ספירת העומר : 17 - היום שבעה עשר יום שהם שני שבועות ושלשה ימים לעומר
Southwest Airlines plans to stop overbooking flights — an industry practice implicated in an ugly incident on a United Airlines flight that has damaged United’s reputation with the flying public. Last year Southwest bumped 15,000 passengers off flights, more than any other U.S. airline. Carriers say they sometimes sell more tickets than there are seats because often a few passengers don’t show up. The practice of overbooking flights has come under intense scrutiny since April 9, when a passenger was dragged off an overbooked United Express plane after refusing to give up hi...
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As seen in the accompanying video, enforcers walk the streets of PA (Palestinian Authority) occupied Beit Lechem, compelling businesses not complying with the general strike ordered by Ramallah to do so. PA leaders in Ramallah called for a general strike to show solidarity with the hunger strike being held by some terrorists imprisoned in Israel, an effort headed by Fatah Tanzim faction leader Marwan Barghouti. Barghouti himself is serving five life sentences for his acts of terror.
According to a report appearing in dati leumi BaSheva weekly last week, IDF Chief Rabbi Eyal Karim and his predecessor Rabbi Rafi Peretz were both partners in the formulation of the plan to integrate combat units to permit women and men to serve side-by-side. The new plan has led to widespread condemnation among the overwhelming number of rabbonim including the dati leumi community. A number of prominent poskim in the dati leumi community have already announced religious soldiers may not serve in or command such units, even if they are compelled to resign their command and lose the source of their parnasa. In response, Rabbi Karim instructed a member of his staff to pen a letter, which was sent to military rabbis clarifying his position. “The work of the IDF staff in relation to th...
Some 400 demonstrators came out to protest Israeli Ambassador to the UK Mark Regev’s appearance at a prominent London university on Thursday, with one protester recorded saying that the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were “cowards.” According to footage posted on social media, the demonstrators filled the campus of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), waving Palestinian flags and “bloodied” Israeli flags, blaring music and chanting the popular call for the destruction of the Jewish state, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free.” There were about 100 pro-Israel counter-demonstrators, according to eyewitnesses, some of whom attempted to converse with the other side, but rep...
President Donald Trump is once again taking aim at a federal appeals court district that covers Western states, saying he is considering breaking up a circuit that is a longtime target of Republicans and is where his first travel ban was halted. Yet it would take congressional action to break up the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Republicans have introduced bills this year to do just that. Asked Wednesday during a White House interview by the Washington Examiner if he’d thought about proposals to break up the court, Trump replied, “Absolutely, I have.” “There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It’s outrageous,” he told the Examiner. He accused critics of appealing to the 9th “because they know that’s like, semi-auto...
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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced an enforcement and public education campaign aimed at motorists who pass stopped school buses. State and local law enforcement agencies from across the state will participate in “Operation Safe Stop” on Thursday, April 27, 2017, and drivers passing school buses that are stopped and flashing their red lights will be ticketed. The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and the New York Association for Pupil Transportation have collaborated on the enforcement and education initiative since October 2003. “Operation Safe Stop has played a critical role in raising awareness and urging motorists to pay attention to the road and abide by the law,” Governor Cuomo said. “With this campaign, we can help protect the safety of o...
MK (Machane Tzioni) Shelly Yacimovich is running for the leadership of the Histadrut National Labor Federation.  Yacimovich enjoys the backing of the Shas party in her bid for the top labor spot, and this allegedly is resulting in the labor union retaliating against Shas. During her address before the Chareidi Institute for Policy Studies, Yacimovich spoke of the “Attempts to de-legitimize my candidacy for the chairmanship of the Histadrut are surprising me every time, and there is a perception that the Histadrut chairman’s role goes from man to man and that a woman can only deal with the leadership of Na’amat. For 97 years, there has not been a woman heading by the Histadrut, which suffers from extreme under-representation of women in senior positions. “97...
This week’s parsha discusses tzaraas, a spiritually-caused physical affliction that was primarily the result of Loshon Hara, gossiping or speaking negatively about another (Arachin 15b). When one was afflicted with tzaraas, he was required to go to the Kohen who would verify the tzaraas and pronounce him impure. Interestingly, the severe status of impurity did not begin at the time that tzaraas appeared on the body. Rather, even if many kohanim and experts verified that one had tzaraas for a long period of time, the impurity only began once the Kohen VERBALIZED that he is impure (Negaim 3:1). His impurity relied so greatly on the Kohen’s verbalization, in fact, that if the Kohen recognized tzaraas but delayed his verbal declaration, out of respect for a sheva brachos (one'...
The Senate on Thursday confirmed Alex Acosta as secretary of labor, filling out President Donald Trump's cabinet as he approaches his 100th day in office. The 60-38 vote confirms Acosta to the post. Once sworn as the nation's 27th secretary of labor, the son of Cuban immigrants will lead an a sprawling agency that enforces more than 180 federal laws covering about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. Acosta has been a federal prosecutor, a civil rights chief at the Justice Department and a member of the National Labor Relations Board. He will arrive at the top post with relatively little clear record on some of the top issues facing the administration over key pocketbook issues, such as whether to expand the pool of American workers eligible for overtime pay....
Parsha Hashavua
Parshas Tazria/Metzora - A Fresh Perspective On Loshon Hara

This week’s parsha discusses tzaraas, a spiritually-caused physical affliction that was primarily the result of Loshon Hara, gossiping or speaking negatively about another (Arachin 15b). When one was afflicted with tzaraas, he was required to go to the Kohen who would verify the tzaraas and pronounce him impure. Interestingly, the severe status of impurity did not begin at the time that tzaraas appeared on the body. Rather, even if many kohanim and experts verified that one had tzaraas for a long period of time, the impurity only began once the Kohen VERBALIZED that he is impure (Negaim 3:1). His impurity relied so greatly on the Kohen’s verbalization, in fact, that if the Kohen recognized tzaraas but delayed his verbal declaration, out of respect for a sheva brachos (one's wedding day and the 6 festive days that follow) that a person with tzaraas is in the midst of, the impurity only took effect after the Kohen ARTICULATED that the man is impure, instead of from the time of the actual affliction (Nega’im 3:4).


When it comes to all other cases of impurity, one was considered impure from the moment that the cause of impurity occurred. Why did tzaraas, in particular, require the words of the Kohen in order for the impurity to commence?


Perhaps we can answer this by addressing another question: Hashem created this world with dibur, words (see parshas Bereishis). Why did Hashem specifically do so with the spoken word, instead of through thought or some other means?


Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis was hired by the Vienna General Hospital in Europe on July 1, 1846, to work in the maternity ward. There were two maternity clinics in the hospital at the time. The first clinic had a maternal mortality rate of about 10%. The second clinic's rate was considerably lower, averaging less than 4%. Inexplicably, even mothers who gave birth in their homes had a better health rate than those that gave birth in the first clinic. Semmelweis was severely troubled by this, but he couldn’t figure out what the cause could be. The two clinics used practically identical techniques. The only major difference was the individuals who worked there. The first clinic was run by medical students who came to deliver babies after their morning work with cadavers (dead bodies), while the second clinic was exclusively run by midwives.


The breakthrough occurred in 1847. Dr.Semmelweis concluded that the medical students carried "germs" on their hands from the cadavers in the autopsy room to the patients they examined in the first clinic. This explained why the student midwives in the second clinic, who were not engaged in autopsies and had no contact with corpses, saw a much lower mortality rate.


The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed. Thus, Semmelweis concluded some unknown "cadaverous material" caused childbed fever. He instituted a policy of using a solution of chlorinated lime for washing hands between autopsy-work and the examination of patients. The results were simply incredible. The mortality rate in the first clinic dropped dramatically from 10% to 1.9%. In the year following his discovery, the death rate was 0%.


Unfortunately, Dr. Semmelweis’ failure to convince his fellow doctors of “invisible germs” led to a tragic conclusion. Dr. Semmelweis's hypothesis, that there was only one cause of disease, that all that mattered was cleanliness, was extreme at the time and was largely ignored, rejected, or ridiculed. His practices of cleanliness and his belief in germs were completely disregarded by the other doctors and many patients died as a result of their ignorance. Semmelweis was promptly dismissed from the hospital and harassed by the medical community. His contemporaries, including his wife, believed he was losing his mind, and in 1865, nearly twenty years after his breakthrough, he was committed to an asylum. Semmelweis's practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur developed the germ theory of disease, offering a theoretical explanation for Semmelweis's findings.


Living Inspired


Like germs, Loshon Hara is an invisible killer, one that can cause very real and devastating destruction if precautionary measures are not taken seriously. While its harm cannot be seen by the naked eye, it can cause severe destruction on our relationships with our fellow Jew and our own well-being both in This World, as well as in the World to Come.


The greatest danger of Loshon Hara is the fact that while it is more severe than idolatry, adultery, and murder combined (Yerushalmi, Pe’ah 1), its results are invisible, leaving the great risk of its danger being taken too lightly. Indeed, one could easily make the mistake of thinking that words are utterly harmless and that they have no real impact on the world or the people around them. In order to dispel this notion, and in order to demonstrate the power of speech, Hashem specifically created the entire universe with WORDS. It is also for this reason that when it comes to tzaraas, the punishment for Loshon Hara, the Torah put so much power specifically in the WORDS of the Kohen. This was intended to demonstrate just how real, potent, and concrete our words are. They have the ability to create worlds and nurture spiritual growth and, at the same time, they have the ability to utterly destroy them.


The Chofetz Chaim’s lifetime efforts to make the world aware of the incredible danger of Loshon Hara can, in a sense, be compared to Dr.Semmelweis’ efforts to make the world aware of germs*. Will you take the Chofetz Chaim’s very strong warnings regarding the danger of Loshon Hara to heart, thereby saving our nation from exile, not to mention your own personal spirituality and relationships? Will you follow his paramount advice to study the laws of Loshon Hara daily? Or will you choose to disregard, ignore and reject his advice, as Dr.Semmelweis‘s peers did? This monumental life decision is ours.


________________________


*- The Chofetz Chaim devoted his life to writing his magnum opus, the "Sefer Chofetz Chaim”, which compiles the various biblical sources describing the gravity of the sin of Loshon Hara, its detrimental effects, as well as the overall laws of proper speech. He urged every Jew to study his work daily.

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Washington - A congressional committee on Thursday asked the Justice Department to consider criminally prosecuting a technology services company that was involved in maintaining a private email server for Hillary Clinton. The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee accused Colorado-based Platte River Networks and its chief executive, Treve Suazo, of withholding documents demanded under subpoena and obstructing the committee’s investigation “at every turn.” The allegations were made in a referral to Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was obtained by The Associated Press. A lawyer for the company did not immediately comment. A referral for prosecution from Congress has no practical impact on the Justice Department, which decides on its own whether evidence exists...
Milwaukee - A Wisconsin man was removed from a Delta Air Lines flight after using the bathroom against crew instructions shortly before takeoff. Kima Hamilton says he urgently needed to use the bathroom April 18 while on a Milwaukee-bound plane in Atlanta. He says takeoff was delayed and the flight wasn’t moving, so he decided to go. Cellphone video shows Delta agents asked Hamilton to de-board after he got back to his seat, but he refused. The crew emptied the aircraft and allowed everyone but Hamilton back on. Delta says it’s imperative passengers comply with crew instructions, especially at critical points of takeoff and landing. Hamilton says FBI agents met him at the gate but didn’t arrest him. He got a partial refund but says it wasn’t enough to cover anot...
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Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) on Thursday said revenue from its cloud business, advertising and subscription services rose in the first quarter, helping it beat profit expectations and sending its shares to an all-time high in extended trading. The world's largest online retailer said net income rose 41 percent to $724 million, or $1.48 per share, marking the eighth straight quarter that Amazon - known among investors for heavy spending and roller-coaster results - posted a net profit. Analysts on average were expecting $1.12 per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Amazon's revenue has soared in recent years, as shopping has shifted online and businesses have moved their IT to the cloud where Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the biggest player. Some investors had questioned if ...
West Bank - Palestinians across the West Bank are observing a general strike in support of hundreds of hunger-striking prisoners held by Israel. Palestinians say between 1,300 and 1,500 prisoners have been on a hunger strike for 11 days, demanding better conditions and more contact with relatives. Israel puts the number at about 1,100. The widely observed strike in the West Bank and east Jerusalem reflects the Palestinian consensus on prisoners. In 50 years of Israeli rule, hundreds of thousands have been jailed by Israel at some point, affecting virtually all Palestinian families. Qadoura Fares, who runs the Prisoners’ Club advocacy group, said Thursday’s strike “reflects the large public concern” for the prisoners. In Ramallah, shops closed and public transpor...
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Washington - President Donald Trump on Thursday unleashed a tweetstorm of criticism of Democrats involved in tense negotiations on a spending bill to keep the government open, accusing them of trying to close national parks and jeopardize the safety of U.S. troops over demands to provide Americans with health care. The talks involving congressional Republicans and Democrats had progressed relatively smoothly after the White House had backed off a threat to withhold payments that help lower-income Americans pay their medical bills and Trump dropped a demand for money for the border wall. A temporary funding bill expires Friday at midnight, and GOP leaders late Wednesday came out with a short-term spending bill through May 5 to prevent a government shutdown this weekend. The House and Sen...
Toms River, NJ - A badly decomposed whale has been hauled off a New Jersey beach. The Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center says the 43-foot whale may have been a Sei whale, but the poor condition of the carcass makes a firm identification difficult. The condition also makes it difficult to determine how the whale died. The carcass had been floating offshore for at least three days before washing ashore Wednesday morning in the beach town of Toms River. Authorities roped the animal off with crime scene tape to keep a crowd of onlookers at a distance. Technicians from the stranding center used giant knives atop 6-foot-long wooden poles to slice the whale into smaller pieces. Public works crews then used front-end loaders to drag and carry the pieces away.
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New York - Traveling through the nation’s busiest transit hub, New York’s Pennsylvania Station, will become even more cumbersome as Amtrak takes some tracks out of service for repairs after recent derailments disrupted travel for hundreds of thousands of commuters in recent weeks. The construction will create further headaches for passengers, but Wick Moorman, Chief Executive Officer of the national passenger rail company, said in a call with reporters on Thursday that replacing some of the infrastructure is “critical.” “We all clearly understand there has been a sense of frustration,” Moorman said. “It is our goal to cause the least amount of disruption.” The bulk of work should be finished by the end of summer 2017, but some weekend work...
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Bethpage, NY - Thousands of mourners gathered at the Long Island funeral of William Tolley (TUH’-lee), a New York City firefighter who fell to his death last week while battling a fire a Queens. Tolley’s casket was carried into St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church in Bethpage Thursday morning to the sound of bagpipes as firefighters, some from as far as Chicago, Detroit and Louisiana, stood at attention. In their eulogies, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro (NY’-groh) commended the 42-year-old Tolley for being “truly something special” and Mayor Bill de Blasio praised him for living “the way we should all live.” Tolley was on the roof of an apartment building when he fell five stories. Investigators still don’t know what caused him to fal...
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