Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Fast of Esther and a hike you won't forget

Today is the Fast of Esther around the world. Remember our Father (or Mother) our King/ Queen on this day:

From The Perspective Of Our Father/Mother, Our King/Queen

Viewing peace and quarrels from the perspective of our Father, our King, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, changes the way we see things. The question we will ask ourselves is "What would my Father, my King, want me to say and do right now?"

Parents want their children to get along well with each other. They find it extremely distressful if their children quarrel. And there is tremendous pleasure in seeing your children interacting harmoniously. This is a metaphor for understanding peace and quarrels from the perspective of our Father/Mother, our King/Queen.

Love Yehuda Lave and have an easy fast

More on the Purim Story and its history and rules below

The Mussar Schmooze of the Century Given by Awesome Shul Janitor

Experience One of the Most Frightening Hikes In The Israeli Desert

You have to know Chicago sports to understand this video clip:
How your blood pressure works:
Why do Blood types matter?

Mordechai instructed the Jews " to stand up for themselves, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate every people or province that threatened them with the llittle children and women" (Megillat Esther 8/11)

Dennis Prager gets 70,000,000 hits for his Prager Univeristy videos. See the story below:

Rabbis Boycotting Trump At AIPAC Aren't Being Fair Or Following Jewish Law

He who answers a word before he understands-it is foolishness for him and an embarrassment- Mishlei (Proverbs) Chapter 18: Verse 13

A Reform Rabbi from Florida by the name Jeffrey Salkin (of Temple Solel in Hollywood) is organizing a boycott of Donald Trump's speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference Monday, and it's not because of Trump's statement about being neutral in Israeli/Palestinian negotiations.

But, for many of the rabbis who will be attending AIPAC, Trump's appearance poses political, moral, and even spiritual quandaries.

It is quite simple. Trump's hateful rhetoric is abhorrent to a great many rabbis, for a variety of reasons. In particular, the Reform movement has eloquently spoken out on Trump.

(…) We have been urging rabbis to simply not attend the Trump speech — to let our absence be felt and noted.

Yes, AIPAC must be hospitable to Trump, but that does not mean that AIPAC participants are hospitable to the candidate's ideas and candidacy.

While I understand the boycotting Rabbis distaste of Mr. Trump (just look at the hateful comments I get from Trump fans) and plan to vote against him in the New York State primary, the boycotters are not being fair to Donald Trump, nor are they observing Jewish law which demands people listen to all sides before making a judgment.

According to the Washington Post, "Those who have signed on so far primarily represent the Reform and Conservative movements of Judaism." For those unfamiliar with the differences between Jewish movements, both the Reform and Conservative (where I worship) movements are very progressive. Sometimes putting their political beliefs in front of the needs of the Jewish people. Or as I said when the leadership of the Conservative movement met with Barack Obama in the summer of 2012 and gave him an implied endorsement, they worship the golden calf of big government. Sometimes when hearing a liberal skewed sermon from the pulpit makes me feel very unwelcome at my own Shul.

Not Being Fair To Trump:

Why are they holding Donald Trump to a different standard than President Obama or Hillary Clinton? During his seven plus years as president, Barack Obama has shown himself to be anti-Israel and even worse, anti-Semitic. For example during the push for the Iran deal the president had a phone call with "Jewish Leaders." In the 20-minute phone call Obama said over and over that opponents of the Iran deal come from the same "array of forces that got us into the Iraq war," he said a "bunch of billionaires who happily finance super PACs" are "putting the squeeze on members of Congress."

The message was clear to the Jewish participants, William Daroff Senior Vice President for Public Policy & Director of the Washington office of the very liberal, Jewish Federations of North America tweeted during the meeting " Jews are leading effort to kill #Irandeal. 'Same people opposing the deal led us into Iraq war,'" and followed with " Canard: Jews got us into Iraq War."

When Lee Rosenberg of AIPAC questioned the president's statement comparing people who object to the Iran deal to those who supported the invasion of Iraq he pointed out that many anti-Semites falsely claim the Jews pushed Bush into invading Iraq. Obama explained that Netanyahu supported the Iraq invasion (true). But Bibi wasn't the premier at the time he was a private citizen. The prime minister Ariel Sharon strongly urged Bush not to invade Iraq, arguing correctly that if Saddam were removed, "Iran, a far more dangerous player, will be rid of its principal enemy and free to pursue its ambitions of regional hegemony."

If one looks at Hillary Clinton's public history one finds a lifetime of anti-Israel positions. But wait some might say, Hillary was a big supporter of Israel when she was in the U.S. Senate. Indeed, she was. With the possible exception of the time from her first campaign New York's Senate seat in 2000 to her resignation from the Senate to become Secretary of State in January 2009– except for the time she needed New York's Jewish voting bloc, Hillary Clinton has never been pro-Israel. And when she held the position of Secretary of State, she helped Barack Obama craft his anti-Israel positions.

While these Rabbis are walking out on Donald Trump, there was never a boycott of the anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, Barack Obama, nor is there a plan to boycott Hillary Clinton despite her anti-Israel activism. Ms. Clinton is on the schedule to address AIPAC also.

Not Following Jewish Teachings:

There is an old Yiddish expression, "It's 'shanda fur die goy." It means making the Jews look stupid in front of the Gentiles. And in this case by not following Jewish teachings and not listening to Trump these Rabbis are embarrassing the Jewish people.

The first word of one of the holy Jewish prayers is Sh'ma, it means listen. Listening to people before judging them is an important Jewish teaching. Because of their political leanings one could reasonably suspect that these Rabbis have only seen the snippets of Trump speeches broadcast or printed by the mainstream media. If they haven looked at his entire speech, or all his speeches they aren't listening. By boycotting him at AIPAC they are judging him by not giving him the opportunity to explain himself.

The verse from Proverbs posted above, "He who answers a word before he understands-it is foolishness for him and an embarrassment," is trying to teach us to listen and understand someone before making a judgment. Pirkei Avot 2:5 reads, "Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place." As long as you have not reached his place, i.e. have a clear picture of his complete situation, and look at the broader picture you must give him the benefit of the doubt. Pirkei Avot is a book of the ethical teachings and maxims of the Rabbis written during the first two centuries CE.

Just like King Solomon (who wrote Proverbs), the ancient Rabbis taught us to understand someone before they judge that person.

In the book of D'varim (Deuteronomy) Chapter 1, Verse 16 Moses instructs the Jewish people in a similar way to Solomon and the ancient Rabbis, Judges have to hear all sides before they judge:

And I charged your judges at that time, saying: 'Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.

There again in that verse is the Hebrew word שָׁמֹעַ: sh'ma, which means listen. We must listen before judge

The first two examples above were written by man, King Solomon and the ancient Rabbis. On the other hand Jews believe that the entire Torah was written by God. Therefore that verse in D'varim means the omnipotent one, who created the heaven and the earth, who teaches us right from wrong and gives each one of us the free will to decide our path wants us to listen before we judge.

I'm not suggesting that the Rabbis should support Trump (I don't) or even vote Republican, what I am suggesting is that great human minds as well the word of God tells them they should sit and listen to Donald Trump, the same way they sat and listened to the anti-Semitic Barack Obama when he spoke to AIPAC, and like the will sit and listen to the anti-Israel Hillary Clinton when she addresses the very same AIPAC conference.

With the election less than eight months away they shouldn't be divisive rather they should listen to all sides, listen to their hearts and pray. Perhaps with the prayer below:

Lord who grants salvation to kings and dominion to rulers, Whose kingdom is a kingdom spanning the entire universe and all eternities; Who places a road in the sea and a path in the mighty waters – may you bless the President, the Vice President, and all the constituted officers of government of this land. May they execute their responsibilities with intelligence, honor, compassion and love for the constitution wonderfully crafted by our founding fathers. May you grant the people of the United States the wisdom to select a leader who is wise and fair, and who will never make a decision without considering your teachings. May you always bless these United States and provide our leaders with the comprehension of your role in making this republic the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Time for Some Fun!

Purim, celebrated on the 14th of Adar, is the most fun-filled, action-packed day of the Jewish year. It commemorates our nation's miraculous salvation more than two millennia ago.

The Purim Story in a Nutshell

The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality.

Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire. Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther's cousin), defied the king's orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made (hence the name Purim, "lots").

Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G‑d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies.

On the 13th of Adar, the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar, they rested and celebrated.

How We Celebrate

Though we dress up in holiday finery, Purim doesn't feature holiday work restrictions. Nonetheless, all the better if you can take the day off from work and focus on the holiday and it's four special mitzvahs:

(Note: If you are spending Purim in Jerusalem, the laws vary. Click here for details.)

1. Hear the Megillah

Head to your synagogue to hear the whole megillah. The megillah, a.k.a. "The Book of Esther," is the scroll that tells the Purim story. Listen to the public reading twice: once on Purim night, and again on Purim day. This year, that's Wednesday night, March 23, and Thursday day, March 24, 2016. Pay attention—it is crucial to hear every word.

When Haman's name is mentioned (following Chabad custom, only when accompanied with an honorific title), you can twirl graggers (noisemakers) or stamp your feet to eradicate his evil name. Tell your kids that Purim is the only time when it's a mitzvah to make noise!

The megillah is read from a handwritten parchment scroll, using an age-old tune. Contact your local Chabad rabbi if for any reason you can't make it to your synagogue for the megillah reading. He'll do his best to send a megillah reader to your home or office.

2. Give to the Needy (Matanot La'Evyonim)

One of Purim's primary themes is Jewish unity. Haman tried to kill us all, we were all in danger together, so we celebrate together, too. Hence, on Purim day, we place special emphasis on caring for the less fortunate.

Give money or food to at least two needy people during the daylight hours of Purim, March 24. In case you can't find any needy people, your synagogue will likely be collecting money for this purpose. At least, place two coins in a charity box earmarked for the poor.

On Purim, we give a donation to whoever asks; we don't verify his or her bank balance first.

As with the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should fulfill this mitzvah.

3. Send Food Gifts to Friends (Mishloach Manot)

On Purim, we emphasize the importance of friendship and community by sending gifts of food to friends.

On Purim day, March 24, send a package containing at least two different ready-to-eat food items and/or beverages (e.g., pastry, fruit, beverage) to at least one Jewish acquaintance during the daylight hours of Purim. Men send to men and women to women.

It is preferable that the gifts be delivered via a third party. Children, in addition to sending their own gifts of food to their friends, make enthusiastic messengers.

4. Feast!

During the course of Purim day, March 24th, gather your family, maybe invite a guest or two, and celebrate with a festive Purim meal. Traditionally, this meal begins before sundown and lasts well into the evening.

The table should be festively bedecked with a nice tablecloth and candles. Wash for bread or challah, andenjoy a meal featuring meat, wine and plenty of Jewish songs, words of Torah and joyous Purim spirit. Sing, drink, laugh, have fun together.

Note: When Purim falls on a Friday, out of deference to the approaching Shabbat, we start the meal earlier, ideally before midday.

Special Prayers

On Purim, we include the brief V'al Hanissim section in all the day's prayers, as well as in the day's Grace after Meals. This prayer describes the Purim story and thanks G‑d for the "miracles, redemptions, mighty deeds, saving acts and wonders" that He wrought for our ancestors on this day many years ago.

In the morning service, there is a special Torah reading (Exodus 17:8-16), describing the battle Joshua waged against Amalek—Haman's ancestral nation—almost one thousand years before the Purim events unfolded.


On Purim, children—and some adventurous adults, too—traditionally dress in costumes, an allusion to G‑d's hand in the Purim miracle, which was disguised by natural events. Make sure your children masquerade as good, cheerful characters, such as Mordechai and Esther.

Dress up your kids before taking them to the synagogue for the megillah reading. Many synagogues have a masquerade party, along with prizes for the children, during or after the megillah reading.

Shushan Purim

In certain ancient walled cities—Jerusalem is the primary example—Purim is observed not on the 14th of Adar (the date of its observance everywhere else), but on the 15th of Adar. This is to commemorate the fact that in the ancient walled city of Shushan, where the battles between the Jews and their enemies extended for an additional day, the original Purim celebration was held on the 15th of Adar.

The 15th of Adar is thus called "Shushan Purim," and is a day of joy and celebration also in those places where it is not observed as the actual Purim.

Pre- and Post-Purim Observances

Torah Reading of Zachor

On the Shabbat before Purim (this year, March 19), a special reading is held in the synagogue. We read the Torah section called Zachor ("Remember"), in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of (the nation of) Amalek (Haman's ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.

The Fast of Esther

To commemorate the prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held during the Purim story, we fast on the day before Purim. This year we fast on Wednesday, March 23. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise, and lasts until nightfall. Click here for exact times for your location.

The "Half Coins" (Machatzit HaShekel)

It is a tradition to give three coins in "half" denominations—e.g., three half-dollar coins—to charity, to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal offerings in the time of the Holy Temple. This custom, usually performed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the "Fast of Esther," or before the reading of the Megillah.

Shushan Purim

In certain ancient walled cities—Jerusalem is the primary example—Purim is observed not on the 14th of Adar (the date of its observance everywhere else), but on the 15th of Adar. This is to commemorate that fact that in the ancient walled city of Shushan, where the battles between the Jews and their enemies extended for an additional day, the original Purim celebration was held on the 15th of Adar.

The 15th of Adar is thus called "Shushan Purim," and is a day of joy and celebration also in those places where it is not observed as the actual Purim.

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