Friday, July 31, 2009

Parsha Vaetchanan, a good Pshat from the Zohar

We should keep praying for Elisheva Shulamit bat Yehudit.

Rabbi, Thank you for your wise words about protecting life. I volunteer for my local ambulance corps and see all too often the effects of someone finding "reasons" not to call the ambulance or doing things that ultimately are not in the best interest of their health.

Many years ago I was told by my doctor not to fast that Yom Kippur for health reasons - he told me I could accomplish the "same" if I ate only to sustain myself, not until I was full, and only "real food", not desserts etc.

Hashem values our lives and for us not to take care of ourselves is not fulfilling any mitzvahs.


Chelle has a cute ending to her post: Stop telling G-d how big your storm is... Instead, tell your storm how big your G-D is.
Remember: Amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.

The Shiurim that I gave in my “Chumra” are standard non-Chumra Shiurim for Yom Kippur. The standard Shiurim are upheld by Rabbi Simcha HaCohain Kuk Shlita, Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, Rabbi Itamar Auerbach Shlita, Rabbi and MD Zev Vilna Shlita, if I am not mistaken Rabbi Zev Leff Shlita, The Medical Halacha books Lev Avraham, other Rabbi MD’s and myself – the least of the above.

Now that Tisha B’Av is over, I feel like saying to everybody: Good Morning everybody a new day a new hope. Nachamu Ami= Comfort my Nation. Maybe I am a Don Quixote who thinks, "What illness to the body or country, for each time he falls, he shall rise again and woe to the wicked." Pray and believe in salvation of mankind and that righteousness shall triumph. Tehillim 112:1 Hallelujah. Happy is the man that fears the LORD, that delights greatly in His commandments.
2 His seed shall be mighty upon earth; the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches are in his house; and his merit endures for ever.
4 Unto the upright He shines as a light in the darkness, gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
5 Well is it with the man that deals graciously and lends, that orders his affairs rightfully.
6 For he shall never be moved; the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance.
7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
8 His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he gaze upon his adversaries.
9 He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the needy; his righteousness endures for ever; his horn shall be exalted in honor.
10 The wicked shall see it, and be vexed; he shall gnash with his teeth, and melt away; the desire of the wicked shall perish.

Parsha Vaetchanan

In Sefer Devarim, there is not much Kabbala as the Zohar only has commentary on a few Parshiyos. In fact where the Zohar is strong like in the story of creation and the story of the great deluge it is very hard to follow. However, this week has three little sections that I thought was delightful to pass on my readers. On concerning the beginning of our Parsha with the turning over of the Helm to Yehoshua bin Nun. The Chofetz Chaim could not even imagine Yehoshua or Moshe but only a simple person how he would behave in the times of the Tanayim and how each and everyone could work miracles. I bring down two stories one from the Talmud which I first heard of many years ago on a vacation to Tzfat.

The first story deals with the power of the Tanayim and their abilities to work Miracles. A different story not related to the Zohar about Tanayim comes from the same time. There is a non-Jewish Story told in the Gospels about Yeshu and feeding to workers loaves. The original story involves the son of Yehuda ben Perachya in Tzfat. This story occurred approximately 2100 or more years ago. The Rav went to get some bread to feed the workers either to Meron or Chatzor HaGalil. He left his son in charge and the workers began to complain. The time was the harvest of wheat and barley and the fig trees were just blossoming. The son was not such a good manager or persuasive enough to convince the workers to continue or wait for the food and rather than have them walk off the job, said, “Fig Tree, Fig Tree yield your fruit with the DIVINE NAME.” The miracle occurred and the workers had loaves and loaves of figs to eat a plenty. This became known as the “Miracle of the Loaves” in Aggadah. In the meantime Rabbi Yehuda came back with the food. The workers were busy working and he told them that they could eat. To which they replied that they had eaten their fill on figs. Rabbi Yehuda was furious that his son had changed the order of creation by working an unnecessary miracle and said, “Because you have changed the order of creation to bring forth fruit fast, so too you shall yield your fruit before its time.” His son aged much quicker than himself and passed away young in years. A sprout of the original tree still exists in the courtyard of one of the Synagogues in Tzfat – I believe the Abu Synagogue but my memory is a bit weak.

Having the ability to make miracles by each Talmid Chacham or even a student during the times of the Mishnah makes this story more relevant. Rabbi Chiya and Rabbi Elazar were walking along the road. They were discussing Torah. Upon hearing a noise behind them, they noticed two bandits (type of characters who murder and then plunder) sneaking upon them. Rabbi Elazar set his eye on the bandits and two snakes came out of the rocks and killed both and the Rabbis walked away in peace and continued to discuss this week’s Parsha in the Zohar.

3:23 And I besought the LORD at that time, saying: 24 'O Lord GOD, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness, and Thy strong hand; for what god is there in heaven or on earth, that can do according to Thy works, and according to Thy mighty acts? 25 Let me go over, I pray Thee, and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan, that goodly hill-country, and Lebanon.' 26 But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and hearkened not unto me; and the LORD said unto me: 'Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto Me of this matter. 27 Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up your eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold with your eyes; for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. 28 But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.'

Both the Zohar and the Medrash compare the reign of Moshe to that of the Sun and the reign of Yehoshua to that of the moon. The moon cannot really shine forth until the sun has set. But as great as Yehoshua was with his working miracles in crossing the Yarden and speaking to Arch Angels, he was very weak compared to Moshe. Since most of us cannot work miracles and we don’t hold conversations with Arch Angels face to face, take it from me that we are far-far removed from these saintly giants of Torah.

29 So we abode in the valley over against Beth-peor.

4:1 And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and unto the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, gives you.

There is only a positive message given here. However, hidden in the depths of this is the fire and brimstone. Thus G-D is the heavenly father encouraging us to be positive and listen carefully and diligently to the statutes and ordinance. Here we are told that we may live. The consequence for not harkening is that the opposite of a good life in this world and the afterworld will occur. And eventually we will be kicked out of the land.

2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

This does not mean that a prophet, Sanhedrin, etc. cannot put on hold a Mitzvah because of miss-use. For example Yebum (Levirate Marriage) if the brother after 90 days takes as a wife the widow of his childless brother in order to build up seed in the name of his brother, we do not call him rebellious against the Rabbis or force them to divorce. (No marriage is needed here as the original marriage contract of the brother applies and she is bound to him as a wife without any ceremony according to halacha – depending on whether he had a wife or not might determine if he would register her as a wife according to the laws of the land as not wishing to bring on polygamy charges upon himself.) However, since we neither have original land inheritance in Eretz Yisrael and one might want to take hold of this woman because she looks like Marilyn Monroe and has the brains of Henry Kissinger but not as a seed builder for the deceased, the Rabbis ordained that one should perform the Halitza separation ceremony instead of the marriage.

12 And the LORD spoke unto you out of the midst of the fire; ye heard the voice of words, but ye saw no form; only a voice. 13 And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even the ten words; and He wrote them upon two tables of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it. 15 Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves--for ye saw no manner of form on the day that the LORD spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire-- 16 lest ye deal corruptly, and make you a graven image, even the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flies in the heaven, 18 the likeness of any thing that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth; 19 and lest thou lift up your eyes unto heaven, and when thou see the sun and the moon and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away and worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath allotted unto all the peoples under the whole heaven.

The land which you go to possess is filled with graven images and Asherot Trees, piles of stones, etc. which are used for worship one is hereby warned. A primitive Israeli coming into the land seeing perhaps an Easter Island size statue with fire burning in the eyes at night and other ancient special effects might get fear of the idol into his system therefore the warning before and below.

23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which He made with you, and make you a graven image, even the likeness of any thing which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. 24 For the LORD thy God is a devouring fire, a jealous God. 25 When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have been long in the land, and shall deal corruptly, and make a graven image, even the form of any thing, and shall do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke Him; 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over the Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

This is the first fire and brimstone in Moshe Rabbaynu’s final lecture series. It is the strongest warning for all generations to be wary and to behave according to the Torah. On a spiritual side, I have heard from some of my Rabbis that the idols consisted of a bunch of tricks which we would give today credit to “Randy the Magician” to out and out use of negative spiritual forces called Shaydim which were created after and perhaps by Adam HaRishon’s sin(s).

27 And the LORD shall scatter you among the peoples, and ye shall be left few in number among the nations, whither the LORD shall lead you away.

The extreme punishment of being scattered among the Nations means that Judaism cannot expand or reach new heights. There was no internet or printing presses in those days. In Yemen up until the beginning of the return to Eretz Yisrael there were not all the commentaries. On the other hand, if Esav or Yishmael for that matter fell upon one group of Jews with a Pogrom, another would be in an area of Refuge. The French Inquisition of approximately 1050 to 1220 CE did not hinder the Jews of Spain or Eastern Europe from blooming.

28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

These are hints not only to idol worship that existed in that time but future worship.

… 41 Then Moses separated three cities beyond the Jordan toward the sunrising; 42 that the manslayer might flee thither, that slays his neighbor unawares, and hated him not in time past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live: 43 Bezer in the wilderness, in the table-land, for the Reubenites; and Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites. 44 And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel;

Moshe did the first half of the Mitzvah for the accidental manslaughterer. Now Yehoshua would continue the second half on the west bank of the Yarden.

28 And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men's hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

There is a hint here not only to idols in the time of Moshe Rabbaynu but also idols that the Jews will encounter in the future.

Now comes the repetition in different words the 10 words written on the two tablets. 5:1 And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them: Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day. 4 The LORD spoke with you face to face in the mount out of the midst of the fire-- 5 I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare unto you the word of the LORD; for ye were afraid because of the fire, and went not up into the mount--saying: 6 I am the LORD thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. 7 Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, even any manner of likeness, of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 8 Thou shalt not bow down unto them, nor serve them; for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate Me, 9 and showing mercy unto the thousandth generation of them that love Me and keep My commandments. 10 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes His name in vain. 11 Observe the sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD thy God commanded thee. 12 Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work; 13 but the seventh day is a sabbath unto the LORD thy God, in it thou shalt not do any manner of work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy man-servant, nor thy maid-servant, nor your ox, nor your ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy man-servant and thy maid-servant may rest as well as thou. 14 And thou shalt remember that thou was a servant in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. 15 Honor thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God commanded thee; that thy days may be long, and that it may go well with thee, upon the land which the LORD thy God gives thee. 16 Thou shalt not murder. Neither shalt thou commit adultery. Neither shalt thou steal. Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbor. 17 Neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's wife; neither shalt thou desire thy neighbor's house, his field, or his man-servant, or his maid-servant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbor's. …

… 4 Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; 7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sit in thy house, and when thou walk by the way, and when thou lie down, and when thou rise up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.

The Zohar has Pshat here describing the power of wearing Tephillin does to the wearer. [Nowadays, we usually do not put on Tephillin until we are in the Schul. A) Because the path may have filth left by humans, dogs, etc. B) Our thoughts and concentration are not all the time on the Tephillin and we may forget about them or go into levity outside of the Synagogue. C) Our bodies may not be clean all the time whether due to a stomach ailment or other physical ailments. Seeing that we might be embarrassed by men not seeing us with Tephillin on, we would wear them on the way to the Synagogue without a clean body – just to impress mankind.]

Rabbi Shimon says, “When a man rises at midnight and gets up and studies the Torah until daylight, and when the daylight comes he puts the phylacteries with the holy impress on his arm and on his head and covers himself with a fringed robe, and as he issues forth from the door of his house and passes the Mezuzah Angels accompany him to the Synagogue. They proclaim before him: ‘Give honor to the Son of the KING, to the precious countenance of the KING.’ A Holy Spirit comes and rests upon him and declares, “Israel in whom I will be glorified.” (Isa. 49.3) and then ascends before the most High KING and the names (of these type of Jews) go forth in HIS Palace.”

9 And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.

The Mezuzah is on the right side of the door post as one walks into a house or from a small room to a larger room. This is on the right side as one enters. The right side represents positive spiritual forces and the left side negative spiritual forces.

Déjà vu thanks to Miriam Shoshana for pointing out the Story to me: A Tisha B'Av wake-up call from Rebbitzen Esther Jungreis by Sara Rigler.

Halacha: Usually the Haftorah is connected to the weekly Torah Reading. During the seven weeks following the fast of 9 B'Av we read the Seven Haftarot of Consolation from Yeshayahu. This Shabbat is named after the opening words of the first of the Seven Haftorah of Consolation: "Nachamu, Nachum Ami"; Hashem instructs Yeshayahu to "Console, console My people". Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:4, 22:8, Shabbat Shalom, - Danny
Erev Shabbat Nachamu, 10 Menachem-Av 5769

From Bezalel Purity and Holiness: Talk based on Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzatto Z”L

From Simcha at IAI computer center – the City of David a view of the city from above, underground water works, etc. given by a professor in Hebrew. Worth seeing for Bible Scholars even if you don’t understand the Hebrew. :

As one Ages the person is 21 plus and not in his or her prime. I received this little poem this week on the subject: Waking up old

There is nothing whatsoever the matter with me,
I am healthy as can be.
I have arthritis in both my knees,
Whenever I talk, I talk with a wheeze!
My pulse is weak, my blood is thin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

My teeth eventually will have to come out,
Of my diet, I hate to think about.
I am overweight and can’t get thin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

Arch supports for my feet,
Or I wouldn’t be able to walk in the street.
Sleep is denied me every night,
In the morning I am an awful sight.
My memory is failing , my head is in a spin,
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.

How do I know that my youth is spent?
Because my get up and go got up and went!
But in spite of all that, I am able to grin,
Than to let you know the shape I’m in.

“Old age is golden”, I have heard it said,
But sometimes wonder as I get into bed,
My ears in the drawer, my teeth in a cup,
My eyes on the table as I get up,
When sleep dims my eyes, I say to myself,
“Is there anything else I should put on the shelf?”

But I’m happy as I close my eyes;
My friends are the same as in days gone by.
When I was young, my slippers were red;
I could kick my heels over my head.
Now my slippers are black,
I walk to the corner and puff my way back.

But I really don’t mind,
I think with a grin
Because of all the places I have been,
I get up each morning and dust off my wits,
Pick up the paper and read the “O’bits”
If my name is missing, I know I’m not dead,
So I eat a hearty breakfast and go back to bed!

What can I pay back to Hashem for all he has bestowed upon me (116:12 Tehillim)?
Binyamin Jadidi

1 I love that the LORD should hear my voice and my supplications.
2 Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him all my days.
3 The cords of death compassed me, and the straits of the nether-world got hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow.
4 But I called upon the name of the LORD: 'I beseech thee, O LORD, deliver my soul.'
5 Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is compassionate.
6 The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.
7 Return, O my soul, unto thy rest; for the LORD hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8 For Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.
9 I shall walk before the LORD in the lands of the living.
10 I trusted even when I spoke: 'I am greatly afflicted.'
11 I said in my haste: 'All men are liars.'
12 How can I repay unto the LORD all His bountiful dealings toward me?
13 I will lift up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD.
14 My vows will I pay unto the LORD, yea, in the presence of all His people.
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.
16 I beseech Thee, O LORD, for I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant, the son of Thy handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bands.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.
18 I will pay my vows unto the LORD, yea, in the presence of all His people;
19 In the courts of the LORD'S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Hallelujah.

R’ A.L. passed on this story the same day I received the Benyamin Jadidi story from Gene Alberts and it runs contra to feeling old.

The first day of school our professor introduced himself and challenged us to get to know someone we didn't already know. I stood up to look around when a gentle hand touched my shoulder.

I turned around to find a wrinkled, little old lady beaming up at me with a smile that lit up her entire being.

She said, "Hi handsome. My name is Rose. I'm eighty-seven years old. Can I give you a hug?"

I laughed and enthusiastically responded, "Of course you may!!" And she gave me a giant squeeze.

"Why are you in college at such a young, innocent age??" I asked.

She jokingly replied, "I'm here to meet a rich husband, get married, and have a couple of kids...."

"No seriously," I asked. I was curious what may have motivated her to be taking on this challenge at her age.

"I always dreamed of having a college education and now I'm getting one!!" She told me.

After class we walked to the student union building and share a chocolate milkshake.

We became instant friends. Every day for the next three months we would leave class together and talk nonstop. I was always mesmerized listening to this "Time machine" as she shared her wisdom and experience with me.

Over the course of the year, Rose became a campus icon and she was easily made friends wherever she went... She loved to dress up and she reveled in the attention bestowed upon her from the other students. She was living it up.

At the end of the semester we invited Rose to speak at our football banquet. I'll never forget what she taught us. She was introduced and stepped up to the podium. As she began to deliver her prepared speech, she dropped her three by five cards on the floor.

Frustrated and a little embarrassed, she leaned into the microphone and simply said, "I'm sorry I'm so jittery. I gave up beer for Lent and this whiskey is killing me!! I'll never get my speech back in order so let me just tell you what I know."

As we laughed she cleared her throat and began, "We do not stop playing because we are old; we grow old because we stop playing.

There are only four secrets to staying young, being happy, and achieving success. You have to laugh and find humor each and every day. You've go to have a dream. When you lose your dreams, you die.

We have so many people walking around who are dead and don't even know it!!

There is a huge difference between growing older and growing up.

If you are nineteen years old and lie in bed for one full year and don't do one productive thing, you will turn twenty years old. If I am eighty-seven years old and stay in bed for a year and never do anything I will turn eighty-eight.

Anybody can grow older. That doesn't take any talent or ability. The idea is to grow up by always finding opportunity in change. Have no regrets.

The elderly usually don't have any regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets."

She concluded her speech by courageously singing "The Rose."

She challenged each of us to study her lyrics and live them out in our daily lives. At the year's end Rose finished the college degree she had begun all those many years ago.

One week after her graduation Rose died peacefully in her sleep.

Over two thousand college students attended her funeral in tribute to the wonderful woman who taught by example that it's never too late to be all you can possibly be.

When you finished reading this, please send this word of advice to your friends and family members, they'll really enjoy it!!

These words have been passed in loving memory of Rose.

Remember, growing older is mandatory. Growing up is optional. We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give....

Hashem promises a safe landing, not a calm passage. If Hashem brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

Good friends and family members are like stars..... You don't always see them, but you know they are always there."

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef speaks out:,7340,L-3752180,00.html

A wonderful philosophical post on Sanctity and Holiness:

From Daas Torah: Sipurei Chassidim relates the following story that illustrates the importance of doing a Mitzva for a departed soul:

The Yismach Moshe had a son who had fallen critically ill. The blessing of a Tzadik was needed to save this child. R' Moshe sent some people to the grave of the Noam Elimelech to pray there. He instructed them upon entering the cemetery to announce that they would give a coin to charity for the soul who would notify the soul of the Noam Elimelech that they had come to pray at his Kever. He explained that the soul of the Tzadik isn't always near his grave and might be in higher worlds (only). To the other souls the merit of a physical mitzvah done in this world is so great that they would all rush to the Noam Elimelech's soul in order to be the one to merit the mitzvah. (The end of the story was that at the exact time they prayed there the boy woke up and told his father that a man who fit the description of the Noam Elimelech came to him and blessed him with health).

Eliyakum HaCohain produced a 27 minute film about belief in G-D:

In memory from a few years back First Sergeant Michael Levin HY”D:

Inyanay Diyoma

A surprise good word for Al Franken.: He is sponsoring in the Senate a bill for blinded veterans for receiving seeing eye dogs which is now via private donations. I approve of the bail out and for blinded vets and even health care help for wounded warriors who gave so much for defending freedom.

Secretary Gates and National Security Advisor are coming to Israel to put more pressure on us but:

She brought the lawsuit against deployment in Afghanistan for a soldier as there was no proof that the order was legal:

Hombres, Amigos and Amigas before Obama tells Yisrael what to do let him fix his own demographic problems. :,7340,L-3751635,00.html

50,000,000 Christians in the USA support Israel. If they can each convince 6 other people then maybe the president will take his Mitchell, Gates and others and mull things over instead of playing neutral on Iran.

Over 45 years ago, JFK said, “Let them come to Berlin” regarding the dividing of the city. Now a USA president wants to step on the JFK/Ronald Regan legacy and divide a capitol city. From Eliza:

From Deborah M. The wife of Tito the Builder:

JFK did not believe in withholding facts and concealing mistakes and stopping the opposition like the Simon Malls:

From Mindy a post from Sasha which I call - No Kikes, Niggers or Spics Here: Political commentator James Carville noted that Pennsylvania is “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in between.” As a person of color and Jew in the Alabama region of the state, not only do I concur with that statement, I’ll raise him one. Recent events in Pennsylvania have heightened our reputation as a rather unenlightened cloister in the rather educated and enlightened Northeast.

Pennsylvania has been the embodiment of lingering racial tension for the last year. Shall we give a brief compendium of past events?

1. The prevarication of the McCain campaign worker before the November 2008 election in the Pittsburgh area. (This does not reflect on John McCain)

2. A Pittsburgh area student racially harassed after the Obama victory.

3. Erie Police Department is being investigated for racial foul play.

4. Approximately 60 African-American and Latino kids were abruptly asked to leave a white swimming facility.

The case of the Creative Steps Inc. camp and the Valley Club in the greater Philadelphia area wasn’t shocking in the least. Mixed race activist have been reporting racially based discriminatory practices in the region for quite some time. A friend of mine wanted me to move to Philadelphia because her neighborhood was considered “progressive.” While I certainly feel that particular section of the city is accepting, Philadelphia has a bad reputation on race relations overall.

I honestly wish I could mollify the fears of my followers and depict a tolerant, kind version of Pennsylvania that Quaker founder William Penn wanted our Commonwealth (yes, we were a British protectorate) to embody. However, Pennsylvania has one of the highest levels of hate group membership in the Northeast. As a teenager, the Klan visited our house. Apparently, someone thought it would be funny to have them come to our house on a recruiting drive. Funny, I’m not laughing.

In my racial and ethnic minorities’ class at a state university, four of my peers were the first members of their family to refuse membership in hate groups. Indeed, one of these students, whom I later befriended, was ostracized by her family for refusing to participate in organized hate activities. Nearly 30 minutes from my college campus was the Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. Needless to say, the racial climate of my alma mater was quite tense at times.

I am currently at a loss to discover ways to fight this growth in racism in my home state. Honestly, as our state ages, I wonder if the problem is surmountable. Realistically, I’ve decided to work on moving outside of the state. While I certainly know racism exists everywhere, the variety espoused in Pennsyltucky isn’t prevalent everywhere.

How to be a traitor and get rich:,7340,L-3753766,00.html

I am a person who believes in speaking and publishing the truth. This week I fell victim to the president reading a book orally which the author talks about how whites are belittled. However, I don’t know what book the president was reading but it made the president appear as a hater of whites. I would like to warn my readers if they hear this U-tube as it is floating around the internet – it is the voice of the president but quoting a book which may or may not be a book I would approve of but not necessarily how the president really feels. So be wary about all you see and hear. I may be right wing – anti-extra spending due to cap and trade, pro-drilling, not for the health care plan of the democrats but I am also a person who does not like to spread lies. As for the questioning of the birth certificate, if there was one produced with the name of the doctor and hospital where the president was born like my own birth certificate, if produced, it would put the matters to rest.

I received an e-mail from E. Winston but because it was embedded I could not produce it here. It did warn about some anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish trends in the present administration in Washington.

Below is Mathis Wolfberg’s Good Shabbos Story: “Indian Giver”

Good Shabbos Everyone. We read the Shma in this week’s portion Va’Eschanan, as the verse says “Hear O’ Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is the one and only.” (Devarim 6:4) The Shma is the most important verse in the Torah because it defines the Jewish Nation. We are a nation which believes that Hashem is the Master of the Universe. Rambam explains this principle of Jewish faith in the following way: “I believe in perfect faith that Hashem is One. There is no unity that is in any way like His, He alone is our G-d -- He was, He is, and He will be.” (Maimonides’ Principles, Aryeh Kaplan Anthology I, p.30)
It is a mitzvah from the Torah to read the Shma twice a day, once at night and once in the morning. Jews also have the custom to read the Shma before going to sleep at night. The mitzvah of reading the Shma two times a day, includes all three paragraphs of the Shma as found in every prayer book. The Great Code of Jewish Law tells us that one should read the Shma intending to fulfill the mitzvah of announcing Hashem’s oneness. (Shulchan Aruch, 61:1) The Shma should be read with fear and trembling. (Ibid)
When one looks at the first sentence of the Shma in a Torah scroll, one notices that two letters are larger than the others. The final letters “ayin” of the first word Shma and “dalet” of the last word Echad, are in large print. The Hebrew letters “ayin” and “dalet” spell the Hebrew word “Eyd,” which means ‘witness.’ By reading the Shma, a Jew is testifying to Hashem’s mastery over the world. The following true if not unbelievable story, told in the first person, illustrates the power of saying the Shma.
It was the beginning of a long, hot summer in San Diego. We had left Israel for a few years so that we could return soon with a way to earn a living. Rachel, my wife, was in a nursing program and working. I, Mordechai, was looking for work. Money was tight and nerves were frayed. It was semester break, and we knew we needed to get away for a bit. Leaving the kids with a sitter, we set off in our little, dilapidated car for a drive in the desert mountains near Jamul.
In the middle of the desert, alongside the road, we saw a fruit and vegetable stand and stopped for some peaches. A crazy bright green and orange jalopy drove up and stopped, too, bad music blasting as two rowdy young men jumped out. One of them wore his hair in dreadlocks, long, matted twists of hair, while his companion chose the other extreme. He looked as if he had shaved off all his hair with a Swiss army knife.
The dreadlocks didn't look so strange to me. I remembered when I had worn dreadlocks myself not that many years before (I have since become boruch Hashem a Baal Teshuva). So I was the first to reach out. A casual remark about vegetables opened the conversation, and soon we were all talking together about organic produce and other things. Their car had come up from the south, where there was nothing but a bare expanse of desert reaching to the Mexican border. Where could they be coming from?
The guy with dreadlocks explained that they had spent a few days on the Mexican side of the border as part of a "seed group" helping to set up a Native American spiritual gathering. People were coming from as far away as Canada for a three-day happening. The big attraction was a young Indian chief who was a famous healer and spiritual leader. He invited us to the gathering. No matter how much we told them we couldn't go, the two insisted on drawing us a map. On a napkin they sketched back roads that would take us out to the middle of nowhere on the Mexican side of the border.
"By tomorrow hundreds of people will be coming," they assured us. "You shouldn't miss it." Then they hopped back into their bright green and orange jalopy and took off.
Driving home, Rachel and I shared our thoughts. Why did we meet these two men? And why did they insist on drawing us a map after we repeatedly told them we weren't interested? And why was this unusual invitation presented to us just when we most needed to get away from our daily pressures?
By the time we arrived home, we had agreed to go to the Indian gathering to see if there was some hidden divine plan awaiting us there. We packed the car and bought plenty of food. The next day, after Morning prayers, we set off with our kids and our tent. We drove southeast from San Diego through Tecate, the border town in Mexico. Poverty…lots of dogs…lots of garbage…We followed the marks on the napkin along lonely dirt roads that seemed to stretch out endlessly through the desert.
Finally, after many hours, we came to a clearing and saw a group assembling for a major gathering. Many tepees and sweat lodges were already set up. About thirty people were there ahead of us, a mixture of Native Americans and Mexicans with a smattering of adventures Anglos looking for the unusual. We heard more Spanish than English.
Inside a large tent four women were banging rhythms on a drum as big as a dining room table. The drumming went on for hours. We pitched out tent far away, in a remote, beautiful spot, and I walked up to a nearby mountaintop to daven mincha. Then we started a fire, cooked our dinner, and ate under a full moon. The children began to nod off. We tucked them into their sleeping bags and sat near the fire enjoying a quiet cup of coffee under the brilliants stars of the desert sky.
A middle-aged, heavyset woman in a beaded leather dress entered our campsite. "I'm Minna," she introduced herself in American-accented English. She had seen our campfire and wanted to make sure we had lit it safely. We let her inspect it and she gave us her approval, adding, "You'd be surprised how many people don't know how to built a safe campfire."
Despite her long, salt-and-pepper braids, her face, illuminated by the glow of the fire, didn't look Indian. We talked for a few minutes, and then Minna said, "Oh, you don't know that I'm Red Feather's mother. Red Feather is in charge of this gathering." Rachel and I were both thinking the same thing. It is that intuition that Jews have when they meet another Jew.
Finally we asked her. "Yes, I'm Jewish," she said. "And you are, too." Minna was friendly and open. She had grown up as a young girl living on the streets. Then she had married a Native American and joined his tribe. After many years her husband had died, and her son, Red Feather, had grown up to be the new Indian chief and medicine man. He had healing powers and a way of communicating with the spiritual.
"Does Red Feather know he's Jewish?" we asked. "Yes," Minna replied. "He knows."
"Does he know anything at all about being Jewish?"
"No, I never taught him anything," she answered. "I don't know much myself." My wife and I exchanged glances. Perhaps this was the divine plan. "Can we meet Red Feather?"
"I can't promise," Minna said doubtfully. "He's very busy. But I'll try to connect you." Red Feather had had a recent dream that he considered a prophecy, Minna told us. In his dream, he had seen a twenty-pointed star and he was told to gather many, many people together in this place in the Mexican desert. Right now he was down in the center of the clearing, setting up a large replica of that star on the ground. In the morning, the Native American healing rituals would begin under his direction. Minna stayed a while longer and talked to us by the light of our campfire. She told us about the Native American calendar and we told her about the Jewish calendar, Lahavdil.
After Minna said good night, I went down to the gathering to find Red Feather. I found him marking off a large circle about twenty meters in diameter. It was surrounded by twenty-eight two meter-high branches, whittled down very straight and smooth. Beside each branch was a pole stuck in the ground with a little sack of tobacco tied on top of it. The poles were connected to each other by a string decorated with feathers.
Inside the circle, cornmeal was spread over the hard earth with designs drawn in it. The fragrance of burning sage was everywhere. Red Feather was deep in concentration, reconstructing his vision of the twenty-eight-pointed star. I guessed he was in his thirties, a short, very intense man with long, braided, dusty-blond hair. He didn't look Indian either, except in his dress. I walked into his line of vision, knowing not to get too close, and watched him silently.
I knew Indians. I had taught them in the Alaskan countryside. Indians don't like idle talk. I watched him work and waited for him to be the first to speak. "This star came to me in a vision," Red Feather said at last.
I replied in tight-jawed, sparse, Indian-style English. "Met your mother," He nodded. "She's Jewish." Again he nodded. "You're Jewish."
"Yes," he answered.
"Do you know Shema Yisrael?" I asked.
"No." "Do you know the Hebrew letters?" "No." "Do you know who Abraham is?" "No." "Moses?"
"No. I just know a little about the Merkava. I think the star in my vision is like it." He was speaking about the holy chariot seen in a vision by the prophet Yechezkel thousands of years ago. The Merkava is understood only by the greatest Jewish Kabbalists. It rides in worlds that we cannot enter while we are on this earth, and its secrets are among the deepest mysteries that will be revealed to all with the coming of Mashiach.
I saw that Red Feather liked to work with his hands. He liked to bring the spiritual down into the physical. While he worked, I talked to him about the mitzvahs a man like him would appreciate. I told him about the spirituality of tefillin, tzitzis talis, the city of Jerusalem, and the Holy Temple.
He listened intently. He wanted to put on my tefillin and was disappointed to hear that it could only be done in the daytime. "Tomorrow there will be a big medicine dance," he said. "We break at noon for fifteen minutes. Is that enough time?"
"Yes," I answered, "if there is a quiet place nearby where no one will disturb us." Early in the morning before the others woke up, I prayed shacharis. Then we packed up our car. Hundreds of people were awake by then, drumming and dancing to a mind-numbing beat. We heard they'd be sacrificing buffalo hearts on an altar and doing who knows what other idol worship. We needed to get out of there, but I had made my promise to Red Feather. So we kept our children close to the tent and stayed far away from the dangerous, dark rituals.
At twelve o'clock noon I walked to our meeting place by the star. Red Feather was there. "It's time. Come," I said, tight jawed. Red Feather took the lead and led me down a dusty trail to a secluded area out of view and far enough away to soften the pounding of the incessant drumming. I took the talis and draped it over his head. He repeated the blessing after me. I spoke to him about the ten sefiros, the ten Kabbalistic spheres. Then I took the tefilin out and told him about chesed (kindness), gevura (strength), and tiferes (splendor). Red Feather repeated the Hebrew blessings after me and I tightened the black leather straps on his left hand. Placing the head tefillin on his brow, I told him about chochma (wisdom), bina (understanding), daas (knowledge), and malchus (kingship).
Then the young Indian chief, wrapped in my talis and tefillin, sat with me on a long rock and we said Shema. I suggested some powerful images for him to keep in mind while he meditated. Then I walked off into the brush, leaving him alone to pray to his Creator as a Jew for the first time. Ten minutes later, Red Feather was still motionless. I gave him another ten minutes.
Meanwhile, back at my family's campsite, Rachel could hear people calling for Red Feather. Everyone was looking for him. She chuckled. If only they knew what Red Feather was doing right then. I checked on Red Feather again, He was still deep in meditation. Quietly, I sat down beside him. After a few minutes, I began to hum a niggun, a spiritual Jewish melody. Then I recited a psalm. He didn’t move. I told a story about the Baal Shem Tov. He still didn't move.
Finally Red Feather spoke. He was very shaken. "My ancestors were calling me," he said. "I saw a vision of a woman with her hair covered. I have to learn more! Please stay after all the people leave and teach me more about my people and our way of prayer."
"I can't stay," I said softly. "The rituals done here are not the ways of the Torah. I must take my wife and children away. Our Creator has brought us together. How are we to know when His plan for us has been completed? Maybe we have accomplished our purpose in each other's lives. I must go."
Red Feather broke into tears and hugged me. I let him cry for some time. Then I gently took the talis and tefillin off him. We walked back to the gathering together and said our good-byes. I made sure to give him my pone number.
Red Feather never called. Later we moved and our phone number changed. But I know that just as Hashem sent me to Red Feather at that moment in his life, so too will Hashem provide Red Feather with all the help he needs to come back to his people and his heritage. (Editor’s note: All names in the story are fictitious; all the details really happened. The narrator of the story is a resident of Tsfas. The writer, Chana Besser, is also a Tsfas resident.)
Let us recite the Shma everyday, twice a day, and cry out our perfect faith in Hashem, the One and Only G-d. Good Shabbos Everyone.

Mr. Wolfberg’s stories are sponsored by: Refuah Shleima to Mordechai Menachem Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta

In memory of Shosha Malka bas R' Avrohom 21 Cheshvan Refuah Shleimah to Chana Ashayra bas Dodi

Be well and have a great Shabbos,

Rachamim Pauli