Friday, January 30, 2009

Shabbat Shalom!

Parshat Bo from g-dcast on Vimeo.

Come to Beavis. Er, Pharoah. Sorry.

Welcome to Parshat Bo, in which the three final, dark and murderous plagues fall upon Egypt. Storyteller Joel Stanley takes us INSIDE the head of Pharoah to figure out why G-d tells Moses to COME to Pharoah...rather than GO.

This is Episode 15 of the weekly Torah cartoon from Each week, a different storyteller - some musical, some poetic, some just straight-up, tell the story of the current Torah portion...and then we animate it!


From Marshall Ramsey of the Clarion-Ledger:

Why do residents of Jackson and Gulfport feel the need to wear bags over their heads? Jackson mayor and my mayor, Brent Warr are in trouble.


After World War II and even before World War II, many countries came into existence. There's Jordan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Israel, and others. Of all these countries, only the existence of Israel seems to be in danger. When Pakistan was created, millions upon millions of refugees were created. Heck, there were still millions of refugees after World War II.

Why should the existence of Israel even be questioned? Radical Islamic terrorists wreak their waves of death upon those in India because of Kashmir and yet no one questions the validity of Pakistan. Why is Israel signaled out?

In his post, David asks What's Wrong With This Statement:

In a statement marking international Holocaust Day, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht said, "Belgium continues its unwavering support for the existence of the state of Israel." ]

Read the rest of David's post and then ask yourself why statements supporting the existence of Israel have to be made.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Send in the Clowns

I've never understood the appeal of Rush Limbaugh. He spews garbage and his fans proudly call themselves ditto heads. How many of those ditto heads hope as well as Limbaugh does that Obama will fail?

Leonard Pitts writes eloquently about the statement Limbaugh made:

'I hope he fails.'' -- Limbaugh

It is, of course, a calculated outrage.

Meaning, it was spewed by a clown in the media circus to kick a familiar sequence into motion: angry denunciation by bloggers, pundits and supporters of President Barack Obama (the ''he'' whose failure is hoped), followed by Rush Limbaugh refusing to retract a word, a courageous truth teller who will not be moved. And, trailing behind, like the folks with brooms trail the elephants in the circus parade, Limbaugh's devotees, complaining that their hero has been misquoted, misunderstood or otherwise mistreated. "What Rush meant was . . . yadda yadda yadda.''

A calculated outrage.

And knowing this, knowing how frequently and adroitly media are manipulated by self-promoting media clowns who defame conservatism by calling themselves conservative, one is tempted to let the statement pass, to make its way unimpeded to the dustbin like so many other manufactured controversies. But occasionally, it's necessary to intercept one of them and hold it up to the light.

This is one of those times. Not because what Limbaugh said on his radio program a few days before the inauguration was an outrage -- outrage is the point, remember? -- but rather, because of what the thing he said says about him and his fellow clowns.

"I hope he fails.''

Do you ever say that about your president if you are an American who loves your country? Would you say it about George W. Bush, who was disastrous; about Bill Clinton, who was slimy; about Jimmy Carter, who was inept; about Richard Nixon, who was crooked? You may think he's going to fail, yes. You may warn he's going to fail, yes.

But do you ever hope he fails? Knowing his failure is the country's failure? Isn't that, well . . . disloyal?

Limbaugh seems to lust for the prospect of President Obama failing. At a time when our country needs to pull together like never before, Limbuagh wants failure. He wants President Obama's plans of better education, job creation, moving the country toward sustainable and clean fuel, and other plans to fail.

On the radio yesterday, people were calling in and stating how job applicants cannot add, subtract, spell, or count back change. President Bush's No Child Left Behind has left many children behind. The focus in schools today isn't about teaching. It's about teaching so students can pass benchmark tests so schools can prove they are teaching. They may be teaching the tests but there is little learning going on.

I didn't vote for President Bush in 2000. I didn't like him but never hoped he would fail. I voted for him in 2004 largely because of fear of another 9-11. Fear is the currency President Bush spread around like icicles.

Limbaugh and others like him want to cling to that fear. Fear is the message Limbaugh, Palin, and others trumpeted. Hope is the message Obama heralded.

I would rather live in hope than fear. Fear holds you back. Hope makes you nearly fearless and able to handle the task of rebuilding.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our New President

Daybreak, Not Just in Alabama

Daybreak in Alabama

When I get to be a composer
I'm gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I'm gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I'm gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I'm gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama.

Langston Hughes

Friday, January 16, 2009

Shabbat Shalom!

I had meant to post this prayer last Shabbat but was unable to schedule it. So, I;m making sure to schedule well ahead of time this week. We've been saying this prayer during Kabbalat Shabbat services since Operation Cast Lead began.

May the One who blessed our Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and our Matriarchs, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah, bless the State of Israel. May His sovereignty be revealed upon the Land that He swore to our ancestors to give to us.

Dear God, extend Your mercy on the leaders of the State. May they be worthy to build and establish her eternally in law and righteousness. Place the spirit of unity and love of our fellow Jews in their hearts and ours, wherever we may live, and together may we be dedicated to Your will with a full heart.

Lord of Hosts, God of Israel, protect the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces. Save them from all trouble and distress and bless them with success in all their tasks. May they go in peace and return to their homes and loved ones with the blessings of life and peace.

Divine Parent in heaven, grant peace to the land and everlasting joy to all her inhabitants. As the Prophet Jeremiah said (Jer. 30:10)"And the people of Jacob shall be tranquil and calm with none to trouble them."

Manifest for us speedily in our time, that which is written in Scripture (Micah 4:4): "Every man shall sit under his grapevine or fig tree with no one to disturb him."

Spread your shelter of peace over all who dwell upon Your Earth and may this be Your will and we say, Amen.

Hebrew text, written by Rabbi Simchah Roth, reprinted with permission from Siddur Va'ani Tefilati, published by The Rabbinical Assembly of Israel and The Masorti Movement, 1998, page 373. English translation by Rabbi Eric M. Lankin, D.Min.

It's Cold!

In light of the arctic blast which has caused temps to be in 20's during the night, I thought this photo below would be appropriate:

BBC Coverage of Gaza

About right.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Pre-Shabbat Calm

Teruah has links to great videos.

Human Rights

Liraz Madmony, a 23 year old student from Sderot Israel addressed the UN Human Rights Commission.

Are human rights for some, but not others?

The constant assault on Sderot has destroyed our ability to lead a normal life. The warning before each attack gives us only 15 seconds to run for shelter. Fifteen seconds that will decide, life or death.

Mr. President, who will protect our right to life? My family does not have a bomb shelter, so we run to the most protected room, which is the shower.

There is one attack I will never forget. We heard the siren at seven in the morning. We ran to the shower. The rockets fell next to my house. My little brother, who was 14, went to see if anyone needed help. He found a man whose legs were blown off, and a woman blown to pieces.

My youngest brother is six. The rockets have been falling for eight years. He knows no other reality.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the Human Rights Commission is that member states which have of the most horrendous human rights violations are allowed to sit on it. When thousands of people are being massacred in Congo and the only state being censured is Israel, there is clearly a problem. When people are imprisoned in China so their organs can be harvested and the only state being censured is Israel, there is clearly a problem. When Kim Il Jong of North Korea can blatantly allow his civilian population to starve and the only state being censured is Israel, there is clearly a problem. When the people of Burma await world reaction for their freedom and the only state being censured is Israel, there is clearly a problem.

Like Liraz asks, are there human rights for some but not others?

Some Good News!

Petal High School will marching marching at Obama's inaugural parade! Petal is a small town close to Hattiesburg Mississippi.

Good going!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


'Frederick Douglass' Quote

"Find out just what any people will quietly
submit to and you have the exact measure
of the injustice and wrong which
will be imposed on them."

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that some evidence should not be excluded due to technicalities. In the linked post, I agree with Tom Goldstein's rationale that this latest Supreme Court ruling may have broader implications. Like many, I felt outraged when criminals have been released by technicalities but at the same time, I am glad those technicalities are in place. The Constitution was written to safeguard the rights of all from unreasonable searches and seizures.

Today's ruling seems to me to be another slippery slope for us to lose more of our precious rights. When the War on Drugs first began, little protest was made when police agencies began confiscating money and other assets from those who were not even charged, much less convicted of trafficking in drugs.

A little less than 4 years ago, a Supreme Court ruling placed millions of home owners and business owners in danger of unfair tactics in eminent domain proceedings.

In many ways, my way of life is conservative. In matters of the Constitutional rights, I prefer to very liberal.

Human Shields

Saw this at Gail's:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Since the beginning of December, I've been living through a personal crisis, the details of which I cannot go into. It has affected every aspect of my life from taking photos to blogging. This past Sunday, I felt the old stirrings of the black wall of depression. The emptiness I felt was like looking into a bottomless abyss, with no light.

I forced myself to go take photos. The day matched my mood. It was raining. grey, and cold. The dark pit lifted and is almost all gone today.

I haven't had the opportunity to post about the crisis Israel is going through. When I come into work, I begin checking all those I read who are in Israel to make sure they are okay. I read in the news about the synagogues in Europe and in the United States being attacked with Molotov cocktails and those that have been vandalized.

If protests against Israel are merely to show disagreement, why are synagogues being attacked?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

All Are Targets

Hamas, Hezbollah, and other terrorist groups just want to murder. They do not care nor have any moral compunctions if Israeli schools are hit. In fact, they rejoice! Today, some terrorist group in Lebanon launched Katyusha toward Israel. It hit a senior citizens home. Jameel has photos of the damage. I'm sure Jimmy Carter will call the terrorist action "defensive", much like he called the tunnels Hamas dug to smuggle in weapons "defensive".

The world has gone insane. From the UN to European leaders, all expect Israel to ask her people to just take rocket fire from whatever terrorist group decides to fire.

Old people should be able to live out their years in peace. School kids shouldn't have to learn the nearest routes to bomb shelters. Moms and Dads shouldn't have to read bed-time stories to their children in bomb shelters.

I care about the Palestinian children who go through this as well. I'm outraged that these precious children are being used as human shields by Hamas. I'm outraged that civilians are routinely used as human shields by terrorist groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, and let's not kid ourselves, Fatah. I'm outraged that the UN has not sought to end the plight of Palestinian "refugees" by not dismantling UNRWA.

I'm outraged that some church groups would prefer to talk to "charities" such as Hamas and Hezbollah and make the decision to divest from Israel. I want peace in Israel. I want the Palestinians to live better lives(Gazans have better living conditions than many Egyptians). Peace will not be achieved by criticizing Israel as the sole problem. If people really wanted peace, they would condemn the terrorists instead of trying to justify them.

Thank You US Navy!

They made the correct decision. Messianic "Jews" are Christian and those wanting to serve as chaplains should not wear the Jewish insignia. Thank you US Navy!!!

I'm hoping the US Army, Marines, and Coast Guard will follow suit if they do not already have this policy in place. Next up: phone books which place messianic churches under the synagogue heading.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It Is Time

From news reports about Israel's defensive Operation Cast Lead, the same ole scenario is being played out. The terrorists hide behind the civilian population and use schools and even hospitals to fire rockets. They used the UNRWA schools and the UN defends them!! It is long past time for UNRWA to be disbanded. It's goal is supposed to be helping Palestinian refugees resettle. It is also deceptive for the UN changed the definition of refugee for Palestinians alone. UNRWA is perpetuating the problem and Palestinian refugees since 1948 have been cynically used by Arab governments and is now being used by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Yet Hamas is not the only Palestinian group at fault. In 2005, shortly after the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, I met with the chief of staff to the chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. My question to him: Now that we have uprooted thousands of Jews and empowered Gazans to be masters of their own fate, can we hope that within a year's time there will be fewer refugees in the camps? "Absolutely not," he said. "The refugees will be relocated only in the context of the final status [agreement]. How can we move them if we do not know where they will live? Maybe they will live in Israel."

In withdrawing from Gaza, Israel made painful concessions for peace by forcibly removing Jews from their homes. And yet even the Palestinian Authority, the most moderate among Palestinian political groups, would not consider easing their own people's plight in the wake of Israel's compromise. This is because the suffering of the refugees is essential to their broader political struggle.

How does the West respond to the obvious exploitation of Palestinian refugees? Soon after my meeting with Mr. Abbas's chief of staff, I met with the ambassador of one of the West's most enlightened countries. I asked: Why are the Palestinians not willing to help their own refugees? "I can understand them," he answered. "After all, they don't want the refugee problem to be taken off the agenda."

This reflexive "understanding" for the Palestinian leaders' abuse of their own people is the heart of the problem. For decades, the international community has actively assisted in building the terrorists' unique system of control -- over where Palestinians live and in what conditions, and over what they think -- by allowing terrorists to turn the refugee camps into the center of the Palestinian war machine. Instead of working to relieve the refugees' misery, the United Nations has dedicated an entire agency, UNRWA, to perpetuating it. For the rest of the world's refugees, the U.N. works tirelessly to improve their conditions, to relocate them, and to help them rebuild their lives as quickly as possible. With the Palestinians, the U.N. does exactly the opposite, granting refugee status to the great-grandchildren of people displaced in 1948, doing nothing to dismantle the camps, and acting as facilitators for the terrorists' goal of grinding an entire civilian population under their thumb. Nowhere on earth do terrorists get so much help from the Free World.

It is long past time for UNRWA to be disbanded. It is long past time for European and other countries to blindly stop the billions in aid money to the Palestinian Authority until all terror activity has stopped.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Not Turning the Other Cheek

I finished reading Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin this past Shabbat. It gives a brief outline of topics ranging from the Torah to the prayers we say during services. The section on antisemitism had a quote by Sigmund Freud. In it, he surmised that antisemitism exists because Jews are the moral conscience of the world. It is for this reason many hate us.

It caught my attention because I had been thinking about antisemitism for months and had come to the conclusion it was because we do serve as a moral compass. From the way we eat to the way we bury our dead and everything in between helps us to remember to love our neighbors. If we are to show compassion to the animals that are slaughtered for our food, how much more compassion should be shown to our selves and others?

Acts of loving-kindness are supposed to be at the center of our lives. We see this in action even as Israel once again finds it necessary to defend itself. While seeking out targets of the Hamas military infrastructure, leaflets are dropped to the civilian population letting them know to get out of the way. While tanks were being lined up before the start of the ground-offensive, trucks at other parts were loaded up with food, water, and medicine to be dispersed to the civilians in Gaza.

While Israel tries to warn the civilians in Gaza, the murdering terrorists in Gaza aim their Qassams, GRADs, and other missiles at Israeli schools, businesses, hospitals, and shopping malls. The terrorists don't care who they hit.

While we are commanded to acts of loving-kindness, we are also commanded to not stand by while another's blood is being spilled, to kill those who would kill you, and to seek justice.

Lebanon killed far more Palestinians couple of years ago and was very brutal in its actions against the Palestinian terrorists in refugee camps. They cut off water and electricity to the refugee camps, and yet there was no wide-spread condemnation of Lebanon.

And yet, Israel after finally doing something about the rockets aimed at its citizens for over ten years, is condemned by the UN and so many others. Israel is a sovereign nation and has the right to protect its citizens from cut-throat murderers. Hamas is a murderous band who takes joy in the slaughter of children. To try to defend them, as some newspaper columnists have done, because they may provide some social services should be morally repugnant to any decent mensch.

The only reason I can come up with the vitriolic hate against Israel is antisemitism. Hitler called Jews a cancer and now many say Israel is a cancer, some even stoop so low as to say Israel is as atrocious as Hitler. Iran has openly stated it will wipe Israel off the face of the earth. The Palestinian Authority says it wants peace with Israel and yet its maps do not show Israel, only Palestine from the River to the Sea. The United Nations uses the same flag when it holds its Palestinian Solidarity day, the same day when Israel accepted the UN terms and the Arab world swore to drive all the Jews into the sea.

Israel has made mistakes. Most Palestinians, like Israelis, want to live in peace. Peace will never be achieved as long as there are those who defend or try to justify the tactics of terrorists like Hamas. It is surprising and a hopeful sign that many countries such as Egypt place the blame on Hamas for the fighting now going on. This needs to be done on a consistent basis and then peace can be reached.

Let's Pretend