Sunday, May 24, 2009

Introduction to Sefer Bamidbar (Book of Numbers)


This week we start the fourth of the five Seforim of Chumosh. Sefer Bamidbar is called ‘Numbers’ because of the numbering of the Shevatim. Bamidbar means desert or wilderness so we have Midbar Sinai, Midbar Sin, etc. and we will find numerous references to this. This Sefer has a number of rebellions against Moshe or HASHEM such as the spies and Korach or the external dangers on a spiritual level of Balak and Bilaam. Bilaam tried to spiritually curse the Bnei Yisrael and Balak succeeded in corrupting Shevet Shimon.

Our Sefer starts with the command to take the census of the males of the Bnei Yisrael from 20 to 60 years old. Then the Torah arranges a military defense and marching order of the tribes on each side with the Leviim and Cohanim and the Aharon HaKodesh in the middle. Last year I described the physical arrangements and the guardian Angles on each side. I will hopefully bring it down again when I reach that Parsha.

What did the Bnei Yisrael do in the wilderness for 40? They had no home videos, TV, radio, big shopping stores, fresh fruit markets, traveling for pleasure. What they had were the families and cattle with wild desert greens, leaves and berries next to the Mann. They had the unique experience of having a whole nation as Yeshiva or Kollel Scholars and women’s Torah Shiurim. No tailors, seamstress, cobblers, garbage collectors etc. with the possible exception of clothing for children which is not mentioned in our Medrashim.

There were no worries about internet scams, spam, phishing, hackers or for that matter unemployment or bosses. What we had was that the people except during travels were learning and going after spiritual pursuits. The latest political gossip was what transpired at the Sanhedrin. No politically elected officials. The Sanhedrin was earned by merit! If I were to take a name like Pagiel ben Achron for example in our Sedra, one would find that the was best person to lead and to examine the depths of Torah in his Tribe.

Please note that my object in producing the Drasha of each week’s Parsha is Quality sometimes short and sweet. This time too short due to about 12 hours of lost time due to some punishment from HASHEM on a personal level – the object is to accept the good and the bad with love (Ahavah and work for HASHEM with joyously in Simcha and go before HIM with rejoicing – The Psalm of the Korban Todah [Thanksgiving Offering]. Hopefully next week, I will complete the Parsha and speak about Shabbos and the Eruv Tavshillin one must make both in Israel and in the Diaspora before Chag Shevous. Rosh Chodesh is Sunday and on Thursday will be the 49th day of the counting of the Omer which ends in the Kingship of Heaven within the Kingship of Heaven. Finally the heavens opens up for us on the night of the 50th day which is Shevous and the anniversary of the giving of the Torah. It is now 3321 years since the Bnei Yisrael stopped being with 7 Mitzvos like the Nations of the World and have taken on 613 Mitzvos. The Moslems you might say don’t eat pork and have almost a similar slaughter method – but they eat camels and I have no idea about rabbits and other animals. I do know the Syrian Army trains their female soldiers in survival by eating snakes. So it is of no surprise to me that that they often speak with forked tongues.)

I read this story sometime somewhere and maybe even posted it but it is worth repeating thanks to Stephanie K.

The wedding gown that made history

Lilly Friedman doesn't remember the last name of the woman who designed and sewed the wedding gown she wore when she walked down the aisle over 60 years ago. But the grandmother of seven does recall that when she first told her fiancée' Ludwig that she had always dreamed of being married in a white gown he realized he had his work cut out for him.

For the tall, lanky 21-year-old who had survived hunger, disease and torture this was a different kind of challenge. How was he ever going to find such a dress in the Bergen Belsen Displaced Person's camp where they felt grateful for the clothes on their backs?

Fate would intervene in the guise of a former German pilot who walked into the food distribution center where Ludwig worked, eager to make a trade for his worthless parachute. In exchange for two pounds of coffee beans and a couple of packs of cigarettes Lilly would have her wedding gown.

For two weeks Miriam the seamstress worked under the curious eyes of her fellow DPs, carefully fashioning the six parachute panels into a simple, long sleeved gown with a rolled collar and a fitted waist that tied in the back with a bow. When the dress was completed she sewed the leftover material into a matching shirt for the groom.

A white wedding gown may have seemed like a frivolous request in the surreal environment of the camps, but for Lilly the dress symbolized the innocent, normal life she and her family had once led before the world descended into madness. Lilly and her siblings were raised in a Torah observant home in the small town of Zarica, Czechoslovakia where her father was a melamed, respected and well liked by the young yeshiva students he taught in nearby Yeshiva.

He and his two sons were marked for extermination immediately upon arriving at Auschwitz. For Lilly and her sisters it was only their first stop on their long journey of persecution, which included Plashof, Neustadt, Gross Rosen and finally Bergen Belsen.

Four hundred people marched 15 miles in the snow to the town of Celle on January 27, 1946 to attend Lilly and Ludwig's wedding. The town synagogue, damaged and desecrated, had been lovingly renovated by the DPs with the meager materials available to them. When a Sefer Torah arrived from England they converted an old kitchen cabinet into a makeshift Aron Kodesh.

"My sisters and I lost everything - our parents, our two brothers, our homes. The most important thing was to build a new home." Six months later, Lilly's sister Ilona wore the dress when she married Max Traeger. After that came Cousin Rosie. How many brides wore Lilly's dress? "I stopped counting after 17." With the camps experiencing the highest marriage rate in the world, Lilly's gown was in great demand.

In 1948 when President Harry Truman finally permitted the 100,000 Jews who had been languishing in DP camps since the end of the war to emigrate, the gown accompanied Lilly across the ocean to America . Unable to part with her dress, it lay at the bottom of her bedroom closet for the next 50 years, "not even good enough for a garage sale. I was happy when it found such a good home."

Home was the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. When Lily's niece, a volunteer, told museum officials about her aunt's dress, they immediately recognized its historical significance and displayed the gown in a specially designed showcase, guaranteed to preserve it for 500 years.

But Lilly Friedman's dress had one more journey to make. Bergen Belsen, the museum, opened its doors on October 28, 2007. The German government invited Lilly and her sisters to be their guests for the grand opening. They initially declined, but finally traveled to Hanover the following year with their children, their grandchildren and extended families to view the extraordinary exhibit created for the wedding dress made from a parachute.

Lilly's family, who were all familiar with the stories about the wedding in Celle, were eager to visit the synagogue. They found the building had been completely renovated and modernized. But when they pulled aside the handsome curtain they were astounded to find that the Aron Kodesh, made from a kitchen cabinet, had remained untouched as a testament to the profound faith of the survivors. As Lilly stood on the bimah once again she beckoned to her granddaughter, Jackie, to stand beside her where she was once a kallah. "It was an emotional trip. We cried a lot." Two weeks later, the woman who had once stood trembling before the selective eyes of the infamous Dr. Josef Mengele returned home and witnessed the marriage of her granddaughter.

The three Lax sisters - Lilly, Ilona and Eva, who together survived Auschwitz, a forced labor camp, a death march and Bergen Belsen - have remained close and today live within walking distance of each other in Brooklyn. As mere teenagers, they managed to outwit and outlive a monstrous killing machine, then went on to marry, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and were ultimately honored by the country that had earmarked them for extinction.

As young brides, they had stood underneath the Chupa and recited the blessings that their ancestors had been saying for thousands of years. In doing so, they chose to honor the legacy of those who had perished by choosing life.

Living in Kiriat Sefer over the next hill from Ramat Modiin is Rabbi S. Simmons:

Torah Portion: Bamidbar
by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Parshat Bamidbar begins with a census of the Jewish people. We might think this "reduces everyone to a number." But actually the census teaches that every Jew is important. The Kabbalists point out that just as 600,000 Jewish souls stood at Mount Sinai, so too there are 600,000 letters in the Torah (including the white spaces between letters). And just as a Torah scroll is invalid if even a single letter is missing, so too the Jewish people need everyone working together.

Yet if every Jew is so important, why does this week's parsha go on to describe the special role for the tribe of Levi? Isn't that discriminatory? Just by virtue of birth, is a Levite inherently "better" than a non-Levite?

In truth, everyone is equally important. Sure, some people are born smarter, and some with more talent in one area or another. But that doesn't make that person any "better."

The key to living in harmony is that everyone fulfills his/her own capability, and is accepting of others as equally valuable.

The story is told of the great sage of Jerusalem, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. One evening he asked his congregation to wait to begin prayers until the street sweeper had arrived. Rabbi Auerbach explained: "This man is totally devoted to beautifying the streets of Jerusalem. I only wish that my own work would be performed with such pure intentions!"

So before we look down on another person, let's remember that every human being has an important contribution to make. And in life, the only thing we truly earn is our own good name.

This Shabbat is "Shabbat Mevarchim". Rosh Chodesh Sivan is on Sunday. There's an ancient custom to bless the upcoming month on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh, before Mussaf. This is not to be confused with Sanctifying the Month that was done by Av Bet Din when the new moon appeared.

Nevertheless, the custom is to stand when the Chazzan announces which day(s) will be Rosh Chodesh, since the sanctification of the month was done while standing. Source: Mishna Brura 417:1 (1)

This week's Haftarah is "Machar Chodesh" - "And Jonathan says to him (David): tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh" from Shmuel-1 20:8
Previous Shabbat-related posts can be reviewed at
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov - Danny

Looking for a cheese cake recipe on Shevous look up:

Inyanay Diyoma

From Joe Kaufman:

Washington, D.C. (May 15, 2009) -- Republican Jewish Coalition Executive Director Matthew Brooks said today: The Republican Jewish Coalition condemns in the strongest terms the remark by Arkansas State Sen. Kim Hendren, who reportedly referred to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer as "that Jew" at a Pulaski County GOP meeting last week. Sen. Hendren has since apologized for that comment, and rightly so.

That kind of language, which identifies an individual solely by their religion, their race, or another characteristic, has no place in politics. The RJC has a long record of denouncing such comments, from Republicans or Democrats. We spoke out against Pat Buchanan as well as Howard Dean, and against Ramsey Clark as well as Bob Parker (once the Republican candidate for mayor of Indianapolis), after they used divisive language that reinforced negative stereotypes or played on prejudices about Jews, Christians, or others.

The Republican Party represents Americans from every religious and ethnic group. The GOP has welcomed the participation of Jewish Republicans. Rep. Hendren's remarks were notable as an exception to the GOP's tradition of inclusiveness, which stretches from President Lincoln, through leaders like Jack Kemp and Ronald Reagan, right to the present day.

DEBKAfile's military sources report that Israel, the US and Europe were taken aback by Iran's successful launch Wednesday, May 20, of a two-stage, solid-fueled 2,000-kilometer range missile, but most of all by the accuracy of its aim in destroying its target, as proudly claimed by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. US missile tracking systems, including the advanced American anti-missile station at the Nevatim airbase in the Israeli Negev, have confirmed the Iranian President's boast of Sejil-2's precision and other advanced capabilities. US President Barack Obama "has long been concerned" by any development in Iran's missile program, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said, calling the test a "step in the wrong direction".

Western military sources told us later: "Iran is at least two or three years ahead of Israel's missile defenses." The Arrow 2 anti-missile missile system can intercept a missile like this only when it is very close to Israel. Arrow 3, which is designed to knock such missiles out, won't be operational for several years. From a worried Washington, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the new missile "that can reach Israel, southeastern Europe and US bases in the Middle East is consistent" with US concerns about Iran's effort to develop ballistic missiles and its nuclear program and the "potential Iranian threat to its neighbors."

Until now, the Americans and Israelis were confident that insurmountable technical difficulties prevented Iran's missile industry from achieving an accurate guidance system. Their earlier missiles fired against Israel would therefore veer off target. This assumption was nullified by the Sejil-2 launch. Air and missile interception planners in Israel and the US will have to go back to the drawing board for new answers to the new Iranian missile.

Iran's feat comes at a critical time for its efforts to build a nuclear arsenal of at least 10-12 nuclear warheads. It was also timed as a piece of muscle-flexing for the day Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu returned from talks with President Barack Obama in Washington. The missile's successful launch obviates the strategic value of the understandings reached between the two men regarding the Iran's nuclear and missile programs.

Had the visit produced practical results, as the prime minister and his aides claimed, some American-Israeli response to the launch should have been forthcoming. But the very fact that it was not, indicates that their accords were general and not applicable to fluctuating conditions in the region. Netanyahu indicated that Washington and Jerusalem were agreed that Iran shall not have nuclear weapons. This understanding between the two allies dates from 2002, through the premierships of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert. Today, we know what these general agreements have permitted Iran to make uninterrupted progress in its nuclear and missile programs.

MIG 31 E to Syria is no longer being funded by Iran:

Wishing everybody a wonderful healthy and pleasant Chodesh and a Good Shabbos,

Rachamim Pauli