Monday, January 11, 2010
Monday, November 23, 2009
Nefesh B'Nefesh Hanukkah Flash Mob
Monday, September 07, 2009
The Jerusalem Gap
Well, it had to happen. For better or for worse Jerusalem now boasts her very own GAP store. (And Baby GAP too!) Now the pros and cons of this development can be easily debated and I’m sure they will be (comment away). But there is one thing people should be careful not to say: “Jerusalem now has everything.”
Indeed there is a “gap” between those that believe bringing this large American cooperation is the pinnacle of Zionism and those that pray for a renewed Zionist spirit, which through the same sort of effort used to produce this accomplishment can bring the third Beit Hamikdash to Jerusalem as well.
In the meantime, happy shopping! It’ll be good for the economy.
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Come Close to the Wall
Nasser, Egypt's President, declared his intention to lead the Jihad to destroy Israel and push the Jews into the sea. Militarily, the IDF was outnumbered by a ratio of 20:1, proportionally even a larger enemy than we faced in days of the Hasmonean revolt and the battle of Chanuka. The Chevra Kadisha (burial society) in Jerusalem prepared 10,000 body bags for the expected mass civilian casualties, and contingency plans were made for Jerusalem's parks to be turned into cemeteries. Animals in the city's zoo were put to sleep for fear that they might be set free and create chaos in the streets. The Knesset archives and artifacts in the Israel Museum as well as the Dead Sea Scrolls were secured underground, preserved in shelters.
Rabbonim instructed the Tnuva factory to remain open on Shabbos to make sure that they would produce enough milk to feed the population during war time. Thousands volunteered to fill sandbags; talmidim of the Mirrer Yeshiva were instructed by Rav Chaim Shmulevitz to leave the Beis Medrash to assist in the effort. Israel was in a state of emergency, understanding that the dire situation threatened the very existence of the State.
"Yeshuas Hashem k'heref ayin": What took Yehoshua Bin Nun months to accomplish, took only six days; Israel's size tripled, as the IDF miraculously and heroically recaptured Yehudah, Shomron, the Golan, Aza, the holy cities of Chevron, Beit Lechem, Beit El and Shchem, and reunified Jerusalem.
In the wake of the awesome victory, the Jewish world was euphoric, sensing clear Divine intervention and incredible Yad Hashem.
In Shir Hashirim, Shlomo Hamelech describes how Hakadosh Baruch Hu will deal with our enemies who dare attack us at a time of favor (2:7-8): “You will become as defenseless as gazelles or rams in the field…behold it came suddenly to redeem me as if leaping over mountains, skipping over hills. In His swiftness to redeem me… I thought I would be forever alone , but behold He was standing behind our wall, observing through the windows, peering through the cracks of the latticework.”
Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi uses these two descriptions of the way Hashem watches over us to explain the different ways we perceive Hashem's presence in our lives. First, there are times when Hakadosh Baruch Hu observes us "through the windows": moments of clarity where we can "see" Hashem openly, as if on the other side of a glass window.
The awesome victory of the Six Day War 42 years ago was one of those times of clarity. Following the war, Southern front Paratroop Commander Rafael ("Raful") Eitan remarked that, "...Apparently someone in Heaven was watching over us... every unintended action they took and every unintended action we took, always turned to our advantage." There was no mistaking that victory was God-sent, that we were witnessing open miracles.
There are however, other times, where it is more difficult to sense the Ribbono Shel Olam. Nonetheless, explains the Kedushas Levi, it is upon us to remember that Hashem also “watches us through the cracks of the latticework”: we can not "see" beyond the wall, but are assured that Hashem is always there. In those times of hiddenness, when Hash em is "peering through the latticework" we remain under the constant watchful "eye"- we can't "see" Him; but Hakadosh Baruch Hu is always watching us.
It is easy to see someone though a window; one can even gaze from afar. But in order to see a person watching you through a "crack in the latticework", one must come up very close to the wall and look carefully into the crack. Only then, when we peer deeply into that space, can we see that there was someone on the other side of the wall, watching us the entire time...
Yom Yerushalayim is a day of celebration and thanks where we reflect on the miraculous salvation and open Hand of God. We are also able to strengthen our awareness of Hashem's presence in our lives, so that in times when we face difficulties- personally or on a National scale - we will remember and encouraged that we are under the constant Hashgachas Hashem. As the complicated and sometimes painful process of Redemption continues to unfold in stages, we must draw strength from the knowledge that Hashem is always with us, watching over us and directing the course of our lives, even within the confusion and concealment.
The Six Day War is not a distant historical event for us to 'remember' or 'commemorate'; it is a defining moment in each of our personal lives, where a major step toward the ultimate restoration of the heart and soul of our land and Nation took place.
On Yom Yerushalayim, when I stand at the Holy Wall after a long day of celebration, I rest my head in its cracks, and am able to see clearly that Hakadosh Baruch Hu is right there, "peering through the latticework." I feel blessed to have been born into the final generation of exile and the first generation of Redemption, and pray, that with Hashem's ever-present Hashgacha, we will merit the next stage of Mashiach, with the complete rebuilding of Yerushalayim speedily in our days.
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The Fire From Sinai
If you were some sort of head of State, and you decided to pay an official visit to Israel on say, Lag B’Omer, you would probably return home and tell people, “it's a beautiful land, but the locals there, those Jews, they sure are a bunch of pyromaniacs!”
I’ve written before about how in America I used to think Lag B’Omer was about softball. After all the softball is symbolic of Torah and the light that shines forth from it symbolizes the light that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai brought to the world by authoring the holy Zohar. Now, however, I know that using bonfires in place of softballs fit the symbolism much more aptly.
This year I didn’t go to Har Meron. Instead, I hung out in Jerusalem. What struck me the most about last night, was not how many fires there were around the city, in every park, and open lot, but the absolute breadth of the types of people enjoying them. From the most charedi godal hador down to the most secular Jew that never even heard of the Zohar, let alone Rashbi, all were singing and smiling at a huge bonfire somewhere in the country.
And that got me thinking. Even if one isn’t particularly religious, just by living in the holy land of ours some religion is going to rub off on them. Take Purim as another example. Every single eight year old in this country - from ultra-secular to ultra-religious - dresses up for Purim and could likely relate to you the entire Purim story. This is not the case in America, where many secular Jews there never heard of Purim.
I came across an interesting Rashi on this week’s Parsha. Perhaps the most commonly found verse in the Torah is “And G-d spoke to Moshe saying.” This week the Parsha opens with an interesting variation. “And G-d spoke to Moshe, on Mount Sinai, saying.” Rashi asks, “Why here?” Hashem said all of the Torah to Moshe on Sinai! Why is only this one spot, which discusses the laws of Shmittah (the Sabbatical year) singled out?
Without going into depth (see it inside for details) Rashi answers that we could learn out from here that all commandments with all the details and fine points they involve, were taught on Har Sinai and completely repeated with full details by Moshe “at the Plains of Moab.”
A question that came to me is that the Torah could still have applied the words “on Mount Sinai” to any other commandment in the Torah and we would have been able to come to the same conclusion. Why did it specifically choose the commandment of Shmittah?
Shmittah is an example of something, even the most religious Jews living in America know very little about. It’s something that simply doesn’t apply there and so not much effort is spent studying it. The Talmid Bavli (which was written in Babylonia) doesn’t even have a tractate on it. Whether one was written but lost or never written is debated but the reason for either scenario would simply be because those laws “didn’t apply” to them. (Incidentally, the Talmid Yerushalmi written in the Land of Israel does contain a tractate on the laws of Shmittah.)
Two years ago, I remember being terrified by the upcoming Shmittah year, which I knew nothing about! I attended shiur after shiur trying to get up to speed on what all the laws are (and there are many of them!) The shiurim were all very heavily attended which demonstrated that lots of people felt the same way. Now that we have to keep these laws we should learn what they are.
And now we can understand why Hashem chose this commandment out of all the others to apply the words “on Mount Sinai.” First, this commandment was given to us by G-d via Moshe on Har Sinai just like all the other ones. There is no reason not to be studying it regardless of where you are living. Don’t forget about it! And second, just like all the other commandments, this one, was also given on Har Sinai and it’s one that you should be keeping too. And if the only way to keep it is by living in the Land of Israel, then what are you waiting for?
Full post and comments...
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Only in Israel...
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
"Tagging" Ain't Just for Facebook!
To my displeasure, the walls of Jerusalem (and much of the rest of Israel) are covered in graffiti. My reaction is often to not pay attention at all or sigh over the misuse of a beautiful white wall of Jerusalem-stone. But I've noticed if you look a little deeper you will see many reoccurring patterns within the teenage (I pray they're only teenagers) markings. The most common one of course is the "Na Nach Nachma Nachman M'uman" tag of the dope-smoking hippies that fancy themselves some sort of modern breakaway group of Breslov Chassidim.
A new one that has been popping up all over the place in the last two weeks or so though is "Style Wars 2." At first I didn't think much of it, but as I saw it over and over again I started to get more curious. Could it have to do something with Star Wars? I understand every other group of people seems to lay some sort of claim to the holy city but now Star Wars nerds too!? I did an internet search on it and it turns out that Style Wars was the name of a PBS documentary done on urban culture and specifically spray paint graffiti. Now why they have started to spray Style Wars 2 everywhere is beyond me, unless it is some sort of grassroots promotion for a sequel. Also popping up is an interesting one that says something to the effect of "Joker love 42" or something like that. It always seems to feature arrows coming out the the ends of the letters which seems kind of neat I guess.
A more classic one I've seen for over a year now is "Homo = Ill" or some slight variant of it. The funny thing is that wherever somebody has written it, 90% of the time somebody has come around later, crossed out the word "Homo" and replaced it with word "bigot." My mind's eye pictures some rainbow flag bearing spray paint can toting hippie following closely behind some angry right wing punk, each tip-toeing so as to not arouse the attention of police-calling neighbors.
Another common one is the "Am Yisrael Chai" (the nation of Israel lives on) which always includes a Magen David, and every now and then you'll even see a "Mavet l'aravim" (Death to the arabs) painted on a stairwell or alleyway wall. But if you really want a treat I recommend going on Yaffo Street across from the Shuk and checking out the building that has beautiful calligraphy of Jerusalem in both Hebrew and English written across an entire wall. Whether you like it or not, the graffiti seems to pop up everywhere in Jerusalem, but at least you can't complain that they don't keep it interesting.Full post and comments...
Thursday, December 25, 2008
The Fifth Night!
Friday, September 19, 2008
Anyone who knows me fairly well can testify I'm not exactly the biggest lover of the Arab people. I'm not even such a fan of them being my neighbors much less ruling over me. That's why I couldn't help but laugh when I spotted this little piece on Ynet about an East Jerusalem Arab running for mayor of Jerusalem. Yet after reading it I couldn't believe it but I could actually see myself voting for the guy... like... maybe... I think? [Total brain meltdown in 5-4-3-...]
I mean take a look at the guy's platform. He says he's against Jerusalem being divided, he wouldn't talk to Hamas or Fatah, at least until they can fix their own internal disputes (unlikely to happen anytime this century), and he is against allowing any more gay parades to take place within the city. Strictly platform speaking, this guy sounds like a good deal! Now I'm not eligible to vote so it doesn't really make much of a difference for me anyway, but this is the kind of philosophical curveball I couldn't ever expect life to throw this way. Perhaps this is just a testament to the sad state of our Jewish political leaders. Don't they say something about politics making strange bedfellows? I don't know about getting into bed with anyone, but a strange part of me I never knew existed before would at least like to shake this guy's hand.
Even though the election is a few months away, the race for the position of mayor of Jerusalem is becoming more and more interesting. In addition to the two main candidates, Nir Barkat and Meir Porush, a new, some would say surprising, face has entered – a Palestinian candidate by the name of Zohir Hamdan.Full post and comments...
Hamdan, 53, the mukhtar (head) of the east Jerusalem village of Tzur Baher who is married to three wives and is the proud father of 18, announced his candidacy on Wednesday. In an interview to Ynet he says: "I was married to a Jewish woman from Tel Aviv, but we divorced about three years ago". His name has been mentioned before as a possible mayoral candidate, but according to Hamdan, those were just speculations; this time, its official.
Jewish friends call more than Arab. Zohir Hamdan (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Hamdan was born in Jordan, and studied engineering in Beirut. "I love this country, that's why I came here in 1974. My father and other relatives were already here. It was a family reunion; it was my duty to come here for my father", he said, describing his love for the country and for Jerusalem. Since his arrival, Hamdan has held several jobs, among them chief negotiator for east Jerusalem.
"I have many Jewish friends"
Tzur Baher, Zohir Hamdan's village, was in the news recently for a different reason. Terrorist Hossam Dwayyat, who killed three people by running them over with a stolen bulldozer, was a resident of the village. However, Hamdan goes about things in the opposite direction, wishing to bring Jews and Arabs closer together. "I'm chairman of the co-existence forum in Jerusalem. I was the first one to bring co-existence into the frey. When the Tanzim were shooting at the Jewish neighborhood of Gilo, I sympathized with the residents of Gilo."
"I have many Jewish friends from all over the country," adds Hamdan. "I go to visit them; they visit me and shop in Tzur Baher. We don't have any problems here. Since I announced that I was running for mayor, the phone hasn't stopped ringing. More Jews call to congratulate me than Arabs".
Porush: Don’t judge me by the length of my beard / Ronen Medzini
Ultra-Orthodox candidate in Jerusalem mayoral race holds cyber press conference in bid to court secular public: ‘I know there are a lot of people who have difficulty in accepting me…I ask that you judge me by my experience and abilities’
However, not everyone is happy with Hamdan's close relationship with Jews. Seven years ago, there was an attempt made on his life.
"Tanzim operatives shot me in 2001 because I was working for co-exsistence with Jews. I was shot in several places, including the stomach, and I ended up in the hospital for two months. Despite this incident, and the fact that the Palestinian Authority has told east Jerusalem arabs to boycott the elections, Hamdan remains unfazed.
'I will not divide this city'
The single Arab contender isn't interested in establishing a relationship with the Palestinian Authority. "I'm not interested in any contact with the PA. I don't care if they are mad. Am I scared? No. Elections? That's their own internal matter".
Hamdan also has a single minded position in regards to the political future of the Palestinian Authority. "Hamas and Fatah need to talk among themselves, sort out their grievances, Then they can talk about a Palestinian state," he explains.
Hamdan holds a similar position on the matter of east Jerusalem. When asked if he would agree to transfer Arab neighborhoods to a Palestinian state, his response was that "Israel took over these neighborhoods from Jordan in 1967, and a large majority of the population is Jordanian. They should ask Jordan, I will not divide this city."
Hamdan adds that the Security fence has greatly to do with the security situation. "That is a decision that was made by the State for the sake of security. I can't go into it due to my position in the city; if any citizen has a complaint I will help as much as I can. State security is important and I will not interfere."
'Aryeh Deri is a good man'
The large number of candidates doesn't deter Hamdan. "I wish them all of them good luck " he says, adding that he believes Aryeh Deri "is a good man."
"The whole country is guilty of corruption, not just him," he says.
As for businessman Arcadi Gaydamak, who promised that he will appoint an Arab deputy mayor should he win, Hamdan isn't impressed. "A person who is running should know what is going on here…people are interested in action, not talk. Whoever runs the city needs to be of the people, a person who knows the real needs of the city. The Arabs aren't holding their breath for Gaydamak. The Arabs will establish their own power center".
The Arab candidate isn't afraid to predict that in two months everything will change in the State capital, with him leading the change. "I will bring a new kind of politics to the city. My door will always be open, and you won't need to schedule a meeting months in advance", he promises. "With me, there will be no discrimination; the holy city belongs to all of us, and we will live here in peace and harmony, respecting all religions," he added.
'No gay pride parade'
When asked if he would approve holding the Gay Pride Parade in the city, Hamdan declared "absolutely not. According to all world religions, what they are doing is unacceptable, both in the Koran and the Torah. I'm not religious or an extremist, I respect religion. Personally, I negate these people. A person must maintain personal dignity, and in these matters there is none. That is my opinion, I may be wrong. Whoever loves Jerusalem –is not gay".
Hamdan emphasizes that his message is one of hope. "I promise to help out all the young people and build them homes, approve construction as much as legally possible, and stop home demolition in this city. I will enable all of the citizens of this city to live honorably, while respecting the law. No one can divide Jerusalem. I hope and believe that we will live in hope and peace between all residents".
History has shown that the Arab residents of Jerusalem don't like to vote in the Municipal elections, though Hamdan is sure that east Jerusalem resident will show up to vote in droves. "I'm telling you the Arab voter turnout will be huge, God willing. They used to be afraid of the PA, now they are seeing what is going on and they are just tired of the silliness in the Palestinian leadership. Look at was is going on in Gaza, everyone is killing everyone. The residents of east Jerusalem are tired of these stories," explains Hamdan.
Not the first candidate
If Hamdan does win, he will be the first contender from east Jerusalem who does so. However he isn't the first candidate from east Jerusalem and he certainly isn't the first Arab candidate.
In 1989 Hana Seniora, a Palestinian resident of Beit Haninah decided to enter the race. Massive pressure from the PLO caused him to drop out of the race. In 1998 Moosa Alian, a businessman from Beit Tzafafa, entered the race but did not get enough votes. Additional attempts were made by the Hadash political party and the Communist party, but with no success.
Sunday, August 31, 2008
Inspiriation on the Number 2
You've probably heard that one about the rabbi and the Egged bus driver who both die and go up to heaven. The Egged driver is rewarded with a posh mansion complete with three car garage and swimming pool while the rabbi is placed in a dilapidated shack. Figuring there must have been some sort of mix-up the rabbi consults the Heaven Housing Authority. They inform him that there was indeed no mix-up explaining, "When you spoke in shul everybody fell asleep... when he drove the bus everybody cried out in intense prayer!"
Regardless of our, or at least my own, ideas about what to expect on the average Egged ride, recently I've had several trips on the #2 line that have been quite surprising if not touching. The number two goes between Har Nof and the Kotel, hitting up many other Charedi areas in between. The other night I got on the one that leaves the kotel at 1 AM and to say it was crowded would be an understatement. As I squeezed on in between waves of bearded chassidim I expected the worse. I knew I would be in for about 45 minutes of getting shoved around, people rudely staring at each other and a highly probable chance of riding next to one or more people who would be... how to say this politely... "deodorant-ly challenged." The first blessing was there were no B.O. problems, thank G-d. Secondly everyone politely shuffled in and tried to make space for all who wanted to get on. But the truly amazing thing was, though the bus was packed to the gills, there was one lone empty seat available. The man in the seat next to it kept inviting somebody, anybody, to come occupy it. Yet there were no takers. All those within access to the seat turned down the opportunity to sit and sacrificed their own comfort so their fellow Jew could relax instead. The seat remained empty until about a third of the way into the trip when quite a few other seats became available as well and it was no longer the only one available. Upon returning to yeshiva and discussing the occurrence with my roommate though, we both realized that somebody may have quite possibly been in the seat the whole time- Eliyahu HaNavi.
Another beautiful moment happened tonight after shabbos had just gotten out. As I got on the number two and started riding home, a boy probably in his late teens, and who seemed to suffer from some sort of mental disability, suddenly stood up on his seat and started speaking to everyone on the bus. My conversational hebrew still isn't so incredible so I can't be sure what he was saying, but it sounded to me like he was quoting a passuk of Torah or something of the like. Though he stuttered a bit that didn't interfere with his beaming smile as he tried to get out his thought. If this happened on any bus I've ever ridden on in America I'm sure this would evoke mocking laughter and scowls. Yet the passengers of the number two were respectably silent, pausing their conversations to give him the floor and seemed to be waiting for a new chiddush to learn. Afterward a father of three sitting next to him gently motioned to help him sit back down. So often I see such people treated negatively, yet everyone on the bus was treating him like they would any other normal person even though his behavior was quite out of the ordinary.
If the tourist ministry is looking for any ideas for a new campaign, I suggest they put the Jerusalem Number Two bus on their ads from now on.Full post and comments...
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Rebranding Israel: FM Just Doesn’t Get It - Still!
This is not the first time Kumah has written about this.
Last week I attended the Nefesh B’Nefesh First International Jewish Bloggers Convention along with the rest of the Jblog world. One segment of the program featured Zavi Apfelbaum, the Director of Brand Management of the Foreign Ministry. At the time I did not know that she represented the State of Israel. (I didn't read the program, okay?)
(Click the video for a transcript we posted on YouTube.)
Which is why when blogger Moshe Burt (“Israel and the Sin of Expulsion”) began screaming at the top of his lungs “this is a Jewish State!,” though I agreed with him, I thought he was taking the wrong approach. But now that I realize exactly what was going on I think he was exactly right and that might be the only way to keep making the point, as Burt wrote, “until it sinks irrevocably into their consciousness.”
Let’s start at the beginning. The Foreign Ministry spent millions of shekel of taxpayer money to figure out that, guess what, the world thinks Israel is a bunch of thugs and a very cold (not weather-wise), dull, place to live or visit. Well obviously the world has branded us waaay wrong! Apfelbaum, again blaming the victim, claimed it was not the world that did it but we did it to ourselves. Perhaps I’ll grant that as a half-truth but that’s for another discussion.
So once again the Foreign Ministry plans to
Akiva, summarized it like this:
The future brand and marketing image of Israel:With the exception of 4 and 6, basically they are trying to brand Israel as Italy, France or Spain.
1. Tel Aviv Fashion Brands
2. Tel Aviv Modern Dance Troupes
3. Tel Aviv Beach Life
4. Israeli High Technology Developments
5. Tel Aviv Night Life
6. Israeli High Technology Medical Developments
7. Israeli Wine
When will they learn? Israel is a Jewish Country!
Here’s what I wrote a year ago:
Once Israel becomes "a nation like any other" we are thrust onto a world scale we have no right being on. On that scale, Israel appears to be a pretty crummy nation with nothing special at all. Hence the post-Zionists. But if we stay on the scale we are supposed to stay on, the "light-to-the-nations" scale we are untouchable! When we promote G-d, no nation anywhere can come close in terms of history, culture, food, family life, beauty, and spirituality. Indeed we have something no other nation has.To summarize, Israel already has an excellent – but discarded - brand. The powers-that-be in the government just don’t like it very much. But this brand has been around for over 3,300 years! Let me explain it in simple terms:
New York is to “The Big Apple” as Israel is to “The Holy Land.”
Gee, whiz. Brilliant! Why didn’t anyone ever think of that before? It’s a brand we have and it’s a brand we should use. It’s a brand that will stick because it already sticks, much to the dismay of the government. Basically the country is spending millions because we don’t want people to think of us as holy! Stop pretending to be the Europeans we are not, because the world is not dumb enough the fall for it. Start being yourself, Israel, and good things will happen. In the 60 years since she was founded Israel never got to be herself - not for one day.
And Moshe Burt is right. In terms of Holy we are talking Judaism. No Muslims are going to view Israel more favorable if we tell them Israel is important to them. And the Christians already know the real deal and love the Jewish people for it. Just talk to any Christians you meet. They know the Holy Land is G-d’s gift to the Jews and they are cool with that. Very cool with it.
So here is a small part of Pinchas’s plan for “rebranding” (that’s "re" as in repeating something not as in changing something):
The problem is the government is working backwards. Instead of displaying the beauty of Judaism and Shabbat for the world, the government does everything it can to destroy our image as a holy nation by doing things like attempting to have buses run on Shabbat. Sometimes the only way to get the message across truly is to yell it, and to yell it again, again, and again!
Full post and comments...
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Jerusalem's "Rave" Reviews
When many people think of Israel, an image of people riding around on camels in the desert shooting machine guns may come to mind (if you think I'm joking I'll have you know I actually had a friend in college who seriously believed this until I informed him to the contrary that we actually have such advanced infrastructure as "roads" and "office buildings" and "malls"). If it's not the middle east conflicts that one may think of then perhaps Israel's numerous religious and historical sites, or it's pristine beaches and natural scenery, or it's world renown high-tech industry. But an often overlooked aspect of Israel is it's trance scene. Israel has given to rise to some of the top trance artists, including Infected Mushroom, a personal favorite of mine and almost anybody else into Goa Trance.
It's with this in mind that I feel I shouldn't have been surprised, though I still was, by what I witnessed this past Friday afternoon. While running an errand that involved schlepping from the the Machane Yehuda shuk to the old city, I started hearing a steady deep thumping coming from a side street off of Yaffo Street. As I kept walking it kept getting louder and louder. As I came by a corner I saw some people hanging out on the steps. A few more steps in that direction revealed security guards checking people's backpacks as they were walking in, and as I finally came past the corner I was privy to a full on dance club in the middle of the street. It was complete with what could have been club quality speakers, a stage, and tens of people showing off their best moves while the electronica was blaring out into the streets. I was left scratching my head and asking myself if I was honestly seeing a public sidewalk rave. But not just any public sidewalk rave. One next to the old city of Jerusalem, the religious capital of the world... in the middle of broad daylight... on Friday afternoon when everyone is (supposed to be) getting ready for shabbat. Turns out my eyes, and ears for that matter, were not deceiving me and it was actually happening. I even had a tiny yetzer hara trying to convince me that if it wasn't for my errand as well as the dead give-away peos and tzitzit, maybe I should have jumped into the crowd and relived some old glory days, but alas... the service of the Lord is very demanding upon His faithful ones.
The strange event stuck in my mind for several hours into shabbat, and I mentioned it to a friend of mine from yeshiva while we were walking to the home of our hosts for Friday night dinner. My friend informed me that apparently he's witnessed this same Friday afternoon rave before, just a mere several blocks from where I saw it. Apparently the trance scene in Israel is even better than I originally thought! So much so you don't even need to travel to Tel Aviv on a Saturday night, just walk around downtown Jerusalem on a Friday afternoon.
So for anyone who is a fan of good music, you now have yet another reason to make aliyah. Come to Israel... and don't forget your glowsticks!Full post and comments...
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Video Blog From The Kotel on Tisha B'Av 5768
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Weapon of Choice
It's amazing the beautiful Jews you're guaranteed to observe during late-night trips to the Kotel. A couple of nights ago I was posted up near one of my favorite spots for nights at the Kotel, towards the back right corner (the other being in the tunnel tucked right into the front left corner closest to the Kadosh Kadoshim). There are two main reasons this spot is so great. First of all it's usually the least crowded and if you plan on spending a long amount of quality time with Hashem it affords you the opportunity to have your space and avoid distractions. Secondly it will seat you next to a nightly shiur given by a quite fiery-voiced rav, the passion for Torah of which can really be inspiring. A third reason for any single guys out there is the thought that you never know... your zivug could be davening at that exact moment just a mere several yards away from you on the other side of the mechitza and you don't even know it. Anyway, several evenings ago while I was enjoying a particularly good session of Kotel time, a soldier walked in. He was carrying his weapon strapped over his shoulder and walking hand in hand with his young son. He pulled up a chair and a shtender, sat down, and his son said something inaudible to him. He smiled and gave his weapon to his son at which point he put the barrel up to his mouth. Several moments later he took it and put it up to his own mouth.
You see, this wasn't a normal soldier. His uniform wasn't green with reddish brown boots and a beret. It was a large white kippah, flowing white shirt and pants, and bright orange crocs. And his weapon was an M-16 or the like, though it had a strap attached to it like one. This weapon was his extra large shofar... this man was a soldier of Hashem. It's hard to describe how beautiful the notes sounded coming out of his horn as he blew it proudly. He we all were, at the sight of our two destroyed holy temples, thousands of years without them, and during the nine days leading up to the anniversary of their mutual destruction. Yet even in a time of seeming despair and mourning such as this, this man sounded the shofar's cry of our redemption and, if for just a few seconds, reminded us that we may be mourning now, but that will soon come to an end. The geuala is on it's way, and if you need proof, just take a late-night trip to our holy Kotel and wait for Hashem to give you a sign.Full post and comments...
Friday, July 18, 2008
Growing Up Frum
For some Jews, the under-35-frum-from-birth crowd, the name Uncle Moshy invokes many of the fondest childhood memories. What Orthodox child, growing up in North America, didn’t attend at least one Uncle Moshy Chol HaMoed concert? What Frum child didn’t own all the Uncle Moshy records or tapes?
I recently happened upon some Uncle Moshy clips on YouTube of all places. One was the song Uncle Moshy sings at the very end of his albums. This is how it goes:
Now it’s time to say Shalom*
Uncle Moshy is going home
But you know he’ll be back again
Teaching the mitzvos of Hashem
Let us hope and let us pray
That Moshiach will come our way
And we will hear that Shofar blow
To Yerushalayim we will go
*This line is from memory.
And then it hit me… like a truckload of bricks! It always bothered me why, especially among FFBs the most prevalent attitude is that when Moshiach comes everything will magically change and poof we will all be transported to Yerushalayim in a snap. And until that happens everything is just fine and we should continue living here in New York.
Popular belief is that this is the only way Moshiach will come and there is no reason to move to Yerushalayim before Moshiach comes. I was never able to pin down exactly where this notion originated. But now I think I’ve got it. From Uncle Moshy! “Let us hope and let us pray/That Moshiach will come our way/And we will hear that Shofar blow/To Yerushalayim we will go.”
It might sound far-fetched but children of Uncle Moshy listening age are extremely impressionable. And influences introduced at that age easily stay with someone their whole lives. So there is a generation of Uncle Moshy fans davening every day for Moshiach, and waiting for that “great shofar,” so that we can finally return to Yershalayim, when in reality Hashem has already answered our prayers and is sounding the great shofar! And if we will only hear it we could simply board an Aliyah flight as a couple of hundred Jews are doing next week (look for Yishai on that flight!) and return to Yerushalayim in ten hours!
In truth I’m being a little hard on Uncle Moshy. I’m still a fan and think he is great and has contributed more to the Jewish Project, as Kumah calls it, than almost anyone I could think of. But sometimes we have to stop thinking like children and we have to grow up. There are a great many Jews that made and are making Aliyah, both from those that did and from those that didn’t grow up with Uncle Moshy and his Mitzvah Men. I wonder if we could learn from them how to see Judaism though adult eyes and not continue to live Judaism through the eyes of a child.
To be fair this issue existed long before Uncle Moshy was even born. Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal zt"l, wrote about it in 1943 in Eim Habanim Semeichah:
"Do not be so quick to conclude that we should sit back and do nothing about redemption, and that we should wait for Mashiach to come and carry us off on the wings of eagles to our Land and our inheritance. Many of our fellow Jews, even rabbis and Gedolei Torah, imagine that the redemption will occur in this way. One great rabbi [even] preached in public that we must not act at all, not even build and settle the Land. Rather we must wait for Mashiach to swoop down and carry us to Eretz Yisrael on clouds. He came to this conclusion because he did not delve into this halachah, which is one of the deepest and most obscure halachot. He who does not delve deeply into it has no grasp on it whatsoever."(p. 268)
Rabbi Teichtal concludes:
"He who says that Mashiach ben David will initiate the redemption, as the lowly masses anticipate, is like someone who says the sun will rise before dawn. Nonsense! The great evil that arises from this harmful outlook is tangible, as experience proves. It is a mitzvah to publicize this matter to the ignorant, and blessed is he who sanctifies G-d's name among the multitudes. In my opinion, he who hides this matters, desecrates G-d's name in private."
Full post and comments...
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Same city... Two different worlds
Two interesting events occurred today in Jerusalem, both of which merited mass police security and the streets being closed off... the gay pride parade and accompanying counter-protest. Since these occurrences have in the past sparked sharp criticism going both ways I decided this year I would go to both and check things out for myself.
First and foremost I would like to say that people in both gatherings seemed to be very mellow and there were no signs of violence or extremism from what I saw. Though I've heard gay parades in places such as America can tend to be extremely vulgar, there was nothing I saw that I would say was overtly offensive (unless one happens to be offended by gays in which case the whole event would be cause for slighted feelings). For the most part it was people carrying signs and rainbow flags with a few shouting rhyming chants. An exception would be a group of youths all in red carrying red soviet hammer and sickle flags and one girl in the group wearing picture of Lenin on her shirt. What communism has to do with homosexuality is beyond me, but nobody else seemed to notice or at least care.
Much more troubling than the behavior of the parade goers (which was much more mellow than I had expected) was that of the police who saw fit to talk to me several different times. Since I was just going to observe and not arouse any controversy I specifically dressed up in non-religious clothing but apparently the beard gave my disguise away. Upon requesting me to take my baseball cap off and seeing I had peos (sidelocks) underneath I was rejected from entering at that point and instructed to enter in a different location while other non-religious people were allowed to come and go as the pleased. Once inside the pre-parade gathering I was approached by undercover police, asked for identification and asked if I was religious and what I was doing there. Later on as the parade was underway, an plainclothes officer asked me where I was from although he left it at that. While I understand there were concerns that there might be people sneaking into the crowd who wished to disrupt the event and possibly even cause violence, I was still a little unnerved by the police-state like feel.
Next I ventured into Kikar Shabbat in the heart of Charedi Meah Shearim to check out the counter-protest. While people were displaying banners, some of which were extremely sharply-worded, the atmosphere itself was even more docile than the parade. There were several hundred people gathered before a platform in which a small older man was speaking through a large speaker system leading Slichot prayers.
I feel the contrast between these two gatherings is indicative of a greater diversity throughout Israeli society at large. Regardless of political and religious/moral beliefs, I found the marked differences between participants taking place so close to each other (a ten minute walk apart) fascinating. The parade was full of rainbow colors and a variety of outfits. The protest uniform black and white suits (aside from a few sackcloths). The parade was filled with smiles and dance. The protest, mourning and heartfelt pleas for forgiveness. Even the physical dynamics- the parade a large leaderless mass traveling down the street while the protest was stationary, all focused on a stage and seemingly searching for the proper guidance. Both were groups of Jews taking time out of their day to stand up for what they believe is right and for their views of Jerusalem and what it should represent, yet what incredibly different views they both have.
One may say Jerusalem is confused, or even schizophrenic, but they can't say it's boring.Full post and comments...
Monday, June 23, 2008
Jerusalem's bridge striking some "chords" with the public
Anyone who's been paying attention to Jerusalem has noticed the Chords bridge, the "uniquely" designed suspension bridge being built over the entrance to the city. I personally thought for quite a while that it looked utterly ridiculous until somebody showed me a specific angle from a specific spot under the bridge at which you can see the support cables forming a beautiful spiral. I think that's an apt metaphor for the situation described in the following article on Ynet News by Ronen Medzini- at first glance it looks like a bunch of Jews finding yet another thing to fight over. Look a little closer and you can find the beauty in the ruckus... Where else in the world does the public get vocally offended by a construction project that ends up breaking Shabbos? And where else would the company and government actually express regret and do something to hold people accountable? Even amid the bickering and problems here one can see the people of Israel inching closer to Moshiach.
The construction of the new Chords Bridge leading into Jerusalem caused controversy in the city's municipal meeting Sunday, as several of City Hall's coalition members were enraged by reports suggesting several construction workers were spotted working on Shabbat.Full post and comments...
The bridge, which is supposed to carry the city's new light train, has been under construction for the past three years. Jerusalem's coalition members believed the some of the work was done on Shabbat in order to finish it in time for Wednesday's inauguration ceremony.
"Not only is it not worth it, it offended many people's emotions, both religious and secular," Shmuel Yitzhaky, a Shas Jerusalem councilman told Ynet Monday.
"The fact that the Jerusalem municipality sponsored this work is very grave. For what? For a ceremony? There is no reason what so ever to finish it of Shabbat."
Yitzhaky also said he believed the work was sanctioned by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski. The people in City Hall, he added, "are only concerned with their jobs and don't care about the coalition."
Yehoshua Mor Yosef, spokesman for the Moria Company, which was tasked with the bridge's construction and who issued a statement on behalf of both Moria and the Jerusalem Municipality, said that the company sees the incident as severe.
Moreover, "The company has decided to immediately relieve the project's foreman and the construction's supervisor of their duties in order to make sure this kind of mishap never happens again."
Mor Yosef further denied Lupolianski's involvement in the decision to finish the project on Shabbat: "The mayor had no knowledge about any activities which were carried out in violation of the building contract, which clearly stipulates that, no work should be done on the bridge on Shabbat. The construction workers involved were Arab's hired by a sub-contractor, who sent them to the site against orders."
The inauguration ceremony itself has encountered some objections in the city council: Nir Bareket, who heads the municipality's opposition, slammed the costs – estimated as NIS 2 million (approximately $600,000) as unnecessarily extravagant.
"These public funds should have found their way to more important causes, such as schools and the city's beautification," he said.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The 2,100 year old scroll is the only complete scroll of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the Qumran caves within the Judean desert, in 1947, and represents the oldest biblical manuscript in existence - dating back 1,000 years prior to the next oldest biblical manuscript, the Aleppo Codex.
The reason for the scroll having been kept from the public for so long is the concern over the effects that light and humidity will have on the very delicate scroll.
With Isaiah's Scroll finally seeing the light of day, here is a golden opportunity to, 1) strengthen the right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. After all, this is very same Isaiah who was walking around Jerusalem, when the 1st Holy temple stood upon the Temple Mount, defending the unity of Jerusalem against those (Assyrians) who sought to destroy her.
And, 2) to celebrate the vitality of Judaism and the Jewish people. Here we are, in the very same places the Isaiah walked, among the descendants of those very Jews who lived in Israel (Judea) during that time. We are one nation, with one Homeland, keeping the same traditions and Torah, and in many ways, facing the same challenges that the Jewish people faced thousands of years ago, during Isaiah's lifetime.
Instead, what is being focused upon is Isaiah's message of "universal peace," and the scroll's relevance to all people.
However, is this an accurate representation of Isaiah's prophecy?
Those answering in the affirmative will quickly cite the verse that adorns the Isaiah Wall outside of the United Nations, which speaks of the messianic vision of peace:
"They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore." (Isaiah 2; 4)However, before we concede this point to the universalists, let us cite the complete prophecy, of which the above verse represents only a small segment.
"The prophecy that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw, concerning Judah and Jerusalem:When looking at this particular prophecy of Isaiah in its complete context, it is very clear that the Messianic vision of universal peace is preceded by a few things:
It will happen in the end of days, that the mountain of the Temple of Hashem will be firmly established as the head of the mountains, and it will be exalted above the hills; and all nations will stream to it. And many nations will go and say: 'Come, and let us go up to the Mountain of Hashem, to the Temple of the G-d of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths.' For from Zion will the Torah come forth, and the word of Hashem from Jerusalem. And He will judge among the nations, and will settle the arguments of many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2; 1-4)
- The Jewish people will have complete sovereignty over Israel, in general, and over Jerusalem, in particular.
- At the center of Jerusalem will stand, on the Temple Mount, the Holy Temple.
- The nations of the world will recognize the truth and righteousness of the teachings of the G-d of Israel, and will stream to Jerusalem to learn and live by them.
- The nations of the world will stand before G-d in judgment for their actions, and justice will be meted out.
With Israel finally bringing the Isaiah Scroll to light, perhaps it's time that we do the same for Isaiah's teachings, and in doing so, merit witnessing their fulfillment.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Putting it on the Line for Jerusalem
There are no shortage of people in this world who have opinions, and that is doubly true within the Jewish people.
Much rarer is the individual who is prepared to stand behind those opinions - those beliefs - when they are not popular, and when it places one squarely within the minority.
King David, who, throughout his life, embodied such a quality, wrote in Tehillim (119; 46):
I will also speak of Your (G-d's) testimonies before kings, and shall not be ashamed.Recently, over 100 million people had the opportunity to witness a more modern example of such conviction...
Dr. Mordechai Keidar, a professor at Bar Ilan University's Dept. for Arabic Studies was recently interviewed by Al-Jazeera's top journalist, Jamal Rayyan. (The interview can be found above).
In the interview, Keidar was asked if Israel's decision to continue building throughout Jerusalem - in areas over the "Green Line" - represented the metaphorical nail in the coffin for the peace process.
"To tell you the truth I don't quite understand this. Must Israel ask permission from some other authority in the world? It has been our capital for 3,000 years. We have been there since the time your forefathers used to drink wine, bury their daughters alive, and pray to multiple gods.Rayyan then asserted Islam's claim to Jerusalem, as stated in the Koran. To which Keidar responded that Jerusalem is not mentioned even a single time in the Koran.
So then, why must we speak about this? It has been our city for 3,000 years and will be for eternity."
Rayyan decided to try a different approach:
"Let's talk politics, please. Doesn't this decision oppose the Road Map, which determines that Israel will halt construction of the settlements in Jerusalem?"To which Keidar responded:
"The Road Map does not mention Jerusalem. Jerusalem is outside of negotiations. Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, Period! We cannot discuss Jerusalem in any way. You return to this issue time and again, but Jerusalem is not referred to in the Road Map. My brother, go and read the Road Map...How refreshing to see how one can assert the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish state in Israel, not through apologetics and guilt, but out of conviction and pride. To know that our right to a Jewish state in Israel is not limited to history dating back 60 years - to the Holocaust - but that our connection to this Land predates that of the Christians or Muslims by thousands of years.
My brother, Israel does not involve itself in housing that Qatar constructs in the Qatar Peninsula. What do you want with Jerusalem? Jerusalem is ours for eternity and no one, not Al-Jazeera or anyone else, has any say in it. Jerusalem is solely a Jewish city and no one else has any connection to it."
And to do so in front of 100 million viewers who don't agree with a word of what you're saying...
King David would be proud. Full post and comments...
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Merkaz HaRav - a flame that can't be extinguished
This last March Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav was the site of a gruesome arab attack against the heart and soul of religious Zionism. Yet just a few months later throngs of people showed up for their annual Yom Yerushalayim celebration. At one in the morning people filled the streets as the block was closed off and the sounds of singing and dancing could be heard in all the surrounding neighborhoods. No matter what tragedy our enemies may hurl at us, people like those at Merkaz HaRav show that the Jewish people are dedicating their lives to Hashem and our land and we won't be stopped or intimidated. Kol hakavod to all the bochurim and rebbeim there, may you only hear good news from now on.Full post and comments...
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Yom Yerushalayim- Come Join Us!!
Yom Yerushalayim Celebration @ Beit HaRav Kook (next to Ticho House) in Jerusalem! Join the Kumah chevrah, yeshiva students and new olim for a song-filled Tefillah Chagigit & Musical Hallel led by R' Shlomo Katz this Monday at 8:30am. Divrei Torah, great music, & free breakfast too! Marking 41 years since the open miracles of the Six Day War!Full post and comments...
Thursday, May 01, 2008
No Pictures This Year
So I just returned Home last night. I didn’t fly El Al (that’s for another blog post) but I flew Israir – another airline of Israel. And so toward the end of the flight, last night, the pilot came on and announced that Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) was just starting and he would now shut off the entertainment system (the movies, video games, and much of the audio selection.) There was a large group of Christians on the flight (that’s for that other blog post too.) It struck me that all those Christians were eating Kosher meals (special glatt kosher meals, by the way, again another post someday) and observing Yom HaShoah, because guess what? They were flying on our airline. Not to compare anything to Yom HaShoah, but when a Jew has to wait extra long for a bus in New York City on December 25th is it because that Jew is in their country?
And when the siren sounded at 10 O’clock this morning I found myself standing in exactly the same spot I stood one year ago, a busy Jerusalem street. Last year I took pictures (Arutz-7 wanted some for a photo essay, and it is important to share with those that are not here,) but I felt just awful snapping photos then. But this year, would be different.
I also wondered what those Christians tourists felt when they saw everything stand still as motorists stood outside their cars. And what about those Birthrighters I saw in the airport coming to Israel for the first time. (That’s also for that other post.) On the very first day they arrive the siren is the very first thing they experience? What would it remind them?
It no doubt reminded all of them this morning as it reminded me, of way too many terrible, sad and haunting thoughts. But it also reminded me of one powerfully inspiring thought. Indeed, this is our country, our Home!
Full post and comments...
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Priestly Blessing - Jerusalem 5768
Monday, March 24, 2008
Jerusalem Factor of Purim
Above picture is the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem, decorated for Purim. Click here to see my pictures from the early part of the Kumah Purim Seudah at Kever Shmuel HaNavi.
While I was celebrating Shabbat Purim, the middle of the 3 day Jerusalem Purim celebration this year, I took the time to read the lead tidbit of the OU Israel Center Torah Tidbits. Phil Chernofsky explains how our sages could have just kept Purim as the Galut (exile) holiday it was, but instead put a special emphasis on Jerusalem, essentially turning Shushan Purim into Jerusalem Purim, thereby bringing out the uniqueness of the Geulah (redemption), or Israel, celebration. I'm copying the article below in the full post, or you can read it on OU's website.
And now let's look at the Forest...
There's an expression that's been around for at least 500 years, "can't see the forest (or wood, woods) for the trees". It is defined as, "to focus only on small details and fail to understand larger plans or principles". It is equally true - even without an old saying to back it up - that some people "fail to see the trees for the forest". In Torah Life, there are countless details of halacha and custom - those are the trees, and there are the concepts and the hashkafa that give the practical details a healthy and helpful way of looking at the whole picture. Last week's Torah Tidbits contained an 8-page Pull-Out on Purim, with the major emphasis being on the special situation in Jerusalem this year of Purim M'shulash. Aside from all the details about the mitzvot of Purim, there are the many questions that arise when a Jew finds himself in different places at different time over the two-day period. These we presented last week. Those are the trees. But here is the forest - or, at least, one of the forests to behold.
Why is there a difference in the day of Purim between Yerushalayim (and several other places due to doubt) and everywhere else. And especially this year, when, because of the ban against reading Megila on Shabbat, we in Jerusalem read on Thursday night and Friday, like Jews all over the world. Why didn't our Sages say to move everything to Friday and for this 11% occurrence, we would have Purim on the 14th of Adar? They pulled back Megila. They pulled Matanot La'evyonim with it. Why didn't they go all the way? And even if you want to say that Al HaNisim and Torah reading should stay on the 15th, since there is no objection to their being done on Shabbat, why not pull Seuda and Mishlo'ach Manot back to Friday? They postponed these two aspects to Sunday. To the 16th of Adar. Beyond the two Purim days that the Megila said should not be bypassed.
We are not looking for the simple reason: The Megila tells us that the Jews all over the kingdom fought on the 13th of Adar and rested on the 14th and celebrated on that day. And the Jews in Shushan fought on the 13th and the 14th and rested from their fighting on the 15th and celebrated then. This doesn't address the question as to why the Sages perpetuated the split observance of Purim. There seems to be no imperative to do so. Let's look in the Megila. Although Esther 9:19 tells us: Therefore the Jews in open cities and villages make the 14th of Adar a day of festivities and of sending gifts to one another - what follows seems to suggest that Mordechai's original plan for Purim was different from the way we have it. From 9:20 on we read that Mordechai wrote to Jews throughout Achashveirosh's kingdom - far and near - to accept upon themselves the 14th of Adar AND the 15th of Adar in every year (to come); as days that the Jews rested from their enemies and in the month that was turned from sadness to joy... to make them (plural - the two days of Purim) days (there's the plural again) of parties and festival, and of exchanging gifts one with his fellow, and giving gifts to the poor. And the Jews did accept this on themselves... Look in the Megila; there is repeated reference to these two Purim days - without the distinction that we apply to them.
Why? Or. perhaps, what does this draw our attention to. Even if this isn't THE reason, we certainly have a focus and a message here.
We call it Shushan Purim, but in fact it is Jerusalem Purim. Maybe that's what evolved, but Chazal definitely pushed us in that direction. The always remember the Jerusalem Factor in the Purim story and in the Purim celebration.
Besides Shushan, which is mentioned in the Megila 19 times, there is only one other city named. ISH YEHUDI... There was a Jew who was in Shushan the Capital, and his name was Mordechai ben Yair ben Shim'i, ben Kish, ISH Y'MINI (a Benjaminite). But the description of Mordechai does not end there. Who was exiled from YERUSHALAYIM...
The Purim story happened in Galut, in exile. And more than its venue is the frame of mind of the Jews who lived in that exile. About 70 years had past and already the Jews were so comfortable in their exile that they went to Achashveirosh's parties and enjoyed themselves. The party at which Achashveirosh arrogantly flaunted the plunder of the Beit HaMikdash and paraded around in the holy garments of the Kohen Gadol. It was Mordechai, whose identity is not just a Jew in Shushan. He was also one who was exiled from Jerusalem. The other Jews might have wanted to forget Jerusalem; it might have been more convenient and politically correct to be to be Jewish Persians, to be Shushanites.
But not so very many years before, they swore not to forget Jerusalem. They did, and that's why Haman's sword hung over their heads for almost a whole year.
We, who commemorate and celebrate Purim must keep the Jerusalem Factor in the forefront of our thinking and feeling and reacting to the Purim story.
Our Sages gave us a startling way to do exactly that. First they established a "regular" Purim and a Shushan Purim. Then they gave us the criteria for who keeps the 14th and who keeps the 15th. They did not have to make the Walled City like Shushan rule. They could have kept Shushan Purim for Shushan only. But they didn't. They could have said walled cities from that time, but didn't do that either, because Jerusalem would have been left out. They could have moved Jerusalem's Purim to Friday this year, but they didn't do that either. Because Jerusalem would lose the focus. And it mustn't. What does one do if he goes to Jerusalem at night, in the daytime, etc. What does one do if he travels from Jerusalem, etc. Jerusalem. Jerusalem.
And Jerusalem is not just a city; it is the flagship city of Eretz Yisrael. And that brings us back to the Galut point. Shushan Purim calls attention to Jerusalem and Eretz Yisrael. To Zion. People who sit down to their Seuda on Sunday will be acutely aware of Jerusalem's special role in Jewish Life. And so too will Jews elsewhere who are not having their Seuda on Sunday.
Celebration of Pesach includes a "Next year in rebuilt Jerusalem" declaration. The Dayeinu song brings us beyond the Exodus all the way into Eretz Yisrael and to Jerusalem.
So too Purim. IM ESHKACHEICH YERUSHALAYIM, if we forget Jerusalem, TISHKACH Y'MINI, then you might as well forget Mordechai, the Y'MINI, because without the Jerusalem Factor, we miss the point of Purim.
Full post and comments...
Sunday, March 09, 2008
"We Will Not Deter"
I received the following e-mail from a co-worker (who wrote it.)
Although I don't usually send out these types of emails, I would like to share the following with all of you.
Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva.
When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed.
After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.
As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor.
She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every friday he would visit her with a few flowers for shabbat and a short dvar torah that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past shabbat, she had no flowers.
When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with 2 of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach in Brovenders and comes to my shul in Riverdale every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to be a chazan for one of the minyanim.
We are all affected by what goes on in Israel. Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone or even if you don't know anyone at all, you are affected. The 8 boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world.(AP)
This coming wednesday morning, I will be at Ben Gurion airport at 7 am with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim to Israel. We will not deter. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.Full post and comments...
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monopoly Isn't Just A Game Anymore
Well, it appears that the global jihad just can't keep its grubby hands out of my life, and has even invaded childhood games - to that, I say "Do not pass go, do not collect $200."
I wish there were a way to display the disgusted head shaking and heavy sigh that were elicited from me when I heard about the utterly lame Monopoly scandal. If you're just making your way back from a 6 week vacation in the Tibetan country side, I'll fill you in: Hasbro, makers of the well-known Monopoly board game, decided to make an international edition, allowing people from around the world to vote for cities which would appear as squares or "properties" on the board.
In the grand tradition of the Olympics and Eurovision, patriots and loyalists around the world took to their keyboards, voting for their various cities. And then came Islam.
As per the paradoxical usual, in which Arabs are swift, organized, resourceful and ambitious in screwing up someone else's good day (and altogether incapable of any other productive endeavor), they made a big ruckus over how Jerusalem REALLY belongs to the Palestinians, blah, blah, blah, and Hasbro removed the name of Israel from alongside Jerusalem - so while Marrakesh would should up as Marrakesh, Morocco, and Sydney would show up as Sydney, Australia, Jerusalem just showed up as Jerusalem. Kind of like what will happen on my daugter's US passport now that we've registered here as having been born in the Holy City.
Of course, Jews around the world protested this rude deletion, to which Hasbro responded by removing all country names from voting. Sydney is just Sydney, and Marrakesh is just Marrakesh. And Jersualem is just Jerusalem.
Is it just me, or can this type of struggle against niche anti-Zionism become really lame and boring? So many good people spend so much time fighting over minute issues of Jewish rights and recognition in little local papers, university seminars, and Monopoly votes. Is it worth our time?
I am conflicted on the issue. On the one hand, I can't tell you how much I want to escape from these fights, which I find to be kind of pathetic and useless. So much of the world is converted to Islamophilia (or maybe it's just Islamophobia), that I doubt another letter to the editor in some small town paper is going to change much. On the other hand, how can we stand silently in ANY forum when lies are being disseminated and Jewish rights are threatened? Is it important to vote for Jerusalem in Monopoly, to have our city represented in some stupid game, or is it now important NOT to vote for Jerusalem, because it is being touted as some kind of international no-man's-land?
What do you think? Full post and comments...
Sunday, February 24, 2008
When Passaic Is Jerusalem, Rav Leff's "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West"
Though I always wanted to post this here, I'm posting it now as a response the post "Passaic is Better than Israel."
Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
from “To Dwell in the Palace - Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”
DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”
The question is not of recent vintage, nor was it posed by a representative of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. It was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who addressed these words, some sixty years ago, to Rav Yitzchok Breuer. The rav of Yerushalayim further told the Agudah leader, “Now I understand the words of musaf for yom tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country’ - by HaShem; `and we were distanced from our Land’ - this we have done voluntarily.” (Moriah, p. 191)
Another quote from Rav Sonnenfeld is perhaps even more pointed: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his failure in the future world.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)
A generation or so later, a yeshiva student from the diaspora who had been learning in an Israeli yeshiva came to bid farewell to the Chazon Ish before returning to his home. “Is one permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel?” the gadol asked him. The student stammered and replied, “I understood that if one came to Eretz Yisroel with the intention of returning eventually, he is permitted to leave.” The Chazon Ish spoke in a tone of disappointment: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to settle here and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)
Baruch HaShem, Torah is flourishing in Eretz Yisroel to an extent scarcely even dreamed of by these great sages. But their questions still loom. Indeed, the extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is “involved in finding ways” out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.
The economic situation in Israel is often mentioned. Indeed, the Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 75, no. 6) rules that since living under conditions of economic privation can endanger, or at least compromise, one’s spiritual life, one is exempt from settling in Israel if he will be forced to live under conditions of dachkus (hardship). Now what constitutes the “dachkus” to which the Pischei Teshuva refers? The inability to afford $25 per pound gourmet chocolates? Not being able to acquire an elegant, very large wardrobe of `from” designer clothing? Is the definition of dachkus being too destitute to afford a $500,000 home that one would not think of inhabiting until it was gutted and elegantly redone? Or is dachkus a dearth of elegant glatt restaurants of various nationalities, pizza shops with all the trimmings, and frozen glatt kosher convenience foods and snacks?
Not to belabor the point, in essence the ruling of the Pischei Teshuva refers specifically to one who will be forced to live from tzedaka in Israel as opposed to being able to earn a living in chutz laAretz. By comparing employment possibilities in Eretz Yisroel today with those available either in the time of Rav Sonnenfeld or that of the Chazon Ish, we are soon forced to eliminate the exemption of the Pischei Teshuva for most cases. B’ezras HaShem one can earn a livelihood in Israel that would have been considered luxurious by most of prewar European Jewry. Even more significant, however, is this point: the more modest lifestyle typical in Israel today not only does no harm to one’s spiritual life, but it is likely to do much good.
The Torah sages of all generations warned against extravagant lifestyles, flaunting our wealth in the eyes of the nations, and becoming too comfortable in golus. The Maharsha (Shabbos 119) makes the following observation: “Most of the sins of this generation… can be attributed to the fact that… everyone wishes to conduct himself in an extravagant fashion in regard to clothing, houses, and all other matters; and this leads to theft.”
More recently, the Chafetz Chaim, in the Biur Halachic (siman 529), rebukes openly: “Many people err in this area and do not take to heart how to conduct themselves properly concerning their household expenses, to distance themselves from luxuries. Many have been damaged by this kind of conduct which ultimately brings one to theft and dishonesty and to shame and disgrace….” In Sfas Tamim (chapter V) the Chafetz Chaim blames the suffering, trials and tribulations of his times on the dishonesty promoted by overspending on luxuries, especially costly clothing; by overextending oneself through buying on credit; and by lavish weddings with unreasonable demands made on parents for dowries.
Another facet of the economic argument, one cited as a reason to delay aliya indefinitely, is financial “security.” (”How can we face the future without a sizable sum put safely away?”) The gemara (Sota 48) says: “One who has bread in his basket and worries what he will eat tomorrow is one of little faith.” The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the “little faith” is not evidenced by the uncertainty of tomorrow, but rather by this man’s certainty of today. By worrying only about to morrow, he shows that he puts his trust in the presence of bread in his basket, and not in HaShem. A believing Jew, by definition, does not hang his security on large bank accounts; he certainly would not compromise his Torah life in their pursuit.
All this considered, there do remain legitimate economic factors to weigh when planning aliya. The laws of tzedaka demand that we provide for one who falls on hard times not merely at subsistence level, but at the standard to which he was accustomed. This is because a drastic change in lifestyle can be very painful. In light of this insight gleaned from the halacha itself, an individual may and should consider very carefully his family’s present standard of living, the prospects for their situation in Eretz Yisroel, and the ability of the family to modify or adapt accordingly. Of course, a Jew who has been properly educated to the importance of aliya, and one who takes the admonition of the Chafetz Chaim cited above seriously, will be cautious from the start lest his family grow accustomed to exaggerated standards.
The second factor that could qualify as a reason for postponing aliya under the guidelines of the Pischei Teshuva concerns the individual’s predilection for a specific occupation. Chazal tell us that it is part of a man’s nature to find satisfaction in doing that for which he is best suited. We all know that there are many people who retrain in the middle of one career for an entirely new one, for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, one who finds satisfaction in his occupation should plan to pursue the same one in Eretz Yisroel. Where this would be impossible, one should weigh the available options for suitability and for the prospects of success and satisfaction inherent in each one. Failure to deliberate this issue could result in a potentially frustrating or unsuccessful aliya. Here too, however, if one teaches oneself to strive always towards aliya, then, at every crossroads in his training, he will have Eretz Yisroel in mind. Such a person will consider possible occupations in light of their transferability to Eretz Yisroel from the beginning.
And then there’s the matter of physical security. After all, the halacha does not permit us to put ourselves in danger.
Visiting New York, I have been asked: “Aren’t you afraid to live in the Shomron?” I find it amusing if not ironic when the question is asked while the host secures both his locks and activates his alarm system.
In the years I’ve lived on Moshav Mattityahu, there have been no incidents, no crime. My children can go out to play at any hour, and we do not bother to lock our doors even at night. How safe are the streets of any city in America that it should be recommended as a place of safety while Israel is rejected as dangerous?
On the streets of Eretz Yisroel, the only men carrying guns are the soldiers protecting us. At least here in Eretz Yisroel the security measures taken have an excellent record of effectiveness. And added to those security measures (which the halacha requires of us) the observable fact is that in Eretz Yisroel we merit an extra, supernatural, measure directly from the Ribbono shel olam. No, the safety factor does not really seem to be an issue.
Some claim to fear the problems that they would encounter trying to live a life of Torah under a secular Israeli government. Isn’t the negative attitude to Torah values and Torah observers exhibited by certain segments of Israeli society a significant detriment, they ask.
One wonders, however, if non-Jewish Western society, or for that matter the secular Jewish community elsewhere, is really a better environment for Torah ideals. Is the attitude there towards Torah values less hostile? Does kindly tolerance of observant Jews demonstrated by secularized brethren create a better atmosphere for growth?
Before the reader rushes to answer these complex questions, the following should be considered: When the Israeli government passed the law of conscription for women, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with a challenge: “Does the Rav still feel that Jews are obligated to come and settle here [i.e.., when there is a government that drafts laws such as this, subjecting our daughters to military service, which the gedolim forbid (they have even ruled that one must surrender her life if that is the only alternative to compliance)]?” After a brief, pained silence, the Chazon Ish answered in the affirmative with forceful resolve and clarity. (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 43)
Today, although conscription of women has yet to be annulled completely, any woman claiming to be religious is exempt. It would therefore appear, by kal vachomer from the psak of the Chazon Ish, that the objection posed above does not affect our obligation.
Those in positions of communal responsibility cite additional grounds for remaining in chutz laAretz. Clearly, consideration must be given to the effect their aliya will have on those for whom they bear responsibility. There are indeed many community rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, klei kodesh, and community heads who are crucial to the growth and stability of their respective institutions both spiritually and physically. It would, however, be absurd and somewhat haughty for every rabbi or communal leader to assume that the fate of his community rests on his shoulders alone.
In many cases the aliya of the leader would be an incentive and inspiration for those he leads to follow, for the benefit of all concerned. And there are leaders who would be even more effective and successful in Eretz Yisroel.
Rav Sonnenfeld directed his impoverished grandson to decline the offer of a prestigious rabbinical position in chutz laAretz and to remain in Eretz Yisroel. “I maintain that it is better to be a plain working man in Israel than a rabbi in chutz laAretz,” Rav Sonnenfeld told him. (This is not to be taken as a blanket principle for all cases. The comment is important, however, in that it challenges our preconception that the reverse is the rule.)
It must be emphasized that each situation is unique. When doubts exist, the advice of a Torah authority should be sought. I myself know of a number of cases where important rabbis and leaders were advised by a posek to go ahead and make aliya.
Another factor that sometimes discourages prospective olim is reports of problems encountered in chinuch of children, particularly those of high school age. This may seem surprising, since there is an abundance of excellent institutions of learning to be found in Eretz Yisroel on all levels. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of Hebrew language skills acquired in many US. yeshivos, coupled with cultural differences which are due to the infusion of foreign values, can create difficulties for the young oleh. Discrepancies of style between available options here and those one was accustomed to in the United States can cause considerable pain for children and parents alike. With proper planning and guidance, however, many of these problems can be reduced or avoided entirely. Furthermore, additional aliya from the US. will, inevitably, lead to the establishment of more schools tailored to these olim. (Indeed, recent years have witnessed the development of “American-style” yeshivishe education in Israel with a unique flavor all its own.)
There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.
And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish….
The purpose of this article is not to enter into a halachic debate, nor to be so presumptuous as to rush in where giants have trodden before me. Yes, there are reliable halachic opinions which would mitigate the obligatory nature of yishuv Eretz Yisroel in our times; but the list of opinions in support of the imperative of fulfilling this mitzva today - only fractionally mentioned in the above paragraph - is a formidable one.
There is one point on which all Torah authorities are in agreement. That is that living in Eretz Yisroel affords one a unique opportunity for spiritual development and growth. While it is true that this opportunity must be considered in conjunction with many other factors that affect the spirit, one cannot simply ignore or disregard the special qualities of Eretz Yisroel and of the mitzva of yishuv haAretz.
Strangely, consideration of settling in Eretz Yisroel is overlooked by many in the Torah community. This most certainly is not the Torah view. The move to Eretz Yisroel must at least be considered, discussed, and investigated. As a musmach of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, who learned in kollel there for many years, then went on to serve the community I grew up in as rav of the North Miami Beach kehilla for nine years, and then, with the advice and encouragement of gedolim, was oleh to Eretz Yisroel several years ago, assuming the position of rav of Moshav Mattityahu - I feel that my experience may be instructive to the Torah world. I believe I can provide some insights gained on both sides of the ocean which will clarify the case for settling in Eretz Yisroel, and bring the topic to the forefront for personal deliberation. Perhaps others like me, neither exceptionally brave nor wealthy, may benefit from my perspective.
If living in Eretz Yisroel is viewed as “just a mitzva” (as I once heard someone say with a shrug), then all the considerations discussed above could be deterrents. But this is a mitzva which is “equal to all the rest,” it is fulfilled every moment with every part of one’s body, and it carries with it a host of other mitzvos which one can fulfill only by residing in Eretz Yisroel. Clearly, there is something more encompassing at issue than any single mitzva. Let us therefore suspend our analysis of practical questions while we address the larger picture. What is this particular Land, and living in it, all about?
The Role of the Jewish Nation
Some of what follows is basic and surely known to the reader. Nevertheless, as the Mesillas Yesharim warns, that which is basic and self-understood is often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.
Am Yisroel was selected by HaShem to be a sanctified nation whose raison d’etre would be to represent HaShem to the world in all areas - a “mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh.” The Torah was given to us to guide us - individually and collectively - in conforming with this lofty mission.
To achieve our goal, HaShem exhorted us to separate ourselves from the other nations. We are to be a nation apart, distinct in our holy purpose. As the Torah instructs, “Va’avdil eschem min ha’amim lihiyos li” (I separated you from the nations to be Mine). (Vayikra 20) The Sifrei comments on this verse: “If you are separated then you are Mine, but if not, you belong to Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts.” The simple meaning seems to be that if we separate ourselves, we will merit Divine protection, and if not, HaShem will deliver us into the hands of our enemies. The literal wording of the Sifrei, however, does not bear this explanation out. I would like to suggest an alternative one:
A non Jew is required to observe only seven mitzvos. His lifestyle can be secular, devoid of holiness. As long as he maintains harmony with the basic ethical code dictated by HaShem for civilization, he will merit a share in the world-to-come. One might conclude that a Jew living the same type of lifestyle, although remiss in the observance of 606 mitzvos, has a positive basis for his life - no worse than a non Jew. The Sifrei informs us otherwise. The Jew exists for an entirely different purpose: to create a mikdash - a place of holiness and sanctity where HaShem’s presence will be found, and felt. This mikdash finds expression in the person of every Jew. Thus, any Jew who fails to sanctify himself, to lead a life of exceptional holiness as defined by the Torah’s commandments, is in fact destroying his personal mikdash. He has joined the ranks of Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts, destroyers of the Mikdash.
To promote our being a “nation that dwells apart,” HaShem “measured every land and found no land more suitable to the Jewish people than Eretz Yisroel, and no people better suited to Eretz Yisroel than am Yisroel.” (Vayikra Rabba 13) Eretz Yisroel is a holy Land, the Land that HaShem personally supervises at all times, the Land that HaShem calls His own. Am Yisroel is the nation that is a holy nation - the nation that merits direct Divine providence, the nation that HaShem calls His own. Hence Eretz Yisroel and am Yisroel complement each other perfectly.
Eretz Yisroel provides the setting where we can develop our potential to be a sanctified nation unlike any other. (This, it should be noted, is the very antithesis of secular Zionist ideology, which envi sions Eretz Yisroel as the setting for us to develop at long last into a nation like all other nations, with all their vices and weaknesses.)
The idea of Eretz Yisroel as the home of a uniquely holy people is implied at the very beginning of the Torah. “The Torah should have commenced with hachodesh hazeh lachem, the first mitzva the Jewish people were commanded. Why then does it open with Bereishis…?” (Rashi on Bereishis 1, 1) The answer quoted by Rashi is the following: Lest the nations of the world claim that we are thieves who stole the land of seven nations, HaShem informs us that He created the world and it is therefore His to take away from whomever He chooses and to give to whomever He chooses.
This answer is not for the nations; obviously, they do not accept it. Rather it is we who are supposed to see clearly that Eretz Yisroel is legitimately ours, given to us by HaShem. But there is a deeper lesson here. Why was it ordained that we should have to conquer Eretz Yisroel from seven nations who inhabited it for hundreds of years? Why was it arranged that we should have to kill the men, women, and children of those nations? Why did Eretz Yisroel have to become ours in a manner so open to question that the whole Torah would have to start from Bereishis just to provide an answer?
It seems that HaShem sought to teach us a lesson so significant that it is the foundation of the entire Torah. It is the preface necessary before we can approach even the first mitzva. This lesson is that the basis of our ethics and morals, standards and values is one sole source - HaShem Yisbarach. If He says to conquer and kill, that is what is “ethical’ and “moral.” Where HaShem mandates mercy and peace, they are “ethical” in that case. Our value system can have no other basis than the written and oral Torah. By mandating the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in an apparently disputable manner, the Creator forced us to focus our attention on the only basis we have for our actions. He is the Creator of all that exists; only He can dictate proper conduct among the peoples and lands He created. Only on the basis of this reasoning are we not thieves nor murderers. The Torah, at the very outset, is laying the foundation for our frame of reference to mitzvos, and to the world.
It is not incidental that this lesson is taught through Eretz Yisroel. Our sources emphasize that only in the Land of Israel can a Torah society not influenced by foreign values and standards be created - a society based on the ethics and morals of Torah alone, a society apart, rooted in and enhanced by the special qualities of the Land.
This is something we neglect to study in the day-to-day pursuit of our lives as individuals. But since the ideal Torah society is something we yearn and pray for, it would be edifying to delve into the structure that it is meant to have.
The Brisker Rav, zt”l, explains (on parshas Chayei Sara) that klal Yisroel is comprised of two complementary factions. The first is made up of choice individuals whom the Rambam refers to as an extended “shevet Levi” - those devoted exclusively to Torah study and avodas HaShem. This is the elite corps of HaShem’s army, toiling in the yeshivos and kollelim, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They create the spiritual energy source necessary for the survival of klal Yisroel and are therefore supported by the klal as were the Kohanim and Leviim. This group is the minority.
The other sector, comprising the majority of klal Yisroel, are those who follow the dictum of Rebbe Yishmael (Brachos 35) and combine Torah with a worldly occupation. Torah is, of course, the focal point of their lives, their worldly occupation secondary and peripheral. Nevertheless, Torah is not their exclusive pursuit.
I believe this thesis of the Brisker Rav has an analogous application to the Land. It too is to be divided into two sections. Yerushalayim is the primary domain of Kohanim and Leviim with the Beis HaMikdash at its center. The remainder of Eretz Yisroel is predominantly the territory of the other tribes.
The gemara (Pesachim 8) questions why the choice fruits of the Galil were not found growing in Yerushalayim instead, and why the hot springs of Teverya were not situated in Yerushalayim. The answer it gives is that when the Jewish people ascended to the Beis HaMikdash three times a year to fulfill the mitzva of aliya laregel, HaShem wanted them to perform the mitzva entirely “leshem shamayim.” He did not want them to have the possible ulterior incentive of delicious fruit or hot springs.
And yet, delicious fruits do grow in the Galil, and hot springs are found in Teverya, which are also part of Eretz Hakodesh. This fact points to an important insight into the total picture of Eretz Yisroel. Although Yerushalayim is reserved for the spiritual, the entire Land is holy. Yerushalayim it hakodesh is representative of shevet Levi and the unique role of that minority. The rest of this holy Land corresponds to the rest of our people and the majority role, which is the synthesis of spiritual and material.
The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation, undertaken in Eretz Yisroel, is included in the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, and it is in Eretz Yisroel that Rebbe Yishmael’s ruling (that one should take on a worldly occupation) applies! Agriculture or commerce, industry or social work, medicine or engineering… whatever helps settle the people in the Land, as this-wordly as it may seem, is, by definition, a mitzva in Eretz Yisroel. Consequently, the physical and material aspects of the Land are also objects of holiness, vehicles of service to HaShem.
This idea is further borne out by the Gra’s version of the bracha acharona. The Gra omits the phrase “and let us eat from its (Eretz Yisroel’s) fruit and be satiated from its goodness.” His source is the gemara in Sota (14). Of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter Eretz Yisroel the question is asked: “Was it to eat from its fruit that he wished to enter the Land?! Rather his desire was to fulfill the mitzvos of the Land.” The implication is that eating from the fruit is not a commendable reason for desiring Eretz Yisroel and the Gra therefore omits it from the bracha.
How then can we understand the Gra’s version of the beginning of this bracha, which contains the following phrase: “… and for the desirable, good, and spacious Land that You desired and bequeathed to our forefathers to eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness….”
The discrepancy is explained when we apply the above-mentioned concept of a division of the Land of Israel. The opening part of the blessing refers to Eretz Yisroel as a whole. We mention the fruit since it is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of Divine service in greater Eretz Hakodesh. The conclusion of the bracha, however, refers specifically to the building of Yerushalayim, where reference to the fruits and material goodness is out of place.
The gemara in Sota pertains to Moshe Rabbeinu, a Levi whose place would have been in Yerushalayim. Hence the negative connotation of desiring to enter for the fruits.
The midrash (Bereishis Rabba 38, 8) relates that Avraham avinu traveled from land to land seeking the best place for his children to live. In Aram he observed people eating and drinking and partying, and he hoped that his descendants would not reside there. In contrast he observed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel weeding and plowing and planting and hoped that this would be the dwelling-place of his offspring.
This midrash is surprising in that it points to qualities inherent in the atmosphere of a certain land. (The inhabitants of both these countries were, after all, idol-worshippers.)
The very air of chutz laAretz is conducive to materialism, to the utilization of the physical aspects of the world for immediate gratification and sensual stimulation - an olam hazeh approach. Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, is conducive to toiling for future gratification, for future fruits - even in the material sense. This is an olam habba orientation. Avraham avinu recognized that in this setting his descendants would be able to realize their full potential, whatever their occupation.
It is true that the environment, whether of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz laAretz, can be overcome to a great extent. A Jew living outside the Land can resolve not to succumb to materialism. Even in Eretz Yisroel one who is determined to do so can lead a life of indulgence; after all, Sodom was in Eretz Yisroel. However, for one sincerely seeking to give HaShem the best service, Eretz Yisroel is the only place in the world providing a fertile, favorable environment. Not only in the past and in the future, but also in the present.
We are reminded daily of this truth. Every time we eat a meal, after satisfying our physical appetite, we are required by the Torah to recite birkas hamazon. It consists of three brachos of Torah origin and a fourth that is rabbinic. The first of the three Torah blessings acknowledges that HaShem is the source of all sustenance. The second thanks HaShem for the food and for Eretz Yisroel. It is in this bracha that we also mention HaShem’s covenant with us and the Torah. The third bracha is a prayer for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash and the Davidic dynasty.
Reciting all of this after each addition of a few ounces to our physical constitution, no matter where we live, may not seem particularly relevant. But it is. A Jew must focus his attention on the ultimate purpose of the creation of the material. Any thank-you for food must include mention of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, for only through the Land of Israel are the world’s material components put to use in the most sublime and ideal fashion.
And yet we may imagine that we can daily acknowledge the ideal while continuing to live our own lives among the nations in a lessthan-ideal fashion. Dwelling apart would be nice, we may say, but as for me, blending in with my host country will suffice. The Torah tells us otherwise. If we dwell apart, then “Israel will dwell apart in security.” (Devarim 33) If, however, we choose not to do so willingly, then solitude of a different, nature will be forced upon us. “How does she dwell apart in solitude?” is, we will recall, the opening verse of Lamentations.
How often have we tried to assimilate! Yet we, like the oil which can never blend with other liquids, are doomed to remain separate. Rav Chaim Volozhiner put it succinctly: “If the Jew does not make kiddush then the goy makes havdala.” Either we separate and sanctify ourselves, or the matter will be taken care of for us in much more painful ways.
The ultimate “cure” for all the woes of the Jew among the nations can only be a return to our own Land, there to live a life absolutely unique in its sanctification.
Consider the verse: “No man will covet your Land when you ascend to greet the Presence of HaShem thrice yearly.” (Shemos 34) Would it not have been sufficient if no one took the Land? Why was it necessary to promise that no one would “covet” the Land?
In light of our discussion regarding the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, we can explain this verse in the following manner:
The Ibn Ezra explains that the prohibition of Lo sachmod - do not covet - demands that a person recognize that all possessions are Divinely ordained for their owners. One does not covet that which is totally removed from his sphere (e.g., the peasant does not desire the king’s daughter, whom he merely admires from afar).
With this in mind, the verse quoted above takes on new meaning. The Jewish people are to renew and revitalize their relationship to HaShem three times each year by immersion in the holiness of Yerushalayim. They then go home to live their everyday lives in Eretz Yisroel proper - a sanctified people in a sanctified society, observing numerous agricultural commandments with the produce of a sanctified Land. The nations of the world will recognize that Eretz Yisroel is something outside their orbit. Perceiving how ill-suited it is to their olam hazeh ways and goals, they will lose interest in it. It is only when we dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a secular manner comparable to theirs that the nations imagine it has relevance to them also - and that is when they covet the Land.
This is a general picture of the way things are meant to be for the people of Israel living in the Land of Israel. Although every person must act in accordance with his unique circumstances, the Jew must maintain an awareness of the task of klal Yisroel in Creation. While an individual Jew may reach a relatively high level anywhere, there is no possibility of fulfilling our national destiny except in Eretz Yisroel.
An important point for the ben Torah to consider is this: only those who accept the full implications of the Torah’s starting from Bereishis, as explained above, are in a position to bring HaShem’s plan to fruition.
It thus behooves us to readdress the question: Where is the aliya from the Torah communities of the West? Having dismissed so many excuses, I would now like to focus on what I believe are root causes.
One factor which should not be underestimated is Zionism. The secular Zionist movement sought to replace the Torah, which it rejected, with nationalism - the Land of Israel, the Hebrew language, and “culture” - as the sole foundation of Jewish identity.
This had a variety of consequences. One which is rarely discussed, but which is especially relevant and particularly tragic, is the effect on the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. Somehow, G-d’s commandment seems to have become tainted by the Zionist idea. Interestingly enough, there is a precedent for de-emphasizing a mitzva when it is thus “cut off from the tree of life” by some. When the minim (early Christians) discarded the 613 mitzvos for the “Ten Commandments” exclusively, the Rabbis removed the recitation of these aseres hadibros from the tefilla. They feared that mentioning only these might mislead the masses into following the minim. They did not, however, stop observing the aseres hadibros! It is interesting to note that the need to cease publicly emphasizing the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, based on the above reasoning, was suggested ninety years ago by none other than Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l. (Hapeles, 5661, issues 1 - 4, quoted in Le’or Hanetzach pp. 121 - 122) Indeed, this could be one reason why gedolei Yisroel to this day do not publicly emphasize the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.
For the Torah community, however, to fall into the trap of equating Zion with Zionism, and avoid the tremendous mitzva involved because it appears blemished, is a great tragedy.
Ben Gurion once said that if the Knesset voted for Shabbos observance, he would observe it as the law of the land. Would there then be justification for us to cease observing Shabbos because the Zionists were observing it for the wrong reason and in a distorted fashion?!
The Sadducees distorted the Yom Kippur service, the counting of the omer, the celebration of Shavuos, and countless other mitzvos. Did chazal then react by neglecting or ignoring these mitzvos? Rather they emphasized proper observance in defiance of the falsifiers, even in times when the Sadducees were in power and had the upper hand.
Therefore, the subtle negative effects of Zionism must be brought to the surface of our thinking, so that each of us can attack them in a rational fashion, without negating the importance of the Land or the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.
The final element which must be confronted is a formidable one. It is the difficulty involved in aliya. The mitzva of tzitzis, after all - including all shitos and hiddurim - is one thing. Leaving one’s birthplace, family and friends, and all that is comfortable and familiar, is quite another. Nevertheless, the ability to do so, says Rav Chaim Volozhiner, exists potentially in the very fiber of every Jew. It is our legacy from our forefather Avraham, programmed into our spiritual genetic makeup ever since he heeded the command of “tech lecha” on that very first aliya laAretz. (Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos 5, 4)
The difficulties of yishuv Eretz Yisroel do not end when one arrives, just as one’s aliya does not stop at Lod Airport. Rather, it is an ongoing process of realizing ever higher goals. The hurdles are testified to by chazal as a permanent component of the mitzva and should not be considered a new result of modern bureaucracy. What chazal say about this is deserving of our consideration. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Israel three precious gifts, and all were given only through suffering. They are: Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and the world-to-come.” (Brachos 5) These words of our sages underscore something every Torah Jew knows: In serving HaShem we do not neglect a mitzva because it is difficult. That which comes hardest is often the most valuable, hence, the most precious gift.
Another category of “difficulty” must be mentioned. The learned and G-d fearing individual knows that Eretz Yisroel is the “palace of the King.” A higher, more exacting standard of behavior is demanded here. One might reason that he should not introduce himself into a situation that may demand more of him spiritually than he can deliver. He may therefore opt to remain in chutz laAretz rather than to abuse the sanctity of the Land. (Such logic might have validity for a Jew absolutely uninterested in Torah and mitzvos. In chutz laAretz, his transgressions would be less devastating. On the other hand, for such a person, settling in Eretz Yisroel might be the very thing that would provide a positive influence and move him to teshuva.)
By the above line of reasoning, all Torah study should cease. The more one learns, after all, the more is demanded of him. The higher his level, the more strictly is he judged. Should he not therefore opt to learn as little as possible so as not to magnify his failings and avoid abusing the sanctity of the Torah? The fallacy here is that we are required by the Torah constantly to elevate ourselves, to accept added responsibility. The Torah we possess will aid us in accommodating ourselves to our raised level. Likewise the merit and kedusha of Eretz Yisroel will elevate us, actually aiding us to live properly in the King’s palace. Furthermore, if we are in danger of transgressing despite Torah learning and Eretz Yisroel, how much lower would we fall without their saving powers. (See Michtav MeEliyahu, vol. II, pp. 54 - 55)
No, Eretz Yisroel is not “just another mitzva.” For ben Torah or baal bayis it represents an elevation to higher levels of sanctity in every aspect of life, availability of mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled anywhere else, and the potential - however remote it may appear for the moment - of a consummate Torah society.
To our great dismay, the geula has not yet come. According to our gedolim we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, the last stage of golus. Ours is a time of paradoxes and great tests. On the one hand we have witnessed many miraculous and marvelous events. We have been zocheh that a large portion of Eretz Yisroel has been returned to Jewish hands and is thriving and flourishing. Aliya is now within the relatively easy grasp of millions of Jews. HaShem in His kindness has granted us access once again to our mekomos kedoshim (the Kosel Hamaaravi, Me’aras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel…).
At the same time, however, a secular government with a secular system of law reigns in Israel today, a government that can be hostile to Torah values and Torah-observant Jews. The media may, on occasion, spew forth such hatred for Torah that one can only be astounded and deeply ashamed that the language of such blasphemy is Hebrew. Missionaries peddle their wares, apparently unchecked. We must demonstrate against public chillul Shabbos and other types of desecration. The confusion over “Who is a Jew” and the introduction of the deviationist Conservativism and Reform even in this holy Land add to our heartache. All of these shadows loom over Eretz Yisroel.
And yet, there is so much light. Yeshivos and other mekomos Torah are proliferating at an unbelievable pace and are bursting at the seams. Thousands of previously estranged Jews are returning to our Torah heritage. Torah cities thrive and new ones are being built, Torah neighborhoods with all their accoutrements flourish in all the major cities, and even Torah moshavim and kibbutzim dot the map of the Land.
Chazal have instructed us that it is better to dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a city that is predominantly non-Jewish than to dwell in chutz laAretz, even in a city predominantly Jewish. (Kesubos 110) This does not mean that living in the band of Israel per se is more important than living in a Torah environment. But rather, I recently heard the idea that in Eretz Yisroel, the potential for positive change is inherent. The trend is for more and more Jews to come and transform the previously non-Jewish city into a Jewish one. Chutz laAretz, on the other hand, is doomed to negative change for the Jew. Permanence is, by definition, impossible there. Neighborhoods are destined to flourish temporarily, wane, and ultimately fall into non-Jewish hands. (Who has not seen this?)
So, if the dark patches described above trouble you, think in terms of potential for change. Imagine the impact of an influx of hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of Torah-observant Jews, rabbanim, mechanchim, bnei Torah, and balebatim - men, women and children - on society in Israel and on the very character of the “Jewish State.”
Lest the reader think that mere numbers are not the issue, let me cite an exchange reported to have taken place between the Chazon Ish and Ben Gurion. The prime minister had asked the gaon’s prediction of who would ultimately be victorious in shaping Israeli society - the secularist camp or the Torah camp. The answer of the Chazon Ish was: “I am not a prophet, but I am certain that we will win out in the end. Our birthrate exceeds yours by far and one day we will be the majority!”
And if you are concerned that Israel may be unable to accommodate a vast influx, socially and economically, take this into consideration: I have heard secular Israeli leaders say that they would welcome and be able to handle tremendous numbers of immigrants. If they, presumably relying and depending on their “own” resources and means, feel so sure, how much more should we, who trust in the Ribbono shel olam? Eretz Yisroel is referred to as “Eretz Tzvi” (the Land like a deer). Just as a deer’s skin constantly expands to accommodate its growth, so too Eretz Yisroel can always accommodate additional Jews. As Rav Sonnenfeld put it, “When children return to their mother’s home there is no question of space. They squeeze together to sit but the mother never complains of lack of room.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 153)
HaShem Yisbarach has blessed us with wonderful gifts in our generation. It stands to reason that He is watching to see if we appreciate all that He has done. Do we consider it sufficient to admire from afar, and maybe visit once in a while? Or are we grateful enough to sacrifice some physical and material comforts in order to benefit from these spiritual luxuries? Perhaps an exhibition of genuine appreciation of His gifts will earn us the final crowning of a hastened geula!
With all of this, however, it would be overstated to advocate unconditionally that every religious Jew pick up and leave the diaspora tomorrow. Each individual situation must be studied carefully, and all of the legitimate factors considered.
This means asking a posek. During my years of experience as a community rav, I was impressed by the number of balebatim who, for example, would not break their fast on Taanis Esther despite a serious headache, without a psak halacha. Is such conscientiousness nothing more than a big show on a small matter? I prefer to believe it is the expression of a genuine desire to fulfill HaShem’s will. If it is, it would not allow the Jew to exempt himself from a mitzva as important, as all-encompassing, as yishuv Eretz Yisroel, before asking a shaila. One should not interpret the absence of public exhortations from gedolim on this or any other issue to be an indication of a negative attitude or even of indifference. There are a great many factors which may mandate public silence on some matter, even one viewed favorably, even one of great importance, even a question of mitzva and aveira.
If in the final analysis your particular circumstances dictate that you yourself remain in chutz laAretz, be ever sensitive to the fact that you are missing something. Recognize that no Jewish community in chutz laAretz - Y rum” and established though it may be - can ever replace Eretz Yisroel. If this is an important awareness for the lay individual, it is crucial for the teacher or community leader. In striving to raise the level of Torah and mitzva observance of those under your influence, you should stress the inevitable incompleteness of Jewish life outside the Land of Israel.
If you do not merit settling in Eretz Yisroel presently, aspire and fervently pray for the day when your circumstances will change, so that you will be able to fulfill this mitzva and reap the spiritual benefits of living in our holy Land. It would also be advantageous to visit Eretz Yisroel from time to time if your finances permit, to keep the fires of your dreams and aspirations glowing. The Chazon Ish (Kovets Igros, vol. 1, no. 176) supports this recommendation.
It is not sufficient to admire and appreciate the advantages and benefits of Eretz Yisroel in theory. In part this was the sin of the spies who, while extolling the beauty and goodness of the Land, lacked the bitachon to take advantage of those merits and concretize their personal connection to the Land. Rav Yaakov Emden, in his Siddur, emphasizes this point. “The mere hint of facing towards Yerushalayim when we pray is only sufficient when more than that is impossible. But, if we are not prevented by circumstance from physically being in Eretz Yisroel, then just facing in its direction will not suffice. Therefore, every Jew must resolve in his heart to settle in Eretz Yisroel as soon as he has the means to finance his move and to be able to eke out a meager livelihood by means of a trade or business…. Don’t think to become entrenched in chutz laAretz for this was the sin of our forefathers who `despised the desirable Land.’ This sin has caused all the calamities in our golus. We have been like one totally forgotten because we have completely forgotten the mitzva to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.”
Other Torah sages too have warned of becoming too settled in chutz laAretz. Some even went so far as to prohibit the erection of permanent stone dwellings outside of Eretz Yisroel. The Keli Yakar at the beginning of parshas Vayechi explains why the date of the arrival of Mashiach was hidden from us: to prevent us from becoming too settled in foreign lands, and losing the sense of anticipation of his arrival and of our imminent return to Eretz Yisroel. He goes on to bemoan the lack of success of even this measure, noting that so many Jews feel so settled in the lands of their dispersion that they build luxurious, permanent homes, and ignore even the possibility (let alone the fervent desire) that Mashiach may come at any moment and bring us all back to the Land of Israel.
We must refrain from feeling settled and fulfilled as long as we are outside the Land. This attitude need not lead to melancholy but should instead actually enhance one’s spiritual life. It affords direction in aspiring towards the proper values and lifestyle. Interestingly, it may also provide physical protection for the community in which one resides now, as illustrated by the following account from the Shearis Yisroel, in the name of Rav Yehoshua Falk, the author of the SMA.
The city of Worms was devastated twice during the Crusades. Why did a city blessed with pious Torah scholars merit such a fate? When Ezra hasofer returned to Eretz Yisroel to begin his work on the second Beis HaMikdash, he sent letters to all the major kehillos of the time inviting them to return with him. The kehilla of Worms, which had been established since the destruction of the first Temple, responded: “Peace unto you, Ezra hasofer! May you be successful in establishing the grand Beis HaMikdash in the grand Yerushalayim. We, however, will remain here in our `small Yerushalayim’ and with our mikdash meat, our small Temple.” This attitude, tragically common even in our own day, spiritually blemished the city to such an extent that it was especially vulnerable to the attacks of the Crusaders many years later.
And if in fact your personal circumstances do not exempt you from fulfilling this magnificent mitzva, then do not delay. If you keep in mind the benefits which will accrue to you personally, as well as the tremendous advantage to the klal, you will surely act with alacrity. Preparations need not be elaborate. The most important preparation that one can make is learning and teaching his family the importance of Eretz Yisroel in the total picture of avodas HaShem - for each Jew, and for the Jewish nation.
The sefarim relate the minhag of leaving the doors to one’s home unlocked all through the night of Pesach. This was in keeping with the tradition that an opportune time for our future geula will be the anniversary of our first one (geulas Mitzrayim). Eager for the advent of Eliyahu hanavi to herald the geula, we do not wish to delay the process even the few seconds it would take to unlock the door.
We are all anxiously awaiting the geula daily. To come and await Mashiach in Eretz Yisroel will avoid much needless delay when he arrives.
May HaShem Yisbarach grant us the ability to hear the echoes of Rav Sonnenfeld’s call: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?” May we be blessed with the perceptiveness to respond, “We are investigating, we are preparing, we are on our way!”Full post and comments...
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Second Snow, Yawn, in Jerusalem (Video & Photos)
Monday, February 11, 2008
Tour of the Temple Mount - Video
Well, here's your chance to take a virtual tour (until you're ready for the real thing, of course).
Below is a video preview (8+ minutes) of a tour of the Temple Mount led by Rabbi Chaim Richman of the Temple Institute. The tour was led in August, 2005.
For the complete 90 minute tour, visit here.Full post and comments...
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Final Thoughts And Photos on the Winter Storm of 5768
These were taken on Thursday morning which was relatively warm and sunny.
Dogs, kids, just about everyone was playing in the snow.
And the roads slowly turned back to normal.
But I wanted to share something that no one seems to point out.
It’s a truly amazing thing when you see it with your own eyes.
If these pictures don’t prove how rain (and snow) on Eretz Yisrael are a direct gift from our father-in-heaven.
And a most beautiful gift indeed.
But just look at this radar capture taken in the midst of the storm. The rain and snow falls literally only within the biblical borders of Eretz Yisrael – and just stops – just like that – as soon as the clouds pass over the border... Full post and comments...
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Photos: Snow in Jerusalem
Video: Snow in Jerusalem
An uncommon heavy snowfall hit Jerusalem today turning bustling streets and busy shopping centers into ghost towns. This video was taken on Jerusalem’s usually very busy Kanfei Nesharim Street which is also in one of the higher altitude areas of the city.
Photos, Bez"H are on the way!
Full post and comments...
First Pictures of the Snow Storm
Jerusalem usually gets snow once a winter. Sometimes it'll just be a flurry, sometimes a full storm. During the last month, we've had unseasonably cold temperatures a few times, but without precipitation. This winter has also seen unseasonably little precipitation, which is quite bad. But this week has already been full of precipitation, Baruch Hashem, and now the cold temperatures have caught up with it, which means snow in Jerusalem! It started tonight and is predicted to continue through Thursday morning, making it quite a blizzard for Israeli standards. For the rest of tonight's pictures: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=15407&l=c9d64&id=501014124
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Thursday, January 17, 2008
EHS: Rav Sonnenfeld: Don't be a Spy!
Eim Habanim Semeichah - Page 506:
I also saw in Eileh Mas'ei an idea which the righteous mentor of Eretz Yisrael, R. Sonnenfeld, used to say [on the verse] And you shall see the goodness of Jerusalem (Tehillim 128:5): One must always see only the good of Eretz Yisrael, that is, the positive sides of Jerusalem. One must be careful not to be a "spy," G-d forbid. The spies were punished because they slandered Eretz Yisrael at a time when there were no Jews there; how much more so now, when there are many Jews in the Land.Full post and comments...
Praise to my beloved friend, the young and exceptionally sharp scholar, the magnate, our master, R. Eliezer Sussman shlita, the son of our brilliant and righteous master, R. Efrayim Fischel Sofer z"l, rabbi and av beit din of [Budapest]. He copied for me parts of a manuscript of his father's eulogy for our brilliant mentor, R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld:Who will have pity on you, O Jerusalem, and who will bemoan you, O beloved Land! He never cursed anyone, under any circumstances. He was distressed more than anyone else about those who came and defiled the Land by desecrating the holy Sabbath, eating forbidden foods, and eating leavened bread on Pesach. He invoked merit upon these lost souls, saying, "The Land which they work with such great devotion will bring them back to the proper path and purify their hearts."
He would rebuke anyone who even slightly slandered the residents of the Holy City. He once told me that the Shulchan Aruch states that righteous people fast on the seventeenth of Elul because of the spies, who spread the evil report about the Land died on that day. The Magen Avraham asks, does it not say, When the wicked perish, there is jubilation (Mishley 11:10)? The Shelah answers that the spies were righteous men (tzaddikim.) Thus, even tzaddikim can be spies!
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Mr. President, Somewhere the Sun is Shining
Mr. Bush learned an important lesson this morning. A basic fundamental in Judaism is that while man indeed has free will to choose good or evil, everything down to the smallest detail is controlled by God. These are not contradictory.
So the President "made a request to watch the sun rise over the Old City from his suite at the King David Hotel." What a plan! Israel officials had even better plans. "To make the scene more dramatic, the authorities [planned] to turn off the lights illuminating the limestone walls before dawn." Brilliant! (Haaretz even wrote about what the president would be thinking at that time and called Mr. Bush a courageous man and even praised him for being a God fearing man. Imagine liberal Haaretz ever calling a staunch conservative courageous! Or ever praising anyone for being God fearing!)
So what did the President see when he looked out his $2,500 a night Presidential Suite at the King David Hotel at 5:30 in the morning? Brilliant rays of the sun peeking over the ancient walls? Golden halos sheening off the Dome of the Rock? Actually he probably didn't even see the artist neighborhood of Yamin Moshe just meters below right outside his hotel window. See, as the Yiddish expression goes, "Men tracht und Gott lacht." Man plans, and G-d laughs! Man proposes, God disposes.
As Mr. Bush pulled apart the posh hotel curtains he didn't see the sunrise scene that he and Israel authorities has planned. What he saw was probably nothing. A thick fog moved in overnight along with some heavy rain and even a bit of snow. By morning the fog was so heavy the President's entourage had to cancel plans for him to fly by helicopter to Ramallah and chose to drive instead.
Indeed President George W. Bush is a God-fearing man. And perhaps he, and all the leaders of the world should heed the advice of another God-fearing leader. The leader from whom the hotel Mr. Bush is staying by gets its name. King David wrote: "The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples." Psalms 33:10
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Bush's Israel Welcome
telling Bush, Nasrallah, and Haniyeh to free their Jewish captives
President Bush is coming to Israel for the first time as president of the USA tomorrow and the city of Jerusalem has gone mad. The country is spending $400,000 to welcome Bush, American as well as Israeli flags have gone up all over Jerusalem, and the city and its residents are bracing themselves for many roads being closed and traffic jams. In the meantime, there have been a few rallies (for freedom for Pollard, an undivided Jerusalem, and more) already this week and more coming up (Thursday night in Kikar Tziyon).
The other day I was stuck in traffic on a bus because the city has rushed to finish some construction projects related to the new train/monorail that will eventually be finished to make Bush's commute easier. I was all the way in front of the packed bus and the driver was complaining about all this craziness for Bush. I told him that I was American and I really couldn't care less that Bush was coming. I said that as an American and an Israeli, I don't feel that the city should drive its residents crazy, even for the arrival of a president I voted for.
I was talking to someone tonight who had an important dental appointment canceled because the office is in 1 of the closed-off-for-Bush areas and the dentist either didn't think it was worth the trouble for him to come in or the patients wouldn't bother coming because it would be too hard to get there.
Another friend and I were talking and were upset that Bush was getting such royal treatment. It's as if our government is treating him like some sort of king or something. We just hope that when Mashiach comes, may that be immediately!, He gets treatment many times greater than this!
Full post and comments...
15 Seconds With The President
There's a lot of hubbub surrounding the visit of US President George W. Bush.
The Post-Zionist Left, face it, is wetting itself with anticipation over the prospect of Bush backing Israel into a corner and, as the uberscuzzy editor of Haaretz so Haaretzly put it, raping our country of any last vestiges of meaning or dignity. They're hoping Bush will pizzazz the land right out from under us, hacking away at the most biblical of our biblical lands, and ultimately bringing down the Zionists, who are like so many pesky cockroaches revealing themselves after a bug bomb.
This morning, as our mountaintop was covered with a welcome low-hanging cloud after some much needed nighttime rainfall, we heard a familiar sound - the approach of a Blackhawk.
Because of our proximity to both Ramallah and Baal Hatzor, as well as our possession of a nice, uninhabited flat space, we are frequented by practicing pilots, who land and take off, land and take off.
As we were listening to the buzzing and swooshes, my husband commented to me that perhaps they are practicing bringing in Bush - after all, Bush's entourage is rumored to be planning a Ramallah visit, making a helicopter landing and drive through Beit El somewhat likely. Olmert's government is going to be doing everything in its power to keep Bush away from any real people or places during his visit (we wouldn't want the endearing qualities of the Jewish people to get in the way of our cold, heartless peace plans, now would we?), so it's quite possible that he will be whisked above the annoying realities, and come to Ramallah via helicopter.
So I asked my husband: "What if he does land here, and we have the chance to speak to him for 15 seconds? What would you say?" That got us thinking.
By the by, you never know. I recommend that you all prepare 15 seconds worth of material - who knows if G-d will make you the shaliach for His message to this King of America.
What would you say? "Free Jonathan Pollard!" "Go back to Texas!" "Please, don't divide Jerusalem - you don't want that kind of Wrath, trust me."
So I leave it to you: What would YOU say to President George W. Bush if you ran into him in Israel? Full post and comments...
Friday, December 21, 2007
Yerushalayim, Sir, Yerushalayim!
A few weeks ago I started receiving an unusual type of spam in my work email. I was subscribed (without my permission) to your excellent halacha mailing list. (It happens to be a wonderful idea and I wish you much success with this endeavor.) While I felt it was not proper derech eretz to subscribe someone to a list without their permission, even if it is for Torah, ("derech eretz kadmah laTorah" after all), especially using someone's work and not personal email address, it is still nice to learn a few halachos a day. Surely no one would object to Torah and this no doubt was exactly what the conceivers of this new Halacha list were thinking when they scoured the web looking for any email addresses they could find listed on the Internet of people working at frum organizations.
The email I received read:
Welcome to the Daily halacha e-mail!
Two short halacha's each day - Monday through Friday - plus Friday a special Halacha L'kovod Shabbos and candle lighting times for NYC.
The last part upset me. You listed candle-lighting times for "the heart and soul" of the Jewish people, New York City - but completely omitted Yerushalayim! So I wrote to you:
Please unsubscribe me.
I don't need to be part of a mailing list that forgets to list lighting time for Yerushalyaim Ir Hakodesh!
And you promptly replied:
Hi Pinchas,Of course I understood - but there was even more that you didn't understand! Still I decided not to pursue the matter until today. When I was once again subscribed to this list but this time you used my Kumah mailing address (and presumably everyone else here at Kumah.)
You have been unsubscribed.
We do not list lighting time for Yerushalayim because we only have some 50 subscribers from EY, but we have 2500 in the NY area. I hope you understand that.
Well, if you are going to start emailing Kumah we are going to explain to you, and all our visitors why omitting mention of Yerushalayim Ir Hakodesh is not a light matter. It demonstrates the golus-yid's (exile Jew's) total and complete detachment from his roots.
Now let us forget the obvious question of how you could claim you only have 50 subscribers from Eretz Yisrael, when you are subscribing people without permission and don't even know who we are or where we live. Let us set that aside. Let us pretend all 2550 subscribers were living in New York City, the center of the Jewish world, after all. I would still argue that Yerushalayim should be mentioned if another city is listed.
I quote Gil Troy, who wrote:
In synagogues throughout the world, when taking the Torah out of the Ark, Jews sing "kee mi tzion tezeh Torah, u davar Hashem me'Yerushalayim," the Torah will come forth from Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. "Zion," the Biblical name for Jerusalem, is not just the three-thousand-year-old capital of the Jewish people, it is the intellectual, cultural, and spiritual center of Jewish gravity. Mentioned over six hundred times in the Bible, it was the city of David the heroic, who conquered it, and of Solomon the wise, who built the first of the two Temples there. During the many centuries of exile, Jerusalem symbolized both the glorious past of the Jewish people -and their hopes for the future. Much of Jewish prayer, in fact, entailed reflecting on what once was in Jerusalem as a way of conceptualizing what again might be there.Sir, the Jew must always be focused on Yerushalayim. The clearest example of this we learn from celebrating Purim in Yerushalayim on the 15th of Adar. Our sages explained that because of the extra day needed in Shushan, that city would celebrate a day later then the rest of the world. But this presented a dilemma! How dare could the Jewish people honor the Persian city, the New York City of the day, above Yerushalayim? What an embarrassment to Yerushalayim it would be - even if only 50 Jews lived there at the time! A solution was devised (all cities that were walled in the time of Yehoshua Ben Nun would celebrate on the 15th and this would include Yerushalayim) just to avoid this embarrassment and to keep Yerushalayim central in the minds of the Jewish nation.
Today, more than ever, at a time when the nations of the world and some of our misguided Jewish brethren speak openly about plans to divide Yerushalayim, about plans to rip apart our true heart and soul, is it absolutely imperative that we ALWAYS keep Yerushalayim in mind and that we not forget about it while giving other cities precedence. For if we ourselves forget about Yerushalayim how could we have the audacity to complain to others about the injustice of dividing it?
So I repeat, and I speak for everybody at Kumah.org (and Neozionist.com). Please unsubscribe all the accounts you signed up from our organization so long as you continue to forget to list the candle-lighting time for Yerushalayim ahead of the candle-lighting time for New York City.
I will close with Mr. Troy's eloquent words:
"Im eshkachech Yerushalayim, tishkach yemeeni": If I forget, if I FORSAKE, you O Jerusalem, may my right hand lose its cunning, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth. If we abandon Jerusalem, we betray the essence of our being, that which makes us human, our hands and our mouths, our bodies and our souls.
UPDATE: After 5 days we did NOT get a reply, though we were unsubscribed from their mailing list immediately. Presumably the still forget Jerusalem...
Full post and comments...
Thursday, December 13, 2007
The Jew & His Homeland
Full post and comments...
Friday, December 07, 2007
Publicizing the Miracle At The Kotel
A new, large and magnificent Menorah was placed at the Western Wall Plaza this year and festivities are being be held every night! This is what the third night looked like with Mayor Uri Lupolianski, mayor of Jerusalem, the Rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz and Police Commissioner Aharon Franko.
Don't miss out!
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Chanukah Night One at Jerusalem Malchah Mall
There is something special about Chanukah in Israel, and I got to start off the holiday feeling it. From lighting a Chanukiyah outside my apartment door with a little girl and her grandmother, to a Chabad Chanukiyah in front of a Kosher Pizza Hut at the mall, restaurant chanukiyot, and of course all the bakeries selling Sufganiyot, Chanukah is a holiday that happily unites all Jews, especially in Israel, whether religious or secular. For more fun details and first night Chanukah experiences, read the full post.
I light my Chanukiyah in the hallway of my apartment, right outside my door, something common in Israel. I happen to be on the ground floor so people going to the elevator will notice if they happen to look the other way. A little girl wearing paper candle crown and her grandmother walked into the building while I was lighting tonight. The grandmother took the girl over and started singing Maoz Tzur with me. Then we sang a few Israeli Chanukah songs with the little girl. Then the grandmother started spinning the girl's cool electric laser dreidel on the stand with my chanukiyah. It's too bad I didn't have my camera out - the little girl was really cute, and her and grandmother really added to my joy of lighting the first candle.
Then I went to the Jerusalem Malchah Mall to celebrate Chanukah with my fiance. The first thing that caught my eye was the big Chabad Chanukiyah by the fountains. Nothing like getting a chanukiyah and a Kosher Pizza Hut in the same picture! While I was putting my camera away, a guy came up to me and asked me to be the 10th man for a Ma'ariv minyan in the mall's synagogue.
After Ma'ariv, we went out to eat at the Korusin, a fancy Chinese restaurant on the top floor. While we were there, the waiters found a few quiet minutes to themselves, took out a chanukiyah, lit it in the window of the restaurant, and sang a bit.
I didn't buy a sufganiyah (jelly donut - 1 of the traditional Chanukah foods) because I was already full, but not because there was any lack - there are a few bakeries in the mall and not only were they selling sufganiyot, but there were even a few stands set up in other parts of the mall selling them.
Finally, in Jerusalem there is no such thing as a Christmas sale, but many of the stores had Chanukah sales.
Chanukah in Israel - the way it should be! Happy Chanukah to all!
Full post and comments...
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Because of the day you stood aloof, the day strangers plundered his wealth, foreigners entered his gates and they cast lots on Jerusalem - you were like one of them! (Obadiah 1:12)
This is what we read in this past week's Haftorah. You, nations of the world, should not "stand aloof," let alone encourage our enemies to "cast lots" upon Jerusalem.
Indeed the holy city of Jerusalem, herself, rumbles in outrage at such an evil notion. (Three earthquakes in one week!) Jerusalem is stronger than anyone. You can not defeat her. You my try...
But on Mount Zion there shall be a remnant, and it shall become holy; and the House of Jacob will inherit its inheritors. The house of Jacob will be a fire and the House of Joseph a flame - and the House of Esau like straw; they will kindle among them and consume them; and there will be no surviver of the House of Esau, for Hashem has spoken! (ibid. 1:17-18)
Full post and comments...
Sunday, November 18, 2007
And she shall be called in Israel...
With much thanks to Hashem, I am happy to share with you that at 10:10am Shabbat Morning, the 7th day of the month of Kislev, 5768 (November 17, 2007), Annie gave birth to a baby girl. Both Annie and our new daughter are doing well - and Hodaya is excited to be a sister.
Being Shabbat, we had the opportunity, a few hours later, during Mincha (afternoon service) to name our daughter.
And she shall be called in Israel... Eliana Racheil.
Eliana means: (My) G-d has answered - a combination of the two Hebrew words, Eli: (My) G-d, and Ana: has answered.
On the most elementary level, It is the hope and prayer of every couple to be blessed with children, and that, in the aftermath of childbirth, that both baby and mother should be well. It is all too easy to forget or take for granted that not every couple has yet to be blessed with children, and not every pregnancy ends well, either for the mother or baby (or both).
So, on this most basic and human level, Eliana - G-d has answered our prayers - and we have been blessed once again with a beautiful baby girl, and that both she and her mother are healthy and happy, if not a bit tired, understandably so.
Racheil comes from our Biblical matriarch Rachel, who happened to be one of the central figures from this past Shabbat's weekly Torah portion - Parshat VaYeitzei.
The Talmud (Niddah 20b) teaches us that when a baby is in the womb, "he / she is taught the entire Torah...". It is not surprising then, having already become familiar with this past Shabbat's Torah portion that Eliana Racheil chose to enter this world specifically on Shabbat Parshat VaYeitzei.
The Hebrew word VaYeitzei means: to go out - and that is precisely what Eliana Racheil did this past Shabbat - she went out of her mother's womb and entered into the world.
Additionally, one of the central themes of Parshat VaYeitzei is that of childbirth. Over the course of the Torah portion, 11 of the 12 sons of Jacob - the Tribes of Israel - are both born and named (another motivation for naming Eliana Racheil over this particular Shabbat), and in addition to the 11 boys born to Jacob, a daughter is also born to him - bringing the total to 12 children born to Jacob over the span of a single Torah portion.
However, in order to fully appreciate and understand the name, one must look at both names together.
There is a Midrash found at the beginning of the Book of Lamentations (Eichah) which recounts the following (copied from www.Chabad.org):
As the Temple lay in ruins and the Jews were being led into exile as slaves, Abraham came before G-d and said: "Master of the universe, when I was 100 years old, you gave me a son, and when he was 37 years old you told me, 'Raise him as a sacrifice before Me.' I overcame my natural mercy and bound him myself. Will You not remember my devotion and have mercy on my children?"
Next, Isaac approached. "When my father said, 'G-d will show us the sheep for a sacrifice, my son,' I did not hesitate but accepted my fate and extended my neck to be slaughtered. Will You not remember my strength and have mercy on my children?"
Then Jacob beseeched: "I worked for twenty years in the house of Laban and when I left, Esau came to harm me. I suffered all my life raising my children. Now they are being led like sheep to the slaughter in the hands of their enemies. Won't you remember all my pain and suffering and redeem my children?"
Moses rose up and said: "Was I not a loyal shepherd of Israel for forty years? I ran before them in the desert like a horse. When the time came to enter Israel, You decreed that I would die in the desert. Now they go into exile. Won't You listen to my crying over them?"
Before all these virtuous defenders, G-d remained silent.
Then Rachel lifted her voice, "Master of the Universe, You know that Jacob loved me intensely and worked for seven years in order to marry me. When the time of my marriage came, my father substituted my sister for me. I did not begrudge my sister and I didn't let her be shamed; I even revealed to her the secret signs that Jacob and I had arranged.
"If I, a mere mortal, was not prepared to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate G-d, be jealous of idols, which have no true existence, that were brought into Your home? Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?"
Immediately, G-d's mercy was aroused and He responded, "For you, Rachel, I will bring Israel back to their place."
This Midrash is based on the verses found in the Book of Jeremiah (31: 15 - 17):
So has the Lord said: In Ramah there is a sound of crying, weeping and bitter sorrow; Rachel weeping for her children; she will not be comforted for their loss. The Lord has said this: Keep your voice from sorrow and your eyes from weeping: for your work will be rewarded, says the Lord; and they will come back from the land of their hater. And there is hope for the future, says the Lord; and your children will come back to the land which is theirs.
Returning to the name, Eliana Racheil...
Eliana Racheil is our 2nd child, and our 2nd child to be born in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish People. Annie and I have been blessed to make our home and start our family here, in the Land of Israel, and have our children born in Jerusalem, something which, today, is also something, B"H, that is easy to take for granted.
In response to our matriarch Rachel's tears on seeing the Jewish People led into exile, G-d promised her that "your children (the Jewish People) will return to their borders (the Land of Israel)".
Annie and I, along with Hodaya Leah and Eliana Racheil (and the many other Jews who have returned to the Land of Israel - who have returned home) are the living fulfillment of G-d's promise to Rachel - Eliana Rachel - G-d has answered Rachel's prayer - the Jewish People are coming home.
It is our hope and prayer, in giving our new daughter this name, Eliana Racheil, that she follow in the footsteps of her namesake, Racheil Imeinu, who serves as the embodiment of dedication and self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people, and that our Eliana Racheil devote herself to bringing about the redemption of the Jewish People - may we merit to see it speedily in our - and Eliana Racheil's - lifetime.Full post and comments...
Friday, November 16, 2007
Comet Over Jerusalem - Mah Rabu Ma'asechah Hashem!
For those who have been following astronomy news of late, something caused a megaburst from Comet 17P/Holmes over 3 weeks ago, which shot 100 million tons of dust into space around the comet. This has made it visible to the naked eye, and especially visible with binoculars or a zoom lens. I took a few pictures of it in the sky above Jerusalem this week. It's the big fuzz-ball (the fuzz being all the dust).
For more info and close up pictures: Sky and Telescope Magazine
For more of my pictures: Facebook Album
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Guess What I Spotted On My Way Home?
(Thank Ezra for teaching me to always carry around a camera.) It was a Hachnosas Sefer Torah - a dedication for a new Torah scroll - and it's a very ordinary occurrence in Yerushalayim and all over Eretz Yisrael! Borach Hashem!
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Neo- Zionism Outlets
I know its been a long time, and I will get at it again, but I just got this email, and I think People should know about it.
Enjoy :-) ~ Shulamit
THE ISRAELI FOREIGN SERVICE NEEDS TO HEAR FROM YOU
Oops! A fly on the wall informs us that the Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor and the Israeli Consul General in NY, Asaf Shariv, have apparently gotten NO PROTESTS from anyone about the attempts to set up a new Palestinian terror state just a bike ride from divided Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, and Israel's only international airport (Ben-Gurion). So... write, fax, email, or swim and say it to their face:
Ambassador Sallai Meridor, Embassy of Israel, 3514 International Drive, NW, Washington, DC 20008
Embemail@example.com 202-364-5590; FAX: 202-364-5560
Ambassador Asaf Shariv, Consulate of Israel in NY, 800 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017
firstname.lastname@example.org, 212-499-5450 - Fax: 212-499-5455
ON THE SILENCE OF MAINSTREAM ORTHODOX & HAREIDI RABBIS
Some great people in the United States have begun lobbying mainstream Rabbis and Jewish organizations to speak out against a Palestinian State. Their motto: "10 phone calls each day is good, but even 1 phone call is better than none". Background: "Our personal focus is the Rabbanim. The security dangers of a Palestinian State are real, but we are emphasizing the Torah perspective to the Rabbanim.
Their reason for Silence is that "they don't make political statements". Our answer to them is that Silence is a political statement in favor of a Palestinian State. A Torah statement would be that only the Nation of Israel is obligated to keep the Commandments in the Land of Israel and that Torah and the Land of Israel and the people of Israel are one and the same. There can not be a separation without a negation of the other. Eretz Yisroel is our Biblical Inheritance and a Palestinian State is contrary to Torah."
These great people need us to join in: "What follows is a list of mainstream Rabbis in the Hareidi and Orthodox circles that influence hundreds of thousands of Jews. Please find the time to call these Rabbanim or Organizations and ask them to personally speak to their Rabbinic mentors, contacts, Organizations and PR people to unite and to create a strong unified Jewish Voice against a Palestinian State:"
Agudath Yisroel of America :
* 212 979 9000 Rabbi Gertzulin (son in law of Reb. Jungreiss),
* Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zweibel PR email@example.com 646-254 1650 and fax 646 254 1650
* Rabbi Shafran, firstname.lastname@example.org
* Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation Executive Director Michael Rothchild 845-352-3505
* Spirtual Mentor Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky (Yeshiva in Philadelphia) 215 477 1000
Rabbi Hillel David 718 252 4579
Rabbi Pesach Lerner National Council of Young Israel. Rabbi Lerner is one of the United States leading rabbinical activists who has made numerous distinguished contributions to the struggle for Jonathan Pollard and against the expulsion of Gush Katif. Ask him to use his sterling reputation to unite the mainstream Haredi and modern orthodox and Secular Organzations to make a joint statement. email@example.com
Rabbi Perlow, the Noveminsker Rav - extremely influential in Haredi circles in America 718-436-1133
Rabbi Matisyahoo Solomon (very influential in Lakewood and Yeshivish communities) 732-363-8928
Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum - President of Iggud Harabonim. Very vocal against territory expulsions. The only mainstream Rabbinic group in America that we know of that came out against the expulsion of Gush Katif. Please encourage him to rally his members to become activists and unite with other major mainstream Rabbinic Leaders and organizations to come out with a strong voice against a Palestinian State. 718 871-0913
Rabbi Vigler firstname.lastname@example.org Meorot Center - A dynamic Chabad Rabbi in Marine Park Brooklyn, Please ask him to use his leadership connections and contacts in the Chabad world and the orthodox world so that the mainstream Chabad leaders will rally against a Palestinian state.
Rabbi Yosef Jacobson email@example.com, Mailing address: Algemeiner Journal, 508 Montgomery Street, Brooklyn, NY 11225 Telephone: 718.771.0400
Rabbi Shimon Jacobson firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebbetzin Jungreiss email@example.com Please ask her to ask the Rabbanim to end the Silence on the "Palestinian state" issue. Write to: Hineni Heritage Center, 232 West End Avenue, New York, NY, 10023
Tel: (212) 496-1660 Fax: (212) 496-1908
Orthodox Union Offices
* National Headquarters: Eleven Broadway, New York, NY 10004, Tel. 212-563-4000, Fax 212-564-9058, firstname.lastname@example.org
* Washington, DC OU Institute for Public Affairs, 800 Eighth Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001
Nathan Diament, Director, Tel: 202-513-6484, Fax: 202-289-8936, email@example.com
* West Coast: 9831 West Pico Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035.
Rabbi Alan Kalinsky, Director, 310-229-9000, Fax: 310-229-9011, firstname.lastname@example.org
* Israel: Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center, 22 Rechov Keren Hayesod, P.O. Box 37015, Jerusalem, 91370 Israel * Rabbi Avi Berman, Director-General, email@example.com * Menachem Persoff, Director, firstname.lastname@example.org * Phillip Chernofsky, Director of Adult Education, email@example.com
NCSY: Rabbi Michael Fredman, Director, NCSY-in-Israel, firstname.lastname@example.org
972.2.560-9100 Fax: 972.2.561.7432
List of all email addresses above (if you don't have time to call/fax and would rather send one quick email to all:)
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Example of a suitable email:
"Dear Rabbis, The security dangers of a Palestinian State are real, but we are emphasizing the Torah perspective. Eretz Yisroel is our Biblical Inheritance and a Palestinian State is contrary to Torah. Unfortunately, consistent silence is a political statement in favor of the notion of a Palestinian State. Please can you personally speak out and unite with your Rabbinic mentors, contacts, Organizations and PR people to create a strong unified Jewish Voice against a Palestinian State. Thanking you very sincerely, (name)".
Full post and comments...
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
The Rainbow Connection
Why are there so many songs about rainbows? And why does it always rain on the week of Parshas Noach? Those are questions people always ask. And sure enough the first two Parshas Noachs after I made Aliyah it poured! So this past week as the sun shined brightly we thought we were in trouble there. But have no fear! Sure enough clouds moved in later in the afternoon and delivered a light but steady sprinkle which I guess could be considered the very first rain of 5768 in Yerushalayim.
Tonight however I walked home from work surrounded by an awesome lightening show. The rain, very heavy at times, started falling as I got home. We started praying for rain just a few weeks ago on Simchas Torah! Rain in Israel in the winter months is a sign of blessing and a great simcha (joy)! What a country where we videotape the rain falling!
In a related note all this rain and Parshas Noach remined me of Kermit the frog and his words of pure genius! This song is SOOOO deep! Enjoy!
The Rainbow Connection
Written by Paul Williams and used by Kermit the Frog, of The Muppets, Jim Henson Productions
Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic....
Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la, La, la la la, La Laa, la la, La, La la laaaaaaa
Full post and comments...
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Hoshana Rabbah: More Water at the Kotel?
Tonight, Hashana Rabbah, I visited the Kotel for Mishna Torah - where we read the entire sefer Devarim. Standing in one spot for so long I couldn't help notice something a little unusual.I was standing inside the section known as Wilson's Arch and every ten minutes or so a drop of water would fall from the ceiling. There was one poor guy sitting there that kept getting hit by these drops looking up and wondering where they came from. On my way out I saw another drop fall from another spot in the arch area closer to the exit. Don't get me wrong. It was just a few drops over a long time but considering we haven't had rain in six months it is strange.
Where could these drops be coming from?
Two years ago I remember reading in the Jerusalem Post a story complete with photos of water flowing out of the Kotel. Reb Lazar wrote about it and explain that it was no doubt water from the Gihon river (which gets a cameo appearance in the Torah reading this Shabbos) which lies directly beneath the Dome of the Rock. That wouldn't be too far from the Wilson's Arch area at all - and water would flow down toward there as water always flows down.
Reb Lazer explains:
As mentioned in the previous post on this subject, by Islamic tradition, if the Gihon spring begins to rise on the Temple Mount, it signifies the beginning of Jewish redemption; if Yisrael must rise, then Yishmael must fall. By our own tradition, the moisture at the Western Wall of the Holy Temple indicates the impending redemption of the people and land of Israel, the rebuilding of the Temple and the coming of Moshiach ben David, speedily and in our time, amen.
Full post and comments...
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Rav Avraham Shapira, ZT"L
Rav Avraham Elkanah Kahanah Shapira, 94, one of the Gedolei HaDor (Torah giants of our generation), Rosh Yeshivah (Dean) of Merkaz HaRav (the Yeshivah Rav Kook started) for the last 25 years, former chief rabbi of Israel (1983-1993), passed away on Yom Tov (the only day in Israel - Thursday) and was buried on Friday (Chol HaMoed in Israel). Click here to read more about him. Here are 5 albums of 300 pictures I posted from the funeral, which started at his yeshivah in Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Jerusalem and proceeded past Binyanei Ha'Umah (the International Convention Center), up Sarei Yisrael (Ministers of Israel) Street, turned on Malchei Yisrael (Kings of Israel) Street through the Chareidi/Chassidic Ge'ulah neighborhood, past the former location of the yeshivah (Beit HaRav Kook - Rav Kook's house), along Yafo, Shlomtzion HaMalkah, Agron Streets, around the walls of the Old City, and finally to Har HaZeitim (Mount of Olives) for his final resting place, overlooking Har HaBayit (Temple Mount):
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
A Mini Jerusalem Vacation
Last night Malkah and I had a half hour "to live" (instead of the common expression "to kill") in Jerusalem, and we could not find parking close to where we had to be. So we drove on and parked close to the King David Hotel. Suddenly Malkah noticed an attractive cafe and a proud kosher certificate in the window. But this was no regular cafe, rather, it was a chocolate specialty cafe named NONA. The place is brand new and will sport a ritual booth for the holiday of Sukkot. We had a Belgian waffle with blueberry cheesecake ice cream and a hot white chocolate drink. As you can tell from the plate, the place is recommended. (NONA is found on 28 King David St. in Jerusalem. Tel: 02-624-4129) Full post and comments...
Monday, September 03, 2007
Aliyah To Lakewood, NJ, Hashem's Temple
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
Lakewood is not Yerushalayim!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
BMG is not the Bais Hamikdosh!
What's got Pinchas so worked up? Well "a former Talmid of BMG" wrote a letter to the editor of the Yated and it was printed on page 88 of the 10 Elul - Aug 24 edition. In this letter the former Talmid continually compares Bais Medrash Govoah (BMG) to the actual Bais Hamikdosh! He ponders as he approaches BMG if he is feeling "what oleh regel felt like." At one point in the letter he calls those that live in Lakewood "choshoveh bnei aliyah." To this guy there are two buildings one can refer to as "bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov." And by feeling BMG is one of them, he concludes, we will merit for the other one to be built.
What more can I write but Berlin is Jerusalem Syndrome strikes again.
However there is a ray of hope. I happen to know for a fact there actually are holy Jews from Lakewood, New Jersey that are indeed making Aliyah (the kind where you move to Eretz Yisrael.) May the merit of these Jews protect those "lost ones" and the Jewish community in Lakewood and may it inspire them to wake up and realize that "Ain Torah K'Toras Eretz Yisrael!" And may they all become true "choshoveh bnei aliyah."
Because Yated has no real viable website the letter in question is reproduced below in its entirety. Be warned though... it may get you worked up a bit...
INSPIRED BY BMG
We returned a few days ago from a bain hazmanim vaction in Lakewood, or rather, I should say a week's worth of recharging our batteries and basking in the light of the greatest makam Torah in America.
Although I have never written a letter to the editor before, I want to use this forum to share my feelings and deep hargashas with the choshuveh yungeliet who are zocheh to make up this makom kadosh, and the parents, who in large part are the ones who make it possible. I hope my words can serve as divrei chizuk to these all important members of Klal Yisroel.
We approached the buildings of Bais Medrash Govoah during bain hazemanim with great anticipation and emotion. I thought to myself that, in reality, we are approaching a bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah Shimcha olov; a place that is great, a place that is holy, a place where Hakadosh Boruch Hu is mashreh Shechinah, a place which creates a tremendous Kiddush Hashem - (I wondered to myself that, perhaps, this is a sample of what oleh regel felt like during the times of the Bais Hamikdosh as the Yidden approached Yerushalayim and the Bais Hamikdosh.)
It is in the halls of this makom kadosh that I was zocheh to learn for many years. Much of our ruchniyus, both my own and my family's, has come from these botei medrash. My rabbeim and roshei yeshiva were omel b'Torah in this very yeshiva for years. My children's rabbeim shteiged here. Leaders of our generation, roshei yeshivos and rabbeim, have grown in Torah, tefillah and yiras Shomayim in these very buildings.
I toured the various botei medrash. I reminded myself that in this corner we learned this mesechta, on the other side of the bais medrish another mesechta and on the stage of Bais Shalom a third. I remember where I was standing during Rav Matisyahu Salomon's first shmuess, and where my seat was for the Yomim Noraim…
We thoroughly enjoyed our bain hazmemanim, from the yeshiva davening, slowly enunciating each word with its own sweet taste, to learning sedorim in the various botei medrash, surrounded by Bnei Torah, yungeliet and bochurim learning with hasmada even during bain hazemanim, I found myself imagining how much more geshmak it much be during the zeman with six botei medrish packed with lomdei Torah learning with a bren.
Which brings me to the point of this letter.
The Chofetz Chaim writes that when Dovid Hamelech also davened, "Shivri b'vais Hashem kol yimei chayai... u'livaker b'haychalo," the he should dwell and visit the Bais Hashem, he was really davening for two things. First and foremost, he davened to dwell constantly in the Bais Hashem to feel the enthusiasm and the hispailus that only a visitor can feel and that can sometimes be lost on the permanent resident of the Bais Hashem. Dovid Hamelech was mispallel that he should never lose the hispailus and appreciation that only a visitor can feel. (In fact, the Chossid Yaivitz explains that the reason a visitor to the Bais Hamikdosh much leave through a different door than the one he entered is so that he should not lose the hispailus that he felt when he saw the Bais Hamikdosh from the first angle and seeing it again from the very same angle. Instead, each door should be seen only once, to create a lasting and breathtaking first impression.)
It is with this thought from the Chafetz Chaim in mind that I want to take the opportunity to share with those who are zocheh to be shivtie b'vais Hashem the feelings and impressions of a visitor, a mevaer b'haychalo. I'm well aware of the daily tirdos of the choshoveh bnei aliyah who learn in this bayis gadol v'kadosh, including babysitting, carpooling, playgroups, wives working full time, parnassa issues, etc., and the koach of hergel on top of it all. But I wish that each and every one of you should be zoche to fell the excitement, the magnitude, the awe, the hispailus, the love, and the longing the we, the former talmidim - those who were once zoche to be shivti babayis hazeh - feel when we are mevaker b'haychalo. May Hakadosh Boruch Hu help you feel anticipation and excitement each day as you enter this great makom Torah and walk its hallowed halls.
To the parents, in-laws and relatives of these choshuveh yungeleit, I would like to share the following. As we were leaving Lakewood, something I saw got me thinking. We all have different ways in which we are able to support out precious chavrei hakollel. Some offer financial help directly to the yeshiva. Others can afford to give financial help to their children and relatives. Others support yungeleit in the form of gifts and clothing, and yet others can supply emotional support, a compliment, a good vort, or words of appreciation to our young treasures who do so much for, and are tremendous zechus to, their families and the entire Klal Yisroel.
Whatever it is that we can do, let us do it proudly, with a deep understanding and great appreciation of the chashivus of Torah, chashivus of lomdei Torah, chashivus of a makom Torah, and while bearing in mind what Torah, limud HaTorah and a makom Torah does for us, our families, for Klal Yisroel and for our future.
May Hakadosh Boruch Hu bentch us that our appreciation and understanding of what this bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov means to us and Klal Yisroel should hasten the bulding of the bayis gadol v'kadosh shenikrah shimcha olov that we refer to in our bentching.
A Former Talmid Of BMG
Full post and comments...
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Those Donuts Better Be Badatz!
In case you missed it, last week the Jerusalem Post had a story about a very interesting Jerusalem Police Officer - a Satmar Chussid! Read on...
Gail Lichtman reports:
Black and blue
Joir (Yair) Lew is probably the last person you would think of as a uniformed volunteer in the Israel Police. It's not because of his age (he's only 31), or his state of health (he's obviously hale and hearty), or even the fact that he is a new immigrant (he speaks Hebrew fluently). But because he is a Satmar Hassid - a member of a haredi sect known for its opposition to secular, political Zionism and the State of Israel, as well as being vehemently against serving in the Israeli army.
So what is Lew doing as a member of Jerusalem's special uniformed volunteer police unit?
"I was brought up in England to be openminded and to love my fellow Jews," explains Lew, who was educated in a Satmar yeshiva and made aliya from London with his wife in 2002.
"Just as I want people to respect me as a human being, so I respect others. I hate the fact that people in Israel break Jews down into categories. All Jews are brothers whether religious or secular, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, Russian, Moroccan, or the like. I joined the police because I want to serve my fellow Jews."
In April 2006, Lew, who was unemployed at the time (he has since started working in a kibbutz factory near Jerusalem), was walking in downtown Jerusalem when he saw police officers recruiting for Yasham (the Hebrew acronym for police volunteer unit).
"The officers were really nice," Lew recalls. "And I was looking for something to do. So I took the information and called the unit. I went for the interview, filled out the forms, passed the background check and was accepted."
Naturally, before joining the unit Lew consulted both his father in England and a rabbi. "I asked if joining would be a problem," he says. "Both the rabbi and my father said essentially the same thing: There is a difference between serving the citizens of this country and serving the State of Israel. Serving Jews as a police officer is okay; serving the State of Israel as a soldier is not."
To some this may seems to be splitting hairs but to Lew it was the answer he needed to join Yasham.
Satmar Hassidim, who originated in an area on the Hungarian-Romanian border, base their opposition to the state on their belief that the creation of a Jewish state by Jews runs counter to God's will. However, they are taught to love the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.
Today, the majority of Satmars live in the US. Only about 900 families live in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Because of their opposition to political Zionism, they do not serve in the army and refrain from taking money from the State of Israel.
"During the Second Lebanon War, our rabbi, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, told us to say tehilim [psalms] for Jewish soldiers fighting and being injured," Lew relates. "We said them for Jews not Israelis. All over the world, Satmars prayed for the health and peace of our brothers."
Yasham is a unique Jerusalem phenomenon and is the only police volunteer unit not part of the Civil Guard (Mishmar Ezrahi). Set up five years before the Civil Guard in 1969, to answer Jerusalem's special needs, Yasham currently has about 120 volunteers. This is down from some 250 at the height of the second intifada, but recent months have seen an upswing in interest and recruiting.
"The Yasham attracts volunteers from all walks of life - we have in our unit doctors, lawyers and professors, as well as street cleaners," says Yasham's chief operations officer, Maj. Robert Mountwitten. "But Lew is our only Satmar. In fact, he is currently the only haredi in the unit, although we now have another haredi volunteer who is in the vetting process."
Volunteers range in age from 18 to 65, and include both men and women. They must pass a security check, cannot have a criminal record and must be in good health.
"Those in our unit have to do at least 16 hours a month or four hours every week of volunteering," Mountwitten explains. "In the Civil Guard, volunteers usually do one shift a month. We are in uniform and armed. The unit operates in accordance with the powers extended to police officers by the Knesset. We do patrols, roadblocks, ticketing, etc. We basically have the same authority as regular police officers."
"The Yasham is important in that it gives a lot of extra man-hours to the police and fills in the gaps," he continues. "All of us feel that we are doing something for the security of this city and its people. And if bombs are not going off, it just shows that what the police and the army are doing is working."
Lew is proud of his service, which generally concentrates on security issues. "But we can and do stop vehicles if we feel that the way the driver is driving or something else could be harmful to the public," he says.
In the course of his service, he admits to encountering a few genuine humdingers. "I once pulled over a van that was driving on a main Jerusalem road at night without lights," Lew recalls. "The driver turned out to be a Palestinian who did not have a driving license, did not have an Israeli ID, did not have a registration for the vehicle and was transporting 10 illegal Palestinians in the van. This was a free man in a free world. I couldn't believe that he was driving an overloaded van filled with illegals, without a driving license, registration or ID and was dumb enough not to put his lights on."
On another occasion, Lew stopped a car that seemed too heavy and overcrowded. "The driver thought the whole thing was very amusing. But I was really serious. The man had a car full of children - there were five in the back seat. But when I had him open the truck, I was amazed to discover he had two more children in there. He said that if there wasn't an engine under the hood, he would have put some more children there."
Lew was on patrol in Mea She'arim and Geula during the protests preceding the gay pride parade. "I was driving in my car with the police light on top," Lew recounts. "I had garbage and rocks thrown at me. If I had been foolish enough to get out, I would have been beaten. The fact that I am a haredi man would not have helped. These protesters did not care. But once they were arrested, they quickly started to ask for a frum officer.
"When they were throwing stones, they didn't care if I was a frum cop or not. However, I don't think I can criticize them because once I was part of these demonstrations. When I was studying in yeshiva, I used to join all the protests, no matter what - no autopsies, no Shabbos traffic, modesty, etc. But I was never violent or threw stones."
On protest-free days Lew says he gets an entirely different reception on the streets of the city's haredi neighborhoods. "When I drive through on duty, in uniform, people stop and tell me how proud they are to see a haredi officer. They often ask how they can join the police."
Lew, who is fluent in English, Yiddish and Hebrew, understands German and speaks a little Hungarian, Romanian and French, has started learning Arabic. "I assume it will help me with my police work," he says.
As an Englishman, used to police traditionally armed with nightsticks, Lew is glad that he has never had to draw his gun. "I sincerely hope that I never will have an occasion to use it. And one day, I hope that police in Israel will not need weapons either," he says.
For more information on Yasham, call 050-563-3121.
Full post and comments...
Thursday, August 23, 2007
THIS Year In Jerusalem!
The Chagim are coming! Every year here at Kumah we post pictures of how amazing the Chagim are here in Eretz Yisrael and every year I have the same thoughts. "It would have been cooler if we could post these awesome photos before the Chag to encourage people to make Aliyah before the Chag." Not just post them after it's all over! So this year I'm getting a head start. I'm posting some photos I took a couple of years ago... but don't worry you could be sure to expect the same wonderful chag here this year (or should Moshiach arrive an even more wonderful one, of course!)
Well if there was a lulav shortage you couldn't tell by visiting the "Arabah Minim Shuk" (Four Species Market)on Rachov Strauss...
There were "Simchot Beit Hashoavot" (Sukkot Parties) all over the Land. Here's the band "Simply Tsfat" playing at Shappel's.
And of course the traditional "Birchot Cohanim" at the Kotel where thousands of people from all over our Land are "Oleh Regel" and "rise up" to visit Jerusalem. Here the Cohanim bless us.
(Photo Credit: Woman Section Photos taken by "Leah").
...But the sun persevered.
The Chief Rabbis were on hand...
...and in the Sukkah nearby.
A concert in the Old City's "Rova."
Ahh...cotton candy and popcorn. It must be Sukkot!
Singing and dancing at the Mir Yeshiva...
And at any of the many random enormous Sukkot around...
Sometimes even with a "Rebbe."
Yep... cotton candy and popcorn.
And at the Kotel on Hoshana Rabba Night...
...reading "Sefer Davarim" for the traditional "Mishana Torah" custom...
...While at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue Rav Herschel Schecter teaches Torah as part of the custom to learn Torah all night.
THIS Year - experience it LIVE!
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Anti-Zionism Just Got a Whole Lot More Zionist
On any given day in the bustling communities in the Mea Shearim area, one might take a little stroll, peek into the shops, and people watch - there is a lot of life in this crowded region of Jerusalem, a lot to see. Mostly, you'll see people go about their business, hanging laundry, buying vegetables, scuttling to work or to the synagogue. But in one or two places, you may notice a somewhat more aggressive sight - ominous black flags flapping next to signs that say things like "Jews are Not Zionists" and "Zionism = Racism". Welcome to Satmar country.
This hassidic group, formerly from the town of Satmar in Hungary (shout out to the peeps), maintains the belief that the Jewish people are not permitted to form a government in Israel (and certainly not a secular one), as some have come to interpret is prohibited in accordance with the "Three Oaths".
Well, so much for that philosophy - on behalf of religious Zionists around the country, I would like to joyfully welcome more of our brothers and sisters from the Satmar community to the Holy Land, and to the Holy City - maybe we'll be in-laws one day!
Satmar rebbe to lay Jerusalem cornerstone
By Anshel Pfeffer - Haaretz
The grand rabbi of the Satmar Hassidim, Rabbi Aaron Teitelbaum, is slated to arrive in Israel tomorrow to lay the cornerstone of a new community housing project that will rise on the plot where Jerusalem's Edison Cinema once stood.------------
The Satmar Hassidim are known for their anti-Zionist stance, and the event is considered by them to be a major victory in their campaign to safeguard the sanctity of Jerusalem - free of lay symbols.
The movie theater site, which is situated close to the ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods of Mea Shearim and Geula, was the site for decades of violent clashes between Haredim and police. It was closed 15 years ago, and the plot was sold three years ago to the Satmar Hassidim.
The Satmar community is the largest ultra-Orthodox community, which distinguishes itself from other Haredi groups in that they refuse state funding for their educational institutions.
According to estimates, the community in Israel comprises some 1,200 families, but its main center is in Kiryas Joel in New York State, where more than 20,000 people reside.
Rabbi Teitelbaum inherited the leadership of the community following the death of his father, Rabbi Moshe Teitelbaum, in April 2006. He lives in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, long the center of Satmar life. This is his first official visit to Israel since he became grand rabbi.
The housing project will include 100 apartments and structures that will be used by the community for educational purposes.
I want to further mention that Satmar IS NOT Neturei Karta, and has come out against them publicly, even recently. The main difference in my opinion - Satmar is radically anti-secular, Neturei Karta is anti-Jewish. In any event, I expect we'll see just a few less Jews in Williamsburg after this project is completed. Score.Full post and comments...
Friday, July 13, 2007
Today is my two year anniversary. Two years ago, today (secular date) I came home. So what's it like two years later? Well I feel at home, that's for sure. The Rechavia neighborhood now feels familiar to me. I know all the shortcuts that tourist will never know about. I know the Rambam was given a much nicer street than both the Rif and the Ramban. In fact I think it's the most beautiful street in all of Yerushalayim while Radak and Ramban remains my most favorite intersection. It's nice living somewhere where the streets are named after Rishonim. Every time I walk up my block I'm reminded of Shabbos Zemiros (the block nearby being named after an author of one.)
But what's even more amazing now is what I see when I visit America and see it now through the eyes of somebody who hass been living in the homeland for the past two years. I am even more amazed than ever at how American Jews could live their lives without giving any sincere consideration toward returning to their true home. I have often maintained there are legitimate reasons for postponing Aliyah (while there are also poor excuses) but I don't see how a truly Torah observant G-d fearing Jew can wake up each and every day without making some sort of effort to return to where we really belong. How such a Jew can live life fully content with the status quo as if living in chutz l'aretz was the ultimate destiny of the Jewish people is beyond me.
The question remains why is it this way? Why in 1948 after Israel independence was declared and permission for every Jew to return home granted (or did that happen in 1917) didn't the floodgates of Aliyah open? Was it too soon after the war? Were we too devastated after the horrors of the Shoah to realize the opportunity that G-d had presented us?
What about in 1967? After the world witnessed open miracles and Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish sovereignty for the first time in 2000 years! Certainly then the call for the Jews to return home was louder than ever. And the shofer has been sounded just as loudly ever since.
Every Frum Jew living in America has to ask himself if the true purpose of our nation here on earth is for every Jewish family to have a five car garage, a swimming pool, a manicured lawn, and a fireplace. For if acquisition of wealth is the Jewish People's purpose than certainly America is the Promised Land and we are living up to our mandate.
But when people say they can't earn a parnussa in Israel are they really saying they can't acquire wealth here? When did we forget the difference between earning a respectable living and getting rich. (Again I understand that there are circumstances where one can't even earn a livelihood and that is a valid heter not to make Aliyah.). But actually I’ll tell you on every trip to America more and more people come up to me and tell me they are making Aliyah. So the truth is maybe we didn't forget the difference at all...
NBN brought three flights of Olim to Israel this week. Perhaps we are starting to get it.
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Say Unto Zion, "Kumah - Arise"
Today is the fast day of the 17th of Tamuz. It commemorates the day that the walls of Jerusalem were breached (once it on that day and once it was a little earlier), 3 weeks before both Temples were destroyed, as well as the day the Moshe came down from Mount Sinai to find the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf and destroyed the tablets. A Roman officer burned a Torah scroll on this day at the time of the destruction of the Temple, idols were placed in the Temple (commentaries differ on who did this and when it was done), and this day starts the 3 week mourning period for the destruction of the Temple and many other calamities in Jewish history.
In selichot (prayers said asking for forgiveness on fast days and around the new year) this morning, we said:
"Turn to us, You Who dwells on high, gather in our dispersion from the ends of the earth, may Your hand once more acquire this awe-struck nation, and may You say to Zion, 'Kumah - Arise!' - and transform the 17th of Tamuz for us to a day of salvation and consolation."
May we see Zion arise speedily and may we all merit to take part in it!
Full post and comments...
Monday, June 25, 2007
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Sun in Jerusalem
For those keeping track, today is the summer solstice. In honor of that, here are a few sun related pictures. Some are from a nice sunset viewed from Rechov Agripas last week, some are from a sunset viewed from Har Nof on Purim 5765 (2005), another is the sun through sand and haze. Others are from an old synagogue across the street from Shuk Machaneh Yehudah which is famous for it's sundial. It's called the Rays of the Sun Synagogue, or in Hebrew - Zoharei Chama. It was founded in 1908. From what I understand, as the new city of Jerusalem was built up and the Shuk opened as the general marketplace, the workers and shoppers needed a place nearby to pray. The synagogue still functions today and it is a "minyan factory" (Jews pray in quorums of at least 10 men, and in this building, there are a few rooms so every few minutes, a new prayer quorum starts) at least for the afternoon service, Minchah. There is also a Beit Medrash (Jewish study room) on the 2nd floor.
Full post and comments...
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
40 Years Ago
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Summer Thunder Showers... in Jerusalem
A Picture is Not Always Worth 1,000 Words...
Take a moment to answer the following question:
When you picture Jerusalem, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
My guess is that whatever image popped into your mind, it wasn't the Tower of David.
All around Jerusalem, one finds the logo shown in the picture above (courtesy of Jonny Stein), commemorating 40 years since the reunification of Jerusalem, during the Six Day War in 1967.
Now, If someone asked me to suggest possible themes for a logo to commemorate 40 years since the liberation of Jerusalem, the Tower of David wouldn't appear anywhere on my list.
The Tower of David was a fortress built be Herod, and later used by the Romans, Crusaders, Muslims... and the list goes on and on - but as far as symbolizing the reunification of Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty after 2,000 years of Exile?
* The Temple (Beit HaMikdash) - Nothing says Jerusalem quite like the Temple.
* The Kotel - If the Beit HaMikdash is too controversial, this could work (although, nothing says Exile quite like the Kotel - but that's for another post.)
* The Hurva Synagouge - particularly, the single remaining arch - Symbolizing the return of the Jewish People to their ancient holy sites...
My sense is that the Tower of David was selected precisely because, unlike any of the above suggestions, it's not overly Jewish - serving as a symbol that the Jews, Muslims and Christians of Jerusalem can all, equally, dislike.
What a wasted opportunity.Full post and comments...
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Yom Yerushalayim Photo Essay
A week and a half ago was the 40th anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem. There were all sorts of events in Jerusalem on and around the 28th of Iyar to celebrate. I participated in a few of them - I was at the Kotel at night for a festive prayer service and dancing; went to Hebrew University's Student Night concert; joined some other Kumah bloggers, recent Olim, and yeshivah students at a festive Shacharit as Rav Kook's House, featuring Shlomo Katz leading a musical Hallel; marched for part of the RikuDegalim (flag dancing parade) from Kikar Tziyon through Sha'ar Shechem and part of the way to the Kotel. I'm saving a few pictures of some reclaimed Jewish apartments in the Arab Quarter for a later post, but here are 28 (not intentionally, but coincidentally in honor of the 28th of Iyar which is Yom Yerushalayim) pictures from these festivities.
At the Kotel the night of Yom Yerushalayim - the soldiers are volunteers from South Africa (if I remember correctly)
The Old City and parts of the new city lit up for the 40th Anniversary
This banner means "Jerusalem [with 3 letters in the middle, which by themselves mean 'mine', italicized], something special for everyone":
Hebrew University's Student Night (part of their 2 day Student Day) Concert, featuring Shalom Hanoch and Aviv Gefen, among others
Shlomo Katz leads a musical Hallel at Rav Kook's House with his guitar and yeshivah students sing and dance
RikuDegalim - flag dancing parade
It rained quite a bit (odd weather for the season) and it left a big reflecting puddle at the end of Yafo Street
Entering through the Damascus Gate - Sha'ar Shechem
Dancing through the Arab Quarter of the Old City
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Rain in Jerusalem... in May?
muse of Me-ander also wrote about this and posted pictures.
Full post and comments...
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Aish.com Yom Yerushalayim Video
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Jerusalem Day 5767: Historic Footage of the Liberation of the Temple Mount
Despite forces within Israel on both the right and to the left, who do everything in their power to distance the Jewish People from connecting to the Temple Mount and yearning for Temple Consciousness - the Jewish People will not be denied.
On that note, as we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the liberation of the Temple Mount, take a moment to watch the historic video footage that captured the dramatic moment:
After you've watched the video, head on over to Israel National News, where a special site commemorating the 40 years since the liberation of much of the Land of Israel took place. You'll find photos, videos, audio clips, essays and many other exciting and inspiring tidbits all relating to the Six Day War.Full post and comments...
Yerushalayim Wins the Championship!
At first I was debating whether or not to post this on Kumah, because even though this is about Israel's soccer champion, 40 people were injured, including 2 teenagers severely in riots after last week's Beitar Yerushalayim soccer game. But the championship celebration Sunday night, as the local Jerusalem team won the Israeli championship during the week of celebrations for the 40th anniversary of the re-unification of Jerusalem, was a special Jerusalem experience and showed that even in a secular setting, Jerusalemites look to G-d.
I wouldn't have even been in the area of Gan Sacher if I didn't play a weekly softball pick-up game Sunday nights from 10-midnight. We were warned that a party would be going on before and during our game so we should come early to find parking. A game that if Beitar Yerushalayim won would clinch them 1st place and the championship of the Israel soccer league against Hapoel Tel Aviv was displayed on many large screens that were set up in the park adjacent to our softball field (Kraft Stadium name for the Jewish owner of the New England Patriots who donated the money for it). During our game, Beitar Yerushalayim scored a goal in the 93rd minute to complete a comeback and win 2-1. The park erupted! Fireworks were shot off for 10 minutes, then music started blasting for the rest of the night. When our softball game ended I walked over to join the fun. There were probably at least 50,000 fans throughout the night, many who stayed very late, even a decent number of religious (even a few chareidim) celebrating. I took many pictures and as I was shooting, people kept asking me to take pictures of them that I emailed to a few of them later (1 even bought me ice cream for my services). The whole team came on their way back from the Ramat Gan stadium and ran on to the stage, and sang their theme song. I was pleasantly surprised when their theme song turned out to be Mordechai Ben David's Ma'aminim! "We are believers, sons of believers, and we don't have upon whom to rely except our Father in Heaven!" One of the singers who performed throughout the night wore a kipah and sang from Tehillim (Shabchi Yerushalayim) and Shir HaShirim. The speakers and players kept thanking Hashem and praying to be back again next
year, with Hashem's help. It was a very unique kind of "ticker-tape-parade" equivalent, just a whole community party in the park. It felt like a big family celebrating a special occasion together. I was at the Yankees ticker-tape-parade after the 2000 World Series, but I think this was more meaningful. For more pictures, go here, here, and here.
Full post and comments...
Tonight the Kotel is the place to be!!!
I love you, Jerusalem!
Monday, May 14, 2007
Rabbi Ariel Recounts the Liberation of Jerusalem
The soldiers' low morale was evident in their faces, and Rabbi Goren strengthened them with words of truth, as Rabbi Ariel recalls with admiration. These words became a central perception of Ariel's, as years went by and his study deepened. "He said that of all the mitzvot, the only mitzva for which a person may endanger himself lechatchila - on purpose - is the conquest of Eretz Yisrael. Shabat, Yom Kippur and other important commandments are cancelled in the face of mortal danger - pikuach nefesh - but not the conquest of the land. 'Therefore you should know,' he said, "that those who are gone died for kiddush Hashem, for the sanctification of the Lord's Name, and those who died for the Kingdom - no entity can stand next to them.'"
Is the U.S. Really Israel's Friend?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a "friend" can be defined as:
1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement
5. Friend A member of the Society of Friends; a Quaker.
According to that same dictionary, a "foe" is defined as:
1. A personal enemy.
2. An enemy in war.
3. An adversary; an opponent: a foe of tax reform.
4. Something that opposes, injures, or impedes.
Israel and the United States have always professed to be "friends" and good friends at that. Yet, a recent examination of U.S. policy toward Israel over the past several weeks, may have you checking your definitions a little more closely.
In June 1967, Israel was forced to defeat the attacking armies of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan. Israel tried to avoid war at all costs, but as diplomacy failed (as it often does here in the Middle East) Israel had no choice but to take pre-emptive action to defend its borders and protect its citizens.
In the stunning victory, Israel swiftly repossessed the Golan, Gaza, Sinai, Yehuda, Shomron, and re-unified a divided Jerusalem. The re-unification of our nation marks perhaps the highest spiritual point in Israel's brief 59 year history.
This week according to IsraelNationalNews, the United States Ambassador to Israel will not be present at celebrations marking the 40th anniversary of the miraculous Six-Day War.
This week's festivities are certainly the type in which Israel would like its friends to be present. It is not that our friends are busy with prior engagements, but rather that the United States is boycotting the festivities, along with member nations of the European Union.
According to the INN report:
"The U.S. did not issue an official statement explaining why the current Ambassador, Richard Jones will not be attending the ceremonies, but Ambassador Dr. Harald Kindermann from Germany, which heads the European Union (EU) this year, specifically said EU countries will not participate because of Arab claims of sovereignty over eastern Jerusalem, which includes the Old City."
Perhaps this incident can be brushed aside as part of some grand political game the U.S. must play to appease others across the globe. But some other recent occurances are harder to overlook.
When Winograd Commission released its interim report into the Israeli government and military's mismanagement of the Summer War in Lebanon, the Jewish nation was engaged in sharp condemnation of its leaders, and calls for their resignation. Winograd dominated news coverage for a solid week, and still appears in the headlines on a regular basis.
Just two days after the report was released to the public, there was another, no less important news story in the headlines: The United States had presented Israel with a detailed timetable of commitments for Jewish State to satisfy, in line with the U.S.'s renewed push for the creation of a Palestinian state.
This seemingly important top news story only managed modest news coverage, and barely any opinion, because as mentioned, Israel was engulfed in Winograd.
One may ask whether a timetable, or the creation of an Arab state between the Mediterranean and the Jordan represent acts of friendship to Israel at all. But to present Israel with this kind of wish list when it did, was intentional.
The State Department could have easily pushed off its diplomatic attempt by a week or more, as proved by Condoleeza Rice's postponement of her scheduled trip to Israel this past week. She claimed that Israel was too busy with its own domestic issues to engage in diplomacy.
So why then was the timetable given to Israel when it was? Specifically to dodge any media criticism of the document, and to attempt to have the commitments accepted and in place, just in case Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was man enough to resign his post following the damning Winograd report.
While the timing of the document may or may not be friendly, the contents of the timetable further reveal the nature of the United States toward Israel.
The first commitment called for in the document presented by the State Department requests that Israel ease passage between Gaza and the provinces of Judea and Samaria--also known today as the West Bank.
Since the Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, during which Israel destroyed 21 Jewish communities and forcibly expelled upwards of 10,000 residents, Gaza has turned into a terror state. Hamas has taken control of the region, sponsoring terror activities including the firing of nearly 2000 Kassam rockets into Israel. Well over 60 tons of weapons and munitions have been smuggled into Gaza via Egypt, and the rival factions in the newly autonomous area have engaged in murderous street fights that fall somewhere in between anarchy and civil war.
Now, the United States is suggesting, strongly, that Israel allow Arabs of Gaza passage into Judea and Samaria. This despite the fact that there is a large landmass of indisputed Israeli territory between the aforementioned regions, and also despite the fact that Judea and Samaria wrap directly around the borders of Jerusalem, and end within ten miles of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan population center.
Obviously the United States knows all of these facts, particularly when you consider that they are openly arming, funding, and training members of the Fatah terror faction in their struggle for control of the Palestinian Authority with Hamas.
By the way, Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah wrote his doctoral thesis on Holocaust denial, and openly calls for the very weapons donated to his cause by the United States should be turned against the Jewish people.
So to summarize, the United States is funding and arming sworn enemies of the Jewish State and asking the Jewish State to ease their travel near Israeli population centers. They ask us to do this when the media is too caught up Winograd to rightfully comment on the request.
And the U.S. who is acting squarely against the interests of safety for Israeli citizens and security for Israel's borders, won't celebrate with as friends the greatest demonstration of Israel's independent ability to protect those interests: The miraculous Six-Day War.
Many Americans and Israelis alike believe claims by their respective governments that Israel and America are friends. But actions speak louder than words.
"Well meant are the wounds a friend inflicts, but profuse are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6). Full post and comments...
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Exclusive Photos: Dozens of Leading Rabbis Make Aliyah to the Temple Mount
Friday, May 11, 2007
Rav Frand on Behar: Olim Are Not Normal
Do not let the title fool you. Rav Frand means that in the nicest way possible. The following was published several years ago.
Aspiring to not be Normal: Holy Fruit Are Consumed by Holy People
By Rabbi Frand on Parshas Behar - Bechukosai 5762
Parshas Behar contains the parsha of the Shmita [Sabbatical] year. Shmita is a mind-boggling concept. Shmita teaches us that an apple that grows in the Land of Israel has holiness. An Esrog that grows in the Shmita year has holiness. We generally think of holiness in terms of a Torah scroll which has G-d's Name written therein. An animal acquires holiness if it is dedicated to G-d. However, we (who are outside of Israel) do not usually encounter the concept of fruits, vegetables and grains that have holiness. Such is the power of the Land of Israel. Eretz Yisroel is a different land. Wheat that grows there is different wheat!
Rav Mordechai Gifter (1916-2001) related an incident involving the Ponevezer Rav (1886-1969). In a Shmita year, the Ponevezer Rav went over to a tree, kissed the tree and said "Good Shabbos to you". Just like there is a special day - Shabbos -- on which we have to feel special, so too in Eretz Yisroel during the Shmita year, it is Shabbos for the land.
Several years ago, I recall listening to "All Things Considered" on National Public Radio. To commemorate the signing of the then-recent Peace Accords, there was a segment about Israel in general. It was a piece about the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This program reminded me of the concept that Eretz Yisroel is not a normal land.
What is the difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem? They interviewed several people. The thrust of the responses was that Tel Aviv is a "normal city". Tel Aviv is a pragmatic city. "It is a city which is unencumbered by history. Tel Aviv is like Miami!"
Jerusalem is not Miami. Jerusalem is not pragmatic. Jerusalem is not "normal". Jerusalem is "encumbered by history" - thousands of years of history that the city must bear on its shoulders.
They contrasted the differences between a Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv and a Friday afternoon in Jerusalem. They had excerpts of the sounds of Tel Aviv: teenagers listening to 'Rap music'. They commented "this is so normal". A person on the street Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv could shut his eyes and just listen to the music and think he was in downtown Baltimore. Tel Aviv is 'normal'.
On the other hand, "the Orthodox Jews, many of them dressed in the broad brimmed hats and the long caftans, are scurrying through the streets of Jerusalem trying to prepare for the upcoming Sabbath". Tel Aviv is "normal". Jerusalem is "abnormal".
This is saying that the wish of many Israelis has been achieved. The wish of many of them has been "let us be like all the nations" [Samuel I 8:20]. We just want to be "normal". We do not want to have this burden of history, this burden of theology, this burden of Judaism. We want to be normal.
They fail to realize -- and this is sad to say what is happening -- that if the goal in life is that Tel Aviv should be like Miami, then it makes more sense to just go to Miami. If the goal is to imitate Miami, where one can find drugs and vice 24 hours a day and there is no need to worry about history -- then why shouldn't they just go to the real one?
In fact, many of them are leaving. Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, who now spends most of his time in Jerusalem, recently wrote the following:
They abandoned the Kibbutz in droves, physically and spiritually, for the less austere life and ultimately the greater comforts and the material opportunities of Canada and the United States. The most sacred tenet of secular Zionist canon - settling in Israel - is utterly ignored. As the secularists painfully know, 'Yerida' from Israel is primarily a secular phenomenon while 'Aliya' to Eretz Yisroel is primarily Orthodox.
According to conservative estimates, there are close to a half million former Israelis now living in the West. That is to say that while those raised on a religion-less diet abandon Israel for the West, those raised on Mitzvah observance apparently do not find it difficult to abandon the luxuries of the West for a less comfortable life in Israel. This has resulted in the following anomaly: Hebrew spoken in American electronic stores on 42nd street in New York and on Pico Boulevard in Los Angeles, while English is spoken in Israeli Yeshivos like Kerem B'Yavneh and Brisk. The Orthodox in Israel, whether they are Chassidim, Charedim, Sephardim, or Kippot Serugot ask a troubling question of the secularists. Who today, are the real 'Lovers of Zion'? That is the real irony of ironies. Who are the 'Zionists' today? Who are the 'Chovevei Tsion'? It is those who observe Torah and Mitzvos. Those are the real Zionists. Those are the people that are willing to live in an 'abnormal' land.
This is what we must understand about Eretz Yisroel. It is in fact NOT normal. It is not normal that when an apple grows, I must consider all types of ritual considerations regarding how to treat the apple. It is not normal, but that is what Eretz Yisroel is all about. This is what being a Jew is all about. A Jew is encumbered with history. He is encumbered with theology. If one fails to realize and appreciate that, there is really no reason to live in Eretz Yisroel.
There was a recent article in the New York Times that noted that the secular Israelis look upon the immigrants (olim) who come from the United States to Israel as if they are crazy. In their view, there is no sane person that is living in the United States and has a livelihood in the United States and a house in the United States who gives it up for living in Israel. They feel that anyone who makes Aliyah from the United States nowadays must be out of his mind.
In a sense these secular Israelis are right. It does take people who are not 'normal' to live in a Land that is not 'normal'. But this non- normalcy is something that we must admire and something to which we must aspire. People who are willing to give up the lap of luxury to fulfill a mitzvah - those people can live in a land where apples and grapefruits are holy.
Full post and comments...
Monday, April 30, 2007
The Gemara relates the story of how Jerusalem was conquered in the times of the Hasmonean kings. While city was under siege the Jews would lower money in a basket and the people outside would take the money and place sheep in the basket. This allowed the Korban Tamid to continue. A Jewish traitor told King Hyrkanus that the Jews will never be defeated so long as the Tamid was offered...
"The next day when a basket of coins was lowered the people placed a pig in it instead of the lambs. When they lifted the pig up it dug its hooves into the walls of Jerusalem and the land trembled for four hundred leagues all around. This was a sign of Divine Wrath." (Meam Loez on Shemini p. 239)
And so - perhaps that explains why just a few days after we post pictures of pigs on the Kumah site the main server has a massive stroke destroying a month's worth of posts. Or not.
Whatever the case may be we have switched over to our backup NeoZionist.com server for a few days till the main server could be rebuilt. Almost everything works though some images seem lost, perhaps forever, or at least until we reload them to the new server. In the meantime please pardon our appearance and keep commenting!
Full post and comments...
Thursday, April 26, 2007
While You Were BBQing... (Disturbing Photo Warning)
This is the caption that ran with it:
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish followers of Neturei Karta burn an Israeli flag against Israel's Independence Day in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem, Tuesday, April 24, 2007. Neturei Karta, which means 'Guardians of the City', is a small group of Haredi Jews who oppose Zionism and believe that Jews are forbidden to have their own state until the coming of the Messiah. Israel is celebrating its annual Independence Day, marking 59 years since the founding of the state in 1948. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
Full post and comments...
Monday, April 23, 2007
Yom HaZikaron Photo Essay
It has been a very meaningful Israeli Memorial Day. I was hoping to have time to put all my pictures on the blog, but unfortunately I only had time to add them to a Facebook album. Very worthwhile - many pictures from Har Herzl today. Read the comments for the pictures too. IY"H I'll do a more extensive photo essay here on the blog later. Click here for the pictures: Yom HaZikaron Photo AlbumFull post and comments...
Yom HaZikaron 5767
You can feel the heaviness of the day. It's nothing at all like Memorial Day in America - which to most Americans is simply about sales and the beginning of Summer. Here almost all Israelis know of one (or sadly more) soldier personally that fell so that Israel could be. Here it's personal.
The flag on the Knesset is lowered to half staff (above.) And the nation grinds to a halt to remember who made this all possible as the siren sounds (below.)
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
A Yom Hashoah Thought, The Day After
Think about that.
I don’t know if there could be any thought that could begin to comfort the Jewish People from our loss. Still it is at least an uplifting feeling to actually be united as one nation sharing our sorrow together – if only for a minute… and something that could only be experienced one place in the world.
We must never forget our past even as we build a brighter future.
Full post and comments...
Thursday, April 05, 2007
If you missed the Priestly Blessing at the Kotel... Don't worry!
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Preparing for Pesach with Matisyahu in Jerusalem
There is not much that could get my wife to leave the house just two nights before Pesach...
I was hoping Matisyahu would sing my favorite niggun: "Kol BaYaar/ Father in the Forest": a powerful dialogue between Hashem the Almighty Father and His children, the people of Israel. The Father looks for His children in the Diaspora, Galut, and implores them to return home to the Holy Land. "Where have you been that you have forsaken Me?" He inquires of His children, "Dear children, please Return Home, I feel forlorn without you." The children's answer is "But, Father, how can we return when there is a guard blocking the door?"
Matisyahu did not disapoint: half way through he sang an extended version of the niggun. Listen to the Original, classic song HERE (from Chabad.org) & Matisyahu's studio version HERE
What a night! So many Jews, from all walks of life: celebrating, dancing, praying and enjoying a powerful and inspiring(!) concert/ tefillah & performance. Great music, fun crowd; lots of joy and Jewish Pride.
Last Motzai Shabbat- while on a Heritage trip to Poland-I made Havdala with a group of students in Auschwitz, mourning the past; one week later we were surrounded by hundreds of Jews- alive in Eretz Yisrael- and look forward to a bright future.
Jerusalem VIDEO CLIP
"Indestructable"- Live Clip (from NYC) HERE
Fear nobody but His Majesty,
My spirit, you retrieved,
For You I wait silently,
It seems that you believe in me
Just a tool in the hands of the builder
Fill them with the strength to go further
Diggin deep for eternal treasure
Stay away from quicksand and false pleasure
Release me from their schemes
My distress you will relieve
Shield me on the path that's dark and slippery
They seek deception and futility
I stand with integrity
Sneak to the roof of that building
Don't want nobody here to see me
To say that I'm living in a fantasy
But I believe in find and keep
And I plead in sincerity
Wont you utterly remove the cloud hangin over me
Wont you wave that decree in the shade of your wings
Shelter me from the wicked who have plundered me
From my mortal enemies wont you shield meFull post and comments...
Monday, March 19, 2007
Kotel is the Place to be Tuesday
6:45 AM - Nusach Eretz Yisrael minyan with Rabbi Bar Hayim, the man who has revived the original unifying tradition of prayer in Israel.
8:00 AM - Joyous Reb Shlomo/Rebbe Nachman Rosh Chodesh Minyan led by Master of Prayer Rabbi Ezra Amichai (nee Friedland-Wechsler), known for hosting scores of Jews for Shabbat meals and elevating hundreds each time he leads prayers at the Wall.
My hope is that folks turn up for both minyanim - a double-header of holistic indigenous Jewish prayer to ring in Nissan, Redemption Month according to our sages.
As for the Nusach Eretz Yisrael minyan - this is truly a historic event. Though there are weekly Nusach Eretz Yisrael (NEY) prayers in Givat Sha'ul at the Machon Shilo Beit Midrash (and last year, mincha on Purim at Sde Boaz) - this is the first time it is being returned to such close proximity of the Temple Mount.
For Rav Bar Hayim's (the spiritual leader and inspiration of the not-militant-enough Kitniyot Liberation Front)main mission statement in essay form click here. I recommend his essays on Mordechai's reception by the 'gedoilim' of his time, lulav on shabbat, shofar on shabbat and especially his examination of the blue Techeilet as representative of the deep-seated problem that affects many in our people's God-fearing rabbinate.Full post and comments...
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Interesting Graffiti Around Jerusalem
One of my favorite pastimes is to walk around Jerusalem and take pictures of random graffiti. Growing up in America, I always remember graffiti as being a very bad thing, but in Jerusalem, very often it is creative, and it reflects on the culture of the residents of this special city. Here are a few pictures that I took recently:
This is across the street from the Shuk:
The next 3 are from a pedestrian tunnel at the end of Gan Sacker:
Full post and comments...
So much for being a hardcore settler...
Back in November 2006, Peace Now came out with a report which claimed, among other things, that Ma'aleh Adumim, the largest Jewish community in Judea and Samaria - just east of Jerusalem, with a population of 30,000+ (and growing), and where I happen to live, was in fact built (86%) on private "Palestinian" land.
In all honesty, I was elated.
Why, you might ask?
Simply put, even though Ma'aleh Adumim is techinically over the "Green Line", as far as "settlements" go, it's kind of lame, as Ma'aleh Adumim is unquestionably a part of the Israeli consensus regarding the future borders of the State of Israel.
However, that all changed once the Peace Now report came out, and overnight Ma'aleh Adumim went from being this nice, quiet city just outside of Jerusalem, in the hillside of the Judean desert, to being a bastion of ultra-nationalist, hardcore settlers, building their homes on the stolen land of peace-loving, innocent "Palestinians".
Once and for all, I was able to walk with my head held high amongst my peers, many of whom are living in "outposts", caravans, and "settlements" far more "provocative" than Ma'aleh Adumim.
Until today, that is.
Unsurprisingly, the aforementioned Peace Now report has been debunked.
IDF data show flaws in Peace Now report
In November, Peace Now claimed that 86 percent of Ma'aleh Adumim was built on private Palestinian land. After successfully petitioning the court to see the database, the group reported Wednesday that data show that only 0.5% of the settlement is built on private land.
"The first report they released had major mistakes," said Capt. Zidki Maman, spokesman for the Civil Administration in the West Bank.
Well, it was fun while it lasted, but it seems like I must return to being the mild-mannered, "just outside of Jerusalem," consensus Ze'ev.
Eizeh basa!Full post and comments...
Sunday, March 11, 2007
On Being an Extremist: Revisited
About a year-and-a-half ago, in response to feedback I had received to a number of articles I had written, I decided to layout many of my core beliefs as they related to Israel and the Jewish People, under the heading: On Being an Extremist, leaving it up to my readers to decide, if my beliefs, were, in fact, extreme.
Well, Bradley Burston of Ha'aretz, whose lone claim to fame is his now defunct "Talkback Policy" of forbidding the use of the phrase: "There are no Palestinians," has decided to pen a list of his own, which he entitles: Far-right and wrong, or how to ruin Judaism.
Burston lists 13 principles, to my 10, of which, 5 +/- made Burston's list. I am ashamed to note that #'s 12 & 13 on Burston's list, which relate to the Jewish People's yearning for the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, do not appear on my list, as I have only begun to fully appreciate the notion of "Temple Consciousness" over the last year+, and which I would include on my list today, in one variation or another.
Lastly, before re-revealing my list of beliefs, I found it rather ironic that when it comes to opposing Jews ascending to the Temple Mount (#12), Burston becomes an ardent follower of Rav Kook - who, in regards to many of the other points listed, would likely be viewed as an extremist by Burston and his ilk.
Without further ado...
The Top 10 Reasons... as to why people believe I am an extremist: (Nov. 30, 2005)
1) I believe that the borders of the Jewish State of Israel should encompass the entire area west of the Jordan River (I am not relinquishing the right of the Jewish People to other parts of its Homeland, namely: Jordan, Syria, Lebanon & the Sinai - I just do not believe that we should press our claim to them right now - so long as our neighbors behave).So, you tell me... Does all that make me an extremist?Full post and comments...
2) I am against the creation of a "Palestinian State" anywhere west of the Jordan River, as I do not believe that anyone aside from the Jewish People has any right to sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
3) I am opposed to the "Peace Process" (as it is understood today - although I am very much in favor of peace), as I recognize that peace will not come through releasing terrorists from prison, arming these very terrorists, and making other "goodwill gestures" that all lead to the murder of innocent Jews.
4) I believe that Israel must come to the (painful) recognition that she is at war with the Arab world, and she must be committed to taking the required steps necessary to win that war (and not to suffice with defensive half-measures like the security fence and shelling open fields).
5) I believe that all Jews should live in the Land of Israel , as this is the only place that the Jew, both on an individual and national level, can live a complete Jewish life and it is the only place where the destiny and mission of the Jewish People can be actualized.
6) I believe that the State of Israel should be a Jewish State and not a State of the Jews (simply having a Jewish majority). I believe that the State of Israel should not strive to "fit-in" with the nations of the world and be a nation like all others, but should act to create a society that will be strongly rooted in Jewish tradition, history, identity and culture.
7) I believe that every Jewish child in Israel (and in the world) should receive a intensive Jewish education that will instill within them a sense of pride in their knowing what it means to be a Jew, where they have come from and where they are going, the reason for having a Jewish State in the Land of Israel, and a commitment to taking an active role in helping to fulfill the collective destiny of the Jewish People.
8) I believe that the ultimate values in the Jewish State of Israel should not be liberalism, pluralism and democracy (although each may have it's place within the Jewish State, under certain situations / conditions), rather values that are consistent with authentic Jewish tradition and beliefs should be given primacy above all others.
9) I believe that the Jewish State of Israel can create an exemplary society, one that is moral and just in all areas of private and public life, all while staying true to Jewish teachings and tradition, and not selling our birthright for a bowl of western, secular values.
10) I believe that if the Jewish State of Israel does all of the above, then Israel and her neighbors will be blessed with true and lasting peace, and the Jewish People and the Jewish State of Israel will earn the respect and admiration of the nations of the world, by serving as a true "Light unto the Nations" and on that day the world will recognize the Oneness of the G-d of Israel and His dominion over all.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
NYT: Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons
The following excellent piece appeared in yesterday's The New York Times. (You won't see me typing a sentance like that often!) It appears online here and a slideshow is posted here.
Now because articles on the NYT website have the habit of disappearing after a few days we cut and pasted the whole thing here.
The nutshell version is that American Jews are starting to opt to buy their second homes in Israel instead of traditional US vacation spots. And, it gets better, many of those Jews eventually move here for good!
Full text follows...
March 9, 2007
Choosing Israel, Not the Hamptons
By DAVID KAUFMAN
AS an associate professor of clinical surgery and chief of high risk programs at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Dr. Freya Schnabel is an unlikely international real estate pioneer. But as one of the first buyers in Eden Hills - a planned community 15 minutes southwest of Jerusalem - Dr. Schnabel, who is 49, is emblematic of a new breed of visitor to Israel: the foreign vacation-home buyer.
Indeed, from downtown Tel Aviv to the heart of Jerusalem, foreigners - especially Americans - searching for second homes are redefining Israel's high-end real estate market. Part of Tel Aviv is, in fact, in the midst of a mini-Manhattan makeover with the recent arrival of New York-style residential projects designed by the likes of Philippe Starck and Richard Meier. Even Donald Trump has entered the Tel Aviv marketplace with plans for a 70-story residential and commercial tower - Israel's highest - in the suburb of Ramat Gan.
Real estate analysts estimate that while foreigners made up less than 5 percent of total home buyers in Israel last year, they snapped up a third of the luxury properties - roughly defined as those priced above $500 a square foot. Taking advantage of a decrease in terrorism and property prices still far below Western levels, foreigners bought over $1.2 billion in Israeli real estate in 2006, according to the Israel Central Bank, more than double the $445 million in sales just three years earlier.
While deals like the $13 million purchase of a Tel Aviv triplex by Shari Arison, the Carnival Cruise Lines heiress, illustrate the upper end of the market, most foreign buyers are far more modest. But their desire for larger properties appears to be growing.
"The Americans have shifted from buying one- to two-bedroom to four- to five-bedroom apartments over the past half decade," said Werner M. Loval, managing director of the Jerusalem office of Anglo-Saxon Real Estate in Jerusalem, one of Israel's largest real estate agencies. "But they're still usually spending from about $400,000 to $1 million."
Davyd Tal, the Welsh-born owner of the real estate agency Jerusalem Homes, said that about 65 percent of all foreign buyers are Americans, most of whom are in their 40s and 50s. In Jerusalem, a quarter of all homes sold in 2006 went to foreigners.
Such statistics are credited with helping to boost average per-room prices throughout the capital by 27 percent last year - to just over $88,000 - even though the majority of foreigners remain concentrated in several city-center neighborhoods. These include Rehavia, the German Colony, old Katmon, Kiryat Shmuel, Mamilla and Talibeh, areas where roughly half of last year's home sales were to foreigners.
These areas are mostly within walking distance of major religious sites - the Old City, the Western Wall and the Great Synagogue - fulfilling the needs of the mostly religious Americans who are increasingly calling the neighborhoods home for at least part of the year.
"They want to be here because Jerusalem is the holy city and they are prepared to pay for this privilege," said Yaron Tzuberi, marketing and sales director for Africa Israel, one of Israel's top residential real estate developers.
Mr. Tzuberi notes that almost none of his American buyers live in Jerusalem full time, visiting instead during major Jewish holidays like Passover and Sukkot and perhaps for a few weeks each summer. Such buyers may eventually retire in Israel, but for now, he adds, "the apartments are just empty the rest of the time."
Nonetheless, along with their personal reinforced-concrete bomb shelters, Mr. Tzuberi's clients demand amenities like parking and central air-conditioning and heating - still premium services in much of Israel.
Some buyers are even opting for American-style gated communities - like the 600-unit Eden Hills - to further cushion their landing in the Levant.
"I hate sounding like an ugly American," said Dr. Allen Josephs, a 56-year-old New Jersey neurologist and future Eden Hills resident. "But I want my creature comforts while still being in Israel."
American buyers also covet the sights and sounds of Jerusalem itself. "Views of the Old City and of the Dome of the Rock are a must," Mr. Tzuberi said, "even though they can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cost of a home."
Properties within the walls of the Old City itself, meanwhile, are so rare that they regularly come with multimillion-dollar price tags, including one historic gem near the Western Wall that real estate agents said was shown to Madonna in 2004, though she did not buy it.
IT'S a simple case of supply and demand," says Mr. Tal of Jerusalem Homes. "When homes enter this market, they move fast."
Mr. Tal cited a $650,000 property in the Old City that sold within weeks. Another there was recently resold after just a year, with a markup of $450,000, to $1.45 million.
Views of the Mediterranean - rather than of historic sites - are among the key selling points in Tel Aviv, Israel's second-strongest market for foreign sales. Barely 90 years old, Tel Aviv's skyline is dotted with boxy, 1950s-era apartment blocks, along with an increasing number of sleek new luxury residential towers. They're a far cry from Jerusalem's low-rise, stone-clad houses.
"While Jewish, Tel Aviv buyers are almost never religious, and tend to visit far more often than their Jerusalem counterparts," said Mr. Tzuberi, adding that second-home buyers there are mostly American, British, Russian, French and ex-patriate Israelis looking for a part-time residence back home.
Spas, swimming pools, doormen and heavy security are standard offerings in Tel Aviv's newest developments, which include Mr. Starck's Yoo Tel Aviv - twin 40-floor cylinders opening later this year - and Mr. Meier's 30-story residential tower on posh Rothschild Avenue, which will open in 2010.
Such perks are expensive, however. Prime homes have risen roughly 30 percent over the last year to at least $650 a square foot at benchmark projects like the Akirov Towers - also called the Treetop Towers - in northern Tel Aviv; the 168-unit Rova Lev Ha'ir complex in the city center; and the beachfront Opera Tower. They go up to $1,000 a square foot by the sea.
Ms. Arison's $13 million downtown triplex is in Project G, a 31-floor tower still on the drawing boards.
"We were surprised by these prices, but we actually just purchased a second, larger apartment in the same building," said Margaret Amouyal, who bought into Rova Lev Ha'ir three years ago and visits Tel Aviv six times a year from Brussels.
For many foreigners in Tel Aviv, such standards increasingly include elements of the city's Bauhaus past. Known as the White City and declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2003, Tel Aviv's historic core includes 4,000 Bauhaus buildings - the largest single concentration in the world - many now the target of design-minded American and European second-home seekers. Designated for conservation, Bauhaus apartments usually cover entire floors and offer the feel of a private home in a city that conspicuously lacks detached housing.
As a recent $26 million deal for five historic Tel Aviv Bauhaus buildings suggests, buying into this unique architectural heritage is not for the meek. Landmarked buildings command at least 30-percent premiums over conventional structures from the same era, according to Itzik Ben-Shoam, chief executive of White City Buildings, a real estate agency specializing in Bauhaus residences.
Whether purchasing along Israel's coast or in its spiritual heartland, one thing has been common among almost all foreign home buyers in Israel. They are generally not investment purchases.
"They're intended to be true second homes and not sold or rented for a quick profit," said the developer Alfred Akirov, whose eponymous trio of towers helped start Tel Aviv's luxury skyscraper boom in the late 1990s.
WHILE foreign sales are providing a much-needed boost to Israel's overall economy - battered earlier this decade by almost five years of bomb attacks on civilians - Israelis themselves have not necessarily been so welcoming.
Secular, middle-class Jerusalemites who can no longer afford to live in many areas of their city have been the most vocal in their anti-outsider sentiment. What's more, with foreign buyers often absent for months on end, some areas of the city can seem like luxury ghost towns.
In response, developers have broadened their marketing strategies to include local buyers, as well as voluntarily capping foreign ownership, as in a 30 percent limit at a new seafront tower in the resort city Netanya. While government-mandated restrictions remain unlikely, urban development organizations like the Futura Institute have suggested supplemental property taxes for non-Israeli owners or incentives for developers to include affordable housing aimed at local residents in luxury projects.
One firm, Nam5, is constructing a 120-unit residence offering free housing to recently discharged soldiers in a Tel Aviv suburb, as well as a new luxury tower in Tel Aviv.
For buyers like Dr. Schnabel and Dr. Josephs - who expect to move to Eden Hills by 2009 - rising prices and edged-out locals seem a world away from their still-pristine slice of ancient Judea. With homes ranging from $400,000 to well over a million, Eden Hills is priced to appeal to buyers accustomed to living among the parks, tennis courts, artificial lakes, bike trails and tree-lined pedestrian malls typical of high-end American subdivisions. Such attributes, along with numerous synagogues, are designed to lure Eden Hills's wealthy, Orthodox American target audience - and keep them there.
Dr. Schnabel is already practicing for her new, part-time life in Israel with monthlong stays in Jerusalem apartments to gain a sense of the country off the typical tourist track. And Dr. Josephs is so bullish on Israel that he has bought four separate Eden Hills lots for himself and his children.
"I am actually thinking of Eden Hills as my primary residence," Dr. Josephs said, adding that, eventually, "I will live in Israel, and then visit my second home - in New Jersey."Full post and comments...
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
The Last Boy Scout
As I got to Jerusalem to lecture a bunch of (what's a nice word for spoiled?) Yeshiva kids on the ins and outs of Israel advocacy, from the neo-Zionist perspective, I passed by a bunch of hooligan-looking Israelis dressed in what looked to me like boy scout uniforms.
In Israel, you'll see these types of uniforms on teenagers of the various youth movements--each movement occupying their own special niche within the vast religious-political culture which of course must also include innocent and non-innocent young children.
Let's just say these boy scouts didn't look like the helpful kind. Want a smoke?
Following the lecture which I thought was inspirational, and I am sure that some of the yawns were also out of appreciation for my time and energy, I went to go take care of some of those other last minute errands.
(By the way, I know that I give a great lecture).
I got to Pisgat Ze'ev, the largest community in what is now Jerusalem, although used to be the """"West Bank"""". It is a lovely part of the city built by the Prime Minister who could both build and take away, Ariel Sharon. It is really a beautiful large neighborhood.
We like it, because it is on the way home to Bet El from Jerusalem, and has some of the infrastructure missing from a smaller yishuv, like a shopping mall, and of course Burger's Bar.
The Burger's Bar is located at this intersection at the end of Rechov Moshe Dayan. I'm not sure what that tall red thing is supposed to be.
This is a good opportunity to talk about traffic safety in Israel.
When you are coming from Jerusalem, the best thing to do is park across the intersection in one of 8 or so parking spots facing in the direction you need to drive later. Now the road you need to cross on foot has 2 lanes in each direction--a 4 lane road in total. Not so big. But here in Israel, that means that the road takes about 5 minutes to cross, stopping on 2 seperate half-meter-wide islands in between green lights.
Now I was born in NY, so I am no fool. I look both ways and cross against the light if the coast is clear. For some reason, Israelis who will break just about every rule on the road, don't really jaywalk.
I got across the road pretty fast, when all of a sudden, I hear a 35-40 year-old blind lady holding a cane and 3 young kids in Purim costumes shouting, "Selicha, Selicha."
Now she didn't know it, but she was apparently talking to me.
She told me that it was unsafe to cross such a difficult intersection, and needed some help. She was right. Whichever engineer designed the traffic pattern here, they did not have this type of scenario in mind.
Of course, I helped her and her cute, decked-out kids back across the street.
After finishing my good deed for the day, I went back across that street, to get my take-out. The owner of the Burger's Bar, who knows me quite well from my wife's 9 months of pregnancy cravings that made me a regular at this establishment, invited our family to his child's upcoming birthday party at the restaurant. What a real, yet surreal night.
And how good it all made me feel. It was at that moment that I realized, it is simple good deeds like these that make this country what it is, and what it is supposed to be.
You don't have to be dressed like a boy scout to behave like one. But if you are dressed like a boy scout in Israel, it certainly wouldn't hurt to try.Full post and comments...
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Progress on the Jerusalem Light Rail System (Photos)
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
Propaganda - My Fave
First of all, how incredibly cool is this new blog? I love the smell of Neo-Zionism in the morning. Smells like victory.
Amidst numerous calls we'll be making for a better Israel on this blog, we'll be adamantly calling for real Jewish control over the Temple Mount and the ultimate rebuilding of the Third Temple (hey - it's good for everybody).
Just in case you weren't aware, this is actually what this "second Intifada" is about - control of the Temple Mount (which is code for spiritual control over the Holy Land).
I am no fancy political analyst, but I predict major violence throughout Israel in the next 2 weeks, and onward, because of (or rather, on the pretext of) construction by Israel at the Mugrabi gate in the Old City of Jerusalem. Some of you may recall a certain destructive earthquake 3 years ago which destroyed this path to the Temple Mount, revealing an ancient arch, and significantly reducing the size of the women's section at the Western Wall. Israel built a rather ugly wooden ramp on to the Mount as a temporary fix, but is now embarking on an 8 month project to revitalize the ramp and extend it (foreboding good times of massive Jewish ascent to that area, I hope).
In response, the local Arabs are swinging from the trees. Both Fatah and Hamas have issued raging, testosterony vows of havoc and terror if Israel touches any of their mosques (remember: this is about rebuilding a bridge outside the Temple Mount, in the Jewish Quarter), creating a rare moment of Jew-hate-inspired unity between warring Arab factions.
Israel National News, JPost, Haaretz, Ynet, and all the others have articles up on this story. However, I found the real gem at a website that we Jews don't often visit: Hamas'.
I dare say that such boldly delicious propaganda is rarely found in languages you or I could read, so I invite you to the capital of Flavor Country:
Israel starts demolishing parts of Aqsa Mosque amidst world silence
Feb 6, 2007, 11:25
Occupied Jerusalem - The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) started on Tuesday destroying two rooms and a bridge leading to the Maghareba gate, one of the entrances to the Aqsa Mosque.
Two Israeli bulldozers were involved in destroying the Muslim landmarks in the early hours of Tuesday morning amidst reports revealing that Israeli settlers were actively involved in the demolition...
Israel alleged that it was constructing a permanent pathway connecting the Western Wall adjacent to the Aqsa Mosque in place of an old way, which was destroyed by snowfall.
Palestinians, for their part, belied the Israeli allegations, and accused the Israeli occupation government of conspiring to finally destroy the Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest Muslim shrine world-wide, and to install the alleged Third Temple on its ruins.
They also refuted Israeli claims that the old pathway was destroyed by snowfall, affirming that the road’s foundations were weakened by the persistent IOA excavations under it over the past years.
Palestinian Chief Justice Tayseer Al-Tamimi affirmed that the IOF troops sealed off all roads leading to the occupied city of Jerusalem and beefed up security measures in an attempt to prevent angry Palestinian masses from blocking the IOA plans.
He also noted that the Israeli occupation government exploited the recent unfortunate inter-Palestinian fighting in Gaza Strip and the West Bank to execute their plans.
"The Aqsa Mosque is in real danger and needs Muslim support to defend and spare it the rancorous Israeli conspiracies", Tamimi asserted as he urged Palestinian masses to organize massive demonstrations against the IOA procedures.
... The PA Awkaf (endowment) ministry hailed efforts of the Islamic Movement in unveiling Israeli connivances against the Mosque, adding that the Movement was the only party blocking the IOA atrocities against the Aqsa Mosque amidst unexplainable silence on the part of Arab and Muslim leaders and peoples.
... In the past, Israeli fanatic groups, which are secretly sanctioned by the IOA, attempted to storm and demolish the Aqsa Mosque, including the 1969 attempt to burn it at the hands of a Jewish settler of Australian origin, and the desecration attempt that former Israeli premier Ariel Sharon carried out in the Mosque in the year 2000, which triggered the Aqsa intifada, among other attempts.
That was cute.
Now, I want to share with you some related information, about excavations in the City of David, and the incredible finds (and the incredible lies of our enemies). Listen to this great interview with Doron Spielman, Director of Development at Ir David.
Press "Play" below to listen the interview with Doron Spielman
He speaks about the recent discovery of an ancient stairway from the Shiloach pool all the way to the Temple.Full post and comments...
Raising the Banner of "Temple Consciousness"
One of the things that is unique about Neo-Zionism, in general, and the Kumah - Mega Blog, in particular, is the emphasis placed on promoting "Temple Consciousness," which, in a nut shell, refers to raising awareness of the role that the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) plays in the ultimate mission and destiny of the Jewish People, and what we can be doing today to prepare the Jewish People and State for its rebuilding.
Unfortunately, there are many forces (both Jewish and non-Jewish), who spare no effort in their efforts to crush any notion of "Temple Consciousness" from taking root, whether in a physical or spiritual sense.
In the post below, I provide some of the historical context for the struggle over the Temple Mount (from an article I wrote in Sept. 2005), and in future posts, I will focus on the present-day battle over the Temple Mount, as well as how to raise "Temple Consciousness" amongst the Jewish People and within the Jewish State.
On June 7th, 1967 / the 28th of the month of Iyar, 5727, Motta Gur uttered 3 words that shook the very foundations of the world and served as the culmination of 2,000 years of Jewish hopes, dreams and prayers: Har HaBayit BeYadeinu!!! (The Temple Mount is in our hands).
Sadly, just under 40 years later, that is no longer the case.
Today, I had the distinct privilege of ascending to Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount), and visiting the holiest site of the Jewish People. (Before any Jew visits Har HaBayit he should consult with a Halachic authority well versed in the laws concerning such a visit). Har HaBayit is the site where the 1st two Batei HaMikdash (Holy Temples) stood, and upon which the 3rd will be built - speedily, in our time. It is on this very place where the presence of G-d rests, and many central events in Jewish history occurred on this very spot (such as Akeidat Yitzchak - the binding of Isaac).
While I am thankful for the opportunity to visit the holiest of sites of the Jewish People (an act, which throughout our long Exile, so few Jews merited - and I dare not proclaim to be of greater spiritual worth, and as such more derserving), and in reality, the holiest site in the entire world, there is a sense of shame that accompanies me. When a Jew visits Har HaBayit today - specifically religious Jews - he does so as a visitor, as a guest, and not as sovereign.
After the Six-Day War, when Jerusalem was liberated from Jordanian occupation, the Jewish People had once again returned to Har HaBayit, the focal point of all of our prayers. Sadly, Moshe Dayan, then Minister of Defense, ordered the Israeli Flag lowered from the Mount, and gave the Muslim Waqf day to day control over Har HaBayit, and this remains the status quo until this very day.
As such, today, when a Jew visits Har HaBayit, he must play according to rules set by the Muslim Waqf. He is only allowed to visit during limited hours. Religious Jews are given "special" treatment, where they are instructed that if they do any act of prayer while visiting Har HaBayit, they will be forcibly removed and charges will be brought against him (this speech is given by a Jewish, Israeli police officer). These restrictions include uttering prayers, bowing, tearing clothing, singing, dancing... The powers that be ensure compliance on this matter by ensuring that all religious Jews visiting Har HaBayit are escorted by Israeli police, as well as Muslim Waqf officials. (This treatment is only given for religious Jews, tourists are able to move freely on Har Habayit without escort).
To make matters worse, Har HaBayit today is not given the respect and reverence that is befitting a place of such holiness. Arab children can be seen riding bikes and playing ball. Garbage is strewn all over the Mount. Illegal excavations continue round the clock in order to erase any physical evidence of a Jewish connection to the site. When the Arabs come to pray at the mosques found on the Temple Mount, they hear sermons filled with hatred and vitriol against the Jewish People and State, comparing Jews to monkeys and pigs, alongside calls forthe destruction of Israel.
To see pictures of Har HaBayit today, click here.
The poet, Uri Tzvi Greenberg Z"L, understood the centrality of the Temple Mount to the conflict that the Jewish People are faced with in the Land of Israel:
He who rules the Mount rules the Land.Today, it is clear from the actions (or inaction) or successive Jewish governments since 1967, that the Jewish People do not rule the Mount, and as such, our hold on Eretz Yisrael today is tenuous.
Consider this: If the State of Israel is unwilling to stand up and enforce the right of the Jewish People to Har HaBayit, out holiest site, then for what are we willing to stand and fight for? For Gush Katif? For Hebron? For eastern Jerusalem?
The Arabs are not a stupid people. They see that we are unwilling to stand up for what is ours - in this case, our holiest site - and they understand that if that is the case, we will not truly stand up to them anywhere else in the Land of Israel either.
The time has come for the Jewish People to reconnect with our holiest site. To raise an outcry over the injustices taking place on Har HaBayit. To demand, at the very least, that Jews should have equal rights with the Muslims, and be able to pray on Har HaBayit, in accordance with Halacha. How can it be that in the Jewish State of Israel (which also claims to be a democracy) that freedom of religious worship is not extended to Jews at their holiest of sites?
Here's a better question:
How can it be that this desecration of G-d's name and sanctuary bothers so few Jews, both in Israel and the world?Full post and comments...
Friday, February 02, 2007
Although no longer manifest physically as a tangible structure, the spiritual reality and influence of The Temple continues pump and direct Divine Life Force to the collective body of the revealed world.
"Man is as the tree of the field": Regardless of how brittle and weak we may appear externally, to the extent that we are connected to our Roots, the tree will continue to live, be rejuvenated and thrive. On Tu B'Shvat, when the sap begins to Rise within the fruit bearing trees, the process of rebirth begins (continues?) for Am Yisrael and all of creation. After a long and difficult winter- a long and difficult Exile- we are blossoming, and signs of renewed strength, life and growth begin to appear...
Tu B'Shvat is a time for a renewed commitment and strengthening of our National Mission, and a Return to our "Roots". At the core of our identity is the Heart of Am Yisrael: The Beit Hamikdash.
While we sing, enjoy and celebrate the fruits of The Land this Tu B'Shvat / Shabbat Shira, let's renew our "Temple consciousness" and remember the focal point of our spiritual and daily lives.
This Shabbat, when the Sea is splitting once again, let us pray that we merit the fulfillment of the Divine Promise described in the Shirat HaYam, and the Ultimate Goal and Purpose of our Nation:
Full post and comments...
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Photos From TeKumah Klean-Up in the Old City
After a hard days work Yishai spoke briefly about the holy site and the rest of us were rewarded with free pizza! Next time we have to remember to bring ping-pong equipment.
Anyway be sure to visit!
Click the thumbnails below to enlarge the pics!
Or click here to watch a slideshow!