Monday, August 30, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
The greatest revelations are to be found not in meditation, study and prayer, but in the mundane world --but only if you would rather be meditating, studying and praying.
The chassid Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai was a lifelong oved, one who devotes himself to the service of his Creator by perfecting his character and behavior and striving to attain a true love and awe of the Almighty through meditation and prayer. For decades, he deprived himself of all physical comforts in order to refine his nature. Before his passing, however, he expressed regret at having weakened his body with such an unrelenting regimen. Perhaps, had he not been so hard on himself, he would have lived to observe even one more mitzvah. "Thirty years to sleep on a bench!" he said. "To put on tefillin one more time is far more valuable than to sleep on a bench for thirty years!"
Later, chassidim said: "True. But to appreciate the value of tefillin as Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai did, one must first sleep on a bench for thirty years…"
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Trusting in the One Above doesn’t mean waiting for miracles.
It means having confidence in what you are doing right now--because you know He has put you on the right path and will fill whatever you do with energy and blessing from on high.
Sometimes you see that things have been taken out of your hands and are following a supernatural order. At this point, just do your best at what you have to do --and stay out of G-d’s way.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Monday, August 23, 2010
Words that send me singing with gratitude and joy.
I wanted him to know that there was no intent of insult or offense coming from ME.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Posted by Ronelle Grier, Chabad.edu
When Rabbi Fishel and Esther Cohen came to Birmingham, England, in 1984, neither had any idea what the future would hold.
He, a young Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi fresh out of school, had been asked to become the area’s first full-time university chaplain for the Midlands Region, providing religious and pastoral support to Jewish students attending universities in Birmingham, Warwick, Woverhampton, Derby, Coventry, Loughborough, Leicester and Nottingham. She, barely 20 years old, faced her own challenges in building a home and Jewish center far from her family in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Among the roadblocks was confronting a dearth of kosher facilities; running out of staples such as milk or bread was not an option.
“I was determined to make it work,” said Esther Cohen, who with her husband directs campus activities. “I learned how to plan in advance, and the community was very welcoming.”
Ask locals, and they’ll tell you that over the last 25 years, the Cohens have done more than “make it work.” Together, they’ve touched the lives of thousands of students, many of whom still regard the couple as friends.
More than 200 students, alumni, colleagues, friends and family members came out to show their support at a dinner held earlier this year. Sponsored by the Midlands Region Chaplaincy Board, the event honored the Cohens’ quarter-century of service.
Speaking after the dinner, Esther Cohen said that from day one, they focused on finding ways to help Jewish students, many of whom were away from home for the first time, cope with the various challenges of university life. They sought to establish innovative programs and activities with the goal of building a sense of community.
“We were always arranging events,” she related. “Our goal was to create a home away from home. Students would come to us when they were panicking about exams. Sometimes they would knock on our door at midnight to borrow some milk.”
Mendy Cohen, one of the couple’s four sons, compared the constant bustle of his childhood home in England to Grand Central Station in New York City, where he now resides.
“There were always students around,” he said. “It was like a second home to many of them.”
It wasn’t uncommon for the Cohens to prepare enough food for a Shabbat dinner for 20 guests when, without warning, 40 would show up.
“My mother would just make more salads and put up more tables,” said Cohen.
Esther Cohen started teaching and later earned a degree in counseling. In addition to assisting Fishel Cohen with his chaplaincy duties, she also serves as head of religious education at the King David School and runs her own clinic, Kadimah Counseling Service. She said that the research she conducted as part of her course work on the psychological needs of Jewish students was invaluable.
“It gave us both a very strong awareness of what students need,” she said. “There is a skill in working with them and not telling them what to do.”
Over the years, the Cohens’ programs ran the gamut of themes. In addition to their weekly Shabbat dinners and holiday events, they continue to host open houses during exam season, inviting students to drop in between study sessions for a home-cooked meal. Among their new projects is “Esther’s Café,” a group of 50 students who gather at a local Hillel House for a regular address by an educational speaker.
“We aim to create a new event every term,” said Cohen. “We’ve had camping trips. Fishel drove a mini bus filled with students to Scotland. It was a lot of fun.”
Holly Kilim, who attended Birmingham University from 2004 to 2009, met the Cohens during her third year of medical school.
“Until that point I wasn’t really involved in the Jewish scene at the university,” said Kilim, who now lives in Boston with her husband, Daniel Broniatowski. “With their warm hearts and non-judgmental attitude they both created a loving and nurturing environment for me to learn and grow, both Jewishly and personally. I will always remember Fishel coming to kosher the kitchen in my apartment, at my request, and the image of him standing there holding a blow torch to my kitchen taps.”
Kilim and her fiancé studied with the Cohens for several weeks before their wedding in London. Fishel Cohen officiated at the ceremony.
“I always thought that it was endearing, the way they referred to this time as ‘learning with us,’ rather than teaching us,” said Kilim. “I think this is a perfect example of the way they approach their work, not from the top down, but from an equal footing that they share with everyone.”
Louise Weinberg, a Birmingham student in 1995, has fond memories of all-night cooking sessions and lively holiday meals.
“I saw them open their home 24/7 to all who wanted or needed, and their home became my home,” said Weinberg, who lives in Manchester, but still maintains a close relationship with the couple. “When I recently gave birth to twins at 29 weeks, they drove through the night to be by the hospital.”
From their vantage point in the Midlands, the Cohens have witnessed Jewish life change in this corner of England. The Jewish student population, which was about 200 when they arrived, has grown to more than 2,000. To accommodate their growing needs, Fishel Cohen, who acts as a student advocate with administrations, fought to bring kosher food to Birmingham and Nottingham.
For his part, he said that he tries to visit as many students as possible in order to reach the unaffiliated. Esther Cohen, meanwhile, is a regular in the student library during midterms, distributing packages of homemade chocolate cake with “good luck” tags attached.
And they still deal with the age-old problems of homesickness and pre-exam jitters. The economy, they asserted, has only placed more pressure on students.
“It used to be that you got a degree and were fairly certain to get a job,” said Cohen. “Now even a degree from a good school doesn’t guarantee that.”
Looking to the future, she predicted that Jewish life in the area would continue to grow.
“Life is unpredictable,” she said, “but we hope to carry on and keep growing. The more we give, the more we get back. We’re so full of energy, we want to expand.”
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
So that's that.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
by Maayana Miskin (Israelnationalnews.com)
The IDF has taken the unusual step of revealing to the press the precise location of Hizbullah hideouts in southern Lebanon. A Northern Command officer showed an Associated Press reporter the Hizbullah outposts visible from the Lebanon border.
Many outposts are hidden in civilian areas - but one actually takes shelter in a home for mentally handicapped children in the southern Lebanon village of Aita al-Shaab.
IDF officials also pointed out weapons warehouses, some of which are located in civilian homes.
Hizbullah limits access to southern Lebanon, and often follows those journalists who are allowed into the area to ensure that they do not reveal sensitive information. United Nations troops tasked with patrolling the area say they are unable to confirm or deny the IDF's accusations, as they are not permitted to search private property.
However, explosions in southern Lebanon in 2009 indicate that Hizbullah has in fact continued storing weapons and rockets in civilian villages.
Israel's willingness to share intelligence about Hizbullah activity is seen as a preemptive measure in case of conflict with Hizbullah or Lebanon. Israel was widely condemned for Lebanese civilian deaths during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. By warning in advance that Hizbullah is using civilians as shields, Israeli officials are apparently hoping to prove that the terrorist group is to blame for any future civilian deaths.
The sharing of intelligence may also serve as a warning to Hizbullah that Israel knows the locations of its weapons caches and battle stations, and is prepared to take them out quickly in case of an open war.
The IDF's open approach follows an exchange of fire between Israeli and Lebanese soldiers on the northern border two weeks ago. Lebanese troops opened fire as Israeli workers pruned a tree on the Israeli side of the international border; they later claimed that the tree was located on Lebanon's side of the border.
IDF Major-General Gadi Eisenkot concluded that the incident was “a planned ambush” on the IDF. One Israeli soldier and four Lebanese were killed in the clash.
Monday, August 16, 2010
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Told by Rabbi Baruch Rabinovitch of Munkacs, father of the present Munkacser Rebbe, about his late father-in-law, Rabbi Chaim Elazar Spira (1871-1937), known as the "Minchat Elazar." [As is usually the case on my blog, the title links to the source of the posted material]
For a period of time, Reb Baruch and his wife lived in Warsaw. Later, when the Minchat Elazar became ill, he begged them to come back to Munkacs, in Czechoslovakia, which they did.
Rabbi Baruch had a son named Tzvi Nosson Dovid. Baruch would often recall that his father-in-law loved this boy—the Minchat Elazar's dear grandchild—in an "exaggerated way," in part due to the fact that they had waited a long time to have that first child. He would play with and "spoil" the child, and Tzvi would sit on his grandfather's lap at the Shabbat gatherings.
In the final year of his life, the Minchat Elazar took the shofar on the first day of the month of Elul and tested it to see whether it was in good condition. Tzvi was in the room and was visibly excited by the shofar and its sounds.
He asked his zeide (grandfather) for one more blast, and his zeide gladly obliged. From then on, for the remainder of the month, this became a ritual; the Rebbe blowing the shofar once each day for little Tzvi. On the day before Rosh Hashanah, Tzvi was there, awaiting his daily blast, but he was disappointed.
"Today is the day before Rosh Hashanah," his grandfather explained. "Today we do not blow the shofar. Tomorrow morning, we will blow the shofar in the synagogue."
The child did not comprehend the reasons. He knew no reason. He kicked and screamed, "Just one blast! Just one blast!"
After a while, the grandfather softened at the sound of his favorite grandchild crying, and he took the shofar and blew one blast.
On Rosh Hashanah, the custom in Munkacs was that the Rebbe spoke before blowing the shofar. That year, the Rebbe went up before the ark, opened it and said: "Master of the Universe, I have to repent. It's written that on the day before Rosh Hashanah one mustn't blow shofar, yet I did."
He began to sob uncontrollably and called out: "Master of the Universe, do you know why I transgressed this custom? It was because my young grandchild lay on the floor begging and crying that I should only blow one blast of the shofar for him. My heart melted, I couldn't bear to watch him cry like that, so I blew once for him, though I shouldn't have.
"Tatte (Father), how can you stand by and see how millions of Your children are down on the floor, and crying out to You, 'Tatte, just one blast! Sound the blast of the great shofar which will herald the final Redemption!'? Even if the time is not right for it yet, even if the time for Moshiach has yet to arrive, Your children cry out to You: how can You stand by idly?!"
Rabbi Baruch cried as he recounted the story, and recalled how at that time the entire crowd cried along with the Rebbe. The sounding of the shofar was delayed, and for a long time. "They could not regain their composure... loud wailing was heard throughout the synagogue..."
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Monday, August 09, 2010
Sunday, August 08, 2010
Friday, August 06, 2010
Breaking News: CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - New documents produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request show that U.S. District Court Chief Judge Linda Reade met frequently with the law-enforcement team that was actively engaged in the planning of the May 2008 raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant and participated in preparations for the raid. On this account, Judge Reade should have been legally disqualified from presiding at the federal trial of Sholom Rubashkin.
Judge Reade was required to disclose these meetings and her participation to defense lawyers, but the judge did not make any such disclosures before presiding over the trial last year. The evidence shows Reade was not only provided with regular briefings on the raid preparations for more than six months before it occurred, but that she expressed her “support” for the raid, and directed that she be briefed on how it was to be carried out.
“The government’s own memoranda show that more than six months before the raid, Judge Linda Reade began a series of meetings in which she collaborated with the law-enforcement team that prosecuted the case against Sholom Rubashkin,” said Nathan Lewin, lead appellate counsel for Sholom Rubashkin. “Without disclosing to defense counsel her meetings with the U.S. attorney and the support she expressed for the raid, she presided at Mr. Rubashkin’s trial, and then immediately had him imprisoned, and sentenced him to two years more in prison than the prosecution requested.”
Thursday, August 05, 2010
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Monday, August 02, 2010
Sunday, August 01, 2010
One single iconic image depicting the moment of reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 has remained in the world's collective psyche. Three battle-weary paratroopers gazing at their suroundings seemingly in stunned amazement. With the fortieth anniversary of the Six Day War, Conal Urquhart of The Observer located and interviewed both the photographer and the three soldiers - there is a link below to the full article.
Zion Karasenti, 64, now a director and choreographer, living in Afula: "At Ammunition Hill, all we could see was a hill surrounded by trenches and barbed wire. When we started to move, they threw everything they had at us. We got through one fence and found more wire. I threw myself on it and acted as a bridge for everyone else. I felt no pain. We got into the trenches, which were shallow and narrow. When someone was injured we passed them down the line over our bodies. The Jordanians couldn't get away, but they kept on fighting to the last man.
I was the first paratrooper to get to the Wailing Wall. I didn't know where I was, but I saw a female Israeli soldier, so I asked 'Where am I?' and she said: 'The Wailing Wall.' She gave me a postcard and told me to write to my parents before she disappeared. It might have been a dream, but then many years later I met the woman. She had been in the postal corps.
As more soldiers arrived, a photographer told us to stand like this and look in this direction. I just did it - I didn't even think about it.
When I think of all the soldiers that died to take Jerusalem, I wonder if they would have thought it was worth it. I think they would."
Yitzak Yifat, 64, now an obstetrics and gynaecology surgeon: "I developed toothache when we arrived in Jerusalem and went into battle with my mouth still numb from the local anaesthetic. It was face-to-face fighting. I fought like a tiger. My friend was shot in the backside and he was about to be shot again by a Jordanian. I shot him. Another Jordanian saw I was out of bullets and he charged at me with a bayonet. I don't know how I did it, but I took his gun and shot him with it. It was brutal, and a sad victory. I lost many friends. After the fighting we built a memorial to our friends - and one to the Jordanians, in honour of their bravery."Haim Oshri, 63, emigrated from Yemen to Israel in 1949: "The battle for Ammunition Hill was the worst moment of the war. There wasn't a plan - we were just told to attack. The Jordanians were brave soldiers. Now it makes me angry to think of all the unnecessary casualties. If we had taken more time to plan, there would have been far fewer casualties.
As an Orthodox Jew it was special for me to be involved in the fight for Jerusalem. It doesn't matter if you're from Poland or Yemen, Jerusalem is our common bond. Every day we pray three times to Jerusalem, and I could never have imagined the magic of seeing the Kotel [Western Wall] for the first time."
Viennese born, David Rubinger had served with the British Army in the Second World War, emigrating to Palestine in 1939. By 1967 he was working for Life magazine, covering Israel's invasion of the Sinai. When he realised Israel planned to attack Jerusalem he rushed back, arriving at the Western Wall in time to take the first photos of Israeli soldiers at Judaism's holiest site.
"Things began to heat up in May 1967 and I went to join the Israeli forces in the Negev. A few days before war broke out everything seemed to go quiet. I had dinner in Tel Aviv with a colleague, Paul Schutzer from Life magazine. We bet a bottle of champagne on who would get the first cover photograph. The war broke out on the Monday and Paul was killed the same day.
I was with the Israeli forces that went into the Sinai. Just after the battle for El Arish, I overheard radio messages that something was going to happen in Jerusalem. A helicopter was taking away the wounded so I squeezed on. I didn't know where it was going, but it landed in Beersheva, where I'd parked my car.
I was exhausted. I never trust anyone to drive my car, but I picked up a soldier who was hitchhiking and got him to drive while I slept. We arrived at 6am in Jerusalem and I went straight to see my family. I found out that Jerusalem had been taken and I headed for the Old City.I didn't have any great feeling for Jerusalem, I just wanted to be the first with the photographs. There was still some sniping going on but the fighting was over. When I got there, it was very emotional. Everyone around me was crying."
When I developed the film, I didn't think much of the picture
"I think there was such euphoria because in the weeks before the war there was a sense of doom. The national stadium was prepared for 40,000 graves and even if we thought we might win, it would be a costly victory. The humour before the war was very dark. 'Would the last person to leave please turn out the lights.'
We went from being doomed to having an empire. It was like a condemned man with the noose around his neck suddenly being told that not only was he going to live he was going to be the king. The nation went a little nuts. For the religious, the victory had to be God-given and that is how the whole Jewish messianic and settler movement was born.
I lay down to take the picture of the paratroopers because there was barely three metres between the Wailing Wall and the houses next to it. When I developed the film, I didn't think much of the picture. I gave it to the army. They passed it on to the government press office which then distributed it to everyone for virtually nothing. I still don't think it's a great picture, but often iconic pictures are created by the media and what people read into them."
Analysis - from Digital Journalist site "Shots were still being fired. Soldiers cried and so did Rubinger. He claims he was lying on the ground, photographing upwards, because he was scared. I refuse to believe that. Fear has not stopped him from running under fire on other occasions. He is not ashamed of the fear, but of the fact that at that historical moment he sought and found the correct angle. He had to lie down to photograph what seemed right.
This photograph connects the old and the new, hope with stones that have been bled. Changing the angle might have separated the soldiers from the Wall. There is smiling and weeping, a helmet held in awe. This is the story of the war, what it did and will still do, where it came from and where it will still go. It is a moment plucked from the flight of time, but also powerful and accurate documentation of an event full of surprises - because it is a frozen moment."- Yoram Kaniuk