Monday, December 31, 2012

Interview with Shlomo Epshteyn

I met Shlomo Epshteyn when we were both competing for the Niles West chess team. We got along just fine, but were never close friends there. It was Shlomo’s senior year, while I was a freshman. Shlomo graduated, and went on to study engineering at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana.

To say that I had a hard go of it at Niles West would be a huge understatement. Those were some of the darkest years of my life. It took my parents’ superhuman-like efforts to help me graduate high school in four years. I attended one year of Oakton Community College and decided to make Aliya to Israel the following year.

Shlomo and I were reunited when I came back to Chicago following a six-year stint in the Holy Land. Amongst other things, I now had a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and spoke fluent Hebrew.  I was just beginning to get interested in religious Judaism, while besides having gotten married, and having kids, Shlomo was deeply involved in Chicago’s Jewish community.

Shlomo and I immediately became best of friends. I’d often stay with him and his family for Shabbat, and we spent a lot of time learning Torah together. Shlomo became a significant influence in my life: more so than when he was beating me in chess a decade back.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem: A Tale of Two Cities

I got up early Friday morning, attended the local Chabad morning prayers, and took bus 75 to the central bus station in Jerusalem.

I hurried to find my way. I’d been here many times before, and the Friday morning hustle was nothing new to me. I encountered a few beggars on the way. Jerusalem is host to an array of both needy people and those pretending to be poor and spending their time benefiting from the locals’ generosity.

There’s a wide range of stores, pharmacies, cafes, restaurants, and even a place to donate blood at the central bus station. At this particular time of the year, it’s teaming with tourists from all over the world. Many are Christian pilgrims who’ve come to Israel for Christmas. Some continue on a tour of the Middle East, while others prefer to stay in Israel and remain shielded from the perils of our neighbors to the East.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

End of Days

By Eliyahu:
ָהיֶכTheָרְדּTorah'stakeon life - and all it throws our way.

December 20th, 2012 has come and gone. Those who wasted valuable time and money buying lifetime supplies in fear of the baseless prediction of the world's end are now exempt from grocery shopping forever more as life carries on. While the Mayan myth has been debunked (until they come up with another date for disaster), we must take this opportunity to explore the Jewish view on the apocalypse. Do we believe in such an event? And if we do, what's in store if and when it happens?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Reprinted via The Algemeiner: Not the Typical IDF Soldier’s Mom: Muslim Arab Mother Whose Son Serves in the IDF Speaks Out

Anet Haskia is not the typical mom of a soldier serving in the Israel Defense Forces. A Muslim Arab, who grew up in a mixed Arab-Jewish city in the north, Haskia is breathing a little easier this week.
For Haskia, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to enter the Gaza Strip last week was “brave and right.”

The mother of three children, with a 20-year-old IDF combat soldier, Haskia told Tazpit News Agency, that “many Israeli soldiers’ lives were saved thanks to that decision.”

“Going into Gaza would have yielded success for the Hamas terrorists. Israel did what it had to do for the time being to stop the rocket attacks and played it smart.”

Haskia who was born and raised in Acre (Akko), a mixed Arab-Jewish city in the Western Galilee in northern Israel, is openly vocal about her support for the Jewish state of Israel.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Miracle of Hannukah

By Eliyahu
           R' Moshe Haim Luzzato (Ramhal), in his classic work Derech Hashem, writes that the events on which our holidays are based upon are revisited every year. The theme of redemption is most pretentious on Pesah, when we celebrate the salvation of the Jewish people from the hands of the Egyptians. On Shavuot, the potency for success in Torah reaches its highest - a reflection of Matan Torah, which took place on the 6th of Sivan hundreds of years ago. It thus follows that on Hanuka, a holiday which serves as a remembrance for the impossible victory of the minute Jewish army over the mighty Greeks and of the beloved wonder involving the oil which lasted for 8 days, there is a higher level of potential for miraculous occurrences. We shall try today to aim for a deeper understanding of the mechanics behind miracles, and the way to view them through the lenses of our Torah.

Nothing is Certain in this World and a Little Commentary on Parshat Miketz

We learn from the travails of our forefathers that almost nothing--perhaps with the exception of the Torah and its teachings--is for certain, and that we should always be happy with our lot in life.

We learn several important lessons from the story of Joseph the Tzaddik. There's a good reason he's the only person in the Five Books of Moses to carry the title of "Tzaddik" or "Righteous one." Joseph endures several monumental tests in his life, not the least of which is his being tempted by Potiphar's wife. Joseph is described as being "good of stature and good of look," in other words, a very handsome guy.

At the beginning of parshat Miketz, he's said to put a lot of effort into "making his hair." We can also make a reasonable case that growing up as Jacob's favorite son, he's very much "full" of himself to a point where he not only dreams of instances that clearly portray his superiority over the other members of his family, but even goes on to describe these dreams to his brothers and Jacob himself.

Joseph is able to overcome his main weakness and withhold himself from acting on his impulses. He goes beyond his calling, one may argue, by refusing to be taken in by Potiphar wife's incessant sexual appeals.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Duality in Israeli Society

You'll find just about anything and anyone you're looking for in Israel from criminals and drug-dealers to Rabbis immersed in a life of giving and good deeds and scientists trying to come up with cures for the world's deadliest diseases. After a lengthy exile from the Holy Land, Jews from around the globe have gathered in Israel. Representatives of six continents make Israel their home. This is literally the ingathering of exiles; the land of immigrants. Not America--but Israel.

The result of this blend of Jews from around the world is a society saturated with inherent dualities in all its aspects. Because Jews tend to be so opinionated (it's been said that for every two Jews, there are three different sets of opinions), conflict is the modus operandi in Israel. This is the way of life here. You'll see people arguing on just about any subject. Arguments range from the petty to the extremely serious, and as is the case in any society, they can die down quietly, but sometimes get out of hand as well.

I decided to write this article having attended a party where I witnessed a young couple (I didn't know they were married till the husband told me his "companion" was indeed his wife) arguing about the rights of Israelis to smoke in public. There's no way I could have known they were married judging by the way they were going at it. Mind you, this wasn't a matter of life and death; not even politics. This was a question whose outcome isn't likely to affect the life of the young couple in any particular fashion: it won't make it better or worse in the conceivable future.

Monday, December 10, 2012

For All We Do

For all we do, for all we say,

A price is surely to be paid.

A humble servant of man’s fate,

That is not me,

I’ve come too late.


Look here,

I’m not special, different, better than anybody else,

I’m simply me,

At any rate,

I’d like you, if it’s possible, to relate,

To my life’s journey,

A work of passion, loss, adjustment, disarray,

A cycle with an end,

A trendy way of living-with no real trend.


Brought here on a mission,

Clear that height!

I see my elders take to flight,

They do not know, do not see,

The person buried deep in me.


Felt hardships, done what’s wrong,

I know this,

The notes to a different song,

Will express my thanks,

To those who’ve believed and never shouted,

To those who’ve helped and never doubted.


I will escape,

Tear down the iron gates,

I will be free one day,

I will enjoy my life,

Is what you too should say.


Listen, fellow sufferers,

Hearken to my words,

Believe me, I have been hurt as well.

Two things that you must never lose, lest you lose yourselves:

Your hope, your resolve to make it no matter what the odds,

And your sense of humor, your smile,

What you do from here isn’t up to me,

Keep working always,

You too will go free.

Dedicated to all those trying so hard to get out of whatever predicament they've found themselves in for their own good and the good of the world.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Doing a Switcheroo, Voting Jewish Home

I like Bibi, I really do. I like Feiglin and the rest of the gang, especially now that Moshe has a very realistic chance of getting into the Knesset. It's just that I like Naftali Bennett more, that's all!

The Israeli public got a first-hand impression of Bennett's leadership skills during Operation Pillar of Cloud (Biblical references are becomming all the rage here as more and more people are coming home to Judaism), when he resisted the urge to blame the situation on Bibi; instead promoting Israel's right to defend herself, traveling to the South, and holding multiple press-conferences where he reiterated our right to self-defense and self-determination. And I thought I'd finally vote for the Likud...

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Few Words on a Sucker State

By: Evgeny Sanatovsky (translated from Russian by me)

An impartial opinion on pro-peace activism in the Middle East from an impartial bystander as it unfolds—not only of the past two decades, demonstrates that Israel has turned into the greatest regional sucker. Not only in the eyes of the U.N., “co-sponsor of the peace process,” but of its neighbors as well.

It goes without saying that this term brings about plenty of negative emotion in the Jewish State, but it is what it is. The author cannot possibly come up with a different, fancier term for Israeli internal policy, because he’s powerless to do so. The striking disparity between Israel’s—and the peoples’ who dwell there military, economical, and intellectual potential, and the suicidal concessions that it has offered to make year after year, decade after decade, —and in the best-case scenario, simply hasn’t been able to reach, cannot be explained in any other way. These people are not state leaders, or politics of an international caliber—but freiers. Cheap suckers at that. Small-time pawns who’ve undertaken to play a big-boys’ game whose rules they don’t understand. They lose time and again, but what’s worse is that they fail to realize this.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Desperate Soul: In Memory of Jovan Belcher and his Girlfriend

Deperate Soul: In Memory of NFL Player Jovan Belcher and his Girlfriend
The football world was devastated—yet again—yesterday by Chief’s Jovan Belcher’s murder of his girlfriend, and mother of their infant baby girl, followed by his taking his own life. For both these individuals, it’s over. Yesterday, they were here. Today, they are no more. Their world is gone.

It’s written that every human being is a “world unto himself,” that every individual, whether Jew or Gentile, has an immense amount of potential. We either live up to our potential or needlessly lose it—as I’m afraid was the case with Jovan.

Suicide is the antithesis to life. Even Arab suicide bombers have difficulty accepting the fact that they’re going to die. I know this because there have been cases in which soon-to-be suicide bombers have repented and handed themselves in.
I spent many years of my life being depressed for no apparent reason. I know what it feels like to hurt inside. To hurt all over. To have no one to turn to...

...And I know what it feels like to be connected. To be connected to one’s Father in Heaven. To come to an understanding that there’s a Source for the world, for both the good and the bad; for both the horrible things that happen in our non-stop thrill-seeking reality, and the wonderful introspectiveness that we may bring to our lives as a result of holy living.

May Jovan's story be a lesson to us all. May we merit to see the day there's no more sadness, and no more murder.

Summer Months (A Poem from a Few Months Ago)

Back in Israel,

Back home,

Reliving sweaty days at the kibbutz,

Sitting here writing all alone,

Feel like composing a song for my people, for the country I so love, for all I hold dear,

These sweaty July days when people in the country heed no fear,

No fear of the past, no fear of death, just longing for better days to come,

To shout out in glee,

For all that’s done is behind us,

And there are only good things, warm summer days beyond,

Where no man has walked,

Where no woman has cried,

Where no little child has fallen down,

Where no human-Jew or Arab has died.


As I sit, relax, sip some ice coffee in a bar just off Yehuda,

I think of days when modern-day Maccabies stood tall, the likes of Judah,

Took on armies just a few feet from where I sit,

These hot, trying days and nights are fit,

For heroes’ stories, dreams of giving back,

Of armies taking flight,

Of going on the attack.


I have so much love, so much desire to be here in July,

My Aliya month,

The time, I myself, tried in vain, cried out, lied,

Took hold of all that was important and moved back home,

This time in July I feel every kotel stone,

Remember my people’s past,

Remember where I came from, and my destination,

Remember to keep my dreams afloat, to drown out my frustration.


I’m getting used to being here,

To being happy at long last,

And people all around me cry,

As they try so hard to forget the past,

Days, months, years gone by,

We try to gather up what we’ve lost,

With every passing moment,

We struggle as we assess the cost.


I read Rav Kook’s “Sparks” and know what my mission in this world is

To light up the dark Av sky,

To help end this painful Exile,

To spark a flood of brotherhood and unity,

To never fully fall, always get up and try,

To keep on trying when all has failed

And I’ll know my dreams and plans have prevailed

When I open my door this very day next year

And the Messiah beckons to come near

When my People are brought back from every corner of the world

Then, and only then,

Will my own story have been told.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Day in the Muslim Quarter

I recently had an opportunity to take a walk in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Before going there, I’d always been a little apprehensive about showing up—especially with my kippa and tzitzit (the traditional Jewish garb). It took some courage and the friendly smile of a close friend who made Aliya about a year ago to persuade me to venture out of my familiar comfort zone into a hereto unknown reality.
We entered the Old City, a place holy to the world’s three great faiths, perhaps the most hotly contested area in the world through the Yaffo Gate. I asked my friend if she was up for some coffee (the cold weather was beginning to be felt in Jerusalem). She gladly accepted my offer.
As we sat there watching passerby’s, we noticed people of a variety of backgrounds that’s difficult to spot just about anywhere else. Both of us are Russian-speakers, so I pointed out a group of Russian tourists taking in the beauty of the Old City. They spoke in the traditional jargon that I simply couldn’t resist ignoring them. It was like being back in Moscow again. Some kind of dejavu…

Friday, November 30, 2012

Derache'ha -- Israel

I am Eliyahu, a student at Yeshivat Midrash Shmuel. I have learned previously in Yeshivat Ner Israel in Baltimore, MD and in Yeshivat Ruach Chaim in Jerusalem. Eitan Divinsky, an esteemed colleague of mine and a budding talmid chacham, has kindly asked me to share my weekly Divrei Torah on his blog. It is my honor and privilege to share my writings on such an esteemed platform. Shabbat Shalom!

דְּרָכֶיהָ   The Torah's take on life - and all it throws our way.
             It's an undisputed fact that Eretz Yisrael holds a special place in the heart of every Jew. Through thick or thin, every member of our people supports the land in every which way they can. In times of turmoil, Klal Yisrael gather together to pray for a ray of light; and in times of peace, preservation of the land is always on the tips of our tongues. We shall attempt to explore this deep-rooted affection for the land of Israel and in the process, understand why it is such a central focus in our religion.
            The foundation begins in Sefer Bereshit, in which the Torah details the covenant made between Hashem and Avraham Avinu (known as the "Covenant of the Parts"). While on Israel's soil, Hashem promises Avraham that the land on which he stands will be promised to his offspring, the Jewish people (1). Immediately, at that point, the land became infused with an extraordinary level of holiness not found in any other part of the world. Eretz Yisrael became the epicentre for spirituality of the world forever more.
            Plenty of evidence for the holiness of Eretz Yisrael can be found in many places throughout Chazal. According to one Gemara, the land of Israel receives the first rains, while the rest of the world only gets that which is left over (2) - a proof that Hashem's "nature" system revolves around Eretz Yisrael. In Tractate Pesahim, the Hahamim list three groups of people who are assured a portion in the world to come: one who raises his children to learn Torah, one who makes Havdala over a cup of wine (after Shabbat), and one who lives in Eretz Yisrael (3). Furthermore, another Gemara declares that one who walks 4 cubits (around 8 ft.) in Israel is another candidate for a spot in the world to come (4). Seeing as the land is injected with intrinsic holiness, just being on its terrain can produce a tremendous merit!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

All Quiet On the Southern Front?

As Hamas and the Arab world continue to celebrate what they correctly perceive as a victory over Israel, FM Lieberman and PM Netanyahu are making their best effort to minimize damage to their electoral campaign.

Many Israelis are genuinely disappointed with Bibi for failing to carry out a full-fledged attack on Gaza despite more than a week of constant bombardment. Five Israelis, including four civilians and one soldier, were killed during the days of the operation and 240 people were wounded. 162 Gazans died from Israeli bombing raids targeting Hamas terrorists (according to Al-Jazeera), 150 according to BBC and “more than 140” according to Yahoo News.

The Palestinian death toll in comparison to the death toll of Israelis—the “bottom line”, if you will, is what all the major news sources are reporting. What they fail to report is that Israel is an independent state with a history of having to defend its borders from enemy armies, while Hamas-lead Gaza is a terrorist-escape that has no legitimacy in the eyes of the world community. They also fail to report than yesterday, around the same number of Syrians were murdered by Assad’s regime than Palestinians killed in a week of Israeli attacks.

An Assessment of "Lauren's" (and the Western Media's) Lies

Before I go to sleep expecting more missile sirens tomorrow, I need to report on an "article"--if you can call it that by an anti-Semitic reporter whose garbage I happened to come across. I'm going to take it apart sentence-by-sentence and expose how much of a fraud this lady is. This is typical Western media coverage of Israel, the land that we, as a people, have been dreaming of returning to for two millenia, a land we look towards three times in our daily prayers, a land that no one but us needs/wants and has a right to:

The Israeli government is trying to pre-empt a publicity pounding over its Gaza offensive by aggressively pushing out its version of events, furiously tweeting and Facebook posting updates from a "media bunker."

Ahh, lady, lady: You're nuts, you're crazy...You're a left wing whacko living off Israeli taxpayers' money, for G-d's sakes! "Our" version of events!? Would you like to present us with "your" version--or maybe the official Hamas version perhaps? 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What I Think Bibi's Thinking (Nice Title, Ey!?)

In lue of today's events:
...and more missiles landing in Israel following the "cease-fire" agreement between Bibi, Hamas, Egypt, and Hillary Clinton aka "The Witch" (feel free to replace the "W" with a "B"),

Bibi, a former Sayeret Matkal commander who's always been one of my favorite people/politicians is, in my opinion thinking the following:

1. This female guerilla (the animal type) is just too much for one Jew to handle.
2. Let's get rid of this dilemma and get on with bombing the Ayatollahs.
3. Screw the "Palestinians," screw Egypt, and keep screwing more women (no links because I still have respect for Bibi).

So those are my 2-cent's worth for this here, busy day in Israel, the only democracy in the Mil' East. Nighty night, folks and don't forget to spank your local Jihadist!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Parshat Toldot and Its Connection to Last/This Week's Events

Parshat Toldot tells the story of Isaac's life, of how he beseaches Hashem for his wife, Rivkah to bear kids, of the eventful birth of Jacob and Esau, of their struggles for the birthright, of Jacob eventually resting it from his animalistic twin, of Isaac's falling out with Avimelech who almost sleeps with Rivkah thinking she's Isaac's sister, his trevails in Grad, where the Phillistines end up getting rid of him only to return and ask him to sign a peace treaty with them, of how they accuse Isaac of not having been upfront with them, and so on.

Over my Shabbat meal, my host mentioned the fact that the episode in which Rivkah helps--almost forces Jacob to fool his father into blessing him before his death is a very strange, mysterious one that begs an explanation.

Message from Moshe Feiglin (Translated from Hebrew)

Part of an email I received from Manhigut Yehudit leader, Moshe Feiglin:

Early morning…I’m heading from Samaria to Gush Dan along the smog-filled highway. Another crazy day leading up to the Likud primaries is about to get under way.
The car phone rings. A young, confident voice from the other end: “Hi, XX speaking from ynet news.

“Hi there!”
“I’m preparing an article on donations made out to candidates in the Likud primaries, and just wanted to confirm something.”

“I see that you received a donation from a woman by the name of Nitza Kahane.”

“Is it correct that Nitza Kahane is the widow of Rabbi Kahane?

“Maybe I haven’t fully woken up yet; maybe this is the result of a lack of sleep and the amount of stress I’ve experienced lately, but the latest question raises my “politically correct” defenses.

Top 5 Blogs I Follow

Here's a list of the top 5 blogs I've been following lately. Please link to these as well!

1. (Jameel)

2. (can't mistake this one...Ariel Zellman)

3. (Obadiah)

4. (Lev Ratinov)

5. (annonymous)

Friday, November 16, 2012

War in Gaza...Again

Jerusalem 11/16/12: My friend who lives in the small rural town of Kiryat Malachi where I visited her a week ago, called me some time in the afternoon yesterday. I instantly noticed something was wrong. She sounded hysterical as she recounted what she’d just witnessed.

What happened in Kiryat Malachi yesterday has been taking place in Israel since the establishment of the Jewish national homeland. Three people were killed and a four members of the same family were injured as a Kassam rocket scored a direct hit on an apartment building where a Chabad family was staying.  News of the tragedy spread like wildfire as people scrambled to leave the south for places that would themselves soon become threatened by Hamas rocket fire. We were getting closer to war. Again.
What’s changed since Israel’s government pulled out of Gaza in the summer of 2005? Most Israelis agree that the situation has steadily declined and that offering Gaza to Hamas terrorists was perhaps the gravest mistake any Israeli government has ever committed.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Just Got This From my Friend, and Greater Israel Activist, Yishai Fleisher

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This week we read about Abraham's purchase of the Machpela cave in Hebron and the subsequent burial there of our matriarch Sarah (Parshat Chayei Sara). These actions began the unbreakable bond between the Jewish people and the land of Israel in that the burial of our ancestors in these places puts a geographic anchoring on our story. These "facts on the ground" can never be changed. Hundreds of years after the founders of Judaism were interred in Hebron, King David began his reign there, and stayed in Hebron for 7 years until moving to Jerusalem.

Today, about 3,000 years later, a Jewish presence returns to Hebron, and hangs on there tenaciously despite global efforts to the contrary. I love Hebron because I love Jewish identity. My wife and I had the great privilege to be married in Hebron in the height of the second Intifada (see video), and we produced a film about the Sin of Spies and the hero, Calev Ben Yefune, who garnered strength in Hebron to stand against the evil report that rejected the land of Israel.

This Shabbat 30,000 of Abraham's children are slated to come to Hebron. Let us stand back and marvel at the fulfillment of the ancient promise to return. Then let's jump in and take part in the passion of our times.

Blessings, Yishai

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sure Enough: On Parshat Chayei Sarah

As promised, I have a treat for my legions of loyal readers out there (the fact that some-5 people will be reading this post is irrelevant because as far as I'm concerned the motto "quality over quantity" says it all).

Chayei Sarah is the account of Sarah Imenu's death, and how Avraham Avinu purchases Ma'aret Ha'machpela from Efron to have Sarah buried there and as an inheritance for his children. We see a clear difference in the behavior of Efron, a Hittite, and a "native" of the land, and Avraham, a life-long sojourner; someone filled with spirituality, someone who has the ability to overlook the "little" things, while holding on to a greater truth.

In essense, we see the stark difference between the behavior of the first Jew, and the local inhabitants of Cana'an. We see someone who's willing to make peace with his neighbors even though he's more powerful than they will ever be; someone willing to sacrifice an insignificant amount of money in order to do a kindness towards his beloved wife and life-partner, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, an individual so base he doesn't even realize what he has in front of his very eyes.

On Election Night...

I'm staying up late here in J-town (when I was living in Tel-Aviv, I called it "Telli," so now I'm living in "J-town"), and for some odd reason, I'm not as focused on the parsha (Chayei Sarah), the elections, the array of problems on my hands (life is great mind you!), or anything "important" for that matter.

Yes, I've become very involved with Torah-study lately, I've had people promise to pay me for a variety of translation jobs and not come up with the funds in a timely manner, I'm a pretty hard-core Republican, and yet all this seems rather banal compared to something I just read:

Fatalistic childhood

As kids, everything is so fatalistic. Remember it when your parents first moved cities? You thought you'd never find such good friends you used to have anywhere else in the world. Then you went through an army of new cities, friends, lovers and life became a joke.

Except it didn't.

When I'm thinking about things I really appreciate, such as a learning a new language, dancing Tango, improvising, writing decent prose, becoming a half-researcher, raising an avocado plant to bear fruit, finding a partner for life, raising a child .... life's so fucking short. It's almost like you have 1 or 2 shots at it.

This comes to you straight out of Lev's cookingpan. Now, even though I don't know Lev well, I do know that he's an extremely thoughtful, intelligent guy, so I while I've never reposted anything of this nature here before, I have now! (just thinking of what Chris Rock would say to a white guy uttering this phrase makes me smile)

As far as Chayei Sarah, if I stay awake any longer, chances are I'll post on the parsha as well/ The elections? Well, Moshe Feiglin's facebook post says it best. I don't remember its exact contents, but he basically made the point that lots of Jews and Israelis in particular seem to think that America is electing Israel's next P.M./Presiden/supreme leader whereas this isn't the case. Israel should (and I believe it will) decide for itself. So in short, Feiglin, '13!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two-State Solution: Are You Straight Kidding Me!?

A left-wing media outlet called "OneVoice" (note: this a project geared not towards cooperation between Jews belonging to different political/religous factions but one between Israeli and "Palestinian" youth who desire "peace" i.e. the elimation of Israel and the creation of the 23rd terrorist Arab state in its place), recently posted the following as part of an article on the latest Gazan "sulcha" between Israel and "Palestinian" youth (emphasis mine):

"We cannot have 20 factions each trying to impose their vision on the people," explained Masri. "We need national consensus on how to end the occupation and the conflict, and the only pragmatic solution is the two-state solution. We must come to terms with Israel to put Palestine back on the map."

Imad al-Falouji, head of the Adam Center, joined Masri for the introductory session to the trainings, spoke about pursuing a non-violent political course to achieve an independent Palestinian state, based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and answered questions about the Fatah-Hamas split and the power of the grassroots to effect positive change."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chess and Judaism (Based on the Learning at Aliyos Yerushalayim)

My chevruta today pointed out some interesting things from the book we were learning that got me thinking: Judaism--the practice, the laws, and the statutes that are a part of it make sense for the most part. There are some halachot (laws that make up the practice of Judaism) that are based on "sod" or the "secret" teachings that make up kabala/zochar, but it seems that a majority are derived from Gemora (oral tradition) and the Rishonim/Achronim (the greatest Rabbis from the times of the Second Temple to modern day).

I don't know exactly how to define "Jusaism," nor will I delve into this complex subject at the moment, but suffice it to say that the ancient way of life of the Jewish people makes sense. It's passed the litmus test of time, paving the way for generations of Torah scholars. It's met and exceeded expectations. Every obstacle on its path has been cleared one after the next. So Judaism is a logical practice. So's chess, possibly the most ancient "game" known to man.

There are questions surrounding whether chess is a "game" or a "sport." It's very difficult "pinpointing" chess. There's no clear definition just like there's no clear definition to "Judaism" i.e. are the Jewish people a nation or is being "Jewish" a religion? But it follows logic. So does chess. As a matter of fact, it's a game (let's call it that) that connects several worlds. One needs to have mastery of several senses to be a good chess player just like being a pious Jew takes more than just outwards appearance but also an inwards sense of self and a yearning to create a more just world (tikkun olam).

Another key point worth making is that an experienced chess player learns to "see" patterns. You begin realizing that every game you play is similar in certain ways, and start being able to notice signs. The same can be said of Judaism. Halacha not only makes sense, but after a while, you become alert to "patterns" that repeat themselves. I realize this is a very general statement, but I just can't think of examples at the moment. I'm sure my reader is wiser than me in this department and will be able to do so on his/her own...

I wouldn't go as far as saying that chess and Judaism are the same. There are many obvious differences, but I just wanted to publish the what I was thinking as I sat there in a cozy Jerusalem synagogue where the Rabbi is a man of great spirit and integrity who continues to inspire me on a daily basis.

I'm not an easy listener by any stretch of the imagination, and I'm not easy to please, but Rabbi Yitzchok Snyder has captured my imagination with his Torah drashot (lectures). Please tune in to the Rabbi and if you live in Jerusalem, feel free to join his study group (evenings 7:45-9:30pm)

Rabbi Snyder's Youtube channel:

Chitown Bears On Fast Track to Superbowl?

As I walked down the picturesque Ben Yehuda, surrounded on all sides by cute, little cafe's and an a variety of shops aimed at attracting American tourists, I couldn't help missing my hometown of Chicago, especially my beloved sports teams: the Bulls, White Sox, and Bears (I'm not a Cubs fan and the 'Hawks might not even have a season to speak of so...).

Da Bears are coming off a less-than-stellar offensive performance. Star quarterback, Jay Cutler, hasn't looked like he did last year and he certainly hasn't met the expectations that were set when he came over in a blockbuster trade from Denver. He has been good enough to hold his own against some less-than-average defenses such as yesterday's Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, and Indiana Colts to name 3 out of the Bears' first 7 opponents.

Our defense has been pretty incredible. We're currently ranked 7th overall, but I have a feeling that this stat will improve as the season continues. How about Tim Jennings and "Peanut" Tillman leading our secondary to a ridiculous amount of interceptions!?

Jennings had two more yesterday vs. Carolina. Tillman had one against Dallas and another the following week against Detroit as did Lance Briggs. The latter has had an outstanding career with the Bears. Brian Urlacher is getting better with every game. His play has steadily improved. In short, the Bears' "D" leaves little to ask for other than perhaps, just perhaps a trip to the Superbowl. Is that too much to ask for for a life-long Bears' fan who just happened to be a 4-year old living in Soviet Russia last time we won it all!?

As far as other stories (besides the Bears) going on in sports, there's the Giants winning the World Series, Peyton Manning and his return to the NFL, my favorite female tennis player, Serena Williams winning an insane number of majors in '12, Da Bulls revamping what seems to be their entire bench and starting the '12 campaign without former MVP Derrick Rose, and oh, did I forget to mention, a whole new Israel Football League season about to start (or has it started already?).

...and now back to Ben Yehuda and the array of delicacies it has to offer...

Efrat: A Town that Represents All That's Israel

Efrat, or “Efrata” is a blossoming municipality in Judea, Israel. The earliest mention of Efrat is in Genesis, when Jacob buries his beloved wife, Rachel after she’s given birth to her second son, Binyamin: “And Rachel died and was buried on the road to Efrat.” (Gen 13:19) Efrat is mentioned as “Efrata” or “towards Efrat” in Ruth 4:11, Chronicles 2:50, Chronicles 4:4, Psalms 132:6, and Micah 5:1. It is located 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem between Hevron and Bethlehem (Wikipedia).

While the international community considers it an “illegal settlement,” the State of Israel has always considered Efrat, and the entire Gush Etzion bloc which Efrat is geographically a part of, an integral part of the Jewish State.

Efrat was founded on Passover eve, October 5th, 1983, by Moshe Moskovitz (Moshiko). Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, an extremely vocal and well-known religious Zionist leader, soon joined Mr. Moskovitz in his mission, establishing the Ohr Torah movement with the blessing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Grateful to be 31

Meriting to live to see one's first birthday is a huge privilege, but now that I've turned 31, I must say I'm trully blessed. It's not a "blessing in disguise" either. Every day I live, every breath I take, every time I swallow a parcel of food it's an ongoing miracle. I'm extremely grateful to G-d, to my parents, to my grandparents, and to all my wonderful friends for making this happen. Thank you!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Avraham: the 1st Zionist

This week's parsha, Lech Lecha, describes the life and trevails of our forefather Avraham, how he was commanded by G-d to leave his "land, (his) home, and (his) father's house," and travel to a distant, unknown land, a land "flowing with milk and honey."

Avraham leaves Charan at the old age of 75. By then, he's already established himself as a leader and a visionary. He goes on to live a life of righteousness, of arrousing curiosity for the Jewish faith amongst the people of the world, and of settling the Land of Canaan.

Avraham was for all intents and purposes, the first Zionist. The first settlers in Palestine who came here with the dream of building a "perfect" society based on socialist ideals were following in Avraham's footsteps. Perhaps, they were misguided in thinking that the new state would be based on socialism, but they weren't far from the truth.

Why is it that it took a secular movement--as opposed to the Charedi community of Eastern Europe to realize that the Jewish people's future lay in Israel and that the correct--and only thing to do was to pack up their bags and travel to a land deserted by its inhabitants; a land that lay desolate and barren?

Why I'd Vote for Romney

I won't be voting in the upcoming American elections due to technical difficulties with my absantee vote, but I know whom I'd vote for if I were. Romney impressed me very much with his presence of mind in the recent presidential debates. I'm convinced he outdueled Obama with his intelligence and common sense, but I'd vote for him even if he lost the debates.

Obama has been a complete and utter failure as far as both the economy and foreign policy are concerned. He's given Americans ample reason to doubt his good intentions and even more reason to vote against him. He's come up short on promises to reduce unemployment and create a more stable economy.

He's also made the world a more dangerous place during his presidency. Nato/American involvement in Lybia and America's lack of action in Egypt have led to increased instability in the Middle East.

I believe voting Romney for President is an easy choice. The fact that a majority of Jews will again be voting for Obama greatly angers me. We are a "stiff-necked" people who refuse to learn from history. I wonder what it will take to teach us a lesson. A worsening in US-Israel relations? More suffering for Jonathan Pollard? A lack of credible action with regards to the Iranian nuclear program?

I urge my fellow Jews to vote "Republican" in this year's elections. We've gotten far too accustomed to voting Democrat. Yes, it was the Democrats who helped end segregation and improve race relations in America. It was also the Democrats who created a wellfare state in America. They've treated Israel as an inobedient child who refuses to give in to selfish American demands, and are responsible for Iran being able to do just about whatever it's felt like doing. Obama is a perfect example of the Democrats' inability to change anything for the better.

Change? It's only been the negative type. Hopefully, the American people will elect a president who wants to change America and the world for the better instead of following the advice of the Reverand Wright's and the Jesse Jackson's of the world.

Why I'll be Voting "Likud"

Elections are coming up and it's time for Israelis to make up their minds as far as whom they'll be voting for. I've been back and forth: first with Herut (Michael Kleiner didn't get any mandates the year I voted for him), then the Moledet (a far-right party that joined the NU a few years ago), and now, I'm planning on voting for the Likud. I hope Moshe Feiglin moves up to a realistic position on the party list, but even if he doesn't, I believe Netanyahu has done a great job over the past four years.

In general, I believe that unless the Prime Minister completely fails in his responsibility to provide security for the citizens of Israel and maintain a stable economy, he should be given the opportunity to continue on to a second term. Netanyahu would have been granted this opportunity in 2000 had it not for Clinton's interference in Israel's internal affairs, and his reneging on promises made at Wye.

There has been an interesting development in the past few days. The NU, Mafdal, and Ha'bayit Ha'yehudi (The Jewish Home) have formed a unity party that appears poised to gain at least 8-9 Knesset seats. I won't be surprised if they "overachieve" and amass 10-11 seats.

I like the fact that Michael Ben-Ari was left on the outside looking in, but it seems regretful that Arye Eldad has been left behind as well. The two hard-liners were prevented from joining the new party in order to maintain a bit of sanity, but I feel that Eldad would have added a secular Zionist presence that may be missed. I'd consider voting for the new party if it weren't for the Likud and the need for a strong government. I believe it will be an integral player in the next coalition.

Netanyahu has been great as far as preventing another war. His recent Facebook update correctly eluded to the fact that Bibi has been strong-handed in preventing terror, thus giving the Arab world a strong incentive to "stay away" from Israel. The army has continued air raids in Gaza in response to pretty much every rocket attack on Israeli soil, thus not allowing Hamas to gain a strong footing.

Hamas, who unoficially won the elections in the West Bank some-two years ago, appears stronger than Fatah and its medly of corrupt "leaders" (these "leaders" have led their people from one crisis to another while trying to undermine Israeli authority), but has been yet unable to muster up the international support it needs to take over as the major player in the West Bank.

The internal discord amongst Palestinian terrorist factions is, to a large degree, the product of Israeli foreign policy. We've been able to avert a major war and limit Palestinian terrorism thanks to a strong government. I hope the Likud gains more seats in the Knesset in the upcoming elections. Bibi's got my vote! Maybe we can even avoid including Kadima and/or Labor in the coalition.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I Was Blind feat. Binyamin

Yeah...My inspiration. Where does it come from? It comes from waking up in the morning and knowing that G-d gave me another day. It comes from knowing that whatever I do, Hashem is behind me; that no matter where I go, G-d will strengthen my resolve to keep fighting. Fighting to become a better person.

Hayiti iver/ I was blind
Lo yadati le'hyot/ I didn't know how to live
Achshav ani nelcham/ Now I'm fighting
Keneged kol ha'hayot/ Against all the animals
Ein pachad/ There's no fear
Yesh tachat/ There's a bottom (to sit)
La'shevet lilmod / To sit and learn
hochmot me'hatalmud / The Talmud's wisdom
Achshav ani mabsud/ Now I'm satisfied
Mekir et atzmi/ Know myself
Yodea she'isha tova/ Know that a good woman
Lo stam eize stut/ Isn't just a one-night stand
Matchil le'hitbonen im ha'zman/ I'm beginning to get stronger with time
Yesh ta'am/ I want to
Le'gdol be'Torah/ Grow in Torah
U'mitzvot And mitzvot/ And good deeds
Ze lo ezize sod/ It's no secret
Le'kol Yehudi/ Every Jew
Yesh et ze bedamo/ Has it in his blood
Ha'ikar/ The key
La'tet le'Elokim / Is to allow G-d
Lagur betocheinu/ To live within us
Lomdim me'chayeinu/ We learn from our lives
Menasim le'hashlim/ We try to put things behind us
Menasim le'havin/ We try to understand
She'yesh me'ever le'mashe/ That there's more than
Roim be'chayim/ We see
Yom yomim/ In our everyday lives

Kama tov le'hyot / How good it is
Ba'olam ha'ze / To live in this world
Kama tov la'daat / How good to know
She'ani shave / That I'm worth it
Ani matzig la'olam kulo / I'm presenting the world
Sipur milchama / A story of war
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach / I know there's nowhere to run away to
Ein ma le'hitaka/ No reason to stop

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach
Ein ma le'hitaka

I'm doing it still
Still needing to thrill
This time around
It's a whole new crowd
My people
Need a leader
Someone to trust
And I feel I must
Lead a revolution
End the pollution
Of the Jewish mind
By liberal swine
By secular politicians
I need all the ammunition I can carry on my back
I can't side-track
Learn the Torah
Rebuild the Temple
Take back the menorah
Take back our pride
How many have tried?
How many have died?
Al Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying the Name of G-d)
Haim ani ashem? (Am I guilty?)
Haim ani lo nisiti (Haven't I tried?)
Lo kamti (Didn't stand up?)
Lo nelchamti (Didn't fight)
Lo karati le'ami le'hilachem be'Amalek (Didn't call on my People to fight Amalek?)
I've made it this far
There's no looking back!

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach
Ein ma le'hitaka

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama
Yodea she'ein le'an le'vroach
Ein ma le'hitaka

I still want my piece of the land in the sun
How bad do I want to get the job done?
Well, put it this way
I'm gonna put bullets in yo' head
That's if you want my people dead
Cause no one loves this here place more
I'm more dangerous no than I was ever before
Dreams of taking the Temple Mount back
I can't get rid of these thoughts
I'm back on the attack
Soon as the light of the sun comes light up the day
I got a lot of things to say in my daily shemon esre
I pray and I say:
Grant me the power to go on
Don't ever turn your back on me
I'm your servant
You're the light
G-d grant me the might
The power
To blossom like a flower

Kama tov le'hyot
Ba'olam ha'ze
Kama tov la'daat
She'ani shave
Ani matzig la'olam kulo
Sipur milchama

My old self is about to vanquish from the rap scene
You haven't been where I've been
Haven't done what I've done
Haven't run down the Arabs and liberals I've run
Down to size
But it's not about that
Cause I'm better than that
I'm badder than that
I'm bigger and phatter than that
I crush the competition like Bush crushed Saddam
But as bad as it gets, I'm still having fun
I'm still the rap-daddy of 'em all
But how come y'all wanna question my form?
How come I gotta taste my own blood?
Yo, how much love for the Palis have all y'all liberals got?
Why is it that every time the Rabbi's mentioned it causes a stir?
Why is it that every time Obama is likened to Osama y'all gotta fear?
My beats and my lyrics rule supreme
So how come my people just wanna scream?
How come we die every day—get chopped down by enemy guns?
How come the world don't care about our sons!?

On My Stay in Chicago and On Coming Home to Israel

My stay here, in Chicago, was an eventful one. Lots of things happened: some positive and some negative, but overall, I enjoyed my stay here. The worst thing to happen was my grandma's passing. My mom is still having a very difficult time adjusting to the new reality of not having her mother by her side. She (grandma) was sick for a very long time, but we all got used to her being there for us whether she was sick or not. It was definitely a very difficult experience.

The best thing that took place while I was here was having an opportunity to see all my friends, especially an old buddy of mine whom we reconnected with after a 3-year hiatus. We spent several days hanging out in a variety of cafes around Chicago and Skokie, doing some studying (I loaned a few books from the library), watching movies, and playing b-ball and tennis. I ran a bit, but not as much as I was running in Israel and definitely not as much as I hoped to run while here.

As a side-note, I'm probably going to move back to blogger unless something drastic happens, and I figure out how to use Wordpress. Honestly speaking, it's been a big hastle for me. I'm pondering watching the presidential debates tonight, but the NY-Detroid game sounds awfully enticing as well. What a decision: presidential debates vs. ALCS!

Job-wise, I'm hoping to start covering Israeli current events and daily life in Israel for "Reklama," a local Russian language newspaper. I'll be placing my articles here as well. I'm also looking into writing for the JPost blog. We'll see how that goes.

I feel a little guilty that I ended up not voting in the American elections. I'm a big Romney fan and hope he gets elected, but I just wasn't able to print up all the documents for the absantee ballot. It was harder than I expected, and I ended up passing on the whole thing altogether. Hopefully, Illinois will eventually become more balanced and my vote will make a difference in future elections.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Poem (Unfinished)

The Land lay still,
As if in a summer night's dream,
Its shallow valleys,
Could not be seen,

For years it tried,
And tried again,
To gather strength,
To understand.

What folley had it undertaken?
Why were its people dying?
How had it happened so quickly?
Had G-d's presense left it?
Had it been forsaken?

When it remembered,
It suddenly awoke,
He stretched out his hand and spoke:

"Give me another chance,"
"Don't let the hope whither,"
"We can overcome all obstacles together,"
"This life..."
"It can be great,"
"Just you and I,"
"Give me another chance"
"Together we will try..."

She hearkened to his words as he drew near,
She wanted to hear more,
She wanted him to be clear:
What did this strange man want?
How many others just like him were here?
What was to happen now?
Would all her children reappear?

"I know," he said,
"It can be done but there will be a lot of suffering,"
"A lot of pain,"
"And yet the roadworks shall be cleared"
"And we shall know it was not in vain,"
"New orchards shall be planted,"
"The swamps shall yet be dried,"
"We shall hear children's laughter,"
"Our chests shall swell with pride."
"We will be one people,"
"Reunited with our Land,"
"Our leaders will be strong,"
"We shall build cities where there was once just dunes and sands."

Elul is Here!

R' Nachman teaches that the worst possible thing to do when one has sinned is to feel bad about it. There's no doubt that "pangs of repentance" are a must; a very real and necessary aspect of tshuva, but the first thing one must do when he has done something negative in word or in deed is get back up and feel good about himself. We need to rise above the "petty" of the world, beyond those who ignore and look down on us.

Each individual-Jew or Gentile is a world unto himself. Each individual is an entire reality in his own right. We were all created in G-d's image and we must hold on to this truth every moment of our lives.

I re-read a part of Pirkei Avot, "Wisdom of the Fathers," that speaks to me perhaps more than any of its other chapters (and Pirkei Avot is one of those works that has had a profound effect on my life): "Know where you came from and where you're going...," it begins. It goes on to state that we come from a "wet spot," return to "dust and ashes," and answer "to the King of Kings, Ruler of the universe." This is extremely important to internalize if we're to understand R' Nachman's wisdom.

Elus is here. We need to reason with ourselves and try and delve into what where we've gone wrong this year. What can we do that we haven't previously done? How can we become better people?

This process begins with the things we can change: interpersonal relations. We need to seek ways of asking for those whom we've hurt to forgive us, and to come get to know those who are integral parts of lives: our relatives and friends better. We need to make lists of things we want to improve on for the following year. Here's my list:

1. Guard what I do and say.
2. Avoid hurting other people at all costs.
3. Improve my Torah observance.
4. Avoid humiliating myself: this is also a type of "lashon ha'ra."
5. Try to get up early in the morning and go to sleep late at night, putting on the tefilin and saying the "Tikkun Hatzot" on time.
6. Improve my "kibud av va'em:" respect for my father and mother.
7. Make a list of sins I've committed and the sacrifices I will need to bring for these once the Temple is rebuilt.
8. Visit the Temple Mt. more often while trying to desist from getting into political arguments, especially with fellow Jews. This can prove not only pointless, but worse, take away from my achievements.

Monday, August 20, 2012

On the Importance of Apology in the Month of Elul

Sometimes, I've gone years without apologizing for really bad things I've done to people. Other times, it's taken me a day or two to realize I was wrong and ask for an apology. As we approach Rosh Hashana, and embark on another attempt to "clear the slate" of the Heavenly tribunal, asking forgiveness from our fellow man becomes perhaps the most important factor of our daily lives.

I find asking others to forgive me one of the most difficult and trying things to do. Admitting one's fault may be extremely hard. Based on Mesilat Yesharim or "Path of the Righteous," I believe that admitting one's fault is very important. And forgiving others when they ask for forgiveness is just as--if not more important. When we forgive our fellow man, Hashem takes note of this, and is more apt to forgive us in turn.

On this note, I'd like to extend my apologies to the many people whom I've hurt this year in thought or in deed. I ask that you completely nulify your anger towards me as I will towards you. May G-d grant us a year of peace and tranquility, of good thoughts and deeds, of charity and kindness towards ourselves and each other. May the State of Israel merit good, righteous leaders and may our words and actions speed up the coming of the Mashiach and the Redemption.


A simple "thanks!" is all it takes,
To brighten up my day,
To chase away the darkness from the world,
To turn the black to gray.

You helped me by landing me a hand,
By being there for me,
And I am grateful to you in so many ways,
You're such a dear friend!

Not everyone can do it, but you can,
You're a model of kindness,
It takes a lot and you'll see,
Many will thank you for not being mindless.

For caring, wanting to help,
For doing your very best,
Keep going, keep trying, my good friend,
And you'll fulfill your quest!

Dedicated to my close friend, Sofia Litinsky who helped me today in a moment of hardship.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Reflection

He tried and tried,
He tried in vain,
The constant worry drove him insane.
He tried to stay,
To stay strong,
He knew the writing was there,
All along.

It was a difficult winter,
Hard, cold, freezing snow,
He didn't know where to go.
He called her,
He said that he was ready,
She was confused, tired, and unsteady.

In a European capital they felt like strays
In winter's midst, they parted ways,
Bickering, fighting,
They felt like strangers,
They would continue--
To fall, to rise, to overcome all dangers.

And fall he did,
Fall to vice,
He prayed to G-d he wouldn't fall twice.
He got back up,
Got back on track,
Clawing, clinging,
Trying so hard, not looking back.

Today, he's in a capital of a different land,
His face, his body covered by sand,
He is a desert onto himself
But he stands tall,
He thinks, he ponders life, the world--
Is there not more of his story to be told?

He sits and waits,
For what--he knows not.
He knows there should be more,
But what's he got?
He stares into space, appears dry,
His thoughts are focused on days gone by.

A song for ages, for times past,
He knows he must stay strong,
Never to rest,
He must continue,
And help others too,
He also knows he must stay true.

How many words?
How many vowels?
He says them all and feels his bowels,
Are weak, are falling
What's going on?
How many more things to say till it's dawn?

No amount of words,
About love, belief in G-d, the world,
No matter how much he says,
He won't hit gold.
He must apply,
Apply, learn, and be,
And then they'll wander,
And then they'll see.

He'll meet her in some way,
In person or through a dream,
He'll ask her "See where we've been?"
"How much we've done, how much we've cried,"
"I see you've changed!"
"I see you've tried!"

He wanders high and wide,
Meets people, smiles at them,
He knows much has changed,
He does all that he can,
To live the dream,
To be himself,
In good, in bad, in sickness, and in health.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 Good and in Bad...

We all have our rough spots in life. You've had yours, and I've had mine. Our resilience and perseverance is what enables us to keep on going, but what else is there to the equation? My new-found belief in G-d (it's only been about five years thus far) has given me the jolt I needed to keep going in difficult times. I believe that we all need to internalize the presence and onenness of Hashem, and to allow Him into our world.

" good and in bad, in sickness and in health..."I've never heard these words in first person, but these are the words the groom says to the bride during a secular wedding ceremony. These are appropriate words in describing the Jewish people's relationship with Hashem. In every generation since Avraham Avinu, we've held on to our deep-rooted belief in the G-d of Hosts, Redeemer of Israel, Rock of Ages. Whether under the threat of death or in good times, we've stayed loyal to the One who gave us what we have in this world.

I've come to the realization that there's something beyond me, beyond my silly, little needs and ugres in the world. Beyond me, beyond you, beyond the stones and trees, the sun, the sea, and the skies. Something beyond...

We need to "keep and to good and in bad..." Not our spouse or even our parents, but our belief in the One eternal G-d of Israel because people will come and go. They will leave our lives as suddenly as they came, disappear without as much as a whimper, and we will eventually be left with ourselves...and our belief in Him.

It's of utmost importance especially as the month of Elul dawns upon us to maintain our belief no matter if the going is good--or bad, no matter if you're having a great day or the worst day of your life. Easy for me to say? No. Very, very difficult as life has testified. But now that I keep to this "method," to this fundamental framework of life, I'm much better off than I was before.

We need to hold on to Him who gave us life, to Him who provides for us, nourishes us, and gives us strength. No matter how many people have turned you down, no matter how much money you've lost, no matter how bad it is. And I, perhaps more than anyone else, need to keep this belief near my heart. Always. In all circuimstances.

From the eternal capital of the Jewish people,

Eitan Divinsky.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why Must MSN Israel...

Why Must MSN Israel feature news about all the Hollywood stars who've had nude photo shoots?
Why Must ''' feature news about left-wing rallies in TA on a daily basis (and does anyone care)?
Why Must ''' feature stories on angry "settlers" and tame "Palestinians?"
Why Must ''' feature stories about the worst possible things that can befall humanity?

And finally: WHY DO WE NEED MSN Israel? Does MSN Israel need us? Time to switch to Mozilla....... Nighty nighty and blessings from Jerusalem, capital of the world!

Chill J'lem Night

Still up,
More thoughts to drown out the brain noise,
More unexpected emotions to blend in with everything around,
Dark, chill J'lem night
Moves in
To claim another day,
It's dark--not simply dim!
I want to tell the world about my life,
Want to share hidden secrets,

R' Nachman's tikkun hatzot:
The time for it has long passed,
Another squandered chance?
Or a newly-discovered opportunity for tshuva?
Whichever way,
I yearn sleep,

More people come 'n go
Fall by the wayside of my life journey,
More girls met,
More dates cancelled,
Memories lost,
Memories don't die--only we do!
Memories remain etched within us,

I'll awaken to witness the sunrise above Baka
Arabs used to live here
Now, it's our turn
Oh, now I see--

Eitan Divinsky
Eitan Divinsky
Eitan Divinsky

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