Let's keep in touch!
Want to keep in the loop on the latest happenings at Chabad Israel Center? Subscribe to our mailing list below. We'll send you information that is fresh, relevant, and important to you and our local community.
Printed from Chabadic.com

English Blog

English Blog

 Email

What Would My Grandfather Say?

Blog.jpgWhen my mother was 16 years old, she discovered a paper in her father's Talmud which read, “In memory of my wife Chana, and my daughters Esti and Zlata.” Shocked, she asked her father to explain. His face lost all color and he froze, completely unable to answer.

My grandfather never spoke about his experiences at Auschwitz. Never! He took the horrors he witnessed and pain he experienced to the grave.

I know the memories stayed with him–vividly, because I used to hear him scream in his sleep. The suffering he experienced is indescribable, his misery unimaginable. Today, it is clear that he almost certainly suffered from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

My mother was able to find out from her uncle that her father had previously been married, and his wife and both daughters were murdered by the Nazis. On May 18th 1944, my grandfather was deported from Hungary with his wife and two daughters, Esti, 4, and Zlata, 7. Pushed out of the cattle cars at Auschwitz, Dr. Joseph Mengele immediately sent the children to the left and their parents to the right. Their mother refused to part with her children and within hours the three of them had been gassed and cremated. May G-d avenge their deaths.

-------

Last weekend I attended a Belev Echad reunion in Jerusalem, with all the participants from all our past trips. What a pleasure to catch up with these heroes and witness the remarkable amount of progress they have made in their mental and physical recovery!

On Friday we visited the kotel, driven in style on 30 motorcycles. One of the soldiers with us was my dear friend Ohad Ben Ishay, who came to New York on the 2015 Belev Echad trip. Ohad was one of the most severely wounded soldiers of the past war, Operation Protective Edge. He suffered major injuries to head and to his body, and he lost the ability to speak. On his trip in 2015 he put on tefillin but was unable to say the shema.

Well, fast forward to 2017 and I asked him if he'd like to put on tefillin at the kotel, which he did, and lo and behold he was able to say the shema! These are the first words I have heard him say since his injury. I was incredulous at his progress; he is able to speak a little, and to hear him say the shema was deeply moving.

I wondered, if he were alive, what my grandfather might say.

Most certainly he would say Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokenu Hashem Echad!

I feel certain he would look with pride and gratitude at our incredible and courageous IDF soldiers who put their own lives on the line on a daily basis to keep us all safe and to ensure that "never again!" actually means "never again!"

He would say the shema, expressing his gratitude to the Almighty for the transformation that has occurred since that fateful day in 1944. He would thank G-d for the super power that Israel has become.

And he would look with wonder upon the many living, healthy descendants he has from his second marriage, something that at one point surely seemed unimaginable.

Kicked Off Our Flight!

Blog.jpgI love traveling, but I hate flying. The lines are long, the airlines charge for everything that was once free, seats have become narrower, and flights are more packed than ever. Certainly, the average flight is far from a comfortable experience! I just disembarked a flight from JFK to Israel, where I am spending the weekend at a Belev Echad reunion with a number of the soldiers we have hosted over the years. While in the air, I couldn’t stop thinking about the horrific treatment Dr. David Dao was subjected to on his flight last week, when he was dragged, bloodied and screaming, off a United Airlines airplane after refusing to give up his seat for a commuting crew member. He was mistreated, physically violated, and grossly disrespected, all because the airline overbooked the flight. He suffered a concussion, a broken nose, a sinus injury, and two broken teeth from the incident. Video footage ignited a firestorm of anger and outrage against United. United has lost several hundred million dollars since the incident, but the real danger is the outraged customers. Polls from Morning Consult revealed that 60% of potential fliers would prefer to take a longer flight with a stop-over on a different airline, than take a direct, quicker flight with United. ~~~~~~~~~ We are all currently on a journey, on an airplane heading towards our destination. We just marked the beautiful holiday of Passover and began the countdown towards Shavuot. It is a mitzvah to count each day in anticipation, until we reach the destination, Shavuot, which marks the day we received the Torah. There are precisely 49 days between these two holidays, and it is a mitzvah to count each and every one. But it’s not just about the counting. The counting period is a time of personal spiritual refinement, a time to work on ourselves and become better people. We may find that just as we’ve settled down, ready to fulfill our mission, we are “kicked off our flight” — i.e., the evil inclination tries to derail us. He wants to kick us out of our seats and off the plane. Instead of focusing on spending quality time with our loved ones, the evil inclination pulls us towards our smart phones which make it all too compelling to ignore everything and everyone nearby. Instead of focusing on helping others and feeling grateful for everything we have, our evil inclination ensures that all we care about is obtaining more and living more luxuriously. Instead of allowing us to cultivate selflessness, he tempts us with self-gratification. Instead of conducting business honestly and morally, he convinces us that it’s ok to lie and cheat. Let’s be conscious of the evil inclination’s attempts to derail us, and stand firm in our decision to stick to the journey, so that we can march forth, unobstructed, to the holiday of Shavuot, and receive the Torah with great joy and excitement.

Brand New Car

Blog.jpgThis week I took our car to a car wash, and not just any car wash. Because I needed to make sure no remnant of chametz remains before Pesach, I chose the VIP wash.

With five kids, trust me, the back of that car was well beyond dirty. In fact, I wondered how in the world they could make that much of a mess!

How would they take my messy car and transform it in a shiny, good-as-new car?

First, the car was cleaned externally. A pressure sprayer covered the car with soap, and together with strong, foam brushes and power-sprayed water, all the layers of dirt on the outside of the car were stripped away.

Next, four attendants worked on the inside of the car. They went through the entire car, vacuuming the floors, wiping down the dashboard, steering wheel, and windows. Nothing was left untouched.

Lastly, three coats of wax were applied to the car, making it as shiny as a brand-new penny.

In just an hour they had completely changed my car. It looked and felt as good as the day I got it.  

This is what Pesach is all about.

Chametz represents the ego and our poor character traits—our bad moods, addictions, etc. When we are commanded to remove all chametz from our possession, it includes this internal chametz too.

It’s time for a major overhaul—internal and external—just like my car. We need to remove every piece of dirt that tarnishes our souls, but unlike a car, we can’t just drive up to a car wash and let the attendants do the work. The only person who can do the deep inner work to remove the blemishes from our souls is us.

So what are we waiting for? Pesach starts in just a few days. Let’s get to work!

I Want Privacy!

Blog.jpgMany Americans are up in arms after the U.S. House of Representatives voted to kill a set of internet privacy rules, paving the way for service providers to share and sell their customers’ sensitive information — including everything from browsing histories and financial records to information on children.

The big internet providers will “sell” this information to marketers and who will send targeted ads based on your likes, searches, and preferences. At the core of the issue is the sense that my browsing history is my personal business. Nobody should know what I like to do, what I like to buy, what movies I like to watch, and any other personal information about me. It’s nobody’s business unless I choose to share. The information is private and belongs solely to me.

In a way, as Jews we already receive targeted “ads” based on our likes and preferences. Every time a person performs a good deed or a sin an angel is created. Everything we do is recorded. 

The Talmud tells us, “In the way that a person wants to go, he will be led. (Tractate Makkot)”

So if Jack wants to spend his Shabbat afternoon visiting sick people in the hospital, he will actually be targeted with “ads” to point him in the right direction. The “ads” might come in the form of friends encouraging him to go, or beautiful weather that makes the long walk tempting or enjoyable.

Or perhaps Sarah wants to give charity. She will receive targeted “ads” which may include an unexpected bonus, an invitation to a fund-raising dinner, or a link to a charity campaign she identifies with.

On the negative side, if we persist with poor habits and unfavorable pursuits, we will be led in that direction too. Let’s say Peter likes to frequent bars where he drinks too much. He may receive targeted “ads” such as a friend inviting him on a bar crawl, or an invitation to an open bar event.

Every time we do either a good deed or a bad one, an angel is created. Those angels then encourage us to pursue either positive or negative behaviors.

As for privacy, it doesn’t truly exist. G-d sees everything, and every thought we have, every word we say, and every action we do, is recorded permanently.

It’s up to us to ensure that the angels we create will be good ones, who will target us with “ads” that will help us do more good deeds, give more charity, help more people, pray more, eat kosher food, and study more Torah.

Mistake in our Torah

Blog.jpegAs a child, my father taught me the art of reading from the Torah—"leining". Since the age of 13, I've been reading from the Torah almost every Shabbat. I've done it in South Africa, Namibia, Sydney, Brazil, London, and more. But this past Shabbat while reading from the Torah I had a unique experience.

As I was leining, I suddenly noticed a letter which should have been a "taf" but was actually written as a "chet," changing the word in question from "et" to "ach". Some of the ink had been scratched off.

The Torah is the foundation of our faith, the reason for our existence, and hence our most sacred possession. In its entirety, the Torah has 304,805 letters, and although the difference between the letters chet and taf is miniscule, this tiny error renders the entire Torah scroll invalid.

I had to stop reading, cover the Torah up, and put it away so that it can be sent to a scribe for fixing.

Every single Jew is like one of those 304,805 letters. If even one Jew in the entire world is sinning, it affects the entire Jewish nation. Our actions are intertwined. It's our responsibility to reach out to our fellow Jews and help them, so that our "scroll" (nation) does not become "invalid."

P.S. Check out the attached picture to see the “mistake” in our Torah.

Brotherly Love!

Blog.jpgThis week our community hosted 12 severely wounded IDF soldiers as our VIP guests. During the trip, one of the soldiers lost his wallet. He was understandably distraught, because the wallet contained all his credit cards, his license, and all the cash he had for the trip.

He searched everywhere without success. He thought it might have been left on the bus, so we called the driver who looked around but didn't find it. We retraced he steps, searching everywhere he had been, to no avail. Not in the hotel room, or the lobby, or any of the other places we looked.

When the other soldiers on the trip saw how devastated he was, they came up with an idea.

In an act of incredible brotherly love, they decided to each contribute $35, for a total of $385, so that he wasn't left with nothing.

Now, these soldiers did not know each other before the trip. They didn't grow up together, weren't friends, didn't serve in the same army units. They were complete strangers. Some are religious, some are atheist. Some lean to the right politically, others to the left. But during the trip they bonded in a unique and lasting way. This generous show of unity—each donating $35 for a friend in need—is but a small example of their newfound friendship.

Ahavat Yisrael—love for one's fellow, is something we all need to learn and implement in our own lives. Let's look to these heroes as examples, and start to focus on all that unites us. 

Forced To Kill A Child

Blog.jpgThis week I met Ran, who was an officer in the Paratrooper brigade of the IDF. In 2003, his brigade was searching a refugee camp for terrorists when a 16-year-old Arab boy surprised them. He was carrying a Molotov cocktail, about to fling it at the soldiers. To save the lives of his fellow troops, Ran had no option other than to shoot the boy.

This image of this child affected Ran tremendously, and he now battles Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on a daily basis.  

This Shabbat is called Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance. On the Shabbat before Purim the weekly Torah reading is supplemented with the Zachor reading, in which we are commanded to remember the evil of Amalek and to eradicate it from this world. Zachor literally means “Remember!” and we read it the week before Purim because on Purim we celebrate the survival of the Jews after Haman, the evil Amalekite, plotted to kill them.

Unfortunately, Amalek is still alive and well in 2017. There is no end to people who want to kill the Jews, as is evidenced by the ongoing terrorism and violent attacks in Israel, as well as the current wave of anti-Semitism in the United States.

The greatest evil in our time is undoubtedly attacks rendered by suicide bombers. Surely, there is no greater crime than educating one’s children to become suicide bombers, and to celebrate people killing others by blowing themselves up.

This Shabbat our 12 Belev Echad guests—all soldiers who have been wounded while fighting the modern day Amalek—will be our guests at our shul. When we remember the commandment to eradicate Amalek, we will have living proof that there is still work to do, and our brave heroes are doing it. 

I Lost My iPad

Blog.jpgA couple of weeks ago I lost my ipad. I rely on it for work, and I also use it to study Torah with people over Facetime. I'm usually very careful with it, and I knew where I'd left it, but alas, it was no longer there. 

And so my search began. 

I scoured my office from top to bottom and hunted through every nook and cranny of my apartment, to no avail. It wasn't in the car either. My wife joined the search, but she had no success either. 

My frustration grew as days passed and I was forced to ask favors and borrow friends' iPhones each time I had a remote learning session scheduled. 

I searched several more times, assuming it had to show up eventually, but it seemed well and truly gone. After all, this is Manhattan; offices and apartments are small—there aren't that many places to look!

But just this past week, when I'd entirely given up on ever finding the errant tablet, one of my children was playing under the dining room table and lo and behold—they found it! It was ingeniously hidden between the leaves that extend the table, a place only my three year old Sara could've reached. 

Relief! I had my iPad back, was feeling eternally grateful, and life could go on as usual. 

A couple of days later, as I ran through Central Park, I listened to a talk given by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. 

The Rebbe explained that when we are in exile, G-d is hiding from us, just as a father hides while playing hide and seek with his child. He wants the child to look for him! G-d hides from us so that we will search for Him. The problem is that G-d has hidden Himself so well that we have stopped searching! The Rebbe cried profusely as he described this deepest part of the exile which we are currently in, where G-d is so hidden that we no longer look for Him. 

Next week we celebrate the holiday of Purim, when we read Megillat Esther—the only book of Tanach in which G-d's name is not mentioned at all. But even though G-d's name is hidden, we still know that all the events told in the Megillah (i.e., the story of Purim) were directed exclusively by Him. 

So let's make a concerted effort not to succumb to the exile; if we actively search for G-d, we will surely find Him present in every aspect of our lives. 

Hamas Refuses To Release His Body!

Blog.jpgLast week we had the privilege of hosting Simha and Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar was murdered in August 2014.

The family’s grief and loss is all the more painful because Hamas kidnapped Hadar’s body and continues to hold it captive, presumably as a bargaining chip for some future exchange of prisoners. 

The Goldin family have experienced the unspeakable pain of not only losing a beloved son in war, but the additional agony of not being able to bury his body properly.

On Shabbat, Simha shared some thoughts with our congregation:

After the destruction of the second Temple, many Jews remained in the city of Beitar. The Romans killed them all, and were so angry that they refused to allow their bodies to be buried.

After some time, a new ruler was appointed who finally allowed the burial. In response, our sages instituted the blessing of “HaTov VeHameitiv,” thanking G-d for His goodness in allowing these Jews to be put to rest.

In Judaism, burial is so important that our sages actually instituted an entire blessing that we continue to say 2,000 years later!

Why is it so important to bury a body? Because the body comes from the dust, and that is where it needs to return in order to find eternal rest. 

The mitzvah of burying a Jewish person is called “chesed shel emet” which means true kindness, because it can never be repaid. It is purely an act of benevolence to someone who has now moved on to the next world, and cannot in any way reciprocate the favor.

Surely, we too can all find ways to show kindness to others in lives without expecting any kind of reciprocity.

We hope and pray that Simha (which means happiness) and Leah Goldin will very soon be able to perform chesed shel emet for their son Hadar, and experience the small measure of comfort that having a grave to pray at will bring.

Then Simha and Leah will be able to make the blessing of HaTov VeHameitiv wholeheartedly, because G-d will have shown them this kindness.

I am tired of fake news. Aren't you?

Blog.pngIn our current 24-hour news climate, people are ever more tuned in to the news—good news, bad news, local news, international news, and of course, politics.

Social media has completely revamped the way people receive and share news, which has led to the extensive propagation of “fake news”–arguably this month’s buzz word.

In fact, according to analysts, fake news about US politics accounted for a staggering 50% of the many, many millions of likes, shares, reactions, and comments that English-language stories generated on Facebook this year.

In recent months, as awareness of just how extensively fraudulent news has been passed around and treated as truth has grown, there has been an outcry from the American public, demanding more clarity and honesty from the media. The people want the truth! And Mark Zuckerberg is committed to using his platform, Facebook, to give it to them.                                                                         -------

When the Jews gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, ready for the greatest spiritual revelation of all time—the Giving of the Torah, they had one demand. “We don’t want fake news,” they said, “We want the Real Thing. We demand to see our King! And the only way to guarantee that, is to hear it from the One True Source—G-d Himself.” They did not want Moses to be the go-between; they wanted to hear the Ten Commandments directly from G-d.

We, too, ought to demand the truth. We ought to demand that G-d reveal Himself to us and show us the truth hidden beneath the world’s physical veneer. We’re sick of the fake news. No more lies, no more corruption, no more temptation. We want to see our King, the ultimate source of Truth, reveal Himself immediately, at the ultimate “press conference”.

Almighty G-d, we are waiting to hear from you now!

I was woken at 3am on Shabbat!

Blog.jpgI was looking forward to sleeping in a little this past Shabbat morning. We hosted guests Friday night and went to bed late, looking forward to getting some rest on the day of rest.

At 3:03am I was sharply jolted awake by my highly effective alarm clock.

I recalled that earlier, before Shabbat, I'd noticed my five-year-old son Zalman playing with the alarm, but I hadn't paid much attention. Clearly, I should have!

Couldn't he have set it for 8:03am?! Or set it any other day of the week when I could simply turn it off, roll over, and go back to sleep? Alas, on Shabbat that is not an option. On the one day of rest, I cannot mute my alarm to go back to resting—how ironic!

Moreover, this is no quick and quiet alarm clock—the type that turns itself off after a minute or two. Mine starts out quietly and becomes increasingly louder the longer it rings. 

I tried covering it with pillows and blankets—I must've collected all the pillows in the house!—but still it rang loud and clear. After 25 minutes, I succumbed and decided my best option would be to get up and begin my day of "rest".

In next week's Torah portion the Jews gather at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. This was the climax of all creation, the very reason for the world's existence. And to begin the grand event, G-d blew a shofar. When a human blows the shofar, it begins loudly, gradually weakening and tapering off. But when G-d blew the shofar, it began softly and gradually gained strength, becoming louder and louder.

G-d wants to help us become accustomed to spirituality in a way that we absorb—one step at a time. First, He gives us a small spoonful, gradually increasing it until we can tolerate a full dosage of G-dliness.

There is a tremendous lesson here. We all have to increase our spirituality daily. We cannot be content with what we accomplished yesterday. If yesterday we did one mitzvah, today we must do two. Like the shofar increasing in resonance, we need to increase the light, spirituality, and G-dliness in our lives each day.

So go out and increase the volume!

Immigration Ban

Blog.jpgVirtually everyone was talking about the immigration ban. 

The country was bitterly divided, wracked with chaos and havoc. Half the citizens felt that the immigrants were terrorists and wanted them out immediately, and at any cost, while the other half felt that as skilled workers, the immigrants would benefit their country financially. 

The immigrants were all Middle Eastern. 

Protests erupted all over the country. 

This led to civil war. Brother turned against brother. Tens of thousands of people were killed. 

The Jews had been enslaved in Egypt for 210 years. After nine devastating plagues befell Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Moses warned Pharaoh that the next plague would kill all the firstborns in the land. 

Hence, all the firstborns wanted the Jews to leave immediately. The Jews had caused too much damage, they said. They turned the Nile into blood, brought frogs, lice, wild animals, locusts, and painful boils upon them, and now the firstborns were to die? How much more terror and devastation could they take?

But the rest of the people saw value in retaining the Jews as slaves and weren't remotely interested in letting them go. They'd built cities and pyramids for free—what could be better for the economy?

This was the very first immigration ban. 

Ultimately, the Jews left Egypt at G-d's behest and were brought to the Land of Israel.  

                                                                 -------

In just a few days we mark the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. Very shortly before his passing he gave a Chassidic discourse which began with the words “I have come into my garden.” A year later, when the Rebbe took over the Chabad movement, he explained that these words are the mission statement of our generation.

G-d wants us to take the world and make it into a home for Him—a better, brighter place.

According to Chassidic teaching, Egypt is the only country in the world that G-d banned us from living within. Why? We have already fulfilled our mission there. Throughout the long years of exile, our ancestors found and elevated every single spark of G-dliness He planted there.  

I have friends who are extremely passionate about the current immigration ban, and I love all my friends. As a rabbi, my job is not to take sides, but to remind my friends and congregants that there is a Boss even higher than the president of the United States—our Father in Heaven. He is the one who has ruled the world since its creation, He is the one Who led us out Egypt and He will surely lead us to peace and prosperity in 2017. 

"Hearts of kings are in the hands of G-d, and He turns them whichever way He desires" (Proverbs 21:1). So, this Shabbat, let us congregate at shul and pray that G-d guide this administration to do what is right and just in a way that will bring G-d's presence into the world, to make it a home for Him and to make this "garden" into a better, brighter place. 

Will You Take the Call?

Blog.jpgAt 8:25am on Monday morning I dialed 911 to request police assistance.

At 8:46am, with no sign of anyone, I called again and they assured me they were on their way.

At 9:52 I was still waiting, and I called to speak to a supervisor who again assured me they would be there shortly.

At 10:11am, same story.

Finally, after waiting more than two hours, I left the scene.

FIVE hours later, a police officer called my cell phone. "We're here on East 80th where you asked for us, but we don't see you. Where are you?"

"Where am I?! I waited over two hours for you; do you really think I'm still sitting here waiting five hours later?"

What happened?

On Monday morning I woke up early and went to pray, planning to get an early start at the office. I dropped my daughter off at her bus stop and while my car was parked, a truck backed up and smashed into the hood of my car, tearing it apart. For insurance purposes, I needed a police report, which is why I dialed 911 to begin with.

“When you called,” explained the police office, “the dispatcher asked you if anyone was hurt. You said no. They asked if anyone was trapped. You said no. They asked if the cars were blocking traffic and you said no. This established that there was no emergency and so we first responded to all urgent calls first. Now that we are finally free, we’re here at the scene. We have to prioritize the urgent.”

I thanked the policemen and we resolved the issue, but as I was doing so, I realized my experience contained an important lesson.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe promised that we are the last generation in exile; we will witness the coming of Moshiach in our days! In order to make that happen, he issued an urgent call to every single one of us. URGENT! Do a mitzvah today. Not in five and a half hours; stop and do it now. This will hasten the coming of Moshiach.

In fact, the same thing happens in this week’s parsha. The Jews are in Egypt, in distress, enslaved for 210 years, afflicted, tortured, and abused. 

Finally, the long-awaited call arrived. Moses conveyed G-d’s announcement that the exile was over. Time to pack and prepare to leave immediately! But, the Torah tells us, the Jews didn’t believe Moses. They were so despondent from all their years of subjugation that they did not believe redemption was even a possibility. They did not heed the emergency call.

Let’s not fall prey to the same mindset. We must pay attention and respond to the urgent call the Rebbe put out—do everything in our power to prepare for our exodus from our current exile. It is imminent!

President Trump, Remember Joseph

Blog.jpgPresident-Elect
Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Dear Mr. Trump,

Congratulations on your inauguration. On January 20th, at exactly noon, you will become the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. The whole world will be watching you as you take the oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion we also read about an inauguration that took place for a nation that was then the most dominant on earth: Egypt.

The outgoing ruler, Joseph, had led the country as viceroy for 40 years and then as Pharaoh for another 40 years. Joseph successfully guided the nation through the severe starvation crisis, establishing himself as an influential and charismatic leader.

But then, “A new king arose in Egypt that did not know Joseph." The new Pharaoh took over, immediately setting plans into motion to enslave, afflict and torture the Jews, despite the fact that the Jews had saved his country. 

That verse tells us all. Pharaoh became the supreme leader commanding the most powerful person nation on earth, but he led his people to disaster and ended up losing all his power. Right here, in this verse describing his inauguration, the Torah explains to us how he destroyed himself and led his country to a downfall: ingratitude. 

Joseph was the one who saved Egypt from starvation, led the country for 80 years, molding it into the powerful empire it was, and along comes the new Pharaoh and completely dismisses his contribution. He ended up ignoring and being ungrateful to G-d as well. 

President Trump, when history is written, let it be written thus: "And a new president arose that knew Joseph." The key to a successful presidency lies in these words. Be grateful, thank G-d every day, appreciate His gift, appreciate His wisdom, acknowledge G-d in your life and you will be an extremely successful 45th president!

May G-d bless you to lead this great country with humility, to unite this country with wisdom and courage, to be a very effective president and to make America great again!

Yours truly,

image1 copy.png

 

Rabbi Uriel Vigler
Manhattan, NY

 

Hamas hacks the IDF!

youve-been-hacked.pngHacking has been in the news non-stop lately. Did Russia hack the elections? Was it all just hype? We may never know. But another hacking story broke this week, albeit with much lessfanfare.

Hamas hacked the IDF.

We know Israel’s security is top-notch, so how did Hamas manage to penetrate?

They bided their time, thinking long and hard, until they managed to identify and target a weak spot. When they found it, they struck. What did they use? A honey trap!

Hamas operatives posed as attractive, young Israeli women by assuming their identities and making contact with soldiers, mainly through Facebook. Following contact with soldiers, the Hamas operatives would attempt to engage in an intimate virtual relationship and convince soldiers to download a messaging app that would allow for video chatting.

The app was actually a Trojan horse, which gave Hamas total control over the device and allowed the terrorist organization to activate the camera and microphone, access contacts, videos and photos, and even Whatsapp conversations and emails—all without the soldier being aware.

Moreover, Hamas also managed to delete the application from the devices, while simultaneously installing more sophisticated monitoring and control applications without leaving a trace.

Fortunately, the IDF quickly caught wind of the ploy and no major military secrets were revealed.

It is the approach here that stands out: first they made themselves look like friends, then they turned around and stabbed Israel in the back!

We may not be soldiers in the IDF, but we have had similar experiences in a spiritual sense. Every single one of us was born good. We want to do the right thing. We don’t want to sin. We don’t want to fight with our neighbors and friends. We don’t want to lie or cheat or hurt anyone. We are good people.

But our evil inclination wants to hack us and harm us. In fact, the evil inclination actually has three faces: First it entices you to sin (evil inclination), then it is the prosecuting angel in Heaven (Satan), and then it is the Angle of death.

The goal of the evil inclination is to harm us, to kill us, to take our souls away—it is the angle of death. But how can it accomplish this when we are so very well protected?

So what the yetzer hara (evil inclination) does is pose as our friend. He honey traps us. He explains to us how sweet and how delicious this piece of shrimp is. Then he tells us how delicious and how sweet it is to slander somebody and he uses our tongue to speak mockingly all day long. Ahh ,how sweet it is! Then he convinces us to get into a deliciously virulent argument with somebody else because it is so pleasurable to him. And on, and on.

And then, when he’s turned us so far from our innate goodness that we hardly recognize ourselves, the yetzer hara goes on high to become our prosecuting angel, and then once that is done he kills us

It’s up to us to take precautions to ensure we won’t be hacked. Just like the IDF is now running training sessions for its soldiers, to make sure they know how to recognize and detect honey traps, we need to sign ourselves up for an extra dose of Torah study, an extra mitzvah, to build up our armor and protect ourselves from the devilish ways of the wily evil inclination.

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.