Monday, July 6, 2015

Thoughts and Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer where I prayed in a synagogue named after him on Friday

Help Make Friends

Giving to others will increase your love for them. If you make an effort to help everyone you meet, you will feel close to everyone. Doing acts of kindness for everyone fills your world with friends and loved ones.

"A stranger is someone you have not yet helped."

Love Yehuda Lave

The Three weeks as they are seriously kept

The "Three Weeks" between the 17th of Tammuz and the Tisha B'Av have historically been days of misfortune and calamity for the Jewish people. During this time, both the First and Second Temples were destroyed, amongst other terrible tragedies.

These days are referred to as the period "within the straits" (bein hametzarim), in accordance with the verse: "all her oppressors have overtaken her within the straits" (Lamentations 1:3).

On Shabbat during the Three Weeks, the Haftorahs (Torah readings in the synagogue) are taken from chapters in Isaiah and Jeremiah dealing with the Temple's destruction and the exile of the Jewish people.

During this time, various aspects of mourning are observed by the entire nation. We minimize joy and celebration. And, since the attribute of Divine judgement ("din") is acutely felt, we avoid potentially dangerous or risky endeavors.


  1. No weddings are held. (However, engagement ceremonies are permitted.)
  2. We do not listen to live  music if possible.
  3. We avoid all public celebrations -- especially those which involve dancing and musical accompaniment.
  4. We avoid exciting and entertaining trips and activities. (Kaf HaChaim - OC 551:41)
  5. No haircuts or shaving. (Fingernails may be clipped up until the week in which Tisha B'Av falls.)
  6. We do not say the blessing She-hechianu on new food or clothes, except on Shabbat.


The period commencing with Rosh Chodesh Av is called the "Nine Days." During this time, a stricter level of mourning is observed, in accordance with the Talmudic dictum (Ta'anit 26): "When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy."

(1) We avoid purchasing any items that bring great joy.

(2) We suspend home improvements, or the planting of trees and flowers.

(3) We avoid litigation with non-Jews, since fortune is inauspicious at this time.

(4) We abstain from the consumption of meat (including poultry) and wine. These foods are symbolic of the Temple service, and are generally expressions of celebration and joy.

  • On Shabbat, meat and wine are permitted. This applies also to any other seuduat mitzvah -- for example, at a Brit Milah or at the completion of a tractate of Talmud.
  • Wine from Havdallah should be given to a child to drink.

(5) We refrain from wearing newly laundered garments, or laundering any clothes.

  • If the "freshness" has been taken out of a garment prior to the Nine Days, it may be worn.
  • Fresh clothes may be worn for Shabbat.
  • The clothing of small children, which gets soiled frequently, may be laundered during the Nine Days.
  • Clothes may not be laundered even if done in preparation for after Tisha B'Av, or even if done by a non-Jew.

(6) We do not bathe for pleasure.

  • It is permitted to bathe in order to remove dirt or perspiration, or for medical reasons. This may be done only in cool water.
  • Furthermore, the body should be washed in parts, rather than all at one time.
  • Bathing in warm water is permitted on Friday in honor of Shabbat.

with thanks to Rabbi Moshe Lazerus

Author Biography:

Rabbi Shraga Simmons spent his childhood trekking through snow in Buffalo, New York. He holds a degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and rabbinic ordination from the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

Now on the lighter side as I always want to be uplifting

Want to make friends with a turtle?  The two videos below give you that opportunity.

Ever wondered what Australia's 1,800-mile long Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world, looks like from a turtle's perspective?

Thanks to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF), now you no longer have to wonder

The Great Barrier Reef is home to almost 6000 species. Thanks to GoPro, here's what the journey through it looks like for one of them: a turtle's eye view of the Reef.

The BIGGEST Turtle You've EVER seen!

Coyote Peterson comes across turtles where ever he goes, but nothing can prepare him for a once in a life time encounter with North America's largest swamp monster, the Alligator Snapping Turtle. If you think you've seen a big turtle...wait till you get a look at this beast!

















































This Day in Jewish History / A rabbi who urged the Orthodox to join the world is born

Azriel Hildesheimer was appalled by the Reform movement but worked with it on issues of common interest, like battling anti-Semitism.

By | May 20, 2015 | 6:00 AM
Berlin's Adass Yisroel synagogue.
The Israelite Synagogal Congregation of Adass Yisroel in Berlin. Photo by Wikimedia Commons
The University of UtrechtBy Dr. Samuel Lebens | Jun. 9, 2014 | 8:53 PM

May 20, 1820, is the birthdate of Azriel Hildesheimer, the Berlin rabbi who played a central role in the formulation of modern Orthodoxy, reconciling traditional Torah Judaism with the idea of integration into modern, rational society.

It was Hildesheimer who founded, in Berlin, what quickly became the principal training institute in Europe for Orthodox rabbis, and insisted that its students master secular subjects as well as Jewish ones. In doing so, he offered an effective response to Reform Judaism, the dominant Jewish stream in late 19th-century Germany.

Azriel, or Israel, Hildesheimer, was born in Halberstadt, in Saxony, Prussia. His father, Loeb Glee Hildesheimer, was a rabbi from a family of scholars from the town of Hildesheim, near Hanover; his mother was the former Golde Goslar.

Azriel attended a Jewish primary school in Halberstadt, the first in the country to offer secular subjects together with religious ones, before enrolling in the yeshiva run by Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger, in Altona. At the same time, he also studied with Isaac Bernays, the chief rabbi of nearby Hamburg (whose granddaughter Martha would marry Sigmund Freud). Azriel received his high-school diploma from Halberstadt's Koningliches gymnasium.

Hildesheimer began his university studies at the University of Berlin, where he pursued Semitic languages and math, before completing a doctorate in biblical interpretation in 1844 at the University of Halle-Wittenberg.

In 1846, Hildesheimer married Henriette Hirsch, the daughter of a wealthy Halberstadt industrialist, which allowed him financial independence. He worked on a voluntary basis as secretary of his hometown's Jewish community before accepting the position of rabbi of Kismarton, Hungary (today, Eisentadt, Austria).

Torn between Reform and Orthodoxy

In Kismarton, Hildesheimer founded both a Jewish primary school that taught secular subjects and integrated modern teaching methods, and a yeshiva whose prerequisites for study included having a secular education.

When it began operating, the yeshiva had six students, but by 1868, enrollment was up to 128. Nonetheless, Hildesheimer encountered significant resistance in the town, whose Jewish population was polarized between ultra-Orthodox and Reform points of view. Hence, when he received an offer in 1869 to move to Berlin – whose traditional community had received government permission to open its own synagogue – he accepted.

In addition to leading the Israelite Synagogal Congregation of Adass Yisroel, Hildesheimer again opened a primary school and, in 1873, a yeshiva, the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary.

In a speech at the seminary, Hildesheimer summed up the essentials of his integrative approach: "Unconditional agreement with the culture of the present day; harmony between Judaism and science; but also unconditional steadfastness in the faith and traditions of Judaism."

Hildesheimer was a true leader, many of whose positions were by no means to be taken for granted at the time. While he was an outspoken ideological opponent of Reform Judaism, he worked with the non-Orthodox community on issues of mutual interest, including kosher slaughter, the threat of anti-Semitism, and the welfare of Jews living in the Land of Israel. He built inexpensive housing for needy Jews in Jerusalem, as well as establishing an orphanage there, and was also an early supporter of the Hovevei Zion settlement movement in Palestine. Elsewhere, he worked for the relief of Russian pogrom victims.

Scholars continue to compare Hildesheimer and his contemporary Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888), father of the concept of "Torah with derekh eretz" – Jewish life combined with worldly engagement – and to discuss which of the two is the true progenitor of modern Orthodoxy.

What can be said is that Hirsch was the more conservative of the two: He was more of a segregationist, who had no interest in cooperation with his ideological opponents; more of an instrumentalist with regard to secular studies; and by no means sympathetic to the emerging nationalist strain of Zionism.

The "On the Main Line" blog some years ago, in a column on Hildesheimer, quoted one of his daughters, Esther Calvary, who recalled how on holidays, between the afternoon and evening prayers, her father would gather the children about him and sing German lieder: "And each time for us, his children, the high point was when he sang his favorite, Heine's 'Die Zwei Grenadiere.'"

Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer died in Berlin on July 12, 1899, at the age of 79

Three Weeks - The Broken Tablets An explanation why are in partial mourning

The Broken Tablets
by Rabbi Aaron Goldscheider

The Broken Tablets

Exploring the contemporary meaning of the first tragedy that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz, the breaking of the tablets at Mt Sinai.

The period of the Three Weeks begins with the fast of 17th of Tammuz
from dawn of Sunday, July 5, 2015 until nightfall.
Tisha B'Av and the 3 Weeks

The fast of the 17th of Tammuz commences a period of mourning of The Three Weeks which concludes with the fast of Tisha B'Av. The Talmud records that the first tragedy that occurred on the 17th of Tammuz was the breaking of the tablets at Mt Sinai.

Moses descends Mount Sinai and sees the Jewish people dancing around the golden calf. He takes the two tablets he is holding in his two hands and thrusts them to ground, shattering them. The divine gift of the tablets etched by God now lay strewn on the ground.

Whatever became of the tablets smashed by Moses?

The Talmud answers: The broken tablets were placed in the holy Ark along with the second, intact set ; 'luchot ve'shivrey luchot munachim be'aron"(Talmud Bava Batra 14b).

The broken tablets were not buried, which is what we generally do with holy items no longer in use. They were placed in the most sacred place, in the Aaron Hakodesh, the holy Ark. Eventually they sat next to the second tablets, the whole set of the Ten Commandments. Together they remained securely protected as the nation journeyed through the wilderness.

Why do the broken pieces remain precious? If they represent the Jewish people disregarding the covenant with God, would we not wish to simply forget about them?

The idea of brokenness appears in a number of significant places in Judaism: We sound the shofar with the broken notes of the shevarim; the Hebrew root word 'shever' means 'broken'. We begin the Seder breaking a whole piece of matzah. When the bride and groom stand under the wedding canopy, a glass is shattered into pieces. These important symbolic rituals represent shattered and broken events in both our personal and communal lives. Breaking the matzah represents the broken life of the slave, the repentant spirit of a remorseful person is symbolized by the broken sounds of the Shofar, and breaking of the glass represents a world that is incomplete without the presence of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.

The two sets of tablets in the Ark offer a striking metaphor. Namely, that brokenness and wholeness coexist side by side, even in Judaism's holiest spot – in the heart of the holy Ark.

The 16th century Kabbalistic work, Reshit Chochmah, teaches that the Ark is a symbol of the human heart.

People experience brokenness in many ways. One way that many of us experience despair and crushing pain is through the death of a loved one, especially when life is cut short. Those of us who have passed through the 'valley of death', those of us who have lost loved ones, know that we forever carry 'broken tablets'. Loss forever remains a part of us. We carry the aching loss, and for some of us, we carry pain in our hearts and minds forever. The image of the broken tablets, unfortunately, offers an accurate representation of our lives and the life of the world around us. We carry our broken tablets with us always.

After a painful loss, life continues, but now differently than before. We move through life now with two sets of tablets. There are times of joy; there are very happy times. They are encased in the same box; in the same heart. The commentator Rashi says that the two sets of tablets, the broken and the whole sets, sit touching one another. The seat of the emotions is found in the heart. Here, in this one enclosed space, emotions freely move from one place to the next.

The Broken Hearted

The bereaved, and especially those that have suffered painful loss, often live their life with two compartments within one heart – the whole and the broken, side by side. To be a good friend is to know this and to be respectful of the brokenness that always remains.

To be a good friend one needs to accept and be sensitive to this new reality even if this means accepting this painful truth. A friend never asks, "Are you over things yet?" or never says, "It would be best for you to move on." Instead a sensitive friend says, "What do you need most today?" or says, "I will always be with you." The most important thing we can do as friends, as family, and as a community is to surround the bereaved with warmth and love, not pity. We need to show that we care – not only in the weeks and months following the loss, but continuously, even years later.

We can help mend fractured hearts when we stay sensitive to those that need our empathy and support. This is how we help bring about 'shleimut', wholeness, to a world with so many broken shards.

The Chassidic Rebbe, Reb Menachem Mendel of Kotzk said. "There is nothing more whole than a broken heart." What does this enigmatic statement mean?

The heart can be patched after one confronts his brokenness and acknowledges his vulnerability. With great strength and resilience those who are broken still find the strength to lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives. Many people have admirably found the faith and willpower from within, and with the support of those around them to accomplish and create great things. They have ennobled their lives and have rebuilt their lives even after suffering the deep pain of loss. This is a testament to the valiant spirit that is endowed in the soul of man. The desire on the part of the bereaved to keep the memory of loved ones alive and to eternalize their spirit in ways both big and small often inspires the bereaved to live with heroic determination and courage.

God cradles the broken tablets side by side with the whole ones in the holiest place in our tradition. The symbol of the broken tablets serves as a poignant reminder of our sacred responsibility to be ever sensitive to those who suffer and to reach out and be understanding and embracing of those who live with 'broken tablets' in their hearts.

Moses picks up each precious piece of the tablets, he collects every shard, and he lovingly places every piece in the holy Ark, conveying a message that guides the Jewish heart for all time.