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!!!!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pesach is Upon Us...Almost!

(Kashering Utensils for Pesach--Mitzpe Nevo 5770)

Pesach indeed is CLOSE! it is evidenced by all 5 senses:

I walk down the streets in Mitzpe Nevo and hear vacuum cleaners going all over the place. I see items being thrown out for cleaning purposes; cars being dismantled for cleaning; people shlepping dozens of bags of groceries; kashering of utensils (see pictures) for Pesach use. I smell so much of the Pesach cooking going on in the neighborhood. I feel the feeling of dust on my hands as we continue our (brief) Pesach cleaning. I taste Pesach, as I have had the opportunity to taste some Pesach items already and await more!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


When I was a kid, you had three choices to listen to music: someone played an instrument, you listened to the radio or you listened to an LP (Note to those under the age of 40...please consult an encylopedia as to what an LP is. Actually, consult Google to find out what an encyclopedia is and THEN find out what an LP is!). Other than that, there were not that many other choices.

I witnessed the birth of 8-Track tapes, cassette tapes, CD's, Sony Walkman, iPods, iTunes, etc., etc., etc. It is as if every day there is a new method to bring music to the world. I must say that this is a VERY positive advance over the years. Why? Because music is a very powerful tool. Besides the obvious, music has a POWER to transport you to another time and place. For example, you may recall where you were the first time you heard any number of famous songs. Some songs bring a smile to your face as it helps you recall a happy or winsome moment in your life. Other songs may make you sad, as the song may remind you of someone or someplace associated with a sad memory. Yes, music is very powerful.

And why do I mention this today? We are, along with the rest of Jews around the world, in the throes of PESACH CLEANING. While it is somewhat easier this year, it still is Pesach Cleaning. While I work, I like to listen to music. I don't listen to music all that often and certainly not for sustained periods of time. But over the past few days, I have listened to a lot of music both on CD and iPods (not mine...daughter 1, 2 or 3!). And I find myself listening to the same songs I listened to over and over last year in April, May and we packed up and prepared for our journey home to Israel.

And as I work, and I listen to this same music from that time-period, I find I keep pausing to think back to those days. Days of anxiety, days of excitement and days of "what-would-be?" It seems like so long ago, yet when I pause listening to that music, I FEEL inside, and I mean DEEP inside, the same feelings I had back then, almost a YEAR ago.

It was a magical if not scary that I will never forget...and if this year is any indication, I will re-live those memories every year via music for many years to come, B'ezrat Hashem.

Now, back to cleaning...after one more song!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Of Licenses, Motorcycles and a Tiyul

1. Licenses: As in a DRIVER'S license. As those of you who have been following this blog know, Andy and I made the decision after 8 months (already 8 months!?) of being here to bite the bullet and work on getting our driver's licenses. In the States, you learn the Rules of the Road, take a driving test, take a road test, go to the DMV, get insulted by some city workers and then get your license. Here, it is slightly different. First of all, if you are getting a license for the first time, it is MUCH more difficult. You take over 25 driving lessons (that cost a little less than a small car), followed by a test and a few other steps (see below). You learn the Rule of the Road....not the "rules" but just the "rule." And that rule is DRIVE DEFENSIVELY! Always assume the other guy wants to be in front of you and will do anything to accomplish this.

In any case, as we were technically just converting our licenses from USA to Israeli ones, the process is a little less confusing. But, it is still a multi-part process which we began this week. Step One: Go to a participating optometrist where you have an eye exam and have your picture taken. The picture is stored in the computer (to be used by the License Authority for the actual license). You also have a copy of this picture imprinted on the Tofes Yarok (the document that follows your path with you until receipt of the license...guess what color the document is...). STEP 2: You then take this Tofes Yarok to a doctor who must then say you are physically fit to drive. Ok, that was accomplished with no problem as well. Step 3: Go to Misrad HaRishui (the License Authority) where they inspect the documents to ensure that you may go to the next step. Ok, that's done, as well and on to the next step. That next step is to schedule a driving lesson. (You also pay a small fortune to take this lesson as you are paying for the instuctor's time and usage of the car and insurance so that you may drive his car) Yes, after driving for 35 years, I need to take an official lesson. It is this man who determines your future! If he feels you need more lessons, you need more lessons and will spend a fortune on them! If you are ok in the driving lesson, you move to the next step...the driving test. But first, you go to the Post Office, get another document to show you have paid for this step, take that to the instructor, take your test and then (if you pass) you get your temporary license. Once you pay for the final one, you get the official permanent license. Oh, and at the test, the instructor does not tell you if you passed or not yet. Why is that? One time, an instructor told a person taking his test that he had not passed. Reacting to this news, the driver decided to shoot the instructor...not TOO aggressive! As a result, they made a rule that the instructor calls the driver later to inform him.
After Pesach, we hope to finish this arduous process and I will keep you informed. In the meantime, try not to let the suspense of whether or not we succeed keep you awake at night!

2. Motorcycles: As long as we are on the subject of driving, an observation about motorcycles here in Israel. There are thousands on the road here and you can not miss them. There seems to be a set of unwritten Rules of the Road for motorcycles...not only must you be first, you must also weave in and out of traffic, cut off buses, speed to the front of a line up at a red light and drive recklessly, all with a helmet on....the kind of driving that must make a mom proud!
In any case, I thought I had seen all the various permutations of how motorcyclists make the roads more unsafe...that is, until yesterday! I was in traffic (last day of the car usage) in a two lane road, ie, one lane in each direction. In between the lanes was a concrete island medium that was raised from the ground a few centimeters. As I sat there in traffic, carefree yet alert, I heard a noise coming up on my left side. In my rear view mirror and getting closer and closer was some hot dog driving on the median! The width of this median was about 1 mm wider than his tires. One small misstep and he would not be riding much longer. As I sat there somewhat in disbelief, I smiled to myself and thought, ah, yes...the motorcyclist's goals are being met: get there first, get there dangerously and do it with all the speed and flair you can muster.

3. Tiyul: As we have nothing else to do a week before Pesach (LOL!), Andy and I decided to join our fellow Olim in Maale Adumim for a Nature Tiyul in our area. We walked through a valley/wadi observing the various flora, fauna and wildlife. To cap off the evening, we made a small, roasted marshmallows and baked fresh pita! We were guided by a local Nature Guide who has lived in Maale Adumim for over 20 years. We not only learned a lot, but truly enjoyed ourselves. As we were winding down, rain suddenly began to pour down on us and we all ran for cover and then back to our warm homes. It was a very special tiyul and we are grateful to have had this opporunity. We plan that during Pesach break to B'ezrat Hashem, take more tiyulim and enjoy this magnificent country.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Because I have gotten involved (as a part of my job) overseeing the Netivot program of students coming to Israel to finish their 10th grade studies here, I have had to do a LOT of running around: meetings at the host schools, meeting with the teachers, setting up schedules, meeting the counselors, etc. I have had the opportunity to have a car for a few days. This was to enable me to do this and get to all the meetings (spread all over the place!) in an easier fashion. So, for the first time I am really driving around parts of the country. Some observations: it is easier than I anticipated with the HUGE exception of driving in Yerushalayim. For example, parking in Yerushalayim. Now that is somewhat of an oxymoron. It is akin to saying Cubs and World Series in the same sentence or Chametz and Pesach or, get the idea! I am sure that the government pays people to take up all the parking spots in the city so that anyone who has no experience in FINDING a spot will be able to do so. In addition, you also can not get "there" from "here" in many cases. Ooops...this is the BUS LANE you fool...get out of this lane. Phew, at least I am in the turning lane awaiting the why is everyone honking? Poor individual that they are all honking at. Wait...they are honking at me! Turn...turn!!!!

Other than a couple of minor issues like this, it was very gratifying and simplifying to have this opportunity. I need to return the car today...but in Or Yehuda by the airport...where they DO indeed have parking places.

All this action has led Andy and me to FINALLY take the steps to get our driver's licenses. THAT is not an easy task considering the 103, 894 steps that are involved. More on that at a later date!

I hear through the grapevine that Pesach is on the way. It has been SO different this year for me as I am not in the throes of the prep I would have done in my role as rabbi. It is not "better" or "worse." It is just different....

Sunday, March 7, 2010


While the trip to the States of a week and a half ago, is very recent, I have been so busy since returning that it seems like I never even went away! I returned on a Wednesday, the next day was Taanit Esther, when I found myself in Jerusalem for a meeting already. Friday, we were very busy in the house getting it all ready to host a crew of some of my former students (which was a wonderful experience!). After Shabbat was Purim (see previous posts)...Monday we were in Jerusalem again (see previous posts)...and Tuesday, I hit the ground running working on the Netivot program that our company has taken over. This meant finding teachers for TWO locations (boys and girls); finding counselors, closing the deal with the host schools and on and on. This is going to be a HUGE project for me personally (overseeing the program and teaching in it as well), but it has the potential for being magnificent as well. I am very much looking forward to this. (Over the next three days, I have many follow up meetings, cirricula to finish building, people to speak to, etc etc). All of this is happening as I also work to stay in touch with those people with whom I met in the States. Oh, yeah, and PESACH is coming!

SO...time to get some sleep so I can face tomorrow's challenges all over again: BARUCH HASHEM! Life is truly grand....

Monday, March 1, 2010

Purim--Part II

The rest of OUR Purim (ie, the 14th of Adar) was outstanding. I spent the (rainy) morning and early afternoon, delivering a few Mishloach Manot and participating in two great "events." The first event was just outside the Bet Knesset...two HUGE speakers were set up and there was LITERALLY dancing in the streets for Purim. The sun came out just at the point we were dancing! As cars came by, their drivers either got out and joined in the dancing or had to wait a while to be able to pass. One Egged bus had trouble getting through as a throng of kids from Bnei Akiva were dancing around the bus; the driver did not seem to mind at all...he was smiling the entire time.

Then, came time for Mincha...silly me...I expected a regular Mincha. Silly Oleh Chadash! The nusach of Mincha went back and forth between tunes for Rosh Hashana, the Chagim, Rosh Chodesh and weekdays. (A Kaddish to the tune of "GESHEM" was also wonderful)...but during the Chazzan's repetition of Shemona Esray, we sang and danced to various parts, especially for the Bracha of "Boneh Yerushalayim" and for "Modim." It was a wild that I will remember for a long time.

Then, mid-afternoon, we joined three other families for Seudat Purim. We had a magnificent time! Great food, divrei Torah, a fun game played by the adults and the kids all added up to a wonderful end to a great day. Our first Purim in Israel DEFINITELY did not disappoint!

Today (Monday, the 15th of Adar and Shushan Purim), we went into Yerushalayim to go to my in-laws for THEIR Seudat Purim. Going on the buses, standing in the streets, listening to the sounds of the was Purim EVERYWHERE you looked!! All I can say is: "WOW!" It truly was a memorable stop...PESACH and ONE seder. More on that at a later time...