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...