Friday, November 22, 2013

Parsha Vayeitzei Part II, Parsha Vayeishev, Chanucha, Stories



The failure: Last week, it was not the first time that AOL stopped the direct mail publication of the Drasha but perhaps the first time that I published it on Thursday and because one AOL address left the internet the Weekly Torah Portion was not published on time. Yours truly has been over whelmed with things to do and as it was I only was able to write half a Drasha. This week I talk about the Struggles of Yacov so perhaps I should be happy as a Tzaddik has no rest in this world. The Gemara in Berachos says that if a person does not have troubles in 40 days that means he is only a person in Olam HaZeh (this world) but if he is tested all the time that means he is a person who gets Olam HaBa.




Yacov has just finished 20 hard years of working for Lavan and is now in the middle of a struggle with Esav coming against him with 400 men. He is about to wrestle with an Angel and fight in this world and the next. He manages to separate from Esav in peace but then he has an incident with Dina, a violation of a treaty that threatens to exterminate everybody, the loss of Devorah, the loss of Rachel and perhaps at this time the loss of his dear mother. Rabbi Edward Davis Shlita explains that Rachel’s death is not recorded so that Esav would not have to attend her funeral and meet again with Yacov without his human protector.


14 And he lodged there that night; and took of that which he had with him a present for Esau his brother: 15 two hundred she-goats and twenty he-goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 16 thirty milch camels and their colts, forty kine and ten bulls, twenty she-asses and ten foals. 17 And he delivered them into the hand of his servants, every drove by itself; and said unto his servants: 'Pass over before me, and put a space betwixt drove and drove.'


Yacov prepares for Esav with gifts, prayer and war which he is afraid of for if he kills Esav or Eliphaz, etc. the vengeance syndrome will not stop and Yacov would possibly be a murderer or be killed. Yet after the other two methods, Yacov prepares for war even the odds are against him. (This has been the way of the Bnei Yisrael or for us just the Jews throughout history.)


18 And he commanded the foremost, saying: 'When Esau my brother meeteth thee, and asketh thee, saying: Whose art thou? and whither go thou? and whose are these before thee? 19 then thou shalt say: They are thy servant Jacob's; it is a present sent unto my lord, even unto Esau; and, behold, he also is behind us.' 20 And he commanded also the second, and the third, and all that followed the droves, saying: 'In this manner shall ye speak unto Esau, when ye find him; 21 and ye shall say: Moreover, behold, thy servant Jacob is behind us.' For he said: 'I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept me.' 22 So the present passed over before him; and he himself lodged that night in the camp. 23 And he rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. 24 And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had. 25 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. 26 And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him. 27 And he said: 'Let me go, for the day breaks.' And he said: 'I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.' 28 And he said unto him: 'What is thy name?' And he said: 'Jacob.' 29 And he said: 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.' 30 And Jacob asked him, and said: 'Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.' And he said: 'Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?' And he blessed him there.


The Gemara says that the angels pray at the time when the Bnei Yisrael prays and he was required to pray Shacharis Prayers.


31 And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.' 32 And the sun rose upon him as he passed over Peniel, and he limped upon his thigh. 33 Therefore the children of Israel eat not the sinew of the thigh-vein which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day; because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh, even in the sinew of the thigh-vein.


Even though this is one of the 613 Mitzvos it looks more like a Gezaira in honor of Yacov than a Mitzva.


Rabbi and Dr.  Russell of Lakewood, NJ lectured about the hidden Yacov the struggle in life not only between good and evil, right and wrong but the trials and tribulations, Esav, Lavan, Angel, Esav, Dina and finally when he wants to rest the bloody coast of Yosef. It is this Yacov whom we inherit our traits at being Jews to wrestle with the tribulations of life. If everything went on the right course we would have a dull life and could not grow spiritually.   


33:1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. 2 And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost. 3 And he himself passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.


Anything to avoid a conflict especially one that might involve killing a person or being killed was the goal of Yacov.


4 And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.


34 years and a limp was enough time along with the gifts to make Esav soften up.


5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said: 'Who are these with thee?' And he said: 'The children whom God hath graciously given thy servant.' 6 Then the handmaids came near, they and their children, and they bowed down. 7 And Leah also and her children came near, and bowed down; and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed down. 8 And he said: 'What meanest thou by all this camp which I met?' And he said: 'To find favour in the sight of my lord.' 9 And Esau said: 'I have enough; my brother, let that which thou hast be thine.' 10 And Jacob said: 'Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found favour in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand; forasmuch as I have seen thy face, as one seeth the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me. 11 Take, I pray thee, my gift that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.' And he urged him, and he took it. 12 And he said: 'Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.' 13 And he said unto him: 'My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and that the flocks and herds giving suck are a care to me; and if they overdrive them one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant; and I will journey on gently, according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.' 15 And Esau said: 'Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me.' And he said: 'What needeth it? let me find favour in the sight of my lord.' 16 So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir. 17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him a house, and made booths for his cattle. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. 18 And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram; and encamped before the city. 19 And he bought the parcel of ground, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for a hundred pieces of money. 20 And he erected there an altar, and called it El-elohe-Israel.


34:1 And Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her; and he took her, and lay with her, and humbled her.


How old was Dina at this time? She was born after Yosef was born and based on the calculation below in Vayeishev, Yacov was 108 when Yosef was 17 and therefore when he entered Eretz Yisrael aka Canaan Yosef was 8 so at that point Dina was between 6 and 7 when they entered the land and even if this occurred after a year or two, Dina would have been 8 or 9. In a commentary by either Rashi or Rav Davis that Hiviah in the Talmud from Aramaic means snake and he acted like a snake first with natural and then unnatural intercourse. {Note to us in the west this is disgusting to the people of Gaza who marry females at this age, it is the norm.} 


 3 And his soul did cleave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spoke comfortingly unto the damsel.


Being so naïve and doing his bidding he fell in love (youth infatuation) with her. …


25 And it came to pass on the third day, when they were in pain, that two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city unawares, and slew all the males. 26 And they slew Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah out of Shechem's house, and went forth. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and spoiled the city, because they had defiled their sister. 28 They took their flocks and their herds and their asses, and that which was in the city and that which was in the field; 29 and all their wealth, and all their little ones and their wives, took they captive and spoiled, even all that was in the house. 30 And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi: 'Ye have troubled me, to make me odious unto the inhabitants of the land, even unto the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and, I being few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and smite me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.'


One time, I will have to write down a condensed version of the war describe in Sefer Yashar regarding the enemy coming from 4 sides after Yacov and sons and the braveness of Yehuda with the hairs of his chest sticking out and then under the cover of fog the enemy kills each other off. (I once saw a battle under Har Dov in Lebanon between the Christians and two terrorist forces where all three shot at each other and our commander asked Eli Chapernik the paramedic on Har Dov if our force in the area was under fire. That was in 1977 and Lebanon has only gotten worse since then.


Parsha Vayeishev


One gets to a certain age, the younger generation wants to take over and push their way into advancement in the world and take over the reins of management and one’s energy and excitement about his work slows down, then it is time to think of resting and giving the work and authority to the younger generation. Yacov is a man with no peace or rest yet he longs as he passes the age of 100 to settle down and let his sons take over the business. It is what he is looking forward to a retirement but no he is going to have trouble with Yosef, Yehuda loses a wife and two children there is no peace for him. Yacov was 130 years old when he went down to Egypt 22 years later so he was 108 at the time.


I got off the plane from FL to Israel last night my suitcases came only this morning and I had do a lot of the preparations for Shabbos. It is 1:30 PM Israel time so I am getting out the Parsha with what I wrote in 5770 which everybody including myself forgot about. 37:1 And Jacob dwelt in the land of his father's sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren, being still a lad even with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives; and Joseph brought evil report of them unto their father.

Huh? Yacov had 12 sons but Yosef was so important that he treated him greater than his brothers which lead to jealousy. Moshiach would come from Yehuda, Kahuna from Levy but still Yosef had righteousness and both internal an external beauty.

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he made him a coat of many colors.

This shows that he had a special places as the first born of Rachel for Benyamin should have also had an important spot.

4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

While Yosef had basically his nose to his books his complaints about less than righteousness children of Bilhah and Zilpah already had 4 brothers against him and his being spoiled with the rainbow colored from his father though  the garment got the other 5 to hate him.

5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it to his brethren; and they hated him yet the more. 6 And he said unto them: 'Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed: 7 for, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves came round about, and bowed down to my sheaf.'

If I were instead of Yacov, I would say, “Keep your big month shut kid.”

 8 And his brethren said to him: 'Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us?' And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words. 9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it to his brethren, and said: 'Behold, I have dreamed yet a dream: and, behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me.'

A dream always has a sense of falseness about it and the fact that his late mother would bow down to him must be false.

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren; and his father rebuked him, and said unto him: 'What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down to thee to the earth?' 11 And his brethren envied him; but his father kept the saying in mind.

From Esther: We learn from Parshas Vayayshev the importance of looking towards others to see their needs. Yosef HaTzaddik was in a hopeless situation but nevertheless felt the distress of his fellow man in need.

Rabbi Yehonatan Gefen 12/06//2009 15:46
Towards the end of the parsha, Yosef HaTzaddik finds himself in a hopeless situation, having been in prison for ten years with no prospect of freedom. At that point occurs the incident of the interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh’s ministers which begins the process of his meteoric rise to the position of Viceroy over the whole of Mitzrayim. There is one easily overlooked pasuk which signals the beginning of the drastic upturn in Yosef’s fortunes. After the two ministers dreamt their respective dreams, they were very distressed because they did not know their meaning. At that point, Yosef sees their unhappy countenances; he asks, “Why do you appear downcast today?” This seemingly inconsequential question leads to the interpretation of the dreams which eventually results in Yosef’s liberation and incredible rise to power. Had Yosef never asked them why they were upset then they would probably never have confided in him and the golden opportunity for freedom would be lost. Yosef’s small act of thoughtfulness may not seem particularly noteworthy, however in truth it is quite remarkable considering his situation at that time: He had been living in appalling conditions for 10 years with no realistic hope of freedom. He had every right to be totally engrossed in his own situation and not notice the facial expressions of those around him. Moreover he was assigned to serve the two ministers who were very important people in Mitzrayim - they surely treated him as an inferior and gave him absolutely no attention. Yet he overcame all these factors and showed concern at their distressed appearance.

There is a great temptation to go through life so absorbed in our own lives that we do not recognize the needs of others. One of the keys to being a genuine baal chessed is to overcome our own self-absorption and notice the world around us. Sometimes, this even requires that we be mevater on our own needs for the sake of others. The most glaring example of this is found earlier in the parsha when Tamar is being taken to be burnt at the stake. She had every opportunity to save her life by revealing that the items in her possession were those of Yehuda. However she gave greater emphasis to the embarrassment that Yehuda would endure if she did so and therefore remained quiet. The Gemara learns from here that a person must give up his life before embarrassing someone else . Rabbeinu Yonah and Tosefos pasken this way lehalacho! This teaches us that there are occasions where we are obligated to give greater precedence to the feelings of others than even our own.

Gedolim epitomized the ability to negate one’s own needs and focus on the needs of others. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l was being taken in a car by a bachur from his yeshiva. As Reb Moshe entered the car the bachur closed the door onto his fingers, yet he remained completely silent as if nothing had happened. A bewildered onlooker asked him why he did not cry out, he answered that the bachur would feel incredible embarrassment about having caused him pain and therefore Reb Moshe controlled himself and kept quiet. This is a well-known story but it deserves thought; Reb Moshe exemplified the ability to ignore his own feelings in order to spare the pain of his fellow Jew.

It is not only in times of pain that we should focus on others. Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l and his son Rav Shneur zt”l went to Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer (Rav Aaron’s father-in-law) to say goodbye shortly before leaving Eretz Yisroel for Rav Shneur’s chasunah. Rav Isser Zalman stopped in the middle of the stairs on the way down rather than escorting them all the way to the street. They asked him about it and he explained, “Many of the people who live around here have grandchildren who were murdered by the Nazis, Yemach shemam. How could I go down to the street and embrace my grandchild, flaunting my joy publicly, when these people can’t do the same?! ”

These superhuman demonstrations of selflessness can be an inspiration to us. There are numerous examples where we can overcome our own self-absorption and show an awareness of the needs of those around us. When we are walking down the street we tend to be involved in our own thoughts but it is worthwhile to be aware of the people around us - there may be someone who is carrying a heavy load and would appreciate a helping hand . There are many occasions when we may not be experiencing great joy or pain but we may still tend to focus on our own Dalet Amos alone. For example, after hagbaah on Shabbos Shacharis the baal hagbaah is left sitting on a chair holding the Sefer Torah with no Chumosh to read the Haftorah. People are understandably focused on following the Haphtarah themselves, but it shows great thoughtfulness to hand him a Chumosh so he too can follow along. In Torah Vodaas there were occasions where there were not enough chairs in the room so the Bochurim had to bring chairs for themselves from another room. Rav Shraga Feivel Mendelowitz zt”l used to say that a boy who brought just one chair for himself was merely a shlepper, but a boy who brought two, one for himself and one for a friend, was a baal Chessed .

There are numerous examples of small acts of thoughtfulness that can light up people’s lives. And we learn from Yosef that we can never be certain of the consequences of one act of Chessed. The Alter of Slobodka zt”l says that we can also never know how much reward we receive for a small act of Chessed. He discusses when Yacov Avinu removes the stone off the mouth of the well so that everyone could drink the water. This small act of kindness would not seem to rank highly amongst the numerous mitzvos that Yacov performed throughout his life. However, it is in fact the source of great merit for the Jewish people. Every year we recite a special prayer for rain - Tefillahs Geshem. In this tefillah we mention some of the great acts of the Avos such as Yacov’s overcoming of Esav’s maloch. Yet we also mention Yacov’s removal of the stone: “He [Yacov] dedicated his heart and tolled a stone from the mouth of a well of water - for his sake do not hold back water.” Every act of Chessed done with purity of heart is of immeasurable value. May we all learn from our Avos and be true givers.

Rabbi Yehonatan Gefen is a Rosh Chabura in the kollel of Rav Yitzchak Berkovits shlita, a writer for a number of internet sites and magazines and also published one book on the Torah


A few words on last week’s Haphtarah: The Novi Ovadia is a man from Edom Gerim. In 1:8 he writes: Shall I not in that day, says the LORD, destroy the wise men out of Edom, and discernment out of the mount of Esau? This appears to be the blindness of the western world to the Shiite bomb of Iran and what will happen to them in the end of days prior to the Judgement. We slowly but surely see the pieces of the puzzle from the prophets coming together now as we approach the end of days.


Shalom on the Range: In search of the American Crypto-Jew Part 7



Thankfully, there may be an alternate future for the Crypto-Jews, one that remains within America’s geographic and psychological borders, which I suppose is why I found myself standing in front of Joe Morse’s double-wide in Meadow Lake, New Mexico.

Joe was waiting for me in his weed-bedraggled front yard. He was in his mid-fifties, a bowling ball of a man, dressed much like Perry Peña, in black pants, white shirt, and clip-on braces, except he wore his tzitzit outside the pants. He pumped my hand in greeting and then checked the sun’s progress. Dusk was approaching.

“Come on in,” he said. “We still have time to talk before the Shabbat.”

Joe’s trailer was a study in brown: brown carpet, brown linoleum kitchen floor, brown wall paneling, a tattered brown couch. A large blue painting of a waterfall cut the brown somewhat, as did a Jewish calendar from French’s Mortuary and a portrait of Joe—chubby, blank-faced, age thirteen—painted for his bar mitzvah.

We took a seat in the living room. Joe’s wife, Gloria, as porcelain-doll tiny as Joe, puttered about in the kitchen preparing the potted chicken for dinner. Trefina, Joe’s youngest, sat at the dinner table, quietly reading a Hebrew prayer book.

“Tell me, Ted,” Joe said once we had settled in. “What do you know about the Jews?”

Joe grew up in a Boston suburb, the son of a Jewish meat cutter in the Old Haymarket Square. In his twenties he left the secular Judaism of his family and commenced a process of religious searching that lasted several decades and included stints in such Christian evangelical sects as the Assembly of God, the Seventh-Day Adventists, the Calvary Chapel, and the Free Methodists. Despite not one but two born-again experiences, Joe still felt spiritually incomplete, and in the late 1980s he decided to return to Judaism. “With one difference,” he said. “The difference is that now I have a Messiah.”

Joe joined a Messianic Jewish congregation in Albuquerque that met on Saturdays in a Baptist church. It was there that he first began to meet Crypto-Jews. Perry Peña, at the time also a member of the congregation, became a good friend. (Joe would later bar mitzvah Perry at Covenant Rock.) Perry inspired Joe to research his own family history, where he discovered, in the midst of a Jewish past, a lost Jewish past. “I am not Ashkenazi,” Joe said. “You are. I’m Hispanic and didn’t know it.”

His family, which had emigrated to the United States from Ukraine, had, he said, been expelled from Barcelona centuries prior. Joe took this to mean that he was also a Crypto-Jew. “We went from Morais in Spain to Moraz in Ukraine to Morse in the United States. We always tried to fit in.”

Both Joe and Perry felt that the Ashkenazi Messianics in their congregation discriminated against the Crypto-Jews. As Joe put it, “They didn’t give them an opportunity to really come into their fullness.” In 2001, Joe and Perry struck out on their own, founding a Messianic congregation that would minister to Crypto-Jews. They named it _Kahilah Ba’Midbar, _the Congregation of the Wilderness, because at first when they didn’t have a place to meet for prayer, they would gather outside in local parks or by the banks of the Rio Grande.

“I felt like these were a people who needed to explode. We needed to go out, search them out, to bring the Lost House of Israel back. Not fellowshipping in foolishness but through righteousness!” Joe said, his voice rising with sermonic passion. “I fell in love with these people, started hanging out with them. We were kind of a little clique. It felt like an us-against-the-world kinda thing.”

Eventually, though, Joe and Perry broke with each other, in part because of Perry’s decision to live as a Jew rather than as a Messianic. Joe, however, insisted that he bore Perry no ill will.

“Perry’s searching. I’m not searching anymore. I’ve got what I need. I’ve got a relationship with the Messiah.” Joe patted his royal-blue yarmulke, which was enbroidered with the words yeshua ha’mashiach, Jesus the Messiah—a phrase one doesn’t often encounter in Hebrew.

Joe was vague about how many Crypto-Jews remained in his congregation. But he promised to introduce me to them the following day, at a Saturday service in the home of one of the congregation members. The trailer had grown dark as we talked. The Sabbath had begun. To my surprise, Joe stood up and flipped on the lights. He smiled at me.

“Don’t panic,” he said. “The light bulbs are kosher.”

Joe and I drove to Belen, New Mexico, the next morning for the service. (Gloria and Trefina came in another car.) As we sped down a narrow country road, Joe pointed to a dusty hill at the top of which I could just barely make out three white crosses. This was Tomé hill, Joe said. Every Easter, local Christians make a pilgrimage to the summit to pray to a painted Jesus; some of the more devoted simulate the Crucifixion by tying themselves to one of the crosses.

“Repentance is so easy now,” Joe said. “It was a real bloody business out there in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. They were out there for two years trying to learn to do it right, construct it, build it, and then consecrate it. They were sprinkling blood, draining blood. They were killing animals. It was a factory. I don’t know if I could have dealt with that.”

We reached the town house where the service was being held. Before I could get out of the car, Joe put his hand on my wrist.

“You’re in such trouble,” he said.

“You mean today?” I said, wondering if the congregants would think I was a journalist hostile to Messianics.

“No, I mean in life,” Joe replied. “You’re going to go back home, and all of a sudden you’ll find yourself thinking about Messiah, and how maybe there’s something to it.” He paused. “You know what my goal with you is, Ted?”

“What’s that?”

“Your soul.”

An elderly retiree named Matt owned the town house. He was a hulking, watery-eyed old fellow with military tattoos on his forearms and a yarmulke on his head. He showed me around while Joe readied the living room for the service. Matt had decorated his home with a western flair of near-Lynchian oddness. The paintings on the walls depicted a cowboy feeding his horse an apple at sunset; mustangs drinking from a creek; plus a few glamour portraits of horses Matt had once owned. He still kept two saddles and tack on the floor in his bedroom.

Matt told me he had come to Messianic Judaism late in life, when a friend helped him look into his genealogy and told him he might be Sephardic on his father’s side. He enjoyed being a Jew, he said (“I wear my kipa 24/7”), but as far as a Crypto-Jewish past in New Mexico was concerned, he didn’t have one.

“I’m from New Orleans,” he said.

Gloria and Trefina arrived shortly thereafter, accompanied by a purple-haired septuagenarian widow named Wanda. Joe deposited her in a chair in the living room, where she idly thumbed through a Messianic prayer book, squinting at the words and humming quietly to herself. Three others joined us. Elaine was a heavily made-up Anglo woman in her forties who greeted Joe with a complaint about a son who was giving her problems. Joe clucked sympathetically. Also joining us were “Sam,” a beefy, sunburned man, and his towheaded teenage daughter. They were from Iowa.

The service was conducted at a table in the living room. Joe sat in the center, his shoulders draped with a tallit. He opened with a blessing in Hebrew, followed by a lively song whose only lyrics were “Shabbat shalom. Shabbat shalom. Shabbat shalom.” We punctuated each shabbat shalom by clapping our hands twice in quick succession.

Joe then recited several passages from the Bible, led us through some more Hebrew prayers and songs, and expounded at length on Scripture.

“The Christians very often regard what they see here as null and void. However, to this day the Law of God stands,” Joe remarked during an explication of Leviticus. “We are not saved by the laws pertaining to God, but they are a manual for us to live by. So despite the fact that we are not saved by them, we still keep them, including the laws of Kashrut.

Joe motioned to Gloria. She rummaged around in her purse and produced a recipe for salt-crusted shrimp that she had clipped from the back of a box of Morton’s kosher salt. She passed it around and everyone laughed and tut-tutted.

“I wonder if anyone raised Cain over that,” Elaine said.

“They can’t,” Matt replied as he inspected the recipe. “Because it says here, ‘Good for gourmet cooking.’”

As the joking continued, my mind drifted away to the other Crypto-Jews I had met, particularly Sonya. She kept kosher, was a Conservative Jew, and spoke Hebrew. She could emigrate to Israel, vote Likud, and found the country’s last legitimately socialist kibbutz, and it would never be enough. She would never be sufficiently Jewish to eat shrimp; that is, Jewish like me, in my perfectly American way, in which no proof is demanded and no pious displays of observance required. The question of what makes a Jew is tired to the point of absurdity. For me, a Crypto-Jew who acted as a Jew, lived as a Jew, and wanted to be a Jew, was Jewish. By doing so they had moved beyond the dictates of historical truth or untruth; I watched them go with satisfaction.

The folks listening to Joe hold forth that day were a different matter: not one of them, you see, was a Crypto-Jew. When I first realized this I was annoyed that Joe had wasted my time, but then it struck me that the connection I had felt to the Crypto-Jews—that needful hope in their existence—was shared very strongly by those gathered here. We were explorers of the same historical—but by this point thoroughly American—deception.

When the service ended I told Joe that I was skipping the barbecue lunch. He walked me to my car, threw an arm over my shoulder, and wished me well. He prayed for me and told me that he hoped God would “plague” me until I accepted the Messiah. As I was about to drive away, Matt rushed outside and waved for me to wait. I rolled down my window to see what he wanted. He had a gift, he said, a box of matzos, which he handed me with some ceremony.

“For the road,” he said.


An important msg about the Fetus from Dr. Harry: In America we have the Humane Society, and laws that make it criminal to inflict unnecessary pain upon animals.  As  leaders of your communities, the following information is important for you to know:

(1)    Pain receptors are present throughout the unborn child’s entire body and nerves link these receptors to the brain’s thalamus and subcorical plate by no later than 20 weeks after fertilization.

(2)    By 8 weeks after fertilization, the unborn child reacts to touch. After 20 weeks, the unborn child reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human.

(3)    In the unborn child, application of such painful stimuli is associated with significant increases in stress hormones known as the stress response.

(4)    For the purposes of surgery on unborn children, fetal anesthesia is routinely administered and is associated with a decrease in stress hormones compared to their level when painful stimuli are applied without such anesthesia. In the United States, surgery of this type is being performed by 20 weeks after fertilization and earlier in specialized units affiliated with children’s hospitals.

(5)    Recent medical research and analysis, especially since 2007, provides strong evidence for the conclusion that a functioning cortex is not necessary to experience pain.

(6)    Substantial evidence indicates that children born missing the bulk of the ce4rebral cortex, those with hydranencephaly, nevertheless experience pain.

(7)    In adult humans and in animals, stimulation or ablation of the cerebral cortex does not alter pain perception, while stimulation or ablation of the thalamus does.

(8)    The position, asserted by some commentators, that the unborn child remains in a coma-like sleep state that precludes the unborn child experiencing pain is inconsistent with the documented reaction of unborn children to painful stimuli and with the experience of fetal surgeons who had found it necessary to sedate the unborn child with anesthesia to prevent the unborn child from engaging in vigorous movement in reaction to invasive surgery.

(9)    Consequently, there is substantial medical evidence that an unborn child is capable of experiencing pain at least by 20 weeks after fertilization, if not earlier.

I guess according to our government, and the Supreme Court of our land, the pain felt by a fetus is worth less than that of an animal!   How sad, and how much lower can our society fall?


The following was written in 5770 but I thought I would bring this down again for my readers in the USA: It is funny Thanks or Praise in Hebrew is HODU and Turkey is called HODU also from India.

Participants' accounts

In a letter to a friend, dated December 1621, Edward Winslow wrote: "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoice together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors; they four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the Company almost a week, at which time, among other Recreations, we exercised our Arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest King Massasoit, with some 90 men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted and they went out and killed five Deer, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed on our Governor, and upon the Captain and others."

Twenty years later, William Bradford wrote a book that provides a few more hints as to what might have been on that first Thanksgiving table. But his book was stolen by British looters during the Revolutionary War and therefore didn't have much influence on how Thanksgiving was celebrated until it turned up many years later.  No one is certain whether the Wampanoag and the colonists regularly sat together and shared their food, or if the three-day "thanksgiving" feast Mr. Winslow recorded for posterity was a one-time event.

In the culture of the Wampanoag Indians, who inhabited the area around Cape Cod, "thanksgiving" was an everyday activity. "We as native people [traditionally] have thanksgivings as a daily, ongoing thing," says Linda Coombs, associate director of the Wampanoag program at Plimoth Plantation. "Every time anybody went hunting or fishing or picked a plant, they would offer a prayer or acknowledgment."

But for the 52 colonists - who had experienced a year of disease, hunger, and diminishing hopes - their bountiful harvest was cause for a special celebration to give thanks. "Neither the English people nor the native people in 1621 knew they were having the first Thanksgiving," Ms. Coombs says. No one knew that the details would interest coming generations.

"We're not sure why Massasoit and the 90 men ended up coming to Plimoth," Coombs says. "There's an assumption that they were invited, but nowhere in the passage does it say they were. And the idea that they sat down and lived happily ever after is, well, untrue. The relationship between the English and the Wampanoag was very complex." Since they did not speak the same language, the extent to which the colonists and Indians intermingled remains a mystery. But a few details of that first Thanksgiving are certain, says Kathleen Curtin, food historian at the Plimoth Plantation.

What was on the menu?

First, wild turkey was never mentioned in Winslow's account. It is probable that the large amounts of "fowl" brought back by four hunters were seasonal waterfowl such as duck or geese. And if cranberries were served, they would have been used for their tartness or color, not the sweet sauce or relish so common today. In fact, it would be 50 more years before berries were boiled with sugar and used as an accompaniment to meat.

Potatoes weren't part of the feast, either. Neither the sweet potato nor the white potato was yet available to colonists. The presence of pumpkin pie appears to be a myth, too. The group may have eaten pumpkins and other squashes native to New England, but it is unlikely that they had the ingredients for pie crust - butter and wheat flour. Even if they had possessed butter and flour, the colonists hadn't yet built an oven for baking.

"While we have been able to work out which modern dishes were not available in 1621, just what was served is a tougher nut to crack," Ms. Curtin says. A couple of guesses can be made from other passages in Winslow's correspondence about the general diet at the time: lobsters, mussels, "sallet herbs," white and red grapes, black and red plums, and flint corn.

"We have only one documented harvest feast that occurred between the cultures," Curtin points out. "You don't hear about [any other] harvests occurring between them. I assume that they did on some level, but it's fascinating that it is just that one source, one sentence in one letter. I wonder what else is there that someone just didn't jot down, and we now know nothing about."

Until the early 1800s, Thanksgiving was considered to be a regional holiday celebrated solemnly through fasting and quiet reflection.

But the 19th century had its own Martha Stewart, and it didn't take her long to turn New England fasting into national feasting. Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the popular Godey's Lady's Book, stumbled upon Winslow's passage and refused to let the historic day fade from the minds - or tables - of Americans. This established trendsetter filled her magazine with recipes and editorials about Thanksgiving.

It was also about this time - in 1854, to be exact - that Bradford's history book of Plymouth Plantation resurfaced. The book increased interest in the Pilgrims, and Mrs. Hale and others latched onto the fact he mentioned that the colonists had killed wild turkeys during the autumn.

In her magazine Hale wrote appealing articles about roasted turkeys, savory stuffing, and pumpkin pies - all the foods that today's holiday meals are likely to contain.

In the process, she created holiday "traditions" that share few similarities with the original feast in 1621.

In 1858, Hale petitioned the president of the United States to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. She wrote: "Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand Thanksgiving holiday of our nation, when the noise and tumult of worldliness may be exchanged for the length of the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart."

Five years later, Abraham Lincoln declared the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwells in the Heavens."

"[Hale's] depiction is wrong much more often than it's right," says Nancy Brennan, president of Plimoth Plantation. "When this idea [of the first Thanksgiving] caught on, it became a big, popular subject for prints and books and paintings, all of which used whatever people could gather about what the environment might have been like in 1621."

A native view

With little mention of the native population, the Wampanoag presence was virtually relegated to the background, and the Pilgrim presence promoted to the fore.

"The Wampanoag, we sometimes forget, were the majority population," Ms. Brennan says. "In the 19th and 20th centuries, Thanksgiving was really a tool for Americanization amid the great influx of immigration. It was supposed to bind this diverse population into one union."

And so, over the centuries, that first Thanksgiving took on a shape of mythological proportions. But how Americans celebrate today has little to do with the convergence of two different populations across an enormous cultural divide.

One man who would like people to know more about the actual Thanksgiving is descended from the Wampanoag Indians who were such an essential part of the first Thanksgiving celebration.

He steps out onto the porch in front of the Flume restaurant in Plymouth and looks south. He lifts his face - marked by deep lines and dark, heavy eyes - toward the open sky.

"I'm looking down the river here now, and the sun is bright, and the tide is high, and the wind is blowing," he says. "My people would say that is the spirit coming from the southwest, where the corn and beans and squash come from. So we thank the spirit world - the fire, the moon, the sky, the sun, the earth."

This man's name is Earl Mills Sr., and he is a retired high school teacher and athletic director, the author of two books, and the owner of the restaurant.

But Mr. Mills has another name and another job. As Flying Eagle, he is the chief of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. Still, he doesn't see himself as caught between two cultures. Instead, he embraces both. With equal relish, Mills will spend an afternoon walking in peaceful silence, as his ancestors did, or an evening listening to the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He has always spent a lot of time thinking about the history of his people, however, and the confusion about what really happened back in 1621. "Things have changed so much," he says, choosing his words carefully. "Even Thanksgiving has changed. Young people today don't remember what it was like 50 or 100 years ago.

"Then, we picked our own cranberries from our own cranberry bogs, and we caught rabbits and hung them outside our garage doors." More recently, Coombs remembers that as she was growing up, her family celebrated the holiday as most other Americans did. She went to her grandfather's house, ate a turkey dinner, and watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. It wasn't until she was in college that she learned her ancestors had observed Thanksgiving in a different manner.

It is not just the eating, but the gathering together, preparing, and thanking that matters, Mills says. "The role of food is important, but it's gotten to the point where we become gluttons.... We could spend a lot more time really thinking about what's going on in our world and giving more thanks." Whose history is it?

Mills points to the Plymouth Rock on the town's waterfront as an example of differing views. The rock, first placed in 1774, is a monument to the landing of the Mayflower, the ship that brought the Pilgrims to Massachusetts 382 years ago. "They're saying this is 'America's hometown,' that this is the rock [the colonists] stepped on," Mills says. "I'm not against that, and it's nice to have the rock, but don't try to make it true when it's really a symbol, a mythology."

He's also disturbed by the fact that many people still don't know or seem quick to dismiss the native side of the story. "When I talk about Thanksgiving, [some people think] it happened too long ago to matter," Mills says. "But when they talk about it, well, it's history." Still, the Wampanoag now have many more opportunities to contribute to historical accounts of the region, offering insight into the traditions of their people that have been passed down orally through the generations.

"The two groups are working very well together in recent years," Mills says. "And those connections turn into a circle. No matter how small, how minor, they all contribute to the human beings that we are." In late 1621, remembering the first Thanksgiving gathering, Edward Winslow expressed a sentiment similar to Mills's call for sharing and giving thanks: "And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want that we often wish you partakers of our plenty."

What historians do know about Thanksgiving There are many myths surrounding Thanksgiving. Here are nine things we do know are true about the holiday.

1. The first Thanksgiving was a harvest celebration in 1621 that lasted for three days.

2. The feast most likely occurred between Sept. 21 and Nov. 11.

3. Approximately 90 Wampanoag Indians and 52 colonists - the latter mostly women and children - participated.

4. The Wampanoag, led by Chief Massasoit, contributed at least five deer to the feast.

5. Cranberry sauce, potatoes - white or sweet - and pies were not on the menu.

6. The Pilgrims and Wampanoag communicated through Squanto, a member of the Patuxet tribe, who knew English because he had associated with earlier explorers.

7. Besides meals, the event included recreation and entertainment.

8. There are only two surviving descriptions of the first Thanksgiving. One is in a letter by colonist Edward Winslow. He mentions some of the food and activities. The second description was in a book written by William Bradford 20 years afterward. His account was lost for almost 100 years.

9. Abraham Lincoln named Thanksgiving an annual holiday in 1863.


A few days before Chanucha, Chabad celebrates Yud Tes Kislev the release of the first Rebbe from Jail. Yud-Tes Kislev is the anniversary of the passing of R. Dovber, the Maggid of Mezritch, in 1772, and anniversary of the release from capital sentence and imprisonment of his disciple, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, in 1798 and is celebrated as a Chassidic holiday amongst Chabad Chassidim.

Yud-Tes Kislev marks the "birth" of Chassidism: the day it was allowed to emerge from the womb of mysticism into the light of day, to grow and develop as an integral part of Torah and Jewish life. For more on this seminal date in Jewish history.

The ground-breaking work of R' Schneur Zalman was the Tanya, his magnum opus.

Called "a manual for life", the Tanya navigates the terrain of the soul's interior, the mysteries of the Creation of the universe, and more.

Translated into 12 languages (including Braille) and printed in over 6,300 locations around the globe*, the Tanya has been changing lives for two centuries. For more info go to on the net.


This came from Danny Shoemann years ago: The 8 days of Chanukah always start on the 25th of Kislev; the first candle being lit on the 24th in the late afternoon. This year Chanukah starts on Shabbat 12 December 2009. We will light the first flame on Friday afternoon, 11th Dec. A week later - (Friday afternoon, 18th Dec.) we will light all 8 flames for the 8th day of Chanukah. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:1

Each night of Chanukah one adds an extra light, starting at 1 and ending at 8. The custom is to add an extra candle each night - known as the Shamash.
This is insure that one doesn't accidentally use the light from the actual Chanukah lights, which is forbidden. After the Chanukah Menorah has been burning for half an hour after sunset, one may benefit from the lights of the Chanukah Menorah. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 139:14

If one needs to cross a narrow body of water on Shabbat, and one has the choice of jumping over it or walking around it, one should rather jump over it, since it means less walking. One may not walk through it, lest one squeeze out those clothes that got wet. On Shabbat one may not walk anywhere where there's a risk of slipping and falling into water. Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 80:36 And then there was the time I walked over to my friend on Shabbos in the rain and my pants got drenched to the bone while my Gemara in the plastic bag stayed dry. Somehow I managed to put on a pair of his or his son as I was thinner in those days and we learned for an hour and then back wet all the way home. It happens when the wind blows the drenching drops at an angle and is not most pleasurable sensation and one should remove the clothing with no intent on wringing them out on Shabbos and no intent of washing them on Shabbos if mud splashed on them. One is the theory of the law and one is a practical example.

Once during the weekday a Jew crossed the street and fell into a sink hole that was deeper in water than his 6 foot frame. He managed barely to extricate himself.


All races and religions that’s America to me: This was made after WWII in the days of segregation


Last week I wrote to friends in a letter about screening for PSA to save a life. My friend Maj. Michael who is a male nurse wrote:<

AUA Issues New Guidelines on PSA Screening Zosia Chustecka May 03, 2013

New guidelines on prostate cancer screening, issued today by the American Urological Association (AUA), are supportive of routine use of the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test in healthy men, but only for a specified age group, and only after discussion between a man and his physician.

Specifically, the new guidelines state that men 55 to 69 years of age who are at average risk and asymptomatic can consider PSA screening. They should speak to the their physician about the benefits and harms of testing to determine the best course of action. … see the link for more.


A few months ago, I reported a trend told me by my grandson who is a top-notch Torah Scholar of a trend among the boys who want to learn, get married and then earn money like the rest of the Israeli population. They have come by themselves to German Jewish Way or the Way of Rabban Gamliel “It is nice & proper, Torah learning with Derek Eretz” (manners, work can be the translation). The following is an article of a trend among weaker learners. After all even the Rambam loved Torah had to work as a doctor while he wrote his works and Kahati wrote is famous commentary on Mishnayos as a Banking Clerk in recent years.,7340,L-4452433,00.html


A Cohain is forbidden to a convert even my niece who was converted at the age of 1 years old when she arrived in the USA from China conversions must meet a certain standard of observance:



My third cousin who was in a Concentration Camp shares the same doctor with a liberator and they meet:




Jews of Nigeria from G.N.


Inyanay Diyoma




Israeli Dr. delivers a baby in addition to rescue work:,7340,L-4454157,00.html






To celebrate our medical help mortars were lobbed into Israel:


About 21-25% of the population are non-Jews but there are Christians too proving Ramadan can be fatal:,7340,L-4455081,00.html


Terrorist manages to break through a check point from Maaleh Adumim to Yerushalayim two guards injured. News blackout imposed since it broke on radio.





This dangerous person released to strike either women or children again:


Nice Arabs throw firebombs on Children:



Our lovely neighbors in Yehuda and the Shomron:


Iran is the same as always and twice as tricky with a weak Obama and Cameron:,7340,L-4455822,00.html


The IDF replies to mortars sent from Gaza:,7340,L-4455628,00.html


Reverse bigotry: I had been reading about Black Gangs of teens attacking whites for a while but did not write lest I be called a racist. However, the main targets of  these teens at least in NY and NJ are Jews. Sherlyn sent me this:  These people are evil.




US is not prepared for a crazy lone gunman in the mall and is far from the Iran Govt. planning an attack:



Now for M. Wolfberg’s Shabbos Story “You light me up”


 Good Shabbos Everyone. More than 100 years ago, a rabbi from Jerusalem Reb Lipa Kalashefsky (not his real name) traveled abroad to collect money for a mitzvah cause. Reb Lipa arrived in Milan, Italy on erev Shabbos in the morning. Knowing nobody in Milan, Reb Lipa began walking through town hoping he would find a Jewish neighborhood and a place to stay for Shabbos. Suddenly, a horse drawn carriage drew up alongside of Reb Lipa. The carriage stopped and the passenger called out to Reb Lipa "Shalom Aleichem! What is a Jew like you doing in Milan?"
       Reb Lipa looked up with surprise and said "I am here from Jerusalem and I am looking for the Jewish neighborhood." "You are in luck" said the wealthy carriage rider as he climbed down the steps of the coach and greeted Reb Lipa with a firm handshake. Mr. Hilvicht then invited Reb Lipa to spend Shabbos with the Hilvicht family. Having nowhere to stay, Reb Lipa quickly accepted the invitation.
       Several hours later, Reb Lipa was sitting at the lavish Shabbos table of the Hilvicht family, enjoying a sumptuous Shabbos meal. The Hilvicht home was full of beautiful crystal bowls, flasks and silverware. However, among the expensive items in the china cabinet, Reb Lipa noticed a broken glass flask. The broken flask looked out-of-place among the china and silverware. Reb Lipa was very curious about the broken flask, and he asked Mr. Hilvicht what the story was behind it. Mr. Hilvicht then told Reb Lipa the following amazing story:
       Mr. Hilvicht was born and raised in a Torah observant home in Amsterdam. When he was 18 years old, young Mr. Hilvicht traveled to Italy to help his ailing grandfather run his business. Soon after Mr. Hilvicht arrived, his grandfather passed away. His parents wanted him to sell the business and return home. However, young Mr. Hilvicht had already gotten a taste for business and therefore the young man decided to stay in Italy and run the business his grandfather left behind. Soon, business was booming and Mr. Hilvicht opened up a second store.
       One day, Mr. Hilvicht was so busy with his work that he did not pray mincha. That was the beginning of his slide away from Yiddishkeit. Soon, he missed shacharis too. One by one, Mr. Hilvicht dropped all of his mitzvah observance. Eventually Mr. Hilvicht married and had children. He became very wealthy although his practice of mitzvahs was almost non-existent.
       One winter afternoon, Mr. Hilvicht was walking down a street where some Jewish children were playing. All the kids seemed to be happy except for one boy who was crying "What will I tell my father?... What will I tell my father?" the crying boy kept repeating. Mr. Hilvicht stopped to see what was the matter. The crying boy told Mr. Hilvicht that his father had given him money to buy a flask of oil for lighting Chanukah lights. On the way back home, the boy with the flask of oil joined his friends and played with them. Somehow, the boy managed to drop the flask of oil, breaking it and losing the expensive oil. Mr. Hilvicht felt bad for the child and went back to the store and bought for the boy a much larger flask of oil. The boy headed home once again, this time more carefully.
       As Mr. Hilvicht walked home, the words of the little boy rang in his ears. "What will I tell my father? What will I tell my father?" Indeed, thought Mr. Hilvicht, "what will I tell my Father in Heaven?" Mr. Hilvicht had almost forgotten about Chanukah. What excuse would he have before his Father in Heaven on Judgment day?
       Mr. Hilvicht walked back to where the children were playing and gathered up the pieces of glass from the broken oil flask. That night, to the surprise of his wife and children, Mr. Hilvicht lit a Chanukah candle. The next night he lit two and with each passing night he increased the number of candles he lit. He stared at the flickering candles, thinking back to the home of his parents in Amsterdam. He suddenly felt how far he had fallen. That Chanukah was the beginning of his return to Yiddishkeit. With the understanding of his family, Mr. Hilvicht and his wife began to educate their children in the way of the Torah. 
The Shechina does not rest within 10 handbreadths of the ground.  However, it is mitzvah to place the Chanukah Menorah within 10 handbreadths of the ground.  Why is this?  Because the Chanukah lights have a tremendous power to bring holiness where holiness is not found.   Let us enjoy and observe Channukah to the fullest when it begins next week.
Good Shabbos Everyone.
M. Wolfberg is sponsored by: In Memory of CHAYA CHAVA BAS REB MOSHE YAKOV 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


Have a wonderful Shabbos and stay healthy,

Rachamim Pauli