Showing posts with label Judaism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judaism. Show all posts

February 16, 2020

Israel 2020: Day 7


Today, we went to the Kotel (Holy Western Wall) in Jerusalem. 

We went on a special tour of the Kotel Tunnels.

Got to see the foundation stones under the Temple Mount where legend has it that G-d created the world from and where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac.

This is also the place where the first and second Jewish temples stood.

We literally got to see so much of the ancient underground building stones, pillars, arches, bridges, waterways, and even learned how they think that these mega limestones (weighing over 520 metric tonnes) were moved into place so many thousands of years ago with pulleys, gears, and levers. 

It was a fascinating and fun tour. 

Thank you to my son-in-law and daughter for getting us tickets to this. 

Lovely time by all. ;-)

(Credit Video: Andy Blumenthal, and sorry about turning it sideways once it gets to the underground waterway) 
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February 12, 2020

Israel 2020: Day 3

Went to the Holy city of the Kabbalists today, Sefad.

Saw the beautiful 15th century Abuhav Synagogue, the Candle Factory, the artist colony, and the of course, the holy graves of the Tzadikim to pray.

It was a marvelously spiritually uplifting experience (as well as being up high in the mountains) and is an overall beautiful and unique city of ancient winding alleys and treasures at every turn. 

So grateful to have had this opportunity to visit there, thank you Hashem!  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 9, 2020

From Victims To Victors

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "From Victims To Victors."
The critical image of transformation of the Israelites going from the very depths of slavery to the lofty heights of redemption, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and going to the Promised Land is relived again in our very own times. This happened immediately after the Holocaust, when the Jews left the death camps of Europe (in fact, many coming by boat over the Mediterranean Sea instead of on foot over the Red Sea as in biblical times) to come to Israel. Here too, the Jews went on to fight as free men in the War of Independence for the founding of the State of Israel just like the Israelites fought the Amalekites in the desert and the Seven Nations to receive the Promised Land of Israel. Furthermore, just like we received the Torah after the redemption from Egypt, we are seeing an incredible resurgence of Torah learning in Israel today.

In both cases of redemption, we had to transform from being victims of slavery and persecution to instead taking the reins in our hands, and with Hashem's help, determining our own destiny and becoming the victors! Incredibly, just as the Israelites were redeemed by Hashem from Egypt and brought to conquer the Promised land 3300 years ago, so too were we, Jews, brought from the ashes of Auschwitz to the shores of the Israel to fight and become "a free nation in our Land, the Land of Zion, Jerusalem" (Hatikvah). And just like the redemption from Egypt resulted in the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) to worship Hashem in the desert, so too will we soon relive the redemption in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Again, in the right time, we will need to have faith and courage to rebuild it with our very hands, and this will happen speedily and truly in our days. May Hashem let it be!


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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February 1, 2020

Jew-Hate Shouted Aloud

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "Jew-Hate Shouted Aloud."
We were walking to synagogue today for Shabbat services, and were taken aback when out of the window of a speeding car someone yelled, “Heil Hitler!”...While I value all the freedoms we have in this country, including the freedom of speech (especially as I am a writer), I am concerned that if the anti-Semitism can’t be addressed through law enforcement action when it’s at the verbal stage of offense then what does that leave—it has to escalate to violence for the police to be able to take action against the haters and perpetrators?

Just as it is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre and cause danger to the public, I believe that shouting vile hatred and incitement should be illegal for the same reasons. We don’t need to be able to punish people for thought crimes, but we do need to be able to protect people from hate-mongers who are openly leading up to violent expressions of their deep-seated Jew hatred, by identifying hate speech as a bona fide illegal and punishable crime.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 15, 2020

G-d Hears Your Prayers

My son-in-law reminded me of a beautiful Jewish saying about prayer:
Even if a sharp sword rests upon a person's neck, he should not refrain from praying for mercy. 

One can still hope for mercy from the Almighty even at death's door. 

This is truly beautiful and uplifting--we can approach G-d anytime, and as long as we are alive, there is always hope.

The saving from G-d is like "the blink of an eye." ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 11, 2020

Traveling Chasidim @AISH Greater Washington DC




(Credit Video: Andy Blumenthal and Credit Photo: Minna Blumenthal)
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January 10, 2020

A Vision of Jewish Strength

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "A Vision of Jewish Strength."
With the rebirth of the State of Israel came the rebirth of the Jew. No longer the Jew cowering in the face of pogroms, Inquisition, Crusades, persecution, expulsions, and the Holocaust. The new Jew, as epitomized by the brave men and women of IDF, would be remade in the image of Moses who led the Jews out of Egyptian slavery, and King David who vanquished our enemies in our land, as well as the Jews of Purim and Hanukah, who fought ever so valiantly and to victory against the great empires of Persia and Greece or for us, whoever rises against us as the modern day equivalent.

But as important to the new Jew as our physical survival is that of our spiritual wellbeing. The persecution of Jews over thousands of years was not just a physical attack, as horrible as it was, but also a spiritual, religious, and cultural one, where Jews were prohibited from learning Torah, worshiping, and practicing as Jews. Thus, the second point of criticality in having the State of Israel is that it provides for Jewish sovereignty and ensures "the Jew as actor, determiner of his or her own destiny." The Jewish people to truly thrive must be able to express themselves through their own language and history, religiously and culturally, and practically through their own leadership and decision-making to forge their own future.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 28, 2019

The Beauty of Tefillin

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Beauty of Tefillin."
Like the colorful coat that Jacob gave Joseph to wear, the mitzvah of tefillin that G-d gave us to wear is also filled with spiritual color and the love of Hashem. This is in no way intended as sacrilegious or as trying to change our holy mitzvot. Rather it is an artistic attempt to see the tefillin in a new way that perhaps excites and bring Jews back to this important mitzvah.

Over time, as I continued to learn and grow as a person and as a Jew, I found much of my way back to Yiddishkeit and to wearing my holy tefillin with love and Joy. To me they are forever colorful and full of spiritual energy that are uplifting to me as I pray with them on for Hashem’s everlasting mercy and blessings for all of us.

(Credit Image: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 27, 2019

Flowers and Well Wishes 4 Shabbat Shalom!


"When you keep the Sabbath day, the Sabbath day keeps you!"

(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 26, 2019

Aish Kumzitz - Hanukah 2019





(Credit Videos: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 14, 2019

Another Week, Another Anti-Semitic Attack

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Another Week, Another Anti-Semitic Attack."
From The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh to the Poway Synagogue shooting in California to the shooting at the kosher market in Jersey City this week. The latest shooting occurred literally just the day before President Trump issued an executive order at a White House Chanukah celebration to cover anti-Semitic acts under the civil rights laws that ban discrimination based on national origin. Yet, despite the Constitution and all the protective laws and orders on the books, we are getting to the point where it is starting to look and feel awfully like there is nowhere safe anymore if you are a Jew, even in this great land of freedom.

What anti-Semitism, G-d forbid, will the next week bring, and the week after that, and after that? This vile behavior coming from people that hate us just because we are Jews, because we are Jacob and not Esau. May our eyes be open to what is happening around us, and may Hashem have an abundance of mercy on us.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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December 8, 2019

The Best of Jewish Nigunim


Shlomo Carlebach was a master of Jewish Nigunim (melodies).

With his music he could literally move one's soul to reach for G-d Almighty in the Heavens and on Earth. 

Thank you Eitan Katz for bringing this alive again.

I hope you can feel it as I do.

Hashem lives!
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December 7, 2019

Faith Chases Out The Fear

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Faith Chases Out The Fear."
It’s interesting that faith and fear are incompatible and they cannot coexist. Where one is, the other is not. Just like the light chases away the darkness, so too does faith expel fear from our lives. When we believe that G-d is in charge of everything that happens, and that he loves us and ultimately wants what is good of us then what is there for us to fear?

No matter in what danger we find ourselves and no matter how scared we feel, we are not alone. The Master of the Universe is watching over us, waiting for us to raise our eyes to the heavens in faith, and to take a stand and do what’s right. If we do, then G-d will manifest himself to us and indeed “will carry, and will deliver” us.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 30, 2019

Jews, The People of Thanksgiving

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Jews, The People of Thanksgiving."
This week was Thanksgiving (חג ההודיה), but for Jews we are already called, "The People of Thanksgiving. "We are named יהודים (Yehudim) after יהודה (Yehudah), the son of Isaac and Leah because Leah said (Genesis 29:35): "הפעם אודה את יהיה." ("This time let me thank G-d"). Also as Jews, we are not just called the People of  Thanksgiving, but we are actively supposed to say 100 blessings a day thanking G-d, so in the true sense of the word, everyday is Thanksgiving Day for the Jewish people.

Jews are the People of Thanksgiving not only on Thanksgiving, but every day of the year. We are thankful for being the chosen people and for our redemption and return to the Promised Land of Israel; we are thankful for the life and opportunities that G-d has given to us; we are thankful in good times and G-d forbid, in the bad times; and we are thankful because, yes, ultimately everything from G-d is for the good.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 23, 2019

The Life and Legacy of Sarah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "The Life and Legacy of Sarah."


The Rebbetzin explained beautifully that when we live a good life, not only does our soul live on in the afterlife, but our good deeds continue to have an influence in this world even after we, ourselves, have passed.

We should never underestimate our influence in this world, and that what we say and do reverberates like concentric circles that spread out from the source farther and farther. Moreover, while you might not think that what you do matters all that much or is a big deal, you never really know the outsize impact that it can have. Therefore, even while Sarah had passed and Abraham mourned her, the truth is that her legacy of the great Jewish nation was only just beginning!


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 16, 2019

Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, "Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch."
The Rabbi asked why did Hashem who is omnipotent even need to create us? And he answered because in G-d being the ultimate good, He “had to create us”—this in essence being the ultimate expression of good by sharing that goodness with us to learn and be good as well. In short, what could be a greater good than extending that opportunity to be be good to others.

Like our forefather, my Hebrew name is Avraham, and for me personally, this has been a critical life lesson: learning to see challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and consistently be a person that tries to do what is right even when it is hard or the lines seem to be grey. In the end, I believe that G-d put us in this world in order for us to choose good over evil and demonstrate kindness to others. With the Torah as our blueprint, and Avraham, our forefather, as our role model, we must apply the great teachings of the Torah and always strive to act as a proper mensch!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 15, 2019

Pelican Shabbos

Shabbat Shalom says the Moo Moo Cow.

Shabbat Shalom says Leo The Lion.

Shabbat Shalom says the Gefilte Fish. 

Shabbat Shalom says the Long Beak Pelican. 

(Photo Credit: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 8, 2019

Righting Wrongs To Sephardim

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Righting Wrongs To Sephardim."
The initial waves of Aliyah beginning in 1882 were driven by the persecution and pogroms, and later the Holocaust, in Europe. Thus, Israeli society initially built up their institutions and power centers around these Ashkenazi pioneers. Immediately after 1948, when Sephardic refugees were expelled from the Arab countries en masse, Israel was overwhelmed with as immigration influx that virtually doubled the Jewish population in Israel in the first three years of its existence. Unfortunately, the newly arrived Sephardim were relegated to a substandard housing and economic situation, which then persisted for many decades.
In Jewish society, however, there is no room for ethnic discrimination and inequality, and the formation of a Sephardic political party in 1984 was a crucial milestone in Jewish social and economic justice. For almost 30 years, Shas was led by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the former Israel Chief Sephardic Rabbi and spiritual leader, and Shas has remained one of Israel's top political parties.
(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 5, 2019

Hearts and Stones

I love the saying by Rav Zvi Yehudah Cook:
There are people with hearts of stone, and there are stones with hearts of people. 
The people know who they are, and the stones reside where has G-d set them. 

In the final redemption, the peoples' hearts will turn back to Hashem and the stones with hearts will rebuild the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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October 2, 2019

Who's Fasting For Whom

Today is the Jewish fast day of Tzom Gedaliah. 

Gedaliah had been appointed governor of Israel by the Babylonian conquers in 423 BCE.  However, within the year, Gedaliah was assassinated. This resulted in the remaining Judeans fleeing to Egypt and the Babylonian exile being firmly established until the return from this exile in 371 BCE. 

Literally for thousands of years the relatively small Israelite nation in the Holy Land was repeatedly attacked and conquered by the large surrounding empires of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans.

Despite this punishing history, when it came to the Fast of Gedaliah, my father used to inject a little light humor and say:
Gedaliah didn't fast for me, so I am not going to fast for him.

I can still hear his words in my head and even now it still brings a warm smile to my face and happiness inside me. 

Upcoming next week is Yom Kippur--fasting and atonement. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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