Friday, May 13, 2011

PIRQE ABOT: Of friendship and second hand smoking

Today is the 9th day of Iyar, 5771, 24 days, 3 weeks, 3 days.

During the days between Pesach and Shabuot, we learn Pirke Abot: the "Chapters of the Fathers" . In this text, the Rabbis of the Mishna, who lived two thousand years ago, teach us words of wisdom and advice --very practical advice-- regarding our ways in life.

My favorite commentary is Me'am Lo'ez by rabbi Isaac Magreso, from the eighteen century Turkey, who continued the work of the original author, rabbi Yaaqob Kholi.

This week in our Minyan, we learned a few Mishnayot which deal with the complexities of bad company.

I will summarize the main points of Rabbi Magreso's brilliant commentary:

*We have to be careful and selective with the friends we choose. Rabbi Magreso warns of the danger of bad influences, which, similar to the process of 'growing' cannot be detected while they are happening. Rather, we realize the effects of bad influences on us or our children, when it is already too late... Bad company, is like second hand smoking, you will carry the smell of cigarettes, even though you did not smoke yourself...

*The Mishna, he says, also warns us to separate from a bad neighbor. And he elaborates: a bad neighbor is not necessarily someone religiously less observant than you. In his opinion, a bad neighbor is defined by character. A bad neighbor is an individual who suffers when he sees you happy. Find friends and neighbors who are not jealous, and save yourself from a lot of trouble!

*Anticipating the era of Facebook, rabbi Magriso also sentenced: What is the best way to asses someone's character? Look at his friends. Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are (or who you are about to be!)

Shabbat Shalom!!!!

Candle lighting in NYC: 7:45 PM

PLEASE watch this video and forward it to your friends!

A very intense and moving testimony of an incredible Israeli mother, Miriam Peretz, who lost her TWO sons in the war. This is a very solemn and deserved tribute to the fallen soldiers, z'l, and to the courage and unbreakable spirit of AM ISRAEL HAYOSHEB BETZION.

(Thanks to Mr Uri ben Yehuda for sending me this extraordinary video clip)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TIKVATENU: A brief history of Israel's National anthem

Today is the 7th day of Iyar, 5771/ 22 days of Omer (3 weeks, 1 day)

A young man from Galicia, named Naphtali Herz Imber , inspired by the founding of Petah Tikvah in 1878, wrote a poem about his feelings.

The song, originally called "Tikvatenu" (Our Hope), later became "Hatikvah," the national anthem of the State of Israel, lifting the spirits of Zionists around the world for over a century.

Naphtali Herz Imber was born in 1856 into a Hasidic family. He received a traditional education, and left home at an early age to wander around the world. He came to Palestine in 1882 and stayed for six years writing essays, poetry and articles for Hebrew periodicals.

Tikvatenu, was first published in 1886, although it had initially been read in public as early as 1882 to a group of farmers in Rishon LeZion who received it enthusiastically.

Among them was Samuel Cohen, who heard the poem and enjoyed it so much that he promptly set it to music.

"Hatikvah" was sung at the conclusion of the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basle in 1903, the last congress presided over by Theodor Herzl, who died tragically the following year. The anthem was sung at all subsequent Zionist Congresses, and at the 18th Congress, held in Prague in 1933, it was officially confirmed as the Zionist anthem.

'Tikvatenu' became the unofficial anthem of Jewish Palestine under the British mandate. At the Declaration of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948, "Hatikvah" was sung by the assembly at its opening ceremony.

(Adapted from Hatikvah - The Hope by Dulcy Leibler)

The original text of haTikva was different from the one we have today. It was five times longer and it included the Jewish aspiration of "coming back to the land of our forefathers, and to the city founded by King David (=Jerusalem)".

This was part of the original text: od lo abda tikvatenu, hatikva hanoshana, lashub leEretz Abotenu, leir bah David chana...

As you can see, the last eight words were changed, once the State of Israel was established and the People of Israel were resettling in the land of our forefathers.

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

YOM HA'ATZMAUT: Of clouds and pigeons

Today is the 6th day of Iyar, 5771/ 21 days of Omer (3 weeks)

The Torah (Debarim 30), predicted the exile of the Jewish people to all four corners of the planet and also predicted that they will come back home (30:5,6). The prophet Yeshayahu (Chapter 60) elaborated with the most beautiful words on how (not "when") this prophecy will be carried out. He said to the Land of Israel that: (60:4) "your sons will come from afar, and your daughters, carried on the arm..." At that time, there will be those who will (60:8)"fly along like clouds, and those who will fly like pigeons to their nests".

Rabbi Simcha Kook, chief Rabbi of Rehovot, once explained to me why the Prophet used the motif of clouds and pigeons. Clouds and pigeons represent two opposite extremes in terms of motion. Clouds do not control their movement. They are moved by winds and cannot oppose them. On the other hand, pigeons, out of all birds, have an extraordinary (and still scientifically inexplicable!) sense which enable them to return home from any location in the world, even thousands of miles away. They would not rest until they arrive home, defying winds and storms; until they get to their loft.

There will be Jews who, like clouds, will return to the land of Israel moved "by winds." Political winds, financial winds, winds of persecution, all of them divine winds, which will force these Jews to come back to their homeland. And there will be other Jews who, like pigeons, will come from far away, and struggle against winds, driven by their instincts, to return home: to their loft, to their nest.

At the end, no matter if they came back as clouds or as pigeons, all Jews will be reunited back in the land of Israel. To fulfill the greatest prophecy and to rebuild the most beautiful home for Jewish people, Medinat Israel.

Yom ha'Atzmaut Sameach!!!!


Benjamin Netanyahu's address for Yom ha'Atzmaut 5771:

Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024

Monday, May 9, 2011

YOM HAZIKARON: Israel's Memorial Day

Today is the 5th day of Iyar, 5771/20 days of Omer (2 weeks, 6 days)

Israel Independence Day celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel. Today, YOM HAZIKARON, the day preceding this celebration, is devoted to the memory of those who gave their lives for the achievement of the country's independence and its continued existence.

The total number of soldiers and security personnel who fell since the War of Independence is 20,424.

The total, including those who fell in the struggle for the State before 1948 is 22,867.

This number includes disabled IDF veterans who later died from their wounds and non-IDF personnel who fell in the line of duty.

183 soldiers were killed since last Yom Hazikaron - 5771.

On This Day, We Honor The Memory of the Young Men & Women Who Gave Their Lives For The Creation And Security of The Jewish State.

Names and faces, of some of the young Israeli soldiers that fell in the last war in Lebanon, z"l

SHIR LAMAALOT, images of operation cast lead in Gaza Strip (2008-2009)

DON'T MISS the celebrations of Yom haAtzmaut in our community. Tonight, Monday, May 9th, at 7:30 PM in YMJC (130 Steamboat Road).

See our program here:


Rabbi Yosef Bitton. YMJC | 130 Steamboat Rd. | Great Neck | NY | 11024