Friday, November 29, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Small Children and Chanukah Candle Lighting

Until your kids are old enough, and of course this is always a good time of year to review fire safety with them, it may be better to come up with another way for them to participate in candle lighting.

This link came to my attention and I think that anyone with little people wandering around should take a look at it.

10 Kid-Friendly Flameless Menorahs

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgivikah!

I've needed to take a break recently from writing for personal reasons - namely, Thanksgiving and Chanukah coinciding… giving us Thanksgivikah… thinking about celebrating without my mother who made Thanksgiving a huge deal, as well as Chanukah - it's really hard right now.

But I want to bring you two ideas that she shared with us.

Coming from a family with five children, it was expensive for my parents to buy us all gifts for each of the eight nights of Chanukah. When we were a bit older, at least old enough to understand, my parents gave us each a night that we kids gave gifts to each other. To explain. The nights were given out youngest child to oldest - keeping in mind that the younger children would be less likely to give out fancy or expensive gifts - working up to the older ones who may have had some money from babysitting or chores. Gifts could consist of "coupons" of random things - like promising time to play together (with another kid), or even helping around the house (for a parent). It didn't have to cost money to give a gift.

I like this idea and hope to institute it in my own house one day. The idea that parents don't supply gifts all eight days is definitely a good thought. What is even better, is that the children have to give serious thought to what their brothers and sisters may want - to think about someone other than themselves is fantastic.

Regarding Thanksgiving, my mother used to distribute a copy of President George Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island for us to read. It speaks of religious freedom - which for the Jewish People, a people murdered with impunity for thousands of years because of our religion, was probably a huge relief to hear at the time. This is one of the reasons why we, as Jews, are thankful on Thanksgiving.

I include it below.

I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful Chanukah! Thanksgivikah!

Background on the Washington Letter

George Washington's Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants—while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington

Other random links:
Esti’s 8 Tips for A More Meaningful Hanukkah
Gobble tov! American Jews ready for Thanksgivukkah - Hanukkah - Chanukah 2013 - Chanukah, Hanukkah, Hanukkah 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Two Websites to Start the Week

It's been a busy time around the house, it's really amazing how busy two little people will keep you.

I came across this website the other day. The focus is on Israel - not the political or religious aspects of it, but the social, technological, medical, sports, etc. aspects of it. Definitely worth your time.
reThink Israel

Another fun website that I will need to spend more time on is There's a lot there. Articles, videos, "pep-talks". Looks good.

Have a good week everyone!
Shavua Tov!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

That's Living

I do not usually post sad stories, but there are times that we learn about inspirational people, people we didn't even know existed, but made the world around them a better place - this is one of them.

Sometimes we don't know a person until they are gone. We look at their lives and from them try to figure out how to improve our own.

Take a moment to read about Gershon Burd, gone too young, but having lived a full life.
The Secret Life of Gershon Burd

Friday, October 11, 2013

Parshat Lech Lecha

It's amazing how time flies by so quickly. We're already three weeks into the book of Bereisheet.

This week we read Parshat Lech Lecha - the one where G-d tells Avram (later Avraham) to leave his home and travel to a place that He will show him.

What's interesting about the Torah is that we can read the same narratives year after year and learn new things. Perhaps a new thought is brought to our attention, or we see the same idea in a deeper way.

Here are a few different thoughts on the parsha this week:
Lech Lecha in a Nutshell
Was Abraham the First Feminist?
Can a Change of Name Create a Change in Destiny?
Rabbi Sacks: The Courage Not to Conform

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

He'll Be Fun To Watch

This sounds like a fascinating young man. Hockey player... children's author... Jew. Pretty amazing.

Jewish hockey player not your typical children’s author

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

How Well Does Your Synagogue/Temple Fit You?

Welcome back from the Holidays everyone! Back to a full work week... shucks :)

This article is an interesting one - one that I would like to follow up with. What are your issues with your synagogue/temple? Why do you enjoy going? Or do you? What parts would you keep, dump or improve? Being part of a community is very important - how do you see your synagogue/temple as part of that?

Or - Do you not belong to a synagogue/temple at all? Is being part of a community a consideration for you? Why/Why Not?

Dues Are Not The Sole Stumbling Block for Young Families

Please leave your comments!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Chag Sameach! Happy Sukkot!

It's the holiday season - you thought we were done with it after Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur - haha! Sukkot is the fun part!

Read about these pedi-sukkahs here.

More about Sukkot and Simchat Torah here.

And here.

Enjoy the holiday!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Random Picture of the Day - Where Was This Taken?

Can you figure out where this photograph was taken?

Hint: There's popcorn in those bags!

Leave your guesses in the comment section... have fun :)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur! Tonight!

Tonight is both Yom Kippur and Shabbat... what a combination. We actually fast on Shabbat. I always find that strange since much of Shabbat is generally spent eating and Yom Kippur is spent fasting and praying in synagogue. But remember to eat before the fast, it's actually a mitzvah to eat prior to Yom Kippur.

Yom Kippur is a long day, and it's easy to lose track of why you are sitting there. I recommend taking a look at these websites I am including here and printing off some of the materials so you have what to read during those times that it is hard to concentrate and focus. has some great articles. does too.
Rabbi Sacks of course has what to say.

Gmar Chatima Tova! We should all be sealed in the Book of Life for health, success, and peace in our homes and in the world.

Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We Remember 9/11

We remember all the victims of terror that horrible day.

Take a moment to read about Danny Lewin, the 1st to be murdered that day. An amazing story.

Remembering Tech Titan Danny Lewin, The Fighting Genius on Flight 11

No Excuse Not To Be In School

A sweet story about a boy going through cancer treatments in Philadelphia while attending school as a robot. Technology still amazes me. Refuah Sheleima Kyle! We wish you a complete recovery!

Cancer patient goes to school as a robot

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Parent's Role Today In Their Child's Jewish Education

I ran across this article from the New York Times re-examining the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony.

Bar Mitzvahs Get New Look to Build Faith

It's an interesting look at how Reform Judaism is considering re-inventing the bar mitzvah ceremony. It's argued that reading (or memorizing) a portion of the Torah in a language you are unfamiliar with - being forced to sit in Hebrew school for hours each week in addition to regular school - the point of the bar mitzvah being the all important party - not seeing the relevance of Judaism in your everyday life - is pointless and does not create a lifetime active member in the Jewish faith.

I happen to agree with most of the article, the complaints part particularly. I went to a Jewish day school until 8th grade, went to a Sunday morning Hebrew school during high school for about two more years and dropped out.

The new idea being bandied around is to include Tikkun Olam (fixing the world) into the bar mitzvah program. In other words, social action. Social action is certainly important and should be part of the experience, but a relationship with G-d (which is what Judaism is about) should not be replaced by social action projects. They may go together - but one should not be replaced by the other.

What the article does not mention - but I think is the crux, is the parent's role in creating a Jewish feel to their home and their support for Jewish education. I understand that not every Jewish child is going to go to a day school, but there's more to Judaism than what we learn in school.

When I was teaching at a Reform day school (I'm a stay-at-home mom now) I would regularly ask the children in the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most wanted to be professionals of some sort (even in 3rd grade) - doctors, lawyers, veterinarians etc. I showed them using a bar chart of how many years in school they were going to spend learning their trades. I drew a bar for high school, then for 4 years of college, another few for a specialty (a masters degree or medical school), another few for an extra specialty - turn around, you've been in school well into your mid-20s (at least). We drew another bar for our Jewish education... and it ended at 13. As the article puts it ""pediatric Judaism,” an immature understanding of the faith, its values and spirituality." But this is nothing new. This is Jewish education today.

What is missing are the parents and the household environment. Are there any Jewish objects in the home - menorah, Shabbat candlesticks? Jewish books on the shelf (even just one shelf), a mezuzah on the doorpost of the front door, Jewish artwork on the walls? These are all things that create an environment, an identity.

Creating an identity is part of a parents' role in guiding their children. Keeping your child safe, fed, clean, educated - secularly and Jewishly is a 24/7 job. Understanding that you and your child need spirituality in your lives is also important - children see and hear everything you do and say - they reflect what you are modeling. Seeing that Judaism is important to you will ultimately make it important to them.

I applaud all those parents who send their kids to Hebrew school. I applaud all the kids who go to Hebrew school in addition to their many hours at regular schools. It isn't easy. I spent many years teaching Sunday mornings and in after school programs -- I am happy to see parents trying to give their kids a Jewish background. That being said, more needs to be asked of these parents. Expecting teachers within a couple hours a week to be able to give over knowledge, pride and understanding of 3000+ years of Jewish history and religion is impossible. As teachers we do the best we can within the constraints that are given to us.

This article is only the tip of the iceberg. Having lavish bar/bat mitzvah parties without any interest in the Jewish experience is only a symptom of the real problem. Judaism is a religion that is experienced primarily in the home -- I would argue that school and the synagogue are important but secondary.

It is the attitude of the parents that children pick up on. Whether or not you are fully involved in Judaism today there are so many small things that you can do around the house to involve the kids in their Judaism. And remember it isn't only their Judaism that is important - it is yours as well. If you see Judaism as important in your life, it will be important in theirs. Educate yourself so you can educate your children.

Just a few ideas.
I always found that Shabbat is a brilliant invention that only G-d could have come up with. Not just a day off. A spiritual "day of rest." It's clear that when there is no enforced time off, people do not take it. A regular day off becomes a day full of errands and things to do to fill time.

Shabbat - our spiritual "day of rest" - is a great opportunity to come together as a family. Even if you feel your family can't do the whole day - from Friday night to Saturday night - start with just Friday night dinner. Every family needs "alone" time. The television should be turned off, the telephone turned off or ignored, even cellphones - especially the parents' electronics must be off as well - to send a strong message to the children that this is the time that we spend time together.

* Start with lighting the Shabbat candles - this is a fantastic website to help you - if your children are too small to light the candles, let them set up the candle sticks (put the candles in the sticks etc.) or put a coin in the tzeduka/charity box before you start.
* Try to prepare a special food that you know the family will enjoy and that you generally don't have during the week.
* Sometimes it is hard to start a discussion at the table. My suggestion is to start with "gratefuls" - my mother instituted this. Everyone has to come up with three things that they did or things that happened to them over the past week that they were grateful for. There were rules to this: "Gratefuls" couldn't be sports related, nor could they be 'gee, I'm glad the week is over', or something that was coming up in the future. In my house there was no way around the gratefuls, even if you had an horrible week - there had to be something (even something incredibly small) to be grateful for. This made for a positive time around the table. It also trains you to look for positive things during the week since you know you will be sharing around the table on Friday night.

Even if Friday/Shabbat night dinner lasts a total of a half an hour - without any electronic distractions (and not hurrying out due to prior obligations) - it will be clear to you and the children that spirituality is real and important. G-d gave us the special gift of Shabbat, a spiritual time to spend reconnecting with our families and community (synagogue). We spend all week running to and fro, always complaining that we are rats running on a wheel going nowhere, why don't we take advantage and drop out for a few hours, or even a whole day?

Obviously, this article struck a cord - I did not mean to go on like this - but I feel that it must be said... the home is where Judaism begins and must be relevant. Social action is important, but it must not replace creating a connection with G-d. Bar/bat mitzvahs cannot be the beginning and end of a child's understanding of 3000+ years of Judaism. To expect teachers to be miracle workers is unfair, and it is unfair to the children sitting there to make them think that all they need to know about Judaism will be fed to them by the end of their bar/bat mitzvah preparation.

It is time for parents to take responsibility for their children's Jewish education. Start at home. You can even start small - but please start.

Fantastic Golden Discovery

There's been an amazing find of gold in Jerusalem.
During excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount, which were conducted this summer, Hebrew University of Jerusalem archaeologist Dr. Eilat Mazar discovered two bundles of treasure containing 36 gold coins, gold and silver jewelry, and a gold medallion with the menorah (Temple candelabrum) symbol etched into it.

Also etched into the 10-centimeter (4-inch) medallion are a shofar (ram’s horn) and a Torah scroll.
Rare golden treasure found in Jerusalem 

This just reminds us how careful we have to be when there is construction without oversight on the Temple Mount.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Shana Tova! Happy New Year!

It's been a rough last month, but I want to take a moment to wish everyone a year full of happiness, success and most of all good health. Give your loved ones a big hug!
Rabbi Sacks

Friday, August 23, 2013

Live Today! Parshat Ki Tavo

I am on a few different parsha email lists. This came up in my mail today. I like this one - it reminds us how precious and important the present really is. Click here if you want to join this list - I do not know the person who runs it, but it seems to have some good dvar Torahs.

A thought by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzsky.

Today. It's a powerful word. It is used by doctors to define the exact moment their patients are to stop over-indulging, smoking, and drinking. It is used by account receivables to exact when they want their bills paid. Most importantly, it's used by the Torah in describing what it wants from our attitudes. This week the Torah portion tells us: "Today Hashem commands you to perform these  decrees and statutes." (26:16) There is obviously a deeper connotation. The commandments were not given on the day that Moshe read this week's portion. They were given forty years prior. Also, at the end of the Parsha, Moshe calls the nation together and reminds them of the miraculous events that transpired during the exodus from Egypt. He discusses "the great wonders, signs, and miracles that your eyes beheld." (29:1-3) Then he adds something shocking: "But Hashem did not give you a heart to understand or eyes to see until today." What can the word "today" mean in this context?  Did the Jewish nation not have the heart to appreciate the value of splitting the Red Sea forty years back? Did they not revel in the miracle of Manna from its first earthly descent decades previously? How can Moshe say that they did not have eyes to understand until today?

Rabbi M. Kamenetzky explains that perhaps Moshe is telling his nation the secret of eternal inspiration. One may experience miraculous events. He may even have the vision of a lifetime. However he "will not have the heart to understand or the eyes to see" until that vision is today. Unless the inspiration lives with him daily, as it did upon the moment of impact. Whether tragedy or blessing, too often an impact becomes as dull as the movement of time itself. The promises, pledges, and commitments begin to travel slowly, hand-in-hand down a memory lane paved with long-forgotten inspiration. This week Moshe tells us that even after experiencing a most memorable wonder, we still may, "not have the heart to discern nor the eyes to see." Until we add one major ingredient. Today.

Chief Rabbi Sacks: COVENANT & CONVERSATION: Ki Tavo – A Sense of History

Good Shabbos everyone!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sometimes G-d Says "No"

Last week I finished sitting shiva, the seven day mourning period observed after an immediate relative has passed away. My mother had unexpectedly died at the age of 73.

One of our central Jewish prayers, the Shema, begins with the words,
Shema Yisroel, Ado-nai Elo-heinu, Ado-nai Echad.
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is One. (The translation looses the feel of the words.)

What does it mean 'One'?
That we don't have multiple gods?

Yes, that is what it means. But we can also look deeper.

Everything that happens comes from G-d, the good, the perceived bad and ugly. Judaism does not say that only good comes from G-d and anything else must come from a separate source - like the Devil or Satan. It doesn't work like that. Everything comes from G-d, there are no challenges to His power. We believe that somehow in the scheme of things, everything is good whether we understand it or not.

When we see something we don't like, like a parent's funeral, it is hard to see any good in it. We say a bracha (blessing) on an occasion like this: Baruch Dayan HaEmes, Blessed is the True Judge. At the moment of pain, we are unable to see the good (G-d doesn't expect us to) - but we are able to recognize that there is a Truth that we, as limited beings, cannot see, and that G-d is that ultimate Judge who knows all.

That is the understanding of the Oneness of G-d that should be taken from these occasions -- everything comes from Him. There is nothing else.

I want to thank everyone who has my family in their prayers. Your good thoughts are certainly appreciated and mean a lot to me.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Please Pray

Since the Jewish People are one big happy (sometimes) family - we have the ability to pray for each other.

I am asking all who are reading this blog to pray for my mother - she is not doing well at this moment.

Her Hebrew name is: Chana Tziril bas Teib'l

I sincerely appreciate your help.

Good Shabbos.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Modern and the Ancient in the Land of Israel

First - the modern news.

The United States isn't the first to think about green energy. Israelis are at the top of their game in the green technology field.

Israel’s first electric bus hits the road in Tel Aviv

To see how Israeli green technology is used around the world take a look at this website. This is one of  their projects.
Israel NewTech is launching an exciting new tool to showcase Israeli companies’ projects in the cleantech arena throughout the world – the CleanTech Map. This Facebook application allows visitors to view Israeli cleantech projects and installations anywhere in the world. Visitors simply go into the map, and search by either category and subcategory (for example – water- desalination) or by browsing the map. Visitors may then read about each project, view photos or clips, and contact the company.
  Israel New Tech

In ancient news -

If you haven't visited Israel, it's a fantastic place to be and see. Imagine walking in the steps of the forefathers and mothers thousands of years ago. We're so used to thinking that 1776 was so long ago when really in the annals of time it wasn't that long ago at all.

This article gives a great overview of amazing archeological finds in the ancient city of Tzippori. It makes me think that that I should go back and take a look.

In bits and pieces: Mosaic splendor at Tzippori

Friday, August 2, 2013

Parshas Re'eh - Jews Don't Drink Blood

What struck me when I read through the parsha was the number of times it instructs us not to eat/drink an animal's blood when we slaughter it.
"But you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it onto the earth, like water." (Deuteronomy 12:16) 
"Only be strong not to eat the blood - for the blood, it is the life - and you call not eat the life with the meat. You shall not eat it, you shall pour it onto the ground like water. You shall not eat it, in order that it be well with you and your children after you, when you do what is right in the eyes of G-d." (Deuteronomy 12: 23-25) 
"However you shall not eat its blood; you shall pour it onto the ground like water." (Deuteronomy 15: 23)
It's interesting to see this command listed three times in this parsha alone (also mentioned in Leviticus as well, I do not know about the other books). It seems obvious to us not to drink blood, but at the same time Jews have a terrible "Blood Libel" that has followed us throughout history even into recent times. It's strange that so many Jews have been murdered over something that was obviously false.

This command is also important when we think about kosher meats (this parsha also talks about the different animals/birds/fish that are/n't kosher). We salt our meats - chicken, beef - to make sure that we draw out all the blood out of the animal's meat before we eat it. Aside from the special way we kill our animals, salting is another action that we take to make sure the meat is kosher.

See a history of the "Blood Libel" here.

Rabbi Sacks: COVENANT & CONVERSATION: Re’eh – Judaism’s Social Vision

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hollywood and Stem Cells (no connection)

When starting at the university I thought that I'd be a film major (that thought didn't last too long) and enjoyed watching and studying the early films out of Hollywood. This article is something I never could have imagined. Crazy.

The Chilling History of How Hollywood Helped Hitler 

And on a happier note, more amazing advancement in the field of medicine.

French and Israeli Scientists Use Stem Cells to Study Schizophrenia

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Technology Making the World A Better Place

It's amazing what comes out in the world of technology, it seems, every day.

There has been a terrible epidemic of children being left and dying in hot cars lately. So now there's an app to help you remember the little person in your back seat. Truthfully, I have trouble understanding how this happens - but anything that helps is appreciated. If anyone tries this - let us know if it works outside of Israel.

BabyMinder is latest Israeli baby safety app

And Google does it again. Google Glass at work.
JewGlass will deliver customized Jewish information such as sunset times, directions to nearby synagogues and Hebrew translations. It also will provide information related to Jewish learning, such as the Torah portion of the week or the day’s Daf Yomi, and detect nearby kosher restaurants.
Jewish Google Glass ceiling broken

You Go Girl!

Actress Natalie Portman is doing something exciting. She'll be directing her first film in Jerusalem, Israel. Good for her.

Natalie Portman: Actress to direct first film in Jerusalem

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Oh Well, the Prince Isn't Jewish

Ah, so it seems that Prince George isn't Jewish after all. I thought it could have been true, even told someone it was. Oops.

Middleton, Shmiddleton. Britain’s new royal heir is not a Jew

Have a great week everyone! Shavua Tov!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Parshas Eikev

Hello all!

Shabbat is just about upon us and I haven't had time to come up with a dvar Torah - so I'm leaving some links here for your perusal. has a bunch to choose from - take a look here. has good stuff too - take a look here.

Chief Rabbi Sacks on the parsha - take a look here.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Look Back At Jerusalem History with Lincoln's Secretary of State

Interesting read. William Seward, Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State, visited Jerusalem in 1859 and in 1871. He wrote down his experiences (from 1871) when he participated in Shabbat services and visited the Kotel (Wailing Wall) with the Jews living there. It's not a long article - so even if history isn't your forte, it's worth your time.

Lincoln's Secretary of State's Jerusalem Visit

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Old Pictures of the Holy Land

Shavua Tov!

I just came across this website, it's amazing. This is how they describe themselves:
The Library of Congress has digitized thousands of pictures of the Holy Land in its collection and made them available online. Many of them are over 100 years old (such as this background photo taken 150 years ago). We bring you a picture a day from this amazing collection, pictures that show the history of the Land of Israel in the last century, putting them into historical, Biblical and contemporary context.

Have a great week!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Parshas Ve'es'chanan - The Highlights

Since today is my Hebrew birthday - the 12th of Av - I get to give out some brachot (blessings). I want to wish everyone a year full of good health, lots of happiness, success in their work, finding their match, finding themselves, peace within the Jewish People, peace between the Jewish People and everyone else and peace for the world at large.

This week's Torah portion is Ve'es'chanan, a parsha chock full of good stuff. I'll give you two highlights:
* The 10 Commandments are read (Deuteronomy 5:6-18)
* The Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
Hear, O' Israel: The Lord is our G-d, The Lord is One. You shall love the Lord, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources. And these matters that I command you today shall be upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them while you sit in your home, while you walk on the way, when you retire and when you arise. Bind them as a sign upon your arm and let them be ornaments between your eyes. And write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates. (trans. Artscroll Stone Ed. Chumash)
There's so much here, but I don't have the time to expand on it. I do want to share part of the last paragraph of the parsha that I feel we forget, that HaShem (G-d) loves us.
For you are a holy people to HaShem, your G-d; HaShem, your G-d, has chosen you to be for Him a treasured people above all the peoples that are on the face of the earth. Not because you are more numerous than all the people did HaShem desire you and choose you, for you are the fewest of all the peoples. Rather, because of HaShem's love for you and because He observes the oath that He swore to your forefathers did He take you out with a strong hand and redeem you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt... (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
The Haftorah, the short reading after the reading of the Torah is also very special. It is always read the Shabbat after Tisha B'Av, our national day of mourning. It begins:
Nachamu, nachamu Ami... Comfort, comfort My people - says your G-d. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her time [of exile] has been fulfilled, that her iniquity has been consilated... 
Only a few days ago, we cried over our loss of connection with G-d, here He says, don't worry -- the time is coming, where we'll be together again. We should merit to see Moshiach soon and rekindle that close connection we once had with HaShem - and see His hand in our everyday lives.

Chief Rabbi Sacks on the parsha

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Amazed by G-d and Man

I've always loved space, the endless vast of nothingness out there that makes me feel the amazingness (if that's a word) of G-d.

These photographs are great:
Amazing view of storm clouds over Atlantic Ocean from the International Space Station

People also amaze me, how when facing evil, some are really able to step up and do the right thing.
In a French fishing town, Holocaust bravery remembered

In the same way G-d is infinite - He created us to be infinite in a more finite way. We can move past our limited selves in order to conquer what seem to be insurmountable, crazy situations in order to become greater and better than we ever were before. These 'righteous gentiles' put their own lives on the line in order to save Jews. That's certainly a "G-dly" thing to do.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tisha B'Av

Have an easy and meaningful fast everyone. Next year let's have a party for Moshiach instead!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tonight is Tisha B'Av

We are fast approaching Tisha B'Av, (tonight!) the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. We commemorate all of the devastating events that have occurred over our 3000 year history. Our Sages say that the second Holy Temple was destroyed due to senseless hatred between Jews. We must make amends and create an atmosphere of senseless love.

My attention was brought to this article. Please read it, and think about ways that we can find common ground within the Jewish community. Feeding our hungry is certainly one way to do it.

Going to Bed Hungry 

I want to wish everyone an easy and meaningful fast. Even if you are not fasting, please take the time to read through some of these articles.

Tisha B'Av and the 3 Weeks (lots of different articles)
Three Weeks and the Fast of Tisha B'Av (lots of different articles)
What Happened on the 9th of Av?
Crash Course on Tisha B'Av
The Laws of Mourning 
Order of the Day: A step-by-step guide to Tisha B'Av observance

Guarding Our Speech (July 2006)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Parshat Devarim - Moshe Rabbeinu - Our Teacher

Congratulations! We've made it to the last of the 5 Books of the Torah. This is an interesting book - one given over to the assembled Jewish People by Moses himself, in his own words. This is explained by the Vilna Gaon.
The first four Books were heard directly from the mouth of the Holy One, Blessed is He, through the throat of Moses. Not so Deuteronomy. Israel heard the words of this Book the same way they heard the words of the prophets who came after Moses. The Holy One, Blessed is He, would speak to the prophet today and on a later day he would go and make the vision known to Israel. Accordingly, at the time the prophet spoke to the people, the word of God had already been removed from him. So, too, the Book of Deuteronomy was heard from the moth of Moses himself. (Artscroll, The Stone Edition Chumash pg. 938)
As the commentary in the Chumash goes on to say, "Moses was the speaker. This is indicated by the fact that is Deuteronomy, Moses says, "Hashem [G-d] spoke to me" (1:42, 2:9, 3:2), whereas the constant refrain in the rest of the Torah is "Hashem spoke to Moses." (Artscroll, The Stone Edition Chumash pg. 938)

I find this fascinating. Moshe is described as Rabbeinu - Our Teacher, he is NOT described as the one who G-d used to lead us out of Egypt, NOT described the one who split the sea and destroying the Egyptian armies, NOT even described as the one who interceded on the behalf of the Jewish People when we made mistakes.

Moshe's words are included alongside G-d's words, they are part of the Torah, why? It's simply because next to G-d, no one else in our long history loved us more than he did. He loved us as a parent and as a teacher - rolled into one. We became a People under Moses. He took the Israelites from their "infancy" of being slaves (with mindset to match) into their "adulthood" - as a free people under G-d. That journey required guidance, teaching, reviewing, meeting the needs of all the people, more teaching, more reviewing, and a whole lot of patience and love. No small feat indeed.

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom!

Chief Rabbi Sacks on Devarim
The Future is in Our Hands
Constructive Criticism

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Finding Blessings Everywhere

Jews say blessings all the time - over food, drinks, and even after using the bathroom. It's a way of recognizing something greater than ourselves (G-d) in our every day lives. While it's easy to pray to G-d during rough times, it seems to be a lot harder to involve G-d when things are going well.

Aside from the times that I mention, there are even more blessings to say that I find fascinating.

On hearing thunder or seeing a hurricane or feeling an earthquake:
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, whose power and might fill the world.

On seeing lightning or a shooting star:
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who re-enacts the work of Creation.

On seeing a rainbow:
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who remembers the Covenant, is faithful to the Covenant, and keeps His promise.

On hearing good news that concerns oneself and others:
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, who is good and does good.

On hearing bad news, G-d forbid:
Blessed are You, Lord our G-d, King of the Universe, the true Judge.

I really like when I get a chance to say one of these (other than the one for bad news) - I feel that I've been given an opportunity to involve G-d in my life as well as recognize G-d in those amazing things that we take for granted in nature.

I did wonder about thunderstorms when lightning and thunder occur more than one time. The answer I was given was that you can say each of those blessings once per storm.

Lively Introduction to Blessings

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Another Look at Jewish History

As an almost film major, this is a fascinating look at Jewish history. There is so much that I did not know while reading this article. There is even film footage dating back to 1910! Who knew?

Jewish history, saved one frame at a time

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jews In Space

Jews on the moon? Why not? This is a fun article.
SpaceIL actually exists because of Google — specifically, the Google Lunar X Contest, which promises to award $30 million to a team that can land an unmanned, robotic craft on the moon and carry out several missions such as taking high-definition video and beaming it back to earth, and exploring the surface of the moon by moving or sending out a vehicle that will move 500 meters along the moon’s surface.... 
Over 250 volunteers are working on SpaceIL, developing systems to propel a rocket into orbit, build a system which will be able to move the spacecraft 500 meters, and design video cameras that can stand up to the moon’s harsh climate, in order to be able to transmit high-definition video back to earth. The entire drama will be transmitted back to earth via Bezeq optical fiber technology, Damari said, with Bezeq’s fiber optic cable, along with an Israeli flag, remaining on the moon for the benefit of future space travelers.
Inspiration, via the ‘blue and white’ moonshot 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Three Weeks - From the 17th of Tammuz to the 9th of Av

Today is the 17th of Tammuz, the beginning of the three week period of mourning remembering the Holy Temples (first and second) in Jerusalem. It's also a fast day that starts in the morning (early) and ends late (since sundown is so late). Even if you do not fast, please take a moment to read these websites - understand why this three week period ending with Tisha b'Av is so central to the Jewish People.

ABCs of Tisha B'Av & the Three Weeks - Rabbi Shraga Simmons (

Tammuz: Forces of Nature - Rebbitzen Tziporah Heller

Tisha B'Av and the 3 Weeks - Destruction & Renewal -

Friday, June 21, 2013

Parshas Balak 2013

I'm taking this dvar Torah from Reachings by Rabbi Yaacov Haber.

A Heart of Understanding

Balak, the King of Moab, wanted to battle the Children of Israel. But instead of using the conventional method of battle, he decided to seek the assistance of the well-known Midianite sorcerer, Bilaam, who had a reputation of success for being able to curse or bless anyone. So Balak sought Bilaam in order to have him curse the Jewish People.

The elders of Moab and Midian, versed in occult arts, went to Bilaam, conveying him Balak's message. "Spend the night here," he replied to them, "and when God speaks to me, I will be able to give you an answer." ...God said to Bilaam, "Do not go with them. Do not curse them [the Jewish People], because it is a blessed nation." When Bilaam got up in the morning, he said to Balak's dignitaries, "Go home. God refuses to let me go with you." (Numbers 22:7-8, 12-13)

Interestingly, Bilaam was approached by "the elders of Moab and Midian", but in the morning he spoke only to Balak's Moabite dignitaries. What happened to the elders of Midian?

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 105a) tells us that as soon as the elders of Midian heard that Bilaam was going to ask God first, they immediately left. They said, "There is no father that hates his son." They were already aware of the relationship God had with the Children of Israel, and realized that Balak's cause was lost.

The question we must ask is, if the elders of Midian were somehow aware of the love God has for the Jews, why then was Bilaam, a prophet, not aware?

The answer is that Bilaam, and the rest of us for that matter, are only aware of what we want to be aware of. Bilaam, in addition to being a sorcerer, was a prophet, and in fact clearly communicated with God, yet he was blind to the facts because he had to desire to know them.

Even after God replied to him and told his that he could not curse the people, he returned to ask Him again, and even after his ass had spoken to him, and after his own mouth had, in spite of himself, uttered a blessing instead of a curse (twice!) - he still did not seem to grasp that it was not God's will for him to curse the people of Israel.

In our prayers we ask God to give us a "heart of understanding." Although the heart is the source of emotion and desire, and the mind is the seat of intellect and understanding, we nevertheless pray for a heart of understand, for otherwise we will only believe and know what we want to believe.

pages 271-272

Good Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why Ten Men For A Minyan?

It's always interesting to see what we take for granted, what we don't give two seconds of thought to. When I saw the title of this article it struck me that I didn't know something so basic - it dawned on me... how much is out there that I don't know. This is what they call in the university world "lifelong learning". Something we should all do.

Why Are Ten Men Needed For a Minyan? - Prayer

My two cents on this -
The 'ten' is related to the ten (of twelve) spies that Moses sent into the Land of Israel that returned with a bad report about the Land. As a result, the Jewish People were sent to wander in the desert for the next 40 years till the older generation died off and were replaced by the next generation.

The 'men' part is important since this is so misunderstood. When the bad report about the Land was brought back by the spies, there was a general mourning by the Jewish People. However, it was not all of the Jewish People who went into despair, just the men. The women did not. These are the same women who are credited for bringing the Exodus from Egypt. It was in their merit that the Jewish People were redeemed by G-d. They would not have fallen into despair, certainly not by a bad report, when they had such a high level of faith in G-d. These women of the Exodus entered the Land of Israel - while the men of the Exodus did not.

Men (rather than women) are needed for the minyan in order to rectify the sin of the spies (men) and of the men who despaired after the bad report. The spies used their power of speech to denigrate the Land. This is no small misspeak. The Land of Israel is G-d's gift to the Jewish People. By misusing their speech in such a way requires tikun - rectification. The tikun here is the minyan - ten men - using this same power of speech to sanctify G-d's Name. The minyan is a public forum - the same way that the spies pronounced their report publicly to the whole Jewish People. The spies denigrated the Land in public, men today must sanctify G-d in public.

Of course we know that women need to pray, but only men are required to participate in a 'minyan'. It is not more holy for a woman to be part of a minyan - it doesn't even make sense for her to do so. It is a come-down. The women of the Exodus were spiritual giants - they didn't fall for the spies' story so why would women today be part of a tikun that we weren't part of making?

Just a thought.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great Jewish History Link

I find that there's always something new to learn every day. Since somehow there isn't enough time in the day to fit everything in, I like that when I am learning something new - that it should come in small bites, easy and quick to read or watch. has a great collection of articles and videos covering Jewish history, ancient as well as modern day fitting my description. Definitely worth your time. Learning history is such an important thing to do - but too few people actually take any time to do it. We've got 3000 years of history behind us, take a moment to learn about some of it.

Jewish History

Monday, June 17, 2013

In Honor of Father's Day

A belated Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there - especially to my Abba and also to my wonderful husband and father of my two adorable kids. Thank you for being the best I could ever ask for.

Celebrating the men of spiel: Super Jewish dads

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Found Nazi

A 94 year old Ukrainian Nazi has been found hiding in plain sight in Minneapolis; living in the United States since 1949. What amazes me the most is that he actually wrote an easy to find memoir about his time as a Nazi commander during World War II. I'm glad he lived long enough for him to be found to bring him to justice.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Parshas Chukas

This week's dvar Torah was written by Rabbi Shraga Simmons of Aish HaTorah.

Chukat(Numbers 19:1-22:1)

Moses Hits the Rock
This week's Parsha features one of the most perplexing incidents in the entire Torah. The Jews have been wandering for 40 years in the desert and they're thirsty. So God tells Moses to speak to the rock and water will come forth (Numbers 20:8). The instruction to "speak" to the rock is in contrast to 40 years earlier, when Moses followed God's instruction to hit the rock – and water gushed out (Exodus 17:6).

This time, Moses is to speak. Yet he again hits the rock. Nothing happens, so Moses hits the rock a second time, and water comes out.

God's response: "Since you HIT the rock rather than speaking to it, you will not lead the Jewish people into the Land of Israel" (Numbers 20:11-12).

New Generation
We read this story and think: Here's the mighty Moses, who confronted Pharaoh, arranged the Ten Plagues, split the Red Sea, brought the Torah down from Mount Sinai, and defended the people through trials and tribulations in the desert. Now he makes one little mistake and God takes away his dream of entering Israel. The consequence seems inappropriately harsh!

The first step in understanding this incident is to appreciate how the Jewish people were at the critical juncture of transitioning from desert life to Israel. At the rock, God's instructions to Moses are carefully chosen to reflect this transition. Forty years earlier, when Moses was told to HIT the rock, the people had just come out of brutal slavery in Egypt – and "hitting" was a language they understood. But this time, Moses was called upon to lead a generation who'd grown up in freedom; a generation which required the softer approach of "speaking."

Notice how in our Parsha, Moses hits the rock twice. First, he hit the rock and no water came out. At that moment he had the opportunity to reevaluate his approach and reflect more carefully on God's specific instruction to "speak." But Moses hits the rock again.

The commentators suggest that perhaps symbolically, we can learn about our own need to be flexible in our approach. Moses' punishment is not harsh; it is simply a consequence of his relationship to the new generation and their needs in entering Israel.

Jewish Education
We learn from this a crucial lesson about education. King Solomon says: "Educate each child according to his own way." The process of learning is different for everybody, and the approach that's effective for one is often not effective for another.

This defines the crucial difference between education and indoctrination. "Indoctrination" is when the teacher is concerned primarily with advancing his position. "Education" is drawing out from the student's own intuitive sense.

This idea is elucidated in the Talmud, which says: "Even more than the baby calf wants to drink, the mother wants to nurse." The simple understanding is that of course the calf is hungry and needs to eat. But even more so "the mother wants to nurse" – meaning that the mother is full of milk and needs to get it out.

However, I heard in the name of Rabbi Simcha Wasserman (20th century Los Angeles and Jerusalem) that the Talmud must be understood differently. Because if the mother's only concern is to get rid of her milk, then it would come out in one big gush. And we see instead that it comes out precisely in the right proportion to satisfy the specific needs of the calf. So when the Talmud says, "More than the baby calf wants to drink, the mother wants to nurse," it is saying that even more than the calf desires to eat, the mother wants that it should eat – not for the mother's sake, but because that's what's best for the calf. And that, said Rabbi Wasserman, is what good education is all about.

Jewish ideals have existed against all odds for 3,000 years – not because we've pounded people over the head, but because we've communicated those ideas in a rational, practical way. Anyone who says that yeshiva is a cult is woefully misinformed. Yeshiva is precisely the place to discuss the issues, ask questions, work it through, and make it your own.

American Ways
It is interesting that the experience of Moses in the desert can be understood in light of the experience of Judaism in the 20th century. In the shtetl of Europe, a rabbi might be able to communicate displeasure to his students by hitting the knuckles with a ruler. It was a language that was accepted and understood. But when tens of thousands of Jews moved to America, those who sent their children to Jewish day school found these same rabbis applying their European-style methods to children with American mentalities. These children, who were used to a more open and permissive approach, could not relate to Judaism as it was being presented. The result is that many of them shifted away from observance.

It has only been in the last 20 years – with American-born rabbis now taking the helm and explaining Judaism in modern, relevant terms – that American Jewry has seen a resurgence back toward traditional observance.

Berel Wein writes:
"In our always-uncertain world, it is natural to crave security and stability. Financial planners, estate planners, insurance experts and politicians in office all attempt to convince us that the way it is now is how it will be in the future as well. However, all of us in our secret hearts know that the only thing certain about the future is that it will not be the same as the present. Therefore, we should be prepared to be open to new circumstances, to a constantly changing world. We should not be afraid to try out new technology, new ideas and theories, to change careers and pursue our true interests and goals. There is an innate longing for greatness within all of us. That longing can never be fulfilled without a willingness to change, improve and try something new."
Like Moses and the rock, our ability to adjust and customize our approach – while remaining true to Torah standards – will in large part determine how successfully we move our children, our students, our nation and ourselves forward into the "Land of Israel" – into the next exciting stage of personal and national destiny.

The First Black Miss Israel

This is such a nice story - a success story.

Yityish Aynaw: Meet the first black Miss Israel

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

You Learn Something New Every Day

Jews in Connecticut
This is interesting even if you are not a history buff. This article is divided into two parts - the first about a discovery of a mikvah (ritual bath) that dates back to the 1890s in eastern Connecticut. The second (for me at least is more interesting) gives a more general look at the Jewish community at that time in Chesterfield, how they lived and interacted with their neighbors etc.

UConn Researchers' Excavation Highlights Overlooked Chapter of Jewish History

The Human Genome Project
I'm certainly no scientist, but this is amazing stuff. This man, Eric Lander, is doing incredible things understanding how the human body works, how diseases work - and how to beat those diseases.

This man's work will change your life

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

19 Years Since the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Passing

Today marks 19 years since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe - a great man who loved the Jewish People, no matter their Jewish background. It is because of his dedication that you will find a Chabad House in just about every corner on Earth, there to service every Jew in need. It is truly one of my regrets that I was not able to meet him.

The Rebbe

Recognizing and Appreciating the Good

Posted on Facebook by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Four years ago today [June 10], Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns died heroically in the line of duty protecting Museum staff and visitors from a brutal attacker, avowed racist, and antisemite. The memory of Officer Johns's outgoing personality, affection for people, and irrepressible optimism continues to inspire us to counter hate. His memory occupies a permanent place in our hearts, as do our thoughts for his family. We will never forget you, Officer Johns.
HaKarat HaTov - recognizing the good - is a central concept in Judaism. I was so glad to see this post up for all to see. This brave man gave his life to protect others. He must have known that by serving in a public Jewish museum that he was putting himself in danger. We honor him by remembering what a sacrifice he made.

If I can use this chance to make another point --
Recognizing the good can change your life for the better. It is easier to notice all the bad around us (especially if you watch the news regularly) than it is to see the good in general - or the good that happens to us in our own lives.

I would also say that recognizing the good is only the first step. The second step would be to appreciate the good that is done for us. To fully appreciate something takes time. It would require us to do something that we don't truly do anymore - take a quiet moment for ourselves.

I would suggest that we each take a moment at the end of the day with an empty notebook - take only 5 minutes if that's all you have (or more if you can) - and list the good that happened to you that day. At first it may be hard, but try to come up with one to begin with. Build from there. Do not include your sports team winning or that you're glad the day finally came to an end. Try to be positive. Before you know it, you will be needing a new notebook. This exercise will change your whole attitude toward life.

It's so easy to see the bad, the negative and let that drag us down. But that's not why we are here. G-d gave us each a special talent to make the world a spiritual place, a positive place - a place where G-d would like to dwell with us. To uplift our corner of the universe, to turn the negative into positive is the point of living.  Let us begin by recognizing the good done for us - and hopefully appreciating it as well.

For another idea: Thanksgiving and Shabbat Dinner

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Birthright for Moms!

This is fantastic. A Birthright trip for mothers - a brilliant idea. To inspire mothers in their Judaism is to bring Judaism to the whole family. I love it!

Women bond on Birthright for Moms trip

Friday, June 7, 2013

Parshas Korach - The Power Is In Your Hands

While reading through the parsha this week, I came across this interesting thought by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. I'm including it in it's entirety here. Enjoy.

The Name of the Parsha 
It is written in Proverbs, "The name of the wicked will rot" (10:7), on which the Talmud comments, "Let mold grow upon their names, for we do not use their names" (Yoma 38a). 
This begs the question: How could the Torah eternalize the name of Korach, a wicked man who did not repent in his lifetime, by calling an entire parsha by his name? 
While Korach was indeed wicked in his deeds, he nevertheless harbored a desire which is appropriate for every Jewish person to emulate: He wanted to be the High Priest.  As Rambam writes, "Any type of person...whose spirit inspires him, and he resolves in his mind to set himself apart [from worldly pursuits], to stand before God and serve as His minister, to work for Him, and to know God; who [then acts upon his resolution and he] goes in amorally upright manner - following his inherent, God-given disposition, and he discards all the numerous concerns that people are normally preoccupied with - then he will attain the holiness of the Holy of Holies" i.e. the spiritual level of the High Priest. 
Thus Korach was not corrupt in his ideology, but only in his method of implementation. His desire to be High Priest was well founded, as Moshe confirmed, "I too want this" (Rashi to 16:6); his only mistake was attempting to achieve this goal by usurping Moshe, rather than following him. 
So it is appropriate that our Parsha is named after Korach, for his desire for spirituality is something we should all learn from. 
Nevertheless, we see that most of the Parsha speaks of Korach's actual mistakes, rather than his good intentions, to the extent that we are warned, "not to be like Korach and his company" (17:5). Where then, is the positive message in Korach's sin and punishment
In truth, however, even Korach's downfall tell an uplifting message to those who ponder its significance deeply. For be placing us in this world with free choice to act wisely or foolishly, God has ultimately granted us the greatest possible gift to strive for holiness (to be a "High Priest") by utilizing our talents and skills for the good on our own, with our own free choice. 
Thus, from Korach's well meaning failure, we can learn: a.) To emulate his good intentions; and b.) The possibility of real failure (which Korah suffered) means that freedom of choice is totally in our hands, and consequently real success is an option for us all.
-- (Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Korach 5750)
The Gutnick Edition, Chumash, The Book of Numbers, pg. 129
Here is also a link to Chief Rabbi Sacks on Parshas Korach 

Good Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A New Online Jewish Magazine

I came upon this online magazine by accident, but it looks interesting. It's called Mosaic: Advancing Jewish Thought. So far, reading and skimming through the articles, it looks like it is worth more than just a few minutes looking at it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Honoring Our Jewish Veterans

I really enjoyed this article, a fascinating article about the Jews who fought for the Soviet Union during World War II.

A Rabbi Honors the Red Army's Jewish Veterans

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Parshas Shelach - The Sin of the Spies

Parshas Shelach is a pretty famous chapter, most well known for the sin of the spies, which resulted in the Jewish People wandering in the desert for the next 40 years.

Let's recap the narrative here. The Jewish People are at the edge of the Land of Israel, about to enter. G-d tells Moshe that he can send spies to go into the Land and see what the situation is. The 12 spies go into the Land, take a look around and come back with a report. 10 came back with a negative report, 2 - Yehoshua (Joshua) and Calev (Caleb) came back with a positive report.

As the 10 spies were relating to the People what they had seen, they said something that I find fascinating. "We cannot ascend to that people for it is too strong for us (Numbers 13:31) ...we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes." (Numbers 13:33)

Remember that these were the people who saw G-d destroy the Egyptians, take them out of Egypt, split the sea, pass them through the sea on dry land, feed them supernaturally with the mannah, and give them the Torah. How is it possible that they don't think that G-d will help them conquer the Land of Israel?

I think that the key is found in the statement: "...we were like grasshoppers in our eyes..." In other words, they had such "small" image of themselves that they assumed they would not be able to do what was asked of them, namely to conquer the Land. It seems that this bad self-image was enough to negate the amazing things that they saw.

I think that there's a lot to be learned from this episode in our history. Self-image is nothing to be sneezed at, and perhaps we have to think about how a self-image is formed. Self-image is created through accomplishment. People feel good about things they have done themselves. Small children beg to do the smallest things "themselves" without help. Adults feel good when they check off things on their 'to do' lists. It's a feeling of accomplishment. These Jews had everything taken care of for them even before they left Egypt.

In Egypt we were slaves, which means our basic needs were taken care of. When G-d took us out of Egypt to be His People, it was G-d who took care of everything. As much as the time in the desert was spent well and necessary learning Torah and becoming a Nation - we never had a chance to create a sense of accomplishment for ourselves.  As a result, when we were asked to spy out the Land - we weren't able to see ourselves as capable of doing what was asked of us - we were "small" in our own eyes.

There are many commentaries on why the spies came back with a bad report about the Land. One of the main ones argues that the reason why they did come back with such a report was because they had been living a purely spiritual existence in the desert and they did not want to give that up when they would enter the Land. They were to become workers of the Land and do things in a natural way versus the supernatural way that things were up until that time - they weren't ready to let that go.

This week's parsha also includes other mitzvot - my favorite, Shabbos and others.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

Make sure to print these dvar Torahs out before Shabbos so you can read them on Shabbos!

Chief Rabbi Sacks Dvar Torah
The Generation Gap -

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Putting Technology to Good Use

I think this is great. Using technology as a tool to make our lives better is certainly what it should be used for.

Rabbi Using Google Glass To Bring Jews Closer to Religious Roots

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Cairo Geniza Jigsaw Puzzle

I came across this article in The New York Times about putting computers to work assembling the scraps that have come out of the Cairo geniza.
The idea is to harness technology to help reassemble more than 100,000 document fragments collected across 1,000 years that reveal details of Jewish life along the Mediterranean, including marriage, medicine and mysticism. For decades, scholars relied mainly on memory to match up pieces of the Cairo genizah, a treasure trove of papers that include works by the rabbinical scholar Maimonides, parts of Torah scrolls and prayer books, reams of poetry and personal letters, contracts, and court documents, even recipes (there is a particularly vile one for honey-wine).
Fascinating read.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Good News to Share

It's really nice to see different organizations work together.

The Chabad Community Center of Southern Oklahoma, which is on the ground organizing relief efforts for the communities hit hard by last week’s devastating tornado, has received $15,000 in disaster-relief funds from the Orthodox Union. The funds were received just before the Jewish Sabbath, and are being distributed over the Memorial Day weekend and throughout the week. 
“On behalf of those here in Oklahoma who will receive this help, my thanks go to all of the OU members and friends who were so generous in a time of real need,” said Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, director of the Chabad center, who said the money will be used for store gift cards and cash relief to area residents whose homes were destroyed.
It's so easy to see what makes us different from each other... but we must take the time to find what we have in common. This is easy to do when there's a crisis, but we have to do this on an everyday basis.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Parshas Beha'aloscha

Reading through the chapter it seems that there are many different topics covered starting with the lighting of the Tabernacle (the traveling Temple in the desert) menorah. Then...

* the consecration of the Levites to their work in the Tabernacle,
* pesach sheini, a second passover offering for those who were unable to offer the first,
* in daytime the Tabernacle would be covered by a cloud and at night the appearance of fire,
* when the cloud was lifted, the Israelites would travel - otherwise, they would stay camped,
* the making and use of two silver trumpets,
* the order of the 12 Tribes when traveling,
* Moshe (Moses) offers his father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro), the opportunity to travel with them to the Land of Israel -- Yitro declines,
* The famous statement that we say/sing when the Torah is taken out of the ark to be read - Vayehi Beensoa Ha'aron Vayomer Moshe... "When the Ark would journey, Moses said, "Arise, G-d, and let Your foes be scattered, let those who hate You flee from before You."
* complaints from the people for meat,
* creation of the first Sanhedrin, 70 men taken from the elders of Israel, they will help Moshe in leading the Jewish People,
* G-d gives the people more meat than they know what to do with,
* Aaron and Miriam (brother and sister of Moses) speak against Moshe not living with his wife - instigated by Miriam... she gets leprosy even though she was speaking privately with Aaron - it's a serious reminder not to speak ill of others.

What a busy chapter. What strikes me here is how careful we must be with our words. Even when we think we know all the circumstances of a situation - we really truly don't, especially when it doesn't involve us.  It is impossible for us to make a true judgement when we don't have all the facts at hand. We assume that public figures are an open target for criticism - the Torah teaches us that it isn't true. Everyone from the greatest figures to the seemingly 'smallest' among us should be given the benefit of the doubt.

I'm including here Chief Rabbi Sacks from the UK. I always enjoy what he has to say. Print it off and read it over Shabbos. Definitely worth reading.

Good Shabbos! Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Jumpstarting My Jewish Life

It's very easy to be comfortable in our lives, which I don't necessarily think is a bad thing - but it certainly makes us complacent. Why struggle, why grow if you don't feel you need to?

The quote I keep at the top of the page, that I've taken from the prayer book, is one that I feel speaks to me.
"Open my heart to your Torah, and let my soul eagerly pursue Your commandments."
Essentially we are asking for G-d's Help in being Jewish. Sometimes we need a helping hand, inspiration, something to give us the push to do more... or even think about starting... or re-starting our Jewish lives.

We just celebrated the holiday of Shavuot, I think the most important holiday of the Jewish year, where we commemorate the receiving of the Torah. The only time in history where an entire nation can claim that they heard the Word of G-d themselves. Every other religion finds its beginnings in one man claiming that he heard the word and is sharing it with others who didn't. Truly amazing.

I am going to try to use this special holiday to jumpstart my own Jewish life. I have a goal this year (I'm not promising, but I'm going to try) to read the entire Torah (one chapter each week) and write a short dvar Torah about something in each chapter that I find interesting. Truthfully, I've never read the entire 5 Books, although many times I've started and stopped. With G-d's Help I hope to accomplish my goal.

I'm doing this in the name of all the people out there who need Help from Above - whether it be health, a job or something else - we should see all our prayers be answered quickly with revealed Good.

If for some reason I am not able to write something, I will try to post a dvar Torah written by another person that I enjoyed.

A note to all: I am not a rabbi. I am not a rebbitzen. I am doing this as a way to focus, to push myself forward, to learn more, to do more. Please feel free to contribute. If you find a dvar Torah you found interesting -- or have a comment, please go ahead and share with us.

I hope that with G-d's Help we can complete this project. Thank you for all your help!