Friday, June 25, 2010

The right Focus

13th of Tamuz, 5770

Yesterday a short but fierce 'tornado' struck our Great Neck community causing unseen devastation and damage. (see:

Everything happened in less than 20 seconds…. Hundreds of homes were affected and probably 'thousands' of tress fell on the streets,on backyards and on top of houses. In my house, which I believe was affected in an average way, six tress fell down. Three of them fell on the garage, one of them on the car another one over an A/C structure and the tallest one fell on the neighbor's backyard but it uprooted half of my driveway. Great Neck looks like a battlefield! Everywhere you see destruction and devastation. And of course, no power (no AC, freezer, etc).

Is it God's wrath unleashed on our community? Punishing us for the 'terrible' things we do, as probably some 'spiritual opportunists' will state?

Indeed our Chakhamim teach us that every time a tragedy affects us we need to reflect on our lives. Why? Because tragedies or 'acts of God' of this nature are very powerful reminders of our fragility and perhaps the best invitation to reflect on our mortality and limited existence.

But today I think we should focus on something else: Despite the terrible effect of the 'tornado' BARUCH HASHEM there was no one killed or even hurt, as far as we now, which given the numbers of trees and live wires that fell , to me, it is a obvious miracle (Nes Galui)!!!

Many times, we chose to focus on God's wrath but this time I chose to focus on God's mercy, on Magen Abraham, God that protected Abraham and saved his life so many times.

I chose to focus on MODIM ANACHNU LAKH 'we are thankful to You God Almighty' al nishmotnu hapekudot lakh knowing that 'our lives are 'deposited' with You, at Your care …'

A tragedy of this magnitude also gives us the chance to look for opportunities of Chesed, helping and caring for others in times of need.

May haShem always protect us from harm!

Shabbat Shalom!!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

LASHON HARA: Training ourselves to prevent Lashon haRa.

Today is the 12th of Tamuz, 5770

'Giving the benefit of the doubt' (betsedek tishpot amitekha) is the best way to avoid Lashon haRa (negative speech) and all the things that cause it.

I'm coming out from the market with many shopping bags in both hands. I don't have a car. Suddenly, when I'm about to cross the street to take the bus my next door neighbor (who knows I don't own a car!) passes by and to my huge disappointment he does not stop to offer me a ride… My first 'impulse' is to think "What a bad guy!". That thought might trigger feelings of hatred (one Torah prohibition), seeking revenge (another Torah prohibition) and eventually making some negative comments about his terrible behavior to my friends and family! (third Torah prohibition).

The Mitzvah of giving the benefit of the doubt consists on stopping 'negative' thoughts before they become hatred, revenge and Lashon haRa.

When I see that my neighbor does not stop, I have to force myself to have second thoughts, this time advocating for him. Why didn't he stop? May be he didn't see me. Or maybe he wasn't going home, but somewhere else. To the doctor or to pick up his son and his schoolmates from school…

Giving the benefit of the doubt aborts the whole negative emotional process: hatred/revenge/Lashon haRa before it is born.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Should milk be Kosher certified?

Today is the 11th of Tamuz, 5770

2000 years ago the rabbis of the Talmud forbade buying cow milk from a non-Jewish milkman. Why? Because the non Jewish milkman would have other animals than cows in his farm. At the time of collecting the milk he would normally mix it with camel milk, donkey milk, etc. which obviously aren't Kosher! The rabbis then forbade buying 'milk' from a gentile milkman unless the milking process was supervised by a Jew, making sure it is pure cow milk.

But, what happens today when the circumstances have changed? Should we still suspect that in today's food industry companies would mix cow milk with non Kosher milk?

There are three opinions on this issue and as we have explained, given two or more opinions everyone should follow his community Minhaguim.

Opinion # 1: the Rabbis made a decree and 'formal rabbinical decrees' must be derogated to run out. They don't expire by themselves, even when the circumstances have changed. Accordingly, milk has to be supervised.

Opinion # 2: The USDA inspection service serves the same role as the original 'Jewish supervisor', therefore any normal cow milk is permitted (R Moshe Feinstein z"l)

Opinion # 3: The Rabbis did not issue a 'formal decree' but a 'warning' (Rambam). Therefore, when circumstances change, the warning is not in effect anymore. The original warning assumed that the gentile milkman would have an extra profit from mixing milk (Chut haMeshulash). Today, non kosher milk would cost more than cow milk. No restrictions are necessary. Normal cow or goat milk is allowed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Today is the 10th of Tamuz, 5770

"God, who is great, powerful and awe-inspiring." These words of the first Berakha of the Amida are really exceptional. Why? Because we normally praise God by referring to what He does for us: Ozer, Moshia, Magen, helps, saves, protects, etc. We never refer or describe anything about haShem HIMSELF.

Our rabbis were very reluctant to do so because no matter what we would say, we would always fall short from praising God Almighty. Take the word "powerful." Can this word, which we use to describe a car (what a powerful engine!) or the president of an important company (a "powerful" man!) etc., be enough to describe haShem's infinite power and might?

We believe that describing God's 'power' or 'greatness' is absolutely beyond our human capability or vocabulary. Therefore, any praise that we would say about God HIMSELF would be actually considered an (involuntary) offense…

The rabbis therefore were hesitant to authorize the use of these words and the only reason they allowed us to say these attributes is because Moshe Rabbenu said them (Ekeb).
"Had Moshe not pronounced these attributes and had not the men of the Great assembly ordained this in our prayers, we would be unable to say it" (Berakhot 33b)

In a sense, we are not actually daring to describe God's attributes, we are just reiterating Moshe Rabbenus' 's words.

DO something for Israel

Monday, June 21, 2010

AHABAT ISRAEL: When it gets to Israel, facts don’t matter…..

Today is the 9th of Tamuz, 5770

We must know the painful truth about Israel’s situation and make it known to as many people as we can. We can’t defeat some of the NY Times' cynical columnists in their relentless criticism against Israel. We should, however, first know the facts ourselves and then make every effort to spread the truth over the Web.
Take for example Hamas and the Gaza strip. Israel has been criticized and portrayed as the ‘bad guy’ for not lifting the blockade, which is so unfair for the ‘innocent’ Gazans. Hamas is portrayed as the victim. As if it was just another separatist political movement, like the Spanish ETA or the Kurdish PKK. Now, what does ETA want? ETA, as most nationalistic groups, declare that their goal is to gain political independence from Spain and create an independent Basque state. In a sense, they are advocating for a Basque state that will leave peacefully alongside the Spanish state…
But what does Hamas want? One good thing about Hamas is that they NEVER tried to hide their true intentions and they even wrote a ‘Charter’ where they explicitly manifest their goals.

Article Thirteen: Peaceful Solutions, [Peace] Initiatives and International Conferences

…the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad: “Allah is the all-powerful, but most people are not aware”. *

What do all Israel critics mean when they demand Israel to lift the blockade or to engage in ‘conversations’ with Hamas? Hamas is an Islamic organization, and I know as a Rabbi, that unlike nationalistic expectations, religious principles are NOT negotiable….

Hamas seeks only the destruction of Israel. And Israel must do whatever it sees fit to prevail.



Read Pilar Rahola, a voice of reason in EU:

Read the column of one of Israel’s unconditional critics, advocating ‘dialogue’ with Hamas.