Thursday, March 21, 2013

"In Every Generation and Generation, A Person Must See Himself as If He Left Egypt"

This Torah lesson is dedicated to the speedy recovery of Adelle Chaya bat Adva. May G-d keep her and save her from every evil and danger.

It says that in every generation, a person must see himself as he, himself, left Egypt. The path from slavery to redemption is one that the Jewish people partake in in every generation--on a personal and national level. I'm a first generation immigrant to America--and Israel. My parents left the Soviet Union in '89, when I was seven years old. I'm a testament to my people's unbroken spirit and our unwavering desire to remain Jews no matter the cost.

When we left the USSR, I didn't know I was Jewish. My father had been a refusnik for 10 years. He'd spent time studying Hebrew. We believed we were moving to Israel, so he wanted to get acquainted with the Holy Language, the tongue our forefathers used in their daily lives.

His teacher and mentor, Arye Volvovsky (ייבדה לחיים ארוקים) spent three years languishing in a Soviet jail cell because he had the audacity to spread the light of Judaism. Even in jail, he practiced Jewish law, and was even able to encourage his fellow cellmates, who were spending jail time for less noble reasons than him, to support the Zionist cause. They probably benefited from their time with Arye more than they would have being at homes with their families.

My great-grandparents were all haredi Jews. I've seen family pictures with my great great grandparents and their children. All wore the traditional Jewish garb of the times. I'm proud to come from a family with a rich history of Torah scholarship.

I'm also proud to say that I got my ברית מילא (circumcision) at my own request after we came to the US. I was eight years old. My ancestors all espoused a spirit of self-sacrifice. They went out of their way to fight the pro-Soviet Jewish police, and I felt I was following in their footsteps. It was nothing out-of-the-ordinary. Jews have been making bigger, most dangerous sacrifices for the past three and a half centuries.

I merited to leave Soviet Russia--the Egypt of our day. Both my father and I made a vow never to step foot on Russian soil. "Never again" in my family means never again to Communism. Never again to Jews being oppressed and denied the right to follow in our ancient way of life.

I was invited to the Pesach seder to R' Ariel, the head Rabbi of Ramat Gan, a truly great man with so much knowledge and wisdom to give. Maybe I'll tell my story. It's the story of leaving Egypt.

"In every generation..." Strong words, but yet, in every generation, the ugly head of anti-Semitism rears itself again and again. The two concepts are interconnected. Seeing ourselves as if we were the ones to leave Egypt and fighting the powers of Jew hatred are the same thing. We need to remember and not to forget. Remember and internalize the fact that the Gentiles don't want us here--not in Israel and not in the world (I like to stay away from generalizations, but even so...)

My family's history and my own story are examples of the Jewish people's unbreakable spirit, and our ability to see ourselves as if we left Egypt. We actually did. For others, it might be a little harder to imagine leaving slavery for freedom, but it actually happened to us.

חג מצות כשר ושמח! ממשיכים להיתפלל להחלמה מהירא של אדל. שניזקה לנקום באויבינו. שבת שלום ומבורך מארץ הקודש ובבשורות טובות לכולנו

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Torah Lesson Dedicated to the Speedy Recovery of a Little Hero, Adele Chaya bat Adva

Adele Chaya bat Adva is 2 years old. I don't know all the details, but I do know that she was in the car with her mom when the latter lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a bus as a result of Arabs throwing stones at Jewish motorists in the area. She was rushed to a hospital and remains in critical condition.

The angels are watching over her as I write this. I just finished davening Arvit, and reading a number of tehilim in her merit. May the Holy One Blessed Be He have mercy upon Adele bat Adva. May He grant her a long, happy life full of good deeds, charity, and kindness towards her fellow human beings.

May this conflict end. May we live and prosper in our historical homeland, the Land of our forefathers, the Land of Israel. May our neighbors learn to love and respect us, and may we merit unity amongst one another. May all the fighting stop. Please.

I spent Shabbat in Givat Ronen near Har Bracha in the Shomron. The tiny yishuv neighbors Shchem (Nablus). It was a singular experience: "singular" because of the combination of the people present and the fact that we were in the midst of the Land, the beautiful, unforgettable, one of a kind Land that we, as a people, have dreamed of returning to and settling for millenia.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

L.A. Lakers' Star, Kobe Bryant, Calls Hawks Player Out After Fouling Him and Getting Injured

L.A. Lakers' former MVP and 5-time NBA champion, Kobe Bryant isn't known as the nicest of people. He's gotten into small-time scraps with opposing players from time to time, and isn't the perfect teammate as reported by multiple sources over the years. But the great thing is (and this is really, really great) that LA is likely to miss the playoffs outright. I certainly hope they will!

Kobe landed akwardly after missing a fadeaway in the final seconds of Wednesday's loss to Atlanta. He claims that Dhantay Jones, who was guarding him on the play, purposely stuck his foot out to prevent all-powerful Kobe from landing right. Having watched video of the play, my feeling is that Bryant is just upset about missing the shot, and that he likes to cry to the press about his little run-in's with players like Jones, whom he apparently has some history with.

In other NBA news, Miami has now won 20 straight. I don't think the Heat will lose again till well into the playoffs, perhaps the Conference Finals--or even the Championship. I'm beyond certain the Heat will win it all this year. It doesn't exactly take a brain surgeon to predict this much.

Who'll win it all in 2014? My first pick would be Miami again, but a few teams from the West such as the Clippers and Oklahoma City might have a decent shot too. I'm prepared to count out San Antonio for the next few years. That's one team you shouldn't expect much from, especially when Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are set to retire a few years down the line.

When will it finally be Chicago's turn to rule supreme? DRose should be ready to go next season, and we might actually make some noise in '14, but don't expect a finals run. Miami is just too good with their 3-Headed Monster. Maybe when the Heat finally disolve their roster or at least trim it a little bit, Da Bulls will gain some type of momentum in the East. I think maybe 2016 will be that magical year for Chicago. Why 2016? I don't know, it just sounds good!

On Continuing Where You Started, and Not Giving Up (and My New Job at Judaica Web Store)

I've learned a lot of valuable lessons over the past few years. Continuing onwards with my mission, and not giving up are two of the most important ones. I've overcome so much, but there's still so much ahead of me. I realize I need to keep a steady pace if I'm to reach the goals I've set for myself. In general, I believe it's important to set realistic goals, and follow through on them.

As far as what's been happening in my life lately, I got a really interesting job working at a company in Givat Shaul. I've been assigned the task of writing product descriptions for their website: Judaica Web Store. I've found that they're offering some really nice items like: Ahava hand and body cream, nicely-priced Passover gifts, etc, etc...

On the topic of setting goals, work is one of these for me. I believe that hard work improves a person, making him a better human being. Only by doing hard work, can we hope to give back to society--and the world.

Wishing everyone a great month of ניסן, new strength, and a renewal of old friendships!

שניזקה כולנו לגאולה שלמה בקרוב בימימו! אמן

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Can the Miami Heat be Stopped?

As Lebron Jame's Miami Heat continue their domination of the NBA, the concrete answer that enters my mind to the question posed above is "No, they can't." Point blank period.

The latest tour de force came at the expense of one of this year's Eastern Conference disappointments, Atlanta Hawks, currently in a tie with Boston for 6th/7th and 14.5 back of Miami in a Southeast Division that was decided before the opening tip of game 1 this year.

Dwyane Wade has had yet another All-Star season. He scored 23 points on Tuesday night, in a game that was never in doubt from the starting whistle. The unflinching Miami squad extended their winning streak to 19 games.

Now's the time for me to start saying "I told you so!" to all y'all. I made a bet with a close friend of mine that the Heat would go on a 7-peat when they put together their freak show three years ago. It didn't happen. Dallas got the better of them in '11, but folks, it's gonna be all Heat from here, and they're not gonna be de-throned for another 4-5 years with D. Rose sidelined for G-d knows how long.

This is a true freak show, make no doubt about it. James is a machine on a mission, D Wyade is a special specimen not to be forgotten, and Chris Bosh is all that and a bag of pistachios. Take it to the bank, guys: El Heat will at least 5-Peat!

Reporting from the capital of the world...this here disgruntled Chi Bulls fan...and we thought we could do it...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Learning at Aliyos Yerushalayim with Rabbi Snyder and Roi

I had a great time learning Torah at Aliyos Yerushalayim yesterday. The regular crew was on hand for the most part, but a guy I'd never met before happened to be my chevrusa.

I found learning with him an eye-opening experience. You know how it goes: you meet someone and don't expect much of them till they flat out blow you away with some of the most profound things you've ever heard. Well, this was the case with Roi last night.

We opened up one of the Mishnayos on the shelf. Ta'anis. It seemed Roi had gone over the material before. While his Hebrew's far from perfect, he really had a good handle of the stuff we were going over.

One of the most interesting things we discussed was the concept of how we pray for rain (מוריד הגשם) after the end of Pesach. One of the Tana'im asks why we shouldn't pray for rain the whole year around if we're praising Hashem for granting us the water--rather than asking him to fulfill a specific request (like we do in the rest of the prayers in the שמונה אשרה). Even though it might not be the season for rain, can't we still praise the Almighty?

Update: Hugo Chavez in the Process of Interviewing for a Position in Hell

Here's my preview of the interview the Devil is having with (ex) Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez:

Devil: Welcome to my abode, my son! What can you offer us here on the dark side besides the bootylicious behinds of Sean Penn, Danny Glover, and my favorite Jew, Noam?

Hugo: Uhm...thanks I guess. Are you George W. Bush?

Devil: No, Saddam here. I called you down here because I was looking for an intellectual. Weren't you the one who read The Warrior's Oracle, and some stuff by Ortega Y Gasset? Don't you know anything about Senorito Consentido?

Hugo: No, I'm just a thug, and everyone knows that except for you apparently. What exactly were you expecting!?

Devil: Hugo, but you're such a sexy stud, can't you tell me about your dirty underwear or something?

Hugo: Well, I threw my first wife to the curb after she refused to...

Devil: Yes, my beloved dictator, tell me more...

Hugo: Well, the b#### wouldn't stay in the kitchen. Did I forget to mention women need to stay in the kitchen?

Devil: I, too, believe in that, my dictator buddy. Tell me more about your life...

Hugo: I was born in the capital of the Barinas State whose capital is, well...Barinas...There's some oil there, and some cows who munch on know, Devil, grass...

Devil: Yeah, of course I know about grass, now tell me more!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Here Come the 'Hawks!

Just in case you haven't noticed, the Chicago Blackhawks have ravaged the rest of the NHL since the 2013 campaign got under way. They've won a franchise-best 10 in a row, and have extended their points streak (the amount of time they've gone without losing in regulation) to 29 consecutive games.

The 'Hawks are 1st in the West and 1st overall with an incredible record of 20-0-3. This is pretty much unheard of in a league with a history of relative parity.

Bryan Bickell scored twice and Patrick Kane, who's in the running for the NHL MVP award (second only to Sidney Crosby) connected on a big one in the third. Corey Crawford has been sensational in goal all season long. He's in the running for the Vezina Trophy for top goalie of the year. And that's just one season after a sub-par 2012 during which he allowed all types of mistakes. Pretty impressive for a team that suffered a major let-down last year, huh!?

There's still a long season left to go, but the 2013 NHL lockout has forced a shorter season on those poor, disenchanted hockey fans. To be sure, there are 25 games left in the NHL season. I just hope those pesky 'Hawks keep flying high till it's all said 'n done, and Lord Stanley's Cup is hoisted once again atop the Chicago ice.


Monday, March 4, 2013

A World Without Facebook

It's been a week since I quit the T-Rex of social media that what's-his-name founded aka Facebook. I can't say I've missed it; on the contrary, I've had a lot more time for taking care of daily chores and working on my day job.

Facebook doesn't need me--and I don't need Facebook to survive in this crazy, senseless world full to the brink with all types of "interesting" phenomena to go around the block and then some, etc, etc to a million degrees.

I need me some peace of mind, and gosh darn it, I'm gonna get it! Living in Israel, about 15 min's ride from the "Occupied Territories" (boy, would I love it if the our cousins in "Palestine"--wherever that happens to be--quit occupying our land), this might just be a difficult proposition, but I'm gonna see to it that I get this one task done!

Facebook or no Facebook, it's still vital to focus on the goals ahead: get elected to the post of Prime Minister, followed by a destructive take-over of the world...or maybe just stay on as the product description manager at this here place smack in the middle of nowhere. Whichever the case may be, I'm about to get it done and it doesn't involve Facebook.

So there, let's raise a shot of L'chaim to a world free of social media and the Internet--oh wait, I'm using it right now. Gotta go, sorry folks, I need to save the world!
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