Tag Archive: rosh hashannah

Join Me & Disconnect to…CONNECT!

This Tzom Gedalia (September 2nd) join me and thousands of Jews around the world! I will be participating in the DaytoDisconnect Event which will allow people the opportunity to truly introspect how much technology is influencing their life!

After all, stop and think for five seconds…Is there a moment in your life in which your smartphone is ever OFF? Do you sleep with your phone at your side? When you are at a Shuir or at a Minyan…if your phone isn’t on OFF, is your phone at least on Vibrate or better yet Silent? Do you say Modeh Ani before checking your Facebook Wall or the Facebook Status of others?

We all know that we can improve our focus in our Bein Adam L’Chavero, and by extension, our Bein Adam L’Makom during the High Holiday season, and this is a lovely important cause that will allow us all to disconnect to connect! Enjoy these incredibly powerful and entertaining short promotional videos and click here to register for your hour to disconnect/connect so they can reach their goal of 1 million disconnected/connected hours.

Elul, Exodus, and the Economy

So here we are.  It is once again the month of Elul in which we begin to blow the Shofar on a daily basis and prepare for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. To many people across the country, a new year that offers new change and hope is a good thing! From the economic doldrums that we continue to face globally and the health care debate that seem to continue to roar across the USA, times appear to only get worse and worse with each passing day. We can only hope that our elected leadership pull us through and out of this vortex that seems to be shoving more and more people into the Great Recession.

And yet, just several months ago, millions of Americans converged upon Washington D.C. to partake in the swearing in ceremony of our nation’s 44th President. Indeed, years from now your children and grandchildren may ask, “Where were you when the 44th President of the United States of America was sworn in?” All politics aside, when America elected President Barack H. Obama barriers of prejudice and race where forever torn down.  However, Mr. Obama did not travel upon a simple road to success and power. History suggests that he revolutionized the campaign process by promoting his presidency on the internet and starting his campaign practically two years prior to the election. However, at one point in time, the greatest obstacle that would have stood in his path towards the White House was the color of his skin. Nonetheless, the issue of race began to change with the leadership and efforts of our 16th President, Abraham Lincoln—who is largely credited for the advancement of African Americans in our country and overall society.

To that end, we all are familiar with the expression, “hindsight is twenty-twenty.” This idiom suggests that every human being—and certainly world leaders, presidents and persons of power—need to look into the past to learn the mistakes and successes of how previous generations navigated through wars, recessions, politics, race, and various other timeless issues of interest. In light of the above, as we find ourselves on the cusp of the High Holidays, it would be prudent of us to observe a group of leaders who lived during the period of the Exodus, a time in which Hashem showed the world that he is the Creator and we are his people.

Truth be told, when you think of the leaders of the Exodus, the first names that probably come to your mind are that of Moses and his brother Aaron. And yet, the Talmud (Sotah 11b) relates: “In the merit of the righteous women of that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt!” In other words , the driving force towards God performing the plethora of miracles and splitting the Red Sea were none other than the Jewish women and the feminine leadership of the time.

How did they inspire change and forever impact the generation of the Exodus, and Jewish history for that matter?

Let us turn to the first model of feminine leadership found in the story of the Jewish midwives Shifrah and Puah. The Torah records that Pharaoh instructed them to systematically kill Jewish babies at their birth.

What do they do?

They do not argue with his orders.

Instead they practice insubordination by ignoring his immoral decree. Let’s be honest. That took some real guts to do back then. If they were ever caught by the Egyptian authorities invariably their heads would roll! How did they act so calm, cool and collected in front of Pharaoh, and yet have the courage to do what was right?

The Mai Hashiloach, Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner of Izbica (1801-1854) teaches a powerful concept that rings true to this very day, and answers our question. He is of the opinion that when a person is afraid of people, and thinks that people solely run the world, then one can feel consumed by varying emotions of anxiety and stress—and under pressure and duress, loose his or her composure. However, if one realizes that Hashem is ultimately in control, even in turbulent times—such a person possesses a great sense of calm. It was this sense of emunah, of faith in Hashem, that Shifrah and Puah had and by extension, allowed them to act with defiance towards the edict of Pharaoh.

What’s more, the courage and feminine leadership did not stop with this one instance. In fact, if you think we, who are entrenched in a deep recession had it bad, try envisioning living through the tough times the Jewish people endured while in slavery.  Honestly, if I was around back then I could see myself very much giving up hope. After all, the Jews were enslaved for a couple centuries under the rule of the wicked Pharaoh. Indeed, Jewish tradition relates that this is exactly what happened. The men of the period—even great men such as Moses’s father—separated from their wives so as not to bring any future Jewish children into such miserable slavery. And yet, the Jewish women once again did not give up hope and faith in the Almighty. Instead, they preserved, remained steadfast in their belief in Hashem and encouraged their husbands to procreate and further establish the Jewish nation.

Finally, after God miraculously saved the Jewish people by splitting the Red Sea and drowning their Egyptian pursuers in it, the Jewish men sang a beautiful song to Hashem. The Jewish women, however, lead by the prophetess Miriam, seemingly outperformed the men by accompanying their song with music and dancing. Rashi explains that the Jewish women in Egypt were convinced that they would merit further miracles. And so, they packed instruments to play while singing praises to Hashem. In spite of the centuries of oppression and suffering in Egypt, they remained very optimistic that they would see a period of change, in which they would be able to celebrate the taste of freedom and the dawn of a new era.

And so, while it appears that the economy seems to only get worse with each day, we too must never give up on the notions of “hope” and “change” for a better tomorrow. We must remember that  all along we are in good hands—the hands of Hashem. May we merit that this upcoming year is a sweet one for all of Klal Yisrael, and that we finally see the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash speedily in our days.

I Admit: I am Guilty as Charged!

Photo by knitpurrAs we enter the High Holiday season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we are supposed to introspect upon the previous year, correct our misgivings, and demonstrate to the Almighty that we are interested in moving in a positive direction. On Yom Kippur we spend this holy day by refraining from food and drink, as well as verbally annulling our sins and shortcomings.

Well folks, I admit it, I drink caffeine…not 5 cups of coffee a day, but I’d be lying to say that I don’t enjoy the “kicker” a nice cup of caffeinated soda such as Coke Zero (a personal favorite) or a steaming Chai Latte (FYI: I like this drink because of its taste and aroma, not because it means Life in Hebrew) brings to my system. And yet, after reading this article from The New York Times on the health effects of caffeine, in which studies show that at 320 milligrams per 16 ounces, a Starbucks Grande coffee has over four times the 80 milligrams of caffeine of a Red Bull Energy Drink, it made me think twice about my daily consumption of caffeine, and its long term effects. In fact, this article left such an impression upon me, that I bolted from my chair and asked my wife, Tziporah, to help make sure that I start drinking less of the stuff…

Which got me thinking?

How many times in life do we continue a habit that we know or have read of the fact that this action is detrimental to the health of our relationships with our Creator, our friends, or even family, and we don’t stop to think twice and ask ourselves, “how can we modify our behavior?” What do you think?

Podcast #2: How to Put Your Rosh Back into Your Shana

Listen to an interactive and insightful class taught to Orthodox post high-school students at Bnot Torah/Sharfman’s Seminary in which participants utilized Hebrew Source Sheets to discover how we can unlock the true purpose of the prayer and symbolisms of Rosh Hashannah. (42:48 min)

 

iPray: Ancient Prayers and Modern Applications

In the latest issue of Jewish Life Magazine, a monthly periodical serving the Jewish community of Los Angeles, CA, my Torah and Technology column explores various iPhone Apps that can enhance your religious experience. Click here to view the article as it appeared in print or simply read below and enjoy!

Not a day goes by during which my wife and I do not thank the Almighty for our being able to soon enter our fourth year of living in Israel and having made Aliyah. Recently, we returned to Los Angeles and enjoyed some Southern California sun, as well as the opportunity to visit friends and family. And yet, while I possess many fond memories from this three-week trip, one question from my inquisitive eldest daughter Sima will forever remain entrenched in my mind.

While we were in LA, one afternoon we visited the famous Santa Monica Third Street Promenade. This particular environment allowed us the opportunity to enjoy the cool breeze of the Pacific Ocean, watch the ivy-topiary dinosaur fountains spray their constant stream of water (much to the delight of our children), and of course—shop! As we passed the beautifully designed Apple Retail Store, my daughter asked me, “Abba, why is there such a long line to go in there? Can we see what’s inside, too?” I quickly answered her that the people in line were waiting to buy a new cell phone, and we don’t need a new one because ours works just fine. Content with that answer, she continued to slowly walk and watch the entertainers along the street until we returned to our car. All things considered, while I was proud of her for noticing the line of about 100 people waiting to get past the security guard and enter the store—I was even further relieved that we were not amongst the many thousands of Americans across the country caught up in the hysteria to purchase the latest version of the iPhone. In fact, the public desire to purchase the iPhone 3G was initially so large, Apple added staff as well as opening its stores as early as 8:00 AM. In point of fact, Apple expects to continue to profit from this device to the tune of several hundreds of millions of dollars each year. But there’s more to this iPhone story.

Part of the draw of the iPhone (as well as the iPod Touch) is the fact that it’s not simply a traditional cell phone. Undeniably, consumers are drawn towards its sleek and trendy appearance, multi-touch interface, accelerometer, GPS, as well as the ability to customize your gizmo by visiting the iPhone App Store, where over 1000 applications are ready to download at the push of a button. Truth be told, as Nick Wingfield of The Wall Street Journal reports, Apple even leverages these applications into additional revenue. Furthermore, Wingfield reveals that there have already been 60 million downloads of applications, the majority of them free. But paid downloads are doing just fine, pulling in a whopping $30 million in revenues in only the first 30 days. What’s more, Eric A. Taub writes in The New York Times that six individuals purchased an application by an outside software developer in Germany called: “I Am Rich” for $999.99! While this application did not promise to resolve Global Warming or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it did allow one to feel cool that their iPhone displayed a red gem on the screen.

But how are these iPhone facts relevant to us? As we enter the period approaching Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, Jews of varying degrees of religious observance are reminded that as the Chosen Nation we possess an eternal “iPhone” that requires no download or software; namely the ability to connect to Hashem through daily Tefillah as well as Brachot. And yet, let’s be honest—how many of us are guilty, myself included, of being in a rush, running to a meeting, catching a plane, and not having a Siddur or Bentscher handy? Instead, we mumble through our supplication to Hashem and move on with our day, while telling ourselves, “next time we’ll have better Kavvanah, don’t worry.”

Recently, however, two companies have released applications at the iPhone App Store that will forever help all Jews who do become iPhone users increase their daily Kavvanah and strengthen their relationship with our Creator— even on the go. New York natives Barry and Ronnie Shwartz founded RustyBrick.com and have developed a wonderful and user-friendly Siddur for the iPhone unlike any other prayer book you’ve ever seen. This application features Ashkenaz, Sefard, and Sefard Mizrachi versions of your weekday Siddur (obviously there is no Siddur for Shabbat or Yom Tov). Plus, users have access to the unique real-time Zemanim available, which are determined for you by the iPhone’s GPS. This will allow one to travel the country for business or pleasure and easily discover Sof Zeman Kriat Shemah or even tap into the Minyanim database that will help quickly find the nearest local Shul. This app comes complete with many more excellent features, such as a Jewish Calendar; and it will soon be updated to include a compass to help you always face Mizrach when davening.

Another application available at the iPhone App Store, KosherMe, caters to FFB’s to BT’s who are still learning how to read, translate, or even pronounce Hebrew but nonetheless want to be able to forever recite of the relevant Brachot wherever they may be. In fact, this Bentscher, designed by Dushan Wegner of KosherMe.com, neatly organizes the before and after blessings for a plethora of foods. In addition, this Bentscher provides the reader with the opportunity to say Tefilat HaDerech from your iPhone. However, one unique feature that I enjoyed most in my test of this application is the ability to easily switch between the various Bentscher modes such as: Interlinear, English, Transliterated, and Hebrew.

The lesson for us in all this technology may be that while new gadgets continue to encroach upon our daily lives, these two applications for the iPhone can help us forever remain focused on what’s truly important in life. In actuality, one’s iPhone may not always have perfect reception, but by looking inside our Siddur and Bentscher we can ensure that our Kavvanah and signal strength have full bars in all of our discussions with the Ultimate Reception Provider—Hashem.

Who Shall Live

The following video that I have embedded below, is produced by Rabbi N. Daniel Korobkin of Los Angeles, CA. The message of this clip is short but powerful and relevant to us all. To that end, as we inch closer and closer to Rosh HaShannah, I believe this video can help us focus in our prayer and communication with the Almighty. If you just have 5 minutes to spare, I would highly recommend viewing it prior to sitting down and praying in your High Holiday seat.

Podcast #1 – Rosh HaShannah: A Quick Secret to Avoiding a Traffic Jam

Listen to this quick and refreshing version of The Rabbi Green Podcast and you’ll finally be able to make your New Year’s Resolution stick like honey! This episode will be enjoyed by both scholar and layperson alike. (6:37 min).

 


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