Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Israel Day 15

With Chevron tomorrow, we needed to wrap up a few things here in town, getting last minute gifts for people and getting a few more odds and ends. After a late start we hit Meah Shearim hard for some last minute seforim and other goodies. The urge to load up on random Seforim was great, but I was able to resist knowing that we may already be overweight on the way back. Of note were the particularly funny hats we saw in one store there...

After quite a few hours of bumping around here and there we made our way back for a few hours of relaxing around the apartment. We were invited for dinner to a friend from back home (and wife) who grew up with me in Frederick and is now learning in the Mir. I particularly appreciate the fact that, regardless of how frum he is or how much he learns, he will not turn his back on where he came from or the people that helped him get to where he is today. He always wants to know what is going on in Frederick and always inquires about the Rabbi. He's a good man. There was an amazing amount of food at dinner and some great company; this dinner was sort of last minute and was definitely one of the pleasant surprises on the trip. Afterwards we met up a couple and their children from Baltimore who we are friendly with and shmoozed with them before heading home. Flying solo to Chevron tomorrow as the wife has already been and wants to spend some time around here tomorrow, and then we're heading out early Thursday morning. Time flies... :(

Israel Day 14

We wanted to get an early start to maximize the pool/beach time, so we arose pretty early and did what we needed to do to get to the pool at an early hour. Thankfully, the water was a bit cooler than the day before and offered relief from the 100-degree heat. We were able to get a good 4 hours in the office (I mean pool/beach) before needed to get ready to check out of our room.

PegLaz had smooth-talked the people at reception to push back our check-out time from 11am to 2pm, so we were able to maximize our UV intake. But, the bus wasn't coming until 3pm so we watched an amateurish fashion show taking place in the lobby. We finally got on the bus at 3 with perhaps the craziest bus driver in the world. I wouldn't drive a car like this man drove a bus...I swear he was SPEEDING UP around curves which were marked with signs saying "Dangerous Curve Ahead." But, he did save us 25 minutes, so who cares if he almost killed us all, right?

We caught a cab home with some filthy Arab cab driver who was listening to some Persian radio station. The song playing was perhaps the worst song I've ever heard; he told me she was wailing about the loss of her beloved. Oh yeah, and when I asked how long the song lasted, as it seemed to never end, he told me it was 1-our. If I didn't want to throw up after the bus ride, I surely did at this point.

After laying low for a few hours, PegLaz went out shopping with her sister, while I got together with a friend (yes, same friend) for a few beers at an Irish Pub in town. This bar was definitely the nicest I've seen in Israel and offered quite a nice selection of beers and the best selection of scotch I've seen in the Holy Land. I opted for 1/2 liters of Leffe Blonde and Guiness. We met up with PegLaz and sister for some Moshiko falael afterwards and caught a ride home. More Yerushalayim stuff tomorrow, then Chevron on Wednesday!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Parshas Eikev

וְהָיָה עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן, אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה, וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אתָם--וְשָׁמַר יְהוָה אֱלהֶיךָ לְךָ, אֶת-הַבְּרִית וְאֶת-הַחֶסֶד, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע, לַאֲבתֶיךָ.

"In the future, as a consequence of your heeding these laws, and your guarding and fulfilling them; Ad-noy, your G-d, will guard for you the covenant and the kindliness that He swore to your forefathers." (Sefer Devarim, 7:12)

Rashi: "If, even the lesser commandments which a person treads on with his heels, you will heed, [then He will keep his promise to you."

I was perusing Manny's Seforim shop in Meah Shearim and I stumbled across this 2-volume set on Chumash called the "Areshes Sifaseinu" by R' Eliyahu Schlesinger, the Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Gilo. In it he has "mussary" vorts on the Parsha, similar to the Imrei Barch that I laud and quote so frequently. R' Schlesinger offers the following insight on these verses:

Rashi's comment explaining the word "Eikev" referring to the Hebrew word, "heel", is puzzling as it seems that Rash is admitting that there are certain Mitzvos that are "lesser" than others. Can someone of Rashi's stature really claim that this is the case? Certainly, this statement begs further explanation.

The Hebrew in the text of Rashi translates "lesser commandments" as "Mitzvos haKallos". However, there is another version of Rashi that leaves out only one letter of this phrase and reads "Mitzvos Kallos". As it fits in with the rest of the (similar) Hebrew text of Rashi, removing the "Hey" changes the word "Kallos" from modifying "Mitzvos" to modifying "Adam/person." (yes, you must forgive that Kallos is feminine and plural, while Adam is singular and masculine) Thus, according to this version of Rashi, it isn't the commandments that are "Kallos", but rather, certain people; and with this, we answer our original question about Rashi's statement about "lesser commandments." However, what is this version of Rashi referring to when it discusses a people who are "Kallos"?

R' Schlesinger gives a mashul which explains this mindset nicely: regarding driving a vehicle on Shabbos, everyone knows that it is forbidden, as it is an outright violation of the Sabbath. These people know that if they were to drive on Shabbos their actions wouldn't be in accordance with Torah Judaism and they could no longer consider themselves "frum". However, there are many people that, while they would never consider driving on Shabbos, aren't so careful about the subtleties of Hilchos Borer, regardless of the fact that each act is a violation of one of the 39 prohibited activities on Shabbos. But, despite this fact, many people fail to hold these two prohibitions at an equal level. For some it may be a lack of knowledge, but there is at least a subset of people who have the knowledge, but, for whatever reason, view these Halachos as "Mitvos Kallos."

This is exactly what Rashi is explaining when he refers to people who are Kallos - they have the aforementioned mindset. And, while that mindset is horrible, it only festers and worses over the generations. Children who grow up seeing their parents violate Halachos that they are learning in school are witnessing a type of Yiddishkeit where corners can be cut. Sure, this Jew would never drive on Shabbos, but as more and more generations grow up with this attitude, what was once black and white may (chas v'shalom) become gray. This reminds me of an argument I was in recently with a friend. He lives in a town where many people get together for a "Shabbos softball game." The Rabbi of the town, upon hearing about this, sent out an e-mail to the congregations informing them of all of the potential Shabbos prohibitions that one can violate by participating in such a game and urged that the game be cut from the Shabbos agendas of many. Many people viewed the Rabbis actions as silly; after all, who was going to listen to him? I asked my friend if the Rabbi would be right to send out the e-mail if he knew that his Shomer Shabbos congregants were driving on Shabbos, to which he answered in the affirmative. The point I tried to make to him was that just because in the eyes of some certain prohibitions are on a lower level than others doesn't mean that this was the case in the eyes of the Rabbis who codified Halacha as we know it.

Israel Day 13

While I'm not always one that needs to experience new things, especially in Israel, to have a good time, most of what we've done so far are things that we did on our trip to Israel last time. However, we wanted to change things up a bit and go somewhere that neither of us had been in a while...the Dead Sea.

We got a late start to the day (a lot of late starts, huh?) since check-in wasn't until 3pm, and we caught a 1pm bus to Ein Bokek. With some of my boxing-out skills at their finest, I was able to secure us a couple of seats on the ride that would take over 2 hours, despite the fact that we were at the end of the line. I kind of felt bad for the people that had to stand the whole ride, but not bad enough to give up my seat. Anyway, the ride took entirely too long due to a lot of annoying stops along the way and people who take 30 years to get their luggage off from underneath the bus. Finally, a little after 3pm, we arrived. Now, we didn't have too much planned for this little overnight aside from relaxing at the pool and at the Dead Sea beach, so we got right to it.

Unfortunately, the pool water was very warm; a little too warm to find enjoyable, so we quickly made our way over the beach. I was expecting the water to be warm, but not the (literally) 95 degrees that the water was. It literally felt like getting into a hot tub...but there was something about the whole setting that made the beach much more bearable than the pool. The water, albeit hot, was very calm and I just laid on my back, at the mercy of the salty water, for a good while. We were able to catch a good 3-4 hours of sun before we had to call it a night. Too lazy to make the 3km trip to the mall, we opted to eat in at the hotel; one of these all-you-can-eat buffet things. Being that we hadn't really eaten lunch that day and, well, the fact that it was all-you-can-eat led to a large quantity of great food consumed by the both of us and neither of us being able to move from our chairs for about 30 minutes after finishing. After finally prying ourselves from the dinner table, we retreated to our room where we watched most of the IBL all-star game.

To end off the night we took a little walk on the beach before being overcome by the 90 degree weather, despite the fact that it was after 11pm. More on day 2 of our outing in the next post....

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Israel Day 11/12

Friday was a pretty busy day...after getting a late start, PegLaz decided to stay in to help her sister cook for Shabbos. I ventured out to do some shopping for some friends that were coming in to Israel too late to do any pre-Shabbos shopping. Nothing too out of the ordinary except for the funny "artwork" I saw on an electrical box in Emek Refaim. I shlepped the stuff over to their apartment in Maalot Dafna and spent some time in their well-air-conditioned apartment.

Upon coming home, I got a call from my friend who asked if I wanted to go to "Lifta", some sort of mineral spring just outside of Yerushalayim. Apparently many people go their for a pre-Shabbos dip. After a 10 minute hike down to the spring (don't ever let anyone tell you that Crocs are acceptable hiking shoes), we jumped in the spring, which was FREEZING, yet refreshing. All was well there except for the plethora of Yeshiva boys in their tighty-whiteys (sorry for the visual). From there, I got home just in time to shave and shower for the onset of Shabbos.

It's interesting how they work the beginning of Shabbos in shuls here. Light Bentching is 40 minutes before Shkiya (7:05 this past week), and this is when the women lit candles. Somehow, however, in Shul they still davened Mincha at 7:35. Maybe the men specifically aren't Mekabel Shabbos with their wives' lighting, or maybe it's not Tarte D'Sasrei as it appears to me. Interesting. Anyway, dinner was at our friends down the road (you probably think that since I keep referring to everyone as "friends", I have a lot of them - it's really the same 4 people ever time) and very nice. Again, the Jerusalem evening weather made for some nice walking on the way back. Shul the next morning was nice, followed by lunch here at my sister-in-law's. Some interesting discussion about the state of Israel and those who make Aliyah, etc. Again, our friends' daughter was the star of the show.

Learned, read, and slept in the afternoon. Mincha and Maariv; nothing too out of the ordinary there. After Shabbos we got a call to see if we wanted to go to the Old City, and considering we didn't have any other plans (and it's the Old City) we went. We met some friends there and took some nice pictures by the Kotel, but a minor misplacement of the camera left us taking pictures with someone else's camera (thus, no pictures yet). We hung around by the Kotel and in the Old City before opting to walk the 35-minute distance from the Old City to Maalot Dafna for some Melava Malka. Ate some (cheeseless) pizza, shmoozed, and finally called it a night around 1:30. Dead Sea today and tomorrow....will post about it when we get back.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Israel Day 10

Day 10 wasn't too terribly exciting as we were pretty beat from the previous day in Tel Aviv. We got a late start to the day and decided to do some shopping in town for some gifts. Of note, we're super excited to give our nephew his Elmo kippa. Supposedly he's been wearing his father's kippa...if you know his father, you'd know that it's too big for the little guy. Anyway, aside from that, we were fairly unsuccessful in the gift-buying department.

From there, dinner was at Burgers Bar, something we had been craving since our arrival, but had to be delayed due to the 9 days. Anyway, Burgers Bar came through in the clutch for us once again, although the amount of oil on the "chips" was a bit nauseating. Ahh, it's vacation, who cares...

In the evening we went out with a good friend to shoot some pool. The mall in Talpiyot that we went to was pretty nasty, but surprisingly the pool was quite nice. After playing for about an hour or so, we went back to his placeand hung around with him and their adorable little daughter. Things were pretty calm until we busted out the bottle of scotch that I brought along with me. I managed to hold my own pretty well, but my buddy hadn't eaten anything since lunch, so he was our comedy for the evening. I have an incriminating video of him that I will keep as blackmail, being that I'm not quite mean enough to post it here on the blog...

All in all, we are having a fabulous time. The weather is a bit hot during the day, but the evenings make for absolutely gorgeous strolls. I'll report about Shabbos tomorrow...thanks for reading.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Parshas Vaeschanan

אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר, בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן: הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנן.

"Please, allow me to cross over and see the good land that is across the Yardein, this good mountain and the Lebanon." (Sefer Devarim, 3:25)

Rabbi Simla’i expounded: Why did Moshe our teacher wish to enter Eretz Yisrael? Did he need to eat of its fruit or fill himself of its goodness? Rather, Moshe said: “Many mitzvot have been commanded to Israel which cannot be fulfilled but in Eretz Yisrael; I will enter in order to fulfill them all.” (Sotah 14a)

It is understood from R' Simla'i's statement that Moshe Rabbeinu didn't want to go into Eretz Yisrael to eat the fruit. This, however, is difficult to understand by virtue of the fact that in the Bracha Achrona that we eat after certain foods we praise Hashem for giving our forefathers the land so that we can "eat of its fruit and be filled of its goodness." How can we say that Moshe Rabbeinu didn't want to enter to eat the fruit, yet it something that we explicity praise Hashem for? Furthermore, the Bach comments that fruits from Israel have a certain level of Kedusha because they get nourishment from the holy land of Israel. Surely this is something that Moshe would've wanted to merit.

R' Menachem Ziemba answers in a fascinating way, by explaining that Moshe Rabbeinu was on such a level that he didn't need to eat. Of course, he did eat, but only so that he shouldn't appear too different from everyone else and the way they are by nature. Therefore, since he didn't need to eat he didn't have the urge to go in to taste the fruit. However, R' Ziemba concludes by saying that by everyone else who, of course, needed to eat, they did go in order to "eat of its fruit and be filled of its goodness." Thus, it makes sense that we, beings that need and enjoy food, praise Hashem for giving the land to our forefathers for the aforementioned reasons.

It's not hard to find things to complain about when talking about Israel. Yes, the government sucks. Yes, the people aren't always the friendliest. Yes, many people replace Yahadut with Zionism. I could go on and on. But, as everyone will probably agree, there's something about this place that there is to love and that brings me back, even when spending thousands of dollars isn't in our best financial interest. One can't help feeling something different when in Israel. For some, it's the Kotel. For some, it's Masada. However, we learn from this that it doesn't have to be a religious landmark or a beautiful view; it can be something as simple as eating the fruit of the land.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Israel Day 9

Above is a video that I took at yesterday's baseball game in Tel Aviv.

Israel Day 9

Today was by far the busiest of our trip so far. One of my good friends plays in the Israeli Baseball League and we really wanted to come show him support and watch some good baseball, so the trip was originally cenetered around that. Being as the game we were to see was in Tel Aviv, we planned on doing a couple other things that we wanted to do in the area anyway.

We took a Sheirut to Tel Aviv in the morning, and since the game didn't start until 5pm, we had some time to kill in the morning/early afternoon. What better way to spend the time then going to the beach? Aside from the annoying Israeli teengaers, the beach was pretty nice and the water was warm. We thought we were going to last hours at the beach, but being 95 with not a cloud in the sky, we wilted a lot quicker than we expected. We walked around a little before heading over to the game, and we saw one of those games that you see in the arcade where you need to position the little claw in order to get a prize. Now, in most arcades the prize is usually some sort of stuffed animals - leave it to Israel to have packs of cigarettes in there with the toys (see picture)!

We made it to the field at Park haYarkon (Sportek; click here to see all of the pictures I took at the games) well before the 5pm first pitch was called for. It just so happened that they were playing a double header that day and we were able to catch the last couple innings of that game, with Netanya winning 7-3 and my friend getting intentionally walked. It was definitely an interesting atmosphere there; hearing Hebrew-speaking children running around; seeing the heart of downtown Tel Aviv in the surrounding area...all while watching the American pastime: baseball. Overall, the talent was very good: the defense was stellar, the hitting average, and the pitching very competitive. This was by far the highlight of the trip so far for me; watching the game that I grew up loving and continue to do so in the land that I have come to love over the years.

The second game was close most of the way, with the Tigers unable to capitalize on many scoring opportunities. However, Tel Aviv took advantage of some suspect defense, wild pitching, and a few big swings to bust the game open in the 6th to go on to win 12-1. I was able to see my friend play in both games, and he made a great catch in the 2nd game that the umpire called a non-catch (BOO!) and almost made an amazing diving grab in the 6th inning diving into the outfield fence. The ball was in his glove but the impact with the fence jarred it loose. To add injury to insult (pun intended), he had a gash on his cheek and required a few stitches on his lip due to the force of the impact. But, I spoke to him tonight and he's all taken care of and in good spirits. I was looking forward to him eating dinner with us at some friends of ours in Givat Shmuel, but being he had to go to the hospital, he was unable to join us.

Our friend met us at the game and drove us back to his place, which took forever due to crazy amounts of traffic which were exacerbated by the current strike going on in Israel. We finally arrived at their place and sat down to an amazing MEAT dinner, the first non-Shabbos meat meal since the start of the 9 days. It was great to see them and spend time with them and it seems like only yesterday that we spent Shabbos with them, even though it was a full year ago. After schmoozing for a while, it was time to wind this day down with a bus-ride back to Yerushalayim.

We finally got on a bus after waiting for about 30 minutes and PegLaz took a seat while I paid the driver. Of course, in the meantime, all of the seats filled up so I spent the bus ride sitting on the floor (see picture for my view of the bus). That wouldn't have been SO bad had it not been for the many-mile backup approaching Yerushalayim due to some construction work....Tel Aviv to Yerushalayim in about 90 minutes...yikes. After taking a cab home and settling in, we both realized that we were zonked and that we both got some serious sun burn. Tomorrow will be a much lighter day with some laundry and other errands to take care of...what a day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Israel Day 7 / 8

I'm sure many of you would spend your Tisha B'av differently if you were here in Israel, but, considering I generally fast horribly, mine was thoroughly uneventful. Overall, it wasn't too horrible, and I like to attribute this to the advice I was given last year to eat grapes before a fast. I've done this a couple of times and so far, so good. But, I still would've liked to have enough Koach to have been able to walk around the walls of the Old City, as I heard many do.

Went to a shul here in Katemone before coming back, doing a little reading, then learning Hilchos Tisha B'av with my brother-in-law for a couple of hours. Shul again this morning followed by a nice 4 hour nap that took me right until Chatzos. From then until the end of the fast was sleep, reading, sleep, reading...you get the idea. Again, I wish I had the power to do more with the day but if this is what the Rabbis want, this is what I'm gonna have to do. Oh well.

Break fast and the evening was uneventful...we have a long day ahead of us tomorrow. Tel Aviv beach in the morning/afternoon, followed by an IBL game in Tel Aviv in the evening, followed by dinner with a couple of friends in Givat Shmuel.

No pictures today...didn't think you'd want to see any pics of need-to-be-shaven, lethargic looking people. Should have some good ones tomorrow night.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Israel Day 6 / 7

I was hesitant to give this poor person money, knowing that it may very well go towards more pool toys...

We were lucky enough to get a ride back from the Shomron, which sure beats taking the bus. The gentleman who drove us back made Aliyah some 15 years ago and was involved with MDA and Hatzoloh in addition to being involved with a political party...oh yeah, and 7 kids. Interesting guy...and a scotch drinker, too!

After unpacking our stuff and some R&R (hey, we're on vacation) we headed to Beitar for the afternoon to visit one of PegLaz's friends from high school who subsequently moved to Israel. Her husband is a Bostoner Chassid and wears the whole garb, yet is a very, very normal guy and we've always gotten along very well, despite obvious differences. They have 3 kids (pictured) who are very cute and who, to their parents dismay, speak English like a bunch of Israelis. We spent a couple of hours there catching up with all that had been going on since our previous visit last summer then headed back to Yerushalayim.

It just happened that the Beitar bus dropped us off at Malcha mall, so we walked around there for a while. They had a couple of small artist booths there which had some neat stuff....aside from that (and the half-naked women), it's a regular mall. I'm always amazed at the amount of Arabs that I see at the mall and on Ben Yehuda. Funny how they can come into our hood no problem, but if we were to try to go into a mall in Nablus I have a feeling we wouldn't be as successful. Dinner was at Tal Bagel and while it was good, we're anxiously awaiting the end of the 9 Days so we can at the many meat restaurants around. I hear that there's Burgers Bar at the IBL games, so maybe we'll hit that up Wednesday night.

Just ran some errands up and down Yaffo St. today, picking up presents, food for the fast, a Talis bag, etc. 90 degrees and not a cloud in the sky pretty much every day here, so my tan is in full-effect. Tisha B'av tonight, and I hear many people walk around the entire Old City, which, in theory, sounds like a great idea, yet in practice probably isn't so smart, considering I don't fast too well. Looking forward to shaving, that's for sure.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Israel Day 3

Nothing too wild to report today. Finally woke up at a normal hour today, so at least that was good. PegLaz wanted to get the true Erev Shabbos shopping experience, so she went out with her sister, while I headed to the Kotel to learn a little and write a D'var Torah. Of course, just as I get to the Kotel they wouldn't let anyone in because of a Chafetz Chashud/suspicious object. Couldn't have been too suspicious, considering they let the hundreds of people by the Kotel continue on with their business...whatever...

After relaxing a bit in the apartment we went out to properly scan all of the fun stores in Emek Refaim, of which there are many. Of course, as pictured, my favorite store was the wine and liquor store. I hocked scotch and wine with the nice gentleman there...liquor is at least 4x more expensive in Israel than it is in America...yes...my entrepreneurial gears are winding in my head...Anyway, there are so many fun little shops here with cool and not-so-expensive stuff; we didn't get to see all of it last year as we were staying on the other side of the city.

Dinner tonight was at the apartment with the sister- and brother-in-law and it was good to sit around and shmooze with them. Afterwards, we took a nice, long, stroll around the neighborhood and as much as we tried to get lost, we always seemed to end up in the same place. That's all for today. Shabbos in Karnei Shomron (Nivei Aliza) with the Feiglin's....more on Motzei Shabbos.

Can someone please explain the humor in this please? Something got lost in translation....

Parshas Devarim

יְהוָה אֱלהֵינוּ דִּבֶּר אֵלֵינוּ, בְּחרֵב לֵאמר: רַב-לָכֶם שֶׁבֶת, בָּהָר הַזֶּה. פְּנוּ וּסְעוּ לָכֶם, וּבאוּ הַר הָאֱמרִי וְאֶל-כָּל-שְׁכֵנָיו, בָּעֲרָבָה בָהָר וּבַשְּׁפֵלָה וּבַנֶּגֶב, וּבְחוֹף הַיָּם--אֶרֶץ הַכְּנַעֲנִי וְהַלְּבָנוֹן, עַד-הַנָּהָר הַגָּדֹל נְהַר-פְּרָת.

"Ad-noy, our G-d, addressed us at Choreiv, saying, "Enough of your living at this mountain! Turn and travel for yourselves and arrive at the Emorite hill [region] and at all its neighbors---on the plain, on the mountain, and in the lowland, and in the Negev, and on the seacoast; the land of the Canaanites and the Lebanon, up to the great river, the Euphrates River." (Devarim, 1:6-7)

Rashi (s.v. "Rav"): "According to its plain meaning [it refers to the extended length of time]; but there is an Aggadic interpretation: You have received much fame and reward as a result of your having dwelt on this mountain--- you constructed the Mishkan, the Menorah and [various other sacred] articles, you received the Torah, you appointed a Sanhedrin for yourselves, officers in charge of hundreds and officers of thousands."

Rashi, quoting the Medrash, tells us that Hashem was praising the Jewish people for all that they had accomplished at Har Sinai and its surroundings. They received the Torah, served in the Mishkan, etc, and they had, therefore, been at this place long enough. One would think that after Hashem explains all of the noteworthy, holy, things that the Jews accomplished during their tenure at Har Sinai, he would continue with Inyanim that would be befitting of such a holy nation. However, the following Pasuk explains that the Jews are to travel to Har haEmori, hardly a place befitting of such a holy nation.

Rav Aharon Baksht (1869-1941) explains, to answer this question, that one may have thought that it wasn't proper for such a holy nation to dwell amongst the other nations of the world. However, we see from the fact that this pasuk follows the one explaining the merits of Israel that this isn't the case; the Torah and the Jewish people are for every single person in every single place. The Jews weren't meant to live in solitude in the desert forever; rather, they were meant to share that which they had gained in their experiences at Har Sinai with the world around them.

Each of us excel at different things. We shouldn't think that because there are no or few others that excel at whatever it is that we should be reserved and hold back these attributes. Of course, one shouldn't be haughty either, but we learn from these verses that we are obligated to take those things that which we excel at and take them out into the world and use them to influence others.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Israel Day 2

I'll start off this post by stating that the whole "not sleeping the night before your flight so that you'll sleep on the plane" idea is a dumb one. Now, combine that with the facts that we slept with the Trissim down and we didn't set an alarm, and you'll sleep until 1:15pm, like we did. I don't think I've slept that late in probably 10 years. Anyway, we weren't too pleased when we saw what time it was, and needless to say the Trissim are going to be up tonight.

Anyway, after getting a late start we headed to Meah Shearim and Geulah for a few hours to shop around and admire the scenery. The place never seems to change...I guess they like it like that. There is a Kiddush cup that I've wanted; one that the Rizhiner Rebbe uses; the top is shaped like an apple and has the little leaf on top, and the stem looks like an windy vine with leaves...damn near the coolest thing ever. I had once seen it during my time in Yeshiva, but hadn't seen it since. To my delight, I found it today at a random store in Meah Shearim, and it took some serious threats from PegLaz to dissuade me from buying it...oh well...it wasn't exactly 50 shekel...

We came back to the pad here in Katemone for a little R&R before heading out to dinner with some friends at Tal Bagel in Emek Refaim. It was an excellent meal, and we visited with them at their apartment afterwards, with the highlight of the visit being constant requests from their daughter for "more beer." Oh, and she was going crazy about her new pink Crocs. Gotta get em' young.

Going to learn tomorrow at the Kotel, followed by some sort of touristy (but not too expensive) in the afternoon, and we may catch an IBL game in the evening. If not...perhaps the mall? Who knows. We're going to hit Chevron for a day (I've never been) and perhaps go to the Dead Sea for a couple of days. Any other ideas? We're open to suggestions...

Oh yeah, how hard is it to find someone that knows how to spell "sweet". Maybe with the Yiddishe teitsch it should be spelled like that...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Israel Day 1

Let me start out by saying that the whole "let's not get a good night sleep the night before the flight so that we're able to sleep during the flight" idea isn't as smart as it sounds. Inevitably, like us, you won't sleep on the flight and you'll find yourself out two nights of sleep. To make things worse our names were left off of the Glatt Kosher list, so we were worried we wouldn't get food. However, I was surprised when the gentleman sitting in front and in back of us offered up their dinners. I figured they would offer up their breakfasts as well and my curisoity peaked when they didn't. And then, it hit me....they gave up their dinners because it was the 1st of Av and obviously, we shouldn't have been eating meat. They probably thought I was such a Kofer....great start to the 9 days.

Anyway, we were disastrously tired when we arrived, and we immediately went to sleep for a while when we arrive to my sister-in-law's place in Katemone. After ripping ourselves out of bed we did the mandatory Ben Yehuda/Old City/Kotel stops with (obviously) an ice coffee at each. We ran into some people along the way that we knew so that was nice; this aspect of the trips to Israel never ceases to amaze me. Ate bagels back at the pad in Katemone for dinner, and just bummed around after that, waiting for the time that it would be "acceptable" to go to sleep. We don't have a set itinerary for our time here, which is how we like it, but we'd like to check out my friend play in an IBL game and perhaps the Dead Sea for a couple of days. Who knows....

As a last little tidbit, we started seeing stickers for Moshe Feiglin around town, who's running against Netanyahu in the upcoming elections for head of the Likud. I've been a fan of his for sometime, and spent many Shabbosim with his family when I was in yeshiva. We will be spending Shabbos by him this week and I figure there will be plenty to talk about...

And lastly...how did "Stop Snitching" make its way to Israel?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Off to Israel...

We're heading off to Israel tomorrow. Many people seem to think it's a bummer going during the 9 days. However, for me, who has trouble connecting to this period of time, it is the most apropos way to spend this period of the 9 Days. I hope to blog somewhat regularly (like last year), but that depends on computer access.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Parshas Matos / Masei 5767

נְקם, נִקְמַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֵת, הַמִּדְיָנִים; אַחַר, תֵּאָסֵף אֶל-עַמֶּיךָ.

"Take revenge for Bnei Yisroel against the Midianites, afterward, you shall be gathered to your people" (Sefer Bamidbar, 31:2)

Chazal tell us that the phrase, "gathered to your people" refers to the death of Moshe. Thus, Hashem commands Moshe to fight Midian and is instructed that after this war he will die. Many Meforshim/commentators wonder why, of all things, Moshe's death was talui/dependent and/or related to the battle against Midian. Why, only following this war, will it be the proper time for Moshe's death?

R' Yaakov Yitzchak Ruderman, founder of Ner Israel, answered with that which the Vilna Gaon says regarding a Gemara in Yoma. The Gemara there (69b) basically says that when the Yetzer Hara no longer yearns for Avodah Zarah, prophecy will cease within the Jewish people. Obviously, this statement is astonishing. You would think the Jewish people would be rewarded when their Yetzer Haras were free of the longing for idol warship. If that's the case, why does it seem that we are punished for this by taking away prophecy from us? The Vilna Goan answers that as long as this longing for non-Jewish idol warship is in the world, we need a combating force to produce a state of equilibrium (in this case, Nevuah/prophecy). However, at a time when the negative force goes away there is no need for the combating positive force.

R' Yaakov Yitzchak says the same applies in our Parsha as well. As long as the impurity that stemmed from Billam (which includes Midian) remains in the world there is the need for the combating force, which, in this case, was Moshe Rabbeinu. However, when the Midianites were smitten, we no longer needed our opposing force that was Moshe Rabbeinu, and this is why the death of Moshe was specifically dependent on the battle with Midian.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Parshas Pinchas 5767

To read last year's Dvar Torah, CLICK HERE.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה, עֲלֵה אֶל-הַר הָעֲבָרִים הַזֶּה; וּרְאֵה, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָתַתִּי, לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל. וְרָאִיתָה אֹתָהּ, וְנֶאֱסַפְתָּ אֶל-עַמֶּיךָ גַּם-אָתָּה, כַּאֲשֶׁר נֶאֱסַף, אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ.

"Ad-noy said to Moshe: "Go up this Avarim Mountain and look at the land that I have given to Bnei Yisroel. You shall see it and you shall be gathered unto your people, you, too, as Aaron your brother was gathered in.” (Sefer Bamidbar, 27: 12-13)

Rashi (s.v. Ka’asher): From here we derive that Moshe yearned for a death such as Aharon's.

It is unclear what exactly it was about Aharon’s death that Moshe Rebbeinu wanted for himself. We know that both of them died with Hashem’s “kiss”, so what else could it have been that he wanted? Further, the words “gam atah/you too” in verse 13 appear superfluous; if the beginning of the verse tell us that he would be “gathered unto [his] people, why add, “you too”, again?

The Kesav Sofer answers these questions in light of that which his father, the Chasam Sofer, says about a verse in Malachim Aleph. There (2, 2-3), King David is talking to his son, Solomon, right before his death, saying, “I am going the way of all the earth (Anochi holeich baderech); be strong and become a man. Safeguard the charge of Hashem…” The Chasam Sofer questions why David started his instructions to his son with the, seemingly unrelated, fact that he’s “going the way of all the earth.” Seemingly, he should’ve started with, “be strong…”(?)

He answers that in life, one is considered a “holeich/one that is going”, because the purpose of life is to constantly ascend from one madreiga to another. However, once a person dies, he/she can obviously no longer attain higher spiritual heights, so that person is no longer considered a “holeich”. Chazal, however, teach us that this isn’t totally true; when one has a child like him/herself, the parent is still able to be considered a “holeich”, even posthumously. Since the parent had an integral part of raising the child and molding the child into the person that they now are, they continue to get some of the credit for the positive actions of the child. This is precisely why David started out his request to Solomon by pointing out that he is a “holeich”; he was, in a way, instructing him that he should continue to act righteously after his father dies, so David could continue to be considered a “holeich” well after he dies.

With this, the Kesav Sofer says, we can understand the aforementioned questions we have in our Parsha. Aharon had merited a son that was of a similar stature to himself – Eliezer. However, Moshe did not. This is what Rashi means to tell us when he says that Moshe wanted a death similar to Aharons; just as Aharon, through his righteous son, could continue to be a “holeich”, Moshe wanted a son through which he could continue to be considered a “holeich” after his death. To this, Hashem adds in the seemingly superfluous words of “Gam atah”, to console Moshe by telling him that “also [he]” would be like his brother Aharon in this regard. How would this be so….through his star pupil Yehoshua. Moshe was to mold and raise Yehoshua into a great leader in the same way that a parent raises a child.

The responsibility of raising children and molding them into good people is of utmost importance. Not only is this the case because we want them to succeed, but it is through their merits that we will continue to attain spiritual heights even after we move on. A parent should always be questioning whether or not the things and/or behaviors that they are exposing their children to are ones that are productive or, G-d forbid, destructive.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Best Video EVER

Enough said.