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