Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 25

I'm going to want to use this blessing again and again, hopefully, in the coming 75 days and yet, yesterday reminded me again of a most special blessing in Israel.

I grew up in New Jersey where it rained almost weekly. The truth is, I have always loved the rain - I would choose to walk in the rain often simply for the wonderful feel of it.

This is Davidi...picking
blueberries...he was
4 years old.
I can't say that I ever thought of rain as a blessing outside Israel but when you live here, you understand that water does not always come in an endless supply. We are asked, and we do, try not to waste water on a daily basis. If we peel a pot full of potatoes and keep the in water as we work, we pour the water in our garden, rather than down the drain. We close the water while we soap up during showers. We close the water when we brush our teeth.

Yesterday, as I was driving to my client's office - it rained just a bit. The radio announced it; the people around me smiled. I saw one person open his car window and put his hand out to catch a drop; I almost did the same.

Rain is always a blessing here in Israel. People will say things like, "it's supposed to be miserable, thank God." Even on the radio, the newscasters will express such joy and such gratitude.

So today's blessing is for the first rainfall...tiny though it was. We are all hoping that it is a sign that this year the skies will open and pour blessings upon Israel, the the seas will fill, the rivers run wide.

This is a very special year - it is the Shmitta year, that began just a few days ago with the beginning of the new year. Shmitta comes every 7 years - and reminds us that we are truly an ancient people. During Shmitta, we let the land rest, as we rest each week on the seventh day.

So this year in Israel, crops will not be planted, what grows naturally is free for anyone to take. The land will rest...and God willing, the rain will fall. Blessings from the land or more accurately, blessings of the land.


Sometimes it is as simple as a few words...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bibi Talk

For many years, I hoped the world would listen to Benjamin Netanyahu. For all that I don't agree with him on many issues, he remains one of our greatest statesmen. In a crunch, when we need him to make the most of a speech, he hits a home run, out of the stadium and around the world.

He did it again tonight. But, for the first time, I heard something different in his voice. I don't really know if it was his voice or my ears. Perhaps I'm listening differently this time. Sometimes his tone sounded like he was thinking...here I am, saying this yet again...been there, done that - they didn't listen last time, they won't listen this time.

I felt, more than ever before, he was not only speaking for Israel, he was speaking to Israel. This is what you wanted me to say - and I'm going to say it.

A few key points - the full video is below and well worth watching:
  • I come here to expose the lies that are told against my country from this podium
  • The people of Israel are not occupiers in the land of Israel  
  • Israel used missiles to protect its children. Hamas used children to protect its missiles 
  • Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. Israel did everything to minimize Palestinian casualties   
  • Hamas used UN schools, private homes, mosques to store and fire rockets at Israel 
  • Iran's President Rouhani stood here last week shedding crocodile tears   
  • Don't be fooled by Iran's manipulative charm offensive 
  • To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as threshold nuclear power is to win battle and lose war   
  • ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree 
  • Hamas shares the global ambitions of its fellow militant Islamists   
  • Ultimate goal of Isalmist militants is to dominate the world 
  • The people of Israel are praying for peace, but our hopes for peace are in danger   
  • What would your countries do if thousands of rockets were fired at your cities? You wouldn't let terrorists fire rockets at your cities with impunity.
  • No other country and no other army in history has gone to greater lengths to avoid casualties among the civilian population of their enemy. Our soldiers uphold the highest moral values of any army in the world - they should be admired not condemned.
  • Some may still not take Israel's security concerns seriously. Make no mistake. But I do and I always will 

Counting Your Blessings - Day 24

Yesterday, my daughter, son-in-law and I picked up my grandson from his nursery school and drove him to his parent's home. When we got there, my grandson started to cry - he wanted to come home with me.

He had been here over the holiday - he's a joy to cuddle and play with - he constantly amazes me with how much he has learned. He absorbs everything. He was in the synagogue with us on the second day of Rosh Hashana and people came over to tell me how well he behaved. He was wonderful.

He's three years old - an incredible mixture of his parents and two cultures. He understands English, but speaks almost exclusively in Hebrew. He has identified my house with yogurt and his other grandmother's house with eggs. He eats plenty of other foods in both places, but knows when he comes to my house, yogurt is what he should ask for.

I keep telling my daughter that he isn't old enough to learn the things that my son-in-law and his family keep teaching this child ... and in each and every case, I am proven wrong and they are proven right.

So today's blessing is my grandson. I can't put a picture of him here because my daughter and son-in-law, rightly, don't put his picture on the Internet.

And, if the blessing of one grandchild were not enough, I am blessed with another - Elie's daughter...she just turned a year old - and is running...yes, running. She's sweet and she's strong. She knows what she wants and communicates it in so many ways. She's curious; she's adorable. Sweet, cuddly, so so cute. And I can't put a picture of her here because my son and daughter-in-law, rightly, don't put her picture on the Internet.

And finally, Bill Clinton, aged 68 and Hillary Clinton, aged 66 became grandparents yesterday for the first time - and so, if having two amazing grandchildren isn't enough, I am so blessed that more than a decade younger than both of them, God has blessed me (and my children) with these amazing little sweeties.

So, today's blessing is grandchildren - if you have them, you know what a blessing they are. If you don't have them - I wish such a blessing on you - in the right time.

From this Flour, Bread Won't Come

I listen to the radio on my way into work. It improves my Hebrew which, even after 21 years here in Israel, still needs to be improved. Mostly, I understand everything or close to is; sometimes, I marvel at what an incredibly beautiful language Hebrew is. Other times, like this morning, I smile at the way some things are phrased.

A few years back, I laughed out loud when I heard one of the newscasters condemn both the Israelis and the Palestinians for the deadlock in the peace negotiations by saying, "there are no righteous men in Sodom."

Today, I had to smile again. Much of Israel is furious over the lies Abbas told yesterday at the United Nations. The newscaster outlined much of what Netanyahu is going to say - about the Iranian threat and Abbas' words.

The newscaster continued - Netanyahu will tell the world that the Israeli army is the most moral army in the world, "and they are." On and on, Netanyahu will speak.

And then the newscaster said, "from this flour, bread won't come." What he meant was that the world most likely won't listen; that peace won't come of the speeches made at the United Nations.

No, bread won't come from the flour, truth won't come from the lies, and peace won't come either.

But sometimes, truth is enough. Sometimes hearing words are needed. Israel needs to hear the words that Netanyahu will speak at the United Nations later today. The world may not listen; the world may not care but Israel does.

We have survived another war. I don't know how many we've had. It's hard to decide which to call a war and which were "only" operations. For me, the Cast Lead "operation" was a war; for the army, it was never classified as a war. Operation Protective Edge will likely be called a war - who knows? How can it not be?

There was 1948 when the Arabs attacked; 1956 when the Arabs attacked. There was 1967 when they closed the Straits of Tiran, mobilized their forces to the borders and screamed out that war was coming. Technically, we started the war with a pre-emptive attack but the result was likely a cleaner, faster war than anyone imagined - 6 days - because we took the first shot.

They attacked us in 1973, on Yom Kippur (and then whined this year when we didn't stop the war for one of their holy days). In 1982, they shelled us from the north and so that war began. But there was also the War of Attrition - an endless series of terror attacks and cross-border infiltrations that lasted for years...

There was 1991 when we were bombed from Iraq, but that was America's war. I'm probably missing something that Google could tell me for sure, but I know there was the 2006 Lebanon War - the Second one after they kidnapped our soldiers and again rained missiles on the north.

Then there was "Elie's War" - Cast Lead. And then Operation Amud Annan - Pillar of Defense, where Elie was called again.

Now we've had Protective Edge...

Somewhere in all those wars, we stopped believing there would be peace. Oh we still want it, still dream of it but we don't really talk about "driving to Damascus for lunch" like we once did. I can see the towers of Amman from my window, but I doubt I'll ever get there. I'll never see the pyramids of Egypt or the Sahara.

From this flour, bread won't come.

The Lies and the Flaws of Mahmoud Abbas

Much is being made of the speech that Mahmoud Abbas made at the United Nations. A lie told often enough, said Vladimir Lenin, becomes the truth. It is ironic that the Arabs hold so much faith in this notion and it is even more ironic that much of the world is stupid or ignorant enough to believe it.

Abbas at UN.No, it's not true. No matter how many times you tell a lie - it remains a lie. A situation can change to make something into a truth. For example, I can say I am 60 years old...I'm not, but God willing, eventually I will be. So, on my 60th birthday, it isn't that the lie becomes truth, but that the situation changed.

The Soviet Union was built on a lie - and you'll note it no longer exists. Lenin's great theory never really worked - ultimately, the lie that people could live better under a totalitarian, dictatorial regime failed. Except the Arabs never learned the lesson, never got the memo and so Abbas unashamedly stands before the United Nations and lied for all he was worth.

Let me give you some examples...
Lie: Abbas spoke of the "Palestine refugees, who are the victims of Al-Nakba (Catastrophe) that occurred in 1948."
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 - they were not victims; they were the aggressors. They believed, they were led to believe, that five Arab nations could "push the Jews into the sea" - their words, their promise. They failed. No catastrophe and certainly no victims on their side.
Lie: A year ago, at this same time, distinguished leaders in this hall addressed the stalled peace efforts in our region. Everyone had high hopes for a new round of final status negotiations, which had begun in early September in Washington under the direct auspices of President Barack Obama and with participation of the Quartet, and with Egyptian and Jordanian participation, to reach a peace agreement within one year. We entered those negotiations with open hearts and attentive ears and sincere intentions, and we were ready with our documents, papers and proposals. But the negotiations broke down just weeks after their launch.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and they did not come to any negotiations calling for peace - not then, not later, and not last year with "open hearts and attentive ears" and certainly, there were no "sincere intentions." They were not ready for anything. Israel released prisoners - killers - the Palestinians did nothing but threaten and whine until they accepted a unity deal with Hamas, a terrorist organization which has fired over 20,000 rockets at Israeli cities, murdered our children - including three teens this past summer. Negotiations didn't break down, they were sabotaged by the Palestinians.
Lie: But all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and last September they chose a terrorist organization as their partner. There can be no negotiating with someone who not only refuses to recognize your right to exist, but promises at every turn to do all it can to annihilate you.
Lie: The core issue here is that the Israeli government refuses to commit to terms of reference for the negotiations that are based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and that it frantically continues to intensify building of settlements on the territory of the State of Palestine.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948. They have ignored international law repeatedly - as they target civilians, including children. They continue to build illegal housing at a much faster pace than any building we have done. New settlements? Not for a long time - new neighborhoods on established areas - yes, some, but not much - and nothing compared to the thousands of new apartments and buildings the Palestinians have added.
Lie: The occupying Power also continues to undertake excavations that threaten our holy places.
Truth:  The illegal excavations done by Palestinians on the Temple Mount have resulted in tremendous damage - so much so that some of the ancient walls have nearly collapsed. We have found numerous relics and evidence of a Jewish presence here in Israel dating back thousands of years has repeatedly been thrown out amidst mountains of dirt from the Temple Mount. It is they who deny our history here - claiming, among other things, that the Western Wall, the last remaining retainer wall for the Temple Mount, was nothing but the place that Mohammed parked his donkey. Many of their "holy" places were built on top of our holy places - the Temple Mount, Samuel's Tomb, the Cave of the Patriarch's, Joseph's Tomb...and on and on. Their crime, not ours. Their lies.
Lie: At the same time, the occupying Power continues to impose its blockade on the Gaza Strip and to target Palestinian civilians by assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling, persisting with its war of aggression of three years ago on Gaza, which resulted in massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and mosques, and the thousands of martyrs and wounded.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and they chose war this summer. Most of what Abbas said above is true - with the exception of one key word. We did not target Palestinian civilians by "assassinations, air strikes and artillery shelling" - not once. We targeted Hamas and other terror organizations. By contrast, the Palestinians targeted most of Israel this summer, including my home and the homes and cities of many of my friends - perhaps even 90% of them. As for the "massive destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and mosques" - they ceased to be these things the minute the Palestinians turned them into arsenals. A mosque cannot be an arsenal and an arsenal cannot be a mosque, a hospital, a school. As for the "thousands of martyrs and wounded" - this is true - we targeted their terrorists, their gunmen, their fighters and if we wounded them and turned them into martyrs...good.
Omission: In 1974, our deceased leader Yasser Arafat came to this hall....stating 'Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand”.
Truth: He came with a "freedom fighter's gun"...remember that? And he started off by mentioning that - he carried an olive branch and a gun...heck of a way to make a statement that you want peace. It was a warning. At least Arafat was more honest than Abbas.
Lie:  [Palestinians]...were forced to leave their homes and their towns and villages, carrying only some of our belongings and our grief and our memories and the keys of our homes to the camps of exile and the Diaspora in the 1948 Al-Nakba, one of the worst operations of uprooting, destruction and removal of a vibrant and cohesive society that had been contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and told the Arab population of Palestine to get out of their way...and most CHOSE to leave. What they took with them was up to them. Unlike the Jewish populations of the Arab countries - close to 900,000 of them who were truly forced from their homes - usually with nothing. Diaspora? Exile? Look how Abbas attempts to hijack the very terms Jews have used for 2,000 years. Sinister, this man is; evil in his attempt to turn a lie into truth. "A vibrant and cohesive society" - the Arabs of Palestine were a bunch of clans and nomadic tribes - there was nothing vibrant about them and certainly nothing cohesive. They lived on land owned by absentee landlords and lived simple lives with almost nothing. "Contributing in a pioneering and leading way in the cultural, educational and economic renaissance of the Arab Middle East"? Wow - he should get an academy award for that lie. Just wow.

The ONLY pioneers in the Middle East have been the Jews.  There is no Palestinian culture, no economic or educational renaissance. There isn't a single university in any Arab country (including all areas under Palestinian authority) in the list of 200 top universities in the world. By contrast, five out of six of Israeli's universities appear in the top 200.

Some facts from Wikipedia:
  • As of 2012, ten Nobel Prize winners have been Muslims. Half of the ten Muslim Nobel laureates were awarded the prize in the 21st century. Six of the ten winners have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, including a controversial award to Yasser Arafat. Muslims make up over 23% of the worlds population and have earned 1% of Nobel Prizes.
  • Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 850 individuals, of whom at least 20% were Jews or of Jewish descent, although Jews comprise less than 0.2% of the world's population, (or 1 in every 500 people). Overall, Jews have won a total of 41% of all the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28% of medicine, 26% of Physics, 19% of Chemistry, 13% of Literature and 9% of all peace awards. Jews have been recipients of all six awards.The oldest person ever to receive a Nobel Prize was Leonid Hurwicz, a Polish-American Jew who received the 2007 prize in Economics when he was 90 years old.
Omission: The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of their inalienable national rights in their independent State of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on all the land of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in the June 1967 war.
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and they chose war in 1967. And when they lost...worse than even THEY or WE could have imagined, they began a path or rewriting history. THEY attacked. They lost. Jerusalem was never - not in 1947 and not in 1949, not in 1967 and not in 2014, nor in any year in between those dates, the capital, past, present, or future, of any Palestinian state. Only in their wildest dreams would they, could they, ever get Jerusalem. A few years ago, I heard a previously-Muslim woman state one of the fundamental truths, "Even if you give them Jerusalem, EVEN if you give them Jerusalem, there will be no peace." True then, true now. The goal of the Palestinian people is the realization of an Israel-free Middle East. That was their goal; that is their goal. THAT is the truth.
Lie: Achieving this desired peace also requires the release of political prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons without delay.
Truth: So long as the Palestinians continue to claim that a man who butchered a three-month old child or stabbed a three year old in the heart is a "political prisoner or a detainee, there will be no peace agreement and there will be no peace.

Lie: The PLO and the Palestinian people adhere to the renouncement of violence and rejection and condemning of terrorism in all its forms, especially State terrorism, and adhere to all agreements signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.
Truth:  Tell that to the family of Baruch Mizrachi, who was murdered as he drove his family to their Passover Seder; tell that to the families of Eyal, Naftali and Gilad. Tell that to thousands of families in Israel who know the bitter truth - that the Palestinians believe firmly in the use of whatever methods will get them their goals - terror, lies, death, suicide, rockets, firebombs, missiles, boulders, tractors, bullets, arson.
Lie: We adhere to the option of negotiating a lasting solution to the conflict in accordance with resolutions of international legitimacy. 
Truth: The Arabs chose war in 1948 and all they have ever offered since that time was a hudna - their word for Mohammed's deceitful actions. It is allowed, even honorable in the eyes of Islam, to make an agreement with an infidel, and then break it. Mohammed agreed to ten years of peace and broke it after two. So too, would Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Palestinian Authority. Hudna is NOT peace; peace is NOT hudna.
Lie: Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation and its settlement and apartheid policies and its construction of the racist annexation Wall, and they receive support for their resistance, which is consistent with international humanitarian law and international conventions and has the support of peace activists from Israel and around the world, reflecting an impressive, inspiring and courageous example of the strength of this defenseless people, armed only with their dreams, courage, hope and slogans in the face of bullets, tanks, tear gas and bulldozers.
Truth:  There is nothing peaceful about the Palestinian "resistance" - the only question is how violent they choose to be, how much death they succeed in accomplishing. Their people are armed with a heck of a lot more than just "dreams, courage, hope and slogans." Try 20,000 rockets fired at Israel already and more where they came from; try knives with which they slit the throat of an infant; guns used to kill fathers and turn children into orphans. Try boulders that have murdered child and adult. Try bulldozers that they have used to attack buses and cars. Yes, there were two truths in what Abbas said above - they won't stop, and they thankfully don't have tanks. They do, however, have anti-tank missiles, which they shot at a school bus and killed a 16-year old.
Lie: Our efforts are not aimed at isolating Israel or de-legitimizing it; rather we want to gain legitimacy for the cause of the people of Palestine.
Lie: We only aim to de-legitimize the settlement activities and the occupation and apartheid and the logic of ruthless force, and we believe that all the countries of the world stand with us in this regard.
Lie: I am here to say on behalf of the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization: We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making..
Lie: During the last two years our national authority has implemented a program to build our State institutions. Despite the extraordinary situation and the Israeli obstacles imposed, a serious extensive project was launched that has included the implementation of plans to enhance and advance the judiciary and the apparatus for maintenance of order and security, to develop the administrative, financial, and oversight systems, to upgrade the performance of institutions, and to enhance self-reliance to reduce the need for foreign aid. With the thankful support of Arab countries and donors from friendly countries, a number of large infrastructure projects have been implemented, focused on various aspects of service, with special attention to rural and marginalized areas.
Truth:   They have squandered billions of dollars on greed, luxury homes and malls and fancy cars. They built a vast underworld of tunnels used to smuggle drugs, women, and weapons in and planned to use other tunnels to attack and murder Israelis. The cement that could have, should have been used to build schools, hospitals and homes was used to build these tunnels. THAT is the truth Abbas refuses to admit.
Omission: It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine. It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable.
Truth:    As Abbas attempted to hijack terms that we have used for centuries - diaspora and exile, here too he is attempting to hijack an often-used complaint of Israel - we have no partners in peace and it is neither possible, practical or acceptable to continue negotiations with the Palestinians at this time.
Omission: I come before you today from the Holy Land, the land of Palestine, the land of divine messages, ascension of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the birthplace of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him), to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people in the homeland and in the the Diaspora, to say, after 63 years of suffering of the ongoing Nakba: Enough.
Truth:     Gee, let's ignore the Jewish people; the history written in the Bible that supposedly Islam believes is holy. God gave this land to the Israelites...that would be the Jews. If he wants to invoke history - I'm right there with him - but you can't quote Jesus and ignore Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. As for peace be upon Mohammed, the man wouldn't know peace if you slapped him across the face with it.

Abbas came to the United Nations to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people - that I believe and after 66 years (I have no clue where the idiot came up with the number 63...do the math, Abbas), of ongoing terrorism and war that began long before 1947 when the Arabs chose war, it is, indeed, time to say enough.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 23

Okay, this is a weird one, but then again, this is a weird day. So...today's blessing is crazy people.

I told you it was weird.

I don't want to go into all the details, but every once in a while, I come across a person whose values are so messed up, whose priorities are in the wrong place. A few weeks ago, a woman came to argue with me about something. She was doing something that was, according to the city of Jerusalem, illegal. And she was doing it near my office. When I complained, seeing that I was religious, she told me that I was wrong and that her cause was the first commandment in the Torah...um, it's not.

Today, a man, doing the same thing, screamed at me to watch out for the Yemenites. Okay....personally, I like the Yemenites - well, at least the one's I've met - I haven't actually met any current-day Yemenites from Yemen but I have nothing but respect for the vast majority of Yemenites I've met - except for this one...he was just bizarre.

A while back, a woman on the train station across from my stop started screaming that everyone was jealous of her because she was beautiful (um....she really wasn't...I mean, maybe at one point she was...but that was long ago and in a far off place). I was so happy that she was screaming in English so that the men around me hopefully didn't understand what she was saying. It was just embarrassing!

All this came to mind because two of our guests over the holidays are mental health professionals and it made me remember the time I worked for a psychiatrist many years ago. At one point, one of his clients walked in and said, "We are very angry at you."

Okay..."they" had some serious problems...she really did.

I walked into the doctor's office, told him what the patient had said, and told him, "you have some really crazy patients."

To which he responded, "thank God."

Yes - thank you, God, for everyone - even the crazies that enrich our lives and more, help us remember how lucky we are to be blessed with the lives we have, to those things that we prioritize.

In many ways, much of the world is crazy - crazy with hatred, crazy with misguided notions of what they think God wants from them. Someone took a shot at Jews standing in Baltimore near an Orthodox synagogue - by the grace of God, while the building was damaged, no one was hurt. Crazies...

Abbas stood at the UN and accused Israel of genocide (and, as a Lebanese woman recently said, if that was true, we are the most inept genocidal killers in the history of man)...crazy. And, of course, Israel's left-wing Labor Party Chairman, Isaac Herzog, was quick to say we still prefer to deal with Abbas...yup, certifiable.

The trick, I think, is just to accept what you know, where your world is, and allow others to do as they will. I've said many times that I'd rather live in a land that is in mourning for the loss of three precious teenagers than live in a land that celebrates their deaths. I'd rather live in a land that released 1,000 killers for one innocent young man; than live in a land that welcomes those killers back as heroes. And yes, to some extent, the insistence of the Palestinians to celebrate the calamities of Israel makes them just a bit...off...just a bit...crazy.

When I started this, I didn't think I'd get around to blessing my enemies - near and far, but maybe there is something to this. Your enemies help you clarify so much. I don't want to celebrate death - even the deaths of my enemies. I don't want to celebrate the murders of innocents - even the innocent of my enemies. That is beyond what is normal to my world...just on the other side of crazy.

So today's blessing is crazy people...and yes, to some extent, I'll say that includes our dear neighbors...may God keep them far away from us.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 22

After an amazingly wonderful holiday filled with food and friends and family and prayers, today's blessing is about the power of the voice. The prayers of Rosh Hashana are very beautiful, almost overwhelming at times. We were blessed with the beautiful voice of Yehudah Katz, founder of the Reva l'Sheva band. We were doubly blessed with the honor of hosting his family for two of the meals.

So first, there was the power of Yehudah Katz's voice joined with many of my friends during the prayers...that in itself was very meaningful. Then there were the words of the prayers saying, guiding us, in so many ways, to deliver our hopes and dreams for the coming year, our retrospective of the past year and what we want to do differently, better.

And then yesterday, in addition to the Katz family, we were honored to host a family from our neighborhood. It was quite a meal - 17 people...and while I was in the kitchen shifting between the meal and the dessert, I heard a single voice singing. At first I thought it was Yehudah's voice but when I went to listen more closely, I saw that he too was listening. I searched around the room - from where was this voice coming?

In the end, it was from a very talented 15 year old. I'm not sure yet if he knows how incredibly talented he is. He seems to enjoy it but also be a bit embarrassed by all the attention.

It brought the room to silence and then to cheers. So today's blessing is the human voice - it can bless; it can harm. It can heal; it can encourage. It is at once our most powerful weapon and our greatest resource.

It allows us to speak our hearts and our minds - to all, to any, to God. Of all the blessings that God gave to man alone, the human voice is perhaps the most precious.

A long time ago, I started a website - a collection, an archive of articles I had been writing for many years - even decades. I didn't know what to call it, but friends chimed in with "PaulaSays" and I tried it. I never loved the name and yet it remains. But the tag line was mine - "A Voice from Israel".

A voice is a very precious thing. There are many crimes that humans commit, unspeakable horrors in the name of so many things. Silencing someone's voice is a crime - whether it is done by violence, by out-shouting the other person, by closing one's heart to someone's voice - all these are wrong.

A voice - a true blessing...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Counting Your Blessings - Day 19, 20 and 21

I'm cheating. Starting at sundown tonight, the people of Israel will go "radio-silent" for three days. Two days of Rosh Hashana and one day of Shabbat. No television, no phones. No computers. No cars or buses. Nothing but peace and quiet and family.

This is a hard Rosh Hashana - we will be sharing Amira with her in-laws - that's the good news. It's her birthday so she's wonderful about sharing - and so they get half and we get half and we're all happy. Aliza will be home - and that too is wonderful.

Elie and Lauren are going to close friends/family so they won't be here. Shmulik and Naama will be going to her family and won't be coming and Davidi is in yeshiva and so won't be home either. We have guests for almost every meal, so we'll have a house full of people...and quiet time too. Nice.

But I won't be back online until Saturday night - so I'll cheat and list three blessings now.

Day 19 - as the challah rises for the holidays - today's blessing is yeast. It makes our bread what it is; it's a blessing. It really is. So today's blessing is the yeast that makes our bread rise...and the bread itself.

Today we will shape the bread in a circle - indicating the way the year goes around and around. It has no real beginning and no real end - and that's what we want from life - for it to continue...and so - thank you, God, for the bread you give us (and the yeast the makes it rise). I guess I should thank you for the flour and the other stuff, but let's wait till I get closer to 100 - I doubt I'll run low on finding things with which You have blessed us, but I'll hold those for later, just in case.

Day 20 - I'm not sure if this blessing is daughters in general, sensitive daughters, pen and paper, or English teachers - but this blessing is about a note that Aliza wrote to me and left on my computer last night. I didn't have time to do any real cooking or baking before last night and so in a whirlwind couple of hours, I made a tray of chicken, two trays of mixed potatoes, a tray of roasted squash, a meaty stew that I'll put in the refrigerator and serve on Shabbat (cholent), two different kinds of noodle casseroles, cucumber salad...and I'm pretty sure something...oh yes, two kinds of fish. In the middle of all that, I was feeling really sad and overwhelmed by life and things I can't change (see Starting Over).  And as I passed my computer, I saw the note she had left for me. The outside says 'Dear Ima [mother]. Shana tov [good year]. Love you." Her English teacher told the girls - write your mother a note - as the classroom assignment, and she did. She took it very seriously and wrote all the right things to make me feel a bit better about all that is wrong. So the 20th blessing I will acknowledge is a combination of sensitivity - the teacher, my daughter; the elements that enable us to communicate - pen and paper, perhaps computers, whatever.

Day 21 - This blessing is about community - during this three day holiday, we will immerse ourselves in our community - dear friends who gather together to pray, to talk, to eat. We have guests coming for three of the six meals; one will be a shared community meal; two will be just family. Over the last year, my community has joined together to help us so many times. They brought many meals over for weeks and even months after my operation and then again for a week or so after my car accident. Every year, there are numerous events to help raise money for the needy in our community and in our country. So many events, so many offers to help. If you are truly blessed, you live in an amazing community that reaches out to help others. I am truly blessed.

God willing, I will post Day 22 after Shabbat ends. For now, as I go back to my kitchen - I wish you all a most wonderful holiday and a most wonderful year. There are many who celebrated births this past year - as we celebrated Michali joining our family - may all our families be blessed this coming year to continue to grow in health and number. Many suffered by losing a loved one...all of Israel lost so many - may these families find comfort in the new year and may the memories of those they love, always be blessed. May this year be a year of peace, safety, prosperity - but most important, may it be a year of health, of love, of forgiveness, of unity.

Starting Over...

Sometimes, you can't do the "right" thing simply because there isn't one.

Sometimes, you do the best you can and it isn't good enough.

Sometimes, you see things one way and take action, knowing that in doing it, you are going to hurt someone else.

That's what being an adult is, a parent, a spouse.

I've often heard the concept "turn the other cheek" - to which I've heard the humorous response that when Jews try to turn the other cheek, we just get slapped on the other side of our faces. Turning the other cheek is not a Jewish concept and expecting someone to be in a permanent state of forgiving isn't possible - except when you are actually hurting yourself more by not forgiving than the person asking to be forgiven.

It isn't that Jews don't forgive - we do...but we do it differently. It isn't an automatic thing - it has to be earned. It has to be requested. The wrong has to be made right as much as is humanly possible.

If someone steals a painting from you - until they make amends and give it back, you don't have to forgive them. All the times they say "I'm sorry" is proven false simply because they continue to hold the painting.

On the other hand, if they give it back, perhaps going around and telling people that it was always yours and they had no right to it and come and tell you that they were really wrong and they apologize - you are supposed to find it in your heart and forgive them. They have the obligation to ask three times - in all sincerity and after having tried to make amends...fixing misconceptions their actions caused, etc. After three times, the sin is on you, not them. If you won't forgive them, God will.

So in the period before Rosh Hashana and up to Yom Kippur, Jews go around thinking what they did wrong, how they can fix it. They ask people to forgive them - and they mean it because we are all facing this huge mountain we have to climb - it's called Yom Kippur - Judgment Day and on that day, as Jews the world over gather in synagogues and fast, somewhere late in the day, it isn't about the individual anymore - it's about the nation.

We climb that mountain together - each helping the other get to the top. We start confessing sins we never did - because one of us did. All our good deeds, all the things we did to help others, seems to be put in a massive pot and handed to God. I may have done this badly, but look what that person did - maybe I'm not good enough to get that blessing, but she's so good, maybe a little extra could come my way and together we can both scale the mountain.

And God accepts it - He really does. Every. Single. Year.

So the pressure is on now - and somewhere in the middle of cooking a billion and one things for a ton of meals and a ton of guests, I'm thinking about the past year - so much I could have done better. So many blessings I was given.

Sometimes, in the thick of prayer, I just surrender. Please God, read my heart - look past my thoughts and the deeds I didn't do enough of - you've blessed me so many times in so many ways - for whatever I did, or someone did to get me what I have, please let it continue.

No - you can't force someone not to be mad at you. You can't make someone love you. You can't undo things in life - not really. And so as the holiday comes, I surrender to what I am, what I've done and what I haven't and ask God to fill in the rest.

May God bless you (and me) and our families with a sweet year filled with health and peace - if not with our enemies, at least with our neighbors, friends and family.

Shana tova - have a good year.

Copyright Statement

Everything on this site is protected and copyrighted according to Israeli and international laws. Violators WILL be prosecuted.

Copyright 2007 - 2014 WritePoint Ltd. All rights reserved.

For permission to use pictures or text from this site, please write to: info@paulasays.com.