Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Final Word to My Faithful Readers

I think that since I began to write this blog a year and a half ago, I have never gone this long without posting. Even on days that were somewhat slow, I found something to write about and share with the readership.
However, over the past few weeks, life has gotten SO busy (B"H) that it made my posting an almost impossible task. Nearly every day, I said to myself that I MUST sit down and write as I have so much to write about! But now that the Chagim are WEEKS behind us and Chanuka is nearly upon us, I feel a sense of emptiness in not having posted for so long. At the same time, it feels wrong to try and recapture all of the events and feelings of the past two months.
So, realizing that writing on occasion is not in concert with keeping up a blog, I have decided (regrettably) to end this least for now. I do hope one day to pick it up again, but for the foreseeable future, I need to "officially" put this on the back burner.

Which brings me to a somewhat sobering thought...Since the day I began this blog until today, there have been over 20,000 hits on the blog (including the blogspot and Facebook). It is a number I NEVER could have foreseen nor did I ever think so many would follow up tale of Aliya. But, at the same time, I am so gratified by the amount of people who took the time to comment, both on line and in person, about what they were reading here.

The tale began in April 2, 2009 and today is November 17, 2010. I have tried to give you, the reader a sense of a few issues: What it is like to go through the process of making Aliya--the good, the bad and the ugly--along with the feelings of what it is like to actually LIVE in Israel. You have shared with me as we packed and packed and as we lived through BL and AL (Before Lift and After Lift). We have shared very scary moments together, such as my father (he should live and be well!) being gravely ill only days before our Aliya. We have shared the utter elation of our becoming Israeli citizens and realizing a lifelong dream. We have shared the frustration of dealing with a few situations and the pleasant surprise of not having too many of those! We have shared our "LAST"  of many things in Chicago and our "FIRST" of many in Israel. All along, the response I received was overwhelmingly positive.

But now the time has come to put the blog aside and to continue to deal with day-to-day life here in Israel. I honestly hope that I have been able to give some encouragement to those of you who are thinking about making this monumental move...because it can indeed be done. I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog and, as I say, do hope I will return to it one day.

A few thank you's are in order: First and foremost to Hashem for enabling and allowing us to make the move of our lives. We feel His presence in our lives on a daily basis and could not be more grateful for what He has bestowed upon us. We are truly blessed!

To my wife, Andy, and our three beautiful daughters, Daniella, Ayelet and Eliana...thank you for putting up with me talking incessantly about Aliya (including pulling out the map of Israel EVERY Friday night!) and then deciding to join me on this adventure. You have ALL bli ayin hara done so well and I am thrilled to look at the growth of our family in Israel!

To my parents, siblings, nieces, nephews (grand-nephew!) and all my family whom we left behind, thank you for your love, support and joining us in making the effort to stay in touch and to remain the loving family that we have always been.
Thank you to the Chicago community in general and the members of KJBS in particular for their continued long-distance support and staying in touch over time. While we indeed live 7000 miles away, the distance does not diminish the feelings I have for the community that I was a part of for nearly 50 years.

And finally, to you, my faithful readers, I want to thank you again for joining me on this journey. I have SO enjoyed taking you with me and invite you to stay in touch via email, phone or personal visits in Israel. Hopefully, one day, those of you reading this outside of Israel will be able to identify in some small measure with what WE went through, as you, too, make that life-changing decision to make Aliya.

May Hashem shower His blessings upon all of you and may we ALL join in Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh to welcome the coming of Mashiach and the ultimate redemption in our times, AMEN!

Rabbi Zev M Shandalov
Maale Adumim

Sunday, September 12, 2010

So Much has been happening...

...and every time I decide I am going to sit down and write, life gets in the way and prevents me from writing. I have had a number of people ask me if I have decided to stop writing this blog since I seem to post infrequently now. The short answer is NO, I am not stopping, but the frequency is the issue now. So, instead if belaboring the point, I will just mention a few short points about the past few weeks (as it is a few WEEKS since I last wrote!).

Probably the most significant thought to share at the moment is the STARK change in the air as the Yamim Noraim were approaching and getting closer. While I did not notice (sadly) a public attempt to better one's self in the Bein Adam LaMakom department (witness standing in "line" to get on a bus ...why do they call it a "line" anyways?), the general feel of a hurried pace, the massive amounts of shopping to hunker down for a three-day Chag (and yes, four of the next five years have this calendrical oddity!), the signs on the buses, the sales in the papers, the greetings offered in the street...all added up to the REAL feel that all around you a country and its people were preparing for the 10 holiest days of the year. It is an incredible feeling to be a part of the MAJORITY and know that there are millions of people out there (each on his/her own level) who were preparing for these days.

I had the zechut of being the Chazan for the first night of Rosh Hashana and the Ba'al Shacharit on the first day in the early minyan. What I truly enjoyed about the early minyan is that it was early and timed for saying Shemona Esray at HaNetz (sunrise). This meant that tefilla began at 5:40am (not a typo) but did not rush...we did not finish until 10:30am.
Weather still dominates the news and talk around here. Two aspects are topics of conversation: heat and water. On the "heat" front...while the horrific and oppressive heat of a couple weeks back seems to have dissipated, it is by no means over yet completely. Today is September 12th and here in Maale Adumim it is supposed to be in the 90's. Not complaining...just unusual to feel 90's in mid-September.

But on the "water" front...this is a more distressing thought...meteorologists have predicted this upcoming rainy season to be a VERY dry season...this means a lot of water conservation and dangerously low levels of water in the Kinneret. While the meteorologists can prognosticate all they want, we still know that our tefillot and our actions will be that which will decide what kind of rainfall we will get. So, keep davening and doing Mitzvot...we NEED the water!
As I mentioned a couple of posts back, life is about to get pretty hectic with me acting as co-ordinator of two youth programs coming to Israel. I do hope I will continue to write and more frequently. I also want to use this forum to ask Mechilla from anyone whom I may have slighted or hurt during this past year. May we ALL merit a wonderful healthy, prosperous, PEACEFUL 5771.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Sad Reminder of Why Mashiach has not yet Arrived

While I have read many stories over the past year plus about various Charedi violence breaking out for various reasons, a couple of days ago, I saw something with my own eyes that made me sick.

I had occassion to be in Mea Shearim, a neighborhood I really like going to. I had to purchase some sefarim and went to Manny's (now called Or Hachaim / Manny's). They have moved about a block further down Rehov Mea Shearim and into a beautiful location. I walk in there and want to buy every sefer on every shelf!

In any case, as I approached the store, I noticed a small crowd gathered outside and then saw what all the fuss was about. Someone had thrown tar (or a tar-like substance) all over the front of the store!  The windows, the awnings, the door, the ground...all were covered in a very sticky and dirty black tar. As I stood there mouth agape at this vandalism, I came to learn that there were some members of the local community who were not too pleased with some of the sefarim he has on the shelf in the store. (Lest you think he has heretical items, I further learned that some of the sefarim obejected to were by Rav Aviner and Rav Kook). In addition, last week, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger was in the store and some of the locals were not too happy about that either and came in yelling "Sheigetz...get out of our neighborhood!"

So, it is surmised that this vandalism, which happened within 24 hours of the Rabbi Metzger incident, was perpetrated by some of the locals. There is a security camera outside the building but more than likely these righteous individuals wore masks per the police.

And you wonder why the Mashiach has not yet arrived? And no, I am not bashing all Charedim. What I am bashing (once again)  is the belief that if you do not follow my way of Torah you are an Am Ha'aretz and I have an obligation to violate every rule in the Shulchan Aruch to prove my point. The ideas in the Gemara about damage to personal property were probably meant as theoretical anyways.

This is an example of pure, unadulterated SIN'AT CHINAM. It is the holier than thou attitude that does not allow for the idea of שבעים פנים לתורה , that as long as you are living within the framework of Halacha, there are 70 facets to Torah.

And here we are in Chodesh Elul. We begin (in the Ashkenazi tradition) Selichot in just a few days.We will turn to Hashem and ask for forgiveness for what we have and have not done. Before thinking about our Bein Adam La'Makom issues (those issues that are between man and G-d), maybe we should spend a little MORE time on our Bein Adam L'Chaveiro.

Sin'at chinam is NOT has a huge price tag in that it delays (chas v'shalom) the coming of Mashiach. May we all see the light a little clearer...may we all learn to tolerate each other when living in the framework of Halacha and may we TRULY merit the coming of the rate we are going right now, it certainly does not seem like this will occur anytime soon.

We ALL have our work cut out for us.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Near Term Future

A couple of months back, I was involved with a program out of Chicago called Netivot. This program brought 18 of the (then) 10th graders from Ida Crown to Israel for a combination of Limudei Kodesh, Limudei Chol and tiyulim. It was a LOT of work, but I truly enjoyed running the program (through Tlalim, the company for whom I work).

Recently, I was contacted by World Bnei Akiva to run two of THEIR incoming programs that are very similar. One, called KFAR, is a group of 34 students (10th grade) coming from S. Africa and the other group will be coming from Australia. The S Africa group arrives in three weeks and Australia group in mid-October. Each group will be here for about three months. So, for the near term future, I expect to be plenty busy being involved in helping to run these programs. (The official role I play is called a "rakaz" --coordinator.) No doubt it will keep me hopping! But, I love doing these kinds of things!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Masks...and it is Not Even Purim!

On Friday morning, the doorbell rang and a representative of the Post Office was at the door. He was carrying five items that I had ordered but honestly did not think they would show up...five gas masks.

As of a few months ago, the government has been distributing these free of charge (a nominal 25 NIS fee for delivery) to all citizens of Israel. The idea, of course, is to always be prepared in case of (chas v'shalom) an attack with unconventional weapons. While I am in no way an alarmist, I, too, always feel that one needs to be cognizant of WHERE in the world we are located. Today, according to local reports, the madman of Iran has succeeded in putting the Bushehr nuclear plant into business. Up North, things continue to heat up...various attacks at our borders are becoming more frequent and rockets fall on occasion in the South. Welcome to the Middle East.

I was reading the other day a human interest story in an on-line newspaper about automobiles (why I came across is is immaterial). One of the people was asked what is his greatest concern on a day-to-day basis. His response was that he had to make sure every day not to park under a tree so birds do not leave their "presents" on the hood of his car. Hmmmmm....and we just had gas masks delivered. I guess we have different concerns in life.

So, the boxes we got (five in all) sit in our sealed room (which is our spare bedroom, office, etc) and we will pray that those boxes will never need to be opened. But, if they do, G-d forbid, ever need to be opened, we will have something that our enemies will not have...EMUNA in Hashem. The true unadulterated belief that Hashem is watching over us no matter what madman is in power in Iran, or Syria, or Saudi Arabia, or....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Egged in the BUS service Egged, not what happens to your windows when you do not give candy to kids looking for it at the end of October...והמבין יבין

Over the past couple of weeks, I have found myself on an inordinate number of buses for various reasons. Sometimes it was merely a ride to the local mall (15 minutes from home) or into Yerushalayim (30 minutes..sometimes) and other times it was to go out to Or Yehuda where the offices of Tlalim are. In some cases, I was in Yerushalyim and found myself on as many as EIGHT buses in one day...not unusual at all. One very positive thing is the card known as the חופשי חודשי which is a monthly bus pass. This particular pass entitles the bearer to travel between Yerushalayim and Maale Adumim, in Maale Adumim, all over Yerushalayim and some surrounding areas--all for the one flat monthly rate. If you do a lot of bus riding it is really worth it and you get your money's worth.
So, having spent so much time on so many buses lately, I have witnessed the best and the worst in people lately. One caveat: it has been on average about 2 million degrees Centigrade (no exaggeration!) and I am sure that much of the negative actions I have been witness to have been exacerbated by the heat. However, I am not trying to make excuses but merely pointing it out.

Some miscellaneous vignettes, courtesy of Egged Bus Lines:

* You see all the time where an individual rises from his/her seat to give it to an elderly individual, a pregnant woman, etc. Usually, the exchange is followed by a simple "thank you." On a recent trip, when I noticed someone get up for another person, a very different exchange took place: Before sitting in his new-found seat, the individual placed his hands on the head of the one who just gave up his seat and gave him a bracha! And then, the one sitting in the next seat, after witnessing this, asked this gentleman for a bracha as well!

* When you get on a local bus in Yerushalayim, you are given a ticket (or must ask for one if you are using a bus card) that has a time stamped on the ticket. Ever since January 2010, a new policy--a very good policy--went into affect on Egged. Within the hour and ten minutes after boarding the bus, you may use this ticket as many times as you want on as many bus rides as you long as you are ON the bus by the designated time stamped on the ticket. Not too long ago, I was sitting at a bus stop and heard two women speaking. They were VERY aware of the fact that their tickets were over an hour "past due" but felt that they would try to use them anyways. (Yes, that IS stealing from Egged if they did so). They got on the bus and the comedy show began...instead of telling them the tickets were unusable, the driver said," There is the garbage can. Please throw your tickets in there!" He said it in a most rude and condescending way (not unusual, but it struck a nerve with this woman.) She let him have it. "WE ARE NOT RESIDENTS OF JERUSALEM! HOW ARE WE SUPPOSED TO KNOW THAT WE CAN NOT USE THESE TICKETS?!?!?" He yells back at her that one need not be a resident to be able to read a ticket and understand its validity or lack thereof. She screams at him, he screams back at her, and this continues for 10 minutes more. She DOES pay the fare but not before complaining to anyone within 5 meters who will listen to her. Recall, of course, that she was well aware BEFORE she got on the bus that she was about to try to scam the driver.

* As I mentioned, it is hot. I do not mean warm, I mean unbearbly hot at some points of the day. It is not humid for the most part where I tend to be, but DRY heat is just heat that is dry and you do not get around the idea that it is HOT! (Did I mention it has been hot!?!?) All buses have the theoretical sense. Meaning, there is a motor that blows a fan with a modicum of cold air that goes through the vents that is supposed to make one's journey on a bus, well, enjoyable. Today, I had a last minute need to run to Yerushalayim. I boarded the bus, unstuck myself from my clothes and sat down. Hmmm...a bit strange, I know it's hot outside but kind of seems like the A/C is not up to dealing with this heat. No problem, he just left the terminal 5 minutes ago, so it will cool off soon...oh you naive person! At every stop, as we took on more and more passengers, the heat on the bus became stiflingly unbearable. Imagine opening up an oven to check on something cooking and feeling that blow-back from the heat...that is what we were feeling on the bus. By the time I got off, I was physically drained and looking for a shower and oxygen. Not a pleasant journey to say the least.

* Saw something you don't see too often on the bus. While you DO see people help others off the bus all the time (carry down their groceries, a stroller, etc) you do not see the driver himself do this. (Not a slam on drivers...just that there are always people around to help). The other day, I saw the driver pull over, stop, put the bus in PARK and assist a woman down the stairs with many packages. It was so sweet to see and made up for many other drivers who could probably benefit from a Dale Carnegie course.

So, these are merely a few of the hundreds of things one can witness on a daily basis when riding on the buses here in Israel. It brings out the best and worst in people...and it is always interesting to observe!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Searching the Screen...

As I write this, I am sitting and watching hundreds of Olim landing and coming into Ben Gurion. It is a dream come true for hundreds of people and I know exactly what they are going through. It seems like years ago, but it was only 13 months ago that we made that journey. So much has happened in the meantime...Baruch Hashem.

But as I am watching I am struck by a thought that I can not get out of my head. Since we know a few people on this particular flight, I kept searching faces to see if I saw them disembarking or in the welcoming ceremonies or any glimpse of their smiling, tear-streaked faces. And then I froze for a moment as a memory came back to me. You see, as a child I recall hearing stories about how families in the United States would watch newsreels on TV during and after World War II to see if they could get a glimpse of their loved one to see if they had survived the war. Relatives describe their having watched with extreme intensity holding on to any shred of hope.

And I thought about that as I looked intensely at the screen to see if I could find Peter and Bobbie and Cara and Stuart and all the others whom I was watching for. And it hit me between the eyes, that in both cases, post-WWII and now that people were watching a screen for loved ones and friends...but in the 1940's they were looking for SIGNS of life, and we were watching for the BEGINNING of a NEW life!
And I recalled the Pasuk said by Yosef as he sought out his brothers:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת־אַחַי אָֽנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ
("I seek my brothers...") This is exactly what I felt at this moment, too. I was seeking out my brothers and sisters. And I continue on a daily basis as we live here to hope and yearn to see more and more Jews living here and coming off those Nefesh B'Nefesh flights...Yes, וַיֹּאמֶר אֶת־אַחַי אָֽנֹכִי מְבַקֵּשׁ  and I will continue to seek them out at all times and pray for their return HOME to the Land of Israel.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Completing the Circle

When we arrived last year, we all PHYSICALLY came to Israel but only four of the five of us officially made Aliya. The reason for this was my middle daughter, Ayelet, was within a few months of her 18th birthday so by waiting to declare her status as an Olah, she would get her own "Sal klitah" (basket of rights). The one hitch to this is that based on the rules from the Misrad Haklitah (Ministry of Absorption) her Aliya must take place more than one year after our's.
So, for the last year, Ayelet has not been a citizen of Israel but has been here on a tourist visa.
That all came to an end today! Using the Nefesh B'Nefesh Guided Aliya program (where they help people residing in Israel make Aliya), I accompanied her down to the NBN offices for an official meeting with Misrad Hapnim (Interior Ministry) for her to become a citizen. (NO, it was not THAT easy...we still had to fill out all the paperwork, provide plenty of documentation, etc. But it was indeed easier doing from HERE than from THERE.)
I sat there in the very same room where I had sat 13 months before to receive my Teduat Zehut (identity card) and had flashbacks (good ones!) to that time a seemingly-long-time-ago. It was a true feeling of deja vu all over again! And this time, I was sitting there with Ayelet to finally close the circle that we began last year in July so that our ENTIRE family would become Olim.
While she still has to go back to get her official Teduat Zehut next week, BE"H, it is hard to believe that FINALLY she is an Israeli citizen! Another citizen to join the thousands arriving this year...another citizen entitled to become a PART of the story of the State of Israel...and another citizen who will have a short trip to the Bet HaMikdash to greet the Mashiach tomorrow! (Although Mashiach ben David may first need to stop in the Nefesh B'Nefesh offices to get HIS Teduat Zehut...but hopefully they won't make him wait in line!)

Mazal Tov, Ayelet...WELCOME HOME!!!!!!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reaching Out...

I am reading a wonderful book entitled Six Pixels of Separation that I have really been enjoying. I usually do not have all that much time to read but the title and concept intrigued me, so I opened it up and read. Among many of the theses of the book, he took the concept of how we are all connected in  to each other in "real world"within six degrees of separation and transferred that idea to cyberspace as well. Through Facebook, Twitter (still haven't crossed THAT bridge yet), LinkedIn, Blogs, etc we are all indeed connected and like never before in history. Another one of his ideas is that we can always reach out to our on-line "community" for help, suggestions, etc when trying to accomplish something related to business (or actually any other area, as well).

SO...taking a page from his book (almost literally), I now and reaching out to you for your input. As many of you are aware, I work for The Tlalim Group, a tour operator with over thirty years of experience. My position is in marketing and is to locate shuls, schools, families looking to celebrate a simcha in Israel, etc, etc and make the connection between those people/institutions and our company. While our expertise is in educational tours, we also provide bus transportation, guides, lodging arrangements and (of course) full blown tours.

I have approached dozens (hundreds?) of schools, synagogues, etc and am now looking to you, those who read this blog, for additional ideas: DO YOU KNOW OF ANYONE LOOKING TO MAKE A SIMCHA IN ISRAEL/ HOW ABOUT A FAMILY GROUP THINKING OF COMING? / A SHUL THINKING OF MAKING A TRIP? / A SCHOOL CLASS TRIP?   OTHER IDEAS? I welcome any and all input on this and I appreciate any replies I get!

While I have indeed had some who have made their touring arrangements with us, I am always looking to bring more people.

Thanks in advance for you help!    


Monday, July 19, 2010

Tisha B'Av in Ir David

(Photo by: J Buzelan
Me in Ir David on 9 Av 5770)
A short time ago, I returned from Ir David in Yerushalayim. I went there with some of my neighbors for Maariv and the reading of Eicha, as I have done for many years on the night of Tisha B'av. But tonight, this year, was very different!

Ir David, the city which David HaMelech built and where the Jews lived in the time that the Bet HaMikdash stood...I now sat there listening to the words of the prophet Yirmiyahu: Megillat Eicha. So many thoughts went through my head as I sat on a low wooden bench. On the one hand, I was sitting in the very place where David HaMelech had his palace and Jews thrived under the reign of his son, Shlomo. How exciting it must have been to be alive at that time and witness the opening of the Bet thrilling and how engaging to be a witness to Jewish History in the making.
And at the same time, I thought about the horrible feelings and terrible tragedy of the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash. The death, enslavement and famine alone were terrible. But even the anxiety that led up to that terrible day of 9 Av (TWICE!) had to have been excruciatingly difficult.
And I was reminded of that very same set of polar-opposite-feelings during the reading of Eicha for another reason: Almost as if on cue, about one minute after we began, the Moslem muezzin (call to prayer) sounded very loudly and almost drowned out the one reading Eicha. A minute later, I heard the sounds of helicopter blades hovering above our heads as the police and IDF had a very strong show of presence on this evening that brought tens of thousands of Jews to one area.
And again, I saw that duality...the joy of having the protection of our own Jewish military and police and at the same time hearing the wail of the muezzin cut through me like a knife. From one extreme to another...just like what I was thinking about from ancient times.

When we finished, we walked over to the Kotel plaza. Tens of thousands of people everywhere you looked! People telling the story of the destruction of the bet HaMikdash...people saying tehillim...people merely standing around talking...people sitting on the ground in silent contemplation. But, while the moment was a sad moment, considering WHY everyone was there, it was also a moment of a feeling of triumph. Because even though we STILL do not have the Mashiach, we have OUR country and we have OUR government. We are not under Moslem rule, nor Turkish rule, nor a British Mandate, etc is OUR's. And that thought gave me a true sense of pride...on the darkest day of the Jewish year...a ray of light in all of this darkness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When Tragedy Strikes...

Tragedy strikes the Chicago and Israel communities...catastrophic...tragic...horrific. All of these descriptors have been used to describe the terrible news of the death of Moshe Menora and three of his granddaughters (Sara and Rickie, age 17, and Racheli, age 15) in a plane accident yesterday in Michigan. (The only bright spot is that a fourth grandchild, Netanel, was spared and is in a Michigan hospital in critical condition--may Hashem send him a refuah shlema.)

In the blink of an eye, the Menora, Klein and Schreiber families' lives have been completely sent into turmoil. Day has turned into night and light into a devastating darkness. is not only their tragedy...It is important for them to know that all of us--those who knew the family and those who never met them--are all in a state of mourning at this moment. Granted, we have NO IDEA of the searing pain they are feeling. Yet, I must tell you that after looking at dozens of Jewish news services and speaking to countless people, their tragedy is felt deeply in so many hearts of the Jewish people. At the moment I am writing this, there is still much confusion and chaos as to what will be relative to the funeral(s); the sitting of shiva; the medical condition of Netanel, etc. But one thing is certain: KLAL YISRAEL MOURNS THIS TRAGEDY alongside the family. How often have we seen news reports of light plane crashes with multiple family members killed and thought to ourselves, "how very sad..." and then gone on with our daily lives. After all, nothing like that happens to people WE know. And yet...and yet, this time, it did.
I love the written word and as I sit here, I find myself struggling for the right words to say...but there are none. No words could sum up what we all feel for the Menora, Klein and Schrieber families. I look at the words in  Sefer Iyov (Job) and I look at the words of Kinnot that we will say (hopefully not!) on Tisha B'Av and even THEIR words of pain and suffering seem to shed tears over THIS tragedy.

May Hashem send a Nechama to all the family and a refuah shlema to Netanel Yosef ben Simcha Sima.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Antidote

Yesterday was Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av 5770. Once again, we find ourselves in the final stages of The Three Weeks culminating next week, with the darkest date on the Jewish calendar: Tisha B'Av. It is axiomatic, as it is recorded in the Talmud that both Batei Mikdash (Temples) were destroyed on this day. Each one was destroyed, says the Talmud, for a different reason. The first was destroyed due to the fact that the Jews were transgressing the three major sins. The second was destroyed due to שנאת חנם  (or baseless hatred). For many years, I have heard speech after speech exhorting us to counter the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash Number 2 with acts of אהבת חנם or acts of selfless love. By doing so, the speakers would always say, we were providing the antidote to the destruction and we would help lead the way to the ultimate rebuilding of the Bet HaMikdash.

While it could very well be a true statement, I think that we need to look a little deeper and farther back in history in order to find the true antidote. What is the reason that both Batei Mikdash "just happened" to be destroyed on the same day? The Talmud records that when the "spies" came back from spying out the Land of Canaan, they gave a poor, slanted report. As a result, the Torah tells us that וַתִּשָּׂא֙ כָּל־הָ֣עֵדָ֔ה וַֽיִּתְּנ֖וּ אֶת־קוֹלָ֑ם וַיִּבְכּ֥וּ הָעָ֖ם בַּלַּ֥יְלָה הַהֽוּא  ("The entire congregation raised its voice and cried on that night). IN light of this, the Gemara tells us that . ליל תשעה באב היה, אמר להן הקדוש ברוך הוא לישראל: אתם בכיתם בכיה של חנם ־ ואני אקבע לכם בכיה לדורות.  (That night was the 9th of Av. G-d said to them, you have cried a useless, pointless cry, I will establish this night as a night of crying for future generations.) In other words, your baseless, false claims about the Land of Israel and the crying that ensued due to this are the root cause of this day (the 9th of Av) becoming a day of tragedy after tragedy for the Jewish people.

If indeed that is the case, then the antidote to the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash is not only Ahavat goes much deeper than that! The antidote is also speaking positively about the Land of Israel...being an advocate for her means VISITING the land to see and extol its beauty...and it means living in the Land as well. All of these actions--each and every one of them relative to the Land of Israel--can indeed act as the antidote we all need in order to change the world and lead to the rebuilding of the bet HaMikdash בב''א !

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chofesh HaGadol

Literally, the title means "The Large Vacation." What it refers to is this time of year in Israel when seemingly everyone is on vacation at some point...especially the little kids who are out of school and whose parents are looking for ways to fill their time. It is a time that finds Israelis criss-crossing the country on Tiyulim, camping, sending their kids to short-term day camps or some overnight camps and other fun activities. We are not yet sure what--if anything--we will be doing this summer as far as the Chofesh HaGadol, but we will talk about it in the near future.
But there was one observation I wanted to make about this Chofesh. The other day, as I was walking out of Shul in the morning, I saw a stack of small booklets with a little Pushka (tzedaka can) next to it. I just assumed that it was for people to donate money to a charity and receive some random book for their couple of shekalim. Then, I took a closer look at the booklet. It was arranged that during the Chofesh HaGadol, those who were students would have a guide to what to learn every day...a smattering of Torah, Mishne, Halacha, etc. As I stood there holding one of the books in my hand, I had a broad smile on my face, and someone (who thought I needed professional help, I imagine) asked what I was smiling at. I just told him that I truly love this country...and left it at that. But what did I mean? Here we are poised for this weeks'-long vacation season and students are not only encouraged to continue their Torah education over the summer, they are given the tools with which to do so. And I think that that is just amazing. What a country!

And speaking of Torah...I began to teach a Ladies Tefilla class on Sunday nights (4 weeks ago), and I absolutely love being back into adult education once again! I missed it and am very happy to be doing it once again. I know that MY tefilla is affected by this class as well...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The One Year Party

The other night, most of those who have made Aliya in the past couple of years gathered at the shul in the social hall for a nice evening of celebration. The majority present were celebrating their one year anniversary (like us) but there were those from previous years as well.

The evening was punctuated with a couple of speeches, I gave a brief dvar Torah, there was a live musical presentation, a comedian (who truly captured the essence of living in Israel) and a slide show of pictures taken during this past year (put together by Eric Solat). All in all, the evening was very enjoyable and--as the saying goes--a good time was had by all.

But, a couple of observations are in order. I was looking around the room and thought of two things: First, I knew almost every single person in the room and secondly, I knew almost none of them a little over a year ago. Why do I mention this? Because as I looked around the room, and I thought of how CLOSE so many of us have become, I was a bit overwhelmed. And then I thought of the "feeling" aspect as well. It FEELS like I have known so many of these families for my entire life. It feels like I know my neighbors and new-found friends for my entire life and it is strange to pause and realize that this is just not the case. I have known them for much LESS than my entire life.

And yet...there is a bond...there is a closeness that is hard to put into words. The feeling of going through so much many of the same experiences of being an immigrant to a country that until not long ago was just a distant dream. But by living the dream together and by experiencing many of the same events together...many have built a bond that is incredibly strong. While I have a LITTLE bit of family here (with whom I am indeed close), I do not have a LOT of family here. So, it is with great pride that I look at the members of our community and especially those with whom we have become so close and realize...they ARE a part of my family now and we are a part of their's.

Today is Shiva Asar B'Tammuz...a fast day in which we commemorate the breach in the walls of Jerusalem that led to the eventual destruction of the Bet HaMikdash. Since we arrived two days before Shiva Asar B'Tammuz last year, this is the second time we are now here for it. And as I look around my house and the neighborhood and the community, I see with my own eyes how much we have grown and how much we have accomplished in one year. Baruch has been a good year and B'ezrat Hashem, we look forward to many more years to come in this amazing community.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Our One Year Anniversary of Aliya--15 Tammuz

This Sunday, the 15th of Tammuz corresponding to the 27th of June, will mark our one year anniversary of our Aliya.

One year…in the blink of an eye, a year has now passed since we stepped off the Nefesh B’Nefesh / El Al flight last summer. We boarded the plane as citizens of the United States on Monday and landed on Tuesday as citizens of the State of Israel. Just like that…our lifelong dream became a reality. Well, it wasn’t exactly “just like that.” But, as I sit here and reflect on “the year that was, “I am filled with awe, gratitude, admiration and joy. And if I think back to the first few days we lived here, it seems like a lifetime ago because I feel like we have lived here for twenty years!

Allow me to preface this with a disclaimer: I know that while we did indeed have some ups and downs along the way, our experience of our Aliya and Klita was not the norm. Our journey until this point has been very little in the way of problems, issues and crises and lots in the way of things going RIGHT most of the time. Only one way to explain that: Hashem has been incredibly wonderful to us…a fact that we do NOT take for granted.

What seemed in the beginning like a snake path that only the initiated would be permitted to know, we finally figured out our way from the entrance to Maale Adumim to our home in Mitzpe Nevo. Very quickly, and truthfully not long after we moved, when I thought of the word “home” I thought of Maale Adumim and not Chicago. I had actually wondered how long it would take me to stop thinking of the house in Chicago as “home.” It actually happened very fast.

Boxes…boxes…boxes! Everywhere I looked after the delivery of our lift I saw boxes and other packing materials. How in the world were we EVER going to get everything unpacked and set up shop?! Would we have enough room for everything we had brought? How would we know where to buy certain supplies and groceries etc etc etc?!?

In step our new-found friends who were there at every turn with advice, a good word and helping hands. I can not imagine having gone through the first few months here without the support and help of SO many people in Mitzpe Nevo! How would we ever be able to repay them all? When I said this to one of our friends, he suggested that the best way to “repay” THEM was to do in kind for the new Olim that will come this summer. Great idea and one that I will act upon, Bezrat Hashem!

Work…find a job…parnassa…Yes, earning a living would indeed be something I would call a priority and BH, I was able to find work very fast doing something I truly enjoy…working in the tourism industry bringing people to Israel. My daughters and my wife all have adjusted so well here and SO love this country and our community. We could not have ordered a better group of neighbors with whom to share our building and we could not have picked a better neighborhood!

A year later, I reflect back and I am filled with awe at all our family was able to accomplish in such a short time. I no longer feel like an outsider looking in at Jewish History in the making. I feel like a part of the process and like someone who can make a difference merely by living out my dream.

Chicago…home for me for nearly 50 years…home to ALL of my immediate family and home to SO many friends of mine/our’s. I will always have special feelings for Chicago. It is a magnificent city with wonderful people. (I REALLY like Mayor Daley and Chicago politics!) I miss my family but am heartened by the knowledge that they are so happy for us. Thanks to modern technology, we see each other often on Skype—an ISRAELI invention) and talk on the phone nearly every single day. Yet, in spite of all of these good feelings I have and truly close feelings I have to the community in Chicago, I wouldn’t trade my life HERE for anywhere else…not for a million dollars (roughly 3, 810,000 shekel at today’s exchange rate!)

With one year now behind us and B’ezrat Hashem many years ahead of us, I can only hope and pray that we will continue to live a life filled with joy and happiness and health. While it is NOT realistic to expect everything to be good and to never have any setbacks and to never know sorrow and pain…I CAN daven that these things will be few and far between.

I am eternally grateful to Hashem and to my family for enabling me to realize my lifelong dream of hearing the call from Hashem to live in HIS land. Those of you reading this who may be thinking, “I wish that was ME,” can do more than just “wish.” You can take steps to make that dream come true…I am living proof of this.

May Hashem watch over us and all of the other Olim who are coming up on their one year anniversary as well. We ALL have a long road ahead of us, but with the help of Hashem, one day, we will become fully integrated members of society, here in Eretz Yisrael.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Rear View Mirror

As we approach our one year anniversary of Aliya (!), I sat and re-read some of the posts I wrote exactly a year ago on this blog. All I can say is "wow!" When you are going through it and things are happening like they were back then, it is hard to realize the frenetic pace and craziness of all that is going on. But, as I look in the rear view mirror and sit (quietly, calmly) in my home here in Israel and look back at those postings, I almost feel exhausted. The "funny" thing is that when I was writing about all the things left to do and the events left to attend, little did I know that one BIG event that would occur prior to Aliya was waiting for us in the dad getting very sick very suddenly. It also means that it will be a year since his BARUCH HASHEM complete recovery bli ayin hara and one that we are grateful for each and every day. I hope to make a Seudat Hoda'a (thanksgiving meal...little "T") for this event. As far as our Aliya anniversary (this Sunday, 15 Tammuz on the Hebrew calendar), there will be a gathering of Olim here in Maale Adumim which we will attend. SO DIFFICULT to believe it is almost one year, BH.

More on that later this week...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Let There Be Light

Last night, I joined tens of thousands of people to walk through the Old City to view a marvelous exhibit. For the past two weeks, there has been a public "Light and Sound" show happening in the Old City. It literally drew thousands of people to see various displays and movies. In addition to the lights that were displayed all over the area in a wide range of colors (colours for my Canadian friends!), you were greeted at Sha'ar Yaffo (Jaffa Gate) by a robot about 3 meters tall made of foam and light. Inside, and projected on the outer wall of the Hurva (newly rebuilt) synagogue, a movie was played showing the history of the building, its destruction, rebuilding, destruction and yet again its rebuilding. (Sad that for the most part the visiting to the Hurva has been hijacked by a small group of individuals. Yet another example of taking something beautiful and making it into a symbol of the fiefdom of a few). One of the most impressive things though had to be the lights that were set up on Har HaZeitim (Mt of Olives) facing inwards towards the Old City as you look towards the Kotel. Massive lights alternating in various patterns shone brightly in the nighttime sky. Why do I say that this was the most impressive? Because as I looked at those lights on the right side of my field of vision and then looked at Har haBayit on the left side of my field of vision, I could only imagine in my mind's eye the light that emanated from the Temple Mount in the times that the Bet HaMikdash stood and the light of the Menorah shone into the houses of Jerusalem. I was comforted by the feeling that this light--the OR CHADASH--will once again shine on Jerusalem in the near future B'ezrat Hashem. However, it is necessary for us to realize that this won't happen ONLY B'ezrat (with the help of) Hashem. It requires our input and action as well. But, looking around lately at how Jews have been acting towards each other (no, not a new story!) here in this country lately and the crazy, out of control actions of one sect trying to hijack normative Judaism and claim it as its own...these actions delay the Or Chadash...the New Light that we all pray for. I can only pray that these people will "see the light" sooner rather than later and help to replace the "artificial" lights on Har HaZetim with the light of the Menorah on Har HaBayit, bimhera b'yamenu!

Monday, June 14, 2010


A few moments ago the news was received that three police officers had been shot in the Southern Hevron Hills area and that one of them just died. In additon, there have been a few other terrible incidents the past few days. All of these have been as a direct result of the closing down of some of the checkpoints on the roads and allowing the Arabs to travel freely. This then enables these terrorist animals (sorry to insult the Animal Kingdom) to roam freely for their next victim. Once again, Israel gives up something and in return receives violence and murder. We give away Gaza (and by doing so hurt the lives of 8000 Jews!) and we get Hamas and murder. We once again have the same scenario in the area that checkpoints are closed down.
And what concessions and "gestures" do the Arabs give/make? Do we have Gilad Shalit? Do we have a recognition of the country as ISRAEL? Do we have less preaching of hate and muder and death to the Jews? Do we have any less TV shows aimed at little kids to glorify jihad? One simple answer to all these questions: NO. NONE of this happens because we do not demand it enough and the world does not care. If the world truly "cared" there would be more of an outcry about Darfur, the Congo and the list goes on and on. The same old refrain for centuries..and most clearly nowadays...demonize and marginalize the Jew and his country. If you do that the world will nary make a peep.
I need to go read the news now to read all the world condemnation that will pour in due to the outrage of the murder of the JEWISH, ISRAELI police officer. I am sure that the UN will have their inquiry and commission get right on that...The UN...HAH! That's a joke. The UN is truly the UNITED Nations...united against Israel.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Car-less and Korach

Now that the Netivot 2010 program has ended and the kids have safely (BH) returned home, it is time for me to turn my attention back to many items that have been on hold for weeks. But, since the program IS over, I had to return the car that was on loan to me during the duration. I was asked by a few people if I miss having the car...the truth: NO! This is not a matter of sour grapes. Having a car here in Israel is not like in the States. When driving in Yerushalayim, and I did plenty of that, is like driving in the Indy 500 while blindfolded and driving backwards with directions being given by a blind man who is unable to speak. I had two small fender benders along the way (neither my fault thankfully) and the pressure sometimes got to me while driving. In between cities, the driving was nice and often relaxing. it WAS nice t be able to do shopping by car and not bus, for sure, but in the long run there was much more (and IS much more) that I accomplish on a bus: I can learn, I can rest, I can shmooze, I can relax and not worry about traffic.
So...while I truly appreciated having the car, it is just fine to be without one for now. Once I have another group like this, it will be back in my hands, but till then I will indeed leave the driving to Egged.

It only occured to me last night that this week marks a double anniversary for me. It is THIS week's parsha (Korach) on which I announced our upcoming Aliya and it is this week's parsha also on which I made my "goodbye" speech. I sit here and think back to those two events and I amazed at all that has transpired in those years and especially the past year. However, I will save the reminiscing to a later date once we are here the full year BE"H.

I am re-printing below the speech I gave when we "announced" on Korach 5767 that we were making Aliya. I do this more for ME than for the readers, as I found that moment most liberating to be public and I enjoy re-living that moment.
Parshat Korach
Public Announcement of Our Aliya Plans
June 16, 2007

Every year, when we read the Parsha of Korach, the same thought runs through my head. It is not a thought that I tend to share with others but today, I think it is appropriate.

As you recall, Korach challenges Moshe and Aharon in their capacity as leaders. Not only that, but we see an amazing Pasuk that absolutely boggles the mind:

 וַיִּשְׁלַ֣ח מֹשֶׁ֔ה לִקְרֹ֛א לְדָתָ֥ן וְלַֽאֲבִירָ֖ם בְּנֵ֣י אֱלִיאָ֑ב וַיֹּֽאמְר֖וּ לֹ֥א נַֽעֲלֶֽה:

Moshe sends messengers to have them appear before Moshe. Not only do they refuse, but they make what had to be the most Mechutzefdike statement ever made to Moshe:

הַֽמְעַ֗ט כִּ֤י הֶֽעֱלִיתָ֨נוּ֙ מֵאֶ֨רֶץ זָבַ֤ת חָלָב֙ וּדְבַ֔שׁ לַֽהֲמִיתֵ֖נוּ בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר כִּֽי־תִשְׂתָּרֵ֥ר עָלֵ֖ינוּ גַּם־הִשְׂתָּרֵֽר

I can not even fathom how Moshe Rabbeinu must have felt on that day and at that moment. The man who had spent his entire adult life serving Hashem to near-perfection had just been (as they say in modern vernacular) DISSED in a big way. He had been dis-respected to the nth degree.
Moshe, being Moshe Rabbenu, reacts in a proactive manner to show them that in fact Hashem is not happy with them, nor with their power grab.

We all know the end of this narrative in that Korach and his followers are swallowed up and never heard from again.

And what is it that I think about each time we read this Parsha? How fortunate we are here at KJBS. This idea, that the person leading his congregants and being maligned, taunted, derided and mocked by his so-to-speak congregants is an all too familiar one in the American Synagogue. How often do we hear of shuls that are in fights with their rabbi and who break off from their shuls (only to put the name of SHOLOM or AHAVA in the name of the NEW Shul). How commonplace it is to see people speak with chutpza to the Rav of a shul or in many cases, behind his back.

However, I must acknowledge here this morning, that it is with complete gratitude to HKB"H that this has NEVER been the case in my 8 years plus while serving as your Rav. NEVER have I been in such a position. This does not mean that I have not been questioned or gotten into heated debates at times as part of normal human interaction.

But, how fortunate I have been to serve this shul and NOT ever, not even once been in a position that Moshe Rabbenu and hundreds of rabbis after him have been in...publicly being humiliated by those he is entrusted to care for. Yes, I feel blessed to be in such a situation.

And this year, like in all of these past years, I think of this, on Parshat Korach. And that thought today makes me a little sad. Because it makes what I want to say to you today even more difficult than I thought it would be to say.

If you had looked in the sky the past few weeks you would have seen a few things flying: birds, planes, helicopters.....and rumors. These rumors had to do with my future here at KJBS as your Rav. So, today, allow me to clarify many of these rumors and put speculation to bed, once and for all.

As you have noticed over the past eight years that I have served as your Rabbi, I have exhibited a passion in one area that transcends our shul. The area I speak of is the Land of Israel. My FAMILY'S passion is one that can truly be called a שלהבת a fiery passion for Israel. It has been our dream, since Andy and I were married nearly 26 years ago, to make our permanent home in Israel by making Aliya.

I stand before you today to announce publicly that we are in the process of making this dream of our's become a reality. It is our family's goal to make Aliya iy"h in June 2009, two years from now.

While it is still two years away, I felt it necessary after speaking to the administration to go public sooner rather than later so that the rumors and speculation can end and facts can be discussed and we can move forward.

While I am very aware that this announcement may come as a surprise to many of you, I want you to understand that it is not by any means an easy decision for a variety of reasons. First and foremost our familial ties to the city of Chicago. Secondly, my very close ties to our Shul family and third, our close ties to the extended family of the community of Chicago.

However, if I am to be honest with myself and true to who I am, I must realize that our desire to live in our HOMELAND and be מקיים the Mitzva of ישוב ארץ ישראל will supercede all of these obstacles. We have been inculcated with the idea of Aliya since we were growing up. I have personally spoken about Aliya for many years. I can think of no greater example to set for our community than to make this ultimate move and go live in Israel.

I want to make a few pledges today before we begin Mussaf. First, until the day I leave for Israel, I will continue to act in the capacity as your Rav. The future plans of Aliya will not impede my work for the Klal. It is, as they say, "business, as usual."

Secondly, over the course of the next two years, anyone who has even a glimmer of a desire to make Aliya and is interested in speaking with me about this track, please feel free to do so. It is the שלהבת that burns in me that wants to assist others. BUT, I do not intend on becoming a "poster boy" for Aliya and making "stump-speeches" and go RAH RAH RAH ALIYAH. I think that you know me better than that. I hope to lead by example.
Third, after we are already living in Israel, and in particular in Maale Adumim, I will continue to be in contact with as many of you as possible. Either in the capacity of Rav, if so desired or in the capacity of "former Chicagoan." With the communication available today, I will be an email or phone call away.

Finally, when the time comes many months from now that the shul begins the process of looking for a new Rav, I stand willing to help in any capacity in which I am able to assist in that process, if it is desired by the shul.

I ask for your blessing and support on this journey. It will be a much easier journey knowing I have the support of the shul I so love. It will make the road less bumpy and ultimately, I pray it will lead some of YOU to join US along the way, as well.

I am certain that this announcement leaves more questions than it does answers, but we have a long time together still IYH and I hope, over the course of the next two years to answer as many of those questions as possible.

Shabbat Shalom!

Hard to believe...three years since I gave this speech...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

It has been forever since I last posted!

And once again, the reason for that is the incredible amount of time that the Netivot program has taken. But, BH, it has been an outstanding run and below is my last posting regarding the group. I plan to return to regular postings in the next day or two. I can not believe that pretty soon, I will be writing about our one year anniversary in Israel!


As I write this last posting for Netivot-Chicago 2010, the students are moments away from landing in Chicago. I can not believe that the program has come to an end! it seems like yesterday we all went to the airport to greet the plane. *sigh*

Here are some final highlights and thoughts as we bring this program to a close.

This last week was a hectic one and an emotional one, as well. After bidding goodbye to the schools and their fellow students, we all headed on a tour of soem sights in Tel Aviv including the location of the founding of the State of Israel, Heichal Ha'Atzmaut. We had a chance to be in the Mediterranean and do some shopping in the flea market in Old Jaffa.

The next morning, we went to visit Yad Vashem. There really is not much that one can write about this, but suffice it to say that it was an overwhelmingly intense morning. After lunch, we went to the Rabin Youth Hostel where we heard once again from Michelle with Stand With Us, a "hasbara" organization. She was magnificent in explaining to the students the issues with the Gaza boat incident and answered many unasked questions.

We were all treated to a dinner in the city by the Aarons who were in town and this was followed by an evening known as the "Preida" or the (beginning of) saying goodbye. A few short speeches were then followed by the kids putting on skits, and as the saying goes, a good time was had by all.

The next morning, Friday, our day began at Har Herzl. The most poignant moments were our standing in front of the graves of Michael Levin and two others whom our guide (Miriam) knew before they were killed by Arab terrorists. I recited a Kel Maley for them and then a general one for all those who fell in Israel in battle or terror attacks.

We were then off to the Old City to do some last minute shopping and walking around. Finally, from there we went to Mahana Yehuda and some to Ben Yehuda.

Then, we were off to prepare for our last Shabbat together...a bittersweet moment indeed.

Friday night, we davened at the Kotel. While that alone was beautiful, a most amazing thing happened after Tefilla...a group of about 100-150 soldiers were in the plaza singing and dancing and our guys joined right in in an amazing show of love for our soldiers and our people! The boys had a fabulous experience in that circle!

Dinner and a walk back to the hostel for our last night together...

On Shabbat day, we all could feel that nervous tension building as the clocked ticked down towards the end of Shabbat. After tefilla in the morning, we gathered together as I made a Siyum to commemorate the first Yahrzeit of Mrs. Amy Kahan. We learned in her memory and some former ICJA students who had been in the same hostel joined us for this as well.

In the late afternoon, we all sat around and spoke about what the trip meant to all and what they would miss, what they liked and how they had changed. It was amazing to hear some of the comments that were made!

And then the moment came...the bus would be heading to the airport for the journey back to Chicago. Even upon arrival at the airport, it was written all over the faces of the students: I do not want to leave! Tears flowed as goodbyes were made. Finally, at about midnight, all us (the madrichim and me) sat down to have a bite to eat and breathe a little bit and to think about the awesome experience we all just had shared over the past 7 weeks.

And now that it is over, a few thank you's are in order:

To Shmarya, Yael and Yocheved...I can not tell you how happy I am that i got to know you through this project and I can not thank you enough for all of your hard work!

To Roni (the director of Tlalim) and to Tami (his assistant) I am so happy to have had all of your assistance, help and guidance throughout the program and even before the kids arrived in Israel.

To ICJA for allowing and even encouraging the kids to come here. You are to be applauded for the forward-thinking in educating our kids in a different fashion!

To ALL of the wonderful teachers both Limudei Kodesh and Limudei Chol...your efforts were so appreciated and the students learned SO much from you!

To you, my dear students, thank you for allowing me to become a part of your lives and for all the trust you placed in me. You are a special group that have this memory to share forever!

To the parents: Thanks for sharing your wonderful children with me and with Israel...we tried our best to make you proud!

To Dani Yemini, Ilan Osrin (Oz), Zev Schwartz and all of our friends at Bnei Akiva, thank you for your help and your involvement in the program!

And finally but of course really first: A thank you to Hashem for all of the assistance in this entire endeavor. We, none of us, would be anywhere without the help of Hashem in everything we do!




Rabbi Zev M Shandalov
Netivot-Chicago 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Last "First"

It is now Erev Shavuot 5770, May 18, 2010. Tonight and tomorrow, we will celebrate Shavuot with Jews around the world. While I plan to stay up all night and learn--as is the custom--daven at sunrise and then go to sleep, this year, Shavuot takes on a slightly new meaning.
Ever since our Aliya--a little less than a year ago--every chag, every holiday, be it minor or major was a "first" of sorts. It was our first Chanuka in Israel...our first Yom Kippur...our first Yom yerushalayim and on and on. As with other holidays, tonight marks the first Shavuot for us in Israel as Israeli citizens. But, it occurred to me last night that this is the "last first" as far as the Jewish calendar is concerned! We arrived 2 days prior to the Fast of 17 Tammuz last year. The next significant date after Shavuot is (no, not my sister's birthday!) the Fast of 17 Tammuz. So that means that once we celebrate Shavuot tonight/tomorrow, we will have gone through the entire Jewish calendar year.

It is so hard to believe that this is the case since on the one hand it feels like we just got here a couple of months ago and on the other, it seems like we have lived here forever! Shavuot is a time to rededicate one's self to Torah, both in terms of learning and in terms of practice. This year, it represents that and a whole lot more to me, personally. As we approach our one year Aliya anniversary (BE"H on Sunday, June 27, 2010--15 Tammuz), we have decided to mark the date in terms of the JEWISH calendar. So, instead of July 7th being the significant date, 15 Tammuz is "our" date. It is getting closer...and the feelings, emotions and anticipation are SO radically different THIS year than last year!

So, I best get ready for this "last first" before I run out of time. One last item, is my great-nephew's brit milah. And while we can not be there in person, techonology is great that it will enable us to "particpate" long distance by the computer. Exciting day...!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A "GREAT" Yom Yerushalayim

As I write this, we are in the midst of celebrating Yom Yerushalayim, the day on which after nearly 2000 years, the COMPLETE city of Jerusalem was in our hands as of June 67. It is my first as an Israeli citizen and I am looking forward to many aspects of the day.
Last night, I attended a wedding of the son of the man I work for. It was held on Kibbutz Bet Guvrin (yes, the same location as the "dig") outdoors under a beautiful sky with perfect weather. The meal, dancing, etc were all outdoors and it could not have been more gorgeous! BUT, in the middle of the chuppa, my cell phone rang, and I saw it was a call from my parents. I ran to the side to answer the phone and was given the good news: my niece and nephew, Mindy and Yaakov Samberg had a baby boy!!! Mazal tov...this meant I was GREAT uncle for the very first exciting this was! It was a particularly emotional moment, as I also realized it is the first (of MANY, BE"H) smachot I will miss in Chicago. (But we do hope to skype in for the Brit next week!).
And if that was not emotional enough, the chuppa came to a conclusion with the singing of "Im Eshkachaych Yerushalayim"...on the NIGHT of Yom meant SO much at that moment. It was followed by Tefilla Chagigit for Maariv in honor of the special day!

This afternoon, we are all going in to Yerushalayim to take part in the RIKUDGALIM, a flag dance with 75,000 of my closest friends. We will all dance in the streets of Yerushalayim to further accomplish that which it says in the Navi Zecharya:
עוד ישבו זקנים וזקנות ברחובות ירושלם
Yes, the time HAS indeed come that Rabbi Akiva referred to at the end of Masechet Makkot. We do see the streets of Jerusalem filled with young and old...dancing, singing and living as FREE Jews under JEWISH leadership (flawed, but Jewish!). We have been zoche to also say:
עקיבא, ניחמתנוִ עקיבא, ניחמתנו
(Akiva you have comforted us--with your vision of Yerushalayim).

Yes, we are indeed comforted that Jerusalem is our's. Yes, we are comforted that Jerusalem will BE"H NEVER be in the hands of an oppressor again. And yes, we are indeed comforted that people can live as free Jews in the Land of Israel. No, we do not have a Bet HaMikdash and no, the government of Israel is not Mashiach ruling over the Jews. No, it is not perfect! But...JERUSALEM IS OUR'S FOREVER, no matter what any administration of any other country may claim!

The worst part of the day? The sad fact that there are still Jews around the world who do not recognize that today, YOM YERUSHALAYIM, is a cause for celebration. That instead of Hallel, they are reciting Tachanun. It is also sad that such a significant percentage of people do not recognize the NISSIM GLUYIM (revealed miracles) of the Six Day War and are not "makir tov" (do not show gratitude) to Hashem for what He has done for us. If only R' Akiva could stand near Har HaBayit now and declare that he sees that vision of Zecharya come true with his own eyes...then we could ALL say: AKIVA NICHAMTANU, AKIVA NICHAMTANU!

Yom Yerushalayim Sameach to ALL Jews, no matter what they choose to say/not say in Tefilla. Next time you are in Israel, make sure to stop by the Old City of Jerusalem. You will recognize it by the white dome of the Churva Synagogue which has been re-built...just like Jerusalem itself!

אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִֽי

With Greetings from Hashem's Home Town...

Israel's newest Great Uncle

Monday, May 10, 2010

A Trip Up North

As my time has been spent mostly on working with the Netivot program lately, my blog has been fairly silent. Most of my posting has beenon Facebook for the Netivot-2010 page. Below is my latest entry and I am including here on my blog as it is a record of the past few days.

As I write this, I am on the bus on the way back home from Tzfat after an amazing few days up North! Our trip began on Thursday morning with our first stop at Tzipori, an ancient village in the Galil. We learned about the assimilation of the Jews into the Roman way of life, art, culture, etc and how the Jews had internal debates as to how to deal with the threat to the Jewish people. This threat was both in terms of physical and spiritual attacks. We saw the “Mona Lisa of the Galil,” a beautiful mosaic on the floor of an ancient shul.
From there we travelled back some 2000 years to the time when our ancestors lived a very different life. We experienced this in Kedem (in Hoshaya). Here we spoke about why the students are here in Israel to study…we davened Mincha…ate a lunch similar to that of our ancient ancestors and then dressed in costume for our tour of the area…ON DONKEYS! As the saying goes: A good time was had by all!
Our last stop of the day was to take a hike down Mt Arbel. It began with a lookout over the region from the top of the mountain and was then followed by a climb down the mountain-side. (I have a severe fear of heights, but I figured, I would try it too. But we got to one point and the vision of my wife and three daughters flashed before my eyes and I turned back…not because it was unsafe but because I just couldn’t handle the heights!)
Everyone (else!) enjoyed the hike as we met them all at the bottom of the mountain, tired but happy. Then it was off to the hotel for some much needed rest!
The next day (Friday) we spent some time on top of Har Bental in the Golan Heights overlooking a large area of the Golan and also saw the Har Hermon (snow covered) in the distance. What a magnificent view! From there we went to eat lunch (a BBQ). For some reason, the local gnats felt that they were invited to the party as well! After filling up on good BBQ food, it was off to the Jordan River for kayaking. It was not a super hot day but being in the water and kayaking did bring welcome relief from the heat of the day!
And then, it was time for preparing for the best day of the week: SHABBAT! But not just any old Shabbat,,,a Shabbat in Tzfat. After candle lighting, we davened Kabbalat Shabbat in the Ar”I Shul. The significance of this is that it was the Ar”I HaKadosh who instituted Kabbalat Shabbat in Tzfat…we had the opportunity to back to the roots of this Tefilla! We opted out of the Carelbach davening nearby (two hours long…a bit much!) and were back in the hotel for our Shabbat Seudah. The meal, dvar torah and benching concluded, and it was sleep time…for SOME of us! The next morning, we were back at the same shul for tefilla followed by Kiddush and Seudat Shabbat. Before we all broke up for the afternoon, we had a group discussion revolving around making use of the special time available and the wonderful opportunity they all have being in Israel for these few weeks. Then, most decided to take a loooooong rest and some of us decided to sit around and enjoy the beautiful day. It was nice to share this Shabbat with the girls and staff of Midreshet Moriah, who also were there for Shabbat. Our girls will be in their school soon, so it was nice to see all of them as well.
Shabbat late in the late afternoon, a few of us took a walking tour of Tzfat led by Shmarya and me as we walked around and discussed some of what we were seeing. Shamrya then took us to a very high area on a mountain top where there is a memorial to fallen IDF soldiers from Tzfat and the view from up there was INCREDIBLE! We saw the Kineret, Tveria, a large area of Tzfat and the surrounding cities.
Mincha, Maariv and Havadala and a beautiful Shabbat came to a close. As we travel back to the schools and I travel back home, we look forward to yet another great week in which we will all celebrate Yom Yerushalayim and do other special things as well.
It is hard to believe that this program is already 3 ½ weeks old! It has been intense, fun, uplifting, challenging and thought provoking. I pray that it will continue to get better and better and I look forward to the next 4 weeks together.
Shavua tov from somewhere in the Galil, en route home!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lag Ba'Omer

Fire, fire, fire...everywhere I look tonight I see fires burning! I had the opportunity right after Shabbat to go into Yerushalayim. On the way, and especially once I entered the city, I saw fires EVERYWHERE I looked in celebration of Lag Ba'Omer.
Leading up to tonight, you could see kids collecting ANYTHING that would burn, for the past few weeks. Tree trunks, panelling that had been tossed out, wood, sticks, you name it...if it burned, it was being collected for tonight's bonfires all over.
But, then the weathermen used the dreaded word: RAIN...not only was it supposed to was supposed to pour! All of the dreams of staying up all night around bonfires were about to (pardon the pun) go up in smoke!
HA...they were wrong! It is a gorgeous night and the fires are a-burning! In Mitzpe Nevo there is a huge bonfire with a concert going on as I write this. So, instead of WRITING about it, I am going out right now to EXPERIENCE it!

Happy Lag Ba'Omer...or as I heard someone tell me tonight: LAG SAMEACH!!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Yom Ha'atzmaut--Better Late than Never!

Life got pretty busy and complicated the past couple of days, so I am just now getting to the write up about Yom Haatzmaut.

While I have been very proud to be an Israeli since 15 Tammuz, 5769 (July 7, 2009), I was MOST proud this week on Yom Haatzmaut. For the first time in my life, when I celebrated this momentous day, I truly FELT it! Whether the tefilla, the flags, the celebratory feeling, the greetings from strangers, the food, the music, etc...all made me FEEL the day as an INSIDER.
A large part of the day was spent in Neot Kedumim (not far from the airport) with about 2500 of my closest friends. There was a reunion of all of the Camp Moshava programs across the USA. I took my kids from the Netivot-Chicago program there and we all had such a nice time. I had the chance to re-connect with some people I have not seen since we made Aliya! Then, irony of ironies, we went to my uncle for a BBQ (Yom Haatzmaut tradition in Israel) and I could not anything!!
Remember when I said life had gotten busy? Well, I suddenly developed an infection in a tooth which decided to hurt the most on Y.H. and made it impossible for me to eat. Since we had yet to choose a dentist, I needed a referral FAST! I had two people recommend the same person and I called him up and was given an appointment for the next day. I wasn't in the chair 10 minutes before he had to begin a root canal. Thank G-d he did it...I felt so much better!!!

(BTW, on the list of things that are cheaper in Israel vs. outside of Israel...add root canal to the list...about 1/3 the cost!)

Shortly after I began feeling better, I ran to Kfar Saba to be with one of the Netivot girls who had to be taken to the hospital (thank G-d doing better). Got home two in the morning, but glad that I went there altogether.

This Shabbat is a double special Shabbat! My parents, who are in from Chicago will be staying with us and the 7 boys from Netivot will also be in Maale Adumim for Shabbat (coincidence? I think not!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Kids, Flags and Another Siren

One of the reasons my blog has "gone silent" for days has been my involvement in the Netivot Chicago program that I am doing. As referred to in previous posts, there are 18 kids who have now arrived from Chicago to finish off their 10th grade studies here in Israel with classes and tiyulim. While their plane was delayed by almost two hours upon arrival in Israel, at least they made it here! NO volcanic ash disrupted their travel, BH. We hit the ground running and have not stopped! If you wish to follow our adventures, please check out NETIVOT 2010 on Facebook for a journal and pictures of the group!

As I write this it is Yom HaZikaron...another first for me: First time I am in Israel for Remembrance Day. The day began with a siren last night at 8pm to mark the beginning of the day. TV and radio show interviews with families who have lost loved ones in battle and in terror attacks. The country has a somber feel today as people greet each other with a little less enthusiasm. Estimates are that tens of thousands will visit 43 cemeteries around the country during this period of national remembrance. In about 2 hours, there will be another 2-minute siren, at which point the country will once again come to a complete standstill to honor its fallen soldiers and its terror victims. I can not but help thinking of all those whom I have personally known that we will remember today. And then, the mood will shift tonight with the beginning of Yom HaAtzmaut...a national day of celebration. A day on which the country joins together to celebrate its birth in May 1948/ Iyar 5708. I have watched this transition in Chicago for years, but the significance obviously HERE will be much different. There are celebrations planned for all over the country tonight and tomorrow. I plan to be at the one here in Maale Adumim. I am sure it will be a wonderful day, B'ezrat Hashem!

In honor of the coming of Yom HaAtzmaut, there are flags literally EVERYWHERE you look! People hawking them on the street, hanging in windows, from balconies, on cars, etc etc etc. It is a beautiful sea of blue and white. I am reminded of the words of the Rov (R Yosef Dov HaLevi Soloveichik) who said that he sees three colors on the flag of Israel: Blue, White and RED. The red being the blood on which this country was built...the blood of its fallen soldiers. How appropriate to think about today, on Yom HaZikaron.

Monday, April 12, 2010

How Far We Have Come...How Far We Have to Go

Today is Yom HaShoah...Holocaust Remembrance Day...around the world. Unlike any other community in the world (to the best of my knowledge), only in Israel is a siren blown for two minutes during which time the entire country comes to a standstill.

I had never been here for this siren and I wanted to be fully aware BEFORE it began in order to "prepare" myself. At first, I thought I would go to the local mall and observe as a large crowd of people came to a standstill. As I thought about it more, I felt that solitude would be a better approach but not solitude without some meaning. I left my house 10 minutes before the siren and went around to the other side of the mountain...the side that faces Yerushalayim. I felt it would be symbolic to stand and look at the mountains of the holy Yerushalayim during this moment. I would stand there thinking about those murdered during the Holocaust while looking at a vista that millions could only have dreamed of. What would have been, had there indeed BEEN a State of Israel at that time of history...that is a question left to be pondered as the siren was about to begin.

At exactly 10am, the siren began and I was completely caught off guard for what happened to me emotionally. Tears began to flow almost the second I heard the beginning of the sound. I thought about those who lined up to go to their deaths thinking that they were going to a shower; of those who hid in the forests to save their lives and of those who put up a battle in the Warsaw ghetto.

As I looked at Yerushalayim and thought of these people, I also began to think of how far we have come in such a short time!

Instead of speaking of Six Million in terms of how many were murdered , we can also speak about the six million plus (kein yirboo!) of the Jews now living in Israel. Instead of underground fighters or partisans in a forest, we have the IDF, a military might the envy of all modern nations. We have a country in which we are free to openly be Jewish and express that Jewishness any way we feel appropriate. We have control (to a degree) of Har HaBayit and ALL of Jerusalem. Since 1948, Israel is ruled for the first time in almost 200o years BY JEWS. Yes, there is always a haven for Jews here in Israel.

And yet...we have so far to go! Open today's newspapers and see that Anti-Semitic acts in 2009 DOUBLED world-wide; we have a monster in Iran who publicly declares death to Israel with most of the world not caring; we have country after country calling for divestment, uprising, destruction, etc etc of this beloved country of our's.

Yes, we HAVE come very far in 62 years...but we still have so far to go...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Chol HaMoed

One of the hallmarks of Chol HaMoed (the intermediate days of the holiday--between the first and last day) in Israel is the "tiyul." Loosely translated this means the hike/trek/journey. What it refers to is packing in to a car or bus with many of one's worldly possessions that have to do with food prep and/or hiking paraphernalia and heading out to various locales around the country. The roads are JAMMED with people traveling to and fro in search of "just the right spot" to make a BBQ, or to hike some cliff that beckons, to walk a winding trail or just to sit along a beach and soak up the Vitamin-D.

In the past, for me, Chol HaMoed meant a pretty much regular day, a day trip to Gurnee Mills (shopping mall outside Chicago) and many hours spent thinking about what we should do during this quieter time. However, here, we were determined to be Israeli and join the (literally) thousands of people for one or more Chol HaMoed outings.

On the first day of Chol HaMoed, we made our way to Tel Aviv where we met up with my in-laws spending Chag there in a hotel. After a nice lunch together, the girls went one way and Andy and I spent a wonderfully relaxing time walking on the boardwalk next to the Mediterranean. It was AMAZING to see the range of people there! Sefardim, Ashkenazim, secular...all out doing various forms of relaxation and vacationing...we saw kite flying (with payos-clad chasidim on the other end of the string); fishing, BBQ'ing, skateboarding, singing with musical instruments and many other activities. We were just content to sit there and enjoy the gorgeous weather.

The next day, we all headed to the area of Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. When I say "all" I actually mean ALL of least it seemed that way! According to the paper, apparently, 6800 other people did the same thing we did! I guess that is why I noticed a 6-10 KM back-up on the road heading South as we returned heading North! We sat a distance from the Dead Sea and enjoyed the beautiful surroundings, as we did by the other body of water! The heat was NOT too intense and the time we spent there was just right...not too short and not too long.

This was followed by a magnificent Shabbat with guests at our table and a special Motz"ash (Motza'ei Shabbat): We went into Yerushalayim to see some of my cousins that were in celebrating the Chag. As an added bonus, we were invited to go to the Old City on a particular roof-top for a small "concert" by Chaim Dovid (see here for who he is if you are not familiar:

The location was a few hundred meters from Har HaBayit, the night breeze was cool and intoxicating, the music was gorgeous and the ambiance was just perfect.

What a wonderful Chol HaMoed this has been! Hard to believe that tonight is the last night of Pesach already! There is something in our Shul tonight that (to me) is quite unusual and unique. I imagine it is done in many places, but I just never did this: There is a public reading of Shirat HaYam (Az Yashir) in honor of the 7th day of Pesach followed by Divrei Torah on the subject...just hope I can stay awake for it!

Chag Sameach!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Seder...ONE Seder

After many years of anticipating Pesach in Israel, it has finally arrived. For those who know me well, you already know that I have always had a difficult time with the Second Seder, as it was always the most "in-your-face-golus" moment of the year to me. I did all that was required, of course, but deep down, it was always difficult. This year was the beginning of a new period of life in that regard. We joined together with our (wonderful) upstairs neighbors and had a magnificent Seder! It was made all that much more special knowing it was the ONLY one we would make this year. We sang, read the Haggada, ate, enjoyed and then, Seder 5770 was a memory!

On the day of Chag, I woke up early and davened at the early Minyan like usual (6:30am) and had the morning to sit in the beautiful weather to learn and relax. We were out for Seduat Chag and then a nice leisurely walk home for a quiet afternoon.

Before you knew it, the first day of Chag was over and we were making Havdala to begin Chol HaMoed. While I did indeed miss the family in Chicago and all of the usual family traditions, we were "comforted" by the fact that we began a new series of traditions right here in Israel.

This week, we will go to visit my in-laws who are spending Chag on a program in Tel Aviv, I will go to the Kotel for Birkat Kohanim and see what little side trips we may make...

Best wishes of Moadim L'Simcha to all!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Burn, Baby, Burn!

It is now Erev Pesach, 5770. It is our very first Pesach in Israel, as Israeli citizens and a moment that I have personally dreamt about for years. Last year, when we sang L'Shana Ha'Ba'a BiRooshalayim, it had a very different meaning back then. Now, as we prepare to welcome Pesach 5770, I walk around Mitzpe Nevo and I look toward Yerushalayim! (By the way, I look at a GROWING Jerusalem, no matter WHAT the president of the USA says!)

After Bedikat Hametz last night, I put the hamtez in a bag to burn this morning. I was told that there usually is a public burning in the area. Well, special area (seemingly) was set aside for this as in years past. One of the reasons I am told is that many of those old locations are now either filled with grass, houses or other things that prevent making a fire in those locations.

So, I joined a neighbor, hametz in hand, and drove around to find some other wayward souls looking to burn their treasure. We came across a couple of young guys attempting to build a small fire in a VERY windy area. We got out of the car and joined them to build the fire down a small hill surrounded by a rock wall. We gathered some small sticks, placed the hametz in the pile and threw in some matches. The wind kicked up and before long the hametz was burning strongly! I kept thinking that instead of smelling the fire from THIS, I looked forward to NEXT year when we would smell the Korban Pesach burning on the 14th of Nissan, B'ezrat Hashem!

Having now made the Haroset and helped out in the house, we are all getting closer and closer to the Seder. We will be sharing the Seder with our upstairs neighbors, the Zion family, who also made Aliya (a couple of years ago). Truth is that we ALWAYS had Seder (sedarim!) at my parents' home, so while we are ALL looking forward to this Seder, it will definitely be strange to not be with our family in Chicago.

As this will be the last post before Pesach, I will wish EVERYONE a Chag Pesach Kasher V'Sameach!!! May this be the last one without the Korban Pesach and may we all share in each other's Korban NEXT year!!!!!