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Israel Wine Bottle Challenge

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“Israel Needs Your Help”

Around the world anti-Semites are boycotting Israeli products. In Israel, rocket sirens disrupt work, negatively affecting businesses. Along the borders, soldiers continue to risk their life’s to fight terror and keep our land safe from those who wish to destroy us. Israel will survive this ordeal as it has with Gods help time and time again. Israel will be victorious. Israel will defeat her enemies. You ask, ‘what can you do?’ because you want to help. You can instantly make the path smother for those who fight and struggle.

Do you part to help.

1. Purchase a bottle of Israeli wine to use on Rosh Hashana.
2. Post a photo of the bottle, or you and the bottle together.
3. Nominate 3-5 people to take the challenge.

You have until September 24, 2014 to post a photo of the Israeli bottle of wine you are committing to drink on the Jewish New Year

Or else….

If you don’t buy a bottle of Israeli wine, you must give $18 to Tzedakah to one of the three following charities. We chose these charities because they are not as well known as some of the larger ones. The listed three charities are doing amazing work and every small contribution makes a noticeable difference.

LEKET Feed a Hungry Child

Serving as the country’s National Food Bank and largest food rescue network, Leket Israel works to alleviate the problem of nutritional insecurity amongst the growing numbers of Israel’s poor. In 2013, with the help of over 50,000 volunteers, Leket Israel rescued and distributed 25 million lbs of produce andperishable goods, 1 million prepared meals, and 1.1 million (8,000/school day) volunteer prepared sandwiches to underprivileged children. Food, that would have otherwise gone to waste, was redistributed to hundreds of nonprofit partners caring for the needy. Leket Israel offers nutrition education, capacity building, and food safety projects to further assist our partners.

ISRAEL FREE LOAN Assist an Israeli Business

Communities throughout the country have been under rocket attack. Most prevalent, this has hit home for small businesses in the south, which have been under constant fire, causing businesses to work only part-time or close for the time being. These small businesses serve as the sole source of livelihood for the families who own them. The donations we receive from you will enable us to respond quickly and help them. In addition, every donation to IFLA is leveraged, as it is recycled and results in a growing “helping value” over time.


Yashar LaChayal brings soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces what they need when they need it. Yashar LaChayal has developed relationships with IDF commanders around the country, and therefore they are quick to contact our representatives when their units or individual soldiers are in need of assistance. But we do not wait to hear from them! Yashar LaChayal representatives are on the move, visiting IDF bases throughout Israel, on the borders and in remote locations, to see what the actual needs of our soldiers are. Once we determine what is lacking, we set out to fill the gap.




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It’s Tisha B’Av and I’m Scared

It’s Tisha B’Av and I’m Scared

This morning I woke up and the first thing I wanted was a nice, hot shower.  It’s the dead of winter and with extreme lows and our heating off, I’m freezing.  I have a cold.  A nice, hot shower would be the very best thing I can imagine right now. But no hot showers for me, no way!  Because as soon as the thought of a hot shower crossed my mind, the realization that Tisha B’Av starts tomorrow night hit me like a slap in the face.  Here we are in the 9 days leading up to Tisha B’Av – how can I even think of taking a pleasant hot shower now?

These past few weeks have been harrowing for me.  The war going on in Israel has placed an ice cold shard of fear in my heart.  Those are not just people living there! They are my family!  And they are under attack.  Tisha B’Av and the 3 week mourning period leading up to it has never been more real for me – except once.

It was actually exactly 7 years ago that I first met Rabbi Ben, during this same 9 day period leading up to Tisha B’Av.  I was traveling in Peru, only I hadn’t considered the Jewish calendar until after I’d booked my holiday there.  I had a tightly packed schedule and not much wiggle room.  I had to be in Lima on certain days and in Machu Picchu on one day in particular.  With chagrin I realized that erev Tisha B’Av was my one and only day to visit the world wonder.  I planned to visit the mountain’s cafe and guzzle as much water as I could hold just before sunset but alas, the shop was closed when I got there.

That Tisha B’Av was destined to be hard, as I didn’t have a meal or good drink beforehand, but had instead spent the entire day hiking from sunrise to sunset.  But that’s not what makes it stand out in my mind, oh no!  While hiking I had met a group of friendly Chileans and decided to travel back to Cuzco with them that night.  My hotel in Aguas Calientes had tried to cheat me and I didn’t want to stay there another night – better to travel straight back to Cuzco.

However, when we boarded the bus, it was immediately clear that the driver had been drinking. Heavily.  Many of the passengers complained but the bus lurched into motion anyway – with me on it! It was only then that I remembered with a shock that I was actually traveling on Tisha B’Av.  The bus swayed along a narrow road and as I looked out the window I could see straight down the side of a steep cliff.  The reality of my situation was that I was staring death in the face and I was terrified.  I began davening with more kavanah than I ever have in my entire life.  Tisha B’Av was upon us.  The tragedy of the Jewish people now became my tragedy personally and I could feel the fear of life and death that reminds us of our mourning for the Temple and all we have lost.

Fortunately my prayers were answered and as the bus lurched into the next town, the police stopped it (due to the banging on windows and screaming from passengers) and made the driver dry out before sending us on our way.  But I will never forget the feeling of abject fear as I realized this was no ordinary day. This was Tisha B’Av and it was, literally and figuratively, a black one.

Now more than ever we must recognize the reality of Tisha B’Av that we are facing. Is the timing of these terrorist attacks on our people a coincidence? Of course not.  It is Tisha B’Av! Time to wake up!  We are in a period of intense mourning now and we should feel that now more than ever.

It is Tisha B’Av and I’m scared. There are no two ways about it.  As the dreaded day draws nearer and I hear reports of soldiers killed (one whose wife gave birth just after he was killed, another who was engaged to be married in 3 months) and of a soldier kidnapped, I literally shiver.  If this is what happens to us in the 3 weeks, if this is what happens to us in the 9 days, what will happen to us when Tisha B’Av actually arrives?

What we must do – the ONLY thing we can do – is to increase our teshuva. Increase our prayers. Give extra tzedaka.  Work hard, so very hard, on rectifying the sin of sinas chinam that brought us to this point.  Remember, at the siege of Jerusalem it was not the Romans who defeated the Jews – it was the Jews who defeated the Jews. There was food and water enough for 7 years but it was destroyed by the Jews fighting one another.  Now that we are under siege again – this time in the form of all of Israel – we must not destroy ourselves by fighting one another.  Reach out, love your fellow Jews, and please show as much support for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land as you possibly can!

Here are some ideas for some good charities if you want to give tzedaka:

Friends of the IDF - support the soldiers who protect us

Neve Yerushalayim – support women learning Torah

Aish HaTorah – support men and women learning Torah – support people worldwide learning Torah online

Karmey Chesed – support families and soldiers in need

Keren Hashviis – support farmers keeping Shmitta year in Israel (with rocket attacks harder than ever!)

If you are a US citizen, please contact your senators to thank them personally for their continued support of Israel! The US Senate recently approved additional funding for Iron Dome in Israel!  If we all write to express our gratitude for their support, they will give even more support!

Wishing you all an easy fast this Tish B’Av and praying that Hashem should have mercy on us and send us Moshiach soon!

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Does The Islamic World Hate The Jews and is Israel Stupid?

Dear Friends,

Usually, I don’t get involved with writing about political situations but with everything going on I thought I should share a few thoughts…

One of the most frustrating things in life is trying to reason logic with someone who is emotionally attached to something, some person, or some idea. The more you try to convince the person, the more you both become angry. Like an individual involved in a cult, in an abusive relationship, or a failing business – you can talk yourself blue in the face and it will get you nowhere.

Israel Landscape

Israel Landscape

Anti-Semitism is not logical. The perpetrator may try to use some warped logic to justify their means but it still stems from an emotional hatred. During The Black Death between 1348 and 1350, there were many violent attacks on Jewish communities throughout Europe. As the plague swept across Europe, killing off more than half the population, the Jews were the scapegoats. They were accused of poisoning the wells which caused the disease. To give you one example, 900 Jews were burnt alive in Strasbourg on February 14, 1349. The plague had not yet affected the city, and killing off the Jews was seen as a pre-emptive move to prevent the plague from coming.

It seems a couple of hundred years later, people were still convinced that the Jews were at fault for the plague. The 16th century German religious reformer, Martin Luther wrote: “they are often accused of poisoning wells, stealing children and mutilating them.”  How many Jews have been killed in pogroms because of blood libels, which falsely accused Jews for using Christian blood in their passover Matzah, when the Christians themselves had killed a child and blamed the Jews.

Jews have been blamed for killing Jesus, starting both world wars and losing them, the rise and fall of communism, 9-11, America’s financial success and financial problems, and just about anything that happens in the Middle East.

There is a story of two old ladies sitting on a park bench having an argument. One points to a gray thing moving along the ground and says: “Look at the size of that pigeon.” The other lady counters, “that’s no pigeon, that’s a giant rat!” They argue for a while until the thing flies up into the air and at which point lady number two remarks: “Wow that is the first time I’ve ever seen a flying rat!”  -   If you want to believe something is a rat, then no matter what happens in life you will keep your belief. Anti-semites have their beliefs about Jews and if they want to hold on to them, then no matter what good Israel does, the negative beliefs will remain. For some, they are so steeped in blame and hatred that even when blatantly good stares them in the face they will see bad.


Praying at the Western Wall

What scares me, is how far some people can go in order to hold on to a corrupt belief. It seems even when Jews do a nice simple thing to help out in their community the world’s anti-Semites have a way of darkening it. Here is what Major Robert H. Williams, in ‘FECP and the Minority Machine’, page 10, has to say about Jews doing good:“B’nai B’rith, the secret Jewish fraternity, was organized in 1843, awakening world Jewish aspirations, or Zionism, and its name, meaning “Sons of the Covenant,” suggests that the 12 men who organized the fraternity aimed at bringing about the fulfillment of “the Covenant,” or the supposed Messianic promise of ruler-ship over all peoples. To rule all peoples, it is first necessary to bring them together in a world federation or world government – which is the avowed aim of both Communists and Zionists.” 

Here is what I know about B’nai B’rith’s inception: The twelve men who headed the organisation were appalled by the deplorable condition of immigrant Jews to the United States.  The newcomers to the country were often living in utmost poverty, and these twelve men wanted to help. They set up an organisation which initially was about ”Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.”

My grandfather was president at one point of B’nai B’rith Montreal Canada. Their biggest project at the time was sending thousands of food baskets to impoverished families. I was part of B’nai B’rith Youth movement and we never conspired to inject the world with communist views. We spent our free time packing food baskets, cheering up elderly people and creating a better community environment.

The Jewish people have undergone two thousand years of persecution and expulsion from almost every country they lived in. One website  has a list of 109 locations, from which Jews have been expelled since AD250.

Throughout history there have been innumerable pogroms across Europe and the Middle East. Jewish communities were decimated, the people murdered, raped, and their homes and businesses ransacked. Those who survive often did so by fleeing with whatever they carried in their pockets.

Significant pogroms in the Russian Empire included the Odessa pogroms, Warsaw pogrom (1881), Kishinev pogrom (1903), Kiev Pogrom (1905), and Białystok pogrom (1906), and, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Lwów pogrom (1918) and Kiev Pogroms (1919). This does not include the countless smaller pogroms that took place on a regular basis.

The UN has passed resolutions condemning just about everything Israel has ever done. During the Gulf War while 39 Scud missiles landed on Israel threatening biological warfare, America asked Israel not to get involved. NOT GET INVOLVED? If your family was being threatened to be killed and someone asked you not to get involved I hope you would never listen to that someone again…yet we do.

Where was the world when 6 million of our brothers and sisters were murdered by the Nazis? An estimated 67% of the Jewish European population which included up to 90% in some countries. This is Genocide. The Palestinians and the world claim “genocide” while the Palestinian population has grown in leaps and bounds. Do you want to reason with a people who deny the holocaust having happened yet say they wished it did happen, and given the opportunity would make it happen? Does any of this seem logical?

So yes we Jews are stupid if we think the world cares; granted there are some Christians and individuals who love us, thank you. Most have demonstrated for the last 2,000 years that they don’t really give a hoot, and that their dislike for the Jewish people will remain regardless.

Thus said, I don’t believe the Islamic world particularly hate us. I believe they hate everyone who is not exactly like themselves – Christians, Buddhist, Hindus, and even Shiite, Sunni, western Culture, America, anything really. If Israel was gone tomorrow, they would have a civil war amongst themselves. All it takes is an artist to draw a cartoon, or an idiot, to make some pathetic movie depicting the Prophet, and the Islamic world will be up in arms, rioting, protesting and killing.

There will never be peace in the Middle East – Iraq and Iran in the Gulf war, the Egyptian political instability, The Syrian Civil War, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Hamas, Fatah, PLO and Jihad all fighting each other. They like to fight, full stop. It is part of their culture.

We Jews on the other hand don’t like fighting. We want to live in peace and only fight to protect ourselves. If Israel laid down its weapons, tomorrow there would be no Israel. If Hamas on the other hand laid down their weapons there would be peace. But Hamas then would lose its identity which is something they are not prepared to do.

If you meet anyone who wants to talk logic, perhaps start with this. “Can I ask you a simple question; Do you think Israel has the capabilities to blow Gaza off the map. To kill everyone there, and turn it into a pile of rubble?” The answer is “yes.”

“Now do you think Hamas, Iran, Jihad and all the other crazy groups have the capability to blow Israel to pieces?” The answer is “no.”

Now let me ask you another question. “Do you think that, if Hamas or Iran could blow Israel off the map would they?” The answer is “yes,” as they have expressed the intent openly many times.

Thus, when Israel kills a Palestinian child, it is a mistake. There is no malicious intent. Israel gains nothing by killing an innocent civilian. If they wanted to, they could kill them all. Hamas on the other hand specifically targets civilians, with 1,500 killed in buses and cafes in the past Intifada, and constantly by lobbing rockets into civilian populations. They are happy to blow themselves up in martyrdom, so why would they care to take a few of their own with them?

But this is all silly logic for intelligent people to reason with… to negotiate with… ‘insanity is trying to do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ So we are insane as well.

If we care about world opinion we are doomed…because there are two types of people in the world: those who like us unconditionally, and those who unconditionally condemn and hate us. So who are we trying to appease. The world has condemned everything Israel does. During the Sydney 2000 Olympics Countries build fences to protect their athletes from terrorists along with armed security just in case. But when Israel puts up a fence to protect its civilians from terrorists who say and demonstrate their intent on causing harm, the world screams. So let them scream.

I remember one of my first self-defence lectures I went to when I was 14 years old. The instructor said: “Better to be tried by 12 (a jury) than to be carried by 6 (in a coffin).”

Let the UN, pass more resolutions, let the Arabs in every city around the globe protest, let the media broadcast its lies, let the Arab world kill themselves while the world ignores it, let America and every other country in the world condemn, and let the Chamberlains of the world wave a pathetic piece of paper signed by Hitler…but don’t let a single other Israeli civilian die by a terrorist or allow a young Israeli soldier to be killed unnecessarily.

Yes we trade one soldier for a thousand terrorists because life to us is valuable. And it should be too valuable to waste on politics. Too valuable to fire rubber bullets in the face of live ammunition. Too valuable to risk ground force when air strikes would do.

The sooner we wake up to the fact that logic and the plight of the Jews do not mix, the better off we will be. As frustrating and infuriating as it may be, many in the world are emotionally attached to their beliefs and no amount of reasoning will ever work.

Israel exists on miracles. Thirty-nine scuds can land on it without injuring a single person and Israel can take out an Egyptian air force without the loss of a life.

When King David went to battle, half the army would pray while the other half fought. Both sides employed tactics to the best of their abilities. For those of us not actively fighting for the protection of Israel we must pray with all our hearts to our Father in heaven that He protect them and us. And for those who are fighting, they must fight using everything available to them by air, land, and water. We receive miracles but we are not allowed to rely on them, yet at the same time we must recognise that our survival and victory balances on miracles.

May we see the coming of the final redemption as the prophet Isaiah says, ‘They will beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up the sword against other nations, and they will no longer train for war.’


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God is in My Backpack

20140723_174453Am Happy to say that the first books have arrived from the Printer in Israel. Please G-d they will be in the shops soon.

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Parshas Masei: It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Parshas Masei: It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Around this time last year, I traveled to North America to visit my family.   I had a really terrible trip, where 3 flights turned into 5 (plus a bus ride), with a 22-hour itinerary taking 80 hours to complete – no mean feat for a pregnant woman traveling alone with a toddler on her lap!

Akiva as he sat on one of our many flights last year, reading the safety information card

Akiva as he sat on one of our many flights last year, reading the safety information card

Looking back on that time, sadly, the difficult experience of getting to North America that eclipses the time spent there after arrival.  It is the crazy tale of my travels that my friends want to hear about – how did I survive 3 & 1/2 days of constant travel with a big belly and a squirming toddler?  What happened, exactly?  It was quite the saga.

This year, the journey (with an energetic toddler and a crawling lap infant) went much better, but when I see people, the question is the same.  ”How was the flight? How did you do it? You’re so brave to travel with the babies like that!”

So it is the journey to North America that people want to hear about, not the adventures in the countryside with family, not the swims in the lake, not the berry picking, not the art show along the boardwalk, not the sandcastles at the beach, not the playgrounds and petting zoos, not the big family dinners…

Which explains, perhaps, why this week’s parsha is called Masei, “the journeys of.”  It is not called “the destinations of.”  The focus is on the journeys themselves.  For it is not our arrival at the destination that changes us, it is the journey.  A journey challenges you, forces you to grow.  The Jews had to undergo 42 journeys, 42 unique periods of growth and transformation, in order to be spiritually ready to enter the land of Israel.

Similarly, we also must focus on our journeys.  Visiting family was nice, but was it truly a challenge (ok, maybe I should not answer that!)? Did it force me to grow as a person?  Or was it more of an opportunity to relax into myself, safe in the arms of those who love me as I am?

So let us continue on our life of journeys.  Let’s not stop for too long in any one station, but keep pushing ourselves to take the next step, to go even further.  Let’s all get up and grow!

Shabbat shalom!

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Parshas Mattos: Consequences Are Not Always Immediate

Parshas Mattos: Consequences Are Not Always Immediate

I remember calling my mother once.  My challah dough had not risen in my cold kitchen and Shabbos was fast approaching.  How, I asked her, could I get my dough to rise really fast?

My mother didn’t understand what the big deal was. “Why not just let it rise slowly? Will G-d really be so mad at you if you bake it on Shabbos? Do you really believe He’s going to strike you down with lightening?” Good question!

Most people today seem consumed with immediacy.  We strive for immediate gratification.  Given the choice between receiving $100 today or $240 in a year’s time, most people choose to get $100 today.  It’s part of our mentality.  It explains why we are so bad at saving for the future.  It feels so much better to spend today than to save for tomorrow.

G-d doesn’t work that way.  As we mentioned last week, G-d is outside of time.  For G-d, there is no past, present, or future.  So what makes us think that G-d has to punish us immediately? How is it a denial of the Torah’s divinity that G-d doesn’t strike us with lightening the moment we do something wrong?

In fact, even as humans we don’t work this way.  We rarely punish immediately.  Often as parents, we deliberately delay punishment to give children the chance to admit and apologize.  G-d does the exact same thing to us.  He waits and hopes that we will do teshuva and repent… but if we don’t, He has no choice but to punish us.

We see an instance of delayed punishment in this week’s parsha.  The tribe of Menashe is split in two.  The Midrash teaches that this is punishment for when Menashe hid Yosef’s goblet in Binyamin’s sack, causing the sons of Yaakov to tear their clothes.  Grief tears us apart and deliberately causing others grief is contrary to Jewish belief and Jewish law.  No matter how good the intentions, it is the actions that really count and Menashe’s actions result in a punishment eventually.

Just as punishments can be delayed, so too rewards.  So just as we must always keep in mind that negative behaviors might not be punished immediately, we must also rest assured that our rewards are waiting for us, too.

Shabbat shalom!

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Parshas Pinchas: Time Travel Teshuva

Parshas Pinchas: Time Travel Teshuva

We are currently traveling in the US and Canada to see our families.  It feels good to be back on the road again. It is a taste of the nomadic lifestyle we so love.  But there is one kind of travel you can do without ever leaving home: time travel.

No, we have not built a time machine! (Although sometimes having such a thing really would come in handy.)  Time in the physical world marches steadily forward and cannot be stopped.

But time in the spiritual realm is a different thing altogether.  G-d exists outside of time.  It is difficult for us to imagine, but for G-d there is no past, present, or future.  They are all the same thing.  That is how it is possible for G-d to know the “future” and yet we still have free will – for G-d knowing the future is the same as knowing the present or the past.  This means that in the spiritual realm time does not exist in the same way it exists in the physical world.  So even though time travel is impossible in the physical world, it is possible in the spiritual world!

We learn this from this week’s parsha.  In it there is a strange verse that says that Korach’s children didn’t die with everyone else.  And yet we read previously that Korach’s whole family was swallowed up by the earth.  What happened? What does it mean?  The Midrash teaches that Korach’s sons got to the entrance of Gehenom and wanted to sing praises to G-d but were unable to. When they found they could not sing, they started to think that maybe they had made a mistake in following their father.  Rashi explains that these thoughts of teshuva (repentance, return) were powerful enough that a niche opened up at the entrance of Gehenom and saved them.  At the very last possible moment Korach’s children felt true regret for what they had done and G-d accepted their teshuva.

You see, the Gemara teaches that teshuva is a powerful way of undergoing spiritual time travel.  Doing teshuva for something has the power to either erase it (so that in the spiritual world it never happened) or even to turn it into a mitzvah!

Amazingly this means that it is not too late to do teshuva.  It is easy to look at our lives and think of all the things we have done with despair.  Why start to keep kosher when we have a lifetime of shrimp and pork as black marks against us? Why start to keep Shabbat when we have such a long history of breaking it?  How can we ever overcome all the things we have done wrong? The answer is that teshuva can either erase or even reverse all of these things! Imagine, spiritually all that non-kosher food could become totally kosher!

But don’t wait to start doing teshuva.  Some people think that if they can get “credit” for doing mitzvot simply by doing teshuva, they might as well continue doing the wrong thing now and do teshuva later, after they have had their fun.  Unfortunately, we never know when our opportunity to do teshuva might expire.  For we can only do teshuva while we are living and once our time is up, our opportunity to do teshuva will be no more.  Korach’s children managed it at the very last second, but the others in their group did not.

Carpe diem! Seize the day! Seize your opportunity and do teshuva right away!

Enjoy your spiritual time travels!

Shabbat shalom!

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