Sunday, August 31, 2014
Friday, August 29, 2014
Just because others react to a situation in one way does not mean you also must react the same.
Some people might be extremely nervous or upset in certain situations, but you can still retain a calm and sensible manner.
Today, when you see others reacting with irritation, anger, or depression, ask yourself what other alternatives are possible. What are those people telling themselves and how can those self-statements be challenged?
In general, look for people who have peace of mind and happiness, and learn from them.
Love Yehuda Lave
A two minute walk behind Jerusalem's King David Hotel brings us back two thousand years of history, possibly to the era of a different king of Judea. The small, minimalistic sign informs us that we're standing at the "Herodian Family Tomb".
Where are we?
Towards the end of the 19th Century, the Greek Orthodox Church began acquiring thousands of acres of land outside Jerusalem's Old City. Today this land includes some of the wealthiest parts of the city. In the summer of 1891, while preparing the land near the neighborhood of Mishkenot Shannanim for farming, the Greek monks discovered remains of large ashlar stones. The educator and archaeologist, Conrad Schick (a fascinating figure in his own right) conducted intensive excavations on the site and concluded that the destroyed building was part of a burial complex.
At the entrance to the cave one finds a complete rolling stone. These stones would block the entrance to the cave and could be rolled back when needed. The use of rolling stones (called: golel) and family burial caves was very common among the Jews of Jerusalem, especially during the Second Temple Period. (Cf. Matthew, 28:2).
Picture Credit: Segula Magazine
Schick believed that he had found the Herodian family tomb. What did he base this identification on? In brief, he based it on two factors: 1) we've already mentioned the size and beauty of the structure which leave no doubt regarding the wealth and prestige of its owners. 2) Secondly, the great Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, in his seminal work, History of the Jewish War against the Romans (5: 108), writes regarding the Roman General Titus's urban planning:
the whole space from Mount Scopus to Herod's monuments, adjoining the spot called the Serpents' pool, was smoothed out.
The cave was carved up into several small rooms. Each room had hewn burial niches, and was covered with white chalk. Inside, Schick found several sarcophagi and other remains. The size and expense of this complex seriously points in the direction of this cave belonging to one of the privileged and wealthy families of Jerusalem of old.
Unfortunately, however, Josephus does not describe this monument. However, based on his research into Jerusalem in the year 70, Schick thought he had identified this 'pool' as what is known today as "Sultan's Pool" and adjacent to it is our burial cave complex.
However, not everyone accepted this identification, mainly because the caves failed to produce any remains or inscriptions indicating the owners of the cave.
Ok, enough with the archeology. Why should you schlep in the Jerusalem heat to see an old cave? You shouldn't! And, luckily, you don't have to. Today, this site remains prime real estate in the modern Jerusalem. This site is situated in the middle of a beautiful public park, a few minutes away from both the Old City and the quaint but chic German Colony. Within the park, if you are lucky and the weather is right, you may even spot a bride taking photos on her wedding day in this most picturesque of locations.
by Shraga Simmons
ABC's of ElulThe last month of the Jewish calendar is actually the most important – serving as preparation for the High Holidays.
If you had an important court date scheduled – one that would determine your financial future, or even your very life – you'd be sure to prepare for weeks beforehand.
On Rosh Hashanah, each individual is judged on the merit of his deeds. Whether he will live out the year or not. Whether he will have financial success or ruin. Whether he will be healthy or ill. All of these are determined on Rosh Hashanah.
Elul – the month preceding Rosh Hashanah – begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life's goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life – rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving.
The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee – "I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people.
In other words, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah is a time when God reaches out to us, in an effort to create a more spiritually-inspiring atmosphere, one that stimulates teshuva.
Beginning on Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, we recite "Slichot", a special series of prayers that invoke God's mercy. If Rosh Hashanah falls at the beginning of the week, then "Slichot" begin on the Saturday night of the previous week. (Sefardim begin saying "Slichot" on Rosh Chodesh Elul.)
After the sin of the Golden Calf, Moses asked God to explain His system for relating with the world. God's answer, known as the "13 Attributes of Mercy," forms the essence of the "Slichot" prayers. The "13 Attributes" speak of "God's patience." The same God Who created us with a clean slate and a world of opportunity, gives us another opportunity if we've misused the first one.
"Slichot" should be said with a minyan. If this is not possible, then "Slichot" should still be said alone, omitting the parts in Aramaic and the "13 Attributes of Mercy."
Finally, the most important aspect of Elul is to make a plan for your life. Because when the Big Day comes, and each individual stands before the Almighty to ask for another year, we'll want to know what we're asking for!
Additions to the Services
Beginning the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul, it is the Ashkenazi custom to blow the shofar every morning after prayers, in order to awaken us for the coming Day of Judgement. The shofar's wailing sound inspires us to use the opportunity of Elul to its fullest.
Also beginning in Elul, we say Psalm 27 in the morning and evening services. (Sefardim say it in the morning and afternoon services.) In this Psalm, King David exclaims: "One thing I ask... is to dwell in the house of God all the days of my life." we focus on the unifying force of God in our lives, and strive to increase our connection to the infinite transcendent dimension.
Rewind 3,000 years to the Sinai Desert. God has spoken the Ten Commandments, and the Jews have built the Golden Calf. Moses desperately pleads with God to spare the nation.
On the first day of Elul, Moses ascends Mount Sinai, and 40 days later – on the seminal Yom Kippur – he returned to the people, with a new, second set of stone tablets in hand.
For us as well, the month of Elul begins a 40-day period that culminates in the year's holiest day, Yom Kippur.
Why 40? Forty is a number of cleansing and purification. Noah's Flood rains lasted 40 days, and the mikveh – the ritual purification bath – contains 40 measures of water.
Elul is an enormous opportunity. During this time, many people increase their study of Torah and performance of good deeds. And many also do a daily cheshbon – an accounting of spiritual profit and loss.
Events of the Year 2448
Many of the Jewish holidays are based on the events of one crucial year in Jewish history – 2448, or 1312 BCE.
About 3,300 years ago, in the Jewish year 2448, the Jewish people were freed from slavery in Egypt – following the plague of the First Born. The date was the 15th of Nissan, the first Passover celebration.
One week later, with the Egyptian troops in full chase, the Red Sea split – and the Jewish people walked through on dry land. This occurred on the seventh and final day of the Passover holiday.
Ten Commandments and Mount Sinai – Fifty days later, on the holiday of Shavuot, God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai. At Sinai, the Jews regained the immortal level of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Moses' First Ascent – Following the revelation, Moses went up Mount Sinai to learn more details of the Torah directly from God. At the end of 40 days, God handed Moses two sapphire tablets of identical shape and size – upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.
The Golden Calf – On the 16th of Tammuz, when Moses had not yet returned from the mountain, the Jewish people began to panic. They sought a new "leader" and built the Golden Calf. Immediately, the Clouds of Glory – the divine protection of God – departed. The Jews had relinquished their spiritual greatness and become mortal again. On the 17th of Tammuz, Moses came down from the mountain, smashed the Tablets, destroyed the Calf, and punished the transgressors.
Moses' Second Ascent - On the 19th of Tammuz, Moses ascended Mount Sinai again to plead for the lives of the Jewish people. He prayed with great intensity, and after 40 days, God agreed to spare the Jewish people in the merit of their forefathers. On the last day of Av, Moses returned to the people. Their lives were spared, but the sin was not yet forgiven.
Moses' Third and Final Ascent – Moses ascended Mount Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Elul and stayed in the heavenly camp for 40 days (bringing the total number of days spent there to 120). Henceforth, the month of Elul became a special time for drawing close to God. At the end of the 40 days – on the 10th of Tishrei – God agreed to mete out the punishment for the Golden Calf over many generations. He then gave Moses a new, second set of Tablets.
Moses came down from the mountain with good news for the people: The reunification was complete, and the relationship restored. Thereafter, the 10th of Tishrei was designated as a day of forgiveness for all future generations: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Midrashic Sources: Exodus Rabba 32:7, 51:8; Tanchuma - Ki Tisa 35
Thursday, August 28, 2014
The distinction between pain and suffering is as follows: If we are able to find meaning in pain, then we do not suffer. If we are unable to find meaning in pain, then it becomes overwhelming and we call that feeling of being overwhelmed "suffering."
"The simple ability to put pain into a meaningful context enables us to cope with it. Nietzsche said, "A man can deal with any what, as long as he has a good enough why."
"A child, for example, cuts his finger and screams the house down. An adult cuts his finger and gets on with life. Children live in the here and now, so a child has no context for his pain. There is no meaningful future to look forward to, just the immediacy of the pain. An adult realizes that the pain will pass and life will be good again in spite it. He doesn't suffer. And, by the way, why is it that when you hug and kiss a child the pain seems to go? It's not the pain that goes, it's the suffering. You have given the child a meaningful context for the pain - the context of a parent's love. The child still feels the pain, but with a new-found context for it, he no longer suffers.
"An adult must find his own meaning in his pain. Sometimes it is obvious, as in the case of a woman in labor. Sometimes it is a little harder. But when he or she can look at the pain as a means to grow, a means to develop deeper self-understanding, then the pain remains, but the suffering will be forgotten.
"Everyone goes through pain in life. But not one of us has to suffer if we do not want to.
"Again, the choice is ours."
Love Yehuda Lave
Here's a special "thank you" to George Abrahams for sending this fascinating collection of "before" and "after" images of Manhattan and Brooklyn (with a 140-year intervening time span) called The George Bradford Brainerd Project by photographer Jordan Liles. Move your cursor back and forth over the images to see
"before" and "after."
- The George Bradford Brainerd Project <http://www.jordanliles.com/george>
- Created by Jordan Liles <http://www.jordanliles.com/george>
- View The Images <http://www.jordanliles.com/george/images>
- 15 Facts About George <http://www.jordanliles.com/george/facts>
- Watch The Video <http://www.jordanliles.com/george/video>
All of George Brainerd's images were captured between 1872 and 1887. Jordan Liles shot all present day images between August 2013 and April 2014. Many of the images required going back several times to get the best possible results. The following factors played into the difficulty of matching before and after shots:
* Position of the camera
* Height of the camera from the ground
* Aiming of the lens
* Type of lens
* Possibility that Brainerd's image was flipped horizontally during the archiving process
If you're on a desktop computer, move your mouse cursor over and away from the images to see before and after. If you're on a mobile device, touch and let go. If it's not changing back, touch anywhere outside the image. Still having issues? Contact Jordan Liles at <http://www.jordanliles.com/contact/> .
And now, presenting the photographs comparing 140 years of change, and be sure to see the video <http://www.jordanliles.com/george/video> too.
Tours of the City
235 East 49th Street, #12-A
New York, NY 10017
T: 212-223-2777 | F: 212-758-7893
New York Governor George Pataki and the New York State Tourism Council honored Urban Historian Justin Ferate as "New York's Most Engaging Tour Guide." || Mr. Ferate was selected as the author of the Official New York City Tour Guide Licensing Examination.|| "The AAA Guide to New York City" declared Mr. Ferate's tour of Grand Central Terminal, "New York's Best Walking Tour!" || Time Out New York selected Mr. Ferate as "One of New York's 50 Essential Secrets!"
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
Many people mistakenly think that being famous will automatically make them happy.
But happiness depends on what goes on in your mind and not what happens "out there." Hence if you are thinking negative thoughts, you will be sad even if everyone else in the world is speaking about how great you are. Conversely, if you think positive thoughts, you will feel good even if no one gives you honor.
Happiness is dependent on your thoughts and not on what other people say about you, unless you tell yourself you cannot be happy without the approval and honor of others. Robin Williams who just passed away was a prime example of this.
Love Yehuda Lave
Jewish life in Cuba today
- Even though Israel has returned over 90% of land it won, and over 90% of the Arab world refuses to accept Israel, the crux of the problem is one of Israel occupying land and not one of Arabs refusing to accept Israel.
- Gazans are living under siege, yet somehow seem to have been able to import enough construction equipment and raw materials to build 10,000 rockets and who knows how many dozens of complex tunnels stretching for miles from which to launch deadly attacks.
- If only Israel would withdraw we would all be able to hold hands and live happily ever after whereas actual evidence shows that after Israel did a 100% withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza, both of them used the freedom to initiate war.
- Even though Israel has accepted to live in a tiny fraction of historical Jewish land they are actually outsiders in that region.
- Even though Israeli Arabs are active in all facets of Israeli life, from the Supreme Court and Knesset to entertainment and sports, and the Arab world expelled approximately 800,000 Jews and has become mostly Judenrein now, after centuries of Jews living there, Israel is the apartheid state.
- Even though Hamas uses schools and hospitals to build their tunnels, hide their weapons in, and shoot rockets from, Israel is somehow responsible for the tragic civilian and children's deaths there.
- Palestinians don't want Hamas and really just want peace, when they actually voted them into power.
Adding and subtracting from he Torah
Consider, for example, one of the dietary laws. The Torah states that one may not eat meat and milk together. The rabbis take this prohibition and extend it to include the consumption of fowl and milk. Does this extension violate the prohibition of adding to the Torah?
Rambam feels this in fact may be the case. He codifies that if one maintains that fowl and milk are enjoined by Torah law, this extension is a violation of adding to the Torah. However, if the rabbis declared that as an added precaution, because of the similarity between fowl and animal food, fowl together with milk is rabbinically forbidden, then including fowl as a rabbinic prohibition is perfectly legitimate (Laws of Mamrim 2:9).
This idea helps explain a well-known midrashic comment on the Garden of Eden narrative. According to the text of the Torah, Eve tells the serpent that God had commanded that the tree of knowledge not be touched. Eve, however, adds to the decree. As the Midrash explains, God had only forbidden eating, not touching. The serpent then pushed Eve against the tree, declaring, "as you have not died from touching it, so you will not die from eating thereof." In the words of Rashi: "She added to the command [of God]. therefore, she was led to diminish from it" (Rashi, Genesis 3:3,4).
One could argue that Eve acted properly; after all, she, like the rabbis, only tried to protect God's commandment by extending the prohibition to touching. Her mistake, however, was saying that God had actually issued such a command. She should have declared that while God forbade eating from the tree, she decided as a precaution – as a "fence" around the law – not to touch it as well.
Thus, rabbinic law is pivotal. Still, it is important to understand which laws are rabbinic and which are biblical in nature.
One final note: Separate from rabbinic legislation and interpretation is the halachic realm of chumra. Chumra is imposing a very stringent observance of the law. While stringency can elevate spirituality, it is essential to know when a practice falls into the category of chumra and when it does not. Failure to make this distinction can often lead to the chumra becoming the only accepted practice. This can be dangerous because it can lead to a lack of understanding and intolerance of the sometimes-wide range of practices within a certain rabbinic law.
So rabbis can extend the laws when there is a critical need, but they must do so with the realization of their responsibility not to blur the lines set out in the Torah.
Throughout the ages rabbis have done so with the hope that their interpretations and legislations will bring people closer to God and to one another.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Avoid Unnecessary Arguments
The Chafetz Chaim used to say, "Be careful to avoid unnecessary debates, for this can easily lead to anger."
Before getting into an argument, ask yourself: "Is it really worthwhile to argue over this matter?"
Love Yehuda Lave
Things You'll Only See in Israel
A female soldier with a machine gun passing a Hasidic man on the street
Spiderman visiting the Western Wall
The Israeli made car, Susita
A parking spot for camels
Purim Sameach on the streets of Israel
A Hasidic Peter Pan
A Kosher McDonald's
A sign of caution for wandering camels
Another sign warning of tanks crossing
A Chareidi family in Jerusalem, with their children dressed as Santa
Yield: Hasidic family crossing
Israelis showing pride in their coffee
Daniel Hoffman, https://www.facebook.com/theworldbyajew
The siren for a moment of silence in honor of Israel Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron)
A celebration upon landing in Ben Gurion airport
NO HOLDS BARRED: Fortress Israel
Will an aggressive PR response create enemies? Absolutely, just as Israel defending itself will do.
My visit to Israel during this war has shown me that Israeli leaders of every stripe, from Left to Right, feel embattled, besieged, beleaguered. But also defiant and unbroken. They are already building ramparts for Fortress Israel.
The world, the feeling goes, is turning on us as never before. Our outreach to the nations, especially Europe, has failed completely. They are solidly anti-Israel or anti-Semitic, with little distinction between the two.
The solution is Fortress Israel, an island nation with two principal defenses: its military and its relationship with the United States.
Forget the UN. It nominates Ahmadinejad toadies like William Schabas. It investigates Israel while even Islamic State and Boko Haram get a pass. Forget France, which is returning to pogroms. Screw Britain, with MPs saying they'd also fire rockets at Jews in Israel.
We are tired of trying to explain ourselves. Israelis feel no one will understand. No one wants to understand.
You can see the position hardening.
And it's tough to argue with that conclusion.
I was amazed that The Guardian published two major stories in its pages basically apologizing to its readers for publishing my organization's ads with Elie Wiesel condemning Hamas for child sacrifice. Alan Rusbridger, its eminent editor, implied that our ad had destroyed his paper's reputation, writing, "I am saddened that, for some readers, it appears that the amazing, brave reporting by Guardian journalists, staffers and stringers in Gaza, to get the suffering and news out of there, at risk to their own lives, counts for less than one advertisement... So it's a shame that the controversy over the advertisement eclipsed the unflinching work that the Guardian has done in being the world's eyes and ears, including going to the hospitals where the injured and dead children were being taken."
Chris Elliott, the Guardian reader's editor, actually wrote, "I think the Guardian should have rejected the language of the advertisement."
So much for Britain's belief in freedom of the press.
His column claimed that the Stop the War Coalition had 140,000 signatures condemning our ad and that the Guardian itself received 350 complaints. Which explains the real nature of the controversy. The Guardian is simply bowing to the outside pressure of Europe's Israel-haters, of which there are more than a few.
Forget Israel getting fair editorial treatment. We can't even pay to make Israel's case.
In America the attitude would have been different. You don't like the ad, turn the damned page. Not one American paper rejected our ad. But the Guardian and The Times subsequently and categorically refused to print our new ad against William Schabas, the Bibi-hating, Israel-condemning, "objective" new judge of Israel at the UN.
There have always been demonstrations against Israel in Europe. In my 11 years as rabbi in Oxford I witnessed many and provoked more than a few by hosting five Israeli prime ministers.
But this war is different, we all feel. Now the demonstrations in Europe are not against Israel but against Jews. They invoke Hitler. They chant HAM-AS rhyming with poison GAS. They want us dead.
Fortress Israel is being created by the realization that Israel is surrounded on all sides by enemies who seek its destruction. From Hamas to the south to Hezbollah to the north to Syria and Islamic State to the east, Israel is a nation under siege. What makes it more isolated than ever before is the world condemning this tiny democratic country for defending its citizens from mass slaughter.
And yet the impulse to retreat into Fortress Israel must be resisted at all costs. To the contrary, on the diplomatic and PR front Israel must become more aggressive and more engaging.
It's time to take the fight to our enemies.
William Schabas planned to investigate Israel. As always it would be Israel on the defensive, being attacked by a UN that has yet to issue a single condemnation of Bashar Assad's poison gas attack on Arab children. What our ad campaign in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post did was put Schabas on the defensive, with his sickening record of being a shill for Iranian mullah terrorists. In the wake of our campaign, Schabas has been defending himself all over world media. He went to Tehran to a conference hosted by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – to promote human rights, he says. Ahmadinejad isn't so bad. He's just a politician. And Schabas won't say whether he took money.
Understandably, Schabas now looks like one of two things. Either a useful idiot who lent his academic prestige to a cynical PR gambit by a murderous Iranian regime, or a naïve fool. Either way he's toast and has squandered any last vestige of credibility. So let him chair the UN commission so the world can see it for the farce it is.
Let's bring the fight to our enemies.
In place of Fortress Israel we must create Strike Force Israel.
I'm glad that the Guardian attacked itself for taking our money and printing our ad. I'm glad that it has succumbed, by its own admission, to reader complaints, thereby demonstrating how easily intimidated it is.
Will an aggressive PR response create enemies? Absolutely, just as Israel defending itself will do. Indeed, an article in The Jerusalem Post quoted Israel studies professor emeritus Colin Shindler of the School of Oriental and African Studies in the University of London saying, "In all likelihood, Boteach has inculcated stronger pro-Palestinian feeling" with the Elie Wiesel ads.
I assume this was Shindler's cynical attempt at humor.
Britain becoming more pro-Palestinian is akin to the pope becoming more Catholic.
But for every three detractors we will find one who is impressed by our courage to run the gauntlet and make a compelling case for Israel in world media based on courage and conviction.
It was the attitude taken by Ambassador Ron Dermer when he called out Erin Burnett and CNN for not providing context about Hamas's use of UN schools for rocket launches. It was the attitude taken by Elie Wiesel where one of the most respected men alive hit hard at the murderers of Hamas for their use of human shields.
An Israeli ambassador to a European country with whom I met recently asked me whether I thought his regular appearances on national TV were helpful. "So many are telling me that Europe is lost," he said.
"It's not lost," I told him. "Rather, the idea that we will be very popular in Europe is lost. But making our case regardless of the consequence is something we should be doing every day. And you will gain the individual citizen's respect."
Let us forgo Fortress Israel and join Strike Force Israel.
Not Israeli retreat but an Israeli PR advance. Not hunkering down but engaging our detractors.
It's time to admit that the Hillel-Chabad approach to pro-Israel activism on campus must be modified or supplemented.
These incredible organizations are on the front lines. But students are not inspired by felafel parties alone.
They are not moved merely by Israeli film festivals or Israeli dance evenings, important as they are. Do you see the BDS people staging Palestinian theater evenings? No, they go after Israel, enlist tens of thousands of idealistic and ignorant young people, and send them out as a propaganda army against Israel.
It's time to engage BDS. It's time to respond to Europe.
Our organization, This World: The Values Network, is continuing our Israel debate series on campus, inviting the best Israel and Arab speakers to debate the Middle East.
Many potential campus partners whom we've approached have told me that they won't join our debates because they're afraid of the Israel side losing. Which calls to mind what Franklin Roosevelt said: The only thing to fear is fear itself.
In the fall I will be back at Oxford, God willing, debating Hanan Ashrawi at the Oxford Union. Will we win? Just by demonstrating that Israel refuses to be intimidated and hunker down into Fortress Israel, we are victorious.
Shmuley Boteach, "America's rabbi" whom The Washington Post calls "the most famous rabbi in America," is the founder of "This World: The Values Network," the world's leading organization promoting universal Jewish values in politics, culture, and the media. The international best-selling author of 30 books, he has recently published Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.