Friday, December 26, 2008

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Chanucha Special Fun and Stories

Eliyahu ben Rosa sent me this and may this Shabbos Song welcome a speedy healing for him:

Guest Drasha

Choose Light or Choose Darkness

By Simon Jacobson

A case study in contrast.

Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg. Bernard L. Madoff.

Gavriel and Rivka brought light into people’s lives, and created a global Kiddush Hashem (sanctifying G-d’s name) when they were brutally butchered by agents of darkness simply for being Jewish. They personified the Jewish virtues of charity and kindness, illuminating everyone they could reach. In the wake of their murders, which touched a deep chord, a wave of good deeds reverberated around the world.

Bernard Madoff brought darkness into people’s lives, and created a global Chilul Hashem (desecrating G-d’s name) when he massacred the financial security – and trust – of many individuals and organizations, killing in one fell swoop various charities and damaging many others, and destroying the trust in the future of all investments. He personifies greed, selfishness and self-indulgence. In the wake of his contemptible behavior, in which he single handedly eroded the confidence necessary to keep markets alive, people are left stunned and distraught. We are wondering how far this will unravel, how many others will be implicated, and above all, what will be the resulting consequences – how will this affect the future of the entire nature of investments, hedge funds and trust in money managers?

We could not have found a starker example epitomizing the two diametric extremes on the spectrum of human behavior: the heights of ultimate nobility and self-sacrifice in Mumbai, being killed in the service of others; the depths of ignobility and self-interest in New York, hurting others in the service of oneself, cheating his own people, friends and colleagues, exploiting the trust of holocaust survivors and confidantes.

What makes some people choose a life of serving others, and others a self-serving life? Exactly that: choice. We each have the power to choose which way to be.

And make no mistake about it: Each of us must choose between these two paths every moment of our lives. Either we will serve others or we will serve ourselves.

Not to minimize Madoff’s crimes, or to suggest that every self-serving person will become a Madoff, but his behavior is a symptom, not a cause, of social forces that orbit around selfish, material gain. And, whenever you are self-absorbed, thinking about yourself exclusively – “me and nothing else” – you are one step away from pulling off a scheme like Madoff did. Perhaps not on the scale of $50 billion – not everyone has that opportunity – but who’s counting?

And indeed, this choice has become only more amplified in our modern times. The comforts and freedoms of prosperity have allowed for a climate of self-indulgence. When Bernie Madoff’s grandparents were running for their lives together with the grandparents of those he cheated, there wasn’t much time to develop schemes, buy yachts, jet-set and run from Park Avenue to the south of France to the Hamptons to Palm Beach chasing a dollar and spending two. There were greedy people then too, those with power and wealth abusing the rest of the population, but for Jews at least, fighting for their lives, retirement accounts and hedge funds were the last thing they were concerned with. They gave their lives so that their children would grow up good Jews, virtuous individuals, who would carry on the baton passed on from generation to generation beginning with Abraham – to transform human society, to fight for social justice, to help the poor and the oppressed and to respect every person’s innate human dignity.

How did we go off course? And what transpired to create a climate that breeds a Bernie Madoff, and who knows how many more like him? One caught, but how many got away?

Should we feel bad for the funds and fund managers who trusted Madoff with other people’s money? Should we empathize with the wealthy individuals who trusted him with their life fortunes? Should we be saddened by the fact that some charities today invest altogether, instead of giving the money to the needy? Regardless of Madoff’s appalling crimes, are his investors innocent? After all, when they were making money on other people’s backs, they didn’t complain.

If materialism rules your life, than you are bound by its laws. And its cardinal law is this: Born by the almighty dollar; die by the almighty dollar. If money is the source of your power and security, than money will also be your source of destruction and disgrace. Because after all, money is transient, and anything transient can never provide the firm foundation of security.

How much money was made “legally” by money managers – who are protected by the fine-print disclaimers – with the same driving greed? How many charged percentages just to pass on their investors money to Madoff’s accounts?

And this scandal just refocuses attention to our current economic meltdown and global recession. What role did greed and personal gain play in creating today’s overall financial crisis? Selfish interests and short-term gains at the expense of the masses have been identified as the primary culprit. Who will pay for this selfishness? The perpetrators or the victims? A government bailout is nothing more than the burden of a few individuals being carried by American taxpayers. But what other choice do we now have?

Obscene bonuses at financial firms dominated December headlines in the last few years. Now, this December, we know that these actual cash bonuses were paid on the backs of false and illusory returns. The billions of dollars in bonuses have been exposed as essentially a rip-off of the masses who invested that money and saw nothing in return. Do these managers have to return the money they essentially stole from the investors?

Mr. Madoff did disgraceful things, but he is part and parcel, and a product of a climate of greed, where self-interest drives the markets, not their inherent value. And now, the chickens have come home to roost, and we are all left reeling.

But, using the terms of the financial sectors, every scandal has a potential to serve as a “market correction.” Firstly, by exposing the abuses of the system we recognize its inherent flaws. Secondly, it allows us to recognize how far we have fallen and wandered away from our calling, and gives us the opportunity to realign ourselves and our priorities.

This is the only redeeming factor in today’s economic meltdown: It has revealed how greed kills. First others; than yourself. How the love of money and power has vanquished the power of love. How beyond all our technological advances we are no supermen. Far from it. Humans are humans and left to their own devices will be controlled by their selfishness and consumed by their greed, to the point that they will, without hesitation nor compunction, hurt the innocent and even their own families.

And right in middle of the great global economic crisis – rooted in human greed – two servants of society (among many other innocent souls) are massacred in Mumbai – shining a glaring light, for a moment at least, demonstrating that we all have a choice: Here are the Holtzberg’s who dedicated their lives not their own needs and bank accounts, but to serve others.

If ever there were a spotlight on our inadequacies, here we have it. Why Gabi and Rivka had to suffer, we will never know. But in their deaths, as in their lives, they have taught us a critical lesson. The least we can do to honor them is to learn from them. Maybe the Holtzberg’s will give Mr. Madoff something to think about in prison.

What is their lesson?

The ultimate antidote to the greed and corruption inherent in self-indulgence is to become other-driven, instead of self-driven.

I once heard a Chassid explain why Jews shine brightly when they are spread around the world and stand alone amongst their neighbors. Yet, when they live together and build self-contained, insulated ghettos, they become petty, divisive and stoop to disgraceful behavior. He explained: It’s like manure. Gathered in one location it gives off an unbearable stench. Only when you spread it out in the fields does it fertilize the ground and make things grow…

Jews are natural leaders. A light unto nations. From the time of Abraham they have the quality of challenging the status quo and bringing positive change to their environments. When they become self-contained, focused on self-interest, instead of serving others, they can deteriorate, and ultimately turn on each other. Powerful people who do not serve society, left on their own, can and will turn into appalling creatures, as we have now witnessed with Mr. Madoff.

Our only immunity to such behavior is to become other-driven, instead of self-driven.

What can this teach us about the future of our economy?

We are at a crossroads. We now have seen capitalism at its worst, where greed has dominated and eliminated the fair play – which is held together by intense, objective regulation – necessary for a free market system to survive.

As the indulgences of capitalism are bringing down the house, and trust has been shattered, I would like to believe that we now stand at the rare threshold of a new paradigm shift: When the house burns down will we build the same house in its place, or will we be wise, learn from the past and build a new type of economy, one which fundamentally balances and integrates personal gain and virtue.

Listening to most people talk today, you hear the weak voice of a victim, saying that this turndown will soon be over, the markets will jump back into place – isn’t that what we have been taught: Wall Street always prevails over the long term; value always rises – and we’ll go on as if nothing happened.

Or will we learn from our experiences and actually create a new climate of true trust, based on giving and charity, and absolute zero tolerance for greed. Will we insist on new economic leaders, who do not make choices based on rewarding themselves?

Will we learn? Will we ever learn?

I guess some people will learn their lessons. Some who have been burned will choose to move away from and insulate themselves from Wall Street’s lions den, and just life an austere life, giving up hope that selfish people will ever change.

But what we want to see is nothing less than an economic revolution: Not just an awakening about the vices of money and materialism left untamed, that money can destroy, but by a new way of looking at our financial systems, of recognizing that money is a means to a higher end.

Over a century ago, Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world of his time and the great philanthropist, wrote in a memo:

Man does not live by bread alone. I have known millionaires starving for lack of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else. Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself. Exalted beyond this, as it sometimes is, it remains Caliban still and still plays the beast. My aspirations take a higher flight. Mine be it to have contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the spirit, to all that tends to bring into the lives of the toilers of Pittsburgh sweetness and light. I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth.”

Carnegie later wrote an essay called “The Gospel of Wealth,” which strongly influenced the philanthropic philosophy of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet (the two wealthiest men in our times), who collectively are giving away over 50 billion dollars. Buffet alone made a noble pledge two years ago of over $37 billion at the time (what it amounts to today I do not know) – an unprecedented act of charity and one that will go down in history (see Givers and Takers).

In his essay, Carnegie lays out his approach to countering the greed inherent to wealth and selfish gain that is the incentive of capitalism:

There remains, then, only one mode of using great fortunes; but in this we have the true antidote for the temporary unequal distribution of wealth, the reconciliation of the rich and the poor—a reign of harmony—another ideal, differing, indeed, from that of the Communist in requiring only the further evolution of existing conditions, not the total overthrow of our civilization. It is founded upon the present most intense individualism, and the race is projected to put it in practice by degree whenever it pleases. Under its sway we shall have an ideal state, in which the surplus wealth of the few will become, in the best sense the property of the many, because administered for the common good, and this wealth, passing through the hands of the few, can be made a much more potent force for the elevation of our race than if it had been distributed in small sums to the people themselves…

“This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of Wealth: First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer, and strictly bound as a matter of duty to administer in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community—the man of wealth thus becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer brethren, bringing to their service his superior wisdom, experience and ability to administer, doing for them better than they would or could do for themselves.”

I submit, that with today’s global economic meltdown, we actually stand at the threshold of a new economic paradigm. And based in part on Carnegie’s formula we can create a blueprint how to implement this new paradigm.

In good economic times, with gains blinding us all, it would be quite difficult to suggest any new changes. But with the current breakdown, an opportunity opens up.

As we witness the carnage left by the abuse of money and self-interest, we are faced with three options: One option would be to just escape from this dirty world of finance. Another would be to wait it out and then go back tight into the fray right where we left off, until the next scandal breaks.

However there is a third option: To entirely remake our financial systems and introduce a new economy of the future; the final frontier of the history of money and wealth: To see the acquisition of wealth as a means for giving and fuel for spiritual growth.

Wealth, in short, will finally realize its true value: soul energy, elevating and transforming all of existence. One can say that the futuristic economy will be an elegant synthesis of a free economy choosing to behave in some way like a socialist one, with the key distinction being, that the collective sharing will come from within, self initiated rather than imposed. Recognizing the true nature of wealth will drive men to create systems that will honor and express the inner purpose of our wealth: creating a home for G-d. We will begin to see the acquisition of wealth as a means for spiritual growth, for understanding ourselves and G-d, for filling the world with Divine knowledge as the waters cover the sea (see Money and Spirituality).

Finance and economy is a place where self-interest can meet selflessness – but only when the driving engine is a higher cause. We are not asked to annihilate our individuality and unique personality. We are asked to direct it.

In this life we are always presented with two choices: either we will be driven by self-interest or by serving others.

The Holtzberg’s chose the path of others, and paid the price. Mr. Madoff chose the path of self, and also ultimately paid the price, but in his case, so did many others.

The greatest tribute to the Holtzberg’s would be to use their illuminating example of light to emulate their ways. To serve as leaders whose primary drive and focus is: Serving others. Illuminating and warming the world around them, and not just themselves.

The challenge is greatest when it comes to wealth: Will it feed our selfishness or will we see it for the gift it was meant to be: to help others and build a world of higher consciousness.

Will we learn our lessons from the current financial meltdown or will we hold on to old habits and routines?

As we enter Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, which will you choose: darkness or light?

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A Miracle in Mumbai

One of the Yeshiva boys was in the bathroom at the time of the attack by the terrorist. He immediately climbed out the window on a ledge and by hoping from air conditioner to air conditioner worked his way down to the street. There a mob of angry Indians were gathered ready to lynch him as a terrorist until he convinced them that he was a Jew who managed to escape alive.

I am sure that a few miracles occurred in Sderot and the Negev with the latest barrage of dozens upon dozens of Kassams.

Pasha Mekeitz

Next week I will expand on what I have written here as the meteoric rise of Yosef deserves more attention than I have given and the test of the brothers. However, I have a virus for the last week plus and it has knocked me for a loop. Therefore please accept the minimal amount that I wrote now and I will repeat and add to it next week no vows (ble Neder in Hebrew).

The Talmud Tractate Berachos has about 5 or 6 Amudim (Folio Pages) on dreams and interpretations. Two things are very important to remember of dreams. The first is that an early morning pre-wake up dream is important and if the dream repeats it is going to happen definitely and relatively soon. The second is that dreams go according to the interpretation. The Midrash brings down a story: A woman came to Rabbi Eliezer and told him, “I had a dream where the loft of my house split open.” He said, “Go in peace you are going to have a son.” The next year the woman came back to Rabbi Eliezer and said, “I had a dream where the loft of my house split open.” He said, “Go in peace you are going to have a son.” The third year Rabbi Eliezer was not in the Beis Medrash and one of the older students asked if he could help her to which she replied, “I had a dream where the loft of my house split open.” He retorted, “You shall bury your husband.” Rabbi Eliezer when he heard that was furious and told the Talmid that “You have just buried a good man as dreams go according to the interpretation.”

41:1 And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.

Rabbi Pinchas Winston Shlita wrote a few years ago: Deadlines make the world go around… on time. They take the “I’ve got all the time in the world to deal with this” aspect out of a job. They act as reference points along the continuum of time that allows us to gauge ourselves, to figure out in advance just how much we need to accomplish and by when, if we are to meet our goals while it is still possible to do so. And they are not only a human thing, but a G-d thing as well, even

though He DOES have all the time in the world. But then again, His deadlines are for us. The deadlines He sets are like those an employer sets for his employees, to make sure his workers get their work done on time according to the boss's timetable. And, like any boss, sometimes G-d tells us what those deadlines are, while other times He does not; we just find out about them by all the activity that seems to materialize around us, especially when it things happen all of a sudden. Thus, one day Yosef is a prison in a pit somewhere in Egypt with little hope of being released, and then the very next day he is being groomed to stand before the king of Egypt, and the day after that he was already second-in-command over all of Egypt. And all because Pharaoh’s wine steward happened to be in the same jail at the same time as Yosef, and because he happened to have a disturbing dream, and happened to want an interpreter of that dream, and just happened to turn to Yosef who happened to be able to interpret dreams. Who knows how many other mysterious details were involved in bringing Yosef from rags to riches, and how far back in time they go? We could probably spend the rest of this Parsha sheet just tracing back all the causes and the effects that resulted in what appears to us, and probably also to the people in his time, to have been his mercurial rise to greatness. And if we did trace back, then we would probably gain a better appreciation of

how, even if we don’t know G-d’s deadlines in history, they actively shape the course of the events of our lives and of world history in general. In other words, things are always in motion even if we are not. A “chance meeting” is only in our eyes because we didn’t pay attention to all the events that led to it along the

way. However, not knowing what they would eventually lead to, we didn’t consider them important at the time. How many times does a problem in the present find its root in something that happened or existed long ago, something that we thought was insignificant at the time, and even buried back then?

In the background somewhere in our own time is the deadline for the Moshiach to come. We don’t really know where or when but it is soon. Rabbi Winston’s work can be found on the Torah Organization Achieves – this Parsha the Rabbi sent directly to me.

2 And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, well-favoured and fat-fleshed; and they fed in the reed-grass. …

43:1 And the famine was sore in the land. 2 And it came to pass, when they had eaten up the corn which they had brought out of Egypt, that their father said unto them: 'Go again, buy us a little food.'

At this point Yehuda has a strategy: Judah had said to them, “Wait for the old man until there is no more bread left in the house.” - [from Tanchuma Mikeitz 8, Gen. Rabbah 91:6] when they finished.. [Onkelos renders:] כַּד שֵׁצִיאוּ, when they stopped. (The one who renders: כַּד סַפִּיקוּ is in error. “When the camels had finished drinking” (Gen. 24:22) is rendered: כַּד סַפִּיקוּ, which means “when they had drunk their fill,” [for] that was the end of their drinking. This instance of “when they had finished eating,” however, means “when the food was depleted,” and we render: כַּד שֵׁצִיאוּ

3 And Judah spoke unto him, saying: 'The man did earnestly forewarn us, saying: Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.

Yehuda knows that Yacov has no choice but to let the brothers return with Benyamin as Yacov will not let everybody including Benyamin starve to death because of his own selfish desire to harbor Benyamin. Rashi writes: Heb. הָעֵד הֵעִד, an expression of warning, since a warning is usually given in the presence of witnesses (עֵדִים) . Similarly,” I warned (הַעִדֹתִי) your forefathers” (Jer. 11:7);“Go down, warn (הָעֵד) the people” (Exod. 19:21). ‘You shall not see my face if your brother is not with you.’. Heb. בִּלְתִּי, lit., without. You shall not see me without your brother [being] with you. Onkelos, however, renders: except when your brother is with you. He explained the verse according to its context, but he was not precise in translating it in accordance with the language of the verse.

4 If thou wilt send our brother with us, we will go down and buy thee food; 5 but if thou wilt not send him, we will not go down, for the man said unto us: Ye shall not see my face, except your brother be with you.'

Neither they nor Yisrael know that this is a test by Yosef. Yisrael and especially Benyamin have no idea about Yosef being sold into slavery.

6 And Israel said: 'Wherefore dealt ye so ill with me, as to tell the man whether ye had yet a brother?' 7 And they said: 'The man asked straitly concerning ourselves, and concerning our kindred, saying: Is your father yet alive? have ye another brother? and we told him according to the tenor of these words; could we in any wise know that he would say: Bring your brother down?'

Can’t you guys ever keep a secret and does every Goy have to know all our business? In other lands, including the USA, cameras and reporters are not into every pot of Chutney on the stove. Do you have to wash through groups like “BETZELIM” all our dirty laundry in public and even made up laundry?

8 And Judah said unto Israel his father: 'Send the lad with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live, and not die, both we, and thou, and also our little ones. 9 I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him; if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever. 10 For except we had lingered, surely we had now returned a second time.' … 27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said: 'Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spoke?

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach on this Pasuk in Hebrew with music: The question is rhetorical as follows: If you thought twice why did you sell Yosef seeing how much your father loved him? He didn’t die from losing his favorite Yosef so why should he die if Benyamin is not there? Is he yet alive?' This is a very pointed Mussar question with a few knives in it. It was meant for the first ten brothers but not Benyamin.

28 And they said: 'Thy servant our father is well, he is yet alive.' And they bowed the head, and made obeisance. 29 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw Benjamin his brother, his mother's son, and said: 'Is this your youngest brother of whom ye spoke unto me?' And he said: 'God be gracious unto thee, my son.' 30 And Joseph made haste; for his heart yearned toward his brother; and he sought where to weep; and he entered into his chamber, and wept there. 31 And he washed his face, and came out; and he refrained himself, and said: 'Set on bread.' 32 And they set on for him by himself, and for them by themselves, and for the Egyptians, that did eat with him, by themselves; because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews; for that is an abomination unto the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth; and the men marvelled one with another. 34 And portions were taken unto them from before him; but Benjamin's portion was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him.

The test and trick of Yosef:

44:1 And he commanded the steward of his house, saying: 'Fill the men's sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put every man's money in his sack's mouth. 2 And put my goblet, the silver goblet, in the sack's mouth of the youngest, and his corn money.' And he did according to the word that Joseph had spoken. 3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away, they and their asses. 4 And when they were gone out of the city, and were not yet far off, Joseph said unto his steward: 'Up, follow after the men; and when thou dost overtake them, say unto them: Wherefore have ye rewarded evil for good? 5 Is not this it in which my lord drinketh, and whereby he indeed divines? ye have done evil in so doing.' 6 And he overtook them, and he spoke unto them these words. 7 And they said unto him: 'Wherefore speaks my lord such words as these? Far be it from thy servants that they should do such a thing. 8 Behold, the money, which we found in our sacks' mouths, we brought back unto thee out of the land of Canaan; how then should we steal out of thy lord's house silver or gold? 9 With whomsoever of thy servants it be found, let him die, and we also will be my lord's bondmen.' 10 And he said: 'Now also let it be according unto your words: he with whom it is found shall be my bondman; and ye shall be blameless.' 11 Then they hastened, and took down every man his sack to the ground, and opened every man his sack. 12 And he searched, beginning at the eldest, and leaving off at the youngest; and the goblet was found in Benjamin's sack. 13 And they rent their clothes, and laded every man his ass, and returned to the city. 14 And Judah and his brethren came to Joseph's house, and he was yet there; and they fell before him on the ground. 15 And Joseph said unto them: 'What deed is this that ye have done? know ye not that such a man as I will indeed divine?' 16 And Judah said: 'What shall we say unto my lord? what shall we speak? or how shall we clear ourselves? God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants; behold, we are my lord's bondmen, both we, and he also in whose hand the cup is found.' 17 And he said: 'Far be it from me that I should do so; the man in whose hand the goblet is found, he shall be my bondman; but as for you, get you up in peace unto your father.'

5767: Rachel died for taking the teraphim. However, Benyamin did nothing. Yehuda suspected this non-Yisraeli this ruler by the name of Zaphenath-paneah as wanting to homosexually abuse Benyamin as he had the beauty of his mother and was very boyish looking. Yehuda knew one thing that this was not “Meda kneged meda” (measure for measure).

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Chanucha deserves a song such as: If I forget Yerushalayim may my right hand forget its cunning:

How to make this relationship thing work by Rabbi Yacov Solomon

God knows a lot about us, even more than Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura and Dr. Ruth combined. And one of the first things He did after creating Man was to put him in a relationship. "It's not good for Man to be alone."

And that's when the fun began. Ever since, we've been trying to figure it out. How does this relationship thing work? Sure, we know all about the benefits, but it sure would be nice to have a smoother ride.

  • How do I build a relationship on strong footing and make sure it keeps growing?
  • How do I avoid some of the pain and distress that inevitably comes?
  • What rules can I follow to make my marriage work?
  • Why must it always be so complicated?

I suppose thousands of "experts" and amateurs alike have tried to answer questions like these throughout the millennia. To the best of my knowledge nobody seems to have gotten it right yet. So, I don't have much to lose. Why not give it whirl?

So, based on my 30 or so years as a therapist and a few more years of marriage, here then is my "short list" of relationship essentials.

But first a few disclaimers:

  • I do not include trust, respect, and love on my list. Without these basics, a relationship is not even getting to first base.
  • What follows is not an all-inclusive menu. But, then again, relationships are far more complex than fine cuisine. And life is a lot more expensive than a fancy restaurant.
  • I do not claim to live as the perfect example of what I describe here. Just ask my wife.

1. Mutual Goals:

She might be the most generous, most charismatic, most intelligent, and most attractive person in the Universe. But if you want to raise a large family, live in Darfur, and utilize hypnotherapy to change the world, and she wants to contemplate geomorphology and live in a cabin in Vermont, it's not going to work very well.

Fortunately, when our life goals are so diametrically polarized we usually recognize the disparity. But more often, we enter a relationship without formulating any goals at all. We mistake commonality for mutuality and find out too late that we view life very differently. Sharing a passion for sushi or zydeco music is a rather paltry foundation for a marriage. Yet it happens every day.

You may not be 100% certain about your objectives in life. That's okay. But you do need to know enough about them to see if your relationship mate is on the same page...or at least the same chapter. Without goals or objectives, your relationship will lack a bearing and a direction and over time, will stagnate.

2. Appreciation:

Everyone wants to be appreciated. But great relationships take this concept much further.

Each of you contributes different qualities to the relationship. These qualities are rarely balanced. While one may give the bulk of the financial support, the other may carry the social and emotional responsibility. True appreciation means that you really value what the other one brings to the table and are grateful for every contribution.

And those involved in relationships that are uniquely special, do exactly that. They see and understand the characteristics that make their partner special. They convey that feeling in a sincere and loving way. And they never lose sight of what makes them exceptional.

3. Reaching out and Taking in:

Giving and taking are the ways in which our needs get satisfied. And in every good relationship, balance of these concepts is essential. But that doesn't mean that each of us must give 50% and take 50%. Some of us are heavily wired to give, while others are programmed to receive (mostly).

Real balance is achieved when you understand how it works in each unique relationship. You may be very generous with your money, but less so with your time. You may be very needy of compliments and affirmation but material gifts and possessions are meaningless to you. So one party may end up doing 70% of the giving, but the balance can still be perfect.

The key is: know yourself and know the other party in the relationship. When you know what you need most and what you are capable of giving, the delivery system works. The better you know yourselves and each other, the better you'll both be able to get what you need and give what you should.

4. Communication:

This is probably the most over-used and least understood concept in the world. Simply, communicating is the activity of conveying information. But in the context of creating a fabulous relationship, it is much more than that. It is the means by which feelings and emotions are transmitted and processed.

Naturally, words are the building blocks of good communication. But much of how we feel and what we need is conveyed through body language, mood, and expression. When a relationship is in trouble, the parties often complain that they cannot be expected to "read minds." But being able to read your partner's mind really well is often a telltale sign that a special closeness exists and that the communication is of a very high level.

Mind reading should never be an expectation, but it can be an exhilaration. Couples who have attained an exceptional level of togetherness often report a unique ability to "know" exactly what their spouse feels and thinks and desires at any given time. Of course, this requires a dedication and a commitment to being totally in tune with one another. And it does take some serious time to develop.

And being a good communicator does not mean that you feel free to "bare your soul" and "let it all hang out." That's like saying that freedom means being able to do whatever you want. That's life in today's warped blogosphere. True freedom is the ability to intelligently evaluate your choices before acting. And communicating well involves an assessment of what to say and when and how to say it -- and also, when to say absolutely nothing at all.

5. Healing with Forgiveness:

Life is short...and complicated...and precious. If you allow your sensitivities to dominate, you will forever be depressed and resentful. You may also find yourself pretty lonely. Nobody wants to bond with people who are stuck in the victim role all the time.

A great relationship does not get bogged down by life's miscues; it moves on. People are not perfect; they are far from it. We all make mistakes, all the time. We say the wrong things, we are impatient and callous, we are selfish and demanding, and on top of all that we always think we are right. But children hold grudges; mature adults allow for imperfection and forgive. They see the big picture and weigh the indiscretions with appropriate measure.

And your ability to admit when you are wrong goes a long way in helping the forgiving process to develop and to endure. It is so difficult to utter those three magical words, "I was wrong," that I often recommend that people should stand in the front of the mirror and repeat the phrase 20 or 30 times a day -- just to get more comfortable with it. (You can start with five.)

Anticipating the oncoming red flags is a great way to avoid the need for forgiveness. If you know that your partner just can't stand having to wait for you, making that extra effort to be on time becomes essential. If clutter drives her up the wall, make it your business to be tidier - even though neatness may be totally unimportant to you.


Like every great M.A.R.C.H, the key is synchronization. When everybody stays in line, keeps focus, and plays their music, the result is a beautiful parade.

Let the band play! Taken from Aish HaTorah News Letter Nov. 23rd:

Ben Carter and the Black Hebrew Cult

In the 1960’s just about the time I started to become religious, I heard of a few groups of Black Hebrews. They arose originally from church groups in Chicago. IL and Harlem, NY. They are not to be confused with the Ethiopians, Lemo & Ashanti Tribes, Berbers and legitimate Black Converts. This group began to follow the Mitzvos by themselves and have refused to convert. Up until the early 1970’s members of the group were coming to Israel from the States and they would burn their US Passports so that they could not be deported. Eventually, Israel blocked new members from coming. Tsila sent me this film on the group: we see that these people have given up Xtianity and have become except for their dress and polygamy into Israeli Society but upon searching it is not so for the Black Israelites of NYC who as you can see talk about Luke and Yeshu: For more info:

The sources from Tsila and myself for more info:

I thought this week just to relax let you see some cute little Chanucha Poems and u-tube songs and just plain enjoy.

Shlomo HaMelech wrote that there is a time for everything under the sun and I think now is a time for partying and fun.

‘Twas the Night Before Chanukah – the traditional version mailed from Joey

'Twas the night before Chanukah, Boichecks and Maidels,

Not a sound could be heard, not even the draidels.

The Menorah was set by the chimney alight,

In the kitchen, the Bubbie was choppin' a bite.

Salami, pastrami, a glassele tay,

And Zoyereh pickles with bagels oyvay!

Gesundt and geshmack the kinderlach felt,

While dreaming of taigelach and Chanukah Gelt.

The alarm clock was sitting, a klappen and ticken,

and Bubbie was carving a shtikele chicken.

A tummel arose like a thousand Beruches,

Santa had fallen and broken his ____.

I put on my slippers ­ains, zvei, drei,

While Bubbie was enjoying her herring and rye.

I grabbed for my bathrobe and buttoned my gotkes,

and Bubbie was just devouring the latkes.

To the window I ran and to my surprise,

A little red yarmalke greeted my eyes.

When he got to the door and saw the Menorah,

"Yiddishe Kinder," he said "Kenahorah".

"I thought I was in a strange hoise,"

As long as I'm here, I'll leave a few toys,"

"Come into the kitchen, I'll get you a dish,

A gupel, a leffel a shtikele fish."

With smacks of delight, he started his fressen,

Chopped liver and Knaidlach and kreplach gegessen.

Along with his meals, he had a few schnappes,

when it came to eating, this boy was tops.

He asked for some knishes with pepper and salt,

But they were so hot he yelled "Oy gevalt!"

He buttoned his hoysen and ran from the tish,

"Your Koshereh meals are simply delish."

As he went through the door, he said "See you-all later,

I'll be back next Pesach in time for the Seder."

More rapid than eagles his prancers they came,

As he whistled and shouted and called them by name.

"Now Izzie! Now Morris! Now Louis! and Sammy!

On Irving! and Maxie! and Hymie and Manny!"

He gave a geshrey as he drove out of sight,

"A good yontiff to all and to all a good night."

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHANUKAH... the new fangled version to comply with Obama’s Change from Delevan & Barbara and family























From Tsila Lighting the Menorah by the Kotel at approximately 4:39-4:45 Yerushalayim time 9:39-9:45 AM EST

Chanucha fun:

Chanucha Songs: Brachos: (Sorry the translation from Hebrew is in Italian) Just Carlebach:

And from Seth and Chaim B.

A few reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables. I am not a vegetarian but and trying to watch my food intake more and using only whole flour and rice now too as a better life style. It has not solved all my stomach problems but has done great work for my weight loss. Also switching to Canola and Olive Oils along with moderation in Tehina and Peanut Butter. From the House of Music a film made by Jewish Vegetarians it is close to 9 minutes long:

Special for Chanucha: A familiar pop song in Yiddish:

My thoughts on sports: I work out for up to 2.5 or 3 hrs a day in the gym to turn my years of fat build up into muscle and get into shape until my 120 comes up. However, I am very anti-couch potato sports watching. If you want to watch a game do it while walking on a treadmill, elliptical or riding a stationary bicycle. I received the following: OLYMPICS 2012

"Enjoy kashrut whilst enjoying the games" With Kosher Services Worldwide

Brings you all the facilities of a kosher hotel, whilst making sure you enjoy every part of the Olympics. You can ensure a completely kosher trip to England. Bet Knesset on the premises. Restaurant with Glatt meat. 24 hour room service. Full Shabbat services. – My friends unless you are a coach, spouse or participant in the Olympics, may I suggest that you do the sports rather than watch them. Believe me it is much healthier. When it comes to calories and Chanucha Candles: Burn baby burn.

Inyanay Diyoma

Operation Acamol as Chagai Segal wrote in today’s Makor Rishon. Olmert and Barak will probably end their headache for 250,000 Negev Jews screaming by taking Acamol or Aspirin with a small operation in and around Gaza bombing a few lathes and empty buildings and killing a few Hamasniks until the Hamas will claim that they are letting Israel off the hook with their generous cease fire. In the meantime people are literally fleeing Kibbutzim and Sderot and taking what they can with no plans to return. Last Night 20 mortars and 7 Kassams this morning were lobbed into the Negev. Netanyahu is speaking about some Golan concessions in one place and on the Golan using his forked tongue. General and MK Effie Eitam has moved over to the Likud since the old National Religious Party did the trick to the keep the left leaning Zevulun Orlev in power with their new party and Ori Elizur is going back to reform Moledet.

Last bit of news I heard this morning is that the woman with perhaps the smoothest calming voice around passed away at the age of 81. You can Google and perhaps U-tube Eartha Kit.

Is the USA vulnerable to a massive cyber attack?,2933,433541,00.html?sPage=fnc/scitech/space

Gaza now has rockets that can hit Ashdod, Beer Sheva, Gedera, etc. and anti-helicopter guns:

A hedge fund manager who lost $1.4 billion to Madoff committed suicide. Yeshiva University lost $110 million:

Morbid sports pool. We used to half in school a sports pool with innings and runs on world series games. I used to go along just for fun of it even though I expected to lose, I put in a dime to sort of be with my friends. One friend would win and if he wanted he would buy candy or something and share it around and if not the money was his. The latest pool is not for money but a guessing game how many Kassams are going to fall. I was talking to Rabbi Shatz, my neighbor, last night at a wedding. He said that he had expected about 20 Kassams, but I said that Hamas declared a universal cease-fire and we could expect about 10 six yesterday and probably four in the evening or night. Fortunately nobody was hurt because the storm and the winds throw the missiles either short or off their intended targets. Unfortunately, I ‘won’ the non-monetary pool. Neither of us think that playing with human lives and limbs are a game and although Rabbi Shatz was too old to serve in the IDF, his children and sons-in-law did and perhaps still do. We know it is no picnic for young soldiers to possibly have to go into Gaza to clean up the place but the children of Sderot are mentally and morally completely drained and so is the rest of the civilian population. Now the cites of Ashdod, Gedera, Kiriat Gat, Kiriat Malachi, Beer Sheva, and many Moshavim and Kibbutzim are under the Katyusha or Kassam range. I can only hope that the Labor Party and Kadima get creamed in the election and the right wing will have power over Mr. Netanyahu. I am uncertain that he can be trusted at all and I only put my faith in HASHEM all I ask for those of you who can’t vote on Feb. 10th to say Tehillim (Psalms), and Pray to the MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE to guide the people of Yisrael to vote for a strong Israel and a G-D fearing one.

"ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE" ? by Emanuel A. Winston, Middle East Analyst & Commentator

Once again I observe that the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other journals, re-published a full page ad Friday, December 19th (1), sponsored by the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), the Council of the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The title of this Ad was "Arab Peace Initiative". A similar earlier ad was sponsored, in part, by the Saban Center, directed by Martin Indyk (former American ambassador to Israel).

In addition to the text, there were 57 full color flags of Muslim countries who purportedly supported this message. Prince Abdullah Bin Abullaziz, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, also calls for Israel full withdrawal from all Israeli Land since 1967. Presumably, the U.S. State Department provided the language.

All Israel has to do is to withdraw from the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria, the Jordan Valley, the Mt. Dov observation sites overlooking Damascus and especially those parts of Jerusalem that Jordan occupied and desecrated for 19 years from 1948 to 1967. This would bring Israel back to the 1967 Armistice Lines which Abba Eban called the "Auschwitz Borders"... meaning the 1967 Armistice Lines invite another Holocaust to eliminate the Jewish State of Israel.

So why this doubling up of a screed of propaganda ads just before President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leave office and Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (resigned because of imminent indictments for corruption - but still in power), Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak similarly face elections and are very likely to be ousted?

It looks as I predicted before that all of the above are in collusion to force the re-partition of Israel and complete the "Road Map" plan to position Israel for elimination in order to please the Muslim and Arab nations. The theory being that all the Muslims would be so pleased with the demise of Israel that they would cease their Global Terror in their fervent "Jihad" against all non-Muslim nations.

To accomplish this, the Arabs and Muslims know that they must, for a moment, discard their War face:"Dar el Harb" and put on their "accommodation" or false "peace" face: "Dar al Islam". They count on the Christian West to agree to their scheme - along with the Leftist Israeli Government under Olmert and his Kadima gang to make an announcement out of the Prime Minister’s Office with Mahmoud Abbas (current President of the Palestinian Authority) - to relinquish more Land - in addition to those lands Israel already surrendered for peace - but got more war.

Hamas launched 354 rockets and missiles into Southern Israel, hitting civilians during the current "cease-fire". With Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) at his side, Olmert (on behalf of all of Israel, but without their vote or consent) accepted the Muslims' conditions of withdrawal from Jewish Land.

Simultaneously, Bush and Rice will leap forward and accept Olmert’s statement as fully committing all of Israel to all of the demands of the Muslim Arab States.

Presumably, incoming President-elect Barack Obama has been briefed on the Plan so he could seamlessly accept the Sudeten-like plan of betrayal.

When you see expensive propaganda ads repeat themselves in flagship journals with Global reach, be assured that the "colluders" are about to strike.

Does any intelligent, sane person believe that 56 "Jihadist" nations dedicated to following Koranic Law and Mohammed’s Hadith as ‘holy script’ will simply abandon their pledged goal of eliminating Israel and all the Jewish people as "Infidels" (non-Muslims) on Land they (the Muslims) claim is sacred to Allah?

Don’t bother producing proof text that Jews were on their Land several thousand years before there was a Mohammed and the desert pagan tribes were worshiping Zin, the moon god.

By the way, Barack Obama says he will try to "reboot America’s image" among the world’s Muslims and will follow tradition by using his entire name - Barack Hussein Obama - in his swearing-in ceremony. (2)

Never mind that Arab Muslim nations, especially led by the Grand Mufti Amin al Husseini before 1948 pledged "that this was to be a war of annihilation like those of the great Mongol hordes killing all in their path. The Jews would be either dead or out." Israel was not just fighting a war of independence, but a war for her survival. (3)

Seven Arab armies invaded the newly born State of Israel, which undermanned, under-armed Israel miraculously won. The Muslim Arab countries continued with their unrelenting Terrorism (low-level warfare), plus 6 more full sized wars against Israel which Israel won - at great cost of men, blood and treasure. The Arab Armies failed and continue to suffer unrelenting Shame.

What leaves an Arab/Muslim mouth as a blatant lie in defiance of all recorded history is considered a truth by the liar and the greedy nations who accept the lie as the new truth. Thus, the ad of December 19th, pledging peace that the Muslims have no intentions of keeping - which Bush, Rice, Olmert, Livni, Barak and Peres already know.

Israeli is sadly on the cusp of being betrayed by her own corrupt government and by those nations who wish to appease the Arab Muslim nations for the oil on which they sit.

Is there retribution for what is being planned for Israel? Certainly!

Is Global Depression sufficient retribution from Above?

What will be next?

Bush, Rice, Olmert, Livni, Barak and Peres are on a collision course with G-d. They will be utterly crushed - along with the pagan Muslims who want the Land G-d gave to Abraham and his descendants.

Will it happen in our lifetime? You can count on it because it is happening now.


1. "ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE" (Adopted by the 14th Arab Summit in Beirut-Lebanon March 2002 - Ad in The New York Times, December 19, 2008

2. "Obama Wants to ‘Reboot America’s Image’ Among the World’s Muslims" American News Wrap HAMODIA December 18, 2008

3. "BIG LIES: Demolishing the Myths of the Propaganda War Against Israel" By David Meir-Levi by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture.

CONVINCING ISRAELIS THAT NATIONAL SUICIDE IS NOT SO BAD by Emanuel A. Winston, Middle East Analyst & Commentator

The New York Times story, "Once a Political Riser, an Israeli Challenges His Country’s Identity" about Avrum Burg speaks to the schizophrenic psychological profile of most Jewish Leftists. (1)

The Jewish people have always been plagued with a certain breed of low level people who attached themselves to the Jewish people during the Exodus from Egypt. They were not Jews but were called "the mixed multitudes" or the "Erev Rav". They were not Jewish believers but pagans at heart.

Over the decades they succeeded in poisoning the minds of some of the Jewish people. Their first act of perfidy was to demand the creation of a golden god (the Golden Calf) to worship - in the absence of Moses while he was up on Mt. Sinai to receive the 10 Commandants from G-d.

These un-Jews always caused trouble among the Jewish population, defying the Laws of the 10 Commandments and the Torah Laws that Moses taught.

Time passed and this contaminated gene pool grew both in numbers and strength. Before the Jewish State was born, when millions of Jews were dying in the Holocaust, the Jewish Leftists who were in control of the nascent institutions of governing power. Such institutions as, the Jewish Agency, etc., arranged for almost all of the 5000 permits per year allowed by the British for immigration into Eretz Yisrael to be allotted mostly to similarly Leftist Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe. These Leftist Jewish immigrants saved from Hitler became the dominant ruling class in Israel, chiefly by their numbers as skewed by the disproportionate distribution of the rescue permits.

They were also favored by foreign governments who saw them as an effective means to weaken the Jewish State. They channeled aid money through them. The Leftists grew rich and grew to control the Israeli economy.

The Leftists, the main group in power, did not intend for the State to be a Jewish State, governed by Jewish Law but a political State, governed by Leftists who were dedicated to their own power and profit.

They succeeded in putting a choke hold on every government institution and insured that Observant Jews and Sephardic Jews (who were expelled from Arab Muslim countries) were kept out of the power structure. Regrettably, Observant Jewry accepted their degraded role - as long as they were given money to run their schools because the education of their children was of prime importance.

From the first, Jewish Leftists recognized that they needed the religious Parties to form coalitions in order to dominate the Knesset. For this purpose, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, accepted the necessity of Kosher kitchens in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces), hotels, etc. Ben Gurion granted the Orthodox religious Parties final approval over the rites of birth, marriage, conversion and burial in order to maintain a united Jewish people-hood of all the Jews who came into Israel from all over the world.

Avrum Burg, featured in the December 19th Friday New York Times is sadly a prototype of what came to be called a "dedicated Leftist". If the Jewish State was made extinct tomorrow, he (and they) would not miss a night’s sleep nor shed a genuine tear. The story of Burg in the New York Times is not an accident, given the New York Times’ frequent propaganda against Israel.

Part II

We just sent out an article December 22nd, speaking about the very expensive full page ads being repeated in the leading journals (including the NYT) that, IF Israel withdraws to the 1967 Armistice Lines that were the cease-fire lines of the 1948 War of Independence, then 57 Arab Muslim States will give Israel "peace".

That’s much more than a lie. It’s a program led by Israel’s current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (resigned because of imminent criminal indictments - but still in power), plus his Kadima Party gang. President George W. Bush with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are setting the Israeli "withdrawal" for their next trick before they leave office.

We just learned that ads are being put up on bill boards and in buses in Israel that the Yossi Beilin-Shimon Peres plan, passed in Geneva, Switzerland (and, therefore, called the Geneva Accords) are "Good for the Jews". "Yozmat Geneva Tov L'Yehudi". All stops are being pulled, awaiting the Final Betrayal by Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and President Shimon Peres wherein they will agree to a full pull-out back to the 1967 Armistice lines that literally invited the 1967 War attacks by 3 Arab Muslim countries.

This proposed surrender would include abandoning Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and all those parts of Jerusalem occupied and desecrated by Jordan for 19 years from 1948 to 1967.

These nefarious plans also show a patronizing contempt for all Israelis: trying to sell Israelis something catastrophically detrimental by telling them that it is "good for them" - as if they were stupid.

Alternatively, Beilin, Peres and company feel so confident about what they are about to do to all Israeli citizens, that they have taken this pre-election opportunity to express their gleeful contempt for all Israelis. It is not a real attempt to sell their benighted ideology, but it is merely twisting the knife in the back of the average Israelis who love their country, their Land and their religion, but whom the Leftist Israelis hate with a vicious and unrelenting hatred.

We have explained what was and is about to happen but, little is being done to stop the repeat of the Sudetenland travesty where the nations agreed to give that strategically vital part of Czechoslovakia over to Adolph Hitler as an appeasement. Of course, it weakened Europe and allowed Hitler to easily take over most of it.

With all these expensive ads promoting the division of Israel, you can shortly expect an act of High Treason by Olmert and the "Erev Rav" trash called the Kadima Party. Nuremberg-type Tribunals should already be well on their way - even including the gallows for the crimes being committed against the Jewish people.

As for the Bush and Rice legacy, to be followed soon by Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the American nation is sadly in for a long term spiral into Depression. Corrupt leaders have and can put their nations into disasters such as extreme weather, financial meltdown, etc. as retribution, which G-d sends for the wrongs they have committed. It seems that Americans and Europeans are, unfortunately, going to have to pay a terrible price for what their leaders have done to the Jewish nation and for their contempt against G-d’s decisions and His plan for the Jewish people to live Jewishly in all the Land of Israel.


1. "Once a Political Riser, an Israeli (Avrum Burg) Challenges His Country’s Identity" By Ethan Bronner New York Times Saturday December 20, 2008

Isaac sent me this: Madoff By Rob Eshman

I wish Jews believed in hell, because then I could take comfort that Bernard Madoff will go there.

Madoff ran the New York-based firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, which was reported last week to have been a $50 billion fraud, a Ponzi scheme that paid investors with other investors' money.

"It's all a big lie," Madoff reportedly confessed to his sons last Thursday, before they turned him in to authorities.

While most of Madoff's victims were on the East Coast and in Europe, he burned through Los Angeles, as well. As we report online, millions of dollars of charitable donations and millions in personal wealth in this town have vanished for good.

"This is one of the biggest catastrophes ever to strike the American Jewish community," a major donor and activist told me Monday.

The damage is not just monetary.

Madoff destroyed lives: charities that provide hot meals, mental health counseling, free loans, support for immigrants and money for Jewish education have all been hit and will all have to cut back or fold completely.

As Rotbart discovered, Madoff even hurt hospitals and health care organizations, such as The Gift of Life, which matches Jewish bone marrow donors with patients who would otherwise die. It is conceivable that, thanks to Madoff, the sick will get sicker.

"A poor man is a dead man," the Talmud teaches. Given the way the American health care system works, to rob people of their money may deny them treatment. I spoke with an elderly woman whose entire life savings, almost $1 million, was invested with Madoff. She has just enough to live on, she said, provided she doesn't get really sick.

It really is a shame we Jews don't believe in hell.

Madoff took in the Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. Elie Wiesel! When I heard that news, I had to laugh so I wouldn't cry. The man survives Auschwitz, lives to serve as the moral conscience of the world, then in the twilight of his noble life sees his charitable wealth destroyed by a fellow Jew. No one could plumb the darkness of a soul that could do such a thing, not even Wiesel.

He battered the foundations of the Jewish community. He attacked the lifeblood of community -- nonprofit boards, clubs, friendship itself -- using them to recruit clients and to recruit recruiters. People invested based on trust and got their friends to invest, as well. Into a venerated system of trust and mutual responsibility he injected the poison of betrayal and suspicion.

In doing all this, Madoff soiled the very word, "Jew."

"The greatest American Jewish crime since the Rosenbergs," said one local leader. An exaggeration? The Rosenbergs were traitors to the nation's defense, Madoff to our financial system. But Madoff, with his posturing involvement in Yeshiva University, makes the Jewish claim to ethical standards look like a bad joke. The saving grace is that, as one victim told me, at least many of his victims are Jews.

Yes, there is a wider circle of responsibility here. The truth is, Madoff didn't beg anyone to invest. People begged to get in.

That means when we examine our own values and leaders, we may find that Madoff was the greatest fraud among us, but not the only one.

There is a generation of Jews -- at least one -- raised on the idea that pushing paper creates real wealth. We are a generation of unbelievable materialism and indulgence, a generation that believes a 10 percent return is its birthright. We have rabbis who shut their mouths rather than risk alienating a potential donor. Sure they'll preach tikkun olam and charity from the pulpit, but how often do they preach modesty, humility and moderation?

People are telling me the Madoff scandal all boiled down to one word -- greed. But it's not so simple. Madoff didn't just want money, he wanted the immunity that being a big shot, a macher bestows upon all sorts of cheats, dimwits and blowhards in the Jewish community.

The questionable practices of some of our most admired charities grow out of this culture and leave me with a few unanswered questions. How is it that donor money found its way in the first place into nonguaranteed investments? What gives a 501(c)(3) the license to, in a word, gamble? Who was paying attention when chunks of charitable contributions ended up in the hands of a $50 billion firm whose auditors occupied an office smaller than mine? Why aren't the names of every single investment vehicle in which nonprofits have significant money published online for donors to see?

Good questions, but I don't want to spread the guilt too far just yet. I want to stay focused on the man who must take full responsibility for his crimes.

What kind of world is it where Jews can't trust fellow Jews? Where worthwhile charities have to convince donors that their donations won't be squandered? Where the bonds between friends and families mean nothing when it comes to money? Where Jews everywhere are suspect, because Jews somewhere behave like moral monsters? Where the poorest among us suffer because the richest cannot be satisfied until they are even richer?

There's a name for that kind of world -- hell.

Now for M. Wolfberg's "Oh Chanucha"

Good Shabbos and A Freylichen Chanukah Everyone. One of the legendary activists who kept Judaism alive in Communist Russia in the darkest years of repression was Rabbi Asher Sossonkin, who spent many years in Soviet labor camps for his "counter-revolutionary" activities. In one of these camps he made the acquaintance of a Jew by the name of Nachman Rozman.
In his youth, Nachman had abandoned the traditional Jewish life in which he was raised to join the communist party; he served in the Red Army, where he rose to a high rank; but then he was arrested for engaging in some illegal business and sentenced to a long term of hard labor in Siberia. Rozman was drawn to the chassid who awakened in him memories of the home and life he had forsaken.
With Reb Asher's aid and encouragement, he began a return to Jewish observance under conditions where keeping kosher, avoiding work on Shabbat, or grabbing a few moments for prayer meant subjecting oneself to near-starvation, repeated penalties and a daily jeopardy of life and limb.
One winter, as Chanukah approached, Reb Asher revealed his plan to his friend. "I'll get a hold of a small, empty food can -- the smaller the better, so it'll be easy to hide and escape notice. We'll save half of our daily ration of butter over the next two weeks, for oil. We can make wicks from the loose threads at the edges of our coats. When everyone's asleep, we'll light our 'menorah' under my bunk...." "Certainly not!" cried Nachman Rozman. "It's Chanukah, Reb Asher, the festival of miracles. We'll do the mitzvah the way it should be done. Not in some rusty can fished out from the garbage, but with a proper menorah, real oil, at the proper time and place. I have a few rubles hidden away that I can pay Igor with at the metal-working shed; I also have a few 'debts' I can call in at the kitchen...."
A few days before Chanukah, Nachman triumphantly showed Reb Asher the menorah he had procured -- a somewhat crude vessel but unmistakably a "real" menorah, with eight oil-cups in a row and a raised cup for the shamash. On the first evening of Chanukah, he set the menorah on a stool in the doorway between the main room of their barracks and the small storage area at its rear, and filled the right-hand cup; together, the two Jews recited the blessings and kindled the first light, as millions of their fellows did that night in their homes around the world.
On that first night the lighting went off without a hitch, as it did on the second, third and fourth nights of the festival. As a rule, the prisoners in the camp did not inform on each other, and their barrack-mates had already grown accustomed to the religious practices of the two Jews.
On the fifth night of Chanukah, just as Reb Asher and Nachman had lit five flames in their menorah, a sudden hush spread through the barracks. The prisoners all froze in their places and turned their eyes to the doorway, in which stood an officer from the camp's high command. Though surprise inspections such as these were quite routine occurrences, they always struck terror in the hearts of the prisoners. The officer would advance through the barracks meting out severe penalties for offenses such as a hidden cigarette or a hoarded crust of bread.
"Quick, throw it out into the snow," whispered the prisoners, but the officer was already striding toward the back doorway, where the two Jews stood huddled over the still-burning flames of their candelabra. For a very long minute the officer gazed at the menorah. Then he turned to Reb Asher. "P'yat? (Five?)" he asked. "P'yat," replied the chassid. The officer turned and exited without a word.
We can all be inspired by this amazing story about how two Jews fulfilled the mitzvah of lighting the Chanukah Menorah under the most difficult of circumstances. Thankfully, we are able to fulfill mitzvahs without the threat of persecution; we must all therefore take advantage of our opportunities and make sure to be meticulous with the Chanukia lighting. Then we will all merit the tremendous spiritual light which shines down on us during these special days of Chanukah. Good Shabbos and A Freylichen Chanukah Everyone.

Mr. Wolfberg's story is sponsored by but not mine: In memory of Tziporah Yita (Wienshienk) bas Reb Mordechai Mendel , Erev Chanukah 5723 In memory of Shosha Malka bas R' Avrohom 21 Cheshvan Refuah Shleimah to Chana Ashayra bas Dodi

Have a Great Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and a happy Chanucha.

Rachamim Pauli