Monday, August 31, 2009

Our First Simcha in Yerushalayim Since Making Aliya and the Beginning of Something New

Today was a very special day...Andy and I went into Yerushalayim (I still love saying that!) for a Brit, our first simcha in Yerushalayim since making Aliya. The Simcha was for the birth of a baby boy to David and Shira Kahn. David is the son of Lothar and Sue Kahn, members of KJBS, where I was the Rav for the last 10 years. We were thrilled to not only go to the simcha but to also have the opportunity to see the Kahns! I was honored to have been asked to speak and began by wishing everyone "A Freilechen Purim!" (If you want to know what that has to do with the Brit today, you will have to email and ask!)

Something new: A job...the one that I have been working at unofficially (at Tlalim) for two or three weeks now, will become "official" tomorrow, September 1, 2009. I am going to go to the office once a week (it is a VERY long commute) and figure that the FIRST day is probably a good day to go in!

I am fortunate that I already have a couple of groups to quote on. I want to see some results soon (TYPE-A Personality kicking in to high gear!) but realize it is a slow process that relies heavily on referrals. (Feel free to "refer" away...)

Sunday, August 30, 2009


This Shabbat was our first home in Maale Adumim in 3 weeks. I loved being away and I am also very grateful to be home for Shabbat. We were fortunate enough to be invited out for all three meals this week, which enabled Andy to get more non-kitchen-related items done. I commented to someone in Shul on Friday night that I am 100% certain that we chose the right community. He asked me what I meant by this statement. As I listened to the magnificent melodies being sung by about 200 people in unison for Kabbalat Shabbat and could FEEL the beginning of the kedusha of Shabbat, I told him that I had "landed" in a place that truly understood the holiness of the day of Shabbat and that we had found EVERY aspect of the community special in one way or another. Words can not begin to describe how peaceful and tranquil I felt singing along with everyone on Friday night. (ONLY 6 MORE DAYS TILL SHABBAT!)
Shabbat day, I had intended on sleeping until the later (8:00am) minyan but got up early and went to the first one (at 6:30am). For the second time, I had the chance to daven as Chazzan for Shacharit. Normally, that would not be reason for something noteworthy. But on a personal level, it means I am feeling VERY comfortable here and in the Shul, as I would NEVER daven for the amud otherwise!

While I have not officially begun my job, I have already been very busy trying to contact as many people as I can to tell them what I do and look for recommendaitons/referrals etc. REMEMBER: if you want to come to Israel with just your family and need someone to take care of something as "small" as hotel reservations and/or a guide...or...if you want a full blown tour over many days/weeks, I am more than happy to take care of all the arrangements through Tlalim. If you do not plan to be coming in the near future, but you DO know of someone who says they MAY be interested, please feel free to contact me and let me know. Incidentally, I am looking for contacts in other countries besides the USA, such as in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc. if you have any suggestions, PLEASE contact me and let me know.

Finally. we have been having SIGNIFICANT issues with our internet service which has made my VopIP phone and online time almost ZERO. We have a tech coming on Wednesday moring. Hopefully, all will be resolved by then.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Putting Down Roots

Today begins a new period for us, in a sense. It is one thing to be Olim Chadashim. It is one thing to deal with all of the things we need to in order to get our house in order in the literal and figurative sense. BUT, it is another thing altogether when you begin to set down roots of a long-term nature.

Today, my youngest daughter, Eliana had her orientation for her start of Kitah Tet (9th Grade) in Zvia (the Ulpana--high school) that she will attend, and tomorrow is her first real day of school. As you may have noticed over time, I do not write too much about my kids in the blog as I do not feel that they need to be "written about" in such a public forum. However, this time I am making an exception. On the way home from Mincha, I got to thinking that my YOUNGEST is now in high school. But greater than that...she is in high school in Israel. We are becoming parents of a child going through the school system in Israel. The roots get deeper and deeper here and we are so proud of Eliana who begins this new venture. Daniella began to learn in Neve Yerushalyim (for a short period, but I am thrilled she is there), and Ayelet will begin Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu Ulpan after the Chagim.

Putting down even deeper roots, I "officially" begin my job next week (read: paycheck) but have been networking already, as much as possible. I can not express how grateful to Hashem I am that I indeed have a job AND in a field I love.

Things in the house continue to shape up and as soon as there is significant progress to show, I will post some pictures.

In the meantime, have a great day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shabbat and "Seeing is Believing"

This past Shabbat, we were in Karnei Shomron with our dear friends, Bevie and Chucky Klein. We had a wonderful time with them, and I must say that the Tefilla on Friday night was beautiful! We davened at a Carelbach-style minyan and the singing was just gorgeous.

In the afternoon, a number of old acquaintances came over, and we all reminisced about the past many years. It was such an enjoyable and relaxing Shabbat! The food, the company and the Shabbat ruach were all outstanding!

Yesterday, I learned first-hand how much the neighborhood I live in values Torah and Torah scholarship. As many of you know, the Daf Yomi cycle just concluded learning Bava Metzia. At the shul where I daven, they were making a Siyum last night to celebrate this milestone. I was invited by a few people and decided that it would be a good idea to attend. I expected to see 20-30 people sitting around a couple of tables with some pop (Chicago-speak for "soda." A word I still can not say!), some chips and maybe some fruit. WOW...was I surprised! There were about 75 people there, and I was told by many that it was a HALF of the usual crowd. And the food...the food! Hamburgers, rice, meat, fruit, dips, pita and on and on! It was a veritable feast. Someone made the "Hadran" and after some eating there was a 1/2 hour shiur that covered a wide range of subjects of the Massechet.

I had HEARD in the past that this was an area that gave Kavod/Honor to Torah. But, now I saw it with my own eyes. What a beautiful event! Just the time all of you reading this make Aliya (to Maale Adumim!) you can join in the next Siyum on February 13, 2010 for Bava Batra! I will save a seat for anyone wishing to join in.

Friday, August 21, 2009

"And Now for Something Completely Different..."

In a very welcome change from the manual, physical things that we have been doing lately, we had an interesting evening/morning yesterday. A good friend from over the years, Stuart Katz, is here in Israel with his family to celebrate his daughter's Bat Mitzvah. I got a beautiful email from Stuart asking if (even though it is last minute) we would want to go to Tveria (Tiberias) that evening for the Bat Mitzva. For those of you who know Andy, I would not characterize her as particularly spontaneous. But in a surprise move, she agreed it would be a great break and two of our daughters decided to join us as well. We left the King David Hotel (on a reserved bus) to head towards Tveria at about 4:30pm (1630). After stopping in both Modi'in and in Ra'anana to pick up others, we were solidly on our way. The only problem is that the combination of the HORRIBLE traffic and the driver not taking a very good route, we arrived at 9:30pm (2130) after a long and tiring trip. BUT...It was truly worth it. The ruach (spirit) was great as we sat on the banks of the Kinerret (Sea of Galillee) and ate a beautiful meal. In a surprise move at the end of the meal, all of the guests were invited onto a boat for a (midnight) cruise with music, Divrei Torah, dessert and dancing. Once we got to the bus to return, we were exhausted but, indeed, quite happy we made this trip! We all slept on the way back...some more than others. I can say that I never hailed a cab at 4:05am in Yerushalayim before, but I found out how fast we can make it from Yerushalyim to our front door with no traffic...15 minutes flat! It was great...

Since we enjoyed the long bus ride so much yesterday, we are getting on another in a few hours and heading up to Karnei Shomron for Shabbat. There, we will be hosted by life-long friends, Bevie and Chucky Klein. We are all looking forward to what promises to be a great Shabbat.

Oh, I almost forgot! We actually, finally did get our shower doors the other day. Now while that may not sound like such a big deal, after 5 weeks in the house without shower doors and needing to be careful about not wasting water AND not getting the floor soaked, it is a welcome relief to finally have them. (Once again, I am so pleased that the guy who came to install them, upon being given water to drink, made a Bracha out loud for all of is SO special to live here).

This morning, we blew the Shofar in shul for the first time on 1 Elul 5769. This sound heralds in the coming of Rosh Hashana....two things struck me when saying it and hearing the Shofar: The Rambam tells us that the Shofar is to wake us up from our slumber. After arriving home last night at 4:20am I could not help but be amused by the double meaning of the Rambam's words in this case. Secondly, in L'David, which we began to say last night, it says: אַל־תִּטְּשֵׁנִי וְאַל־תַּֽעַזְבֵנִי אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׁעִֽי: י כִּי־אָבִי וְאִמִּי עֲזָבוּנִי ("...cast me not off, neither forsake me, O G-d of my salvation. For though my father and my mother have forsaken me...") Yet, as I said those words, I was quite aware that it is I who had left THEM. Thank G-d for Skype (Israeli invention) and cell phones (Israeli invention) and modern forms of communication.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Elfa, Flu, Speaking and Mountains

One of the items that we purchased back in Chicago and sent to Israel was a closet system called Elfa by The Container Store. We bought this system for the area in our bedroom dedicated for closets, and we bought them for the (small but efficient) laundry room. I spent the better part of the day putting in these systems, and I must say that I HIGHLY recommend them. Once you mount the main rack, everything else (more or less) snaps into place. Only one issue I had: there was one wall that was very mad at me that I wanted to drill into it and ruin its day. It kept complaining to me by not allowing me access. However, after I put it in its place and revved up the drill a few times to scare it, it finally relented and "allowed" me to affix the Elfa system to its face.

At the same time, as I was installing these items, we were anxiously awaiting the installer who was coming to put in our shower doors. About 4:00pm, the phone was the office manager calling on behalf of the installer. Seems that he had been at the stop just before us, and he...well, let's say, he got VERY sick to his stomach...multiple times...and had to go home with what looked like the flu. I had one of those "Only in Israel" moments, when I wished him (via the phone caller) a Refuah Shlema and she replied, "Amen v'amen!" So, he is sick in bed, and we still continue to shower with no shower doors. Supposedly, we will see someone else for this on Wednesday morning. I won't hold my breath.

In a VERY welcome change to my "Zev the Builder" routine of late, I had a very special opportunity the other day. I was invited to someone's home to speak to a group of women, in order to commemorate the yahrzeit of this woman's mother. I spoke on the subject of the Bracha in Shemona Esray "Refa'enu Hashem V'Nerafeh." I addressed the MANY (seeming) inconsistencies in this Bracha and ultimately what the goal of the Bracha truly is. It was nice to have the opportunity and look forward to doing this again.

Finally, from the category of "general musings," I must say that each and every day, as I walk out of our home to go to Shul, or as I sit on my patio outside in our backyard, or I stand on the mirpesset outside our bedroom, I am still overwhelmed by the stark beauty of the area in which we have chosen to live. I find myself saying the words מָה־רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶֹיךָ ה כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִֹיתָ מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶךָ "How wonderous are you acts..." very often.

I invite you to stop by one day to see what I am referring to!

Have a wonderful day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Progress and Shabbat

Ayelet's Room

Eliana's Room

Eliana's Room

Ayelet's Room

Well, we have some BIG progress in the upstairs of the house! Two of the three bedrooms of the girls are essentially finished with the third to be done in a day or so. Above are some pictures of the two rooms.

While I have still been installing lots of new items (new construction...we need to install everything that would be in an existing home!), and we have the people coming tomorrow to install the shower doors (finally), we still have plenty of unpacking to do still...but at least we have no deadline in which to do it!

We spent our first Shabbat away from home with our friends Noni and Eddie Weiss in Ramot Gimel. It was an extraordinary Shabbat. The location, food, atmosphere, Kedusha, etc etc all were so wonderful. After Shabbat, on the way back home, I kept thinking how grateful I am that we can spend Shabbat in Yerushalyim and then can also go back home only 20 minutes away. What a Zechut!!

So, more work tomorrow and more to do...but I am looking forward to it...moving ahead...moving ahead...

Shavua Tov from Maale Adumim

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Installation Week

This week has been punctuated by various installation activity, both by me and various tradesmen coming in and out of our home. As far as my work...I mounted dozens of small Ikea (Lo Alenu) containers called Trones on various walls which will serve as additional storage for small items (including shoes). I also began installing various medicine cabinets and other storage type units around the place. The "problem" is that since the walls are cement, every single time I drill for these items it comes with a big clean-up time as well.

Then, we got our security bars and our screens on Wednesday. A group of four people very professionally installed the bars, screens and miscellaneous hardware during a 5 hour process. My neighbor, Avigdor Chen, working alongside his son, Moshe and two other fellows. They were prompt, courteous, and professional! I am very grateful, as I have mentioned in other posts, how special it is to have Dati workmen come to the home and do what they do. (BTW...VERY high recommendation to use Avigdor!)

While the bars were being installed, we also had a locksmith stop by to change our front door lock, the phone rang many times and the noise from the elevator shaft (where they are diligently working) was growing louder and louder. It was actually comical to sit back and take in all the activity and hubub going on!

Back to more installing...once the place is looking more organized (and we are getting there slowly but surely) I will take some pics and send them along.

There is a drill around here somewhere calling my name....

Monday, August 10, 2009


I have noticed something recently...I have always been aware of what day it is, what day of the week, what point in "the year" we were at, etc. But ever since we have arrived, it seems that time has become almost a non-entity. What I mean is that I seem to have no idea of what the date is and what day of the week it is. I find this happens to me VERY often! In past years, at this point in the summer, I would have been deep into writing Drashot for the Yamim Noraim (as I have mentioned) and at the same time, preparing for the upcoming school year for the Gemara to be taught, etc. THOSE served as markers of sorts as to the "time of year" and the dates that were passing. I often find myself looking at the computer calendar or my watch just to see what date it is indeed! (As far as the TIME OF DAY...that I am aware of. It is mostly the bigger picture that eludes me at times.)

And speaking of time...This time of year invariably I have had a group in Israel for a brief visit. On every single trip (whether with a group or not), I always had the same feeling once I landed: "HURRY UP! You have only a limited amount of time here before you have to return to Chicago." Honestly, I felt that way for the first two weeks I was here. The sense (see Macbeth Act 1 Scene VII) that "When 'tis done, when 'twere done, then 'twere well it were done quickly," was the feeling I constantly had...Hurry up and do what you need to do, because soon, you need to go back. It is only in the past couple of weeks that this feeling seems to have dissipated. I do not feel that I need to do things quickly because I am going to leave. When I see posters in Yerushalyim announcing the time of the start of Shabbat of the coming week, I do NOT feel, "Oh, I won't be here anyways," as I felt in the beginning.

Time is indeed all relative. Now that I have a job BARUCH HASHEM and we are quite far into the unpacking process (a ways to go but getting there), I am sure that time will once again begin to have a certain relevance. Indeed, part of my job wil be "selling" time...time in the Land of Israel...I am so excited to be able to do this.

As long as I am writing about "time," I am adding here one of my favorite pieces about "time." In addition, it is very meaningful as we approach Elul. (WHAT!?!?? Elul?? That means that Rosh Hashana is around the corner!)

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it
Omar Khayyam

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Job...

First of all, I thank all of you who made comments or emailed me to congratulate me on the new job. I appreciate all of the good wishes!

As far as some details...the name of the company for whom I will be working is Tlalim. (The name has no bearing on the business. It is named after two girls named Tal, the daughters of the founders). They have been around for many years, and their business is bringing people to Israel on many different types of trips. One of their divisions is geared towards educational tours of Israel of various lengths of time. They are the largest "supplier" of attendees of the popular Birthright program and have brought thousands of people to Israel over the years.

Their website may be seen here:

MY position will be a marketing position. I will be responsible for identifying groups (large and not-so-large) in the English-speaking Orthodox communities in North America, who will come to Israel for a variety of trips. Among the different ideas: bringing parents and their kids who will be going to Yeshiva and Seminary the next year in order to check out different schools, learn along the way and do some touring. Other types of trips will be family-oriented; schools; Shuls; and the list goes on and on.

And here is where YOU can help as well! This has been a passion of mine for MANY years, and now I get to do it for my job as well. In order to be succesful, I must identify where there are potential groups looking to put together a trip. If you (or anyone else whom you know) are thinking about a trip to Israel, please be in touch with me about it. I will in the not-too-distant future put out an "official" list of the types of trips. But, in the interim, if there is any interest even now, please do not hesitate to contact me.

I love organizing trips, and I love bringing people to Israel...I am thrilled that I have such an opportunity. If you have any questions about potential trips or if you have someone you think I should contact, please contact me.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a Shabbat Shalom. This will be our 5th Shabbat in Israel and each one is better than the last one!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Have Some Catching Up To Do!

It has been a number of days since I last wrote, and some significant things have happened in the interim, so I am going to use this entry to catch up a bit.

1. Aronot...Closets: YAY!!! We finally have aronot. This will allow us to take a lot of items that until now had been in boxes and suitcases and finally put them "where they all belong." It will go a long way to making the clutter less. It took them almost 2 hours to shlep all the parts down the (85) steps to our place and about 3 1/2 hours to assemble. They were quick, efficient and gone.

2. A Job...I HAVE A JOB...Baruch Hashem! I am going to use my next entry to give more details but "b'kitzur" I will be working with a long-established company that runs trips to Israel (educational and other types). My job will be to market various programs to the English-speaking, Dati (Orthodox) communities in North America. I do indeed plan to share much more on that tomorrow when I am more awake..I look forward to sharing these details with you soon. But in the meantime, I must publicly thank HKB"H for enabling the first four weeks of our Aliya to be completely atypical..lift came on time; no horror stories to tell; I got a job etc is noted in this week's Parasha, we can never think that MY power and MY strength gave me all of is ALL from Hashem!

3. Communications...I finally returned my temporary cell phone today and picked up the SIM-card for the new (permanent) one. Only problem is that the phone was dead, and I was in Jerusalem for many hours with no phone communication and no access to email (no more Blackberry.) I felt SO lost! I just plugged in to charge the phones and will share the number soon...once I remember it!

4. Har Herzl...I was at Har Herzl this afternoon. I was supposed to be there for a memorial service for Avi Grogan (hy"d) but somehow, the signals got messed up, and we never met up. In any event, I took the opportunity to walk into the cemetery to walk around for a few minutes. I walked over to the grave of Herzl and stood there in that huge open area...ALL ALONE. I have been there MANY times before, but this was the first time I stood there completely alone. It was so peaceful and quiet...putting all politics, etc was a moving moment.

Ok...there is still lots more to write but I am afraid I will be typing gibberish soon; so before that happens I am going off to f78fp-0erg90u7sdvk 0rtjzsgdcv-9urgv;dovfh984,d;vkbnf 0^^*rwegklvhos9...



Saturday, August 1, 2009

Religious Reflections

One thing that I have not completely addressed on this blog is the RELIGIOUS/SPIRITUAL aspects of Aliya that I have encountered. While some may be too personal to publicly address, others are fine for public consumption.

1. Tefilla...While I have ALWAYS placed a high priority on davening/tefilla/prayer, and I have taught classes over the years in it as well, I must tell you that my kavana (concentration, thought process, etc) is completely different here! First of all, I can daven at the pace I want to and can concentrate more on what I am saying. Since the minhag (custom) in most places is that the one leading the davening waits for the Rabbi to finish his Shemona Esray before the repetition begins, I was always mindful of this and did not want to go too long so as to cause a situation of "tircha d'tzibura" (loosely translated as a burden on those present). I considered it a hazard of being a Shul Rabbi. But at this stage, I feel free to daven as long as I wish, and it has made a HUGE difference in my davening.

2. Mitzvot...I can honestly say that I remember back to the day I put on my Tefillin for the first time. The newness and excitement were palpable. Every time I saw a young man put on his Tefillin for the first time, I tried to encourage him to keep that fervor and excitement as long as possible. Sadly, like most people, the action of day-to-day Mitzvot, such as Tefillin was not always met with the same excitement and fervor as it was when I first put on the Tefillin 37 years ago. HOWEVER, that zeal, excitement and joy at doing "even" the daily Mitzvot has come back VERY strongly, and I am acutely aware every time I am making a Bracha, putting on Tefillin, putting up a Mezuzah, etc, etc, etc. It is SO hard to put into words this feeling of "newness" (that I realistically fear will not last for 70 more years) at doing all of the Mitzvot. It is a wonderful feeling!

3. Closeness to Hashem...One other thing I have always strived to do is fulfill "dvekut Ba'shem" (cleaving to Hashem). At this time of year, for the past 10 years, I would be sitting writing my High Holiday sermons, and summer therefore became intense periods of reflection and introspection. This year, with no sermons to write (although I may STILL write and email out a pre-Yom Kippur "Three Images" speech!), I have had even more opportunity for introspection. The closeness to Hashem, the feelings of "I am HOME"...His home...and that I am (hopefully!) giving Him "nachas" that I/we are here, makes me feel even closer. Put it this way...if you recall the look on your parents' face when you did something that made them proud, you felt a closer bond than before...THAT is what I am feeling now.

4. I have never felt prouder to be a Jew! No further explanation needed on this one...

Once again, Shabbat was magnificent. We actually ate at home, by ourselves, for the first time in months. Back in Chicago, we ate out for a number of weeks before our departure and the first three weeks here, we had invitations every week. It was nice to be alone in our home in Maale Adumim for a Shabbat meal.

Looking forward to a post-Tisha B'Av week coming up. Nice to hear music again!