Friday, May 31, 2013

Parsha Shelach Lecha, Stories, news

Kiriat Sefer is small enough for the mail to go to the correct address I just made a mistake when I made my appeal last week the address is:                                                             Rabbi Mimran Kollel Beit Shlomo                        5 Ohr HaChaim st apt#2,    71919 Kiriat Sefer Modiin Ilit  ISRAEL

Esther Georgette bas Mesuda is recovering and after this Shabbos can be removed from our prayer list.

The story from last week of Miriam and Aaron

Rabbi Shmuel Blinsky Shlita opened up his Drasha as follows: The wives of Eldad and Medad started talking about their husband’s prophecies among the women. Miriam, being the sister of Moshe, was one of the leaders of the women as we see her taking up the tambourine at the song at the sea. Moshe had divorced his wife to be on call 24/7 as a Novi for HASHEM. Even though HASHEM spoke with and through Miriam and Aaron they could not call upon HASHEM 24/7 or be called like that they needed to go to Mikvah first to be Tahor. Not so Moshe, who was Tahor 24/7.

12:1 And Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married; for he had married a Cushite woman.

[Miriam and Aaron] spoke: [The term] דִּבּוּר always connotes harsh talk, as it says, “The man, the lord of the land, spoke (דִּבֶּר) harshly with us” (Gen. 42:30). But wherever [the term] אֲמִירָה is found, it connotes supplication, as it says, “He said (וַיֹּאמֶר), 'my brethren, please do not do evil’” (Gen. 19:7);“He said (וַיֹּאמֶר), 'Please listen to My words’” (Num. 12:6). [The term] נָא always denotes a request. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] Miriam and Aaron spoke: She spoke first. Therefore, Scripture mentions her first. How did she know that Moses had separated from his wife? [See below] R. Nathan says: Miriam was beside Zipporah when Moses was told that Eldad and Medad were prophesying in the camp. When Zipporah heard this, she said, “Woe to their wives if they are required to prophesy, for they will separate from their wives just my husband separated from me.” From this, Miriam knew [about it] and told Aaron. Now if Miriam, who did not intend to disparage him [Moses] was punished, all the more so someone who [intentionally] disparages his fellow. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] the Cushite woman: [Moses’ wife was a Midianite, not a Cushite, but] Scripture teaches that everyone acknowledged her beauty just as everyone acknowledges a Cushite’s blackness. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] Cushite: כֻּשִׁית. Its numerical value is equal to יְפַת מַרְאֶה, beautiful in appearance. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] כ = 20, ו = 6, ש = 300 , י = 10, ת = 400, total 736; י = 10, פ = 80, ת = 400, מ = 40, ר = 200, א = 1, ה = 5, total 736. regarding the… woman: Concerning her divorce. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] for he had married a Cushite woman: What does this [apparently superfluous clause] mean to say? You find a woman who is beautiful in appearance, but unpleasant in deed; [or a woman who is pleasant] in deed, but not of beautiful appearance. This one, however, was pleasant in every respect. [Therefore, she was called Cushite, as above.] - [Tanchuma Tzav 13] Cushite woman: She was called “the Cushite” [the Ethiopian] on account of her beauty, as a man would call his handsome son “Cushite” to negate the power of the evil eye. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] for he had married a Cushite woman: And had now divorced her. - [Tanchuma Tzav 13]

For Eldad and Medad did receive prophecy but only at the time when they were pure and not constantly. One of the few times that I partially dispute Rashi regarding the Midianite vs. the Cushite for Anwar Sadat was an Egyptian he was mostly from the white race but he had a darker complexion and more or less African Hair. The fact that coming from Midian in the Sinai desert would be the cross roads between Africa, and Eurasia so it would not be out of the ordinary for mixed racial blood to have snuck into Midian especially if her mother was gorgeous.

2 And they said: 'Hath the LORD indeed spoken only with Moses? Has HE not spoken also with us?' And the LORD heard it.—

Has… only: with Him alone?- [Tanchuma Tzav 13] Hasn’t He spoken to us too?: Yet we have not abstained from marital relations. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13]

Her mistake is that she was not on call 24/7 from HASHEM and Am Yisrael.

3 Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men that were upon the face of the earth.—

Humble: Modest and patient. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13]

Moshe was very humble and also had deference to his older siblings. 

4 And the LORD spoke suddenly unto Moses, and unto Aaron, and unto Miriam: 'Come out ye three unto the tent of meeting.' And they three came out.

Here is a case where we need Rashi to understand the meaning of suddenly as otherwise we would not understand that Aaron and Miriam had to find a Mikvah and Moshe not. This was the indication of it.

Suddenly: He revealed Himself to them suddenly, when they were ritually unclean following marital relations, and they cried, “Water, water!” [They needed water to purify themselves.] He thus showed them that Moses had done right in separating from his wife, since the Divine Presence revealed itself to him frequently, and there was no set time for Divine Communication. — [Tanchuma Tzav 13] Go out, all three of you: This teaches us that all three were summoned with a single word, something impossible for the [human] mouth to utter and the ear to grasp. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:4]

5 And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forth.

in a pillar of cloud: Unlike a mortal, He went alone. For when a mortal king goes out to war, he departs accompanied by a large retinue, but when he travels in times of peace, he leaves with a small escort. But the custom of the Holy One, blessed is He, is that He goes out to battle alone, as it says, “[The Lord is] a man of war” (Exod. 15:3), but He goes in peace with a large retinue, as it says, “The chariot of God is twice ten thousand times, thousands of angels” (Ps. 68:18). - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:5] He called to Aaron and Miriam: So that they should proceed to leave the courtyard, [drawn] towards the Divine word. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:5] and they both went out: Why did He draw them away to isolate them from Moses? Because we relate only some of a person’s good qualities in his presence and all of them in his absence. Similarly, we find in the case of Noah, that in his absence, Scripture says [of him], “a righteous man, perfect” (Gen. 6:9). But in his presence it was said [by God],“for it is you that I have seen as a righteous man before Me” (Gen. 7:1) [but God makes no mention of his perfection]. Another interpretation: [God isolated them from Moses] so that he [Moses] should not hear the reprimanding of Aaron [by God]. - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:5]

6 And He said: 'Hear now My words: if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD do make Myself known unto him in a vision, I do speak with him in a dream.

Under normal prophecy, the Novi receives the message from the L-RD in a dream and not talking face to face like Moshe.

Please listen to My words: [The term] נָא always denotes a request. - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:6] If there be prophets among you: If you have prophets…. — [Targum Onkelos] [I] the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision: The Divine Presence of My Name is not revealed to him with distinct clarity, but in a dream or a vision. - [Tanchuma Tzav 13]

7 My servant Moses is not so; he is trusted in all My house; 8 with him do I speak mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD doth he behold; wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against My servant, against Moses?'

Only Moshe Rabbaynu and no one else!

Mouth to mouth: I told him to separate from his wife (Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13). Where did I tell him this? At Sinai; “Go and tell them, ‘Return to your tents,’ but you, remain here with Me” (Deut. 5:27). - [See Shab. 87a] in a vision but not in riddles: “A vision” refers to the vision of speech, for I express My communication to Him with absolute clarity, and I do not obscure it with riddles in the way it was said to Ezekiel, “Present a riddle” (Ezek. 17:2). I might think that it refers to the vision of the Divine Presence [itself]! Scripture therefore teaches, “You are not able to see My face” (Exod. 33:23). - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13] and He beholds the image of the Lord: This refers to a vision of the “back,” as it says,“and you will see My back” (Exod. 33:23). - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13] against my servant Moses: Heb. בְּעַבְדִי בְמשֶׁה, lit., against My servant, against Moses. Scripture does not say בְּעַבְדִי משֶׁה, against My servant Moses, but בְּעַבְדִי בְמשֶׁה, against My servant, against Moses . [The meaning is thus:] against My servant even if he were not Moses, and against Moses, even if he were not My servant, you should certainly have feared him, and all the more so since he is My servant, and the servant of the king is a king himself! You should have said, “The King does not love him for nothing.” If you claim that I am unaware of his actions, this [statement] is worse than your previous one. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:8, Tanchuma Tzav 13]

9 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them; and He departed.

The wrath of the Lord flared against them and He left: After He had informed them of their transgression, He issued a decree of excommunication against them. All the more so, should a mortal not become angry with his friend before he informs him of his offense. — [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:9, Tanchuma Tzav 13]

10 And when the cloud was removed from over the Tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow; and Aaron looked upon Miriam; and, behold, she was leprous.

The cloud departed: and afterwards, “behold Miriam was afflicted with tzara’ath, [as white] as snow.” This is comparable to a king who said to a tutor,“Punish my son, but do not punish him until I leave you, for I feel pity for him.” - [Sifrei Beha’alothecha 1:42:10, Tanchuma Tzav 13

11 And Aaron said unto Moses: 'Oh my lord, lay not, I pray thee, sin upon us, for that we have done foolishly, and for that we have sinned. 12 Let her not, I pray, be as one dead, of whom the flesh is half consumed when he cometh out of his mother's womb.' 13 And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying: 'Heal her now, O God, I beseech Thee.'
14 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'If her father had but spit in her face, should she not hide in shame seven days? let her be shut up without the camp seven days, and after that she shall be brought in again.' 15 And Miriam was shut up without the camp seven days; and the people journeyed not till Miriam was brought in again.

the people did not travel: This honor was accorded her by the Omnipresent because of the time she remained with Moses when he was cast into the river, as it says,“His sister stood by from afar to know what would be done to him” (Exod. 2:4). - [Sotah 9b]

16 And afterward the people journeyed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran.

Parsha Shelach Lecha

Rabbi Edward Davis Shlita wrote about the failure of the socialist system in last week’s Parsha. Last week everybody was learning Torah the only work was done by a few Leviim when they moved or Cohanim when people brought a Korban. Otherwise, the Bnei Yisrael had equal food in their portion of the Mann. Each tribe brought the same gift perhaps a few minutes in the morning and the evening the animals were let out to graze and return. Yet the food stamp program of the Mann and equality did not work out. People need goals and variety. They preferred working as slaves and eating what they liked over the DIVINE MANN for that is the nature of mankind.

In a similar vein but for the opposite reason the spies wanted their desert leadership. They did not like the idea of earning bread by the sweat of the brow while Mann was free. They might lose their popularity and leadership positions if the people were dispersed in their inheritance. After all how could they lead people over a distance from below Beer Sheva to Yerushalayim in the days of the Bible it would take some time to traverse and gather or command the people.

The following part of the introduction is a summary of the Chabad Publication which I have in hardcopy or can be subscribed to on I am combining Chabad’s thoughts with my wording for both condensation and in accordance to how I view the Parsha.

Our Parsha can be summed up with five major Mitzvah Concepts: Bringing grain and wine offerings with animal sacrifices, the giving of the part of every batch of dough (over a kilogram approximately 2.2 lbs. of flour) as Challah to the Cohanim (Today we burn it as we and the Cohanim are Tuma Shel Meis aka dead body contact), what happens if a person violates the holy Shabbos = the man who gathered wood on Shabbos and finally the requirement to wear Tzitzis (third paragraph of the twice daily Shema prayer).

The Parsha has things which must have happened after the Mishkan was built but has some elements of Vayikra and Shemos in it with the Mitzvos of Challah and Korbanos followed by the punishment for a purposeful violation of the Shabbos.

Chabad adds a mystical element on the word Shelach = send. To understand this, let us recall once again that the purpose of the soul’s descent into the body, the creation of the Bnei Yisrael, the exile in Mitzrayim and the exodus , the giving of the Torah and the entry and conquest of Eretz Yisrael are all in order to make this world into a home of G-D! This means to descend DIVINE Consciousness into the entire world. LET ME ADD AS A MESSAGE FOR THE NATIONS OF THE WORLD WHO WOULD ROB US OF PARTS OF OUR LAND ON BOTH SIDES OF THE YARDEN THAT YEHOSUA BIN NUN ENTERED WITH THE PEOPLE AT THE YERICHO AREA AND FIRST CONQUERED YEHUDA AND THE SHOMRON. THERE IS NO LAND OF OZ AND THERE IS NO PALESTINE!!! Anybody either Jew or Gentile who thinks otherwise is picking a fight with the L-RD G-D CREATOR of all!

We are to view ourselves as emissaries of G-D. So everything that we do should be for the sake of heaven. (For Example: One can say to himself -  I earn money so that my family and I will be comfortable so that I can sit at the end of the day to learn Daf Yomi or that my children and grandchildren will get a Jewish Education and a trade so that they will not end up being beggars – as it is written: A youth was I and now I have aged but I have never seen the righteous forsaken or his progenies begging for bread. As is written: HASHEM will give strength unto HIS People, HASHEM will bless HIS people with Shalom. This each of us can become an emissary of HASHEM in our daily life. Now try to imagine that you are sent on a mission to spy for Am Yisrael for the sake of HASHEM.

The scouts that were sent by Moshe did not live up to the tasks they had as emissaries. The generation of Yetzias Mitzrayim started out on the highest levels. They witnessed 10 Makkos that were given to the Egyptians in Mitzrayim and the miracles of the sea, man and even excess meat of the quail that flew in for them for a month. And the cream of all the miracles was the revelation at Sinai of the Torah where G-D spoke the first two of the ten Debros (commandments) to them directly.

Their problem was because they eat Mann from heaven spent all their time in Torah and their spiritual plane that they obtained what brought them in their paradise on earth to question the DIVINE omnipotence? It appears to be as with the case of Miriam last week that they were hampered by a pampered life of Godliness (See Rabbi Davis’s theme on socialism above). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai when he came out of the cave the first time similar to the scouts saw that the land eat the time for Torah of the inhabitants. “If a person ploughs when it is time to plough, reaps when it is time to reap, threshes when it is time to thresh then what is to become of Torah?” Indeed this aspiration has inspired us for years. I too would like all the time to learn Torah but besides writing this blog, I get questions and help or guide many people each week so I cannot become a Rabbi Shimon in the cave learning all the time. I can just imagine Rabbi Moshe Feinstein or the Lubavitcher with thousands of inquires each week working hard to answer and bless all.

However, the spies were forgetting the mission of mankind on this planet. Man is not an Angel working 24/7 on Godliness but rather man is to raise the mundane items to a level of Godliness. But when we deal with the physical instead of the spiritual there are pitfalls involved. We have our demanding lives living in this world; but, we must rise up to the occasion and meet the challenges involved. Ultimately, making the world into G-D’s home is by revealing our own spirituality. One thing which comes out in our Parsha and Daf 5 of Berachos is that Eretz Yisrael is gained by hardships and our own spirituality comes out best by meeting the challenge.

Chabad ends with the problem of blind obedience vs. our own behavior. Blind Obedience to G-D has its place in the faithfulness of execution of the Mitzvah. However, it is not the whole person with our egos and will. I therefore conclude if we use or egos properly like stated in Perkei Avos “Make HIS will your will so that others wills will be subjugated to your will.” The problem is to do the Mitzvos with both the fear and awe of a soldier of the authority and the love and desire of an infatuated lover.

13:1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 2 'Send thou men, that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel; of every tribe of their fathers shall ye send a man, everyone a prince among them.'

A prince, a leader a very Torah observant man.

…17 And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them: 'Get you up here into the South, and go up into the mountains; 18 and see the land, what it is; and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they are strong or weak, whether they are few or many; 19 and what the land is that they dwell in, whether it is good or bad;

These last few words of Moshe became a mistake that led the spies off track. He should not have asked whether the land is good or bad or not. For if I were to describe another land I too could forget about the good parts. Let us take South Dakota for example if I were to describe the western side full of trees, water and even land for crops it is nice and then I drive along the highway and see signs 125 to “… Drug Store”, only 100 miles, etc. finally the land turns into a mini-Negev and the “Bad-lands” look like a mini-Sodom area on the Israeli side (not Yarden with well springs) but yet there are prairie dogs and other animals calling the place their home and even certain men would hide from the law there years ago. So is the land good or not? Ask the Sioux Natives on the western side and they will tell you one version and the people living and working on the Air Force Base but go on and on in the mini-Negev and you get another opinion of the land. So too with Eretz Yisrael for it is not the land that is good or bad but what man can do with it. I look around Nahal Zin and see mostly a desert or I can look at the springs of Avdat and Kibbutz Sde Boker and see an area that blooms with rich crops. So where are we in our viewing of Eretz Yisrael?  

and what cities they are that they dwell in, whether in camps, or in strongholds; 20 and what the land is, whether it is fat or lean, whether there is wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.'--Now the time was the time of the first-ripe grapes.-- 21 So they went up, and spied out the land from the wilderness of Zin unto Rehob, at the entrance to Hamath.

Hamat Geder is on the border with Syria, Lebanon and Yisrael and is just east of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The question is did the spies miss out on the Kinneret for they would have surely mentioned it and the springs north of the Kinneret and the Hula Valley.

22 And they went up into the South, and came unto Hebron; and Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai, the children of Anak, were there.--Now Hebron was built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.-- 23 And they came unto the valley of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it upon a pole between two; they took also of the pomegranates, and of the figs.-- 24 That place was called the valley of Eshcol, because of the cluster which the children of Israel cut down from thence.-- 25 And they returned from spying out the land at the end of forty days. 26 And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 And they told him, and said: 'We came unto the land whither thou sent us, and surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it.

This first part of the spying should have been made public.

28 Howbeit the people that dwell in the land are fierce, and the cities are fortified, and very great; and moreover we saw the children of Anak there. 29 Amalek dwells in the land of the South; and the Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanite dwells by the sea, and along by the side of the Jordan.'

This part of the spying should have been classified as a top military secret and only the leaders of the military should have known this and not send chills down the backs of the citizens.

30 And Caleb stilled the people toward Moses, and said: 'We should go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.' 31 But the men that went up with him said: 'We are not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.' 32 And they spread an evil report of the land which they had spied out unto the children of Israel, saying: 'The land, through which we have passed to spy it out, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 And there we saw the Nephilim, the sons of Anak, who come of the Nephilim; and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight.'

And after this comes:

14…26 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying: 27 'How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, that keep murmuring against Me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they keep murmuring against Me. 28 Say unto them: As I live, says the LORD, surely as ye have spoken in Mine ears, so will I do to you: 29 your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, ye that have murmured against Me; 30 surely ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I lifted up My hand that I would make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, that ye said would be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have rejected. 32 But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. 33 And your children shall be wanderers in the wilderness forty years, and shall bear your strayings, until your carcasses be consumed in the wilderness. 34 After the number of the days in which ye spied out the land, even forty days, for every day a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know My displeasure. 35 I the LORD have spoken, surely this will I do unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against Me; in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.'

The DIVINE Protection wanes for a few minutes as a punishment to the worst offenders.

45 Then the Amalekite and the Canaanite, who dwelt in that hill-country, came down, and smote them and beat them down, even unto Hormah.

15: 17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 18 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When ye come into the land whither I bring you, 19 then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall set apart a portion for a gift unto the LORD. 20 Of the first of your dough ye shall set apart a cake for a gift; as that which is set apart of the threshing-floor, so shall ye set it apart. 21 Of the first of your dough ye shall give unto the LORD a portion for a gift throughout your generations.
32 And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks upon the Sabbath day. 33 And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. 34 And they put him in ward, because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said unto Moses: 'The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp.' 36 And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Just around a year after receiving the Shabbos on Sinai there is the first violation of the Shabbos.

The next passage is from the Shema and said twice daily about wearing Tzitzis. Women are exempt from this because it is a male garment.

37 And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 38 'Speak unto the children of Israel, and bid them that they make them throughout their generations fringes in the corners of their garments, and that they put with the fringe of each corner a thread of blue. 39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the LORD, and do them; and that ye go not about after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go astray; 40 that ye may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy unto your God. 41 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.'

Going to the Mikvah became an obsession. I wanted in even if I didn't know why.
Excerpted from "Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology", edited by Rivkah Slonim.
I live on the unfashionable west side of Santa Fe, where the neighborhood is small and funky, adobe houses sitting in well-tended yards of flax and hollyhocks or the neglected ones of dirt and panic grass with a few old car parts thrown in. Old men stand watering the small laws with garden hoses innocent of nozzles. Every house has a dog, and every dog barks as I pass. This is a neighborhood visited by the moon and by drunks staggering from the liquor store; it is a neighborhood in which no one will win the lottery.
Within the blocks I walk, though, there is a passion of belief. My elderly neighbor Grace C. Baca wears a Virgin of Guadalupe pin; windows are numerous with the statues of saints dressed in rosaries. Down the block is the massage school for holistic healing, the Spanish Pentecostal Church, and turning the corner is my own husband, Robert, driving a Cherokee Jeep with a cracked windshield. He is a Zen Buddhist priest, head shaved, Bodhi beads wrapped around his wrist.
Around the corner, on Franklin Street, is my Hebrew teacher's house. As I walk I can feel prayer rise from the asphalt like mist after rain. My heart beats as I turn up her driveway and knock on her door. In this kitchen, on an old-fashioned lacy oilcloth, I have learned the Hebrew vowels and how to light the Shabbat candles; I have worried about Jacob's two wives and my own sister Rachel; I have learned an alphabet that once was forbidden.
I was raised to believe that although I was Jewish, and that this was a vastly superior way to be, religion itself was superstition and ignorance. My father instructed us: God is for children and morons, there is no God, and most important, my father decides what we believe. Without God, rabbi, or synagogue, my father's spiritual authority in the family was absolute. He controlled it all, and he proclaimed: You are an atheist.
I did not even dare to break the injunction until I was almost 40. Gradually I felt the pull. I put a mezuzah on my newly built studio. I told my friend Carol I was longing for something Jewish. When she told me there was a Hassidic woman who taught Kabala literally around the corner from me, I knew I had to go study. When I called Yehudis and told her how surprised I was to find her, she said: "When the student is ready, the teacher appears."
As soon as I learn the Hebrew alphabet, I begin to dream. I see the letters, large and dark, rising up like gates over me as I turn in my sleep. I'm reading whatever I can get my hands on about Judaism and feminism, women, spirituality. I'm trying to find a place for myself in a tribe I felt was made of old men wrapped in tallises, with no place for me. I keep coming upon the idea of Mikvah, a pool, water; it has my favorite letter "Mem" in it, after all -- my name is Miriam with two "Mems" in it, and Miriam's Well is a source of water, of inspiration, of healing, that follows me no matter how lost I am.
After Hebrew lessons, Yehudis takes me to her backyard to show me something, but somehow we get sidetracked, and she ends up opening the door to what I always assumed was a greenhouse. Inside it is a Mikvah, a pool that appeared just for me. This is the only Mikvah in New Mexico, perhaps the only one for a thousand miles. And it's right around the corner from me.
I go home thinking, "I have just got to get into it." It's becoming an obsession; I want in even if I don't know why. I start to dream about the Mikvah, I can't shake the dreams. Finally I just tell Yehudis, "I want to get into this Mikvah." I know there must be lots of rules, and there are. She tells me to read a book on how it's done. I start reading. I knew that I had to wait until my period, but I didn't quite realize I had to be celibate for at least twelve days.
I plop down next to my husband. I tell him I won't do this, it's ridiculous. But he is the one to encourage me and insist I do it properly. Here is a man who shaves his head and has a Japanese name, who has sat for seven days cross-legged facing a wall. He believes in ritual. He is also a Jewish boy from New Jersey. He has never been anything but positive about my foray into Judaism. It is as if he believes more than I do that it is right for me. "Twelve days," I tell him, half hoping he'll insist that I'm so irresistible it can't be done. But he tells me it's fine.
I don't like this period of separation, and I didn't learn much from it except for bad things I already knew -- I'm dependent and needy and scared of space. I don't think I need this Mikvah for my marriage. After all, we've been together for a dozen years, we have a daughter, and we’ve withstood sickness and death and mortgage. More important, because Robert has lived off and on in Zen monasteries and because I am a writer, there is some solitude built into the relationship, some chosen path.
So I continue -- not for my marriage, but for me. At least I have stopped dreaming every night about a Mikvah I can't get into. When the right night arrives, I take a long bath and scrub with a loofah and fancy face scrub. I lounge. Sunset hits the corner of the bathroom window. I go to a Kabala class at the Schul, come home and get a towel, then drive to the Mikvah around ten o'clock at night. I don't want to walk in this neighborhood at this hour. I'm singing in my blue Toyota, out of the house, out of time, out under the cover of darkness. I feel the way I did when I rushed to the birth of my friend Debora's son.
The Mikvah room seems to glow with blue light. I walk backward down the ladder into the pool. After the first immersion I can hardly breathe, my heart is pounding, my lungs seem to want water instead of air, everything is turning blue. I'm full of joy, this is real, I'm in the pool, the pool is in me, this is where I belong. Yehudis holds a scarf over my head, and I repeat the prayer after her. My mind is a blank; I couldn't do it myself. I go under again and again. Now I'm laughing and getting dressed, I'm going home.
It is Rosh Chodesh of Elul, a month to Rosh Hashanah. There is no moon in the sky. I did this to mark a conversion of sorts, of my own turning. I did this because secretly I hoped, secretly I knew or hoped I knew, that there was a place for me as a woman among Jews. This pool at Yehudis's house, marked with traces of New Mexico rain, was an entry way, a beginning. I went down into the pool, into the letter memo, into the moonless sky, into my name.
Excerpted from "Total Immersion: A Mikvah Anthology", edited by Rivkah Slonim.

Light in All the Dark Places The extraordinary metamorphosis of Hitler's nephew's Yitta Halberstam

It's said that the "truth will set you free," but when an intrepid Israeli reporter browbeat Dr. Daniel Brown (name has been changed) into going public five years ago, the aftermath was traumatic. "I had always been open about my identity with both my family and friends," he recalls, "and no one had ever been less than supportive and warm. But this particular Israeli newspaper misrepresented its agenda to me. I didn't know that it intended to publicize or sensationalize my interview the way it ultimately did. The story was printed in the weekend edition of the paper, and all day long on Thursday and erev Shabbat radio commercials continually blasted every 15 minutes: Hitler's nephew's grandson -- right here in Israel -- and a Jew! The repercussions left my family shaken."
Brown's sons -- enrolled in a modern Orthodox yeshivah in Jerusalem -- were spat upon by several of their classmates and called "Nazis." A handful of neighbors studiously avoided Brown when they encountered him on the street. And in shul the Shabbat after the story aired, a number of social acquaintances who normally greeted him with hearty handshakes turned the other way.
"To these people, who had known me as Jewish for 25 years, I had become -- overnight -- a pariah," says Brown. "I thought I was sharing a valuable lesson with others: that the past can be recreated and that a person always has the opportunity to change. But actually, it was I who was taught the lesson: Some people will never let you change." (Not surprisingly Brown wanted to use a pseudonym in this article.)
Still, the incident becoming a litmus test for the varieties of human behavior, the responses were not uniformly negative. "In the same synagogue that Shabbat, I was also the recipient of a clearly symbolic act of acceptance," says Brown. "I was given the first aliyah. This told me in no uncertain terms that the majority of the shul members regarded me as a full Jew and an accepted member of the community. Sadly, however, the decency of the majority didn't nullify the crude conduct of the minority. We were badly wounded by what happened.
"Now I understand why most of my counterparts hide their identities," says Brown. "Many Israelis are uneasy about our genealogy; they don't know how to react or what to do with us."
Perhaps that is why in a country still scarred by the Holocaust, a country whose very existence still trembles on the foundations of the ash and bone of the Six Million, very few people are aware of what I like to call "The Penance Movement": a subculture of hundreds of children of Nazis who have embraced their own dark past in the most extreme possible way. They have not only aligned themselves with the group of people their parents sought to annihilate, they have cast off their former identities and themselves become members of that very group. The majority of them have converted according to Jewish law, live as Orthodox Jews and reside in Israel. This, I believe, is one of the last great, untold chapters of the post-Holocaust era. It's a story that speaks to humanity's quest for meaning in life, our capacity for goodness and our potential to reshape identity and destiny. Yet, when I contact government officials, rabbinic courts and Israeli journalists themselves asking about this phenomenon, most seem shocked by my inquiries. "Are you sure?" they ask, some surprised, others skeptical. "It's an urban legend," many insist. "How could it be that children of Nazis live right here in Israel and no one knows about them? Impossible!"
Interestingly, a disproportionate number of the German converts are distinguished academicians -- most notably, in the field of Jewish studies. Brown has followed this trajectory himself and chairs the Jewish studies department at one of the country's leading universities. In his engagement with rabbinic and Talmudic literature, Brown is joined by Rabbi Dr. Aharon Shear-Yashuv (formerly known as Wolfgang Shmidt and one of the few converts who grants me permission to use his real name), chairman of Jewish studies at Bar-Ilan University, and many others including the chairman of the Jewish studies department at a Southern university in the United States and a professor of rabbinic literature at an Ivy League college in the United States. But it is clearly Brown who possesses the most interesting antecedents of all.
"My grandmother's name was Erna Patra Hitler," says Brown. (After the War, she dropped the "t," changing her name to 'Hiler.') "Hans Hitler -- her second husband -- was the Fuhrer's nephew, but he didn't resemble him in any discernible way. He was soft and gentle. But what my step-grandfather lacked in vitriol was more than made up by the fierceness of my grandmother who was a sworn Nazi. She believed in the Nazi ideology before, during and even after the War. She was proud that her father-in-law was Hitler's brother, although he kept away from politics. Instead, he managed a cafe in Berlin, and because everyone knew that he was the Fuhrer's brother, all the Nazi elite patronized his establishment. This made his family and him -- including my grandparents -- local 'nobility.'
"When [my grandparents] visited us, they arrived in a black Mercedes, which was then a novelty and status symbol. It was a big deal when the Mercedes arrived in the working-class neighborhood where my mother and I lived."
Brown was born in Frankfurt in 1952 to Protestant parents who had both served in the Wehrmacht. His father, an ardent supporter of the Nazi party, divorced his mother shortly after his birth, and promptly disappeared from their lives. Brown was raised by his mother, who scrambled to make a living in post-War Germany. She received neither financial nor moral support from Erna Hitler, whom Brown describes as "indifferent to the pain and suffering of others." Brown's childhood years were marked by deprivation and hardship, as his debt-ridden mother struggled to keep them afloat. They were constantly on the go, moving from one apartment to another, leaving when frustrated landlords forced them out for lack of payment. Still, in one respect that would have profound reverberations for his future, Brown was fortunate. His mother always told him the truth.
Today, there are Germans who complain that they are "sick and tired" of the "endless talk" about the Holocaust, but in the immediate years after the War, there was only silence and denial, explains Brown. "In school, history teachers taught German history only up until World War I, in accordance with governmental legislation," he says. "The government was afraid that if these teachers had a Nazi past or had been supporters of Hitler's regime, they would not be objective in the classroom. So, actually, this law was borne of good intentions. But as a result, we remained largely ignorant about what had happened only a few years before. I remember having conversations with classmates who refused to believe in Germany's accountability. Their parents had glossed over the details or lied outright. But my own mother hadn't."
Instead of the elaborate fabrications concocted by his friends' parents to conceal the truth, Brown's mother showed her son her cache of documents (which bore seals of the Reich with accompanying swastikas), letters and photographs of family members -- including herself -- wearing Wehrmacht uniforms, which testified to their complicity. She told him that she had been stationed in the Polish city of Lodz, where they hung Jews in the center of the city. "It was awful," his mother told him. "I needed to pass through the center of town everyday in order to get from my house to headquarters and back. But I couldn't bear to see the Jews strung up like that, so I took a long detour around the city each day to avoid this terrible scene. I never got used to it."
Brown was horrified by his mother's account. He felt the room go black as he rifled through the physical evidence of her past, but his mother's genuine remorse provided him with some small measure of comfort. "When I asked her why she kept following orders, why she didn't resist, she answered simply, but with deep shame, 'I was afraid.' I believed her," says Brown.
Although Brown tried to share his mother's revelations with his school friends, they couldn't accept them as true; they told him that he was making it up. "So I tried to block it from my mind," says Brown.
But when he was a high school student his destiny came calling again by way of an inheritance from his biological grandfather -- his grandmother's first husband -- who had willed him a carton of books, among them his personal copy of Mein Kampf. "I had never seen Hitler's infamous book before, and I read it thoroughly," says Brown. "I was absolutely enraged by what he wrote. I kept on writing comments in the book's margins, comments that countered Hitler's claims. I still have this book in my library, because it served as a major catalyst in my life. I couldn't remain apathetic to what I read. I know my encounter with it shaped my future to a large extent."
The future of every young German in the post-War period included a mandatory stint in the army, but largely as a result of his encounter with the Holocaust, Brown had become a pacifist. "I was expected to join the army as soon as I graduated [from] high school, so I cast about for ways to get out of this civil obligation," he says. "I learned that the two groups that were exempt from military service were the clergy and students of the Catholic Church. So when I opted to become a theology student, it was originally out of opportunism, not spiritual concerns. But way leads on to way, and that's precisely what happened to me.
"Theology students are required to take several courses in Judaism and Hebrew, and I became increasingly fascinated by what I was learning," says Brown. "While studying Judaism, I saw more and more things that troubled me about Christianity. For example, the concept of the Holy Trinity bothered me a lot ... how [could] God be three? Another thing that I didn't understand was the idea that a Christian has to suffer in order to be redeemed. The Jewish approach manifested by Yom Kippur made much more sense to me.
"The vast theological differences between Judaism and Christianity created a schism inside myself, and I was beginning to feel schizophrenic," Brown continues. "In 1977, I decided to go to Israel to further my studies at Hebrew University where I ... took classes in Hebrew literature and Jewish philosophy. I fell in love with Israel and lengthened my stay from one year to two." Ultimately, Brown ended up studying at Yeshivat Mercaz HaRav.
Brown makes short shrift of my "Penance Movement" hypothesis -- that children of Nazis convert to Judaism as atonement -- maintaining that he converted for theological reasons, not out of penance for his parents' sins. "Maybe there are unconscious psychological reasons that drove me to Judaism," he allows, "but since I am a critical thinker and very cerebral, on a conscious level at least, I believe that I came to Judaism from a place of pure intellect." He does, however, concede this: "I believe that whoever is willing to take this step [conversion] must have a very deep identity crisis preceding the conversion itself. He's not able to return to the identity that he was born into. I understood that I was not happy in the place where I was born, and I made a decision to go to another place.
"The fact is that during the seventies and eighties many young Germans who wanted to detach themselves from the previous generation, the generation that was complicit in the Holocaust, left Germany. And the percentage of German converts in Israel is not insignificant. I converted mainly because I had a theological criticism of Christianity. Is this a rationalization I gave myself? My grandfather didn't have any educational or cultural influence over me, but it still makes me feel awful that this is the background I come from. It sharpens the identity questions that I am so busy with.... My identity is not taken for granted. It is something that I must continually deal with."
Brown converted to Judaism in 1979, and married another German convert who is also an academician. Although his wife's parents in Stuttgart cut off all contact with their daughter, his own mother (who died seven years ago) accepted him as a Jew and visited him several times at his home in Israel. "Perhaps she was afraid that if she didn't accept my conversion, she would lose her only child," says Brown. "Whatever the reason, she dealt well with my Jewishness. She attended my three sons' Bar Mitzvahs and participated in our Passover Seders. I once even suggested that she come live with us in Jerusalem and not remain alone in Germany, but she said, 'You don't plant an old tree in a new place.' But up until her death, we remained very connected."
Brown is strictly halachic, identifying with Centrist Orthodoxy. Still, as a German convert, there are a few areas that give him pause, such as participating in Yom HaShoah ceremonies; emotionally it is too turbulent for him. "I usually stay home." Brown and his wife have worked hard to create a home that is warm, loving and supportive. "I wanted to make sure that my children have a path, a direction, a value system, not the muddled and complex dysfunction I myself experienced as a child," he says. "But as much as I've tried to protect them from their schizophrenic legacy, there are things I can't control. For example, when my son Yisrael traveled to Poland with his school several years ago, his reaction was completely different from his classmates. 'Everything felt weird,' he told me. 'I stood in the camps and thought about how the grandfathers of all of my friends had been inside, while my grandfather had been outside. My classmates came to those camps with their pasts; I just came to watch. I was caught in the middle -- it felt screwed up.'
"I also feel utterly helpless when my sons' classmates say mean and hurtful things to them -- comments which have accelerated since the interview in the Israeli newspaper was first published," Brown says. "Last year, for example, during a ceremony on Yom Hazikaron, several students whispered to my youngest son that they were going to beat him up because he's a Nazi. I refused to send him to school for a week until the principal took care of the problem."
Brown has had his share of ugly run-ins himself. "I have always tried to be open and honest about my roots; I have never hidden my background like many converts from Nazi backgrounds," he says. "Most of the time, people are accepting and tolerant. Once in a while, though, someone will say something offensive. Recently, after sharing some biographical details with my university students, one of them told me: 'Imagine! Your grandfather might have turned my grandmother into soap.'"
Brown guesstimates that there are approximately 300 German converts in Israel, but most are averse to publicity and remain relentlessly reclusive. Still, as the Holocaust recedes into history, an increasing number of these converts are coming forward with their stories. Recent newspaper articles published in both Europe and Canada have detailed the extraordinary metamorphoses of people like Katrin Himmler, great-niece of SS Commander Heinreich Himmler, who married an Israeli and Oskar Eder, a former member of the Luftwaffe who changed his name to Asher, married a Holocaust survivor and currently works in Israel as a tour guide.
The astonishing trajectories of these personalities, and people very much like them, demonstrate for Brown the powerful message that "nothing is immutable. The meaning of my story, of my counterparts' stories, is that things can be changed: You can change your behavior, your location, your faith. Being and becoming is what we are doing every day."
Reprinted with permission from Jewish Action, the magazine of the Orthodox Union.

Olmert offered Abbas everything he demanded but he still refused!

A few years ago I joined for a very short time the Jewish Internet Defense Force and after a very-very short time left it as I suspected something not Kosher about it. This has come up now thanks to Ya’akov David Ha’Ivri:

From Rabbi Coffman Shlita: In Hebrew Dale Streisand has problems making Aliyah but wins a court case for he became a hairy krishna for 37years before he returned to Judaism and is now religious:!

Lapid wants to arrest tens of thousands of Charedim (note it is not about burden otherwise the law proposed would draft Arabs into a national service). This is just a plain war on ultra-Orthodox Jews. Lieberman wanted to do the Arabs too but this is pure wickedness:

DST to make it impossible for religious workers to pray before work in Oct.,7340,L-4385733,00.html

The darker side of our people (not everybody is busy in Godliness and raising the mundane to the spiritual)

Who does not know the story of Cinderella or the “glass slipper” but this seems to be the origin of the story in ancient Egypt:

Inyanay Diyoma

Light on Syrian Chemical Weapons and rocket development:,7340,L-4383759,00.html

Are we to be cannon fodder for the politicians?

There will be no peace so quickly in Syria but Assad will not fall so fast:

Russia changes her mind regarding advanced weapons:

Arabs cyber-attacked 2 US sites and Haifa water supply:

Arabs allowed by the US pressure on Israeli Politicians to run wild and kill and maim Jews:

They got their own medicine: Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut targeted in rocket attack

Arabs and Iran cause a gas mask run: 'Just in Case,' Israelis Flock to Get Gas Masks A record number of gas mask kits were distributed Sunday, as Israelis prepare for a possible war in the north

I think that they did not ship the missiles yet only using them as clout:,7340,L-4385328,00.html

Israeli leaders expect regional stability to deteriorate, PM says.

From Ben Glixman, IDF Nahal now US Coast Guard Reserves son of Rabbi Glixman who served with honor in WWII.

For the sake of heaven let the IDF win against the intifada:,7340,L-4385451,00.html

Now for Matis Wolfberg’s Good Shabbos Story “One Moment of Teshuva” and “Spies like us”

Good Shabbos Everyone. In this week’s portion Beha’aloscha Hashem commands Aharon through Moshe to light the large Menorah in the tabernacle.  In commanding Aharon, Hashem uses the interesting word "Beha’aloscha." Rashi explains that the word “Beha’aloscha” contains the root meaning “to go up,” (as in “an aliyah to the Torah.”) Thus the Torah chose the term “Beha’aloscha,” to indicate that when applying fire to light the Menorah, one should make sure that the flame on the Menorah goes up -- “aliyah,” and burns on its own, before removing the source flame from the Menorah. If lighting a candle with a match, for example, one would leave the match burning on the candlewick until the flame of the candle burns high.
         When we look deeper into the symbolic meaning of the verse, we begin to see a beautiful, spiritually uplifting meaning of “Beha’aloscha...” We read in Proverbs that “The soul of Man is the lamp of Hashem.”(Mishlei 20:27) We see that the soul is compared to a lamp. Similarly, the Talmud tells us that the soul of a man is called a candle. (Shabbos 30b) We can now begin to delve into a deeper mystical level of understanding of the verse “Beha’aloscha Es Ha-Neros...” -- “when kindling the lamp...”
        Every Jew has a soul which is a spark of Hashem From On High. Hashem is the Origin of the Holy Fire, which is the Source of Life. Hashem keeps the pilot light of the soul alit as long as we are alive, however, we as individuals are responsible for making sure that the Holy Flame of the soul burns high. Let us now re-read the verse based on our new-found understanding... “when kindling the soul, you shall make sure that the flame of the soul burns high...”  The following true story will inspire us to kindle our souls. 
         Rav Yisroel Spira, known as the Bluzhever Rav was a beam of spiritual light in the darkened evil of the Nazi concentration camps. he recalls:
         It was the Lemberg-Yanovsky labor camp, a few days before Yom Kippur. There, as in all the ghettos and camps, the Nazis appointed Jews to supervise the laborers and extract from them the last particle of endurance and strength. The chief Ordenungsdienst (work supervisor) in Lemberg was a Jew named Schneeweiss. Like many Jews in his position, his fawning desire to please his masters in return for an extra portion of bread or an extra day of life often made him seem even more cruel than they. The Nazis, in turn, enjoyed the spectacle of Jew persecuting Jew.
         Now, Yom Kippur was on the way. Fasting could be managed. It would mean placing oneself in mortal danger, because food rations were below the subsistence level in any case and the labor required even more than the nourishment that had been normal in pre-war days. The rabbis who were frequently called upon to decide such questions always answered in accordance with halacha: "The Torah requires us to eat even on the holiest of fast days because to do otherwise is to invite death by starvation ― and God wants us to exert every effort to live. We are forbidden to surrender to death even though we are too limited to understand the purpose of our living under such circumstances."
         Nevertheless, there were always those to whom a Yom Kippur, a smuggled pair of tefillin, a blast of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah, a secretly baked morsel of matzah, a bit of oil for a Chanukah flame, a minyan, were worth an encounter with a bullet or, worse, a whip. A group of such people approached their spiritual leader in the Yanovsky camp of Lemberg.
         "Rav Spira, Yom Kippur is coming. What are we to do? How can we desecrate the Holy Day working as if it were any other day?"
The rabbi was moved as he often was by the devotion of his fellow Jews. He would try to help them.
         The Bluzhever Rav went to the hated Schneeweiss, "Herr Ordenungsdienst. As you know, it will soon be Yom Kippur. I am a rabbi and it is important for me to observe this day as properly as possible. A group of my disciples in the camp wish to do the same. We do not ask to be freed from labor, all we ask is that for that one day we be given work which will not force us to violate the law of the Torah. We are willing to do extra work on other days to make up for any labor which goes undone."
         That simple request was in itself an act of great heroism, for Schneeweiss, no friend of observant Jews, had in his own hands the power of life and death. He could easily have used the "treasonous" request as a means of proving his loyalty to his SS mentors by turning in the "lazy rabbi who was prepared to sabotage the Master Race's war effort for the sake of his Holy Day foolishness."
         Schneeweiss asked for time to consider. The next day, he told the rabbi that he could choose a limited number of prisoners who would be assigned to clean the apartments of the camp's commanding officers. But the Ordenungsdeinst would guarantee them nothing nor would he defend them if the Germans sensed something wrong. And if there was so much as a speck of dirt to be found anywhere in the house, they would pay with their lives.
         So it was that on Yom Kippur an unusual prayer service was held by Rabbi Spira and fourteen young men. The rabbi stood on a window sill polishing the glass while the men were sweeping, dusting, tidying ― and all the while he led them in the solemn prayers as he had led congregations for many years in Galicia, but never had the Yom Kippur service been as fervent or as tearful.
         At midday, a tray was brought in with food. It lay ignored on a table as the praying and cleaning continued. Then a few German officers entered to admire the work of their servants for the day. They examined the rooms and were pleased ― until they saw the food.
"Jiidische Hunde, freszt! Stuff yourselves, Jewish dogs!"
         The Jews could not ignore the order. What should they do? Rabbi Spira walked to the officers and explained: "It is our Holy Day, the day when sins are forgiven. As you have seen, we serve you loyally, even on this sacred day, and our work is perfect. But we are required to fast today and we ask of you to excuse us from eating our meal today. Our work will continue and it will not be affected by hunger."
         The officers were furious. They sent for Schneeweiss. Quaking, the Ordenungsdienst came to the room. "These dogs refuse to eat their rations. You are responsible for them. We shall return in two hours ― and if all their food is not eaten, you will be shot."
         Schneeweiss stood up straight and unbuttoned his shirt, baring his chest. "I will not force them to eat. I am fasting myself today. If you wish to shoot me, then shoot me now!"
         An officer drew his gun and Schneeweiss stood firm. A shot. He was dead. Hated Schneeweiss had become holy Schneeweiss. Who can estimate the great heights to which every Jewish soul can rise?
Then the Germans turned to the fifteen Jews who were ready for the same treatment.
         "You will continue to work. The food will be removed and you will receive not a scrap to eat until tomorrow morning. Go back to work!"
         The Talmud tells us: “There are those who acquire their world in many years, and there are those who acquire their world in a single moment.” (Avodah Zarah 17a)  As long as there is the possibility to do teshuvah, one's past can be fixed.  Good Shabbos Everyone.

 Good Shabbos Everyone. This week's Parsha Shlach teaches us the importance of being positive under the most trying circumstances.  The spies went to check out the land of Canaan and tragically 10 of them came back with a negative report saying they didn't think that we could take the land because the inhabitants were too large and powerful, while two of the spies Yehoshua and Calev were optimistic.  The 10 pessimistic spies were punished while the 2 optimistic ones were rewarded.  We see from here the importance of maintaining a positive attitude under difficult circumstances.
         The involvement of Israel in a war Lebanon a few years ago left many wounds and endless scars. One of them is the gaping emptiness in the communal heart of the town of Gan Ner, an agricultural settlement in the verdant valleys of Israel's Galilee.
         The hostilities were nearly over when the army team knocked on the door of the Abutbul family with the bitter news that their talented, much-admired Yossi was no longer among the living. Yossi was the Abutbul's first-born. His winning smile and sterling character had won him a place in the hearts of everyone in Gan Ner and the surrounding settlements, although many resisted his efforts to win them over to his own religious faith.
         Yossi was no slacker, either. Lightly wounded in the early weeks of the war, he was sent home to recuperate. As soon as he felt up to it, he returned to the ranks with his comrades. He met his death in a tragic accident shortly before the termination of the hostilities.
         The Abutbuls' loss was traumatic not only for the immediate family. Everyone who knew him shared the pain. So many people came during the week of the shiva to comfort the family that neighbors set up a large tent in front of the house to accommodate them.
         Among the visitors were two faces familiar to all: Rabbi Yosef Zarka and Rabbi Mordechai Einhorn of Arachim. Both had been close to the family for years, and when Yossi was away at yeshivah, they had often brought packages from home to him, together with warm regards. They had formed deep bonds with Yossi as he grew up, often spending hours in discussions that lasted late into the night.
         Like his parents, they had looked forward to seeing him under the chupah and raising a house-full of lively, lovable youngsters like himself. The hopes and dreams had been shattered. The pain in their hearts gave them no rest; they must do something "for Yossi."
         But what? For years the two had been Arachim activists in the area. Dozens of families from surrounding settlements had attended Arachim Seminars at their urging, but in Gan Ner, the Abutbuls were the only religious family. The tireless efforts of the head of the family, Nissim, to convince his neighbors to attend an evening shiur or to sign up for an Arachim Seminar, had borne little fruit. "It's not for me," one said. "I'm not interested," another would respond.
         But the pain in the hearts of the two Arachim workers did not let them rest. "Do it for Yossi," they urged. "He wanted to establish a fine Jewish home, to raise a houseful of children loyal to Torah, but Heaven intervened. At least let there be other families who become aware of their heritage in his merit."
         Their words pierced hearts that were broken by the tragedy. From Gan Ner, seventeen families signed up for what became known as "Yossi's Seminar" in Zichron Yaakov. Another forty members of the extended Abutbul family joined them.
         Today, Gan Ner is starting to change. Just ask Reuven Sabag, who serves with the border patrol and is the community's local policeman. He also heads the "Safe Schools" project aimed to countering violence in the school system. Reuven has long been convinced that Torah and mitzvos are the way to go, but his wife, Sigal, the director of the local Kupat Cholim health service, was outspokenly against anything that had to do with religion.
         Every time her husband, or anyone else, suggested a lecture or a Seminar, she gave the same answer: "I already know enough about the religious community from the media. It's not for me!" When Gan Ner was mourning its fallen son, Rabbi Zarka decided to try once more.
         This time, at least, he was allowed into the house; the words "Yossi Abutbul" served as the ticket that gained him entry into the living room. Mrs. Sabag didn't actually join the discussion; she sat at her computer, with her back to Rabbi Zarka, and one ear tuned in to his words.
         The Arachim volunteer sensed that this time, the pain in Sigal's heart had opened a crack in her defenses. He decided to take a gamble: "Try out a Seminar; it will change your lives for the better. You know what? If I'm wrong, don't pay us a cent!" It was an offer that even Sigal couldn't turn down. The Sabags both took part. It was an eye-opener for them both.
         When the Seminar was over, late Saturday night, the couple loaded their baggage into the trunk of their car for the trip home. "That's it," Sigal told her husband. "We're turning over a new leaf."
         The Sabags are not alone. Their neighbor, Itzik the drummer, was an essential part of every wedding and celebration in the area. At the Seminar, he put on tzitzis for the first time. A short while after the Seminar, he was asked to play at a local event, but refused. The distraught parents came to his house to beg him to enliven their evening. "What happened? You never said no to anyone until now; why are we any different?" they asked. "Now I have tzitzis," he explained.
         "How can I sit there and play — wearing tzitzis — when you have mixed dancing?" The message was clear. Others are koshering their kitchens, and now there is a daily gemora class in Gan Ner, for the first time. Families transferred their children to the religious school in nearby Kfar Gideon. Things are changing, and changing for the better. What does Nissim Abutbul have to say?
         "Yossi is happy with it all, I am sure. I know," he says with a bittersweet smile. "I can feel it in my heart."   Good Shabbos Everyone
M. Wolfberg is sponsored by: In memory of R' Yaakov ben Naftoly, of blessed memory In Memory of Reb Yitzchok ben Reb Shimon (Friedman) of blessed memory Refuah Shleima to Reb Mordechai Mendel ben Tziporah Yitta Refuah Shleima to Leah bas Tziporah

A good Shabbos to all,
Rachamim Pauli