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November 28, 2015 / 16 Kislev, 5776
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Posts Tagged ‘Abraham’

Listen To Sarah

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

First published: Jewish Business News.

I’m writing this about half an hour after having heard the news of the murder of at least four Jews who were praying in a synagogue in a Haredi neighborhood in West Jerusalem. If anyone has had any delusions about this not being a religious war, and anything but a religious war, one need only connect the images that are emerging from this morning’s massacre of four Jewish men in the middle of their morning prayer to the images of Jews massacred in Hebron, in 1929.

In both instances, and in so many others, many of them in just the past few weeks, it was always an enraged, maddened Arab attacker, having been stuffed to the gills with hate by his environment—real and virtual—who exited civilization to become the avenging angel of whatever god he imagined was blessing this horror.

Being a pragmatic person, I, like so many of you, immediately started thinking of, well, what to do next. One really has to be nearly as mad as this morning’s two grocery workers-turned murdering butchers, to suggest they went on their murder spree to advance the cause of independence for their downtrodden Palestinian brothers and sisters. Clearly, they were out to kill as many Jews as they could before some policeman managed to shoot them dead. They were driven by religious hatred, determined to strike at the conquering enemy, wherever they could find him.

They must have talked about it beforehand. Schemed just how to acquire a gun, collect and hide butcher knives, coordinate their attack so as to inflict maximum damage before the unavoidable end. They were seeking only one thing: kill as many Jews as they could, while they still could. They had no concern for their own well being or even their lives. They sought death, willingly, lovingly.

Over the past two decades, the imaginations of a billion and a half Muslims have been ignited by a call to arms the likes of which they had not experienced since the crusades. With 9/11, followed by the emergence of Muslim zeal everywhere on the planet, and recently with the undeniable rise of the new caliphate in Syria and Iraq, Muslims young and old are awash in orgiastic fantasies of the rebirth of their old glory.

This is not a conspiracy, nor is this the actual wish of most Muslims in the world, it’s a fantasy. And the longer Western countries, including Israel, continue to respond to events around us as if they were localized emergencies, to be solved, managed, contained – the fantasy will grow more powerful.

Already we hear the president of Egypt accusing the Turkish secret service of supporting Muslim terrorists. And we’ve known for years of Pakistani secret service support for the Taliban and, by extension, Al Qaeda. The secret services of Muslim countries represent the vanguards of these nations. They’re not only living the fantasy in their everyday lives, they also know how far it can be taken if only they could master whole countries and their weapons.

Left unchecked, this Muslim fantasy will only fester and grow beyond anything our leaders in the west can imagine. I suspect that every erupted murder episode like this morning’s attack on Jews in prayer represents hundreds, perhaps thousands of others, yet unquenched.

Unfortunately, the only way to end this fantasy before it becomes so big it will envelope whole countries, is to crush it.

Which brings me to our beautiful matriarch, Sarah.

Sarah saw through Ishmael, the offspring of her slave girl Hagar and her husband, Abraham. He was up to no good, either plotting to rape her son Isaac or kill him, depending on which interpreter you prefer.

At another point, an angel of God told Hagar exactly who her son, Ishmael, father of all the Arabs was: “This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” (Gen, 16:12)

Biblical prophesies can be so annoying when they come true right in front of your eyes.

Sarah was no fool. She was, actually, the greatest prophet of her time. So she ordered her husband, Abraham, to get rid of the kid and his mother. Chase them out, she told him, in no uncertain terms.

She had no delusions about Ishmael.

This was the hardest moment in Abraham’s life. He just couldn’t being himself to do something this cruel. He resisted. He wouldn’t do it.

And so, according to our biblical account, God intervened:

God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your maid. Do whatever Sarah tells you.” (Gen. 21:12)

And so Abraham, finally, obeyed his wife. There was no discussion of rehabilitation for the boy, no talk of cultural assimilation. He had to go.

I have no idea what will happen next in our war-torn Middle East and in the rest of the world. I suspect Sarah’s command still seems too harsh to most of us, myself included. It’s one thing to chase a woman and her son out into the desert, but what do you do with millions of Muslims? How do you recover from something like that? It’s one mad fantasy touching on another, evoking a third.

But if you’d like to know what our great grandmother Sarah, if she woke up today, would have told us, I can assure you, she would have said: “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” (Ge. 12:10)

Beginning The Journey

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

A while back, a British newspaper, The Times, interviewed a prominent member of the Jewish community (let’s call him Lord X) on his 92nd birthday. The interviewer said, “Most people, when they reach their 92nd birthday, start thinking about slowing down. You seem to be speeding up. Why is that?”

Lord X replied, “When you get to 92, you start seeing the door begin to close, and I have so much to do before the door closes that the older I get, the harder I have to work.”

Something like that is the impression we get of Abraham in this week’s parshah. Sarah, his constant companion throughout their journeys, has died. He is 137 years old. We see him mourn Sarah’s death, and then he moves into action.

He engages in an elaborate negotiation to buy a plot of land in which to bury her. As the narrative makes clear, this is not a simple task. He confesses to the locals, the Hittites, that he is “an immigrant and a resident among you,” meaning that he knows he has no right to buy land. It will take a special concession on their part for him to do so. The Hittites politely but firmly try to discourage him. He has no need to buy a burial plot. “No one among us will deny you his burial site to bury your dead.” He can bury Sarah in someone else’s graveyard. Equally politely but no less insistently, Abraham makes it clear that he is determined to buy land. In the event, he pays a highly inflated price (400 silver shekels) to do so.

The purchase of the Cave of Machpelah is evidently a highly significant event because it is recorded in great detail and highly legal terminology – not just here but three times subsequently in Genesis, each time with the same formality. For instance, here is Jacob on his deathbed, speaking to his sons:

“Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan, which Abraham bought along with the field as a burial place from Ephron the Hittite. There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried, there Isaac and his wife Rebecca were buried, and there I buried Leah. The field and the cave in it were bought from the Hittites” (Genesis 49:29-32).

Something significant is being hinted at here; otherwise why mention, each time, exactly where the field is and from whom Abraham bought it?

Immediately after the story of land purchase, we read, “Abraham was old, well advanced in years, and God had blessed Abraham with everything.” Again this sounds like the end of a life, not a preface to a new course of action, and again our expectation is confounded. Abraham launches into a new initiative, this time to find a suitable wife for his son Isaac, who by now is at least 37 years old. Abraham leaves nothing to chance. He does not speak to Isaac himself but to his most trusted servant, who he instructs to go “to my native land, to my birthplace” to find the appropriate woman. He wants Isaac to have a wife who will share his faith and way of life. Abraham does not specify that she should come from his own family, but this seems to be an assumption hovering in the background.

As with the purchase of the field, so here the course of events is described in more detail than almost anywhere else in the Torah. Every conversational exchange is recorded. The contrast with the story of the binding of Isaac could not be greater. There, almost everything – Abraham’s thoughts, Isaac’s feelings – is left unsaid. Here, everything is said. Again, the literary style calls our attention to the significance of what is happening, without telling us precisely what it is.

The explanation is simple and unexpected. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, God had promised them two things: children and a land. The promise of the land (“Rise, walk in the land throughout its length and breadth, for I will give it to you”) is repeated no less than seven times. The promise of children occurs four times. Abraham’s descendants will be “a great nation,” as many as “the dust of the earth” and “the stars in the sky.” He will be the father not of one nation but of many.

Archaeologists’ Discovery May Be in Abraham’s Home City of Ur

Friday, April 5th, 2013

British archaeologists have discovered a huge 4,000-year-old building that probably was in use in the ancient city of Ur, where the forefather Abraham lived before leaving with his father Terah for Israel, then known in the Bible as “the land of Canaan.”

The ancient city of Ur was discovered approximately 90 years ago and is thought to be Abraham’s birthplace, but the latest discovery is the first time a building has been unearthed that might be connected with the city or have religious connections to it.

The unearthing of the large structure, approximately 260 feet on each side, includes several rooms around a large courtyard.

“It might be an administrative building, it might have religious connections or controlling goods to the city of Ur,” Manchester University archaeologist Stuart Campbell told the Associated Press.

Among the artifacts discovered were signs of idol worship, which also was prevalent in Canaan until Abraham introduce the concept of one Deity to the world.

Iraq is known to host a wealth of history underground but has not been accessible to Western archaeologists for more than three decades because of the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and ensuing wars.

One of the images that was found is that of a ram, the animal that Abraham sacrificed in Canaan after God “tested” him with His order to sacrifice his only son. Yitzchak (Isaac), who was to inherit the land for future generations of Jews, as written in the Bible:

“And Abraham stretched out his arm and took the knife to slaughter his son, and the angel of God called from the heavens and said, Abraham, Abraham…. Do not stretch forth your hand to the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him, for now I know that you are a God fearing man, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me.

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”

Reflections on the Divine Image

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following sermon was delivered by Rabbi Lamm on October 15, 1960. What’s truly astonishing is how relevant his remarks remain more than 52 years later; indeed, had we not just noted the date on which the speech originally was given, readers likely would have assumed it to be of very recent vintage.

This and 34 other lectures and speeches given by Rabbi Lamm between 1952 and 1976, while he served as a congregational rabbi in New York and Massachusetts, appear in a new anthology, “Drashot Ledorot: A Commentary for the Ages,” published by Maggid, a division of Koren.

The concept of man’s creation betzelem Elokim, in the image of God, is one of the most sublime ideas that man possesses, and is decisive in the Jewish concept of man.

What does it mean when we say that man was created in the image of God?

Varying interpretations have been offered, each reflecting the general ideological orientation of the interpreter.

The philosophers of Judaism, the fathers of our rationalist tradition, maintain that the image of God is expressed, in man, by his intellect.

Thus, Saadia Gaon and Maimonides maintain that sechel, reason, which separates man from animal, is the element of uniqueness that is in essence a divine quality. The intellectual function is thus what characterizes man as tzelem Elokim.

However, the ethical tradition of Judaism does not agree with that interpretation.

Thus, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his Mesilat Yesharim, does not accept reason as the essence of the divine image. A man can, by exercise of his intellect, know what is good but fail to act upon it. Also, the restriction of tzelem Elokim to reason means that only geniuses can truly qualify as being created in the image of God.

Hence, Luzzatto offers an alternative and perhaps more profound definition. The tzelem Elokim in which man was created is that of ratzon – the freedom of will. The fact that man has a choice between good and evil, between right and wrong, between obedience and disobedience to God, is what expresses the image of God in which he was born. An animal has no freedom to act; a man does. That ethical freedom makes man unique in the creation.

But how does the freedom of the human will express itself? A man does not assert his freedom by merely saying “yes” to all that is presented to him. Each of us finds himself born into a society which is far from perfect. We are all born with a set of animal drives, instincts, and intuitions. If we merely nod our heads in assent to all those forces which seem more powerful than us, then we are merely being passive, plastic, and devoid of personality. We are then not being free, and we are not executing our divine right of choice.

* * * * *

Freedom, the image of God, is expressed in the word “no.” When we negate that which is indecent, evil, ungodly; when we have the courage, the power, and the might to rise and announce with resolve that we shall not submit to the pressures to conform to that which is cheap, that which is evil, that which is indecent and immoral – then we are being free men and responding to the inner divine image in which we are created.

The late Rabbi Aaron Levine, the renowned Reszher Rav, interpreted, in this manner, the famous verse from Ecclesiastes (3:19) which we recite every morning as part of our preliminary prayers. Solomon tells us, “Umotar haadam min habehema ayin,” which is usually translated as “And the preeminence of man over beast is naught.”

Rabbi Levine, however, prefers to give the verse an interpretation other than the pessimistic, gloomy apparent meaning. He says: “And the preeminence of man over beast is ayin, ‘no.’ ”

What is it that gives man his distinction? What is it that makes man different from the rest of creation, superior to the rest of the natural world? It is his capacity to say ayin, his capacity to face the world and announce that he will not submit to it, that he will accept the challenge and respond “no.”

Get Out While You Can!

Monday, December 31st, 2012

The reason for America’s precarious economic situation is clear. At the beginning of our history, God informs Abraham that he will be a blessing to the world. The nations that are good to Abraham’s offspring will be blessed, and the nations that suppress Israel will be cursed.

In the past, the United States helped the State of Israel in many ways, but now, instead of helping Israelis settle all of the Land that God gave to the Jews, America has the gall to tell us where we can live in Jerusalem and our Biblical homeland, and where we cannot. That certainly is not blessing the Jewish People. So it isn’t surprising that America is being threatened with economic collapse – along with Europe and the rest of the countries that are against our free and unlimited settlement in the Land of our Forefathers.

The first plague in Egypt turned the Nile River to blood. Rashi explains that when God punishes a nation, He begins by punishing their gods. The Egyptians worshipped the Nile, just as America worships money. That’s why America’s economy has been taking a beating.

The only solution is to stop pressuring Israel not to build in Jerusalem and the rest of Biblical Israel. If America hopes to escape the financial collapse that is coming, the United States must support Israel’s settlement in every way it can. As God told Abraham – whoever blesses the Children of Abraham will be blessed, and whoever curses them will be cursed in return.

In the meantime, it’s time for the Jews of America to get out of the country with their money while they can. All of a sudden, all the money in America will be frozen by the US Treasury in order to bail out the government dept, just like the Pharaoh did in Egypt during the famine. So, brothers and sisters, don’t wait. Get out while you can.

Hebron Advocate Shares Hundreds of Articles on Real Life, Love of Gritty Biblical City

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Hundreds of articles detailing the real life and passionate fight of the Jewish community of Hebron to maintain their historic and modern claims to the city purchased by the Jewish patriarch Abraham have been published online.

David Wilder, the spokesperson for The Committee of the Jewish Community of Hebron, has made available almost 20 years worth of writings, revealing the personal, local, and national struggle to preserve the Jewish presence in the hotly contested city, sharing the setbacks, successes, heartbreak and hope – and most of all, the unswerving determination of the Hebron faithful.

Wilder, who has lived for the past 30 years in Hebron and neighboring Kiryat Arba, was born in New Jersey, and speaks around the world on behalf of Hebron, raising funds to develop the community and welcome guests who come to visit the Tomb of the Patriarchs – resting place of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah – and the Tomb of Ruth and Jesse.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/hebron-advocate-shares-hundreds-of-articles-on-real-life-love-of-gritty-biblical-city/2012/12/23/

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