Wednesday, November 28, 2018

45 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Israel

Yehuda La

Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Avisor and Counselor

ve, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Believe In People 

Believe in people and you will influence them to believe in themselves.

Your belief needs to be based on reality -- so develop an eye for noticing sparks of potential in others. Be enthusiastic in selling a person to himself.

Love Yehuda Lave

THEY MUST GO – written in 1980, printed in 1981



But There is a G-d in Israel (excerpts)


The analysis and proposed transfer of Arabs from Israel that I have set down are not personal views.  They are certainly not political ones.  This is the Jewish outlook, based on halakah the law as postulated in the Torah.


The removal of all Arabs who refuse to accept the exclusive, unquestioned Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael is not only logical and normal for any Jew with a modicum of an instinct for self-preservation; it is also the Jewish halakic obligation.  It is important that we know this in order to realize what true "Jewishness" really dictates and in order to instill in ourselves the faith and assurance that if we do this, all the nations in the world will be incapable of harming Israel.


The Jewish people are not merely one more nation.  "Though I put an end to all the nations among whom thou art scattered, but I will never put an end to thee" (Jeremiah 30:11).  Israel is indestructible.  It is unique, it is holy, it is the Chosen of the L-rd; it has a reason for being.  Its national uniqueness is built on an idea, on an ideology, that it alone has.   The Jew is selected and obligated to be a religio-nation, commanded to obey the laws and follow the path of Torah.  The covenant.  The Jewish people took upon itself the yoke of the L-rd, acknowledging Him as G-d and observing His laws.  The Almighty chose them as His unique people, pledging that they would be indestructible and would live in peace and prosperity in their own land, Eretz Yisrael.


The land was given as a reward, as a blessing.  But it is more, much more, than that.  The people of Israel have more than a right to the land; they have an obligation.  "For you shall pass over the Jordan to go in to possess the Land which the L-rd your G-d gives you, and you shall possess it and dwell therein" (Deuteronomy 11:31).


A unique people given, uniquely, a particular land.  Unlike all the other faiths that are not limited to one special country, the Jew is given a particular land and commanded to live there.  And for a reason, as Moses explains:  "Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the L-rd, my G-d, commanded me, that you shall do so in the Land whither you go to possess it. (Deuteronomy 4:5).


It is impossible to create a holy, unique people that dwells as a minority within lands that belong to others.  The majority culture must infiltrate, influence, corrupt, woo, tempt, pervert.  The Jew is commanded to create for himself a holy nation, and that can only be done free of others, separate, different, apart.  That is why the unique nation, chosen for holiness and unique destiny, was given a land for itself: so that it might create a unique, holy society that would be a light unto the nations who would see its example and model.


And as the Torah clearly commanded: And you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you…But if you will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come to pass that those which you let remain of them, shall be thorns in your eyes and thistles in your sides and shall torment you in the land wherein you dwell.  And it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them" (Numbers 3:52-56). 


Far better than foolish humans did the Almighty understand the dangers inherent in allowing a people that believed the land belonged to it to be given free and unfettered residence, let along ownership, proprietorship, citizenship.  What more natural thing than to ask to regain that it believed to be rightly 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 be guaranteed only by the non-Jew's having no sovereignty, ownership, or citizenship in the state that could allow him to shape its destiny and character.


This is Torah.  This is Jewishness.  Not the dishonest pseudo "Judaism" chanted by the Liberal secularists who pick and choose what "Judaism" finds favor in their eyes and who reject what their own gentilized concepts find unacceptable.  They weigh "Judaism" on the scales of their own intellectual arrogance – arrogance, incidentally, of intense ignorance.


And if this is not only the right of Jews but their obligation, what do we fear?  Why do the Jews tremble and quake before the threat of the nations?  Is there no longer a G-d in Israel?  Have we lost our bearings that we do not understand the ordained historical role of the State of Israel, a role that ensures that it can never be destroyed and that no further exile from it is possible?  Why is it that we do not comprehend that it is precisely our refusal to deal with the Arabs according to halakic obligation that will bring down on our heads terrible sufferings, whereas our courage in removing them will be one of the major factors in the hurrying of the final redemption?


What is wrong with us?  Who blinded us and blocked from our memories the existence and power of the G-d of Israel?  Did a Jewish people exist for 2,000 years without state, government, or army, wandering the earth interminably from land to land, suffering pogroms and Holocaust and surviving powerful empires that disappeared into history, just by coincidence?  Did a Jewish people return to its land from the far corners of the earth to set up its own sovereign state – exactly as promised in the Bible – through mere natural means?  What other nation ever did such a thing?  Where are the Philistines of Goliath today?  Where is imperial Rome with its Latin and its gods?  Who defeats armies in six days, and on the seventh they rest?


Who if not an Israel because there is a G-d in it!  The Land of Israel is His divine Land; the State of Israel is His divine hand.  History is not a series of random events, disjointed and coincidental.  There is a Creator, a Guide, a Hand that plans and directs.  There is a scenario to history.  The Jew has come home for the third and last time.  "But the third shall be left therein" (Zechariah 13:8).  The first redemption was that from Egypt; the second, the redemption of Ezra.  The third will never end" (Tanhuma, Shoftim 9).


We live in the era of the footsteps of the Messiah, the beginning of the final redemption.  The rise of the State of Israel from the ashes of Auschwitz marks the end of the night of black humiliation and agony, of Hillul Hashem, and the beginning of the dawn of the final, total redemption, of Kiddush Hashem, sanctification of G-d's name. The State of Israel is not a "political" creation.  It is a religious one.  No power could have prevented its birth and none can destroy it.  It is the beginning of G-d's wrath, vengeance against the nations who ignored, disdained, and humiliated Him, who found Him irrelevant, who "knew Him not."  But, it is only the beginning.  How the final redemption will come, and when, depends on the Jews.


The exiles shall be ingathered only through "faith" (Mechilta, Exodus).  If we have it, if we truly believe in the existence of the Creator and Guider of history, the G-d of Israel, we can bring the final redemption today.  "When will the Messiah come? ' Today, as it is said:  "Today, if you will hearken unto my voice'" (Psalms 95:7, Sanhedrin 98a).


The Arabs of Israel represent Hillul Hashem in its starkest form.  Their rejection of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel despite the covenant between the L-rd of Israel and the Jews constitutes a rejection of the sovereignty and kingship of the L-rd G-d of Israel.  Their transfer from the Land of Israel thus becomes more than a political issue. It is a religious issue, a religious obligation, a commandment to erase Hillul Hashem.  Far from fearing what the Gentile will do if we do such a thing, let the Jew tremble as he considers the anger of the Almighty if we do not.


Tragedy will be ours if we do not move the Arabs out.  The great redemption can come immediately and magnificently if we do that which G-d demands.  One of the great yardsticks of real Jewish faith in this time of momentous decision is our willingness to reject fear of man in favor of awe of G-d and remove the Arabs from Israel.


The world?  The nations – united or otherwise?  What do they matter before the omnipotence of the Almighty?


"Why do the nations rage…the Kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the L-rd and against His anointed…He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the L-rd shall mock them…"  (Psalms 2:1-4).  The Jewish people and state cannot be destroyed.  Their weapon is their G-d.  That is reality


Let us remove the Arabs from Israel and bring the redemption.



Why Leah Named Her Son Judah

So here's a Trivial Pursuit question for you that is anything but trivial: Who was the first person to ever say "Thank You" to G‑d?

OK, I'll give you a hint; the answer is in the portion of " Vayeitzei."

And theWho was the first person to ever say "Thank You" to G‑d? correct response (which hardly anyone gets right, by the way) is ... our matriarch Leah. She was the first person in recorded history to express gratitude to G‑d, and she did so when she gave birth to her fourth son, naming him Yehuda (Judah), from the word, hoda'ah, which means, "to thank."

Now this raises a pretty big question. Why didn't Leah say "thank you" when her first child was born? Or her second and third for that matter? How was it that she waited until her fourth to officially thank G‑d for this baby?

At a quick glance, we are taught that Leah understood that her husband, Jacob, was destined to have 12 sons. He had four wives, and so Leah did the math. When she gave birth to her third son, it seemed that she had been given "her share," which would have been the case if the 12 sons were divided equally among the wives. But this fourth child was a genuine surprise. He was unexpected. Therefore, she was overwhelmed with gratitude for this extra share over and above what she had perceived to be her lot.

But does this then mean that Leah was not grateful for her first three children? Not at all! Leah faced a lot of challenges, and was filled with insecurities within her marriage and her role in her family. Yet, she was simultaneously self-aware and communicated her needs to God, and with each child, she felt blessed that this baby was the fulfillment of her prayers.

When she birthed her fourth son, however, she recognized that she had been purely gifted. It was not just that she had prayed and her prayers had been answered, but that G‑d had provided her with the greatest blessing that she hadn't even requested. This is the child that then received the name "Yehuda" for pure, unadulterated thanks. More so, it is the reminder to us that we never fully understand (or sometimes, we never understand at all) our situations and circumstances. But when we are grateful for what we have, then we find the meaning and purpose in who we are and what we are capable of.

This is why the Jewish people have been called by many names, but in the end, we are always Yehudim "Jews" related to the name "Yehuda." Judaism (Yehuda-ism), therefore, can be understood as the means by which we can most fully express what we are at our core—beings who are grateful to G‑d and who show that appreciation.

Ingratitude 101

Unfortunately, it seems that society has become more and more self-consumed, and one of the first things to go is the attitude of gratitude. This approach is a breeding ground for unhappiness. One of the ways we generate unhappiness is taking goodness for granted and focusing on what we don't have instead of what we do have. When we take goodness for granted and feel that we are entitled to the good in our life, why should we be grateful? After all, it's "what's coming to me." If we feel that we "deserve it," then it's not a "gift." We can't see it as a blessing. Conversely, if we are not getting what we believe to be our "fair share," then we will be pretty unhappy. And we certainly can't feel a sense of thanks when we are coming from a mindset of "lack."

The Pain of Comparisons

In her book, Self-Compassion, Kristin Neff describes a woman who emerged from her annual work review floating on air. HerWhen we understand that everything is a gift, we escape the trap of entitlement boss said that he was so pleased with her performance that she was getting a 10 percent pay raise. She immediately called her boyfriend to share the good news and, being elated for her, he promised her a champagne celebration when she came home.

As she was leaving work, however, she happened to overhear a coworker talking on her cell phone to a friend. "Can you believe it?" she said, "My boss was so impressed with me that he gave me a 15 percent pay raise—5 percent more than the automatic 10 percent that everyone else got!"

When she heard that news, the 10 percent increase was no longer a cause for elation; rather, it created resentment, discontent and shame that she was not worthy of more. Since the 10 percent pay raise was what she was entitled to (and no more), she could no longer see it as a source of blessing and be grateful. Thus, a sense of entitlement kills gratitude. It helps to remember that many people are far less fortunate than you may be—and are quite happy with what they have. I saw a sign on a dorm wall that said: "What if you woke up today only with the things that you thanked G‑d for yesterday?"

When we understand that everything is a gift, then we escape the trap of an entitlement mentality. And when we develop an "Attitude of Gratitude," then we can see and appreciate all of our many blessings.

Internalize & Actualize:

  1. We often find it easy to be grateful when things are going our way, and are resentful when they are not. Think about five things that are currently not the way you want them to be. Write them down. Now, underneath that list, write down something that you can be grateful for and that is specifically related to the item above. For example: "I am overweight" (negative). "I am blessed to have plenty of food and have never gone hungry" (gratitude). Or: "I have a terrible relationship with my mother-in-law" (negative). "My children are blessed to have a grandmother in their lives and my husband to have his mother in good health" (gratitude).
  2. Think about three things you feel entitled to in your life that other people would consider blessings (i.e., I deserve a vacation for how hard I work). Now write down three ways you can immediately begin to express gratitude for those things or areas of your life.
  3. There are so many things in our lives that we don't even recognize as blessings because they are considered "normal." Think about how many times a "boring" day is something we complain about, rather than being grateful that nothing terrible happened.
    This week, every night before you go to sleep, think through your day and jot down everything there is to be grateful for that you often take for granted (i.e., I woke up, kids are healthy, I have my job, I got to work on time, I finished my project, etc.) You specifically want to focus on the ordinary, and each day make sure you write down some different things on your list. Each day that you make your list, write how it makes you feel to focus on these areas and to consider them blessings.
Who Made God?

A basic principle of physics is the law of conservation of matter. That has me wondering: If God created the world, then where did God come from?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Maimonides deals with this question at length. He answers that God is beyond our comprehension, and it is absurd to apply our realm of experience to His. Therefore it is inappropriate to discuss God in terms of past, future or being created, etc.

To explain: Everything that is finite has to have been created, but God is infinite and therefore He did not have to be created.

Everything in the physical world had a beginning at some point in the past. If you cut down a tree we can see how old it is by counting rings. As a person ages, i.e. he is now 20 years old, that means he had to be one year old at some time.

Since everything in this world gets older, it means that everything was created at some point.

How was it created?

There are only two options: Either it made itself, or it was made by something else. Now, it couldn't make itself, because it did not yet exist. So it had to have been made by something else.

Eventually, one must arrive at the conclusion that the world and all it contains was started by something that was not time-bound and therefore did not have a beginning. Since it did not have a beginning, it was not "created."

A being that exists beyond time doesn't come from anywhere. He has always existed. If something created God, God would have a beginning and be finite, not infinite. Beyond time means having no beginning and no end, eternal. It means there is nothing that exists before God. "Before" is a time-bound quality that applies only to finite entities. Therefore God is called the "First Cause" - or the Prime Mover - the dimension that has no other dimension preceding it.

Inferior Class of Jews?

My wife and I were married by a rabbi who also performed our son's Bris. Our son is now six years old – and I believe he meets all the criteria for Pidyon Ha'Ben.

When I contacted our rabbi regarding a Pidyon Ha'Ben, he informed me that his movement of Judaism does not do this anymore. The rabbi said it's ludicrous to redeem your son simply because his last name is not Levi. He explained that most rabbis are not from the tribe of Levi, and that a child with the last name Smith is no less important in God's eyes.

After speaking with the rabbi, I got the sense that performing a Pidyon Ha'Ben would be acknowledging that my son is an inferior class of Jew. Is this correct? I want to do right by God and my son.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

It is very impressive that you are pursuing clarity on this issue, particularly with all the dissuasion you've had until now.

Let's start from square one: Pidyon Ha'Ben refers to the "redemption of the first born son," and is commanded in the Torah (Numbers 18:15-16).

The reason behind this mitzvah is to remind us how during the Exodus from Egypt, God killed the first-born Egyptians, yet miraculously spared the first-born Jews. And since one's first child brings so much happiness, it's a fitting time to acknowledge that everything we have belongs to God. (Numbers 3:13)

But what does the tribe of Levi have to do with all this? The background is a bit complex, so here goes:

Originally, God intended that the first-born of each Jewish family would be a Kohen – i.e. would serve as that family's representative to the Holy Temple. (Exodus 13:2, Exodus 24:5)

Then came the incident of the Golden Calf. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai and smashed the tablets, he issued everyone an ultimatum: "Make your choice – either God or the idol." Only the tribe of Levi came to the side of God. (Exodus 32:26)

At that point, God decreed that each family's first-born had forfeited their "Kohen" status – and henceforth all the Kohanim would come from the tribe of Levi. (More specifically, the descendants of Aaron became the Kohanim, with the rest of the tribe of Levi taking on other responsibilities in the Temple.)

This created a situation where all Jewish first-borns are "potential" Kohanim, while the descendents of Aaron are the "actual" Kohanim.

Therefore, God gave us the commandment to redeem the first-born from a Kohen, who essentially is serving in place of the first-born.

Now for your question: Isn't all this discriminatory? Just by virtue of birth is a Kohen inherently "better" than a non-Kohen?

The answer is yes and no.

We all accept the idea that "status" can be passed down genealogically. Imagine someone born into the family of Rockefeller. He would automatically have vast financial resources and social status. Is this fair? After all, his only claim to fame is that some distant ancestor excelled!

So, too, a Kohen is a Kohen today by virtue of an exceedingly great act that his ancestor did in refusing to worship the Golden Calf.

Whether fair or not, it's a genealogical reality that applies to many aspects of life. Some people are born smarter, some prettier, and some more athletic. However this does not make one human being better than another. It just means that we all have different limitations, and a different potential to be fulfilled. (In fact, the tribe of Levi "lost out" in one regard, in that they were not assigned a tribal portion in the Land of Israel.)

Actually, the greater a person's potential, the greater degree of responsibility. One of the reasons why Esav (Esau) sold the birthright to Jacob is because Esav thought he would suffer grave consequences as a result of performing the Temple service improperly. Indeed, if a Rockefeller would squander his wealth and abuse his social status, he would be held culpable – much more than if a non-Rockefeller did so!

But in truth, we've missed a basic point. In Judaism there is a much higher value than one's status as a Kohen – the "Crown of Torah."

Torah learning is regarded as the most important of all mitzvot, because it opens the door for observance of the other mitzvot. As the Talmud says (Shabbat 127a): "The study of Torah is equal to the sum total of all other mitzvot."

The Talmud asks who deserves more honor: A non-learned Kohen Gadol (High Priest), or a Torah scholar with badly-tainted lineage (for example the product of an incestuous relationship)? The answer is that Torah scholarship supersedes simple Kohanic lineage.

So when we speak about fulfilling one's Jewish potential, there are no restrictions, no special classes of Jews. Torah is not the exclusive domain of some priestly class. Rather, it is open and available to all. And we are required at all times to involve ourselves personally in its study and practice.

Furthermore, while everyone may not be cut out to be a scholar, everyone can share in that merit by supporting Torah scholarship. The classic example of this is a partnership made between the two Jewish tribes of Yissachar and Zevulun. The people of Yissachar were professional scholars, while the people of Zevulun excelled in business and trade. The two group made a 50-50 partnership: Zevulun supplied Yissachar with funds, and in return Yissachar agreed to split the merit of their Torah learning. Indeed, this provision is used even today as the model for many similar, private arrangements.

Yet when all is said and done, aren't Kohanim still regarded as "special?"

The definition of peace is not that everyone is equal or that everyone has exactly the same needs as everyone else, but rather that everyone knows their place, knows what they're capable of, knows what their contribution is, and is accepting of themselves and that others' contributions as equally important and valuable. Everyone has a vital role to play, regardless of occupation or skill, and we are only expected to excel with the tools we have.

The story is told of the great Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (20th century Jerusalem), who asked his congregation to delay beginning the evening prayers until the street sweeper arrived. Said Rabbi Auerbach: "This man is devoted and committed to his work, and takes pride in the contribution he makes to Jewish life. I wish that I would have such pure intentions in my own work!"

It is interesting that the Priestly Blessing set forth in the Torah (Numbers 6:22-27) is essentially a blessing for peace. The Kohanim are the prime example in Jewish life where we could be setting ourselves up for jealousy – "my position versus your position." Yet the Torah assigns them the specific role as messengers of peace!

And who was the quintessential master of peace? Moses' brother – Aaron the High Priest – who occupied the second-highest position in Jewish communal life. Yet Aaron was known as the master of peace. Despite his "special" status, Aaron brought harmony by teaching that no one's "package" is inherently better than another's. And that's the key to true peace – never treating others as less important.

One last point mentioned in your question: A person's last name does not determine whether or not they come from the tribe of Levi. While it is true that many families named Levi are Levites, this is far from an absolute rule. Imagine an Eskimo who converts to Judaism and legally changes his last name to Levi. That doesn't make him a Levite!

Nor are all Kohen's named Kohen. Many Kohanim are named Katz, which is an acronym for Kohen-Tzedek – "righteous Kohen." And the family today with the most verified lineage of Kohanic ancestry is named "Rappaport!"

The only valid method of being a Levite (or Kohen) is to have an unbroken tradition, passed from generation to generation, stretching back to the time of Moses. In many Jewish communities, meticulous records were kept throughout the generations to ensure that ancestral lines remain clear.

Finally, while a Pidyon Ha'Ben is usually done one month after birth, even if the opportunity was missed, the obligation still remains. My best advice is to contact a local rabbi with solid knowledge of the Talmud and Code of Jewish Law. There are many technical details regarding Pidyon Ha'Ben, and not all first-borns are obligated in the mitzvah.

I wish you the best success in raising your son in the Jewish tradition. With your honest approach in your relationship to God, he's got an excellent role model already.

Read more about Pidyon Ha'Ben at

45 Cool, Hidden, and Unusual Things to Do in Israel

Israel is a must visit country. As the holy land with its ancient and theological history, as the vibrant Start Up Nation with its innovative technology, or as the fun party-on beach country, often voted high in best vacation spot lists. Yet apart from the holy city of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and party city Tel Aviv, there is so much more to see and do in Israel. Here's a comprehensive list of 45 cool, hidden, and unusual things to do in Israel.

If you're planning a trip to Israel, browse and write down your favorites. If you have visited Israel before, browse and test yourself – how many have you been to?


#1 Beit Guvrin Caves

These numerous Israeli caves were dug out over hundreds years for reasons ranging from hideouts to burial sites.

Dug out from beneath an area that was once known as the Israeli cities of Maresha and Beit Guvrin, the network of caves, named after the latter city, seem to have been created for a number of different reasons down the ages but stand today to wow Jewish pilgrims traveling to the homeland.

Maresha was the first city to stand on the site, dating back to Israeli prehistory, however it was eventually sacked and replaced by Beit Guvrin. This new city thrived in the area until it too was conquered by the Romans, leaving behind little but ruins and the caves.

Things to Do in Israel 1 - Beit Guvrin Caves 2


The soft chalk earth of the Judean Lowlands made the construction of the thousands of caves possible even using nothing but the primitive technology of the time. Archeologists have discovered chambers dating from many of the eras of the area including Sidonian, Israelite, and Roman. Some of the caves appear to have been created to serve as defenses and hideouts, while others still look to have been made simply by chalk mining. Perhaps the most impressive portion of the over 3,000 chamber network are the painted burial rooms created by the Sidonians. These subterranean hollows are painted in bright, vibrant colors that have managed to maintain much of their character over the centuries thanks in large part to their protection from the elements.

Above ground ruins of the city of Maresha as well as a Roman amphitheater can also be found, but it is what lies underground that's really worth the pilgrimage.

Things to Do in Israel - Beit Guvrin Caves

See you tomorrow (bli-neder)

Love Yehuda Lave
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