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Baltimore, MD - Dec. 2023  - Our hearts go out to Acheinu Bnei Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael and to anyone suffering, wherever they may be. Each of us, in our own capacity are doing the best we can to come together to help and support each other, during this challenging time.  Our dear friend Goli, is a local Choleh, who has been suffering profoundly for many years due to her severely compromised state. Her physical pain and limitations are exacerbated by unfathomable levels of profound isolation. We appeal to you, our caring Baltimore community, to please do whatever you can, to provid...
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Baltimore, MD – Nov. 28, 2023 - It is with regret that Baltimore Jewish Life (BJL) informs the community of the petira of Mrs. Helen Broder, a’h, mother of Mrs. Robin (Jay) Schwarz, Mr. Glenn Broder and Mrs. Joy (Steven) Graber. The levayah will be held at Levinson's on Wednesday, November 29th, 10:30 am. Shiva will be observed through Tuesday morning at 2600 Steele Road Baltimore MD 21209.Visiting Motzaei Shabbos: 6:30PM-10:00PMNo visitors please: 12:30 -1:30, 6 -7 and after 10 Shacharis at 7:00 AM,(Sunday:7:30AM)Mincha/Maariv 4:25 PM. [Erev Shabbos: 2:00PM]The family is asking for any stories of Mrs. Bubby Broder to be sent to Bila Hamaves LaNetzach...  
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Baltimore, MD – Nov. 29, 2023 - It is with regret that Baltimore Jewish Life (BJL) informs the community of the petira of Robert Birnbaum, z’l, father of Zvi Birnbaum The levaya will take place tomorrow, Thursday, 11AM November 30 at 11:00 in Montreal. Zvi Birnbaum (443.683.9387 )will sit shiva in Montreal through Wednesday morning and can be reached at 443-683-9387. Bila Hamaves LaNetzach...  
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Register here Rabbi Zvi Goldberg and Rabbi Dovid Heber will discuss the halachic ramifications of keeping kosher on a gluten-free diet. The discussion will cover a range of topics, including: How do you eat meals without bread? (e.g., Shabbos meals, kiddushim, Purim seuda, seudah hamafsekes, first two nights of Sukkos) Continuing shalosh seudos past shkiya if you didn't wash Status of oat flour challah and gluten-free wheat Matza on Pesach Minimum shiurim How to decide if you are "allergic" enough to avoid grains? YOUR questions! We will also have a timely discussion about why this year we begin Tal U'Matar on December 5 and not on the 4th, as is usually the case. Rabbi Dovid Heber is a Kashrus Administrator at STAR-K and Rav of Khal Ahavas Yisroel...
Visberg on Twitter: A soldier in Gaza sent a message to yeshiva bochurim To the esteemed Yeshiva bochurim toiling in Torah (I miss you so much) Regrettably I am in Aza, and you are on the real front lines. Your prayers and Torah study is protecting me every minute. So, please. Do not stop learning and davening. Be happy that you are privileged to learn Torah in calm and tranquility. And accept upon yourselves to not talk during davening Loving you so much - Moshe Chaim ben Chava
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For the first time since its establishment in 2005 - the Kfir Brigade is operating in the Gaza Strip: Kfir forces located over 30 tunnel shafts and destroyed them, the IDF Spokesperson announced. "The Brigade soldiers are fighting in close-quarters with Hamas terrorists and are locating Hamas underground tunnels and destroying them," the IDF stated. The Kfir Brigade is cooperating with engineering, armor and artillery forces, which are operating in the northern Gaza Strip to defeat Hamas forces and to carry out additional tasks aimed at enabling the IDF to continue its operation in the Gaza Strip. As part of the brigade's activity in the Gaza Strip, soldiers uncovered more than 30 tunnel shafts. In addition, the soldiers directed dozens of airstrikes and about 100 artillery strikes...
After a day and a half with London’s Jewish community, the following are some of the memories I will take with me:* On the way there, Efrat the El Al flight attendant told me that this was her first flight since the outbreak of war with no family members of the hostages on board. “They are going all over the world to speak. They are amazing people with whom it is a privilege to fly.”* Girls in the Hasmonean High School in London tell me they conceal their star of David necklaces. Yet they also tell me that they have never been so proud and happy to be Jews.* How uplifting it was to enter the Ner Yisrael Synagogue to welcome Shabbat and to discover the congregants reading psalms — many with tears in their eyes — on behalf of Israel.  A fund raising project...
Parsha Hashavua
Chanukah, Hellenism, and Hamas

Jewish history isn't random. Selected to represent Hashem and inspire moral and religious spirit, our battles aren’t local and aren’t purely geopolitical. We stand against toxic cultures which threaten both moral spirit and religious consciousness.  In defeating the dangerous ideas posed by these wicked cultures, we protect the world from its own darkness. So it was, and so it always will be.

Obviously, our current war with Hamas isn’t purely military and isn’t merely a local skirmish. We face sub-human barbarians who committed horrific atrocities in the name of God. Our eventual defeat of their culture of death, rape, and torture will protect this world from moral and intellectual collapse. The ferocious international opposition which our just war has aroused affirms that, in our battle, there is more at stake than merely the future of Gaza.

Thousands of years ago, our Chanukah battles were also ideological. The Maharal, claimed that the four notorious empires or the "arba malchiyot" which visited our planet weren’t just mighty kingdoms which persecuted us and banned our religious freedom. Each empire posed a religious threat to humanity and each of these four dominant cultures introduced hazardous religious ideas, which, if left unchecked, would have infiltrated the human imagination and corrupted moral and religious experience. As the religious guardians of humanity, we battled these four empires and defended humanity from moral and religious collapse. Greece was the third of the four empires, and much was at stake for humanity at large in this epic battle between Athens and Yerushalayim.

Greece was the first civilization to both organize and dramatically improve our world. The word “cosmos” is a Greek term which translates into ‘order’, reflecting their newfound ability to organize and rationalize a previously vast and disorderly universe. Greek advances in science and mathematics lent predictability to a world, which for the ancients, had seemed chaotic and intimidating.

Greece also developed a rudimentary form of democracy, which offered a degree of fair and equitable government. Furthermore, major advances in art and culture enriched the aesthetic quality of human experience. Greece was brimming with confidence as it sought to relandscape a new enlightened pan-Greek society, centered in Athens, which would unify man in pursuit of a more civilized and elegant lifestyle. Greece offered great hope for the human future.

Yet, despite these possibilities, Greek Hellenism was based upon flawed religious concepts which threatened the evolution of religion. Our defeat of Hellenism dismissed these erroneous notions, preserving moral spirit.

Hellenism and Hamas

On the surface, there is nothing in common between our ideological war with Hellenism and our cultural war with Islamic fundamentalism. These struggles are separated by thousands of years and are being waged against very different cultures. However, each of these battles is centered upon the same city of Yerushalayim, and evidently, as different as they seem, they share a common feature. Nothing in Jewish history is random, everything repeats itself.

Divine image?

In its rejection of ancient paganism, Greece renounced molten idols and no longer imagined gods to be grotesque, heavenly monsters. Yet, for all their religious progress Greece was utterly incapable of discovering a One Hashem responsible for all creation. Instead, Heaven was occupied by a noisy pantheon of gods and goddesses each with specific domains and responsibilities. The Greek gods who inhabited Mt. Olympus, weren’t very much different from us, but were merely larger and stronger versions of Man.

Within this cavalcade of gods, the details of Man's creation remained murky. Greek mythology provides differing accounts as to how Man originated. In one famous myth Prometheus fashions man and delivers him creativity, only to anger a different god, named Zeus. The creation of Man is tangled in the rivalries between warring gods. Even amongst classical Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, who studied virtue, knowledge, and the nature of the human soul, the description of Man's creation is either absent or vague.

Though Greece broke with crude paganism and introduced philosophical inquiry, it could not imagine a one Hashem Who both created Man and endowed him with Divine image. Instead believing in God creating Man in His image, Greece continued to craft gods in human image.

Being that Man wasn’t fashioned with any surpassing divine image, he didn’t possess any distinctive or lofty features to distinguish him from the rest of the cosmos. Man didn’t possess autonomous free will because there was no all-powerful Hashem to grant it to him. Without free will, Man was left entirely to the whims of fate. In a famous mythological tale, Oedipus is prophetically informed that he will murder his father and marry his mother, yet his efforts to reverse this tragic fate are futile. Fate, not free will, determines human experience.

Our defeat of Hellenism reinforced the belief in an all-powerful Hashem who crafted Man as the masterpiece of His creation. Moreover, Hashem gifted us with divine image including traits such as speech, creativity, consciousness and free will. Reverence for Hashem demands respect for every human being gifted with divine image. Belief in Hashem demands respect for Man.

Though Greece took dramatic leaps, without belief in divine image, its ability to spur human progress was severely limited. Without belief in divine image Greek influence on the human development was capped.  By the 3rd century the Roman empire, the cultural descendants of Greece, had begun its rapid decline and the prospects for further human development were handed off to other cultures. By denying tzelem elokim or divine image, Greece could not glorify Man and was limited in its ability to advance the human condition.

What went wrong?

In 2002, Bernard Lewis, a mid-Eastern historian authored a book entitled "What Went Wrong?", which probed the historical factors contributing to the decline of the Islamic world, in comparison to the West. Factors such as resistance to technology, a decrease in scientific inquiry and intellectual openness, an absence of political pluralism, and the presence of stifling social structures, all led to the stagnation of Islamic culture, while the West was racing ahead.

In addition to these socio-political influences there is a religious root for the relative lack of progress in the Islamic world. We believe that God is compassionate and desires welfare for the creatures He crafted in His image. When human beings suffer, or even when human experience is limited, we sense a religious calling to discover, innovate and transform our world. For a Jew progress, science, and discovery are driven by a religious impulse: Hashem is compassionate, fair, and just and wants human prosperity. We are His agents in delivering that prosperity.

To Islamic Fundamentalists, God is angry and vengeful. There is great joy in Heaven when innocents suffer or lose their lives. If God is angry and capricious, there is little religious motivation to alleviate human suffering or to ameliorate the human condition. In the West, religious-based humanism drove the evolution of modern society. While the West believed in a kind and just God, and labored to relandscape the world in His image, the East was bereft of any religious motivations for change and progress. A dysfunctional world of suffering and misery was in perfect concert with an impulsive and irate God.

Hellenism could not imagine divine image, while Islamic Fundamentalism scoffs at it. You cannot believe in Man's divine image, while also wantonly murdering, raping, mutilating, and burning human beings. If you believe in an angry and enraged God, these abhorrent acts can be committed in His name.

Just as the Hellenists before them, Islamic Fundamentalists threaten the cardinal belief in the divine image of human beings. Just as then, it is our historical responsibility to defeat these ungodly ideas and restore belief in a One, all-powerful and merciful Hashem who crafted us in His image and desires our well-being.

The Chanukah battle continues. We are modern day Hasmoneans waging a battle on behalf of tzelem elokim. The battle between good and evil wages on. There is only one ending to this battle. It just takes unwavering conviction and patience.

The writer is a rabbi at Yeshivat Har Etzion/Gush, a hesder yeshiva. He has smicha and a BA in computer science from Yeshiva University as well as a masters degree in English literature from the City University of New York.

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Glen Burnie, MD - Dec. 4, 2023  -  Maryland transportation and safety officials are urging all travelers in the state to rededicate themselves to safety on our roadway as preliminary data for 2023 shows a deadly trend for the year. In November, according to preliminary data, 38 people died in Maryland as a result of motor vehicle crashes. So far in 2023, there have been 554 fatalities, including 135 pedestrians and 15 bicyclists. The overall fatalities reflect an 7.6% increase compared to the same time in 2022. At the current rate, Maryland is projected to record more than 600 motor vehicle crash fatalities this year – the first time that number has been seen since 2007.  Officials are reminding all Marylanders that crashes, fatalities and serious injuries are preven...
Hamas terrorists interrogated Israelis taken captive on their past service in the IDF, female hostages freed last week said following their return from captivity, Army Radio reported Monday morning. The Israelis, taken hostage during the October 7 massacres and mass infiltration by Hamas, told this to Shin Bet officials upon their return from the Gaza Strip as part of the seven-day truce agreement. Hamas terrorists used excessive force in interrogations According to the freed hostages, Hamas terrorists often used excessive physical force as part of their interrogations of Israeli hostages, Army Radio reported. In addition, the hostages reported that Hamas used several interrogation tricks during the long questioning periods. As per Army Radio, the terrori...
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The threat level has been raised in 80 countries for Israelis as a result of the Gaza war, according to a new list published by the National Security Council. There are increased efforts by Iran and its proxies, such as Hamas, as well as by the elements of global jihad, to attack Israeli and Jewish targets around the world, the National Security Council said. “This coincides with a continuous and significant increase in incitement, attempted attacks, and widespread manifestations of antisemitism in many countries,” it stated. “We can’t say don’t go, what we can say is that Israelis should weigh where they go,” an NSC official said. There is an unprecedented level of potential violence either due to terror attempts or rising antisemitism&nbs...
Baltimore, MD – Dec. 4, 2023 - BJL wishes a hearty Mazel Tov to Yossi & Tova Lurman on the birth of a son. Mazel Tov grandparents Ofer & Marcie Lurman and Jeffrey & Renee Reches and great-grandparents Rabbi Avraham & Susan Landesman יה"ר שיזכו לגדל בנם לתורה, לחופה, ולמעשים טובים. אמן!
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A senior security official, in a confidential briefing, shared insights on the escalated efforts to locate Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas. The official revealed, "There is a significant intelligence effort underway to track down Sinwar," emphasizing his misjudgment of the IDF's strength and his shock at recent military actions in Shifa. Security forces are now focusing on the southern Gaza Strip, with an expectation that operations in areas like Khan Yunis and Rafah will be more effective than previous combat in northern Gaza. These actions, targeting the control centers of Hamas, are aimed at fulfilling the war's objectives and dismantling the organization's governmental and military capabilities. In a separate high-ranking security discussion, it was cl...
Baltimore, MD – Dec. 4, 2023 -  BJL wishes a hearty Mazel Tov to Moshe Gerchikov & Rivka Slotchiver on their engagement.  Mazel Tov to Mordechai & Helen Gerchikov and Rabbi Ezra & Gila Slotchiver  יה"ר שיזכו לבנות בית נאמן בישראל. אמן!
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Baltimore, MD – Dec. 3, 2023 - It is with regret that Baltimore Jewish Life (BJL) informs the community of the petira of Adina Speedone, a’h, mother of Asher Wollner and Yardena Wollner and sister of Miriam Goliger, Gilah Speedone, Amalia Goodfriend, Chana Speedone, and Daniel Speedone. The levayah will be held at Levinson’s on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023 at 9:00AM. Kevurah will take place at Beth Jacob Anshe Veshear Cemetery, 6700 Hamiltoin Ave, rosedale, MD, 21237 Shiva will be observed at  6011 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21209Shiva hours:M, Tue, Wed, Thu:9-12:302-5:307pm to 9pmFriday:9-12:30Motzaei Shabbos: 6pm-9pm Bila Hamaves LaNetzach...  
Baltimore, MD – Dec. 3, 2023 - The 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev is celebrated as the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.” It was on this date, in the year 1798, that the founder of Chabad Chassidism, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745–1812), was freed from his imprisonment in czarist Russia.. Tonight’s seudah at Kehilas Kol Torah included divrei torah, chizuk and niggunim and the featured participation of R' Sholom Mordechai Rubashkin. 
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Baltimore, MD – Dec. 3, 2023 - It is with regret that Baltimore Jewish Life (BJL) informs the community of the petira of Nachum Khulin, z'l, father of Aharon Khulin, Avi Khulin, and Judy Saulkin. Shiva will be observed through Friday afternoon at 3904 Bancroft Road, Baltimore, MD, 21215Shacharis 7:15am Mincha 4:15 pm (Erev Shabbos: 2:00PM) Maariv 8:15pm Bila Hamaves LaNetzach...  
IDF Chief of Staff LTG Herzi Halevi toured the Gaza Division and held a discussion with the reservists in the sector. "We are looking at this operational pause, up until which in northern Gaza we dismantled two Hamas brigades, not completely yet, the 162nd Division is still working inside to secure our accomplishments and to strike more battalions," Halevi stated. "Yesterday and today, we eliminated brigade commanders, company commanders, and many operatives, and yesterday morning, we started the same process in the southern Gaza Strip. It will be with no less strength than that, it will be with no less results than that, and Hamas commanders will meet the IDF everywhere in a very, very strong way. I know that part of this is your capabilities, and a very large part of this is the fighti...
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