Wednesday, January 31, 2007

got the car

My end of year meeting went remarkably well. They list both positives and negatives of the year. My major negative was that my office is a mess and I should clean it neater. When they get to that level, you know things are going well.
I got my raise and bonus on average with the rest of the company and I also got a company car. All expenses paid for except the taxes (which the government is trying to raise).
My new Toyota Corolla should be here tomorrow morning and then I am done with sheruts forever. I enjoyed the morning train, but that half hour was the only part of the hour and a half commute that was even partially acceptable.

Now I have to buy CDs to burn so I can start listening to the daf on the way to work. I'm way behind in Taanis, but if I can get 2 pages in every day, I'll catch up before they finish.
I will also be able to finally get to shul in the morning. If I leave 10 minutes later then I leave now, I will be able to get to minyan at the Technion and still get to work at the same time.

God is great.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

english speakers unite???

I've been thinking about the value of an English Speakers Business Club where English speakers in Israel from different business sectors could get together once a month and socialize. The purpose of the group would be utilizing our common language to network, help each other out and just in general meet people to add to your contact network.
I mentioned this idea to NBN because I am on their employment buddy list and I thought this would be an effective way of networking the buddies to help NBN olim as well as helping themselves.

Or would it be a complete waste of time.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

goings on

Sometimes Dilbert has perspective and other times Dilbert is just dumb. Yesterday's Dilbert was dumb. They are making a whole week series about the alien which will at times be funny. But the opening salvo is definitely missing what it needs. Today's was decent and can relate to a business environment.

On Sunday night we had a couple of seminary girls over the house, the wife's cousin and her friend. We took them bowling in Karmiel and I am embarrassed to say that I lost 1 of the 3 games. The plan was to hit a strike in the last frame and then win, but in the last frame I only got a spare (the last pin was rocking back and forth and should have fallen) and lost by 4 points.

I have my end of year meeting at the end of the month, it was postponed from yesterday. This is the big meeting where I find out if I get my car or not.

And finally it looks like our community swimming pool will be opening soon. It has been closed since this summer when it got a direct hit by a katyusha. When that is finished there will be no remnants of the war (aside from a little PTSS) and I can therefore remove the tshirts and mugs from the site.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

miracles do happen

Someone asked me last week why God didn't show his face these days the way he did in Biblical times. No plagues, no walls falling down, no nothing. Just the sun coming up every morning and going down every evening.

I gave him a bunch of answers, such as the miracles occur every day, we just have to see them. As examples, I gave him the tsunami and the 6 day war. He thought those were too natural looking and were not on the same level as what used to be.

I was looking through this weeks parsha, Vaera, where the plagues against Egypt started and I noticed a very interesting pattern. All of the wonders that God was doing in Egypt, starting from the very first one, were all copyable on one level or another by Paroahs magicians (except for the lice). He started off by throwing the stick on the floor and it turned into an alligator. The magicians then did the exact same thing. Moshe and Aharon were able to "outmagic" them each time. If God was trying to show miracles, why didn't he start off with things that the magicians could not do?

It seems clear to me that all the miracles that occurred back in the time of the bible could be explained by the norms of the times. It was not an obvious miracle that everyone stepped back and said "this is God."
When the walls of Jericho fell down, the Jews first walked around 7 times blowing a shofar. People who did not want to see miracles could have easily said that the Jews found the weak spot in the walls as they walked around it 7 times.

In short, we only see them as clear miracles, because it was laid out for us as such. To casual observers, they all may have looked mike natural, or normal supernatural events.

In our lives we have the exact same experience. We see tsunamis, powerful Israel lost a war to a ragamuffin band of terrorists, Jewish Israeli communities are wiped out for no real reason, and so on and so forth. It is very easy to look at these events as happenstance, natural events that have no connection to the upper world.

Or you can see God's hand moving the pieces around the board as he plays a winning game of chess with himself.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I knew a rabbi who was oftentimes purposefully vague and would say things that didn't make a whole lot of sense on the face of things. It would cause you to think about things, such as "does that mean that he knows about ..." or "Does he want me to get more information about ..."

This type of vagueness can be very frustrating at times for the receiver, but for the speaker it can accomplish exactly what you want without the need to express it.

This is not always a good thing. For example, my children tend to say things like, "I am thirsty" instead of asking for a drink. I explain to them that when they want something they have to be more direct and take it to the next logical conclusion. So I say to them. "You are thirsty, is there a way to fix that problem?

However at times vagueness can be very good. For examples, there are topics that you might not want to discuss before the person has a basic understanding of the topic. A vague comment will cause the person who received it to check into the subject and think about it. Then the person will be prepared for a more direct conversation later on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Signs from God.

Today I ordered a salad for lunch and they forgot to bring it. They brought everyone else's order, including salads. I decided God didn't want me to eat salad today, so I told my secretary to order me a pizza instead. The pizza came, and that is a sign from God that he is happy with my order.

The pizza was slightly burnt, which I took as a sign from God that he was so happy with the order that he took part of it for himself with a fire from heaven.

The chief of staff of the IDF resigned last night. I haven't talked to anyone who thought that was a bad idea and I spoke to people all across the political spectrum.

Monday, January 15, 2007

lunch talk

Have you ever considered doing something immoral, such as being a serial killer/rapist? Even if you haven't actively considered doing it, has the thought entered your mind? Have you thought about the best way to do it so as to outsmart the police.

What stops you from carrying this out? Is there a sense of morality? based on what? Is it religion? Do you believe you will burn in hell if you do something that God doesn't want you to do? Do you believe in societal norms, without which the world as we know it cannot exist. Have you thought about this aspect as much as you have thought about the other aspect.

I went to lunch yesterday with some colleagues from the former Soviet Union. They aren't religious and the conversation (not initiated by me) went from the weekly Torah portion , to Buddha to Marx and Engels to how religious Jews would relate to a UFO if it were provable that it were from outer space and the beings inside were not from this planet.

After the conversation one of the guys said, in what must be the most Jewish of all expressions, It seems like being religious would be very difficult. (shver tzu zein a yid). I answered him back that being religoius wasn't very difficult and it is much more difficult being Jewish without being religious.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

israeli politics

Did anyone else notice that the decision to investigate PM Olmert was made the day after he said at a news conference that one-sided pullbacks, such as was done in Lebanon and Gaza, were a mistake and Israel would not be doing them anymore? I am not going to defend Olmert, he should have been investigated for all these things before he ran as head of Kadima. However, I see European hands mingling in Israeli politics and the Justice Department.
I also agree with Olmert's colleagues about the bad timing of the announcement. When the PM is in another country dealing with matters of state, that is the wrong time to announce that he will be investigated for criminal actions. There is plenty of time both before and after the visit, to announce that. This announcement embarrasses Israel as a country and weakens our hand in dealing with China. The feeling there may be that the guy will be thrown in jail soon and they'll have to start negotiating with someone else pretty soon.

Now we have the head of the tax authority in jail for evading taxes. The head of the Lands authority is in jail for accepting bribes and falsely registering property in other people's names. The Justice Minister is on trial for sexual misconduct, the president is being investigated for rape. The former finance minister is being questioned under warning. The prime minister is being investigated because he has never done an honest thing in his life.

The country's political base is being ripped apart by its seams. The entire Knesset and the hierarchy of all government offices should resign and be banned on working in a position of public responsibility.

I say start over from scratch. We need a few good men to take hold of the country and set it on the right path with transparency built into the framework.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

sleeping in class

Cross-posted on my alumni website's forum.

I was talking to my sister recently about some of the rules in her high school and one of them reminded me of a rule that we had in one class that I still do not understand.

Navi class, 11th grade. If you sleep in class you lose a grade on your report card. You can do very well on the tests, by studying for them and reading other people's notes. If the class is so easy for certain students, that they can understand the material without listening in class they should be moved up to a higher level where effort would be required, not penalized.

This is something that students wouldn't even think about. As a student, it would have never occurred to me to ask to be put in a harder class. Now that I am thinking about this rule in retrospect, I think it is something the yeshiva should have offered and recommended to students who sleep in class and still get good grades.

Even if there wasn't a higher level navi class, it could be monitored beis medrash time to learn navi on your own with more difficult tests. Or navi with a beis medrash chavrussa, etc..

This is my constructive criticism, 15 years too late.

Any comments?

40 hours in western galilee hospital

On Shabbos afternoon, my 3 year old jumped onto the arm of the couch, grabbed my kippa and yelled "Daddy, I got your kippa." He then tried getting off the couch and slipped on something on the couch, flipped backwards and landed on his head. He seemed fine, so I yelled at him because I have told him numerous times not to climb on the arm of the couch. His mother gave him hugs.
When I returned from shul after shabbos, my wife wanted me to look at him because he was acting very tired and kvetchy. I looked at him and his pupils seemed a bit dilated. I checked all the other kids and compared their pupil sizes with his and in fact they were larger. So we called his doctor and went to her house for her to check him. She suggested that we go to the hospital to have it checked out because he was having the classic symptoms of cuncussion (brain movement in hebrew) and they would want to do a CT scan to see if he was bleeding.
I went to the hospital with the neighborly nurse (her dad is a head of dept there and she knows the people so we were hoping for some good proteczia). We went straight in and within an hour, he had vomitted once so they decided to keep us. They were going to wait to see if he threw up anymore before doing a CT scan. No reason to radiate the kid if he doesn't barf at least twice. So we slept there. We had a nice room with two other children. One of them spoke no Hebrew at all and the other did as a second language. The ones who spoke Hebrew were friendly, I couldn't tell you if the other ones were or not.
At about 9:30 PM he must have started to feel better because he started horsing around and jumping all over, just like normal. He finally fell asleep at 11:30 PM. I was pretty sure that the next morning we would be released. The doctors made their rounds at around 9 AM. At 8:30 he threw up. So they said that we would have to wait for the next rounds at 3:00 PM to see if we could go home. At 2:30 PM he had a high fever and they suggested that we stay another day. So we stayed another day. The doctors at 9 said we could go home, but they didn't process us until 11, which is when we went home. I hadn't really slept in 2 days, so I got home and went to sleep for 4 hours.

Of course you can't leave the hospital empty handed, so my son came home with a lion shaped helium balloon and I came home with a bad cold.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

More on EL AL

A friend of mine who is an EL AL frequent flyer sent them an email explaining that after his upcoming trip (for which he had already purchased tickets) he will be unable to fly on their airline again due to their new policy of violating shabbat.

He got back a nice letter explaining that the reason they flew on shabbat on that one occassion was not for financial considerations but rather because they wished to prevent suffering and distress to their passengers. They also stressed that they are the only airline in the world that plans its flight schedule without flights on shabbat.

_My Commentary_

If the chareidi community goes ahead with its ban, EL AL will most likely start scheduling regular flights on shabbat. They will change the status of the airline from shabbat oberservant with exceptions to not shabbat observant at all.

Instead of threatening not to ride their planes anymore because of a violation in a special circumstance, they could have done much better by praising EL AL and asking them to continue being shabbat observance and to try and find ways to not violate shabbat during times of crisis.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

El Al Ban

Well my sources in the Aguda say the ban on elal has already been signed by all the big guys and will publicized if the negotiations this week fail.

Is this the start of a trend? Will all major corporations with majority Jewish shareholders be banned for being open on shabbos? We can start being like Muslims and enact an economic boycott on all Jewish products. Is this only in Israel or will they start banning American things as well?

Farmer Jacks was a Jewish owned store that was open on shabbos. I don't know anyone who didn't buy their groceries there because of it.
Disney's majority shareholders are Jewish and Disney World is open on Shabbos.

Many many more examples out there.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

IM conversation about rabbis


I just got yelled at by my chavrussa for writing this post (erased) and I wanted to clarify. There are a lot of good rabbis out there. I personally discuss a lot of things with my rabbi, besides just basic halacha.

There is a definite problem with the AGENDA of the rabbinic establishment, which is mostly what I was bashing. when halacha becomes a basis for pushing your agenda then a lot of people get lost along the way.

The answer is not to ask and accept blindly. The answer is to read the sources yourself and understand the topics. Then when you go for a psak, you have the ability to differentiate between the different aspects of the answer. You can then ask questions based on the sources and if the rabbi ignores your question or pushes it off without answering it, then you now there is probably room to delve in deeper.

The answer to the establishment is learning Torah, so that you will not be taken in by their FUD tactics.

Monday, January 01, 2007

happy new year

It's a new secular new year and in Israel it is celebrated as Sylvester day. When I hear the name Sylvester, I think of a black cat with a white stomach, but apparantly he was also a prominent christian. Israel celebrates the new year in a serious, solemn way which includes prayer, ram's horns and various symbols of a good year such as apple dipped in honey and the head of a fish. It would never fly in Israel to celebrate the new year with drunken parties so they decided to celebrate the fact that a Chistian who persecuted Jews is now dead. So secular Jews throughout Israel raised their glasses in a toast and said, "May all our enemies die like Sylvester died." Then they went on a drunken binge.
Ynet reported today that a prominent Reform leader had an improper "relationship" with a young girl in a pre-military academy who was the daughter of an outspoken prominent reform leader. According to Ynet, while the exact details of the relationship are unknown, the rabbinical studies of the reform leader have been ceased.
The reform movement generally has no problem accepting sexual deviants into the rabbinate. The question here is exactly what is the new policy? Is it that rabbis cannot sleep with underage people? underage girls? underage lifeforms? or specifically children of other prominent outspoken reform leaders?