Chillul Tefila Bifarhesia, as well as halachicly challenged verbiage and dress, are external manifestations of a critical lack of personal yiras shomayim which has lethal consequences.
I sleep every Tisha B’Av night on a narrow cushion in front of the Me’aras HaMachpelah in Hebron. I do this because the following chiddush came to me many years ago: When the spies went to Israel, the pasuk says “vayavo ad Chevron” – “and he came until Hebron.” He instead of they. Rashi says only Calev ben Yefuneh went to Hebron, to pray to Avraham Avinu that he not fall for the plan of the spies.
The spies gave their horrible report on Tisha B’Av night, and this night became a night of crying through the ages. So I said, “Hebron and Me’aras HaMachpelah is where I’m going sleep to remember the power of the prayer of Calev.”
And as I traveled to Hebron, how could I not stop at the tomb of Rachel Imeinu? It’s right on the way.
The Tenth of Av is my birthday, and this year as I walked from my car to Rachel’s Tomb I found myself singing, “Unhappy birthday to you, unhappy birthday to you, Dov Shurin!” – since on my birthday we are all crying for Mashiach.
Once I was in the tomb I took a Tehillim and beg David HaMelech to direct me to a verse that would consol me on my “unhappy” birthday. With my eyes closed, I asked that my finger open to a special page. I opened the book, my eyes still closed, and I asked, “Which page, right side or the left?” I imagined I was told the left. Then I ran my finger down the page until I sensed I should stop.
I opened my eyes and I was on the verse in Psalm 104 that reads “You send forth your spirit and they are created, renewing the face of the earth.” What a birthday present from above! It’s all about one’s birthday, about renewal. The verse before this is about death, and this verse is birth. I thought about the Torah giant we just lost, Rav Elyashiv, zt”l, and how Hashem certainly is renewing the earth with new tzaddikim; in fact, we’re told that Tisha B’Av is when Mashiach will be born.
Then I went to Hebron and stayed until Minchah time. At first it was difficult for me to deal with the Nachem prayer we say only on Tisha B’Av in the middle of the Vel’Yirushalayim Ircha blessing in the Shemoneh Esrei. The verses read: “Console the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem …. the city is destroyed, disgraced and empty.”
That’s not the case today, with close to two hundred thousand Jews living here, and we even have our light railroad. It just seemed to me the Nachem tefillah should be updated.
I did notice the Nachem prayer distinguishes between Zion and Jerusalem. So I decided to consult the amazing sefer of the Malbim, HaCarmel, which discusses relevant words and concepts. I turned to where he writes about Zion and Jerusalem. He notes that Metzudas Tzion was the city of David, which was occupied by children of kings, important personalities and Torah scholars, and the rest of Jerusalem is where the simple multitudes lived.
So Zion was what we refer to today as East Jerusalem. In my previous column I wrote about a police officer who was stabbed to death years ago by an Arab who came up from Silwan, which is Zion, which was the city of David and is called exactly that by those Jews who have settled there. So unfortunately the words of the Nachem prayer are in fact relevant today regarding East Jerusalem and its status in the eyes of the international community.
On Tisha B’Av Mitt Romney became the latest presidential candidate to promise to move the American embassy to Jerusalem, may it really happen this time. The Israeli government needs to make it clear that Jerusalem, and especially Zion, the city of David, is not for sale, period. Until then, the Nachem prayer remains true to its text.
May our Charming Nation see the consolation of Zion, the final Godly building of Yerushalayim, and the renewal of the face of the earth with the coming of Mashiach quickly in our day, amen.
Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums of original composition. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears in The Jewish Press every other week.
About the Author: Dov Shurin is a popular radio personality and the composer and producer of several albums of original composition. He lives with his family in Israel and can be contacted at email@example.com. His column will appear in The Jewish Press every other week.
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Do you say Shema before you go to sleep? I’m sure you do.
But perhaps you, like many, feel too tired at night to say the entire tefillah of Kri’as Shema as it appears in the siddur. If you do say the entire tefillah, you will recognize a pasuk in this week’s Haftorah. And if you don’t say the whole Kri’as Shema al Hamitah, perhaps after this column, you’ll re-consider and find yourself connecting with the following very comforting pasuk.
The sand is rapidly running through the hourglass, as the centrifuges in the secret Iranian nuclear plants spin furiously. It is quite clear that the Iranians are on the brink of attaining nuclear capability, and we are well aware of the danger that would face Klal Yisroel in that event, chas v’sholom. All the sanctions, threats, and computer worm attacks do not seem to be stopping them, and it is terrifying. And when we see how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks anywhere in the world, we become even more terrified.
Miriam spoke disparagingly about Moshe Rabbeinu. Because of this, she contracted tzaras, and for seven days she was sent outside the camp of Israel.
Detached Or Unrelated
‘He Made An Asheirah Tree Into a Ladder…’
In this week’s parshah we read about the individuals who were tamei and thus could not bring the korban Pesach. They approached Moshe Rabbeinu and asked him whether there was anything they could do to bring the korban. Ultimately, Hashem told Moshe that they should bring a korban a month after Pesach, on the 14th of Iyar.
Question: As Shavuot is fast approaching – a holiday on which we dwell on the story of Ruth and the origins of the royal house of David – I was wondering if you could help me resolve something. Some people say that Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, the redactor of the six orders of the Mishnah and a scion of King David, purposely kept any mention of Chanukah and the Hasmonean kings out of the Mishnah because the Hasmoneans improperly crowned themselves and ignored the rule that all Jewish kings are supposed to come from the tribe of Yehudah. Is this true?
One of the thirty-nine prohibited melachot on Shabbat is carrying an object from a private domain, reshut hayachid, to a public domain, reshut harabim, or carrying an object a distance of four amot, six to eight feet, in a reshut harabim. The Torah does permit, however, carrying within the reshut hayachid itself. The definition of a reshut hayachid and a reshut harabim is crucial, therefore, to the laws of carrying on Shabbat.
Question: The Midrash notes that the song the Jews sang after they crossed the Red Sea (“Az Yashir”) was unique; its likes had never been heard before in the world. Our Sages even refer to it as a shirah chadashah, a “new song.” What made “Az Yashir” so unique and in what sense was it a “new song”?
The rav was not a wealthy man, but earned enough to live comfortably. He earned his money by serving as the rav of a religious community in Yerushalayim. He also received some royalties from sefarim he had written over the years. He was well known, and many people approached him for a berachah, advice and help. They were not turned away.
Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, is remarkable for the extreme realism with which it portrays human character. Its heroes are not superhuman. Its non-heroes are not archetypal villains. The best have failings; the worst often have saving virtues. I know of no other religious literature quite like it.
Last week I shared a letter from a newly observant Jewish woman. She and her husband reside in a small suburban community outside of Los Angeles. Last year they came to consult with me on a personal religious issue. While they were both ba’alei teshuvah, there was one fine difference between them. He had become a ba’al teshuvah earlier than she and was therefore somewhat more settled in an observant lifestyle.
I watch my children use blocks to build a large structure, observing the trepidation with which they add each block. As the structure becomes larger there is a greater risk of it collapsing, thus bringing an end to an hour of playful labor. I anticipate what will happen when one child adds a block to the top floor, compromising the integrity of the building and resulting in the collapse of the entire structure. The argument that ensues is predictable, as each child blames the other for “ruining” the fun. As an adult, I wonder about the need to attribute blame. Will assigning blame be instrumental in rebuilding the structure?
In this week’s parshah the Torah discusses the halachos of when one steals from another and when confronted in beis din, the thief swears falsely with his denial that he stole. This parshah was already taught in parshas Vayikra; however, there are two halachos that the Torah adds in this parshah to this topic.
In order to carry from one’s home into the street (even when the area is enclosed by a properly constructed eruv), the eruvin ceremony must be performed. This ceremony involves the placing of food in one designated home on behalf of all Sabbath observers in the enclosed area. In order for the eruvin ceremony to be valid, however, it must be performed on behalf of all owners of streets and homes in the enclosed area.
My mother, the eldest daughter of Reb Yaakov Kamenetsky, zt”l, was niftar last month at the age of 92. She took her last breath in her home in Efrat, Israel, next door to the shul that was my father’s for 24 years before his passing in 2007.
For days and weeks before Pesach, we meticulously clean our homes, making sure that not a crumb of bread might, God forbid, be found when we begin the festival of matzahs.
The post-election coalition negotiations are underway and it may take several weeks for the country to finally have a new government, with Prime Minister Netanyahu once again at its helm.
I’m writing this on the day before Israelis vote for our Knesset, but one thing I can presume is that unless a cow is seen jumping over our ten-day-old new moon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be asked by Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, to form the next government.
My most recent column elicited a fascinating response from an American woman. Before I share that letter and my reply, I will briefly reiterate the substance of that Dec. 28 column, which was titled “My Reasons to Be Jolly.”
I’m wrapping up my trip to the U.S., a visit that for the first time in many years happened to coincide with Christmas.
I write this column with my bags packed. I’m lighting four candles in Israel and my fifth I will light Wednesday evening at about 9 p.m. in the lobby of the Avenue Plaza Hotel in Boro Park. I’ll have my guitar in hand, and everyone is invited.
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