Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chodesh Tov! Kislev 5772

Chodesh Tov!!!
Here's some of the recent Mechina news which should hopefully add to what your son has
been sharing with you from the past few weeks.

Bet Midrash!
Learning has been going strong b"h, as the guys have found their spots in the different
morning tracks, choosing between in-depth Jewish theology, and in-depth Gemara.
A few days ago we had a siyum on the books of Yehoshua and Shoftim which we have
completed by learning a chapter or two every day. We had a quiz at the Siyum and bli
ayin hara, many of the students showed a basic fluency in the various figures, stories and
events, described in the two Sefarim.
In addition to all the shiurim we've been having, we also had a special class dedicated
to the subject of celebrating thanksgiving from a Halachic standpoint. We saw
some interesting and perhaps less known facts about the "birth" and background of
Thanksgiving and the different Halachic approaches as to celebrating it or not.
Additionally, we have recently begun optional studying at 5:30 in the morning (!) for
students who wish to start the day nice and early, learning "secrets of the Torah" with Rav
Erez. So far a nice number of guys have been attending.

A little over a week ago the Mechina traveled to Yerushalayim for an intensive four days
of educational touring.
*On the first day we focused on the First Beit Hamikdash period.
We toured the City Of David (make sure to go there when you visit, it is truly amazing,
as every few weeks they discover new artifacts and archeological finds!) including the
underground water tunnel which the guys eagerly and joyously hiked through in the dark
and almost waist high water.
We had a tour of the Old City with a strong emphasis on the Jewish homes, Synagogues
and Yeshivot, in what is called the Muslim quarter. We also had the opportunity to have
a truly breathtaking view of Har-HaBayit (temple mount) from very high up, where we
could actually feel that we were almost standing on the mount itself.
We davened all the teffilot at the Kotel which were often accompanied by singing and
dancing, a short shiur or two, and sometimes a brief lecture from people who spend much
of their time there.
*On the second day we focused on the Second Beit Hamikdash period as well as the
beginning of the galut.
After Shacharit, a Shiur, and some breakfast we started the day with a visit to the Ariel
institute where we enjoyed a light and sound show describing the second temple period
and its destruction.
We heard a captivating story about the importance of Yerushalayim as portrayed by a
(fictional) worldwide conflict with Tokyo, N.Y, and Yerushalyim.
We visited the Machon HaMikdash-the Temple Institute where the students partook in
a fascinating tour of new and old Temple Vessels, and got to see and touch clothing and
vessels that were built and are waiting for the third Beit Hamikdash.
After that we had the privilege to hear a talk from Rav Nachman Kahana, a profound
Talmid Chacham who is currently finishing his explanations and commentary on the
Tosafots Gemara commentary, called Mei-Menuchot. He is also the rabbi of the Young
Israel Beit Knesset of the Muslim quarter, and had many fascinating stories to share in
conjunction with his Torah insights on the book of Bereishit, and its relevance to us today.

Later that day we had a meeting with Rav Mordechai Sheinberger, a very unique scholar
and Kabbalist who shared his thoughts about our goal and purpose in this world.
We also had a tour of the Kotel Tunnels, and Davened Tikkun Chatzot in the bet Knesset
of the kabbalist Rav Yehudah Getz tz"l, the former Rabbi of the Kotel.
Also during that day, we toured the "Burnt House," and held a discussion regarding the
different factions and divisions amongst Am Yisrael at the end of the second temple

*On the Third day we focused on the Galut.
We had a captivating tour of Yad Vashem led by the grandmother of one of our
students, Ari Shachar. She has a vast knowledge of the holocaust period and shared that
information in a very interesting and attention-grabbing way.
This was followed by a tour of Mt. Hertzel where we visited the graves of some of
the "founding fathers" (and mothers) such as Hertzel, Jabotinsky, Channa Senesh, and
various prime ministers.

*The fourth day was dedicated to the present, the rebirth of am Yisrael.
After discussing our feelings and thoughts about the previous three days, we had a tour of
the Knesset, watched a session taking place, and had a personal talk from a young Knesset
Member Uri Orbach, a member of "HaBayit HaYehudi" party, who also answered
questions any of the students had.
Later that evening we headed back home to Avnei Eitan.
All in all it was very informative and fun, and from the feedback we received from the
students they all enjoyed.

The grape harvesting is over and the olive season has begun!
This past week we took about 4 hours to help a local olive grower in Avnei Eitan, an
adoptive father of one of our students, harvest his trees.
This helped clarify for many students the importance of farming in Israel and gave them a
chance to appreciate how hard of a job it is, and how much works goes in to it.

A few weeks ago we started having our academic courses about Middle East Politics
through Bar-Ilan University.
The professor’s name is Dr. Gidi Netzer. He's an IDF Colonel and an international expert
in counter-terrorism and conflict crisis management and is a member of the International
Institute for Counter-Terrorism.
The students enjoy his lectures and each student received homework and projects to do
concerning the Middle East.

Among other interesting meetings we have had were, a lecture by an English speaking
Psychologist from the Golan, as well as the beginning of a series of classes where the
students learn how to navigate and find their way in the wilderness based upon stars,
maps, topography, the scenery, and more.

That's basically it, the students are on a laid back easy Tiyul right now here in the Golan,
hiking the beautiful green trials of the southern Golan, and I promise Bli Neder to send
you some pictures soon. Once again if you have any questions or thoughts you’d like to
share, please do so.

Kol Tuv!
R' Asher

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rav Erez on Parshat Vayera

Parashat Vayera introduces us to the differences between Avraham and Sodom.
The differences that eventually the Chachamim of the Mishna, in Pirkei Avot, would name and define for generations as to who is considered a descendant of Avraham, and what are the characteristics of Sodom.
Already in the opening of the Parasha we find Avraham's tent wide open for guests and Sara in her ripe old age, rushing to prepare cakes.
In Sodom, on the other hand, the fists are clenched, as tzedaka is prohibited by law. There were many other wicked cities and kingdoms in the world, but Sodom was the only one where the wickedness was legal.
This factor makes Sodom the exact opposite of Yerushalayim, which was called  the city of justice, "She was full of justice, righteousness lodged in her." Sodom is punished with salt and brimstone, and this was an eye for an eye. Just like the people of Sodom were taught to only take and receive, so too they were punished by salt whose quality is to absorb everything in to itself.
This will cause the Prophet Yishayahu to compare Zion to Sodom, "we have become like Sodom, we are similar to Gomorrah."
Also the children of Avraham upon who it's written in our Parasha that "he'll command his children to follow the path of Hashem, to do righteousness and justice," might fall in to the pit of selfishness.
We therefore must cling to the ways of our fathers, to teach righteousness and justice and only place a little bit of salt on our tables.
Salt on our tables comes from the commandment in the Torah of "you shall salt all your offerings with salt."
A custom which is supposed to remind us while offering a Korban, that we are not, heaven forbid, giving something to Hashem, who possesses the whole world, rather are receiving, and therefore we add salt, the symbol of any giving.

Monday, November 7, 2011

LYA at the IDF fair

Today LYA went to a number of military exhibitions in the Golan, first up was a presentation from Avigdor Kahalani telling his amazing story. Then we went to a presentation and drill at Tel-Fachar by the Golani brigade, where we learned about the history of Golani, its importance and the battles that happened at Tel-Fachar. After that we went to a military fair where we toured around and looked at a number of different units, including Golani, Shayettet Sholsh-Esrai, Shiryon, Mishteret G'vul and many others. At the fair we got to play with the units various toys (read guns, tanks, rocket launchers) talk to soldiers, and finally see a live fire demonstration with a number of tanks and a rocket launcher, video to follow. For some cool pictures check out our facebook group.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Shabbat Bogrim

This Shabat we had an alumni Shabbat, many alumni attended with a great showing from machzor zayin, many of whom are drafting the the IDF in a few weeks. Also in attendance was LYA's highest ranking officer, Ya'akov Sullivan. We had a very beautiful Shabbat with everyone eating together Friday night dinner and then an oneg where we sang the night away. The next day we had Rav Asher's class at 7:30am before shacharit where we had the usual and much beloved Ice Coffee and ruggalech. We davened shacharit all together and then went to our adopted families for lunch. After lunch we had a restful Shabbat afternoon. After mincha we ate sudat shlishit in the beit midrash with Rav Erez. During sudat shlishit Rav Erez told us a story about a great Rabbi from Warsaw, Poland who's yartziet is today and about recognizing miracles and your personal signs from G-d.