Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Counting The Omer, Easier Than Trying to Calculate The End of Corona Lock-down

Here we are a week before Passover aka Pesach, and this used to* be the season when we'd sign up for various reminders to help us remember to Count The Omer, Sefirat Ha'Omer, the seven weeks, forty-nine 49 days between the second night of Passover and the Eve of Shavuot.
*Why did I write "used to?"
I wrote "used to," because today when most everyone has some sort of cell phone with alarm clock, you can just set your phone to be your daily alarm.
This method is fine on week nights, but it doesn't work Shabbat and the eve of the last night of Passover. I came up with a simple method that works for me.
I hang up a sign across from where I like to sit in the living room. As you can see, before  Shabbat or the holiday, I write the number of the Omer I must count. I've found that to be a very reliable reminder. 
Counting the Omer was one of the most difficult mitzvot for me to observe in the early decades of my being Torah observant.

When I became religious in the mid-1960s, there was no reminder system. Only men who went to the synagogue every night to doven/pray Ma'ariv with a minyon had it as their easy to remember routine.

I didn't succeed in counting the Omer until our son-in-law came on the scene and signed us up for reminders with the cell phone company he was then working for. It was around the same time email reminders had begun, but I didn't check my email as often as I do now. So email wasn't the best, just better than nothing.

Maybe I'm the only one who has already lost track of how many days/weeks we've been on this corona lock-down, living with what was once unimaginable restrictions. Not only don't we know when it's going to end, we're constantly being warned that the noose aka restrictions maybe getting tighter.

Most people can adjust to something difficult when they know how long it will last. But even with all the complicated computations and guesswork the experts have been coming up with, there are too many unknowns to factor in for any accuracy. Another issue is that the virus is affecting various countries differently.

We must combine strict obedience and "letting go." There certainly is an inconsistency in that. But that's how we must live in the near future. We must make our efforts, mask ourselves when outside and stay inside as much as possible. Instead of doing our own shopping and choosing the choicest fruits and vegetables, we send in our orders and thank the staff of the local store. It's a new life for us.

Trust and faith are all we can control.

Chazal, our sages tell us that the plague, epidemic, which caused the death of thousands of Rabbi Akiva's students ended Shavuot. That's one of the reasons we count the Omer until then.

Gd willing we'll celebrate the end of this modern plague במהירה בימינו bimhaira biyameinu, speedily in our days.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Good News: Blue and White Disintegrated

Many people are describing Benny Gantz joining a coalition with the Likud and the disintegration of Blue and White as:
"Gantz blinked first."
Gabi Ashkenazi at Jerusalem "Big Blue" Lions football game,
when our sons played on the same team, 12/2010,
Photo by Batya Medad
But I really think that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's "I'm too busy running the country in these difficult times" actions, ignoring Gantz was even more powerful than the classic "staring contest." Honestly, how long can even a political newbie/lightweight like Benny Gantz stare at a blank wall?

I also wonder if Gabi Ashkenazi had anything to do with Gantz's finally giving in. Ashkenazi is the only one of quartet to be joining Gantz in the coalition.
Gabi Ashkenazi at Jerusalem "Big Blue" Lions football game,
when our sons played on the same team, 12/2010,
Photo by Batya Medad

Gabi Ashkenazi at
Jerusalem "Big Blue" Lions football game,
when our sons played on
the same team, 12/2010,
Photo by unknown. That's me with
the pink gloves.
As you can see in the photos, there was a time when Gabi Ashkenazi and I cheered together for the same football team.  Our sons were top players together on the IFL Jerusalem "Big Blue" Lions, that's American tackle football. He liked to sit right behind us, and never put on "airs." At the time Ashkenazi was head of the IDF, but he made time for cheering the team.

At this point most Israelis are sick and tired of all the political bickering and shenanigans, and we certainly don't want more elections.

The corona virus aka COVID-19 lock-down is causing us enough stress, and here in Israel, even the less Torah observant want to prepare in some way for Passover. Few people have sympathy for the MKs and party leaders who are looking for ways to gain political power during these difficult times. Even those who didn't vote for Bibi/Likud are impressed by how hard his team is working to get us through this epidemic with minimal casualties.  Other countries are in much worse shape.

It's Friday, and corona/COVID-19 or not, Shabbat will be in a few hours. May it be peaceful and healing.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Travels With Sushi, A Fable, Genre: Harry Potter

I'm going to tell you the truth. I almost didn't take up the offer to accept Travels with Sushi in the Land of the Mind by Eduard Shyfrin for reviewing. It was described as a children's book that explained "maths and quantum physics" in a unique way. In all honesty, that's neither my specialty nor interest. I have grandchildren who are more talented and knowledgeable about sciences than me, so I had an ulterior motive for taking the book. As soon as I finish writing this book review, I'm going to find a way to pass it to them.

To my great enjoyment and utter surprise, I discovered that Travels with Sushi is much, much more than a children's "science book." It's a fable about the Jewish People, our enemies and the Bible. There's no way I'm wrong about this. Many of the characters have names and characteristics similar to biblical figures. Yes, it can't be an unintentional coincidence. In a addition, they play similar roles in both narratives.

Aaron and Stella, the brother-sister pair are the main characters. They love and eat sushi, but they don't eat it with shrimp. Hmm what does that make you think of? This Aaron, like the biblical one, partners up with a sibling. But instead of brother Moses, he works with sister Stella. Could the name Stella come from the biblical Esther? Maybe.

Travels with Sushi includes lots of magic, which should attract the Harry Potter fans. Aaron and Stella end up in a mysterious frightening, dangerous world after eating special sushi. There's a Supreme Ruler and a Book and the "good guys" being attacked; BTW they don't eat shrimp. Aaron and Stella must rescue them before their memories are stolen.

The reader follows Aaron and Stella around as they together and separately outsmart the Black Queen and the Mushi. The White Queen is the good one, and they're helped by other characters, including Josh and Valeb. Could they be modeled and named for Joshua and Caleb of biblical fame?

Pretty much locked down in my house because of the corona virus, I see streets, parks, playgrounds here in Shiloh are hauntingly empty. This short passage from Travels with Sushi was very apropos to what's going on around me.

I must say that I truly enjoyed reading  Travels with Sushi. For those of us attracted to character and plot, the physics and math don't stand out. It's suitable for older children, precocious younger readers and makes a great book to read to your children, too. I also recommend it for an EFL book report, so it'll be sent to my grandchildren, Gd willing.

Here's an interview with the author Eduard Shyfrin and the facebook page.

  • Publisher: White Raven Publishing (October 3, 2019)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1912892154
  • ISBN-13: 978-1912892150
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Letter to The Jerusalem Post: Shocked by Yaakov Katz's Op-Ed

Editor's Notes: Politicizing a health crisis


From the first few lines of Yaakov Katz's op-ed in Friday's paper, I was sure he'd mention the old standby "Don't change horses mid-stream," but instead he attacked the Likud and not Blue and White. Maybe Katz doesn't quite understand the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis that is endangering the State of Israel, and most of the world.

Compared to most countries, Israel is doing an extraordinarily good job in keeping things under control, bringing back stranded citizens and caring for the ill. This isn't a time to change governments, even if Blue and White had received many more Knesset seats than Likud. We all know that not only didn't they receive as many as Likud, but Gantz had promised not to add the Joint List to his coalition. The only ones playing politics in this time of national and international crisis are the supporters of Benny Gantz.

If Gantz and crew really cared about the State of Israel at this point they would have immediately gone to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and offered to join an Emergency National Unity Government in any capacity needed for the sake of the citizens and residents. But they haven't. They and their followers are the ones playing politics, caring only for their personal egos and ambitions. 

Batya Medad
Shiloh

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Facebook Rescinded Ban

former title:
According to Facebook, One Can't Mention Biden's Age


I'm in shock. According to Facebook I've gone against "community standards." All I did was share an article from The NY Post, The best and worst of Joe Biden put on display during whirlwind day by John Podhoretz to facebook and write:
It's a real shocker for me. For over a decade I figured there'd never again be an American Presidential race in which both candidates are older than I am. Joe Biden is 7 years my senior, while Donald Trump is only 3 years older than me, four years younger than Biden. If Biden's elected, he'll be over 80 before his four years as POTUS are up. In case you're wondering, Bibi is just a few months younger than me. And I'm happily retired. Why should they all want the pressure after 70?
What's wrong with it? I don't see any "spam" in what I wrote. I'm almost 71, not a kid, so why can't I mention age?




What do you think?

Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Truth About Purim, Via Facebook Live

Reflecting on Purim, Corona virus, Jewish History and Jewish Life today.

Just to warn you, I generally come up with unique opinions.

I'd like to know what you think, even if you don't agree with me. Let's agree to disagree, but please listen first.

Have a wonderful week. Stay healthy best you can and keep your sense of humor.



Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Gantz-Arab Gov't, Not a Purim Joke

Benny Gantz making his big announcement
(yes, we still watch an old-fashioned tv set)
Things are looking worse and worse for Israel as Benny Gantz seems to be crossing his original "red line" in terms of counting on the extreme Left anti-Israel Arab party aka the Joint List to shore up his coalition. I don't know what deal/promises the backers/funders/organizers of Blue & White demanded of its so-called leadership, but Gabi Ashkenazi isn't letting principles get in his path to power.
MK Gabi Ashkenazi, one of the four leaders of the Blue and White party, expressed his opposition to the establishment of a minority government with the support of the predominantly Arab Joint List party in closed talks between the four leaders, Channel 13 News reported Monday.
However, if such a move is promoted, Ashkenazi does not intend to vote against it and prevent the establishment of such a government, the report said.
Some of Blue & White's Telem MKs are also having trouble accepting such a coalition, and their leader,  Moshe Bogie Yaalon wants them to resign, rather than stick to their principles.

Here in the Jewish Calendar, the Jewish World, it's Purim. Purim celebrates the story of how a Jewish woman, in disguise, ended up reversing an evil decree against the Jewish People.

Gd willing, we will see some Blue and White MKs act as true leaders and not followers. I just hope that that very male party has the strength, daring, cunning and strong principles of the very female Queen Esther.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Coalition or Round 4? What do You Think?

Like the vast majority of Israelis, I voted on Monday in the third Knesset elections in less than a year. And at least the party I chose to vote for had enough votes, so mine wasn't wasted.

Unfortunately, even though this time Bibi's Likud got a few more seats than Gantz's Blue & White, his potential coalition partners are still a few seats too small for a government of sixty-one or more Knesset Members. Gd willing there will be some MKs from a "Center" party willing to work together with Bibi.

One big improvement this time round was that there's much less election litter scattered before and after voting. Here in Shiloh I saw stuff from Yemina, Otzma and United Torah Judaism.

But the dirt coming out of Gantz's mouth hasn't ceased. The main message/aim of his election campaign has been trying to keep Bibi Netanyahu out of office. It's very much a one issue party. Gantz has never shown that he's capable of handling all the responsibilities of a Prime Minister.

I have no "inside information." I wouldn't try to predict what's going to be. Never had I thought that we'd have three elections in one year.

Let's just hope and pray that Netanyahu and his team manage to craft/negotiate a strong, long-lasting coalition to successfully manage the needs of the State of Israel.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

True "Democracy" is Neither Right, Left or Center

"Democracy" or "democratic" is actually more a mathematical concept than political ideology. Any political party that describes, or labels itself as "democratic" is and oxymoron, just throwing around popular terms.
Definition of democracy

1a: government by the people especially : rule of the majority
b: a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections
Simply put. There is a vote, and the majority rules. Some countries have a "winner takes all" system like the United States. A candidate can lose by just a handful of votes or get a fraction of the winner's number, and he/she is totally out of the picture.

In Israel there is "proportional representation." This is actually the most democratic system of all. We have a parliament, The Knesset, of one hundred and twenty 120 members. The candidates run on party lists, which are generally ideological. It is no longer possible for a "one person party" to get in by receiving .833% of the vote. Now the minimum percentage has been raised so there won't be any tiny parties. But still there is a recognized Opposition, In the Israeli system, the losers also have a right to be heard and not only during election campaigns.

Tomorrow here in Israel there will be elections yet again. The past two elections didn't result in enough Knesset Members willing to work together in a coalition. It can be considered an electoral "still birth."

Gd willing, we'll nave a good healthy live coalition to govern the State of Israel after round three.