Nov 192012
 

In recent days, several of our customers and other well-wishers who are aware we are located in Eretz Yisrael have sent us emails voicing solidarity and support.

One message read as follows:

We are following the events unfolding in Israel, praying for everyone’s safety, and the success of the IDF. G-d willing, this will bring an end to the rockets falling on our people. Over here [in the U.S.] we are doing all we can to make sure the world understands what Israel is facing, and that the IDF is acting in defense of the people of Israel, not engaged in a war of aggression against innocent Palestinians. So far it seems we are winning the hearts and minds of people, who understand that living under constant rocket fire is intolerable. Apart from this, we are getting the word out that it is important to support the Israeli economy by purchasing Israeli goods, either in stores or online. The response has been enthusiastic so far.

We are located in the Modi’in area, which is not in the line of firing (although my son claims he saw a rocket in the southern sky Shabbos night). Still, I have vague concerns of unsavory developments that could unfold in the days to come. Though I have confidence in the competence and capabilities of the IDF (I myself did more three-week IDF Reserves stints in combat units than I care to remember), but there is always the possibility of variables beyond their control.

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Just about every time Israel is in a state of war, the messages sent to the Jewish people from above are painfully obvious. Even the country’s and the army’s secular leadership often tap into these messages. Case in point: the current confrontation was named Mivtza Amud Anan or “Operation Pillar of Cloud,” which is clearly a reference to the night before Krias Yam Suf (the Splitting of the Sea), when “the angel of G‑d, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.”

As the Midrash notes, the cloud not only separated between the Egyptians and the Israelites, it also intercepted the catapulted stones and the arrows shot from the Egyptian camp.

Today, two rockets aimed at Jerusalem landed in a West Bank village on the outskirts of the capital. Obviously this was not the IDF’s doing. Could it be a modern-day equivalent of arrows shot by Israel’s enemies being deflected by Divine clouds?

In his showdown with Esau, Yaakov Avinu knew how to run a three-point campaign: diplomacy, warfare and prayer. Israel needs the prayers of all of the Jewish people. Although the war is under control, we are constantly dependent on siyata diShmaya (help from Above) to ensure things don’t take a sharp turn for the worse.

How do we keep Hashem on our side? One way is by putting extra effort into Torah study and observing mitzvahs. So be sure to take a close look at your tzitzit (see Shulchan Aruch 24, 1) as a constant reminder of our obligation to adhere faithfully to Torah and mitzvahs.

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Feb 142012
 

I often get inquiries from prospective customers who are about to visit Israel and would like to drop by my shop to buy a tallit. While it’s always easier to see and feel the tallit before you buy, if they think buying a tallit during their visit to Israel will save them money, they’re wrong.

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The reason is taxes. When I sell a tallit to a customer in Israel, I have to charge 18% value-added tax. That means if they buy tallit for $100, $18 goes straight to the government. But when a customer outside of Israel opts to buy a tallit from me, I list the shipment on the export registry, which exempts me from VAT altogether. And I can pass that 18% savings on to my customers.

I once had a customer who wanted to know what price I could give him if he buy tallit and came to pick it up himself. I explained that he would of course save the shipping costs, but that I could not discount it since it costs me more to sell it to him here than if he’s 2,000 miles away.

Buy Tallit in Israel, Ship to the U.S.

Buy Tallit from Israel, Buy from the Source

The leading tallit makers are based in Israel

Likewise, shipping is not a significant expense. To encourage people to “buy blue and white” the Israeli government keeps international shipping rates very low. I charge a flat rate of just $9.00 to ship a tallit to the United States, Canada and Europe, and $12 to most other countries. If I’m not mistaken, it would cost more to send it via USPS from New York to California.

Of course many people would rather buy tallit from Israel not so much to save money, but to support Israel with their tallit purchase.

And since most of the leading tallit makers are located in Israel, it makes sense to buy a tallit from the source.

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Feb 072012
 

It makes sense to buy tallit and tefillin bags from Israel. But guess what? Often a tallit bag sold in Israel and exported from Israel…is made in China. Even if you see the words “Tallit” or “Tefillin” embroidered in Hebrew, don’t assume it was made in Israel.

Tallit Bag: Hebrew Embroidery, But Made in China

Velvet Tallit Bag

Made in China

However, this only applies to low-end tallit bags. If you find a tallit bag on eBay or a Judaica webstore for $12 or $15 or even $20, chances are it was made in China. Many of the better quality tallit bags are made in Israel.

What makes for a better quality tallit bag? Better quality material and better embroidery work. It’s hard to discern differences in quality from the images you see online. But the difference in quality is significant.

A few weeks ago a customer in Australia bought a Kol Hane’arim tallit from me. For those of you who don’t know what a Kol Hane’arim tallit is, it’s four times the size of a standard full-size tallit and is used as a canopy on Simchat Torah. It’s big. Really big.

My customer from Down Under asked me to provide him with a velvet tallit bag to go with it. I took the project to our seamstress and embroiderer, and she did a spectacular job using high quality velvet. When I saw it, I realized that the tallit bag she produced was far superior to what I was used to seeing from suppliers and in Judaica stores in Jerusalem.

Tallit Bag with Space for Custom Embroidery

Invei HaGefen Velvet Tallit Bag

Invei HaGefen. Click on image for details.

So I commissioned her to make me a tallit bag that would work well with custom name embroidery. The problem is that the word “Tallit” on many, if not most, tallit bags makes it hard to add a name without it clashing. She used a fabulous grape vine motif I call “Invei HaGefen.”

Is a tallit bag worth investing in? I think so, because preparing to do a mitzvah is an important part of the act of doing a mitzvah. The Talmudic term is “hechsher mitzvah.” To take an extreme example, imagine going to shul and pulling your tallit out of a nylon grocery bag. Not a pretty sight. A nice tallit bag also gives honor to the mitzvah of tzitzit (which is really what wearing a tallit is all about).

And of course a tallit bag is a great gift idea for a bar mitzvah boy, a chassan or as a birthday gift for a husband (or son) who already has a nice tallit.

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Jan 032011
 

by Dan Slobodkin

During a recent visit to Jerusalem, Eric Cantor, a Republican congressman from Virginia who became Majority Leader in early January, laid tefillin before praying at the Western Wall.

Eric Cantor (R-Vir.) stops at a Chabad tefillin station (Photo courtesy of Your Jewish News)

In November his office released a statement saying: “Eric stressed that the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration and what has been, up until this point, one party rule in Washington,” according to a statement from his office. “He made clear that the Republican majority understands the special relationship between Israel and the United States, and that the security of each nation is reliant upon the other.”

Cantor “reiterated his belief that compromise between Israel and the Palestinians can only be achieved through direct negotiations between the parties,” according to a statement from his office.

“Eric has a longstanding friendship with Prime Minister Netanyahu,” the statement noted. Later his staff said Cantor would serve as a roadblock to the Obama administration approach, but not when it comes to issues of Middle East diplomacy.

Eric Cantor is the only Jewish Republican member of Congress. One year ago he said the threats leveled against him since he assumed office may be in part to the fact that he is Jewish. “I’ve received threats since I assumed elected office not only because of my position but also because I am Jewish.”

Cantor said then that he was “directly threatened” when someone shot a bullet through the window of his campaign office in Richmond, Virginia. “I’ve received threatening emails,” he continued. “But I will not release them, because I believe such actions will only encourage more to be sent. It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain.”

Photo courtesy of Your Jewish News/Chabad Info

The Forward claims Cantor’s views on Israel were shaped partly by a personal loss: in 2006 his 16-year-old cousin Daniel Cantor Wultz was killed in a Tel Aviv terror attack while visiting family in Israel. “As an American Jew,” Cantor wrote, describing the tragedy, “I am acutely aware of the existence of evil in the world.”

Eric Cantor, 47, is the highest ranking Jew ever in Congress and the youngest Majority Leader ever. He lives in Richmond, where he attends an Orthodox synagogue and keeps a kosher home.

More tefillin articles:
Tefillin Construction
On Tefillin Prices
Types of Tefillin: The Parchments