19 September 2017

Rosh Hashanah: It's Not Just About Apples and Honey

29 Elul 5777
Erev Rosh Hashanah

It takes effort to stay focused on the main idea of this holiday. HKB"H has the right to sit in judgment of His creations on this day because He is the King of all. When we truly recognize that inescapable fact, we will repent completely because all of our sins are just rebellion against His sovereignty.

On Rosh Hashanah we submit ourselves to HKB"H's sovereignty over our lives and our destiny. We repent of our rebellions and renew our loyalty and faithfulness to carry out His will.
Three Basic Prayers of Rosh HaShanah: Malchuyot, Zichronot, Shofarot
Three descriptions, so to speak, of G-d, through which we can relate to Him, are contained in the Mussaf Prayer of Rosh HaShanah. They are as follows:
1) Malchiyot – Kingliness:
G-d is the incomparable King of The Universe. The destiny of humanity is to come to this realization. Whereas human kings rule in accordance with the principle of :”might makes right,” G-d is the Holy King, Who is, at the same time, beyond comparison in His power, “Vas er vil, Tut er” – “Whatever He wills, He can do,” yet He is also the Father of the orphan and the Judge of the widow, Who is always on the side of the powerless.
He is the Incorruptible and Righteous Judge of the World, Who favors no one, and cannot be bribed.
He is the true G-d and His word, the Torah, is true and eternal.
2) Zichronot – Remembrances:
We recognize that Hashem is above Time, and the idea of “forgetting” does not apply to Him, nor is He limited in “understanding” the inner thoughts of His creatures. Nevertheless, we ask that He “remember” only the “good” in our behalf when He Judges us.
For all of humanity, for the whole world is Judged today, we ask that He “remember” the faith of Noach who endured taunts and threats for 120 years while he built the Ark, and tried to explain its purpose to his wayward generation.
For the Jewish People in particular, we ask that He “remember” the early loyalty of our People, who followed Him as a bride, as He said “I remember your youthful devotion, the love of your bridal days, how you followed Me through the desert, in a barren land” (Yirmiyahu 2:2) and later as a precious child, “Is it because Ephraim is my favorite son, my beloved child? As often as I speak of him, I remember him fondly. My heart yearns for him, I will have pity on him, says the L-rd.” (Yirmiyahu 31:19)
Most of all, we ask that He “remember” the supreme act of devotion performed by our fathers Avraham and Yitzchak, where Avraham suppressed his natural feelings of mercy towards his son, and was prepared to sacrifice him at the command of G-d, and Yitzchak was prepared to be sacrificed, thereby suppressing his natural feelings of self-preservation, in fulfillment of G-d’s command. So should G-d suppress, so to speak, His Midat HaDin, His Attribute of Strict Justice, which would require that we be punished for our misdeeds, in favor of His Midat HaRachamim, His Attribute of Mercy.
3) Shofarot – Blasts of the Shofar:
We recall the time that G-d revealed Himself on Mt. Sinai and gave us the Torah.
“The whole world trembled at Your Presence, Creation shook in awe before You, when You, our King, did reveal Yourself on Mt. Sinai to give to Your People the Torah and its Commandments, letting them hear your majestic voice, your holy words out of flashes of fire. Amid thunder and lightening did You reveal Yourself to them, amid the sound of the Shofar did you appear to them.”
The Shofar will be blown during the final battles of Israel with its enemies.
It will be sounded when our Exiles return.
It will be sounded when the Temple will be rebuilt.
It is the sound signifying the Presence of the majesty of G-d.
We ask that it be sounded again with the arrival of the Mashiach.
AMEN!! May the Holy One, blessed be He, be merciful to us and grant us forgiveness for all our transgressions and bless us with an eternal salvation in the coming new year 5778!


G-D Help Us! If Mashiach Does Not Come Soon...

28 Elul 5777

...even the illusion of Israel being "The Jewish State" will no longer exist. Israel will be nothing more than the 51st State of the United States of America!
Survey finds Israeli Jews seek separation of religion from state
Religion and State Index finds 86% of Israeli Jews believe state should ensure freedom of religion and conscience for all of its citizens, while 65% call for equal rights and recognition to non-Orthodox Jews; 82% think ultra-Orthodox schools must be require to teach core curriculum subjects, while 36% call to conscript all yeshiva students.
...Support for a separation of church and state is on a constant rise, jumping from 56 percent in 2012 to 68% in 2017.
There's the "two-thirds" who won't make it!
IDF, US ARMY CELEBRATE INAUGURATION OF FIRST AMERICAN BASE IN ISRAEL
“This is the first time that we have an American flag flying in an IDF base."
How is this base different from the eight other US bases in Israel? The fact that they are publicly acknowledging it?

And while we're at it, why is this in Jerusalem???


If You Haven't Yet Begun, It's Not Too Late

28 Elul 5777

17 September 2017

Weird-Looking Sky - UPDATED

27 Elul 5777

Yesterday, shortly before havdalah, we noticed the post-sunset sky had a strange glow to it and was a weird yellowish color long after the sun had gone. 

Today, it's electric orange and glowing red. Anybody else notice it? I've never seen anything like it. The pictures really don't do it justice. This is looking towards Jerusalem.




UPDATE 18/09/17

This is a reader-submitted photo taken from RBS yesterday


 And this is what it looks like from my house today. Strangely, almost no color at all.


Space Weather Has Become Stormy, Too!

26 Elul 5777

NASA warns we are still being battered by SOLAR storms

The biggest solar flare seen for 12 years erupted from the sun earlier this week, causing radio blackouts on Earth.

Two high-intensity solar flares were emitted, the second of which was the most intense recorded since 2005, the Space Weather Prediction Centre (SWPC) said.

Now, NASA has revealed the storms are continuing, with what the space agency says is a ‘mid-level solar flare’ that peaked at 3:49 a.m. EDT today.

This is the sixth sizable flare from the same active region since Sept. 4, NASA said.

It is expected to cause auroras to be visible over northeast America, and aurora has been seen as low as Alabama and northern California

The earlier flares knocked out radio communications for one hour on the Earth’s side facing the sun, as well as low-frequency communications used in navigation.


Monster Solar Flare Marks 7th Powerful Sun Storm in 7 Days

Solar Storms: 7 Large Solar Flares Erupt in 7 Days





Stormy conditions may be back in time for Yom Kippur.

14 September 2017

"Be Steadfast With Hashem"

24 Elul 5777
Erev Shabbat Kodesh

"The last Shabbat of 5777 - the last haftarah of consolation..."

Rabbi Mordechai Sitorsky

Parashat Nitzavim: Be Steadfast With Hashem



SHABBAT SHALOM and SHANAH TOVAH!

12 September 2017

"Orthodox DEFY Jewish Law"

21 Elul 5777

The term "Orthodox" has become meaningless. 

Houston: Orthodox ERTs Defy Jewish Law, Spearhead Church Cleanup



Amazing story of Israeli rescue team helping pro-Israel Christians in Houston
An Israeli search and rescue team is helping churches damaged by flooding during Hurricane Harvey...
Some with warped hearts and twisted minds will call this a kiddush Hashem, but it is just the opposite. "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,' says Hashem.'

Leaving Eretz Yisrael to go abroad to rebuild avodah zarah?!!!! 
...ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav, says he is proud of the hard, physical work his volunteers are performing for everyone in need in Houston. “Our sages tell us that God created man in his image. Not just Jews, but all men,” he added in a statement.
...“As a humanitarian organization, we help all those in need, regardless of religion, race or gender,” noted ZAKA Chairman Yehuda Meshi-Zahav. “Today, our team contacted Pastor Becky Keenan from the Gulf Meadows Church, and we are working with the Christian community in the area as well. It was particularly meaningful for Pastor Keenan that a team from the Holy Land has come to offer help.”
To add insult to injury, Evangelical "Pastor" Becky Keenan is particularly keen on evangelizing Jews in Israel.

Meeting IDF Soldiers - One With Israel Educational Adventure


11 September 2017

A Period of Grace

20 Elul 5777

"...With an upraised hand (Harvey) and with an outstretched arm (Irma) and with poured out fury (Jose?)."

Clearly, HKB"H is waiting to see if real teshuvah is going to come out of the first two before letting loose with the third one.
After Irma, are we going to get clobbered by Hurricane Jose next?
While all eyes in South Florida are fixed on the coconuts and construction cranes being flung about by Hurricane Irma, her not-so-little brother Jose is capering about in the Atlantic north of Puerto Rico, doing some kind of weird spinning in a circle fandango that current forecasts say could leave the storm pointed right at South Florida at the end of the week.
Like Irma, Jose is a major storm, with 130 mile-per-hour winds. At the moment, it's about 1,000 miles east-southeast of Miami, and an entirely schizophrenic attitude about where it wants to go.
The National Hurricane Center, in its most recent advisory, forecasts the Category 4 Jose over the next five days going slightly northeast, looping back west, spinning south, then east again — "sort of like tying a knot," as one of the center's hurricane specialists said. (Though, when it all takes place at 130 mph, the more accurate simile might be, like a teenager with a hot car doing donuts in the parking lot.)
When all this back-and-forth ends on Friday, the center expects Jose to be sitting about 600 miles away, facing Miami. But where it goes from there, at least right now, is pretty much anybody's guess.
"And I shall take you out of the peoples, and I shall gather you from the lands in which you were scattered, with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm and with poured out fury."
--- Yechezkel 20.34

07 September 2017

"What Does NOT Prevent Redemption..."

16 Elul 5777

THIS IS THE NEXT INSTALLMENT. Phenomenal!!





THE PRIMARY MESSAGE FROM HEAVEN HAS NOW BEEN PICKED UP BY DRUDGE...




"In Its Time, I Will Hasten It"

16 Elul 5777

A military drill unprecedented in its size and scope began day before yesterday in Israel's north and is purportedly scheduled to end next Thursday which is 23rd Elul. That date is significant because it was the Hebrew date on September 11, 2001.

In light of this morning's news of an aerial attack on a Syrian weapons facility, one must consider whether this is the "sudden small attack" referenced below.

Thousands of troops to stage mock war with Hezbollah in largest drill in years
Tens of thousands of soldiers as well as ships and aircraft will take part in 10-day exercise from Tuesday; army says timing unconnected to current Iran tensions.
...Tens of thousands of soldiers, including thousands of reservists, will take part in the exercise,....
...The exercise will simulate a conflict with Hezbollah that starts with a sudden, small attack and develops into full-scale war.
...The number of reservists taking part in the drill is also “unprecedented,”....
...In addition, the IDF Home Front Command will practice its “Safe Distance” plan, in which civilian populations along the Lebanese border will be evacuated farther south in order to keep them out of harm’s way, as the military believes that in a future conflict Hezbollah would try to send fighters to attack northern Israeli communities and their inhabitants.
“The decision to carry out the transfer of communities will be made at the political level, with the intention of preserving the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel,” the military official said.
The officer would not specify which communities would be evacuated during the exercise.
It occurs to me that our government takes no action without first obtaining permission from TPTB. What if they have given Netanyahu the green light with the expectation that they will back him up, but it's just a trap to draw us in and then abandon us to our fate? Completely according to HKB"H's plan, of course.

05 September 2017

The Sun Threw A Fit Today!

15 Elul 5777

It's not just Earth in turmoil...





Knowledge Is Power: Empower Yourself

15 Elul 5777

Check out this new blog...

HAYOVEL: THE ENEMY WITHIN


~~~

See also:


Wildfires rage in 8 Western states





...If it stays on track and reaches the Florida Straits, the water there is warm enough that the already “intense” storm could become much worse with wind speeds potentially reaching 225 mph, warned Kerry Emanuel, an MIT meteorology professor.

“People who are living there (the Florida Keys) or have property there are very scared, and they should be,” Emanuel said.

...“Puerto Rico has not seen a hurricane of this magnitude in almost 100 years,” Carlos Anselmi, a National Weather Service meteorologist in San Juan, told The Associated Press.

Authorities warned that the storm could dump up to 12 inches (31 centimeters) of rain, cause landslides and flash floods and generate waves of up to 23 feet (7 meters). Government officials began evacuations and urged people to finalize all preparations as shelves emptied out across islands including Puerto Rico.

“The decisions that we make in the next couple of hours can make the difference between life and death,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “This is an extremely dangerous storm.”

"Who By Fire, Who By Water"

14 Elul 5777

Second Largest American City

Fourth Largest American City

04 September 2017

"The Six Obstacles to Teshuvah"

14 Elul 5777

Why Is It So Hard to Change? The Six Obstacles to Teshuvah
by Abraham J. Twerski | September 19, 2012 in Jewish Living

“Of course a person should do teshuvah, but I am a bit puzzled. I observe Shabbos, I keep kosher and taharas hamishpachah. I daven every day, I attend a Daf Yomi shiur and I am honest in my business dealings. What exactly should I do teshuvah for?”


People may not actually say this, but some certainly think this way. Yet King Solomon said, “For there is no man so fully righteous that he always does good and never sins” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Even the greatest tzaddik is not free of sin. How, then, can a person who is quite far from being a perfect tzaddik not feel a need to do teshuvah?


Several psychological defense mechanisms tend to discourage an individual from changing, from doing teshuvah. The obstacles to teshuvah are denial, rationalization, trivializing, projection, habituation and ego.


1) Denial

Throughout Tanach, the prophets repeatedly exhorted the Jewish people to abandon their errant behavior, but as is evident from the Scriptures, they were not very successful. Isaiah explains why. “Surely you hear, but you fail to comprehend; and surely you see, but you fail to know. This people is fattening its heart, hardening its ears and sealing its eyes, lest it see with its eyes and hear with its ears and understand with its heart, so that it will repent and be healed” (Isaiah 6:9-10). No psychology text can improve on Isaiah’s description of denial. Because people are intent on doing whatever they wish, they resort to denial, one of the best-known defense mechanisms so that they are unaffected by the reality of what they see and hear.

We are creatures of habit, and we are comfortable when we can do things without the need to exert much effort. Change is uncomfortable, and in order to avoid this discomfort, our minds block out those realizations that would call for change. The natural state of all matter—including human beings—is inertia, but one must force himself to overcome inertia in order to grow and change.


2) Rationalization

Denial enables a person to maintain the status quo. When reality threatens to overcome denial, the mind employs other defense mechanisms to reinforce the denial—such as rationalization. One of the themes in Proverbs is the tendency to rationalize. Ramchal says, “If a person is confronted with one’s laziness, one will doubtless come back with many quotations culled from the sages and the Scriptures and with intellectual arguments, all supporting, according to his misguided mind, his leniency with himself” (Mesillas Yesharim, Chapter 6).

Denial is not always possible, so the mind is very clever in rationalizing; in other words, justifying one’s actions by giving logical-sounding reasons for them. The Torah stresses the gravity of speaking lashon hara, for example, which requires both teshuvah vis-à-vis Hashem and forgiveness from the victim. Oftentimes one who speaks lashon hara may attempt to justify his behavior by claiming “But it’s the truth!” Defamatory speech is lashon hara, even if it is true.


3) Habituation

The Talmud says that when a person does a forbidden act several times, it loses its opprobrium. Habituation enables one to think that these transgressions are permissible. His conscience is lulled into thinking, It’s really not so terrible. Thus, even though the morning minyan begins promptly at 6:30 am and ends at 7:05, there are some minyannaires who habitually show up at 6:45 and leave before everyone else. They are so accustomed to arriving late and davening at breakneck speed, they see nothing wrong with it.

4) Projection

One who projects onto another will not be able to do genuine teshuvah. Sins committed against another person are not forgiven on Yom Kippur unless one has obtained forgiveness from the offended individual. The defense mechanism of projection turns things around: I did not offend him. He offended me. He should really be apologizing to me.

5) Trivializing

The tendency to trivialize halachah is another impediment in the road to teshuvah. I missed Minchah, but I was so busy at the office. Anyway, it’s not a big deal. Or, I chatted with my friend during the Reading of the Torah, but doesn’t everybody? (This is the only sin for which the Shulchan Aruch says, “There is no forgiveness.”)

6) Ego

Inasmuch as teshuvah for an offense against another person requires that one make amends and ask forgiveness, there is ego resistance to humbling oneself, apologizing and making restitution where required.

One of the axioms of human behavior is that a person will always choose to do that which is most comfortable for him. We find that an addict will not agree to change until he hits “rock-bottom,” i.e., that the pain incident to the addiction is greater than the pleasure it provides. This is equally true of the non-addict. Therefore, oftentimes individuals only agree to change when they have reached rock-bottom.


But what can constitute rock-bottom for the non-addict? A person who contemplates his life goals and sees that his behavior is jeopardizing his reaching those goals may reach rock-bottom. But this requires giving serious thought to defining one’s goals and purpose in life. Confronting death can usually lead to such introspection. I recently attended the funeral of a great talmid chacham. A man next to me said somewhat somberly, “Reb Z. is taking along with him much Torah and mitzvos. What will I be taking along?”


The first chapter in Mesillas Yesharim is entitled “A Person’s Obligation in His World.” The theme of Mesillas Yesharim is the refinement of one’s character. Changing one’s character traits is a major challenge and is usually met with great resistance. Many times real change won’t happen until one realizes that unless one does so, his life is meaningless.


Uncompromised honesty is necessary to see through the psychological defenses that are a barrier to teshuvah. Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Penitence and Yom Kippur are days in which one should be inspired to evaluate the meaning of one’s life. Only when we are aware that we need “fixing” will we do teshuvah.


The founder and medical director emeritus of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, Rabbi Abraham Twerski, MD, is one of the country’s leading experts on drug and alcohol rehabilitation. He is the author of numerous books and his column is regularly featured in Jewish Action.


This article was featured in Jewish Action Fall 2012.

01 September 2017

31 August 2017

Daily Life Has Become Like A Disaster Movie

9 Elul 5777

Except that real life now far exceeds even the imaginations of the movie makers.
‘Regular day in Sochi’: Witnesses describe chilling plane landing through tornadoes (VIDEOS)


We've had a lot of events happen recently to direct our attention to the skies like a lunar eclipse followed by a historic solar eclipse with a spectacular meteor shower coming in between. Then the sky opened up and dropped 4 1/2 FEET of rain on Texas. Here is just the latest such occurrence set to take place tomorrow!
Largest asteroid in a century to whiz by Sept 1
The largest asteroid in more than a century will whiz safely past Earth on September 1 at a safe but unusually close distance of about 4.4 million miles (7 million kilometers), NASA said.
The asteroid was discovered in 1981, and is named Florence after the famed 19th century founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.
...It is one of the biggest asteroids in the Earth's vicinity, and measures about 2.7 miles (4.4 kilometers) wide—or about the size of 30 Egyptian pyramids stuck together. [Strange analogy!]
Latest from the flood-ravaged areas of southeast Texas...
Family warns about unseen dangers after son is electrocuted in flood waters
...Andrew stepped in the yard unaware that a landscape light electrified the water. He stumbled and grabbed the lamppost, using his last words to warn his friend to stay away, his mother said.
"They couldn't even help my son. They couldn't resuscitate him. He was in electrified water," she said.
Water Rescues Underway at Two Flooded Port Arthur Nursing Homes
Explosions, black smoke rising at chemical plant damaged in Hurricane Harvey: Officials
A pair of explosions were heard early Thursday morning and black smoke was seen rising from a chemical plant near Houston compromised by flooding from Hurricane Harvey, officials said.
Arkema, Inc., which runs the plant, said in a release they were notified of the explosions by Harris County Emergency Operations at about 2 a.m. CDT. Harris County police said on Twitter that one deputy was taken to the hospital after inhaling fumes from the plant and nine other officers drove themselves to the hospital as a precaution.
...Arkema's CEO said on Wednesday that there was "no way to prevent" a possible explosion at the company's Crosby, Texas facility, which has been heavily flooded as a result of Hurricane Harvey.
“We have an unprecedented 6 feet of water at the plant,” Arkema President and CEO Rich Rowe said in comments made Wednesday. “We have lost primary power and two sources of emergency backup power.
"As a result, we have lost critical refrigeration of the materials on site that could now explode and cause a subsequent intense fire. The high water and lack of power leave us with no way to prevent it," he said.
The nation's largest oil refinery shuts down as Hurricane Harvey floods Texas

Oil and gas prices are expected to spike over the next week or more as about 10 refineries representing more than 15 percent of the nation's refining capacity are shut down in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Fill ’er up. Some DFW stations may run out of gas this Labor Day weekend
You may want to fill up your gas tank while you can.
On the eve of the busy Labor Day holiday weekend, convenience store operators and other gasoline retailers said Wednesday there’s a strong chance they will run out of fuel at some locations this weekend because of supply disruptions caused by Hurricane Harvey.
“I called my family members and told them to fill up their tanks,” said John Benda, who owns three Fuel City stores in Haltom City and Dallas and is building a fourth in Saginaw. “I have never seen it this tight, since 1980, even when we were rationing.”
Multiple refineries have shut down in Houston, Baytown, Port Arthur and other areas slammed by Harvey and the historic flooding that followed. Some pipelines that move fuel out of the Gulf Coast also are down, Benda said.
I suspect a lot more freaky things to occur in the lead-up to the New Year 5778. HKB"H is determined to get our attention right now. Time is running out. No more "business as usual"!

29 August 2017

A Few Things You Need to Know

7 Elul 5777

Update on Houston Jewish Community: With Stores Flooded, Kosher Food Has Run Out in Houston
~~~

Here is something we've been warning was coming for years and here it is...
Israeli panel recommends new status for non-Jews with Jewish ties, says report
An Israeli government panel has recommended the creation of a new status for people with Jewish roots or links but who do not qualify for immigration, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday.The newly defined category would permit such people to remain in the country longer than the three months permitted under a tourist visa.
People qualifying for the new status would include tens of thousands of Poles with Jewish roots, many of whom are descendants of Jews who hid their identity during the Holocaust; descendants of Jews who forcibly converted during the Inquisitions; members of communities who claim to be descendants of the "lost tribes"; and so-called "Judaizing communities", meaning communities that have recently begun adopting Jewish practices – believed to number in the millions.
This will benefit Messianics and Epraimites like HaYovel. The goal is to simply flood
Israel with non-Jews and reduce Jews to a minority in the so-called "Jewish State." Next thing you know we'll have a non-Jewish prime minister.



~~~

Redemption, What's not holding it back? Section 1 of 6




Redemption, What's not holding it back? Section 2 of 6


Mashiach by Rosh Hashanah?

7 Elul 5777

The first week of Elul is already gone. Only three more weeks to Rosh Hashanah 5778!

From Yehudit's "prophecy"...
* The severe strikes on the U.S. will come thru wars and even more, thru powerful weather disasters.* The quick escalation of Moshiach ben Yosef will contribute to antisemitism.* Antisemitism will rise to unimaginable heights.* Jews of the United States will be forced to flee like fugitives, because those who survived the weather disasters will not be able to survive the tremendeous waves of hatred against them.* The survivors will arrive in Israel with only the clothes on their backs and Moshiach ben Yosef will reach out to help them.
Things are moving very quickly now. N Korea has crossed a red line by firing a missile through Japanese air space. The West will be forced to respond forcefully. 

I am not making any predictions, but I am truly expecting Mashiach any and every day. I expect him no later than Rosh Hashanah 5778 - motzai shvi'it!

28 August 2017

What Do They Say About "The Definition of Insanity"?

7 Elul 5777

May 29, 2015 - Houston floods inundate Jewish homes and 2 synagogues


...One of Houston’s major bayous runs alongside North and South Braeswood Boulevard, where two major synagogues are located and many of Houston’s Jews live. A number of residents had to be evacuated by watercraft, including a rabbi emeritus from United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, one of the two synagogues that suffered damage. The other damaged synagogue was the Reform temple Congregation Beth Israel.

Houston’s JCC also said two of its properties were flooded, including damages to a teen center, racquetball courts and a preschool gym.

No fatalities or major injuries were reported among the Jewish community.

“There’s water in every area of the shul — the main sanctuary, the social hall, the school wing, administrative offices. Luckily our Torahs were higher so they were not affected,” United Orthodox’s current spiritual leader, Rabbi Barry Gelman, reported by phone. Gelman had to flee his home during the rains as floodwaters rose.

“Almost every house in this neighborhood sustained serious flood damages — from 6 to 8 inches to 3 to 4 feet of water in every house,” he said. “This will keep many people out of their homes for months.”

April 20, 2016 - Houston Jewish Community Is Flooded Again

Just 11 months after a massive Memorial Day flood damaged about 500 Jewish homes (among more than 2,500 homes overall) and three synagogues in my current home city of Houston, what seems to me to be a flood of equal or greater magnitude on Monday wreaked renewed havoc on the Houston Jewish neighborhoods of Meyerland and Willow Meadows.

For scores of Jewish and other families in America’s fourth-largest city who are still rebuilding their homes after last year’s flood, today’s deluge likely means the devastating scenario of restarting that process from square one. The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston had already projected an 18-month recovery timetable, with a price tag of $3.5 million, for the local Jewish community’s individual flood victims and institutions following the May 2015 flood. Initial indications are that the congregation I belong to, United Orthodox Synagogues of Houston, was hit even harder than it was last year — when damages to the synagogue facility exceeded $1 million. While I won’t often make opinionated statements in my writing, I can say with confidence that Houston’s Jewish community and all of Houston’s flooded neighborhoods are worthy of your thoughts and prayers.

August 28, 2017 - Help the Jewish Community of Houston

...The Jewish community in Houston, Texas has once again found itself in the crosshairs of a devastating storm that will likely cause even more damage in the next 24-48 hours, wrote the OU, adding:

“As the extent of the damage becomes clear, it is obvious that this community will need significant financial help in order to rebuild. Our community has answered the call before, and as Rosh Hashana approaches, we must answer the call again. Please enter your information below to donate.”

As a community, this is our opportunity to stand together and show our brothers and sisters in Houston that we stand with them in the spirit of Kol Yisrael Areivim Zeh Bazeh – that all of our people stand together as one.
~~~

I'd help them make aliyah, but rebuild for a third time in as many years?! That's nuts!! They're fighting Hashem and there's no winning that battle.

27 August 2017

"Ani L'Dodi V'Dodi Li"

6 Elul 5777


I don't know how many have been paying attention, but there has been a long string of tragic deaths over the past few weeks - more than usual - both in Israel and in frum communities in America. In my yishuv alone, in addition to the "yeshiva bochur" in the hit-and-run described above, who was my neighbor, another family of five lost three of their members in a motor vehicle accident last month. And so many of these tragedies have involved children!

The following comes from the Key to Redemption facebook page...
“My rebbe told me this in the name of the Vilna Gaon, of blessed memory. It is impossible to sow a field unless it has first been plowed. Similarly, the blockage in our heart—timtum ha-lev—prevents spiritual feelings from penetrating it. The hard peel surrounding the heart must first be pierced. Only then can spiritual insights be sown, and only then can fruit be expected to grow, in the form of changed attitudes. How can the hard soil of the heart be plowed? With strong emotional upheaval. This can come from sudden disaster or from great joy. When a person is in a state of great excitement, for whatever reason, his heart opens. A person can now impress on it whatever he likes. He can say to himself: Now is my chance. “ (Strive for Truth, Rabbi Eliyahu E. Dessler, Parshat Re’eh)
This is what is alluded to by the phrase, “The King is in the field” during the month of Elul. During the year it is harder to connect to Hashem. It takes a lot of effort and there are many obstacles by way of daily life, problems and challenges but in Elul Hashem comes towards us. He pursues us in a way. He says I am here, you just have to open your heart. Hashem created man because he wanted someone to give his love to. When we accept the Torah and mitzvoth we are accepting the terms of this love. We show our love to Hashem by obedience.
The first letter of each world of the phrase “ani l’dodi v dodi li”, I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine, spell the word Elul in Hebrew. We are commanded to fear and LOVE Hashem but Elul is an opportune time to focus on our love for Him.
“You shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources. Let these matters, which I command you today, be upon your heart.” (From the shema)
I can attest to the truth of these words. Having your heart plowed up is exactly what it feels like. But, oh Hashem, can we please have enough of the tragedies and now come to the joy? And what greater joy could there possibly be than to have these dead returned to us alive, whole and smiling.

Were I to meet the King in the field today, this would be my request: Blessed are You Hashem, Our God, King of the Universe - please - speed Mashiach on his way, bring him today and let the righteous dead begin to rise from their graves!

45 Days From Rosh Chodesh Elul

5 Elul 5777

Palestinians to Jared Kushner: In 45 Days, We Blow Up Your Peace Process - Breitbart  

The Palestinian Authority reportedly plans to give White House envoy Jared Kushner an ultimatum when he visits Ramallah on Thursday: deliver Israeli concessions in 45 days, or we blow up the peace process and go to the UN.

Did we just get a heads-up for GoguMagog at Sukkot?

22 August 2017

Forty Days of Purification

30 Menachem Av 5777
Rosh Chodesh Aleph

As shared by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...

Elul – the month preceding Rosh Hashanah – begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life's goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life – rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving. The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee"I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people. In other words, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah is a time when God reaches out to us, in an effort to create a more spiritually-inspiring atmosphere, one that stimulates teshuva (repentance – coming closer to Hashem).


Rewind 3,000 years to the Sinai Desert. God has spoken the Ten Commandments, and the Jews have built the Golden Calf. Moses desperately pleads with God to spare the nation. On the first day of Elul, Moses ascends Mount Sinai, and 40 days later – on the seminal Yom Kippur – he returned to the people, with a new, second set of stone tablets in hand. For us as well, the month of Elul begins a 40-day period that culminates in the year's holiest day, Yom Kippur.


Why 40? Forty is a number of cleansing and purification. Noah's Flood rains lasted 40 days, and the mikveh – the ritual purification bath – contains 40 measures of water. Elul is an enormous opportunity. During this time, many people increase their study of Torah and performance of good deeds. And many also do a daily cheshbon – an accounting of spiritual profit and loss.

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Guilt is the pain of the spirit. It starts to act up when you have done something that is harmful to your soul. Instead of prompting bandages, antibiotic and painkillers it is meant to prompt feelings of regret and resolve never to repeat our spiritual failure [teshuvah]. The human being is unique in that we can change and grow. Guilt is the alarm system that tells us we are going in the wrong direction and have to make a behavioral adjustment.


Today when guilt strikes don't let it get you down. Appreciate the gift of G-d that warns you when you are in danger. Confront the problem with a plan to fix it! It's a minute that will save your life - literally!

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Teshuva literally means "return." When we "do teshuva," we examine our ways, identify those areas where we are losing ground, and "return" to our own previous state of spiritual purity. And in the process, we "return" to our connection with the Almighty as well. Every transgression creates a block between us and the Almighty. Making teshuva reconnects us to our Father in Heaven.


The process of teshuva involves the following four steps:


Step 1 - Regret. Realize the extent of the damage and feel sincere regret.

Step 2 - Cessation. Immediately stop the harmful action.
Step 3 - Confession. Articulate the mistake and ask for forgiveness.
Step 4 - Resolution. Make a firm commitment not to repeat it in the future.

The "sins" we do teshuva for on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the instances we fell short of our full potential self. One word for "sin" in Hebrew is chait, which means "missing the mark." The disparity between our full potential and our present reality fuels our heartfelt teshuva. We have tremendous potential, and when we strive to fix those things which need improvement we are coming closer to fulfilling the incredible potential latent within each and every one of us.

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Confession is one of four crucial steps in the Teshuva process. However, some people fear confession believing that “I’m as rotten as my sins.” The human ego is too wobbly a table to load it up with a couple hundred pounds of wrong-doings. If I admit that I cheated on my exams, then I’m a despicable, dishonest cheat. If I admit that my outbursts of anger traumatize my children/employees/friends, then I’m an out-of-control, savage ogre. My wrong actions are not simply the garments that clothe my essential self; they become my image of who I really am. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.


The Hebrew word chet does not mean sin at all. Chet appears in the Bible in reference to a slingshot which "missed the target." There is nothing inherently "bad" about that slingshot! Rather, a mistake was made ― due to a lack of focus, concentration or skill.


The same is true with us. When we engage in irresponsible or destructive behavior, we have simply misfired. Every human being has a soul, a pure piece of Godliness that distinguishes us from the animals. When we do something wrong, it is because the soul's "voice" has become temporarily muted by the roar of the physical body. This confusion is what we call the "Yetzer Hara." But our essence remains pure. We only need to make a few adjustments ― and we're back on target!


This is the idea of teshuva. Teshuva literally means "return." When we "do teshuva," we examine our ways, identify those areas where we are losing ground, and "return" to our own previous state of spiritual purity. And in the process, we "return" to our connection with the Almighty as well.

21 August 2017

Mashiach and Today's Solar Eclipse

29 Menachem Av 5777
Yom Kippur Katan

There are seven aliyot in a parshah, one for each day of the week. It is said that one can find hints and clues to the events of the day through reading the aliyah appropriate to that day. But, there are two ways to calculate it - either from Sunday to Shabbat or from the Wednesday preceeding to the Tuesday following Shabbat. Since today, Monday, has already been pointed out as a very important day, it being the occasion of The Great American Eclipse as well as Yom Kippur Katan prior to the new month of Elul, the month of repentance and preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, let's look at the sixth aliyah of Re'eh and the second aliyah of Shoftim.
Sixth Aliyah of Re'eh (Devarim 15:1-18)
1 At the end of seven years you will make a release.2 And this is the manner of the release; to release the hand of every creditor from what he lent his friend; he shall not exact from his friend or his brother, because time of the release for the Lord has arrived.3 From the foreigner you may exact; but what is yours with your brother, your hand shall release.4 However, there will be no needy among you, for the Lord will surely bless you in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you for an inheritance to possess.5 However, if you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, to be careful to do all this commandment, which I am commanding you today.6 For the Lord, your God, has blessed you, as He spoke to you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.7 If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities, in your land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother.8 Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.9 Beware, lest there be in your heart an unfaithful thought, saying, "The seventh year, the year of release has approached," and you will begrudge your needy brother and not give him, and he will cry out to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin to you.10 You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him; for because of this thing the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your work and in all your endeavors.11 For there will never cease to be needy within the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor one, and to your needy one in your land.12 If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you for six years, and in the seventh year you shall send him forth free from you.13 And when you send him forth free from you, you shall not send him forth empty-handed.14 You shall surely provide him from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your vat, you shall give him from what the Lord, your God, has blessed you15 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you; therefore, I am commanding you this thing today.16 And it will be, if he says to you, "I will not leave you," because he loves you and your household, for it is good for him with you,17 Then you shall take an awl and put it through his ear and into the door, and he shall be a servant to you forever; and also to your maidservant you shall do likewise.18 You shall not be troubled when you send him free from you, for twice as much as a hired servant, he has served you six years, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in all that you shall do.
How interesting that slavery has been a major topic of converation in the US over the past week and here, on the day when all eyes are focused on that nation, this aliyah addresses that very issue.
Second Aliyah of Shoftim (Devarim:17:14-20)
14 When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you possess it and live therein, and you say, "I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me,"15 you shall set a king over you, one whom the Lord, your God, chooses; from among your brothers, you shall set a king over yourself; you shall not appoint a foreigner over yourself, one who is not your brother.16 Only, he may not acquire many horses for himself, so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, for the Lord said to you, "You shall not return that way any more."17 And he shall not take many wives for himself, and his heart must not turn away, and he shall not acquire much silver and gold for himself.18 And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them,20 so that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, in order that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his sons, among Israel.
Wow! On the same day that the leading Western power of the gentile nations will experience a total eclipse of the sun by the moon, this aliyah discusses Israel's king! Halevai that the nations as represented by the sun will be eclipsed by Israel represented by the moon and crown her King Mashiach in accordance with G-d's instructions.
Commentary: A King in Israel
Israel as a nation had three commandments once it was established in its Land: (a) to request a king; (b) to eliminate the offspring of Amalek; and (c) to build the Temple (Sanhedrin 20b). Thus, it was not only permitted, but commanded that at some future point the nation should request a king; moreover, the prophecies about Messianic times, wihch represent Israel at its highest level, revolve around a king of the Davidic dynasty.
According to the nations' reckoning, today is Monday or Moon-day which follows after Sun-day. Today will surely be the moon's day as it merits to completely blot out the far larger, far brighter and far more powerful sun. 

If we take nothing else away from this event, let it be known and recalled that the day will surely come when Israel (the moon) will similarly eclipse the nations (the sun). When that day comes we will crown Mashiach our king and the moon will no longer be diminished, but will once again be equal to the sun as it was at the creation of the world.

Happy "Moon"-day!!