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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Jews and the American Civil War

Another interesting article, this one about Jews in the American Civil War.

A Civil Disagreement About Jews and War: Historian Jonathan Karp Talks About Exhibit

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.

Aish.com has a bunch to choose from - take a look here.
Chabad.com 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.
IsraelDailyPicture.com

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