Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tisha B'Av 5770-Why are we still in Exile?

There's been something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while, and I thought that today would be an appropriate day to do so.

One of the biggest highlights in my life over the past few week's was welcoming our friends the Adler's to Israel, finally making Aliyah.

I went to Ben Gurion Airport to greet them and the other 200+ olim from the United States, and having been here for almost 2 years, I still felt the incredible sense that history was being made, that there was something incredibly significant about what was happening.

I couldn't put my finger on it until today.

While going through the Kinnot in shul the first section is about the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash, but the the Kinnot that follow this section are different. They start to describe the other tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people over the last 2000.

The first time period the Kinnot describe is the beginning of the Crusades. I was looking through some of the commentary, and saw a disturbing parallel between what happened then and what's happening now.

There was a dialogue between the Brisker Rav, Rav Yitzchak Zev Soloveitshik and various other Gedolim following the destruction of European Jewry to decide if there would be a new national day of mourning over what had been lost.

The response was to look at the 25th Kinnah.

The 25th Kinnah is about the destruction of the communities of the Rhineland-Worms, Speryer and Mainz. The point of that Kinnah was to stress that every single tragedy that befalls the Jewish people is not considered a new tragedy. All of our problems come from one source, the destruction of our Holy Temple.

During the destruction of the Crusades, there was a stark dialogue between the Jews of Worms and the Jews of Jerusalem. In a nutshell the Jerusalem Jews were calling their brothers in Exile to come home and join them and help them build something great. The Jews of Worms responded, "You stay where you are in the great Jerusalem, we will continue to stay in our little Jeruslaem."
Something similar would be said almost 1900 years later about Berlin, Germany.

But the true tragedy here is not that the Jews of Worms and Berlin (and today America) couldn't handle moving out of their affluence and living in a land that they thought (think) would be difficult to live in. The tragedy is that they no longer understood why living in Israel was so important.

The first Tisha B'Av took place shortly after the Jews left Egypt. The spies had gone into the land and brought back an evil report. The Jews then spent the whole night crying, and Hashem's response was "If you're going to cry over nothing, I'll give you something real to cry about on this night instead."

Something in this story doesn't make sense. Hashem had just brought the Jews out of Israel, split the sea for them, given them the Torah, and was about to give them Eretz Yisrael, and because of this response he's going to make them suffer throughout history? What happened to Hashem being a merciful G-d?

The key to understanding this is to look at the language the spies used. Their words were, "We were like grasshoppers to them in our eyes... We will die when we enter this land."

"Like" grasshoppers. The inhabitants did not see the spies as grasshoppers, the spies just felt that they did, and that's were the mistake was. They didn't say they were weaker, they said they felt weaker.

Hashem said they would enter the land, wage war and defeat it's inhabitants. The Jewish people heard this report and said, "We can't do it, it's too hard." Hashem said, "what gives you the right to say you can't? I'm saying you can!"

These false tears, Hashem was telling them, will be what causes your destruction, not because of me, but because of you.

The mistake the Jews in the desert made, the mistake the Jews at the time of the Temple's destruction made, and the mistake that the Jews of Worms, Berlin, and New York made and are making, is the mentality of "I can't."

Hashem said you can be a better person, you canmake a difference in the world, you can live in Israel, you can bring the Beis Hamikdash. The only thing keeping us back, is because we think we can't.

What we're mourning on Tisha B'Av is the destruction, yes. But what we're also mourning is the attitude that after 2000 years still nothing has changed. We still think we can't. We still don't believe in ourselves.

That's why we're still in Exile.

That's why I was so moved by the Nefesh B' Nefesh flight, because 200+ Jews said "Yes, We Can."

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Ethnic Cleansing of "Palestine"

Classic Post from 2008
Note: the following story and analysis is purely satirical (although there's probably some truth to it)

I was in the library last week and noticed that there was a stand of book's about Israel in honor of Israel's 60th birthday.

I wandered over and started to browse through them, noticing various books, some I've read and some I haven't. Books like O' Jerusalem, Dershowitz books, and others.

Then one book caught my eye.

Located on a stand about Israel (a stand supposedly to show Israel in a POSITIVE light) was the book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine."

I have not read the book, I probably will not read the book, but even without reading that book, I can tell you that the book is full of lies.

You want to see ethnic cleansing, look at Darfur. You want to see ethnic cleansing, look at the Nazi's. Israel's relationship with it's Arab neighbors is not ethnic cleansing

Now I'm going to make a rather interesting statement: even though the premise of that book is false, that Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians, the creation of a Palestinian state will cause the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians (Pretty strong claim right? Watch this).

According to the Arabs they are considered to have "Palestinian nationality" in that they have the right to property in the state of Israel (more commonly know is the Right of Return or Death to Israel or "We the Arabs unabashedly declare that we hate all Jews and want you dead") , whether they be first generation, 2nd generation, 3rd...it doesn't matter. If they had a ancestor that, at one point in time, owned land there, all of his descendant's have a right to that land. (Whether they even owned the land to begin with is for another post)

Here's an example of how their claims are taken directly from a page in Jewish history and twisted to meet their false agenda.

Hitler determined a Jew by a person had at least one Jewish grandparent. If you're grandfather married a Christian and your family have only married Christians since, you are still considered a Jew.

My (as in like me, the author of this blog) grandfather came to Israel (AKA, British mandated "Palestine") from Russia in the mid-30's. On his passport (wasn't really a passport, it was more like an ID card), under nationality, was stamped "Palestinian."

Ah, here's where it gets interesting, these Arabs want to claim that they are an indigenous nation, that have lived here for millennia (just like the Jews have), yet how could a Jew have the same nationality as they do AKA "Palestinian"? The only way for this to make sense is for people who lived under the British Mandate, who were issued identification cards to be given that nationality.

Now the local Arab population did not like the name "Palestinian" at all. That word was associated with all this nasty things, like the PALESTINE Post (later to be renamed the Jerusalem Post), the PALESTINIAN Airways (later to be renamed El Al), and worst of all PALESTINIAN (later to be renamed "Israeli" or another eternal name Jew/Yid/Yihudi/Bnei Yisrael).

Yes, they didn't like that name at all, in fact if you would call and Arab a "palestinian" he would shout at you for calling him a Jew.

Anyways, to get back to the ethnic cleansing. There was no ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, because the Palestinians were the Jews. But to follow the logic of the Arabs, I would be a 3rd generation Palestinian because my grandfather was given the nationality of "Palestinian" because he happened to live in the Land of Israel during the time the British were labeling people who lived there that name.

But wait! My grandfather left Israel shortly after it became a state, do I still have that lofty status as a"Palestinian?"

According to them I do. Remember, they view anyone who had, at one in history, owned property in the Land of Israel, or even just lived there, as the rightful owners for the rest of time to their ancestors. They also, even if they left, maintain the status of "Palestinians." (You can find people who claim to be 2nd or 3rd generation "Palestinian" who live in America)

So anyways according to that I am a Palestinian.

I am also an Israeli.

Therefore if there is ever (chas v'shalom) the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea & Samaria (or let's say even if they decide to make their state somewhere else, a ploy that we know is only so they can destroy Israel) I should be able to have duel citizenship to both places, correct? I should have a Israeli passport like I do now, or I should have a Palestine passport.



Because I would not be allowed to have a Palestinian citizenship purely because of the fact that I AM A JEW! I would not be allowed to even visit their state because the Palestinian state would be Juden Rein! No Jews! None!

But let's say that I was living in community in Judea & Samaria (something that is very likely to happen) I would be ethnically cleansed by ISRAEL with the support of the UNITED STATES, from my home there. Israel is not the one doing the ethnic cleansing because they want to drive the Arabs out of Israel, the ethnic cleansing is going on purely for the Arabs! Its' the ARABS WHO ARE ETHNICALLY CLEANSING THE ORIGINAL PALESTINIANS, THE JEWS!

So anyways, I will probably never read the book "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine" because it will most likely a work of fiction that doesn't examine the history correctly. As Rabbi Ken Spiro put it, "The creation of Palestinian history, is one of the most successful historical fabrications in the history of the world."

But don't worry, in another 5, 10, 50, 100 years eventually the threat of the "Palestinians" will disappear, and I can guarantee you, the Jews will still be here.

Giving Our Enemies a Voice

Update at the bottom


What does that word mean.

Is someone you hate your enemy?

Is someone who hates you an enemy?

In order for two people to be enemies do they have to mutually hate each other?

I just finished reading a speech given by Barack Obama to AIPAC, in which he has an interesting quote:

And my plan includes a robust regional diplomatic strategy that includes talking to Syria and Iran
Let's ask the question why do we need to talk to Syria and Iran? Because according to the United States, the plan is that is, that sometime in the future there will (theoretically) be peace in the entire Middle East. Not an unstable peace, but a real genuine peace.

And therein lies the problem.

In order for a peace to be reached you need to have two sides who agree on something, something that will benefit both sides. What benefit does Iran have in stopping their nuclear program? Or funding terrorists in Israel who kill Jews?

When all you're doing is talking, the most Iran can fear is that they're going to be yelled at.

Then there's the other issue of really suave Middle Eastern men.

When Achmadinajad came to the US to speak back in September, I was struck by how smooth he seemed. If I didn't know who he was I would have thought that he was a nice guy.

But we know what kind of guy he is, he's a guy who stands on balconies and screams "Death to Israel and the Jews" to cheering crowds below.

What gain to we have by talking to them? To understand them more?

The fatal mistake the both the US and Israel are making is that they think that they're dealing with people who think like they do and have the same values as themselves.

George Bush seems to think that he can send the army into an Arab country topple the government, give them cable TV and they're going to love democracy.

As we've seen he hasn't been too successful at that.

But the number one underlying cause of every single conflict in the Middle East stems to down to three question.

How do you define evil?

What does America consider to be evil?

And is the definition of evil different for Obama, McCain, or Clinton?

Because this next president is going to have to be the one to define that question.

I think that the question "How do you define evil" is still an important question still plaguing us today.
Last week we had the Gaza Flotilla incident, and as soon as the reports started going out at what had happened out on the high seas, the world became split, and most straight down the middle, on the issue.
There were people on the Right who were claiming that Israel was in the right and had not done anything wrong.
There people on the Left who jumped on the IDF for "creating a violent incident" on the flotilla.
(Oddly enough the majority of Jews here in Israel remained together on their stance.)

What disturbs me is that there is even a question here. Normally a ship being boarded by a country's Navy is back page news. Why is this such a big incident? What's the big deal?

It all comes down to how do we define evil? Is evil boarding a ship of people who are trying to break a blockade, while armed with knives, metal clubs, hosting terror leaders and just bringing with them a horrific atmosphere of hate?

Or is evil lowering IDF commandos from a helicopter onto the bow of the boat in order to commandeer the boat that was trying to break a blockade, a blockade which has only one purpose, to stop the trafficking of weapons into Gaza?

I'm Starting this Blog Again

After quite some time, I've decided to start writing again.
Well "writing" may not be the best word, as I'm planning on re-posting a lot of things that I wrote on my old blog that is still relevant today. But there will start to be fresh posts here again soon as well.
So here's an oldie entitled: "Giving Our Enemies a Voice"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Missed Levaya-Baruch Dayan Emes Adira Boltshauser

I remember when I first heard the news.

I was sitting at my desk, back in Baltimore, it was the first Sunday evening of the Fall 2007 semester, when I received a phone call from my friend Yehuda telling me that he was engaged to Adira Miller of Lakewood.

I was thrilled, my best friend was getting engaged! He was the first of a long line of friends who would be getting engaged (and married), but that was really the realization for me that we was entering adulthood. Another stage in life that showed our independence, an independence that requires and intimate interdependence.

It's a good thing, when people find their other half.

A half that was ripped away from us today.

I received the email yesterday morning telling us of Adira's condition. They would have been married for 2 years next month, and what should have been a time of joy, was clouded with news of both mother and baby in the Intensive Care Unit.

We didn't know how to respond, this was a new experience for both me and my wife Elisheva, we didnt' know if calling Yehuda would do more good then bad so we started davening for both Adira and her and Yehuda's baby girl.

We would occasionally get email's updating us of Adira and baby's condition.

B"H the baby seemed to be getting stronger and was starting to function on it's own. Even Adira it seemed was holding on as the doctors tried to stabilize the hemorrhage in the back of her brain.

We didn't expect what happened next...

The first time my wife met Adira was actually at a wedding of a friend of ours. The friend's wedding happened to take place one week before mine and Elisheva's wedding.

According to a Jewish custom the chassan and kallah don't see each other for the week before the wedding, so we had said goodbye at the hall's entrance, I entered the men's door and she the women's.

Yehuda is a photographer and was photographing the wedding. The chassan getting married happened to be a good friend of ours from high school.

Elisheva didn't know anyone, and when I saw Adira standing next to Yehuda helping him with the lighting, I asked her if she would go to the woman's side, and introduce her to Elisheva to help her feel more comfortable.

Elisheva and I were sitting down this evening looking at our wedding album, and picture's that I'd seen dozens of times before all of the sudden had a different meaning.

Here was my wedding, which took place only a few short months ago, my entrance into the world of matrimony which my friend Yehuda and his wife attended with great joy.

Joy on the faces of Yehuda (very visible in the pictures due to his extremely tall physique) and the smooth, glowing face of Adira as she watched my new wife dancing with her friends and new family.

I sat down at the computer after taking a short nap this afternoon and just stared at the screen.

It just couldn't be.

The Yeshiva World News website was informing us if the passing of photographer Yehuda Boltshauser's wife Adira.

I was shocked.

My wife burst into tears after I told her, as did my mom when I made a very somber call to America.

This couldn't be real! This is the type of things that happen to other people! Not people you know! Not friends of yours!

We received a phone call from non other then the person who's wedding my wife met Adira at, making arrangements to go to the funeral.

I was still in shock and found myself sitting in a sherut headed to Be'er Yaakov outside of Rishon Letzion where the levaya was to take place.

There wasn't much talking during the ride, all of us, who had only a few short week's ago hung out in our living room following a Shabbos meal smiling, laughing, the same people with a very different feeling and all with their own thoughts.

Unfortunately we arrived too late, the levaya had finished a good hour before we were able to get there.

Everyone was gone, and we were the only one's in this very dark, cold parking lot at the beit hakevarim, not sure what we should do.

Just a short walk away in the dark was our friend, a friend that we will never see again.

I'm glad it was dark so no one saw my tears.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Tale of Two Lost Wallets

Yes, I know I haven't written in a while, already starting last year with spotty internet connections, and big life changes, and getting married, and just...LIFE. It took a toll on my postings (by "toll" I think I've posted like 5 times in the past year.
Anyways, my wife has told me she wants me to start writing again, and now that post wedding life has settled down, and we have a solid internet connection, the time seemed right.
The direction of this blog will take a turn then it did previously. Originally I'd planned to document my experiences as an oleh, and not delve into politics or other things that might have any shred of controversy.
My old blog was more, how should I say it?... eclectic. And I'm going to start writing about a broader range of topics now, and will probably even have some rants in there that I'm sure will offend some people.
But to ease you back in I need to tell you the tale of two wallets.

About 2 months ago we (the Jews) had a fast day known as Tisha B'Av. It is the day in which our two Temples were destroyed as well as a slew of other tragedies that befell the Jewish people.

During my first Tisha B'Av in Israel I had spent it on Moshav Matisyahu to hear Rav Zev Leff speak. Now that I was married I saw no reason to break with this tradition. So my wife and I planned that we would spend Tisha B'Av on the Moshav.
We packed our things for our overnight stay and left on the bus to Yerushalayim in the morning. She would be going to work and I would be in Yeshiva and we would meet up later to catch a bus to the Moshav.
I was in charge of our duffel bag, it had been a long time since I had transported anything under the bus, and I was worried that I would forget our bag under the bus when we arrived in Yerushalyim. (As I typically fall asleep on buses and in my stupor would forget a detail like that.)
Luckily when the time for my wife's stop came I was awake and had not forgotten about our bag. Four stops later my stop came, and I asked the driver to open the luggage compartment for me to take the bag.
I pulled the bag off, waved the bus driver off and waited for the next bus to take me to the Old City.
Luckily I didn't have long to wait, within a minute the #2 bus came, and I reached into my pocket to take out my wallet...
...which wasn't there.

With horror I realized that the wallet had fallen out of my pocket in the bus! Trying to think what to do, the first thing I did was call Egged's lost and found. My mind was racing as it dialed, how would I get to Yeshiva? I didn't have any money or my bus pass? I was also carrying this heavy bag so walking wasn't really an option.
The woman at Egged informed me that it could take up to 24 hours for them to locate anything and that they would get back to me.
Still not knowing what to do, I tried calling my wife, not sure exactly what she would be able to do, but at least to tell her what was going on, and maybe should could come to where I was and give me some money. (This is besides the fact that all of my credit cards-including the America ones- and my American driver's license were in the wallet-I had no idea how I would replace those in Israel).
So I called and heard the phone ring. And ring. and ring.
Upon hearing her voicemail I hung up and called again, and then something hit me. An image of my wife's phone charging as we had been getting ready to leave that morning and that she didn't have her phone.
Starting to feel a little more panic, I racked my brain of what to do next.The Egged station where all of the intercity buses ended their routes was only about a 15 minute walk from where I was. I could walk down there and see if I could track down my wallet.
I started walking and I realized the my father in law works in Har Hotzvim, right next to where the bus station is. So I called him and explained what had happened. He happened to be passing by the station at that moment, so he pulled in and went to speak with someone there, explaining the situation.
He ended up meeting my bus, right as it was pulling into the station. Within 5 minutes from then and less then 10 after I'd gotten off the bus, I had my wallet back in my hand.
Marveling at this incredible stroke of luck (or maybe a divinely assisted hand), my wife called me from her work phone to inform me that she had left her cell phone at home.
I promptly informed her of the events of the last 10 minutes.

That was Lost Wallet Story #1
Here's Lost Wallet Story #2

My wife had to work on Eruv Yom Kippur, I spent the day basically cooking and mikve and...cooking.
When my wife came home she she received a call that she had left her wallet on the bus. Her brother drove her over to Beit Shemesh to try and see if she could pick it up (she wanted to get it done before Yom Kippur. The bus driver said "it's fine I left it with the security guard-just ask for Muhammed").
To anyone living in the Beit Shemesh area knows that about 9 months ago Egged ceased being the main bus provider in the area, making way for a company called SuperBus. My wife knew where the Egged bus depot was, but when she arrived there she was greeted with only Superbuses.
It turned out that the old Egged bus depot was know home to the Superbus depot. The time for the fast was quickly approaching, so we had to go into Yom Kippur hoping for the best.

The morning after Yom Kippur we called the Egged Lost and Found dept. to see if they could locate the wallet. When it was found they said it would be given to the bus driver of the 10:00 bus to Yerushalayim, all we had to do was wait for the driver at the stop and get the wallet from him.
Somehow I was very skeptical about this working out, but at 10:00 I found myself waiting for the bus.
I waited for about 8 minutes when the Egged bus came around the corner. One of the good things about this was I learned a new Hebrew word Arnak (wallet). So I confidently stepped on the bus and asked the bus driver for "the arnak," and he kinda just stared at me with this blank look on his face.
I was beginning to wonder if I'd gotten the word wrong "the arnak."
He told me he had no idea what I was talking about.
I got off the bus, wondering if the wallet was on the next bus, and I noticed that the bus that I'd been on was the 497 to Benei Brak, not the 417 to Yerushalayim.
About two minutes later the 417 bus came and driver had my wife's wallet.
As I had been waiting for the bus I ran into a friend of mine and told him the whole story and he pointed out that it was very interesting that both my wife and I had lost our wallets on eruv Tisha B'Av and on Eruv Yom Kippur (I wonder if there's some hidden message there?)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Real Escape from Slavery

“It happened that when Pharaoh sent out the nation...Hashem didn't lead them near the Land of the Pilishtim because it was near. Hashem said that when they see a war they will want to return to Egypt.”(Exodus 13:17)

Rashi asks what was the reason that Hashem didn't want to lead the Benai Yisrael near the land of the Pilishtim? And why would going near there cause the Benei Yisrael to want to return to Egypt where they had been slaves for 210 years? And what does it mean “it was near?” What was it near? and what was the significance of mentioning that?

To understand this we need to look back at a previous parsha, and look at the kal vechomer in Parshas Vaera.
Hashem has instructed Moshe to tell Paraoh that he is planning on taking the Jews out of Egypt. Moshe responds, “I can't speak.” (Exodus 6:30)
Why is Moshe saying that he can't speak? Hashem just told him to do something! Why is making this apparent excuse?
Moshe's point was “I just got back from speaking to the Benai Yisrael, and they (who my message is beneficial for) wouldn't listen to me. Why would Pharaoh (who my message is detrimental for) listen to me?

What Moshe didn't understand was that there was a reason that Hashem wanted these events to take place. He wanted Pharaoh to be warned and he wanted the Mitzriyam to go through all of the Makkos, because it wouldn't be enough for the Jews to simply be taken physically out of Mitzriyam, they needed to have the emotional and mental burdens lifted off of them, and psychologically exit Egypt as well. They needed to see the Mitzriyam humiliated and they needed to feel that they were strong.

Hashem's goal is for the Benai Yisrael to be able to walk on their own two feet and throw off the mentality of two centuries of slavery.

But the process didn't end with the Makkos. As we see in this week's Parsha, when the Benai Yisrael are standing by the Yam Suf, and the Mitzriyam are chasing after them, they still have that fear of the Mitzriyam. Yes everything was going great when Hashem was throwing frogs, lice and hail on them, but now they're out and exposed on the water and they still feel helpless and that Hashem is not really with them.

Perhaps the reason that Hashem didn't want to expose the Benai Yisrael to the Pilishtim, was because they still felt, in however small a way, like they were still slaves to the Mitzriyam. To be presented, right out of Egypt, to another nation that wants to start a war with them, will cause them to run back to Egypt, where, as their rational goes, “It's better to be a slave in Egypt then dead out in the desert.” (Exodus 14:12)
They're still clinging to that idea of slavery, that idea of, even if it's hard work, it's steady, it's stable, and it's predictable. Fear of the unknown.
And that's what Hashem's goal is for them to get to the point where they say, “We trust 100% in Hashem, no matter how unpredictable our lives are.”
So Hashem puts them on the rock, with the Mitzriyam bearing down on them, waiting for someone to take that first move and walk forwards by themselves. And as the Midrash explains, Nachson ben Aminadav did take that first step, the step that finally freed the B”Y from the Mitzriyam.