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

June 27, 2020

The Only Fixer

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Only Fixer."

I’m reading the famous book, The Fixer by Bernard Malamud. It’s about the horrible pogroms in Russia and the blood libels where the Jews would be ridiculously accused of sorcery and witchcraft, and the killing of Christian children for their blood to put in Passover matzah!

In short, hate and hurt can’t be excused because you can. Wielding power gives you authority, but also the extra responsibility. There is such a thing as acting justly. And then there isn’t. Usually, when someone is acting justly, they can explain themselves in a balanced, calm, and rationale way. It makes sense! When they are doing wrong, it’s usually extreme, abrupt, and ultimately inexplicable and therefore can’t be articulated. Hence, that’s the way it is, Fixer. Who is The Fixer? Again, I don’t care!

(Credit Photo: Minna Blumenthal)

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May 28, 2020

Chag Sameach - Happy Shavuot!

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Shavuot and Chag Sameach!

(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 23, 2020

The 11th Commandment

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The 11th Commandment."
How many times do I hear about fellow Jews trying to "out-frum" (i.e. be holier than thou) other Jews: whether it's in terms of Kashrut, Shabbat or even who stayed up the latest for the Passover Seder. Recently, when it came to coronavirus, I was more than a little shocked to read that someone actually attributed the disease to it being a punishment from G-d because women's skirts are not being worn long enough. While certainly it's good to be introspective and there is a strong concept of reward and punishment in Judaism, there is something about us Jews where we tend to want to go a little more and a little farther. In some cases, we are doing "hiddur mitzvah" (beautification of the Mitzvah) which is praiseworthy, but in other cases, we may be adding unnecessary "chumras" (i.e. stringencies) than can backfire religiously. My unequivocal preference is to follow my father's teaching to me of the Rambam's "Shvil Ha'zahav" (i.e. the golden path) and not go too far to the left or to the right, but keep a healthy middle of the road approach to life.

In the end, the number of commandments are what they are, and with 613 throughout the Torah, there is enough to keep us all busy going what is right with G-d and our fellow man. While we may like to overachieve in our careers, our education, and our pedigrees, it is not necessary to try to outdo each other religiously. Religion is a matter between us and Hashem and G-d knows what is in our hearts and counts up all our deeds according to His holy Torah with nothing added and nothing subtracted.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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May 4, 2020

Matzo Ball Soup For The Soul

It's a pretty well-known Jewish tradition that Chicken Soup is almost like an cure all. 

Our moms for centuries have preached chicken soup whenever you didn't feel well or felt like you may be coming down with something. 

Hmm...I wonder if it even works on Coronavirus. Heck, I'd try it for sure. LOL

From an alternative medicine perspective, like it says on the package:
It's penicillin in a pot.

Anyway, I thought this package kit of matzo ball soup was pretty cute. 

With the old lady that looks like she's about to fall in the soup saying:
Good. Not as good as mine. But good. 

Hey, I guess there is no package matzo ball soup that is going to be as good as homemade. 

Especially as I was taught that the magic ingredient is not chicken, but love!  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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May 1, 2020

Shabbat Shalom and Stay Healthy!

Beautiful Shabbat is almost here again. 

A time for rest and rejuvenation. 

Each of us has to take care of and nourish our body, mind, and soul. 

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom!

Please stay safe and healthy. ;-)

(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 26, 2020

Count Your Blessings

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Count Your Blessings."
I just wanted to share a short reflection with everything going on in the world these days with coronavirus and the economic shutdown: I see people are scared and confused, under lockdown and feeling financial strain, and many are getting sick and dying. But I remember the words of my dear father who used to say: "Count Your Blessings!" And he was so right. There are so many things, literally every moment of every day, for us to be grateful for:

Certainly, we all face extreme difficulties or challenges at times in our lives, but things can always be so much worse, and there is still so much for us to be grateful for. Therefore, truly thank you G-d with a hundred blessings—and more—for every moment of every precious day. And we affirm that surely the L-rd who created us will continue to sustain us, and that ultimately all will be for the good.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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April 16, 2020

Our Journey To Freedom Is Almost At The End

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Our Journey To Freedom Is Almost At The End."
Despite our redemption from slavery in Egypt (1312 BCE), we continue through cycle after cycle of enslavement and exile.

In Kabbalah, we learn that the Jewish soul reincarnates until it reaches its spiritual enlightenment and fulfills all the mitzvot. Similarly, the soul of the Jewish people is reincarnated and relives painful destruction, slavery, and exile until we learn, grow, and finally become what we are destined to be as servants only of Hashem and as a light unto the nations. This has been our fate, but also it is one that we are finally nearing the end of with the return to the Promised Land and perhaps even the arrival soon of Mashiach.

(Free Photo via Pixabay)

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To Bear Eternal Witness

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "To Bear Eternal Witness."
I just finished reading a most gut-wrenching book, Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli. I came across this book after learning that my wife’s grandmother had been selected by Dr. Josef Mengele (may his name be forever cursed) for torturous experiments at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust. This New York Times Bestseller is a vivid eyewitness account by a Jewish forensic pathologist, who worked directly for Dr. Mengele, and tells of the unspeakable cruelty and horrors at Auschwitz, the largest Nazi death camp vastly accounting toward the twelve million people exterminated by the Nazis, six million of them Jews.

From my experience, once you pick up this book, you cannot put it down until you finish it completely, and I urge everyone to make this a must-read, especially as there will soon be no more Holocaust survivors to tell us, in-person, the hell that they lived through.

(Free Photo of Kyklon B Poison Gas via Pixabay)

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April 9, 2020

Synagogue or Sickness?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Synagogue or Sickness?"
When I was a kid and my father would {strongly} encourage me to go to synagogue. My father was a man of deep faith and he used to say warningly to me: "It's better to go to synagogue than to the hospital." Obviously, he was implying that if I didn't follow G-d's word, then G-d forbid, he would punish me and instead of going to Shul, I would go to the hospital. Maybe not the best way to teach someone to want to go to prayer services, but I know he meant it out of complete love for me and ultimately for my best.

Yet ironically, now with coronavirus preventing us from practicing the many communal aspects of our faith, so many of us can only but wish that we could just go to synagogue to celebrate the holidays and Shabbat together once again. Unfortunately, for now at least, we don't even have the option to go to synagogue⁠—the choice has been taken from us. G-d willing, hopefully soon, we can once again go⁠—with willingness and love⁠—not only to pray at synagogue, but also to the holy Third Temple in Jerusalem itself.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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April 8, 2020

Corona Matzah Man

So this is what happens when Coronavirus pandemic coincides with Passover. 

We get a Corona Matzah Man wearing his face mask so he doesn't get sick, G-d forbid. 

Even as we get ready to celebrate the seder tonight and recall G-d's mercifully delivering us from Egyptian servitude, we also can be certain that He will deliver us from this dreaded Coronavirus. 

G-d is all powerful and has a purpose for everything. 

Perhaps, we just needed a reminder of who was in charge not only on Passover, but all the year round. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 14, 2020

Coronavirus Cancels Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Coronavirus Cancels Synagogue."
While I understand the rationale to close the synagogues, not to congregate with others and expose ourselves or spread the Coronavirus, I can’t help thinking and believing that what we need now, more than ever, is prayer to Hashem and the mitzvah of Torah study that the synagogue provides to us. Indeed, only in the hands of G-d is the ultimate power of health or illness, and life or death...To me, this Shabbat was not a full Shabbat, because there was no synagogue, no Rabbi’s sermon, no community to talk and share with. I feel robbed of my religion today. I want to be able to go to synagogue and have a real Shabbat. How many other Shabbatot will we have to continue to go through without being able to pray in a minyan, hear the Torah reading, listen to the Rabbi’s speech, and see our community friends?

Many say and I firmly believe that we are on the doorstep of Mashiach and that he is even here among us waiting for the right moment to reveal himself. We’ve survived so much and finally have returned as a people to our homeland of Israel. Now we must survive the final birthing pains of Mashiach and then we will be able to go not only to our synagogues once again, but also to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray and learn at G-d’s very footstep in this earthly world.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 11, 2020

Learning Hebrew: One Book at a Time

My daughter had a great idea for improving on our Hebrew language skills. 

Start small...as in children's books. 

She got a few of these from the library and it actually was fun to read these. 

Aside from taking me back a few years in parenthood and bonding as a family over these, I found it useful to solidify my learning.

Dr. Seuss definitely had the right idea. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal with attribution to book בּובי בוא בובי לך by אמי רובינגר)
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March 9, 2020

Happy Purim from Magen David Synagogue!




















(Credit Photos: Andy Blumenthal)

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March 6, 2020

The Tavor

Love my new keychain with the Tavor.

It's the latest Assault Rifle by Israel Weapon Industries.

The short stock makes this very versatile yet it packs a hell lot of fire power.

Good reminder for me of "Never again!" ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal, and thank you to my son-in-law for the thoughtful gift)
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February 29, 2020

A Jewish Scorecard: Trump vs. Sanders

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "A Jewish Scorecard: Trump vs. Sanders."

In nine months, we will go to the polls again to elect the next President of the United States. Right now, it's looking like it will be Donald J. Trump versus Bernie Sanders. What is the scorecard of these two men when it comes to the State of Israel⁠—the Jewish homeland that we have returned to after 2,000 years of exile, persecution, and deep yearning, and where the majority of the world's Jewish people currently reside?

In the end, no candidate is perfect, and each has their own critical flaws. However, you, as the voters will need to tally the score for yourselves and decide who will be President in 2020 and what that means for this country as well as for the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

(Photo: Adapted from Flickr post by The White House (Public Domain) and Linda Sarsour's Twitter account profile picture)

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February 24, 2020

Getting Tefillin Checked

I visited with Rabbi Levy yesterday to get my tefillin checked.

I learned that if there are questions about the legibility of the holy scrolls, they are given to a child to read to see in their innocence whether the tefillin are kosher or not.

Something felt very good and important about performing this mitzvah.

In the meantime, while mine are being checked, I have a loaner pair of teffilin to use and daven with.

Yet to be seen whether it is time for a new pair or not--like a bar mitzvah all over again. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 22, 2020

The Commandments are for All of Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "The Commandments are for All of Us."
While some Jews certainly thrive in Yeshiva delving into the Talmudic understanding of the laws for long hours every day, and they serve an important role in understanding and transmitting the laws from generation to generation, others may be more interested in the fundamental philosophy of Judaism and in "doing what's right" by applying the core teachings of the Torah at their own levels every day. Maybe this is one reason that the Ten Commandments are presented separately from the "mishpatim" that follow. Not that they aren't both important and necessary, but that the Torah is for all of us in the ways that each of us can appreciate, learn, and apply them within the overall framework of the Torah.

Of course, all the commandments are important between G-d and man and between man and man, as well as the conceptual framework of the Ten Commandments and the details embedded in the rest of the 613 commandments. Yet certainly, all of us in one way or another struggle with some commandments more than others or with losing sight of either the high-level essence of the Torah or important details of implementation. Nevertheless, we must strive to not only appreciate that all the Torah comes from Hashem, but also that we each must work as best as we can, in our own capacities, to learn and fulfill G-d's laws and to be a good example and "light unto the nations," which is what being "the chosen people" is really all about.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal of Chagall Tapestry in Knesset, Israel)

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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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