Thursday, November 26, 2009

Guide to Chodosh

The updated Chodosh guide:


The first version (includes introduction not included in the updated guide):


Monday, November 23, 2009

A Call for Jerusalem

A version of this dvar torah was delivered two weeks ago:

Recently there were two articles on Jpost about why youth under age 35 are not supportive of Israel, one wishing for what we'll call a return to traditional Zionist values, and one arguing that the Israeli government is immoral and thus supporting it is unwarranted.

My opinions vary greatly from Mizrachi, but I do consider myself a strong supporter of Zion. I wish to use the last of the Sheva Dinichemta, the Haftorah of Nitzavim (Yeshaya 61:10-63:9), to demonstrate that we owe our allegiance to Israel.

62:1 For the sake of Zion I will not be silent, and for Jerusalem I will not be quiet....

The importance of Yerushalayim to us I discussed (HERE and HERE). But there is an emotional connection, not easily verbalized. It is the heart and the brain of the Jewish people.

62:6 On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen all day and all night, they will never be silent....

When the government of the State of Israel defends its citizens from bodily harm from rockets or anything else, it is only doing what it must do. (The only question might be what took them so long to do it.) We pray for our coreligionists under attack. We visit their communities to give them chizuk. And if we do not -- we have betrayed our brothers and sisters. We must not leave our watch posts, thereby endangering our brothers and sisters....

On Pasuk 63:1, the Gemara (Makkos 12a) says: Reish Lakish said: The officer of Rome will make three errors in the future, as it says, "Who is this coming from Rome, wearing stained clothes, from Batzrah." He erred that the city of refuge is Betzer, and he went to Batzrah; it only serves as a refuge for a shogeg (not on purpose) and he was meizid (on purpose); and he erred that it only is a refuge for men and he is an angel.

What argument can one make that he helps the oppressed by advocating against the genocide in Darfur when his brothers flee to bomb shelters when rockets rain on civilian areas? What good is it when a young woman is reducing her carbon emissions (like a modern incarnation of the pagan worshipers of Gaia) when her sisters are hungry, whether due to a dry winter, or to economic distress? How can you say that the Israeli government is guilty of war crimes when it takes very restrained action to guarantee the safety of its citizens? Your clothes are stained with the blood of your brothers and sisters, and yet you say 'look how hard I'm working to save some underprivileged (by my own measure) group.' Do you remember the rallies on behalf of Soviet Jewry? They were oppressed! Some chickens running around in a field you think is too small and dirty do not need your activism. Their engaging in all types of activism - except on behalf of the hundreds of thousand Israeli Jews in range of Palestinian rockets - endangers the citizens of Israel and all Jews worldwide.

Do these people think Herzl's plan for a Jewish state exists and that it is in Sudan? Who accepts Sudanese refugees - Palestinian Muslims (their co-religionists) or the Jewish State? (We also just saw the Wall Street Journal report that Israel and the US just brought more Jewish refugees from Yemen who have been hiding in their homes for the past few months from pogrom-like violence!) I think 'cognitive dissonance' is just a fancy term for saying 'I'm young and inexperienced and don't understand life, but I don't think it's right.'

When a segment of the Jewish people endangers the rest, and emboldens the enemies of the Jewish people, their punishment is very severe (see Netziv, Haamek She'eilah 142:9). At Chanukah - the fighting between Jew and Jew was worse than between Jew and Yevanim. May we find broad and deep common ground to keep us united.

The haftorah ends (63:9): בְּכָל-צָרָתָם לא (לוֹ) צָר וּמַלְאַךְ פָּנָיו הוֹשִׁיעָם בְּאַהֲבָתוֹ וּבְחֶמְלָתוֹ הוּא גְאָלָם וַיְנַטְּלֵם וַיְנַשְּׂאֵם כָּל-יְמֵי עוֹלָם.
May we merit this again very soon, amen.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Anniversaries of Communism & Terrorism

Besides for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, last week also marked the fifth "yahrzeit" of Yasser Arafat yemach shemo. The holiday of Purim recalls the physical salvation of the Jews in the time of Haman, and Chanukah represents the spiritual salvation of the Jews from the Yevanim. While the Jewish people through history have been pressured with every kind of pressure imaginable, in the past 65 years - only since the end of World War II - terrorism and communism are certainly the most notable manifestations of these traits. It is fitting that these anniversaries fall out so close to each other as they do, though I've never known anyone to connect them. May terrorism be quickly blotted out, and join Marxism-Leninism "in the ash heap of history."

Yizkireim Elokeinu letovah im shar tzadikei olam, veyinkom l'eineinu nikmas dam avadecha hashafuch.

Below is Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby's powerful column after the death of Arafat.

Arafat the monster
By Jeff Jacoby, Globe Columnist | November 11, 2004 | Boston Globe

YASSER ARAFAT died at age 75, lying in bed surrounded by familiar faces. He left this world peacefully, unlike the thousands of victims he sent to early graves.

In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg. In a better world, the French president would not have paid a visit to the bedside of such a monster. In a better world, George Bush would not have said, on hearing the first reports that Arafat had died, "God bless his soul."

God bless his soul? What a grotesque idea! Bless the soul of the man who brought modern terrorism to the world? Who sent his agents to slaughter athletes at the Olympics, blow airliners out of the sky, bomb schools and pizzerias, machine-gun passengers in airline terminals? Who lied, cheated, and stole without compunction? Who inculcated the vilest culture of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich? Human beings might stoop to bless a creature so evil -- as indeed Arafat was blessed, with money, deference, even a Nobel Prize -- but God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity.

Arafat always inspired flights of nonsense from Western journalists, and his last two weeks were no exception.

Derek Brown wrote in The Guardian that Arafat's "undisputed courage as a guerrilla leader" was exceeded only "by his extraordinary courage" as a peace negotiator. But it is an odd kind of courage that expresses itself in shooting unarmed victims -- or in signing peace accords and then flagrantly violating their terms.

Another commentator, columnist Gwynne Dyer, asked, "So what did Arafat do right?" The answer: He drew worldwide attention to the Palestinian cause, "for the most part by successful acts of terror." In other words, butchering innocent human beings was "right," since it served an ulterior political motive. No doubt that thought brings daily comfort to all those who were forced to bury a child, parent, or spouse because of Arafat's "successful" terrorism.

Some journalists couldn't wait for Arafat's actual death to begin weeping for him. Take the BBC's Barbara Plett, who burst into tears on the day he was airlifted out of the West Bank. "When the helicopter carrying the frail old man rose above his ruined compound," Plett reported from Ramallah, "I started to cry." Normal people don't weep for brutal murderers, but Plett made it clear that her empathy for Arafat -- whom she praised as "a symbol of Palestinian unity, steadfastness, and resistance" -- was heartfelt:

"I remember well when the Israelis re-conquered the West Bank more than two years ago, how they drove their tanks and bulldozers into Mr. Arafat's headquarters, trapping him in a few rooms, and throwing a military curtain around Ramallah. I remember how Palestinians admired his refusal to flee under fire. They told me: `Our leader is sharing our pain, we are all under the same siege.' And so was I." Such is the state of journalism at the BBC, whose reporters do not seem to have any trouble reporting, dry-eyed, on the plight of Arafat's victims. (That is, when they mention them -- which Plett's teary bon voyage to Arafat did not.)

And what about those victims? Why were they scarcely remembered in this Arafat death watch?

How is it possible to reflect on Arafat's most enduring legacy -- the rise of modern terrorism -- without recalling the legions of men, women, and children whose lives he and his followers destroyed? If Osama bin Laden were on his deathbed, would we neglect to mention all those he murdered on 9/11?

It would take an encyclopedia to catalog all of the evil Arafat committed. But that is no excuse for not trying to recall at least some of it.

Perhaps his signal contribution to the practice of political terror was the introduction of warfare against children. On one black date in May 1974, three PLO terrorists slipped from Lebanon into the northern Israeli town of Ma'alot. They murdered two parents and a child whom they found at home, then seized a local school, taking more than 100 boys and girls hostage and threatening to kill them unless a number of imprisoned terrorists were released. When Israeli troops attempted a rescue, the terrorists exploded hand grenades and opened fire on the students. By the time the horror ended, 25 people were dead; 21 of them were children.

Thirty years later, no one speaks of Ma'alot anymore. The dead children have been forgotten. Everyone knows Arafat's name, but who ever recalls the names of his victims?

So let us recall them: Ilana Turgeman. Rachel Aputa. Yocheved Mazoz. Sarah Ben-Shim'on. Yona Sabag. Yafa Cohen. Shoshana Cohen. Michal Sitrok. Malka Amrosy. Aviva Saada. Yocheved Diyi. Yaakov Levi. Yaakov Kabla. Rina Cohen. Ilana Ne'eman. Sarah Madar. Tamar Dahan. Sarah Soper. Lili Morad. David Madar. Yehudit Madar. The 21 dead children of Ma'alot -- 21 of the thousands of who died at Arafat's command.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Shiurim Given by Harav Moshe Soloveichik

Sunday Morning
9:45 - 10:45 AM
Cong. Kesser Maariv
4341 W. Golf, Skokie
Halachik topics on the Sedra of the week

Monday - Friday mornings after shacharis
(app. 7:45 - 8:45 AM)
Cong. Beth Sholom Ahavas Achim
5665 N. Jersey, Chicago
Presently studying Sugyos concerning Chanukah

Monday - Friday mornings
9:45 - 10:45 AM
Yeshivas Brisk
3000 W. Devon, Chicago
Presently studying fifth Perek of Maseches Brachos

Thursday evenings
7:15 - 8:45 PM
Young Israel of Northbrook
3545 Walters, Northbrook
Hashkafa Shiur on the Sedra of the Week

Shabbos - after Mincha Cong. Beth Sholom Ahavas Achim
5665 N. Jersey, Chicago
Halachik Topics as applied to Contemporary Issues on the Sedra of the Week

Monthly Shiur in memory of
Mr. Sandor Kirsche z"l
Home of Irv and Lynn Shapiro, Skokie
For info call: (773) 267-9055
Halachik and Philosophical Topics as Applied to Contemporary Issues

There are additional shiurim at Congregation Beth Sholom Ahavas Achim on Orach Chaim and Yoreh Deah - specifically for those who are studying to receive Semicha

UPDATE: He is now also giving a shiur on Monday evenings at 8:45 pm at Brisk, on the Parsha or holidays.