Monday, March 31, 2008

New Torah Blog

Ibn Mordechai wrote to me about his newish blog "Da Kani Ma Chaser?" which features different and various Torah "vertalch". I haven't been through all of it yet but I was impressed by what I have read so far. I like this sort of blog as he quotes Torah from many different sources - chassidic, sefardic etc.

In his short description of himself and his blog he states:

This is an effort to encourage myself to continue my Torah study as well as to share the Torah that I have been learning with others. It originally started as an archive for Shabbos Divrei Torah and I guess that I kind of got carried away... Some of the Divrei Torah are longer than others. Ultimately the goal is that those who don't have Seforim available, will still be able to learn Vortlach on the weekly Parsha and other occasions. Dr. Hayyim Tawil says that I will never be an Ibn Ezra but what about an Ibn Mordechai?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Our Favourite Cultbuster

Raphael (Taffy) Aron appeared on Channel 10's 9am program last week. As usual he spoke fluently and coherently on a subject that he has been involved with for over 30 years. There are a number of people in our community and overseas who have been helped by him to escape cults and drugs and it is good to see him getting the recognition he deserves.

To see the program click here. For more information about his organisation go to the Cult Counselling Australia website.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I've a feeling we're not in Melbourne anymore

I recently wrote about Rabbi Shimmy and Devorah Heidingsfeld starting a shlichus in Moorpark, California. When I saw this photo in the article in the Ventura County Star I realised that they are not living anywhere near Melbourne! I don't think this picture was taken in Moorpark but the background is certainly picturesque.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Moshiach Mobile

Most of us in Melbourne saw - or at least heard - Alex and Zelig's "Moshiach Mobile" on Purim. Photos of their unique vehicle made it to the website which features anything to do with the Moshiach campaign. I thought that it was a nice "Purimdic" way to get their message across.

Note: Any nasty comments will be deleted.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Man With A Vision

This is not a new story but, with all the negativity about teachers, principals etc, I wanted to publicise it. It is worth watching this 5 minute news report. It shows what a good hearted person with vision can do to make a difference in this world.

Thanks to SS.

Purim Videos

Mendy Pellin and COL have released videos for Purim. If you have the time and patience you can watch them here. The COL video is above. To see Mendy Pellin click here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meir Gutnick Speaks

Shmais has featured a video of Meir Gutnick, son of Rabbi Sholem Gutnick and sponsor of the "Gutnick Chumash", speaking about Oholei Torah for their Annual Dinner. Included in the video are some movie clips of the Frierdiker Rebbe arriving in New York in 1940 as well as a short colour clip of the Previous Rebbe and the Rebbe.

The video can be seen here.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Purim Links

Purim is fast approaching and I have included some links to interesting Purim websites:

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Shaliach

I have been busy with this blog over the last week and haven't had time to check out many other websites. I was pleased to see on Shmais that Rabbi and Mrs Shimmy Heidingsfeld have been appointed shluchim in Moorpark, California (wherever that is). Shimmy is formally from Sydney and Melbourne. He is a leibidik young man and will do well in this new position. Hatzlocho Rabbo!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Duty of Care

Fortunately or unfortunately this blog has become a forum where people can vent their frustrations. This is quite evident from the many comments about the occurrences in the Adass Yisroel girl's school recently. The situation is one that evokes strong emotions in everybody and especially in parents. When such things happen in our Jewish community we are even more shocked and disgusted - for some reason we feel that this cannot happen in a frum community. Speak to any doctor, psychologist or experienced teacher here and they will tell you that everything that is "out there" also occurs "here" to a hopefully lesser extent. Organisations such as the Jewish Taskforce Against Family Violence exist for a reason - because it does happen here.

OK. Let's say we acknowledge that these horrendous things do occur in the community why should we "air our dirty linen in public"? Surely it is nobody's business especially those outside our close knit circle. What good does it do to discuss it openly?

As they say in the States..."wake up and smell the coffee!!" We are not living in a European shtetl. For better or worse we are living in Melbourne in the 21st century and, while many aspects of society have deteriorated, these days we have the tools and the knowledge to deal with unpleasant situations in the hope that people who have suffered traumatic experiences can get past those experiences and lead normal lives.

Not only that but society today has gone further in that our culture is quite focussed on preventing trauma occurring in the first place. This goes for mental trauma as much as physical trauma. Anyone who works in a moderately sized organisation knows that OH&S (occupational health and safety) plays a major part in ensuring that workers are not harmed in any way during the course of their job. Our schools spend a lot of time talking about bullying and how to prevent it (which is a topic in itself for another occasion) and on keeping children safe in all ways. When something goes wrong and our kids and young adults are not safe or a put in harmful situations then it is time to speak up and not to close ranks and protect "the powers that be".

We pay high school fees and entrust our children to our schools for much of the day. When we send our children to school there is a presumption - not to mention a legal requirement - that the school has a "duty of care" towards the children. If the child is hurt in any way the situation must be dealt with promptly and correctly. If the situation falls into certain categories then, as I understand it, the school has a requirement to inform the appropriate authorities.

When the school is no longer a safe place surely it is a natural thing for us to speak up and demand answers. From the tone of some people's defence of the alleged perpetrator the way the victims have been affected is of no concern. I think this is the thing that upset parents the most. When the rabbi, school board and some community bigwigs demand silence this is just adding insult to injury. If they have proof that the accusations are false then they should have presented the proof by now at least to the parents. From their silence it would appear that the accusations are correct.

In this case where abuse is alleged there is certainly no room to ignore the situation in the hope that it will go away. This is how unpleasant and even illegal situations have been dealt with in the past in our frum community and, more often than not, the victim is the one who suffers and the perpetrator gets away scot-free. This can no longer be allowed to happen.

The article in this week's Jewish News seems quite balanced to me. They have extensive quotes from the congregation's president which spell out the situation as he sees it. (From past experience I am sure that he will insist that he was misquoted.) We all agree that it is unpleasant that this sort of thing needs to be aired in public but surely, if it had been dealt with correctly when it was first brought to light, most of the parent's concerns would have been resolved and it could have been a more positive article.

I have been sent emails telling me that some Adass parents are pleased that they have a place to vent. Surely it would have been more cathartic if they had an approachable and understanding rabbi that they could speak to and wouldn't have to resort to posting on a blog...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Zev & Rochel Simons Tefillin Bank

A new and very worthwhile initiative has been started by Benyomin Simons, brother of Zev A"H, to assist those who do not have the means to purchase tefillin.

The letter states:

One of the last things that my dear brother Zev obm, and sister-in-law Rochel obm, tried to initiate prior to the horrific car accident that took their lives was a Tefillin Bank to assist people with financial difficulty in fulfilling this mitzvah. In their memory, the Zev and Rochel Simons Tefillin Bank has now been set up with plans to expand and grow. We are currently developing the following initiatives:
  • Shule Gemach - a free pair of tefillin to all Shules, to keep on their premises in order to allow visitors who don't have tefillin to use on site. (Available upon application).
  • Tefillin Subsidy - individuals who have difficulty in purchasing a pair of tefillin may apply to receive a significantly subsidised pair of tefillin. A certified sofer (scribe) in Australia must apply on behalf of the individual to the Tefillin Bank and the subsidy will be given direct to the sofer.
  • Tefillin Gemach - individuals who have difficulty paying in full for a pair of tefillin, can apply for an interest free loan to purchase a pair.
This is now your opportunity to get involved in 3 extraordinary mitzvos:
  • Mitzvah tefillin, assisting many Jews who have never before put on tefillin.
  • Paying tribute to the memories of Zev and Rochel Simons obm.
  • Genuine tzedakah (charity) and gemilus chasadim (kind deeds).
Please assist to perpetuate the memory of my dear brother and sister-in-law, Zev and Rochel Simons obm and send your contribution to the "Zev and Rochel Simons Tefillin Bank".

I am happy to forward the original pdf with detailed information on how to contribute to this worthy cause. Email me at

As Benyomin says at the end of his letter:
May this mitzvah, along with many other initiatives in their memory, bring about the imminent redemption along with the techiyas hameisim b'korov mamosh!

Friday, March 07, 2008

A Horrendous Situation

We are all shocked and saddened by the latest murderous attack in Israel today. Eight lives were taken at Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav in Jerusalem and 11 are wounded. What makes it hit closer to home is that these boys are Yeshiva Bochurim. It is difficult to know what to say and difficult to understand how this could have happened in a country and city where security is paramount.

I received an email from Menachem Kirschenbaum (who writes the Portrait of a Leader blog) with an excerpt from the new book The Rebbe: Inspiring a Generation. I am including his full email as I believe that it is worth reading.

In connection to the massacre that took place in Yerushalayim today, in which the lives of a number of Yeshiva Students were taken from this world. The following is a very moving and uplifting "Yechidus" that took place with an IDF commander and the Rebbe, regarding the Death of two Israeli Soldiers following the Yom Kippur war in 1973. It's an Excerpt from the new book on the Rebbe to see more information about the book click: also included is an interesting picture of the Rebbe (part 94 in the series)

"Battle weary and depressed by the constant fighting, the officer expressed his wish that there be no more combat with enemies. Being realistic, however, and acknowledging that it was highly plausible that there would more conflict, he asked the Rebbe's opinion on whether there would be another war, or whether perhaps the Arabs had been so discouraged, during the Yom Kippur War, that they would never muster the confidence to fight again.

"At the moment," came the reply, "the Arabs are merely unable to attack. However, given time to recover and regroup, they will surely seek opportunities to instigate conflict. To further crush their forces and minimize the chance of future clashes, the army should have advanced to Damascus and Cairo when it had the chance. Although the government did not approve, the army should have continued anyway–ignoring the lack of permission from the government. It was a crucial and perilous moment, and we should have continued pressing the main cities.

"Why didn't Arik Sharon continue going into Cairo?" the Rebbe exclaimed. "He was just one hundred kilometers from there! Excusing the decision, the government claims that there was insufficient fuel to reach there. However, this is very difficult to accept; the Egyptians seemed to have no shortage of fuel, and if Sharon, as conqueror, had decided to use that fuel, no one could prevent him.

"Have you ever flown over Cairo?" asked the Rebbe, staring inquisitively at the officer.

"Yes," the officer responded, proceeding to describe with minute detail the layout of the city.

"In that case," challenged the Rebbe, "why didn't you take the necessary planes, fly there, and conquer the city yourself? Coming in with those planes, you would have easily surprised them and effortlessly taken control. If that had been accomplished, with Cairo in our hands for even a very short period, the present situation would be completely different. "

Unable to persuade the Rebbe to accept his position, the military officer asked about something which had been troubling him for a long time. In a devastating fashion, his close friend Zurik was recently murdered during a terrorist attack, just two years after Zurik's losing his brother Udi in the latest war. It was inconceivable that one family should deserve to bear so much anguish, losing two members in a short span. How could G-d have permitted this? Where was He?

Distressed at the tale of sorrow and unable to control his tears, the Rebbe began to weep. He finally replied, "Indeed, the story you tell me is frightening and upsetting; we are tempted, when hearing such an account, to question G-d and conclude that He does not really dictate what transpires in this world. We must, however, remember that we mortals cannot aspire to understand the intricacies of His divine wisdom.

"Having studied Torah all my life, at seventy-three years old and still studying and adding to my Torah knowledge, I feel that I have attained a level of wisdom. Nonetheless, the extent of my wisdom is ridiculous when compared to G-d's. Therefore, we must not come to preposterous conclusions based on our judgment of events around us. Although there is much we do not comprehend, often in retrospect we come to an appreciation of the righteousness of His decisions. Perhaps time will demonstrate the virtue of Udi's and Zurik's premature deaths; perchance, many Jewish fatalities were avoided as a result of these casualties."

"Are you worried," asked the officer, moving to a new topic, "about living as a Jew here in Brooklyn, in a non-Jewish environment?"

"As a soldier you are surely aware," answered the Rebbe, "that during the time of combat there is no chance to reflect on your fear. You must fight with courage and sincerity, regardless of how you feel. Similarly, when I am immersed in my work, even if the extraneous conditions are unfriendly, I have faith and trust in G-d, because He alone controls what takes place here on earth, and is looking out for the interests of every Jew."

"But," persisted the Israeli, "why don't you move to Israel? Your revered stature and dynamic manner will certainly influence the political and religious scene. Aware that many people questioned you regarding this, I have heard several different replies, but, the replies are unsatisfactory, and for me the question remains."

The Rebbe answered, "Living in Israel and enduring the responsibilities that would come with it, my influence on world Jewry would be restricted. Inevitably, my controversial position on issues would limit my capability of communicating with Jews, both outside of Israel, in Moscow, for example, and in Israel; in fact, even this conversation would be impossible in Tel Aviv. I find this place the most conducive for my work."

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Worthy Chap

Thanks to a fan for pointing out that David Werdiger is offering his talents as a voice over artist to shluchim for no payment. According to the article in Shturem he is doing this through the Shluchim Office. I think that anyone who supports the shluchim is worth (no pun intended) publicising. Good on ya David!

Check out his website and talents here.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Aussie Disk Jockey

As reported in Shmais shaliach Yossi (ben Reb Arel) Serebryanski is now a radio personality. I have no doubt that, with his quick wit and great sense of humour, he will be a big hit.

The article in Shmais:

Rabbi Yossi Serebryanski of Chabad of South Denver, Colorado has recently launched a new radio show from the campus of Denver University. The one hour program, called "Conversations with the Rabbi" takes place every day Monday afternoon from 2:00-3:00pm. Students are invited to come in to the studio or call in to ask Rabbi Serebryanski any and all questions about Judaism and to “Shmooze.”