Breaking News: Month after Israelis were told to ‘stay home’ to thwart COVID-19, workplaces to be allowed increased capacity, some shops to open, group prayers for up to 10 permitted and Shabbat Candles And Jewish Eternity By Saul Jay Singer and A thermometer for every guest, no room service: Welcome to Israel's 'Hotel Coronavirus' and A belated Pesach story from Shlomo Carlebach:
Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher, and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement. Now also a Blogger on the Times of Israel. Look for my column
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Health and Finance Ministry officials told Israelis on Saturday night that current Health Ministry restrictions are finally going to be relaxed for most of the population — at least for the next two weeks.
For Israelis up to age 67, a set of new rules is expected to be approved Saturday night by the government Cabinet, Netanyahu said in a televised address. Israelis ages 67 and older, and those with underlying medical issues such as diabetes, autoimmune, pulmonary and heart conditions, are still being asked to remain at home and not to go to work.
He described an eight-step plan to restore the routine to Israeli society, albeit with a gradual return to the basic daily schedule in the financial, manufacturing, education and employment sectors.
1. Employers are allowed to increase the work force from 15 percent back to 30 percent. 2. Hi-tech and other select employment sectors can return their work force, subject to rules. Companies will be allowed to operate, and meetings of up to eight people may be held. 3. Establishing certification of sites where workers are properly protected. 4. Reopening commercial establishments; these include: a. Electrical goods and appliances b. Household goods c. Opticians d. Stores in malls or markets are not included yet. 5. Government offices assisting the private sector receive priority status. 6. Special education classes will resume for a maximum of three children at a time. The classes will be separated into groups of up to three children each, and each group will be separate from the others. Children from three families maximum are to be accepted by a single caregiver. 7. Public transportation is to be resumed and adjusted regionally as appropriate. 8. Sports activity to be resumed in pairs only. 9. Outdoor minyanim to be allowed, at a distance of two meters between each person, for a maximum of up to 10 people, with everyone wearing masks.
The prime minister added that a strategy for dealing with senior citizens, elder caregiving and the facilities that serve them is also being formulated as well.
Addressing Israel's Muslim citizens, Netanyahu wished them a happy Ramadan and urged them to protect their health and that of their families and communities by strictly adhering to Health Ministry guidelines. He emphasized that just as the Jewish citizens had celebrated Passover with their nuclear families only, Ramadan should be celebrated the same way.
Memorial Day and Independence Day activities will be held at home and on porches, he added.
Speaking after Netanyahu were Health Ministry Director-General Moshe Bar Siman Tov and Minister of Finance Shai Babad.
"Beginning tomorrow, essential workplaces will continue as usual," Babad said. "The rest of the private sector – industry, manufacturing, and services will reopen at 30 percent capacity. But it is still recommended that employees work from home as much as possible."
The above plan is to be implemented for the next two weeks, the prime minister said, and if the numbers are "encouraging," further steps will be introduced.
"If another outbreak occurs over the coming two weeks, we will be forced to return to previous measures. There's no other way."
A Pesach story from Shlomo Carlebach:
This is a story of Rav Tzvi Elimelech. He told this story about his father. In those days, people were so poor, but a way of making money was to become a tutor in a rich man's house. They taught children from Succoth to Pesach, they made a few hundred rubles and lived on that the whole year.
So, his father became a tutor for a rich man. The first shabbos that his father was there, there were no guests. His father said to the rich man, "How can you have a shabbos without guests?" The man said, "I don't waste my precious money on guests." Rav Tzvi Elimelech's father was so innocent. He said, "Do me a favor. Take it off my salary. I cannot eat without poor people at the table."
He stayed there from Succoth until Pesach. A few days before Pesach, he walked in and said, Now, give me my 500 rubles." The rich man said, "What do you mean? You owe ME 500 rubles! Because of you, I had to spend twice your salary on the poor." Anyway, Tzvi Elimelech's father realized that this rich man would not let him go without getting his 500 rubles back, so he ran to his room, took his things and left.
In the meantime, his wife didn't have a single penny. The grocer and the butcher were asking her when she would pay them and she would tell them that her husband was bringing money on Pesach. So, he thought, how can I come home without any money? What am I supposed to do? He arrived home in the middle of the night. He was afraid to go home so he went to the Beis Midrash (study house).
Rav Tzvi Elimelech said, "I was seven years old. then. I went in the morning to daven and there was my father in the Beis Midrash! I said to my father, 'Why didn't you come home? We miss you so much!' He said, 'I didn't want to wake you up.'
I ran home to tell my mother that my father came home. She was so happy. I ran back to my father and told him, 'For four weeks we had nothing to eat because the butcher the grocer didn't trust us anymore. Now, we went and told them that thank G-d, you are here. Now my mother is preparing the best breakfast for you. We are so happy you came home.'
Well, my father davened so long. He didn't know what to do. He took an hour to pack his tefillin up and I was pulling him the whole time, saying, 'Let's go home already.' We walked in the street. He walked so slowly. Finally, we came to the last corner before the house.
Suddenly, a Cossack came charging along and stopped right in front of my father. He said, "I am looking for Reb Feivel.' My father said, "That's me." The Cossack took a little bag and threw it at my father and then took off. There was pure gold in it. Pure gold. So, Rav Tzvi Elimelech said, "That Seder night, when my father opened the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, I started yelling and I said, "Father, look — The Cossack is here again
May we all be blessed to see Eliyahu HaNavi this year!
Ideas, that help explain how the world works
A thermometer for every guest, no room service: Welcome to Israel's 'Hotel Coronavirus'
Col. (res.) Yoram Laredo thought that he had experienced the most dramatic event of his life when he headed the Israel Defense Forces rescue team sent to Nepal after the country's 2015 earthquake. "The earthquake had destroyed half the country, a truly heartbreaking event. But it was a one-time event – the earthquake happened and then it was over. Afterwards, you saw the shocking results and got to work on rescue and rehabilitation," he told TheMarker this week. "With the coronavirus, by comparison, the most important element is the uncertainty." Full Story (Haaretz.com)
Print's not dead, but coronavirus has it on life support
Australia's biggest newspaper publisher News Corp. says it will suspend the printing of 60 local papers due to weak advertising revenue.
Local newspapers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia will be digital-only from next week. The newspapers depend heavily on advertising related to real estate auctions, house inspections, community events and restaurants — all of which have been closed.
News Corp. Australia's executive chairman, Michael Miller, said the top priority is to preserve jobs and position its business to counter the coronavirus crisis.
The COVID-19 outbreak has meanwhile brought a surge in new subscriptions to News Corp.'s online publications. The journalists' union — Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance — has urged the government to help out several rural newspapers in New South Wales and Victoria that have already stopped printing due to lack of advertising.
In the US, the Gannett Company also recently announced it would force employees at its news outlets making over $39,000 annually to take a week unpaid vacation per month during the crisis.
— with AP
ASHER YATZAR: PROTECTION FROM VIRUSES AND DISEASE
Rabbi Dovid Zauderer
We are living in difficult, even dangerous times. This coronavirus has gone viral, affecting an enormous number of people across the globe. Many have already died, and there seems to be no end in sight.
At times such as these, we need any extra segulah (pronounced suh-GOO-luh; a segulah is a spiritual practice that is efficacious in improving a situation or protecting a person from harm) that we can do so that we can stay healthy and survive this ordeal - and I have just the segulah for you!
According to Jewish tradition, the recitation of the Asher Yatzar blessing with real kavanah (intent) upon leaving the bathroom is a segulah/protection that one will never become ill or need a doctor his entire life.
As the 16th-century kabbalist Rabbi Moshe ben Machir writes in his classic work Seder Hayom (page 6):
"After washing his hands [in the morning] one should recite the Asher Yatzar blessing with great intent – focusing on the meaning of each and every word. He should have in mind the great kindness that G-d does for him every time he goes to the bathroom by allowing his body to digest the beneficial nutrients and to expel the waste, thus keeping his body healthy. And if a person is complete in his attributes and he carefully utters these words, he will not become sick all of his days and will never need a doctor. Certainly, then, it is worthy to recite the blessing with strong intent and a complete mind to the Healer of all flesh."
One of the main themes of the Asher Yatzar blessing is the fact that G-d created us with many nekavim (lit. "holes") i.e. openings like the mouth, nostrils, and other orifices that lead in and out of the body. He also created us with many chalulim (lit. "cavities") i.e. the inner hollows in our bodies that contain such organs as the lungs, heart, stomach, and brain. And should any of the openings be blocked, or should any of the cavities be ruptured, G-d forbid, then it would be impossible for us to survive for too long.
The Asher Yatzar blessing has special significance and meaning in our times when there are many thousands of people in hospitals all around the world who are suffering from the coronavirus and whose mouths are "blocked", making it very difficult for them to breathe normally without a ventilator. May G-d have mercy on them!
The blessing ends off praising G-d Who "acts wondrously". And the Rama explains that it is truly wondrous how G-d fuses together the spiritual soul with the physical body to create a human being.
[Ed. note: An easy-to-read Hebrew/English/Transliterated version of the Asher Yatzar blessing is available online free of charge for your use.]
Shabbat Candles And Jewish Eternity By Saul Jay Singer
What could Shabbat candles and Jewish eternity possibly have to do with The New York Times – a "newspaper" not particularly renowned for its Jewish sympathies or for its support of the Jewish state? Therein lies a marvelous tale.
Toward the close of the last century, a Jewish executive conceived a delightful idea: that Jewish pride would be enhanced, and Jewish women would have an additional incentive or reminder to light Shabbat candles each week, if candle-lighting times were published on Erev Shabbat in The New York Times.
He contacted Stephen Klein, a Jewish philanthropist, who agreed to pay a significant sum – almost $2,000 a week – for the notice to run, and, for several years, Jews around the world would read "Jewish Women: Shabbat candle-lighting time this Friday is ____." After some time, the notices ended, with the final one appearing in June 1999. But that isn't the end of the story.
On January 1, 2000, The Times ran a millennium edition marking the turn of the century. The special issue featured three front pages. The first front page, the regular Saturday January 1, 2000 edition (price: 75 cents), included coverage of huge millennial celebrations around the world; the failure of the much-hyped "Y2K" phenomenon to materialize; the resignation of Boris Yeltsin and his replacement by Vladimir Putin; and the release of 150 hijacked Indian Airlines passengers after being held for 18 days.
The second front page was a reprint of the Monday, January 1, 1900 edition (price: one cent). The principal issue of the day was the American-Philippine War, and the day's news included an account of an expected American advance; the opening of hemp ports by the War Department; and the discovery of four bombs in Manila, planted by Artemio Ricarte, the Philippine insurgent leader, who sought to take advantage of the mobilization of American troops at the funeral of General Henry Ware Lawton, the only American general to be killed during the war.
Other front-page items included news stories about German warships going to Delagoa Bay (an Indian Ocean inlet on the coast of Mozambique) in response to the British seizure of the steamer Bundesrath; a comprehensive annual financial review, including coverage of the purchase of the Wagner Place Car Company by the Pullman Company; a medical dispute over whether a 17-year-old New Jersey girl had diphtheria; an account of several people across the United States experiencing a particularly cold winter; and a reception for the general public held by New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt at the Executive Mansion Chambers.
"Friday, January 1, 2100." edition of The New York Times
The third front page, intended to be entertaining and thought-provoking, showcased projected January 1, 2100 headlines (price: nine dollars). Features included an article on Cuba, the 51st state; an examination of whether robots should be enfranchised to vote; a discussion of adverse budget implications arising out of the precipitous fall in auction prices for seats in the United States Senate; a report that Microsoft, "once a dominant company whose industry faltered," had been dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average; a discussion of earth solving its garbage disposal problem by sending trash in solar-powered rockets to the sun where it is vaporized; and a story about a professor of biogenesis who created a novel line of household pets: miniature dinosaurs.
My two personal favorite items, however, are: (1) Iceland displayed spectacular "broomsmanship" in winning the first World Quidditch Cup; and (2) Donald Trump III vociferously protests New York City's attempt to tear down the old Port Authority bus terminal to make room for a park. (Remember, this piece was actually written on January 1, 2000 – years before anyone thought of Trump even being a viable candidate for president.)
Candle lighting time in the 2100 edition.
But there was one small item particularly worthy of attention. At the bottom of the page to the left was the following notice: "JEWISH WOMEN/GIRLS LIGHT SHABBAT candles today 18 minutes before sunset. In New York, 4:39 PM. Elsewhere, touch for local time and information."
Nobody paid for the notice; The Times decided to include it on its own. When the issue's production manager – an Irish Catholic – was asked about this intriguing little ad, he responded: "We don't know what will happen in the year 2100, and it is impossible to predict the future. But of one thing you can be certain – that in the year 2100, Jewish women will be lighting Shabbos candles." A story for the ages.
As a side note, the listed time is not strictly accurate. Although 4:39 p.m. will, indeed, mark sunset in New York on January 1, 2100, the accepted practice is to set candle lighting time 18 minutes earlier (4:21 p.m. in this case) to provide for a margin of error.
* * * * *
Today, when I close my eyes, I can still hear my mother, a"h, standing in front of the candles and blessing my sister and I – and, much later, her daughter-in-law and grandchildren – as she ushered in Shabbat with an emotion-laden voice. An eternal image of an eternal rite, the beauty, meaning, and spirituality of licht bentchen (lighting Shabbat candles) has been a favorite topic of Jewish artists. Shown here are a few favorite samples from my collection.
Exhibited below is a classic example of the beauty of Joseph Budko's etching work: a signed woodcut depicting a husband and wife, both dressed in their Shabbat finery, who are virtually glowing with an inner light and the joy of Shabbat. The dominant item on the table before them is the radiant Shabbat lights, which is the apparent source of the luminosity generated by the old Jewish couple. Also on the table is a large siddur from which the wife apparently recited the blessing over the candles, and a wine cup awaiting her husband's recitation of kiddush.
In his Shabbat Candles (1920), Joseph Steinhardt depicts a woman blessing the candles as her husband, returning home from shul on Friday night, looks in at the warm scene with a gentle smile on his face. Views to the outside through the window and door of the "Anatevka"-type European shtetl are drawn with shades of evening through which other Jews return to their homes and Shabbat meals. Seated across the table is an indeterminate elderly figure, perhaps a family relative or a Shabbat guest.
Also shown below is Shabbat, an illustrated plate inscribed "Zev Raban, Jerusalem." It's from Raban's famous Chagenu ("Our Holidays," 1925), a lovely collection of illustrations of the Jewish holidays, which may be seen represented in small circles around the principal drawing. The central focus of the work is a striking rendition of a mother lighting Shabbat candles on a beautifully set table while her very young daughter, with her back turned to us, has temporarily abandoned her toy to mimic her mother's hands. The artist thereby captures not only the beauty of licht bentchen but, also, the eternity of the rite being passed on to future generations.
Alphonse Levy postcard
To each side of the center is a drawing of one of two Shabbat angels under the word "Kodesh" (holy) blessing the entire household while shielding their eyes from the holiness of the candles. In its totality, it is a truly awesome image that exhibits both the breadth of Raban's talent and the depths of his Jewish emotions.
Alphonse Levy's depiction of Shabbat candle-lighting is a bit different in that the painting's candelabra is not on the table but, rather, hanging from the ceiling. Accordingly, the woman is looking up while waiving her hands and reciting the blessings as her eyes reflect the bright glare of the lights.
In his characteristic style, including his unusual Hebrew lettering, the "Millet of the Jews" completes the scene with a braided challah on the table and a young boy holding what is presumably his siddur and looking raptly up at his mother. What is particularly fascinating to me is that his face is lit much the same as his mother's; at this angle, the light cannot be a reflection of the hanging candles but, rather, must be a direct reflection from his mother's face.
This, too, may symbolize the Jewish eternity of licht bentchen through the transmission of its beauty from generation to generation. The caption at the bottom of the postcard reads, in French, "The blessing on the lights on Friday night at the entrance of Shabbat."
Here, three favorite postcards from my collection of Shabbat candle-lighting material. The one of the woman davening from her siddur in front of the lit candles is by the famous artist Maurycy Gottlieb.