Archive | December, 2013

Call of the Wild

30 Dec

A few minutes ago, a hundred or so demonstrators passed below our window overlooking the square of Jerusalem’s old city.  A hundred people chanting loudly and beating drums while holding placards against the freeing of murderous prisoners and terrorists.  It was raining hard, but that didn’t stop them.  Earlier in the day, I stood in the same square, speaking with Birthright and Hebrew U students, helping them don tefilin, some of them for the first time.  I explained that tefilin are a commandment from the Bible that Jews have to do.  They wanted to know more, so I told them that tefilin connect our mind and heart to God.  It’s not rocket science, but it’s a good job for a Jewish boy (besides, tefilin are only a small part of the job description).  It was my mother’s yahrtzeit today, she passed away exactly a year ago.  She was very open minded; she wanted me to do whatever I want in life as long as I became a doctor.  I tried, I really did.  I was premed in college, but I felt the call of Israel and Judaism, not of medical school.  I moved to Israel and became a rabbi.  If I let her down, she never let me know.  From where she is now, I trust she understands.

Birthright in Jerusalem

24 Dec

Birthright season is upon us. For the next five or six weeks, group after group of bright-eyed, fun-loving college students will fill the Hurva Square of the old city, in front of Jerusalem Connection. That means many more people to speak with about mitzvoth, about spirituality, and about Israel. The Hurva Square is arguably the biggest Jewish public arena in the world, with every imaginable group of Jews congregating every day. A typical hour of passersby will include soldiers, tourists from all over the world, Birthright college students and yeshiva and seminar students. One of our readers recently sent us the following beautiful prose, that describes the experience, “I’m in New York but the weather mirrors the holy land. Israel I might be here but my spirit is yours.”  In the meantime, enjoy a few words of Jewish spirituality on the weekly Torah portion at Or, get a feel for Chabad in Jerusalem, at And finally, you will want to devote a few minutes to meditative spiritual growth that is inspired by Jerusalem, by going to There, you will find books that answer questions about Judaism, Jewish spirituality and meditation.

Pulling a Shabbat Switch

16 Dec

An interesting role reversal happened in Jerusalem’s old city this Shabbat.  Families that love having many guests all of a sudden found themselves without guests.  The snow storm forced nearly all guests to cancel.  So, what happened?  The families invited each other.  We became each other’s guests.  Nice way to spend Shabbat.  The quiet also forced us to think about the snow, rain and ice.  What is the meaning of all this?  For two and one half months, no rain, and then in four days we get enough rain for all of December?  Torah is compared to water; it comes from a high place and descends to a low place.  Ice and snow, which are also water, also come from a high spiritual place.  Ice is solid, we cannot see or feel through it.  It represents spirituality that descends to us in a hidden manner.  It is too high for our feeble minds, so it remains concealed from our perception.  Snow is soft and gentle.  It melts, becoming flowing water.  Snow is spirituality that descends from a high place that is hidden to us but becomes accessible with time and effort.  It represents what is beyond but attainable through meditation, prayer and study.  This winter months are to remind us of what is beyond us and yet available if we just put in the time and effort.  Don’t let the cold and ice fool you.  With some effort, we can break on through to the other side.  For inside information on the depths of the weekly Torah portion, go to  For information on Chabad in Jerusalem, go to  And if you really want to invest in your level of spirituality, you need  Something for everyone…


Mikveh in the Shomron

12 Dec

This week, I attended an inspiring and eye-opening event in the Shomron, the beautiful northern hill country of Israel.  The event was a mikveh dedication near the settlement of Yitzhar.  With this mikveh, a young family of six with a small yeshiva on the premises could say that they have now established a permanent settlement in Israel.  The Talmud tells us that one should not live in a city without a mikveh, so the building of this mikveh turned this settlement into a permanent establishment.  This part of the country is where the Jews entered the land of Israel on three different occasions (with Abraham, with Yaakov and with Joshua).  In our weekly Torah portion (Vayechi), this part of the land is called the “shoulders” of Israel.  It is the source of Jewish pride and strength, just as the shoulders of an ox are the strongest part of its body.  Joseph, who is buried in this area, was described as an “ox” in the Torah, because of his ability to implement big changes in the world, as he did in Egypt.  For some photos of the dedication, go to our Facebook page (Jerusalem Connection).  Every part of the land of Israel corresponds to part of the Jewish soul, and we are not whole until all Jews are settled in all of our land, learning the entire Torah.  For more on the weekly Torah portion, go to our weekly words of Torah, at  To know what’s going on with Chabad in Jerusalem, go to, and if you would like some instruction in Jewish spirituality, go to Image

Chanukah (and BD) is here!

2 Dec

We have been blessed with a week of balmy pleasant weather here in Jerusalem to accompany the light-filled festival of Chanukah.  It happens that my birthday also falls during Chanukah (second day), so I took the opportunity to make some Chanukah resolutions.  Here is one of them.  I consulted with a friend, because we are all blind-sided by our individual biases and none of us are objective about ourselves.  My friend said, “Be happy with what you have.  You should learn to be happy with the blessings that HaShem has sent your way.”  Wow, I thought, what a beautiful thought.  Because He has certainly sent a lot of blessings our way.  Here’s perhaps the one at the top of the list: being surrounded by good friends and positive energy in the holy city of Jerusalem.  In fact, that is such a major blessing that I’d like to share it, and here is how:  for a taste of Jerusalem, go to where you can find the latest in all kinds of events and history, as well as personalities and words of Torah.  If you’d like to delve deeper into the weekly Torah portion, try where we posted some deep words of Torah from the Megaleh Amukot (a 17th century Jewish sage).  And finally, if you want to really sit down and immerse yourself in Jewish meditation and prayer, go to, where you will find detailed instructions and descriptions how to proceed on the path of Jewish spiritual actualization!