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October 28, 2016 / 26 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘wake’

You Gotta Wake Up Pretty Early In The Morning

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Elul is a time for teshuvah, not to mention tefillah and tzedakah – though it seems that what we do the most is the tefillah. Which is strange, because if you think about it, a baal teshuvah makes an incredible lifestyle change, and a baal tzedakah gives a fortune to help others, whereas to be a baal tefillah, you just have to be caught off guard when the gabbai asks if you’re willing to daven.

“Ha ha, yeah. Wait, what? This tallis is too small.”

“Yeah, I know. We inherit them when the older members pass away.”

Though I suppose you also have to be there on time. You don’t even need a good voice. Though the least you can do is be aware of whether you have a good voice or not and act accordingly.


Dear Mordechai,

I have trouble getting up in the morning. What do I do about Selichos?

Crack of Yawn


Dear Crack,

True, Selichos doesn’t seem like it was designed for us non-morning people. It’s big paragraphs with a lot of words you have zero familiarity with early in the morning that the chazzan somehow manages to fly through at a regular pace, considering the time of year. I’m not even a slow davener. I’m going through it at a moderate pace – maybe a little quicker if I realize it rhymes – and suddenly the chazzan is finished. How did he do that? Did he practice it the night before? Does he say this one on a regular basis? Is being a “baal tefillah” a bigger commitment than I thought?

Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong.

So I skip to the two paragraphs we say several times every morning – Kel Melech and Hashem Hashem – and I rush through those so I can finish them with the chazzan, and then I end up waiting for him for like five minutes. Then we get to the next big unfamiliar paragraph, and he takes off again. I’m about 90% sure he’s skipping words. Or maybe my time perception is thrown off, since I’m not actually supposed to be up yet.

Yes, I know that Selichos are supposed to be a wake-up call to do teshuvah, but does the wake-up call have to be so early in the morning? You don’t even come to Shacharis on time, what are the chances you’re going to make Selichos in the first place? In fact, I always thought that maybe the point of Selichos isn’t the Selichos itself that you’re speeding through with the kavana of “Where’s the chazzan up to? Are we at least in the same paragraph?” It’s the fact that if you aim to get there for Selichos, you’re at the very least going to come on time for Shacharis.

On the other hand, if you think that’s hard, bear in mind that Sefardim say Selichos for the entire month, probably because they need an extra kaparah for eating rice on Pesach.

In some neighborhoods, though, the option of night Selichos is offered the idea being that instead of having to wake up early, you get to go to sleep late, and then you wake up late and have to estimate when Shacharis is going to start because all the schedules say when Selichos starts but not when it ends, and you end up coming around the time you’d probably show up if you were trying to wake up for morning Selichos. Or way overshooting and missing Shemoneh Esrei. This is why shofar is at the end of davening.

Unfortunately, not every shul offers night Selichos. The only night that every shul offers Selichos is that very first Motzoei Shabbos, which is based on an ancient Jewish tradition that forbids getting up early on a Sunday morning. So at least you’re saying that first night’s worth. It’s a start.



Dear Mordechai,

Why does it seem that the main issue we’re focused on, on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, is our nedarim? It is literally the first thing we daven about. Twice. Of all the things we could have done, this is the one we’re obsessed with? How often do we even make nedarim anyway? I have never once said “konam alaianything.

Billy Nader



Dear Billy,

Well, it’s not just “promises” per se. If you look at the translation of these tefillos, we’re also talking about oaths, prohibitions, restrictions, swearing, forms of nazirism, cherem, commitments, agreements, acceptances of the heart, consecrations, konam-vows, konas-vows, and shul pledges. You didn’t do ANY of these? Konam-vows or konas-vows? Think back. How can you know you didn’t if you don’t even know what those are? Maybe you’re doing it right now.

“No I’m not.”


And what is a promise, anyway? Do you specifically have to say the words, “I promise”? That can’t be. English is a made-up language. And what about oaths? Do you have to say, “I oath it”?

So in all likelihood, you probably don’t have to say, “I promise.” Maybe it has to do with intention. So how many times have you threatened to do something to your kids and then not followed through?

“If you don’t go to bed, you’re going to get punished! 1… 2… 3! Okay, I’m going to count again. But this is the last time.”

Great. Another one. It’s never the last time.

We also say a lot of things that we might not consider promises but that might be anyway:

“I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“We’ll talk about it.”

“We’re almost there.”

“I’ll call you right back.”

“I’m coming. I’m right behind you.”

And don’t forget the Yomim Noraim themselves, with all their New Year’s resolutions. Everyone makes those on Rosh Hashanah, but then suddenly it’s Erev Rosh Hashanah of the following year and you’re like, “Um, I don’t think I did a single one of those. The list I’m making right now looks a lot like last year’s.” It was very easy to resolve to always daven with kavanah all year when it was Yom Kippur and you had nowhere to be – but then the rest of the year happened. You davened on a bus in motion, between courses at weddings, on line at an amusement park, sitting down on an airplane, at a McDonald’s on the interstate, and one time at a crowded mall into your cell phone while you were using that same cell phone as a siddur. And don’t forget the half-tired rushing and then slowing down through Selichos.

Mordechai Schmutter

Turkey Escalates Media Crackdown in Wake of Failed Coup

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Two advocacy groups, NY based Committee to Protect Journalists, and DC based Freedom House, on Wednesday sounded an alarm about the arrests of more than a dozen Turkish journalists since the weekend, and the shutting down of dozens of media outlets by the Turkish government. The move was given a single, unified reasoning: all these individuals and outlets are accused of being affiliated with dissident Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who is living in exile in Philadelphia but, according to the Edrogan government was behind the recent military coup attempt.

CPJ Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Nina Ognianova told the Voice of America: “We’re obviously extremely concerned about the developments, particularly against journalists, but this sort of behavior from the government is nothing new. For months, the Turkish authorities have gone after journalists who were critical of their policies. It’s escalated now and in the post-coup period.”

News outlets in Turkey reported on Wednesday that the Turkish government had ordered the closing of 45 newspapers, 23 radio stations, 16 TV channels and three news agencies. An Istanbul prosecutor issued detention warrants for 47 former employees and executives of Zaman, a media group accused of links to Gulen.

Journalist and former parliamentarian Nazlı Ilıcak, who was on the Zaman detention warrant, was arrested in the Bodrum district of the Aegean province of Mugla early on July 26. She was pulled out of her car and taken to the Bodrum Police Station, and then sent to Istanbul for legal actions.

Five other journalists: Yakup Sağlam, İbrahim Balta, Seyit Kılıç, Bayram Kaya and Cihan Acar, have also been detained so far, according to Hurriyet Daily News.

Freedom House official Nate Schenkkan told VOA that unofficial lists circulating on pro-government social media sites suggest at least 150 other journalists could be targeted, many of whom may have no ties to Gulen.

State Department spokesman John Kirby voiced the US concern about press freedom in Turkey: “I think we’d see this as a continuation of … a troubling trend in Turkey where official bodies, law enforcement and judicial, are being used to discourage legitimate political discourse.”

The crackdown on Turkish media dates back to December 2013, when Turkish prosecutors launched a massive corruption investigation of associates of then-Prime Minister Erdogan, which resulted in a government backlash and mass arrests of journalist. Since 2013, Freedom House has set Turkey’s press freedom status a at 71 out of 100, with 100 being the worst. This shameful score is certainly going to be increased soon.

David Israel

Defending Western Values in Brexit’s Wake

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

{Originally posted to New Canadian Media}

“Immigration played a role in the Brexit campaign,” reported The Wall Street Journal.

Since there were only four percentage points between the winning side (to leave the European Union) and the losing side, it is likely that this factor was decisive.

Concerns over immigration have lately been widespread across the West. They seem to have played an important role in Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries, and seem to be fuelling the growing popularity of hard right-wing parties in Europe.

These concerns represent a mixed bag. There is undoubtedly some xenophobia, but there are also valid concerns about the risk that immigration places on our liberal values.

I emigrated from Lebanon in 1984. My main motivation was to live in a society that shared my liberal values, where women and gay people are treated more fairly, and where freedom of expression is guaranteed.

Today, I wonder if Canada and the West in general will continue to be a haven for future generations who are fleeing tyranny.

Sharing liberal values

Many of the newcomers do not share the West’s liberal values and do not easily change their outlook once they arrive. As reported in The Guardian in 2009, a Gallup Poll found that “None of the 500 British Muslims interviewed believed that homosexual acts were morally acceptable”.

France fared better in the same poll, and “35% of French Muslims found homosexual acts to be acceptable”.

Both Britain and France have since then legalized same-sex marriage, a step well beyond simply tolerating homosexuality. If Muslims were in the majority in Britain and France, it is unlikely that same-sex marriage would have become the law.

Canadian Muslim reformer, Raheel Raza, wrote in reference to the niqab, “In the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent”.

Another Canadian Muslim reformer, Farzana Hassan, wrote in her book “Unveiled”, “To live strictly according to sharia is the goal of conservative Muslim families in Canada. These are the values they are imparting to their young children”.

Equality of cultures

Interestingly, our liberal values often discourage us from fighting back against attacks on these very same values. The politicians who raise concerns about immigration tend to be demagogues, such as Trump and hard right-wingers such as France’s Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National.

If those politicians come to power, however, we cannot trust them to protect our liberal values. Demagogues pander to whatever political stand will get them elected, and hard right-wingers do not favour equal rights for minorities, a core principle of liberal values.

A claim often made by some liberals is that all cultures are equal and, therefore, we have no right to impose our culture on others. Even assuming that this claim is true, it only means that we should not forcefully go into other countries and impose our values there.

It does not take away our right to protect our own culture.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

For example, extreme conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia expect visitors to comply with their cultural practices, such as women covering up in public, yet we allow visitors and even immigrants to our countries to disregard our values by wearing the niqab in public.

This is not a relationship of equals. It is a relationship of subservience.

Cowering on the sidelines

Moderate Western politicians must protect our liberal values by taking reasonable measures that respect human rights. For example, many Syrian refugees have been welcomed in the West and many more are expected to arrive.

Yet, as noted by Amnesty International, “Gulf countries including Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees”. The West should demand more participation from rich Muslim countries to ensure that refugees find homes that match their social values.

Another reasonable measure might be screening potential migrants based on their existing values and their ability to adapt to Western norms such as respect for LGBT rights and women’s rights. Once they have immigrated, there should be restrictions on some cultural practices.

As both Raheel Raza and another Canadian Muslim reformer Tarek Fatah have demanded, the niqab and the burka should be banned in public places.

Those of us who believe in liberal values have a right and even a duty to protect them. Centrist and left-wing politicians should be at the forefront of this battle rather than cowering on the sidelines, leaving the floor to illiberal politicians.

Defending our values is important not only for the West, but also to potential immigrants who wish to leave oppressive societies. Refusing to fight for our values is dangerous for us and a disservice to new immigrants.

Fred Maroun

The Holocaust as an Expression of Kindness? Seriously?

Monday, August 5th, 2013

One of the things that never fails to upset me is when people of stature start trying to explain the Holocaust. There are some rabbinic figures who have tried to do so, both past and present. It seems like there is a new addition to those ranks in the person of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, a venerated Rabbinic personality of the 20th century.

I do not say this to disparage him. He is a man who garners tremendous respect from observant Jews from all walks of life. There are people who consider his Hashkafos about Judaism their guide to life. He has a wide following, perhaps greater today posthumously than when he was alive.

My introduction to Rabbi Avigdor Miller was when I read his book, Rejoice O’ Youth which was an unsuccessful attempt to refute the theory of evolution.  For many years that book angered me. But I have mellowed in that regard and now believe that he has every right to his views on that subject and to promote them in a book. Just as others do to refute it.

I recall also being upset at something I once read about him where he strongly disparaged Modern Orthodoxy. I will be Dan L’Kaf Zechus that he was not disparaging observant Jews that are modern but meticulous in their observance and respect the Mesorah. He was probably referring to those I like to call MO-Lites. Jews who are not so meticulous about their religious observances and are more assimilated into the culture than they are into their Judaism. Or those Modern Orthodox Jews that are on the extreme left and try to innovate practices that depart from the Mesorah.  Like Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (YCT) and Yeshivat Maharat.

According to an article in Mishpacha Magazine, his son, Rav Shmuel Miller, has published a book posthumously written by his father  that in my view is unconscionable. The thesis of the book is that the Holocaust was actually a Chesed… a kindness from God in the way of a wake-up call! It is called  ‘A Divine Madness’ – Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s Defense of HaShem in the Matter of the Holocaust.

Rabbi Avigdor Miller did not want to publish this work during his lifetime. He felt that so soon after the Holocaust it would upset survivors. His son has decided that enough time has passed and published it. Rabbi Avigdor Miller is certainly entitled to his views. But I am entitled to totally reject them.

He is not the first one to put forward the theory that the Holocaust happened because Jews were abandoning the Torah and observance in droves in the period prior to the Holocaust. But what is so upsetting about this particular thesis is that he considers the Holocaust a kindness. I understand his point. Which he tries to illustrate using an example once cited by the Chofetz Chaim as follows.

If someone is in the coldest region on Earth like the North Pole and falls asleep, he will freeze to death in short order. If someone is there next to him, he will try to wake him up from his slumber. If calling out to him, won’t work, he will shake him. If that doesn’t work he will smack him. If that doesn’t work, he will take a stick and hit him. An onlooker might see this as being cruel and not understand that he is trying to wake him up in order to save his life. In other words what looks like a cruelty to another human being – is actually a kindness meant to save his life.

This is such a bad analogy that it boggles my mind that it was even attempted let alone published in a book.

There are 6 million individual stories of savage slaughter that happened in the Holocaust. And that is just about Jews that were systematically killed. There could be as many as another six million stories about horrors experienced by survivors.

Just to cite 2 personal examples.

My father escaped the Nazi death camps by hiding in 3 different bunkers with other families until his city was liberated by the Russians.

When the first bunker was discovered, the escape route planned in such an eventuality via the town sewer system enabled an escape by my father and my 3 older brothers (who were in their early teens at the time). But my father’s first wife (my brothers’ mother) never made it. She was captured while trying to escape. The next bunker was a makeshift one in the forest. That too was discovered, but my oldest brother got caught while my father and his two younger sons escaped. My father heard his oldest son screaming as he was being carried off by the Gestapo.

My wife’s uncle was an Ish Tam – a Gerrer Chasid; kind and sincere; simple  and pure in his devotion to God. He had not an ounce of evil in his bones. He had a beautiful family – a wife and children – prior to the Holocaust. They were all slaughtered by the Nazis except for him. He was captured by the infamous Josef Menegle for purposes of medical experiments. That left him without family and sterile after the war… never able to rebuild his family. Although he did remarry and made Aliyah.  He was a truly good man who never questioned God.

You can multiply these two stories by the number of victims and survivors. How many stories like this and far worse have we all heard?!

If this is God’s Chesed, I’d like to know what it’s like when He gets angry! How dare anyone say that God decided to torture innocent people in order to wake us up? Rabbi Miller does not make understanding the Holocaust any easier. He makes it even more difficult to understand, in my view.

Many great rabbinic figures were slaughtered by the Nazis. It is said that the great people of any given generation are punished because they did not protest the increasing rejection of Mitzvah observance of their time. Even if that’s true, how can such inhumanity to the average Jew – innocent people who are not Gedolim – be explained?

How can anyone say that being tortured by the likes of Mengele is the same as being hit with a stick at the North Pole?! How can anyone say that forcing Jews to dig mass graves for themselves and then being shot into them is the same as being hit with a stick?! How can anyone one say that the millions of Jews marching into the ‘showers’ at Auschwitz and Buchenwald is the same as being hit with a stick. Such analogies are an insult to not only the six million who died, but to all the survivors and their children, of which I am one!

Wake up call?! How exactly did all the torture endured by survivors wake up all those who lost their faith after the Holocaust?

My negative attitude about the Satmar Rebbe is well known here becauseof his antipathy towards the State of Israel and his disparagement of Rav Kook. But there is one thing I do agree with him about. The Holocaust cannot be explained.  And all victims of the Holocaust including survivors have earned an automatic place in the world to come – even if they did not remain religious.
I therefore object in the strongest possible terms the publication a book which espouses the view that the Holocaust was a ‘wake-up’ call. His right to publish such opinions should not trump the hurt such views have upon survivors and their children.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah .

Harry Maryles

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-holocaust-as-an-expression-of-kindness-seriously/2013/08/05/

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