Friday, October 29, 2004

Shabbat Shalom: Abraham's Return from the 'Akeida' by Rav Kook ZT"L


The 'Akeida', the 'Binding of Isaac', was over. Abraham passed this extraordinary test, and descended from the mountain. The Torah concludes its narrative with a description of Abraham's return to the world:

"Abraham returned to his young men, and together they got up and went to Beersheba. Abraham remained in Beersheba." [Gen 22:19]

Why does the Torah mention that Abraham joined up with the young men he had left behind with the donkey? And why the emphasis on returning to Beersheba?

Rav Kook explained that the powerful experience of the 'Akeida' could have caused Abraham to distance himself from the world and its ways. The supreme spiritual encounter on Mount Moriah might have led him to disengage from his struggle against idolatry and hatred. Yet each part of this verse demonstrates the extent of Abraham's return to the world after the 'Akeida'.

"Abraham returned to his young men." Abraham did not abandon his mission of influencing and inspiring the world. He returned to the young men he had left with the donkey. Before ascending the mountain, Abraham had told them to stay behind: they were not ready for this spiritual ascent. They needed to stay with the donkey ("chamor"), i.e., remain in their lowly materialistic ("chomri") state.

But now Abraham returned to them. He descended to their level, to help elevate and enlighten them.

"Together they rose up and went to Beersheba." With raised spirits, with pure and holy light, "they rose up". Together - united in purpose and plan of action - they proceeded to Beersheba.

What is Beersheba? The name Beersheba has two meanings: 'Well of Oath' and 'Well of Seven'. An oath is a pledge to take action. When we take an oath, our vision no longer remains merely an ideal or concept. It is translated into deed. The number seven similarly signifies completion of the natural world: seven days in a week, seven days of Creation. Beersheba represents Abraham's convictions, acted upon in a
practical manner, thus serving to complete the physical world.

"Abraham remained in Beersheba". Abraham stayed in Beersheba, continuing his activities there. His name Abraham - 'father of many nations' ("Av hamon goyim") - was particular relevant in Beersheba. In Beersheba he set up his 'eshel', an inn which brought wayfarers to recognize and "call in the name of God, the Eternal Lord". [Gen 21:33]

But hidden underneath Abraham's public works, universally directed towards all peoples, was a special seed of light: the unique dedication and spiritual elevation which Isaac attained, to be passed on to the congregation of Israel for an eternal blessing. [Olat Riya I:96-97]

Thursday, October 28, 2004

New Immigrants From France

From Arutz-7:

A group of 55 new immigrants from France will arrive in Israel this afternoon. Half of them are teen-age high school graduates who are beginning new lives in Israel without their families, in the framework of the Jewish Agency's Atid [Future] program. They will study in the Etzion Ulpan program in Jerusalem, while the others will live in Ashdod, Jerusalem and Netanya.

David Rosh, who heads the Jewish Agency's European operations, reports that a 20% increase in French olim [immigrants] to Israel is foreseen for the year 2004. Thus far this year, the number of such olim is 2,222. In 2003, 150 youngsters immigrated to Israel from France, while the number this year stands at 300.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

HaRav Hershel Schacter on the Mitzvah of Yishuv Eretz Yisrael

Go on, read it here – and then make Aliyah!

Some excerpts:

In view of the difficulties inherent in the approach of the Megillat Esther, most Acharonim conclude that Yishuv Eretz Yisrael constitutes a mitzvah according to both Ramban and Rambam.


In Baba Bathra the Gemara lists poverty as grounds for exemption from the mitzvah. One who cannot make a comfortable living in Israel is not required to live there in penury. This rationale is cited by the Pitchei Teshuva and many other Poskim, including Rabbi Shlomo Kluger and the S'dei Chemed. In fact, as we shall see, the Avnei Nezer builds upon it his elaborate responsum explaining why Yishuv HaArtez was often neglected by Jewish leaders. It must be stressed, however, that a comfortable life in Israel does not mean a life with every luxury available in the Diaspora. Even if one's standard of living drops in Israel, it is not grounds for exemption unless the new style of life is indeed intolerable.


The Yerushalmi offers a novel interpretation of a law cited in Masechet Gittin. The Gamara in Gittin permits asking a non­Jew on the Sabbath to write and sign the document necessary to purchase a house in Israel from its non-Jewish owner. Commentators speculate what precisely was the mitzvah involved which made possible the suspension of the rabbinic prohibition of Amirah LeNachri, (asking a Gentile to do work on Sabbath). The Tashbets suggests that it is Yishuv Eretz Yisrael, settling in the land, that takes precedence over Amira LeNachri. The Ramban and Rivash, however, suggest that it is the mitzvah of Kibush Eretz Yisrael, conquering it, that carries the day. The Ramban writes that since Kibush HaAretz is incumbent upon Klal Yisrael (the Jewish people) as a whole, it is classified as a Mitzvah D'Rabim (of the many) and, unlike ordinary mitzvot, a mitzvah D'Rabim is of a higher priority than the prohibition of Amira LeNachri.

HaRav Elyahsiv endorses Bush

Wow. Who knew there are 2,500 Israeli Charadim with Florida absentee ballots. Wonder if they voted the last time around...

“It appears Bush is a greater friend of Israel and that’s is why he must get the votes”, Rabbi Elyashiv said in response to a query posed to him by an American rabbi.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Whatever it Takes, Another Funny Movie

So I still got to get around to fixing this blog up and writing a whole bunch of essays. But for now enjoy another movie.

Monday, October 25, 2004

"Get here while you still can!"

Tonight is Rochel Emanu's Yahrziet. On my past trip to Israel I got to visit Rochel on Tu B'av. (I'll dig up some pictures.) But two years ago I did get to visit her on the Yahrziet. I wrote about it in an essay for Kumah. Here's an excerpt:
I was fortunate that my trip coincided with Rochel Emanu's Yahrzeit. So I was off to visit her in Bethlehem along with thousands of others. And while I was at it, I stopped off at Maarat Hamachpela in Hebron too. Consider davening Mincha there and saying - the G-d of Avraham, the G-d of Yitzchak, and the G-d of Yaakov - they're all right here! The Chazzen skipped Tachanun due to Rochel's Yahrzeit. Well that got someone at the back of the room upset and they started quarrelling. It was getting rather loud. Then a man named Yitzchok, with curly white hair, a short gray beard, titzis on top of his shirt, and the warmest smile I've ever seen, made shalom between the two and quieted things down. Yitzchok preceded to discuss Maarat Hamachpela and how it's the entrance to Gan Eden. Regarding aliyah he told me "The Medrash says that only one-fifth of the Jews got to leave Egypt." He continued, "so too when Moshiach comes only one-fifth of the Jews will be allowed to leave Golus. So why not get here already and count yourself in!" The scary part is well over one-fifth of the Jews are already in Eretz Yisrael!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Stick with what works, a very funny movie clip!

I know, I should have posted this two months ago - but this blog wasn't around back then - still this little movie clip is a riot! Check it out!

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Aliyah File Number: 12345

No, that's not my real number. I'm not about to post that on the Internet - but the point is I HAVE AN ALIYAH FILE!!!

And it was SO easy! Really. Maybe it's because I lowered my expectation enough but it really wasn't all that bad. And I do agree it's not the worst thing in the world for Americans to be exposed to the realities of Israeli Bureaucracy. This way we are prepared for what's to come. That said there is still no reason so much bureaucracy has to exist anywhere. If there is a better way to do things why not do things the better way? So if NBN comes out with a great way to fill out all the paperwork on the plane flight to Israel - power to them!

So what's to write - Wednesday I showed up for my appointment with my Shliach. The receptionist had me fill out and sign a few short forms. After a 10 - 15 minute wait I got to find out which Shliach was assigned to me. (It's was Ido - Yes! I was hoping it would be him.) He asked me some questions.

What's you plan?

Well, I really want to take intensive ulpan right away. I'm thinking Ulpan Etzion. And while I'm there I'll look for an apartment and a job. Does that sound like a good plan?

It sounds like a very good plan!

Coolness, I thought. Five years of homework finally pays off.

Well that was the easy part. He then proceeded to hand me a rather large stack of forms I have to fill out and mail back. I have to get a letter from my Rabbi that I'm Jewish. And I have to dig up my old passport. So it looks like I have my work cut out for me. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Saved by the Jewish Agency’s Incompetence

So I was going blog about how committed to Aliyah I am that I’m not going to let any excuses prevent me from going through with it. I was going to blog about how I met my Shaliach yesterday. I was going to blog about how I haven’t had any really important meetings at work in weeks. And how leaving work a little early should be fine. And how once again Murphy strikes!

So of all the days of the week and all the times during the day, naturally I find an invitation sitting in my e-mail box to an important meeting scheduled - precisely to the minute - at the exact same time I was due to meet my Shliach! What’s more? The Vice President personally comes over to me and says “So, we’re going to see you there right?”

No. No. No. I’m opening my tik Aliyah and nothing is going to stop me – I can’t keep pushing this off!

“It doesn’t look like I’ll be able to make it – but I’ll get a co-worker to fill in for me.”
(Needless to say he didn’t look too thrilled – the VP and the Co-worker that is.)

But what was I worried about?

On Tuesday morning I came to work late because of my cousin’s Bris. (They named him Shmuel.) Borach Hashem for that! Because as I stopped by the house before leaving for work – someone was leaving a message on the answering machine. This was Yad Hashem yet again – because if I didn’t hear it I would never have checked the machine.

The message went something like this:

“This is your Shliach. We will not be meeting today at 3. We will be meeting tomorrow at 3. Call us if you have a problem with that.”

Well I sure scored points with the VP. “I made sure to clear everything up, so I could make this meeting.”

Now – some people might think I do a lot of Jewish Agency bashing on this blog. This is not true! I’ll be the fist to tell you the JA is very important and I have even have friends that work and worked there. But I’m also realistic. I have heard too many horror stories about dealing with them. Perhaps the only way to successfully deal with them is to lower your expectations so much that when the smallest thing goes right you’re impressed.

But pure “JA bashing” gets us nowhere. And so I will make every effort to provide constructive criticism. In fact I heard the JA is very interested in serving the public better and is actively seeking feedback. So here goes.

Rule 1: Do not cancel an appointment without giving at least 24-hour notice.

A 10AM phone call canceling a 3PM appointment is inconsiderate and simply unacceptable by American standards. (Yes, I know it is normal in Israel. But maybe we American Olim can change that.)

Rule 2: Sometimes emergencies do come up and there is no choice but to cancel the same day. But do it politely. And why is an apology so unheard of in Israel?

Instead of just saying “We will not be meeting today at 3.”

How about trying:

“I’m really sorry but something came up and I have the cancel our appointment today. Again I’m sorry about the last minute notice. I’ve rescheduled this for the same time tomorrow. I hope that works for you, but if not please call me and we’ll work out a good time. Thanks!”

I think this “American manners” attitude could really go a long way in changing the public’s perception of the Jewish Agency.

In any event as she said “We will be meeting tomorrow [that’s today!] at 3.”

Wish me luck! (Maybe I should call to confirm before I leave.)

Monday, October 18, 2004

Now you can read in bed on Shabbos!

Direct the light--Dim the light--even “Turn it off” approved by major Poskim
Rav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv shlit'a (Jerusalem), Rav Shlomo Miller shlit'a (Toronto),
Dayan Ch. Ehrentreu shlit'a (London), and Rav Dovid Cohen shlit'a (New York)

So why does this feel like a weight loss scam?

$35.95 for a plastic lightbulb cover? But they throw in a FREE LIGHTBULB!

Word to the wise: "Made in China."

Saturday, October 16, 2004

WANTED: Quizrael Team Members - WIN PRIZES!!!

Quizrael is a fun international contest where teams answer tough questions about Israel. Proceeds from the event help support Tehilla which is involved in helping Olim with their klita. The highest scoring teams win prizes!

I'm trying to put together a Quizrael Team preferably in Queens/Five Towns (or anywhere else in the NY area). We need 10 team members to qualify. If you are interested or know anyone that is please email me (Pinchas at Kumah dot ORG). Also let me know if you have a location we could use (anywhere in the NY area). Using Internet is allowed this year - which probably means we will need it - so keep that in mind.

The competition will take please next Motzei Shabbat, Parshat Lech Lecha, October 23, 2004. The cost (tax deductible) is $18 per person but students get a discount, just $10. Again, all funds raised help support Tehilla.

As time is running out please let me know ASAP!


More info on Quizrael and Tehilla is found here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

So it begins...

The moment has come at last. I’m all excited. Today is the day I call the Israel Aliyah Center (212-339-6065 or Toll Free: 1-866-7-ALIYAH) to open my Aliyah file.

It’s 11:00AM here in NY.

Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, “Shalom. Hello. You’ve reached the Jewish Agency. We’re sorry but no one is here to take your call right now...” Click.

I call back a few minutes later, this time with the direct number. Still no answer.

Suddenly I’m hit with this ill feeling. I’m reminded of all the criticisms I've so often heard of how the Jewish Agency mimicks all the shortfalls of Israeli bureaucracy. Whether they intend for it or not, to make Aliyah you really have to want to make Aliyah! The Jewish Agency serves the role of the Rabbi that tries to dissuade the potential ger from converting. I think to myself “And so..

{The Uruk Leader cries out once, encouraging the Uruk-hai to start roaring and thumping their spears furiously.The women and children in the caves huddle together in fear. Suddenly, Aldor, the old man next to Haleth, loses his grip and releases his arrow prematurely, shooting an Uruk-hai in the neck.}

Aragorn: Dartho! (Hold!)

{The Uruk-hai army stop their roaring and thumping. With a hollow groan, the Uruk that was shot collapsed to the ground. The other Uruk-hai bare their teeth and roar with anger. With a cry, the Uruk-hai leader thrusts his weapon in the air and the Uruk-hai army starts charging.}

Théoden: So it begins.

Aragorn: Tangado halad! (Prepare to fire!)

Indeed. So it begins. Tangado halad!

And so I pepped myself up for a whole day a war-dialing!

It’s now 11:15 A.M.

Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ri— "Shalom, Good morning. The Jewish Agency. How may we help you?"

“Good Morning. I am interested in opening my Tik Aliyah!”

“Okay, have you ever attended an orientation session yet?”

Now this was a question I was prepared for. In fact this was not the first time I called the JA to open my tik. I also called a year-and-a-half ago to open it. But I ended up at an orientation session instead. I met a friend there. “What are you doing here? You should be giving, this orientation section!” Flatered my the references to my days as president of the Queens College Tehilla Tziera, and the work I’ve done with Kumah and perhaps the fact that at the time I had read every single message posted on the JA’s Tachlis Informal Aliyah Discussion Mailing List for two years in a row – a very scary thought when you realize the sheer magnitude – I just shrugged my shoulders. “They said I need this before I could open my tik.” Now there’s a long string of fascinating events that followed, of which I won't be sharing with you now, but because of them, I never followed though on opening my tik and didn’t end up on this summers Nefesh B’Nefesh flight either, which was one of my many plans...

YES! Yes, I’ve been to the orientation session!”

“Okay, we have Monday, the 18th at 10AM?”

“Um, is there anything, later, like after work.”

“No. We only have 10AM to 4PM.”

“And no Sunday’s either?”

“No. Just Monday through Thursday.”

“Hmm. Okay how about Monday 4PM then.”

“We don’t have that. It’s not available.”


Well the truth is perhaps it was becuase I lowered my expectations so much but it really wasn't all that bad. After a bit-more back and forth I finally scheduled an appointment on Tuesday, October 19th to meet with an Aliyah Shleach and start the process!

I’m making Aliyah!

Monday, October 11, 2004

In 1492...

So one of the perks of working on Wall Street is you get off on Columbus Day. After all, the entire Banking Sector has to honor the bankers that financed the New World Expedition, which made America possible. Speaking of which I read an interesting essay on Columbus by Phyllis Eckelman who argues since times were so bad for Jews (remember a little something called the Spanish Inquisition?)and Jews were once again fighting to survive, they actually had lots to do with discovering America. As Eckelman puts it:

Old Jewish dreams and longings for a land where they could live unmolested, began to reawaken with the excitement of the AGE OF DISCOVERY. These longings had accompanied the Jews on their wanderings ever since they had been driven from their homeland in Biblical times.

Wow. Sounds like Jewish dreams don't change very much at all, do they? I wonder if these Jews were alive today, would they be funding the Aliyah Revolution?

Here's another very exciting excerpt:

Columbus, having failed to convince the Portuguese King, John II, about his dream of finding LAND TO THE WEST, WENT TO SPAIN. There he would have been met with the same type of rejection except for one outstanding and overruling factor: THE JEWISH ELEMENT. Namely a converted Jew, LUIS DE SANTANGEL, finance member of King Ferdinand's Court, who "saw through" Columbus, but realized that because of his invincible single- mindedness, he should be entrusted with the venture to discover LAND TO THE WEST. Rightly or wrongly, he believed Columbus to be Jewish. He proceeded to press his opinions on the Monarchs. THIS MAN "MADE THE DIFFERENCE" IN THEIR DECISION.

Because the royal treasury was without sufficient funds to pay for this expedition, LUIS DE SANTANGEL offered to advance the throne the cost of the voyage out of his own pocket in the amount equivalent to $4,500.00 (U.S. Dollars).

Thus establishing the following propositions:

- The New World was discovered by an expedition TOTALLY financed by Jewish money.

- Money for the first voyage was voluntarily given because the Jews believed in the enterprise.

- Most of the money to finance subsequent exploitations was confiscated by the Spanish Monarchs from Jewish sources... But neither the Jews or the Moslems were permitted to settle in the New World until after 1502.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Point of Pinchas

This is a place holder for "Point of Pinchas" I'm working on a jpg image logo thingy so stay tuned. I'll also add that Pinchas always points UP as in Aliyah, and this blog traces my Aliyah experiance. Tips, (Points), and any help you could offer is appreciated. Please e-mail me!