Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Why Private Speech Doesn’t Tell Us About a Person’s Character By Dennis Prager and Pompeo says blacklist confirms ‘unrelenting anti-Israel bias’ at UN and the State Department LIE that won't die and Former Likud MK Yehudah Glick arrested, handcuffed on Temple Mount and Proper Behavior Proceeds the Torah

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

Love Yehuda Lave

A few Quick Jokes for you

My parents grew to like my girlfriend so much, they take her as their own daughter. Now they started looking for a proper boyfriend for her.


I got another letter from this lawyer today. It said "Final Notice". Good that he will not bother me anymore.


I dreamed I was forced to eat a giant marshmallow. When I woke up, my pillow was gone.


An Eskimo brings his friend to his home for a visit. When they arrive, his friend asks, puzzled – "So where's your igloo?"-
The friend replies "Oh no, I must've left the iron on…"


One company owner asks another: "Tell me, Bill, how come your employees are always on time in the mornings?"

Bill replies: "Easy. 30 employees and 20 parking spaces."

Pompeo says blacklist confirms 'unrelenting anti-Israel bias' at UN

The world body's endless hypocrisy and double standards towards Israel are staggering," said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a statement. "Of all the situations in the world in which territory is disputed, the U.N. chooses only to focus on Israel. Why?"

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed his "outrage" over the U.N. Human Rights Council for publishing a blacklist on Wednesday of 112 companies connected to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database, which was mandated by the discredited U.N. Human Rights Council in 2016," he said in a statement released by the U.S. State Department. "Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations."

Pompeo asserted, "The United States has not provided, and will never provide, any information to the Office of the High Commissioner to support compilation of these lists and expresses support for U.S. companies referenced."

"We call upon all U.N. member-states to join us in rejecting this effort, which facilitates the discriminatory boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) campaign and delegitimizes Israel," he continued. "Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace."

Jewish and pro-Israel groups also rebuked the United Nations for the move.

"We strongly condemn the issuing of a blacklist by the United Nations Human Rights Council that could be used for discriminatory action against Israel," said AIPAC in a statement. "This blacklist is clearly designed to target American and Israeli companies for boycotts and other punitive action."

The pro-Israel lobby continued, "We urge the administration and Congress to act immediately to protect American companies on this list and to prevent American companies from participating in any U.N.-directed boycott against Israel."

AIPAC also said that "this action is the latest in a deplorable history of attacks on Israel by the U.N. and its agencies. Rather than promoting discriminatory boycotts, the United Nations must demand that the Palestinian leadership return to negotiations with Israel to seek peace and reconciliation."

'Ammunition for the BDS movement's anti-Israel campaign'

"The world body's endless hypocrisy and double standards towards Israel are staggering," said American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris in a statement. "Of all the situations in the world in which territory is disputed, the U.N. chooses only to focus on Israel. Why? We call on Secretary-General [António] Guterres to denounce this outrageous assault on the Jewish state."

We urge those principled Human Rights Council member states to reject this blacklist, which evokes echoes of Nazi-triggered boycotts and blacklists against Jews, when they convene later this month," he added. "This initiative should never have received the support of governments seeking to encourage the parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to engage in direct negotiations and pursue an enduring two-state accord.

 

Proper behavior precedes the Torah

Proper behavior precedes the Torah (In Hebrew דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה) is a Jewish saying based on a passage from the Chazal found in the Midrash (Leviticus Rabbah 9:3).

One of the important interpretations of which is that before one can learn and put into practice the mitzvot (G-d's instructions to us) of the Torah, he or she must pave the path with Proper Behavior (in Hebrew Derech Eretz)

The text in Leviticus Rabbah (known in Hebrew as Vayikra Rabbah) comes to show that in human history, proper behavior preceded the Torah, as written:

For twenty-six generations, Derech Eretz (appropriate behavior) preceded the Torah.
The Torah was not given during the earliest years of humanity because it was first necessary to have proper preparation in terms of values. This leads to the conclusion that advances in Torah knowledge must never weaken natural morality.

In this view, the Torah was given with a background of the moral development that preceded it, with the goal of lifting mankind up to a higher moral level. It comes to say, in a way, that a lack to reach the level for which the Torah is aiming is not a moral lack –all the nations of the world are required to be ethical, even though they are not required according to Jewish tradition to observe the mitzvot.

In Pirkei Avot (3:17) the sages declared, "If there is no Derech Eretz there is no Torah, and if there is no Torah there is no Derech Eretz." That is, proper moral behavior must precede the Torah, but after the Torah has been revealed based on the prior existence of proper behavior, a new and higher-level moral code is derived from the Torah.

Some explain that the Torah itself does not immediately present all of the mitzvot and their details, since the Book of Bereshit deals almost exclusively with the ethical behavior of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov without explicitly mentioning mitzvot. This may teach us that proper character traits, especially those related to relationships between people, takes precedence over the religious mandates of the Torah.

Another interpretation is that the Torah devotes its entire first book to stories of the forefathers and foremothers, to be used as models for decent behavior, and after having absorbed those, one is ready to go on to the laws and precepts of Jewish life.

The lives of the forefathers and foremothers are the examples after which people must pattern their lives in order to become suitable vessels for receiving and internalizing the Torah, meaning decent behavior, good personality traits, and suchlike.

The Torah was not given to the nation of Israel in order to be a substitute for human morality.

Human morality should exist within a person of Israel just as it can be found in the heart of each and every person, and the unique spiritual level of the Torah lies on top of this

.A person with weak moral strength who encounters the commands of the Torah is liable to reach a status of even greater moral depravity, because within every command he will search for the permitted ways to fulfill his own lowly aspirations (and the powerful emotions of holiness will provide an even stronger "motivation" for his actions).

For example, if a person does not have a natural understanding of the moral depravity involved in spreading slander about another person and all of his social interactions will be based merely on the limits of halacha, he will be able to spend all of his days spreading slander in permitted ways – without any feeling of how his soul is harmed by his own actions.

This is what the Rambam ruled: "Torah should only be taught to a student who is decent in his actions or to a simple person. But if a person is on an evil path he must be returned to a proper path and tested. Only afterwards should he be brought into the House of Study and taught." (Laws of Torah Study, 4,1).

The Torah did not require a person to observe the commandments for the first thirteen years of his life in order to allow him to first build up his moral character. intended to lead directly to moral and ethical behavior?

There is a religious temptation to decide that by observing the commandments a person fulfills his moral obligations.

This is very dangerous because it might cause a religious person to ignore some of the most basic factors of his personality. Rabeinu Saadia Gaon (one of the "geniuses" of Babylonia, the head of the yeshiva of Sura, 882-942) writes in his book "Faith and Knowledge" (Chapter 3, 8) that a man once said to him: If a prophet would command us to do something that contradicts the intellect or ethics we would be required to listen to him, since the moment that G-d gave a command, the act became true and moral.

Rabeinu Saadia disagreed, and he claimed that a man who commanded others to perform acts that are illogical could never be considered a prophet, and therefore we would not listen to what he said. The man replied that truth and morality are established only according to the commands of G-d and that no human being can interfere, and he concluded that we would be required to listen to the prophet. Rabeinu Saadia wrote that at that moment he stopped talking to this man.

There are periods of time when those who observe the Torah might be lacking in specific traits of proper behavior, such as love for fellow men or the desire to mend society. This leads to moral criticism of the people, and this can quickly be transformed into criticism of the Torah itself.
The truth is that the word of G-d will never be revealed to mankind without a prior moral introduction, because an immoral person is neither worthy of nor ready for the holy words. It is therefore wrong to view the word of G-d that comes through revelation as "true morality" and to ignore everything else on which it depends.

In view of the above, the Torah was given with a background of the moral development that preceded it, with the goal of lifting mankind up to a higher moral level. The Torah is the word of G-d, who turns toward mankind, and mankind must listen to this word after having perfected Derech Eretz – proper behavior – which lifts man up towards G-d. A lack to reach the level for which the Torah is aiming is not a moral lack – the nations of the world are required to be ethical, even though they are not required according to Jewish tradition to observe the mitzvot.

 

Former Likud MK Yehudah Glick arrested, handcuffed on Temple Mount

Activist claims he was detained for walking 'too slowly' but police say he violated visiting rules at the compound

Former Likud MK Yehudah Glick was handcuffed and arrested Tuesday morning on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and said he had been removed from the compound for "walking too slowly."

An Israel Police spokesperson, however, said that Glick was arrested after violating visiting rules at the compound. According to police, following a visit to the Temple Mount with two United States congressmen and their families, Glick returned to the compound via the Mughrabi Gate on an uncoordinated visit and began provoking officers there.

"He [Glick] began to wander around the Temple Mount in violation of visiting rules, with which he is familiar from previous visits. He refused to adhere to police instructions and provoked officers, forcing them to detain him," police said in a statement.

"After he continued to provoke officers they were forced to inform him that he was under arrest. When he still refused to cease his provocations, officers were forced to handcuff him. He was released from his handcuffs inside the compound and taken by police for questioning."

The New York-born Glick is a veteran activist for Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount. He is a former director-general of the Temple Institute and founded the Temple Mount Heritage Foundation. In October 2014, he was shot and seriously wounded by a Palestinian assailant as he left an event at the Begin Center in Jerusalem promoting Jewish visiting and prayer rights to the Mount.

He served as a Knesset member for the Likud party in 2016-2019.

Under an arrangement in place since Israel's victory in the 1967 Six Day war, non-Muslims are allowed to visit the Temple Mount but not to pray there. Jews are allowed to enter in small groups during limited hours, but are taken through a predetermined route, are closely watched and are prohibited from praying or displaying any religious or national symbols.

Glick was not immediately available for comment.

Tom Nissani, chairman of the Students for the Temple Mount movement, said in response to the incident: "The arrest and handcuffing of a former Israeli MK immediately after a tour with US Congress members emphasizes our shameful position on the Temple Mount — the Mount is not in our hands."

Chinese Factory Owner: "Eating Kosher Saves You From Illness, Tell Am Yisrael To Pray For Us"

Rav Avraham Schlesinger, an Israeli senior kashrus supervisor, recently said in a shiur that a Chinese factory owner whose factory he supervises wrote to him that the coronavirus, which is believed to have originated with bats, shows how eating kosher saves Jews from illnesses, Kikar Shabbos reported.

"We see that the Jewish concept of eating kosher saves you from illnesses because the entire epidemic apparently began due to the consumption of bats," the factory owner wrote. "We also see how powerless human beings are as is accepted in the Jewish faith."

Rav Schlesinger added: "The factory owner requested that I convey to Am Yisrael: 'Pray for us. You are close to G-d.'"

Rav Schlesinger, the head kashrus supervisor of Badatz Chanichei HaYeshivos, also said in his shiur that mashgichei kashrus are continuing to travel to China via other countries, adding that that the Av Beis Din of the kehilla, Hagaon Rav Mordechai Gross, paskened that from a halachic viewpoint mashgichim are permitted to travel to Chinese cities far away from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

"There a big kashrus project in China," said Rav Schlesinger. "It's a project that's carried out over many months of the year and requires a large staff of mashgichim. A new round of work is scheduled to start now which will continue until the end of Iyar and requires a large staff of mashgichim there at all times – including Pesach."

"Many shailos came up regarding the project. Harav Gross was asked, among other shailos, whether it's permissible to allow a mashgiach who is willing to do so to travel to China, mainly due to his dire financial situation. The halachich safek is if all of China is considered a "makom mageifah" or only the Wuhan city area."

"At first we thought that it will be a matter of days and we began to broadcast the project live to Eretz Yisrael as we hoped that within a short amount of time, the mashgichim will arrive and check over what was done. But the days are passing and there's also no workers so the whole existence of the project was in doubt. Due to this, Harav Gross paskened that a mashgiach who wants to travel to China to a city far away from the epidemic is permitted to do so."

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

The State Department Lie That Won't Die By Moshe Phillips

In his State of the Union address last week, President Trump declared, "Recognizing that all past attempts [at Israeli-Palestinian peace] have failed, we must be determined and creative in order to stabilize the region and give millions of young people the chance to realize a better future."

It was painful to see the president – whose policies have given all pro-Israel Americans reason to be grateful – mention the tired old fallacy that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is the cause of the region's instability. Peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will not stabilize the region. Nor will absence of peace between them destabilize it.

For years, Arab regimes and pro-Arab propagandists have energetically promoted the "linkage" argument. It serves two purposes. One is a variation on the old blame-the-Jews thesis. Trouble in the Gulf? Blame Israel. Unrest in North Africa? Blame Israel. Civil war somewhere in the Arab world? Blame Israel.

These are the arguments that were made for years by Israel critics on the editorial pages of The New York Times and The Washington Post, and it's a way of distracting people from the real causes of those conflicts.

The other purpose of the original promoters of the linkage argument was frightening the West. It's a threat. It warns that if the West doesn't force Israel to agree to Palestinian demands, chaos and violence will erupt throughout the region, driving up oil prices or endangering American troops stationed there.

The publications of pro-Israel organizations, such as AIPAC's "Myths and Facts," used to make a big deal about the mendacious nature of the linkage argument. Here's an excerpt from the 2001 edition:

The Palestinian problem is but one of many simmering ethnic, religious and nationalistic feuds plaguing the region. Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and Syria's brutal subjugation of Lebanon are only two examples of inter-Arab warfare that has long characterized the Middle East. Here is but a partial list of other conflicts from the end of the 20th century: the 1991 Gulf War; the Iran-Iraq War; the Lebanese civil war; Libya's interference in Chad; the Sudanese civil war; the Syria-Iraq conflict; and the war between the Polisario and Morocco…. If the Palestinian problem was solved, it would have negligible impact on the many inter-Arab rivalries that have spawned numerous wars in the region.

That was written 19 years ago. Think about all the inter-Arab and inter-Muslim conflicts that have taken place in the region since then. The Syrian civil war – 400,000 dead, seven million exiled. The civil war in Yemen, waged by Saudi and Iranian proxies. The genocide in Sudan, followed by the partition of the country. The constant violence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The revolution in Libya, followed by non-stop chaos. The takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah. The multiple jihads waged by ISIS.

The thesis that peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will "stabilize" the Middle East is without foundation. It's not clear why the president's speechwriters seem to have fallen back on this old, discredited State Department playbook idea, but here's to hoping never again to see it in a presidential address.

If You Will It, It Is No Dream… But Only On OUR Terms By Asaf Romirowsky

In his address to the Zionist Congress in London on August 2, 1900, Theodor Herzl said:

Zionism demands a publicly recognized and legally secured home in Palestine for the Jewish people. This platform, which we drew up three years ago, is unchangeable. It must have responded to a very deep necessity, a very old longing of our people, otherwise its effects would be inexplicable. There is no need of my enumerating these effects at the present day. Everyone knows them, everyone sees and hears them. Four years ago in speaking of a Jewish nation one ran the risk of being thought ridiculous. Today he makes himself ridiculous who denies the existence of a Jewish nation. A glance at this hall, where our people is represented by delegates from all over the world, suffices to prove this.

The Zionist enterprise has evolved over the past 120 years but has always been predicated on the reestablishment of Jewish statehood in the ancestral homeland. The collective memory of Jewish statelessness and powerless was vivid during the early decades of the Jewish State. Left, right or center, the founding fathers of Zionism were all motivated by the imperative of Jewish statehood as both a manifestation of the Jewish People's right to national self-determination and a means of lessening Jewish vulnerability and increasing the likelihood of Jewish survival.

This foundational axiom was also widely understood by American Jews, particularly in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Statehood was seen as the necessary extension of the shared sense of Jewish nationhood that had existed for millennia, a sense of unity and even destiny that went beyond culture or even religion.

Today, however, among an increasing number of American Jews, the idea of a Jewish state is no longer a building block but rather a wedge issue.

The very idea of nations and nation states may be suspect in the 21st century, but no other national movement evokes so uniquely visceral a reaction as does Zionism. No other term for a national movement has been infamously defined by the UN as "a form of racism and racial discrimination"—an epithet assigned to it by a bigoted coalition led by the Soviet Union. And no other definition has caused so much anxiety among a movement's putative supporters and rendered them so unwilling to stand up for their cause. Too many American Jewish supporters of Israel live in fear of being declared racist by enemies of Zionism, or by those who purport to be so "enlightened" that they can see through the façade of Israeli democracy.

Those individuals take it upon themselves to distinguish between the "good" and the "bad" parts of Israel and avail themselves freely of the all-purpose evil of the "occupation." Today's left and progressive circles use the 1967 "Green Line" as a red herring in their representation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the American Jewish community. Journalist Peter Beinart, one of the driving forces behind this trend, claims "the American Jewish establishment and the Zionist establishment [render themselves] morally corrupt by defending the indefensible, for defending an occupation that holds millions of people occupied".

Beinart, J Street head Jeremy Ben Ami, and others believe a "Zionist BDS" directed only against Israeli West Bank neighborhoods (or "settlements") is fair game. Like many post-Zionists and revisionists, they propound a false reality that puts the entire onus for the Arab-Israeli conflict on Israel. This distorted narrative maintains that Israel is almost exclusively to blame for the collapse of the Oslo "peace process" and the failure to revive it, rather than Arab rejectionism or Yasser Arafat's web of lies to his people, Israel, and the US.

Cognitive dissonance—the discomfort caused by carrying conflicting beliefs or values simultaneously—applies to many aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is an especially apt description of the emotions produced by the difference between historical fact and the Palestinians' view of their national narrative.

The notion of "occupation" has become the defining lens through which everything about the Palestinians' self-conception is explained and justified. This is exactly the myopic view taken by Beinart and his colleagues. The only difference is that unlike overtly anti-Zionist bashers like Norman Finkelstein, Ilan Pappe, and others, Beinart claims to be a lover of Zion—just one who is having a difficult time grappling with the "harsh" Israeli reality.

American Jewish intellectuals have placed other Jews in the class of people who cannot be debated or remain unpunished for where they live or for their views. Moreover, a strict double standard applies: Jewish organizations like Hillel must include anti-Israel voices or be deemed intolerant or racist, but Palestinians and their supporters should never be expected to reciprocate. Jewish intellectuals must engage in dialogue with BDS representatives or other Palestinian advocates who demand the ethnic cleansing of Israel lest they be called cowards or worse. Leading American Jewish intellectuals have themselves adopted the rhetoric and methods of BDS, to be applied to Jews only.

This strategy has been mostly local up to this point, but individuals like Beinart and Ben-Ami now feel empowered to attempt to hijack the World Zionist Congress and steer funding away from anything related to the "settlements". The legislative authority of the 120-year-old World Zionist Organization helps determine the fate of $1 billion in spending on Jewish causes. Beinart contends that "Israeli settlements in the West Bank are institutionalized expressions of bigotry. The American and Israeli politicians who legitimize them are the moral equivalent of those politicians who legitimized Jim Crow" because "Jewish settlements are Jewish-only settlements." J Street has announced a new campaign to pressure 2020 Democratic candidates into opposing Israel's presence in the West Bank, with the goal of getting the party to include a formal opposition to the "occupation" in its official platform.

There are countless unresolved questions regarding the territories and "settlements," all of which should be decided by Israelis and Palestinians. American Jews imposing their conceptions, based on a palpable lack of understanding and sympathy for their Israeli cousins, is patronizing and foolish. Hijacking Zionism's most important institution to demand that Israelis follow the dictates of Americans is far from what Herzl and his successors intended.

Why Private Speech Doesn't Tell Us About a Person's Character By Dennis Prager

Very few things I have said have elicited as much negative attention as this: What people say in private tells us little, if anything, about their character. Left-wing critics have had a field day mocking me (mockery is the left's substitute for argument), but even some religious conservatives have taken issue with me (without the mockery) – don't I know that it is precisely how we act in private that most clearly reveals our character?

This issue, of course, originally arose as a result of what then-reality TV host Donald Trump said in private to then-"Access Hollywood" host Billy Bush in 2005. I thought then, as I do now, that people greatly overstated the importance of the remarks – because they were made in private.

In order to understand why private remarks usually mean nothing, we need to make two critical distinctions: between private and public and between speech and actions.

Here are the four categories:

  1. Private speech.
  2. Private actions.
  3. Public speech.
  4. Public actions.

The last three are very important and, therefore, reveal a person's character. But what we say in private is not important. Why? Because it doesn't necessarily affect anyone (except potentially the person hearing us).

This is so obvious that it is depressing that it needs to be spelled out. It shows how small a role reason plays in many people's lives. We live at a time when what people feel substitutes for thought and reason. In the infamous "Access Hollywood" case, most people felt repulsed by what Trump said, and for most of them, that sufficed to determine Trump's character.

So, then, allow me to spell this out.

Does what you say to your therapist, which is obviously in private, reveal your character? No one believes so. In fact, if people say something ignoble in private but don't act on it, that shows good character, not bad.

President Richard Nixon was once taped making private comments about his dislike of many Jews. When that was revealed, people who hated Nixon used it to label Nixon an anti-Semite. But it was Richard Nixon as president who Israeli leaders credited with saving their country during the Yom Kippur War. Two years ago, Ha'aretz, Israel's leading left-wing newspaper, wrote:

"Nixon stands out among presidents for taking the boldest risk for Israel: a much-needed arms airlift during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. … Preoccupied by Watergate and mired in Vietnam, and against the advice of his Jewish adviser, Nixon risked a new war with the Soviets to save Israel. Nixon 'made it possible for Israel to win, at some risk to his own reputation and at great risk to the American economy,' historian Stephen Ambrose said."

A similar situation existed regarding former President Harry Truman. According to biographers David McCullough and Merle Miller, in private, Truman often used the word "kike" when talking about Jews (for example, he referred to New York City as "kike town" in a letter to his wife).

That is the Jewish equivalent of the N-word, a word he also often used in private. Yet it was Truman in 1948 who, against the pleas of the entire State Department, was the first world leader to recognize the new state of Israel, and who, as president, racially integrated the U.S. armed services.

Actions (and public speech) matter, not private speech.

Maybe Truman and Nixon didn't like Jews. As a Jew, I don't care what you think about Jews. I only care about how you treat Jews. Most evangelicals believe I cannot go to heaven because I do not accept the Christian savior. But evangelicals are not only among my closest friends; they are, by far, the Jewish people's best friends today. And that's what matters to me.

I don't judge people by their theology any more than I judge people by their private statements. Fools judge people by their theology and their private statements.

One more question for those who believe private speech tells us all we need to know about a person's character: Do thoughts tell us all we need to know? And if not, why not?

See you tomorrow bli neder

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. by Hana Levi Julian and Why Young Europeans Can’t Understand Israeli Citizens By Yishai Fleisher and limits are necessary with Spirituality

Can't see images? Click here...

Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works  with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money,  and spiritual engagement

Love Yehuda Lave

A few riddles to wake you up this morning

Question: Where do you go in through one hole and come out through two holes at the same time?


Answer: By putting on your trousers

 Peter's smart phone fell into a big mug of coffee but didn't get wet. How was this possible?

-

Answer: It was coffee powder.

What is dirty after washing?


A: Your bath water.

Question: What hard rock group has four dudes but neither of them plays a guitar?
 
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Answer: Mount Rushmore

Q: A man on a flat soccer field kicked a soccer ball 40 feet away. The ball came back immediately at the same speed. No one else and no object have been involved. The ball didn't touch anything on its way. How did the man do that?


A: He kicked the ball up in the air.

Q: The more you take from me, the greater I become. What am I?
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A: A hole.

Riddle: I move at a tremendous speed, as fast as a car, and yet I'm always at the same place. What am I?
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Answer: A ventilator.

Limits are necessary with Spirituality and Life

With Spirituality and Life limits are necessary. The Torah which is our guidepost to how to live life, always gives us examples of what happens when we ignore boundaries (gavol in Hebrew) and limits.

 In 19:12, Moshe is told to caution the People lest they ascend Mt. Sinai and breach the set boundaries. The punishment: "… whoever touches the mountain shall surely die."

Some verses later (19:20), HaShem again commands Moshe to descend from the mountain and warn the People: … "lest they break [their formation to go nearer] to the Lord, and many of them will fall."

Moshe himself in the next pasuk (19:21) questions the need for an additional warning, but Gd seemingly ignores his question and proceeds to direct Moshe to forewarn the People again (19:24).  How can this double alert be understood?

The written Torah can not be understood without the Oral Torah explanations. Our greatest commentator, Rashi summarizes varies sources in his terse explanations.

Rashi (19:24), quoting the Mechilta, explains that "… we spur on a person to follow instructions by warning him prior to the act and spur him on again at the time of the act." In Rashi's view, when the violation of a given behavior carries with it severe consequences, additional warnings are warranted.

Rav Soloveitchik expands upon this Midrash by utilizing its answer to advance a fundamental motif in the Torah. "Apparently, G-d did not want the People to refrain from ascending the mountain because a physical barrier blocked them." This is more the mark of a slave whose character is such that only physical force can stop him from breaching the borders.

Not so the Jew. "For Jews, there are neither fences nor partitions. We don't eat bread on Passover, because there is someone physically stopping us. We don't eat because we take the prohibition on ourselves.

The prohibition and the warning are enough to prevent a Jew from transgression and wrongdoing. G-d had to emphasize to Moses that the whole Torah is contained in the words, אל' יהרסו, let them not break through' – do not break down any abstract boundaries or partitions…

The most amazing thing about the Exodus, far greater than the signs and wonders, [was] the transformation of a nation of slaves who lived in a boundless state, … who did not understand the meaning of laws and strictures, [into a nation who would obey] laws when no taskmaster threatened.

Indeed, the religious Jew observes Shabbos, keeps the laws of Kashrus, behaves ethically not primarily because he fears physical punishment. Rather, the sacred and sublime word of HaShem is enough to embolden and impel a Jew to abstain from these and other violations. Hence the warning - the verbal interdiction - required repetition.

A very different approach is suggested by the great rabbinic sage of the last century, HaRav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt"l. In his opinion (Emes L'Yaakov, Shemos 19:24), the double warning was necessary because of the very real fear that the people would be prepared to jump the boundary and suffer the consequences in order to approach and experience palpable intimacy with the Almighty. What truly could be greater than to bask in the Presence of G-d, a spiritual reward reserved only for the righteous in the World to Come! The two sons of Aaron learned this lesson when they were killed for trying to come too close to G-d at the inauguration of the Mishkon (temple) in the desert.

 

The message here is equally indispensable. The desire to come close to G-d is absolutely intoxicating. The thirst and craving are so powerful that even the greatest of our Sages succumbed to this spiritual longing only to suffer terribly.

The story of the four Tannaim is well known. Rabbi Akiva was the sole survivor of the group because while he did enter the mysterious Pardes, he knew when to stop and not proceed further. (Yerushalmi Chagigah 2:1)

This intense longing to almost merge with Divinity is no doubt rooted in man's unquenchable desire to know it all, to know all there is.

In short, to be like G-d. And while emulating G-d is praiseworthy (Shabbos 133b), imagining that one can aspire to be Gd is downright dangerous and a clear threat to anyone and everyone. All too often, a man may not even realize the sheer futility of this spiritual fusion - the human and the divine being mutually exclusive.

A man may even give pious lip service to G-d and sincerely worship Him, but if he behaves as if he is the supreme font of all wisdom, he will have recklessly overreached, broken through the boundaries, and eventually will have brought about his own ignominious end. Only when man recognizes that there are limits, limits by virtue of his finite, mortal existence – only then will he understand the ethos of humility and in so doing, open himself up to Divine wisdom which prohibits and permits, which guides and instructs, and which inspires and sanctifies!

 

At the foot of Sinai, when the People were about to experience this extraordinary spiritual event of actually hearing the voice of G-d when upon hearing the first two Commandments, their souls temporarily left them – at that very moment, they remembered the warning about not approaching too close.

And they then understood that in the heeding of those very boundaries would lie the secret of their mission and purpose as Gd's Chosen People. Paradoxically, less is more, and limits actually allow for the gushing forth and blossoming of man's great potential as a singular being created in the image of his Maker.

Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. by Hana Levi Julian

Water Authority Mulls Best Time to Open Degania Dam

 

Israel's Water Authority met Wednesday to set a series a critical water level points at which to give the order to open the Degania Dam which sits between Lake Kinneret — also known as the Sea of Galilee — and the northernmost point of the Jordan River.

The decision is facing Israeli environmental authorities in the remaining months of the winter season, between February to April. This is the time when the final possible chance that rain might fall comes to an end, just as Jews around the world conclude recitation of the blessing for winter rains in the daily services, and begin instead the blessing for morning dew.

 

The Degania Dam is to be opened only if the level of the lake reaches the upper red line — meaning the lake has reached full capacity.

On Tuesday morning, the level of the lake stood at 210.01 meters below sea level. The upper red line is 208.8 meters below sea level, and the lower red line is 213.0 meters below sea level.

At present, the water level is just 1.22 meters before the point at which the lake will reach full capacity.

Opening the dam would prevent the possible flooding of the communities located near the lake, and would replenish the waters of the Jordan River and onward south to the Dead Sea.

However, there is also a concern that should there be too much water moving too swiftly, it may cause damage to infrastructure and agricultural areas downstream of the Jordan River, in the Yarmouk River and more.

At the meeting, the parameters were defined according to which the dam would be opened, such as a set date in the season, the release of the water from the lake, and the probability the water might fail to overflow the upper red line.

One of the biggest concerns in the danger of waiting too long, because the rise in the level of water may move faster than the speed at which the water can be released from the lake via the Degania Dam.

"It is essential to prevent flooding in communities near the lake, while preserving the Kinneret as an unparalleled resource for all of us," said Water Authority director Giora Shaham.

"We have to be careful to draw about a million cubic meters of water from the lake each day, and pipe it to the national water carrier," he added.

Why Young Europeans Can't Understand Israeli Citizens By Yishai Fleisher

As world leaders gathered in Jerusalem last month to remember Auschwitz and commemorate 75 years since its liberation, I was sitting in my office in Hebron with two Germans.

These two young men, aspiring journalists, had already published in some of Germany's most prestigious newspapers, and were enjoying a semester at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They had come to Hebron to see the Arab-Israeli conflict for themselves—and today was my day to lay out the case for the Jewish "settlers."

We talked about the issues of the day, including the Auschwitz commemoration and the speech by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Jerusalem. Then, I laid out the history of Jewish Hebron, and talked about the surprisingly good relations between the city's Jewish community and some of its Arab clans.

However, one question kept coming up, repeated in various forms: Why are you really here? Why is Hebron important to you? Why would you live in a dangerous neighborhood where you are not wanted?

I told them that Hebron is key to Jewish identity because the city contains the first property purchase of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. I told them about the special significance of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the founders of Jewish peoplehood, and about the uninterrupted Jewish presence in Hebron since ancient times. I went through the classic answers. Yet it became clear that my German guests were genuinely not grasping what I was saying.

In my experience, this incomprehension of Jewish yearning for the land of Israel is a recurring phenomenon with young Europeans—the standard answers about Zionism simply do not compute for them. One can chalk it up to classic anti-Semitism, but that explanation does not satisfy; these young men did not grow up with the Jew-baiting memes of old Europe.

So, I decided to change tack and deal with the real issue head-on, namely that the young Europeans and myself seemed to be speaking two different languages. I began by explaining that there are three pillars upholding the rationale for Israel: biblical history, nationalism and the memory of the Holocaust.

The Bible is dead

To understand Israel you need to have a clue about Scripture.

The Bible can be seen as a religious text, a historical text, or both, but however you see it, the Bible describes a deep and natural connection between Jews and the land of Israel.

In the mind of a biblically-aware person, the word "Hebron" conjures up the story of Abraham's purchase, of Jacob's burial, of King David's first capital and more.

For people like Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, though he was not religiously observant, the Bible, a book which tells of Jewish life in the land of Israel and multiple accounts of exile and return, was the foundational document of Zionism.

But for many Europeans, the Bible is meaningless.

They don't know it at all, and certainly don't believe in its veracity as either a historical document or religious text. In the mind of my young German journalist friends, quoting the Bible is like reading from a Middle Ages book of magical spells. At a minimum, they see it as irrelevant, at most as utterly regressive.

Today's Europe is post-religion, and the dramatic decline in church attendance in Europe is well documented. Anything that smacks of God-talk is suspect, and tales of the Hand of God protecting the Hebrews is anything but convincing.

In 1917, the British Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the famous Balfour Declaration, was a devout believer and a Bible-lover. His efforts were deeply informed by the consciousness of the Bible. But in today's Europe the Bible is dead, and with it a huge pillar of the pro-Israel rationale.

Nationalism is dead

The second pillar of the Jewish state is nationalism.

Israel is a nationalist endeavor—an ethnic people living on ancestral land, speaking an ancient language and doing business with a proprietary currency and particular calendar. Modern Israel's rebirth was linked with the post-World War I anti-imperial movement of "self-determination," in which ethnic peoples fought for the right to organize as independent states in their homelands.

While Europe was a bastion of nationalism 100 years ago, that ideology has been replaced by today's borderless, one-currency pan-European construct. A fixation on national history is seen as a hindrance to homogenization of the Continent.

The very word "nationalism" immediately conjures up associations with National Socialism, that is, Nazism.

So for young Europeans, when you say Israel has rights because of nationalism, they hear that Israel denies rights because of fascism.

Moreover, related to nationalism is the concept of family.

Family is really micro-nationalism, and to understand Israel you have to understand the importance of family in the Jewish mind. Raising a family is a deep-seated value in the Jewish state, shared by all, from the secular to the ultra-Orthodox.

But Europe is notoriously post-family, post-children, and noticeably, post-replacement numbers.

To talk to young Europeans about the Jewish state as the defender of the family, the tribe, or the nation is only to bring up regressive, as opposed to progressive, associations. With the death of the idea of nationalism in Europe, yet another pillar of the pro-Israel rationale has faded.

The Holocaust is dead

The third pillar of Israel's existence is the Holocaust, or more accurately, Jewish oppression in exile throughout the ages, which culminated in the Holocaust.

To understand Israel is to remember that the Jewish state was born in the shadow of "The Six Million" and with the consciousness of "Never Again"—and therein lies Israel's deep-seated need for a strong army and its ethos of self-defense.

Yet young Europeans were born into a reality of Israel as a strong country—even a military power—and certainly not a victim.

Additionally, they have been taught, at one level or another, that Israel is a foreign colonialist aggressor against the weak, indigenous Palestinians. For them, Israel is not a small Jewish commonwealth in the midst of a huge hostile Arab world, but rather Israel is the proverbial brutish Goliath. Therefore, anchoring Israeli rights in self-defense, for example the need to control the highland of Judea due to strategic considerations, tends to fall on deaf European ears.

And what of the European Holocaust itself—which happened not so long ago? Do young Europeans see it as a rationale for Israel? Hardly. They wish it would just go away—and indeed, who would want to carry around that blame?

Moreover, there is an intricate psychological mechanism by which the European feeling of guilt over the Holocaust transforms into a desire to recast Israel as an oppressor. As if to say: See, the Jews themselves are victimizers and the moment they have the power they act like Nazis. The Jews are no better than us, and we are no worse than them.

With Israel's strength comes the death of Holocaust as a rationale for Israel—and yet a third pillar of the rationale for Israel is undone.

A core values conflict

Without necessarily trying to broadcast it, the Jewish state is a biblical throwback and an ethnic-nationalist state and therefore stands for Bible and God, nationalism and family, self-determination and self-defense. Even the majority of the Israeli left espouses most of these core values.

Europe, on the other hand, is post-God, post-nationalism, post-family and post-Holocaust—and is therefore understandably at odds with the very concept of Israel.

Moreover, Europe is not just Europe—it is a mindset that can be found across the ocean in places like The New York Times, and on many American college campuses. For them the Bible is no rationale at all, nationalism is repugnant and Israel is the aggressor, not the victim.

The enemies of Israel seek to exploit and enhance this Euro-mindset by creating an atmosphere where the pillars of Israel are further undermined. According to their teachings, Israel cannot base its claims on an ancient book, Israeli nationalism is nothing but repressive colonialism, and claims of the Holocaust are grossly exaggerated—recognizable rhetoric to young Europeans.

Is dialogue possible?

Many Israelis and Israel proponents have identified some of these landmines and have tried to create language to bridge the gaps.

Therefore the Jewish state's image has gone through "nation-branding" cycles where Israel has been recast as the Start-Up Nation, gay capital of the Middle East and bikini-clad night-life destination. But these do little to mask Israel's biblical and nationalistic character, and neither do they succeed in undoing the damage caused by the exploiters of the post-God, post-national Euro-mindset.

Sadly, the intellectual gaps between today's Europe and Israel are unbridgeable—and there is not much to do about it.

However, as the adage goes, a conservative is just a liberal who has been mugged. While Europe's winds are to the left today, they are liable to swing back to the right in the future. Such is the case with the U.K.'s Brexit for example, or the resurgent nationalism of Eastern Europe.

Unlike Europe's current whim, Israel's nationalism, biblical heritage and yearning for self-defense are age-old truths that will eventually overcome the intellectual vicissitudes of today.

That is what I told my young German journalist guests.

Did they like hearing it? Not exactly. But at least they got a straight answer and were no longer dumbfounded as to why they can't understand why Jews fight to live in Judea.

REINCARNATION by Rabbi Ephriam Sprecher

And these are the JUDGEMENTS you shall place before them." (Shemot 21:1) Parshat Mishpatim begins with a litany of human suffering, misery, afflictions, poverty and slavery. Why does life contain so much tragedy?

The Zohar states that the answer to this profound question lies with our verse "And these (human tragedies), are G‑d's JUDGEMENTS for a person's misdeeds that he committed in a previous lifetime." Thus the Zohar is linking G‑d's Justice and Judgement to the Doctrine of Reincarnation.

The Ramban brings a proof text for Reincarnation from the book of Iyov. "Wow, all these wonders G-d does, two or three times with a person, to bring back his soul from the grave, to light up his life with the living light." (Iyov 33:29-30).

Why is there Reincarnation? Life works the way that education works, which is about moving up from level to level as one matures and becomes more intelligent. The educational process that we go through in life is meant to enhance a person's ability to function in the world and to help people make the most of their lives. Life is about our need to become responsible and compassionate members of society.

As a person grows up, his spiritual capabilities also increase and mature but not automatically. The more one puts into an education the more one derives from it. Similarly the more one puts into spiritual growth, the more one grows spiritually, and the more spiritually empowered one becomes. This process of spiritual growth enables one to enjoy and delight in G-d's presence for Eternity in the Afterlife.

Kabbalah teaches that though we all have one, unique, special soul, each soul actually comprises five parts, each of which has a specific name – Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chaya, and Yechidah. Nefesh is the person's life force. Ruach is the person's spirit. Neshamah is G‑d's breath of life. Chaya is the living soul, and Yechidah is the unique special soul of each person.

These five soul parts represent the path to spiritual completion and perfection. Because each level up provides increasingly greater access to higher levels of spiritual capacity and eternal closeness to G‑d.

At birth every individual has all five levels of soul. We have to if we are going to continuously receive G-d's light to keep us functioning, since the five levels of soul connect us to the light of G-d which nourishes our souls and keeps our bodies alive. To be missing a level of soul would be to break the connection between a person and G‑d, the Source of Life.

The Torah gives a person access to higher levels of spiritual understanding and to the perfection of the soul. The problem is that the Evil Inclination can interfere with our ability to Climb the Soul Ladder from Nefesh to Ruach to Neshamah, etc., so much so that time can run out on our lifetime before we have completed our mission.

People often remain stuck on the lowest soul levels for decades, or even entire lifetimes. G‑d can't afford to give up on any soul, as Iyov 31:2 states, "CHELEK ALO'AK MIMA'AL" (We are a portion of G‑d from above.)

Thus the necessity for Reincarnation. We return to complete and perfect what we started in other lifetimes even if we aren't aware of who we were or where we were. The Hebrew word for Reincarnation is GILGUL which means recycling.

The word GILGUL in Hebrew, Gimmel Lamed Gimmel Vav Lamed, has the same numerical value of 72 (GEMATRIA) as the word CHESED, Chet Samech Dalet, (LOVINGKINDNESS). What is remarkable about this is that 72 is also the number of one of G‑d's Mystical Names, Shem Ayin Bet = 72. When this type of numerical connection occurs, it implies a profound conceptual relationship. GILGUL is the ultimate CHESED of G‑d, in that a soul is given another chance for the refinement of its past and the spiritual growth and advancement of its future.

To succeed in Eternity, a soul returns to this physical world again and again to do its TIKKUN and to fulfill its spiritual mission. This is true because G‑d is in the soul repair business.

See you tomorrow bli neder

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

PO Box 7335, Rehavia Jerusalem 9107202

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