Apr 24, 2018

Synagogues of Australia (video)







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Nishma - Lecha Dodi (Under the Sea) A Cappella (video)







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Apr 23, 2018

police make arrests for pulling down flags

According to this report in Actualic, Arabs from East Jerusalem have been pulling down flags in the French Hill neighborhood from parked cars. Police acted quickly and have arrested 3 people involved.

This tells me one of two things:
1. The police in Jerusalem function far more efficiently, and much more like actual police, than the police in Bet Shemesh
2. The Arabs are just not lucky enough to have been Haredi. For the same crime they would have been ignored.






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the ship is sinking

Mishpacha Magazine (Hebrew edition) has been running an initiative recently promoting new young couples in the Haredi community take on their own mortgages instead of burdening their parents with the mortgage. This would allow the current system of the parents chipping in for the down payment, but instead of the parents also then paying the mortgage, the couple would, Parents in the Haredi community are struggling in debt as they take in 3, 4, 5 or more mortgages to pay for their kids apartments. This would put the burden of 1 partial apartment on the couple owning the apartment and living in it, and less of the burden on the parents.

This past week's edition of Mishpacha had several interesting letters, three letters out of many, to the editor in response to this initiative, and I thought it was worth sharing these three letters with you. The three are from three different perspectives and sides of the issue.

Letter 1:
I'll begin with introductions, out of courtesy.
I am married, BH, to a talented and learned husband. We are both in our 50s. We have married off 5 children and have 2 more still at home.
When we married, there was money. It is not pleasant to say, but we had money from the German reparations. That money helped our parents get us on our feet. We got an apartment near my parents, I found a job as a teacher and my husband learned for some years in kollel and then became a "Ram" (ie a rebbi/teacher) in a known yeshiva.
For 20 years we lived in a cloud. In a dream. We earned some nice money. It was enough to save a little bit. We thought we were smart and successful.
Then we married off one daughter.
Then the second.
Then the third child, a son. Then the fourth, another daughter.
They were all loved, successful and smart. Each one came with a mountain of debt and obligations.
The money we had saved was barely enough for the down payment of our eldest daughter. For the second daughter we had to borrow money, a horrible thing and something not recommended to do. This concluded with us selling our beautiful apartment. We have moved between small rental apartments since then. The third child was a son, but he had some health problems so we had to take on ourselves more obligations than normally done. Today, with the fourth, there is no more money. It is all gone.There are no more sources of funding for us. That's it.
We are paying 4 mortgages, plus rent. We start each month about 20,000nis in overdraft.
I work at 3 jobs. If the students I teach in the morning would know that in the evening I am working a shift at a far away nursing home, they would faint.
My husband is broken. He learns privately with students from morning to night. He has no satisfaction. He is embittered and grumpy. He feels no self-worth  and also feels that he cannot support his children as others supported him. Our marriage has gotten very shaky. When we are alone for Shabbos we do not buy fish and meat, though when our children come we buy 2 types of fish and 3 types of meat!
And I am frightened of the day when we will start talking about shidduchim for our next child!
Forgive me Hashem, but I fear that moment!
I am writing in tears. My husband is a tzaddik, he knows I am writing this and he is praying that someone will read it and do something about it. Do something!
Why in Belz is it legitimate to buy an apartment in har Yona for 600,000nis, in Zanz to buy an apartment in Tzfat for 500k, and Gur in Arad for 300k, and Vizshnitz in Afula for I dont know how much? Why by the sefardim is it ok to get married and live in Netivot and in Yerucham, and only by us, the "quality", if you buy an apartment in Bet Shemesh and Modiin Ilit - for 1.1 million shekels - you feel like you are compromising??!
I am certain that by the hassidim they also have problems with this issue, but by us it is a catastrophe!
Yasher Koach for bringing the issue to the forefront, and Hashem should help all of us.

a truly heartfelt letter, and I felt bad for the situation they find themselves in due to community and societal norms


Letter 2:
It is very easy for you to write that the children should take the mortgage payments upon themselves. But forgive us for asking: how exactly are to pay these payments? Why do you think that a young couple getting married at the age of twenty-something and the system sends them to learn in kollel and his wife to work at a tiny salaried job, can possibly consider paying mortgage payments?
If there are stories about people earning a good living, and they still let the shver pay the mortgage, they should be ashamed! but the rest of us - what is even the suggestion that we should pay?
I ask for forgiveness and will be a bit extreme: who educated us in this way that we just want to learn and go to kollel? Was it not our father? Of course it was! Our entire lives our fathers have put into our heads that their desire is just that we should build houses of torah. And now suddenly you are sending us to pay mortgages? Maybe it is difficult for the parents, but this is what they want! That we should sit and learn! Not that we should be looking for other things! This is a complete disconnect! This is not connected at all to our lives!
I am not saying this is ok in relation to our parents. But what at all is the thought that these young people will be able to pay? How exactly? Do we have some secret parnassa that brings us money? No, not at all. We sit in kollel exactly as our parents dreamed for us. As they educated us. We are the good results of our education. For the ones that left, nobody pays their mortgage.  So now that we have done everything they wanted from us, people are coming with complaints.
I dont understand it!

wow. talk about entitled! this hurt to read, but a different type of hurt than the way the first letter hurt. In the first letter they are suffering for everything they have tried to do for their kids. It hurt to see how much they are suffering because of it. In the second letter he is saying that this is their fault, this is what they want, and leave me alone. This hurt from the chutzpah and lack of care for the predicament the parents find themselves in - on their behalf! It is their problem, let them deal with it!

This is clearly the result of a bad system. Young people getting married with no plans for parnassa demanding or needing apartments, expensive no matter how much or little it might cost, with having to do this for multiple children - as each family has 5-8 children, or more, and God forbid talk about having less kids or having kids despite not being able to afford food for them let alone apartments and weddings. God forbid letting them build houses of torah while also having a way to support his/her own family. Maybe they should not get married so young with no ability to pay rent or a mortgage, or at least a plan to be able to do so soon.

It is not really the kids fault. This is the way he was raised. This is the way the system he grew up in works. The system failed him, and the system failed his parents, just as the system fails thousands of other people. Systems were not put in place to help individuals or to solve the problems of individuals, but to sustain the systems and the people and ideals behind them. The people who suffer from these systems are causalities of war. This young man isnt wrong - he and his wife are barely earning enough for the electricity bill, the phones, and the food, so from where should he suddenly be able to pay a mortgage? But he also is not right. And he should have some compassion for his struggling parents. He should recognize what they are going through - for him.

Letter 3:
I am the person you are writing about. I am one like this that makes a little bit of money but still my father pays my mortgage.
Maybe it is not right, but I want to explain myself.
I started out dealing with being agents and things like that. Thank God I had some success here and there. Nothing major but some money was coming in.
I save a bit, I invested a bit in my home by doing some critical and necessary renovations and fixes. Today, thank God, I have some income from this work.
I could go to my father and tell him that I am taking the 2500nis mortgage payments upon myself and I could tell my shver that he no longer needs to give us the 500nis monthly for food. And then I'll be in a situation in which all my income is being spent on day to day expenses.
And then I will not have any great chances.
I very much want to take the burden off of my parents.But before I do I need to earn enough that in another 15 years when my children want to get married I will be able to give them.
I think this is the hishtadlus I am obligated in.
I am not even sure what to say about this letter. Do their parents think they are supporting someone in kollel? Do they know they are supporting someone who is working but wants to save in addition to what he is earning? Are his parents capable of paying the mortgage and monthly expenses and ok with it? Are they being swindled thinking they are paying for a child learning in kollel? It seems unclear, though it leans, in my mind, to him supposedly being in kollel. Otherwise what is the relevance? If he is working and his parents want to help him out anyway, that has nothing to do with the situation being discussed by Mishpacha Magazine and the various writers on the subject. His parents are welcome to help him as much or as little as they want and are not part of the peer pressure system. If they help beyond their means, they have nobody to blame but themselves and can feel free to stop at any time. If they can afford it and want to, that is their business. So I suspect he is swindling his parents working, taking their money for learning, and using it to save for the future. And because he is writing on the topic, I suspect they are struggling with these payments, but he has justified them as necessary for his future. He might be shrewd but if that is what he is doing, I rue the day when his scam will be uncovered. Or maybe it is all innocent and they are simply trying to help out their kids and help them for the long term with their future and grandchildren in mind, and there is nothing wrong with that.

As I wrote above, the system is failing. It is failing itself and it is failing the people in it. The parents can't handle the struggle and burden of buying apartments for 5, 8, 10 kids and then also helping support them. The kids have become entitled and have no plan for themselves, getting married young with no financial options other than to take from the parents for the long term. The Mishpacha initiative is good to lessen the load somewhat from the struggling parents, but the ship is sinking. Having 6, 7, 8 or 10 kids in this generation when the parents and grandparents also spent their entire lives in kollel or teaching is not the same as the previous generations when people had 2 or 4 kids and the parents were working people. The ship is sinking.



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Book Review: Song of Riddles

a guest post by Dr Harold Goldmeier

Riddles Unwoven
Song of Riddles (Gefen Books, 2018), by Guela Twersky, is a definitive explanation of King Solomon’s Song of Songs in an academic style.  

Her book makes a marvelous gift for cantors who read the scroll on the Sabbath mid-Passover. Students of religious tomes who concentrate on learning stone-cold laws and precepts to define the relationship between humans and God will uncover the rest of the story in this book, i.e., the significance of intimacy Solomon intended but is largely neglected in theological studies.

I cannot imagine one singing Song of Songs for the public without having carefully read Song of Riddles. The book is a must have in libraries of every divinity school, yeshiva and seminary. It is an invaluable decipherer on love, suffering and the search for the meaning in relationships. Twersky’s book takes the reader one step further by explaining Solomon’s forewarnings of the difficulties for discipline in love.

Romantic and Divine Love
Song of Riddles is written in an academic style as if it is the progenitor of the author’s doctoral dissertation. The book is heavily footnoted. It opens with a comprehensive review of books and themes from other authors. For example, Song of Riddles acknowledges internecine interpretations of Song of Songs like it “is celebration of romantic human love, not divine love.” But “the underlying premise motivating the approach to the Song presented in this book is the contention that the books that comprise the Bible underwent a careful process of scrutinization and were ultimately selected for canonization because they harbored timeless messages of profound theological significance.”

When I was blessed to marry my beautiful artist girlfriend we exchanged wedding bands with two Song of Songs lessons of love. One is with the popular, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is to me.” The other band, “I belong to my beloved, and his desire if for me.” Twersky explains the riddle that Adam and Eve suffered a “tragic failure to nurture a loving relationship in the Garden of Eden,” but this rectified in “the Song’s celebration of romantic love. Whereas God proclaims in Eden that the woman shall desire man, the Song uses the same lexical term (tshukah) to indicate man’s desire for the woman.”

An Essential Book
The book’s chapters offer deep explanations of the Song’s metaphors and riddles, anomalies, and conundrums. Growing up, I was used to seeing two sculpted cherubim (Keruvim) atop the arks encasing the holy Torah scrolls in synagogues. Twersky explores the duties of these guards and their significance.

In addition to those folks mentioned above who ought to read and refer to Song of Riddles, everybody who studies the Song of Songs and follows its reading on Passover will truly benefit from Twersky’s book.  Song of Riddles is, to paraphrase the great Shel Silverstein, a bright light in the attic illuminating a key book we read too fast every Sabbath Passover and give shrift to instructions.   



      


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Chotam gets a lesson in Internet use in kashrut warning

The organization called Chotam put out a kashrut warning on its Facebook page yesterday.Kashrut warnings are normal for any organization in the industry, but there are kashrut warnings and there are kashrut warnings. This kashrut warning was written in such a patronizing and aggressive manner that Chotam really took a hit with over 3000 comments (as of this writing) written in response almost entirely scoffing at Chotam and criticizing their style and approach.

Chotam issued a warning about the kashrut of a restaurant chain named "Pasta Basta". Pasta Basta has become somewhat of the poster boy in the fight between the Rabbanut andd Hashgacha Pratit (which has sort of merged now into the new kashrut division of Tzohar), with Pasta Basta in Jerusalem being one of the early adapters of Hashgacha Pratit's alternate hechsher.

Here is the warning:



translation:
Pasta Basta!
Initially your branch in Mahane Yehuda removed the kashrut supervisers and brought in Hashgacha Pratit and caused hundreds of customers to abandon the restaurant.
Your branch in Petach Tikva had become a meeting place for many of the religious youth of Petach Tikva. And now, recently, you have thrown sand in the eyes of your supportive customers. Overnight you removed the kashrut of the Rabbanut and brought in the supervision of Tzohar.
In response to the questions of the customers, you responded that this is the policy of the chain - all branches have now moved over to the kashrut of Tzohar!
As if previous attempt sin Jerusalem weren't enough, you have again decided to rebel against the Rabbanut and against the community of kashrut observant people to whom it is important that wish to remain faithful to the organized kashrut authorities.
Again you decided to play along with the whims of kashrut organizations that get their praise from the Reform and criticism from great and important rabbis.
We will vote with our feet.
Whoever wants to eat kosher - will not go into Pasta Basta with Tzohar kashrut. We want to eat kosher!
if you scroll through the comments you will see the vast majority are scoffing at Chotam and talking about how now they will eat at Pasta Basta specifically because of the change and some just to show support for Pasta Basta even if they never intended before to eat there.

Personally I think their argument is silly. No restaurant chain is going to do something ideologically even though it hurts their own business tremendously, if they do not have a plan to bring in other customers. Pasta Basta would not chase away hundreds of its customers to change to a hechsher nobody likes and relies on. And if they did it in one location and it was so unsuccessful, they would not then go do it in the rest of their locations - they would look into changing back or doing something else. Yet they continued to change over the rest of the chain, meaning they found the change to be worthwhile from  a business perspective.

The approach of the Rabbanut and of Chotam and of Kosharot (that isnt involved in this specific attack but has been previously) is clearly wrong and even counter-productive. Tzohar is not even doing anything illegal, as determined by the courts, and as long as they follow legal guidelines, people can decide for themselves whether they want to rely on Tzohar kashrut or not, just like they can decide for themselves whether to rely on Rabbanut kashrut or not. I do not know this for sure, and I have yet to see the standards in use by Tzohar kashrut or what the actual problems with it (as per the Rabbanut's claims) are, but I would guess, if I had to, that most people relying on Rabbanut kashrut are also ok with relying on Tzohar kashrut and they probably use pretty similar standards.






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Miriam Peretz accepts the Israel Prize (video)







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Palestinians: What are Israel's goals? (video)







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Jerusalem's Market comes to London (video)







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Hasidic Women Shatter the Glass Ceiling - Brooklyn's first All Female EMS Corps. (video)







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NFL in Israel Austin Jenkins (video)






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Apr 22, 2018

First World Problems in Vizshnitz

שטריימל עם שפיציםThe Vizshnitzer Rebbe spent some time in his Shabbos drasha to students in his yeshiva system going on the attack against the phenomenon of people buying the new style of shtreimel that has points, or "shpitzim", at the top - the mink fur is combed and set brushed upwards with the top coming to points, kind of looking like the tips of flames going up.

The rebbe told the students that he does not want boys from Vizshnitz buying these shtreimels with shpitzim, they are disgusting, and they look like the old shtreimels they used to wear on Purim. If everyone would refuse to by these before they get married, the shtreimel makers would stop making them.
source: Behadrei

I don't know much about shtreimels and which group of hassidim wear which shtreimels, besides for a few basic rules, but I have seen this often as they are common in a community I sometimes spend time in in Jerusalem. I thought they look nice (much nicer than in the picture included), though I could never identify which Hassidic sect they were associated with - I assumed it was just general hassidim without a specific rebbe. Most of the time, members of a hassidic sect wear specifically shaped and designed shtreimels, as per each groups specifics. This is also why it surprises me a bit to see the Vizshnitzer Rebbe warn his talmidim like this - why aren't they wearing the classic Vizshnitz shtreimel, whatever that may be? All these chassidim generally stick to the rules wearing the same glasses as the rebbe, the same shtreimel as the rebbe, same shoes as the rebbe, etc and now it seems the hassidim are getting caught up in some sort of fashion race in the realm of shtreimlech, instead of sticking to the rules and standards. I find that interesting, and even a bit surprising.

Further, I am somewhat impressed that this is such a serious problem that he has to express his concern about it. Online we call such things #firstworldproblems or #WhiteWhine - meaning, poor guy, he has nothing else to complain about other than that his Ferrari got a scratch on it, or something like that. Baruch Hashem one of the most pressing issues facing that community's new grooms is which shtreimel to buy and not anything much more serious than that..







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Genesis Prize now a farce

Natalie Portman's decision regarding the Genesis Prize surprised me. Portman has always been a supporter of Israel, and is Israeli herself. She has visited Israel in the past and has spoken in support of Israel. I dont want to accuse her of supporting BDS, as she herself says she is not, even though BDS supporters will probably use her in their campaigns, but her decision is painful.

The way it seems to be going down, with Portman accepting the prize (a lot of money) but refusing to show up and give an acceptance speech, turns the entire enterprise into a farce.

Basically this prize has been to attach a celebrity face to Israel on the world stage. It has done a good job so far, until Portman's decision, but perhaps instead of honoring rich celebrities and calling it "the Jewish Nobel prize", they would do better with honoring people who really work tirelessly on behalf of some cause connected to Israel - medical research, the poor, hunger relief, the sciences, peace efforts etc. Giving rich celebrities money they do not need for what the Prize calls its mission as  "The Genesis Prize honors individuals who have attained excellence and international renown in their chosen professional fields, and who inspire others through their engagement and dedication to the Jewish community and/or the State of Israel." makes the entire thing kind of wishy washy.

The Genesis Prize should also include a clause requiring recipients to be present to receive the award, or else an alternate recipient will be selected. What's the point of giving a celeb the prize in order to highlight their connection to Israel if you are not given the opportunity to highlight their connection to Israel?


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Headline of the Day

D.C. lawmaker who said Jews control the weather visits Holocaust Museum but leaves early


  -- The Washington Post

I hear he left early because of bad weather in the forecast




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4/21/18 The Return of the Shaitel Controversy (audio)

fascinating discussion with fascinating guests





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Is the Prophet Mohammad mentioned in the Bible? (video)







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