Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wow! Go read this epitome shel epitome of hashgocha pratis stories.
Doodl comments here:
Q: what sits in the corner and gets smaller and smaller?
A: a baby playing with a potato peeler.
The title of this daily dose reminded me of this and made me smirk.
Such such such a good piece of Torah learning.
Blog post by an Irish Catholic girl living in Boro park.
See more here
Click to see a photo that can be zoomed extraordinarily. (credit to joeflix, I think)
Achmed the Dead Terrorist (with Jeff Dunham, ventriloquist) made me laugh and smile and laugh again.
מילים ולחן: נעמי שמר
אני שמעתי ת'זה פעם ראשונה אתמול בטיול שלי-מדיסק חדש שלי "פוליטיקלי קורקט"(אריאל זילבר) שארז ורחל נתנו לי.
בחוף אילת או אל-עריש
סרדין קטן פגש כריש
פוגשים כריש כחום היום
אז מה אומרים? אומרים "שלום"
סרדין קטן אומר 'שלום"
והכריש מביט בו דום
'תגיד שלום' קורא סרדין
והכריש אינו מבין
אז הסרדין מרים קולו
'אני מוכן תמורת שלום
לתת לך סנפיר שלם"
אבל אותו סרדין צעיר
היה גם דיפלומט מזהיר
אשר על כן הוא לא ויתר
מיום ליום נתן יותר
נתן זנב תמורת שלום
את שתי עיניו תמורת שלום
תמורת שלום יפה, רחב
את כל הבטן והגב
פוגשים כריש כחום היום
אז מה אומרים? אומרים "שלום"
שלום שלום - והכריש
רק מחייך ומחריש
אז הסרדין במר לבו
הריע באזני אויבו
"תמורת שלום גדול גדול
אני מוכן לתת הכל"!
זאת הכריש סוף-סוף שמע
והוא סוף-סוף "שלום" ענה
אמר שלום, חשף שיניו
והסרדין טרוף טורף
פרחים שלום ואהבה
לא גל במים לא אדווה
ובחוף אילת או אל-עריש
באין מפריע שט כריש...
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I'm going backwards.
I keep thinking about the bunkers, the tracks, the shoes, the fences, the grass, the chimneys, the walls, the buildings, the stones.
Here, I am seeing signs, photographs, lists, documents, films.
Yad VaShem is on my mind so strongly.
I'll write more later b'ezrat hashem....
Monday, February 23, 2009
this burden called talent..
from my shoulders..
because..while it smolders
there's nothing in sight..
just..make me a simple..man..
with no creative plans..
give me a simple hut..
where I need not worry..about
slipping on unread letters..words..
lying strewn about the floorboards..
where I won't be kept awake..
by the shrill sound of my voice..
where the unseen panic (fear)..
of wasted years..
and give it to someone
shrewd and resourceful..
(rude) and forceful...
Thank You G-d..!
My jaw dropped when I read these words by david on the lake; it was entirely me. I often think of it as a blessed curse..then as a cursed blessing..then realize, it's a pure blessed blessing.
(So is the discovery of my thoughts expressed by others. (I've since rescinded this statement) (for the time being, lifachot))
The funeral for a top police officer will be held Sunday, after he was killed helping his son change a flat tire on Road 5. Jack Lugasi, who was the head dog trainer for the Israel Police, was killed when a truck hit him on the side of the road as he was changing the tire over the weekend. Two other people hurt in the incident.
Police arrested the driver of the truck, who was said to be driving drunk.
Egyptian authorities reported Sunday that they had found four Gazan Arabs dead in a smuggling tunnel between Egypt and Gaza. Apparently the four died from a lack of oxygen. Although Israel has destroyed dozens of smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, it is estimated that many more remain. The tunnels are often used to smuggle weapons into Gaza
If Israel releases the 1,400 terrorists Hamas is demanding for the return of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas and being held by the terror group in Gaza, some of the released terrorists could be relocated to Syria, top Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Zahar told Arab media Saturday. Political analysts for Israel Radio said that the offer was aimed at stemming the fears of Israelis that the terrorists would continue to attack Israelis. Hamas believes that more Israelis will support the deal if they believe the terrorists will no longer pose a direct threat.
If Israel releases the 1,400 terrorists Hamas is demanding for the return of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, kidnapped by Hamas and being held by the terror group in Gaza, some of the released terrorists could be relocated to Syria, top Hamas terrorist Mahmoud Zahar told Arab media Saturday.
Political analysts for Israel Radio said that the offer was aimed at stemming the fears of Israelis that the terrorists would continue to attack Israelis. Hamas believes that more Israelis will support the deal if they believe the terrorists will no longer pose a direct threat.
Mio Technologies has started marketing a GPS system to the religious public in Israel. The GPS features the location of 2,000 kosher restaurants, 3,360 synagogues, 280 mikvaot (ritual baths), 300 religious schools, 460 cemeteries, and 200 other religious sites. The GPS system also has other features specifically for the religious driver: The wayfarer’s prayer, the blessing after a meal, psalms, a prayer book, and a religious calendar with the Sabbath times. In addition, all voice instructions on the GPS are in a male voice.
ok had to put that last, so i can walk off chuckling.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
going to the store to buy beer while pushing a carriage = good idea
going to the store to buy beer while pushing a (lopsided) carriage in the snow, erev shabbos = bad idea
going to the store to buy beer while pushing a (lopsided) carriage in the snow, erev shabbos FOR SOMEONE ELSE = mitzvah = awesome idea!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
So, every time these things happen like I decide, right before stumbling into bed, that it would be really nice of me to clean the kitchen which has not seen a cleaner since four days prior and could really use even six minutes of my input, and so though I'm barely able to keep me eyes open, I get more and more into it and I'm clearing away and scrubbing and organizing and sweeping and sorting with an eager vigor at the same time that I'm yawning and nearly sleep-walkin (notta contradiction), but keeping in mind whatta mitzvah it is and how pleased they will be when they wake up, and I go to sleep with a smile on my face (no, not cuz I snuck a chocolate durin the de-balaganning) and then I wake up the next morning and see the cleaner merrily scurryin to and fro (no, she's not a mouse), I think of the piano vs pianist part of this article.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In the U.S. I had a much better handle on the social niceties, and in many cases the hosts would gently guide you by indicating on the invitation how formal (or informal) the affair was going to be.
But here in Israel there seems to be no reliable guide one can use to judge what to wear to a wedding. You just sort of make a wild guess based on what you know about your hosts and dress accordingly.
This method has let me down on more than a few occasions.
I've shown up at weddings here wearing a suit and tie, only to find half the men wearing casual slacks and open-necked shirts... and the rest in jeans and t-shirts. I've also shown up wearing a white shirt and slacks only to find most of the men walking around in jackets and ties.
It's gotten to the point where I sometimes bring a few extra items of clothing in the car as a hedge against the inevitability embarrassment of guessing wrong. (For the record, my wife somehow always manages to be dressed impeccably and appropriate to the occasion. That I don't 'accidentally' spill something on her is a testament to what a good sport I am. :-)
Last night Zahava and I attended the wedding of a friend from our town. The bride was one of my regular trempisti'ot (hitchhikers) to Beer Sheva over the past year, and we have become quite friendly during the hours together in the car. She is a very low key, down-to-earth person... so while I surveyed the possibilities for humiliation hanging in my closet, I hazarded a guess that the attire would be more towards the casual end of the scale. The fact that the wedding was to take place at a small rural Moshav (sort of a collective farm) helped cement my decision. Slacks and an open-necked shirt it was.
When we showed up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was to be an outdoor affair, and that several men were walking in dressed at about the same level of studied slovenliness as I was. But when we got inside I got a big surprise that has changed the way I will view the issue of wedding attire forever.
It seems the groom is an officer in the elite Magallan Paratrooper unit of the IDF. I hadn't really given it much thought until we walked into the place, but obviously he and most of his friends had been fighting for their lives in Lebanon for the past month... and the wedding was taking place only two days after the cease-fire took effect.
How do you plan a wedding under such circumstances?!?
Well, it turns out that the two families had gone ahead with the final preparations for the wedding in hopes that the fighting would end in time. Israelis are incredible optimists that way.
When I was talking with the Bride's mother before the ceremony, she told me that the army had offered to let the groom leave Lebanon early for his wedding, but he refused to leave his men while the war was still raging. His rationale was that his men were already operating under extremely dangerous conditions in enemy territory... and to have a new, unfamiliar officer take over his command would further endanger everyone. So he made the decision to stay.
Looking around the reception it was easy to spot the groom's friends. They fell into three groups:
1. Those that had returned from Lebanon two days ago. These were the guys whose sunburns had mostly faded to tans and who had been able to shower, shave and change into mostly clean uniforms.
2. Those who had returned from Lebanon the previous night. While they had shaved and had managed to buy or borrow clean white t-shirts during the day (and had tossed aside their sweat-stained olive-colored uniform shirts), they still wore filthy army pants.
3. Those who had come directly from Lebanon to the wedding that day. These were the guys who hadn't had a chance to even wash their faces or find a clean t-shirt. They had several days worth of stubble on their cheeks and still wore their dirty army uniforms stained with the soil of Lebanon.
What all of these young men shared in common was the inevitable M-16 casually slung over a well-muscled shoulder, and an impossible level of enthusiasm and energy... broad toothy smiles and friendly shouts that gave hint to the simple, unimaginable pleasure they were experiencing at being safe and alive.
As Zahava and I wandered around the place we watched as groups of these young soldiers hugged each-other with joy, asked after friends who had 'only' been wounded... and occasionally paused to quietly mention the name of a friend/comrade who was conspicuously absent.
Walking around with many of these active duty and reserve soldiers were girlfriends, and the occasional wife. Maybe it was my imagination, but the women seemed to absolutely drink in the men with their eyes as if to constantly confirm that they were really standing there beside them.
Nowhere was this deep, penetrating gaze more apparent than under the chuppah (the marriage canopy). As silence fell over the gathered crowd sitting under the open sky and the ceremony began, all eyes were on the bride... and her eyes never left the strong, smiling face of her groom for even an instant.
Zahava leaned over and whispered to me that she couldn't imagine how the bride had managed to remain sane knowing that terrorists had been trying desperately to kill her soon-to-be husband in a foreign country only days before they were to start their life together. While I understood and admired the groom's loyalty to his men, I couldn't help agreeing with her on that point. This beaming, beautiful bride was made of stronger stuff than I could imagine.
I've been to hundreds of weddings in my life and am loath to compare one to another. Each is special and each is the holy union of two people. But I have never seen the likes of the dancing that ensued once the couple were officially married last night.
The men, who should have been too exhausted to move, flew around in wild circles lifting the groom (and each-other) high into the warm night air. I stopped trying to keep up after 10 or 15 minutes. The women matched (and maybe even exceeded) the men for sheer output of energy... and the two groups sang so loud that the highly amplified band seemed only a background afterthought by comparison.
As we ate the courses of the festive meal together under the starry night sky, I couldn't help but notice that all the happy celebrants seemed to exist entirely in the present. No talk of yesterday's events. No thought of what the morning might bring. And most of all, nobody seemed to notice that some people were wearing dresses or jackets... others were dressed in the equivalent of rumpled, dirty, olive green pajamas... and the rest fell somewhere in between.
It was then and there that I resolved never again to worry about anything so meaningless as what to wear to a wedding.
I realize now that to be Israeli is to just show up to share your friend's happiest occasions... and occasionally their grief. Nobody is interested that you are a snappy dresser or that you know what people are wearing this season in Paris or Milan. They want you there to help celebrate and commemorate an important event in their lives. You, not your wardrobe.
If an Israeli host bothered to take note, they would notice that this person came dressed in a jacket and tie... and that other person joined the celebration in their very best jeans and t-shirt. And they would conclude that both were dressed exactly appropriate to the occasion.
But no Israeli host would ever notice such things. Because the height of Israeliness is that people honestly expect you to simply come as you are.
The vintage chassid, Reb Mendel Futerfas, was wont to say: "There are chassidim who would say: A dank der Oibershter far'n Rebbe'n. "Thank You G-d, for giving us the Rebbe," expressing their genuine appreciation to G-d for giving them the opportunity to know and appreciate the Rebbe.
Others would say: A dank der Rebbe'n far'n Oibersht'n; "Thank you, Rebbe, for giving us the opportunity to know G-d." The intent is not merely that the Rebbe's teachings open up new windows of spiritual awareness. Although this is true, these chassidim meant more: Their intent is that from watching the Rebbe, and seeing his uniqueness, they were able to appreciate G-dliness.
A Two-Year Nightmare
Even when Father disappeared, Mama clung to her joie de vivre. It was during the period of the infamous Doctor's Plot in which Jewish doctors were accused of planning to poison government officials. As a result of the accusations, many doctors and Jews were imprisoned and executed—scapegoats for all of their nation's woes. The rest of the Jews lived in terror. Father had left the house one day and didn't return. Hoping for the best, Mama had combed all the hospitals, but in vain. When she arrived to the police station, she was told, "Stop searching. You will never find him."
The neighbors, acquaintances, people who had attended the prayer services in their home, all withdrew, afraid to have contact with them once Father was imprisoned. In the synagogue courtyard that Rosh Hashanah, the congregants had moved quickly past them, avoiding eye contact. Isolated, alone, as though struck with a contagious condition, no one had extended to them the age old greeting of leshana tovah. "Don't cry," Mama had said when she sensed the tremor in her daughter's hand. "Better not to start the new year with tears; we want to have a sweet new year."
Suddenly in the hushed stillness of the night, a voice rang out. "Leshana tova tikaseiv veseichaseim…" It was Pinchas Grenitz singing to the stars, leaping and twirling and dancing, as he appeared to be greeting the stars, showering them with his New Year blessings that they be inscribed for a good new year.
"See here, Batya. He's talking to us," Mama whispered to Batya. "Stars don't need his greetings, he's talking to us. He's afraid of the KGB, but he means us."
(From "You Be My Kaddish'l")
Shluchim Studying Together
On its first anniversary the live classes boast of 500 regular participants and hundreds more who access the archived versions.
“I enjoy the classes that address contemporary issues,” says Pearl Krasnjansky who tunes in from Honolulu. “Following the tragedy in Mumbai and during the recent situation in Israel, study sessions helped us deal with our own emotions and helped us formulate responses for our communities.”
Before the High Holidays in September, seasoned shluchim presented a full-day symposium including relevant laws and community practices. They also taught how to lead the services and run a children’s program. When Pesach rolled around in the spring, they were back with a detailed how-to for the seder. Topics have also included the laws of burying the dead and comforting the bereaved; step-by-step instructions on how to run a kosher wedding; and cooking classes that could rival anything on the Food Network.
“The Beis Medrash allows shluchim in remote areas to come together as a unit, to feel part of a much bigger class,” says Kotlarsky. “The interactive nature enables them to ask questions from respected rabbis and mentors, a chance they may otherwise not have.”
The list of instructors reads like a veritable Who’s Who of Chabad’s most prestigious intellectuals. Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, noted author and rabbinic authority, was tapped for several classes concerning the laws of a funeral and mourning period. “These are issues that shluchim have to deal with on a regular basis,” Bogomilsky explained, “and these classes provide them with a knowledge base they otherwise would not have.” The expert would know. He regularly fields calls from shluchim looking for guidance, from around the world.“When I came to Florida in the 1970s, there was no infrastructure to help us,” recalls Biston. “We had to reinvent the wheel each time.” Today, though, shluchim can access weekly speeches, holiday brochures, and program ideas at the click of a button. “And that,” says Biston, “gives us time to accomplish a lot more.”
(From "Hitting the Books")
Don't Release Terrorists!
Terror Organizations have long ago understood that they cannot win a country with military force, but they can win its citizens’ set of mind and its mental strength, causing them to give up their principles and positions. The terror organizations have understood that one of Israel’s central pillars is its citizens’ mutual concern for each other. Our society cannot accept a lonely citizen’s distress under the enemy’s captivity, and it will do what it can to release him. Knowing this, terror organizations initiated many kidnappings, in order to break Israel’s fighting spirit and force the government to fulfill their dangerous demands.
During its first ten years the country’s leaders understood that in order to stop the waves of kidnappings, we must hold a firm position toward terrorists, using our military forces to rescue our kidnapped citizens. This position decreased the amount of kidnappings since the terrorists understood that they cannot profit from them.
This statement of Israel against the terrorists was shattered in the “Jibril Agreement” in 1985, when three Israeli soldiers were captured by Ahmed Jibril’s organization in Lebanon. In exchange to them Israel released 1,150 terrorist, among them serial killers. These terrorists have formed the hardcore of the first intifada, a massive wave of terror attacks which started in year 1987. Since then, Israel has agreed time and time again to release terrorist in various irrational agreements, and terror organizations have since then dedicated their efforts for the kidnappings of soldiers and citizens. The results of these agreements are well known- the big majority of released terrorists continued their executions of terror actions, and Israel has been under a daily threat of terror attacks, by explosions, shootings, guns, stabbing, and these days by missiles. Since the first intifada, hundreds of people were killed and thousands were injured.
We, terror victims’ families, decided to struggle stubbornly against the release of our relative’s murderers , in order to prevent the suffering other citizens will experience if another massacre will appear on our streets.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Negative Commandment 244
It is forbidden to steal
Leviticus 19:11 "Do not steal"
We are forbidden to steal money or goods.
Positive Commandment 239
Penalties for Robbery
Exodus 21:37-22 "If a man shall steal..."
This Positive Mitzvah details the various penalties inflicted upon the thief. A thief must restore the stolen article and also pay a fine for breaking the law.
Don't steal. And if you do, etc etc etc.
See? The Torah knows us.
The Rebbe said: "With one mitzva I am yours; with how many are we G-d's!" With these words he fell onto the doorpost in dveikut.
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Look of pure disbelief and ill-concealed rage.
"Woohoo! It was worth it just for that look!"
"No, it wasn't."
"Oy that was SO funny! SO worth it!"
"Ok fine, so it was funny. But now, back to what we were saying.."
"No. It's too funny."
"OK! So it was funny! NOW, can we continue?"
Laughing. Laughing. Laughing.
Finding out that I was the "loving Jew" in the dedication.
"I don't think you're complicating. I think you're misunderstood."
"Hey good Shabbos. I brought my boyfriend."
"Can you get her to stay another year?"
"We're trying; she doesn't want to!"
"Nu, so call the nu.."
"Call who?? Tell me who to call and I'll call!"
Looks across the table, straight at me and says "You know EXACTLY what I'm talking about".
"Oh stop being a ba'al teshuva" he retorted-under his breath-exasperatedly.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Dedicated by a loving Jew in honor of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
May Hashem bless him with all the necessary strength & vigor that he needs
and may he speedily be reunited with his family
Dedicated by a loving Jew in honor of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
The last of the Ten Commandments is as follows: "You shall not covet your friend's house; or his wife, servant, ox, donkey, or anything that belongs to your friend." Or in simple English, don't desire his beautiful home, stunning wife, dream job, nifty sports car or anything else that is his.
It's one thing not to steal the stuff; but not even to desire it? That's got to be the hardest of all. Really now, isn't G-d being somewhat unreasonable with this one? Is He being realistic? Surely He doesn't think we're angels -- He created us!
So allow me do what all good Jews do and try to answer a question with... another question. Why does the text of this commandment first list a variety of specifics -- house, wife, servant, etc. -- and then still finds it necessary to add the generalization, "and all that belongs to your friend"?
One beautiful explanation offered by the rabbis is that this comes to teach us a very important lesson for life -- a lesson which actually makes this difficult commandment much easier to carry out. What the Torah is saying is that if perchance you should cast your envious eye over your neighbor's fence, don't only look at the specifics. Remember to also look at the overall picture.
Most of us tend to assume that the grass is greener on the other side. But we don't always consider the full picture, the whole package. So he's got a great business and a very healthy balance sheet. But is he healthy? Is his family healthy? His wife looks great at his side when they're out together, but is she such a pleasure to live with at home? And if he should have health and wealth, does he have nachas (pride) from his children? Is there anybody who has it all? Every now and then I find out something about someone whom I thought I knew well that reminds me of this lesson. A fellow who seemed to be on top of the world suddenly has the carpet pulled out from under his feet and in an instant is himself in need. Another guy whom I never really thought that highly of turns out to be an amazing father, raising the most fantastic kids.
We each carry a backpack through life, a parcel of problems, our own little bundle of woes. When we are young, we think that difficulties are for "other people." When we get older we realize that no one is immune. Nobody has it all.
So if you find yourself coveting your fellow's whatever, stop for a minute to consider whether you really want "all that is your fellow's." When we actually see with our own eyes what the other fellow's life is all about behind closed doors, what's really inside his backpack, we will feel grateful for our own lot in life and happily choose our very own pekkel, with all its inherent problems.
There is a famous folk story about a group of villagers who formed a circle and each individual opened his sack, revealing his most precious possessions for all to see. They walked around the circle of open sacks and everyone had the opportunity to choose whichever one he wanted. In the end, each one chose his own.
The Almighty is giving us good advice. Be wise enough to realize that you've got to look at the whole picture. When we do, this difficult commandment becomes more easily observable. Not only is it sinful to envy what other people have; it's foolish. Because life is a package deal.
Friday, February 13, 2009
Dr. Paul C. Rosenbloom was a religious Jew and a professor of mathematics. He once told the Rebbe about a rabbi who had visited his home and expressed disapproval of the bookshelves. "How can you keep secular books together with Torah books on the same shelf?" the rabbi lamented.
The Rebbe replied that to place Torah in one world and science in another borders on having more than one G‑d. Rather, all knowledge should have the same purpose, to further our awareness of the one Creator of All Things.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Why are you so surprised to find evil and corruption running amok everywhere you look? This world is the coarsest and harshest of all worlds, the ultimate concealment. Almost all of it is darkness and emptiness. Only a tiny spark of good is buried deep within to keep it alive.
You could spend your lifetime dwelling on the outrages and scandals and things that are not right--or your could take a moment to search for that spark. You could find it, grasp it, fan its flame. From within its aura, you will see the darkness shining brighter than the heavens. In that moment of light, the night will never have been.
Fueled by your love, the light will swallow all that surrounds it.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
So, as I think is required for every Oleh blogger, at some point you are going to write something akin to the following.
When I first was getting ready to leave the states to make aliyah, my friends came over to say goodbye. They would hug me, talk with me for a while, and invariably ask, "What are you, nuts?"
"Um, no." I would say. I landed in Israel, went through the whole process (or lack of actual process) to become an Israeli citizen. I went over to a taxi and handed him my slip for a free ride to anywhere in the country. He looked at it for a minute, looked at me and said, "What are you, nuts?"
I have been in the country for a while now, but this phrase still pops up. Whether it is because I got married in the middle of training for the army, whether its because I'm in the army at all, when the majority of my commanders are younger than me, or if it's just the fact I made aliyah at all, I hear it from everyone. If I got a dime for every time I heard that expression, even after I got the hideous exchange rate from my local money changer, I'd still have a decent handful of shekels.
The best story does not involve me at all. We were in the middle of a training exercise in the middle of the country, and the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army flew in to speak with us. He spoke for a while about the need to be prepared... and then I dozed off. You don't usually get to sleep during training. When I awoke, he was talking to various people in my unit, and then he asked if there were any lone soldiers. He spoke to some of the Frenchmen from one of our other units, and then the only other American in my unit. He asked him a number of questions, about his family and about if he had a girlfriend. My buddy told him, and the Big Man looked a little shocked. "You are in Israel, your family is in Chicago, and your girlfriend's in Norway?" He gave him one of those looks that you typically see him make in a tough debate on TV. "What are you, nuts?"
At first, it bothered me. Am I? I came to the other side of the planet, where people speak a totally new language, where they have thirty new words per week to describe that word you just toiled so hard to learn. Where they go, "wow, we're at war? Humus? Techina?" Where you can travel twenty minutes from the holiest spot on earth, and be in the middle of Mardi Gras Jerusalem. Where, if you want to accomplish anything at the Misrad Hapanim, you have to go to every single room just to get the man who has the number of the guy who isn't working today to fax your information to the woman who's been at her grandmother's funeral since last year just to find out that the person you really needed was the security guard out front, whose sole porpose is to tell you that you really are just wasting your time and would be best probably taking his brother's cab at 'special oleh discount price(wink wink)' back to your house where you can go cool off and forge the document yourself.
But as time wore on, I began to answer "Yes!" with a big smile, which would invariably cause the questioner to bolt in terror, because the heavy machine gunner of the unit had just agreed to being nuts, and well, better safe then sorry. But the truth is, I am proud to be that crazy, silly, nuts American who doesn't understand the language, trips over the simplest sentences, asks for Sherutim and wonders why he doesn't end up in a cab but rather on a porcelain cruise through the local restroom. I am proud to admit that I am still awestruck when I travel the country and see the fun, exotic sights.("Look, Chana! A camel!" "That's a picture of a camel, Josh.") I love to be confused as a clergyman from another religion. (you won't get this if you've never been called a 'friar') I love to sit fourteen hours in the misrad ha-whatever with a number that will never show up because it's from yesterday's reel, waiting for a passport picture which won't come out, to go in a passport that has already, even before printing, gotten lost in the mail.
Because being 'nuts' in this country is the sanest choice I ever made. I have come home to the seat of my religion, to the heart of my people, and day by day I see the effect that I have, that the other olim have. I see us bring in hope. I see us bring in laughter. I see us bring in young people, who start their own families. I see us fill the land, 'pioneering the Gush' for those of us who missed the American West Expansion, and always wanted to be cowboys. I see us bringing our food, our culture, sparing me the indigestion I normally experience with 'schug' or 'jiblimeywha'. (I may have made up that last one.) I see us joining the 'cholent pot' of Israeli society. I see the future of this country in the hands of the brave and special people who come here to visit and to live here.
So of course I am proud. I am proud of all my brothers and sisters who have made the Aliyah leap, and I am proud of all those who dream and wait for their chance at home. I am proud to be one of these so-called 'nuts'. So with that I close, (never a strong point with me) with a hope that the Aliyah movement continues to grow, that everyone should have a speedy klitah into this land, and may we have been sufficently nuts to warrant the coming of Moshiach in our time. Amen.
I know EXACTLY what Bat Aliyah is describing here:
"I don't wanna go!" I plead through waves of tears and searing pain. It's like leaving a lover with whom I know I can't stay, but from whom I don't yet have the strength to part.
I can't believe how sharp my grief, how hot my tears. From where does this come?? Walking away from my life in Israel is like tearing myself in half.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Monday, February 09, 2009
Look at what?
What of them?
From the snow!
The snow made them white!
The snow made them white?
The snow covered them!
But they're flying.
The birds are flying?
The snow can't stay.
The snow can't stay?
The snow can't keep the birds white.
But I see white birds.
They're covered in snow.
They're covered in snow?
That's why you see white.
That's why I see white?
The birds are not white.
But I see they are white.
It's from your glasses.
The snow on my glasses?
The snow on your glasses.
So the snow still made them white.
The snow still made them white.
The birds are white from the snow.
The birds are white from the snow.
Were the birds white before?
The birds were not white before.
So now there are white birds!
Yes, now there are white birds.
From the snow!
From the snow.
I like white birds.
You like white birds?
I like that the birds are white.
You like that the birds are white?
I like that the snow made them white.
You like that the snow made them white?
I like that the snow made me see white.
Even if it's from your glasses?
Even if it's from my glasses.
What do they tell you?
What do they tell me?
The white birds?
The white birds.
The white birds carry calm.
They carry calm?
The white birds harbor happiness.
They harbor happiness?
The white birds pronounce peacefulness.
They pronounce peacefulness?
The white birds exude exuberance.
They exude exuberance?
The white birds spread serenity.
They spread serenity?
The white birds do all that?
The white birds do all that.
But they're just birds!
They're white birds.
But they're white from snow!
They're white from snow.
From the snow on your glasses!
From the snow on my glasses.
I see white!
You see white?
I see white birds!
You see white birds?
White birds are flying!
I said white birds are flying!
But I see them now!
But you don't have glasses!
I don't have glasses.
But you see white birds?
I see white birds.
How are the birds white?
From the snow.
But the birds are flying!
The snow can stay.
The snow can't stay!
The snow can stay...in my heart.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
"I was gonna take a place near you but he told me to sit there." (Oren)
"Tomorrow I'm going to tell you more stories from טירונות." (Nati)
"I want a waves-kush" (Mendele)
"He was in the Yom Kippur war." (Shaul)
"Where are you from in Israel?" (Tzvi)
"You didn't only do me a favor, you made Nati happy, too." (Ellen)
"Is there a chance you might come back?" (Ellen & Nati)
Friday, February 06, 2009
Now, let us travel forward 2,448 years. The Jews have just left Egypt, after spending 210 years in the most morally depraved society on earth. For more then half of that time they were enslaved, abused, violated and tortured. Now, upon liberation, they are exhausted, devastated and broken. After all the darkness and pain they have experienced, at the moment when they think their moment of liberty has arrived, they find themselves trapped between a cruel army and an indifferent sea.
"Why should I split?" asked the sea. "Sorry, but these are not the same people I have observed in the past. These are not the same souls I saw in heaven 2,448 years ago. The souls I saw then were limitless in their depth, splendid in their dignity, glorious in their spirit. These people in front of me are grouchy, frustrated, divisive, filled with anger, fear and a negative attitude."
The sea refused to part. Until...it saw the casket of Joseph.
Who was Joseph?
The mystics explain that Joseph's depth of morality and holiness was concealed behind the dense facade of an Egyptian statesman. On the outside, Joseph seemed no more than a tremendously handsome young man, charming and charismatic, skilled as a diplomat and politician with endless ambition. It was not easy to realize that beneath these qualities lay a soul on fire with spiritual passion, a kindred spirit for whom the moral legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remained the epicenter of his life; a heart in love with G-d.
In a way, Joseph's casket was whispering this message to the sea: When you gaze at another human being, do not make the same error that others make when they gaze at you. Some simple folks look at you, dear sea, and assume that there is nothing beneath your bed of water. But who better then you knows the truth, that underlying your facade of water, lies an entire exquisite universe!
Upon this realization, the sea parted before the Jews.
By: Yishai G (reserve soldier)
While the world watches the ruins in Gaza, you return to your home which remains standing. However, I am sure that it is clear to you that someone was in your home while you were away.
I am that someone.
I spent long hours imagining how you would react when you walked into your home. How you would feel when you understood that IDF soldiers had slept on your mattresses and used your blankets to keep warm.
I knew that it would make you angry and sad and that you would feel this violation of the most intimate areas of your life by those defined as your enemies, with stinging humiliation. I am convinced that you hate me with unbridled hatred, and you do not have even the tiniest desire to hear what I have to say. At the same time, it is important for me to say the following in the hope that there is even the minutest chance that you will hear me.
I spent many days in your home. You and your family’s presence was felt in every corner. I saw your family portraits on the wall, and I thought of my family. I saw your wife’s perfume bottles on the bureau, and I thought of my wife. I saw your children’s toys and their English language schoolbooks. I saw your personal computer and how you set up the modem and wireless phone next to the screen, just as I do.
I wanted you to know that despite the immense disorder you found in your house that was created during a search for explosives and tunnels (which were indeed found in other homes), we did our best to treat your possessions with respect. When I moved the computer table, I disconnected the cables and lay them down neatly on the floor, as I would do with my own computer. I even covered the computer from dust with a piece of cloth. I tried to put back the clothes that fell when we moved the closet although not the same as you would have done, but at least in such a way that nothing would get lost.
I know that the devastation, the bullet holes in your walls and the destruction of those homes near you place my descriptions in a ridiculous light. Still, I need you to understand me, us, and hope that you will channel your anger and criticism to the right places.
I decided to write you this letter specifically because I stayed in your home.
I can surmise that you are intelligent and educated and there are those in your household that are university students. Your children learn English, and you are connected to the Internet. You are not ignorant; you know what is going on around you.
Therefore, I am sure you know that Qassam rockets were launched from your neighborhood into Israeli towns and cities.
How could you see these weekly launches and not think that one day we would say "enough"?! Did you ever consider that it is perhaps wrong to launch rockets at innocent civilians trying to lead a normal life, much like you? How long did you think we would sit back without reacting?
I can hear you saying "it’s not me, it’s Hamas". My intuition tells me you are not their most avid supporter. If you look closely at the sad reality in which your people live, and you do not try to deceive yourself or make excuses about "occupation", you must certainly reach the conclusion that the Hamas is your real enemy.
The reality is so simple, even a seven year old can understand: Israel withdrew from the Gaza strip, removing military bases and its citizens from Gush Katif. Nonetheless, we continued to provide you with electricity, water, and goods (and this I know very well as during my reserve duty I guarded the border crossings more than once, and witnessed hundreds of trucks full of goods entering a blockade-free Gaza every day).
Despite all this, for reasons that cannot be understood and with a lack of any rational logic, Hamas launched missiles on Israeli towns. For three years we clenched our teeth and restrained ourselves. In the end, we could not take it anymore and entered the Gaza strip, into your neighborhood, in order to remove those who want to kill us. A reality that is painful but very easy to explain.
As soon as you agree with me that Hamas is your enemy and because of them, your people are miserable, you will also understand that the change must come from within. I am acutely aware of the fact that what I say is easier to write than to do, but I do not see any other way. You, who are connected to the world and concerned about your children’s education, must lead, together with your friends, a civil uprising against Hamas.
I swear to you, that if the citizens of Gaza were busy paving roads, building schools, opening factories and cultural institutions instead of dwelling in self pity, arms smuggling and nurturing a hatred to your Israeli neighbors, your homes would not be in ruins right now. If your leaders were not corrupt and motivated by hatred, your home would not have been harmed. If someone would have stood up and shouted that there is no point in launching missiles on innocent civilians, I would not have to stand in your kitchen as a soldier.
You don’t have money, you tell me? You have more than you can imagine.
Even before Hamas took control of Gaza, during the time of Yasser Arafat, millions if not billions of dollars donated by the world community to the Palestinians was used for purchasing arms or taken directly to your leaders bank accounts. Gulf States, the emirates - your brothers, your flesh and blood, are some of the richest nations in the world. If there was even a small feeling of solidarity between Arab nations, if these nations had but the smallest interest in reconstructing the Palestinian people – your situation would be very different.
You must be familiar with Singapore. The land mass there is not much larger than the Gaza strip and it is considered to be the second most populated country in the world. Yet, Singapore is a successful, prospering, and well managed country. Why not the same for you?
My friend, I would like to call you by name, but I will not do so publicly. I want you to know that I am 100% at peace with what my country did, what my army did, and what I did. However, I feel your pain. I am sorry for the destruction you are finding in your neighborhood at this moment. On a personal level, I did what I could to minimize the damage to your home as much as possible.
In my opinion, we have a lot more in common than you might imagine. I am a civilian, not a soldier, and in my private life I have nothing to do with the military. However, I have an obligation to leave my home, put on a uniform, and protect my family every time we are attacked. I have no desire to be in your home wearing a uniform again and I would be more than happy to sit with you as a guest on your beautiful balcony, drinking sweet tea seasoned with the sage growing in your garden.
The only person who could make that dream a reality is you. Take responsibility for yourself, your family, your people, and start to take control of your destiny. How? I do not know. Maybe there is something to be learned from the Jewish people who rose up from the most destructive human tragedy of the 20th century, and instead of sinking into self-pity, built a flourishing and prospering country. It is possible, and it is in your hands. I am ready to be there to provide a shoulder of support and help to you.
But only you can move the wheels of history."
Yishai, (Reserve Soldier)
And also this is "exactly!"
And also this is "exactly!"
(Nope, that wasn't a mistake. Two diff things)
"My son came home from Gaza just a few minutes ago. He came home as we had sent him off, only more tired, worn and dirty", writes Ilene Bloch-Levy from Shaarei Tikva. "He smiled as he opened the bag of goodies and told me about the elementary school children from Mevasseret Zion who had attached notes with their gifts. He spoke with three of them to thank them personally. One child wrote a three page letter and the soldiers in my son's unit were grateful to learn more of this 8-year old's daily life, his favorite subjects and his fondness for playstation. When they called to speak with him, he was overwhelmed and kept calling them "gibborim" heroes.
"Ima" he said, "I'm tired now, but I have to tell you how extraordinary this nation is. The children who wrote to us, the people who sent their good wishes with their packages of food, the businesses that sent truckloads of goods. The soldiers I served with, each one caring deeply about the other one. Zahal who made sure that we were well trained and well equipped for our mission. But mostly. Mostly. This was a war that was guided by the Hand of G'd. Everyday we felt His presence -- whether deciding to enter a building by smashing down the back wall rather than entering through the front door, only to discover that the front door had been booby trapped, or searching rooms in a house and uncovering a tunnel under a bed we had lifted where tens of Hamas terrorists were hiding in the hopes of kidnapping one of us, or dozens more stories."
With a ceasefire like this, who needs a war?
That's it for now, cuz I wanna post this letter from a soldier, in a separate post...
I didn't end up finishing it then and the next day I was really NOT in an "alive" mood. I continued it, though, in the hopes that if I finished and published it, it might just make me "feel alive again".
And back and forth the week went and now, finally, I'm finishing, publishing, and MOVING ON!
It started last night with the dining room lamp. He turned it on and I made sure my grimace of displeasure was VERY obvious. (I didn't care as much as I pretended to. But yknow, sabra'le takes things to the extreme.) He noticed it and dimmed the light a bit. I expressed shock that he knew I wanted the room dark. He grinned. "You're an open book. It's impossible not to know what you're thinking, feeling." Of course I denied it, he insisted, I insisted, he kept laughing how transparent I am, I nearly had to tell him about my blog in order to show how NON transparent I was...
It was merry.
It made me feel more at home again.
Then this morning, he mentioned the dryer purchase. And the refrigerator.
"Oh ye?" I'm impressed. "You guys got a new one? Where you putting the small one?"
"In your room, whadaya mean?" SO straight faced.
I start to sputter and then I realize he's joking...
"Hey!" says he, "I've been around a certain someone for the past coupla days and I learned how to keep my face serious when I say such things..."
"You know", I say, "I was almost considering putting shelves in your empty office cuz anyhow you guys dump all the food there [cuz it's so cold]"
"Or," he counteracts, "we can really just put all the food in your room."
"Oy is my room too cold?" (I'm concerned the other rooms are gettin drafty cuz of mine.)
"No, no. What I'm saying is that we should open the windows very wide and keep it like that so then it will always be cold enough for the food. You still have some space in the corner."
"Right. And there's also an empty wall somewhere, so let's hang up a rod-why should we bother having a coat closet when I still have some space in my room..."
We laughed. It's a never-ending joke.
He reaches for a chocolate and after he 's done, he puts the container back in the corner behind the door.
"You have to find a better hiding place for those, you know." I tell him. "I'm already measuring and figuring out how to drill a tunnel from my bedroom to those chocolates."
Over his hearty chuckles, I call out "Mach duh Gaza!"
It's a really good feeling to be around people who can relate to more than one area of your life. (I know, I know--this blog.)
The next day he informed me that we got new phones.
"Now we have three handsets, so you can have your own and keep it in your room."
"What's the catch?"
"Well, you gotta keep it charged. You can't just leave it off the base--"
I interrupt him. "HEY! I'm ALWAYS careful with charging it, it's---"
He dashes out of the room.
I'm sittin there shakin my head. Sabba turns to me confidentially "Don't vorry, eferyone knows it's impossible to get a hold of him through his cell phone because he is alvays having no battery on it. It's a known thing that it's him"
Ahem. I feel a lot better now.
I told him many times to correct me, behaviour-wise and language-wise, when he sees/hears me err. He 's not comfortable with it-"I'm not your mashpia." I insist it's the only way I'll learn and he doesn't have to feel bad if I'm the one asking for the criticism.
"It's 'zug meer'" he corrected my Yiddish, today.
"Oh, so you're my mashpia?!" I pretend to be irritated.
He caught on...after a minute.
Then, he spent hours cleaning up the kitchen. I walked in as he was just finishing.
"Whew. At least the kitchen is clean...!"
Me: "Huh? You're done? This is called clean?"
He's about to throttle me...
So you see, it's not just that the laughter brought lightness and the lightness brought laughter.
It brought life.
Wit brings peace brings life.
I felt alive again!
Thursday, February 05, 2009
Tatte, Ich beink noch dir
(I miss you.)
Do you hear?!
That may seem
like a long time.
That may seem
like a distant memory.
But not to me.
To me, it is crystal clear -
That memory of the phone call…
"I don't want to come [to the funeral]" I cried.
I wanted to live in denial.
I wanted to pretend it didn't happen.
To me it is clear as day -
That memory of begging G‑d to give me the strength,
The strength to continue living without my father.
The strength to continue living, period.
This week will mark twenty-one years since my father, may he rest in peace, has passed on to a better place.
And I continued living.
continued living on my father's strength.
My father was young.
I was very young.
Way too young to be left without a father.
(Is there an age when one is not too young?)
My father was special.
He was pious, wise, humble, noble, and more.
Many fathers may have these qualities.
But not many fathers are so special.
Special means extraordinary.
Through his example—
his sincerity, his devotion to G‑d, incomparable wit,
and unassuming ways
Tatte has taught me many important lessons.
When kvetching I was hungry one night, Tatte said to me,
"Oh, Baruch Hashem, Thank G-d, you are hungry,
that is a sign that you are healthy.
People who are ill do not have a desire to eat."
Go argue with that.
When he asked my brother to do something
and my brother expressed his unwillingness, Father calmly commented,
"I fail to see the connection between what I said and your response".
Had he asked him if he wanted to do whatever he requested of him, then yes, that would have been an appropriate answer.
He made a point.
He taught me to respect my mother, shushed me when she slept.
He never demanded respect for himself- maybe that is why he had my fullest and utmost.
He taught me to count my blessings.
He wanted me to be joyful.
He taught me that is was okay not to have.
I didn't mind that I didn't get to buy from the school's canteen.
It made me feel good in a different way.
I was proud to be his child and I hoped my behavior showed it.
But mostly what my Tatte exemplified was selflessness.
Dictionary: "selflessness-having little or no concern for oneself,
especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish".
That epitomized my father.
It was never about him.
Growing up, I didn't even realize that this was an attribute.
I took it for granted that this is what a father is.
That this is the normal behavior of a man.
This is not how man behaves.
Man exhibits his wants, his likes, his dislikes, his preferences,
things he appreciates or doesn't.
Wanting to buy my father a birthday gift, one year,
sent me into a quandary.
"What does he really care for? What would make him happy?"
I didn't know, for he never displayed any material desires.
(I bought him a big watermelon. I decided he would enjoy that. I was very young, remember?)
A true man of G‑d.
Tatte, I miss you.
Tatte, ich beink noch dir.
I realize I actually do have you.
remain with me.
May G‑d help me preserve your "dynasty".
Your neshama, your soul, Tatte, should rise higher and higher to the chambers of G‑d.
"Yitgaddal v'yitkaddash shmay rabbah....Exhalted and hallowed be His great Name... Amen.
May he establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Mashiach. Amen."
And the flame flickers on.
Tatte was one of a group of eight young boys who risked their lives to study Judaism in the Soviet Union during Stalin's reign of terror.
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Sunday, February 01, 2009
Not wanting to verbalize, publicize, concretize, I didn't write about it.
But Hashem reads my blog, even the posts I don't write.
And He leaves comments, even on the posts I don't publish.
He commented on my voluntary activities.
He commented on my educating the oldest girl.
"She was crying because she could not concentrate on her davening with so many people in the room."
He commented on my teaching the younger kids.
"They understood the Parshah really well and they knew so much!"
True, Hashem always knows; He's always reading.
But He doesn't always leave comments to let me know He is....