January 19, 2019

Stone Faces Hide The Heart

Some people are so cold and emotionally distant.

They go around with a stone face.  

No emotion seems to seep in or out. 

The face doesn't betray the heart in any way. 

You say something or do something, and they just sort of stare at you. 

No words, no outward response. 

Just a stone face like a poker face. 

You don't know what's behind it. 

But worse yet is a heart of stone--nothing impacts the inside just like the outside. 

Are some people this way because they have been so hurt in the past that they become hardened like a turtle's shell to protect from the outside world. 

...Ain't gonna let nothing hurt me again. 

Or are they great at using their poker face to fool, manipulate, and get what they are after. 

Perhaps the worst possibility is that they are simply a real psychopath--someone without conscience or empathy. 

Yes, that is scary because the unthinkable becomes thinkable. 

For most of us, reading verbal and non-verbal cues is critical to understanding other people. 

Hiding those cues can mean that the stone face is going to shatter someone's world and that won't be a pretty face at all. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 18, 2019

Struggling With Some Decisions

So I've been helping some family members with some really big decisions lately. 

As we all know, there are pros and cons to every alternative. 

I remember how you can diagram decisions out like the branches of a tree with probabilities for each branch to try and get to the highest value decision. 

The problem is we don't know everything that may happen down the road or even know the probabilities for each possibility--or as they say:
We don't know what we don't know.  

So it's hard to make a great decision and not second guess yourself.
Well, what if...

You can "what if" yourself to sleepless nights and death and never decide or do anything meaningful. 

We have to make the best decisions we can usually with limited information. 

Using gut or intuition is not a solution either--those can end up being very wrong especially when we let our raw emotions dictate. 

So I do not take decision-making for myself or helping others lightly, especially my family. 

I want to protect them and help them make good decisions that will bear fruit and joy down the road. 

I definitely don't want to waste everyones time and efforts and lead them or myself down a dead end or worse off of a cliff.

In the end, we have to turn to G-d and whisper:
Oh G-d, please help us to make the right decisions, because only you know what the results will be from it. 

And so, I am definitely whispering!

At the same time, we need to move forward and not let fear and doubt get in our way of living. 

Yes, we have to be prudent and take calculated risks (everything worthwhile is a risk), but also, we have to look at the potential rewards and the costs for these (every decision is an investment of time and resources) and then just try our best. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 17, 2019

Trump Vs. Pelosi -- The Citizens Lose

Yesterday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, majorly dissed President Trump by attempting to cancel his State of the Union address for Tuesday, January 29 citing lack of resources to secure the National Special Security Event (NSSE) due to the government shutdown. 

In turn, CNN applauded Pelosi for having:
- Just pulled a major power move on Donald Trump's State of the Union

Today, President Trump reciprocated by refusing to provide military aircraft for Pelosi's trip aboard citing the same shutdown. 

In this case, The Guardian condemns President Trump stating that he:
- Escalates shutdown row by cancelling Pelosi trip
I am not taking sides (seriously), but just can't help but notice the incredible bias in the "Fake News" that we are all being fed in the massive media "echo chamber." 

Again, Pelosi cancels Trump and its reported on as she did a great thing, while when Trump responds and cancels Pelosi, then that is reported on as he is escalating the situation. 

Something is very wrong in this country--regardless of which politicians and parties you love or hate and whether you agree with a border wall or not--shouldn't we get news that is honest and even-handed. 

The system is broken and we are the masses that are being controlled in our thinking and our voting.  

This is not democracy--it is social control and b*llsh*t brainwashing! ;-)
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January 16, 2019

Green Eggs and Ham - דוקטור סוס

So who would've thought that Dr. Seuss's "Green Eggs and Ham" comes in Hebrew. 

I watched this video, and loved it!

It is amazing that this can translate over.

One critique that I have is that the book should've said that the main character didn't want to eat the green eggs and ham, because he is kosher (instead of not being hungry or not loving the food).  

But then again, he would've had to stick to his guns and not have eaten it in the end! 

One other thing that I learned from this video/book, is that even though I am loving learning Hebrew in Ulpan class, I still have the vocabulary of a 9 year old.  LOL

But I'm learning... ;-)

(Thank you to my daughter, Rebecca for sharing this with me.)
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January 15, 2019

Transcending Suffering and Impermanence

There is a buddhist philosophy that life is all about loss and suffering. 

The Budha says:
Life is suffering.

Why? Because life is impermanence--whatever we gain, eventually, we must lose. 

- Riches, power, people, health, even our memories perhaps. 

In a sense, this is like the saying from "War of the Roses":
There is no winning, only degrees of losing. 

However, there is one exception to the impermanence and loss in life:

The only thing that is permanent is our good deeds, and with this we can achieve an everlasting good name for ourselves.

In Judaism, we teach:
A good name is better than fine oil.

Hence, this is the permanence that we strive for in life and in death.  

If we can attain a good name through purity of soul then in a sense, we can transcend life's suffering and impermanence.  

By becoming non-attached to all of life's temporary things, and instead focusing on perfecting ourselves, we can free ourselves from suffering and from this world, and then we can go on in everlasting-peace to the afterlife. 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 14, 2019

Unbridled Government Spending

I liked this notion from Margaret Thatcher:
The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money. 

And from the Wall Street Journal:
The problem with resisting socialism is that until the money runs out free-spending progressive politics are remarkably seductive. 

In other words, we love to spend what appears as "free" government money--more and more entitlements, bigger and bigger government...basically, we can't resist the candy in the candy store.

But the problem is that the money eventually runs out and by then we have gone too far and are left eating our own flesh. 

 Why can't we spend our precious money and scarce resources prudently and also save wisely for a rainy day--why do we have to act like pigs in the poke?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 13, 2019

Upside Down Bird, Black Sheep--Same Thing

I thought this art was funny and accurate:
There's always one in every family.
Really, it should be there is always one (or two) in every family, group, and organization. 

Whether it's the upside down bird or the "black sheep"--I think we call it that person a troublemaker!

Is it the attention they crave? 

Is it a good fight or argument they are after?

Are they just different and that's okay.

Listen, we are all the same, but we're also all different. 

Imagine being completely the same and how boring that would be. 

So being the upside bird isn't necessarily a bad thing. 

The other birds may look at this upside down bird as cuckoo.

But the bird may not be a cuckoo bird at all.

He may just be acting himself. 

To the upside down bird, he probably thinks of himself as being right side up bird, and that it's the other birds that are the cuckoos.

From my experience, there is being different and then there is being cuckoo for real. 

There really are one or more cuckoos just about everywhere you look.

Worse yet, if the other 4 birds are sane, then watch out because you may be the cuckoo bird.

And then there was the movie, "One flew over the Cuckoo's Nest."  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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January 12, 2019

Border Security - The Facts

So in this longest of U.S. government shutdowns, one thing that is missing from the debate are an articulation of the facts. 

All I hear day-in and -out is that President Trump wants to build a wall or barrier on the Southern border because there is a crisis. And the Democrats in turn say it's not necessary, it's a waste of money, and even that it's immoral, and that they will resist Trump!

But this is not a reasoned debate!

Who cares who wants what and who hates who in politics.

We need to be presented with a solid communication of facts, figures, and why should we support a position or not. 

Yes, an endorsement by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is helpful, but the opposition can just claim partisan politics. 

So here are some simple facts to inform the discussion:

Gun Trafficking:
- Over 253,000 guns annually cross the border from the U.S. to Mexico.

Drug Trafficking:
- Cartels send $64,000,000,000 of drugs annually from Mexico to U.S. 

Human Trafficking:
Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked annually into the U.S. 

Gang Members:
Almost 6,000 gang members in 2018 were deported by ICE.

Illegal Immigrants:
- The U.S. and Customer and Border Protection apprehended more than 500,000 illegals trying to enter in 2008, and there are between 12 to 22 million illegals in the U.S, today

Looking at these numbers, I am not sure how anyone can say that the current border situation is secure--it isn't. 

So whatever we are doing with agents, sensors, surveillance, intelligence, inspection, and interdiction --no matter how good it is--it is not enough. 

Certainly a request for Border Wall funding for $5 billion out of a $4.4 trillion dollar budget and placing barriers on hundreds of miles out of a 2,000 mile border, does not seem at all extreme!

While I do not like to be on a government shutdown, I certainly don't see why this can't be resolved with some reasoned border security funding that includes among the other security measures, a wall/barrier. 

A strategically-placed border barrier only stands to reason in a layered defense/system of systems approach to security. 

For some of those that don't want the wall, and only want votes from a broken immigration system, this is a fight for power, rather than a genuine argument on how to help secure the country. 

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 10, 2019

Hyundai's Great All-Terrain Concept Car


Very impressed with the Hyundai concept "Walking Car."

It can drive, walk, and climb. 

I heard that this thing can even climb over walls and jump over gaps!

(Ah, I'm not going to say anything about border security with this--let's just hope the bad guys don't get this). 

This is the closest that we've come to Hollywood's Transformers.

This is much more than a vehicle for search and rescue--this is ALL-TERRAIN!

Great job Hyundai--I'd love to test drive this beauty!  ;-)
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January 9, 2019

Government Shutdown or Middle East Peace

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, called "Government Shutdown or Middle East Peace."
"It is day 19 of this p-r-o-l-o-n-g-e-d Federal Government Shutdown. Having plenty of time on my hands today, I am debating which is actually easier to solve--the government shutdown or peace in the Middle East."

We may have to wait for the Messiah for both of these to be peaceful resolved. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 8, 2019

What Does A Government Shutdown Feel Like

So its day 18 of the Federal government shutdown. 

The first couple of weeks wasn't so bad, because it was the holidays and vacation time ("use or lose"), so I think most people didn't miss work that much. 

Also, people got paid at the end of December, since the pay cycle is on a two week lag.  

For the first part of the shutdown, there is errands to run and things to catch up on--those things that you always wish you had the time for and well now you do. 

But by now, you've already done those errands and cleaned your house and car, shinned up your shoes, and even caught up on some reading. 

Then we also have the missed payroll coming at the end of the week. For those families that are on a single income, this is particularly hard, and even where one partner is working, still your income in cut in half. 

You can't go out shopping like this!

You also can't go anywhere--like away--because you need to be available to be back at work on a day's notice--whether or not it looks like that day is ever coming or not!

Another concern for those that care about their work and getting things accomplished, is that work is like a moving train, and when there is momentum, things can get done--even at the "pace of government."  But when you come to a full stop like this for an extended period of time, then it will definitely take some time to get everyone back on board the train and for it to get moving at a decent clip again.  Let's face it, you can't just turn people on and off like a light switch--you're dealing with human beings with feelings, plans, and bills. 

Maybe the worst part about the shutdown is feeling like a pawn in the big boys and girls game of Washington Politics--even if you feel the border wall is important, which I certainly do, as federal employee, you still don't want to feel like the sacrificial lamb. 

Why Congress and the President can't compromise and give the $5 billion for the wall for something in return like immigration reform or even just give half and call it a day is really beyond my comprehension. 

Out of our $4.4 trillion a year federal budget, how does it make any sense to begrudge a couple of billion for a wall to bring order to the chaos at our southern border--can anyway say "caravan?" 

Let's face it, drug smuggling, human trafficking, dangerous gangs and terrorists, and illegal crossings have no place in a civilized country, especially the United States of America.  

At some point, our politicians seem to have lost their passion for and dedication to what's actually good for America and instead replaced it with identity politics and a sick insatiable greed for power, plain and simple. 

All sides need to be patriots and not political kingpins, and they need to give a little to get a little for the betterment of our country overall--maybe then we can move forward. 

And by the way, it would be great at some point to let us go back to work and do our jobs. ;-) 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 7, 2019

No One Cares How You Feel

So parenting is not always an easy job. 

But it is one full of love and helping your kids. 

Sometimes, I remember listening to my kids say that they feel this or that and seeing that it was holding them back from accomplishing their goals.  

Often, I would tell them that the only people that really care about how they feel is your mother and father--but generally-speaking, it a tough world out there, and: 
"No one [else] cares about how you feel."

I tried to focus them--not on being cold and unfeeling--but rather on being strong inside and focusing on the tasks that need to get done. 

Sure, feelings are important, but if you are getting held back from doing what you need to do--then there are times when you need to put the feelings in abeyance and go forward. 

Overall, there is plenty of time to feel what you feel, but don't let anger, fear, or anxiety get in the way of you accomplishing your dreams. 

In a book that I am reading by Amos Oz, "A Tale of Love and Darkness," he writes: 
'I want' and 'I don't want' aren't reasons, they can only be defined as self-indulgence.

Yes, it's a little tough love, but also it is out of true love to help the kids to be willing and determined to try their best and not get held back by anything in the pursuit of the destiny they choose to follow. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 6, 2019

From Tulips to Cryptocurrency

There always seem to be another mania. 

From the Tulips Mania in 1637, when a tulip went for more than 10x what a skilled workman earned in an entire year!

To Cryptocurrency in 2018, which is down about 80% from its $20,000 peak losing $700,000,000,000. 

In between, we had the gold rush, the great depression, the tech/dot-com bubble, and the housing/mortgage crisis, and many more I am sure. 

There seems to always be something for people to get excited about in an "irrational exuberance" type of way, as former Federal Reserve Chair, Alan Greenspan put it.

Is it boredom, big dreams, unadulterated greed, the desire to "get rich quick" and easy, the belief that you've discovered the Holy Grail or is it just people being stupid. 

Either way, we have a way of getting ourselves in trouble, some "losing their shirts."

Not sure who said it, but there isn't an easy fix to your life. 

There are small and big problems, and then there is you trying to fix them (with G-d's help). 

As to bitcoins and tulips, they ain't worth what you think they are. ;-)

(Source Graphic: Andy Blumenthal with photos from Pixabay). 
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January 5, 2019

Cannibal Soup

Two funny things came to mind about eating dinner.

The first was a joke my dad always told which was something like:
We had our mother-in-law for dinner...and boy was she good!  LOL
The second was something I heard recently about power and politics, which was:
If you're not at the table then you on the menu!
Ah, you better have a seat (and welcome voice) at the table or else you may find yourself part of the next batch of beef stew coming out of the kitchen. 

Two new ways for us to think of dinner time.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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January 4, 2019

Them Tables Always Turn

Just wanted to share a saying that I liked.

It is an ancient Mongolian proverb and was in the movie, "Mogul" about the rise of Genghis Khan:
Do not scorn a weak cub; he may become a brutal tiger. 
I think this is the Asian equivalent of:

1) Don't burn your bridges.
2  Don't start a war you can't win. 
3) Pick on someone your own size.
4) What goes around comes around.

The Asian version is better! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 3, 2019

Best Baby Carrier Ever

This is just a great picture!

I have to call this out as the best baby carrier ever. 

What a combination between a kangaroo pouch and a cozy snugli.

Anyway, it's comfortable, fun, and good-looking.

Can't you just see your baby in this?  

(Thank you to my son-in-law for sharing this with me)
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In The Blink Of An Eye

Please see my new article in The Times Of Israel called, "In The Blink Of An Eye." 
It all seems to happen in the blink of an eye. Those moments when your life or those of a loved one hang in the balance. It can go either way--you can end up on the road to success or potentially in the morgue. 
In those pivotal split seconds--your life can go this way or that. Do you recognize who is pushing on the scales of justice and are you ready on where to go from there? 

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 1, 2019

Miracles of Charity and Faith

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Conviction of One's Faith."
What better way to welcome in the New Year of 2019 then with some inspirational true stories about amazing people and their faith in G-d and doing what's right. Recently, I saw firsthand from some special people, the miracles that happen when one is charitable and sticks to ones beliefs. 

As my father always taught me about G-d and doing what's right: "Stick to your convictions!" ;-)

(Source Photo of this amazing Tzedakah (charity) box in Israel: Minna Blumenthal)
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December 31, 2018

Two Brothers Survival From The Holocaust

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "It wasn't a Final Solution."
My Uncle Freddie reached high up to the tippy-top of a tall bookcase in his small, but cozy room, and pulled down an old book. It had accumulated years of dust, and we had to wipe it off. The book, published by the Germans themselves, was one that I was familiar with having seen my own mother with a similar one documenting what happened to her family in the Holocaust. It had lists and lists of Jews that had been deported by the Nazis from my uncle’s city as well as where they sent them for liquidation.
Hope you appreciate this true story of survival amidst the horrors and death of the Holocaust. 

(Source Photo: Dannielle Blumenthal) 
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December 30, 2018

Alternatives Are More Valuable Than Criticism

So one lesson of life that I have learned is about criticism. 

It's easy to criticize, but tough to come up with real solutions. 

Criticizing someone else, does not usually provoke a good response. 

UNLESS, you can provide a bona fide better alternative in a loving way. 

It's important to solve problems and not just create new ones. 

Criticizing without an alternative just causes anxiety and frustration in the other person. 

But when you says something isn't right and why, and provide a better alternative, now the other person can see concretely what you are talking about, and they know they have options and that you are trying to help. 

No one wants to be told they are no good or their choices are no good. 

But people don't mind and perhaps may even embrace being told that there is even something better for them out there.

Don't criticize, instead give alternatives that are good for the other person. 

That's real love without being a jerk. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 29, 2018

Best Cup Of Tea

So my daughter went out for dinner in Israel and she sends me this photo of an amazing cup of tea. 

- Cinnamon

- Lemon

- Ginger

- Mint

What's so great is you can actually see the cinnamon stick, mint leaves, and lemon and ginger slices. 

It's completely fresh and healthy, and not just from a tea bag or minced up tea in a tin. 

To me, this looks absolutely appetizing and delicious!

Usually, I'm a Snapple Iced Tea type of a guy, but for sure, I'd go for some this fresh tea from Israel...L'Chaim! ;-)

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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December 28, 2018

Emo Art

So I've been wanting to post this example of this special art form from my daughter, Rebecca. 

She makes this novel art called, "EMO", which stands for emotional.

In this art she mixes children and monsters--and it depicts how innocent kids have to deal with the monsters they find in an often unscrupulous and morally-tarnished society. 

I love the feelings and message of this art in that it encapsulates how children enter this world in purity, but how so many bad people and things around them (and us) can corrupt that. 

I always learned that the goal for each person was to leave the world a better place then the way we found it; however, I think a more personal goal should also be for us to leave here as better human beings than the day we arrived.  

Challenging ourselves--learning and maturing--yet at the same time keeping that essence of decency and integrity of mind, heart, and deed--that is a life where we can grow up, but not turn into the morally-bankrupt monsters that we see all around us. 

(Source Art: Rebecca Ochayon)
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December 27, 2018

Happy Holidays!

I just had to share this photo. 

Took this in South Florida this week. 

These two guys from Sweden sitting at the pool wearing these Christmas tree hats. 

This was just too great to pass up. 

As I took the photo, one guy gave me the thumbs up and this was just perfect. 

I don't know about you, but they cheered me up even when it seems that the world is otherwise going crazy--in so many ways.

- Politics
- Divisiveness
- Hate
- Fighting
- Injustices
- Suffering

But at the end of the day, it's about the people--and G-d gives us the power to do good and make happy (or vice versa). 

This one made me happy!  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 26, 2018

Tired Of All The Whining About China

I don't know about you, but I am so tired about all the whining about China. 

- They are stealing our intellectual property. 

- They are hacking into our systems. 

- They are unfairly forcing us to transfer technology to them.

- They aren't opening up their market to us. 

OMG stop the complaining already!

If you don't like what they are doing, then do something about it. 

Tariffs are a start, but just a small one. 

Seriously, if you can't incentivize them to stop the harassment and unfair trade practices by adding them to the World Trade Organization, investing in them, and partnering with them, then you need to actually compete with China. 

- They steal our sh*t--you help yourself to a generous serving of theirs.  

- They break into our systems--you find your way into their systems.

- They try to unfairly take away our markets and jobs--you take away theirs big time.  

Everyone knows that to deal with bully, you must fight back!

The more we are scared into inaction, the worse it gets.

This doesn't mean that we should get into a military exchange with China, but we do need to get into a confrontation over what economic and global partnership should mean and look like. 

China is an old and truly great nation and their people should be highly respected.

However, the USA should also be treated right, and if that means it's time for a heart to heart and some evening up of the playing field then that is what has to happen. 

We have to restore respect to America, not by becoming bullies ourselves, but by standing up to them when we are being taken advantage of.  ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 25, 2018

See You Later Florida

Love coming to Florida. 

Not a far flight.

Sun shines bright.

Water is blue. 

Birds, fish, and animals like a zoo. 

Nature is peaceful.

Shopping is plentiful. 

Activities day and night.

Swimming makes me feel right. 

Go to the beach.

Eat a peach.

Florida is the place to be.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 24, 2018

@Miami Design District
















(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 23, 2018

@Tree Top Park, Davie, Florida



It's funny that just as I am expressing gratitude for the peace, mindfulness, and zen good feelings, a plane is loudly flying overhead in this Florida park.  

No winning even in nature anymore! ;-)

(Source Video: Dannielle Blumenthal)
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Most Amazing Sculpture



This is the most amazing sculpture that I have ever seen.

Let me explain why?

It looks like a bust of a woman with a fine fabric lace veil over hear head and face.

But believe it or not, the veil is part of the sculpture.

And her eyes are just shadows of it. 

In other words, there is no veil or eyes. 

The museum tour guide pulled out a flashlight and pointed it and her eyes and they were gone. 

How any artist can have such a divine gift to make something like this is really beyond me.

All I can do is stare in complete marvel at this sculpture of a veil covering this woman's face. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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Trump Is Right On The Border Wall

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "We Need To Stand Strong On The Wall."

By themselves, walls do not work to fill us spiritually or protect us physically. Rather, they are a necessary component in a normal and healthy toolbox for living our lives. Spiritually, we need to not just pray toward the holy wall in Jerusalem, but we must augment this with following G-d commandments–doing good in our service to Hashem and in how we treat others. Likewise with protecting us physically, we need a strong mix of “gates, guards, and guns.” A wall is a critical component of our overall spiritual and physical well-being and protection.

Until Mashiach comes and the temple is rebuilt and there is peace on earth, we need to pray to the Western Wall (Kotel) for our spiritual well-being and have border walls to protect us physically.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 21, 2018

@Bonnet House Museum and Gardens



























(Source Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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