The Judaism Of Harry Houdini By Saul Jay Singer and puns for today and The Family: Hospital Visit from The Carol Burnett Show (full sketch) and President Trump Proclaims ‘Education Day’ for Rebbe’s Date of Birth and should we believe in Prayer to get us out of Coronavirus?
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. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
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Just be careful because people are going crazy from being in lock down! Actually, I've just been talking about this with the microwave and toaster while drinking coffee and we all agreed that things are getting bad. I didn't mention anything to the washing machine as she puts a different spin on everything. Certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant. In the end the iron straightened me out as she said everything will be fine, no situation is too pressing. The vacuum was very unsympathetic... told me to just suck it up, but the fan was more optimistic and hoped it would all soon blow over! The toilet looked a bit flushed when I asked its opinion and didn't say anything but the door knob told me to get a grip. The front door said I was unhinged and so the curtains told me to ........yes, you guessed it .....pull myself together
Have a great and safe day
The Great Message of Long Term Prayer
Should we have faith in Prayer during this current Plague? We Jews are very experienced with the concept of long term investment. That is why historically we like Real Estate as in Investment.
The Torah commands in the Book of Devarim (16:1), " – "Guard the month of spring, and observe Pesach." Our Sages interpreted this verse as a command to always ensure that Pesach is celebrated during the springtime, the season when the Exodus occurred.
The lunar system upon which the Jewish calendar is based could potentially allow the various holidays to fall at different times during the year. But since the Torah commands us to ensure that the 15th of Nissan – when Pesach begins – falls specifically during the springtime, we adjust the calendar through the leap-year system in order to keep our calendar in sync with the solar calendar. Why is it so important for Pesach to be celebrated specifically in the spring? Shouldn't the critical point be celebrating the day of the Exodus – the 15th of Nissan? Why are we required to commemorate the fact that Children of Yisrael left Egypt during the spring? One answer that has been suggested relates to the concept of prayer in Jewish thought. The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (6b) comments that prayer is among the "things which stand at the highest plane of the world, but people belittle it." Prayer is a high and lofty experience, but people generally fail to afford it the importance it deserves.
The Ba'al Shem Tov (founder of Hasidim, 1700-1760) explained that people belittle prayer because they don't see their prayers being answered. People, by nature, like to see immediate results, and when we don't, we are inclined to give up on the whole enterprise.
So often we pray and do not receive that which we prayed for, and this leads us to either give up or to pray without any feeling or emotion. The Gemara, the Baal Shem Tov explains, is teaching us that in truth, every prayer stands "in the highest plane of the world." G-d loves and cherishes each and every prayer that we recite, and each and every word is effective. Often, however, the effects are delayed until many generations later. If we pray for an ill patient who, in the end, does not recover, this does not mean that our prayers were recited for naught.
The Ba'al Shem Tov taught that these prayers are stored "in the highest plane of the world" and will be used at some later time to cure another ill patient. This is the meaning of the Mishna's teaching in Pirkeh Avot that if somebody says, "Yagati Ve'lo Masati" – "I have toiled but have not achieved," we should not believe him. If a person prayed sincerely, then his prayers were effective; they achieved a great deal. Even if he does not see their effect, he can rest assured that at some point, they will have a very significant impact.
By the same token, the Mishna teaches that if somebody says, "Lo Yagati Ve'masati" – "I did not toil, yet I achieved," he, too, should not be believed. If a person who had not been religiously observant suddenly finds himself inspired and moved to commit himself to intensive Torah study and practice, this is the result of somebody's "toil." Perhaps his grandfather, or great-grandfather, or great-great-grandfather, tearfully prayed that his descendants should be faithful servants of G-d and Torah scholars, and the prayers were answered several generations later. Prayer always works, though not always in the manner and at the time we ideally want.
Prayer in this sense resembles agriculture. The farmer exerts great effort cultivating the ground and tending to his crops, but it takes many months, and sometimes years, before he sees the results.
The same is true of prayer, which yields great results, but not always immediately. It can sometimes take years, or generations, before the prayers bear fruit. This is one of the vital messages of the story of Going out from Egypt. During the years of suffering and persecution, the children of Yisrael cried out to G-d for help, but the situation only continued to deteriorate. Not only did their prayers not yield the result they wanted, but their condition worsened.This went on for 210 years. A long time. More than anyone could live through. It took faith for many generations to make it come through.
We trace the history through just three generations because Moses's great grandfather was the Pro-generator Levi. In the end, of course, their prayers were answered, and G-d miraculously brought them out of Egypt. The story of the Exodus is one of belief in the long-term effects of prayer, and teaches us to remain firm and resolute even when our prayers are not immediately answered.
And so the Torah commands us to ensure that Pesach is always celebrated during the springtime, in the season when nature is in full bloom, when we see with our own eyes the long-term effects of agricultural efforts. The onset of spring reminds us that the product of all our hard work and effort can often be seen only long after the work is completed. This is thus the season of Passover,, the season when we celebrate the Going our from Egypt, and when we are taught never to despair from prayer, as each and every word is precious and will, at some point, have a profound effect
Puns for today
1. The fattest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi.
2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.
3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.
4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class, because it was a weapon of math disruption.
5. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.
6. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.
7. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart.
8. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.
9. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.
10. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other: 'You stay here; I'll go on a head.'
11. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.
12. The midget fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
13. The soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
14. A backward poet writes inverse.
15. In a democracy, it's your vote that counts. In feudalism, it's your count that votes.
16. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.
17. If you jumped off the bridge in Paris, you'd be in Seine.
18. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, 'I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger.'
19. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says 'Dam!'
20. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
21. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says, 'I've lost my electron.' The other says 'Are you sure?' The first replies, 'Yes, I'm positive.'
22. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocain during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
23. There was the person who sent ten puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.
AS HEARD FROM RABBI AVIGDOR MILLER Z'TL "And Hashem shall pass over to smite Egypt and He shall see the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, and Hashem will pass over (U'Pasach) the door and will not allow the Desroyer to come into your houses to smite" (Shemot 12:23) It was not sufficient to avoid identifying with the people of the land in order to escape the Destroyer, But it is necessary also to practice positive identification with the Torah-Nation. The blood of the Pesach offering and the loyalty to the commands of Hashem will assure Israel that the Destroyer will always pass over (U'Pasach) them. Those of our nation that neglect the Torah laws will be subject to the Destroyer just as all the nations which have gone down into the dust. Just as the ancient empires of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and Communist Russia have gone down under the hand of the Destroyer, and so also the Hellenizers and the Shabtai –Zvi heretics and all other disloyal elements perish from the earth. Pesach (the Passing-Over) symbolizes the eternity of the loyal Jewish people whose progeny will continue until the end of days and whose souls are rewarded forever. Thus the miracle of the Pesach was not only for this occasion, but it teaches that Hashem will always cause the Destroyer to pass over His loyal ones in all generations. The Pesach-offering symbolizes Israel's unfailing loyalty to Hashem and His Torah in the face of the disapproval of the nations and the opposition of the idolaters and the academicians and the hedonists in every generation. The slaughtering of the Pesach lambs was in itself a major catastrophe for Egypt. They knew that the Israelites used sheep for food, and they hated the sons of Israel for that (Beresheet 43:32). But this had been done privately, so as not to arouse the animosity of Egypt. Now it was done demonstratively, with the blood smeared on the lintel and doorposts. Egypt was dumbfounded and stupefied, but in their profundity of despair they could not react. An additional message of the Korban Pesach: This is the first instance when the meat of an offering was eaten. Hitherto all the offerings had been in the form of 'Olot" (burnt-offerings) and no one attempted to profane the offering by putting into a human mouth. But the Pesach-offering now came as a declaration of the status of the sons of Israel as "a holy people" (19:6) whose bodies were elevated to the holiness of an alter, and when they ate the meat of the offering it was parallel to the burning of the offering upon the alter. Even ordinary meat must from now on be properly slaughtered to be eligible for entrance into the holy Israelite body. All the laws of forbidden foods demonstrate the exceptional holiness of the body of the Israelite. Just as it was forbidden to defile the Sanctuary by any unclean thing so also it was forbidden to defile the Sanctuary of the Israelite body by many kinds of food that were permitted to the nations. The eating of the Korban Pesach now declared this great principle. Quoted from "A Nation Is Born" by Rabbi Avigdor Miller ZT'L Tizku Leshanim Rabot From Your Friends At Yeshiva Gedolah Founded By Rabbi Avigdor Miller ZT'L REFUAH SHELEMA To all our Jewish Brothers & Sisters. Kel Na Refa Na Lahem. Amen
The Family: Hospital Visit from The Carol Burnett Show (full sketch)
Eunice's brother (Tom Smothers) is in the hospital waiting for surgery and is visited by The Family (Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence) in their true "caring" way. Want even more laughs? Shop The Carol Burnett Show DVDs today at http://bit.ly/ShopCarol
President Trump Proclaims 'Education Day' for Rebbe's Date of Birth
Proclamation emphasizes character, conscience and collaboration
Emphasizing the importance of character, conscience and collaboration amid the alarming news of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus, the White House released a proclamation designating April 5, 2020, as "Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A," in honor of the 118th anniversary of the birth of the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory. The proclamation, signed by U.S. President Donald J. Trump, states that it is a day to recognize and reaffirm the Rebbe's teaching that "education is essential to cultivating a spirit of curiosity and learning, developing character and conscience and strengthening the will to work collaboratively."
It is the 42nd year since the Rebbe's date of birth was first designated as a time to reflect upon the state of education in society, a bipartisan tradition that began in 1978 with President Jimmy Carter and has been carried out by every subsequent president since.
Referring to the Rebbe as "a compassionate and visionary leader whose influence continues unabated since his passing more than a quarter century ago," the president highlighted the profound influence the Rebbe has had in the field of education and moral leadership.
"Knowledge inspired by unwavering virtues and commitment to faith were central to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's life and mission," he wrote. "When put into practice, these values empower people of all ages to fulfill their unique purpose, and in turn to enhance and enrich our great Nation. On this day, let us acknowledge that each person has unique purpose that can be unleashed through an individual, whole-of-person approach to education, and let us renew our commitment to supporting education as a means by which individuals may grow their gifts, develop their talents, and fulfill their God-given potential. May we work to shape a brighter future by preserving these foundations of freedom of fellowship for generations to come."
In reacting to the very first designation of "Education Day," the Rebbe expressed that while the timing of the day was a tribute to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement "which sees in education the cornerstone not only of Jewish life, but of humanity at large, and has been dedicated to this vital cause ever since its inception more than 200 years ago—it is a fitting and timely tribute to the cause of education in general, focusing attention on what is surely one of the nation's top priorities."
The Rebbe spoke often about education as the bedrock of society, underscoring that it should not be limited to preparation for a career or even the acquisition of knowledge but, as he wrote to Carter, "education in a broader and deeper sense—not merely as a process of imparting knowledge and training for a 'better living,' but for a 'better life,' with due emphasis on character building and moral and ethical values."
In President Ronald Reagan's 1984 Education Day proclamation he echoed the Rebbe's teachings when he noted that "throughout our history ... our educational system has always done far more than simply train people for a given job or profession; it has equipped generation upon generation of young men and women for lives of responsible citizenship, by helping to teach them the basic ethical values and principles that are both our heritage as a free people and the foundation of civilized life."
The Rebbe spoke about his hope that "Education Day" would become a permanent institution, one which due to the universal nature of education would lend further significance to other days, such as Father's Day and Mother's Day.
"It is fitting indeed that the U.S.A. has shown, through a forceful example to the world, that it places education among its foremost priorities ... ," the Rebbe said. "The proclamation of 'Education Day USA' is of extraordinary significance in impressing upon citizens the importance of education, both in their own lives as well as, and even more so, for the young generation in the formative years—particularly, in the present day and age."
The Judaism Of Harry Houdini By Saul Jay Singer
Harry Houdini (1874-1926), undoubtedly the greatest showman of his age and probably of all time, was an awe-inspiring escape artist and the undisputed master of his craft.
He was the first "superstar" to manipulate the media to gain broad mass acceptance, and his fame was such that George Bernard Shaw quipped that Jesus, Sherlock Holmes, and Houdini were the three most famous people in world history. Even almost a century after his death, his name is synonymous with magic, and he remains a renowned cultural icon.
Houdini was particularly important to American Jews, for whom he came to embody the idea that a Jew could achieve success in an anti-Semitic world. For Jews who had a long history of fear and vulnerability, Houdini was the ultimate contemporary symbol of strength, and the renowned escape artist became the paradigm of the Jewish immigrant's belief that he could escape the metaphorical shackles of Jewish history.
Even after achieving great success, Houdini maintained his ties to Judaism and his loyalty to his Jewish family, saying: "I never was ashamed to acknowledge that I was a Jew, and I never will be." He recited Kaddish for his mother every day for the entire year after her death; dutifully marked his father's yahrzeit throughout his world travels; and made a point to repurchase the family Bible that his father had sold when the family was struggling financially. He apparently studied it as evidenced by the notes he wrote in the margin of the sefer.
During WWI, Houdini founded and presided over the "Rabbi's Sons Theatrical Association" (1918), a group consisting of sons of rabbis and Jewish scholars (Al Jolson served as its vice president and Irving Berlin as second vice president) that raised funds for Hebrew associations helping military families.
He was also a great American patriot who supported a variety of American causes, including the American Red Cross, and was also a major supporter of Zionist institutions. Throughout his life, Houdini performed great acts of charity, but insisted upon anonymity because "the Jewish way is to give charity quietly."
Although it is the subject of some dispute, some of Houdini's friends said that he carried his tefillin with him while on tour, regularly putting them on in the morning, and that he carried mezuzot with him, which he nailed to the doorpost of his hotel room during his travels.
Nonetheless, he became the first person in his family to intermarry, which caused a rift with his family that never healed completely, although his parents eventually came to terms with his marriage. He was greatly devoted to his Catholic wife, Bess, but Houdini insisted that he be buried in a Jewish cemetery near his parents despite knowing his wife could not be buried near him.
Houdini was shocked by his first exposures to anti-Semitism during his performances in Germany. He wrote, "[T]here is a secret feeling among Europeans against Jews. It surprised me greatly to think that such things exist in this country. It is awful what I hear from people who are Jew haters." When he performed in Russia soon after the notorious Kishinev Pogrom (1903), when Jews were not permitted to remain in Moscow overnight, he muted any reference to his Judaism, but he was deeply affected by what had happened, and what was happening, to his fellow Jews there, and he wrote critically about Russian anti-Semitism.
* * * * *
Houdini was born Ehrich Weisz (later "Weiss") in Budapest, where his father, Rabbi Samuel Weisz, Ph.D., L.L.D., was a great scholar. Seeking a haven from rampant anti-Semitism, Samuel immigrated to America in 1876, where he quickly discovered that the streets were not paved with gold. After a two-year struggle, he managed to barely save enough to bring his family to the U.S., including four-year-old Ehrich.
The Appleton, Wisconsin Zion Reform Jewish Congregation retained Samuel as its first rabbi, but it paid him a pittance and, four years later, he was dismissed because his immigrant English was weak and the congregation wanted a modern rabbinical leader.
Soon after losing his position in Appleton, unable to secure another rabbinical position, and virtually indigent, Samuel moved the entire family first to Milwaukee, where he also failed to support his family. To ease the financial strain on the family, Ehrich left home at age 12 to seek his fortune. He lived at a YMCA in New York City and, while still very young, supported himself doing elementary magic tricks as "Erik he Great."
After Samuel moved to New York City, where he found a job working in a necktie factory, he was joined in that work by Ehrich. Soon after, Ehrich read from the Torah at his bar mitzvah, which was officiated by the Orthodox Rabbi Bernard Drachman, who reported that Ehrich's progress in Hebrew was "extremely weak" but that the boy had "a profound reverence for the Jewish faith."
Shortly after his father died of tongue cancer in 1892, Ehrich, now Eric, got a job as a magician at Coney Island performing common card tricks, billing himself as "The King of Cards." He was unsuccessful until he met and befriended Martin Beck, a fellow Jewish immigrant who advised Eric that he would never succeed as a card magician but could achieve great fame as "The King of Handcuffs."
July 3, 2002 postal cover of the U.S. Houdini stamp, depicting Houdini in handcuffs.
After Beck got him a job on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit as an escape artist, Eric adopted the stage name "Houdini" in honor of Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the "father of modern conjuring" whom he revered at the time. Houdini quickly gained celebrity for incorporating an audience challenge into his act: He offered to pay $100 (not an inconsequential sum at that time) to anyone who could lock him into a set of handcuffs from which he could not escape. No one ever earned the prize; he became known as "Harry 'Handcuff' Houdini," and by the turn of the 20th century, his fame took him on a five-year tour of Europe.
During his career, the great Houdini only failed to escape a pair of cuffs once – when he was presented with a rigged set stuffed with buckshot, rendering the locking mechanism inoperative, even with the key. Houdini had to be cut out of them and, thereafter, all challengers had to demonstrate that the cuffs could be opened before he would permit them to be put on him. His reputation remained untarnished, however, as the media and the public deemed buckshot-filled cuffs to be a hoax and an exercise in dishonesty.
Houdini became one of the first early masters of self-promotion, planning carefully to ensure that his feats would be witnessed by the public – and by the mass media. His fame and reputation were sealed with incredible stunts, including breaking out of various city jails including cells in Siberia and Scotland Yard; taking less than three minutes to escape from a water-filled milk can; freeing himself from a straitjacket while shackled at the ankles and dangling upside-down in midair; escaping from a crate thrown into New York's East River into which he had been locked and manacled; making an elephant disappear (1918); and escaping from a water-torture chamber in the famous Chinese Water Torture Cell trick (1913).
Houdini also performed the famous "bullet catch" trick – which has killed at least 12 magicians – in which a bullet would be fired at his head and he would catch it with his bare hand in mid-air. When the czar watched the trick, he was so impressed that he asked Houdini to repeat it – with the czar himself firing the weapon – and Houdini again caught the bullet.
As an interesting historical note, after the czar's death, his family asked Houdini to serve as its spiritual advisor. When he declined the offer (on the grounds that he wanted nothing to do with Russian anti-Semitism), the position went to – wait for it – the infamous Rasputin.
In one of his most famous tricks, which turned out to be his final stunt, Houdini performed his "underwater coffin trick" on August 5, 1926 in the swimming pool at the Hotel Shelton in New York. With his hands cuffed in front and chained to his shackled ankles, his arms chained around his neck, and his torso bent over, he was squeezed into a 700-pound metal coffin that was lowered into the pool. Much to the astonishment of the journalists in attendance, Houdini emerged from the coffin some 91 minutes later.
Exhibited here is a remarkable August 28, 1926 correspondence written and signed by Houdini to Edwin A. Dearn in which he describes where he obtained the coffin for the underwater coffin trick:
Houdini handwritten letter regarding his "underwater coffin trick."
A friend of mine Mr. John P. Spatz of the Boyertown Casket Company is going to Shanghai on business and have given him a letter of introduction to you. I know you will be interested to hear that he is the man to whom I am indebted for the use of the caskets while training for the under water coffin experiment. They have treated me very nicely in all of this and know you will be glad to meet him.
Interestingly, several authorities have insisted that Houdini used a 700-hundred-pound sealed tank, not a coffin, for this trick, but this letter, on its face, conclusively proves them incorrect.
Houdini corresponded regularly with Dearn (1892-1980), an amateur magician, during the 1920s. Dearn was also a popular ventriloquist who lived in England before spending 25 years as a regular performer in theaters in the Shanghai district of China, and he entertained many world-famous magicians in his home there.
He was also a passionate collector of magic memorabilia and books, including some 2,000 magic works and apparatus. Dearn was held captive for two years when Mao Zedong took over China in the early 1950s, but he ultimately escaped to Sydney, Australia.
Among other distinctions, Houdini became the first man to fly an airplane in Australia. He starred in silent films, founded his own film production company, and amassed an enormous theater archive, which he donated to Harvard.
After the death of his mother in 1913, Houdini became preoccupied with conquering death. Toward that end, he conferred with noted spiritualists, the result of which was what became a lifelong crusade against charlatans trafficking in the despair of the bereaved with fake séances and bogus raisings of the dead, including testifying before Congress against spiritualists and mediums in 1926.
"Spiritualism" to Houdini was little more than amateur magic clothed in the supernatural, and his close friendship with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle ended when the creator of Sherlock Holmes refused to renounce spiritualism. He alienated Doyle further after Mrs. Doyle conducted a séance during which she claimed to have received directions from Houdini's deceased mother and drew a cross and transcribed a detailed message from her.
Ink signature, "H. Houdini" and his address in Brooklyn: "394 E 21st Street, Flatbush, N.Y."
Houdini later publicly humiliated the Doyles by noting that the late Mrs. Weisz, a rabbi's wife and a practicing Jewess her entire life, would not be drawing a cross nor would she be speaking English instead of her usual German.
Houdini offered a standing $10,000 reward for any "supernatural" manifestations that he could not duplicate (there were, not surprisingly, no takers), and he wrote several books about spiritualist fraud. Many of the charlatans whom he exposed launched anti-Semitic diatribes against him, calling him "Judas" and arguing that since his Judaism made him un-American, no one should pay any attention to him.
Houdini died of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix, sustained when he took punches to the stomach from an audience member. Significant mythologies developed regarding his death during a performance – on Halloween – and there are still some who argue that the man who regularly escaped death during his lifetime would somehow manage to escape it after his "death."
Houdini vowed that, if at all possible, he would contact Bess from beyond the grave. However, to disprove any allegation by pseudo-mystics or the like that they had communicated with him after his death, he gave her a secret code known only to them (and to close friend and confident, mentalist Joe Dunninger), in the absence of which any alleged medium, channeler, or spiritualist could be shown to be a fraud.
Bess held a séance on the tenth anniversary of her husband's death, and Harry's bother, Hardeen, conducted séances thereafter, but Harry never did communicate with them – or with anyone else.