Friday, December 31, 2010

Friday Morning Kavvanah, 12/31/2010 - Teshuvah in January?

This being New Year's Eve (which, ironically enough, is called "Silvester" in Israel, named for Pope Silvester, who died on Dec. 31, 335 CE), I will surely be wished a "happy new year" several times today. I don't mind the good wishes, but I often have to stop myself from reminding my co-religionists that 5771 began nearly four months ago, and all of the cleansing and repenting that comes with the passing of the Jewish year has long since faded from my short-term memory.

On the other hand, Judaism has four new years, so defined in the opening Mishnah of tractate Rosh Hashanah: the first of Nisan (the beginning of the cycle of months), the first of Elul (the date upon which the annual cycle of tithing animals begins), the first of Tishri (Rosh Hashanah), and the fifteenth of Shevat (Tu Bishvat, the official birthday of the trees). What would be so bad about reconsidering the teshuvah (repentance) that we performed in Tishri on January 1 as well?

The problem is, of course, that the wider society does not celebrate the new secular year in a way that encourages teshuvah - quite the contrary.

In any case, as Dec. 31 is a Friday, I'll be in synagogue for Shabbat, and schluffing (sleeping) up a storm by the time midnight rolls around.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Thursday Morning Kavvanah, 12/30/2010 - Eat dinner with your family

We all need to talk to each other, and recent studies have shown that children who eat dinner with their families several times a week are much more likely to do well in school and life.

But all the more so, modern living makes this quite challenging. Adults are working more hours than ever, and children today are so tightly programmed and they have quantities of homework that far outweight what I had as a child. How does one bring everybody together?

One such evening can be Friday night. Everybody should have Shabbat dinner together with the family. But one night a week is surely not enough. Make time for family dinners - your children need you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wednesday Morning Kavvanah, 12/29/2010 - Secular Vacations

I was in Israel during Hanukkah. It is a time when children are on vacation from school, and along with Sukkot and Pesah, it is one of the three week-long vacations that Israeli schoolchildren can count on.

One of the things that makes Judaism work better in the Jewish state than in the Diaspora is that the public calendar reflects the Jewish calendar. So the opportunity to celebrate Hanukkah or any other holiday can be suitably joyous or solemn.

But even completely secular Jews in Israel (perhaps accounting for 40% of the country) are tuned into the Jewish calendar for precisely this reason.

Just one of the reasons that I am a Zionist.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shemot 5771 - The Nexus of the Personal and the National

(Originally delivered at Temple Israel, 12/25/2010.)

Two weeks ago today, Shabbat morning, the day after I returned from Israel, I was awake at 4 AM. Zev woke up and cried briefly, but I managed to get him to go back to sleep. But I was wide awake. So I picked up the Jewish Week, and started to read it from cover to cover. Not far into the newspaper, I found myself crying.

Now, I have found that jetlag does tend to destabilize me somewhat, emotionally. But I found myself weeping over the stunning list of all the nations that provided support to Israel during the fire that took place a few weeks back.

Most notably, Bulgaria sent 92 firefighters and a plane. Greece, Spain, the US, and Russia all sent significant personnel and material. OK, not too surprising there. But the names on the list that really brought up the tears were Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and the Palestinian Authority.

I cried not because of the tragedy itself; since I had actually been in Israel when it happened, and as such had long since recovered from the shock over the extent of the damage and the loss of life. No, I was crying because it was just so tragically beautiful that all of these nations, including some who are not necessarily on good terms with Israel right now, overlooked their differences, put the lives of their own sons and equipment in danger, and placed a higher priority on saving lives and trees and property than on political squabbling. I cried because, when it came down to it, these people, these nations, came to aid the modern Jewish nation.

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

We began reading the book of Shemot / Exodus this week, having just finished the book of Bereshit / Genesis.

So here’s a question: Considering the narratives of each book, what is it that differentiates Bereshit from Shemot?

Bereshit is about Creation, of course. But it is also about the establishment of the Israelite line, from Abraham to Joseph, and the individual relationship that each of these characters, the Avot / Patriarchs, the Imahot / Matriarchs, and Jacob’s children have with God.

Meanwhile, Shemot begins with a recap of this line, listing the family members that came down to live in Egypt with Joseph - his brothers and their families. But almost immediately, this group of 70 people, each of whom has a name and a distinct identity, becomes an ‘am, a nation. (Here is one small irony of this book - Shemot means "names," referring to those identified in the opening verses; from that point forward, not a single Israelite is identified by name until Moshe comes along.)

And who, officially declares the Israelites a nation? It is none other than the Par’oh / Pharaoh, the new king “who did not know Joseph,” as we read in the first aliyah this morning. It is, in fact, the only occurrence in the entire Tanakh of the phrase, “‘am benei yisrael,” literally, the nation of the children of Israel. Par’oh gives us this name.

And it is a nation that the Egyptians must reckon with. The rest of that story we know well because we retell it every Pesah, with all of its nationalist implications for ancient Israelites and modern Jews.

Our parashah today stands at this cusp, at the nexus of the personal and the national. It is the threshold of nationhood. And the rest of the Torah speaks of that nation’s relationship with God.

Now let’s return to the present, or at least to the late 19th century. (It is remarkable that the difference between 1860 and the present is tiny on the scale on which we are measuring.)

Modern Israel fuses the personal and the national. That was, in fact, the primary goal of Zionism, the political movements that emerged in Central and Eastern Europe in the latter half of the 1800s.

Partly in response to the Russian state-sponsored pogroms of 1881-84, and partly due to the growing Jewish intelligentsia in Eastern Europe, the first Zionist groups appeared in the 1880s in Russia. These groups were established to arouse a new, modern national consciousness among the oppressed Jews of Russia, shuddering from fear and cold in their shtetlakh (little Jewish towns). Some of those so aroused actually made it to Ottoman Palestine and established towns and agricultural collectives. Among them is the town where my son lives, Nes Tziyyona, established in 1887.

The goal of this new consciousness was to give the disenfranchised, unenlightened, ghetto-confined Jew hope for the future, an optimism that some day they might leave the troubled lands in which they dwelt and become, in the words of Hatiqvah, “‘Am hofshi be-artzeinu.” A free people in our own land. Naftali Herz Imber penned those words in 1878, in response to the establishment of the new Jewish settlement of Petah Tiqvah (literally, “the opening of hope”), now a major suburb of Tel Aviv.

The Jews of Russia began their transition from individuals to nationhood, not unlike the transition seen in Parashat Shemot.

Over the next few decades, other groups began to advocate for their own variations on the Zionist dream, culminating with the First Zionist Congress, held in Basel, Switzerland in 1897.

113 years later, today’s Israel is a complex, multi-faceted, staunchly democratic society that still reflects the Zionist attempt to fuse the personal and the national.

For example, when I was there, the newspapers reported a kick-off party celebrating the establishment, in Jerusalem, of a new, secular yeshiva. The goal of this yeshiva is to encourage non-religious Israeli young people to wrestle with their Jewish identity by studying the great works of secular Jewish and Zionist thinkers as well as the non-halakhic portions of rabbinic literature. One of the founders, a young man named Ariel Levinson, identified this as “an experiment in Judaism.”

Another example: during my two-week visit, the winter rains were long overdue. (These are the same rains that we mentioned in this morning’s Shaharit Amidah, and will do so again in a few minutes, with the line “mashiv haruah umorid hagashem.”) This lack of rain is partly to blame for the great fire, but also has caused the water level of the Kinneret to descend past the “red line,” the point at which the salt content of the water is too high, to the “black line,” below which water can no longer be pumped from it for fear of damaging the water infrastructure.

To help ameliorate the situation (or at least to raise awareness), the Chief Rabbis of Israel wrote a new prayer for rain, and while I was there held special ceremonies at the Kotel to pray for the advent of rain.

What do these example point to? That Zionism and medinat yisrael, the modern State of Israel, as Dr. Kenneth Stein of Emory University put it, are the newest plank in Judaism. Zionism fundamentally changed the nature of the Jewish religion, because we now relate to God and other nations once again as a people, and not merely as individuals davening in a minyan, scattered about the world. That the modern Jewish nation-state is the completion not only of “hatiqvah bat shenot alpayim,” the hope that comes from 2000 years of yearning, but also, in effect, the transition to modern nationhood that began with the Israelites’ descent into Egypt detailed in today’s parashah.

As further evidence, I’ll point out a new tool I discovered this past week. It’s an application in Google Books called the Ngram Viewer, and it instantly searches the 5.6 million books that Google Books has scanned to date for any search terms that you want. It also graphs the data, so that you can compare the number of occurrences of one term against another.

So a couple of days ago I tried this with the terms “Zionism” and “Jewish nation.” “Zionism,” of course, did not occur in English-language books before the 1880s, because the concept had not reached fruition. The term, “Jewish nation,” prior to late 19th c., always appeared in a Biblical context. There was no contemporary concept of the Jewish nation outside of our ancient texts, both for the Jews and the non-Jews. The Zionist movement changed that.

Every time I come back from Israel, I am reminded that, although I love Great Neck and I love my work here at TI, and I am as American as the next guy, on some level Israel is my home. It’s the home of all of us. In some ways, I am aware of a fundamental yearning, the aforementioned “hatiqvah bat shenot alpayim” - “the hope of 2000 years,” that tells me to pick up and go. And maybe someday I will. For good. (Judy and I often fantasize about the newly-gentrified and very cool Neve Tsedeq neighborhood, in the oldest part of Tel Aviv.)

And so, as I wept over the Jewish Week two weeks back, I reflected (in my jetlagged haze) on the power of nationhood, on the transformation of a largely powerless, dispersed people into a unified political force. (Well, somewhat unified, anyway.) We may not be on good terms with everybody, but we are literally and figuratively on the map. That should never be taken lightly, nor should it ever be taken for granted.

Friday Morning Kavvanah, 12/24/2010 - Holy Eating

It is a well-worn principle that Judaism is more about action than belief. (Furthermore, on Erev Christmas, it might be worth it to acknowledge that Christianity tends to highlight belief.)

As such, it makes sense that everything that we do should be, ideally, filtered through a Jewish lens. How we interact with others, how we treat ourselves, what we say, what we learn, everything that we do. It is our actions that make us holy (Vayiqra 19:1: Qedoshim tihyu, ki qadosh ani, says God. You shall be holy, for I am holy.)

Food being such an essential part of Jewish life (well, OK, life in general), it makes sense that the way we eat is also part of the holiness agreement between us and God.

And I'm not necessarily talking just about kashrut here, although that's important, but just as much about the food choices we make. I encourage you to think carefully not just about what you do with your body, but also what goes into it.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Wednesday Morning Kavvanah, 12/22/2010

The key to Jewish life is awareness.

The essential point of Judaism is to make us aware of our actions and how they impact others. Consider the sage Hillel's words to the prospective convert, in response to the latter's challenge to explain all of Judaism while standing on one leg: "Do not do unto others what is hateful unto you. All the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it."

Hillel teaches us that the central tenet of Jewish life and learning is that we should always consider how our actions affect others, and devote a lifetime to studying the details. Now go and learn it, indeed.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Rabbi David Golinkin refutes a recent Israeli halakhic ruling about rental or sale of property to non-Jews

Below is a teshuvah (literally, "answer," a rabbinic response to a question of Jewish law) by Rabbi David Golinkin, the head of the Schechter Institute for Jewish Studies, the Israeli seminary and teaching institute of the Masorti (Conservative) movement. He wrote this in response to the recent halakhic dustup caused by a group of Israeli Orthodox rabbis who ruled that Jews may not rent or sell property in Israel to non-Jews.

Rabbi Golinkin refers to a wide range of rabbinic sources, many of which will be unknown to those who are not well-versed in halakhic literature, but his point is clear: there is an overwhelming basis on which to permit Jews in Israel (and, of course, everywhere else) to rent or sell to non-Jews.


* * * *

Is it permissible to sell or rent an apartment to a non-Jew in the Land of Israel? (1)
By Rabbi David Golinkin

Question: On December 7, 2010, The Jerusalem Post reported ( that a group of forty municipal rabbis in Israel published a letter which said that it is forbidden to sell or rent apartments to non-Jews (nokhrim) in Israel.

Amongst the reasons given for the prohibition are the danger of intermarriage and the lowering of real estate prices in areas where non-Jews live. Gentiles' "different lifestyle from Jews" can endanger lives, they wrote.

If a Jew sells or rents property to a gentile, his neighbors must warn him, and if he does not change his ways, the neighbors must avoid the person, and may not conduct business with him, according to the petition. A person who rents or sells to non-Jews also may not get aliyahs in synagogue.

Amongst the municipal rabbis who signed the petition are Rabbi Yaakov Edelstein of Ramat HaSharon, Rabbi Haim Pinto of Ashdod, Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba, Rabbi David Abuhazeira of Yavne, Rabbi David Bar-Chen of Sderot, and others.

In addition, one of the best-known National-Religious rabbis, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, signed the letter, as did [Rabbi Ovadiah] Yosef's son, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef...

Another ten rabbis reportedly plan to sign the letter...

Is this really the standard and only approach to this question in Jewish law?


I) "Lo Tehonem"

These rabbis object to handing over territories to non-Jews on the basis of Deuteronomy 7:1-2:
When the Lord your God brings you to the land that you are about to enter and possess, and He dislodges many nations before you... seven nations much larger than you... you must doom them to destruction, grant them no terms and have no mercy upon them (lo tehonem).

The simple meaning of "lo tehonem" is"have no mercy upon them" as translated above,but the Sages explained it to mean "do not give them a hold (hanayah) on the land" (Avodah Zarah 20a). Rabbi Daniel Sperber has shown (Netivot Pesikah, Jerusalem, 2008, pp. 63-71) that in the early, uncensored printings, Tosafot (to Yevamot 23a s.v hahu) and the Ba"H to Tur Hoshen Mishpat 249 interpret this to mean that one may not sell or give parts of Eretz Yisrael to any non-Jew. This was also the opinion of the Netziv in the nineteenth century (Responsa Meishiv Davar, Kuntress Dvar Hashemitah, fol. 58a) andthe Hazon Ish in the twentieth (Shvi'it 24, 3).

However, many authorities rule that this prohibition applies only to idol worshippers such as the seven nations mentioned in the verse, lest they "turn your children away from me to worship other gods" (Deut. 7:4). (Responsa of the Rashba, Part I, No. 8; the Meiri to Avodah Zarah 20a; R. Baruch Halevi Epstein, Torah Temimah to Deut. 7:2; R. Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kuk, Responsa Mishpat Kohen, No. 63 [which is based on the censored versions of the Ba"h]; R. Zvi Pesah Frank, Sefer Kerem Tziyon, Part 3, p. 13; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Torah Shebea'l Peh 15 [5733], pp. 31-32 and again in Tehumin 10 [5749], pp. 37-38; and cf. R. Yaakov Warhaftig, Tehumin 2 [5741], pp. 201-203).

Most of the Arabs in Israel today are Muslims and almost all halakhic authorities agree that Muslims are monotheists and not idol worshippers (Maimonides, Hilkhot Ma'akhalot Asurot 11:7; Responsa of Maimonides, ed. Blau, No. 448, p. 726; and cf. R. Yosef Kapah, Ketavim, Vol. 3, Jerusalem, 2002, pp. 1412-1416; Rashba as quoted by Tur Yoreh Deah 124; Taz to Shulhan Arukh Yoreh Deah 124, subparagraph 4; R. Hayyim David Halevi, Aseh Lekhah Rav, Vol. 9, No. 13; R. Ovadiah Yosef, Responsa Yabia Omer, Vol. 7, Yoreh Deah, No. 12; R. David Frankel, Teshuvot Va'ad Hahalakhah Shel Knesset Harabbanim B'yisrael, Vol. 6 [5755-5758], p. 216).

Therefore, many authorities rule that it is permissible to sell or give parts of Eretz Yisrael to Muslims. (R. Raphael Meyuhass, Mizbah Adamah, Salonika, 1777, fol. 12b; Rabbi Kuk and Rabbi Frank quoted above; R. Yitzhak Isaac Halevi Herzog, Tehumin 2 [5741], pp. 169-179 which was abbreviated in Shanah B'shanah 5746, pp. 136-140; R.Shaul Yisraeli, Amud Hayemini, No. 12, paragraph 3; and R.Ovadiah Yosef, Torah Shebe'al Peh 21 (5740), p. 14) as well as in Torah Shebea'l Peh 15 [5733], pp. 31-32 and in Tehumin 10 [5749], pp. 37-38).

Furthermore, even though many halakhic authorites claim that Christianity is a form of idol worship (see Rabbi David Frankel, ibid., pp. 213-215, 216-219), many others disagree and say that it is not (the Meiri in many places; Rabbi Moshe Isserles, Orah Hayyim 156, Rabbi Moshe Rivkes, Ba'er Hagolah to Hoshen Mishpat 425:5 and many more - see Rabbi David Frankel, ibid., pp. 219-224). Thus, according to many authorities, it is permissible to sell land in Israel to Christians as well.

II) The Approach of Nahmanides
Other opponents of selling land or houses in Israel to non-Jews rely on the opinion of Nahmanides. The book of Numbers (33:53) states: "And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess". Nahmanides interprets this verse as a positive commandment: "...that we may not leave the land in the hands of other nations ...and the Sages called this a commanded war". (Nahmanides' additions to Sefer Hamitzvot by the Rambam, No. 4 and cf. Nahmanides' commentary to the verse.) In other words, we are commanded to conquer Eretz Yisrael and keep her in Jewish hands regardless of the danger and any loss of Jewish life that might occur in the process.

However, Nahmanides is the only one who considers it a mitzvah to capture and retain the land of Israel. (Maimonides, Sefer Hahinukh and others do not include it in their enumerations of the 613 mitzvot.) Furthermore, many have explained that even according to Nahmanides, this mitzvah only applies in the days of the Messiah (R. Isaac de Leon in Megilat Esther to Sefer Hamitzvot ad. loc. and others).

III) Kiddush Hashem and Hillul Hashem
These two mitzvot relate to all of our relations with our non-Jewish neighbors; Kiddush Hashem is the sanctification of God's name and Hillul Hashem is the desecration of God's name. They stem from the same verse in Leviticus (22:32): "You shall not desecrate My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the people of Israel - I am the Lord who sanctifies you". This verse means that any good or holy act that a Jew does, sanctifies God's name in the eyes of his Jewish and gentile neighbors, while any bad or profane act that a Jew does, desecrates God's name in the eyes of the public.

Furthermore, Maimonides emphasizes that rabbis in particular must be careful about how they behave because any inappropriate behavior which causes people to criticize them is considered a hillul hashem (Hilkhot Yesodei Hatorah 5:11). There is no question that the letter published by the group of rabbis last week was a hillul hashem, which desecrated God's name in the eyes of the world.

IV) Mishum Eivah
The Sages of the Talmud allowed Jews to do quite a number of activities related to non-Jews which were normally forbidden, mishum eivah - in order to prevent ill will (Entziklopedia Talmudit, Vol. 1, cols. 492-493, s.v. Eivah). Thus, even if one were to claim that it is forbidden to sell or rent property to non-Jews in Israel, it could be permitted mishum eivah. There is no question that such discrimination against non-Jews in Israel could lead to increased attacks against Jews in Israel and the Diaspora and to refusal to rent or sell homes to Jews in the Diaspora.

V) Mipnei Darkei Shalom
In the Tannaitic period (ca. 70-220 c.e), Jews, Christians and idol worshippers lived side by side in many towns and villages in the Land of Israel. A baraita which appears in Gittin 61a and parallels (see my responsum in the Teshuvot Va'ad Hahalakhah Shel Knesset Harabbanim B'yisrael, Vol. 6 [5755-5758], pp. 287-288) lists a series of rabbinic enactments mipnei darkei shalom, because of the ways of peace, including feeding non-Jews, visiting their sick, and burying their dead. The Mishnah (Gittin 5:8-9) also lists a number of similar enactments. These sources do not relate to our specific topic, but renting or selling apartments to non-Jews in the State of Israel today would certainly be in the spirit of mipnei darkei shalom found in the Mishnah and beraitot.

VI) What is hateful to you do not do to others
There is a famous story in the Talmud (Shabbat 31a) about a convert who came to Hillel and asked to convert on condition that Hillel would teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel replied: "Mai d'alakh saney l'haverakh la te'eveid, zo hee kol hatorah kula v'idakh peirushah hu zil gemor" - "what is hateful to you do not do to others, this is the entire Torah, the rest is commentary, go and learn".

For 1900 years, from the Destruction of the Second Temple until the twentieth century, Jews were discriminated against by non-Jews. More specifically, non-Jews frequently refused to sell land or rent houses to them. This is why Jews lived in ghettos for many centuries and this ghettoizing of the Jews reached its climax in Nazi Europe. Even in the United States, there were many cities and neighborhoods which posted signs "no dogs and Jews allowed". Now, after 1900 years, when we have our own sovereign State of Israel where we are the majority, we must follow the dictum of Hillel which he considered "the entire Torah", the most basic commandment in the Torah: "what is hateful unto you to do not do to others".

VII) Love the Stranger
The Torah contains many mitzvot related to the Ger Toshav or resident alien (see David Golinkin, Insight Israel: The View from Schechter, Jerusalem, 2003, pp. 85-89). While there is disagreement among rabbis as to whether these laws apply to non-Jews living in Israel today (see ibid.), the spirit of these Biblical and Rabbinic laws demands that we treat all non-Jews in Israel with respect for "you shall love him [the stranger] as yourself, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34).

VIII) The Laws of the State of Israel
Israel is a democracy which guaranties equal rights to all of its citizens and forbids racism or incitement to racism.

As I have shown elsewhere (Responsa in a Moment, Jerusalem, 2000, pp. 90-91), the democratic institutions of the State of Israel are not something to be "tolerated" outside of Jewish law. Rather, they are part and parcel of Jewish law -- and living in accordance with its laws is as important as observing Shabbat and keeping kosher. There are three ways of proving this assertion:
a) The Talmudic sage Samuel, who lived in third-century Babylonia, coined the phrase "dina d'malkhuta dina" - "the law of the land is the law" (Nedarim 28a and parallels), which meant that Jews must obey the laws of the countries in which they reside. But many rabbis state that this applies to a Jewish state as well(Entziklopedia Talmudit, vol. 7, cols. 307-308).If so, Jewish law requires Jews to observe the secular laws of the State of Israel.
b) Throughout Jewish history, every Jewish kahal, or community, was governed democratically on the basis of a passage in the Talmud(Bava Batra 8b; cf. Menahem Elon, Jewish Law: History, Sources, Principles, Philadelphia and Jerusalem, 1994, Chapter 19; Ephraim Kanarfogel, Proceedings of the American Academy of Jewish Research 58 (1992), pp. 71-106). The State of Israel is the modern equivalent of the kahal, and its democratic institutions must be treated with the same respect and authority as the medieval kahal.
c) Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kuk and Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli, two of the foremost religious Zionists of the twentieth century, have explained that, in our day, the democratically elected government and leaders of Israel have taken the place of the king and must be obeyed accordingly (Responsa Mishpat Kohen, Jerusalem, 1984, No. 144, pp. 337-338, and Amud Hayemini, Tel Aviv, 1965, Part I, Nos. 7, 9).

IX) The Fifth Tur
There is a famous dictum which I heard from Rabbi Theodore Friedman z"l many years ago. One of the standard codes of Jewish law is called Arba'ah Turim, The Four Columns, written by Rabbi Jacob Ben Asher in Toledo in the 14th century. However, when a rabbi writes a responsum or makes a ruling in Jewish law he must also rely on the fifth Tur - hasechel hayashar - common sense. This too is lacking in the letter of the rabbis published last week.

X) Conclusion
Thus, according to Jewish law, it is perfectly permissible to sell or rent houses to non-Jews in the Land of Israel for all of the reasons cited.

Finally, if we are concerned that certain areas of the country such as the Galilee need more Jews, we must achieve that by Zionist education, not by discrimination. If there is concern that blocks of apartments are being bought up by Iran and Saudi Arabia, then the government of Israel must deal with this national problem.

David Golinkin
8 Tevet 5761

1. This responsum is partially based on my book Responsa in a Moment, Jerusalem, 2000, pp. 32-33, 90-91; and cf. R. Shlomo Brody, "Ask the Rabbi", The Jerusalem Post Magazine, November 19, 2010, p. 43.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wednesday Morning Kavvanah, 12/15/2010

We read every morning in Psalm 150:

כל הנשמה תהלל יה הללויה
Kol haneshamah tehallel yah, halleluyah.
Let every breath of life praise God, Halleluyah.

Take the time to breathe.

We all lead busy lives. Don't forget to take a few minutes for yourself. Might do wonders for your peace of mind, and bring you back to God for a moment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Morning Kavvanah, 12/14/2010

I returned from Israel a few days ago. There is now a serious drought in Israel; the winter rains have come late, and the greatest fire in Israel's history happened while I was there.

Sometimes its the little things that we forget to be thankful for. We need rain, and Israel needs rain more than most places. We of course ask for rain in our liturgy, as the Mishnah instructs us to do (both in Berakhot and Ta'anit).

To us, rain is a little thing, a minor annoyance. To our ancestors, it was everything. Don't forget to be grateful for the little things.