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Bullying In Our Schools

We, as a Jewish community, have a built-in platform from which to address bullying in the Torah context. Mia Adler Ozair, MA, LPCC, NCC


It’s Time To Play

Tips from the Educational Administration of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy

THE COMMUNITY LINKS is published biweekly and is distributed free to the Jewish Community of Southern California. THE COMMUNITY LINKS accepts no responsibility for typographical errors or reliability of Kashrus of any advertisers. All submissions become the property of THE COMMUNITY LINKS and may be shortened and/or edited for length and clarity. Articles published in THE COMMUNITY LINKS express the views of the individual writers and may not necessarily represent the views of THE COMMUNITY LINKS. No artwork or any part of the magazine may be reprinted or otherwise duplicated without the written permission of the publisher.


Congress Gearing Up For Iron Dome Tribute

I believe that holding the event in Congress is a true expression of gratitude on behalf of the American Jewish community and those who value human life.

26 A Year In Israel They go to spread their wings and experience independence from their families and to explore their Jewish heritage, identity and spirituality.

Linda O. Schlesinger

Arielle Plonske


February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •


Bullying in Our Schools MIA ADLER OZAIR, MA, LPCC, NCC


s the saying goes,“kids will be kids.” The implication of this being that behaviors of all types—tantrums at age 2, fighting over toys at age 5, talking back to parents at age 9, fights among friends at age 12, etc.—are really just part of growing and developing and can and should be expected. In reality, this is true. There are social markers for development at all ages that come with the challenges of children navigating relationships of all types while growing up. However, there are limits to the “kids will be kids” statement and we must be careful that it doesn’t become an excuse for lack of parenting and/or lack of school involvement when the behaviors turn into bullying. : + $7  , 6  $  r % 8 / /< s " By definition, a “bully” is someone who is overbearing and who habitually badgers, intimidates, and/or excludes others. “Bullying” is the act of intentionally intimidating and berating another person. Professionals have come to understand that in actuality bullies are mostly children and teens who themselves are very insecure, often times experiencing some type of abuse in the home, experiencing some element of trauma (parents divorcing 8

or a death in the family), and have no healthy outlet or source of support to process and manage their feelings and experiences. This does not excuse a bully’s behavior; however it does put it into context and allows us to see the bully as another human being who is troubled and lacking. Thankfully, antibullying programs are prevalent and in most schools today there is at least some element of education and awareness on what a bully is, how to deal with one, and how not to become one. These programs are greatly needed, but even more important is both parents’ and schools’ commitments to following through on addressing bullying issues in the school and community. This includes paying attention to any and all student complaints of bullying, providing intervention and remediation when a child is identified as a bully, and creating a joint team effort between home and school to support new, more positive behaviors of the bully. An important element to examine is that when most people think of bullying they immediately think of schools. However bullying can and does take place in any setting where social interaction takes place: school, synagogue, after-school activity, in the home be-

tween siblings, parents bully children, neighborhood activity, and so on. What can also be a challenge is that bullies can be sophisticated in their approach to avoid getting caught. For example, instead of straight-out bullying in the classroom, the incidences take place in the hallway between classes, on the playground, at lunch time, and other times of day when there is not a direct supervisor who can catch and/or hear what is going on. The following are some statistics I pulled from an amazing website called “Make Beats Not Beat Downs” (MBNBD) ( which is an organization working against bullying through the use of music and art: t*UJTFTUJNBUFEUIBU DIJMESFONJTT school every day due to fear of attack or intimidation by other students. Source: National Education Association. t "NFSJDBO TDIPPMT IBSCPS BQQSPYJNBUFMZ 2.1 million bullies and 2.7 million of their victims. Dan Olweus, National School Safety Center. t 1 in 7 Students in Grades K-12 is either a bully or a victim of bullying. t  PG TUVEFOUT IBWF QFSTPOBMMZ XJUnessed some type of bullying at school.

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t  PG BMM TDIPPM BCTFOUFFJTN JT EJrectly related to fears of being bullied at school. t  PG TUVEFOUT SFQPSU JODJEFOUT PG bullying as a problem at their school. t PVUPGTUVEFOUTIBTTFFOBTUVEFOU with a gun at school. t  TUVEFOUTBSFQIZTJDBMMZBUUBDLFE in secondary schools each month. t ÉŠPTF JO UIF MPXFS HSBEFT SFQPSUFE CFing in twice as many ďŹ ghts as those in the higher grades. However, there is a lower rate of serious violent crimes in the elementary level than in the middle or high schools.

We, as a Jewish community, have a built-in platform from which to address bullying in the Torah context.

life threatening. I know what youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re thinking: â&#x20AC;&#x153;My child is a good Jewish boy/girl and/or attends a nice Jewish day school. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t need to worry about this.â&#x20AC;? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m so sorry to be the one to tell you, but bullying in Jewish schools and/or by Jewish kids is just as common as in secular schools and/or by secular kids. The one advantage we have in the Jewish community is that our value system clearly outlines and supports what derech eretz (â&#x20AC;&#x153;the way of the landâ&#x20AC;?) is and the importance of raising children who respect and uphold our societal values of treating others the way we wish to be treated. We, as a Jewish community, have a built-in platform from which to address bullying in the Torah context. As an educator and therapist, I feel this is simply amazing and something that every Jewish school must strive to highlight.

: + $7  % 8 / /< , 1 *  /2 2 . 6  / , . ( Once again borrowing from the MKNBD website: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bullying can take many forms but it usually includes the following types of bet  PG UI UISPVHI UI HSBEFST SFQPSU havior: being victims of bullying t3+<6,&$/ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; hitting, kicking, pincht "NPOH TUVEFOUT  IPNJDJEF QFSQFUSBUPST ing, punching, scratching, spitting were more than twice as likely as homicide or any other form of physical attack. victims to have been bullied by peers. Damage to or taking someone elseâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bet #VMMZJOHTUBUJTUJDTTBZSFWFOHFJTUIFTUSPOlongings may also constitute as physical gest motivation for school shootings. bullying. t PGTUVEFOUTTBJETIPPUJOHTBSFNPUJvated by a desire to â&#x20AC;&#x153;get back at those who t 9(5%$/ â&#x20AC;&#x201C; name calling, insulting, making racist, sexist or homophobic have hurt them.â&#x20AC;? jokes, remarks or teasing, using sexually t PGTUVEFOUTTBJE iPUIFSLJETQJDLJOH suggestive or abusive language, oďŹ&#x20AC;ensive on them, making fun of them or bullying remarks themâ&#x20AC;? causes teenagers to turn to lethal violence in the schools. t PGTUVEFOUTTBJETUVEFOUTTIPPUPUIers because they have been victims of physical abuse at home. t  PG TUVEFOUT TBJE XJUOFTTJOH QIZTJcal abuse at home can lead to violence in school. t "DDPSEJOHUPCVMMZJOHTUBUJTUJDT PVUPG FWFSZTUVEFOUTXIPESPQTPVUPGTDIPPM does so because of repeated bullying. t )BSBTTNFOUBOECVMMZJOHIBWFCFFOMJOLFE UPPGTDIPPMTIPPUJOHJODJEFOUT As you can see from these statistics, bullying is no laughing matter and the eďŹ&#x20AC;ects of bullying in its most severe form can be

t ,1',5(&7 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; spreading nasty stories about someone, exclusion from social groups, being made the subject of malicious rumors, sending abusive mail, and email and text messages (cyber bullying).


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t&<%(5%8//<,1* â&#x20AC;&#x201C; any type of bullying that is carried out by electronic medium. There are 7 types including: 1. Text message bullying 2. Picture/video clip bullying via mobile phone cameras 3. Phone call bullying via mobile phones

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&NBJMCVMMZJOH 5. Chat-room bullying #VMMZJOHUISPVHIJOTUBOUNFTTBHJOH (IM) 7. Bullying via websites As parents, educators, and community members, it is our obligation and responsibility to educate ourselves about the types of bullying abuse so that we can identify it and intervene immediately upon witnessing it. Our Jewish lifestyle forbids the use of lashon hara (speaking negatively about another person), being verbally or physically abusive, and generally treating others with disrespect. In addition, it is considered a mitzvah to defend those who need help and protect those who may be weaker. In other words, the very essence and core of our belief system is entirely against actions of bullying and gives us the right to act fully and ensure all children can attend school, synagogue, and other activities feeling safe, secure, and happy. It is clearly the parentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; responsibility to ensure this is also happening in the home. + 2 :  7 2  ' ( $ /  : , 7 +  $  % 8 / /< Although â&#x20AC;&#x153;how to deal with a bullyâ&#x20AC;? is an extremely important topic, I am going to


leave this for you to learn through your childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s school. Take the time to investigate what your school is doing to address bullying and educate yourself about ways to assist your child if he or she is being a bully or being bullied. However one ďŹ nal and important element is how to recognize if your child may be the victim of bullying. Taken from Jay McGrawâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Life Strategies for Dealing with Bullies, here are the key signs your child could be suďŹ&#x20AC;ering: 1. Makes up excuses not to go to school; 2. Is often angry, sad or depressed, withdrawn, self-loathing and emotionally erratic; 3. Frequently hurt by a particular person or group of people; 'SFRVFOUMZQJDLFEPOJOUIFQSFTFODFPG other people; 5. Mistakes are turned into a big deal by someone; #FMPOHJOHTBSFPGUFOTUPMFOPSUBLFO 7. Always being confronted with lies/rumors; Bullying is unfortunately an existing part of childhood and adolescenceâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and even sometimes adulthoodâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;however it is not something that must be accepted as â&#x20AC;&#x153;the way

it isâ&#x20AC;? and is certainly something that with education and intervention can be minimized. It is our duty in each of our respective communities to ensure our schools are doing all they can to create a healthy, safe, and bully-free environment for our children. )2//2:8372$'+'$57,&/( My article about ADHD found in Community Links issue #223 discussed the holistic treatment method of Reiki. I would like to clarify that there are two distinct opinions about whether the use of Reiki energy work is â&#x20AC;&#x153;kosherâ&#x20AC;? and allowed according to Jewish law. I encourage you to speak with your Rabbi and to do your own research prior to engaging in Reiki practice as some Rabbis say it is okay while others condemn it. My apologies for not including that information in the original article. Mia Adler Ozair, MA, LPCC, NCC is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and educator with a private practice in Beverly Hills, California. Mia is licensed in both California and Illinois and she can be reached through her website at, e-mail at mia@bhcounselingcenter. com, oďŹ&#x192;ce 310-464-5226, or followed on Twitter @MiaAdlerOzair

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Purim Guide How to

THE STORY IN A NUTSHELL: The Persian empire of the 4th century BCE extended over 127 lands, and all the Jews were its subjects. When King Ahasuerus had his wife, Queen Vashti, executed for failing to follow his orders, he orchestrated a beauty pageant to find a new queen. A Jewish girl, Esther, found favor in his eyes and became the new queen—though she refused to divulge the identity of her nationality. Meanwhile, the anti-Semitic Haman was appointed prime minister of the empire.Mordechai, the leader of the Jews (and Esther’s cousin), defied the king’s orders and refused to bow to Haman. Haman was incensed and convinced the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all the Jews on the 13th of Adar—a date chosen by a lottery Haman made. Mordechai galvanized all the Jews, convincing them to repent, fast and pray to G-d. Meanwhile, Esther asked the king and Haman to join her for a feast. At the feast, Esther revealed to the king her Jewish identity. Haman was hanged, Mordechai was appointed prime minister in his stead, and a new decree was issued—granting the Jews the right to defend themselves against their enemies. On the 13th of Adar the Jews mobilized and killed many of their enemies. On the 14th of Adar they rested and celebrated.




To relive the miraculous events of Purim,listen to the reading of the megillah (theScroll of Esther) twice: once on Purim eve, Saturday night, February 23, and again on Purim day, February 24. To properly fulfill the mitzvah, it is crucial to hear every single word of the megillah. At certain points in the reading where Haman’s name is mentioned, it is customary to twirl graggers (Purim noisemakers) and stamp one’s feet to “eradicate” his evil name. Tell the children that Purim is the only time when it’s a mitzvah to make noise!



Concern for the needy is a year-round responsibility; but on Purim it is a special mitzvah to remember the poor. Give charity to at least two (but preferably more) needy individuals on Purim day, February 24. The mitzvah is best fulfilled by giving directly to the needy. If, however, you cannot find poor people, place at least two coins into a charity box. As with the other mitzvahs of Purim, even small children should be taught to fulfill this mitzvah.

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urim we emphasize the importance of Jewish wish unity and friendship by sending of fo ood to friends. urim day, February 24, send a gift of t least ast two kinds of ready-to-eat foods ood o ., pastr pas y, fruit, beverage) to at least friend. Men should send to men, and omen en to women. It is preffer e able that giffts t be delivered via a third party. dren, in addition to sending their giftss of fo ood to their friends, make thusiastic messengers. usia



Purim should be celebrated with a special festiv e e meal on Purim day, at which family and friends gather together to rejoice in the Purim spirit. It is a mitzvah to drink wine or other inebriating drinkks at this meal

S P E C I AL P RAY YERS AL SPECIAL PRAYERS AL HANISSIM, T ORAH REA DI NG  HANISSIM, TORAH READING On Purim we include the Al HaNissim prayerr, w which describes the Purim miracle, in the evening, morning and affternoon prayers, as well as in the Grace After Meals. In the morning service there is a special reading from the Tor o ah scroll in the synagogue (Exodus 17:8–16).

PreP re- aand nd P Post-Purim ost-Purim O Observances: bservances: PURIM C USTOMS: PURIM CUSTOMS: MASQ QUERADES AND AN D MASQUERADES HAMANT TASHEN HAMANTASHEN A time-honored Purim custom is fo or children to dress up and disguise themselves—an allusion to the fact that the miracle of Purim was disguised in natural garments. This is also the significance behind a traditional Purim fo ood, the hamantash—a pastry whose filling is hidden within a three-cornered crust.

TORAH READING READING O FZ ACHOR TORAH OF ZACHOR On the Shabbat before Purim (this year, February 23), a special reading is held in the synagogue. We read the Torah section called Zachor (“Remember”), in which we are enjoined to remember the deeds of (the nation of ) Amalek(Haman’s ancestor) who sought to destroy the Jewish people.

THE T HE FAST FAST O OF F ESTHER ESTHER To commemorate the prayer and fasting that the Jewish people held during the Purim story, we fast on the day before Purim. This year we fast on Thursday, February 21. The fast begins approximately an hour before sunrise, and lasts until nightfall.

THE ““HALF THE HALF C COINS” OINS ” MACHATZIT MACHA ATZIT HASHEKEL HASHEKEL It is a tradition to give three coins in “half ” denomina den tions—e.g., three half-dollar coins—to charity, to commemorate the half-shekel that each Jew contributed as his share in the communal off ffe erings in the time of the Holy Te emple. This custom, usually per fo ormed in the synagogue, is done on the afternoon of the “Fast of Estherr,” or beffo ore the reading of the Megillah.

S SHUSHAN HUSHAN PU PURIM RIM In certain ancient walled cities—Jerusalem is the primary example—Purim is observed not on the 14th of Adar (the date of its observance everywhere else), but on the 15th of Adar. This is to commemorate that fact that in the ancient walled city of Shushan, where the battles between the Jews and their enemies extended for an additional day, the original Purim celebration was held on the 15th of Adar. The 15th of Adar is thus called “Shushan Purim,” and is a day of joy and celebration also in those places where it is not observed as the actual Purim. February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •


Anywhere Else? Parshas Tetzaveh BY RABBI LABEL LAM


nd these are the garments you shall make: A Breastplate, an Ephod, a Robe, a Tunic of a box-like knit, a Turban, and a Sash. They shall make these garments of sanctity for Aaron your brother and his sons to minister to Me. (Shemos 28:3-4) …And you shall make for them Headdresses of splendor and glory. (Shemos 28:40) And you shall make a Head-plate of pure gold and engrave upon it, engraved like a signet ring, “Holy to HASHEM!” (Shemos 28:36) These are the eight glorious garments to be worn by the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest when performing the service in the Holy Temple. There is one area of “clothing” that is conspicuously absent from the Kohen Gadol’s wardrobe. Can you guess? You got it! Shoes! Why? Amongst all the elaborate and decorative outerwear that adorns the Kohen Gadol, why do his feet remain bare? Let us hearken back to a slightly earlier time when Moshe was shepherding the sheep of his father in-law, wandering in the desert, and he turned to take note of the phenomenon of the burning bush. At that moment HASHEM spoke to Moshe and demanded of him, “Take off your shoes from upon your feet because the ground that you are standing upon is holy!” Why was he told to remove his shoes? The Ramban answers, “because in places of holiness such as the Temple, even Kohanim may not wear shoes!” That begs


the question, “Why are Kohanim, as Moshe at that moment, not to wear shoes? In the Yalkut Shemoni there’s a dispute about the original stature of Adam the First Man before he was diminished. One opinion says that at one time he reached from the earth to the heavens. Another opinion states that he stretched from one end of the world to the other end of the world, so that when he would lie down his head was in the east and his feet were in the west. What is meaning of the discussion? I once heard from a great person an approach to this argument between the sages. It’s a debate about the nature of mankind. People are curious and they love to travel to new and exotic places. This is consistent with notion that the Talmud Sanhedrin states, that the dust that was used to form Adam was gathered from all over the world. Man has a connection to allover the planet. Therefore there exists in the hearts of men this insatiable appetite for adventure- to move horizontally about the world, even mentally, imaginatively wondering about events in distant lands. This is a basic description of one dimension of human nature. Then there is another type of man. He has no desire to budge from his place. Maybe he wandered enough and came to understand, as the phrase says these days, “been there- done that”. Such a person discovers the real limitless adventure in life is

not horizontal like the snake moves but vertical like Yaakov’s ladder planted here on earth while ever striving for the heavens. That is a different type of person altogether. When Moshe discovered that “burning bush” his horizontal journeying ceased and he became anchored to that place. When one removes their shoes it expresses a commitment to remain here. This is where it is happening! This is hallowed ground! Perhaps the same can be said for the Kohen. Shoes are for travelers in sideways direction. A golden plate that declares, “Holy to HASHEM” is for one whose head is reaching for the heavens. I heard directly from the mouth of Rabbi Shimshon Pincus ztl that once while on a flight from America to Israel the plane made a stopover for a brief period in London. When the connecting flight was ready to continue, he was deeply involved in Davening Mincha. In spite of all the announcements, “now boarding…” , “last call for flight #...” he continued to remain steadfast and focused on his prayers. As a result, he missed the flight. This created a load of logistical problems for him to get another flight and then catch up with his luggage. When asked why he allowed that to happen, he replied, “I was talking to HASHEM! Why would I want to be anywhere else? Courtesy of

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February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •


It’s Time To Play Tips from the Educational Administration of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy lay is the cornerstone to child development in the early years – but is one form of play better than another? There are benefits to both free play and structured play. At Hillel, both are invaluable and give opportunities for our children, regardless of age or grade, to gain important life skills. Both forms of play are valuable in their own right – the key is finding the balance that suits your child and your family.


helps build team skills, cooperation and other social skills. Research from Yale University also shows very strong support for structured play. The found that “children who take part in organized activities benefit developmentally. They are healthier, judging from their academic performance and indicators of psychological and emotional wellbeing and self-esteem, as well as from their parent-child relationships...”

The different types of play: free and structured. 1. Free Play: when children are left to their own devises to find something to amuse them, explore, create and/or imagine in a safe environment, undirected by adults. 2. Structured Play: when children are directed in specific activities structured by adults to develop the skills necessary for the child to be a successful later in life. PE classes are the school’s structured play. Outside of school, structured play can take many forms: karate class, football, baseball, soccer or lacrosse leagues, etc.

FREE PLAY Free play is a hugely valuable activity that also must not be underestimated or neglected. Your child can learn so very much from self-directed activity. Some experts suggest that free play and “directed free play” (where an adult makes suggestions and/or participates in free play with their child) should make up the largest component of your child’s play experiences during 0-3 years. It’s valuable to your child’s overall development, it’s easy and it’s fun. It has been suggested in the literature, that with today’s busy lifestyle, we tend to forget to let children have sufficient “down-time” in the form of free play. Often when children are not engaged in a structured activity, they are being entertained by the “box” (whether that’s the TV or the computer). In general, our society struggles to allow children to play independently and we attempt to entertain children and keep them busy to avoid boredom. However, a little bit of boredom never hurt anyone – in fact it has been shown to be the birthplace of imagination and creativity. When leaving children to their own devices to entertain themselves, they may become bored initially…..but wait…. if you weather the few groans and moans of “I’m booorrred” (although you will rarely hear a young child say this as they instinctively know how to explore unaided), eventually your child will think of something to do. The more they practise entertain-

STRUCTURED PLAY In the simplest terms, structured play is showing your kids new skills to try out. It is teaching them something new that they don’t yet know how to do, and there is a huge amount of value in that on so many levels. Scientific research has proven that structured play : t Enhances overall development and learning capabilities tSupports healthy brain development by providing new ideas and opportunities tIncreases physical skills and motor development t Provides exposure to self-discipline and perseverance tAssists in developing a positive self-image t When performed in a group,


February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

ing themselves, the better they will become at it. This process fosters brain development, independence, self reliance, creativity and imagination. It is a relaxing, enjoyable and stress free activity for your children to participate in. So which form of play is better? Both structured and free-form play, contribute signiďŹ cantly â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and in diďŹ&#x20AC;erent ways â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to your childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s development. Both are equally important and a part of your childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daily schedule at school. They are complimentary, and each provides important aspects for your childâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s needs. It is all about balancing the two forms of play in a way that suits your child and your family.

he has a very short attention span to begin with. As your child becomes more familiar with the learning process, you will notice his attention span increase and you will both ďŹ nd the sessions more rewarding as he learns to concentrate for longer. Outside of school, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important to take note of the numerous recommendations by top child development programs and institutes. For example, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education oďŹ&#x20AC;ers these recommendations for DAILY physical activity levels in preschoolers; t"DDVNVMBUFBUMFBTUNJOVUFTPG4536$TURED physical activity (organised by either you or another adult) t&OHBHFJOBUMFBTUIPVS BOEVQUPTFWFSBM hours, of FREE play t/PUUPCFJOBDUJWFGPSNPSFUIBOIPVSBUB time, unless they are sleeping t-JNJUUJNFTQFOUXBUDIJOH57 WJEFPTPS%7%4 POUIFDPNputer or playing video games to no more than 1-2 hours per day.

Put aside 15-30 minutes a couple of times a week to try something new with your child and see how that goes.

So how much of each? - Our recommendation Both forms of play have so much to oďŹ&#x20AC;er - itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s about striking the balance that is right for you and your child. Each family will be diďŹ&#x20AC;erent when considering the optimal time recommended spent teaching new skills to your child each week. As a starting point for 0-3 year olds perhaps put aside 15-30 minutes a couple of times a week to try something new with your child and see how that goes. If both you and your child are enjoying the experience you can increase how much you do accordingly. If your child is unfamiliar with structured activity, you may ďŹ nd

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(Standing L-R): Doctor Morry Waksberg, MD, L.A. County Commissioner Howard Winkler, Rabbi Mayer May, Doctor Irving Lebovics, DDS, Stanley Treitel, Andrew Friedman, Esq., Zvika Brenner. (Seated): Michael Feuer

Jewish Community M Leaders Endorse Michael Feuer for City Attorney Jewish Community leaders endorsed Michael Feuer for Los Angeles City Attorney in the upcoming City Primary Election scheduled for Tuesday, March 5th


ike Feuer is one of California’s leading lawmakers and attorneys. A former Majority Policy Leader of the California State Assembly and Chair of the California Assembly’s Judiciary Committee, Mike has written some of the state’s most important public safety, children’s health, consumer protection and environmental laws. Mike previously served for six years on the Los Angeles City Council, where he wrote some of the toughest laws in the nation to curb gun violence, fought successfully for anti-gang and after-school programs, and funded jobs for disadvantaged youth. He initiated L.A.’s 3-1-1 non-emergency services system, improving 9-1-1 response times and making L.A. government much more effective. Mike was the Council’s leader on ethics reform and spearheaded business tax reforms. He chaired successful Council efforts to deliver on-time, balanced budgets and championed the rights of disabled people, senior citizens and children. Prior to his work on the City Council, Mike directed one of the nation’s leading public interest law firms, Bet Tzedek Legal Services (The House

of Justice). Under Mike’s leadership, Bet Tzedek helped more than 50,000 indigent, primarily elderly or disabled clients on crucial cases involving nursing home abuse, consumer fraud, access to health care, housing, Holocaust restitution and more. The Los Angeles Daily Journal wrote that he turned Bet Tzedek into a “national success story,” and named him one of “California’s 100 Most Influential Attorneys.” Mike has also taught at the UCLA School of Law and the UCLA School of Public Affairs. He practiced law at two of the nation’s leading firms, Hufstedler, Miller, Carlson & Beardsley and Morrison & Foerster. He began his career as a judicial clerk for California Supreme Court Justice Joseph Grodin. He has received numerous awards reflecting the breadth of his achievements as a legislator and lawyer. A Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude graduate of Harvard College and cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School, Mike and his wife, Gail Ruderman Feuer, have been married for twenty-nine years. They have 2 children, Aaron and Danielle.

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry: A Spiritual Celebration BY RABBI YEHUDAH PRERO


or the Conductor, On the Ayeles HaShachar, a psalm by David.” So begins Psalm 22, which, commentators explain, alludes to Queen Esther and her trials and tribulations. The psalm, towards the end of its description of our request for deliverance from exile and persecution, states, “the humble will eat and be satisfied, those who seek Hashem will praise Him...” Rav Shlomo Kluger explains that this portion of the psalm is alluding to the fact that on Purim, we are commanded to “eat, drink and be merry.” This commandment is in stark contrast with the way we are told to celebrate Chanukah, “to give thanks and praise.” The difference in how we celebrate these two holidays stems from an intrinsic difference between the miracles that we commemorate on these two holidays. Every person, we are taught, is born with two inclinations: the “yetzer tov, the “good inclination,” and the “yetzer ho’ra,” the “evil inclination.” These two inclinations are in constant battle for our soul, trying to encourage us to either act in accordance with Hashem’s dictates or to disregard them. The benefit and pleasures of this world, the physical world, are the tools of the yetzer ho’ra. The promises of eternal reward and joy in the World to Come are the munitions of the yetzer tov. Eating and drinking, earthly activities clearly fall within the domain of the yetzer ho’ra. They are methods of enticing a person into forsaking spiritual pursuits in favor of instant gratification. Abstinence from these 28

activities is promoted by the yetzer tov. We are to eat and drink only to the degree necessary to sustain ourselves, to provide us with ample strength to serve Hashem. The salvation of the nation of Israel can come in different ways. There are times where the nation has fought back from oppression and defeated its enemies. Even after defeat, the enemies remain our enemies, and a threat of persecution lingers. There are situations, however, where we are able to turn the opinion of our enemies. They no longer pose a threat, as they side with the nation and may even offer protection and support. On Chanukah, we celebrate a victory. The Greeks oppressed the nation of Israel. The Chashmonaim fought back, and the Greeks were defeated. However, the Greeks, even after being defeated, still despised the Jewish religion and its adherents. They still desired the destruction of the nation of Israel. The physical manifestation of the “yetzer ho’ra” was weakened, and we therefore celebrate accordingly: we do not have mandated feasting; rather, we give thinks and praise. We engage in the spiritual, to strengthen that aspect of our being, as opposed to engaging in physical expressions of celebration. We commemorate the victory of the righteous over the wicked, the pure over the impure, by engaging in activities that are in line with this success. Purim, however, was different. Achashverosh, who consented to the initial edict mandating the annihilation of the nation of Israel, reversed himself. The nation was

not only allowed to defend themselves, but offensive measures were permitted and encouraged. Haman, who was a loyal and trusted advisor to the king, ended up as a victim of his own gallows. The physical manifestations of the “yetzer ho’ra” ended up benefiting the nation of Israel. We, therefore, celebrate in similar fashion. We take the implements of the yetzer ho’ra and use them for good. We celebrate and give thanks and praise to Hashem using food and drink. This sort of celebration is not merely recommended; it is obligatory. Chag Purim Same’ach!

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Picking Up the Pieces Parshas Ki Sisa BY YOSSY GOLDMAN It’s too late. I’m too far gone. It’ll never be the same. How many times have we heard those words? Or, worse still, said them? This week’s Parshah tells the story of the Golden Calf, the worst national sin in the history of the Jewish people. Frankly, if I were the editor of the Bible I’d have left that part out. How humiliating to the Jews! Just weeks after the greatest revelation of all time, when they saw and heard G-d up front and personal, they go and bow down to a cow?! How fickle can you get? But the Torah is unflinchingly honest and records this most unflattering moment of ours in all its gory detail. Why? Perhaps the very important lessons we need to draw from this embarrassing episode are, firstly, that people do sin, human beings do make mistakes, and even inspired Jews who saw the divine with their own eyes can mess up -- badly. And, secondly, that even afterwards there is still hope, no matter what. In the very same Parshah we read how G-d tells Moses to carve a second set of tablets, to replace the first set he smashed when he came down the mountain and was shocked by what the Jews were up to. (Sort of “You broke them, you fix them” -- like the guy who fell asleep during the rabbi’s sermon and the rabbi tells the shamash to go and wake the fellow up. The shamash says, “Rabbi, you put him to sleep, you wake him 30

up!”) The Torah does not intend to diminish our respect for that generation, but rather to help us understand human frailty, our moral weakness and the reality of relationships, spiritual or otherwise. G-d gave us a perfect Torah. The tablets were hand-made by G-d, pure and sacred, and then we messed up. So is it all over? Is there really no hope now? Are we beyond redemption? After all, what could possibly be worse than idolatry? We broke the first two commandments and the tablets were shattered into smithereens because we were no longer worthy to have them. It was the ultimate infidelity. So Torah teaches that all is not lost. As bad as it was -- and it was bad -- it is possible for man to repair the damage. Moses will make new tablets. They won’t be quite the same as G-d’s, but there will be Tablets nonetheless. We can pick up the pieces. I once heard a colleague speak about the significance of breaking the glass under the chupah (wedding canopy). Besides never forgetting Jerusalem and praying for her full restoration, this ceremony teaches a very important lesson about life to a bride and groom who are about to embark on their own new path in life. What happens immediately after the groom breaks the glass? Everyone shouts “Mazel Tov!” The message is clear. Something broke? Nu, it’s not the end of the

world. We can even laugh about it and still be happy. Nisht geferlich. Lo nora. This too shall pass. A very practical, peace-keeping tip for the new couple. There are most definitely second chances in life. At my Shul we run an adult education program called CAJE, the College of Adult Jewish Education, and the by-line we use in the CAJE logo is Your Second Chance to Know. There are second chances and third chances too. Many Hebrew school dropouts have passed through our classes and, as adults, learned to read Hebrew from scratch. Today, some of our graduates can even lead the Shul service and I am very proud of them and our program. It is possible to pick up the pieces in life. Whether it’s our relationships with G-d, our marriage partners, our kids or our colleagues, we can make amends and repair the damage. If the Jews could recover from the Golden Calf, our own challenges are small indeed. Rabbi Yossy Goldman was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1976 he was sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory, as a Chabad-Lubavitch emissary to serve the Jewish community of Johannesburg, South Africa. He is Senior Rabbi of the Sydenham Shul since 1986, president of the South African Rabbinical Association, and a frequent contributor to His book ‘From Where I Stand’ - Life Messages from the Weekly Torah Reading was recently published by KTAV and is available at Jewish book shops or online www.ktav.vom

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •






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Congress Gearing up for Iron Dome Tribute BY ARIELLE PLONSKE

New York- In November of 2012, the world’s eyes were fixed on Israel. With over 1,500 rockets from Gaza bearing down on Israeli civilians, a barrage of destruction seemed imminent. However, only 55 rockets fell in urban areas because the rest had been effectively disabled by the Iron Dome antimissile defense system. In the late 2000’s, the Iron Dome system was implemented in response to the decimating short-range missile attacks from Lebanon and the Gaza strip. The missile attacks put Israeli citizens in harm’s way and caused many civilian deaths and large-scale evacuations during the Second Lebanon War. When missiles were smuggled into Gaza, the problem escalated and became a massive security threat, as a million Israeli civilians live in range of these missiles. In 2007, many defense ideas were proposed but the Israeli Defense Ministry selected the Iron Dome concept, and since then hundreds of millions of dollars have been used to further develop this critical system. During the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, the Iron Dome had unprecedented success and was responsible for saving the lives of numerous innocent men, women and children residing in Southern Israel. Although not responsible for the initial development, without the unwavering support of the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress, this 34

monumental victory would not have been achieved. Since taking office in 2009, the Obama administration strongly advocated and supported the Iron Dome project and collaboratively worked with Congress to ensure proper funding was allocated to the development of this system, despite some objection in the defense bureaucracy. In 2011,

“I believe that holding the event in Congress is a true expression of gratitude on behalf of the American Jewish community and those who value human life.” Congress approved 205 million dollars in funding for the Iron Dome and later added another 70 million dollars.President Obama said,“This (Iron Dome) is a program that has been critical in terms of providing safety and security for Israeli families.” The President clearly recognized the significance of the Iron Dome system, and over the past several years many American leaders have echoed his sentiments. The Iron Dome Tribute event coordinated by The Friedlander Group, under the

leadership of its CEO,Ezra Friedlander, will take place in the US Senate on February 27, 2013, promises to be truly unifying for the Jewish community. It is a unique opportunity for Jewish leaders to gather with members of Congress and celebrate a shared triumph. The Iron Dome is a manifestation of the strong U.S.-Israel alliance and is something that those in the pro-Israel community view as a true success. “I believe that holding the event in Congress is a true expression of gratitude on behalf of the American Jewish community and those who value human life. The way I see it, the Iron Dome System primarily accomplished two significant things: It played a major role in the Israeli government’s decision against a full-scale ground invasion of Gaza, and it saved the lives of countless civilians by protecting them against a barrage of deadly rockets fired at their neighborhoods and their homes” said Robert Rechnitz, Chairman of the Iron Dome Tribute. Prominent Democratic and Republican members of Congress will unite, along with leaders in the Jewish community and Ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Oren, to pay tribute to the success of the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and celebrate the enduring relationship between the United States and the State of Israel. “We will also be honoring the memory of

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

Robert Rechnitz with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who earned iconic status for his steadfast support of Israel and the needs of the Jewish people. Senator Inouye was an extraordinary American patriot and hero who deeply understood the importance of the US-Israel relationship. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Inouye ensured that Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s staunch ally, Israel, had the necessary resources to defend its people,â&#x20AC;? continued Mr. Rechnitz, who announced that prominent leader in the pro-Israel community, Phil Rosen partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges will act as MC and he also thanked cochairman Lee Samson of Beverly Hills, Jona Rechnitz of NYC, Paul Raps, and Stanley Treitel for their leadership. Many notable speakers will share thoughts on the importance of the vibrant relationship between the United States and the State of Israel that has recently manifested itself in the outstanding performance of the Iron Dome

Missile Defense System as well as their memories of Senator Inouye. Speakers include House Foreign AďŹ&#x20AC;airs Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), United States Senators: Rand Paul (R-KY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson(R-GA), James Inhofe (R-OK), Mark Warner (D-VA), Joe Donnelly (R-OH), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), United States Representatives Joe Kennedy: (D-MA), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Adam SchiďŹ&#x20AC; (D-CA), and Matt Salmon (R-AZ); Ambassador of Israel to the United States Michael Oren, Irene Inouye, wife of the late Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and former CIA Director Robert James Woolsey, Jr. Former Comptroller of NYC, William Thompson will also be delivering remarks. For more information visit:

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A Year in Israel

Enaabless Spirituaal Emotionaal and Intellectuaal


didn’t feel [scared] but my parents were freaking out” says Ben njamin Israel about the conversation he had with his parents in November when the Israel Defeense Forces began its successful (so far) campaign, Operation Pillar of Defen e se, to end incessant rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. “ My rabbi said, ‘ We are seeing open miracles. We see how G-d controls the world,’” relates Ben njamin, who assured his parents, “ Don’t worry, I’m fine.” Ariel Rahimi also told his nervous parents not to worry. “ I feel safe, a sense of securityy, closer to G-d; it’s a spiritual thing.” Deena Rosenblatt was homesick at the beginning of this year and when the war started her mother wanted her to come home but that’s when she realized “There’s no way I can leave” at a time like this. She turned her homesickness into a passion for information about the status of events during the week long IDF offen e sive. “ People came to me to ask me what’s going on.” Ben njamin and Ariel are two of 20 graduaates from Valley Torah High School’s 28member class of 2012, who are spending 36

their first post high school year in Israel. Ben njamin is studying at the Tifer e et Yeerushallaayim yeshiva and Ariel is at Derech Ohr Sameach. Deena is a 2011 VTHS graduate in her second year at the Tomer Dvora

The Theyy go go to to spread spread ttheir heir xperience w wings ings and and eexperience iindependence ndependence ffrom rom ttheir heir fa milies and and to to explore explore families ttheir heir JJewish ewish h eritage, heritage, iidentity dentity aand nd sspirituality. piritualityy. seminary. Each year Israel hosts thousands of students (including at least 80% of each VTHS graduating class) from several countries in numerous yeshivot, seminaries, universities and other year-long programs throughout the country. As the IDF was calling up its reserves and preparing for a ground invasion in the Gaza Strip, maan ny of these teens received frantic phone calls from their parents asking them to come home. In most cases the answer was no. A good choice for many reasons, but especially since the ground in-

vasion never happened and a cease fire was reached after eight daays of the Operation. nd waited These kids worked too hard aan too long for this speciaal year to give it up so quickly. They just completed four years of high school in a rigorous dual curriculum nd and hundreds of hours studying for aan taakking college entraan nce and advanced plaacement exams aan nd filling out college applicant to spend a tions. So why would they waan year in Israel immersed in serious Torah study after this and before heading off to various universities for four or more years of demanding aan nd competitive academic pursuits? Are these teens crazy? Of course not! They are normal Jewish teenaagers who haave been raaiised in Orthodox or traditional homes aan nd educated in Jewish day schools thaat imbue in them a love of Torah and Israel. And for many, this is their first time visiting the Jewish homelaan nd they haave learned so much about throughout their young lives. They go to spread their wings aan nd experience independence from their families and to explore their Jewish heritage, identity and spirituality. They live in dormitories or apartments with several students aan nd

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

learn 8-10 hours a day for the sole purpose of gaining a deeper understanding of Jewish texts, laws, customs and life skills. They do receive college credit in some universities. “We encourage our students to spend a year in Israel because it allows them to solidify their direction in life,” says VTHS Dean Rabbi Avrohom Stulberger. “When you are 17 or 18, and in a spiritual environment, especially in the Holy Land, it helps you concretize who you are as a Jew and sets a pattern for your future religious commitment. “We prepare [our students] for the academic rigors of yeshiva and seminary L to R: Sara Leah Rosenbluth, Deena Rosenblatt, Bracha Adler as well as prepare them emotionally and religiously for taking full advantage of this incredible opportunity,” Rabbi Stulberger continues. “We prepare them by stressing the importance of Israel, the importance of learning,” and the urgency of going at this time. “You’ll never have the freedom of thought and lack of pressures that you have in between your high school and college years,” he tells the students. I met Benjamin, Ariel and Aryeh Istrin after meeting Deena and two other VTHS girls division graduates during their afternoon breaks on a sunny and unusually warm December day at the Coffee Bean on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, a popular gathering spot for seminary and L to R: Aryeh Istrin, Benji Israel, Ariel Rahimi yeshiva students. The girls, followed by the boys, shared had good morals and views on life. Bracha cha says the experience helped her realize with me why they wanted to spend a year wanted to spend a year in Israel to be in “a “what to cherish in life…what really matin Israel, what they have gained so far from non stressful, non college environment to ters at the end of the day.” Sara Leah Rosenbluth (’12) was also the experience, how Pillar of Defense af- focus on what I want for the future.” Her fected them and how they spend their first time in the country, Bracha says that moved by the events of that week, especialbeing in Israel has also given her “a bigger ly seeing the reserve soldiers being plucked days. from their homes and daily routines in They all have friends and siblings who reason to love being Jewish.” During Pillar of Defense, “We saw how school or work and sent to southern Israhave studied in Israel before them and returned home raving about their experi- people treated the soldiers and we were el to defend the country. “Everyone bands ences and building up the anticipation for proud to be part of it, proud to be Jewish,” together,” she observes. “Being in Israel them.“I’ve seen how it changed my siblings explains Bracha who prayed daily for the gives you a whole different outlook on life,” for the better,” says Ariel adding that he also soldiers’ safety. “We really felt what [the says the Michlala student. Deena has two brothers and one sister “wanted to get a good foundation spiritu- Israelis] are going through…and what it’s like to live on the edge.” Students in the who studied in Israel after high school for ally and learn how to be independent.” Bracha Adler (’12) says she “looked up Jerusalem area sought shelter twice during one or more years and there was no doubt to” the girls she knew who previously at- the Operation when sirens blared, warning in her mind that she would follow in their tended her seminary, Maor. She felt they of a possible rocket attack in the area. Bra- footsteps. She says Israel has helped her get February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •


her priorities straight and shown her that there are diffeerent ways of being religious. In her personaal empowerment class, Deena saays she has learned how to “deal better with whaatever life brings you.” It’s not all learn aan nd no plaay for these kids. They en njoy tiyulim (field trips) throughout Israel at least once a month aan nd more during holiday breaakks. They are led by experienced religgiious tour guides who caan n naavigate a Tanach (Torah, Prophets and Holy Writings) like these kids can naavigate their smart phones. “It brings the Torah to life. We see things living on,” saays Deena, expressing her amazement at seeing in real time the same biblical places they haave learned about. The students also get a taste of what living in Israel is really like by experiencing Shaabbat at the homes of their rabbis aan nd teachers, many of whom haave made aliyah from the United States. “ We see how other Americans ad daapted to society here in Israel,” says Aryeh Istrin (’11). Some students observe this at the homes off their own relatives. Ariel, for example, has a lot of family in Israel, including grandparents in Rechovot, aan nd he en njoys spending time with them. For some students it takes longeer to adjust to the differ e ent en nvironment aan nd their new found independence. During the last four months of his first year at Derech Ohr Sameach, Aryeh saays he “got more into the learning aan nd realized how much more there is to gain,” so with a little convincing from his rabbis, he decided to return for another year. “I’ve grown a lot spiritually,” he saays. “The rabbis here are on aan nother level. They want to show you how great [learning] is.” Aryeh also noted thaat whaat struck him the 38

most during the eight days of Pillar of Defeense was how the level of learning intensified. “ Wha h t we hope they gaaiin from the experience [in Israel] is that connection to Torah, thaat connection to the Holy Land, the understanding of what our real values are and whaat really maatters in life. It’s something that you just caan nnot pick up living in L.A.” saays Rabbi Stulberger. Does it work? “ We haave seen incredible results from our students who haave spent a year or more in Israel…because they understand their commitment to the Jewish people, continues Stulberger.“That’s why so many of our kids become role models and community leaders. That’s why so maan ny end

L to R: Naftali Canter, Benji Israael, Aryeh Munk, Eli Lieberman

up making aliyah h. Obviously we taakke a little bit of credit for the four years in high school but that year or two [in Israel] helps them understand thaat we’re here to give; we’re not here to taakke. We at Valley Torah and [their experiences] in Israel traaiin them to be ggiivers. Thaat’s really what it’s all about.”

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •


An End to Cynicism! Parshas TezavehParshas Zachor BY RABBI REUVEN WOLF


his year, the calendar presents us with an interesting sequence of days: on Thursday we will observe Ta’anis Esther—the Fast of Esther, commemorating how the Jews of Persia showed their support of Mordechai and Esther by fasting and praying penitently for Hashem to rescue them. Then, on Shabbos, we will read in Shul a section in a second Sefer Torah—a section that we are all obliged to hear, meaning, it is a mitzvah for all Jews to hear the reading of this section from Parshas Ki Teizei in Sefer Devarim—that commands us to remember what Amalek tried to do to us, and to vow to eradicate the memory of Amalek from the Earth. This is so important a reading, that the Shabbos is named after it: Shabbos Zachor, the “Shabbos of Rememberance.” We always read this right before Purim, because we know that Haman, the villain who tried to destroy us during the days of Mordechai and Esther, was a descendant of Agag, King of Amalek, whom King Saul failed to execute in a timely way as he had been commanded to when the Israelite army under Saul defeated Amalek. And on the very next day, we celebrate Purim, the occasion of our defeating of Amalek in the days of Mordechai and Esther. Now, we actually have six things that we specifically have to remember—you 40

might be surprised to learn that there are only six, but that is the case, and many people recite these “Six Remembrances” every day at the end of the Morning Shacharis prayers: the six remembrances are: the Exodus from Egypt; the giving of the Torah at Sinai; the Sabbath day; the sin of the Golden Calf; the sin of Miriam, the sister of Moshe who spoke against him (and her punishment); and, finally, we are commanded to remember Amalek. While we are commanded to remember these six things, it is only in the case of Amalek that we are all commanded to hear the reading of that portion of the Torah once a year. Now, we may well wonder this should be the case, and the great commentator on the the Shulchan Aruch, The Code of Jewish Law—Rabbi Abraham Gombiner (who flourished in Poland in the 17th century) says in his masterwork, the Magen Avraham, that the reason Remembering Amalek gets this special treatment is that three of the six Remembrances have entire holidays during which we have ample opportunity to remember: on Pesach we naturally remember the Exodus; on Shavu’os we naturally remember the giving of the Torah at Sinai; and on Shabbos we of course remember Shabbos. Two of the six Remembrances are sad and embar-

rassing—the sin of the Golden Calf and the sin and punishment of Miriam, so that the Rabbis did not want to formally force upon us such depressing Remembrances—it’s enough to note those two in the daily prayers. But there is still a difficulty: two difficulties, really: In the first place, don’t we have a holiday for Remembering Amalek? Purim! Isn’t the core of Purim the account in the Megilas Esther of how Haman the Amalekite was foiled and how his evil scheme was undone? Why doesn’t that count as Remembering Amalek, making the recitation of the Torah portion out of order on the Shabbos before Purim unnecessary. More than that, the Midrash tells us that Sennacherib “mixed up the nations,” for it was the policy of the Assyrians to displace the nations they conquered and force them to assimilate with foreign populations. This resulted in many ancient nations and peoples “dissolving” into the mottled fabric of human history, and that included nations like Amalek. Sometimes, we identify single individuals or even isolated groups as Amalek, because they display a kind of irrational, maniacal hatred of the Jewish people and they have the degenerate personalities to attempt to carry their demonic plans— but Amalek as an identifiable nation is no

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

more. So exactly who are we supposed to Remember—who should we remember to eradicate? It seems the vagaries of history have already done that job already and all too well. But as often happens, the Mitzvah has a spiritual dimension even when the physical reality seems to have made it obsolete. Amalek is a concept—and if we understand what Amalek is, what that little nation (little certainly in comparison to Mitzrayim—ancient Egypt—and even compared with the nations that inhabited the land of Canaan in antiquity) did and what it represents in the world of the spirit, then we can see that Amalek is relevant to us and to the here and now. Let’s take a closer look: The last verse in Parshas Beshalach, in a short section just after we learn that Moshe built an alter to mark the Israelite victory over Amalek, Moshe says (17:16), Ki yad al keis K-ah —“For the hand [of Amalek] is on G-d’s throne.” Strangely enough, Moshe uses only the first two letters of the name of Hashem, the Yod and the Heih; and then he uses a shortened version of the word for throne or chair: he spells it with a Kaf and a Samach, but the third letter one usually needs to spell the word for throne, or chair,“Kisei”—the Alef—is missing. Then the verse ends: “… for it is an eternal war that the Lord will wage against Amalek from generation to generation”—in other words, eternally. What did Amalek do that deserved such condemnation by Moshe—even after they disappeared from the world stage? What does Amalek represent—of what is Amalek the perfect example that makes it the symbol of that opposes the values and teachings of Torah—that threatens the fullness of G-d’s name in the world and the completion of His Holy Throne, and that lives on even after they are no longer a sovereign nation? After all, if Amalek is so despicable a nation, wouldn’t one expect Amalek to be challenging all of G-d’s name, not just the second half—fighting against all of the Almighty’s Throne, not just the last letter?

Don’t we know a great deal about this “insanity” that drives us to do things we know to be foolish and harmful—just to spite ourselves?

But let’s look at the name “Amalek” itself: it is comprised of two words: Am, which means “nation”, and Molak, which means “decapitation”—cutting the head off and separating the head from the body, especially the heart. This is the essence of Amalek: it is dedicated to creating a severance, a separation between the head and the body, or, more accurately, between the mind and the heart. When Amalek attacked the Israelites in the Wilderness, they had already seen the most powerful nation and army on Earth—the army of Pharaoh and Egypt—fall before the Israelites by the Hand of Hashem. The nations of the world trembled when they heard about this. What chance could they have, they said, against a nation that can vanquish Egypt? None! But along came Amalek—a people with even less of a chance against such a power than the nations of Canaan. And yet, they attacked. Why? Because they wanted to show a deep-rooted cynicism about the majesty of Israel. They attacked out of sheer stubbornness and cynicism—“let us show,” they said, “That a nation can have the temerity, the chutzpah, to attack such a nation even when it has no chance of victory.” There was no logic or reason to it—it was for all appearances a suicide mission. Yet

they did it, and for only one reason: as an act of mockery—a pointless gesture that would have only one result: that others with no more a chance of withstanding the power of G-d and the Holiness of Israel would also challenge Israel and do the same thing, even if it meant having their destruction. Amalek cannot succeed in battling Hashem, but it can cause people to forget to allow their heads to inform and instruct their hearts. Don’t we know a great deal about this “insanity,” this idiotic display of chutzpah that drives us to do things we know to be foolish and harmful—just to spite ourselves? Aren’t we continually severing the connection between our heads and our hearts—embarking on hopeless journeys to failure and disaster, even when we know it will end just that way? And yet we do it—why? That is the spirit of Amalek at work. When the Yetzer Hara—the Evil Inclination—runs out of all his tricks and devices to lead us astray, he pulls out one more tool: the cynicism of Amalek. That is the last desperate battleground of the soul. Just when we are ready to do the right thing—we run headlong into disaster. The battle against such cynical self-destruction is a battle worth fighting. And that is what we remember on this Shabbos.

Homemade Candy for Purim MELINDA STRAUSS


omemade candy is a wonderful treat any time of the year and it’s especially delightful when you can share it with your friends and family in your shalach manot. Who needs a shalach manot theme when you can just impress everyone with your homemade sweet confections?!? But don’t worry, you don’t have to be a professional baker or candy maker to create these sweet treats this year. I’ve put together a list of tips that will make the process safe and simple. Once you’ve got your technique down, try out some of my easy-to-follow candy recipes and let me know what you think! CANDY MAKING TIPS: Get to know your thermometers: If you want to try making your candy without a thermometer, you might want to think again. Sure, many recipes will tell you to look for a certain color or texture but unless you’ve made that candy recipes dozens of times, chances are your candy won’t cook correctly. There are many types of candy thermometers on the market. Clip-on glass, clip-on glass with a rectangular metal casing, and digital instant-read thermometers. Clip-on thermometers are best because you can keep an eye on the temperature as it is rising. With a digital instant-read thermometer, it will give you an accurate temperature as soon as it touches the surface but you will have to guess when it’s time to check and when it comes to candy, temperature is everything. Cleaning your candy thermometer: If you’re using a glass candy thermometer (my personal favorite), you want to be careful not to crack the glass. After removing it from the boiling sugar, place the thermometer into a cup of warm water to dissolve the sugar crystals stuck to the glass. Place the thermometer upright to dry and store upright in a room-temperature cabinet. Don’t burn the chocolate: There are two methods for tempering (carefully heating and cooling) chocolate. You can melt chocolate over indirect heat using a double boiler or melt in the microwave. Both methods work well and both are simple to do. For the double boiler method, place a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water but make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Stir the finely chopped chocolate with a rubber spatula until smooth. To temper the chocolate in the microwave, place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Warm 42

the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds then remove the bowl and stir the chocolate. Warm for another 30 seconds then stir again. Warm one last time for 30 seconds in the microwave then stir until the melted chocolate is combined. Don’t warm the chocolate any further or it will be too hot and might burn. Dipping chocolate: Many recipes call for candy (and fruit) dipped in chocolate. You don’t need special tools for this process, just two forks. Place the candy on one fork and dip in the tempered chocolate until it is completely covered. Remove the chocolate with the two forks and let the excess chocolate drip off before placing the candy on parchment paper to harden. The freezer is your friend: If you are making candy but don’t have the patience to wait for the chocolate or candy center to harden, just place it in the freezer for 15 minutes to set. Follow directions: When a recipe tells you that the candy should be 342 degrees Fahrenheit, it might seem like a strange request but you should listen. There is science involved in candy making so your best bet is to just follow the rules. When a recipe tells you to bring the sugar to a boil slowly, this is also a good time to listen. You will scorch the sugar before it has a chance to cook correctly. Candy recipes are not forgiving to recipe changes. The acidity, texture, moisture and other factors could affect the recipe and when you exchange one ingredient for another, it may not work in the same way. And the most important tip of all: SUGAR IS HOT! Please don’t forget that when you are stirring, whisking, and pouring the hot cooked sugar. Reprinted with permission from February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •

February 22, 2013 • 323-965-1544 •


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Community Links Issue 226 Purim edition  

Community Links Issue 226 February 22 purim edition

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