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Events have been unfolding so rapidly. First it was Hurricane Sandy, which attacked with merciless fury and left multitudes homeless, their cars and belongings swept away. Power failed, not for a day, or for a week, but in some cases for several weeks.
On the Shabbat when we read the portion of Chayei Sarah, Chevron residents are joined by thousands of people from all over Israel and around the world in celebrating Father Abraham’s purchase of the Cave of Machpelah and its surrounding fields as a burial place for Sarah Imeinu.
Almost everyone is familiar with the famous first Rashi on the Torah. He asks why does the Torah begin with the account of Creation? After all, since the Torah contains the commandments which Hashem gave to Am Yisrael, it should have begun the precept concerning Rosh Chodesh - the first commandment given to the Israelite Nation.
You know, it’s amazing. Here we stand before the Heavenly Judge, asking for a year of health for our families and for the nation plus everything else good. That’s what judgment day is for all of us. The unique text of the liturgy for the High Holy Days begins with the daily Ata Kadosh – You are holy…and “holy ones [that’s us] praise you daily.”
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.
Half a century ago in May, Israel hanged Nazi war criminal Adolph Eichmann for overseeing Germany’s extermination of six million European Jews, fully one-third of the world's prewar Jewish population. The murder of the six million staggers the mind. Such a vast breadth of our people, each of them with his own individual dreams, loves and aspirations, exterminated.
The New York Times once asked Rabbi Moshe Feinstein how he became a posek hador, one of the generation’s foremost authorities on Jewish law. Rabbi Feinstein answered that, “people came and asked me questions and they liked what I said and it was accepted, and then more people came and eventually I became widely accepted as a posek.”
There are 613 mitzvoth – we all know that. We also all know it is impossible for one person to perform all 613. Twenty-five mitzvot can only be performed in the Land of Israel, which leaves many Jews out in the cold, shall we say. After all, the people of Israel and the Land of Israel are inextricably intertwined; they are in fact dependent on one another for survival. But Judaism has a solution or as a modern Israeli would say, a “patent.” Mitzvot can be performed by proxy; by taking a part in a mitzvah one merits a share in the whole.
I am on a bus as I write this article and the ride will be at least 11 hours. For me, one of the big draws of traveling in a manner most would feel is quite tedious, is that several long distance bus companies offer free WIFI service. This allows me the opportunity to possibly enrich myself financially (by watching the ebb and flow of the stock market); educate myself (by reading various online newspapers, including The Jewish Press); entertain myself (downloading the many humorous, sometimes witty, satirical articles/photos/cartoons available to brighten a person’s day) or write a column, (and for a change not have the pressure of stressfully productive hours before my deadline) – all time consuming activities that should make time pass quickly.
During the past several weeks I have shared many of my own personal experiences and those of others. I am referring not only to my recent hospitalization following the breaking of a hip, but also to my series of articles on hashgachah pratis – events that befall us that can easily be attributed to random happenings but upon closer scrutiny and honest introspection testify to the ever-guiding Hand and mercy of Hashem.
According to the Ramban, the verse "your foes who dwell upon it will be desolate" (Vayikra 26:32) is a partial blessing within the curse that guarantees through all generations that the Land of Israel will not receive any foreign nation in place of her true indigenous people.
Not only are the streets of Jerusalem inundated with the smoke of burning embers; but hillsides and streets all over the country are lit up with the fiery love of Torah which kindles in every heart. Not only the streets, but the smoke of these holy bonfires penetrates into every single apartment and house, like the aroma of incense on the Temple’s altar, penetrating through windows and concrete walls to reveal the inner spirit of every Israeli soul, of every Israeli home.
Breathe deeply. You’ll need maximum physical and spiritual power to absorb the uplifting lessons in this book. Page 249 explains why some Jews are praised as “fish on dry land,” a phrase that describes Moshe Rabeinu. Am Yisrael began to appreciate his depth of character at kriat Yam Suf, realizing that “he lived in the revealed world as though he were in the concealed world.”
Several weeks ago I started a series on hashgachah pratis, or Divine Providence. Every believing Jew knows that events do not just unfold randomly; the story I told of two brothers named Yaakov and Yedidya clearly testified to that reality in a contemporary setting.
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