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December 8, 2016 / 8 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Time’

A Soldier’s Mother: Confession Time – I Didn’t Vote for Trump

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Putting the Trump victory in perspective…I continue to read messages blaming me and others like me for the Trump victory because we dared to argue that Hillary Clinton was not an option.

That isn’t to say Donald Trump was the ideal candidate but he was the option that America offered and so he was the choice I promoted. In the end, I think he is going to surprise everyone because he loves his country. He believes it is a land of opportunity; he gets what is so special where the Washington politicians have forgotten. And if, as I have been accused, I am responsible for the election of Donald Trump…I wonder when I should confess that I couldn’t even bring myself to vote?

That’s right. Guess what…I didn’t vote.

Because despite having the legal right, I left America amid the memory of many of my high school friends speaking about how they would sooner leave America than fight for it. It was the post-Vietnam, pre-9/11 America and the youth of my generation just didn’t fight. Like the Hollywood celebrities who threatened to abandon America if Donald Trump was elected; my generation was raised to give up, rather than give all.

At least I cared enough about America to be honest, to give the country of my birth my respect and my honesty. I left, which is more than those actors will do and moved to a land where our sons (and daughters) serve with pride. They are raised to know the day will come when they will pick up a rifle and fight. They do not think of leaving if the party for whom they vote is not elected. They simply accept that there will be another election, another chance and for now, we work for the safety of all.

I have had a son go to war two times; I have stayed awake nights knowing my sons are out there…somewhere…in the cold, in the rain, perhaps in an Arab village searching for a suspect or weapons. I have listened to the sound of explosions coming through the phone line when he called and felt, really, the vibration of the cannon’s roar. I have been to funerals for soldiers who didn’t come home and for three teenage boys who were murdered because in the eyes of our enemies, even they were soldiers for Israel.

I have cooked for the Sabbath knowing my son is standing with a gun pointed at violent protesters…and I was desperate enough to believe him when he called me and lied through his teeth telling me he was safe back on base because he didn’t want me worrying the entire Sabbath. And I listened and cried when he called to tell me that the 23 soldiers taken to the hospital after an Arab rammed his car into them as they walked in Jerusalem were from his unit.

And often when my son comes home in uniform, I look at him and realize anew what I thought as I packed to leave America over 20 years ago. I do not believe you should live in a land for which you will not fight; I do not believe you can profess to love a land if you are not willing to defend it against those who seek to destroy it.

And the irony is, I didn’t vote because even though I believed that Trump was the only viable choice, the best of what there was, I am shocked at the vehemence, the anger directed at me and at those who voted for him. And then, then I saw this posted to Facebook. Snopes, which has lost a tremendous amount of credibility of late, makes an attempt to prove the numbers wrong but in doing so, actually strengthens the argument by proving only a relatively small discrepancy in the numbers.

 There are 3,141 counties in the United States:
  • Trump won 3,084 of them.
  • Clinton won 57. **

** Note: A Snopes article confirms that there are 3,141, but claims that Clinton won 164 counties (still, more than 2,800 counties more than Clinton so I doubt Clinton can claim much of a victory there because she still lost by a huge amount).

There are 62 counties in New York State.

  • Trump won 46 of them.
  • Clinton won 16.

*** Clinton won the popular vote by approx. 1.5 million votes.
In the 5 counties that encompass NYC, (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond & Queens) Clinton received well over 2 million more votes than Trump. (Clinton only won 4 of these counties; Trump won Richmond). Therefore these 5 counties alone, more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country.

*** These 5 counties comprise 319 square miles.
The United States is comprised of 3,797,000 square miles.
When you have a country that encompasses almost 4 million square miles of territory, it would be ludicrous to even suggest that the vote of those who inhabit a mere 319 square miles should dictate the outcome of a national election. Large, densely populated Democrat cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, etc) don’t and shouldn’t speak for the rest of the country.

 

*** I couldn’t find any place in Snopes that disputes these statistics.He won in at least 2,800 more counties and in apparently about 3 million more square miles.

Donald Trump won, not because America lost its mind, but because it was in danger of losing its soul and it fought back. I watched unbelievable manipulation by the media the day before the elections and thought to myself…America can’t be that stupid. And as I watched the reporters come to grips with clear evidence of a Trump victory, I realized that America was not stupid.That America was great, that it wanted to be great. Again.

I didn’t vote for Donald Trump but that doesn’t mean I disagree with the results. Despite the numbers, I think Donald Trump was given a clear mandate and I think it is arrogance and unAmerican to fight the will of the people.

Donald Trump won the election. More, for the first time, he showed the logic of the electoral college. The future of America cannot be decided only in New York and California. That is the clear message. And the other message is clear as well. Four years will pass quickly enough – it always does. If you voted for Hillary Clinton, it is time for you to do what you were horrified to think Donald Trump would not do. Accept the results and stop assuming the worst.

Stop because you are hurting friends simply because they dared to disagree with you. You are hurting yourself by focusing on the anger instead of on the future. But most of all, you are hurting the United States of America by refusing to accept that others are not stupid because they didn’t support your choice; that others are not less American.

A vote for Trump was not a vote against people of color, against people of any particular sexual orientation. It was a vote against Washington, against politics, against media manipulation. But most of all, and perhaps the hardest thing for some people to accept, a vote for Trump was every bit as much a vote for hope and tomorrow as the vote you cast for Clinton.

I love America enough not to vote because I didn’t want to be where I am now – accused of doing anything to destroy or harm America. But I knew, as I watched the first election reports come in and Clinton took an early lead, that I was prepared to continue loving an America under Hillary Clinton.

I didn’t vote, but you did. Now it is time for you to accept…accept, or destroy. Destroy friendships and relationships but worse, destroy the foundations upon which the United States was founded.

israeli-american-flag-300x224
Paula Stern

Time to Come Home: South Dakota Chabad Center Completes 50-State Outreach

Monday, November 28th, 2016

The founder of Hasidism, the holy Ba’al Shem Tov, reported having gone up to the higher realm one Rosh Hashanah, and meeting the messiah, whom he asked, “When will Sir arrive?” Which the messiah answered, “You’ll know it’s time when your teachings will spread around the world and your wellsprings will overflow outwardly (“yafutzu mayanotecha chutza,” Proverbs 5:17).” This has traditionally been understood to mean, especially in Chabad, that the way to “bring the messiah” is by spreading Hasidic teaching, and once every land has in it Jews capable of Hasidic meditation, redemption would come next.

All of which might mean that messianic times have finally arrived in the United States of America, as Chabad Lubavitch has just announced the establishment of a Chabad Center in the 50th and final US state, South Dakota, home to the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial with its massive sculpture of four great presidents carved into the rock of the Black Hills.

“South Dakota, with its minuscule Jewish community scattered throughout a geographically expansive area, has had the dubious distinction of being the only state in America with no rabbi,” goes an urgent press release we received Sunday. “That will all change this winter, it was announced at the International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries, when Rabbi Mendel and Mussie Alperowitz move from Brooklyn, NY, to Sioux Falls to establish a Chabad center that will cater to a community dating back to the days of the Wild West.”

According to Chabad, “the appointment comes as the American Jewish community marks 75 years since the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, and his wife, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, arrived on US shores from war-torn Europe in 1941.” Incidentally, Chabad-Lubavitch has already been serving Jews in South Dakota for more than half a century, “since the Rebbe established the Merkos Shlichus (Roving Rabbis) program, which dispatches pairs of young rabbis to small and isolated communities around the globe.”

And “although it has been widely accepted that fewer than 400 Jewish people reside in the entire state, Rabbi Alperowitz estimates that it may indeed be home to as many as a thousand Jews. He believes that the Jewish population may have been bolstered in recent years by the growing financial and health-care industries.”

So, no more excuses, our brothers and sisters in America, the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov have touched every single part of the great USA, time to come home to the great land of Israel. Contact Nefesh B’nefesh in South Dakota or someplace nearby and make your reservations early.

JNi.Media

Gain Discipline, Gain Time

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Do you wake up every morning and do everything you planned to do that day?

Do you always finish the tasks that you started?

Do you wish you had more sitzfleisch?

Most people probably wish they had the ability to accomplish all of their plans, finish what they start, and sit for long periods of time. While some people call it sitzfleisch, others call it self-discipline. And, according to many, self-discipline is the single most important factor in determining a person’s overall success. In his book, The Seven Laws of Self Discipline, Brian Cagneey writes, “When it comes to achieving the goals and happiness that you want out of life, there is one simple thing you can do that will increase your chances of success 10 fold: improve your self-discipline.”

Cagneey later explains, “While those who lack self-discipline likely think that it is an innate behavior, in all actuality it is a skill, which means that like any skill it can be improved with practice over time.” If you can improve your self-discipline through proactive steps, then it can make most many things in life significantly easier – mostly because you won’t be spending all of that time motivating yourself to do those things that you aren’t looking forward to doing.

Recently, I read an article by Rick Riddle, an author who writes about maximizing personal effectiveness on ways to improve your self-discipline and resolve. But, first you must want to make better choices in the future. As Cagneey cautions, “Your future self is directly influenced by what you choose to do in the present, so do yourself a favor and choose wisely!”

 

Ways To Improve Your Self-Discipline

Stick with a daily routine. That routine should likely include a to-do list. That to-do list should be the order in which things should get done (based on importance and deadlines). Then, go through it, in order, each day. Just the sheer act of writing up the to-do list the night before and crossing items off the following day will create a sense of routine and accomplishment that will encourage replication.

Switch between things you like and don’t like. When you put together your to-do list, alternate between things that you find pleasant and those you don’t. This way, you will rush to get through the unpleasant. Once you turn this into a habit, you can feel the “reward” of getting through unpleasant tasks by getting to a pleasant one.

Remind yourself of consequences. There are obviously rewards to getting your tasks done and those are great to remember, but you should also remind yourself of the consequences if you don’t get them done. For instance, maybe you will let your kids down by not picking up the school supplies they need, maybe you will let your employees down by not finishing the tax reports before the deadlines, or maybe you will let your boss down by not getting her presentation edited on time. Remind yourself that your non-completion of tasks can negatively affect you and those around you.

Make time for breaks and rewards. Self-discipline requires you to work even when you don’t feel like it, but no one can just work all the time. We all need to schedule breaks and rewards into our days (and weeks and years). Therefore, plan short breaks throughout the day and plan vacations (or staycations) throughout the year. This will keep you disciplined when it is time to work.

Organize your space. A clear desk or office helps you focus and work. If you are staring at all these other things that need to be sorted, filed, or cleaned, you won’t be able to get to the task at hand. Before you finish your work for the day, tidy up your workspace and have your next day’s to-do list ready to go.

Talk to yourself. Sometimes it is great to state your goals out loud because it allows you to verbalize and actualize what you plan to do. The verbalizing of the plan can also help you avoid distractions and procrastination. Thinking, “Okay, now I’m going to sit down and write next week’s column” gets me motivated and on track every week.

Keep your eye on the prize. You have your everyday to-do list, but those everyday tasks likely add up to something larger. What is your ultimate goal? Remind yourself of that goal and how your work each day will get you closer to it.

None of us feel good when we procrastinate. In fact, procrastination only makes us feel worse as this poem clearly expresses:

Putting it off only makes fear grow
Like a monster of abnormal proportion
Face it early and quick you will see
It is fear that gives life distortion

Do it now before you doubt
Or excuses will be your dictator
For if you don’t want to do it now
Then why should you want to later?
– Chelle Leigh

 

Let’s all gain some sitzfleisch and get things done. Then, we can all take a much-deserved vacation!

Rifka Schonfeld

Jewish Geography, Part I: Through The Mists Of Time

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Before “Jewish Geography” was a game played at simchas and other social gatherings, there were intrepid Jewish travelers who set out to explore the world. Sometimes they were in search of new markets for commerce, sometimes they were in search for glory – and sometimes they were seeking their long-lost brethren, descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes. In this four-part series, we’ll follow some of these adventurers.

 

Mystery Merchants

The Roman Empire was a dim memory. The gulf between Christian Europe and the Muslim world was growing wider every year. But wealthy people will always have a yen for exotic, luxurious things – rare spices and perfumes, soft silks and furs – and pay a good price to get them. Therefore, a group of Jewish merchants seized the opportunity and created a trade network that stretched from Spain in the west to China in the east, and from the northern kingdom of the Khazars to the southern lands of Arabia, India and Ceylon.

They were called the Rhadhanites in a document penned by ibn Khordadbeh, a 9th century postmaster and spymaster for the Caliph in Baghdad. Not much is known about them, besides their trade routes and the fact that they were multilingual. For instance, was the word “Rhadhanite” a general term for Jewish merchants, or did it refer to a specific family or clan? Were these Jewish merchants from the area around Baghdad, or did they originate near the Rhone River, the end point of their various trade routes? Historians have studied ancient documents, languages and maps to solve the puzzle, but so far the Rhadhanites have kept their secrets.

astaire-112516-drawingWhile no one doubts their role in bringing brocades, furs and swords to the Orient, and carrying back musk, aloes and cinnamon to Europe, other claims remain in the realm of conjecture. Was it the Jewish Rhadhanites who brought the Chinese art of papermaking to the Western world and not the Arabs? It’s possible, although it’s also possible that both Jewish and Muslim traders were involved. What about those Hindu-Arabic numerals that replaced Roman numerals in Europe? According to Avraham ibn Daud, a 12th-century Jewish astronomer and historian from Spain, it was Joseph of Spain who brought the simpler 10-digit system of counting from India. But who, exactly, was this Joseph of Spain? We know he was a merchant during the Rhadhanite era, but whether or not he was a Rhadhanite – there were other traders abroad – and whether or not he was the Joseph of Spain who authored several medieval mathematical treatises, which would explain his interest in numbers, is not known.

For the Rhadhanite trade network to work, the merchants needed a relatively stable world order, one that would allow them to move freely across borders and cultures. That stability was shaken in the 10th century by the fall of China’s Tang Dynasty and the destruction of the Khazar Empire. The rise of mercantile Italian city-states such as Venice and Genoa also led to the Rhadhanites’ demise. But for a 500-year period that lasted from approximately 500-1000, the Rhadhanites played an important role in the continuation of international trade, and they may have been a conduit for the flow of new ideas and inventions as well.

 

The Elephant in the Room

While the Rhadhanite traders usually liked to buy and sell luxury items that could be easily transported, Isaac the Jew, an emissary of the Frankish King Charlemagne, had the task of transporting an unwieldy elephant from Baghdad to Northern Europe. By all accounts, it wasn’t easy.

The incident is recorded in the Royal Frankish Annals, which cover the years 741-829 and are an important source for Charlemagne’s reign. Charlemagne, like other rulers before and after him, invited Jewish merchants to settle in his mainly agricultural kingdom to develop its commerce and trade. Jews could also be found in various positions at the royal court, thanks to their knowledge of languages and their international connections.

We don’t know the official title Isaac the Jew held, but he seems to have been a trusted diplomat because when he set out in 799 for Baghdad, he had been charged with an important mission. Along with two other diplomats, he was sent to establish friendly diplomatic relations with Harun-al-Rashid, the fifth Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad, so that Charlemagne could have access to the Holy Land.

Avraham ibn Daud

Avraham ibn Daud

Harun al-Rashid ruled during the peak of the Islamic Golden Age and it is his court that is described in the fictional One Thousand and One Nights. As was customary, the diplomats from the Frankish kingdom exchanged gifts with the Caliph. Harun al-Rashid got Spanish horses, hunting dogs and Frisian cloaks – expensive woolen cloaks that could be dyed white, gray, crimson or sapphire. In return, he gifted Charlemagne with silks, perfume, ivory chessmen, a water clock with mechanical knights that announced the hour, a huge tent with many-colored curtains and an Asian elephant named Abbul-Abbas.

Unfortunately, the other two members of the diplomatic mission died before the return trip began. It was therefore up to Isaac to bring the elephant and the other gifts safely home. Researchers have retraced his steps, following his progress from Baghdad across northern Africa, where he boarded a ship from Tunisia to cross the Mediterranean Sea. After Isaac and Abbul-Abbas landed in Genoa, it was just a hop, skip and a jump over the Alps to Charlemagne’s royal residence in Aachen. They arrived on July 20, 802.

The elephant became an immediate sensation, and its name was frequently mentioned in writings of the time. As for Isaac, who passed away in 836 when he was in his mid-eighties, not much else is known. But at least one writer, Jeff Sypeck, author of the book Becoming Charlemagne, has an appreciation of the difficult feat Isaac accomplished: “Whatever reward awaited him for leading an elephant across 3,500 miles, it could not have been enough.”

 

An Eye for Travel

There were other Jewish diplomats who traveled extensively for their monarchs, such as Jacob ibn Tariq, who was sent by the Caliph to Ceylon during the 9th century to pick up some books on astronomy. There were also many other Jewish merchants doing business along the ancient trade routes. Indeed, the medieval period is sometimes described as a time when the Jews were constantly on the move. But during the 12th century, a new kind of Jewish traveler took the stage – people who recorded their experiences while on the road, describing the people and communities they encountered, along with the sights. One of the most famous of these early travel writers was the 12th century author of Book of Travels, Benjamin of Tudela.

Benjamin left his native Spain around the year 1160 and was on the road for more than a decade. His final destination was Eretz Yisrael, which was then ruled by the Christian Crusaders. Some historians suggest Benjamin might have been a merchant and that doing commerce was another reason for his trip. Marcus Nathan Adler, in his 1907 book The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Critical Text, Translation and Commentary, suggests yet another reason. During those uncertain years, when many of northern Europe’s Jewish communities had been destroyed by the Crusaders and the Jews of Cordoba were being persecuted by their Moorish rulers – the Rambam’s family fled Cordoba, along with many other Jews who chose exile over forced conversion – Benjamin was perhaps searching out safe havens for Jews to flee to, if necessary.

Benjamin’s travels followed a Mediterranean route, visiting cities with established Jewish communities, such as Barcelona and Gerona, Narbonne and Montpellier, Genoa and Rome and Salonika and Constantinople, before arriving in Jerusalem. On his return trip, he visited Damascus, Baghdad and Basra and Alexandria. While he writes about Persia, China and other parts of the Far East, it is generally thought that this part of his travel diary relies on hearsay rather than eye-witness reporting.

Yet, it’s not only the number of places visited that gives Benjamin’s diary an important place on the medieval bookshelf; the breadth of his interests and observations offers us a rare glimpse into medieval communities and their everyday life. Thus, we are told the names of the Torah scholars who were prominent in each city and learn about medieval Jewish professions, such as silk weaving in Thebes and glass-working in Aleppo. He also describes the way synagogues were organized in Egypt.

A highlight of the diary is his detailed description of his travels in Eretz Yisrael, which included a visit to Har Tzion, where he hears a legend about King David’s burial place, and to Chevron, where he describes his visit to the Cave of Machpelah:

The custodians tell the pilgrims that these are the tombs of the Patriarchs, for which information the pilgrims give them money. If a Jew comes, however, and gives a special reward, the custodian of the cave opens unto him a gate of iron, which was constructed by our forefathers, and then he is able to descend below by means of steps, holding a lighted candle in his hand. He then reaches a cave, in which nothing is to be found, and a cave beyond, which is likewise empty, but when he reaches the third cave behold there are six sepulchers, those of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, respectively facing those of Sarah, Rebekah and Leah.

 

On the Move

Benjamin of Tudela

Benjamin of Tudela

Benjamin of Tudela’s travel diary was translated into many languages and can still be purchased today, which is probably why he is the best-known medieval Jewish traveler. But there were others. For instance, Rav Petachiah of Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon) made a journey around the same time, which probably began in Prague and took him through Eastern Europe until he headed south to reach Eretz Yisrael.

Yet another traveler was a Barcelonian Jew named Yuceff Faquin, also known as Yosef the Physician. According to a document of King James IV of Majorca, dated 1334, Faquin was sent by the king to circumnavigate the entire known world, making him one of the best-traveled people of his day.

But that day would soon be coming to an end. European monarchs were searching for a better way to reach the Indies, either by sea or by new overland routes. What they found instead was a new world – and they did it with the help of a new kind of Jewish geographer, whom we’ll meet next month in Part II of Jewish Geography: the mapmakers who made those long-distance voyages possible.

Libi Astaire

Netanyahu Matches Ben-Gurion’s Record for Consecutive Time in Office

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

On Sunday, November 20, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) has concluded a consecutive seven years and 235 days in office, matching the record of Israel’s legendary first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion (Mapai-Labor).

This means that, barring a Knesset vote of no confidence on Sunday, as of Monday Netanyahu will become Israel’s longest serving PM in consecutive years.

However, when it comes to time in office, Ben-Gurion is still way ahead of his much younger successor. When combining his two terms, Ben-Gurion clocked 13 years and 127 days, compared with Netanyahu’s mere 10 years and 252 days.

Interestingly, Netanyahu’s most ardent foe these days, Ehud Barak, served the shortest term in office as Prime Minister: eight months and one day.

And to those of you, political sports fans, who are interested in these stats, here is the full list of also ran:

3. Yitzhak Shamir: 6 years and 242 days (first term: 339 days; second term: 5 years and 268 days)

4. Yitzhak Rabin: 6 years and 132 days (first term: 3 years and 18 days; second term: 3 years and 114 days)

5. Menachem Begin: 6 years and 113 days

6. Levi Eshkol: 5 years and 247 days

7. Ariel Sharon: 5 years and 39 days (Including a 100 days period of “temporary incapacitation” wherein the Prime minister’s authorities were delegated to the Designated Acting Prime Minister)

8. Golda Meir: 5 years and 19 days

9. Ehud Olmert: 2 years and 351 days (In addition, served as Acting Prime Minister, wherein the Prime Minister’s authorities were delegated to him) Shimon Peres: 2 years and 264 days (first term: 2 years and 37 days; second term: 227 days)

10. Moshe Sharett: 1 year and 281 days

JNi.Media

An Act That Echoes Through Time

Friday, November 18th, 2016

“And Avraham awoke in the morning, hitched his donkey, and took his two lads, and Yitzchak with him. He split wood for the sacrifice and went to the place that Hashem had commanded him to.” – Bereishis 22:3

 

Avraham Avinu was given a supreme test, and one of the greatest challenges ever presented to man: “Take your son, your only son, the son that you love…

One has the right to ask, “What was so great about this act?” Even today we witness people who are willing to slaughter themselves – or their children – in the name of their beliefs, and we certainly don’t consider them great. Why is this act considered one of the ultimate accomplishments of man?

The answer to this question lies in understanding not so much what Avraham did, but how he did it.

Avraham lived to serve Hashem. His every waking moment was devoted to spreading Hashem’s name and bringing others to recognize their Creator. However, he knew that only through a distinct and separate people could the name of Hashem be brought to its glory. His destiny and ultimate aspiration was to be the father of the Jewish nation.

Yet for many years that dream didn’t come true.

Avraham was 100 years old when he had Yitzchak. He waited month after month, year after year, begging, beseeching, and imploring Hashem for this son – but to no avail. Finally, in a most miraculous manner, at an age when both he and his wife couldn’t possibly parent a child, the angels told him the news: “Your greatest single ambition, to be the father of the Klal Yisrael, will come true through this child Yitzchak.”

Avraham’s Relationship With His Son

From the moment Yitzchak was born, he was the perfect child. Not only was he nearly identical to Avraham in look and in nature, from the moment he came to the age of understanding, he went in the ways of his father. Avraham had many students, but there was only one who was truly devoted to knowing and understanding the ways of his teacher. That was Yitzchak.

The bond of love and devotion Avraham felt toward his son is hard to imagine. The nature of a tzdaddik is to be kindly, compassionate, and giving. When a tzaddik connects to an almost equally perfect tzaddik, the bond of love and devotion between them is extremely powerful. For years, this relationship grew.

Avraham wasn’t asked to kill his child; he was asked to bring him as an olah, to perform all of the details that are done to a sacrifice in the Beis HaMikdash. Many a person has difficulty learning the particulars of bringing a korban when it is done to a sheep or a goat, but this wasn’t an animal. This was his son.

This refined, caring, loving tzaddik was asked to slaughter and then prepare his most beloved child and talmid as a sacrifice – not to sit by and allow it, not to witness it, but to do it with his own hands.

You would imagine that if such a person could actually muster the self-mastery to do this, it would be with a bitter and heavy heart.

Yet that isn’t how the Torah describes the events.

And Avraham got up early in the morning, hitched up his donkey,” and set off on his journey.

Rashi quotes the Midrash that explains this was out of character. Avraham was an extremely wealthy and honored individual. He had hundreds of loyal students, and many, many slaves. Hitching up his donkey was not something he normally did. It was done for him by a servant. Yet this time was different because “love blinds.” Avraham was so enraptured with this great act that he got carried away and did something he never would have done himself. He hitched up his own donkey.

The Crescendo

With a calm demeanor and joy in his heart, Avraham set out on a three-day expedition to accomplish this great mitzvah. Along the way, Yitzchak discovered he was to be the sacrifice. He said to his father, “Please bind me so that I don’t twitch and spoil the sacrifice. A korban must be slaughtered in a particular manner. Any deviation and the sacrifice is invalid. Yitzchak was afraid he might inadvertently move and spoil the process. Therefore he said, “Please bind me.” (Hence the term “akeidas Yitzchak,” the binding of Yitzchak.)

Avraham did just that. He tied Yitzchak’s arms and legs behind him, put him on the mizbeach, and raised up the knife to kill his son.

The Midrash tells us that Avraham stood over Yitzchak “with tears in his eyes and great joy in his heart.” The tears in his eyes were the tears of a father parting with his most beloved son, but there was joy in his heart because of the fantastic opportunity to show Hashem that nothing, not even his most beloved son, was more precious to him than serving his Creator.

The question becomes: how is it possible for a man to make the ultimate sacrifice in a manner that seems to transcend every emotional limitation?

Akeidas Yitzchak was a singular event that actualized the years of extraordinary perfection that represented Avraham Avinus life. Because he lived in this world, he felt real love for his child, but even that love was something he harnessed to show his greater love of Hashem – the perfect balance of a man in complete control.

Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier

Battling The Scourge Of Cancer, One Drug Cocktail At A Time: The Work Of Medical Pioneer Dr. Howard Bruckner

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

On a balmy evening in a neighborhood restaurant on New York City’s Upper East Side, I sit across the table from renowned oncologist Dr. Howard Bruckner. “Today,” he tells me, “I gave the news to a longtime patient that the cancer was in remission, baruch Hashem.”

A small black yarmulke perched on his head of graying hair, Dr. Bruckner acknowledges the words of the rebbes who call on his help: “Everything but everything in life is orchestrated by Hashem; the doctor is a shaliach.”

He has earned a reputation of being the doctor of last resort for those battling complex gastrointestinal and gynecological cancers with high mortality rates. He notes that Jewish philosophy categorically rejects hopelessness. “A sensible scientific plan and a ‘can do and must try’ attitude benefit everyone and are absolutely necessary.”

Dr. Bruckner explains that he has identified special criteria for integrating lessons learned from testing tumors in leading laboratories. He has further refined these findings in his laboratory in order to integrate them with the most promising clinical treatments from the leading cancer centers. This approach has made formidable inroads in enhancing their application to integrative and personalized medicine, thereby already extending many (and potentially countless) lives.

His earliest discoveries for exceptionally ill patients have now become fundamental parts of standard treatments used both before and after surgery. They substantially improve long-term survival. He hopes that because his current innovations are more potent they will have a greater impact on both heavily treated and new patients than his earlier successes that are now used worldwide.

He explains that from the onset of a patient’s diagnosis tumors are too often already recognizably resistant to standard treatment, and he expresses the hope that the new technology, which can identify resistance, will allow his safer treatments to provide earlier help for many previously resistant patients.

“We’ve discovered,” he says, “that as a result of these treatments, patients with our most challenging cancers often survive two to three times longer and more often. ”

A pioneer in the field of designing new moderate low-dose chemotherapy regimens to treat a variety of tumors that are often resistant to standard treatments, Dr. Bruckner has been a member of more than 20 national professional societies and committees, a consultant and reviewer for numerous professional journals and pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and has authored and co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed reports and articles.

In his 40 years as an academic and full professor, he was a frequently invited speaker for various symposia and lectures. In addition to training at both Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Yale University School of Medicine, Dr. Bruckner has held appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Medical Center.

He began his own practice in the Bronx in his sixties, when many doctors start thinking of retirement, Under his leadership, the staff of physicians and nurses work as partners with their patients to find the best treatment plan for each.

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“My approach,” he says, “is to substantially add to the options offered at major cancer centers; to work toward complementing and refining existing treatment programs. In essence, we are not here to compete with the standard oncology practices but rather to build on them by providing complementary interactive treatments in time to help patients.”

It was while Dr. Bruckner was immersed in immunological research at Albert Einstein Medical College that he was offered a coveted position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) where he would work with a Nobel prize-winning physician. He did not take that position or an already offered postdoctoral infectious disease position at Harvard. He recalls that during an interview for the NIH position, the associate director of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute (NIC) “told me of a number of best research projects they had started and offered me my choice to join any one of them. I explained to him why each one would not succeed because the technology was not up to par in order to measure the critical pathological factors under study. After giving what I had said some thought, he said I was ‘a very good critic.’ ”

Asked whether he could propose practical research objectives, Dr. Bruckner suggested investigating why therapy causes infections and offered testable stratagems to make cancer therapy safe, which became his key career-long priority.

Startling revelations quickly emerged from Dr. Bruckner’s first experiments as a special assistant to the NCI associate director. Offering an explanation in layman’s terms, Dr, Bruckner said he used a very important but dangerous leukemia drug and injected it into laboratory mice. He then gave the mice antibiotics to protect them from infection, as this mimicked everyday clinical practice. The wholly unexpected finding was that the antibiotic was not helping. The opposite, in fact, was true.

Dr. Bruckner came to understand that the action of antibiotics also improved the use of cancer drugs against the tumors. Most important, recognition of the problem led to solutions, still applied, that make many cancer drugs safe and increase their therapeutic benefit.

He then began to create “models” that mimicked critical problematic strategies in cancer therapy in a lab setting in order to test drugs in depths impossible to achieve in the clinical research. This remains his preferred research method.

“In six months, I showed how the normal human bacteria would affect radiation and drugs, making them safe and unsafe. Bacteria determined the metabolism of the oral and intestine mucosa and bone marrow, and the metabolic rate determined safety.”

After NCI, while at Yale Medical College, Dr. Bruckner found that most international cancer research and treatment had not been applied to ovarian cancer. The ovarian cancer survival rate was a dismal 5 percent. This became a pivotal factor in his decision to move on to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City where he found a strong working interest in gynecologic cancers. It was also an ideal setting in which to explore the numerous science-based treatment opportunities.

“In essence, we knew about a promising platinum drug that was too toxic to use. I figured out how to use it safely and that led us to discover step-wise how the drugs could work even more effectively without killing people. We made it usable. We have made and can make many drugs safer and more effective.”

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It was working on patient safety and ovarian cancer that led to Dr. Bruckner’s novel laboratory and clinical methods designed to optimize drug matching: finding a better and safer dosage and comprehensive team comprised of a cocktail of partners for drugs. This even led to successes with patients suffering from pancreatic cancer, which he describes as perhaps the “worst and most dangerous form of cancer.”

“You can’t just pair any two drugs,” he says. “Drugs that barely work individually will work with the right drug partner, especially multiple partners.” Through his lab work he found multiple simultaneous moderate and low-dose safe partners for combination drug therapy that has since had unprecedented success against resistant cancers.

Recently, leaders in cancer drug development have afforded multi-drug methodology new praise. They recognize a possible HIV analogy, where multi-drug methodology provided both critical safety and efficacy breakthroughs. Dr. Bruckner says that when this approach is applied to cancer it results in not only safer additional drug treatments but also safer drug interactions. It also empowers anti-vascular tumor starving drugs and promotes immune stimulation.

Fern Sidman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/battling-the-scourge-of-cancer-one-drug-cocktail-at-a-time-the-work-of-medical-pioneer-dr-howard-bruckner/2016/11/17/

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