Thursday, January 16, 2014

Happy Tu B'Shvat - The darkness before the Dawn

Years ago I heard a thought based on Rav Kook that Galut can be compared to Winter. The darkness of winter finishes in the Spring - Nissan, the month of redemption.
However, a month before Pessach, as the flowers start to blossom we celebrate Purim. The redemption of Purim is related to Pessach, immediately after Purim we not only start cleaning and learning hilchot Pessach, but the partial redemption of Purim helps us prepare for the complete redemption that is just around the corner.

A month before Purim (or in a leap year 2 months before Purim), at the darkest point of the Winter if people are sensitive to their surroundings they will notice that the nights start getting shorter, each day has more light than the day before, and the Almond tree suddenly bursts in to bloom - as if to say that even though you can't see it, the end of the long Winter that we have suffered through is just around the corner.

Tu Bshvat is a time to look ahead, to look at the Almond tree and realize that the best is still to come.

The Ben Ish Chai, composed a Prayer to be said on Tu Bshvat for a beautiful Etrog. As if to say that we should not only look forward to the redemption 3 months from now, but we can look forward to Succot - when our eterog should be complete without any blemish, there should be no external thorns to hurt us, and and we can all sit in Peace in the Succat Shalom that we have been promised.

Happy Tu B'shvat to all.

תפילה על האתרוג

תפילה על אתרוג נאה שתיקן רבינו יוסף חיים מבגדד – ה"בן איש חי" זיע"א

יהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו שתברך כל אילנות האתרוג, להוציא פירותיהם בעתם ויוציאו אתרוגים טובים יפים ומהודרים ונקיים מכל מום ולא יעלה בהם חזזית ויהיו שלמים ולא יהיה בהם שום חסרון ואפילו עקיצת הקוץ ויהיו מצויים לנו ולכל ישראל אחינו בכל מקום שהם, לקיים בה מצות נטילה עם הלולב בחג הסוכות שיבוא עלינו לחיים טובים ולשלום כאשר צויתנו בתורתך ע"י משה עבדך ולקחתם לכם  ביום הראשון פרי עץ הדר וכפות תמרים וענף עץ עבות וערבי נחל.

ויהי רצון מלפניך ה' אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו שתעזרנו ותסייענו לקיים מצוה זו של נטילת לולב והדס וערבה ואתרוג כתיקונה בזמנה בחג הסוכות שיבא עלינו לחיים טובים ולשלום בשמחה ובטוב לב ותזמין לנו אתרוג יפה ומהודר ושלם וכשר כהלכתו.

ויהי רצון מלפני ה' אלקינו ואלקי אבותינו שתברך כל מיני האילנות ויוציאו פירותיהם בריבוי שמנים וטובים ותברך כל הגפנים שיוציא ענבים הרבה שמנים טובים כדי שיהיה היין היוצא מהם מצוי לרוב לכל עמך ישראל לקיים בו מצות קידוש ומצות הבדלה בשבתות וימים טובים ויתקיים בנו ובכל ישראל אחינו מקרא שכתב "לך אכול בשמחה לחמך ושתה בלב טוב יינך כי כבר רצה אלוקים את מעשיך" באתי לגני אחותי כלה אריתי מורי עם בשמי, אכלתי יערי עם דבשי שתיתי ייני עם חלבי אכלו רעים שתו ושכרו דודים יהיו לרצון אמרי פי והגיון לבי לפניך ה' צורי וגואלי.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Can you Date The Following Quote

For history buffs - can you identify which public figure said the following quote, and when:

"We have a historic opportunity for peace and we must do all we can to seize it," 
A. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, May 1, 1987
B. Israeli prime Minister Ariel Sharon, 17 December, 2004
C. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, 12 November, 2007
D. President GW Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, 1 September, 2008
E. Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, 19 June, 2009
F. Israeli prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, 27 September, 2010
G. King Abdullah of Jordan, 5 October 5 2010
H. Head of Israeli Labo(u)r Party, Isaac Herzog, to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, 1 December, 2013
I. All of the above

The Correct answer is - you guessed it -  "I - All of the above"

Herzog's first month as head of Labour he has already determined that NOW is the Historic Opportunity for Peace - I really hope that we don't miss this historic opportunity - it might be weeks before another such opportunity presents itself. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy כ"ט בנובמבר

Don't forget that as well as being Chanuka and American Thanksgiving, today is also כ"ט בנובמבר, which I believe is the only Israeli Government-recognized holiday with a date based on the non-Jewish Calendar.

November 29 is certainly a day for Thanks giving and to לְהוֹדוֹת וּלְהַלֵּל לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל

Happy כ"ט בנובמבר everyone.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Song about Rav Ovadia

A lot has been said about Rav Ovadia over the past 6 weeks since he ascended to the Heavenly Beit Midrash.
How he tried to change the way the Torah World approaches halacha and to return to a halachic system based on Shulchan Aruch and Gmara, and not on mysticism and Chumra.
They even said from "מיוסף (קארו) ליוסף לא קם כיוסף", that his impact on Halacha was as great as the most famous Halachist of the past thousand years - Rabbi Yosef Karo.

On the Shloshim of Rav Ovadia, his son, Rav Yizthak Yosef spoke at my son's Yeshiva. He spoke about the importance of learning Halacha - not so that we can know what is forbidden, but so that we know what is permitted. Just like a rav (or any Torah observant Jew) needs to know when to say "no you can't do this" he also needs to know when to say "yes - this is allowed".

In this day and age when people are trying to find a Halachic approach that is "לכל הדעות", permissible by every single opinion - it is important to remember that each of us belong to a Halachic tradition that favoured certain opinions over others, and we have clear guidelines of what is permitted and what is forbidden - and just like we should avoid anything forbidden, if an action is permitted, we should not be afraid to do it.

This does not mean we should go and look for leniencies; we shouldn't shop for a Rabbi to give his approval for anything we want to do. But we also shouldn't shop for stringencies. If an action is permitted by Halacha and was accepted in our tradition in previous generations, we should not be "frummer" than the Rabbis of previous generations.

The song below is a little bit kitsch - but the image of an empty chair in a room full of books is a wonderful metaphor for our generation.

כוכב מאיר I עוזיה צדוק Kochav Meir I Uziya Tzadok

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Interesting post on the problems of "Health Ed" in US schools

Just saw this interesting response to a letter about "Abstinence" - well worth a read....

From my inbox, an email from a high school student named Jeremy:
“Dear Matt, ...
I read something you wrote about dating once and it seemed like you were saying that people should wait for marriage [to have sex]. What do you think about what my teacher said? Am I weird for not really wanting to go out and hook up with girls and stuff and instead wait for marriage?”

Dear Jeremy,
Yes, it’s weird for you to want to wait until marriage.

In spite of the hyper-sexualization of our culture; in spite of society’s decaying moral sensibility; in spite of all of the messages that bombard you every day through every available medium; in spite of the pressure from your classmates; in spite of the bullying from that fool of a “health teacher,” you STILL stand tall and resolve to save yourself for your future wife.
Read the rest of the response here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Give a Get

I recently started attending a weekly Shiur in Missechet Gittin by Rabbi Lau. One of the unique aspects of the shiur is that in his capacity as Chief Rabbi, Rabbi Lau is personally involved in many complex cases involving divorce and is able to talk about some of the extremes that some husbands will go to in order to avoid granting their wives a get. This includes being prepared to sit in prison rather than signing a piece of paper to free a wife they have not been in contact with for several years.
(If you live in Modi'in, I highly recommend this shiur on Friday mornings in Beit Kneset Titura)

Like many people, I have been following the case of Gital Dodelson whose husband, Avrohom Weiss, has refused to grant her a get for several years. (You've probably already seen this article from the New York Post).
(To add insult to injury, Avrohom Weiss is a great-grandosn of Rov Moshe who was the champion of Agunot after the Churban of Europe)

If you are wondering how you can help, the Set Gital Free site recommends writing to Artscroll who are employing Avrohom's father and Uncle who are supporting him financially and emotionally. You should write to Artscoll to express your disappointment that an organization that claims to support Torah Values is employing people who are wilfully abusing a woman in the community.

Following is a letter that I just sent to Artscroll:

To:     Meir Zlotowitz -
    Nosson Scherman -


It greatly saddened me to read that employees of an organization like Artscroll are actively involved in withholding a get from Gital Dodelson.

As an Torah-based organization like Artscroll is no-doubt aware, withholding a get is a terrible perversion of halacha, and goes against many values that we in the Torah community hold dear.

By keeping employees who are encouraging a family member to refuse an Order from Beit Din, and prolonging the unnecessary suffering of a Jewish wife and her child, Artscroll gives the impression that it is not interested in promoting Jewish values, and does not represent the values in the books that it prints.

If Artscroll believes in the values of Torah, I think that you need to show this by suspending Yosaif Asher Weiss and Yisroel Weiss without pay until Avrohom Weiss grants Gital a get without any pre-conditions. Until that time, I will refrain from buying any Artscroll books and will encourage my friends to also avoid Artscroll.

I hope that with your assistance, Gital will be quickly granted her get and will be able to rebuild a life as a member of the Jewish community.



Sunday, September 15, 2013

Spot the Jew

The WJC has an interesting article on a statement from the Pope praising the Jews for maintaining faith after the Shoah.
I thought that the Pope's comments were very interesting, especially the way that he refers to Vatican 2.
I Just finished re-reading Elie Wiesel Legend's of our Time (highly recommended reading) in which he indirectly addresses the issue of faith after the Holocaust. 

What also struck me as ironic was that the accompanying picture shows the Pope and other Catholic leaders meeting the leadership of the World Jewish Congress, but the only people in the room with kipot on were the Catholics; none of the Jewish leaders have their heads covered in the picture.
Doubly ironic in the context of an article in which the Pope praises the Jews for maintaining their faith.