Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Israel

Today, 5 Iyar, is the date when 61 years ago when Israel was declared a state. It is celebrated by much of the Jewish world in one way or another. The chareidi world (including Lubavitch) is a notable exception. It seems that despite the fact that Israel is an integral part of our identity these days we still have a difficult time acknowledging this.

It is true that 100 years ago the idea of a Jewish State in Palestine (as the land was called then) appeared to be against the idea that we would return to our land when Moshiach comes. It looked like the mostly irreligious Jews - who advocated the setting up of this new state - had rejected this fundamental belief and it was obvious that most Torah Jews would find this abhorrent.

Today Israel has proved itself to be a Jewish land which offers freedom and pride to Jews everywhere. The Charedi press and websites are filled with all sorts of news about our land. The establishment of a Jewish Homeland is a fait accompli and, while we are still waiting for Moshiach, it is the only country where all Jews can feel proud and free. It is the place where young men and women in our community want to visit and study. It is an amazing place for frum Jews and where the spirit of Yiddishkeit is almost palatable when travelling the country.

So despite the Lubavitch (and Chareidi) world's ambivalence about this day I say that it is about time that we openly recognised the place that Israel occupies in our lives. Our Jewish self-worth has been enhanced by this little country and we are prouder Jews because of it.

A great website about Israel and with some wonderful aerial photos can be seen here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Heiliger Hollywooder Rebbe

He reminds me of a famous Australian rabbi - Rabbi Mordi Katz. He is not as funny as Katz but still amusing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exclusive Photo of Birkas HaChamah

This amazing photo of Birkas HaChamah in the Antarctic definitely trumps all the Chabad websites with their never ending coverage of this event.

Thanks to Jake for this. He is in the photo - the 57th person from the left in the 235th row. .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Good on ya Stephen Smith!

Some of the attendees at the 2001 conference showing their true colours

Australia has just announced that it will be boycotting the UN's Durban Review Conference on human rights which is starting this week. If you have been following this story you will know that Jewish groups in Australia have been trying to get the Rudd government to boycott the conference for a while. Fortunately they have been successful and Australia has joined Israel, the US, Canada, Italy and Holland in refusing to attend this conference.

What the fuss is about is that the original conference in 2001 in Durban was, despite ostensibly being against racism, used as a vehicle to bash Israel. Jewish people everywhere expect that this conference will just be more of the same. By boycotting the conference we hope that other countries will look more closely at the skewed agenda of the organisers.

The article in Wikipedia states the issue in 2001:

Entitled "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance," the conference was discussing unfair treatment of one group against another. Disproportionate amount of time was focused specifically on Israeli treatment of Palestinians, while flagrant violations of human rights and genocide in other parts of the world were ignored.

That 2001 meeting was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery, and particularly marred by attacks on Israel and anti-Israel demonstrations at a parallel conference of non-governmental organizations. The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through the 2001 conference over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism — the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state — to racism. The European Union also refused to accept demands by Arab states to criticize Israel for "racist practices."

There have been a number of news articles about the decision today in The Age, The Australian, Reuters and the Jerusalem Post to name just a few press outlets. Hopefully other countries will wake up and refuse to be bullied by the Arab world into ignoring the many human rights violations in those and other Moslem countries.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pesach, Halochos and Chumros

COLLive has published this article by Agudas Avreichei Lubavitch of Kolel Menachem which is a translation of a talk by Rabbi Yosef Heller of the Crown Heights Beis Din.

While none of us have much time to spare before Pesach this article is certainly worth a few minutes of one's time. Many Rabbonim and mashpi'im have spoken and written about this topic. I think Rabbi Heller approaches it in a way that many Lubavitchers can relate to. So many of us get carried away with preparations for Pesach and with chumros on Pesach itself. What Rav Heller emphasises is that it is all very well for us to be stringent ourselves but that is not necessarily the correct behaviour when it comes to our family. Shalom Bais should always come before our personal chumros.

Some of what is said which strikes a chord with me:

Many people are more stringent during Pesach than throughout the year; nonetheless, certain priorities must take precedence. Oft times, due to ignorance or unawareness, one is scrupulous in keeping a hiddur yet careless with halacha mandated in shulchan aruch.

There is a saying from the Gerrer rebbe, the Beis Yisroel, concerning this issue. It is written in Shulchan Aruch that many have the custom not to eat nuts during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, for the word אגוז (nut) has the same gematria as חטא (sin). The Beis Yisroel brings to our attention that the word חטא, also has the same gematria as חטא…
R' Pinchas of Koritz had a student who was extremely scrupulous in keeping out all chometz. During pesach, he only ate at home, not even attending his Rebbe's yom tov meal. Once, during the se'uda of Shvi'i shel Pesach, upon inquiring about his student's whereabouts, R' Pinchas was told that his absence was due to his meticulousness regarding chometz. "In the barrel of water he had prepared for Pesach, lays some chometz," the Rebbe told his students. When the student was thus alerted, he fretfully rushed to R' Pinchas asking how such a calamity had befallen him, especially with all his intense supervision. The Rebbe explained, "Although we are carefull with chometz, we are not angels and require assistance from above. You, however, relied on your own efforts, not depending on Hashem; hence, you were shown from above that such cannot bear proper results…"

Wishing you all a Kosher and Freilichen Pesach