Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
On a recent flight to Israel I sat next to a chassid who kept looking out the window and humming the most beautiful melody, “Shabbos Kodesh…Shabbos Kodesh” – and when he first saw the lights of Israel he started singing, “Eretz Yisrael…Eretz Yisrael!”
Who else but a Jew could thrill to these words?
We have been learning about the Mishkan in recent Torah portions. The first vessel discussed is the holy Ark. “Rav Yosef taught in a beraisa, ‘… [both] the [second] tablets and the first tablets are placed into the ark’ ” (Menachos 99a).
The Ark is the center of the universe and the source of our unity with Hashem. Its contents must therefore be incredibly significant. So why should it contain the broken tablets? Of what significance are they?
There are many possible explanations, but I would suggest that our entire relationship with Hashem depends on something being broken. Like walking through that dark cloud surrounding Har Sinai, we apparently have to break something to get close to Hashem.
We all know that Moshe Rabbeinu broke the luchos when the Children of Israel were dancing before the Golden Calf. So they remind us of our strong attachment to that which is false and impure. Even when Moshe took us out of Egypt, only one-fifth of our ancestors wanted to leave with him. Four-fifths were so attached to idolatrous Egypt – the nation that had killed our babies! – that they preferred to remain behind in that hell rather than follow Moshe Rabbeinu and meet Hashem at Har Sinai. (See Rashi on Shemos 13:18 and 10:22.)
The yetzer hara is incredibly strong, and this is the source of all our troubles, for our sages tell us that “there is not a single punishment that comes to the world that does not contain [a small amount of punishment derived from the worship of the Golden] calf…” (Sanhedrin 102a).
* * * * *
Let us return to Achashveirosh’s banquet.
Kosher food was available. What was the problem?
The problem is exactly our problem today.
The Megillah is describing our own world. We live in Shushan. We are eating at the banquet. It is glatt kosher, but it is their banquet. And this, apparently, is very dangerous.
It would seem that this is the reason Megillas Esther is the Torah’s “parting word” as the Children of Israel head into Exile. Hashem is warning His children about the chief danger that lies ahead for us, down this long and dangerous road.
Jews over the centuries had been able to resist the most terrifying decrees. When it came to being killed al Kiddush Hashem, God forbid, they accepted death rather than abandoning our holy heritage. But when the nations of the world invited us to become “equal citizens,” that is when we failed. When social acceptance, wealth, comfort and fulfillment of material desires were presented to us, they became our stumbling blocks. After centuries of heroic resistance, we could not resist the “friendly hand” extended by our enemies.
My wife, Leah, and I were privileged recently to speak in the former Soviet Union. We spent Shabbos Parshas Yisro in the famous Yeshiva Toras Chaim in the village of Hripan, some forty miles outside Moscow. We left the capital several hours before Shabbos and arrived at the village where, we had been told, “anyone can direct you to the yeshiva.” In fact, no one in the village seemed to know where the yeshiva was. Finally, our driver inquired at a small store. A young man emerged and told him he could direct us.
The young man entered our van and began acting in a very strange manner. He was all smiles and wanted to shake hands with all of us. Then he offered us ice cream he had brought out of the store. It all was just too friendly. He directed us down a village street and then he got out of the van and pointed farther down the road, telling the driver he should just continue on and we would arrive at the yeshiva.
So we drove down that road, and it led…nowhere. Into a snowbank, actually. It was a trick. The young man had intentionally put us on a road to nowhere. It was a few hours before Shabbos, and we were barely able to extricate ourselves from the snowbank. Finally, after several attempts, we located someone who was able to direct us accurately and we pulled up to the yeshiva with a sense of relief and gratitude to Hashem.
About the Author: Roy Neuberger's latest book, "2020 Vision" (Feldheim), is available in English, Hebrew, Spanish, French and Russian with a Georgian edition in preparation. An e-edition is available at www.feldheim.com. Roy is also the author of "From Central Park to Sinai: How I Found My Jewish Soul" (available in English, Hebrew and Russian, Georgian edition in preparation) and "Worldstorm." Roy and his wife speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at email@example.com or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com. Roy and his wife speak publicly on topics related to his books and articles. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his websites www.tosinai.com and www.2020visionthebook.com.
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Welcome the book of Leviticus!
If the nationalist Knesset members don’t provide the answer, the Arab MKs will do so in their place.
International Agunah Day falls annually on Ta’anis Esther, this year on March 13.
Even a foxhole Yid has to admit that antisemitism is on the upswing.
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One can almost imagine a shocked Mr. Kerry thinking to himself, “How could he?” Yet not only did Mr. Putin do what he did, China, one of the three major international players along with the U.S. and Russia, agreed with him, not with Mr. Kerry.
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Apparently, at the very time of year we are supposed to be full of simcha, Hashem wants us to be aware of the possibility of danger. Indeed, during the Yom Tov of Sukkos, we read cataclysmic haftaras dealing with the ultimate war, the Milchemes Gog Umagog. Where does that war take place? In the Holy Land, of course, where the eyes of the world are always focused.
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Rabbi Naftali Jaeger, rosh yeshiva of Sh’or Yoshuv, relates in the name of the Ishbitzer Rebbe a striking metaphor:
“In those days, when King Achashveirosh sat on his royal throne which was in Shushan the capital, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast for all his officials and servants, the army of Persia and Medea; the nobles and officials of the provinces being present, when he displayed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his splendorous majesty for many days, a hundred and eighty days.
“Israel has bad public relations.”
This is the perennial cry. “Israel must improve its image to convince the world of the justness of its cause.”
Let’s face it: this is not going to be an ordinary year.
We are praying very seriously this year because we are praying for our lives. Yes, I know: every year we pray for our lives. But how many feel it? This year, whether we want to or not, I think we are beginning to feel it.
Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/front-page/road-to-nowhere/2013/02/20/
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