Some people gauge the value of themselves by what they own. But in reality, the entire concept of ownership of possessions is based on an illusion. When you obtain a material object, it does not become part of you. Ownership is merely your right to use specific objects whenever you wish.
How unfortunate is the person who has an ambition to cleave to something impossible to cleave to! Such a person will not obtain what he desires and will experience suffering.
Fortunate is the person whose ambition it is to acquire personal growth that is independent of external factors. Such a person will lead a happy and rewarding life.
One never knows from one day to the next how your life will change.
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We discovered an interesting instrument on tour in the US - an American Fotoplayer!
Our Own Larry Frisch speaks on why Israel wants peace
Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Editor's note: This week's Torah reading includes the special addition of Parshat Shekalim (Exodus 30:11–16), which speaks of the half-shekel each Jew contributed to the Sanctuary. The following essay explores the deeper significance of the "half-shekel" in kabbalistic and chassidic teaching.)
The first marriage of which we read in the Torah is the marriage of Adam and Eve. Theirs, of course, was a marriage wholly made in Heaven: G‑d Himself created the bride, perfumed and bejeweled her, and presented her to the groom. The first instance in which the Torah tells the story of a marriage achieved by human effort is in the chapter that describes the search for a bride for Isaac. Here are detailed the workings of a conventional shidduch: a matchmaker (Abraham's servant Eliezer), an investigation into the prospective bride's family and character, a dowry, the initial encounter between the bride and groom, and so on.
The Torah, which often conveys complex laws by means of a single word or letter, devotes no less than 67 verses to the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca. Many of the details are related twice—first in the Torah's account of their occurrence, and a second time in Eliezer's speech to Rebecca's parents. For here we are being presented with a prototype to guide our own approach to marriage—both in the conventional sense as the union of two human beings, and in the cosmic sense as the relationship between G‑d and man.
Half of Twenty
One of the details which the Torah includes in its account is the fact that a ring, a half-shekel in weight, was one of the gifts that Eliezer presented to Rebecca at their meeting at the well in Rebecca's hometown of Aram Naharayim.
The man took a golden ring, a half-shekel in weight; and two bracelets of ten shekels' weight of gold for her hands. (Genesis 24:22)
Our sages explain that this was an allusion to, and the forerunner of, the half-shekel contributed by each Jew towards the building of the Sanctuary. As G‑d instructs Moses in the 30th chapter of Exodus:
Each man shall give the ransom of his soul to G‑d. . . . This they shall give: . . . a half-shekel. . . . A shekel is twenty gerah; a half-shekel [shall be given] as an offering to G‑d. . . . The rich man should not give more, and the pauper should not give less, than the half-shekel . . .
Why half a shekel? Maimonides writes that as a rule, "everything that is for the sake of G‑d should be of the best and most beautiful. When one builds a house of prayer, it should be more beautiful than his own dwelling. When one feeds the hungry, he should feed him of the best and sweetest of his table. . . . Whenever one designates something for a holy purpose, he should sanctify the finest of his possessions, as it is written (Leviticus 3:16), 'The choicest to G‑d'" (Mishneh Torah, Hil. Issurei Mizbe'ach 7:11).
Indeed, in many cases Torah law mandates that the object of a mitzvah (Divine commandment) be tamim, whole: a blemished animal cannot be brought as an offering to G‑d, nor can a blemished etrog be included in the Four Species taken on the festival of Sukkot. Even when this is not an absolute requirement, the law states that whenever possible, one should strive to fulfill a mitzvah with a whole object. For example, it is preferable to recite a blessing on a whole fruit or a whole loaf of bread, rather than on a slice (hence our use of two whole loaves at all Shabbat and festival meals).
Why, then, does the Torah instruct that each Jew contribute half a shekel towards the building of a dwelling for G‑d within the Israelite camp?
The Torah's repeated reference to this contribution as a "half-shekel" is all the more puzzling in light of the fact that in these very same verses the Torah finds it necessary to clarify that a shekel consists of twenty gerah. In other words, the amount contributed by each Jew as "the ransom of his soul" was ten gerah. Ten is a number that connotes completeness and perfection: the entire Torah is encapsulated within the Ten Commandments; the world was created with ten Divine utterances; G‑d relates to His creation via ten sefirot (Divine attributes); and the soul of man, formed in the image of G‑d, is likewise comprised of ten powers. But instead of instructing to give ten gerah, the Torah says to give half of a twenty-gerah shekel, deliberately avoiding mention of the number ten and emphasizing the "half" element of our contribution to the Divine dwelling in our midst.
Separated at Birth
For such is the essence of marriage. If each partner approaches the marriage with a sense of his or her self as a complete entity, they will at best achieve only a "relationship" between two distinct, self-contained lives. But marriage is much more than that. The Kabbalists explain that husband and wife are the male and female aspects of a single soul, born into two different bodies; for many years they live separate lives, often at a great distance from each other and wholly unaware of the other's existence. But Divine providence contrives to bring them together again under the wedding canopy and accord them the opportunity to become one again: not only one in essence, but also one on all levels—in their conscious thoughts and feelings and in their physical lives.
Marriage is thus more than the union of two individuals. It is the reunion of a halved soul, the fusion of two lives originally and intrinsically one.
To experience this reunion, each must approach his or her life together not as a "ten," but as a half. This half-shekel consists of ten gerah—each must give their all to the marriage, devoting to it the full array of resources and potentials they possess. But each must regard him- or herself not as a complete being, but as a partner—a part seeking its other part to make it whole again.
The half-shekel ring given to Rebecca for her marriage to Isaac was the forerunner of the half-shekel contributed by each Jew towards the building of the Sanctuary, the marital home in the marriage between G‑d and man.
The soul of man is "a part of G‑d above"—a part that descended to a world whose mundanity and materiality conspire to distance it from its supernal source. So even a soul who is in full possession of her ten powers is still but a part. And even when G‑d fully manifests the ten attributes of His involvement with His creation, He is still only partly present in our world. It is only when these two parts unite in marriage that their original wholeness and integrity is restored.
So to build G‑d a home on earth, we must contribute half of a 20-gerah shekel. We must give ourselves fully to Him, devoting the full spectrum of our ten powers and potentials to our marriage with Him. But even as we achieve the utmost in self-realization in our relationship with G‑d, we must be permeated with a sense of our halfness—with the recognition and appreciation that we, as He, are incomplete without each other.
UK trial launched to test new vaccine for terminal cancer
UK trial launched to test new vaccine for terminal cancer
The immunotherapy trial in London will examine whether a vaccine is effective in stimulating the body's immune system to destroy cancer cells.
Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow, Poland. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Polish gas company workers exposed bones while digging at the site of the Nazi Plaszów concentration camp and Jewish cemetery. Only a single stone marker indicates the site of the cemetery.
Police were alerted to the incident by a local Jewish community leader who received a tip from an anonymous caller. Likewise, Rabbi Eliezer Gurary, Rabbi of Kraków and the city's Chabad-Lubavitch emissary was anonymously notified — belatedly — on Wednesday about the find.
The rabbi told JewishPress.com in a statement, "The concentration camp was built upon a Jewish cemetery, therefore there's a great chance that these are human Jewish bones." Gurary added that he intends to turn to the local authorities "in order to take part at the investigation and to act in order to find a solution if they are indeed human bones."
The gas company was doing pipeline maintenance work at the time the bones were discovered, according to a report in Newsday.
Kraków Police spokeswoman Mariusz Ciarka told reporters Tuesday the bones were sent for examination to a forensic lab "to determine if they are human."
The Plaszów concentration camp was originally intended to be a forced labor camp. It was built on the grounds of two Jewish cemeteries and populated with prisoners during the liquidation of the Kraków Ghetto, which took place on 13–14 March 1943
Half a year almost to the day after the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) had enforced the law and removed Arabs who had taken over illegally an area in Wadi Rashrash, a valley near the Jewish community of Karmei Tzur, News 0404 reported Tuesday night that the same Arabs have return to the area as if nothing has happened.
In August, 2015, the same news source published a video showing road construction and infrastructure preparation for a giant garbage dump in Wadi Rashrash, in an area which is in the process of being claimed as state-owned land. Following complaints from the Regavim NGO, whose mission is "to ensure responsible, legal, accountable & environmentally friendly use of Israel's national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation," COGAT placed a barrier on the access road, but the Arabs broke through it and continued to work inside.
Following more complaints by Regavim as well as inquiries from News 0404, COGAT warned the Arabs that their trucks would be confiscated if they didn't go away. That threat worked and the Arabs disappeared.
On Tuesday morning, 6 months later, they were back. The news service reported the violation to COGAT and the service stated clearly that the issue would be taken care of immediately.
Terra cotta pipes uncovered at the site constitute evidence of the existence of an ancient bath house that operated there. Photo: courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Unexpected finds, more than 1,600 years old, were uncovered during archaeological excavations of the Israel Antiquities Authority in the Schneller Compound in Jerusalem before the start of construction of residential buildings for ultra-orthodox residents. The project is financed by the Merom Yerushalayim Company.
Interesting finds from Jerusalem's past were discovered in the archaeological excavation, most notably a large and impressive winery dating to the Roman or Byzantine period, some 1,600 years ago. The complex installation includes a pressing surface paved with a white mosaic. In the center of it is a pit in which a press screw was anchored that aided in extracting the maximum amount of must (freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems) from the grapes. Eight cells were installed around the pressing surface. These were used for storing the grapes, and possibly also for blending the must with other ingredients to produce different flavors of wine. The archaeologists believe that this winery served the residents of a large manor house whose inhabitants made their living with viticulture and wine production.
Numerous ancient pottery sherds and fragments of glassware that were found inside a plastered pit that was exposed at the site, indicating the possibility that a workshop operated there which used the ancient pit for discarding waste. Photo: courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority
Evidence was unearthed next to the impressive winepress indicating the presence of a bathhouse. These finds include terra-cotta pipes used to heat the bathhouse and several clay bricks, some of which were stamped with the name of the Tenth Roman Legion. This legion was one of four Roman legions that participated in the conquest of Jewish Jerusalem during the Bar Kochva rebellion, and its units remained garrisoned in the city until 300 CE. Among the Roman legion's main centers was the one in the vicinity of the International Convention Center (ICC), commonly known as Binyenei HaUma, at the entrance to Jerusalem, which is located just 2,400 ft from the current excavation, where a large pottery and brick production center was once located. The archaeologists suggest that the Schneller site, in the form of a manor house, constituted an auxiliary settlement to the main site that was previously exposed at Binyanei Ha-Uma. As was customary in the Roman world, here, in the Schneller Compound, a private bathhouse was incorporated in the plan of the estate.
The current archeological excavation is actually a continuation of the salvage excavations that were carried out at the site half a year ago, when evidence was uncovered there of a Jewish settlement that dated back to the Late Second Temple period.
Excavation director, Alex Wiegmann, alongside the complex winery. Different flavor wines were probably produced in it. Photo: courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Archaeologist Alex Wiegmann, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, noted that "once again, Jerusalem demonstrates that wherever one turns over a stone ancient artifacts will be found related to the city's glorious past. The archaeological finds discovered here help paint a living, vibrant and dynamic picture of Jerusalem as it was in ancient times up until the modern era."