a much lower rate of pay can understand what it means.

 

For the fan, however, it’s a great time as we have great expectations. I’m watching all the teams closely and monitoring and taping many games on the MLB channel.

 

   I’ll give you my predictions for the 2011 season next month. In the meantime, send me yours. And speaking of sending, thanks to those of you who sent for my new book telling how Hashem orchestrated events to get me into baseball press boxes and eventually work for a major league team. In the book I reveal what my salary was and other inside info.

 

 

   To order Irwin Cohen’s book, send a check for $19.95 payable to Irwin Cohen (includes postage & handling). Mail to: 25921 Stratford Place, Oak Park, Michigan, 48237. Cohen may be reached in his dugout at irdav@sbcglobal.net.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/sports/baseball-shakes-off-its-winter-slumber-2/2011/03/09/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: