31 December 2017

R' Ephraim Sprecher: Does Halacha Ever Permit Euthanasia?

13 Tevet 5778

This class, which took place this past Ta'anit Asarah b'Tevet (Fast of the 10th of Tevet) at the OU Center in Yerushalayim, examines the question of whether euthanasia (mercy killing) is permitted by Jewish Law (Halacha) under any circumstances. It also includes information about the fast day itself.

Please continue to pray for:

May these be healed among all Am Yisrael. And, may Mashiah be revealed quickly!!!

26 December 2017

Rav Sprecher Tripleheader...and an Interesting Hiddush on the Geula

8 Tevet 5778

In honor of the possible passage of the 2,300 years of darkness according to a certain interesting hiddush on a series of psukim in Daniel chapter 8 (דניאל פרק ח) about the Greek exile, the one we celebrate victory over during Hanukkah. I can't wait for the calculations to be finished/confirmed because today is the possible date that, figuratively speaking, the sun peeks over the horizon. No predictions here, and I won't get upset if no "sign" appears by day's end. Things are picking up speed as it is, even without this.

It could be next year as well, or even later. The timing depends on when the precipitating event actually occurred in the mists of history. With the help of H'...

See the commentary here on the End of Days blog, and keep watching for further developments! And don't forget to watch the videos. They take place at the OU Center in Yerushalayim unless otherwise noted.

Towards the healing of Menachem ben Rivka...

This one took place in Ashkelon...

24 December 2017

An Angel's Advocate's Take on Sholom Rubashkin's Release

7 Tevet 5778

Sholom Rubashkin with three of his 10 children after his release. Source: his family; posted in The Algemeiner.

Last Thursday morning, Jerusalem time, we got the breaking news that Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin had been freed from prison by a declaration of commutation from US President Donald J. Trump. Here is a Google search on this event, for full coverage.

I had started writing this article last week, but life got in the way again. I have had a call for prayer for Mr. Rubashkin in the right top corner of this blog for quite some time, along with the other prisoners of Zion. This prayer has not been totally answered, due to the fact of the conditions imposed upon him, including that he must pay back whatever debt is claimed against him. Regular readers of this blog have seen headlines on the sidebar come and go regarding the case, and they will continue to see them, be"H, until Geula Shlema or until the outstanding problems are resolved, whichever comes first.

In case you are thinking how full I am of myself and think I'm an angel, please be assured that I don't. I just don't like the term "devil's advocate" and anticipate that some will think it particularly appropriate in this case. I don't. Especially when a large group of people who ought to know — judges, lawyers, serving Congresspeople and Senators, Jews and non-Jews, on both sides of the aisle — agree that anti-Semitism played such a large, obvious part in what occurred here. It isn't my (or our) imagination.

From Reuters:  "...Trump’s latest action leaves Rubashkin’s conviction intact, as well as terms of his supervised release from federal prison and his obligation to make restitution."

As the White House made clear: This does not clear his name or come even close to correcting the miscarriage of justice that has been going on for years. We all know that he did wrong; but the severity of the sentence and conditions have just been too much, compared to those of non-Jews who committed similar offenses and even greater ones.

Neither does it take into account that his business, Agriprocessors, was reduced in value to the point that it was sold for pennies on the dollar according to its true value, due to the "no-Rubashkin rule" the government imposed on it, specifically prohibiting any Rubashkin family member from, not only advising the new owners how to run it, but much more as well. Think how it would be if Mr. Trump had to sell his real estate business for whatever reason, and the prospective buyer would have to make do without his, or any of his family's, near-infinitely valuable experience! The kosher meat market is highly specialized (and no, it isn't like halal, veganism or any other food system, but their practitioners certainly make use of certain aspects of Jewish methodology, such as symbols on packaging), and the Rubashkin family, especially Reb Sholom's father Aaron, who originally owned the company, has a great deal of wisdom to share — but none of that for them. If you ask me: Because Jews. Better yet, read what Prof. Alan Dershowitz has observed on the case, having worked on it pro bono.

Some of my friends have said that Donald Trump released Mr. Rubashkin because of whatever money is left. Yes, Mr. Rubashkin was pretty much the Donald Trump of the kosher meat business, lehavdil (to differentiate; the comparison is far from apt.). According to Fortune magazine, "Rubashkin, 57, ran what was America’s largest kosher meat-processing company..." As we all know, the world hates successful Jews; and this time, it succeeded for a while in making one of them suffer for far more than his crimes warranted. And, as this CNBC article notes, they don't have much money anymore. Thanks, US Government.

Worse yet, the world hates happy, smiling, rejoicing Jews. Victorious Jews. So when they're freed from prison, there seems too often to be some set of conditions (see Jonathan Pollard's latest news...) that makes it impossible to celebrate a completely executed act of justice restored (and in Pollard's case, practically impossible to live a normal life...but I digress.). Even when they were framed and prevented from paying debts, as Mr. Rubashkin's defense team says he was.

Web sites everywhere (see the links at the end) are keeping many Jewish commenters ferociously debating this issue, among others. That's right: Let 'em fight each other. Sheesh. Over a crumb that was thrown our way. Let's have some dignity, please, and behave ourselves; we don't have to take out all our suffering on each other. We're not pit bulls; we are a nation anticipating redemption from the only One who counts.

By the way, in the article above, Atty. Dershowitz says we haven't heard the last from Sholom Rubashkin. Let's keep our eyes open, keep praying, and keep in mind that a Jew truly and appropriately freed is a sign of Geula Shlema -- Complete Redemption!

May the rest be appropriately freed as well.

More relevant reading below. I have linked to opposing opinions as well as those in agreement. However, I do not take responsibility for anyone else's words or of those who comment.

From 2010: NYTimes: 27-Year Sentence for Plant Manager | CNBC: Is President Donald Trump making a play for the Jewish vote? [-or not?] | The Slate: Why did the judge come down so hard on Sholom Rubashkin? | The Times of Israel: How Sholom Rubashkin's supporters got Trump to commute his sentence | The Forward : How Sholom Rubashkin Can Redeem Himself | Tablet magazine: To Understand the Reaction to Rubashkin's Release, Look to Chabad's History | Family and supporters celebrate Rubashkin's release |

17 December 2017

The Dreidel – Symbol of Creation by R' Ephraim Sprecher

30 Kislev 5778
6th Candle of Hanukkah

NASA - Hybrid Galaxy - doesn't it look like a spinning top?

The Dreidel – Symbol of Creation
by R' Ephraim Sprecher
Originally published in Torah Tidbits #1255 
Parashath MiQetz, Dec. 15-16, 2017 / 28 Kislev 5778

Chanuka commemorates our victory over the Syrian-Greeks and the Hellenists – Jews who betrayed their own people in order to curry favor with the Gentiles.

Not much has changed in this respect in almost 2200 years. The battle continues. We cleaned up and purified the Beit Hamikdash, but were we truly liberated? The Greeks were ousted from our land, but were they removed from our minds? What light did the Menorah provide that proved that the battlefield victories warranted an annual celebration for the remainder of Jewish history, despite the Holy Temple's destruction two hundred years later?

The Midrash makes a strange statement about the Greeks. It states that Greece, a nation noted for its scholars, wisdom, and academics is the symbol of darkness (Bereishit Rabbah 2:4). We are a people with great appreciation for the intellectual, thus we find this statement baffling. The Bal Shem Tov explains that this concept is as simple as a Chanuka dreidel.

The earth is constantly spinning, like a Dreidel. In fact, all of creation is a rotating wheel, a dreidel. Things constantly change, revolve and become transformed. The earth is one huge Spinning Wheel. This is because all things, no matter what they are made of, have one root. Before they manifest themselves as they are, they pass through an interface known as "HYLE" (Ramban on Bereshit 1:1). A person's roles also change over time, providing and dominating one day, receiving and following the next. Nations, too, rise and fall.

Why do we play with a dreidel on Chanuka? Because, like Chanuka, the dreidel parallels the concept of the Beit HaMikdash, which spun things around in a number of ways. It manifested the concept of the revolving wheel by being the home of the Shekhina while its design was simultaneously engraved on High (Tanchuma, Pikudey 1; Zohar 1:80b).

Additionally, The Temple somehow limited the Divine Presence of a transcendental G-d to a physical space. As Shlomo Hamelekh put it, "Behold the Heavens, and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain You, how much less this Temple?!" (Melachim I 8:27).

Furthermore, it is impossible to rationally explain how human beings can influence spiritual realms and how a sacrificial animal can produce "a sweet savor" (Bereshit 8:21, Shmot 29:18) to G-d. Yet, G-d did constrict His presence to the Beit HaMikdash and did accept sacrifices as "a sweet savor." By doing so, G-d debunked the Greek model of rational philosophy, with the Beit HaMikdash – as we do with the dreidel.

The Greeks are "darkness" because the rational mind (or rather, the insistence to be rational always), limits one's possibilities. One becomes stuck, "engraved on the horn of an ox," and one can no longer think out of the box.

As Jews, we must always bear in mind that G-d has reasons that our reason cannot know. As G-d says "For MY thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not My ways." (Isaiah 55:8). This is why we dare not despair, even in the longest darkest, tragic periods of personal and national life. This is what enabled the Maccabees to undertake the struggle to fight the spiritual darkness against all odds.

The essential quality of the Final Redemption, which we await, is that of the Beit HaMikdash, the revolving Dreidel, when we will see and know that, in fact, all is one; that G-d is One and G-d's Name is One (Zechariah 14:9).

May we soon see the arrival of the Mashiach, the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, בב"א.

13 December 2017

Gluten-Free, Low-Carb Sufganiyot - and Life-Saving Tools for Hanukkah

25 Kislev 5778
First Candle of Hanukkah

Dough-not hole-style. OK, so they don't look as pretty as Israeli sufganiyot - but they taste better!
Hanukkah Sameah!

Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Sufganiyot

I finally got this recipe down to where it is truly doable and my husband likes loves the results. I adapted it from a regular recipe I found a few years ago because we have diabetes. I'm controlling mine mainly through a low-carb (LCHF) diet, and a small dose of medicine as needed. This one is pareve. I have been deliberately vague on things like exact sugar replacements because people have their favorites.

MACROS: I don't know what the macro-nutrients are for this, but I'd probably rate this as low-carb but not quite ketogenic because of the coconut flour and keto (thanks to the commenter below!). If someone who can actually calculate from this recipe would do so, I'd be happy to post it.

5 T. / 75 g. equivalent of sugar replacer of your choice, or to taste*
1/3 c. / 80 ml. coconut cream (the thick part)
3 large eggs
1c. / 250 ml. coconut flour*
1/8 t. / .75 ml. baking soda
1 t. / 5 ml. baking powder
Spices: Nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger etc. to taste
1/2 t. / 2.5 ml. vanilla extract
1/8 t. / .75 ml. salt
Oil for deep-frying**

Combine dry ingredients separately from the wet ingredients (except oil) and mix each one well. Sifting the dry ingredients together works even better. Then combine wet and dry, mixing well. Electronic devices (mixer, food processor, whatever) are optional. I haven't used any.

Heat oil to 375 degrees F / 190 C. Shape sufganiyot to your preference (I made doughnut holes) from the dough and drop into oil, frying until golden brown, turning often. Drain excess oil when done.

Wait a few minutes, until the sufganiyot won't burn your mouth, but are still warm, before topping/coating (your choice) and eating. 😉 Remember that it's the oil that makes Hanukkah, not the flour.

*Coconut flour without extra sweetening is sweet on its own, so you may not have to use as much sugar replacer. Some people may not need any! Great for you if you're one of them!

**The exact oil to use for frying is somewhat of a compromise - I used a mixture of canola and a small amount of coconut oil - approximately 2T. / 30 g. of it — enough to cover the sufganiyot. Depending on who/what you read, canola oil is controversial in the low-carb world. 

I don't have a deep fryer, so I use a small saucepan. Thus, I didn't specify "how much canola oil" to use. It depends on the pan you're using to hold the sufganiyot while they fry.


Chanukah Life-Saving Tools (a lovely Vimeo production) comes from the Chaya Malka Burn Foundation. Our lives come first — that's what Hanukkah is all about!!!

11 December 2017

10 December 2017

Which votes were behind the Trump declaration? And some pushback...

22 Kislev 5778

A security guard was stabbed by an Arab Palestinian this afternoon. Now, will this end US President Trump's experiment on "Palestinian" good will? (INN, from Magen David Adom)

What constituency was US President Donald Trump supporting when he declared Jerusalem Israel's capital, aside from the obvious: Was it the Jews, whether in Israel or America? the Arabs, similarly? or the evangelical Christians? From whom does he get his votes?

An even better question: Why did it fall to him to do what should have been done a very long time ago? He does realize, as he stated, that it is entirely illogical for things to remain as they were — unlike others who promised but didn't deliver.

Here's an article where Julie Ingersoll, Professor of Religious Studies, University of North Florida, on The Conversation, seems to get to the answer. Why Trump's supporters welcome his move on Jerusalem

As we know, none of the Arab/Middle Eastern countries supported it at all. I think the jury in Saudi Arabia is still out on that one. (Just kidding. I'm under the impression that neither SA, nor any other Muslim country, has juries.)

Others, like Dan Shapiro, former US ambassador to Israel, says we're all over-reacting to the news, while Chris Matthews, MSNBC host, says the evangelicals have crazy ideas about Israel. (The whole Xian mentality around this IS crazy, but maybe not for the reasons Matthews brings forth. G-d willing, more on that later.)

Jack Engelhard (Indecent Proposal, The Bathsheba Deadline and more) asks, Why are the nations in an uproar? as they try to undo what has been done in the finest hour between the US and Israel.

Women in Green (Women for Israel's Tomorrow), by email sent 7 December, tells us (emphasis mine):

The Sovereignty Movement welcomes the focal point of the speech by U.S. President Donald Trump – the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish People, and views this speech as another step towards the national and international recognition of the Jewish People’s sovereignty over its land.
Indeed, President Trump’s words still do not negate the idea of two states, but there is an understanding that a political solution cannot be imposed on Israel, and that the repeated attempts in the past by American presidents to do so have always resulted in failure, therefore these matters require re-examination.

President Trump also includes the principle that it is important to recognize reality, and just as the American president now openly gives recognition to the fact that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, so will he and others also recognize this reality of thousands of years, the reality of the connection of the People of Israel to all parts of its Land and its rights to its Land.

As an aside, the Sovereignty Movement, founded by Women in Green, warns and asserts that it is incumbent upon the Israeli leadership to see [to] its interests even when confronted with the American embrace. The gift that President Trump has bestowed on Israel in the 70th year of its founding should not require any “political payment” in the future.
NOTE: [there is also a campaign to further WIG's immediate-future work; see here (English) and here (Hebrew). -CDG]

 Tzvi Fishman, novelist, says, "...there are still a lot of Gentiles who resent the rise of Israel in the world." Which is why this recognition hasn't occurred until now.

In the end, amidst a lot of possibilities, it doesn't matter.  I'm not saying I know the answer. I  know that HaShem's plans will succeed, no matter what it takes. If not now, when — and through whom?


BREAKING: My husband called me in the middle of writing this: He had passed by the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, in front of which a security guard was stabbed before his bus arrived there. You can see the report here:

 Mr. Trump, neither you nor Mr. Netanyahu or anyone else, can tell Israel to WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE DIES, as everyone else has told us ad nauseam. If you meant what you said, in any way, you must leave us to do what we must. We have NO ONE to talk to on the other side. Period. The test is over as far as I'm concerned!

And in case you didn't get the message, here's the stabbing.

07 December 2017

Did US President Trump Acknowledge Jerusalem, DC?

20 Kislev 5778

(US President Donald Trump: Getty Images)

 I'm not feeling so euphoric about the whole thing. And I'm not the only one.

While it is difficult to describe how good it is to hear the president of the United States recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, I also heard him say: "Jerusalem is today, and must remain, a place where Jews pray at the Western Wall, where Christians walk the stations of the cross, and where Muslims worship at al-Aksa mosque."

I took a few minutes to transcribe this bolded bit word for word because I feel it is the heart of the speech. I fervently wish the bubble didn't have to be burst...but there you have it, from Donald Trump's mouth. I wonder how that sounded in Heaven's ear.

My husband thought the speech important enough to download and put on our family Web site's home page so that it won't disappear, G-d forbid. We don't want to forget exactly what was said...and what was not said.

Thanks and appreciation are due for the acknowledgment, but not "to the skies."

Do you see anything missing here?

Here's what I see, as of now: Not only did HaKadosh Baruch Hu give us the site of Har haBayit, the Temple Mount, but DAVID HAMELEKH bought the site with gold - not with the currency of today which, by comparison, means nothing. Not for himself, but for the entire Jewish nation: he, through whom Mashiah comes. Am I crazy, or did I hear US President Trump aid and abet the theft of the heart of our holy city, the threshing floor bought and paid for in the transaction with Arauna in Shmuel Bet 24:24-25, by the enemy that wants to do away with us, while recognizing the rest as ours? And "must remain" means that this must not be the way to geula. I don't know about you, dear reader, but I feel that a vicious sting came with the honey. A wrong turn has been taken and we are backed into a corner.

Nevertheless, I'm sure geula will be advanced, not only because of President Trump's words, wherever they came from, but possibly in spite of some of them as well. 

I have to believe that HQB"H has our best at heart and in mind. This moment is indeed an opportunity for us Jews, whether in Israel or in Diaspora, to assert ourselves as He would desire, even though some Jews just don't seem to be willing.

It may be, and I hope it is, enough for now that at least one great nation from afar acknowledged Jerusalem, David's Capital (thanks, Tamar Yonah!) as Israel's capital, incomplete though it may be. Be'ezrath haShem, im yirtzeh haShem.

May He bless His people with redemption, peace and our inheritance from Him. I believe and hope that going forward, being on the side of His (and our) enemies will not be tolerated any longer.

Please, Abba she'ba'Shamayim, now would be a good time to show Yourself...

I also promised that I'd post R' Sprecher's videos in the merit of Reb Menachem ben Rivka, may he enjoy a swift recovery...a new one, Current Events on Parashath Yeshev, came out today. Of course, words about President Trump's speech were included; and the Rav is responsible for his own words.

05 December 2017

Rav Sprecher Video Festival...and Interesting Geula News

18 Kislev 5778

I am filling in a part of Reb Menachem ben Rivka's spiritual work over at The Absolute Truth while he's recovering. You are invited to enjoy all the Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher videos that haven't been posted there since Reb Menachem went to the hospital, from approximately 23 Heshvan / 12 November (which was the date of Mrs. Robinson's first post letting us know what happened) to date. BE"H I will also post each one as it comes, as long as need be.

May Reb Menachem ben Rivka have a speedy and complete recovery in the merit of this post and those that follow. Also see the translations of Reb Nir ben Artzi over at Going Home...To Yerushalayim.

Also, it should be noted that today we read the news that the US is going to move its embassy to Yerushalayim, and not just recognize her as Israel's capital. Mazal tov, America. It's about time...or, as we say over here,  higiya ha'zman הגיע הזמן

May HQB"H help us all. Looks like there's going to be war over it. But He could surprise us, so we should be in serious communication with Him!


03 December 2017

Leah's Children

16 Kislev 5778

Rahel and Leah, source

Over the High Holidays of 5778 (Yamim Nora'im), I gained an insight into something most of us don't think about: Do you realize that most of us Jews are the children of Leah Imenu (our mother)?

I was hoping to get this posted in time for Parashath Vayetze'; but, obviously, I didn't make it in time. But thinking about Leah's impact on us is as timeless as that of all the other Imahoth. If not more, at least in one aspect, due to sheer numerical superiority.

We can learn much from studying her. She is not mentioned often, and of course we are also children of her sister Rahel, since she is the "aqeret habayit" (the head of the household among the women). But since we inherit the traits of those we are descended from, most of us (six tribes' worth; also, Rahel's son Yosef's two tribes of Ephraim and Menashe, whom we learn from commentary are descended from Leah's daughter Dina through her daughter Asenath/Osnat) are descended from her.

I am not here to present hiddushim (new insights); it's just something hiding in plain sight, that's all.

The main thing is that the majority of Jews have absorbed Leah's rejection by her husband Ya'aqov Avinu (our father), whether self-perceived or objectively viewed, as well as her hope that things will turn out well in the end, if only we will hold out for it.

It explains (to me, at least) why our first reaction after arriving at home after nearly 2,000 years of exile was not exactly to head straight for the finish line (although I think our ancestors were thinking, hoping, and praying just exactly that.). After all. we've been crying our eyes out for nearly two millennia, and our (in)sight is not exactly what it used to be. However, our hope that Mashiah will be revealed once, for all, and forever has not dimmed in the least, even though there have been fakers and liars along the way. And let's not forget that except for Mashiah ben Yosef, the redeemed government leadership is mostly made up of Leah's descendants!

I say "mostly" because the head of the Sanhedrin of 70 could be a ben Binyamin, Naftali or Dan (who were not descended from Leah), Asher or Gad (who were Leah's legally but not physically). But the Mashiah and the Kohen Gadol are both from Leah.

We need some rest after all we've been through. Doing teshuva (returning to our Jewish life and relationship with HQB"H) ensures that we can see that and much, much more!

I have had other thoughts too, but I haven't been able to get them to come down here when I approach my notebook or the keyboard...!

See more background here (Thanks to Geula613!).

Also see Rahel and Leah: Two Destinies, Two Worlds (Chana Weisberg, Chabad) 
 and The Women in Jacob's Life (Bible Study Connection).

Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher takes over from here, with his recent video from Parashath VaYetze'.

Meanwhile, the footsteps are growing louder, louder and louder...