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I knew that Paula Abdul was Jewish, but that she lights Shabbos Candles?
So, not one just to complain and talk about negative things happening, I thought that I would write something more positive now. So I was sent a link to watch a youtube video, and on the right hand side bar I saw this video below talking about Paula Abdul and her being a good Jewish girl, so curiously, I clicked. Watch at 18 seconds in where she admits that she lights Shabbat Candles.
So, some nice news above, - and no, let's not have any sarcastic - she's not dressed modestly or she does this or doesn't do that. We are all on our own spiritual journey, so please, no 'holier than thou' talk backs.
And to follow up on this nice little news item, there IS a re-kindling of Judaism in Jews who have strayed away to the secular world. My 18 year old son who is in a pre-army program at the moment, went with his Yeshiva - at the request of a secular kibbutz, to hold Yom Kippur services in their club house (they were so anti-religious, they didn't even have a synagogue on the kibbutz). -Well, after that Yom Kippur, the kibbutznik who arranged to have the Yeshiva boys come to lead the services for them, said that their club house has NEVER been so full. There was not enough room, not enough chairs, not enough prayer books for all the kibbutznikim who came for the Yom Kippur services. In addition, see this article on how kibbutzim (and now also neighborhoods in Tel Aviv [known as the 'secular city']) are requesting synagogues and mikvahot (spiritual 'modest' bath houses) to be built for them.
"The Israeli secular community does not really know what to make of the new trend, but Baruch Hashem, many kibbutzim and other secular communities around Israel are requesting a shul and mikve, the very same communities that have lived for decades without the holy structures.
Many of the secular kibbutzim have been ideologically opposed to the construction of the buildings, working with tenacity to remove any trace of Yiddishkeit from their communities.
This year, dozens of shuls and mikvas have been constructed in secular communities and it appears the trend is gaining momentum. 50% of requests given to the Ministry of Religious Services have come from secular kibbutzim and moshavim." To read more, click HERE.
In addition, more and more people today are looking for spirituality in a bankrupt world that offers no ideology except for self gratification and easy money. But things are looking up. When American Idol star Paula Abdul lights Shabbat candles, prays, and goes to a Chabad shul, and even Madonna with her lewd past, is looking for spirituality, albeit in a misguided way, maybe, just maybe, we are closer to redemption than we thought.
So I was watching the news, and saw how when the Nobel Committee spokesperson announced that U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, the people in the room couldn't believe it. They all at the same time made gasping "Uhhh??" sounds. In fact, I was waiting for someone to either yell out from the crowd, "You lie.", or maybe see someone throw a shoe at him. I guess the Norwegians are too polite for that.
What really got me, was the un-named man in back and to the right of the screen. Watch how he himself can't even keep a straight face when Obama's name is mentioned when first announced (18 - 23 seconds in), and then again, even more so, when announced again in English (36 seconds in). I couldn't stop from cracking up watching him not being able to keep a straight face.
Skeletal thin and almost barely audible, Gilad Shalit appeared before a Hamas terrorist's video camera and told all of us that his terrorist captors were treating him 'excellently'. Yah, right. (Please read news story that Arab teens would rather sit in Israeli jails than live with their own people.) Gilad also states in the video that his biggest dream is to be freed. I have to admit that I personally thought that Gilad was probably dead. No sign of life for three years except for some claimed letter that he wrote. No visits allowed by the Red Cross or UN and not even a telephone call - since he was kidnapped over three years ago. But now we know. And now we must act.
Here is the video tape of Gilad Shalit with a translation I copied and pasted for you here (with minor additions).
“Hello, this is Gilad, son of Noam and Aviva Shalit, brother of Hadas and Yoel, who lives in Mitzpe Hila. My ID number is 397029. Today is Monday, the 14th of the 9th month (September) 2009.
“As you can see I am holding in my hands, today’s Falasteen (Palestine) newspaper of today, Sept. 14, 2009 published in Gaza. (The camera zooms in to show paper's date.)
“I read the newspaper with the goal to find information about myself, and in hopes of reading about information of my release and my return home soon.
“I hope the current government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t waste this opportunity to reach an agreement and as a result, allow me to finally fulfill my dream and be freed.
“I wish to send my well-wishes to my family and tell them that I love them and miss them greatly, and hope for the day I’ll see them again. Dad, Yoel, and Hadas, do you remember the day you arrived at my base in the Golan Heights, on the date of December 31, 2005? We toured around the base and you took a picture of me on a Merkava tank and on one of the old tanks at the entrance to the base. Later we went to a restaurant in one of the Druze villages and on the way we took pictures on the side of the road, against the backdrop of the snowy Hermon Mountain.
“I want to tell you that I feel well in medical terms, and that the Mujahidin from the al-Qassam Brigades are treating me excellently. Thank you very much and goodbye.” (Gilad gets up and shows the camera the paper he is holding with the date.)
Well? He's waiting for us.
What are we going to do? Since we are not in the government and don't have any power to launch a rescue, the questions is what CAN we do? One thing all of us CAN do is to pray for Gilad and do a mitzvah (good deed) in his honor. Perhaps this will tip the scales in his favor and show G-d that his nation cares and feels Gilad's and his family's pain, and that Gilad Shalit is not just the son of Noam and Aviva, but all of our's son. It may not help on the earthly plane, but in the spiritual realm, it can move mountains. Prayer is our most powerful weapon. Let's use it, and let's additionally pray that our leadership stands strong and bold, and indeed launches a rescue mission, attack, or something, to bring our boy home. We need to make the Hamas and their supporters suffer so much, that they will BEG US to take Shalit back, if we just stop (whatever it is we are doing to them that is making their lives unbearable - like they have been doing to Gilad, and the rest of the Israeli families, victims, that they have left in the wake of their terror).
So, what part will you personally take in doing something positive for our son, Gilad?
-And he's taking the kids. No amount of begging helped. I am alone in the house, and the quiet is... well, actually, it's not THAT quiet. I hear giggling and my husband's low voice telling stories to my kids. You see, my husband left me - for the sukkah. I usually stick to sleeping in the house. I am too old for the 'outdoor adventure'. I've turned into an old fuddy-duddy, and hey, I earned it! Anyway, I peer down from my upstairs bedroom window which is right next to, and above, the sukkah that we built for the Sukkot holiday. If I look out my bedroom window, through the schach and palm branch roof of the sukkah, I can see slits of light from inside there shining through. I try to peer and see the kids inside, lying in sleeping bags near each other and having a blast with their dad!
Our sukkah (2007) . Notice the green grass and our back yard's rock wall with a small water fall in the back. Old torn couches were brought in against the temporary wooden wall of the sukkah. My kids placed their mattresses on the grass inside our sukkah, and the table and plastic chairs will be pushed towards the other wall to make room for a few more sleeping bags.
I wonder what G-d thinks as he looks from above and sees His nation, His people, sleeping in sukkot all over the Land of Israel. It must be a very beautiful site.
This is the time of year that Jews go out to the sukkah to 'dwell'. Many men and children sleep there as well, and sometimes us mothers do too. My kids were ecstatic when I slept out there with them last year. I decided to stop being a fuddy-duddy wimp and brave the mosquitos, but this year, there aren't so many of those pesty bloodsuckers in our area, so yippee! However, I confess, my back likes my mattress and I appreciate having a nearby bathroom. And anyway, even ONE mosquito zzzzz-ing near my ear can drive me nuts. I've become soft in my old age (sigh).
Nevertheless, on Sukkot our sukkah at night turns into a 'wall to wall' sleep hall, with mattresses and old torn couches we use outside, on the grass. The kids think of it as an adventure. My husband is just a little less enthusiastic than the kids. He feels more spiritual sleeping under the stars. G-d bless that man!
One of the customs we do on the Sukkot holiday is to participate in a 'sukkah hop'. What is a sukkah hop you say? It is where all the neighbors get together and hop from sukkah to sukkah. Of course we don't really 'hop'. What we do is make a list of whose sukkah we are going to go to, and at what time, and then stroll from one sukkah to the next, oo-ing and ah-ing and admiring the different way children have decorated their family's sukkah. Everyone who hosts serves refreshments; coffee, tea or cold drinks, cakes, etc. and people can sit and say a bracha (a blessing) over these refreshments in the sukkah. Then, as guests are sitting and eating, the host of the sukkah gives a 'dvar Torah' or a talk on the Torah. Usually guests stay for about 15-20 minutes and then together move on to the next neighbor's sukkah and the next 'dvar Torah'. It is a lovely time and we all get to see the different sukkot and the different decorations the children made, etc.
So, in the spirit of the 'Festival of Booths', I thought I would host YOUR sukkah photos. Send me one photo of your sukkah and, blog room permitting, I will post them up here. I wish you all a happy and healthy new year, and a wonderful and warm Sukkot holiday!
First sukkah put up by new immigrants in Israel. Yeah! Submitted by M from Jerusalem.
Rosh HaShana Post: Something to think about.
Yitzhak Fanger was a typical secular Israeli guy. His story though, is anything but.
Yitzchak grew up in the center of the country and after graduating from high school, he went to serve in the IDF. His life took a very interesting turn a few years later, and I was interviewing him as he shared his story with me and my listeners on my radio show.
Rav Yitzchak Fanger
(This blog post is a repeat of one I wrote in 2007. I am re-posting it for Rosh HaShana. Listen to the audio interview from links provided below.)
After finishing his army service, Yitzchak was going to make his way out in the world. He decided to learn Reiki (a Japanese technique for healing administered by ‘laying on hands’). After taking courses and excelling in his new trade, his Reiki teacher urged him to go to the Far East to learn to be a
Reiki Master and return to be the top teacher in Israel.
Fanger listened to his teacher and traveled to India. There he pursued more learning and became heavily involved in Buddhism. He became a Buddhist priest and was encouraged to go for an extended stay at a type of monastery or solitary retreat for Buddhist priests up in the mountains. There, one was forbidden to speak, their task was to concentrate on mediation, yoga, and to try to reach nirvana. The only work they had to do at the retreat was gardening. Gardening was very important, as they grew their own food.
A few months went by and Yitzchak was well into his daily routine of meditation, yoga, gardening, - and not talking. One might imagine that it would be difficult not to speak for months on end, especially for a Jew from Israel. Yitzchak was getting antsy. He had an urge to talk, to hear his own voice, and the feeling was bubbling up inside him that he felt he was going to burst. The urge got so strong, that Yitzchak ran away, far from ear shot of the retreat and the other Buddhist monks. He arrived at a brook a distance away, and all of a sudden, words came pouring out of his mouth. He couldn’t stop rambling off speech. The amazing thing was, that the first words that he had spoken after months of silence, ---was his Bar Mitzvah portion from the Torah.
Yitzchak was shocked. Why did THOSE words come out of him? He didn’t identify with his Judaism, in fact, he hated the religious people, especially those from the near by city where he grew up, Bnei Brak. Bnei Brak was full of religious Jews and he had a prejudice towards ‘them’ and that place.
Yitzchak was now 26 years old, he had carved out a path for himself, and was happy about his experiencing this new spirituality. Judaism was a long way away, and had not thought about his Bar Mitzvah since he was 13. He was stunned that the words he read from the Torah on his Bar Mitzvah should be the first words out of his mouth after his long silence.
Yitzchak released the built up pressure from within him after his outburst near the brook. He headed back for camp, and decided to put the incident behind him.
One evening, a few days after the occurrence at the brook, Yitzchak was ready to retire for the night and crawl into his sleeping bag in the small room he was given. But he kept having a feeling that someone or ‘something’, was in his room. It was a bad feeling, and being an Israeli, he decided to himself, “Mishane makom, mishane mazal” – “change the place you are at, and you will change your luck/destiny”. And so, Yitzchak decided to take his sleeping bag from his room, and sleep underneath the stars that night. As he reached for his sleeping bag, a scorpion jumped out from the part of the sleeping bag where his head was supposed to be. He realized then, that he could have been killed by that scorpion, and that his instinct not to sleep in his room where his bag lie, was not just a fortunate premonition, but that someone, or something, was watching over him.
About a week later, in the evening, after practicing his meditation, the candle in Yitzchak's room went out. He went to search for more candles in his bag, when he found a card with Hebrew print on it. It was then that Yitzchak remembered that when he was at Tel Aviv’s (Lod) Ben Gurion Airport, a Hassidic Jewish man was passing out cards to people, and handed Yitzchak one as well. The card had some type of prayer, or text from the Torah on it. Yitzchak asked the man what he should do with it, and the man said, just keep it with you, it will protect you. So Yitzchak shrugged his shoulders and then stuffed it in his bag, quickly forgetting about it.
After finding the card in his bag, Yitzchak got an itchy feeling. It was then that a small still voice came from within him and said, “Why don’t you meditate on something in Hebrew, all the time you have been meditating on words in Japanese, try concentrating on the words on this card in Hebrew.”
He thought, "Ok, let's see what happens". He held the card and read one of the lines written there. “Shemah Yisrael, Hashem Elokaynu, Hashem Echad”. It was the 'Shemah' prayer (Hear oh Israel, The Lord our G-d, The Lord is One).
Meditating on this line, Yitzchak repeated it over and over again like a mantra. “Shemah Yisrael, Hashem Elokaynu, Hashem Echad”. ...Suddenly, he started to tremble, and a light bulb went off in his head. No, - it was more like an inner explosion. Yitzchak had a burst of spiritual enlightenment. He had found a treasure! “Yes, of course!” he said. “Yes, The Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one. YES! YES! YES! I want to know more about this. This is truth!"
Yitzchak looked at his surroundings, the bare wooden hut where he had spent so many months, the foreign looking landscape and geography. It was not where he was supposed to be. No one here, not one of these monks, could teach him about G-d. He decided that the very next morning, he was going to pack his things and leave immediately for Israel. Home.
After arriving in Israel and back at his parent’s house, Yitzchak was hungry to learn about Judaism and what the Torah said. He saw an advertisement in the paper that there would be a lecture given on Judaism, with ample time for questions and answers.
Almost immediately after his return from India, he found himself listening to a rabbi explaining basic Jewish concepts and a little bit of Jewish mysticism. But Yitzchak’s hunger wasn’t satisfied. He went the following weekend to a Shabbat program held at a hotel, for Jews who wanted to learn more about G-d. Yitzchak was a person who needed logic and scientific explanations. He liked the way in which the rabbis were explaining and proving through intellectual discourse, the existence of G-d.
The lecture schedule went from first proving that G-d existed, to the revelation at Sinai, and then to the conclusion that if A was true, and B was true, then C was also true, and that we must observe the Torah and mitzvoth (commandments) that G-d gave us.
Yitzchak made a decision after that weekend, and his past quest for truth and enlightenment… that he was going to become a ‘baal tshuva’, a returnee to Judaism, a religious Jew.
When he broke the news to his parents, his mother went ballistic. “You’re going to be religious and then you are going to leave me”, she cried. “How can you do this to me”, she sobbed. Yitzchak reassured her that there was no reason to cut himself off from his family just because he wanted to be religious, and that she was imagining things and should calm down. Ironically, the fact that he came off the plane in orange pajamas with a bald head didn’t seem to phase anyone, but the fact that he would start wearing a Yarmulke on his head put people into a stir. <grin>
Soon after, Yitzchak rolled up his sleeves and went to work. He opened up his own Reiki center and school for Reiki. He taught students, lectured around Israel, and took in private patients. He was indeed THE rieki master of Israel, and he was doing very well financially. He bought a nice car, a beautiful home, and one day, his mother, who was doing his bookkeeping, called Yitzchak on the phone and told him that according to her latest calculations, Yitzchak was a millionaire! Things were going very well for Yitzchak. He was keeping the Sabbath, wearing a kippah, keeping more and more mitzvoth, and he was content. Things were wonderful, and his business was thriving.
One day, after lecturing to a group of Haredi women about Reiki, and hoping that they would want to sign up for his courses he gave, he ran into trouble. After his presentation, one of the women from the audience came up to him and asked him if this ‘reiki’ was ‘kosher’. Yitzchak, answered her that of course it was kosher. After all, one doesn’t eat reiki. What could be wrong with it?
The woman said, just to be sure, if you want us to sign up for your courses, please go to our rabbi and ask him to give you a letter that this ‘reiki’ is kosher, then we’ll be willing to do it.
Yitzchak did as the woman asked. He made an appointment with the well respected rabbi and asked him for a letter saying that reiki was ‘kosher’. The rabbi wanted to know exactly what reiki was. Yitzchak explained that reiki was based on the idea of an unseen "life force energy". This energy force would flow through him to his patient, as he concentrated on the word – ‘Rei’ which means "God's Wisdom or the Higher Power" and Ki which is "life force energy". So Reiki is actually "spiritually guided life force energy." The rabbi, understanding that many of the eastern and oriental healing methods were based on avodah zarah, -calling on foreign gods, and therefore 'reiki' was ‘unclean’. He told Yitzchak that he was unable to give him a letter saying that this was kosher.
Yitzchak did a double take, then leaned towards the rabbi and said, “But rabbi, you don’t understand, this reiki is my profession, it’s how I make my living. You HAVE to give me a letter saying this is kosher. The rabbi repeated that he was unable to give a stamp of approval for this, as it stemmed from avodah zarah, (idol worship) and thus was not kosher.
Yitzchak was floored. He was stunned beyond belief. He went home in a daze. His world was spinning out of control, and he was feeling sick to his stomach. As he opened up the door to his home, he threw himself on his couch and started to cry like a baby. He was heaving sobs from the depths of his soul. He was broken. He was bewildered, and he did not know what he was going to do. On one hand, he was the reiki master of Israel, a millionaire, and his years of learning and practicing reiki had become his identity. It was WHO HE WAS. Yitzchak was a reiki master. What would he be without it?
On the other hand, Yitzchak had a deep belief in G-d now. He had discovered the truth and he wanted to cling to G-d, Torah and the commandments. What should he do?
After his sobs subsided, Yitzchak Fanger lifted his eyes towards the heaven, and said to G-d, “My G-d, I have never asked you for anything. But I am asking you for something now. I am telling you with firm conviction, I WILL GIVE UP my reiki. But I want a promise from You, that YOU WILL NOT GIVE UP on me!”
With that, Yitzhcak picked up the phone, and dialed his mother. “Ima”, he said, “Right now, I want you to cancel all my appointments, cancel all my lectures, cancel all my courses, and all my patients. I am closing down my reiki center.”
A scream came on from the other end of the phone. “Yitzchak, are you mad? You are a millionaire! You are so successful! You cannot mean it!” But Yitzchak stood firm.
I broke into Yitzchak’s story, because I told him his mother may have been upset as well, because in essence, he was firing her. He laughed and said that everything had worked out for the best.
I asked Yitzchak how he was doing now, years later. He told me, “Tamar, I am a millionaire today. I have six children, each worth more than millions to me. I have a wonderful loving wife, we live a religious life and we are so very happy. And do you know what, Tamar? My parents are very happy now as well. They see how well I treat my wife, how wonderful she treats me and the children, and they are so happy. In fact, my own children do not know that my parents are not religious. Whenever my parents come to visit us, my mother comes with her hair covered, and my father puts on a kippah. In addition, my parents had their kitchen kashered, (made their kitchen kosher) so that whenever we go to visit them, we can eat there. Yitzchak added to me as an aside, “And you know what? My beautiful wife just happens to be from Bnei Brak, the city that I had so much hatred for.” Things are looking up, and Yitzchak’s younger brother has also now returned to Torah and mitzvoth as well. His parents couldn’t be happier.
Yitzchak Fanger learned much from his experiences. Today, he is a Haredi rabbi. He is now trying to develop a system that uses some of the basics of reiki, and yet does not call for concentrating on foreign names of god.
I was very impressed and touched by Yitzchak Fanger,, and how everything turned out for his family. What made the biggest impression on me was his sacrifice for his beliefs. This man, who was a self made millionaire through his expertise and hard work, gave it all up for Hashem (G-d).
What strength that took, because it wasn’t only the money he gave up, but his identity, how he defined himself. What strength and commitment that took, what utter faith in G-d. And I ask myself, and ask all of you who are reading this….
What are we willing to give up for G-d? What do we have in our lives that needs changing, or giving up, to help us serve G-d better?
Are we partaking in bad habits that hurt our health and service to Him?
Are we engaged in frivolous activities that are taking us away from what we should be doing?
Should we stop smoking, kick the TV out, stop visiting the pubs and night clubs? What is it that we need to do this Rosh HaShana, from now on, to make ourselves at least as worthy as this once secular guy from Tel Aviv?
What are WE willing to give up for G-d?
Wishing you all a sweet, happy, and healthy new year!
Listen to this interview:
From Buddhist Monk to Haredi Rabbi: Part 1
To listen click HERE.
From Buddhist Monk to Haredi Rabbi: Part 2