Friday, February 28, 2003

Shabbat-O-Gram, February 28, 2003, I Adar 27, 5763

Shabbat-O-Gram, February 28, 2003, I Adar 27, 5763

Shabbat Shekalim

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman, Temple Beth El, Stamford, Connecticut

Previous Shabbat-O-Grams can be accessed directly from our web site (

Shabbat Shalom

“Be twice as happy, it’s Adar 2”

The sages remarked that Adar, which contains the raucous festival of Purim, is the most joyous of months.  Because this year is a Jewish leap year, we have two Adars, the second of which we usher in next Tuesday and Wednesday.  Given the state of the world at this moment, we need that joy!  In past years, we’ve had comedy nights around Purim and other “fun” stuff.  This year we have “lots” to look forward to as Purim approaches.  I propose that we get things rolling in the right way, and hereby declare this Shabbat Morning to be…

Beth El’s 1st Annual Jewish Joke Day.

So join us this week, and bring your favorite Jewish joke along as well (only keep ‘em clean!)




Friday Night:

Candles: 5:26 PM 

“Family Friday” Kabbalat Shabbat Service: 7:30 PM, in the sanctuaryfeaturing our Junior Choir

Shabbat Morning: Jewish Joke Day

Service: 9:30 AM

Mazal Tov to Jeffrey Brandt and Allison Bank, who are soon to be married and will come up to the Torah for their Ufruf this Shabbat morning here.

Children’s services: 10:30 AM

Torah Portion: Vayakhel   (Construction of the tabernacle – many of the laws regarding Shabbat labor are derived from this portion)

This is also Shabbat Shekalim, the first of a series of special Sabbaths leading up to Purim and Passover.  These special portions remind us to get our affairs in order, to be spiritually ready to “leave Egypt” once again.  “Shekalim” are coins, and we read of the half-shekel tax that all Israelites, rich or poor, paid.  This focuses our thoughts on the need for everyone to take responsibility for the upkeep of vital communal institutions.  In addition to the Shekel tax, which was minimal, people made voluntary contributions to the construction of the sanctuary, as described in this week’s portion.  In Ex. 36, in fact, it states that the outpouring of donations was so great that Moses had to persuade the people to stop giving!  That enormous sigh you hear is the simultaneous moaning of every Jewish communal leader everywhere, saying “Halavai (If only it were so)!” The special Haftarah for Shekalim also focuses on capital fundraising, for the temple in Jerusalem – and here the emphasis is on how the money was carefully accounted for so that it would only be used for its stated purpose.

Read the Masorti commentary at JTS commentary is at: USCJ Torah Sparks can be found at UAHC Shabbat Table Talk discussions are at Other divrei Torah via the Torahnet home page: Test your Parasha I.Q.: CLAL's Torah commentary archive:  Nehama Liebowitz archives of parsha commentaries:  For a more Kabbalistic/Zionist perspective from Rav Kook, first Chief Rabbi of Israel, go to

Morning MinyanDaily at 7:30 AM, Sunday at 9:00 AM in the chapel

Reminder of our “No School No Shul” policy: On days when Stamford public schools are cancelled or delayed, morning minyan is also cancelled.  On Sunday, when our religious school is cancelled because of weather, minyan is also cancelled.   Friday night and Shabbat morning services are never cancelled, but people are asked to use their own good judgment (we call it “sechel”) on days when the weather is very bad.




Please note: USCJ has established a new listserv,, for families of our Jewish active military.  TheBrave@USCJ is a new listserv established and hosted by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism for the families of  Jewish active duty military.   Our servicemen and women face the uncertainties of the coming months ; those who love them are discovering the need to be brave, just as those who serve.  This listserv provides a place for family members to feel
connected to others who understand this unique challenge.  To subscribe to the list, simply send an E-Mail message to with NO SUBJECT (some providers demand one so use a "," or a SPACE) and type "subscribe the brave Your Name" as the message.  
Or join the list via the web at:


 “E-mail from the Front” 

As these fateful weeks continue, more new “E-mail from the Front” keeps coming in.  Go to and scroll down to the most recent entries.



Spiritual Journey on the Web 






 God and Taxes



            As mentioned above, this week is Shabbat Shekalim.  Why name a Shabbat, of all days, after Israeli currency? 


            As Rabbi Yitz Greenberg writes in, "The Jewish Way," "More than any other holiday, Shabbat reflects the changing moods and concerns of Clal Yisrael (the collectivity of Israel).... In the weeks before Passover, four special Shabbat days prepare the community agenda: Shabbat Shekalim, the occasion to give the annual gift to the national treasury for Temple sacrifices;  Shabbat Zachor (Remember), a reminder of the Amalekite genocidal assault on Israel and the ongoing dangers of anti-Semitism; Shabbat Parah (Red Heifer), the declaration of the need to purify in preparation for the Paschal lamb sacrifice and the central national feast; and Shabbat Hachodesh (the Month), an announcement of the arrival of the month of Passover, the new year of liberation." 

           The fact that Shabbat Shekalim always comes at the time when I need to be reminded to get my own taxes in order is one way that I have tried to imbue even the secular calendar with the rhythms of Jewish sacred time.  It also reminds me that the giving of taxes is in itself a sacred activity.  Corny as it seems, I actually improvise a bracha when I put my completed tax forms in the mail, realizing that this money is going to help people who are in need, and help this nation maintain its position moral leadership, not to mention the fact that some of this money also helps to preserve Israel's security.  If you're looking for a blessing to recite, take a peek at the "Birchot Ha-Shachar" the morning blessings (p.14 of our Shabbat prayer book); almost all of them work.  Or look at the second blessing of the Amidah, where we describe God’s heroic characteristics (known as “G’vurot,”), including “lifting up the fallen, healing the ill, releasing the bound and reviving the dead (including those spiritually dead)” and realize that these are really challenges designed to bring out the God-like qualities in each of us.   These are things we try to do individually, and, through or taxes, collectively for society as a whole. 


            I am still idealistic enough to think that maybe our actions as a nation over the next several weeks will make the world a safer place – and I am willing to pay the price for that in the form of taxes.  I am still corny enough to think that America can make life better for suffering people far from our shores and rid the world of a dictator who threatens millions.


            Here are some web sites to explore on the topic of money and spirituality, from various faith traditions: has lots of articles.  See especially “Does Affluence Fuel Spirituality?” at   Go to to see a Christian perspective of how Jews tried to buck the system when it came to paying taxes to the corrupt Roman Caesars.   Then look at what other faiths expect their adherents to give, at  – and be glad you’re not a Baha’i! Finally go to the Beliefnet quiz, “Is it OK to Cheat on Your Taxes?”  Take the quiz.  Be honest!  Now click to find out how others responded.  Fascinating responses!


            On a related topic, read Nat Hentoff’s background piece in the Village Voice about school vouchers, at  It’s one thing for tax paying to be a spiritual experience, and quite another for our taxes  -- and therefore our government - to promote one or another faith’s particular view of God. No, I’m not in favor of using taxpayer money to promote any particular religion. 


            Nonetheless, the filing of our taxes is a profoundly religious act.  It is an act of Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world.








Required Reading and Action Items 





“Facing East,” my latest column in the Jewish Week, can be found at


Jerusalem of White: Spectacular photos of Jerusalem in the snow:

Banned Iraqi Missile Might Well be Used in War - Greg Miller (Los Angeles Times)

Israeli Academics Hit Back against Boycott After a year of suffering outright hostility, verbal abuse, and countless snubs, Israeli scientists and intellectuals have begun fighting back against European and American colleagues who are boycotting Israel.. Tens of thousands of Europeans and Americans have signed anti-boycott petitions, compared with several hundred who have signed pro-boycott petitions. (Boston Globe)

Sharon's Revised "Road Map" - Aluf Benn
Prime Minister Sharon is conducting a quiet diplomatic race in an attempt to shape the international "road map" for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sharon wants to replace the current road map with a plan to be approved by Israel and the U.S., neutralizing the EU's influence and its desire to use the road map to impose a settlement.

Prime Minister Sharon's Speech to the Jewish Agency - Feb. 25, 2003 (Prime Minister's Office)

Meridor: Focus on Palestinian Leadership, Not Road Map - Herb Keinon
The international community is making a mistake by focusing on the details of the Quartet's road map, not with the more fundamental issue of a lack of a "central address" on the other side, Dan Meridor, the Likud minister Sharon recently charged with preparing a peace plan for the new government, said Tuesday.
"The main issue is that there is no address, no leader, no partner, no interlocutor on the other side," Meridor said. The problem, Meridor said, is that no one is in control anymore. Even if an agreement on the road map could be reached tomorrow, it would be meaningless because there is nobody on the other side to implement it.

Rocket that Could Strike at the Heart of Israel - James Bone (London Times) The al-Samoud 2 missile appears to have been designed so that it could be fitted with a second engine, making it a much more potent threat than previously realized, missile experts believe.

Appeasing Hitler and Saddam - Alistair Cooke (BBC/FrontPage Magazine) When Hitler broke the First World War peace treaty in 1936 by occupying the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland, he knew that French morale was too low to confront any war just then and 10 million of 11 million British voters had signed a so-called peace ballot. The slogan of this movement was "Against war and fascism" - a slogan that now sounds as imbecilic as "against hospitals and disease." In blunter words, a majority of Britons would do absolutely anything to get rid of Hitler, except fight him. So many of the arguments mounted in the last fortnight are exactly what we heard at that time in the House of Commons debates and read in the French press. The French especially urged "negotiation, negotiation." They negotiated so successfully as to have their whole country defeated and occupied. After the Rhineland, the maverick Churchill started a highly unpopular campaign for rearmament by Britain, warning that Hitler had already built an enormous mechanized army and superior air force. But he's not used them - people protested.

Thanks to David Wolff for forwarding this Answers to Your Questions about Elevated Threat Level.  (Just in case it goes up to code orange again)…and when and if it does, also see Spiritual Rx for Fighting Fear .

Thanks to Marsha Colten for forwarding this beautiful multimedia pieceInterview With God   

Thanks to Beth Boyer for this web update on boycotts and rumors…check out and enter “boycott Israel” into the search engine. 

Thanks to Susan Clarke for forwarding this article written by a relative of hers about a fantastic mitzvah project, at 

On February 6, The New York Times reported that orders placed to JNF's 800 number doubled, hitting a record high. Tree orders made through JNF's new Website,, more than quadrupled and the orders have been steadily increasing. Both increases are due almost entirely to the overwhelming response from around the country as people express their condolences by planting trees in honor of the seven astronauts lost aboard the ColumbiaRead The New York Times' article here. The memorial JNF is establishing will be an eco-Zionism center at Ilanot, in the geographical heart of Israel. The site was chosen in honor of Ilan Ramon (Ilanot is the plural of Ilan, which means tree). The center will be a site for thousands of visitors to learn about the environment through scientific research and hands-on educational programming. The center will also include a memorial to the seven Columbia astronauts at which any community, school or individual who would like to donate to the site will be recognized.  Those who wish to plant trees to fulfill Ilan Ramon's request or would like to make a donation toward the new center at Ilanot can do so by calling 800-542-TREE (8733) or visiting JNF will send the tree certificates to the family members of astronauts Rick Husband, William McCool, Michael Anderson, David Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Laurel Clark and Ilan Ramon. Congregations and schools who want to establish a project can call their local JNF office at 888-JNF-0099.

An Action item, courtesy of Sherry Shamir, who directs our attention to the website for PETA because of its inappropriate reference to the Holocaust.  To e-mail PETA,  Click here: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals PETA Ingrid Newkirk animal rights


Take a look at the following photo caption from the Associated Press, and see if you can pick out the one word of bias:

"A Jewish man prays at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in east Jerusalem's Old City, Tuesday Feb. 25, 2003. About 7 inches of snow has fallen in a rare snow storm that swept across Israel, closing major highways and schools and cutting power."

The word is "east" Jerusalem. The caption could just have easily read without that word: "the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site in Jerusalem's Old City." By adding the word "east" Jerusalem, AP subtly suggests that the Western Wall is part of disputed territory, open to negotiations to be given to Palestinians. Such politicizing has no place in a caption about a snowstorm. The bias is subtle, but there nonetheless. And that makes it all the more insidious. HonestReporting encourages members to watch for such subtleties of language, and to complain where appropriate.

Comments to Associated Press:




Quotes of the Week 



 Your Excellency, Brother-President Saddam Hussein, greetings and blessings of Allah to you… I wish with all confidence…that all our brethren in our great nation [will strengthen] their stand beside us… To reduce the suffering of our patient and enduring people, to support our ongoing steadfast resistance in confronting the Israeli war-machine, aggression, murders and destruction… Any kind of support and assistance from you in these difficult times will enable us to continue our…resistance until we put an end to the occupation… [M]ay Allah the Powerful protect Iraq from the great dangers and evils that loom over it…and together, hand in hand [we will march] to Al-Quds Al-Sharif with the help of Allah.”— Telegram sent by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in honor of the ‘Id Al-Adha holiday [the Feast of Sacrifice]. (Al-Jumhuriya, Feb. 5 [MEMRI, Feb. 25])
“The anti-Semitic beast has arisen throughout the world and we must fight it. The Palestinians have gone to great lengths to besmirch Israel’s image in the eyes of the world and we must make a concerted effort to fight [it].  It is as a Jew that I want to address you today. To me, being Jewish is the most important thing.  I am a Jew from Israel, from Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of the State of Israel forever. I have a dream that every Jew in the world will have a chance to visit Jerusalem… We must continue to invest in Zionist education in order to ensure Jewish continuity…”—P.M. Ariel Sharon in a speech to the Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors. (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25)


“The draft agreement signed this past weekend by Shinui Chairman Yosef Lapid and National Religious Party Chairman Effi Eitan…raise[s] concern that in their passion to join the government, Shinui's leaders have given up some of the most significant of their principles: freedom of religion and freedom from religion… Shinui grew on the foundations of changes it proposed to make in civic affairs, and voters who had difficulty choosing on the peace and war issues, decided to try this party. If Shinui turns into another ruling party with no agenda, its fate will be the same as the centrist parties that preceded it.”—Scathing Ha’aretz editorial attacking Shinui for ostensibly having abandoned its commitment to “change” by having agreed to serve in a coalition government with the National Religious Party. The paper argues that the guiding principles drafted by the two parties seemingly leave intact the Orthodox monopoly on Jewish religious affairs. (Ha’aretz, Feb. 24)


“[You are] the prime minister of garbage.”—Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef, maligning P.M. Ariel Sharon for having left the Shas party out of his governing coalition. [Sharon has reportedly authorized a 68-member coalition, which includes Shinui, the National Religious Party, and National Union.] (Jer. Post, Feb. 24; Ha’aretz, Feb. 26)


“People focus only on the read map, whether it needs 100 corrections or just one or two. But this is not the main issue. The main issue is that there is no address, no leader, no partner…on the other side. Of course we don’t like Arafat…but he doesn’t control anything anymore… If this is left alone, we will be faced with an impossible situation…”—Likud MK Dan Meridor (Jer. Post, Feb. 25)














Two Special Programs This Sunday Morning…


  Manginah is Brandeis University's only co-ed Jewish a cappella group. They sing a mix ofliturgical pieces, Israeli pop, and the occasional funny tune about Judaism.   They've performed all over the East Coast, and even had a West Coast tour a few yearsago. Last year, the group put out its second CD. MANGINAH WILL PRESENT TWO CONCERTS DURING REGULAR RELIGIOUS SCHOOL HOURS AT 10:00 a.m. &  AT 11:15 A.M. Parents are welcome to join us in the sanctuary for these special concerts

Jewish and Israeli Artists

With Jonathan Fass, director of Jewish Life and Learning at the JCC.

Sunday,March 2nd and Sunday March 9th

9:30 a.m.– 10:45 a.m. in the Library

  As the People of the Book, we often forget the profound influence that Jews have played in the visual arts.  Join other Jewish historians and art enthusiasts as we explore the life and work of two important Jewish artists who have made a significant contribution both to the arts and to Jewish culture.  On Sunday, March 2 we will explore the work of Marc Chagall, a Russian-born French painter and designer, distinguished for his surrealistic inventiveness.  On Sunday March 9, we will study the work of Israeli artists including Reuven Rubin, Marcel Janco, and Yaacov Agam.

And on Sunday Evening

Join  with out Temple Beth El Discussion Group as Rabbi Hammerman leads a discussion of the controversial new book,

 “The New Rabbi,”

by Stephen Fried

All are invited – it’s at 7:30, on Sunday March 2, at the home of 

Larry and Sue Holzman,

RSVP at 322-7996



Sunday, March 9th 6:00 p.m.

Yana’s Friends

Romantic-Comedy Premiered 2001

  Set in Israel in 1991,"Yana's Friends" revolves around a disparate group of immigrants who come together, as lovers and friends, with the unfortunate circumstances of war (the Gulf War to be exact) looming in the background. The focal point of the film is the coupling of Yana (Evelyn Kapul) and Eli (Nir Levi). A Russian immigrant, Yana is abandoned by her husband shortly after moving into Eli’s apartment in Israel. With creditors hunting her down and a baby on the way, Ana finds herself broke and helpless in a strange land. A s film student who relishes taping his distraught new roomie, Eli becomes enchanted with Yana and repeatedly proves his worth by coming to help her out of jam after jam. Enduring missile attacks from Iraq, during which Israeli citizens are forced to confine themselves in a safe room in their house, Yana and Eli's love blossoms.

  Kaplun bolsters his heartfelt material with a subplot involving a Russian couple who use theircatatonic grandfather to beg for money and end up beginning a war with a neighboring a street musician as they all jockey for sidewalk space. The side story becomes even more interesting when Yana and Eli's landlady recognizes grandpa as her long-lost lover.



Jordan Jacobson’s Improv – Acting Class!



Comedy, Improvisation, theater games and fun – that’s what acting class here at Temple Beth-El is all about!

Whether it’s getting your child out of his/her shell or letting them fulfill their wish to be in the spotlight now you can do it here.


Jordan’s Acting Improv Class teaches active listening,  concentration, focus  and instills self-confidence.


Jordan teaches in NYC at The School for Film and Television, here in Stamford at CurtainCall and is the new Director of Drama and Dance at Playland Summer Day Camp.


His former students have been seen on National Network TV shows, Independent Feature Films, Theatre and Commercials.







Sponsored by the Stamford Board of Rabbis, local synagogues and the JCC.




What is the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Data Registry?

A bone marrow transplant can mean the difference between life and death for a person suffering from cancer, but only about 30% of cancer patients in need of a transplant find donors within their own family. The other 70% must turn to a bone marrow data registry in the hope of finding a donor from the general population.  But because patients and donors must share up from six to twelve genetic factors in order for the bone marrow transplant to succeed, the chance of finding a matching a donor from the general population is only about 1 in 30,000.   For the Jewish cancer patient, who has a special genetic make-up unique to the Jewish people, the odds are even worse.  Join the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Data Registry by becoming a bone marrow donor. It's easy.


What's Involved in Being a Bone Marrow Donor?

Years ago, donating bone marrow was a complicated procedure, and donors had to undergo a full-fledged operation. But today it's almost as simple as giving blood. So if you are Jewish, between the ages of 18-55 and in good medical health, you can help save another person's life by becoming a bone marrow donor.


What happens when you arrive at the site?

You'll be asked to roll up you sleeve and then a medical technician will take a small sample of blood.  The results will be registered in the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Data Registry.  Most people will never be contacted further, but what happens if your name pops up as a potential matching donor for a cancer patient?  During the actual procedure, your arms will be hooked up to a Leucopherises machine, an apparatus that takes blood from one arm, separates the stem cells from the blood and then returns the blood to your other arm. The procedure takes a few hours and is spread out over a two-day period.


Please note that if you registered with another bone marrow data registry, you do not need to donate an additional sample to the Ezer Mizion data registry. However, you can further support our campaign to help save lives by making a donation to Ezer Mizion.


You can register for the Ezer Mizion Bone Marrow Data Registry at the

Stamford JCC’s Annual Purim Carnival,

Sunday, March 9, 2003

Noon - 5:00 p.m. 


A $36 donation is suggested to cover the cost of processing. 

If you cannot register or would like to help further the success of this vital project, please consider making a donation.  All checks, made out to “Ezer Mizion,” are tax deductibles, and can be sent to a local synagogue office.

Volunteers needed to help on the day of the drive. 

Please contact me at 322-0098.


What is Ezer Mizion?

Ezer Mizion is a health-support organization with 40 branches throughout Israel and 10,000 volunteers. Their aim is to provide all Israelis with a wide variety of health support services to supplement the country's health care system.







March 17, 2003

Megillah Reading in the sanctuary 6:00 p.m.

followed by our Purim Carnival

Purim for Adults in the Chapel 8:00 p.m.








Friday, March 7, 2003 at 7:30 p.m.

Fractured Religions:

The Dangers of Diversity within the Major Faiths

Benjamin Weiner's career spans three professions, four decades and five continents.  At age 20 he fought in Korea in one of the first Korean-American integrated combat units, where he was awarded the Bronze Star.  As a Foreign Service officer he served in Southeast Asia, Western Europe and Washington, as well as on presidential delegations to Africa, Latin America and the Vatican.  He is the recipient of the Department of State's Superior Honor Award.

 Mr. Weiner is known for his early warnings on the spread of terrorism (1973), and for his early recognition of growing religious and ethnic violence (1979).  He has organized conferences with the United Nations, the Department of State, the World Trade Institute, Yale Divinity School, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, the Asia Society and the Middle East Institute.



What is a Hevra Kadisha (literally "Sacred Fellowship")?

And what is it doing in Stamford???

Everything You've Been "Dying" to Know...

About the Mitzvah that is called "The Greatest Act of Kindness" and the volunteers who perform it.

Find out at a special program on

 Sunday, March 23rd at 9:30 a.m.

Guest speaker:  Jan Simblist


Jan has been a member for twelve years.  She is a medical technologist with experience both in the research and clinical areas of laboratory science.  She has been a consultant to nursing homes in Connecticut on infection control issues for Quest Diagnostics.  She is a former board member of Agudath Sholom who, last year, was elected as vice president of the Hevra Kadisha. 

 The men and women who serve as volunteers in our community would like the rest of the Jewish community to know that there is such a service available.  Here's Beth El's chance to find out all about it.






Thursday, April 1 7, 7:00 p.m.

Look for the flyer coming in this week’s mail!!!


Youth Activities









On March 15, our teens will lead the main service,

 reading Torah,

leading prayers,

opening the ark,

having aliyot,



Contact Ilana Ginsberg-322-2003 or

Ariel Savransky- 329-2990






The Web link for this week's Shabbat-O-Gram is - - The site is continually updated during the week with corrections and additions.  Feel free to forward this link to your friends. People can subscribe to the weekly Shabbat-o-Gram at   I also send out mailings to college students, Gen Xers and teens, so let us know if you wish to be placed on any of those lists.  If you wish to unsubscribe, contact  


Facing East (Jewish Week)

The Jewish Week, February 26, 2003

This past month has been dubbed Israel Education Month by The Jewish Agency, hoping "to re-ignite the spark and yearning for meaningful engagements with Israel" among Diaspora Jews.

Truthfully, the main goal is to feed us all the necessary information, so that we can become active advocates for Israel in the public square.

A Hollywood producer could not have picked a better time to focus our sights on Israel, much as the medieval Spanish-Jewish poet Yehuda Halevi did, when he wrote: "My heart is in the east and I in the far off west."

Halevy died in Egypt, on his way to the Land of Israel, heading eastward, in 1141.

Israel Education Month began at my synagogue, as at many others, with an uneasy tap on the shoulders on the morning of Feb. 1 that shattered the Shabbat. The devastating news about Columbia went far beyond the Israeli connection, to be sure; the flight had been a needed diversion for weary earthbound Americans and Israelis alike. But the loss of the seven astronauts, including Ilan Ramon, was a crushing blow.

I grew up during the space race, a starry-eyed devotee of anything that wore a helmet and drank Tang. Never did I imagine that I'd see in my lifetime an Israeli up there, one who recited an intergalactic Kiddush, yet, and drank kosher Tang. Ilan Ramon was on his way to becoming a living legend when over the skies of Texas, this real-life Ari Ben Canaan become yet another star-crossed victim of our tragic Jewish destiny.

A few days later I downloaded a video clip of Israel made by the Columbia astronauts on the 11th day of their journey. The view is spectacular, a pulsating map. Even the Dead Sea is brimming with blueness, and you can see so clearly how Jerusalem forms the boundary between desert, mountain and coastal plain. Ramon commented often on how peaceful it all looked from there. He was the first Israeli truly to see the "big picture," the global view, from this distance.

The Columbia was flying over Egypt when this video was taken, a couple of hundred miles straight up from the spot where Judah Halevy died centuries before. The poet and the pioneer both perished on heartbreaking journeys that left them so close to home; each died with his heart facing east.

A few months ago I tapped into Israeli television via satellite and since then I've been hooked.

Now my heart - and dish - can face east 24/7, and for a mere 20 bucks a month. Even those not fluent in Hebrew can discover much about Israel from this network. You can learn, for instance, that Israelis love especially to do two things when times are bad: 1, skewer their politicians, and 2, sing. One program that I've especially enjoyed is a weekly Friday night sing-along session, where several generations gather to sing all the old standards, a combination Shabbat-table songfest and national group therapy.

Since tuning into the satellite, I've found myself living more and more on Israeli time and seeing the world through Israeli eyes.

Mid-afternoon has become the time to tune in the "nightly" Mabat news. I chose to watch the memorial to the astronauts on Israeli TV rather than CNN, and could hear how moved Israelis were when this all-American ceremony began with Hebrew verses from Bialik.

Israeli TV has also enabled me to relate to Israel's leaders in a completely different manner.

When Shimon Peres speaks in English, the way he pronounces "peace process" makes me think he's discussing the urinary tract. In Hebrew he comes across with more passion, though his professorial cadence is still easy fodder for parody.

Natan Sharansky, a giant in my own personal pantheon, comes across on Israeli TV as being smaller than life. I wonder if the same thing would have happened eventually to Ilan Ramon.

Yehuda Halevy wrote:

"How shall I render my vows and my bonds while Zion lies beneath the fetter of Edom?"

As the elections and Columbia have now yielded the stage to the war clouds gathering over Iraq, it is getting harder for me to sleep. Even my nightmares are facing east. Colin Powell's chilling revelations at the United Nations drove home what we knew already about Saddam's capacity to deliver destruction. We have no idea what will happen over the coming weeks, but each anticipated scenario is more frightening than the last. Over the past few months, whenever a terror attack has occurred in Israel, I've tuned in to see the unedited coverage, right from the source. I'll do the same if and when the "Mother of All Wars: the Sequel" begins.

But in the meantime, my heart faces east, where the satellite is, and beyond it, we can find the Jerusalem on high, that pristine locus of sanctity that Ilan Ramon saw, however briefly, that quiet place where the Kiddush cup floats and the Dead Sea looks alive.

Israel Education Month has less to do with the propaganda in our brains than with the direction of our hearts.

All we need is an unobstructed view of the eastern sky.