Thursday, June 29, 2006

Paper: Extremists curse Olmert with Pulsa Denura

I know, I know. I'm late on this. Wanted to post it yesterday but didn't get around to it. Here's a flashback to about a year ago.

Efrat Weiss of YNetNews reports:

Extremists curse Olmert with Pulsa Denura

Right-wing extremists hold mythical Kabbalistic ‘death curse’ against prime minister, exactly one year after identical ritual against then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Efrat Weiss

Exactly one year after carrying out a “Pulsa Denura,” an ancient Kabbalistic death curse, against former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Right-wing extremists held a similar ritual targeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Channel 10 reported Tuesday.

One of the participants related, “The ceremony took place exactly one year after the one for Ariel Sharon. If, God forbid, Olmert continues to hold his position, we will pay a heavy price.”

In the ritual curse against Sharon, some 20 extremists assembled at the old cemetery in Rosh Pina and chanted calls for the then-prime minister’s death. The organizers claimed to have received rabbinical approval to hold the ceremony.

On Sunday a group of Right-wing extremists arrived at the Har Herzl cemetery, and there by the grave of murdered Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, carried out a Pulsa Denura ceremony against Olmert.

According to the organizers, two services were held, 24 hours apart. The first ritual service, held Saturday, was carried out at a different location.

One activist said that Olmert was “wicked." "We should have done the Pulsa Denura half a year ago, but it’s not something you can do every day,” he added.

The source of the Pulsa Denura (from the Aramaic for “bullets of fire”) is in religious Jewish legend, and the curse's powers are attributed to Kabbalists. It is believed to be capable of leading to the cursed figure’s death.

Such ceremonies are forbidden according to Jewish law, which condemns any type of “black magic” as irreligious.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Only In Israel #4: The Artscroll Eretz Yisrael Adaptor Pamphlet

Page 1

It is well known that Artscroll has a virtual monopoly on siddurim used in shuls throughout North America. What is less known (certainly among American Jews) is that that are actually lots of shuls that are not in North America. Several of them are actually located in Eretz Yisrael. And while Artscroll may be the siddur of choice in the good ole US of A it is most certainly not in Israel. The Artscroll siddur is extremely unpopular here for several reasons. It’s overpriced (much more expensive than other siddurim.) It’s printed in Chutz La’Areretz. It’s wrong for Eretz Yisrael. Yep – it’s just not accurate for the teffilos that are said here.

Now I hope this stays this way. Artscroll certainly does not need the Eretz Yisrael market and there are many holy Jews in Eretz Yisrael that make their parnussah printing some fine quality “Eretz Yisrael” siddurim. It should stay that way. But what if you are just addicted to Artscroll? You like having a siddur with an English translation. You like the clear computer font they use.

Well, I found “The Artscroll Eretz Yisrael Adaptor Pamphlet” lying around in a shul in the predominately American Olim neighborhood of Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph. As it clearly states it’s not printed by Artscroll but by privately by someone who wants to help people "acclimate to the different customs of Eretz Yisrael" – because there are lots of differences aside from the well known one that we duchan everyday here.

Click on each image to enlarge. (Page 1 is on top.)

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Only In Israel #3: Class, the Israeli Way

Akiva Werber is the Head of the Jewish Agency's Immigration and Absorption Department's Division for English-speaking Countries. Several years ago I heard him speak at a Tehilla chug (meeting) in Queens. I vividly remember him explain how Israelis always “round of the edges” but still ultimately they “get the job done.” This is something American Olim really have to adjust to. As Americans we are used to things being done professionally. But doing things the “professional way” doesn’t always make the most sense.

Take for example the Israeli Supreme Court Building (which I almost have a view of from my Rechavia Apartment window.) This building has been described as the “most beautiful building in all of Israel.” But to be perfectly honest I don’t see why. To me it looks like just a plain old square building. Yeah, it’s got some cones on top representing truth and justice and all that but compared to any U.S. Government building it is as ordinary as a parking garage.

To make matters worse, if you take the tour you will see that there was actually a contest held to design the building. They were some really incredible submissions from all over the world. But I seem to recall two Israeli brothers won the contest with the current design. And though it can’t hold a torch against structures like the Library of Congress or even the New York Public Library one thing can be said about the Israeli design. It is highly practical.

And thus the mentality of the Israeli is defined. Appearance really isn’t the most important thing. What’s more important is practicality. Do what logically makes the most sense, not what “looks professional.”

This, of course, also applies to Israeli weddings. And so I found myself at a Simcha in a beautiful wedding hall in Bnei Brak. There was even a waterfall with live fish in the hall. The table was set ever so elegantly. I found three forks on the left side of my plate and three knives on the right (all slight variation of one another). There was also another funny shaped fork along with a funny shaped spoon on top of the plate. (I’m not sophisticated enough to know what those were for.) There were two glasses (one for wine) and a nicely folded silk napkin. It was truly exquisite and very classy.

Then there was the Pepsi.

Think about it. Does it make any sense to pour soda into clear glass bottles with wide open necks? Why? So they can sit there and go flat! Plus then they have to cut up lemons for all the diet sodas. And maybe people don’t want lemon in their soda anyway. It makes so much more sense just to put the Pepsi bottles on the table as is. It’s just more practical.

Well so much for class...


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

"Hashem Yerachem. Move to Israel." (Updated Again)

Benji G. was sitting one row away from me on my Aliyah flight. He stepped foot in Eretz Yisrael just seconds before I did. I knew right away he was a very bright guy.

Yesterday someone posted this on the Aliyah section of OnlySimchas. I'm not a fan of posting in OnlySimchas but I make an exeception for the Aliyah section. (By the way I know three separate people that take credit for getting that section added.) I think it's very important to lead the way by example. I think posting your Aliyah on OnlySimchas serves only to encourage others to make Aliyah as well.

Imagine my horror when I noticed tonight that someone seemed to defiled this holy section (yes, I'm being melodramatic but I'm not being sarcastic) by posting what appears to be a Yeridah. Now granted I don't know all the details and it could very well be this couple is making Aliyah, and just for the first step she came here to get her U.S. citizenship.

Still at the very least it doesn't belong in the Aliyah section! Some people might get the wrong idea and think it's a simcha to "make 'Aliyah' to America!"

I think Benji's comment over there summed it up best like this: "Hashem Yerachem. Move to Israel."

My sentiments exactly.
I think that post would more appropriately go here!


Update: After posting this Benji seemed to have deleted his comment. Perhaps he was asked to by the orignal poster. Though myself and another poster posted there.

I posted:
My freind Benji G. is right! "It is preferable to dwell in the deserts of Eretz Yisrael than the palaces of Chutz LaAretz" (Bereshit Rabba 39:8).

"Tali" posted:
"for whoever lives in the Land of Israel may be considered to have a God, but whoever lives outside the Land may be regarded as one who has no God. For it is said in Torah "To give you the Land of Canaan, to be your God"- ketubot 112 a,b dont go saying youve made aliyah when youre living in america, the heart of exile. and take urself off this page so you dont continue embarrassing yourself

To this (and Benji's comment that was still there) "Daniel" posted:
Tali, Pinchas and Benji, please get an ounce of humor. Hedva's naturalization IS a bona fide simcha. In posting it though, our friends at gave us a discreet list of smachos under which this could be classified. The best one that fit was Aliyah in a sort of a humorous way. While I sat there in the courtroom watching her and 92 others becoming citizens, I could not help but be overwhelmed by the emotion of the moment. It made me think about my great-grandparents came to the US, one of the few countries that has offered refuge to so many downtrodden and persecuted people for so long. As one who is proud to serve the people of the United States in embassies around the world, I thank HKBH for giving us a country in which we have always had full rights and have had the freedom to be the proud and openly frum Jews that we are today. If you think about it, maybe that’s why so many Americans who make aliyah never renounce their US citizenship. Being mikayem the mitzvah of yishuv haaretz is indeed a simcha, but don’t detract from the simcha and hodaa to HKBH that Hedva and her friends and family feel about her naturalization.

To this I replied as follows:

Dear Daniel, If it’s a “bona fide simcha” why not post it the category on the left called “Simchas?” Why detract from all the Olim that posted here? Another question. If someone posted a “Movie Theatre Dedication” in the “Torah Dedication” section would you also say “please get an ounce of humor” to those that defended Kavod HaTorah? Such comments stem from an utter lack of appreciation of the sacredness of Eretz Yisrael and the monumental historical importance of the Aliyah Revolution taking place today. In EY this week we lain Parshas Shlach. Think about it.

See you soon in Eretz Yisrael! :)

But why do I even care? It's only after all. I'll tell you why! Because this demonstrates that the Jews in America - the frum Jews in America have reached a level of complacency where they view moving and living in America as a Simcha of at least equal importance to moving and living in Israel.

"yishuv haaretz is indeed a simcha, but don’t detract from the simcha and hodaa to HKBH that Hedva and her friends and family feel about her naturalization."

"I thank HKBH for giving us a country in which we have always had full rights and have had the freedom to be the proud and openly frum Jews that we are today. "

I've quoted this before and I'll quote it here again [bold mine]:

The classic work on Jewish history, Seder HaDorot, by R' Yechiel Halperin, records the following observation in his entry for the year 5380 (1620):

The author of the commentary Sefer Meirat Eynayim (SMA) on the Shulchan Aruch explained why the Jewish community of Worms suffered far more persecution, pogroms and evil decrees than other congregations. That kehillah was founded by Jewish exiles who made their way to Germany following the Destruction of the First Temple. After seventy years of exile, many Jews returned from Babylon to Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem, but none returned from Worms. The community in Jerusalem wrote to the kehillah in Worms and urged them to join their new settlement in Jerusalem... but the complacent Jews of Worms dismissed this invitation out of hand. Instead, they responded, ‘You stay where you are in the great Jerusalem, and we will continue to stay where we are in our little Jerusalem!' This arrogant response was due to the prosperity and prestige the Jews of Worms enjoyed in the eyes of the local gentiles and their princes.

The success of Worms was its undoing! The prosperity of the Jew in exile is nothing more than a Divine test to see whether it will cause the Jew to forget his homeland and his heritage. Worms and the Rhineland failed and suffered bitterly. In our own times, the vast majority of the German kehillah failed, because, as Meshech Chochmah (Bechukotai) observes, ‘They began to call Berlin, Jerusalem!' (The Artscroll Kinos pp 272-273)


Update 2: So Hedva's husband posted the following (which was actually only up for a day - see below.)

Posted By Yosi ###### (6/15/2006)
Al naharos Bavel, sham yashavnu... As Hedva's husband, I would like to articulate our feelings about America: The American Jewish population of ~5.5 million has not grown since 1960!!!! Intermarriage rates among the largest segments of the American Jewish community are at 50%+.

America has probably served to stifle the growth of the Jewish people over the past 45 years as much at Hitler did between 1938 and 1945. America is a big, safe, stupid, comfy gas chamber.

Americans work longer hours, have greater rates of clinical depression and obesity, spend more, and consume more than any other industrialized country. It is a saccharine-sweet consumerist dystopia.

Our families have wandered through the empires of Greece, Persia, Rome, Medieval Europe, the Ottomans, and the Soviets. They are all in ruins,on the trash heap of history. Their legacy languishes in museums.

America is no different. If Yisroel is not redeemed, America will be a dissolved empire and we will have rebuilt a Torah society in our next host county.

Target, Costco, and Disney are nice, but ephemeral. We are just passing through.

And with that - the next day the post was in fact moved out of the Aliyah section to the "Simcha" section as suggested. All these other posts were deleted and thus ends this saga.

And now for that poster that posted an "Aliyah" to Nevada...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Only In Israel #2: Holy Vandals

On a typical NYC subway car you can find loads of graffiti whether is from high school students that want everyone to know they “were here,” or from college students posting political messages. (Think Lisa Simpson’s “U.S. Out Of EVERYWHERE!” sticker.)

Israel too is not immune from this phenomenon. What is different, of course, is the nature of the messages that are being portrayed. For example a few weeks ago I noticed someone posted these stickers all over the benches in the GRA Shul in Jerusalem’s Shaarie Chessed neighborhood. It’s a quote from Gemarah Berachos 17A.

Here’s what the sticker says:

“It was said of R. Yochanan ben Zakkai that no man ever greeted him first, not even the non-Jew in the marketplace.” And what about you?

Some one penned in a response on one of the stickers “we too want to!”

This week I spotted these stickers all over the place even on street lampposts!

The truth is I haven’t found people not saying “good shabbos” to one another to be such a big problem in Eretz Yisrael… though these stickers might serve better in a certain borough in New York.

Still it’s pretty incredible that even the vandalism is holy here!


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Peeling Potatoes The Easy Way

(If your firewall pulls out embed tags just click here to watch it.)

I'm not sure why I'm posting this on my blog but I found it brilliant. I always noticed how the peels come off potatoes very easily when they are cooked but that they fall apart so there's no easy way to get them off in one shot. But if you use ice water like the video show the peel won't fall apart and still comes off easily. Pretty neat.

Now the bad news is every potato kugel recipe I've seen calls for using raw potatoes so this won't help... Unless there's a way to just cook the potato bit so the very outside gets soft to get the peel off but the inside remains raw?

I think I have some experimenting to do before next Pesach....

Hat Tip: Spot ;)

Monday, June 05, 2006

New "Only In Israel!" Section

So my father reminded me how my grandmother (may she have a refuah shelama) used to write to him very frequently. I remember often getting those light blue airmail-envelope-and-letter-in-one combos. On the back she often wrote a small piece entitled. "Only in Israel." A perfect example is that old post of mine about a taxi driver giving me a free lift to the kotel just as a chesed.

So in her footsteps I’m starting a new section on this blog called "Only in Israel!"

Let’s begin:

Only In Israel! #1: Yes Officer, You Can Daven Here

So I’m on my way to shul to daven Mincha - nothing unsual about that. But to get to the shul I have to cross one major intersection. The crosswalks on this intersection are actually indented – giving cars a chance to make the turn and then to stop. Well it’s honestly a bit of a pain – and the light was green anyway so I went to cross from the corner just a bit outside the crosswalk.

Suddenly I hear someone calling me.

"Excuse me, sir! Excuse me, sir, please stop!"

I looked up. Right there in front of me was standing a police officer in his light blue uniform and yellow vest. Oh no! "He’s not going to give me a ticket!" I thought to myself. "I was only a few feet out of the crosswalk. Give me a break!"

"Yes, officer?" I asked.

"Do you know where there is a shul around here so I could daven Mincha?"

"Ohhhh!" Whew! "Yeah, there’s a shul right here."

And so we went there together.


Thursday, June 01, 2006

Rav Aaron Levine zt"l on Shavous/Naso

Taken from Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Dor Revi'i, HaGoan R' Aaron Levine zt"l
Torah Insights on the Weekly Parsha by Efraim Levine:

Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying so shall you bless the Children of Yisroel, Say to them... (Bamidbar 6:23).

The commentators are perplexed as to the nature of birchas kohanim. Simply it appears that the kohanim have an independent power to bless the Jewish people. However, we know that this cannot be, because only Hashem is the source of all blessing. Thus it must be that the kohanim only act as Hashem’s agents in channeling Hashem’s blessing to the Jewish people. We may ask; if ultimately the blessing comes from Hashem, why do we need the Kohanim? Let Hashem bless us directly?

It is noteworthy that the kohanim bless the Jewish people with raised hands. What is the significance of blessing in this manner?

The only other place in the Torah where we find an interaction between two individuals that involves the raising of the hands is rabbinical ordination. Moshe was commanded by Hashem to ordain Yehoshua by placing his hand upon him. Let us suggest that because rabbinical ordination and birchas kohanim are the only two instances where hands are used then there must be a strong relationship between the two.

With regard to rabbinical ordination the commentators explain that the hands of the teacher are symbolic of the tradition that he has received from his teacher, etc… who in turn received from Moshe and who in turn received from Hashem at Mount Sinai. The teacher places his hand on the head of the student to symbolize the continuation of this tradition. Rabbinical ordination thus represents the continuation of the oral Torah.

There are two types of blessings. First there is what we may call a new blessing. This is when an individual due to his merits is blessed with something new. There is also what we may call an old blessing. This is when a person is found worthy to receive a gift that was originally given to another. If this individual is found worthy, the blessing is passed down to him. In the Torah we find many instances where Hashem promised to bless us if we do His Will. These blessings refer to something new. However, birchas kohanim represents the passing down of the old gifts that have been bestowed on our ancestors. Birchas kohanim is done is the form of rabbinical ordination where the kohanim who represent the guardians of our past ancestral blessings channel the continuation of these collective blessings to the current generation.

At the conclusion of birchas kohanim the posuk says that the kohanim shall place the name of Hashem on the Jewish people and I will bless them. The commentators are troubled as to the meaning of this posuk following the birchas kohanim. Perhaps we may interpret this to mean that in addition to the continuation of our ancestral blessing Hashem will also grant new blessing.

It is noteworthy that birchas kohanim is always read the week after Shavuos. We may now understand the significance of this. The theme of birchas kohanim is strongly related to our acceptance of the Torah on Mount Sinai. Just as we perpetuate the event of Mount Sinai through rabbinical ordination, likewise we perpetuate the collective blessing that Hashem has bestowed on our ancestors through birchas kohanim.

It is noteworthy that birchas kohanim is recited in Eretz Yisroel every day whereas out side of Eretz Yisroel it is only recited on Yom Tov. The commentators are perplexed as why this is so. There have even been unsuccessful attempts to enact the recital of birchas kohanim on a daily basis outside Eretz Yisroel. Why do we not recite birchas kohanim every day outside of Eretz Yisroel?

The central theme of birchas kohanim is the continuation of our ancestral blessing. The major thrust of these blessings that Hashem gave our ancestors was in connection with Eretz Yisroel. Thus it is only appropriate that we designate the daily recital of birchas kohanim only in Eretz Yisroel and not chutz la’aretz.