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06
Aug
0

A Bio-Hug from the State of Israel

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We've noted on many occasions how the Jewish mission to be a "Light Unto the Nations" reflects itself not only in meaningful Torah study, but in its contribution to scientific and medical knowledge. Here's a video - courtesy of Israel National News/Arutz-7 -highlighting the latest Israeli innovation - the Bio-Hug vest. Enjoy!

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05
Aug
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Adding and Subtracting: Paving the Way for Ba'al Pe'or

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Each year on Perashat Va'etchanan, I am reminded of a profound article penned by the students oftaryag Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz of blessed memory. Last year, I delivered an afternoon class on the topic, but did not have the opportunity to relay the ideas in print.

No Addition or Subtraction
There is a Torah concept called "Bal Tosif/Bal Tigra". Broadly speaking, the Torah prohibits adding or detracting mitzvot - or details of mitzvot - from the Torah. So, for example, I cannot claim that there is a 614th mitzvah in the Torah, or suggest that there are only 612 mitzvot. Another violation would involve inserting an additional species to, or removing a species from the Lulav, Willow, myrtle and Etrog.

What is surprising about the passage in Va'etchanan is that, after introducing this law, Moshe Rabenu adds,

ג עֵינֵיכֶם, הָרֹאוֹת, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה יְהוָה, בְּבַעַל פְּעוֹר:
כִּי כָל-הָאִישׁ, אֲשֶׁר הָלַךְ אַחֲרֵי בַעַל-פְּעוֹר--הִשְׁמִידוֹ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מִקִּרְבֶּךָ

Your eyes have seen what the LORD did in Baal-peor;
for all the men that followed the Baal of Peor, the LORD thy God hath destroyed them from the midst of thee.

What's the Connection?
Rabbi Shmulevitz asks the obvious question: What is the connection between these two passages?  How does caution not to add or detract from the Torah relate to the idolatrous worship of Ba'al Pe'or that claimed so many Jewish lives?

The answer lies in the nature of the worship of Ba'al Pe'or. The Talmud (Sanhedrin) records that even the most devout idolaters of other cultures were revolted by the cult: Worshippers of Ba'al Pe'or consumed whiskey and fruit, then defacated in front of their statue!

Question: Certainly, religions the world over worship their gods by showing reverence to them, not disgracing them. What, then, is the secret message of the Peoritic cult? 

Answer: For Ba'al Pe'or, nothing is sacred! Ba'al Pe'or is the epitome of religious and moral anarchy! This stands in sharp contrast to the Torah lifestyle, which defines parameters of acceptable and unacceptable behavior and belief. 

Rav Shmulevitz then cites several examples of how the Torah makes every effort to keep each Jew within the framework: At times, the Torah seems to capitulate to man's frailities by permitting behaviors that should most reasonably be forbidden.

Wartime Pressures
In the case of the "Eshat Yifat To'ar"; the Torah permits the Jewish soldier - in the heat of war - to take a woman he finds there, convert her, and marry her. The acceptance of human fraility, and the codification of this element in halacha is known as דברה תורה כנגד יצר הרע - the Torah spoke in response to man's evil inclination. Says Rav Shmulevitz: The Torah is intent on keeping the Jew within its framework; instead of forbidding such behavior as illicit, the Torah instead created a halachic framework to permit it.

Cities of Refuge
The phenomenon of Cities of Refuge - into which a manslaughterer runs for his life from the vengeful relative - is yet another instance of the same concept: In it, the Torah recognizes the passionate desire for revenge of a person whose relative was killed through negligence. Instead of requring him to suppress this natural inclination, the Torah gives it expression, within limits. Once again, a halachic framework is initiated to keep Jews "in the fold".

Back to Bal Tosif
Returning now to "Bal Tosif and Bal Tigra" - adding or detracting from the Torah:

Jewish tradition recognizes 613 mitzvot. Although the classical commentators debate just what mitzvot comprise the 613, the number is not disputed. One who adds or detracts a mitzvah has shattered this framework, blemishing the integrity of the system.

What links Bal Tosif and the cult of Ba'al Pe'or is disregard for boundaries. The difference between them is a matter of degree, and not of kind. Moshe therefore follows his warning not to add or detract from the Torah with a review of the punishment for those who worshipped Ba'al Pe'or; the ultimate result of adding or detracting from the Torah - is moral anarchy.

As I mentioned during our shiur last year, the Torah's stretching of its framework to keep Jews in the fold has crucial ramifications for child-rearing: For many years, we have allowed our children to sip wine and other spirits at the Shabbat table under our supervision and guidance. We don't want a situation in which our kids, because of the "mystique" of alcohol, find themselves in a bar at a young age! Similarly, one could argue (though I know many in the Orthodox Jewish world disagree with me) that moderate, structured usage of the internet and other technologies is a good recipe for avoiding clandestine abuse of those same technologies.

For a continuation of the discussion of the Torah "giving in" to man's inclinations, see Rabbi Michael Rosensweig's article: http://www.torahweb.org/torah/2007/parsha/rros_kiteitsei.html%20

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03
Aug
0

Erev Shabbat: Is a Strike on Iran Imminent?

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We have had a great visit so far here in Israel. I look forward to seeing you all again in about 12 days' time.

Though it continues to have its share of internal issues, the country continues to flourish, with the threat of a strike on Iran, and G-d forbid, an extended war, preoccupying the Israeli media.  Here are some of today's articles in the Israeli dailies on the issue; the ideological leanings of the papers are somewhat evident in their respective approaches:

Times of Israel: http://www.timesofisrael.com/efraim-halevy-if-i-were-an-iranian-i-would-be-very-fearful-of-the-next-12-weeks-ex-mossad-chief-tells-ny-times/

Jerusalem Post: http://www.jpost.com/Features/FrontLines/Article.aspx?id=279955

Maariv (for Hebrew speakers)http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART2/392/040.html?hp=1&;cat=875&loc=1 ("Netanyahu does not have the patience to wait for a US strike on Iran")

Yediot Acharanot (op-ed) http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4264089,00.html

Haaretz: (op-ed) http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/as-netanyahu-pushes-israel-closer-to-war-with-iran-israelis-cannot-keep-silent.premium-1.455672

Israel National News (Arutz Sheva) http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/158563#.UBvT9k1lQ1E

Debka: http://debka.com/article/22237/Iran-prepares-for-60-percent-uranium-enrichment


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01
Aug
0

Passing of Mary Israel

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We regret to inform you of the passing of Mary Israel (Max M. a''h) member of Ezra Bessaroth.  Funeral services Sunday August 5th at 1:00pm at the Sephardic Brotherhood Cemetery (1230 N. 167th Street, one block east of Aurora).  

May the Lord comfort the family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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29
Jul
0

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

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tishbvnightKudos to veteran EB photographer and media whiz Michael Behar for this beautiful e-poster.  The picture doesn't just capture what took place at Ezzy Bezzy on Tisha Be'av evening this year; it expresses the sentiments of our people throughout the generations since the Hurban Bet Hamikdash, the Destruction of our Temple.  Our sages say that anyone who mourns for Jerusalem merits to see its joy.  Rabbi Mirsky, in his Sefer, Hegyoney Halacha points out that someone who does not believe that they have yet lost a loved one cannot have closure; Ya'akov Avinu, our forefather Jacob, refused to accept words of consolation from his children because he subconsciously sensed that Joseph was still alive; similarly, we Jews hold firm in our belief in the reconstruction of our Bet Hamikdash - we refuse to be consoled!! Paradoxically sitting on the ground on Tisha Be'av is a mourning that expresses a confidence that this mourning will come to an end.

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27
Jul
0

Pressure for a Moment of Silence: 40 years since the Munich Massacre

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27
Jul
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2012 Guide to the Three Weeks PT II: Laws of Tisha Be'av

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1. The Shabbat prior to Tisha Be'av is called "Shabbat Hazon" - the Shabbat of foretelling - as we read the Haftara portion from the prophecy of Isaiah (1:1-27), as the final of the "three of affliction," readings.   Isaiah does not lament because the Bet HaMikdash (The Temple) was destroyed; rather he laments over the underlying causes of that destruction. It's not enough to bemoan the great loss suffered by our people with the destruction of our Land, Jerusalem and the Mikdash. We must use our mourning as a way of initiating an examination of our present-day feelings, thoughts and deeds.  What have we done to eliminate the attitudes and practices that thousands of years ago sent our ancestors into exile - not once, but twice? (courtesy of ou.org) tishabeav

  1. Even those who have refrained from meat and wine since the beginning of Av, are permitted to eat meat and drink wine and grape juice on Shabbat Hazon.  In fact, it is a mitzvah to eat meat on Shabbat for those who enjoy it.   Wine is required for Kiddush.   We set aside any public displays of mourning on Shabbat.  Consumption of meat and wine is permitted even during Seuda Shelishit, on Shabbat afternoon.
  2. We stop eating prior to Shekiya/sunset. The seudah cannot be consumed past 8:47 pm.   The customs of a "Seuda Mafseket" –sitting on the floor, eating hard boiled eggs and bread, etc – are set aside this year since Erev Tisha Be'av is Shabbat.  Your Seuda should be eaten as a regular Shabbat meal.  Once Shabbat has concluded @ 9:33 pm, recite "Baruch Hamavdil Ben Kodesh L'chol" – Blessed is He who distinguishes between the holy and mundane – and you can now do melacha that was forbidden on Shabbat.  This is to be followed by the "Boreh Me'orei Ha'esh" blessing on the Havdala candle.   The Havdala blessing is to be recited on a cup of wine or grape juice Sunday  night following the fast. (see #11) 
  3. Once the fast begins, one should not eat, drink, wash, anoint oneself, wear leather shoes, or have marital relations.
  4. Washing in both cold and hot water is forbidden on Tisha Be'av.  It is of course permitted to "spot clean" dirt that has adhered to your hands or another part of your body in the course of Tisha Be'av.   Ritual washing of the hands, such as the morning Netilat Yadayim, cannot extend beyond one's knuckles.
  5. It is also forbidden to learn Torah "as usual" on Tisha Be'av, since Torah study is joyful.  Sources that deal with the destruction of the Temple, such as the accounts of the Destruction in the Talmud, commentaries on "Eicha" - the book of Lamentations, and the like, can be learned on Tisha Be'av. 
  6. Even pregnant and nursing women, who generally do not fast on the rabbinic fast days, do fast on Tisha Be'av.  
  7. Elderly people who feel too weak to fast, and whose doctor advises that they eat, are permitted to eat on Tisha Be'av.   Children are not required to fast until they are Bnai or Bnot Mitzvah (13 for boys and 12 for girls).  However, to educate them about the nature of the day, we do not give children treats like ice cream, chocolate, etc.
  8. One is not allowed to sit in a regular chair/couch on Tisha Be'av until midday Sunday (1:15 pm).
  9. We do not greet each other on Tisha Be'av, in the same manner that one does not greet a mourner.
  10. Once the fast is over @ 9:28 on Sunday night we say Havdala over a cup of wine, but with no besamim (spices) or candle.  Meat and wine can be consumed as of Sunday night; laundry, hot showers, shaving, are all permitted as soon as the fast is out.
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19
Jul
0

SHIVA SCHEDULE FOR MOSKOWITZ FAMILY

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Rabbi Morton and Leya Moskowitz will complete the observance of Shiva in their home, 6421 Hampton Road S, Seattle, WA, 98118 beginning late tonight, Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Services:

Thursday, July 19: Arvit 11:30 pm

Shachrit Services:

Friday, Sunday and Monday, July 20, 22 and 23: 8:00 am

Mincha/Arvit:

Sunday, July 22:  8:40 pm

May the Lord comfort the family amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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17
Jul
0

Passing of Shmully Moskowitz

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Funeral Announcement:

We regret to inform you of the passing of Shmully Moskowitz, son  of Rabbi Morton and Leya Moskowitz. Funeral services were held earlier today, Tuesday, July 17 at Boulevard Park West Chapels in Hewlett, New York with Internment at Wellwood Cemetery.

Rabbi and Mrs. Moskowitz will begin to sit Shiva at the home of Rabbi and Mrs. Yisroel Chait, 529 Hicksville Road, Far Rockaway, NY, 11691. Side entrance of home. Phone number: (718) 471-3479.

They will return to Seattle later in the week to complete the observance of Shiva. 

- This is a great tragedy for the Moskowitz family, for our entire community, and for the Jewish people. Menuchato B'Gan Eden.  May Hashem comfort the Moskowitzs amongst the mourners for Zion and Jerusalem - Rabbi Meyers


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16
Jul
0

"Vacation Destination"

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School's out for summer
School's out forever
School's been blown to pieces

Alice Cooper's classic, "School's Out!" You may remember it from your childhood, if you grew up in the 70's.  I understand that it's still quite popular today.

 

Or how about this one?

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the class room
Teachers leave those kids alone

Pink Floyd!

These songs influenced a generation, me included.  It was challenging to develop a positive attitude towards learning when these were the overt and subliminal messages coming at us from the broader culture.

I recall one evening as I was saying the bedtime "Shema" with our first son - he was about two at the time.  As we were reciting ושננתם לבניך ודברת בם - "...and you should teach them to your children and speak about them...", an upstairs neighbor was playing "The Wall" at full blast.

Each year, I find it challenging to reconcile the western concept of summer vacation with Jewish values.

How does our tradition view leisure time?

This past Shabbat, I quoted from a sermon given by Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm nearly five decades ago at the Jewish Center in Manhattan. It later made its way with significant changes, into the book, "Faith and Doubt":

Saadia Gaon....speaks of the excessive striving for "rest" . Granting that leisure is necessary for physical and mental recovery... it nevertheless is a vain and empty goal if taken by and for itself. It has meaning only as the aftermath of strenuous exertion, and hence is ancillary to work, but can never replace it. Taken without work, it is mere laziness......

... the authentic Jewish view is not that the Sabbath was created for the six days, thus reducing menucha to the character of a vacation, but that the six days were created for the sake of the Sabbath; that, as indicated, the menucha was itself the apex of the order of creation.

In fact, Dr. Lamm notes, the first full day of life of Adam was the seventh day - Shabbat!

What are our priorities on Shabbat and Yom Tov? Dr. Lamm:

By simply removing the distractions and the obsession with work which chokes off creativity during the week, man's innate propensity for self-creativity may come to express itself quite naturally....

Second, and more important, Judaism provides its classical answer to the ideal utilization of leisure time. It is the intellectual way: the study of Torah."The Sabbaths were given to Israel in order that they might study Torah." The Sabbath, both as a specific day and as the model for an ethic of leisure, is the occasion for study.

This message dovetails nicely with a profound observation by the great Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Etzion, Rav Aharon Lichtenstein:  The mishna records five tragic events that took place on the 17th of Tamuz:

  1. Moses broke the tablets at Mount Sinai – in response to the sin of the Golden Calf.
  2. The daily korbanot (offerings) in the First Temple were suspended during the siege of Jerusalem
  3. Jerusalem's walls were breached, prior to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE.
  4. Prior to the Great Revolt, the Roman general Apostamos burned a Torah scroll
  5. An idol was placed in the Sanctuary of the Holy Temple.

RCA colleague Moshe Stavsky paraphrases Rav Lichtenstein's query:  The negation of the daily korbanot doesn’t seem as devastating as the other 4 events; it was merely the absence of the daily offering;  the Temple was still around and the situation could have been reversed.  What’s the big deal?  

A similar question emanates from a midrash, in which three prominent Tannaim debate the verse that expresses the most all-encompassing principle of the Torah:

  • Ben Zoma: Shema Yisrael
  • Ben Nannas: Love your fellow as yourself
  • Ben Pazi: One lamb should be brought in the morning, the other in the afternoon. 

The first two views are simple to understand: Ben Zoma focuses on a Jew's commitment to the One G-d of history, while Ben Nannas highlights the oneness of the Jewish people.  But Ben Pazi's view is cryptic! How all-inclusive is the concept of a twice daily offering?

Answer: Judaism is built on consistency. Those two little lambs represented the consistency required in religious life.  This explains why, when the daily sacrifice ended, we mourn.  It signaled the end of normal religious life.  The absence of these korbanot, starting on the 17th of Tamuz, broke our consistency, it broke our expression of commitment to The One who dwelled in the Temple.  Dedication and commitment to Hashem is THE all-encompassing principle of Jewish life - hence, Ben Pazi!

How many of us - especially in the environment of the American summer - carve out sufficient time for ourselves for matters of the spirit?  It's wonderful to come to synagogue on a weekly basis and to engage in both Torah and Tefilah, but how do we fare outside of the environment of the Kehilla?  How can we create a daily island in time to pursue the matters of the spirit ?  What is our personal "vacation destination?"

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10
Jul
0

Peres Has Me Pondering

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In days of yore, Israeli leaders were very careful to adhere to halacha, to Jewish law, in public, in their roles as representatives of the State of Israel.  Mostly, this involved eating kosher food and publicly adhering to the laws of Shabbat.  SAC director Leon Covitz, via facebook, directed my attention to an article in Haaretz today about Israeli President Shimon Peres; according to the piece, Peres has decided not to attend the opening ceremony of the London Olympics - because it extends into Friday (Shabbat) night and the Olympic committee is not willing to allow Peres to sleep in the Olympic village. (It's reserved for athletes).

Now, Shimon Peres is not one of my personal role models.  Though he contributed much to the building of the State of Israel, he also initiated the Oslo Process, which many of us correctly anticipated would be bad for the State of Israel.  That said, there is a concept called יש קונה עולמו בשעה אחת - a person can acquire his portion in the World to Come in one moment.  So whatever you say about Shimon Peres in general, I think that with his public display of showing reverence for Shabbat, Peres has made a powerful statement about the character of the Jewish state.

I noticed a similar concern for public adherence to halacha when I attended the AIPAC conference this past spring in Washington DC. All of the food sold and catered at AIPAC was strictly kosher.  Certainly, the increased attendance of observant Jews has led to these higher standards; still, the decision by the organizing committee to have no non-kosher options at a convention of 13,000 people conveys a powerful message to delegates and observers alike.  Here in Seattle, local federation functions also strictly adhere to these guidelines.

On a number of occasions, I have spoken of this model as an argument for every Jew to identify with, and belong to, an Orthodox synagogue irrespective of the individual's level of personal observance. The Orthodox Kehilla represents the classical Torah tradition, the Mesora, a commitment to the fundamentals of our faith.  Instead of dulling the aspirations of Jews by presenting them with watered-down templates - like spiritual leaders who themselves fail to observe the basics of Shabbat and Kashrut - Jewish communities should be setting their sights high, exposing Jews to the beauty of Torah, and allowing a Jew of any background to navigate his or her own personal path to G-d.

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10
Jul
0

2012 Guide to the Three Weeks Pt I

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sittingatkotelThe following brief guide relates to customs of Sephardic Jews. Jews of Ashkenazic background have significantly different practices for this three week period. Anyone with questions should feel free to write me at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

We have just begun the period of בין המצרים, initiated this past Sunday with the fast of the seventeenth of Tamuz.

From the start of the three weeks until after Tisha Be'av , the night of July 29, we avoid eating new fruits or purchasing the type of clothing on which we would be obliged to recite the beracha of שהחיינו – "Shehehiyanu".  The reason for this custom is that the full text of the beracha thanks G-d for sustaining us and bringing us to "this time." Since the three week period preceding Tisha Be'av is an unfortunate time for our people, the text of the blessing is inappropriate to recite. 

The laws of the three weeks intensify as we move towards the month of Av. This year, Rosh Hodesh Av falls out on Thursday night July 19th, and Friday, July 20th.  

Although the letter of the law only prohibits the consumption of meat and wine (grape juice included!) during the Seudah Hamafseket – the last meal prior to Tisha Be'av – a widespread post-Talmudic custom developed not to consume these products earlier in the three-week period.  For Sephardim, there are two main customs regarding the consumption of meat and wine:

a) One view is that the custom only applies during the week of Tisha Be'av. This year, Tisha Be'av falls on Sunday, and so practically, there would be no prohibition of eating meat or drinking wine this year prior to Tisha Be'av. 

b) Another view is to refrain from these products following Rosh Hodesh Av. Upon further reflection, I am recommending following this latter custom. One who needs to consume meat   for health reasons should rely on the lenient view mentioned in section (a)

How does custom (b) play itself out practically this year?

  • Rosh Hodesh Av is Friday, July 20th, and one may have wine and meat on that day
  • In honor of Shabbat, there is no public mourning, and we consume meat and wine, including Seudah on Shabbat afternoon, if we wish. We say Hagefen on the Havdala wine and drink it.

Therefore, this restriction begins Saturday night, July 21st, and continues until the next Friday nightShabbat Hazon, July 28th, when once again we may eat meat and drink wine in honor of Shabbat.

So the schedule looks like this:

Friday, July 20th

Permitted to eat meat and drink wine

Friday night and all of Shabbat, July 21st

Permitted to eat meat and drink wine

Saturday night, July 21st until Friday afternoon, July 27th

Custom not to eat meat and drink wine. One may consume the wine of Havdala

Saturday night July 28 until Sunday night, July 29th

Tisha Be'av – Fast Day

Sunday night, July 29th

Permitted to eat meat and drink wine

 

As we mentioned earlier, this year, Tisha Be'av is pushed off until Saturday night, July 28th-Sunday 29th;  there is no formal "week of Tisha Be'av" in which restrictions regarding shaving, laundering, washing in warm water, swimming, etc apply. We will reserve our discussion on those halachot for next year!

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09
Jul
0

Talking Animals ?

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edThis past Shabbat, I began my derasha with a TV trivia question: How did the director of the old "Mr. Ed" show get the horse to move its lips?

Before the computer wizardry of Forrest Gump, how did they manipulate the lips of the talking horse?

A confession: Until now, I had believed that the placement of peanut butter in Ed's mouth was the secret; this was the explanation I presented to the congregation on Shabbat. But as I prepared to write  this blog post, I investigated further, and found that the peanut butter story was fabricated by Director Alan Young. Recently, he changed his tune, explaining that it was in fact a nylon thread in Mr. Ed's mouth that got the horse talking . Eventually, Mr. Ed apparently learned to move his lips on cue when the trainer touched his hoof!

When you mention Perashat Balak to the average person, they fondly recall it as the Torah portion in which a donkey talks. At first blush, the story of Bilaam and the donkey has a Disney-like, cartoonish quality to it. Now, although the Torah's narratives even appeal to children, the profound depth of the episode has long been the subject of our classic commentaries.

In his "Tal Hermon", Rabbi Shlomo Aviner recalls some early psychological experiments involving monkeys. Specifically, he refers us to the work of Masserman and Wechkin: In a 1964 study,15 rhesus monkeys were trained to get food by pulling chains. The monkeys quickly learned that one chain delivered twice as much food than the other. But then the rules changed. If a monkey pulled the chain associated with the bigger reward, another “bystander” monkey received an electric shock. After seeing this occur, ten of the monkeys switched their preferences to the chain associated with the lesser food reward. Two other monkeys stopped pulling either chain—preferring to starve rather than see another monkey in pain.

Rav Aviner points to this as evidence of a very basic "mussar" or ethical element within animals. This quality is elucidated by the prophet Yeshaya (Isaiah 1:3) as he bemoans the ingratitude of the Jewish people: "Even an ox knows its owner, and a donkey recognizes its master's care--but Israel doesn't know its master."

As Bilaam sets out on his journey to curse the Israelites, his donkey seems disobedient. First, she turns off course, then she presses Bilaam's leg against a fence; finally, she crouches down under Bilaam and refuses to budge. Each step of the way, the beast is responding to her vision of Hashem's angel obstructing the path. In response to each act of disobedience, Bilaam strikes the animal. At this point, Hashem "opens the donkey's mouth" – and it delivers a full-fledged "Mussar lesson" to Bilaam:

"What have I done to you, that justifies you having hit me three times?"
"Am not I your donkey, upon which you have ridden your whole life until today? Did I ever let you down?"

The two questions are related: "Maybe there was a specific reason that prompted me to to behave this way? Why did you strike me without taking that into consideration? Secondly, given my faithfulness to you to this point, you should have given me the benefit of the doubt!"

The animal exhibits a higher sense of basic ethics than Bilaam. It sees the angel - which represents the Divine force of ethics and mussar in the world - which Bilaam, for all of his talent and sophistication, can simply not perceive. Once Bilaam admits that the donkey had in fact, never 'done him wrong', he is able to "see the angel"; he begins to have an elementary grasp of the lesson communicated by his donkey. This is followed by a harsh rebuke of Bilaam by the angel, and Bilaam finally admits חטאתי - "I have sinned...."

Rav Aviner's approach dovetails nicely with a puzzling comment by Rashi. The donkey refers to Bilaam's three beatings as שלש רגלים. Rashi, based on the midrash, explains that the donkey is critiquing Bilaam for attempting to eradicate the Jewish people, who observe the three pilgrimage festivals. The word "regalim" in Hebrew can simply mean "times" (Bilaam strikes the animal three times); alternatively, it can be a veiled reference to the Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, when the Jewish people traditionally travel en masse to Jerusalem.

What's the connection between the three festivals and Bilaam's behavior?

The Jewish trek to Jerusalem is an expression of appreciation for the Exodus from Egypt, the receiving of the Torah, and the Divine protection in the desert during our 40 years of wandering. Jewish families thronged to the holy city to remind themselves of their dependence on G-d and His involvement in their lives.

Basic gratitude!

The beleaugered beast of the Bilaam narrative tells her master that he has no hope of vanquishing a people whose "specialty" is the ongoing refinement of their individual and national character.

Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, in his introduction to Sefer Bereshit, notes that an intrustion of baseless hatred and a crisis of character led to the destruction of the Second Temple. If ethical refinement is the Jewish specialty, failing to live up to our potential is a true crisis. 

Today is the 17th of Tamuz, a time for each of us to reflect on how we can work to refine those qaulities and bring about our long-awaited redemption....

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04
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As SAC winds up on July 4th - a look back @ another July 4th!

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Tonight at SAC, Leon Cohen is coming out for his annual fireworks extravaganza.  It's July 4th, and residents living on Lost Lake are boating and water-skiing. It was just 36 years ago (double "Chai")
that one of the most amazing events of modern Jewish history took place - the Raid on Entebbe. Years ago, a couple of movies were produced, one in Hollywood, the other in Israel,  to retell the story.  More recently, a computerized mini-documentary recreated the events of July 3-4th 1976.  This 9 - minute film is well worth watching!

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03
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SAC: Monday, July 2nd: Creating a Thick Atmosphere of Israel

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After a wonderful Ezra Bessaroth family wedding on Sunday evening at Tibbetts Creek Manor in weddingIssaquah (Mazal tov again to Esther and Julian Alhadeff, and Esther's parents, Amir and Gail Ben-Meir!....see the picture Michael Varon caught of me and posted on facebook -  as the Matador during the wedding dancing!) I drove back to camp this morning with three campers (my son Avraham Beryl, Eli Almo and Jacob Ben-Ezra). Not before stopping by the Hemmat home, where Rachely joined the group. Fully equipped with Israeli flags and other Eretz Yisrael props, Rachely set the tone for this wonderful day @ SAC.

israeliflagToday's theme was Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel.  Some of the highlights: blue and white decorations throughout camp, morning sessions on facts and stats of modern Israel followed by an afternoon Maccabia, Israeli dancing for the girls with Rachely, Tzizit-tying for the boys with Dr. Larry Adatto, a delectable felafal lunch courtesy of Eli Varon, Israeli music, a guest appearance by Chana Adatto's Hatan, Yonatan Shefa of the Maccabeats, a surprise visit by new Olim Leah, Yonit and Dalia Jacobson, an Israeli boot camp activity into the night...

All of today's activities created a real "thick atmosphere" of Eretz Yisrael, highlighting its centrality to Jewish identity. Counselor Ephraim Adatto said it best when he pointed out to me in a casual conversation that though in the past, there has been a day set aside for Israel at SAC, this year's program was more clearly defined and focused.

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02
Jul
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Sneak Preview of L.O.L. Seattle's new online Jewish Educational Center

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Starting this fall in Seattle - live online Torah classes, brought to you by Ezzy Bezzy and torahtutors.org!

For more information, see the LOL website: http://lolseattle.wordpress.com/

Details to follow! For more info: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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29
Jun
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This Week's Newsletter

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27
Jun
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Color War Break Out @ SAC

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colorwarToday, Color War broke out at Camp SAC when SAMIS trustees entered the dining hall with a "Color War" sign.  The dramatic announcement followed an evening and tension for SAC campers, as Director Leon Covitz announced at Arvit last night that the camp was being bought out by BCMH, and was heretofore being renamed "Seattle Ashkenazic Camp" though the acronym of SAC would be maintained. Some fifteen campers from the Ashkenazic community would purportedly be joining the current session - this, combined with the buy-out - would lead to the use of Artscroll siddurim, new pronunciation of key words, and a general change in the culture of the camp. The practical joke, the halachic parameters of which were dubious, was somewhat realistic, since NCSY director Ari Hoffman a member of BCMH, was here Tuesday morning, and Rabbi Owen returned to Seattle Tuesday afternoon, apparently in a flurry of negotiations "to seal the deal".....What transpired overnight was a campers' campaign to maintain the Sephardic identity of the camp.....and relief when Samis Trustees Rabbi Rob Toren, Eddie Hasson and Jerry Cohen dramatically revealed that the joke was merely a prelude to Color War! ehassonTo the right is a picture of Elana Hasson, SAC counselor, a student at NYHS and a former student of mine at SHA. She is a member of EB, and daughter of Nate and Raniel Hasson. Hazzan Yogev and Rachely Nuna came out to camp today with their son Ori, the youngest camper.  He can be seen in his stroller, below: 

ori



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27
Jun
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Silly Late Night Antics @ SAC

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27
Jun
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Laptop Talmud Scholar

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urielcohenOne of my Chevruta/learning partners here at SAC, Uriel Cohen, son of EB's Leon Cohen. If you look carefully, you can see the text of the Talmud on Uriel's laptop and my laptop, in the foreground. In the background, the camp art room. We learn at 4:30 every afternoon, and I'm really enjoying it.  

Everything here is running on "camp time" which is an hour earlier than the actual time.....Leon has tried to explain this to me on a couple of occasions, but I still don't get it.  Rabbi Benjy Owen was here until this afternoon, and will be back for Shabbat.  Hazzan Nuna is slated to come out to camp tomorrow.  

on the lake

In the early evening, Rubisa Miriam and I took our 5 year-old out on the lake in a paddleboat.  Very relaxing!  Here's a picture we took of ourselves on the boat: Now, I'm not a great naval navigator.  As a junior counsellor at Bnai Brith Camp in Ontario back in 1978, I guided by cabin (traveling in canoes!) around an island three times before I realized that it was our destination! I can handle paddleboats, though...


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