Tuesday, July 31, 2018

From Houdini to David Coperfield, 100 years of Jewish Magicians

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Many people look at therapists as omniscient and enlightened, as wholly "healed" and, therefore, devoid of insecurity, despair and all the other feelings which are part of our emotional inheritance.

In truth, there is no way for me to understand people if I, myself, hadn't suffered from trama in the past and am still coping with the scars of trauma in the present.

Sharing with others the tactics that helped pull me out of these negative states is what makes me seem trustworthy to people.

If I had lived a charmed life and never had to struggle for stability, how could I give others hope that they can retrain their own brains and learn to love despite their traumas?

Love Yehuda Lave

Beis Din or Not? Rabbi Meir Orlean

Mr. Nadel decided that he would daven vasikin every morning. For a number of months he upheld this practice scrupulously. However, as time wore on he found himself exhausted during the day and unable to concentrate properly while learning and at work.

Mr. Nadel approached Rabbi Dayan for advice. "I'm in a quandary," he said. "I accepted the practice of davening vasikin, but it is negatively impacting my learning and work."

"Davening vasikin is very commendable," said Rabbi Dayan. "A vow is also a significant issue. The Torah states in Parashas Mattos: 'He should not violate his word' (Bamidbar 30:3). Here, however, the gain results in greater spiritual loss."

"What can I do, then?" asked Mr. Nadel.

"Chazal teach (Brachos 32a) that although a person may not violate his word, others can annul his vow," replied Rabbi Dayan. "This is called hataras nedarim. It is commonly done on Erev Rosh Hashanah but can be done throughout the year if the need arises, such as in this case" (Rema, Y.D. 228:15).

"Can you do it for me?" asked Mr. Nadel.

"A qualified expert (mumcheh) can annul a vow on his own," replied Rabbi Dayan. "However, we are not in this category nowadays, so that we need a panel of three, like a beis din."

"Should I make an appointment with the secretary of the beis din?" asked Mr. Nadel.

"No, there is no need for that," replied Rabbi Dayan. "I can get two others to join me right now. Let's see who is here."

In the room were Rabbi Dayan's oldest son and Mr. Nadel's brother. "My son and your brother can join me and will serve as the 'beis din' for the hataras nedarim," said Rabbi Dayan.

"Excuse me for asking," said Mr. Nadel, "but I don't understand. How can my brother serve on the beis din for hataras nedarim? A relative cannot serve as a dayan!"

"Hataras nedarim requires a panel of three, like a beis din, but it is not exactly a beis din," answered Rabbi Dayan. "There are several practical ramifications.

"For example, even the most scrupulous relatives, such as Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen, cannot serve as dayanim for each other or together on a beis din for others," continued Rabbi Dayan. "Nonetheless, the Gemara (Nedarim 77a) teaches that relatives can do hataras nedarim. Some even allow a husband to serve on the panel for hataras nedarim of his wife, but Shulchan Aruch rules that he may not" (C.M. 7:9; Y.D. 228:3, 234:57).

"What about other people who are not qualified to judge, such as women, children or wicked people?" asked Mr. Nadel.

"In this respect, hataras nedarim parallels judgment," replied Rabbi Dayan. "Although relatives are qualified for hataras nedarim, women are not, since it says: 'rashei hamattos' — heads of the tribes. Similarly, children are not qualified until bar mitzvah, and it is preferable that they be visibly physically mature. It is questionable whether a thief can serve on the panel" (Aruch Hashulchan 228:10; Minchas Shlomo, Nedarim 77a).

"What other differences are there?" asked Mr. Nadel.

"The Gemara (ibid.) teaches further that although ideally adjudication should not begin at night and the dayanim should be sitting," replied Rabbi Dayan, "hataras nedarim can be done at night or while standing. The common practice, however, is for the panel to sit, since we commonly use the mechanism of pesach (finding an 'opening') to render the vow mistaken, which requires more concentration" (C.M. 5:2, 28:6; Y.D. 228:4; Shach 228:9; Aruch Hashulchan 228:12).

"In what other ways are hataras nedarim and beis din similar?" asked Mr. Nadel.

"Some say that the panel should be odd-numbered, just like a beis din," replied Rabbi Dayan. "Some also maintain that a majority suffices to rule the pesach (opening) valid to annul the vow, like in judgment, while others maintain that all three must agree" (Nachal Yitzchak, C.M. 3:4:1; Har Zvi, Y.D. 189; Minchas Shlomo, Nedarim 78a; see Kol Nidrei, ch. 13-15, 21).

From Houdini to David Coperfield, 100 years of Jewish Magicians

On view through September 16, "Summer of Magic: Treasures From the David Copperfield Collection" tells the history of magic as a performative art. The treasures at the New-York Historical Society, magically transported from David Copperfield's International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts in Las Vegas, will delight magic lovers of all ages. Copperfield's grandly titled museum and library is actually a locked warehouse containing over 200,000 artifacts that Copperfield has collected over the years; a handful of the most mysterious items therein (it's a small show) are displayed publicly at the New-York Historical Society for the first time. The society's summer schedule is full of magic-related movie screenings, workshops, parlor mind readings with a spiritualist (a phenomenon Harry Houdini loathed), fortunetellers, Victorian magic-lantern shows and more.

Of course, you can't tell the history of magic without Houdini. Born Erik Weisz, was the most famous illusionist of his time. You can check out his "Metamorphosis Trunk," in which Harry and his newly wed bride Bess mysteriously traded places. You can ooh and aah at a glamorous costume Bess wore in performance. You can study vintage posters, a milk can from which Houdini escaped; a regulation straitjacket from which he also escaped; vintage films of Houdini escaping from a straitjacket while hanging from his feet outside a building; and the "inescapable" handcuffs that nearly proved the end of Houdini's career … whereby hangs a tale.

 One of Houdini's customary bits was to invite audiences to present him any pair of handcuffs; the "Handcuff King" would escape every pair nearly instantly. But In 1904, at the height of Houdini's fame, the London Daily Mirror issued a challenge: a pair of inescapable steel handcuffs crafted by a Birmingham blacksmith, at the behest of the Mirror, with a lock "no mortal man" could pick. Houdini took one look and refused (he argued that he meant he could escape any regulation pair of handcuffs) but with the paper goading him regularly, he finally accepted the challenge, at the Hippodrome, in front of 4,000 fans. A band played as Houdini stepped into his "ghost house"–a painted wooden cabinet. At first it seemed as though he was truly stuck, but after an hour and 10 minutes he emerged, uncuffed, from the box, with tears and sweat pouring down his face.

The morning of the exhibit's opening, Copperfield himself (born David Seth Kotkin in 1956) led a tour for a group of journalists. Dressed in head-to-toe black, he shared stories and history as I stared mesmerized at his jet-black hair. Copperfield originally wanted to be a ventriloquist, but quickly discovered that he was terrible at it. "It couldn't be me!" he said, self-deprecatingly. "It had to be the dummy!" His mom took him to Macy's to buy him a better dummy. But the dummies were sold at the magic counter, "and I fell in love with magic." He was good at it, too, inventing tricks from an early age and performing widely as The Great Davino at age 12. "Magic was one of those things that came very easy to me," he recalled. "I was very polished at 12. I sucked at everything else, but I had a very easy way with invention." He became a habituĂ© of small Manhattan magic shops; there's a replica of one in the show. Today, he noted, "There are fewer and fewer magic shops because of the internet."

Copperfield was specifically interested in the history of escapes, noting "escape was a metaphor that people could understand at the turn of the century." The museum contains a giant replica of the Death Saw, one of Copperfield's own bravura escape tricks, along with a video of him performing it back in the day. A young Copperfield, in a filmy, oversize white shirt, hair blowing in the breeze like a romance cover model's, is strapped to a steel table. A giant whirring steel wheel slowly lowers. At first Copperfield seems to be escaping, but something goes wrong! He's stuck! He's tugging ever more frantically at his bonds! AND THEN HE ARCHES AND SCREAMS AS HE IS CUT IN HALF! We, the jaded press, also screamed. The in-the-flesh Copperfield smiled.


Marjorie Ingall is a columnist for Tablet Magazine, and author of Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children.

MARS Bioimaging Ltd/AFP / HOThe CERN technology, dubbed Medipix, works like a camera detecting and counting individual sub-atomic particles as they collide with pixels while its shutter is open

First-ever colour X-ray on a human

New Zealand scientists have performed the first-ever 3-D, colour X-ray on a human, using a technique that promises to improve the field of medical diagnostics, said Europe's CERN physics lab which contributed imaging technology.

The new device, based on the traditional black-and-white X-ray, incorporates particle-tracking technology developed for CERN's Large Hadron Collider, which in 2012 discovered the elusive Higgs Boson particle.

"This colour X-ray imaging technique could produce clearer and more accurate pictures and help doctors give their patients more accurate diagnoses," said a CERN statement.

The CERN technology, dubbed Medipix, works like a camera detecting and counting individual sub-atomic particles as they collide with pixels while its shutter is open.

This allows for high-resolution, high-contrast pictures.

The machine's "small pixels and accurate energy resolution meant that this new imaging tool is able to get images that no other imaging tool can achieve," said developer Phil Butler of the University of Canterbury.

According to the CERN, the images very clearly show the difference between bone, muscle and cartilage, but also the position and size of cancerous tumours, for example.

The technology is being commercialised by New Zealand company MARS Bioimaging, linked to the universities of Otago and Canterbury which helped develop it.

Mizmor Shir Leyom Hashabbat Tov Lehodot LaHashem… " (Tehillim 92:2)
"A Psalm, a song for the Shabbat Day: It is Good to give thanks to Hashem, and to sing to Your name, O Most High." What is good? The best thing in the world is to give thanks to Hashem.  That is our job and Shabbat is the time.
We are called 'Yehudim', after the name Yehuda that our great Mother Leah named her son. She said, "This time I will Thank Hashem". The Yehudim are the Nation whose purpose is to Thank Hashem. "Ki simachtani Hashem befaolecha…" You've made me happy Hashem with Your handiwork, I sing at the deeds of Your hands."
It's a wonderful and marvelous world! Look at the beautiful sky. Isn't it a wonderful day?  We have to teach ourselves the happiness of life. Life is happy and Hashem wants us to enjoy this great gift of Olam Hazeh (this world). "Olam hesed yibaneh " (Tehillim 89:3). The world is built on Kindliness.  We have a kindly Father. Instead of complaining and ignoring all the blessings He is showering on us, let's utilize the Shabbat and sing of the deeds of Hashem's Hands.
Let's thank Hashem for Water, which we cannot live without. Therefore, Hashem created the world with a reservoir covering 65% of the Earth. The Oceans are holding water which is briny and not suitable for drinking. So Hashem brings the Sun's rays, from 93 million miles away, and in eight minutes ("ad mehera yarutz debaro" Tehillim) sunlight comes to the surface of the ocean causing the water to evaporate.  Only pure distilled water vaporizes, rising to form clouds. Hashem causes the winds to blow ("mashiv haruach") the clouds over the continents and condense. Pure, life giving, rain water is brought to the soil and our reservoirs
This is a wondrous miracle, which we should keep in mind as we drink a glass of water. It is no less a miracle than when the bitter waters were purified through Moshe by putting a tree in the waters causing them to sweeten, according to Hashem's command. "Vayimteku Hamayim", "And the waters became sweet"! (Shemot 15:25)
Water causes your eyes to sparkle. It is the water that makes you able to see. Water is the most important element of the blood, causing your blood to be liquid and flow freely to bring nourishment to your body.  Baruch Hashem for the glass of Water! The elixir of Life! Shabbat should make us happy & filled with Bitachon and Peace of Mind, in the kindliness of Hashem. Try to appreciate that gift. That is part of the purpose of Shabbat.                                                                      Adapted from "Rav Avigdor Miller Speaks"



Written:  The Jewish Press 1981


(Rabbi Meir Kahane, may G-d avenge his blood, had the ONLY answer to exist in safety in our land.  Thousands of Jews were killed, because we didn't do what had to be done. )


The Torah states clearly:  "And you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you . . .  but if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those whom you allow to remain will be like thorns in your eyes and thistles in your sides and will torment you in the land in which you dwell" (Numbers 33.52.55).


The Biblical commentators are explicit  "And you shall drive out the inhabitants and then you shall inherit it and be able to exist in it.  And if you do not, you will not be able to exist in it" 



"When you shall eliminate the inhabitants of the land, then you shall be privileged to inherit the land and pass it down to your children  But if you do not eliminate them, even though you will conquer the land, you will not be privileged to hand it down to your children" (Sforno).


"This verse refers to nations  other than the seven nations found there . . .  Not only will they hold that part of the land that you did not conquer, but even concerning that part which you did conquer and settle in, they will distress you and say, 'Rise and get out'" (Ohr HaChaim).


And so the Midrash tells us: "Joshua sent three messages to the inhabitants [of Canaan].  He who wishes to evacuate – let him evacuate; he who wishes to make peace – let him make peace, he who wishes to make war – let him make war" (Vayikra Rabba 17.6).


The choices are given.  Either leave, or prepare for war, or make peace.  The choice of "making peace" is explained by Rabbis as involving three things.  To begin with, the non-Jew must agree to adopt the seven basic Noahide Laws, which include the prohibitions against idolatry, blasphemy, immorality, bloodshed, robbery, eating flesh cut from a living animal, and a positive action – adherence to social laws. Once he has done this, he has the status of a resident stranger (ger toshav) who is allowed to live in Eretz Yisrael (Avoda Zara 64b) if he also accepts the conditions of tribute and servitude.


The Biblical commentator, the Radak, explains (in his commentary to Joshua 9:7):  "If they uproot idolatry and accept the seven Noahide laws, they must also pay tribute and serve Israel and be subject under them as it is written (Deuteronomy 20:11, 'All the people . . . shall be tributaries to you and shall serve you.'"


Maimonides (Hilchot Melachim 6:11) declares: "If they make peace and accept the seven Noahide laws, we do not kill them for they are tributary.  If they agreed to pay tribute but did not accept servitude or accepted servitude but not tribute, we do not acquiesce until they have accepted both.  And servitude means that they shall be humble and low and not raise their head in Israel.  Rather, they shall be subjects under us and not be appointed to any position over Jews ever."


Far better than foolish humans did the Almighty understand the dangers inherent in allowing a people that believes the land belongs to it free and unfettered residence, let alone ownership, proprietorship, citizenship.  What more natural thing than to ask to regain what it rightly believes to be its own land?  And this over and above the need to create a unique and distinctly separate Torah culture that will shape the Jewish people into a holy nation.  That uniqueness can only be guaranteed by the non-Jew having no sovereignty, ownership, or citizenship that could allow him to shape the state's destiny and character.


And so, concerning any non-Jew, Maimonides writes: "'You shall not place over yourself a stranger who is not of your brethren' (Deuteronomy 17:15).  Not only a king, but the prohibition is for any authority in Israel.  Not an officer in the armed forces. . .not even a public official in charge of the distribution of water to the fields .  And there is no need to mention that a judge or chieftain shall only be from the people of Israel. . .  Any authority that you appoint shall only be from the midst of your people" (Hilchot Melachim 1:4). 


The purpose is clear.  The non-Jew has no share in the land.  He has no ownership, citizenship or destiny in it.  The non-Jew who wishes to live in Israel must accept basic human obligations.  Then he may live in Israel as a resident stranger, but never as a citizen with any proprietary interest in the land or with any political say; never as one who can hold any public office which will give him domination over a Jew or a share in the authority of the country.  Accepting these conditions, he admits that the land is not his and therefore he may live in Israel quietly, separately, observing his own private life, with all religious, economic social and cultural rights.  Refusing this, he cannot remain.


See you tomorrow

Love Yehuda Lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

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