When someone's total focus is on fulfilling the will of the Creator, he will be free from all worries and anxieties. He constantly fulfills the will of the Creator with sublime ecstasy and joy. A wise person makes this his life-goal.
This is such a powerful message that it is worth rereading over and over again. Integrating this into our consciousness is life-transforming. Print this out and put it in a place where you will remember to read it daily for at least one week.
Love Yehuda Lave
Yehuda and Alan Kessel at the Dore Gold Lecture
The Jerusalem Center event at the Israel Museum featuring a presentation by Dr. Dore Gold
Gorge Michael & Luciano Pavarotti Don't let the sun go down on me
For your pleasure
What's the purpose of the Universe?
That's a lot of criminal records
In Honor of Independence Day: Police to cancel 300,000 criminal records
'Israel Police helping citizens prevent mistakes, and assisting those who committed an offense to return to the fold.'
Contact Editor Uzi Baruch, 17/04/18 12:03Share Alsheikh and ErdanHillel Meir/TPS
Police will cancel some 300,000 criminal records of Israeli citizens on the occasion of Israel's 70th Independence Day celebrations.
Police Superintendent Roni Alsheikh presented the plan, explaining that there are clear criteria that will enable the automatic deletion of files closed for lack of evidence or lack of public interest.
"Israel Police is acting for situational prevention - to assist normative citizens in preventing mistakes and the committing of offenses, and sometimes also to assist those who committed an offense to return to the fold and lead lives of law-abiding normative citizens," Alsheikh explained.
Criminal records will be deleted for citizens whose data in retrospect indicate that they are normative citizens who might have been suspected and had not succeeded in refuting the suspicions against them or had faltered on a one-time basis, but who do not fit the definition of an offender. The outline is called "New Chance."
As a matter of course, this procedure is given to the citizen applying to police with a request to cancel a record. On the occasion of the 70th anniversary, police decided that it was appropriate to take exceptional steps, regardless of the citizen's appeal.
Within the framework of "New Chance," the cancellation authority given to police will be expanded as mentioned above, and 339,000 investigation files involving some 300,000 citizens of the State of Israel, residents of the region, foreigners and tourists, of whom some 34,000 are minors, will be removed from the registry. Implementation of the outline will begin in the coming weeks.
It should be emphasized that within the framework of the outline, closed investigation files will not be canceled for serious offenses of violence, serious sexual offenses, security offenses, murder offenses and offenses under section 17 of the Crime Register and Rehabilitation of Offenders Law. Police will carry out cancellation of the files through a computerized mechanism.
Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, said that "this is very good news for civilians who have been interrogated on suspicion of criminal activity, which will remove the stain on their past. The Ministry of Public Security accompanied the initiative, which is in accordance will similar processes that I advanced in the past, with an approach viewing preservation of the rights of citizens, even those investigated by police, as a supreme value."
"There is no reason that a cloud of suspicion should hover for years over the heads of citizens never charged with a criminal offense. I see great importance in the initiative to delete records, and welcome the fact that hundreds of thousands of citizens will be given the opportunity to open a new page on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel," Erdan added
In my younger years, when I was a charedi yeshivah student, I would not stand silently during the sirens on Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron. After all, I reckoned, those are non-Jewish, meaningless customs. Instead, I would recite Tehillim, the traditional Jewish way of memorializing the deceased, which I was taught actually helps them in the Upper Worlds. (Of course, if I was in public, I would nevertheless stand in silence out of respect for others.) Such is still the normative attitude in the charedi world.
But after careful study of this topic, I realized that this is entirely backwards.
The practice of sounding the siren for two minutes of silence has its roots in South Africa. During World War I, a businessman in Cape Town suggested that his church observe a silent pause in memory of those who fell in battle. Subsequently, the Mayor of Cape Town instructed that at noon on May 14, 1918, the daily firing of the Noon Gun (for the ships to set their chronometers uniformly) would serve as the signal to begin two minutes of silence in memory of the fallen. This custom later spread throughout the British Empire, and eventually to many different nations and cultures. The Jews living in Palestine adopted this custom and observed a minute or two of silence in response to tragic events. After the War of Independence, the Rabbinate of Israel decided to set Memorial Day on the day before Independence Day. The newly installed national system of air-raid sirens provided a means to simultaneously alert everyone in Israel to observe the silence at the same time.
There is a prohibition in Judaism of following in the ways of gentiles. But the practice of standing silent for a siren would not fall under that prohibition. The prohibition does not refer to any practice which happens to originate with non-Jews. It only refers to practices which are idolatrous, or a practice for which the reasons are unknown and thus potentially originate in idolatry. As per Rema to Yoreh Deah 178:1, any practice which has a sensible rationale is permitted to be adopted, even if it originates with non-Jews.
This even includes practices which relate to the religious sphere. Ketav Sofer permits the innovative non-Jewish practice of carrying the dead on wagons. In the Orthodox Jewish community today, everyone refers to verses in Scripture via chapter numbers, even though these were introduced by non-Jews. And, of course, we refer to the months of the Hebrew calendar with names that originated in Babylonia. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe, Orach Chaim 4:24) even permitted Jewish schoolchildren in public schools to participate with Christian schoolchildren in non-denominational school prayer!
Standing silent for the siren may have been introduced into Israel as a copy of procedures done in non-Jewish nations, but it is not a non-Jewish procedure. It is simply a natural human expression of solemnity in the face of tragedy.
In fact, not only is there nothing specifically non-Jewish about the practice, it even has conceptual roots in Judaism. Such a response to death goes back to the Torah itself. When Nadav and Avihu were killed by fire, it says vayidom Aharon, "Aharon was silent." While some see this as meaning that he uttered no complaint about God's judgment, others see it as expressing a natural response in the fact of tragedy. Likewise, we find that Iyov's friends sat in silence with him for seven days. The Talmud (Berachos 6b) says that "the merit of attending a house of mourning lies in maintaining silence." Silence expresses both commiserations and solidarity with others, and contemplating matters in our minds. This is something that is very much part of traditional Judaism.
What about the siren? The siren was instituted simply as a way of alerting everyone to this avodah, just like the Shabbos siren. It can even be seen as very similar to the shofar blast, another type of horn which sounds and to which in response we stand in silent contemplation. Standing silent for the siren, then, does not only reflect basic human attitudes, but it even echoes traditional Jewish practices. It is not something that is copying non-Jewish practices of questionable theological basis, like schlissel challah, pouring lead, and many other popular rituals in frum society.
On the other hand, just how traditional is it to say Tehillim on behalf of the dead, and what does it accomplish? We do not find any mention of such a thing in the writings of Chazal and the Rishonim. In classical Judaism, one gives charity for the dead and one prays (such as with the Yizkor prayer, which is recited at Yom HaZikaron events). For one's ancestors and teachers, one learns Torah and does good deeds as a credit to them. Saying Tehillim for strangers does not appear to have any basis in classical Judaism. As I discuss at length in my essay What Can One Do For Someone Who Has Passed Away?, the earliest sources to discuss such things indicate that one cannot actually accomplish anything for the deceased in such a way.
So which is the traditional Jewish way of commemorating those who died in tragic circumstances, and which is the meaningless custom of recent origin? Like so many other topics, this relates to whether one follows the rationalist approach of the Rishonim or the more recent mystical approach. Similarly, it also depends on whether one defines Jewish tradition as starting in Biblical times and carrying on through the Sages of the Talmud and the Rishonim, or whether one defines it as starting about a hundred years ago.
(Note that in this post I am just addressing the arguments that charedim give for not standing quietly during the siren - and which I believed to be the reasons back when I was a naive yeshivah student. This is not the same as the actual reason why they do not stand for the siren, which I will address in a future post.)
mariah carey and luciano pavarotti - hero
here is quite the contrasting pair
The Year's Best 'Only In Israel' Moments Zev Stub
For almost a decade Chelm-on-the-Med Online (www.chelm-on-the-med.com) has been collecting and sharing in English the wildest and wackiest news stories about Israel 'hiding' in the country's mainstream Hebrew press in order to balance overly conflict-driven news that warps perceptions of life in Israel.
Every year, the Chelm Project announced in late-December early-January the best of the lot in a given year by giving out annual Chelm Awards for the best of the bunch in a host of categories ranging from nutty antics by politicians and incredulous actions by public bodies, to zany behavior by run-of-the-mill Israelis, including special recognition of the most audacious case of chutzpa and an 'Honorable MenschenAward' for extraordinary gestures…every year but this one, when due to an extended medical emergency in the family, the Chelm Project grounded to a halt in late December 2017.
In honor of Israel's 70th Independence Year Chelm-on-the-Med Online has chosen to celebrate this landmark by sharing a medley of landmark moments over the past year that are not only the epitome of unforgettable Chelm-like-but-true moments in Israel during 2017, Almost all of the events below could equally qualify as Only-in-Israel moments that speak volumes about the true flavor of life in Israel over the past seven decades and in the subtext – reflect how Israeli society ticks.
The Israeli Diplomacy in Action Award goes to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu who in a stroke of genius and fitting response to UNESCO's declaration of the Temple Mount as a Muslim world heritage site with no ties to the Jews, ordered a replica of the relief that adorns the Arch of Titus in Rome depicting Roman soldiers carrying away the seven-branch menorah (candelabra) and other spoils from the Temple Mount after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Netanyahu is giving the 45,000 NIS ($11,842) replica to the director-general of UNESCO Irina Bokova as a gift, to be placed on permanent displayed at UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
This year's MostTellingDecision by an Israeli Ministry went to the Ministry of Health for a surely Only-in-Israel step. Israeli cities are so alley cat friendly that many municipalities provide ground level water troughs for cats and dogs as an integral part of water fountains for people, but in 2017 the Ministry of Health was forced to distribute a directive to Israeli hospitals specifying employees should not encourage feral felines to 'set up house' on hospital grounds where the stray cats could be found not only wandering about the lobby and gathering outside kitchens, and occasionally strolling down the corridor of a ward. Rumor has it the last straw for senior health officials was a report that at one unnamed Israeli hospital a cat 'fell' through an acoustic ceiling into the lap of a dialysis patent.
No Chelm Award event would be complete without a Chelm Award for Chutzpa whose primary recipient this year reflects the over-the-top nature of political discourse in Israel:The winner is a senior Haaretz journalist Rogel Alpher, who called on Israelis to boycott the nation's much-loved HaShachar HaOleh chocolate spread, branding the Haifa-based brand "a supporter of 'the Occupation" claiming the iconic snack item was – I quote – "a racist-fascist chocolate spread" (because the factory owner Moshe Veidberg believes Jews have the right to settle in Judea and Samaria). Sales of HaShachar HaOleh chocolate spread skyrocket at some supermarkets with one angry customer purchasing six cartons…giving containers away to other shoppers and the rest to a food bank for low-income families… Co-recipients for unadulterated chutzpa are regular patrons of the upscale Tel Aviv Asian restaurant "Zepra" who lodged a class action suit after they ordered horridly expensive beef filet and veal dishes, while a food lab subsequently showed the orders were made of less expensive…pork. The plaintiffs not only want their money back for everything they'd ever ordered over the past seven (!) years…they cried crocodile tears claiming such underhanded behavior damaged their "freedom of choice and autonomy…desecrated their personal dignity, and forced them to break the halachic prohibition on eating pork"…rather overblown considering the eatery in question is not kosher and has pork, and shrimp and soft-shelled crabs prominently featured on the menu.
Alas, this year nobody topped Hadera installing singing traffic lights in 2013, nor Natanya's leaders ordering the main drag painted purple in 2009 (only to have it fade in the Israeli sun). Nevertheless, there is a winner of the Quirkiest MunicipalityAward: Tel Aviv-Yafo, where city hall believes they can provide relief from sky-high rents and real estate prices due to a shortage of apartments with a mere stroke of the pen. How? Double built-up areas by changing building codes to permit "a 100 percent increase in building presently above ground – underground." Sublevel 'digs' in each and every building could be used to enhance residents' security with a bomb shelter, ease occupants parking nightmare (some report circling for 40 minutes to an hour-and-a-half in search for a vacant spot at the end of a long workday), or create joint sunken assets for condo owners with sublevel flats 'under' their existing building or by renting out space for other uses (commercial or public).
The Strangest Court Case in 2017 is but another Only-in-Israel nugget. After traffic attorney-at-law Asaf Oren (of all people) got socked with ticket for failing to pay for parking in a municipal lot where the sign stating paid parking was in force between 09:00-19:00 hours on weekdays and 09:00-14:00 hours on Fridays and holidays, the scrappy young lawyer successfully argued in an appeal to the Rechovot Municipality that since Hebrew is written from right-to-left, he had every right to assume the sign meant motorists had to pay for parking between 7 PM and 9 AM…not 9 AM to 7 PM. Rechovot is changing its Hebrew sign language accordingly…probably thoroughly confusing everyone except Asaf Oren.
In a Jewish state, no annual Chelm Awards would be complete without a Religious Oddities Award. The winner in the corporate category is an NGO that assists soldiers in the exclusively ultra-Orthodox Netzach Yehuda NACHAL battalion. When they learned some young ultra-Orthodox (haredi) men who join the IDF rather than taking an automatic exemption had a hard time finding marriage partners, the NGO hired a matchmaker who has already paired up dozens of such men with women who are also considered 'tainted merchandise' within their insular community: haredi girls who have gone to study at secular universities and baalei tshuva (women raised secular, who have adopted a haredi lifestyle). In the indie category of odd religious conduct, Ramle resident Haim Israel (38) hobbled off with the same honor after claiming he suddenly "felt as if his two legs had been re-amputated" almost two decades after he lost both his legs in a road accident at age 19. Phantom limb pains were sparked by the discovery that "his legs had disappeared from the Ramle cemetery" – where his father had insisted on burying them next to Haim's grandfather's grave 'in advance' believing that in order for Haim's soul to ascend to heaven, a Jew must be buried with all his body parts intact' (or at least everything present and accounted for...).
Encapsulating the fighting spirit of the IDF, the Only-in-the-IDF Citation this yearwas won by a group of reservists from the elite Egoz commando unit who fired off an angry letter to top brass and the Minister of Defense protesting a "grave incident of discrimination that was totally in contradiction to IDF values" after their commanding officer prevented one of their buddies from partaking in a joint military exercise in Cyprus with a Greek Cypriot commando unit charging "he wasn't presentable enough" in his long dreadlocks although the reservist in question had been deemed fit to do battle - dreadlocks and all – in the 2014 Protective Edge campaign in Gaza. Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel was a close runner-up for this coveted prize after he took to new heights the IDF's "dual-role military" format (i.e. performing nation-building functions in the civil domain – from immigrant absorption to remedial education for marginalized youth, parallel to its professional soldiering duties). Faced with an unexpected surplus of carrots, the Minister of Agriculture appealed to Minister of Defense Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Yair Golan to increase consumption of carrots on IDF military bases to combat the glut.
The Chelm Project's Crime of the Year for 2017 is bizarre by any yardstick: The prize goes hands-down to two incredible assault and battery charges written up by over-zealous cops in Tzfat in the space of 12 months both in the line-of-duty when investigating domestic quarrel complaints from neighbors: In the first, the 'blunt instrument' allegedly employed by the assailant was a pita filled with fragrant fresh-fried felafel balls, which an angry 55-year-old grandmother of three threw at her already smashed husband; in the second incident, a 59-year-old man armed with a pita filled will shawarma shavings and diced salad was hauled into the station for a similar attack on his wife.
The Chelm Project's annual Honorable MenschenAward was well earned by unnamed public-spirited individuals who came to the rescue of disabled persons issued 500 NIS ($143) fines for "obstructing traffic" on Route 1, the main artery between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem during demonstrations geared to force the government to raise disability pensions. The ad hoc group launched a crowdfunding campaign to pay the fines – collecting 82,558 NIS ($23,588)…almost three times their original goal, allowing the protesters to carry on their struggle. The runners-up as honorable menschen are Dr. Khalil and Dr. Reem Bakly – a Muslim Arab dentist couple from Upper Nazareth who built a 100% kosher sukkah on their balcony with a stunning view of the Galilee, ordered a ton of kosher food, and invited their neighbors – Jews and Arab – to drop in during the week-long holiday, and Ehab, a Muslim Arab Egged bus driver from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al Amud, who turned his public bus which plies the route to and from the Kotel (Western Wall) into a sukkah on wheels, decked out in decorative fruits and tinsel hanging from the roof.
Only-in-Israel Holiday Traditions have been marked in the past by a host of 'buy such-and-such - receive such-and-such for free' campaigns, from foodstuffs to furniture and appliances such as the classic 'gem' in the 1990s when a ready-made salad maker and an appliance chain joined forces offering 'buy four 500 gram containers of our brand of Kosher-for-Passover humous/tchina/eggplant salad and be eligible to buy a major home appliance at half price. In the same spirit, this year's strangest combina (deal) appeared in a full-page ad in the major dailies just before Passover: Buy a kolnonit – a battery-powered senior mobility cart from kibbutz Afikim…and receive for free a 3,985 NIS (+$1,000) value battery-powered Apollo moped for the grandkid who finds theafikomen.
And speaking of holidays, the Ultimate Israeli 'Anything Goes' Award – celebrating Israelis' unbridled individuality and originality that knows no bounds – went to a couple in their early 40s, Galit and Ofer Mordechai, who stunned their friends with a one-of-a-kind Purim costume…Ofer arriving at their Purim party lying on a canvas hand stretcher covered with a tallis accompanied by Galit decked out in mourning dress and carrying a black umbrella and obit notice. Also short-listed for 'following his own inclinations" was a man who needs no introduction: Ehud Barak… Spotted in Tel-Aviv carrying a woman's clutch in his hand. the former Chief-of-Staff/Defense/Foreign/Prime Minister explained the odd fashion choice was not a sign he'd taken to cross-dressing at age 75; the No Nonsense ex-commando revealed he no longer had a bodyguard with a Klatch, so he was carrying his own 'piece' in that innocuous-looking clutch.
What was the Wackiest Archeological Discovery of 2017? The prize goes to excavators at the Banot Yaakov Bridge dig at the foot of the Golan Heights where archeologists surmise that our prehistoric ancestors may also have been smitten by the Munchies, after apparently discovering by chance 780,000 years ago that some of the 55 plants and seeds found at the site could be roasted and some popped like popcorn.
As for the Israel Ingenuity Award the past year, it goes to an Israeli design and technology company called Knut Studios that's turning 'the best laugh on earth (chosen from among recordings submitted by the public) into a 'laugh star' (i.e. a human laugh, visualized as 3-D one-of-a-kind sculpture)…actualizing an idea dreamed up by Israeli digital conceptual artist Eyal Gever who when queried – "What would you do if you could create art in zero gravity?" – said laughter, something intrinsically human…universal and free-floating – is absent in soundless space. The winning laugh is to be created on a zero-gravity 3D printer on the International Space Station, then released in space…like some interstellar message in a bottle. This honor dovetailed the Craziest 'What Was He Thinking' Award (sometimes dubbed the Schlemiel Prize) which was awarded to a 48-year old Ramat Gan resident who told National Insurance authorities that he planned to kill himself because he wasn't happy with the way they were handling his case, leading to police being sent to the suicidal fellow's apartment where the cops found the flat owner safe and sound in the living room…and a pot-processing operation full of cannabis plants and processing gear in an adjoining room, giving the flat owner ample reason to want to shoot himself.
Undeniably, the WildestOnly-in-Israel Life Story Award belongs to an East Jerusalemite named Muhammad who in his late teens had throw rocks at Israeli Border Police, but now wants to join the Border Police stressing he "speaks fluent Arabic and knows all the alleyways of East Jerusalem." Mohammad recently changed his name to 'Israel' – a role reversal sparked by the 21-year-old floor tile layer discovering by chance that he was registered in Israel's Population Registry as a Jew because his late mother, who died when he was a preschooler, had been Jewish.
Last but not least, my favorite Chelm story of all times - In the Dark (circa 2000) - about the IDF draftee who was afraid of the dark and called his mom to sneak in and out of boot camp to accompany him whenever he drew night patrol duty – isn't merely a weird blip on the radar! Again underscoring the unbreakable bond between Israeli parents and their kids in uniform, the 2017 definitive Only-in-Israel Award goes to the dad of a 19 year-old IDF female soldier assigned a month's guard duty whose father Nissim stood guard every night between 6 and 10 PM (out of uniform, he stressed) just outside the base on the outskirts of Afula while his daughter stood guard at the entrance because she was afraid of the dark and it was very important to him that his daughter have 'a successful national service experience.'
 Yiddish for 'a decent person.'
 Photo credit: Israel Poste Commemorative Stamp
 Even the 1948 War of Independence – the bloodiest war in Israel's history – was peppered by piquant Chelm-like-but-true episodes and bizarre situations that capsulated the flavor of life in the Jewish state. In February 1948, in the twilight hours of the British Mandate, the EZEL attempted to rob a major branch of Barclay's Bank in Tel Aviv parading as British soldiers. The members of the radical Jewish militia closed off a section of Allenby Street with a large number of jeeps and barbed wire. Cursing like true troopers, in 'Hinglish' – fooling nobody, 15 of the gang walked into the bank demanding the keys to the vault…but due to bad timing, no combination of keys opened the safe. It was 8 AM - well before banker's hours. See Daniella Ashkenazy, "There's No News Like Old News," Jerusalem Post,
For the judgment belongs to God (Deuteronomy 1:17).
When the Tzaddik of Sanz assumed his first rabbinic position, he was approached by someone who wished to sue in the rabbinical court the wealthiest, most powerful person in the community. The Tzaddik sent a court summons to this man, but the shammash (bailiff) returned saying that the man had very rudely turned him away.
The Tzaddik sent a second summons. The defendant responded with a message, "You are new here and very young. You may not be aware that I am the one who supports all religious activities in the community. To be a rabbi in the community requires my approval. Be aware of this and retract your summons."
The Tzaddik sent a third summons, warning that failure to honor it would result in dire consequences. The rich man then came and surprisingly brought the plaintiff with him. He explained that the entire thing had been a sham that he had staged simply to test whether the new rabbi would have the courage to implement the law, even when his own position was in jeopardy.
The community's number one citizen welcomed the rabbi, stating, "You are the kind of rabbi we need."
Not everyone feels this way. Some people try to use "pull" to receive preferential treatment. They should realize that when justice is the issue, it is corrupt to seek preferential treatment and corrupt to give it.
The judgment belongs to God, and when litigants and judges are engaged in a din Torah, they are in the immediate Divine Presence, and there can be no favoritism.
Today I shall ... remember not to show favoritism, even when under pressure.
What's significant about the number 70 in Judaism and what lessons can we learn from that today for the State of Israel moving us forward to the next 70?
The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (6:24) say that 70 represents, 'Seyvah' - a ripe old age. Furthermore, we know that there were 70 years between the destruction of the 1st Temple built by King Solomon by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the rebuilding of the 2nd Temple in 516 BCE. We also know that in the Torah, in Shemot 1:5, that Yaakov took with him, ' 70 souls' to Egypt. But, interestingly enough the Torah uses the singular tense when describing the number 70 here - 'Nafesh' and not the plural,' Nefashot'.
So, what are the lessons from the number 70 for the State of Israel, on its 70th birthday?
70 in Judaism represents unity and focusing on what we have in common and binds us together. Yaakov wanted his sons to stick together in Egypt so the Torah uses the singular, 'Nefash' when describing them. 70 also represents the next stage, moving on to the next level, new beginnings after destruction, the end of Exile - the Second Temple started to be rebuilt, 70 years after the destruction of the 1st. 70, as I said above is described in the mishna in pirkei avot as, 'seyvah' - a level beyond wisdom and understanding.
In order for the State of Israel to reach 'seyvah', which is beyond mere wisdom and understanding and now move on to the next level - to the next 70 years, beyond survival, all Jews in Israel need to value the importance of unity - like Yaakov saw, hence the singular, 'Nafesh' and learning to get on with one another and look beyond our differences and what divides us.
70 represents the end of one period and the beginning of the next, maturation and looking forward to the next stage of rebuilding - But, that's all based on the basic appreciation of unity, togetherness and focusing on what we have in common!