Tuesday, 8 November 2011


The chairman of Starbucks learns about life from Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, zt"l.
by Howard Schultz
Nov. 8, 2011 - The Jewish world is plunged into mourning with the untimely passing of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, the Rosh Yeshiva of Mir in Jerusalem.
I grew up in federally subsidized housing in Brooklyn. I was part of a generation of families that dreamed about the American dream. My dad had a series of blue-collar jobs. An uneducated man, he was kind of beaten by the system. He was a World War II veteran who had great aspirations about America, but his dream was not coming true.
At the age of seven, I came home one day to find my dad sprawled on the couch in our two-bedroom apartment in a full-leg cast; he had fallen on the job and broken his leg. This was way before the invention of Pampers, and he worked as a delivery driver for cloth diapers. He hated this job bitterly, but on this one day, he wished he had it back. In 1960 in America, most companies had no workers' compensation and no hospitalization for a blue-collar worker who had an accident. I saw firsthand the plight of the working class.
That experience had a significant effect on how I see the world. When I got into a position of responsibility at Starbucks, what I wanted to try to do was build a kind of company that my father never got a chance to work for.
We at Starbucks have been trying to create an industry that did not exist, and a kind of brand that was very unusual. We said to ourselves that if we wanted to build a large enterprise and a brand that had meaning, relevance and trust for all its constituencies, then we first had to build trust with our employees. So we tried to co-author a strategy in which those who worked for the business were really part of something. As a result, in 1989 we began to provide equity in the form of stock options to our employees.
A successful business is built on authentic values.
When we did this, we had a couple hundred employees and fewer than 50 stores. Today, we have close to 50,000 employees, whom we call partners, and we will open up our 3,500th store at the end of this month. We have built, I think, an enduring business upon a premise that says the experience that we create inside our company will be the defining mechanism of building our brand. We said we must first take care of our people.
A business must be built on a set of values, a foundation that's authentic, so you can look in the mirror and be proud of what's going on.
Recently I was walking down a street in London that was a very high-fashion piece of real estate. It had one designer store after another. Expensive stores, expensive rents. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a storefront that just did not fit. It was about 12 feet wide, and no more than a 500 square foot store. In the midst of all these fancy signs and fancy stores, this store had one word on top of the door: "Cheese." I couldn't figure out what it was, so, curious, I went in.
Behind the counter was a poorly dressed 70-year old guy, and I was the only customer. As soon as I walked in, he came to life. I said, "I don't know much about London, but it appears to me that this store really doesn't fit on this street." He replied, "Many people have said that to me, young man. But the truth is, it's been here over 100 years."
I said, "I'm sure you can make a lot more money on this store if you leased it or you sold your business." He replied, "Well, I wouldn't lease it because I own the building. The legacy, responsibility and pride that I have is to the generations of my family who have come before me. That is why I come to work every day to be a purveyor of cheese to honor the people who've come before me."
The cheese just came to life with his words.
Think about all our experiences every day. How often does anybody honor us as a consumer? Rarely. But when it does happen, the power of the human spirit really does come through. At the end of the day, when business is really good, it's not about building a brand or making money. That's a means to an end. It's about honoring the human spirit, honoring the people who work in the business and honoring the customer.
When I was in Israel, I went to Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox area within Jerusalem. Along with a group of businessmen I was with, I had the opportunity to have an audience with Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel, the head of a yeshiva there [Mir Yeshiva]. I had never heard of him and didn't know anything about him. We went into his study and waited 10 to 15 minutes for him. Finally, the doors opened.
Rabbi Finkel was severely afflicted with Parkinson's disease. Our inclination was to look away.
What we did not know was that Rabbi Finkel was severely afflicted with Parkinson's disease. He sat down at the head of the table, and, naturally, our inclination was to look away. We didn't want to embarrass him.
We were all looking away, and we heard this big bang on the table: "Gentlemen, look at me, and look at me right now." Now his speech affliction was worse than his physical shaking. It was really hard to listen to him and watch him. He said, "I have only a few minutes for you because I know you're all busy American businessmen." You know, just a little dig there.
Then he asked, "Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?" He called on one guy, who didn't know what to do -- it was like being called on in the fifth grade without the answer. And the guy says something benign like, "We will never, ever forget?" And the rabbi completely dismisses him. I felt terrible for the guy until I realized the rabbi was getting ready to call on someone else. All of us were sort of under the table, looking away -- you know, please, not me. He did not call me. I was sweating. He called on another guy, who had such a fantastic answer: "We will never, ever again be a victim or bystander."
The rabbi said, "You guys just don't get it. Okay, gentlemen, let me tell you the essence of the human spirit.
"As you know, during the Holocaust, the people were transported in the worst possible, inhumane way by railcar. They thought they were going to a work camp. We all know they were going to a death camp.
"After hours and hours in this inhumane corral with no light, no bathroom, cold, they arrived at the camps. The doors were swung wide open, and they were blinded by the light. Men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons. They went off to the bunkers to sleep.
Am I going to push the blanket to the other people, or am I going to pull it to stay warm?
"As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, 'Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?'"
And Rabbi Finkel says, "It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others."
And with that, he stood up and said, "Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people."

the Gift

A review of Sen. Joe Lieberman's book on rediscovering the beauty of the Sabbath.
by Michael Medved
If you've ever felt the yen to celebrate a Jewish holy day in a festive, traditional style, this marvelous book will enable you to approximate the experience - without calories from rich, filling food or risks of leaving wine stains on the white tablecloth.
Your host, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, comes across as a chatty, good-natured, Old World uncle who's free with advice, anecdote and sentimental reminiscence. Like most conversations around a religious family's Sabbath table, the discussion rambles and wanders, with amusing, earthy or insightful asides of sometimes dubious relevance, but it keeps circling back to the book's main argument: that all Americans, of every outlook or religious perspective, would benefit from a weekly embrace of the idea of a Sabbath.
The purpose of Shabbat isn't to recharge our batteries so we can work harder, but to recharge our souls so we can live better.
The purpose of "the gift of rest" in Mr. Lieberman's view isn't "to recharge our batteries so we can work harder but to recharge our souls so we can live better." Citing a wide variety of Jewish sources both ancient and modern, the senator affirms that work and rest form an indissoluble whole. Six days a week we work to improve our world; on the seventh day, we rest to improve ourselves.
The heart of the book describes the mechanics of that process of improvement and enrichment. Mr. Lieberman offers a lovingly detailed guided tour of territory that most of his fellow citizens might consider foreign and remote: the province he and his wife, Hadassah, have identified as "Shabbatland." (Shabbat is the Hebrew word for the Sabbath.) Like other exotic destinations, Shabbatland features its own distinctive culture, rules, foods, history, music, pleasures, standards of dress, communal gatherings and even language.
For secularists, and especially for the great bulk of American Jews who have received scant exposure to the rigors and joys of Orthodox Jewish practice, this informative exploration of the 25 hours of the Sabbath (it begins at sunset but concludes only at full dark) will prove fascinating and rewarding, answering the perpetual questions about how, exactly, observant Jews spend their time while they retreat each week from the insistent demands of the workaday world.
Mr. Lieberman possesses unique qualifications to offer this tour as surely the best-known Sabbath observer in the United States. As Democratic vice-presidential nominee in the epic campaign of 2000, he faced countless questions on whether strict limitations one day each week and on major Jewish holidays (no traveling in cars or airplanes; no using phones, blackberries or microphones; no monitoring media; no handling money) would impact his ability to handle the lofty office he sought.
In fact, an entire chapter in the book describes those occasions when Jewish law (according to Mr. Lieberman's understanding) allows violations of normal Sabbath procedure. He describes a particular Sabbath afternoon in 2010 when he spoke on the telephone to his friend Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, in a vain attempt to rescue a bipartisan climate-change bill. Mr. Lieberman explains a rabbinic tradition suggesting flexibility for Sabbath-observant Jews on behalf of "a greater good, such as preserving or protecting life and health or supporting the well-being of the community."
Of course, such reasoning could allow important leaders to abandon the Sabbath most of the time, but Mr. Lieberman makes clear his general practice of serving the public without violating religious traditions, emphasizing the all-important difference between the merely urgent and the truly important. In the midst of the recount crisis in December 2000, Al Gore hosted the Liebermans for an impromptu Sabbath meal with campaign staff at the vice-presidential residence.
After Mr. Lieberman recited blessings and led songs, Tipper Gore suggested to her then-husband, "Al, let's turn off our electronics. If anyone really needs us, they'll know how to get us." Later that night, the Gores walked the Liebermans back to their home in Georgetown - with a Secret Service detail trailing the two couples at a respectful distance.
In addition to such sidelights on recent history, "The Gift of Rest" cites long-ago examples of American presidents who, as devout Christians, observed Sunday restrictions in the White House. Franklin Pierce conducted no business on the Lord's Day and wouldn't even allow mail to be opened; Theodore Roosevelt, enthusiastic outdoorsman that he was, refused to hunt or fish on Sunday for religious reasons.
In the interest of full disclosure, David Klinghoffer (generously acknowledged by Mr. Lieberman, by the way) is a friend, neighbor and fellow congregant in our Orthodox Seattle synagogue, and Mr. Lieberman has been a friendly acquaintance since my days at Yale Law School 40 years ago.
But even those who have never met the senator will feel that they know him - and like him - from the pages of this book. In 2012, he will leave the Senate after 24 tumultuous years, and while few will recall his specific legislative achievements (or failures, like that ill-starred climate-change bill he cherished) all Americans should honor his true legacy: the dignity with which he has exemplified the principle that true religious faith, like the Sabbath itself, has more to do with warmth, joy and fellowship than restriction, guilt and intolerance.

Martin Hanczyc: The line between life and not-life

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Consejos para ser buenos padres

Cómo enseñarle a tus hijos a lidiar con un mundo temible y a veces injusto.
por Rav Noaj Orlowek
Los niños reaccionan al miedo de la misma forma que lo hacen sus padres.
Sus emociones son el reflejo de nuestras emociones. Si tú tienes miedo y hablas sobre ello frente a los niños, ellos se convertirán en miedosos también. Y debemos saber que ellos perciben todo - inclusive cosas que no notamos.
Por lo tanto, si quieres ayudar a tus hijos a vivir en un mundo negativo y a veces temible, necesitarás aprender cómo lidiar con el miedo.
Los Niños Reflejan Todo
Una vez escuché la siguiente historia:
Una joven pareja no podía entender por qué su hija de tres años de edad repentinamente desarrolló un miedo a las hormigas, hasta que descubrieron que dos días antes, la abuela había encontrado hormigas en la cocina y había dicho: "¡Oh no, las hormigas están aquí otra vez, se comerán todo!".
¡Para esa niña de tres años, "todo" la incluía a ella!
Si eres calmado y positivo, eso también se reflejará en tus hijos.
Durante la Guerra del Golfo en Israel, cuando las sirenas comenzaban a sonar, todos teníamos que refugiarnos en cuartos especialmente sellados contra ataques de gas.
Una amiga de mi hija estaba en nuestra casa cuando uno de los ataques comenzó. Tenía que decidir rápidamente si debía quedarse con nosotros o ir de vuelta con sus padres al final de la calle. No sé si la defensa civil lo hubiese aprobado, pero decidí llevarla a la casa para que estuviera con sus padres.
Cuando estábamos afuera, caminando hacia su edificio, las calles estaban vacías y las sirenas sonando. Esta pequeña sabía muy bien lo que significaban las sirenas, pero no tenía miedo. La persona que la estaba llevando no tenía miedo - entonces ella no tenía miedo. Los niños reflejan lo que sentimos.
La verdadera pregunta es cómo los padres pueden lidiar con su pesimismo y con sus miedos.
Controla Tu Miedo
La Torá nos ordena amar a Dios. En general, no te recomendaría que obligues a alguien a que te ame. Es terriblemente inefectivo.
Sin embargo, la Torá lo hace. También nos pide temer a Dios. Y le pide a los soldados no temer en la guerra.
¿Cómo la Torá puede ordenarle a alguien que tenga o deje de tener una emoción en especial? Realmente no lo hace.
La Torá nos ordena actuar, debemos hacer algo al respecto que provoque la emoción.
No se nos ordena mantener un pensamiento fuera de nuestra cabeza. Es muy difícil dejar de pensar o sentir algo, pero somos responsables de lo que haremos una vez que el sentimiento o el pensamiento está allí.
¿Cómo manejas la negatividad y el temor si no puedes sacarlo de tu mente?
¿De Dónde Proviene la Negatividad?
Todos tenemos una desafortunada tendencia a enfocarnos en lo que está mal. Tengo una boca llena de dientes y no me he dado cuenta de ellos. Nadie me dice que están ahí, sin embargo están disponibles todo el tiempo. Mis ojos son mis sirvientes de confianza. Definitivamente me daría cuenta de ellos si faltaran, o dejaran de funcionar. Pero... ¿los aprecio cuando funcionan?
No apreciamos diariamente los increíbles regalos que tenemos. Ese es el fundamento de la negatividad: pensar que merezco todo.
Cuando las cosas andan bien - tienes salud, familia, bienestar económico - no piensas al respecto porque estas cosas te las mereces, ¿no es así?
Respuesta Incorrecta.
No te mereces nada. Todo lo que tienes es un regalo.
Cada mañana recitamos una serie de bendiciones agradeciéndole a Dios por las cosas buenas; poder caminar, ver, ser libres. Y estas bendiciones nos enseñan a apreciar lo que tenemos. Por un lado, me ayudan a tomar conciencia de estos regalos, y por el otro, me ayudan a encontrar motivación para trabajar y mantenerlos.
Encuentra Algo Positivo
¿Cómo controlas tu negatividad? La forma más fácil es encontrando algo positivo.
Algunas personas sólo ven "los detalles", y se fijan en las cosas negativas. Intenta buscar "los detalles" positivos.
Si ves una pintura fea en la pared de tu amigo, esfuérzate para apreciar el hecho de que está colgada derecha. Nota cuán aburrida sería la pared sin ella. Reconoce que la han centrado bien.
Si tu hijo viene a casa quejándose sobre su maestro diariamente, déjalo. Pero insístele que siempre diga algo bueno sobre él. Las quejas se acabarán en unos cuantos días.
Una de mis frases favoritas es: "Para cualquier enfermedad hay un remedio... o no lo hay. Si hay alguno, ¡búscalo! Y si no hay, ¡no te preocupes más!".
Haz lo que puedas hacer para estar a salvo, para protegerte del mal. Lo que puedas hazlo y lo que no puedas hacer, ¡olvídate de ello!
Finalmente, cuando nos damos cuenta de que realmente estamos en las manos benevolentes de Dios, nada nos puede paralizar. Es verdad que siempre debemos hacer nuestro máximo esfuerzo, pero estos pasos no son dados en el contexto del miedo, sino de la seguridad.
Natan Sharanzky escribió que el temor a Dios y el respeto por la esencia de Dios, es el único factor capaz de conquistar el miedo.
Como dijo el Rey Salomón: "El temor al Creador es el principio del conocimiento".
Así como un pequeño dolor es olvidado en un momento de gran dolor, y una pequeña felicidad es olvidada en un momento de gran felicidad, así también, si temes a Dios, no le temerás a nada más.

Muebles del Gueto de Varsovia

¿Cómo podemos desear volver a un lugar que no recordamos?
por Sara Debbie Gutfreund
Es el comienzo de las Tres Semanas, el período en el que lamentamos la destrucción del Templo de Jerusalem, y estoy pensando en lo que recientemente me dijo una amiga: “Todas las restricciones son duras para mí porque ni siquiera sé por lo que me estoy lamentando. No tenemos elBeit HaMikdash, ¿y qué? Tenemos nuestro shul. Tenemos nuestra comunidad. Sé que no debería sentirme de esta manera, pero no veo ninguna razón para estar triste”.
Esta es la clase de tristeza más profunda; ni siquiera sabemos que nos falta algo.
Hace unos cuantos años, murió una joven madre, y por alguna razón no podía dejar de pensar en su hija de dos años. Esa hija, en pocos años más, no recordará a su madre. Ni siquiera sabrá que le falta el amor de su madre.
Como judíos, hemos perdido la conexión más esencial de nuestras vidas, y somos como niños que no pueden recordar la cara de su padre. ¿Cómo podemos desear volver a un lugar que no recordamos?
La primera vez que visité el nuevo Yad Vashem, el museo del Holocausto de Israel, recorrí el laberinto de fotografías y videos y sentí la pesadez de familias destrozadas, de mundos enteros desapareciendo sin un suspiro de protesta. Y luego la vi. Era una fotografía de judíos que se estaban mudando al Gueto de Varsovia. Estaban jalando carretas de madera apiladas hasta arriba con sus muebles. Había sillas, mesas, camas y maletas. Un niño adolescente estaba mirando al fotógrafo, con una silla en sus hombros. Sus ojos se abrieron paso hasta los míos. Se veía como tanta gente que yo conocía. Podría haber sido un hermano, un primo, o un hijo.
Nadie entendió que hubiesen estado mejor dejando sus sillas atrás.
No podía dejar de mirar esa fotografía. Me quedé parada allí, llorando. ¿Hacia dónde creían que estaban yendo? ¿Por qué estaban llevando tantos pesados e inútiles muebles? ¿No sabían que ya no los necesitaban? Nadie entendió que hubiesen estado mejor dejando sus sillas atrás.
Sentí como si estuviese mirando un espejo. ¿Cuánto tiempo pasamos comprando y planeando y transportando todos nuestros “muebles”? Desde la elección del auto hasta el material de los almohadones de los sofás del living, invertimos tanto de nuestro tiempo asegurándonos de estar lo más cómodo posible. La comodidad no es necesariamente mala; se convierte en un problema cuando la convertimos en el objetivo. Al igual que la gente en la fotografía, llevando sus muebles al gueto, no me doy cuenta de que en realidad no estoy en casa, de que estoy viviendo una ilusión. Y posiblemente lo más triste de todo es que no veo que, como nación, estamos cortados de la Fuente misma de vida.
Mientras salía del museo hacia el sol encandilador de la tarde, escuché las voces de todas las grabaciones haciendo eco en mi mente:
Se llevaron mi bebé y lo mataron delante de mí… Mi propio padre cayó durante la marcha y no se detuvieron para ayudarlo, no sé por qué yo no me detuve, tenía tanto miedo… Estábamos en el tren sin comida, sin agua, sin aire,… ahora no me queda nadie, nadie… Yacía debajo de montones de cadáveres, tenía sólo seis años y subí hasta la cima y vi el bosque…
Manejé hasta casa y traté de olvidar las voces. Porque tengo que hacer la cena. Y tengo que alimentar al bebé. Y tengo que terminar mi proyecto. Y retirar la ropa de la tintorería y concertar citas con el dentista. Las voces comenzaron a desvanecerse a medida que crecía en mi cabeza la lista de cosas para hacer.
Pero esa fotografía no se iba. Esas personas son mi familia. Sus pérdidas son mías. Pienso en el reciente ataque terrorista en Jerusalem. ¿Qué hice después del primer momento de horror luego de escuchar las noticias? Comencé a hacer llamados telefónicos. ¿En dónde está mi marido? ¿Mis padres están bien? ¿Mis hijos están a salvo? Y cuando me aseguré de que todos estaban a salvo, di un suspiro de alivio y continué la ilusión de que todo está bien. ¡Pero no lo está! Hay gente herida. Alguien acaba de perder a su madre, a su hijo, a su esposo que estaba perfectamente bien esta mañana. No puedo simplemente seguir con mi rutina. No puedo continuar de esta manera. No puedo simplemente decir una plegaria y salir a cenar.
Pero lo hago. Y ahora, mientras me permito pensar sobre mis pares judíos, me duele el corazón. Porque son mi familia. Y porque todos perdimos juntos. Durante las tres semanas y especialmente durante los nueve días, disminuimos nuestro placer físico. Bajamos los muebles de la espalda y dejamos de movernos hacia la ilusión del confort. Cuando no estamos distraídos por el confort material, puede que veamos que estamos en el exilio. Estamos desconectados de nosotros mismos, de los demás y de nuestro Padre.
Y cuando dejemos de escribir nuestras “listas” podremos comenzar a ver que Dios está esperando que bajemos nuestras maletas y que lloremos. Quiere que nos demos cuenta de que hasta con nuestros acaudaladosshuls, hermosas escuelas y prósperos hogares, sólo somos viajeros. Quiere que regresemos a Casa. Y finalmente, quiere que veamos que somos todos parte del corazón roto y perdido de nuestra nación. Tu pérdida me duele. Tu simjá me trae alegría. Y juntos, como una familia, encontraremos nuestro camino a casa.

Una Cosa Pura

Trayendo la luz oculta de Janucá a nuestras vidas.
por Sara Debbie Gutfreund
Dame una imagen pura. Un bebé recién nacido. Un amanecer. El sol hundiéndose lentamente detrás de las montañas, dejando una luz rosada detrás de sí. Rosas blancas.
Dame un momento puro. El último esfuerzo para alcanzar la cima de una montaña empinada. Zambullirse en el mar, en el medio de una ola enorme. Mirar a los ojos a tu pareja y ver su alma…
Muéstrame una persona pura. Rav Jaim Pinjas Sheinberg sentado al costado de la cama de su esposa enferma, cantando todas las canciones que conoce hasta que ella le da una sonrisa.
Cuéntame una historia pura. La Rebetzin Batia Sheinberg, que murió el año pasado a la edad de 96 años (y 79 años de matrimonio), compartió la sala de hospital con una mujer muriendo de cáncer. Todos los días escuchó a esta mujer y a su marido rezando para que ella muriera y dejara de sufrir. Un día la Rebetzin se dirigió a esta pareja y les dijo: “¿Por qué están rezando para morir? ¡Deberían estar rezando para vivir!”.
La mujer y su marido menearon sus cabezas: “Esto no es vida”, dijeron. “Esto es dolor”. Y como una madre compasiva confortando a sus propios hijos, la Rebetzin les habló con todo su corazón y toda su fuerza: “Están equivocados. Esta es la oportunidad de empacar las maletas para el viaje final. ¿Qué van a poner en sus maletas?”.
La pareja respondió: “No sabemos. No tenemos nada para empacar. Nunca hemos aprendido sobre el mundo espiritual. Nunca hemos empacado nada”.
A partir de ese día, desde su cama de hospital, la Rebetzin les enseñó a decir Salmos, luego a bendecir por los alimentos, luego sobre Shabat, etc. Y cuando esta mujer, que tuvo la dicha de ser la compañera de pieza de la Rebetzin Sheinberg le devolvió su alma a su Creador, su marido le pidió a la Ieshivá del rabino Sheinberg que dijera Kadish por ella todos los años en su yortzait (aniversario de fallecimiento). Y de esta manera, la Rebetzin Sheinberg nos enseñó a vivir incluso después de la muerte.
Eclipsando la Luz
La gente responde a la sinceridad y a la pureza al igual que responden al aire fresco. La reciben contentos. La inhalan. Les da vida. Todas las mañanas recitamos una hermosa bendición: “Mi Dios, el alma que Has puesto en mí es pura. Tú la Has creado, Tú le Has dado forma, Tú la Has insuflado dentro de mí, la salvaguardas dentro de mí, y eventualmente Te la llevarás de mí, y la restituirás en mí en el Tiempo por Venir. Todo el tiempo durante el cual el alma esté dentro de mí, te agradeceré”.
¿Pero por qué es tan difícil sentir la pureza esencial de nuestras almas? La Rebetzin Tzipora Heller da el ejemplo de la luz de una vela. Si pones una cortina delante de la vela, ¿todavía verías la luz? Sí. ¿Y si pones dos cortinas? Sí, todavía podrías ver la luz, aún si está eclipsada. Pero si pones cien o mil cortinas entonces puede que no veas la luz para nada, aunque todavía esté encendida. El alma es como esa vela encendida, y las cortinas son elecciones equivocadas que bloquean el acceso a nuestra verdadera identidad.
Janucá nos da la fortaleza para encontrar la luz pura e infinita que se esconde detrás de las cortinas de nuestras vidas.
En Janucá se nos da una fortaleza especial para encontrar esa luz infinita y pura que se esconde detrás de las cortinas de nuestras vidas. Pero primero necesitamos quererlo. Necesitamos añorar la oportunidad de ver la vela encendida.
¿Cuál es la fortaleza que nos da Janucá? ¿Qué es lo que tiene la menorá que nos hace desear encontrar nuestra alma?
Cuando recuperamos el Templo Sagrado, había otros tarros de aceite que podríamos haber utilizado para encender la menorá. Pero sólo queríamos encenderla con el aceite puro a pesar de que sólo quedaba un poquito. Estábamos dispuestos a arriesgarnos a la oscuridad subsiguiente para ofrecerle a Dios ese único tarro de aceite.
En Janucá, Dios quiere que recordemos que también hoy en día tenemos la habilidad de traer luz a nuestras vidas. Quiere que recordemos todas las veces en las que no tuvimos miedo de enfrentar la oscuridad. Quiere que creamos en “lo mejor” y en “lo más puro” dentro de nosotros, sin importar qué tan pequeña sea esa chispa de sinceridad.
Y luego, Él tomara cada una de nuestras chispas pequeñas y llenará nuestras vidas con luz. Ese es el milagro.
Vemos esto todo el tiempo en nuestras vidas. Respetas una hora de Shabat, pero la respetas con todo tu corazón. Y Dios eventualmente te ayuda a respetar todo Shabat. Aprendes un poco de Torá completamente abierto a recibir sabiduría, y Dios te enseña más de lo que podrías haber imaginado. Dices una bendición con intenciones puras, y Él preserva el eco de esa plegaria para las generaciones venideras.
En el comienzo del tiempo, Dios creó una luz especial que se extendió de un extremo del mundo hasta el otro. Bajo esa luz, nada moría y nada se podría. Era una hermosa y curadora luz infinita. Pero sólo duró 36 horas, porque Dios vio que la luz no era apta para este mundo, en donde necesitábamos algo de oscuridad para poder tener libre albedrío. Por lo que escondió la luz y la reservó para el Mundo por Venir, en donde no hay dolor ni ocultamiento.
Pero una vez al año, en Janucá, Dios nos da acceso a esta luz escondida que reside en los recovecos más profundos de nuestras almas. Hay 36 velas encendidas durante Janucá, cada una de ellas representa una hora de las 36 horas que esta luz oculta estuvo revelada en el mundo.
Cada vela que encendemos remueve otra capa de la cortina que bloquea la preciosa y oculta luz de nuestras almas.
Cada vela nos rodea con la pureza de ese pequeño tarro de aceite que siempre tiene una gota más. Porque todo lo que necesitamos es una cosa pura. Una imagen pura. Un momento puro. Una historia pura.
Y así, ese singular momento llevará al siguiente momento puro. Vela a vela. Hasta que la oscuridad desaparezca completamente.

Sukkot - A Celebration For Every Nation!

the living prophecy

Life is too precious

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Netanyahu: Gilad Shalit to return home in days

Stories of help by Karmey Chessed

A smile back on her face - literally!

Raising eight children alone in the shadow of her husband's incapacitating illness, Sarah was suffering on all fronts. Money for much needed groceries, medicine and heating was completely nonexistent. Who could possibly come to her aid and pay for all these daily essentials in the bitter cold winter?

To compound the problem, Sarah a young woman in her 30's, suffered from genetic dental problems. Her extensive tooth loss caused her severe shame, and she was too embarrassed to go out in public. She spent hours crying over her plight, knowing that dental implants was not only too costly but completely out of the question when her family couldn't afford milk.

When other organizations turned her down, Karmey Chessed stepped in to help Sarah. After providing monetary assistance for the family's most basic needs, Karmey Chessed surprised Sarah with a gift of dental care, covering the entire cost of her much needed dentures. While the funds for groceries, medicine, and utilities brought joy to her home, the dental care definitely put a smile back on her face!

"Mommy, I'm thirsty!"

A small run-down apartment, with peeling paint and crumbling walls housed the eleven members of the Katz family. Although at one time they had been financially stable, their lot took a turn for the worse and business was bad. Today, nine children filled the home, but there was no income there was no funds to pay the bills.

The electricity had already been turned off when Moshe, one of the younger children, walked over to the kitchen sink. With no food in the house, he learned to fill up on water to quench his hunger. He reached over to turn on the faucet and let out a moan - there is no water either. The municipality finally gave in to its threats and cut off the water.

Learning about this dire situation, an emergency fundraising campaign was underway and Karmey Chessed collected close to $1500 for the Katz family. The funds were used to pay the family's utility bills, restoring electricity and water. Karmey Chessed toured the home and discovered how many basic household appliances were missing. The organization purchased a much needed washing machine, and stocked the fridge and pantry with food.

A Cry in the Dark

Until they moved into a slightly larger dwelling, Dina's three room apartment was packed with ten children. Unfortunately, the move did little to lessen the suffering of this needy family.

In Dina's attempt to save her children from starvation, a ten thousand shekel debt was accrued at the local grocery store. But the generosity of the grocery store owner wore thin and when he no longer allowed Dina to purchase food on credit, the cupboards were bare.
A cry is heard in the darkness - the electric company cut off the family's electric supply. Pitifully, checks return regularly due to insufficient funds. One of the children suffers from a bent back due to severe malnutrition, and this little girl requires $100,000 corrective surgery. Who can Dina turn to in her time of anguish?

Karmey Chessed is the only organization that can lift this needy family out of the debts of thier despair. The exorbitant sums were immediately collected and food baskets and volunteers are sent regularly, continuing to help Dina and her children. Thanks to Karmei, Chessed Dina and her family has finally begun to see light in their lives.


Karmey Chessed, literally translated as vineyards of kindness, offers a cluster of services for the needy Jewish family in Israel. Grapes, one of Israel's seven special species, require proper care to ensure that they grow properly. Likewise, we work tirelessly along with our dedicated volunteers to provide these families with both their physical and emotional needs. At Karmey Chessed we strive to aid unfortunate families in any possible way, helping them maintain their dignity and get back on their feet.

The organization's activities are currently centered in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Modiin, Beitar Illit, and Gush Etzion, but due to the high demand, efforts are expected to expand to other areas of the country.


An Educated letter by Scottish Professor

An eloquent letter written by a non-Jewish Scottish professor to his students who voted to boycott Israel.

by Denis MacEoin

The Edinburgh Student’s Association made a motion to boycott all things Israeli since they claim Israel is under an apartheid regime. Dr. Denis Maceoin is an expert in Middle Eastern affairs. Here is his letter to those students.

Received by e-mail from the author, Dr. Denis MacEoin, a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly,

TO: The Committee Edinburgh University Student Association.

May I be permitted to say a few words to members of the EUSA? I am an Edinburgh graduate (MA 1975) who studied Persian, Arabic and Islamic History in Buccleuch Place under William Montgomery Watt and Laurence Elwell Sutton, two of Britain's great Middle East experts in their day.

I later went on to do a PhD at Cambridge and to teach Arabic and Islamic Studies at Newcastle University. Naturally, I am the author of several books and hundreds of articles in this field. I say all that to show that I am well informed in Middle Eastern affairs and that, for that reason, I am shocked and disheartened by the EUSA motion and vote.

I am shocked for a simple reason: there is not and has never been a system of apartheid in Israel. That is not my opinion, that is fact that can be tested against reality by any Edinburgh student, should he or she choose to visit Israel to see for themselves. Let me spell this out, since I have the impression that those members of EUSA who voted for this motion are absolutely clueless in matters concerning Israel, and that they are, in all likelihood, the victims of extremely biased propaganda coming from the anti-Israel lobby.

Being anti-Israel is not in itself objectionable. But I’m not talking about ordinary criticism of Israel. I’m speaking of a hatred that permits itself no boundaries in the lies and myths it pours out. Thus, Israel is repeatedly referred to as a “Nazi” state. In what sense is this true, even as a metaphor? Where are the Israeli concentration camps? The einzatsgruppen? The SS? The Nuremberg Laws? The Final Solution? None of these things nor anything remotely resembling them exists in Israel, precisely because the Jews, more than anyone on earth, understand what Nazism stood for.

Calling Jews Nazis is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

It is claimed that there has been an Israeli Holocaust in Gaza (or elsewhere). Where? When? No honest historian would treat that claim with anything but the contempt it deserves. But calling Jews Nazis and saying they have committed a Holocaust is as basic a way to subvert historical fact as anything I can think of.

Likewise apartheid. For apartheid to exist, there would have to be a situation that closely resembled how things were in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Unfortunately for those who believe this, a weekend in any part of Israel would be enough to show how ridiculous the claim is.

That a body of university students actually fell for this and voted on it is a sad comment on the state of modern education. The most obvious focus for apartheid would be the country’s 20% Arab population. Under Israeli law, Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as Jews or anyone else; Muslims have the same rights as Jews or Christians; Baha’is, severely persecuted in Iran, flourish in Israel, where they have their world center; Ahmadi Muslims, severely persecuted in Pakistan and elsewhere, are kept safe by Israel; the holy places of all religions are protected under a specific Israeli law. Arabs form 20% of the university population (an exact echo of their percentage in the general population).

In Iran, the Bahai’s (the largest religious minority) are forbidden to study in any university or to run their own universities: why aren’t your members boycotting Iran? Arabs in Israel can go anywhere they want, unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. They use public transport, they eat in restaurants, they go to swimming pools, they use libraries, they go to cinemas alongside Jews – something no blacks were able to do in South Africa.

Israeli hospitals not only treat Jews and Arabs, they also treat Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank. On the same wards, in the same operating theaters.

In Israel, women have the same rights as men: there is no gender apartheid. Gay men and women face no restrictions, and Palestinian gays often escape into Israel, knowing they may be killed at home.

University is supposed to be about learning to use your brain, to think rationally, to examine evidence, to reach conclusions based on solid evidence, to compare sources, to weigh up one view against one or more others. If the best Edinburgh can now produce are students who have no idea how to do any of these things, then the future is bleak.

I do not object to well-documented criticism of Israel. I do object when supposedly intelligent people single the Jewish state out above states that are horrific in their treatment of their populations. We are going through the biggest upheaval in the Middle East since the 7th and 8th centuries, and it’s clear that Arabs and Iranians are rebelling against terrifying regimes that fight back by killing their own citizens.

You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play.

Israeli citizens, Jews and Arabs alike, do not rebel (though they are free to protest). Yet Edinburgh students mount no demonstrations and call for no boycotts against Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Iran . They prefer to make false accusations against one of the world’s freest countries, the only country in the Middle East that has taken in Darfur refugees, the only country in the Middle East that gives refuge to gay men and women, the only country in the Middle East that protects the Bahai’s…. Need I go on?

The imbalance is perceptible, and it sheds no credit on anyone who voted for this boycott. I ask you to show some common sense. Get information from the Israeli embassy. Ask for some speakers. Listen to more than one side. Do not make your minds up until you have given a fair hearing to both parties. You have a duty to your students, and that is to protect them from one-sided argument.

They are not at university to be propagandized. And they are certainly not there to be tricked into anti-Semitism by punishing one country among all the countries of the world, which happens to be the only Jewish state. If there had been a single Jewish state in the 1930′s (which, sadly, there was not), don’t you think Adolf Hitler would have decided to boycott it?

Your generation has a duty to ensure that the perennial racism of anti-Semitism never sets down roots among you. Today, however, there are clear signs that it has done so and is putting down more. You have a chance to avert a very great evil, simply by using reason and a sense of fair play. Please tell me that this makes sense. I have given you some of the evidence. It’s up to you to find out more.

Yours sincerely,
Denis MacEoin

life most important app..

Appreciating more with less.

by Sara Yoheved Rigler

The text messages of a dying man reveal a lot about who he was. Larry Melzer, 37, was losing his 17-month battle with leukemia. Lying in a bed in an Israeli hospital, suffering from viral pneumonia after a bone marrow transplant, Larry was on a respirator. His four little daughters were at home in Jerusalem. Larry’s devoted wife Jen was at his bedside. Shabbat was approaching. Larry could not eat, drink, nor speak, but his fingers kept maneuvering his iPhone.

Shortly before Shabbat, Larry received a text message from a friend who was also battling cancer, commiserating how dreary it was to spend Shabbat in the hospital. After Shabbat the same friend wrote:

Thinking of u. Hope Shabbos was bearable!

Larry texted back:

It was great, jen was here, don’t worry it will be great

Great? He was hooked up to 15 separate antibiotic infusions, his once-athletic six-foot frame was shriveled, his handsome face aged and wizened. He had endured a Shabbat without reciting Kiddush, eating challah, singing songs, enjoying food, or embracing his beloved children. The only bright spot was that his faithful wife Jen was there. Yet Larry considered that Shabbat, “great.”

In great pain due to sores from radiation, while receiving an emergency blood transfusion, Larry said with a smile, "I’m so happy.”

A few months prior, Larry had been rushed from Jerusalem to a hospital in Haifa. As his friend Daniel Irom relates: “After a long drive, after he hadn’t slept in a few days due to being on large doses of steroids, while in great pain due to mouth and throat sores from radiation, while receiving an emergency blood transfusion, Larry turned to me with a smile that seemed to come from Heaven and said, ‘I’m so happy.’”

What was he happy about?

Larry and Jen, at the peak of their successful Yahoo careers, had a fabulous Manhattan apartment, an SUV, many DINK [Double Income No Kids] friends, and two dogs. Then they started to become interested in their Jewish heritage. In 2004, they went to Jerusalem for a six-month sabbatical to study Judaism.

There Larry fell in love with Judaism. With his personal charisma and passionate personality, he reached out to share his enthusiasm with everyone he met. While continuing to enjoy the pleasures of the physical world, he infused them with a spiritual awareness and appreciation. “More than once,” relates Gabi Leventhal, “I would be enjoying a wine, a whiskey, a delicious meal with Larry, and before we began to fulfill our appetites, Larry would redirect everyone and talk about all the kindnesses that God has done for him and for everyone else present." He transformed the enjoyment of eating to a sublime state of gratitude.

Eric Rayburn, a former single from Manhattan, recounts a conversation he had with Larry during the period of his struggling to adjust to the Spartan standard of Jerusalem while learning at Aish HaTorah. Larry said to him: “Jerusalem! This is the Wall Street of Judaism. Do you know how many people would love to trade places with you?”

“But, Larry,” Eric protested, “I live in a room without a window and it’s smaller than the second bathroom where I used to live!”

"The key is appreciating what you have. Every second is a precious million- dollar gift."

Larry, in a corporate business manager tone, replied: “I understand, and you are so lucky that the Almighty has invested His time in you to teach you how to appreciate more with less.”

“To appreciate more with less” became Larry’s approach to life. A month before he died, he posted this blog on his website:

Fighting Leukemia for me is about becoming unspoiled. I feel like I went from being a spoiled baby to a mature adult during this 16 month process. I have a zest for life I never had before!

This zest for life is indescribable. How can I possibly communicate being able to see the hand of God in everything? I live in a world where everything is perfect.

The key is appreciating what you have…. Every second is a precious million dollar gift.

Sukkot and Happiness

Sukkot is the holiday of “back to basics.” For seven days (eight in the Diaspora), we move out of our comfortable home into a flimsy sukkah. We leave behind the central heating, the furniture, the posturepedic mattress, the recessed lighting, the carpets, the hardwood flooring, the DVD player, the flat-screen TV, and—how spoiled can you get?—the rain-impervious roof. Yet this is the holiday when we have a mitzvah to be especially happy! What exactly are we supposed to be happy about?

In the snuggest juxtaposition in the Jewish calendar, Sukkot comes a mere five days after Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, the day when every person’s destiny for the year is sealed, we pray and plead for life. Yes, we also pray for good health, livelihood, marriage, children, a new job, and whatever else we relish, but most of all we pray for life.

Then here we are, five days later, in our cramped, no-frills sukkah. We don’t have our creature comforts or our hi-tech pleasures, but we do have—life. We have no guarantee that we’ll be alive a few months—or even a few days—from now. But right now, sitting on a folding chair in the sukkah, we have life, the fulfillment of our cherished desire. Of course we should rejoice in it.

We also have relationships. No one builds a one-person sukkah. We sit in the sukkah with family — parents/siblings/spouse/children. If Larry Melzer could consider his deathbed Shabbat “great” simply because his wife was with him, how can we not appreciate that greatest accoutrement to life: relationship? The presence of a loved one turns a house into a home and a sukkah into a sanctuary.

There’s one more ingredient to the joy of Sukkot. On Yom Kippur we are cleansed of all the tainting culpability that has tinged us throughout the year. We emerge from Yom Kippur pure and perfectly prepared for the closeness to God that the sukkah affords.

A simple formula: appreciate life, relationships, and closeness to God. That’s a lot to be happy about.

Larry's Final Words

For both Larry and Jen, the fact that he was dying was no excuse to stop living. At one point, after ten rounds of chemo, Larry was in remission. It seemed like he would make it, after all. Then his doctor in Haifa told Larry that she was 95% sure that he was no longer in remission. Larry phoned Jen to break the news. “Jenny, the doctor said I relapsed.”

Jen, devastated but always encouraging, replied: “It’s going to be okay.”

Sobbing, Larry continued: “The doctor wants to talk to you about when I’m going to restart chemo. She says I have to restart chemo tomorrow.” Larry paused, collected himself, and said cheerily, “But tonight let’s have a date night. Let’s go out to dinner.”

“That’s a good idea,” she enthused. “We need to have fun, not worry about it.”

He left me with a big sack of faith. That’s how a young widow with four children can face the world with a genuine smile.

“Larry had unbounded faith,” Jen recalls. “On the day he got the original diagnosis, when they told him he had a matter of days to live, Larry said to me, ‘All news is good news.’ He meant that everything is from God and therefore everything is for the good. That’s what he left me with, a big sack of faith. And that’s how, as a young widow with four children, I can face the world with a genuine smile.”

At the end, losing the battle against viral pneumonia, Larry's doctors decided to induce a coma. At that point, Jen had been with her husband for five days, around the clock. Larry clasped her hand, looked into her eyes, and with gasping breath, said, “Thank you.”

“It was clear to me, “ Jen recalls, “that Larry was thanking me for everything I had done for him during the last 17 months, for getting his medications and making sure he took them, for feeding him, being his personal nurse, taking care of the kids single-handedly, paying bills, food shopping, and keeping the family afloat. He knew he was coming to his end, so he left nothing unsaid. He thanked me. It meant: I love you; you did everything right.”

Larry knew only one way to say good-bye: Thank you.

This Sukkot, let’s acquire life's most important app — appreciation.

Jen Melzer, Larry’s widow, is available to speak to groups of women on, “My Life after Death—with Happiness.” To book her, please contact: jenmelzer@gmail.com

Sara Yoheved Rigler’s November North American tour will take her to Canada, the Midwest, and the Tri-State area. To invite her to give her Marriage Workshop or Gratitude Workshop in your community, please write to slewsi@aol.com