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14 posts from April 2012

The Gift of Israel

Thank You, Hashem, for the gift of our beloved homeland Israel. 

Thank You, Hashem, for the tremendous miracles You've been performing in the past 64 years that enable us to live and thrive despite the fact that we're surrounded by hundreds of millions of enemies.

Thank You, Hashem, for giving us a land so sweet that even the soil tastes like carobs.

Thank You, Hashem, for a country so attractive that looking at her makes one's heart skip a beat hike a young man looking at his fiancé.

Thank You, Hashem, for the atmosphere of holiness all week long, and especially on an Eretz-Yisrael Friday evening sundown, when the kedusha is so tangible you can almost cut it with a knife.

Thank You, Hashem, for bringing us here from the four corners of the earth, for we have so much to learn from one another.

Thank You, Hashem, for the sweet fruits of our holy soul, which nothing anywhere can compare to.

Thank You, Hashem, for all the holy places where it's especially conducive to call Your Name.

Sure, our country is not yet what we'd like it to be; that's no problem though, because we can pray for Moshiach, the Geula, our rebuilt Holy Temple and everything else we lack. But, that's no excuse for not thanking Hashem for giving us our own homeland after 2,000 years of being wanderers and unwelcome guests barely tolerated by our host nations.

Rav Kook once paraphrased Kaddish - yitgadal, the country will grow and thrive; veyitkadash, and then it will be sanctified. The revolution of spiritual awakening in Israel gets stronger by the day. Thanks once again, Hashem, that our growing country - despite its problems - is slowly and surely become sanctified with more and more people calling Your Name. True Israel Independence means gaining our independence from the influences of evil.

Memorial Day for Israel's Fallen Soldiers - Today

We owe them a debt that no material sum or commodity can repay.

Their blood spilled so that our blood can continue flowing in our veins.

The enemy's bullets and warheads never discerned between black Jews or white Jews, religious Jews or non-religious Jews, right-wing Jews or left-wing Jews. All were maimed and killed equally.

Our beloved fallen martyrs of Ashkenazic and Sefardic descent fought side by side. Kibbutzniks from the Shomer haTzair served in the same squads with bearded Yeshiva graduates. Ethiopian, Russian, and Israeli-born Jews went up in flames together in the same burning tanks.

What can be the most befitting memorial for them?

They died together. In their loving memory, may we live together. Decide that from this moment on, you'll love every fellow Jew no matter what. Let's all commit to fulfilling the mitzva of Ahavat Yisrael in honor of our martyred soldiers of sacred memory. Our very future depends on it.

Rosh Chodesh Iyar

Today and tomorrow mark the beginning of the new Hebrew-calendar month of Iyar. This time of the year is gorgeous in Israel, and particularly in my beloved hometown of Ashdod on Israel's southern Mediterranean coast. The air here is perfumed with the fragrance of citrus blossoms. The sky is a clear deep blue. The wheat is ripening. The sea is calm. Let me share a few photos with you, to start off a lovely week and a beautiful new month: 

Image #1: Wildflowers east of Ashdod


Image #2: The late afternoon sun seen through river canes on Lachish River Wadi


Image #3: Wheat ripening in the field, to be harvested shortly before Shavuot


Image #4: Ashdod Marina


Image #5: Wall of Ancient Ashdod


Image #6: Citrus blossoms


Blessings for a wonderful need week and month!

The King's Coffers

The Mishna teaches (tractate Avos, 4:17) that an hour of Teshuva (penitence) and good deeds in this world is worth more than the entire World to Come, yet a minute in the World to Come is more sublime than all the pleasures of this world combined.

From the above Mishna, we learn that every moment of Teshuva, Torah learning, and charitable deeds is an asset of indescribable value that can never be taken away from a person.

Imagine that you have 120 seconds inside the King's coffers. The King has given you a big burlap sack, and whatever you can grab in the designated two minutes is yours for ever. Once inside, you can shovel into your sack all the gold, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds that you can; once your time's up, you pick up your sack and leave, a multimillionaire forever.

Now imagine that once inside the King's coffers, somebody approaches you and asks you what's going on in Afghanistan. Somebody else approaches you and invites you to watch Star Wars. A third person yells that you're missing the action of the playoff game, and a fourth person wants to share the latest juicy gossip with you. Would you listen to these people? No way! You'd ignore them and keep on throwing 5-karat diamonds into your sack. Each second counts, and the clock keeps on ticking. Soon, the time's up...


We all hope to live until 120, yet we know that the years flash by ever so quickly. In that respect, our term of duty on this earth is like 120 seconds inside the King's coffers. If we use our time wisely, we can accumulate timeless assets of Torah, tshuva, and good deeds, whose value in the World to Come defies all description. When we waste our time in idle gossip or in meaningless pastimes, we're simply squandering each valuable moment that The King of Kings - Hashem our Creator - has granted us on this earth. The worst fires of purgatory is the embarrassment a soul experiences when it reaches the next world and discovers that its golden opportunity inside the King's coffers - that is, on this earth - was wasted on nonsense and idle pastimes of no consequence.

These 49 days of Counting the Omer are an opportune time for us correct our souls and strengthen our character, for each day corresponds to a different character trait and part of the soul. From now until Shavuot, we can't afford to waste a single day. Every day, the King's Coffers are handing out different types of rare gems for all that seek them. Teshuva, from now until Shavuot, is a unique invitation to enter the King's coffers. Here's a chance - grab it while you can! 

Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat Tazria-Metzora.

Holocaust Day: Mass Graves of Yanov

Today is Holocaust Day in Israel. The following is a short clip of one of my recent trips to Yanov, Ukraine, where my father's family comes from. The Nazis slaughtered 4,000 Jews there in the Spring of 1942. They are buried in two mass graves, one of 2,500 and one of 1,500. May their holy martyred memory - and the memory of all the 6 million martyrs - be sanctified and never forgotten.