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Hillary the Hawk and Obama the Wimp?

Hillary Clinton, the front running Dem for Pres 08, supported Israel’s attack on a suspected Syrian Nuke facility:

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During a presidential debate on NBC Wednesday night, the Democratic hopeful said: “What we think we know is that with North Korean help, financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.”

Other Dems are mighty upset and think Hillary is hawking it too much even, they say, setting the stage for an attack on Iran. So is Hillary a hawk or a dove? She wants to use violent means to stop evil, but is she willing to put soldiers in harms way? Or is she the kind of hawk that her hubby was – send in the cruise missiles and see what is left afterwards to mop up?

She also voted to call Iran’s Revolutionary guard a terror outfit:

But Clinton argued that the Guard Corps was “promoting terrorism” by aiding insurgents in Iraq and supporting Hezbollah and Hamas, the Jerusalem Post reported.

She said that designating the group as a terrorist organization would “give us the options to be able to impose sanctions on the primary leaders.”

Democratic Senators and presidential candidates Joe Biden and Chris Dodd voted against the resolution, and John Edwards criticized it. Barack Obama abstained from the Senate vote.

What in the world is Obama doing here abstaining? Take a stand Obama!? The Iranian Guard are a bunch of bad dudes doing very bad stuff. By designating them a terror group the US can effectively try to pinch them financially, and restrict their people from making trips to the US etc. Why the abstention? Who is advising you on Int Affairs? What Would Dennis Ross Do?

As I have written before, Obama is vague and simply uninformed on the Middle East and most international issues. I am not endorsing Hilary—she will have to at least promise me an appointment to get that and hire Jewlicious as her official liaison to the Jewish community:-)—but her approach to international events at least invokes the tone of someone who is informed. Even if we may disagree.

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How to live in a Sukkah

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Harvest festivals are always fun, and Sukkot creates not just a time to celebrate, but a place. Sukkot is a place in time and time in place. The holiday of Sukkot helps us experience G-d’s kindness to the Jewish people while in the desert during the Exodus from Egypt and celebrates the Fall harvest. Sukkot is during the harvest moon. We get out of doors and take in the outdoors. We don’t just talk about this kindness and blessing – we experience it by eating, living and even sleeping in a Sukkah for seven days and by blessing the Four Species — aka Lulav & Etrog.

The mitzvah—call it a command, call it an obligation, call it a calling— of dwelling, eating and spending time in the Sukkah is unique. The mitzvah of Sukkah encompasses every part of the body. Every limb and cell of the person is completely involved, surrounded and encompassed by the Sukkah. But just standing there in a sukkah won’t let the sukkatmosphere seep in.

Put a carpet down. Some comfy chairs. A table, a lamp. Make sure to hang some nice posters. Wear warm cloths. Put board games in the Sukkah, and use an inflatable bed that can easily be moved in the daytime to make room for guests and dining. Put in a stereo. TV & DVD to watch Ushpizin. You can use curtains to make doors. Hang a nice light from IKEA. Hang decorative lighting you can buy at places like Target to add pazaaz. Hang gourds. Don’t hang fruit that will rot or attract insects. Make a redneck wind-chime out of beer cans. Light candles. Sit. Breath. Drink in the holiness of the sukkah.

Once isn’t enough of a good thing. We always want more. Eat live thrive in a Sukkah everyday. When having of a meal in the Sukkah, or a snack you can make the blessing: Blessed are you Hashem, our G-d, King of all worlds, who has sanctified us with your mitzvos, and willed us to dwell in the Sukkah. (My translation of the essence of the blessing: Ba-ruch A-tah Ado-nai E-lo-hei-nu Me-lech Ha-olam Asher Kideshanu Bemitzvotav Vetzivanu Leshev Basukkah.)

And of course, if you are anywhere within driving distance of Long Beach, please join us for our celebrations, and have yourself a very wonderful festival!

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Ivory Fool

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I think I will cry. Columbia University would invite Hitler too, if he wanted to debate.

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From the Narrows I Was Liberated

A New Year Drasha/Dvar Torah by Rabbi Yonah Bookstein (5767)

“Min ha-meitzar, karati Yah, anani ba-merchav Yah.  Out of the narrows of distress I called upon God, God answered me with liberation (Psalm 118:5).”

With these words we introduce the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Hearing the shofar is the only precept/mitzvah we have on Rosh Hashanah. Shofar is the essence and symbol of the holiday.

With these same words we cast our sins metaphorically into fresh waters during Tashlich, one of our most esoteric and forgotten rituals. After understanding the meaning of this verse, and the Tashlich ceremony, a beautiful way to unlock the spiritual mission of Rosh Hashanah is revealed.

In the Me’am Loaz, 18th century Ladino-Turkish commentary, it is written that this verse recounts the occasion of King David’s deliverance:  “Out of a narrow place, where I found myself standing, with no way to turn, right or left—from the depths of my despair—I called upon God for deliverance…. God took me out into a broad expanse. Just as King David did not despair of redemption,  we are not to give up hope even in the midst of the most terrible distress of exile….”

The Hebrew word tashlich means “you shall cast away.”  The entire custom is based on Micah (7:19) “And You shall cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”  Tashlich is performed in the afternoon on the first day of Rosh Hashanah (except on years when the first day is Shabbat, and the custom is moved to Sunday).  Some recite Tashlich on the eighth day of Tishrei, and it can even be recited until Hoshanah Rabba, which is, according to real kabbalah, the last opportunity for repentance.

Tashlich is preferably recited near running waters that sustain life. Praying by a body of water reminds us of Creation and its purpose, and Rosh Hashanah is also the anniversary of Creation.  Water is a sign of humility, as it says in Lamentations, “pour out your heart like water before the face of God.”  Our insecurities and weaknesses, which were blocking our growth, can be washed away like water and disappear. The Shechinah, the indwelling presence of God, symbol of purity, mikvah, is strong near water. We pray by water as we seek to purify ourselves and seek the presence of the Shechinah in our lives.

The verses that make up the main prayers of Tashlich have special kabbalistic meanings and are taken from Micah, Psalms, and Isaiah. They correspond to attributes of God mentioned in the Torah, such as “God is slow to anger, great in love, and forgiving sin and rebellion….The Earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God, as water covers the sea.”  After shaking out our garments and pockets, casting crumbs in the waters, many have a custom to recite a prayer for parnasa, to make an honest living.

Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews observe Tashlich, though there is no direct reference of it in the Talmud or early rabbinic writings. Even the16th century Codex of Jewish law, the Shulchan Aruch, has barely a mention of it.  Tashlich seems to be an invention to help Jews complete their spiritual mission on Rosh Hashanah.

The spiritual mission of Rosh Hashanah emanating from the sound of the Shofar is strong, penetrating, yet ultimately wordless. The Shofar is a primal, genetic call.  However, as the distance from the Shofar blasts accompanying the giving of the Torah grew, the message of the shofar needed to be deciphered. That is why Tashlich was created.

Tashlich does not have more potential or reach spiritually higher than the shofar.  Tashlich translates the meaning of the call of the shofar into terms and prayers that we can fathom.  That is why the Shofar and Tashlich use the same verse,  “From the narrows…liberation.” And what are we saying?

God, I am really stuck here, in this rut, these habits, bad relationships, unhealthy modes of thinking, in dead end jobs.  I am broke — financially and spiritually — and I ask you from the depth of this despair, can you help? Can you offer me a hand God?

As we stand by living water, in the presence of the Shechinah, we pour out our hearts like water, the barriers to spiritual and personal growth are washed away, and we hear the voice of King David echoing throughout Jewish and personal history, from Egypt till the Crusades, from Babylon to the Holocaust, from enlightenment to assimilation — I will not give up on you Jewish people, don’t give up on Me. Here, take my hand.

 “Out of the narrows of distress I called upon God, God answered me with liberation.”