Tag Archives: NJJewishNews

In the News: Passover 5773: Why these apps are different from all other apps

Screen Shot 2013-03-21 at 7.36.34 AMFrom the New Jersey Jewish News

by Rabbi Daniel M. Cohen, March 20, 2013

Passover is upon us and, as with all things Jewish, preparation is a key part of observing the festival.

If you use an iOS or Android tablet or phone, your mobile device can help you get ready to mark the retelling of our people’s seminal tale. Here are a few apps worth checking out.

Haggadah for Passover(tinyurl.com/a2z8nxa). Since the very word “Seder” means “order,” it is great to review the order of the Passover meal. This app lets you do just that. Better still, it is simple, accurate, and it doesn’t look like a kid’s app. In fact, this eHaggadah is good enough that one could easily use it as the framework of their seder, adding to it with readings and songs. If you use Android, then you might want to try one of the Haggadot in the Google Play Android store (tinyurl.com/b2y3uuq).

Can you name all ten plagues? In order? In Hebrew and English? If you answered “no,” then you’ll want to downloadPassover—The Ten Plagues(tinyurl.com/c5v5jwv), a simple and fun app. It helps you learn (or relearn) the plagues that are said to have struck Egypt as a precursor to yitziat mitzrayim, the Exodus from Egypt. Instead of being dry and heavy-handed in its approach, this app uses colorful drawings and funny sounds to make learning enjoyable.

According to tradition, the Israelites left Egypt on the 15th of Nissan (the first day of Passover), and arrived at Mount Sinai on the sixth of Sivan. It is now Jewish practice to verbally keep track of the 49 days between the festivals of Passover and Shavuot by “Counting the Omer.” This period of ritual counting was intended to prepare our ancestors, and us, to receive the Torah. If you are anything like me, then you need daily reminders of actions that take place at a specific time each day; that’s whereSefirat HaOmer (tinyurl.com/a9dqmrs) comes in handy. You can set a daily reminder, and when the alarm goes off you’ll even have the appropriate blessing in hand.

It is now tradition to study one chapter of the short Talmudic Text each Shabbat from Pesach to Shavuot. This short work of Pirkei Avot — Ethical Teachings — contains a great deal of wisdom from the early rabbis of our tradition. It is there we learn, “Do not say ‘I will study when I have the time,’ for perhaps you will never have time.”

Buy Ethics of the Sages (tinyurl.com/asc34b3, $16.99) and set a fixed time between Passover and Shavuot to study. You’ll be amazed at how relevant these teaching are, even 2,000 years later.

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Our ancestors left Egypt and made their way to the land of Israel. Their 40 years of wandering helped insure they would not take their freedom, or their land, for granted. Millennia later we are once again free in the land of our ancestors. Here are two apps for 5773.

The 2013 AIPAC Policy Conference is over, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t learn about the U.S.-Israel relationship! The AIPAC Policy Conference 2013 app (tinyurl.com/cn2t5fh, free) includes photos from the conference as well as videos of many of the talks and demonstrations. Among the speeches you’ll see and hear are Vice President Joe Biden, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And because AIPAC is committed to working with any and all Israeli and American administrations, speeches from Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) are found back to back.

If you want to learn to speak Hebrew, there are two main approaches you might take. First, you can move to Israel, register for an ulpan, and study for nine hours a day, six days a week, for ten weeks (give or take). It is intense, overwhelming, and a challenge — but it really works. Trust me on all counts!

The second way is through Rosetta Stone. The company’s offerings are pricey, but their approach really works. And with their TOTALe Studio HD system (tinyurl.com/d3wbyjo), you can now access Rosetta Stone’s language acquisition courses on your iPad. I’m planning a congregational trip to Israel next December; I found myself needing a refresher course, so I recently became a subscriber.

From the NJJewishNews…

An unworthy debate

Politics has always been a bit nasty, a bit dirty. There is no question about that. But recent attacks on Sen. Frank Lautenberg — including name calling, ageism, and EZ Pass distractions — raise the question as to whether or not there is any limit to which those in politics will go these days. It is distasteful and it is offensive. And with so many critical issues facing us today, it is yet one more meaningless distraction from the real work that needs to get done.

A point of transparency: I know Sen. Lautenberg and have for many years. When I grew up in Berkeley Heights, my parents were active in state and national politics. I was 17 when the senator was first elected and my parents could not have been prouder. They had also grown up in working class Jewish families and were proud to see someone who built a successful business now turn his attention to public service.What could be better? Over the years the refrain of “Dan, did you hear what Senator Lautenberg just did?” was heard over and over from them. And for good reason; Sen. Lautenberg has, time and again, stood up for those most vulnerable in our society.

When I first came to my synagogue, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange, in 1992, I was surprised to find that it had as its member, Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Early on, he invited me to join him and open a session of the Senate. It was one of the great honors of my life, and I could not have been prouder, especially since, at that very moment, my senator was at the forefront of breaking the tobacco industry’s stranglehold over our nation.

It is against that backdrop that I write this letter. Because, quite simply, the recent barrage against Sen. Lautenberg has been unfairly harsh and inappropriate. The senator has a long and distinguished record of philanthropy, leadership, and good works. To refer to him — a WWII veteran who has served in the Senate with distinction for nearly 30 years — as a “partisan hack” or to obliquely and in a rather brash manner suggest the senator is too old to serve is unbecoming the governor of the Garden State. (And, having spoken with the senator numerous times in recent months, I can state with certainty that the man is not too old for anything!)

I have no issue with Gov. Christie criticizing the senator’s voting record. None. And I have no issue with him debating their differences on the current university merger. None. The two men come from different ends of the political spectrum and as a result they have widely divergent views on both the role of government and various social issues. It is that tension, that difference of approach and viewpoint, that can make America great. But that will not happen, it cannot happen, when one side or the other resorts to name-calling, bullying, and spurious attacks that detract from the real substantive issues.

The rabbis of the Mishna taught, “An argument which is for the sake of Heaven (i.e., worthy of debate) will have a positive outcome, and an argument which is not for the sake of Heaven will not have a positive outcome.” When, time and again, we resort to the lowest form of discourse in the public arena, is there any doubt what the outcome will be?

Rabbi Daniel M. Cohen
Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel
South Orange

Read it on the NJJewishNews Website