Monday, November 26, 2018

The ADL Is Wrong: Solidarity Is Not Bigotry By Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin and Howard Slugh - 8 Kislev 5779 – November 16, 2018

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Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor

Forgiving People

 If someone has wronged you and then shows sincere regret and asks for forgiveness, what should you do?

Go out of your way to do positive things for him that will express your love and concern for him. In this way, you are encouraging him for realizing his mistake and doing the right thing to correct it.

Love Yehuda Lave

Phinergy drives car by metal, air, and water

Phinergy develops zero emission, high energy density systems based on Metal Air energy technologies which significantly increase the driving range of current Electric Vehicles. Other applications include: stationary energy storage, consumer electronics, transportation, aerospace & defense.

Is Davening A Bore And A Chore? By Rabbi Boruch Leff - 8 Kislev 5779 – November 16, 2018

We all know that it is not easy to focus on davening and accrue the most benefits from it. Let's see if we can use this week's haftarahto inspire us in this area.

"U'neshalma parim sefaseinu," (Hoshea 12:21) is both a pasukwe read this week and a principle of tefillah. It means that the lips we move as we pray are the tefilos and supplications we offer to Hashem, and a substitute for korbanos we can no longer offer without a Beis HaMikdash.

Men daven three times a day; women at least once. This means that men will daven 1100 Shemoneh Esrei a year, women at least 365. Over a lifetime, we are all going to daven Shemoneh Esrei thousands upon thousands of times.

The average man spends at least 75 minutes a day davening – assuming a 45 minute Shacharis and 15 minutes each for Mincha and Maariv. The time women spend davening varies based on stage of life, however, it is safe to assume that the average women davens about 30 minutes a day. Thus, a man spends around 27,000 minutes a year davening and a woman around 11,000 minutes.

It becomes quite clear that measured by time, Klal Yisrael values avodas ha'tefillah, serving Hashem through prayer, tremendously.

I wonder, though, do we really feel different after davening? Do we feel closer to Hashem? Do we feel Hashem's Presence when we daven, or do we rattle off so many of the words without thinking – or worse yet, thinking about everything else under the sun? As the Kotzker once said, "Gold and silver are purified through fire. If you feel no improvement after davening, you are either made of base metal or your prayer lacked heat."

But we are not made of base metal – we are all bnei melachim, princes of Hashem, as Chazal say. Therefore, if we don't feel closer to Hashem after davening, it must be that our prayer lacked heat.

Yet, we dedicate so much of our lives to davening, so many thousands and thousands of hours. It would be a terrible shame to spend so many hours on an endeavor without genuine progression and development.

Rav Shimshon Pincus, in his seminal work on tefilllah, She'arim BaTefila, writes in the Pirkei Pesicha (page 12) that just as we have to try to become gedolim in Torah, we also have to work equally hard to become great in tefillah. He cites a Gemara (Megillah 27a) which states that just as a beis midrash is a place to become a gadol in Torah, so too a beis tefillah is a place where we must become gedolim in tefillah. It appears from this Gemara that in the time of the Beis HaMikdash there were places and yeshivos set aside to develop one's abilities in tefillah just as the classic yeshivos which help one grow in learning.

Rav Pincus points out that there is usually a marked contrast between the learning abilities of a younger bachur as opposed to an older bachur. In theory, this should be true for those out of yeshiva as well. The more you learn, the better your learning skills become. It would be nice, says Rav Pincus, to be able to say the same thing regarding davening: the older you are, the better at davening you become. But this is not necessarily the case. Often, a person stays at the same level of davening growth and kavana for years.

In his chapter "Hachana – Preparation" Rav Pincus notes that too many of us enter davening wrongly. We walk into shul and just begin. He says that this method almost guarantees we will fail to maintain proper attention and kavana.

Halacha tells us that before we begin davening we should stop and meditate, emptying all distracting thoughts from our minds. The Shulchan Aruch (Siman 93:1), based on the Rambam (Tefilla 4:16) writes, we must spend some time before davening just sitting quietly, concentrating on the fact that we are about to stand before the Shechinah.

This is not mussar or chassidus, says Rav Pincus, it's a halacha brought in the Shulchan Aruch. So when we run into davening and neglect this avodah, we are ignoring halacha. The Rambam brings an example of this from Gemara Berachos (32a) where chassidim rishonim would spend an hour before davening preparing themselves to speak with Hashem. Spending an hour is certainly a chumra and not a requirement, however, it is clear we have to spend some time meditating and focusing our thoughts.

The following description of this kind of work can be found in Rabbi Doniel Frank's recent book, How Can I Change for Heaven's Sake?

"You literally empty yourself of your predispositions – your thoughts and feelings – so that you can be a vessel to receive G-d's influence. That is how you achieve the highest levels of connection. You set aside distracting thoughts and feelings in order to allow yourself to be moved by the words of the prayers and the whole experience. Perhaps take a few deep breaths, relax the body, close the eyes, sway gently, and allow intrusive thoughts to ease their way out of your mind."

Many of the physical requirements of davening are to remind us that we are standing before Hashem: walking three steps forward at the beginning of Shemoneh Esrai and bowing and taking three steps back at the end, like a servant leaving his master.

Even when we are part of a crowd, we have to try to imagine that we are alone with Hashem, as the pasuk (Vayikra 16:17) says, "Vechol adom lo yiyeyeh b'ohel mo'ed b'vo'o lechaper b'kodesh, No one should be in the tent of meeting, when he comes to atone in the Holy." While this pasuk is describing the Kohen Gadol, Rav Tzadok HaKohen (Tzidkas HaTzadik, os 25) explains that it also refers to us when we are davening, learning Torah, or working towards our parnassah. We have to try to serve Hashem throughout our day, even in whatever mundane task we are doing, and still feel that we are alone with Hashem in the holiest place, serving Him in our holiest way possible, even in the regular, and seemingly unholy, aspects of life.

Instead of a bore and a chore let's make our davening a true and sincere prayer galore!

Rosh Hanikra Part One of three

On Nov 13, 2018, we go on a beautiful fall day with the sun shining to the undeveloped most Northern coast on the Lebanon border. It is a national park, for the sea caves cut into the rock by the sea and the only place in Israel where the mountains hit the sea. It was a beautiful day with my love

The ADL Is Wrong: Solidarity Is Not Bigotry By Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin and Howard Slugh - 8 Kislev 5779 – November 16, 2018

In the story of Esther, Haman slanders the Jews for being separate. Jewish distinctiveness, he suggests, is a sign of disloyalty and the rest of society should not tolerate it.

Jews have faced similar accusations throughout the ages, so Jewish organizations should be particularly hesitant to use them against others. Unfortunately, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) did just that when it recently condemned Miracle Hill Ministries' foster care service for the supposedly heinous crime of exclusively serving Christian parents.


As a Jewish organization, the ADL ought to know that bonds between members of the same faith rest on shared beliefs; they do not indicate hatred of outsiders. Orthodox Jews, for example, ardently oppose intermarriage between Jews and adherents of other religions. An opportunistic anti-Semite could easily spin this fact to prove Jewish distaste of others. But this claim would be false.

The ADL's attack on Miracle Hill Ministries is similarly misleading. This South Carolina-based Christian ministry provides services for the needy, including support for families in the state's foster-care system. Miracle Hill recruits foster parents and supports families, but it will only provide its services to Christian parents.

American Jews acted similarly in helping resettle Russian Jewish immigrants in the United States in the 1980s and 1990s. When Jewish organizations searched for Jewish families to adopt a Jewish child fleeing Russian persecution, no reasonable person would have accused them of bigotry. It was clearly an act of religious solidarity.

Miracle Hill says Christianity is the force that motivates it – or, more accurately, obligates it – to help the needy. It considers its foster care services to be the fulfillment of a verse in the New Testament and as part of its religious ministry. It is a Christian endeavor. In this context, therefore, the ministry's desires to serve only Christian parents is similar to Jews' opposition to intermarriage. Neither position is based on spite or hatred. Religious solidarity is the motivation.

The ADL apparently sees matters differently. It describes Miracle Hill's behavior as "grossly unfair" and decries governmental support for Miracle Hill as "immoral and grossly unjust." On this basis, it wrote a letter opposing Miracle Hill's request for an exemption from a federal regulation that might prohibit the ministry's decision to partner only with coreligionists. A Reform rabbi in South Carolina who agrees with the ADL claimed the ministry was telling Jews they are "not fit to parent in South Carolina."

These ostensible Jewish leaders are inadvertently recycling an anti-Semitic canard and applying it to their Christian neighbors. If Jews want members of other faiths to respect their desire to be separate, they should offer the same courtesy to their neighbors.

The ADL's outrage might be more understandable if Jewish South Carolinians were being frozen out of the foster care system. If Miracle Hill had a monopoly on foster-care services in South Carolina, there might be a valid reason to protest its exclusion of Jews. (Although, even in that case, it would be appropriate to first object in a diplomatic fashion, without accusing anyone of acting in bad faith.)

But Miracle Hill possesses no such monopoly. It has neither the power nor the desire to prevent members of other religions from becoming successful foster parents. It is simply one among several foster-care agencies in South Carolina, including the state's own Department of Social Services. Miracle Hill serves a niche role. It adds much – and subtracts nothing – from South Carolina's foster care system.

Due to our historical experience, Jews have a unique insight into the dangers of ascribing bigoted motives to groups that are religiously distinct from the surrounding culture. Quite frequently, anti-Semites distorted our allegiance to the Torah and each other as hatred of our neighbors.

Judaism believes all humans are created in the image of God and maintains that converting to Judaism is not a prerequisite for righteousness. Yet, Judaism sometimes calls on its adherents to act as a distinct group – and so do other religions. The ADL and other critics of Miracle Hill should reject the lies of anti-Semites from Pharaoh to Haman and affirm that separateness does not imply disloyalty or hatred

Dreams, Naps & Promises By Rabbi Simcha Weinberg - 8 Kislev 5779 – November 15, 2018

{Originally posted to Rabbi Weinberg's website, The Foundation Stone}

Shall I take a cue from Jacob as to how to celebrate a Seudat Hoda'ah, a Thanksgiving feast, after experiencing my mother's passing, new grandchildren, a tornado, two hurricanes, three earthquakes, Pip's death, and numerous powerful encounters?

Waking from a monumental dream of a ladder connecting heaven and earth, a frightened Jacob says, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the Lord's abode and this is the gate of the heavens (Genesis 28:17)," and goes back to sleep!

Waking again from his dream of epic promises, Jacob makes his own promise focusing, not on the monumental, but the practical, "If the Lord will be with me, will guard me on this way,  will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear, then this stone which I have set as a monument shall become a House of the Lord, and whatever You give me, I shall tithe to You (Verses 20-22)."

I would not have been able to go back to sleep, and, I'd like to believe that I would have responded to the historic promises rather than make a conditional promise emphasizing bread and clothes. I would expect a "Thank You," from Jacob, instead of falling asleep and then playing "Let's Make A Deal," although it would make an interesting Thanksgiving celebration…

Only post-dream Jacob could peacefully sleep in such an awesome place. Jacob, before the dream that allowed him to understand his potential would have been too intimidated to sleep. Once he understood that the holiest place, even the most awesome vision, is only the bottom step of a ladder reaching to eternity, he felt safe sleeping as a baby secure in his mother's arms. Jacob took the message of his powerful experience as a promise that he would succeed as long as he would be a climber, step by step up the ladder of life. His promise was conditioned on God helping him with the basics necessary to live every step of life as climbing. His "Thank You" was to build a life, one step at a time. His "Thank You" for the epic vision was conditioned on God helping him climb up the ladder toward that vision. Jacob understood that a person, or a nation, can only maintain a grand vision if they feel that God is there each step of the way. A grand vision demands countless small steps, each guided by God's constant attention. Perhaps this is the meaning of the Midrash that the twelve stones around Jacob's head unified into a single stone; Jacob insisted that only with each step secure could he focus on his vision of The Foundation Stone.

We offer thanks today for the small blessings that allow us to climb, step by step, toward our highest vision. We should take a cue from Jacob and, as our Thanksgiving, offer the promise, "If You will take care of our basic needs, we will continue to strive to build a life that will become a monument to Your presence in the world." Then, secure in God's promise, perhaps a short nap.

I hope, please God, to post the other side of this equation, "What happens to our vision when we do not experience God's support?" after Thanksgiving on The Foundation Stone Blog.

Wishing you a restful Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom,

See you tomorrow

Love yehuda lave

Rabbi Yehuda Lave

2850 Womble Road, Suite 100-619, San Diego
United States


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