Monday, September 28, 2009

Yom Kippur

Our first Yom Kippur in Israel...I had been looking forward to it for a long time. On Erev Yom Kippur I had a headache that knocked me out for a while, and I was "happy" that it was the day BEFORE the fast, assuming that I would be ok for the fast. WRONG...I woke up in the middle of the night of YK with a massive headache (not from fasting obviously) and tried to go back to sleep. Sadly, I found myself for the first time since I was a little kid at HOME for the morning and mid-afternoon. I slept most of the time but did manage to daven as much as I could. By Mincha time ( nice and early) I was doing somewhat better and decided to attempt to go to shul for the rest of the day. I did not feel my usual self, but stayed anyways. Between Mincha and Neila, I had the zechut to speak. I was very happy to have had the opportunity to say a few words at that point in the Tefilla, and it seems to have been well received. By Neilah, I was going in and out of the Shul in order to stay until the end. I am very glad I did, because at the end of the davening, not only did we sing "L'Shana Haba'a Birooshalayim" ("Next Year in Jerusalem") but we danced around the Shul as well...I found it VERY moving to be so elevated at the end of the Yom HaKadosh.
The tunes for the Tefilla were also very moving and I am very happy I was able to be in the Shul for as much as I was able to be.

And now it is time for the rest of the week in preparation for Sukkot. I am going to FINALLY experience my first one-day Chag. I will gladly report on that next week. In the meantime, I hope that YK was good for all of you and that you walk away having made at least one decision of one thing to change for this coming year. (Remember...that is not a "resolution." It is a DECISION, a conscious one at that, that you will make a change in your life to be a better "Eved Hashem" (servant of Hashem).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Shabbat, Birkat Kohanim and Clocks

1. Shabbat in Yerushalayim was beautiful! We went in for a simcha, and every aspect of the Shabbat was outstanding. I was up (very) early and walked to the Kotel to daven vatikin (shemona esray at sunrise, at 6:30am), which was GREAT! It was about 17C degrees with a cool breeze and it seemed that the entire city was sleeping while a few hundred made their way in quiet contemplation towards Judaism's holiest site. While I was there, I observed something that I found SO inspirational, which leads me to item #2...

2. At every tefilla in Shacharit and then on Shabbat twice with Mussaf, when Kohanim are present at the minyan, there is Birkat Kohanim (duchaning). While we were about to hear Birkat Kohanim of Mussaf, I noticed a Dati (religious) policeman putting his "gear" on (radio, gun, vest, etc) nearby and straining to hear where we were at that moment in Tefilla. He then came over quickly and stood for Birkat Kohanim. He closed his eyes and seemed to be transported somewhere else in his mind. He bowed his head to receive the blessings of Hashem through the Kohanim. As soon as the Birkat Kohanim was over, he opened his eyes and went very quickly to (evidentally) post in for his watch. It was SO awesome to watch a police officer of Israel, a fellow Jew, who specifically came to get these blessings before standing guard over HIS fellow Jews. I felt so good seeing this...

3. We changed the clocks last night in advance of Yom Kippur, which begins tonight at sunset. The change of the clock (BACK one hour) means that not only does Kol Nidre begin quite early (5pm!!) but we FINISH the fast at 5:55pm with Maariv and eating beginning again after 6:05pm on Monday! THAT is great...I think I will be able to handle that.

I am also SO looking forward to next Shabbat with the first day of Sukkot. It will be my very first one-day Chag...the way it was meant to be! I am psyched!!

Wishing everyone an easy fast and a Gmar Chatima Tova...daven as if your life depends on it...because it actually DOES!

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Week That Was...

While I generally like to write a few times a week, this week has been particularly busy for me therefore giving me less of a chance to write. BUT, it won't stop me on Erev Shabbat before we leave for Yerushalayim (see below).

I found the fast of Tzom Gedalia much easier than I expected. I think that this is mostly due to the amount of food that I consumed on Rosh Hashana and the "stored-up feature" the body is blessed with. I am indeed sorry for what happened to Gedaliah ben Achikam (See Melachim II/Kings II, Chapter 25) and his murder, but I must admit that it is indeed quite convenient to have a fast day right after Rosh Hashana and all of its meals!

After spending a very productive day in the office on Tuesday, we all had a wonderful experience on Wednesday. One of the (many) perks of living in Maale Adumim is that it is one of the few communities in Israel where the government provides additional funding for programs for Olim. This program falls under the title of Community Aliyah Program. As such, we are entitled to a few extras that some new Olim do not receive. One of those special events was this Wednesday evening. A group of over 40 people (members of every family that made Aliya this summer to MA) went to Eretz Breisheet ( Here we travelled back in time to the time of Avraham Avinu and his servant Eliezer. We (when I say "we" I mean the rest of the group!!) travelled on camels, had a sumptuous meal sitting on the ground, and enjoyed the GLORIOUS evening and the mountainous view. While I had been here many times and knew the one that runs the place, it was my first time here as an Oleh. It SO felt like I was there with a group, but the best part was that at the end of the evening, we went HOME and not to a hotel!

Yesterday was an all-day day in Yerushalayim...My cousin is celebrating his bar Mitzva this Shabbat in Yerushalayim (where we are all headed soon) and he put on his tefillin for the first time, read the Torah and served up a wonderful breakfast. (In addition, I have yet a SECOND cousin who is ALSO celebrating his Bar Mitzva this Shabbat in Yerushalayim also. We will B"H be attending bot the Bar Miztva of Ari Posner and that of Nachman Sharp) That was the first of seven stops that day in Yerushalayim...along the way, I needed to get going on a brochure for the business I represent ( so I had to visit the printer I was suggested to use. (Having been in the area of Purchasing for 17 years, and having quoted printing before many times, and having dealt with so many printers, it was SO awesome to sit and deal with a woman who was a frum person, whose computer screen displayed a picture of her 3 daughters (triplets) all dressed for Shabbat. What a difference!) I met with an old friend (Ron Allswang...not so old...just we know each other a long time!); I also spent some significant time at AACI (Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel) and got some great suggestions for the tour business I am in. While I was there, I was introduced to someone with whom I will be doing something quite different next week (and potentially for the weeks after as well). Once this comes to fruition, I will let you know (and you will be able to participate as well...a little mystery never hurt anyone!)

So, now it is time to get ready for Shabbat and get to Yerushalayim. One thing that I noticed this morning. All along, people have been asking me how this time of year has felt compared to when I was in Chicago in my role as a rabbi. I think that this morning, I was able to identify one way it was definitely different: the Aseret Yemai Teshuva (Ten Days of Repentance) do not feel as intense as they have the past 10 years. First of all, that is not because they are any less important. The reason, I think, is due to the fact that I am not spending day and night working on speeches, dealing with the day-to-day issues of prep for Yom Tov in the Shul and not in classroom teaching about the Chagim. All this tells me is that I best get out my copy of Messilat Yesharim and get busy!

I don't know if I will have a chance to write before Yom Kippur or not so I will wish all of you an easy fast. Actually, while the FAST should be easy, that should be the ONLY easy part of the day! Remember that Tefilla (prayer) is called Avoda She'b'lev which means "Heart Work." But I prefer to think of it also as "Hard Work." A suggestion...before Yom Kippur, open your Machzor and pick ONE section that you review and think about before you walk into the Shul for the Yom HaKadosh. Certainly, 99.99999% of people do not understand all that is said on Yom Kippur and reviewing even some of the tefillot in advance is advantageous. A good place to start is probably the Viudi/Confessional. After all, if you do not understand it, then what good is it doing you!?!?
Ketiva Va'chatima Tova!
(PS--This greeting is on the electronic banner/sign of every bus in Yerushalayim!)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

"How Was Your First Rosha Hashana in Israel?"

I was asked this at least 20-30 times today, and I was thrilled to give everyone the same answer: MAGNIFICENT! The tefilla, the ruach (spirit), the food (we ate out all four meals), the learning, the entire atmosphere...all added up to make a WONDERFUL way to begin 5770.

But, let me back up a bit and make some comments that are a little more specific.

Erev Rosh Hashana, on Friday, the entire feeling one had walking down the street was that the Chag was on the way. If you looked across the street from the shul I daven in, you would see men lining up to go to Mikveh. In front of one home, there stood a man who was practicing his davening before entering the shul later in the day to be the Chazan and lead the Tefilla. Kids of all ages rushing hither and yon (did I really just use that expression?!?!) doing their part to get ready. The local Makolet (grocery store) and all of the other shopping locations were in pre-holiday frenzy mode. And the aroma...the aroma walking down the is a wonder I didn't just gain weight from the smell!

And then, as dark descended upon Mitzpe Nevo, we joined the rest of the country in welcoming the New Year, 5770. I looked at the mountains that surround our area and thanked Hashem out loud that I had the zechut of celebrating our first Rosh Hashana in Israel.

I had the opportunity to speak (at the Bet Kenesset HaGilgal) the first night, as well as to be the Chazan for Maariv. I paused on a number of occassions before Rosh Hashana wondering what it would be like to NOT be a functionary (in the role of Rav) for Yom Tov. The best way I can answer that question is to say that on the one hand it was indeed a wonderful feeling to be able to daven at the pace I wanted to; not to have to be concerned about giving a lot of speeches (and hope they would turn out as good as I thought they sounded in my head); not to have to be responsible for overseeing all of the aspects of the Yamim Noraim. And yet, there were points at which I did indeed miss the role. It is hard to put my finger on it but maybe over the next few days I will be able to give voice (so to speak) to these thoughts. At the moment, let it suffice to say that for the VAST majority time I was quite comfortable in my new role.

We had the opportunity to eat, as I said before, at four different households over the Chag. It was so special to see how each family approached this time of year with different customs, foods, philosophy, etc. We also had the opportunity to eat at the home of the Rav of the Shul, Rav Elisha Aviner among other homes. EVERY single family with whom we ate were so gracious and so kind to us.

Now that Rosh Hashana 5770 is a memory, it is time to set our sights on the Aseret Yemai Teshuva (the Ten Days of Repentance). I have a number of things planned over the next few days but it will certainly be a different experience than the past 10 years.

That is the update from Maale Adumim (Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood) for now. I want to take this opporunity once again to wish everyone a Shana Tova!

Final note...while the davening was wonderful and the tunes beautiful, there are two noteworthy items: I was very moved in Mussaf when we all began to sing along with the chazan as he sang a piece that the word YERUSHALAYIM was the focus of the song. While we sang, I looked at the mountains surrounding the outskirts of Yerushalayim...what a feeling!! Secondly, I missed the tunes I was used to and missed the Baalei Tefilla from KJ. I will learn new tunes over the next many years (IYH) but do know that the old tunes still will continue to run through my head.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A True "Obama-Nation"

Get it? A true "abomination"? This is how I feel as I look out over the area near our home, known as "07" (Efes Sheva) and see the building that is in process and knowing that this is the end (theoretically) to the new construction for a while. And I believe it IS an abomination. It makes the neighborhood I am in an OBAMA-NATION in that the building, or lack therein, becomes a tribute to President Obama and what HIS desire is for MY neighborhood. I do not see him as concerned about the build-up of fissionable material in Iran leading to a nuclear bomb. Nor do I see him as concerned about the trade in human slavery in Sudan.

But, building in 07 or in Mitzpe Nevo is an impediment to peace.

Hmmmm....a true Obama-nation! Maybe President Obama and Judge Goldstone should go out for a bite to eat. They would have so much to discuss...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Two Highlights and "The News"

First some highlights from yesterday. After going in to the office for a few hours yesterday, I found myself in J'lem late afternoon to wait for Andy for an event later that evening (see below). At about 6pm, I realized that I still had to daven Mincha and I asked in a Falafel store on King George if the guy knew of any minyan in the immediate area. He sent me over to Agripas saying that he was sure there would be one in the vicinity, but he did not know exactly where. At the first little hole-in-the-wall store that I saw which was selling Tefillin, Mezuzot, etc, I stopped in and asked him as well. He asked me what time it was, and I told him 6:10pm. He told me to come back in 20 minutes as there is a minyan for Mincha IN HIS STORE at 6:30. Sure enough, at 6:30pm, about 20 people came pouring in to this 3 square meter shop with many of us (myself included) standing outside on Agripas to daven. It was so interesting to watch that as we began, people would walk by and say "Hey, a minyan for Mincha!," and they would run over and join in. I found that little incident so great...

The "event" that evening was a הרמת כוסית (a toast) held a the office of the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Andy and I joined about 100 others who made Aliya in the past few months (to the Greater Jerusalem area) for this evening. We began by standing on the balcony on top of the building affording us a 360 degree view of the city....make that THE city. The song Yerushalayim shel Zahav went through my mind as, in my mind's eye, I watched soldiers capturing the Old City in June 1967. It was a most magnificent view of a most magnificent city! The event was sponsored by Nefesh B'nefesh and was well attended. They mentioned last night that this summer alone 3000 people made Aliya! Yasher Koach!!

And now for the news...

I am sitting with a copy of today's and yesterday's Jerusalem Post sitting next to me. Below I present to you a list of headlines exactly as they are printed with my providing only a little commentary afterwards:

* 500 Palestinian damage suits filed against Israel since 2000

* Saudis won't engage Israel until it ends occupation

* London anti-Israel rally moved following threats by far-right wing group

* Anti-semitic attacks hit Argentina and Russia

* Bin Laden says 9/11 was in retaliation for US support of Israel

* "You should have buried me" tearful Rona Ramon tells her son at funeral

* UN probe alleged Israeli crimes against humanity in Gaza

* UN report cites Israel's "deliberate and intentional" war crimes in Gaza

* IDF accused of unjustifiably killing civilians in Gaza offensive

* "No light at end of tunnel" says family of Schalit

* 3 UK Moslems jailed for liquid bomb threat

As far as the summary of the "key findings" of this report about Israel in Gaza, allow me to summarize THAT summary:

Israel must do anything in its power to put itself in a position of existential suicide; they must retreat to the borders they held while enslaved in Egypt; they must take responsibility for any death within 10,000 miles of their borders; they must allow all muderers to be freed from any jail; Israel should allow Palestinians free access to all areas of Israel (while providing that any Israeli that goes into Palestinian land will be arrested and dealt with in a most severe way.)

The Palestinians on the other hand must promise to not put too much starch in their laundry and not to jaywalk. THAT will surely bring peace to the region.

Now, if you think I am exaggerating this a little, open up any legitimate newspaper and look for a summary of the recommendations of this so-called committee of the UN. Notice the "one extreme to another" treatment of Jews vs Palestinians. Tell you what...I will save you the time of looking it up. Here is a link to the Jerusalem Post where the "Key Recommendations" are listed:

As I mentioned once before in was the proper title to give to this body politic overlooking the East River...the United Nations. It is proper, both in terms of the NAME and in terms of the abbrevation, the UN. They are indeed UNITED...united to be a force against the State of Israel. Rockets fall on Sderot and Israel is a war criminal. People are beheaded in Saudi Arabia and Israel is the war criminal. Women are murdered in Arab countries in so-called honor killings and Israel is the war criminal; Palestinians who aid Israel are taken out to a public square and hanged and Israel is the war criminal. Yes, they are indeed United against us.
And the abbrevation? The "UN." If you look up the prefix of the two letters "un-" you get the following definition: a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns. How fitting for the UN...they are UN-fair, UN-reliable, UN-bending, UN-ceasing in their campaign against Israel, UN-abashed, and the list goes on and on!

So, that is the report from Israel for today. I need to go back to my "occupied" home in the "settlement" of Maale Adumim and get to work. Hmmm....a "settlement." I did not realize that a city the size of Maale Adumim (33,000+ bli ayin hara) and having all of the facilities and services that we have, qualifies as a "settlement." Did you ever notice that the media NEVER refers to ANY Arab village as a settlement!?!?!?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Abu Dis and Abu Dat...

We live near the Arab SETTLEMENT of Abu Dis...that is what the background to this title (Andy's idea!)...So this post has a little bit of this and a little bit of that...

1. A clear miracle: A few days ago, there was a water main break up near the top of the hill near us and evidentally, this made the road pretty slick. One of the women who lives in the neighborhood (the wife of the Rosh Yeshiva of the High School) was driving in that very spot and lost control of her vehicle. She went through a fence and down into the wadi below (about 100 meter drop!) and with the grace of Hashem and in an open miracle, lived through the experience. (She ended up with a broken pelvis...but she is alive BH!) She was wearing her seat belt and thank G-d had no kids in the car at the time.

2. Chayalim/Soldiers: I had to go into Yerushalayim this morning for a meeting. As I stood by one of the bus stops in Yerushalayim, at the Central Bus Station, I looked around and saw hundreds of soldiers who were heading back to base after Shabbat leave. I stood there feeling a deep sense of pride in each and every one of them. Each one of them is truly out there helping to defend OUR country and doing that which I did not do (I came at an age that is considered ANCIENT and will do no army service. I WANTED to when I was 19, but that is a story for another time.)

3. Rain: It never rains this time of year in Israel...well, almost never. Today, as I headed into town, I saw deep black rain clouds that certainly looked like they were about to unleash their fury on the Holy City. Sure enough, when I got in, the street was wet and the temperature quite cool...for about 20 minutes. I saw people calling others on their cell phone to report this unusual event. Not to be outdone, I got a call from Andy that indeed in Maale Adumim, we had our first "rain" of the season. It, too, lasted about ONLY 2 minutes...

4. Lobby: I had a meeting at the Sheraton (no-longer-Sheraton) Plaza this morning in the lobby. While I had been there many times in the past with groups or by myself during past trips, it was my first time there since making Aliya. It was such a great feeling to sit there in the lobby of this hotel and know that when I was finished, I was going back home to Maale Adumim and not to the airport! It is little things like this that put a smile on my face each and every day...

5. Smoking: One thing I will never get used to is the amount of smoking that goes on in Israel. Not only that, but that it is perfectly legal to smoke in public and private buildings in situations that in the Untied States would be forbidden. This is certainly one area that could be improved as far as health concerns and consideration for other people.

6. Rosh Hashana: It is this coming Shabbat. I still can not believe it is here and that I am zoche (merit) being here in Israel for the Yamim Noraim and Sukkot (our first 1-day Chag...more on that later!!)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Clarification of My Position

I have heard from some people that they are not clear still about what my position at Tlalim is and what the company does. Herein is a clarification. I hope this helps.

One additional word: This kind of business grows based on referrals. This means that even if you do not plan on making a trip anytime soon but you know of someone who is thinking of it, please do let me know! I will be more than happy to help out! In addition, I am always open for suggestions, so feel free to suggest away.


I have accepted a position with the Tlalim Group. The Tlalim Group has a 25 year history of expertise in tourist services in Israel. We have an international presence with offices in the United States, Russia and Japan in addition to Israel.

Think of me as your concierge for Israel. I can assist a single person who is merely looking for a hotel reservation for a few days in Israel or at the other end of the spectrum, I can assist in putting together multi-week tours around the country.

The Tlalim Group is able to handle this wide range of services and everything in between. From the family that needs a guide for two days, to the group that wants to do a Bar/Bat Mitzva in Israel or an organization seeking an educational, historical tour of the Land of Israel...all of these can and have been handled by The Tlalim Group.

My personal goal is to find such individuals, families or groups interested in travel to Israel and assist them in any way possible. I will enable them to have the best experience possible in Israel.

There are truly a world of possibilities in this position that will continue to develop and be expanded (IYH) over time. YOUR input, referrals and suggestions are always welcome!

Due to the fact that the office is so far away, I am able to work out of the house except that I go in once a week to the office. I also am in the process of setting up meetings with people HERE and outside of Israel to discuss various ideas for trips.

I can not believe it is already THURSDAY and Shabbat is tomorrow night! We are invited out for Shabbat meals again and for all of Rosh Hashana...what a great community.

Final note...I am speaking on the first night of Rosh Hashana at one of the local Batei Kenesset. While I look forward to a "year off" it IS nice to be somewhat involved with one Dvar Torah! (I guess it is really in my blood...)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

E-1 also known as Mevasseret Adumim

(Mevasseret Adumim Images. See Below for Info)

(Flag and Signs) (Some of the Crowd) (Ayelet adding cement!)
This pic by Jacob Richman
The area we live in is called Maale Adumim. In the area, due to the red rock, evidentally, there are a number of towns that have "adumim" in their name, such as Kfar Adumim, Mishor Adumim, etc. There is one area though whose name is not only an "adumim" iteration but also is fortunate enough to be called by a special code name.

The area of which I speak is called Mevasseret Adumim also known as "E-1." The letter "E" in this name indicates "EAST," as this is the first parcel of land that is East of Jerusalem. This area, this small few square kilometers, is a source of international controversy. From my side of the mountain, I can not see E-1, but every day when I go to the Bet Kenesset or virtually any other place in Maale Adumim, I see this area. The only thing that is there now is a beautiful Police Station with many square kilometers of nothing but rolling hills. (In my mind's eye, I already see thousands of Jews living there with some beautiful scenery, as well!).

It is in this area that the Arab world has protested to the world community that Israel not be permitted to build, as it effectively would prevent them from having a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capitol, if E-1 were to be built up. Israel, on the other hand feels that this area has significant strategic significance; it is part of the Land of Israel; it is in the domain of the municipality of Maale Adumim and indeed its building up would make Jerusalem and M.A. one continguous body.

President Obama has "forbidden" new construction in the area and it seems that our Prime Minister is going along with this as well. However, two days ago there was a HUGE demonstration in E-1 with what was SUPPOSED to be a ceremonial ground-breaking but became something else. Since the police said they would not allow a "ground-breaking" ceremony, instead there was the burying of a jug with documents attesting to the day's events and the claim of the Jewish people to this land. Thousands attended, including most of the school children in Maale Adumim, members of the Keneset, Mayor Benny Kashriel and many dignitaries. Unfortunately, a prior engagement kept me away, but my family was there to witness this historic day and took a number of pictures.

I feel very strongly that we will indeed see this area built up in the not-too-distant future by JEWS who wish to strengthen the connection to the Land and to the eternal capitol of the Jewish people: Jerusalem!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Some "Only in Israel" Moments

I went to my office today in Or Yehuda. As I have mentioned before, it is a series of three busses to get there and a long commute. But no problem...that's what small-size Gemaras are for. Anyways, there were a few "Only in Israel" moments today that I just had to share with you right away!

1. Bus #1: I sat near a young lady, no more than 19 years old. I saw she was in a very intense discussion with someone, who, I surmise, was a student of her's. Not wanting to eavesdrop (yeah, right!) I couldn't help but overhear what they were discussing. The subject? Teshuva and the meaning of what we say in our daily Shemona Esray. And this conversation was being held as if it were a classroom. It was so inspiring to see this that it warmed my heart.

2. Mincha: I was running a little late heading back from the office towards Yerushalayim. I arrived at the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv at about 6:00pm. Knowing that there was a Bet Kenesset in the Station, I headed over there expecting a small little room with a few siddurim and my need to daven Mincha all alone. I was no less than SHOCKED to see a small bet Midrash with dozens of Sefarim (obviously have been used a LOT) and one Minyan for Mincha just finishing and one about to begin! Who would have thought that in Tel Aviv in the BUS STATION, no less, would I find a beautiful minyan with which to daven! And even more interesting was the makeup of the group: Ashkenazi, Sefaradi, Chasidishe, Litvish, Seruga, black hat and one or two that were not sure why they were there. It was a microcosm of Kibbutz Galuyot (the Ingathering of the Exiles)! And when I finished davening and walked out to head towards the bus, there were some wafers and (no, not wine!) juice for those who had just davened. After putting some money in the Tzedaka box, I headed to the bus...for another experience! Read on...

3. Bus #2: On the bus from Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim, the traffic came to a standstill. Like all good citizens, I craned my neck to see what the holdup was. While it turned out that there had been not one but TWO accidents along the road, the scene lent itself to yet another "Only in Israel" moment. As I mentioned earlier, it was beginning to get a little late in the day. Evidentally, many of the drivers ahead of me originally thought that they would get to Yerushalayim in time to daven Mincha. WRONG! It was late, and it seems that many of the drivers had yet to daven. No problem! I counted no less than SEVEN vehicles that had pulled over to the side with the driver (and some of the occupants) standing next to their cars davening Mincha! It was so interesting to observe and re-inforced my view of what a special place it is to live. (I will not address the safety issue involved. That is another matter altogether.)

So, three moments that encapsulated for me (just today) why, indeed, I feel at home.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thought as We Approach 5770

Greetings from the Land of Israel!
As I write these words, I find it hard to believe that Rosh Hashana is right around the corner. While in most years, I would be furiously preparing sermons for the Yamim Noraim (and I will be giving one here in Maale Adumim this year), I find the respite from that activity allows me to reflect a little more than usual about this past year and the upcoming one as well.

On a personal level, this has been one of the most interesting, exciting, challenging and physically-taxing of my entire life. At the same time, all of these adjectives spelled one word: ALIYA. The opportunity to realize one's life-long dream to move to Israel and to have (Bli Ayin Hara) such a wonderful first-two-months' experience, has been a TRUE bracha from Hashem.

It is this thought that I sit and ponder as we enter the final phase of 5769 and reach (IYH) 5770. Dreams are a funny thing...they allow you to imagine what COULD be and what life MIGHT be like. They enable you to think big and to have a vision. Sometimes, those dreams are about money; sometimes they are about family issues; sometimes they are about the big picture called "LIFE." But all dreams have a common, underlying theme: They are the deepest desires (sometimes unattainable) of the soul. They are the windows to who you are as a person and who you wish to become.

And the truth is that dreams can also be a motivating factor at this time of year, as we approach Rosh Hashana. Are there things I wish I had done differently this past year...of course! Did I make mistakes? Certainly! Do I wish to make changes as I approach the New Year...Undoubtedly!

But, how does one begin to make such changes? If you think about almost any MAJOR accomplishment in your life, more than likely it was preceded by a was almost driven by a dream or a vision. And the same can be true when it comes to personal change, Teshuva or whatever other category you wish to place the human drive to self-improvement.

So, as we bid farewell to 5769 and get ready to greet 5770, dream a little...better yet...dream A LOT! Think about what it would be like to live life as an EVED HASHEM (a servant of Hashem). Dream about what it would be like to do more Mitzvot and what it would be like to do the Mitzvot with greater purpose and intent. Dream about what it would be like to have a better relationship with your spouse, your parents, your kids, your friends, etc. Dream about what it would be like to have a better parnasa and to be even happier than you may be right now.

But, one also must be mindful of the fact that the Hebrew word for dream, HALOM, has the same three letter root as another word: LOHEM, meaning "to do battle." It is not enough to dream! One must also struggle and "fight" to accomplish one's dreams. They do not just materialize. They require nurturing and work.

But the payoff is that you CAN help those dreams come true! Teshuva, Tefilla and Tzedaka...all of them lend themselves to dreaming as well! Dream of doing a PROPER and a SOLID teshuva this year! Dream of being able to give MORE Tzedaka this year! And dream about being able to change your Tefilla, prayer, that it will be more meaningful to you this year!

Yes, dreams can and DO come true. But you need to go beyond dreaming and move to action. As we approach the year of "TAV SHIN AYIN" (5770), may the letters represent "T'hey Shnat Aliya," may this year be the year of UPLIFTING and growth. Aliya not only means moving to Israel. It really just means "going up." May this year be the year that you "go up" and grow in terms of both ruchniut and in terms of gashmiut (spiritual and physical growth). But remember, much of that growth requires both dreaming and taking action.

May Hashem bless each and every one of you with a year of health, happiness and parnassa and may this indeed be the year in which we ALL make Aliya with the coming of Mashiach ben David.
With best wishes for a Shana Tova and a Chag Sameach!

A Yahrzeit and a Seudah Shlisheet

This last couple of days have been quite busy! On Friday, another first for me in Israel...I was invited on Friday morning to participate in a Siyum commemorating the first Yahrzeit of Gideon Ariel's father (the Neshama should have an aliya). It was significant for ME for two reasons...first, it was special to be involved in learning l'zecher nishmat of a fellow Jew. At the same time, I was sitting there thinking back to one evening, three years ago.

I had been here in Maale Adumim for the very first time. I was with a group, and we came here for a visit as part of our itinerary. Little did I know how it would change my life. We sat in the Iriya (the municipal building) and heard a briefing about the community, what it had to offer, the services etc, etc., and I was listening very carefully. The speaker indeed had given me a VERY clear picture of what it meant to live in Maale Adumim in general and in the Mitzpe Nevo neighborhood in particular. Needless to say, I was enthralled instantly at the prospect of living in this area.

The speaker was Gideon Ariel, the very same individual with whom I sat to learn in memory of his father, so that his father's neshama should have an ALIYA. I thought about that duality, and it made me smile. He was a link in MY aliya and now he was a link in the aliya of his father's neshama!

Shabbat afternoon, there was a community-wide Seudah Shlisheet for all the new Olim in the area. There must have been 150 people at the Seudah, and it was MAGNIFICENT! People were so welcoming and so outgoing to all of the new Olim. I had the opportunity to give a Dvar Torah (in the lingua franca) about all of us who made Aliya recently. The Rav, Rabbi Elisha Aviner spoke and there were introductions made all around by each family. It was such a welcome and welcoming Seudah Shlisheet!

Now, it is Sunday and back to work...I truly enjoy the fact that Sunday is a "regular" day here. The one thing Israel does not have this weekend: Labor Day Sales...

Shavua Tov!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Two Posts for the Price of One!

POST #1: A Freilechin Purim!

I mentioned the other day that I wished all those at the Kahn Brit, a Happy Purim, even though it is Elul. Herein, the reasoning:

In the Birkat HaMazon after the Brit, there are a series of special "Haracham" statements that are made. In one, we daven that news of the Mashiach should come to the "Am mefuzat U'meforad bein Ha'amim." (The people that is spread out among nations or other people.) This phrase is lifted right from Megillat Esther, and I asked why refer to the Jewish people with this phrase and in particular at a brit Milah?

The words were stated by Haman HaRasha to Achashverosh. He was telling the king that this widespread people were indeed a threat to the crown and needed to be annihilated. However, without realizing it, he was indicating what one of the downfalls of the Jews really is: We tend to be fractious and split among our own people. We do not get along...we make ourselves insulated and are therefore more apt to be attacked. We just donot get along well...

To this, Esther says: "Lech, K'nos et Kol Ha'Yehudim..." Go, and GATHER all the Jews would be in the Zechut (merit) of the Jews coming together that Hashem would indeed save the day.

I said at the Brit that we came together for the Simcha at which we were to hear a call for Mashiach to arrive. We mention the Jewish people as the "fractious" people as recognized by Haman...but that our gathering TOGETHER, Jews of all backgrounds, we help to provide the antidote so desperately needed for the Mashiach...that we get together and we get along!

It is THAT idea that propelled me to wish everyone a Freilichen Purim...just as the Jews gathered in Shushan and led to the antidote for our Geulah, so, too, we gathered at the simcha in a fashion that would change us form an "Am Mefuzar" to unified people ready to greet the Mashiach.

Thanks to all who asked me what I meant in my comments!

2. The New Job:

What a difference 28 years makes! My very first job after I got married is one that I stayed at for almost 17 years. I was in the business world and was working among non-Jews for the very first time as a married man. My first day then was filled with the usual first day jitters and anxiety, but it was doubly anxiety-filled as I had to decide a few issues as many do in such circumstances: would I wear my Kippah (I did, all 17 years); davening Mincha when it was dark before I left the office; washing for HaMotzi and benching and the list goes on. All this meant: How was I going to continue to practice MY Dati/religious lifestyle in an environment that was not geared for this lifestyle.

That was then...this is now! Twenty-eight years later, I found myself once again in a "first day on the job" situation. But, this time is was different: I came in wearing my tzitzit out; I was able to wash before eating lunch and bench at my desk without anyone thinking twice about what I was doing; people wopuld walk into the office and kiss the Mezuzah on the doorpost; and the morning was punctuated by phrases such as "Baruch Hashem"and "B'ezrat Hashem."

No, not everyone in the office is Dati, but it was a VERY different experience than it was when I was all of 22 years old! As to first day "jitters"? That, too, seems to have not been the same as when I first entered the workforce. Yes, so much is different than in 1981 for me. The one thing I hope will be the same, though, is that I will be with this company for 17 years...That will only happen with referrals from people like you reading this blog. May Hashem give me the koach/strength to do the best I can and bring people to His home and show them around. Who knows, maybe these visitors will like the place and decide to even move here!