Friday, May 24, 2013

Parsha Behaalosecha, Adjusting to Israel, Adjusting to Judaism

Emanuel A. Winston- it is around this time Am Yisrael lost a great man. I came across a lot of his works this week as I tried to recover lost data from the hacking/virus that I had last year. His influence lives on even though he is gone!

Shai Shalom ben Leah Chaya needs prayers.

The situation with Kollel Beit Shlomo is very difficult! I write the without monetary recompense however, the young men in the Kollel need financial aid. The IRS did not recognize our Non-Profit Status and with the recent scandal I think I know why. I do not receive compensation for my administration, learning or anything from the Kollel in fact I am one of the larger donors. Now we are in trouble. We have 17 young men learning to be Rabbinical Judges or at least teachers of Judges. The government of Israel GOI is cutting down on the stipends. The Sephardic Group who have been helping us from Netivot Israel, has inspected us and found us genuine with all members in attendance. However, they are looking for ways to cut the budget and stipends. We have perhaps the cream of the crop who are capable of learning to be Judges and may have to let 7 members of the day Kollel go even if they are in attendance, on time and passing their tests. It is not my habit to make appeals in the BlogSpot but 7 families depend upon these stipends and our Torah World with merits for our soldiers and our safety do. Please make even a small donation of $10 or more dollars to Rabbi Mimran Kollel Beit Shlomo  Sde Chemed 5/2  Modiin Illit  Israel  and may you be blessed by HASHEM.

Israel vs. the USA in treatment of injured soldiers: Sometimes in rare cases outside funding is needed to help with aids or accessories for wounded soldiers but there is no need for a Wounded Warriors Project like in the States. I am proud to say that our brothers in the Knesset do provide for the injured, orphans and widows of fallen soldiers. Now there is no longer a widow penalty clause if she remarries.

Parsha Behaalosecha

This week’s Sedra was not the most divisive among the nation of Yisrael, as we start out with the holy menorah, the purification of Shevet Levi and the observance of Pessach each year. Even the laws of the Bechor aka first born were easily accepted by the people. The command to make the two silver trumpets and the blowing of it was readily accepted. But one thing was hard on the people and that was food variety. It is said that regarding the Mann that it tasted anyway one wanted for it to taste sort of like our soya products today when spiced can taste like bacon, pork sausages, cheese, etc. Some people did not like the same texture day in and day out so they longed for the good ole days of slavery where they ate better. In this way it is funny as men like Thomas Paine would rather have death than lose their liberty and the way of many a man is similar. However, when one gets a dependency like the Bnei Yisrael in Egypt, he/she wants more and more things. So it was these ex-slaves after a year and a month of freedom had forgotten of their taskmasters and the bitterness of slavery. Instead they longed not for the spiritual aspects and elevating their Neshama individually and collectively but rather of their taste buds. This rebellion against HASHEM left a number of gluttons dead who wanted so much real meat that they ate it raw and the toxins of the flight of the birds were still in their muscles and wings from the stress of the flight.

In a similar vein of having not enough to do either because of lack of pressurized work, lack of a boss or boredom cost a Torah Yid his life. Once there was a very-very wealthy man who was married to a pretty and intelligent Frum Woman who was the head of a large company. He and his family supported charities and other good things. One day he died from an overdose and the bimbo who was with him had to call Magen David Adom who pronounced him dead. Why boredom? Wanting adventure? Wanting something during the time his wife was forbidden to him and with his money he thought he could buy it. It is no wonder that the Torah warns about Yeshurun waxing fat.
Also in the middle of the Parsha is like a separate Sefer in itself regarding the movement of the Aron HaKodesh. And finally the sister-in-law’s cause being taken up by Miriam and passively by Aaron regarding the lack of a family life for her while Moshe is the leader of Am Yisrael. But wait even that is Lashon Hara even if it is trying to make a repair to something within the family mainly because it was not said to Moshe face to face!

8:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 'Speak unto Aaron, and say unto him: When thou lightest the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the candlestick.' 3 And Aaron did so: he lighted the lamps thereof so as to give light in front of the candlestick, as the LORD commanded Moses. 4 And this was the work of the candlestick, beaten work of gold; unto the base thereof, and unto the flowers thereof, it was beaten work; according unto the pattern which the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the candlestick.

One molded piece was the lamp. The oil was placed in the night before and burned 24 hrs. in that the eastern flame and this was a miracle that it did not go out.

When you light: Why is the portion dealing with the menorah juxtaposed to the portion dealing with the chieftains? For when Aaron saw the dedication [offerings] of the chieftains, he felt distressed over not joining them in this dedication-neither he nor his tribe. So God said to him, “By your life, yours is greater than theirs, for you will light and prepare the lamps.” - [Tanchuma Beha’alothecha 3] … Toward the face of the menorah: Toward the middle lamp, which is not on [one of] the branches, but on the menorah itself. — [Men. 98b] shall cast their light: The six on the six branches; the three eastern ones-that is their wicks-facing towards the center one, and likewise, the three western ones, the tops of their wicks facing toward the center one. Why [were the wicks facing inwards, thus giving off so little light]? So that [people] should not say that He [God] needs the light. — [Tanchuma Beha’alothecha 5]

This week's Parsha describes how Aaron, the high priest, would light the Menorah every day in the Tabernacle. The verse emphasizes that "Aaron did as was commanded" (Numbers 8:3). The commentators point out that this was a special praise of Aaron, in that he didn't divert from the prescribed method of lighting the Menorah.
Yet this explanation seems difficult to understand. Why would we think that a great man like Aaron would be tempted to light the Menorah in an inappropriate way?!
Nachmanides explains that the praise of Aaron is that even though the job could have been delegated to someone else, Aaron always did it himself - throughout the entire 40 years in the desert.
The Sfas Emes says that beyond this, Aaron lit the menorah, day in and day out, with the same degree of fresh enthusiasm. The same task always appeared in his eyes as new. Now that's truly deserving of praise!
Think about your own life. We all have tasks that we perform on a daily basis: meeting with clients, dinner with the family, even saying the Shema. The question is: Do we fall into a habit of rote, where the joy and meaning has somehow dissipated into a whirl of mindless motion?
Here's the solution to break this monotony:
Figure out what you are naturally enthusiastic about. List the moments in your life of greatest enthusiasm. Then, for one week, keep a list of every enthusiastic moment you have.
These exercises will help you become more consciously aware of your enthusiasm. You can then nurture it and make it an integral part of who you are.
By calmly practicing, you will eventually be able to consciously choose a state of enthusiasm, and draw upon its positive energy. Just as Aaron did in lighting up ... the golden Menorah

5 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 6 'Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. 7 And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and cleanse themselves.

The Leviim are replacing the Bechor Children who were supposed to lead the nation. For the sin of the golden calf was attended by a few Bechoros. Why the sprinkling and why the razor? Rashi comes to clarify these questions.

Sprinkle them with cleansing water: from the ashes of the red cow, so as to cleanse them from contamination by those who were in contact with the dead. and pass a razor over all their flesh: I found in the writings of R. Moses Hadarshan (the preacher): Since they [the Levites] were submitted in atonement for the firstborn who had practiced idolatry [when they worshipped the golden calf], which is called sacrifices to the dead-and one afflicted with tzara’ath is considered dead-they required shaving like those afflicted with tzara’ath.

8 Then let them take a young bullock, and its meal-offering, fine flour mingled with oil, and another young bullock shalt thou take for a sin-offering.

Then they shall take a young bull: That is a burnt offering, as it is written, “and designate…and one as a burnt offering” (verse 12); this is the communal offering [to atone] for idolatry. and a second young bull: What does it mean by “a second” ? It teaches that just as a burnt offering is not eaten, so is [this] sin-offering not eaten. There is a support for his [R. Moses’] comments in Torath Kohanim (Obligatory sacrifices 3:4) [which states that this sin-offering was burnt up]. I, however, believe that this was a temporary injunction [not to atone for idolatry], since they should have brought a goat as a sin-offering for idolatry, with the bull for a burnt offering.

9 And thou shalt present the Levites before the tent of meeting; and thou shalt assemble the whole congregation of the children of Israel.

And you shall gather the entire congregation: Since the Levites were submitted as an atonement offering instead of them, let them [the Israelites] come and stand with their offerings [namely the Levites] and rest their hands upon them. — [Midrash Aggadah] 11

10 And thou shalt present the Levites before the LORD; and the children of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites. 11 And Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD for a wave-offering from the children of Israel, that they may be to do the service of the LORD.

Then Aaron shall lift up the Levites as a waving: in the same way that the guilt-offering of one afflicted with tzara’ath requires waving [the animal] while it is alive. Three wavings are mentioned in this section: the first (verse 11) refers to the sons of Kohath, and for this reason it states with regard to them, “that they may serve in the Lord’s service,” since they were responsible for the work involving the most holy objects-the ark, the table, etc. The second (verse 13) refers to the sons of Gershon. Therefore, it is stated with regard to them,“a waving before the Lord” (verse 13), for even they were assigned holy work-the curtains and the clasps, which could be seen in the Holy of Holies. The third [waving] was for the sons of Merari (verse 14). - [Midrash Aggadah] 16

12 And the Levites shall lay their hands upon the heads of the bullocks; and offer thou the one for a sin-offering, and the other for a burnt-offering, unto the LORD, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 And thou shalt set the Levites before Aaron, and before his sons, and offer them for a wave-offering unto the LORD. 14 Thus shalt thou separate the Levites from among the children of Israel; and the Levites shall be MINE. …

The second Pessach or the first anniversary of Pessach:

9:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 'Let the children of Israel keep the Passover in its appointed season. 3 In the fourteenth day of this month, at dusk, ye shall keep it in its appointed season; according to all the statutes of it, and according to all the ordinances thereof, shall ye keep it.'

Up until now there were some folks who thought that Pessach was only Pessach Mitzrayim but now they became certain that it was for all generations.

4 And Moses spoke unto the children of Israel, that they should keep the Passover. 5 And they kept the pass over in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at dusk, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so did the children of Israel. 6 But there were certain men, who were unclean by the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day.

These were Leviim who buried Nadav and Avihu who died on the 8th of Nissan. They only had 6 days to purify themselves with contact of touching a corpse so they would not have the full seven days and the evening for a Korban Pessach.

7 And those men said unto him: 'We are unclean by the dead body of a man; wherefore are we to be kept back, so as not to bring the offering of the LORD in its appointed season among the children of Israel?' 8 And Moses said unto them: 'Stay ye, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.' 9 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 10 'Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: If any man of you or of your generations shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the Passover unto the LORD; 11 in the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk they shall keep it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs; 12 they shall leave none of it unto the morning, nor break a bone thereof; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall keep it.

We came across Pessach Sheni in the narrative in Parshas Emor but since we are dealing with the Pessach in our Sedra, the story repeats itself. The Torah is not a mathematics book or a 1, 2, and 3 step by step history book but rather a series of a collection of stories and Halacha learning in the dessert. It was dictated to Moshe by HASHEM and there is a good educational reason to repeat Shabbos and Yom Tov rules and ingrain them into the mild of each and every ben or bas Yisrael.

13 But the man that is clean, and is not on a journey, and forbears to keep the Passover, that soul shall be cut off from his people; because he brought not the offering of the LORD in its appointed season, that man shall bear his sin.

One gets Kares for violating the Shabbos, Adultery, Murder, Incest but the lack of participate in the Korban Pessach and the observance of refraining from eating Chametz is so great that it is the denial of HASHEM. Yes for it was HASHEM who passed over the Bnei Yisrael and took the first born of Mitzrayim and destroyed their idols at midnight. Non-observance is therefore attacking HASHEM. (In my humble opinion, the giving away of land in Yehuda, Shomron, Sinai and the Golan Heights to non-Jews after the miracles of the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars is also like spitting on the gifts from HASHEM and woe unto us. How many people must die for giving away Gush Katif and parts of the Shomron? Oy va-voy!)

14 And if a stranger shall sojourn among you, and will keep the Passover unto the LORD: according to the statute of the Passover, and according to the ordinance thereof, so shall he do; ye shall have one statute, both for the stranger, and for him that is born in the land.'

A stranger! Rather a Ger Tzeddek for a Ger Toshav like our Druze and some of the Bedouins today that recognize the State of Israel and the laws therein may possess Chametz and eat Chametz on Pessach.

15 And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the tent of the testimony; and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until morning. 16 So it was always: the cloud covered it, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped. 18 At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they encamped: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they remained encamped. 19 And when the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not. 20 And sometimes the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they remained encamped, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed. 21 And sometimes the cloud was from evening until morning; and when the cloud was taken up in the morning, they journeyed; or if it continued by day and by night, when the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. 22 Whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, abiding thereon, the children of Israel remained encamped, and journeyed not; but when it was taken up, they journeyed. 23 At the commandment of the LORD they encamped, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed; they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

The following is my personal analysis and subject to debate: Even though only a few places are mentioned for the journeys in Devarim, the movements appear to be localized areas for grazing and water. If I was to categorize this in modern terms perhaps I would say for my readers in the UK they travelled from Lester Square to Kensington, for a New Yorker from Borough Hall, Brooklyn to Brighton Beach or from Sheepshead Bay to Coney Island or for a Floridian from Adventura to North Miami Beach or Hollywood, CA to Pasadena, CA. This is how I view the many minor movements that must have occurred in the 40 years and only the main great journeys from further away places are recorded.

10:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 'Make thee two trumpets of silver; of beaten work shalt thou make them; and they shall be unto thee for the calling of the congregation, and for causing the camps to set forward. 3 And when they shall blow with them, all the congregation shall gather themselves unto thee at the door of the tent of meeting. . 9 And when ye go to war in your land against the adversary that oppresses you, then ye shall sound an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies. 10 Also in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed seasons, and in your new moons, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt-offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings; and they shall be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.'

The Trumpets served a dual purpose for assembly in case of war and for holiday services.

When I was in Israel less than half a year, I complained to a fellow at work who was a manager but not mine about what I gave up in the States to come to Israel. In those days it was access to my late father’s bungalow, my sailboat, my sled, ice skates and other things. It was something like citizen Cane mentioning “rosebud”. However, he brought down the story below regarding my complaints. It was a similar analogy with one important exception; I came from a free country as a free man looking to make my life in Eretz Yisrael where other people like Rabbi D. had failed in 1949. I did manage to stay with a bit of backing but it was very hard at the start. The man had come with his father in the mid or late 1930’s fleeing Nazi Germany while one could leave. His struggle was harder but he had grown up on a lower standard of living than an American grows up on. Still he was right in that I should be embarrassed for complaining.

Israel was a culture shock to me too as I was educated in a certain way with manners and the crudeness and lack of an education by many of the older generation and even my generation was appalling to me. It would take another two years to adjust to the culture, language and various customs (in those days there was a siesta period in most of the stores between 2 to 4 PM). Yet eventually I integrated into the society. Compared to the new immigrants today, I feel Israeli and have less in common with them outside of the language than the more established Israelis of my age group give or take. The phenomenon exists in a reverse way. When my wife and I are in FL she tries to hang out with Israelis who moved to the States and does not have the pledge of allegiance type of feeling that I have for the land of my nativity.

So on one hand I could understand the feeling of the people complaining in our Parsha. Yet, my complaint was also not having a survivable income for a single worker in a family while the Bnei Yisrael were fed Mann, had their own private tents over their heads, protected without taxes by the army, ongoing education, miracles, and true G-D fearing leadership. Not quite the Absorbsion Ministry run by the anti-religious Mapam  Party.

In fact Mapam told me similar to the story below – IT WON’T WORK. However, I got some help from Yad LeAchim with Rav Avraham Goldstein and the previous Pittsburgher Rebbe and was able to fight them enough plus some financial backing from my late mother-in-law of blessed memory from my first wife that was enough to allow me to establish myself in Israel. In the story from Aish HaTorah below, the couple made the adjustments and integrated themselves.

11:1 And the people were as murmurers, speaking evil in the ears of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled; and the fire of the LORD burnt among them, and devoured in the uttermost part of the camp. 2 And the people cried unto Moses; and Moses prayed unto the LORD, and the fire abated. 3 And the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burnt among them. 4 And the mixed multitude that was among them fell a lusting; and the children of Israel also wept on their part, and said: 'Would that we were given flesh to eat! 5 We remember the fish, which we were wont to eat in Egypt for nought; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic; 6 but now our soul is dried away; there is nothing at all; we have nought save this manna to look to.'-- 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and the appearance thereof as the appearance of bdellium. 8 The people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in mortars, and seethed it in pots, and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was as the taste of a cake baked with oil. 9 And when the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell upon it.-- 10 And Moses heard the people weeping, family by family, every man at the door of his tent; and the anger of the LORD was kindled greatly; and Moses was displeased. 11 And Moses said unto the LORD: 'Wherefore hast Thou dealt ill with Thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favor in Thy sight, that Thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? 12 Have I conceived all this people? have I brought them forth, that Thou should say unto me: Carry them in thy bosom, as a nursing-father carries the sucking child, unto the land which Thou didst swear unto their fathers? 13 Whence should I have flesh to give unto all this people? for they trouble me with their weeping, saying: Give us flesh, that we may eat.

The question is was Moshe ignorant that G-D fed them in Mitzrayim without any trouble or was he afraid that their Yetzer would not be satisfied. Whatever it was he felt the horrible burden upon himself.

23 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'Is the LORD'S hand waxed short? now shalt thou see whether My word shall come to pass unto thee or not.' 24 And Moses went out, and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and set them round about the Tent. 25 And the LORD came down in the cloud, and spoke unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and put it upon the seventy elders; and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, but they did so no more. 26 But there remained two men in the camp, the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other Medad; and the spirit rested upon them; and they were of them that were recorded, but had not gone out unto the Tent; and they prophesied in the camp.

The story was that 72 pieces of parchment was put into bowl and on 70 was written “elder” and on two there were blank spaces. Eldad and Medad actually got “elder” but they excused themselves with the fact that others would not be embarrassed. For this humbleness they got such prophecy they knew what was going on both in the Sanhedrin and within the camp.

 27 And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said: 'Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.' 28 And Joshua the son of Nun, the minister of Moses from his youth up, answered and said: 'My lord Moses, shut them in.' 29 And Moses said unto him: 'Art thou jealous for my sake? would that all the LORD'S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His spirit upon them!' 30 And Moses withdrew into the camp, he and the elders of Israel. 31 And there went forth a wind from the LORD, and brought across quails from the sea, and let them fall by the camp, about a day's journey on this side, and a day's journey on the other side, round about the camp, and about two cubits above the face of the earth. 32 And the people rose up all that day, and all the night, and all the next day, and gathered the quails; he that gathered least gathered ten heaps; and they spread them all abroad for themselves round about the camp. 33 While the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague. 34 And the name of that place was called Kibroth-hattaavah, because there they buried the people that lusted. 35 From Kibroth-hattaavah the people journeyed unto Hazeroth; and they abode at Hazeroth.

The name of the place if translated into English is: (the) graves of the gluttons.

I want to write more about the story of Miriam at the end of our Parsha and Ble Neder (no vow) will try to bring it down next week.

A little story of the workings in Israel that just finished off tonight with my wife checking our bank account:

Although my wife came to Israel at the age of either 2.5 years old or 3 years of age and was educated through the university, somethings are hard to adjust despite of what I wrote above. In Israel, the government has an Eastern European Mentality that you are going to try to cheat by hook or by crook. When you submit charity donations it has to be to an approved charity institution and you must have an original receipt to claim a deduction on donations a photocopy unless written and stamped true to the original is unacceptable.

Since we were coming to the States to see our children here especially our wonder granddaughter after close to 14 years of marriage, my wife mailed all our tax information to the accountant. That was on April 14th. Time went by and they had not received it after a week and it should have taken a day or two. My wife, called them and she left all the information with my daughter who started running after charities and obtaining new receipts with the original stamp.

Tonight, my wife checked our bank statement and saw that the check to the accountant was cashed on May 16th. One full month from Modiin via Lod to Hertzliya -  I could have made it in one day with a walker or on crotches! Always a new surprise in Israel so if you make Aliyah do not be upset and laugh it off.

We fell in love. It didn’t matter that I was a New York Jew and she was a devout Christian who grew up on a farm.
“If Gayle were interested in converting, then you’d have a chance. But as things stand now, it won’t work.” I walked out of the rabbi’s office, asking myself what I should do next.

It won’t work.

They replayed in my mind over and over. A dead end. No way out. My world – at least the one I had known for the past 11 years – seemed to be crashing down around me.
This wasn’t supposed to happen. When I first met Gayle, I never would have imagined I’d be meeting with an Orthodox rabbi, asking him how I might become an observant Jew and raise a Jewish child. I was the one who went to synagogue twice a year, some years anyway. Lobster was one of my favorite foods. I thought religion was something that was supposed to bring people together, not get in the way of a relationship. Sure, being Jewish was important to me. But what did that have to do with who I marry? If Gayle wasn’t Jewish, so what?
Ok, so she was more than simply “not Jewish.” When we met, Gayle was quite the devout Christian, a full-time Christian in fact. As the Minister of Music for a Texas mega-church, she stood in front of thousands of congregants every Sunday morning, and spent most of her waking hours during the week rehearsing the church’s 12 choirs and musical groups.
She wouldn’t have gone out with me, except that some good mutual friends insisted on setting us up. Before we met, devout Christian that she was, she wasn’t planning on spending her life with a Jew.
But we fell in love, and suddenly it didn’t matter that I grew up in New York and she grew up on a farm near Peoria. It didn’t matter that she was passionately committed to the church while I had a lukewarm relationship with Judaism. We were in love, and love conquers all, right?
I sat on a bench outside the synagogue, trying to collect my thoughts. My mind drifted to our courtship those many years ago. As a favor to her, I had sung in her church choir one Sunday morning. While waiting just outside the church’s sanctuary for the service to begin, a friend of mine in the choir leaned over and said, “So tell me, what’s a nice Jewish boy like you doing in a place like this?” At the time, I laughed – almost uncontrollably.

Now it seemed more of a challenge than a joke.

Past is past, I thought. There has to be a way around this. We have a young son. We decided we’d raise him as a Jew. Gayle’s not quite the devout Christian she used to be. At the church, she’s been connecting more and more to the music and less and less to the religion. And she was more than willing to raise our son Jewish. She just wasn’t sure she wanted to convert, that’s all.
I sat on that bench a long time, thinking about all the other intermarried couples I knew. Some were very happily married, deeply in love. And yet – there was almost always an unspoken chasm, a place in the deepest part of one’s soul where Jew could not follow non-Jew, and vice versa. My mind turned to a woman in Gayle’s church, married to a Jew. They loved each other very much. But the chasm was there, nonetheless. One day, she had confided to Gayle that there were times she found it hard that he couldn’t fully share in something that was such a deep part of her.
I stood up and took a few steps from the bench, now a bit defiant. Ok, God, I thought. This is Your fault. I was doing just fine, when I felt this kind of tap on the shoulder, nudging me to connect with You, pushing me to learn more about Judaism, putting me in certain situations where neither I, nor Gayle for that matter, felt satisfied in a less traditional setting where we might have fit in as an intermarried family. You’re the One who brought Orthodox Jews in my path, just at the time we were in the midst of adopting our son. You’re the One who put the idea in Gayle’s mind that we’d raise our son Jewish even as she continued directing the music for a church.
For 11 years, I had no need for any of this. Why now? God, You got us into this mess. You need to get us out of it!

And HE did.

I had already been going to classes at Aish for a year, which happened to be just down the street from the synagogue whose rabbi had made things sound hopeless. Discovering the beauty and depth of Torah at those classes was part of the tap on the shoulder I had felt. Another part was meeting the several now-grown children of intermarried parents who attended those same classes, who felt like they were not fully in either camp, and had come to Aish to figure out where they belonged. Not what I wanted for our son, I had thought.
After my rant at God, I suddenly remembered something that Rabbi Turtletaub, one of the Aish rabbis, had said to me nearly six months before. That had been when the chasm had started to widen, when our hours of talking had gotten us far but not far enough, and we needed to find someone who might help us figure it all out.
Rabbi Turtletaub met with each of us together, and then privately. He told me about other intermarried families he’d counseled, and how when the Jewish spouse became observant and the Christian spouse remained Christian, things often didn’t turn out so well. I had told him he wasn’t giving us much hope.
To my surprise, he insisted I shouldn’t give up hope at all. That after meeting Gayle, he had sensed something. And that, as the Jewish sages say, everything can change “in the blink of an eye.”
I snapped out of my reverie and looked back at the bench. In the blink of an eye? Was I really going to wake up tomorrow and find everything changed? Yeah, right. Miracles might happen to other people – but to me? I remained skeptical. But a part of me silently hoped.
A couple of months later, God tapped me on the shoulder again with the same message. Ever since the rabbi had told me “it won’t work,” I had stayed away from his synagogue. Then one Shabbat morning, for some reason, I felt I wanted to go. The Torah portion was from the story of Joseph. And sitting among hundreds of people, the rabbi’s words seemed tailored just for me.
The rabbi described how, when Joseph is taken from jail, his prisoner clothes are exchanged for a new uniform, representing his dramatic change of status. The Torah describes Joseph being taken from his prison cell, where just a few moments before he seemed destined to reside permanently, by saying he was “rushed” to Pharaoh. Often, the rabbi explained, things are happening behind the scenes that aren’t apparent to us. And then – all of a sudden – things are “rushed,” things turn around completely. Joseph’s story shows us that no matter what things looked like yesterday, today can be different.
I thought to myself involuntarily, Yes, Joseph’s whole world transformed, as Rabbi Turtletaub would say, ‘in the blink of an eye.’ And at that moment, I let go. I just knew. Everything was going to turn out ok. I didn’t know exactly how. But it didn’t matter how, because it would. I was sure of it.
And things did start to change. Maybe not quite in the blink of an eye. But like pieces of a puzzle, everything started to come together. We started to go to an Orthodox synagogue together on Shabbat, just to see what it would be like. And there we found the most amazing people who met us where we were with warmth and kindness, and gently challenged us to reach higher.
And miracles really did start to happen. We traveled to Israel with our son, who had become a sponge for all things Jewish. Now 4 ½ and still a pre-writer, he scribbled a “prayer” on a piece of paper and gently placed it in the crevices of the Western Wall. “What did you pray for,” I asked.
In a voice full of confidence, he said, “I prayed that everyone should know that Hashem is One, and that there should be peace over Jerusalem.”
The tap on the shoulder had become a warm embrace.
There’s more to the story, much more. Enough to fill a book, which in fact we did. Our full journey, with all of the twists and turns, tears and laughter, heartbreak and triumph is set forth in our recently released book, Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope.
And although we can’t include the details of our entire journey here, the conclusion is not in doubt. Little by little, we continued to learn and grow and move closer to Judaism and to each other.
Gayle and I drew inspiration from the stories we read of ministers, priests and others who had traveled from great spiritual distances to become Orthodox Jews. Gayle began to learn Hebrew and take classes at the Orthodox synagogue, which was becoming her spiritual home. One day, she realized that her only attachment to the church was performing music there. And so she stopped working at the church and found other outlets for her music.
And then one day, Gayle made the decision that she no longer wanted simply to do Jewish things, but to hear the call of Sinai, to be part of the Jewish people. And so she began to study intensively with a compassionate and caring rabbi. We moved to an Orthodox community where we could walk to synagogue on Shabbat. We continued to learn. And the more we learned, the more we grew. The more we embraced Judaism, the more it embraced us. “It won’t work” no longer applied to who we had become.
And then one October Sunday morning, the moment finally arrived. Gayle emerged from the Mikvah, and emerged as Avigail Shira bat Avraham.
Today, there is no chasm, not even a hint of one. Today, we are a Jewish family – not by fate, but by choice, by design and by destiny.
Harold Berman is the co-author of Doublelife: One Family, Two Faiths and a Journey of Hope,” the first true-life account of “an intermarriage gone Jewish.” (available on Amazon and at

The ‘Big Bang Theory’ star speaks frankly about her Jewish identity.

Celebrities endorse everything from cars to perfume to salad dressing. But actress Mayim Bialik may be the first-ever celebrity spokesperson for the Mikvah, or ritual bath, and the Jewish laws of family purity. In fact, having been given the name Mayim Chaya at birth, some might even suggest that she was destined to speak out about the benefits of immersion in living waters.
Having returned to acting relatively recently after earning a doctorate at UCLA and giving birth to two boys, the 36-year-old is riding the wave of publicity cresting in the wake of her landing the role of Amy Farrah Fowler on the hit CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”
In addition to making the requisite appearances on the late night talk shows and the red carpet at awards ceremonies, she has also been hitting the author tour circuit to promote her new book on attachment parenting titled, “Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way.” Somehow, she is also finding time to share her insights about being both a mother and a publicly observant Jewish figure — including her use of the mikvah — in her regular posts for Jewish parenting blog Kveller, and at speaking engagements around the country.
Bialik also managed to squeeze in a sit-down conversation about mivkah with The Times of Israel after speaking at one such event, a fundraiser for the Community Mikvah of Silicon Valley, a program of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley. She admitted that it’s a bit of a balancing act to concurrently live a Torah-centric life in Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry. Nonetheless, Bialik, who hasn’t worn pants in five years, feels it is important for her to be upfront about her frumkeit so that she can be a positive role model for other Jews, especially young ones.
Dressed in a knee-length, long-sleeved floral print dress and platform sandals, Bialik prefaced her remarks to the crowd of 160 men and women of all ages at the Addison-Penzak JCC (in Los Gatos) by saying, “I don’t speak as an authority. I’m just sharing my personal experience with mikvah. I live a life governed by Jewish law, but I don’t have a religious agenda.”
After offering an overview of her career and some details about her family history, the actress shared the story of her journey toward halachic observance, and how the mikvah played a key role in the process. A self-described intellectual second-wave feminist, Bialik emphasized how impressed she was with the “tremendous scholarship and mystical teachings for thousands of years on mikvah.” Noting that she believes in being given all the information and then deciding for herself what to do, she emphasized that it was “my choice to embrace the halachot surrounding mikvah.”
Bialik, known for her impeccable comedic timing, used humor to dispel myths about the mikvah and to tell how she learned about mikvah etiquette and all the laws and practices surrounding the observance of the family purity laws. For modesty’s sake — and the fact that her mother-in-law was in the audience — she did not go into detail about the latter. She spoke with complete seriousness when she explained that going to the mikvah has made her “the authority on my body. I know the cycles of my body, and it’s empowering for me.”
Jokingly declaring herself a “Mikvah connoisseur,” Bialik shared her impressions of various ones she has visited around the world. “Every mikvah has its own personality, but the waters are the same,” she remarked.
Her personal experiences with oft-maligned mikvah ladies have been uniformly positive, leading her to admonish people to remember: “mikvah ladies are people too.” She has found that the only difference she found between Israeli Mikvah ladies and American ones is that “the Israeli ones are, well Israeli.” In other words, they declared — comparatively less enthusiastically — her immersion “Kasher” instead of a Brooklyn-accented “kosher.”
Following her presentation, Bialik met with a group of 15 high school and college students. Was she disappointed that they only asked her questions about “The Big Bang Theory” and her acting career, and didn’t once mention Mikvah?
“Not at all!” she exclaimed. “To me a lot of this is about just laying the foundation, especially with young people. You lay the foundation for them by having a positive role model who’s Jewish. You let them hear gently about observance,” she explained.
“I speak pretty reverently about my relationship with God, but you have to speak about it differently with young people. You want to be accessible to young people and not hit them over the head,” the actress said. “As a Baal Teshuva, someone who came late to observance, I know how important it is that mikvah not be the first thing you hear.”
“I don’t discuss sexual or marital intimacy when men are present,” she cautioned. But she does speak frankly with women. “I give a really fantastic, fun, interesting talk about the sanctity of the Jewish intimate relationship,” she offered. “I’m not a Rebbitzin’s, so I don’t talk from that level, and I’m not a family counselor. But I speak about the enormous complexity and beauty that structure around intimacy can provide, which I specifically learned about through the Mikvah.”
Although this particular group of young people was not inclined to delve deeper into the topic, Bialik nonetheless does enjoy talking about it with young women in their late teens and early 20s. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to talk to them, especially those who didn’t know about it. Because that’s the time in your life when all of the romance and all that stuff is kind of brewing — and how interesting to learn about a practice that is designed to regulate in healthy ways both your cycle and the concept of intimacy,” she said.
It’s one thing for her to talk about these things with community groups or with curious young Jews, but what about with her Hollywood colleagues?
“Most of my Jewish colleagues wouldn’t even think about the Mikvah,” she reflected. “For most people, there are a million other things that they think about and care about.
“It’s generally not terribly popular to be a super-religious person or feel like your whole life is about being a humble servant of God,” she said. “It doesn’t resonate with a lot of people, and it doesn’t have to. For me, being a public Jew is about knowing about when to be private, too. Not to hide it, but that I don’t have to advertise every aspect of my observance.”
However, since all of her Kveller posts go out through Twitter, those among her colleagues who follow her know. Some of the show’s writers follow her, and she is close with one of the writers who is “religiously inclined.” Bialik and he engage in Jewish study together and talk about related things. “He’s my people, as it were,” she quipped.
The multi-talented Bialik admits that the pace of her life has been exhausting lately. “The publicity machine, it keeps going. I’m exhausted but it’s a true blessing that people want to hear me talk,” she said. “It’s a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God's name) to try and present myself as a normal, struggling, believing Jew who really does believe that a book written thousands of years ago and divinely inspired living can actually lead to repair of brokenness. I’m not the only one who thinks this, I promise.”
One might suppose that, given her hectic schedule, she might just be inclined to, on occasion, skip a visit or two to the mikvah. But that is not the case. “It’s something that is incredibly central. What is true for Mikvah is true for lot aspects of Halacha,” she said. “You don’t have to like everything every single minute. You don’t have to find beauty and profundity in blessing food or waking up every morning. The fact is you put one foot in front of another and you keep coming back to some kind of foundation of gratefulness and Tikva, of hope.”
When it comes to Mikvah, it’s simply a matter of faith for Bialik. “Please, God, that it should be inspiring every month,” she said. “And when it’s not, you pray that next month it will be.”This article originally appeared on the

Death Bed Confession by Rabbi Y. Tilles

"Water!" the invalid rasped in a whispery voice. The astounded doctors, who had given up the unconscious man for dead, were shocked to hear his voice again. The priest, who had taken his final confession, turned pale. Had a miracle taken place?
The doctors quickly initiated treatment. For hours they attended at his bedside. Finally, they saw clear signs of a positive change in his condition. By evening they were able to declare that his situation was no longer critical; he was out of danger.
For another several weeks Bagalo continued to be very weak, and the doctors prohibited him to engage in any of his regular activities. Finally, however, he regained his strength completely. Every trace of the disease had completely disappeared!
All of Spain breathed a collective sigh of relief at Bagalo's recovery. He was one of the King's most trusted advisors, with a strong reputation for honesty and intelligence. The king loved to consult with him so much that he had risen to be one of the most important personalities in the royal court.
His advice was especially valued by the monarch in economic affairs. More than once his suggestions had directly resulted in great fiscal gain for the kingdom, and concurrent improvements in the daily life of the people. The king considered Bagalo to be a financial wizard, and was not slow to express his appreciation, as he showered upon him wealth and valuable gifts.
Although everyone was aware of Bagalo's great wisdom and praised him for it, no one had yet realized that he was really a Jew. This was his great secret. He was an anus ['forced'-a Marrano], of a family that had been coerced to convert. As far as he was concerned, his Catholic status was for appearances only. He conducted himself outwardly as he had to, while he continued to observe all of the commandments secretly, in hiding.
Lately, though, he hadn't had much to hide. Whereas previously he had set aside time for mitzvah observance and even for Torah study and thought, his new prominent position in court consumed virtually all of his waking hours. He no longer had time to pray or to study, or even to perform the commandments. His Judaism remained only in his core beliefs, his strong inner faith in his G-d and His people.
From time to time, at moments when he was alone, a heavy sigh would push through his lips. How he longed for Shabbat and the Jewish holidays, for all of the mitzvoth. How had he allowed himself to become so distant?
But such thoughts could only be indulged for a few moments. Than the heavy pressure of his workload would again take over his time and his thoughts. Thus he conducted his life until he fell critically ill.
The most competent of the royal physicians had been summoned to care for him. They gave him the finest medicines and treatments, at the king's order sparing no expense, but nothing helped. He became weaker and weaker until finally the doctors felt they had no choice but to declare that his case was hopeless. An important priest was summoned.
Then came his miraculous recovery. After a while, no one recalled that he had been so sick. No one but him, that is. He remembered very well what had happened; he knew and kept to himself what even the most expert of the physicians could not know.
One day Bagalo summoned the priest who had taken his confession. He led him to a private room, locked the door behind them and lowered the window shades. He sat opposite the priest and looked him straight in the eyes. "I remember everything you said to me when we thought I was dying. At the end, after all the prayers, you muttered a few words that I didn't understand. Those words are engraved in my memory. What do they mean?"
The priest visibly trembled. His face changed colors. He tried to stammer a reply but his teeth were rattling too hard.
Seeing that the other's distress had rendered him unable to speak, Bagalo continued. "The words were: 'Shma Yisrael A--noy E--heinu A--noy Echad.' Isn't that a Jewish prayer?"
The priest's whole body quivered, but no words were forthcoming. "So, you are a Jew?" Bagalo pushed on.
The priest sat frozen, his face registering shock and terror that his secret had been uncovered by the king's advisor.
"Don't be afraid; I won't inform on you," Bagalo said gently. "Just give me your word of honor that you will be wholehearted in the word of Jesus and you will put aside these Hebrew incantations."
"No!" roared the priest. "I prefer to die as a Jew. Enough of this double life. This is the moment of truth." Now that he had recovered himself, the words were quickly tumbling from his mouth. "I am prepared to die, but as a Jew."
"My brother!" Bagalo cried out, and fiercely embraced his co-religionist. "I too am Jewish. And now I know that you are truly attached to the faith of our fathers. We are one!"
Their shared secret drew the two men to become close friends. They revealed to each other their secret lives. The priest explained that he had entered the clergy for one reason only: to be able to whisper "Shma Yisroel..." in the ear of Marrano Jews on their death-bed, so that their souls would exit in purity.
The king's advisor related that when he had been at death's door he had wanted to at least say the Shma. To his distress, he found that he couldn't remember exactly how it went. Then, suddenly, he heard the holy words being said in his ear! It was as if a gentle breeze had wafted him up and re-invigorated him with new life.
Falling into a deep sleep, he began to dream. He saw an old man, who smiled warmly and spoke. His voice was gentle and melodious. "I am your grandfather. You shall recover from this illness and you shall live, but only on a condition. You must return to a full Jewish life. Therefore, you shall leave this country. Move to the Land of Israel. Upon your departure, take with you the bones of your father and give them a Jewish burial there."
The two friends planned their escape. They decided that Bagalo should tell the king that during his critical illness he had vowed that if he recovered he would make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The king would probably not be able to refuse such a request. He would likely even help him to fulfill it. The priest would arrange for the disinterment of the remains of Bagalo's father, for the church cemetery was under his supervision.
Thus, the pair was able to abandon Spain. After a series of difficult journeys, the two baalei Teshuva (returnees to Jewish observance) reached the holy city of Tsfat (Safed). There they dedicated themselves to lives of total mitzvah observance, Torah-study and prayer. When, in the course of time, they passed away, both of them were complete Tzaddikim (perfectly righteous).

[Translated by Yerachmiel Tilles from Sichat HaShavuah #144]

While I am writing this, I am sitting in FL listening to a fierce and severe series of thunderstorms depositing more than 2 inches or 50 mm of rain in our area. I cannot help but feel for the people in Moore, OK in which scores are dead and as a grandfather of two boys who are 3rd graders I shudder to think of what happened to the children. My granddaughter had this past winter the roof collapse upon her empty classroom during the non-Jewish holiday season. There were miracles but people were almost sucked out of their basements as the tornado with winds over 200 or more miles an hour (320 or more kilometers per hour) ripped up a whole section of that town sending debris as far as Brandson, MO which is 250 miles away (400 km).                                                                                                      Jewish Donation site: Also Chabad see below.

From Ari: The atheists won't do nearly as well as the local Chabad center. They have the infrastructure, the community knowledge and the motivated staff to make donations really count.

Many people don’t realize this from my photo in the BlogSpot which was even taken when I was lighter. However, when I was 21 I was 150 to 165 lbs. but 45 years of engineering, over-time and Daf Yomi led to other things. Even when I was 40 and 180 lbs., I looked good because I was swimming 4 times a week 1.5 hrs. a session with a heart rate of 120 beats per minute. But the Lavi Project ended and there was job security worries, my mother’s illness, car accident and the EB virus which never leaves the blood left me in a state of much-much heavier weight. Over 8 years in the gym have given more muscles but as my metabolism slows down so does my calorie burning rate and the more fat the less burn. So I was happy to see this article for some tricks of the trade. Disclaimer I am not responsible for the photos in the article but the contents may be helpful to diabetes, heart and high blood pressure patients:

Robbery gone completely wrong:,7340,L-4382067,00.html                                                                                                                                                                               Government’s policy of cutbacks drives people into desperate situations:,7340,L-4382346,00.html

Chief Rabbi Deal which leaves 2 real Talmidei Chachamim in charge:

Thanks to Moshe F. IDF Shelter Drill to occur on Monday May 27 at 12:05 and 19:05

Story 1:The non-religious try force their way on who is a Yeshiva Student:                                                                            Story 2: Religious fanatics threaten a ceremony of swearing in soldiers after earlier this week attacking two Charedi Soldiers:,7340,L-4383341,00.html Story 3: Charedi Family flees Israel to Yarden:,7340,L-4383341,00.html                                                                                                                                                         Story 4: Are the less religious trying to destroy the Torah World? Is this the work of the Evil Inclination?,7340,L-4383428,00.html

I do not know what is going on with modesty and inner beauty in Judaism. I have not investigated and discussed this for we did have Devorah HaNovi in the days of Judges and Hulda so I have to examine things deeper. The Talmud discusses what happened to Rebbe Meir’s wife and I wonder where we are headed? Perhaps I am from a generation of dinosaurs or perhaps the Sages were correct?

Inyanay Diyoma

Dangerous Games being played by Assad may cause the end of the Alawite Regime:,7340,L-4381218,00.html

In the days of the Bible it was not uncommon with a life span of 30 to 40 years to have children married off even in Judaism but a child was not married to a Mullah (advanced in age) but a child or teen. The idea of letting the child die is horrible.

The Syrian Border:                                                                                                                                                                       Border fire again but with a reply and a change in return fire policy now:

Netanyahu and Lapid are more worried about Amona than the northern border go ahead attack the settlers and the Charedi Jews and all Orthodoxy and you get war with all that goes with it:’s-dithering-over-Golan-strikes-gives-Assad-go-ahead-for-war-of-attrition

Russia letting Assad get more and more aggressive:,7340,L-4383048,00.html

After Germany calls Hezballah a terrorist organization, France weighs the same:

Kol Yisrael (Radio Bet) announced that we are helping the Druze in Syria fight the Al Qaeda. The Druze are independent but pro-Assad so the situation is messed up there.

Why the IDF wants and needs the super expensive F-35 and I bet the Chinese and Russians are spying their heads off over this feature:

Wishing you a good, peaceful and wonderful Shabbos,
Rachamim Pauli