We live in truly interesting times, in a digital world where it is possible to have everything we do revolve around us.
With the advent of Smart Radio Stations, a user can have hundreds of personalized radio stations that not only play music specific to a preferred genre, but even to a desired instrument or a beat style.
Due to the brilliance of the Smart Home, users can have their entire house customized to their wishes. They can dim the lights, prepare their favorite flavored coffee, and control the temperature in each room, all from the comfort of their temperature controlled toilet seat.
And through the genius of the Smart Phone, in less than 60 seconds, we can take a photo of ourselves, ‘develop’ it, retouch it, and have it uploaded for the entire world to see.
With all of this digital self-obsession, what have we come to genuinely know about ourselves? With these time-saving and life-enhancing gadgets, what more have we come know about our spirit? What really drives us? What are our true goals and aspirations?
These questions are hard to answer in the fast-paced ever-changing digital circus that we have become accustomed to calling “life”.
My proposition? A Spiritual Selfie. A selfie that is not a picture of our physical selves, but one that captures an image much deeper than our temporal bodies. An island in time where we put everything aside and focus, zoom, and analyze the most important thing in life; me. But not the me that everyone sees in our selfie, but the me that we feel in the darkness of the lonely night before going to sleep. The me that ever so often tries to creep up and say “I am here too!”
Interestingly enough, on Yom Kippur we literally starve ourselves from the most basic pleasures. By doing this we might be able to proclaim who is really in charge, and then we can let our true angelic spirits shine through with pure song, prayer, hope and aspiration.
As Rosh Hashana approaches, let us spend the time to take a Spiritual Selfie. Let’s develop it, retouch it, and have it uploaded to solidify how we want to create our upcoming year.
Doctor: Please Just Tell Me What To Do?
Many times in life when we reach a fork in our pathway and don’t know what to do we seek for advice. Some people may turn to their friends, family members, mentors, therapists or rabbis, while some may turn inwards and ask G-d for guidance. Some seek to get every person’s opinion, while others may know what to do without consulting with other people. So what is the right way you may ask? I will give you the typical psychologist answer: It depends. It depends on where you are in life, what kind of person you are, the experiences you’ve had, and the level of distress you are experiencing. Contrary to common belief psychologists do not necessarily help their patients by giving them advice. Advice is often subjective, dependant on your own experiences and how you view the world. This is often why one piece of advice may have so many different implications-good and bad. In my opinion no one can truly understand what a person is going through, except that person him or herself. We can seek to understand and to try to put ourselves “in their shoes” but yet no matter what we will not be able to actually be and “walk in their shoes.” We will not experience the thoughts and feelings that are going through a person’s mind, exactly as he or she experiences them.
In the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur we are asked to do Teshuvah- it’s a time of reflection, a time for us to look inwards and really evaluate ourselves, and our relationship with G-d. It is my belief that every person has a relationship with G-d, whether or not he or she is observant or even believing in his existence. Often times, things happen in life that make one question the existence of G-d. Is G-d really there? Could it really be that he would let this happen to ME? He must not love me or else he would not be doing this to me. Failures, arguments, illnesses, tragic events may make us question our belief system, our way of thinking and our decisions in life, but most of the time it’s these exact times in life that have led us to growth. We have become more resilient and stronger after we have picked up the broken pieces to start yet again. So, why is it that we have to endure hardship and pain to experience joy and pleasure? It seems that some argue that you cannot know true happiness without really knowing the opposite first. This principle seems to be applicable to many other things as well. We know a good deal from a bad deal after we have done our research; we value one relationship over another after a bad experience and we also know good advice from bad advice after we have evaluated whether it worked for us or not. I would like to emphasize that I am not saying a person should never seek advice or seek for guidance, but instead I am encouraging you to become more aware of yourselves, your thoughts, your feelings, your desires, your strengths and your weaknesses, and what better time to begin this journey than the New Year?
Shana Tova- To a year of health, prosperity, and happiness!
A Yom Kippur Lesson from Hamas!
It does not take much research to realize the true demands of Hamas on the Jewish population of Israel. Even a quick glance at the hate-filled charter of this terrorist organization will point to their desire to witness the destruction of the State of Israel. They don’t want just Gaza, or just the West Bank, but to quote Article 12 of the Hamas Covenant, they want “every inch” of Palestine under Muslim rule. And just in case you believe the lie that since “statehood” they have abandoned their 1988 charter and have become less extreme, I would ask you to please translate the popular (and kind of catchy) chant so often heard in Anti-Israeli protests, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free”.
The obvious question arises: how has Hamas led so many on the world scene to demand Israel to negotiate with an entity whose sole aim and purpose is the death of her Jewish citizens? The answer in my opinion is simple; Hamas keeps their demands straight-forward and realistic. “We just want one thing” they cry, “open up our border crossings and we will give you peace,” they claim. A simple and realistic demand indeed. They are not stupid to publicly demand the end of Israel as a Jewish state in return for cease-fire. They are not silly enough to ask for the evil Jewish infidels of Palestine to pay the jizyeh, non-muslim tax, which their co-Jihadists demand from their non-Muslim residents that survive their brutal massacres. They are smart enough to demand realistic resolutions that will help further their goals.
So what in the world does this have to do with Yom Kippur?
To quote the Pirke Avot, “Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.” A novel way of understanding this proverb is that we can learn something even from our enemies. So let’s see what we can learn from our beloved cousins who wish our deaths.
Interestingly, the same section of Pirke Avot also asks, “Who is strong? One who conquers his/her self”. The proof text for this adage is a quote from Proverbs that says a person who controls himself is better than one who conquers an entire city. Our Sages clearly saw a parallel between a physical war battle and our own internal personal battle that we constantly go through as we try to improve ourselves.
All too often, and like in years past, we go to the front-lines of our own personal battles of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur with resolutions and demands that don’t end up sticking. I would like to ask, is there a strategy to our goals? How many of them are simple and realistic? Are we biting off more than we can chew? Are we demanding things that are hard to practically define or gauge success?
If you are going to make a resolve to just be a nicer person, realize that this is a very broad and lofty goal. Maybe a more realistic approach would be to make a resolution to try smiling at people in the morning. If you are a habitual gossiper, it would not be realistic to believe you can successfully stop this habit all at once. This goal might be more attainable if you start off by specifying a few people you will no longer speak negatively about. Similarly, if you never previously kept a strictly Kosher diet but decide to begin eating only Kosher food, it may be unrealistic to follow every detail of Kashrut overnight. The same can go with any other ritual aspects of Judaism, like Shabbat or daily drayer. In all of these cases, the sensible and pragmatic method would be a more gradual approach that would not shock you back to where you started.
To the extent that Hamas has been successful in legitimizing itself and its demands, it would not be a far stretch for us to mimic their diplomatic efforts in our own spiritual lives. However, unlike Hamas, we know that our battles are ones that are ethical and uplift our lives and hopefully the lives of others. Although the end goals of all our High Holiday resolutions are praiseworthy and important, we must still be as realistic as possible.
I’ll end with a prayer. I pray that each and everyone of us realize our true potential so that we can strategically improve ourselves. I hope that when we find ourselves approaching these Holy Days next year, we will also find ourselves and the world in a better place (and not, God forbid, where we left off.)
The Man Who Invented The Iron Dome
The Israeli defense establishment thought Brig. Gen. Daniel Gold was absolutely crazy when he broached the idea for the missile-defense system that came to be known as Iron Dome (Kippat Barzelin Hebrew). Several years later, Iron Dome turned out to be the surprise hero of the 2012 Gaza war. When Operation Protective Edge began in July 2014, it gained superstar status for shooting down a large proportion of the rockets fired from Gaza at Israeli population centers.
“My incentive was saving human lives,” he replies. “I saw what was going on and I said to myself, with all the technology that exists in Israel we must use it to protect human life. We will find a way. It always takes the political and military echelons a long time to think about what they want to do, and in the meantime we started to create a solution.”
Gold had already convened a committee in 2004 to study anti-missile technology options. In August 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew its citizens from the Gaza Strip and many experts correctly predicted that, instead of bringing peace, the move would invite further aggression from Gaza against Israeli towns near the border. Gold forged ahead with Iron Dome in blatant disregard of a Defense Ministry directive.
He refused to allow the project to get stuck in the wheels of bureaucracy. “I wasn’t sure I could get the funds to go ahead, and I had a private investor lined up just in case, but I didn’t need him in the end,” says Gold, who won the Israel Defense Prize in 2012 for spearheading the Iron Dome project.
Tilting At Windmills
Nevertheless,–and assign it to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. Other companies worked on aspects of Iron Dome, including mPrest Systems (software) and Elta Systems (radar).
“We picked the best in the entire country,” Gold told Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today) in 2012. “We had 70-year-old missile experts working alongside 25-year-old engineers fresh out of college, working shoulder to shoulder without any hierarchy. It was like running 15 serious start-up companies at the same time, all of which have to work in harmony with one another and be successful in record time.”
Because the project had zero margin for error, he and his staff developed a special methodology to manage the diverse team. “Others are now interested in copying this model,” says Gold, who has doctorates in electrical engineering and business management from Tel Aviv University.
His huge risk paid off big time.
“When I started this endeavor, the scientific community was skeptical. When you think about it, it sounds like science fiction, the idea that missiles can intercept other missiles while flying. … But I am happy to say science fiction became a reality,” he was cited as saying by the Humans of Tel Aviv project.
“If you believe in something, find the resilience in you to make it happen — even fight windmills if you have to. Sometimes it’s worth being Don Quixote.”
‘I Love Iron Dome’
Nine Iron Dome batteries are now in place in Israel, with more to come. The system’s radar identifies incoming projectiles and determines which missiles are most likely to hit populated areas or strategic assets. It then fires a Tamir interceptor missile at the chosen target to destroy it. (Iron Dome differs in many ways from the US-built Patriot surface-to-air missile system; it is smaller, less costly per use and tailored to specific circumstances.)
Israeli business daily Globes estimates that NIS 4.5 billion ($1.3 billion) of Israeli and US funds have been spent on developing, building and utilizing Iron Dome.
Its cost is irrelevant to the millions of Israelis whose lives have been saved by this gutsy experiment. Israel’s gratitude to Iron Dome is manifested in “I Love Iron Dome” apparel, songs and videos.
Here’s a video for children about Iron Dome.
“People feel that someone or something is protecting them. They gain confidence because they see [Iron Dome] working so nicely. Of course, they still have to go to shelters because it’s not 100 percent effective, but people are feeling safer and feeling proud of this Israeli achievement.”
He points out that since the first Iron Dome battery became operational in 2011, the system has successfully made more than 1,000 intercepts. “This makes me feel very good,” he says.
Today, Gold runs his own international consultancy, Gold R&D Technology and Innovation, and is voluntary head of the Israel National Committee for Commercial/Civilian Cyber R&D. He’s also on the board of Israel Brain Technologies (IBT), a non-profit dedicated to advancing Israel’s brain technology industry for the benefit of patients.
In a recent IBT interview, Gold said that the Iron Dome developers implemented algorithms based on Israeli human brain research.
“How do you approach a complex problem and solve it? We do this in the Israeli Defense Forces every day,” he said. “Many of the people involved in these types of projects, like the Iron Dome for example, then take their skills to industry. What they learned about putting together complex multidisciplinary solutions serves them well in fields such as high-tech and brain-tech.”
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