Maccabee's Wars

A venting rage against the ills of our society with some hopeful observations.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Flying Back To America

On Monday morning of the 24th of April, we flew back to the USA.

With the long wait for the Nesher, the time spent in line at airport security, the long built in delay prior to departure, sitting on the plane for 15 hours or so with turbulence comparable to a roller coaster ride, you might ponder the following: If only Star Trek were real and we could shout into our cell phone “Beam me up, Scotty.”

But I’m not so sure. The apprehension, the excitement, always makes the trip to Israel special and memorable. And this time, returning to America, there was one more memory. About half way through the flight, Yom Hashaoh had just begun in Israel. Though it was still brilliantly sunny outside the aircraft, an announcement came on the PA system saying that we would find Holocaust related movies, which were not part of the regularly schedule in-flight movies, on our monitors. The first film was Life is Beautiful which I had seen many times already and the second was Everything is Illuminated, which I had not seen.

The second film starred Elijah Wood and was directed by Live Schreiber. It was excellent. Though I must admit, I have read reviews which said that it did not do justice to the book upon which it was based. No matter, I can always read the book at some other point.

Though it had very few vignettes of the Holocaust within the film, it still touched greatly on its ramifications. Though it was more like a road-buddy movie with some amusing moments, it was very poignant and reminded me a great deal of a personalized Kever Avoth trip I took this past summer and of a trip I took with Dr. Leiman about 10 years ago, which I fondly recall and refer to as ‘the Grateful Dead Tour.’

But those stories I’ll leave for another time.

The Dead Sea

Sunday after the Chag, the day before we left to return to America, we spent the day at the Dead Sea.

Don’t believe the nonsense people tell you that it’s harder to get sun burned at the Dead Sea because of the altitude or whatnot. They are selling you a fish story, though there aren’t live ones here.

With temperatures in the high 90’s it didn’t take more than a few minutes to start feeling the pain of a burn. Luckily I didn’t stay in the sun too long and survived my stay.

Memo to Self:

Self, bring the suntan lotion next time.

Isru Chag or Was It?

Being that it was a few days before Yom Hashoah, it was interesting to revisit the new section of Yad Vashem. Having been there twice before, I focused on some different artifacts.

I felt weird looking at Nazi board games with plastic pieces of swastika emblems adorning the game instead of cars or the like as board pieces. I saw all types of crazy ‘Tchatzkes’ as souvenirs of the German Reich. In a small alcove, I saw a black and white photo of a dining room with a prominently displayed sign, stating ‘no Jews allowed – this is a Jewish free zone.’

The year the photo was taken was 1905, almost 30 years before Hitler came into power and forty years before the end of the War.

Who woulda thunk it?

Achron Shel Pesach, Shevii Shel Pesach and More of a Walking We Will Go

Walking the hills and steps of Jerusalem is always an adventure but walking from Katamon to Givat Mordechai is something completely different.

No matter what you do, you can’t find a route without massive inclines. I knew I should have taken that topographic map with me; maybe I’ll do it next time.

The walk was almost like Krias Yam Suf. Then again, how appropriate; that was the day of our walk.

On Achron Shel Pesach, it was quite strange walking by Pizza shops, bakeries and the sort while we were still making Yom Tov meals and eating Matzos. I didn’t mind it all. Besides, I got to eat Chametz even quicker after Pesach, since some of it most certainly had been baked the day before.

Freshness is in the eye of the beholder.

What’s Wrong with Israelis, Anyway?

On the last day of Chol Hamoed, we decided to take a bus from the Central Bus Station to Mini Israel. Unfortunately, there is no bus to this well advertised ‘minor’ tourist attraction.

At the ‘misinformation’ counter of the Tachana Merkazit, we were told that we could take a bus to Latrun and that Mini Israel is only a few minutes down the road. The bus driver, who actually would be passing by the site but said he couldn’t stop because there was no stop there, also agreed that it was a few minutes down the road. He did, however, assure us that we would see a bus stop for the return trip right in front of the site.

Well, needless to say, everyone was selling us the Brooklyn Bridge, though there was no water in sight. In fact, the bus stopped in area which looked like the cornfield in ‘Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest.’ I didn’t expect to see Cary Grant but I was wondering if a crop duster was going to fly over us and try to kill us.

No need to worry about that, though. The heat and the THIRTY minute walk were more likely to be the culprit of our demise.

After arriving at the site, we were in for more treats. First, they overcharged us. I guess that’s what the ‘Special Rates’ for tourists were all about. Then, the lack of shade and water always leads to a good time. I guess if they have to bury you in one of the models, you won’t go home and complain about it.

When we asked about the bus stop to go home, they said the closest one was up the road. I didn’t ask them how far it was, since I already knew that it was FOURTY-FIVE minutes up the steeply inclined road. They did, however, give me a telephone number for a taxi which would charge me at least 140 Shekels to go back. They, however, wouldn’t actually make the phone call for us; that was our problem.

Luckily we met some people whom we barely knew and they procured a ride with their tour bus which was organized by Yeshiva Ohr Samayach. They graciously offered to take us back to Yerushalayim.

As a bonus, they stopped at a beautiful lookout on Har Adar, a few kilometers west of Jerusalem. The view, especially from on top of the monument, was stunning.

You just never know how things are going to work out, sometimes.

A Day on the Road with Irwin, Part Deux

On Monday the third day of Chol Hamoed, or the fourth, whatever may be your preference, we were off to Kever Rachel, not through the heart of Beit Lechem through Derech Beit Lechem, on what is now known as Arafat road, but rather through a circuitous route next to the security fence.

After driving along the fence we reach an opening next to the Kever, where the fence is opened to let the bus through. In previous years it was more than disheartening to go directly through the Machson to Beit Lechem, but this roundabout way was pitiful.

Afterwards, we passed through Beitar, Efrat and Bat Ayin. Continuing on, we went to Britannia Park where we viewed the site of the battle between Goliath and Dovid Hamelech.

Further along, we headed to the Bar Kochva caves and crawled through a few of them. Following that, we walked through vineyards with ever so tiny grapes growing on the vine.

The day ended at the concert in Chevron with thousands of people singing, dancing and praying at the Meorath Hamachpailah; particularly noticeable were the many who were able to Daven at the shrine for Yitzchak Avinu which is only opened for Jews 10 days a year.

It was thrilling to walk through the streets of Chevron with so many people. If only everyday would be like this one.

A Day on the Road with Irwin, Part One

Irwin Borvick of One Israel Fund sure knows how to show people a good time, even on a damp, rainy and cold Sunday Chol Hamoed.

First off, somewhere past a remote army base on the turn off away from the Dead Sea, our bus crossed through a military fence and went east towards the Jordan River.

About 20 feet from the river there is a lookout where you can see the river. You can actually go up to the river as well. Looking over the width of the river, which can’t be more than 50 feet across, you can see a Jordanian guard next to a Jordanian flag standing at the other bank.

He is “guarding” a bunch of tourists who had come from the opposite direction. There were at least 50 tourists waving to us from the other side. They were probably there because it was Easter Sunday and there was a large church on the other side of the bank.

The significance of this particular location was that we were probably within a kilometer of the very spot where the Jews crossed the Yarden coming into Eretz Yisrael.

We next headed to Ainot Kedem near No’omi and Yitav; not that this bit of geographical information would help you find it.

We took a non-existent road to this Yishuv, its population consisting, of basically one family with their baby and a bunch of young adult volunteers helping them out. They were surrounded by Arabs but felt quite comfortable minding their animals and their crops. It looked pretty calm and peaceful to me, whatever that’s worth.

Continuing on, we took the Alon Road and went to Bal Khatsor, the fourth highest peak in Israel and even on that overcast day we could see the towers of Tel Aviv. Our guide, Era Rappaport told us that on a clear day we would also be able to see the Jordan valley, Gush Etzion and the Golan. Seems like a good spot to give to the Palestinians. Why not? They can then target all those locations with a hand held missile.

Next we were off to Shilo for Mincha, coming in through the back way passing Adai Ad, Achia and Shvut Rachel. Who knows how much longer these places will still be in existence.

After Mincha, we headed up to Har Grizim and viewed the remnants of Kever Yosef, Har Eival, Shechem, Elon Moreh and Itamar, the entire view seen from a balcony over the archaeological remains of the Shomronim “Beit Hamikdash.”

Afterwards, we headed into the town where their “Kohanim” were burning “Noser” from their “Korban Pesach” which for whatever reason, they did two days before Pesach. Well I guess that fits in well with their Mezuzoth which are engraved over the Lintels of their homes, written in old Hebrew and Aramaic lettering. Era said that the writings were something different from the Arba Parshiyoth, but I wouldn’t have known the difference.

Finally, we went up to Itamar and took a last look at an area that may not be with us much longer. Overall, it was a glorious day but we left with apprehension of a tragedy in the making.

Waiting in the Hotel Lobby

I had hoped to meet some friends on Shabbos Chol Hamoed but I fell asleep sitting on a couch in the Dan Panorama hotel. When I awoke, sitting nearby were an elderly couple from Tel Aviv.

In my broken Hebrew and their broken English, we were trying to have a conversation.

After an hour and a half, I learned that the gentleman had fought in Italy in the Jewish Brigade of the English Army, had fought in the War of Independence and helped liberate and retrain countless number of Jews who survived the Holocaust.

I was taken on a world wind tour of Jewish History at the dawn of the creation of the State of Israel. Reliving history through the spoken words of someone who was there sure beats second hand tales.

In some small way, I guess that’s what reliving Yitzias Mitzrayim is all about.

And a Walking We Will Go

They say that every Arba Amos one walks in Eretz Yisroel is another mitzvah.

No one, however, had in the mind the types of walks we were making.

For example, just on Erev Shabbos after the Sedorim, we walked 45 minutes up the hills of Yerushalayim to Derech Chevron in Talpiyot for our second Yom Tov meal; then it was another 45 minutes up to the hotels on Keren Hayasod; then it was 45 minutes down to the Kotel; then it was another 45 minutes back to the hotels; then after the Shabbos evening meal on Rechov Linkolin, otherwise know as Abraham Lincoln street, it was a half hour back to Katamon.

Did I forget to mention the hours of standing at the Kotel and just waiting and talking to people along the way? How about the 90 degree weather which came along with the Sharav or Chamsin or whatever you want to call it?

No need to make you jealous, though.

Sigh! I miss it already.

Sedorim in Israel

The title of this blog is actually an oxymoron.

Why is it necessary to have more than one Seder? I won’t bother you with the Halachik ramifications but I will regale you with tidbits from the joyous occasions.

At the first Seder there were approximately 15 people; some from Queens, some from Philadelphia, others from elsewhere around the USA, all now living in Israel. In addition, there were people of course from Israel. Moreover, to my right were Hungarians and to my left were two twenty-something girls from Poland, reading from their Polish-Hebrew Haggaddahs.

And as different as everyone was, we were actually all the same. Everyone read from their Haggaddahs and spoke a bit of their own slavery and their own liberation. It was a moving experience.

The second Seder was an all-English affair. Most of the 19 people in attendance were from Great Britain. The Ma Nishtana, however, was read in French, Italian, Dutch and, I believe, even in Japanese, though you could have fooled me. The rest of the Haggaddah was read in Ashkenazi Hebrew with instructions in an Oberlander German – Ashkenazi Yiddish.

All in all, two wonderful evenings spent with wonderful people. Leshana Haba’a Berushalayim Habnuya.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Paraphrase of a Quote from George Costanza: 'I Smell More Manure.'

Another Odious Fragrance From Our Friends In Europe

Take a gander at this article:

April 11, 2006, 1:11 p.m.

Football Killing FieldsOutrage and disbelief as world soccer body condemns Israel, not Hamas.

By Tom Gross

Israel is used to being singled out for unjust criticism and subjected to startling double standards by the United Nations, the European Union, much of the Western media and numerous academic bodies. But now FIFA — the supposedly nonpolitical organization that governs the world's most popular sport, soccer — is getting in on the act as well.

FIFA has condemned Israel for an air strike on an empty soccer field in the Gaza Strip that was used for training exercises by Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. This strike did not cause any injuries. But at the same time FIFA has refused to condemn a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli soccer field last week which did cause injuries.

With the soccer World Cup, which takes place only once every four years, just weeks away, it is a time of mounting emotion for the hundreds of millions of people across the globe who passionately follow the game.

As FIFA meets in the next few days to decide what action to take against Israel, the double standards involved could not be more obvious. Up to now FIFA, which sees itself as a purely sporting body, has gone out of its way to avoid politics, and has refrained from criticizing even the most appalling human-rights abuses connected to soccer players and stadiums.


When Saddam Hussein's son Uday had Iraqi soccer players tortured in 1997 after they failed to qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup Finals in France, FIFA remained silent. Uday, who was chairman of the Iraqi soccer association, had star players tortured again in 1998. And in 2000, following a quarterfinal defeat in the Asia Cup, three Iraqi players were whipped and beaten for three days by Uday's bodyguards. The torture took place at the Iraqi Olympic Committee headquarters, but FIFA said nothing.

Again, FIFA simply looked the other way while the Taliban used U.N.-funded soccer fields to slaughter and flog hundreds of innocent people who had supposedly violated sharia law in front of crowds of thousands chanting "God is great." (Afghan soccer coach Habib Ullahniazi said that as many as 30 people were executed in the middle of the field during the intermissions of a single soccer match at Kabul's Ghazi Stadium.)

FIFA equally failed to speak out when soccer stadiums in Argentina were turned into jails.


FIFA's silence was no less deafening when, according to the International Red Cross, about 7,000 prisoners were detained (and some tortured) in Chile's national soccer stadium after Augusto Pinochet seized power in 1973.

Nor did the organization threaten Russia with sanctions after Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov was murdered by a bomb explosion at Grozny's Dynamo stadium.

As for the Middle East, FIFA refused to criticize the decision to name a Palestinian soccer tournament after a suicide terrorist who murdered 31 people at a Passover celebration at the Park Hotel in Netanya in 2002. (At the tournament, organized under Yasser Arafat's auspices in 2003, the brother of the suicide bomber was given the honorary role of distributing the trophies to the winning team.)

FIFA also failed to condemn the suicide bomb at the Maxim restaurant in Haifa in October 2003 which injured three officials from the leading Israeli soccer team Maccabi Haifa.


But then last week, FIFA finally found a target worthy of its outrage, and leapt into action. That target was Israel.

The international governing body for soccer condemned the Jewish state, and announced that it was considering possible action over the Israeli air strike last week on the Gaza soccer field that had been used for terrorist training exercises. The field, which had also reportedly served as a missile launching pad, was empty at the time; the strike itself came in response to the continuing barrage of Qassam rocket attacks directed at Israeli towns and villages.

Only a couple of days earlier, one of those Qassam rockets landed on a soccer field at the Karmiya kibbutz in southern Israel, causing light injuries to one person. Several other Israeli children and adults needed to be treated for shock. The attack was claimed by the Al-Quds brigades, an armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The soccer pitch is regularly used by children and it was only a matter of luck that there were not greater injuries. (Since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, several members of the kibbutz, including a ten-month-old baby, have been wounded after their homes took direct hits from Qassams. Israelis elsewhere have died after being hit by these weapons.)


In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Jerome Champagne, FIFA's deputy general secretary, who had personally condemned the attack on the Palestinian soccer pitch, refused to extend a similar condemnation to the attack on the Israeli pitch.

Champagne said he had discussed the matter with FIFA president Sepp Blatter and that a decision on what action to take against Israel would be announced soon. Champagne, a French national, also sent an official letter to the Israeli ambassador to Switzerland. (FIFA is based in Zurich.)

A FIFA condemnation of Israel is no small matter. The incredible passions that soccer arouses in most countries around the globe seem to have few boundaries. For example, it was said that the only time the guns fell silent during the Lebanese civil war was during the 1982 World Cup matches.

Individual Israelis, outraged by FIFA's blatantly one-sided decision, have been sending e-mails to FIFA asking why "they care more about the grass on an empty soccer pitch than the human lives saved by strikes on the Qassam launching pads."


They have also asked where FIFA is when anti-Semitic banners go up in European soccer stadiums, and there are chants from spectators about sending Jews to the gas? And where, they wonder, are the FIFA sanctions against the Arab or Asian countries that refuse to allow Israel to compete in Asia?

Other questions have been raised, too — why, for instance, FIFA has moved games from Israel because guest teams were afraid to come to Israel, but has never banned any other national teams from playing home games on account of local Islamic violence. Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey were allowed to continue playing matches at home.

In response to some of this criticism Champagne — perhaps unaware of the phenomena of some radical Jews being at the forefront of whipping up hate against the Jewish state — wrote to the Jerusalem Post saying he couldn't possibly be biased against Israel because his wife was Jewish.


In its widely circulated report on the FIFA condemnation of Israel, the Associated Press also failed to mention the Qassam rocket attack on the Israeli soccer pitch. As a result, and not for the first time, AP gave its readers around the globe an unbalanced impression of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The popularity of soccer ensured AP's story was used by dozens of news outlets — among others, Al-Jazeera, CBC News of Canada, and the Los Angeles Times. Only the Israeli press mentioned the Qassam attack on the kibbutz Karmiya soccer pitch, an attack which the Islamic Jihad website admits to carrying out.


The outrage felt in soccer-mad Israel at these astonishing double standards is all the greater since FIFA president Sepp Blatter has made it clear that FIFA should not become involved in politics. Following calls last December from German politicians that Iran should be banned from participating in the forthcoming World Cup (which starts in Germany on June 9, 2006) because of repeated Holocaust denial by the Iranian president, Blatter said "We're not going to enter into any political declarations. We in football, if we entered into such discussions, then it would be against our statutes. We are not in politics."

Indeed so emboldened does Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now feel by FIFA's support that he announced last week that he will likely attend Iran's opening match against Mexico in Nuremberg on June 11. Holocaust denial is a serious crime punishable by a prison term of up to five years in Germany, but Ahmadinejad no doubt feels that powerful international bodies like FIFA will protect him.


Meanwhile FIFA (and other sporting bodies) continually turn a blind eye to boycotts of Israeli sportsmen.

In February, Tal Ben Haim — the Israeli national soccer team captain, who plays his club soccer for the English Premiership team Bolton Wanderers — was banned from joining his Bolton teammates for their training matches in Dubai. FIFA pointedly ignored this. So did Bolton despite the fact that the team claims to be among the leaders of the campaign to "Kick racism out of football" in the U.K.

Only last week, another English club, West Ham, left their two Israeli players, Yossi Benayoun and Yaniv Katan, at home when they went to Dubai. FIFA naturally had nothing to say.
Whilst Israel is often slandered as an "apartheid state," (despite having several Arabs playing in its national team), Dubai has received no criticism for what appears to be a clear "apartheid" policy.

Indeed, were Israel allowed to compete against other Asian teams for a World Cup berth, rather than against the likes of England and France, the relatively strong Israeli team would most probably have been able to qualify for this year's World Cup.


Not all is rotten in world soccer. Some individuals still seem to know right from wrong. Last week, Ronaldinho, the Brazilian superstar widely regarded as the best current player in the world, donated signed footballs and shirts to Israeli child suicide bomb survivors, saying he hoped his gifts would "warm the hearts of the children who have suffered so much."

But FIFA, meanwhile, apparently thinks it is acceptable for Palestinian terror groups to continue targeting such Israeli children, firing missiles from the Gaza Strip, even though Israel has left the area.

Tom Gross is the former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and New York Daily News. Among his previous pieces for NRO is "Jeningrad".)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ridiculous Israeli Politics

MK Uri Ariel of the National Union-National Religious Party called for the dismissal of Tzippy Livni, Israel’s Foreign Minister.

Ariel made the announcement after Livni appeared on ABC’s Nightline where during her interview she said that actions against civilian targets are deemed as terrorist actions while those against military targets are not.

I am no fan of Kadima but Livni, who is high up on the Kadima party list, is undeserving of such called-for dismissal.

I saw the interview on Nightline and Livni made it quite clear that actions against military targets are not to be tolerated by any Israeli government. In essence, she was saying that Israel is at war and will defend itself. She is not saying that Hamas or the Al aqsa Brigade of the PLO are not terrorist organizations. As long as they go after civilian targets, they are.

If terrorism is not defined, then Israel is a terrorist entity; as many leftists define it.
Further, real terrorists become "freedom fighters."

I’m tired of Menachem Begin being called a terrorist because the Irgun blew up the King David Hotel. For all those who believe in revisionist history, wake up and smell the coffee. It was a military target!

Moreover, why is the "crisis" being brought up weeks after this interview was broadcast? Whatever Kadima plans with their unilateral engagement is a matter left to debate. What Tzippy Livni did in this matter, is, at worst, of minor consequence and, at best, the beginning of a redefinition of term being bandied about too vociferously.

Rakevet, Rakevet --- Holchim al Harakevet - Autobusim, Gam Kein

I took a ride on the Israeli Railroad System.

I thought I was in Europe.

It was clean, timely and fast.

As you ride from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv you can see in the distance the tracks, tunnels and bridges being laid for the Modi’in – Tel Aviv route. You can see other construction as well. There are new roads and byways being built in and around Jerusalem.

Some roads have already been completed, to a major extent. I took the bus from Jerusalem to Tiberias. It went along route 6, the central Israeli toll highway. On your left are Israeli fields. On your right are fields as well. But many times the view is blocked by the security wall. But really, do I need to see Tulkarem so badly.

Using route 6, the ride only took two hours and 15 minutes, and that was with traffic and stops.

The train ride from Tel Aviv took little more than an hour. On the way back to Jerusalem we stopped in Tel Aviv’s Hashalom station. It connects right into the Azrieli shopping mall. You don’t even have to be checked by security since we were already checked when we entered the train station. The same holds true when we left leave the mall to enter the station.

I can’t wait for the light rail system in Jerusalem; It should be a lot of fun. But I guess I’ll have to. It’s not due for completion until 2008-2009 and even that’s not fixed in stone. For those in Israel who know what it is to wait, have Savlanut, have patience. Remember Ben Gurion 2000, the new Airport terminal, was not ready until the end of 2004.

Shucks; they never changed the name.

Ain Chadash Tachas Hashamesh, Part Deux

Friday Night I was invited out and one of the other guests was a former Paleontologist. No, it wasn’t David Schwimmer. We were discussing the age of the world. ( Please don’t ban this blog, just yet.)

He noted something of minor interest. I had mentioned that the Tiferes Yisroel in a Drasha printed in the back of early editions of the Yachin and Boaz Mishnayos, but now deleted from new editions, stated that according to Kabbalah we are in the third reincarnation of the earth. Further according to scientific data at that time, in the 19th century, there was a theory that if you dig into the earth you will find three layers accounting for prehistoric times.

The Paleontologist suggested that this theory is no longer extant.

However, the current scientific evidence accounts for six eras, which "coincidentally" may account for the 6 days of creation.

Interestingly enough, there are minority opinions which discount the age of the earth as being 5,766 years. Rather those years correspond to the age of modern man, being Homo sapien sapien, which dates back approximately 10.000 years according to current scientific data. Further, the Torah begins with Adam Harishon because he is the first man and Chavah is the first woman who Hashem communicates with and we all come from them.

Unfortunately, as the case may be today, whereby no Gadol is really willing to publicly expound on this issue, possibly because of the apprehension that there could be all kinds of repercussions, the same may be said to some extent regarding the more superior Gadolim of the past.

Oh well, just another thought provoking Shabbos meal in Katamon.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ain Chadash Tachas Hashamesh

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin spoke on Motzei Shabbat at Jeshurun Synagogue in Jerusalem and delivered his Shabbos Hagadol Drasha.

In essence it connected the Pesach Seder to the failure of religious Zionism.

At the Seder we relate the story of the Exodus. We are to relate the story as if we were experiencing it . How can we do that? The best way to tell a good story is to "act it out." Doing so makes the experience come alive as it should because we were there.

How were we there? We were there because our family was there; our immediate family, our distant family, all of the Jewish people.

( On a side note, this can best be explained from a shiur I heard last week from Rabbi Paysach Krohn who told the story of I believe Rabbi Shimon Schwab though I could be mistaken, who as a child contracted whooping cough and was told to inhale water vapor from hot water as a remedy. When he was leaning over the pot of water, some one bumped into him knocking the scalding water over his arm burning it severely. It eventually healed. Skin cells regenerate approximately every 120 days though it took over a year before his arm looked as it did before. When someone asked Rav Schwab, how is it possible for us to experience Yetzias Mitzrayim as if we were there, he answered with a question. is Is his arm not the same arm as it was before the accident? Skin regenerates and people regenerate, but they are one and the same. We don’t say that this is a new arm. It is the same arm that was there when the scalding water burnt it. So too, the Jewish People of today are the same ones who went out of Egypt.)

So who are we to relive the Exodus? Originally we celebrated the first Seder before we were redeemed, prior to Chatzos, prior to Macas Bechoros. Why were we celebration an act that had not taken place? Because we were optimistic and believed that G-d would redeem us. So now as well, when we sit at the Pesach Seder, we should have trust in Hashem that things will be for the best and he will redeem us with the Final Geulah.

But what’s taking so long? We are required to believe that this can happen any moment. Yet we sit and wait for 2000 years. Well if we are an extension of our previous selves and we are one big family, then still in all we’re certainly not a happy family.

In Israel, polls recently taken showed that approximately two thirds of the people hate the settlers more than anyone else. The Palestinians came in at a distant second. Amongst the Chilunim, a substantial number actually love the Palestinians. Israel was one of the first nations to give aid to Moslem countries during earthquakes, Tsunamis and wars.

What’s going on here? Is it V’ahavta Leraiacha Komacha, in reverse? Not exactly.There are minority opinions that R’ Akiva explained the phrase as loving all people as yourself. So are the Chilunim actually frum? Nope! Rather it is the failure of the religious Jews, L’ahavta the Chilunim or even others whom they perceive as less frum than themselves, Komachem, who are failing at this Mitzvah.

Can anyone find shuls other than of the egalitarianism types that open their doors to others without trying to be Mekarev them? Almost none.

Yet all is not lost. Recently an invitation went out to Chilunim and all types of Jews to come to Kol Nidrei and Neilah services which would last exactly 75 minutes, ending in a timely manner, with no obligations upon the participants; just come as you are. Rabbi Riskin said that for a beginning it was a great success.

Maybe, we can have a bit more tolerance. Maybe we can say Kol Dichpin Yeisaii Veyaichol as if we mean it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Psst! My Name is Arnie, Can You Do Me a Favor?

Dateline Jerusalem Thursday April 5, 2006 10:30 AM

Usually when you go into a shul and someone comes around collecting for Tzedakah, people have to ask for change. When the person collecting the monies can’t supply the change, both parties are a little despondent.

That’s not the way things turned out for me on my first day back in Jerusalem.

At the Shtibblach Minyan in Katamon, the happy-go-lucky Gabbai, (at least that’s the way he always appears to me) who goes by the name of Arnie, asks me to do him a favor. He wants to give me change. The more change he can give me, the better.

Unlike black-market change places, he wants to give me American small change for American large bills.

I told him I only had twenties, so he gladly hands me twenty singles for a twenty dollar bill.

Now I can give out my shliach Mitzvah Gelt in smaller denominations. Who exactly did whom the favor?

Life in Aretz, don’t you just love it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Ye of Little Faith

There are way too many blogs out there covering the same old things, among them my own. But there is one out there that is beginning to disturb me a great deal.

It is one of the many, written by articulate individuals, but one of the few that has a large following.

What disturbs me is that it is written by a very knowledgeable fellow and that its audience is drawn from both the left and the right, sometimes from the fringe of these communities.

This normally would not be of any consequence except that I find the comments to be highly influential and possibly heretical.

The author of the blog asserts that he is left wing modern orthodox and that he is a rationalist with regard too Yahadus.

He claims that there is room for agnostics within orthodoxy and that half, if not most, of the modern orthodox are conservadox orthopraxers with ideology not nearly as important as the practice of Halacha, though that practice is lax.

Further, the belief of the thirteen principles of faith is of little relevance, so long as one believes in G-d.

I beg to differ. Without a doubt, most of the Rationalists within orthodox Jewish philosophy, have always stressed belief as part and parcel of their rationalist thought.

Many have felt that failure to observe most principles of faith borders on heresy.

In days of old, the Jewish people have faced trials and tribulations from within.

Whether it was Korach and the Eirav Rav, the ten tribes, Hellenists, the Maccabees, the Tzidoikkim, the Essenes, the Karaites, Sabbetaianism, the Hasidic movement, the Haskalah, the Reform movement, the Conservative movement, Chabad Messianism or the Kabbalah movement, who all sought change, traditional Jewry still withstood the test of time.

Yet many of these groups posed a danger and that danger sometimes originated in rational skepticism.

Without rationalism, it can be difficult to function, to understand our world.

But without faith, we can easily fall down that slippery slope and take many others along to that calamitous precipice.

---- Something to think about it, in that twilight zone of the blog world.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Try As We Might, Sometimes We Just Can’t Get It Right

Dr. S.Z. Leiman, in his shabbos shiur today, reiterated the mistakes people so often make when quoting others.

David Ellenson, in two separate works on R’ Ezriel Hildesheimer, mentioned that R’ Hildesheimer, in one of his teshuvoth, (Shailoth u’teshuvoth R’ Ezriel Hildesheimer, volume A, Siman 238) accused Zacharias Frankel of being an apostate.

This was repeated in a volume of Tradition in 1992 and most recently by Dr. Marc Shapiro of Scranton University in “Saul Lieberman and the Orthodox."

Being a subscriber to Tradition and having read two of Dr. Shapiro’s works, I have no doubt, that this error as espoused by Dr. Leiman, was based on Ellenson’s misrepresentation or, at best, misunderstanding of R’Hildesheimer’s works or character.

Dr. Leiman pointed out that R’ Hildesheimer, though he disagreed with Frankel, always had great reverence for Frankel, both while Frankel was alive and posthumously.

Ellenson, on the other hand, who is president of Hebrew Union College, has an agenda against the Orthodox.

Ellenson (in Tradition in Transition – The Orthodox Rabbinate and Apostasy pg. 171) stated:

…”Frankel’s rejection of these views and his insistence that Jewish law had developed over time were sufficient to allow Hildesheimer to label him a meshummad [an apostate]. Frankel, as a non-orthodox Jew in matter of belief, had, in the eyes of the Orthodox, somehow stepped beyond the boundaries of the Jewish religious community. As late as 1873 an Orthodox leader thus felt constrained to utilize a term of apostasy to describe the leader of another Jewish religious viewpoint. Hildesheimer’s use of meshummad to characterize Frankel is a direct result of the legacy he received from his medieval rabbinic forebears on this issue. As such it reveals the limitations inherent in this approach, even from the perspective of Hildesheimer, in the changed circumstances of the nineteenth century.”

What was only revealed, however, was Ellenson’s bias. After Dr. Leiman reviewed the Teshuva, it became quite clear that R’ Hidesheimer was referring to another Frankel who had written a book in German and was by his own admittance an apostate.

In a volume by Wolfgang Ber Frankel aka Binyamin Yissacher Halevi Frankel, (his name, prior to his conversion to Christianity), this other Frankel wrote a volume which spelled out the Tetragammon throughout the book in German.

The question before R’ Hildesheimer was whether the book should be put into a Genizah because of the use of G-d’s holy name.

R’ Hildesheimer’s response was that we can be lenient with such a book since it was not written with any holy intentions, and possibly in part because this fellow was a meshummad, and because of its content, that it actually should be burned.

Well it just goes to show you. We can’t get it right all the time.

Maybe next time I’ll just email Amiel Hirsch and Yosef Reinman.

Maybe they can clear up what is the necessary criterion to become a real meshummad.