Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dollar to Shekel

Every day, I open my computer, and out pops a little yellow box, courtesy of my Windows Vista system. It says plainly, the US dollar rate versus the Israel New Shekel rate. And it changes, via the system, during the entire day.
Why is this little box such a feature of curiousity?

Well, back in the day, the dollar used to be at 4.5. That means that for every dollar changed, one received 4 and a 1/2 shekels in return. Not so complicated- right?

Then the dollar dropped- making it 4 shekels. Then 3.8. Then 3.5. And in recent months- we've seen a 3.2. (I could be wrong- one day, I suspect, it was 2.98.)

The dollar seems to be making a comeback. The Bank of Israel bought dollars, when the rate was 3.2, causing the dollar to go up to 3.6. And in recent weeks, it has gone from 3.7 to 4.001. Yep, it's back above 4 again, although not by much.

According to my little box- at this exact second the dollar is 4.018.

Of course- this is all what is known as the "Shaar HaYatzig"- the middle rate. Not the selling rate or the buying rate. What you can actually change your dollars for shekels for is usually about 3-4 points lower. So if it is 4.018- you could probably change for 3.97 or so.

I heard recent news, according to that the Bank of Israel would like the dollar to go up to 4.5. Although, this may take months to happen. Or, it may never happen at all.
This little box makes a difference in my day. I check it hurriedly each morning- is today a good day to change money? Or not?
Can I get a fair rate? Will the 1.5 percent charged for a check changing make a difference? Should I wait till tomorrow?

As a financial analyst told me- he would have to be a Navi to know how the exchange rate will go. Maybe yes, possibly not, is his response for the rate going up/down in a given time period.

How much does this make a difference? Well, let's see. If I had a 100 dollars- if the rate was 4- I would receive 400 shekel, and so on. So, for every .01 difference- I lose 1 shekel.
That doesn't seem like much when you're dealing with 100 dollars. But what about my paycheck? Then it makes a bigger difference.

I've become accustomed to thinking in exchange rates. And don't get me started on the Euro.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name

I enjoy listening to my neighbors discuss the Israeli world at large, and I found one concept really interesting.
It seems, that at least in the neighborhood where I live- Yiddish names are uncommon. In fact, the only people who name their children Yiddish names are those chutznikim who have names from their families in America or Europe.
Strange- no? No Gittels, Raizels, Ettels, Hindas, or Faigas- no Yossels, Feivishes, or Modches.

And, the second strange part is that- not just in my neighborhood, but in most that I know of- even if a child has two names, that child will only be called by one, and usually nicknamed. For example, the Nechama Rivka would become Nechami or Chumi, the Mordechai Yitzchak would become Mordy or Motti.

Heaven forbid that the child should want to be called by both names, or a nickname for the second, like Rivki or Yitzi. (It's actually the opposite in the US- I remember in grade school being asked for my middle name, so they could specifically call me by both.)

Oh, and for those who want to name after Gedolim- Yisroel Meir and Nosson Tzvi are used as common double names, so don't worry.

Oh, and there are some names that have a bit of strange nicknames. Yirmi- Yirmiyahu, Rachmili-Yerachmiel, Shabsi- Shabtai, and so on. I guess Israeli parents have to consider not only what their children's name might be, but what might the nickname given on the street might be.

I don't live in a neighborhood that gives a lot of 'Israeli' names- like Or, Shachar, Tal, Irit, Dafna- so I wouldn't know what goes on in those communities. (It is funny that the so called 'Israeli names' have a lot to do with nature. What about Shoshana or Bluma? Those are considered non-Israeli, yet also have natural themes.) I do think that one of the strangest nicknames I've ever heard of is 'Dudu' for David.

ProfK posted in her absence a post about how family members shouldn't interfere in the naming of a child, unless it is their own child. I wonder what people in Israel do when the family names available are Yiddish, or double names?

Do they resign themselves to giving a double name that will never be used? Do they use Yiddish and fight the system- or translate it into Ivrit?
It's a such an interesting idea. What's in a name- or nickname for that matter? Maybe quite a bit of thought.

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

It's a confusing societal concept.
When I was growing up, it was considered unacceptable to call someone before 9:00 am, or 8:00, if they had young children.
It also was common to go to sleep later- bedtime for the young ones (not toddlers or very young) was around 10-10:30.

Yet, I find that here in Israel, the clocks have changed. Offices are commonly open only between the hours of 8-12. (How do people who work visit these offices anyway?) If they are open till 1, they then execute a break between 1-3 or 2-4.
Then, the country functions again till 6. Supper is at 7, 7:30, yet no one really heads to sleep till around 11.

Basically, they are getting around 8 hours of sleep, which is wonderful. But in order to get to work at 8, they have to wake up at least at 7. So, 7:00 becomes the new time to call.

I don't mind getting calls at 7:00 am. I am up, and busy. However, my mind isn't always functioning at optimum level. I would have loved a call at 8, yet 7 seems a tad early.

And the 9:00 pm scheduled shiurim seem a bit off as well. I know they are arranged for that time so that mothers can feed all their kids supper, the husbands are home, and then the wife can go to a shiur. But then the mothers get home at 11. Assuming they have nothing to do (yeah right- the dishes in the sink, the crazy kitchen, the kids needing help with homework- all of these never happen) they get to sleep at 11:30, and wake up at 6:30 for the new day. That's a small amount of sleep for a busy lady.

Why not make the shiurim at 6:00? Then one could be home by 8. Or, better yet, limit the shiur time to a half-hour, max. Not that we all couldn't use a 2 hour shiur, but sometimes, a shorter shiur during the week is needed.

It irks me that the country focuses on getting up as early as possible- which is good- but then going to sleep as late as possible- which is bad. I guess each home can try to institute earlier times for everything, but sometimes it's just not possible.
Ah well. Guess my dreams of sleeping late and going to sleep early will have to fade into oblivion for now.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Meme of Eight

Tembow tagged me for yet another meme...I'm not really a meme person. But since a blogger friend asked so nicely....

Well- here goes. Finish the following 8 beginnings of a sentence:

1. I wish I could... learn to relax and have more bitachon in Hashem.
2. My biggest fear is... losing a person close to me.
3. I hate to... figure out what I have to accomplish in life and then do it.
4. I love... searching and solving problems.
5. Today I will... finish the things I should have done yesterday.
6. Yesterday I... procrastinated.
7. My hair is... covered, right now with a fun scarf.
8. I will never... lower myself by agreeing with the public opinion just 'because.'
I'm not tagging anyone...since most were tagged already.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Havel Havelim #202 is up!

Well, tis that time of week again! SuperRaizy is hosting this week's
Havel Haveilim- The Superhero Edition!

Kollel Lifestyle

Someone brought up an interesting comment on an earlier post of mine- that comparatively, the lifestyles of a Kollel family in Israel and the US are about the same.

I found that interesting at first. It seems that the Israeli Kollel family sacrifices more- they dress, eat, and live differently. 2 bedroom apartment, hand-me-downs or gemach dresses, and shopping cannily for the best sales out there. But, actually, it was a very good point- because in the US, this Kollel family might also live in a 2 bedroom apartment, get hand-me-downs, and shop just as frugally.

Of course, the US family pays for tuition (albeit reduced), has a car (albeit a junky one), and pays for health insurance. But the Israeli family pays for bus cards, a small fee for tuition, and both families pay for rent or a mortgage, if they are so lucky.

Somehow though, it still seems to me that the Israeli family lives much more frugally. I have a friend who debates on whether to serve couscous or rice, as the couscous is much cheaper. (No, she doesn't starve herself and her family- it's called having a large family and budgeting well.)
And somehow, those Israeli apartments seem smaller than an American one could ever seem. (Although, I lived in a shoebox basement apartment for a while in the US- you can survive in one of those if you must.)

Israeli families encourage their children to participate in Chugim, after school activities and groups, and so do Americans. It may be slightly different- the American boys may play organized sports, while the Israeli boys may build stuff from electrical and wooden appliances, but the activities do exist on both sides.

Both families try to make a living, and they usually are able to make it on their own.

Neither one of these families seem deprived, even though in the US they may debate over where is the cheapest place to buy eggs (I found for 1.99 through Peapod- Aldi's would probably have cheaper) and they have the same debate here (.70 agurot per it comes to almost equal prices.)

The ruchniyus aspect? Well- I vote for Israel, but I'm biased, because that is why I came back here to live. I'm sure in large Kollel communities, like Lakewood, they have ruchniyus as well- but somehow I think Israel trumps that.

In America, there are more options open for education- for children, as well as adults. No one seems to blink when a girl heads to a non-Jewish graduate school in the US, while in Israel- you'd better think twice about going to a secular college. But even that is improving, as more recognize the need for education.

In short- I can see how the two lifestyles would be comparable. But I can see differences.
No matter where they live- they still are trying to lead a life of Torah- and I give them kudos for that. (Don't start commenting that I said that everyone else is not leading a life of Torah- I didn't say it, I don't think it.....)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Erev Shabbos #9- Preparation and Relaxation

Ahh, Shabbos. So glad that time of the week is here again.
The weather outside is a bit gloomy, but it looks like rain, so that's a wonderful bracha.
Isn't there something special about rain on Friday night?

I woke up very early today- and started my Shabbos preparations immediately. I'm one of those who never does something by ones.
I do it by twos, triples, quadruples, and sometimes even quintuples. That's why my freezer is bursting at the seams.

But it makes Erev Shabbos so much more relaxing, especially on an early Shabbos. I pull out two ready made kugels, make a double batch of chicken and fish fresh for Shabbos, and make a gigantic pot of soup that usually can get divided into 3 after Shabbos dinner.

This also helps for the unexpected guest phenomenon, or the desperate neighbor phenomenon- I always have enough food on hand, even for 20 people or more. Of course, I would have to restock my freezer afterwards.

Then, my floor gets sponjaed, and I finally have time to relax.

When I first got married, I hadn't gotten the hang of this yet. I mean, I knew how to cook well, thank G-d, and I wasn't the "patchke" type, who needs to have a triple layer cake every Shabbos to feel accomplished. But, although I started early on Friday, I always ended up rushing till the last minute- making me feel frazzled and hectic.

Now, I have menuchas hanefesh (peace of mind/heart) and am able to put my feet up for a couple of seconds, or at least as long as it takes to write a post :)

Have a wonderful Shabbos, everyone- and I hope your Erev Shabbos is relaxing as well!

Wishing luck to Bad4S and Bas~Melech on their run this Sunday for Chai Lifeline- good luck, and congrats on all the money you've raised for such a worthy cause!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Query and Question

EDIT: By the way- see the poll to the right. I'd love to hear the world's opinion.
Wow, eventful last night. Sheesh.
I started feeling really sick, and had a minor blackout. So, I immediately freaked out, went downstairs to my local Kupat Cholim (yes, I live on top of one, it's very convenient), and they wanted me to head to an emergency room, just to get checked out.

I called another neighbor (Neighbor #4, if you're keeping track) who happens to be an emergency room doctor, and asked him if the local Kupat Cholim was correct in assessing the situation. He said, yes, but that he believes it was probably dehydration.

So, I dragged Mr. NMF all the way to Shaare Tzedek Hospital, and got admitted to the emergency room. Thank G-d, they diagnosed it as nothing more than a severe case of dehydration, and put me on a saline drip for the next 4 hrs. Sheesh. But I did feel much better afterwards.

It's actually a wonderful thing- how easy it is for me to get a note from my Kupat Cholim, head to the hospital, and have it all checked out- without worrying about whether my insurance covers it, or whether this was necessary- the medical system here is great.

But on to my story. While I was in the emergency room, on a drip, I noticed an Arab woman sitting down, waiting for her turn. She looked a bit scared, and I think she might have come on her own. So, I gave her a smile, and got an answering one back. She then got taken care of, promptly and well.

I mentioned to Mr. NMF that I have a bit of a query. I don't hate all of our "cousins". I hate when most try to murder us, or kill our children, or execute terrorist attacks on innocent people. But if they act peacefully, and they don't do these things, then I don't hate them. Did Avraham hate Yishmael? Or Yishmael's children?

This is a query to me, something to question. Should I hate all of our "cousins"? I know that in the Koran, there are some parts in there about murdering Jews- that they would like to kill us all. But if they don't- if they act peacefully- should we hate them?

I'm not saying to love them, or to think that their way of life is good. Indoctrinating young children, for example, to believe in murdering Jews is wrong. Living in squalor and blaming us, is also wrong. Just the age old question- should we hate them?

I don't know. Maybe that woman would have a child who then grows up and becomes a suicide bomber. Or maybe he might become a famous doctor and cure cancer. Should I hate her?
This is a question. I don't even know if it has an answer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Only In Israel #6- Neighbors and Taxis

Families share a lot of good times in their lives- but with that also comes sharing other things.

Last week, Mr. NMF got sick, then with heaping helpings of chicken soup and tea, he got better. Now, it seems, it's my turn. I'm just starting to feel almost better- complete with extra tea made by Mr. NMF (see- taking turns being sick works out for everyone!).

Then, my neighbor's daughter comes down with some nasty bug, and she nursed her back to health. Then my neighbor (Neighbor #1) fell sick. (Wow- it has truly been a LONG week.) She was really sick- stuck in bed, can't do much of anything, antibiotics sick.

I stopped over there, when I was feeling better, and saw Neighbor #2 cooking toast for Neighbor #1's kids, because Neighbor #1 was in bed and couldn't move. So I figured, hey, I can do something.
So the next night, I sent over a large supper- hot and tasty. (Spaghetti and meatballs, if you wanted to know.) And, thank G-d, today, Neighbor #1 is feeling much better.

It was funny though- because I've lived in places before where I didn't even know my neighbors! I didn't know their names, or how many kids they had, or when their next simcha was. I know that's not a unique concept- that one can know their neighbors outside of Israel, but it was a wonderful thing that we all know each other and are willing to help out when needed.

I was in a taxi, heading home to warm up the spaghetti and meatballs for Neighbor #1, when my taxi driver remarked on how there was absolutely no traffic, despite the fact that it was rush hour.
So, I remarked that it must be that Hashem knew I had to get home to make supper for Neighbor #1 who was sick, and therefore, Hashem cleared the way for me.

He thought about it (note: this taxi driver was not wearing a kippa), and said- that is probably very true. And it is so nice that you're helping Neighbor #1. I hope there are more people like you out there.

I asked him if his neighbors do things like that- and he says, sometimes, but he doesn't know most of his neighbors. But he's impressed that there exists neighbors who do exhibit these good behaviors.

So, he was happy that he got to his destination quickly, and he wished Neighbor #1 a Refuah Shleimah. I love hearing that from a taxi driver; it never gets old. No matter if they are religious or not, if they are Jewish, they care about other Jews. It's wonderful.
And so ends another OII moment. Or not- as this could happen anywhere. So, find out who your neighbors are, and get involved!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Can You Take Something? Please?

Commonly asked question: Are you flying to/from Israel?
Can you take something for me- please?
It's not that big/is that big/takes up a whole suitcase/will need to be packed in carry-on luggage/needs to be kept frozen.
I'm sure you wouldn't mind doing a mitzva, wouldn't you?
Thank you ever so much!!

I have people (wow, that sounds so egotistical) who fly back and forth from Israel to the US all the time. And they are constantly getting these questions asked. Some have said yes, while others have stopped telling people when they fly to Israel so they won't get asked any more.

The post office system, albeit as it is good (a regular mail letter gets here in 10 days, while a FED-EX special takes a month- go figure.), charges large amounts to ship anything bigger than a letter. So, the friends, family, and unnamed people who live in the same community as you get asked all the time- can they take something?

People might answer, "Sure, no problem". But this presents numerous problems. Firstly, if the giver hands over items to the taker, the taker should open each item and repack it. Why?
Because at airport security- they will ask:
"Has anyone given you anything to take?"
or "Did you pack these bags yourself?"

If someone gave you something to take- you should admit it. And, I believe it's not ethical to say that they didn't give you something, if you don't want the harassment of waiting in line a bit longer. At least, if you repacked it yourself- you can tell them- and then you can be confident that their search will find nothing.

This also proves something- Israeli security is excellent. Absolutely excellent. The amount of attacks that they have foiled are probably too numerous to count. So, don't gripe about the long lines, or the fact that you have to put your bags through 3 different x-ray machines, or that they may question you on how you know Ivrit so well with an American passport. Thank G-d, their hard work prevents problems on a daily basis.

But back to taking stuff. Some givers have the temerity to ask- can you do something special with the item that the giver is taking. For example- keep it in a bag with ice throughout the 12-15 hr. flight. Or, deliver it to the home of the recipient in Israel. Or, store it in your own home for months until someone comes to claim it.

These are the types of things that lead people to not want to take things anymore.

So- I propose a set of rules, if one would like to become a taker, and accept things from givers.
1. The giver should be very grateful that someone is doing them a favor at all- true chesed. They shouldn't demand anything.
2. The giver should understand that it is hard for someone traveling to deal with other items, and should make it as easy for the taker as possible.
3. The giver should allow the taker to repack everything, and to tell them what is inside in advance.
4. If the taker says- I feel like I can't do it this time- please don't fault them for being a non-chesedik person. Maybe they are really overloaded with their own stuff, or maybe they have been burnt too many times.
5. Do not give takers anything that is dangerous, or that they will have to sneak past airplane security. A challah knife should not be given to someone flying. Period. You want the risk, you take it yourself.
6. Above all- when the taker does take something, be responsible for it afterwards. Don't just leave the taker hanging in Israel, or have that item gathering dust for months. Be in contact.

I think these rules might facilitate more people to become takers, and more givers to be willing to give. Then, everyone can get their Ipods/tinfoil/oatmeal/clothing from overseas without a hassle. It's that simple.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ceasefire? CEASE to FIRE?

Alright, I'm officially confused. Israel agreed to a ceasefire. Yep. They won't be firing any more rockets if Gaza stops. But they're not removing their troops. Seems that they think the Gazans will violate some of the terms first. And, Gaza says that until Israel removes their troops, Hamas will keep firing. I'm totally lost.

And in American news, the president-to-be is initiating a publicity stunt, traveling on the same road trip as President Abraham Lincoln did.

I think the news has gone a bit haywire lately.

Friends and family across the Atlantic are worried about us here in Israel- due to the fact that the news is so heavily biased towards anti-Israel. If the news would show a bit more of what goes on in our borders, maybe there might be a different attitude.

News affects us all- but such hysterical events makes me doubt the news. It makes me doubt that in the middle of a recession, President Bush proposed a 700 billion dollar save package, yet no one took him up on it. Then, President-Elect Obama says, hey- I'll lower taxes, but I'd like an over 800 billion dollar save packagae- and everyone goes- Yippee! Our Savior!!

I'm totally confused. Let's just say, the news is news, but right now, I'm depressed at what's making headlines.

Havel Haveilim #201(really, probably 200)

The Rebbitzen's Husband posted an excellent HH today- enjoy!
Havel Haveilim #201- The I-love-Nauru Edition

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Navigating Jewish Israel

This may be a surprising post- but I have been thinking about this topic for a bit.

I grew up frum, and went to your typical Bais Yaakov and seminary. Yet, every once in a while, I'm confronted with a situation in which I don't know the 'typical' frum thing to do. And, I'm sure this happens to most people. Sometimes, when I ask another friend, they don't know either, and we head to the third alternative, my local understanding Orthodox rabbi.

Sometimes, there is no 'typical' thing to do- it's what one makes of it. Sometimes families have customs, and sometimes not. Sometimes in a certain place it is done one way, and sometimes differently in others. Sometimes people in the same place have different viewpoints, depending on their families, values, minhagim, traditions, and so on. I'm sure my readers could think up many examples.

Israel comes with some of these things. And, sometimes, I'm left feeling like I don't know the Israeli way to do it, but I know the American way, and vice versa. Different shul minhagim, different ways of raising children/dealing with family/you name it, different psak, differences that abound.

It's amazing actually, but in Israel, I've found that there are more differences than anywhere else. Students from Aish, Discovery, Neve, EYAHT, Ohr Someach- all of these wonderful places for newcomers to Judaism have different approaches. And, these places make themselves public and accessible for all those who have questions- whether they've attended these institutions or not. In fact, sometimes I believe that asking questions is even better here than in America, due to the fact that there are so many differences and nuances.

Not everyone who lives in the same place does the same thing- and that's okay. And, you can ask more questions than ever. I belong to the camp that feels that the more questions asked and posed, the better. I'm not content with just 'going with the flow' or 'doing whatever everyone does'- and for that, Israel suits me very well, as everyone asks, questions, clarifies, and does differently.

So for all those differences among us- come to Israel- where it doesn't matter. We're all one people- one nation- remember?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Satisfied With Less

It's amazing, isn't it. I grew up in a house that had 3 bedrooms and sprawling land space. I had a backyard, a swingset, and trees. I knew of houses that had 4, 5, or even 6 bedrooms. There were mansions, and redone kitchens. There was crystal, silver, and leather. Curtains abounded, and carpets occupied every inch of the floor.

And, I moved here. To a three bedroom apartment, and nothing else. Small kitchen, a porch, and a view that just about knocks the socks off of anyone that sees it. I don't have carpets, or draperies. I like shopping at a supermarket that doesn't have 10 varieties of ketchup.
How can this be?

How can I go from a 2 1/2 acre home to a 120 meter apartment and still be happy?
Surprisingly, I can. I don't have to own the latest clothing, or have my American peanut butter to be happy. (Alright, I confess- I succumb to Heinz Ketchup. But what can I do against such temptation?) My house doesn't have to be a house to be a home. Shockingly, I hope that one day I'll have kids, and they'll share a room. Yep, more than 2 in a room. Hey, I know the mentality that says a kid can't be normal without his/her own room, but somehow, it works here. Most families I know have 2 bedroooms for the kids- one for the boys, and one for the girls. (Depending on the amount of different genders, of course.)

I think when someone moves to Israel, they become satisfied with less. Everyone owns an apartment, and very few have houses. So therefore, apartment life became acceptable. And in apartment life, having 4-6 bedrooms becomes impractical. So therefore, having only 3 bedrooms became decent. And because Israeli stone tends to accumulate dust everywhere, Israelis adapted to having no carpets and 'sponja'ing (kind of like mopping but with a stick and towel) their floors every two days. (Yes, Israelis are insanely clean. Insanely. But it's so nice having a shiny floor every week.) A friend called to ask me where to buy a vacumn. I gave her the information, and hung up, but I was surprised. Why? Because almost no one has a vacumn here. It's one of those things that are not part of standard, or lesser life, but rather a luxury. Imagine- a vacumn cleaner is a luxury. Shocking- no?

So can one be satisfied with less? I think so. And it helps with the 'keeping up with the Joneses' problem. And eventually, it doesn't become catagorized as less- but rather standard, and anything beyond that is considered 'more'. It's a nice way to live.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Good Friends

Living here in Israel, it's often the case that when a good friend has a simcha, I'm not there to participate. I just had a friend get married- and not only was I not there for her wedding, but I was not there for her engagement, vort, or anything else. And, she plans to continue to live in the US- so I probably won't get to be part of her life too much.

One of my closest friends just recently got engaged. Of course, I knew this was coming for quite a while- and was already discussing how I could wrangle attending her wedding. Which will probably be in the US, since she plans to live there as well.

I'm so happy for her, and I wish her so many brachos- but at the same time, I miss being there. I miss sharing personally in her simcha and being on the spot. I can help from overseas, make plans, give advice, but it's not the same as actually being there.

It's a pleasure to live in Israel- and I'm so grateful for the zechus (privilege). But I do miss out on people's lives, on seeing their newest baby, or celebrating with their families. I even miss out on my own family's life- bar mitzvahs, birthdays, etc.

But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Despite this, living here is the best thing I ever could have hoped for. And it isn't like it was back in the 'olden days', when a telephone call (as reported by Rebbitzen Ruchoma Shain) used to cost 60 dollars, if they could find a telephone to call on. We have technology, which allows us to keep in touch with everyone. Programs like Skype abound, and with the prevalence of American/European numbers in Israel, calling home from Israel
would register as a local call on the caller ID.

So I miss out on a simcha. That's unfortunate, but part of life. And, I hope that they will come here to celebrate their simchos- come and stay, come and visit. Some family members have even considered making their simchos here, just by virtue of the fact that they now have family living in this special land. (We'll see when the first actually comes.)

But for now, I'm content. And happy that Klal Yisroel is experiencing so many wonderful occasions at this time.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Some News Reports

Sorry this blog is taking a bit of a war slant right now- but that is the news. Sigh. Although I do have some interesting and thought provoking posts coming- they've been put on the back burner for a bit.
Here's a video that made Mr. NMF and I applaud Mr. Jarrett- and hoped that more reporters would be like him. It's almost laughable to see how he handles the situation.

Reaction and Action

Firstly, I just wanted to list again this phone number - 02-581-1911- the number in Israel for R' Kook and R' Horowitz's hotline to get or send a name of a soldier in the IDF to daven/learn for. This is how Klal Yisroel fights battles- on the spiritual front as well, with davening, learning, and mitzvos.

On that note- I've noticed on a couple of sites the comment that if the study of Torah protects- then the yeshivos and people in the target areas should not be fleeing their homes and batei midrashos.
That's an interesting concept to me- so I first asked Mr. NMF. He said that we don't really rely on miracles to that extent- if it is a target zone, and they can move- then maybe they should. Then again, I'm not a Gadol, and that's a question that should be posed to a Rav.

I found an interesting article on Yeshiva World that explained why Tifrach's yeshiva is not moving, while other large yeshivos (the example given was Grodna) have moved. It's according to R' Elyashiv's psak.

But that's an example of how Klal Yisroel reacts- yet again. We head to our Gedolim, our leaders- minds and people who are steeped in Torah, and who are able to rule on such complex situations through a Torah perspective. It's a truly special concept when we realize that Torah, and the actions and reactions promulgated by the Torah govern our day to day lives.

Ever watched a Baal Teshuva make brachos (blessings)? It's like a gift being given to them- to connect with G-d and thank Hashem for all the good He has given to us. Ever watched a small child's pleasure at being able to learn a pasuk in Torah? It knows no boundaries.

Our reactions and actions are done according to the Torah view and mindset. It's a phenomenal concept.

And, another article from the Yeshiva World illustrates that. I have no idea how this family was able to rise to such a level- but to see them do it- it makes such an impression on how a Jew can act and behave. I don't know if I would have the inner strength to do such a thing- to say that, amidst a shiva house. But they did. And that's true greatness.

Edit: Found an excellent article on "Fighting the War With Our Mouths", by Sara Yoheved Rigler. This is the Jewish reaction- personified.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Ais Melchama- A Time for War

There is a time for everything- a time to sow, and a time to reap. A time for sorrow and a time for rejoicing. There is a time for peace, and even a time for war.

We all would like war not to come to our fair land. We would prefer that our boys stay home, safe and well, that our innocent children not be bombed out of their homes and into shelters. But if Hashem sends war- there is a time for that as well.

All things are in G-d's hands- there is even a pasuk, "Lev Melachim B'Yad Hashem"- the hearts of kings are in the hands of Hashem. We can't control it sometimes- sometimes, the only thing we can do is daven, and pray for our people.

A long time ago (I can't believe we're about to finish Sefer Bereshis, but this week is Parshas Vayechi- there is a time to start and a time to finish as well.) we read Parshas Vayishlach.

There is a Medresh that states that there is a complaint against Yaakov that he didn’t have enough bitachon (trust) in Hashem, and he sent messengers to Aisav before Aisav even approached him. One would think that would be planning ahead, worrying about the future, and acting appropriately. Yet Yaakov is criticized for it.

The Aitz Yosef states that Yaakov should have had further bitachon in his heart. He shouldn’t have worried about Aisav and the threat that Aisav could bring. On Yaakov's level ,(and again, we are talking about Yaakov Avinu, patriarch of our people) he could have just ignored Aisav and continued on in his life, rather than preempting him.

This seems again, like a tough concept to absorb. How to know when to do something- when is extra efforts alright, and when should we relax. When should we try for peace, and when should we head for war.

The Ramban states one reason that we are now in Galus Edom (the Roman exile that the Jews are in from the time of the 2nd Temple until the coming of Mashiach). The Jews in the time of the 2nd Temple sent messengers to Rome trying to make peace.

This seems to be a similar way of handling things, with a similar problem. They might have been able to have further bitachon in Hashem- further trust in Hashem, rather than preempting themselves and the countries around them by running to Edom.

So how do we know when to choose peace and when to choose war? How do we know when to make peace and when to fight for our lives? How do we know when we have enough bitachon- trust in G-d?

I for sure can't answer that question. But it is interesting on how this plays out again and again in our history.

In Israel, sometimes there are two factions in politics: those that believe that we should do whatever other countries say, especially for peace- like giving away land, creating ceasefires, stopping to bomb even when bombs are hurling down on our children's heads.

And the other side says: "Kain anachnu yecholim!" (for all who don't recognize it- that's the Shas slogan) We believe in Hashem, we trust in Him, and we can do it- don’t need help from other parts of the globe. We don't need to listen to the PR, or to the countries that say we should just put up with the bombing, or stop the "occupation", or other such things.

Efshar L’Haamin- we can believe….
Build in ourselves- bitachon, have trust- rely on Hashem. Daven. Daven because Hashem has put us in a situation where there is a time of war. And as such- we have only one place to turn to- our Father in Heaven. Sometimes- we have to fight, and ignore the naysayers. And, the most important- realize it's all in Hashem's hands.

(Credit due to Mr. NMF as well- for the excellent take on politics and chumash.)
This should be a zechus for Eldad ben Rivka- the chayal who I'm davening/learning for.
To get a name, or submit a name- call 02-581-9111.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


The Gaza (by the way, does anyone know why it is referred to in English as Gaza if it is spelled "Aza"? ) War has been going on now for over a week. Bloggers like the Muqata, and A Soldier's Mother have been keeping me posted on the actual facts and emotional side of the war.
As for me- who am I to speak?

I'm newly married, and planning to live here permanently. I feel myself to have a certain lack of maturity with regards to this situation. Who am I to comment when such brave and noble Jewish soldiers fall in battle protecting this beautiful land and its people?

I don't have sons in the army, or brothers. (Cousins, yes.)
I don't live in the communities down south, but I have friends there.
So who am I to speak?

I speak from an outsider who cares. From someone who is shocked and appalled at how the PR handles the situation. I care about our soldiers out there- davening for them, and instituting a separate learning program just for them. I care about the people down south, worry about them, and pray for their well being.

Yet, I feel I lack a certain maturity to be able to discuss it in detail, and with knowledge and assurance. Those soldiers have been in the army since they were 18 years old. They are the mature ones.
The mothers who daven for their children at home- they handle terror and war with aplomb.

And I? I can only try. I hope one day to be able to look back at this and say that I tried to do something, something that I could do myself. And that's maturity to me. Maturity to try to do the right thing, even though sometimes I don't know what that is.
I think it takes bravery and maturity just to live in Israel. Whether or not it's the natural thing to do for you, or something else pulled you here- it took maturity. And that's something to me.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What Can We Do?

Everyone seems to be asking this question- what can we do? We're not out there, we aren't in danger- how can we be "Nosen B'Ol Chaveiro" (help carry our friend's burden) like R' Elyashiv suggested?
Well, here's something. The Yeshiva World reported this in that R' Kook and the Bostoner Rebbe have set up a sort of partnership, in which everyone can participate in davening and learning for a soldier in the army. R' Chaim Kanievsky said that this is an old tradition- dating back to David HaMelech's times, where every soldier had someone who was not fighting learning Torah and praying for them.
Here's the text of the letter, sent to me by email.

אחינו בית ישראל באיזורים רבים של ארץ הקודש מצוים בצרה ובשביהולעת כזאת חובתנו לחוש את אחדות כלל ישראל בלב ובנפש להרבות בתפילה ובכל הענינים, כי עת צרה היא ליעקב וכו' ובעהי"ת ממנה יושע.ובאנו לעורר, ולבקש, ולהוסיף ענין של זיכוי הרבים ביותר.תוה"ק מעידה כי במלחמת מדין נצטוו להחלץ "אלף למטה" "אלף למטה"
.ואיתא במד"ר ובילקוט שמעוני ד"וימסרו" היינו עוד אלף למטה, פירוש שהיו נמסרין זוגות זוגות, כדי שיהיו מתפללים איש על רעהו.ואכן במלחמת מדין נאמר "ולא נפקד ממנו איש". ובודאי העובדה שניצלו כולם היתה בגלל תפילת כלל ישראלוהבאנו דבר זה לפני מרן הגאון רבי חיים קניבסקי שליט"א, שמח בדבר, והוסיף ואמר כי גם כך נהג דוד המלך ע"ה שלכל אחד שיצא להילחם, הכינו יהודי נוסף, שתפקידו היה, להתפלל עבור היוצא, ויש א"כ הסכמת דוד המלך ע"ה לתפילות אלו
.לזאת, אנו פונים בזה לכל חייל החפץ שיתפללו בעדו בעהי"ת להתקשר לטלפון 02 581 1911 ולמסור את שמו ושם אמו ואין צורך בשמות המשפחה.( אי מייל או פקס 08-9450027) ונעביר בעהי"ת את שמו למתפלל שיכון בתוספות תורתו ותפילתו לזכותו ולשמרו.וכן קוראים אנו לכל א' המצוי ח"ו בגלל המלחמה במצוקה או בחרדה, במקלט ובכל אתר לפנות להנ"ל ובעהי"ת נעביר גם שמו למי שקיבל על עצמו להוסיף בתפילתו ובתלמוד תורה עבור המבקש.ובעזהשי"ת נזכה מן השמים גם אנו לנאמר "ולא נפקד ממנו איש".ובזה אנו קוראים גם לכל מי שרוצה לקיים דברי חכמים ולהוסיף בתורה ותפילה, להצטרף ולהיכנס לפיתקא של תפילות , להתקשר למספ' הנ"ל ולקבל שם של חייל או אחר לכוון את תוספות תורתו ותפלתו לזכות חבירו .גם נשים צדקניות יכולות לקבל ע"ע להתפלל עבור חברה השרויה במצוקה עקב המלחמה.ה'
בברכת כהנים באהבה המצפה לישועתכ"ק אדמו"ר מבוסטון שליט"א הרב הראשי של רחובות

An open letter to all Achenu Bene Yisroel

After learning about the heart rendering appeal of the Gedolay Torah to intensify our Tefilos and Torah learning during this very trying time for Klal Yisroel, we have undertaken to join and aid them in their prayers.
The Medrash Rabah and the Yalkut relate that during the war against Midyon, for every one that went out to battle there was a designated person whose task it was to pray and learn for him.
The Great Gaon and Sage Rebbe Chaim Kanievsky shlitah when asked about this tradition pointed out that Dovid Hemelech, as well continued and instituted the practice, that for every individual who was in combat, there was another person selected for the specific task of praying and learning for him.
Therefore in order to continue and accomplish this Minhag, we ask soldiers and/or their relatives who would want a "partner" in Torah and Tefillah to email or fax 011 9728 9450027 and give their Hebrew name and mothers Hebrew name without any other particulars such as family name or other identifying factors, so that we may disseminate them among those who heed the call to add Torah and Tefiloh for the sake of those who find themselves in jeopardy ח"ו.
Anyone who finds himself or herself ח"ו in danger or in shelters because of the war may also feel free to call or email to the above.To bond with us and receive a name of your "partner" please email or fax the above.May Klal Yisroel in the merit of joining together, speedily see a successful end to this trial and campaign as quoted in the Parsha "without loss of life".

Sunday, January 4, 2009


Today- I feel worried.
I'm worried for our ground troops out there, for our soldiers, our precious Jewish boys, out there, trying to protect our land and people.
10,000 troops. That's 10,000 Jewish neshamos.
I hope for their safety. I hope that this war will bring with it some peace for our people.
What can I do here? In my little apartment in Yerushalayim- life seems to continue as normal. Yet all of us are obsessively checking our computers, calling our friends in Ashdod, Ashkelon, Sederot....we're scared for them. We worry. Underneath the facade of normalcy- we are praying. Praying hard.
I love this land and this people. I love waking up to Israeli sunshine, to the view of the hills surrounding Yerushalyim, to the buildings and apartments inhabited by so many Jews. Yet in communities down south, their very existance is threatened. Their lives are threatened every day, every hour. If 60 bombs fall in a day, that's more than 2 an hour. And our soldiers who are in Gaza itself, trying to catch the terrorists hiding in the maternity wards of hospitals, trying to get rid of the mosques holding caches of explosives.
I'm worried today. And I hope and pray that all our people will be safe and well. Please G-d. Let them be safe and well.
"Protect them from harm and help them in all their endeavors."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Erev Shabbos #9- Gaza Shabbos

I can't help it. Despite me putting the schnitzel up, and doing all the routine and mundane tasks of life, my head still swarms with the news from Sederot and Gaza.
How can I be enjoying a Shabbos in relative safety, when those who live in Sederot have 15 seconds to head to a bomb shelter?

I hope to try to do something to help, as do we all. My neighbor and I are talking about trying to open our homes to some of those in the South- we'll see if something actually works out.
Till then, a Gut Shabbos- and may all our brethren be safe and well!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chanukah War #4

Uh Oh. The dreaded news we all have been praying would not happen- did. According to Jameel, here , Gaza now has rockets that can reach 60 km. 60 km. That is a scary number.

Here's part of the post:

2:04 PM IDF Homefront Command starts to distribute emergency directions for Rocket Tel Aviv. (source, see below for scanned copy)With Hamas Rocket ranges now reaching 60 kilometers (as reported here at the Muqata, from Israel Radio), the IDF Homefront command has started preparing for the eventuality that Hamas rockets will reach the Tel Aviv area. Also included is the Beit Shemesh area, Modi'in, Ramla, Lod, Bnei Brak, Rechovot, Holon, Givaatayim, Petach Tikva...

And the list of cities: Alon Shvut, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Bat Yam, Beer Sheva, Beit Shemesh, Ben Gurion Airport, Elazar, Holon, Lod, Modi'in, Nof Ayalon, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Ramla, Rechovot, Rishon LTzion, Sederot, Tel Aviv, Yad Binyamin, Yavneh

That's right- Tel Aviv, RBS, Ben Gurion Airport....yikes.
We need everyone's tefillos now, even more than ever.
Our prayers are with our soldiers out there- and with our nation and Klal.

Bar Mitzvah

Today, I headed down to the Kotel- figured some heartfelt tefillos were in order.

As I passed through the security gate, there were tons of people there, singing and laughing.
Some video cameras were standing around, with several of the women wearing matching silver and white head scarves, and the men wearing white kippot.

I headed toward the Kotel, and watched as hundreds of people gathered on all sides of the mechitza, cheering, smiling, and snapping pictures.
When I questioned one of the video guys, he said that they were filming a bar mitzvah at the Kotel.

Quite a large bar mitzvah if you ask me. There were people on every available space, staring into the men's section. I curled up in the warm side room by the edge of the Kotel, since the gusts of bitter wind were threatening to topple me over otherwise.

So, I started thinking. In the US, my neighbor made a very extravagant bar mitzvah. She took over our entire shul's hall (quite large, we've had weddings there.), decorated to the hilt, and invited dozens of people. She also had a gathering during the week, and an improptu one for the family.
In Israel, my neighbor is planning a bar mitzvah for the summer. She has to do a party by shul on Shabbos, one during the week when he actually is bar mitzvah, one for the school, and one private get together for the family as well.

Wow. That's a lot of celebration for a bar mitzvah! I would think that some of these would be less expensive or extravagant than weddings, but it doesn't work out like that. At least for a wedding it's just one event, on one day (Okay, we'll count the vort also.) . These have several events for several days. (At least as far as I know, Sheva Brachos is made by several different families, not the hosts.)

So what does the blogging world think about Bar Mitzvahs? Should they be large, in the middle- should we fly everyone to Israel, or should we cut down on some of the multitudes of parties?
It's a good question to think about.