Israel Independence Day 2014

There are so many wonderful articles, moving stories and pictures of happy people celebrating the wonderful Jewish State of Israel.

Israel at 66

I’m would like to share this deeply moving article (originally published in Israel National News)

This is the Shabbat Drasha of Rav Avihu Schwartz, Ram at the Beit El Yeshiva, on the Sabbath preceding Yom Haatzmaut 2014, at the Nitzanit Synagogue in Beit El:

The Talmud tells of the love that our Rabbis had for Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel:  “Rabbi Abba used to kiss the stones of Acco. Rabbi Chanina would remove rocks from the roads, so that no one would be damaged by them and thereby have a complaint against the Holy Land”(Ketuvot 112a).

There was a great Talmid Chacham in the last century, Rabbi Yissachar Tamar, who wrote the book Alei Tamar, a commentary on the Talmud Yerushalmi. Regarding the above Gemara, the Alei Tamar brings the following story about the hassidic Rebbe of Sadigur (Alei Tamar, p69, on Tract. Sheviis, Ch4 Halacha 7):

“Every Yom Ha’Atzmaut, the Rebbe made his way to the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv. There he would join the other congregants praying Hallel with great joy. After the services, the Rebbe would join the dancing throngs outside in the streets, clasping hands and dancing with enthusiasm and happiness. It was always obvious that the Rebbi of Sadigur felt a special joy on Yom Haatzmaut.

One year, one of his hassidim got up the nerve to have a personal audience with the Rebbe and question him about his Yom Haatzmaut behavior. The answer he received tells us how many light-years ahead of his contemporaries, and some of ours, stood the Rebbi of Sadigur:

‘In March,1938, the Nazis (may their name and memory be blotted out) swallowed up Austria, and entered Vienna. Their first move was to accomplish the degradation of the Jews, and as the Rabbi of the Jewish community, they chose me, giving me a big broom and had me sweep the streets of Vienna. As I did that work, I prayed: ‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may it be Thy will that I merit to take a broom and sweep the streets of Eretz Yisrael’.

‘Obviously, it is not fitting for your Rebbe to be seen in the streets of Tel Aviv sweeping in front of everybody. So, on Yom Haatzmaut I get up at 3 am, take a big broom and with great שמחה I sweep the streets of my neighborhood.

After sweeping in Vienna, the Nazis יש’וזכרם  (may their name be blotted out) shoved  a Nazi flag in my hands and made me climb to the top of a tall building and plant their swastika atop the roof. As I climbed, I turned to the Creator and said:

‘Ribbono Shel Olam, may I yet merit to wave the flag of Israel in a high spot in the Land of Israel’. And so I plant on my roof the flag of Israel on Yom Haatzmaut, with happiness and התלהבות, thanking the Lord that He accepted my prayers’.

To this the Alei Tamar adds: “May those who love His Land hear this, understand the issues, and add to his wisdom”.

To which I would underscore that understanding the issues is as important as ever. This article by Gideon Israel, “Israel at peace, Palestinians at war” is a great place to start for a succinct and objective commentary on the reality of Israel’s prospects for peace.

Enjoy celebrating Yom Haazmaut, Israel’s 66th Independence Day!


Rosetta Stone Update

A few weeks ago, I posted about trying to teach my daughter, who is five, Hebrew. Kids should start second (and third) languages as young as possible. In an ideal world, their parents speak one language to them, and the outside world another. I’ve known several families who did this with success. Alas, I am not a native (or even adequate) speaker of Hebrew. So I’m relying on whatever lessons and tutors I can put together for Avital, to help her learn.

We’re trying Rosetta Stone. On the plus side, she really likes it, and can stay engaged for an hour doing the exercises. It’s also clear that she’s learning words, and her reading is really taking off. The difficulty will be to practice! Not because we don’t know Hebrew speakers, but because it’s hard to force yourself to speak a foreign language when everyone knows your native language.

In any case, here is a short video to illustrate her progress. Way to go!

Rosetta Stone Anyone?

My daughter, now 5 and a half, has been asking to learn Hebrew for about a year now. We started teaching her the aleph bet when she was about 2–in fact, I have an adorable video of her toddler self repeating the Hebrew letters as she watches Oy Baby. Still, we weren’t sure where to go with it after that. I know some Hebrew, and my husband none, so neither of us could speak Hebrew to her and help her learn the way a native speaker would.

First we tried the Little Pim videos–they’re cute, and teach some basic vocabulary, but again, I wasn’t sure where to go after that. How can I reinforce that vocabulary, since we don’t speak Hebrew at home?

Now we’re trying Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone is computer-based immersion that includes voice recognition to teach and correct pronunciation. My daughter was too young for it a year ago, but now the immersion method is working better for her, and the voice recognition is managing to understand her childish voice–something it didn’t do well even a few months ago. Because you can have multiple accounts, I created one for myself and one for her; the plan for now is for her to study, and for me to review and relearn, and perhaps she and I can start having short conversation in Hebrew, or start using nouns we both know, or otherwise reinforce what she learns. She also has Israeli friends her own age, and that might help as well, when she gets further along.

Of course, the only way to really learn a foreign language for most people is true immersion–at my daughter’s age, a year in Israel would make all the difference.


Life and Hebrew – Shalom

The Hebrew word ‘Shalom’, שלום is a well-known word.  Most people know this word as a greeting – either ‘hello’ or ‘goodbye’ (because, it is said, many Israelis do not know if they are coming or going), however its basic meaning is ‘completeness’ or ‘wholeness’.  This accounts for the fact that when Israeli soldiers come back unhurt, they come back בשלום, ‘in wholeness’, or, as we would say, ‘safely’.

Similarly, when you ask someone how he or she is feeling, you ask ‘how is your wholeness?’  מה שלומך?.  And again, when you go shopping, since you have deprived the shopkeeper of an article, the shopkeeper is no longer ‘whole’, so that is why the verb ‘shilam’ – which has the same consonants as ‘Shalom’ – is used with the sense ‘to pay’.  After payment the shopkeeper who was dispossessed is restored to a wholesome state. In fact, the word ‘shalom’ itself means ‘a state of no confrontation’, which has come to mean ‘peace’. Not a heavenly idealistic and unattainable peace. But peace that can be attained on a human scale.

Hebrew has many insights into the human state!

From our tbe maven guest, NLC – thanks so much for this lovely contribution!

And let me take this opportunity to wish Rabbi Glass a speedy Refuah shlemah רפואה שלמה, a full recovery, literally a return to ‘wholeness’, from his recent injury.


Adon Olam אֲדוֹן עוֹלָם

Who doesn’t love a fun tune for Adon Olam? This is one of the funnest tunes I have heard recently; the kind of zesty tune that puts you in a good mood and gets you energized.

Click here to listen

I am very grateful to my friend Esther R. for teaching us this tune, for making this wonderful recording and allowing me to share it here. Esther is a true star (אסתר).

Text of Adon Olam (from



Learn Hebrew when you get the chance

I say this to kids, because they don’t realize that when they get to 35-40, 45-50 years old, they’ll be on their knees crying that they didn’t learn Hebrew when they had the chance, that they didn’t learn Jewish history when they had the chance because [knowing these things allows one] to address the questions of meaning that will come back and be the most important questions in your life

David Solomon

David Solomon picture

David Solomon: “I am a Jew”
still image from YouTube (click on picture for link)

Eloquently stated, I could not agree with this educational philosophy more. However, my conundrum is that although I recognize this responsibility for my children, learning Hebrew is not a responsibility that this parent can personally discharge.

Can the TBE religious school that my kids have been attending since before formal schooling discharge this responsibility?

Should I even expect our synagogue school to take on this challenge?

If not, why not and what should I do about it anyway?

I do not have the answers and these questions are challenging. What is the minimum level of Hebrew and halachic literacy we should be expecting (knowing both that the maximum level is infinite and that our children are in the secular educational system)? How can we facilitate our children reaching this level?


Life and Hebrew

I am thrilled and delighted to welcome a new contributor to TBEmavens who has very kindly agreed to share insights into Hebrew language topics.


As every Hebrew student knows, most Hebrew words are based on three letters. And with a slight change of one or more vowels, these three letters can form related meanings that often provide a whole philosophy of life.

Take for example the famous phrase from the Pesach Haggadah – מַה נִשׁתָנָה …, ma nishtanah … How is it different…?

The three main letters of the term נִשׁתָנָה  are ש ,נ  and ה shin, nun and hey.  This has three basic meanings.  First, there is the meaning ‘to learn’, as Hillel famously declared,  “Do not say, ‘If I have free time, I will learn (אֶשׁנֶה)’ – perhaps you’ll never have free time!”

Secondly, there is the meaning ‘to repeat’, perhaps most famous for its Aramaic equivalent in the form תנה, Tanna, the name given to the professional learners, the Jewish sages who, perhaps from the time of Moses, committed to memory the precious Jewish texts and transmitted them orally through the generations, until they were eventually written down at the end of the second century CE.

The third meaning ‘to be different’ appears in the famous question in the Haggadah mentioned above.

What then is the connection between these three meanings, which seem totally unconnected in English thought?   Well, by repeating we learn, and we learn by repeating. In this way we become different and are changed.  Knowledge changes and empowers.

With a slight adjustment of the vowels – ‘e’ to ‘a’, but otherwise exactly the same letters, we could also ask at the Seder  נִשׁתָנֶה …, ma nishtaneh … How shall we be changed?  How shall we be different?  –  what have we learnt after yet repeating this amazing Haggadah?


 ה׳ בניסן תשע״ג

16th March 2013

Thank you for a wonderful article and we look forward to many more!